Anyone Ever Laugh When You Say You’re a Writer?

You Need a Real Job

Summoned to my high school guidance counselor’s office, I learned not everyone thinks being a writer is a good idea.  I still recall the meeting as if it were yesterday.

“Why can’t I be an author?” I asked. I wanted to be the next Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, or Ray Bradbury. They were the best-selling authors of the day.

Her career choices for me came from the father role models on the popular television programs of the era. She wanted me to be the next Mike Brady (the architect dad on The Brady Bunch) or an aerospace engineer like Steven Douglas (My Three Sons).

“Jimmie, you’re a boy. You need a college degree in engineering, math, science, or accounting. You have to earn enough money to support your future wife and family. Forget your silly notion that a man can support himself by writing. It is okay to write for a hobby, but you will need a real job. With your grades you could even aspire to be a medical doctor or dentist,” she said.

I was heartbroken. Raised to believe I could do anything, now I wasn’t so sure.

Has anyone ever laughed at your vision of writing? Perhaps you have been told you lack life experience or you don’t stand a chance because everyone is writing now that they can simply self-publish on Amazon.

You may have feelings of doubt, thinking if only you had an MFA. If only your family and spouse supported you more. If you could quit your day job. Maybe you are in your sixties like me. You think it is too late. You say I am just too old. If only…

We all experience self-doubt. Friends and family do not always understand our passion.

Everyone faces such challenges. My faith as a Christian also helps me overcome such thoughts. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

Some people will never understand your passion for writing. Don’t bother trying to explain. Just let them watch as you write.

Read

Reading is necessary for writing. Not only is reading the fodder for writing, it is fun. It also helps me relax as well as grow.

Write

I know it sounds silly, but to become a writer you have to write. I have heard for years that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. 10,000 hours is five years worth of forty-hour weeks. Maybe that is why it takes ten years for so many to get that first traditional book deal. Do not be a want to be a writer. Write.

Edit

This includes proofreading, rewriting, and polishing. No one is perfect. Critique groups help as well as reputable professional editing services. Rewrite as needed.

Submit

To your surprise, someone may like and buy what you wrote.

Rejection

Being rejected is not personal. Your writing may be bad. It may be good, but just not meet the publisher’s or editor’s needs. You may have submitted to the wrong market or not followed the submission guidelines (both guarantee a rejection). Every writer gets rejections. The photo is a rejection I received from the New Yorker Magazine. I’ve been rejected by the best.

Acceptance

Selling a book or an article doesn’t guarantee success. Many times it means the real work is only beginning. Having your work accepted by a publisher feels good. It feels very good.

Writers’ Groups

Consider joining a writers’ group. I have belonged to three over the years. I have changed groups as I have changed. Some groups I have belonged to were for critique. Some have been to learn the business of writing. Some have been for the encouragement.

I know the thoughts I have shared are all items you have heard many times before. Sometimes a reminder is good.

We all have people like my old high school guidance counselor in our lives. Do not let their negative words keep you from writing. If you have the urge to write, write! It’s not too late.

The formula really is simple. It is read, write, edit, rewrite, submit, and repeat. If your writing is good enough and if what you write matches the publisher’s need, you just may see your story in print.


Photo Source: Pixabay

Kepler’s Aphorism #3 – One Page a Day

Kepler’s Aphorism #3 – One Page a Day

  • The average page has 250 words.
  • If you write 1 page a day 5 days a week you will end the week with 5 pages or 1,250 words written in one week.
  • If you do one page a day, 5 days a week for 52 weeks you’ll end the year with 65,000 words.
  • If you write 250 words a day (one page) every day for 1 year you end up with 91,250 words.
  • Somewhere between the two numbers are enough words if you are telling a story to have the first draft of a book.
  • To write a book put your bottom in a chair, write one page a day, and you’ll finish the first draft by this time next year.

Photo Source: Pixabay

The Writer’s Life: A Question of Balance


A Question of Balance

Balancing your day job with your passion for writing and reading is hard. The day job is important. You need a regular paycheck and insurance for survival.

So unless you’re a Dean Koontz with a spouse who is willing to give you five years to make it with her working full-time to support you or you have enough wealth, savings, or other sources of income, you need a day job.

Having a Life is Important

You need to manage your time to keep yourself fiscally, spiritually and physically fit. You need a sound body and a sound mind as you write. You need time for a spouse or whoever your relationship is with.

Your spouse isn’t going to cook, clean, and give sex on demand to you while you hibernate in your office researching, reading, and writing. You have to invest time in your relationship(s).

Let’s face it, there are days when you are too tired or exhausted to write. There are other days where all you feel like is reading. The reading recharges your energy and is fodder for future writing.

You Need to Write Regularly

Notice I used the word regularly, not daily.

Why not daily? Because you will have some days you cannot write. If you are trying daily and miss a day you will feel guilty and may give up. If you just write one page a day for 25 out of 30 days in a month that is a 300-page book in just one year!

You Can Do It

You can find the time to write if it’s your passion. You can find the balance to do it. Go for it!


Photo Source: Pixabay

One Great Way to Discipline Yourself for Success

Below is a little guide I put together. I call it “One Great Way to Discipline Yourself for Success.”

1. You must master your moods.

Proverbs 25:8 – Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.

2. You must watch your words.

Proverbs 13: 3 – He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

3. You must restrain your actions.

Proverbs 19:11 – A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

4. You must stick to your schedule.

Ephesians 5:15-16 – Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

5. You must manage your money.

Proverbs 21:20 – The wise person saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.

6. You must maintain your health.

I Thessalonians 4:4 – Each of you should learn to control his own body, keeping it pure and treating it with respect …

The above Bible verses offer a Bible-based, common sense approach to success.


Photo Source: Pixaby

Kepler’s Aphorism #2 – Don’t Plan on Earning Enough Money Writing to Live On

I was sixty-four years old before I was able to write full-time and I don’t make enough money off my writing to support myself solely on my writing income. I required having multiple streams of income to achieve this goal. It also took my being debt free.

Even with my simple lifestyle, my combined earnings from my writing income, interest received on savings, and earnings from a 403B, my income is about what an hourly employee at a big box store earns. I am only able to write full-time through frugality, lack of debt, and a very modest lifestyle.

I have been writing full-time for twelve months. The plus is I have earned money from my writing every month. The minus is the monthly income from just writing has never made me four figures in a month. It helped that I understood the business, have been writing and regularly publishing since 1981, and had multiple books and articles published.

The late Ray Bradbury was one of the first who said don’t plan on making money writing. Bradbury and his wife, who “took a vow of poverty” to marry him, hit thirty-seven years old before they could afford a car. For years he sold newspapers on the street corner to get enough money to pay the rent. He even used a pay typewriter in the UCLA library that charged him twenty-five cents per thirty minutes of writing before he earned enough money to buy his own.

You can be a working writer and earn a modest income. According to BookScan, the average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.  With average royalties that’s less than $5,000 a year for a book and less than $60,000 over a book’s lifetime for an Indie author, you cannot survive on just that income. The earnings figure is significantly less for traditionally published authors.

You can see detailed information on author earnings at Author Earnings.


Photo Source: Pixaby

Neuroplasticity and Writing

One Word of Advice

I remember watching the movie “The Graduate” when I was in high school. In the movie, Dustin Hoffman’s character was given one word of advice upon his college graduation. The word was “plastic.”

I want to give my fellow writers one word of advice. No, it’s not the word plastic. The word is “neuroplasticity.”

Neuroplasticity Defined

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. This includes changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, thinking, emotions, and, of course, head injury.

Did you know these changes in neural pathways and synapses decide, among other things, our creativity? You read that correctly, creativity.

What this means is our brain changes its functional structure based on our thoughts, environment, behavior, emotions, etc.

We Can Be More Creative

The application to writing is by changing our neural pathways and synapses, we can be more creative in our writing. That’s one reason writer’s retreats make us feel so wonderful. It’s also why people write in various locations like Starbucks, the library, or even the food court in a shopping mall. The change in scenery is the secret.

Sometimes I do something as simple as going to a different Starbucks or a walk in a different place and find myself filled with new ideas, thoughts, and creativity.

It’s amazing how changing the sights, sounds, and smells can change how we feel and think.

My going to my writing-table at Starbucks helps my productivity. I have ten Starbucks in my metropolitan area that I frequent, though the one I am at this morning is my “primary first draft writing site.”

If you find your writing in a rut, why not try a change of scenery. You’ll be amazed at its impact on your thinking and creativity.

Google “neuroplasticity and creativity” and “neuroplasticity and writing” to learn more on the subject.

Note: The photo is of the Starbucks where I normally do my morning writing.

2018, A Time of New Beginnings

The Dream

As 2018 begins you resolve to do more writing. Your plan on having a special writing place and using the same time Monday through Friday to be working on your craft dominates your dreams. Ideas are stockpiled in your mind and outlined in moleskin and leather bound journals.

The Reality

Then your spouse or day job’s non-negotiable expectations drop on you. External responsibilities pile up. Life crises hit you head-on and demand resolution. Your calendar fills with seemingly never-ending meetings and tasks that devour your time and creative capacity. Instead of working on your craft, what ifs cloud your mind and managing tasks which do not include writing become your new norm.

As a writer, you know regular writing is essential to developing your craft and selling your stories. It’s also what your soul demands. Yes, you must take care of your spiritual needs and your health with proper diet and exercise. Yes, you must give a spouse and children your time. Yes, you must earn money to provide for food, shelter, education, insurance. How you balance the writer’s life will be your choice.

The Goal

This tension between the daily grind of life and writing is the focus of jimmiekepler.com. As an application support analyst for a Fortune 500 privately held company and the caregiver for a mother with a kidney transplant, then aging father (in his upper 80s), and wife with two cancer and who has had three cancer surgeries, I had to work for the time to write. I’ll be providing ideas and suggestions on how you to can balance life with the writer’s life and maybe like me, manage to write books, short stories, and articles while being a responsible spouse and employee.

Even after transitioning to writing full-time, my wife including had a cancerous brain tumor removed.  Finding time to write is still challenging.

My Story

I am a military brat who grew up in a career United States Air Force family. In my youth, I worked in a grocery store, warehouse, a folk-rock band as a rhythm guitar player, vendor at a major league baseball stadium, and for a milk distributor. I graduated college with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history with minors in English and military science.

Next, I served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army on active duty for three years and then five years in the United States Army Reserves. While in the military I graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Airborne School, Platoon Leader Maintenance Management Course, The Army Maintenance Management Course, and the USAF Aircraft Loading Course. I am honorably discharged as a Captain, Ordnance Corps.

Following active duty, I went to graduate school completing Master of Religious Education/Master of Arts degrees. During graduate school, I worked as a custodian, painter, early childhood educator, and as a route auditor for a soft drink distributor.

After graduate school, I worked as a director of Christian education and private school principal for sixteen years before transitioning to the computer science field. I completed a Doctor of Education degree in educational administration in 1987. I went back to college studying computer science in the late 1990s completing the core curriculum for a computer science degree as well as earned induction in for Phi Theta Kappa for academic excellence. 

I sold my first magazine article over 35 years ago. I have sold nonfiction, inspirational,  how-to magazine articles including getting three covers and short stories in the science fiction and horror genre. My novels include Miss Sarah’s Secret and The Rebuilder. I have a short story collection titled Charlie’s Bells. The nonfiction book Thy Will Be Done 60 Prayers for the Chronically Ill and Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection of 109 poems all are available on Amazon. I regularly review books in the military history genre for several publishers.

While born in Texas, I have lived in Ohio, Illinois, South Carolina, Arizona, New Hampshire, Kansas, Georgia, Louisiana, California, Washington, and Texas. I have three grown children and one granddaughter. 

I am a former information technology application support engineer specializing in Salesforce for a Fortune 500 privately held company. I now write fulltime and live in North Texas with my cancer-battling wife.


Photo Source: CC0 Creative Commons  Free for commercial use.  No attribution required. https://pixabay.com/en/design-2018-to-reach-new-year-3047520/