Category: discipline

Six Months Later

Maybe I should just publish my personal journal. Everyone wants to know the thoughts of a privileged white man, right?

I’m a planner. Wasn’t always. When I was younger, due to age and circumstance I just did things without a ton of thought toward long-term goals. Back then, I didn’t have any. I was too busy surviving.

Over the past few years, though, I’ve become increasingly concerned with my and my wife’s futures. I’m in a better position to feel that concern, as our day-to-day survival isn’t as suspect as it once was. So, last year, when I was going through a particular vicious bout with existential dread, she and I sat down and made a three-year plan. In three years, I wanted to be making enough money off of my writing to do it full time, in addition to my wife’s day job, should I wish.

It’s been just over six months since I enacted the first parts of the plan (this website, a set writing schedule). How’s it coming?

Writing Discipline

On a good day, when I have a plan for what I want to write, I can knock out 1,000 words in an hour. This is good, because I usually only have an hour to write in the morning. Most days aren’t good days. That said, I only count my word count when it applies to my fiction writing. I don’t count the words written for this blog.

To maintain the presence I know is imperative to success online, I’ve set a personal record for most on-time updates, publishing two blogs per week (Tuesday and Friday morning, if you haven’t kept track) and one vignette per month. This is my 45th blog post in six months (or thereabouts), which isn’t super impressive on its own but means I’ve been disciplined and my planning ahead for many of these has been successful.

Two years ago I wrapped up my first novel, last year I wrote a novella (still being posted a chapter at a time at Wattpad, for those interested), and this year I’ve done the planning for and gotten a few thousand words into my next novel, in addition to focusing more on short stories. I’ve completed five short stories (between 1,500 and 4,500 words a piece) plus the number of vignettes I’ve done.

In terms of pure productivity (and considering the circumstances of, well, gestures broadly), I’ve done a good job of maintaining a certain pace. There have been lulls (I’m in one now!), but that’ll happen in the best of times, which these certainly are not.

Publishing

Because my focus has been on actual writing, attempts to get published haven’t been as successful. In fact, it’s been mostly rejections. Earlier in the year I was longlisted for a flash fiction contest, but wasn’t selected. Otherwise, it’s been a only rejections for short stories and in querying my novel.

Sounds dire, I know, but the numbers don’t play out in my favor. I’ve only attempted to publish short stories twice this year, which isn’t a large enough sample size to draw any conclusions.

The same goes with querying. I realized late last year that I may have been querying my novel to the wrong agents in the wrong genre. I’ve always thought of it as a science fiction story, but the more research I did into genre classification and the more feedback I got from people, the more I realized it falls into literary fiction with speculative elements. In other words, strictly in terms of language and style and not quality it has more in common with David Mitchell or Haruki Murakami than it does Ray Bradbury or Orson Scott Card. This required a change in approach. I researched a different set of agents and started to query again, all of which has led to more rejections, but it’s once again a fairly small sample size (five rejections of eight submissions, so far).

I’ve also dabbled in self-publishing. Obviously, my vignettes are self-published on this website, but I’ve also used Wattpad to start publishing my novella and a couple of short stories. And that brings me to…

Readership

My main goal over the next few years is to build an audience. How’s that coming? Here’s a graph that shows page views for this website:

Looks like the stock market somewhere around March 20th…

I know that’s kind of small and hard to read, but I essentially average between 0-3 page views per day. Those big spikes are the times I or someone I know has promoted the site on social media. In other words, I have a few dedicated readers that will check in on me frequently, otherwise most people only visit when I explicitly ask.

That’s to be expected.

I don’t really like promoting myself on social media. I really don’t like social media, in general, but that’s a subject for a rant sometime. And the best way to build your readership is to continually remind people that you exist. I had a three-pronged plan for building an audience:

  1. Online Community: Join and participate in forums, build relationships with other aspirings, and generally be active enough that people find my work organically.
  2. Writer’s Groups: Again, this is about being active. Get out in the world, join some writer’s groups, give and get feedback, and hope that the community gravitates toward my work.
  3. Social Media: Use Facebook, Twitter, and Wattpad to promote myself and drive people toward this site.

The online community, especially around Wattpad, seemed to show a little bit of promise, but I haven’t been consistent in hanging around the forums lately. It takes a lot of time that I don’t really have. Social media is good for short-term spikes, especially if I’m sharing something provocative, but not long-term readers. Writer’s groups was put to bed with Covid-19.

Promoting yourself is difficult, but necessary. How else will anyone find you?

What’s Next?

Initially, I had a plan to self-publish my novella by next month. I was going to use it as a test run in hiring and editor, going through the process for Kindle Direct Publishing, all that fun stuff. Considering I’m publishing it chapter-by-chapter on Wattpad right now, that plan has changed. I may still do all that, but it’ll be a different timeline.

I’d also like to self-publish a collection of short stories this year. By December I’ll have 12 vignettes published on this site that I’ll collect, put with a bunch of new short stories and visuals, and put online. Then I’ll swap out the vignettes for new ones every month until I’ve collected enough to do another collection.

Otherwise, I’ll continue trying to build an audience through participating in the writer’s community and (maybe) promoting myself on social media. Hell, maybe one day I’ll write something actually good and it’ll catch fire.

Then I’ll have it made in the shade.

Discipline Through Schedules

I’ve always had trouble with discipline. When I was a kid, this took the form of my temper. I’d fly off the handle at the smallest perceived slights. Then my father enrolled me in martial arts and I calmed down. But that was more akin to learning patience than discipline.

So my lack of discipline turned to my work. I’ve always said I want to be a writer, but I was cocky and inexperienced and thought that art could only be created when in a certain mood. This took various forms, usually something melodramatic and emo. But this wasn’t discipline. In fact, it was the opposite of discipline. Undiscipline? Indiscipline? If there is a word, I won’t be looking it up.

I’ve always bounced around between jobs a lot the past few years. This has led to long stretches of unemployment where I would have to occupy myself. That’s why, recently, I’ve begun to write schedules that plan out my day.

If I am lucky enough to be working a 40-hour week, the logic goes like this: There are 24 hours in a day. Say you’re one of those people lucky enough to get eight full hours of sleep per night, that leaves 16 hours per day. Take two hours of that for breakfast/lunch/dinner. 14 hours left. Commute to and from work? Say another hour. 13 hours left. Have to shower and get ready? It takes me a half hour, but some people might need a full hour. 12 hours left. Work eight hours per day? You’ve still got four hours. I know that if I’m focused, I can hit my word count goals daily in an hour. Another hour of preparation to make sure I can hit my word count goals the next day and there are still two hours left in a day for me to do whatever.

Of course, I’m not working. So my day is a bit different. Personally, I tend to burn out quickly when pursuing creative endeavors, so I’m really not all that productive past two or three hours of work. I don’t have it down to a science, yet, but I’m now trying to frontload my schedule with creative stuff (as I get distracted and tired as the day goes on). Today, after breakfast, I scheduled a two-hour block to work on my latest script and do some editing of my last script, Peripheral. After that I worked out and ate lunch. Then the afternoon was dedicated to boring administrative tasks. Searching for real jobs. Completing work for a non-profit I volunteer with. Searching for agent/manager contact information. Writing this blog is the most creative endeavor I’ll allow myself.

That’s not to say inspiration doesn’t come into play. If I’m really itching to finish a scene I’ll run over time, or go back to it. But sometimes it’s better to let that scene simmer and come back to it the next day. Ease into the daily grind with something you’re excited to write instead of fighting to begin. That’s how Hemingway did it.

Writing out a schedule in hour blocks has done wonders for my productivity. If anyone out there that reads this (Mom, maybe?) needs to instill some discipline, try it out.

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