I’m taking a break

It’s been a while since I blogged last, and I apologize for that. It got away from me, and you deserve better, and it deserves better. Here is what’s going on.

By the time you read this, I’ll be offline, mostly. I’m taking the remainder of October off of social media, barring a few standing commitments to check in with family, I will return to tweeting, Facebookery, and this blog on November 7 (Tuesday).

I will still be available via Twitter DMs, emails, texts, and phone calls during this hiatus.

There are two reasons for this, and I’d like to outline them below.

Mental Health
Of late, the climates of several circles where I call myself a member or participant have changed substantially, and not for the better. There’s a great deal of pettiness, viciousness, and negativity both thrown and absorbed by a lot of people. Its effect on me is not just that it impacts potential work, but that it impacts me. The stress and anxiety amplifies to a somewhat paralytic level and every relationship: professional, personal, and otherwise suffers when that happens. I have a responsibility to myself before all else to be the best me I can be, and while I cannot control how you perceive me, I can control how I perceive myself. I need the space and firebreak between myself and virtual world.

There’s Work To Do
I’ve reached a conclusion that if I don’t start producing tangible materials for the new WNDo plans, they’ll remain ephemeral. And I can spend all day talking about how great they’ll be, or I can spend the hours a day working on them. These projects ideally will support not just my income, but my future business plans, so they deserve more than my talk. It’s time to put in the work and make them happen.

 

To recap:

Twitter DMs only and no tweetstorms until November 7. Tweetstorms and regular tweeting will resume November 7 at 9am ET. 

No Facebook beyond existing commitments. Facebook will resume at some point on November 7. 

No Instagram until November 7. I bet you didn’t even know I was on Instagram. 

I will be available via email, Twitter DM, text, and phone call.

There will be a blogpost going up on November 7 to indicate my return to social media, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll be doing with new material in hand.

In the interim, here is a brief list of media I recommend you consume:

This book.
Chuck Wendig’s new book on storytelling.
Absolutely everything Chainsawsuit produces, here and here.
This video.
This other video.
This book.
This book too.
This book.
This show.
Everything here.

So, until we speak next. Don’t you dare fucking give up, don’t let the assholes keep you down, and happy writing.

 

-john

The Post About The Shift

As I promised here, I’ve noticed a both intended and unintended substantial change I’ve made over the last few months. I suppose it’s been percolating for years, but because I’m often slow about absorbing or accepting ideas when they pertain to or affect me, I’m only just seeing it now.

Way back when, I was, bluntly, a mess. I was a dishonest, manipulative, arrogant, obnoxious bully of a guy. I can write that off to unchecked mental illness or addiction, but I don’t entirely want to excuse it. I saturated and perpetuated a climate where I was encouraged to stay not-nice, because it was easier to be a death metal porcupine with flaming quills than anything sensitive, empathetic, or sincere. That stuff was scary, because honesty always carries with it a pile of potential rejection or judgment.

Granted, yes, being a complete dick carries judgment and rejection, but I very artfully was able to say that was the fault of other people. How dare they not want to hang out or love or get to know the guy who treated them like shit! What was so wrong with them, because clearly John-in-his-20s was perfect.

I would love to say that this shift away from that trash-human was all due to sobriety, but I think the roots of this shift come from three elements: the sobriety, the people I put around myself after I realized how important happiness was, the material I chose to put my focus on instead of where it was before.

So let’s break this down.

The Sobriety
It’s undeniable that getting off booze, pills, and the wealth of poisons I was stuffing into my body played a huge role in how I lived. Sure, it revealed some way-less-than-great health issues that have some serious and big-time consequences, but between one thousand one hundred and thirteen days ago (at the time of this writing) and today, I am less engaged in efforts to actively kill myself because I’m angry at the world for not giving me enough love or success or attention or validation, like it’s all portion controlled and not the all-you-can-plate buffet that I’ve come to discover it is. I didn’t want to do the work of going out and asking or seeking those things I needed because I thought I wouldn’t get them, and when it became apparent to me that I had just as much right as the person next to me to be happy and cared about, this big personality and productivity and professional shift began. Sadly, I don’t remember the exact moment that switch was flipped, but I can ballpark it to a particular week and roughly say it was snowing that day, based on my recollections.

I’d be dead by now if I wasn’t sober. Period. Full stop. I am proud of my efforts, I have zero doubts that it was the right thing to do, even though the path to get me there wasn’t the easiest and along the way I had to change along the way. The clarity of mind and the appreciation for being alive matters in a way that’s greater than blog follower count, or client list, or bank account. I can grow and improve anything now that I’m not actively playing a part in my own destruction.

The People I Put Around Myself After I Realized How Important Happiness Was
Okay, let’s go back to me being a dick in my 20s and even my early 30s. I had friends. I had some good friends. I may have treated them poorly, we may have treated each other poorly, but this is where my life was. It wasn’t about being happy because I’d helped people (like now) it was about getting happiness in the misery of others to create some paradigm that I get my jollies from knocking other people down. It’s not healthy. I am zero percent proud of what I did and said back then.

Even after sobriety I didn’t know any other group of people to cluster towards, and I admit I did myself very few favors moving through the orbits of people back then. I was trying to make good and smart and healthy choices without recognizing that it’s hard to find them when you’re not seeing the red flags.

I discounted happiness as I thing I qualified for because I thought I had to atone for living poorly. I thought that these people around me would provide that happiness just because I was around, but my silence about how I felt and what I wanted didn’t clue them in that there was a thing to address. That’s on me. They’re people, so they’ve got their own issues, but I can only be responsible for myself.  I gotta put on my oxygen mask before I can help somebody else with theirs.

So, after painfully extricating myself from groups of people who I never meshed with the way I wanted, I floundered a little. I felt like that grape that sits at the bottom of the package – it’s not part of the cluster, but it’s not an inedible grape even though it gets overlooked because it’s not part of the cluster.

The best advice I can give to someone when they feel like that grape is that the only way you’re going to get different results is to take different action. And yes, you need to accept that the new action has risks to it, but that’s the cost for taking it. I took risks.

Okay wait, that makes it sound like I went skydiving into a volcano. I didn’t. I mean I started talking to new people. It only felt like skydiving into a volcano.

Here’s where I start name-checking people.

Bar none, the best improvement I made to my life was letting good people who legitimately care about me help me go forward one day and one action at a time. I would be completely and totally lost without Jessica Pruneda. She is at once my sherpa, my confidante, the kindest and best human source of compassion and caring I’ve ever met, and someone I am deeply pleased to go through life with. Also, she makes sure I do things like nap and drink water and not lose my shit. Her fondness for tacos also makes lunchtime a treat. I cannot say enough good things about her, even though she blushes super hyper easily and will totally deny most of it. She’s amazing.

Without Jeremy Morgan, Matt Jackson, and Mark Richardson, my life would be missing some of its crucial colors and scope (Cinemascope, the best of all Scopes, take that peri-!). They make me laugh and think and encourage me everyday. They make it easier. They’re awesome.

I cannot understate how crucial it is to do the tough act of looking at the people and habits you surround yourself with if you’re not getting what you want from life. Whether that means business or personally or casually or creatively, the climate you osmose affects your work and life. Tricky here is the idea that it’s not their fault if you need to change things. Nor is it a complete sign that you’re doomed to suck, it’s just a thing you need to change to do better, be better, and go forward. It’s fixable.

Happiness is vitality. It isn’t this thing you earn or work up to like trading in tickets at some prize counter, it’s a kind of lifeblood all its own, and despite what angry or loud people will holler on the internet, there’s nothing wrong with you that you don’t deserve to be happy. And other people can be happy concurrent to your happiness even and especially with the things making them happy aren’t the same as the things that make you happy.

People can contribute to your happiness, but you can’t expect them to fill the tank. It’s not all on them to be your everything-resource. Tough lesson, but worth it.

The Material I Chose To Put My Focus On
Before you can affect a change in yourself, you have to first accept that you’re a product of the environment and scaffolding you’ve built around your day-to-day life. If you’ve built an echo chamber, if you are only steeped in one particular avenue of thought or action, then what you’re doing and thinking is only going to show the hallmarks of that influence. We all do this.

Sometimes, this isn’t an issue, because the people and thoughts around us elevate and illuminate us. Sometimes though, it’s building sycophancy and perpetuating codependence.

For me, I put media and content around me that was disguised as intellectual or provocative, but was really no different than the stuff I was spewing in my 20s. It had some new window dressing, it had all new jargon, but it was still … people treating each other poorly under the guise of “educating” or “correcting” them, a position that no one appointed them to, and a position that wasn’t actually doing anyone any favors.

It stopped being funny or interesting to hear the same tired opinions or outrage or jokes. The horses were dead and beaten. It was time to move on, and when these other people didn’t, that meant it was time for me to go.

I found Movies With Mikey. I found Epic Rap Battles of History. I found the WWE Network. I stopped listening to angry dudes and ladies making mountains out of molehills. I started checking out people making stuff that was fundamentally not about how awful things were and how good things could be. Not counting the shirtless guys hitting each other with chairs. That’s more nostalgia.

It was a simple thing, to prune the Youtube subscriptions, to cull the blogs I read, and find new outlets. I asked this question – Is this bringing information and giving me something I can take away, or is this something I’m watching because I find the emotional outburst attractive?

It’s a question about whether or not I want to be actively engaged in checking out material or passively checking out because I’m checking out an echo chamber different than the one I just left.

You add all these things up: the decisions and the people and the thinking, and you can track me moving towards being a different John. The tweetstorms began to add in elements of motivation, I blogged less because I was focusing on learning how to do things in new ways and more ways that reinforce the vector I’m on. I started a Patreon as one more place to put out content where I could speak when typing didn’t cover all the bases I wanted.

In the very near future, over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to start talking about and sharing interviews and experiences I’ve given and had this year where I think (and hope) you’ll see this changed me.

I can’t twist your arm and make you see it, all I can do it is be that guy and do the best I can every day.

Thanks for reading this, I really appreciate it. Happy creating.

The Messy Filing Cabinet

Next to the left leg of the table that I use as an office desk, there’s a two-drawer filing cabinet. It’s littered with magnets. There’s a Thoreau quote. There’s a whole pack of that magnetic poetry and two buttons that reference clutter, genius, and being underpaid. Some of this stuff has been on these drawers so long I can’t remember where I bought them or when.

In short, it’s one more overlooked and underused part of the office.

Hold on to your seats, we’re going deep in today’s blogpost. SEO be damned, we’re on some personal tracks today. All aboard the John-train, destination: realizationville.

I have this habit, and if you’re a long time reader of the blog you can guess this, this habit where I get really great plans for stuff then barely follow through in the way I intended or hoped for. Sure, we can all write this off as the results of living with mental illness or actively sabotaging myself on a regular basis, but I’ve come to think of this as my looking for a best-fit. Best-fit is important to me: I was a kid who didn’t feel like he fit in anywhere, and I’m an adult who doesn’t think he easily fits in to categories about expertise and job description and experiences.

So back to this double drawer. It’s the best fit for the space under the table. There’s maybe a quarter inch of space between the top of the drawer and the bottom of the table. It fits, it belongs there, I don’t give it a second thought.

Again, no surprise for the long time readers, I have had a life with some twists and turns, and I’ve documented them, as both an effort to salvage-stroke my ego when appropriate, but also as a way to render toothless the venomous serpents and snarling beasts before me. In those two drawers, I dumped things. Things I fully intended to use later, things I wish I felt good enough or smart enough to say “Oh yes, I have these things here in my drawer, one moment please” but more often than not, the drawers became a graveyard for things that are best kept behind whatever metal this is.

I’ve recently come back from a trip, a week away from the house, and I spent a lot of time on this trip reading books about improving my mindset, dealing with self image, successful principles and maxims, as well as finding your purpose. Usually these books are in some way masturbatory (not like that), I mean that I read them so I can say I’m making some effort to improve myself, but it’s very detached: I read, but I don’t apply. Or more like I won’t apply until something takes me right to a precipice where my status quo is going to radically be affected … then after that I’ll change, and I’ll be all enthusiastic, but that just becomes the new status quo.

Are you seeing this? Does this sound familiar? Am I putting words to a thing in your life? Or is this a guy writing out a stream of thoughts because he doesn’t know what else to do with himself, and he’s too tired to clear off the bed?

Right, the drawers. Last night I came home from 13 hours of travel and saw the state of the room and felt like I was coming back from this great experience to a soiled oasis. This is my office, this chair and this creaky old table are where I connect to people and share work and share passion … and it seemed like this corner of this room was just the sewage treatment plant for a city best remembered in a Springsteen song.

It was more than just dusty, it was cluttered and heavy with everything. It didn’t fit me anymore. It isn’t how I wanted things to be. It had to change. No precipice. No imminent radical upheaval. I was just sick of there being two drawers of shit in the corner of a room.

Out comes the last giant trashbag in the house (something poetic about that). And I start filling. I pull open the first drawer, and sort it out. Then the second drawer. No drug paraphernalia, but here’s SOME of what I found:

  • An empty box of condoms that I neither remember buying or ever using.
  • A note inside said box of condoms about a series of blogposts about Plot (more on that in a second)
  • Three halves of three different mobile phones I’ve had
  • A bottle of long-expired horny goat weed that I remember vaguely getting as a freebie from a job I had 15 years ago
  • A small plastic box of pen caps, three WCW Nitro trading cards, and a keychain from Borders bookstores
  • Eight DVDS (and assorted notes) from seminars on building confidence that I am very deeply ashamed that I ever spent money on (more on that in a second too)
  • A broken Neti Pot
  • Two web cams, their cords and plugs removed
  • Three credit card bills for cards I no longer have, all from at least 4 years ago
  • A pile of discharge paperwork from various colleges that no longer requested my attendance (they were in a folder labelled “Fuck ’em”)
  • A half-completed application for information regarding becoming a private detective
  • A page of notes I wrote when I was high all about how I wanted to lose thirty pounds and start making YouTube videos with fancy graphics to talk about writing
  • A page of notes explaining how I should beg, borrow, and steal the equipment and software necessary to make those videos
  • A page of notes about how to quickly lose weight without tapeworms, self-harm, or crossfit (my solution was apparently saunas because women in towels … again, I was really high)
  • An aborted note to myself about how I should throw the lamp out the window because it never worked (I did get rid of the lamp when I got clean)
  • A stack of business cards in a folder labelled “Scary”, these cards are all from companies and people who I to this day am still intimidated by, even though I know them and have been paid by them to do work

Basically, it was two drawers of shit living in the corner of a room that I “filed” (can’t make the airquotes bigger) away to be forgotten, rather than acted on.

And now it’s in a bag at the top of my stairs (I’m gonna need help getting it out to the curb), and what’s in the drawers now?

  • My business card holder, all nicely filed
  • Eleven boxes of pens
  • Six packs of notecards
  • A mini 3-hole punch
  • The VIP pass I got when I saw Dave Matthews in concert
  • Three of the six portable hard drives I use to catalog my creativity

That’s it. My past sits in a bag at the top of the stairs, I can’t even see it from where I’m sitting in this chair. It’ll sit there until it goes out to the curb, and then it’ll be gone. I can’t think of a better way to signal that I changed something without having to have someone threaten to leave me or that I was ruining a life or that I was a disappointment or that I was bankrupting them emotionally and financially.

I got tired of cluttered drawers, and I did something about it. All me. By myself. Took maybe twenty minutes of effort to open drawers, make a pile, sort pile, and dispose of it.

So I’m sitting here now, writing one of the longest blogposts I have in months, and I feel better. I feel good, even. Like this is the way the books I’m reading about self image and goals and success are supposed to make you feel. Fuck you clutter, I’m succeeding!

I’m sorry if my life has derailed a lot of the ambitious plans I set out. I would hate to think that’s the definition people have of me, that I’m the guy who starts like a bat out of hell then quickly calms away to an occasional breeze. Hey look, I just cleaned these two drawers and realized that my passion and on a greater scale, who I am and how I identify as a creative was cluttered up too.

Cluttered up in expectations, in panicked “reality checks” where I talk myself out of attempting things for irrational reasons, in fear of rejection, in fear of losing control of the rudder that steers me so that I don’t go back to the paranoia and depression, in fear of losing what makes me me, even if I’m never really sure who that is unless I’m writing about being passionate and being brave and being good when it’s not easy.

I don’t know if any of this reaches you. I don’t know if this matters to you. Maybe this one’s just for me. And I’m way more okay with whatever the answer is.

I want to end with a quick note: Part of that trip that had me hours away from the house, and reading all these books was that I finally took the big professional risk of having Noir World recorded on One Shot, as well as giving a really candid and intense interview for Talking Tabletop. The game was great (it was a new experience for me, I don’t think I actually did a lot of talking, and yeah, I’m shocked too), and I think the interview was maybe me at my most honest and sincere. I’m excited for you to hear them both.  (Other note: Save some bucks for March, Noir World’s gonna go to Kickstarter then)

Thanks for reading this long blast of thoughts. I hope you found in it something to take away, even if you’re just shocked about the amount of shit a person can pack into two small drawers.

Go create, be happy, and don’t you ever give up. We’ll talk real soon, I’ve got this whole page of notes on Plot blogposts that I need to decode and write for you…so that’ll be fun.

Patreon And Other Things I’m Doing

Hey everyone!

Hope you’re doing well.

So, I’ve been doing some stuff, and that means you get a quick little note about some of those things. Let’s go straight down my to-do list.

Patreon
Yeah, I know, I’ve had like 4 different versions of Patreon set up, I know I have decried it before. Feel free to jump into the comments and call me a hypocrite or an idiot. What I’m going to tell you is twofold: first, I didn’t “get” it and second, a lot of my screwing it up had to do with being incredibly afraid to try.

See, I’ve had a good case of the yips lately. (For those that don’t know what that means, it’s a way of saying I’ve been really gunshy and unsure about what I’m doing and whether or not I’m good at anything). And thanks to those yips this blog has been quiet. And thanks to those yips I don’t think I’ve really done well with tweeting. And because I think I didn’t do well before, I carry it forward, and it cycles over and over, cementing the yips and making it hard to throw the brakes on and change momentum.

Patreon is a way to do that. I’d love your support, I appreciate every dollar, and it’s all getting dumped right back into this blog and my passion for doing what I do. Here’s the link, thanks for checking it out.

Write More Gooder
For years, and by some estimates it’s up to a decade now, I’ve been talking about “one day.” One day when I do X. One day when I have Y happen. I’m always waiting for that one day like it’s a city bus downtown, even though I spend a lot of time telling people that if we want “one day” we have to go seize it.

One of my “one days” was this – One day, I’ll have a podcast. And I could talk about a lot of things, and I’d like to talk about a lot of things, but I’ve always resisted talking about things because I was so concerned with what other people would think or if they’d even pay attention (sound familiar to anyone?). I’ve made a lot of excuses about why this particular one day would never happen – I didn’t have a microphone, I can’t get Audacity to work, I don’t have the means to make something really polished, etc etc. While a lot of those things are true (I still can’t get Audacity to work 100% of the time and I don’t have the means or horsepower to do a lot of polish work), I do have a microphone, and I really should get off my ass and make this happen.

WRITE MORE GOODER will start in October. Here’s the lovely logo that I assume all my vastly more talented friends will tell me is garbage:

podcast2

Let’s not talk about how hard I worked on that.

The Traveling John RoadShow of Writing
Another of the “one day” issues was that I have always wanted to speak to more writers. Any writers. Usually this nets me a small local group here in Jersey, sometimes I get to Skype in with some group in PA or Delaware. But last I checked, the world is way bigger than that, and I am pretty sure there are writers out there who might like to hear some of the things I say.

So I’m going on the road. I’ve been putting together a list of conventions, groups, cities, and writers, and while there’s not a lot of money yet so that I can reach all of these people and places, I’m confident that with enough time and work, I can get some. I want to bring what I know to you. Patreon is one way we can make that happen. (Editing and Coaching are others)

Yips or not, this is me getting back up on the horse. I love you, I believe in you, I want to make awesome stuff with you. Happy writing.

On Anxiety, Trying, Failing, and More Trying

So here’s the thing. I’m writing this from the comfort of a recliner. I’m not saying this to sound spoiled or entitled, I’m just telling you that I’m writing this post while reclining because I want you to imagine the following discussion happening in your living room. Yes, I brought my recliner to your living room, and no that’s not weird. You’re weird. Why don’t you have a guest recliner? Get it together.

I’ve been pretty well laid up the last several days, and that makes it difficult and embarrassing to do anything – there’s this inertia that only working consistently or resting consistently can provide and I seem to only want to do one or the other. From the medical side of things, this is great. My chest doesn’t feel like a legion of elephants is learning to tap dance the Morse Code lyrics to Hamilton, and I’m finally getting a chance to work on my Kurt Cobain hair style.

That’s the good part. The bad part is that without work, I get the pleasure of watching my bank balance recede with tidal urgency, and I get a substantial spoonful of guilt that I’m not doing more. I mean, there have been days where showering took all the energy I had, and we’re not talking depression, this is straight can-I-get-up-these-stairs-and-get-my-arms-over-my-head-energy. I’m not really sure I can explain that more clearly, and I want to. I feel like if I can find a better metaphor you’ll understand why I needed to spend more days where the most exciting thing I did was try and cut my toenails. Also, I feel like if you understand how I’m feeling, you’ll forgive me for feeling that way. Because I feel bad for being ill. I feel guilty for not doing more, and not doing more faster. Like how I used to. Granted, that way was imperfect, but I at least felt grounded in that identity – I knew who I was. Now, today, I might not know who I am, but I know what I can do. I’m not sure that’s a great trade-off yet, I’m still wrestling with the concept.

I say all that to say this: I know on some level I cannot control how you react to this. Maybe you’ll be sympathetic, maybe you’ll be disappointed, maybe you’ll pity me. Maybe you’ll call me a cuck because apparently that’s the new buzzword for a guy who isn’t much a guy (even though cuckery and hotwifing are two sexual lifestyles requiring an emotional maturity and communication skills, and are not “wrong”). Maybe you’ll cross me off a list of people who can help you turn your ideas into a book because you don’t expect me to live long enough (which I totally get, but if that’s your thinking, take the extra ten seconds to tell me that). Whatever. I can’t control how you’ll react, and no matter how you react, that doesn’t make me inhuman or wrong. It’ll be what it is, and I’ll do my best.

So I try my best to get up and work when I can. Not always easy, but I do what I can when I can the best I can.

 

And I appreciate your patience. And your support.

 

Thank you.

FiYoShiMo starts TOMORROW

Welcome to the end of November. NaNoWriMo wraps up, and rather than stick the file off in some virtual corner to collect dust, I’d like to suggest that you and your MS join me for #FiYoShiMo.

That’s Fix Your Shit Month. I first talked about it here. I want to give you a clearer roadmap.

It’s thirty consecutive days of blogposts, starting with the basics of storytelling, ending with post-writing and revision process. Every day there will be a explanation of a storycraft element or two as well as exercises for the particular day.

The full 30-day breakdown looks like this:

The Basics
———-
December 1 DAY 1: Beats
December 2 DAY 2: Direct/Indirect Beats
December 3 DAY 3: Tone and Mood
December 4 DAY 4: Genre
December 5 DAY 5: Theme

Character Stuff
————
December 6 DAY 6: Character Motivations
December 7 DAY 7: Character Philosophies
December 8 DAY 8: Character Skills
December 9 DAY 9: Character Weakness
December 10 DAY 10: Character Goals
December 11 DAY 11: Protagonists / Antagonists
December 12 DAY 12: Secondary Characters

Plot Stuff
————
December 13 DAY 13: Plot Intersection
December 14 DAY 14: Plot Negligence
December 15 DAY 15: Plot Sustinence
December 16 DAY 16: Plot Padding
December 17 DAY 17: Plot Interruption
December 18 DAY 18: Plot and Time
December 19 DAY 19: Plot Crutches

World Building
————–
December 20 DAY 20: World Building Basic Tools, Part 1
December 21 DAY 21: World Building Basic Tools, Part 2
December 22 DAY 22: World Building and Plot
December 23 DAY 23: World Building and Characters
December 24 DAY 24: World Building and Tone

Post-Writing & Revision
———————-
December 26 DAY 26: What’s next?
December 27 DAY 27: Packaging Options
December 28 DAY 28: Pitching and Queries Part 1
December 29 DAY 29: Pitching and Queries Part 2
December 30 DAY 30: Help for People Who Write
December 31 DAY 31: FiYoShiMo Wrap-Up

Yes, I’m taking Christmas Day off.

I hope you’re ready. I hope I’m ready. We start tomorrow, at 9 am EST. See you then.

Coaching, Its Benefits, And You

Good morning writers and creators of cool things, often with words. On Wednesday of last week, I announced the return of my Coaching program, and am happy to say that more than a few (certainly more than I was expecting) people have expressed interest. And although I answered everyone’s email over the weekend, I wanted to collate their questions and answers into a blogpost to talk more about coaching, why it’s different than editing, and what it can help you do. I’ve set the post up like an FAQ.

What is Coaching?
Coaching is editing and then-some. Yes, you end up with your MS worked on, but you also get a deeper look at the mistakes you commonly make, and most importantly why you’re making them and how to stop doing it going forward. Built on a simple premise that you’re always going to create better when you’re supported and when you’re aware of how you work best, coaching aims not to just produce a quality manuscript, but also produce a better overall writer (who produces quality manuscripts).

What are some things coaching can help me with?
(this isn’t a complete list)
Self-doubt
Self-rejecting (rejecting yourself before someone has a chance to)
Query letters
Proper grammar
Plot development
Character development
Procrastination
Transitioning from one genre to another
Transitioning from one writing style to another
Making time to write
Transitioning into other media
Finding inspiration to write new things
Dialogue
Finishing projects
Building a practical writing schedule that you actually enjoy following
Point of view efficacy
Correct use of tense

When does the editing happen?
The writing and editing happen WHILE the coaching is happening. (Not like at the same time, because I’m not standing behind you … or am I?) You keep working on your MS, we work on all this stuff together, as it comes up.

How do I know if I need coaching? Isn’t editing enough?
Editing’s enough if you just want to keep the focus on the current manuscript. Coaching is going to help you on the current one and the next manuscript(s).

What kind of editing happens during coaching?
It’s developmental, and it has to be. Just proofreading or even a line edit isn’t going to get to the hows and whys of writer habits.

Wait, remind me what developmental editing is?
It’s a comprehensive type of editing that looks at the MS in the broadest ways (who’s going to read it, what the author intends to do with it, etc), the craft ways (the characters, the plot, the dialog, the exposition, etc) and the technical ways (sentence structure, word choice, spelling, grammar, etc).

And what’s the point? Is this going to help me?
You’re going to get out of it whatever you put in. If you’ve been banging your head against the wall or desk about how you’re going to get yourself writing, or how you’re going to get your MS back on track if you’ve put yourself in a corner, coaching will absolutely help you. If you’re eager to get started and have no idea where, coaching will help you. In short – coaching can help you get writing, and writing well.

This sounds like it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg. Is it expensive?
As you can see on the Rates page, it’s $80 an hour. You pay for each hour of coaching, though if you want to  split the payment up, we can work that out. Just send me an email.

Is there a contract?
There is. It’s straightforward, and it spells out what we’re doing, how many hours we’re doing it for and all the payment particulars. It’s very similar to the contract discussed here.

As a client, how would we communicate?
We’d work in whatever way(s) work for you. Email, phone call, Skype, Google+ Hangout, Google Chat Window, In-person meeting (if you’re in NJ, parts of PA, DE, MD, NY, or CT) are all possibilities, though I’m flexible to others you may suggest.

When would the coaching happen?
We’d set up a date and time. I don’t do reminders, so that responsibility is on you, but we’d set up when a session would happen each time. I don’t schedule sessions on Sundays or holidays.

What if I need to cancel?
Cancel up to 8 hours before your session without a problem. Cancel sooner than that, and I invoice you for half a session. Exceptions apply, but don’t abuse the policy.

I get invoiced?
Yes, after every session, I give you an invoice.

$80 is steep for me. If I do half an hour, can I get a reduced rate?
Email me, and we can talk it out.

Is it possible to do a package of coaching?
It will be in the future (I don’t have that mapped out yet), but again, write me an email and we’ll talk it out.

What if I have questions?
Email or Twitter are the best places to ask them.

This Q&A is now also available on the Coaching page.


There are good coaches out there. There are bad ones. You pick the one who you think can work best with you. The goal isn’t just to feed you the same sort of info you can get with a quick Google search and then collect your money, the goal is to get you writing and get you writing better than you were before coaching started. That’s my goal – I want to see your stuff on shelves, in people’s hands, available for downloads, read in smoke signals and semaphore flags, or whatever you want to do with it. It’s your story, it’s your idea, get the best help you can to tell it.

As an editor, as a giver of workshops on writing and editing and publishing, as someone who pores over writing advice, it’s critical to me that people feel empowered enough to write. One of the most common questions I hear from people starts with, “Is it okay if ….” or “In my story, I have …” as people are just looking for the permission, the validation, to do a thing they think is cool. And yes, it’s cool that you did that. The word police aren’t coming to the door to take your keyboard and fingers away. As an editor and coach, my issue is not that you did it, but that you did it effectively, so it gets the desired result you want. I’m a huge fan of results and production, and I cast many side glances and headshakes towards those resources, people, “experts”, blogs, books, and videos that lose themselves in highbrow artsy discussions of what is or what isn’t writing. So many voices out there get silenced by the fear and doubt that some nebulous shadowy story-illuminate will decry their efforts because it’s not “legit”. Coaching isn’t about getting “legit”. It’s about remembering that you already are “legit”, and that there’s someone in your corner to keep you going.

You feel like you've been knocked around, it's my job to keep you fighting. I believe in you. You're no bum.

You feel like you’ve been knocked around, it’s my job to keep you fighting. I believe in you. You’re no bum.

I take this seriously. We can too easily make mountains of things to discourage ourselves, keep us from trying to do new things, keep us thinking we’re not good enough, or we’re too stupid. We are so quick to heap negatives onto our backs and in our minds that the positives become both mirages and oases in the vast wasteland of trying to get shit done.

It can feel a lot like this when you're trying your best.

It can feel a lot like this when you’re trying your best.

It can be tough admitting that you need help. It be can really intense and jarring to realize that you’ve reached some kind of limit and that you don’t know what to do next or how to do it. If I can tell you anything, it’s that you always have options, there’s always something that can be done, even if it’s unpleasant, scary, or embarrassing.

Writer, creator of things, you’re not alone. This is an opportunity to get your idea even beyond where you thought it could go. Taking control, not letting the doubt, fear, anxiety, frustration, naysayers, or lack of knowledge stop you is empowering. It basically makes you as cool as this guy:

Seriously, we all want to be this guy sometimes.

Seriously, we all want to be this guy sometimes. I mean he’s still wearing his pajama …

I’m here to help. I want to see you succeed. I think coaching is a great tool to have in your arsenal.

We’ll talk again Wednesday. Have a great day, write well, rock somebody’s face off.

My Field Of Dreams, An Announcement, And An Update

Happy middle-of-the-week everyone.

I find myself sitting at an interesting crossroads today.

Just like this except I'm wearing a bathrobe and slippers.

Just like this except I’m wearing a bathrobe and slippers.

It’s less than a month until my favorite convention of the year, and I’m aware of the state of my my business now more than ever. I wrestle with all the feelings of writing, producing, publishing, editing, marketing, and other business tasks. My professional and personal lives interwine in some weird caduceus, or maybe they’re more like an ouroboros. It’s hard to tell sometimes. It’s like standing in a corn maze and not knowing where the path is, but knowing there IS a path. Somewhere

Finally, I get to use this image.

Not technically a corn maze, but here, have this field of corn. You could get lost in here too. 

I’m a big believer in the risk-reward strategy that says big rewards follow big risks. This has proven true in my life with sobriety, therapy, relationships, professional awards and projects. (Also video games and cooking, now that I think about it.) So here’s me, taking a big risk.

This is my Field of Dreams, minus Ray Liotta showing up.

I’m going to build a thing, and James Earl Jones will tell me that people will show up.

Seriously Adamus, get off your ass and do this thing.

Seriously Adamus, get off your ass and do this thing.

This is what I’m announcing: Effective immediately, the Writer Next Door Coaching Program is back.

For a lot of you, that’s not a thing that’s back but a thing that’s new, so give me a paragraph or two to explain.

I believe in the power of words. I don’t think that learning how to use them, and getting good at using them are supposed to be things held by a select few who deign to hand out the same old ideas over and over again, just in a new order. I think that authors shouldn’t retreat to ivory towers. Community and connection with people is the new paramount, and the best way to do that is through the medium of good story. You, yes, you there, person reading this, you deserve every opportunity and chance to do your best. You deserve access to every tool available to make that possible.

Years ago I tried to get coaching off the ground, but I was taking some bad advice from people who put a premium on money and ignored the fact that it’s not about how much money I can make and how much free time I can have, it’s about helping people. So now, focused quite firmly in that compassion, I’m here to help people.

Coaching should encourage people. It should help them get from point A to point B, giving them tools and instruction and evidence that they can get somewhere, and do something. People are good enough. I’m good enough.

Coaching should make things easier. It isn’t mystical and weird guru cliches, it isn’t some woo-woo mumbo jumbo involving crystals and astral projections. It’s conversations, effort, review, and revision. It’s a powerful tool in the toolbox.

Any manuscript. Any genre. Any author. Any stage of production. If you’re writing it, and you need help, here I am.

You want me to be your editor? You’ll want to take note that my rates have changed.

You want my undivided attention for an hour as you get your idea out of your head, onto paper, then make the words on that paper better? Want to do all you can to get yourself publishable? Let’s talk about coaching.

I want to see you succeed. I believe in you. Let me help make this happen.


An Update on JohnCon!

Previously, I’ve spoken about JohnCon. I’m very excited to announce there’s a logo now. All the credit for this awesome design goes to Brianna Reed, because she’s amazing at this stuff.

This makes me ridiculously happy.

This makes me ridiculously happy.

How cool is that? As more things start to come together, keep updated on Twitter.

Have a great Wednesday. I’ll be back Friday with more good stuff.

Happy writing.

Help Me Level Up

Hey everyone, it’s a beautiful evening, and I’m writing this with the windows open and the blades of sunlight streaming through the edges of the Venetian blinds.

My worry is that this post will be a little rambly, but let’s promise each other to do our best and get through all the stuff, shall we?

First, a medical update! I’m still upright and kicking, and I know that my flippant answers make it sound like I’m not serious about the issues of my health, but I do so love to cage and dodge my feelings sometimes in humor. The fact is that nothing has changed in a while. I’ve got some new meds to start in two weeks, the diet plan is actually not too awful (did you know mexican food that you don’t buy via drive-thru is actually pretty smart for your heart? I didn’t), and I’ve wrangled some very lovely arrangements with insurers and doctors alike so that I won’t have to sell unborn children to too many cults or crossroads specters in order to make it through the autumn months. Yes, it’ll be expensive. Yes, that will make things tough. No, that’s not the end of the world. I made it work once, I can damned sure do it again.

Second, I want to write in more than 140 characters that I am sorry if my continued chatter about my health verges on the maudlin or complaint side of things. I know that it gets tiring quickly to hear people complain of dwindling finances and stressful situations, and I continue to appreciate the patience of everyone who has stayed along for the ride. I don’t write these things idly or just to sour other peoples’ parades, and I promise you to do a better job (starting right the hell now) in keeping the negative in check.

Yes, my health is a scary issue for me. It’s a nebula of confusion and fear and anger and sadness and acceptance all swirling around the ideas that I may or may not be deserving this fate or good enough to deserve coming through this in one piece. But that is likely material for not only a wealth of blogposts, but also therapy appointments.

Moving onward, we should talk a little about some of the things I want to do, given my promise two paragraphs ago.

I want to attend more writing-based conferences, conventions, and retreat-things. I know “retreat-things” isn’t a word, but I was looking for sort of a catch-all to describe the events where lots of people congregate to discuss and learn about writing. I’d like to sit in more audiences. I’d like to be surrounded by those creative energies again. I miss them.

I want to speak at writing-based conferences, conventions and retreat-things. Here’s a slightly tricky prospect: I’m not an agent. I’m not employed by a traditional publisher. I’m not a professor of English at an educational institution. I’m a professional editor with over a decade of experience helping people turn ideas into stories, games and media. I’ve got a small twitter following. I say some things that people favorite and retweet, but I’m not exactly a Kardashian (that’s the metric for quality social media, right? Kardashian Units? Or have we switched to the Kanye or Trump? I can never tell.) What I’m saying is that I don’t know how to get my name on the radar of these things, but I’m willing to try all that I can to do so.

I am going to continue to work. Work is an invaluable resource for me, and not just financially. Because I get tired and do a lot of sitting or reclining, I find myself in need of things to do. Heart issues may tax the body, but the mind just sort of sits there and spins. Having work, the challenge of creation, the challenge of bringing other peoples’ stuff to its best light, all that fire and passion is tremendous for me. I want to help. I love to create. I love to see things transmogrify from idea to product. Don’t let the daily pills and frequent naps fool you, beneath this cane-walking facade churns the creative engine waiting to be let loose again. I’ve still got good days and good work ahead of me.

I want to Guest of Honor at a convention or event. Here I stroke my ego, some would say, but I think this is more a goal than an abject recognition of some obvious premise … because I don’t think I always deserve the ranking, even though I claw at my world to bring me validation (Again, more therapy topics, I think) This isn’t a case of “if person X can be a Guest of Honor, why can’t I?”, this is more a case of “John, will you please stop being afraid and take the chance?” Again, I’m not always sure how to do that, but I’m wanting to do more.

If you’ve asked, “How can I help?” let me thank you and then thank you again. Here’s how you can help:

(if you’re wondering why this gap is here, imagine I’ve been interrupted five times by a really needy dog)

  1. Continue this ride with me. Keep doing what you’re doing
  2. If you have conventions, writing conferences, groups or other word things that you’d like to see me at, tell me about them.
  3. If you want to take your idea and get it out of your head, and onto paper or a page or anywhere where it can be seen or experienced by others, let’s work together. Write me an email. Write me a tweet. Let’s talk about making your stuff happen.

We’ll talk more soon. Like next week soon.

Happy writing.

The ‘Welcome To Writer Fight Club’ Sale

The road to publication is a tough one. Putting aside for the moment the fact that you actually have to write a book, the expense of getting it looked at, edited, and published can be far more than a simple “this is just something I wrote on the weekends” budget can bear. It’s not uncommon for edits to cost hundreds of dollars or more. And those might be hundreds of dollars you don’t have.

So what can I do to help you, writer?

How about a deal for the next 30 days?

The Welcome To Writer Fight Club Sale

If you’re writing and come to me for editing or developmental advice**, your first 9000 words WILL COST YOU A PENNY EACH.

(** “editing and developmental advice” is defined as ANY kind of edit, from copyediting to developmental)

What Happens After 9000 words?

Starting with word 9001, the rate returns to its variable amount, based on whatever kind of editing you need (so anywhere from .02 to .11 on average) – but that’s something we work out. You’ll know well in advance.

How Do I Know What Kind of Edit I Need?

Here’s a quick guideline:

  1. If you need the sort of grammar/punctuation/continuity edit that you’d receive from an English teacher (commas, periods, quotations, sentence fragments, vague sentences, etc), that’s a copy edit.
  2. If you need a deeper edit that looks at dialogue, pacing, and just a little plot and all of the above, that’s a line edit.
  3. If you need a deeper edit than that, one that looks at character development, plot development, actions, genre appropriate material, mood, tone, POV, and all of the above, that’s a developmental edit.

To give you a frame of reference, without this sale, these edits would normally cost you:

  1. Copy Edit of 9000 words = $180
  2. Line Edit of 9000 words = $360
  3. Developmental Edit of 9000 words = $540
  4. 9000 words edited during this sale = $90

BUT FOR THE NEXT 30 DAYS (until May 22, 2014) YOU CAN GET ANY OF THESE EDITS FOR $90.

$90 to get your novel off the ground isn’t a bad deal.

How Do I Get Started?

If you’re interested, send me an email (thewriternextdoor@gmail.com) and let’s talk. Don’t let budget be the obstacle keeping you from telling your story and making art.

Welcome to Writer Fight Club.