Monday, April 20, 2015

Where I Write

Where the magic happens, or rather, where the "long, hard work that hopefully ends up looking like magic" happens.

Stephen King says your writing space only needs one thing: "A door you are willing to shut."

My space doesn't actually have that, yet, but maybe someday. Maybe I'll even have one of these someday. For now, we just don't have the extra room in the house. I do, however, have a very supportive family and a very comfortable writing setup, so I can't complain.

We have a room in our house that I've staked a partial claim to as an office, though my daughter often spends more time on my computer there than I do. It's the picture you see above, where I have my computer set up on one side, and a nice, cleared area on the other for when I'm writing out first drafts by hand. The window looks out over the front yard which gives me a nice, peaceful view of the outdoors.

I have a handful of inspirational toys scattered about the desk: a 10th Doctor Sonic Screwdriver, a small Lego Millennium Falcon, a fun little wind up toy, and just outside of the shot is a plush Darth Vader holding a rose that my daughter gave me last Valentine's Day. There is also a bobble head of Michael Scott, a gift from my wife back when I worked as an office manager. I also have a stack of to-read books and stacks of notebooks and note cards.

It's a great setup that really suits my needs. I could use a more comfortable chair one of these days, but I generally don't sit there for long enough periods of time for it to matter. The reason for that is the proximity to my daughter's room, and if you've read my post on making the time to write, you might be able to guess the reason. When I'm writing at 4:00 am, the squeaks of the chair and click-clicking of the keyboard on editing days tend to wake her up.

So, here is a look at my alternate writing space:

The dining table, currently set up for a bit of editing (and tractor racing, apparently!)

Our dining table is the farthest point in the house from the bedrooms, so in the early hours I tend to work here. Setting up with notebook and pen is easy of course, and when I'm on the laptop, my Scrivener documents sync through the cloud, so it works out fine and I can get to anything I need to keep moving forward on the writing.

That's the key, really: moving forward, making progress.

Having a nice place to write is, well, nice, but sometimes you have to keep working no matter where you end up. Someday I may have a proper office space with a door to close to the world, but for now I sit where I can find room and just write.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Sunset from Minute Maid Park. Beautiful.
Every time Jamie Todd Rubin talks about baseball, I get nostalgic for all the games I attended as a kid. For quite a while, I seemed to go to at least a few games every season, then we made a few moves and I never had quite the same opportunities to make it to the games. Living in Houston, though, offers the opportunity to catch games at a very beautiful Minute Maid Park.

The Astros are rebuilding, which is obvious on the scoreboard, but they have a great group of young guys that keep things exciting even in a big loss with diving catches and big home runs. They lost to the Oakland Athletics (coincidentally, the team I watched most as a kid), but they made some great plays along the way. It's easy to see the talent these young players have. Hopefully they can build something great together.

This was also my daughter's first game, and even though I told her ahead of time that she could play games on my phone if she got bored, she never once asked for it. She watched the whole game, cheered on our home team, and took part in all the many traditions of America's national pastime. She didn't want Cracker Jacks (I did, though!) but she did get the ice cream in a tiny baseball helmet, so she got a nice souvenir to take home.

I had already planned to get to at least one more game before the season is over and was very glad to hear that she wanted to go again, too. I loved going to the ballpark when I was her age and it was great to be able to share the experience.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rejection

As I've grown as a writer, I've been glad to see a few personalized rejections mixed in with the form letters. I talked about a recent rejection email that was particularly inspiring for me a few days ago, and since then I've been thinking about all of the rejections I've received since deciding to give writing an honest effort. It's something we all struggle through as writers, so I thought I'd share a bit of my story.

I received my first rejection a couple years ago from a pro-level magazine. It was soon after I had finished my first short story, and I chose this particular magazine for their award winning status and their quick response time–I was/am impatient at times. I submitted my story, and waited.

I checked the status daily–they have a counter where you can see your place in the reading queue. When I noticed the number was down to twenty, I started checking every few minutes. I knew it wouldn’t be long and I would have my first published story!

Of course, that’s not how it happened.

Few writers get that first publishing credit right away. I was rejected, and it stung. 

Instead of dwelling on it, though, I turned right around and submitted the story to another magazine. Rather than looking at the rejection as a failure, I chose to look at it as a stepping stone, as my induction into the world of the “real” writers. 

I looked at the rejection and knew I was in the good company of Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Ray Bradbury, and all the other greats that have walked the same rejection-paved streets before me. 

I also know how to win in the long run: keep writing.

The way you deal with the rejections is what will define your career. If you can’t face them down, you can’t make a career of writing, plain and simple. They are the test of your love for the craft. They are the walls that block your way and you have a choice: you can let the walls stop you or you can plow right through them. 

It’s your decision to make.

As for me, I'll be writing. And each publication will be that much sweeter for the work I put in. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

When Rejections Get Personal

In the short time since I've been writing as more than a hobby, I've accumulated more than a handful of rejection letters. I see this as part of paying my dues as a writer, but it's still painful at times.

The hardest part for me is the lack of feedback: not knowing what the editor liked, what they didn't like, and what made them stop reading altogether. Thankfully, I've received a couple of personalized rejections, and the most recent was the best one yet.

My most recent rejection was not only personalized, but very complimentary. It's still a rejection, but damn it feels good to hear such kind words from the editor of one of the best magazines in the genre.

He also said why he chose not to publish the story: it lost momentum after the opening and hook. The editor also had nice things to say about the ending, so it seems I've fallen victim to the dreaded middle.

That knowledge is empowering, though. I know what to fix, and I have the confidence I can do it well. The story will be even stronger when I ship it right back out to the next potential publisher.

As Ice Cube said, "Today was a good day."

Monday, April 6, 2015

Making Time to Write


It's been over a year that I've been telling myself to write this novel, to just sit in my chair and write. Still, here I sit, but with no book to show for it. It's 2015 now, and damn it, it's time to sit my butt down and get this novel knocked out.

In the last year, as I tried to find some sort of magic productivity tip, I found the truth. You cannot find time. We all have the same amount, and there's no getting more. But, if the goal you're after is important enough, you will make time. And so, in seeking out inspiration in the daily schedules of the greats, I believe I've found my answer, though it isn't pretty.

4:00 am is my new magic hour.

Since quitting my last real "day job", my first priority has been (and remains) to be a solid stay-at-home dad for my two awesome kids. One is in school, the other isn't, and it's that little guy that takes a ton of attention! He does take a nap, but that's unpredictable and there always seems to be other work to be done or maybe I'm just too worn out from chasing him around by that time. Either way, I never seem to get any writing done during those naps. And, by the time the evening comes and the kids are off to bed, I'm too exhausted to produce anything of reasonable quality (though the stack of rejections on my desk might suggest that nothing I produce is of reasonable quality). So, I'm left with no good time to really dive into my writing.

I knew that plenty of other authors made time to write even with families, a day job, and a million other roadblocks, so I decided to outline my own schedule. I looked at the time I was wasting, looked at the late hour I was often going to bed, and found that by rearranging things just a bit I was able to find an answer that may work. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, "Early to bed, early to get up and write you damn novel." Or, something like that.

With that new mindset, and inspired by this infographic from Podio on the productive daily schedules of great creators, I've taken a stab at getting organized and MAKING the time to write.

My new, more productive daily routine


It's been a couple of weeks since I've implemented this plan, and it really seems to be working. I've managed to pull myself out of bed most of those days, getting a lot of writing done before the family wakes up. I also find that I feel better throughout the day for getting a productive start and, once I get that momentum going, I tend to be more productive in all of my responsibilities. I'm a bit tired most days, but honestly not any more tired that I always felt before the change. And, I'm writing, and progressing toward my goals, which is a victory in itself.