Unofficial, modified NaNoWiMo starts now!

November 5, 2014 in Novel, On Writing

NaNoWriMo

The excuses have finally run out. After “strongly suggesting” that I will take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for at least a couple of years, I have decided to put my foot down and join in the fun –unofficially — for the first time.

This is more a kick up the backside for myself than anything else. My writing projects have lay dormant for way too long and the months and years have been slipping by right in front of my eyes notwithstanding multiple self-promises to get them moving again.

So from today, I am going to commence an unofficial (in that I have not signed up for NaNoWriMo) writing spree that will be tweaked to suit my unique situation. I’m starting a few days late because I was busy polishing off my basket of outstanding movie reviews (pun intended), and I will be gradually releasing them over the next few weeks so that this blog does not become inactive.

However, as I am usually completely tied up by kids and family over the weekends, I’m basically restricted to writing five times a week during work hours, which means I just need to be super efficient. Moreover, I’m heading overseas for a three-week holiday that will run from the end of this month to mid-December, and I doubt I’ll be able to do any real writing during that time.

To account for all these issues, I’m going to be stretching NaNoWriMo over November and December. If my calculations are correct, I’ll have about 15 writing days this month before I go on vacation, and about 12 writing days from my return to the end of the year. The goal is to get to about 100,000 words, which is insane for someone who already writes for a living, so I’m going to temper expectations down to about 80,000 words.

If everything goes according to plan I should have a shitty first draft of something or at least a part of something done by the end of the year, like I promised myself during my optimistic “New Years resolution” period. It’s going to be hard as I still need to update my Pacers blog on occasion and I just can’t refrain from watching more movies and TV series, plus I’m on a special diet and exercise regiment this month. But frankly, I’m sick of being an unmotivated bum while everyone else is reaching for the stars.

So here goes. I’ll be providing weekly updates right here.

Setting (realistic) daily goals

August 13, 2014 in Blogging, On Writing

checklist1

About 10 days ago, I posted about taking a new approach to my writing, and that’s to treat every single day as a challenge. So far, it has worked out OK. I’ve been more efficient, but still nowhere near as effective as I want to be.

Part of the problem is that the extent to which I challenge myself can vary greatly on a day-to-day basis. Some days I feel pumped and challenge myself to do a lot. Other days I’m not in the mood and I challenge myself to do very little.

And so I’ve come up with a second prong to my strategy, and that’s to set (realistic) goals every day. Back in the day when I was busy working at The Place That Shall Not Be Named, writing daily task lists was my favourite thing to do. I loved writing down everything that needed to be accomplished and then enjoying the sense of accomplishment as I ticked them off one by one. To some extent it did help me become more organized because there was often so much to do that I felt completely swamped, but usually it was so I could tick things off a list and feel good about myself.

I need to bring that back. From now, I will write up a list every morning of the things I should complete for the day. I usually set extremely unrealistic goals for myself, so I’m going to try and slowly build it up, like a workout (you can’t start off with the heavy weights, you know).

Will report back on that works out.

Treating every day as a challenge

August 4, 2014 in Blogging, On Writing

meeting-challenge-icd-10

Is it August already? Hory shet. Time has flown, again. And so I go back to feeling ashamed about how few steps I have taken towards achieving my writing goals.

But I think I have figured it out

My problem has always been — apart from laziness, procrastination and too many distractions — has been the steadfast belief that I have the power to just put my foot down and say, “That’s it, from now on I am going to be a writing machine, every day until I accomplish my goal.” I would plan ahead and tell myself that I would start powering through at X date, or as soon as I finish X.

Of course, nothing ever goes according to plan. There’s always something else. And so I keep postponing, and postponing. On paper, some of the reasons are legitimate. I might get sick, slashing my productivity at work in half and squeezing dry any free time I otherwise would have had. A child might get sick, in which case my energy levels drop to near-empty and I can barely even think. I might get a new freelance case that gobbles up both time and energy. Paul George might break his leg and plunge me into a mini-depression for a few days.

The line between reason and excuse, however, is perilously thin and often blurry. I’ve postponed writing because I needed to watch a movie or listen to a Grantland podcast. Because there were new levels available in Candy Crush or Plants vs Zombies 2 that had to be conquered ASAP. Because someone recommended me a new game on the iOS. And my fall-back excuse: I still have blog posts I need to catch up on.

I compare this to my constant thirst to begin a healthier diet, which may prove even more difficult. Last week, the excuse was because my parents bought us a few tubs of gelato. This week it’s the honey mustard pretzel pieces. And yesterday I bought some addictive Japanese sour grape gummies. OK, so that last one’s legit, because it’s impossible to stop once you start eating them.

I digress.

Anyway, what I should have realized long ago is that when you have something you want to do, you just need to do it. This “start when I’m fully ready” thing never works because I’ll never be fully ready. I don’t think anyone is ever fully ready for anything. From now on, I’m going to treat every day as a challenge. A challenge to get as much writing done as I can. It could be work-related, blog-related or one of my writing projects. Doesn’t matter, as long as I challenge myself to get the most out of the day. Sometimes I’ll have off days and struggle, but the goal will always be the same. No more looking into the future and no more pointless planning.

I guess we’ll see how this new strategy goes.

Getting back into writing with baby steps

July 18, 2013 in Blogging, On Writing

20130719-225850.jpg

You may have noticed, dear reader, that I have been blogging up a storm lately. Contrary to my best laid plans, however, I do not have extra time on my hands.

I’m on paternity leave this week with the birth of my second child, but most of my spare time has been gobbled up by my ill firstborn, who contracted the cumbersome foot and mouth disease from daycare. It’s an awful affliction that can worry parents to death and requires around the clock monitoring and care. Even with the benevolent assistance of my parents, I am now far more exhausted than before I commenced this so-called “break”, and a part of me looks forward to returning to the office for some much-needed rest (and it has not escaped me how messed up that is).

The reason I have been writing — and reading — like a demon these last few days is because I’m finally starting to rediscover my passion again. I’m not forcing myself to read or write, like I had been at times earlier this year. Admittedly, it felt like a chore and I made excuses to avoid it. But now, I’m doing it because I want to, and I’m enjoying it immensely too. I’m hoping this is a sign of things to come (you stupid, stupid jinxer).

I don’t want to speak too soon. This recent change in attitude could be because I don’t have to write monotonous articles daily for work, or it might be because becoming a father to a new son has given me a sudden burst of energy. I’d thus like to keep taking baby steps rather than proffer some grand declaration. I talk a good dream like every aspiring writer, but lord knows how many promises I’ve broken to myself when it comes to actually getting something done, especially in the last couple of years (too many dick moves on my part, I know).

It seems a stable family life and a cruisy, stress-free and relatively simple job have robbed me of my desire to pursue the goals I once had. And while I despise myself for it I found the drudgery and banality of everyday life too taxing to overcome — at least on a consistent basis. There were days where I’d be productive at work, and by that I mean complete my professional writing assignments quickly (I use the term “professional” loosely here) so I could spend the rest of my day on my own writings, but such days were becoming a rarity. Instead, I wasted most of my downtime at work on junk like Candy Crush, YouTube videos, Grantland podcasts and sports news. It certainly doesn’t help when just about everyone else around you is doing something similar, fuelling a vicious vortex dragging us all deeper and deeper into a depressing realm of utter indifference.

We often don’t realise what we had until it’s gone, but in this instance I am acutely aware that the abundant free time I have during work hours is a rare opportunity. I’m not going to be in this job forever and there might come a time in the near future when I have to take up a more demanding role, and the last thing I want is to look back at this period regretting how I had wasted it (pretty much how I have viewed each preceding period In my life, sadly).

There’s nothing more euphoric than the feeling that you are actively pursuing a goal and you are putting all your heart and soul into achieving it. It’s something a few of my friends back home have been doing and I’ve been following them from afar with a mix of pride and envy. They’ve probably had far more setbacks than victories, but it’s their passion and drive that impress me the most. I want to feel what they’re feeling. Whether I eventually reach my goal is irrelevant, as long as I can tell myself, honestly, that I did all that I could.

So I am hoping that this minor revival means I am slowly turning the corner and that I will rededicate myself to improving my writing with a steady diet of reading, blogging — and once I get my confidence back — novel and screenwriting. For now, I just have to keep reminding myself: baby steps, not dissimilar to this.

Recapping my epic 2012!

December 31, 2012 in Blogging, Book Reviews, Misc, Novel, On Writing

2012wall

Who would have thought I’d be counting down the hours to 2013 when it was all supposed to end for everyone 10 days ago?

But anyway, I’m here (at work, actually) and I’ve been contemplating what a colossal year 2012 has been. Of course, there’s the big one — learning how to be a father to the most adorable little baby boy in the history of the universe, who has taken up the majority of my time and effort and SLEEP. But it’s also him that has made 2012 the most remarkable and wonderful year of my life thus far.

On the work front, I started a new full-time job where I get to write and edit all day. For the first time ever, I actually don’t mind going to the office every day, and I love the fact that I get to go home at a reasonable hour every night so I can spend time with my son before he goes to bed. It’s also a stable job that potentially allows me to do a lot of extra-curricular stuff, whether it be freelance work or other personal writings, such as this blog. Unfortunately, my lack of experience and desire to “take it easy” means I have probably squandered many of those hours that could have been put to better use.

That said, I have done my fair share of freelance work this year too. I started off completing a mammoth editing job for a travel book that had been horrendously translated. It was definitely not worth it from a monetary perspective but at least I have now been officially named as the editor of a published book (which I am yet to see, by the way). Apart from that and my regular book reviews for a trade publication, I also did some work for a well-known international magazine, which eventually lead to my first cover feature article. I didn’t exactly love the way it turned out after the editor played with it, but it’s better than having no article published at all.

The highlight of my working life this year has to be my trip to Beijing to cover the Communist Party’s leadership transition, which was exhausting but rewarding. I’m glad I got to see and learn so much, but I’m also happy that it won’t happen again for another 10 years.

Health wise, it’s been a mixed bag. Physically, I managed to get fitter than I’ve ever been after commencing a daily exercise routine that began last October and lasted about 12 months. I’m still trying to get back into it, actually. However, the fatigue and poor quality sleep has also taken its toll, and I’ve been under the weather more times than I can remember. It’s frustrating because you feel like you’re rarely feeling 100%.

Despite the positives, it’s also been a year where a lot of my goals went unrealized. I basically did not touch either of my work-in-progress novels for the entire year, which is pathetic and not worthy of an excuse. I didn’t write that screenplay I had been itching to write either. And I also didn’t monetize my blog like I had promised myself I would.

On the reading front, I only read 14 books this year, dominated by the Hunger Games trilogy, Steve Jobs biography and the first two books of the 50 Shades trilogy (I’m still stuck on the third and final book). Actually, I blame it all on 50 Shades for turning me off reading this year because it’s been a huge struggle getting through them. Why do I torture myself?

These are the things I wish I had more time to complete, but my shifting priorities had placed them all on the back burner. In fact, I’m still putting them off until I can finish posting all of my backlogged movie and restaurant reviews, which means it might be a while before I can even get started.

So what’s in store for 2013? A lot. That’s my guess. I’m personally hoping that things will become more stable on a day-to-day basis and that I can be more motivated to work on my projects. My focus next year — my new year’s resolution, so to speak — will be on the things I failed to accomplish this year: the novels, the screenplay, and doing more reading. I tend to always oversimplify things and set myself targets that are impossible to reach, so this year I’ll just say that I’d like to at least do more on/of those things  in 2013 than I did in 2012.

So I guess if my 2012 was “epic” then I’d like my 2013 to be simply “productive.”

See you next year!