Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pitfalls -- Distraction

Hi folks, I hope you are working this week. I'm going to wrap up my pitfalls series this week. This last writing pitfalls I'm going to cover is distraction and is considered another cause for choking. I talked about the  other cause -- "paralysis of analysis" -- last week. Again, I'm borrowing from other fields here -- sports and math performance -- and what they've learned about distraction

So what is distraction? You checked your Facebook, wrote your blog, updated your twitter, commented on several boards,  wrote a writing article, volunteered for a conference, revised your website, researched agents, read a book on writing, and didn't have any time to work on your novel.  You, my friend, are distracted and are this is no way to write your books.

Why are you distracted? You have a system in your brain system. This system actively holds information in the mind to do tasks. This system is called your SHORT TERM MEMORY.  Distraction is about an overloaded short term memory.  Writing a novel is already a multi-tasking job. Now, your short term memory has become full of ancillary tasks -- creating a network and building a platform.  Your mind is full of these tasks because many publishing voices are putting pressure on you to do them. These voices have you worried. These ancillary tasks have drawn you away from the primary task of "writing the dang book."

You are now in a multi-task weighted environment that has exceeded the limits of you short term memory. This multi-tasking environment  puts especially high pressure on newbie writers because they lack writing experience that helps a veteran writer stay focused when the pressure is on. There are some things you can do to alleviate this situation.  Compartmentalize. Dedicate one day a week to your ancillary tasks and the rest of days work on your main task. Build in a system of rewards. Athletes understand they must have a reward to train. Not all pressure is bad. Something about getting a gold medal puts the right kind of pressure on the participant to push past distractions.

Seek an audience for your writing.  This is writing on display, especially in front of experts in field and will put pressure on you to limit distractions.  Freelance. Newbies are at a disadvantage and can help themselves by piling on experience. I remember hearing a famed children's editor years ago saying you need to take any writing job for pay that comes your way.  Write menus for restaurants if you have to, he encouraged. A writing job will sharpen your skills. A writing job  comes with rewards (pay), an audience (an editor and readership) and the heat of a deadline.  The more experience you have the less likely you are to choke when you move forward with a mammoth novel projects.  Seek pressures that will make you excel.. Even a volunteer writing position will help. Experience will hone the automatic skills you need to write when  the heat is on.

I hope you see that the proper writing environment is fragile. It must be tended and tweaked. You need to think about the number of tasks you can reasonably perform and then let the rest go. You need shift some of your time tasks that bring your the right kind of experience.  If all your tweeting is building an audience with experts in the field, keep at that, but ditch the Facebook, the boards, the blogs, etc. Read experts books with a critique group and hold each other accountable to implementing knowledge in the book.  Are you getting the picture?  Create an environment that is conductive to the production of a product  and limits  distractions.

Okay, I can't cover everything in the universe about distraction here, but I hope this little discussion helps you get on the path to book production.  Seize the day.

Here is this week's doodle:: "Wide open sky."

Finally, I add a quote:

Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful. Zig Ziglar

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pitfalls -- Choking

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series on pitfalls. This week I'm going to talk about a real pitfall for writers with a term that is generally associated with sports.  You know, choking, a team is ahead and the star player just seems to fall apart on the field for no apparent reason and the game is lost. Writers have a similar problem. Choking is collapsing to the pressure of writing. It's hard to put yourself out there. It exposes your inner most self.  A big pitfall for writers is to squander your talent and hard work on a "choke."

To me, choking is all about a "paralysis of analysis." A writer becomes wrapped up in an unreasonable quantity of analysis that overwhelms them.  She find herself incapable of making the necessary cuts and revisions to make her work shine. All the writing is good, she thinks. She can't take any of this out. She can't move any of this around. She can't add that big new part.  Moreover, she goes over and over her first chapter, countless times paralyzed by the need to make that chapter perfect and somehow always coming up short. She reads writing books adding even more advice to the mix. She seeks the feedback of dozens and dozens of colleagues but never fully taking any of the advice, unsure because all the advice contradicts and she is unsure who has offered the best advice. Or she might try to implement all the advice and find that her purpose of writing the piece has become muddy and finds  the work is a train wreck. The writer may become anxious and depressed.  She begins to think of her lost writing dreams and how she is forever barred from success. It's self-fulfilling though, because she has "over thought" and "over complicated" what writing a book is all about. 

Oh, yeah, folks, I have been here. Thankfully the fix is easy. One, kick back one day and reread a favorite book. You see, people can write books. You can do this too. Next, you have to really cut back the amount of information used to help you make revision decisions. You pick the three best colleagues advice and you don't listen to advice from anyone else. This will help stop the choking. Now, stop micro-managing yourself. I mean it. Loosen up and trust your GIFT. The love of writing, your love of story, your love of words, I mean this has been going on for a long while, trust that you were born to do this. Monitoring your every move in writing is making your work ponderous, choppy and uninspired. Finally, consider putting away all your work and start something from scratch, to alleviate the emotional baggage. Deliever a NEW product -- yes, books are products shot through a delivery pipe line with defined actionable steps like a set number of drafts with deadlines, limited expert feedback,  and a definite cut-off for completion. (You wonder why NANOWRIMO is popular -- it's freeing up choking authors by giving them a deadline that doesn't allow for too much analysis.) After you find some success with the new product, return to choked work and move it through the delivery pipeline to readers

I hope this helps you with your work. I hope that you find great success.

Here is the doodle: "The very big array."

Here is this week's  quote. A good one to help move forward.
Be unselfish. That is the first and final commandment for those who would be useful and happy in their usefulness. If you think of yourself only, you cannot develop because you are choking the source of development, which is spiritual expansion through thought for others. Charles William Eliot

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pitfalls -- No Velcro

Hi folks, I'm coming in today with an idea that comes from one of my writerly friends Kathy Whitehead. She's the author of two picture books Art From Her Heart and Looking For Uncle Louie on the Fourth of July. Recently she was reading one of my chapters  in critique group and came back with this: Your writing is too slick. It lacks velcro.

So velcro is a fastener that consists of  a fabric component that features tiny hooks and a second that features even smaller and "hairier" loops. When you touch the pieces together, they lock. Many people say that a book needs a strong hook at the beginning but neglect to realize the rest of the novel needs to be peppered with hooks. This mass of hooks will keep your readers glued to your work until the end. 

A big pitfall that I have run into is not peppering the work with the tons of hooks needed to keep readers ingrossed. One writer who does a fab job of peppering her work with hooks is J.K. Rowling. I mean the lusciousnes of her world building just keeps you glued.  Wands, butterbeer, Bertie Botts Jelly Beans, magical chocolate frogs, sorting hats, Quiddich...all the little details that serve as tiny hooks to keep us stuck to the story.

Characters need hobbies, quirks, favorite sports, best drinks, etc. Look at every descriptive detail as an opportunity to hook your reader. Remember never put a piece of cardboard in the place there should be a hook.  Make your readers care.

Consider this too. Volume does not make a description have a hook.  It's about interest not about amount. Hooks always include sharp smart writing and new twists on dry-as-toast ideas.  So dig into your smooth bland work and add the hooks.

I hope you add the velcro to the work this week! Come back next week for more pitfalls to avoid.

Here is this week's doodle: "Lamb".

And finally this week's quote:

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Writing Pitfalls -- Too Eager

Hi folks, I'm starting a new series in July about pitfalls in writing. This will be short but heartfelt. I've fallen into a number of pits in my writing journey, and I hope that some of my falls will  help you find good success with fewer skinned knees. 

My first pitfall is called "Too Eager." Oh, I do look longingly at folks who seem to jump out of the nest and soar into the sky instead of slamming their way down a bunch of branches and landing in a heap on the forest floor. Over eagerness is a true pitfall.  Different kinds of birds fly at different times. Stop comparing yourself to others. (I mean it. STOP!)  You must wait until your writing matures before you get to move forward.  Your worth is not part of your work, so if you have those two things connected, please disconnect them now. Appearing desperate is not the way to get published. Confidence is something that is born in you. It comes with your experience. Let it grow.

It can be a blow to the ego to write your first fab book and then have all the gatekeepers say  no. Then you write another book and they say no. Around book 5 or 6 they start saying you are better than 99% of what they see and still they say no.  Dang, gatekeepers. You have some choices. Don't take things too personally. Publishing is a competitive business and you are doing an excellent job by getting your books into honest discussions. Write your next book. Open up to new ideas. Innovate.  Spread good karma. Celebrate your work. Enjoy it  and keep trying. I have never seen a dedicated creative person fail. Not one time. 

I hope this little discussion helps keep you on your true course. Keep creating and I will see you next with for another friendly chat about pitfalls and what you should do.

Here is a little doodle: "A Row of Kids".

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.  Audrey Hepburn