Notes from the Trenches – Don’t Break the Chain

Posted: November 8, 2010 in graffiti living
Tags: , , ,

I’m attempting to complete both nanoblopomo (blog every day for a month) and nanowrimo (write a 50,000 word novel in a month) at the same time. I work 12 day weeks; I’ve got a chest infection; and I’ve just discovered that I may have about 3 weeks in which to find somewhere else to live. But, work is just work, the chest infection has given me a voice like Tom Waits, and I can always live under a bridge. Right now, I’m writing. And there’s three things that have kept me going so far that I want to give thanks for: supportive comments, a writer’s trick called ‘don’t break the chain’, and sheer bloody-mindedness.

Virtual Hugs
One of the things I love about nanowrimo and nanoblopomo is the community. Which is kind of funny, given that I’m a hermit. In the real world, announce to your immediate friends and family that you want to be a writer, or even more dangerous, that you’re actually writing, and you’re entering a world of pain. But online, it’s a different story. The internet may be a shiny cat toy of distraction, but the forums of both events are great places to meet likeminded literary lunatics, and it’s very gratifying to receive such positive comments, words of encouragement, and support via email, twitter, and on your blog. So, thanks for that – I read every word, it meant a lot to me, and you know who you are! I’d also hoped to go to a local write-in, but couldn’t find the time / pluck up the courage to go. So, hello to all the people I would have met in Leeds or York or Sheffield on any of the write-ins that I never went to. I’m sure you’re all lovely, I’m just very shy. And busy. And grouchy. And a hermit.

Don’t Break the Chain
I’m easily distracted, especially when I’m supposed to be writing, but one rabbit trail I ran down actually turned up something useful. Don’t laugh, but I found my salvation in an old lifehacker article about how Jerry Seinfeld stays motivated to write every day:

He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

Genius! I promptly bought a Japanese recycled paper schedule calendar notebook from Muji in Leeds. It’s sexier than a wall calendar, and I can carry it around with me. It has a simple monthly calendar equivalent to a wall calendar at the front and a more detailed breakdown of each day inside.

For nanowrimo, I’ve put a big red cross on every day that I write for 2 hours or 2,000 words, or at the very least keep myself above the average minimum requirement of 1,667 words per day. So far, so good. Even if my ‘novel’ should be punishable by death, or avenged by the gods of good writing. And for nablopomo, I’ve put a little green star in each day that I’ve posted something on my blog, no matter how haphazard or unforgivably bad. So far, so good; but again, with apologies to anyone who has read them!

I’ve even tried putting crosses and stars on actual times in the more detailed daily breakdown inside the notebook, to give me a clue as to when I actually write each day. I’d planned to get up at 5am every morning, write 2,000 words of my nanowrimo novel, and then between work and other commitments spend the rest of the day editing it into shape. I’d also planned to write tons of witty and insightful blog posts on my days off and advance post them for the rest of the month. But, it turns out that I’m not a morning person, and that on my days off the only thing I do with any consistency is sleep and drink tea. So, to be honest, I’ve just had to write and blog by the seat of my pants. Sorry about that.

Goats Who Stare at Typewriters
A little stubbornness goes a long way, but I wish that I had more. I’d love to say that this is how you do it, that I’m all supercharged and super confident, and that I don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks, but if that was the case, I’d be long since past the finish line, and probably a lot less fun to be around. I’m a stubborn old goat, but I’m also a typewriting monkey. (And an Elf, apparently, but that’s another story!) We focus on wordcount, but in a way it all comes back to the hugs; and as corny as sounds, your words count a lot to me. The thing that’s kept me going the most isn’t bloody-mindedness, as much as I’d love to pretend otherwise. It’s posting some mad rant off the top of your head, only to have someone say that they love it or think that it’s FUNNY?! 😀 In short: you’re all mad, but I love you. I don’t care what life throws at me, I’ll take my hugs wherever I find them, and I’m determined not to break the chain.

  1. CK Hicks says:

    I hadn’t heard of nanoblopomo before – this is my first year participating in nano though. Interesting stuff and I hope you hit your goals! It’s a ton of fun being involved in this stuff with such an awesome community.

  2. Kim U says:

    I do hope you feel better soon and I’m sorry to read of your troubles. With any luck you won’t be living under a bridge as the cold months begin and it becomes more difficult to survive. You’ll be in my thoughts and I’ll send some good vibes your way.

    I fly by the seat of my pants as well when it comes to blog posts. So many things change on a daily basis in my house that planning blogs a few days at a time doesn’t work for me. I get the ideas in advance on occasion but actually sitting down and writing them and preparing them as drafts never seems to happen. Cest la vie.

    This idea actually seems quite entertaining and knowing how I like to challenge myself with more off the wall things than what the rest of the herd does, it would be fun. Might be an interesting challenge to start at the beginning of the new year. Hmm. Interesting thought.

    As for writing, I’ve had mixed reception. Some think it’s awesome and a great talent to have, others (such as my dad) don’t understand why I do it and how. My dad has finally accepted I am a writer even though it took 6-7 years to do so. Then again, when I told him over the phone I was writing a blog on a regular basis he gave me the verbal equivalent of a blank stare and asked why and what the point was. Oh well. That’s my dad for ya.

    Anywho, I best be going. I’ve turned this comment into an essay. Keep your head up! Things will get better.

    • Thanks for all the lovely and interesting comments. And don’t worry, I’m just being English (ie. terminally sarcastic) – I don’t intend to LITERALLY end up living under a bridge, I just really love the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and always wanted to be a troll ^_^

  3. Oh yes, and get well soon!

  4. I’m beginning to think you might be the male me. I too am a shy, grouchy hermit, obsessed with Japanese things and doing both NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo. I imagine you have better punctuation though.

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts!

  5. memercer says:

    Good luck! I tried to do the Novel and blog posts last year, while in school full time and working full time, did not succeed. This year I’m setting my sites a little lower with just the blog post a day (but went away for the weekend and I’m trying to catch up)
    Just keep pushing!

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