I spent most of election day stress-organizing my office, which was at least somewhat productive. I also had to replace all the covers on all the electrical wires, because my rabbit is a bully who likes to break my stuff. (RIP my cute pink Razer mouse.) Then I propagated and repotted some of my cooler carnivorous houseplants, had a few breakdowns while doomscrolling, and ate donuts for dinner. The donuts and stress have both continued into Thursday so far, because 2020 is an inescapable nightmare in pretty much every way and I’ll cope however I can.
I’m once again fighting with Facebook over some petty nonsense that apparently lead them to quietly revoke my ability to boost posts on my business page. Of course, they’ve also throttled the natural views that any page can get for any given post down to almost nothing, so that’s cool. I just love that there are absolutely no competitors for the massive position of power they’ve carved out for themselves in society. Unfettered capitalism sure is working out great!
But anyway, I gave Inktober a shot this year, and only lasted three days before I ran out of steam. That’s pretty much business as usual this year, but I did enjoy drawing these cute little koi on day one, so here they are in all their fishy glory.
For those who don’t know, inktober is an event where people try to finish at least one pen and ink sketch every day in October. I didn’t get a sketch done every single day, but I aimed for most days and didn’t stress about it. Here are the ones I deem decent and complete enough for sharing.
Since I knew I was gonna miss days anyway, I focused more on picking a variety of subjects, including some things I hadn’t really done before, like the ferns and the leaf insect. It was fun, and I’m glad I stuck with it!
I have not kept up with my goal of reading and reviewing one book on writing per month, but I’m catching up now. Last month I actually got through a couple of writing books. I read 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox and The Life-long Writing Habit, also by Chris Fox. I think that, of the two, I definitely got more out of the former, although I enjoyed them both.
5,000 Words Per Hour is a super handy book. I was a bit surprised. The title makes it sound kind of gimmicky, but I’ve been watching Chris’s videos on Youtube and it’s clear to me that his method works really well for him. (Astoundingly well, even.) He literally writes entire novels in a month or two each, back to back. Of course, that alone doesn’t mean his method will work for anyone else. Some people have the right combination of skills, practice, and good habits to be super productive, but that doesn’t always mean they know how to help others achieve similar results. Plus, a whole book that just says “Do this thing every day like it’s the only thing in the world that matters” isn’t likely to be very popular, or helpful for most people.
The nice thing about this book is that it is very simple and direct. He asserts that if you actually do the exercises he lays out, you should see dramatic and measurable improvement. He also says they’re simple, and he isn’t lying. The whole thing is easy to follow, makes a lot of sense, and most of it doesn’t take much time to try out. He jumps quickly into actionable suggestions, why he thinks they work well, and provides examples from his own experience.
Daily writing sprints are central to his approach. Writing sprints are exactly what they sound like: Short bursts of concentrated writing. The main thing, and the part that I personally struggle with, is not going back to edit during the sprint. I hate this, but it’s definitely sound advice if your goal is to improve your writing speed, so I’m working on it. Getting words onto the page, even if they’re a mess, is vital. Editing can always happen later, but you can’t edit what you haven’t written.
Another important component is tracking WPH, or words per hour, so you can see your improvement over time. Tracking numbers doesn’t exactly get me excited, but I’m taking this on because I know that a lot of the time when I get discouraged it’s because I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere.
Because longer writing sprints require practice and stamina, he suggests starting with five minute sprints (easy and manageable, right?) and then multiplying your word count by 12 to get a WPH number you can track as you go along.
My favorite take-away from this book is the idea of making a tortoise enclosure for yourself. I liked this concept so much that I made a goofy drawing to go with it, because it is both sensible and charming. Apparently, he got the idea from a video of John Cleese talking about creativity. The tortoise enclosure is a safe space for your imagination that makes it easier to get right into flow state and stay there the whole time you’re working. The boundaries for your enclosure are (loosely): Time, Space, and Privacy. He also suggests making a list of all the potential distractions that you frequently encounter and then making plans to eliminate or temporarily block each one before starting.
This last is probably very sound advice, because according to some science stuff that I read a while ago and can’t find now, each distraction sets you back significantly in terms of focus, no matter how briefly it holds your attention.
I’d recommend 5,000 Words Per Hour to pretty much anyone who wants to write more and write faster. It’s a quick read, so not a huge time investment. I listened to it on Audible, but it’s available in ebook and physical form as well. There’s a content warning after the picture, just in case anyone needs it.
CW: The author references his own weight loss and dieting behavior multiple times, and there’s some mildly food-shamey content that could bother some people.
I believe there was also a brief mention of depression and thoughts of self harm in his past.