Writing Challenge: 10K/day

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Three things:

Thing one: I’m about 10k into writing a novel. The thing has its shape– I wrote an outline for it long ago, and the outline hasn’t much changed through the first few chapters.

Thing two: I have a fairly free week starting tomorrow. The in-laws wanted some quality time with my toddler, so they’ve taken her away for the week. My wife will go into work. That leaves me home… alone. Unlike Kevin, though, I will not booby-trap the house in order to ward off any would-be bandits. So, that leaves me home alone with free time.

Thing three: I really want to finish the rough draft of this novel before school starts. But in order to do that, I have to do a serious amount of work this next week.

Conclusion: I shall write 10,000 words a day for the following week! They shall mostly be OK; editing will happen later; victory is imminent.

Now, I know what your thinking, “won’t the 10,000 words just be garbage.” You are quite possibly correct, but there is a precedent for this. People have done it before and survived.

She did 50,000 words in 9 days: http://lifeislimitless.com/how-i-wrote-a-50000-word-novel-in-9-days/

This person achieved the feat in a weekend: https://writingechoes.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/why-and-how-i-decided-to-write-50000-words-in-a-weekend/

I may even push through and try to write 50K in one day, like this guy:

I’m gonna make it happen’ captain. There will be typos, it will be revised, but to quote a prolific writer: “It is so very much great and it is a history time for barney moose yt own oh yes! Come now Kitten and say barney we must and we must go and dance dance.” Brilliant.

These 10,000 words every day won’t know what hit ’em. Wish me luck. If my fingers don’t fall off, I’ll update here to let you know what happens.

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Day #1: 10K words/day

Spoiler alert: this does not have a happy ending.

I set the challenge for myself, and I was going to do it: write 10,000 words every day this week.

So, I woke up. I guzzled a coffee. I turned on my computer. I was ready to go.

Then I realized I had to write with the speed of a gazelle and the strength of… gazelles are strong, right? The strength of a gazelle. I guzzled another cup of coffee. I stared at the screen. Shoe002-731117.jpg

Fortunately, I have an outline of the story I’m working on (it’s a space adventure in the vein of Bridgette Jones’ diary). Just kidding about the Bridgette Jones’ Diary part, not about the space adventure part.

I get to work, hacking away at the words like they are short ribs that need to be braised. I typed and typed. By noon I hit 3,000 words.

It was lunch time. I ate a victorious peanut butter and honey sandwich. I was off pace slightly, sure, but 3,000 words wasn’t bad, so I rewarded myself with a brief 30 minute TV break.

But you know how TV works. I know how it works. We all know how it casts its perfect spell, drawing victims deep into its pixelated frame.

30 minutes turned into 3 hours. I rose from my television coma, puttered about the house, and huffed at myself. “Where’s your will power, sir? Your determination? Focus!”

So, focus I did. I sat down and plopped out another 1,000 words or so. Smiling at the computer, I realized that I deserved another break.

My mind got a little confused here. I think it still considers the word break in the vernacular of a high school girl, meaning it’s over, done, finished.

So, I stopped work for the night. It would’ve been nice to finish this post with a gloat about how I wrote 10,000 words in a  day, but I’m not going to lie to you internet, because you never lied to me.

No, it’s a bit of catharsis- being honest about things, even word counts. And I could make a list of excuses, because (ask my friends) I’m great at coming up with excuses. But I won’t.

And, to be frank, I’m not terribly bummed. 4,000 words in a day is a lot, nothing to be ashamed of. Better than 0 words. Besides, tomorrow’s another day, another opportunity for growth and improvement. Or, as Journey sang, “Don’t stop believing.”

I’ll let you know how day 2 goes. Here’s one useful resource I found:

http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-i-went-from-writing-2000-words-day.html

In the meantime, let me know if you have any tips for writing!

Good Writing Habits

I like it when my students make connections. Connections are important. When we relate things to life, we learn.

An especially helpful connection (for both me and my students) is understanding writing as a muscle. Or (as the kids would say)—do you even lift, bro?

My answer is a firm no, not literally anyways. Figuratively, on the other hand, I’ve been writing quite a bit, emphasizing pace. I’ve always struggled writing lots of words in little amounts of time. When I sit down to write for an hour, but I only get 400 out of my 1,000-word goal, it’s upsetting. It’s frustrating.

I’ve realized that I can’t get bogged down on word count. I just need to work consistently. When I show up every day, I can build my pace. 1,000 words, without consistent effort, just won’t happen. On the other, if writing becomes a habit, word count will follow.

Routine

Your writing muscle requires consistency. Gym rats don’t just magically end up at the gym. Similarly, writers should plan their writing time. A long, long time ago I would write late into the night. I would look outside, see the dark, feel the quiet of the house, and act artsy and poetic. But that was before I had a kid. Now I have a kid. Kids are cute, but kids make grown people tired, which makes writing at night a non-option. The energy isn’t there, so I write most of my words in the morning.

Find what works for you, though. Find a time. Set it aside. Write.

Isolate

Your writing muscle requires focus, but we live in an age of distraction. Technology clamors for our attention. Our phones buzz with texts and our TVs blare with Top Chef. When you write, seek solitude. I usually sit at the dining room table, because I know that no one will bother me there. Whether I’m typing on my laptop or writing with pen and paper, I know I need to be alone—away from the distractions of my modern life.  Find your own personal fortress of solitude.

Grow Your Targets

Your writing muscle demands growth. After you’ve established a routine, determine a target word-count. 500 words a day may be a good number to start out, but you shouldn’t stay at 500. Stick with your routine and you’ll start to see natural growth over time. There isn’t a set number here that you need to write. It’s up to you. But you might want to build up slowly, gradually. If you rush it, you’ll get burnt out or you’ll feel deflated when you don’t hit your target.

Don’t Look Back

I heard this tip from The Self-Publishing Formula Podcast. A guest writer was talking about how they worked from 2,000 words to 6,000 per day. One of the suggestions he made was to simply write without looking back on what he wrote. He just writes, like an energizer bunny on speed. Edit later, he figures. Write now. I’ve tried this a handful of times, and it seems to work for me. My pace was rocking at about 750 per hour (fairly slow), but with this method I was able to hit 1,000 a few days in a row.

What methods do you use to improve writing?

The Real Danger of Books

“One can resist the invasion of armies; one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.”

-Victor Hugo

I was at a conference a few weeks ago, and I had the privilege of listening to a panel of writers discuss the idea of banned books. They talked about censorship, specifically as it pertained to teen books. One writer told a story about how she had recently received a letter. In it, a stranger stated that her book had been banned by the county and burned at a meeting of some sort. “They had to buy the book, though,” she quipped.

Not surprisingly, the panelists held the same line when it comes to books, namely that books shouldn’t be banned.

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“No book should be censored,” said one panelist. “People talk as if books are going to destroy their teenager’s life.”

I agreed with the panelist for the most part. Sometimes parents do overreact when it comes to the content they allow their children to consume. Parents (I hope) set boundaries for their kids to protect them, though, not to coddle a child intellectually or socially.

Still, I was on the side of the panelist. That is, I was, until he said something very disturbing.

“Besides, books aren’t dangerous.”

The other panelist nodded, as if a great wisdom had been shared. The panel went on for another twenty minutes or so, but I was stuck.

“Books aren’t dangerous?” I thought. “What’s the use of a book if it’s not dangerous? Danger’s a good thing!”
Books are dangerous. I do not mean they are all full of danger, and that only good types of books will contain dangerous scenarios. I mean that books are miraculous. Books can change people, move people, and help people. Stories are powerful, and it’s this power that makes them dangerous. I do not mean danger in a negative sense; it’s not a bad thing that books are dangerous. I simply mean that because books have strength, because books can move people, they can be dangerous. Let me explain:

Good books do wonderful things. They speak truth. They proclaim ideas.

“But ideas are useless unless they are acted upon!” you might complain. I tell you that books, stories in particular, plant ideas and morals in the very hearts of individuals. The idea may remain dormant for a time. It rests. It grows, like a seed planted by a knowledgeable farmer, until one day the idea comes shooting up from the ground.

I think the problem is that we think ideas are stationary. They aren’t. They move and shift and twitch and dance.

Take Alan Moore’s “V for Vendetta”, for example. V. is a man who sees oppression, rises against it, and ultimately crushes an oppressive regime. Near the end, though, V. is tracked down and shot multiple times. He approaches his attacker and delivers a great line: “Did you think to kill me? There’s no flesh or blood within this cloak to kill. There’s only an idea. Ideas are bulletproof.”

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The point is that ideas are not so easily taken out as the Tuesday morning trash. Ideas remain with us, often dwelling deep in our subconscious, waiting to escape. So should we censor books because they are dangerous? How do we determine what is and isn’t dangerous? Alternatively, should we accept the fact that books are dangerous, and allow them to be read, allow the danger (whether it be good danger or bad) to thrive?

What do you think, Internet?

I Feel for the Irish

I feel for the Irish. They, like Texans, are oft misunderstood. Texas can seem like a foreign territory to outsiders, and (to them) it means cowboy hats, rabid political conservatism, and riding horses to work. There is some truth to the stereotype—I’ve seen people with cowboy hats. Many of my friends are politically conservative. And just last week I traded in my horse for a 2000 Toyota Corolla. (The horse had better acceleration, but the car gets better gas mileage.)

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Me riding my horse into work.
To me, Ireland is the Texas of Europe. It conjures up images of leprechauns, drunk brawlers, and absurd accents. Terry Eagleton, in his book “The Truth About the Irish,” writes:

“You have just arrived at Dublin airport from Sydney or Sacramento, Salisbury and Siena. Now you need transport downtown. Follow the signs in the airport marked ‘Donkey Carts’ and you will come to a spacious field thronged with hand-made wooden carts, each with a small donkey in harness. For the price of a glass of whiskey, a driver in a green smock will jog you down the leafy lanes which wind their way to the city center, signing a Gaelic love song and swigging from a bottle of poteen, an illegal, mind-numbing alcohol distilled from potatoes. From the mud cabins by the roadside, simple-hearted peasants will strew shamrock at your feet, shouting ‘Long life to your Honor!’ Lithe young damsels in green mini-skirts will beckon you alluringly with one hand while strumming a harp with the other. When you enter the ancient gate of the city, a band of kilted pipers playing ‘Danny Boy’ will be on hand to offer you a hearty Irish welcome. You will be ceremonially lowered under a gallon-sized vat of Guinness, which custom ordains that you should empty in three minutes flat. If you fail to down the stuff in time, you will fall victim to an ancient Irish curse and your credit cards will be turned to toads.

Forget that last paragraph. It was a pack of lies.”

Throughout the book, Eagleton plays with these stereotypes, ultimately giving a true glimpse of the Irish. I’m going there in June. My wife and I will travel through the majority of the Republic of Ireland in a car—from Dublin to Waterford to Cork to Tralee to Galway. We’re actually researching this trip, unlike some of our previous adventures, and researching has killed some of my own preconceived notions of what Ireland is and isn’t. I thought, for instance, that we would be eating baked potatoes for breakfast, followed by a lunch of boiled potatoes resting nicely against corned beef, and finally a well-deserved bangers and mash for dinner. After looking at places to eat in different parts of the country, I’ve found a nice variety of non-potato related restaurants (some Michelin starred). I’ll post some more about the adventures in Ireland once we return, though I’m sure my own views of the country will change (for the better) between now and then.

Experience often obliterates stereotypes, after all.

 

 

Read This: Cool Articles, Blogs, and Internet Things

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  1. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/8674634/posts/3112

In the article “It’s Always Plan B,” the author briefly discusses teaching in a prison. He begins with the poignant line “Never forget where you are” and ends with “And why you’re there.”

  1. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/slices/dad-tried-scare-his-toddler-dressing-darth-vader-things-dont-go-planned

This is no article. “It’s a trap!” you might say. But it’s really just a funny video. Just click it. Trust me.

  1. https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/12/16/writers-wakeup-times-literary-productivity-visualization/

This one’s called “Famous Writers’ Sleep Habits vs. Literary Productivity, Visualized.” It’s a cool infographic on a bunch of writer’s sleep habits compared to their productivity and awards received.

Fear Not: The Hipster Lives!

A waxed mustache. Dark rimmed glasses. A plaid button down. A bowtie. Jeans with the bottoms rolled up. He mutters something about PBR. Who is this?

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HIPSTER THINGS
This, my friends, is the hipster. There have been reports that they are a dying breed. But to quote Severus Snape, “My source told me that there are plans to lay a false trail; this must be it.” Articles as early as 2014 clamored and claimed that the hipster is dead, but I would argue that their death was about as real as Tom Sawyer’s.

As a group they are almost immediately identifiable, though (like any large collective) they have different hobbies. Some like to ironically shop at Goodwill. Others will tell you about their artisanal breads, and how gluten is the worst. You begin to wonder if they eat anything at all, for the hipster is often extremely thin.

Your hipster friend, Stan, appears so thin, in fact, that you might offer to take him out for a meal. He will then insist that the restaurant serves only locally-sourced, organic produce.

“Stop being a hipster,” you snap.

Stan looks appalled, as if you just said something pro-oil. “He normally doesn’t mind swearing,” you think. But you just did something terrible. You just broke the number one rule of hanging out with hipsters: you called a hipster a hipster.

Hipsters hate labels. They don’t like being told by Mr. Mainstream that they’re the hipster-est of all the hipsters in the hipster-dom.

When this happens, they’ll tell you that you are mistaken. They’ll cite some article or something that they read on a blog once or whatever.

Probably this one: http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2014/jun/22/end-of-the-hipster-flat-caps-and-beards

Or maybe this one: http://mashable.com/2015/06/09/post-hipster-yuccie/#aH7q_lUcxOqa

They may say that hipster as a term is dead.

Don’t be lied to, don’t be fooled. Hipsters are now trying to squirm out of the box they themselves created. You’ve been laying on your laurels, my hipster friends. You’re now part of the mainstream—the ultimate irony—you’ve become what you hate. All your excruciating months of growing the perfect homeless beard has now backfired.

Congratulations, you’re this decade’s mullet.

Blogs for Thought

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Here are two blog posts that I’ve found interesting this week.
1. Education: Essential or Consumer Good
http://blog.cslewis.com/education-essential-or-consumer-good

Interesting little bit about education, 21st century instructional practices, and C.S. Lewis.

Character is not forged with fun, excitement, and a rotating slate of new teaching methods.  It is forged through habit, studiousness, discipline, perseverance, and, yes, even some cerebral anguish. Proper Education is about more than increasing the student’s knowledge. It is also about cultivating the whole of a person grounded in proper character.

2. “Downton Abbey” and the Modern Age- What are We Really Watching?

http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/01/10/downton-abbey-and-the-modern-age-what-are-we-really-watching

Britain’s shift in morality or worldview, as expressed through Downton Abbey.

There are countless lessons for American Christians to observe as we watch Downton Abbey. But we ought not to miss the larger story of which tales like Downton are only a part. The world that was passing away was not only a world of footmen, but also of faith.

The Rise of Superhero Movies: Part One

In the last few years, the West has experienced a cultural shift, and it involves men dressing up in tights. Superheroes are in high demand. In fact, it seems nearly impossible to go to the movies without seeing a new trailer, whereby a hero arises, explosions abound, and clever one-liners burst from the screen. By my reckoning, there has been something like 60 plus superhero movies in the past decade alone. This rise of men in capes on the big screen has inevitably translated into large profits for comics. Guy Lubin, executive editor of Business Insider, reported, “Domestic sales of comics and graphic novels have been rising for years, reaching $870 million last year, up from $265 million in 2000.”

This growing number of superheroes in the theaters is certainly a cultural trend, one that has widespread impact on our collective values. To clarify my stance: I’m not the grumpy old man, sitting on his porch, yelling about “those darn kids and their darn superhero movies. Whatever happened to a normal movie where men dress up as women and get themselves involved in hilarious tap-dance competitions?” I hope to one day be that grumpy old man, but I’m just not there yet. Still, I simply want to know why. Why has our society taken such a keen interest in what appears to be characters made for children?

Alan Moore

(A picture of Alan Moore and his beard)

In an interview last year, comic book legend Alan Moore gave his take on this shift, writing,

“To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence. It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics.”

Moore proposes escape to be the common man’s solution, but it seems unreasonable to vilify escapism; that is, I feel that escape is mistreated here. In the word escape, one almost always tends to think about retreat. And retreat is nearly always synonymous with defeat, except in 1812.

In 1812, for instance, Napoleon’s Russian campaign was marked by retreat, particularly the retreat of the Russian army into the depths of its country. The French army responded by delving further into the country despite the onset of a harsh Russian winter. Napoleon pressed on, eventually making his way into Moscow. Instead of finding supplies and food (both of which his army desperately needed), he found the city mostly barren. Napoleon had to run back to France, losing about 400,000 men (80% of his troops) in the failed campaign. The retreat of the Russians was not, therefore, a defeat. It was victory. Napoleon’s escape, on the other hand, was an absolute disaster. He reminded the world of one of the most important history lessons: never invade Russia in the winter.

Escape, therefore, is neutral. It inherits the motives of the individual, and never does it act as a positive or negative entity unless first acted upon. Now if the general public has, as Alan Moore insisted, given up on trying to understand the complex world we live in, and turned towards trying to understand the much simpler world of superhero fantasy, then perhaps we are in trouble. Society needs people to answer its difficult questions, and certainly a population that avoids complexities in pursuit of meaningless realities can’t address complex problems. Rather a society that avoids issues may address the complex problem—except a society of avoidance will come up with the wrong answer, like an uneducated man given a calculus problem. The man may work towards an answer, but without proper training he will most certainly come to the incorrect conclusion. Now there must be a good deal of people who use escape negatively to avoid complex moral questions.

But are the realities of fantasy realms and superhero films absurd or meaningless? Or does our escape signify not a retreat from complexity, but a retreat to an ideal?