Freestyle Friday: Writing Goals for July 2016

Since it’s “Freestyle Friday,” I’m going to take a break from the heavier topics I discussed in my last two posts.

I want 2016 to be the year I got my act together.

  • I earned my Ph.D.
  • I’ve started getting my health back under control by eating a fully plant-based diet and exercising more (in the summer, that means swimming. I’ve got a plan for the fall, too).
  • I’ve started trying to unify my personal ethics with my actions, digging deeper, actually changing from the normal.
  • I’ve restarted this blog after a 3-year absence.
  • I’m going to make another go of my fiction writing.

Let me talk about the last two here. It’s not that I haven’t been writing fiction for the last couple of years, it’s that I haven’t been successfully writing fiction.

After writing a novel that I loved, one that did everything I wanted it to, one that I actually go back and read sometimes like somebody else wrote it … I found I couldn’t even come close to replicating it.

Lightning wouldn’t strike twice, and I spent two full years not knowing why or how.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t have the skill to reproduce it yet. For those of you who play RPGs, I got a critical success mostly from the luck of the dice.

But now, I have a plan. For July, I want to:

    • Continue writing this blog five days a week, putting out material that is actually useful, that gives something of value to at least somebody every day.
    • Write 4 “

Story Spines

      .” In case you’re not familiar with them, they’re proto-outlines invented by Kenn Adams in 1991 and used extensively throughout the entertainment industry,

especially by Pixar

      .

For each story, I’ll then create the main character. That character will need to be relatable, with relatable motivations that will be powerful and engaging enough to push through the entire story.

A bit more about story spines: They’re designed to get to the heart of the story long before you write an extensive outline or start putting dialogue and description down.

Like a living creature, a story only has one spine. So four spines means (the start of) four stories. The story spines will actually be the easy part.

Creating a relatable main character with powerful enough motivations to drive the whole story, well, that’s the hard part.

And that’s why I’m going to do at least 4 story spines a month (maybe more) until I get it right, and then keep doing them (and analyzing them) until I figure out what causes me to fail and what causes me to succeed.

I’ll continue to read books and articles about writing, and work on technical aspects of my prose. But the bottom line is, if I can’t write a powerful enough central motivation and relatable enough lead character to drive the story to completion, nothing else matters.

So that’s the plan for July. I guess this means I’ll owe you a status report at the end of the month.

 

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Theory Thursday: The Power of Consistency

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” way back in 1841, but in 2016, I say “A lack of consistency is the blood-sucking leech of all our minds.”

You’ve probably guessed by now that this ties in with Grit. Dr. Duckworth’s book is full ofthe importance of consistency. Consistency is the key, but don’t take my word for it:

Comedian Louis C.K., in a July 6, 2011 interview with the A/V Club, said “I’ve learned from experience that if you work harder at it, and apply more energy and time to it, and more consistency, you get a better result. It comes from the work.”

John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach, famously said, “Self-Control creates consistency. Consistency is crucial to getting to the top and staying there.”

Kevin Nash, the famous pro-wrestler, was once asked if he had any workout secrets or tips he could share with the readers. Rather than reply with his customary swaggering humor, he gave a one-word answer: “Consistency.” (I wish I could find the link to this interview, but it’s been 15 years or so since I watched wrestling. The answer stuck with me…Nash, by the way, is still working at age 56, albeit at a reduced pace. That’s consistency.).

Sean “Seanwes” McCabe explains in a video and article the importance of consistency: “Show Up Every Day for Two Years.” It’s his “secret” to building a platform and a following as an author and web personality.

Just google “importance of consistency”, and you’ll get several days of reading material. Or try “consistency in parenting” for even more googly goodness.

Consistency is everything, and it’s the hardest thing for some of us (myself especially) to practice.

Why is it so important? Partly because the only way to get better at something is to do it, over and over again, usually in the form of deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice means doing the hard work to improve skills, working on the weak spots rather than doing what’s most fun. It’s playing scales or replaying the three measures you never can get right, rather than breezing through the rest of the song. It’s the difference between rehearsal and just singing through a few songs.

I’ll write more about deliberate practice later, but it’s the hard work that makes you better at whatever it is you’re doing. You can get a little better by just playing through, but you’ll never really attain mastery without breaking it down and practicing hard.

And one day of practice isn’t enough. You need to do it every day. Maybe you can take weekends off like you do in your day job. Maybe you can take Christmas and Thanksgiving off. Maybe not. But you have to hit it like a real job, every day.

Health is the same way. If I eat vegan 2-3 random days a week, what good does that do for me or the environment or anyone?

I can tell you what good my sporadic attempts at exercise have done for me: nada. Zilch. Zip.

And if you’re trying to build a presence online, you need to put out content that someone out there finds encouraging, entertaining, informative, inspiring, or otherwise valuable, and you need to do it on a regular, reliable basis. Whenever you want won’t cut it.

Consistency is everything.

But consistency is HARD. Developing consistency requires commitment, courage, time management, energy, time, and a few other ingredients that I honestly don’t understand yet.

And in the course of my Grit studies, I’ll be looking for those ingredients. Because I need consistency, and so do my students.