I Have a Secret

Taken at the Denver Chalk Art Festival, June 2012

All good writers and creative-type people need a secret that drives them. The secret should push them to write more, write with superior quality, and write with a theme of hope in all of their WIPs, or even their journal. So far my secret allows me to accomplish all of the above and more.

  1. My secret wakes me up at 5:30 a.m.  Normally, I am an 8 a.m. riser or, more specifically, someone who rolls out of bed, texts something like “god mrning” to my hubby (who has already left for work), and sits on the couch, nursing my cup of coffee with the news on mute because I don’t like noise in the morning. Lately, I have been bright eyed and bushy tailed way before the hubby. So I poke him in the arm until he wakes up. Okay, so the 5:30 a.m. wake-up call isn’t good for everyone.
  2. My secret makes me go to bed at 8 p.m. I still need my 9 hours of sleep despite my early rising habits.
  3. My secret makes me eat healthier (or at least try to). I have consumed a lot more fruits and veggies because of my secret.
  4. My secret makes me more creative. I built a piece of furniture yesterday. Okay, I put together already assembled parts of a completely built piece of furniture. Oh, okay, I held the pieces while my hubby put together the piece of furniture.
  5. My secret makes me cry. Sometimes my secret is so overwhelming that all I can do is cry out to Jesus, asking him to hold me.
  6. My secret makes me laugh. I laugh even when no one else is around and I’m standing in the hamburger aisle at the grocery store, and then someone comes into the same aisle, and I laugh even harder.
  7. My secret makes me read my Bible more. Confession time: I am not a daily Bible reader. I never have been. I am not even a daily devotional reader. But my secret might turn me into one!
  8. My secret makes me love my husband even more. I made him a pan of homemade brownies the other day and called him at work “just because.” Seriously, I love that guy.
  9. My secret makes me exercise more. And not just because I would be the first person to die in The Hunger Games.
  10. My secret is my life, my light, and my joy!

Do you see now why every writer needs a secret? Your secret can be different than mine, but it needs to make you a better person. All good (or even bad) secrets do just that. So your challenge for this next week is to find yourself a secret―one that will push you harder toward your writing goals.

P.S. Some of you already know my secret. Please don’t say anything. 🙂 For the rest of you—guess away. The big secret reveal will take place on my Facebook fan page on Wednesday, June 13.

Q4U: Do you have any secrets that motivate you? If so, what are they? KIDDING! How have they made you a better person? A stronger writer?

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How I Learned to Beat Writer’s Block

Image Credit: Studio-Annika / http://www.istockphoto.com/user_view.php?id=773765My first year as a soon-to-be-published author was nothing less than a baptism of fire.

When I received my contract to write How To Do Everything with HTML, I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into.

Oh, I knew I was going to write a computer book.

What I didn’t know was that the whole process would be done at a pace that bordered on insane.

Because technology changes so quickly, computer books are produced on a much faster timetable than other books. Otherwise, they can be obsolete before they ever hit bookstore shelves. The ink on my contract had barely dried when my editor e-mailed me and asked me to develop a chapter delivery schedule.

I had 20 weeks to write a 600+ page book.

If that weren’t stressful enough, I discovered that the entire writing, editing, rewrite, and proofing process would take place simultaneously.

It went something like this: For week number one, I had to write my first chapter. That included more than just writing the text. I also had to develop the HTML code. And I had to design and create all my own illustrations. After I turned in chapter one, the next week I turned my attention to the second chapter.

Like chapter one, I had to write the text, code, and illustrations. But I also had an additional task.

I had to incorporate tech edits for chapter one.

The publisher had graciously hired a technical editor who went through my HTML code and found all the bugs. Then he kicked the file back to me so that I could fix it. Thus, in the second week I had to write a 20-30 page chapter, create the computer code, design and produce my own illustrations, and incorporate the tech edits from chapter one.

Then things got even more challenging.

By about the fifth week I began to receive copy edits. So now my weekly workload involved writing a new chapter, developing the HTML code, designing and creating my own illustrations, incorporating tech edits from previous chapters, and reviewing copy edits from previous chapters.

I didn’t think it could get any worse.

It did.

About three quarters of the way through the project, page proofs began to come in, chapter by chapter. So in the last month or so, every week I had to write a new chapter, develop code, design illustrations, fix bugs, review copy edits, and correct page proofs.

It was like running down a railroad track with a mountain on one side, a cliff on the other and a locomotive breathing down my neck.

By the time I reviewed my last page proof, I felt like I’d just finished the writer’s version of the Ironman triathlon. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I sent off that final file.

A sinking feeling followed that sigh of relief.

I was ready for a long rest, but that would have to wait. About halfway through the project I’d suggested an idea for a follow-up book on Cascading Style Sheets (a related language that works hand-in-hand with HTML). The publisher liked the idea, gave me a new contract, and told me to get started right away.

For another 20 weeks, I kept running down that railroad track.

It was an exhausting process, but I’m thankful that my first books were produced this way. The schedule was brutal, particularly for a brand new writer. But I learned a valuable lesson.

I learned that I never need to let writer’s block defeat me and that I can produce consistently every week. There were many days when I didn’t feel like writing. However, because of the breakneck pace and tight production schedule, I didn’t have time to wallow in self-pity or give in to writer’s block.

I had to produce.

If I gave in to writer’s block, then the next week I would have twice as much work.

And so I wrote.

For me, writing two computer books in the space of nine months was like boot camp. The publisher put me through the wringer.

But in the process, I learned how to deal with writer’s block.

I sit down and write.

Do you struggle with writer’s block? Or have you developed a way to deal with it?

Just do (aka write) it!

When I was a teen, I had a habit of using the words “I’ll try” often. In my teenage mind, saying this was non-committal and got me out of stuff.

Mom: “Krista, clean your room.”

Krista: “Okay, I’ll try to get it done tonight.”

If I didn’t… oh, well. I tried. Just got busy and wasn’t able to finish. Shucks….

I remember at one point, my to-be-husband and I were talking about something (I don’t recall what now) and I responded with the reply, “Well, I guess I’ll try.”

It is his response that I DO remember.

“Don’t try, Krista. Just do it.”

I then realized how much my “I’ll try” excuse was just that. A big honkin’ excuse for mediocrity. A way to not feel so bad when I didn’t succeed. Because at least I tried, right?

Now don’t get me wrong. Trying is a GOOD THING. Too many people drag their feet and never TRY something because they fear failure or are just too dadgum lazy.

But that wasn’t me. My trying was only an excuse.

I’ve realized lately that “trying” has crept into my writing. “I’ll try to get some writing time in…” and then time just floats away like a helium balloon you give your kid outside and expect them to actually NOT let go of. At the end of the day, little writing done, I will look back and say, “Whoops. Well, I tried. I’ll try again tomorrow.”

At some point, if we’re going to be serious writers, we have to do more than just try. We have to glue ourselves to the chair, duct tape our wrists to the keyboard, and just WRITE.

If you were running a business (which if you are a writer, YOU ARE!) would you tell your customer, “Well, I tried to _________ but just got busy. Maybe tomorrow…?”

There will always be distractions. Other things to do. Kids to take care of. And sometimes those things DO take priority.

My youngest of four daughters has spent almost the last year in the hospital, and after several failed open heart surgeries and three very long months of waiting, she received a heart transplant in April. She’s been in the hospital 4 times again since May after her first 10 month hospital stay. Um, priority? YES. I wrote VERY little this past year.

But even as crazy as my life is now with meds 4 times a day, vitals to take, a Gtube to feed through, oxygen to manage, and a billion and one doctor’s visits, if I’m gonna be serious about this writing thing, I gotta stop just trying to write.

I have to just do it.

Because she’s home, and if I don’t get back to it now, I might as well quit. And quitting is NOT an option.

Tips for “Just doing it”

Enlist the help of your family. That’s what I have done. When my hubby is home, he will take over for an hour or two so I can hunker down at the computer.

Take advantage of even the little times. A few weeks ago, between physical therapy and transplant clinic appointments, Annabelle and I parked ourselves in Panera near the hospital. She napped while Mommy wrote for an hour! I wrote maybe 500 words, but it was something. And that something counts!

Set a schedule. SO many people do this successfully. I’m not one of those thus far, but I’m working toward it! Having a set time to write not only makes you honor your writing commitment like a professional, but it also helps you to act the part of a time managing business professional too.

Set goals. Some have a daily word count goal. Others have a weekly goal, or maybe even a month goal. Still others just have a goal related to time, say, spending an hour a day. Or maybe you’re editing and it’s to edit a chapter a day. Whatever your pleasure, set a goal, high enough that you have to work at it, but not too high that it’s unattainable. (i.e. no 100 words a week… but no 100,000 words a week either!!)

How do you carve out your writing time? Any tips to making yourself “just do it” even when life could easily take over? What are some excuses YOU have made?