Friday, February 22, 2013

Gamify Your Life


      I found an awesome app in the Google play store. It's called Task Hammer. Essentially, it's a to-do list, but with a twist. It exploits a loophole in your brain to keep you motivated and on-task. 
   
   Basically, a person will be perfectly happy to perform an annoying or monotonous task, if you can find a way to make it a game. I'm ashamed that for several months when I was 8, my mother used this little loophole to play a game we called "Cinderella". She would sit and watch soap operas while my sister and I put away our toys, did the dishes, and cleaned the bathroom, and whenever there was a commercial, my mom would come in and scold us theatrically for not working fast enough. I eventually got wise to this game and she created another one called "Fairies" which involved magic wands (feather dusters) and pixie dust (Windex). 

   But this app is WAY better than the Cinderella game. It's an RPG and in order to level your character, you  create a to-do list and then cross items off of it. You set the importance of the tasks, and the more important the task, the more XP you receive for completing it. I think the best part of it is that you can set a task to repeat daily, weekly, or monthly. You can also select "postpone" to move the task to the next day if you don't think you'll be able to finish it. the GUI is really cute and so far it is helping me get more crap done. . . Hence... three blog posts in one week. :)

Jimmie Hammel

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fads in Publishing

 

  Publishing seems to chase fads the way fashion does. One season it's vampires, the next it's apocalyptic fiction, then fairy tales. One season it's all about YA, the next, everyone's putting out erotica.
What's next? Fairy steam punk? That might actually be adorable.

  But my point is this... no one stopped reading YA when the 50 Shades series came out. People are still watching The Vampire Diaries, even though the Twilight craze has passed. Personally, I would rather read something new, different, and well-written, then a lame copy of whichever book is currently sitting at the top of the best sellers list.

  I think that's one of the biggest strengths of the indie publishing industry. No one is worrying about what's 'in' or 'trending'. People just want to read whatever looks good to them.

Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com

Monday, February 18, 2013

Betterment: Writing




  Despite the fact that I haven't posted anything in a few weeks, I have not actually given up on my New Years Resolution: Betterment. I took a break because the entire point of these goals was to create new habits. I want each of my Betterment goals to become second nature. I'm looking for permanent lifestyle changes, so before I move on to another goal I want to make sure the one before it is firmly entrenched. And honestly, I've been really flaky about remembering to take my vitamins. Hopefully my next few goals will be a little easier.

  For my first betterment goal of February, I've decided to focus on improving my work ethic, rather than my physical health. The goal is simple: Write something everyday. I'm not going to include a mandatory daily word count. That can come later. Whether it's one word, one sentence, or one page doesn't matter. This is just to create a habit out of looking at my WIP everyday. I'm thinking about tackling flossing for next week.

Progress:
Week 1 - Quit smoking
Week 2 - Take vitamins
Week 3 - Drink 72 oz. of water a day
Week 4 - Keep track of your progress
Week 7 - Write everyday

Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fear of Failure


   "If you never try, you will never fail, but if you never try, you will never succeed."

   "Show me a person who has never failed, and I will show you a person who has never accomplished anything."

   "Failure is success if we learn from it."

   "Failure is nothing but an opportunity to learn from your mistakes."

   Why is failure so terrifying? Fear of failure is the number one reason that aspiring writers kill their own dreams. Some don't even realize that their writer's block or stalling tactics are a fear of failure. I recently read an article on the subject* and it gave a list of behaviors that could help a person recognize a 'fear of failure' in themselves. I looked through the article and then applied the traits and behaviors to the ways they might manifest in a writer.

Never Starts 
   For some this might manifest as telling themselves they couldn't possibly do it, even if they've never tried.
   There's also a common malady among genre writers that has killed many a young novel. We call that one world builder's disease. These writers might plan a novel for years without ever writing one word of it. Over planning can derail even non-genre writers however. Knowing your characters is good. Knowing that their third-cousin's cats eat Purina's 'Yummy Tummy Tuna Delight', and that her best friend's great uncle had a drinking problem and spent 6 months in the Betty Ford clinic, not helpful.Unless the third-cousin lives with her, and has 18 cats... that might make for a funny short story actually.
   Another type of 'never starts' is the person who sits down in front of a blank page and freezes. They want to write but they don't know WHAT to write.

Starts but Never Finishes
   There are a lot of this type.
   People who rewrite the first chapter over and over.
   People who get half way finished, decide it isn't any good, and start over.
   People who get half way finished, decide it isn't any good, and start something else.
   People who get half way finished, decide it isn't any good, and just quit.
   People who get writer's block.
   People who wait for "inspiration".
   People who procrastinate.
 
Finishes but Never Shows Anyone
   This type is rarer than the others. These people have finished a novel, maybe even several, but they're too self-conscious to let them out into the world.
   The over-editor falls into this category as well. This person finishes the rough draft but never seems to be done "fixing" it. They rewrite, change, and tinker to eternity. They just never quite seem to be able to let their work out of their hands.

Let's Rejection Become Truth
   This type can happen anywhere along the route to writing a novel, during planning, working, or upon completion. Someone says they can't do it, or they aren't good enough, and the person takes it to heart and gives up. It might be a teasing friend, a nagging spouse, a critical beta-reader, an uninterested editor, or even the writer's internal critic, but someone says something that destroys the writer's confidence... and they give up.

   I can't say that there's one universal fix. For some people it helps to imagine their goals. For others that seems to paralyze them. For some people it helps to set themselves 'rules' like... "Write for x minutes every day" or "Only do x number of edits" or "Only spend x number of hours planning a novel". But some people don't work well with rules or can't seem to follow them.
   I only know what works for me, and I have had almost ALL of these self-sabotaging problems at some point, so here's my secret... just write. Forget all the other crap. Forget about people maybe not liking it. Forget about how long it's going to take. Don't worry about the fact that you don't know what you want to happen in chapter 35 when you're still writing chapter 10. Don't stress over the AWFUL paragraph in chapter 2, you can fix it later. Because no one will ever like it if they never get the chance to read it. No matter how long it takes, a finished novel is still an accomplishment. Once you get to chapter 35 you'll find a way to fill in the hole in your timeline, just trust yourself. You'll get the chance to go back and fix those broken pieces but if you never finish, then it doesn't matter anyway, so just write. For now, at this exact second, don't worry about any of that, just write.


Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com

*Fear of Failure article at MindTools.com.

P.S. I would also like to say that after scanning through several articles on MindTools.com, I actually subscribed to their Newsletter. It has been years since I subscribed to anything, ((I think the last one was for OfficeMax sales and coupons)) but Mind Tools offers loads of really helpful tips and tricks to keep yourself focused, and motivated.




 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Things You Learn

   I had to do a little research for my novel today. It's the first time since the initial planning stages that I really wasn't sure how to describe something, and whether it worked the way I thought it would. Today, it was the ocean.
   The question from my research was this... What are those long piles of rocks that jut out from the shoreline called and what are their purpose? Now, I thought I knew what they were for. In my brain those were called breaklines (they aren't) and they served the purpose of breaking waves before they hit the shore (which they do). My search turned up two terms, breakwater, and seawall.
   My next question was obviously... What is the difference between a breakwater and a seawall? And what did I discover, you ask. A line of rocks that juts into the ocean is called a breakwater. They are used to reduce the currents and wave heights in a harbor. A seawall completely encloses a section of ocean and prevents damage to the shoreline caused by high waves or tidal flooding.
 
   If you'd like to know why this was information necessary to my science fiction novel, my main character crashes a flying car into the ocean during a hurricane.


Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com



Monday, January 21, 2013

Betterment - Progress

   Week 4's Betterment Goal is a simple one: Write it down. As my "Betterment Goals" get more numerous and complex, keeping track of them is going to become more difficult. So, this week's goal is to get a journal and keep track of every goal for every day. If I make it through to the end of the year, keeping track of fifty different goals will get complex, so best to start recording them early on. Plus I'm always forgetting if I've actually taken my vitamins or just think I've taken my vitamins.

Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com

Thursday, January 17, 2013

House Hunting

  So, my husband and I have decided to start saving up for a house. We just paid off a car and quit smoking so we have some extra income. We were able to have the best Christmas since we got married, and now we're looking to save about half of our paychecks every month.
  But buying a house is really complicated. There's so much work to do with the bank, and finding a real estate agent, plus we're first time home buyers and both Cleveland and Lakewood, the two cities where we're looking to purchase, offer special government loans to finance your first down payment. That's enormously complicated as well. There's separate paperwork just for that. I also worry that we won't be able to find anything that we like within our price range, or that we'll take so long to save enough money for the down payment that the housing market will have rebounded and we won't be able to afford anything at all.
  My husband and I have very different reasons for wanting a new place. I want more space, something that's mine, something I can paint, and landscape, and be proud to call my own. He wants to get away from our rude, noisy, yuppy, downstairs neighbors, and he wants to get a dog. Actually, he wants to adopt one of my mother's dogs, a cockapoo named Rolo. I'm sure all four of our cats will love that. We both want to pay less money every month. Our current rent would support a mortgage of about $150,000. So, we're looking to buy a house worth about half that. Which means, with the government assistance of about $10k, we need to save between 4k and 6k.
  Then I worry about our cars. They're both paid off but what if one of them stops working? Or we have an accident and need to replace one? We have insurance but what if the payout wouldn't cover a car that was as nice as what we already have?
  You know what the weirdest part is? I am not a worrier. Not even a little. I have a very zen mindset when it comes to worry. If there's nothing you can do about it, stop worrying, it serves no useful purpose. If there is something you can do about, stop worrying about it, make a plan, work the plan, and solve the problem. I don't know why I'm letting this get to me. We probably won't even have the funds to start seriously looking until this summer.
  Maybe that's why I'm stressing. If we start looking for houses this summer, find something we like, close on it in the autumn, then by this time next year, my life will look NOTHING like it does right now. Unknowns are scary, and I am notoriously bad at uncertainty. I can't make a plan because I don't know what's coming. I can't relax because I feel like I should be doing something.
   Any advice on chilling out?

Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com