This week’s Wednesday Writing tip is, like last week’s tip, from the school of life. My life to be exact. Which right now consists of one part waiting to find out where I land in the upcoming merger/inevitable layoffs at the day job, one part kicking myself in the rear with writing, one part parental worry about both kids though for different reasons, and one part dog training.

Let’s talk about dog training. My new dog is a 60+ pound German Shepherd puppy who is probably going to gain at least another 20+ pounds in the next year and a half as she matures. Which means we need to get her trained now before she gets any inkling of how big and strong she really is.

Like everything else in life, dog training has evolved. There are many schools of thought in how to train a dog today. We are going with a combination of positive reinforcement and NILIF, which stands for Nothing In Life Is Free. You want a treat? You do something to earn it like sit, shake hands or lay down. You want to go outside? Ring the bell. You want to go for a walk? Don’t bark in my face because I’m just going to turn my back and ignore you until you get quiet.

She’s a smart dog so she figures things out pretty quickly. I wish I had been smart enough to practice NILIF with my kids but that’s a story for a different time.

How does NILIF relate to writing?


Writing is going to cost you something. Always. No exceptions. Sometimes family time, sometimes TV time, sometimes that time in the dead of night when you might rather spend sleeping.

Sometimes the cost of writing a particular story will be the loss of a relationship when someone doesn’t understand how you could write what you did. Sometimes it will be the letting go of long-nurtured piece of anger that dissipates once the story is written.

But make no mistake, it will cost you something. And only you can decide if you are willing to pay the price.

There is an old quote that I don’t have in front of me at the moment so I can’t give proper credit but it basically says that we do not go forward and create until the pain of not creating becomes more painful than the fear of how to create.

Writing is hard work, we all know that. It is often thankless work because so many words are written that the rest of the world never sees. But I tell people all the time that it is not always the most talented writer who gets published, it is the writer who did not give up, the one who kept on going no matter what obstacles appeared along the way.  If I am not further along in my career at this point in time it was because I chose not to pay the price. 

Robert M. Pirsig’s  bestselling book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected more than 120 times before being published.  To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,  by Dr. Seuss, collected 29 rejection slips before it found a home. Stephen King received 84 rejections for a short story that eventually sold to Cavalier magazine.

I have always maintained that you can get just about anything you want out of writing, as long as you are willing to do the work.