Developing Writing Rituals

Writing rituals? No, I’m not suggesting you sacrifice a chicken to the voodoo gods! Writing rituals are the little things you do to start off your writing sessions or just before, that help you get relaxed and in the mood for writing.

When we first learned to write, we didn’t need writing rituals. Our voluntary writing was triggered by impulse. Teacher had us write our own sentences at school and it was so much fun we wrote a few at home as well. We learned about keeping diaries and we bought a diary or notebook and wrote in it for a whole week before giving it up and doing something else.

But once we started to think of ourselves as writers, we had to develop writing habits that let us write even when we didn’t have the impulse. We had to in effect give ourselves the writing impulse. And that is where writing rituals come in.

One kind of writing ritual involves reading a bit of something. A few well-known writers were known to read some good poetry before beginning their writing sessions. Some people might read the Bible or a devotional book, or an inspiring how-to-write book, or a few pages of a novel by an author we would like to learn from.

Another ritual involves consuming something. We make a cup of coffee or tea, or perhaps a lowcarb hot chocolate, and we sit down to write. Before long, making and consuming that drink trigger our having an impulse to sit down and write.

A warning here: if your writing ritual involves chugging down mass quantities of sugary soda, you may wish to transition to something that is less likely to cause health problems. You don’t want your writing ritual to be derailed when you develop T2 diabetes and have to give up the sugary sodas!

Another type of writing ritual involves listening to something. They may listen to popular music— and continue listening to that same music until it becomes ‘oldies.’ They may listen to classical or movie soundtracks. In my case I listen to polka music or international folk music. I like it with a peppy beat that makes me type faster.

Another part of a writing ritual might involve removing potential distractions. I usually put my cat Eleanor out on the porch when writing, because she tends to be pesty. Kitten Jon will end up in a big cat cage during the writing sessions if he jumps on my writing desk. Writers with children shut the door and have trained the children not to come in unless the house is on fire.

Writing rituals are individual to the writer. You may need to wear your lucky writer’s hat or writer’s underpants. You may need to drink your tea out of your Captain Kirk mug. You may be listening to a podcast or a sermon while you write. Or maybe listening to anything with spoken words would kill your writing session.

It actually doesn’t matter what your writing rituals are, exactly. They exist to put you in a writing mood and trigger that writing impulse. You may find, when the cat breaks your Captain Kirk mug, that your Mr. Spock mug serves the purpose equally well. Or any mug that is currently clean enough to use.

Your writing rituals may change over time. The writer who can only write with loud music playing may become a writer who prefers quiet. When your computer breaks down you may find you can do a writing session perfectly well writing by hand. It’s actually better to try to be a little flexible about your writing. The main good thing about your writing rituals is when they create the mindset for actual writing to happen.

Do  you have a writing ritual? What is it? Has it changed over time? Is it an important part of you sticking to a regular writing habit?

My Facebook author page: (Please visit & ‘like!’)

Fixing Your Pathetic Facebook Author Page

Do you have a Facebook author page? Is it totally pathetic like mine? Facebook pages used to be a fun thing and easy enough to gain followers on, for free. I used to ‘like’ as my page a few dozen other pages on the same or similar topics, and I’d interact with those pages as my page and share cool posts from them that were related to the topic of my page and life was good.

Then Facebook changed pages and there was no longer a feed of stuff you liked as your page so you had to relike it as you and since Facebook no longer showed your page posts to most of the people who’d liked your page unless you spent advertising money with them life was not so good.

I had planned to delete my author page. But then I found out that my WordPress . com blog would no longer syndicate my blog posts to a Facebook personal page, nor to a Facebook group (which is probably good.) The only way was to keep syndicating to my author page.

Facebook author pages, like other pages, now suck, but there are ways to make them suck less. They won’t be as popular as they were back in the day, but without spending a dime there are things you can do, right now, today, to make your Facebook author page better.

  1. Post something on your page today. Something personal, posted directly on Facebook and not through Buffer or WordPress. Preferably something relatively on topic, or something about your cat. (All authors have cats, right?) And post something tomorrow, and the day after, and so on for the next 7 to 14 days.
  2. Syndicate your blog posts to your FB author page. WordPress lets you do that right when you post. With Blogger, you have to do it by hand (which FB likes better, anyway) or do it through your Buffer account. That means your author page will have new content every day you blog. Continue doing this with every blog post you write for the next 7-14 days.
  3. Find the author blog list and “like” other author blogs. Share some of the nicer posts to your own FB author page. Try to find a fresh author FB page to “like” every day for the next 7-14 days. Extra credit: Find this blog’s ‘Contact Me’ page and use the email form to let me know the URL of your FB author page so I can add you to the list. Let me know your genre(s) as well— I am going to be adding that to the list in future.
  4. Make a FB author page list for your own blog. OK, if you don’t have a blog (yet,) you might make a ‘note’ on your FB author page itself that includes your list. Or some other online place. NOTE: I tried to add FB author pages to a Blogger blogroll and Blogger could not detect a feed for that page, so that’s one idea that won’t work.
  5. Do ‘Housecleaning’ on your author page. Is your profile pic for your author page an actual picture of you? People relate to actual people pictures. A relatively current photo is nice unless you are as old and decrepit as me. I use older photos. I had thought of commissioning an artist to do an anime-style me, but haven’t got around to that yet. But make sure you take down any stuff on your author page that no longer belongs there. I have an old picture of a kitten in a boot (cover picture) that needs to be replaced by a new ‘kitten in boot’ picture, but alas I didn’t take one when my current three kittens (Jon-with-Rice, Moira and Declanna) were small enough to fit in boots.

Do these things, or some of these things, right now, today, and for the next 7-14 days. At the end of that time, your author page may not be as epic as FB pages used to be, but it will be better. And more useful to your writing career (or future writing career.)

My Facebook author page: (Please visit & ‘like!’)

My Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy FB group (author networking)

Readers Group for Christian SF & Fantasy FB group (book promos allowed if in genre)

AspieLife: Why Can’t I Be Loved

One of the frustrations of my Aspie life is that I can’t get people to love me. I don’t mean I can attract a spouse or an illicit lover— I gave up on that years ago. But why can’t people love me as a friend? Or even as a family member? It’s puzzling, because I don’t think I’m a bad or cruel or hard-to-love person. People bond with friends who nickname them ‘fatty’ or ‘nerdbottom.’ I would never say things like that to a human being (or a cat!)

I have come to understand one reason other people don’t want to bond with me is because I am living in poverty. People are afraid they might be inclined to give me money or help me out with a ride to the local Walmart  if there was some kind of loving bond between us. It’s easier and safer to keep people like me at a distance.

Another reason is that we Aspies don’t send out the right kind of non-verbal signals or psychic ‘vibes’ to let the normies know we would welcome their friendship. They assume we don’t want friends (or family members who actually contact us.) I’m not sure what, if anything, I could do about that. I don’t anticipate my Asperger’s Syndrome being cured anytime soon, and if I actually went around telling people I want them to be my friends and/or love or care about me, they would shun me as a hopelessly weird person.

So what’s an Aspie to do? We probably all know that we should put ourselves out more— go to church services, social events, and other places where we encounter people, and take the initiative and talk to someone. If we can even do things like that. But my problem is that I have accumulated a lifetime of painful memories of encounters with other people that did not go well. As in the case in high school when I was called into the vice-principal’s office with the boys who were daily throwing rocks at me, and the vice-principal said I ‘dressed weird’ and he seemed to understand how those poor boys felt compelled to throw rocks.

My reaction to a lifetime of bad experiences is to develop habits of avoiding people. Even back in school I tended to skip school a couple of days a week when I could. A few extra days with no kids and no teachers/school staff members mocking me, throwing rocks at me, or saying unkind things about me were something I needed.  But human beings aren’t designed to be alone forever. I used to think of my life as being in solitary confinement for a crime I didn’t commit. But guys in solitary confinement can talk to corrections officers or the guy in the next solitary cell.

The internet is a big help for me. I have cyber-friends who seem to care about me, even once they know I am poor and can’t always buy and review their new books (many of them are writers.)  I can interact with others— a little. I can even be in contact with my aunt and cousins in Arizona.

I don’t have any shiny new answers to the being-unloved problem. And, I suppose, some of the family members who are always angry at me, or are dismissive of me, may actually feel love for me somewhere in their hearts. They just don’t know how to show it. But as I can’t become aware of that potential love, it doesn’t help my problem.

Have you— whether you are an Aspie (person with Asperger Syndrome) or not— ever had problems with making friends or sustaining contact with family members? How does that affect you? Have you found ways to make things better? Let me know in a comment!

“You Must Finish What You Write.”

The second of Heinlein’s Business rules for writers states that “You must finish what you write.” And that’s always been a problem for me. My life is littered with incomplete writing projects I will now never finish. And my life since childhood has been full of unfinished things. “You never finish anything!” my parents would say. Maybe it’s the Asperger Syndrome?

Feeling guilty about not finishing has not helped. White-knuckling my way through— forcing myself to go back to writing projects and finish them— has not helped. Believing I am destined to ‘never finish anything’ has really not helped.

What does help is looking at the stuff I can and do finish. I have finished poems— short poems anyway, not long epic poems or series of poems. I can also finish blog posts— in fact this is the second blog post I am writing this day, and I have every expectation of finishing although I have to break off in a minute to yell swear-words at some cats. (Tomorrow is Lent so I have to get the swearing out of my system today.) But I know I will get back to this post, finish it and post it. (Update: See? I did it!)

OK, so I have two kinds of writing I know I can finish. What I am trying to do now is create a little longer writing project that is similar to writing blog posts, but that will result in a short book— a short ebook anyway. It is about blogging— a topic I blog about here on this blog— and more specifically is for author bloggers who have blogs who are neglected and have few visitors.

My timeline for this project is 12 writing days. My word count goal is about 800 words per day. So far I have skipped a couple of days, and am 9 days in to the project. I am also starting to re-read what I have written to fix what needs fixing, I’ve also designed a book cover on Canva though I may have to tweak it if I modify the book name or tagline before publication day.

The problem is my long history of not finishing is starting to drag me down. I have started so many writing projects with high hopes and seen them bog down. To the point when I start a new novel or short story I feel that the odds are against my ever finishing or even getting to Chapter Seven.

What I am doing is tapping into something I can finish regularly— finish blog posts— and essentially turn a writing project into a short series of blog-post-like chapters. I set a time limit— a deadline— so it will have a finishing point.

When/if this works, I can use the same principle more or less for fictional…. But I probably should not blog about that or even think about that right now. My soon-to-be-finished book on curing blog loneliness is the only think in my universe right now (except cats to swear at and chickens/a goose to feed.)

Is finishing stuff a problem in your writing life? Has anything you have tried helped you? Are there writing things— like writing poems or blog posts is for me— that you can do, easy? Maybe you can use that to help you learn to finish other writing things— drop me a comment and let me know about your struggles and triumphs in finishing things.

Creating an Author Persona

Not a well-known writer’s photo.

One thing you will find yourself doing in the writing life is to create an author persona. You are doing this when you write the various author bios you may be asked to do. You may be doing it on an unconscious level much of the time. But it’s best to think of this with full awareness and using your critical thinking skills.

Your author persona is probably just an edited version of you. Some parts of you contribute well to your status as an author. For example, if you are an author of hard science fiction, and you have a Master’s degree in physics, that degree should be part of your author persona. If, on the other hand, your degree was in philosophy or French literature or gender studies, your degree is better not mentioned.

Other parts of your real life are left out of your author persona for privacy reasons. If you are the parent of twin children named Raoul and Elzire, that fact will be left out of your author persona to give the kids some privacy. You may mention you are a parent, but the exact names of the kids, pictures of the kids and other information about them may be something you don’t want floating around online. For a similar reason, you may not give out your home town, especially if it’s a small town like Peshtigo, Wisconsin. Or you might not mention the fact that your loving wife hates every single thing you have ever written.

Things that embarrass you or humiliate you are things that are not part of your author persona as a matter of self-protection. I have things like that— but I won’t give an example because that would be too embarrassing for me, even if every single comment about it is supportive. Let’s give a made-up example: Jenny the writer, whose Dad always called her ‘Fat-Face.’ Now, Jenny was never actually fat, the lucky b-tch, she just had a round face. In Asia that would have made her a great beauty. As a little girl growing up with a beer-swilling father in Tacoma, Washington, she got called ‘Fat-Face’ as if it were her name. As a grown-up she knows with her rational mind that there is nothing wrong with her face and it was her father who had a problem, not her. And she’s able to use that negative experience in her writing. But it’s not something that’s part of her author persona, because talking about it would make her feel too vulnerable.

Your job may dictate that certain things be left out of your author persona. You probably won’t be giving your job title and the name of the company you work for as part of your newest author bio. In some careers, your writing may be toxic. For example, if you are a professor of English literature and you gleefully pen low-brow novels just for fun. If you work for a public school and you want to write Christian fiction with Christian values, you may need to use a pen name to keep the two versions of you separate.

Should bits of your author persona be fictional? I’m not big on actually telling lies. But if you are a fiction writer and some fiction leaks in to your author bios, I’m not sure I’d want to judge you on that. Some genres may be helped if you hint at certain life experiences you haven’t in fact had. If you write Westerns, you may mention that you once worked on a Texas ranch— not mentioning that you set up their web site. If you write police procedurals, you might imply that your knowledge of law enforcement came from being a police officer and not from being a police station janitor or a youthful car thief.

You may also add details that make you feel more powerful and more competent as a fiction writer. You may need to concoct much more self-confidence that you would ever actually feel. And that’s not really telling a lie. It’s like repeating an affirmation. In the privacy of your writing area you may have all the self-confidence of a damp bar rag, but when you are stepping out in public, or in the online version of in public, you need to be Superman. Or at least Batman.

5 Blogging Missteps And How To Avoid Them

Many people start a blog because they are told that they need to. If you are an author you need an author blog. If you own a business you need a business blog. So people set up a blog— or spend money to have one set up for them— and then they don’t know what to do with it. They don’t get any response on their blog because they make a blogging misstep that gets in their way.

  1. Not Turning Comments On. I have seen many lonely blogs with this problem. The blog owner may not know how to turn the comments on, or may have turned comments off for some reason. THIS IS A MISTAKE. Turn the comments back on. When the comments are on, you do have the potential for receiving spam comments. The Akismet spam comment on WordPress blogs does a good enough job to prevent spam comments. On Blogger blogs, set it so you do not allow anonymous comments. Commenters must have a Google account to comment. Most people who want to write a legit comment already have a Google account. There is also a thing you can set to make people prove they are human before commenting. I haven’t had good experience with this— and after a few failed tries I may give up on leaving a comment altogether.
  2. Bland Blog Posts. Some people think you have to be bland and uncontroversial and create blog posts that cannot offend anyone. Well, in this age which rewards the constantly offended, there is no such thing as an inoffensive blog post. Since you are going to offend anyway, you might as well give up the bland, express yourself, and maybe win over some readers. You don’t have to tell everyone to go to Hades. Just a select few who have earned it. Your blog posts cannot be bland if you want to ‘hook’ readers with them. Make some waves— in a relatively civil way, I hope. Or at least a way that avoids death threats that require FBI attention.
  3. Forgetting What Blog Readers Want. Blog readers want bits of information or perhaps entertainment for free— that’s what they look at your blog for. If your blog does nothing but ‘tease’ for your books/ebooks that the blog reader has to pay for, you are not giving the blog readers what they want and they will move on to a blogger that does. Don’t be stingy with the products of your writer’s mind. When you use up your current set of writing ideas, more will come into your mind. You can come up with useful blog posts every single day plus create the content for the books you will be selling. Lots of people do.
  4. Not Sharing Blog Post to Social Media. When I write a blog post, it gets put up on Facebook and Twitter, perhaps Gab or MeWe, and Bloglovin’. I actually started off on Facebook and Twitter because I read that was a good way to promote my blog posts. I learned, of course, that they were so much more that that. You have to cultivate your presence on the social media you use, which means that you have to limit how many you are active on. If there were 100 competitors for Facebook out there, you wouldn’t have the time to use them all! Each social medium requires that you check in with it, share or retweet a lot of other people’s stuff, and do things to be a part of that community. The advantages to using them for your blog posts is that they will give each blog posts some internet links, which will in turn make your blog posts more discoverable.
  5. Not Blogging Regularly. If you add new posts to your blog once in a blue moon, your blog is only visible once in a blue moon, and to a limited supply of people. One blogging ‘expert’ says that a new blog must post three times a day until 1000 blog posts are made. Do you do that? Do you do even one post a day? If you only rarely blog, your blog will receive no attention and it will wither on the vine. You might be better off not having a blog but doing guest posts on the blogs of others. Or perhaps you could participate in a multiple-blogger blog. For most of us, we will want to up our blogging frequency as a part of building up a good daily writing habit.

Are you ‘guilty’ of any of the blogging missteps? Don’t feel guilty about it! Change what you are doing— even if it’s only one little thing like turning your blog comments back on— and your blog will get just that little bit better. Make a few changes like that, as you learn of things you can do to make your blog better, and your blog will really start to shine.

Are you the victim of a vanity press?

I got lucky. I read books on writing early in my writing life which warned about the dangers of a vanity press. As someone with Asperger Syndrome, if some vanity press had got ahold of me, I would likely have been deceived and perhaps been victimized.

To understand a vanity press, you have to understand how a traditional publisher, large or small, works. Traditional publishers make their money by selling books. When they choose what books to publish, they choose ones they think will sell well to make them enough money to cover any expenses of proofreading, editing and printing that the book has generated.

A vanity press has a different business model. They make their income off of the getting-published fees they charge their victims. They need not care whether a book they publish is excellent or abysmal. They only care that their victims pay the fees.

What do you get from a vanity press in exchange for the fees? They will give editing/proofreading and a book cover which may be substandard. They may insist that your book carry their vanity press imprint, which will warn readers in-the-know away from your book. In the old days before on-demand printing, you got a box of a thousand or more copies of your book that you were supposed to somehow sell yourself. No bookstore would accept a vanity press book, though.

Vanity presses often deceive. They tell you that James Patterson and all the other authors on the best-seller lists had to pay to get their books published, too. THIS IS NOT SO. Traditional publishers don’t charge authors, they PAY authors.

These days some vanity presses want to be called subsidy presses and say they are just providing services for ‘self-publishing.’ How can you tell?

A vanity press sells everything as a package, usually. If you have been making a living designing book covers for the last twenty years, they still insist that they sell you their second-rate book cover. If you are professional proofreader/‘editor’ they will still charge you for editing services.

A vanity press still deceives. They want you to think that paying for their services is the norm for professional writers. Nowadays, they may try to make you think that all successful self-published authors have used a ‘service’ like theirs.

I once knew someone who was the victim of a vanity press. He thought he was writing a series of stories set in the same sci-fi world. Instead, they were at best vignettes, mostly about his opinion that prostitution should be legal to help lonely men. He wrote three books for the vanity press, which didn’t sell well, and so quit writing.

He would have never been published by a traditional press until he upped his writing skills. But the vanity press never let him know there was something wrong with his ‘stories’ and so he never had a chance to improve his skills.

You don’t have to be a vanity press ‘victim.’ You can expand your writing skills by blogging or by posting your fiction to Wattpad. In both cases you will soon learn which of your writings attract attention and which don’t.

You can publish ebooks and print books at multiple places. You can buy book cover art and any proofreading or ‘editing’ [book fixing] that you think you need.

A vanity press is a drag on your writing life that you do not need. It just puts you in the company of other vanity press victims, sometimes with a vanity press imprint chained to your name and work. Do an internet search on any ‘author services’ company you are thinking about using, as in typing in the name of the company and ‘vanity press.’ You may save yourself some money that way.

CHRISTIAN WRITERS OF SCI-FI/FANTASY you are welcome to join the Facebook group: Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers for writer networking (sorry, no book promos allowed since there is a separate group for that.)