Teaching Transformations Podcast Episode 17: Getting Started as a Writer

Teaching Transformations

Getting Started as a Writer

With Tim participating in Amazon’s new program, Kindle Vella, the friends discuss how trends impact their form of media as authors. Taking these changes into consideration, the boys share their best tips on staying in tune with your audience and how to motivate yourself to begin your journey.

The Teaching Transformations Podcast. Join Tim Desmond Ryan Wooley as they help teachers in their late forties or fifties to design a post-academic life.

Seize the Day!

Transcript:

Tim  0:01  

Welcome to Teaching Transformations: Designing Your Post-Career Life with Tim Desmond and Ryan Wooley.

Ryan  0:13  

What’s going on, organic?

Tim  0:15  

I don’t know if you want to know. Do you really want me to answer that question?

Ryan  0:20  

Most of the time, I think people don’t really want to know.

Tim  0:24  

Right. I have an answer you might not want to hear, but now I have to say it.

Ryan  0:28  

Yeah, now I’m intrigued.

Tim  0:32  

I recently had my annual physical, and now that I’m fifty, for the first time, I get to have a colonoscopy.

Ryan  0:45  

Oh.

Tim  0:46  

And I don’t know if you’ve ever had one, I don’t know if you would even care to share the experience, but I haven’t. This is just a matter of routine, but I’m starting to get the instructions and things through the Cleveland Clinic My Chart, and I might want to die instead. It’s brutal.

Ryan  1:14  

I don’t think I’m ready for that.

Tim  1:16  

Well, you should probably get ready for it because it is in your very near future.

Ryan  1:22  

What if I just decide I’m not gonna turn fifty?

Tim  1:27  

Well, that’s why I’m gonna help because my doctor said they’re pretty close to moving the recommendation down to forty-five.

Ryan  1:34  

Oh.

Tim  1:35  

See, you’re screwed.

Ryan  1:36  

Oh, man.

Tim  1:45  

I’m guessing you don’t have news of that sort, so maybe we should talk about what’s going on with you.

Ryan  1:50  

Well, on the topic of you getting old, I saw your oldest the other day. I hadn’t seen him for a while, and obviously I’ve watched him grow up, but man, did he look like a full grown man.

Tim  2:05  

I know.

Ryan  2:06  

Now it’s like, if he looks that old, then that makes you very old.

Tim  2:11  

Very old, yeah. I know you guys can’t see it, but I’m rocking the beard these days, and I’ve got the wisdom stripes. I feel like if I shave this, it might take ten years off my face, and I’m like, why do I care? I’m fifty and married.

Ryan  2:32  

Right. I saw a picture of Russell Crowe recently, and he had a giant beard. It’s all just white, and it looks like Santa Claus. Mine comes in all white now, too, so that’s why I don’t grow it out.

Tim  2:52  

Yeah.

Ryan  2:55  

So, how’s the short story writing coming?

Tim  2:59  

It’s good. I’m not a big goal setter, and I think part of the reason with setting goals is you sort of get this myopic tunnel vision, and you don’t see any other opportunity because you’re so hyper focused on whatever the goal happens to be, so I like to consider myself more opportunistic. When I started writing a short story a week back in December, I was doing it with the mastermind group, and then a few weeks ago, Amazon announced this new program they’re rolling out called Kindle Vella, and it’s basically serialized fiction. It’s open to anyone. It’s a self publishing platform. They’re gonna roll it out to readers in July, and essentially what it is is you pay per episode, so if you think of the Netflix model, you as an author, you write the short episodes. By short, I’m saying they’re recommending like 1000, 1500, 2000 words at the most, like really short pieces. Then the readers purchase tokens, and they can use tokens to buy the next episode. The other thing that Amazon is going to do with this is they’re going to use the Kindle Vella program as a source pull for television development because you think about the way serialized television works–it’s exactly the same way, right? You got to write the short, punchy, catchy scenes, and you got a cliffhanger to take you to the next one, so these binge opportunities. I mentioned all of that because none of that was on the radar when I started writing the short stories, so being an opportunistic person, what I started doing now is, the short stories that I’m writing, I’m writing these episodes. I’m going to send them to the people who I’ve been sending the short stories to, and then when Vella opens up, I’m going to take those and I’m going to package those into a season and put them on Vella. It’s just one of those things where it’s like I can repurpose that content in a different way, but it wasn’t necessarily on my radar at the beginning of the year.

Ryan  5:13  

It’s interesting how the container and/or trends impact the form of our media, whatever that might be. Thinking about even just movies, why did the hour and a half to two hour time length become the standard for movies? I’ve been a movie lover my whole life, but when you watch some of the amazing serialized fiction that’s coming out on Netflix and other streaming media now, you realize the limitations of film in its standard format, like you can really tell a deep story and really develop characters in a different way when it’s more prolonged than it is episodic, and I find that really intriguing. I don’t know, it kind of gives me hope that maybe that will sort of spur like a renaissance in writing and creative pursuits.

Tim  6:23  

I can tell you anecdotally that this Kindle Vella program that’s rolling out is creating the same kind of buzz in the author community that the Kindle did in 2012. It feels that big there. There are a lot of people talking about it, it’s not a new idea. Mostly Gen Z and millennials tend to read a lot of serialized fiction on platforms like Reddit and Wattpad where people can just upload these episodic serialized stories for free and people read them, and there’s a way to monetize it. There are certain people who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars telling stories this way, and I’m really excited about it. I think it’s a shot in the arm, especially for people who have no publishing experience, who are not going to pursue a traditional publishing path or have to find an agent. If you can write a thousand words, you can post it on Vella and see what happens, and if readers want more, you can write more. You could write on your phone if you wanted to, and I love that sense of opportunity. To your point about the medium affecting the way the story is told, that’s not new either. The reason novels are the length they are is because back in the day, that was the width the spine had to be to show the metadata in the bookstore. When you ask yourself, how long should a novel be? It’s like, well, how long is a piece of string? However long it is. Most days now, agents won’t look at manuscripts that are less than 80,000 words because an 80,000 word manuscript gives you a nice spine with sitting on a shelf in a bookstore.

Ryan  8:18  

I mean, are there bookstores around anymore? Like, is that still relevant?

Tim  8:24  

It’s interesting. The pandemic has really changed everything, and it hasn’t settled. Prior to the pandemic, the trend was moving heavily towards audio books. Big publishers were not interested in ebooks, bookstores were, and major chains like Waterstones and Barnes and Noble were really putting all their eggs in the merchandising basket. If you can find a Barnes and Noble now and you walk in, you will be assaulted by merchandise, and the books will happen to be spread out in the store somewhere, like you’ll have to walk through the cafe, past the coffee bar, past the journals and the board games to get to the books because that’s where the money is, that’s where the the profit margin is. This is starting to change again, but during the pandemic, people didn’t want physical books. They weren’t going into physical bookstores, so ebook sales skyrocketed, and now traditional publishers are doubling down on ebooks, whereas before they were kind of considering that the realm of indies, and they weren’t really interested in it. That’s all changed now. Now we’re seeing traditional publishers who are placing ads, they’re running ads where only indies did before, and they’re using pricing mechanisms that only indies did before because now so many people are saying, I’m kind of skeeved out by a library book, I think I’ll get it on my Kindle or read it on my iPad. The rest of the world publishing is in this major period of transition, and no one’s really sure where it’s going.

Ryan  10:06  

I’ve heard people say that there used to be a really strong bifurcation between indie and traditional publishing, and those lines are blurry. It isn’t like there are two solid camps. Does that sound right to you? I mean, am I right about that?

Tim  10:30  

Yeah, certainly. When I started, those camps were pretty separate, and I think what’s happened over the years is that some of your big name authors have sort of said, I’m not going to be beholden to that model. Dean Koontz is a good example. Dean Koontz just sold a portion of his catalog to Amazon. He’s the first top tier celebrity author to break ranks from the traditional world, so there’s a new nomenclature now, and one of the terms that people use is hybrid. A hybrid author is someone who has books as a traditional publisher but also independently publishes. That’s one element of the industry that lay people or folks on the outside don’t understand, which is every book is a new decision. You don’t decide as an author, you decide per book. I can write one book, and I can have my agent shop that to traditional publishers, and then I can turn around, write another book, and publish it on my own. My partner on the Writers, Ink. podcast, JD Barker, he co-writes books with James Patterson, and they’re traditionally published by I think Penguin Random House, and then JD writes his own books and publishes them, and then him and his agent will negotiate foreign rights and film deals. Again, it’s a pretty blurry distinction now, and it’s more of a book by book decision than it is a career decision.

Ryan  12:13  

I’m losing my train of thought. There’s a lot to think about here. What’s the new program you just mentioned?

Tim  12:28  

Kindle Vella.

Ryan  12:29  

Kindle Vella. You mentioned how many, like, what did you say? 1500 words?

Tim  12:37  

Yeah. I mean, they’re recommending like 2000 words or less installments or episodes.

Ryan  12:43  

Alright. I know the strategy crazy, but I can’t think in words yet because I haven’t been writing. I think in pages, so what are we talking about in pages?

Tim  13:00  

A couple pages. A little backstory on this, the reason why pages are problematic is because of font size, trim size, margin size. That’s why if you go to hire an editor, they’re going to charge you per word because that’s an objective measurement, but 1500 to 2000 words is a couple pages.

Ryan  13:23  

Yeah. It’s just reminding me of all those tricks back in school of writing your five-page essay in sixteen-point font with two-inch margins.

Tim  13:35  

Now, if you were like me, you were a little more sly. You would make it like thirteen-point Times New Roman. You couldn’t detect it, you know, I didn’t get greedy. I just found a little bump.

Ryan  13:46  

Yeah. Well, that form is intriguing to me, that short form, because when I think about my hopes for getting back into writing, that feels manageable to me. For a long, long time, I’ve had a dream of being a writer, but I let life get in the way. I struggled to find time, and I still do even though I’m more certain about that than ever. I started writing this blog for this project, and honestly, it’s the most consistent writing I’ve done in a while. That’s a short form, and it is manageable. I’m also coming back at this, you know, I just feel like the whole world has changed, and I’m a little unsettled by that.

Tim  14:47  

Get off my lawn, you kids!

Ryan  14:50  

Yeah. The two forms that I would like to write more of are just various forms of nonfiction, but also screenwriting has been there for a long time. I look at the movies that are made, and I don’t have an interest in writing superhero universe movies. It’s just not my thing.

Tim  15:12  

Yeah, I have no interest in superhero movies. None whatsoever.

Ryan  15:16  

And I’m not knocking people who are into that. I mean, it’s just not my thing. The movies that always moved me were human story movies like Witness, Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, and I just don’t see movies like that getting made. I feel like the style of movies that are getting made have changed. I see a lot more of that happening in the serialized world. The Netflix show Ozark, that’s really intriguing to me.

Tim  15:59  

Love that series.

Ryan  16:01  

It’s a great human drama with lots of mental stuff going on. I feel like if I were to try to get in that game, I don’t know that I would be looking at movies. I think I would be looking at trying to write serialized TV shows because I just feel like that’s more where things are at. Then on the nonfiction side, you know a lot more about this than I do, but I think blogs, even though that’s been the forum I’ve been on here for a few months, they’re declining. People aren’t reading blogs anymore, so I don’t know. On the nonfiction side, what are the options there?

Tim  16:53  

There’s so much to dig in here. Before I talk about the nonfiction side, I want to go back to one thing you talked about: the difference between storytelling in long form and in serialized form, the difference between movies and television shows. I’m like you, I’ve always loved movies. I used to love going to the movies. For years, every Friday and Saturday night, I was walking to Blockbuster and renting two or three movies a night. I can honestly tell you now, as of 2021, 70 to 80% of my screen entertainment is serialized television, and maybe 20% is movies. I just don’t even watch that many movies anymore, and I think it’s for the reason you mentioned in that the serialized form is so immersive. It’s so powerful, and when it’s done well, it’s incredibly fulfilling. I have no problem committing twelve hours to a ten-episode show that I’m really into, and I think a lot of people are like that. I don’t know if that’s me or if that’s us, if that’s the way the entertainment landscape is changing, but I feel like there’s a lot more opportunity and diversity in serialized storytelling than in movies. To your point about making the kind of movie you want, I almost feel like that’s where the power of serialized storytelling comes in because you don’t need a mainstream audience to be successful with that, you need a niche. Whereas with movies, I feel like you need more of a mainstream audience, like you’re looking for box office returns as a measure of success, and that’s not the same with Netflix shows or Hulu shows. I want to mention that your question about nonfiction is so intriguing. I probably didn’t make this clear, but in Kindle Vella, they have ten or fifteen different genre categories, and nonfiction is one of them. I was thinking to myself when I first saw that, well, isn’t that a blog, like, short serialized pieces? Isn’t that what a blog is? Again, we’re getting this blurred line, and it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the popularity of the blog because it’s even harder now to define what it is. Here’s an example: we put these podcast episodes on a WordPress install, and every episode becomes its own post. Is it a blog? Technically, I guess it is, but it’s a podcast episode. Are people reading this? Are they listening to it? How does that affect the numbers? I don’t know, and I wonder if part of the problem is that there are often opportunities for more people to post today than there ever have been, and social media has robbed a lot of readership from what might have been blog readers prior to say 2010. So, are people reading less blogs? I don’t know how to answer that. I mean, what do you think? Do you think people are reading less blogs?

Ryan  20:23  

I looked up a couple of websites here. I mean, the stats would suggest that blog readership is going down, but it could be what you’re saying. Maybe there’s just confusion about what constitutes a blog. My impression is that blogs feel like the long form now because blogs are sitting out there relative to tweets and TikTok. You actually have to read a page for a blog, and I know that sounds cynical. I don’t really know that is true, but it seems that’s the norm is shorter and shorter and shorter. I don’t know how much of this really even matters except if you’re like me, and you’re trying to re-enter the writing space. It’d be like coming into movies in the 1980s and trying to write a silent black and white film. You know, what I mean? That wouldn’t work, so I feel like you have to know where things are at the moment, and you can write for yourself. A lot of us journal. Part of the joy of writing is just internal, and it’s for ourselves, but I think most of us have this interest in moving people with words. That’s a big part of it, and if we’re really lucky, maybe there’s a way to earn a little bit of money for doing that, too. For a lot of us, the motivation is just we want to have impact, and we feel like we have ideas or thoughts that we want to get out and share with the world, but if no one’s listening or watching or reading, it’s just a journal for you.

Tim  22:33  

Yeah, and that’s where it gets hard to measure. Let me give you an example. Seth Godin’s one of the most popular bloggers in the world. He’s blogged every day for like twelve years or something ridiculous. His posts are anywhere from a couple hundred words to a thousand words. They’re usually pretty short, very meta. I just love his stuff. I’ve never once gone to his blog, not a single time. I use Feedly, and it pulls in RSS feeds from all kinds of websites that use RSS feeds, so they could be blogs, or they could just be WordPress installs and have an RSS feed. Every morning, his new post shows up in my feed, and I read it there, and I never once go to his website. So, is that a read on his blog? Am I skewing the statistics? There’s a difference between reading less blogs and being able to measure people reading less blogs, and I don’t know the difference between those two right now.

Ryan  23:35  

Yeah. I just read an article recently. Actually, I’m looking at it right here. This is a post by Kevin Drum on jabberwalking.com, and the title is Why Have Blog Audiences Declined Over the Past Decade? And it says, “The golden age of blogs is long behind us, and there’s a school of thought that blames Google for this. Specifically, it blames Google for canceling Google Reader, the app that nearly everyone once used to read blogs.” So, that’s getting at that point you were making about it sort of being automated and coming to people and without an obvious front runner in terms of the technology that does that. Maybe that has had an impact. I’m looking at a graph here that in terms of Google searching, interest in blogs kind of peaked in 2010, 2004 was when blogs started, and it’s below for 2021. It’s below where it was in 2004, and this is people searching for blogs in Google.

Tim  24:53  

I think that’s an important distinction to make, right?

Ryan  24:55  

Yeah.

Tim  24:56  

Because you could make the argument that people don’t search the word blog because it’s now ubiquitous. Maybe you’re searching a website, or maybe you’re not even using website or blog, you’re just typing in your keyword topic.

Ryan  25:15  

Well, how do people get to our WordPress posts? This is going to be revealing about who does what here, but I write mine every two weeks, and I schedule it to be published, but can you go to a page and see those posts?

Tim  25:39  

You sort of can. This is not blackhat stuff, like this is just the approach that we’re taking, and people can agree or disagree. We’re going a little bit meta here with our audience, but really what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to gather an audience and ask them what they want from us, and the way that we’re doing that is by email. Therefore, everything that we’re doing, we’re trying to get people to say, yes, I’m interested, here’s my email address, tell me what you guys are doing, or tell me about your podcast episodes or your blog posts. So, the people on that list will get that post, and the episodes get emailed to them whenever they’re published. If they forward that, anyone else can view it. If someone does a Google search on the topic of writing in your fifties or something like that, our posts or episodes could show up in a Google search, so they’re not locked down. They’re not behind a password protected, they’re not in a walled garden. At the same time, we want all the traffic going to the opt-in form where people can say yes, here’s my email address, we want to know more, so yeah, I mean, they’re available. They’re not easily available by design.

Ryan  27:02  

Yeah, and we’re using email instead of RSS basically.

Tim  27:10  

Technically, what we’re doing is, this is pretty cool, this is one of those great tech tools, our email service provider, I go into that, and I identify the RSS feed for our WordPress site along with the keyword that I’ve tagged the post with. Then, as soon as it publishes in WordPress, our email system automatically sends it out to the people who are subscribed.

Ryan  27:38  

That’s nice.

Tim  27:42  

It’s a twenty-year old technology, and it’s so simple, but it’s very effective.

Ryan  27:46  

Yeah. I’m glad you set our stuff up to do that.

Tim  27:51  

I have a little experience with this.

Ryan  27:55  

I do like getting the email, I have to say. That’s how I read your post every couple of weeks. It just comes to my email. It’s convenient. It goes back to this whole searching thing, and maybe that’s really the reason why. Maybe we’re misinterpreting those stats because people aren’t really searching–they’re getting to these blogs or whatever we call them in other ways.

Tim  28:21  

When RSS was at its most popular, I don’t think email services were as popular, so people had to subscribe. People subscribed to the RSS feed back then, now they’re subscribing to people’s email lists, and the content is being sent to them.

Ryan  28:40  

Yep. Do you have to get into all this if your goal is just to blog or to serialize your thoughts? Do you have to know about all this?

Tim  28:50  

No, and this is kind of the big takeaway from this conversation. It’s something I’ve been thinking about as we’ve been talking, and it’s something I tell my clients when I work with them, which is, it’s far more important to write something, anything, than it is to write nothing. It doesn’t matter if it’s once a month, once a year, once a week. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hundred words or a thousand words. It’s absolutely critical to have a consistent writing routine, and I think you’re probably experiencing this. I know you do a lot of writing, and most of it is probably on an as-needed basis.

Ryan  29:35  

Emails. I write a lot of emails.

Tim  29:38  

Exactly, and those are usually reactive. I think writing a blog post or in a journal just as a routine is a completely different thing, and it’s so beneficial. Tying that practice to where the technology and where the trends are right now, this is where it becomes really important. You can multipurpose or repurpose just about any written content whatsoever, and there aren’t many mediums that you can make that. You could have written something as a teenager, and you could pull it out now, and you could revise it and publish it. You couldn’t do the same thing with a movie you made as a teenager or a song you made as a teenager or a painting you made as a teenager, so I think there’s a flexibility in the written word that doesn’t exist in any other medium. What that means is just start writing something because even though the formats are changing, the lengths are changing, people’s tastes are changing, you will still have a core hunk of clay that you can mold to fit whatever the opportunity is. Going back to Kindle Vella, like I said, I didn’t know Amazon was rolling out Kindle Vella when I started writing short stories. Now I’m like, oh great, now I’ve got all this content. I can repurpose it. It might not be a perfect fit, I might have to revise it, I might have to add some words, I might have to cut some words, but still, I have this source content now that I’ll have forever. I have files and folders galore on my hard drive. I have stories and story ideas and beats and outlines and half manuscripts, and every so often, I’ll see something, and I’ll go, oh, I have something that might fit that, but none of that happens if I’m not writing. If I’m constantly saying I’m gonna wait until things settle down, I’m gonna wait until everything is clear, we now know that’s never gonna happen, at least for the rest of our lives. The most important thing you can do if you’re thinking about writing something from your heart or writing something that you eventually want to make a little money on once you retire or just for fun is like, start writing something now. It doesn’t matter what it is or how often you do it, but create a routine and stick to it.

Ryan  32:00  

Yeah, and don’t get hung up on trying to decode the game of writing, right? I mean, that can come later.

Tim  32:12  

Yeah, and there’s some generalities. If you like long form storytelling, the novel is probably not going anywhere. It may waver in popularity, and there might be trends, and there might be certain genres, but like, people who’ve been reading novels for a long time, it might not be on paper, it might not even be on an LCD screen device, but that long form, that’s pretty much going to exist. The other end of the spectrum is people are always going to want short little bites of entertainment, you know, a short story, flash fiction, standing in line at the grocery store. Type it, save it in a Word doc. It might not end up in the reader’s hand as a Word doc, who knows what format it could be in? It could be an AI reading someday, who knows? But again, you don’t have any of those options if you have no content to begin with, so you just got to start with something.

Ryan  33:13  

One of the books I had about writing, the first line of it was something like, if you want to become a good writer, you have to write. It was something cheeky like that, but I mean, it did stick in my brain. You can play write, or you can think about writing a lot, but if you’re really not doing it and not practicing it, you’re not going to get good at it. I noticed that was something that Stephen King asserted early in his book about on writing, so I totally get it. I totally agree, it is hard. I’ve talked about the time struggle a lot, and it’s not just time, it’s also the time of day that you’re writing. It’s one thing to get up and do it while you’re fresh versus you’ve had a long day, and you get home, and you’re tired. For me, that’s not a great time to write, but sometimes that’s what I’m left with, so if I want to get it in, sometimes that’s when I have to do it. I know that you’ve built this lifestyle now around it being embedded in your days, but before you got to that point, if you go back to when you started trying to incorporate it in regularly when you were still working your education job, how did you do that? What kinds of habits did you form that helped you work that out?

Tim  34:46  

5am. I started writing my first novel when my kids were six and three. That’s a time where they’re very demanding of your time, so my only option was to get up an hour or an hour and a half before I normally would and do the writing because as a teacher, you’re emotionally invested with other kids, other people’s children all day long. Then you come home and you have papers you have to grade, or you have parental calls you have to make, or you have meetings, and you’re tapped. I know the way I function, and not everyone’s like this, but biologically speaking, I know I’m my mentally sharpest in the first few hours that I get up. I just know that about myself. So, I would get up at 5am every day, and I didn’t necessarily have a word count target. I would just say, from 5:00 to 6:00, I’m gonna write. I would always have a project I was working on whether it was a novel or short story, but five days a week, and then weekends were a little different. I would fit it in where I could, but it’s hard. You know how it is in February in Cleveland, like trying to get out of bed at 5am when it’s dark and forty below and sixty below outside. You don’t want to get out from under the covers, you know, and I couldn’t tell you how many times I sat down and thought, this sucks, I don’t want to do this, this is hard, but that’s just how it is. Most authors hate writing, and they love having written, and I think it’s the same way with working out. When I get up and I’m putting on my running shoes, I’m like, oh, I’ll just skip today, I’ll just do this tomorrow, and I’m like, no, I gotta do it. Then I go out there, and I run, and I get home, and I feel great, and I go, I’m glad I did that. It sucked, but I feel better now that it’s over. You’re not always going to come to the page or to the screen full of enthusiasm and excited, but that’s what discipline is. It’s doing it even when you don’t feel like it, when you’re tired, when you don’t have time, or you feel like you don’t have time. What’s really crazy is that when I would go back and revise things, like I would write on those days where I felt like, well, this sucks. My back hurts, I can’t think, but I’m just gonna write, and I would write the words. I’m like, Well, those were terrible, I can never use those. Then a few months later, I would be going back to revising those words, and I could never tell the difference between the days I felt like that and the days I felt like I was spot on, so it’s just this mental gymnastics that you have to do. It’s different than being a bricklayer or a posthole digger where you have a physical challenge. It’s entirely between your ears, and it’s not easy.

Ryan  37:57  

You’re not, you’re not really selling this.

Tim  38:01  

I’m just being honest, and I think that’s the way I try and sell it to clients and the people I work with. I had one guy, he said, I really like what you’re doing with a short story experiment. I wanted to do that, but I can’t write 2500 words a week. I’m like, write twenty-five. He’s like, well, what do you mean? I’m like, it doesn’t matter how many, it matters that you have a routine, so if twenty-five words is all you can write in a day write twenty-five words a day over five days. You got to start somewhere. You got to scale it down to what you can manage. If you’re thinking like, the only ten minutes a day I have is when I’m sitting on the toilet, then take your phone in and write on your phone for the ten minutes you’re sitting on the toilet.

Ryan  38:45  

Now you’re just being gross.

Tim  38:48  

I’m just telling you from a guy who’s looking forward to a colonoscopy. Take your phone into the bathroom instead of scrolling Instagram.

Ryan  38:58  

Wow, we just crossed the boundary there, I think.

Tim  39:04  

I am certified organic, so…

Ryan  39:07  

How about efficiency? Obviously that comes with habit, right?

Tim  39:16  

Yeah.

Ryan  39:16  

But did you have any other kinds of tricks that you worked on to try to build efficiency with writing, or was it just, if I stick with my routine and do it every day, I will get more efficient?

Tim  39:29  

That’s where it starts. I think efficiency becomes highly individualized because it’s a combination of skills that you acquire, experiences that you have, and then how you’re wired. I have a hard time giving advice or recommendations to people who are more active at night because I’m not. I could give them tips about how I’m so efficient in what I do, but it doesn’t apply to them because they’re sitting down at 11pm, and that’s not where it works for me. It also evolves and changes. My writing routine and what I do now is not anything like what it was in 2009 because I’m constantly growing and evolving and learning new things and trying new things, and I go through phases. I go through phases where all I want to do is work on one novel, and then I go through other phases where I just want to write short stories or a screenplay. I think efficiency is tied to this idea of habit, like you don’t need discipline to start a habit–a habit creates the discipline. Once you have the habit and once you start doing it, you will naturally get better at it, more efficient at it, and you’ll start to figure out what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, and how you can leverage your strengths and how you can de-emphasize your weaknesses. But again, none of that happens if all you’re doing is reading books or listening to podcasts about reading, that only happens when you become an active participant and actively engaged in the process.

Ryan  41:10  

I know that I’ve referred to this in previous conversations, but it’s just making me think of that beautiful observation in Jim Cook’s book. Jim Cook is the founder of Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams, and one of his reasons for explaining his success is that he doesn’t play company. He never did that. He’s watched a lot of people who’ve entered into business, and they immediately want to set up offices and deconstruct all the things they need, you know, printers and computers and all that other stuff.

Tim  41:49  

In my world, it’s people creating a logo and launching a website, right?

Ryan  41:54  

Right. I think what we’re really saying here is don’t play write, just be a writer. Just write.

Tim  42:02  

Yep. It’s not sexy. How many famous authors who are alive today can you name? A handful?

Ryan  42:11  

Yeah.

Tim  42:11  

It’s not a sexy profession. It’s not glamorous. Most writers could walk down the street, people have no idea who they are. James Patterson is the most financially successful author of our time, and he could walk down the street, and I guarantee you nine out of ten people will have no idea who he was.

Ryan  42:29  

Yeah. There’s no way I could pick them out.

Tim  42:33  

It’s also one of those things, I think you mentioned it, too, most teachers have to be writers in some form or fashion, and we enjoy it. Many, many people in this world hate writing. They just hate it, so if you’re one of those few people who enjoy it, you’ve already put yourself into sort of an elite club. It’s just a matter of getting started. It’s the equivalent of buying your first pair of running shoes and walking out the door in the morning and doing your best, and it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction, just get going. That’s the most important thing.

Tim  43:12  

Thanks for listening. Go to teachingtransformations.com and get instant access to Transformations, the free weekly email with the best personally curated resources to help those in their late 40s or 50s to design a post-career life.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Links:

Transformations – The free weekly email with the best personally curated resources to help teachers in their late forties or fifties to design a post-academic life. – https://teachingtransformations.com/ 

Interesting Book Publishing Industry Statistics – https://gatekeeperpress.com/book-publishing-industry-statistics/

Book publishing statistics – https://buildbookbuzz.com/book-publishing-statistics/

Why Have Blog Audiences Declined Over the Past Decade? – https://jabberwocking.com/why-have-blog-audiences-declined-over-the-past-decade/

Kindle Vella – https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GR2L4AHPMQ44HNQ7 

Teaching Transformations Podcast – https://teachingtransformations.com/podcast/ 

Intro and outro music by Penthouses. “Come to Ohio” from The Weatherman album available on most music platforms.

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