Search

J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

Tag

self-discipline

So, I’m finding this ‘blog post a day’ challenge……

……..er, challenging, to say the least. Not from a lack of ideas, but from a plethora of them, some requiring more attention than others. Which means I’ve got at least three or four posts that I’m working on, fleshing out, trying to fully realize what I’m writing about before I release them into the world.

It ain’t easy.

The initial excitement is starting to wear off and the reality of maintaining it is starting to set in, but I am starting to find a little joy in meeting my daily goal. It’s only day 7 and I have another twenty-four days before this becomes a new, established habit. Par for the course, I find that I’m questioning myself, my self-discipline, my own ability to keep this goal.

Then I remind myself.

I don’t make promises I’m not sure I can keep, either to friends or family.

I should hold that standard for myself.

IMG_20160227_115204-2-2-2

So, this is post Number 3…….

…….on this second day of January. I’ve been thinking about those New Year resolutions that seem to fall by the wayside, even with the best of intentions. I don’t like making promises I don’t know if I can keep, so I rarely make them (which means, if I do make a promise, you can bet your last dollar it will be kept). This goes for resolutions, which, to me, seems like glorified promises to oneself.

So, I’ve decided to make goals. Easier to break down and manage.

One of those goals is to write a post on this blog once a day and no less than five posts in one week. So far, I seem to be meeting that goal. But this week won’t count – I’m calling it a dry run on an experiment. The less pressure I put on myself to produce any kind of writing, the less inclined I will be to stress out and ultimately quit (which I don’t like doing – it ranks right up there with promises. See above).

Part of this is to challenge myself as a writer (always something one should strive to do, in any of the arts). Part of it is to develop better writing habits (if I do it every day, the better my writing and creative muscles will grow).

I’ve been reading a lot, both fiction and non-fiction, but that’s only half the equation. The other half is the act of writing itself.

Writing one post a day will be a challenge, as I’ve mentioned, but it’s a goal I’m determined to keep. I’ll probably panic (what topic do I write about today? Do I wing it? Do I plan it? Ack!!), which is normal, but I know I’ll come up with something.

It wasn’t that long ago that I could write for six hours solid in a day, work on a play and be gainfully employed. If I’ve done it before, I can do it again. It’s just a matter of setting a goal, managing my time and applying discipline (which I think I’ve mentioned somewhere else on this blog).

I know I can do this.

What creative goals do you have for yourself for 2017?

IMG_20160227_115204-2-2-2

So, given that it in this life……

…….we have to have an income in order to live (rent, groceries, utilities, children), finding time to be creative may seem like a luxury. It isn’t – it’s vital to our well-being to make time to express ourselves through the creative arts. Stephen King wrote early in the morning and late at night – he did this while teaching English in Maine. So did Mary Higgins Clarke, Danielle Steele, J.K. Rowling, Edward Stratemeyer (creator of the Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew). I know that many other artists do and have done the same thing – they found a way and made time for it.

Even if it’s just for an hour a day, once you’ve got that hour, guard it fiercely. Even if all you do is stare at a blank page, a blank canvas or a blob of clay and make nothing for that entire hour, you are training yourself to be present for that hour. Write a thousand words in that hour, walk away and edit it the next day. Sketch out on a blank piece of paper what you want to paint in bold colors on canvas.

Making deadlines for yourself will help, as well. For example, for the writers out there, set a goal to write a specific word count each day. If you write a thousand words a day, make it a goal to increase the daily word count and give yourself a deadline as to when you want to have the first draft written. If you fall short of your word count one day, make it up the next day, if you can, but keep your eyes on your deadline. A great example of writing to a deadline is National Novel Writing Month, held every year in November.

Deadlines help keep you on track and can give you the bit of inspiration you need to knuckle down and go for the goal. And while Douglas Adams enjoyed hearing his deadlines whoosh past, when you meet yours or even accomplish your goal prior to it, you can take satisfaction that you whooshed past it.

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Douglas Adams, author, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Recommended Link:

National Novel Writing Month

Editor’s Note: This blog post is concurrently published on Citizens Journal VC

So, there’s this writing page I follow…..

……..and someone was griping about the exercises being posted every day, saying that if he had the time to do the exercises (which are, in some cases, pretty detailed), then he would have the time to actually write, which is what he would rather do (the implication being that he did not have such time).

This is why it’s called ‘discipline’. You write whenever you can, wherever you are because you can’t NOT write. If you need huge chunks of time and no distractions in order to write, then you’re enamored of the idea of being a writer, with no intention of actually doing the hard work it entails. This applies to every artistic and creative pursuit, not just writing. Heck, it applies to just about anything that tickles your interest.

Stephen King and JK Rowling (to name the most obvious) wrote while struggling financially at menial, hard-labor jobs or while trying to find steady employment and surviving on assistance.

The point is, if you want to write, then write. Outlining your need for the perfect time and quantity of time is just a way to avoid committing to an indeterminate amount of time to create a world within a story.

And that’s the fear – commitment and looking inside yourself to see what monsters or angels lurk there.

*Special Guest*: Author Harry Connolly

Writing Advice You Won’t Hear From Sensible Authors: Always Blame Yourself

I have one piece of writing advice that always seems to startle people. It’s simple: Whatever happens with my career, I always blame myself, when I deserve it or not.

Let me tell you a story that’s probably apocryphal: A first-time director is shooting a film, and the production has a terrible day. They don’t get the shots they need, they’re disorganized, the actors are unhappy, and a few more days like it will break the budget. The producer storms into the office, angry, and begins berating the cinematographer.

And the cinematographer smiles.

Why? Because the person who takes the blame is the person who has the power. By yelling at the cinematographer, the producer has put him above that noob director.

When I first heard it several years ago, this anecdote became a weird obsession for me. Suddenly, everywhere I looked, whenever I saw credit or blame being laid out, it was always about power. A boss who blamed an underling was admitting that they didn’t have control over the project. A boss who never shared credit was taking away any sense of authority their staff might have. And so on.

Writers did it all the time. Editors didn’t recognize their greatness. Marketing people didn’t understand the book. Readers only cared about the latest fads. Writers took credit for every sale and positive review, but when something bad happened, it was for reasons beyond their control.

Which meant they were giving away their power.

My response was that I began to horde blame. Every rejection was my fault. When something wouldn’t sell, I told myself it was the writing, not the market. When books didn’t sell, it’s because the writing wasn’t exciting enough. When readers left reviews that seemed to describe a story written by some other Harry Connolly in some alternate universe, I decided that they must have skimmed because I bored them.

What can I do to fix this for next time became my mantra.

I have certainly had opportunities for spreading blame. The Twenty Palaces novels were sold before the huge economic crash but were published after, when things were really tough for a lot of people. Sales were never going to match the profit/loss sheets written up when Del Rey was figuring out my advance. And Circle of Enemies didn’t appear in brick and mortar store for two weeks after publication date because Hurricane Irene damaged a pallet in the warehouse.

But you know what? It’s my job to write a book that overcomes problems like that. Other authors, like Seanan McGuire and Kevin Hearne, released urban fantasies during the recession, and they found a thriving readership. If they could do it, I should have been able to do it, too.

It’s my job to write a book that is undeniable.

And I know that, on some level, all this self-blame is ridiculous. Sometimes a story is rejected because an editor is having a bad day, or they just bought s very similar story, or something else that has nothing to do with the author. Sometimes books get terrible covers. Sometimes readers assume your book is going to be crap based on the cover or the genre, then skim it to convince themselves they’re right.

Sometimes it really isn’t the writers fault.

But who cares? Taking the blame anyway means focusing on the work to make it stronger and better. It means putting your time, energy, and attention into things I can control. Was a particular story rejected because that particular editor, for example, hates zombies? I don’t even entertain the question; the best thing to do is to assume that the story simply wasn’t good enough and try to make the next one better.

Because the alternative is to believe that I am already good enough, and that way lies stagnation.

The Way Into Chaos Cover

The final book in my new epic fantasy trilogy (about a sentient curse that causes the collapse of a mighty empire) is out right now. Have I mentioned that it got a starred review in Publishers Weekly? Quote: “This twisty, subversive novel will win Connolly a whole new set of fans.”

You can find out more about that first book here, or you can read the sample chapters I’ve posted on my blog.

And hey, if none of that sounds interesting and you don’t want to click, no worries. I know who’s to blame.

 

BIO: Harry Connolly’s debut novel, Child Of Fire, was named to Publishers Weekly’s Best 100 Novels of 2009. For his epic fantasy series The Great Way, he turned to Kickstarter; at the time this was written, it’s the ninth-most-funded Fiction campaign ever. Book one of The Great Way, The Way Into Chaos was published in December, 2014. Book two, The Way Into Magic, was published in January, 2015. The third and final book, The Way Into Darkness, was released on February 3rd, 2015. Harry lives in Seattle with his beloved wife, beloved son, and beloved library system.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑