Report Card Time

Another month has passed – where did the time go? It sure has been a busy one. By the middle of the month, I thought I had lost what little bit of insanity that I had over asking Towanna to be part of this. (Oi vey- what was I thinking?)  But dang it, her style of organization, her ability to set realistic goals and her patience actually works for me and that lead to me getting more work done this month then I have in over a year. Just think – people say there is no such thing as miracles.

At the beginning of this month, Towanna and I discussed how on the last day of each month that we would both post to ourblogs about our progress throughout the month. This is to be a joint endeavor – with appropriate references for each post. Now that it is the last day of October 2011 – here it is.

We feel the most important thing we have accomplished this month was taking 10 giant steps backwards (in my case, 10 giant rolls), taking a deep breath then getting organized. I am a pantsers all the way – go, go, go- then have to search high and low later for what I need. Towanna is the type that gets organized early and remains that way. For three or four weeks in September, we both worked in a semi- unorganized manner (which I loved at the time.) Then I became the energizer bunny – I kept going and going and going with no end in sight. Towanna just about pulled her hair out as I kept pushing her with more thoughts, ideas, and things we needed to do. She admits now that she thought the energizer bunny had become rechargeable and that I had an extra one around. Finally, Towanna had had enough. She told me it was time to be a bit organized – and organized we got. While I haven’t admitted to her (so please no one tell her), I actually enjoy the newfound organization.

The next thing we did was to set realistic goals. We now have my goals, her goals, and our goals. All my life, I have always put my disability to the side and tried to do everything just like the average person could. In the case of my writing, I tried to be like Stephen King, Elizabeth Bear, or Tad Williams. I have always set extremely high goals for myself and was never getting anything accomplished. Then I either would be freaked out or get depressed over it. Towanna helped me realize that while I can become just as good of writer as the BNA’s, my avenue of approach had to be different. Different approach – same result. Over the course of a few weeks, I noticed that Towanna was beginning to grow quiet. When I ask her what was wrong, it was as if I opened a floodgate to her feelings. She told me that she was already in need of a vacation. When I realized what I was doing to not only her but to myself, I agreed to step back and relook at everything. What I didn’t know is that during her quiet times, she was observing our days and making notes (always watch out for the quiet ones.) She did some research into goal setting then we had a nice long talk – well, she did the talking; I did the listening (at first.) In the end, we both worked at setting more reasonable goals.

Towanna will tell you that I was like the energizer bunny. I kept picking up speed without looking back – like the energizer bunny on meth. She often called me a bear that became my nickname. I know now when she talks to Bear or uses the BICHOK that I need to look at what I am doing. It wasn’t uncommon for me to come up with new ideas and projects on a daily basis, adding to the long list of “to do” things. Over the last twenty years, I became consumed with the idea I must write so many words a day or I would never be published. I worried so much about how many words I was writing a day that I didn’t begin to get any fair amount written. I was driving her insane over it (I had already driven myself insane over it.) One day, Towanna gave me a challenge – to write without thinking of word count – just for one day to get BICHOK and write. The next day, I got up and did just that. I actually got more words typed that morning then I had in the pass week. She encouraged me to do the same thing the next time. I did and again was met with success. I began to enjoy the newfound success I was having. We have dubbed it “free writing.” It has been a hard habit to break – that of having no word count per day. I am not perfect at it but I am slowly getting the hang of it. I am a work in progress (WIP).

This is not to say that I am the only one on this team that over extends themselves (hmmm, and she fussed at me for doing the same thing?) Towanna is notorious about taking on more than she should, without communicating what all is going on or how it is affecting her. She had a very hectic real life then adds on to it by becoming my co-writer. All the demands of her real time along with all the demands I was making of her almost sent her into pure exhaustion – not to mention a strait jacket. She had been well organized and disciplined from day one. Suddenly she was forgetting things and loosing things. It wasn’t until I ask her what going on that she finally admitted that it was getting to be too much.

With organization and wise goals set (for both of us), we return to writing or the continuation of writing of our first project. I was entering a very hard to write scene that I spent days working on. With her help, we completed it. With that completed, came the close of chapter one. This is when Towanna made it know she would be honored to officially become my co-writer. I was thrilled. While she was off reviewing and adding her creativity to what I had written, I began another project (what is new about that – I have always started many projects that are now sitting waiting on me to finish.) It parallels the same universe as our first project. For those who know me – brace yourself – it is a short story. Many have suggested I write a short story but I always balked at it. I can’t believe I am actually saying this, but I am looking forward to not only writing but also the sale of a piece of short fiction.

I feel great about both projects and have faith in both Towanna and I that one day we will be published authors. Keeping in line with our goals, open and honest communication with each other, patience, and love will all contribute to our success.

Oh, btw, one last thought before I go. To Andrew – please don’t have cardiac arrest but this is the same project I have been writing the last twenty years. I will finish the novel this time around. Okay, okay, Andrew – breathe, stop laughing so hard- breathe, Andrew breathe.

On the Clock: Writing With a Disability, Part Two

Many think that those of us with disabilities sit around all day watching television and getting absolutely nothing of value done. My girlfriend has heard some comments in reference to how those with disabilities have it made because no one expects anything from us. One told her directly that I should be producing one book after another because I have all the time in the world on my hands to do what I want to do. Well, all I have to say to that is – you know what assuming does.

Yes, I am on disability. Yes, I do not work outside my home. However, my day is structured from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. It takes my mother and father both to handle my cares. I have a team of maids that come in to clean. I have doctors’ appointments, therapy appointments and other things that must be done for my health. Then on top of that, I have my shower, eating, haircuts, shopping and other errands to be done. In order for me to get what I need/want, my parents to get what they need/want; everyone and thing in my life is strictly regimented. However, it doesn’t mean every moment of every day remains that way.

There has been more than one occasion I have gotten BICHOK when something would come up and my plans change. Part of the problem is that when life throws me a curve ball and changes my routine, it quashes my momentum. When this happens, it often takes me up to several weeks to get back on track. Some may assume that it is me just being stubborn but it is a side effect of my disability.

Right now, I can do that without facing any major consequences, but once Towanna and I sign our book contract, that will change. There will be deadlines, word counts, rewrites, book signings, book readings and other “non-writing” things to take care of. On top of that, I will have our next project or two in the works. On top of that I will have curve balls of life and my regular routine to contend with. This will be one hell of a challenge but yet I have to keep a close eye on things so both of my worlds – writing and real time – will have things rolling in one manner or another.

Just recently, my mom took a two week vacation. Within a week of her coming back my father took his fall vacation. For almost a month, nothing seemed to be within the boundaries of my regular routine. I was off centered, off my writing schedule while writing a difficult scene; my
girlfriend was not feeling well and other things were happening. At first, I left all this affect me. Then Towanna said enough was enough – time to get writing. When I made up my excuses, she just looked at me; not saying a word. Then she said, “Excuses are like assholes everyone has them no one wants to smell them.” Then she showed me all the times I could have wrote but didn’t. Once we got me a bit organized, I was back to writing and accomplishing what I should have had all along.

Another thing that has been on my mind is that when life throws me that curveball, I never know how I am going to react. Sometimes I find myself handling it with ease and other times, I lose focus. It worries me how this will play out once our publisher throws the rewrites at me, etc. Towanna said not to worry because it is not time to worry about such things but well, I am a worry wart and I come by it honestly.

I sometimes wonder about me and writing. Then a voice deep inside me, one that won’t leave me alone, tells me that while my verbal speech might be broken, my written speech is bursting to get out. The inner voice tends to be much like Towanna – no drama, no excuses, no bull shit allowed.

Another thing, I wished to discuss in this post is “obsessiveness.” A small part of my disability is that I am OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.) I tend to want everything perfect – well organized without any faults to it. I place unfair demands not only on myself but on Towanna and others around me. The more my OCD comes out the less I get accomplished. Towanna quietly accepted the perfectionist in me for quite a while. Then she put her foot down and helped me ease up on myself. It seems I get a lot more done now.  It took a while to get that “delicate balance” going in my life. It took a lot of trails and errors for me to get to where I was demanding of myself but yet didn’t set impossible goals.

Towanna has helped me get more organized with real life things so that I can do my writing.  She is one tough gal when it comes to excuses and procrastination. With her help, I keep on track with my writing. My real time is well taken care of as well. When life throws us off track, she is there keeping me going showing me the way.

My advice for this post is this: It doesn’t matter if you are new to writing or are a successful published writer, BICHOB as much as you can. It doesn’t have to be a set time frame every day. For those of you that are disabled don’t let your disability completely dictate your life. Do what needs to be done to cover your needs and wants, and then make time to write. It took a few swift kicks in my ass by my co-author to get me to see this, and if I can do it anyone can.

Hey, Mom, Look a Reststop! Can We Stop, Please?

Recently, I read an articles by John Scalzi titled Writing: Find the Time or Don’t. Eesh – what a swift kick in the ass that was for me. He spoke of how people are always asking him about “finding time to write.” He tells it like it is in his reply. Basically he said that if a person wants to write – come hell or high water they will find the time.

John Scalzi’s article sent me into reflection time. I won’t say that his article made me realize that I have been playing as a hobbyist the last twenty years when it comes to my writing. I have always known that, just refuse to admit it.  I have always known I have been procrastinating and making excuses. To be honest, I have been downright lazy. I have come up with some humdinger of excuses as to not be able to take the time and write.

I have always told myself I wanted to write more than anything else in the world. At times, I actually believed myself. It wasn’t until six years ago, that I realized, I had a serious craving to be published but yet the excuses continued. Currently, I have seven projects on the go. Some have outlines – some don’t. NONE are completed. I should have at least one project published by now but they all sit in my “to finish” folder on my desktop.

I have made some serious errors in judgment when it came to writing over the last twenty years. The biggest one is the belief that my writing will mature into grand books, that are published, without working my ass off to get it that way. As my girlfriend has told me several times – “Wade, a garden won’t grow unless you plant the darn crops. Same goes with your writing – it won’t grow unless you plant and weed through your creative ideas you have.” Towanna has kicked my ass more than once when it comes to my excuses and laziness and I believe she will do it again in a heartbeat if I give her a reason to.

Everyone has worries, concerns and downright phobias in life. One of my biggest fears is that one day; I will lose my ability to voice through words. I have always thought that I that my creativity, words and talent would be there no matter what. Life is too short to believe in such things. Recently, I was told – AICFHOK (ass in chair fucking hands on keyboard.) I mentioned that to my girlfriend and she has not let me forget it. I know when she says AICFHOK that I need to reexamine myself and get my ass moving.

I have always played at getting published one day. Now I am serious about it. I write daily – something, anything – regardless if I want to or not. When I get lazy, I remember the Scalzi’s words and the words of my girlfriend. I am not published by now and that is my own fault – no one else to blame but me.

So to anyone who may read this blog – from writers with many books published to the writer preparing his/her first book for publication, my advice to you will be quoted from John Scalzi’s blog that I mentioned above. “But if you want to be a writer, than be a writer, for god’s sake. It’s not that hard, and it doesn’t require that much effort on a day to day basis. Find the time or make the time. Sit down, shut up and put your words together. Work at it and keep working at it. And if you need inspiration, think of yourself on your deathbed saying “well, at least I watched a lot of TV.” If saying such a thing as your life ebbs away fills you with existential horror, well, then. I think you know what to do.”

Don’t waste twenty years of your life like I have done with mine. Sit down and write – daily. If you have a hurdle (no matter what it is) to get over and can’t, then find a blog, a writer or someone to help you get past it. Don’t listen to your own self-doubts, don’t allow excuses to slow you down, and don’t let fears prevent you from doing what you know is deep down inside you waiting for its escape. AICHOK and work on it on a daily basis and who knows – you just might shock a publisher and finish ahead of time.

Going Into the Mine, Don’t Forget Your Dictionary: Writing With a Disability, Part One

Today, I am going to focus on the beginning of a series of blogs about writing with a disability. For those who are do not know me, I have Cerebral Palsy (I will shorten it to CP for now on). Basically, CP is brain damage. It affects physical and language developments. There are three kinds of CP: 1. walking, 2. mild and 3. severe.  My CP falls under the second category. I am wheelchair bound due to the physical part of CP. When I was in junior high, I realized that my while my CP affected some of my language development it didn’t affect my creativity. To me, being slow at writing didn’t mean I couldn’t write. I know that I will always need some help to smooth over my writing, but I know without a doubt, that I will be a successful writer.

Being disabled, presents daily challenges that most people take for granted – from basic cares to taking a walk or shopping. Being a writer is no different. While every writer has their own method, each and every one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. I have come to realize that having CP (or any other disability) adds an additional weakness. I work hard at not allowing my disability to slow my dream down. Recently, with the help of my co-writer, I have come to realize that I am my own writer and while I may not be able to do things like other writers do, I can effectively get my projects written. It will just take some slight modifications on my part and a wealth of accepting them.

This week I am going to focus on word counts. For the past decade, it has been drilled into me that the publishing business is all about word count — type, type, type then faster, faster, faster.  This world is filled with heavy demands of deadlines, guest appearance and readings. It is a hurry up and wait environment.  Most of which, even with my disability, I can meet. However, I need slight modifications and special assistance in some areas. Publishers have good reasons for their demands – to many to list at this time. I fully understand them but with an understanding agent and editor, I know, without a doubt, I will successfully publish many projects.

In my case, however, word counts are my ruination due to the fact, each and every time I place “word count” to my daily goals, I end up stressed out and having to stop writing for the session. Sometimes this leads to the end of my work day because it takes me a while to remove the stress that I put on myself. Towanna is helping me let go of all the unfair demands I place on myself and to set more reasonable goals and expectations. A decade long habit of demanding a word count daily, weekly, and monthly is going to be a damn hard habit to break.

Even as I work on pieces of writing where word count does not matter, such as blogging, I keep looking at my processor’s word count because of my uncontrollable urge to know what progress I have or have not made. Sometimes, I irritate myself over such actions. I try work through its’ rapture and not to allow it to consume me or affect my work but that is often easier said than done.

So to those of you out there, with or without disabilities, that has the desire or need to write, my suggestion to you is to read a lot of blogs on how other writers succeed in this craft then work your ass off to find what works for you. Don’t let a disability or anything else in life keep you from your dream of writing – just modify what is necessary then get BICHOK (butt in chair hands on keyboard) and march through the mines proudly to produce the piece of art that you know is deep inside of you waiting to get out.

Going Camping? Map Vs Mapless

There are three camps in writing: writers who are outliners and writers who are pantsers (writers who write by seat by their pants).  Then there are writers like me that want the best of both camps. For years, I have tried to fit into both camps, and every time I was less than successful in major ways. I felt I had to have the rigidness of the outline as well as the freedom of free writing.

My girlfriend recently pointed out that I write better when I free write – no outline, no word count — nothing. Just get my butt in the chair, fingers on keyboard, and type.  I agree with her but only to a point. I often find myself in a dilemma because without an outline, the degree of my tangents soar is extremely high. See, I know my mind tends to want to follow many tangents – both reasonable and unreasonable ones. Without an outline my mind tends to do its own thing but not to the severity as without an outline.

Over the course of time, I have come to realize that every writer has their own method of writing. No one way is right; nor is one way wrong. I have also learned that it is better to be a non-conformist then to try to fit into a group that isn’t right for me.

I have finally learned “my style” of writing. I feel my writing has started to gel faster since I have given up trying to do things like everyone else does them.  Yes, I know that agents and editors require outlines but for now, writing then outlining is working a lot better for me so that is how I will be getting the job done. When I am done writing, I will do a macro-outline for my agent and publisher.

By finding “my style” of writing, I am a lot less stressed and the amount of time I spend worrying has decreased. Also, I am getting a lot more writing accomplished. I feel a lot better about myself and my chosen profession now.

Riding on the Hell-spawned Double-decker Bus, Getting Out of Dodge

I am on the Hell-spawned Double-Decker Bus, and I am heading out of Hell with my soul intact.  I haven’t felt this excited about finishing a chapter in a long time.  There is nothing like it.  The closest thing that I can compare it to is watching the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in over hundred years.

I started this particular chapter back in 2009, and I put it away when I had reached the part about killing the teenager because I felt my skills weren’t ready for it.  I also wasn’t ready to delve into my dark side of my subconscious.  At the time, I thought if I looked into the dark abyss too long it would change me irreversibly.  I didn’t want that to occur.

I tried to stay away from the fascinating abyss in every project since I heard its siren call.  No matter how hard I tried, I always found myself at its edge.  I took the plunge when the current project called and with my girlfriend’s help.  That gamble paid off twofold for me.

By finishing the chapter, it has given me the confidence to write the book the way it should be written.  It also showed that I should believe in myself as a writer and should follow my instincts more often without second-guessing them every chance I get.

Wanted: A New God That Is Nicer

Writing can be a very rewarding and worthwhile career but it tends to bring out the fears and struggles that sometimes plague a writer. I am currently writing a scene in my novel that I am finding extremely difficult to get through. I am killing off a character – a teenage girl. While the teenager is a minor character, her death will play a major role in the personality of the main character. The struggles have led to major frustrations and procrastination on my part and to the frustration of my significant other.

To be honest, if I had my druthers, I would gloss over or even skip her death but I can’t. I want my readers as sympathetic to my main character as I can achieve. I want and need the reader to grasp the full personality he has, because it plays a major role in the novel.

For the last two weeks, I have been working on this. For four days, I repeated the same part of scene four times but with different words. My girlfriend gave me a swift kick in the ass  (as the saying goes) and told me enough was enough with the procrastination and that somehow motivated me to move on. I refuse to give up. I will find the right words and finish this part of my novel.

It will be at least a year until my beta readers receive their copies of the manuscript. I am not sure if I have the patience to wait that long to see if I have succeeded in this endeavor. I know my girlfriend is and will always be a tough critic. I am hoping that if it passes her reviews then my beta readers and others will also approve.