Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Celebrating the completion of a (bigger) goal

Back in college--oh, so many eons ago it seems--I wrote my first book. It was an enormous feat, one that pushed me to every limit imaginable. The book was 1,000 pages long and written on an old Brother word processor. Now, a grand worth of pages is a ton of paper (I printed and put it in three 3-ring binders) and as it took roughly 4 minutes a page . . . you get the idea on how long it took.
Writing the first draft of this first novel was not only an enormous feat, it will be one that will live with me forever. And not just because I finished something that not very many people could do. It was because at that time I met who would eventually become my wife, Melissa.
Sure, I could go on to tell you that we fell in love at first sight (okay, it was for me - not quite sure about her though, as this geeky-looking guy was talking to her as she was working the security desk at the college campus security) and we started dating right then and there. Sorry to disappoint you but I was a major chicken shit. We didn't start "going out" until about nine months later.
So, my friends, how did I celebrate the completion of my first novel?
The year was 1994 and Interview with the Vampire had just been released in the movie theater. Up to this point, I had already seen it twice. But let me back up. This first novel was just a hair over 1,000 pages. On the night I hit the 1,000-page mark, I went out to the bar. My friend Kregg, who bore the nickname Towers on account of his massive height and build (he played football for the BSU Beavers), was bartending. After a few drinks, I looked around the bar. It was damn-near empty. Hell, this was a Friday night. Where was everyone? What I didn't know was that Fridays (at around 9PM) were usually pretty dead. Many go home for the weekends, and besides the crowd seemed to come in around 11PM or so.
Anyway, I said farewell to my friend and went back to my dorm, where I wrote a few more pages before retiring. I woke up the next morning, finished the book, and asked myself, "Okay, how am I going to celebrate now?"
That afternoon, I watched Interview with the Vampire for the third time. By myself. Pitiful, to say the least, but my other friends went home that weekend and the chicken shit that I was couldn't ask out my future wife.
(Oh, by the way, I watched that movie a total of four times - not sure if I've ever done that since.)
How do you celebrate a first draft? Or whatever bigger goal you set before yourself?
Stephen King once said that when he finished writing one of his books (sorry, I can't remember which one), he went out to McDonald's and had a St. Patrick's Day shake.
Whatever you decide, mark the time with a little celebration. You don't need a huge round of fireworks or a weekend-long drunk fest. Just do something special for yourself. You deserve it. Then, get right back to work . . . because we still have a lot to accomplish.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Production Side of your writing business

After much delay, I am finally at what I call the production side of business. In other words . . . writing. That's it.

Seems simple, doesn't it?

If it was, then why have I run into countless people who tell me that they've always wanted to be a writer or that they have an idea for a story and never write it?

When I was in college, I came up with a very simple method for writing your novel. Write one page a day.  How did I come up with this profound nugget of wisdom? Well, I'd be lying if I told you I came up with it all my own. Over the years, this same widsom has come to me in other forms, but the advise always comes down to . . . goals.
While I was writing my first novel (a deer hunting horror story set in the wilds of northern Minnesota) I was having a difficult time figuring out how to finish it. Then, believe it or not, I watched an episode of Oprah (yes, you heard me right) and the guest she had on said something I'll never forget: "At the end of each day, what have you done to further your life, to get closer to your life's dream, other than getting up, going to work, and coming home?" The guest went on to describe the various goals you can set for yourself, starting with the larger life goal and then breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces. In the end, I set a goal of writing one page a day.
Break this down with me: if your typical novel is, let's say, around 400 pages, writing one page a day will get your to complete the goal of finishing the first draft in 400 days. Just a little over one year.
But here's the beauty of this profound wisdom. Work hard to meeting AND exceeding your daily goal. If I wrote two pages a day, then I'd be done in 200 days, or just a little over half a year. So I set out to write one page a day, with the push to do even more. Did I accomplish this goal each and every day? No. I won't lie to you. With going to classes, studying, training in Tae Kwon Do, working, and other events, there were a few days I didn't make it. But I made up for it the next. My weekly goal of 7 pages grew to 10, then 15, and sometimes 20.
What's the beauty of this writing one page a day goal? For those who have never written before, this is a place to start. But I'll be honest, it's hard work. Writing is just like anything else you want to get good at. You have to do it each and every day.
So, set your goal high, break it down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals, and go conquer your dreams!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You'll see me more often

When I look back at the dismal, sporadic array of postings on this blog, I'm both amazed at what I've written yet disappointed in how little there is at this point.

Well, that is about to change.

While my wife is still undergoing extensive treatments for her acute myeloid leukemia (AML), I am at home, working and taking care of our three children.  My writing time is usually devoted to an hour or so in the morning, about the same amount at night (depending on when they've retired for bed), and during breaks at my full-time job.  My purpose for this blog was to expound on my knowledge of the business of writing as well as helping others achieve their goals, even if it doesn't involve writing.  Up at this point, I've been living in the stone age.  Okay, not the real stone age, but the stone age as far as technology is concerned.  In fact, specifically, as far as my access of the Internet.  Prior to this morning, I had . . . drum roll please . . . dial-up.


Yes, my friends, I had dial-up for many, many years.  Well, as of this morning, I bit the bullet and got hooked up to high-speed Internet, which will allow me to go onto my blog and post more often.

Before I leave this evening, I have to tell you about an inspirational speaker I've discovered.  His name is Simon Sinek.  I heard him mentioned on podcasts I've downloaded from Dave Ramsey as well as the TEDtalks website.  He is absolutely incredible.  So much so that I've renamed the introduction of my blog, to include the "why" of why I write.  I'm sure as I go along, I'll tweak this and hone it down like a sharp knife.  Anyway, Simon wrote a book called "Start with Why".  I haven't read his book but I plan on getting it very soon.  He explains why one is doing what they're doing, why certain leaders are remembered while others aren't.  Please check him out . . . and discover your why.