The Sticker System – Best Way To Write

A few weeks ago I saw a video blogĀ about the best way to write.

This wonderful writer (whom I cannot for the life of me remember now) showed off her sticker system.

It’s a quite simple concept. You start by buying a calendar (I spent $3) and a bunch of multi-colored stickers (another $3 for day-dots in my case). Every day, you try to write a certain number of words and if you do, you put a sticker on the date. If not, you get no sticker.

I thought on the topic for a few weeks and eventually decided it was a good way to visually see how much progress I was actually making in writing. Especially me, the king of procrastination.

Also in the video blog, the writer mentions that her first month was basically garbage. She didn’t commit to the system as she had hoped but once she turned the page on a new month, her “practice month” ended up really driving her success going forward.

Personally, I still don’t know if I agree with all the cliche comments that you hear about writing. Things like “The only rule is writers write” and “If you don’t NEED to write, you’re not a writer,” ect. I think things have changed in writing, especially the speed at which books are written, but despite only producing two books, you’d have to be an idiot to say Harper Lee isn’t a writer… and I’m doubting the same standard was applied. No doubt TKAM was edited and rewritten and worked over more times than I could fathom, but still you get my point.

Now, before you rip me up in the comments, understand that I’m not saying writing is the enemy. I’m simply saying when you apply a formula to anything, you’re not accounting for the whole picture.

I digress.

Regardless of my animosity towards these simple “rules” that we bind to ourselves and use to make ourselves feel horrible when we fail, I still do think establishing a solid habit of writing is a very good thing. So I’ve implemented the sticker system.

For me it works like this –

I get a Green sticker if I write 500 words in a day. It can’t just be any 500 words, but it has to be a part of a book I am working on. I’ve got lots of projects that I have really no intention of finishing but just enjoy working on from time to time. And then I’ve got one “main” project that I have every intention of seeing to completion. I will, however, allow myself one caveat. On Sundays (the day before I try to post a weekly blog entry on Monday), I allow myself to call a blog entry worthy of a sticker. If I procrastinate and wait till Monday to write my entry? No sticker. Hopefully this will get me back on track with you all! šŸ˜‰

But that’s not all I need to build in habits. I get a Yellow sticker if I read 30 pages of something published. It has to be something in a genre I am writing, but I’ve decided I need to stop being so hard on myself when I get picky and put down a book.

And finally, I get a purple sticker if I edit at least 3 pages of either my own project or my critique partners project. If I edit my own too often, I’ll be imposing rules on how many purple stickers I can earn per week from my own work, or I’ll be adding both to the docket to get my sticker (i.e. edit 3 pages of my book and 3 pages or 1 chapter of a crit partners work).

My hope is to build good habits. And being that I’m all about accountability, I’m choosing to share my system with you all so you can ridicule me if I fail at it.

Actually I’d prefer not to be ridiculed. Maybe just pestered a bit.

What are your thoughts on the sticker system? Have any of you done something similar? Has it worked?

The Most Important Thing To Any Creative

When Our Emotions Get The Best of Us

My wife is terrified by tornado’s.

Personally, I don’t blame her. Watch a few tornado youtube video’s and it’s easy to see why they scare her. People who aren’t scared of them haven’t witnessed what they can do, what havoc they can reap when they touch the ground. If you’re not scared, you don’t respect the awesome power of the world we live in.

Because this world will tear you up and spit you out without a doubt. And it doesn’t ask permission to do so. It doesn’t play by the rules or give you fair warning. It shows you who is in control and who is not.

The funny thing about storms is you can’t stop them. They always come. They are certain to come. It’s never a question of if, but a question of when the next one will strike. And we are helpless to defend against them.

It’s like a reminder, really. A reminder of how little control we have in our lives.

The same is true for any creative person as well. A storm is always building on the horizon, full of doubt or anxiety, spurred on when we least expect it. Something so innocuous as seeing a friend experience success in our particular field of artistic interest can spur the storm. Or falling behind on work. Or breaking our good habits in place of some new bad ones.

We call it by a lot of names, this creative storm, but we all know its power.

Writers Block

A Rut.

Hitting a Wall.

Running Short on Ideas

A Lack of Inspiration

A Dry Spell

It happens to the greatest and the least of us, and when it hits, it hits harder than a tornado.

 

When It’s Raining

If you’ve ever run out of gas or gotten a flat tire, you know how frustrating it is to stop moving. Especially when you had a destination in mind — a place you wanted or needed to be.

When a car ceases to be a car, it turns into a giant hunk of worthless metal. A running car could sell for $500-$1000 around here in Minnesota. But the moment it stops running, the tow truck will gladly take it off your hands to the junkyard for $50.

Because when something doesn’t meet its intended purpose, it becomes worthless.

I think we get this idea of worth stuck in our own heads when we run into issues with our dreams. The moment we stop moving towards them, we feel that sense of worthlessness. If we’re not working towards a dream, what good are we? Isn’t that our purpose? Our calling?

It’s a tail spin.

And not the funny tail spin with scrooge and his crime-solving nephews, but the rough kind.

To me, the most incredible part about this writerly storm is how self aware we seem to be when it’s happening. The storm doesn’t creep up on us in the night, slamming into us when we least expect it. Most often, we see it long before it hits us, growing and building on the horizon.

We watch the gas gague drop towards empty and just don’t go get any gas, hoping it’ll all go away.

And the truth is, that’s where I am right now.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying this to earn comments or apologies or well wishes. I’m saying it because it’s true. And I need to face it, both personally and publicly.

Becuase the first step to recovery is always forgiveness.

 

Forgiveness is the First Most Important Thing

There are a lot of blogs out there that will tell you the best way to get out of a rut.

They’ll tell you to build good habits.

They’ll tell you to stop thinking and just do.

Like you’re a machine, and you can just hit a button and turn on.

But, clearly, it doesn’t always work that way for us humans. We don’t do a very good job at self fixing and self motivating when we’re feeling purposeless or failure crushing us.

So let me just say — the first thing you need to do, or really the first thing I need to do, is forgive.

Forgive yourself.

True forgiveness means offering yourself the opportunity to do better and letting go of how you didn’t do well.

And as creatives in general, there are a multitude of things we need to forgive ourselves for –

Inactivity
Chasing trends
Spending too much time creating
Burning ourselves out
Putting art above all else
Putting art below all else
Spending far too much time wondering how people will react
Getting caught up in research
Breaking good habits
Making bad ones

The hardest part about being a writer is forgiving ourselves. We need to forgive ourselves more times than the number of words we write.

I need to remember this.

And I don’t mean a little or once in a while. I need to know it viscerally.

Because I’ll get through this rut eventually and I’ll start moving again. That’s a given. I never stay paralyzed forever. But this stall is just one of many I will experience in my life. A storm is always brewing somewhere.

But so long as I remember to forgive myself, so long as I allow myself the opportunity to do the opposite and build good habits again…

Well, if I can manage that habit, nothing can stop me.