Focusing on Projects

I can be very easily distracted. But I can also sit and write for hours without realizing.

I start the day with a list of activities I need to do. I set out exactly what I plan to accomplish with the day at the beginning so I know how to spend my time. The specific amounts of time on each task isn’t important, it’s crossing each item off the list by the end of the day.

I keep a glass of water at my desk. I take care of my physical needs, then I get to work. I think only of the writing.

I sit down to write my blog post and I think. Even when I have an idea, I take a moment to think about it before writing anything. I don’t jump in immediately.

I stare at the blank page, let it stare back at me before writing words. They don’t have to be the right words, they don’t have to be organized, they just need to get on the page. I can fix them later.

I can’t go from blank page to masterpiece if I never start writing.

At first, I have to force myself to write. I force out a few sentences before I get into the flow. I have to get in the “zone,” that place of mental concentration if I want to build momentum. For a blog post draft, I might need only about thirty minutes.

Once I cut out distractions, I get to writing. I put one word after another, and keep going. I think about what comes next and the overall message. I pour out words until I reach the conclusion. I don’t look at the clock to see how long it took. I work to silence and the clacking of my keyboard or the scratch of my pen on paper.

I try to write as long as I can without a break. Sometimes that means staring at the page trying to find the words.

For a longer project I work as long as I can, then take a short break. If I can’t finish that in one go that’s fine. What matters is I put in the work and got in the zone.

I cut the distractions I can control. I make sure I’m awake and need nothing. I stare at the tauntingly blank page, then force myself to write until I’m not forcing it. My thoughts hone in on the the work and topic at hand. The words start to flow and I get in the zone. I make it last as long as possible or as long as needed.

Then I take a break and come back to do it again.

Why I Committed to Daily Blogging

I could have written this post when I started my blog back in July. The reasons for my commitment are the same. Now, though, I have over 140 blog posts since July 2 and over 60 days of daily blogging.

I’ve had times in the past that I committed to daily writing. Every time I eventually missed or skipped a day, and that made it hard to start again. I wasn’t writing publically, but I was writing.

I haven’t let that happen to my blog.

I write every day. I’ve made it non-optional. I am obligated to myself to write a blog post. Every. Single. Day.

The internal motivation is just as important as the results. If you can decide to do something and come through even when it’s just for you, what could you do for others?

I said on Twitter at some point, “I set out to write every day and I stopped doing it. Now I’m going back to that habit. I’m not a writer if I only write when it’s easy.” There will be hardship and trouble. I have to be willing to stand up and push on when that happens.

I have read a lot of writing advice, blogs, books, watched videos, etc. The one piece of advice I’ve seen the most in the last seven years is to write every day.

The best and quickest way to see improvement is to write every day. There’s no way around it. That daily practice applies to other art forms as well.

To demonstrate the improvement, compare my early post Struggling to Organize my Poetry Manuscript to my more recent post Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned. The first is not a great blog post at all, and not great writing either. The second is a better blog post and better writing more generally. I picked those two posts because they are on the same topic, making them easier to contrast.

I’ve made improvement just over the last few months, as you can see. Other Praxians found marked improvement in their writing just from the beginning of the 30 day blogging challenge to the end. This isn’t just my experience, it’s the experience of Praxians and of the authors you know and love.

There were promised benefits of daily writing from the creative writing communities I’ve engaged in. Writers aren’t joking when they say if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The most frequent complaint is that doing it every day without fail makes it feel like work.

Anyone who is seriously pursuing art will have to work. It is work, it will feel like work, but it is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Anyone who wants to have a shot at making money doing their art probably has to practice every day. The only writer I’ve heard about that made a lot of money and didn’t write every day is F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s the exception, not the rule.

If you want to be any kind of artist, practice your art!

 

What I’ve experienced:

More inspiration more often — ideas and motivation for writing. Spurts of energy and artistic genius that are fleeting. That’s actually how I started this post. I read the Praxis email welcoming me to Module 3 and just knew, I needed to write about why I committed to daily writing.

Greater ability to write without inspiration. It’s not always bad, but I sometimes go into my blog posts without knowing what I’m going to write about that day. Sometimes I’ll get struck with inspiration, other times I have to fend for myself. It’s harder, but I can, better than before.

More ideas for blog posts and creative writing. By committing to daily writing, I’ve had to find ideas when I didn’t already have any. I’ve drawn on Recap posts for this, but I’ve also set out to write those intentionally. There are so many potential ideas, I just have to find something to unlock a new idea in my mind. Sometimes it’s for a story, other times a post for my blog, or for Over the Invisible Wall. It’s gotten easier to write when I didn’t go in with an idea.

Increased sense of productivity — not because I was being unproductive before or that it allows me to excuse wasting the rest of the day. Writing every day has encouraged me to do more every day. I started blogging daily, I should revamp my daily poetry writing. If I can do that, why don’t I work on other projects every day? It escalates. The more you consistently do every day, the more you can do every day. As soon as I gained some efficiency in daily blogging, I found myself with more time and wanting to write more.

Clearer writing — it’s easier to follow my topics and I’m better at keeping a blog post focused. Instead of ultra-casual topic switching like a conversation with an old friend, I have a focused discussion with the reader on the topic at hand. My recent series on self-publishing is a great example of that. I stay on task, keeping the post exactly where I intend.

Clearer articulation of my thoughts. I can more easily express what I think about a given topic. I had a lot of trepidation, but I wrote and posted Why I’m Not a Christian. I had an on-the-fly, unexpected conversation about religion with a co-worker yesterday. I was able to eschew fear. I’d already publicly shared my position anyway. I’m in the middle of writing a tough post on eating meat for Over the Invisible Wall. I have to write down exactly my line of thought so I can refine it into a cogent argument. It’s hard, but I’m getting there.

 

Some notes on it:

I knew going in that my writing would improve. I’d read about other improvements as well. Now I’ve experienced them. Every experience I read about from other people who did the 30 day blogging challenge had this in common. Without fail, writing every day improved the quality of writing.

I chose to go into an endless daily blogging challenge because I am a writer. I want to turn my passion into my career, and I have to improve as much as possible. I have to treat it as my job even now when I make no money. Sure, I’ve sold 3 copies of my poetry collection, but I spent more self-publishing than I got back from that.

I’m building up my body of work. The more I have made, the more I have to draw on later, and the stronger a signal I send that I can deliver. I write and publish every day. I have some work that took longer to make, and I’m open about how long it took to do it.

I’m teaching myself that I can do it. I’m giving my brain a lot of positive experiences. I wrote a blog post yesterday, I can do it today. I finished my poetry manuscript in two weeks, I can make another poetry collection in that time. The more I do this, the more I can beat imposter syndrome, the more I can conquer harder, more daunting projects.

Practicing my craft every day is the most valuable habit I’ve built recently.

Module 2 Project Wrap-up

This post will be updated on the 30th with any new information about my project.

It’s the last week of my portfolio project marketing my poetry collection.

I got my copies of Inside a Writer’s Head in the mail before expected, and I’ve sold three copies. I set up my sale page to direct people to last Wednesday, but haven’t gotten any sales through it yet.

I sold a copy to my boyfriend, my local library, and some long-time friends of mine. I’m sending a copy to Jacob Beman as a thank you for designing the cover.

I’m expecting more sales after I announce the giveaway winners, because every entrant is getting a coupon code for my sale page. If you haven’t entered and want a chance to get the ebook for free, check out the giveaway page. It explains how to get four different entries to maximize your chances of winning.

The main video this week is a reading of some poems from the collection. I’m editing the two short videos I made reading related poems today. They will be up by the end of the month for sure, but I’ll be working on getting them out today.

I started my Instagram at the beginning of the month. In that time I’ve gained 47 followers. I’ve posted once a day every day.

On Twitter:

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On Facebook:

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I posted every day on Facebook and Twitter as well. I shared the images from Instagram and most days I also shared my blog post for the day. This week that was poems from Inside a Writer’s Head.

At the end of this month I will have created 6 Youtube videos, hit 61 straight days of blogging, run a giveaway, increased my social media presence, and sold 3+ copies of Inside a Writer’s Head.

I structured my week fairly loosely. I created the blog post(s) for the week first, as they would serve as a base for the video(s). For most of the month, I didn’t plan my Instagram posts, and read through my poems to choose lines for the images every morning. This last week I had already selected which poems were going on my blog, so I shared those on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to tie everything together.

I typically spent 2-3 days shooting and editing video. It could have taken less time, but devoting time around my job it took that time. Some of the videos took less time, because I had less video to edit before it was done, but one week the video was 17 minutes to start, and one of my videos reading poetry was initially around 20 minutes.

I really learned how to make a single, coherent, focused product through video making and through the daily blogging exercises I’ve been doing. I have to keep a video focused on the topic of that video. I have to keep a blog post focused on the topic for that blog post. To do that, I have to center myself and my thoughts on that topic and focus myself on it so I produce content that stays with my chosen theme.

Next month is the writing month in Praxis, so I will continue my daily blogging. I also plan on running another giveaway, this time with more possible prizes including the Inside a Writer’s Head ebook, a pdf of my novella The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan, coupon codes for the poetry collection, the bonus content, and maybe another mystery prize. I’ll also continue making at least one video/week.

[Authorial Present] Dream Investments (Poem)

This is a poem from Inside a Writer’s Head. Read more from and about the collection here.

What if I begin

to write once again?

To refine my craft

each day with time?

I’ll find myself,

one day, with such a store

of experience and writings,

Oh! such galore!

I’ll not regret that time well-spent

My investment in

my authorial present.

For a writer’s not born

with talent and skill,

but honed and created

through the daily toil.

[Clarify] Dead Men Cannot Defend Against False Claims

This is a poem from Inside a Writer’s Head. Read more from and about the collection here.

One day I might have need

To clarify what I mean

By various lines, or

Works, or kinds

Of characters and events.

Surely I’ll be misinterpreted,

As authors all must be,

Especially when they’re dead

And can’t explain their meaning.

“That is not it at all,

That is not what I meant, at all,”

May be what I must say,

And then they’ll ask

For an explanation,

Which I’ll surely be happy to give.

I’ll answer the questions,

Set the tale right,

Be interpreted as intended.

But how convoluted

Will their claims be

After I’ve lost all my hair,

Or any simple flair

Identifying me as an individual?

I didn’t note this in the collection, but the quotation is from T. S. Eliot, from his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

[Thought-Block] Partially Formed Thoughts (Poem)

This is a poem from Inside a Writer’s Head. Read more from and about the collection here.

Just too far from the reaches of my mind

An idea formed, it won’t come to my eyes.

Almost inspiration, trickling perspiration

As I work to overcome the thought-block

That prevents me from unlocking

The partial, half-formed thought I had.

It’s still not quite there,

As time passes, it fades into air,

Drifting further from consciousness,

From any semblance of acknowledgement

That I caught a whisper, a breath

Of whatever was there.

I simply didn’t catch quite enough of it.

Nonsensical Sensicality (Poem)

This is a poem from Inside a Writer’s Head. Read more from and about the collection here.

So many expressions,

why can’t we say what we

Mean?

Our language is all skewed

together,

no clarity outside of the surreality.

The dream-like sensicality of

Nonsensical things.

The not-really’s of this world are

all but

Few and far between.

No wonder language is the

hardest

of all things.