Why am I in ‘Writer’s Camp’ This Week?

Introduction
As part-time writers, it is good to change the length of your “writing sessions” every once in a while. For the Dhammapada Handbook, I am writing a chapter in one or two short sessions of a few hours. It makes the work seem fresh and is a good challenge. More on that in a future blog,

But from time to time, I check into “writer’s camp.” that is a three- to five-day period of writing. And I check out recharged. Like I am doing starting today.

Why “writer’s camp?”

Here are some of the reasons I ‘host’ a ‘writer’s camp.’

– No expectations. You produce what you can and feel like. The sole focus is on the journey rather than the outcome.
– More continuous time brings better results. It helps you develop a sense of craft as opposed to a factory approach. By not feeling rushed, you can explore a scene through multiple perspectives and time frames.
– A more relaxed time because there is no lack of hours or anything else. It is a moment of abundance rather than scarcity.
– You have time to try out a completely different technique or topic. It is encouraged to experiment and get sidetracked. Have a writer’s journey with no set destination.
– There is time to write something light or humorous. Or anything else that you have been procrastinating on creating.
– You can use the time to test out some new writing-related software. Or anything else that is a little different than the usual.

Where should I hold “writer’s camp?”
– “Camp” can be held in your usual ‘writing spot’, on a remote park bench, or wherever you feel comfortable and will be undisturbed. You can use a writer’s pad, or some sort of computer with a storage device.
– It can take place during night hours or the daytime depending on your personal preference.
– Never be too far away from the things that inspire us.

Other Suggestions for your ‘Camp’.
– Break as often that you feel is needed. This is not the time time to experience burnout.
– Also, this is not the time to make any judgments on the work. The goal is have a “writing storm” to explore and just write. There is plenty of time to review and edit after ‘camp’.
Have fun with it. Just write and relax. Nothing more.

I hope these series of blogs are of helpful. More are planned. Maybe in a future ‘writer’s camp’ near you.

Writing for an Audience or Yourself?

Introduction

Whether or not you like “A Rebel in the Rye” (The link is the trailer.), it raises some interesting questions about writing. The young writer-to be J.D. Salinger is asked would he keep on writing if not even one person read his lifetime of work? After a lifetime of encountering war, fame, spirituality, and love, he concludes that the answer is yes.

Writing Goals 

There are many reasons to take to the physical or digital pen. Varied factors could include exorcising personal demons, sharing experiences about someone we find interesting or own life journey, desire to frolic in a playground of pure experimentation,a simple need to express ourselves, passing on a philosophy, and a thousand other reasons. Or it could be a combination of motivations.

The movie talks about taking the time to understand what truly our motivations are. Otherwise we may awake up years later angry and confused asking “why and I spending all this time just doing writing?”  Being honest on why we write is key for inner satisfaction and meeting our own definition of ‘success’.

For me, writing allows me to provide different perspectives about people from our past like Deborah Franklin.

Or it could be talking about unique situations such as found in In Small Doses series.   It is a type of problem-solving or exploration just like a scientist might do. Or it can be just trying to capture a simple feeling such as a city at night.

You can do this for multiple genres. Or create up your own genre combinations such as was done in the Corporate Intent Series.

Writing for an Audience

With the rise of the Internet, most works can generate some number of downloads. So the question of not having something read is less of an issue today.

In a world that is increasingly digital and our private activities being monitored, it is getting harder to have “private-only writings.” But going “old-tech” (typewriters and notebooks) and a good security system could help stem the tide.

I think many writers would say, even if no one ever read their works, they would still be driven to write. And would not stop. But there are others that need a real or imagined audience as a motivator.

Sometimes we write neither for ourselves or an audience. Simply just to get something out of our head. Shrouded Witness was one such case. It was my first attempt at a non-sequential sociological science fiction. But by doing that, I am ready to write a future book exploring some of the same themes in a much different manner.

Wrap-up

i hope that this raised more questions in you than it ‘solved’. Take the time to seek out the answers for your own personal life journey including writing. And please  keep on writing, no matter if read by others or not.

 

Five Things Dig the Kid Taught Me about Writing

Introduction

(Thanks to Pixabay for the Photo)

From time to time, music from different countries and artists finds their way to me and resonate. Some weeks back, I was listening to a recorded concert with various musical groups. Then I heard three songs in from this one gig, and stopped everything saying  “WHO” Is this band?

They call themselves an alternative pop rock trio Dig the Kid.

I started listening to their interviews and found that I was doing some of the same things with my writing/authorship. Here are a few of the items that they mentioned

Five Factors For Authors and Lyricists

1. Each work is a project. Dig the Kid takes the time to explore the inner workings of a song rather than rushing it out the door. When I went to a craft approach, I did the same thing with each book and use wikidpad to organize my ‘project.’

Taking care and setting no time limit to get things right will lead to more fulfilling results. I have projects planned out for three years but coming from a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity, they will be each published when their time is right. Keep your scheduling loose to have plenty of time for explorations.  A few good songs/storied is more rewarding than a hundred rushed ones.

2. No two songs are alike. As I mentioned in writing about multiple genres, experimenting across multiple genres is more rewarding. Dig the Kid call themselves an alternative pop rock trio but are focused on the music rather than spending too much time labeling how to classify it. Authors should do the same way with their work. A good book or song is its own classification and creation. Repeating the same thing over again may build you a name but in the long term is a restrictive creatively. So that is something I consciously avoid,

3. Songs/Stories should have good stories about their subjects and should suck out all of the marrow of life as Arthur Rimbaud said. With songs like Bones and Still Breathing, Dig the Kid writes about surviving as a band and a human being. But they also write about being in love and the consequences of causing bad breakups. As well as much more. The stories about their songs are so vivid and interesting. They go far beyond their personal experienced to say something meaningful about human existence.

4, An important focus on finding and pleasing your audience. It took time for Dig the Kid to find an audience in Oakland and their adopted home in Los Angeles since they were not playing what was expected. But quality over time will shine forth and willing ears and eyes will find their way to a talented author or musical group.

5. Have fun with the process and keep it simple . This band is just a group of friends playing together for an audience that they adore. It is all about the music and the performance. Their performances are intimate, energetic, and dynamic. Give them a listen and see what I mean.

There is a lot more that I want to say about the writing process in the coming weeks. Please keep watching this space!

Creating a One of a Kind Buddhist Book — the Dhammapada Handbook!

Introduction

The Dhammapada are the thoughts and sayings of the Buddha in poetic format. These were given typically as an instruction after various people consulted with him about their troubles and situations.

On one hand, it is a small book that one can go cover to cover fairly quickly. But for the careful reader and the daily meditation student, it is a call to practice that can take a lifetime to decipher.

Expanding the Book Scope

The Dhammapada is a book very dear to me. I traveled with one of my various copies for two years on the road. Along the way, I found favorite verses. Recently, I had the interesting idea, “Why not write a series of short stories based on the Dhammapada verses that resonated for me?”

Even before I started writing, I thought about expanding the scope. It went along these lines
“What if I started with a public domain translation of the verses?”
“Next, what if I paraphrased each passage with my own words?”
“Then, suppose I wrote down commentary like a Dhamma talk about my thoughts about the passage? But do it in a way as if I was having a one on one conversation?”
“Finally, end with a series of practices that I’ve found helpful related to the verses.”

And that’s how I came up for the idea of a highly original Buddhist book in a world where so many exist already.

Why This Book is Different For Me.

So here’s why is it truly unique as a book and for me.
– This is written from the viewpoint of a Buddhist lay practitioner sharing their life experiences. I have listened to and attended the talks of various schools. And live each day trying out different things in my Dhammic toolbox.
– I tried to both modernize yet keep traditional the Dhammapada paraphrases.
– This is not the whole Dhammapada, just some verses that build on each other when covered in a particular order.
– I made the decision to minimize Buddhist vocabulary which can be distracting for new users.
– I am making it free as I do all of my Buddhist books.
– This is my most personal book especially with the commentary. Not quite an autobiography. But an open exploration of the verse based on life experiences.
– It is simultaneously both creative fiction AND creative non-fiction. So it involves a lot of switching of writing styles in a short time. Some chapters were mostly written in one day.
– I extensively use public-domain translations. Thanks Project Gutenberg and Wikisource!!!
– For the first time, I provided Wiki pages and direct downloads of a work.
– The stories are companion pieces to the paraphrasing, commentary, and practices.
I am releasing for the first time chapter by chapter rather than waiting till the end. So it may still be rough but it is out there.
– I never plan to do another book in this format!

So far, this writing experiment has been exhausting yet gratifying. From the response so far, readers seem to be enjoying it

On many Sundays, i will be releasing a new chapter until completion.

In a future blog, I will discuss another creative tension of creating this work.

Are there Spiritual Project Managers in Our Midst ?

Introduction

It has been some time since I’ve written a “real blog”. That is because I’ve been busy getting out Spiritual StormsHer Time, and now the Dhammapada Handbook. Each book had its own challenges. I will speak about these in this and future blogs.

A little while back, I undertook a Lean Six Sigma Project which took away my writing weekends for five straight months. But as went through this effort, I saw it as a kind of a religious pilgrimage somewhat like The Canterbury Tales or walking El Camino de Santiago.

I also wanted to include content influenced by St. John of the Cross. Indeed, the original title of the book was The Dark Night of the Soul: A Spiritual Project Manager’s Journal. So the topics that I wanted to cover were clear.

But how to do so was not as you can tell from reading the first two chapters. The introduction was a fictional encounter that I had while on the Jamestown Ferry.

The next chapter seemed far too close to my liking to the mysterious ride in Corporate Intent. So  I decided to add friendly but mysterious off-world aliens where things such as driverless flying cars and recreating heaven were possible. Then things took off.

As I was writing the book, i could feel the tension from almost being there with Mike, the bootcamp instructor and him grabbing me through his words to get my attention! Hopefully readers will feel the same.

I provided various principles to use while living each day or working on a project of any size. These are wrapped in an unpredictable adventure story. Those that are reading The Dhammapada Handbook will find some of the same themes therein, however presented differently.

Lessons Learned

So what lessons that I learned to pass on to other part-time writers?

Lesson One:  Allow yourself time to try out various approaches before settling into one. If I had chose an approach too early, it would have caused trouble later.

Lesson Two: Watch when you are getting into old writing patterns. Think instead, how can I make this fun for the reader.

Lesson Three: Why stick in one genre when you can have four? This may open up greater possibilities to explore.

Wrapping Up

We are still learning on how some of the ancient wonders and structure were built. Perhaps there was a “super project manager” involved or not. Maybe they are still in our midst! Or in time we can overcome the high percentage of project failures by trying something completely different such as Spiritual Project Management (or another approach). I look forward to that day.

Why I went Silent

Introduction

It has been almost a year since I have written my last blog. During the last month, I spent writing Her Time which was a fictional look at Ben Franklin’s wife Deborah. This involved historical research, visiting 18th century sites, and deciding how to deal with gaps in her life. Like her husband, for most of her life she was a slave owner, although in the last twenty years of her life, she was enamored by the early stages of the abolitionist movement. Even though she had limited schooling, she successfully ran for many years her husbands’ shops and the entire Colonial postal system in his absence. While raising her children, being a social hostess, and volunteering for public causes. The book uses the skills of a young medium to tell the story about Her Time. I hope that you give it a look.

This took ten months to write so there was little time for blogs.

New Project: Dhammapada Handbook.

This is a creative fictional and nonfictional look at the Dhammapada. Some supplemental content can be found at Dhammapada Handbook

The book will be structured in sections
Each section will include
– Public Domain Translations
– My poetic paraphrasing of the verse
– Commentary on the verse as I was having a 1 or 1 conversation or informal Dhamma talk
– One or more original short stories based on the verse

I hope that this can be of some use in this dynamic world. May all beings have happy minds.

 

Unmasking the Real Story Behind Shrouded Witness

Late last year I completed and published Shrouded Witness.  Each book always has its own challenges. But writing this book was truly unique and pushing me beyond all limits. And now, I can share it with you why this was.

Challenge 1: Beyond Genres

This work is based on a C.Wright Mills-like sociological framework such as found in The Power Elite.  But there also histographical elements such as Herodotus and Ibn Khaldun.

The whole thing is wrapped up in a science-fiction tale about an imaginary planet (Wolyraf) and an organization that watches the planet’s happenings from the shadows recording it all. So on one day, the true narrative of what had taken place is revealed.

Challenge 2: The Framework

The book is loosely organized around ten topic units which are presented through a series of challenging interviews, short stories, and reflections. All of the units do not have to be read in order. However, it is helpful to read the entire unit.

Doing this reminded me somewhat of The Martian Chronicles and A Canticle for Leibowitz.

There is a bare-bones overall story arc. Originally it was not there. but the main character goes through a journey of personal growth. That he completes it at all and comes out alive is the main ending.

Challenge 3: Dealing with The Great Doubt. 

In my next book Spiritual Storms, I will talk how Project Managers can be overcome with loss of confidence and lack of faith in overseeing their projects. This book is unusual, in that the Great Doubt made a visit, making me question if there was an audience for such a truly original book. On reflection, it seemed like something that would be helpful for those that wanted to take a step back and get insights on studying a society. So I continued on to completion.

Challenge 4: How the Book Came About

In a previous blog, I talked about “Waverly” and how it was “disruptive fiction.” It clearly did not fit into any work that I was writing or had planned. In time, I decided that a book of short stories was needed on the operating of various societies. “Waverly” is included in this work.

Challenge 5: The Characters

There are four overall characters, Peter Lachmere (interviewer and freelance reporter), the mocking voice of the nameless organization, the nameless organization itself, and the Knowledge Lawn (the mother of all information databases storing what is happening on the planet.) Everyone else basically appears for an often contentious interview and disappears back into the shadows. And between the ten interviews and the numerous short stories, there are many characters and situations.

Challenge 6: The interviews

Imagine that you are interviewing someone. You don’t know when it will take place. You likely be snatched against your will to get to the interview location. Once there, you don’t know if the interview will turn ugly fast or not. You cannot rely on anything being told to be partially or totally real. The whole thing may be a well-crafted, elaborate lie to entertain some unseen audience. Still, each meeting seems to have some element of truth. The whole thing is a sort of mental sumo wrestling. Writing ten different interviews was a good challenge.

And there you have it. I hope that you give it a look when seeking something to read.

Thank you Pixabay for the image.

Writer’s Choice: Revealed vs. Uncovered Works

Introduction
“Sometimes a work is revealed and other times it is uncovered.” I wrote that in the Introduction of Missed Landing. But did not go into any explanation on what that meant. That is remedied here.

Revealed Works
Through dreams, ideas that pop suddenly into your head out of nowhere, or by the grace of your benevolent muse, a story begins. Time is spent writing down and expanding the epiphany. So the writing process for this is much more of following a quest or living a dream. Writing these types of works are generally very quick. Examples of this in my works are Killing Thoreau and Ghosts vs. Robots. Both started with a brainstorm and were fairly fast to write.

Uncovered Works
Other works are like a block of marble. You have to work and keep changing until the beauty inside is revealed. These works can be much harder to write especially is using a factory rather than a craft approach. But if completed can be more satisfactory than a revealed work. Personal examples include Saving Eddie and Missed Landing. Both went through multiple iterations until a framework was discovered and it just felt very right. This process included extensive editing, constant deliberations, various explorations, and much patience.

Whatever writing approach that you use, have fun with it. And enjoy the rare opportunity of expressing an interesting thought onto the digital page.

Writing Choice: Craft or Factory Approach?

[This is the first blog since Writing and Stuff (a collection of all the blogs on this site) came out in March. This free work has been downloaded in over 60 countries. A copy can be found at Smashwords.]

Looking back
This is my fifth straight year of being an independent author. It has not always been an easy road. One of the dynamics has been choosing between two completely different writing approaches. This blog covers what took place and what I learned.

2011-2012: The Factory Approach
During this time, I was a new author with a backlog of books. I wanted to get out as much as possible. So I came up with the factory approach which entailed the following:

1) Tracked on a spreadsheet the five phases for each book. This is Writing, Editing, Illustrating, Final Edit, and Publishing. Note there was not a Planning Phase. I color coded the status for each phase such as Underway, Done, or Planned.

2) Made an estimate on number of words for that book and tracked.

3) Had a 10,000 word status metric.

This was a successful approach in one sense. I was able to simultaneously edit and write multiple books. At the height in 2012, I published 8 books and 2 stories and a total of 185,000+ words total.

2012-To Date: The Craft Approach
But something was clearly missing. In the middle of one book, I decided the factory approach took away the fun and impacted the quality. It was coming from a viewpoint of scarcity rather than abundance. It led at times to writer’s shanks.

So in 2012, I switched to a “craft approach.” The rules were simple:

1) Work on no more than two books at once. But only one at a time.

2) Set no expectations on when things will get done or what are the next steps.

3) Allow more time to plan a book.

4) Accept that conscious failure is an option.

5) Be patient and allow disruptive fiction to happen,

6) Include time to try a story from different perspectives and styles. Choose the best combinations.

In the end, I find this more rewarding and the writing quality has improved. In 2015, I wrote five books (one a rewrite of short stories) and 129,817 pages. As a result, meatier. richer, and fewer books.

As a part-time author, you have to decide which perspective works for your circumstances and temperament. if undecided, try both and learn from the experience. I have gained so much for having done the same.

Good luck with your Writer’s journey!

Why not Transition to a Full-Time Writer?

Introduction

Recently, a colleague asked “Since you are so happy writing, shouldn’t you be doing it full time when you ever retire?”

I answered when that day ever arrives, I would consider it  but would not likely to do so. This seems like a great topic for a blog.

Why full-time writing is a better option:

A full-time writer in theory would have the following advantages:

  • Some feel that this makes their efforts more real and gives them a higher status.
  • They can dedicate more time to their works or produce more works in a shorter time period.
  • They can do a deeper research on a topic.
  • They can take advantage of various social and online resources that part-time writers cannot.
  • It may be more rewarding in other ways for a few of us.

Why part-time writing is a better option:

A part-time writer in theory would have the following advantages:

  • Writing is seen as special and not as a job.
  • A part-time writer can do pretty much a full-time writer can in terms of output, research, and using online resources. It just takes longer.
  • Writing in smaller time periods keeps things fresh.
  • They have more time to do other things.

The advantage and disadvantage of this choice are different for each person depending on economic circumstances, personality, desire to write, self-discipline, and writing topics covered. Also, what may be a clear path to choose one day may look like a bad selection the next.

So reflect on what will work best for you. Because writing is always a journey, an ongoing process, and never a single point in time.