Happy Fifth Anniversary For the Blog, and Some Thoughts About Writing When Times Are Not Easy

The Anniversary

In case I didn’t mention it earlier, I just streaked past the fifth anniversary of this blog, Liegois Media. Happy birthday, I will say.

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

The longer that this goes on, the more surprised I am about that fact. I would have to say that this is the longest sustained writing project that I have ever contributed to. I remember times during my youth where I would start ideas for books and then just drop them after 10 or 20 pages. I even remember the time when I started a blog several years back and then gave it up after puttering around on it for a few months.

I’ll get back to that last thing in a moment.

Anyway, even if I have not paid much attention to the blog at times (even in recent times) I am glad that I have stuck with the blog. As I get older, I realize that being able to write and express myself goes way beyond becoming famous or wealthy. It is a form of expression for me that I can’t see myself ever doing without.

For those who have taken the time out to read my work or respond to it, thank you very much.

When Times Are Not Easy

Anyone who has read this blog will notice I do not mention politics or current issues on here.

That is not an oversight.

Regarding that previous blog, I wrote it anonymously and talked about a lot of things, personal opinions about how the world is going. I realized that wasn’t sustainable for me.

While I have continued to give my opinions on current events and political philosophies on my own personal social media sites, I find myself censoring what I say because I do not want to bring undue attention on myself. Everyone needs to make that accommodation for themselves as best as they can. They wish to live however they can and under circumstances that are not fully under their control.

From the beginning, I wanted to have a page focused on something positive and where I didn’t have to think about what my opinions were on something. I wanted it to focus on writing and my writing life. I think that having that focus on this blog has helped me to make this blog work and at least sustain my interest in it.

However, I know that tough times or rough situations can derail people. I always had to laugh when I would hear of people who claimed to be inspired to write when they went through tough times or depression. When I’m feeling down or if I get in a depressive mood, I feel like turning off my brain for a good long while. Sometimes, that means I stay away from writing. (Like I need any excuse to procrastinate lol.) I’m finding out more, however, that if I can set myself down and try to write something, I get a great sense of relief in accomplishing something rather than just sitting and doing nothing. It doesn’t even have to be good writing, let me assure you. You can always revise stuff, even if you already posted it online. (I can speak from experience on that score.)

I guess I would send this message out to fellow writers and others alike: It is all right to take care of yourselves. It’s all right to keep your own counsel. I would say that being creative is a way to get yourself through difficult times, whether they are happening for you personally or just the general world around you.

I’m glad I’ve stuck with this project for this long and I hope that it continues for a long time to come. I hope that anyone reading this is able to find peace with being creative or whatever you do to keep yourself healthy.

Now as always, writers keep writing and everyone keep safe.

Writing Journal 5.11.2022: Demanding more of myself

PHOTO NOTE: The featured photo was one of the things that popped up when I searched “Writing Motivation.” Go figure.

It’s… good news that I’m being more demanding of myself? I think so.

In many ways, I’m not doing too much. Work on trying to get my latest OC novel published is… paused at the moment. I honestly don’t have the mental bandwidth to deal with it as I get closer to the end of the school year. The more I am thinking about it, the more I have the feeling that I need to set up a checklist of items I need to do to get it published%. At the end of next week, I think I might want to have this ready and ask the advice of some of my Des Moines writing people to get their advice, even if I can’t make it up for the meeting next week. (I am very happy Zoom exists.)

I do think I need to know what I need to get done. For the first time this year, I set a goal of 200,000 words to write this year, whether fiction, nonfiction, blogs, or otherwise. I wanted to meet my daily quotas at least 70 percent of the time. For the first time this year, I said “this is what I want to get done,” and not just say “let’s see what happens.”

And, it has been paying off. As of the end of April I was about 12,000 words ahead of pace for the year. I estimate that it usually takes me writing 4,167 words per week on a four-week month to keep up with that 200,000-word goal. I’ve matched or exceeded that count 12 out of the previous 18 weeks.

Are my numbers for this week awe-inspiring? Maybe by this year’s pace, they’re not fantastic. But I know I’ve had a much better start on 2022 than I ever did in 2021. If what I write gets actually better in the meantime, I’ll consider that a bonus… or, a goal for next time.

Anyway, here’s the stats for last week. Enjoy, and take care of yourselves, everyone. We live in weird times.

Writing statistics for the week ending 5.7.2022:
+4,752 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 30 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.

% – For a variety of reasons, I’ve decided to go the self-publishing route. One of the main reasons is that I would like to see a version of my book out for people sooner than the 3-4 years it would take to try and query agents and/or traditional publishers. I don’t want to wait that long.

Why It’s Tough For Me to Write Anything of Value on Sundays During the School Year: A somewhat thought-out analysis

If you took a look at my writing journals – not the ones I post here on the blog, but the actual Microsoft Word Docs where I keep my notes on what I wrote every day of the year – you would notice something of a pattern.

Actually, you might notice several of them, but we’re not going to worry about all of them now. What you would notice is that there are quite a few… empty spaces on Sundays.

Oh, I might do a short blog, or maybe a few revisions or planning, but not heavy writing. And that’s all about what Sunday is like.

Since I’m not interested at the moment with writing something “important” or “buzzworthy,” I guess I might talk about this for a bit.

Weekend thinking and weekday thinking are prevalent things in America, where some people can’t seem to find work/life balance. Some people my age might think Loverboy’s song “Working for the Weekend” is the perfect song to express this type of yearning for the end-of-week break. (They’re wrong; the best weekend song is “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” by Richard and Linda Thompson.)

For teaching, it is a different situation. Those who don’t know what it is like, you might think, “Well, they only work some 180 days out of the year and get something around two whole months off? Sounds like an easy deal?” And I admit, the summer vacations are a good thing.$

Anyway, the point is that full-time teaching is a more intense experience that most jobs. You have to have a plan to educate a group of children for a given time and to make it meaningful during that time. You actually have to relate to those kids, even on days when, in some cases, they are dealing with massive amounts of mental and emotional trauma. (If they are lucky, the source of that trauma is not their own homes.)

All of this tends to take a lot of emotional and likely physical stamina over a nine-month period. It’s not a surprise that many of my colleagues wind up more susceptible to illness during the school year with the stress they are under. These past couple of years have added COVID, distance learning and hybrid learning to that level. I have to say that I have been fortunate that I am teaching in a relatively good environment and my health, while it could be better, is holding up.

Let me explain a typical Sunday for me, writing-wise and personal-wise.

First, some background. I would say that my weekend would extend, mentally, for approximately 36 hours over a typical two-day weekend. That 36 hours spans from when I leave school on Friday afternoon and runs until I wake up on Sunday. Because on Sunday, you’re going to be getting yourself ready for the week to come. Sometimes that involves grading, or perhaps planning for the week ahead. Maybe you’re trying to get some last minute paperwork done. Or, you could be distracting yourself from all of that coming up%.

Morning – wake up, try to have breakfast and relax. Some people will watch the NFL all day or maybe the NBA – my sport winds up being soccer. Since I’m watching the European leagues (and their season extends throughout the entire school year), I find myself getting up a bit early to catch the live games. Sometimes Formula 1 will have a race, and I’ll take a couple hours to watch that.

Later in the morning – I’ll try to get some housework done@ – cleaning floors, laundry, vacuuming, maybe a little yardwork. Or not. Maybe the late game in the Premier League?

Afternoon – if I am doing any schoolwork, it will be that time. For my sanity, I have restricted any work to this time. So, either I’m doing a little bit of work or I’m trying to distract myself from doing work or thinking about work. That’s because by 6 a.m. the next day, I’m already getting ready to shower, change and get ready for work#. That’s not too much time when you think of it.

Evening – Dinner is done, Laura and I relax for the night. We both have gotten obsessed with the cartoon TV series Bob’s Burgers, so we tend to try and catch the new episodes playing on Sundays. (Yes, we are preparing to watch the movie when it comes out later this month. It looks like a lot of fun.

About 9 p.m., maybe an hour before I go to bed – Wait a minute, I have to write something before I go to sleep?

So, now you know. But I did write something today, so that’s a success. I’ll take them any way that I can get them.

$ – In the spirit of full disclosure, however, many of my colleagues are actually taking on second or third jobs during that time to help with their bills. The more unlucky teachers have to do that during the active school year.

% – Where do I fall into this spectrum? I usually try to be as efficient with my time away from school as possible. Everything else on that subject I’ll keep off the record.

@ – Full disclosure – if it were not for my loving wife who is a much more dynamic go-getter and Type A personality, our house would not look as nice as it does.

# – Protip – always make sure you have the coffeepot set, your lunch packed, and your clothes picked out and ready to go before you go to bed the previous evening. Trust me, it saves a lot of hurrying and stress in the morning.

I’ve Got My Writing Space (and Laptop) Back Again: a sequel

I typically don’t write immediate sequels to posts, especially experimental ones, but I guess I’ll do one tonight.

Last night I was ranting about writing spaces because my space got violated, so to speak. Looking back on things, it was a bit disconcerting to me that what threw me off was the fact that I didn’t have access to the Internet. I didn’t have access to the Internet in the same ways as I did when I first started writing things on the computer years ago#.

But when it gets down to things, I really do need the Internet to do the writing I do now. First, it would be difficult to blog just on my phone – I could do it, but that could be awkward over the longterm. I need the Internet for research, planning, and other items. I don’t think I could get on Substack without the Internet (another project for the summer). And of course, Google Drive is another good place to store stories and documents.

Anyway, I have to get full credit to my lovely wife Laura for getting me sorted. I will readily admit that she is much more persistent about things of a technical, technological, or mechanical nature than I ever would be. Thanks to her tinkering and research, I figured out to plug my laptop into an ethernet connection, get a new WiFi driver downloaded, and I was back in business$.

That was after I had panicked and reset my computer to see if I could fix what had happened that way, which didn’t work and left me trying to reset all of my stuff on various online platforms and passwords, etc. I’ve got everything reset back on my computer that I would like presently except for Facebook, because its two-part authorization system is butt compared to Google’s. So, until my identity checks out, I don’t have access to my Facebook on my laptop. I’m not sure if that’s not for the best, honestly.

So, that and a few other items ate up today, the day I was going to really hit it on the writing with this mini-vacation of mine during Easter break. Part of it was dealing with this now relocated (formerly dislocated) toe, realizing that I might want to get on with monitoring what I eat because that’s getting ridiculous, and now I’m facing the fact that I need bifocals. Ugh, as my lovely wife$$ would say. Getting older can be an inconvenience.

However, I have to say that I’m considering my writing to be a bit sharper than ever. And I haven’t even come close to reaching my peak yet.

Until later, everyone.

# – Shoot, I still had dialup to get online. Did anyone else out there have to wait until their parents weren’t calling anyone on the landlines before they could get online? Or were they one of those lucky houses that had more than one landline? Anyway, I digress.

$ – I don’t talk about Laura that much on this blog, but I do credit her for supporting the idea that I want to write a whole bunch and letting me go nuts on that activity. Does she read over my work and fawn over it, or help me revise stuff ala Tabitha King? No, but she does let me do what I want to do, and that counts for a lot. I love her very much.

$$ – I told you I loved her, even when she goes “ugh.” I still think it cute all these years later.

When Your Writing Gear Goes Down: A downer

Not sure if this entry is going to be any good. However, it’s what’s on my mind, and I figure it’s either write about that or sit and mope around in my living room trying to choose between movies.

I talked about my writing gear before. A person’s writing space can be a pretty sacred spot.

My primary writing space.

In recalling the hassles of this day, I think back not only to the little writing space you see above, but in the homes I lived in the comfortable river towns of Clinton and Muscatine, Iowa. Those homes and my current one have pluses and minuses. (Clinton’s was older and centrally located, but both convenient and inconvenient at the same time. Muscatine’s was big and more modern, but a massive hassle to keep up. My current Chariton house is older with an older home’s issues, but it’s small and cozy, and pretty easy to maintain.)

You want to have everything perfect. It should be relatively secluded from the hustle and bustle of wherever you are living – that is, not right in the middle of everything where people and.or kids and pets are running around and making noise.

Current writing spot – Secluded? – Check X for yes.

If you can keep it private, that would be great. Windowless works, although some writers need to be “inspired” by the nature outside. That’s cool and all, but I can get by without it. It’s really helpful to have a door that you can close. I did used to have said doors in the last two homes that I lived in (one a pair of vented doors, the other a regular room door that actually had a lock. That was pretty cool@.

@- I was also often sleeping in the same room, which I don’t exactly recommend. Maybe some other writers can explain it better. However, it feels like you are mixing too much of the energy of the sleeping room with the creative room and it mucks everything up. Something about the feng shui about the situation throws me off, even though I can barely even define the term and couldn’t explain the specifics of the situation. Now that I don’t have that going on, I think it’s a healthier mental situation@@.

@@ – You’re going to have to get used to these footnotes because I find myself getting into all of these non sequiturs and I’m not too inclined not to include them. I’m not a fan of David Foster Wallace’s fiction, but I did like some of his shorter nonfiction.

The Chariton home does not have a door, so it doesn’t block out any noice unless I’m wearing headphones. However, due to the twisting nature of the stairs up to that space and my bedroom, you can’t see my little area from the ground floor no matter where you are looking up. (Of course, that was the staircase where I dislocated my toe, but advantages and disadvantages, I guess.)

Privacy – little x, I guess.

Then there’s the storage capacity of the area, either for writing materials, books, accessories, and sundries. In my Clinton home I had built-in shelves, which was very cool and where I stored a massive amount of books. I managed to fit all of the books into some new shelves in the Muscatine home, as well as some shelves I installed myself in that room#. As you can see from the photo included with this blog, it’s a much smaller space than I had before in my previous homes. But, I culled some of my books, put others in storage, found some storage for some of the books in my bedroom, and we’re ready to go. With the top of that one bookshelf, the portable storage bin to the left of the desk, and the desk itself, I have just enough room for the storage.

Storage – X.

Which makes today’s dilemma a tough one. I turned on my computer after it made a Windows update and somehow my laptop is not able to access the Internet. The update apparently shut down the WiFi driver on my computer. I raged about it for two hours without figuring out how to fix it. I assume I will at some point, or I’ll have someone else be able to do it.

It means that I was writing this in the living room/dining room of our home on a hard chair and an unfamiliar place. But, I got a halfway decent blog post about it, so that’s something.

Writing Journal: 3.23.2022: I’m writing, but not what I’m “supposed” to write – or, the difference between total writer’s block and “situational” writer’s block/procrastination

Well, this is a bit frustrating now.

I’m doing… all right with the writing, I guess? I’m well into March, which is one of those “extra week” months where I can get five weeks of writing sorted out rather than just four weeks. Last week’s totals (I’ll spell that out in a moment) were the best I’ve had all year, bar none, and by the time that this post goes online, I might already have achieved my writing goal for this month, to keep on pace with this not-so-crazy 200,000 words in a single year goal for 2022.

But, I’m getting the feeling that I’m beginning to separate my writing into the “serious commercial or semi-commercial writing” and the “totally frivolous and fun writing.” Two different areas, and categories that represent two different emotions for me. I have been associating the first category with success, accomplishment, “being a serious writer,” and procrastination on a very measurable level. The second category is filled with slight embarrassment because most of the writing is “frivolous,” “not serious,” “fan fiction,” “not intended for commercial success or even intended to appeal to a wider audience” and it’s supposedly not something I should invest a lot of time and creativity.

But I’ve had more fun doing that latter sort of writing than any other type of writing during the past few weeks. So, since I’ve been thinking on this subject for more than a little bit, maybe it’s time to take a step backward and see if my behavior makes any sense. Many people have complimented me, both in past times and present times, that I have a good self-analysis of my behavior, my reasoning, and my emotional reactions. Maybe it’s time to apply that to my current writing status.

(I usually post writing journals that either just say “here’s my totals for the week” and hello, or go into a deep dive about what I am thinking, writing-wise, about what is going on. I get the feeling, as I am putting this together, that this entry is one of the latter kind.

So, buckle in.

Some dude found it on Facebook, then posted it on Reddit. I saw it there and thought it was a good visual representation of the weirdness that I was considering regarding the writing output I had recently. Now, it’s on WordPress. You’re welcome.

So, we have the “serious writing” and the “fun writing” categories that I came up with for myself because I need to write about something and I might as well get it out here. My other experience is that once I talk something out with myself, once I analyze it and try and explain it to myself, I usually am able to work my way for it. I often times have eventually found myself repeating behavioral patterns, but it almost always keeps me from repeating not so good behaviors in the short term because once I figure out what is actually going on inside my head, I am able to correct things. So, I think it is good to talk about that here, especially since it concerns itself with my writing and what I am doing with it.

Essentially, what is happening is that I’m doing well at the latter writing but not the former. So, I’m going to make a brief effort to see why that is the case, and also if this classification into good and bad writing actually makes sense or is just some arbitrary malarkey that I decided on.

I’m going to try to, anyway. Or, at least summarize it.

As of right now, I’m seeing the “serious” work as something that I have to do but have to really motivate myself to do. There’s plenty of stakes in it, such as getting better known and possibly making this pay off. While my “fun” writing has no chance of doing any of that, but I enjoy myself when I do it and find the process a breeze to put out new material – new material, that is, that is not even intended to be commercial or be exploited commercially.

This is an interesting conversation… but I think I need to think on it a bit further before I tease out the implications and see the reasoning, whether accurate or false, behind this thinking. For now, just know I had a very productive week and looking forward to many more. After some of the weeks I’ve had last year and early this week, that is a nice change.

All you writers keep writing, and everyone keep safe.

Writing statistics for the week ending 3.19.2022:
+6,787 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 120 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 7 of 7 days.

A Writing Year In Review, 2021

So, I went over the numbers for this year. I also compared them to the first two full years that I have data regarding my writing output. Basically, I took a slight step back.

You already saw my first half of the year stats. Here are the second half of the year stats and end of year stats for 2021. Just as a reminder, the daily writing goals met (DWGM) percentages are the times where I met my writing quota for a particular day (either 500 or more words written or 30 minutes worth of revisions or planning). Also, I’ve rounded up everything up to the nearest whole number or percentage.

2nd half and overall writing statistics, 2021:

  • Jul:
    • Words: 18,525
    • Revise/Plan: 30 min.
    • DWGM: 54 percent
  • Aug:
    • Words: 11,016
    • Revise/Plan: 105 min.
    • DWGM: 58 percent
  • Sep:
    • Words: 9,341
    • Revise/Plan: 240 min.
    • DWGM: 43 percent
  • Oct:
    • Words: 11,384
    • Revise/Plan: 330 min.
    • DWGM: 71 percent
  • Nov:
    • Words: 13,671
    • Revise/Plan: 60 min.
    • DWGM: 50 percent
  • Dec:
    • Words: 26,027
    • Revise/Plan: 60 minutes
    • DWGM: 71 percent
  • 2nd half 2021:
    • Words (total): 89,964
    • Words (monthly avg.): 14,994
    • Revise/Plan (total): 825
    • Revise/Plan (monthly avg.): 138
    • DWGM (avg.): 58 percent
  • 2021:
    • Words (total): 176,146
    • Words (monthly avg.) 14,679
    • Revise/Plan (total): 2,115
    • Revise/Plan (monthly avg.): 1,058
    • DWGM (avg.): 58 percent

This is… actually an improvement over from the first part of the year.

Now, the year-by-year count:

Yearly writing statistics, 2018-2021:

  • 2021:
    • Words (total): 176,146
    • Words (avg.) 14,679
    • Revise/Plan (total): 2,115
    • Revise/Plan (avg.): 1,058
    • DWGM (avg.): 58 percent
  • 2020:
    • Words (total): 208.919
    • Words (avg.): 17,410
    • Revise/Plan (total): 4,290
    • Revise/Plan (avg.): 358
    • DWGM (avg.): 62 percent
  • 2019:
    • Words (total): 193,881
    • Words (avg.) 16,157
    • Revise/Plan (total):  8,865
    • Revise/Plan (avg.): 739
    • DWGM (avg.): 78 percent
  • 2018:
    • Words (total): 53,878
    • Words (avg.): 4,490
    • Revisions (total): 8,955
    • Revisions (avg.): 746
    • DWGM (avg.): 52 percent

So, 2020 is still the leader among all years for total words. It is lower than 2018 and 2019 in revisions and planning. It is considerably better than 2018 in meeting my quotas, but it fell off from the 2019 averages.

And, of course, 2021 is not better than what happened during 2019-2020. Not even close.

I’m not going to put too much analysis into the results. The first half of this year was a massive downer because I realized that I was in the wrong full-time job for me. It got so tough for me that I was honestly considering leaving the teaching profession altogether. It was only a slight comfort for me that I was not alone with these thoughts. I was prepared to sub full-time for a while or eventually transition into something else, and I think there would have been a lot of demand for those services.

However, in the end, I lucked into full-time work with a district where… I sort of feel at home. Certainly, it has been nothing like the negative environment I was in, and I have been getting used to finally being an empty-nester after a few stops and starts.

What I feel like needs to happen this year is that I need to focus more on personal writing, more on producing writing without feeling pressure to complete it at certain times. All of this is going to have to compete with my efforts to begin to actually try self-publishing. and some other projects. As some of the people who have read this blog before can attest to, I tend to lose focus when there are more than a few things going on. However, I think that if I tackle things one at a time, it will work out better for me in the end. If I have a clearer plan, I’ll write about it later. The more I talk about it, the more I think it helps my focus.

As the numbers tell you, I can do a lot better. That’s my wish for 2022 going forward.

All you writers keep writing and everyone keep safe.

Procrastinating Hitting Me Again While Realizing My Idols Struggled With It As Well: An explanation

I really was thinking about writing something this weekend on this blog. I really did.

But I found something else to occupy my time. I was an expert at that as early as 30 years ago.

It’s easy to distract myself, or get into something that takes up my attention. I see my students sometimes distracting themselves in the classroom, and part of me (the one that isn’t trying to get them back on task) is thinking amateurs.

This past weekend I had plenty of distractions. Some of them were actually healthy and cool.

Saturday we started to celebrate my wife’s birthday. We went up to the Des Moines area for a day out, had dinner at the best barbecue in Ames, Iowa, and took a tour of a really nice Christmas lights display at some gardens on the Iowa State University campus.

Sunday I got my wife her birthday gifts, checked out the last Formula 1 race of the year and went to see House of Gucci at the theater. It was a good movie, and very easily the most Italian experience that I’ve ever had. I honestly believe I deserve an Italian passport after watching it. But it’s a good drama, check it out.

I’ve started to realize, in my older age, that I’m not the only person who struggles with this. As I’ve mentioned before, Douglas Adams is one of my guys. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy was one of the books that made me fall in love with reading. I remember that one of the first great writing quotations that I remember reading was exactly about this issue:

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

This was a guy who had to be locked in a hotel suite for three weeks to finish the novel So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. You couldn’t even think about making that one up.

I also learned that one of the cartoonists that I grew up with had a similar problem. Back in the days when men were men, women were women, and newspapers were actual newspapers, Berkeley Breathed was the king of the newspaper cartoonists with Bloom County. Shoot, he even lived just down the interstates from me in Iowa City, Iowa. (He event name-checked KRNA in one of his strips.) I also appreciated that he ticked off all the old-fashioned editorial cartoonists when he won the Pulitzer for Editorial Cartooning back in the 1980’s.

However, I didn’t realize until I read an article last week honoring the 40th anniversary of the strip’s debut how must of a procrastinator Berke was. To quote the man:

Read this carefully: “Bloom County” had a weekly deadline for 10 years. I missed 100 percent. Each of those 500 weeks, I had to drive 40 miles at 4:30 a.m. to the airport at whatever city I lived in to put the strips on a plane as cargo, delivered by a cabdriver in Washington, D.C., a few hours later. Every. One.

Berkeley Breathed, New York Times, 8 December 2021.

I get the impression that the one thing that he really enjoys about having the strip online without a syndicator is that he can release strips whenever he wants without having to worry about any deadlines whatsoever.

What this is is not so much an apology – it’s not like I’m violating any syndicator’s contract by not posting something on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or whenever. I do want to write more often and more consistently. But I have got to give myself permission to fail. I have to give myself permission to have setbacks.

And, I have to give myself permission to write something that may not be a masterpiece of literary and television criticism, but that I might have a little fun doing. Because sometimes, you end up with something interesting.

Mucking With Canva: A sort of review

In the interest of writing something about writing that has some interest to readers… I’ve been mucking around with Canva with the idea of maybe designing my own book covers. I’d heard a bit about the program and decided to see if it was going to be ridiculously difficult.

I was never what I would call a visual artist. My drawing ability was primitive at best, as was any sculpting ability. I would up turning into a decent photographer, but I have to admit that my father is better than me at it.

Computer programs have become my friend when it comes to art. I’ve had some past success with Wonderdraft to help draw maps for possible future fantasy projects, so I won’t have to have someone to do that for me. I always thought maps helped make those books, so that was nice to see.

I have Canva both on my laptop and phone for my use. So far, I have been using the mobile app more because it’s pretty easy for me to just whip it out and begin tinkering around with it.

Canva allows you to make a wide variety of projects for either digital media (like wallpapers, Facebook covers, etc.) or print products (fliers, postcards, book covers). There are plenty of options on background, coloring, design elements, and other items out there. I just spent what I thought was going to be a few minutes whipping up a quick logo for a fictional soccer club and it took me 30 minutes to do so not because it was a difficult thing to do, but I was overwhelmed by the choices I had and all the options there were.

Mostly, however, I’m planning on using it for book covers. Again, you can spend forever trying on different fonts and pictures. I’m thinking that photos can go over some of the covers… or maybe I just want some other abstract graphics that might work out easier.

One of the things I haven’t figured out with this yet is if it allows me to design book dust covers, or if I’m going to have to jury-rig something like making most of one page white for me to do that. That would be fairly simple, although I’d be interested to see what sort of detail I’d have to put in it.

I eventually went for the Canva Pro setup, which makes sense since it costs about the same as a decent meal out one night a month ($14 or so). You have a lot more access to a wider variety of materials and templates out there, so there’s that.

I think one bit of evidence that I’m starting to like this program is that I spent a whole hour messing around with it regarding this new book jacket. I don’t know if I would ever design a book cover with mo help, but this might give me some options. I’m giving it a tentative five of five stars (I reserve the right to drop it to four stars if something doesn’t work out on me saving files, but so far so good.)

I’ll try not to make you wait for this so late on Sunday I promihahahah who am I kidding this will happen again.

Anyway, see you later this week. Take care of yourselves, everyone.

A Writer’s Biography, Volume III, Part 7: How Much Are Dreams Worth? A Consideration.

I was going to try and do a review of one of the publishing/writing/designing tools that I’ve been doing research on for the past few weeks. I still might do that later. However, I decided I wanted to talk about what happened with me this week.

In case you didn’t know, my current efforts to get published are by no means the first. I once managed to secure the services of an agent for a now long-forgotten young adult book. $120 and a year later, if I recall correctly, I told her thanks for her efforts, whatever those might be, and we parted ways.

Then there has been the recent publication of my book, The Holy Fool. I have nothing but thanks to them for giving me a chance to get published, and even if I’m not the biggest bestseller, at least I got farther than I have before.

During my recent research into self-publishing and related systems, I came across the radar of a company that provides services to self-publishing authors. I will not name this company here. Suffice it to say that through my research and investigation of the company, I was convinced that they were a legitimate company that truly believed that they could provide resources that that could turn me into a better-known author that could make a living at writing.

It was because of that I found myself on the phone last Friday evening with a representative of this company to discuss the plans I had for a possible series based on a project I have already written.

The discussion was quite amicable, informative, and to the point. During our conversation, it was clear that he had researched my book and its success as far as being widely known was, to be honest, extremely modest. I established that I knew little of book cover design and also little of search engine optimization and keyword usage. He gave me a couple pieces of advice and some complimentary research materials.

Eventually, it came down to cost. It always does underneath these circumstances, when a company approaches a person rather than the other way around. In this case, $6,000 for full services, or perhaps three payments of $2,400 every three months. After a few pleasantries and sincere thanks, we ended the call.

What sort of price do you put on a dream? How do you justify spending that amount of money on something when, until very recently, being able to scrape together just $1,000 on short notice without resorting to a loan was not a guarantee.

“There’s got to be a less expensive way to do all that,” was the thought of my wife Laura after the meeting. I’ve stayed married for 25-plus years because I tend more often than not to listen to my wife.

And that wasn’t even the biggest amount I would have paid to a publishing company. Another company that will not be named seriously quoted me a number of $20,000 for a full service package. Again, however, how do I justify investing that much into my art when I have a life and family to maintain?

That’s not even touching on how this conversation made me think about the difference between writing as a business and writing for writing’s sake. If my experience with fan fiction has taught me anything, it’s that I can find artistic validation and satisfaction totally absent a profit motive. (That question might be worth its own entry.)

So, anyway, I’m back to where I was, investigating future possibilities. Might my path be perfect and lead to fortune and fame? It might not. However, it will likely be something that I can manage to afford, and I am hoping it will be totally mine.