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

Meet the Poets: Carl Sandburg – 1919 and 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1940 Pulitzer Prize for History

“I make it clear why I write as I do and why other poets write as they do. After hundreds of experiments, I decided to go my own way in style and see what would happen.” – Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg (January 6, 1878 – July 22, 1967) was an American writer and editor, best known for his poetry. He received three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and another for his history, a biography of Abraham Lincoln.

Sandburg was almost unknown to the literary world when, in 1914, a group of his poems appeared in the nationally circulated Poetry magazine.

Two years later his book Chicago Poems was published, and the thirty-eight-year-old author found himself on the brink of a career that would bring him international acclaim.

Sandburg published another volume of poems, Cornhuskers, in 1918, and wrote a searching analysis of the 1919 Chicago race riots.

More poetry followed, along with Rootabaga Stories (1922), a book of fanciful children’s tales. That book prompted Sandburg’s publisher, Alfred Harcourt, to suggest a biography of Abraham Lincoln for children. Sandburg researched and wrote for three years, producing not a children’s book, but a two-volume biography for adults. His Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, published in 1926, was Sandburg’s first financial success.

With the financial success, he moved to a new home on the Michigan dunes and devoted the next several years to completing four more volumes, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940.

Sandburg continued his prolific writing, publishing more poems, a novel, Remembrance Rock, a second volume of folk songs, and an autobiography, Always the Young Strangers.

In 1945 the Sandburg family moved with their herd of prize-winning goats and thousands of books to Flat Rock, North Carolina.

Sandburg’s Complete Poems won him a second Pulitzer Prize in 1951. Sandburg died at his North Carolina home July 22, 1967. His ashes were returned, as he had requested, to his Galesburg birthplace. In the small Carl Sandburg Park behind the house, his ashes were placed beneath Remembrance Rock, a red granite boulder. Ten years later the ashes of his wife were placed there.

Source:  Pulitzer Awards 1919, Pulitzer Awards 1940, and Pulitzer Awards 1951

For more on Carl Sandburg see: http://carl-sandburg.com/biography.htm

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

Creativity and More: The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

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Albert Einstein said, “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

My undergraduate education is a liberal arts education. My major was history and my minors were English and military science. My Master of Arts degree is in Christian education. My broad-based liberal arts education did more than prepare me for a job. It provided the foundation that allows me to compete in the marketplace of ideas. I also completed the core curriculum for a computer science degree.

It has been 43 years since I heard the University of Texas at Arlington President Dr. Nedderman say I had met the requirements for my bachelor’s degree. Within minutes of his pronouncement, I raised my right hand and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army through Army ROTC.

I did not make the military a career. Three years later I headed to graduate school. I was amazed at how prepared I was. I knew how to read, write, study, do research and write research papers, and most importantly how to think.

My UT Arlington liberal arts education taught me how to think independently and make sound judgments. I learned how to expand my horizons, discover new perspectives, and acquire the tools to defend my point of view. My education helped me learn to reflect on life, have a moral and historic compass where I can distinguish good from evil, justice from injustice, and what is noble and beautiful from what is useful.

I have been employed over the years as an officer in the US Army, a minister, educator, corporate trainer, Internet Coordinator, IT Support Analyst, IT Systems Administrator IT Application Engineer, and writer. These have been my day jobs that have supported my 38 plus years of freelance writing. When working in IT it is interesting to see how many persons have undergraduate degrees in the liberal art disciplines. These are the people that know how to think outside the box. These are the people with excellent critical thinking skills. These are the persons that embrace change and know how to successfully deal with it.

What have I done with my history degree? All the above plus I have published hundreds of magazine and trade journal articles. I have published poetry. I have written book reviews. I have a website “Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews.” The site was named a 100 best websites for history buffs. I read and review military history books published under more than a dozen different imprints.

I get asked often by younger adults how I know so much about so much. They say I am a modern renaissance man. My answer: I received a liberal arts education at the University of Texas at Arlington.

How committed am I to a liberal arts education? I have three grown children – all three were liberal arts degrees.


Photo Source: Image created and shared by Jerri Kemble, assistant superintendent at Lawrence (KS) Public Schools, after reading Scott Hartley’s “The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World.”

Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Dreams

Have I mentioned I’m writing my fourth novel?  Oh, I know, everyone is either writing a novel, plans to write a novel or has the next great story idea.  So, with that in mind, I’ll start over.

Writing My Fourth Novel

Did I mention I am writing a novel?

Yes, I am. While I’ve published a science fiction novel, a historical fiction novel, a short story anthology, a poetry collection, and have a second unpublished science fiction novel, I have never published a literary fiction novel. Novel number four is literary fiction.

Even though I have hundreds of paid writing credits over the last 40 years in dozens of trade journals, magazines, literary journals, and science fiction magazines, few people view me as a writer.

Response of Family and Friends

Have you ever noticed the response of family and friends when they learn you are writing a novel?  You know the responses I’m talking about.  You’ve seen them.

There’s the rolling of the eyes up toward the sky.

There’s the bobbing the head up and down while shaking it in disbelief.

Sometimes they will express condolences to a spouse that you’re using your time in this way.  other times they will say “That’s nice.  Everyone needs a hobby.”

When I get responses like these I want to put my hands on their shoulders, look them directly in the eye and say, “Hello, did you hear me? I said I am writing a novel.  That’s because I am a writer!”

At this point they usually repeat, “That’s nice or I thought you worked with computers.”

I reply “Working with computers paid for my passion for writing before I became a full-time writer.”

It’s sad. They still don’t get it.  Oh, I can send them running out of the room in a hurry if I say, “Would you like to hear a chapter?”  Those words are like saying “FIRE, RUN, FLEE FOR YOUR LIFE!”

Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Dreams

I mention all this to say, don’t let anyone steal your dream.  If you’re like me, you have to write.  You can’t help it.  It’s part of who you are.  So write!  And, tell your friends and family that you’re working on a novel.  Let them the progress you are making.  And you can drop me a note from time to time in the comments section.  I’ll understand.

7 Habits of Effective Writers

Author Carl Sandburg’s Office. He won three Pulitzer Prizes: Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln. US Government Public Domain Photo. Source: https://ridb.recreation.gov/images/80329.jpg

In 1989 the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey was published. I am using the idea to apply it to writers. Hence the title, “7 Habits of Effective Writers.”

The best place to start is at the beginning.

Habit One

Start.  You have to put your behind in a seat and begin to write.

Habit Two

Be consistent. I am not saying do it every day. I am saying write on a regular basis.

Habit Three

Have a positive outlook.  Walt Disney was credited with saying, “Think you can think you can’t, either way, you are right.” You need to believe you can and do the work.

Habit Four

Be committed for the long haul. It takes some time to write a story. One book wonders are the exception, not the rule. You can make a living as a writer, but it takes time and hard work.

Habit Five

Be willing to pay the price. When you pay the price in time, money and effort the price you paid is spent investing in yourself.

Habit Six

Never stop learning. You learn by attending conferences. You learn by reading books on the craft of writing. You learn by listening to podcasts and reading blogs. You learn by writing. You learn from your editor. You learn by reading books in the genre you write. An editor you ask. Yes, if traditionally published your encounter editors. If self-published you need to invest in professional editing.

Habit Seven

Have perspective. Your attitude is a key as I mentioned earlier. It’s okay to begin where you are and improve over time. If you are like me you write because you must write. You may need to do an attitude check if you want to have written, just sign autographs, and be adored by fans. I’m not saying that won’t happen. I am saying it is unlikely.

Hold On Tight To Your Dreams

Hello there. Welcome to jimmiekepler.com, the blog of a writer, poet, and polymath named Jimmie Aaron Kepler. This is Jim Kepler.

On my blog, I communicate about how I write, my writing process, and how I manage to do it while maintaining a life. From time to time I’ll interview other authors on the same subjects.

I don’t have all the answers. Like you I struggle. My struggle is a thirty-five plus years journey of writing while working a day job, being a husband, father, grandfather and caregiver.

Presently I work full time as an Applications Support Engineer for a Fortune 500 privately held company. I average 45 hours a week on my day job. I spend another ten to fifteen hours a week in my car during my daily commute. I am the primary caregiver for my wife of forty-plus years who is battling Stage IV Melanoma Cancer and Neuroendocrine Cancer. I also am the primary caregiver for my ninety years old father who lives 50 miles from me with all of the city of Dallas, Texas and its traffic in-between. He still drives and lives on his own.

Today I am the blog’s guest. My name is Jim Kepler. I earned a bachelor of arts degree in history with minors in English and military science from The University of Texas at Arlington and a master of religious education and master of arts degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I later earned a doctor of education degree as well as completed the core curriculum of a computer science degree.

Relax, I promise not to hit you over the head or between the eyes with the Bible. I confess I write science fiction with faith where I include Christianity and other belief systems. I try to avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of Religion in Science Fiction.

Since high school, I wanted to write. I was told writing was not a real job for a man who would someday need to support a wife and children. Graduating from college, I did three years active duty as a commissioned officer in the US Army. I then headed to grad school.

When I finished graduate school, I started taking writing seriously. I attend my first writer’s conference. There I was offered a nonfiction magazine article assignment. I jumped at the opportunity.

Over the next fifteen years, I wrote, sold, and had published one to three articles a year. I was paid at professional writing rates. I penned a weekly newspaper column for fifteen years. I also wrote a nonfiction book, sold it, and then had the kill fee clause in the book’s contract executed. I was paid twenty percent of the contract by the publisher to cancel the book. I was devastated. I started losing my motivation to write.

Then life seemed to get in the way. I did a major career change where I started doing a large amount of corporate training, technical writing, and curriculum writing. I also went back to college and faced the common challenges of career, parenting three teenagers, having my wife develop a serious illness, and caring for aging parents.

Because of this, I took a ten years break from writing articles. I still wrote and worked on a few poems. I also started writing and publishing book reviews in the military history field as well as blogging. I did not write any book-length manuscripts, magazine articles, short stories, etc. during this season of life.

In 2007 I was revisited by my Muse. She encouraged me to start writing again. This time I started over as a newbie. Instead of writing nonfiction I decided to write short stories, historical fiction, and my favorite, science fiction.

That same year I started the next great American novel, joined an excellent writers group, and started writing and submitting short stories and poems. Along the way, I sold a few short stories as well as placed at some writing contests.

The writing contest affirmations of my skills helped my ego and increased my drive. Somewhere in this time, I learned the need to focus. My focus was improved by listening to podcasts on writing like Mur Lafferty’s “I Should Be Writing” and Joann Penn’s “The Creative Penn.”  Dean Koontz and Diana Gabaldon also were podcasting during this time and provided great insights and motivation.

I took me three years to complete that first novel. It was historical fiction. I went the traditional route pitching it to agents at Cons, small press acquisition editors, and publishers at more Cons, and finally self-publishing the first novel to minimal sales. It proved to be of great value as it showed me I could complete a book. I have since written the first two books of a four-book science fiction series.

Through the years I found myself wanting to be a full-time writer so bad I could taste it. I modeled the habits of the people who successfully transitioned from day job to full-time writer. I started writing an hour a day before work, giving my best time and effort to my writing before going to the day job. I would also write for two to three hours on Saturday.

So I’m chasing the dream. In the weeks ahead we’ll pursue the dream together and meet other writers pursuing their dreams.

And you’ll be reminded to hold on tight to your dreams.