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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My promiscuous relationship with punctuation.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Periodically I get in trouble with the punctuation police.

If you’re one of those people who has memorized the entire Code of Federal Regulations section on proper punctuation, you probably have little sympathy for my proclivity for loose relationships with punctuation.

I will plead guilty to abusing commas and neglecting my hyphens, but with an explanation.

I came from a home filled with dysfunctional punctuation.

I grew up without a good role model for punctuation. What I know about her I learned on the streets from certain undesirable types who use punctuation purely for oral communication. I learned early, that people who came from proper punctuation homes followed a certain code. But when you learn your punctuation for use in ordinary conversation, you’re likely to ignore some of the punctuation etiquettes.

Someone who is effective as a public speaker inserts frequent pauses for dramatic effect. The resulting (pregnant pause) often is in no way related to (pause) the proper use of Miss Comma. If you’re used to the looser variety of commas, you would prefer that they spoke plainly, telling you what they mean rather than hiding behind a fan of proper punctuation rules.

Why has Miss Comma fallen out of fashion?

I find it disconcerting, when reading aloud the text of the speech that someone gave, to encounter Miss Commas smiling face in places where the speaker would never have permitted her while eschewing to allow that same Miss Comma to continue to maintain her ongoing relationship with that person’s speech. I realize that proper punctuation is all the rage these days. I prefer my punctuation to be plain speaking, saying what she means and meaning what she says rather than hiding behind her cousins, dashes, colons, and semicolons.

No matter how much the dictates of fashion might change, my taste seems unchangeably fixed. Despite the current proclivity towards severely underweight women, I continue to prefer women with a little meat on their bones. Likewise, despite frequent opportunities to date some of these newer punctuation marks, I would rather spend my sentences was several commas than to engage in a dalliance with even a single frivolous dash.

I trust you will forgive an old man for this philosophical digression.

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. (Non-Fiction) 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.

How do you create character names?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Writer.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Creating effective character names can be a challenge.

I struggle with the process of naming the characters in my novels. Because of those struggles, I have discovered a few tricks. Like most every aspiring writer, I was a reader first. Recently I’ve been doing a great deal of reading out loud to my family. In doing all this reading, I discovered that the way some authors name their characters create problems. First, let me tell you the things I try to avoid doing when naming characters and my solutions to these problems. At the end of this post, I will list a few resources that I use to create character names.

Don’t use character names that will confuse your readers.

I get very frustrated when I’m reading a book, and there is a group of characters who appear in a scene who all have exceedingly similar names. It’s very unclear to read about Betty, Barbara, Becky, and Bethany who meet a group of men named Daniel, Danny, Doug, and David. It takes the reader a while to get characters straight in their head. I try to avoid having two characters in the same novel whose names start with the same letter. When working on a novel I keep an alphabetical list of the characters, and I avoid multiple names which begin with the same letter.

Recently, during November, I began a first draft of a new novel scheduled to be published in the spring, which I’m titling “Planned Accidents.” This book will be episode two of the Arthur Mitchell Mysteries. Book one was Casino Robbery. I quickly discovered I had created two characters both named Howard, one in each book. Howard number two had to be renamed so that I don’t confuse readers who have read book one. I’m now convinced that I need to maintain a master list of characters for all the novels in a given series.

Avoid names that are gender confused.

Some names can either a male or a female. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among some authors to use nicknames that shorten the character’s name. The protagonist’s name is Rhonda, but on the next page, people are talking about Ron. Ron is dating Dan though I can’t tell from the context if Dan is short for Daniel or Daniela.

Avoid names that readily call up a particular image.

Watch out for creating a bridge playing protagonist named Donald and then having to write a paragraph in which Donald bids both trumps and no trumps. Calling a boy wizard Harry Porter is a terrible idea. While it may feel like a shortcut to use a name that readily conjures up the image you’re looking for, using these kinds of names create inauthentic, cardboard characters.

Avoid names that sound too much like a real person.

Whenever I write a villain for a novel, after creating their name, I do a quick web search. I don’t know that I’ll catch every problem, but I don’t want to write an evil villain and accidentally use the name of a candidate who is currently running for political office. I also avoid names that are too close to recognizable historical figures or sports figures.

Avoid racial and ethnic stereotypes.

Have you’ve ever picked up a spy novel and noticed that all the characters have either German or Russian names? Do all the stories about organized crime appear to be filled with Italian surnames?

Avoid names that are hard to pronounce.

In this millennium a great many people are doing their “reading” by listening to audiobooks. I discovered from my family’s nightly reading aloud session, that some names look great on the page, easy to recognize. But it’s very frustrating to keep encountering words that are difficult to pronounce. I think writers should consider what their characters names will sound like when spoken aloud when choosing those names.

So, what are the solutions to all these naming problems?

  1. Maintain a master list of characters for your novel or series and don’t repeat similar sounding names.
  2. I often create the name first and then write the description and biography of that person. If you’ve already cast the character, it can be challenging to find the name that fits them.
  3. If you create a new name, do a web search to make sure you haven’t selected the name of a prominent person in some other country. Also, avoid creating names that have a negative meaning in some language you are not familiar with.

To create names, I use several sources.

Behind the name is helpful for finding first names. You can look at lists by gender, ethnic origin or merely browse the complete list, looking for a name that appeals to you. I’m currently working on an outline for a fantasy book, my first try at writing fantasy because the characters will have connections with medieval Europe I’m looking at various Old English and Scandinavian names for my characters.

For last names, I use a related website Surnames; behind the name.

Another useful resource comes from the census department. You can look at the top first names by the decade of birth. Here’s the link to the list of the top names from the 1880s.

Sometimes I mashed names up.

In the past, surnames were often created by taking the father’s first name and adding an ending. I created unique new names for some of my characters, by taking the first name from one ethnicity and combining it with an ending from a different nationality. Back in the 1970s a lot of parents were creating unique names for their children by altering the spelling or combining two first names. I do the same thing for some of my characters last names.

Any other ideas on how to create the perfect name for a fictional character?

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.

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.