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!

Brave Writers, Brave Readers: Exploring the Fantastic Realities of Imagination One Book at a Time

Nisi Shawl brought her Retro-Afrofuturist Steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo to Austin’s own Malvern Books last Friday night and it was fantastic! Every copy of Everfair was snapped up, and it was standing room only for Nisi’s engaging reading. She even got us to sing a bit. If you don’t believe me you can see it for yourself.


After the reading she sat down with Fantastical Fictions host, Christopher Brown, to discuss how this book came about. It all started when she was asked to be on a panel about steampunk, a sub genre she didn’t particularly enjoy. Instead of saying no, she asked herself, why do I hate steampunk? Her answer was because it supported colonialism. Then she thought, it doesn’t have to be this way and set out to write a steampunk utopia set in King Leopold II’s Congo. Now that’s the kind of bravery that generates great writing. Instead of saying no thank you to a discussion about a subgenre she disliked, she interrogated her own opinions and came up with something completely original. 

Exploring other worlds, other voices and visions of reality is the heart of speculative fiction. Exploration is exhilarating and dangerous and sometimes frightening. Exploration inevitably leads to contact and raises questions about how we treat the Other, how we see the Other, and, of course, how we see ourselves. Brave writing requires brave readers who must be willing to question their own opinions and biases. For both readers and writers who can do this, the rewards are great.

When Brown asked her why a utopia (they both agreed, and I do too, that utopias are much more difficult to write than dystopias)? Shawl dropped some real wisdom:

“The world that we live in is based, in part, on the world we think we live in, and so if I can change how people think about the world — If I can change the world they think they live in, then they can take it to the next step.”

You can read a more about the book and Shawl process in her essay, Representing My Equals.

In other news, if you’re looking for something to do this Thursday, I’ll be among some great local writers opining about one of my favorite topics: the current state of speculative fiction!

Join the Writers’ League of Texas on BookPeople‘s third floor at 7:00 p.m. for this conversation with four science fiction/fantasy writers: P.J. HooverMarshall Ryan Maresca, Adam Soto, and  Rebecca Schwarz.


“We’ve all heard the statement, “It’s like something out of science fiction.” Changes in politics and technology often seem to resemble the invented worlds of writers like Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin. But those novelists’ most famous books were written more than 40 years ago. What stories is this prescient genre creating today? What worlds do writers invent when reality seems so fantastic?”

Check out the Literary Landscape with The Review Review

As a reader, one of the things I love about literary magazines is that they are all so different, each with their own particular aesthetic and editorial style. Perusing the shelves at a bookstore or looking online, I’m always pleasantly surprised by the breadth and depth of different voices out there, and by all the different packages they come in.

As a writer, one of the things that is so daunting about literary magazines is that they present an ever shifting and varied landscape, where a writer with work to submit can easily get lost. Each magazine, with it’s own quirky voice is looking for a particular type of writing. But that’s no reason to be discouraged! You, dear writer, have your own unique voice.

Anyone would be hard pressed to keep up with the thousands of literary magazines out there. What writers (and readers) need is a kind of speed dating service where you can meet a whole bunch of them in order to find the ones you click with. One of the best resources for both readers who want to find their particular flavor of magazine, and writers who are looking to place their work is The Review Review, run by Becky Tuch.* I’ve been getting their newsletter and using their website for market research for a while, and now I’m reviewing for them.

In the about page Tuch says:

 “Here, writers can get a deeper sense of the journals by reading reviews of the latest issues. This is not intended as a substitute for the actual journals, but merely a way to guide writers toward the journals that most interest them.”

The site includes a listing of literary and creative nonfiction magazines (with brief descriptions for titles that don’t yet have reviews), a searchable database of reviews, informative interviews with editors from literary magazines, and publishing tips.

But it’s the newsletter that I find most useful. I peruse it and note one or two literary magazines that I want to investigate further, either to read or to put on one of my “submit to lists.”

So, if you write stories that defy genre, or just want to check out the rich landscape of literary magazines, check out this great resource.

* For more about Tuch and her work, check out her interview over on Bustle.