One way to achieve your writing goals

Writing is primar­ily a sol­it­ary pur­suit. Writers need chunks of un­in­ter­rup­ted time to think about their story and get it down.

But it’s all too easy to do too much think­ing and not enough writ­ing. To prom­ise your­self you’re go­ing to fin­ish chapter five this month…and then find that all you’ve done is move a few words around on your com­puter screen.

That’s when hav­ing a writ­ing buddy can make a dif­fer­ence. This is someone you can share your dreams and doubts with, as well as your struggles and successes.

A paint­ing from Bev’s Forest series.

One of my best writ­ing bud­dies isn’t even a writer. Bev Byerley’s a West Coast paint­er with a pas­sion for land­scape. Just like me, she needs time to think and work. And she grapples with the shapes of clouds and trees the way I wrestle with the sound of phrases and paragraphs.

I was sur­prised to dis­cov­er that the cre­at­ive pro­cess is sim­il­ar no mat­ter what the me­di­um. And I en­joy the ca­marader­ie of get­ting to­geth­er with an­oth­er artist.

My oth­er writ­ing buddy is a writer. Caroline Woodward is the au­thor of sev­er­al books and count­less poems. She used to live in the same town as me. We’d meet for lunch every couple of months to yak about our latest pro­jects, the re­jec­tions or ac­cept­ances we re­ceived from pub­lish­ers and oth­er as­pects of the writ­ing life.

Then her hus­band got a job on a light­house and she fol­lowed. But

Last fall Caroline toured BC with her new adult nov­el, Penny Loves Wade, Wade Loves Penny, as well as her new chil­dren’s book, Singing Away the Dark. 

be­fore she left, we vowed to email each oth­er on the first day of every month. These emails in­clude our writ­ing goals for the com­ing month and a pro­gress re­port on what we ac­com­plished the pre­vi­ous one.

We’ve been do­ing this for a couple of years now and are both sur­prised at how this one email a month helps keep our writ­ing on track. Without plan­ning it, we’ve ar­ranged a sys­tem that in­cor­por­ates sev­er­al im­port­ant tips re­com­men­ded by goal set­ting experts.

The first one is to make a com­mit­ment by telling someone what you plan to do. The second is to form a con­crete plan by writ­ing it down. And the third is to be ac­count­able by telling someone what you achieved…or didn’t.

So, if you have a lot of ideas but have trouble ac­com­plish­ing them, I re­com­mend find­ing a cre­at­ive buddy. This should be someone you like, feel com­fort­able with and admire.

Ideally, each of you will have slightly dif­fer­ent areas or levels of ex­pert­ise so you can learn from each oth­er. But most of all, you should both be pre­pared to listen and of­fer con­struct­ive feed­back. Laughing a lot is good too.

Making your book dream a reality


Sometimes it seems like every­one I talk to wants to write a book. I’ve lost count of the num­ber of people who’ve told me they have a great idea; all they need is the time, mo­tiv­a­tion, a new laptop or some oth­er little thing that will al­low them to cre­ate the next best­selling nov­el or the defin­it­ive world history.

And, you know, some of the ideas I hear would make good books. So why haven’t they been writ­ten? Motivation is a primary reas­on, I’m sure. It’s hard to get up an hour early or to skip your fa­vour­ite TV pro­gram to work on a ma­nu­script. But some people do it. What gives them the will to park them­selves in front of their key­board and write in­stead of just talk­ing or dream­ing about it?

For most folks there’s a de­fin­ing mo­ment when they de­cide to go for it and do their best to be­come a pub­lished au­thor. A couple of years ago Chevy Stevens (the pen name of Rene Unischewski) was work­ing as a real es­tate agent in Nanaimo. But she wanted to write a book. 

I figured if I was go­ing to do it, now would be the time,” she said in an in­ter­view with the Nanaimo Daily News. “It’s a lot harder years later, es­pe­cially if you’re mar­ried and have children.”

So Chevy quit her job, sold her house and lived off her sav­ings for two years. When she’d writ­ten the best nov­el she could, she hired a pro­fes­sion­al ed­it­or to help her make it even better.

Stevens was will­ing to take some big risks but they res­ul­ted in an agent, a con­tract and a book that made the New York Times Bestseller List and is cur­rently op­tioned for a movie.

For Comox Valley res­id­ent, Harold Macy, it was dif­fer­ent. He’s writ­ten scores of short stor­ies and won nu­mer­ous awards for them. But he wanted to write a book.

About six years ago he began a fiction/​nonfiction hy­brid based on his ex­per­i­ences as a for­est­er. He’d write and re­write and, on oc­ca­sion, take his ma­nu­script to work­shops to get feed­back and hone his craft.

Eventually Harold knew his ma­nu­script was as ready as it would ever be. He also knew he’d be 65 soon and wanted his book pub­lished soon­er rather than later. So he in­vest­ig­ated his op­tions and de­cided to self-pub­lish. The Four Storey Forest, which in­cludes a dust jack­et blurb from award-win­ning au­thor Jack Hodgins, is sched­uled for re­lease this May.

I met Harold 25 years ago at a writ­ing re­treat at Strathcona Park Lodge. That was my wa­ter­shed mo­ment. I’d had a few arti­cles pub­lished but, like every­one else, I wanted to write a book.

Getting away from the ob­lig­a­tions and dis­trac­tions of daily life and spend­ing time with like-minded people opened my mind to the pos­sib­il­it­ies of what I could do — if I was pre­pared to work at it. And re­ceiv­ing feed­back from pub­lished au­thor, Bill Valgardson, was invaluable.

What did you do – or what will it take for you — to make your book dream a reality?