Cheryl lives and writes with her inspirational family, two energetic dogs, and a small mammal menagerie, all of which are fairly tame. She writes about cool science stuff for children and adults, daydreams about stories and characters 87% of the time, and tries not to plot novels while driving.
Although I’ve been quiet online, I’ve been extremely busy in the real world. (Real world? Weird, right?)
And some of what I’ve been busy doing has been SO COOL! Most recently, I’ve embarked on a free online course (a MOOC, or massive online open course) through Coursera all about Gamification. It’s a topic that’s fascinated me ever since I discovered Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter game (which I blogged about here, a year and a half ago). Somewhere in the near-ish future, I plan to share some of my thoughts about how gamification can help writers market their books and build their platforms, but for now, I want to share with you what gamification is.
According to Kevin Werbach, author of For the Win instructor of the Coursera gamification course, gamification is “the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.” However, I think the best way to understand the concept is by checking out some examples (from the Volkswagon Fun Theory initiative):
Goal: Reduce speeding without stationing police on every corner Solution: Speed Camera Lottery
Goal: Encourage the healthy habit of taking stairs rather than the escalator Solution: Create stairs so fun, more people will take them
Goal: Get people to put trash in the garbage can Solution: The world’s deepest bin
The SuperBetter website helps you create a personalized game to aid recovery from an illness or trauma. The social app FourSquare–an application that really only works if lots of people participate–gamifies “check-ins”, restaurant reviews, and other desired behaviors to increase players’ engagement.
I could go on with the examples, but I’ll save that for another post . Instead, I’ll leave you with two must-see talks from Jane McGonigal about why games matter and how they can change the world.
The game that can give you 10 extra years of life:
Earlier this year, I blogged about the link between increased stress and decreased work performance. If you haven’t read the post, do—it will make you think about how stress might be cutting into your creativity, happiness, and productivity.
After that post had been around for a bit, one of the creators of this amazing infographic contacted me to see if I would like to share it. Read on for more insight into how work, stress, and life seem to be tangled together…
Thanks so much to Allison Morris for sharing this with me! I’ve spent the past three months trying to create a doable work schedule—one that generates enough income to pay our ever-increasing bills (two works: TEENAGE BOYS) while still allowing me time to pursue my passions. It’s been a struggle, but after months of taking itty-bitty steps toward my goal I am finally starting to see results—you know, like having time to exercise again and having energy to work on my fiction projects.
Schedule-juggling is an ongoing process, but finding ways to cut back on the long hours of work gives us time to live and love and play and be creative. How do YOU tackle the juggling act?
For those of us who slid sideways into the freelancing life, it’s not always obvious what to charge for our services. If you look at jobs posted on sites like Elance, you might get the idea that freelancers are paid $1 per 500-word article. You can probably figure out your lower limit for pay, but how do you know the industry standard for what to charge?
A Rates Resource
A fellow freelancer recently pointed me to a terrific resource: the Editorial Freelancers Association’s list of common editorial rates. Despite the editorial slant of the name, this list includes rates for fact checking, indexing, writing for websites, medical writing, and more. Check it out!
If you write or edit on a freelance basis, how do you decide what to charge? Any other resources you’d like to share?
I read recently that the brain tends to see everything as far more simple than it actually is.* It was remarkably refreshing to read that this is a problem common to humanity, since it’s one I struggle with all the time.
Take writing, for instance. I get an idea for a new book project, and as soon as I start brainstorming, ideas for characters, plot elements, and cool world concepts come flying fast and furious. I might even write a skeleton outline of the story structure in those magical first days when I know that the story is THE BEST IDEA I’VE EVER HAD and that WRITING IT WILL BE SIMPLE.
Simple? Ha. Once I actually put pen to page (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be) I have to face reality: The characters and scenes I thought I’d envisioned so clearly are no more substantial than mist. It’s one thing to have the idea, but quite another thing to bring that idea to life on the page.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too. It’s easy to forget, somehow, that the beautiful language, witty dialogue, and sparkling characters we want to create are the result of a hundred rewrites. This is the reason that Anne Lamont instructed writers to “write shitty first drafts” in her classic guide for writers, Bird by Bird. There’s always a gap between that first story vision and the first words you write. This is also the reason we practice things like freewriting and participate in challenges like NaNoWriMo, which help us learn to silence that inner critic long enough to get something—anything—down on the page. Once those first words are written, it always seems to be easier to see how they can be improved.
I think that the myth of simplicity is a two edged sword. On the one hand, this tendency to view things as “simple” may encourage us to embark on adventures we wouldn’t otherwise try. We start that novel or join NaNoWriMo or sign up for a songwriting class, for instance.
On the other hand, it’s easy to become discouraged when reality doesn’t match up to our expectations. When you sit down to write and the story you thought was right there, waiting to pour from your pen, instead scatters into a thousand fragments—at that point, you need to recognize that your “simple” project never really existed. You need to know that what you’re experiencing is normal. Sometimes, that’s enough to let you keep going.
I’m getting better at noticing those times when I tell myself that some project will be quick, easy, or simple. Sometimes, I let myself ride that feeling for a while. It helps me dive into big ideas and big projects without fear. Sometimes, I force myself to do a reality check. I know that if I let myself pursue too many of those “simple” ideas, I’m quickly overwhelmed with work. Even simple projects take time, which always seems to be in short supply.
What about you? Do you have a habit of underestimating the work involved in writing a scene or crafting a poem or completing some other creative project—or do you find that some things are, in fact, simple?
* Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read this, only that the article/book/blog post seemed particularly wise and applicable to my current situation. If or when I do remember, I will let you know. I’m sure it will be simple.
This post was originally published in April, 2011, but it seems to be particularly relevant during the craziness of the holidays. Hope this encourages you as we hurtle toward the end of the year!
Jami Gold’s recent post Have You Ever Been Tempted to Give Up? is thought-provoking and true. In a weird way, it’s encouraging to realize that even published, successful authors struggle with this question.
Jamie’s post ends with a question: “What pushes you to the edge of giving up (lack of time, rejections, something else)? What things help motivate and encourage you (a support system, wanting to prove something, finding successes wherever you can)? ”Visit her blog to see what other writers have to say.
Have I ever been tempted to give up? Absolutely! As has every writer in my critique group. As has every writer I know personally. And yet, most of us don’t. What keeps us going? I think the answer depends on why we’re tempted to quit, the way different illnesses respond to different treatments.
In my experience, there are several factors that can push me to the edge:
Too much rejection/too little affirmation: This ailment is best treated by interaction with other people. Turn to your critique group, writer friends, Twitter tweeps, or a trusted first reader for encouragement and perspective. Or read the thoughts of a successful author in writing books like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Jane Yolen’s Take Joy, or Stephen King’s On Writing.
Physical exhaustion: When a writer is juggling multiple jobs and responsibilities—as most of us are—sometimes we spend so much time living inside our heads that we forget to take care of our bodies. Are you physically worn out? Try treatment with a brisk walk, plenty of water, a restful foray into nature, or a good night’s sleep.
Mental overwhelm: When juggling too many to-do’s—writing or otherwise—it’s easy to get mired in too-much-to-do-itis. Overwhelm is not conducive to creativity. Treat with a hefty dose of self-kindness, lightening your load, word play, and small, achievable writing goals to help you rediscover the joy of writing.
Negative creative balance: In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron describes the source of an artist’s creativity as a “creativity pond”, something that can be overfished and emptied if we don’t take are to refill and restock. If you spend too much time working—even doing work you love—you may discover that your muse is not longer speaking to you. Treat with Artist’s Dates, infusions of beauty and sensory delights, and creative stimulation such as a conference, class, or writing book.
Sometimes, you have to have faith and keep pressing forward; other times, mere willpower is not the answer. If you’re tempted to give up, ask yourself why. It might help you puzzle out the best remedy for what ails you.