Category Archives: The Writing Life

From Daydreams to Written Dreams

Chapter five in a series on Book and Art Business 101 wherein I show how the solid logic of art business sold me on self-publishing. If you’re too busy for the whole series, download your copy of my Cheat Sheet for Book and Art Business 101. 


I have a hard time with conversations.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me likely got the first impression that I was aloof or arrogant, cold or only concerned with what I have to say. Sometimes that’s true, but generally what happens is conversation breaks down in my mind.

In high school, I would get latched onto a word and see the best direction for the conversation to go and would insist on bringing something up that people stopped talking about thirty minutes prior. It’s kind of an aspie or autistic trait — I’ve had to learn to fake conversation. And then learn to fake listening. And over time, I’ve at least learned — through actually listening — to care about some things that aren’t my own interests. But truly, I’d be lying if I didn’t say most conversation bores me because the nature of conversation is to sprawl. Conversation almost never comes around to things that matter unless you either hijack the conversation or unless you’re talking with someone you trust, someone whose soul matches the resonant frequency of your own. A kindred spirit. I have a few and my conversations with these people often last hours and go places others cannot go.

So in conversations these days, I’ll often stay silent and someone will think I’m ignoring them or not listening. The truth is, I’m listening a little too hard. I’ve latched onto some word or phrase — yesterday it was “diabetes black market” — and wonder about some world, some story, some what-if in my alternate universe.

I daydream.

Hard. I daydream probably worse than just about anyone I know. Disclaimer: I haven’t talked about this with fellow writers. Those who don’t know what this is like, who have never experienced day terrors or true rapture where you’re caught up in something like Paul’s third heaven (though I’ve never been caught up in the third heaven, I have been caught up in a place that looks oddly like a pool hall and includes a couple of fat guys with cigars and a couple of ladies with pistols), imagine being in a factory line and suddenly finding yourself in Narnia. And you go  on some grand adventure, at the end of which you return to the factory line and your boss is yelling at you to pick up the pace because you’ve created a bottleneck at your station. That’s me. I’m convinced that half of the “laziness” of many creatives is simply scheming the next major project. It’s brewing, marinating, stewing just under the surface.

Of course, many creatives also lean into this as some sort of excuse and really are just plain lazy. But that’s another thing I’ve covered pretty extensively elsewhere.

My 9-World Universe that I’ve slowly built up over the years began in Terry Bowland’s freshman class when he was talking about lewd fellows of the baser sort. It was a good lecture, but somewhere in there he mentioned the word “coast” as in “the coast of Macedonia” or something to that effect. Immediately, I took out a white sheet of paper and sketched an island with a river down the middle.

I didn’t realize until later that growing up in Southern Illinois was really growing up in a distillation of a riverland. Eight rivers pierce my homestate. In the lowest section, they converge to make some of the most fertile soil in the world — or at least they do right now, who knows what the changing climate will do to the land in years to come.

The Mississippi tears through that landscape mirroring the great testosterone-wrought divide in the mind of every man, the one separating the hemispheres of the brain. Missouri and Illinois. I’ve convinced myself over the years that 90% of the most important American culture found its inception within 300 miles of the Mississippi — from Hemingway and Twain to jazz and sweetcorn.

In any case, I’m wandering here. River-like.

The point is that I drew this river and coastland on the page and went back to my room and starting writing what will eventually be a good chunk of Book 8 of A.R.C., naming the world “Gergia” from a small and otherwise lost 300-word seed written by a good friend named Seth Caddel (Seth gave up on the project almost ten years ago — it had taken on a life of its own like nearly everything I touch and he moved on to other fiction and nonfiction — we still keep in touch).

That semester, at the bottom of the midnight hour, I finished my first novel. I immediately wrote THE END (cause that’s what a real writer does, right?) and went screaming down the hallway, “I finished my first novel! I finished my first novel!”

I believe it was Old Man Spiel who responded first, who wasn’t actually old but acted every night at bedtime like a geriatric senior bowed double. Old Man Spiel came busting out of his room, hunched over, “Lance! Quiet hours!”

I shut up.

But by that time half of the guys had come out of the doors to jump around with me.

They say nothing will ever come close to your first high.

Perhaps that’s also true if you’re talking about the adrenaline of a first novel — I almost missed my 7am Greek class due to lack of sleep and an abundance of tea.

There is something deep and troubling about finishing a creative project on that scale, like spotting a dark mass moving in the waters.

written dreams daydreams intruder andrew wyeth painting something stirs in the waters cthulu watcher in the water leviathan lance schaubert

There is something high and moving like the dawn of God’s return in it. I say this because whatever else we’re doing here, the point is that magic. The point is the daydreaming and writing down of those dreams. We are John. Each novel is our Revelation.

That’s the point of it.

Not awards. Not money. Not the elusive praise from that Biology teacher who called you a turd-flinging monkey after you mis-dissected a pig fetus in your sophomore year of highschool.

The point is dreaming.

And recording the dreams.

Novels are written dreams.

 

So write your dreams. And then move on to the next one. That’s the rapture. That’s why we do it.

Anything getting in the way of that is obviously an enemy to the cause. Keep that in mind once we start talking both about rejection and contracts.


Don’t have time for the whole series?

That’s okay, I made you a…

CHEAT SHEET TO BOOK BUSINESS

Here’s our outline for upcoming posts:

  1. Intro
  2. The Gateway Drug: Poetry
  3. Does Fiction Lie? — The Liar’s Club
  4. Where and How to Sell What You Write
  5. From Daydreams to Written Dreams
  6. Rejection Slips
  7. Any Money Makes a Professional Writer
  8. Quarterly Assignments
  9. Making Good Money… in a shadow career
  10. Kinfolk and Advocates or “How to Build a Platform”
  11. Draconian Contracts
  12. Author Earnings
  13. Succeeding for Others
  14. Blaze a Trail All Your Own

lancelot tobias mearcstapa schaubert monogram

cover image by Nick Kenrick

 

Where and How to Sell What You Write

Chapter four in a series on Book and Art Business 101 wherein I show how the solid logic of art business sold me on self-publishing. If you’re too busy for the whole series, download your copy of my Cheat Sheet for Book and Art Business 101. 


When I went to college, I found myself loaded down with logic and rhetoric and grammar classes at a school that didn’t teach math or science.

 

They wore their lack of the sciences as a badge of honor. The curriculum did appeal to the rebel in me, but it completely turned off almost all of my redeeming sides that delighted in both math and science.

Ironically, it was the perfect environ for the literary part of me to flourish: most of my talents in math felt rerouted in every class but Koine Greek — the language of logic (think: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle). Through a very skilled and very sassy and very old Greek grammarian, I finally came to understand English grammar and began that first semester writing a novel I would finish by the end of my freshman summer. Soon afterwards, I began researching how to get published like the T.H. Whites and Walt Whitmans and J.K. Rowlings of the world.

I wanted to know then what you want to know now: where and how to sell what you write.

Here’s how:

Continue reading Where and How to Sell What You Write

Does Fiction Lie? — The Liar’s Club

Chapter three in a series on Book and Art Business 101 wherein I show how the solid logic of art business sold me on self-publishing. If you’re too busy for the whole series, download your copy of my Cheat Sheet for Book and Art Business 101. 


Before I discovered poetry on my own, I had told stories to friends and family, but the power of oral storytelling had yet to connect to the literary part of my brain.

In my elementary days, the name they called me more than anything was “liar.” Lying Lance.

 

Now on occasion I deserved it, particularly several instances in which I smooth-talked my way out of detention — a golden tongue like a golden sword can get you into as many troubling situations as it can rewarding ones — but it took college for me to realize that fiction and exaggeration isn’t lying at all but a way of conveying the truth of both emotion and theme through a trick of light.

But don’t take it from me.

If you want to know if fiction lies, ask Tolkien:

Continue reading Does Fiction Lie? — The Liar’s Club

The Gateway Drug: Poetry

Chapter two in a series on Book and Art Business 101 wherein I show how the solid logic of art business sold me on self-publishing. If you’re too busy for the whole series, download your copy of my Cheat Sheet for Book and Art Business 101. 


Let me tell you the way of things: I fell into this gig.

And by fall, I mean headlong-Humpty-Dumpty-cracked-then-put-together-again fell into this gig.

 

As a child and teenager, I scored rather… high… on my math and science scores and unforgivably low on writing. That might seem weird to you who know my current workload, but those who really know me understand why. Mark Neuenschwander, my photonovel co-conspirator and best friend, has often been known to shout “CONTEXT, LANCE!” in the middle of a crowded coffee shop. It’s a strategy my wife and many other close friends have now employed. See, I’m such an inductive leaper in my mind, such an experimenter, such a proponent of representing real numbers with Greek letters, that I often forget to show my work for the sake of whoever follows after me.

In college, I often received lower marks for writing philosophical abstracts and logical tractates as stories and poems — going either the long way around or never leading with the point of whatever deductive argument I was supposed to be making. I had to go to college to learn professional communication because I’m naturally bad at it in day-to-day conversation and correspondence.

Math, science, and performance made sense to me.

But writing?

I hated writing.

I purposefully answered questions wrong on portions of a certain standardized test I will not name here. Why would I do this? To spite a writing teacher. I was so arrogant about it that I would snub well-read girls in my class simply because they didn’t have “intuitive knowledge.” Really, they had a one-up on me: they knew that the only way to get smarter is to declare war upon your own ignorance.

Continue reading The Gateway Drug: Poetry

Art Business Logic Sold Me on Self-Publishing :: Intro and Chapters

or

Book and Art Business 101:

How the Good Business Sense
of Self-Publishing
Finally Won Me Over

 

I am not one to easily say I was wrong, but, my friends, I was terribly, horribly wrong. Wrong for the past ten years or more concerning a very important part of the publishing industry and art business. And I’ve died on this hill of wrongness over and again in multiple mediums and venues for the past ten years. Particularly early on in arguments with a writer friend named Ellie Ann.

Can I tell you a story?

The story I want to tell you will show how:

Reflecting on the tenants of art business…

&

…evaluating self-publishing based on those tenants…

 

couldn’t happen easily for me because of the times and circumstances of my formation as a writer. That’s right. The circumstances of my formation as a writer biased me against self-publishing, even in the teeth of the sound logic of art business.

It’s also a story about the basics of making money as a writer or an artist. In years ahead, I may choose to return to my friends in the traditional publishing world, but this is the story about how I:

(1) grew into a novelist,

(2) associated that career path with the narrative built into the traditional publishing world,

(3) ignored a hidden opportunity to enter a buyer’s market through a route that seemed unorthodox to me, and therefore

(4) lost a chance to perfect and then release my first novel sooner than now

(5) when the business sense of self-publishing has finally won me over. Continue reading Art Business Logic Sold Me on Self-Publishing :: Intro and Chapters

Novel Online :: How She Dethroned the eBook

Seems these days old men like me can’t keep up with the pace of publishing. And if that’s how I feel at 28 (my birthday’s this month!), I can’t imagine what it feels like to be a sixty-year-old literary agent or legacy publisher.

Honestly, I’m excited because I love adapting.

Let’s start with a couple of Cinderella stories about people who put their novel online. I mean, they have a little more grit and grist than Cinderella herself, but they’ll do.

They’ll do.

In the blue corner, we have Fifty Shades of Grey. You’ve heard the story. Girl likes Twilight. Girl makes sexually violent fanfic off of twilight. Girl posts said sexually violent fanfic on her website. Publisher responds to large influx of web traffic.

In the red corner, we have The Martian. Perhaps you didn’t know this, but Andy Weir spent a significant time as a computer programmer, publishing short stories on his own website for years before he decided to release The Martian as a serial on his site. It picked up a ton of traffic, he was approached by an agent, and sold both paperback and film rights in the same week.

Continue reading Novel Online :: How She Dethroned the eBook

Does Talent Exist?

No.

Or rather the existence of talent is so widespread and common that its potency clocks in at around the near-impotent range.

 

Here’s the thing:

My buddy used to work for Community Support Services, which helps mentally handicapped people live bright and vibrant lives. His main client was Jerry. Jerry still ranks in the top ten list of the most naturally funny people I know. Wit for days in spite of his handicap. I’ve met homeless men who used to be opera virtuosos here in the city, begging for cash on the train. And I’ve met millionaires who gave up on their knack for painting. Talent is everywhere. Talent is no respecter of persons. The Muse gives her graces to the weak and strong alike.

Which, of course, offends the capitalist whose livelihood depends on privilege.

But Jerry, the mentally handicapped comedian, had one thing up on the millionaire who quit painting: Jerry didn’t rely on his talent. Jerry honed his talent — he expressed it simply, but when he’d get a laugh, he’d say, “Yeah, that’s funny. It’s funny because…” And he’d tell you why you laughed, which was never funny. But next time? You can bet Jerry’s wit would be sharper.

So does talent exist?

As a freshman in college, I read a book entitled Talent is Never Enough. It’s a simple, almost cheap in its simplicity, but the principles revealed in its outline tell you everything you need to know:

  1. Belief lifts your talent.

  2. Passion energizes your talent.

  3. Initiative activates your talent.

  4. Focus directs your talent.

  5. Preparation positions your talent.

  6. Practice sharpens your talent.

  7. Perseverance sustains your talent.

  8. Courage tests your talent.

  9. Teachability expands your talent.

  10. Character protects your talent.

  11. Relationships influence your talent.

  12. Responsibility strengthens your talent.

  13. Teamwork multiplies your talent.

The people I know who receive the compliment “You’re so talented” or “You’re so creative” more than anyone else have no more talent than the rest of us. Does talent exist? Does the kind of talent that truly separates the great from the groveling exist?

Let’s tease this out.

You know what the guys and gals who are better than me and you have?

They have an unshakable belief and confidence in their talent when others doubt. They have a passion for their work that dwarves the apathy of their peers. They initiate new works all of the time because they know the hardest part of skydiving is simply jumping out of the plane. And then gaining altitude and doing it again. Ready, fire, aim. They focus on a few great things rather than many acceptable things. They prepare to execute on these plans and initiatives. They practice over and over — doing as many drills in adulthood as they did in childhood. They persevere beyond their peers, knowing that when the competition thins out the closer you get to the top of Everest, the greatest among them grew too stubborn to stop. They take heart knowing courage is no virtue, but rather every virtue of their talent at the moment of testing. They try to learn something about everything from anyone they meet. They practice integrity knowing that a man without control is like a city without walls — the world loves the fall of kings as much as they love the rise of peasants and that includes your talent. They take responsibility for the consequences of their talent, of what their talent could offer the generations that follow them, of what their talent could offer their neighbor or their family. And they know that collaboration is they way the artist delegates: there are no lone wolf artists.

So no. You won’t catch me saying the people better than me are so talented or so creative.

They work harder. That’s it.

They posses no more talent than you or me or anyone else. For that reason I’m setting out to make tomorrow’s version of Lancelot will be better than today’s. As another author said, Talent is Overrated.  

The book Making Ideas Happen says:

CREATIVITY X ORGANIZATION = IMPACT

If the impact of our ideas is, in fact, largely determined by our ability to stay organized, then we would observe that those with tons of creativity but little to no organization yield, on average, nothing. Let’s imagine a wildly creative but totally disorganized thinker. The equation would be:

100 X 0 = 0

Does this bring someone to mind? Someone who has loads of ideas but is so disorganized that no one particular idea is ever fully realized? You could argue that someone with half the creativity and just a little more organizational ability would make a great deal more impact.

50 X 2 = 100

The equation helps us understand why some “less-creative” artists might produce more work than their talented and inventive peers. A shocking and perhaps unfortunate realization emerges: someone with average creativity but stellar organizational skills will make a greater impact than the disorganized creative geniuses among us.

Sub out the word “creativity” for “talent” in the above equation and about everyone reading this will feel triggered.

As Stephen Pressfield said:

“We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land. We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane. We become monsters and monstrous.”

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

When I asked at the start, “Does Talent Exist?” and then subsequently answered in the negative, of course I meant to provoke you. I meant to provoke you because I wanted you to become defensive of all of the “really talented” people in your life to whom you compare yourself. I did this deliberately because I wanted to bring you full circle and see that talent is a dime a dozen — that the talent of the Michael Jordans and Elon Musks of the world lives in you.

You must see this before moving forward. You talent is as great as theirs.

And your talent will never be enough.

They simply worked harder.

Will you?

 


 

Over seven thousand people have asked me to let them know when I release free stories, cool transmedia projects, and sell articles. I write them a letter about once every other month that rounds up everything for them so that they don't have to go digging — I like being helpful.

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cover image by Hernán Piñera