Opportunity + Preparation = Luck

Recently I saw an incredible quote that finally summed up what I felt about luck. It's from a Business Insider article, and is something that Betty Liu heard from her television coach.

"Opportunity + Preparation = Luck" (hence the blog post title, I'm so clever)

You can be in the exact right place and meet the exact right person but if you're not prepared then it's for nothing. Imagine meeting a Hollywood executive looking for his/her next big movie option, and runs into you. You don't have a screenplay written, you've just got a kind of half-formed idea. Even though you're in the right place, things probably aren't going to work out for you because you're not prepared.

Luck comes to people who work hard and put themselves into positions to luck out. You're never going to just get lucky and land a new job in a different field by sitting at home and never learning those skills you need. You're never going to just happen to sell the next Harry Potter sitting at home never writing.

You have to put in the time and effort for all the pieces to fall into place.

Source: Photo by Irene Dávila on Unsplash

Stretch it out!

One of the downfalls of the writing life (and a lot of office jobs) is the amount of time spent sitting on a computer typing. Back and hip pain is common, and carpel tunnel is a concern for many writers.

I've compiled a few of my favorite stretching videos so you can keep flexible.  So, in the words of Jeremy Renner...

Hands, and wrists:






Lower Back:


Those are just a few of my favorite stretching videos. Do you have any videos that help with stretching?

A Day in the Life

Something that people frequently ask about is what do I in a day? I think a lot of creative people get asked about their processes and how they manage to 'find the time to do all that', at least a lot of the people I know get asked that question a whole lot. So I thought I'd give a peak behind the curtain of what a typical (if there really is such a thing) day looks like for me. Now note here, I have several advantages as far as time goes: I have no romantic partner; I have no kids; I live with two roommates to split chores with.  So with all that aside, let's get started! 

On the best of days I'm up at 5am to get some writing and/or staring into space contemplating life time. I tend to be a morning person so I try to make the most of it. Realistically, I roll out of bed about 5:20 and have some time to read. 

5:45 am
This is when I stop staring into space/working and actually start getting ready for the day. I brush my teeth and my hair (with different brushes of course), wash my face and go through a whole skincare routine, put on makeup or don't, get dressed, and throw my lunch into a bag. Most of the time I've packed pretty much everything I need the night before so it's just a matter of grabbing a bag and going. 

6:00 - 6:55 am
I commute in to work on the train so I spend my time reading or listening to podcasts. If I'm on a really tight deadline, I'll write on the train but I prefer writing at home. Not having to drive makes my life so much better, public transit is amazing y'all. 

7:00 - 11:00 am
Day job! 

11:00 am - 12:00 pm
I usually take lunch around this time. Generally, I go for a walk or workout during this time and eat at my desk (bad, I know!)

12:00 - 3:45 pm
Day job! 

4:00-5:00 pm
Commuting back home on the train. Usually I listen to podcasts more often in the afternoon. 

5:00 - 6:00 pm
Dinner! I walk in the door hungry most days so I pretty much walk in the door, change into my pjs, and start dinner. I tend to batch cook on Sunday so cooking consists of heating up leftovers which is awesome. I also watch some Netflix or Youtube while I'm eating (bad again, I know!) Sometimes I'll go play PokemonGo with my roommates when I get home too. We're awesome at the raid battles. (Go Team Instinct!)

6:00 - 8:00 pm
This is when I try to get the bulk of my writing or editing done. If I'm working on two projects, I'll split them to work on one in the morning and one in the evening. 

8:00 - 9:00 pm
Hang out time! Most of the time this is time I'll spend with my roommates watching Netflix or playing video games. It's really helpful for my mental health to do something fun like games. I try to do this most nights but some nights it doesn't happen. This is also when I pack my lunches and get together whatever I need for work the next day. I frequently lay out my clothes and things too.  

9:00-9:30 pm
Bed time! Seriously, I really, really struggle with sleep so I go to bed early. I have a whole bedtime routine that I've talked about before and that's all because I have a hard time getting more than 3 hours of sleep a night. I go to bed early to help me get the maximum number of hours possible. Sleep is important y'all.

Of course, this isn't every day and sometimes I get more done than other days, but I try to keep a consistent bedtime and get-up time even on the weekends and holidays. Sleep is my main struggle and this schedule has helped me get a handle on it. So there you have it, a day in the life. On a good day, I can clock in between 4000-5000 words on a project. On a bad day, it's a big 'ol goose egg word count. I am still tweaking what works and doesn't work for me, like writing on the train, it works in the morning but if I try in the afternoon I have a tendency to get motion sick and be out the rest of the day. Big lesson: Experiment with what works for you and learn about your process. 

Source: Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

Using No to Make More Time to Write

Making the time to write isn't always a matter of just sitting down and writing. It often means saying no to a lot of other things, things you may really want to do. It isn't a choice between 'scrub the grout in my shower' or write. More often than not, it's 'play this new game I'm excited about' or write. It's a eries of scarficies made. But how do you get to the point where that feels doable? Here are some things that have helped me find my way to putting writing first. As always, your mileage may vary, so take what works for you and leave the rest. 

1. Write out a list of all the things vying for your time. 
See what all is on there. You can make this as exhaustive as you want. Include all the nitty-gritty like grocery shopping, bathroom cleaning, etc., if you want to, but it works just as well with only the big things on your list. Your family, friends, favorite TV shows, favorite games or other hobbies, everything that calls to you. 

2. Prioritize the list. 
Be ruthless if you have to. For me, that's meant that I keep up on very, very, very few shows anymore. I made the commitment that writing was more important than having seen the latest Games of Thrones episode. For you, maybe that means that you only go to game night with your friends every other week. Figure out what you're willing to sacrifice now so you don't have to figure that out in the moment. 

3. Commit to it. 
If you decide that once every other week for games is all you can manage, tell your friends and stick to it. It's going to be hard for a while, but it will slowly become a habit and take less willpower to do. Write out what you'll say to yourself about putting your writing first, give yourself support. Future you will thank you. 

4. Forgive yourself when you screw up. 
A bad day at the day job can send you into a Netflix marathon without much of a thought. That's okay. Beating yourself about it, isn't going to make it any better. In fact, beating yourself up is only going to make it harder to get back to the writing. 

5. Do not sacrifice things required for a healthy life. 
I know there's a #goals around not sleeping and hustling harder, but that is not a great way to live. Sacrifcing your health is not the answer. 

Taking time now to commit 100% to your writing is the way forward and the way to help keep your writing going. I'm not going to say it won't require sacrifice, because it will. Right now I've not watched American Gods, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, The Handmaid's Tale, Blackish, and on and on and on because that is what I've decided to sacrifice to make the time to write. 
But you can do it! 

Source: https://unsplash.com/@alexrds

Avoiding Research Quick Sand

Research can be a vital part of writing. Whether you're writing a historical novel or a science fiction dystopia, you'll need to do research to help make your writing the best it can be. But a big problem can be getting so sucked into doing research that you never actually get any writing done. So where's the line between researching enough and researching too much?
Well, as always, there's no perfect answer for everyone, but here's what helps me. 

1. Start broadly. 
If you only know vaguely what you'll need, start broadly. Writing about space? Start with a general book, a textbook for instance, and poke around. Take notes, see what sticks in your mind. You may find something that suddenly adds a whole new interesting elements to add in. Things you never even knew about! Take lots of notes, read the references and see if any of those sound great. 

2. Utilize your library. 
If you have access to a library, use it! Ask for help with your research. Librarians are made of magic and awesome and most would love to help you find the perfect book to answer all your weird little writerly questions.

3. Don't buy all the books. 
This is my biggest problem. I decide to research something and the next thing I know, I've got 15 new books sitting on the floor and no idea where to even start. Begin with books you can borrow, check them out and see what you need. 

4. Outline. 
An outline will help you see if you're going to have specific questions. Train fight? You're going to need to read about some trains, better know that now and get the research a-rolling. Prepare in advance and you'll save yourself a lot of effort in the future. Take care of your future self by preparing now. 

5. Set a research time limit. 
Give yourself a set amount of time to do your research: a week, a month, a day, whatever amounts feels right for you. Then stick to it. I know it'll be super tempting to research 'just one more thing' but stick to your goal or you might get stuck in the research forever zone and never write. 

6. Make notes as you write. 
Start writing and then keep notes about questions that pop up while you're writing. This can be in the document itself (I like to leave notes to myself with xxx to make them easy to find later), in a seperate notebook or word document, or on a whiteboard somewhere nearby. Just don't let the questions totally derail you. They will pop up and that's okay. The first draft doesn't have to be perfect or have all the history exactly right. 

And that's what helps me stay on track to actually write and not get stuck in a research loop. 

Source: https://unsplash.com/@thkelley

Do the Hustle

Hustle has become the buzzword all over the place. It's become a badge of honor to say 'look how hard I'm working' and it's become hella dangerous to try to live up to. People wear sleeplessness like a Girl Scout patch and always strive to be the hardest working person in the room. 

Now don't get me wrong, hard work is awesome and necessary in a lot of ways. But the problem happens when you don't learn how to take breaks too. If you are constantly sleeping 2 hours a night, you're not doing yourself, your work or your life any favors. You're a candle burning at both ends and when they meet in the middle, there won't be anything of you left. 

Sacrificing yourself for your work isn't noble. It isn't you just grinding at the side job, it's you putting yourself last in a lot of ways. If you want to be doing your best work, take care f yourself, work hard and remember to relax. 
Part of a creative life is all about balance. Finding the balance between grinding it out and relaxing and no one's balance is exactly the same. Listen to yourself and know that it's okay to take a break now and then. 

Keeping your well of creative energy stocked matters and that well usually is refilling when we are resting or exploring or adventuring. We get our energy to create by taking a break from creating. Remember that. 

I want to be able to see your work for a long time to come and for you to be here for a long time to come so take care of yourself okay? 

Work hard and remember its okay to go to bed early. 

Crossing Through No Words Land

Sometimes in life, you hit a patch where the words just won't happen. I don't just mean a writer's block or the dreaded soggy middle. I mean the times when your whole mind turns into an arctic tundra where nothing thrives. You can't think of a new idea, you can't think of writing at all. The idea of writing fills you with sickly dread. It sucks. So what can you do? Well put on your snow boots and let's figure this out. 


1. Take a break.

Sometimes you just need a break from writing. Take a day or a week and just rest. Give yourself some slack and time to recharge. This is especially true if you have been really pushing yourself hard for a while. 

2. Read out of your usual genre. 

If you write romance, pick up a western. If you write horror, pick up a space opera. Read something totally different than your usual fare. Sample something different and give yourself some fresh ideas and new genres to look into. You never know when you might find your next beloved book. 

3. Enjoy a nap. 

Seriously, sleep is rad. Take a nap and see how you feel after some well deserved shut eye. 

4. Skip that scene you hate. 

If you're avoiding writing, unable to write or just hating everything about the certain scene or chapter you're working on... just skip it. Put in a placeholder in and move on. If you hate that scene than does it have to be like that? Figure out a way to make it fun for you and the reader.

5. Get help. 

Sometimes this kind of a block is a big red flag that something is wrong. I know for me, when I found myself unable to write for months I knew something was wrong and went to find help. For me, this tundra of no words is a big ol' sign post that I am entering the depression bad lands and it's a good time to talk to someone and get help. There's no shame in needing help. 

So that's what helps me when I enter the tundra of no words. Is a sucky place that I don't even like to visit but sometimes you just have to cross it and get to the other side. Writing is hard mental work and it can be taxing to do. So keep on plucking on and we'll get to the other side together. 

Willpower and Writing

Willpower. It's one of the biggest things we rely on to make changes. Want to start a diet? It's going to take some willpower. Want to get up at 5am to write every day? Going to take willpower. And the struggle is that willpower is limited. We don't have an unlimited reserve and unlike mana in a fantasy roleplaying game, it can't be recovered by just drinking a potion. 
So what can you do to keep making these changes that take a lot of willpower to do. Well, first of all... don't rely on just willpower. 

Look, we usually take the path of least resistance when it comes to just about anything. We want to do what's easiest and that doesn't always mesh with what we say we want to do. It's the idea of saying 'I'm not going to drink sodas anymore' and when you get tired in the afternoon getting a coke 'just this once'. You're actively going against what you said you wanted, what's the deal with that brain? 

The way around that is to change your environment to change your habits. 

I've been working back towards getting up at 5am every morning to write and it sucks. I mean it just does. My bed is soft and cozy and my office isn't. So how can I make that easier for myself. Here's what I've done that helps.

1. Set everything up the night before. 

I get my word document open with my plot notes right there before I go to bed. That way when I get to my computer there's no distraction, just exactly what I need to work on waiting for me. 

2. Make my office more inviting. 

After a roof leak, I kind of hated my office... so... I finally bit the bullet and got all the water stains dealt with. I rearranged the furniture and put an oil diffuser in there and now it's nice and I enjoy being in there. I'm savig up to get a better desk and floor mat but for now, it's great. 

3. Alarm across the room. 

Having my room across the room helps wake me up. I also have found that standing in place and counting to 5 before allowing myself to get back into bed makes a world of difference. Also it helps to have cats demanding to be fed. They make it hard to go back to sleep. 

4. Know what I'm going to write. 

It helps immensely to know what I am planning to write and to be excited about. If it's a fight scene I've been itching to write that's a ton more fun than staring at a screen with no idea where to go with the story. 

5. Music. 

I love making playlists for my books. I have one for most of my works and some that are just general moods: western, fighting, sad, romantic, etc. Having those playlists ready to roll really helps get me ready to start writing as soon as I sit down. 

Those are things that have helped me get a little better at being part of the 5am writing club. It also has helped me pay attention to making all kinds of other things easier. I am better at working out because I've stopped hiding my workout clothes and instead keep them upfront and center in my office. 

So help yourself win by giving yourself a boost. Look at your environments and ask 'what would make it easier to do ______?' then do that! Give yourself a break and work on making things easy as you can. 

Hitting the Wall of Suck

You're writing along, feeling fine, everything's great and then suddenly BAM. There it is. The wall of suck. 

For me, I tend to hit this wall at around the 2/3 mark when I'm still far enough away from the beginning and the ending that I feel lost and like I don't know what I'm doing. It feels like I've been wandering through a desert with no problems for weeks then suddenly, I remember: I AM IN A DESERT AND GONNA DIE. Everything runs into a panic and I sit in paralyzed anxiety, too afraid to move forward or backwards. 

I'm a linear writer so I tend to follow my story along from beginning to end and once I'm muddling through the middle, I start slowing down and then hit the wall. Sometimes it feels like it's three miles high and made of glass shards that cut if I get too close, but it's clear enough that I can see through. I know what's on the other side but I'm afraid of breaking through to get to it. That's the wall of suck. 

What do you do when you hit it? 

The answer's easy, you push through that sharp, nasty bastard and keep going. Army crawl under it, fling yourself into it, or climb over it, but you've got to keep moving. If you stare too long, the wall only gets worse because your mind makes it worse. That wall is your fear of sucking, and the truth of the matter is your first draft probably does suck. It probably sucks a lot. And that's okay, and normal. No one (okay so a few magical writers) writes a perfect first draft and it's okay to not be perfect. Remember, the goal is to finish, not to write the most beautiful and grammatically perfect sentence the world has ever seen. 

The goal is to drag your battered, bruised, and bloody self across the finish line and scream that you did it. So, put on your helmet, buckle down and show that wall that nothing is going to stop you. 

What Matters In A Creative Life

A lot of times people ask the question ‘where do you get your ideas?’ as a big question of writing. For a lot of people the ability to generate ideas seems like the most important part of writing and creating. And at the beginning, maybe it is. Learning what makes a good idea can be tough at the start but with time the ideas keep coming and the ability to focus on them becomes the most important thing.


So what are the most important traits for someone who wants to create? Well, in my humble opinion, these are the 5 that I’ve found most important.



1. Focus.


The ability to sit down and focus on one idea and see it through to the end is one of the most important traits to develop. When I first started writing I would start one story, get a new idea and abandon the story and start a new one. I ended up with a whole lot of half-finished pieces and nothing completed. Focusing on one all the way through to the end has made all the difference.


2. Patience.


Publishing and writing are slow beasts. Nothing moves super fast, even when you are self-publishing, you still need to take the time to write the project, get it edited, laid out, etc. Nothing moves as fast as you’d like it to and learning to not get so frustrated with that is a vital skill.


3. Love of Story.


You’ve got to love the art of telling stories to really get a firm understanding of how to tell one. Reading, playing games, watching movies, learning from other storytellers is so important. If you love a story you can see its good and bad side and learn from that.


4. Curiosity.


Creatives are curious about the world, about how things, about ‘what if’ questions and all the uncertainty that comes with it. We like learning about new things, wonder about why things are this way and want to be constantly learning and growing about new things. Ask why and learn as much you can.


5. Persistence.


This is one of the important traits to build up. Writing can be a tough pursuit. There are plenty of rejections and challenges along the way. It can be lonely, disheartening and down right painful at times. To keep at it requires stubbornness and a push to not give up.



Those are the five traits that I’ve felt like ave helped me the most in my writing journey. What would you add?