Friday, December 6, 2013

Quick update.

Had a day off today to write and recharge. In addition to writing, I also did some reading, played with a few new beauty tools (hot rollers, blue temporary hair streaks, oh my!), made delicious gluten-free cookies, and decided to do a little blogging 'cause I haven't been here in a while.

I'm currently writing the second book in the Flame series and revising the first draft of the first book in the series. The revising is more challenging for me than the writing is, but both are going a little slower than I'd like. I'm getting back into my "get my ass up at 5:30 AM and do writing/revising before work" routine, but since it's really freakin' cold at that time of the morning, getting out of bed then has also been rather difficult. But I'm pushing through...

I've been a bit quiet and melancholy lately. I think I miss my friends. My fault, not theirs--between working a challenging day job and making writing and revising my other top priority, I've found myself with very little spare time, and I end up sleeping, preparing GF/DF food, and reading (writing books as well as novels in my genre) during any spare moments I get. I constantly feel like I'm being a shitty friend, and I hope that eventually I'll have the time and energy to return phone calls, emails, etc. Fellow writers, if you have any tips for balancing friends and a social life with writing, I'm all ears!

A look into my world these days...
* I've been reading this writer's blog posts a lot--I'm always inspired by her words.
* This book impressed the hell out of me--a fun, twisted read from a fellow Philly-area writer. I read it in one day--couldn't put it down!
* I'm still reeling from the most recent episode of Person of Interest. (Warning: Link contains spoilers!) Were you surprised by it, too?
* I've been cheering this guy on in Project Runway All Stars. He's always been one of my favorite PR designers, and next week I hope to see him win a damn challenge already!
* I needed a writing confidence boost in a big way, so I created this board on Pinterest. I hope it helps you, too!

That's all for's back to writing Book 2 for me!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Simple questions.

I'm diving headfirst into editing the first Emerson novel.  I've taken forever to go through the hard copy and mark the hell out of it, and now it's time to dig into the digital version and start actually making the changes.

I've been lazy.  Sick.  Sleeping a lot, or not sleeping enough.  Thinking a lot.  Sometimes thinking too much.  And all of it's good for my writing--the thinking especially, but even the sick and tired, because some of my best brainstorms have come when I'm a little fuzzy in the head.

But goddamn it, now it's time to get down to business.  And my business is writing.

I started up again today with the early o'clock wake-up time.  It makes me happy to tackle the most important thing in my day first.  It's what I need to do, and I started doing it today.  And I'll do it tomorrow too, and the next day, and so on and so forth.  I'm getting other shit done too--work, freelance, life in general, cooking delicious gluten-free noms, etc--but writing must be my number one thing.  And I must treat it as such.

Treating it as my top priority boils down to asking myself a few simple questions when something comes up.  And "something" could be anything--being distracted by cats on the internet or a Sephora sale, catching up on Person of Interest, taking a nap, writing something else, doing something that could take me out of "writerbrain" mode, etc.  But in the case of any kind of something, I'm training myself to ask:

1. Is this really necessary?
2. Is it useful to someone I care about helping?
3. Will this help me with my Emerson-related goals?

If the answer is not yes to one or several of those questions, then I need to think very carefully about whether or not I do the thing that I'm asking myself about.  This line of thinking is making me cognizant of the many barriers (whether meaningful or frivolous) to writing and how I can handle them well so they don't derail me from my goals.

And with that, it's nearly 11 PM.  I need to be up in 7 hours, and in that time I need to get a good night's sleep, so off I go...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I'm a writer.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately.

Yes, I have a completed first draft, which I’m due to begin editing, like, yesterday.  And yes, I’m working (albeit slowly) on the first draft of the second book in the series.  But progress has been slow on both—a stark contrast to the month of July, where I felt like I was a writing superstar, not just churning out more words, but also better work.

I think it’s that I don’t feel like a real writer all the time.  And that’s a problem.

Of course someone who doesn’t feel that much like a real writer is content to curl up in bed, reading books by other writers.  Or watching baseball games.  Or sleeping.  I feel like a legitimate baseball fan, and I'm most definitely an experienced sleeper.  I’ve earned my cred in those areas.  But when it comes to being a writer, I have to convince myself of my cred, and it’s disconcerting.

Too often I focus on what I don’t have: a publishing contract, an agent, a ton of industry contacts, etc.  I focus on the things that keep me from writing, like the day job, baseball season, feeling exhausted, not always being in the right frame of mind.

I forget to focus on what I do have.  I do have a completed first draft.  I do have a fully realized plot and characters, and a mapped-out 7-book series.  I have a website I’m happy with.  I have an author platform, and am learning more about social media—and how it can benefit me—every day.  I have people in my life who cheer me on.  I have talent and determination.  And I have a plan—for revising, for editing, for querying, for networking, for getting published.

That’s a lot more than other people have.  Comparatively, I’m probably ahead of many others who share dreams similar to mine.

I need to remember that.  I need to focus on comparing myself to who I was months ago, weeks ago, even yesterday, and improving that person—not comparing myself to other writers.  I have to go at my own pace.  I have to move forward with networking and interviewing and researching, keeping in mind that I am a writer.  If nothing else, I’m a writer of a first draft, and I owe it to myself to remind myself that I’m a writer so I can take on the necessary tasks to bring this from first draft to final draft, thus further legitimizing that whole “I’m a writer” thing.

It’s okay if I’m a novice writer.  An amateur writer.  A budding author.  All of those things are true.  And so is the fact that I am a writer…and I deserve to treat myself, and think of myself, as such.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Quick hits.

So a few exciting things have happened this weekend:

1. Went to Kinko's and printed out my manuscript.  I'm gonna start revising this week...and I am so excited about it.  Yep, I'm a geek.

2. Had a lot of fun writing this article:  If you're a writer/author who needs ideas on what to do--or not do--on Twitter, check it out!

3. Last night I seriously gorged myself on amazing gluten-free food from the always-awesome restaurant Grandma's Grotto.  Two appetizers, a scrumptious dish of baked penne (half of which I ate for dinner last night, half for lunch today), dessert (a gluten-free eclair...NOM), and a gluten-free white pizza that I've been randomly eating pieces of.  I swear I'm not 800 pounds, not even after eating all of those oh-so-delicious vittles.  But damn, it was good.  All of it.  (And yes, I can still fit into my jeans.)

I don't know where the hell the summer went (oh wait, I spent the whole summer writing...), but I can feel fall in the air, and I can't wait to get my red pen out and start the next phase of whipping this book into shape...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The black leather elephant in the room

I've been working on my "elevator pitch" lately.  Because, quite frankly, it sucks.

Not that I plan on running into or cornering an agent in an elevator anytime soon.  But the elevator pitch would be handy during those moments when somebody asks, "So what's your book about?" and I'm stuck fumbling around for just the right words (and for all my effort, my description comes out sounding extremely lame).

Although I still have much more progress to make, I'm getting better at the elevator pitch.  I've written the story of Emerson, a young woman who stumbles into becoming a hitwoman for hire...  But what I'm not good at is addressing the black leather elephant over there in the corner. 

Emerson is a wife.  The only child of a murderer and an abuser.  A young woman who keeps to herself, with good reason--she has many secrets.  She's a habitual liar.  She was thrust into the unenviable role of caregiver/breadwinner after her husband becomes paralyzed.  She has a secret life.  Maybe more than one.  And now she's a killer, encouraged to kill by the cops, of all people.

I'll readily talk about all of those things.  They're all integral to the plot, and they've held people's interest when I've talked about them.

What I haven't really talked about is that Emerson is also a dominatrix.  A domme.  Someone who blurs the line between pain and pleasure, who hurts people--because they ask for it--for money.

I'm comfortable writing about this aspect of Emerson.  But I'm not so good at talking about it to other people.  Because once you start talking about sex, people often get weird, uncomfortable, and even judgey.

I'm okay writing about it.  If (after I'm published, of course) someone doesn't like reading about it, they can put the book down, write me a nastygram, leave a pissy review on, whatever.  Or they can be intrigued by it, keep reading, gradually become comfortable with this aspect of Emerson...  But it's different when I'm talking to someone about the story.  If I start talking about the black leather elephant, they'll have to respond in some way, and...hello, awkward, if it makes them uncomfortable.  I'm all about challenging people's comfort levels, but I don't necessarily want to be looking them in the eyes when I do it.  And I don't want them to feel pressured to respond n a certain way, either.

I went to a writer's group meeting the other night.  A few people, after critiquing a few of my chapters, asked follow-up questions about Emerson, and I happily answered them.  Without mentioning Emerson's domme job.  Sigh.

It's something that has to get mentioned sometime, but I'm nervous that once I mention it, it'll skew people's perceptions of the book.  I've managed to write about a domme in a completely un-pornographic way (seriously, not to toot my own horn, but that takes a bit of talent).  But that's hard to believe without seeing it, reading it.  And I'm scared of this aspect of the story scaring people away from it.

So for now, I let it be the black leather elephant in the room.  I know it's there, and for the time being, I let it lurk in the shadows, whip in paw (or trunk), paddle at the ready.  But sometime it's gonna want to come out of its dark little corner, and at some point, I'm going to have to let it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why yes, I *am* plotting something...

I had a light bulb moment today.  After a week of trying to cobble together a short story idea, it came to me.

Why are you spending all this energy thinking of short story ideas when you've got another Emerson book to write?

I guess it was because this period was supposed to be my "break from writing."  It didn't seem right to interrupt that with, well, writing.

But...let's just say I am, to some degree, re-inspired.

And if I've learned anything about inspiration, it's that I need to use it when it shows up, because it could disappear into the ether again pretty quickly.  When the muses, those sly little pixies, show up and sprinkle a layer of fairy dust on you when you're sleeping (it totally happens that way, right?), it doesn't last forever, and you'd do well to use it ASAP.

So I did.  Not only did I plot out the first 8 chapters of the book, I also wrote 800+ words--the first chapter.

It felt good, it felt natural--it felt like it took no time at all.  The flow, the voice, and the celerity I'd cultivated during the last third of the first book (yeah, that's a mouthful) is still here.

I can feel it in my bones--I'm ready to do this.  It's what I should be doing.

I never thought I'd be gearing up to revise Emerson 1* while writing Emerson 2*, but it's pretty clear to me that that's how it's shaking out.  And you know what?  I'm okay with that.  It's a little crazy, sure, but what decent writer isn't a little crazy, or hell bent on doing stuff that qualifies as a wee bit nuts?

This kind of crazy feels damn good.

* Because I still haven't settled on actual titles yet.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Courting insanity.

"A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity." –Franz Kafka

There’s a funny thing that happens when I don’t write.  

I start going a little crazy.

Not stark raving mad crazy or anything.  But the difference in mindset and behavior is very, very obvious to me.

It’s been a week and a day since I’ve written.  I finished the first draft of Emerson last Tuesday.  And since then things have felt…weird.

I visited my parents, which was fun.  I watched Dexter and True Blood, like I normally do.  I did some reading—police-related research and a book of short stories by Clive Barker (how the hell have I not been reading him, oh, all my life? Love, love, love).  I did some shopping—perhaps a little too much—buying a couple necessities from Sephora, some new clothes for work, and the 2014 Writer’s Market ebook.  I’ve been nursing an injury, trying to get lots of rest, working on a bunch of projects at the day job, etc.

I’ve been busy.  But it feels like I haven’t been.

It feels like there’s something I should be doing.  It feels like something’s missing.  There’s a hole in my gut—I can feel it—and its edges are burning, stinging, begging for me to whip out some words.

I have tons of ideas for novels—the next Emerson books, of course, plus a few completely unrelated ideas for other series or standalone books.  My head is filled with ideas for longer stories.  But the only novel-length story I should be working on right now is Emerson—that’s what needs to get my laser focus for the moment.

I’m getting an itch to write a short story.  I don’t really have any short story ideas these days.  But I’m hoping one comes to me soon.  My ideas tend to come out of nowhere, so I’m trying not to overthink it and just hoping one comes up organically.

I need to write the crazy away.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What I learned while completing my first draft

So the other day (7/30, to be exact), something amazing happened...


It came in at over 115,000 words, which is longer than I expected it to be.  Some of it will be cut during the revising/rewriting process, which I'll start at the beginning of September.  But I'm thrilled that I have that much material to work with, that this first draft is less shitty than the first draft of a different manuscript I wrote a few years ago, and that in the last month of writing, I made some pretty significant progress.

At the beginning of writing this book, I would sit down to write with no plan whatsoever, and somehow I was able to write.  But it was slow-going, and I was just slogging along. But then I gradually began reworking my process.  I outlined the rest of the story using flashcards.  I started writing every day, no matter what.  Then I started giving myself a word count quota every week--and I met it every time.  Then, in the last third of the book, I noted the major plot points that needed to happen in each chapter.  And then I started assigning dates for writing each chapter.  I met (and sometimes exceeded) all my goals--and meeting those goals made me feel successful and accomplished, which helped motivate me to keep on writing.

On that note, here are a few things I learned while writing this draft:
  • Getting organized can work wonders.  When I first started writing, I'd pooh-poohed organization and outlining, but by the end of this draft, one thing's for certain: for me, it's totally necessary.  It changed not just how I write, but what I wrote.  (Seriously, the last third of the draft is worlds better than the first two-thirds.)
  • Yes, I can make the characters in my head talk.  When I figured out the plot points for a chapter in advance, I was confident when I sat down to write.  Finally, I wasn't sitting there staring at the screen wondering what the hell to write about.  When I cleared that nonsense out of my head, all of a sudden the characters were coming through.  They did and said things I didn't expect, and I went with it.  They carried the story, and they made the chapters shine.  I wasn't writing them anymore--they were writing themselves.  And that's when the magic happens.
  • Making writing the top priority sets the tone for the day.  I'm a night owl.  I always preferred writing at night.  But then work and life got stressful, and I was often too tired to write at night.  So I started writing in the morning--specifically, getting up at 5:30 AM to write.  I made it the first thing I did every day. Getting my top priority done first thing in the morning not just helped me write more consistently, it also got the creative juices flowing early and kept me excited about the story all day.  
  • Getting sick can actually be beneficial.  As a writer, I have a very active imagination.  When I get sick, I always envision the worst-case scenario, and every cough or cold has the potential to lead to death.  Nothing makes a writer speed up her writing than wondering if she's going to die. 
  • Be okay with having a shitty first draft.  All the cool kids are doing it.  And by "all the cool kids," I mean every author, like, ever.  It's a rite of passage.  Embrace it.
  • Your friends aren't going to get it...and that's OK.  I can't tell you how many times my non-writing friends looked like they were going to conk out if I said one more word about my story, my characters, my process, etc.  Seriously, don't attempt to tell your non-writing friends more than a sentence or two about anything writing-related you're doing.  They're trying to be polite listening to write babble because they care about you, but do them a favor and either blog about it or find fellow writer friends to talk about it with.
  • [insert thing here]  Don't be afraid to do this.  If finding just the right thing (in my case, the perfect New York hotel for Emerson to kill someone at, or the perfect New York eatery for her to meet Mirabella for a drink) is going to take you away from the actual act of writing, just do [insert thing here], highlight it, and come back to it later.  Keep the flow of writing going, details be damned.
  • Pinterest breaks are good if they're kept short. I swear, I write more than I pin, though you'd never know it from the amount of pins on my "Writing" board.  That being said, some days I got a great deal of good inspiration, words of wisdom, or helpful information from some of these it's actually a pretty good way to procrastinate.
  • I can actually write something substantial during baseball season.  This was shocking.  Seriously.  I also have no idea how I finished the first draft the night before the trade deadline.  I did, however, chew through an entire box of Tic-Tacs fretting over whether my Michael Young Phillies shirt would be obsolete in July (thankfully, it wasn't...oh, and I still taste minty fresh). 
This month will be full of research, getting even more organized, etc...all in preparation to start fresh in September.  Is it totally geeky that I seriously can't wait to start revising and rewriting?   :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Achieving my optimal writing environment

Lately I’ve been making major headway with the book.  Part of that was nailing down the plot details of the last third of the book—writing it on flashcards, which have been keeping me in line and less likely to go off on silly tangents.  But another part of it has been keeping good writing habits—which, surprisingly, aren’t all writing-related, yet they absolutely contribute to my ability to write well.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve figured out the things I need to be doing to have that optimal writing environment where both my writing and I can thrive.  These are the ten things that I’ve found can make or break my success:

·       Have a neat desk.  This is a must for me.  For me, desk clutter leads to brain clutter.  Clearer thoughts are often the result of having a clearer desk.

·       Have a neat house.  If I know the dishes are dirty, the toilet paper needs to be replenished in the bathroom, or there’s laundry all over the bedroom floor, I just can’t focus.  Basic neatness has to happen before I can comfortably sit down to write.

·       Eat satisfying foods.  Because of my many food allergies, I have to eat a very restricted diet.  Because of this, not everything I eat is satisfying.  I try to eat a mix of things that are both healthy and satisfying, because if I’m not satisfied, I’m cranky and hungry and craving bad foods, which leads to me being distracted while writing.

·       Regularly read a mix of writing-related books and books within my genre.  Both of these types of books are helpful as I continue writing the Emerson series.

·       Make reading in bed the last thing I do before sleeping.  Because it’s always a good idea for a writer to go to bed with words on the brain.

·        Get decent sleep.  In order to get up early on work days to write, I need to be in bed and reading between 10:30 and 11:00 PM, with the book put away and me actively trying to sleep by 11:30 PM.  If I don’t stick to this schedule, it makes mornings difficult and I oversleep, thereby taking away some of that precious writing time I’ve tried to carve out for myself.

·        Wake up early to have the quietest writing time.  I need quiet when I write.  (“Silence” would actually be a more accurate word.)  I greatly prefer to write while alone to minimize distractions.  While yes, I generally do a few small non-writing-related things upon waking (check last night’s fantasy baseball progress, pluck my eyebrows, whatever), I make the priority eating breakfast, guzzling caffeine, and writing as much as I can before getting into the shower.  This way, no matter what happens the rest of the day, I’ve already made some progress on the task that’s most important to me.

·        Leave work at work.  When I’m at work, I focus on work.  But when I’m not at work, I need to focus on all the other aspects of my life, including writing.  I’m happy to stay late some days to get the job done, but once I leave work, except in very rare circumstances, I don’t deal with it again until the next work day.  This helps me focus on the task at hand both at work and at home, and ensures that there’s not a lot of mixing of my two worlds (Professional Nikki and Crazy* Writer Nikki never show up in the same place at the same time).

·        Hold myself accountable for writing goals by posting them somewhere visible.  There’s a Muse posted hanging above my desk at home.  Tacked to the poster’s frame is a piece of neon pink paper.  On that paper, I used a thick black Sharpie to write: Write 5,000 words every week!  I can see and read that paper from across the room.  It’s a constant reminder to meet my goal. 

·        Track my progress.  Every week, I write up a sheet of paper that I fill in as the week goes on.  It lists the days of the week, with a space to fill in how many words I’ve written each day.  It includes places to jot my weekly word total to date as well as my grand total of words to date.  It helps me be proud of what I’ve done so far and focused on what I still need to do that week.

*I’m not actually crazy.  But you’ve gotta be a little twisted to write the kind of stuff I do, and it’s the sort of twisted that I tend to avoid bringing into the workplace.

Monday, June 10, 2013


After battling a headache all weekend long, I managed to get up at 5:30 this morning and wrote 600 words.

Then I got in the shower, got prettied up for work.  Arrived at work a little early, ate only healthy snacks throughout the day, finished several projects, stayed a little late, and drove through torrential rainstorms to get home.

At home, I remembered to email my mother and a few friends.  I read some helpful writing blogs, pinned a few things to my ever-expanding Writing board on Pinterest.  Made tonight's dinner and tomorrow's lunch.  Tidied up.  Took allergy meds and melatonin on time, ensuring that I will be able to get to sleep at a reasonable hour and that I won't be sneezing my face off when I wake up.

I did all those things--writer things, worker things, and around-the-house things.  I wore many hats.  And yet I still somehow feel like I didn't do enough.

I focus on that 600 and wonder why it couldn't have been 1,000.  I curse myself for meddling with my fantasy baseball teams early this morning, which took away from my writing time.  I get angry because doing 600 words a day will get the novel finished in less time than if I was writing 1,000 words a day.

No matter what I do, it'll never feel like enough.  If I hit 1,000 on a work morning, I'll probably berate myself for not getting to 1,200.  So on and so forth.

I'm proud of those 600 words, but dammit, they still just don't feel like enough.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Seducing the reader.

My protagonist is a dominatrix-slash-assassin.  This is no big deal to me--in my head, Emerson has always been these things, and I am offended by neither dead body nor latex catsuit and whip.  The people I'm friends with are likely not offended by these sorts of things, either--that's one of many reasons why we're friends.  But once I get published (I can say this definitively because if traditional publishing doesn't happen for me, I will go the self-publishing route), the bulk of my readership will likely not be my friends.  And that means that Emerson needs to be palatable to a wider audience.

I am in no way making Emerson as a character conform to what the masses are comfortable with.  Emerson is what she is, and that can't change.  But the way I write her has to be smart.  I have to seduce the reader.

This is the age of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Stories dealing with submissive women are all the rage, and here I am, writing about a dominatrix.  Can you recall any commercially successful novels about a dominatrix?  Nope, I can't, either.

That doesn't mean there can't be or there won't be.  It just means that, as far as I can remember, it hasn't happened yet.

If people are willing to accept 50 Shades, which was unconventional at the time it became popular, then they may be willing to accept Emerson--unconventional in a "polar opposite" sort of way.  But there will be some seduction involved.  I'm asking the reader to accept a type of character they haven't seen much of before.

How I'm seducing the reader is through the way Emerson--and, specifically, what she does--is written.  There are scenes in this book that don't depict sex, but do depict a man getting kicked in a most sensitive place, or whipped until he begs for it to stop.  There is an art to writing scenes like this, so that the reader fully understands what's going on but isn't so taken aback by it that they're too shocked to continue reading.  There are words you do and don't use in these types of scenes so that you avoid it sounding like a written account of hardcore pornography.

I'm seducing the reader by making them comfortable with the idea of reading about a domme and seeing the world through her eyes, yet also by keeping them on their toes with plot and character developments.  It's a delicate art, but it's what I have to do when I have a character that's really very different from what people have seen before.

Different is good, and I fully embrace Emerson's kind of different.  But sometimes there's some hand-holding and seduction involved to make it easier for everyone else to accept different.  I'm 70,000 words in, and although there's been all manner of nudity, punishment, and kinkiness laced throughout the story, I've just hit upon the first time when using a word like cock was unavoidable. 

That's what my kind of seduction is all about--make the reader know exactly what I mean, and help them see that scene in their head, but don't scare them away by using strong sexual language.  I want the reader to be as enthralled by Emerson as I am, and I don't want any jarring words to diminish that.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lost and found.

Sometimes I have a little problem of thinking too far ahead and worrying about things long before they're ever relevant.  Something that was weighing on my mind lately was, I know how the Emerson series ends, but I don't know how to actually facilitate that happening.

By that I mean, I know Emerson's fate at the end of the series.  I've known for a long time, and I haven't wavered on that.  I'm completely happy with the ending and feel that it's a fitting end to the series.  But I didn't know how to get her to that point.  I knew some things that had to happen to get her to where I need her to be at the end of the series, but how could I do those things in a believable, non-contrived sort of way?

Today I found that answer.  No joke, I watched like 15 minutes of one of my muses doing some interviews--that's been a ritual of mine lately because simply hearing the voices of various muses seems to help activate the creative part of my brain and amplify what comes out of it.  I then opened up Emerson book 1 and started typing words for the next chapter, and that's when it hit me.  The big brainstorm.  The way to get from A to Z.  The "holy shit" moment of story-planning.

Now I know exactly how to make it all happen.  I've found a plausible way to facilitate this ending, and what's awesome is that it stays really true to the heart of Emerson and the heart of the story.  It feels natural.  It feels right.  It also feels like, duh, why didn't you think of this before?

Gotta love trying to write the last third of Book 1 and instead coming up with just the right ending for Book 7.  But hey, I won't complain--I'm beyond stoked about my latest brainstorm.  ;)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Taking it easier on myself.

So I’ve been reading this book, The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer's Block, by Hillary Rettig, about writer productivity. Much of the first part of it deals with perfectionism. Now, I’ve always known I was somewhat of a perfectionist, but I never knew how much until reading this book.

I mean, holy CRAP, I’m a perfectionist. Wow. All the self-destructive behaviors the author mentions and chalks up to perfectionism? Yeah, I recognize those. But I didn’t know just how much they were holding me back until I read the book, nor did I know how much procrastination is linked to perfectionism. All the little tricks I was doing that were, I thought, making me more productive…were actually doing the exact opposite. Things like:

• Giving myself daily or weekly word counts to meet (and then mentally berating myself if I didn’t meet them)

• Taking full days off with the expectation that I would write TONS OF PAGES during that time (forgetting, of course, that since I work a day job I do need legitimate time off, and that plowing through writing does not give me the mental/physical vacation I need)

• Being absolutely nuts about what I could do in a given time period (“you can totally write 10,000 words in a day!”)

I was doing all of those things (and more), and they were doing nothing good for me. They were setting me up for failure, and the failure was discouraging me from writing. My actions were completely counterproductive—I just didn’t know it at the time. They were actually blocking me from doing the kind of writing I need to be doing—hell, many days, they were blocking me from doing any writing at all.

The author suggested that blocked writers start small. She suggested what amounts to interval training for writing—take a timer, set it for something small (like 5, 8, or 10 minutes), and write for that amount of time. If you can’t write your story, then write notes, outline, etc—just physically write SOMETHING that can push your story forward. I was skeptical (“Really, how much decent stuff can I write in 10 minutes?”), but I tried it. About 6 minutes into writing, my brain was like, “Hey Nikki, go check out your awesome new website again. Or go work on your Goodreads page. Or check Facebook. Or, or, or…” I didn’t listen to that voice. I knew I could do all of those things later, and that right now, all I had to do was write.

So I wrote. 10 minutes turned into 40 minutes of solid, un-distracted writing time. And at the end of it, I had 991 words.

I didn’t ask myself to write that much, or for that long. I just asked myself to write for 10 minutes and do whatever I could do in that time. I didn’t put pressure on myself to do more. And when I didn’t have that pressure, I actually became productive. When I got on a roll, I just kept going. You know when you’ve hit your stride, and there’s no reason to stop just because the 10 minutes you allotted yourself have run out. Go, baby, go! And go, I did.

Who knew that taking the anti-pressure, anti-perfectionist route would end up making me have my most productive writing morning in weeks? I’m gonna try it again tomorrow. Just 10 minutes. I’m excited to see what comes of it.

In the meantime, I’m going to read more of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer's Block. I’m only on chapter 3, but already this is proving to be a very helpful read. I’ll already recommend it to any other writers struggling with productivity and/or perfection—even if you read nothing but the first two chapters, it’ll still be a valuable resource for you.