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Dry Spells

We writers often talk about writer’s block.  I even had a blog post on the topic.  But sometimes we just have dry spells.  They can be caused by different factors, including writer’s block, lack of time, and lack of motivation.  For me it has been the motivation mostly.  The ideas have been flowing free in my mind.  Both for a sequel to Dissolution of Peace and the current novel I am working on have been very active in my mind.  But I just don’t sit down and write.  So for today’s blog I thought I would talk about how to ride out these dry spells and even do a little rain dance to get things going again.

The first step is recognizing the dry spell.  That may seem easy enough, and for some it is.  But for me it wasn’t so easy.  I only just started thinking about how little I have written.  And when I look at my work in progress, I see the file hasn’t been modified since May 10th.  That is nearly two months ago, and I wasn’t aware of it.  This is by far the longest dry spell I have had in some time.  The only saving grace is that I have still been writing in this blog on a weekly basis.

In fact it was this blog that made me recognize I was in a dry spell, and at the same time it was what made me not realize it for so long.  Each week I sit down and put together a blog post for you.  I’m writing, and perhaps writing these blogs kept my ‘writing sense’ working.  Blogs are great ways to keep people aware of your existence, and to break down writing blocks and walls.  But, in this case it tricked me into thinking it hadn’t been so long since I wrote.  But, when I only wrote a short ‘Happy Independence Day’ blog last week, it clicked to me how little I have written.

You may not blog, so you may see you haven’t written in a matter of weeks.  Or, it could take you some time to recognize it for other reasons.  The point is you have to realize you’re in a slump before you can move on to the next step.

The next step is identifying the cause of the dry spell.  Again this may seem easy, but that is not always true.  Writer’s Block is often the first thing to blame.  But, if your ideas are still percolating in your head, as mine were, writer’s block is likely not your cause.  You have things to write about in your head, you’re just not sitting at the keyboard and doing it.  If you think it is writer’s block, dig deeper.  If you find no other causes, then revert to the steps to break down writer’s block.

The next most common thing to blame is time.  That is what I blamed.  I told myself I haven’t had time because I have been running a magazine.  I’ve been trying to get the first issue ready for print.  But that wasn’t fair.  Sure, running the magazine has taken up a lot of my time, but so does work, and my family.  All valid things to be working on rather than writing, but I’ve worked around all of them before.  But if you work through all this and find that time really is the issue, then you need to revert to the steps to find a time to work on your writing.

You might find it is depression, lack of motivation, or you have something new in your life that you’d rather be doing.  You may even find out that writing isn’t what you want to do.  But chances are that if you’ve realized you’re not writing, and are looking for ways to start again, you genuinely miss writing.  Once you find the cause, you need to dig deeper and find the true cause.

For me, I found it was a lack of motivation.  The ideas were there, but I wasn’t writing.  I dug deeper to find the cause of my lack of motivation.  That was a series of bad news in my writing.  I have received five rejection letters in those two months.  Three of those were for a story I have really felt confident in.  It has been stacking up the rejections and it has started to take a toll on my confidence.  In fact I have two short stories that are not selling despite approaching a year in circulation.  I’ve reminded myself that my first stories sold remarkably fast.  I’ve also reminded myself that I have not turned out a short story in almost eight months.  That is not a bad thing though.  I’ve been focusing on putting out novels.  When the right idea hits me, I’ll write another short.

There have been other delays in my novel as well.  I still don’t have cover art.  The edits may be delayed.  That coupled with the lack of sales of my son’s children’s book, has me worrying about my ability.  I get frustrated when people are not as excited about something as I am.  I feel as though they don’t approve of it, or even thing it not as worthy of their time.  I am a pessimist by nature, so I see all these things for the worst rather than the possible truth.  I see cover art delays as an artist who is disinterested in my story.  I see edit delays as an editor who thinks my work is so bad it needs more time.  And I see lack of sales on my son’s book as validation of my worst fears (that I can’t do this).

Long story short the reason for my dry spell is a lack of motivation because I am suffering from the “I can’t do this” and “I’m not good enough to do this” mentality.  We all hit this.  Everyone, in anything they pursue, hits a point where they think they can’t continue.  But if you stop, you are only proving yourself (and your critics) right.  It is the people that continue and refuse failure, that make it to their goals.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Next, you need to break past your road block.  You have figured out what the cause of your dry spell is, but now you need to break on through and keep working.  For writer’s block, it may be as simple as sitting down and typing until you get something going.  For a lack of time, you can schedule in writing time.  If it is more complicated, break it down into simple ways to motivate yourself.

For me, I inflated my ego a bit.  I went to the reviews of my short works that are previously published and saw what they had to say.  Reminded myself that people do enjoy what I write, and that eventually an editor will.  I also recognized that not everyone is able, or willing, to fall into finite deadlines.  I either need to live with it, or only work with people who will follow deadlines (likely a mixture of both).  Last, I think I am good with marketing.  But I had to recognize that when it comes to books, I am new at it.  And when it comes to Children’s Books, I am unsure where to start.  So I’ve started asking around for help on that.

The point is whatever is holding you back needs to be addressed.  You need to either make peace with it, or solve it.  Either way you have to get those things out of the way before you can start writing again.

Last, perform a rain dance.  You will never get past a dry spell if you don’t start getting things going.  If you have a work in progress, open it up and get working.  You’ve worked past all your issues, but your desire to write won’t magically spark up.  You need to start writing.  You might find that you will jump right back in.  Or, especially in the case of writer’s block, you will struggle to start up again.  But after a little time at the keyboard you will find the rains will fall again.  And hopefully once you get going again your next dry spell will be a long way off.

Some people hit dry spells and give up.  For some people they simply don’t feel the need to write anymore.  But, chances are they would not be interested in finding a way to start writing again.  If you have the desire to keep writing, but you just can’t seem to do it, you are a writer in a dry spell.  Don’t give up on it.  Clearly writing is something you enjoy doing, or you wouldn’t seek out advice on how to end your dry spell.  Now get to work on fixing it, and get those words on paper.

 

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Updates: January 2012

Well, in my post “Distractions” I talked about setting a writing goal.  Part of that commitment to writing more was to share the journey with you.  So, once a month, I am going to give you some updates on how my writing has gone.  I’ll also touch on some of the other projects I have going.

First lets talk about writing.   I made a commitment that I would try to write 1,000 words a day.  Honestly there have been a few days where I didn’t write at all (six days actually).  But considering we had the Holidays in that time, I am okay with that.  However, there were a lot of days were I wrote a lot.  I even had some great days, this past Friday I almost got 10,000 words.  On the days I wrote I averaged over 2,000 words.    I’ve been posting my daily word counts on Twitter (when I write).   I have written just over 38,000 words.

None of this counts the writing I do here.  While I love getting the blog to your guys.  I even had a very successful post on self-publishing.  But, this word count has gone directly into my novel.  You may remember I have set a goal of one short story a month and one novel a year.  I haven’t thought of a short story for January yet, so I may be a little behind on that.  But, the novel is coming along well.

I have a children’s book my oldest son (he was five when we wrote it, six now) and I wrote together.  The status on it’s publication is still a bit in limbo.  I have an illustrator working on the drawings.  The backgrounds are all done, and the characters have slowly been put in the scenes.  But, the next part is all the coloring.  She just had a baby, so of course that slows things down.  Fingers crossed for a March release, but I haven’t set any dates yet.  It is the hope that by the time I do the Updates for February I can show you the cover art and announce an official release date.

I think those of you with kids will enjoy it, and likely relate with it.   It also embodies the joy of working on a project with your own child and sharing in an art you both can enjoy.  In any case, “Daddy is Tired” will be a joy to read for parents and young children learning to read.

I still have two short storied for 2011 out at different markets.  They will make their rounds until they are published.  I will of course announce that right away on both Twitter and Facebook.  Once I start turning out short stories monthly, I will be really glad to Duotrope to help track where they all are.

As far as my reading goes, it has been put on hold with the holidays.  I am currently reading the novel Shining in Crimson.  As some of you know I read this when it was still a draft to help Robert S. Wilson with my thoughts on the novel.  I am excited about reading the completed work, and have found he left in all the good parts (so far).   I don’t have a novel on this list for once I am done reading this one.  So, a trip to the book store may be in my future.  Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card is set to release in a few days, that will certainly be on my list.  You can always follow what I am reading by becoming a fan on Goodreads.

I still get my daily dose of short fiction from Daily Science Fiction.  But, I am way behind on my issues of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine.  I haven’t even opened the Nov/Dec issue and the Jan/Feb should be coming any day.  Perhaps I will take a break from novels and catch up on those.  We will see.

My short story “Death Watch” has been nominated for two awards in 2011.  I am very please with this.  First, of all this is my very first published short story.  It was only the second one I had ever written and the first one considered Flash Fiction (under 1,000 words).  You can still read it at Liquid Imagination by clicking here.

The first nomination it got was for the Micro Awards.  The announcement on that won’t come until the very end of February.  It will be judged by a panel of judges and we will see how it does.

The second nomination came as a complete surprise.  It was nominated in the Preditors and Editors 2011 Readers poll.  There are a lot of good works there.  I was reading and voting through the categories when I got to Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories.  And there was “Death Watch” listed.  I about jumped out of my seat.  I was honored to find that I was even nominated.

Because it is a poll, it is done based on voting.  I am even more pleased to announce it has been in first and second place for a good portion of the polling.  Polling ends January 10th.  Please, go place a vote here.  It only takes a minute and I would appreciate it.

I think the last thing I will bring up isn’t directly related to writing.  I used to own a business, and I am dying to get back into owning one again.  I have been contemplating many different things, but another Security Company is not one of them.  I have been in the industry for a while, but the big companies really have locked the start ups out of the business.  Perhaps if I had clients set before I got started, I might consider it.

So that is the updates for you this month.  I will continue to post my weekly blog posts on a variety of topics.  Please subscribe to my blog to receive email updates on when I post.

 

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Exercise

I think I am going to deviate a bit from my usual topics of writing and talk about exercise.  I have to say I have a few people who have got me thinking about my own health and exercise.  A post by Michael McDuffee (here) got me thinking about my own health issues, weight issues, and how to change it.

Watching my kids play their first season of soccer these past few months reminds of the time when I used to be in shape.  For those that don’t know, soccer is played in two 45 minute halves.  I used to play a game and referee three or four in a day.  That is a lot of running.  Of course, now I would be lucky to run to my fridge and back without getting winded.

Me in 2000

Of course, that didn’t last.  It didn’t last for two reasons:  Diet and Exercise.  I kept eating fast food.  I love that crap and I keep eating it.  It was fine as a young man because I exercised more than enough for the calories I was taking in.  But, when I got out of High School, I stopped Soccer.  So, I also stopped exercise.  I had a job where I spent my days walking.  But I slowly was promoted to a job that required I spend more time behind a desk.

Fast forward to June 2009, I was 275 pounds and gaining.  I was also getting sick to my stomach all the time, to the point of being to sick to work.  It was a job I loved so I didn’t like missing the work.  But also, I hated getting sick.  The Doctors still have no answer for it, other than my weight.  And while it is now a manageable issue, I still have this issue.

Me 2009 at the Ribbon Cutting for my business.

My response in 2009 was to cut out a lot of things from my diet.  I gave up fast food.  I stopped drinking Coke (my favorite, and I still miss it now).  I was drinking almost exclusively water.  I also participated in yearly walk for education.  And it was working.  Within around six months I was down to 255 pounds, and a few months after that I was down to 245.  It was great.

Me at the 2010 VPEF Loop the Lagoon Walk

Well, that was June 2010.  For some reason, I tried to eat fast food again.  Big mistake, because it didn’t make me sick.  So guess what I started eating.  Well here we are now, December 2011, and I am 272 (as of this morning).  And, guess what is getting worse.  My health.  Like back in 2009, I am feeling yucky way more often.

I have a gym membership, but I haven’t been in nearly three months.  I get very upset with my lack of motivation on this topic.  I want nothing more than to lose the weight and feel healthy.  But, I just can’t get my but in the gym.  I just can’t seem to give up the foods I love (though I still haven’t had a Coke since June ’09).  People tell me the trick is not to give it up, but to use moderation.  But, I am not sure I know the meaning of that word.

I have a friend, Jeanne, who talks of going on runs and hikes.  I’d love to be able to go hiking but I could never keep up with most of my hiking friends (including Jeanne) because they are at another level.  The running life style is something that always has intrigued me.  I’d love to be a part of it.  But for some reason I lack to the motivation.

I have always preferred exercise with friends.  I like the company, and I also like the knowledge that someone else is depending on me to be there.  It makes “canceling” had for me.  I don’t like to miss out on anything.  Another friend of mine, Allen, is a gym fanatic.  But again, he is far above my level.

These are all just excuses.  I know this.  I just have to go to the gym.  I need to eat better.  I know it.  After all, what am I paying for?  I suppose the real purpose for this blog was to motivate me in a way I know how.  Writing about it.

It is that time of year for New Years resolutions.  So, my resolution is to change my diet and hit the gym.  Fingers crossed that this time next month, I will have already be down the right path.  I’ll update you all then!

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