Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Welcome back readers. I have had a very busy last few months, so I haven't had time to write in my little blog here. In the last year and a half my daughter got married, I took an amazing trip to England to meet my new family and to meet with a good friend who is a brilliant author, I have worked no less than 52 to 60 hours a week, and my son moved to North Carolina. All of that and I still haven't mentioned the normal day to day operations of my daily life. That being said, book two is moving along even if it isn't as fast as I would like. My goal is to have it to the editor by the end of September, but as we all know, live happens.
So for this months post, I would like to go over a few of the things I've learned in the last year that pertain to writing. Some of these points will be stuff you already know, and maybe a few will be new to you all. I will try to keep my musings practical instead of inspirational, since I find that applicable to my daily routine is a lot of times the piece of the puzzle I am missing. Yes, we all need a good rousing speech to get us motivating when we have allowed ourselves to fall into despair, but I'd wager, most of us just need to be reminded to stop procrastinating. I Know I do. So, with that being said, lets jump into it.
You have a daily life.
Now I know you are probably looking at this and saying: No Duh! How can anyone escape their daily life, since it happens every second of every day. In fact, just like me you most likely use your daily life as your most prolific justification for procrastinating. Here is the harsh truth, it is a justifiable reason to procrastinate.
What? It is ok to allow your daily life to interfere with your writing? Now, I am not talking about all of the times you or I decide to binge watch Netflix for 9 hours instead of writing. What I am talking about is the normal life we live. We all need to sleep, we all need time with our families and time to ourselves. If we don't get these things which we absolutely need to stay physically and mentally healthy, then we will fall apart.
If you are like me, than you spend as much time beating yourself up for not writing as you do writing. The truth I learned over the last year is that: that is not productive. You will not get more writing done or finish your projects faster by falling into a place of self condemnation. Now that isn't to say that you won't have to take some hard looks at your discipline life and make some changes. We all have to do that from time to time, but you have to realize that you have a life and that, most of the time, takes precedent over your writing. With that said, we now move on to point two.
If You Still Need a Day Job, Than You Will Not Be Able to Write as Much as a Professional.
This for me was probably the most profound and helpful realization I had last year. When I finished book One I was unemployed and waiting for my new job with New York State to start. I had a 4 month period where I had a tone of free time. I spent that time writing like it was my job. I finished my first novel, got a short story published, wrote a comic book script and two children's books. It was glorious.
But after 4 months of living the writer's life, reality came crashing back in like a wrecking ball. I started my new job and soon I was working 60 to 80 hours a week. It wasn't all by choice, but due to constant staffing shortages in the field I work, I was mandated to work those hours. Yes, my paycheck was stellar, but the energy and time I had to write shrank to Quantum level proportions or became completely non-existent.
This caused me to wrestle with depression and I struggled with self doubt and feelings of despair. I had bills to pay and my kids were just getting their adult lives started and I needed to make sure I had a stable paycheck coming in, but in my heart I was struggling with wanting to quite my job and try my hand at writing as a profession. I realized, which might be different for you, that I still needed the consistency and stability of a full time job and couldn't just drop everything, move to Hollywood and chase my dreams.
After a full year of berating myself for only having a little bit of time to write every week, I chose to stop doing that and to simply discipline myself to use that time to actually write. I found, that even though my progress was slower than I wanted, I was making progress. So my point is, that if you still need your day job, you will not be able to write as much as someone who does this as their main profession, and that is ok. That leads me into my next point.
Set Realistic Goals.
This one I think is tuff more most of us creative types. We always want to jump to step 100 and we neglect steps 1-99. But, we can't get to step 100 without first going through steps 1-99. One thing I have found about myself is that I jump into a project, whether it be working out or writing and I want to do it seventeen hours a day everyday. I would say, I am going to the gym everyday for an hour and I am going to complete 20000 words a day in writing. The truth is, if I can't even go to the gym for 20 minutes 3 times a week and write even 500 words a day, I will never be able to live up to those goals. Of course I fail at my plans and than depression and self condemnation come crashing in again. (Hello condemnation my old friend.)
The only way to break this cycle is to set realistic attainable goals. As we reach these attainable goals, then we will begin to grow in those areas organically and we will start to see the progress we desire. Our confidence will grow and so will our motivation as we see actual measurable progress. I teach this principle to my CC and Youth groups, but I am pretty poor at putting the principle into practice in my own life. I almost always set unrealistic goals and then fail to meet them. Then I get discouraged and all productivity and forward movement stops. I have changed that this year and I have been setting realistic goals and routines that I can actually make, and it has made a huge difference in, not only my mental health, but my productivity levels as well. This leads me to my next point.
Set a Writing Schedule and Stick to it.
As a creative person I am a Pantser. My friends always laugh when I use that term, since they think it means I go around ripping peoples pants down. For you laypeople, this means someone who flies by the seat of their pants. That means that my strong suit is going with the flow and not planning ahead. But, I have realized that having a set schedule to follow is paramount to success. Just like working out, you need to have a set time that you write and this means scheduling and planning. You won't really move forward in life if you always fly by the seat of your pants.
Personally, I really hate sticking to a schedule. I like saying, well I will do it this many times a week and then do it when I feel like it. Of course, than I find excuses to procrastinate until I no longer have the time to accomplish my set realistic goals for the week. Your goals won't be realistic if you don't stick to the schedule you set up. Now, that is not to say that life won't get in the way sometimes. Maybe you get sick, or you have to work extra hours on a day you planned to write. This may happen, and it is ok when it does. (Here's looking at you point 1.) But, you will never really reach the goals you want if you don't find a consistent routine that works for you and stick to it. And yes, you need to follow it even when you don't want to.
That leads me into my last point.
Write as Much as You Can.
This point is where not only me, but everyone usually fails. You will never become a professional or even a good writer if you don't write. I know it sucks, but just like eating right and working out is the only way to get healthy, writing is the only way to get good at writing. It's also the only way to become a professional at the craft. The more you write, the better you will get. I really wish that books just wrote themselves and that I didn't gain ten pounds from looking at a Twixt bar, but that isn't the way life works.
I have a good friend in the film industry and he said, "It is not the best that become successful, but those who do." What he meant by that is, that the key to success is becoming someone who does. If you want to be a writer, then you need to be someone who writes. Not just someone who talks about writing, Podcasts about writing, Youtubes about writing, but someone who actually writes. I know people who spent every waking second of their free time learning about writing, taking classes about writing, talking about writing, but they haven't actually written anything. All of these things are good in themselves, but if you spend all of your time training to be a writer but don't actually write, then you will never actually be a writer.
The one thing that all writers need to do to become good writers is to actually write. There is simply no other way. What is the point of training to run a marathon if you never run a marathon? Or to be a good baseball player if you never actually play baseball? So the final thing I took away from this year is that I need to write. Write as much as I can in the actual time I have. Yes you will have to spend time promoting your books and building a fan base etc., but as one writer friend told me, "The best way to promote your book is to write the next one."
So these are 5 things I learned this year that have made a tremendous impact in my life. I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been to me. Always remember to give yourself grace as you walk this journey. No one is perfect and that includes you. You will never succeed by only seeing the negative in yourself. Always look at the progress first before looking at the areas that need improvement. If you do this, you will find, as I have, that you will look back and see that you have grown and moved farther along on life's journey than you realize.