SiteSetupKit Project – Day 0

OK, my middle name is ‘procrastination’. I mean to do things. I talk about doing things. I don’t do them. Talk is cheap but action, ah, action is difficult. Trouble is I’ve been guilty of trying to get finished with my project before I start to write about it.

STOP. I need to stop with that line of thought

So, here goes. I’ve started a project that I intend to see to the end, wherever that might be. It WILL be a complete redesign of the current website using the SiteSetupKit course and WordPress, Genesis Framework, and Dynamik. Read about it here as it unveils.

Writing Habit Mastery – Habit 8: Focus on Small Writing Projects (at First)

Writing Habit Mastery – How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block by Steve Scott continues to me my topic of interest after several days.

Today, I will talk about Habit 8: Focus on Small Writing Projects (at First)

Repeating a quote by Ray Bradbury that I posted a few days ago, “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad stories in a row.”

As I’ve thought about writing purposefully, I’ve thought of a few hundred pages per book. Based on what my learning has been, a typical page of text in a book is about 250 words. So, a nice novel would be about 250 pages long thus 62,500 words.

I wrote in the 2013 National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo) contest this past November and believe me, it is no easy task to be writing close to that level. The object of the contests was to write at least 50,000 words during the month. This is an average of 1,667 words per day. It was very hard to do. Life has a way in intruding – sickness, vacations, work, family.

Now my new friend, Steve Scott (he doesn’t know he’s my friend) comes along and tells me how to write 2,000 words a day and makes me believe I can consistently meet that goal if I create the right habits as expounded in this book. I’m happy.

But…there’s always a but, isn’t there? But since I’m really a beginning writer, I don’t have the experience of taking on a big project to create even an average length novel. So, I’m lowering my sights just a bit and am considering what it would be like to write a shorter story – a short story. I don’t know how long it will take or how many words it will be – yet.

As Steve says, those of us who have not tackled a large writing project have no idea of the stamina required. Not at first. Small incremental success will certainly help us move on to bigger and better accomplishments.

Writing at this level is very challenging. Things become unwieldy. I go to sleep and lose part of my working knowledge of my project. It’s like RAM getting initialized to zero when the power is removed. You also get too familiar with the project and get tired of writing about the same thing every day. The NaNoWriMo project left me drained. After only one month. With no editing. Just getting it down on paper. Sure it felt good when I was done but I thought of giving up almost every day after the first week.

Steve says to create smaller pieces of work. Then use them to later scale up into a larger project or projects.

  • He suggests that instead of creating something like the next Titanic, make something akin to a small budget independent film for people to love.
  • Write short stories or a novella before swinging for the  right field fence. There should be no shame in publishing a handful of short stories or a novella. This will boost your writing chops and your writing habits.
  • Instead of a massive blog, create a series of 2 to 3 blogs during the week.
  • Take on a small eBook on a topic you know well before taking on a longer or more advanced topic requiring lots of research.

Beware that you want to build a sustainable writing habit. If you start off too fast, you may:

  • burn out and quit before you finish
  • get totally bogged down in details
  • lose interest in the topic
  • perhaps write something so confusing that it can’t be given away, let alone sold
  • maybe just give up writing forever

You want to build a habit that allows you to always reach the finish line energized, and ready for the next writing project. By setting and meeting smaller goals, you are conditioning yourself for developing skills and habits that can eventually lead you to those larger, more involved projects.

Your New Habit
Break the big job up into smaller chunks with realistic deadlines. Celebrate the completion of each small project. Get feedback from others and use is as applicable to lead you to what you will create next.

Writing Habit Mastery – Habit 5: Find the Best Location

Writing Habit Mastery – How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block by Steve Scott  continues to me my topic of interest after several days.

Today I shall discuss Habit 5: Find the Best Location.

Steve’s beginning comments on this topic tell why location matters and has a direct impact on your ability to create and sustain a writing habit.

A good location is one where you can:

  • Focus
  • Remain undisturbed
  •  Feel Inspired
  •  Access easily (within a 10 minute commute)

The importance of a primary writing place conditions you to want to write when you enter it.

Home or Away? Some people write best at home. It’s convenient. It’s familiar. Some find it a distraction with tasks such as taking out the garbage, doing the laundry, doing dishes, etc. Some people like the background buzz found in restaurants and coffee shops a good white noise.

My thoughts on both these: I like to write at home because all my kids are grown and gone. It’s just my wife and me and a dog and a cat. (The meowy, insistent cat COULD go.) I get up much earlier than my wife. And much earlier than my part of the world. So, no phone calls, no honey do’s (yet). I got my music, I got the pomodoro website, http://moosti.com keeping track of my time. So this is a good location.

I have tried writing at work. It goes okay in a limited sense. I have an office in a friend’s business that I use for half a day each weekday. I go there at about 7:30am and cut out at about 11:30am. While there, I feel that I’m ‘on call’. This is my payment for use of the office and it is a fair one and easy to support. I’m usually there an hour ahead of the first arrival. I can write there for an hour and sometimes do.  I write my 750 words with 750words.com, turn them into a blog post on http://exploringnewmedia.com and send out Tweet, Facebook, and Google Plus notices.

I have tried writing at Kneaded Pleasures, a nearby restaurant catering heavily to the breakfast trade. This is a definite productivity killer for me. I’m a people watcher. I will look up from my keyboard as soon as I sense, hear, feel the presence of the next customer. So no go for restaurants or coffee shops.

Another place I’ve tried is the upstairs reading and browsing area of my local Barnes and Noble. That is not too bad but that location is not available until 9am and I’m ready to write much earlier than that.

Let’s look in more detail at writing at home. What do I have?
an office. Used to be a kid’s bedroom. I’ve had 3 kids who have occupied this room, one at a time. It is in a good location in the house, is roomy and has good light, a desk, wraparound, glass topped with more room than necessary for my task. Got to clean off the debris some day. Probably upwards to 500 individual items scatterer here and there. Right now I can see: 2 medicine bottles, a pair of glasses, two cans of pens and pencils, a blood pressure monitor, my iPad, a 27 inch iMac, a 21 inch Apple monitor, stacks of papers, a partial container of pistachios, a Mother’s Day card from ToMas to his grandmother (dont’ ask why), a cup of coffee, 2 boxes of Slicci .25mm pens, a box of drawing pencils ranging from 2h to 6b, a Sony A65 camera remote control, a box of kitchen matches, a scented candle, a digital clock from my Lockheed days (22 years ago), an extra MacBook Pro, AT&T router for my Internet, TV, phone pleasure, parts of my podcasting equipment.

Wow, if I cleaned that stuff off, I’d have a place to take a nap.

I have both a front and back porch where I could write. The front porch is probably not going to work because it faces the street and I’d have to check out every walk and / or drive by. The back porch is covered, overlooks a large backyard with a  [one pomodoro done. time for five minutes rest.  715 words.] quiet atmosphere except for the squirrels and my dog.

There is a nice table in the corner of our family room that is near an electrical outlet, has sufficient light and would work for my time of writing. I COULD use that if I wanted to but it is just an alternative. Where I am is where I’ve been and where I can knock out 700 words or so per pomodoro.

Of all the possibilities, I believe the office, with a door, is my best solution.

Now how about decorations? I hadn’t thought too much about that. Perhaps the clutter has me overwhelmed. Steve suggests some things like:
a list of writing affirmations
Quotes from successful authors
Pictures or quotes from experts on my topic du jour
Storyboard of the plot or outline of my book
Photo ideas of my characters
Pictures of writers who inspire me
Also items such as post-it notes, an organizer, all kinds of pens, pencils, markers or perhaps just one of two quality items, staplers, staple pullers.

Okay, that was at home. How about away?
I’ve already stated some of my reluctance to work outside my comfy home office but let me examine some thoughts about outside possibilities.
Places I have written include Barnes and Noble, Kneaded Pleasures, Starbucks, Genuine Joe’s Coffee House, La Madeleine, and in the office at the Business Success Center.

I carry a backpack with notebooks, pens, various pieces of Apple cables and connectors, business cards, headphones, portable microphone, a digital recorder, a digital camera. Most times this is enough. If I need something I haven’t stowed away in the bulging backpack, I load it up as soon as I get home.

I looked at Panera Bread the other day. Of all the places I’ve seen, it may be the most valuable. There are electrical outlets built into most booths. The store is sprawling with the opportunity to find a fairly secluded writing location. I could go to one of the corners and face away from the rest of the store, wear headphones to listen to my music thereby dampening out the surrounding conversations and kitchen noises. Other benefits: they open at 6am. I could get my breakfast before or after a few pomodoros. I think I’m talking myself into giving it a chance.

Steve suggests that you keep an Excel file so you can measure your productivity at different locations. You may feel more like an author when you’re at a local coffee shop but you may get more done when alone in your home office. The key is to find what works for you.

Choose at least two different locations – one at home and one away from home. If you only have one location and it becomes unavailable for some reason, you might not write. OH NO. You’ve got to write.

The New Habit. Choose a location (or two) as your regular writing spot. Get there at your scheduled time and write.

That’s 20 minutes into my second pomodoro. I have written 1,214 of my daily 2000 word goal. I will continue later in the day. Question right now is should I continue writing new content or should I polish the current content and put it into my blog? Hmm, I’ll think about that after breakfast.

Writing Habit Mastery – Habit 4: Track Your Writing Routine

Writing Habit Mastery – How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block  by Steve Scott  continues to be my topic of interest after several days.

Today I shall discuss Habit 4: Track Your Writing Routine.

Steve says that “good writers work in blocks of time, refusing to be distracted while they are ‘on the clock’.” They also track their time and evaluate how and what environmental changes influence their quality and quantity of writing.

Two things must be mastered to be successful in tracking your writing: write and track individual blocks of time.

Track Blocks of Time:
Certain times of day seem more conducive to just writing flat out. You sit down, apply your fingers to the keyboard and just make a lot of noise and air displacement in your little cone of writing environment. Tappity, tappity, tappity.

Other times are not so good. You’ll daydream (not bad in itself but not productive for your daily writing), feel the need to check that email RIGHT. NOW. Or gotta see who’s posted on Facebook and what did they say. (oooo, neat kitty video). The secret is to find the time of day that you’ve recorded as being the best time for your writing and set it as your daily scheduled time to WRITE. Focused writing. No email, no pretty kitties, no tweets.

Now that you’ve identified a time of day to use for your writing, use the pomodoro technique to block your time into 25 minutes of writing and 5 minutes of not writing.

If your designated length of writing time is 2 hours, do 3 blocks of 25 minutes and 5 minutes. On the fourth block, write for 25 minutes then rest for 15 minutes. If you decide to continue writing, use the same cycle – write 25, rest 5 for 3 blocks then finish the cycle with 25 minutes of writing and 15 minutes of writing.

Ok, truth time. I have not yet gotten that cycle under control. I start off with good intentions and get a couple of blocks this way then my lizard brain comes to the fore with thoughts that things may not be going right in the world and maybe I should check my email for possible dire warnings or Facebook for the latest in climate change, or tweets about pet projects and self-promotion.

Today, I will honor that cycle. I’m on my first pomodoro right now with 7 minutes to go. One of the major things I must do is to USE that 5 minute break as a true break and not as a way to do all those non writerly things I just discussed.

At the risk of being repetitious (not sure why I said that, it’s never bothered me in the past), the Pomodoro Technique was created around a timer that looks like a tomato, a pomodoro, Italian for tomato, by an Italian named Cirillo somewhere in the 1980s. I have already described the cycle in another blog so you can read more about it there if you wish.

I didn’t want to go to my local gizmo or gadget store trying to find a dinky tomato-shaped timer when there are many digital renditions (free) available out there in the Internet. As Steve points out there are programs named:
Rapid Rabbit (for iPhone and iPad)
Pomodoro (Mac & PC) and
Pomodoro (Android)

The version I use is found at the URL, http://moosti.com and doesn’t allow modification of the times. I has a 25 minute option beside a 5 minute option beside a 15 minute option. Can only choose one of them or hit a STOP key. But it is free and it is useful and it just rang. Back in 5. [636 words written.]

During that 5 minute break I did some very weird exercise attempts – stretched my arms to the sky, toe touchs (not even close), twist from the waist, squats (oh, the weird grinding sounds and single pops). This gave me an idea. Insert light bulb here. My friend, Wayne Key is a Tai Chi dude. I never was good at remembering titles. He’s a Triple Dan of the Black Order, 10th Degree. Sorry Wayne. But here’s a link to your website to make up for it.  BTW, I created the ying yang logo in Photoshop with Wayne’s guidance.

Back to my idea. I think I’d like to work with Wayne to develop several 5 minute or less Tai Chi exercises that I could use during my breaks. Heavens know that I need the exercise and if I can get the timing down, I won’t have to come back to the computer to see how much time I have left before doing the next block. So, what do you say, Wayne? Want to work with me on this? Please say yes.

Steve goes on to say that you could also keep note of the prevailing conditions as you write. Things like:

  • Date and time
  • Project you’re writing about
  • What kind of writing are you doing – outline, first or second draft
  • Which block in the cycle did you just finish
  • Word count
  • Average word count per block ???
  • Location (home, office, coffee shop, park)

With this record you can use your historical accomplishment to see where you were most productive and make that Habit 4.

Note on record keeping. As I started keeping this record several days, I jotted down some of the particulars on folder pieces of used but not longer useful printer paper. Now I have about 5 of them floating around my desk adding to the usual disarray. I think that I need to have one more piece of running software as I write. A spreadsheet with all the headers already in place. I can do a quick record just after a 25 and just before a 5. Basically all I would have to change would be starting and ending times. That is after I had set the scene at the beginning of the day for location, date, and project.

Steve says “Your new habit. Work in blocks of time that you record on an Excel spreadsheet. Evaluate your productivity every couple of weeks. Look for patterns” ” and arrange your schedule to do most of your writing where and when you are most productive.

Thanks again, Steve.

Writing Habit Mastery – Habit 3: Schedule Time for Writing

Writing Habit Mastery – How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block by Steve Scott  continues to me my topic of interest after several days.

Today I shall discuss Writing Habit Mastery – Habit 3: Schedule Time for Writing

Steve (and others) advocates a committed specific time of day to write. Make it part of your morning habits. He says this is the first of the building blocks in developing a successful writing habit. I just had to do a couple of my morning habits to get into the writing vein. Started Spotify and Moosti, my pomodoro timer. Got to remember to do that before tapping the first keyboard key. Habits, Lindsey, habits.

I like to do the first block of daily writing at about 530am. I write for about an hour a day every day. I may start a little later on Saturday morning and a lot later on Sunday morning but I write every day. The major reason for writing every day is because of my membership in 750words.com where I get incidental rewards for writing 750 words every day. This may go by the wayside as I become more successful at writing for publication or it may continue and the words for publication will end up serving a dual purpose to be included as part of my daily 750+ words per day goal.

NOTE: I am working on at least 2,000 words per day now as a result of Steve’s discussions in this book. I have exceeded 2,000 words for each of the preceding 5 days, the length of time I’ve been reading this book. Coincidence? Maybe not.

ANOTHER NOTE: At this point in this book, Steve mentions another of his books, Wake Up Successful, whose premise is to build momentum and energy as a preparation for writing so that you an hit the writing highway burning rubber. Not sure that I need this but it sounds interesting. At $2.99, it’s priced right.

Time of day for writing is whatever makes you comfortable. Some well known authors write at different times of day:

  • Stephen King writes in the morning leaving his afternoons and evenings to relaxing, reading, napping, and taking care of personal business. (I like that napping idea. Since I sleep from about 11pm to 515am, I need to make up sleep during the day. I don’t think I get as much as 8 total hours but I do take at least 1 and sometimes 2 naps during the day.)
  • John O’Hara wrote at night and slept during the day. This would not work for me because of family commitments. And also because of the sleep habits engrained in me during 22 years in the military and the carryover into civilian life.
  • Rudyard Kipling wrote from 10am to 4pm each day. Might work for me with a modification or two.

But I can’t imagine not doing my first daily writing during the 5-6 am time period. And I don’t want to.

Steve says that later on we will track how much we do and how we feel about the writing. But this is based on what time works for you.  I can do this exercise when it’s time because I don’t do all my writing at one time. The last two days have been an hour or so in the morning and a like amount just before bed.

My habit is based around a weekday schedule of:

  •     515am – 545am – awaken, bio, make coffee, cat fed, dog out
  •     5:45ish to 645ish – write
  •     645 to 715am – get ready for work
  •     715-730am – go to work
  •     730am – 1130am work
  •     1130am – 2pm trip home, lunch, watch a movie, nap
  •     2pm – 345pm stuff
  •     345pm – 6pm ToMas Time
  •     6pm – 7pm nap time
  •     7pm – 8pm Play WoW with friend Dwight
  •     8pm – 10pm write
  •     10-11pm – watch news and part of tonight show
  •     11pm – 515am – sleep

My weekend schedule is similar with the exclusion of work obligations

I deviated a bit from the work schedule this past week. I stayed at home on Thursday and Friday with no appreciable change in word count. I’m not sure that I focused on using the extra at home time more productively. I will need to go after that in a more focused mode sometime.

Steve seems to be saying write 2,000 words a day regardless of the time taken.

(Moosti just dinged to indicate that I have written for 25 minutes with a word count is 730 words. Time for a 5 minute break.)

During my 5 minute break, I refreshed my coffee, took the garbage from the house to the outside can, installed new garbage bag, stretched a little, looked at this screen, sipped coffee, paid attention to the music playing.
Now I have just passed 750 words so that daily goal has been met. Only 1,250 more to go.

The rest of Habit 3 as stated by Steve is pretty much what I already do.

  •     Choose the same time for every day
  •     Repeat this habit every day for at least 30 days in a row.
  •     Schedule the time slot into your schedule book. (I don’t do this)
  •     Refuse to let anything except a real emergency deter me from my writing goals.

-30-

Writing Habit Mastery – Habit 2: Establish a Daily Routine and Environment

Writing Habit Mastery – How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block by Steve Scott  continues to be my topic of interest after several days. You may want to refresh your memory by reading the linked posts in order. Or you may not. But I promise you, it will be time well spent.

Today, I am writing about Steve’s Habit 2: Establish a Daily Routine and Environment. This is a habit I already have but since I have only tested one example of it, I want to explore variations.

I have an “office” (converted from a flown from the nest kid’s bedroom) where I do most of my serious writing. I usually sit my self down around 5:30am most days and write for an hour to an hour and a half as my first offering of the day. Since I’ve started concentrating on Steve’s Writing Habit Mastery book, I’ve set a goal of at least 2,000 words per day and have met that goal each day since initially setting that goal. Steve is doing what I want to do and doing it very well in my humble opinion.

Now back to that Habit #2. I have an established time and place for writing. But it is a singular place. I have made no contingency to write elsewhere if I don’t write here. But like Steve’s quote of William Faulkner, “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at nine o’clock every morning”, I seem to be inspired at oh dark oh clock each day. I wake up in anticipation and am anxious to pull the keyboard to me and start tapping away.

I don’t worry too much about trying to write sterling prose at each attempt. I know from past experience that some of the thoughts that I sow on paper may grow into great ideas that lead me forward toward some rewarding opportunity. Even crap strewn on the ground in appropriate places can bring forth amazing fruits. So, write, write, write what spews from my mind. I call it Mining My Mind.

Why Do Routines Work?
I have had problems for years of editing as I write. I now know that it slowed me down, impeded my creativity by interrupting my creative flow and lessened my output. As I write this post on an Apple iMac using my editor of choice, TextMate, I can see several glaring red underlines indicating misspelled words but I’m avoiding them for now. Not one day at a time but one instant at a time. I know I can make corrections after I’m done being creative. Write it then make it pretty.
So, the internal critic is hobbled if not deactivated. I will always be conscious of errors as I write but I know that I don’t have to correct them right NOW.

My routine is established (at least at home):  my office, my chair (old and comfortable), my keyboard, my iMac (4 years old and still chugging away), and my thoughts. I usually don’t look at email or facebook or just check out how things are going on my World of Warcraft character. To do so tends to become a misplaced expenditure of time. When it’s time to write, it’s time to write. And it’s time to write as soon as I sit down in front of the computer for the first time of the day.

I usually think about next day’s topic at bedtime.  I think about what I’ve already written on the topic du jour and about how it fits into my goal and where it needs to go next.

Based on the thoughts just expressed, I usually write every day of the week. I usually start later in the morning on Sunday. I like to laze around until 6am or so. I like to record the word count per pomodoro, topic being written about. Disruptions are minimal since my wife is not going to get up as early as I do. And I take precautions to put the dog out and feed the meowy cat as soon as I get up.

I’m so pleased with the way Steve explained this habit (and others).  I look forward to trying a new writing environment to vary my routine. Steve mentioned Panera Bread somewhere so I checked out my nearest Panera Bread (North Capital of Texas Highway (Gateway), Austin, Texas) and think that it might serve as another location for writing. Just need to pack up my MacBook Pro and do a 6am visit for breakfast and writing. I will have to really work on using imaginary blinders to keep from people watching.

Last topic as usual is Your New Habit. I think I’ll have to say that this is not a NEW habit for me but a re-emphasized habit. Steve has certainly had a hand in bringing back or validating my routines surrounding my writing and I’m happy to see that I’m on the track he recommends.

How about you? What are your writing habits like? Slow and steady? Quick and dirty? Sustained single chunks? Sporadic entries throughout the day? Ok, checking for your interest level. Reply to this post with a comment saying that you’ve seen this phrase: Yellow chittering chickadees. Thanks, Steve.

And one more thing: Check out my monster letters by clicking on the link above called Cartoons and Spanish and Podcasts, Oh My!

Writing Habit Mastery – Dealing with Limiting Beliefs

This is my second day for writing at home and staying at home. I usually spend half a day in the offices of the Business Success Center but I’m trying  new work flow partially based on the things learned in my search for writing habits creation.

I was able to write 2,001 words yesterday with not a lot of pain. The writing was not in one big chunk but in several sessions which were not noted as to length and word count. Today I will strive to be a better recorder of my writing. Moosti is recording my time in the Pomodoro technique. Spotify is playing my music, Upbeat Study Music playlist. Let the fun begin. [Read more...]

Writing Habit Mastery – The Psychology of the Daily Writing Habit

Following along with the book by Steve Scott, Writing Habit Mastery, today I will write about his topic ‘The Psychology of the Daily Writing Habit’. BTW, I’ve started Moosti.com, an app for keeping track of work time and rest time in 25 minute and 5 minute increments a la the Pomodoro technique. Sent the link to friend Dwight also.

Steve talks about habits becoming second nature. If you make a habit of drinking water every day, pretty soon you will have moved away from too much coffee or soda and find that you long for a good, cold or cool glass of water. Better for you than loads of carbon dioxide that makes your burpy as well as flatulent.

Once you develop the new habit you’ll find yourself avoiding the old habit. I now treat smoking a cigarette or having an alcoholic drink akin to being too close to a rattlesnake. Well, maybe not that extreme. But on these two habits, I know that I’m only one drink or one cigarette away from that previous behavior. So, no thanks for your offer. Just for today I won’t drink or smoke. [Read more...]

Writing Habit Mastery – First Writing Observance

As mentioned yesterday, I found this very interesting book called How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block. I scanned through it from beginning to end and am impressed with the things I read. I believe I will use it as the basis for writing at 750words.com  but I probably will not be able to use it on my blog without substantial changes. I have also looked in the Kindle bookstore on Amazon at the offerings by Steve Scott, the author. He has many eBooks that deal with what I like to do and also in the topical areas of my interest.  I will get another of his books today but for now…

The book is 115 pages long after I’ve excluded promotional material at the end. There is an introduction followed by The Psychology of the Daily Writing Habit, then 15 Habits, 7 Processes, and a summary called Writing as a Lifelong Habit (or “How to Write 2,000 Words EVERY day”). [Read more...]

Lazy Lindsey Blogs Again – About Writing and Timing

My writing routine is not going according to schedule today. I usually get up around 515 or 530am and write 750 words. I am now writing about 30 words for the day do far.

I  found a book by Steve Scott called “Writing Habit Mastery – How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block“.  Amazon has it in Kindle format for $2.99 [Read more...]