Fear of Writing

There are times when I’m afraid to put the pen to the page, and start writing. I’m afraid that my first line will have a grammar error, or the first line will be cliche. Or, that I would want to change it afterwards but being unable to. Or, feeling that once I start, I won’t like what I had written and I’m stuck with a half-written story. Quite honestly, this is the reason why I don’t really write on true paper with a pen.

Hence, I liked writing on a computer, as it had the added benefit of being able to go “back” in the document and edit a line you wrote an hour ago. Consequently, as we know, things on a computer can be slightly, well, more than slightly, distracting. It’s so easy to “multitask” on a computer. Facebook calls to your attention, a Skype message arrives, or you’re checking your e-mail again.

I realized, however, that whatever I was writing was in the first draft. Meaning, that I would still edit it extensively after it was finished. Meaning, that my fears of writing with a pen and paper were unjustified, in a sense. By writing on real paper and with a real pen, I was taking a risk–a good risk.

I was taking the same risk on the computer, but it was reduced to a degree, as I edited as I wrote. This, I found, was a very bad habit for me to do. In last year’s NaNoWriMo, I wrote 5,000 words on the first day. Then 2,000 words on the third day. By the tenth day, I didn’t write any new words at all. I was editing too much during NaNoWriMo, when I could’ve edited it after November was over, and gotten to the 50,000 word mark.

One time, I was stuck in a college library with a backpack full of notebooks, textbooks, and pens. I decided to work on a short story, as I was stuck there for a few hours. I did have my phone with me, but as you could tell, writing a short story on a phone is very inconvenient. Anyway, I started writing my short story, and by the time it was done, I was feeling very encouraged and… free.

Why? Because I wasn’t editing. I had not the ability to erase or “undo”. I was simply writing whatever I wanted to write for the short story, and getting rid of the “editing” guilt. I felt so much freedom without the chains of “obsessive” editing while writing.

So, if you’re having trouble writing a certain scene, or a short story, try writing in a physical notebook with a pen in a quiet place. It helped me. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

Have a great day.

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Happy New Year!

Hello everyone!

I am deeply sorry about the unexpected hiatus of posts in this blog. There has been a few instances in life that have required my full attention and priority. However, with 2013 over, I plan to start posting regularly here again. It’s crazy how fast time went by so quickly, right? 2014 already…

Well, as we all know, with a new year comes new resolutions. I, quite honestly, did not fulfill any of my 2013 new year resolutions. (To be honest, they were horribly unrealistic.) This year, however, most of my resolutions are writing based, as I seriously want to improve my skills as a novel writer and an essay writer.

Here are some of my resolutions:> Write 600k words in 2014. (Well, I wanted to write 1 million words in 2014, but that’s approximately 83,333.33333 words per month.)
> Write more essays, even for “fun”. (I put fun in quotation marks because while it is for fun, I’m doing it for experience also. That probably didn’t make any sense.)
> Start posting regularly on this blog again.
> Some other random ones…

I will also post some flash fiction pieces I write just so I can get some critique and practice. I plan on participating in all the Camp NaNoWriMos and also the official November NaNoWriMo this year.

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The Infection of Perfection

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, perfection is defined as “the state or condition of being perfect; freedom from fault or defect”. Generally, we all want to be perfect in life: a perfect house, a perfect job, a perfect dinner, a perfect day, and so on. More commonly, we all want to write the perfect novel or essay.

Yes, we all want to have the perfect novel or essay. But this “want” can severely limit our writing capabilities. How is perfection like an infection? Well, think about this. We all want to make perfect decisions, even if it’s simply deciding whether to eat ice cream or potato chips. (I admit, I usually want to have the perfect snack when I’m taking a break.) Now, this can lead to problems, as we are so engrossed on making the perfect decision. When there are times when we simply cannot find the perfect decision, we are stuck.

Think about it this way. Let’s say you’re at the grocery store and you’re standing in the vegetable and fruit section. Right in front of you is a gigantic bucket of apples. You need to buy apples. So you pick one up and immediately notice a brown ugly blemish. You put it back and get another apple, but you notice that there’s a mysterious recess in it. You put that apple back and again, get another one out. This apple is shaped strangely, so you put it back. You know what will happen next.

You see, if you’re so “engaged” with finding the perfect apple, you’ll never find one and you’ll be stuck in the grocery store until it closes. This roughly correlates with “over-analyzing” and “analysis paralysis”. In writing, perfection can be like an infection when you’re writing your first draft. A writer can be occupied in perfection that when it is impossible to be perfect, he/she stops writing. Thus, consequently, he/she loses motivation for some time. In that time, perfection never comes. To those participating in NaNoWriMo, a loss of motivation can lead to all types of trouble.

Most argue that the “need for perfection” causes writer’s block. How? Because we expect that the first words we write down on a page to be perfect. However, such perfection, of course, is rare, and we inevitably end up typing down words and paragraphs that do not satisfy us. Thus, because we don’t want to write things that do not satisfy us, we end up not writing at all, waiting for that “perfect” paragraph or idea to hit us. I have done this a few times before realizing that “waiting” for the “perfect” idea is often pointless. After all, all ideas are equal in value. How you use those ideas determines their worth.

In my first NaNoWriMo experience, I had the whole first five chapters planned out. Each day, my word count rose exponentially each day. However, after finishing those first five chapters, I was left with rough sketches and a rough timeline of the following chapters. I didn’t like them, so I stopped writing, which was a big mistake. I wanted to find the perfect event for that chapter so I didn’t have to rewrite it after. Of course, I was mistaken.

By Day 10, I still had the same word count as Day 5. Frustrated, I started Chapter six and typed whatever was on my mind for that plot. I was extremely frustrated that I didn’t care if I sounded unintelligent or boring. Amazingly, by the end of Day 14, My word count had doubled.

On Day 15, I decided to read the whole novel from start to finish to look for plot loopholes. Then I realized something extraordinary. Even though I wrote the first five chapters “perfectly”, they needed to be edited just like the next five chapters. I learned that I could never be a “perfect writer” and that “being perfect” is virtually impossible. Of course, my five chapters I just typed sorely needed editing, but so did the first five chapters.

In NaNoWriMo, there is no time one can afford to waste. You have to type 1,667 words per day. If you forget/take a break (in normal circumstances) for one day, you are immediately 3,334 words behind schedule (assuming that you don’t type ahead of the daily goal). If you are only capable of writing/typing 2,000 words per day due to work or school, you see, we have a problem. You have 1,334 words left to type and by the next day, you need to type 3,001 words. Naturally, at this rate of typing, you will soon catch up, but what if you’re at the end of November? Or if there’s a sudden crisis?

Perfection is the icing on a cake. You need to have the actual cake first before you make it “perfect” according to your standards. You don’t bake a cake and meticulously put icing at the same time; it simply doesn’t work. You will end up wasting precious time icing rather than working on the actual cake, which is the most important part. Without the cake, where would you put the icing? Nowhere. (unless you spread the icing onto a plate… but who eats icing off a plate?)

So, what am I trying to get to here? For your first draft, especially if you are doing NaNoWriMo, throw perfection out the door. Be sure to lock the door. There’s always time for editing afterwards. Take drawing, for instance. If an artist draws a portrait of a person, the artist doesn’t immediately draw out the minute details of model, for example. They start with the basic structure of the piece, then draw the details in “layers” from there.

The same can be applied with writing. Purposely write the rough draft and “perfect” and edit it later. Make the cake then ice the cake.

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Time for Writing

AnarchicWritingNaNoWriMo

Some people ask me, “How do you have time for writing when you’re so busy?”. Personally, to me, it’s all about sacrifice — writing in the place of normal everyday stuff that I can postpone. For instance, I usually like to program, but if I’m working on a novel, I’ll write instead of program. It may seem simple, but it’s hard for some people. Keep in mind, I don’t completely replace programming with novel writing; I novel write on some days, and program on other days.

With NaNoWriMo coming up, one is required to write 50,000 words in one month. That’s about 1,667 words per day. and about 11,669 words per week. 1,667 words per day is a lot of words to most. Additionally, since most of us are writing during school, college, university, work, and just life in general, it’s much harder. Especially for those applying for colleges, since the time between November and January is when most deadlines are due (including early action and early decision applications).

While most of us can’t simply “replace” an everyday activity with writing, we can still discover time to write in our days. For example, I usually wake up about 30 minutes early just to write my novel without any distractions. Others find staying up late and writing while everyone else in the house is asleep to help. Others like to write during their commutes to work or school. Some set a weekly schedule when they write, and schedule activities around that.

What do I mean? I might put in my weekly schedule that I’ll write on Monday 8 – 9 PM, Wednesday 9 – 10 PM, Thursday 8 – 10 PM, and so on. Usually, you plan this weekly schedule in advance so nothing else interferes with it.

Keep in mind, don’t force yourself to write if circumstances in life are difficult; for example, if you have a fever, a very important project, or a life crisis. Those are more important events that may need your attention. Moreover, try not to lose that much sleep over writing (e.g. don’t sleep at 4 AM everyday just to write), although it is inevitable that you will during NaNoWriMo. However, if you do lose sleep, it helps to make a reward for finishing your daily word goal a long nice sleep along with other rewards; it helped me during Camp NaNoWriMo.

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How do I stay motivated while writing?

There are times when you want to throw your manuscript in the corner of your room and pile a ton of laundry over it. But what what does that do? Nothing good, really. Sometimes, there are days when you stare at your computer monitor literally forcing yourself to type each word as if you were prying them out of an alligator’s mouth. Sound like you? Well, sometimes it happens to me as well.

Here are some methods I personally use to motivate myself to write.

1. Set a goal and purpose
If you don’t set a goal, why are you writing? What is your purpose for writing whatever you’re currently writing? If you have none, you will feel unmotivated to even start writing. Every piece of writing needs to have a purpose and a goal. Not many people just write for no reason. Often, we have reasons for why we write.

Think about it. You don’t go randomly into your car and drive aimlessly. You get in your car with a purpose and reason. The same with writing. Again, you don’t write aimlessly. Have a purpose. Draw your bow, release the arrow, and have a target in which that arrow can hit it. An arrow can’t hit a target that doesn’t exist.

2. Seeing a graph of my progress
Seeing a graph of my progress helps. You see, I love statistics and the ability to make a graph where I can see my progress and other entertaining but useful pieces of data. For instance, here’s a progress graph of a novel I’ve been writing lately:

motivation_graph

What day is it today? September 28, 2013. The graph clearly shows that I’m behind my daily goal drastically. I need to see the blue chimneys rise higher than the gray chimneys. This, although it may sound weird, motivates me. At the end of the year, I get a graph of my total words typed and if I reached my daily goal. Seeing a graph full of very short blue chimneys will look unappealing. On the other hand, seeing a graph full of tall blue chimneys is a very rewarding sight.

It may not work for everyone, but marking your writing progress generally is a good idea. (If you’re wondering, I haven’t been reaching my writing goal lately due to, well, a chaotic life!)

3. Making myself accountable
I think this is an obvious one to most. Simply, you make yourself responsible for not reaching your (for example) goal. See #5 for more about this. Use the various methods listed here to help yourself.

4. Knowing what you’ll get at the end (the reward)
In NaNoWriMo, my writing is mainly motivated by that satisfactory feeling I’ll get when I finally pass the 50,000 word mark and onwards. I love scrolling through my long novels in OpenOffice and seeing all the pages and all the words I typed in one novel over the weeks. I’m sure I’m not the only one doing this. We do this because it’s rewarding to see our progress.

This is related to #1. If you have a goal, which you should have, then the end reward is that you reached your goal, whatever it is. Whether it was a 100,000 novel, a publishable piece of writing, or a successful essay, those are your rewards. Even just a rewarding feeling is worth all the writing and hard work.

5. Prizes and punishment
This is hard for most people. Sometimes, if I reach a certain goal of mine, such as finishing an essay, I reward myself with some tasty chocolate. Now, some of you may be saying, “But can’t we just eat the chocolate without finishing the essay?” Yes, you may eat the chocolate, but you can use it as an incentive to write. It takes a lot of self control to do this because I know, most of us can’t resist chocolate. However, it works if done correctly.

Simply think about something you really want to do RIGHT NOW when writing. Now tell yourself that you’re going to do whatever it is after you reach your daily goal or after you write something. Don’t allow yourself to do whatever you want to until you finish whatever writing you’re doing. It takes a lot of self-control, but it usually works.

Now, not many people want to do this. Sometimes, I actually punish myself for not making my goal. How? Well, during July Camp NaNoWriMo 2013, I didn’t make my daily word goal. So… I turned all my electronics off and threw it in a drawer until I made my goal. (Hey, it actually turned out to be a good thing.) Yes, it was hard to resist the urge to open the drawer and get my phone out.

6. Competition
This is one of my favorites. This is especially why Word Wars are much more effective than individual Word Sprints, which is just like a Word War but done alone. To me, I get very competitive about certain things, including writing. Although I don’t usually do them, Word Wars are exciting. If I see a writing challenge, immediately I start writing. Granted, apparently my competitive writing isn’t good as some people can attest to that. But hey, competition works. At least I wrote something because of it, right?

Usually, if you’re in a writer’s group or if you have friends interested in writing, you can challenge them to a Word War or a challenge of some sort. It work amazingly well, in my case.

7. DEADLINES
Arguably, this is one of the most effective ways of motivation, in my opinion. It works just like Method #1. If you’re writing something, you usually have a deadline. For school? A teacher could say, “I want this History paper by Monday.” However, if you’re writing for recreation, do you use deadlines? Most people don’t. That’s a big problem, because people start to procrastinate for days and days. Why? Because they have no incentive to finish it now. They can always do it tomorrow, there’s no deadline.

DEADLINES ARE IMPORTANT. That’s why NaNoWriMo is so effective. That’s why so many people join NaNoWriMo, for the competition and the deadline; each which drives them toward the 50,000 word goal. It worked for me. During the July Camp NaNoWriMo, I wrote more words in two weeks in one project than I ever did in in two years for one project. It really motivated me.

So, if you don’t have a deadline for your writing, make one now. It can be a month away or a year away. Just make one. For instance, “I have to finish this novel by 2015.” Granted it’s two years away, but it’s a deadline nonetheless. Now you have to finish whatever it is you’re writing before that deadline. You can use #5 to reward yourself if you succeed or punish yourself if you fail.

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Overall, I have listed just seven ways to motivate yourself while writing in this post. I hope at least some of these tips and methods will help you. I encourage you all to find your own unique ways of motivating yourself as well, and please do share it here also for the benefit of others! Thank you!


“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
–Raymond Chandler
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