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NaNoWriMo: The 2013 Wrap-up

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The hardest part about National Novel Writing Month was dragging my lazy ass out of bed. That and, well you know, actually writing.

With another NaNoWriMo looming just around the corner, I thought it was time I posted my 2013 Wrap-up:

The Overview

2013 was my first attempt at participating in this chaotic, month-long writing marathon to churn out a 50,000 word novel in just thirty days. Along the way I learned quite a bit about myself, about my writing, and about my own abilities as a writer. I learned that I can write from an outline (granted, an outline thrown together in the week before the event), and still have the freedom to “pants it,” find surprises, and drift from the script now and again. I learned that I can set a writing goal, and I can achieve it. I learned that I can write (almost) everyday.

While I didn’t actually complete an entire novel, I learned that I have the ability to write a “novel-size” manuscript in just thirty days. And I learned (or rather reminded myself) that large quantities of coffee and energy shots can in fact replace sleep.

Overall, it was a great experience (from what I remember anyway, the entire month is all still very much a blur).While I technically “won” the event by hitting the 50,000 word goal on November 30, I’m certain there are some things I could have done differently, not necessarily better, to make the experience even more rewarding. So let’s take a moment to recap my adventures in NaNoWriMo 2013.

The Plan

I signed up mid-October on a whim, and started throwing together a quick outline from a story concept I’d been harboring for some time. I’d never tried to write “fast” before and had never really tested myself to see how many words I could cram out per hour, but I guessed that if I was typing at a good rate and just letting the stream of consciousness flow, just writing whatever came to mind without second guessing sentence structure or word choice, that I could probably hammer out about a thousand words in an hour.

So I planned to give myself roughly two hours per day to write, in the early morning hours before work and before the family started to stir. I hoped to reach two thousand words per day so that I could take Sundays off and not fall behind on word count.

The Process

My NaNoWriMo 2013 Starter Kit

My NaNoWriMo 2013 Starter Kit

Depending on the day’s work schedule, I would wake up anywhere between 4:30-6 a.m. I’d brew my coffee and take my place on the sofa, working on a T.V. tray set up as a desk with my iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard. I had my music of course, ear-buds plugged in to my phone cranking out Pandora. (For some reason I was listening to a lot of Alt-J, Mumford and Sons, and Dave Matthews Band.)

Most days I found it easy to hit my word count in the given time, and I do believe my estimates proved pretty darn accurate. From what I remember, I was averaging right around 1,000 words/hour. There were a few days that I found time to write in the afternoons and those sessions would put me ahead. Me, being the lazy, procrastinating person that I am–instead of using these moments to really take off and up my word count–found opportunity several mornings to only write for an hour or so and then go back to bed for another hour prior to work.

I planned on blogging the whole experience along the way, but became so engrossed that I only managed to poke my head out once for a Week One Update. After that, there was only writing, coffee, and then darkness…

The Aftermath

2013 WriMo Stats
As you can see from the above image, I stayed on track and hit a total of 50,041 words on November 30. I ended up writing every day except for two days, day #10 and #28. Despite that, I never fell behind in the overall word count goal for any given day. I think this is really a good point to take home for anyone attempting the event this year. It is very important to keep your head above water. If you want to write ahead, write ahead, but don’t skip a day if it’s going to put you behind thinking you will make up for it tomorrow. That is, write for credit; don’t write yourself into debt. While I have read a few other writers post about falling behind and then making up for it in a final, glorious surge near the end, writing from a deficit only makes an already difficult challenge that much more challenging.

The Result

2013 WriMo Stats 2
So, what do I have to show for all this, aside from the satisfaction of knowing that I am now officially a WINNER! (With a t-shirt to prove it! Yippee!) plus all that ooey gooey knowledge and creamy-center-filled confidence I gained? Let me tell you: I am now the proud owner of 50,041 words of a half-finished “zero” draft novel that I haven’t looked at since and can barely even recall writing let alone remember what the hell I actually wrote. It is probably complete orangutan puke, but it is mine. It is mine to finish. It is mine to rewrite, edit, and revise. It is mine to turn into something perhaps worthwhile, something that could even one day be yours as well, and if it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo, it might never have existed.

If you have never done NaNoWriMo before, don’t kid yourself, this is a very difficult challenge. By December 1, I was exhausted, burned out. With family obligations and a full time job, there’s no way I could keep that kind of pace going for much longer than a month. Even only writing a couple or three hours a day, it just wears you down, both physically and mentally, trying to keep pace and consistently make your word count. But if you can hang with it for the whole month, win or lose, it is extremely rewarding. And yes, I will be “competing” again this year. (As I’ll discuss here in a few days, this year I plan on cheating. Shhhh…)

How about any of you? Done NaNoWriMo in previous years? Care to share your experiences, good or bad? Or, if you’ve never done the event but are thinking about it, please feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below. While I’m still somewhat of a NaNoWriMoNewbie, I’d be happy to chat about the issue, and perhaps we can pull some real veterans into the discussion along with us.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, Just Write!

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Meet Daniel from FEEDING LAZARUS

I was recently invited by an author I truly admire, Keith Deininger, to answer a little questionnaire about a character from one of my works. Keith wrote about his character, Kayla from GHOSTS OF EDEN on his blog. Ghosts of Eden, Keith’s latest novel, will be out November 4th of this year in paperback, limited edition hardcover, and for the Kindle. The Kindle version is currently available to pre-order at a reduce price. I highly recommend any and all of the fantastic and disturbing works by this very talented writer.

What is the name of your character?

Daniel Devlin, but in the story you’ll discover a few of his other names and the stories behind them: Devil Boy, Dog-shit, Squirt, and Pisser Licker, just to name a few.

Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Fictional. But as we writers write what we know, Daniel is a mix of people I have known, even including myself. He is anyone who has ever been abused, picked-on, or bullied. Essentially, Daniel is made up of anyone who has ever been an outcast, or felt that they were different than “normal” people.

When and where is the story set? What should we know about him/her?

Modern day in a small, fictional town in Southern Illinois called Shadow Oaks. The most important aspect of Daniel, aside from his tormented life filled with bullies and abusers, is his strong imagination. It is the power of his imagination which allows Daniel to escape the horrors of his waking life, and it is his imagination which may prove to be his demise. Also, Daniel likes to burn things, even himself.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Daniel is tormented by the people who dwell in his world: the bullies at school who mock him, their pranks steadily escalating into deadly acts of torture; and the monster living in his home who abuses Daniel’s mother, using her as his sex slave to gratify his violent, sadistic desires. But everything starts to change when Daniel finds a dead body at an abandoned construction site–a withering corpse which appears to be returning to life.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Daniel wants to discover the truth about his forgotten past, learn about his real father, and ultimately end the suffering that has plagued him and his mother.

Where can we read more about your novel?

The best place to stay up to date is here on the blog. You can also sign up for our Newsletter, or visit the homepage for Rafe Grayson, the pen name I’ll be publishing under.

When can we expect the book to be published?

I am aiming for First Quarter 2015.

[If you are an author and would like to participate in this blog tour by sharing some information about a character in one of your works, just follow this format and post it to your blog. Then send me a link to your post at wesdgray(at)gmail(dot)com and I’ll share your post and link it with mine. Thanks!]


Bog Bodies

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Tollund Man – Public Domain

In an effort to stick with my original vision for this blog, which was to be a sort of online writing journal where I share story ideas, concepts and moments of inspiration, I thought I would share the birth (rebirth?) of this story idea while it is still fresh.

Yesterday morning, I came across this article, The 10 Most Overlooked Mysteries in History, and it included a post about bog bodies. I vaguely remember reading or watching something on this subject years ago, and my fascination for it was instantly rekindled. If you are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, here is a link to the Wikipedia article, which is as good a place to start as any, I suppose. Go on, check it out, it’s pretty freaking awesome, but be sure to come back here when you’re done.

Anyway, as I let my mind dwell on these bog bodies, a story began to emerge. I turned to Evernote to record the ideas I was having, and I quickly realized that the concept was not new to me. There was something strangely familiar about it. As soon as I had the opportunity, I dug through my old writing journal. There, I found two entries from nearly five years ago that I had scribbled and forgotten. Here are some images from those pages in my journal:

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(good luck reading my scribbles)

Well there it is. A moment of inspiration, linked back to other moments of inspiration from almost five years ago. I will take this as further argument as to why it is so critical for every writer to keep a writing journal and write down every idea, no matter how insignificant it might seem at the time. (I shudder to think of the ideas I’ve lost because I didn’t write them down.)

But perhaps most importantly, I will take this as a sign that these Bog Bodies will not let me go until I’ve fleshed out their story, and given them new life through the written word.

What about you? Have any of you ever had an idea that just would not let you go? Perhaps a recurring idea that you didn’t remember having previously? A Déjà vu idea? A Déjà-dea? Thoughts? Comments?


Title Change and Other Stuff

I’ve given this quite a bit of thought, and after a few years of living with my WIP poetry chapbook as Nightmare Dreamer, I have decided to completely change the title prior to publication. Better to change it prior to, than after the fact, I suppose. So the new title, as given away by the little graphic above, is…dun dun dun… Come Fly with Death: Poems Inspired by the Artwork of Zdzislaw Beksinski.
 
There are several reasons I’ve decided to make this change. Both titles come from poems included in the book, but the poem, Come Fly with Death is one of my personal favorites, and honestly I just think it proves to be a more original title. Nightmare Dreamer has always had a slight generic taste to it, at least to me. And although that title and its poem are direct references to Beksinski himself, the genius artist whose work the entire book is inspired from, I feel that the title, Come Fly with Death and its corresponding poem both speak much more closely to the overall spirit of the book as a whole. So, there. It is done.
 
Along with a new title there will be an all new cover design. While my attempts at creating original digital artwork for this title have taught me much in the ways of Photoshop, sadly I must admit that I am not a graphic designer. I will still be creating the cover as far as layout, text placement, etc., but I will be contracting the actual artwork. Perhaps one day I can tinker around and learn enough about Photoshop and the digital arts to do my ideas justice, but in the meantime, I will focus on the writing and leave the visual arts to the visual artists.
 
As far as publication goes, I am getting very close to releasing this chapbook. A few of the poems included had been pending publication elsewhere, and I have been waiting for all that to resolve so that rights could revert back to me. At this point, I am free to publish these poems as I see fit, so I will be moving full steam ahead. Once I finish with the interior layout and scour it for final line edits, I will finalize the cover. I am hoping to have all that done so that it can be released in Ocober, just in time for Halloween. The initial release will be as an ebook on Amazon Kindle, and will also be available as print on demand. I will expand that to include all the other major ebook distributors such as iTunes and Smashwords, but as this is my first adventure into the world of self-publishing, it may take me some time.
 
In other news, my novella, Feeding Lazarus is in final revision and I am looking at a release date of early next year. It will also be getting a new cover design, which I will reveal here as we get closer to publication.
 
Until next we meet, be cool, be safe, and of course, just write.

 


2014: The Year thus Far

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I’ve been away from the blog for a while, away from writing in general in fact. After “winning” NaNoWriMo last year, I decided to take a little break in December, which inadvertently turned into an extended hiatus from writing altogether. I had managed to hit the 50K word goal during the month while working full time, meeting various other obligations, and still spending time with my family, but by the end of it, I was tired, perhaps even burned out. So I decided to take a step back during the holidays, with a plan to return in January. My aim then was to finish the first draft of my Nano novel which, though it stood at 50,000 plus words on December 1, wasn’t (and still isn’t) even close to being a completed anything. I’d left the story dangling somewhere in the hazy middle, in the middle of a terrible and laborious storm if I recall correctly, and that is precisely where it stands today.

Now with the summer months nearly gone, I stand facing September as it screeches near, and I’m wondering where the hell the year went. I don’t want to make excuses for not writing and so I’m not going to dwell on the time lost. I just know this: it is time to get back to The Work. Okay, so not that work exactly. Not the half-completed nonsense novel thus far left by the wayside. Don’t get me wrong, I will finish that sloppy “zero” draft. I will eventually revise, rewrite, mold and sculpt it into something that hopefully won’t make your eyes bleed. But first I just need to get moving again, and I’ve got other projects that have been on the shelf which I feel I owe my obligations to at present.

Also, with another Nano approaching, I don’t think it’s too early to start planning the work to be done during this year’s madness. Yes, that’s right. I am crazy enough to do this thing again. This time however, I’d like to set a personal goal beyond the 50k word count. Hopefully, with a bit of planning and some time to conjure up a decent outline, I’d like to actually complete an entire draft during the month, so as to not end up with fifty thousand words of incoherent garbage that might one day resemble roughly half of a completed novel. My personal goal then will be to end up with fifty thousand words of incoherent garbage that might one day resemble an entire novel.

So I’ve had a wee little break but now I’ve got work to do. In the coming weeks I’ll be plotting and outlining the new novel as well as working to finish up another novel and a chapbook which have both been in the works for far too long. I’ll be making an effort to post more regularly to the blog, if for nothing else than to pop in and say “hi” and tell you what I had for dinner. No. I won’t really do that. No one really cares about that. But I do have a few ideas to expand upon the current content and make it reflect additional topics outside of writing. Perhaps that will liven the place up, make it more fun, like some sort of futuristic cyborg monkey disco. Wouldn’t that be cool? Anyway, I believe I also promised some posts on the NaNoWriMo experience, so as we draw closer to this year’s event in November, I’ll try to post a summary on my thoughts from the chaos of 2013. So until next time, be cool, be safe, and just write!


A Poem for Brenda: Everything

WIP Disclaimer: Ahem, the following poem is a Work In Progress. It is simple and unedited, just like me. It is likely to change before it ever, if it ever, sees (real) publication. There.

As the title of this post suggests, this one is for my wife, Brenda, but you are all welcome to read it too, I suppose. Honestly, I can't really stop you (since, ya know, it's now on display for the eleventy or so billion people on this here internet). Enjoy!

Everything

I Love her deeply but she doubts me,

challenges me.

If she could see into my heart,

she would never do so again.

If I could just show her my love

like a physical thing,

like an ocean swelling, raging,

full of emotion and madness;

If she could slip her face beyond its surface

to gain but a glimpse

of the unending depths,

she would forever trust me

having witnessed the extent

of all she means to me,

and sleep soundly at night,

knowing beyond doubt,

that she is my everything.

 

 


NaNoWriMo: Post Week One Update

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My journey into this lunatic adventure of National Novel Writing Month is well underway as I’m joining nearly 300,000 other writers (so far) in this grand (insane?) undertaking to write an entire novel in 30 days during the month of November. Now that we’re done with the first quarter (sports term for all you sport-ish people) and boldly going right on into the next, sleep deprived and caffeine juiced, with alienated family and friends, I think it’s time for a quick update to see how things are shaping up.

First, here’s a look at the score card:

Score

 

A quick word on motivation and word output:

The hardest part of this whole adventure thus far has been waking up early. That is, actually opening my eyes, forcing my lazy butt to roll out of bed, and JUST WRITE! I’ve been waking up every morning anywhere between 4:30 and 5:oo a.m., brewing coffee, headphones tuned to Pandora, and then sitting down to write. Nothing else, no distractions. That gives me about two hours before the kids start waking up and then I’m pretty much done for the day. On two days I wrote in the afternoons, once on Saturday while the kids napped and once on Wednesday after work. On each of those days, I cleared over 3,000 words. I’m averaging about 1,000 words an hour. Some hours I get less, but some hours I get more. as far as words go, I guess I’m not doing too bad. (Note: refer to the graph at the top of the post for my daily progress chart.)

But how’s the story shaping up?

That’s a fair question. Allow me to attempt to provide an answer, but since I’m blazing a trail forward and not looking back to see the terrible mess I’m making, I’ll just have to guess. I started with a rough outline that I threw together the week before Nano began. It is basically just a work in progress TOC with the major parts listed and basic details of what’s to happen in each part. I didn’t break it down any further into specific chapters or scenes. In all there are five parts. After nearly 16k words, I’m still floating, rather aimlessly, around in Part I. Clearly I am pantsing it (within the framework of my outline) and I know I’ve written a puke-tastic amount of fluff. I mean, not much has happened yet in terms of plot, and I know that will be an issue ill need to to tackle in the coming drafts, but in the mean time, who cares? I’m fully aware that what I’m creating is a Hot Stinking Mess, but that’s OKAY! At this rate however, I’ll be doing Nano: The Extended Edition until late January before I ever reach the end of that final scene. Oh well, it is what it is. At least I’ll have something to work with once the first (zero?) draft is actually complete. 

And now the summary:

Overall, I’m actually quite amazed that Nano is going this smoothly so far. I honestly felt like it was going to be nearly impossible and that I was completely nuts for even considering it, and now it feels entirely possible. The (seemingly) impossible is now looking quite plausible, perhaps even probable? Now that I’m sensing that accomplishing the goal is actually attainable, my drive and determination are all that much hungrier. All I have to do is keep doing what I’ve been doing and at this pace, I might actually win. Well okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. There’s still a long way to go and a lot of novel yet to write, but so far I must say it’s looking quite good for the home team.


NaNoWriMo…Wha? I must be Crazy!

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I’ve always suspected that I might be insane. Now it’s official. Read on, I finally have the proof!

Yesterday, on a whim, without a shred of forewarning from my subconscious, I decided to participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month.  Why is this so crazy, you might ask? Well in case you are unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, let me give you a brief rundown. Basically, every November is National Novel Writing Month. Participants sign up (for free) to write one 50,000 word novel in the time span of one month. That’s right, 30 days. One. Entire. Novel.

The goal in itself isn’t crazy, mind you. While I imagine that it might be extremely difficult to write an entire novel in one month, it IS an achievable goal. No, what makes this so crazy for me is that I’m going to attempt this with my current work schedule and home life (which I’m certain is no different than most of the participants). And of course, one thing I simply can not do is neglect my family in order to write. Family first. Writing second. Always, no matter how strong my passions are for writing, that is just the way it must be.

Currently, I’ve been telling myself that I don’t have any time to do any writing whatsoever. I tried the whole, wake-up-an-hour-early thing for a couple of weeks and I think I actually dragged my lazy but outta bed to write a total of…what was it, oh yeah, once. So how am I going to achieve this goal? Well, while it is doubtful that I will actually achieve the goal and “win” NaNoWriMo, (although I will be damned if I’m not going to give it my best shot!) I think staying up later than usual and waking up at oh, say, 4 a.m. is probably a good place to start. So let’s just see if this event will give me the drive. Let’s see if it will give me the kick in the pants I’ve been needing to really make it happen! I figure if I even only meet 10% of the goal, it’s still 10% more of a novel than I started the month with, so hey, what the hell have I got to lose?

In the next twelve days before the writing frenzy begins (twelve? really? is that all?) I’ll be trying to prepare as best as I can by daydreaming plot lines and penning character sketches. I’ll also try to post some information about the actual novel itself such as title, premise, and teasers, but I doubt I’ll have much time to post, if at all, during the month of November. But have no doubt, I will be posting post-NaNoWriMo in the weeks/months after in order to update you on how things went, what I (hopefully) learned during the process, and generally just share my experience.

Ok, now that I’ve gone public with my total insanity, all I need to do is to stock the cupboards with the finest (cheapest, strongest) espresso, a couple of cases of Monster, and a goodly supply of energy shots. Oh, and if I could somehow lose my unquenchable desire for a good nights sleep, that would be helpful as well.

What about you? Participating? Thinking about it? Been there, done that? I’d love to hear from you and any thoughts, advice, or experiences you might like to share! Also, a small smack of encouragement would be great too! 🙂


An Update on Lazarus

Hi all! Here's a quick update on where things are with my forthcoming novella, Feeding Lazarus:

First, this is still a working cover, but I've had a few moments recently to tinker on it and wanted to share the changes. It needs back cover text of course, and I'm still tweaking the front image to make it pop, as well as fine tuning the title text to make it more readable, but I do feel it's getting closer to where I want it to be.

Also, the beta version of the book will be ready soon for anyone who'd like to be part of the process by doing a beta read. For those interested, free copies will be available in your choice of format. And yes, that includes a limited number of print copies for the e-reading impaired, or for those who just prefer a physical book. If you do request a printed beta copy, (due to the cost) all I ask is that you are sincere in your intent to read the book and provide honest feedback. I will be including a brief questionnaire in all versions to make this process simple for everyone.

Oh, and to all of my beta readers who provide honest feedback by completing the questionnaire, I will show my undying gratitude by giving away signed copies of the final print version once it's published! There's a limited number of beta slots available, so if interested, message me here or by email: rafegrayson@gmail.com.

On a side note, I'm (finally!) starting a newsletter (courtesy of Mailchimp) in order to better provide updates concerning future releases and publication announcements. New editions are anticipated quarterly. Click HERE to opt in!

 


I’m Not Dead: Balancing the Equation in My Writing Life

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I’m not dead. Not yet anyway.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to say, but if this is going to become a real post, I’d better make up a few more words. I could always explain things, tell you loyal readers why it’s been so quiet on the writing front these days, but I’m sure no one is really that interested.

Oh what the heck, I’ll just do it anyway. Besides, I need to find more ways to stretch this thing out, haven’t I? So then, what I’d like to do is elaborate on the things in my life which have caused my writing to slow down, and then explain my strategies on how I plan to overcome them. If you are bored with all the personal details, just hang in there and keep reading…I promise there’s a nugget or two in here somewhere.

So here it is, the reasons why productivity has slowed down so drastically in my writing world. It can easily be summed up with this simple mathematical formula: Writing productivity is inversely proportional to the intensity of real life. That is, as one speeds up, the other inherently slows down. So what has been causing the intensity of my life to increase so much? Work of course is the big obvious and boring reason, so we’ll just get that one out of the way. There! That feels much better. Now on to the more important issues.

Buying our first home has been one of the biggest challenges my wife and I have ever faced, from the initial and grueling home search, to obtaining the financing and gathering all the countless documents that go along with it, to a myriad of other hiccups, bumps, and catastrophes along the way which I don’t have the space nor the patience to get into here. We finally closed on our first home just four days before Christmas and orchestrated a complete DIY move over the course of the next week between Christmas and New Years (with a bit of help from our friend, Lisa…thanks Lisa!). Oh, and did I mention that our second child was born just three days after Christmas? So that means I practically moved an entire household by my lonesome while my wife was recovering from childbirth all while helping to care for our newborn baby boy and very active two year old daughter. Whew! Makes me exhausted again just typing it all.

So now what? Well there are still countless things occurring on a daily basis such as work, getting settled into our home, and taking care of the family which can all decrease writing productivity, and I know that this trend will never change. After all, such is life. So how will I manage all this and still remain productive in my writing? How will I bring balance to the equation? Not-so-simply this, I must carry on and try to become more creative when it comes to finding ways to squeeze in the time to write. (A bit like trying to squeeze lemon juice out of the peel, but nonetheless, it CAN be done!) That means analyzing how my time is spent overall and looking for ways to skim a little time off the top of other activities (i.e. sleep, surfing the internet, World of Warcraft), then arranging and compiling that time into blocks, chunks, and snippets which can be reallocated for writing.

I will use this time to update the blog as I can, and conceive of ideas to help generate content and traffic flow in ways that will require less of my time, hence using more of my endless creativity. I will also be behind the scenes organizing and editing two nearly completed chapbooks, slugging away at final edits on my novella, shopping around a few completed short stories and poems to various markets, and starting up another large scale writing project as well.

To summarize all this gibberish, all I can do to rise above the delima of not having the time to write–and bring balance to the equation–is to get extremely creative in my time management. With that, I must make the absolute most of the precious time I do manage to set aside for writing. I heard it said recently that not having enough time is one of the biggest falacies we give ourselves to use as an excuse. And in a way this is true. Everybody, no matter who you are, has exactly the same amount of time each and every day. It is what we choose to do with our time and how we use it that makes the difference in our success. While I agree with this for the most part, I will say that whoever first came up with this idea, certainly did not have children.

What about you? What creative ways have you come up with to find more time to devote to your writing or other projects?


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