Tuesday, August 9, 2016

5: Doing it

 Doing It! 

 Welcome to HuntingTheMuse.com's Creative Writing Podcast. 

Today's podcast episode is about doing it!

  • Setting goals.
  • Following Through
  • Fighting for the dreams that are important to you.
This week was tough, but despite all the roadblocks, the hiccups, and the distractions... I was Doing It!

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Writing Updates

Chlorophyllium 9 is coming along nicely. I've already written over 6,000 words in my expansion of the story since I unpublished it. The characters are starting to grow and I feel like they have a lot more dimension to them. 

I've been working in Scrivener and being able to select alternating chapters and read them back to back has been invaluable! I love that I can quickly see if my cliff hangers are paying out and if my pinches and pulls are doing their jobs. So far, I'm very satisfied with how everything is coming together.

Greg's thread (my primary MC) is almost done and then I will be moving to polish up Julia's thread. I'm really excited to see the story go back up on the market, but I've learned a lot of things on the road to where I am right now. 
  • I'm definitely going to be sticking with Kindle Unlimited for a while. I just don't have the following or enough of a mature series to support going wide. I think I really liked the idea of it, but seeing what that move did to my short story sales is enough to convince me that I need to build a strong foundation before branching out.
  • I will also definitely be waiting until Final Hope is complete before I release Chlorophyllium 9. I've already covered this to a degree in previous episodes, but it just makes sense to finalize the whole novel before I release the novella. I'm not going to make that mistake again.
  • I might even delay publishing Chlorophyllium 9, then Final Hope, until I have at least a strong foundation for the next novel in the series. This isn't a big stretch as I have that novel partially outlined already and I know what purpose it will serve in the overarching series.
  • I'll have to watch how things go as I get closer and modify my strategy accordingly.
    • That's one of the great things about the shifting Indie culture and weighing what is working vs. what isn't. There are so many great voices to listen to and get input from. It truly is an amazing community to be a part of.

A Tough Week

As I mentioned earlier, it was a tough week for me. You see, we moved to the country about 2 years ago and we don't have a few of the conveniences we were used to back in Utah. One of those conveniences we gave up was access to a public sewer system. That's right, we have a septic tank, and this weekend things came to a head when I heard the burbley-gurbelies bubbling up in the lawn. I guess the sprinklers stopped working and the last tank in the system had filled up with water that would normally be pumped out into the field. Yikes!

Afraid that we might get some back-flow into the house, I tried my best to get things working again. I attempted to siphon off water out of the tank, I tried messing with the electrical breaker. No dice. I really hoped it wasn't the septic pump.

Yeah, it was the pump... $475 later, we once again have a working septic system. But, as luck would have it, just a few hours after that issue was fixed, I got home and noticed that one side of the house was practically boiling. It seemed like one of the A/C units wasn't working.

I went outside to take a look and there were several bites in the thermostat control wire leading into the unit. What could possibly do such a thing? Bunnies... Yeah, those crazy North-Central Texas rabbits do some crazy stuff. So, determined to try to fix it myself and save some money, I headed to the hardware store for a spool of wire I could use to splice in. I picked up some electrical tape and some other doodads, (hey... I'm no electrician or plumber... what can I say?) and then got home and replaced the wiring. The unit tried to fire up, but it just wasn't turning the fan over. Sheesh! Defeated, I asked my wife to call an HVAC company to come out and take a look. $189 later, we once again have functioning A/C. I guess one of the capacitors had died and a second was on its way out. 

Can't a guy get a break?!

I can't help but think how those two expenses could be at least two professional-looking covers for books. Or maybe a round of edits. It's tough. But this is just part of owning a house and I'm not the only one to get slammed out of the blue with one issue after another... But, despite all the trouble and the frustration this last week brought, I still managed to meet my writing goal. That's huge! There was ample opportunity, from the moment I discovered the septic was having issues, to toss out an excuse and give up.

I've also been playing with the Mac Mini I bought a few months back when I saw a really good deal on eBay. I've used a Mac for work in the past and I never bothered to play with any of the creative features it included. I mean, it was a work machine and I worked the dickens out of it... But I've really been enjoying messing around with it and I even turned off my Windows tower for the entire weekend. That's why I've got new podcast intro and outro music tracks!

I also had the opportunity to work on a creative project with my wife, Tara, and it was an awesome experience. We've been dealing with a fair amount of stress for a while now. I'll be honest, this move has been tough on us at times. But sitting down and working on this project was amazing. We talked and laughed and worked together to create something. It's funny how things that take some effort can actually recharge your batteries far more than sitting and trying to relax after a long, hard day.

Podcast News

Of course, I mentioned the new Intro and Outro music tracks I created, but I'm already thinking the out track might be a little long and info-heavy. I tried to include information on how to contact me and interact with the podcast community as it grows. I know I don't have a big following yet, but I guess I was trying to anticipate a future need. 

I think it might be best to record several similar-sounding out-tracks and then alternate them from week to week. One week you might be encouraged to hit me up on Twitter, while another week might be a plug to join the Facebook group. It's just a thought for now, so let me know what you think.

I also set up the Patreon page I mentioned last week. I know, I know... I said I didn't have time. But then I thought about it and I wanted to make sure noone took patreon.com/huntingthemuse. Okay, yeah, that's probably silly... I just didn't want to be that guy. I honestly just put it out there for a part of the journey I'm hoping this podcast takes. I didn't mention the financial hardships we encountered this week in any way to garner sympathy or push supporting the podcast. I hope you believe me! Setting up the Patreon page was just something I did earlier in the week and I was rather proud of doing it.

There's still so much I don't know when it comes to Patreon. I mean, I need to figure out what kind of content, incentives, and bonuses I could create to reward the donation tiers. So, yeah, this isn't a push for you to donate money. (I know what the outtro says, but that was just me trying to create an episode feel that sounds the same now as it will in the future when I have several more episodes under my belt. Okay, I'll leave that dead horse alone for now.)

Doing It.

Are you doing it?

Turning dreams into reality is hard work.

Yes, it can be harder for some than it seems like it is for others, but we have to stop comparing. The truth is, we don't know the entire story. And even for those to whom success seems to come so easily, perhaps we don't see the agony they face when they try to duplicate that selfsame success.

It isn't about how easy or hard the journey is. It's about putting one foot in front of the other. It's about moving forward, even when you don't feel like it. It's about learning from your mistakes and redoubling your effort.

Goals vs. Dreams

I came across a great post written by Hugh Howey (a well-known Indie author) in 2014. It's all about the difference between goals and dreams and he does a bit of introspection with his own success. It's just the sort of navel-gazing post that I think a lot of writers would benefit from reading; because Hugh has been there and he's done it. It took a lot of hard work and sometimes you need to examine that road and keep a level head about it.

You see, goals require work, but they can help you achieve your dreams. Some dreams require more than just goal fulfillment, though. They require outside interaction.

For example, your goal might be to write 10 books in the next 10 years. Your dream might be that you will be able to retire rich, write when you want to, and have the love and adoration of fans worldwide. You can do the work, but realizing the dream requires many things that are out of your control.

  • How well do fans connect with your writing?
  • Despite your best efforts, are potential readers finding your books?
  • What market constraints are you up against?
An example for those of you who aren't interested in pursuing a writing career:
Are you wanting to capture your family's stories?

  • You might have a timeline requirement.
    • Aging family members.
    • It can be hard to track down old records, etc.
  • How do you take control of your desire to write?
    • What goals can you make to help you achieve the outcome you desire?
    • Do you make time for your writing hobby, or do you dream of writing... someday?
Do you only dream about finding the quiet and solitude you need in order to sit down and write?

Following Through

“I have made up my mind. I will strive to finish my novel and submit it to publishers or agents within the year. I must dedicate myself as I have never before - this means that I must ultimately face my many insecurities… It is true that my story may not succeed in being the Great American Novel, or even find itself on a single bestsellers list.” --R. Brady Frost, A journal entry August, 2003.

It's 2016. That journal entry was written 13 years ago... What happened?
I failed to follow through. Failing to follow through equates to empty dreams...

I was in the active duty military when I wrote that journal entry and I had a lot on my plate. While the military took its pound of flesh, I was also working my way through a full-time course load for my bachelor's degree. As time wore on, my passion for the project died.

I look back now and I see the project for what it was, a juvenile endeavor, and it probably wouldn't have done well, but finishing would have been a huge start. By not following through, I set myself on a downward spiral where I lost faith in my abilities and gave up on my passion.

The military was both very great and very hard on me in different ways. Things didn't necessarily get any easier for me when I got out of the service like I thought they would. In some ways, they got harder as I had to face things that I'd long pushed under the rug.

Excuses are the enemy of follow-through.

I'm not going to get overly deep into my personal hardships or distractions because there's only one thing you need to know. Excuses are the enemy of follow-through. Follow-through is required to meet your writing goals. It's very seldom that your dreams will come true if you don't have a healthy relationship between your goals and your ability to work towards them. 

Don't count on your fairy godmother. You have to fight for the dreams that are important. While things might not always be under your direct control, you usually do have a significant level of influence on how they turn out. You have to keep trying. Keep reaching for those dreams.

Hedging Your Expectations...

It also helps to keep your dreams somewhat realistic. You can dream of winning the lottery, but (generally) short of investing more money than you'll feasibly stand to gain, your odds are not very good. It's still fun to play sometimes, but your expectations have to be in line with reality.

In the end, what matters most is...
Are you DOING IT?
Are your day-to-day actions in line with your goals and dreams? If you need to make a change, what can you do to help reinforce your efforts?

When it comes to writing and creating art, there is very little use in guilt or shame in having failed in the past. Look, that journal entry from thirteen years ago is a constant reminder of my past failures, of how sure I was of being able to finish a project and latch onto a writing career. I knew that immediate success probably wasn't going to happen but, even knowing that, I failed to finish my project. I can't allow that to hold me down. I can't let a failure in the past dictate the rest of my journey.

It's important to get back on your feet and keep pressing forward. Keep creating. Keep telling the stories that only you can tell.

And now, for this week's writing prompts.

What you'll find below is a series of creative writing prompts to help get you through your week. There are no rules as to how you should use them, but I recommend taking your muse's hand; wherever she may lead you.

Whether you find yourself writing a descriptive scene or dialogue, a poem or prose, or anything else (even if it seems entirely unrelated to the prompt), you have won. Happy writing, and may you find success in hunting your muse this week. 

1. The Steamsmith's Apprentice

You’ve been working on your mechanical wings for months, but when your test flight doesn’t go as planned, you crash into an attractive bystander. You notice right away how kind their eyes look as they help you to your feet. When they proceed to gather the scattered parts of your contraption, doing more harm than good with their clumsy hands, you decide to let them help as best they can. After all, chances are you’ll have to start from scratch anyway.

2. Save the Child

On August 9th, 1945, the second of two atomic bombs strikes Japan. This time the target is set on Nagasaki, a ship-building town where an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 people will die at around 11:02 AM. In a horrifying race against the clock, you’ve been sent back in time to save just one of them, a small child who holds the genetic key that will unlock a cure to the disease that threatens to consume us all.

3. The Road to Nowhere

In Alaska there once existed plans to build a bridge. It was a very expensive bridge ($398 million by some estimates), one that would connect the town of Ketchikan to a small airport on the island of Gravina. When federal funds were shifted to natural disaster relief, the bridge project fell through. Or did it? With funds already allocated to road construction, crews worked to build the road. Now the Road to Nowhere ends where the bridge to Gravina would have once begun. Though, it is often said that if you stand at the edge of that vacant road in the dead of night and stare out into the fog and mist, you can hear the sounds of traffic.

4. Just a Touch of Cyberpunk

In his book, Neuromancer (1984), William Gibson coined the term, “cyberspace.” (Though he also used it, to lesser fanfare, in a 1982 short story, “Burning Chrome.”) Since then, the magic of computers and the notion of an interconnected grid has lost much of its luster. For many of us, it has become the expected norm.
Think of something you do on the computer, your smartphone, or any other electronic device as a part of your normal day-to-day activities. Now take that action and make it magical by adding a touch of cyberpunk. How will you visualize traveling the information superhighway? Will you get entangled in the sticky web of Social Media? What is it like to encapsulate how very integrated into the system we’ve all become?

5. A Modern Tribe

Take a look at the world from where you are in this moment. Do you see convenience and excess? Now imagine the infrastructure crumbling around you. Something has happened, be it natural disaster, man-made pandemic, meteorite impact, or something else. All you have is a group of your most trusted friends and family members. All you know is that you’ve got to get out of the city with your tribe as fast as you can. Take us through that tribulation.

6. The Magic Touch

Have you ever felt an unexpected spark of magic in a touch? After a man in a shabby trench coat stumbles into you on the street before disappearing into the crowd, you can’t help but feel… different. Now it seems that every time you make physical contact with someone, they instantly feel connected to you on some intimate, trusting level. How do you use this new power? Give us a try-fail cycle (An instance when your best intentions don’t work out the way you hoped they would.) on your way to mastering your new ability.

7. A Shoebox in the Attic

You’re cleaning out the clutter in your attic when you find an old shoebox. By the layers of dust, you imagine it’s been tucked into the shadows of the remote corner for decades. You carefully pull it into the light and open the cover. What you see surprises you.

I hope you've enjoyed this week's episode and creative writing prompts.

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