Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Need A Boost?

I am a Jen with a mission this week--WRITING. Writing a lot.

I've been out of practice for a long time, so I've made a list of rules that I'm trying to adhere to.

1. I get up and go to work just like normal. My real life job requires me to arrive no later than 9am--dressed, shoes on (dang them!), the whole works. I'm sticking to these prescribed requirements this week. Yes, that means I'm not allowing myself to roll out of bed, put my hair up in a messy ponytail, and walk around all day in my pajamas. I know myself too well. If it's that easy to roll out of bed to begin writing, it's all too easy to roll right back in. At least if I'm dressed, I have to take off my shoes to do it. Just sayin'. And just like the day job--I'm trying to put in 8 hours.

2. I took this mini-vacation to write. I made a pact with myself that if I skip a day of writing, the next morning I have to go to work--the real day job. I know vacations are supposed to be relaxing times, but I've taken too many days off, promising myself I'll write, and then end up putting it off and putting it off until the vacation is over and I have nothing completed. Not going to happen this time 'round. If I want this time to write, then by God I need to earn it. That isn't going to happen if I sit around watching TV or reading. Yes, I get to do some of that, but writing has to come first. Period. (Good news is that I get to write tomorrow. We'll see about Wednesday.)

3. I'm focusing on big picture things. I'm not going to worry about every word and line being perfect. I need to get the changes I want made in place--then I can worry about the smaller things. It's difficult for me to let go of control in this way--very difficult. I always try to do my best, but right now I'm pushing through sections quickly, just trying to make sure all of the big ticket items are in place. I'll let you know how it goes.

4. JUST KEEP GOING. I may not finish my book this week, but regardless, I'm taking some huge steps toward the end. I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't get there. NO JEN BASHING ALLOWED. This probably should've been the first rule. :)

Anyway--things are going well so far. Over the last two days, I've managed to write approx. 8500 new words -- pulling together a very large chunk of the book. It feels good to know that this vacation is actually moving me closer to the finish line.

I remember reading a blog post by Maureen Johnson a while back, in which she talked about her love of Post-Its and how she always believes they are somehow going to be the key to finishing her book. Hilarious. But oh so true.

I know we all have our handy-dandy tools that we want to share with the world--like it's somehow going to be the miracle cure for finishing our books. I'm not saying this will work for anyone else, but this new little tool I've discovered is doing the job for me at the moment. It may not work next week, mind, but for now...it's FABULOUS. It's a little thing called Focus Booster. Are you a fan of using an egg timer? Well, this takes things to another level--small step up, but it's something. :)

I've found that one of the hardest things for me as a writer is the prospect of...well, sitting down in the chair and actually writing. I have a lot of hours ahead of me with this book, and sometimes when I sit down to write I feel overwhelmed. Most times I don't even make it in front of my computer. (Just being honest.) But when I do sit down, it's like I'm looking into a never ending tunnel where not even the barest pinprick of light is visible from the other end. Scary. Overwhelming. And most times I simply bow out.

Well, focus booster is helping me by breaking up my writing sessions into shorter, manageable sessions. Why do I love it?

1. You can set the length of time for each writing session. The clock ticks for the first couple of seconds, but then goes silent until the end, when an alarm clock ringer goes off. The clock overlays whatever screen you're in--you can adjust the size or hide it altogether--and when I feel like I can't make it until the end, I can look up and realize I only have X amount of minutes left. It keeps me pushing forward, stretching the writing muscles that are so, so out of shape. I set my sessions for 25 minutes, and my first day using FB, I clocked in 12 sessions. And it didn't seem overwhelming to me--not once.

2. After each writing session, the timer goes into a "break" mode. Once again, you can set it for the length of time of your choosing. When the time expires, a nice, happy doorbell chimes. It isn't the death toll--it's upbeat. It says to me, "Hey, Jen! Break time is over. Time to go back to work. Remember how it wasn't so bad last time? You can do another session!" I set my breaks for five minutes. It's enough time to get in a good stretch, go to the restroom, grab a drink, or whatever. You'd be amazed by the amount of stuff you can accomplish in that short amount of time. And if you run over, no big--the next session won't start without you hitting go.

3. The application tracks the number of sessions you've completed. Maybe you don't have time to sit down for a large lump of time. But that doesn't mean you can't make it a goal to finish X number of sessions a day. Perhaps you have to do two in the morning, one when you get home from work, and one while the kids are getting ready for bed, or what not. This allows you an easy way to track what you're doing. And if you make your writing sessions short and intense, you'd be amazed by what you can accomplish.

4. It's free! Hey, who doesn't like a free download? Just go to the link above and check it out. I love it--it's working for me. Maybe it will work for you.

Here's hoping everyone has a great writing week. :) Anyone have any other suggestions regarding what works for you?


  1. Yay Jen! I am over the moon to hear how well you're doing! Whoot! And that looks like a neat app ... must download.

    Hmm, what works for me? At the moment, telling myself that if I walk away from the writing the only activity I'm allowed to engage in is housework. Shudder. Seems to do the trick. ;-P

  2. Go you! That's really awesome. I really have to figure out a schedule for myself. (I'm studying abroad, so new classes + new schedule + new country, and I'm in the post-critique partner, pre-beta reader stages w/ my manuscript, so AHHHHH!) But I digress....Focus Booster sounds pretty awesome, and I'll certainly be trying your "just focus" technique. Now, off to read Maureen's blog on post-its!

    <3 Gina Blechman

  3. Rachel,

    LOL! Ironically enough, the housework thing doesn't work for me. In fact, I'll procrastinate by doing housework... Ugh. It's such a battle, isn't it? :) That's why the five minute breaks are so good for me. I can still do a bit of housework and then it's straight back to the computer. I'm a sick puppy.

    And thank you! I'm super excited to be making headway after such a long break. :)


  4. Gina,

    Oh my -- sounds like you've definitely got a lot on your plate right now. Good luck getting your schedule sorted out..I can't even imagine. I'd probably hide under my bed. :)

    And I hope you loved Maureen's post -- it cracked me up. LOL. When I first read it, I decided to use post-its in a different way. I covered my TV with them so watching TV became a HUGE effort of having to take down 30 post-its. Worked. Didn't watch a lick of TV. (g) Always thought I'd write in and tell her about it, but I never got around to it. She's a hoot, though...wish she'd blog more! ;)

    Have a great week!


  5. Sounds like you're doing great, Jen!
    i don't think the timer would work for me, but getting up early, getting dressed, and writing before doing anything else definitely make a difference. I don't think I've ever taken time off to write.
    To type up scenes and research yes, but not drafting... I wouldn't mind a week a of nothing else but that...

  6. Deniz,

    I officially termed it the week that I WOULD FTDB. And I am so, so close...just a few more tweaks to a couple of scenes and I'm sending it off to a handful of people to read and tell me whether or not it's complete drek. EEE. Scary times.

    But yeah, it's amazing what a difference it makes to get up and 'get dressed for work." For some reason, shoes play a HUGE role in this for me. I just feel like I need to be productive with them on. With them off, I want to loaf and watch the NJ Housewives. (g) I suppose it helps that the fam--including the pups--are out of town. Sitting and editing a book for 12 hours straight wouldn't work with them here. Just wouldn't. lol


  7. I've never been a fan of egg timers, but I can see where this wou.d help someone focus. Although I'm a prolific writer, I'm sporatic. My life is on my automobile schedule. Only emergencies are allowed in the front seat...everthing else is backseat.

    As far as writing goes, the Nike commercial rings true, "Just Do It."