Your Environment Affects Your Life

Earlier this week, I noticed I started playing video games in the morning. This is not something I ever used to do on weekdays. Before I moved into the tiny house, I read actual books during breakfast. After I moved, my new environment made it a little awkward to eat and read at the same time, so I’d listen to an audio book or podcast with breakfast.

Then, I moved my computer up to the loft. This is where my bed, TV and video games are. Now that I have everything in one place, more of my time is spent here. Naturally, my eating routines moved up to the loft along with my computer. Since I eat breakfast while playing video games on the weekends, my brain associated the two things and I just wanted to do it. So I did.

The good news is that I was cognizant of these things. I’ve been a lot more aware of my habits and routines recently, which makes it easier to determine where I am, what I’m doing, where my behavior needs to be fixed. I found it interesting how significantly my actions changed because of a small change in my environment.

This morning, I chose to read instead of play video games.

Writing to Solve a Problem

One of the reasons I write every day is to work things out in my mind. When I write down my thoughts about certain subjects as they come to me, it helps me look at things in a new light, and arrive at different conclusions than I might have otherwise.

For instance, I’ve been thinking about quitting my day job for a while now, and yesterday I had more thoughts about it. I’ve managed to move into a remote position, which has vastly improved my quality of life. However, I still have days where I throw my hands up and tell myself I don’t want to do this anymore.

So, I spent about an hour or so writing out my feelings, and soon I was breaking down each of my worries, coming up with solutions to each one, and creating a plan for my next steps.

The conclusion I arrived at is that things won’t be as bad as I imagine they’ll be if I quit. I have enough saved up to last me quite a while. I know that I will quit, I just haven’t decided on the date that will actually happen, though. I’m still working things out. But, I’ve realized that if I continue writing my feelings on the subject, eventually it will lead to further action.

All that to say, writing is great for dissecting and analyzing your thoughts.

Work that shit out.

Starting Up Again

Hi. My name is David Goode, and I’m a writer.

I didn’t discover my love of writing until I was 33. That was over two years ago. I’ve written nearly every day since then. 

I write every day for a number of reasons:

  1. I enjoy it.
  2. It helps me process thoughts and emotions.
  3. It helps me learn.
  4. It is rewarding.

I write fantasy novels and non-fiction articles on Medium. I am also working on a script for a video game that my incredibly talented cousin is creating. Having this spread of projects is fulfilling. Even though I get paid very little for my writing, I still find it incredibly rewarding.

A Silly Thing That Used to Hold Me Back

I don’t know why it took me so long to find my love of writing. I guess I just thought I wasn’t smart enough, and that authors were some sort of supernatural, highly intelligent beings. While many authors are quite intelligent and may have Master’s degrees in complex subjects, I’ve learned all those things are not actually a requirement for being a writer.

Some of the more complex subject matter in most novels is simply the result of the author researching that specific subject. A lot of the stuff they write about was probably unknown to them before they wrote the book. It’s not like they magically know all this stuff or specialize in every subject they write about. An author who writes a fiction book about an astrophysicist is not typically an astrophysicist themselves. Similarly, if they write a beautiful description of a cathedral, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an architect.

The author doesn’t need to know everything that the character knows. They only need to know what is relevant to the story. In others words, an author should know a little bit about a lot of different things.

The only thing an author needs to do intelligently is write, which means (among other things) having a good sense of revelation; when to reveal, and when to conceal. If you can make your readers believe that the the smart character is actually a smart character, you’ve done your job. If you can paint a beautiful portrait of the cathedral with your words, you’ve done your job. The author, and the character whose point of view they are writing from, don’t need to tell us everything they know about the universe.

My Plan For The Website

As of now, I don’t have a solid plan for the content of this website. The only rule I’ve made for myself is that I will post something new once a week.

For now, at least, I won’t:

  • have any length requirements.
  • have content requirements.

I will just write whatever is on my mind, and make it look somewhat publishable. The important thing for now is to establish a cadence. It doesn’t matter too much what I write, because no one will read it at first, anyway.

One important part of writing a good story is having proactive characters who drive the plot.

I guess with all this I’m just taking a cue from my own characters: driving the plot of my own life, and seeing where it takes me.

How about you?

Intentional Writing

Every sentence needs to have a purpose. This is from Seth Godin:

A simple editing trick:

Every sentence has a purpose. It doesn’t exist to take up space, it exists to change the reader, to move her from here to there.

This sentence, then, what’s it for?

If it doesn’t move us closer to where we seek to go, delete it.

Good words to remember whether writing fiction or non-fiction.

Move it forward, have a purpose.

The Reason No One’s Reading What You Write

Social Media Detox Project: Day 24

Because what you write isn’t good enough.

Not yet, anyway.

But that’s because you haven’t been doing it for very long, or you just don’t do it enough.

As that realization sets in, this is where most people typically stop.

“Why should I even try?” They say.

Because the other ones who succeed ask themselves that exact same question

And then they keep going.

Just shouting at people to follow you doesn’t work, you can’t pull people by a leash. If you try to do that, the leash will snap.

They have to come willingly.

What I Did Today

Exercise

Novel writing

Time with friends

Something I Read Today

“Direct marketers don’t care how many people they reach.

They care what percentage take action.

Brand marketers have trouble measuring action, so all they have to work with is reach.

If you can measure, stop worrying about big numbers when it comes to reach. Run away from the Super Bowl or a billboard on the main highway.

Small audiences are your friend, because small audiences are specific, and specific increases your percentage.” -From Seth’s Blog, Comparing % and Mass by Seth Godin

Something I Learned Today

We are all wells, but when it comes to anything, we only have a limited amount of water.

I think too many of us are wells with only a bucket’s worth full of water, which is why we burn out so easily.

A Message to the Online Writing Community

We creatives prevent ourselves from succeeding.

We put food in our bodies that drains us instead of fuels us.

We scroll for hours through endless social media feeds.

We sit on the couch and watch mindless TV.

We obsess over other peoples’ lives and tell ourselves we are not good enough.

We succumb to The Twitch and create a self-perpetuating cycle of poor decisions.

Ultimately, we hold ourselves back.


The Way We Live

Our habits build over time and inform the decisions we make each day. Our decisions inform the way we live our lives.

The way we live our lives informs what we write about and how often we write.

And time passes — minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years float by in a surreptitious bubble, unnoticed, our gaze averted by the latest trend, controversial Tweet or buzz-worthy Netflix show.

We find ourselves in the exact same place we were a year ago, struggling to find the time and energy to write.

No new ideas are revealed.

No inspiration forms.

No change has occurred.

And so, our story is abandoned and our potential is wasted.

The potential to change someone else’s life because of something we would have written vanishes.

If we only had the time.

If we only had the energy.

We didn’t try, but at least we didn’t fail.

We’ll do anything to maintain that reality. Anything to keep us safe; away from the challenge of writing the book that lies hidden beneath piles of self-doubt, apathy and conformity within the dusty attic of our minds.


Unsatisfying lives, unsatisfying stories

It’s the same with stories. If we’re reading or watching something, and there is no character change, we feel duped; like our time is wasted.

And we writers are passionate about works by other writers. If our appetite for a good story is not satiated, we don’t just feel unsatisfied by the story — we hate it!

In the same way, if we see things in our lives that we know we need to change and then do nothing, the feeling of dissatisfaction grows and, in some cases, turns into self-loathing; a dissatisfaction with our own life story.

The way to combat this is easy in theory, hard in practice.

It’s about three basic things:

1. Making plans

2. Taking actions

3. Repeating over and over.

But, before we do any of that, we must get over the hurdle of ourselves.


Not caring what naysayers say

In order to get to that point of taking actionable steps toward meaningful change, we must get over the fear of what others will think.

That fear stops us in our tracks, keeps us from moving forward and prevents us from writing something important.

We create scenarios in our head that are different from reality but have the consequence of keeping us pinned down.

I think one of the keys to creative success is posting creative content without regard for how it will be received.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t listen to others.

Constructive criticism is invaluable and helps us view our work through the eyes of another in a realistic and meaningful way.

But if the feedback we receive is not constructive in any way, it can be safely ignored. If we don’t focus on destructive criticism, it’s far easier to move forward.

We’ve got enough working against us as it is (i.e. ourselves).

The fear of what others will think leads us into the realm of excuses. Whatever reason we can conjure up to not do the work becomes our default.


Creating Excuses

The transparency created by social media can be a positive thing. On social media, we can find our tribe. We can interact with people we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. I have met many people online who I really enjoy interacting with. It is an unprecedented time in history and is truly amazing.

The problem occurs when:

  • Social media acts as a substitute for a real, physical social life rather than a complement.
  • We validate our feelings of guilt over not writing by feeding the thing that is distracting us from writing in the first place.
  • We compare ourselves to those we deem more successful.

Then the feedback loop, the cycle of negativity in our minds starts up again.

We writers create any number of excuses to not write; to avoid it; to put it on the back burner. Yet, the fact remains that writing is work, and requires a great deal of concentration in order to do well.

With social media, our concentration is impeded and excuses become far easier to make. Social media becomes our distraction from the fact that we are distracting ourselves from writing.

We make excuses and write posts about how we just can’t seem to write; we just can’t focus. Then we place that focus on social media for the next hour, and see others on their own writing journeys who also struggle, which helps us feel better about ourselves.

We can absorb the reality that there are others just like us, struggling just as we are.

Too much social media is like too much sugar: hypes us up and makes us feel good before the inevitable crash. It becomes the cause and solution to our problems.


An Obligation to Improve Ourselves

If we arm ourselves with a self-defeating attitude we reinforce the status quo, which is this:

I’m not good enough.

But the cold hard reality is this: we cannot get good at the thing if we always look for excuses to not do the thing.

Pushing through the fog inside our minds is part of the process of getting better.

And the less distracted we are, the more the fog begins to lift.

If we make positive changes within ourselves and are solid with who we are, we can share that positivity with others. Each of us has a unique worldview; we can say things in a way that no one else can.

And we should share our worldview, because the world is changing:

  • whether or not we like it.
  • while we distract ourselves and hole up inside our bubbles of safety.
  • and we have full access to what it has to offer.

If we want to succeed, if we want to reach others, we must work harder than we ever have before.

We must be committed to doing the Deep Work and allow it to inspire us.

We must be willing to make ourselves vulnerable.

We must make sacrifices.

But…

We must also take care of ourselves.

We must fill the well with that which nourishes our bodies, minds and souls.

Eat well. Exercise. Make sleep a priority.

Use social media responsibly.

If You Do That…

You can handle it.

You have support.

Don’t feel guilty. Many of these behaviors are programmed into us and are difficult to alter…but not as difficult as you think.

It’s never too late. Change is possible.

Our ideas, our world views are worth spreading.

Our ideas percolate, reverberate, circulate.

And duplicate.

For better or worse.

If we each took a single step forward, the ripples would flood the world.


The Point

In a perfect world every writer would have a finished book.

But that’s not the case, because writing is hard.

On the long and winding road we will inevitably encounter challenges from time to time. And sometimes, stepping away is the right move. But if we remedy every single challenge with distraction rather than perseverance we rob ourselves of the opportunity to improve. Not only that, we rob others of the chance to experience what we can really do.

So…what can you really do?

What are you truly capable of?

If you are fearful or hesitant about sharing your writing or ideas in general, take some time to evaluate why.

What are you afraid of?

Do those fears clash with who you really are?

We need your writing.

We need you.

Don’t underestimate what you are capable of.

Don’t sell yourself short.

And…

Write.

Even if no one ever reads it.

If you need some more encouragement read these:

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? By Seth Godin

Minimalism, Success, and the Curious Writing Habit of George R.R. Martin by James Clear

And listen to this podcast:

The Ground Up Show

They’ve changed my perspective about everything.

NaNoWriMo and The Blog

This year, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row, but this time I won. For those that don’t know NaNoWriMo is National Novel Riding Month, where you write 50K words in a month. I had a good time with it. I had a productive solo writing retreat up near Mt. Rainier and was able to finish a rough first draft.

So, I feel good about that.

Unfortunately, due to this and other reasons, my blog has fallen by the way side.

For the past few months, I have been trying to maintain consistent, weekly blog posts. The past few weeks I have failed to do that. Part of the reason was because of NaNoWriMo, but the other reason is something I have yet to uncover. I’m hoping that, by writing about it, maybe I’ll figure it out.

But let me first circle back to Nano.

For some, NaNoWriMo is a real struggle. They have a hard time getting words on the page each day. It’s true that writing isn’t easy. It can be a grueling struggle at times.

I didn’t have that much trouble during Nano. This can be attributed to the following things:

Outlining

I spent a solid month outlining before I started writing the book, so, for the most part, the words flowed onto the page. I didn’t have to sit and think about what to write. I already knew the main purpose of each scene so I worked to get to that point. It made the writing process much easier. And because I already knew what my endpoint was, it freed me up to think about and sprinkle in new details here and there. It made for much more efficient writing sessions.

Growing Confidence

Another reason I can get words on the page is because slowly, but surely, I am gaining confidence in myself and my abilities. Part of this comes from the fact that I take care of myself. I value myself. Therefore, I value the work I do. While I’m working on a book I don’t think about whether or not I’m writing cliches or how my work will be received or even if the words make complete sense. I’m not worried about how the work will be viewed. I’m just doing the work, knowing that it is a continual growth process. When I come back around for the second draft, I can clean things up–and by then, I’ll have grown even more (hopefully).

Routine

As I have said before, my writing routine is the most important part of my process. I already write every day, so doing NaNoWriMo was just a way to sprinkle in a little extra fun. There’s something satisfying about updating your word count each day and watching the bars on the graph get bigger. Because of this, I didn’t put a bunch of extra pressure on myself to finish. That’s not to say I didn’t make it a priority–quite the opposite, in fact. I made sure to not do any recreational activities until I spent time writing. The important thing is that I showed up every day to work toward reaching 50K, which was made easier because it was already part of my routine.

The Struggle Is Real

If you don’t feel confident in your writing it may be time to step back. Try to evaluate other parts of your life. How do you view yourself? Do you consider yourself a healthy individual? How much time do you spend doing things that could be considered time-wasters? Are you learning new things every day?

If your answers are not positive then it might be time to start thinking about how you treat yourself.

Are you trying?

This is something I have to ask myself regularly, especially as it pertains to my blogging habits. I would like to increase the quality of my posts, but it takes time to get good.

So I had to sit and think about why my blogging was falling off my radar.

One might think that the obvious reason is because I was hard working on my Nano novel (and I was), but the two main reasons are:

I had run out of things to talk about.

I had too many things to talk about.

Let me explain.

I Had Run Out of Things to Talk About

I needed to think about the purpose of this blog. The main themes consist of my experiences in self-improvement and writing.

So, why was I running out of things to talk about? Had I run out of self-improvement insight? Surely there was more to learn.

Was it that my growth has become stagnant? This was certainly a possibility.  I feel like I’ve hit a plateau in my exercise routines and need to push myself harder, for instance.

So I feel that stagnation played a part.

Another reason is that there are other things besides self-improvement that I am interested in writing about.

Too Many Things to Talk About

The other side of the coin is that I have a whole lot of drafts covering many different topics. I have started writing them, but none of them have enough meat to provide anything meaningful yet.

They are ideas in development that require more research, study and asking around. And that takes time. I don’t want to just whip out an ill-informed post about an important topic.

I need to do more research (and likely peer review) to ensure a good post.

In Short

That being said, I think I need to somehow create a balance with this blog, containing light topics I can post each week, mixed in with weightier topics that take more time and research.

So, looking back at these two things: the main reason Nano was not a huge struggle for me is because I had an outline. On the flip side, I do not have much of an outline, if any, when I blog. I have a large number of drafts of different topic ideas, but none of them are outlined.

The conclusion I have come to is that I need to outline what I blog about, perhaps find some templates online. I also need to develop a better outline for my life in general. I have been experimenting with scheduling my weekend days down to the hour, and seeing if I can get more done that day. I am going to keep that up and see how it goes. It will probably be worth it for me to look into various goal setting and reward systems, as well.

Why a Routine is the Most Important Thing for Your Writing

Writing a book is not easy.

It is made especially hard when you throw in all the external forces, the obligations and responsibilities that push you away from the act of writing itself. These may be family-related obligations or work responsibilities that keep you working long hours.

If you have one or many of these external forces in your life, then developing a routine for writing is probably not a high priority.

But if it’s something you’ve thought about and just haven’t yet implemented in your life, then I encourage you to take few minutes and read on.

I am convinced that establishing a routine is the single most important thing you can do if you want to not only finish your book, but make the process of writing it (at least a little bit) easier.

A Personal Anecdote

I will use myself as an example, otherwise I’ll feel like I’m just talking at you.

I write every day. Each morning, I set my alarm for the same time. In order to make sure that I get my ass out of bed, I set my phone on the other side of the room. I have done this nearly every day for a year. So the act of just sitting down to write comes easily.

In the morning, when I sit down to write, I don’t know the exact words that are about to appear. A vague idea or a well-outlined scene may already exist, but either way, once I get started, the ideas begin to flow and the words flock to the page.

The ideas flow easier, because my brain is more focused on the task at hand, which is writing, and not thinking about whether or not what I’m writing is actually good.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenging days, but since my writing is a routine, I feel better equipped to handle them. If I miss a day, I know there is still tomorrow (and for the record, I have only missed three days in the last year).

When you wrap your writing in a routine, those hard days tend to come less. This is because, if you keep it up, the routine will become a habit. And when a thing becomes a habit you don’t think about the thing and whether or not you are going to do the thing. You just do the thing.

Sometimes, the struggle to just sit down and write is real. Finding the motivation can be hard. Holding on to the motivation is even harder. That’s because motivation is fleeting.

The thing is, if you can turn your writing into a routine your life will be made easier. Only writing when you feel inspired will make it harder to finish that book. And if you do, it will take you a lifetime. Instead, evaluate how you spend each day and then set aside specific time reserved for writing. It doesn’t matter when. It could be early morning, late at night or on your lunch break.

Think first about your routine. A routine creates a rhythm.

The Rhythm of Routine

The finest athletes have routines in order to zero in on the task at hand; a batter adjust his gloves right before he steps up to the plate; a basketball player spins the ball and dribbles it the same number of time before each free throw. These seemingly insignificant routines help them to focus. Their brain zeroes in on the task itself, rather than worrying about whether or not they’ll succeed at the task. They focus on execution rather than results; the journey as opposed to the destination.

Similarly, if you develop a routine to encapsulate your writing in, then each time you sit down to write, you are able to just write, rather than thinking about writing.

The Rhythm of Writing

The physical act of writing has a rhythm to it; a sort of vibration that lives beneath our perception. This vibration is inherent not just in the quality of the writing, but also in the quantity. That is to say, how often one writes.

This is especially true for new writers; the frequency is more important than the quality. A new writer has a distinct lack of quality, because they lack experience, so the only thing left is quantity.

In short, what I’m trying to say is that how often you write is more important than what you write, especially if you are just getting started. The easiest way to write with a great amount of frequency is to wrap your wrapping in a routine.

Evaluate, Then Conquer

I don’t know what your life is like, dear readers, but I encourage you to evaluate how you spend your time. Is there something that is preventing you from writing at the same time every day? Is it external or internal?

Is it simply that you need to cut back on Netflix or video game time?

Or is it something more than that, like family obligations, long hours at work?

Identify the activities you engage in each day. Can any be shifted around or cut entirely?

Determine which activities are beneficial to your life. For the ones that aren’t, think about ways to cut back on the amount of time you spend doing them.

A routine is your greatest ally in this journey as a writer.

Consider developing it.

Training for Failure

My voice does not carry far throughout the sprawling fields of the Internet. It is a small one; a tiny ripple in a vast ocean; an insignificant pebble in a valley surrounded by mountains. As a result, every time I Tweet or blog something, I don’t exactly receive overwhelming amounts of likes, follows, accolades, etc.

Logically, I know that this is because I have not waded around in these platforms long enough to make a splash. It is also because I am still new to blogging and learning to develop my mess of thoughts into something organized and cohesive that I can then communicate to whoever decides to click and read. I am at a point in my author platform development where posting something is essentially just me (as far as I know) writing to myself.

Emotionally, it is a slightly different story. When one of my posts receives little to no attention a little shit droplet of a firecracker goes off in my brain and I feel just a little disappointed. I’ve noticed that it can be enough to ruin my mood for a whole afternoon (on particularly shitty days). And I’ve had to comes to terms with that reality. It took time, but slowly I have learned how to deal with it–to be self-aware. When those emotions come, I try not to ignore them. I assess how they are making me feel. And then I return to my logical side. I use the experience as a training ground for future rejection.

Because the truth is, rejection will come.

And it will bring friends.

And those friends’ shitty cousins.

So, if I’m not ready for the rejection that accompanies an unread blog post or Tweet, there’s no way I’ll be able to handle the rejection (with its friends and shitty cousins) of a novel I poured years of blood, sweat and tears into. Those are shitty cousins I don’t want at my pity party.

Because the cold, hard truth is that, once I start querying my novel, I will get rejected. And I need to be able to handle that rejection when the time comes. I will allow myself a small amount of time to be disappointed and to process my feelings, but then it will be time to take the next step. I will need to logically assess the situation once it happens so that I can determine whether the best course of action is to keep querying or whether I need to return to my novel and make revisions.

So at this point, I can use my feelings of rejection as they pertain to Twitter and blogging in order to prepare myself for the bigger rejections. So far, I feel like I have gotten better at processing those things. I am learning more about what works and what doesn’t on these platforms (that’s what analytics are for). It’s a slow process as I consider myself a slow learner, but I’ll get it eventually as long as I don’t give up. I’ve had to reframe my outlook on this whole journey as a writer.

If you struggle against self-doubt (which you likely do at times if you are, in fact, a human being), then here are some thoughts I have on the matter.

It’s easy to get discouraged and think about giving up. But you’ve basically got two choices. You can either:

1) Keep going with the hope of achieving your dreams in a year, two years, ten years or longer

Or

2) Give up and NEVER achieve them.

If your argument is, “Well, what if I spend my whole life trying to achieve that goal and never get it? It would all be a waste of time. That would be CRUSHING!” And you’re right.

Hope is not a guarantee. Far from it.

But the cool thing is that it’s not about the destination. The journey is a realm of learning. Even if you never achieve your goals, you will have a greater understanding of yourself. Even if you fail, you will still be wiser than when you started. Even if the only lesson you learned was “I’m never doing that again,” you will have learned something.

“Failure, the greatest teacher is.” That’s a quote by my little buddy, Yoda.

If you fail, then that’s great! You have learned something!

So, whatever your goal is, keep at it if it’s something you really want. Whether or not you achieve it is not the point. Whatever that goal is, if it’s being a rock star, the president or just being a good parent, keep at it. If that goal is writing, the only thing I can say is to keep writing. For me, that’s all I can do. I figure at some point, if I keep going, that perhaps my writing will be at a place where it is publishable. And even if it never is, at least I can say that I learned something.