It's 31st January and I'm about to embark upon a 28 day writing scholarship (which has been generously awarded by me, to me).
They say the single best thing you can do to improve your writing is to write.
I've browsed a number of writing websites, but am using as my guide Chris Baty's No Plot, No Problem - A Low Stress, High Velocity Guide to Writing A Novel in 30 Days , mainly because I like his humour.
'I hope you'll find in these pages the friendly kick in the pants you need', he says, and tells me to embrace 'exuberant imperfection'.
So for the next month, if blogs are erratic, short, or even missing all together, I hope you'll be understanding and forgiving........and wish me luck!
Have you chosen your one word to set the tone for 2011?
So far people I know have chosen
.. FITTER .. CALM .. GRACE-FULL .. EASE .. STAMINA .. SIMPLER .. NOURISH ..
.. FLY-THE-PLANE .. HOPE ..also .. LISTEN .. REGENERATION .. and
CALM again .. and CHEERS!
thanks Jill and Julie and Chris....any more?
(You have to read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande to understand fly-the-plane!)
Will you share yours Jill, Julia, Eric, Chris, Judy, Liz, Andy, Miriam, Teresa, Laura, Doreen, Jacqui, Elizabeth, Sophie, Claire, Charlie, Ian and everyone?
The tasks do seem to take on their own personality as Lynne says (comments 25 Jan.)
I think I'm scared that 'tasks' will take up all of my time, and I'll have no time left for fun and for the things I really want to do. I don't seem to have much of what they call leisure time somehow, though I have a tendency to turn hobbies into work.
I'm reminded of those articles you read in magazines which say 'Just 10 minutes a day to transform your....' (fill in the blank), or 'In only half an hour a day you can learn a new ....' or 'By simply taking a daily 40 minute walk you will soon....' and when you add them all up plus your work hours it comes to more than 24!
Life is short and I've got a lot to fit in....31st Jan tax return deadline looms..
Where are your special places? Finding special places is a way to have maximum fun with this novel writing lark.
So what's required of a special place to write in? Clean is required. Good coffee and pleasant service are required. A view of passers by through a (clean) window would be good. An unhurried ambience. Music if it's not too loud is fine. A fresh flower on the table is a welcome bonus. Or a candle on a dull day. Pretty basic things to ask of a cafe, wouldn't you say?
Mary Portas and Michel Roux would have their work cut out here, because sadly, on the whole, cafes in Scotland are embarassingly bad.
Do you have a favourite cafe? Recommendations needed please!
I suspect if you have something to say you can probably write it anywhere, but I'm on a mission to find perfect places to write.
Here is one of my favourite cafes. Because it is good, it's often busy, and I couldn't comfortably write while people are waiting for a table, so I need to find the quiet times.
On chilly winter days, they put sheepskins and rugs on the seats outside. Love it! (Though I went inside....) www.kemberandjones.co.uk
So why do tasks nag me?
Because I procrastinate, because I'm sometimes lazy and because I have other, interesting things to do usually!
I have a friend who once looked askance at the very notion of a nagging task. 'I just go to where it needs to be done, and do it.' she said. She now travels the world running her own multi million pound business. 'Do it. Do it now.' is a good motto.
So maybe if I stop groaning and just do it, with a lighter heart, I'll stop nagging myself. It isn't much fun after all.
Do you have any nagging tasks? Tips welcome!
I do notice that when I've completed one I tend to carry on and get a few out of the way. Feels good....
Another get-it-done strategy for another nagging task. Break it down into baby steps.
Tax return (groan).Tonight get out all the paperwork and put it in the middle of the table. Easy.
In the morning read it and decide on the next action. Painless.
Later, do the next action - no problem, no stress.
Now sometimes I just go along in baby steps for half an hour here, 10 minutes there, over a weekend say, or even a week if I've got a lot more interesting things I want to be doing. But sometimes I realise there isn't really that much to it, and if I just focus for an hour or two, it could be done and off my mind for another whole year, so I just...do it.
Today I finally got so fed up carrying the mental burden of some nagging tasks that I just did them. You have to adopt a particular mindset, don't you, to do the things you have been putting off, and putting off...
My conversation with myself went something like this (it was about contacting someone) -
Why am I putting this off? I've put it off so long now it's going to cause me some embarassment to do it.
How long will the embarassment last? Minutes.
Will I actually die of embarassment? No.
How much will it hurt? Well, I'll squirm a bit.
How will I feel after this is done? Great. Relieved. Clear headed. Lighter. Happier.
How long will it actually take to do? Fifteen minutes max.
Can I come up with one really sound, intelligent reason not to do it? No.
Simply did it! (And of course it wasn't so bad and I wondered why I had put it off so long. Some things I just don't learn.....)
Now, the tax return..
To write a 50,000 word novel in a month requires 1,667 words a day. And that's in a 30 day month. February has only 28 days this year!
I've just counted - my blog postings are about 200 words. Hmm.
Chris Baty in No Plot, No Problem talks of his own experience: '...the pleasure of learning by doing. Of taking risks, of making messes. Of following ideas just to see where they lead. The roar of adrenaline drowned out the self critical voices that tend to make creative play such work for adults.'
Writer Ray Bradbury in the same vein: 'Your intuition knows what it wants to write, so get out of the way.'
Baty says 'The zone - that place where you become a passive conduit to a story....makes life a little more enchanted.'
Nice word enchanted. Enchanted February - would that make a good title? Sounds familiar...
It all sounds a bit like a wing and a prayer to me! But it does sound like fun, and I will do it!
After all what's the alternative? Be a bit down in February like I usually am? Wish the whole month away waiting for Spring? Moan about how dank and muddy and depressing February is?
Nine days to go, in which time I have to come up with seven paintings for two galleries.
To the studio!