A Stumble and a Fall

I took a purposeful week off blogging this past week. Honestly, I ran into a small window where my life became a bit unmanageable. It was nothing big; there was no tragedy. Simply put, my priorities got all screwy where my lack of skills in time management resulted in it being better that I sat the writing aside. It was better to think, to debate what I was after in this whole endeavor.

Maybe a lot of it came from my perceived failure at the White Oak Author Fest. I am far from impervious to stress, and I stressed a lot during that event. By mid-week last week, I almost sputtered out entirely. Today I am only getting back a little steam to push forward.

But no matter the events, it’s best to come up with ways to spin it into the brightest of ways. For me, it meant that rather than worry about writing as a direct activity, I focused on revision and planning activities. While I did them, I gave my brain time to think over what I was after once again: how am I going to continue this push towards a writing career?

This question isn’t so much the why, but very much the how I am going to move forward. It involves the habits that I use to work on this process. It involves what my focus is. It involves whether I am even enjoying what I am doing.

The process of writing is more than writing as an activity of itself.

I wrote a lot last year; I’ve been trying to write a lot this year. But without the foundational efforts of planning, outlining, editing, revising, etc, my writing is only that… writing. And writing a lot doesn’t mean a damn thing unless I am going back through it, letting people read it, editing it, and then releasing it to the world to find readers to connect with it.

Otherwise it’s 7 projects sitting with a completed 1st draft as I sit at a writers’ event with nothing new in 3 years while my anxiety puts me to the point where I am ready to break down in the middle of the damn thing. I was exhausted.

More so, this exhaustion is with myself for constantly trying to do too much without the right efforts. It’s like trying to get my car up to 120 mph… a suburban street. Sure, I might get there, but I am going to crash and burn into someone’s living room. With the right preparation, the right locale, etc, I can get that car—or rather my writing—up to the level I wish, without crashing and burning.

I think that this is a good spot to then talk about what I am going to do here. I want to keep up with this blogging thing, but I also want to spend more of my writing time on the other things I’ve been neglecting. So the blogging-every-day thing is not going to be a viable solution, especially as volatile as I proved my writing habits to be. Twice a week seems right. It feels like something I can manage. If it ends up being more, great, but two days should be my guarantee: Tuesdays and Fridays. With that I will be working more on improving the quality of each of these too. It might take a while, as anything worthwhile does.

Updates and Direction Shifts

Things are changing!

Rather than submitting to the tons of anxiety I’ve been feeling lately with my writing and life, I decided to ignore it, instead running full steam ahead with my plans. I am going to take this thing called “being a writer” with more seriousness than I’ve been demonstrating so far.

In part of my doing so, I decided that a rebranding of sorts is in need, starting with my website. If you head over there (if reading this post in WordPress reader for instance), you will notice that I have already changed the theme. I won’t be stopping there.

Next will be colors, deciding on a color theme for me and my brand. Then will come a static homepage. After that will be a redesign of the “books” page. More will come from there, but those will be the primary goings-on regarding my site.

After that, and right around the release of #4, I’ll be remaking the covers for my entire Gravity series. I’ve never been happy with the covers. To fix that, I’ve decided on standardizing the cover theme for that series. Once I finalize that, I’ll build the 4 covers I’ll need (including the new release) and go from there.

Lastly (for the sake of this post only— meaning it is anything but the last item), I’ll be settling in on a schedule for this site and my posting. I’ve been going at once a day for over a month now, missing a day here and there. It’s not that it is too much, but really, it is too much. I want to begin producing more quality content, including controversial ideas, thoughts, internal debates, and to do so, I’ll need to spend more time on each of these. I haven’t decided what frequency, but suffice to say, it will be weekly at least.

I’ll update more as I move forward. Expect a lot of movement from me in the coming year. I probably won’t “make it” from these moves, but I do expect to better situate myself to be able to make it at some future time. Thanks and enjoy the ride!

Paper vs LED

I discovered something the other day while I was reading through one of my drafts. It is almost silly, weird that it makes such a difference. It’s a trait I would have laughed at if another person told me that they do it for the same reason. Before I babble on further, that thing is how different I edit when doing it through a printed copy versus when doing it on the computer.

Recently, I decided to print the drafts that I was working on so that I could get them through the review stages faster than doing it from the computer. I believed that editing on the computer would be faster; however, I end up rarely working on it. Printing was to enable me the ability to edit offline. It was to guarantee I work on it, which in turn would be faster than what I was doing up to now. But I found it to be dramatically different… in an awesome way.

For starters, when I am editing on paper, I am not trying to fix it right away. I am noting things, writing things down, marking off errors, and scratching out sections, among other things. I’ll maybe jot down what I think I want to put in a spot; however, I mostly note that a phrase sounds awkward, or the wording is strange. Because I am not fixing these issues right away, I move on fast.

Then there’s the fact that I am finding things wrong that I know I wouldn’t catch while reading these drafts on the computer. I have quite a few habits in how I write, habits that some might call voice. I am spotting these as being annoying fillers, words I inject in places that they aren’t needed. Noise, I’ll call them. And for whatever reason, I don’t seem to catch them when I look for them on a computer screen. I have no idea why, it seems to be this way however.

Admittedly, I am finding a massive difference between reading on paper vs reading on an LED screen. I like digital reading when I do so from an ebook, but I avoid reading on a computer, phone, or tablet. It’s different. Why I never made this connection until now, I may never know. LED screens are hard on the eyes. Even now, even as I wear blue-blocking glasses to block the harmful blue lights from screens, I simply don’t like reading screens. So why have I been insistent to edit on a screen?

It’s like I have a switch that is flipped when I go to a piece of paper on my writing. I am somehow able to see it as a book being edited more than it being my work. I am able to separate from the writing; I cannot do the same on a screen. Maybe it’s partly for the same reasons I don’t read on a screen. It’s different though. Different in a good way.

From this point forward I’ll be printing out my larger works. Short stories, novellas, novelettes, and novels will all be printed. And with a red pen in hand, I’ll get my work in better shape. Better than I have been able to do up to this point.

Featured image taken and owned by me. In fact… it’s one of the red pens I’ve been using.

Another Fest Down

Number four has come and gone. Yesterday I attended the White Oak Author Fest at the Crest Hill Branch of the White Oak Public Library in Illinois. It’s the second year I’ve been to that particular event (only the third they’ve held) and I will say, they do a fantastic job.

My own attendance there was a mix. It’s a success in ways; it is a failure in others.

Let’s begin with the failure. Honestly, it is an extension of the same failures that I’ve been dealing with for these past few years. No new material is chief among them. I am here with the same books I had last year. Seven projects are waiting for me to review and revise. That’s seven stories that I should have available now (or close to available), giving me more options to draw in people. It’s frustrating to me to see how stagnant I’ve been in that respect. And I shouldn’t have been stagnant.

Another part of the failure of this event was that I felt terrible for the entire event. Not sick, rather I felt myself unravelling as I sat there, trying to look interesting and engaging, while inside I was stressed and anxious to a point that I was only just barely able to manage. I was not easy. I faked my way through it, but man… it was tough.

My table was lack-luster besides the typewriter.

Then there was my display, my overall presentation. I did not prepare for this event like I should have. I was lacking a lot of things that would have helped draw people in. I could have had all kinds of information, visuals, and other things to make my table more professional looking, rather than the empty, thrown together mess it was. Again, more my fault than anything, only adding to my stress.

But let’s look at what was a success.

For starters, I learned. I learned more about myself, my shortcomings as an indie-writer, my anxieties, how to talk to people, and steps that I can take to make it better. I learned some marketing tricks from fellow writers. I learned that I can make it, earning my living from writing, so long as I stay with it and be persistent.

And I also added a few people to my email newsletter, growing the possibility of more readers.

Overall it was a good event, one I am going to repeat. I am going to seek out more of these events as well, looking to see if I can get in front of more people to better hone my skills at faking being an extrovert without the freaking out I am prone to. Just as I am working to clear my backlog of stories, I am going to start preparations now for the next event, even if it is a year away. I am going to do better next time.

Re-alignment

Imagine my surprise as I look over my to-do list. There are a number of things that are not checked off as having been completed. There is no surprise. I expected it.

Each of these tasks have to do with my writing.

Thinking about it, I’ve been severely misaligned in my priorities.

A thousand words is too much. I am capable; however, I’ve run into a problem where I’ve been sacrificing the other work that I need to accomplish to get the bigger word count. And given that I haven’t had good rituals to set myself up for each day, I have struggled, sometimes even with the word count itself. Interruptions, both internal and external, though are a factor, are not a primary driver in my inability to complete these tasks. Simply put, I’ve loaded my task list with more tasks than I am able to complete. I need to realign my daily goals.

Realignment requires knowing what my priorities are. In my writing, getting a daily word count is paramount, yet this is where I’ve been running into trouble. There’re also the seven projects I have that need review. Word count can’t continue to hold the priority when I have a backlist of seven books wanting to get out. I need to prep them for beta readers, for those helping me with the final edits.

Although if I want to keep up the high daily word count, I would be doing myself a disservice. At least in keeping that as the target, the goal. It can no longer be my primary driver.

Stopping is an option, as it always is. I could stop writing every day in favor or using that time to edit instead. Or to plan. The problem is, if I am not writing every day, then I am not practicing. Getting better at anything means that practice must be a part of the effort. Thus, not writing every day is not possible.

Word count goals, although not necessary, are useful for ensuring that a certain volume is written. There’s a part of me that would be OK with dispensing with the goal of a daily word count, but at the same time, having an aim is important. It helps to force the writing. The best option there is to then reduce it. A lot.

To help make more time for the editing, for the planning for future projects, I am going to knock back the daily writing goal. It feels like the right thing to do. Continuing to keep piling on new projects without clearing out the backlog is only going to make my future even tougher. And that is certainly no longer acceptable.