Stalling Is Not Writing

Yesterday was a good day. Great sales day at work, I mowed the lawn, played with my kids, gave them a bath, did all of the dishes, swept and mopped the floors, and had great conversations with my wife and a friend. I’ve also been deviously tricky and the person I’ve tricked is me.

I’ve been stalling.

All of these things are not fillers. These are things that matter to me for practical reasons (work, the upkeep of my house) and because I love them (my wife, kids, and friend). Earlier today I talked with my wife and we agreed that Monday is a writing night. I planned to write 500 words on my latest work in progress, two blogs, and finish a few writing related emails. Once we got the kids settled I was going to head to my desk around 8:30pm or so. It’s 10:30pm on Monday.

I don’t know about you but occasionally when I have scheduled time to write I find myself doing other things. It’s not because I do not love to put words down on the page, I do. It’s more because I want to be ready mentally. I want to have my mind in the right place to prepare a brilliant meal that agents and readers will devour and beg for seconds. At least this is what I tell myself from time to time.

Writing Fuel
Let’s Do This!

Sadly, this cannot be done while on TSN.ca/NHL. Strangely enough, this cannot be done on Facebook, Twitter, my gmail account or anything else internet related.

So today, if you are reading this and you are not done with your novel and this is scheduled writing time, I ask you to stop reading. Stop and get to work. Our stories must live and they cannot do so when we are thinking of the perfect words, messing with our playlists, or daydreaming about a wicked huge contract. It’s time to grab our lunch pail and hard hat and get to work.

Write 500 words today.

Cheers,

Bob

Is Jon Acuff A Liar?

I respect Jon Acuff and thoroughly enjoyed his books. They were inspiration to me and if I had an inordinate amount of money I’d have them all in hardcover. They were water to my creative soul, and gave me drive to work hard and joy at being productive. Unfortunately, I tried to implement one of his suggestions and I failed, utterly.

DawnAround the country there are people who get up and meet at 5am. These people have taken a page from Acuff’s book Start. I don’t recall the official title of these stoic individuals but something like Starters or 5amers comes to mind. Anyway, Mr Acuff says starting early can help your productivity throughout the day. Start goes on to say that it’s easier to do whatever it is you strive to do or be (WRITER!) before the day’s cares and stresses have at you and sap your energy. I wholeheartedly agree with this. If I get up early and pray, read the bible, have a bit of writing time, then enter my day, it is 100% more productive than if I just get up, stumble to the coffee pot and then to work.

You may or may not agree that there are morning people and night owls. They may be subjective terms that mean productive members of society and unmotivated slackers. But how does Mr. Acuff expect me to get up at 5am when I’ve just been up at 2am and 4am with my children? And I won’t even mention my cat. Bandit, I love you, but clawing my face at 3am is not appreciated. Ever had sick kids and be up all night? Try getting up when you are already up. Ouch.

Though it was a huge inspiration, I find myself diverting from a lot of what is said in the book Start to “what works for me whenever it works for me and does not take away from my family time”. I’ve wasted a lot of time looking at what other people do and try to implement their formulas. The thing is I am not them. Their plan worked for them during that portion of their life and got them to where they are today. It might not work for you and me. We might have to find another way.

I was talking with my wife the other day and lamented the fact that I simply cannot count on the morning hours to write, not at this juncture in my life anyway. It has worked in the past, just not now with children this young. She asked me what worked for me and I thought about it. When is the perfect time for me to write?

I‘d like to think of myself as that responsible morning person: get up, make coffee, and put the house in order before anyone is up. I get some exercise in, some writing too, and have an effective morning launch into my day. But maybe I am that slacker night owl that writes until 1am four nights a week.

So for now, I am going to write when I can count on it: when everyone else is asleep and I am awake. Per my wife’s brilliant suggestion, I cleared a shelf next to my bed and bought a 15$ fan to curb the clickety-clack of the keys on my laptop so my wife can sleep.

I guess the idea of Start is to, well, start. Mr Acuff, you weren’t wrong there. Thanks for the inspiration to keep going.

Write 500 words today!

Cheers,

Bob

My Recent Publication

Yesterday my fellow Weakling Josh Mosey wrote a blog mentioning his article in a online magazine called Catapult. I don’t toot my horn often but I wanted to mention mine. You can read it here. It discusses the shuffling of priorities that occurs when you become more serious about a passion. Hockey is a big love of mine that is now regulated to watching the Detroit RedWings a few times a week. I used to play all the time and I loved it. I hope to again someday.

Olde Hansa. It’s in Estonia so it has to be Olde.
– Courtesy WikiCommons

However, when it comes to having kids, serving God, and wanting to be the best husband I can be – all while trying to begin a writing career; there is only so much time in a day. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I don’t want to follow the olde adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Yes. Olde is spelled with an ‘e’ when you mention olde adages. Or at least it should be.

Thanks for reading. Look ahead to your weekend and elbow out some time to write. If you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. Though writing can be a thrilling and energizing task, in the end, it is simple hard work.

Cheers,

Bob

Become A Professional Writer

I am amazed by professional hockey players. Of course you think I mean their ability to keep their balance but this is only part of what keeps me in awe. What captures me most is that for all but one month of the year they fill their days with routines of diet, exercise and discipline to be prepared for game time.

Nicklas Lidstrom former Detroit Redwings Captain
Nicklas Lidstrom former Detroit Red Wings Captain

This makes me think of my goal – to be a writer. I want to be a published novelist and I am waiting to hear back from an editor as I write this. But I do not have a routine. My writing time is not consistence and while I do my best to find that time each day, I still struggle with consistency and it shows in many places, especially here on my blog.

So, I have a question for you writer. How are you becoming a professional writer? How are you getting your writing time in, educating yourself and progressing? Books on writing speak of a thousand ways to improve and hundreds of things to consider when putting a book together. But they all settle on one main ingredient that is essential to becoming a novelist – showing up and doing so with consistency.

Today my alarm went off at 5:15am. I decided it was time to create “office hours” for myself to make sure I have writing time every day. I might make this earlier if needed, but I realize the importance of routine. Writing is hard work. Good writing even more so. I think it’s time we roll up our sleeves and get to work.

How about you?

Have you recently made a new dedication to the craft?

Do you need to?

There is no right time.

Start now.

Start today.

Cheers,

Bob

Busy Writer? 10 Ways to Squeeze in Writing Time.

Before kids, I wrote every Saturday morning from 5:30am until 9am. It was beautiful. I had enough time to finish a chapter, or, well, enough time to finish anything really.

That time is gone but my kids are a blessing. I’d never trade one for the other. And my life is so much fuller now, allowing me to draw from these deeper experiences and use them as fuel to write better novels and short stories.

Below is a list of several ways to keep your writing going when you schedule gets busy. I’ve used them all and I hope you find this list helpful.

  1. During Lunch Break – You can write on your iphone or android phone. If a library is close by head there or simply bring a pad of paper and write by hand.
  2. While in the Waiting Room – If you have meetings with a client or have a dentist or doctor’s appointment be sure to bring something to write with.
  3. While Preparing Dinner – There are times when I might have to wait for the water to boil, the sauce to simmer, and the dishes are done. This means I need to be present but not actively preparing a meal. Have your notebook ready for these spare minutes.
  4. Right Before Bed – Instead of reading 20 pages of a book, write one or two  pages of your own.
  5. Early Early Morning – Like 4:30. Yes I know. Yikes. But you love this remember?
  6. During Nap Time – If you are a stay at home dad/mom, and still have this time, use it while you can.
  7. During Breakfast – Some people read the newspaper during breakfast or read a novel, you can work on yours.
  8. As the Kids Play – This sounds like terrible parenting, but our kids do need to learn to live without us hovering over them, right? So, if they are playing quietly, get a few sentences down during the peace before rushing to the housecleaning, work projects, etc..
  9. Be there 15-20 Minutes Early – Wherever there may be: grocery store, work, meeting, etc.. This is different than the waiting room tip as you have created this space and are not waiting on someone else. Imagine using them both together. Is that 40-50 minutes??
  10. In Between Commercials – If you wind down by watching television try to get a few paragraphs in the 17 minutes of commercials during that hour long show.

These are not fool proof or the only way to do it, but I hope you found them helpful or at least made you think of how you can use those lost minutes to work on your novel.

Do you have any other suggestions? Please post them in the comment section below.

Cheers,

Bob

Effective Writing: By Schedule or By Whim?

Don’t lose these!

I am a list maker. I live and die by them at home and at work. Sometimes I get sidetracked and provided that the lists do not get lost, they are essential to me to obtain measurable progress and complete tasks.

This translates to writing as well. I jot down ideas for blogs, stories, tangents, and the like to finish later. If I did not, I am sure the stoke of genius (or so I think!) would rush out of my mind just as fast as it invaded. So for me to be a successful writer at this stage of life I have to plan and be intentional. I have to fight for time to write. If I do not it gets crowded out.

This made me think (and perhaps you can do this along with me) about what makes me successful in my writing? Would it be allowing a jolt of inspiration to come tingling into my mind while I least suspected it and then feverishly scratching it on paper, the laptop or any device that spits out sentences? Or rationing out time every day at the same time to plod along, however dull and uninspiring that might seem.

So how about you? Are you better at waiting for the stroke of genius to come, then churning out fifty pages? Or are you better suited to write two pages a day, every day, until your novel is completed?  My suspicion is that when you evaluate the structure of your daily life, or lack there of, you will have your answer.