Why Small Moments Are The Most Important Ones

Last year I signed up for a 10K run. Immediately thereafter, I was hit with a flood of panic. The run was less than two months away and I had not even jogged in six months.

In my mind I knew I would fail. But I decided to try anyway.

After I crossed the finish line, I slowed down to a walking pace and smiled. I could not believe I finished. I beat my target time and never walked. It was a feeling I won’t soon forget.

After the moment passed, I wondered, how did I do it? How did I go from not running for months to completing my longest distance in years?A man against the setting sun

The truth is, I didn’t get up and believe I was going to run a 10K on my first day of training. I mapped out a one mile run and began. After time, I throttled things up a bit and soon, I covered four to five miles in a single exercise.

This principle of starting where you can, right now, and battling back the fear is applicable to running and the writing of books. For my novels, I focus on a the current chapter, not the entire length of a book.

These small moments – days with mile runs and weeks with two thousand words – are the moments that matter in the end. Any grand, front stage moments start here in a state of quiet progress, day after day, with a target date in mind.

As I headed out for training runs this weekend in preparation for my 10K in a two weeks I was reminded of the power of a single writing session compounded one hundred times. The yield is a book.

Don’t forget about the every day. Don’t forget about the small moments of writing time. Put them together. You’ll be glad to did in a few months.

 

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Writer, How Do You Hit Your Word Count Goal?

My ideal writing output has changed over time. I’ve tied the satisfaction with my work to words per week, hours allotted, and pages per month. Most of this effort is me trying to trick myself into writing as efficiently as I can during a challenging point in my life.

My key to finish any work is simple – do whatever it takes to keep going. The easiest way for me to keep writing is to take my focus away from the project itself and instead focus on the steps I need to take to complete it.

Stone steps 1

I enjoy taking something complex and tearing it down into smaller bites that help me understand it or conquer it. This is true whether I am building a desk, mowing the lawn, or driving to someplace I’ve never been, my mind is constantly looking for steps I need to take, like a map unfolding before me. Writing is no different.

I firmly believe if you sit down and tell yourself you are going to write an eighty-thousand-word novel, you will fail. If you start out and say “I am going to write the first scene or thousands words” and go from there, you have a better chance at succeeding. For me, writing has always been a joy. But doing the same thing day in and day out, even if I am creating new and exciting content, can grow old. And I, like you, need to figure out the best way to keep moving forward.

But for the writer, production is what we seek. The ability to create more stories. This week I am going to try something new.

I am going to write down seven different word count goals. 500 – five times, and 1000 – two times, on the dry erase board near my desk. Before I go to bed, I must erase one of these numbers. If I am tired, it is 500. If my wife has a project or is going out for the evening or it’s my writing evening, it’s a 1000.

By doing this, focusing on a small portion of words, I will have a better chance of hitting my word count goal on each one of the projects I want to accomplish.

2 blogs (300 word-ish each)

2500 on my YA novel

1500 on my e-book about writing with a family, job, and other life obligations.

To keep momentum, I will come to the blank page with a solid idea of what I want to write about by leaving a note where I left off. This should prevent me from losing the story thread between days.

This is just one method – focusing on bite sized pieces of larger projects. Once I am done with these pieces, it’ll be time to develop a process for editing. But one step at a time.

How do you keep going?

How do you ensure you keep moving forward with your books?

 

 

When You Feel Like Giving Up

Have you ever started a project with gusto and then while in the middle of it realize that you may have made a terrible mistake?

It could be a book, an organizational task, a move, or a garage sale. But you and I have both had that sinking feeling of “Oh no. What have I done!”

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Photo Credit: TheNoxid via Compfight cc

My blogs, books, and several of my moves over the last ten years have felt this way. I stand there, wondering what the next step is, and consider eating seven slices of pizza as the answer to feeling overwhelmed. It’ll never get done anyway.

I wrote a while back about the U shaped journey of the creative referenced in Todd Henry’s book Louder Than Words. The visionary starts their journey with joy. They can see the other side and it should be a quick hike down into the valley and up the other side. Once the sun is out of view, however, the forest grows tall and dark, and the traveler hears a wolf howl. So they stumble forward with suborn single-mindedness and soon enough, find ourselves out the other side.

Life is not this easy. But the truth is that anything worth doing is bound to get really difficult. I am not sure who said writing books and having four kids was easy but they were lying. Sure I love my novels and non-fiction stories and love my kids even more than that but I’d like to commiserate with you and say we’ve all been there, feeling like everything we do is terrible.

That ___ is a mistake.

That ___ will amount to nothing.

It wasn’t always this hard or energy sapping but it feels like it will forever be so going forward.

Friend, great writers weren’t magically endowed with the writing gift when they were born. Sure some might have a leg up, but I know many writers that are incredibly talented that struggle with doubt in the middle of every project.

I have heard it said that when you get to the place of being really uncomfortable or feeling like you are lost then you have crossed the border between imitation and originality in art.

If you feel like giving up, I implore you to move forward. There are so many books and blogs that have encouraged and inspired me on my journey. I know that it may seem impossible to continue onward but I hope you do. Remember the joy that came at the beginning and write from there.

It will take time but keep writing. That is the one and only way to know if your work will be worth it in the end.

Do you feel like giving up?

How can I encourage you today?

 

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!?
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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?

Why Every Writer Should Think Like A Scientist

If you’re a writer you’ve been a failure. No matter if you’re a New York Times Best-Selling Author or just starting out you wrote an article, short story, book or blog post, and it was rejected or not excepted by your audience.

It’s easy to feel like a failure. I know I have.  No matter if it’s merely a blog post that got poor traffic, feeling rejected can be crushing. I know several writers that have given up because of it.

If you’re a writer who has given up or you are feeling a mountain of discouragement on your back because of constant rejection, I’d like to propose a change of mind to you.

You are not a writer, blogger, essayist, or novelist. You are in fact a scientist. Let me explain.

Microscopic

We are experimenting. We are doing our best to tell stories and introduce ideas to see how they will be received.

There is a famous quote by Thomas Eddison ( this is the best source I could find) where he says he did not fail to invent a lightbulb 10,000 times, he found 10,000 ways light bulbs didn’t work. Failure taught Eddison to innovate, to try different methods.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your take, there is no manual to writing. You can’t follow X Y Z and produce a great book. You can have mentors and guidelines but you must figure it out on your own.

So if you are discouraged, work backwards, reverse engineer your story. Ask friends what went wrong, remove parts, see what your can do to make it move faster, tighten up the grammar.

If you do this it can be a healthy way to separate yourself from your work to lessen the blow on each rejection. It can also help make writing fun again and ignite the thrill of the chase.

Who knows were you might end up if you simply persevere?

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.

laid table

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.

10 Tips To Cut Out Distractions And Just Write

There are many amazing tools we writers have today. We also have a dozen more hats to wear. Not only are we the author but also the editor, publicist, marketer, and distributor. We have limited time to produce our work and more demands than ever.

Ten

Thankfully, the way books get written has been the same since people started writing. We need to put our rears in our chairs and write. Below are ten tips to just write and cut out the clutter.

  1. Have designate social media time and writing time. Separating the two times may be difficult but doing the most important task first means we are always guaranteed to finish out work. Then we can get to the platform building.
  2. Turn off your WiFi. If you don’t allow access to email or internet, you won’t get distracted, hopefully.
  3. Write at a library. Writing at home or coffee shop can be distracting. A library has low traffic and is almost always quiet.
  4. Have time planned out in advance. If you write down your writing time on your calendar it can be a great motivator to actually do it at that time.
  5. Write with pen and paper. I like to do this because there is no chance of wandering. It can be slower, but when I transcribe the words it is usually my first edit, which is a nice process.
  6. Have a designated writing machine. If you have a tablet and desktop and laptop, make one for writing and one for social media. This way you won’t have the social media or other data just the documents you need to write.
  7. Take breaks. This seems counter intuitive but I can only be productive for short bursts and not hours. Sometimes I write for forty five minutes and then go fold some laundry.
  8. Reward yourself. The same as number 7 but with a good twist. Your break is a snack or walk in the woods. Maybe just being quiet with a cup of coffee.
  9. Have a word count goal. Write 1000 words in a sitting. Then get to whatever it is you need to get done.
  10. Set a timer. The Pomodoro method is one example. Write for twenty minutes then take a five minute break. All using a timer. This helps me focus on writing time and break time when it comes and I do not tax my mind too much.

Do you have techniques that help you “just write” and stay focused? Please share below!

What To Do When Life Happens To Your Book

No matter how fool proof our daily word count goals or writing plans are, life will eventually have something to say about them. There will be a cold, a job loss, a move, a season of melancholy. Something will happen to stop progress.

Maybe you are stopped now?

Photo Credit: shumpei_sano_exp3 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: shumpei_sano_exp3 via Compfight cc

I know when a significant life event happens to me I curl inward. I read more, try to get time by myself, and journal. These are all good things. But you know what I don’t do? Keep writing!

I like to be serious about my work but I am no drill sergeant. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve stopped writing before because of something challenging that I knew was coming. If I’m honest, a hand full of times I’ve simply thrown in the towel instead of rising to meet it a challenging time in my schedule.

I view the routine interruption as a disruption rather than an opportunity to show my commitment the craft.

But how do you show commitment to your body of work when something interrupts your schedule? You prepare in advance.

Just like a dieter running into a tempting cupcake, we need to be ready when life events occur and say that we will not give up ahead of time. (Granted some we cannot prepare for and we need a break. It’s just that simple.)

Make up your mind right now. You won’t stop because of that wedding, job change, or move. You’ll be ready to write no matter what.

Meet the challenging time head on. Circle it in your calendar and don’t allow a life hiccup to derail you.

My Novel Recommit – 7000 Words In 7 Days

Books are arduous things. They can start off with the thrill of a new idea or, if this is your first book, the thrill of seeing your words on the page. The beginning can be the best.

However sooner or later we arrive in that messy middle. Either a life event or work gets in the way or the book becomes difficult. This is the place where questions start.

Am I good enough?

This idea is stupid, right?

Then statements follow.

No one would read this. I am not a writer. The End.

The fact is, the middle is where novels and dreams die.

But we can stop this. We can continue. It starts with a recommit.

Today I am restarting in the middle. I am allotting time to my book that went to conference planning, blog writing for conference website, and developing my talk. I am going to write at least 7000 words in 7 days on my YA novel.

typewriterWhy 1000 words? Because that’s a bit of a stretch for me to do daily while prepping for my workshop in three weeks at Breathe Writers Conference and keeping up with my blog.

A novel is a struggle but its also like lifting weights. If you can do 80 lbs don’t try to do 150lbs the next day. Try 85 or 90 and work your way up from there so your body can handle the stress.

If you plan on joining me this week please comment below. Also, share your word count goal. I like a good challenge. Write well today. I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

How about you? How can you recommit to your novel? What word count or goal is a little more than your current output?

Five Ways To Restart Your Book This Weekend

Todd Henry recently came out with a book titled Louder Than Words. It discusses the idea of creating an authentic voice that makes your work stand out. It’s a good read thus far.

In the book he discusses the U shaped journey of pursuing our passions.

Photo Credit: JohnSeb via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: JohnSeb via Compfight cc

We stand on one end of a gorge. On the other side, we see the business, the book, the career. It looks so easy. We just need to hike down into the canyon and then up out the other side.

We start this journey with gusto and optimism. In the middle we start the hear cry of wolves and lose our bearing. The trees are tall at the bottom and we have to forge a river. The path gets spotty and it’s harder to follow. This is the part most people give up.

But, Mr. Henry says, this is when we need to dig in. This is where we start to move above our comfort level. Soon enough we break through this uncertainty, find the path again and get out the other side just before we are attacked by the wolves.

Why do I bring this up? Because we’ve all lost steam on a book or project and started to question if the journey was worth it in the first place. Below I list five ways to get excited about the rugged book writing journey again.

  • Go back to the original idea or content. Why? Because this will get you in touch with the excitement you had at the beginning.
  • Recommit. Tomorrow I’m going to start a new challenge on my blog. 7000 words in 7 days. This does not include my daily blog.
  • Write with a friend. Having a companion, even if they don’t talk to you, can keep you accountable.
  • Be honest. Are you not working on it because the idea is no longer good or because you are in the thicket in the story above?
  • Don’t wait for the muse. Neil Gaiman said if you want to be a novelist you must learn to finish things. You can’t wait to be inspired.

If you are not committed to your book and know deep doing it’s a great idea and you want to continue but don’t know how, join me here tomorrow.

I’ve said this on my blog a hundred times, books are marathons not sprints. You cannot expect to get far and be great right away. It takes time and practice.