Developing Good Writing Habits

Photo by Min An on

When I started this blog a year ago, the words flowed and writing daily came naturally. After taking a two month break, I thought it would be easy to get back into the writing habit.

Unfortunately, I’m struggling for a variety of reasons. First, I’m having to carve out a time to write after work. That’s harder than it sounds. I’ve now got daily exercises for my shoulder. That eats into the time I have available.

Speaking of my shoulder, I’m still hurting a bit when I type. I’ve got to take frequent breaks which disrupts the flow of thoughts. I’ve started a story on my weekly writing challenge two or three times and then completely lost where I was going with it after having to take a much needed break. The pain, though less than it was, has also affected my thinking processes. I’m unable to get into the writer’s zone.

So, do I wait until I have completed physical therapy? Or do I press on and try to write every day? My thinking is the latter is preferable. I may be writing dreck for a while until I can get into the groove. I’m also not going to worry about my prompt for the week until I can sit and write for a complete hour. Once I do that, I may be posting multiple short stories during each week until I get caught up.

It’s settled then. For me to develop good writing habits, I need to write everyday. Even if it is complete garbage. Bear with me, it will get better.

Weekly Progress Report #44

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so this is going to be a long update.

Zero progress on writing for the last two months.

About four months ago, my arm and shoulder started hurting. I would get a sharp pain if I moved my arm in certain directions. At first, the pain would subside to nothing, but after a while the pain became constant. I told my doctor about it and he wasn’t sure what was going on but decided to send me off for x-rays. I told him I had a high pain tolerance and gave him examples. Didn’t seem to faze him at all.

Then he sent me to get an MRI on my shoulder after the x-rays came back negative. Turned out I had two torn muscles and some fluid in my shoulder joint. About this time the pain was getting to the point where I couldn’t type more than a sentence or two. I stopped updating my blog and stopped writing stories altogether as it is extremely difficult to concentrate on writing when my shoulder and arm were hurting.

It got so bad that when I tried to sleep, I would naturally roll over on my right shoulder and it would wake me up. I would yell out and that would wake up Mrs. D. This happened all night long about every 1/2 hour. Finally, just to get some sleep, I’ve moved to sleeping in a recliner chair every night for the last six weeks.

Saw my doctor again and found out he couldn’t access my MRI or report due to the change over in software they were in the process of doing. We showed him the report I had gotten from the MRI. At this point, he finally realized that I did indeed have an extreme high pain tolerance. I asked him why he had discounted me when I had initially told him about it. Turns out he hears patients daily saying they have high pain tolerance in an effort to get stronger pain medication.

No wonder!

I rarely if ever take pain medication. Now I know when I see a doctor and tell them I have high pain tolerance, I also have to tell them I don’t want pain medication.

Got a referral to see an orthopedic surgeon as my doctor thought it would be likely I would need surgery. The surgeon took extensive x-rays of my shoulder and arm. Turns out I did not need surgery. Instead he said I had what is called a “frozen shoulder”. An inflammation of my shoulder joint had caused scar tissue and made it where I had lost most of my mobility of my shoulder joint.

He prescribed an injection of cortisone into my shoulder joint. This would help dampen the inflammation and start the healing process. In addition, I will be going through physical therapy twice a week for the next six weeks. Ouch!

As you can see the cortisone shot worked wonders as I’m able to actually sit down and write. I’m still sleeping in the recliner every night and more than likely that will continue while I’m doing physical therapy.

I’m going to make a renewed effort to post daily. I’ve missed writing and interacting with everyone. I’m also about 8 stories behind on my weekly writing challenge. Hopefully by doing at least 2 a week, I’ll get caught up before the end of the year and be able to complete the challenge of writing 52 stories in a year.

I’ve gotten quite a few emails asking about how I’m doing and I thank you very much for the concern and hopeful words. I wanted to respond, but most days all I could do was to try to block out the immense pain I was in.

Mrs. D is a firm believer in that things happen in three’s. In the past three years, I’ve had a stent put in, stage 4 cancer and now this, a frozen shoulder. If she is right, I should be safe and healthy for quite a while. I sure hope so.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #42

Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to go forward. This past month I’ve been focused on editing and revising. It’s become a chore. Yes, it advances me to my goal of being published, but detracts from the main reason I’m writing. Mainly, the joy of writing a story. Sometimes they are received well, other times they fall flat. Regardless, I enjoy writing each and every one of the stories. The more I write, the better the stories and more importantly the better the writing.

I looked back at some of my early writings and I cringe. What was I thinking? Some of them look like a total hack job. This shows me how far I’ve progressed. I’ve still got a ways to go. It is said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at anything. I’m not anywhere close to that number yet. I’ve yet to complete a novel. I’ll work on it in spurts, then something will come up to distract me from it. It takes a bit to get back into writing the novel.

I don’t expect my first novel to do well. Maybe my fourth or fifth. Just like writing short stories, it takes practice to write a novel that I will be proud of. Writing the novel is a major project. Editing my memoir is a major project. I’m not at the level of writing to be able to do both at the same time. I could edit and revise on certain days of the week and write the novel on other days, but it doesn’t quite work that way with me. I need to write on the novel for several days in order to get back up to speed. Once I stop writing, then I have to start the process over again.

I hope to do the final revising of the memoir this week. Maybe I will and maybe I won’t. I’m not going to pressure myself. It will come when it needs to come. Meanwhile, I will post my weekly writing challenge tonight. It’s a hard one in that it could go several ways. I always have a problem with these type of prompts. So many ideas, but only one story. I could write multiple stories on the prompt, but I feel that would get repetitive and negate the purpose of the challenges.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #39

This has been an editing week. I’m really liking ProWritingAid as it points out more things I wouldn’t have even thought to look at. For instance, I have several paragraphs where I start every sentence with “I”. Currently rewriting those paragraphs to make the flow better and not sound repetitive. I’m currently at three (3!) passive sentences, down from originally 56. I’m struggling to rewrite the last three, but I’ll get there.

Speaking of struggling, this weekend is the half-way point of my Weekly Writing Challenge. To me, this one should be special. Stupendous, marvelous and, above all else, astounding. Unlike last week, where I could have gone in a dozen different ways to write the challenge, this one is pretty straightforward. And I’m drawing a complete blank. I can’t visualize anything but a boring story.

I’ve sat down many times in the last couple of days to see if I could come up with something that doesn’t completely suck. Usually, I’ll write a first sentence and the story will come to me. This time, not so much. I’ve written at least a dozen first sentence’s and every time it leaves me stuck. Could this week finally be my doom?

I’ve not written about cancer lately, due to me being cancer free, but I’ve noticed a peculiar thing. Every little ache or pain causes me instantly to think, “Cancer!” It’s almost as if I’ve become paranoid. I went to the dermatologist and had a mole that has been bothering me removed. During chemo, the mole dried out and split and has been flaky ever since. I can’t help but wonder if this is cancer. Friday, I received a call and the tests show it was benign. What a relief!

During my annual physical, I complained about my right arm hurting. The doc thinks it is because I had a rash of boils under my right arm. The scar tissue may have contracted my muscles. To be sure, he had me do x-rays of my arm and shoulder. I finally got to see the results yesterday and contrary to my fear of having bone cancer, it showed my bones are good. Looks like physical therapy is in my future.

It’s going to take a long time for me to get over this irrational fear of cancer whenever I experience anything different. I’m not used to living in fear and I don’t like it.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #38

This week has been all about editing. Not my strongest suit, but something that I need to work on. Slowly I’m getting there, but it seems like I’m slogging through a mud pit. I’ve decided that I need help. I’m going to pull the trigger on buying a year’s worth of premium for ProWritingAid. Of all the editing software I’ve seen, it fits the bill the best.

I’m on day 2 of my stop smoking process. I only get to smoke 19 cigarettes today. Yesterday was the first day I’ve only smoked 1 pack. I’ve been a pack and a half smoker for a while. When I visited with my youngest daughter at their new home, I went over two hours without smoking. When I left and came home, I smoked and I got a buzz. Felt lightheaded. From past experiences, this will happen more this week. Not a good recipe for success with trying to concentrate on editing.

I still need to write my Weekly Writing Challenge story. I will post it early tonight. It’s another vague prompt that could go in a number of different directions. Probably what I need to continue to grow as a writer, but indecision is wracking my brain.

I foresee a tough week ahead. I’ve been through tougher weeks in the past, so I know I’ll be able to get past all the obstacles.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #35

So-so week in writing. I didn’t get much progress done on my book. I did edit Chapter 4. My routine that I rely on was disrupted by a holiday. That tends to throw me off quite a bit not only in writing but also at work.

I did end the week on a positive as I returned to my roots of writing dark fiction in the Weekly Writing Challenge. I think it is one of my best works to date. I had pulled the prompt late on Friday. Usually I pull the prompt on Thursday to give me a couple of days to figure out how I’m going to use it for the story. Friday night, I slept horribly. I kept waking up through the night and then going right back to sleep.

It is rare for me to remember my dreams, but I still vividly remember the dreams I had on Friday night. Possible story lines for the prompt kept going through my head. Every one was discarded for various reasons. Some were tired tropes. Some fizzled out. Others made no sense.

As I sat down on Saturday evening to write the story, my mind was blank. Then I remembered when I was growing up one of my chores was milking the family cow. The winter months when it had snowed were a special time of peace. From there the story unfolded almost magically from my fingertips.

This Friday, I’m going to see my primary physician for my annual physical. He is also going to draw blood to test my PSA and testosterone level. I’m anxiously awaiting the results. Hopefully they are good levels. If so, then I can finish the final coda to my memoir. After that, I plan on being consumed with editing and revision.

The plan is to publish it on Kindle by September. Which means I’m going to also have to learn how to do book blurbs, formatting and coming up with a book cover.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #34

I had hoped to get into a regular routine of writing, editing and revising this past week. So much happened that it was hard to do so. I unexpectedly started a new position at work. Moved to counter sales. I have little to no experience doing sales, so it is a huge learning curve. Plus having to deal with ornery plumbers is rather difficult. Thankfully, I have a lot of help in learning the plumbing terminology. Yes, I’ve been working there for two years now, but I know all the parts by their item numbers, not what plumbers call them.

My mom came to visit for most of the week. Huge disruption in my writing and more importantly, my thinking time. When it is just Mrs. D and myself, I have ample periods where I can let my mind roam free with thoughts of how this story or that story may go. I did have a good time talking with my mom. This was probably the first time in years that we really talked.

My youngest daughter and her fiancée moved here from Virginia. We will be going by their new house sometime today or tomorrow. They are hoping for some expertise in tackling a few home projects. As I’ve done that quite a bit years ago, I’m sure to have some good input for them in techniques.

I did get some writing done this week, just not as much as I hoped. One thing I’ve been putting off is continuing the Brandon Sanderson lectures. The next one is Worldbuilding Q&A. It’s kind of hard to see the value in a Q&A session, plus I have to watch it at least a couple of times to get all the detail. So it is a huge time sink. Since I’m not working tomorrow, I’m going to mentally schedule it.

I plan on writing one or two chapters of The Altered Part 2 this week, plus go back and edit and revise Chapter 3 of Part 1 and post it.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #33

It’s been a roller coaster of a week. With the hormone therapy slowly exiting my body, my logical mind thinks that it should be a steady progression. That is far from the truth. Some days I feel much better and then there is a setback for a day or two. Stress definitely causes me hot flashes that can go on long after the stress is removed.

I didn’t post that much last week but I did get a bunch of writing done on my book. It’s progressing quite well and getting exciting to me. I did try to keep to the routine of a regular writing time, but fell a bit short last week. Hopefully I can stick to the routine this week a bit better.

Goals, let’s take a look at where I’m at. I’ve cleaned it up a bit and deleted the completed ones.

  • Rewrite short story Lump -In Progress
  • Rewrite short story The Curse
  • Finish first draft of Part 2 of The Altered Wars – In Progress
  • Continue the Brandon Sanderson lectures

I had designated Thursday’s as my editing and rewriting day. That was the day I was exhausted and didn’t get anything done.

For the second weekend in a row, I got out to the garage and continued organizing. I also started a small project. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any woodworking. I was spoiled when I was in New Mexico with a huge workshop. Now I have a one-car garage to work in and Mrs. D likes to keep her car in it. So it has been a challenge.

Mrs. D is excited that I’m even attempting a woodworking project. I think she had given up hope on me ever doing any. Especially this last year when I was battling cancer.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #32

Huge improvement in my writing routine. I’ve carved out an hour each night that seems to work really well. If I can keep to the schedule for another week or so, then it will become an ingrained habit. My to-do list is slowly getting worked on.

  • Finish first draft of My Cancer Journey Completed
  • Rewrite short story Lump -In Progress
  • Rewrite short story The Curse
  • Finish first draft of Part 2 of The Altered Wars
  • Setup Storylines page on this blog Completed
  • Continue the Brandon Sanderson lectures

Priorities this week is to work on the first draft of the book, “The Altered Wars” I last worked on it during the month of November. I want to have it finished by the end of June, but we will see.

Worked on the garage workshop yesterday and will continue today. It’s needed a cleanup and organization for a long time. Finally felt decent enough in energy to start tackling that job.

Today is our wedding anniversary. We don’t have anything special planned. As it is the third marriage for both of us, we are both a bit jaded on celebrations. We will occasionally do something, but it isn’t a high priority. On our fourth wedding anniversary, we both completely forgot it. Our two youngest were graduating from high school and our oldest had just gotten her associate degree. Wasn’t until a few days after all the hoopla that my mom remembered our anniversary and let us know. Oops!

We have been together now for eighteen years and Mrs. D is definitely a keeper. She is and always will be my beautiful bride.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #30

Still haven’t found a routine of writing yet. Eventually, I want to carve out at least 2 hours a day. I’ve found that it takes me about 30 minutes to get into the groove of writing. Then it’s like a burst of creativity that flows directly from my mind to the words on the screen. That last for maybe an hour and then I wind down. It was hit or miss this week to find the time to write.

The end goal of course is to become a better writer. That requires practice, practice and more practice. It was once said that 10,000 hours are required to become a master of a skill. At two hours a day, I should be a master writer in about 13-14 years. Wow! Let’s rethink that analogy as I don’t think that really applies to writing.

I do think by challenging myself and trying different aspects of writing, it has the effect of expanding my writing knowledge. That being said, I have two main challenges each week. The Six Sentence Story is a great challenge as I have to write a complete story in only six sentences. I’ve read other Sixer stories that seem like each sentence is a paragraph. When I write one like that, it seems very clunky and hard to follow. I have become comfortable in writing sparse, to the point Sixers. I’ve been amazed at the breadth of responses to each one. Everyone sees the story in a different way. This week I’m going to try to put in more detail as it will challenge me to define the sixer without being clunky. I may fail, but that’s okay as I want to push the limits of my writing ability.

The Weekly Writing Challenge is another area where I make a concentrated effort to take the prompt in a different way than expected. When I read the prompt after drawing it from the bowl of doom, I almost always discard the first idea that comes to mind. It’s more than likely the usual trope that everybody has seen hundreds of times. I’m looking for ways to surprise the reader with new ideas, new thoughts and new directions for the prompt. For the most part, I think I succeed. The concept is there, but to make it also interesting is the rub. I’ve not always succeeded there.

I had listed my projects last week, so let’s take a look at where I stand:

  • Finish first draft of Part 3 of My Cancer Journey
  • Rewrite short story Lump
  • Rewrite short story The Curse
  • Finish first draft of Part 2 of The Altered Wars
  • Setup Storylines page on this blog
  • Continue the Brandon Sanderson lectures

I did finish the first draft of Part 3. Got started on the first draft of the Aftermath of My Cancer Journey.

After much procrastination, I finally continued the lectures. I didn’t think I would learn much, but was very surprised. Worldbuilding wasn’t high on my list to learn about, but I ended up learning a lot of new things. I put some of them to work in “The Attic” and really liked what I came up with. Expect to see at least two more lecture notes this week.

Didn’t touch any of the other projects. Their time will come when it is supposed to and not before it’s time. I’m thinking I need to learn a bit more about the craft of writing before I can tackle those projects.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.