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

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

21125468_928510490624749_1164724228870962338_o

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.”

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.

My Writing Habit and The Coffee House

Where I Write

I’m doing my morning writing at one of my favorite Starbucks. This one is next to the Barnes and Nobles on Preston Road just south of Park in Plano, Texas. I write here most mornings.

The photo is of my writing-table. I usually sit at the same table each morning. From left to right in the picture, you see my laptop bar, my personal porcelain Starbucks coffee cup. Using the cup not only helps the environment by decreasing the number of paper cups in landfills but it saves me 10 cents a purchase.

My Writing Tools

You can see the MacBook Air I use for writing. It has a 1TB solid state hard drive as well as 16GB of RAM. It never crashes and is a high-speed computer. I have an external, wireless Bluetooth mouse that I use.

I use some writing specific software like Scrivener and Vellum.

When I Write

I’m usually at my Starbuck table between 6 to 6:30 AM. The Muse knows where to meet me. Working for years as a US Army officer and later for decades in the information technology field, I learned the power of habit.
In the Army, we had standard operations procedures. It allowed us to work faster, safer, and more efficiently — and to save lives. In the IT field, we had repeatable procedures. They did the same thing.
Writing at the same place and the same time is kind of the same thing. My brain knows it is time to put fingers to the keyboard and input words into the computer. I also usually listen to the same instrumental music. When it starts, my brain says, “Time to be creative.”
Note: I am not saying you have to follow my routine. You need to find what works for you, to develop your own habit.

Photo Source: The picture was taken by the Author

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.