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News & Events for C. Dennis Moore

SIXTH RULE OF WRITING: TAKE ACTION

Posted 10/15/2017

You know those few items of clothing you have that used to fit but you can’t bring yourself to throw out because they’re still perfectly good and you MIGHT fit into them again one day? Just throw them out. What are you waiting for? Why are you taking up space unnecessarily? Just chuck em!

But one day, you tell yourself. One day I’ll fit into them again. Sure you will. How, by sitting on the couch all weekend watching Netflix? By ordering more fast food than you need, half for the drive home and the rest for after you get there, so you can eat in front of the television like a civilized person? Just throw those clothes out.

Why am I talking about clothes instead of writing? Because fitting into old clothes takes the exact same thing that writing does: Action.

Just like you will never fit into those old clothes until you get off your lazy ass and DO something, you will NEVER build a writing career on hopes and dreams. You’ve got ideas for a dozen novels and thirty short stories that are bound to be big hits? Great, where are the first drafts?

You know what WANTING to write will get you? What PLANNING to write will get you? What THINKING about writing will get you? Two things: Jack, and shit.

Schedule the time, plot the story, find the characters, and then sit down and WRITE it. Not think about writing it, not research writing it, not join a critique group and talk about writing it, WRITE it. Start to FINISH. Because if you don’t get to the end of the story, you’ve really written nothing at all, haven’t you?

For all the rules that came before this, reading, persistence, love, identity and drive, none of them mean a thing without ACTION to back them up.

As for the clothes, that’s easy. Take a walk. Dude, I’ve been walking 30-45 minutes every morning before I start my day. It took 5 months but I’m wearing jeans I’ve never fit into before. Just get off your lazy ass and move.

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FIFTH RULE OF WRITING: WRITE LIKE THERE'S NO TOMORROW

Posted 10/12/2017

Since I was born in 1972 and have never been to New York, I can’t vouch for the validity of this story, but this is how I heard it.

Back in the early 1960s, Stan Lee was working for a comic company as a writer and hating life. He hated the stories he was forced to write, he hated the workload, he just hated it all. So he decided he was going to quit. His wife told him, “Well, if you’re gonna quit anyway, you might as well go out the way you want. Write the story. Write the big story, the story you’ve been dying to write. Write the story they wouldn’t let you write and finally write something that makes you happy.”

I’m paraphrasing because, as I said, I wasn’t there. This is just how I heard it.

Anyway, so Stan Lee thinks about it and says, “You know what? You’re write. F this noise.” And he wrote a story that said everything he’d been wanting to say in comic book form. The story he had been wanting to tell was a little yarn about four friends who take a rocket into space and return to earth with strange powers and decide to form a team. He called it THE FANTASTIC FOUR.

Pretty much from that point on history was made and all because, at the end of the day, at the end of HIS days at that job, Stan Lee wrote like there was no tomorrow because, for him, in that job, there wasn’t.

That’s how we have to write every day. Because tomorrow is not promised--that’s from something, a movie, a TV show, DOCTOR WHO perhaps? I can’t remember. What you write today could very well be the LAST THING you ever write.

So make it count. Make the choice. Do you want to go out with some little bitch ass nonsense that ANYONE with half an education could have written, or do you want to go out on your feet, with words people years from now will read and say, “Yep, that was pure [your name here]. Wrote [his/her] ass off til the end.”

Imagine if you were told you had a year to live, what would you write about? You have no idea. How could you? We can’t conceive of a timeline that long, it’s too much for our brains. But if you were told you’ll die TOMORROW…? You’re given time to watch your favorite movie, listen to your favorite song, eat your favorite meal, and spend time with the people who matter most. And you’ve got time to write one more thing. The last thing you’ll ever write. What’s it gonna be?

Every day when you sit down to write, just remember, you might not wake up tomorrow, so make these words today count.

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FOURTH RULE OF WRITING: BE THE YOU THAT ONLY YOU CAN BE

Posted 10/11/2017

Tyler Durden would try to tell you that you are not a unique snowflake. I can see his point, but at the same time, even where identical twins are concerned, no one has lived the life you have lived in exactly the same way.

People may have had similar experiences or come from similar backgrounds, but the singular events and your reactions to them are what shaped you into the unique individual you are.

To that end, when you start to doubt yourself or get down about your writing ability or lack thereof, just remember this: NO ONE can write the stories you can write.

Other writers may write similar stories or create similar characters, but none will write the stories you can write. What you bring into the world is a creation unique to YOU and the life you’ve lived.

Your job then is to use that gift. Use the gift of the life you were given, whether good or bad, fulfilling or not, and write stories that only you can write. This is your legacy.

Don’t concern yourself with what other writers are writing: you are not them and you can’t write their stories. Focus on yourself. Write what YOU can write, because if you don’t, know one else will. Because no one else CAN.

People spout that “you’re not a unique snowflake” line to keep others from feeling “entitled”, and I can support that. There are too many people who think good things should be handed to them because of who they are, without having to work for them. So, yeah, I’m all for the “you’re not a unique snowflake” comeback. But when it comes to a person’s life and the events that shaped them and the stories that result from that chain of events … we’re all unique and the stories we tell are ours and ours alone.

What stories will come from the life you’ve lived?

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THIRD RULE OF WRITING: PERSIST UNTIL YOU SUCCEED

Posted 10/10/2017

Someone asked me once if I ever felt like just giving up and calling it a day. I said of course not. Because how do I know the next day wasn’t the day that was supposed to bring me all my answered prayers?

The same goes for writing. Don’t you ever feel like giving in, not writing anymore, not publishing anymore? There are dry days, dry months with few, if any, sales, and it seems all the effort you put in at your computer is for nothing because you keep talking but the world won’t listen.

Nope. Because that next story might be the one that connects. The novel you write AFTER the one you’re writing now might be the one that makes all your writing dreams come true, but how can you know until you finish this one so you can get to that one?

Persistence is the third rule of writing.

The only way we get better is to keep doing it, every day. Practice. Writing and writing and writing some more, even into exhaustion.

We don’t start our writing careers with a huge catalog and millions of fans. We build them, one story, one reader at time, through persistence. The act of doing the work every day, little by little, step by step, is how we get from where we are to where we want to be.

There are going to be dark days in anything you do, but we get through it and, eventually, the clouds break and the sun shines and we saw where all our persistent hard work has led us. Might be where we wanted to be, might not be. Might be somewhere even better. But we’ll never know until we get there, will we? And we’ll never get there without persistence.

 

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SECOND RULE OF WRITING: FALL IN LOVE

Posted 10/9/2017

"Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for."
--Ray Bradbury

I think we all start off this way, otherwise we wouldn’t be drawn to the blank page in the first place. I loved THE MAN IN THE WINDOW when I was writing it. I loved the idea, I loved the images, and I loved the language, terrible as it was in those early days. But I think somewhere along the way, we stop loving the work, the words, and the process, and start thinking more of the business side.

But we don’t get up every morning and go to work on that novel because it might make us some money. At least that’s not why we should be doing it. We should be doing it because we love writing, we love our idea and our characters. Even if you’re terrible at characters, you should love what you’re writing.

It’s love of WRITING that should keep us going, and if it’s not, then we need to find a way to rekindle that love. Because the business side of writing is too unpredictable to be a reliable mistress. Royalty checks come and go, big paydays come and go. You can make $3000 one month and $300 the next. But the writing, even on the off days, offers a more loving embrace than any sales algorithm ever will. Love is why so many writers carry on despite years of rejections. We don’t do it because we love the IDEA of an acceptance or a payment. Those things are side effects.

There were storytellers long before there were publishing houses. People were spinning yarns beside a campfire way before anyone ever offered money for it. Because the true Writer is going to write no matter what comes after the telling. They do it out of love.

And there’s a deeper meaning to Bradbury’s words. He says to write only what you love, but so often the temptation to throw that advice away and write something for money looms large. When THE THIRD FLOOR was at the top of the Ghost chart, people were asking where’s the sequel? And I could have written one, but at the time I wasn’t in love with the idea for another book about that house or that family. I had other ideas, other stories in mind that I wanted to tell. I COULD have written a sequel, but it would have been so terrible because my heart wasn’t in it. And now, years later, I actually DO have an idea for a sequel to that book, and it’s one that’s got me excited to write it.

So it’s good that I took the advice of Bradbury and stuck with writing what I was in love with. When you write what you love, you’ll write with more heart, with more joy, and more drive. You’ll fight to finish it because you’re bringing something you love into the world. When you write for money or for business, there’s no soul in the work, no life. The words will tell the story, but they won’t make the reader FEEL the story.

When you write with love, you bring the reader along and make them a convert. Write with love and you’ll never have a bad writing day. Write with love and you forget all the bad things about your day. Write with love and you forget the day job troubles, or the relationship troubles, or the financial troubles, even if only just for a little while. Write for money or business, and you bring those troubles along with you onto the page.

If you can, definitely make a living with your art, no question about that. But don’t make THAT the reason you go back to the page every day. Money and a career are the rewards for work well done. But you have to do the work first, and the only way to make a lasting impression with that work is to do it with love.

Now go find a story you’re in love with and write it.

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FIRST RULE OF WRITING: READ

Posted 10/8/2017

Today is a new you.

Today you are no longer wallowing in the muck of mediocrity.

Today you no longer plunge headlong into your stories, but instead learn from those who came before you and use their wisdom to form your own unique path.

The writer’s life is full of potential and opportunity, yet is also a playground for despair and disappointment. If you stacked up all the books that have failed next to all the books that have become bestsellers, the failures would drown out the other countless times over. And yet you will carry on in this profession. Because in your hands you hold the potential to overcome those hurdles and beat the odds stacked so clearly against you.

Before, you were satisfied just to write, publish, repeat, but that assembly line mentality was getting you nowhere, so you learned a new way, the artist’s way. Writing is an art. Care must be taken with the details. You’re only on this earth for a finite number of days, but within those days, you must learn patience. Patience is a natural thing. Look to the trees that grow to towering heights not in a day, a week, a month, or even a year, but over the course of MANY years. A bittercress can complete its lifecycle in 5-6 weeks. Is that how long you want your writing career to last?

Or would you rather be like the bristlecone pine which has a lifespan of several thousand years?

Do you want to spend your years doing without knowing, or learning without doing? Neither comes to a good end. A writer can spend their whole life waiting for the perfect inspiration, the perfect combination of words and ideas that result in a book that changes the lives of those who read it. A lofty goal, but those writers find themselves dead before the first draft is complete.

In the end, the only thing that can get you where you truly want to be in life is the development of good habits. And since the death of one habit most often means the birth of a new habit, make sure that you replace all of your old, bad habits with good ones.

The first habit any writer has to adopt is READ.

Read everything. Read every day. The writer who doesn’t have time to read doesn’t have time to write. Don’t just read within the genre you want to write in. Read all the genres. The potential for learning from other writers doesn’t stop with those who are writing the kind of books you want to write, you can learn from any book. And the lessons are limitless.

Read novels for structure, read essays for knowledge, read poems for language, read plays for dialogue, read comic books for drama, read reviews for a glimpse into what other readers are looking for. But most important, READ.

A writer who makes no time to read is a writer with no real grasp on the work. A writer who doesn’t read is flailing about, tossing words at the page haphazardly and only ends up with a coherent piece by sheer luck and happenstance. The first thing a writer has to do, if they have ANY hope of success, is READ.

Start today. Grab a book at random from your shelf and start reading it. If you don’t have a book on your shelf, borrow one from the library. If you don’t have a library, go to Amazon, download the FREE Kindle app and read a free book, they’re not hard to find. You can do this from your phone, tablet, or computer, whatever you’re reading THIS on. There is no excuse for you to NOT have a book you’re currently reading at all times.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself in love with words and ideas. You may even have days you would rather read than write. Fight this urge. Even if you have to use reading as your reward for the day’s work done afterward. Open yourself up to the process and soon you’ll find your head filled with knowledge about story, characters, drama, humor, horror, setting, all the things that make a story work.

This education will take time, it won’t happen overnight. But as long as you’re writing too, every book read will inform the current one you’re writing, it will inform how you construct your characters, how you make them talk, how you bring them to life. Every book you read will help you understand how to build tension in your current novel. Every book you read will motivate you to be a better writer than that author.

Soon you will look up from another finished book, poem, play, essay, and you’ll look at yourself, the Writer, and realize you’re not the person you were when you started, that you’re no longer tackling these stories one word at a time, just trying to write something millions of people will buy, but instead are writing, not for now, but for the ages, fiction that will have an impact long after you’re gone.

You are that person NOW. Today is day one on the new you. This is your first lesson. Now get started.

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ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? OR LATER?

Posted 10/6/2017

Are you happy with your writing? What I mean is, does the act of writing make you happy? Or are you busy seeking happiness elsewhere? Perhaps in a publication credit, or a big royalty check. Maybe your happiness will only come when you can quit the day job and write full time.

If that’s the case, let me tell you there are better, less stressful ways to make a living.

Writing is a grueling, exhausting task that only really pays off in a big bad way for a very small number of authors. There aren’t many of us who could stop writing today and live off our royalties for the rest of our lives. The rest of us have to keep hussling, keep writing, and it hope all balances out in the end to a point where we can at least say we lived a good life.

So we come again to the question of happiness. Would you still write if you knew you would never get published, never make a single penny off your writing?

Happiness doesn’t come from seeing your name in print. Happiness doesn’t come from a $100 check for a short story. I’m not saying those things don’t help, but the first and most important happiness a writer has to be able to experience is the happiness of creating. To sit down and struggle with that blank page and finally, in the end, to conquer it and emerge out the other end with this new creation, a thing that didn’t exist before. Sure the words have always been there, maybe even the plot or character names, but never in this particular order. Not until you brought it into the world.

Then file it away or put it in a drawer, just get it out of the way, and go in and do it again with something new. Too often we get caught in the idea of success and how we define it. Some define it as being published in a certain magazine or landing a certain publishing house. Some define it as a movie adaptation of one of their novels or short stories. Still others see success as buying a mansion and driving a fancy car. Visiting New Orleans in the early 2000s, the walking tour I was on took us by Anne Rice’s house, a huge, beautiful house, and parked right in front was a limousine. Nothing like drawing attention to your success. And this wasn’t a mansion, just a really nice, big house on a residential street, in a neighborhood. With a limo out front. Subtle.

But maybe that was her idea of success. If I had that kind of money I doubt I could see myself wasting it on having a limo out front. If I NEED someone to drive me around, there are much less gaudy modes of transportation. I’m not taking a limo to the theater to see the new Avengers movie. But I digress.

The point here is that we all have different ideas of what happiness is, or what will bring it to us. But for writers, the first and most important way to find happiness HAS to be in the writing. If you don’t find that happiness you seek until after the piece is published or the money hits your bank account, you might want to seriously step back and reconsider your choices. There’s not a lot of fun in the life of a writer. I don’t want to paint a picture of all writers being destitute drunkards, but it is definitely a lonely existence at times, with long hours with NO certainty of success. I know I can put in 50 hours at my day job and I’m going to get 50 hours of pay. I can put in 50 hours of writing in a week and there’s no promise of any money at the end of that. And every day I sit down to do it again, because I find happiness in writing.

I know a lot of writers who spend more time talking about their business deals and strategies than they do WRITING.

So the question to ask yourself tomorrow when your scheduled writing time arrives and you’re sitting down to your desk is: does THIS make me happy?

If you find your mind is stuck in the future, on what happens AFTER you write it, then you’re not in the moment, and maybe writing isn’t the job for you.

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THE WRITER'S RULE BOOK

Posted 10/3/2017

1) Establish your reason. Why do you write? Why do you want this completely unreliable and fickle business to be the way you support yourself and your family? Don’t you know there are much more reliable ways to make a living? Why writing? This is the first question you have to answer when deciding to take writing out of the realm of hobby and into the realm of JOB. Without a solid WHY, you won’t have the proper motivation and focus to set goals, let alone achieve any of them. A good WHY is the cornerstone of any successful endeavor. Learn your WHY.

2) Make good choices. CHOOSE to be smart and learn the craft before jumping in headfirst and publishing any old thing that comes out of your head. CHOOSE to never stop learning and CHOOSE to never stop trying to improve. You’ll be faced with choices, many of them difficult, every step along the way to becoming the writer you want to be. Don’t shy away from them and don’t take the easy choice, unless the easy choice also happens to be the RIGHT choice.

3) Surround yourself with valuable friends. I’m not saying only be friends with people who can help you, but if you find someone who is actively trying to sabotage you, drop them like a hot potato. The world is full of cancerous people whose only goal is to constantly bring you down. There’s nothing wrong with a little criticism when it’s warranted or valuable, but those people who find it impossible to EVER have anything positive to say? Yeah, you gotta drop those losers. Conversely, surrounding yourself with friends who add value to your life and your career? One of your smartest decisions ever. My inner circle contains several writers, a few writing teachers, editors, audio book producers, filmmakers, and marketers. They’ve got my back just like I have theirs.

4) Never stop learning new skills. You think you’re a pretty good horror writer? Great, write an epic fantasy. Got science fiction down pat? Write a romance novel. You can write a western in your sleep? Try your hand at a literary novel. Never stop learning new skills. Once you decide you’ve learned it all, you’re doomed, and someone will come up behind you, someone who has studied and can write in all different genres, blending them into a unique style all their own, and suddenly your services are no longer needed. You don’t want to be that writer, you want to be the writer sneaking up and taking over everyone else’s spots at the top of the best-seller lists.

5) Pay yourself first. This is an old bit of advice found in all the financial literature. Pay yourself first. You can start this practice by funneling the money you make from writing back into your career, whether with a good editor, a nice cover, or a well-placed ad. Minding your self publishing money is one of the most important things you can do. The impulse is going to be you see all this cash rolling in and immediately you’re thinking of all the things you can buy. You MUST develop the self discipline to resist this urge. That money is NOT taxed and at the end of the year YOU will be responsible for that. So there are two things you need to do first and foremost, set aside money for taxes, and put a percentage of what you make back into the business. You can have fun with what’s left over.

6) Pay your editors and cover designers well. Okay, this is gonna have to be one of those cases of do as I say, not as I do. I have a couple of editors, and sometimes a cover designer, but I can’t say I pay them WELL, or even at all. My cover designer, when I use one, does my covers in exchange for my services proofreading his books. He’s a publisher and often needs another set of eyes on the book he’s publishing, so we trade off. I proof a book, he does a cover, I need a cover, he sends me a book. This is the arrangement that works for us. But if your cover designer is only doing one job and that job has to pay their bills, then for God’s sake, pay your cover designer. Conversely, if you’ve got an editor and have nothing with which to trade, pay your editor. And pay them well, because editors play a bigger role in the final version of a book than you would think, at least if they’re worth anything.

7) Get “something for nothing”. Once your book is published, it has potential to make you money for the rest of your life. I said POTENTIAL, I never said it WILL. But here’s the cool part. It cost you nothing to write the book. And if you’ve got a good deal with your editor and cover designer, it can cost nothing to get a book ready for publication. It costs nothing to post on Amazon. So technically you could spend not a single dime to get a novel online, and that means every dime you earn after that is strictly profit. Some people will say, but you’ve got internet costs to think about. Do you really? Did you only get the internet at your house so you could publish a book? No, you already had the internet, and you know it. Same goes for your computer and the electricity that powers it all, these are things you already had, so you didn’t pay anything extra just for the purposes of publishing your book. So if somehow you manage to get a professional looking book online without spending anything, you’re making profit on your first sale.

8) Focus. Find the distractions in your daily routine, the things that keep you from sinking into the story during the hours you’re writing, and eliminate them. Close the doors, pull the blinds, turn off the internet, whatever you have to do to make sure the only thing getting your attention during that time is the page. Set your goals and make sure you achieve them, then reward yourself with a little email break. But not until the goal is reached. You might get your novel written in between Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook posts, but you’ll get it written a lot damn quicker when you cut those things out of your life during writing time.

9) Choose the right heroes. We all have those people in our chosen profession we look up to. Stephen King and Clive Barker for horror writers … that’s all I can think of, because I’m a horror writer. But you know what I mean. We have our writing heroes, and there’s nothing at all wrong with finding out how they did it, whatever “it” is, landing a movie deal, selling a million books, or becoming a legend in the field, and doing what they did. Even the most successful people do that, finding the people who got where they want to be and copying them. Usually this also means copying their work ethic and THAT is where a lot of people fall flat. No one in a high position simply fell into it. The Bowies of the world, the Trent Reznors or J.K.Rowlings, worked their asses off for it. Jimi Hendrix isn’t STILL, decades after his death, considered the best guitarist in the world simply on luck. He got that status because he played and played and played and played and played. He kept learning, he kept innovating, he kept creating new techniques. Most of all he WORKED for it. So if you want that level of success, find the right heroes and follow their model.

10) Pay it forward. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the rules of writing, with story structure, plot and character development, enough to answer questions if another young writer comes to you seeking advice, don’t be an ass. I’ve said it before, this isn’t a competition. Adam Ant said it in the 90s: There’s always room at the top. And, hey, if it starts to get a little too crowded for you, well then just write a better book than everyone else, if you can. Yes, that’s a challenge. The point is, whatever help you receive along the way is not always free, and sometimes that cost is helping others like you were helped.

11) Stop doing what you’re doing. If you’ve been writing for a while and getting nowhere with it, stop doing what you’re doing. Clearly it isn’t working. Step outside your comfort zone just for a bit. Try a different genre. Try a different marketing strategy. Do a George Costanza and everything you’ve been doing up to this point, do the opposite. If you’re a meticulous editor, try not being SO thorough. If you publish first or second drafts, try doing a fourth or fifth draft. You make your own covers? Buy a pre-made cover instead. Remember the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else.

12) Look for new inspiration. Always be looking for new ideas, new storytelling techniques, new marketing ideas. Keep your mind open to the possibilities and before you know it, your brain will be flooded with new thoughts. Find the ones that excite you the most and run with them.

13) Write a lot. This is the final rule and, at the end of the day, the most important. No matter what I’ve said or what any other writing coach has said to, what you’ve read, heard, or intuited on your own, this is the first and most important rule to building a successful writing career. Write. A lot. Remember, the more lottery tickets you buy, the better your chances of winning, and the more stories and novels you write, the more visibility your name and ideas get, the better the chance someone will see it and give it a shot. Nothing is guaranteed in this business, but this is about the most sure thing you can count on. The more you write, the better your chance of being “discovered”. So get to it. Write everything. Strike a match and set the world on fire.

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NOT-SO-FURIOUS FIVE

Posted 10/2/2017

You have all the tools at your disposal to make a successful writing career, but you’re still not there. Why not? Let’s look at some common obstacles writers face that keep them from producing at the level and consistency they would like.

Fear of failure. I’ve never met a great writer who didn’t suck when they started. Every writer has those stories that bombed, yet every day, again and again, we let that fear of writing a bad story stop us from even trying. We learn more through failure than instant success. So just write it. Whatever it is, write it and if it turns out it’s one of the bad ones, you move on and write the next one, taking the experience of the bad one with you to help inform the decisions you make the next time.

Cynicism. This goes hand in hand with fear of failure. Because even if you write a great story, the inner cynic convinces you everyone’s going to hate it anyway. You’ve already got ten novels written and no one’s reading them, so why even bother trying again? How about because you’re not writing for everyone else? You’re writing for YOU. If they don’t like it, you can’t control their opinions. We push through that and write it anyway because writing, or any creative art, is, at its core, an incredibly selfish pursuit. No one’s initial motivation for writing is ever “I need to write this story because it’s going to bring so much light into the world!” No, instead it’s usually, “I need to write this story so I can see how it turns out.” Selfishness. So it doesn’t matter what your inner cynic is telling you the public reaction is going to be. You WANT them to like it, sure, but how can you ever find out if you don’t WRITE it?

Laziness. Man, this is a big one. It’s so much easier to do nothing that something, isn’t it? But you know what nothing gets you? More of the same. So how do you combat laziness? In his book RICH DAD, POOR DAD, Robert Kiyosaki says the cure for laziness is “a little greed.” You want that big house? You want that nice car? You want those lobster dinners and nice suits? Those things cost money. You could always work your ass off 60 hours a week and hope there’s enough left after taxes to get you a couple of the things on your list. Or you could get off the couch and WRITE. No one’s going to hand you the life you want, so get up and get to work creating it yourself. I bought a 70” TV with book royalties. Just went into the store, pointed to one and said, “I want that.” Paid for it in full and walked out with it. Well, I rolled it out on a cart, it was too big to carry. I’ve also taken my family on vacations, to concerts, and spent 7 months not worrying about a day job when I got laid off at my last one. All because I got up and did the work.

Bad habits. We all have them. I have a bad habit of reaching a point where I’m not sure what the next sentence is, so I’ll stop and check email. And if I see something I can reply to quickly, I’ll reply. I try not to, and sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t. It can take your brain 20 minutes to slip back into the flow of work when you distract yourself , even for just a second. But I’m aware of the habit and I’m working on it. Habits like this are going to do nothing but keep us from writing. Sure, they distract you from how frustrating it can be when the story isn’t flowing like you wish it was, but in the end, it’s like drinking to forget about a bad breakup. In the morning, the person is still gone and now you’ve got no one to complain about your massive headache to. When it’s time to write, it’s time to WRITE. Set an hourly word count goal, or half hourly, or whatever length of time fits your writing schedule best, and use rewards to help reach that goal. If you get the next 500 words done, you can check email. If you get 1000 words done you can stop for 5 minutes and skim Instagram. The key is remembering these rewards are for a job DONE, not half done, and anything that takes you out of the flow of your story, your brain’s going to need a few minutes to get back into the groove, so be prepared for that.

Finally, the last bad habit we need to beat in order to reach our peak productive level: arrogance.

You’ve seen those writers. They have a little taste of success with a first sale and decide that’s it, they’re done learning. They’re a published author, there’s nothing left for them to know when it comes to the craft. They sold a story, so they’ll just start pumping out another unit every couple of days, a rehash of the story they sold. And then they wonder why that one story sold but none of these others are!? Maybe because instead of continuing to grow as an artist, you’re just churning out the same old crap. As much as I love RUN-DMC’s Raising Hell, Tougher Than Leather gets more play by me because they’d grown as artists from one album to the next. But some writers just don’t get that. And try telling them and they’ll get all haughty and offended. Slow your roll, dude, you wrote a story and an editor bought it, that doesn’t make you Shakespeare. Once you get to a point in your craft where you think you’re done learning, you’ve already lost it. In his audio presentation The Voice of the Edge Vol. 1, Harlan Ellison admitted he’s been doing this--writing--for nearly 50 years and he was just beginning to learn how to it. Never become so arrogant that you think you’ve learned everything there is to know about your craft, ANY craft. 26 years in and I’m not even close.

This probably isn’t a complete list of all the obstacles we face when it comes to being as productive and consistent as we want, but these five are a good start. If you can get a handle on these and stop letting them prevent you from reaching your goals, you’re going to be well on your way to being the creative you’ve always wanted.

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WHY YOU'RE ONLY HALF THE WRITER YOU NEED TO BE

Posted 10/1/2017

When my daughter graduated high school, she had already decided she was ready to take a break from school, possibly putting off college indefinitely. This was a concern to her parents because this was the girl who, from her first day of kindergarten, was college-bound. She LOVED school, loved learning, and was planning her college career before she even hit high school. And now, here she was, shrugging and saying, “Meh. Maybe it’s not for me.”

I could see her point. She’s an artist and her art is the only thing she wants to do with her life. As not only her father but a writer as well, I support that goal 500%. After all, I never went to college, instead I learned to write by writing. Just as she learned to draw by drawing. So what is yet ANOTHER art class going to teach her that’s not already available on the internet? Not much.

So I sided with her on the not going to college to take more art classes issue. But the writer part of me said, “Maybe you go anyway and, instead of a bunch of art classes you clearly don’t need, you take some business and marketing classes.”

See, back when I started writing, all of those things were taken care of. We wrote the books, sent them in, and the publisher did all the math and got the books into bookstores. But those days are LONG gone, my friends. Today’s writer has to be not only writer, but businessman and marketer as well. Hell, sometimes they have to be editor and cover designer, too.

The days of learning only one skill are OVER!

In his book RICH DAD, POOR DAD, Robert Kiyosaki says education is more important than work, that learning a little about a lot of things is more valuable than specializing in one area, and I couldn’t agree more. Especially in this new self publishing world.

My first taste of success was a glorious thing, but if I’d had the proper education it could have been so much better. What Amazon doesn’t tell you is “Hey, this money isn’t being taxed, so at the end of the year, you’re going to be responsible for the bill.” Sure, it makes sense now and seems kind of obvious, but when you’ve never had a lot of luck selling your fiction, and then it suddenly starts selling almost literally overnight, the last thing you’re thinking of is next year’s income tax filing.

The same with investing. Sure, it makes sense in retrospect to put some of that money back into your writing business, with high quality covers and some decent marketing, but these aren’t skills we’re taught in high school. At least, I wasn’t. Maybe that’s because in high school I was more interested in writing than the business end of it because in 1991 I didn’t have to be interested in the business end of it.

Oh, if only I’d known!

Today’s writer almost has to be businessperson first and writer second. And there are so many aspects of the business end we need to know about. Not just the accounting side, but sales as well.

I never wanted to be a salesman. I just wasn’t interested in the least in that aspect of adult life in any way, shape, or form. Sales? Not for me. Only get paid according to how much I can convince other people they need to buy this thing? Or I could put in honest work and get paid according to that instead? Door #2, Monty (RIP)!

As a writer, or any kind of artist, in today’s world, I urge you to learn as much as you can about the other aspects. If possible, take a business course, and/or take a marketing course. Learn about taxes and investing. It’s probably going to be boring as piss, but it’s going to set you up so much better for success once you start publishing and selling your work.

Just because you know how to write, have the Kindle formatting template down, and an email list you hope will buy your next book doesn’t mean you’re all done. No, you’re just getting started. Today’s writer isn’t a writer. Today’s writer is a salesman who specializes in writing.

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