Tag Archive for effort

Get the Work Done

“A writer writes,” my editor told me once. “That’s all there is to it.”

It was a good pep talk. It’s something I needed to hear, and something I remind myself of often. If I’m going to make a go at this full time at some point in the future, I need to not just land more work, but produce enough to keep it all selling and keep the cash flowing.

If a writer has nothing to sell, then he’s not going to have anything to eat. Even doing it for the love, or as a hobby, requires the work to be out there and available in some form or another.

Brainstorming

When you’re not writing, you need to be thinking.

It took time, but I’m at a point now that things are moving again. The latest draft of Lie with the Dead is sitting on my editor’s desk. I have an invitation to write some novella-length work and I’m now under contract for a graphic novel, both of which I hope to be able to tell you more about in the near future. I have a short story due, a column due, and if I can get it done by 8/1, an invitation to submit a short story to an anthology.

And that’s the firm work. There are still things circulating in the background, some of which may jump to the foreground at any moment to demand my attention.

I told a local friend about all this, and he said, “Man, you must be stressin’ hard.”

Nope. I love this. It’s good to be in demand, and to see fan response to “Bravo Four” and have them demand more.

This is what writing is all about.

So how, then, does one get the work done? The three keys: sort your shit, make sacrifices, develop discipline.

Sorting one’s shit involves a number of things, ranging from resolving personal problems to simply having a plan. Sitting down to develop my Exit Strategy was a big one for me, as was cleaning up some of the personal issues slowing me down last year. I also have a lot of things pulling me in many different directions, and I came to realize tackling them in a catch-as-catch-can manner wouldn’t do any one of them any good. I sorted those, refocused, and figured out how I can tackle each in the appropriate manner.

Making sacrifices doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. Dumping satellite and switching to Netflix got rid of a lot of my idle television viewing and the temptation to become a couch potato after a long day at work. My family is out of town this weekend, making it a perfect opportunity to catch up on Breaking Bad season 4 and Justified season 3, but there’s work to be done. When I put a dent in all of it, then I can make time for Walter White and Raylan Givens.

Developing discipline, then, is a matter of remembering how badly you want to accomplish something. My physical goals require a lot of effort and practice, and I make it happen every day, whether it’s running, lifting weights, or getting out to karate class. Once I sorted my other shit and made a few sacrifices, it became a hell of a lot easier to develop the discipline for writing.

When this post goes live, I won’t actually be at the keyboard, I’ll be in karate class and then on the way to a dinner celebration with some friends. Keeping up the blog requires the same attention and focus, though, and I’m writing this post during a moment I’m stuck on another project. Discipline means not wandering away from the keyboard when I’m stuck. It means finding some way to keep busy, to jump start the word machine.

And guess where my ass will be as soon as I get home from that dinner? Yep, sitting in the very chair I wrote this post from and working on one of these projects. The wee hours are very productive for me, and I’m going to take full advantage of them until the day job hours go back to normal in August. (And then I’ll either develop a new schedule or invest in 5-Hour Energy.)

Here I come to save the day!

It’s worked before…

On Sunday I’ll sleep in, get a short workout in and eat breakfast, then ride Lenore into town and write in a coffee shop until they throw me out. Then I’ll come home and keep on going until at least two of the current projects are done.

Sort your shit, make sacrifices, and develop discipline. This is how I am balancing a day job, Daddy Daycare, family time, writing, working out, and karate class.

It can be done.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Time May Change Me…

Yesterday, John Platt posted a photo of Brian Keene and I, taken way back at the 2000 World Horror Convention in Denver. I can’t embed it, but you can see the photo in John’s Flickr photostream.

Brian’s first reaction was “My God, look how young we were!”

My reaction went more like “Holy shit, look how fat I was!” I’m not sure what I’m doing in the photo. Maybe I was hungry and mistook Brian’s haircut as a small, edible animal.

That convention happened two years after I made my epic escape from retail hell. In three years as a manager of an electronics store, I gained over eighty pounds. The bad habits had set in by the end of that time, and I gained another twenty or so pounds between that job and John’s photo.

This is me now:

Shureido Self Portrait

Yeah. Much better.

I can afford contacts now and I’ve earned some gray hair, but I’ve cut a lot of that weight. I have more to go, but I feel better and, despite what I think when I look in the mirror, I know I look better.

See, the whole age thing has never bothered me. While it blows me away that many of my favorite albums are older than the students in the school district I work for, I just don’t feel that old. And would the old Mike have the guts to step out onto a karate mat and bust his ass? Would he have been able to do the things I’m doing now?

Now it's official.

Now I'm ready to take on Donatello.

I’d like to think so, but I couldn’t afford it then, either. I also might have thought I was too old or out of shape, both of which are ridiculous.

No, I look back instead at the things I haven’t done, or different choices I may have made. Instead of lamenting time lost, I just look at it as I still have time to correct those mistakes. None of it is an easy path, but the end results wouldn’t be worthwhile if they were easy to accomplish.

Think about that. What good is a black belt if someone is going to tie one around your waist just for showing up for class? How good is that novel going to be if you just hammer on the keyboard for a while and call it done? If you suck down pizza and ice cream for three meals a day, where does that get you?

The path of least resistance isn’t always the best path, and it’s never too late to change course.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Work, Work, Work

The New Year is starting with promise.

At the moment I’ve got two contracts in progress, one on the verge of signing and the other under discussion. One’s a reprint, but the other is something I’m rather excited about and I look forward to being able to talk about it. It will also be nice to have solid deadlines again.

I’ve still got the Powerless work-in-progress rewrites to turn in. They’re a little more extensive than I expected because I’ve excised entire pages and need to pad out a few others. I’ll be begging a publisher’s patience as a result, but the book will be better for it. If it works out, I imagine I’ll have a deadline for it shortly.

It’s tough to say whether any of these projects will actually see print in 2009, but I think there’s a good chance at least one will. If it only lines things up for 2010, then so be it; I’ve been patient this long, I can be patient a bit longer.

When people ask, I often tell them yes, I’d like to write full time. Ideally I’d make enough that the Wife wouldn’t have to work, but I’d be satisfied at least with not having to piss around with stubborn computers all day. So far it’s just been a dream.

We’ve been discussing dreams in karate class. The problem with dreams is they’re too loose. Most people think “Gee it’d be nice if…” without actually putting any real effort — or at least constructive effort — into the dream. How do we change it? We turn the dream into a goal, the primary difference being a deadline.

Put a realistic deadline on a dream and you’ve got yourself a goal: a clear vision of what you want and when you will attain it. I’ve had a goal in mind for my black belt for some time now, but it dawned on me that I’ve never put a real deadline on the dream of writing full time. Sure, I’ve got some good publishing credits and I work on this project and that, but I have to admit it’s been rather haphazard the last few years.

I believe the next step we’ll be discussing in class is how to develop an action plan toward reaching those goals. The action plan for reaching black belt is rather simple because the curriculum for most styles is laid out before us. I know what I need to do to make yellow belt, to make blue belt, to make green, then purple, then progress through three steps of brown. Each belt is broken into three segments, and I know what I have to learn every step of the way, and I’ve been able to discuss a realistic goal for my black belt test.

At first I thought it’s not so simple for writing, but is that true? I may not be able to rattle off a list of titles to publish over the next few years, and I do of course have to get said titles accepted by publishers, but there’s nothing that says I can’t put together a list of items I want to complete. For example, I could say I’ll finish one novel, one novella, and one comic mini-series or graphic novel this year. Getting them into print would be a separate, ongoing task for each piece.

How do you achieve those smaller individual goals? It’s quite simple, really: do the work. How do you earn each stripe and belt in karate? Learn the material. Show up for class and practice at home. Learn the kata and drill them, learn the ippons and drill them, and so on. What’s the difference between a white belt and a black belt? A black belt never quit.

The same goes for writing. How do you get each project done? Do the work. Finish each piece and move on to the next. What’s the difference between a wannabe and a full-time writer? A full-time writer never quit.

In other words, keep your damn fingers on the keys!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.