Managing Procrastination and Getting the Work Done

April first and no fooling, it’s time to embark on my Camp Nanowrimo writing project. I’ll be writing 1,200 words a day, every day this month. So when I saw the article titled: Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self Control), in the New York Times last week it seemed apropos. It’s a long read and at risk of encouraging said procrastination, I recommend it. In it Lieberman argues that:

“Procrastination isn’t a unique character flaw or a mysterious curse on your ability to manage time, but a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond.”

This insight is particularly important for writers because crafting meaningful narratives that have emotional resonance requires us to access our lived experiences and to practice empathy. We need to allow ourselves to feel deeply when we imagine and remember experiences that run the gamut of emotions from thrilling to terribly painful. As any writer knows, it’s hard work – hard emotional work.

Of course people avoid work for all sorts of reasons, but acknowledging the emotional labor required to create a deeply-felt story is a useful tool in managing the time and resources needed to get the work done. That’s why I titled this post “managing” procrastination. If procrastination is tied to our emotions, and we cannot “defeat” or “banish” them, then we must work with them. I think it is more useful to acknowledge the push-pull of time, tasks, and emotions – especially when the task is one that requires us to venture inward and draw out something that has emotional weight and impact.

That said, in How to Defeat Procrastination With the Psychology of Emotional Intelligence, Christopher Rim offers a few more tools for understanding the mechanisms of procrastination. Including this gem:

“Perfectionism is procrastination’s Instagram persona. It may look like perfection, but it’s actually underperformance. The more perfection you strive for, the less you’ll accomplish.”

As the saying goes: done is better than perfect. So that’s my goal for this month, every day, one day at a time, find a way to get 1,200 words down.

BTW there are still a couple of spots in the Armadillocon Camp Nanowrimo cabin. I’m on the site as curiousworlds – message me there or comment below for an invite. It’s never too late to set a daily goal!

Writers League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference: June 28-30

This is another great ATX conference for writerly types of all genres. I’ve been an attendee, a panelist, and last year my novel-in-progress won the manuscript contest in the Science Fiction and Fantasy category. While this conference is a bit more pricey than regional genre conferences around Texas, it is less costly than many other comparable conferences.

The Writers’ League of Texas is an excellent organization for Texas writers, and this conference is spectacularly well run. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve picked up meaningful information, met new people (yes, including agents and editors), and had tons of fun.

This conference is ideal for writers who have completed work that they are ready to put out into the world. There is some talk of craft, but the real focus is on how to interact with agents and editors, generate great query letters, and pitch your novel. Of course, you don’t have to have finished your masterpiece in order to benefit from the industry knowledge on offer.

For me, gaining a better understanding of what agents and editors do helped me to understand where I might fit into the system as a writer. Hearing about how they assess market trends (i.e. what people are reading), made me think about my writing projects in a new light. Hearing about the challenges in their jobs made me quit feeling sorry for myself about the work of creating a great pitch and/or query. I realized that when an agent commits to a writer’s book, they will be pitching it over and over (likely far more times than the writer will).

For the local sci-fi/fantasy writers, the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, will have three agents who are seeking speculative fiction including a couple of people who work only in the genre: DongWon Song, who reps Sarah Gailey, and Paul Stevens, a former Tor Editor who reps Kel Kade. Read more about our agents here.

Anyone who registers by April 2 will receive one consultation with registration.

Join me at the Armadillocon Cabin at Camp Nanowrimo this April.

Do you have two thumbs and some writing to accomplish in April? I know I do. I did a traditional National Novel Writing Month YEARS ago and enjoyed it for what it was. While I did NOT get a viable novel out of it, I did love the camaraderie. And publicly stating – and tracking – my word-count goals over that month was productive. I’ve got a novel to finish this spring so when notification about April’s Camp Nano came around it felt like kismet.

April also happens to be a great time to generate material if you are considering signing up for the Armadillocon Writing Workshop. The deadline to submit a 5,000 (or less) word story is Friday, June 14. That means as of May 1, you would have a solid six weeks to revise and polish something for the workshop.

I like Nanowrimo because you can set whatever goals work for you. Sure, the standard template is 50,000 words in a month, but that is only a suggestion. I need about 25,000-30,000 more words to finish out my novel and I also want to get back to blogging, so I’m setting a goal of 35,000 words next month. That works out to about 1,450 words six days a week, which I know is doable for me. 1,000 daily words on the novel and the rest can go to blogging.

Be creative, think about what serves YOUR writing next month. Maybe you have revisions to work on. Revising four pages (in standard manuscript format) per day = 1,000 words. Maybe you like to revise as you go or just move through your drafts more slowly, set a goal of 250 words a day (one double spaced page), that would be 7,500 word goal for the month. A perfectly reasonable goal as writing is about quality over quantity, IMHO.

So, if you think an endeavor like this will serve your writing, it would be my pleasure to write-along with you. I’ve created an “Armadillocon-or-Bust” cabin. If you would like an invite to the cabin, make a profile at Camp Nano and then leave a comment here with your Nano handle.

If you’re not writing for the Armadillocon workshop you can still find me at Camp Nano in April as Curiousworlds.

See you in the word mines!

I’m back baby!

Last year when I started working on my novel in earnest, I felt that I needed to give myself the space to focus on it exclusively. I put aside both writing short stories and this blog. I had hoped to complete the novel in one year but I’m now looking at something more like 18 months. I am happy to adjust my goal in this case. I have learned so much about writing long-form fiction as I have slowly scaled the mountain that is this draft. I still have a lot to learn, but now that finishing is on the horizon, I’m ready at least to rejoin the blogosphere.

While I haven’t been blogging, I have been doing other things with both online and IRL writing communities, and I will be putting together the Armadillocon Writing Workshop (see sidebar) again this year. Since I need to get some more words written for my novel and also need to get the word out about the workshop I’ll be hosting a cabin at Camp Nano in April. Check out the next post for more information.

Izzy Crow wins the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest for SF/F!

WLT18winners.jpg

So this happened! My novel-in-progress, Izzy Crow, won in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category in the Writers’ League of Texas manuscript contest. 

This is why it is so important to not only work on craft but to put yourself out there and to be persistent. Behind this win are about a thousand rejections from all sorts of venues, dozens of also-rans, and a handful of honorable mentions.

I just started this novel in January and when the notice for this contest came along, I had the usual internal debate: is this piece ready? am I good enough? But then I decided to follow Wayne Gretzky’s advice, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I’ve always said writing is a long game. Keep writing, keep working to improve, and keep putting yourself out there!

I’ll be at the Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors conference this weekend to talk with agents and editors and to moderate a panel. Stay tuned!

A Trove of Fabulous Short Stories over at Curious Fictions!

If you’re looking for short stories to read, be sure to check out Curious Fictions. This little known gem is a platform for short story reprints. The site will ask you for credit card information up front, but all the content is completely free, though tipping is encouraged. You can also subscribe to your favorite authors.

It is a great option for short story writers who too often see their previously published stories vanish into a kind of oblivion a few months after being published. I have uploaded a few stories there and like having a no fuss place to give these stories a second chance to be seen.

Most recently, you can find my story, Short Straw, on the site. It previously appeared in the Lost Worldsanthology by Flame Tree Press (print only). The link for Short Straw in the sidebar will now direct to Curious Fictions.

While I hope you’ll enjoy the stories I’ve posted there, I know you won’t be disappointed with the site: it is stuffed with amazing stories, easy to navigate, and easy to read on a variety of screens.

Here’s a little teaser for Short Straw:

“Don’t tell the trees your name,” the wild grasses whispered as they batted their bearded heads against the linen skirt wrapped around Nina’s thin hips. Her great grandparents, the first colonists, had brought rice and wheat, barley and rye, and crossed their seeds with the new-world plants. But the grains they produced were inedible. Still, they abandoned grasses persisted, and the wild meadow won a few more inches of ground every year.

She looked up, past the settlement to where the tallest branches of the forest canopy snared the sinking sun. “I have to go,” she said.

“If you must go, take us with you,” they whispered.

Nina closed her hands capturing two fistfuls of seed heads, pulled them off their stems, and shoved them into her skirt pockets. “There. Happy?”

“No.

Save the Date Writing Butterflies, This Year’s Armadillocon Writing Workshop is Friday, August 3!

 Crack your knuckles and warm up your keyboards, it’s time to polish up your short story or first chapter for the annual Armadillocon Writing Workshop!

 Submissions are DUE Friday June 15, 2018

This is an excellent, low-cost workshop for writers who want to:

 Work with professional writers and editors familiar with speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. 

  • Learn how to give and receive critique in a small-group, face-to-face setting
  • Find out if workshops and in-person critique groups are useful to their writing progress
  • Find their tribe and make connections with others that will serve their writing year round.
  • Take their writing to the next level.

The workshop will be Friday, August 3, 2018 

We will spend the morning in panels on the craft and business of writing and doing a writing exercise or two. Then, lunch with the professional writers and fellow students in your breakout critique group. The afternoon will be spent in in-depth, collaborative critique sessions where you will be both giving and receiving critique. 

Just $90 gets you the full-day workshop and a full convention membership to attend all of the activities for the entire weekend. ArmadilloCon is an excellent regional literary convention, which means there will be lots of great panels about writing, reading, and the state of the genre (there are also panels about movies, tv shows, gaming, and everything geek). 

Sponsored seats for writers of color!

We are committed to promoting diversity and access for all workshop attendees. Writing in a genre centered on exploration and encountering the Other must include voices and visions from writers and readers of all kinds. The Workshop actively seeks to include students, faculty, visiting scholars, and volunteers from a variety of backgrounds including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, and ability. 

To that purpose we are offering a limited number of sponsored seats to the workshop for writers of color. To apply for a seat, follow the link on the workshop page.

 If are interested in sponsoring a seat for a writer of color, contact me at armadilloconwritersworkshop@gmail.com