Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Do You Always Feel Like Writing?

There is a ton of advice out there for writers. Everything from show don’t tell to write what you know. If there’s one piece of advice that sticks out among the others, it’s write every day.

To get better at anything, you have to practice. You also have to make it a habit. When you write every day, you practice your craft, you improve, and—hopefully—you end up finishing the piece you’ve been working on. Writing every day is sound advice, and it’s supposed to make you better and more successful.

But what if you don’t feel like writing every day?

Does this make you a bad person? 

Will you fail as a writer?

Writing is a job. It’s full of stress, long hours, and (occasionally) no acknowledgment of your accomplishments. While some believe writing is more enjoyable than an office job (and it certainly can be—at least you get to be creative and develop new worlds!), you still have to be dedicated to your project. But words don’t always come easily. Projects get stuck or life pulls us away. Frustration sets in. What do you do then?

As you can imagine, there is a lot of different advice on how to overcome writer’s block, including to keep writing.  If we keep putting words on the page, we’ll eventually get unstuck and be able to move forward. That may be true, but it can also lead to more irritation and frustration.

I don’t know about you, but even though writing is work, I still want it to be fun. I want to be able to escape into my words and worlds and enjoy working on a novel. I don’t want to feel angry because I can’t get part of a story just right. So I take a break.

If you work in an office job, you’re allowed to take days off and go on vacation every once in a while to recharge and refocus. There are benefits to taking vacations, so it’s important to get away.  Why can’t you do the same for writing?

Oh, I know. You feel guilty when you don’t write every day. I get that. But every once in a while, it’s important to step back from your project and think about it from a new perspective. You have to let it sit and think about what it’s done and what it needs to do, then you can come back to it with fresh eyes and enthusiasm.

How long you stay away from a project is totally up to you. We’re all different, and our writing habits vary. If you feel guilty for not writing every day, try writing something else. Keep a journal, start a new project, write an article or blog post. Whatever! You’ll still be writing every day.

It’s said that those who write every day will become more successful, but there are arguments against this thought. No one wants to burn out.

One of the most important things to remember is why you started writing. Whether it’s an uncontrollable impulse or the need to silence the voices in your head, more than likely, writing is something you do because you enjoy it. Don’t lose sight of that. If you can’t have fun writing, what’s the point of doing it?

It’s okay if you don’t feel like writing every day. It’s okay to put a project aside for a while and work on something else. You won’t be less of a writer. You’ll still be amazing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

I Have to Get My Butt in Gear

This week is my last week of freedom. On Friday, I start my new job, which means I’ll have a new schedule. You may recall, having a schedule is very important to me, but changing my schedule can be tough.

That was incredibly apparent in the last 2 weeks when I had to throw in some days of training. Sure, I had a schedule in place so I could get things done at home during the day, but I had to shift gears so I could get the boys to daycare and get myself to a place that wasn’t my house—all an hour earlier than I was used to.

I did all right. I wasn’t late to any of my appointments, but my day suffered. By the end of the day, I was tired and unmotivated to do anything besides sit on the couch and watch TV. I didn’t get any writing done. Most days, I didn’t get any exercising done either because I dreaded waking up at 5:00 am to work out, so I didn’t.

However, all of that is going to have to change soon. My schedule will have to shift if I’m going to be productive during the day. For the first few weeks, I’m going to be dragging butt, but eventually, I’ll get used to my new schedule. Then, I’ll be as productive as I was before and be able to get some writing done!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The “Glamorous” World of Writing

Yesterday turned out to be an incredibly crazy day, so I’m posting today.

There seems to be a fanciful notion among regular folk that writer’s write in an idealized, romanticized fashion. I’m not exactly sure what their fantasies entail, but I think it has to do with notions of writers floating around their house in a euphoric state and whimsically putting words onto parchment with a feathered quill.

Perhaps they envision us wistfully dreaming of stories and staring out windows with a faraway look in our eyes (which actually does happen). No matter what they think, for those of us who write, we know that this is not the case.

Sure, we can write in secluded cabins in the woods surrounded by majestic mountains and splendid forests or on the beach or next to a pool or in a million-dollar dream home. We can also write on park benches, on the subway, on the bus, in cars, and a hundred other places you can think of—some of which might not be glamorous or exciting.

When we’re writing, we don’t pay attention to our surroundings. Our thoughts are drawn inward to the worlds we are creating and worrying about whether are narrative has any holes or if our characters are acting in normal and expected ways (even if those ways only apply to that character). We have backstories running through our heads and are trying to figure out how to get from the beginning of the story to the end of the story in a logical and entertaining way.

While writing can be incredibly rewarding and exciting, it’s also work. And like any other job, it requires focus and dedication. It is also full of stress, worry, and frustration.

Writers pour hours, days, weeks, and years into their work. They’ll work late hours and early mornings. They’ll write through lunch breaks and forget to feed their pets. They’ll fret and stress about whether what they are producing is good enough. Sure, they can do it in their pajamas and without having to shower or leave the house, but they’re still working.

I’m not really sure where the romantic notions of how a writer writes came to be. If history has taught us anything, it’s that writers are often alcoholics, have depression, or a variety of other mental illnesses (but this doesn’t make us any different from the rest of society or terrible people).

Perhaps this fantastical notion of writers having a charmed career came about because of how the written work is presented. If done well, the finished story has the ability to look flawless, like it came readily and easily. If done well, a story will instantly draw a reader in and take them to new worlds and introduce them to new, interesting characters. If done well, a story lets the reader forget about their worries and troubles and lets them escape from reality.

If a story has the ability to make people think and feel, I’m all for the general people thinking the process was romantic and effortless. It means the writer accomplished their goal.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Working on a New Outlook

A few weeks ago, I posted that I needed to find a new outlook on life. I thought I would update you on some of the things I’m trying. My life is still far from perfect, but baby steps are helping set me in the right direction.

One Day at a Time

I live with anxiety, with means at any given point in a day (or sometimes all day), my brain creates worse-case scenarios for every decision I make—even the mundane ones like what I’m going to have for breakfast.

The ones that really have an impact are the ones that involve what is going to happen in the future. My brain is fantastic about making me worry about all kinds of things, and it makes me feel helpless, worthless, and like a failure. I get so focused on these hypothetical situations, I feel like I have to fix the situation.

But, how am I supposed to fix the situation if I don’t know for sure that this is the future that’s going to happen? Plus, what if there is no fix? What if the scenario my brain creates is so fatalistic it’s apocalyptic? Is that even possible? My brain seems to think so, which then leads me to think so, and the process becomes cyclical.

This, of course, leads to exhaustion and more feelings of failure. There’s no way I can tell the future. And my brain can be a huge jerk.

So, instead of letting the potential visions dictate my actions, I focus on one day at a time. I look at my schedule, figure out what has to be done next, and move from one task to another throughout the day. Does this stop the thoughts from occurring? No. But it gives me something else to focus on that I can accomplish instead of fretting about things that may or may not happen.

I Shut My Brain Off

This task is a lot easier said than done, and it’s still a work in progress. After I’ve accomplished all of my tasks during the day, I allow myself the ability to chill and relax. Before, I would let the thoughts run rampant and attempt to find solutions to a future that might not exist. This would lead to more anxiety and desperation, which accomplished very little except to drive me crazy.

Now, I take the time to read, write, or watch a movie. I have a list of films on Netflix that I want to watch or re-watch, and I’m slowly getting through them. My boys are watching them with me, so I have to be a bit selective about what I watch. If you know me, you’ll know that the vast majority of the films on my list are horror films, and the boys still get freaked out—and I want to hang out with my kiddos—so I have to pick movies that aren’t too scary.

Again, these acts don’t stop my brain from creating scenarios, but it gives me something else to focus on and a chance to prioritize what I should worry about and what I shouldn’t.

I Remind Myself I’m an Adult

This seems like an odd task to undertake considering every day I’m reminded I’m an adult. From taking care of my family to feeding my dogs to paying bills to grocery shopping, I do a lot of adult things during the day. But in addition to all of those responsibilities, I have the ability to make choices.

As an adult, I don’t have to do what other people tell me. I can make my own decisions about what I eat, what I want to wear, and whether or not I’m going to work. Are there consequences for my decisions? Absolutely. But as an adult, with my experience, I’m pretty confident I can predict what those consequences are going to be and make an informed choice about what I’m going to do.

By reminding myself I’m an adult, I give myself power. I remind myself that I have choices and that there are some parts of my life I’m in control of. Whether good or bad, I get to decide what direction my life takes because I’m an adult!

I Focus on the Positive

It’s so easy when things go a little sideways to think that the sky is falling. It’s so easy to see how terrible the world is and that everything is out to get me. But underneath all that evil and devastation, there are amazing things that happen every day. They could be small or they could be huge, the important thing is that no matter how bad things are, something good is there to counteract the bad. I just have to take the time to find it and focus on it.

Life doesn’t feel as fatalistic as it did a few weeks ago, but I still have a ways to go before everything is peachy keen. The only thing I can do is keep swimming.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How Writing is Like American Ninja Warrior

Last week, an amazing thing happened: I became a VIP author for Stitched Smile Publications. I get some perks with that title, but the best of them is being part of an amazing team of authors that supports and encourages one another and others. I’m honored and excited to be part of that.

One of the other perks of becoming a VIP author included doing an interview. While answering questions, I was taken back to the very beginning of my writing career and talked about some of the things that made me who I am. One of those was the fact that in college, I had some professors who were less than supportive of my writing. In fact, they shattered my confidence, causing me to give up writing for several years.

I’m going to be honest: I haven’t thought about this incident for a long time. And why would I? It’s painful and difficult—and there’s no reason to live in the past. I’ve grown so much since that time, and I’ve accomplished a lot.

But at the same time, I can’t deny that the incident had an impact on my life and helped form who I am. But so did good things, like my friend who encouraged me to try writing again. Without her, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.

As I was thinking about all the incidents that came together to get me to where I am today, I started thinking about American Ninja Warrior and The Voice.

My family and I love American Ninja Warrior. The boys often try to imitate the ninjas and develop their own obstacle courses in the house. When we lived in Wyoming, they would even spider crawl up the insides of door jambs.

I love watching the ninjas overcome the obstacles and how strong the women warriors are becoming. They are carving out their place in the sport, and it’s amazing to watch them make history.

If you’ve ever watched American Ninja Warrior, you know that a lot of the athletes get a segment before their run where they talk about the life obstacles they had to overcome to get to that moment in time. The same thing happens on The Voice. The contestants talk about what happened to get them to the moment before they step onto the stage to sing.

And most of the time, those obstacles were difficult, full of heartache, and could have stopped them from moving forward.

I’m fully aware that part of the reason these are shown is to make the contestants relatable and sympathetic. I don’t doubt that the TV producers carefully pick and choose which stories they are going to highlight to get the most viewers’ attention. Whatever the motive/process behind the stories is, you can’t deny one thing: life is tough.

But we all know this, right? We know that life isn’t a walk in the park and that we don’t get things handed to us on a silver platter. Everyone on those shows, I don’t doubt even the stories we don’t see, had to overcome something to get where they are. They had to put in the time, effort, and work to see their dreams come to fruition. They suffered for their art, whether it’s singing or running an obstacle course.

And once they get onto the stage or to the course, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be successful. There’s no guarantee they’ll turn the judges’ chairs or push the buzzer at the end. But they don’t let that minor detail stop them. And if they don’t turn a chair or reach the end, they use the moment to learn. They go back to the gym or the studio and work on the things that are going to make them better.

As a writer, I’m not much different. I face my own obstacles and judges every time I put words on a page or publish a book. If I fail, I use the moment to learn and to work on the things that are going to make me better.

If I’ve learned anything from American Ninja Warrior and The Voice it’s that the world doesn’t cut anyone any slack. It doesn’t care if we succeed or fail, and it will do all it can to throw obstacles in our way. We have to find a way to overcome them to reach our goals.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Young Adult Sci-Fi and Fantasy Giveaway


Books, books, some more books, and the chance to win a Kindle Fire!

I’ve teamed up with 30+ fantastic young adult sci-fi and fantasy authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner!

You can win my novel Humanity's Hope, plus books from authors like A.J. Culey and Blake B Rivers.

Enter the giveaway by clicking here: bit.ly/2tW9lMU

Good luck, and enjoy!


Caleb, a 17-year-old boy, survived the zombie uprising, but he didn’t come out of the ordeal unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm keeps trying to creep back into his mind.

Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Effective Marketing

Over the weekend, the family and I headed to Lincoln to check out the Natural History Museum on the university campus. To get there, we took various two-lane highways through a bunch of small towns. It was an idyllic drive. Every so often, we would pass a random billboard, and I wondered out loud: “Are billboards effective marketing?”

The answer to that question depends on who you ask. A billboard salesperson will tell you that they are amazing. Someone who spent a lot of money putting their ad on the board and didn’t see a return on their investment would say it wasn’t worth it.

That, of course, spurred a conversation about whether or not any marketing was effective.

There are so many different options when it comes to marketing, from free to paid advertisements, but all of them have their downsides. For example, if you advertise for free on social media, how can you be sure you’re reaching all potential buyers? You can’t. However, the same thing can be said if you pay for ads. You just never know who is seeing your ad and who is actually in the market to buy your product.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use social media, you totally should. Just use it appropriately.  And keep other advertising options open as well.

That’s why marketing is such a nuisance. There’s no guarantee that your efforts will pay off—that you’ll make those all-important sales. But you can’t not market either. That’s guaranteeing your product will fail.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer when it comes to marketing. When it comes to effective marketing, you have to have a little faith that your efforts will at least get you seen by potential customers and hopefully lead to sales. Having an idea what your sales goals are could help you create a marketing plan.

Who knows? Maybe your plan will include purchasing a billboard. If it does, I hope it’s effective for you.