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Unorthodox Writing Tips 9: It’s about time.

As I’m sitting here typing this post, I’ve set a timer. I’ve been doing this recently when I need to accomplish a task and at the same time, I need to do some writing. I can’t be in two places at the same time, but I can still work on both at the same time. Here’s what I’ve been doing.

Today I need to take down the Christmas tree. I also wanted to put out another Unorthodox Writing Tips.I want to post my goals fr 2012 and a look back at 2011. Then after all that I need to get some actual writing done. Did I mention that I also need to take down the Christmas tree.

So how am I going to be able to get all this done in a single day? I set a timer. Every fifteen minute I switch tasks. I set the timer for fifteen minutes and I’m working on this blog post. When the timer goes off, I’ll set it again for fifteen minutes and work on disassembling the tree. And back and forth until the tree is down and clean up complete then I’ll spend time on just writing.

You may be thinking that this is an awkward way to write. You’re up and down, up and down. Well, yes. Yes I am. I’ll be up and down multiple times. But when I’m taking down the tree, I’m still writing. I’m thinking through what I want to put down next. Fifteen minutes of thinking about writing speeds up my output during those fifteen minutes when I’m actually writing. That, combined with having a timer keeping me on pace forces me to write and write faster during those fifteen minute episodes. I don’t check email, I don’t look at facebook or twitter. I don’t have time. I have a task to get done. If I’m going to include anything else, I’ll schedule fifteen minutes for it. I’ll take a break each hour and a half or two hours, but for the most part, it’s fifteen on, fifteen off.

There’s something about seeing a timer there, counting down that forces my brain into gear letting me know that time is tick tick ticking away and I need to get the words down before my time is up. As I said, combined with the fact that I’m also thinking about what I’m going to write during those fifteen minutes off helps me prepare to actually sit down and write the words. I find I have less time starting at the screen and trying to will the words to appear and more time sitting and actually writing.

Combined with the fact that I’m getting more than one thing done at a time, this method is really working for me. Not only that, but I’ve also discovered that fifteen minutes can result in roughly five hundred words when I’m pushing myself. I’ve changed my attitude from “I only have fifteen minutes” to “I HAVE A WHOLE FIFTEEN MINUTES!”

Give it a shot. Set a timer and time your self. Whoops, timer went off. Time to get back to that Christmas tree. It’s not going to take itself down.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

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Unorthodox Writing Tips on Get Published

My friend and co-author Mike Plested asked if I could do a segment for his Get Published podcast. So I did. There will likely be more in the future. If you haven’t listened to his podcast, this is a great one to start with. The interview is packed with great information that more than makes up for the lack of recording quality (we were near a construction area)

Download MP3

Unorthodox Writing Tips 8: Prime the Pump

Now that winter is nearly upon us, and for many snow is one the ground and piling up, I can’t help but think back to when I was a kid growing up in Minnesota. Talk about cold. The winters could be devastating.

One thing I remember was living on well water. If the pump got too cold it would freeze up. So we kept a heater in the well house to make sure that didn’t happen. Each day we’d go out and check on it to make sure that the heater was still running and there wasn’t too much snow on our around the well house.

During the summer we also had to keep on eye on the pump, but for different reasons. Sure if your pump froze up it took a long time to unfreeze it to get it running again, but during the summer we would have a different problem. The pump would lose its prime.

What does that mean? It means there wasn’t any water in the pump. Somehow air had gotten into the lines and the water drained out and no more water would flow. The prime is what kept the water flowing and flowing in the correct direction. If there wasn’t any water in the pump, we’d have to go over to the neighbor’s house to fetch a bucket.

Priming a pump isn’t an easy task. It involves starting and stopping the pump at certain intervals, pouring in water at the correct time, and bleeding any air from the system. Air is your enemy when it comes to a pump and a leak will cause the water to drain out. Obviously doing this in the dead of winter in the Middle of Minnesota was the worst, but it had to be done from time to time. It was all part of owning a pump.

Think of your brain as a well of words. Those words are just crying to come out. Sometimes the words just flow freely and everything is running smoothly. Other times it might back up and you struggle to get the words on the page. Still other times you feel spent and dried up.

Prime your pump. There are a lot of words out there. If you’re at a stuck point or just can’t get anything going, try something a little different. Here are some things I’ve done to get restarted.

Re-write a paragraph. Pick anything you’ve written before or pick something from your favorite author. Just retype that exact same paragraph word for word. Don’t try to change anything, but as you’re typing, think about what you can do differently. Once you’ve retyped that paragraph, type it again with the changes you had in mind and keep thinking as you type it out, what you’d make different again. Repeat this process until you feel ready to get back onto your WIP.

Free Write. Just type whatever comes to your mind. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Just get the words out as quickly as you can. Don’t worry about where your mind takes you, just let it roam and type out everything you can. Keep going until you fill a page and you’re ready to type more. Stop before you run into a wall, but once you’re moving along smoothly, hop back into your WIP and start typing.

Describe the next scene. This may sound weird, but take a moment or two and just describe what you think will be happening in the next scene you’re looking to write. If you’re doing a longer work or a short, it doesn’t matter. Type up a paragraph where the scene is going to go. I’ve done this before and there have been times where I’ll have that ‘Ah-ha!’ moment and I’m off and running even before I finish that paragraph. Some scenes can be dull, you need to find what about that scene excites you and once you’ve identified that part, you’re ready to write.

Do a blog post. Gee, guess which method I’m using right now? I’m looking at my WIP and I’m thinking over the scene, but not letting the words come out. I’m just sitting and staring. That’s when I thought about growing up in Minnesota and the trouble we used to have with our pump from time to time. It seemed as though it would make a great Unorthodox Writing Tips post, so I wrote it up.

Sure there are other methods you can try. It may be just finding the method that’s right for you. It should be something that takes a large amount of time. This blog post, for example, took me twenty minutes to write. Once I got into the flow of it, the words just started coming. I plan on taking that momentum and applying it to my WIP before I lose it and need to prime the pump again. I’d better get at it.

Until next time!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 7: Plotting and Planning and Playing Goalie

I’ve always written more for my own entertainment rather than writing for someone else’s. I’ve written quite a bit. To date I’ve completed ten novels, and I have four others started with ideas for five different novels. Only four are part of a series, the rest are all the first of a potential series, but work as stand alone novels as well. I have also completed quite a number of short stories.

One thing I have mostly avoided. Plotting. I usually come up with an idea, have a vague direction, and go for it. Yes, I’ve written by the seat of my pants. This has lead to some good stories (I feel) but overall I always had a direction in mind and on occasion I would end up stuck. What I never did was write down the actual plot and direction, be it for shorts or novels.

I plan on changing this. I’m going to start writing at least a paragraph plot that will give beginning, middle, and end. Obviously I can flesh out the details as I write, but I’ll start with the act of getting the idea on paper (1st draft?). What I hope to achieve by doing this is getting the idea down and not just letting it flounder around in my brain until I’ve talked myself out of writing the work. When I was at my most productive I kept a running log of story ideas and I’d cross them out as I’d complete them. This helped me with writing one hundred short stories in one year. I doubt I’ll try to write that many again, but this leads me into my next topic…

Planning is another thing I’ve never done well. I would write stories, send them out, and start the next. I kept an excel spread sheet and made sure not to send the same story to the same place twice. I’ve long since lost this spreadsheet, but it was interesting to keep track of the ‘red’ cells which noted rejections and ‘green’ which noted publication and even the ‘yellow’ which showed waiting response.

What I didn’t have when I did this was a clear plan of action. It was just write, submit, and hope for the best. I didn’t know why I was doing it other than to try and gain publishing credits and improve my writing. Obviously I stopped as the rejection process is grueling and after hundreds of rejections it just wore me down (and the year ended). Once I completed that year I had intended to get back to writing novels, but I never sent anything out. Rejection of a short story was easy to take, but a novel? I didn’t think I’d be able to handle that kind of rejection.

It’s all part of the game, though. Rejection is just getting you one step closer to publication. So I now have a plan for getting my works out there. Beyond that I’ve taken on an ambitious project that will run parallel with Scott Roche. The idea is to write, edit, and publish a short story each month during 2012. Sounds ambitious, doesn’t it?

I’m excited, but I know I’ll never, ever, be able to complete this task without a plan. I have explained to my wife that my writing needs to move from a hobby to something more like a part time job if I’m ever to make it successful. I need to plot my stories so I’ll have a direction. I need to plan my time so I’ll be able to perform the work.

So where does playing goalie come in? Plots and Plans are nice, but I need to have an overall direction. I had always wanted to be a published author before I was forty years old. Well, that ship has sailed. Why? I let life happen and didn’t make life happen. I am going to change that by setting goals. Not just setting goals, but sharing those goals with my friends and family. I’ve started writing down where I want to be at the end of 2012 and it just starts with the ambitious project of a short story a month. It also includes getting worked cleaned up and/or completed and finally getting those works in front of a publisher or agent.

Yes I’ll be self publishing my shorts, but I am going to look for traditional publication for some of my works. I’ll also be continuing to self publish works as well. I had an ambitious desire for 2011 to have three books out, but I didn’t follow through and I now know why. I didn’t set out clear, definable goals.

I’ve read J.A. Konraths’ blog. I’ve read Mike Stackpole’s blog and newsletter. What I haven’t done is apply those teachings. Yes, being creative is a wonderful thing, but unless I treat my work as work and a business, I’ll only have limited success. So included in my goals for 2012 are to seek out ways to promote myself. Ways to get more eyes on my work. To have a definite number of sales. I’ll, of course, share those in my blog.

If all goes well, next year I hope to write nearly half a million words. Yes, I know that’s a lot. Yes, I know I’m aiming high. But I’ve got my goals written. I’ve got my plan laid out. Does it begin in 2012? NO! It begins today. Why should I wait for January 1st to start on the road? These are just the plans I want to accomplish in 2012. If I don’t get started on them, no one will start on them for me. There’s no better time than the present!

Until Next week.

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 6: Inspiration Comes

I’ve given some though to posting some daily writing prompts. I’ll do that in the coming weeks. I thought instead I’d do something that few people are able. I’ll tell you where my ideas come from.

Yes, this is a topic that many avoid. They treat it like a mythical, otherworldly event that just happens in their head and words pour forth. That doesn’t happen for me. No, I’m not a magical creature with spectacular skills. I’m not drunk on creativity. Well, sometimes. But I honestly have no trouble coming up with ideas. I do, however, have trouble writing them all.

Creativity, for me, starts with something as simple as looking outside and thinking ‘what if’. What if I were to climb that hill and find something? What would I find? What would it look like? What would it be made of? What if it was a door into a mine? What if that mine had been abandoned and the doorway now led to an alternate dimension? What would that dimension look like? Who would live there? What if they had already started coming through to our side? What would they be doing here? Would they have a base set up? Would they have security? Would they know our language?

This just came off the top of my head looking out my window at the hillside. Now you might think, “That’s all well and good, but it sound like something that’s been done before.” Sure, it might sound like Cowboys and Aliens or any number of a thousand stories that have been done before. That doesn’t mean you can’t write it. Just take the above example and keep applying it over and over until you get an idea that sticks.

Let’s try something else. Hope online. There are many places to go to look at artwork of varying styles. deviantart.com, everyphototells.com, nelmstimages.com, there are many. You can look at pictures of nearly any famous artist by just typing in their name and looking at the images. Art and photography are abundant and fertile ground for ideas.

Don’t have an internet connection? Look at objects around you. I mean anything. Look at the wood grain on your floor or the patterns of shadows in your carpet. Look at the shapes in your tile in your bathroom and let your eyes go out of focus and see what happens. What starts to move and shift and take on a life of its own? For that matter let your eyes go out of focus on a page of text. Don’t just look at one point, but allow your eyes to move around and see what patterns appear.

Don’t have anything yet? Try this. Listen to the radio, put your mp3 player on shuffle and give it a listen. Pick a line from a song. “Luck runs out.” “Like a sprained ankle, boy, I ain’t nothing to play with.” “Aliens from outer space are sleeping in my car.” “737 coming outta the sky.” All of these can spawn a dozen different ideas. Don’t just listen to songs you know, given a listen to some oldies, some hip-hop, something country, a little bit of metal. Just like you should be doing with your reading, listen outside your normal comfort zone. Don’t allow your pre-conceived notion of what is ‘good’ interfere with your brain.

With any of these, the next step it obviously to keep brainstorming and asking those ‘what if’ questions and keep going until you find a direction. Don’t just stop with the beginning of the idea, figure out the who, where, when, why, and how of the story. Allow your mind a moment to wander off and find its own way around. Creativity is allowing yourself to no longer be constrained by what you know and start exploring what you don’t know. Once you’ve allowed your mind to wander freely, it’ll become easier and easier to do so.

As I said, ideas are easy. I’ll show that when I start posting writing prompts and I’ll try to include a little snippet of where the idea for the prompt came from. If you’re having trouble coming up with an idea or for keeping yourself going with the idea you currently have, just sit back, and let your brain wander away. You may even like what it brings back.

Until next week!

WOO WOO!

Unordhodox Writing Tips 5 – The Write Diet

Except for about five years of my life, I’ve been a little over weight. Most jobs I’ve had weren’t at all physical and I have a love of food that goes above and beyond just eating a meal. I have a hearty appetite and I eat as much as I can as often as I can. I also enjoy a great beer every now and again. Thankfully I’ve been blessed with a good metabolism that prevents me from being far bigger.

So I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to eat to lose weight or anything like that. I’m not going to try and get you to change your lifestyle. What I will tell you is that what you eat before you write or during your writing session is very important.

Digestion takes a lot of work. By work I mean it takes blood and oxygen to digest food. That’s blood and oxygen that your brain needs to function and be creative. Eating a big meal high in calories will make you feel like you just finished a marathon. Think about the last time you had a big old steak dinner with potatoes, bread, vegetables (well, you probably didn’t eat those), a couple of drinks and thought to yourself, “I think what I need now is to sit down and write!”

I’m guessing your first thought was “I need a nap!” I know after I eat a big lunch or dinner, I’m moving slowly and the last thing in my mind is hitting the computer to knock out a few words. I’m lucky if I can get my brain to focus on the television for more than fifteen minutes.

So like I said, I like to eat. So what do I do when I plan on sitting down and writing? Do I starve myself? Please. You make me laugh. My body is an engine that needs fuel to keep going and starving your body is just as bad as filling up too much before you sit down to write. You need to keep that motor running.

When I’m going to write, I take a little time to plan out what I’m going to eat. Nothing complicated. But I’ll usually have a bowl of cereal for breakfast. This isn’t too much and gets my day started out. If I eat eggs and meat, I find myself already weighed down and I’ve lost energy unless I keep the portions small. Cereal helps me get a good start on the day.

A couple hours later, before I get hungry, I’ll grab a piece of fruit; an apple or a banana. Something quick and easy to eat. By this time my body is ready to go. I’m not hungry. I’ve got something in my belly. I’m comfortable and I’m thinking clearly.

For lunch, think salad. When I say salad I don’t mean something loaded with chicken or steak. I mean veggies. Perhaps a small piece of salmon. Again think small portions. Veggies, fruit, cereal: these are all things that your body will take care of quickly and with little effort. It’s keeping the fire going. It’ll help keep oxygen and blood flowing to your brain instead of your stomach. When I’m writing this keeps those creative juices flowing.

Speaking of juice. This is actually something I avoid. Unless you’re drinking 100% juice (or close to that) you’re only loading up your body with sugar. This is just as bad as eating candy bars. Sugar will also slow down your body and cause you to drag and put your brain out of focus. When I write, it’s unsweetened tea (iced) or water. No soda, no alcohol, no sugars.

Now I’m not saying you need to cut these from your diet completely. I will treat myself from time to time, but when I really want to sit down and knock out words, I need a clear head. One of the best ways I’ve found to do that is by monitoring what I eat. Keeping track isn’t as hard as it may sound and it may take some work for you to figure out what is the write diet for you, but in the end you’ll find the words will flow smoother if you get in the habit and keep that tank at the right level.

With that said, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I don’t expect to get much writing done over those days as they’ll be filled with as much food as I can eat over the course of two or three days. But, oh my, it’ll be great. Once the holiday is over, though, I’ll be back to watching my intake during my writing periods. Keep the intake light and the energy high.

Until next week!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 4: A Different Point of View.

Picture found at BlogDownTown.com

So I’m sitting here and staring at my screen. My eyes go in and out of focus. I’m having a real tough time figuring out what to write next. It doesn’t matter if I’m updating an existing work or if I’m staring at a blank screen, I just can not get the words to start flowing.

Has this ever happened to you? Really? You mean I’m not alone? Whew. I was worried there for a moment.

The question becomes this, what do you do when you’re having those points where words just do not want to come out of your head? Do you just sit there and wait? Do you fire up a first-person shooter? Do you access twitter and pretend like that’s writing? Log onto facebook?

You know what I do? I change my point of view.

I want you to stand up (if you can do that right now) and look around at your surroundings. What’s around you right now? Are you at a desk with a wall in front of you? Are you at the local Starbucks drinking a coffee and listening to music? Are you sitting at the kitchen table with the kids running by? Are you on a crowded bus trying to type out a few words during your commute? Take a moment and type out a description of where you’re currently sitting.

Next I want you to get up and walk outside. If you’re already outside, change the place you’re currently at. Now I want you to take a moment and just take a deep breath. Look around outside and try, in your mind, to describe what you see. What you hear. What you smell. How it makes you feel. Is it cold outside? Does the sun warm your face? Is there traffic going by? Are there people or animals around? Do you overhear a conversation? Is the wind blowing through the trees?

Now go back to where you were and describe what just happened. Don’t think about what just happened but instead describe in as much detail as you can what you experienced. Did a black-and-white dog run by? Perhaps a lady with an oversized, purple purse and her hair up in curlers walked past. How many cars did you see? Get in everything you can. Describe the terrible sound the car made as it rattled and sputtered by. Try and catch as much detail as you can about that couple of minutes of experience.

Once you’re written this down, take the time to start on your work that just sitting there waiting for you. Use that experience to spice up a scene you’re working on. Include that dog or that lady or that car that went by or the smells wafting by on the breeze. Try to take something from what you just experienced and include that in your work to make the scene a little richer, a little more than it was just a moment before.

If you’re ever stuck again, just give it a try. Poke your head outside, take a deep breath and just watch and listen for a minute or two. If you do type up either what you currently see around your writing area or what you see outside, post it as a comment. I’d love to hear about it.

Until Next week.

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 3: By Your Bootstraps

I remember when I first started writing. It was the late 80s. I was going to finally write my first novel. I wrote three or four chapters by hand as I didn’t have a computer or typewriter and paper was cheap. After the first four chapters I re-read what I’d written and thought it was terrible. I threw it away.

I tried again and this time got up to six chapters before I threw it all away, again.

This became a cycle for me. I wanted to write, but I couldn’t keep going with what I had written. What I had put down was just awful and I knew no one would ever want to read it. I almost talked myself out of writing all together. But I really wanted to write.

I tried again. This time I made it to what I felt was about the half way mark of the book and decided that this was just far too much work for something so awful. And I threw out all that work, again.

Fast forward a few years. I still had those characters running around inside my head. I had found an artist and he had agreed that it would make a cool comic. I started writing it as a comic book. It was fun and fast to write. I finished the first hand written draft after a month of writing. Sadly, for me, the artist got an apprenticeship with Jim Lee and the comic idea was dead.

This, of course, took the wind out of my sail, but I had a completed storyline. I decided to keep writing it as a comic and look for another artist. I didn’t just write the second story in comic format, I wrote the third as well.

Fast forward a few years. I had trunked my work and wasn’t about to let anyone, except my girlfriend (now my wife), see those words. It was rough, had terrible grammar, but I still liked the story and the characters. I decided to start typing out the handwritten pages and I would clean it up as I went. All in all it came out to roughly 40,000 words. Far too short to be a novel, but it lacked a lot of description and inner monologue.

I went back and added description, but didn’t fully understand internal monologue. After far too long (nearly ten years) editing the first book it weighed in at ~65,000 words. I decided that it was as done as it was going to get and moved on to book two.

This time I took the original pages as an outline for the story and instead began writing from scratch. It was incredible. All I had struggled to learn in the first book flowed with the second book. It took me a week (six days to be exact) to write ~60,000 words. A feat I have never been able to duplicate.

I spent the next month working on book three of that series and it came in at ~70,000 words. Book four in that series also took about a month.

I finally had some confidence in what I was doing, just not enough that I felt like I could share the work with just anyone. I had a very small, select group of people that all gave me advice. For the most part they liked the story, but it was missing something and none of them could really explain what it was missing.

I stopped writing for three years because I had suddenly lost my confidence. I felt like I had just wasted all so many years and my work just wasn’t good enough.

After that hiatus, I spent a year writing short stories. I still wanted to write, but I didn’t want to move on to a bigger work. I wrote one hundred short stories and started submitting like a mad man. I racked up a couple hundred rejections, but I also got a few sales. I sold ten short stories that year. I had to keep going back to those stories to see what I had done that was different than the ones that didn’t sell.

I got back to work on novels after that. I’d do a rough outline to give me a general direction. Some simple research, and BAM! I’d be off and running.

Life happens. Troubles will come into your life. People will die. There are many things that can take the wind out of your sails. All of these affected me and my writing. But through it all I’ve written ten novels. I feel I’ve gotten better at telling a story. I have more fun when I sit down and write. I don’t have as much trouble getting to ‘the end’ as I used to.

What does all this have to do with bootstraps?

Pick yourself up. Realize that not everyone will like what you write. You may not be writing the next best selling novel, but you’re writing. A majority of the people in the world that want to write will never start. You’re already way ahead of the curve by putting words on a page. Even if you’re having a tough time with it, just get the words out. Don’t let life prevent you from getting to ‘the end’.

It’s been said that you can’t polish a turd, but you can shape it into something that looks better than a turd and once you learn how to do that, you can learn how to make something that is worth polishing. If you’ve got nothing then you’ll end with nothing.

Trust yourself. Surround yourself with people whose opinions you trust. Don’t take criticism as an attack on you as a person, but take it to heart and see what you can do to improve what you are doing.

Yes, it took me fifteen years before I saw my first sale, but that’s because I second guessed myself every step of the way and didn’t allow anyone to see my work for a very long time. I didn’t take any advice and instead tried to plow forward on my own. I took the hard way. Many people have taken the hard way to publication. You will be better served if you look and see what others have done before you and follow one of their paths.

If you are excited about your work, let your excitement be infectious. If you’re nervous about your work, try not to let others know how you feel. You need to believe in yourself before others will want to believe in you. So pick yourself up. Get yourself out there. Don’t be afraid of success that can be yours. Take the criticism of your work as ways to improve your craft, not as an attack against you personally. For the most part, people want to help you and help you succeed.

Get out there!

Until Next week.

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 2: Take a Shower

I work at home three or four day a week. To most this sounds like a dream come true. Well, I ain’t complaining. It does come with its perks. Like being able to work in my pajamas from time to time. Well, ok. Most of the time. I can honestly say that I love my job and the freedoms it offers me. Yes, there are times (and many of them) where I’m up early and working late. Being that I enjoy my work, I don’t mind.

But there are times when I get up, roll over to the computer, slog through my email and have a tough time getting started. Even when I’ve gotten into a routine things don’t always flow as smoothly as I would like. If I’m in a particularly bad mood I’ll just try to keep working through the funk.

Then there are days where I find myself sitting and staring at the screen willing the code to write itself. I don’t want to write that piece of code. I don’t want to edit that file. I don’t want to upload that data.

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a computer programmer. I do web applications that interface with databases. Ninety-Nine percent of the time I am excited to sit down and start working. I love getting up at 5:30am and I’ve worked twenty hours straight.

So what do I do on those days when I just don’t feel it? When I can’t get myself to start typing? I hop in the shower.

Sounds silly? Well, for me I usually don’t shower until midday. I like to get up and dive into my work. I’ve gotten into a routine and around lunchtime I’ll grab a quick bite and a shower and I’m ready for he second half of my day. So I’ve gotten it in my brain that shower time is wake up time. Even though I’ve been awake for hours before I do that, I know that when I go back to the computer I’m ready to go. It wakes up my brain and I’m firing on all cylinders.

Why should this be important to you? Why should you take a second shower or even a third? Well, before I got the job I currently have I would get up in the morning, take a shower, and go to work. I would work my job, come home and be too wiped out from the day to write. So I’d put it off and flop down in front of the television and say to myself, “I’ll get to it later.”

I didn’t.

So I started coming home and after dinner I would do the dishes and then take a quick shower. Initially I just wanted to wash off the day. Really. I had no other motives. I just wanted to feel fresh before I went to bed. What I wound up doing was thinking about the story I was working on. The shower would be telling my brain, “It’s time to go to work.” So I would get out of the shower and sit down at the computer and I started writing. My brain had been engaged and was ready to get to work. I no longer felt like just sitting and watching television. I wanted to do something.

So I know that it’s November. It’s NaNoWriMo time again. So when you get home from that daily job. When you’ve done your house work. When you feel like it’s time to crank out those 1600 words for the day, take yourself a quick shower, get into some comfy clothes, and get to work.

Even beyond NaNoWriMo this can help you whenever you feel the need to write. Even it it’s just washing your face and then sitting down to write. This is a little something that’s helped me many times when I feel ‘stuck’ or have even used the excuse “I have writer’s block.” So if you’re feeling sluggish or just can’t get into that writing groove, give it a try. Let me know what happens.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Learning to cut grass.

The next time you’re driving (or riding), I want you to take a look at the ditch along the side of the road. Look for a good patch that’s really overgrown and been left alone for quite some time.

Now get out your gas powered weed trimmer, roll up your sleeves and get ready to go to work. You know the basics about cutting grass. You start the weed trimmer and sweep back and forth. You feel compelled beyond any reason to cut that grass. As you cut the grass, the going is not easy to start. After you get going for about an hour you’re hot, you’re sweaty and you realize that you’ve got the wrong shoes on and you really didn’t set aside as much time as you would like to have to get the job done. So you come back to it the next day a little better prepared.

Unfortunately the next day you’re sore, but you have a little better idea what needs to be done. You continue with sweeping the weed trimmer back and forth. Several times you hit a piece of debris or a rock that you didn’t see because of the grass being so high. You squint and look ahead and realize that you have no idea how much ditch you have laid out before you. Again you’re still sore from the previous day but you’ve made some progress. You look behind you and realize that it’s not pretty, but at least you’ve made some progress. You decide to call it a day. Tomorrow you’ll remember the sunscreen.

The third day you set out and it’s not so bad. You’re getting used to the heavy lifting (who thought a weed trimmer could get so heavy) but a little way in you just run out of gas. You figure you’ll get out of the sun and give that sunburn a little time to heal. Cutting grass was supposed to be a simple task. Now you realize that some planning would have helped.

Day four and you look at your task with dread. You really didn’t think it was going to be so hard. Surely other people cutting grass don’t have this much trouble, why should you have trouble? You’re still running into debris and rocks, but some you can find and get out of the way before you hit them with your weed trimmer by taking a little extra time, but those that you do hit annoy you and make you frustrated. Still you continue on and realize that it’s looking a little better than what you did first. You think about going back and doing it over, but decided that at least what’s done looks much better than what isn’t done. Tomorrow you’ll keep going.

Day five and the sunburn has had some aloe on it and feels much better now. Your muscles are getting stronger and it’s not so difficult to swing the weed trimmer back and forth. You find a log in your way and with some effort you manage to move it out of your way and underneath you find a dirty ring. With a little bit of polish you manage to clean it off and realize that it’s a diamond ring. You stop and decided to not only show off your diamond ring, but all the work you’ve done so far. Your friends look at the diamond ring and the rest of your work and decide that it was far too much work for something so small. Your efforts could have been better spent doing anything else. You’re disappointed as you realize that it is a pretty small diamond on that ring, but decided that since you can now see where the ditch ends, you’ll go ahead and get there anyway even if your friends don’t seem to appreciate the effort. You realize they may be right and it’s really rough cut and doesn’t look as pretty as the ring you found, but you’re still proud of all the work it took to get you to that ring. You’ll try and finish it tomorrow.

Going into day six you feel well prepared to finish off the task at hand. As you start out you find a deep hole. Could be a rabbit hole, could be a fox hole, could even be a simple gopher hole. You put down your weed trimmer and start digging. With both hands you dig in hoping that perhaps you’ll find another diamond ring down there. If only you dig a little bit further you’re sure to find one. You pull up heaps and heaps of dirt and finally all your digging is rewarded with solid rock. A dead end. All the work you spent that day is lost and you’ve got nothing but a big pile of dirt to show for it. You figure it’s best not to tell anyone about your hole and just put all that dirt back. With a frown you realize that you didn’t get nearly as far along as you wanted. Tomorrow is another day though. You’ll finish tomorrow.

All gassed up, you put on your wide-brimmed hat and you dig in one more time. You sweep back and forth and back and forth and it almost feels like you’re just going through the motions. That is until you see that the end is nearly upon you. You speed up but not too much because the section you’re working on is looking pretty good and you don’t want to mess up now. Suddenly, almost without realizing it, that last blades of grass fall.

This is a proud moment and you feel like shouting to the world. It wasn’t easy, it took you far longer than you thought, you stumbled along the way, but you learned so much about cutting grass that you feel very confident. You spend the next few days slowly going over the rough patches and smoothing everything out. Now when your friends see it, they compliment you on the work you did. They knew you could do it. Even though they were critical at first you still feel good at having them compliment you about getting it done.

Congratulations on all the work you did. Now that you’ve done it once, you know what it takes to do it a second time. You’ll only get better with each time you decided to pick up that weed trimmer and start to hack away at the weeds in a ditch. You decided to meet with other people who also cut the weeds in ditches and not only get their opinion on the work you’ve done, but see what they did and what you can do to improve your own work. You may even run across a professional grass cutter who is willing to share his experiences of years of weed trimming with you. Treasure those moments and continue to improve on your weed cutting skills. It’s not easy, but all that hard work really is worth it.

If you made it this far, you’ll realize that I’m not talking about cutting grass at all. I’m talking about writing. No it isn’t as easy as it may seem and you may feel you can do a better job at telling a story than the next person and you very well may be right. But along the way, no matter who you are, you’ll find bumps, holes, and gems. The job isn’t to flatten every bump or fill every hole (or even avoid them all) and most certainly it isn’t to find every gem along the way. The job is to cut the grass… er… to tell the story. You do the best job you can and someone will come by and appreciate the effort you put into getting the job done.

Getting to the end isn’t a race. Writing isn’t about how fast you can run, but can you get to the end. Doing a little every day will get you one step closer to completing that manuscript. You’ll get better with every word you put down. I guarantee that when you get done and look back and all that cut grass, um, those words on the page, you will have a moment of feeling not just great, but outstanding! Writing can be laborious, but there’s nothing quite like finishing.

Until Next Week

WOO WOO!