Tag Archives: motivation

Notes from Guy’s Momentum Peanut Gallery

Personal Health

My biggest momentum-killing foe is my health. I fight the good fight as best as I can, sometimes winning and sometimes losing the battles. Overall, every time I get something finished and sent off to a slush pile, that means I have won that particular war. Then the next deadline appears over the horizon and the fight continues.

One of my many medical issues involves a common writer’s ailment – carpal tunnel. When I first started getting it I did what most folks do: I ignored it. Then it evolved from a single soldier to a tank battalion running over my wrists every time I typed more than a page.

My first plan of attack was to get a new keyboard (a split version that kept my wrists at a better angle) and switching over to a trackball-type mouse (a Logitech thumb trackball marble). This allowed me to type more pages until the pain became distracting.

A friend of mine hikes the mountains of Colorado while dictating his 200K doorstop novels into a small recorder. He recommended that I look into using that type of setup. I picked up some quality studio equipment and Dragon Dictate 13. After training it by reading some of my books so it understood my writing style, I can now write very fast if I can remember the words I want to use. I just have to remember to say “period, new paragraph, open quotes” at the right time. Overall I’ve been quite happy with it and use it exclusively for longer projects.

Writer’s Block

Something that comes up on a lot of the convention panels are new authors suffering from writer’s block, which is a symptom of issues with resistance. I always say I think writer’s block is your brain’s way of telling you that you don’t really know what comes next, so you should let it percolate for a while in brain brine. At any given moment I have multiple projects in work at once, so if something needs more stewing I can switch over to something else. Heck, I can even just go and write a blog post or five and schedule them on my website or send them off to other blogs that I contribute to on occasion. Writing is writing, after all.

I know that not everyone can jump from a science fiction novel to a nonfiction article on worldbuilding to poetry, but that’s one of the few good things about being an Asperger’s author. I’ll take all of the positives I can muster!

Laziness and Goals

There are times when I’m just feeling lazy or I want to watch a movie. Instead of indulging myself, I use those longings to set up a small writing goal with the reward being what I want at that time. I force myself to do some work to earn the payoff. This also helps me to keep writing as a time priority, which I find vital as a professional writer.

Of course, now my evil inner momentum-killing foe wants me to go watch a movie as soon as I click the “post” button. We’ll see, my inner demons, we’ll see…


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, MWG, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Pages of Inspiration: Books for Writers

The creative well runs dry. The heart is as desiccated and desolate as a dusty Old West street, because you’re certain your Work in Progress is utter cowflop. You shout into the endless black void, listening mournfully for a few spurious, uncertain echoes. Where can writers go when they need to pour some fire back into their souls? The same place that got us into writing in the first place: Books.

At various points in your life, you’ll encounter books that are like a blessed bowl of warm chicken soup on a wintry day when your nose is crammed with snot and you ache in every bone. You’ll encounter books like the smooth, sweet burn of good whiskey that warms you from the inside. You’ll encounter books like a smart kick in the buttocks from that hot personal trainer.

Allow me to be so bold as to suggest some books for writers that have made an impact on me.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury is a short, sweet blast of poetic inspiration. Bradbury was a consummate master storyteller, and being able play with techniques he’s used to cultivate the creative soul is incredibly valuable. This book is less a nuts-and-bolts how-to than techniques for cultivating the creative soul.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a swift little kick in the pants. Each short chapter puts a finger directly onto the throbbing wounds of all the reasons we do not write, all the reasons we hold ourselves back from achieving our potential. The book provides a useful psychological framework for overcoming all of those excuses.

On Writing Horror by the Horror Writers Association is collection of essays from the luminaries of horror fiction. Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Ramsey Campbell and many others tackle aspects of effective storytelling that go beyond writing horror. Much of this book is simply about writing good fiction, and I still reference various chapters.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a great companion to Stephen King’s book below. Part how-to manual and part memoir, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, every chapter is spot-on. The chapter on first drafts is worth the cover price alone. In fact, I give that chapter to my English composition students as a lesson in how to get past the psychological blocks common to beginning writers.

Few writers can boast the impact that Stephen King has made on American fiction. On Writing is part memoir, part how-to. There are chapters on specific writing and revision techniques, but it’s also a memoir of his writing life. I found great inspiration in his writing life because he talks about the course of his career. Much of it is incredibly familiar, forming parts of every writer’s path. He had the skill, the drive, the support of a partner, caught a couple of lucky breaks, and his career exploded. And if he could do it, so can I. So can you.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron was a life-changing experience for me. This book is a twelve-week program designed to reignite the sparks of a creative person’s soul, whether the person is a writer, graphic artist, musician, etc. It helps examine and reprogram all the ways our creative impulse is squelched–by our own fears, by our families, by the outside pressure of society. If you work through all twelve weeks of this program faithfully, you will experience a sea change in the way you approach writing, the way you approach life. I had already been writing for two decades when this book was given to me by a friend, and I found it so transformative that a few years later I went through all twelve weeks again. It was fascinating to see how much of it I had internalized. And also how far I still had to go. The Artist’s Way treats a creative life as a spiritual journey, making writing into your art, into a way of life, not something you try to do in between your day job, kids and soccer games, and your next session of World of Warcraft.

I hope someday to discover another gem and be as enlightened, invigorated, and inspired as I was when I discovered these books. Everybody needs a shot in the arm sometimes.

About the Author: Travis Heermann

Heermann-6Spirit_cover_smallTravis Heermann’s latest novel Spirit of the Ronin, was published in June, 2015.

Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, he is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of Death Wind, The Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, and Rogues of the Black Fury, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Perihelion SF, Fiction River, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including content for the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and EVE Online.

He lives in New Zealand with a couple of lovely ladies and a burning desire to claim Hobbiton as his own.

You can find him on…

Twitter
Facebook
Wattpad
Goodreads
Blog
Website


Like a Movie Trailer for Your Head

In approaching this month’s topic, I realized something irritating. I’ve already written about my best inspirational stories on previous Fictorians posts. As I had little desire to repeat myself, I knew I had to come at this issue from a different angle. So rather than focus on discrete stories about what’s influenced my writing, I asked myself what techniques I used to get psyched to write day-to-day.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell any of you writers that some days the effort to get started writing can be too much. Unless you are already a professional writer or are both independently wealthy and childless, you spend your days expending energy on something or other that isn’t writing-related. You have to divert energy to writing that could be used elsewhere on higher-priority things, like earning money to eat.

So in order to get any writing done at all, we have to find ways to slip past exhaustion, laziness or a bad case of The Mondays and get excited about it. Quite without meaning to, I stumbled upon an admittedly silly technique a number of years ago that works well for me.

The answer? I advertise my book to myself.

Think about how you felt the last time you saw a really well-done movie trailer. Maybe it brought a rush of excitement you thought you’d left behind with youth. Maybe you watched it over and over again on Youtube just to wring that little rush dry. It makes sense. The people who make movie trailers mostly know their business. Their goal is to get you to mentally commit to seeing the movie in advance, ideally without paying attention to those pesky review aggregate sites before plunking down your hard-earned cash.

Now take your work in progress and try translating it into a movie trailer that you play in your head. Your hero, covered in grit and with a wound on their forehead from all their heroic efforts, stares stoically into the middle distance just to the right of the camera lens. A series of sequences flash by in which characters dodge bullets or spells or leap off of buildings only to turn back around and fire lightning bolts at their pursuers while their hair flows in the wind, all in slow motion with a dramatic swell of the soundtrack.

Writing it out like this makes it seem silly and self-indulgent because it is. You’ve seen these sorts of scenes in a million movie trailers, and after a while they all start to look the same. But guess what? If scenes like this didn’t work, the people making the trailers wouldn’t use them. And there’s one big difference here: these are your characters in your world, both of which you are (hopefully) already excited about. I suspect you’ll feel at least the hint of a giddy little thrill imagining them starring in their own expertly produced movie trailer.

A lucky handful of us may someday write works popular enough in print to be able to see our characters brought to life on the big screen (or the small). For the rest, a little daydreaming can give us that spike of excitement we need to sit down at the keyboard after an otherwise long day.

Give it a try. Don’t worry, you don’t have to admit it to anyone.

Raindancers

Everyday living for most people can be compared all-too-easily to what drought means for farmers, what the dry seasons meant to American Indians. It’s a barren time full of silence and waiting and subtle, fatalistic dread that nothing is going to happen, that life will wither and perhaps even die. And it’s that need for green, for life and living, which brings comfort and joy and the heights of emotional salvation when the rains finally come. One could make the argument that we read drama and fantasy and horror because we have an inherent, hard-wired need for emotional input—a need for rain.

That’s a writer’s job, at least some of the time. We must don the doe’s skull and bright feathers. We must clothe ourselves in tanned hides and wrap bone rattles about our wrists and ankles. We must dance, sprouting clouds of dust as we stomp our feet and we sweat upon the hard-baked clay of everyday life.

It’s our job.

One of the hardest things writers have to live with is the uncertainty that their dancing has brought rain, sprinkled or poured a little bit of life into a reader’s existence. The truth is that most writers, especially at the beginning of their careers, never find out if their dancing has borne precipitation. There is this gulf—a fundamental disconnect—between writer and reader, one that leaves writers with cracked lips and dusty throats.

I recently had two experiences—more milestones in my career—which gave me tangible evidence that my own dancing was not in vain. Last fall I submitted a short story called Family Heirloom to the magazine Steampunk Trials. It’s a steampunk take on the Underground Railroad where a white widow and a freed slave build an Underwater Railroad in Missouri.

Included in the acceptance email was a very simple accolade, and one I’ll never forget. The story had brought tears the editor to eyes. When I wrote that story, it was with the absolute intention of touching, playing upon the heartstrings of the reader. I intended to bring forth the emotions of suffering and sacrifice, highlight the resolve of an individual to carry on and enrich the lives of the next generation in spite of tragedy.

Because of that first editor’s response, I chose Family Heirloom as the lead in a short story collection of mine that came out this summer. It’s not a best-seller in no small part because it contains cross-genre short stories, which is really a double-whammy against people even looking at it, let alone buying it. And yet, in spite of its uphill battle to gain recognition, I recently received another bit of rain. One of the reviewers up on Amazon said the same thing as the editor: that the story had brought tears to his or her eyes, and that other stories in that volume also had profound emotional effects. A reader took the time to let me—and the world—know that there was rain to be found between those pages.

For a writer, there’s nothing better than that.

So, to all the writers who read this, I can say but one thing: keep dancing. And to every reader, for all the rain you have been given by authors, give them some back. Give them the rain they need in the form of emails and reviews and word-of-mouth praise for the rain that has sustained you.

Drought is a fact of life, but we all possess the means by which we can bring rain to those who need it.

 

Q