45 degrees off

Seeing the same thing from a different angle.

Monthly Archives: August 2011

750 Words a Day

I’ve started using 750 Words. I was given the link some months back and did a little digging around to find out about it, but didn’t sign up. There were two main reasons that I chose not to sign up at that time. One was that I wasn’t able to find out very much about the site. I had almost no clue what, exactly, I would be signing up for. The other reason was that what little bit of a clue I did have let me know this was about writing every day, and something I learned from doing NaNoWriMo last year is that it really isn’t that important to me to be a writer anymore.

Let me explain that. I still think NaNoWriMo is worth doing. I would encourage anyone who thinks they’d like to do it to go ahead and sign up when it comes around again. Even if you don’t believe you’ll make it all the way to the 50k finish line, go for it if it’s something you’d enjoy being a part of. I needed the experience in order to find out that the art I’m doing now is more important to me than my writing. Learning that about myself meant giving myself permission to let go of one and focus more on the other. If I had not done NaNoWriMo, I would still be in a very uncertain place within myself about that. I still like to write. I’ve just given myself permission to let go of focusing on it as more than an enjoyable hobby.

750 Words even has a badge for people who do NaNoWriMo. Badges? (Insert line from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.) Yes, there’s more to 750 Words than just writing your words each day. If all you want is to write your words, you could do that. You could log in, write, and log back out after you see the alert that you’ve hit your goal. It doesn’t even matter what you write. It’s not a blog. The default is for your writing to be kept private, so you don’t have to worry about writing something that’s well done or makes sense to anyone else. Or even something interesting to anyone else. The point is just to do three pages of writing each day… 750 words.

There is a point system, though, and some interesting statstics to look at. There are badges that you are awarded based on participation. Some are for the actual writing – days in a row of writing, days in a row of writing 750 words in under 20 minutes, etc. You start with an egg. Three days in a row of writing gets you a turkey. Five gets you a penguin. I’m looking forward to getting the phoenix when I get to 100 days in a row!

Other badges are called “behavior badges”. They’re given for things like developing the habit of writing in the morning (Early Rooster) or late at night (Night Bat), finishing a monthly challenge, or hitting certain milestones in total words written.

You get a point each day for writing at least 100 words. You get two points if you write 750. You get three points if you write 750 without getting distracted (the system tracks things like how long it takes you, how fast you’re typing, etc). There’s a little more to the scoring system than that, but it’s loosley based on scoring in bowling and explaining numbers isn’t my thing. If you like having numbers to track and look over, though, I think the system would be interesting to you.

The system also analyses your writing to find themes and patterns, which are then displayed on different charts and in lists for you. Things like how often you use certain words, what themes dominate your writing (money, love, work, etc), and even how much you talk about yourself as opposed to talking about other people. That kind of assumes you’re doing this as a personal journal, but I can see how the information could still be interesting and useful to someone who writes short bits of fiction with it.

I’m currently using it to work out some of my ideas for future projects. It’s easy to use. There’s not a lot of customization options, and the ones that do exist are things like choosing the font and colors you want to see. There’s no settings to fiddle with unless you don’t want to keep everything private and decide to enable some sharing features. (Again, keeping your writing private is the default.) You can certainly write more than 750 words a day, but the system tells you when you’ve hit that goal so that you can stop if you wish. The badges and stats keep me going back so I can see how things change with today’s writing, rather than becoming a promise to myself to do a little journaling each day that never results in any real writing.

There are also more options for sigining up now. It used to simply be a “sign in with your Facebook account” thing. You can now also sign up by sigining in with your Google or Yahoo accounts, or an OpenID.

There is an option to become a patron — to donate to help keep 750 Words going — and I noticed that some of your donation goes to support 826 Seattle, a non-profit that helps kids develop their writing skills.

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When the Creative Flow Runs into a Dam

I’ve been plugging away at a shoe design that isn’t going well. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it. It looks like I thought it would. I don’t know what’s not going well… I’ve just run out of steam and nothing seems like the right thing to add, although the design is quite obviously far from finished. Think “a little over a quarter of the shoe still untouched”. It’s just not going anywhere and I seem to be unable to make it go anywhere.

This doesn’t mean I’m burning out on art and need a break. Oh, no… far from it! I missed drawing during the couple of weeks I spent recovering in bed. I’m glad to get back to it! I have a list of things to do, and so many ideas I want to play with, and…

Well, there you go. That may very well be the shoe problem. I was working on the shoe design before my bedrest. It feels like it’s weighing me down and keeping me from getting caught up. I’m starting to resent it for not being finished yet. I’m ready to move on! The harder I push on the shoes, the slower progress becomes. I don’t really want to be working on the shoes anymore. I just want to be finished with them.

Very few of my deadlines are set in stone. Most of them are set by me just to keep projects organized and help me do my best to balance between my art and other daily responsibilities. I don’t have to finish the shoes right now. I can set them aside and move on to the next project. When I feel the excitement and passion for finishing the shoe design, that will be the time to go back and finish it.

When the creative flow gets to the dam, it pools and just sits there. Sometimes that’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the inspiration and ideas, splash around, and see what what wonderful things you can find under the surface. But sometimes it’s better to walk away and find a river of creativity that is still rushing along. You can come back to the pool later. One is not “better” than the other. It’s about what you need at the time.