Remind Me, Why Am I Doing This?

Dear Self,

You’ve noticed this blog’s tagline: Pursuing the write balance of money and make-believe.

That aspiration sounds nice, but why bother?

If money is the goal, writing is hardly the most lucrative career — especially if what you’re writing is fiction. As for the make-believe part, well, that can be done in kindergarten, pre-literacy. There’s nothing special about it.

You’d be better off pursuing a more practical career.

One that guarantees a certain income without the silliness of imagination.

One that everyone else would agree is worthwhile.

And yet…

The dream persists.

The dream to write, to share stories with others as those before you have done, to make it worthwhile.

You’ve tried ignoring that dream. You’ve tried feeding it scraps to appease it. You’ve even tried leading it into a distant alleyway with the promise of treats, only to lock it in an abandoned crate and turn your back on it. Yet when you opened your front door the next morning, there it was on the steps, begging you to let it in.

The only thing you haven’t tried is embracing it.

Take the chance and write for real.

Write some fiction stories. Sell your services as a writer on a freelance basis. Go all in, and see if you can make a career of it.

There are no guarantees. You might fail — to finish writing that story, or to sell that piece. You might never earn any money from what you write. You might even need to admit that you’re really not a good writer.

But you still need to attempt the dream.

Best case scenario, you make something of your writing. Worst case scenario? You learn a few things and move on.

Either way, it’s worth a try.

So don’t let fear stop you.

Note: You may have noticed this post is different from my usual ones. That’s because I decided to experiment with my blog posts this month — hopefully I’ll grow as a writer/blogger and the resulting posts are worth reading.

Let me know what you think in the comments.


Becoming a More Consistent Writer

I’ve been struggling with my writing habit.

Namely, with the fact that I don’t have one.

I want to develop a writing habit. I’ve come up with all these plans stating what I need to do, what I want to accomplish, when it should be a reality. But despite my best intentions, I keep running afoul of myself.

I procrastinate. Probably the biggest problem I have — not just with writing — and one that I’ve tried to resolve repeatedly in the past.

In fact, at one time, not really so long ago, I had made progress against that procrastination. It was slow going, but I had a process in place that was actually helping. I got things done.

Then life happened. My process fell to the wayside for a couple weeks, my psyche rebelled against me, and I never got back into it.

That needs to change.

If I want to develop my writing habit, if I want to become a more consistent writer, then I need to once again harness a process.

Which Process?

As weird as this sounds, I can’t just go back to using my old process.

That process was a personalized conglomeration of habit creation and time management “tricks” that I had adopted and tweaked over the course of months, and which I probably would have kept tweaking if I hadn’t gotten derailed.

It worked for me because I had gradually built it into my day-to-day life, but if I tried, right now, to jump in where I had left off, I’d overwhelm myself.

Which means I need to start building a process anew, using what I learned works for me.

And what works for me boils down to three simple things.

1. Daily Planning

So, there’s an ephemeral plan in my head — such as “write a blog post this week” — and I fully intend to make it happen. But the days come and go until I somehow find myself face-to-face with the end of the week. With no blog post in hand, of course.

All because I hadn’t bothered to check my progress through the week.

As a procrastinator, it is far too easy for me to “forget” the things I planned to do in favor of whatever is happening each day.

The best way I’ve found to combat that tendency is to make sure I don’t let myself forget. And daily “check-ins” fit the bill.

  • Did I do what I had intended to do yesterday?
  • Am I making progress towards my larger goals?
  • What do I want to do today?

Whether I do this daily review-and-plan session at the end of the day or first thing in the morning doesn’t matter, so long as I take the time to consider what I’m doing each day.

2. Room for Improvisation

However, planning too specifically doesn’t work for me. My psyche rebels against being “trapped,” procrastination kicks in to save the damsel in distress, and the day’s plan ends up slain in the crossfire.

Too-specific plans include “finish a blog post,” “outline a story,” and “plan next blog post.” Especially all on the same day. (Yes, my psyche is a wimp.)

Rather than planning to “finish a blog post,” I can plan to “write something.” My psyche is then content — it gets to write whatever it wants, no pressure!

Even if it’s still the blog post, as I had intended the whole time.

In that vein, I’ve found that my planning works best if I group my activities into “categories.”

  • Production: blog/fiction/”freelance” drafting, revision, etc.
  • Preparation: brainstorming, character creation, world building, outlining, etc.
  • Absorption: reading, studying, journaling, practicing, observing, etc.

So when I’m planning my day, I choose which category will be my primary focus for that day. Whether I end up writing a blog post, a short story, or something else entirely depends on what I decide when I sit down to work — but I plan to do that type of work. Then I do it.

3. A “Put in the Time” Quota

But if I sit down to work on a category and excuse myself after five minutes of doing next to nothing, I won’t get anywhere.

Some might say the answer is to schedule an hour or two at a specific time for when you have to sit and work, but that doesn’t work for me. If for any reason I’m not able to sit at my computer at that exact time, I end up feeling like I’ve “missed the window of opportunity.” Then I say I’ll do it tomorrow, for sure, and never do.

No. For me, the answer is not a specific schedule, but a time quota.

If my category for the day is Production, then I need to spend a certain minimum amount of time writing. Not necessarily all at once, but total.

And the quota needs to be determined when I do my daily planning, otherwise I’ll change the quota whenever it suits me.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to these quotas.

  • It’s the minimum, not the ideal.
  • It’s enough time to do something.
  • Reaching the quota doesn’t mean “stop now.”

A five minute quota won’t work, but a thirty minute quota? Perfect. And if I end up writing for two hours instead, that’s great.

I’d never make two hours my quota, though. That would just signal to my psyche that it’s time to freak out.

All together, the above “process” produces something that looks like this:

DateQuotaEach DoneOverall Done
[Category][minutes]X (if “Each Done”
has all Xs for day)

I could work on as many of the categories as I want for the day, but the top one will be my primary focus. Once I’ve met the quota for one, I can put an X next to it and move on to the next quota on the list. Or I can continue working past the quota.

Either way, procrastination should get pushed to the wayside. Gradually, with a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, but it will eventually happen.

And then where will I be?

Hopefully, writing.

What’s your process for beating procrastination, maintaining a writing habit, or otherwise putting in the time as a writer? Feel free to share in the comments!

Using Personality as a Writer’s Guide

To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.


Writing advice comes in many forms:

  • Do this!
  • Don’t do this!
  • Do what feels right for you!

But why does one thing work for you, and something else never sticks?

Simply put, each of us is different. We have different lives, different skillsets…and different personalities. The key is to figure out how to work with your specific differences.

In this part of the journey to know yourself, “outside” perspectives can help. Like personality tests, which, though hardly absolute, are fairly useful tools for figuring out the “why” behind one’s personal set of differences.

Assuming you take the time to understand the results, of course.

I’m no expert, but I take a certain degree of pleasure in analyzing myself and figuring out how I fit into someone else’s psychological framework.

As a result, I’ve taken more than my share of free personality tests — some of which were far better than others, but all were interesting. I’ve never tried applying the results to my pursuits as a writer, though.

Now’s as good a time as any.

My favorite personality test is 16Personalities — I like the clear descriptions of the different personality types and the “trait-based” results of the test. I’ll be using their definitions in this post as I examine three results I’ve received from their test over the years.

Let’s get to it!

Continue reading

Progress Report #2

Here I am, back with another progress report!

(Well, my second progress report since starting this blog, but “another” sounds so much more impressive.)

After a couple of weeks of…strained progress, largely due to life’s unpleasant distractions and my inability to focus in spite of them (hello, procrastination!), I think I am finally in a mental place where I can normalize my writing schedule.


I still have a long ways to go if I want to have a stable writing habit, but I’ve managed to write something every day this week. Yay!

Here’s my breakdown for the week:


Creating a Short Fiction Writing Regimen” blog post–

Word Count: about 200 words, very rough draft. Didn’t keep most of this in the final post.
Total Drafting Time: about an hour.

Didn’t write any poetry or anything on Monday.


Creating a Short Fiction Writing Regimen” blog post–

Word Count: 149 words drafted for the first draft, mostly for the intro. I actually kept these ones.
Total Drafting Time: about 2 hours. I was working particularly slow.

Again, no poetry. It’s just a personal challenge, but I feel bad about shirking it. However, I know I need to prioritize some of my other writing so I can develop better habits, rather than using the poetry as yet another procrastinatory foil.


Creating a Short Fiction Writing Regimen” blog post–

Word Count: 382 words drafted for the first draft, including the two sections after the intro.
Total Drafting Time: about 3 hours.

Still no poem.


Creating a Short Fiction Writing Regimen” blog post–

Word Count: 237 words drafted for first draft, included the final section and conclusion of the post.
Total Drafting Time: about 1.5 hours.

After finishing the first draft, I made some revisions and prepped the post for publication. I probably skimped on the revisions — I wanted to get it done with and posted, instead of procrastinating with it for another week.

Here are the final stats:

Final Post Word Count: 827 words.
Overall Post Drafting Time: about 7.5 hours.
Average Final Draft Words per Hour of Writing: about 110 words/hour.

Worse production rate than with my first blog post, but something, in my case, is better than more of nothing.

Speaking of nothing, you guessed it — no poetry!

I did do some prewriting for next week’s topic post, though, and collated my writing numbers for the week in preparation for writing this post. Overall, Thursday was a rather productive day.


Performance Review #2” blog post–

Word Count: 581 words drafted.
Total Writing Time: about 2 hours.

For obvious reasons, these performance review posts are easier and quicker for me to write than my other posts. I just gather my thoughts about the week’s writing and put it together.

I should really write these posts more often…

Oh, and guess what? I wrote a:

Daily Poem

It was short — though not haiku-short — and to the point, but hey! At least I wrote a poem again.

Hello, Weekend

Once again, I face a coming weekend filled with writing necessities — I need to finish planning and draft my topic post for Monday, prewrite my fiction for the coming week, and maybe plan some future blog posts.

My goals for the coming week?

  • Finally write 500 words each weekday.
  • Post my weekly blog posts on time.
  • Start and finish at least one flash fiction story.

Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake.

Of course, we’ll need to see if the cake comes out of the oven, first.

Until next week, happy writing.

Creating a Short Fiction Writing Regimen

I want to become a “professional writer.”

I stated as much in my first post — and pretty much everywhere else on this blog. I’ve even presented some of my plans for making that desire into a reality.

Yet, part of being a professional writer is the act of producing pieces frequently, not just when you “feel like it.”

I’m not doing too well with that part.

Oh, I’ve made some progress with writing consistently for this blog. I have a ways to go before I can consider myself a “pro” at it, though. I mean, I missed an entire week of posting, a Friday review, and this Monday’s deadline — not exactly encouraging progress!

When you consider that writing for this blog is only a small part of my larger plan, it’s clear I have a lot of work to do.

Like bring my fiction writing into focus.

My intention when I started this process was to divide my writing efforts between fiction and “freelance”-style pieces. Specifically, I wanted to write as many short stories as blog posts by the end of June.

Instead, I haven’t scrawled a single word of fiction. Four blog posts, yes, but no fiction.

That needs to change.

Unfortunately, my past history of “hobbyist” writing means that I’m woefully out of practice. Just like with developing a basic writing habit (four weeks in and I still have work to do on that front), producing numerous fictional tales isn’t something I can accomplish by snapping my fingers.

It takes planning. Writing. Finishing. And repeating, without getting stuck in a mental fog.

To do that, I need to start small and build up my endurance. I also need deadlines, so I don’t spend forever on a single, tiny story.

Which means the idea of writing a short story each week might keep me on track.

I can start with stories on the shorter end of the scale and build up to writing longer short stories.

Flash Fiction

Speaking of the shorter end of the scale, flash fiction is the perfect project type to once more jump-start my fiction writing.

What is a flash fiction story?

Brief — depending on who you ask, a flash story can be up to 1,500 words, but often shorter.
Complete — a lot can be hinted at, but there must still be plot, character, setting, and some sort of theme — a flash story IS NOT a vignette!
Enjoyable — what’s the point of a story that is boring, dull, or otherwise uninteresting? Even horror stories entertain, in their own way.

And, from a writerly standpoint, a flash fiction story can be planned, written, and finished in a relatively short amount of time — producing at least one each week should be manageable for me, at least while I’m building up my writing habit.

I could even write more than one such tale each week, assuming I write shorter flash fiction pieces.

But let’s not get too far ahead of where I am now.

First, I’ll work some flash fiction into my weekly writing regimen. Once I manage that for a couple of weeks, I can start writing:

Longer Short Stories

Though flash fiction stories could technically be considered a subcategory of short stories, from a writer’s standpoint, they are often treated differently.

So, how does a short story differ from a flash fiction piece?

Longer — anything over 1,500 words up to roughly 10,000 words.
(Some sources say up to 20,000 words, but others say that’s crossing the line toward novelettes/novellas.)
More “Stuff” — whereas flash fiction has room for only a couple of characters and a single, compact event, a short story has room for more — detail, characters, events, etc.
(Yet a short story is still focused on a single plot-line, which is part of what makes it different from a sprawling novel.)
Characterization — a flash story uses quick brushstrokes to outline its characters; a short story can spend more time developing the shadows and colors of its characters to draw the reader into the picture.

Once I start writing longer stories for my weekly fiction quota, I’ll have to approach things a bit differently.

A longer story requires more planning time, more drafting time, and more revision than a flash fiction story does. Rather than starting and finishing a whole story each week, I’d probably focus on just completing a first draft in that time.

Which means my planning and revision for a story would have to be spread across more than one week. Or weekend.

I’ll need to work out those logistics.

All this planning and dreaming won’t help if I don’t sit down and write the stories.

Each week.

I need to learn to balance my blog writing with my fiction writing, and get both done in a timely manner. It won’t be easy — I’ve barely been able to produce my blog posts each week. If I’m going to become the writer I want to become, though, I need to do this.

I need to write.

Overcoming Mental Resistance as a Writer

The job of a writer is to translate mental abstractions into concrete words, capable of being read and understood by strangers.

Which makes the problem of mental resistance prevalent among writers.

Often, these resistances, though they seem incredibly personal and specific to the writer experiencing them, fall into a few common categories. Perfectionism, procrastination, self-doubt, lack of focus, and so on.

If I am to create a working writing habit, I need to deal with my own issues and find ways to keep them from disrupting my writing.

And, boy, do I have issues!

Chief among my resistances is that oft bemoaned malady of writers:


As you can see by this post’s date, I procrastinated with my writing this past week.

     Because I procrastinated, I lectured myself about not writing…
     Because I lectured myself, I stressed out about writing…
     Which made me procrastinate more, because when I finally sat down to write…
     I couldn’t think of what to write because I was so stressed about it…
     So I convinced myself I needed to do something else to de-stress…

Talk about a vicious cycle!

Clearly, procrastination needs to go. The sooner, the better.

But how to do that? Intentions are easy, but doing something now rather than “later” isn’t so easy when I’m faced with half a dozen options for what to do now — and procrastination becomes the choice between doing the urgent, the enjoyable, or the important.

A simple solution is likely the best one. (After all, adding more complexity would just make me procrastinate more!)

The simplest option would be to make writing one of the first things I do each day, no matter what.

I’m no morning person, though — I could easily procrastinate with my writing because I don’t feel “awake enough” for the task. Or, worse, end up writing irrelevant nonsense and losing any shred of confidence I might otherwise have had in my scant ability as a writer, which would then make me procrastinate more.

With some effort and preparation, though, I could make it work.

I know I can’t write when I first open my eyes in the morning, and I can’t start the day with prewriting, since I’d be more likely to use that as a form of procrastination.

However, I can write mid-morning, and if I do my prewriting the day before and have it easily accessible, I could move on to drafting right away. It would help limit my opportunity for writer procrastination, at least.

But if I am to successfully deal with my procrastination problem, I need to address the reason, not just the symptom.

What might that reason be? Well, at the root of most procrastination is an element of…


Two of the most common fears leading to procrastination for writers are fear of failure and fear of being “found out” — otherwise known as “imposter syndrome.”

I suffer from both of these fears, each to their own extent. And though the fear itself wouldn’t be a significant problem if I handled it better, my knee-jerk “flight” response is.

Address the fear, and maybe procrastination will be easier to overcome.

That’s my hope.

Unfortunately, hope isn’t going to cut it. But how else can I possibly overcome these psychological hurdles of mine?

One step at a time.

Fear of Failure

Failure is a problematic thing to fear, because one learns best as a result of failure — it’s just bloody hard to accept!

Recognizing the fear in the moment — rather than telling myself “I just don’t feel like writing” — is probably a necessary first step to deal with it. However, thoughts aren’t easily quantified, and I’d like a quantifiable plan for tackling this.

I suppose the simplest way to overcome a fear of failure is to face it repeatedly, without running from it.

First, in what ways does a writer fear he might fail when it comes to writing?

That he’ll fail to write well.That he’ll fail to write stuff others like.That he’ll fail to get published.

Then if my goal is to face failure repeatedly, I need to write badly, write stuff others hate, and get rejected for publication. Repeatedly.

Not quite. Close, though.

The immediate failure would be “writing badly,” which is more likely to spark my procrastination. I need to face that somehow — but to move beyond the fear, I should also prove to myself that the “failure” is fixable with editing, each time.

So I have my answer.

Whenever I sit to write, I’ll start by writing the worst sentence I can think of, then rewrite it into the best sentence I can while keeping both versions. I’ll leave this exercise at the top of the page during the entire writing session as a reminder that bad writing isn’t permanent failure — and shouldn’t make me too afraid to try.

It’s a small thing, but it might help me.

As for the other “failures,” I can address them as they come.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is essentially a derivative of the fear of failure, with the distinction that you feel any success you experience is or will be “false” and once it passes, you will receive your failure — often magnified by humiliation.

The problem with this is that writing, being a particularly subjective skill, can take a lifetime to master.

Fear of being “found out” is counterproductive, since it is based on one’s ego, not on becoming a better writer.

Which would mean that the simplest solution for dealing with this fear would be to recognize that my ego is standing in the way of my writing, and to proceed without it.

But, again, that answer is not quantifiable. What answer would be?

How about this: if ever I find this fear tormenting me, I’ll write something along the lines of, “Ego is a villain. Writing is a practice.” That’s simple enough, right?

Plus, I’d get a laugh out of it.

In summary:
  • Prewrite/Plan the day before.
  • Write as soon possible each day — mid-morning.
  • Bad Sentence/Better Rewrite Exercise — each writing session.
  • Banish Ego Exercise — when afraid of false success.

Psychology is a complex matter. (And I’m no psychologist!) My quaint solutions to a select few of my mental resistances certainly won’t solve all my issues.

However, I now have somewhere to start my long battle against the parts of my psyche that will hold me back from pursuing my dream of being a writer. The next step is using this to move forward with the rest of my plan.

Until next week.

Performance Review

In my last post, I presented my goal to create a writing habit. A stated goal without goalkeeping is irrelevant, so I decided I would track and present my progress for the week in an end-of-the-week post.

(My little “April Fools” joke at the end of my last post didn’t take, I’m afraid — it seems I’m actually doing this “become a writer” thing.)

Below, I recorded my writing stats for each day this week and a handful of notes about the work itself. How much I wrote; which projects I started, advanced, or completed; roughly how long it took me to do the writing; and so on.


Finding the First Steps” blog post–

Word Count: 1,400 words drafted for first draft, promptly rewritten to 700 words.
Total Drafting/Redrafting Time: approximately 5 hours.
Average Final Draft Words per Hour of Writing: 140 words/hour.

I wasn’t ecstatic about the end product, but that is partly due to my apprehension about moving forward with my plan to write “seriously” — mental resistance, and all that. I just needed to post it, and move forward.

Daily Poem

I wrote a brief poem after finishing the blog post. Didn’t take me longer than half an hour, and the end poem was less than 100 words. I won’t count it for my “writing habit” goal, though.


Performance Review” blog post–

Word Count: 308 words drafted for first draft, including the intro, Monday stats, and Tuesday stats.
Total Drafting Time: no more than an hour.

I run long on first drafts, so anticipate cutting it down quite a bit by the end of the week. I didn’t meet my writing habit goal, but at least I did some writing.

Daily Poem

Like Monday, I wrote a very brief poem in a short time.


On Wednesday, I wrote nothing except my Daily Poem. However, it was not BRIEF! I wrote more than 100 words, and it took me longer than an hour to write it what with all the rhymes and lines.

Although that was an interesting diversion, the rest of my writing accomplishments were nada and disappointing. I was distracted, and would have benefited from having a clear plan for what to write instead of just planning to write “something.”


Once again, I wrote nothing except my Daily Poem. It wasn’t as long as my previous poem, but it wasn’t “brief” like my other ones have been. Kind of middling. My distracted state remained, though, and I didn’t prewrite other projects the way I had intended.


Performance Review” blog post–

Finished the post. I simultaneously rewrote what I wrote before and drafted new content for the rest of the week, so I can’t clearly give first draft/final draft comparisons. Plus, I worked on it in bits and pieces throughout the day, so I can only guess at my total writing time.

My poor work-tracking habits aside, here are the results of my work: a 608-word blog post, however much writing time scattered throughout an entire day (likely a few hours of work), and an idea of the things I need to work on next week to improve my “writing habit.”

Daily Poem

Another brief poem added to my collection.

And then the weekend!

I had hoped to develop a basic writing habit that let me have the weekend “off” from drafting, but it seems this week is not the week. I will spend the weekend writing my blog post for Monday and prewriting some fiction, in addition to writing my Daily Poems each day.

My motto for the coming week: Preparation prevents procrastination! I don’t intend to have another week of poor writing habits.

Until next Monday, farewell.

Finding the First Steps

“I’m going to be a writer!”

So have I declared, and so will I strive.

The statement itself isn’t particularly useful, though. Declaring, aspiring, and otherwise hoping, while nice ways to inspire one’s actions, do not make something so.

I need to take action. First one step, then another, until my actions lead me to the goal I started with. Sounds simple enough.

But…what should that first step be?

Should I take a few dozen writing courses until I feel confident in my writing chops? Maybe write the next bestselling novel and become famous? Or what about making a mad writing dash for a few hundred bucks online? Should I do that? Or something else entirely?

Like write, maybe.

Because ultimately, that is every writer’s first step.

If I want to make a career of my writing, though, “just write” isn’t going to cut it. After all, an unending first step makes a hobby, not a career. I’ll need to approach writing not as an aspiring writer, but as an aspiring professional writer.

For a professional writer, “just write” means writing consistently, finishing projects, and meeting deadlines.

Which makes those my “first steps.”

Write Consistently

Building a writing habit will serve me well. I treated my writing too much like a hobby in the past, letting it come and go whenever the mood struck me. No more.

That said, as someone new to “writing professionally,” I can’t just throw myself into an arbitrary habit of writing thousands of words per day — I’d drive myself bonkers three days in.

I need to start small.

For this “first step,” I will aim to draft 500 words every weekday, for a total of 2,500 words each week.

That should be achievable for me, even if it’s not right away. The point is to build up my stamina for the marathon of a career, not the sprint of a hobby.

Finish Projects

Writing aimlessly serves no one. To advance as a writer, I need to complete pieces which I can then submit for publication or sell.

But what to write? Fiction, or freelance pieces?

For this “first step,” I’ll write a bit of both. In the “freelance” category, I will write weekly posts for this blog and write practice freelance pieces a couple times a month. I’ll focus on writing short stories for the “fiction” category, as often as I can. I’d like to have a short story for every blog post I write.

I also have a personal challenge to write a poem each day, which should be an interesting way to explore my wordsmithing skills.

The point here is to finish a variety of projects, then move on to another one when done. The more I write, the more I’ll learn.

Meet Deadlines

But at what point will I move on from these “first steps”?

Obviously, I won’t want to stop writing. I do want to have a clear turning point, though. Namely, when will I start trying to sell what I write?

As tempting as it may be to avoid a specific date — after all, who knows if my writing will be ready for public consumption at such a time? — I need to hold myself accountable. An unending first step is a hobby, after all, and I’m trying to turn my writing into a career.

So for this part of my “first steps,” my deadline will be June 30th.

That gives me three months to build my writing habit and finish a few writing projects.

After that — hello, world!

In summary, my “first steps” are:
  • Draft 500 words every weekday.
  • Post weekly to this blog.
  • Write a couple practice freelance pieces each month.
  • Write short stories, preferably weekly.
  • Write a poem each day for a personal challenge.
  • Move to the next step by June 30th, 2019.

Whether I succeed or not, I will have attempted. Building a viable writing career is no easy feat — the impracticality of it is astounding — and yet it is the path I have chosen for myself. I will pursue it as best I can, and invite you to follow me on my journey.

As I conclude this first post, I leave you with this final message:

April Fool’s!

(Or not…?)