Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Great Emu War

Status Update:  Still riding high from last week's beanstravaganza.

As it turns out, no teeth will be pulled this week. It was just a consult. I never really know what to expect from doctors. Sometimes the first appointment is just  a getting-to-know-you/holy-hell-man-what-the-noodle-is-wrong-with-your-choppers kind of thing, sometimes you get a crazy lunatic who wants to do everything at once and there's a window miraculously open in their sch--WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, LET'S DO THIS NOW.

This was more of the first type. Also, my dentist looks an awful lot like Drew Carey. So! No painkillers and heavy sedation this weekend.

I'm still holding to my original plan:

This week's story is going to be a writing exercise in flash fiction. 1000 word limit (or so). The seed is going to be random Wikipedia. Take the first link, whatever it is, read for five minutes, then work it into the story as a major plot point. I'm a little curious what it will be: for every article about something completely amazing like "The Great Emu War", there's a bajillion articles about tiny little 3 man bergs out in the lawless yonder of forgotten Canada. So, who knows what to expect? Kind of the point, really.

I do need a bit of a break, though. Something to shake things up a bit. This sounds likes a fun change of pace.

Whatever this little bad boy will grow up into, this story will take me to the one-third point of my resolution: week 18 of 52.

I'm in a bit of an odd mental place. I'm still having fun, but it's becoming an ingrained habit. I'm not sure if I could stop writing now even if I wanted to. I really want to start finishing up novels and whatnot. I'm getting a little burnt out on short fiction, partly because I've written a lot of it, partly because I'm coming to the conclusion that short stories really aren't my strength. I tend to think in chapters instead of paragraphs. A short story to me is a novel which you can read in a day. Short stories are actually pretty difficult. You have less time to get a reader's attention. You have to give regular payoffs at a faster pace and it has to be more self-contained than a novel. There's a reason why you don't see a whole lot of correlation between short story writer's success as novelists and novelist's success as short story writers.

One thing I am sure about is that even after my resolution resolves I'll probably continue writing like this. Writing something different every week really improves the quality of my work. Back when I tried to just grind through a novel all at once, day after day after day, my writing really suffered. I get burned out really easy on the same thing if it's all I'm thinking about all the time. What I'm doing now seems to be great at giving me a built-in excuse to step back, let things percolate in my subconscious.

This just goes back to what I was writing about last Thursday, about regular small daily habits. There is a great power in them. Because you did something yesterday and the day before that, you don't want to break the chain today. The longer the chain, the more times you've hit your regular goals, the more ingrained it is and the less you want to break your winning streak.

There's a system that Jerry Seinfeld (yes, that Jerry Seinfeld) uses which he calls "Don't Break The Chain." It's pretty simple. Get yourself a calendar and some idea what habit you want to reinforce. It could be brushing your alpaca daily, could be doing fifty push-ups, could be writing a paragraph or taking a photograph of something you haven't taken a photograph of before--just find a habit and a calendar. Every time you do your thing, draw a big damn X over the day. That's it.

It's deceptively simple, but it works. The more X's you get in a row, the less likely you are to break the chain, because it's right up in your face. If you screw up, that empty day on the calendar will haunt you.

This blog is actually my calendar and each entry is an X.

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