The Write Life

I’ve been taking myself seriously as a writer for about two and a half months now. I’ve had what I thought were successes and what I know to be failures. I’ve had a wakeup call. I’ve spent a boat load of money on things to feather my Tortoise Enclosure. (The explanation of a Tortoise Enclosure in this context comes at around 6:00 minutes in, but, the whole video is well worth a watch and I highly recommend it.)

What I haven’t really done is define the concept of what I’m doing each night when I go into my office and work. I’ve mentioned the concept of “The Write Life,” or my “write life” before, and I thought today’s entry would be a good time to expand on that and give it a definition.

In the broadest sense, “Write Life” means anything that I’m doing that I can interpret as moving me towards the goal of completing and publishing my writing and running my business as an author.

A lot of people who run blogs or YouTube channels about entrepreneurship will tell you that being an entrepreneur is exhausting. They’re right. They’ll tell you that it all falls on you. All of it. Every. Single. Thing. Everything there is to be done falls on you, especially when you’re just starting out.

What none of them can really do is impress upon you how true that is until you embark on that journey yourself and start getting a glimpse of just own much “all of it” really is. I was at that point about two weeks ago. I’d been doing a lot of research on how indie writers and self-published writers were making their way in the world and becoming successful. The take away I had from that little bout of research is that an indie author’s job is about 30% writing books, and about 70% promoting them, maintaining your web and social media presences and managing your business. It’s really several full-time jobs, all put on one person, at least at the beginning.

It was enough to give me a thousand-yard stare and make me ask myself what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.

I still ask myself that on the regular. But, what I’m not doing is panicking about it. So much of life is perspective. So, while they may not be as fun as world building or creating characters or plotting, maintaining my website, posting on Facebook and Twitter, or, ugh, editing, are all things that are moving me closer to my goal, which is to be a full-time author living at least as comfortably as I am now on my work. Anything that moves you towards your dream is worth doing, even if you hate doing it. Keep at it long enough and eventually, you can make enough to pay someone else to do the shit jobs you don’t want to do.

Until then, it’s time to make the donuts. Be well, gentle readers.

Credit where it's due.

Over the weekend, I had a nice conversation (in a bar. Before noon.) with my friend / brother-in-law, Kevin. We don’t talk much on the regular, but he’s a good guy and super creative. In the midst of talking about writing, making comics, travel and all the other semi-drunken ramblings, he brought up an interesting point – giving credit where it’s due, even if you don’t have the widest of audiences. This gave me an idea.

For today’s entry, I wanted to start a semi-regular feature – giving a shout out to the people in the creative community who have inspired me, helped me learn, or who I just like.

For this first entry, I’m going to focus on my favorite writing YouTube channels.

I’m fairly certain that you can learn to do literally anything, from building a bird house to performing brain surgery*, on YouTube.  While you wouldn’t think that a cerebral craft like writing lends itself particularly well to a visual medium, it does. There are a great many fantastic indie authors / YouTubers out there who’ve shared fantastic bits of wisdom on everything from writing craft to organization, to the business aspects of being an indie author. 

Here are my top three faves in no particular order:

Chris Fox – Chris was the first YouTube author I happened to come across when I was starting my journey. The man is a machine. He’s written 30 (!) books in I would guess about somewhere between 5 and 10 years. These are mostly in the fantasy / sci-fi genre, but he also has a great, useful series on writing, writing better, writing faster, and the business of writing. Watch Chris’s channel if you want to know what it takes to be a successful indie author.

Kristen Martin – Kristen is the supportive friend who will listen to you complain about your problems and gently, lovingly tell you why moping isn’t helping. She’s a self-published author of four, soon to be five books. She knows a thing or two about writing, for sure, but, her girl-boss attitude is widely applicable to other areas of life as well as the write life.  

Ellen Brock – Ellen is a book editor and writing coach. She has the quick, no nonsense presentation that my gnat-like attention span needs to absorb ideas. She’s got a knack for reducing a complicated idea like plot structure down to a short list of on point solutions to common problems. She’s direct, incisive and I get the sense that she would be lovingly ruthless if you gave her your book baby to edit.

Follow these awesome people here:

Kevin - https://www.instagram.com/kevin_martin_foster/

Chris Fox - http://www.chrisfoxwrites.com/

Kristen Martin - https://www.kristenmartinbooks.com/

Ellen Brock - https://ellenbrockediting.com/

*Do not attempt to perform brain surgery if you are not a trained and licensed brain surgeon. There is no acceptable number of YouTube videos that will replace medical school.

The Calm After the Storm

The last week or so has been crazy. The day job, thankfully, has been a little slow, but the dog has been sick, my husband has been traveling, and all attempts to establish any kind of routine have failed spectacularly. I was in no emotional place to sink my teeth into anything new, like I was at the beginning of the year. What I needed was a hard reset.

But first, the Buffett Report – For anyone who doesn’t know, Buffett is my nearly 2-year-old Old English Sheepdog. He is, generally speaking, a good boy.

We took him to the vet yesterday to get neutered and microchipped. His general thoughts are:

-          Surgery makes Buffett groggy doggy

-          Pain meds make Buffett druggy doggy

-          The Cone of Shame is the absolute worst. Hate the Cone.

Buffs came through surgery like a champ though and is recovering well. This morning, he’s pretty much back to his normal doggy self.

Now that life is getting back to normal, it’s time to stop being flustered and get back to what I’ve taken to calling my “write-life.” For this week, that means re-plotting and re-writing my first draft of the first novel I’ve been working on. That also means organizing some priorities and starting to build an author brand. This website and blog is the start of that, but it needs to be fleshed out with a more robust social media presence. It’s sort of horse vs. cart situation in that I don’t want to create a big buzz and then have it fail spectacularly, but at the same time, I don’t want to be shouting into the void like I am now. Let’s go do the day.

Buffett.jpg

An Ode to Laziness

Yesterday was a spectacularly shitty day. Not just because it was Monday and I’m not in a position where I’m excited about Mondays, but just the events were shitty. My dog, Buffette, bit my husband. Not playfully either. This was a “go to urgent care and get yourself patched up” kind of a bite. I may be rationalizing a little bit, but I don’t think Buffett meant to do it. I think he was scared, saw my husband’s efforts to get the remaining bits of drink coaster out of his mouth, and interpreted it as a threat. He’s a dog. He doesn’t understand that we’re trying to protect him from his own stupidity.

In the aftermath, we’re left with the heavy decision about what to do with the dog. It’s no small decision. We got him as a little baby puppy and have deeply loved him for the last almost two years.

Right now, he’s on strike one. We’re going to (finally) get him neutered to see if that mellows him out a little, and we’re going to obedience training. We’ll see how it goes and leave the really hard decision in a future that may or may not come.

In any case, after the ordeal, I was in no frame of mind to go to work. I had spent a good portion of the morning thinking I was going to have to put my fur baby down, and trying to take care of my injured husband. Work just wasn’t in the cards, so I took a sick day.

Ultimately, this was the best thing I could have done for myself because I took the sick day with the intention of healing my sick and wounded soul. The incident with the dog was just the catalyst for a breakdown that had been coming for a few weeks. Work has been crazy busy – to the point where I’m getting caught up to Monday on Thursday every week. I realized I was on the wrong path with a book I was already invested in, emotionally and financially, so I’m having to drastically re-shape my book baby. Worse, I didn’t want to do that at all. I had already invested a lot of time and money on it, and I still don’t know if any of it is salvageable. I’m not sure I even want to find out. That’s how disgusted with myself I was/am over it.

So, like any responsible adult of nearly 38 years, I ignored my problems for a day. I napped. I played video games. I didn’t do any of my write-life stuff, like listening to podcasts on craft or watching YouTube videos on procedure. I didn’t spend time thinking about how I should be at the computer, trying to fix the royal mess I’d made of a story, or worrying about the arbitrary (and, let’s be honest, wildly unrealistic) deadlines I’d set for myself. I just let everything go for a day.

And I’m not going to apologize for it either. Least of all to myself. One of the things I struggle with is treating my life like it’s valid. My successes, my weaknesses; these things are ridiculously easy for me to look at and say “enh, that’s not so much. You weren’t fighting a bear while you did that, so it’s not really worth getting worked up over it.” It’s easy for me to devalue what I do. As a result, I feel guilty for not doing things when I feel like I should have been working.

What I need to realize, and, what I’m forcing myself to accept about yesterday, is that you can’t run at that pace for very long. When you’re trying to reason with hurricane season (to paraphrase / borrow from Mr. Jimmy Buffett) you can’t go full tilt all the time and expect decent results. You must give yourself time to be lazy. Without it, all you get is crap.

A Shitty Epiphany

I figured out what was wrong with the novel. I'm telling the wrong story.

Episodes of Supernatural are usually broken down into three acts. Just like any story, each act has a beginning, middle and end. The first act establishes the story, some of the characters, and why our heroes are getting involved. It also splashes about a gallon of fake blood across the screen. 

It's great for context, but it's not the main attraction. I've been writing Act I of an episode of Supernatural. What I need to be writing is Act II and III. Sam and Dean should have rolled up in the Impala in their Fed Threads, questioned the grieving family about cold spots and weird enemies, and determined that it's a so and so monster that can be killed by such and such. 

Back to the drawing board.

Blockage

This post comes out of a rather disappointing week of working, or should I say, not working on the second draft of my novel.

A little back story – It started life as a short story. I always intended it to be short, not to grow into this monstrous thing. 30,000 words later, and here we are, slogging through the second draft and it’s taking F-O-R-E-V-E-R! The complete lack of self-doubt I had during the first draft seems to have arrived at the party fashionably late. Now, instead of being reasonably confident that my little ghost story was at least marginally entertaining, I’m convinced it’s crap. Utter and complete crap.

I’m no whiz at overcoming this. I have been slowly pecking away at it for weeks now, periodically coming up with things to add to the existing work. And then not doing it. Sometimes, the only way around is through, and that is, I think, where I’m at just now. I just have to keep trudging through the draft. I must remind myself of the rules:

1.        Progress over perfection – it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to get done.

2.       Do the work – if you don’t write, you won’t have a story

3.       A little work is better than no work

That’s enough wallowing in self-pity. Back to work.

A Late Status Report

I was supposed to put up a post on Monday. It’s Thursday. Life’s hard, guys. Anyway, this entry isn’t going to have a big, over-arching idea to it like the last one did. I’ve got a bunch of those stored away for future entries. This week at the day job has had me jabbering quietly to myself in a corner when I get home from the cube farm, so just a simple status report on the career progress is about all I can handle.

Draft one of the first novella is finished. It’s been finished for a little while now – longer than I wanted. In my ambitious work scheduled, I set aside a week between completion of the first draft and the start of revisions to allow the draft to marinade. Well, draft one marinaded for about a week and a half, and now I’m behind on the revisions. I’m about half way through draft two. I keep realizing that I needed to add things in previous scenes, so I end up running back and forth across the manuscript, making no real progress.

I need to do what I did in writing the first draft, which is not edit while I’m writing. I wrote that first draft, which clocked in about at about 16,500 words or so, in ten days. I did the first edit in three. It’s now taken six days to get through the revisions to the first five out of twelve scenes. I still don’t have my cover idea pinned down, and I’m not quite in love with my title. I haven’t even thought about writing the blurb yet and oh god, why am I doing this to myself?

Oh, right, see the end of my first paragraph.

Anyway, our intrepid author has her work cut out for her. Will she get it edited in time? Will she have a cover to post with her novel? Will it all go down in flames? Sign up for the mailing list to find out!

Purpose Driven

I’m picking up many new habits this year. The first of these is, on New Year’s Day, you pick a word or phrase to be the theme of the year. It should be simple and it should describe the direction or emphasis for the year.

This first year’s phrase is “Purpose Driven.”

The idea behind that phrase is that your purpose, your goal, should be informing the decisions you make. There’s probably some real science somewhere to support this idea, but, I think there’s a lot of “truthiness” to the idea that life must have purpose. What you do with your time should have purpose. You have to feel like what you're doing matters, because if you don't, emotionally, you wither and die.

I’ve been experiencing this slowly over the last couple years at my 9 – 5. It’s not fulfilling to me, and to be blunt, I feel that most of the time, what I do there doesn’t matter. At the risk of oversharing, I feel like I’m spending time there for the sake of a paycheck when I should be doing what feeds my soul, what drives my purpose in being and gives my life meaning.

So that’s why, in 2018, everything is purpose driven. This isn’t a new idea, but it’s one I was pondering today – Nothing’s going to change if nothing changes. To that end, I’m changing what I can change to move me towards my purpose, which is writing. The biggest change is thoughtful evaluation of my decisions. Everything, from down time to work to working on my career is being approached by first asking the question “does this move me forward? Does it drive my purpose?”

It’s only been three weeks, but so far, so good. In that time, I’ve set my goal for the year, set up my publishing schedule, began organizing the business aspects of being a professional indi author, set up this blog and website and finished the first draft of the first novella I intend to publish. I should note, I’ve had crazy “be your own boss” schemes in the past. They’ve lasted a few days or a week at most, so three weeks is pretty good for me.

The purpose, the goal, is to be out of the 9 – 5 by March 2, 2019, writing full time and supporting myself at least as comfortably as I am now. I’ve got a lot to do in a short amount of time, so I better get to it. If you want to keep up with the story as it develops, sign up for the mailing list!