April Challenge – Have You Ever Eaten Four Bananas?

April Challenge – Have You Ever Eaten Four Bananas?

Early mornings, late nights, a trillion words written, loud music, standing desks, and bananas – week 1 of the April challenge was a massive success.

If you haven’t read my post about what I’m doing this month, check it out here.  As a quick recap, I promised to:

  • Write 90,000 words in April (3,000 a day)
  • Step up at the gym, and
  • Quit drinking (boooooo!)

So without any more boring intro, let’s get right into it.  Here is how the week went (written in real-time, live tweet style):

Day 1 – Saturday, April 1

  • 10am: I’m tired.  How do I write prose?  It’s been over a month since I’ve done that.  What do I do with my hands?
  • 1:45: 1,750 words down.  Time to go to the grocery store to get healthy food for the next few days.  This isn’t so bad.
  • 4:28: 3,551 words written, and I’m done for the day.  Took an hour break to buy some healthy food for the week.  New standing desk rules.  Everyone go buy a standing desk.  I think I might be a superhuman writer, because that was easy.

Day 2 – Sunday, April 2

  • 3:53: Why didn’t I start before this?  Damn you procrastination.  Procrastination is the enemy.  I need to stop procrastinating.  Stop procrastinating, Dave.
  • 3:55Well, it’s been two minutes and I haven’t written anything.  Maybe I should re-read what I wrote yesterday.
  • 4:03What I wrote yesterday is straight fire.
  • 8:41: 2,075 words written.  I swear I’ve written at least 5,000 today.  Word counter must be broken.
  • 9:28: 3,209 words.  Suck it, book.

Day 3 – Monday, April 3

  • 9:06: 3,776 words done.  Got carried through the day’s writing because I got to introduce two of my favorite characters in these chapters.  That, and I promised myself I could have a bunch of raspberries for every thousand words I wrote.  Raspberries are delicious.  Judge me, I dare you.

Day 4 – Tuesday, April 4

  • 8:25: 3,421 words.  You’d think I would have more to say about that.

Day 5 – Wednesday, April 5

  • 6:22: Well, shit.  I haven’t even started yet.  Way to go, Dave.
  • 7:47: 1,277 words done.  Time for a break to go to the gym.  Almost 1/3 of the way done, woo!  Maybe I’ll get to go to sleep before midnight.
  • 8:08: JK, more writing before the gym.  1,833.  Now gym.  Brb.
  • 11:30: 3,427 words.  I desperately need sleep.

Day 6 – Thursday, April 6

  • 5:47: Why.
  • 6:12: Why.
  • 6:30: Why.
  • 7:00: Gym.
  • 8:30: Why.
  • 9:30: Why.
  • 10:05: 3,347.

Day 7 – Friday, April 7

  • 5:30: I have eaten four bananas in the past hour.  Four.  Bananas.
  • 5:47: And two packages of raspberries.
  • 5:53: I can’t write, my stomach feels weird.
  • 6:21: I tricked myself into writing by saying all I need to do is sit down and write 250 good words.
  • 9:21: 3,105.  Boo.  Ya.  In the face.  One week up, one week down, three weeks to go.

On stepping up at the gym and quitting drinking

Neither of these things posed quite the challenge I thought they would this week.  I personally love going to the gym – it’s definitely my happy place – so that wasn’t a problem.  I went for a little over an hour on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  I used the gym each day as a break from writing so I would come back refreshed, or as a reward.

Quitting drinking was a little harder, but still not that bad.  With all of the work I’ve been doing, and with going to the gym so often, I didn’t feel the urge to drink as much.  I went out last night (Friday) with about ten of my friends, and it was actually really fun.  One of my friends was even thoughtful enough to offer me a Le Croix.  Thanks, Kyle.

I also ate extremely healthy all week, cycling my carb intake each day to keep my body from getting comfortable.  My main foods were chicken, ground beef, fruit, veggies, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, string cheese (light), rice, and pasta (for the high carb days).

Biggest takeaway of the week: Get a f***ing standing desk, people.  Being able to raise it up, write while standing, and pace around the room while thinking without having to push my chair back, stand, come back, sit, and scoot it back into the desk ever time is incredible.  Please, if you haven’t every tried one before, try it now.  Your body and writing will thank you.  This thing is amazing.

So there it is – 7 days down, 24 to go.  I’m about 1/6 of the way through my book plot wise, so there’s still a lot more work to do, but I just did a re-read of this week’s work and it’s coming out better than I had ever imagined it would.

Total words written this week: 23,836.

Here’s to next week.

How is your April going?  What challenges are you taking on?  What are you proud of accomplishing?  What do you hope to get done before the end of the month?

How To Fly Stress Free

How To Fly Stress Free

We writers are stressed out, jumpy folks, don’t you think?  Some of us can be downright irritable.  We can be argumentative and contrarian.  A lot of us aren’t very good in crowds.  We get anxious a lot.  That’s the stereotype, I know, so I apologize if any of you are different.

I can just see a comment rolling in a few hours from now: “I’m not stressed-out, and I’m certainly not jumpy!  How dare you judge me!”  To which I would say: “Well you’re sure as hell being argumentative and contrarian, aren’t you?”

But ignoring me arguing with myself, I think flying is something that can cause anxiety for a lot of people.  As someone who absolutely loves to travel (and never stresses about anything, Scout’s honor), I thought I would share a few tips that help me enjoy my trips. 

And as an FYI for where this is all coming from, I travel a lot.  Like a lot a lot – I travel for work (from DC to NYC, Toronto, and Montreal), and for pleasure (upcoming trips include Colorado Springs, Indianapolis (Indy 500), Athens, Santorini, and Cabo).  If you want to read about just how much I love writing on planes, you can check out my recent post Words On A Plane – this is sort of a natural follow up coming out of that post.

So here in your traveling bible:

  • Get TSA pre-check if you can.  If you can get it and are just shuffling your feet, suck it up and do it already you procrastinating baby. 
  • Arrive on time, but not too early – strive to be at the airport 20-40 minutes before boarding – TSA pre-check rarely takes longer than 20 minutes (I’ve been averaging about 8).  If you get there too early, you’ll be bored and start to stress for no reason. You’ll sit there thinking way too much about whether you’ll be able to find overhead space for your carry-on, which is dumb. 
    • If you’re a real daredevil try to arrive at the gate no sooner than the first boarding call.  I like to live life on the edge, what can I say?  Some people jump off cliffs, I like to almost miss my flights.
    • P.S. My mom is going to get so much secondhand anxiety when reading this part.
  • Pack light.  Pack tight.  Make sure you have the essentials first.  Don’t forget that outside of the few essential things you have, almost anything can be replaced or picked up at a convenience story if you happen to forget it.  Get a good pair of headphones.  Wear casual, comfortable clothes. 
  • Pack a backpack for the plane, but don’t overpack – keep it simple and easy to get to anything at any time.  In your main compartment – laptop, book, notebook, headphones.  In a smaller compartment: laptop charger, phone charger, pen.
  • Sit down, put your headphones on, play your favorite jam.  Everything you could need is at your fingertips – want to write?  Grab your laptop.  Want to read?  Grab your book.  Want to doodle?  Grace your notebook.  This is why you didn’t overpack your backpack – everything should be easy to take in and out of your bag.
  • Enjoy your flight – try to split your time at least 60/40 between working and relaxing.
  • Make sure you thank the flight attendants when you land.

What about you?  Do any of you like flying?  What are your favorite tips or tricks for traveling stress free?

Why To Make A Change – April Challenge

Why To Make A Change – April Challenge

Write 90,000 Words.  Step Up At The Gym.  Quit Drinking (Temporarily).

It’s time to make a change, and have some fun while doing it.

Over the past few years I’ve been getting better and better at self-motivation, productivity, and juggling the multiple things I care about (friends and family, fitness, work, writing, etc.), but I always end up asking myself if there is more I could be doing.  I wonder if there is more left in the tank.  I want to take the next step and do something great, quickly, and make a name for myself (i.e. publish a book that people will love).

At the same time, the more I do, the more I realize how much I love the doing.  No that was not a typo.  Yes that was a grammatically correct sentence.  What I mean is that I love challenging myself.  I love the feeling of making progress, of striving towards something.  I realize that it is this sense of purpose that makes me happy (that, I think, secretly makes us all happy).  End-states are nice, but they will always lead you to another goal.  If you learn to love reaching for your goals, you will learn to be happy throughout your life.

If you’re like me, and I bet you are, you probably feel like you want to take the next step – whatever that means for you – fairly often.

Which is why I’ll be spending the entire month of April challenging myself in several different ways, and I’d love it if some of you could join me.

As you probably saw at the top of this post, there are three really great – and difficult – challenges that I’ll be taking on in April:

  • Write 90,000 Words
  • Step Up At The Gym
  • Quit Drinking

Write 90,000 Words

April is Camp NaNoWriMo month, where you get to set your own goals, and you win if you reach them.  Simple as that.  For a lot of people this means shorter word targets (under 50,000), or an editing target, or a goal of outlining your next book.  For me it means I’m actually ramping up the challenge: I’m going to write 90,000 words (hopefully over 100,000, so I can finish my entire manuscript) this month.

I have never been this excited to start writing a book in my life, and that’s why I want to – and think I can – write it in a single month.  As a sidenote, I’ve recently achieved the goal from my 15 Days To Done post; I’ve finished plotting, outlining, creating backstory, creating characters, settings, etc.  For some insight into how detailed I get when planning, all of the outlines, character sheets, setting descriptions, and backstory details amount to about 42,000 words (84 pages in Microsoft Word (single-spaced), or 145 pages in a mass-market paperback novel).

I’m ready to go.  It’ll mean a serious round of editing in May to find any plot holes I missed in my outline, fix them, note areas that move too quickly or too slowly, and improve the overall wording and imagery in the book.  But that’s okay.

This story is going to be killer.

Step Up At The Gym

For the last 7-months I’ve been trying really hard to gain weight through nutrition and a serious gym schedule.  I started at 6’1, 170 lbs, and am up to 184 lbs as of yesterday.  Now that it’s April, it means it’s time to reverse course and shed the fat that I’ve gained along with the muscle.  I’ll be taking my diet down from 3,500 calories per day to 2,500, and doing a new workout split.  This means not skipping gym days, getting my nutrition right and eating clean, and making sure I stay motivated.

I expect the change in my diet to make a noticeable change in the way I feel: lean meats, fish, veggies, healthy fats, good carbs.  It also means I’m going to…

Quit Drinking

As an aid to the above two challenges, I’m also going to be quitting drinking for the month of April.  Since most of you don’t know me personally, I probably have to tell you outright: this is a pretty big deal for me.  I usually go out with friends 2-3 nights per week, during the day Saturday, and go to happy hour or drink and watch a movie 1-2 additional times per week.  It’s been a big part of my lifestyle.

With the two goals above, though, it’s important to avoid hangovers, feel better day-to-day, and keep my brain happy.  And I also can’t forget that I still have a full-time day job that’s intellectually demanding.  I’m excited to see what positive effects quitting alcohol will have for me.  Full disclaimer: my girlfriend is not too happy with me about this one, but the truth is I’ll still be going out with her and with our friends, I just won’t be drinking alcohol with them.  I’m sure that’ll make the bar more interesting/annoying/amusing when 2am rolls around and everyone around me is 10 shots deep.

My Promises To You For The Month

There are a few promises I’ll make to you for this month as well:

  • Short, paragraph-long entries for each day of the week, posted in an update on Saturday mornings.  Here I’ll detail my word-count for each day, how I felt the writing went, where in the story I am, and when I wrote.  I’ll also have some funny stream-of-thought complaints on the challenges overall.
  • One regular blog post per week on a variety of topics – Wednesday of each week.
  • At least 2 new Write in Weird Places entries over the course of the month

There is never a great time to commit to something crazy, to promise ourselves that we’re going to spend a whole month focusing our entire purpose on something that really matters to us – there will always be obligations, excuses, too much travel, work, prior commitments.  But we owe it to ourselves to destroy those excuses and succeed anyway.

April is a perfect month to start.  Spring is coming, the weather is turning warm, and the sun is finally spending more time in the sky to help us stay awake and active past 7pm.

One of the greatest motivators is mutual accountability, and I would love it if you took on an April challenge with me.  Share your challenge below so we can keep each other going; if you want, make a post about it on your own blog and comment with the link so I can follow along with you.

What are you challenging yourself to do this April?  Camp NaNoWriMo?  Something else?  What do you wish you could accomplish, if you could accomplish anything in the world, next month?

Why You Should Wake Up Early

Why You Should Wake Up Early

Divisive post, I know, especially to a group of people that (probably) mostly consists of night-owls.  Here, I’ll post your reply for you: “Shut up, Dave, I work better at night.  Don’t tell me how to live my life!”

But I’m here to tell you that if you’re looking for an extra boost, that surge of productivity that’ll help you get more done than you ever have before, or if you’re finding that your motivation is at an all-time low and are looking for a way to get back on track, or (damn, this is a long list) if you just want to switch things up and feel like you’re seizing every single one of your days again… you should start to wake up earlier.  Set your alarm right now.  I dare you.

So let’s backtrack a little bit (for those of you with kids/families/other obligations please know that I understand you can’t change your entire day to fit your own personal schedule – just do the best you can).  Raise your hand if the skeleton of your day looks roughly like this:

  • Wake Up (6-7am)
  • Day Job
  • Gym/Happy Hour/Family Obligations/Pick Up Kids
  • Make Dinner
  • Try to Write
  • Maybe Watch TV
  • Bed (10-11pm)

Sure, make allowances in the list for special occasions like parties, going to the movies, seeing friends, taking trips/vacations.  Maybe you can switch up two or three of the above.  But I’ll wager that for most of us this is what our day looks like – and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Now also raise your hand if you find yourself tired, physically or mentally, by the time you get through your entire work day, after-work-activity, dinner, and then finally sit down to write (or work on whatever your passion project is).

The problem is that most of us don’t account for a few specific types of fatigue that we experience throughout the day: mental, motivational, and decision fatigue.  All three of these types of fatigue are very real, and they occur throughout the day as we exercise these parts of our brain: every time you use mental energy (likely at your job) you have less left in the tank; if you go to work or the gym gung-ho and throw yourself into your activities, you sap your motivation (though it can be replenished); and every decision you make, from choosing your clothes in the morning, to making bold work-related choices, can cause decision fatigue.  That’s why we often find it so hard to sit down and work when we finally have free time late at night. 

I mean, honestly, have you ever gotten yourself a cup of coffee early on a Saturday or Sunday morning (or perhaps on a day off from work), sat down at your workspace, and found that the words just pour out of you like a waterfall after a monsoon?  That’s no fluke.  It happens because you’re fresh, your mind primed, you’re ready to seize the day. 

I could wax poetic about the beauty of working in the morning – indeed, it’s easy to fall in love with golden sunrises, the hush of the city or suburbs before the world wakes up, the inescapable sense that you should be tiptoeing across the floor even if you live alone – but I think we all know where I’m going with this.  Go to sleep earlier, set your alarm, jump in the shower, (dare I say; grab a cup of coffee?) and start achieving the goals you set for yourself. 

Even for you night owls out there, try it once or twice, just to see what it feels like.  If it’s not for you, that’s fine.

To close out this post I wanted to share my favorite part about writing early in the morning: you feel like you’ve accomplished your goal before the day even starts.  Writing early will impact your entire day; it will lift your mood; it will let you focus on the other thousand-and-one tasks that compete for your attention.  And you’re now free to use the rest of the day as you see fit.  Want to write more?  Great.  Want to go out with friends?  Have a blast.  Want to go to Happy Hour?  Crush some beers (that’s what my friends and I call it, because we’re terrible people.  ‘Crushing beers’).  The rest of your day belongs to you.  No guilt.  No sense of leaving something unaccomplished.

So try it, please, even just a few times.  Set your alarm.  Wake up with purpose.

I won’t say it’s easy.  But it’s definitely worth it.

What about you?  Are you an early riser?  A night-owl?  When do you get your work done?  Let me know below!

Working On A Beautiful Spring Day

Working On A Beautiful Spring Day

It’s been cold in DC for the last few weeks.  Not just chilly, but bone-biting, wind-driving, snow-piling cold.  The bulk of people in the city have spent their time hiding indoors, layering like they live in the North Pole, and Ubering places they could easily have walked.  I Ubered 4 blocks the other day.  It was embarrassing.

Not anymore, though.  The sun came out this weekend, we hit the mid-60s, and people have been running around like it’s the middle of summer.  All anyone wants to do is join in the outdoor fun, but what if we have too much work to get done? (Yes I know that rhymed.  No I didn’t do it on purpose.  Yes it was still awesome.)

On days like this, when warm weather is still fresh and novel, it’s important to take advantage of what you can.  It’s important to get outside.  It’s important to breathe the fresh air.  It’s important recharge your batteries like one of Elon Musk’s solar panels.  The question is: How? Continue reading “Working On A Beautiful Spring Day”

15 Days to Done

15 Days to Done

What is it about a challenge that motivates us so much?  Why is the pull of a one-week challenge so alluring? 

There is something a little magical, and a little scary, about setting a short-term goal for yourself and driving towards it with all the power you can muster.  You see it in the fitness industry all the time, in commercial campaigns and incentive programs at large companies, and, yes, even in writing… ever heard of NaNoWriMo?

Maybe people have short attention spans, or maybe the promise of a reward that’s only two weeks away is just irresistible; either way, short challenges work.  Public ones work even better. Continue reading “15 Days to Done”

Words On A Plane

Words On A Plane

A couple weeks ago, after a work trip to Montreal, I was going to write a blog post about how much I love working on planes – they’re actually one of my favorite places to write.  I’d gotten through a couple of paragraph before I thought, “Hm, shouldn’t I wait to write this blog post until I’m actually on a plane again?” 

So here I am, flying home from Chicago after an extended weekend celebrating St. Paddy’s Day with a big group of friends (in Chicago they celebrate the weekend before, don’t ask me why), tired, excited to collapse into my own bed, more than a little hungover, but still happy to be on a plane.

There’s something about being thousands of feet above the clouds, separated from the rest of the world, but still able to look down and marvel at it (if the skies are clear), unbothered by your friends or family, kept company only by the sometimes annoying knee and elbow of the person next to you. 

I have a pair of Bose noise-cancelling bluetooth headphones that reduce the roar of the plane’s engines to a comforting hum, and I never, ever, connect to the plane’s Wifi.  No internet, no texting, nobody to bother you, arguably the greatest view on the planet – what else could a person want in a workspace?

So sit back, leave your anxiety about flying at home, and don’t rush to be the first person on the plane – it’s not worth the stress.  Bring your laptop or notebook, a pair of headphones, and your favorite book (for breaks).

And don’t forget to look out the window during takeoff and landing.