Monday, May 18, 2015

Happiness and Tiny Journals

In December I happened to find this tiny little journal. I've tried keeping journals before, but they always seemed to take up too much time, or I would have some days that seemed boring and not worth remembering, and so I'd set it aside and forget all about it after writing for a week or two. But this little journal gives you enough space for a sentence a day, for five years. That's a lot of journaling.

Happiness is rolling down a hill on a sunny day.
I don't know much about the happiness project,  but I do know that making little changes over time is easier than trying to make a huge change. I wanted to keep a journal, and I wanted to be more positive. If I don't work on it, I turn into a major Eeyore. One sentence a day isn't a huge commitment, so I picked this journal up.

Writing in it every day took some getting used to, but I left it out where I'd see it, and I finally got into the habit. Some days are boring, but when you only write a sentence, it's no big deal. Other days I wish I could use up the whole page. I've kept track of some great things, both big and small, and also some scary things, both big and small, and some things that have angered me, or made me sad. When I have no idea what to write, I think about one good thing that happened that day. Am I happier? I think so. I definitely haven't felt Eeyore-ish. And even when big scary sad things have happened, the journal has helped me realize that they don't last forever. Best of all, when I look through it years from now, I'll know exactly when my kiddo graduated from Pre-K, or made a soccer goal, or when I had a bad day or a great day, and I'll know when I received the ARC of my latest book, or sold a short story, or went on vacation. Even just a line or two should be enough to bring up more details of the memory.

So if you've been struggling to keep a journal, start with a line or two a day. The days--and the memories--will add up quickly.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Rejection Game

When I started writing and submitting, I was hungry to see my stories published. I followed the advice to send stories to new markets as soon as they came back. I wrote several short stories and sent them out once they had gone through revisions.

Then I sold some stories. Yay! I kept submitting. I kept writing. I published a novel through World Weaver Press. I published three novels on my own. I blogged. I became the correspondent for the Odyssey Writing Workshop blog. I wrote more fiction. In other words, I got busy. And I was no longer a new writer. I had published some stuff. That initial hunger wasn't there. Sometimes stories came back and then... I didn't send them out for a while. When I finally got around to finding markets for the stories, I experienced doubt. Maybe the stories weren't good enough. Maybe they shouldn't see the light of day. I didn't always submit them.

I realized that by not sending them out again immediately, I was allowing the dreaded inner editor too much free rein. It's similar to when I write rough drafts. I have to write rather quickly, or I begin doubting the story. I have to write fast enough that the inner editor can't keep up, and I have to submit faster than the little bastard, too.

Somebody in one of my writing groups mentioned rewarding herself after so many rejections. A form rejection was X number of points, and a person was Y number of points. So I came up with my own system. After I reached certain points, I rewarded myself with little prizes, like a couple of new songs on iTunes, or a small tube of hand lotion I really like. I started at the beginning of the year, and I've already racked up 14 personal rejections and 18 not-so-personal rejections. I submit far more often now than I did at the end of last year. And best of all, the inner editor is blessedly silent, and that hunger to submit stories has returned.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Guest Post with Josh Vogt on the Parallels Between Writing and Fitness

I'd like to welcome Josh Vogt to the blog. His debut novel, Forge of Ashes, is currently available for preorder and comes out next month. He's on the blog today to talk about the intersection of fitness and writing.

At first glance, writing and physical fitness may seem like polar opposite pursuits. After all, writing has you sitting in at your desk or in a coffee shop for hours on end, days at a time, moving little more than your fingers—which, I can tell you, doesn’t burn nearly as much calories as I’d like. Trying to be active and healthy, however, involves getting off your duff and often making with this thing called “sweating,” be it through running, lifting weights, downward dog poses, flipping massive tires, or anything else that forces your body to go into survival mode and punish you with immobilizing soreness the next morning.

How could these two things have anything in common? Actually, you’d be surprised. Let’s go down a brief list, shall we?

1. Dedication
Both writing and fitness require you to, y’know, do something! If you don’t actually sit down and write, the words don’t get on the page. If you don’t actually get off the couch, you won’t get any stronger. These are simple realities. People often try to shortcut fitness efforts with diet pills, fad exercise machines, or endless reading of fitness forums. People will talk about the great novel idea they have or spend all their time reading books on how to write without ever putting their knowledge into action. But if you aren’t dedicated to getting the work done, then guess what the results are going to be?

2. Planning
If you want to succeed in either area, having a plan is critical. Going at either writing or fitness haphazardly, without any clear goals or steps to take will quickly leave you floundering, discouraged, and unaware if you’re even making any real progress. For fitness, having an established training and eating plan is going to greatly increase your chances of reaching your goals, be it weight loss, strength gains, mileage boosts, or races won. For writing, having a word count goal, draft deadline, or even an overarching business plan for your career can give you greater focus and keep you on track. Winging it rarely works in the long-term.

3. Perseverance
Times get tough. We fail. We get rejected. We hit points where we want to give up and go back to the status quo. But the hard truth is if we quit trying, then we’ll never succeed. Getting a finished draft? Getting published? Finishing a race? Hitting a new max lift? None of that would happen if we stopped part way. Succeeding means pushing through the obstacles and overcoming the temptation to walk away because it feels too difficult. Sure, we can have off days, or let ourselves rest and recuperate for a time after a setback—but then it’s time to re-engage and keep striving ahead.

4. Personal
Remember that, in the end, the right approach to writing or fitness is the one that works best for you. Your writing skill and style is unique. So is your body and health needs. So are the definitions of success you hold to in each area. Don’t just jump into the latest fitness fad. Find the activities or sports you truly enjoy. Find the eating protocol you can stick with for the long haul. Find the writing tools and techniques that work best for you. Find the writing community that supports your dreams and goals. Your way is your way, no matter what anyone else tries to tell (or sell) you.

Lastly, I’ll note that working on being more physically fit can actually help boost your writing in itself. It can drive more blood flow to the brain, increase energy levels and focus, and show how much you’re capable of when you set your mind to conquering a goal.

Want to learn more about the junction where writing and fitness meet? Check out the Write Strong blog post series, which covers a wide array of fitness topics and has more than a few guest posts from writers all over the country and the world, discussing their approaches to a healthier lifestyle alongside their writing pursuits.


Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.