Tag Archives: Nick Ruva

Quitting – A Guest Post by Nicholas Ruva

A guest post by Nicholas Ruva.

When I was asked to write a guest post on quitting, I wasn’t exactly sure how to react. I am a journeyman writer. I’ve completed several shorts, and two novels, but nothing has seen the light of day outside of writing groups and Editor’s slush piles. As someone who has tried my hand at this craft for the past decade, after finally giving in and finishing a minor in Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, I should probably take a hint and throw in the towel. After a decade, if you’re still toiling away, trying to form writer groups, and producing content that gets polite, but definite, rejection letters, well… Shouldn’t I quit?

It’s been a topic on my mind for the last year. After a hellish turn of personal events, a sick dog, stress at work, the dog sick again, bills piling up, and the internal thrumming of a voice that says, “Make this happen, or move on,” yeah, I feel this topic through and through.

However, I don’t think that’s exactly the point of this series, and this topic, and let’s be honest, the majority of you reading this are probably wearing similar pants, and have also been rut-writing for nearly a decade with little to show. It comes with the territory, and eventually you get to this point and you say, “This is who I am. There is no real quitting this.”

So, Okay, fair enough. Let’s not all collectively quit writing for the new year. Let’s bury our nose into that old manuscript. Let’s hammer out that short that’s been sitting unwritten for a long time. Let’s send that submission out to Clarkesworld, Glimmer Train, the Atlantic, the New Yorker. Let’s put butt in seat and fingers on keys and finish that opus!

Well, maybe. I’m guilty of that too. The albatross. The chain wrapped so taut, and so heavy around the neck that it is hard to even make it to my desk. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year you put that old manuscript down. Maybe this is the year you say to yourself that the story in your head will never make it to the page, and you free yourself to do something new, something amazing. Maybe.

That’s hard advice. I have a book, two in fact, that I’ve lugged around for the past decade. The first is complete, but it’s terrible. It’s woefully bad on a level that I wouldn’t share even with my closest friends, though I was giddy to submit it to my writing class at USC. I was so sure they would recognize the brilliance that lay untapped. I was shocked when only one person in the class could even follow my magnificent work.

It was horrible. Going back to it now it’s painful to read, but there’s a glimmer there. The story idea is still strong, and sticks with me to this day. I know, given ten years of experience and a hell of a lot less ego, I could really do it justice. I want to do it justice, but sitting down to it is hard, so it sits.

The second work I should quit is more recent. I started a novel three years ago, and it was a fever-pitch writing session. I tore through fifty thousand words in a little under three days. I brought the rough story to workshops, and it gathered praise from students and instructors alike. It isn’t a big idea story, and probably won’t sell worth a damn, but it is a good story and it deserves to be finished. Still, the longer it sits, the harder it is to bring myself to conclusion.

I know how the story ends. I know exactly where I’m going from here, but sitting down to it is complete brain paralysis. All of that fever and excitement is gone, and it sinks into my creative conscious like a cork, bottling up any desire to move forward, and keeping me from tackling other larger works.

I’ve completed several short stories during the time I’ve been working on this novel, and come up with a few great ideas for other full length works. One idea in waiting I am almost certain will become a series of books, and that excites me completely, but when I go to sit-down and work on it, my WiP haunts me and taunts me from the depth of my creative consciousness.

In my head, I hear the advice Brandon Sanderson gave us at the Out of Excuses retreat in 2013. He warned of the same exact problem I suffer from today, that if you have this great work you’ve been trying to tell for a number of years, a story that you’ve carried with you afraid to finish due to not having the skill, or wanting to perfect over and over until it’s paralysis. If you have such a story… Kill it. It’s better to put that one in the ground then to allow it to weigh on your writing.

It’s solid advice that I can’t take. I feel invested. I feel so close to finishing, but I know it’s the right advice. I know the power spontaneity can bring. Over the past year, I’ve released three full albums of new music, most of the tracks completely improvised and then reworked, not unlike how I approach my writing. The experience is exciting, and I am often shocked at the results. Even my current work in progress novel was a completely spontaneous writing session that turned into a blistering paced seed of a novel. Allowing myself to remove the shackles of my previous work would free me to be more creative.

I am a computer programmer by trade. An odd one that specializes in automation, and removing manual steps from mission critical processes to optimize and standardize work. That’s a really long and drawn out way to say I am successful at my day job if I am able to remove myself from the process. To me, nothing is more satisfying than letting the gears move freely and getting out of the way of the collective machines so they can run at their best.

Although writing is, of course, wholly different in approach, the idea of clearing away obstacles and creating an environment where things run optimally is basically in my genes. I have no problem excessing legacy routines, rewriting bad code, or completely throwing away an entire way of thinking in order to ask, “What am I really trying to solve here?”

If I was to take that same approach to my writing, I’d have pulled the plug on this novel years ago, but it’s a part of me, more so than the code I write, or the job I do every day. The characters speak to me, and through me, and demand to have their story told. These darlings are damn hard to kill.

My monitor is rimmed with sticky notes for daily tasks, a product of the Agile development method. I use various colors for various tasks, but pink is set for personal goals. In all capital letters, stuck to the left side of my monitor, directly at eye level, a pink sticky note reads, “WORK ON THE NOVEL.” It is joined with other pink items with less urgent capitalization, but it’s there to be a constant reminder, a constant goading. It’s tough to quit on something so personal, especially when you know where it goes from here, and how freaking awesome that payoff of an ending will be. So, the novel sits, and I try and convince myself that this is the year things move forward with the work.

When I was approached to write about quitting, I didn’t know it would trigger such a response from my collective writer subconscious. I thought, maybe I will talk about buckling down and getting through it, but I’d be a phony if I did. I know how hard this can be, and maybe you are in a similar situation. If you are, I can’t offer you any advice other than you should probably quit on the work. I know I should have quit on this story last year, or even the year before, but I didn’t, and I likely won’t this year either.

Maybe, eventually, the guilt of it will spill over into another three-day-binge-session that sees me through to the story’s conclusion. Maybe it will be wholly mediocre, but cathartic in all the right ways to finally free myself. If this hasn’t happened to you. If you are the type that finishes everything they start, I envy you. I’ve met folks like you before, and their productivity was nothing short of awe-inspiring. I hope that’s you. Me, I’ll offer myself the advice I know I won’t take: Sometimes it’s alright to move on. You can quit and still be successful. Sometimes quitting is exactly what you need.

I wish I could take that advice, but, then again maybe this is the year I finally finish that novel.


About Nicholas Ruva

Nicholas Ruva is a writer, musician, and DevOps Engineer living in Los Angeles, California. When he’s not creating, he’s likely in the kitchen working on a new recipe, or in front of a keyboard trying to complete a catering job in Cook, Serve, Delicious. If you’d like to follow him on his publishing journey, you can find him on Facebook, Instagram, or toss a few fractions of a penny his direction by listening to his music under the name of Lake Onondaga on Spotify or pretty much anywhere music is streamed.

Since You’ve Been Gone

A guest post by Nick Ruva.

Since You’ve Been Gone

The street noise is louder now that you are gone. Horns and sirens blare their warning through glass. I do my best to tune out the life animated below my windows as I hide under sheets for just-five- minutes-more, two hours longer. You once told me this city suffocated you. It drowns me.

My Furry Reason

With an impatient look, and a whine, I know it’s time for a walk. You’re my furry reason to leave the house. Somedays, the only reason. Your exuberance is one I haven’t felt in years, one I fear I may never know again, but through you. You force me to slow down, hurry up, live.

Summer in the City

Bleating notes to chaotic downtown streets through a reed that sounds far past its usefulness, you point your horn to us and squall. As a kid, I watched your predecessors blow to subway cars and transit authorities. Today, most avoid your squeaking overture, steering around you. I close my eyes and listen to you wail.

Nobody Is Watching

Did I ever tell you my dad and I saw a UFO one late night in an Albertson’s parking lot? That was when XXXXXXXX was still XXXXXXXX. That was before he told me the government was watching his every move. Perhaps the only reason they don’t watch mine is I didn’t believe him.


About Nick Ruva:
Nick Ruva is a Superstars Writing Seminars survivor, two-time champion of procrastination, computer automation specialist (who has effectively replaced himself with a very complicated but elegant sorting routine), and fulltime maker-uper of tall tales… He lives in Los Angeles with a little dog named after a character in Watership Down… Not one of the rabbits though, because that would be too obvious.


Being Creative While Working a Full-Time Job

A guest post by Nick Ruva.

One piece of advice you will hear repeatedly as you embark on a writing career is, “Don’t quit your day job.” Many of us know that all too well. Either you do not make enough as a writer to pay the bills, or you need the security of a consistent paycheck and those much appreciated health benefits. Whatever your reason may be, trying to squeeze in your writing time while working a full-time job can be difficult. It is harder if you are working a job that challenges you to find creative solutions to problems. I cannot prescribe a way to squeeze more time out of your day to write. I am a staunch believer in the idea that when we say we do not have time to write, what we are really saying is there are other things we would rather spend our time on. I get that, and by all means if you would rather spend time unwinding after a long day by watching the tube or shooting baddies online, I cannot blame you. I have been there a million times. When I was asked to write an article about working a job that consumes you night and day, but still finding time to write, I had to sit down and think about it. Sure, I am busy often, and I work some long hours, but at the end of my day I still have time I could be writing, but sometimes I mentally cannot. I have found that there is a limit to the creative output I can muster in a day. Some nights all I want to do is flop on the couch and nullify my brain watching TV. The trick for me has been finding a balance.

I work as a Configuration Management Engineer, which is a fancy way of saying I manage the automated building and release of software. My job requires me to research and solve complicated problems. We need a product to build faster, or a process improved so it is more stable or does something else. It is a job where you are constantly being presented with a problem and asked to find a fast and elegant solution. It is a lot like creative writing, and it ticks a lot the same creative pleasure centers in the brain. Over the years I have had several jobs that did not challenge me, such as my early years in retail, or doing simplistic quality assurance testing. Now, some QA testers need to be deviously creative, but my stint was ticking boxes on a checklist as either pass or fail. Do this, record result, repeat. I would not say it was mind-numbing, but it did make me desire to be more creative during my downtime. As the skill and creativity necessary for my day job increased, my writing productivity took a hit. Again, it was not for a lack of time. I have the time to write, and I feel guilty if I am not working on a story, but finding the drive when I am already creatively satiated during the day means I need to use other criteria to motivate me. So what do you do if you find yourself in a similar situation?

The first thing I would recommend is to reach out and meet other writers. Writing groups can be incredibly helpful. While at the University of Southern California, I took a few creative writing courses which allowed me to meet other writers on campus and establish critique groups with other newbie writers. After school, I went to a few local bookstores and looked for fliers for writing groups in the area. I am still in a group thanks to a post I found years ago. Likewise, I have met writers online and at classes and workshops, and we have created an online critique group that is still in its infancy, but is already having a huge effect on my writing. A good writing group will help you on so many levels. First, and maybe most important for us busy folks, a writing group will encourage you to write more. I feel extremely guilty if I do not bring something to my critique groups, and shame writing is still writing. If that is what you need to motivate you, I am right there with you.

A critique group also offers a network of writers you can grow and learn from. I have received some amazing critiques over the years, and my writing gets stronger every time I submit. For instance, I had a horrible tendency to write characters who stare. They would stare at everything and everyone, and it drove someone in my critique group up the wall. Looking back over my work, it was a pattern, and a problem, that I have corrected. Likewise, I like my fiction sparse, but that’s a fine line to walk, and if I submit a piece and get too many “white room” comments, I know I have not gotten the balance right. The writers in my critique groups have been instrumental in making me a better writer.

Just meeting and being around other writers can be an enormous help. My writer friends and I like to commiserate and daydream about writing. It helps when you have an all-consuming job, especially if you can talk with other writers in similar situations. If you’re having trouble meeting writers locally, I recommend the more networking heavy seminars, such as the Superstars Writing Seminar. Superstars, and other seminars like it, throw you in an incubator with around fifty other writers. Thanks to social networking sites, we have kept in touch and continue to help promote and nurture each other’s work. Seeing status updates from other writers, yes, even those: “I just wrote 5,000 words this morning,” that shame me into writing, are wonderful motivators. When you are feeling burned out, and all you want to do is click yourself numb on the Internet, having some streaming encouragement definitely helps.

I know what you are thinking. I am telling you the way I find more time to write is by hanging out in writing groups, meeting other writers, and going online to Facebook. OK, so, those are motivators, but what about actually writing. For me, it is trying to find the right mix of time to productivity. I have tried to schedule daily writing times. Early morning before work, during a lunch break, right after work, before bed. When I try to make a set schedule, especially at a set time, I normally start strong and fail miserably in a few days. The biggest issue I have is making the time to write when I am actually feeling inspired. If I am feeling especially creative, and I am excited about a story, I will fly through a couple thousand words. If I am feeling tired, or forced to write, I will resist even opening my manuscript.

I am also leery of setting daily word count goals. I know they work for many of my writer friends, but if I set a goal for a thousand words a day, I will probably slack off thinking, “I can do that in an hour. I’ll just bang out a few paragraphs before bed.” Never happens. If I am crunching, for say NaNoWriMo, I will do hourly goals. For instance, instead of shooting for a thousand words a day, I will force myself to it sit down for two hours and set a goal of five hundred words an hour. Something about moving the goal up and making it smaller, and more immediate, helps me stay accountable. It is not perfect, and sometimes I will balk at that two-hour window, but it helps. For the most part, I am against the writing word count goals as they normally make me less productive, and I sometimes feel defeated if I miss too many in a row.

What has worked for me was creating a little leeway for creative time during the day. I know this may not work for everyone, and maybe you can schedule a solid block of time and work like a champ, but if you are like me, do not feel guilty stopping your daily work here or there for a few minutes to write a paragraph of fiction when you’re inspired. I started doing that a few years ago, and barring a meeting or a catastrophe at work, I can usually find fifteen or twenty-minutes each day to work on some prose. I have also found that it energizes me when I return to my day job, especially if I am stumped on a particularly hard problem, or if I am simply not in the mood to be 100% productive for the nine to five. Completing a few writing goals has worked wonders and I have hammered out a few solid short stories recently on work breaks that have gone over well in my critique groups. Again, your mileage will vary, and make sure that your writing does not jeopardize your day to day. I know how easy it can be to get lost in your writing and lose a few hours of time. You need to find that balance, but I have found writing during my day as a great tool that has made me more productive in my day job and my writing life.

Finally, you need to ask why you are doing this. Over the past year I have been putting my writing life into better perspective. I look at myself as a small business owner, and my writing as a product I need to ready for release. Every time I skip a writing session, or get nothing done for the day, I am pushing my release date out. If I want to get my product on the shelf, I have to put in consistent work. You need to find that big, juicy carrot to dangle in order to keep you motivated even when there is a full DVR to distract you. For me it is simply to write when inspiration hits. I cannot count on having an hour of quality brain-time later. If I can put things on pause for a few, write that scene, and then go on about my day I am that much closer to my finished product.

Nick Ruva Bio:
Nick Ruva is a literary writer who dabbles in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. While he is not practicing the dark arts of fiction, he manages the release and build process of software products and specializes in process control and automation. A Los Angeles transplant, Nick has worked with local LA writers, editors and publishers who are working to promote the independent L.A. writing and arts scene. Nick is a Superstars Writing Seminars alum, David Farland Death Camp survivor, and was a member of the inaugural Writing Excuses “Out of Excuses” Retreat.