How To Integrate Your Dream Into Your Busy Life

When I first started writing I had no children. I could get up as early as I liked and stay up as late as possible, as long as my full time job did not suffer. At one point, I got up at five thirty every Saturday morning and wrote for four hours. It was a magical time.

Fast forward to today, I am lucky if I get fifteen minutes each morning. So how do you balance that change? Going from four hours a day to fifteen minutes?

I like making checklists. I didn’t realize I did until I got further into my sales career. Before I leave for the day I write down what I need to accomplish the next day. This keeps me focused and on task no matter what happens during my morning commute.

How does this relate to writing? Because knowing what I am going to do with the brief block of time I have matters immensely. As a busy writer, I cannot approach time casually. I must be intentional about how I use it whether I am writing, doing the dishes, or relaxing. Having a plan on how I am going to use my time goes a long way to spending it well.

I wrote a checklist before I started my writing block this weekend. Then I listened to music on the way to my writing destination to get me in the writing mood and journaled as soon as I arrived. Usually, these are my first two actions before I have a writing session. They help me focus on what I need to do. Then I can attack the checklist. If you don’t like checklists, do any action that helps you track progress. For me, crossing items off a list is extremely satisfying.

When I create my checklist I start with writing first. I may need to send an email or tweak a portion of my website or do some research but I write first. I can do admin tasks on my lunch break during the week if I run out of time. On my checklist I put two hundred and fifty words or whatever I need to remain on schedule for my current project.

The reason I put a limit on my words is because my time is limited and I like a target to aim at. It also helps me not burn out. I cannot possibly sit down and write five thousand words and still be present with my wife, kids, friends, or work.

So I create a checklist, get my mind in the writing mood, and then do my writing first. I also limit the word count to feel accomplished and limit burn out. These three things help me be prepared, build momentum, and execute.

I would like to leave your with this caveat, however. If you chase a dream, you must be flexible by keeping your expectations in check. Life can change in a moment and we must be ready to leap forward and take advantage of a sudden gap in time, or throttle back as it requires.

What To Do When Battling Self-Doubt

These past two weeks at my job have been the hardest I’ve had in years. Not because of a potential job loss or trouble with a coworker or boss but because it’s so busy my brain literally hurts when I leave.

Last week, in the midst of this furious pace, I had a thought I haven’t had in a long time. A little voice stepped up to the podium in my mind and declared that no matter how hard I try I will never be a writer.

It also added, as if one leads into another, that I am a terrible public speaker, I’m not good on video or encouraging people, and my fiction is terrible too so I better just stop and save myself the pain of rejection.

The strange part about this thought process? less than twelve hours before this thought, I shared my 2016 goals with my writers group. I said I was thrilled about the possibilities that this year holds.

Self-doubt is a sneaky little jerk. I know that I am a writer. I know that I did a decent job in my last conference talk, however, I was foolish to believe that I was over self-doubt because it was simply waiting, lurking around the corner, until my guard was down.

Want to know how I stopped that voice speaking in my head? The same way I stopped a goalie that would heckle me during a hockey game.

I went to work.

I became competitive and started writing this post even as the voice grew louder. The surprising thing? I can still hear its voice but I am no longer afraid. It’s like a tiger in a cage at the moment. I am no longer frozen in fear, with the thought I cannot write because I just did. And soon I’ll publish this post and get some edits in on my next e-book.

Self-doubt never leaves us. But it’s what we do in response that says who we are. Sometimes self-doubt is reinforced by a dry spell of writing or in the form of an off handed joke by an uncle or cousin or parent or friend.

Keep in mind that Someone laughed at Disney’s dream, but he kept working anyway. So should you.

 

Why You Don’t Need To Be Disciplined This Year

Every once in a while I’ll get the itch to play the guitar again. I’ll start by learning an easy song, play it until my wife wants to punch me, then abandon it. It happens every time.

I knew each time was going to be different. Then it wasn’t. Months later the guitar is gathering dust, again.

Why is this?

calendarI listened to a podcast called 10X talk with Joe Polish and Dan Sullivan a while back and Dan said something that shocked me. He said discipline is a bunch of garbage.

To Mr. Sullivan, you can be disciplined but you don’t just get it at the store. It’s a description of someone that has formed desirable habits.

Whether you are a runner, writer, or worker, we all struggle from time to time. If you find yourself in the place of perpetual failure consider this. You don’t need to be disciplined. You need new habits.

Starting a new habit or kicking an old one can be extremely difficult. Here are three ways to help you make them stick.

  1. Journal daily progress. Make it simple. This doesn’t have to take you an hour.
  2. Ask a friend to be your kind drill sergeant and keep you accountable.
  3. Do it (whatever you want to form good habits for) with someone.

Kick discipline to the curb. Replace it with new habits.

An event for poetry lovers coming this February

Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference

We’re thrilled to announce a new Jot Writers Conference event! On Wednesday, February 17th, 2016, in partnership with Schuler Books and Music, we’ll be hosting Poetry and Conversation, a free event on the power and beauty of poetry. Here’s the official write-up:

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Poetry and Conversation is a free event for lovers of the written word. Three poets from West Michigan—Matthew Landrum, Kelsey May, Z.G. Tomaszewski—will share their insights on writing and publishing, and will read from their published works.  Attendees will be encouraged to share original poetry at an open mic following the presentations.

Matthew LandrumMatthew Landrum is poetry editor of Structo Magazine. His work has recently appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, RHINO, and The Baltimore Review. His chapbook The Lonesome Savior — translations from the Faroese of Agnar Artúvertin — was published with Cold Hub Press in 2015. He lives in Detroit.

Kelsey mayKelsey May

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Top Blog Posts From 2015

I love getting the yearly report from WordPress.com about my website traffic, top posts, and yearly insights. The most interesting part to me is the top five blog posts. The reason? Its a thread informing me what people coming to this little corner on the web are interested in.

Here are the top five posts in order. Some of these may be familiar to you, one may not be. It’s from 2012 and is still one of my top posts year after year.

Firework

1. Why You Should Keep Writing Despite A Full House (2015) – This post was about the birth of my fourth child and why it’s important for kids to see their parents pursuing their passions. (Click HERE to read it)

2. Are You A Writer Or Interested In Writing? Come to Jot (2015)- Jot is the free writers conference my writing group The Weaklings hosts around West Michigan. If you live in Michigan or even northern Indiana, check out this post. (Click HERE to read it)

3. Worldbuilding 101- Let’s Build a World Together (2015) – This is part of my workshop on building nominal worlds. I’ve taught it at two separate writers conferences. It’s strange to type that but I love that I’ve had that opportunity. (Click HERE to read it)

4. Use Dialogue to Advance Your Plot (2012) – This post is from 2012 and is still one of my top blogs. I plan to clean it up a bit and make it stronger to add more value to those to keep coming back to it. As it is from 2012, it’s not a very strong post but I wanted to leave it unedited for now so you may see how this site has changed over the years. (Click HERE to read it)

5.  What Do Your Kids See When You Write? (2015) – I am glad this one made it because this was my favorite post from the year. I write that not because it was wonderfully crafted, but because I lived this post. Read it again. You’ll see why. (Click HERE to read it)

Thanks for making 2015 a great year for Part-Time Novel. Stop by Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for more posts.

Join my email list at the top right of this blog to stay connected.

Live well this year my friends.

Books I Read in 2015

Four years ago, my friend Matthew Landrum told me he aims to read a book a week. I thought I would give it a try.

Since that time (2011) I’ve read 123 books. In 2015 I read 24.

Old BooksThat may seem like a lot or a little but that is not the point of this post. The point is that since 2011 I’ve had three more kids, written several hundred blog posts, started a writers conference, was asked to speak at another, and written several short stories and blogs for other sites.

Those accomplishments are also not the point. The point is that a simple routine helped me read a book roughly every two weeks for five years without even noticing it. It took work, but more like simple play than steely determination.

It’s amazing what a slow plodding pace can accomplish.

If there is something you want to do, don’t burn yourself out. Build longevity and go after a pace that integrates with your life.

Here’s my list of books I read in 2015. If you have a list or if you have a book you love that I should read, please post in the comments section below.

King Arthur and His Knights – Roger Lancelyn Green

Food A Love Story – Jim Gaffigan

Someday, Someday, Maybe -Lauren Graham

The Heart of the Sea – The Tragedy of the Whale Ship Essex – Nathaniel Philbrick

The Martian – Andy Weir

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling

Murder at the Vicarage – Agatha Christie

You Are A Writer – Jeff Goins

The Razer’s Edge – W. Somerset Maugham

The Art of Work – Jeff Goins

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

Do Over – Jon Acuff

Nemesis – Agatha Christie

Mr. Hockey – My Story – Gordie Howe

Quitter – Jon Acuff

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

The In Between – Jeff Goins

The Back Reckoning – John Stephens

A Cup of Dust – Susie Finkbeiner

The 15 Success Traits of Pro Bloggers – Jonathan Milligan

Ashfall – Mike Mullin

Turing Pro – Steven Pressfield

Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Hin Einsami Frelsarin – Agnar Artuvertin (with Translations from the Faroese by Matthew Landrum).

Make 2016 a great year!

Why I Am Doing The 30 Days Of Hustle With Jon Acuff

Over the last ten years I’ve written books and many short stories. I have gotten through beta readers and edits and have been told by writing professionals that they are ready to send to an agent. I sent a book to one, was rejected, then did nothing.

Why? Because I was scared to take the next steps.

We all get scared at the final push because this means the game we’ve been playing is for real. Now someone can look at all of our labor and tell us what you worked on is trash, it’s not good, we’ve wasted YEARS of our lives.

Today I am working towards unpacking that fear and working through it. Truly, there is only one thing we can do to destroy fear and that is to move.

Runners

Recently I signed up for an online course called 30 Days of Hustle with Jon Acuff. I paid $30 to join a Facebook group, get daily videos of encouragement, and a worksheet. Some may think that is a waste of money and time when you can do those things yourself.

The truth is I tried to do things on my own. It doesn’t work. I truly believe the key to doing anything extraordinary is to know why you are doing it and to be with people who are either doing what you want to do or going where you want to go.

Money is a decent motivator for me. Not that it’s all there is, but if I spend money on something, like an entry in a race, and then don’t invest in it, it kills me.

I wrote on Monday about being lazy and today I’m focusing on the mountain of fear we all have in our lives. As soon as we see it, we lose all motivation.

Knowing what we struggle with inwardly is a huge step toward overcoming the areas in our lives that we need to grow in.

Fear and laziness are some of mine.

What do you need to defeat this year? Are some of the same cycles in your life preventing you from your dreams? Plan a new attack to overcome them in 2016.

This Is The Year To Go On The Offensive

Do you make statements like – Someday I’ll pay off my house? Or, I’ll get to that book tomorrow, or let’s attack that unorganized closet during the spring.

Me too.

Lately, I discovered there’s a huge difference between saying you want to do X, Y, or Z and putting a date on the calendar when you’re actually going to accomplish it.

As in, I want to pay off my house in ten years. I want to write that book in the next one hundred and sixty days. I’ll say sayonara to that disorganized closet next Saturday at 10 AM.

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When a brand-new year rolls around I like to make plans. I have goals this year. My main focus is to change my goal setting routine.

I used to think I make excuses. But now I realize I’m just lazy with some of my internal promises. I leave them unbound to a certain time thinking I’ll accomplish these tasks in the nebulous future.

Though I have excuses aplenty, I want 2016 to be a huge success. So I’ve written goals down with a specific date they are going to be completed by.

I’ve left dreams on the shelf in years past. This year, I’m going on the offensive, chasing after the things I’ve always wanted to accomplish.

So look out e-books.

Look out website.

Look out debt and disorganized junk drawer.

I’m coming for you.

As the new year comes and the old one passes, don’t just ask yourself what your are going accomplish this New Year. Set a date. Then go get it.

Overcome The Uninspired Feeling Once And For All

One of my favorite writers is Steven Pressfield.

Though I don’t know him personally, he’s taught me many truths through his books. Not cute, fun truths, but tough in-your-face ones.

If I sit back and survey the times that I’ve stopped writing it’s not because I didn’t love the ride but it was because I was either uninspired or lazy.

What have I done!?
Photo Credit: miguelavg via Compfight cc

It was during a time when I did not consider what was at stake when I merely skipping a days’ word count, that I picked up his book The War of Art.

Mr. Pressfield taught me that I wasn’t simply taking a break, I was sacrificing my dream of writing every time I took a pass.

The truth is, I’d like it to be easy. I’d like a clean cut trail exactly where I want to go with my books.

I type.
Books are published.
Simple as that.

But any successful writer, no matter if you view their work as drivel or snobbish, has overcome the uninspired feeling and done the one sure fire action toward a publishing career.

They wrote when their schedules told them they should be writing.

They are professionals about their books.

How about you?

Do you dream of the easy lottery book contract worth millions?

Or are you writing, and saving the day dreams for when the days’ work is done?

My Review of A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner

One thing I love about living in Grand Rapids, Michigan is the vibrant writing community. Agents, publishing professionals, bloggers, online entrepreneurs, and writers of all sorts reside in this great town.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of these fine Grand Rapidians Susie Finkbeiner and review her new book.

51MVQM1vdTL__SX321_BO1,204,203,200_I cannot remember when and where I met Susie. I know it was a few years ago probably around the time my writers group launched the first Jot Conference. At that time she had published one book and was writing another. Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of reading A Cup of Dust, her latest novel.

A Cup of Dust was birthed out of Susie’s love of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, and the Dust Bowl. It’s told from the perspective of Pearl Spence a ten-year old girl who lives in desolate Red River, Oklahoma.

As I read the novel I could not help but think of The Walking Dead. That may sound like a strange correlation, but Finkbeiner’s description of a dull, grey world was incredibly vivid. And this is not dystopian future, it’s dystopian past. The Dust Bowl actually happened.

As a father of four, I imagined how terrible it would have been to raise children in a bountiful environment that turned hostile.

Peal reminds me of Opal Buloni in Because of Winn-Dixie. If you’ve read Kate DiCamillo’s enchanting story you know that means she is curious, clever, and never at a loss for words. Curiosity gets the best of Pearl in several instances and one in particular results in a blood filled face to face meeting with a drifter named Eddie.

Unbeknownst to anyone in Red River, Eddie has a sinister plan to destroy Pearl’s cozy family. I felt like I swallowed an ice cube every time I saw his name on the page.

The Spences are tough enough folk even when tragedy after tragedy befalls the populace of once proud Red River. Pearl is acutely aware of these troubles and her parent’s struggle to keep food on the table.

A Cup of Dust is told through the eyes of a child but this is no kid’s book. It’s a story about hardy people doing their best to keep a good home together during a time when innocence is lost.

I’d recommend you go grab a copy. Not because I know Susie and would support her book anyway, but because she’s a great writer, period.

You can connect with Susie at her website http://www.susiefinkbeiner.com/

And you can buy her book for Christmas for your reader friends HERE.