Cutting back on my writer’s budget

Soon I will be getting a divorce and my soon-to-be-ex-wife will live in a city a county away. We will share custody of our sons.

I have been thinking of ways to save money and see one answer on my writer’s budget.

The theme: Less is More.

I subscribe to two writer’s magazines. One is available at the Frankenmuth, Michigan library nearby and one at the Millington library nearby. Stuck in my book bag, it is far too easy to tuck them away and forget about them. But if I read them at the library, I make use of my time and read them and–best of all–it costs me nothing.

Good way to save a combined $50-ish a year.

As far as pens go, I will have to confine myself to what is needed. That might be a little more tricky.

Richard Zowie is a writer who sees the world differently. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

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My ideal day as a writer

With the two jobs I work and the myriad of things I have to do in my life, I must be disciplined and focused to have the time to accomplish all I’d like to do as a writer. And, believe me, there is a lot to do.

Ideally, I wish I had the type of financial freedom to do nothing but write. And read. And travel. And go back to school. But that’s not reality. It might someday be reality and, then again, it might not.

Here is what I’d love to accomplish on a perfect day as a writer:

On my novel(s): 2,000 words.

On my short stories: 2,000 words.

Then, write a journal of the day’s events, a few essays based on things that come to mind, update my blogs, write a few poems and read from both the Bible and another book or two. Perhaps throw in a writing exercise or two. Peruse through writing magazines. Visit online forums where writers are. Submit my work to editors.

That’s not too much, is it?

Ideally, this all can and should be accomplished each day, presently. A writer writes now.

Richard Zowie wishes he had only one superpower–the ability to need no sleep. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

My new, improved blog posting about my two friends

Late last week, I wrote about two friends–Chelsea from high school (she runs a salon in Austin) and Jeremy from college (he splits his time between the ministry and doing deliveries for Schwan’s). I have nothing but the warmest regards for both, but after reading the posting I chose to remove it since I felt it came across as a bit too arrogant on my part. Look at me, I’m a talented writer. I just felt there was no point to it.

So, I deleted it. Chances are, it is now spending eternity inside one of Saturn’s many rings.

That being said, I still have lots of respect for Chelsea and Jeremy. Chelsea runs a business and styles hair–two things far beyond me. She also likes to write. Jeremy is a multi-tasker who’s far better with people than I’ll ever be. If anything, I look up to both of them–Chelsea for her business talent and ability to make people feel great about themselves and Jeremy for being a leader who does many different things.

Yes, writing is hard work and we writers are a different breed and a different mentality, but I don’t look down upon others. Especially not on my Dad–a retired mechanic and a self-described “jack of all trades and a master of none” who worked on engines, built room editions, did plumbing and wiring, woodwork, etc.

Richard Zowie is a writer who wishes he was far more talented and multi-faceted. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

Writing when you’re tired

This past week I did very little writing in the realm I really like: fiction, blogging, journaling, essays. It wasn’t due to the usual procrastination culprit but rather, no energy. Three days in a row I had far too much to do between my two jobs (the newspaper and the gas station) and did not have the energy. In that trio of days I averaged four, maybe five hours of sleep.

What is Richard like after three days in a row of five hours of sleep?

By Tuesday night, when I usually get home from work at 11:30 p.m., I briefly considered calling my wife earlier and asking her to get a ride to Frankenmuth to drive me home. Despite drinking a lot of 7-11 Double Gulps (I prefer to mix Coke with either Cherry Coke or Diet Coke–don’t ask), I felt very tired. It was almost like Army basic training again, where I almost fell asleep during my graduation ceremony.

So, for the next two days, I slept close to 10 hours each day to try to catch up. I also felt a little under the weather and was worried, due to some discomfort when I breathed, I briefly worried I was coming down again with a viral infection in my lungs like I did in 1999, during another fun period of my life where I was consistently getting little sleep. Viral lung infections feel as if when you take a deep breath, someone is stabbing you in the chest.

And regarding sleep, that brings up the point of this blog posting: how do you write when you’re tired? 

For me, creative energy gets stifled when I have not been sleeping, or when I’m worn down and feel like doing little more than chatting with friends on Facebook.

The solution? Nope, not cocaine. I’ve never used cocaine but based on accounts I’ve read from Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and from one person I know, the white stuff creates far more problem than it solves. I suppose it is to not allow yourself to get tired. Budget your time. Get sufficient sleep. If that doesn’t work, consume caffeine or make lifestyle choices that will give you more energy. An encouraging spouse or a writing accountability partner probably doesn’t hurt, either.

Suggestions, anyone?

Richard Zowie is a writer–or at least he tries to be. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Writing when it hurts

In my personal life, I have been going through what look to be some very personal, painful changes. In the past few weeks I’ve felt a lot of heartache, sadness and grief. There are a lot tears built up inside, but they have yet to be released. I think there is too much disbelief, astonishment and regret for them to flow yet. Perhaps they will.

I’ve written many thoughts into a journal, most of which will never see the light of day. Far too personal. I’ve also written angry thoughts that I have since deleted.

Writing when you’re hurting can be a very cathartic experience as you take the bitterness, sadness and anger you feel inside and transfer it down to paper or to a computer screen. When you’re done, perhaps you feel better. Perhaps there is a future story that will be told along with the lessons you’ve learned by the mistakes you’ve made or the signs you missed or the things you’ve been discontent with but never had the sufficient self-respect to assert yourself and speak out.

It’s been too many days since I updated my blogs, and I have come to this conclusion: I am a writer. My job is to write. While I am hurting, I must compartmentalize my sorrow and grief and not allow myself to wallow in self-pity to overpower me. While this hurts, life does go on. I must write and continue telling stories. I must continue to chronicle my writing life, to give my opinions, to give encouragement and to make people laugh.

Now, back to work.

Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Deciding whether to terminate a ‘free’ client

I recently blogged about this topic, so I’ll try to keep this “revisit” brief.

My wife and executive editor, Jennifer, is a firm believer in my writing career. One thing, however, she has very strongly encouraged me to do is limit the number of “free” clients I have.

In my career, I’ve written for free for several publications. My column, From A to Zowie (originally titled My Two Cents and then Richard’s Ramblings), has appeared for free in the Beeville Bee-Picayune since 2001. My Christian issues column, Richard’s Two Shekels (originally My Two Shekels) has appeared for free in the San Antonio Christian Beacon, Saworship.com and the Olive Branch Press. I’ve also blogged for free or for next to nothing at several locations.

There is one client, whom I will not name, that I am about to end my relationship with. It’s been one where my name and my blog–when I do blog–get posted on the website of one of a daily metro newspaper. The publisher of the blog talks frequently about, sure, he can’t pay bloggers any money, but bloggers who write without charge will get offered paying writing assignments from interested clients who read their postings.

In the year I’ve written postings for this client, you know how many paid assignments I’ve been offered?

Zero.

I’m not the best writer out there, but I think I’m a darned good one. On many occasions my writing has resulted in freelance checks that have paid for rent, electric bills, propane, auto repairs and groceries.

What also disgusts me about the website is that it’s supposed to be geared toward a certain genre of writing, but more often than not the blog postings that generate the most attention are the ones that focus on sex: the prettiest women in this region, the nicest breasts in this region, and so on.

Sigh.

It’s as annoying as the auto magazines that show on their covers near-nude double-D-cup women with erection-inducing bikinis and five-inch high heels.

So, I am starting to believe it is no longer in my best interest to keep blogging for this client.

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

A short essay of being square regarding pop culture

I’ve never read a single book from the Harry Potter series. Part of it is because I’ve never been comfortable with the whole concept while, frankly, I’ve skimmed over a few books and have been bored. When it comes to fantasy, I like science fiction, The Twilight Zone-style “What if?” and alternate history. It all just seems too contrived to me. Token sidekick. Token bad guy, etc. When my wife and kids talk about Dumbledorf, Hogwarts, Gobbledygook and whatever the head teacher is at Harry’s school, it’s as if they’re speaking Finnish.

Speaking of “Twilight”, I’m also not a fan of the Twilight series. Probably for the same reasons above. Vampires have never really interested me: while I do like Stephen King, I’ve never even finished reading ’Salem’s Lot (a story where vampires invade a Maine town).

Up until a few months ago, I had no idea who Lady Gaga was. I wish I still had no idea who Lady GagGag was.

Whenever I open People, Us or some other weekly magazine that kisses up to celebrities, I am amazed to look through the pages and see celebrities I’ve never even heard of. Sometimes, it’s as if I’ve just woken up from a 10-year coma.

Up until 2006, I never knew rapper Eminem had a close friend named Proof. While many might lament Proof’s untimely death, I wonder how many realize had Proof not been killed in a shootout, he would have been charged with murder.

I watch very few “reality” shows, and that includes America’s Got Talent. I’m trying to understand Sharon Osbourne’s obsession with lip-synching drag queens or why Piers Morgan believes as Simon Cowell does–that you have to be a classless jerk to tell someone they don’t have talent (never mind many are misled onto the show unwittingly for entertainment purposes). And to think that Stephen King declined to post examples of abysmal prose submissions when he held his writing contest, stating he felt it was poor sportsmanship to shoot cripples.

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

A quick compliment goes a long way

My fiction writing career–which I suppose I can technically call a “career” since I do have one published short story to my credit–is something I’d really love to get off the ground. At present, I have several stories in the marketing stage. These are finished stories I’m now trying to sell. A few others are in the editing stage while others are in production, pre-production and even pre-pre-production.

Recently, I contemplated posting a few titles and what the stories were about. After deliberation, I chose not to since at times I tend to be paranoid of having ideas stolen. Like all writers, I probably have a personal bias: some stories of mine are really good, and I don’t want to give away too much for fear of being ripped off.

I sent the list, though, to a trusted friend recently who acts and makes movies in his spare time. I was curious to see what he’d think.

He told me: “I am not blowing smoke your way when I say that I am literally fascinated with every one of these story ideas, my friend.”

It’s the kind of encouragement, you might say, that really motivates a writer to get back to their keyboard and keep working towards that glorious publication day.

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

A day in the life of Richard Zowie, writer or: One Day in the Life of Richard Richardovich

I couldn’t resist paying homage to the late Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn by naming this blog posting the way he did his book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Russian: Odin Dyen’ Ivana Denisovicha). No, I’m not in a Russian gulag, although in the winter here in Michigan it might seem that way.

My middle name is actually Paul, but in Russian the middle name is actually the patronymic, meaning a name that identifies your lineage. Richardovich simply means “Son of Richard” since my Dad’s name is Richard. Dad, whose own father went by Paul, would be Richard Pavlovich (the Russians transliterate Paul as Pavel).

The one or two readers of this blog might wonder a writer like me does on a daily basis. Since Monday’s the day I complete my assignments for the week, I thought I’d take you through a typical Monday:

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and thank the person who designed cell phones to have alarm clocks in them. I try to avoid hitting the snooze button. Shower, something to eat, quick check of e-mail and reminding myself of what I have to do this day.

8:15 a.m. — I drive to work and try to keep observant of what’s said on the radio and what I see as I drive into the coverage area of the paper where I work, the Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald.

9 a.m. — I arrive at work, pick up any messages left for me, drop off my time card and my mileage sheet to my publisher’s wife (Lisa) and, again, check my e-mail.

9:15 a.m. — Time to get together with my editor (Craig) and co-worker (Mandi) for a meeting to discuss what we have for the paper that week. This includes what is finished and what we’re still working on.

9:25 a.m. – 5 p.m. — My tasks include but are not limited to: finishing writing stories, proofreading them, making changes as necessary and then e-mailing them to my editor; taking photos and editing out the bad ones. I gather up my photos for the week onto a jump drive and deliver them to my editor. I write cutlines for all the photos. If I submit a set of photos from an event, I make sure it’s accompanied by a short story. Sometimes I may have to go out and take more pictures or gather information for another story. I try to make sure the photos I submit are whittled down to the absolute best of the best. If I take 50 pictures of an event, my job is to submit no more than 10 photos (preferably five) to my editor since it takes time to sift through the photos.

The stories and cutlines and word documents are e-mailed to my editor while, again, the photos go on the jump drive.

Any further unfinished stories, cutlines or other items go home as “homework.” During the busy traffic of the high school sports season (especially during basketball/baseball/track in the spring), I usually don’t get to bed until past midnight.

6 p.m. — I get home, eat dinner, find out how everyone’s day went and–yep, you guessed it–check e-mail.

7 p.m. — I start brainstorming for next week’s issue and then update my blogs. I also piddle around on Facebook (a great way to promote my blogs). Other writing projects (journals, fiction, essays) also get done, along with answering e-mails and looking for off-duty freelance work (writing work I do at home on my own time).

9 p.m. — I watch something on television or watch a movie I rented from Netflix. Favorite shows currently are Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, The Middle.

11 p.m. — Bed. (Earlier, if possible, if I have to go to work at the gas station the next morning and have a 5 a.m. wake up).

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Dealling with ‘The Wildie Syndrome’

Years ago, I was assigned to write a story about a man who’d developed a device that would collect recycled oil and store it, saving local people from having to make a trip to an auto parts store. The article must be no more than 700 words, the editor told me.

So I went and interviewed the guy, five or so questions at hand and explained to him that all I needed were basic answers. We were doing a short article, so we would not be able to run anything more than just the basics.

The man proceeded to talk for about an hour.

His surname was Wildie, and in the other two times I interviewed him, the same thing happened: I’d explain to him about how we had only enough room for the basics. He’d then go on to ramble for an hour or so. The final time I spoke with him, my editor told me not to take too long.

“You do realize whom I’ll be speaking to, right?” I asked. “Even if I try to nudge him forward, he’ll go back and talk on and on and on.”

Occasionally, I still have interview subjects like this. When it happens, I call it “The Wildie Syndrome”.

I’m curious if any other writers have had to deal with this also. One assistant editor I worked with spent three hours doing an interview with a bloviating man, and spent the entire next day just transcribing it with a dictionary at hand…

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based journalist, columnist, blogger and aspiring fiction writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.