Camp NaNoWriMo - Wrap Up

Monday April 30, 2018

Well, with this round of Camp Nanowrimo heading into the final 17 hours I can safely say I will NOT be "winning" this time around, seeing as I would need to do 16 more hours of writing to meet my goal and I do have a job to go to shortly. I did, however, succeed in writing three new short plays this month, made great progress on two longer plays, and started two picture books. So it was still a pretty good run.

I actually made the decision not to finish yesterday, and was leaning towards that decision on Saturday. As soon as I looked at all the things I wanted to do with the past weekend and realized it was either do those things and write for a few hours or forget having a weekend at all and just write, I chose the more balanced approach.

When I was younger I surely would have surrendered my whole weekend to an online writing challenge, but as I stated in my project listing on the Camp Nanowrimo website:
The real goal is not the final tally though; if I get far behind and have to catch up at the end of the month I'll have missed the point. Rebuilding a daily writing habit is the goal.
Of course I got ahead of myself and chose a goal based on writing every day AND writing for another few hours on every day out of the month that I wasn't at work. So I set a target of 46 hours of writing in April. My count currently sits at 30, but will go up by an hour or two before the end of the day. I didn't write every day, but I did write more days than not. More importantly, I figured out a few things I will try out in the coming month to keep the train rolling:

Writing in the Mornings

This whole month I was trying to put aside an hour to write when I got home from work in the evenings, but sometimes when I got home I was worn out, or frustrated, or distracted by the excitement of a work project. Also, I got home at different times and had different evening commitments, making it hard to feel like a habit was forming.

And yet I have a daily habit that I formed much by accident - morning Sodoku. After getting into doing the puzzles in the paper last year, I was given a Page a Day Sodoku calendar and a Sodoku book for Christmas and have done one every morning for all of 2018. The original idea was to do them on the bus during my commute, but that backed up to during my morning coffee, whether or not I was going to work.

So as of this morning, I'm switching to morning writing. One hour in the Sodoku slot, and the puzzle can come after. Of course I may choose to write longer on days that I'm home or write again in the evenings, but I'm going to try starting my day with writing, before other things can crowd in and get on my mind.

Taking Seinfeld Digital

I mentioned in my Camp Nano Halfway Point blog post that I was interested in Jerry Seinfeld's idea of putting a big red X through the calendar on every day that you wrote (in his case, new jokes) so that you would get a nice visual chain going that you didn't want to break. The problem I ran into is that our only wall calendar is "The Little World of Liz Climo" and I like the look of it so much that I actually didn't like putting big red Xs on it, so the satisfaction I was supposed to get from seeing them was marred.

My next thought was to go by another calendar just for that purpose, but just last night it occurred to me that perhaps digital is the way to go. I threw together a red X writing tally page for myself in Google Docs, and set it to open up every time I launch chrome:

I've also gone with Deep Work author Cal Newport's suggestion to tally how much time you spend focused on your most important task, so instead of just one X for writing at all it's an X for every hour. I'll see this every time I want to go online, so if I've somehow missed my morning writing hour I'll have a big reminder of that pop-up in my face before I can get to my email or social media or anywhere else on the web.

Back to Camp?

So with those tweaks, a plan to rearrange our creative space, and new on-the-go projects to get finished, I'm heading into May with the continuing goal to write every day, and more. Camp Nanowrimo takes place again in July; I'll decide closer to the date if I want to do it again. If all goes well that would be with a project-based goal, since I'll hopefully have this regular-writing habit locked in by then.

Did you go to Camp Nanowrimo? If so, how'd it go? Or what writing habits work for you?

Camp NaNoWriMo - The Halfway Point

Sunday April 15, 2018

Today marks the halfway point for this month's Camp NaNoWriMo, the set-your-own-goal online writing challenge tied to National Novel Writing Month in November. Rather than choosing a word count goal, I wanted to use this month to build a regular, daily writing habit.

My current tally is at 18 hours, which would have me more than halfway there if I'd gone with a simple hour-per-day goal. But I had a different plan, as explained on my Camp NaNoWriMo Project Page:
The goal is at least one hour a day (30 hours), plus one additional hour on the days I know I'll have off during the month (+12), plus at least two mini-binge days with two additional hours (+4), for at least 46 hours spent writing in April. 
So with that in mind, I technically should have been at 23 hours today to really be on track. But since my ultimate goal is to build up better habits, I went into this hoping that the month would get progressively better, not planning to have it all come together on day one.

Unlike the every-spare-moment-spent-writing word count crunch of NaNoWriMo, more time for reading was an unofficial part of my April goal. One of the books I read this month was Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

Not actually about birds.
I'd read good things about it and thought it would be a great fit for Camp. Although there ended up being some helpful stuff in it, I must admit I almost stopped reading. I'm not familiar with any of Lamott's other writing, but I quickly got the feeling that she and I simply have a different view of life, which made getting on board with her anecdotes and asides tough.

I'm glad I stuck it out though, as there's a really wonderful section near the end about reasons to write. It includes ideas about writing something as a present for someone in your life, writing something to return the favour to the author of a book you love (even if they're unlikely to ever read yours), thinking of writing as being a host to your readers, or seeing writing as a way of giving readers a feeling of connection and communion. These aren't the practical "instructions" someone reading Lamott might be looking for, but for me they were a refreshing bit of motivation.

On the other hand, I found a very practical suggestion for the rest of Camp in an unexpected place. I've started reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, which I also saw someone recommend online. I'm only partway in, but its already included a story about Jerry Seinfeld's dedication to writing new jokes every day which I think I had heard before, but clearly forgotten:
"Seinfeld continued by describing a specific technique he used to help maintain this discipline. He keeps a calendar on his wall. Every day that he writes jokes he crosses out the date on the calendar with a big red X. 'After a few days you'll have a chain,' Seinfeld said. '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.'"
So now a red pen is at the ready by our kitchen calendar, to see if I can get a nice chain going by the end of the month.

Are you taking part in Camp? If so, how's your month going?

Gearing Up for Camp NaNoWriMo

Sunday March 25, 2018

Come April, I'll be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, a month-long writing challenge where you create your own definition of success. It's the more flexible cousin of November's National Novel Writing Month, where all participants are trying to write 50,000 words in those 30 days.

I've twice "won" at NaNoWriMo (and once at the now defunct Script Frenzy challenge), but that was over a decade ago. For my first time at camp, my whole goal is based on writing hours rather than word count or even a particular project. I've never been someone who wrote everyday, but in the past few years my writing sessions have become more sporadic than ever. So I'm going to Camp with the goal of creating new habits which I hope will last long after the month is over.

Want to set your own writing goal for April and have some online friends to cheer you on? There's still time to sign up for camp!

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On Stretch Goals and Goose Buttons

Tuesday March 6, 2018

So if you follow me on any social media, you probably already know that Volume 5 of the Toronto Comics Anthology Osgoode as Gold is currently on Kickstarter. The campaign video even includes a shout-out from co-editor Megan Purdy for the story I wrote, "The Goosefighter", which has art by Austen Payne:

"The Goosefighter" is a Western-inspired tale about a young woman whose day is ruined by a territorial Canada goose on the York University campus. It is one of 27 new Toronto-set short comics that fill the 220 full colour pages of this collection.

Cover by Irma Kniivila
As I write this, the Kickstarter is at just under $6000 raised out of an original $15,000 goal, with the rest of the month to go. I've been rather casually posting about it as a great way to support the Toronto Comix Press and the creators by pre-ordering your physical or PDF copy of the book.

But today - TODAY - they announced the stretch goals. (If you're not familiar with crowdfunding campaigns, stretch goals are an extra incentive to raise above and beyond the original target.) So what are the stretch goals for the Osgoode as Gold campaign? 

If they raise $16,000, the cover text gets a Raised UV Gloss upgrade.

If they raise $17,000, all backers who've pledged $5 or more will get all of the previous anthologies as PDFs.

If they raise $18,000, all physical backers will get an adorable bookmark set.

And if they raise $19,000, all physical backers will receive a set of six character buttons designed by artist Megan Kearney.

Characters from the stories in the book.

These six characters right here:

Bottom row, middle button. Do you see it? DO YOU SEE THE ANGRY GOOSE?

19K people. 19k is the magic number for goose buttons. I believe we can do it. Like that honking V flying overhead during migration, we can go the distance.

Check out the Osgoode as Gold campaign on Kickstarter