The Journal: A Thought on Priorities and Writing

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: A Thought on Priorities and Writing
* Another Note on Numbers
* A decent day yesterday
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“You don’t need more time, you need more focus.” FS Blog

Topic: A Thought on Priorities and Writing

When I was a child in New Mexico, I heard a Realtor’s spot on the local radio station: “There will always be more people, but there will never be more land.”

The Realtor in question most often dealt in large tracts of land: farms, ranches and the like. And the fact that I still remember it almost 60 years later is evidence of at least its memorability if not its effectiveness.

Per the quote of the day, I think the same can be said for time. There will never be more time. There might well be less. So it’s probably wise to prioritize whatever time is available and then focus on doing what you love.

I’m not talking about spending time with family and friends and all that. I’ll stipulate that most or all of us have that as well, but for most of us those times settled long ago into a routine. And those are shared times. Group activities.

I’m talking about doing those things you love to do by yourself, individually, in your own time. The following are my own loves in that regard. Naturally, yours may vary.

* I love challenging myself (stretching myself) and achieving goals. My status quo is continually moving into the past.

* I love learning new things, especially by testing them (usually in an attempt to disprove them) and then being smug when they don’t work and excited when they do.

* I love sharing what I learn and achieve, not to brag but in an effort to be an example of what is possible if others stretch themselves too.

* More than anything, I love being the first person ever to witness my characters’ stories. I don’t see myself as a writer so much as a voyeur with a keyboard.

For me, all of that started to come together in a perfect storm 7 years ago next month when I found Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. Back then he was doing what I’m doing now: writing fiction prolifically and sharing his thoughts on writing almost every day in his daily blog.

He taught classes back then too, but you could get the equivalent of a master’s degree in writing from just reading his blog. I got my master’s, then set out to expand on it through practice. Imagine if Stephen King blogged every day about writing. It was like that.

Yet by and large, the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to do is convince others to trust in what they know, and to trust their characters to tell the stories that the characters, not the writer, are living. It’s as if they believe I have a personal stake in their writing and stand to gain if they trust themselves.

Most of us would never dream of telling our neighbors what to do in the course of their daily lives, yet most writers relish in controlling their characters’ lives through outlines. They even invite others in to beat up on their character-children and force them to conform to one formula or another.

And I was no different until almost seven years ago. For many years, I called myself a writer and longed for the day when I could find a “good” critique group or an agent or an acquisition editor or just anyone who would tell me in their “professional” capacity how to make my character-children behave.

How insane is that? How can anyone who lives outside your characters’ world be so brash as to assume they know how the characters should live their lives or what should happen next or whether this scene should happen before that scene? Today, I defend my work—my characters and their stories—zealously. Even from my own conscious, critical mind, never mind anyone else’s.

As my first-ever Psychology 101 professor said one day in class, “Don’t should on people.” He had a valid point. I can extend that thought now: Don’t should on your characters. And for God’s sake, don’t allow others to should on your characters.

As you might have surmised by now, this topic is all about writing into the dark. About trusting yourself and the knowledge you’ve gleaned over the years since grade school, and about trusting your characters to tell their own stories.

Put bluntly, if you don’t write into the dark, it’s because you’re afraid. Oddly, the most common fear is that what you write won’t measure up. Meaning the story you write won’t look like the story someone else writes.

But that’s the whole beauty of it. When you write into the dark (and only when you write into the dark) you’re writing in your own unique, original voice. No rewriting. No polishing. Just trust.

But be forewarned: What you write really won’t “measure up” to anyone else. It will be worse than what some writers write, but it will be much better than what most writers write, depending on reader taste.

And it won’t sound like anyone else, but that’s a good thing. It will sound like you at your core, original and unique, and there is nothing better than that.

Another Note on Numbers (a bit of fun)

Yesterday I talked a little about numbers in my topic on writing fast. To me, numbers are important, primarily because they don’t lie.

And the importance of numbers to my writing life causes me to dislike the month of January. I will be ever so glad when January is behind us and the calendar flips over to February 1.

Why? Because on January 1, my fiction words written for the year exactly equals my fiction words written for the month. And it stays that way all stinking month. Only when February 1 rolls around will my numbers finally appear to grow instead of slogging along.

It’s annoying. It’s like marching in place. And it serves no useful purpose other than to mark time, which means to stand there like a moron and watch time go by. And I’ve had an epiphany. I suddenly understand the inane reason behind the command for marching in place in the military: The command is actually “Mark time, march.”

The thought occurs to me, the military might have chosen “Mark time, march” because “Waste time, march” was already taken. Perhaps by “writers” who actually serve in a lot of different capacities. First they spend months creating outlines (so they’re outliners) and years forcing their characters to bend to those outlines in the manuscript (control freaks) and then rewriting (rewriters) and submitting the manuscript to a critique group (members of a committee) and polishing (polishers). After which they finally do something to cause the manuscript to be published and start counting the number of downloads and the Amazon ranking (nail biters).

But maybe not. I could be wrong, or satirical. Besides, I digress.

To the point — at this time every year, I go into a kind of stasis and slog, slog, slog along as I wait for stupid January to hurry up and be finished already so I can watch numbers begin to jump in February. Maybe next year I’ll start my new year on December 1. Or November 1. Or….

I had a pretty decent day of writing yesterday. I expect the same today.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Fall Back in Love With Writing” at

See “Stay Organized” at

See “Did Vincent Van Gogh Really Commit Suicide?” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1300 words

Writing of The Journey Home: Part 5 (novel)

Day 1…… 4179 words. Total words to date…… 4179
Day 2…… 4825 words. Total words to date…… 9004
Day 3…… 2746 words. Total words to date…… 11750
Day 4…… 4032 words. Total words to date…… 15782
Day 5…… 2873 words. Total words to date…… 18655
Day 6…… 2052 words. Total words to date…… 20707
Day 7…… 4313 words. Total words to date…… 25020

Total fiction words for January……… 28238
Total fiction words for the year………… 28238
Total nonfiction words for December… 7630
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 7630
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 35868

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 54
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 214
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31