Tag Archive | how to

Nanowrimo One Week Later

So I’m still clicking along like some mad steam work auto-writing…..thing. Anyway, after about 2500 words last night I managed to fall short by about 300 words of par for day seven. But I consider it a victory since I was about 1200 in the hole before that. Don’t try to do the math, it’s confusing to me too.

I’m sitting on a story right now with a little more than 11,000 words. That feels impressive to me. I had started another novel last year during nanowrimo and had been picking at it ever since. Let’s check how many words that beast has.

Under 9000?!?!!!! *cough*

Yes, I’ve written almost half again as much in one week as I did in a year for the other novel. This was when I started thinking about what I was taking away from this experiment.


1. Holy crap plotting is super effective!

I’m not saying you need to plot. Some people like to do things by the seat of their pants (or pantsers as they’re known to all the cool people) and that’s what I did for the first book I mentioned. But let’s also compare output. ~9000 words in a year compared to ~11,000 words in a week. It’s really great to be able to sit down and have an idea about where to go next. Thinking of plot is time not spent writing other kick ass stuff, like robots having cooking battles in kitchens made of fire.

You don’t have to stick to the plot either! That’s the best part! I plotted a chase scene but by the time I got to that part it made more sense for the characters to get arrested instead. (Oops spoilers!) And you know what? That doesn’t matter either because I can just go change it later! Writing is bitchin!

2. You need to do the work.

I’m sure I’ll have many people that will scoff at the idea that “writing” is “work”. I spent sixteen years working at a gas station in the blazing heat AND snow at the same time! My pay check was 15 cents and that was enough to buy milk and bread for a month but the only store was uphill both ways with bear traps every 10 yards and if you cried when you stepped in one you got the switch to your backside for being a sissy. AND WE LIKED IT!!!!!!

Woah…yeah that is certainly a lot more work than I do making up fairies and demons. It’s harder than my real job, teaching English, a language I was fortunate enough to grow up speaking.


Holy shit dude calm down, I understand. All I’m saying is writing to a word count won’t happen magically. If that is what you’re after you need to sit the hell down and do it. That’s the biggest difference between my story last year and my story this year. I’ve been sitting down, usually late at night after work and fucking about on the internet for too long but I still get in there in the word hive. Up to my elbows in word honey. Swollen all over from the awful word stings by word bees…

Ok I’ll stop.

3. My god the typos.

Not too much to say but while trying to crank out 2000 words in an hour to meet a self imposed deadline I start to wonder if I’m not secretly dyslexic given the amount of really simple words I screw up all the time.

Thanks for reading. I’m out of ideas and about to dash out for about six solid hours of running around the city like a crazy person trying to earn a living. Comments appreciated, responded to when I can remember that I should be doing this “engage the audience” thing I’ve heard so much about.


How to Freelance Teach English in Tokyo

I’ve managed to cobble together a living wage teaching mostly private lessons for 6 months now. Some weeks have been good with my wallet bursting with cash, some weeks I’ve thought about selling blood to make rent. Ups and downs is what I’m trying to say. It’s certainly not as secure as having a steady paycheck, but back when I did that I had to wear a suit and put up with a lot of boring paperwork. I also had to teach completely outdated lessons about topics that made me want to burn those textbooks into cinders. Anyway here are some tips if you want to try this roller-coaster for yourself. Just be prepared to live constantly on the edge of poverty because it’s, more relaxing?

Know your English.

Seriously. If you’re going to try and make a living off of private one-on-one lessons then you’ll have to know just about everything there is to know. Can’t explain the difference between the Past Perfect Subjunctive and the Future Conditional? Tough shit because it’s bound to come up. You might be able to get away with the occasional spelling mistake but be sure to have a dictionary handy.

Know their English.

By that I mean, know how to teach English to Japanese speakers. There are a lot of little peculiarities of how Japanese speakers communicate in English that will speed up and help you understand the student. Since most of these types of lessons will take place in a noisy cafe (unless you’re willing to cut even more into your earnings to go somewhere small and expensive) understanding is key.

Don’t waste the student’s time.

You don’t have to quite be as much of a dancing monkey as you do in a large chain school environment but that doesn’t mean you can be as boring as a wet paper bag. The students I teach pay in cash, 3000 yen (~$39USD) a per hour. If they are not getting enough value for that money they will quit quite easily. I recently lost a twice a week student because I had a bad day, bad lesson, and then I charged her twice. (Cancelation fees which leads me to…)

Don’t let them waste your time either.

Unless you work mostly nights some students can be pretty flakey about making it to lessons. The problem is, unlike a regular eikaiwa, you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Simple as that. When a student commits to a certain time that space is theirs. If they weren’t there I would probably try to fit in another student so I can get paid. This is where a firm cancelation policy can be a good thing. It’s cost me a couple of students but I’m better off with students that are just as willing and able to show up as I am.

Pick an area and cram in as many students as you can.

I work along the Yamanote line from Shinjuku to Gotanda. (It’s mine! Stay out!) It’s still pretty huge and I’ll have some days where I’m bouncing around from station to station with only 30 minutes in between each lesson. That sounds like a lot but it really isn’t when you have to take the train. The best times are when I can see two students in a row at the same cafe. Since you have to buy something to sit down two students in the same place can be very good for your bottom line. I suspect that most of the staff at my frequent coffee shops know and hate me for such tactics. A co-worker once was told to GTFO by a manager when he taught three students off one coffee.

Have steady income.

Yeah you didn’t think I survived only on private students, did you? Good lord no that would be suicide. I work about 10 hours a week at steady, classroom style lessons that covers my rent and recently a little extra. That money goes direct to my bank account. My goal is to not touch my account until I need the rent and day to day expenses plus entertainment come out of my private lessons. Last month was the first time I managed it. Other months I went to the well once or twice, mostly due to poor decisions while intoxicated. “Entertainment”. The security of the basics makes it easier to suck up that bad week or month at the cafe.

Find students.

You’re on your own for this one! I don’t need the competition.

It’s not easy doing what I do now and have it be a primary source of income. I enjoy the free time, the fact that how well I’m doing is a direct reflection of how well I teach, no kids. I learned the hard way over the last year that I hate teaching children. That’s neither here nor there. I hope I’ll be able to pick up some more students soon but I work for a great company that really cares about their teachers and students so I’m sure I’ll do all right.

The main point is, this career style is not for the weak of heart or skill. If you’re not an old hand then chances are good you’ll crash and burn if you try to rely on it as your entire income. If you’ve got a steady job here, picking up one or two students on the side can be pretty good scratch.

Any tips or students you want to offer, leave them in the comments. V(^_^)

Some things they don’t mention before you quit smoking…

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I am coming up on one month without cigarettes so I thought I’d share a few of my experiences along the way.

Your sense of smell returns.

You’ve probably heard this before or perhaps told someone who’s trying to quit. Usually, it’s coupled with how good that will be. Food will taste better, you can stop and smell the roses, etc. However, it has been my experience that the good smells are not what the new ex-smoker will notice the most.

You will notice how terrible humanity smells. Maybe it’s because I live in a big city and rely on public transportation and I quit during the hottest part of summer, but it is a foul collection of smells that I have only just become aware of. Previously I was blissfully ignorant with my olfactory abilities overpowered by the tobacco. Now each sweaty, drunken business man next to me on the train is a private torture.

The main benefit is being able to smell tobacco again which helps reinforce the desire to quit.

You’ll be more energetic.

Now this one I haven’t experienced. I guess if I had to look at it objectively I might say that I feel a little healthier. It’s too soon to tell though. But don’t think that if you quit smoking that suddenly this magical desire to go jogging will beam down from outer space and fill your legs with Athlete Juice (that’s what steroids are for).

If you prefer to stay on the couch watching movies and playing video games, an end to your cigarette habit probably won’t change that overnight. At least it hasn’t for me. But on the scale of health, not exercising and smoking is a million times worse than not exercising and not smoking so there’s that. Just don’t be discouraged when you aren’t running marathons a week after you quit.

You can still taste them.

This was one of the hardest things for me. When I would go a while without a smoke, say two hours instead of one, I would get a strong taste of tobacco in the back of my mouth. It was like a signal, “OK you need some nicotine buddy, get on it.” When I quit that taste wouldn’t go away even up to this point. It’s less often and not as strong which leads me to think it’s all in my head. I usually try to chew a piece of gum when it gets too bad.

But remember, don’t use gum as a replacement reward for cigarettes because that never works. You have to change your thinking about cigarettes in general. Which leads to my next point…

It’s easier than you think.

A lot of people who smoke say it’s hard to quit. I was one of them myself. The problem is in the mental addiction not the physical. The nicotine withdrawal symptoms are really not that bad. The problem is, the smoker makes them worse by thinking he’s giving up something valuable. There’s nothing worthwhile to cigarettes. You think they make you feel better at certain times of stress etc. But the truth is nicotine withdrawal makes you feel worse and a cigarette only get’s you back to normal. The trap is the cigarette re-writes what you consider normal.

I’m not saying it’s easy, just easier than you think. I’ve been tempted several times but have held out longer than I think I ever would have if I hadn’t decided to change how I saw cigarettes period. And that’s the easy part, just change your mind and stick to it.

Some who might read this might think it sounds familiar. Well, truth is I read a book that pointed out a lot of this idea about changing your perception. If you want to know what it is just ask and I’ll point you in the right direction.