(This post is the second of three in a special series for aspiring authors)
Most aspiring authors that I meet either tell me they don't have enough time or they don't know where to start. My post last week addressed time and next week I'll address getting started. But this post addresses another common remark that I hear, "I'm scared."
Scared that no one will like it, no one will read it, or it won't make sense. I felt that exact same way before I made the decision to share my work. If I'm being honest, sometimes I still feel that way. But one thing I've learned is that once you put it out there, your audience will come (provided they know it exists, lol! But more on that next week!) For now let's focus on overcoming these self imposed barriers:
1. Fear- Fear is a very strong emotion because you're going up against the unknown. You're putting yourself out there without control over the outcome. But fear will also keep you paralyzed and you'll look around and five, ten or twenty years will pass and you will still be saying, "I always wanted to write a book." So my suggestion is to go for it. Get those ideas, words, phrases and thoughts out of your head and go for it! One thing that I did was to start writing on platforms like Wattpad under a pseudonym, that way no one knew it was me. I got such an amazing response from strangers who had connected with my writing, it gave me the courage to share it under my real name with people I actually knew and it's been an incredible experience.
2. Procrastination- Writing is an escape. Writing is cathartic. Writing is fun. But writing can also be hard work. Sometimes the task of writing can be daunting and because you don't know where to start or how to finish or what to say, you put it off and you don't write at all. You start making excuses or you stop making writing a priority. Meanwhile time is passing and that book isn't getting written. YOU HAVE TO MAKE WRITING A PRIORITY. YOU HAVE TO WRITE EVEN WHEN IT'S HARD. Dedication and self motivation are the only way you will have a shot at that New York Times Bestseller list. To avoid developing a pattern of procrastination, set a daily goal of writing for a minimum of fifteen minutes or set a goal of writing 700-1000 words a day and maybe it won't feel like such a chore.
3. Knowledge- This is one of the biggest issues writers face. When I say knowledge, I'm referring to basic grammar knowledge. Grammar is a learned skill. And it's not easy to remember all the rules regarding sentence structure, voice and tense to name a few. However if you are going to be a writer- you MUST have knowledge of basic grammar. Knowing when to use there, their or they're is a simple thing that can destroy your writing if you do not know how/when to use the proper homophone. Even if you use an editor (which you definitely should), I still recommend buying a reference book or at least turning to Google when you are unsure.
What are some barriers you face when trying to write?
(This post is the first of three in a special series for aspiring authors)
One of the number one questions people ask me when they find out I've written multiple books is, "How do you find the time to write?" Then they usually offer up their own barriers to carving out time. They're too busy, they work full time, they spend all weekend at their kids sports events, etc.
And while these are some very valid obstacles they are also excuses. I believe in the old adage, where there is a will, there is a way. If you are an aspiring author you HAVE TO MAKE TIME TO WRITE. There is no way around it- no magical potion that can help you skip ahead. You've got to make it a priority and if you're committed and passionate, you'll find a way otherwise you'll find excuses because maybe you're actually afraid to write. There are several barriers that keep you from even attempting to write and I'll address those in my blog post next week. But this post is about carving out time to write. Here are some tried and true tips that even the "busiest" individual will find useful:
1. Set an appointment on your calendar- You can get up thirty minutes earlier each day or go to bed thirty minutes later and use that time to write. It doesn't seem like a lot of time but if you do it daily it adds up. You can also make time during your lunch hour a couple of days a week; instead of going to lunch, find a quiet conference room or walk to a nearby park or just sit in your car. Bring your laptop, tablet, phone or even note pad and capture your ideas, thoughts, dialogue, etc.
2. Maximize your time- Every day for almost an hour I am sitting in school pick up lines (two different schools). Some days I bring my laptop and while I'm waiting I write instead of scrolling through social media. If you are at the doctors office or dentist office or getting your oil changed. . .anywhere you will have a thirty minute to one hour or longer wait you can write! Use the Notes app on your phone or Evernote app, email yourself what you've written and just cut and paste it into your manuscript later.
3. Use your voice- Most smartphones have a function where you can talk into your phone and it will convert to text. If you are sitting in traffic or have a super long commute each morning, why not open a Note or email (set this up before you start driving!) and press the microphone icon and start talking. You can speak the words instead of writing them. It will seem weird at first like you're talking to yourself but after a while you'll find a comfortable rhythm. It's almost like you are recording your book in audio form. I will warn you that sometimes the voice command hears words WRONG but they are minor mistakes that you can go back and correct after the fact. Just be sure this isn't a distraction and that you are still paying attention to the road.
4. Find a writing buddy- If you have friends that you normally hang out with on the weekend, grabbing brunch, shopping or seeing a movie. . . find out if anyone in your friend group is also an aspiring writer, if so, instead of simply meeting for brunch make it a "working" brunch. Bring your laptops, tablets, phones or notepads and instead of catching up on the latest gossip just bask in the quite solitude while you work on your respective manuscripts.
5. NaNoWriMo- (National Novel Writing Month) Although this only takes place once a year in November, it is a good way to hold yourself accountable. I wrote the bulk of my first book by participating. Participants sign up and make a commitment to write a whopping 50,000 words for the entire month of November! Let me tell you it's no easy feat, you basically have to be committed to writing 1,667 words per day to reach this goal. But the feeling (and bragging rights) of being a NaNoWriMo "winner" is amazing! Not to mention your book is practically written at the end of it.
What are some of your tried and true tips for finding time to write?
Here's an unedited snippet of dialogue from something I've been working on:
“You think you’ll ever get married?” I asked while we were working in his home office.
He turned around in his chair and stared at me. His expression was blank but his eyes expressed shock and a little fear.
“Um, that was out of left field.” He laughed nervously.
“I’m working on an article. I had a conversation with a few female entrepreneurs and many of them are wondering if when they are ready- if they are ever ready- for marriage and children if they will find someone. Given that they’ve achieved some level of success. You know will they be able to find someone in their lane or someone who’s not intimidated by their success.”
“Okay?” he asked still seemingly confused.
"I’m wondering is this just something females are worried about or do men wonder about the future as well? Do you see yourself married with children? And if so, are you looking for a particular female to fill that position? Like does she have to be as successful as you or would you prefer someone who isn’t as ambitious?”
“So are you interviewing me?” he smiled.
I shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Is this just for the article?” he asked softly.
I shrugged again. “Maybe.”
He rolled his chair next to me and sighed. He was quiet for a minute and I was actually afraid of his answer.
“To be honest with you, I never thought about getting married because I never figured it was an option. You know I didn’t grow up with my parents and none of my friends had parents that were married so that wasn’t something I ever even thought of.” He paused and shook his head. “And the kind of girls I used to date. . .” he laughed darkly. “I sure as hell would never wife any of them. So my plan was to just keep trying to build a business, stay out of trouble and just enjoy my life.”
He leaned closer to me and bumped my shoulder.
“And then I met you and for the first time in my life I wanted more.”
I smiled at him. “More what?” I asked wanting him to elaborate.
“More from life. You inspire me. I wanted my business to bigger and better, I wanted to live intentionally and help my community and for the first time- it wasn’t just about sex- I wanted to be with you just to kick it or talk or just sit down and stare up at the sky.” He laughed.
“You sound so whipped.” I teased.
He kissed my lips. “You know I am.”
I kissed him back. “I know. But uh- you still haven’t answered the question.”
He rolled back to his side of the room.
“I’ve thought about it. A woman who has her own thing would be cool and I’d support her in any way that I could as long as I had her support and attention as well. And it would be really cool to one day teach my son or daughter what I know and pass my company to them. I think one of the main issues in our community is the lack of legacy building.”
My heart swelled at his words.
He started typing on his computer before he asked over his shoulder. “What about you? Have you thought about it?”
“I’m not the one being interviewed.” I laughed nervously.
“I’m interviewing you.” He said.
“I don’t know- like you said- I didn’t have an example of what marriage looked like either and over the years I’ve dated some men whose last names I definitely wouldn’t want attached to mine. But I have also been thinking differently since we’ve met.” I said softly.
He turned to look at me.
“I’m just afraid- I’ve heard so many horror stories about expectations and people changing after marriage. I couldn’t be with someone who is going to stifle me and what if you got bored with having sex with one woman for the rest of your life and went out and cheated and-,”
“Whoa- so this is no longer hypothetical?”
“What do you mean?” I frowned.
“You said what if you-,” he said pointing at himself.
“I didn’t mean you- it's hypothetical this entire conversation is hypothetical Michael.” I sighed and went back to work.
He rolled his chair next to me again but this time he turned me around to face him.
“Well let’s get specific for a minute. First of all, I would never cheat on you. And second let’s drop the bullshit. Do you want to get married one day?”
I shrugged. “I want a family. I want stability. I want love. Everything I never had growing up.” I started tearfully.
“I want that too.” He assured me. “Is that something you can see yourself having with me?” he asked.
I shrugged playfully. “I guess you’ll do.” I laughed.
“Okay, you got jokes.” He laughed.
“I’d consider myself extremely lucky to have that with you.” I said sincerely.
“I feel the same. I mean I know it’s only been a year and a half but I’m not going anywhere, I’m here unless you send me away. So let’s just keep learning and growing together and know that we’re on the same page. Okay?”
He kissed me again and turned away before quickly turning back to me.
“Wait- how many kids?”
“No more than two.”
“Good. I thought you’d want a bunch of kids since you were an only child. I draw the line at three.”
I don't know if this will be a part of my next novel or not. . .but it will definitely make an appearance in a future book!
I’m currently working on an anthology type book with four short stories. It’s tentatively titled Let Me Love You and highlights four couples at various stages in their relationship. I’m shooting for a late August release but there is still much to be done! Here is a little unedited snippet:
Sometimes the simplest things have the most profound impact on our lives. Sometimes the most innocent comments open up wounds that we thought had healed long ago. And sometimes the most random numbers appear and your past suddenly collides with your future.
I glanced at the clock in the upper right corner of my computer, it was fifteen minutes past five on the fifteenth day of August. At that precise moment my assistant, Christina walked in holding an envelope in her hand. She was smiling brightly as she waved the generic packet around.
“Guess what I have,” she beamed pushing her thick black-framed glasses up on her nose.
“A winning lotto ticket?” I laughed.
She rolled her eyes. “No, you have to play to win. Besides this is bigger- better than that!”
“Okay, now I’m intrigued.” I said sitting back and giving her my full attention.
She walked closer to my desk and placed the opened envelope in front of me. But before I picked it up, she squealed.
“It’s an invitation to your fifteen year high school reunion!” she clapped with more enthusiasm than I thought was warranted. “Open it! Oh my god, my favorite group is playing at your class reunion!”
High school reunion. My heart fluttered as I pulled the cream colored card from the envelope and saw the James K. Polk High coat of arms and colors emblazoned on the front. The reunion was in one month, on September 15th in my hometown of Buffalo.
“So did you know Xavier Ross?” Christina asked with an awestruck expression.
My eyes widened. “Wha- how- you know Xavier Ross?” I asked confused.
“Turn it over- Soul Skylight- they’re playing at the reunion. He’s the lead singer. Please tell me you’ve heard of Soul Skylight,”
I tried to steady my shaking hands as I slowly turned the card over. There was a picture of a group of guys and sitting on a stool in the center, clutching a guitar, was Xavier Ross.
Suddenly I found it very hard to breathe. I opened my mouth and stared up at Christina. Her face registered alarm.
“Oh my god, Angela- breathe, breathe-,” she patted my back furiously.
I gulped and forced air down my windpipe. “Okay! I couldn’t breathe, I’m not choking!” I exclaimed moving away from her heavy hand against my back.
“Goodness, you scared me. Do you have asthma or something?” she asked concerned.
“Um no- I just- I-,” my eyes darted down to the invitation.
Christina’s eyes followed mine and her mouth fell open. “You and Xavier Ross?” she whispered. “No way!”
I didn’t know if I should be embarrassed or insulted by her reaction.
“It was just a silly high school thing, really,” I said dismissively.
“Sure,” she said unconvinced. "Spill!"
Writer. Reader. Designer. Creative Spirit.
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”