Category Archives: writing

Setting goals

So, a month has passed since I started my project: “Leaves and Steel” (working title). I set aside that month to work up an outline and do some background research. I promptly underestimated the work needed, while still managing to slide under the wire with a rough outline.

During that time, I carefully took a good hard look at my schedule, and did a lot of inner work. Would it have been nice to have layered more detail into my outline? Sure. Did I waste the time? No. Because what I was working harder on was setting my page goal.

Everyone should have these goals in place. Here is me without a goal: “Oh, I really want to look into clothing for the setting. I need the proper names of things. And I also want to daydream about great scenes that will be in the book, so that I have something to look forward to. Where is that book on politics? There was this article that I read.. was it Utne reader, or Community magazine…. ” Three months later: “Oh, the novel, yeah, it’s going to be great! I should be starting soon.” Don’t do this.

Look at the difference a simple goal makes – I don’t have a great outline. I don’t have the sort of outline that you show to others and they lean over and bask in it’s perfection. It’s more of a guideline, really. Yet I moved on and am writing the novel.

It’s a testament to the power of goal setting when you start your novel and when it is time to use one of the primary character’s names you type this: <lastname>. Yeah, freakish, isn’t it? Scary. Still, I wrote my first damn page on time. (don’t fret, I named him the next day, he’ll be alright)

So what goal did I set for completing my first draft by July 2018? Five pages a week.

I hear you: “Just Five?!?” with mouths aghast and eyelids wide.

Yes. Just five. Because I know I can do that. I know I can slip and recover from that. Because I know, that over the course of a year, there are going to be weeks that I produce more that five – but never less; and that is the point.

I am thinking of the space around the words also. Space to stay fit, to eat healthy, to communicate this journey to those who stop by the fire. Most of all I am thinking that this time I will not set myself up for failure, because that is what you do when you insist that you write as if you are a published professional right out of the gate.

So set goals. Do inner work. Look at where you are with compassion and set your schedule accordingly. Much <3 to you.

 

all of y’all it’s a sabotage

So let’s take a look here. Most of the focus rests on self-sabotage; but what if there are other things in motion?

That special person in your life that says one thing, but their actions say another. That’s painful. What are you going to do about that? The solutions are never simple, especially when there is a lack of awareness on the side of the other party.

So you have a choice: your project, or them.

This is a great test of focus. Not a fun test, but certainly challenging. Would you settle for someone who would deny the expression of who you are? You might be tempted, especially if you came to you path late, and now you are many miles down the road on the other’s path.

There is a tendency to allow an external act of unconscious sabotage push you into doubt, and from doubt into self-sabotage. The litany of: “Well, I am the one who’s changed”, “I probably wouldn’t succeed.”, “It’s okay, next year, when things are better.”, and the dreaded – “I guess I’m not really ready yet.”, followed closely by – “I have too much invested in the status quo.”

My experience is that it shows you need to do more inner work. You need to see the fork in the road ahead, and figure out how to embrace it. You need to stand, not run. You are not ready.

I’ve been there. I’m currently there right now. I can tell you that my reaction this time is so different, that I feel rather like an idiot for not having seen it before. My reaction now: “Fine. Now how do I work this horrible situation so I can stabilize quickly and stay on track with my project.”

It’s okay. If you are where I was years ago, making excuses and turning the lack of support inward and placing it on you, remember that you are walking your path. Sometimes we take the long road, and all that means is that we are stronger for it. Life isn’t a race, it’s an experience.

Chin up, chest out – greet the day and express yourself!

Nourish the physical

I feel that, on the third week of my journey to write a novel, I should share how much caring for my physical self augments my ability to stay on task. We know that our bodies were designed to move frequently, that movement keeps us well, and yet I am a writer. So movement is very important. This year is like an extended marathon for me, and when viewed as such, that means I need to get in shape, and stay in shape.

I’m currently a shape…

Fortunately for me, I do enjoy physical activity; so at least I do not have a resistance to the idea of movement. I also enjoy the outdoors – however it’s frequently in the 90’s here, and it’s fire season – so indoors I go. Yes, I joined a gym. They are a lot less costly than they used to be and they seem to have finally gotten the message and stopped with the contracts. It’s a modest gym, but it has solid equipment that I like, and classes that I’m not ready to take. This is where I will work on my strength and endurance.

Right now I’m entering that stage where I think I’m better than I am, and as a result am always trying to determine if I’m having a heart attack or if, just perhaps, I wasn’t ready to go up in resistance and add that five minutes to my faux rowing session. Still, in just three weeks, sitting is more comfortable, and my hunger is declining while my lust for greens is increasing. But it can’t be all cardio and weights, so this week I’m adding a yoga session. Less twinging in my future.

This is part of being a writer. The mind is connected to the body. Gone is the longing for, or at least it should be, of the mind as an island. The two should work in harness, and a solid physical regimen should accompany work. Perhaps you do not need it to produce; but I would urge you to try the coupling of it, as I think then you might find yourself producing more with less effort.

I do want you to know, when beginning to dig myself out of the mindset that I “just couldn’t create because <insert unfavorable portent excuse here>”, I was in no shape to join a gym. Walking was an effort, and I could not go far. Speaking of chest twinges, going up a mild grade would have me convinced I’d be going down it in an ambulance. So I started small, and there were set-backs. Months that I stopped, then resumed. Perhaps this is you, too. I encourage you to throw it away. It happened. You did not become a chiseled marathoner entering your first decathlon. Neither did I. The difference is that you just keep picking it back up again. And again. Once more into the breech.

So perhaps you feel foolish, starting back where you started long ago, or even further behind than the last time. Screw that noise. Let it go. Walk a block. Then do it again tomorrow. Start parking away from the doors. Through little motions, that we come back to again and again, novels are made.

The Mission Statement

Mission statements seem to start with “I want”. That is imposing right there.

I mean, you could just say “I want 10 million dollars.” That would certainly do you, right? Especially if you didn’t lose your head and blow it all in a rush. Then you could work out the details as you learned to work with all that money. Maybe, in the process, you’d discover what you really wanted. Conversely, you might never take the time to sort it out between measured bouts of consumption.

So your best bet, the honest bet, is to fix in your mind what it is you believe you want right now. You should carry in you the understanding that your mission statement may change, but you should expect that change to be an outgrowth of the original. I feel that, If you find yourself fork-lifting your mission statement before reaching it – then you did not understand yourself as well as you thought you did.

So, I got to work on the Mission Statement, and there were surprises in store.

Turns out, what I really want to do is to continue my work in unifying my exploration into virtual worlds, and the attendant communities therein, with the outer world – creating as many connections as I can. As a part of that unification I want to develop a presence in the virtual social space, naturally bumping up against and befriending those of like-mind, as I bring to fruition my first novel, as it is an outgrowth of my delving.

I like it, and I think it is a good effort, but I worried that it was too broad still. So I threw in some way points:

  • By July 1st, 2018 have complete novel ready for revision/submission
  • In January, 2018 begin to seek agent for work in progress
  • Launch Patreon account for novel in July
  • Continue to develop Twitch stream
  • In Aug, 2017, have calling cards
  • In October, have all masks created for the content you stream.
  • By June 1st, 2017 have working outline in Scrivener.

It will need to be reviewed soon, as I’m generating other way points that will need to be included.

Coming up: Brass tacks scheduling: taming the un-tamable!

 

An odd approach…

I believe I was the last in the universe to learn of FanFiction.net. Now, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, as I came to it already focused on writing, rather than caught up in a particular fandom. Not that I was lacking in that experience, but there is a difference between being swept up in a fandom in isolation, and being swept up in a sea of those like you. FanFiction.net is an ocean of vast proportions.

It was a wonderful discovery. It was very akin to that book on web design that teaches good design by showcasing poor design. No, no. I am not insulting everyone who writes or reads that site. What I mean is that I saw that what is true for physical artists, is true for writers – everyone is good at somethings, but the measure to shoot for is to become well rounded. Here is an example, from memory:

“He walked down the cracked steps, short grasses and moss already working to widen the lines and gaps to reclaim this rise of earth.

“Heyo. Let’s jam.” He called out to his brother-in-arms. ”

The setting was in the time of King Arthur, and clearly, dialog was what this writer needed to work on, while equally clearly they knew how to immerse the reader in the setting. (the original had more wonderful setting info, but I just wanted to show the steep contrast)

There were many, and varied examples of this, and I devoured them. It also showed me the value of curation. If you were interested in a niche fandom, this site was perfect. If you were caught up in a thriving community – well, there was a lot of underwhelming content to slog through in the search of something passably put together. Occasionally there were jewels. It kept you plugged into the hunt, those jewels.

I look upon that time that I fell down the rabbit-hole of FanFiction.net as time well spent.

But while I feel it made me a wiser reader, at least in understanding the parts, and how they fit together, and discernment, my time spent there did not enhance my production. I never posted. I remained unable to complete anything. I would get what they called a “plot bunny”, and write it up, jump from that “cool scene” to the next and then peter out just as the real work of writing was to begin. Of course, that is how I see it now; then it was that it just wasn’t the right time for me. I didn’t have the right office, the right job, the right time, the… exactly: excuses. Or if you are being kind, I was blinded still, by my first writing experience.

I truly believe that nothing will ever compare to it. If for no other reason than I have enshrined in my memory. Words flowed. Pages were ripped out of my notebook and passed away for my friends to read as they were completed. I wrote. Oh, how I wrote. I wrote in class, I wrote at home, I wrote whenever I could write. In fairness, I never finished it. I had to end it, artificially, because it had to be handed in. The tale burned in me and I worked feverishly to get it out.

I’ve been chasing that ever since, and when I couldn’t chase it, I buried it.

There is something there, if you can see it, hovering around the edges. I’ll never know which came first, the feeling that if the words are not burning to get out it’s not worth doing, or that the moment was the culmination of little praise for steady forward movement and hearts and flowers for that last minute save? What I do know is that time has passed and it no longer matters. That it can’t matter anymore. That battle is over, and if it continues to be the focus, I’ll lose the war.

The positive news is that words still pour and burn. The even more positive news is that when they don’t, I can still produce. From here, we move forward (again), but much more seasoned than ever before!

 

Not that now things are simple…

It’s funny to watch movies through my eyes now. With more experiences comes a sort of “seeing through things”. Things I never thought to question. This leads me to think of what others will “see through” in my writing.

Some of them are obvious: “how are they affording dinner?”

You know how it goes, you are so wrapped up in the tale, regardless of the medium being used, and you don’t think of things like – bathrooms, utility bills, time needed for cleaning, laundry supplies, and of course – food. Homes are just immaculate, it’s just the way they are. Belongings are on point, there’s no excess unless the story calls for an attic or a basement. Food? Food is always on time and it is either a comedy relief device or delightful. (apologies in advance to the legion of published media that covers this – I’m not referring to those tales just now)

Yet… when does the level of detail get in the way? Does the reader/viewer come to be transported, or come to feel validated? How do you know, and should you care? It is not like you will ever stand over each of your stories, greeting some, warning off others.

I’ve read a number of books upon the craft of writing, and there is an aspect to them all that makes me feel tragically lacking. The same way I felt in college level drama. When I write (for remember, my issue is coming to the page, as Ms. Sellers would have it said) I just… well… write. It just moves forward. I honestly have found that the only struggle for me is when I’m trying to incorporate another person’s actions/words. In that, I found my work in Deep Forest very fruitful.

Which moves me to where I envy those who have writing partners. So far, I have had a writing muse, and a writing coach – in the sense that he gave me the support to come to the page, and was always cheering in my corner. I miss them both, but time passes on, and, like death, ultimately writing is done alone.

It’s been an exciting week. Things have been launched, other things are in the final stages of preparation. I feel as if I’m in the last stages of training before the big run.

I also realize that I need to catch any visitors up. I am not adverse to being dumped into the middle of a tale, but I realize some are, so I will try and focus the next posts on setting the stage. So we can all begin at the beginning.

Falling down, getting back up.

So. Eventually, in all this, you stop writing again. You will know the reason best. For me, it was the San Diego Comic Con. Took up a total of two weeks. Then another week of recovery, and then yet one more week for.. something. Which is just another way of phrasing: “you know you should be writing, but you’re doing anything to avoid it”.

The problem is that the when you stop, there’s always a good reason. It’s not like I woke up every day for a month and just said: “Naww. I’m gonna eat bon-bons.” I have a perfect storm of things that need my attention. Dire. Each and every one of them. Easy to loose myself in the stream of continual overload and demand, and I did. That’s a month of not writing. Time was, that a break like that would put me off for a half year. Look! I’m back.

In part, what will help in getting back up is to never truly leave in the first place. Writing is the end result, make no mistake. For those who cry: “To be published is the end result”, we will agree to disagree. Publication is something that occurs while you’re buried in the next project. So what can you do when you are sidetracked and don’t have the time or will to write?

  1. If you know you will need to take a break, finish a short something before you stop. Something that you can look at when you are returning that indicates that it hasn’t been all that long and you are, indeed, a writer.
  2. Fit in reading about writing. Most of you writers will be rabid readers, we can always fit a small slice of time in for a page or two.
  3. See if you can learn something about the writing craft from where you are. For me, I visited the publisher’s booths at the ‘Con and asked questions. For you, perhaps you can snag a laptop and browse sites that you normally have no time or inclination for that concern your craft.
  4. If you’re meeting new people, and you are not on the clock, introduce yourself as a writer. I know, you’re not published yet, that’s not the point. You don’t want to feel awkward at your first book signings do you? Get used to telling people that you’re a writer. Get a card. It gets easier over time. Commit.
  5. Mull over your story arcs. I’m doing quite a bit of research for my novel. This information needs percolation! Can’t sit down to write? Now’s the time to percolate!
  6. Be kind to yourself if you lack boundless energy to throw at the keyboard upon your return. Expect a week to pass. You wouldn’t go jogging with a pulled muscle now, would you?

Now it took me another week. I was not idle, but neither was I writing. I fell back into my internal creative process. I saw things with my mind’s eye and did not share them on paper. Alarms started going off. Doubts began to circle overhead like the mangy vultures they are. What to do?

I can only share with you what I did. I made sure in those two weeks to do the basics: exercise. Inactivity will sap the creative spirit, I swear. So out into the world I went. By the second week, with all the tension I was generating by not writing, exercise was critical. I was actually compassionate towards myself. I did not subscribe to calling myself names and signaling to all and sundry that I had failed and was a fake. Understand that for me, this is a major step forward. Not in the typical way, being supportive, but rather by not allowing the polarization of single event in time. Looking at things maturely means that not writing, even for a month, does not doom me to eternal failure. It does not mean that I missed the best writing I could have done in my career. It just means I didn’t write for a month. Lo and behold: I produced this. I’m very pleased.

I will speak of the ‘Con. I did find out some things of interest there; but I felt it was equally important to share tales of failure and struggle. We are but a reflection of each other in the circle. We can all get back up once more.

Writing it down

Previously, my epiphanies have been the type that you grin like a madman at and marvel at it’s simplicity and connectivity. My “Rose to Ash” moment was my first “call to action” epiphany.

The next day, I was noodling over some drabble in my head and I realized: “I need to write this down!” So I headed to the computer and pounded away. It sure took much longer that way; and the results were not particularly noteworthy. I pushed that thought out of the way and focused on the point – I had written down what had previously, in many incarnations, been in my head. I saved it and went on about my day.

The day after that I continued the work on my office, reducing it a tad further. I did very little writing in my head, and none outside of it. I pushed that thought away when it visited me at the end of the day while I settled in to sleep and focused on the work I had accomplished to further prepare my space.

I rose to go biking. On the trail, fueled by oxygen and music, I wrote in my head. After the ride I repaired to my favorite refueling station where the most excellent Tea can be acquired. This time however, in that space between placing your order and the arrival of the food, I pulled out a notebook. There in the Cafe, before patrons and staff, I wrote down what I had been thinking about on the trail. When the food arrived, I put the notebook away and pulled out one of my books on how Writers organize their life and got to reading. At home, I looked over the fruits of my labor. One small group of notes and lines on a page. More page than pen. I pushed that thought away and focused on how to maximize my Cafe time.

I could go on, but by now I’m sure you see where I’m headed. This is the work. It doesn’t happen overnight. I wanted to belittle my efforts and mock my goals. Now that I saw myself as a writer, I’d be damned if I thought of a single thing that, once out of my head and on paper, didn’t appear to be the most indulgent garbage ever. I refused to care. “Monkeys at typewriters”, I’d say to myself. Keep hammering the keys, or clutching the pen; just don’t stop and don’t measure yourself against others. Instead think about what you’ve done today that you didn’t do yesterday and plan ahead to match or exceed it the next day.

This is the work: writing it down. It’s not easy. It’s messy. Embarrassing. Time consuming. I think of something to write at the oddest times. After the third time I had to heave myself out of bed at night because I’d gotten to the point that I couldn’t avoid writing it down, even if I knew it was pointless, I went to bed with the notebook on my table and moved a pen there just for that purpose. The pages began to be more pen then page.

You’ve done your prep work. You’ve gotten your game face on. You eat, drink and breath the writing craft. If you have pages in your head, this is where it starts.

In your head

One of the seven books was Heather Sellers’ “Page after Page”. It had attracted me by it’s subtitle: “Discover the confidence & passion you need to start writing & keep writing”. I browsed the table of contents. She had divided the book into three parts: ..”Creating a new writing self”, “How to maintain your commitment to writing” and “Finding your place in the world of writing”. The book seemed tailor made for my journey.

It opened me up to the idea that how I approached writing mattered. How I attended my aspirations mattered.  I found her second book, “Chapter after Chapter” the next month. I picked it up too. What I read in it created the second flashpoint to my transformation. It wasn’t even in a chapter, it was in the introduction.

Read the rest of this entry

Room

Space. Not in the “Final Frontier” way, but in the “where you put it all together” intention.

I do not know about you, but I can write almost anywhere when the mood takes me. Coordinating different portions of the book – organizing all my notes – data entry from notebooks to the computer – updating this blog – the myriad of internet tasks surrounding my writing; these things must take place in my office. Read the rest of this entry