Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stick or Carrot: Thoughts on Persevering

So I am a fan of to-do lists. I always have been. I get ridiculous and immense joy when I scratch something off the list. (Feed dog? Check! Bathe myself? Check! Pay my bills? Wow, look at me go!)

And while I might be an awesome list-maker, I'm not so good at perseverance. I have a tendency to sob and flail when the going gets tough--at least when it comes to doing my own work that is. If someone else draws the short stick, I'm quick to ride in, armor polished, flashing my best 'don't I look great saving your ass' smile--oh Pride. Well, it has its uses.

Anyway, as I get older (and occasionally indulge in books found in the self-help section) I've come to realize that the key to getting really big jobs done (oh say, WRITING A NOVEL OR EIGHT), is to break it into small tasks.

And some of you might say "Of course, Kory! Duh!" But I'm that person who would rather break both her arms bringing ten grocery bags into the house at once than make two trips--so let's just say this lesson has long been lost on me.

Recently, however, (as in two days ago), I've come to realize how awesome small task completion can be. This is mostly because of an app that I downloaded onto my phone called Carrot. My friend Katie turned me on to it because she thought I would love its "bordeline mean personality" and she was right!

This is not a review for the app or anything, but it did inspire this post. You see, it makes to-do lists into a sort of game. You get points and prizes and the companionship of a snarky AI bot named Carrot. More importantly, because you get as many points for "Write a chapter" as "Write a novel", it encourages ALL OR NOTHING fools (Also read as: ego-driven masochists who suffer from delusions of grandeur) like myself  to break their insurmountable mountains down into rock chunks that can actually be carried away.

Because I want to 'win' at this, I type in everything--every task I do. This is good because so often we don't give ourselves credit for the things we DO do. But now, I'm able to look at my phone and see "Hey, I leveled up! Look at me accomplishing **&^%$". This is always nice when there is no one around to tell me how awesome I am for washing my hair! For not eating PB out of the jar but actually cooking a real meal! :D (I'm just kidding, this hasn't happened--yet.)

It also encourages me to break those huge tasks into more manageable chunks. "Bring in groceries" becomes "bring in a grocery bag" that I can replicate ten times! And this is good for writers because I think we get so wrapped up in huge tasks that we often STOP writing and abandon challenging projects too quickly. But if we change our perception and scope of the problem(s), I think we can improve our chances of success. "Finish my revision of this *&^$% novel" will become "Rewrite Chapter 12." or even "Rework this horrible sex scene".

Again you might think this is common sense, but for too many of us, it's the first "sense" to fall out the piggy bank when life gives us a good shake. So app, or no app, list or no list, I hope to get better and better at breaking apart  the impossible into possible chunks and give myself more credit for these small victories along the way. And I wish the same for you.

8 comments:

  1. That's some interesting thoughts, to approach writing bit by bit, rather than a WHOLE book at a time, which can get daunting. I've often approached my own writing this way, working on a chapter, or even smaller, a scene at a time. Tolkien sort of worked this way as well. He called it "nibbling the detail". That's why it took him 17 years to write "The Lord of the Rings" while Lewis wrote all 7 Narnia books in only 7 years. It may take longer, but I've always been a believer in the idea that you can't rush good lit.

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    1. I like "nibbling the detail". :) Another saying that comes to mind is "Rome wasn't built in a day'. Baby steps toward greatness ;)

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  2. OMG roflmao... I need this... app since I am constantly failing at little or big to do lists and tasks!!

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    1. I think you would love "her" (CARROT, the AI) attitude. She is so snarky, it's inspiring! LOL :)

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  3. OK, You found my biggest weakness as well. I guess I can put getting this app on my to do list. oh wait do I get points for that. Yeah it is already downloading.

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    1. haha! Exactly! You get points for everything ;)

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    2. ARGH IT IS ONLY FOR iOS dang it! I do not have an iPhone!! EVIL EVIL PEOPLE!

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  4. *in the voice of a Dalek* Re.sis.tence. is fu.tile. EX-TER-MI-NATE! ;)

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