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My Thoughts

My Thoughts

An Increase In Productivity

Jarrod’s Journal

The first week of 2018 has been productive. Towards the end of 2017 I found myself being lackadaisical, uninspired, and procrastinating the goals that I had in mind. This was a big part in my feeling down in the closing months and weeks of the year. Don’t get me wrong – the majority of the problem was pushing through and completing the first draft of my book (which I have yet to even take a look at). However, I wanted to continually exercise and do some other things business-wise, but my energy was just not there. When I came home from work I wanted to eat, play a video game, watch TV, and go to sleep. I don’t know if it’s the start of a new year that’s got me on this upswing of productivity or not, but I did watch a video by Marie Forleo that made a difference. In it, she says that she writes down all of her tasks for the day and uses check boxes to make sure she gets them all done. I’ve since adopted this method and its definitely helped. Check the clip below.

Increase Your Productivity

When I started doing this, it reminded me of when I was super productive a little over a year ago. I was exercising every day, writing every day, and just in a great space. At some point, I lost my practice of writing down everything I needed to do for the day. That’s right, I used to do exactly what Marie suggested in this video.

It’s funny how sometimes you get so comfortable in doing things a certain way that you forget that it’s a practice. It’s something that you have to do daily no matter what. When I stopped doing that, I definitely lost some productivity. Looking back, I think that it was due to my job search and subsequent hiring at the company I work at now. Through that process, I was so focused on getting a job that I left all of my other good habits by the wayside. It’s taken me until now to finally get back to a place where I feel comfortable enough with my daily routine and the amount of time I have that I can come home and do more work on my own endeavors.

If you have been lacking in productivity, I suggest you take this advice. At the end of the day, take a sheet of paper and write down your goals for the following day. As Marie says in the video, the key is “you have to do it.” Stick to it and it will eventually become a habit for you. I’m going to do my absolute best to make sure that I continue to be as productive as I am today.

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My Thoughts

Growing Pains

Jarrod’s Journal

Just now I had to push past a serious case of imposter syndrome. I just launched my Patreon page, but after writing one book over a year ago, and only having a couple of horrible drafts of new stories, I was wondering who was I to ask anybody for money for this venture? In a previous post, I mentioned my struggle with finding guests for my YouTube videos and the failure to launch another project. Now, after finishing a first draft of the story that I’ve been working on for months now, I got another blow to my confidence.

Finishing The Draft

The draft that I finished was a science fiction story about a detective who has to solve a murder using a new technology that allows you to experience people’s memories. It started off as just an exercise; a way of writing out the beginnings of an idea. I believe I started this a year ago. I put it away to continue working on publishing my first book as well as set up all the other aspects of my author platform. After failing to complete first drafts for two stories earlier in the year, I decided to get to work on this. At one point I was very happy when it all clicked into place. I got a full vision for the story, I got a good idea for an antagonist, and I had the fuel necessary to complete an outline and begin working on the book in earnest. After a while, that fuel began to run out. The idea became stale to me and it became harder and harder to complete the story. Just like my last two unfinished stories, I was dealing with the same thing again. Now, I know that no first draft is perfect, but after feeling so inspired throughout the creation of Pangaea, this level of dread was new to me for first draft. However, I learned that it is important to complete what you start. So, I completed this book – 40,000 words less than I thought it would be and with no power behind the story. Completing this story was bittersweet. I didn’t really know what to do with that feeling, so I went to Twitter. I asked other authors what they do when they complete a first draft and they don’t like it. The response came to let it rest.

 

 

So, that’s what I’m going to do. It just sucks because I haven’t been able to put out work as quickly as I wanted to. My goal at the beginning of this year was to write two novels. I thought perhaps I could get one published by the end of the year, but all I was able to do was get a draft that I don’t even like. With all these failures, it’s really hard to keep moving ahead. I wonder who am I to create a Patreon page and ask for donations when I only have one book. Well, that short Twitter conversation I had was a great pull back to reality. I’m happy to say that I was able to turn this negative mindset around.

A New View for 2018

One thing I know about myself and I’m not sure is even apparent to the people around me is that I am tenacious. I don’t quit. Just a moment ago I was wondering whether me trying to be an author was even worth it. I was wondering whether this was even who I really was. I was questioning my vision. But I don’t like to sit in self-loathing for too long. I decided to set my Patreon page live and continue to write every single day until I reach my goal of becoming a full-time author. I’m going to keep trying until something works. That’s all I can do.

Looking back on this year, I like to think of it as a year of growth. Growth is painful, but necessary in order to become the person you want to be. I learned about my limitations, setting up achievable goals, prioritizing my time, and pacing myself. Although I wasn’t able to completely achieve everything I set out to do, through my failures I gained the knowledge that will help me achieve reasonable goals in the coming year. It’s all a part of the learning process and I’m ready for my next lesson.

Cheers to more growth in 2018! Happy New Year!

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My Thoughts

Stalled But Still Going Strong

Jarrod’s Journal

After my last post, you can imagine where my head is regarding  this whole journey-to-being-a-full-time-author thing. I still believe perhaps I released my first book too early, but now I have another set of self-critiques that have been threatening my will to keep moving ahead. I’m having trouble finding authors for my YouTube show, moving ahead with a secret project, and writing my next book at a faster pace. All of this has me questioning whether I have what it takes to make my dreams a reality.

I was watching a webinar (seminar on the web) about building my email list and a couple of things hit me hard. The presenter said something along the lines of “Are you doing this to have more freedom and work for yourself?” and “Do you want the ability to travel more?” And the answer to both was “Yes”. Written out, it sounds more like a corny infomercial, but in context, it really aligned with what I want out of my life. I started tearing up because what I want so badly seemed so far away and almost impossible.

I don’t give up, but the small failures make it really hard to keep going. The only thing that really gets me to move past it is that it’s my only choice. I can continue to work on this and create the life I envision for myself, or I can succumb to what feels mundane. At the same time, I have to remain grateful for life as it is. It’s the hardest balancing act, but it’s necessary.

Sometimes when you think about your vision – your future – you get restless and frustrated at your now. Love what you have in the moment and keep moving toward your dreams. I woke up today with a renewed spirit and more energy to make my dreams come true. My hope is that you can do the same.

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My Thoughts

I Released My Book Too Early

Jarrod’s Journal

I learned a lot of things about self-publishing on the fly while getting my first book finalized. Having a whole series ready before you start was not one of them.

I wish I had learned this before writing Pangaea. Instead, I’m at a point now where sometimes I feel overwhelmed with trying to get a bunch of things done marketing-wise and not having all the pieces in place. It’s much better to have three or so books to release back-to-back while working on the next one. That way, you have a cushion of work to rely on while you go through drafting, cancelling, and/or agonizing over your next book.

You may read this and think “It’s okay to release a book a year” because you’ve noticed some of your favorite authors do it. And that’s true on some level, but for someone like me who is self publishing with the hopes of turning this into something full time, it seems the general consensus is that you have to release work at a faster pace. I’m struggling with my pace.

I’m not going to list a ton of excuses as to why. This year has been a huge learning experience for me as to what it takes to not only publish, but build a platform for myself. I’ve learned about editing, proofreading, cover design, the cost of all three, as well as business stuff like intellectual property rights, and how to promote my work online. Content, attention, and growing an email list is important, but I don’t know if it would be nearly as hard if I had more books on the marketplace. So, I’m playing a bit of catch-up. There’s no use crying over it now, but if you’re an author looking to jump in, my advice would be to not make the same mistake. Get a few books done and edited within an inch of their life. Save your money and get the formatting and cover design to look as good or better than what’s on store shelves. Then come up with a strategy for release that will have you grow at a normal pace.

I may have learned this important lesson a little late, but I’m hopeful that I’ll rise above and make the changes necessary to be successful.

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My Thoughts

As the Plot Turns – Plotter, Pantser, or Plantser?

Jarrod’s Journal

So there I am, lying back on the couch in my living room with my laptop open, pounding out new words for a peaceful scene in my WIP (work in progress), and BOOM – a gunshot! Things go crazy! Don’t worry, the gunshot didn’t happen in real life. Instead, it was an unexpected moment that I wrote into my latest work. I had no intention of things happening so fast, or for things to get so crazy, but they did, and I’m both excited and terrified to see where it goes.

Plotter or Pantser?

“Are you a plotter or a pantser?” This is a common question among writers and one that people in both camps feel strongly about. Plotters usually have a meticulous outline, research notes, character synopses, and more before getting into writing. Pansters get an idea and just run with it. I used to consider myself a plotter, but after this experience, and thinking back on writing Pangaea: Unsettled Land, I now believe I’m more of a hybrid. A plantser, if you will. I like to know as much as possible about the book I’m writing before I get into it, but I leave enough up to my imagination while in the process. Here’s a look at how my plansting has shown up in my writing.

Plansting Pangaea

*Spoiler Alert*

There are two storylines in Pangaea I can recall that were completely unplanned. One was that of Isidro, Douglassaire’s student, who as an Etherean (magic user) and was ostracized from his peers. I knew I wanted Douglassaire to learn something through his interactions with his student, but I had no idea how deep I would go with Isidro’s story. He was labeled a freak by classmates, had parents who warned him not to live out loud, and Douglassaire stepped in save him. I pulled from my own childhood for that story and had no prior plans of really going there.

The second storyline would be that of how Princess Annonymn (Anna) joined the Auctorati, a group a bounty hunters. She also fell in love with the group’s leader, Libra. I planned to have her find her place amongst a group, but who those people were, and the fact that Libra was killed so suddenly was certainly not in my plans.

Both moments had been times where I felt most inspired when writing that book. And now, I have experienced it again.

Synapse

The title of my WIP as of right now is Synapse. As a result of plowing through my work in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I got to a point where, yet again, my plans and my pants met. (That sounds dirty, but you know what I mean!) I can’t say more than what I’ve already described at the beginning of this piece, but it feels great to get this level of inspiration over and over again. This is the second time this has happened for me in this book. I feel it’s a great indicator that this story is something special. The stakes have been raised, and I’m not sure how it’s going to affect the rest of what I have planned, but I’m going to roll up my sleeves and trust my instincts.

For more information and word count updates on my upcoming novel, check out its NaNoWriMo page.

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My Thoughts

Maintaining Momentum

Jarrod’s Journal

I absolutely hate getting sick. It’s part of the human experience, but a great way to bring your momentum to a complete halt. There have been many times when I was in a good place that I completely fell off track. I could be exercising regularly and writing every day and then boom – out for two days because of a sore throat, chills, and nose drip. I don’t know what it is, but recently I’ve had a change in attitude as to how I approach situations like these.

Stay on Track

When you’re sick, it’s important to not be like the old me and just let it all fall to pieces. Do the most you can with the energy you have. As far as writing is concerned, I opened my laptop, created a new blank page in my manuscript, and did a quick bit of research about the process from police making arrests to beginning courtroom/trial proceedings. The research is for my current work in progress. I was happy to just do that much and closed my laptop to get some much-needed rest.

Something else I didn’t speak about in the video was exercise. It’s important to me to do a little bit every day, but it’s so much harder when you’re not feeling well. I settled for 30 crunches and patted myself on the back for getting through them all. It wasn’t much, but when you’re sick, doing anything is better than doing nothing.

So, next time you’re under the weather, just do the most you can. Be happy with your progress and fight on through the next day. Don’t fall off track!

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My ThoughtsWriting

Tools for Writing Faster – Scrivener and Dragon

Jarrod’s Journal

I’ve begun work on a science fiction novel and the progress is coming along well. I’ve gotten into a groove where I’m writing every day, and unlike the project that’s now on hold, the story still feels fresh every time I sit down to write. Some of the tools I’m using to write have changed and I’m finding that I like it much better. To be specific, the tool I’ve begun using is Scrivener.

How I Came to Use Scrivener

I wrote my last book, Pangaea: Unsettled Land, entirely using Google Docs. This was because I had a Chromebook. Now, while it behaves very similarly to Microsoft Word, and even allows you to export into that file type, it is not the same. After exporting the file into a Word doc, I noticed that the amount of pages were different and there were some weird page break placements. Also, I realized had I used MS Word from the start, I wouldn’t have had to change short hyphens to the longer dashes used for dialogue interruptions. These aren’t automatically changed in Google Doc, so I had to find each one and change it manually. Not only that, but when I started to format it for a print edition of the book, there were so many little changes I had to make in order for it to look right. I had manually done things like hitting the ‘tab’ button to indent the first line of new paragraphs and hitting ‘enter’ multiple time after each chapter heading before writing. Formatting became a  nightmare, but through this process, I also learned that Microsoft Word wasn’t really sufficient either. I knew that I’d need something else if I didn’t want the hassle.

Being amongst writers online, you tend to hear of a few specific ideas again and again. One of them was to use Scrivener. This is a program that was made for book writers that will automatically compile your completed document into a print-ready format. I wanted to use this program for a while now, but there’s no online version so I couldn’t use it on my Chromebook. So I finally bought a new laptop last week, installed Scrivener, and so far I’m very happy.

As of right now, I have not gotten to the point of compiling a print version of anything because I am still in the process of writing this book. However, there are a few features that I am enjoying very much. Scrivener allows you to break down chapters and scenes into small chunks. You can change this if you want, but I really like the way it’s laid out. This also allows you to set a writing goal and it will track your progress every day. You can easily see how many words you write in any given session as well. Now, whether the final product looks the way I want it to, remains to be seen, but I am hopeful. If not, I can always have it formatted by a professional.

Dragon Software

Scrivener wasn’t the only reason I bought a new laptop. Another thing I kept hearing of, thanks mostly to Joanna Penn’s podcast, The Creative Penn, was Dragon dictation. This is a program that some authors use to speak their story into existence! The general idea is to speak directly into the Dragon software or record your voice and then import the audio into text using the program’s transcription option. There have been cases of writers, like me, who struggle to get to 1000 words a day, but have quadrupled their output. After hearing this, I knew I had to give this a shot.

I first listened to the audio book version of Scott Baker’s The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon to see what hardware was necessary to run this program the best. I already had a good mic, so the computer was next. Using the information in this book, I purchased the laptop I’m using now. Now, I haven’t yet bought the Dragon software, because the version I need is expensive. However, when I get it, I plan to jump in and learn what I need so that I can start completing books more frequently.

Things are evolving and my new laptop and Scrivener are great investments. I’m looking forward to trying out Dragon and getting even more stories out to you.

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BooksMy Thoughts

‘The Auctorati’ Is On Hold

Jarrod’s Journal

If you follow me on social media, you may have come across some of my posts complaining about how tough it is to crank out this next book. I don’t like to complain, but this project really got to me. Even though my first book, Pangaea: Unsettled Land, took me years to write, it was under a different set of circumstances. First, I didn’t know how to even get started writing and plotting out a novel, but when I did, the words came quite naturally nearly every day. Additionally, I didn’t have a set date to publish or plans to become a full-time author and make a business out of this. I just had an idea. Now, with all of that pressure on my head, I find it nearly impossible to get back to that space where the words would flow.

So, I’m taking a step back. I tried to outline and I tried to force it, but it’s just not coming like I need it to. I thought if I showed up every day and pounded out some words, that eventually that inspired feeling would come and I wouldn’t feel blocked. That wasn’t the case. And when I don’t feel good about what I’m writing, it makes it difficult to get me back in front of my computer day after day.

I don’t want to give you anything I’m not really feeling. I have a high standard for what I put out into the world and I want to respect your time. The new book is on hold, but it is not cancelled as of yet. You’ll just have to wait a little bit longer to see how the Auctorati came together and how that informs the remainder of the Pangaea series. I don’t want to be untruthful here, either. There may not be series.

My Plan to Provide Impact

I wrote Pangaea with a clear beginning and end in mind for one book. I never planned out a full series from the start. However, what got me thinking about expanding the stories is the reception I got from a few readers who wanted to see more of the characters. I also learned that it is a good business move for self-published authors to have a series. However, I need to be true to myself, and I don’t want to just make up things that aren’t there just to seize an opportunity. I had to make a decision on whether I was in this more for the art or the money. I chose art. I chose expression of ideas and furthering representation of characters like me and inclusivity of everyone else. That doesn’t mean I don’t balance that with the desire to get paid for my work, but if I want my stories to have a real impact, I must first and foremost have something impactful to say. I can’t just chase the money.

To those of you who enjoyed Pangaea so much that you want to see more, I thank you for your support, and I’m sorry that I cannot deliver as quickly as I’d hoped. While I take a break from The Auctorati and the series itself, I will continue to explore other stories and ideas. I ask that you remain open to what I have in store. And I can promise you that whatever I publish next will be of high quality and speak to your soul. Because that’s what I intend for all of my writing to do.

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My Thoughts

The Original (Cringe-Worthy) Idea for Pangaea

Jarrod’s Journal

I just took a look at an old journal where I wrote my first entry about nine years ago. Back then, I was in college, had just finished final exams, and had a positive outlook on the possibilities of my future. I had an idea for a website for submitting music to record labels, and I also shared the original idea for my book, Pangaea. It’s so crazy how extremely different the original book idea was from what it is today. I will share that in a moment, but what’s even more interesting was how freely I wrote back then.

Go ahead and free yourself…

The journal was a way for me to get my thoughts down on paper with no expectations. Today, after having published my first book, I feel the self-imposed pressure to produce another book. This has caused my writing to stiffen. While a personal journal is normally easier to write than a book, regardless, I still felt the thoughts come at a faster pace back then. Now, most of what I write is measured and evaluated before I type anything out. I’m trying to get back to that space of writing with abandon. I think I’m making some strides, but the weight to make something good hasn’t completely lifted. My belief is now that I’ve stepped foot into the world of self-publishing, my mind is adjusting to writing under pressure. My second book has been coming along so slowly, but I know I’ll make it through this eventually.

The original idea for Pangaea

Now, for that original (cringe-worthy) book idea for Pangaea straight from the pages of the first entry in my old journal:

“It’s about people who live in what we call Pangaea – a super-continent where all of the continents of Earth are one. One man tries to separate the continents (via some magical source) and rule the world while my protagonists try to stop him.”

Maybe it’s just me who’s cringing. I am the author after all. But, boy is that bad to me! Nearly everything about that description has changed except the setting. But that also goes to show you that once you have an idea and start working on it, amazing things can happen. What I learned was not to get so bogged down in the details that you get stuck. I even find it hard to come up with what are supposed to be new journal entries on this blog. I wish that lesson stayed with me, because I feel like I’m learning it all over again.

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My Thoughts

Stand for Something

Jarrod’s Journal

It’s 1:00 am, I have to wake at 6, but I cannot go to sleep without purging my busy thoughts. If you watched my story today on Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, you saw that I attended a certain event. It was a book launch for author Clay Cane’s Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race. Through the lens of my phone it was just like any normal book launch. The author does a reading, there’s a Q&A, and then a signing. But what you didn’t see (and some of what even I didn’t see) is what made the most impact.

A Book Launch

Picture the scene: after a rapturous reading of a chapter by Cane and an enlightening interview of him hosted by Malcolm Kenyatta, there were a few questions from audience members – the content of which escapes my recollection. The final question had been answered, the audience was happy, the author had done his job, and everyone was ready to get their book signed and go home. But then something happened.

Cane awkwardly asked a member of his team, stationed at the back of the room, if they were still doing this. After getting an answer in the affirmative, he proceeded to make mention of a man who bought twenty of his books and decided to donate the books to the Attic Youth Center, a local community center for LGBT youth in Philadelphia. The thing that made this so strange was that the man was none other than Darryl DePiano, white owner of the club iCandy. I bring his race into it for a reason. For, in late 2016, he was caught on camera calling some of his patrons the n-word. Not to their face, of course. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back regarding race relations within Philly’s LGBT community. To bring it back to tonight, it wasn’t that DePiano bought books to donate that was so odd to me. It was the fact that it needed any acknowledgement at all. After a long conversation about marginalized people within the LGBT community, and a celebration of this Black man’s achievement in publishing this book, it ended in a rousing acknowledgment of a man who used a racial slur. Suddenly, and only for a quick moment, Clay Cane took a back seat at his own event. He even had another gentleman (whom I believe represented the Attic Youth Center in some capacity) come up and make a statement on DePiano’s gesture. This gentleman, caught off guard, continued the awkwardness by basically shrugging and not confirming whether or not the Attic would accept the donation. It may sound like a long, dramatic scene here, but it was only a few minutes long. And while I felt the twinge of the event hitting a bad note, I still clapped along with rest of the audience as Cane announced this as “a good first step”. That was it. I had cast the moment out of my mind, for it was a good first step by a man who needed to make repairs for the damage he’d done. Wasn’t it? One attendee didn’t think so.

The audience broke and we all got ready to line up to get our books signed. Me being my “fearless” self, I had sat in the front row. So, I noticed when journalist Ernest Owens approached the stage. Since the event morphed into a more social atmosphere, I had adopted my protective mode – a way of being that can be described as aloof. Gay Philly has taught me that there’s little value in kindness and common decency. So I expected to make nice with a couple of people I knew, but long ago dropped the expectation that any of them actually cared for my presence. With that in mind, I was happy to see Ernest. He was one person I could always count on for a genuine greeting with a smile and even an inquiry into what was going on in my life. I came up beside him, he saw me, we said “hi” and hugged, but that was it. He wasn’t the same person I had met multiple times at various events around town. Something felt…off. At first, I chalked it up to yet another person whom I thought genuine, but was just indulging me so that I could move along faster. But when I got home, I realized that there was something brewing just beneath the surface.

Reading Between the Lines

I arrived home, undid my button-down, checked my phone for the millionth time that day, and saw that there had been a live video posted by Ernest Owens on Facebook. My first inner reaction is best described as identical to the popular image of Little Women: Atlanta’s Ms. Juicy saying, “Ooh, gurl…”. Owens’ Facebook video was titled Coonery, backstabbing, books, and betrayal. He always has a good Facebook live video, so needless to say, I was ready for the tea. What I didn’t expect was how hot it would be – nor how much it would shake me up.

Owens posted a reaction to something that had just happened at the event. I, of course, missed the drama. Apparently, after I left, Owens was drawn into a conversation with Cane’s team member about the strange shout-out on stage. After being asked his opinion, he stated that it was a bad idea, which caused the conversation to escalate. Owens left and proceeded to record his reactions in two videos: one right after the event (above), and another when he got home (below). He thought accepting money from DePiano and then to announce it on stage was flat-out wrong. I would describe Owens in his video as flabbergasted. While watching, I found myself agreeing with what he said, but something troubled me: Why wasn’t that my reaction? Why hadn’t I seen all the wrong with what had happened on stage? I felt like I shouldn’t have clapped; like I should have had a more disgusted look on my face instead of just momentarily confused.

I didn’t get to a moment of clarity until I watched the second video, where Owens mentioned that Cane’s team member allegedly approached DePiano to buy the twenty copies of books. That’s when I had an “aha moment”. If this is true, DePiano didn’t take any of his own effort and initiative to make a donation of books, but saw it more as a marketing opportunity. And after Owens said “…stand for something,” in his video, this caused me to take a hard look at my own thinking.

Self-Reflection

Just how “woke” am I? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for some time now. When reading tweets and replies of various serious online discussions, I marvel at the depth of understanding of the nuances of particular situations. I approach Twitter nearly every day with a bit skepticism when I see the torch-and-pitchfork language of a public dragging. Yet, somehow my skepticism changes from to Oh, I see! Then I get into the very bad habit of comparing my level of understanding with others and feeling bad that my wokeness isn’t quite up to snuff. Owens’ videos brought these feelings to the surface again, but instead of feeling bad, this time I got a bit of hope.

I may not immediately get all of the arguments that people make regarding serious racial / political matters, but I’ve learned to keep my mouth closed and ears open to listen and learn. Now, it’s time for me to stand for something. There are some brands that I won’t buy and some clubs I won’t go to, but that resolve has a tendency to waver. An example that comes to mind is: How long can I really avoid _____? Fill in the blank with a brand. What I learned tonight is that the answer should be forever, or until they make huge, serious change in what they promote or how they operate. I have to strengthen my resolve to say no to the things that don’t support my community. If I had that resolve, perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten swept up in the crowd mentality and applaud at the event.

I wouldn’t have come to this realization if Owens didn’t say anything, so I thank him. My hope is that by writing this, I haven’t hurt my relationship with Clay Cane, whom I hope to someday have on The Read. I merely had to set up the story to reveal its impact. Most of all, I hope that whomever reads this takes home the same message I got. When you learn something, you have to act. Don’t watch that film when you know all about the troublesome casting. Don’t go to the restaurant that you know supports causes against your community just because you like their nuggets so much. Resist.

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