Once again, I’m writing this blog post on my phone because I am trying to get more than one thing done at the same time. In this case, I’m trying to get at least one round of grading done for my students to at least get some class work done ✅ and off the checklist for me. I like to think I don’t try and wear myself out mentally during the course of a school year, but I truly have to admit that a good portion of the real reason for this is that when I do try to get schoolwork done outside of school, I tend to procrastinate about it even worse than when I’m writing. I’m still doing all right keeping up with things, however.
When I finally put together Wednesday’s writing journal entry, I get the impression that the word count and the stats will not be kind to me. I have an idea 💡 as to why that is, but I think I will save that general observation for the actual entry.
The fact that I’m getting this entry out tonight means that I accomplished one of my very modest goals I set last week. As I said at the time, I tend to do better when I set modest goals and attempt to reach them rather than try and accomplish a lot of goals or large goals all at once. I try to break up big goals into different parts. I also have found that taking on goals a couple of them at a time rather than several at once tends to help me with being able to complete them.
I did get some research accomplished regarding getting an email list set up. I read some articles about the process written by Jeff Goins and other authors. (By the way, this quote from him recently fit my mood.) From that research, I think I will have to look up the program ConvertKit for that process. I also wound up getting signed up for Reedsy as well, so I might be able to meet fellow creatives there and get future advice as well.
So, that will be another program I will be having to research. Currently, I’ve got notes to check out Substack, Campfire Blaze, Canva, Gumroad, Netgalley, and Booksirens. I’m not going to get to all of those in a single week. Small steps, right? (Once I have a chance to check out each of them, those would be some easy material for blog posts.)
I did not manage to write that extra article this weekend that I wanted to do. My plan is to get started on putting that together now with the idea of posting it next weekend. (I have the advantage of knowing what I want to write that article about.)
All right, I feel good about this tonight. Hope your Sunday went well too.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: My deepest apologies for releasing this blog Monday rather than sometime civilized on Saturday. Still getting used to the new schedule.
[SECOND AUTHOR’S NOTE: OK, it’s at 12:10 p.m. rather than 12:00 p.m. Still pretty close to what I promised, right?
[PHOTO NOTE: This is not my actual writing group, past or present. This is the first image that popped up when I did a Pexel search for “writing group.” And, there you go.
If you would, permit me to make a small detour into the world of politics.
It was in the middle of running for his second term as president in 2012 when Barack Obama got into a minor controversy over a statement he made on the campaign trail. At a campaign stop in Virginia, he was trying to make the point that rich people don’t become rich just because of their own efforts, but from the help of others, the help of government, and good fortune. He said in part:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
I bring up this statement not to debate its value (I personally agree with it) nor to explain why it is so. I wanted to compare this idea with another idea that has long been popular – the idea of a writer as a singular artist.
This is an idea that, if it cannot quite be classified as a cliche, maybe could be considered more like a trope. I can remember so many scenes in films, television, and (yes) books as well, scenes of serious, dedicated writers hunched over hand-held notebooks, legal pads, typewriters, or word processors. They’re always so serious, aren’t they, their isolated rooms echoing with the scritchscratch of pens or pencils, the slamming thunk thunk of typewriter keys or the tiki-tak tiki-tak of word processors. Those scenes burned into my brains so much I’ve worn out keyboards for the past 25-plus years. Wasn’t it Sean Connery in Finding Forrester who said “Punch the keys, for God’s sake!” Oh, I lived that idea for many years. It is the reason that all of my spacebars on my keyboards have some worn-off parts, as well as a few other keys.
A writer lends a person so well to being a solitary artist. Not quite sure an idea is going to work out, or if somebody else likes it? Who cares, nobody is going to stop you, right? You are the final say over your story except for those sorry brothers who agree to collaborate with one or more writers. No worries about how much it would cost to render a scene for your reader, no worries about filming budgets or payrolls for actors and crew – you can build any world you want, any characters you want, for the cost of your imagination, your time imagining, and the cost of a workable computer or typewriter if you have a real 20th Century mentality. Especially if you have a nice little writing space, you can shut everyone out and everything out except you and your imagination. You would be the classic, mythical rugged individualist as artist.
However, as Barack said at the start of all this, “You didn’t build that.” Sure, you did build those worlds, those fascinating characters, those wonderful stories. Those are your words on the screen or the page. But, you didn’t get to that point on your own.
If we look into ourselves and understand the real writing process, the real ins and outs of how literature comes to be, we know that we are not just lone gunmen spewing our stories into the ether. There were so many that got us to the point where we were able to tell our stories and share them with the world.
There were other people that helped us to be able to share these stories, these writings, with the rest of the world. It is the same for all you writers out there just as much as it was for me. For me, I admit, I relied on my fellow writers to get me to where I have gotten to today.
I specifically remember the late Aughts of 2007 or so in regards to myself. I was returning to my hometown (Muscatine, Iowa) after a 10-year stay in Clinton, Iowa, and what felt like an equally long hiatus from writing. (I was writing off and on, but in no way consistently at all). In fact, initially I just sat and stewed for a while, which I might have attributed to entering the teaching profession and getting adjusted to that. But another part of that was the fact that I was writing in a vacuum, with nobody I could turn to for advice or guidance.
It was then that I remembered a local writing group called Writers on the Avenue. There were many differences between me and the other members. I was generally younger than most of them. Many of them preferred to work in poetry or mainstream literature, and I was the crazy kid writing thrillers or sci-fi/fantasy. We had differences of opinion on a lot of things about life. But we all had writing in common.
I went off and on between not participating in the group to at one point serving as club secretary. However, the feedback I got from them all about writing was invaluable.
They helped shape what eventually became my first published novel, The Holy Fool. They also provided critiques of my other novel projects as well. It was through them that I was able to network and get in contact with groups such as the Midwest Writing Center, where I learned a lot from the seminars and critique groups they had. I was able to network with other writers and get ideas about expressing myself through writing that eventually led me from repurposing an old Facebook page I had used as part of my past journalism career to creating the blog that you see here. I even got into poetry because I kept listening to their work and finally decided to try my hand at it. Some of those poems you can find here.
One of the real downsides of moving to South Central Iowa (Chariton, to be exact), is that I’m not able to meet with those groups on a regular basis. I’m glad now that I have started to settle in and get to be part of groups such as the Iowa Writer’s Corner. I’m hoping to get together with some other writers in the Des Moines area and continue my progress as a writer.
And who knows? Since Zoom has become such a thing, maybe I can get together with some of my old Eastern Iowa writing friends without burning too much gas.
Anyone who tells you that writing is just a profession is either a liar or delusional. If you’re serious about writing, it is a way of life. Money is an important thing, you know that you are a writer when you are so compelled to tell a story you can’t not do it. That was my lesson this week.
BLATANT SELF-PROMOTION HERE
Speaking of writing and talking about it, this is just one last reminder that I’ll be at the Rock Island (Illinois) Public Library at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) giving a book talk about my book, The Holy Fool: A Journalist’s Revolt, as well as a few things about my life as a writer. Here’s the event announcement if you want to see it. You know I truly care about this event because I’ll be missing the first part of the UEFA Champions League Final featuring my English Premier League team, Liverpool FC. I might have to run to the nearest sports bar to catch the rest of it.
BLATANT SELF-PROMOTION ENDS
As for the rest of my weekend not having to do with promotion, football, or life changes, I need to finish at least two book reviews for people and get active on my Goodreads doing reviews there. I’ll probably wind up posting some of those reviews on here, as well.
Coming up will be the regular weekly journal report on Sunday, and my Game Of Thrones reaction (as well as that epilogue I’ve been writing) maybe by the middle of next week. See you then.
There were more than a few things that I had to think about for a while when I wanted to try and become a more consistent writer. One of those things was accountability.
When I went for years, at times, without writing, nobody really asked me why I wasn’t writing. I had told a few people writing interested me, like my parents, my wife, and some others, but there really wasn’t anybody hectoring me to get to writing if I had stopped for a while. Yeah, there were people reminding me to mow the lawn (wife) or play with them for a while (kids), but I realized that if I was going to get back on the writing track, I was going to have to be the self motivator.
A couple years after I started to get back into the swing of things, I began thinking that it would be a good idea to try and record how much I tried to write on a daily basis. I had heard of writers who had posted stuff on places like Reddit’s r/wordcount. I made a couple of half-hearted tries at it for a couple of years, but nothing happened. It was too much of an ask for me at the time, trying to be that dedicated every day.
I started keeping a record of the amount of writing I did every day beginning in 2013. There were many days when all I had to write was “zip” because that was exactly how much I wrote. But, I was no longer regularly going weeks, months, even years between writing. When I had a dry spell, it usually never went longer than about three days. (The most I have ever taken off from writing or revising since starting the journal has been 3-4 weeks. Those times are unusual.)
It immediately began to pay off. When I first started my journal was when I started doing the first draft of the novel that is just beginning pre-publishing now. My writing process has grown exponentially since then. From beginning the rough draft of my current WIP to now heavily into beta reading and revising has just lasted two years.
Whether I will be able to learn anything from past years might be problematic. I have often said to my students that I have yet to come up with the perfect planning system after 20-something years of trying. It’s taken me about five years to refine my writing journal.
For anyone who saw my first journal on this site, you’ll realize that I was just counting the amount of words I was writing for my books. I was not counting blogging toward those totals, even though some of those blogs were just as creative as anything in my novels. Also, I has no idea how to properly gauge the amount of work I was doing on revising. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I finally settled on daily writing/revising goals and have stuck to them.
But, the minute that I thought of creating this blog, I decided I had to publicly hold myself accountable with how much work I did do and how much work I didn’t do. And it’s worked for me. I have no idea if it would work for you, but I know that something can work to motivate you to write if you really want to be a writer.
I’ll be interested to see the new numbers in a few years. It would be great to see the production take off.
(OK, that’s it for the hyperlinks. 🙂 EDIT: Sorry, lies. (see below))
I’ve had experience writing nonfiction as a journalist. I think that I’m doing well as a writer of fiction, and I’m a fan of writing book-length works.
However, when faced with the opportunity to write book-length nonfiction, I considered it for a while. At the time, it seemed like a great idea for a book.
In the end, though, I wound up walking away from the project for more than just one reason. Even though that project was not a story I eventually wanted to tell, the story behind that story might be worth a post.
So, I’m putting it off for another week. Right now, I have to complete revisions/proofreading on my book, write out a lit of corrections, find a synopsis that might work for a back jacket blurb and throw together an author bio. Hopefully I can have it all completed before next week, although I’ll be pushing it.
Plus, I’ll likely have to look for something to post on the social media feeds for next month. (Well, it will get done.)
That’s it for now. Sometime Sunday I’ll give you the rundown on how the week went.
The title of the piece is the big question. I might have alluded to this turning point, at different timesduring this blog. But I really haven’t described the process behind going from someone who talked more about being a writer than actually someone who wrote. It’s probably about time I talked about that, right?
In the movies – hell, in plenty of novels – there usually is some sort of turning point scene, one moment when the protagonist’s life pivots and moves in a new direction. It is one moment of clarity, after which that person’s life has forever and irrevocably changed.
It wasn’t really like that for me. In looking through old word document files in my “fiction” folder, I see several starts and stops among the last decade. Some of them I talked about before; others fell stillborn after a few months of typing and procrastination. Then there was the anonymous blog I ran for a few months somewhere in the past decade. However, it really didn’t have any focus except as an emotional purge, and I eventually decided that I needed to shut it down to avoid any static in my real life.
But like St. Augustine once prayed during his youth, “Oh, Lord, make me chaste… but not yet.”
I think things started to coalesce in my head right around 2010. That was an interesting year, to be frank. I’m not planning to get into in here, but there was a bit of turmoil and uncertainty in my professional life. For a brief moment, I had a dream of becoming a college writing instructor full-time rather than teaching for a couple thousand per class. I say a dream rather than a goal because I only had a vague idea of what the job involved and how I would achieve it. (After a few years and different circumstances, I’d set that idea aside. An earlier version of me – maybe the guy featured in Volume II of this series – would have been disappointed. Nowadays I barely remember the idea.)
Recently, I had a chance to read through a notebook I was writing in for about three months or so back in 2010. I tried to read all of it, but it was a cursive scribble stream of consciousness. It was lists and lists of various things I was both positively and negatively obsessed with, among other things.
In reading through that notebook, I think I did what we used to call in journalism “burying the lede.” Others, like writing teachers, might call it an implied main idea. What I think I was describing in those entries was being addicted to distraction. Anything I could use to procrastinate from doing anything, thinking about anything, I’d be into.
I’ve discussed those tendencies before. But there was a time in my life that they would dominate me. For several years of my life, it seemed being entertained, being satisfied in whatever way, was more important than anything else that wasn’t my family.
Around 2007-2010, right after I moved back to Muscatine, I really started heavily surfing some backwaters and little-known areas on the Internet. It may have given me a couple of writing ideas, but mostly I was looking for, as I normally did, for a distraction.
Back in those days, I often read the web site Postsecret. It allows people to anonymously send it postcards on which they write their deepest and darkest secrets that they would not tell anyone. Around 2010, I read this postcard on the site:
For me, that had two effects. First, it gave me hope that it really wasn’t too late to get started (or restarted, whatever you want to classify it as) on my dreams of becoming a writer of novels. I always heard about people like Frank McCourt writing their debut books when they were in their 50’s, 60’s, or beyond.
Secondly, it was a prod in the butt, something that said yeah, if you’re about as old as this guy, why not get started now?
So, did Liegois actually take the postcard’s advice and Rollins’ advice and move forward?
As I said at the top of the article, nothing that dramatic happened. Someone’s personality and habits – at least, not my own for sure – is not something that can change direction like a fighter aircraft or speedboat. The process more resembles having to maneuver a jumbo jet or mega-tanker a few degrees off course.
Did your life actually change?
Over time, yes.
It was soon after that time that I began to reminisce about some of my days in journalism, what was happening to newspapers in this country, and the weirdness of the time specifically around 2008. Going by my computer file history, I’d have to say that I started to play around with the idea of doing a journalism/political thriller around 2011. By 2013-14, ironically when I was taking one last adventure into journalism, was when I finalized a rough draft.
It was somewhere around 2013 that I began keeping track of the word count that I was getting done on a daily and weekly basis. Although not effective at first, I think that having to keep track of what I am actually writing or revising has helped me be accountable to myself and have goals to work for, even though I rarely have weeks where I meet my daily goals throughout the entire week. (This is probably worth a separate post at some point.)
It took me until 2016 to get another draft of the piece I was now calling The Holy Fool done – I had to do a little bit of cutting to trim it to well under 100,000 words. By 2017 I had revised it into its current form and had begun shopping it around to agents and publishers. I’m now awaiting the publishing process.
Would I say that I have fully defeated my addiction to distraction and procrastination? Not by any means. I still exhibit those behaviors today, in doses both big and small. However, I’ve just started to get to the point where I’ve been able to manage this addiction to the point where I’ve become a productive writer. And I want to stay that way. I’m not exactly sure how long I have or how many books I have in me, but I want to make that time count.
(Btw, I take horrible photos so I put them through some weird effects like what you see below. Enjoy if that’s your thing.)
Anyway, welcome to the start of the current writing experience. That’s it for now; I’ll write more later.
Well, the title says it mostly. As for the numbers – well, they’re slightly better than last week thanks to some Labor Day weekend activity.
+293 words written.
Days writing: 2 out of 7.
Days revising: 3 out of 7 for 120 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 4 out of 7 days.
And there you have it.
A few thoughts.
Right now I haven’t heard much about the progress behind the publishing of The Holy Fool. I know that I’ll have to call up for a progress report on that soon; with all of the things I’ve been doing getting ready for school, that’s not been on my mind. Or, maybe it has.
Call what I’m doing with my current WIP The American Nine revision 2.5. I’m polishing up some last minute things before considering a more serious revision.
There are two rough drafts of other projects on deck for me right now, and I’ve been debating whether to go forward on them for at least a month. I might just try to dive into one and the other and see what happens.
I was going to write a piece mid-week last week about something that happened to me regarding a project that I decided to pull the ejection lever on. That didn’t happen, but I’m thinking that it is actually going to prompt not one but two Writer’s Biography pieces. You’ll see at least one this week.
As for tonight, dinner with friends, a little planning for the next week at school, and getting some social media posts for the Twitter and Facebook pages. Glad I’ve been saving up some good material on writing I’ve come across.
I’ll post the numbers, such as they are, in a later post for either tonight or later tomorrow night – had some family obligations, etc., for during the day today. They won’t be much.
1. Just finished most recent revision on my WIP and I think I had to take a few days break from the story before diving back into it.
2. Toying with what, if any, of the projects I have in the virtual trunk that I should consider moving forward with as a rough draft. Not sure 🤔 of the answer to that.
3. My first (relatively) full week of school at the new district and getting ready for another week of a fully full week on a block schedule for my high schoolers on one hand and a totally different schedule for the middle schoolers on my roster. It will be an interesting juggling match.
So, those were the contributing factors behind the scenes. Hope to make forward progress this week. I’ll send the follow up to this post later tonight or tomorrow night.
Also, I think I’ll have an interesting midweek post (Friday, maybe, instead?) on a project that fell through – an attempt at a book length nonfiction title and the reasons for it.
When I was into rock and roll, I really dived deep into the history of the music, especially Sixties and Seventies rock. I grew up as a little kid starting to hide my interest in heavy metal and punk from my mom, who thought the music just a little harsh for a kid my age to get into.
By the time I was off to college, the alternative rock and indie rock surge was all around me and I truly got into that. Nirvana was one of my biggest bands and I still remember driving in a car when they announced Kurt Cobain killed himself. One of the things that I did admire about Kurt was how he promoted and discussed his musical influences, the musicians not only from the Sixties and Seventies, but the underground rock acts of the Eighties that helped pave the way for bands, like his, like Black Flag, The Minutemen, Husker Dü, The Replacements, Dinosaur jr, and many others.
In the years since then, I’ve expanded my musical interests into many other genres and styles, but I still appreciated music made by people who believed in authenticity and emotional honesty. From that love of the music started to come the origins of an idea.
What if I wrote about a fictional band from that 1980’s era of underground rock? What if I was able to put together a whole fictional history for that band, make it my version of some mix of Nirvana and Sonic Youth? And like Sonic Youth, what if that band had overcome personal and professional adversity to make it to widespread fame by the 1990’s?
So, I started writing a book, several years ago (closer to the beginning of this decade than the end of it). I got into the origin of the band, spouted off a lot of word salad about the meaning of music, and the effort petered out after I got somewhere around 35,000 words. I’ve talked before about how I used to work; that was one of my creative casualties.
So, after I got finished with the first draft of The American Nine this year, I was sort of puttering around and decided to take a nervous look at what I’d produced and see if there was anything worthy of getting on with. My verdict:
I was very happy with the characters I’d produced, especially the band members. All of them had different personalities and had different reasons to come to the music, but that mutual interest and respect drew them together.
It was way long-winded, back in the days when I never worried about word counts except for the time or two I tried to do NaNoWriMo. Managed to cut down what I had to just over 30,000 words without too much trouble.
Even with those cuts, I think I’m still going to have a book that’s not going to be able to fit under the 100,000 mark. I have the feeling it might fit more into a series – a trilogy, actually. If I do a trilogy, the ending of the first book will have to take some planning, but I think the rest of it is coming together.
I think this is something that could work.
So, that’s my initial impressions of the new project. The advice that I would give you today is that even a project you think didn’t have potential might look better after some time away from it. Don’t ever throw away mistakes – you’ll never know when they’ll be, as Bob Ross once said, happy accidents.