Today another Clickworks Press author discusses Kickstarter for authors (and illustrators), the value of fairy tales, and writing in community.
Keep reading: Bill Hoard
Happy new year, everyone! I’m trying an experiment and I’d love to have you join me in it.
I’ve designed a different kind of page-a-day planner that helps you overview your schedule and tasks while also cultivating gratitude, good habits, and human connection. I really built it for myself, but I think a lot of you would find it useful as well, and I’m interested in hearing how it works and how I can make the next one even better.
Here’s a link: The Wise Frog 2016 Planner
If you’re anything like me, you care a lot about productivity and setting good habits, but you also don’t want to be a task-oriented productivity drone. There’s a form of “success” that totally misses the point of life.
For me last year was very productive (published a few books, started Clickworks Press, published a couple other peoples’ books, etc.) but a lot of that came at the expense of time and attention I could have given my two-year-old girl, my wife, my close friends, and some non-book-related roles and responsibilities I have.
I basically spent a year completely obsessed with many layers of writing and publishing and selling stories, and while I think it was worth it as a short-term price for a long-term investment in my writing career, it’s not the pattern I really want my life to take.
Here’s where the experiment comes in.
I designed The Wise Frog 2016 Planner as a way to balance my day-to-day tasks and goals with what’s really important to me at a deeper level. I’m a systems guy, and it’s easy for me to make very streamlined to-do lists and productivity systems that keep me rushing toward the next release, next improvement, next success.
In fact, I can get so good at making a checked-off to-do feel like the win that I routinely put off playing with my lovely daughter or looking into my wife’s gorgeous eyes because I’m doing some dumb bit of coding or finalizing a table of contents or something. That is not the win.
So the Wise Frog is here to help. It’s a page-a-day planner with that is friendly and imperfect and has spots for my schedule, my big goals for the day, and also for gratitude, storytelling, tracking my human connections, working on habits, and jotting down ideas.
Even after one day of use I’m loving it. It’s built to not only plan ahead but also to note down a few key points of what my day was like so that over time I can look back and see patterns in my mood and activities and what I cared about. The spaces are small and focused and, as an obsessive, fiddly, over-achieving sort, it’s oddly refreshing to be able to fill them out in seconds (really to have to fill them out in seconds; there’s no room for an essay), and I’m already surprised at what a rich picture of my life they paint in just a few quick words.
It’s also crazy how much it has already changed my day. Today, unlike yesterday, I exercised and meditated and took time to reflect on how much I loved baking pretend pies with my daughter, all thanks to this little white day planner with a silly off-center frog on the cover.
So anyway, take a look, or share it with the people you know who might get value from something like this, and if you get one let me know how you used it and what kind of difference it made for you. (And, of course, how you’d make it better.) I look forward to hearing your stories.
Here’s the link again, where you can get a more detailed look: The Wise Frog 2016 Planner
Here’s to a brilliant new year! Thanks for all your love and support and interest. You guys are the best!
Lately I’ve been wrestling with a dilemma. The more immersed I get in doing a high volume of high-quality, interesting work, the more I totally forget to come up for air and share the latest news with anyone else who might be interested.
I’ll look up and three weeks went by and not a peep from me. And I’ll realize I should make a blog post or a friendly note to my mailing list or…you know, a Facebook post or something.
I feel like I’m alone in this—I mean, who has to make a discipline of Facebook in this day and age?—but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you’re never the only person who has a certain problem.
I’m a systems guy, and this dilemma has been simmering in the back of my mind for a while, and I think I’ve finally developed a bit of a possible approach. I’ve been getting to the point where I feel an increasing need to wrangle or systematize my author platform a bit, given that I have presences all over the place and am intermittent on all of them and need to update several of them to, for example, indicate that I’ve published more than two things, or that Hubris Towers exists.
Here’s the approach that’s brewing for how to develop my author platform a little more strategically:
What about the rest of you? For the authors and bloggers and brilliant social media-istas (?) out there, how do you keep track of what needs to be kept up to date? Do you keep lists of ideas for what to write about next? Do you write on a schedule or as your whimsy takes you?
My friend Kate‘s husband Daniel just got accepted in to Yale Divinity School. Which is awesome! And really expensive. Please join me in helping them out at gofundme.com/helpdng. Even if you can’t give, sharing this message to help spread the word is huge help.
They’re a very promising young author and a very promising young theologian, respectively, and every dollar we can give now is multiple dollars of loans + interest they don’t have to pay back later, meaning we will have unleashed two great talents upon the artistic and intellectual world that much sooner.
I want skillful writers and thinkers to be able to do what they do in the world without having to be held back by massive debts and financial obstacles. If you agree, please join me in giving at gofundme.com/helpdng.
For great justice!
Happy Spring! I’m back after a delicious Easter weekend where my community friends had not one but two homemade feasts–Eggs Benedict brunch on Saturday and four-course lamb dinner on Sunday. Illnesses and complications notwithstanding, we took the time to get together, share delicious food, and enjoy the new life God has given us. It is good to live in community.
I also enjoyed a bit of a break from my blog-per-weekday challenge. But I missed you. It’s fun to be back.
Now, on to business. My March goals post turned out to be revolutionary. It gave me so much clarity and motivation. I’m definitely making this a regular practice.
March Goals + Accomplishments
If you want to get a mid-month progress update, plus friendly notes, early access, and exclusive deals, sign up for my email list.
I write fun, infrequent notes and work hard to make it something you’ll genuinely enjoy. Which seems to be working—so far my open and click rates are around triple the industry average, so people seem to be having fun.
No pressure, obviously. But I bet you’ll like it. (Here’s one I sent out recently, if you want an idea of what you’ll be getting.)
A couple months ago I took on a more modest version of Bookshelf Battle’s self-imposed daily post challenge. Instead of a post every day for the rest of 2015, I committed to a post every weekday through the end of March. I’m a day away from completing it, having successfully avoided yetis, aliens, etc., and I’ve learned a lot.
Mostly this is variants on “daily blogging takes too much of my writing-related time and energy.” Here are some specific angles.
Conclusions and Next Steps
Broadly speaking, I think it’s really clear that it’s worth having a blog and updating it regularly, and (given the particulars of my case), that it’s not worth posting to it every day. I’m proud of myself for following through on my challenge to myself, and I think it’s more worthwhile early on in the life of a blog just to skip over the sparse, navel-gazy, getting-your-bearings phase. But I’m not planning to stick with daily posts.
Right now I’m leaning toward posting once or twice a week. This provides a bit of flexibility (to avoid wasting time when I have nothing to say) but also a bit of structure (because sometimes the good ideas don’t come until you sit and try for a while). It also maintains enough frequency to give you readers something worth coming back to with some regularity.
I’m also looking forward to branching out a bit into other topics like worldbuilding, games and game design, productivity, the many splendors of Baltimore, communal living, Christianity and the invisible world, food, language, and fun tidbits and background about my stories and their settings, characters, etc.
One question that’s still up in the air is whether I should pick regular days—say, Tuesdays and Fridays instead of just “two posts a week.” Could feel a little restrictive (though publishing as scheduled posts can help with that) but also sets up a dependable rhythm for readers. I’m probably going to go more freeform at least for April and see how that works out. But I’d love your thoughts.
How frequently would you like to see me posting? Does it matter if it’s regularly on the same days? Any broad topics or specific subjects you’d like to see more (or less) of?
I’m not a firm believer in writer’s block, but I have my tough writing days just like anyone else. Today’s one of them. Or rather, it’s becoming one because I’m forcing myself to work on Frobisher instead of Hubris Towers. Writing Hubris Towers is currently about like eating kettle corn. Once I’ve written a few paragraphs, I can’t help but write a few more. Frobisher, on the other hand, is getting so long and clever and funny and deep that it’s starting to feel like there’s no way I can bring it to a satisfactory fulfillment, and now I’m getting toward the end where I really need to figure out the extra-clever solutions to the very interesting problems I’ve been raising.
And the thing is, if I were to just sit down and write some stuff, it would probably be, on average, just as good as all the other stuff I’ve written, which is currently intimidating the hell out of me. Worst case scenario, it wouldn’t be, and I could delete it and write some more. It’s not like I’m facing bears or razor guns or something.
But I managed to get myself into a mindset that’s more focused, I guess, on trying to figure it all out in advance rather than just writing it and giving myself more raw word count to shape into something exceptional. I’m finding every excuse and non-essential task I can find to avoid sitting down and actually writing.
It doesn’t help that my monthly target is looming, with 7,500 words left to write in the next few days (when I usually shoot for 5,000 per week).
I got out of it by making my goal easier. 7,500 more this month is too much to think about. Let’s start by adding 1,000 today. No, still intimidating. Maybe 500. Better, but that’s like half an hour unless I hit a groove, which isn’t looking likely. 250? Not at all scary, but what would I write? That’s still nearly a page and the whole point is I’m not sure what’s next
Bear in mind, of course, that if I were to just look at the page I’d probably manage to figure out what’s next. But so far I’m just arguing with myself while working on other things.
So I set a goal of 50 words. Seriously. That’s three minutes, one if I’m fast, five if I’m being ridiculous.
And it worked! Or at least it’s working. I’ve gotten moving on the writing, and as usual once I get out of my head and start spilling story it gets the flow going and soon I don’t want to stop.
There are a few reasons this works so well:
So that’s what I’m dealing with today. Really am excited to see what I come up with for Frobisher now that the story’s open and growing again, though. In other news, I’m nearing completion on the paperback layout for The Stone and the Song. So much exciting in so little time! Stay tuned.
One of these days I’ll probably get around to writing my own rationale for pursuing (primarily) independent publishing rather than traditional publishing contracts, but in the meantime I want to whet your appetite with this.
Kate Colby is a talented writer and I’ve been growing to greatly appreciate not only her writing but also her professionalism and strategic thinking about fiction as a full-time career. In this post, she lays out the questions, research, and reasons that ultimately led her to indie publishing, and many of them parallel my own.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Does self-publishing still carry a stigma as far as you’re concerned? As a reader do you pay attention to whether a book was self-published?
What do you do when your passion for one worthwhile goal edges out your progress on another worthwhile goal?
But Hubris Towers has proven incredibly fun to write, with the result that so far this month I’ve written a whole lot of Hubris Towers and a modest amount of Frobisher. More precisely, I’ve hit a third of my minimum goal for Frobisher, and maybe ten times my stretch goal for Hubris Towers.
That raises an interesting question: Is it more valuable to make fast progress or to stick with the plan?
My guess is most people would vote for fast progress, assuming it’s good-quality progress on a worthwhile task. And there’s a good argument to be made for that. If each of several tasks (say, work on 3 different drafts) will be contributing to your overall goals (say, publishing lots of books), then it stands to reason that the more quantity you can achieve, the sooner you’ll reach your overall goals. If you can write 100 pages of one book instead of 20 of the other, why not go for the easy win, right?
But if you’re dealing with a well-designed long-term strategy I’m going to argue for sticking with the plan. That’s right. Given my March plans, I’d ultimately rather hit 12,000+ words on Frobisher and 500 words on Hubris Towers than 4,000 words on Frobisher and 12,000+ on Hubris Towers, even though it’s adding less to my total word count, and even though it seriously could mean not reaching some of my publishing and financial goals as quickly.
Because in the long term, patterns matter.
Right now any time I choose to write the quick, easy, fun story over the tricky, deep (but fun) story, I’m training myself to do the work that appeals to me in the moment, not the work that is strategically valuable. And I’m training myself to act like the goals and deadlines I set for myself don’t matter.
Every writing project—really any important project you love—is going to hit a point where it gets tricky, where the ideas aren’t flowing as smoothly or the next steps aren’t as much fun as they used to be. A new project or a new system or a quick win can feel like a delightful escape, like you’re finally making real progress again and your work is fun and meaningful.
But every new project will, at some point, start feeling tricky and unglamorous too, and the real key to success lies in that decision point: push through and finish, or start developing the next fun, interesting idea?
In the end I’d rather know that I can keep the promises that I set and that no matter how tricky or complicated or unglamorous a goal feels in the moment, I can reliably push through and deliver anyway.
In the end, I’d rather keep finishing important projects than keep reaching the unglamorous halfway point of fun new ideas.
Today is looking really busy. I may not get much time to write, but if I do I want to put it into building word count on books.
But that’s boring, so let’s make it a challenge. My starting goals for the day are:
Minimum: 500 words
I’ll check in in Comments with how it went. If you want to join me in the challenge, reply in comments with your own goal(s) and let’s spur one another on. To victory!