Too busy writing to write anything?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Writer.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How do I describe what I’m doing with all my time?

I woke up the other morning and realized that I’ve been so busy working on various projects that I’ve not yet gotten around to the final revisions and the publishing of my third novel tentatively titled “Planned Accidents.”

I spent a lot of time creating content. I can’t be sure which of that content accurately qualifies under the heading of writing. What we mean by writing has changed so much during my lifetime I’m no longer sure when I’m writing and when I’m not.

What’s the difference between writer, author, content creator and so on.

As a self-published author, there’s a lot of tasks that need to be done. First, I get the idea, then the outline, and finally the slog through producing that first draft. First draft in hand there is the editing and revision, creation of covers, formatting the manuscript, and all the steps to uploading that manuscript to platforms, so it’s ready for purchase. If that was all I had to do, I don’t know what I would do with my spare time.

I tried compartmentalizing my thinking. When I’m in my creative persona, I’m the writer. The steps that involve the editing and publishing I think of as my author persona. The author part of me takes the creative output of my writer persona and makes it into a published book.

Am I really a writer if I spend all day doing things that are writing?

I feel a layer of guilt about even calling what I do writing. When I was younger writing meant using a stylus, a pen or pencil, and placing characters on a piece of paper which could be interpreted by others as the words I intended. Indeed, I am old enough to have primarily written using cursive rather than block letters.

As I have completed additional trips around the sun, I find this a less threatening metaphor than saying I have gotten older, my writing has involved considerably less writing. Over the last century, more or less, I think we came to accept that products created using a typewriter can be justifiably called writing. From typewriters it’s been a leap, sometimes a traumatic one, to producing that same final “written” product using a computer.

Is it writing if I dictate?

The last few years I’ve developed pains in my wrists when I try to type too much. Where I once took pride in “pounding the keys” the keys on my computer began to pound back. Recently I’ve taken to primarily dictating. While writing and dictating are both forms of storytelling, I’m wondering if we’re stretching the meaning of the word writing when I tell people I have written several books when I have in fact been dictating them?

I think the concept of writing has crept ever larger.

Today a lot of people read written material by having the computer convert the words into sounds they can listen to. Some writers turn their products into audio “books.” I understand we shifted from calling things manuscripts when scribes had to hand copy them, to calling them books when that Gutenberg invention allowed for mass production. There’s a part of me that feels guilty about calling something a book knowing that people will be listening to an artificial intelligence convert electronic images into speech. Many people today read a book without either a physical book or the need to use their eyes to look at the item they are “reading.”

Are making videos other forms of writing?

One “little” project I’ve been working on over the last month has turned out to be not so little. Many of my students and more than one of my colleagues has emailed me asking if I had seen a particular video. Notice I no longer call those messages which arrive on my computer as something they have written to me. Emailing letters has substantially replaced writing letters.

I have spent a good part of January creating a YouTube video channel and producing videos for that channel. I noticed that readership of the counselorssoapbox.com blog had suffered as students, went to researching things on YouTube. The net result of this cultural shift is my new video channel with the shockingly creative name Counselorssoapbox.

So far, those videos have been limited to video presentations of the material I covered in the classes I teach on substance abuse counseling. Where we will go from here remains to be seen. What I’m not sure about is calling all that video production time “writing.”

I do know that creating the script from which a movie is made qualifies as writing and has a special name “scriptwriting.”

Maybe the title writer will go the same way as the title scribe.

I’m told that initially writing was created more for high counting then for creative endeavors. When someone had to keep track of 17 camels, 52 sheep, and 114 goats, it is a lot easier to come up with one symbol for each type of animal. And look how useful it is to have numbers rather than to have to repeat that word goat 114 separate times.

While I’m not a linguist, I’m inclined to believe that the occupation “scribe” ultimately gave us the word scribble. I’ve noticed people inventing a lot of new words to try to describe this process of creating which no longer fits neatly into a particular category. Watch for the words – creative’s, author entrepreneur or contraction of that, and several more expressions designed to cover how “writing” is being transformed by new technologies.

Eventually, writing had to expand to include words to describe a lot more than naming farm products. As a result, scribing became writing. What remains to be seen is how much longer I can call all these things I’m doing writing.

Are Audiobooks, podcasts, and videos forms of writing?

Some people are calling themselves videographers. I’ve even seen some people describing themselves simply as “YouTuber’s, or should that be You-Tubers?” I used to know what a tuber was, but I’m not sure any more.

Presumably, audiobooks began as a written manuscript which one or more people convert so that it can be listened to rather than read. If I listen to a book can I say I have read it? The line between writing and speaking becomes fuzzier when we talk about podcasts, which frequently start as an oral conversation, but may eventually end up as a written transcript.

My videos certainly start with a written outline before their produced though I’m not sure I can call that outline writing in the same creative sense in which I use the word writing when I am referring to either my blog posts are my books. Maybe some of you can help me with figuring out which of these creative endeavors I have been doing qualifies is getting around to doing my “writing.”

Thanks for reading my ruminations and if you have any suggestions for why I’ve been so busy writing things that I haven’t finished writing my book, please leave a comment.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

(Book four – Planned Accidents, will be released shortly.)

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Why are you writing that?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Writer.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The why changes the way you write.

Writing is an awesome skill. The ability to write allows us to save information for later use and it enables us to transmit that information to someone in a distant place. Writing also gives us access to the thoughts and expressions of people were no longer with us. Writing is such a useful human skill that the meaning of “writing” has expanded well beyond the use of paper and pen.

Writing also implies a related skill, which we generically call “reading.” Today under the category of writing we include alternative recording methods such as typing and dictating. Reading also includes listening to audio “books.” The boundary between writing words and delivering messages through video content is becoming less distinct.

Writing can play a great many roles in your day. What you write can be utilitarian, the recording of information and data. What you write can be very personal or can be designed to inform or entertain people you will never meet.

Creative people often explore a variety of mediums searching to find the best method to express whatever it is they are seeking to communicate. Both the process and the techniques they use change depending on the piece that they are writing. Here are some of the reasons a person might be writing and how that purpose would affect the process.

Utilitarian writing needs the facts.

Utilitarian writing might be anything from making out a grocery list to recording the instructions for assembling a table. If it’s written just for you, there will be a minimum of elaboration, and you may use terms that have personal meaning. Your grocery list might include the notation “lasagna fixings” if you are planning to cook dinner, or it might say “pasta isle” if you are restocking shelves in a grocery store.

Writing can be for personal exploration.

In mental health and recovery, people are encouraged to write about their thoughts and feelings, a process often described as journaling. Personal writing can be an opportunity to write about things you don’t want other people to know. Writing your thoughts and feelings can help you sort out what’s going on. If you Journal over an extended period and then go back and look at your earlier writings, you can often see how your emotional states and your plans have changed over time.

Writing to express strong feelings.

Poetry is an especially useful medium to explore intense feelings. Poets spend a lot of time in a relatively short work, searching for precisely the right word to convey a meaning. Poetry is often included in high school English classes the most people don’t consciously read poetry after high school. I’m sure there are some exceptions, but most published collections of poems reach an extremely limited audience.

The principal use for poetic techniques these days is to marry the poem to music. The great modern poets have been mainly songwriters. The more commercial use of poetry has been the writing of commercial jingles.

You are writing because you have a story to tell.

Good writing tells the story. Fiction storytelling includes short stories, novellas, the novel, and epic stories. In the short attention span digital age the trend seems to be towards the novella and shorter length novels. Short stories used to be popular in magazines. In the digital age, those short stories attempt to find new homes on the Internet. Electronic publishing and the proliferation of video materials have expanded the opportunities for telling stories in new ways.

Storytelling is not limited to fiction. Nonfiction books, particularly creative nonfiction, either tell a story or may use those stories to illustrate the points the author is trying to make. Traditional non-fiction stories include history, biography, and military genre.

Writing is a part of your creativity.

The drive to be creative underlies a lot of human effort. Some people primarily express themselves visually, and others do their art verbally. Some creative people like to try their hand variety of mediums. If you’ve done a lot of original work in one field, you may want to write a book about those creative endeavors.

You are writing because you’d like to make some money.

Most creative people hope to make some money from their efforts. In a capitalist society, the primary way we measure the value of things is by how much people are willing to pay for it. Many writers goal is to be able to make enough from the writing to be able to quit their day jobs and write full-time. Many people work day jobs so they can make enough money to support themselves doing their writing.

There’s nothing wrong with writing what people want to read. Popular writing, the writing that sells a lot of copies of a book, must also be good writing. If you are writing with the idea of becoming rich, you will probably be disappointed. Monetary results are the result of both the writing and the marketing functions.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to suffer for your art. Jeff Goins has written an intriguing book titled Real Artists Don’t Starve. These days many indie writers are earning good incomes from their writing and related activities.

These are some of the reasons why you may feel the urge to write. I feel sure there are other reasons some of you are writing. One reason is not necessarily better than another. As a writer, you may be writing for multiple purposes and writing different pieces for different reasons. What is critical, I believe, is that each time you set out to write something you get clear on why you are writing this particular piece.

This piece was inspired by a question/comment from a reader. Thanks for that inspiration. If you enjoyed this piece, please leave a comment. If you have a question for me, you can ask it through the comment form or use the contact me form. Thanks for reading and I wishing you the happiest life possible.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Where do you get ideas for writing projects?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Writer.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Writing is work that starts with an idea.

Coming up with fresh ideas for writing projects can be a challenge, especially good ideas. I’ve come up with several strategies for identifying ideas. Some of the approaches work well for blog posts but not for novels. Other methods may be useful for writing a nonfiction book.

Not having a good idea for writing project results in a whole lot of written words that don’t add up to anything worth reading. Start out with a boring idea, and you can write a million words and still not have a workable novel.

Writer’s block, in my book anyway, is a very different problem. Writer’s block characteristically happens when you have an idea, sit down and stare at the blank page, but you can’t find any words to say. I will save the topic of writer’s block for a subsequent post. Today some thoughts about how to get ideas in the first place. These are approaches I use, and if you have others, please leave a comment.

You can’t drink from an empty glass.

I’ve discovered that before I can write anything worth reading, I first need to fill my brain with ideas. I subscribe to more mailing lists that I can possibly read. As the newsletters come in, I sort them, unopened, into some file folders. Mental health material goes in one file folder. Articles about writing in another. Publishing and marketing have their own separate folders.

When I’m looking for ideas for blog posts, I will go to a file folder and start reading. For me, I find it useful to follow the clues. As I’m reading along an idea pops up. Usually, it’s something I realize I don’t know that much about or don’t have the information I would need to write a blog post. I record those ideas, especially search terms in a Word document titled, strangely enough, blog post ideas.

Once you have a topic go on a scavenger hunt.

Sometimes reading a stack of newsletters will trigger ideas worth a blog post or even a series. But more often what I come up with is a topic. This happened to me recently when I discovered several blog posts about burnout. Lots of people are dealing with burnout. Which raises the questions why so much burnout, and how do you prevent burnout?

Having the topic leads me to look for available resources. For a nonfiction topic like burnout I go to scientific journal articles, look at the research. Fortunately for me, I have a subscription to a scientific journal database. Before I had that subscription had to go to the University library and use their computers.

Next, I search that database. Frequently the search will return tens of thousands of articles. The ones at the beginning of the list are usually much more relevant than the ones in the last thousand. Typically, I read through the titles and descriptions of the first 100 articles, saving copies of the ones that look interesting to a flash drive for later reading.

Over the next few days, I’ll read articles, making notes as I go. I’ve learned if I’m not careful I get notes but can’t find the original source. As a result, I started keeping the notes in an electronic Word document beginning with the citation of the article followed by my notes.

Once I’ve read enough of the articles to feel I have a grasp of the subject I make up a list of possible titles for blog posts. Then I start writing. The good part of the system is I get a lot of ideas. The bad part is I have a lot of half-finished articles that never made it to the finish line.

Using this system, I often end up with not one post, but a series of posts on a topic which I scheduled to appear over several months.

Read lots of books in your subject area.

My office is full of books. The walls are lined with bookcases filled to overflowing. Sitting next to my chair is a stack of books I bought, saying I would read them someday, but never got to. When I’m short on ideas, I look through the pile, pick the book that seems most interesting and start reading.

Often reading one book on the topic triggers other questions. I then go searching for other books on the same subject. Sometimes I go to the library in hopes they have a book I don’t. Online library catalogs to be especially helpful. For a novel I was writing I decided I needed some specific background information. A quick web search didn’t turn up the information I wanted. But my local library was able to get me a book from another library that provided a lot of background information for the historical period I was writing about. For me, one thing always seems to leave to another.

Nourish your curiosity.

Everything you encounter can trigger an idea for the next thing you’re going to write. Don’t passively consume experiences. Be curious. If you’re watching a TV show, ask yourself what else could have happened. Be interested in the places you go and the people you meet. Any of these situations may be just the idea you need for the next piece you’re going to write.

Make friends with your muse.

A lot of prospective writers seem to have a very conflicted relationship with their muse. When they don’t have an idea, they blame her, and they look very reluctant to go anywhere or do anything until she appears. When they can’t find an idea, they blame it on their muse and sit idly by waiting for her next visit.

My muse and I have a very odd relationship which I will tell you about in an upcoming blog post. Thanks for reading.

You’ll find more posts on this topic under – Writing.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why do you want to write?

By David Joel Miller, MS, writer.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

It is essential to look at the reasons you want to write.

Lots of people say they would like to write, but from having that thought, to producing a finished piece of writing, can be a long and complicated process. For you to get a good start on this writing path, it is crucial that you get clear on why you want to write.

Some people can’t stop themselves from writing. Throughout their life they find themselves writing things down. Sometimes these people write in journals, diaries, or in this era they may be writing on social media or a blog. If you’re one of those people, keep writing. Your biggest challenge will be to figure out what to do with all those filled notebooks or computer files.

If you’re who has been telling yourself, you want to write, but nothing ever gets recorded, the first step is to get clear on why you’re doing this. Ask yourself if any of the reasons for writing below fit you.

You want to be famous.

A few, very few, writers become famous, most of them must wait until after their deaths to reach that celebrity status. Unless you’re a voracious reader, you probably will have trouble remembering the names of more than a few living writers. Stephen King and J. K. Rowling come to mind.

Ask yourself how many politicians you know by name? How many sports stars, movie stars or reality TV show actors do you recognize by name? If your primary goal is to become famous, you probably want to pick something whole lot easier than putting in the hours you will need to practice, to get even passably good at writing.

You want people to notice you.

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert writing is primarily a solitary activity. If you crave social interaction, writing is not likely to get you there. You would get more attention from teaching a class to a room full of students then you’re ever likely to get from writing.

Much of the attention writers get is the negative kind. When you write, you create something in isolation and then release it into the world. To continue writing you need to develop a thick skin knowing that the more you do, the more likely you will be to get negative reviews and criticism.

You want to make money.

In almost every occupation there are a few outstanding successes, people who make phenomenal amounts of money. Don’t believe all the hype from the people selling classes on how to write and become rich. If you work extremely hard, you may be able to make a passable living from your writing, but to become an overnight success often takes years of practice.

To reach financial goals from your writing, you will need to work a day job to support yourself while you work at your night job creating your art for many years before your writing can pay off. In most salary surveys the average income writers earn from their writing is below the poverty level.

Don’t misunderstand my comments about how hard it is to make a living writing as meaning that you must starve for your art. Good artists can and do make a good living from their art. But to paraphrase a rock ‘n’ roll song, “it’s a long way to the top if you want to write.”

To express your creativity.

Writing is absolutely one way to express your creativity, but there are so many others. If your goal is to be creative, it may be worthwhile to explore some of the other mediums.

Writing, especially long-form writing, as in novels and nonfiction books, is still popular, but it’s having a hard time competing with the rapid growth in new media. There’s a lot of creativity these days going on in creating videos and programming video games. Writing involves creating with words, and you need to ask yourself how skilled you are in your use of words.

You express yourself best in words.

Some people express themselves with motion, dancing or demonstrating. Other people are very good at expressing themselves visually. If you must describe a building to someone, would you prefer to draw them a diagram or do you want to offer to take them on a tour? The writer must be good at observing that building and then painting an alluring picture using their vocabulary.

You are passionate about something.

People who are passionate, believe in a cause, find that the way they spread their enthusiasm about ideas best is to write about them. Political movements often begin with a writer spreading an idea. If you have a consuming passion for your subject, whether that’s cooking, travel, or anything else, you may find the best way to share that love for your topic is to write about it. When you genuinely care about something you can’t help sharing your passion for your subject.

For me, the writing journey began because of my passionate belief that people with mental or emotional disorders, addiction, or alcoholism, could recover and have full, happy lives. My writing has expanded from writing nonfiction about recovery to also writing novels about protagonists coping with problems in their lives.

You have a story you need to tell.

At heart writers of fiction are storytellers. If you have a good story to tell the writing technique disappears beneath the story. The best nonfiction books use stories to illustrate the principles they’re describing.

If somewhere inside of you there’s a story pushing to find its way into the world, I don’t see how you could not write that story. The final form of the story may not be a book, it might be a video, movie, or a live stage play, but the starting point for all those story expressions is that script someone wrote describing the story and how it needs to be told.

Thanks for reading another one of my posts about things I’ve learned along this journey toward becoming a better writer. If you have ideas about other reasons to write, please leave a comment below. If you have a question for me, you can either included them in the comments section or send them to me via the “contact me” page. Thanks for allowing me to share with you some of the things I am learning about writing.

You’ll find more posts on this topic under – Writing.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.