Tag Archives: New Year

Now Introducing: Columns

I’ve been advised to keep “focused” here at jasonrpeters.com. But what does that mean? Should every post revolve around writing?

Monitoring and sharing my progress as a writer is the primary reason I started this site. But if I were to constantly write only about writing, I would consider that:

1. Boring to my readers and

2. Immature of me as a writer

Writing about writing is easy since it’s the topic I probably know the most about. It’s also much easier to write a book about how hard it was to write a real book than it is to write a real book.

Writing about anything else takes research, effort, and talent. Also, if you look over the history of blog, you’ll notice a predictable trend. Articles about where I am as a writer get barely any comments. This is true for the mirror posts on Facebook and for email correspondence.

Articles about politics, video games, philosophy, religion, books, and movies generate interesting discussion. That’s what writing is for, to open the mind. (An open mind is an open door, no?)

But my detractors are correct, I do need to keep the site more focused. And I’ve figured out a way to do that AND advance my career and maturity as a writer:

Columns.

This is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time, and now seems like the perfect opportunity. First week of the new year and all that crap.

Columns are how websites or publications with many topics divide up their topics among their staff and among their readers into organized, methodical components. I have a staff of only one: I’m writer, editor, webmaster, controller, and owner. And today I’m giving myself some specific assignments.

Writing columns will help me stay on topic for the website week after week, rather than rambling about whatever pops into my head, while allowing me to set aside the topic of my own career.

Below are the column ideas I have currently; I’m sure they will change or evolve based on your responses and involvement, but the ones I have so far will at least help get me started with some broad topics. I have ideas for several more columns than the ones below, but I’m going to start small and see how much time these occupy before committing to something like one per day.

ASK JASON ANYTHING

It’s a writer’s job to know a little bit about everything, and to thoroughly research anything he doesn’t know. ASK JASON ANYTHING is your opportunity to challenge Jason with a question of any kind, whether it’s scientific or religious, financial or social, political, historical. It can be something you already know, or something you’re genuinely curious to learn. You can ask trivia or knowledge or advice, and every Thursday, Jason will do his best to answer.

JASON ASKS EVERYTHING

On Fridays, Jason selfishly turns the tables and asks questions of you, the readers, why things are the way they are, and what we as individuals or a culture can do to make our world better. Where do you worship? Where do you work? How do you vote? What do you buy? And how is your life, and the lives of those around you shaping up as a result?

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT

Each Saturday, Jason spotlights one product or service he finds particularly useful or enjoyable; the kind of things that make you wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone have this?”

The difference between Writing and Writering

MotivationNew Year’s Day, I mentioned I wanted to be “a writer”. My father-in-law corrected me:

“You are.”

That’s right; I am. I write regularly in pursuit of publication; I’m not merely journaling, blogging, or setting idle words to print in hope that “someday” I might come into my craft.

I write intently and deliberately and with passion.

So I corrected myself:

“I want ‘writer’ to be my day job.”

This is a goal I’ve had virtually all my life. But WHY?

The answer is because I enjoy writing. And if you do what you love, you never ‘work’ a day in your life…right?

Only here’s the problem. Sometimes writing feels like work. Sometimes instead of feeling excited about a project, I dread returning to it.

In other words, sometimes I don’t enjoy writing.

…so why do it?

If the purpose of becoming a writer is to something I enjoy, and I cease enjoying this particular activity, what’s the sense of doing it, at least in the short term?

It’s hard to say.

Which makes it hard to write.

But I’ve noticed something here at the turn of the new year. I try not to make “resolutions” but I do try to make general improvements…then again, I do this year round. But January 1 is usually a time where I say to myself, “Write more.” (Duh.)

But it isn’t the New Year that’s motivated me to begin writing again this year. It’s not the thought of prestige or financial security or even just doing something I like.

No.

It’s the books I got for Christmas. One of each kind:

  • Fiction
  • Non-fiction
  • Short Story collection

And I’m thoroughly enjoying all three. And each line, page, or chapter I enjoy makes me want to offer that same enjoyment in turn to others. It makes me want to write, whether I’m ever published or “successful”. Just for the challenge of doing it, the same way I enjoy playing video games or eating. The activity itself becomes satisfying again.

I’m reminded that I used to read hours every day, every night before bed, every morning at breakfast, every single break at work. And reading is what greased the wheels to make me want to write.

The problem is this:

I can’t find that many  good books.

My dry spell writing towards the final months of 2009 directly correlates to a dry spell reading. I had tried the latest recommended authors and books and found them lacking, and become further unwilling to take up any new volume with each that dissatisfied me.

And I’ve reread everything in my personal library half a dozen times or more already, including some of the ones I don’t even like that much.

So this I beg you, fellow reader:

If you know a good author, recommend him/her to me in a hurry. Buy a book for me and put it in my hands — I’ll pay you cash on the spot for it if I have faith in your judgment. Because I never knew it before, but good books are fuel for my fire. Without them, I go up in smoke.

Happy Blue Year

A Blue MoonWelcome 2010.

To me, a new year is intimidating in much the same way a blank sheet of paper (physical or word processed). My imagination offers me limitless potential, which has a way of freezing me in place. There are too many possibilities, and I don’t dare sully the new page or year with throwaway text. Whatever I write next sets the tone for every page that follows, right?

There’s just too much pressure to get it right.

What shall I cover?

The most dangerous drive, round trip, of my entire life?

Finally seeing my family again after a year and a half?

North Carolina’s new ban on smoking in restaurants and bars?

My co-worker who was arrested after living for years under a secret identity?

New Year’s [yawn] resolutions?

My vote is:

None of the above. As a storyteller, I have an obligation to share with you each of those tales. But I have a bigger obligation to get them right, and there just isn’t time right now.

Mentioning the constraint of time remains me that a New Year is less like a blank page than you might think. It is already filled with commitments and obligations; we don’t return to work to scrap last year’s projects and start with new ones. Our financial situation is the same on 1/1 as it was on 12/31. There’s no mystical erasure at work when the clock strikes midnight.

Just an opportunity to reflect how we might do better going forward. Last year, for example, I started this website. It didn’t magically infuse my writing career, but it has helped mold me as a writer.

So let me contend myself with wishing you well, and hoping you had as much fun over the holidays as I did, sans road hazards and travel aggravations.I urge you not to make undeliverable promises to yourselves or others. I think it’s more useful just to consider how we might improve in general, and to make progress on some of the goals we already had.

A New Year, much like a blue moon (which occurred this New Year’s Eve), is a mundane rarity. Make use of it without letting it hold you in awe.

But make it a good one.

This seems doable, but arbitrary.

writing-towards-a-word-countSince my pseudo-New Year’s resolution to actually write this year, I have stayed tightly focused on only a few projects:

Short stories all.

Novel and non-fiction book ideas have floated into the window, settled on my desk and sneezed twice, at which point I squeezed them into my hard drive in some fashion or other.

They remain unstructured, unrefined, and most of all, incomplete.

I should finish one.

And it’s been said that without milestones and deadlines, a project will never be finished. What’s the deadline? What are the milestones?

I asked my grandboss (that’s “boss’ boss”) who used to work at the Times what he thought good deadlines for a novelist would be. As he began to answer, I had to cut him off:

No, no, not deadlines for a novelist whose job is being a novelist. Deadlines for someone with a completely unrelated day job. Someon like…and of course we’re just speaking hypothetically, because I love this company and would never leave…me.

He didn’t know. His wife didn’t know. Everything from “take your time even if you only write a page/year” to “spend every free waking moment writing” seems equally viable good advice on the subject.

I think a reasonable deadline in my case would be the end of 2009. I started off the year with the purpose to write more; this would fulfill that purpose. And it doesn’t give you the cramped-lack-of-quality produced by NaNoMo, where the goal is to finish the novel within a month. Yikes.

So today I did some rusty math. (Footnote: Any math performed by me is rusty; I’m a words man.) To finish a 100,000 word novel, which is a relatively short novel (but I’m aiming for a tighter style than my wordier compatriots anyway), I would have to write 500 words a day.

That’s not a lot. 500 words is about 2 pages double-spaced. I’ve written articles here which were three and four times that length without too much effort.

I immediately thought: HA! I can do this!

…or can I?

A novel is more than a loose collection of words. Writing stream-of-consciousness non-fiction (hereafter to be referred to as either “blogging” or “crap”) is far easier than serious fiction.

Before I know which scene to write next, I have to know the characters, the circumstances, the upcoming events, the past events. I have to reread what came before, I have to visualize what comes after. This means researching, outlining, brainstorming, and in general a lot of activities which are equally part of the writing process, but don’t add to the word count.

Nevertheless, 500 words/day seems like a reasonable goal. To help relieve pressure for all the outlining, I could try to write non-chronologically for me, which has always been a barrier I’d like to overcome. Whatever scene I want to write that day, that’s the scene I write.

Will it work? I have no idea. Will it produce quality fiction? I have no idea. Will it result in publication? I have no idea.

Will it put words on a page?

…yes.

Website Launches

Champagne ToastHappy New Year!  2009 is in full swing; vacation’s over.

Have you made any resolutions? I don’t normally (who keeps em, right?) but this year is an exception.

I’ve resolved to maintain a website for showcasing my writing, as many authors do. Primarily I’ve been inspired by this by Brandon Sanderson who not only keeps a blog, but publicly reports progress for his current projects.

My purpose for emulating him is two-fold:

Primarily, I intend to keep myself honest, motivated, and focused. If my blog is publicly tracked by my parents, friends, co-workers, and my wife, then I can hardly shrug off inquiries about my latest projects per the usual procrastination. They’ll know if I’ve been writing. And (hopefully) they’ll pester me for the completion of interesting projects.

Secondarily, every writer needs an audience. I find I’m most motivated to finish a story when I picture printing the hardcopy and handing it out, or emailing it to the few readers I have already. A website automates that process. My mind’s eye constantly pictures the website’s readers, even if they’re only immediate family, as people for whom I am writing. This encourages me to take the stage with gusto.

Welcome to Jason R. Peters dot-com. I hope you enjoy my work.