Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Challenges and Multiple Motivations


Note: This post will eventually be about writing, I promise.

I’ve officially recovered from the physical toll of last week, which I’m calling the I-Can’t-Say-No-to-Challenges-so-Sometimes-I-Become-an-Exercise-Masochist Week. 

I decided to take on Strava’s Rapha Rising bicycling challenge, which involved climbing the same amount of elevation as the Tour de France riders do during the “Circle of Death” stages (because that nickname sounds enticing): a total of 6881 meters or 22,575 feet in 8 days. That’s kind of insane on its own, and then I also attended my normal fitness classes and ran the Dirty Dash obstacle race during the same time period because I didn't wanted to say No to them either… basically I exercised like a madwoman for 8 days. By some miracle I managed to accomplish everything I set out to do, and I think it’s largely because I had so many different motivations all pushing me towards the same goal:
  • I wanted to feel a personal sense of accomplishment.
  • I wanted the token prize that Strava gave to every finisher, as well as the chance to win a sweet Trek road bike.
  • I officially signed up for the challenge, which in my mind always means I MUST finish it. (This can be a dangerous attitude, I know.)
  • I told other friends about the challenge and some of them even rode sections with me, so I didn’t want to let them down.
  • My husband took on the challenge as well, so we really wanted both of us to finish. (Check!)
  • I wanted to represent for my gender (only 100 women finished the challenge compared to over 1000 men).
  • I wanted to become more fit, thin, and healthy while still eating massive amounts of ice cream and chocolate.
  • I wanted a reason to take on new hills, discover different cycling routes, and see interesting sights. (I could have done without the deer blocking the bike lane or the mouthy ten-year-old heckling me up a hill, though.)
  • I enjoy cycling and most exercise, so I knew the week would be very difficult but not disagreeable.
  • I am ridiculously stubborn and maybe a little insane.
Here’s the thing: None of those motivations would have been enough on its own. I wouldn’t have put my body through such a crazy week just for a prize drawing, or just because I’d told someone I was going to do it, or just because I wanted to feel accomplished, or just because I enjoy bicycling.  

It’s the same with writing. Whenever I reach a writing goal, a number of motivations help me accomplish it: 
  • I want to feel a personal sense of accomplishment
  • I want to meet my NaNoWriMo or Write1 Sub1 or whatever goals to see my name on the list of finishers (and again, since I officially signed up for the challenge, in my mind I MUST finish it).
  • I need to send my writing group something new and polished every other week
  • I don’t want to disappoint the friends who believe in me and ask about my writing
  • I want to make money from my stories to supplement my barely-part-time job and to feel like I’m gradually moving towards making writing a career
  • I want to show my husband that his financial and emotional support isn’t being squandered or unappreciated
  • I want to tell a true story, connect with readers, work towards my dream future, and other corny but deeply real things
  • I really enjoy writing, so I know I won’t regret spending the time on a story regardless of the outcome
And, of course…
  • I am ridiculously stubborn and maybe a little insane
Of these reasons for writing, enjoyment is undoubtedly the most important. (I mean, if you dislike writing and are just in the game for the money, good luck.) But if I only wrote when it was enjoyable and I felt inspired, I wouldn’t get very much done. Those other incentives push me forward at a regular pace. They all contribute, even the ones that might seem silly. My motivation isn’t always strong, but it is always there, because I’m never relying on just one reason to write.

There’s a flipside to challenges and motivations, of course – in both writing and exercise, it’s important not to get burnt out, and it’s okay to abandon a challenge if it’s detrimental to your health, sanity, or other priorities. (Someday I might even follow this advice.) It’s also important to know which of your motivations are most important. I never want to submit a story that isn’t ready just to meet a quota, for example. But I've found that overall, challenges and multiple motivations really work for me, as long as I do my best to remain balanced. 

I'd love to hear your motivation list, and whether you're also obsessed with challenges or just find them insanely stressful (or both).

But now, if you’ll excuse me, my husband just told me that Strava has a Run-50K-in-3-days challenge that I need to sign up for right away convince myself is a bad idea since I barely even like running...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Throwing Ashes and Getting Dirty

Exciting news: my story Last Respects is up on Every Day Fiction today. Woohoo!

I planned to blog about it earlier today, but you know how sometimes life gets messy...


That's me in red participating in the Dirty Dash, a fun run filled with lots of mud and other obstacles like cargo nets to climb, hay bales to hurdle, and pipes to crawl through. And as soon as I got home and rinsed off all the mud, I went on a long bike ride for a different challenge because SOMETIMES I AM CRAZY LIKE THAT. 

Ahem. 

So now I'm finally home for the day, sprawled on the couch, just awake enough to type this semi-coherent blog post and to hope that you enjoy my Every Day Fiction story (and consider signing up for a mud run, because they're tons of fun.)

~ Exhausted

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Safety First, Readers

I interrupt my regularly scheduled posts (ha) with a public service announcement for overeager readers.

I used to think that there was nothing wrong with wanting to read anytime, anywhere. I almost always carry a book with me and I love reading whenever I get the chance, even when it might not seem normal or socially acceptable. My mother often had to remind me that "but the last chapter ended on a cliffhanger!" was not an acceptable excuse for being late to dinner or ignoring my relatives. But lately I've noticed some people taking the idea of reading everywhere a little too far.

Just Say No, even if it's the last chapter. Source.
Yesterday I saw a woman reading while walking along a winding, wooded road with blind curves and no shoulder. It wasn't a busy road, but the few cars that were on it tended to drive quite fast, and she was walking in the lane with her back to traffic and her nose in a book.

Then today I passed a guy listening to music and reading a graphic novel while bicycling. He was on the sidewalk at the time, at least, and I was more impressed than anything (unlike when I see cyclists texting), plus it actually reminded me of this amazing video of life on a bike, BUT STILL, that's two random readers in as many days who have left me FEARING FOR THEIR LIVES. (She said overdramatically.)

Seriously though, is there something going on? Maybe there's an underground movement of risk-taking readers that I don't know about. Maybe they have safety light bookmarks and patches on their brimming backpacks that say: Xtreme Readers! Books First, Safety Second!  Except they're readers, so they'd be more likely to spell "extreme" properly.

Anyone else out there seen crazy readers lately, or risked your own life and limb for a great book?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Opportunities for Awesome Prizes

First, if you're a fan of micro/flash fiction and snazzy prizes that allow you to write anywhere (in the shower! in the dark! with no hands!), check out this week's installment of Writer Unboxed Sizzling Sundays of Summer Flash Fiction Contest. You have until Wednesday to respond to the prompt with a story under 250 words, and the top 3-4 stories each week will move on to compete for prizes at the end of the summer. (And thanks to Madeline for sharing the link on her blog, where I seem to find all the cool contests -- I think her tortoises must have contest-finding Super Powers).

There's also an EPIC giveaway for YA Highway's 3rd Anniversary. There are SO MANY books up for grabs, not to mention critiques and a grand prize Nook or Kindle!

There are also SO MANY BOOKS being given away on the Friday the Thirteeners blog, along with some hilarious fake covers based on anagrams of their books. Check them out!

Plus there's another guest post and giveaway in Nova Ren Suma's amazing Turning Points series (seriously, I'd recommend reading all of them.)

More substantial posts should be showing up here soon (I say that as if magical elves will be responsible for them, which would be nice) but I just saw so much contest awesomeness on the internets today that I had to share. Because, you know, it's important to share...