Optimism and Doubt

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If you talk to me about anything besides writing, I’m optimistic as hell.

For some reason when it comes to writing the optimism goes out the window. It doesn’t matter that I’ve written 11 books, 5 novellas, and over a hundred short stories. When I sit down in the chair to work in the morning, doubt is the first thing in my mind.

Nowhere has this been evident than in the current project. I’m in the beginning stages of it, but the feelings that I can’t write it, that writing it will take me to a really dark place, and it’s all because of the subject matter, which is to say it lightly darker than I’ve gone before.

One thing about writing horror is that the dark is my safe space. I love to watch scary movies, read scary books, and sometimes play scary video games.

But the doubt that I can’t create this story the way it needs to be written has me doubting writing it at all, which would be a travesty since I feel the idea is awesome.

I’ve told my wife this story will have me skipping some levels. I won’t just be doing things in the dark like some of my stories, they’ll be out front for the whole world to see, which is scary.

My wife told me that with the subject matter, she probably won’t be reading this one, and I’m cool with that.

I have trouble reading some extreme horror, and it’s because it don’t enjoy it. I have set books down that took me somewhere my mind didn’t want to go, and there are authors I won’t read because I don’t enjoy what they write, but some people do and that’s okay.

When it comes to optimism I have the lion’s share with the pandemic, when a family member is sick, or anything else in my personal life, but trusting my gut is harder when it involves writing a type of horror that is on the outside of what makes me comfortable to write.

Writing is about boundaries, at least for me, and knocking those boundaries down can be difficult, as can taking the story slower than I usually do. Having written three novellas in the last three months has me wanting to move quick through the story, but this one can’t be rushed.

I usually sit down, turn on Mac Freedom, set a timer for 25 minutes and write, with this one that’s been difficult, but I’ll keep going because not writing isn’t an option.

As I get past this boundary I know it will make me a better writer, and less afraid of writing out of comfort zone. This one is so far beyond my comfort zone that my optimism took a hit, but I’ll keep going.

Hope you’re all having a great week, and I’ll talk on Friday about something else.

About Progress…

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There’s a moment when you finish a project that feels extraordinary. It comes at you, wraps you in a hug, and gives you endorphin high. But that high isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

The moment is magical, but it’s also one that you shouldn’t focus on. There is still other work to be done.

When I started writing I lived for that high. I’ve written 11 novels, ten novellas, and hundreds of short stories.

I did this by focusing only on that high. Only on finishing. What I failed to learn, until recently, was that I wasn’t finished. The editing would come after the finished first draft. But for the longest time I didn’t edit, which is why I have so many novels written, but none published.

I chased the high of finishing that first draft, but I didn’t have follow through. I stopped at the gates of what I wanted and moved further away from my goals, all by ignoring what needed to be done.

In the last year and half, I learned that editing matters. Yes, I know you’re all staring at this like, “no shit!” Well, I didn’t care then. I wanted that high of getting to the next “finished” novel.

When I sat down last year, during the lock-down and stared at all that I’d accomplished, it wasn’t shit. Yes I have my short story collection, but I published that afterwards. It came as a result of this talk I had with myself. It counts, but only as me telling myself that I had to publish something before my 45th birthday.

The collection needed work and I’ve gone through a couple of more rounds of edits with it. While it’s out there, no one is reading it. I understand the reasons for this.

I haven’t pushed it as much as I should. I didn’t market it, and because of that, I’ve sold about ten copies. But I understand what I did wrong with that collection. I know what to fix when I publish something else.

All of the above came as I progressed as a writer.

I know that a book isn’t finished when the first draft is written. I understand that working on a book means editing.

There are moments when I don’t want to edit. There are many moments when the time I’m spending feels worthless.

Oftentimes submitting feels worthless, but I do it because it’s part of progress. It’s part of writing, and I have to keep writing.

We progress a little at a time. Sometimes we progress dramatically, but we must progress. We must move forward.

Enveloped by Darkness

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There is something to be said about discovering ones purpose.

It brings out thoughts of childhood, of adolescence, and early adulthood.

Memories flood in of things we thought, feelings we had for others, or ourselves. But it’s within these memories the truth comes out.

We’ve pushed those memories deep to keep them from ourselves because honestly, they’re too hard to deal with. But with hiding things from others, ourselves, and keeping them that way until a sudden realization comes about, we never truly understand who we are.

This darkness that’s enveloped me since childhood was a thing I pushed down. Something I didn’t want to see the light for a few reasons.

I grew up in a very religious community.

Living in Utah is like watching a movie about a religion and never being allowed to turn it off. Being a person who is not a member of that community is a careful dance. One can’t commit to too many things. You can’t afford to show your true colors, and you must never show any glimmer of darkness.

My darkness has been around since childhood.

It manifested every time I wanted read or watch something I wasn’t allowed to, but would sneak to watch or read. It was the times I’d stay up when I was left alone and watch Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, and whatever other show was on cable or other channels late at night.

In Tim S. Grover’s book “Relentless” he discusses the dark side and how everyone has a dark side.

I’ve listened to that book on audio at least ten times, and believed that a person’s dark side had to be a vice.

I recently had a discussion with my wife on this topic. She believed it had to be a vice as well.

But what if it’s not?

He says in the book that “what is the one thing that if people were to know it they’d look at you differently?”

Now, I believed it to be alcohol, like a vice, but I don’t feel that’s true anymore.

The one thing that I’ve kept to myself is that I like all these dark things. I like to watch a horror movie and be scared. I enjoy reading a book that scares me enough, or freaks me out enough, to toss it across the room after finishing it. I did that exact thing when I finished “The Girl Next Door” by Jack Ketchum.

There is a story in my collection where I let my mind run and what I wrote freaked me out. It was very exciting to me that I wrote something that made me afraid to share it. And that is exactly why “The Leftovers” is in my collection.

That story felt freeing.

There were things in that story that I didn’t want to write, but I felt in order to be honest about the story I had to.

Now, as I’ve apparently accepted my dark side and that I’m no longer afraid to go dark, what I write may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I don’t want to write for anyone else. I want to write what felt forbidden. Pull things from the dark recesses and put them on the page.

If you’ve read “The Leftovers” you understand what I’m talking about. If not the collection is only .99 on Kindle.

As I go back to the regularly scheduled program, I leave you with this. What is the one thing that if someone were to know it they’d look at you differently?

Use that to push yourself. I got looked at differently all my life for all the dark things I love. But it’s made me into the functioning adult I am.

Have a good weekend.

Focus is the issue

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As I sat down to write this morning I’d stop, check Twitter, and maybe go back to the story.

I’ve been doing this for the last week with every story I started.

Yes, what I said on Friday is true. When I’m not enjoying my reading material, I have trouble writing. And I must be reading within the genre I’m writing. I cannot cross the streams.

There it is in all of it’s horrible glory. I have a focus issue. I have Freedom for Mac and I’ve been neglecting using it for a number of reasons, let’s list them:

  1. I don’t want to use it because it feels like a crutch.

2. Using it feels like there’s something wrong with me.

3. I tell myself I don’t need to use it, but when I have this much trouble focusing, something has to change.

4. get interrupted by my kids a lot in the morning for various things. Then I have to stop it or let it run.

Now that they will be returning to in class instruction it will make the mornings easier, but I’ve also written with no problems while they’ve been home for the last year and a half.

It’s right now that things are a bit hectic with them going back, my wife crazy busy, and the bartending is slowing down heading into September.

There’s also one thing that has been on my mind: We’re getting a dog in the near future and planning for that in our house has been interesting. I have to fix cords, put things away and I worry about my book storage. It will be like a having a toddler in the house again.

So, focus is the issue, and the fraud police, as I stated in Friday’s post.

I only have a short story collection published, but I have a novella on submission and a short story. But as I’ve written 11 books, submitted three of them to agents, I find it hard to wonder if I’m doing something wrong.

Are my stories bad? Is there something I’m doing wrong or is my head just screwing with me?

I like to think it’s the latter, but with as many novels, novellas, and short stories I’ve submitted and received rejections, it’s a thing my brain throws at me.

I’ll keep writing because I can’t not write. Right now it’s difficult, but I will persevere, I will continue to write.

I hope you all have a good week.

I have two bartending gigs this week and while I’m masked during them, it’s starting to feel like Survivor: Pandemic Edition. Masks are rarely worn by guests and with the percentage of vaccinated in Utah, I doubt all of them are vaccinated.

But I’ll keep working because my family needs me to.

Long past doing the expected.

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I haven’t written on the blog in awhile because I’ve been getting words in the morning and I honestly haven’t felt like it.

Right now is different.

I’ve written novels in almost every genre and I’ve learned what I like, what works, and what doesn’t(for me).

We’re all different which is what I added that little bit on the end there.

I work best with an outline.

I’ve written almost 11 books and the current work with the outline has been the easiest.

Those who know me, or at least think they do, believe that I should be writing horror. I understand their reasons and they make sense until you discuss life with me.

I haven’t had that difficult of time but there have been moments in my life that sucked. We’ve all had that.

On to the unexpected.

I decided to write the current project based upon what I read growing up. Sure I read fantasy and sci-fi. But those were books I had to hide.

The books I read in public were different.

Life a meal and dessert.

The meal was always what I read in public. The dessert was what I read in private.

Now that I’ve nearly completed the first draft of the project, I see where I’ve made mistakes in other books.

I often try to hurry to the end and that’s caused many rewrites.

I’m trying not to do that with this project and as I reach the end I feel there are only a couple of people who will read it but I’m okay with that.

I feel I truly wrote this for myself.