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Here I am at The Book Center in Cumberland, MD, on Nov. 19. I’m the one on the left, in case you couldn’t tell.

I was doing some organizing the other week and decided to put all of my book ideas on a spreadsheet. At the time, they were written down on anything from a scrap of paper to pages. I put everything onto the spreadsheet including working title, genre, notes, and summary.

It took me quite a while to put together the spreadsheet because I kept finding scraps of paper in different folders in my filing cabinet. Eventually, I got everything transferred. At least I hope so. I haven’t found any idea scraps in a week or so.

My final list totals 92 book ideas!

I’m pretty prolific. I average about three books a years. That means that I have 33 years worth of books yet to do, and that’s only if I don’t add any more ideas to list. That won’t be happening. I’ve already added a new idea this month. My list also includes some books that are parts of series. The list might include an idea or two for additional books in the series, but what happens after that?

Now not all of those books will get written (obviously) because I won’t be able to flesh out the story enough to make it work. Still, when I look at the list, about a third of the titles already have a significant amount of writing done.

This is one of the reasons that I’ll never retire. I’ve got too much writing that I want to do.

The other reason that I won’t retire is that I enjoy what I’m doing. I still get frustrated at times from trying to figure something out or stressed out over deadlines, but overall, I love my job. I get to meet fascinating people and do fun activities (all in the name of research, of course!).

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school, and now that I am, I’m going to make the most of it. That means I’ll be writing and writing and writing.

Here are some other posts that you might enjoy:

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Sometimes my goals exceed my endurance. I expect it to happen when I’m working out. My goal is to bench press 300 pounds, but I can only manage 280 or I want to bike 28 miles in 90 minutes, but I can only manage 20 miles.

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The same sort of thing happens when I’m writing, but it sort of sneaks up on me. I set daily and weekly goals. Sometimes I hit them. Sometimes I don’t. I can handle that.

However, sometimes I have the time to achieve one of my goals but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Some people call it burnout and other call it writer’s block.

I see them as two different things. They both show themselves in the same way. I just can’t get anything written. The difference is how I recover from them.

When I first hit a point where I can’t write, I assume it is mild burnout. My treatment for that is simple. I take a day off of writing and rest from it. I even have a rest day scheduled into my weekly plan. I don’t write on Sundays. I take a break and usually come back strong on Monday. I use the same theory with my biking. I bike hard on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I do some other type of exercise that allows my legs to recover.

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If a day’s rest doesn’t allow to start writing again, then I assume that I’m suffering from writer’s block. Beating writer’s block is more than simply needing a rest. It’s your subconscious trying to tell you something. The cure can be a variety of things or a combination of things.

The best way to avoid writer’s block is not to run into it at all. Here’s are some tips to do that:

  1. Write every day. If you are keeping your writing creativity primed, then it’s easy to keep things moving. Newton’s Third Law of Motion: An object in motion tends to remain in motion. An object at rest tends to remain at rest.
  2. I like to keep multiple projects going. If I get stuck on one article, I’ll jump to another and come back to the original project at another time.
  3. I had an editor give me useful advice. Don’t try and get it perfect. Just write through it. You can always come back and edit it.
  4. Jump to another place in the book and article and work on it. If the problem is the story itself, either the change will give you a fresh perspective or you’ll realize you need to play with the story.
  5. When all else fails, I’ve found that nothing beats having a deadline that I need to meet.

Your goal is to do what is needed to get your writing project moving again.

the-old-man-and-the-seaHidden meaning behind writing has always been a pet peeve of mine. It started for me when I read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway in high school. I enjoyed the book. It was certainly better than Heart of Darkness and Siddhartha.

However, after the class finished reading it, the teacher started dissecting it for us with themes and symbolism. The teacher made it sound like Hemingway had been trying to rewrite the New Testament. Suddenly, the book wasn’t as enjoyable for me. Instead of being something that I could read and feel, it became something that needed to be examined and picked apart.

Why do that? What did the symbolism matter? In many cases, it is only a figment of reader’s imagination as this article in Mental Floss shows.

In 1963, a 16-year-old student who had probably been faced with the same thing I had been in an English class decided to go straight to the source. He wrote 150 novelists and asked them if they intentionally put symbolism in their books. A dozen of the authors responded.

Some of the responses are humorous, but my favorite one is Isaac Asimov’s reply. When asked if he intentionally put symbolism in his books, he replied, “Consciously? Heavens, no! Unconsciously? How can one avoid it?”

An author takes in lots of different information that churns around in his or her subconscious to emerge as a story. It’s the resulting mixture that is important. However, if an author starts thinking about planting symbolism, then it becomes forced and obvious (Think: Movies with a message).

While a book may have symbolism in it, it may differ from person to person depending on their own life experiences. In my high situation, my teacher could tell me what he saw, but that doesn’t mean that I saw and having him point it out to me, changed the story for me.

Are the colors, brush strokes and subject matter that an artist chooses so important? Or is it the way a painting makes you feel?

Read. Experience. Enjoy.

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