Posts Tagged With: life


Encouragement is like chocolate. You want just enough to look forward to, but not so much it’s unhealthy. Right?

So if someone tells you that you’re doing a great job, maybe you really are. Or maybe they’re just hoping you’ll smile and go away so they can sneak into your office and eat your chocolates. You never know.

It can be tough to really know whether you’re doing a good job. Whatever your everyday occupation, be it writing books, managing finances or wrestling alligators, objective feedback can be tough to find. (Well, okay, if you’re doing a bad job at wrestling alligators, you’ll know.)

But there is one thing you can empirically measure: progress. When you set written goals for yourself, then you can check them off as you accomplish them. It feels good, making that little check mark. If you’ve ever added something to a to-do list just so you could cross it off, then you know what I mean. We all need a little encouragement every day.

I plan out my books using three-by-five index cards, one card for each scene. The entire book is laid out on a pair of giant cork boards on the wall above my desk, each card pinned down in sequential order. After I write each scene, I get out a fat magic marker and draw a giant check mark across the card. Every day, there’s another check mark on the wall. Little by little, the book gets done. When things get tough, that check mark at the end of the scene helps keep me going. (That, and a stash of chocolate. Shh.)

So, did you do anything to encourage yourself today? Give it a shot. Break down a big task into bite-size pieces, focus on one at a time, and then check each one off with a flourish. Trust me, you’ll feel good. Each success will give you a little more momentum, more energy, and you’ll get things done faster and easier.

Which leaves you more time to enjoy that chocolate!

Categories: writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment


Being a fictional hero is a pretty dangerous occupation. You could get shot at, chased, imprisoned, stranded in the wilderness — and that might be just in the first chapter. When heroes die in a story, it affects us. (Or should, anyway, if the writing is well done.) It reminds us of our own mortality, of the fragility of life, and puts into sharp perspective the accomplishments and mistakes in our own lives.

But when real-life heroes die, it can affect us in profound ways.

I don’t have any words, really, to describe the loss of Blake Snyder, the wonderfully talented “Save the Cat!” guy. After years of enthusiastically demystifying the writing process and encouraging writers all over the world, he passed away unexpectedly a few days ago.

His work had such an influence on me, I had fixed in my mind the idea that I would contact him after signing my first book contract and say, “Thanks for all the inspiration!” Of course, I felt kind of silly saying that before I’d actually sold a book, so I never emailed him. I now wish, selfishly, that I had. I wish I had stepped out of my comfort zone and made contact with the man who irreverently redefined every genre under the sun with titles like “Dude with a Problem” and “Golden Fleece” and made writing (for me and a lot of people) fun again.

Maybe what I can take from this is that it’s okay to reach out to our real-life heroes, even when we feel we’re not ready. Make that connection. Seize the day.

Save the cat.

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As the Rush Comes

Like a lot of kids, I dreamed about flying. But it was never the actual “floating over the neighborhood” part that captured my imagination, looking down at everyone and waving. No, it was the sense of acceleration. The feeling of moving fast enough, with enough force, to defy the elemental pull of gravity. To leave the ground beneath you and rocket skyward. That was the key. That ethereal feeling of firing up the engine of something powerful enough to take you away.

Recently, I was talking to someone about this exact feeling, and I realized that for me, now, that feeling comes from writing. For him, it’s skydiving. “There’s nothing like the feeling of flying,” he said. (“Actually, you’re not flying,” I pointed out, “You’re falling. It’s the opposite.” But I digress.)

That flying feeling — that’s what I’ve got right now. Right at this moment.

I’m working on a new book.

And although I can’t reveal any details just yet, it’s the kind of concept that sends shivers down my spine. It’s a story that, when I pitch it to friends, they get that look in their eyes that tells me they’re “seeing” the story unfold. And since I’ve finally nailed down exactly what the story is about, it seems to be writing itself.

At least, that’s how it feels. Effortless. Powerful. Like I’ve just flipped the ignition on something that’s moving under its own power. I’ve lifted my feet up off the ground, and I’m rocketing skyward.

And I’m not planning on landing anytime soon.

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