Yes, I know I technically gave you two weeks to work on Week 2, but it was the holidays, and I let the blog slide in favor of cranking out some serious wordage. Okay . . . some somewhat-serious wordage. Hm. Well, I had a couple days over 1K. I’ll count that as a win!
For today’s Block to 2K, we’re going to begin the dreaded PUSH to bring up our average word count and extend our writing sessions, even if by just a few minutes. I know, I’m cringing at the thought of it too—I’d love to write more, but I don’t know if I can. If this were a 5K run, I’d be lagging in the back, sweating profusely and wheezing. But that’s why we’re not going to jump into it all at once: we’re going to get the right equipment, and we’re going to condition ourselves so we can prance through that run without breaking a sweat.
We’re starting with the concept of FLOW. Don’t let the trippy graphic scare you off:
Flow is the term coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (I can’t make up consonant clusters like that) to describe the mental state when you fully immerse yourself in a task, keeping up a good energy level and propelling yourself forward without distraction. MC believes that the ideal conditions for flow occur when you feel like you are competent enough to achieve a task, but still feel sufficiently challenged by it, as demonstrated by the chart above.
I think writing offers us the perfect opportunity to achieve flow—we know our stories, we trust our words or at least our ability to make them better later; but we also don’t always know exactly what a story will bring next or how to solve each challenge in the tale that arises. In short, we feel competent, but challenged.
. . . Ideally, anyway. Sadly, these two elements rarely fully line up, at least not for long. Either we get disgusted with our words, or we get blocked on the story, or we lose our grip on what we thought we were reaching for.
So let’s talk about that competency part for a minute. A big part of what we did in Week 2 was look at our emotional state when we’re writing, and figure out what circumstances—times of day, etc—contributed to the most productive writing sessions. I can’t help you with your writerly self-esteem; I believe that has to come from within. But reminding yourself of how much you’ve accomplished with your writing so far and how excited you are for the story you’re about to tell never hurts.
But we need some more practical equipment in our competency toolkit, too, and I think that comes from jotting out a rough outline prior to each writing day or writing session to hit all the high notes of the next few scenes you want to write. We so easily fall off the competency wagon when we don’t know what’s coming next. This may sound silly, but I also tend to get so hung up when I’m trying to think of the right names and terms for things, or can’t remember a particular fact, or anything I’d have to stop writing to look up. If it doesn’t come to me while writing, I’ll just toss a note to myself in brackets and keep truckin’ on.
Now, what about the challenging side? Well, we don’t want to make our outline too detailed, or we might lose interest—the exploratory spirit. (Your results may vary, but I’ve definitely found this to be the case.) We also can’t feel like we’re treading water. Challenge yourself to reach for a particular milestone in the story before you cease writing, or hit one of the moments in this story that you’ve been dying to write ever since you first envisioned it.
And for an added challenge . . . Yeah, you knew this was coming. We’re going to start pushing ourselves to write more words, and write for longer periods. I’d say that for every ten minutes you’re able to make yourself write in one go, set a timer for that time plus two additional minutes when you sit down to write and keep the words moving until the timer goes off. So if you can usually write for twenty minutes straight, you’d set it for twenty-four, and so on. If you worry more about your word count speed, challenge yourself to squeeze an extra twenty to fifty words, average, into every ten minutes you write. If you take care of the competency portion to get you going, use this challenge to keep you motivated, and in the flow.
Please comment below to let me know how you’re doing with the challenge, blog about your experience, or as always, tweet about the experiment with the hashtag #b22k. Good luck!