The Forest and The Trees

These days, writers are being called upon to juggle more and more things. We need to be able to do more and more things. Websites, blogs, social media, self promotion, and so much more in addition to actually – you know – writing.

This can be a handful for the full time writer. Now add in a day job, family, friends, other interests, reading, that pesky thing called “Sleep”, getting outside in the sun*, and you can see how easy it could be to get overwhelmed by it all.**

For all of us, at one time or another, we can feel like we’re walking in a forest that goes on forever in all directions. Sometimes there’s a path, sometimes not. Sometimes there are others walking with you, sometimes not.

What it all boils down to is that some days, you look at your life and it’s like:

 

 

 

 

 

When times like these come, I try*** to remember two things:

  1. This forest is amazing, and huge, and full of potential, and there is a lot of stuff going on in here.
  2. This forest is made of individual trees. If I’m not paying attention to where I’m going, I could walk into one.

Sure, the trees may grow close together in spots which would make it seem like you’ve got two, or three, or more trees in front of you, but at some point, you’ve got to choose a direction, which will point you toward a single tree.

All you have to do is not walk into it. Nobody really wants to get a facefull of bark. So you can move around the tree, climb it and see what there is to see up there. You can stop and watch it before moving on, or just pass it on by without a backward glance. Deal with this one tree in your way and move onto the next.

And, while the trees are something that you’ve got to deal with, they are also pretty awesome in their own right****and you never can tell when, while dealing with your trees, a new opportunity arises that you never expected to find that takes you in an entirely new direction.

 

 

 

 

 

(Ok, maybe not as literally as this, but you get the idea)

So, the next time you’re feeling lost in the forest, try and remember that the forest is awesome, and that there are a lot of things both cool, and not so cool, going on in there, but don’t try to look at the whole thing all at once. Focus on the tree in front of you. Linger and enjoy it, or skirt around it as quick as you can and move on to a better, more interesting tree. Or hop up on the tree’s shoulders and ride it for a while.

See where they take you.

 

Time: 1:20 pm-ish

Music: None.  It’s been a weird day…

 

 

*No, seriously, you need to get outside once in a while.

**This is not to say that full time writers don’t have these things as well.

***Not always successfully.

****Something I also, sometimes, forget.

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Coming Home

“Well, back to reality.”  – The Supreme Being – Time Bandits

“I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.” – Groucho Marx

I got home on Saturday afternoon from being away from home and family to attend ConCarolinas, and a weeklong writer’s retreat.

I always come away from these events energized, inspired, and a little humbled to find myself considered a part of, or an equal to – which is much more humbling and, to my mind, surprising – such an incredible bunch of writers.

This week, I busted my ass.

These kinds of opportunities don’t come along for me every day (More like every year – circumstances permitting) and I was determined to make the most of it. I went into the retreat with a very specific goal:

I was going to finish the second round of edits and send them off to my agent by the end of the week.

I got a little bit of a head start during the ConCarolinas weekend due to a combination of waking up early and using that time prior to any panels I wanted to attend, to write.

With the head start, I came into this last week with the task of editing 34 chapters.

To put it in perspective, with my day-to-day writing schedule, this would have taken me roughly 3 weeks to complete (less if I’d elected to work on the weekends). Add to that, some of the edits required a complete rewrite of three chapters.

I did it in 4 days. 2 of those days, I called it a night around 1 am.

That’s not to say that I spent every waking moment writing, but this wasn’t a vacation.

I had a job to do.

Part of it was that the book feels ~Really~ close to being ready for prime time. So much so, that, taking into account the summer vacation months, my agent and I are planning on shopping the book around beginning September first (Stay tuned, Y’all) and that’s pretty exciting.

Another part is that, despite reassurances that I shouldn’t, I feel a little guilty for going, so I needed to make sure that I made it worth the sacrifices my family made, both monetarily and in terms of me being gone, to make it possible for me to do this.

You may be wondering what it’s like to come home after, what would appear to be an ideal writing environment.

It feels pretty damned good.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time and I got a lot of stuff done with a group of folks that I care deeply about.

It wasn’t Home.

At best, this past week was a rough simulation of what it might be as a full time writer. Yes, I’d have more time during the day to write, but it wouldn’t be in those crazy long chunks of time that I had and I sure as hell won’t have someone cooking three squares a day for me.*

You may also be wondering how someone makes that transition from the retreat to reality.

On one hand, the switch is pretty instantaneous. You get home and there you are with your family, the dogs (also family), and the day to day asserts itself.

On the other hand, the switch is gradual. The inspiration is still there, the eagerness to keep going with the Work, to do more. What happens is more of a longer term thing. Saturday was almost pure “I’m home. Stand back while I soak it all in.”

Today, and going forward though, is planning, deciding what to do to keep the fires of inspiration lit, doing all of the little “I really need to do ‘that'” things that came to you during the conversations you had and stories you’ve shared.

Taking stock of where you are, where you want to be, what the next steps in that direction are, and taking those steps.

Bringing the retreat home and making it part of your day to day.

 

*THANK YOU, CHEF!!

 

 

Time: 11:37 am-ish

Music: Demons and Wizards – Beneath These Waves

 

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Retreat!

I didn’t think I was going to get a blog post up, because here I am, decompressing after ConCarolinas, looking forward to spending nearly an entire week almost completely within my own head.

For those of you new to the blog, every year – circumstances permitting – I meet up with my writer’s group and we spend a week, writing, and critiquing, and talking about the art, craft, and the slog of the writing business.

If you can manage it, I highly recommend taking a few days to get away from it all and prepare to get to work.

Now I am not talking about taking a vacation. Don’t get me wrong, if you need a vacation, by all means take a vacation. Get the rest you need. Take care of yourself, you’re the only you that you have.

This is not a vacation. I’ve got a goal set for myself and it’s a pretty significant chunk of work if I’m going to meet this goal.

I can’t wait to dive in.

Compared to my usual writing day, a day at the retreat would be similar to an entire week’s worth of writing, so I really want to make the most of the opportunity

I’ve let my group members know what that goal is and I know that I’ll have someone to help keep me on track* and I’m going to share that goal with you.

I am working on the second round of edits for my agent and I want to use the opportunity this week to get that done and send that off.**

I’d like to get it done before the end of the week, so that I’ve got time to work on other things.

That means (Stand back, I’m going to do math), if I want to reach this goal, I’ll need to get through 11 chapters a day, for three days.***

So set some goals and see if you can meet them. You might not be able to get away for an entire week****but try and take some time to see what you can do,

 

Time: 7:17 pm-ish

Music: Blind Guardian – I’m Alive

 

*This, too, is a nice thing to have. Not as someone that hangs over your shoulder, badgering you to get work done, that’s how people get hurt.

**Unfortunately, you don’t get to remind me or ask me about my progress.

***Worse than it sounds – a boatload of work though.

****I can only manage it once a year

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Sunday Schedule

 

Here is where (and when) I’m going to be on Sunday.

  • 9:00 AM – Rituals for Creativity.
  • 11:00 AM – What Diversity Is Good For
  • 2:00 PM – Avoiding the “Representing the entire (Insert Marginalized Person Here) Trap
  • 5:00 PM – Worldbuilding in SF vs. Fantasy
  • 6:00 PM – Pacing the Novel

Hope to see you there!!

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Getting Away from it All

Balticon is in 4 days!!! Will I see you there? Check out the Events page for my schedule. I’d love to meet you.

The next couple of weeks are going to be busy for me. I’ve got 3 days of the day-job, then I fly out to Balticon. Sometime in there, I’ve got to pack, make sure all of my traveling ducks are in a row, keep writing, get enough sleep, and spend time with my family.

Right after that, I’m on the ground for two days, then I’m off again for ConCarolinas, where I get to catch up with (most) of my writer’s group and to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in way too long.

Right after that, will be the annual writer’s retreat where I get to hang with my tribe, share work, and get some serious words on the page. It’ll be bittersweet. We’ll be welcoming new faces and toasting absent friends.

I won’t kid you. I really need this week. It’s not that I’m not writing (I am). It’s more that although writing is a solitary thing, I need this time with my tribe to recharge my batteries, heal some of the damage that the real world has done, get myself centered again.

I come away from these weeks with new ideas, new energy, and a new commitment to the drive to carve a place for myself in this business.

Here’s hoping that you find some time to spend with your tribe.

 

Time: 8:06 Pm-ish

Music: Dragonforce – Soldiers of the Wasteland

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Get Out There

Balticon is in eleven days!!!

The schedule is more or less final, so here’s where I’m going to be:

Sunday May 28, 2017

  • 9:00 AM – Rituals for Creativity.
  • 11:00 AM – What Diversity Is Good For
  • 2:00 PM – Filing off the Serial Numbers: Good or Bad
  • 5:00 PM – Worldbuilding in SF vs. Fantasy
  • 6:00 PM – Pacing the Novel

Monday May 29, 2017

  • 10:00 AM – Excuse Me, There’s Kissing In My Book: The Elements Of Romance In SFF

You can also find this info on the Events page.

So…

I’m a little late on the blog post today, but better late than never, right?

What started out as a couple of hours of yard work turned into about 5 hours and some change of yard work. I’m glad I got my writing done early, because I am *Spent*.

What I want to talk about today is not, in fact, writing. Actually, it’s about Not writing* and spending time to recharge. Refilling the well is a necessity and, I for one, sometimes find myself needing to give myself permission to do just that.

So today, after an amazing breakfast of sausage and biscuits, I spent some time doing things that I enjoy:

Rugby: It’s a hard to get full matches reliably, here in the States. I’ve been waiting all weekend for someone to post the Saturday’s match between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes.

This was a match that I’ve been waiting for and dreading.  I’m a fan of both teams and didn’t want either side to lose.

Both sides put on a hell of a game and, in the end, the Crusaders edged out the Hurricanes 20-12.

Writing: I do enjoy writing, though I usually take weekends off. This time around, I’ve got an agent waiting for me to return some edits. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not pressuring me for anything and I feel completely comfortable taking as much time as I need to get things done. I wanted to put in the extra effort, is all.

Getting outside: I’m one of those rare breed of folk that enjoys mowing the lawn…and I’ve got a lot of it. It was nice and sunny and I spent a good amount of time out and about in it**. Once that was done, There were some other things to do (Like I said, about 5 hours and some change) and, now I’m blogging and relaxing before dinner.

So that’s my message for the day. Get out there. Go do some things that bring out the YAY in you. Refill that well, you’ve earned it.

 

*Yeah, I know that we’re not really ever not writing. Ideas bubble and brew pretty much all the time. What I mean is sitting won in front of the page and physically writing.

**I also broke a shovel…

 

Time: 7:01 pm-ish

Music: Blind Guardian – Twilight of the Gods

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Keep Going. You’ll Get There

First, a quick bit of news:

My schedule for Balticon is up on the Events page. I’m told this is a pretty fluid thing up until May 12th, when it becomes much more carved in stone. I’m trying to squeeze a reading in there somewhere. Check back to see where I’ll be. I’d love to meet you.

Onward…

Some days have a theme.

I don’t mean to say that I’m, somehow, assigning a theme to any particular day but, if you take a higher look at what’s coming at you, you can spot patterns and commonalities.

Not taking into account the flow of Supernatural-themed posts (for which I am kinda grateful), today my social media feeds were all about dreams.

I’m kinda grateful for this too because, lately, things have been moving the needle on the “Vitriolic rage”-O-meter, and I have a hard time dealing with that, and my coping mechanisms aren’t all that healthy to begin with.

The thing is, the common thread today wasn’t about idle dreaming, though there’s nothing wrong with that – up to a point.

Today was focused, not only on the dreams, but also on the work it takes to bring them into reality.

And it does take work. Oh, sure, there are folk out there that appear to have had it all just drop into their lap, but there are two things to consider when you start thinking about that:
1. You are, almost certainly, not getting the whole story, and
2. Statistically, it isn’t going to happen to you.
Now I don’t mean to say that it’s impossible for lightning to strike, only that it’s really, freaking rare and, if you go around waiting to win some kind of celestial lottery, you might be in for a long wait.

A really long wait.

Me, I don’t have that kind of patience and there are a hell of a lot of things that I want to bring into fruition in my life, so I’ve got a lot of work to do.

A lot of work.

And it isn’t going to happen overnight. Like everything else that I can think of that’s worthwhile, the effort goes in one step at a time.

Again.

And Again.

And, although I know that it will take time and effort, I also know that if I keep at it, if I keep going, I’ll get there.

So will you.

 

Time: 11:55 Am – ish

Music: Hammerfall – Bang Your Head

 

 

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Give Yourself Permission to Heal

I hate being laid up.

In large part, it’s because it means that something has happened to lay me up, and that’s never a good time, but it also means that I’m usually sidelined in some way until I can get back on my feet.

On Thursday I had a cancerous chunk of skin removed. It was a patch somewhere between the size of a nickel and a quarter ( I couldn’t see it clearly) and it resulted in a 3-4 inch incision, complete with stitches.

So sitting, standing, walking, and a whole host of other, everyday, activities, aren’t at 100% all the time.

I’ve slept a lot, well, more than usual for me and I’ve spent a lot of time off my feet, watching movies and rugby.

I haven’t done much around the house.

I haven’t done any writing. Not since Thursday morning, prior to the procedure, where I finished (I think) the outline for my second book.

This is completely glossing over that I haven’t been on my game, in general, since the procedure, but that doesn’t stop the guilt from rolling in.

Guilt that I’m not pulling my weight around the house.

Guilt that I’m not writing.

Guilt, guilt, guilt.

Even as I type this, I’m finding it hard to accept that I needed the down time to process what’s been going on. Not just healing the physical damage, but getting my brain settled.

I expect I’ll be back at it in the next couple of days, if not tomorrow morning.

There are some things that you can’t just get back up from and, when they happen, I have to remind myself to take the time I need for me, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Time: 2:58 pm-ish

Music: Fit for Rivals – Crash

 

 

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You Don’t and You Do

You don’t:

Need anyone to give you permission to write.

Need listen when someone says, “Genre X” is dead.

Need to do things “Just so” to be able to call yourself a writer.

Need to Outline.*

Need to discovery write.

Need to listen when someone tells you, “You can’t do that.”

Need to continue to allow that kind of negativity to remain in your life.

Need to explain yourself to anyone.

Need to accept anyone else’s definition of success.

 

You do:

Need to write**.

Need to finish what you write.

Need to write what you love.

Need to take yourself outside your comfort zone.

Need to make grand mistakes.

Need to learn from those mistakes.

Need to ignore the trolls and random assholes that wish they were doing what you are, and can only make themselves feel better, by trying to Yuck your Yum.

Need to take care of yourself – you are the only one of you that you’ve got.

Need to remember that success is defined by what ~you~ think it is.

 

 

*This is, however, a useful skill to have if you decide on going the traditional publishing route. Once you’ve got a sale or two under your belt, you might be able to sell a book based on a proposal and an outline.

**This is primarily a writing blog, so I’m going to assume that, if you’re here, you’re at some stage of being a writer. If you’re an artist of any kind, feel free to replace the word “Write” with “Create” and you should be good.

 

 

Time: 11:38 Am-ish

Music: Lacuna Coil – You Create

 

 

 

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There is no Wrong Way to Write

Sometimes, when I’m writing, I feel like all I’m doing is just banging my head against my desk, trying to jar something loose.

I don’t feel like I’m doing anything at all.

That, of course, makes me feel like I’m wasting my writing time.

Which, of course, results in more, frenzied head-bashing.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember that even when I’m sitting there, not putting a record number of words on the page, that I am still writing.

I don’t know how it is for you, but I am a linear writer. When I get going, I go from “Point-A” to “Point-Z”, and I have to touch every letter in between.

I’ve never been the type of writer that can insert a “Hey, Put something really Cool here!” note to myself and keep going. For those of you that can do that, know that I admire you in a puzzled sort of way. I’m happy with my process and, what you can do is pretty cool, but I’m not wired that way.

What this means is that sometimes I get stuck. I’ll need a name or I’ll need just the right word, or something just isn’t sounding right and it stops me. I’ll get stuck there until I figure it out. Sometimes that only takes a few minutes, or however long it takes to fire up Scrivener’s Name Generator, or to head out to an online thesaurus or dictionary. Sometimes It’ll take longer, while I get up and pace, running it over in my head (I have a tendency to twirl a drumstick – that I got from the Fit For Rivals drummer the last time they played The Shelter in Royal Oak – in my fingers while I do this…Don’t ask, I wouldn’t be able to tell you anyway)

Sometimes it’ll take longer. Sometimes this thing will need time, like a particularly tough cut of meat needs a slow cooker. That won’t stop me from the head-bashing, pacing, finger twirling, etc.

The aforementioned head-bashing is part of the process. I’ll make lists (Longhand. For some reason, these lists are always longhand) and I know that the answer to whatever I’m struggling with is in those “brain-shards” that come off and end up on the page…or, at least, part of it is.

I’ll put this list in a notebook, that I’ll carry with me back and forth to the day-job and I’ll find that it bubbles to the surface every now and again, during the day. Every day until I figure it out.

Sometimes it takes time…and that’s ok.

During that time, though, theres a part of me that feels disgusted with myself for “Going Slow”. For “Not Doing Enough”.

“See that writer over there, knocking out 5 books a year?” This part of me will ask, “Why aren’t you doing that?”

The simple answer is that I’m not that writer.

Neither are you.

If you’re writing, if you’re finishing what you write, how you got there is how you got there.

That’s what’s important.

Nobody is going to buy your book because you write every day.

Nobody is going to pick up that short story because you don’t write during the week and you binge-write 10,000 words over the course of the weekend.

Nobody is going to offer to represent you and your book because you outline, or because you’re a pantser. Or whether you write using Word, or Scrivener, or Notepad, or even via pen and paper.

None of that matters.

There is no “Wrong” way to do this. There is only your way.

What people will pay for, what will make them want to champion you and your work, is an awesome story. Nothing more.

Nothing less.

Write how you write. If you’re still figuring out what works for you, that’s ok. Keep going, you’ll figure it out. Experiment. Use what works and never mind what doesn’t.

Finish writing what you start. Getting to The End is all that matters.

 

Sometimes, I need to remind myself of this…

 

Time: 10:58 Am – ish

Music: Blind Guardian – Wheel of Time

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