Where Will You Be In One Year?

When we blog or write daily and we don’t have success, we can easily get discouraged. We put in a lot of work on the post and no one came to see it or our words are garbage and we throw away the chapter.

At this point we can either give or keep going. Giving up makes the most sense because the blogging/writing/artistic/creative life is tough. We must work harder than most to push ourselves to the next plateau and the cliff is straight up.

But what if you don’t want to give up? What if you want to fight through the tension, go out on a limb, and dance in a minefield?

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

Each year I ask myself these questions at least a dozen times. What’s the point? Do I really want to keep doing this? Is writing for me? Then, I write the next post. Why? Because I am focused on the goal ahead not on what happens in the day to day.

Don’t get me wrong, daily success is thrilling. A strong day in sales, a great day in the comments section on your blog, or a promotion. Shortly after that though, roughly eight hours later most likely, the day is fresh, the achievement has faded, and the blank page is there again complete with blinking cursor.

We need to develop the march of the everydayer. You and I must come prepared to put in our work, but not looking at the ground below and the daily miles we have to traverse but instead be fixed on the mountain we want to climb, far in the distance, and move forward with jaw clenched.

So, friend, I ask you this question. Are you looking down at your feet? Or are you looking ahead at the goal you set at the beginning of this year or the last. You want to reach ___, right? Then focus on the long haul.

Where do you want to be in one year?

White Space And Why Every Writer Needs It.

If you are like me, your life is filled with noise. I’d love to be the pondering cabin dwelling writer, however, I live in a much more vibrant world. I have a wife, three (soon to be four) kids, a full time job, and a budding writing career. This is not to mention the housework, the extra curriculars, the struggling to make ends meet, and trying to stay in shape.

Life can move at such a pace that I feel if I make one misstep, the collapsing bridge will catch up with me like a villain in an Indiana Jones movie.

Ever feel this way? When you are overwhelmed and there is no rest in sight?

One thing I’ve learned is that though I desire a night where I sleep more than six hours straight or have four uninterrupted hours on a peaceful Sunday afternoon, there is little chance that I’ll get it. At least more than twice a year.

So how does one find the capacity to charge into the creative foray of writing every day? The key for me has been to clear out bits of time for White Space.

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

White Space is the clean, nothing space. It’s like a newly fallen snow. It’s pristine, uninterruptable space. Where you take a brief walk, close your eyes, lie back in your car, and just clear your head. It’s a bite size respite in the current of a frenzied life.

My White Space happens during the week at lunch. I clear my head by walking down a park path that weaves through a forest. Or, I go downstairs to my desk and kick my feet up and read in the early morning or late evenings.

In this space I pray, journal, or read something inspiring, or just am quiet. I breath deeply and soak in the silence or rustle of the leaves as they are brushed by the wind.

White space is precious to me because its budgeted clear your head time. I know I need it when I am wound a little too tight from work or life and I need to visit my park or read quietly pronto. It doesn’t have to be an hour or even a half hour as long as I have a handful of minutes to find the quiet.

For me, White Space creates balance and gives perspective. Do you create White Space in your life? How do you spend it?

Why – You Never Know If You Don’t Try – Is Still True

When I relaunched my blog, I knew I’d eventually hit a wall. Every writer who produces consistent works does. The other day I thought about moving my blog to three days a week instead of every day.

The reason? I was not sure about the post that was about to go live.

If I’m honest I thought it was merely okay. It was fantastic when I wrote it but in the light of the early morning it felt strained. Now, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

Then it went live.

I’m thrilled to say I had the most follows I’ve had in several months. I had the most views of the day that week and I had some great comments.

The message of this post is simple. The old adage – you never know if you don’t try -is still true.

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Photo Credit: Adrian Fagg via Compfight cc

It also shows that you never know what can happen if you put in the effort. But it does increase the odds about 100%.

In the words of Seth Godin, Ship it! You’ll either have something to learn and grow from or you’ll succeed.

An editor or agent may love your story.

A novel may ready to be converted into an e-book and posted on Amazon or Smashwords.

So try. Give an effort worthy the task.

Have you been surprised by success before? Tell me your story below.

How To Make Lifestyle Changes That Last

A few years ago I wanted to start running. My company paid for the entry fee for a local run. I was playing hockey and was otherwise active and thought it’d be fun experience. I also thought it would be incredibly easy.

I started out running two miles at a time a few weeks before the race. Then two weeks before the race I developed a pain in my knee. No big deal. I kept going. Then shin splints set in and I needed to stop. I’d overdone it and missed the race. I am still not running regularly.

We all have grand plans for our lives. But once we start to change anything it can be nearly impossible to make it stick. Every try to write every day, diet, or exercise? But why is change so hard?

Photo Credit: rosswebsdale via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: rosswebsdale via Compfight cc

One reason, according to the American Psychological Society, is that we start too big. We want to run two miles a day, like I did. Or we want to be a published author, tomorrow.

But, the path to sustainable change starts small.

We should strive to write 100 words a day not 2000. Run a half a mile first, then a mile. We all want change to happen immediately and permanently and we get discouraged and stop trying altogether when we fail.

If you want to change anything start with a small goal and then take it up a notch from there.

I need to start exercising regularly. What do you need to change?

What To Do When You Have Too Many Ideas And Too Little Time

I love starting projects. But, just about the time I have a decent start on something another idea tries to elbow itself to the forefront. Books and stories take time to write so this can make it hard to focus. This is a wonderful and troublesome side effect of writing consistently.

Do you have too many story ideas and too little time?

Photo Credit: pelcinary via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: pelcinary via Compfight cc

When I want to give in to the next project there is only one thing I can do.

Write down the idea in a commonplace book.

I had been doing this for a while but I first heard the commonplace book term from Todd Henry founder of Accidental Creative.

It’s a place we record everything related to our projects. This serves two purposes.

One, it helps us focus on the task at hand and settles the pestering of the other idea. And two, it creates a vetting process.

When I write an idea down and keep working on my current story, the idea has time to incubate. If I’m not passionate about it when I finish my current work, I don’t do it. If I still like the idea three months later, I might try it, if my schedule permits.

I use a journal now and Google Docs, but I just downloaded the Evernote app.

How about you? Do you have a common place book? If not, how do you stay focused on the task at hand and keep track of the ideas that keep coming?

My Writing Update

I’m putting the finishing touches on my Jot Presentation and the organization that surrounds the conference. Not a lot of other writing time. Join me for this free conference in Three Rivers, MI on September 12th. If you have not signed up, please do so HERE. The sign up is for seats, not a charge. Again, the conference is absolutely free.

Next up is rounding out my Breathe Conference presentation on Worldbuilding. My books will have to wait, but I’ll submit a few short stories this week.

Photo Credit: mbshane via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mbshane via Compfight cc

BLOGS FROM THIS WEEK

With any project or career we get to the point that we ask ourselves Should You Throw In The Towel Or Try Harder? check out this blog if you are struggling with this question.

Blogging can suck up our time. In the blog Can’t Find The Time To Blog? Create A Blog Checklist I discuss how I have shaved twenty minutes off my blogging time.

On the journey to our writing we can get tired. This post discusses what to do when we feel exhausted and need to rest Do You Ever Get Writer’s Burnout?

We all want more of something. More of life, from our spouse, from our bodies, from our careers and our books. In Laziness and Fear The Two Roadblocks To Our Dream I offer up ways to overcome and succeed in these areas.

Our blogs can invade our lives like vines. They can grow into dinner time, steal the portion of our day we use for our books, and become something we loath not love. In Creating Boundaries For Our Blogs I show you how to reign in this invasive platform.

What Music Gets You Writing talks about the music that helps you paint your scenes or gets you in the mood to write. Please share the steaming service you use or music you enjoy while composing your novel in the comments section on this post.

Write well this week. Take advantage of any spare scrap if time!

What Music Gets You Writing?

When I’m stuck with a project and short on time, I like to jump start my stagnation with a little music. Music is a powerful tool. It can motivate, sooth, and evoke emotions in an instant.

But rhythm and beats don’t just help the writer it can help in other instances as well. Music therapy has been proven to help will all sorts of disabilities and can improve mental health.

But what sort of music gets you going?

Photo Credit: Taylor Burnes via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Taylor Burnes via Compfight cc

I used to enjoy Grooveshark but now I use Pandora or an album I purchased. Some of my favorite artists are Frightened Rabbit, Of Monsters and Men, Hey Marseilles, Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind Album, and Florence + the Machine.

A good song can also set the mood for a scene. Need something mysterious with piano and strings as characters are trying to solve a puzzle? I use the soundtrack from A Lady in the Water.

A noble charge across a plain in your fantasy novel? The soundtrack for The Two Towers in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy does the trick.

If a character dies or is parted, I listen to the magnificent string piece by Alan Silvestri from the movie Cast Away.

This is the part where Chuck and Wilson the Volleyball are separated. It may seem silly but the inanimate object has been his only friend for years. I did this and I hear the music every time I read the piece I wrote while listening to it. I cannot help but tear up.

As you work on your piece, do you listen to music? Do you listen to a streaming service? If so, what are some of your favorite streaming sites, bands, or inspirational pieces?

Creating Boundaries For Our Blogs

I’m a novelist, but I’m attempting to reboot my blog. Because of this I occasionally skip my daily word count for my book to ensure I have a post. This has become my writing regiment – blog and then book.

But then I second guess myself. Should I build a platform for my book or write a book for my platform? This is the modern writers version of the cart before the horse.

It depends what you are trying to do. Are you trying to be a blogger or a novelist or both? If a writer, then make that the priority and create boundaries for your blog. If a blogger, focus on that and ditch the book.

Photo Credit: Arenamontanus via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Arenamontanus via Compfight cc

This question surfaced in my mind after I listened to a Simple Life Habits Podcast by Jonathan Milligan.

My desire is to be a published novelist. Mr. Milligan, in his simple brilliance, says to do the creative stuff first if this is the case. Work on your dream, book, piece of art, first. Then do the other things that surround it. Why? Because it builds momentum yes, but because this is why you are blogging in the first place. This is where joy comes from.

If you want to be a writer of books be wise with the limited time you have. Write what you desire to write, not what others say to write or what you feel obligated to write.

Work on the project you love, then sprinkle in the rest.

Laziness and Fear – The Two Roadblocks To Our Dream

Whenever I have hope for humanity, I only need to peruse the comment section on any article on the internet to dash them. People are merciless, unforgiving, caustic, seeking out arguments and unbelievably petty. This is why I believe writing, or any art, is a terrifying thing.

We open up shop and, like a gallery, people can now judge what we do. Not only that, we tie our self worth to it. And people do surgery on with a chainsaw.

Little Dude Is Terrified Photo Credit: ⊰◖iFhe◗⊱ via Compfight cc
Little Dude Is Terrified
Photo Credit: ⊰◖iFhe◗⊱ via Compfight cc

This is part of the reason I don’t like submitting. I don’t even like posting blogs, but I make myself. I know it’s all part of the publishing game, but that does not make clicking the submit button any easier. But this fear must be put away if we are to rise to the place of publication.

Fear can cause us to chase comfort. Fear can cause us to choose safety. But it can also make us miss out on something that might breathe life into us and set our souls aflame.

But fear is not the only problem we artists and entrepreneurs face. Laziness is his close ally.

This is the still small voice that says we need to enjoy life now. We need to kick back and relax, it’s been a tough day at work or home. We deserve this. We need it. Relax, have a snack and a margarita.

But this one day of enjoyment can lead to a week. Have you ever sat on your couch staring at a blank screen realizing you just binge watched and entire TV series?

Laziness, like fear, tells us to chill and do something comfortable. Seek easy it says. Seek what satisfies now, not what endures.

But art is not comfortable or easy. It’s bold and difficult. It’s stretching, moving, reaching, taking the stage and standing in the spotlight.

What will you choose today?

Will you reach?

Or will you seek comfort?

Do You Ever Get Writer’s Burnout?

We all get to that point. Where we are too exhausted to give any more to the world. We need sleep. Our eyes are blurry, our energy sapped, and our attitude irritable at best.

When I enter this territory, my mind will pose a question sooner or later.

Do I try harder? Or do I wait until tomorrow?

Photo Credit: miguelavg via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: miguelavg via Compfight cc

I have answered yes to tomorrow more often than I’d care to admit. But last night, I heard what that voice was really saying. You’re tired, do it another day. Even if it doesn’t get done tomorrow, it’s not a huge deal. You’re burnt out.

I have been staying up late and getting up early too much over the past two weeks. A lot of it was because of fun tasks I enjoy. I’d written a blog or two almost every day, posted on another blog twice a week, wrote on my novel, prepped for a talk at a conference in two weeks, and sent in a proposal for another talk in October.

Usually during a blitz of activity like this, I become a super hero and write like a maniac. Then, I become the super bum, and have little taste for it. How do you find that balance?

For me, the first thing to understand is that I cannot sustain this output. Something’s gotta give. Either my sky high expectations or projects. Often it was the expectations and I’d try to cram in everything. At times, I would stay up until midnight and then try to wake at five or six to get projects done before the kids woke up.

I don’t know about you but I’m not a robot. I need rest just like everyone else and I needed to figure out a way to get it.

I know that getting proper rest would make me more alert at work, more patient with my family, less irritable, and prone to working with a better attitude. I sat back and realized I cannot have both manic activity and sleeplessness.

Thus, I’ve recommitted to sleep and care of myself just like I did with my blog. I will wake early only if I go to bed on time. If I feel the push to finish something in the evening, I will refrain from rising early.

This is the best answer I have to burnout. Do you have any suggestions?