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On screwing up easy

What are my goals in writing?

  1. Write every day
  2. Publish often
  3. Create/obtain good covers
  4. Create/obtain enticing blurbs

What are the challenges?

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Dislike of outlining and planning
  3. Family-related issues on my mind
  4. Many other time commitments & activities
  5. ?

Waking up at 5:00 AM and starting to write will probably work, if I can only make myself do it. Instead I seem to focus on everything else available to my mind, promising myself that I will somehow magically get to the writing later. By the time “later” arrives, I’m pretty damn busy with other efforts.

It’s not enough to simply say that I need to start writing in the morning. I know that already. I even do it, sometimes. Would it help to have a small, simple goal? Something like writing 100 words, total, and declaring those to be a success? Maybe. The challenge I see in that is my disbelief in the significance of small amounts of work.

I know I can complete projects when I dive into them. I also know that small steady efforts over time, while theoretically useful, tend to get interrupted in practice. I could probably check into a hotel room for a week and complete a novel in that time. In two weeks? Certainly. But can I complete a novel in an hour a day, in any time frame whatsoever? I have trouble believing in the concept. Yet I simply will not, in the foreseeable future, be able to dedicate large chunks of time to writing fiction. Conundrum. Ish.

On the bright side, I don’t really have lofty goals or aspirations regarding amounts of money or the number of readers a given work might attract. Yes, sure, it would be cool to make more money. But we do lots of things around here to make money, and I wouldn’t necessarily want to stop any of them based on any level of writing income.

This would all make more sense, as a problem, if I didn’t enjoy writing fiction. I do, though. I guess I don’t enjoy putting strictures around it…also, trying to force myself to write without believing either (a) that I will have uninterrupted writing time, or (b) that I will manage to continue writing in this bit-at-a-time fashion over days/weeks/years, is damn difficult. Given (see below) that (c) I also don’t believe the stories will be read by many people, at least in the short term…well, it’s tough. Sort of.

Talk about first-world problems. I don’t even respect this as an issue. Maybe I should? Or maybe taking it seriously is the fucking problem?

Frankly I have no idea. This morning’s work didn’t work out either. So I wrote this, mostly talking to myself, and decided partway through to post it. So I will.

Here’s the other thing. I’ve been trying all month to write short stories. But I don’t believe people will read them. Maybe five readers apiece? Total? Unless I submit them to magazines and such, and I sort of quail at the amount of work/hassle/time that involves. I don’t like that part of the business at all.

I published my most recent novel and it’s had perhaps fifty readers to date. OTOH my first novel has been downloaded, at least, more than thirty thousand times (note the 22 reviews currently on Amazon, and consider the reader-to-reviewer ratio, if you find such things interesting). It sold more copies than my latest book in its first post-release weekend back in 2012. Since the most recent book was a sequel to the first, I have to conclude that I need to improve my storytelling skills–that, or I was right originally when I didn’t think the first book needed a sequel at all. Others disagreed with me, and convinced me to write the damn thing…but they don’t appear to have purchased the sequel. Oh well; lesson learned. Except that now I really want to write the third book in the series…

Anyway. I’ve published several stories that have been read by perhaps five people–not counting readers of the story collections, of which there are more, or freebie downloads. But as for outright purchases of the stories, not counting freebies? Probably an average of five apiece. I had some pretty good success with The Secret, though, on the new-novel front…I mean, I clearly beat minimum wage on that one. And I think it might do pretty well again, if I spark some interest with a significant new release. Actually? When The Secret came out, all my books sold pretty well for a couple of months.

But I really, truly don’t believe people will buy and read my short fiction. If they ever do, it will (in my mind) be because readers found a novel or two that they liked, and then decided to read the rest of my stuff. So writing the short fiction now seems counterproductive, since I don’t have the novel-count I think I need.. Even though I (sort of) love writing short stories. I guess I loved writing ’em when people read ’em on my blog. But that was a while ago.

So screw it, I guess. Maybe I should focus on the writing I think people will read. I keep thinking that, though, and then I think that I should at least finish the stories I’ve already started…and then I freeze up. Stupid. Right? But I like the stories. I really do.

Maybe I’ll start writing now. Fiction, I mean. I guess it could happen. Somehow.

Either way, I hope you guys are having fun out there.

Published inMy Fiction


  1. Take this from someone with a damaged brain: put your writing FIRST. You don’t want to get to where I am, having to move Heaven and Earth to get a little functional time every day during which my brain is rested and fed and relaxed just right – so that I can actually write a bit.

    You are still able to do what you want. Decide to write – if that’s what you want.

    Put it in a place of honor in your life – if that is what you want.

    • David

      Yes, that appears to be the problem in a nutshell. Is writing fiction sufficiently important to me that I’ll do it?

      Well…what I want is a way to lower the threshold. I know how to write if it’s the most important thing I’m doing. But the thing is, it ain’t. Parenting is the most important thing I do around here, and the writing doesn’t come close. My born-that-way daughter, my older-but-more-recently-acquired daughter, and a mess of kids who simply need us. It would be better if they didn’t need us, for sure. But I don’t live in that world. I live in a world where even if these kids’ family issues can be brought to some sort of happy resolution, there are more kids out there trapped in a system that truly sucks.

      Right now we have six kids, and they all have needs that haven’t been met, and most of them have other people involved in their lives who, essentially, serve to complicate all that should be simple. It’s…interesting…to be legally responsible for this and that, but unfree to do what’s clearly needed. And to be required to have meetings and get buy-in from people who don’t return phone calls or email. Or show up for meetings. One of those, just yesterday, sent two strangers to the house because she wasn’t able to show up for her regular meeting this month. The first time that supposedly regular meeting had come up. Incidentally, we’ve been trying to meet with this person for weeks–but the meeting that occurred was a mandated talk-to-the-kid-in-private sort of thing. Only…

      In practice? This meant two people from CPS showed up asking for a kid who lives here. The kid had no warning. Neither did we. What did it mean? Could have meant the kid was being moved with no notice–it’s happened to this kid, exactly that way, several times. So they totally could have acted as if they were aware of that issue. Didn’t.

      But this time? The visit meant essentially nothing. They said all sorts of stuff to prove they didn’t know much about the kid or the kid’s situation, implied that what the kid wanted (and has wanted for the ridiculous number of years this kid has been in the system) was unreasonable even though it’s supposed to be the primary goal of the agency to do exactly what the kid wants, and then felt wronged that the kid yelled at them. Told them they didn’t know what they were talking about, and they couldn’t help, and they were stupid. Well…ahem. Then these folks–who were almost certainly well-intentioned–left, and we got to deal with the situation.

      Seriously. These were nice people, who clearly meant well, stepping into a mess that was not their fault in any way. But there was nothing useful they could do. The most likely end result of all that? It’s going to be even harder for us to set up a meeting that might be actually helpful. And, hey, you know what? Unannounced visit from CPS? Do you think only one of the five foster kids had a problem with that? Yeah, me either. Barrels of fun for all.

      The above isn’t the worst thing that’s happened in the foster-kid area, not even this week. It’s just the most recent. This stuff comes up all the time. We also have a teacher sending a kid home with work he can’t do at all, apparently leaving all instruction up to us, who has reacted to our questioning with a so-helpful suggestion that we should try helping him with his homework and, by the way, since we’re not real parents, she’d like us to bring a CPS caseworker if we want to meet in person. Uh…no. So that was the day before yesterday. The day before that was considerably worse. I’m too mad to even talk about that one.

      How about the baking business? More or less important than writing? I don’t have a good way to decide that question. I guess it depends on the day, and the situation.

      The other stuff that happens can be allowed to slide if necessary. What I need, though, is a way to write that doesn’t make the writing so important. A way to function as a writer of fiction, in between other commitments. I’ve always been a dive-in sort of guy–but that doesn’t get me what I want, so I need to figure out how to operate another way.

      Doesn’t seem as if it should be all that difficult. I mean, it is difficult. But it sure does seem as if it shouldn’t be.

      Though, meanwhile, this morning? During my one hour of dedicated writing time, for which I wake up early, before anyone else? Three people came into my office. No emergencies. No problems. One at a time. Guess I need to explain, again, about needing to work in here. And, seriously, why are they suddenly waking up early? {8’>

  2. Forgive my insensitivity – I forgot you’re the one dealing with a passel of kids.

    I admire that you can write AT ALL under those conditions!

    And that you’re doing something that is incredibly difficult under the best of circumstances, in definitely NOT good circumstances. I’m sure this person who didn’t show up for a meeting and sent strangers isn’t the first or the last occurence of this.

    People interrupting. During your clearly stated writing time. For non-emergencies. I’m in the middle of that right now – stressed daughter getting ready to move out, even though she’s only half-baked and has a horrible sleep disorder which is just barely sort of getting under control. She drops into my office/bedroom to talk – and I value those talks, and can’t write with all the interruptions.

    You have my sympathy. And admiration that you keep wanting to/trying to write. Even well I couldn’t have coped with six – how my mother did five of us I’ll never know.

    Family meeting? ‘Respect Dad’s only free time to write unless your pants are on fire’ talk? With list of what ‘pants on fire might mean’ – let the little ones be creative, copy down everything they say, and then print it out and put it on your door only when you’re writing? Explain that each interruption costs an average of 25 minutes to recover from, so two of them, and there goes your hour? So they’d better have a better excuse than ‘I’m bored’ or ‘I can’t find X’ unless X is their insulin and…

    I don’t know. Really, I don’t know. And interruptions cost me much more than 25 minutes, and I have such a narrow window in which my brain is on. Don’t need sympathy – if anything, you’re getting mine – but I WILL tell the husband once daughter is gone that I’d like to not be disturbed. But I’ve spent all these years getting him to talk to me!


    Good luck. Good luck with the kiddies. And thanks from one concerned citizen that you’re fostering kids – it’s an amazing thing to do (even when they’re your own).

    Vent when necessary. My email address is abehrhardt [at] gmail.

    • David

      Insensitivity? You spoke truth. I like truth.

      But yes, the interruption thing is difficult–precisely because the interruptions have value. Maybe even greater value than the writing time. I love it when kids come hang out for a bit, tell me what’s on their minds, ask questions, and so forth.

      Clearly I can’t value everything above the writing and still produce lots of fiction. In theory I could do that nap-thing I used to do and reclaim bits of night-time for writing…but the current batch of kids requires way too much supervision. I can’t actually check out, even for twenty minutes, and leave them to their own devices. There’s no regular no-kids time during the day, ’cause o’ weekends when I’m the only parent available for much of the day. So, nope, not that either.

      Guess we’ll keep on keeping on, and keep trying to get better at doing more with what’s available.

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