Tag Archives: encouragement

Keep swimming

I don’t usually take advice from a fish, but Dory’s “Keep swimming” is easy to remember–and easier to do than much of the advice I hear.

In many ways that has become the mantra of my writing this year. As most of you probably know, I’m not yet a published author–at least not to the level I’d like to be. I have to wonder sometimes why I’m even posting here at the Think Tank, because I can’t speak with the authority of an established writer.

In fact, if 2016 is any indication, I’m not writer. I’m a starter-who-can’t-finish-er. I’ve started two novels this year–twice. None of the four attempts have gone beyond 30,000 words. This year has been a step backward for me. I used to be able to finish a novel a year at the very least. My personal hero, Michael J. Sullivan, has written six novels in the past two and a half years.

But I have to slap myself whenever I compare myself like that. He’s a full-time, professional writer. I am a full-time, professional application developer. I write on my lunch break. He gets more writing time in one day than I do in an entire week.

I have to remind myself that I’ve written five novels, and most of those came hour by hour, plugging away during my lunch break while trying to eat my lunch and fielding questions from co-workers who don’t respect the sanctity of lunch hour. And if the “write a million words” maxim is true, I’m going to have to spend a lot more time cranking out novels during my lunch time before I start to get it right.

So yeah, just keep swimming. There’s no doubt this was a bad year. Did I learn anything from it? Maybe. Did I improve in other ways in spite of my lousy completion-rate? Maybe. Am I going to give up?

No.

I realize that much. I’ve asked myself if I want to quite several times this year. And I can’t. I just don’t know how to. Even when I tell myself I’m not going to write any more for a while I still have story ideas mugging me, trying to get out. I don’t think I know how to not write. Even in the twenty years that followed my official decision I was not going to be a writer I couldn’t not write.

I may never get published, but I will continue to write. And hopefully I will continue to improve. Hopefully I’ll even learn some things along the way that help others in the same boat as myself. Hopefully that’s what I bring to the Think Tank: camaraderie and encouragement for we dogged, determined slaves of the written word. I’m still here. I’m still writing and posting. And how are you doing? How did you do with your writing goals this year?

2017 will be upon us soon. It’s time to turn the page on 2016; for better or for worse, it’s ending. It’s time to move forward. A brand new empty page of possibilities.

Ready? Set? Let’s go!

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom Stratton was born and raised in Idaho, and now lives in Utah with his Finnish wife, three amazing kids, three distinct cats, and a big, goofy dog. He works for a regional bank, and is part owner of a video game store. He enjoys writing, photography, war gaming, music, theater, building things, and reading. Though active in writing as a teen, he convinced himself it could never be a career. Decades later upon moving to Utah, where there’s something odd in the water, he has decided to get serious about writing. To date he has written five novels to be published posthumously by his greedy estate and is polishing a set of short stories to start submitting. Any day now…

Looking back

look-backThey say you can never go back. They say you shouldn’t look back, even if you can. Focus only on the here and now, or perhaps only on where you’re headed. But perhaps that’s not always good advice.

I’ve been struggling with my writing lately. I’ve been bashing my head against idea after idea trying to get the beginnings of a story that grabs my attention and demands I write it all the way through. But nothing has worked, and I’ve ended up feeling like a terrible writer and as imaginative as a proverbial rock. I’ve been wondering if I should give it up and find an different hobby.

Even though I refused to let myself give in to that temptation, I still struggled. I had no desire to write. I just didn’t care about any of my stories any more. There just wasn’t any point.

And then, for some reason, I remembered an old “trunk novel” I wrote maybe ten years ago. It was fan-fic based on a war game I used to play, and written as serial  fiction for a game forum I frequented. I can’t remember what the response was from the other players, even, but I remember having a lot of fun writing it.

The problem was, I realized, that I wasn’t sure if I still had a copy of it. I’ve changed computers three times since then, and the forum is long gone. What if I’d forgotten to keep a copy?

After some frantic, desperate searching I found it. And, since I’d found it, I began to read it. And you know, it wasn’t bad! It could maybe even be considered good. And I remembered why I had so much fun writing it. All I cared about then was the characters and the story I wove around them. I didn’t worry about show-don’t-tell, dialogue tags, vivid description or any of the things I’ve since learned I should be paying attention to. I was just writing because I enjoyed writing the story.

Somehow that was enough. I found myself wanting to write again. I picked up the outline for one of my projects and have spent the past week reworking it so that it starts in a more interesting place and (hopefully) goes in more interesting directions from there. I’ll be ready to start writing again soon, and this time I am going to try really, really hard to not expect so much from myself. I think (among other things) the self-inflicted pressure to “get it right” has been killing my interest.

So if you’re struggling in a similar manner, I humbly suggest you go back and read something you wrote a long time ago–long enough ago that you don’t already know what it says, so that you can surprise yourself a little. If you do, I think one of two things will happen:

1 – You’ll realize you write pretty well after all, and that you enjoy reading your work. You may remember that you really enjoy writing and you’re not as bad as you think. That’s what happened to me in this case. But I’ve also had similar, opposite results in the past as well, namely:

2 – You’ll realize you used to be worse than you are now. Seeing you have actually improved can also be a great shot in the arm. If you have improved before, you should be able to continue to improve! So get back in there and keep going!

I’m by no means implying that in case #1 there isn’t room for improvement. But that was never my problem. I knew I needed to get better. The benefit came in realizing that, regardless of how far I still need to go, I didn’t exactly stink before. I could at least write stories I could enjoy.

In any case, if you find the climb overwhelming and your will to keep going diminishing, try digging out some trunk writing. You might be surprised–or more importantly, encouraged–by what you find. Sometimes looking back is not such a bad idea.

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom Stratton was born and raised in Idaho, and now lives in Utah with his Finnish wife, three amazing kids, three distinct cats, and a big, goofy dog. He works for a regional bank, and is part owner of a video game store. He enjoys writing, photography, war gaming, music, theater, building things, and reading. Though active in writing as a teen, he convinced himself it could never be a career. Decades later upon moving to Utah, where there’s something odd in the water, he has decided to get serious about writing. To date he has written five novels to be published posthumously by his greedy estate and is polishing a set of short stories to start submitting. Any day now…

Dare to excel

Thought for the day:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson

Whether you believe in God or not, don’t live a small life. Be your best self so that others may feel free to be their best selves. Don’t just be a writer, be the best writer you can. When one of us rises we all gain.

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom Stratton was born and raised in Idaho, and now lives in Utah with his Finnish wife, three amazing kids, three distinct cats, and a big, goofy dog. He works for a regional bank, and is part owner of a video game store. He enjoys writing, photography, war gaming, music, theater, building things, and reading. Though active in writing as a teen, he convinced himself it could never be a career. Decades later upon moving to Utah, where there’s something odd in the water, he has decided to get serious about writing. To date he has written five novels to be published posthumously by his greedy estate and is polishing a set of short stories to start submitting. Any day now…

Why Even Do it?

This post is going to be short. What I am hoping for is some great why-we-writefeedback. I want to know why YOU write? Why do it? It takes up time that none of us seem to have. It’s not just time consuming, it’s emotionally consuming. Then if you manage to write a book, getting it published seems even harder than writing the book! With so many reason why NOT to write, then why even do it? Please share why you write in the comments.

 Need reasons? Here are a few:

 “I write to make peace with the things I cannot control.” —Terry Tempus Williams

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” —George Orwell

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” —Virginia Woolf

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.” —R.L. Stine

“I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool – and I’m not any of those – to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues.” —Maya Angelou

“People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy… and I keep it in a jar on my desk.” —Stephen King

“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.” —Isaac Asimov

Mikey Brooks

About Mikey Brooks

Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is an award-winning author of the middle-grade fantasy adventure series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. His other middle-grade books include: The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis and The Stone of Valhalla. His picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures, Trouble with Bernie, and Bean’s Dragons. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works fulltime as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of children’ (emblazoners.com). You can find more about him and his books at: www.insidemikeysworld.com.