The Best Tip to Win NaNoWriMo.

writing photoThe biggest single motivator that gets me writing every day is my spreadsheet Novel Log V3.2.

Why would an accounting and mathematical tool help you win at NaNoWriMo?

The spreadsheet is a motivator. It records your words every day in a non-judgmental way. The spreadsheet doesn’t care if you shower that morning. It doesn’t care if your family eats takeout every week-night of November, and it doesn’t care if you had to go to a party and didn’t get to the keyboard the next day because of a pounding head. All it cares about is the number of words you’ve written, and whether they meet or exceed the requirements of your goal. One goal, one spreadsheet. Continue reading  

NaNoWriMo is a Waste of Words

It’s a familiar refrain around this time of the year. Experienced writers (usually), dunking a bucket of cold water on the collective glee of all those starry-eyed wanna-be writers signing up for the event. Well, it isn’t true. And it isn’t helpful. Not even slightly (unless they then donate to the #AlSIceBucketChallenge). Read on to find out why…

Continue reading  

There are Many Awesome Gymnasts on YouTube…

20130708-193611.jpgThis is not one of them… Actually, Pauletta Huntinova, was a world-class gymnast, but in this exhibition, I don’t think the judges liked the smiley face on the backside of his leotard (yes, you read that right).
Monday is the best day for distractions, don’t you think? If 8 minutes is too long to be watching videos at work, try these shorter links of the uneven bars, the floor routine and a beam routine in a delightful yellow leotard.

Would You Rather Undie Shopping or Torture? Me? Bring on the Cable Ties.

20130703-214325.jpg Photograph Sarah Brabazon

Do you love shopping for essential underwear? thought not. I am at the point where the wash has to be done twice a week, and my sons complain about not having enough undies. But yesterday, when I tried to go shopping in a local department store for basic underwear for all of us, I lost my nerve.
I know exactly what I want and I don’t need rack after rack of choice. Hipster, trunk, boyleg, black, navy, slate, seam, no-seam, spray-on (not really). Argh!
It is bad enough when shopping just for myself when I know exactly the style and colours that I like to wear, but this morning I received explicit instructions for one style over another, based on a certain flossing sensation 12 year-old Jetsam gets from his least-favourite gruds . Yesterday, I walked to town with a mission to buy some underwear as well as a case to protect my keyboard so it won’t rattle round in my bag between blogging and novelling. Easy. I put it off until 1:30, knowing that I have to leave to pick Flotsam and Jetsam up from school at 2:45 at the latest. Plenty of time, plus I was engrossed in my novel (the only activity that I use writing to procrastinate from is shopping). Nine minutes to walk to town (living close-in has its advantages), two minutes to stop at the GPO and check the mailbox–nothing to collect. Three minutes from the GPO to the shopping hub of Hobart – Collins Street . The electronics store and department store are right next door to each other… and both had fire trucks parked outside. Store workers grabbing an extra cigarette in the same way that cats lick themselves when they don’t know what else to do, confused would-be shoppers milling on the footpath. Security staff preventing me from my first mission (electronics and accessories shopping is slightly more desirable than clothes shopping, and is therefore higher on the list). I stood about for thirty seconds, but eventually the wafting cigarette smoke drove me into the department store (which hadn’t posted a security guy to keep everybody out). Walking through the front part of the store, I passed rack after rack of clothing hung with the care that heavy discounts bring to a display.
By the time I reached the underwear department fifty metres in, eyes swivelling to look for escape routes, heart rate several notches above normal and palms itching, my shopping experience was already doomed.
At the ramp leading up to the lingerie section were dozens of bras: push-up, minimising, strapless, in dozens of colours: chartreuse, turquoise, flesh–who has flesh that colour, anyway? The ramp to Lingerie was as manageable as the foothills of the Himalayas to a latte-quaffing DINK, minus the sherpa. The counter staff, having beaten me into the store by several minutes, were already engrossed in conversations that excluded me and my insignificant needs. Help, I whispered in my mind, followed by eeep as, halfway up the ramp, the rest of the department became visible. Shapers, singlets, socks! I want Bonds Hipster Boyleg, I don’t mind the colour, but they have to be the right price so I can buy a tonne and not have to come back for a year. But the ladies on the counter didn’t hear my mental scream. Hyperventilating, I ran to the front door and out into the blessed sunlight.
Descending the stairs, I shared a smile with the electronics store security guard. He thought I was saying hello but actually, I meant: Finally, shopping without an emotional overburden!
The electronics store didn’t have a case for my bluetooth keyboard, and neither did the Apple resellers a five minute walk away, but I didn’t mind. I raced home, jumped online, googled the name I’d seen on an online forum and found it somewhere with free shipping.
Add to Cart.
2:45, time to get Flotsam and Jetsam from school.
I still haven’t bought the underwear.
My questions for all you super shoppers out there are: What items do you shop for online, and which do you always try on? Do you ‘showroom’ (try on clothes in a store and then buy them online – this seems to me to combine the worst of two worlds)? What are your favourite places to shop for basics, online and in person? I really need to know, because I still haven’t made that purchase, and things are getting desperate, if you know what I mean.

Are Libraries Our New Bookstores?

Image by Sarah Brabazon.
Today I read a book about the sweeping changes that have happened in the publishing industry in the last two years. The author, Kristen Lamb, pointed out that in the past, bookshops had more shelf-space for an author’s older books, her backlist. A good browse might result in the discovery of a new author, and allowed new authors time to cultivate a readership.
But these days, bookstores have become a place to buy bestsellers or mid-list authors, the latest self-help about how to find peace in an ever more frenetic world, pick up Nook accessories and grab a coffee. When was the last time you stood by the shelves reading back cover blurbs and perhaps the entire first chapter? Now it is easier to download the Kindle sample to see if a book is worth buying, and then to ‘Buy now with 1-Click.’
The library on the other hand, has whole buildings full of backlist, plus a handy online system to find them.
They even take requests. Some time ago, I wanted to teach my children chess, but none of the available books, DVDs or apps grabbed their attention, or mine. Using my social network, I found ‘Chess is Child’s Play‘ by Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick. It looked great, but due to the complex layout of the book, they had decided to publish in hardcover only at first. No Kindle sample. I asked my local library if they would buy it, which they did. The librarians who processed the book clearly liked the look of it too, because an immediate queue formed behind my hold. I used it to teach my sons the rudiments of chess, and when the loan period was up, ordered my own copy. I’ve been recommending it ever since.
I often find this is the case with the library. They have lovely face-out shelves which allow busy mums to see a range of themed or new books in the thirty seconds before the toddler reaches the lower shelves to commence pulling books down (it has been some years now since this happened to me, but the memories are fresh and painful). Those were the years when I chose my entertainment venues based on the understanding staff and lack of breakable objects.
The library is a place where book-loving staff patiently explain to young children who wrote ‘The Lion,The Witch and the Wardrobe’, and that there are seven other books, including a prequel. Who show them how to find books in the shelf and how to reserve books if they aren’t. They have comfy places to read, and sometimes even coffee shops nearby.

I am lucky enough to have at least two great branches of the State Library of Tasmania nearby, and one independent bookstore with cafe attached. Our other surviving independent bookstore doubles as New Adult Daycare by dint of an upstairs room with a great selection of comics, Dungeons & Dragons figurines and war gaming room. My sons, Flotsam and Jetsam, now nine and eleven gravitate to this bookstore like zombies to a warm brain.
Do you have a great library or bookstore nearby? Do you agree that the best browsing these days happens in the Library or on Amazon? Do you prefer the convenience of a familiar name on the best-seller display in the airport lounge bookshop? Or are you an omnivorous reader who doesn’t mind if her reading experience comes with dog-ears, headphones or an easily scalable typeface? Are you (like me) addicted to One-Click Buy?
Tell me about it in the comments, and while you are there, tell me what is the best book you read last week?

Goal Setting and Game of Thrones for Girls

Mt.Fuji, Some rights reserved by ken.h

Last month, I signed up for a major goal: write a novel in a month. I have done this before and I’ve also failed to achieve it before. But, unlike quitting smoking, or having children, this wasn’t an either/or outcome. In reality, each day that I worked towards my target was a step closer to the goal in a measurable sense. I even used a spreadsheet to keep track. I guess the same could be said of quitting some destructive habit, like expecting a member of family Stark to get to the end of an episode of Game of Thrones emotionally or physically unscathed.
Each failure to achieve the entire target is a win in the same way that if you smoke a pack a day, cutting down to half a pack is a win. As I said, I’ve written 50,000 words in a month before, so to add extra spice this year, I signed up to coordinate the event. These are the things I learned.

One: If you can’t be a good example, you’ll have to serve as a horrible warning. On my first day of leading eighty-six writers in penning (so to speak) 1667 words each day for thirty days, I achieved zero words. This was like declaring myself a health guru and then being caught on camera scoffing four bars of chocolate. I wrote zero, not one, not twenty-eight, not three thousand words. Apart from losing the contents of my hard drive or sustaining a head injury, I couldn’t have done worse.

Two: It is better to set a positive goal than a negative one. If I had been quitting chocolate, for example, the next day I wouldn’t have been able to go back to my zero chocolate state (no, purging is never an option), or if I had been attempting to kick my True Blood habit, there would be no erasing those mental images of Erik the Vampire with no shirt on. However, since my goal was positive, I could catch up (although writing 3,334 words on day two was a daunting prospect). This brings me to my next lesson:

Three: Positive, measurable goals must also be achievable. If your goal is to climb Everest and on day one you attempt Dhaulagiri II on the basis that it is only the 30th highest peak, you are destined to fail. Of course if you have been on a lifelong mountain climbing mission and anything under eight thousand metres just isn’t challenging enough, then knock yourself out. There are some achievements that would be difficult to repeat daily. For instance, years ago when I was training for triathlons (sprint distance, don’t get excited), I heard of a diet that provided all of the nutrients that a triathlete required. It consisted of one litre of milk, three oranges, an egg and thirty-eight pints of Guinness. Day One sounded like fun, although I’d have to pace myself across the whole twenty-four hours. But imagine waking up to Day Two! This brings me to lesson four:

Four: Motivating others to achieve their goals motivated me. If you want to achieve something, join a group and cheer everyone else on. There’s bound to be someone who serves as a horrible warning (see point one) and someone who inspires you to do better without making your paltry goal look pointless. Like the fourteen year-old Darwin girl on The X Factor is enough to make any child who enjoys belting out ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’ with inventive lyrics give up on a life of vocal mediocrity. By the same token, if you are achieving your daily targets and someone in your group is struggling, then an encouraging word might be just the thing to get them over a rough patch. This is not pointless altruism. An increased pool of competitors makes you work harder too. Competition is healthy, and healthy competition raises everyone’s game. The converse of this is also true, which brings me to lesson five:

Five: When you help people, they support you in return. During our writing exercise, one of our members became sick enough to visit the hospital. Because she had been entertaining us all with inventive ways of reporting her daily achievements (this is a word-count remember, difficult to make fun), the messages of support flowed to her inbox and instead of becoming discouraged by repeated setbacks, she continued with the challenge and wrote more than she had ever written before in one month. This is why groups like Weight Watchers and AA work.

Your goal might be to: get fit, meet that special someone, run a marathon, take better photographs, meet other mothers of young children in your area, or just put your makeup on better. One of the wonders of the internet, apart from a million downloads of last season’s finale of GoT, is that there is a tribe) for everything. Find yours and achieve your goals sooner!

Do you prefer to meet people face-to-face or online. Do you disagree entirely? Do you simply have some blue pills for sale that I’d surely love to hear about? Making that sort of friend is covered in another post. Tell me about your experience when being part of a group helped you achieve your goal.