Do you have a back-up dream?

About a year ago, I was talking with a friend about dreams. His dream, he told me, was to become a well-known singer/performer. He even informed that he intended to get his start on The X Factor. He was quite serious about pursuing his dream, as he practiced his craft often and had a plan to get it started.

Yet he was realistic. He knew that there was a slim chance he could succeed as a singer, that it wasn’t always possible to fulfill your dreams. So he had what he called a “back-up dream,” another, easier to obtain dream that he could fall back on in case his singing career didn’t quite take off.

I have no idea how my friend is doing, as I haven’t spoken with him since. But the idea of a back-up dream stuck with me and has recently come to mind as I pursue my own dream of becoming a professional writer who makes a living off his work.

I’m not naïve. I know that the publishing industry is highly competitive and tough to break into. Even with the ease of self-publishing, many writers still fail to make enough money to make ends meet. The vast majority of them have some other kind of job to help pay the bills and support their families, which is completely understandable. Even the best writers still sometimes have a hard time making as much money as they’d like.

What does this say for me, a basically newbie writer who has not sold even one novel?

It means the chances of me making enough money to live off of are slim. Slim, but not impossible. It means I will probably need to find another way to support myself, another career path that will pay more or at least enough to pay the bills. Unless I become the next breakout author — which, let’s face it, isn’t very likely, no matter how good I may be at writing — I will need to investigate other options to support my writing.

The only other career paths I’ve seriously considered, aside from writing, are teaching and pastoring. Of the two, teaching is the only one I could realistically see myself doing, as I’ve been told I could be a good teacher. I could be an English or creative writing teacher, as I love to talk about writing and help other people improve their craft.

I haven’t taken any concrete steps toward becoming a teacher yet, though. Mostly this is because I want to see how well I do in the publishing industry first, but another part of me feels that accepting any other job or career path other than writing — even if it is one related to writing or is supposed to support my writing — would somehow make me less of a writer, even though far better writers than me have managed to hold down another job in addition to their writing.

So I suppose you could say that my back-up dream is teaching. In the event I fail to make any serious money off my books, I think I’d go get my teaching degree. I know teachers don’t always make a lot of money, either, but at least they can usually count on a regular paycheck, unlike writers, who normally can’t (although self-publishing is quickly changing that, I think).

What is your dream? Do you have a back-up dream? If so, what is it? Is it more realistic than your main dream?

-Tim

Bloomsbury Seeks Deal With Author Solutions

Bloomsbury Seeks Deal With Author Solutions.

Read this important post by David Gaughran if you are interested in using Bloomsbury’s Writers’ and Artists’ website to self-publish your work.

-Tim

 

The challenges of mowing the lawn

Mowing the lawn is a bit like playing whack-a-mole, at least where I live. You cut the grass in one area down to a reasonable size, but by the time you do that, the grass has grown up elsewhere, forcing you to mow that down. And the area you mowed before that one? It’s grown up again, that sneaky little bastard, and you gotta do it all over again.

This is especially noticeable if your lawn is bigger than your living room and you own only a measly gas-powered lawnmower that sometimes conks out. Throw in rain and sunshine at the most inopportune moments and suddenly it seems easier to let the grass take over your property than it does to cut it down to size.

Nonetheless, when the weather cooperates and I am feeling up to it, I put on my old work jeans, my baseball cap, and my work gloves and get to work. Usually by the time I finish I am hot, sweaty, and exhausted, not to mention more than a little resentful toward Mother Nature for working properly when I don’t want her to.

Our front lawn is fairly easy to take care of, as is the driveway. Both rarely get out of control. And on the unusual occasions when they do, they’re easy to mow down to a reasonable height. Because those are the places guests and visitors usually see first, I have a stronger motivation to keep those areas in good condition than I do the other parts of our property.

It’s the backyard that’s the problem. Because it’s been so hot this summer and our lawnmower was out of commission for a while, we’ve been forced to let it grow. It’s grown up to my waist, which is no laughing matter when you’re 5’8″ like I am. I’ve made some progress in recent weeks, having cut down the grass that was almost up to our back door, but there’s so much to do and at this point I am pretty sure the grass is laughing at me behind my back. When I finish it, I may post pictures here as proof of my conquest.

Have any lawn work that urgently needs to be done? Finished something you’ve been working hard on for a while? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments below.

-Tim

National Day on Writing

Until today, I didn’t even know there was a National Day on Writing. According to Wikipedia, the first one was held on October 20, 2009, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English and they’ve been doing it on that same day once a year ever since.

I think it’s a really cool idea. I am unsure how I am going to celebrate. Perhaps I’ll go the obvious route and simply write, as I usually do.

To my fellow writers, how do you intend to celebrate the National Day on Writing this year, if you choose to observe it at all? How did you celebrate it in past years, if you have?

-Tim

Sunday Meme Thread

The amount of new books to read Is too damn high! | Rent Is Too Damn High

This will be a regular feature on my blog from now on. Every Sunday I will share a funny Internet meme, either one I created or one I found that I liked. Feel free to share any funny memes you’ve found or created in the comments.

This week’s meme is one I found on Meme Generator. I thought it reflected how I and other book lovers feel about the amount of books we want to read sometimes.

-Tim

My UPS Job Interview Misadventure

Back in December of last year, I applied for a job at UPS. It was a part-time job, but the description said that if I worked well enough, it could turn into full-time employment. I was mostly looking to make some extra money, but if I got a full-time job out of it, well, that would be pretty nice, too.

A few days later, I received a call from UPS asking if I wanted the job. I of course said yes and they gave me a time and place for a job interview. As this would be my first job interview ever, I was especially careful to find the exact directions I needed in order to get there. I used Google Maps to find the location of the UPS facility and wrote them down.

Of course, life is never that simple for me, as I have written about before. When I set out for the interview — it was at twelve noon, so I had to leave my place by about eleven to get there, although I made sure to leave half an hour early in case I got lost — I made sure to follow the directions I had written down as best as I could. With extra time and written directions, what could possibly go wrong?

I ended up getting lost. It seemed like I drove around the entire town, searching for the UPS facility. I even stopped and asked for directions a couple of times, but somehow those didn’t help one bit. It was like getting stuck in a hard video game; you know what you have to do, but somehow thought fails to translate into action.

Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Geez, that’s pretty bad, but he had to find the place eventually, right?”

You’re absolutely right. I did find the UPS facility where I was supposed to be interviewed. I was quite late, of course, probably by about an hour or so, but at least I found it. Then I walked inside, apologized profusely to the job interviewer, swore never to be this late again, got the job, and went home with sunshine and rainbows dancing on my car hood.

Of course not. In reality, I didn’t know that was where I needed to be. The front door was locked, so I assumed it was the wrong place. It was only after I got home and called UPS to reschedule the interview that I learned that I had indeed found the right place, but you were supposed to go in through the back, which is why the front door was locked. How I was supposed to know that before, I didn’t know.

All I know is that it still rankles me even now, nearly a year later, whenever I think about it. I don’t obsess over it, but I imagine I’ll always remember this event, as it’s probably the biggest epic fail I have ever done in my life so far.

Have you ever had a tough time finding the place where you were supposed to get interviewed for a job?

-Tim

Embracing doubt

To me, doubt is a very important part of who I am. I find that doubt has helped me avoid making many costly mistakes I might otherwise have done, simply because I’ve sat down, looked at the situation, and asked, “Why should I do this?”

In my opinion, doubting is a good thing and often a sign of wisdom and maturity. You should never believe everything everyone says, partly because there’s a lot of bullshit out there, partly because there are a lot of contradictory messages (you can’t be both a theist and an atheist, for example).

Because of my inclination to doubt, however, I can be consumed by fears and insecurities, even if I have no good reason to feel that way. It’s easy for me to worry about what other people might think about my writing, my ideas, my appearance, my actions, etc. This kind of doubt restricts me, keeps me from doing what I need to do.

The difference between good doubt and bad doubt is this: Good doubt clarifies what you need to do, who you need to be, what you need to believe, while bad doubt obscures your actions, your personality, and your beliefs.

Think of yourself as a fossil that was recently dug up. Depending on how far down you were buried, you might be very dirty, making it hard to tell what you are. You could be anything at this point.

Now imagine doubt as the brush used to clean off fossils. You apply doubt to yourself to find out what you believe, who you are, and what you need to do. The more you apply doubt, the more you will come to understand yourself, although at times it may be confusing.

I don’t know how much of this made sense. Would love to hear some of y’all’s thoughts in the comments on doubt and the ways in which it can help or hurt us.

-Tim

“Write What You Know” and What That Means

Kristen Lamb offers some good thoughts on the old writing mantra “Write what you know,” as well as a heartbreaking story that illustrates exactly what she is talking about. Go read it.

-Tim

Kristen Lamb's Blog

We often hear the saying, “Write what you know,” and that advice can be seriously confusing. Since I’m assuming most of us have never been abducted by aliens, lived on other planets or turned into vampires, the story world would be a very boring place if we followed this advice literally.

Plot and world-building are merely delivery systems for conflict and character—real “human” emotions and experiences. If we write something that’s all car chases, vampire bites and geeky technology we’ve invented, the story will be uninteresting and superficial. I see this in a lot of submissions I review. A writer gets so fascinated with dragons or terrorists or aliens that the body of the work lacks a beating human heart.

Any good story should be able to change locations or points in history and still make sense. A Thousand Acres is King Lear on an Iowa farm. Fiction…

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