Cue the ‘Rocky’ Theme





Seven years ago, back when my blog was just getting underway, I posted a segment entitled Are You At Your Writing Weight?  With my current state of affairs, it seems rather appropriate right now.  I don’t know about you, but how productive I am – with almost everything I do – is closely tied to how ‘fit” I’m feeling. The same thing is true for how much enjoyment I derive from almost everything else. Coming off months and months of travel involving constantly eating out, endless nights in hotels with limited activity, and stress levels that would make a combat vet raise his (or hers) eyebrows, my weight ballooned thirty pounds over my goal and my overall fitness was poor, to put it mildly. There at the end, I began to experience back problems and the number of “restful” sleep hours I enjoyed nightly shrank considerably.

Now that all that is behind me and I’m trying to recapture my creative drive, I’m finding that I have to take care of the engine first. That’s why I thought about this old post. Competitive athletes rarely maintain their bodies in the same physical state that they do when they are competing, and in that previous post I postulated that the same thing could be said about writers and their cognitive acuity. Intellectually, I feel that I’m in peak form. Working on the company project kept me on my toes and I spent my time in airports and on airplanes reading A LOT of books. But something was missing. I needed to feel good about my body and health again before I could immerse myself in back into the writing waters, and to do that would take time and its own type of devotion.

So, I’m watching what I eat and exercising again. I’ve already managed to shave off fifteen of the thirty pounds, the pain in my back is less and less noticiable, and I’ve returned to the land of happy dreams and wiping the sleep from my eyes. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I can feel that creative drive returning as I shed the weight and push my endurance. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I can feel the momentum pushing (pulling?) me in the right direction. If things continue on course, I should be where I need to be in another 4-6 weeks.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I need to go drink some raw eggs!  😄

Half-Assed




Over the thirty-four years of our marriage, the wife and I have learned a hard truth. For DIY projects around the house, unless it involves stereo or entertainment equipment, I need to politely abstain. Why? Because I suck at them. #DIYFAIL It took a while before I learned my lesson, but when every household project I worked on turned out looking…well…half-assed, the continual disappointment afterwards was enough to seal my fate. You would never see a visitor admiring something I put together with my own hands, or inquiring as to “who did your work”? I could blame the outcome on second-rate tools and/or materials (because we don’t want to spend the money on the right tools or first rate materials, thus the DIY), but the reality was my lack of skills and general disinterest. I’m not like my neighbors, my co-workers, or it seems most of the home-owning world -- I simply don’t feel compelled to study the craft (whatever it involves…wood working, masonry, landscaping, etc.) enough to produce the result I’m after. So, I had two options, 1) spend a few more pennies to see our vision come to life the way I want it to, or 2) learn to live with half-assed. My answer - I’m okay with bowing to the expertise of others and accepting the added cost.

However, when it comes to the ultimate DIY project - my writing – nothing can be further from the truth. Back in my early days, blissful inexperience led me to produce material that had no business being seen in public, much less commerce. But that was due to ignorance, not laziness or lack of effort. Since then I have studied and worked hard to produce a superior product. I’ve taken this “hobby” seriously, devoting myself to strengthening both my voice and the technical aspects of writing, soaking up everything I could learn about the business-side of publishing, all for the dream of seeing one (or more) of my books on the shelf one day (via traditional publishing).

But there comes a time for hard truths…and this is one of them.

I’ve accepted the fact that circumstances in my life that have continually hindered me along the way, will not change. I suspect this is true for many aspiring writers, especially those who are trying to balance being a bread-winner with the pursuit of an art form whose financial reward usually leads to scrounging for bread crumbs. Between my 50-60 hour per week “day-job” and my family, there are precious few hours left to devote to my hidden passion. And when you steal hours from Peter to pay Paul, unfortunately it’s family time that takes the hit. No matter how supportive your family might be that time drain takes a toll and there is a price to pay.

I’ve always held the belief that if I could write full-time, I would not only become published in no time – but be successful at it. But writing full-time is an unrealistic fantasy…and therefore I’ve realized…so is my goal. Sure, there are plenty of writers who hold down full-time jobs and still get published. I guess they must simply be more talented than I am. My hard truth is this - I possess a writing voice that requires nurturing to reach the quality deserving of the attention of mainstream publishing, and there isn’t enough time in the day to do that.

Where does that leave me? With some questions and some answers.

Question number one – are any of my manuscripts publishable? My answer – yes! I (and others) believe that to be true and there is an audience for my stories.

Question number two – what is my next step? In my last post, I discussed self-publishing or seeking small presses, and those are still viable options I will explore.

Question number three – am I giving up on landing an agent? Yes. I won’t continue to chase the bouncing agent ball, instead I’ll probably seek out the services of a serious editor while simultaneously planning how to go about releasing my book into the wild.

What I won’t do is allow my frustration and impatience to release something I deem “half-assed” into the world.

Stick around and get comfortable because I’m not going anywhere. Things are about to get interesting.

The Comfortable Silence



I’m back!!

After 169 weeks working on a major project (a new ERP implementation for our company), culminating with me being away from home 19 of the last 20 weeks, 14-15 hour days – including weekends – the grueling schedule has finally come to an end.  Thankfully things are slowly returning to a new-normal for me, and that includes my alter-ego. 

The writer part of me has been muted for the past six months, and it was absolute torture. Imagine being tied up and shoved into a sense-deprivation chamber for that long, except the opposite. The part of my brain responsible for fueling my creative juices and attempted to project those ideas outward through my writing – still as active as ever – had to be ignored. There was simply no time for it. Eight years ago, before I re-discovered my love of telling a tale, that wouldn’t have been a problem for me. But once you’ve swam in the pool of imaginative expression, there’s no going back. I sacrificed lots of things over the course of this project, missing my son’s soccer games and tennis matches, his birthday, getting his driver’s license, my wife’s birthday, not attending the DFW Writers Conference, WRiTE CLUB, and many many more, but having to turn my back on the characters and stories that pleaded for me to come out and play – that was probably the hardest.

I’ve had a lot of people comment about the toll it must have taken, being alone in a hotel room all that time.  Frankly, apart from missing my family terribly, the last year or so (when the travel was the heaviest) I rediscovered my affinity for comfortable silence.  Introverts don’t mind being alone…in fact they prefer it…so it should be no surprise that the stillness of an empty hotel room wasn’t a problem for me. What does surprise me is how many people find silence so uncomfortable, and go out of their way to drive it away. The worst is when they resort to banal conversation to eliminate our serenity. Maybe they’re afraid of what they discover if left alone with their own thoughts? Who knows, but for me, this turned out to be a surprising benefit of this project. I can’t remember a time in my life when things were that quiet. I’ve never lived alone (college roommates, shared living spaces, etc.) and once I got married…well…family life is the exact opposite of a quiet living.

You know another kind of silence I’ve adapted to? The non-existent rejection letter. One of the writerly duties I managed to continue during my self-imposed exile was sending out query letters for my already finished manuscripts. It seems that between the last time I queried (back when I landed my first agent) and now, more and more agents have adopted a don’t ask don’t tell philosophy. Meaning – they don’t bother to send rejection letters any more, they simply let the silence speak for itself.  While I don’t agree with the practice (to me, that’s just pure laziness), I have come to grips with what it says about my writing.

I don’t have what it takes to crack the crystal barrier.

That doesn’t mean I’m throwing in the towel. No sir! I might not have the skill to craft a query letter that will sway an agent my way. Or maybe my books aren’t mainstream enough to take a gamble on. Whatever the reason, I’m relying on feedback from countless CP’s and beta readers…and my own gut…all of which tell me that there IS an audience for what I’ve crafted. So…so long traditional path…and hello self-publishing.

Am I disappointed? Sure. You bang on a door long enough you begin to see your-self as part of the door…instead of just someone requesting entry. Many of the people I’ve become good friends with via the blogosphere have gone on to have their books published and realize their dreams, so it’s easy to feel left behind. But that’s something else silence provides…perspective. The circumstances of my life don’t fit the role of your typical writer, so my expectations need to change. And I’m okay with that.

More to the point…I’m comfortable with it.
 
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