Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writer's Challenge Week II

It's an illness, and I've go the cure

JAN BROGAN - It was a rough beginning to the week, with some serious elbow pain and family issues messing with my writing schedule. Also preparations for the New England Crime Bake annual conference - where I actually am today, as you read this.

On the other hand, I did a ton of research that I needed to do for my new novel, and to be fair to myself, I really need to do that research before I can write that much.

By Wednesday though, I was disgusted with my progress, or lack of progress. Mostly, I was disgusted by how easily distracted I was. Then, in a fit of distraction, I read a new study by (yes, again) my favorite blog, PSYBLOG on discipline. And how it really builds on itself. The more you exert discipline, the easier it becomes.

So.... I put really put my foot down on Internet distractions and this is how I did it. I set the alarms on my I-Phone for 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. And these are the rules, I can use Internet for book or assignment related research during that period, and I'm allowed to check in at Jungle Red, which I consider work-related, but I can't go anywhere else on the Internet. I also cannot check email until I hear the alarm.

Yes, I'm just like Pavlov's dog, I practically start salivating for email when the alarm goes off, but you know what? I've been insanely productive between the alarms. I finished a freelance article I was working on, made huge headway on two other assignments, and have done a ton of research.

Yes, I'm all smarmy with feeling better about myself - and wanted to share because it really does work!

Anyone else have any helpful hints to share? Confessions to unload? Pages to boast about?


  1. Okay-if you can be smarmy, so can I. I wrote twenty pages this week. Finally, I don't feel the pressure to write to meet my critique group's schedule. I'm ahead by at least three weeks, so I'm breathing easier. I also find that I'm not the pressure writer I thought I was. Without having to produce, I'm more creative.

    Why the success? My plotting took a while to think through, but now that I know where I'm going with this, the pages are flowing without stumbling. So, my best advice--think that plot through, be sure of where you're going, and then write it with passion!

    Wish I were at Crimebake too!

  2. Excellent idea using the alarms. I've got a self-imposed deadline I want to reach by next Saturday, so I'm giving your system a try. Thanks!

  3. I did well on Monday and Tuesday--actually met my page goals, did some outlining, and had such fun doing it. Then the rest of the week pretty much went to hell.

    But am hoping for better this week.

    My working system: I do check email in the morning, because I can't concentrate on writing when I don't know what business stuff I might need to deal with. And I check in with Jungle Red. Then, as soon as I get the Must Do's out of the way, I turn off my email on my laptop AND CLOSE FACEBOOK! Not allowed to check either again until I stop to fix dinner. It's so liberating, and such an emotional relief to have a break from the distractions!

  4. I average 1700 words a day. That's somewhere between 5-7 pages. But this week? I just sort of...collapsed. I hit a roadblock on the novella I'm working on, while almost at the end of it and realized I really needed to go back and think about it. And I also need to edit and revise a MS I finished the end of October. But I jut couldn't know...motivated but for a couple of days. Then I realized that I've written 3 books in 4 months. Ms. Muse is threatening "blue flu", and my carpal tunnel hurts like bloody blazes.

    So I played hooky. There. I admitted it. Tuesday I'll get back on track. Sort of. The Only defends her Master's thesis tomorrow and as it's public and she asked her dad and I to be in the audience, I'm not writing tomorrow. Tuesday? I'm going to try getting words on the new project and then editing at least 20 pages. I figure 20 pages of editing SHOULD equal 2 pages of new words, right?

    And I want to be a Crime Bake, too. Soooo jealous!

  5. Deb -
    That sounds like a similar plan to mine only you have the willpower to keep away once you start email. For me, I have to delay the first opening. But it souns like an excellent system.

    I'm late today because i was a the New England Crime Bake all weekend. We had an awsome brain researcher from Harvard, Shelley Carson, who told me, and internet disttractions ARE changing your brain for the worse.

    Congrats E.B. excellent, progress!

    Welcome Lu/ grace, I hope it helps you.

    And SIlver, nice to know others are playing hookey sometimes, too

  6. I was good until Thursday (same for my diet but that's another blog..) Recovered a bit on Fri and Sat but bad habits are starting to chip away at the good. Thank goodness - as Scarlett O'Hara would say - "Tomorrow is another day!"

  7. I think I have designed such an intricate plot, that I can't seem to write myself out of it. Ok, so I'm stuck somewhere on the train from Paddington to Oxford. I threw out the alarm clock when I retired. Hmmm...It's an intriguing Idea.

  8. Yay for all of you who succeeded! I compleetely fell off the wageon (I never know if that's the good thing or the bad thing..but I barely wrote at all, sigh. There are good reason, but it doesnt is zero.)

    My trick? I look at the computer's digital clock when I start to wrtie. I cannot stop writing until an hour has gone by. Then I give myself five minutes, to the minute! And then I stop and go back.

    It's very very sad that we have to do this..

    Crime Bake was wonderful!!

  9. I have to check e-mail in the AM. I have clients in Japan and that 13-hour time difference requires it.
    But what's working is deciding on writing time blocks and setting a kitchen timer for at least an hour. No checking e-mails, making phone calls, or other distractions until the alarm goes off.

    And if things are going very badly, I turn on Freedom or Concentrate. Freedom if I want to really discipline myself (restarting the computer is a drag) and Concentrate if I'm being more optmistic.

    I've written 17,000 words of very poor, crazy stuff for Nano, so the critic seems quashed for now.

  10. I've written but I'm back to checking that darn e-mail first most of the time. I think I'm going to have to start doing the timer thing.

    On the upside of procrastination, I send most of the day in my office—do I dare say the word—cleaning. I can actually see my desk and I added about ten pounds of paper to the recycling bin. I’ve decided to pack up book for the charity truck that is coming a week from Monday. Why during NaNo? Oh well, write and work.

    I've resigned myself to be better disciplined, one way or the other.

  11. The challenge has been so good for me. Some days I cheat a little (if I have an email that absolutely must go out in the morning.) But I've been surprisingly disciplined. Maybe that's because last time I fell off the wagon so fast I was totally embarassed!
    Well done EB! 20 pages!

  12. Writing challenge stats (in number of days):
    - Writing 5-1/2 for 7 (one day I wrote only 1 page);
    - Discipline (no internet until...) 4 for 7.

    Showing up at the writing desk and staying available (= no internet) for the time slot is something I feel good about, even though that day I never did actually write something. I did prep, took outline/notes. The muse looked on silently. No good for my writing challenge stats, but Nevermind.

    I do like the alarm system Jan mentions. I can adapt this for me. Thanks, Jan.

    I am expecting a Breakthrough this coming week. Like, passionate and prolific. (Dream BIG!) I'll let you know how it goes.

  13. You know my brain just feels a lot better when I'm not on the Internet. Honest, I'm just waiting for ther research to come out on this.

    Shizuka -- Tell me more about Freedom and Concentrate. Are these CD's??

    Avi, those are pretty good stats!

  14. Hi Jan - I missed the start of the challenge, but I'll jump in today anyway.

    Today I was forced to write first as the internet was out.

    And I got over 2000 words for the day. For me, that's a good day.

    I'm going to enforce the no internet rule until I've written all next week. I'll report back on Sunday.

  15. Welcome Lynn,

    That's awesome. I'll hold you to it!! Tell me if it changes your life -- or the way your brain feels!

  16. My best days of working are when I go to a coffee shop to work. It has free wifi, but I won't use it since the one time I had my email hacked (huge, total disaster) was from using wifi other than my protected home system.

    Most days, though, I have to check email first thing in order to deal with business emails. The trick is not to start on Twitter or Facebook or my favorite blogs (like Jungle Reds).

  17. Linda, I'm flattered by the thought that we're "tempting"! xoxo

  18. Jan,

    Freedom and Concentrate are programs that block you from email or whatever else during set-up blocks of time. Freedom is really evil -- if you want to get on the internet during your block -- you have to restart the computer. There are a lot of other programs that work the same way. I was hesitant about using them, but they make me feel focused.

    Of course, I can still cheat if absolutely necessary with my iPhone.

  19. Leaving the email until later helps me focus on my characters and gets me working much faster. Also writing almost every morning keeps those people and their lives alive in my mind. I'm making progress for the first time in months.