A new approach

My dream is to become a professional, full-time writer who makes a living off his work. That dream is not yet a reality for me and may not be for a while; nonetheless, it is a realistic dream, one that, with a lot of hard work, patience, and maybe a little bit of luck, I will be able to achieve.

In order to achieve this dream, I realize I need to expand my scope beyond this blog and my Twitter and Facebook accounts. I’ll still use this blog, to be sure, but I understand better now that this blog should not be my main platform. If I want to sell books someday and make some actual money, I will need to build an audience using more than just my blog.

I say all of this to announce, in a somewhat meandering manner, that I am going to be blogging a little less often from now on. I am currently researching different ways of building a platform, which means I am devoting less time to blogging. I’ll still be blogging here, don’t worry, but don’t expect as much new content. I’ll probably blog a few times a week from now on, instead of aiming for every day as I have been trying (and failing) to do for a while now.


Write Every Day (and how to deal with procrastination)

For the past several years now I have set aside time each day solely devoted to my writing. The time and length have changed over the years, but I still keep writing every day. Currently I write for two hours in the morning; or, if I am working on a finished story, I spend those two hours editing/rewriting what I already have done.

Writing every day is how I get my work done. If I did not write daily, I am certain I would probably not be even half as good a writer as I am now. At least I would have less experience, and experience is possibly the most important commodity a writer can have. Only experience can tell you, with absolute certainty, what does and does not work for you; nothing else is nearly as true or honest as experience. Remember that.

For NaNoWriMo, writing every day is particularly important if you hope to meet the 50k limit. It’s possible to finish NaNoWriMo without writing every day, I suppose, but keep in mind that every day you miss is another 1,667 words you’ll have to write in order to catch up. That can add up quickly; miss three days and you’ll have 5,001 words to write, which is about a tenth of 50,000. If you’re a fast writer you might be able to catch up quickly, but even then, you’d have to work far harder than the writer who keeps up with his daily word count.

Even if you’re the kind of writer who doesn’t write every day — and there are some writers who are like that, though I don’t understand how they get anything done that way — you should consider writing every day for NaNo at least. It doesn’t need to be two hours, like I do. Just find a good time for you to write at and make sure you can always be there to write.

If you decide to start a daily writing schedule — and you should if you ever want to get anything done — then you have to deal with distractions. The Internet is a particularly bad one; there are so many interesting things to do on it, so many cool blogs and web articles to read. It’s even worse because using the Internet can make us feel like we’re doing something related to our work, even though we’re usually slacking off (unless you’re doing some research, although research I think should generally be done outside your writing time unless it is a fact you need to know right away).

I know the distracting nature of the Internet well because I still struggle with it myself. I have found that a good way to deal with the Internet is to check your social media, email, and other things before you write. Do it quickly, don’t spend too much time on any one site, and then when you are done, start writing. It’s not perfect (there is always something new to do or read on the Internet, after all, and it’s easy to think “Just one more website” after I’ve checked out my usual things), but my mind is a lot more willing to focus on my writing when I have dealt with some of my more pressing Internet business.

As far as I can tell, there is no way to defeat procrastination once and for all. All writers — from the masters who have dozens of novels under their belts to amateurs just starting out — must struggle with it their entire lives. Experienced writers probably have an easier time avoiding procrastination than amateurs, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the professionals never have to deal with it. They just know how to handle it better than the rest of us (usually, sometimes, maybe).

As with nearly everything else in writing, go with what works for you. Ultimately, you and you alone know how you can deal with your procrastination. All I can do is offer some ideas that will hopefully help you.

What do you think? How do you keep your attention on your work during your writing time? Know of any good articles, books, or writing resources to help the procrastinating/easily distracted writer?


One day, I got lost

A few years back, I went on a ski trip to New Mexico. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, one I will always look back on fondly. Every time I think about it, I always smile.

Except for one tiny problem: I got lost.

Here’s the deal. See, that ski trip also happened to be my first time skiing. As a result, I didn’t know jack about skiing, so I took a skiing class that was supposed to teach me how to ski. And indeed, I did learn a few basics, but overall it wasn’t a very good experience for me and is not something I would want to go through again.

Anyway, I went on this ski trip with a small group of four other friends. As they already knew how to ski, I was left in the skiing class on my own. We agreed to meet up for lunch when my class took a break, which seems like a simple thing that couldn’t possibly go wrong, but if you are thinking that, then you clearly don’t know me at all.

Long story short, I kept falling over and messing up while learning to ski, so I was naturally quite relieved when the teacher said we could take a break. I picked up my skis and left, but stopped and realized that I had no idea where my friends were. Had they forgotten to tell me where we were supposed to meet up? Or had I not paid attention when we were talking about that earlier?

Either way, I knew better than to use my cell phone and call one of them. That would be the smart thing to do. Again, if you know me, you’d know I choose the dumb, obnoxious way of doing things first before doing the smart thing. It’s not my fault that the smart thing and the dumb thing often look the same at first glance.

So I spent some time wandering the ski slopes, which wouldn’t have been so bad if 1) there hadn’t been so many people and 2) I hadn’t been soaking wet from falling in the snow. And with the sun coming out, I was even starting to get hot, forcing me to temporarily shed my coats until the cold air forced me to put them back on again.

I’m not sure how long I wandered. I would like to say hours, but it was probably just one hour, maybe even half an hour. It felt way longer, though, especially when I sat down and pouted like a little child.

Eventually, I got hungry. I went to what appeared to be a snack stand, hoping to get something warm to eat, but the kind lady working there informed me that they only sold drinks. Thankfully, she pointed me to the restaurant, so I eagerly made my way down there when I ran into two of my friends, who, as it turned out, had just gone out to look for me.

You’d think I’d be happy to see them, but because I was feeling like the Hulk, I yelled at them. Not for very long or very loudly, but I treated them uncharitably just the same. Like I said, I always go for the dumb, obnoxious methods first.

They took it rather well, however, and brought me back to the restaurant, where I got to sit down, eat, and recover from my unexpected adventure. I felt better after I ate, although it wasn’t until the next day that I tried my hand at skiing again.

It’s an embarrassing little episode in my life, but I reckon we all get lost sometimes. Tell me about your experiences getting lost in strange places in the comments.

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