Shooting for the Moon Without Internet and Other Writing Challenges

Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash

There used to be a motivational poster that circulated the teachers’ classrooms when I was in grade school. Like all motivational posters, it served as an attempt to inspire students before they became fully jaded by life’s injustices. Shoot for the moon, the poster read, even if you miss, you will land among the stars.

The poster made no sense, scientifically speaking. Earth’s moon is much closer to a person and their fanciful desires than any star in our universe is. However, the sentiment behind the poster is somewhat encouraging. Set big goals and even if you don’t succeed in meeting that one big goal, you may find that you have achieved smaller successes in the process.

This past month has been a prime example of the need to recognize alternate and unexpected achievements. I started out with a grand plan of keeping up with my consistent blog posting, including writing on every lunch break, listening to writing podcasts on my commute each day to and from work, and basically bleeding writing . . . Then a mishap with the Internet company occurred and during an attempt to switch Internet providers at the house, we were accidentally left completely Internet-less at our house for the past couple weeks. With no Internet connection at home, I have not been able to post in my free time as I normally would.

I told myself that despite this obstacle, I would simply write on my lunch breaks and publish the posts at a coffee shop with WiFi in the meantime. I wouldn’t give up that easily. Then, it turned out that the coffee shop near my work is a very popular place to go at lunch time. I attempted to find parking on several occasions but to no avail, and and so that plan was equally dashed.

Without a way to work on my blog, I filled my spare time with random other activities that have proven fruitful for my writing, albeit for meeting my original goal. I finished David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls which entertained me and reminded me to focus on the fun of life and its peculiarities. I am also going to post a review soon, so I am able to use the time devoted to the book for my blog as well.

I am currently working my way through The Right to Write, a writer’s handbook by Julia Cameron. The activities suggested in the book have given me some prompts to experiment with on my lunch breaks. As a result, I’ve been handwriting a few poems and short story pieces in one of my writer’s notebooks on my lunch breaks, little bits of writing that exist solely for my enjoyment.

I also found that I had enough down time to think about ways I can slowly shift into writing for a living. With this goal in mind, I searched volunteer editing opportunities, contacted an organization in regards to their post seeking a volunteer editing, and within a couple days, I am now listed as an editor with this non-profit and have the chance to edit blog posts of my choice.

While we still don’t have Internet at the house (that will change on Monday!), I am thankful for this unexpected setback as it allowed for several other writing opportunities to come to fruition.

Does this all sound too positive and cheesy? If so, you should probably consider adding some motivational posters to your decor . . .


Getting Past “Zero” Days

Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

One of the things I have been working on this year is recognizing and celebrating all the successes I have had in my writing, no matter how small they might seem. I know many of us writers like to be very critical of ourselves when we reflect on the amount of time we spend on our work or the quality of the writing we produce. I am continuously making an active effort to be less judgmental towards myself and my writing, but it isn’t always easy.

For example, yesterday, I spent a good hour staring at a blank blog post. I started a few different topics but after realizing those ideas weren’t working for me at the time, I saved each only as a draft and didn’t publish anything by the end of the day. I tried turning towards a short story hoping to write creatively but ended up feeling equally uninspired. Eventually, I went to sleep that night feeling unaccomplished and irritated with myself. Awakening this morning, my mind immediately revisited that feeling of failure, and I dreaded the thought of trying to produce something positive from that negativity I’d kept with me all night.

In the past, I would have let that one “bad” writing day dictate my mood the rest of the week. I would have avoided even attempting to write any more for the next few days since I didn’t want to have to face that perceived failure, but I have learned to put that mindset behind me. One of the mantras I now keep in the forefront of my mind is that writers write. We may not always write our best or what we feel is satisfactory work, but by definition, writers write. That, we can all agree on.

So today, instead of continuing to be stuck on that one Zero day, I made a choice to be grateful for having the time yesterday to sift through so many “failed” topics. In doing so, I am closer to discovering those viable ideas which will develop into longer works I can feel happy with.

I can also be grateful for the writing accomplishments I have had over the course of this entire week. Monday night I finished reading The Haunting of Hill House and Wednesday, I wrote and published a review of it. Thursday, I finished editing a short story of my own and then submitted it to multiple online publications. I continued submitting it on Friday and also posted another blog post.

Focusing on these accomplishments helps me to regain my perspective after a few hours of negativity. No, one day of not writing doesn’t mean I am a total failure. It means I did have an off day but I have also had a lot more “on” days. As long that pattern continues, I like to think I am doing pretty well, all in all.

Keeping track of my writing progress through a system like a bullet journal has also been helpful for me, especially when it comes to getting past Zero days. I like to use a writing tracker like this one. In fact, I use one very similar in my own bullet journal except I turn it into a bar graph as a personal preference, and mine isn’t just for Nanowrimo but for each month of the year.

As I start seriously thinking about my writing goals for 2019, continuing to accept the fluctuations in my writing process while maintaining enough self-discipline to meet my personal targets remains high on my priorities. It is a tough balance to manage especially while trying to succeed in the midst of all of life’s other stresses, but I am hopeful. Taking the time to remember how far I have come in 2018 makes me excited to find out what lies ahead in the next twelve months!