Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Keeping on Track

During this time of year, I take some time out of my busy schedule to assess where I am and where I want to go. This assessment encompasses not only my personal life but also my writing life. Part of this exercise includes me looking at my life as a five-year plan, and in some cases, a ten-year plan. I began doing this a few years ago when I needed structure to my life—something I severely lacked before I started writing.

Create and keep a schedule
Create and keep a schedule

I can’t say what I do is easy, but it does yield fruit. I’m disciplined now and more attuned to what I believe my life mission is in the grand scheme of things. I’m not saying this to make it seem as if I have everything figured out. On the contrary, if I have anything figured out, it’s my name and where I was born—and maybe where I go when I die. Other than those little things, I’m at the mercy of the wind.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing all this is that I’d like to share with you three key things I do to keep on track for the year. Don’t expect miracles if you’re going to implement any of this stuff in your life. I can tell you it is not as easy as I make it out to be. But, it is worth the try, if you’re in the mood to make a change for a more goal-centered life.

Schedule downtime—That’s an odd way to think about getting things done. Isn’t scheduling downtime the exact opposite of getting things done? Well, not really. What you want to do is prevent burnout. I’ve been there when all I could think about was what I wanted to do, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I read somewhere that the body functions on a time cycle, and if the body doesn’t get the rest it needs, it will rebel by throwing itself in bed. That happened to me. There was a time I became ill with a flu or fever every single year since I was a kid. Nowadays, that doesn’t happen. I take one full day off from being online, writing and chores to be with the family. It’s a full day of familial bonding that has since kept me healthy. The downtime also stimulates my creative juices, clearing my mind and readying the week for my reappearance. By the time my day off is over, I’m set to tackle anything thrown at me.

Work hard—Given I’m a proponent for taking a day off every week, the other side of the coin is making up the time by working hard during the other six days of the week. Working hard doesn’t mean sweating hard, though. It means doing more with the finite time you have available. If that means finding alternate ways to produce more than you are capable of, then it means you’re working not just harder, but smarter. The ultimate goal is to get the things you would have had done in seven days with six days instead. Tricky, but doable. In the context of writing, I schedule everything. My novel writing is part of my schedule as is my site writing. Responding to comments on my site, Twitter and Facebook is in there, too. At the end of the week, all that hard work will have paid off once I look at my accomplishments and realize just how much I produced.

Put it all down on paper—An interesting thing happens when you write things down. You remember them. I think there must be some sort of relational action thing going on in the brain when I write things down. I seem to remember those things and I can remember what they look like written on paper. The idea is a strange one, but I will have to say this really works. Do you really want to accomplish your goals? Write them all down on paper. Years ago, I had the idea in my mind of what I wanted to do—write a trilogy—then went ahead and wrote the titles down on paper. Suddenly, seeing the titles there made them more real. I hadn’t written any of them, but they were real to me. I did the same thing with my other parts of my life. If I wanted a new car, I’d write it on paper then I knew there was no turning back from achieving my goal. Again, write everything you want down on paper. It does make a difference.

Last thing on my mind is this: When a trial hits, you hit right back. Don’t surrender. Stay true to the course. There is nothing in this world that ought to prevent you from achieving your goals. To use the cliché: Live the dream. No one else can do it for you.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What goals do you want to write down that would make it more real for you to achieve success?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Writing Tips

Christmas Day. I’m not here right now but if you leave me a message I will get back to you as soon as I can. Actually, by the time you read this, it will have been a full month since I wrote it. I cherish these long timelines before writing something and before it goes to press. I can play with the writing, add a little, take a little—it’s very organic. Sometimes, and this happens more often than you think, I scrap the post for something entirely different.

Writing longhand
Writing longhand

It’s not my intention today to ramble on about nonsense, so I thought I’d give you a gift instead. Many times, I have felt the need to elaborate more about my writing, but I have never had the will to do that, particularly for these reasons:

  • Writing sites crop up every day, and what I offer isn’t anything you can’t gain from other sites.
  • I’ve never felt comfortable about writing about writing. I know, I’ve written three thick books that I should be proud of, but I’ve always felt unworthy to impart any information to my audience. In my mind, it seems pretentious to do such a thing, considering authors such as John Grisham, who I admire dearly, has never written about his writing. If anyone should write about writing, it should be Grisham.

Anyway, today I’d like to give you three things I do to keep on track with my writing. With this I hope to overcome this huge feeling of unworthiness that goes through me when I’m writing about writing.

All right, enough of the self-loathing. Here are the points:

  1. Schedule Writing Time—I’m a great believer in treating writing like a job. Well, for me, it is a job, so I have no choice. I clock in and punch out every day. That’s the secret as to how I get so much writing done in a day. I wake up at 4:52 every morning, wash up, have my walk, then I sit down to write while everyone is still asleep. My writing is scheduled. I don’t allow anything to interfere with my goal of getting 1,000 words done. Trust me when I say that when you become scheduled, writing will turn into a habit very quickly in your life. You’ll miss it if you do not do it.
  2. Write What You Love—Everyone has something interesting to talk about, even if it’s a silly subject like the zombie apocalypse. When I first started writing, I had no clue what I was doing. In some respect, even today, I don’t know what I’m doing. But, I’ll tell you something you may not know. If you write about things you love, you will never run out of things to talk about, either in your novel writing or on your site. I find it easy to sit down and come up with posts for my site and scenes for my books. And the only reason for that is that I love writing about the things that interest me. Fortunately, the things I love happen to be the things other people love, too.
  3. Don’t Rely on Muse or Inspiration—This is the only “don’t” on my list. Treat writing like a job. In a job, you don’t rely on inspiration to get things done. You do the job because you have to, and if you don’t get it done, you’re out of a job. Simple as that. Are you going to fire yourself? Of course not! You’re going to work hard until what you imagined in that brain of yours flows on the paper and you’re done. Yes, it will be hard, especially those days when you hear yourself saying, “I don’t feel like it.” I promise you though, if you treat writing like a job, you will never run out of anything to say.

One last thing before I go back to having my eggnog—always, always revise. Forget about the first draft. Sometimes I’ll knock out a first draft that appears publication worthy, but the usual thing I do is dump everything on paper, then revise.

Revisions is what makes your work shine. Never cheap out on spending the time with your writing to make it what you’ve envisioned.

Now, if you feel the need to write something, leave a comment. In the meantime, I’m sure at this very moment I’m getting ready to enjoy the rest of today with my family with tons of food and festivities.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What writing tips do you have that you’d like to share with everyone?