Category Archives: Professional Behavior

Not a Secret, Not Surprising

Work-life balance? Ha. If I wrote this blog post on a random Tuesday, it might be about the fact that I have finally managed to achieve a fragile balance and I’m working to maintain it. On Wednesday, I might write about the fact that I have no balance at all, and frankly it’s a bit depressing and balance might be impossible anyway. And on Thursday, I might write that I enjoy great balance.

So, as you can see, my thoughts on this subject are schizophrenic and highly unstable.

I love my family and my job is usually slightly better than tolerable (more than a lot of people can say), but like so many of us creative types I still occasionally entertain this fantasy that I could someday devote myself one hundred percent to my chosen work and not have to worry about all the other things. I fantasize that I could write nine or ten great books per year. In this scenario, my preferred cause of death is “creative exhaustion,” something which may but almost certainly doesn’t exist in the real world.

Lately I’ve been working on my writing career only intermittently, but I have big plans. (Don’t we all.) The main culprit is that I’m growing a new business that is flourishing beyond my initial expectations, and my other day job is finally becoming more lucrative than it ever has been before. So I’m a bit consumed with establishing my heretofore nonexistent nest egg. As such, my life is stable and mostly happy, but the outlook of my writing career fluctuates month to month, day to day, sometimes hour to hour.

Of course, this is a normal amount of confusion. And we’re all afflicted with it.

I will be the first to say that the kind of balance we all crave is elusive. I’d like to tell you that I believe long-term balance is possible, and here’s how to do it—but I don’t know if I really do believe that. Like any successful marriage (or comparable relationship), the balance between a writing career and the rest of one’s life must be constantly renegotiated. Solutions and strategies will change over time.

One strategy that works well for me is one of the oldest, so tried and true that it almost doesn’t bear writing about—except that it works so well for me that I still consider it a game-changer. Just break down your tasks into manageable bits, and track your daily process. Just two things, but they change everything.

I’m a huge proponent of tracking daily progress, which I’ve written about before on this blog. I track the number of words I write daily, the number of pages I get edited… even the number of minutes I exercise (as well as distance traveled and calories burned). The numbers make the progress substantial and real.

Because I need goals to succeed at anything. I’m not a good “casual” writer; I’m either all-in or it’s not on my radar. But all-in doesn’t have to mean all-consuming. For me, all-in means that I’m writing or editing a little bit everyday, in a way that I can track.

It’s not exactly a secret, nor would most people be surprised by any of this. But the keys to true success—unlike what those obnoxious click-baity Buzzfeed headlines will tell you—are rarely secrets or surprising.

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, a completed trilogy. In addition to writing both hard and soft science fiction, he is the editor-in-chief of The Niverville Citizen. He lives in Niverville, Manitoba.

Write Like the Wind

A Guest Post by Gama Martinez

I have a rather ambitious release schedule this year. This Tuesday, March 29, Beastwalker, the third book in my Pharim War series gets released. After that, I’m releasing, on average, one project a month until the end of the year. Seven of those will be novels, and three will be short story collections. When I tell people this, the look at me like I’m crazy, but there are a couple of things I’m doing that make this much more bearable.

One of the most wonderful things the internet age has given me is the ability to write from anywhere. I save my manuscripts on my dropbox, which I can access from my computer, my tablet, or my phone. If I have thirty minutes in which I’m not doing something, it’s a simple matter to pull out my phone and add a hundred words or so to my latest project. It’s not the easiest thing to do on my phone without a keyboard, but a hundred words is a hundred words. They add up. I generally set aside at least three hours a day to write, usually at night, and during that time, I tend to write about twice what I did during the little chunks, but think about that for a second. A full third of my writing is done outside of my “writing time.” Doing this, I end up with a first draft in roughly a month.

That brings up an important point. I’ve learned to write in small time chunks. This took me a long time to learn how to do. Some people need time to make the mental transition into writing mode. It can be difficult to learn. There is one thing that really helped me overcome that, and that was realizing that it’s okay if my first drafts are terrible. They are full of plot holes. I frequently go five pages with nothing but dialog. I have major reveals that weren’t foreshadowed at all. I might have as many as thirty problems like that in a manuscript, though it’s rarely been that many. It’s the first draft so it’s fine. None of those things, by themselves, are that big of a deal. That’s the key point. Once I get to my revision phase, each of these problems might take me a day to fix. Most won’t actually be that long, but for the sake of argument, we’ll say each takes me a day. That means if I have my hypothetical first draft written in a month with thirty day long items to fix, I can have a viable draft in two months. It’s still not ready for submission, but 85% of the work is done. After that, its proofreading, beta readers, and editors. Each of those take time, but if you’ve made it this far, you probably won’t have a problem with that.

You also need to find what time works best for you. There have been cognitive studies that suggest the two halves of your brain fall asleep at different times. It varies from person to person. Some people write best early in the morning. I do late at night. Frank Herbert wrote part Dune in one hour chunks, sitting in his car during his lunch break. Multiple other have done similar things. Find when works for you.

Regarding writer’s block: I’ve already partially addressed it. Like I said earlier, it’s okay if your first draft is bad. That’s what the second draft is for. There is another school of thought on this that I don’t follow but that may be of use to you. Orson Scott Card says that when you have writer’s block, it means you’re subconsciously detecting something fundamentally wrong with what you’ve already written, and that you need to go back and fix it. I can understand that view. If there is something fundamentally wrong, your story could go off in a completely random direction, however, I am an outliner, and I always know where my story is going, that keeps me from getting too far off track. If you don’t outline, and you find yourself with writer’s block, you may want to go back and see if there’s something wrong you can fix.

There is one more thing I would like to point out. My process, the habits I’ve outlined above, work for me. It’s taken me a long time to reach this point. I started writing seriously nearly eight years ago. You probably won’t be able to read this post and churn out half a dozen books in the next year. It will take time to find your process, and that’s okay.

Gama Martinez:

Gama Martinez lives in the Salt Lake City area and collects weapons in case he ever needs to supply a medieval battalion. He greatly resents when work or other real life things get in the way of writing. He secretly dreams of one day slaying a dragon in single combat and doesn’t believe in letting pesky little things like reality stand in the way of dreams. He is currently working on the Pharim War, a series about angels as well as The Nylean Chronicles, a new series about unicorns.

Balancing Life and Ambition

A Guest Post by RJ Terrell

Balance is a state that most of the human population strives to achieve, in some way or another. And there are different types of balance, such as with the body, the mind, career, etc. In this world that we live in, finding the right balance in any part of life is a challenge. We have so many things that call, or rather, demand, our attention.

Balancing life and career, is a particular challenge that I can confidently say an overwhelming majority of the population faces. We must earn enough income to make a living, while carving out enough time to enjoy our lives, the fruits of our labors, as well as the important people in our lives.

Since I was a child, my dad would often say to me, “you have some kind of ability to make things difficult.” Of course, he had no idea at the time what my career choices would be, but to an extent, it was right on the money. Since I was a child, I’d wanted to be an actor, and early into adulthood I realized that I was also a writer.

You may be gritting your teeth by now. Yes, I’m called to be an actor as well as an author, while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Making a living is difficult when you are working to become a fulltime working actor. Ask any actor out there, and the will agree. They may even sigh while agreeing. Making a living while working to become a fulltime author is not quite as difficult, as you can hold down a fulltime job and write in whatever spare time you can allot, but that does not diminish the difficulty. Building any career while working a job is not easy.

I wake up in the morning with the story I’m writing on my mind, almost from the start. Then whatever is happening in film industry at the moment, or what I need to do in terms of filming a scene to send to my agent, a script I need to prepare for class or an audition or a show that day, etc. At the moment (even as I type this) I’m thinking about whether I have received all the necessary forms so that I can submit my taxes.

I sign books and meet fans of the shows I’ve worked on at various comicons throughout the US, which takes me away from home at least four days per show. When I’m not on set, I spend an entire work day writing. It’s a constant seesaw battle between both professions as they demand my attention. Then there’s exercise, the passive hobbies of video games (which has become a rare enjoyment) and reading. And then there’s my poor wife.

I’ll not pretend that I’ve got it perfect. In building two careers at the same time, you begin to understand how life works from an interesting perspective. I can literally compare the progress I make from either endeavor based on how much energy I put into either. With acting, more factors are out of my control in landing an audition and booking the role. All I can do is continue to train as much as possible, put things on tape to send to my agent, and repeat the process until I’m called for an audition. As a writer, I have a bit more control. I can write, edit and revise, and mail the manuscript out to a prospective publisher, or publish it myself. (this is a gross over-simplification of the process, but I figure you’re not interested in all that, and I don’t have enough space here in any case) The odds are a little easier, as when you submit to a publisher, good work stands out like a blinking ‘Eat At Joe’s’ sign.

So for me, I must fight the temptation to spend all of my time writing and none of my time training with fellow actors for when an audition does come my way. This is a difficult thing when with one, you can see the results of your efforts in a relatively short period of time, versus with the other, where you can put in the effort for weeks, months, or in some cases, years, without seeing results for your efforts. It’s a tough thing to do.

And there have been more than a few occasions when my lovely wife reminds me, (sometimes gently, sometimes with more force) that it would be nice to see me, or spend time with me.

So how do I manage all this? Well, it’s an interesting dance, but being that I’m an introspective person, I tend to think a lot. Often too much. But one benefit to this is I can remind myself of what is most important in my life, what I want most out of it, and what I need to achieve it. Splitting my energy between two careers at the same time is a challenge I’ve not yet mastered, but when I am building my career as an author at the expense of my acting career, I pull back and shift things. I may have to shave an hour out of my writing time to go over a scene and play with a character, or dialogue.

I can say that there has never been a reverse situation. It would take a great effort for me to ignore my writing at the expense of acting, because unless I am a fulltime working actor on a show, I need only chip out an hour or two a day to stay on top of things.

And for my personal life, I often remind myself that I should feel quite fortunate that there is someone who wants to spend time in my presence. I’m incredibly lucky to be married to the woman I am married to, who understands and supports what I am trying to do. I owe her my time, and much more. Not to mention the fact that I love spending time with my wife. The trap, for me, is being in the mindset of working to create the life my wife deserves to have, so that we can live a comfortable life devoid of financial struggle. But all of that is meaningless if we have no life together.

Everyone is different, but for me, balancing life and career(s) is a matter of communicating with my wife if I’m under a deadline, or must concentrate hard on a scene I may be filming or auditioning for. When I’m not working on set, we drive together to her work, and I do my writing nearby so that we can meet on her lunch break. She goes back to work, I go back to writing, then we drive home together.

When we get home, we may sometimes workout together, but oftentimes, if I’m under a deadline or have a scene to work on, we’re in separate rooms until an hour or so before it’s time for sleep.

Balancing career against career? It’s one-sided. I constantly remind myself to pull out some scenes and work on them, continue to exercise my acting muscle, keep the instrument working. Writing is easier, because I simply sit down and do it, whereas with acting, you get the best out of your work with another actor to bounce the scene off of. So for me, that is the biggest challenge.

So I haven’t mastered this dance. I’m still working to create that rhythm that I might sink into so that this becomes second nature. Until then, I remind myself when I am neglecting a part of my life that needs attention.

Working hard toward goals is a good thing, but keeping life in perspective helps me to keep in mind what is most important in my life.

RJ Terrell:

Ramon Terrell is an actor and author who instantly fell in love with fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow.

As an actor, he has appeared in the hit television shows Supernatural, izombie, Arrow, and Minority Report, as well as the hit comedy web series Single and Dating in Vancouver. He also appears as one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men in Once Upon a Time, as well as an Ark Guard on the hit TV show The 100. When not writing, or acting on set, he enjoys reading, video games, hiking, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.
Connect with him at:
R J Terrell on facebook
RJTerrell on twitter
R. J. Terrell on Goodreads

The Writer’s Cave

A Guest Post by K.D. Julicher

I work from home, forty hours a week. I write – almost always at home – another twenty or more hours. I do chores around the house, tend my child around the house… and for the last seven months, it’s been a pretty small house.  Most of my waking hours are spent at my big work desk, ten feet away from my kitchen and five feet from the couch where I spend a lot of the rest of my time.

One of my biggest challenges is switching out of job mode and into another area of my life. I can shut off the computer and walk away, but getting my brain to realize that we are done now and I can go work on my creative projects is something else. It’s probably the biggest hamper on my productivity right now.  I find myself dawdling, or surfing the internet, instead of getting to my writing. Or there will be some chore that wasn’t important enough to interrupt my day-job for, but now absolutely must be done. Or my child is being dreadfully neglected, or there’s some exotic ingredient I must have for dinner…

So I have coping mechanisms. First, I try to do mental prep-work in the half hour leading up to quitting time. I assess whether I’ve got dinner under control, and if not, make a plan. I organize my thoughts and figure out what I’m going to do when I get done with work. Maybe I think about the scene I’m writing, or the plot problem I’ll be addressing.

Then I get done with work. I stand up from my desk, I stretch, I get a new drink, and I relocate. I have an awesome work desk with a super comfortable chair and a huge monitor and a keyboard I love. But if I try to write there, I’ll get nothing done. I need a change of setting after 9 hours in the same spot.

I walk back to the spare room, where in one corner, away from the massive quantities of Lego and the storage tubs that wouldn’t fit anywhere else, I have a wooden desk. Or half of one, depending on how much of the Lego array has migrated. I’ve got a keyboard and a pair of headphones, and I bring in my laptop, plug it in, crack my soda, sit down on the less comfortable office chair, and bring up my project file.

Human brains are amazingly strange things. Everyone’s experienced that moment where you get up to look for something in another room, and then you can’t remember what it was. Turns out that the act of leaving one location and entering another serves as a cue for your brain to dump whatever it was remembering. That’s annoying when you are trying to remember what you were looking for in the kitchen, but really useful when you’re trying to shift from one mode to another. By training my brain that the spare room is for writing, I can leave the day job behind relatively easily.

We’re going to buy a house soon, and I know that my writing space will have to be planned from the start. It’s very effective for me to have a place I can go to and draft. By the same token, that isn’t my editing spot. I edit curled up on a comfortable chair, usually while my husband reads the draft on his ipad so we can go scene-by-scene, line-by-line through the story.  Trying to edit in my writing spot would make me crazy. The subconscious cues I have to tell me to “just sit down and write” would make trying to take time and actually edit impossible.

The writing spot is going to be different for everyone. An ergonomic setup is best for your body, but that can mean a fancy chair, a squat ball, even a walking desk.  Maybe you write on a netbook. Maybe you have a 32-inch monitor.  Have you spent time thinking about your surroundings? Take some time now. Try something new. A different computer, or a typewriter or a new notebook. A different chair. Maybe your chair is too comfortable, and you get all relaxed and can’t produce! Perhaps you need headphones to shut out the outside world, or a nice set of speakers so you can play music and still hear the doorbell, or you have to work in absolute silence. Maybe there’s a door that you can close, or a window that needs to be open.

If your writing process is stalling out at any stage, take a look at your physical environment. Is the rest of your life intruding on you? Are you trying to write next to a pile of unfolded laundry? Are you editing in a tiny closet with no way to look outside? Are you trying to brainstorm on the treadmill, even though you know your best inspirations come when you’re in the shower or hiking?

I’m not saying your surroundings have to be perfect. If writers could only produce when seated at 19th century desks in a New England garret, bookstore shelves would be empty. But for those of us who struggle to keep up our productivity around all the other demands of life can help ourselves by taking a few steps back and thinking about where we write instead of just what we write.

K.D. Julicher:

K. D. Julicher writes from the mountains of Nevada, where she and her husband collaborate on novels and raising a daughter. Her day job involves keeping trains from running into each other. She won the 2014 Baen Fantasy Award and will be published with this year’s winners of the Writers of the Future contest. Links to published works and infrequent news can be found at