Tuesday, May 31, 2016

On Rainbows and Inspiration to Get the Job Done

May 10, 2016
"I really love writing, but I am very easily distracted: my two cats fighting, a rainbow, a TV show...
I have to use every trick to keep myself at the computer." --K.A. Applegate, author of the 2013 Newbery Award-winning The One and Only Ivan

Awesome. That's all I can say: awesome. While we rarely see one rainbow, in this past month of May we saw two. (Well, technically three since the first was a double). Awesome is often an overused word, but the images took the breath away both times. Where's the camera?!
May29, 2016
Like Ms. Applegate in the above quote, I may be easily distracted when I'm supposed to be writing. I may not always focus where I should focus. But I believe I'll always be in awe of rainbows. Super inspirational in my opinion...

Speaking of inspiration, here are a few links to articles, along with tips, that can help us stay focused on our writing (and stay at that computer!). I know they've helped me get back on track since the recently fantastic--but intensive--April A-Z Challenge 2016:

From 7 Tips to Write More with Less Will Power, by Joe Bunting: Make a plan.

From Write That First Draft, Six Ways to Generate Material for Your Book, by Lisa Tener: Make a schedule--an appointment--with yourself (and keep it!).

Recovering the Joy in Writing, Barbara O'Neal: Rekindle the wonder (think rainbows here).

Barbara Kingsolver: How I Write, by Noah Charney: Stay eager.

Can you identify with Ms. Kingsolver when she says (from above article): "My morning begins with trying not to get up before the sun rises. But when I do, it's because my head is too full of words, and I just need to get to my desk and start dumping them into a file. I always wake with sentences pouring into my head...It's a funny thing: people often ask how I discipline myself to write. I can't begin to understand the question. For me, the discipline is turning off the computer and leaving my desk to do something else."

Or do you see yourself in this quote from Psychology Today's article, Procrastination: Ten Things to Know, by Hara Estroff Marano: "Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don't take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure."

Or, continuing from same article: "Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, 'I'll feel more like doing this tomorrow.' Or 'I work best under pressure.' But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure...Another big lie procrastinators indulge in is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources."

What's the better choice: distractions and procrastination, or finding ways to stay at the computer? I have one more example of inspiration: my friend, Peggy Harkins, author of children's and YA fantasy. Peggy and I met a number of years ago at an SCBWI regional conference. She emailed me last week to share in her rainbow: all of her hard work has paid off and she now officially has an agent! I'm celebrating with her--and hope you do, too. It's been a long road to this point but, along with finding her own set of tips to stay at the computer, she has another strength: perseverance. Congratulations, Peggy! (Peggy doesn't have a blog at this time, but we expect to hear more about her in the future :-)

What tips can you share in the fight against distractions? Do you struggle with procrastination on your writing journey?

Friday, May 13, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016, Reflections

A to Z Challenge 2016
I dragged my feet as is often the case with a new project. First there was some enthusiasm, a warming to the idea, a quickening that said, "why not give it a try?" But then the doubts crept in.

"I don't have anything to say." "What if I start and can't finish?" "Wow, what a commitment. When was the last time I produced that much writing in a month?"

"Tell me again, why am I doing this?"

Yet the day came when the pull to do grew stronger than the push to not. And so I signed up.

I'm talking about the A to Z Challenge 2016, 26 posts in April corresponding with the 26 letters of the alphabet. My subject of choice: haiku, posted from the viewpoint of a new student. My overall impression after the fact? It was a really good experience, well worth the time and effort.

The A to Z Team who sponsored the challenge has encouraged those of us who completed the challenge to write a reflections post about the experience. Many participants have already done so (see list of links here). So, a few of my thoughts:

Why did I sign up?
...to challenge myself, first of all, to write. No excuses.
...to see if I could actually make a deadline. No pressure there, ha!
...to apply myself to learning more about my subject, and to share what I was learning.
...to interact with others and learn from them on their subjects along the way.

What did I discover?
...time management is key. (Duh!)
...obstacles will present themselves--but so will surprises and unexpected words.
...there's a huge supportive community out there--both new friends and long-time close friends.
...more people signed up for this challenge than I could ever meet.

Jane Reichhold in her article Haiku Rules That Have Come and Gone, Take Your Pick shares a list of 65 "rules" for haiku, many of which are contradictory. While the article was in itself educational on the subject of haiku, it also presented what I think is a good take-away for the A-Z Challenge. "You've heard Robert Frost's saying that poetry without rules is like a tennis match without a net and it is true also for haiku..." Ms. Reichhold writes. "As soon as you get proficient (you will notice your haiku all sound alike), it's time to raise the tennis net by picking a new rule or so..."

Well, it might be said that the A to Z Challenge 2016 was my tennis net. It raised the writing bar a little higher--and certainly made me work a little harder. Yet rewards abounded, including learning, stretching, celebrating small accomplishments, and 'shaking hands' with others along the way. And so, to round out the challenge, a final haiku reflection:

when words begin to 
sound the same take up challenge...
raise the net higher :-)
--Kenda Turner