Making Time for Creating

Tonight, my dear friend Wayne Thomas Batson arrives at our home for a three day writing weekend that we call a Writer’s Bootcamp. We’ve been conducting these annually for the past nine years. Usually, we write, talk, write, eat, drink, write, use the bathroom (separately), talk, write, and then pass out, only to awake the next morning and do it all over again, with the goal of pounding out as many words as is inhumanly possible.

One thing that I’ve learned about the creation process is that it requires me to be intentional. When I was younger, making things just seemed to “happen.” I had loads of free time, and proximity to all sorts of amazing tools. And loads of free time.

(Did I mention free time?)

Today, as creative a soul as I am, producing tangible art—whether books, records or designs—only happens when I make time for them.

Here are three tips that’ve helped me:

Book It

Appointments are typically for people, not for “making things.” While people got premium space on my calendar apps—complete with descriptions, reminders and a courtesy text message if I’m running late—projects normally didn’t. Somehow I treated it as a second class activity.

If we really want to be intentional about creating, we need to treat time frames for our creative disciplines like appointments with people. Schedule the time on your calendar, write a description about what you want to accomplish in that time frame, and set up alerts if you’re late (treating them like text messages that say “You’re late! Get in here for your meeting!”).

Guard It

Merely setting planned time aside for your creative activities, whether professional or pastime, isn’t enough. I would never entertain ducking out of an intense marriage counseling session to help someone with the office printer. But I’m OK with stopping a design session to help someone tape up a box?

No.

All those those people and their tasks are important, just not right now.

Once you’ve scheduled time, keep yourself accountable to it by telling any interruptions to your creative appointment, “I’m sorry, but I’m in a meeting.” Most everything can wait.

Guarding these times includes turning OFF your mobile phone and restricting browser usage (if you need it open at all) to pertinent tasks only. TV, music (if it’s a distraction) and company can also be things that breach your guard.

End On a Cliffhanger

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my novel writing career was ending my day’s work when I’d finished a section that had a natural finale.

Big mistake.

Don’t end when it seems right, end when it seems wrong. Call it a day right in the middle of your favorite scene. Favorite color choice. Favorite chorus. Call the session when you’re truly inspired. This not only means that you’ll resume your progress sooner, but ensures that you’ll start back up with zeal. You’ll be eager instead of reticent.

What are some things you do to schedule, guard and inspire your creative disciplines?

Happy creating,

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Resolutions Or Misfires?

Eat less.

Read more.

Be nicer to the person at work who picks their nose in public.

You know, the usual New Year’s resolutions we all make. And break. And then kick ourselves over.

Well, this year, I’ve made a solid. Namely, to write more and veg-out less. With the audience I’ve been afforded, I want to steward your attention by providing life-giving, beneficial content more frequently. It requires a considerable amount of self-discipline and creativity. But, frankly, you’re worth it.

While I won’t be blogging every day, I will be blogging more. (Thanks to my friend Mike Kim for inspiring me there; he puts out some amazing stuff). And my goal is at least to get two new books out this year:

1.) The Creatives: Coaching Artisans Who Influence Society

2.) The Sky Riders Book II: Raising Thendara

I’d also like to complete another non-fiction work entitled Loud and Clear: Hearing God’s Voice When He Seems to Be Muted, but that may or may not happen. I’m at least accountable to you on the first two books. Cool?

What is (or was) one of your New Year’s resolutions? Let’s keep each other accountable.

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Quiet But Busy

I’ve had a few close friends note that it’s been quiet around here lately. Quiet, yes. But by no means fruitless. As any who know me might well surmise, my energies have been consumed by other more-pressing activities.

For one, I’m still writing—quite a lot, in fact. But not much of it, if any, is ready for daylight on a public forum. I’ve been writing daily, mostly of theology. While The Sky Riders II is in process, I’m simultaneously working on at least three other non-fiction works, as well as some writings for future songs and messages, all content that I feel needs addressing for the sake of Christians I find myself mentoring and pastoring. This has been further inspired and somewhat initiated by an uptick in my reading and processing of older Christian texts.

Apart from the reading and writing disciplines of my life, I’m in gaged in numerous New Life church activities, all of which have been large in scope and demanding of time. A vision to reach mankind with the Gospel and to make disciples should require nothing less. Our current production of A Watertown Christmas hits this weekend to two sold out audiences. On top of regular Christmas activities, as well as preparations for January’s series and annual fast, my team has had their hands full.

The businesses (CiCis Pizza, Cold Stone Creamery) have also consumed more of my creative attention lately, as I’m overseeing new directives to meet with school administrators and church leaders to ascertain how we might be able to serve their food needs and create win-win scenarios in the community.

I’m also fully engaged in one of my more favorite enterprises at the moment: overseeing the final phases of construction for Sprig Studios, due to open mid-winter. The final electrical work begins today, and we’re building all the custom light fixtures on site. The studio, by nature, begets newfound ventures of music creation, which are also simmering behind the scenes at home and in various nooks of the church.

Life is full and rich, made the most so by my wife, children and close friends, and reminds me of how truly blessed I am to be surrounded by constant beauty, creativity and mission. 2014 holds more adventures still, with calls back to Central America and Europe. May the God of the nations receive the glory that he’s due.

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Up To Date

The hiatus in posting has been due to the following, which might be of interest to you if you enjoy this sort of summary. If not, please go to the next blog on your reading list as you might get bored.

+ Outlining and chapter 1 start of “Raising Thendara,” book 2 of The Sky Riders.

+ Funding release for the final stage of Sprig Studios. And as a result: final design review, hardware shopping (notably a brand new ProTools HDX system), and initiation of legal contracts.

+ Preparation for a 6-school Bullying Prevention Campaign (beginning tomorrow) through Campus Impressions, New Life’s Non-Religious Education Department.

+ Brainstorming and writing with my team the script for New Life’s upcoming theatre/musical “A Watertown Christmas.”

+ Writing and finalizing demos for Jennifer’s upcoming jazz record. Something between a cross of Adele and Norah Jones, but uniquely my wife’s brand.

+ Set design and branding package for the next 3 message series at New Life.

+ Design of a new restaurant franchise. Opening Oswego, NY 2014.

+ Design of a new restaurant franchise. Potential development and opening in Greece, NY 2014.

+ Outlining new non-fiction book, “The Creatives,” a coaching guide to using the arts in the next century.

+ Outlining new non-fiction book, “Volume,” insights into hearing God’s voice in a modern world.

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Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

PRESS RELEASE:
For release on Tuesday, September 10th.
For additional information or interview, contact Rebekah Berthet or Candy Shaw: (315) 788-0825

WATERTOWN, NY - Christopher Hopper signs a copy of The Sky Riders for fans at The Vault in New Life Christian Church

WATERTOWN, NY – Christopher Hopper signs a fans book at The Vault in New Life Christian Church. Photo by Joseph Gilchrist.

Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

CLAYTON, NY – What do vintage airships, giant birds, floating cloud cities and steam-powered engines all have in common? If you guessed local author Christopher Hopper’s new steampunk epic, then you’d be spot on. The Sky Riders, Hopper’s seventh novel to date, hits digital and physical bookshelves today via Amazon.

“This is really exciting for me,” says Hopper, a resident of the Town of Clayton. “From right here in the 1000 Islands, I get to publish my novels worldwide, all because technology has made it easier to reach fans.”

Formerly with traditional legacy publishers like Thomas Nelson Inc. and Tsaba House Inc., Hopper is one of the growing body of writers who’ve jumped ship to self-publish. Bowker Identifier Services reports that there are over 235,000 self-published titles now for sale, a 287% growth surge since 2006. And with entities like Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace—both Amazon companies—self-publishing for digital and print has become more accessible, and more lucrative. Bookstats reported that 2012 sales figures of ebooks hit $3.04 billion, which gives Hopper even more reason to be excited.

“Where you’d only make between 8-15% with a legacy publisher,” says Hopper, “my lowest royalty bracket with self-publishing is 30%, and my highest is 70%.”

While some ask Hopper about the readers he’s missing out on by abandoning the traditional publishing route, he’s quick to correct them. “I was missing huge amounts of readers with traditional publishing, as they were mainly targeting book stores. Today, I have instant distribution to millions of Kindle and Nook readers, and sales up are up over 300% from my legacy publishing days. The bottom line is that I’m reaching more readers with less work than ever before.”

Thinking of self-publishing your own title? Not so fast. “It’s a lot of work,” admits Hopper. “But outsourcing exterior and interior design, for example, as well as shopping for editing services, can help people where they might be weak.”

If you’re still wondering just how to self-publish through something like Amazon, Hopper has an answer for that too. He published his Handbook to Publishing Your Novel ebook last December.

From where Hopper sits atop his floating cloud cities in his fictional world, the future is bright for readers and authors alike, and the return is anything but make believe.

The Sky Riders is available locally at The Vault in New Life Christian Church, as well as online at http://www.christopherhopper.com. •

TSR Comes out Tomorrow!

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Hello, my amazingly faithful Readers!

Tomorrow is the big day: the official release of my 7th full-length novel, The Sky Riders. Even just ten years ago, had you told me that one day I’d not only publish a single novel over 100,000 words, but seven, I would have laughed in your face. So each and every time this “book release” occasion comes around, I’m even more indebted to the following:

• God, for humoring my inabilities with his abilities to produce capabilities.

• My wife and children, for allowing me to spend the long hours needed on my laptop at absurd hours of the day (and night).

• My English teachers, notably Dawn Sandquist and Margaret Grace, who poured into me even when I gave them the deer-in-the-headlights look.

• My writing companions and tour mates who encouraged, taught, corrected and inspired me to grow as a writer: Wayne Thomas Batson, Donita K. Paul, Eric Reinhold, Jonathan Rogers, L.B. Graham, Bryan Davis, Sharon Hinck, Gregg Wooding, and Christopher and Allan Miller.

• Former publishers who gave me a shot when I didn’t deserve one: Pam Schwagerl (Tsaba House Inc.), and everyone at Thomas Nelson Inc.

J.A. Konrath for enticing all of us legacy published writers to jump ship and dive into the self-publishing revolution.

Michael A. Stackpole for his abundant wealth of knowledge which he continually gives away for free, but has cost him years of development.

• My Proofies who have leant their selfless eyes to the ARCs I put out. You make me shine.

• The Inkblots, in all our various forms, who met (and will meet again) over pub tables to discuss writing, life and the future.

• The amazing staff, board and congregation of my church, New Life, for believing that my writings are just as much ministry as counseling someone in my office.

• My friends Peter Hopper (and dad), Kirk Gilchrist, Douglas Gresham, Brett Peryer, David Buckles, Joseph Gilchrist, Tony Hayner, Jason Clement, Nathan Reimer, Denis Johnson and Nate Cronk for their conversations, musings and creativity that have inspired me to think hard and dig deep.

And lastly, to my readers. I write every word with you in mind, and couldn’t continue writing without you literally paying my bills. I’m blessed I get to do things I love for a living. It amazes me every day, and I pray I never take it for granted.

Thanks to everyone for purchasing the new book, spreading the word, and leaving honest reviews. (When referencing The Sky Riders on Twitter or Instagram, please try and use #theskyriders or #TSR).

Fly or die,

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Why Limits Provoke Success

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Have you ever walked into a room that needed to be cleaned so badly that when you looked at it, you just stood there and couldn’t move?

The task was that daunting.

I’ve found the same emotion when presented with a “limitless canvas.”

As creators , the infinite world of possibilities is what we all dream of being presented with. But, in fact, it can be the most daunting, paralyzingly perplexing scenario of all.

If anything is an option, how do you decide where to start? And if any result is acceptable, how do you define when you’re done? These are the questions I find most creators are plagued with, no matter the medium or context.

Sure, unrestrained creativity sounds exciting. And in certain aspects, it is. But placing limits on our actions can actually more liberating than we might think.

Take, for example, the sheer joy expressed on a child’s face when you tell them they can paint a picture using only his fingers and the three colors you set out in front of him. Or a telling a writer she can pen anything, but using only 1,000 words in 60 minutes.

While it might seem the creative process has been restricted, the limits have actually interjected a much-needed element to the creative process: challenge.

The reality is, as humans, we do much better with limits than we do without them. Creation without challenge is an exercise in lethargy. It might be argued, in fact, that the presence of a challenge ignites creativity. It brings out the best in us.

Time frame.

Monochromatic.

Word count.

Time signature.

Budget.

Mode.

Ensemble head count.

Disability.

These all force us to be more creative within the parameters than we ever would be without them.

So the next time you don’t know where to start, try putting limits on your process. You might find it more liberating than your logic suggests, as disability always promotes capability.

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I’m curious. What are some of your favorite creative limits that have helped you produce some of your best work?

Freebies: TSR Banners and Wallpaper

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Who doesn’t like free stuff?

I thought it’d be fun to give away some desktop wallpapers, which incorporate some of my drawings from my notebooks with the book’s graphic design. The result is 5 different wallpapers that you can dress up your computer with to show your Kili-Boranna spirit.

And if you want to go a step further and tag your blog or website, you’ll also find a full range of banners (including HTML code for the true geeks among you).

Check it all out here.

If you want a wallpaper or banner that you don’t see, let me know. I might be able to make it for you.

Thanks for all your support in prepping for this book’s launch into the skies above Aria-Prime.

Fly or die,

ch:

The Sky Riders (TSR): Progress Report

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Jason Clement and I took the morning to work on our respective projects while onboard AireFire 1 yesterday. A sailboat in the beautiful 1000 Islands is about as peaceful a work environment as I can think of. While we got a lot done, we’d both confess we could have stayed longer.

I’m about 35% of the way done with the 1,200 edits logged by my Proofies on The Sky Riders (book 1). If you’re an artist of any kind, red ink can often be the bane of our existence. But don’t let it scare you. Corrections don’t point out your flaws so much as reveal the beauty of your work. With every correction I address, I can feel this manuscript getting cleaner and more effective. It’s exciting!

All edits will be done by week’s end; then it’s on to interior formatting and cover design. Target release date is Tuesday, September 10th. Stay tuned!

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Subscribe to Shawn Blanc

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I like technology.

I like design.

I like coffee.

As a result, I like Shawn.

I’ve been following Shawn Blanc for a few years now, and have marveled at his transition from hobby-blogger to full-time writer, all thanks in part to his loyal readership who are willing to pay $4 per month for daily content (including a video entry during the weekdays).

I love Shawn’s work because it’s short, sweet and gives me the guts of major happenings in spheres of influence I’m passionate about (rather than having to wade through countless paragraphs just to get the point).

I also love that I can support a creative, a husband, a father and a Christian with my money. It all goes directly to him. No middle man. No royalty.

Read awesome.

Read clean.

Read Shawn.

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8th Annual Writers Bootcamp Getaway Weekend

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Eight years ago, my new-found friend, Wayne, and I decided to embark on a mutual dream of forming an Inklings group of our own. But distance was not our friend, he being in Maryland and I being in northern New York. So rather than a weekly gathering in some local pub, we decided upon meeting for a full weekend at a locale halfway between his home and mine.

The result has been a faithful convergence on a poetic (if not sleepy) Pennsylvanian town or city for the last eight years. And what a blessing it’s been for both of us. The mutual camaraderie is immeasurably valuable, as are the long talks concerning writing, plot and character development, theology, doctrines of the faith. Not to mention the verbose amount of gregarious guffawing we engage in.

And threading through it all are the continuous clicks of our laptop keys as we work on our next stories for the world to read. Wayne is working on a new supernatural thriller series called GHOST, while I’m very close to announcing the title and release date of my newest work, codenamed TSR.

Here’s to Inkblots everywhere who enjoy fellowship and the pursuit of the intellectual.

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My New Old Book

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So I’m back to work on my old, new book again.

Old, because it was birthed in my head during a late-night drive on Rt. 81 North about five years ago.

New, because it’s my current book.

And I’m pretty excited.

At the time of inception, I couldn’t start it as I was coming off The Lion Vrie, starting Athera’s Dawn, and Wayne and I were in the midst of Curse of the Spider King, and then Venom and Song. But once VnS was wrapped up, and with little hope of ever writing the 3rd book of The Berinfell Prophecies once the publisher declined our third installment, I had time to start in on the story. Twenty-five chapters worth to be exact.

But it was again delayed when Wayne and I journeyed into the very real possibility of self-publishing The Tide of Unmaking. Which we did. And which you read.

In the wake of tToU’s release, I needed a break from writing. To refresh. To reset. But recently I’ve felt that nagging itch to get writing again. And nothing provokes me more than a snow storm.

In recent weeks I’ve been making copious notes about plot twists, themes, politics, and character issues. Then finally, today’s 9″ snow storm pushed me over the edge.

I set in to editing the first five chapters, re-internalizing the story, reworking some major character points, and—most dramatically—transforming the entire manuscript into first-person-present. I’ve wanted to attempt to write from this POV for years, having first been challenged to do so by friends Sharon Hinck and Bryan Davis, and further inspired by Stephen Lawhead, Suzanne Collins, and many other notables.

I will say that it’s a bit tedious at first; getting my head in that writing mode when I’m already so well versed in past-tense-limited is quite the ordeal. But once engaged, it’s addicting, fast-paced, and dangerously powerful. I love it, and not quite sure how I got along without it in the past. Present. Er—

I’m still not ready to release the concept names yet, so you’ll need to wait a bit longer (still code named “TSR” for now). But I can say that there will be three installments, and each from a different character’s view point. And it’s definitely a veritable steampunk wonder-world of awesome.

And I’m working very hard to release all three in one year: 2013.

Crazy, I know.

But I think my readers’ veracious appetites can handle it, and the lack of publishing restraints on this new self-publishing model allows me to try and meet it. We’ll see.

Thanks again for all your support, my faithful readers. Knowing you’re out there to devour these books once they’re released encourages me greatly.

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When You’re This Good

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When you’re this cute, you can speak in gibberish and melt people’s hearts.

Speak in gibberish when you’re not cute? You get committed.

When you’re the best at your craft, you can break rules, because you understand that rules define your context; further, breaking the creative constructs when you’re at the top has the potential of winding a field — because your eyes, ears and mind have been conditioned to look for elements that produce excellence.

Breaking rules when you’re not at the top of your game? Tends to prove you never understood your context, and only provides excuses for not doing things with uppermost care and dedication.

If you’re born cute, use it. If you ain’t, work hard at mastering cuteness until you earn the right to speak gibberish.

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