What You, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe Have in Common

Despite the fact that we seem to think otherwise, we have the same amount of time in a week as the greats, one hundred and sixty eight hours.

We may have more distractions today, but they had cholera and diphtheria.

Often we blame the lack of time for not getting things done, but I’d like to argue that we have all the time we need, if we use it appropriately.

This past week I decided to sit down and parcel out my time. I was determined to prove to myself that my writing projects were suffering because of my lack of time and not lack of commitment. So I made an Excel spreadsheet.

After I divided up everything, spending time with my wife and kids, eating, and the occasional shower and teeth brushing, I had 1.75 hours left in each week day. I have weekends but sometimes we are traveling or out of town. I used weekdays because I wanted time I could count on to create a solid schedule.

At first I was depressed. How can I have that little? Life is busy and full and I love it, but that was a punch to the gut.

Then I added it up. 8.75 hours.

I sat back. I have ample time to write 3 blog posts, and work on my books. Add in the occasional free weekend and that time rises to 11.25 without using an afternoon or two.

So I failed. I wanted to prove to myself that I did not have sufficient time to write. Now, I realize I have all the time I need just like every writer before me. It’s up to me to use it well.

Do you have things that suck your time away that don’t match the goals you have for your life?

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Do You Have The Someday Syndrome?

I’m no so sure why Annie was excited about tomorrow. I get the context, but tomorrow is a day that never actually shows up. Sort of like our frenemy Someday.

As in, someday I’ll to go to Europe. Someday we’ll get this debt paid off or sit down to write that book or clear the garage. It’s a safe statement, with none of that proactive or deadline nonsense.

Have your ever had the someday syndrome?

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Lately, I’ve become fascinated with people that act. They don’t live in the realm of someday. They may form a plan and gather information but they take action. They don’t tuck it in a drawer.

I’m reading a book The 15 Success Traits of PRO Bloggers by Jonathan Milligan. If you are a blogger I’d suggest picking it up. Why? Because it has a ton of great application. In one instance he shares what got him started.

He told a friend after work that he was ready to go and fail at something. That’s when he knew he was ready to act. To Jonathan, it suddenly became more frightening to not act, than to act and possibly fail. Let that sink in for a moment.

Where are you today? Is there something you always have wanted to try but just cannot bring yourself to commit to it? Have you relegated it to the land of someday?

Consider the other side. Could you live with yourself if you never did it?

 

Are You In The Game Or Safe On The Sidelines?

I played soccer my freshmen year in high school and sat on the sidelines for most of the year.  I was short and thin and I’m fairly certain a small gust of wind might have blown me over.

I don’t remember feeling bad about it but I do remember that I always I tried to encourage the seniors, give them water, and pat them on back when they came off the field.

When I got into my first game I was terrified. I was certain every one of my opponents was faster and stronger and could jump higher than I could. I wanted back on the sidelines. It was safer there. There was no pressure and I couldn’t fail.

I believed these things because I was afraid. I didn’t want to let my team down or my parents down.

FC Barcelona Stadium

I think this application is true for our lives in any capacity of bravery. When we don’t get in the game and we stay on the sidelines we are safe and comfortable. If we get in the game, life becomes real. There are stakes now and people we can disappoint.

What if we launch that business and fail? What if we let our family down? What if this is the wrong promotion or job? What will other people think?

These are the questions that plague us. The negative side of the what if’s. But what if these are the wrong questions?

We should be asking these instead.

What would happen if we don’t launch that business? What if we don’t take that job? What if succeed, what would that mean for us? What if we never did ___.

The next time you start to become “sensible” make sure it is not a response to fear. If you are launching a website or book or business and start to give into fear, consider the flip side of the lies in your head. It may just give you the bravery needed to step on the field.

The Real Story Behind Any Overnight Success

If you’ve turned on the television, even by accident, in the last ten years you’ve seen The Voice, (Insert Country)’s Got Talent, American Idol, etc.

There are many reason people watch these shows. One reason is the rags to riches tale that encompasses the life of the winner. They were John Doe and now they are Sebastian Cool with a record deal and a million bucks.

They cue the music, show a misty eyed youth, tell about how ____ happened to them or their family and now they have just scored a record deal.

It’s a great story but only half of it.

My Poetic Tragedy

We get to see the story unfold in a matter of months or a thirty second backstory clip. What we don’t get to see is the back stage.

The back stage often goes forgotten. To the audience it appears as if they got up off the couch, decided singing would be fun, then won a Grammy.

I get it. The backstage has no pizzazz. It’s unflavored yogurt, not Greek, key lime awesomeness.

But because of these quick overnight success stories, we forget about the toil. The hours, days, and years singing/writing/painting alone.

No one shows us the gig attended by seven fans, the book signing with one person who asks us for a pen. But, these too are the stories that happen.

Stephen King threw his book Carrie in the trash. It went on to become an international best seller.

Van Gogh created over 900 paintings and over 1100 sketches but sold ONE in his lifetime. He is one of the most recognized artists in the world today.

Be consistent. Go for resilience. Build rhythmic practice in the shadows so when the light shines you can look like a pro.

Because at that point, you are.

Just remember the back stage, where you came from.

Having Trouble Being Creative? Try This

Life has ebb and flow, like the tide. Our writing projects, careers, and businesses can be growing, failing, or just staying the same. With all of these changes in our daily lives, how can we stay on the path of growth with the give and take of the creative process?

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Take A Creative Inventory

In order to remain creative, we must know two things. We need to know what breathes life into us. And we need to know what causes us to become bogged down.

Do you know the answers to those two questions? They will remain the same no matter what is happening in our lives, because these are questions about who we are. The trouble is knowing what we need.

Are you tired?

Frustrated?

Feeling dull and uninspired?

Busy?

Where are you right now?

Once you know where you are you can work on what you need.

If you are tired, there’s nothing better than a nap or night of sleep. This may sound counter intuitive because you want to be productive, but there is a signification correlation between proper sleep and how well we function.

If you are uninspired, block off some time and give this question some thought. The answer may be in the recent past. What gave you motivation to dive into that project last year? What gave you the gumption to try a new form of writing? Was it a movie or a book or a painting or a classical soundtrack? What was your spark?

Test It For Yourself

Often we are unclear as to what we should do next. What we are looking for is the perfect answer, but what we need is a laboratory.

We need to listen our favorite album, take a walk in the woods, have a conversation, or a nap. Once we start to understand the rhythm of creativity, we will know what our next step should be.

Give you self some space today to answer these questions. Where are you at right now in your creative endeavor? What do you need at this moment to keep growing?

Remember The End Goal

It’s nice to test new theories and blaze new trails but we must remember our goal. We are trying to write a book, start a business, build a platform, etc. The lab is a place to test what works. We must use what we discover about ourselves and what makes us tick as a launching pad, not a home base.

Make sure you pick a point in your schedule to leap, and actually do it.

Why I Purposely Never Finish Anything In One Sitting

Based on the title you may envision a half-finished dinner or a neglected Netflix queue but that’s not what I intended. I’m referring to my writing projects of course.

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Some of my best writing is my Second Writing. It’s the writing I do while I am not at my keyboard. I put something on the page, wrestle with it for a bit, then get up and head to work, to rake leaves, etc. More often than not, when I return, I have the answers or clarity I was seeking.

This is one of the best benefits of having a solid writing schedule. I have a draft session then a polish session. When it doesn’t come out right I find it’s worse to force it. There is nothing more disheartening than deleting a plot point that took hours to put together.

I first heard of this method while reading Stephen King’s book On Writing. If you are a writer and have not read it you have too, it’s a prerequisite. In his memoir/writing advice book, Mr. King says that he needs to have proper distance from a piece after it’s finished to be able to come back with a proper perspective. This allows him to kill his darlings and be certain of it.

This is how I blog. I come back to it (if I don’t accidentally hit post) and then finish. It’s how I’m doing the query letter for my fantasy novel now. I want to give my words enough time to settle. Then I can evaluate them objectively.

Do you plow through your projects or do you give them time to percolate?

Part-Time Novel Update – My new publishing schedule will be Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I’m slowing things down as baby number four arrives in a few weeks. I also hope to provide better content. Thank you in advance for sticking with me.

The Breathe Conference, Author Steven James, And Cutting Through The Woods

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the Breathe Writers Conference. It was a great experience, presenting from the podium, having one-on-one meetings with aspiring writers, and connecting with publishing professionals.

Steven James was the keynote speaker. He has written numerous thrillers and the Writer’s Digest Book – Story Trumps Structure and he changed my perspective on writing.

He's the cool one on the right
He’s the cool one on the right

As writers, especially in the beginning, we find ourselves listening to rules or following methods that other established writers tell us are law.

Mr. James destroyed several of those for me and set me free to reach for something higher. He said that writing a great story should be our goal. Wonderful stories are better than following rules that others have laid down for us (hence his book Story Trumps Structure).

He also said writers are strange and he couldn’t be more right.

After all, who sits alone in a room wondering what would happen if we stabbed our protagonist in the back? Or for that matter, who lays down a gauntlet of torture chambers (figuratively, emotionally, and maybe physically) for imaginary people that they are quite fond of?

Writers do.

I was challenged to go deeper, to ask questions, and blaze my own trail. Be weird. Write for a good story, not for money, fame or fortune, or an aged writer who says I have to write THIS way.

What rules are you following now that may not be right for you?

No writing path is the same.

I hope you cut through the woods.

My Writing Update

This past week was a recovery of sorts because the previous week was crazy in my writing, personal, and work lives. I’ll finish up my Breathe Writers Conference presentation in the next day or so, and then it’s back to my stories. Here is a list of the blogs I’ve written this week.

If you have any blog posts you’d like to share please add them in the comments section below.

If you plan to be at the Breathe Writers Conference, see you there!

Monday’s post was about cutting out distractions. Click here to read 10 Tips to Cut Out Distractions And Just Write here. Please share if you have your own tips!

The beginning of and end of writing a novel tend to come easy for me. The middle is where my books lose steam. I suspect you’ve been there too. Click here to view Tuesday’s post and use it as an inspirational springboard.

If you write every day, refueling can be tough. Lately, I’ve replenished my creative well with podcasts. Click here to read Wednesday’s post of Top Five Podcasts for the Writer And Entrepreneur.

Thursday I wrote about my wife. She is constantly encouraging, reading my stuff, and spurring me on. Click here to read To My Wife On Her Birthday.

In life, we encounter stories that will either crush us, or cause us to look deep inside and ask what really matters in the end. Click here to read Friday’s post about a car crash, love lost, and a challenge.

I’ll be talking about Worldbuilding in a week. I’m thrilled to have been asked and even more excited to present and connect with other writers at the Breathe Writers Conference. Click here to read Saturday’s post which includes a short story that won’t be in my books, but one I wrote to help me understand a society pivotal to my story.

Write today. One word, one sentence, is progress. Also, we are all busy. I hope your work is important enough to find the time to work on it today.

Like Vikings and High Fantasy? Read My Short Story Below

Next Saturday, I am speaking on Worldbuilding at the Breathe Writers Conference. Worldbuilding is what makes our nominal worlds believable.

Normally, worldbuilding happens below the surface like the unseen portion of an iceberg, propping up a story. The reader never gets to see most of these writings, just feel their influence on the story. Today I pull back this veil for a moment.

This is a short story I wrote to help me understand the mythology of a people in the second book of my fantasy series. I don’t normally write with this tone but this people group has a rich oral tradition.

Imagine this story presented by an elder in the heart of the darkest winter around the warm fire of a viking-esque longhouse.

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A Long Dark Winter

It happened during the Long Winter. The longest yet and the longest still. Your grandfather was just a boy, barely tall enough to carry a Gungnir. Winter was colder then. Snow deeper too. Not long had Daleheim been settled and the stones for Olof Tower had been hewn but not laid.

At that time a son was borne to the Great King Adolphur. That night, the torches of Daleheim burned bright fighting back the endless dark of winter. Mead was poured generously and the people were warmed in body and spirit. Adolphur named him Litill Madur for he was strong even as boy, and was soon numbered among men.

As Madur grew, he braved the wintry passes of the mountains for game and even crossed the frozen river Hvita. It was then he noticed the fair Bloma, and she him.

They were pledged to be married when It came. Our people were not prepared. A fell winter descended from the mountain peaks and stayed until summer. The cold brought snow and the snow brought death. Sheep and mountain goats died in numbers not seen since but not from the tempest. For the weather brought more than biting cold, ice and snow. It brought them. It brought the Vargr.

The day before their marriage Bloma and her servant Ivana went to the wood at the foot of Mount Teldor in search of white crocuses. The day grew dark and Bloma sent Ivana to fetch lanterns and men to watch over them. When Ivana returned she came upon a scene of great struggle. Dirt and brush had been cast about the snow and all that remained of Bloma was a single patch of her dress soaked in blood.

Just then Madur returned from a three day march in the mountains in search of game for the wedding feast. When he heard of what happened he was struck mute with grief and despair. He fell to his knees and stared at the scene and did not move.

In time, a darkness beyond pain and anger filled him. Then, to mock his anguish, their came a great high-pitched cry as if the beast laughed from afar. The cry roused Madur and he took up his Gungnir, bade his hunting party stay, and ventured forth into the dark.

When the king heard of what had occurred he took his Gungnir, went to the edge of the wood and waited. The hunting party requested permission to enter the dark foot of Mount Teldor in hopes of finding Madur, however, King Adulphur forebode it as this would not honor Madur’s quest.

Days passed.

King Adulphur did not speak. He refused food and drink. No one spoke but instead stood by their King in deafening silence.

On the ninth day, a commotion was heard from the pine wood and from beneath the shadow of an evergreen tree came Madur. He was covered in dirt and wounded unto death. In his arms he carried Bloma. She was dead. Slung over his back was the head of a creature unknown to them.

Madur laid his bride on the cold, hard earth.

‘The beast took her to the far north toward the Forbidden Wall. These creatures live there in great numbers.’ He told them no more. Instead, he lay down next to his love, joined hands with her, and breathed his last.

The king was overcome and wept. He looked at the head of the beast. It had the look of a fey wolf, but the size of a bear. He gazed at it for a long time before taking it in his hands and marching to the foundation of Olof Tower. King Adolphur placed it there, next to the cornerstone.

The people of Daleheim gathered round and the king spoke.

He told them of his son’s deed and love for Bloma. He then decreed for this beast to be hunted to extinction. If any boy should be called a man, he must claim such a prize as the head of this beast, this Vargr.

In a months’ time, the Great King Adulphur died during a hunting quest of his own.

Thus began the coming-of-age hunt for the Vargr and the end of the line of the Daleheimian Kings.

 

 

 

Have You Taken Inventory Of Your Life Lately?

A client called me the other day. From the other end of the line I was told the most heart wrenching story I’ve heard in some time.

He told me he and his wife built a business together. They put off vacations and holidays knowing they could go later or sell the business and live off the profits. Then one day she left the office to run a quick errand. She’d be right back.

Oma's Old Telephone

Soon afterward, several cars and a semi crashed on a local highway. There was one fatality.

He told me something I hope stays with me for a long time. He said, “Go home and hug your wife, your kids. You never know when they’ll be gone. Cherish them.”

It’s these conversations that make me take inventory.

Am doing too much work and neglecting those I love? Am I working overtime to buy that thing I want? Does it matter?

Then finally, is my life rich and full, exactly how I want it to be? Not in a selfish sense. But if I am writing too much and not paying attention to my kids, this is a problem.

There is a famous quote by a Isaac Asimov that goes like this –

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”

I think that’s rubbish. If I had six minutes to live I’d reach out to those I love and tell them about love and joy, using the best sentences I could construct. If I could not reach them, I’d write a quick letter on a notepad.

Today, think about what you’d do differently. I’m not talking about that thing you did yesterday or last month. I’m talking about right now.

Are you loving people in your life? And are you living well or just getting by?