Sunday, March 28, 2010

the secretions of success

What are they?

Why, blood, sweat and tears, of course.

Just ask any “successful” person how they got where they are, and likely as not they will tell you it was because of an inordinate amount of bleeding, sweating and tears along the way - but they all got there in the end because they never gave up even after all that secreting.

But even when you think you arrive at the endpoint, you realize that the journey is never over, that the learning begins anew each and every day.

Those are the secretions of success.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

When I was much younger, and quite naive, I really thought talent accounted for so very much, never truly understanding, until much later in life, that talent is but a small part of achieving ultimate success - quite small in fact.

It’s the phenomena, call it teen know-it-all-ism, which had me hearing the words of experienced elders, but not registering them because, well, I knew it all back then, didn’t I.

If we would only listen to our elders when we are young we could save so much pain and suffering later on.

But what would be the fun in that?

So, end of lectures - if you’re young you are paying it no attention, and if you’re old you already know it.

Anyhow, I’ve been reading like a fiend this year and so am increasing my target number of pages/year from 12,000 to 20,000. Yup, 20,000. And the way I’ve been going I should reach it, no sweat.

And the third draft of my novel is coming along. I’ve added almost 3,000 words so far - and that’s only in the first chapter. I need a grand total of 8,000 - 28,000 new words added to make it a true-novel-length work, and it looks like that will also be, no sweat.

I’m sounding all contradictory aren’t I with my “no sweat” remarks. Truth is, there has been much sweating going on the past few weeks to achieve those extra words, and it’s far from over. But I’m feeling much better about the whole project now that I’m getting through the third draft.

And as I approach my one year anniversary of cube-squatting release, I can say I made the right choice, but a very hard one.

And now, if I’m to succeed in my new career, I best get back to the bleeding, sweating and shedding of more tears.

Until next Sunday . . .

Sunday, March 21, 2010

lead me not into

I normally have only a single cup of strong coffee in the morning - but today I feel like having two.

And yes, when I finish the second cup I’ll pay the price of being on the verge of vibrating-hyperactivity for the next few hours with my eyes darting back and forth in their sockets looking for things at the corner of my vision that aren’t really there . . .

. . . but, it’s fresh ground, and it’s so damn good, and today I just can’t resist. Well, if I really wanted to I could resist, but I obviously don’t really want to.

Which brings me to the point of my post today - giving into temptations.

We all have them . . . and we all break down on occasion and go for them when we know damn well that we shouldn’t. It’s like an addictive drug and once the pleasure centers of your brain are activated by it and you receive the cheap thrill of giving in, it’s damn hard to walk away from the experience and never do it again.

And of course, being a full-time writer now, this directly relates to my job - that of writing vs. reading, watching shows or playing computer games or (choose a distraction). Being your own boss is a double-edged blessing, both grand and dangerous.

I can, without hesitation, tell you that if I gave into my daily temptations, then I would get absolutely no writing done. There is always something else more pleasurable I feel I would rather do, a normal human mechanism I think for avoiding any hard work (and believe me writing is hard work). So, every day it’s a mental struggle to avoid temptations and buckle down to my job of fiction writing.

First off I write every single day that I can. I don't beat myself up though for missing a day here or there for important family obligations. But every day I can write, I do write. Even so, the temptations still sit there like gargoyles perched on my shoulders.

Well then, what to do about it?

I employ two strategies to make sure my writing stays on track. The first is thinking of the consequences of not writing. One of which is confronting my wife when she comes home from a hideous day at work and asks me how my writing went. If I’ve goofed off the entire day (it has happened), then I feel this horrible guilt and realize that I have wasted a great opportunity to hone my craft and head my family towards a better future - and that feeling sucks big time.

Call strategy one the feel-like-crap-demotivator. The end result of not writing is far worse than that of writing, and so my rational mind (for it is a rational mind, at least to me) compels me two spend the allotted time each day actually writing and not goofing off. And in reality, once I’m in the act of writing the time flies by, I find myself enjoying the process of creation and see the results of my labours taking shape in the written word. The result is happiness and a feeling of accomplishment that day for making the effort and not goofing off. Feeling good about my writing accomplishments of the day far outweigh the slight transitory pleasures I get from goofing off.

And that leads me into strategy number two - the long distance outlook. I like to keep the end vision of my efforts out there for me to fantasize about. It’s a giant carrot and it will be the ultimate prize for the long term pain leading to long term gain. When I hear about some authors getting 600,000 dollar advances on their next novels I think, ‘hey, if they can do it, why not me?’, and the carrot gleams like a priceless jewel.

I’m not there yet, but one day I will be. I’m convinced of it and the ultimate reward will be allowing us to live anywhere we wish and do pretty much anything we want - when I’m not writing like a possessed fiend that is.

I must admit though that I am currently enjoying my second cup of coffee, but I know the price I’m going to pay for it. But, I will be working on my writing today even though it’s the weekend.

Until next Sunday . . .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

highs and lows and ugliness

This past week has been a mixed bag of lows, highs and even a dash of some ugly. Allow me to explain.

The lows - our last rat buddy, Fluffy, passed away . . . It wasn’t all unexpected and sudden like, but it still caused us a bunch of grief, and yes, I did find water getting into my eyes at various times after the event.

Fluffy had really been slowing down the last two weeks, he was pushing 2 ½ years old after all, and sometime Wednesday overnight he lay down for the last time and the little spark of his life burned out. Fluffy is now in the garden next to Snow and Harry, and so closes an era of wonderful rat buddies. Because of severe allergies though, we are not getting any more. The house seems that much quieter now and I still find myself looking at the spot where his cage used to be . . .

Another low, was finding out from the tax man that we are going to have to cough up some dough, thus pretty much cancelling out any cash we get back for the home renovation credit I’ll be applying for because of installing the new furnace last fall.

Thank you money-grubbing government base-tards! I’m beginning to understand why human history is rife with revolutions . . .

The highs - I went to reading night last night and had a great, though long, time. On the way there I had dumped into my mp3 player all the vinyl albums I had converted to digital the past two weeks, and, since I was driving alone, I had the tunes pumping like I was some pubescent teenage twit . . .

Yeah, I loved it - Billy Idol, Mental as Anything, Saga, Styx, After the Fire, . . . I had an absolute blast. My cobalt has the funky six speaker setup, plus a ten inch sub woofer in the truck, so yeah, I was one of those idiots you hear thumping along the street last night - sorry, I’ll try not to do it again any time soon.

And blasting is exactly what the weather was doing last night as will which included lots of dangerously swaying trees overhanging the highway and lots of sheeting rain. The drive, though sucky, was more than made happy by my ability to rock to some fantastic tunes of old so overall it was a high.

The ugly - spending way too much time agonizing over the next draft of my novel. It’s taking and excruciatingly long time to work through the third draft. I either have a really crappy second draft, or I’m causing myself unnecessary internal hemorrhaging trying to make it as perfect as I can.

All this pain and suffering though is for you, the reader. When it gets published, I don’t want to torture you more than in necessary, and so all this behind the scenes suffering on my part . . . and despite my best efforts I’m sure there will still linger sections of suck . . . Oh well, one does not become a master writer overnight.

In fact, I believe it takes about somewhere between four to five thousand nights to reach that level of competency . . . and I’m afraid that I’m still not close to that place yet . . .

But I try, oh how I do try.

Well, I’m already running behind today because of a late reading night and the time changing robbing me of an hour too, so with that, I’ll let you get on with your day.

Until next Sunday . . .

Sunday, March 07, 2010

crawling to the finish lines

Terry Brooks may have said, “life is a long time” but while I slowly, and I mean slowly, work away at my novel's final draft each day I’m beginning to wonder if my life will actually be long enough for me to see this novel through to its completion.

Now granted, I’m not one of those writers that spends fifteen hours a day writing with the other waking hour used to process food . . . so I don’t expect my progress to be that of a Piers Anthony . . . still . . . working at the craft is a very, very, very time consuming process for small gains.

I do write every day in the mornings until lunch, so don’t think that is the problem. It’s just that after the morning ends I tend to all the mundane things around the house that any good homeowner needs attending to . . . like cooking, cleaning, banking, shopping and the like.

And I must admit, my stamina for writing does not include working at it the entire day anyhow. If I tried that I would burn out like a candle tossed into an incinerator . . . and so I don’t. Dogged-turtle-slow is my natural work speed, which means I may, or may not, have the final draft of my novel completed this year. I’m really hoping to, but I just can’t make any promises.

So, what the paragraphs above are meant to tell you in too many words is . . . I don’t have much of an update on the novel for you. Chapter one is still under final draft construction with fourteen more waiting in line behind that.

On other fronts though some progress is being made. With regards to my losing some weight, I’m happy to announce that three pounds have left me and don’t seem to be returning. The weather is helping in this regard as I can go out for a good one hour walk each day instead of sitting on the couch reading . . .

. . . which brings me to just how much I’ve been reading. Would you believe fourteen novels already this year? Well, it’s true. As a writer, I naturally love books and spend some time each afternoon reading them. Also, now that I don’t spend nine plus hours in cubicle hell I have time to get at my vast collection of books. Believe it or not, but I’m getting ahead of my book collecting these days. I’ve only bought ten books so far this year . . . so, my library of ‘to-be-read-books’ has already shrunk by four . . . progress, of a sort.

I had mentioned last week that I’m converting my vinyl collection to digital . . . talk about another slow, slow process. As I revise my novel in the mornings I also record an album or two. It’s kind of neat getting to hear the old tunes again while I’m working away. But, I have only converted about ten albums so far . . . with about two hundred or so to go . . .

Seems like the theme of my existence these days is treading-in-molasses with the finish lines mere specks in the extreme far distance. Still, even minor progress on all fronts is better than no progress at all.

So, I’ll just keep plodding along and as time goes by more and more of my goals will become complete . . . provided I live long enough, that is . . .

Until next Sunday . . .