writing tools

Last week I gave a toastmaster’s speech on how to write a book. I laid out how to organize the information and how to work at it until it is done.

It was a great speech and it was well received. But I did not address strategies on how to get the actual writing done.

When people ask me how I have written a book, they often ask, “Do you have a time that you sit down and concentrate on writing? Do you get up first thing and write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?”

That’s the story, isn’t it? Getting to work, writing form 9-5 like it’s a job?

But that’s now how I work. Not usually. It’s way too much pressure to write for 8 hours a day. And also, the ideas don’t come like that for me.

I have heard of authors that do something like that. I figured I was the strange one. Aren’t I always the odd duck?

Because I find the most inspiring times to write are in the margins of my day job. Having a set of rather dull tasks to do all day leaves a portion of my brain ready to compose a story.

I just picked up Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. He spends a whole bunch of time at the start talking about his job.

His government job that he got after spending a bunch of his life hanging out with all the Transcendentalists. He illustrates beautifully how this work is extremely unchallenging, and it takes almost no thought to get it done. He was ready for mindless creature comforts after his time with Emerson, Thoreau and Alcott.

The conceit of the book is that the “finds” the story of Hester Prynne in the storage room of his job at the custom house. But he wrote it. Of course he wrote it.

And he wrote it while he was utterly secure in his life. He had lunch and dinner every day. He had a regular routine and he could have sunk into a life of napping. His coworkers certainly did.

But whatever it was that caused him to seek out Emerson in the first place kept him awake in the warm afternoons at his customs house.

His mind was not quiet. And in the gaps of his routine, out squeezed his creative work.

That makes perfect sense to me. I am not very creative when I’m worried about how my bills will get paid.

either way

what’s the story this time? And if I tell myself the wrong story will it come true?

Like those horrible be-careful-what-you-wish-for stories?

I am thinking about a bunch of things that might happen. And I wnt them to but I’m afriad to get excited about them.

I have gotten excited before.

I remember telling one person about a job I was sure to get. I’d been on three interviews and it looked very promising. And i told her I was afraid to be excited but I WAS!

She said “It’s okay to be excited. Whatever happens will happen and if you aren’t excited now, you might miss the chance.”

taking steps


When Chris and I first met, one of the things I liked best about him was that he could make up his mind. I have loved that more and more about him as we have spent our lives together.


Life is full of choices we have to make. Some of them are big and scary. Most of them are annoying and waste my time. How many hours of my life would I get back if I never had to discuss what we all wanted to eat for dinner again?


Choices. What is the best choice of the options available? And how do I determine what best means in any given setting?


More than almost anything I love taking an action. Beautifully, life gives me chances to take action all the time.


For the smaller things, my actions follow a set of rubrics. I wake up when I commit to, I wash my face, I care for my set of dependents–dog, cat, daughter. These choices were decided long ago.


Then there are the times I am presented with new situations. That requires me to analyze what is the what.


What do I want out of the situation?

What are my choices to get what I want?

What are the costs of each of those choices?


It takes time to figure each of those things out.


I’ve learned that when I take the time to understand what I want and look at the choices available, I still might not want any of the options


I’ve been able to analyze further and come up with better choices from time to time. A longer search on the Internet, a shuffling of this and that and a more acceptable option is available.


That new choice came at the cost of effort and attention. But a choice could be made.


Like I said, there are always a few choices.


One of the choices is to not choose. Even the choice of doing nothing.


I can spend a bit more time in researching what might be possible. At a certain point, that’s just delaying the decision.


Take the action.


Start moving. It may be a terrible set of choices, but if I pick one, and start moving more choices could appear. Or unseen advantages of the current choice will be revealed.


I have seen this happen many times. Start moving and the next set of choices appear. That gives optimism to making the hard choice. It gets better. Take the first step.

the day the sky turned blue

The moment Dorothy stepped out of the house into Oz, everything was in color. Her dingy gray dress turned blue.

This was one time that the movie was better than the book.

I’ve known those time. Scales fall from the eyes. The big


How did I never see that before? I’m NOT in Kansas anymore.

Oprah would call it an Ah Ha! moment


Oprah seems to have them every week. And so…How different are things really?

Dorothy was a lot less excited about her red slippers when the flying monkeys were attacking.

It’s the return to the mean.

I get distracted by the everyday. Most people do. We return to our normal way of being. I have a habit of being happy or bummed, or pessimistic, or irritated with everybody.

That habit doesn’t change with a trip to Oz.

Habits take a lot to change. One way or another, they stick.