This guest post comes to you courtesy of Caleb Wright, author of the Odyssey of Dragolitha series. Breaking Point, the third book in the series, drops this Friday, March 1, and is available on Amazon. You can find information on the book below the article, as well as the other stops on Caleb’s blog tour and links to his social media.
Setting & Sticking To A Schedule
Every day I wake up and I think to myself, "How much can I write today, and when can I do it?" As a father, a husband, and a full time IT desktop support worker, the day can run thin. I normally wake up around 6:20, unless my two-year-old daughter, Soori, decides I’ve slept long enough. I leave for work at 7:00, were I write during my lunch break and head home at 5:00 PM. Once at home, I spend time with my family until 10:00.
Only then do I get time to write, until about 1:00 AM. On the weekends, I can carve out an hour or two while my daughter naps. The rest of my time is spent with my family. Because of this schedule, I find it critical to write every day. I never have much free time available, so I have to write as much as I can whenever I can. I can’t put it off, because I don’t foresee it getting more lenient as my daughter grows.
Now, I’m not perfect, and I understand the power of distraction. There is always something else to do, whether it’s fixing the leaky sink or writing that “thank you” card from two months ago or… Netflix. Writing daily is a choice. You have to choose to put aside a television show, to not watch a movie marathon, to not go out with friends. Of course, you should live your life, but writing daily means learning how to prioritize.
The world you carve out, the characters you design… they take time to create. If you indulge in every “other thing” there is to do, your writing will suffer. And so begins a vicious downward spiral. You write a little less, the ideas slow down... And then it becomes easier to turn to those distractions. And on and on it goes.
Break the cycle.
Ask yourself: Why am I struggling to find the words?
Your passion is your greatest asset. You have to love your story no matter what. If you’re writing to fit a trend or to compete with another person, you’ll run out of steam. Money alone won’t do it, either. Everyone wants to provide, I get it. But money should be secondary to the story, otherwise, you’ll cut corners and lose your passion. However, if the story is itching to get out of your head and you need to put it on paper, then you’ll have something you can work with.
Keep in mind that, no matter how much you love your story, criticism will come. Don’t let it derail you or undercut your passion. I have a rule that if one person tells me something, it’s just their opinion, but if five people tell me the same thing, they might be on to something. This goes double if you’re trying to break out of your genre or reach a new audience. But you can use this to your advantage.
Ask the hard questions: Is it the content? Does this scene need to be deleted? Is this character even necessary? A new approach can help reinvigorate you. Be open and flexible with your story so the words can guide your hand. It should never feel forced. Part of this process is writing frequently enough so the story stays alive in your head, so you can turn over and filter through multiple ideas to find what works best.
If you alternately examine your story with a critical eye and a creator’s eye, you should have plenty of ideas to be excited about. That should make it easier to find time to write them down. And the more you write, the better ideas you’ll have, and you can turn the downward spiral into a positive feedback loop.
And if you ever feel totally lost, ask yourself why you write.
I write because I want to craft stories that my daughter will grow to love. I want her to be proud to tie her name to those stories. That means creating strong women, emotional men, and breaking all the stereotypes that I can. Every moment that I am free to put words on the paper, I feel that rush of excitement. I can’t wait to jump in and write.
If the words aren’t flowing, I hang out with my daughter or make some food since I’m a foodie, rather than being mad at myself. I don’t force it. My inspiration is drawn from the things that make me happy. If you’re having trouble figuring out what that is, just examine your most recent conversations. What do you talk about the most? Who do you spend the most time with? Those are the things that will unlock your passion.
Your words can be magic, and with the help of friends and family, you can craft some pretty powerful pieces. It’s not easy to raise a family, work a full-time job, and do the hundred other things you have to do in life. Throw serious writing into the mix, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and not touch the keyboard for weeks or months at a time. But if you stay passionate and open yourself to new ideas and approaches, it should make those twenty-minute writing sprees much easier to stick to. And that’s where the magic happens.