Today I feel like I crossed some weird finish line. Like those marathon runners you see being carried across the checkered line, I woke up and declared victory. Christmas has always been one of the most frustrating times of the year for me. Everything gets put on hold and you just get fatter. Like every day… fatter. I took a few days off from writing. I just put on my sweats and hopped in the Christmas lazy river. Minimal effort on everything. (My wife actually told me that I needed to take a shower)
“What is this stuff? Don’t know? It’s on a cracker so it has to be good.”
Now we’re in that zone between Christmas and New Years. That zone where I can’t remember if I should be at work or if I’m still off. I think I’m still off… Too early to start on those resolutions plus these left overs aren’t going to eat themselves.
One thing I did get for Christmas, (since I’m blogging about writing) is some new software. Scrivener. Let me tell you my first impressions.
- I will have the book written way before I fully learn the software.
- It will not write for you. Tried that… zero words for the day.
- You can learn anything on youtube.
- I thought I was disorganized before…. Nope I’m terminal.
I’m hoping to be able to at least get the high points. What attracted me to the software was the easy ability to look at this project from a big picture point of view with just a click.
Before Scrivener I was using “Pages.” I liked pages because it was simple. I could write for the day and hit save. Instantly I could access my story from my laptop, iPad, or phone. If I had a quick idea while waiting in line somewhere, boom I could write.
We’ll see how it goes. I need a cookie.
In my first post about writing a book I explained how these blog posts were a result of my warm up exercise before I actually start to write. I thought I would share, not only what MY workflow is, but how I developed it.
I have a long commute to work. On a good day the drive is an hour and twenty minutes. This means that I have a lot of “free time.” After several months of beating my playlist into the ground I realized that (round trip) I had two hours and forty minutes a day where I could learn something. Having decided to start writing a book I looked to writing themed podcasts. Using spotify I simply searched “writing podcasts” and clicked on the first one. It was the KOBO Writing Life podcast which can be found here. For the most part the podcast interviews published writers about current and past projects. Listening to how other writers approach their daily workflows started me thinking about mine. Did I even have a set “workflow?” Do I “prepare” to write? One of the authors interviewed made a good point. He said something to the effect of, “When you brush your teeth before you go to bed, you’re telling your brain that it’s time to start thinking about getting tired. The same thing works with writing. If you do the same thing every time you sit down to write, your brain starts to prepare for writing. The creative juices start to flow.”
I had to get a “workflow.” (I hate the term workflow)
I bought the guy’s book.
It’s called 52 Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner and is actually the first part of my “workflow.” The book is composed of 52 quick chapters with tidbits about how to approach your writing for maximum creativity.
The 3 most common themes for most of the interviewed artist were:
- Try to write in the same physical location. (Desk, office, bed.)
- Start by writing something else. Write a couple of paragraphs on anything away from your story.
- JUST KEEP WRITING.
So that’s what I did. I set some parameters and figured out what was going to work for me every time I sat down to write. Here’s what I came up with almost organically. It has to feel right.
- I sit at the same desk.
- I quiet my phone or even take it out of the room.
- I read for 10 minutes. (See above photo) I’ll read anything. Usually something with a lot of dialogue so that I can find a rhythm.
- For 10 minutes I’ll write in a journal. The goal here is to be spontaneous and uninhibited. Entries range from 200-300 words. It can be about anything! I mostly write about where I’m at in my story, what needs to be fixed, or any ideas I had during the day.
- I begin to attack my story. I’m a paper and pen type of guy so I use a notebook and just start writing. I limit the pen and paper portion to about an additional 10 minutes.
- Only after steps 1-5 are done do I actually open my computer. This, in my opinion, is where the magic happens. I place my handwritten story next to my computer and will quickly glance at a sentence before I type it. What I don’t want is to copy it verbatim. What I do want to do is transform that sentence in the transfer to the word document. My notebook is my sketch pad, the computer is the canvas. Make sense?
And there you have it! Like the kids say, “thats how I roll.” Here are some things to consider.
- This is my way of doing it. What you need to find is what works for you. What feels most comfortable? Make your workflow your own, but stick to it!
- The words you put into your computer are not the finished product. Remember that even if you finish a 150,000 word novel, IT’S STILL A ROUGH DRAFT! This is your baby, it’s going to need some rearing.
- Set a goal. Be realistic but not underwhelming. When I sit down to write I take a sticky note and write what my day’s word goal is. At a very minimum I write 250 words. That’s about 10 minutes of actual writing. On weekends I set higher goals. Stick to at least your minimum number. Realize that at 250 words a day you could have a 100,000 word novel written in one year!
- Whatever you do, JUST KEEP WRITING. You can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t actually write. Even on days when you can’t seem to make any progress on your story, take out a notebook and write about something else. In my experience writing about my lunch scene with detail has kick started my story again.
- Stop convincing yourself that you can’t do it. I make excuses too. “I don’t have the education; I’m not talented enough; I don’t have the time.” Anyone can write, that means you too! As Grant Faulkner said in his book, “Write in the cracks of life.” Find the time.
Listening to a friend talk about places he would like to travel someday, I responded to a destination he mentioned with, “Oh yeah, that place is on my bucket list.” He turned to me and asked, “Do you really have a bucket list or are you just saying that.”
The truth is, I really do have a bucket list. Seriously. I’ve kept a running bucket list for many years. It changes from time to time but there are a few items that have remained the same since I started it. Among the various exotic destinations and adventures is one simple statement.
WRITE A BOOK
Of all of the items on my bucket list, this one seems to be one of the constants. I’m not one of these writers who thinks he’s going to make any money or gain any fame from it. I genuinely like long term projects. Things that take a lot time and produce a higher reward at the end because of it. Projects to me become my babies. They are the things I think about before I go to bed and the first things I go to when I wake up. Of all the items on my bucket list, writing a book is one of the things that I don’t have to wait on until retirement.
I’ve already started it.
As I write this, I’m currently about 3 weeks in. I’ve just started chapter 2. What I’ve come to realize is that without knowing it, I’ve created a work flow. A series of steps before I actually put pen to paper. One of these steps is that I sit down for 10 minutes and describe where I’m at in the writing process. I talk about how I feel it’s going and where the story needs help. It all goes into my journal as a “warm up” before I begin tacking words onto my story.
Today as I began to prepare to write I asked myself why I journal before actually writing? What am I going to do with this journal once this project is done? Probably nothing…
I know there are others out there in the same boat. They have this uncontrollable, unexplainable urge to write. But as awesome as a new page and fresh pen are, they can also be some of the most intimidating items in your life.
So I’m going to share my journal. I’m going write about my writing and provide a transparent view of how my project is progressing. The posts, like my journal entries are the 10 minutes I spend in warm up. I write as uninhibited as possible in these 10 minutes so bare with me.
In trying to find some direction and content for the vlog, I decided to focus on my job a bit. This video is a deconstructed takeoff as viewed from the cockpit.
It’s been difficult trying to get my street photography style to translate into my semi-daily vlogs. They’re coming along. Feedback welcome!
The experiment to broaden my repertoire from stills to video continues. I was fortunate enough to catch some rather amazing time lapse at SFO airport!
If nothing else, my experimentation with vlogging has made me look at every day situations with new eyes. In this episode, it was through beer goggles.
Someone recently commented that I should document more of my travels in video form. So I’m giving it a whirl… Ladies and Gentlemen, Out of Town for Business.
Written at 1AM in Syracuse NY…. post beer run across the street to the bodega (convienience store)
I love a good bodega. New York has the best. It’s true one stop shopping. I’ve never ventured into a bodega and NOT found what I’m looking for. It’s like fucking Mary Poppins’ purse in there.
I used to spend a lot time in Mexico as a child. In Mexico, the neighborhood bodega doesn’t have a name. It wasn’t like anyone said, “Go down to the ‘Quiki-stop-and-save’ (or some bullshit name) and get a loaf of bread.” Instead, these places usually were called by a first name. Sometimes but not always a female first name. “Take these empty coke bottles down to Maria’s and get new ones for dinner.” You would literally go down to Maria’s house and, if it was after hours, knock on the door. The bitch was either home or she wasn’t. You would walk into Maria’s converted living room and she would take your order from behind a makeshift counter. She always knew who you belonged to and she ALWAYS knew your family’s dirty laundry.
Maria was always kind of a bitch. I mean she had to be. For fuck’s sake she sold candy, beer and fireworks from the same little room while her husband sat watching futbol in his boxers within eye shot of everyone! Oh those fireworks… Remember when kids used to fold paper into triangles and kick fieldgoals with their fingers to another kid holding up finger goal posts? Maria would make the same paper triangles but she would fill them with gun powder and sell them to any kid weilding a peso or two. Many a telephone pole and mailbox felt the wrath of my pocket change.
The bodega is dying now, even in Mexico.
My last intimate experience with a bodega was while I was termporarly living in Queens NY. The owner was Guatemalan. He always knew what I needed even before I knew. The guy could whip up a tuna on toast with jalepenos and make it taste just like mom’s. I always bought a newspaper, even if I wasn’t going to read it. (Another thing I won’t let die.)
He never knew my name, but he always called me “primo.”
This isn’t my first rodeo and it’s definitely not my first blog. I’ve had 2. 2 blogs with two totally different themes. They were both OK at best and I would even go so far as to say I had a little bit of a following. One of them actually got me published. I had a friend who would edit posts for me and he hated both of the blogs. It wasn’t that the content or even the writing was bad it was what he finally said one day after ripping my shit apart. “Who are writing to? When I read this I can’t tell it’s you. Just write like you’re talking to me and stop writing liking your grandma is going to read this.” He was right.
So here’s the plan. As of today, November 9th 2015, I’ve spent 127 days in hotel rooms around the world since the beginning of the year. I travel for a living. It sounds awesome, I know, but the truth is for every great day on the road there are many more that plainly suck. This blog will be an escape. A chance for me to just write as I rot away in a hotel room. My commitment is to post every day that I’m sitting in a room not my own surrounded by tiny bottles of soap and shampoo. It will be done unedited and “off the cuff.” I will not plug this blog on social media or push it on anyone for the sake of readership. I cannot guaratee the soberness or the completion of thought. So with that being said, here goes…
I’ve only been to one rodeo.