Sometimes we dream too small and it leads us nowhere.

I had a week off work, 7 days with nothing to do but write. If that’s what I wanted.

Now, I didn’t want to spend the ENTIRE day writing–a lie, I really did, but I also had other stuff I wanted to get done on my week off–but I did want to use that time to do something AMBITIOUS.

So I did. Normally my writing routine is to work on one thing at a time, rotating between projects every week. But this time I figured I’ve got the week off, why not work on ALL of them this week? Could I do 1000 words a day–my usual daily word goal–on all four current works in progress? Sounds tough, but not impossible. And anyway, if I pull this off, I’ll have proved something very important to myself: that I could do it.

See, some days those 1000 words come easy, but some days they’re like pulling teeth with no Novocain and it’s all I can do to eek out exactly 1000 words. Some days I don’t even make that. But this one week I was determined to do it. And if I missed it one day, as long as, at the end of that week off I had 20,000 new words written, I would consider it a success.

Know what happened?

I made it. It took writing the last 2000 words on Saturday, a day I had originally planned to give myself off, but I did it. Twenty. Thousand. Words. In SIX days instead of five, but I still got it done.

For someone like me who also has a day job–night job; I work second shift–to even consider writing so many words in a week feels impossible. It feels like the kind of thing you say “yeah, one day,” but then one day never comes because, holy crap there’s no way.

As artists, creators, the day we stop indulging in our ambitions, that’s the day we might as well stop creating at all. It was our ambitions that led us to picking up the pen in the first place, or the keyboard, or the instrument, or the microphone. It’s ambition that guides us every day when we sit down to work on our art.

We must learn to trust those ambitions and indulge them when they speak up, because it’s those ambitions that show us what we’re capable of. I never would have believe I could do 20,000 words in a week. If told I could do it, I’d have said something like, “Oh, yeah, I could make a good start of it, but I don’t see being able to maintain it for a whole week.” But then once I got the idea, and let it grow and grow over a couple of weeks, the ambition grew, the goal began to form, and by the time I got to that week off work, I knew I was going to do it. I’d built it up so big in my head by then, I knew I HAD to. Why? Because I learned years ago to trust my ambitions, listen to them and let them guide me to where I’m supposed to be.

Hell, if I’d listened to my head back in high school, I would have continued in my computer programming classes and MAYBE gotten a decent job in computers. But at the time I already knew my heart wasn’t in it, that I was just taking those classes because I’d heard programmers made good money and, at the time, there was really nothing I wanted to do with my life.

Then one day I got the idea to try writing this story that had been in my head for a few weeks before, and soon the idea turned into an obsession and that obsession turned into an ambition: to be a writer.

I followed that dream and I’m still following it and I honestly can’t imagine having taken any other path in life.

So live ambitiously, dream of things you never thought you’d do, and then do them.

(originally posted 9/22/2017 on

“Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth.”
–Machiavella, The Prince

Damn right. I mean, if you’re gonna fail, EARN that failure. Do big things. Make grand plans. Set ridiculous goals. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to do things in my life that other people write about when I’m gone. And I’ll tell you one thing, sitting around in front of the television all day isn’t gonna get it.

Neither is being one of those people who always WANTED to write, but never DID it.

I’m doing it, every day. And sometimes I fail, but at least I tried. Hell, everything we write is a risk. There are no guarantees of success, no matter what anyone else says. Take all the writing advice you want, none of it can promise you results.

They say if you want to make big bucks, write serials. They say if you write in different genres, use a pseudonym. They say spend $1000 on an editor and $500 on a cover and you’ll get a ton of sales. They say a large email list will always buy your books.

Bullshit. Every time you hear some writer giving advice, he’s only telling you what worked for him. Same with everything I’m saying here. The difference, I never once promised that following what I say here will help you sell books. It’ll help you WRITE them, if you’re actually dedicated to DOING that. But if you half-ass reading these posts as well as half-ass writing your book, you’re only going to have a half-ass career that leads nowhere.

But this isn’t about getting off your ass and doing things, this is about doing BIG things.

I had an ambition to write a horror story based on every single holiday on the calendar. I’ve only managed four so far, but that’s a question of motivation. The holiday horror stories sell here and there but nowhere near enough to justify halting every other project I’ve got going and focusing strictly on those. The same goes for my Angel Hill shorts. I want to write a different Angel Hill short story using the title of every Harvey Danger song as the inspiration and title for my story. I’ve currently got five of them done. I love writing them, I think they’re great stories. But as with the holiday horrors, the sales don’t justify halting everything else and working just on those. But at least I’m trying.

Now when I was starting off self publishing in 2012, I had big ambitions and a big back catalog. I threw a BUNCH of stuff online, with dollar signs dancing in front of my eyes. Meh. Sales were here and there. Nothing to brag about.

And then one night at work, I had this idea. So far, I’d only published short stories and collections, but none of the novels I had written. I wanted those to see publication through traditional means. So I sat on them and sat on them. But then I had the thought: just do it, put The Third Floor up there.

But it’s submitted to an agent right now, I told myself.

So what, I replied back. It’s been submitted to that agent for a long time, he’s clearly not getting back to you (he never did, still hasn’t 5 years later). It’s been out to SEVERAL agents and almost none of them have even bothered with a rejection. Just put it up there.

This felt to me like my most ambitious move yet, self publishing a NOVEL. Because I came up in the 1990s when self publishing made you a laughing stock. Sure, maybe you do a short chapbook here and there, but you do NOT self publish a novel. Even in 2012, when self publishing on Kindle and Smashwords was gaining a foothold … man, that was a risky move. One might say an ambitious move.

So I asked myself that most important question ALL artists need to ask themselves on a regular basis: Why the hell not?

Screw it, put it up. So I took a few days to workshop a product description, had a friend and publisher do a cover for me because I sure as hell was NOT up to the task of doing that one myself, and I put it up.

And good God it was the best decision I ever made in my writing career.

Over 30,000 copies of that book have sold. My self published novel that, for a long time, I was never going to self publish, because it was a NOVEL and the only way to publish a novel was through an agent who sends it to an editor at a publishing house, HOPE it gets accepted and, a year or two later, you’ve got a book on the shelf. Nah, I ain’t about that life no mo!

I’m a self published author and I don’t see ever going back to the old method.

But back to that quote at the start. I took a chance and it paid off. On the other side, if I’d just sat on my hands and never put that novel out there, what a huge mistake! I never would have been able to quit my part time job (I kept the full time job, until they laid me off a few months later). I never would have been able to support my family during a pretty long lay off. I never would have gotten myself out of debt. And all because I made the mistake of not trying.

Whatever it is you have inside you to do, DO it. Do it immediately. Write that book, that song, make that film, finish that painting, and then get it out there. Get them ALL out there. Every unfinished piece of art you have in you, do it all. Be ambitious. You may fail, you may succeed, but isn’t it better to KNOW?

And anyway, it’s really all in how you look at it. Thomas Edison didn’t fail at the light bulb 10,000 times, he learned the 10,000 ways to not do it. Personally I would rather try and fail than do nothing and never know what if.