Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Consistent Writing

I take no pride in the fact that I'm one of the biggest procrastinators around. So of course, it's no surprise that procrastination affects the writing aspect of my life as much as it does anything else - or at least, it used to. I've found ways to work around that and to be productive so that I never allow myself to slack off with my writing.

Here are a few things that have helped me:

1) Plan out how long you want to spend writing a manuscript. If it's within three months, figure out the minimum number of words you can do per day to reach that goal. E.g. 1000 words per day = 30,000 per month = 90,000 total. This gives you a concrete idea of the pace and helps you use your time wisely. Of course the numbers will vary day to day, but:

2) Always try to meet the goal you've set for yourself. Don't tell yourself "I'll make up for it tomorrow", because you might not feel like writing tomorrow either. Once you start putting things off, it will be all the more harder to get back up to speed.

3) If you're certain you can't meet your goal, write something. That way, you won't fall behind as much and you'll still keep up the habit. And if you're lucky, you might get into the writing mood while squeezing out what little you can, and reach your goal.

4) If you feel like exceeding your daily quota, do so. Self-explanatory.

5) Figure out what time of day works best for you. Some people like to write first thing in the morning, others have to wait until they get home at night. But by selecting a specific time to write each day, you make it easier for yourself to stay focused and not procrastinate.

6) Use external motivation as well as internal. We all want to see the fruits of our labor, but unfortunately, writing is normally solitary work. So the only one who will reward you will be you. Make the process more enjoyable for yourself with incentives. Or you could:

7) Create more immediate deadlines for yourself. If you have a critique partner, you can set up deadlines for one another (such as exchanging chapters twice a week).

8) Monitor your progress. Periodically calculate how far you've come along and how long it's taken you to get there. This not only helps you keep track of things, it can also give you an idea of whether your system works, or if it needs to be reworked.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Imaginary Addiction

I've been having a lot of dreams lately, or at least, dreams that I can remember, since there's the possibility we have hundreds or thousands of false realities running through our minds every night and we only remember one or two (or so I always say without any proof whatsoever). My dreams these days are so life-like, compared to the ones I've had in the past that are so farfetched my dream self immediately knows there's no way in hell they could ever be real.

"I have a dinosaur for a pet? Totally normal! Now where did that Wolverine go..."

And it doesn't take much to cause these dreams. I'll hear something on the news or in an article and the next thing I know, it's turned into a full-blown episode starring me and whatever happened to pass through my mind that day.

Which is how I became an addict one night.

I don't smoke. I never have, and I don't see myself ever having the urge to fill my lungs with smoke and reduce my lifespan by about 10 years. But if you'd seen me in that dream a few nights ago, you would think I was hopelessly hooked on it.

How did it all start? With a single remark someone made to me. Something along the lines of, "Smoking is more trendy in Europe than the States." Which made me go, "Huh." That was the end of it.

Until my brain decided to run with it and turn me into an addict.

"Teehee. Hey, Lefty, I've got a great idea for a prank. All we gotta do is wait until she falls asleep."

The dream was...awful. I craved a smoke so badly that I camped out in front of a gas station all day (or night?) going through obstacle after obstacle in a desperate effort to get my hands on a single cigarette.

Of course, as is the infuriating case with all dreams, I woke up before I could achieve my goal and for one single moment afterward, I could still feel it. That throat-grabbing urge. The imagined satisfaction. The desire to get in my car and drive to the nearest store.

Thankfully, it passed and life went on and I've had more strange dreams since, but as strong as the need for a cigarette was in my dream, it has made me all the more determined never to pick up the habit. Because it's not an ordeal I want to face in the future, since I now have firsthand experience with it...err, somewhat.

And that's my anti-smoking message: nicotine addiction leads to gas station clerks threatening to beat you over the head with licorice if you ever try to use fake I.D. again, even though you graduated from high school like a decade ago.

It made a lot more sense in the dream.