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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: W.A.N.A.Tribe

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Via meme on Pinterest

So many people say the same thing. “If I could only find the time…” Thing is, time isn’t down in the couch cushions hanging out with loose change, the TV remotes and stale Cherrios. Time isn’t hiding. Time is everywhere.

And THAT folks is the problem.

Time is everywhere and all around and so we tend to waste it. People who are successful have the same amount of time. Difference is? They use it better.

Monday, I gave Ten Ways to Go Pro and I happened to mention the writing sprints we do on W.A.N.A.Tribe (a Ning I created for writers). But, because I didn’t want to derail the point of Monday’s post, I didn’t exactly explain what precisely we DO on W.A.N.A.Tribe.

I created W.A.N.A.Tribe so that writers all over the world could connect and share and network. There are all kinds of tribes to join or even start. Even if a tribe hasn’t been particularly active, hop in and type something and it springs to life like a jar of sea monkeys 😀 .

Have questions about self-publishing? There is a tribe for that. Need feedback on romance? There is a tribe for that.

But the real strength of W.A.N.A.Tribe has been in our daily ritual of meeting and working together in the Main Room IM field at W.A.N.ATribe. They began as sprints for NaNoWriMo. In the beginning, the sprints were sheerly for word count and they were 30 minutes long. But, that was during NaNoWriMo and word count is the ONLY thing that matters in November.

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Thanksgiving? You mean Day They Announce the NaNo Winners Day?

But the hard truth all writers face is that word count and “writing” is only a small part of what we do. At W.A.N.A.Tribe, the sprinters and I realized that about a week into December…namely because we all had 50K or more that was probably a mess.

Welcome to The Blackout

So I created what we call BLACKOUTS. Tequila is optional.

We meet in the morning and chat for a couple minutes and then I set a timer for 40 minutes and we all go dark until I call TIME.

Then we have to report back what we accomplished. This can be word count, pages edited, or pages of research read. Report back that you almost finished a marketing plan, you emptied your e-mail and answered all business e-mail.

But the Blackout is still very different. Writers are people and we are people who do not own a cloning machine…

…but our laundry and dishes do.

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We use Blackouts for those things too.

I know I generally start writing at 4:30 a.m. I’m an early bird. Always have been. How my parents didn’t murder me as a child is still a mystery. I remember my mother forbidding me to get out of bed until the birds were awake. The second I heard one chirp! I was up and laying waste to the Cheerios waiting for the colored bars on the T.V. to change to Captain Kangaroo.

Yes, I am that old.

Anyway…

I do check in when I’m at my desk, so any super early birds? If y’all need to do a Blackout that does not involve losing consciousness back in your warm bed? I am there to help. This is to help those writers I KNOW cannot yet leave the day job, but who need that extra push in the morning.

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Since many times I have already been writing 2-3 hours by the time the Blackouts “officially” start (9:00 AM CST)? I usually use them for other things, including housework.

As I also mentioned last post, I consume an insane amount of audiobooks, but I do this while I do chores. While my body is getting out of the chair to move around? My brain gets a break from creating and switch to absorbing/refilling. Right now I am on my third book of the week—The Everything Store and The Age of Amazon.

Last week it was The 10X Rule (for the third time) and If You’re Not First, You’re Last and then finally, How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban.

I did 75 loads of laundry while learning…a lot. There are all kinds of things I dread doing, but add in peer pressure?

Anyway, when I do a Blackout, my report back may look something like this:

Sorted all the laundry, got the washer and dryer going, folded two loads, listened to three chapters of a book while I did the dishes and then finally I emptied my e-mail.

I get WAY more accomplished when I have to focus. No more goofing off on Facebook, farting around on Twitter, or losing sense of time and place talking on the phone to my mom. I KNOW I am going to have at least ONE person I am going to have to face and if I just jacked around? Yeah…

Additionally I’ve noticed this type of activity attracts and keeps the hard-chargers. You want to be around authors who will push you to a higher level? Be around Maria Grace when she reports that over the Blackout, she wrote 1,400 words, started a newsletter, edited three chapters and cured cancer.

Trust me, your bar goes WAY higher.

Love you Spooky!

***We nicknamed her that because she gets so much done, well…it’s spooky.

Thus, in a Blackout, we get the energy and fun competition of a workplace environment, and there is the promise of a tad bit of chit-chat in between…by folks who WILL send in the flying monkeys if you don’t work your @$$ off.

A huge part of being successful as a writer is the ability to be self-disciplined and self-directed. Sure, I do fairly well at that on my own, but have been known to…SQUIRREL!

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Wanna ride bikes? Play Barbies? I have a cat.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Blackouts have really helped me maintain balance, focus and generate crazy productivity. Most of us actually can get far more accomplished than we realize, we just need to hustle. I have used Blackouts to do writing and then switched and used them for spring cleaning. I’ve even used them for a power nap. If I say I am going to rest for the next 40, I better do it (not clean up Hot Wheels in the living room).

If you join our group? Trust me. People are going to start asking questions if we don’t show. Meaning my attendance is usually pretty good unless I have appointments that have taken me out of my office.

I generally don’t do Blackouts in the evenings because I have jujitsu….or have blacked out literally from working all day. But any of you crazy cats who wanna give it a spin? We welcome you to join us!

What are your thoughts? Like me, are you decent do you suck at being self-disciplined but accountability makes it way easier? Do you feel you produce more with focus? Do you think you waste too much time? Are you struggling to get traction?

What are your thoughts?

Before we go, I’d like to mention again the new class I am offering!

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

Making Money with FREE! As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. Sign up before March 7th for $20 off. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.

Anyway, I really DO love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MARCH, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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In my tenure in this profession it is sad how many truly talented writers I’ve seen who never made it. The reason? Talent is useless without mental toughness. It takes true grit to make it in this business.

Too many writers are simply not going to make it because they don’t have the sticking power. And while this is an easy observation to make, I am here to do more than point out the obvious. I’m here to give some practical ways to improve psychological toughness, get better at being disciplined, and eat goals and deadlines for breakfast (they have ZERO calories, btw).

Relax and enjoy the holidays. Refueling is vital. Bookmark this. Let it soak in and then be ready to act come January 1st. These tips work for anything you want to accomplish, btw.

So…

Seven Tips for True Grit

One—Set Goals

No really and don’t roll your eyes at me 😛 . Set them. I know you hear this all the time but it’s true. Write them down and make them real. How can you map a course if you don’t know were you are going?

When I was in sales we had a saying, Fail to plan. Plan to fail.

If you have a goal to eventually replace that day job with being a full-time writer? Write it down and then plan your escape. Studies have shown that we’re far more likely to reach goals once we have written them down and that isn’t shocking.

To write them down we have to name them, claim them and define them. We take them out of the “nebulous gray.” It is far easier to reach for concrete benchmarks than existentialism.

Forget Realistic—Realistic is For Wimps

Most of us underestimate what we can accomplish. When you write your goal, rewrite it just a little bigger. What’s the worse that can happen? You accomplish more than you thought you could?

 

Years ago I did this. I wrote down, In 2011 I am going to get an agent. Then I crossed it out and wrote In 2011 I am going to sign with one of the best agents in NYC.

See, we never know what is going to happen or what chain of events might open what door. In early 2011, I wrote a little book called Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer. I was still an unknown and this was also during the days that most people were unconvinced social media was fundamental shift in global civilization we all NOW know it to be.

When I wrote the book, I needed blurbs, so I made up a Hail Mary List. These were authors who I loved, who were SO BIG I doubted my e-mail would ever even get through.

On that Hail Mary List was NYTBSA James Rollins. Not only did I get through, he’d actually read  my first book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and was MY FAN *falls over dead*. He asked if it would be okay of he sent my book to HIS agent…who later that year signed me (who happened to be one of THE biggest agents in NYC). I not only got a blurb and a friend, I got an agent.

What if I’d limited my goal?

Visualize Process NOT Fantasy

A critical mistake I made when I first decided to become a writer was I spent far too much time “visualizing” the success. In my head I dreamed of sales, wealth, book tours and being able to travel the world to research and people lined out the door to meet me and seeing stacks of displays of my books.

Nothing per se wrong with that but just that is fantasy and can be unhealthy.

To reach any big dream, we must fall in love with the process. 

I am up almost every morning at 4:15 a.m. That seriously sucked in the beginning. I had to learn to fall in love with it. Blogging? SUCKED for the first 2 years. It was so hard week after week, month after month writing thousands of words to entertain CheapXanaxANDYoungCoeds.com.

But I knew I was honing my skills. I was learning to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner. I was training myself to eat deadlines for breakfast. I was training out my perfectionism that held onto things instead of shipping. I was opening myself to public criticism, gaining fans, feedback and thicker skin.

Original Image courtesy of HeikoHartsuijker Flickr Creative Commons
Original Image courtesy of HeikoHartsuijker Flickr Creative Commons

Through a lot of really humbling lessons, I had to fall in love with all of it, not just the fantasy of what “one day” might be. Writers’ groups are all filled with people who never have pages to read, who never finish what they start. They don’t blog, don’t build a platform, but all have dreams that HBO will be replacing Game of Thrones with their series.

Nothing wrong with that goal, btw. Just don’t leave it at that. Do the WORK.

To the Pain—Set Accountability 

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In the New Year we all have goals. Maybe you want to finish the novel by a certain day or query by a certain day or publish by a certain day. I love pleasure but pain is good for the soul. Put some stakes on it. Go purchase something you really want. Preferably something a close friend (ideally a mean friend) also wants.

Maybe it is a $50 gift card. Maybe a new gaming system, spa package, or 90 minute massage. Whatever.

Put it in the pot and then, if you make your goal by the date it’s yours, if not? It goes to your accountability partner. Yes, rewards and treats are all fabulous but they are a tad too easy.

Often we are far more motivated when it will cost us something. The more it costs us, the more motivated we are to accomplish said goal.

So if a loved one gives you a fat gift card for Christmas, maybe throw that in the Goal Pot and take a gamble for a greater ROI. Use that $100 Amazon card for cool stuff you want to reward yourself with, but also as fuel to finish all revisions by February 15th 😉 .

Ditch Negative People, Whiners & Complainers

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Seriously. You wouldn’t let someone bring their dog in your house and let it crap on your floor, would you?  Yes, if someone brings a pet over and once in a while there is an oops? OKAY. But that is very different than someone bringing over their dog and using your living room as a kennel floor.

So why let people crap non-stop in your head? Sorry for the gross image but that’s what that is. Whining and complaining do nothing but increase stress levels which shrinks the size of the hippocampus leading to us being progressively more stupid.

Yes, science has proven that hanging out with whiners makes us stupid.

Everyone has a bad day and that isn’t what I’m talking about. Give them 60 seconds and then enough. Start talking about solutions. People who are chronically negative or addicted to whining? Bye.

I’ve learned to determine the ASKHOLES in my life and get rid of them. You know what an askhole is? That is a person who is always in a crisis, who always needs advice and after they have derailed your life and gotten your advice? Does whatever the hell stupid thing they are going to do anyway…often leading to the next crisis that you WARNED them would happen.

Turn them loose.

Surround Yourself With Accountability & Excellence

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

We are who we hang around. Character is contagious. When I was new as a writer I didn’t understand how important this was. I thought I could fight the inertia of mediocrity with sheer willpower. I also thought that if I was part of a group of people who said they wanted to be writers, well then they wanted to be writers. Right?

No.

Actions speak louder than words.

Writers write. Not all critique groups and writing groups are good for you. If you want to join a writing group, look to how many people in the group are published, multi-published, awarded, writing full-time, blogging, etc. If it’s just a bunch of people who meet and have coffee and talk about writing? Your time is better spent at home writing. Hanging out with that garbage is like hanging around radioactive material and thinking you are fine.

NO.

Negativity and mediocrity are invisible particles that punch your will and your dreams full of tiny holes until they collapse and die. Yes, you can try to ward it off and buffer from it but the best course of action? Stop growing strawberries writing dreams at Chernobyl crappy writing groups.

One of the things I’ve worked hard to do is to make myself available on W.A.N.A.Tribe. Back in November during Nanowrimo I introduced writing sprints in the Main Room IM field.

I rallied everyone at 8:45 a.m. CST and we did as many as 5 sprints. 30 minutes per sprint. Write as much as you could. Report back the numbers. Then we took a break and came back at 3:30 p.m. CST and did more sprints.

Everyone who participated finished Nano. I finished in 16 days WITH the flu while blogging.

Once Nano ended, I changed the plan. We now still meet every morning at 8:45 a.m. CST and we do what I call Blackouts. 40 minutes to do as much work as you can then report back to the group what you accomplished.

Writers now get to see MY operational tempo, since I’m almost always leading the team. We do as many as five Blackouts before lunchtime. Then, we rally back at 3:30 after I get Spawn for more Blackouts. I generally do about 3 more.

Writers get to see what I accomplish in that 40 minute block. What is my word count? How much did I get edited? How many Blackout sessions did it take to get my blog written and posted?

This doesn’t mean people need to copy me, but I tell you, it helped me TREMENDOUSLY when social media peeled back the curtain and I started seeing how authors I admired worked and got so much accomplished.

Also, this current system offers accountability and makes all of us push harder. There is a level of healthy competition and since we are a TEAM, it is far harder for me to say, “Eh, I think I will take today off.”

Up Your Operational Tempo

Believe it or not, I am not the strongest member of my team, merely the best looking #ITSACURSE. There are writers on our Blackout Team who blow ME away. Always look to surround yourself with people stronger than yourself and don’t buy your own excuses.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

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You may not be able to do this on your own. You may lack the discipline so come over to W.A.N.A.Tribe and join out Blackouts. Sometimes, you need guidance from a pro. Take one of the classes listed below. Or, feel free to e-mail me at kristen at wana intl dot com. I do consulting for social media, blogging and branding, but I also can help with your books. Instead of wasting another year revising or rewriting, a small investment in time with me might save you months or years of work.

This job is never easy, but it is always AWESOME.

What are your thoughts? Do you see some suggestions here that might improve your odds of reaching your goals? Do you try to go it alone too much? Do you give negative people too much permission to crap in your life? Do you think you might go a tad too easy on yourself? I hope to see y’all over at W.A.N.A. Tribe! No excuses this year that you have no system of support 😛 .

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

Enough of that…

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook