Sunday, February 13, 2011

Writers' Challenge - Week Four

ROSEMARY: There's a terrific line in the movie House of Games - there are so many, if you haven't seen it, put it on your Netflix list immediately.

The female lead, a shrink who's a best-selling author asks her friend - another shrink - what to do when you've done something unforgiveable.

The friend answers - forgive yourself.

If you've fallen off the wagon a little this week - forgive yourself.

You are approaching the home stretch and, much like a diet, it's not always easy to stick to it after ther initial thrill of getting started and losing those first few punds or seeing those pages stack up.

My hybrid version of the challenge - no email and/or 1000 words a day has been working pretty well even though I had a weekend trip to Birmingham for Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu - and what I wrote on the plane disappeared from my flash drive and computer!

I spent half a day looking for it, thinking I might have accidentally saved it in the wrong file. Eventually I had to write it over so I lost a whole day.

Just staying mindful of the challenge every day has worked for me. And I have posted a sign that says

Do Not Go On Online near my computer.

Sometimes I ignore it, but more often than not it's worked.

Do you have any mind tricks to share that have kept you on the straight and narrow?


  1. The timer! I set it for 45 minutes and am not allowed to succumb to distraction until it beeps. Somehow, knowing that I only have to concentrate for a defined time makes me very efficient.

  2. Early in the week, after finishing Ken Follet's "Pillars of the Earth", both the book and Starz mini-series (available on NETFLIX streaming) I spent some time reflecting on the Herculean task of building a cathedral. There are many similiarities between that order of construction and writing a novel. But one block of stone at time, one word at a time, both have been completed time and again. And yes, there are distractions to be overcome.

    Because I work full-time in retail, I get up an hour earlier to fit the challenge writing in. Breaking the habit of reaching for the smartphone to check email takes most of my concentration during the first five minutes. The second five are spent wondering "What am I doing out of bed at this hour?" The third five minutes, while I'm waiting for my maddeningly slow laptop to engage its faculties, involve considerable mental legerdemain in resisting the urge to check email, play a quick game of solitaire on the smart phone, pick up a book or magazine, or some other activity that threatens my commited "write first" time. Mostly I close my eyes and silently repeat a mantra developed for the moment: "I'm awake to write, nothing else...I'm awake to write, nothing else..." This seems to work and when the familiar blank page at last loads on the screen I'm eager, perhaps even anxious, to let my fingers take over for my still sleeping brain.

    This was another good week, the fourth in a row. 45 minutes a day might not seem like much to some here, but for me, to do that every day, is a way to build a cathedral in my lifetime.

  3. It's forgive myself time. The dental emergency streatched out until Thursday when I found myself in a chair and having unspeakable things done to me. Even gazing in the dentist eyes so blue you could drown in them didn't help.

    And I'm just now feeling like a cloud has been lifted from my thoughts. So back on the track today. Both with my writing and my diet.

  4. I've had no need of forgiveness this week. I'm on revisions. Like Stephen, I get up early, in my case because that's when my husband leaves (and I can be alone to write)but find that I can't focus until after that first cup. My "trick" when I'm revising is to act. If I can be someone else reading my work, I have fresh eyes with which to evaluate. Later in the day, my own self dominates. But I really try to read my work with those fresh eyes taking into account my critique partners' comments. My first thoughts are no longer what is in my "in" box. So, a huge step forward--it almost seems selfish. It's a strange process.

  5. On weekends I block my time. 1 hr of writing, 1 hr of chores. I do the entire day like that for about 8 hours. But if the muse visits and I'm in my writing zone, I write longer than 1 hr stretches.

  6. It's easier to ignor the emails at 4 in the morning. Probably nothing there that wasn't there the night before except spam. That said, it was a difficult week for me, in that my trusted old doggy friend (who gets up with me at 4) got very ill and required vast amounts of attention. In the end, I had to put him down Friday night.

    At 9:30 this Sunday morning, I finished my WIP. I will print it up tomorrow for my two Beta readers. This week, I guess I work on a short story.

  7. My chart. Gotta tell you, I love my chart.

    And House of Games, too. Creepy. Plus, I housesat for Tim Crouse once, Lindsay's brother. And other stuff. Anyway. Six degrees.

    ANd RO, that's AWFUL. AWful. GLad you're past it. Yuck. HOrrible. Did you remember the great parts, at least? It's so difficult to rewrite when you are mourning what was already written.

    (My word is tingenue. Is that like when a young girl plays the Tin Man role in Wizard of Oz?)

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. It was a short story week...but I somehow ended up at the doctor's with a sinus infection...which explains the headaches. Fortunately, my words still make sense to me, but like Lynn, my brain is a little clearer so I may re-inspect their logic.
    Jack, sorry to hear of your loss. Max, my cat, kept me company at the PC for quite a while. Accept my sympathies. And my congrats on finishing your story.

  10. Oh, Jack, that's very diffcult. What a week you've had...oxo

  11. Feeling reluctance to stay the course, I started two days with using the "find and replace." What a devise for the "blank white page" syndrome. Thanks, Rosemary, I had no idea how often I used the "ly" word and the others, too! But on Wednesday, while researching, I found a photo of the very room in the real house where some of my plot takes place. I downloaded it and it's now my wallpaper. It's the first thing I see when I turn the computer on -- a terrific reminder.

  12. Such good tips...I'm printing out this page. The timer is a great idea for reading. Sometimes I'll give myself an hour to read and before I know it 2hrs have passed. Also like the wallpaper tip. When I remember, on research expeditions - and they can be small - a new neighborhood, an ethnic restaurant, a business I don't usually frequent - I'll take my camera, and it helps me to include details that aren't exactly critical to the story but add richness. Speaking of richness, I did just that in a small bakery last summer and was able to add a lot to my WIP that I wouldn't have seen just buying croissants on the other side of the counter.
    Jack, I am so sorry about your dog. My dog is getting older and I'm constantly watching him foir any signs of age. Yesterday he slipped on the ice and I was worried that his hips were going.

  13. Jack, I'm so terribly sorry. Losing a faithful friend hurts so much.

    Ro, I've had that happen. It's soooo disheartening. And I'm always convinced the first version was better!

    I received galley page proofs this week so my time went toward it and then toward revisions on a project my agent requested. Nothing new written, but I spent time on the business of writing, if that counts?

    Hints? I close down my web browser and Twitter every night. That way, when I sit down at my desk in the morning, I have coffee, I have project, I have no flashing messages. A couple of times, I forgot to do this was hard, but I resisted. I shut down everything without looking.

    Good writing this week, everyone!

  14. About the only trick I have up my sleeve is get my head in the story.

    In the story I can drop twenty years in flash.

    In the story I can say those witty lines that always come too late in real life.

    In the story I can do whatever I want.

    I've had a steaming two days, followed by a thud. Time to get back in the story!

  15. Had a great week. I am also doing the SinC Guppies Chocolate Challenge this month, so that helps.

  16. Being six hours ahead of the US makes it easier to resist checking email and FB before work-- although those 4 AM risers might be online . . .

    The beginning of the week was a challenge just getting myself on the plane to London. Then, after a rest, I did three hundred pages of copy edit in three days, so some very focused work. Still fifty pages to go, though, and no time yet for creative work on the new book. But tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow!

    Jack, so sorry to hear about your dog. Our older dog is having a rough year. It's so hard--my heart goes out to you.

  17. Jack, I'm so sorry for your loss. I love my dog to distraction, and can't imagine how hard this week has been for you.

    Let's just say I had some good days, and I can forgive myself for the bad days where I'm tired and grumpy and just want the mindless distraction of Twitter or my news feed.

    But on the good days, I stagger into my office with my coffee and write for an hour. I take a very quick break to check email to make sure there are no client crises, then I go work out for another 45 or so. It's become a daily routine, which is the best part.

    Here's hoping we'll all have good days this week.

  18. The last two weeks I have fallen off the wagon. I could blame it on not feeling well but I could have pushed. I finished the first rough draft two weeks ago and am trying to edit. It's really slow going. I also haven't been closing my browser so it is easy temptation. Time to get back on the wagon. The deadline is looming...

  19. Hi guys,
    I'm happy to report that while in Puerto Rico -- except for travel days -- I wrote 45 minutes before going to the beach and I didn't go online for three solid days!! I had to check something for my husband and wound up checking my email once on Wednesday and once on Friday -- and can tell you -- it's wonderful for your brain to stay offline.

    Elizabeth - I use my I-phone timer, too. And Ro -- I've had that happen to -- it's the worst!!

    Jack - I'm so sorry about your dog --

  20. Jack, I so sorry about your dog. It’s heartbreaking to lose a loving pet.

    Rosemary, I hate when you lose something that you worked on because you never really write it exactly the same way the second time. Bummer.

    Thanks, all of you, for the tips. I need them. I’ve been slacking all week. Checking e-mail first every day before I write, watching TV, doing housework that could wait. I didn’t meet my own writing goals. I could blame in on my new glasses that I can’t see with but I’ve been dealing with that for two months now so I have no excuse. I have to make myself do the work. I know I can since I did well the first three weeks. Glad I can forgive myself on more on. I wouldn’t have thought to do that. I’m going to set up a plan for this week and then stick to it.

    Hey, Jan, glad you had a nice vacation.

  21. Thank you everyone for the condolences. The unconditional love and unquestioned loyalty of a dog are unmatchable support in a man's life. Not since mom. :-}

  22. Jack, I can really sympathize. I cried off and on all day Monday because I thought the vet was going to tell us it was time to let Fritz go. (Two huge lipomas that now make him limp.) But reprieve. The vet said his leg's not injured, his tail's still wagging, he's still sniffing everything, still eating and still demanding I sit with him on the sofa every morning before breakfast and let him hog the space-heater in my "office" on the side porch. I'm not getting much writing done, but I'm feeling a lot cheerier, so maybe this week.