Writer’s Pep Talk Weeks 7 & 8

With this double dose of pep talks, we are finally caught back up! We are heading into week 8 of 2023. Can you believe we’re almost all the way through February already? Time is flying by. And I want to have more to show for my February than what I currently have accomplished. So let’s check out Grant Faulkner’s Pep Talks for weeks 7 and 8 before we get to work!

Pep Talk #7 Summary:

 Week 7’s Pep Talk is titled “Embrace Restraints,” which may seem like a negative thing to someone who is attempting to explore and be creative. Faulkner confronts the readers with the fact that when we have all the time in the world, we often procrastinate. And then we bemoan the lack of time to write.

Ouch. Anyone else feeling called out?

Instead of dwelling on our procrastination proficiency levels, Faulkner instead chooses to be inspired by restraints. He references poetic structure and improv skits as examples of tightly restrained bits of creativity.

But wait, improv is not supposed to be restrained, you might say.  But Faulkner puts it this way: “The skit emerges with the help from a simple rule: Accept without question what is given to you by your fellow performers. Every line you produce must build on the one that came before, and you can never second-guess the line” (41).

And that is a wonderful way to look at writing in the initial stages – never question that your idea is going somewhere. Follow the path that your words pave and explore the world that unfurls from that first sentence or idea.

Here is where Faulkner then goes back to a previous topic (deadlines). Using NaNoWriMo as an example, setting a tight deadline of 30 days to write 50,000 words does not leave you a great deal of time to play around. But it does provide that looming deadline that we so desperately need sometimes to make us kick into writing gear.

It also forces you to not edit as you draft. Which brings you back to that improv rule of never second-guessing the line as you write. You must forge ahead, one word, sentence, paragraph, and scene at a time.

For inspiration, Faulkner ends his pep talk with a list of famous authors who wrote entire novels on lunch breaks or after their children went to bed.  He offers the assurance that every little bit of writing we do adds up and eventually we will have the manuscript completed.

Plenty of “free time” doesn’t necessarily guarantee that we will use it writing. But taking five and ten minutes here and there to dedicate to writing will eventually result in a mass of pages we can hold in our hands.

Faulkner’s Homework:

“Explore the creative power of limitations. Set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and push yourself to simply dive into your novel wherever you can. This strategy is similar to the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that breaks down work into intervals separated by short breaks. Bursts of focus with frequent breaks can improve your mental agility.” ~ Faulkner, 20

Jules’ Response:

At last! A homework assignment that I was already doing!

The Dawdling Writer YouTube channel hosts writing sprints 4 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 1-3 pm Eastern, and Sundays 2-5 pm Eastern).

I have managed to get a handle on the 25-to-30-minute sprints, but I intend to also work on seeing how productive and creative I can get in shorter amounts of time. I do still tend to dismiss smaller chunks of time (5-10 minutes) because I feel like I can’t get into the story in that short of a timeframe. But that mindset is exactly what this “homework” is aimed at overturning.

I’ve added several small chunks of writing time to my schedule over the next month, and I’m tracking the numbers in a spreadsheet. Hopefully, they will all add up to a significant amount of words by the time mid-March rolls around.

PS, feel free to use the sprint timers on my channel. There are timers with Farting Critters, Teapots, Spooky Season Themes, and more!

25 Minute Farting Pug Timer
30 Minute Teapot Timer
25 Minute Beach Timer with Ambient Sounds

Pep Talk #8 Summary:

 Week 8’s Pep Talk is all about “The Art of Boredom.” As a child with insomnia who told myself stories as I lay awake, I can attest to the fact that your own normal thoughts can get boring after a while. And that’s when the epic adventures begin in your mind.

This title also reminds me of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, in which she encourages the practice of Morning Pages. This is the practice of sitting down and just pouring any and all ideas down onto the page.

In the beginning, she admits, it is likely to be schedules for the day, complaints, etc. But eventually, you will get bored of this and your brain will turn to being creative to keep yourself entertained.  Boredom leads people to entertain themselves, and that’s when the creativity begins.

However, the ease of access to technology such as smartphones, tablets, hand held video games, etc. has made boredom a bit hard to find anymore. Faulkner admits he also tends to reach for his phone while waiting in lines, attending his kids’ games, etc. Most of us tend to do this without much thought because the programs are build to keep us coming back, and they work very well.

“Boredom is a creator’s friend,” says Faulkner, because it “signals to the mind that you’re in need of fresh thoughts and spurs of ideas” (45). Boredom allows us the chance to observe the world and people around us, time to reflect, and daydream a shiny new story idea. And most of all, Faulkner notes it gives us time to wonder; “mysteries abound in the time we’re not “entertained” (46).

And as humans, we tend to be very curious creatures. Many a great story idea has started with the phrase, “what would happen if…”

Faulkner’s Homework:

“Think twice the next time boredom descends upon you in an idle moment. Think twice before pulling out your smart phone, turning on the television, or even picking up a magazine.  Simply reside in boredom, revere it as the sacred, creative moment it is, and travel where your mind goes.” Faulkner, 47

Jules’ Response:

I made it a point to try and limit my “screen time” and also headed out to the coffee shop to write several times this week. I also found myself carrying a little traveler’s notebook to jot down the ideas without having to access my phone’s notes.

Tip: Remember to look at what your screen time is before you try this experiment. I forgot to look at mine, so I wasn’t able to say with certainty how much I cut down on my screen time.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

People watching in coffee shops is always fun (but don’t stare – that’s creepy!). But I did take a few notes on how a person styled their outfit, a pair of couples who were catching up after a long time, a business meeting in progress. And that’s just the people.

Side note: Every time I take notes while people watching, I always remember a Grad school assignment to take “field notes observations” in coffeeshops and bookstores. Apparently, I did them entirely incorrectly, but my professor was entertained by my notes and gave me a good grade on the assignment. To this day, I still have no idea what was incorrect about my field notes. Oops.

There’s a coffee shop I love in town, and I did an exercise where I observed the coffee shop itself and then attempted to recreate the atmosphere within a piece of flash fiction. Through this exercise, I tried to figure out what exactly is so welcoming about this particular shop over others.

There are also times when out of the corner of my eye, I spot a slogan, a business name, or a warning sign that would make an excellent title for a character, short story, or novel. I love collecting titles and names, especially since I have such a hard time deciding on names for characters.

So far, this has been fun. “Boredom” is entertaining.