Writing Quote: Isaac Asimov

“I write
for the same reason
I breathe -

if I didn’t,

I would die.”

- Isaac Asimov

Quote picked up here.


My Latest in the Scroll

I just realized that, since my initial post on getting printed in the Scroll, I hadn't mentioned any of the articles I've done since then. They're looking great, and a good number are also offered online. To check them out, just follow the links:

Element 118

Madison Memorial Ends Birth Announcements

Black Friday bliss


Self Adjustment and Goals

In a recent post, I lamented about my need to tighten things up a bit in my life, and get more focused about what I'm doing and the goals I've set. Since then, mostly in the last week, I've been working on just that.

First thing, I wrote up my personal mission statement. The section I'll share here deals specifically with writing, but I also did a similar statement for each area of my life - my marriage, school, etc. Here it is:

My major purpose is to entertain, educate and inspire others through my thoughts and my words, whether spoken or written. As a writer I have the talent and the skill to do just that.

In order to use my gifts for the benefit of others, I must make them profitable to the extent that it is my primary means of income and is the bulk of my work.

My life’s work then, is to establish myself as a writer, and write on those things that will entertain, educate or inspire.

I will help people to learn and to grow. I will also learn and grow, but in so doing, I will continue to expand and realize my own potential, even as I aid others in doing so.

I will find success in my career. Through my writing, I will provide for myself and my family. I will find financial security through earning and careful use of the money earned.

I will enable myself to have the flexibility to work from home, to earn an income that allows my family to live in comfort, and to provide not only for their needs, but for their wants as well. I will become wealthy, that I may more fully pursue my goal of helping others.

The pursuit of my career will not take me away from my wife or my family. Instead, my career will allow me the freedom and time to enjoy their company, share their thoughts and experience the joy of their love.

I also developed a brief plan of action to get some progress made on this life mission:

To find this success in writing, I must develop myself as a writer.

I will continually study my craft. I will improve my writing, and my ability to reach readers. I will find new ways to write more, thus improving both the quality and the quantity of my work.

I will develop my portfolio so that I can credibly approach publications for writing opportunities. I will always seek to improve both my earning potential and my credibility.

I will use this credibility to author books, so that my influence will expand beyond the fleeting realm of magazines and the internet, but to reach further audiences with a deeper impact.

I will write daily. I will become as familiar and practiced with words as I am with my own body. As easily as I walk, eat, or sleep, I will reach minds, touch hearts and stir spirits.

I will read daily, exploring always with an open mind to new ideas, new interpretations of the old, and to the timeless concepts that transcend generations. I will let my mind absorb the world around me, and distill from all my learning those things that will make me a better writer and person.

I will seek publication. Unless published in some medium, my words are known only to me. Unpublished words have no impact, save upon the writer. Published words change lives.

I will seek payment. Writing without pay is not a career, it is a hobby. I will not let my life purpose be relegated to the realms of baseball cards or model trains. I will make my living by my words.

I then formulated specific, measurable goals to help me follow through on these plans:

Write 2+ pages per day. (Writing for school only counts for one page, no matter how long)

Send out 1+ Query Letter per week

Submit everything I write. Get published anywhere I can, if only to build my portfolio.


Mind Mapping Powertool

For those who are already familiar with the practice of mind mapping, I don't need to tell you how effective it can be as a way of generating and organizing your thoughts. You guys can skip to the link.

For those of you who are new to mind mapping, listen up. If you're looking for a way to boost your brainstorming, mind mapping is for you. If you're looking for a way to organize an array of varied bits of information, mind mapping is the tool you need. Try, use it, love it, tell others. It's that good.

Mayomi, which I'm assuming is the partial abbreviation of Map Your Mind, is a free web-based peice of mind mapping software. It's well designed, easy to use and looks slicker than a greased pig. I've been using it a lot lately, and think everyone else should, too.


More Advice from the Renegades

I'm not sure how it happened, but even though I make a near-daily perusal of the Renegade Writer's Blog, I missed a veritable gem of advice. Judging by the lack of comments, so did everyone else.

Linda Formichelli, co-author of the RW books, suggests using Amazon's search function to track down experts with recently published or soon-to-be published books. They're established experts, which is good for you. They have a book to promote, which is good for them. It's brilliant!

Blog Envy - inkthinker

While doing some poking around in the blogosphere, I found inkthinker, the blog of author Kristen King. She's a talented writer, a solid blogger and a source of some sound writing advice. This is definitely a blog for writers to keep an eye on.

Some posts that particularly caught my eye:

Her notes from the 2006 WIW Freelance Success Seminar (Parts 1 and 2 so far)
Filled with gems of practical advice for freelancers. I'd quote one or two, but then I'd just quote them all...

Open Letter To Cheaters
Ms. King blasts the plaigarizing snot out of those who try to hire freelancers to do things like write their dissertations for them.

A new copy of Writer's Market - Hooray!

Most people who are at all familiar with freeelance writing are familiar with Writer's Market, the big ol' honkin' book filled with contact info for magazines, publishing companies, literary agents and the like. For freelancers, it's a necessity, and I included it as a must-have book for any serious freelancer.

That being said, I'm a college student, with a college student's budget. I've almost plunked down the money for a copy many times, but twenty bucks would feed my wife and I for a week or two. We just don't have the funds available to throw around that kind of money, even if it would be a significant investment in my career. Add on top of that the fact that the thing is a tad out of date by the time it's printed, or the fact that every writer in the English speaking world uses WM as their go-to list of contacts, upping the competition for each one, means that maybe it's not the best use of my money.

So, instead of buying one, I use the copy here at my library. The only problem was that the library had a copy from 2001 and a copy from 2004. My best bet was three years out of date. Since I haven't been querying quit as much as I think I should, it hasn't been a huge issue, but it still bothered me. In fact, the very fact that it was so out of date may have contributed to my slothfulness in querying.

Those days are over now! As of today, the library is now equipped with a 2006 Writer's Market. Hooray! Granted, it still has all of the drawbacks that I already mentioned - out of date, used by everybody and their grandmother, really, really big - but it's still an improvement. Maybe someday I'll just buy my own. Until then, I'll stick with this one.


Freelancing Business Plan

Angela Booth, over at Fab Freelance Writing, has posted a helpful article about the importance of a freelance writing business plan and how to simply put one together.

Here's the link.


Easy Character Visualization

I know that one of the things I sometimes have trouble with is keeping a clear image of a character in my mind. Did that guy have a goatee, or was it a full beard? Didn't I just mention how that guy's nose was a bit hawkish?

Othertimes, it helps to have the character looking at you in order to give them a name. But how could you do this without having access to a professional police sketch artist? Ah-ha, how about a computerized sketch artist? We, here you go - a flash version of facial composite software. http://flashface.ctapt.de/


Writing Quote: Rollo May

“Artists pursue

until they can force it
to mean something

They immerse themselves
in chaos
to give it form.”

– Rollo May, from The Courage to Create

"If you do not express
your own original ideas,

if you do not listen
to your own being,

you will have betrayed yourself.

Also, you will have betrayed your community
in failing to make your contribution."

– Rollo May


50 Anti-Procrastination Writing Strategies

While poking around at 43 Folders, Merlin Mann's site for GTD fans and hipster PDA addicts, I found this link in an older article. Listed here are 50 (yes 50!) strategies to blow past writer's block and get writing. Included in this cornucopia of advice are such hints as:

Lighten up on yourself. Give yourself the freedom to write when the urge
strikes, and not write when you don't feel like it. That's one of the attractive
things about the popular conception of the writing life, right? So enjoy it!

If you've been sitting on an idea until you think you're good enough to do
it justice, do it now! You may be run over by a bus tomorrow. Even if you
aren't, by the time you think you're good enough, the passion for it will be
gone. Write it now! Write all your good ideas as quickly as you can after you
get them. Don't worry about getting more; they'll come faster and faster the
more you write. Before you know it, you'll be begging people to take them, like
a gardener with zucchini.

Use every spare moment to write something, even if it's just one sentence.
An extreme version of this: don't plan any official writing time; just use the
spare moments in your day--but use them all.

The basic idea is, however you need to do it, just do it. Get your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard and write. Here's the link: http://sfwa.org/writing/strategies.html

Does using a Hipster PDA make me "Hip"?

Let me start of by saying that the very use of the word "hip" is the surest sign of a complete and utter lack of coolness. It's lame, it's out of touch, and to put it in old person-speak, it's definitely not "hip".

A few years back, after reading Anne Lamontt's Bird by Bird, I began carrying index cards with me. She suggests it as a great way to jot down notes, ideas, quotes, etc. and frankly, I think she's right. They're perfectly portable, and they're big enough for one complete thought. For a scatter brain like myself, it's good to keep my thoughts encapsulated, so that they're not running wild in my head and aren't scattered across seventeen different pages in four different notebooks.

However, being the disorganized person I am, my cards were always getting lost, crumpled, ripped in half and other wise subjected to ceaseless abuse. The end result has been that every few months I buy a new pack of index cards and use them for about three days. Sometimes I'll do really well, and hang onto them for a whole week. This has been the pattern for about four or five years.

This same pattern has been regularly repeated with planners. I think, "Man, I could really benefit from using a planner." So I buy one, use it for about a week, decide it's too much trouble, and a tad too organized for my ADD adled mind, and it get's stuck in a drawer with the last five abandoned planners. This too is the regular pattern, this time followed for the last ten years. With the exception of my mission, I have never used a planner with any real regularity. On my mission I was able to do it only because it was simple, straight forward, fit in my pocket without being a hassle and was completely disposable. So I used that, but haven't really used a planner since.

Such was the cycle of my life, up until about a month ago, when I was introduced to the Hipster PDA. It's essentially a stack of these very index cards, used in lieu of a more expensive PDA. It's one part notepad, one part planner, one part filing cabinet. It's a happy mix of organization, DIY and ADD. In short, it's exactly what I've been looking for my entire life.

Since I first eagerly grabbed my stack of cards a month ago, I've become addicted. Me, addicted to a planner - it's a sign of the apocalypse for sure! Since then, I've also dug up the perfect HPDA accessory, the Mead Index Keeper (which I can't find a link for for the life of me), which is basically a little expanding file/wallet for 3x5 cards. Remix it with some HPDA basics like binder clips and a pen, and it's the best thing I have ever found. My wife laughs at me for using it so often, which strikes me as ridiculous every time. The very fact that I'm so active in using any sort of organizational tool is like catching a glimpse of myself in some parallel dimension. It's just weird, because I've never done that, ever.

So, now that I've rambled a bit about this, I think I'll wrap it up. I've got things to do, after all.


A bit of a Brain Dump

Well, I realized this morning that I need to tighten up my focus with school and writing. Like just about every other person to ever surf the web, I find myself often losing time to trivial things like aimless surfing, excessively in depth research into meaningless topics, and the like.

Don't get me wrong; I understand that a bit of decompression is a necessary thing. As a writer the mental exploration aspect of this surfing is essential to finding and developping new ideas. That and it's fun, and I'd surely be a fool if I thought I'd be able to just stop.

That being said, there are some things I need to work on. I've been doing well with staying on top of school work, which is great. The structured environs of school have long been the bane of my existence. Some part of me just revolts against it, reviles against the ceaseless hoop-jumping and assignments that don't necessarily reflect learning, which supposedly was the original purpose of education. If I can learn the material covered by a course without attending class, why should my lack of attendance be penalized? But I digress. Regardless of my chafing at school, that aspect of life is under control, for probably the first time in my life.

The issue at hand, however, is that I often let precious time escape me, and I have several goals that I've been letting slide. So, here and now, I've decided to do better. I'll post a list of some of these goals today or tomorrow, and discuss how I intend to pursue them.


Writer Quote: Ernest Hemingway

My aim

is to put down on paper

what I see
what I feel

in the best
and simplest way.

- Ernest Hemingway


NOT Writing for the Voice

Well, the editor in cheif of the Voice responded to my request to do a column for them. Sadly, because I write for the Scroll, writing for the Voice would present a conflict of interest. Meaning, they can't use me while I'm a Scrollie.

Because they're just a little rag-tag start-up pulled together by students, I don't think I'll be bailing on the award winning Scroll anytime soon, especially since they gave my last article a giant half page, with some gorgeous graphics. (Read it online, sans graphics, here.) In addition to being a whole lot better looking in my portfolio, my work at the Scroll does more for me in the way of establishing legitimate contacts and quality education about publication. (See my John Hughes Q&A as an example.)

However, the idea of an advice column may not be so far fetched, even with this obstacle. I had a conversation with my wife Jessica about the possibility of doing some blogging for profit, and she's all for it. Here main question? "Why aren't you doing this now?" I love that woman!

Oh, and did I mention that the Editor at the Voice thinks my work is fantastic? Those are her words. "Fantastic." If that doesn't build the ego, what does? (Oh, that's right, making money for my 'fantastic' talents!)


Writing for The Voice?

Today, I was handed the first copy of Rexburg's independant student newspaper, The Voice. Though they try way to hard to have a controversial tone (this is Rexburg, Idaho. The most exciting thing they have to talk about is the booting of cars. Honestly.) it is a tad refreshing to see another publication come out for students. More importantly, it seems that they've got a solid base of advertisers.

I e-mailed them today about doing a regular advice column, and I hope to hear back soon about the idea. Partly, I'd love to have a regular column, even it's for some hack job of a student paper. A column in a rag is better than no column at all, right?

Secondly, I've really been wanting to do an advice coloumn of this sort for a while. For months I've had people regularly approaching me for advice on dating, and one of those folks just got engaged thanks to my advice. If that's not a good sign, I don't know what is. My wife and I have often tossed around the idea of my doing some sort of pro-dating coach type job here, since the BYU-I dating scene is ridiculously active, and the idea of an advice coloumn has always appealed to me.

Here's hoping it works out alright.


Beat Writer's Block into Submission!

John Bash, the man behind the blog Overcoming Laziness has posted some great advice on overcoming witer's block. It's four simple rules, and it get's right to the heart of the problem without any of the "Wo is me" artistic whining that often accompanies the discussion of Writer's Block. And let's be honest, professionals don't always have the time for such drama.

His rules are these:
1. Stop Fooling Yourself Into Thinking You’re Writing When You’re Really Not.
2. Figure Out What Your Interruptors Are and Quarantine Them.
3. Stop Calling It “Writer’s Block”
4. Use A Model.

To read more, go see his post.