Are you plotter, or a pantser? A sitter or a stander? Do you type your stories or dictate them? Would you believe, in this day and age, there are writers, Clive Barker, for instance, who still write their novels longhand, and do an edit when they’re inputting it into a computer?

And they’re absolutely right in doing it that way. So are the writers who wouldn’t dream of writing longhand. So are the ones who dictate their work into their phone. So are the ones who write while walking on a treadmill desk.

They’re all correct in their approach to writing, because they’re doing what works for THEM.

I know how confusing it can be, when you’re starting out, to figure out what works for you, and you’ll try a dozen different methods before landing on the ONE. And I’ve been through many of them. I’ve written longhand, I’ve plotted and pantsed. I’ve never written standing up, but I’ve often taken walks and thought about what I was going to write. I still haven’t dictated my words, and I don’t see that happening. It’s just not how I work. But if you want to try it, that’s your choice.

You’re going to go through a number of different approaches, and every time you learn of a new way, you’re going to want to try it. That’s an excellent idea. Try them all. But never insist there is only ONE way to write, to compose, to paint, or whatever. There are as many approaches as there are art forms and every one of them works for SOMEONE.

So don’t feel hindered by one way of doing things just because that’s how “best selling author” does it. That works for them, do what works for YOU.

 

Let me ask you something, when you set your goals, how high did you aim? I know, I always say to set realistic goals, but when you did it, did you go for realistic in the sense that you’ve performed at that level before so you already know you can? Or did you set realistic goals that you know you CAN meet, but it’s going to take a little work and, in the end, you’re going to come out of the process a stronger, more confident person?

I’m gonna guess it was the former. And there’s no shame in that. We’re fragile creatures, we don’t react well to pain, and setting a goal we know we can’t reach, and then living with the inevitable disappointment of being right, that can hurt.

But what if you set that higher goal and you met it? My God, what a world that would be, huh? I’m not saying set impossible goals, we’re still determined to set goals we know we can reach. But if there’s a goal you know you could hit, but it would be a struggle … imagine hitting that one?

That’s the thing with people, sometimes our vision is higher than our aim. We can SEE that lofty goal, but nah, that would be too hard, we’ll just settle for this mid-range goal instead. That’ll be good enough, right?

Well, sure, it WOULD be good enough. If you want to be like everyone else.

Or you could aim higher and really accomplish something. Set those goals, and set them so you can achieve them, but don’t make it easy on yourself. Sidney Sheldon said “It is an unfortunate fact that too many writers–like too many people in other fields–are satisfied with less than their best.”

Ain’t it the truth? So many people are happy to live a C average life. But what’s the fun in that?

Aim high, then do what it takes to achieve that level, and WHEN you reach it, believe me, you’re going to feel so much better about yourself. In fact, it could very well change everything. Like Tyler Durden said, “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”

Also, “Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.”

Suck it up, aim higher, and go kick some ass.

An affectation is defined as “behavior, speech, or writing that is artificial and designed to impress.” And we’ve all been guilty of it. Luckily, for most of us, we only did this in the beginning, before we found our voice.

I remember a time, in my first year of writing, when I would scour the thesaurus, looking for the word that made me look like I knew what I was talking about. I once used “stentorious” in a story because I thought it sounded impressive. It didn’t. Eventually I replaced it with “loud”, which means the same thing and doesn’t require a dictionary to be in the reader’s back pocket. Also, it made me look like less of douche.

Avoid affectations in your art at all cost. So what if you don’t think your work measures up to the masters in your field yet. Neither did they when they started, but they got there, through hard work, commitment to the art, and discipline. I see this in a lot of cooking shows, especially ones with Gordon Ramsey’s name on them. These young chefs trying to impress the master with fancy plating or weird ingredient combinations but missing the most IMPORTANT ingredient: them.

Affectations are nothing more than you trying to be someone you’re not. And everyone else can tell when you’re doing it, whether it’s writing the most “extreme” horror you can imagine (which is usually not very imaginative, to be honest), or putting on a cheap smile in the face of impossible conditions and hoping a good attitude will see you through.

I see this particular one a LOT in my daily life. You should see the number of people at work who smile and say “it’s not so bad” when we end up working that “emergency 12 hour shift” or the guy who says he’s going to bid out because he doesn’t like the conditions when two weeks ago he was angling for that team lead job he didn’t get.

Rejection sucks, we can all admit it. But the thing to do with rejection isn’t to pretend it doesn’t bother you, that you’re perfectly content when your book didn’t sell in the numbers you’d hoped it would or connect with an audience as quickly. Instead we have to, not necessarily embrace rejection, but definitely admit it. I’ve got over twice as many rejection slips for my fiction as I do acceptance letters. And they all sucked. But I didn’t pretend it was all okay. Instead I took that, accepted it and admitted that it hurt, and I used that to help me try to write a better story next time, while resubmitting the rejected one, sure that somewhere out there was an editor who would appreciate it.

Believe me, it’s ok to care, and it’s ok to be yourself. Because in years to come when people know your name and audiences are waiting for that next release, YOU are the person they’re coming back for, and in the long run YOU are the only thing that is sustainable in your art. I used to try to copy Bradbury or Barker in my prose, but that becomes exhausting because it’s not ME. Eventually I had to learn to put away those affectations and just write as myself; it was the only way I could keep writing day after day. When you strip away those affectations and be the best YOU that you can be, that’s when you’ve found your voice, and THAT is when your art really starts to shine and people start to notice.

(originally posted 11/1/2017 on www.cdennismoore.com)

Recently, in my efforts to make myself a better person, better artist, more productive and all around happier, I read Og Mandino’s books THE GREATEST SALESMAN IN THE WORLD and THE GREATEST SALESMAN IN THE WORLD II: The End of the Story. In it, Mandino lays down his “rules” of success. In the book, the reader is supposed to spend a month on each “scroll”, reading it three times every day for the entire month, before moving on to the next one, but the scrolls are actually longer than just their topic. Mandino goes into more detail than here, but I’m not going to copy word for word his books. Instead I decided to adopt a “version” of his lessons and use them as daily affirmations. And so far they’re working wonderfully.

So your assignment as a creative is to integrate these twenty affirmations into your morning ritual. You DO have a morning ritual, don’t you? If not, you better get one (contact me here and I can help you with that). They are as follows:

Today I begin a new life.

I will greet this day with love in my heart.

I will persist until I succeed.

I am nature’s greatest miracle.

I will live this day as if it is my last.

Today I will be master of my emotions.

I will laugh at the world.

Today I will multiply my value a hundredfold.

My dreams are worthless, my plans are dust, my goals are impossible. I will act now.

Who is of so little faith that in a moment of great disaster or heartbreak has not called to his God?

Never again will I pity or belittle myself.

Never again will I greet the dawn without a map.

Always will I bathe my days in the golden glow of enthusiasm.

Never again will I be disagreeable to a living soul.

Always I will seek the seed of triumph in every adversity.

Never again will I perform any task at less than my best.

Always will I throw my whole self into the task at hand.

Never again will I wait and hope for opportunity to embrace me.

Always will I examine, each night, my deeds of the fading day.

Always will I maintain contact, through prayer, with my creator.

 

(originally posted 10/27/2017 on www.cdennismoore.com)

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

–Paulo Coelho, THE ALCHEMIST, page 146

That’s not to say that overcoming that fear is going to guarantee success, but bowing to is definitely going to guarantee failure, make no mistake about that.

But fear of failure is a very powerful obstacle, especially when other people are watching. Failing alone behind a closed door is one thing, but to fail with “all the world (the potential of the internet) watching” is another thing altogether. No one wants to fail in front of everyone they know and love.

But wouldn’t you rather fail and say “At least I tried” than get to the end of your life and regret all the things you never did? Believe me, you are going to die. We all are. And since we have no idea when that day is coming, the time to make your mark on the world is NOW.

You might fail. And if you do, you get up and try again. Each failure is a lesson, and we try again with that new knowledge in mind: this is what didn’t work, so I’ll try a different approach to reach the same goal. If you lock yourself out of the house, you don’t keep trying to open the locked door, do you? No, you find another way in.

And that’s all failure is, a locked door. So you regroup and go try another door, or a window. And if all else fails? If every door and window is locked tight and you need to get inside? Break in. NEVER let fear of failure keep you from reaching your goals.

In an interview on the DON’T KEEP YOUR DAY JOB pod cast, animator/director Saul Blinkoff said if the listeners remembered nothing of else of what he said, there was one thing they needed to take away from his interview. At the end of the day, say to yourself this sentence: “Today, no one worked harder than me.” And if it’s not the truth, then you’ve still got some more work to do before you go to bed.

His interview was amazing and inspirational and I encourage everyone to listen to it. He definitely made me realize I could totally be working harder.

But the point to bringing it up is this, he had a dream since childhood, to be an animator for Disney Studios. And he failed. And he failed again. And he failed again. Finally, he gave up. But worthwhile dreams never really die, sometimes you just need a few minutes to regroup. And when he made up his mind this was what he wanted to do with his life, he worked and worked and worked night and day, perfecting his craft, until he got that call: he’d made the cut.

Never let fear of failure stop you. You can fail a thousand times, but you only need to succeed ONCE.

(originally posted 10/26/2017 on www.cdennismoore.com)

“Every second of the search is an encounter with God,” the boy told his heart. “When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I’ve known that every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.”

“Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him,” his heart said. “We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them–the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.”

–THE ALCHEMIST, by Paulo Coelho, page 135

This isn’t a new topic, nor will it be the last time I address it. I can blog til I’m blue in the face, I can fill up webpage after webpage with words of encouragement, but no one can achieve your goals FOR you. You HAVE to take those steps yourself.

And sometimes, the things you find, the people you encounter along the way, will add to your life in ways you never could have predicted.

When I started writing reviews for my local literary guild’s monthly newsletter, I was trying to fill space, and to give myself motivation to read some of the books on my shelf (I started reviewing only writing books, forcing an education upon myself as I built up a stockpile of reviews for the newsletter). Then I discovered I really enjoyed writing reviews, so I kept going, and soon I was writing them for a review website, and then I branched out into movies and music, and that led me to writing reviews for The Horror Zine where I met a very close friend, Caleb Straus, who when we met, was seeking reviewers for his movie, IT’S OVER. From that humble beginning 20+ years ago with a little book on how to break into writing comics and a 200 word review, I’ve made a friend for life.

The same goes for everyone else on my team. I met Dave when I asked him to edit a short story collection I was putting together, and I asked him because a fellow writer, Steve Vernon, had asked me to review his collection, NIGHTMARE DREAMS. Again, it goes back to those reviews I started doing as a space-filler. I loved the collection and wanted to work with the editor who helped shape it. David Bain was that man, and one thing led to another and now over a decade later he’s the only writer from those message board days I keep in touch with on any significant level.

But I never set out to 1) writer reviews or 2) make lifelong best friends. Those things came about as a side effect of the real dream: to write for a living. And while I’m still working, every day, toward achieving that goal, look at where it’s led me.

So many times we let fear keep us not only from realizing our dreams, but from even attempting to live them. And that’s got to stop. First of all, how can you ever succeed if you don’t first risk failure? You can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket. And while buying a ticket doesn’t guarantee a win, NOT buying one guarantees a loss.

We live so long in our comfort zones for a reason, the very same reason they’re called comfort zones. But all comfort zones really do is lull you into a haze and keep you from taking the action necessary to live the life you want to live.

Step outside that zone once in a while and experience the world. Decide on the life you want to live, map out the steps necessary to get there, make a plan, and take action. Not later. Now. Before you get left behind.

(originally posted 12/7/2017 on www.cdennismoore.com)

One of the roadblocks people face when trying to decide whether or not to take that leap and start their own business is the thought that “there’s nothing special about this. There are millions of these out there. I need a NEW idea.”

Well, no you don’t. You just need to take an old idea and do it in a way no one has before.

That’s the philosophy with which we approached Midwest Creativity Coaching.

There are TONS of life coaches, writing coaches, dating coaches, any kind of coach you can think of, if you know how to use Google, you can probably find one. So why get into a business that was already so saturated with people and content?

Because we don’t do business like they do.

Research all the other “writing coaches” and you’ll find a lot of them come at you with products. I’ve got this 5-hour webinar, I’ve got this 6-week course, and it only costs $500 to get started.

Get started? What’s it cost once you’re in? And let me get this straight, you’re selling a one-size fits all course that, if I follow your instructions, is going to guarantee me huge success?

But how can that be when every situation is unique?

See, at Midwest Creativity Coaching, we don’t have any 6-week courses. That’s not to say we never will, but if and when it happens, the content will be scalable for your needs at that time. But that’s in the future. Know what we have now?

We’ve got people. We’ve got writers and creators who know that what works for them might work for you, and it might not. But that’s why we’re committed to working one on one. We just want to hear your story. We want to hear your method and help you pick it apart and put it back together into a shape that works and makes sense for you and what you want to accomplish.

I was working with a writer recently who had been in something of a creative slump, only to realize it wasn’t a slump, but a flood. He had so many ideas and things he wanted to work on that he froze and wasn’t doing any of them.

After an hour–maybe 90 minutes–on the phone, he had his projects sorted, his goals solidified, and a workable schedule so that now, two months later, he’s more happy and productive than he’d been for at least a year prior to that one 90-minute phone call.

He now has an accountability partner and every Monday they check in with each other’s goals for that week–as well as defining specific penalties if they don’t meet them.

Don’t worry, no one’s spouse is getting shoved into a room with an electrified floor or having their little fingers cut off.

But this is what we aim to do with Midwest Creativity Coaching. We help individuals who are having trouble being the consistently productive artist they WANT to be and help them figure out how to BE that. With nearly 100 years of collective experience under our belts, whatever your issue or hang-up, we can help you sort it out and get your creativity back on track.

And best of all, the initial consult is a free phone call. Book your call now to be one day closer to living your best life.

And don’t think you can’t contact us because writing isn’t your thing. We have a marketer, a creative writing teacher, a filmmaker, a musician, and an audio book producer on staff, so whatever your medium, we’ve got you covered.

 

(originally posted 10/15/2017 on www.cdennismoore.com)

You know those few items of clothing you have that used to fit but you can’t bring yourself to throw out because they’re still perfectly good and you MIGHT fit into them again one day? Just throw them out. What are you waiting for? Why are you taking up space unnecessarily? Just chuck em!

But one day, you tell yourself. One day I’ll fit into them again. Sure you will. How, by sitting on the couch all weekend watching Netflix? By ordering more fast food than you need, half for the drive home and the rest for after you get there, so you can eat in front of the television like a civilized person? Just throw those clothes out.

Why am I talking about clothes instead of writing? Because fitting into old clothes takes the exact same thing that writing does: Action.

Just like you will never fit into those old clothes until you get off your lazy ass and DO something, you will NEVER build a writing career on hopes and dreams. You’ve got ideas for a dozen novels and thirty short stories that are bound to be big hits? Great, where are the first drafts?

You know what WANTING to write will get you? What PLANNING to write will get you? What THINKING about writing will get you? Two things: Jack, and shit.

Schedule the time, plot the story, find the characters, and then sit down and WRITE it. Not think about writing it, not research writing it, not join a critique group and talk about writing it, WRITE it. Start to FINISH. Because if you don’t get to the end of the story, you’ve really written nothing at all, haven’t you?

For all the rules that came before this, reading, persistence, love, identity and drive, none of them mean a thing without ACTION to back them up.

As for the clothes, that’s easy. Take a walk. Dude, I’ve been walking 30-45 minutes every morning before I start my day. It took 5 months but I’m wearing jeans I’ve never fit into before. Just get off your lazy ass and move.

(originally posted 10/12/2017 on www.cdennismoore.com)

Since I was born in 1972 and have never been to New York, I can’t vouch for the validity of this story, but this is how I heard it.

Back in the early 1960s, Stan Lee was working for a comic company as a writer and hating life. He hated the stories he was forced to write, he hated the workload, he just hated it all. So he decided he was going to quit. His wife told him, “Well, if you’re gonna quit anyway, you might as well go out the way you want. Write the story. Write the big story, the story you’ve been dying to write. Write the story they wouldn’t let you write and finally write something that makes you happy.”

I’m paraphrasing because, as I said, I wasn’t there. This is just how I heard it.

Anyway, so Stan Lee thinks about it and says, “You know what? You’re write. F this noise.” And he wrote a story that said everything he’d been wanting to say in comic book form. The story he had been wanting to tell was a little yarn about four friends who take a rocket into space and return to earth with strange powers and decide to form a team. He called it THE FANTASTIC FOUR.

Pretty much from that point on history was made and all because, at the end of the day, at the end of HIS days at that job, Stan Lee wrote like there was no tomorrow because, for him, in that job, there wasn’t.

That’s how we have to write every day. Because tomorrow is not promised–that’s from something, a movie, a TV show, DOCTOR WHO perhaps? I can’t remember. What you write today could very well be the LAST THING you ever write.

So make it count. Make the choice. Do you want to go out with some little bitch ass nonsense that ANYONE with half an education could have written, or do you want to go out on your feet, with words people years from now will read and say, “Yep, that was pure [your name here]. Wrote [his/her] ass off til the end.”

Imagine if you were told you had a year to live, what would you write about? You have no idea. How could you? We can’t conceive of a timeline that long, it’s too much for our brains. But if you were told you’ll die TOMORROW…? You’re given time to watch your favorite movie, listen to your favorite song, eat your favorite meal, and spend time with the people who matter most. And you’ve got time to write one more thing. The last thing you’ll ever write. What’s it gonna be?

Every day when you sit down to write, just remember, you might not wake up tomorrow, so make these words today count.

(originally posted 10/11/2017 on www.cdennismoore.com)

Tyler Durden would try to tell you that you are not a unique snowflake. I can see his point, but at the same time, even where identical twins are concerned, no one has lived the life you have lived in exactly the same way.

People may have had similar experiences or come from similar backgrounds, but the singular events and your reactions to them are what shaped you into the unique individual you are.

To that end, when you start to doubt yourself or get down about your writing ability or lack thereof, just remember this: NO ONE can write the stories you can write.

Other writers may write similar stories or create similar characters, but none will write the stories you can write. What you bring into the world is a creation unique to YOU and the life you’ve lived.

Your job then is to use that gift. Use the gift of the life you were given, whether good or bad, fulfilling or not, and write stories that only you can write. This is your legacy.

Don’t concern yourself with what other writers are writing: you are not them and you can’t write their stories. Focus on yourself. Write what YOU can write, because if you don’t, know one else will. Because no one else CAN.

People spout that “you’re not a unique snowflake” line to keep others from feeling “entitled”, and I can support that. There are too many people who think good things should be handed to them because of who they are, without having to work for them. So, yeah, I’m all for the “you’re not a unique snowflake” comeback. But when it comes to a person’s life and the events that shaped them and the stories that result from that chain of events … we’re all unique and the stories we tell are ours and ours alone.

What stories will come from the life you’ve lived?