The Ultimate Low – A Deflated Ego

The Ultimate Low – A Deflated Ego

On January 10th, 2014 I sent an email to myself. It was the beginning of a story that I wanted to write. The opening line was this:

Strayed, broken, alone, he wanders through the wilderness. Grizzled beard blowing in the breeze, shrouded in a cloak that hides his modest features, he has reached the point of a rocky cliff that overlooks the infinite sea.

On January 8th, 2018 (almost four years later to the date), I’m writing this post and I couldn’t feel more like the character in the opening line of the book.

I feel like I’ve strayed from the original reason I started writing the story – to bring me and others around me joy. I feel broken, after four years of writing, revising and working with an editor, I feel like I’m no closer to publishing my book. Alone – I’ve cut ties with my current editor for multiple reasons concerning fault on both of our ends. Wandering – I now feel like I’m wandering aimlessly on this writing project with no true north to follow. I can’t grow a beard, so that part isn’t accurate but boy do I feel like I’m standing on a rocky cliff overlooking an infinite sea of challenges. Do I jump from the cliff and end the turmoil that this project has caused me – ridding myself from the emotional and financial burden of completing this project? Do I go back to being a consumer of other’s great works leaving my heroes and villains in a dusty Microsoft Word file on my desktop for no one else to ever read?

This is where I’m at. If I’m being honest, I’ve reached my breaking point.

When I started writing the first chapter of this book all those years ago, I had an over abundance of confidence in myself. Unwarranted confidence mind you, for I had quite literally no writing experience. I wrote the first draft of my book in six months and laughed at how easy it was to accomplish. But being a fast writer and being a good writer are two different things.

The reality of how much I need to learn about writing to make my book publishable is overwhelming. The price it would cost me to get this piece of writing polished up to the level it needs isn’t realistic for my budget. The time I have to dedicate to learning the craft of writing more in depth is non-existent.

All of this makes me ask the question – Why? Why do writers go through this grueling process? Who are they doing it for? Is it an act of ego stroking self justification? Is it to bring joy and hope to others? Is it for money (laughs uncontrollably to himself)?

I know that if I stop working on this book right now, no one will ever really know or even care that I don’t write it. The only person who will be ruined by me not finishing this book is me. But why do I care so much? Most people don’t write books or music and they seem to be content with their lives. I just have this compulsion that I can’t explain to create.

I do apologize that this isn’t the most inspiring blog post about writing, but the truth is that I’m not feeling very inspired today. Writers – what do you do when you get down in the dumps about a project? How to you pull yourself out of the bog of hopelessness? My thoughts right now are that I just need to be patient and give myself time and space to learn more about the craft and allow the time necessary for me to create a better version of the book. I need to learn how to have fun with the process of learning while I write, edit and revise. I’m open to any support or comments that could be helpful/inspiring.

May AURA’s light guide you.

Adam Zavalney

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash


The Price of Creativity

The Price of Creativity

How much does being creative cost and artist? That depends on the currency we are referring to. If we are talking strictly numbers, more than you might think. If we are talking about the emotional toll creativity can have on an artist’s mind, that is a whole nother story.

To answer the first part of that question, I’ll do a rough estimate of what I think, writing, editing, self-publishing and marketing my first book will cost. Computer software, editing fees, self-publishing fees, artwork licensing fees, ISBN fees, copyright fees and marketing costs for my project are estimated at approximately $3,000 to self publish and promote the best version of my ebook I can through Amazon and CreateSpace.

This is a rough estimate and other writer’s might experience higher or lower costs depending on who they are working with and what resources they have available to them. Let’s think about this for a minute. I woke up one day and decided I wanted to tell a story – the laughable part is I chose to write a novel because I thought it would be pretty close to “free” to do.  The joke is on me, now! Imagine having an idea, innocent enough, of wanting to write a story to bring purpose to your life and joy to others – sounds noble enough. Now imagine someone taps you on your shoulder and says “Go ahead and act on that idea, but I’ll need $3,000 from you to turn this dream into a reality.”

What would you say to that? Likely, you’d say no. Or at least you’d ask this mysterious stranger who is trespassing on your dream if you would at least make the $3,000 back through sales? The mysterious stranger simply shrugs and holds out his hand to receive your $3,000 for you to proceed. Do you pay the man? Or do you go back to consuming other artists work for a fraction of the price? The easy, and likely smartest answer is the latter. You’d probably be wiser to sit back on the couch, tuck that creative idea away and never speak of it again.

Artists don’t always make the smartest decisions, though, because they often times lead with their hearts and let their minds take the back seat. So, you’ve decided to invest in getting your art created and marketed to the world. Now comes the second answer to my first question.

The emotional investment in a creative project greatly outweighs the financial. I’ve had so much self-doubt during this writing process that it is nothing short of a miracle that I’ve made it this far. If someone would’ve told me five years after starting to write this book I’d still not be published, I likely would’ve thrown in the towel. Pushing yourself on and off for five years on anything, with little reward and no end in site is excruciatingly difficult. Imagine working out for five years and not losing a pound. Would the hope of that weight loss being over the next ridge be enough to keep you going?

Once I finally get to the point where I can share this story with the world, what is my biggest fear? One would think my biggest fear would be losing $3,000, or maybe that people would think it was a terrible book. Those are concerns, but those are not my biggest fear. The demon that could make or break me is called silence. If I release this book and no one gives it a chance, I would be devastated. If book launch day comes and no one snags a copy, how would I go on? How would I have the emotional energy to do something like this ever again in my life?

So what is the point of this info dump? I guess what I’m trying to ultimately get at is that being a creative person costs a lot. It costs a lot of time, money and emotional energy with often little in return. It is often a very lonely road to travel. Cherish the artists in your lives. Cough up $10 for their album on iTunes. Buy a shirt. Download their eBook and offer them feedback. Your support just may be the difference between the life or the death of your next favorite video game, album, tv show, painting, or book.

May AURA’s light guide you,

Adam Zavalney

Photo by Laura Kranz on Unsplash

The Writer that Doesn’t Read

The Writer that Doesn’t Read

If you think the title of this blog post is confusing, imagine how I feel? Almost every single article, YouTube video and inspirational quote I read on becoming a fantasy writer includes the advice of “Read everything you can…” and even more troubling “even if it isn’t in your genre.”

Now hear me out. I get it. I get how reading everything you can could offer you a greater pool of knowledge, resources and perspective, and your writing would likely benefit from this tip if you are most writers. I, however, am not most writers. If you have read my previous blog post than you know that I am a self proclaimed terrible writer. To no one’s surprise I’m sure, I’m also a terrible reader.

What do I mean by terrible? Do I have the basic ability to read words on a page? Fortunately, yes. Am I able to read at a speed that allows me to get through novels like your average reader? Hell, no. I have the attention span of a three year old. My time is very limited and enjoying a cup of tea by the fire in my favorite arm chair while ingesting the latest fantasy saga by everyone’s favorite new author that I have never heard of just isn’t in the cards for me. Even if I found the time to thumb through a few pages, I’d either not retain the words I just read, or more likely, fall asleep due to the chaos that is my life.

We get it, Adam, you can’t read or write very well. So what’s the point of this blog post? The point is, take all advice with a grain of salt. If I took the advice of reading everything you can, I’d still be on chapter four of The Fellowship of the Ring nowhere near writing my own story. Is The Fellowship of the Ring worth reading, and likely better than the book I’m writing – of course it is! Go read it before even considering picking up my mess of words.

Do I want to read the Harry Potter series? Sure I do! Anytime I try to pipe in at the water cooler with “I’ve seen the Harry Potter movies” I’m met with an eye roll followed by “The books are waaaaaay better.” If I like movie/tv versions of popular books whose book versions are “waaaaaay better” than of course I want to read the books. That means I’d like them waaaaaay more, right?

I just don’t have the capacity to chew up that medium at a fast enough speed to be useful in my life. I do hope that the day will come when my kids are older, and my time frees up a bit so that I will be able to dive into all of the popular and obscure book series that everyone is always talking about, but for now I’ll keep hacking away on my own story, for better or worse, in hopes of getting it out there before I croak or lose my motivation to do so.

Ultimately, each of us, in writing or in other areas of our lives, need to find the advice that works for us. Consider the work of your predecessors and the knowledge they have on the medium you wish to work in, but don’t let your inability to follow through with certain bits and pieces stop you from trying to achieve what you were meant to achieve.

What writing tips have you decided to not follow so you can actually get to work on your story? Any tips that you are dead set on following that I’d be crazy not to follow as well? Do tell.

May AURA’s light guide you.

Adam Zavalney

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Who Has the Time to Write?

Who Has the Time to Write?

Do you have a front row seat on the excuse express heading straight for blame town? Time to chin up and place the blame in the right place. Sorry Jim – if you are struggling to make time for what you are passionate about – the blame is on you and you alone.

If you look under the couch cushion and brush away the Cheeto crumbs, you’ll find time. Dig deep into the pockets of the jeans you wore last night – there’s some loose time there. We are conditioned as a society to believe that we don’t have the time or energy needed to fulfill our destinies. I call bullshit on this. If you want to find time to go to the gym and get that summer body, you will. If you want to save up enough money to visit Europe, you can make that happen. And yes folks, if you want to write an epic fantasy series – you guessed it – you’ll make time.

Time looks different for everyone. For some people time is seemingly limitless. Some people have time for 18 holes of golf on a Saturday while others have thirty minutes between the time they get the kids to bed and the time their eyelids give in. I’m in the latter category. With a full time and part time job, wife, two kids, house to keep up with, (insert any number of other excuses here), I’ve just as many distractions and excuses in my life as the next person, but I force myself to make time to follow my dreams, and you should too.

Time for me is 30 minutes to 1 hour on my lunch break during the week. As I type this, I’m enjoying a lunch break at work and carving out enough time to write to you. But this is nothing new for me – this has been the case since I started writing my book. Thirty minutes here, one hour there, and so on, and so forth, until five years later I’m almost ready to self publish my first book.

You have to keep pushing on, even when you don’t want to. Even if you think there is no chance in the dark world or the light that you can achieve your goals, you have to press on, be consistent and be patient. Skip that Walking Dead binge session and write for thirty minutes. Don’t get stuck on the details of your story, just keep writing. Rinse and repeat. If I can do this, so can you. Chase that wild stag.

I won’t pretend it’s easy – because it’s not. Even with the first book nearly finished, I still need to learn more about self publishing and marketing my book, not to mention how to get people to read/follow this blog (if you are one of the brave few who is reading this now – I thank you).

Where do you find the time to fulfill your destiny? I’d love to hear from you.

May AURA’s light guide you.

Adam Zavalney

Photo by Cliff Johnson on Unsplash

Harnessing Elusive Inspiration

Harnessing Elusive Inspiration

Having trouble getting inspired lately? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Inspiration is a fleeting bird – just out of reach. You can see it fluttering its wings and soaring overhead. It’s song can be heard from afar but its exact location remains a mystery. Inspiration is always there, just over that next cloud. Acknowledging that the perfect moment of inspiration may never come is a key step towards pushing forward on a project.

The faintest spark.

On a nothing short of ordinary day five years ago, I was strumming thoughtlessly at my guitar, humming a tune. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it was the moment I began my journey of writing AURA: The Fall of Contuse. I started singing about a character, a prince, in a somber situation.

As I circle around these stone walls that I’ve built throughout the years
admiring my work and admiring the form, I know there’s more work to be done
My banner and my siegel reign high in the pink and orange sky
but my body will will be buried and my ghost these lands shall roam

Mounting my steed I ride through my lands that border the Infinite Sea
I ride faster and faster and faster still until no one can catch up with me
I lay in the sand and place my heavy armor down my smile is replaced with a frown
for my body will be burnt at sea and my ghost these shores shall roam

The gate closes behind me locking me into my safe and my comfortable home
I carry my lantern through my chamber room to a bed filled with warmth and love
Surrounded by feathers and silk sheets I find myself stirring in the night
for my ashed body turns to dust in an urn and my ghost these halls shall roam

What’s this that troubles my bloody pumping heart?
It’s the moon in the sky and the stars up above
What’s this that troubles my bloody pumping heart?
I don’t know where you are my little coven star

This song ignited a tiny spark inside of me. I was searching for something – a new adventure. For years I had consumed other’s work – enjoying films and tv shows like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Game of Thrones. I had spent months if not years of my life in fantasy RPG games like Fable 2 and Skyrim. I was feeling a void though…something was missing. I wanted to give something back to the community I had been a part of for so long. I realized I had an inkling of a story brewing in my mind.

I could have extinguished the flame immediately, but I didn’t. Instead, I started writing. I didn’t know what I was writing exactly or who I was writing it for, but I knew I had to keep going. This was the birth of the first character in my book series, Nikola White, and his mysterious lost lover. The story grew from there.

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t push down those tiny moments of inspiration, or think they are pointless to pursue. There is a chance that you will write the next great epic, develop the next award winning video game or create a television series sensation that the world falls in love with – after all, someone has to do it. Why can’t it be you? 

May AURA’s light guide you.

Adam Zavalney

Photo by Michal Lomza on Unsplash

On Dreaming and Pretending

On Dreaming and Pretending

Have you ever wanted to be something you’re not? Maybe you’ve always wanted to be an incredible singer/songwriter. Or perhaps you’ve always dreamed of capturing magnificent photos or of wowing colleagues with brilliant design ideas. Perhaps it’s something as simple as wishing you could write the next Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter series. If you’ve answered yes to all of the above, then maybe you are me.

I’m Adam Zavalney – failed musician, mediocre photographer/designer and above all, a terrible writer. Which brings us to this blog. What is the purpose of paying attention to a blog written by a self-proclaimed “terrible writer?” Well, that depends on you. Do you root for the underdog? Do you like to watch someone come from the bottom and work their way to the top (or at least to somewhere in the middle)? If so, read on.

This blog will be my mind dumpster as I work my way towards being a self-published author. I have a lot of self doubt (if you aren’t catching my not so subtle hints here), but I have even more drive to succeed. If you want to follow along as I write, edit, promote and self-publish my first book, please do so! I welcome constructive criticism and pats on the back alike – I know I will need both to make it through this journey.

Hooks sunk in yet? Let’s get to the medium rare meat, shall we? The book series I’m writing is called AURA. If you Google AURA, you will find approximately 20 billion related pieces of work. Be assured that this is the one you should be interested in. I’m well on my way through writing and revising the first book in the series titled AURA: The Fall of Contuse. To be clear, this didn’t happen overnight. I started writing this book in October of 2013. Yes, it has taken me over four years to get this far! Let me break down how I’ve gotten to wear I’m at:

It took me 6 months to write the first version of the book. At this point in time, I thought I was a brilliant author who was ready to self-publish after a quick copy review from a real editor.

Enter Val Anderson – editor extraordinaire. 

I found Val through a mutual friend (thanks Tessa). I reached out to her inquiring if she would mind editing my novel. She graciously agreed to meet with me for coffee and review the first few chapters of my novel. After a brief meeting with her, I found out that I actually was a really shitty writer. Who knew?! She let me down gently and informed me that my manuscript was not ready to even be looked at by an editor. She offered me a few tips on things I can do to clean up the manuscript before bringing it back to her to edit.

One and a half years later…I met with her again to have her review the first three chapters of my book. Luckily, after the year and a half struggle that was rewriting the book, Val agreed to work with me on editing the book. What a relief! We agreed on a contract and a down payment for her services was made. Over the next two years Val and I worked together on the book. To be perfectly clear, I’d be lost without her help. She is doing much more than a simple copy edit. She is assisting with story structure, world building and other development angles along with the grammar assistance. She is my (cliche alert) knight in shining armor on this project. 

As of today we are 30 pages away from completing the first official draft of AURA: The Fall of Contuse. When completed, we will be doing a final round of editing/revisions before I can pay her the remainder of her fee and she can delete me from her contacts (I hope that isn’t the case, but wouldn’t blame her!).

Now that you know where we are at in the process, I will end this rather lengthy post so you can get back to whatever else you like to do on your computer. Please feel free to join my mailing list if you’d like updates on the progress of the book series and any other ramblings I have on being a novice writer and person.

May AURA’s light guide you.

Adam Zavalney