Writing Tip of the Day: Know your adversaries.

Some are blatantly trying to undermine your efforts. Case in point: People who give you gifts like…

screw work coffee mug

Others are more subtle.

When I mentioned Jon Acuff’s point about the dangers of ‘hiding places’ [daily detours from your deep-seated desire to reach a goal], one reader responded with: “But aren’t hiding places a bit fun?” Simply devious, I say, with her grasp of the truth and suggesting that those side trips aren’t so bad.


500-Word Challenge: The Final Day–A ‘Conversation’ with Jon Acuff

finish lance-grandahl-435209

A Conversation with Jon Acuff

Today’s Challenge Prompt from Jeff Goins is about finishing this 15,500 word adventure. More than likely more than that.

And so I chose to bring in a guy who is currently on the forefront of finishing, Jon Acuff, who published Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.

I bought the book and it is the most recent one I’ve, uh, finished.

A worthwhile investment, I have to say.

Moving on…I selected some quotes—in italics—from the book [thank you, Goodreads] and will apply them to my 500-Word Challenge experience.

Here goes…

[By the way, I’m not counting the quotes as words toward my total. That would be flat-out cheating, right?]

“The harder you try to be perfect, the less likely you’ll accomplish your goals.”

Jon, you did a nice job picking apart perfection and it helped me rip through my challenges without listening too intently for ‘the voices’. One hundred word bursts were often the norm and that felt good. What else felt good? Clicking ‘post’, even though I knew the writing wasn’t a third draft product. I will admit there were times when I spent a little too much time editing, and even adding an image to spice things up, but all in all, it was nice to have that feeling of ‘my work here is done’.

“But more than just analysis, perfectionism offers us two distinct distractions: Hiding places and Noble obstacles A hiding place is an activity you focus on instead of your goal. A noble obstacle is a virtuous-sounding reason for not working toward a finish. Both are toxic to your ability to finish.”

These two concepts tagged along throughout the month. Much of the writing certainly didn’t address many of my main goals, such as developing an online course as well as completing stories in a series I’m working on. And while I benefited considerably from the month, I wondered if I leaped into this as yet another side trip, yet another ‘hiding place’. I think those terms are essentially other words for ‘rationalizations’ and I could easily rationalize my participation—building consistency, rising above perfection, exploring new directions and voices, even. But at the end of this month, what will I have to show for it? A corollary to your chapter on hiding places and noble objectives—the more we delve into those side trips, the more of a burden we face…not only in playing catch-up with the projects we really want to finish, but in somehow justifying our decisions to veer off-course. And we not only at times have to justify it to ourselves, but we might also have some stakeholders we might have to convince. No easy feat.

The bigger rule was “For something to count, it has to be difficult.” A lot of high performers carry that sort of secret rule along with them. If an exercise is enjoyable and you have fun doing it, it must not count.

Bravo to me for not falling prey to this secret rule. The 500-Word Challenge was rarely a grind. And when it felt that way, it was more a product of stupid annoying technology. It was fun to come up with new directions and new formats for the daily challenges. I enjoyed the Q and A from imaginary readers and will continue to play with that. For the last year, I’ve for the most part played it straight in my blog and this challenge often enabled me to cut loose a bit. Uh-oh, confession time. I strayed from this challenge to ensure I quoted you correctly: Make It Fun If You Want It Done. And in the process, I ran across your Finish workbook. That baby is printing out as I’m completing this sentence.

All you have to do is win more today than you did yesterday and repeat the whole thing tomorrow.”

Okay, I’ve passed my 500-word goal already, but I’ll close by addressing this quote. Love it. And the challenge absolutely cemented this philosophy. So what’s next? Staying the course set by this final quote and building a focus on fun, halving my daily goals, keeping an eye on data [even if it’s words per day…or productive habits practiced], and dodging the ever-present hiding places and noble objectives.

Image courtesy of Lance Grandahl/Unsplash

Procrastination takes over…

dog as life coach mailing label

dog lives for the day mailing labels

Seems I’m getting a little text-fatigued lately.

At least that’s my piddly excuse for engaging in a short detour into the world of semi-useful graphics.

I figured creating these mailing labels for a colleague’s upcoming birthday was just the ticket. Jon Acuff, in his book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, which, no, I still haven’t finished, would label this little departure from more important projects, a ‘noble objective’.

[It just hit me…this post isn’t exactly a solid endorsement for his book, is it?]

Then again, it may just be a plaintive cry for help from someone who just can’t [or doesn’t want to] stay focused, because this book really is the real deal. It’s like he knows me. [I take that back. If he really knew me, he’d probably shake his head and see me as a lost cause.] Whatever the case, I like the book and I am learning, if not immediately applying, a lot.




Writers Horoscope January 7: Conspirators everywhere…


My wife [how dare she?!] ordered the mug below for me for Christmas! It totally undermines my desire to be productive! And I love it.

I just wanna go home and play with my dog coffee mug

Below is the rest of Day 4 of the 500-Words-a-Day Challenge. [In the spirit of Jeff’s free writing’ prescription, I laid low when it came to editing…]


Jeff Goins suggests we give free writing a try. No editing.

Amen to that.

So, still on the theme of finishing, or not finishing, in my case, well, there are so many traps out there.

So yes, there are traps around every corner, underneath every strewn magazine, on top of every to-do list you’ve ever created for yourself [and promptly ignored, until the next day, at which point you’re feeling really lousy about how little you accomplished.

On the upside, I’m working on developing some habits that will help me follow through and finish.

Starting with this:


And this:


[Time out to appeal to the ‘word count judiciary’. If a picture is worth a thousand words, did I just crank out 2000+ words?]

Okay, I’m back. I’m thinking that ‘pausing’ to transfer and upload photos is hardly in the spirit of free writing and I’m really hoping that Jeff Goins doesn’t have some irritable virtual assistant turning me in on this blatant writerly transgression.

So, the point of the dull boring [can you tell I’m padding my word total again? Nothing cheats word counts like redundancy. Unless you spend words talking about redundancy, which I just did…and continue to do…god, I love free writing.]

Again…the point of the photos—I could have stopped my forward momentum toward my laptop. Instead of picking up that shirt and doing those dishes, I moved back to the laptop. They would still be there after this 500 word catharsis. In the past, it was way too easy to take that ‘responsible spouse’ detour. And now, I’m putting that off in the interest of getting more important stuff done. Really, they’ll be there 20 minutes from now.


And now it’s time to take Jon Acuff to task. Couldn’t wait to do this. “If you want it done, make it fun.” That’s one of the mainstay themes in his book. I’m right on board with that, but as I pound away at this project on a less than fun, laptop of the Windows 10/Lenovo ilk, with its annoying notifications, weekly updates and erratic cursor appearances and temperamental trackpad, well, talk about not wanting to reach for it to get stuff done. [Word padding alert–Yes, yes, yes, I can work with the settings and turn that stuff off, but even that is an annoying process and yes, I did just do so after the third notification interruption during this session.]

But enough about me being a technoweenie, let’s blame Jon Acuff for the ‘make it fun’ distraction. “If you want it done, make it fun.” So–and please don’t tell my wife–I’m seriously thinking of picking up a MacBook. No matter that I’ve used the ‘I’ll get more work done!’ argument more than a few times before. I honestly think I will get more done. And I’ll be appealing to all three [if I’m lucky] of you who  A. read this   B. actually agree with my ‘get more done with a Mac’ assertion.

Now that I think of it, if and when I do order that MacBook, I might just have to send the bill to Jon. Or Jeff Goins, for that matter. I mean, really, they’re the reasons I’m in this ‘500 words a day and most likely about following through and finishing’ mess after all.

Geez, I’m feelin’ good. I finished today’s post and I’ve been heaving blame away from me and toward unsuspecting folks who are ‘just trying to help’. Hah, see if they try that again.

An update on my 31-day, 500 word writing challenge.

Writers Horoscope December 2: You start your resolutions early.


You’ve been encouraged before to see projects through.


And here.

One month left in 2017. What can you put in the plus column?

More guidance from Jon Acuff , author of Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.

I’ll even join you.

My challenge: Finish three projects by December 31. They don’t have to be big ones. They don’t have to be ones you’ve already started. I’ll let you know my three soon-to-be-finished projects. [Overconfidence…it’s so unbecoming.]

I would love to hear even one of yours comment section!

Let’s gain momentum from each other.

Writers Horoscope for September 30: You will finish a project today.

Okay, so you’re past the guilt. You’ve conquered despair. [Frankly, you were a mess this week.]

It’s time to finish something.

the end finish line artsy

Yes, to you, a foreign concept.

But today’s the day.

The TV is unplugged [yes, you’re that serious], the wi-fi will soon be off, fresh coffee awaits, and you dove into the freezer for those cinnamon rolls. [Cooking takes a back seat today.]

And you’ve reached a conclusion: You don’t work well under pressure.

So you’re going to: A) Start with the smallest unfinished project first. B) Work in 15-minute increments.

Joe Bunting from thewritepractice.com prescribes small deadlines. Sounds contrary to your not working well under pressure, but…

Cut to Jon Acuff in his book Finish–“Cut your goal in half.”

Jane Porter also chimes in with solid support in her Fast Company contribution.

Final word: Go!