Writing as work

For years I’ve avoided thinking of writing as work. I’ve even written a blog post about how writing is not a job, and after re-reading that, I stand behind what I said about it not being a job. However, I’ve also started to have a realization that for me, maybe doing everything I can to avoid thinking of my writing as work isn’t the right path for me.

I was raised to believe that my work had value. That no matter what job I had, the work I did was valuable. I hate jobs, no two ways around that, but I don’t hate work. I’ve never hated work, really. I can name only a few very specific instances where I might have hated it, if it’d gone on too long, and they all involved boring-as-hell work. Even then, I considered what I did valuable. Just boring.

But my hobbies, reading and writing? Not valuable at all. Time wasters. Time passers. Whatever you want to call it.

It occurred to me that by doing everything I can not to think of my writing as work, I’ve essentially told myself that it has little or no value, despite the fact that I’m living off the money it brings in.

Last night I decided it was time for an attitude adjustment. I can continue to hate jobs and I can continue to avoid having a job—even a self-imposed one—for the rest of my life. But what I can’t do is continue to not think of my writing as my work.

Work can be fun and awesome. I know this. Just because other people sometimes have issues when they think of writing as work doesn’t mean I do or have to. In fact, I’d say I don’t, because for me, work is about doing the best you can. You’re invested. It’s a commitment. It’s not “punch the clock, do as crap a job as you can get away with before punching the clock again” kind of thing. That isn’t my world view, and it never has been.

It’s perfectly okay to call my writing work.

If I want to change my ways when it comes to getting the writing done every day, every week, every year, then I have to think of my writing as valuable, as important, as something I need to do above all other things. Work has pretty much always fallen inside those lines for me. Work is valuable. Work needs to get done.

It’s time to start ascribing some real value to the writing I do.

Writing is my work. My work is my writing.

There. That wasn’t so hard an adjustment to make.

Oh, hell. I’ve already lost track of the days

So that book 19, day whatever lasted a few days. I don’t even know what to say about this. The day after my last post, I pretty much decided I was spending too much time detailing out my struggle to write and that I should focus more on actually writing, you know? So I made a pact with myself to stop writing about the struggle. There is no struggle. My issues with work are not related to writing, except that writing is my work. But I don’t have a problem writing once I start. It’s really just this other thing—these other issues—and I’m tired of putting all that on my writing.

That means my posts about writing either need to be about the story, the process, or my actual word counts. Instead of wasting so much valuable time and energy day after day just writing about how hard it is to make myself write.

So that’s it. This post is a way station and I haven’t figured out exactly where I’m going from here. Most likely I’ll just start posting about exactly those things I mentioned above: process, story, and word count updates.

Since I haven’t written much over the last several days, I haven’t had anything to post about.

I can still use my book xx, day xxx title format for word count updates, but not if I have to start counting days every time I want to post. Yikes. I didn’t think it would be so tedious to keep up with it.

Currently, I’m annoyed with my story because I feel kind of stuck at the moment, and my word counts have suffered greatly because of some personal stuff I’ve had to deal with over the last several days. I don’t begrudge those days, but man, I’m really behind where I want to be on this story.

On that note, I’m going away to write for a while. Maybe I’ll actually have something to post later that isn’t a post saying what I won’t be posting about anymore. ;)

Pen name ethics

There’s been some grumbling on Kboards about pen names and personas that has struck a chord with me. I use pen names and I don’t think anything is wrong with that. I don’t have a problem with anyone choosing to use them, for whatever reason they want to use them.

But I do have qualms about the use of personas. They ring of sock puppets and scam tactics to me, and although maybe that’s not how the authors who use them think of them, I can’t help but find it distasteful and deceptive.

On the one hand, making up a name doesn’t seem so different than making up a dog you don’t have. But to me, I do think of those things differently. When I interact with people, that fake name doesn’t really mean anything. I still interact with people as myself, even if it’s only using select attributes of myself.

Say I’m shy in real life (I’m not that shy, mostly standoffish, which is actually quite different). But say I am. I might dig deep and pull from the part of me that isn’t as shy and give myself permission to be more outgoing and brave with other people while interacting under the name of my pen name.

That kind of thing just doesn’t feel deceptive to me. That’s me behaving differently because of who I’m interacting with. I could choose to interact that way as me or as my pen name and no one would think much of it.

But if I give myself a fake dog, when I interact with others, if I choose to use my real name, then the people that know me are going to know I’m lying. Just because I choose to interact under a different name, a pen name, doesn’t mean I’m not lying any less.

So, no, I’m not supportive of authors who create entire personas that are fake. I just don’t think it’s right to do that kind of thing and present it as fact. It’s lying. It’s deception. It’s lying and deception meant for personal gain.

The thing about author bios is that it’s not generally accepted that they’re going to be fake. People, in general, expect bios to be genuine. When they’re not, it breaks a trust with the reader. I care about that. I don’t want any readers of mine to ever be able to come to me and say I lied to them or deceived them about who I am.

I hold back a lot in my bios. That’s because I’m not willing to lie about who I am, but I’m also not willing to give everything about myself away to people I don’t know. Personas are a way of trying to have it both ways.

There are authors I’ve read and loved in the past that I don’t read anymore because of this kind of thing. I have no interest in supporting people who enjoy deceiving others or who are willing to deceive others because they think it gives them an edge in whatever market they’re in. The thing about those kind of people is that they don’t care. They’ll probably never care. But I don’t have to like or support them.

Marketing has a bad reputation because of people who’ll do anything to make a sale. In my mind, I have no doubt that authors who adopt actual personas with made up details about their lives are some of those people.

Not so bad? WTF

I was reading this blog post on book stuffing this morning (and it’s a good one) and came to the screenshots that included comments someone had made in the Chance Carter Diamond Group.

Mind blown.

Why? Because I don’t understand who would look at that list of instructions on how to do the KU Flip and actually think anyone is worth that kind of time investment.

I understand there are people out in the world who feel entitled to steal other people’s time while providing nothing of real value in return, just so they can make a few extra dollars off each one. I do.

But I don’t understand why people value themselves so little that they would actually let it happen. It’s worth it for a free book? A chance at a prize? You’ve got to be kidding me.

And then to think that this character—this person—is already making thousands every month and these readers are giving up time—something that you never, ever get back—to give this person another $12-15 for a KU read? Ugh. Fuck that.

Inherently selfish people have no trouble taking advantage of givers. These poor givers are giving and giving, and this dude is just taking and taking and taking.

The only way this makes sense to me is if it’s all just a big pyramid scheme and the used are hoping to become the users at some point and recoup their investment. But that’s not what I’m hearing. These are readers, who’ve been drawn in by this person’s persona, and who choose to let themselves be used in this way.

I’m sad that I don’t really believe in karma in this life. Maybe in the next.

Taking another run at “The End” today

I’m off to a good start. Only 49 words up after two 45 minute sessions, but I’m through the editing completely and back into new words territory now. (Just finished deleting a decent chunk of several hundred words. I was up 162 words after the 1st session only to lose most of them in the 2nd.)

The plan is to keep doing the 45 minute sessions until I reach either 6 hours or the end of the book. (Hoping for the latter!)

Anyway, off to make something to drink and then I’ll be starting session three.

Here are the sessions so far.

Minutes Words Session WPH
45 162 162 216
45 49 -113 -151
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0

(Sometime very much later…)

I’m sitting here staring at my results today and more than a little disappointed that I finished only two 45 minute sessions.

I wrote three pages in my journal about not writing (typical) and then went website hopping for self-help articles to validate my feelings (also typical). It was stupid and I really don’t understand myself sometimes. Writing fiction is important to me.

One, it’s my life’s work. Two, it’s my job. Three, it keeps me from having to work as someone’s employee and live a lifestyle I absolutely hate.

The self-sabotage I’m capable of just boggles my mind. I’m destroying my chance for happiness by not sticking to a writing routine of some kind and actually putting out the words I ought to be perfectly capable of writing.

I don’t want to write. That’s just all there is to it. I look at my book, think about the writing, and just do not want to do it.

I think I know why, but I can’t seem to fix it.

Writing is a chore because I make it hard. Every time I sit down, I spend loads of time redoing sentence after sentence, word after word, trying to find my way. Trying to capture a feeling or a scene that I can’t seem to capture no matter how hard I try. Second-guessing every decision, writing for everyone except myself, even though that is exactly what I do not want to do.

I didn’t used to be this way. I’m not sure what happened or when it changed, but writing has felt hard for a couple of years now. I’ve been publishing since 2012. It’s 2017 now. Somewhere in there, something changed. It could have been a slow slide or a sudden shift, but it happened, and I’ve been left standing on a ledge. The rocks under my feet are crumbling and I’m starting to feel a little desperate.

I need to find a way off this damn ledge.

I tried changing up my formatting on my book-in-progress to see if that refreshed my feelings for the writing, but it was a wasted effort. I tried multiple formats and ended up right back where I’d started: Times New Roman 12 pt, single spaced text, first line indent.

It was a band-aid anyway.

The problem isn’t how the text looks. It isn’t the fact that I can’t get comfortable. I can get comfortable enough to web-surf for hours on end and read online articles, or read forum threads, or read a book that takes all day long to read, but I can’t get comfortable enough to type words into my computer? Give me a break. My comfort isn’t the problem.

The problem is that I don’t want to write.

But it’s not just the writing. I don’t want to do anything. That’s the real problem. I just want to be, and let me tell you, that’s the stupidest thing in the world, because I know as well as the next person that you don’t make it through life that way with your self-respect intact.

Is depression something that can last for years? Because I’m seriously starting to wonder if there’s something serious behind this weird combination of worry, apathy, and lack of motivation I’ve had going on for so long.

Something’s just not right.

You know the funniest part of this all? This post is 669 words long.

I’m not laughing.

Tuesday the 31st of October: the beginning of the rest of my life

Today is Tuesday the 31st of October. It’s also the beginning of the rest of my life. What I do today and tomorrow does not have to follow the pattern of what I did yesterday and the day before.

That’s my truth.

That’s my resolution.

Journaling my way to success?

I started an experiment four days ago on Friday (see the post).

Fri: 198 (deleted a chunk of words that knocked this down by about 300)
Sat: 2,088
Sun: 1,185
Mon: 1,544

I’ve had a few times where I just forgot to journal at my break but overall, it is keeping me focused. On the other hand, I admit, I went back to running my timer as I worked, not because I’m going to agonize over my words per hour numbers, but because I just feel less at loose ends when the timer is going. And it doesn’t hurt to look back at a less than stellar word count day and see that I put in a decent amount of effort so I shouldn’t be criticizing myself for it!

(Honestly, it’s the first step of reform for me. I have to quit being so hard on myself all the time. I’m not talking about what I expect from myself, because I think it’s good to push for more than my average as often as I can. I’m talking about how I talk and think about myself and my efforts. Talking down to myself is just not a viable long-term happiness strategy.)

Not going to give up without a fight

I’m trying to come up with my goal for today. I think I’m done with the catch-up attempt for hours because I’m further behind now than I was when I started yesterday. On the other hand, this morning, I’ve already written for 13 minutes and put down 87 words of stuff. It’s a start.

I’m actually very concerned that I haven’t gained any speed or momentum after what feels like a significant time investment over the last few weeks. I’ve spent 47.93 hours writing in the last 19 days and my cumulative word count for all that time is 3,982 words.

3,982 ÷ 47.93 = 83 words an hour. I type at about 60 words a minute. Typing isn’t writing, I know, but has my brain really slowed down to the point that I can’t write at even 10 words a minute?

I’m in uncharted territory, because I can’t recall ever spending so much focused time writing and ending up with so little progress. It’s obvious something is going on with my writing that I don’t understand because my word counts have dwindled to half what they used to be just three years ago and I’ve lost a significant portion of the excitement I used to feel when I write.

I kind of feel like I’m making progress on the last of that, but the first—obviously—hasn’t improved or it wouldn’t be 33 days since my last day of 1,000+ words.

The fact is I’m trying. I don’t know what kind of hole it is I’m trying to dig myself out of but I am trying.

I want this career, and I’m not going to give up on myself without a fight.

So off I go again today, trying to make progress, or recapture some momentum, or something, anything that will prove the creative part of my brain hasn’t up and died on me.

As for today’s goal? I think I’ll just start with the basics. 1,557 words. When I reach that, I’ll evaluate how much time beyond three hours I’m going to aim for.

Progress will be in my next post. It’s easier than revisiting an already long-enough post and scrolling down every time I want to add a line. :)

Funnily enough I feel good about writing today

After last night’s contemplative mood, I’m surprised by how well I feel today, about writing, about the future, about everything.

Well, except for the spider infestation I seem to be dealing with. Not so happy about that! But they’re little spiders, with feathery legs, and those kind don’t trigger my phobia the way most other spiders do.

Still, not that happy that one landed on my bed last night and started trucking it right up beside my leg. I couldn’t find any sign of where it came from, but I’ll be vacuuming my bedroom ceiling today regardless. Then of course I came down to find one tucked up in the corner over the breakfast room window and another in the corner of the hallway that leads to the garage. I vacuumed those ceilings just a couple of days ago. Let me just say, as a five foot one person with nine foot high ceilings, this has been a chore and a half! My bedroom has a tray ceiling and the middle section is ten foot high. That’s going to be fun.

So, on that note, I’d like to finish my writing before I have to go up and start vacuuming ceilings again. I figure when I’m done, all I’m going to want to do is crash on the couch and read a book!

Okay, on to today’s plan. I’m going to go with 45 minute blocks, because they divide evenly into 3 hours. I’m planning four of them.

I decided last night after some vague contemplation (I wasn’t forcing these thoughts) that 3 hours a day even if I reach 1,557 words earlier isn’t a bad expectation. I see no reason why I wouldn’t want to write for at least that long most days. So although I haven’t decided it’s a rule or anything, I think aiming for a complete 3 hours each day of writing isn’t asking too much of myself. Preferably I’ll do this in the mornings, but on days when I don’t, I’ll try not to stretch out my day to the point that I’m finishing an hour of writing at bedtime. Some authors do well writing late at night. I don’t. I give up much too easily when I’m tired. So I have to stop putting myself in that position.

Write early, write more later if I want.

Now to go write.

I don’t know

I let my streak of writing every day end yesterday. Technically, I did sit at the computer and write, but it was of such a small amount that it didn’t overcome a few minor deletions and left me with a net word count of -40 for the day.

So why am I not counting it?

I asked myself that last night when I consciously decided I just wasn’t going to write any more and I wasn’t going to count what I’d done. The streak was dead. I read a book yesterday, finished it even (not one I’d recommend so I’ll just leave it there), and I was tired. Not too tired to write at least a few hundred words. But a hundred or two words felt like a token number just so I could count it for the streak, and I had a moment where I just thought, that’s ridiculous. And it really felt ridiculous. Even now, it feels kind of ridiculous. So I let it die.

I’ve always had a lot of difficulty figuring out exactly what I want of myself when it comes to writing, because there are so many things I want and not all of them make sense when taken together. I want to be prolific and write every day and finish books unusually fast. I want to sit down in the mornings and write until I’m tired of writing and then get on with my day. I want to split up my writing throughout the day so I don’t feel trapped in a routine. I only want to write when I want to write, but I want that to be every day.

What I do know:

Writing every day isn’t as important as writing most days. (Is this self-justification for last night’s choice?)

Writing 1,557 words every day isn’t as important as averaging 1,557 words a day. (We all know every day just isn’t going to happen in the real world. Not with something that’s going to take over an hour even on the absolute best of days.)

Still, 1,557 words a day is a nice number. A magic number, if you will, because I always feel like I can write that number of words in a very short amount of time, even if that hasn’t proven to be true, yet, with this particular book.

Knowing how other people self-publish and market doesn’t interest me. I’ll do things my way until my way doesn’t work anymore. Then I’ll worry about figuring out how to do things some other way.

I write fiction for a reason that has more to do with lifestyle than money.

What I need to do is stop thinking so much about the why and how and when, and just write.

Routines bore me. But I’m constantly fighting the feeling that I need a routine. I want one. I daydream about having one, how my life would be so calm and awesome and I’d sit down in the mornings with a cup of tea or coffee (which I no longer drink) and I’d write my words, and then I’d get up and go for a walk, then sit down with a good book, have lunch, go out, and go to bed feeling accomplished and satisfied, then I’d get up the next day and do it all over again.

It’s a very detailed daydream. ;)

The only problem is that I have no idea how to make it a reality because every time I try to get a routine going, I bail on it. I can’t take it after a while. I feel like I’m suffocating. It’s horrible. I hate it. I get bored so easily and that routine, the one I daydream about, would kill me after about three weeks.

So what do you do when the life you imagine you want isn’t the life that actually fits your personality?

I don’t know.

So here I am. It’s 8:41 pm and I haven’t written any fiction today. I did read every article I had waiting for me in Pocket—quite a few actually. They’d been building up. I talked to my mother. I watched a few episodes of television.

Now I’m feeling contemplative, but I need to start writing.

I guess I’ll do that.

Oh, and here’s an essay I read this afternoon that I can recommend and it ties in nicely to my previous post: “Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet” by Rolf Dobelli. Yes, I did seek out a few articles in support of my decision to cut out news and a few of them applied quite perfectly well to forums too. I was surprised by how closely the essay mirrored some of my own thoughts.