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Sunday, 29 April 2018


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If I were closer by to you, I'd gift you a portable typewriter, so you could type outside some days. You may know Tom Hanks is a fan. I use one for notes for story projects and it's distraction-free writing. Read this: https://www.sfchronicle.com/books/article/Hi-this-is-Oprah-Novelist-Tayari-Jones-on-12867036.php - Maybe find one at a local antique shop.

Just out of interest Mike, what app do you write "in"?

Right. And now slog onward with 'It must be color' as well. Godspeed!

A book that I've found really helpful: Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by Ted Orland and David Bayles.

Mike, excuse me for using the royal "we" but I hope I represent some more TOP readers. Well ... we did not give you a day a week to write a piece of **** like the Da Vinci Code or the other beeeep that you mentioned. We expect you to do much better and we know that you can !
Now, returning to the working class singular, I personally commit to buying a copy of the book as soon as it published and regardless of price.
So, as you say, onwards with 350 words a day.
Best wishes and trust yourself at least as much as your readers do.

I think you'll find that J.K. Rowling was only accepted by the 13th publisher she sent her book too. And I have a friend who has his Western books published. He will never make a million but he gets something from it. Keep going!

Mike - With your opening paragraph I was alarmed, then relieved that you had worked your way out of your despair.

A little phrase that I picked up decades ago, source long forgotten, that I've often found helpful in these situations:

"All comparisons are invidious."

As I was reading this post I was formulating in my head a less well written version of what Kenneth Wajda told you above so I will just second what he said. Also I'm glad you had a good conversation with Kirk.

Mike, you should know by now that comparisons are a guaranteed to make you feel inadequate. MikeR had it spot on - "All comparisons are invidious."

Do I look at the greats of photography and think I should sell all my cameras? No.

Do I listen to Hendrix, Page, Clapton and a million talented players on youtube and give up my guitar? Hell, no!

Focus on the process, not the result. It will come. This is what top athletes, dedicated mountaineers, marathon runners, virtually all writers and artists have to do. You can do it too.

Don't give up. Never give up.

Kenneth, that truly was a beautiful comment.

Even felt encouraged to start something, anything, right away.

You must be coach,surely?

Mike, hang on there.


Not sure who said this but it's worth repeating...

"Good writers write, great writers re-write."

Hi Mike, please keep in mind that descriptions of a book are also marketing pieces. Please don’t compare actual content to a puff piece. I’ll take a wild stab & day that when (not if) you get published, and read the description of your book, you’ll be similarly amazed.
As others have said, please don’t compare yourself to other top selling authors, especially Dan Brown. That’s like comparing TOP to Ken Rockwell, and yes I will go home and wash my mouth out for that comment :-)
You’ve already overcome physical ailment, don’t let the mental demons get the better of you. The harder it gets, the closer you are to finishing that first draft.

Many years ago I heard Roseabeth Moss Kanter (of the Harvard Business School) speak. One of her statements has stuck with me for the thirty years since - “Every project is a failure in the middle.”. Her point was that in every worthwhile project there is a point or two (or more) when things go way south - if you quit, you ensure failure. If you keep on going, modifying your approach as required, you still may fail but not on that day so just keep at it. I can’t even count the number of seminars and conferences I attended in my work life - that one statement is the only one I remember and still take strength from when things got tough.

You’re a good writer. Have a little faith in yourself.

Good on ya, Mike! I think the hardest thing a writer has to do is stare at that blank page. I tell my (sometime) students: only Mozart didn't write a first draft. All others: take a number.

Tom Waits had an interesting take on this at one point. He treated his songs as their own creations and would bargain with them in the manner of, "now come on, if you want to be born you just have to get out onto the paper now." I'll see if I can track down the reference for you.

Also: consider _Cymbaline_. Shakespeare at his absolute worst. Proof again that only the mediocre are always at their very best.


Stick at it.

Have faith.

Some think that creatives have no bounds, walls or chains, free to exercise their whims whenever they want. But to those true creatives who really know, it's an itch that has to be scratched, a weight that has to be lifted, a fire that must be fed to its end, pursued no matter what.

Hang in there Mike. You have my support when the first edition comes out.
Dan K.

Hi Mike
What would you say to someone who had just started in photography and said his first attempt at a photograph was no good??

Not sure if this helps but:

J K Rowling In 1996 the manuscript of her first Harry Potter book was turned down by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury picked it up.

Good to hear you found a second wind, or third or fourth. I know with my own writing, especially my fiction attempts, I usually stop when my ability to detect stupidity exceeds my ability to rise above it. This is my own writer's equivalent of a Marathon runner's "wall," I think. Gotta push on through.

The Da Vinci Code is utter rubbish. It’s as it is in music—the best books/songs/albums are not inevitably best-sellers.

I am daily reminded of song lyrics from the sixties and early seventies, lyrics that I clung to like they were a life raft, lyrics without which I would not have survived those turbulent times. Reading your commentary this morning brought a line from our old friend Bob Dylan to mind. “There’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all”.

Keep up the Sunday Support Group, please

Sometimes I've felt I was on a path towards perfecting failure. However, after changing my perspective, I realized I was just slip sliding along the learning curve.

Keep on keeping on.


Throwing turds at Dan Brown does nobody here either credit or favour. It's one of the easiest things in the world to mock success and one of the most difficult to attain it.

If Mike ends up with a winner, that'll be because he actually came through, not because of one writer getting roughed up as way of faux/misguided support for another.

A day later, and I think you are right, Mike. I should have taken the positive from your post and not the negative. As a matter of fact, I'll try to learn from it. I'm retiring from my day job at the end of this year, which has required me to write pretty much every day for the last 48 years. But not the kind of writing you're doing - my writing career has been very commercial.

My principal hobby these days is playing music. I've played double bass for 40 years, but not very well. So, starting at the end of this year I'll make an effort to get better, and work on it every day. We'll see how I do.


I edited and wrote for medical journals and books for the last 30 years of my working life. My two rules were: “don’t get it right get it written” and “the real writing starts when the editing (re-writing) begins”.

Put me down for a copy also.

I think that one of the biggest lies that we tell ourselves is that "I am the only one that struggles with X". We beat ourselves up for not meeting the impossible standards that we think "everybody else" is. So thank you so much for sharing your struggles, Mike. It is very encouraging for me to know that somebody can be a fantastic writer like yourself and not have it all come super easily. I get frustrated because the words don't flow like I want them too, and consequently assume that because the writing was such a chore the result is unimpressive. They say that misery loves company, but I would say it is the same for all emotions.

Late to the party, here, Mike. Oh well.
You’re encountering the long-project problem. Magazine articles or, cough, blog posts have near immediate feedback. Books do not. In any large project, books or otherwise, ups and downs are going to be inevitable—the whole process is much, much longer. It’s harder to put these surges, good & bad, in perspective when you are the only judge of the work. Setting off daily firecrackers to reassure yourself just doesn’t work for a long project and is counter-productive. Let your editors and proofreaders do that when you submit the ms. In the meantime, soldier-on.

I'm not that bad a writer.

You are a fine writer, if clarity and grace count.

Don't stop.

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