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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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.

Why The Hard Road Is The Best Road To Take

I recently spoke at a writer’s conference about blogging. After I was finished there were a lot of questions on how to get a blog started, where to look for inspiration, and how to get an audience around your idea.

The real question behind each of these questions?

How can I do that easily

Photo Credit: huskyte77 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: huskyte77 via Compfight cc

Easy and now are two products of our current culture that I’ve come to realize are untrue. You can have easy mac and cheese and you can buy that car now. But that easy mac will clog your arteries and that car payment will follow you around like a bad smell for years.

The hard truth about anything worthwhile is that it takes time, sweat and blood, and patience.

Writing a novel takes years. Starting a business requires a lot of forethought, testing, and saving.

If you long for easy, maybe it is time to look for something else to do.

If you want to stick with your book, I can share this truth with you. That it can indeed get easier. But you must get out there and act now.

Don’t wait for the perfect writing space or that special writing time or that muse to wake from their drunken stupor to inspire us.

Believe it or not but blogging can be fun and not some drag on our writing time if you do it often and have a plan. It can take time to get there but just like the satisfaction that comes after purchasing a car with money saved and finishing a book after months or years, it is euphoric. The feeling also lasts.

This is why I keep coming back. If I can finish a blog in twenty minutes (like this one) I want to do it again. It is satisfying and easy now. But it required work to get here like a well thought out plan and some passion for the craft.

The next time you find yourself looking for the quick fix keep this thought with you.

Anything worthwhile is usually difficult but the tough road is worth all the effort in the end.

To Be A Writer You Must Suspend Disbelief

As writers we are bombarded with questions and self doubt.

What was the reason I decided to do this in the first place? Why do I keep going? Am I good enough? Who would read this anyway? I could never afford to write full time, right? A writer’s day is filled with these questions and more as we continue to write. It can be difficult to drown out this noise as we forge ahead.

Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about how silly that process is? One of believing without seeing? Of doing when the odds are stacked incredibly against us?

Photo Credit: faungg's photos via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: faungg’s photos via Compfight cc

This is the process of suspending disbelief. I heard a great podcast from Michael Hyatt about it the other day. It’s the process of marching forward even though we know in the back of our minds what we desire is near impossible.

He shares a conversation he had with his doctor. He just returned from a sabbatical and she replied that it would be wonderful to do that some day. He challenged to think not about how it is impossible, but what would have to be true in her life to make that very thing happen.

Does this also apply to you in your budding writing career? What would have to be true for you to be a full time writer? Pay off student loans? A house with more space? A job with more flexibility? My guess is that with a little hard work, you can get there.

Don’t believe me? How much could you make if you took a few more shifts at work and then cancel your cable to pay down that debt? What if you did some work on your house to sell it? It’s a great time to do that. Why not look for another job with more flexibility?

This process may not be one that happens overnight. But would one to five years of odd jobs, scrambling, and searching be worth getting to do what you want to do for the rest of your life? Sounds amazing to me.

Today, do not think about what is impossible. Think about how you can own your career, book, dream, etc., and take just one step in that direction. Make sure it is not selfish and self serving but measurable and freeing for you and your loved ones.

Step today.

Are You A Chronic Starter Or A Steady Finisher?

My iphone is filled with ideas. It’s my virtual commonplace book. I keep all of my short stories and blog posts and novels there. I would not be surprised if that list took up more storage than the albums on my phone.

The main reason I have all these ideas is that I get inspired easily. Some might say it’s a focus problem but I like to think I’m just creative.

If I call myself creative I can simply shrug off my inability to stick with one thing for very long. The problem with this? I never give an idea a chance.

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The strange thing about this is that I’ve been married for ten years. I’ve been at my job for almost that long as well. I have commitments that I keep in every aspect of my life but my writing life. I think I might have discovered the reason and I wondering if it is something you struggle with as well.

If I call a piece finished, it can be judged. Someone can tell me it is garbage and I should stop while I have the rest of my life left. No need to continue down this silly little writing path. You have to be great after all, or born with it, right?

Because of this self doubt, I have a hard time hitting the submit button on a blog post not to mention the dozens of drafts I do on a book that lay here and not in some agents slush pile. I am a chronic starter in need of a cure for my disbelief.

Do you struggle with finishing? Why? If not, what are your tips for sticking with it? I’m all ears.

How Small Details Can Make A Huge Impact

Each night before my two-year-old son goes to bed he runs to his bookshelf and yells Goose! Goose! This means he wants to read Favorite Nursery Rhymes From Mother Goose illustrated by the talented Scott Gustafson, before bed.

This is some of the best time I have with my children each day. My three-year-old daughter perches on the arm of the chair and joins in. It is calm and quiet and the kids are in awe of a great story or fun rhyming verse.

One of the nursery rhymes has stuck with me ever since I read it to my five-year-old four years ago. Here it is.

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,

For want of the shoe, the horse was lost,

For want of a horse, the rider was lost,

For want of a rider, the battle was lost,

For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost,

And all for the want of a horseshose nail.

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Photo Credit: Funpack via Compfight cc

The message is simple. Small, sometimes seemingly inconsequential, details can have huge a impact.

I’ve written about my attempts to stay organized, the importance of making boundaries for our blogs and keeping them tidy. These are some of the ways I keep track of the details of my work and my life.

What are some ways you keep your kingdom in order? Are there small changes you could make that would have a huge impact on your book, business, or the life you want to live?

Do You Ever Get Writer’s Burnout?

We all get to that point. Where we are too exhausted to give any more to the world. We need sleep. Our eyes are blurry, our energy sapped, and our attitude irritable at best.

When I enter this territory, my mind will pose a question sooner or later.

Do I try harder? Or do I wait until tomorrow?

Photo Credit: miguelavg via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: miguelavg via Compfight cc

I have answered yes to tomorrow more often than I’d care to admit. But last night, I heard what that voice was really saying. You’re tired, do it another day. Even if it doesn’t get done tomorrow, it’s not a huge deal. You’re burnt out.

I have been staying up late and getting up early too much over the past two weeks. A lot of it was because of fun tasks I enjoy. I’d written a blog or two almost every day, posted on another blog twice a week, wrote on my novel, prepped for a talk at a conference in two weeks, and sent in a proposal for another talk in October.

Usually during a blitz of activity like this, I become a super hero and write like a maniac. Then, I become the super bum, and have little taste for it. How do you find that balance?

For me, the first thing to understand is that I cannot sustain this output. Something’s gotta give. Either my sky high expectations or projects. Often it was the expectations and I’d try to cram in everything. At times, I would stay up until midnight and then try to wake at five or six to get projects done before the kids woke up.

I don’t know about you but I’m not a robot. I need rest just like everyone else and I needed to figure out a way to get it.

I know that getting proper rest would make me more alert at work, more patient with my family, less irritable, and prone to working with a better attitude. I sat back and realized I cannot have both manic activity and sleeplessness.

Thus, I’ve recommitted to sleep and care of myself just like I did with my blog. I will wake early only if I go to bed on time. If I feel the push to finish something in the evening, I will refrain from rising early.

This is the best answer I have to burnout. Do you have any suggestions?

Do You Give One Bad Day Too Much Importance?

If you keep a blog in hopes to use it as a platform to grow your chances at publication, then you know the power of one day. In one day, you can be dancing about as the views and traffic explode. In another day, you can curl up in a ball on your bed as a handful of people stop in to see something that took hours to write.

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Photo Credit: cesarastudillo via Compfight cc

I work in sales and the power of one day can be a hard thing to shake. Too good and arrogance and his friend complacency start to creep in. Too bad? You know your family will live under a bridge some point soon.

These two scenarios could happen. But the likelihood is probably zero. Why? Because one day does not define a blog, a career, or a relationship. One day has no more power than any other day.

Here is when I thought about inserting some Gandalfain quote about what to do with time that is given to you, but since we aren’t storming Mount Doom, I thought I’d lend this thought.

We must stay focus on our yearly goals. That is what matters.

If you have one bad day in sales, there is a chance to make it up the next day. One bad blog can be easily forgotten if we hit our goal on the next post. The important moment here is what we do next, no mater the outcome of each day. Do we stop? Or do we keep going knowing we are in ____ for the long haul.

I don’t know about you but I have a lot of work to do, miles to traverse, and rejection letters to battle through before I reach my goals.

Have you ever given one day too much weight? What happened as a result?

Writer, Why Do You Keep Writing? Find Your Why.

In yesterdays post was about treating your writing like a job. This I said will help you get out of bed, stay up late, and place it on a higher level of importance. But one commenter brought up a great point that I failed to mention. Getting out of bed and getting to work is much more compelling when we know the reason we are doing it.

Photo Credit: Roberto.Trombetta via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Roberto.Trombetta via Compfight cc

Discovering Your Why

Do you have a dream or project that you enjoy and want to work harder at but just cannot bring yourself to do it consistently? I totally get that. Many writers bail after the first year or so. I once read that the average blog lasts eight months.

Writing day after day without recognition or any growth that we can see is tough. Part of the reason is the “I want success now” mentality of our western culture. The other part? Maybe we don’t have a ‘Why’, a reason we are doing it.

Have you ever sat down and thought of your Why? The reason you are writing or chasing your dream in the first place? If it is money you have most likely figured out you may have a better chance of making more money doing part time shifts at Starbucks for years than making millions on your creative endeavor.

Okay money may become part of the equation, but I firmly believe your Why must mean more than this. It must give you a thrill or a tickle or a vision of a life worth living when you think of it.

Give Your Why Some Space

Don’t know what your Why is? It can be tricky if you haven’t given it any thought. I encourage you to take a chunk of time and go somewhere you get clarity. Go visit a park, a coffee shop, or a dark closet where no one can find you.

Then think for however long it takes you to give you clarity. You’ll most likely have to revisit this time and time again and it may change as you grow. But the overall purpose of discovering your Why will go a long way toward motivating you to work harder and invest more in the life you want.

My Why

My Why is twofold. One, I love encouraging people. I love to bring energy to projects and help people realize their potential. Second, I’d love to write and speak for a living and hopefully elbow out more time with my family.

These are the reasons I write.

What is/are your Why(s)?

Writer, It’s Your Turn

As a husband, parent of three (going on four in November), full time cubicle dweller, and writer, I know what it’s like to be busy. I also know what it’s like to have these important and life giving things crash into each other and all over my writing goals.

SpotlightBut I realized something lately – I’ve been waiting : For the perfect time, the perfect idea, and the perfect platform to go after the writing life I crave – more time with the kids, chances to meet other authors, and spread a message to websites yet un-pitched.

But we cannot wait. Life is a current and we need to swim.

I’ve been waiting for someone to tell me that I am an author and that I can have permission to chase it. Affirmation is wonderful but the life of an author is one of constant rejection and resistance. It is also the life of trailblazers not ones who keep trying the first ten feet of path after path and turning back when it doesn’t feel right.

Don’t delay anymore friend.

You are a writer.

Claim it.

Live a life that speaks it.