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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 266

Updated on July 22, 2019

A Strange Day

It’s a strange day when I’m quoting Wolfgang Puck:

“Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors - it's how you combine them that sets you apart.”

But I love that quote!

What sets your writing apart from the rest? Is it even important that it does stand apart from the crowd? Maybe it is enough for you to simply write? It’s all right if that is all you want. Writing simply for the enjoyment of writing is a worthy goal and pursuit, or so it seems to me. If the only person you have entertained with your writing is you, it’s been a good day in my humble opinion.

I started writing as a means of releasing so much “stuff” trapped inside of me. It became a way for me to communicate with others online. I wrote a book, but not for a moment did I think anyone would buy it I wrote articles, and somewhere along that timeline I came to realize that I had a serious passion for writing. It became something I simply had to do.

And so here I am today, quite happy with my decision.

Let’s find out what our colleagues are interested in today, shall we?

The Mail Room!
The Mail Room!

Odds and Ends

From Li-Jen: I 've got a few questions to ask.

“Are you particular about the newspaper you read? If so, why? Any favorites?

What are your tips and tricks on researching for the article you want to write about? What are the interesting things you have found out during the process of research, in general?

What do you think about social problems these days? Any opinions on how to make a change?”

Well that was an interesting array of questions, Li-Jen.

I loved the old days when I would sit down on a Sunday morning and read the News Tribune. I haven’t done that for a long time. Now I scan the various online newspapers throughout the day, trying to catch the major stories . . . but it’s just not the same, you know?

I have no tips, or tricks, for researching an article, other than this one: make sure you confirm your facts through at least two respected sources. The online world is filled with false information, so make sure your facts are actually facts.

The most interesting information I found while researching for one of my books with general information about the Vietnam War. I was in college during that time, and I thought I knew about it, but it turns out I had much to learn. Currently I’m researching World War 2. No, I don’t have a fascination with war, but I do have a fascination with human beings. I want to try and understand the war mentality. I want to understand what it must feel like to be in a war. If I can capture those feelings perhaps I can become a better writer.

What do I think of the social problems these days? How much time do you have for my rant?

No, seriously, it would be so easy to say “all you need is love,” which I believe, by the way, but I also believe that man is at least partially violent in nature, and I also think that greed will always be a major influence in our everyday lives. We cannot eliminate greed by simply loving. We cannot eliminate war by simply loving. These things will always be with us. Corrupt leaders will always be a part of the social and political landscape. All I can do is my part to make this a better world.

Thanks so much for the questions!

All you need is love!
All you need is love!

More on Deadlines

From Liz: “As always I was interested in the answers you gave. If you don't set deadlines, do you set yourself a target of how much time to spend writing each day?”

Liz yes, that I do! I write each day from about 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., give or take a half-hour. I wouldn’t call it a target; for me it’s just part of my daily schedule.

More on Publishing

From MizB: “Short mailbag today, more on publishing than writing. That brings up a problem, to really push one's work or to self-publish and let it be. Sometimes a work gets published that becomes a cult classic despite all its handicaps. If we were all that lucky....”

Not really a question from MizB, but an interesting observation which all authors must face eventually. How long and how hard do you push for traditional publishing? When do you just throw up your hands and say “that’s it, it’s time to self-publish?” To me, that is purely an individual decision. After my second novel, “Resurrecting Tobias,” I just gave up trying to find a traditional publisher. I really thought that book was going to be picked up by someone. It wasn’t, and when it wasn’t I was deflated and soured on traditional publishing.

But that’s just me . . . you will have to decide where your breaking point is.

All unwanted by publishers!
All unwanted by publishers!

When to Quit

From Brian: “Thanks, Bill, for your answer to my question if you set self-deadlines. (You don't.) I suspect that one reason that you accomplish so much writing per day—original, on assignment, comments, whatever—is that you have a strong sense of when "that's enough said".

And that is very true, Brian! I discovered very early on that I needed to learn to just walk away from a piece and declare it “finished.” Otherwise I could tinker with it until hell freezes over and never publish another writing.

Short stories get one edit. A novel gets three edits. An article may only get an original writing, depending on how I feel about it when I finish it . ..and that’s it! I just publish them and I’m done with them after that. It is then time to move on to the next project. And actually this is something a mentor talked to me about many years ago regarding my alcoholism: just let it go, Bill, and quit chewing on it forever!”

I’ll tell you a secret, Brian: I am never satisfied. I never think my writing is as good as it could be. If I could just make this sentence better . . . if I could just tweak this paragraph . . . maybe I should add a clarifier here . . . it is endless if I allow it, and if I allow it nothing will be accomplished.

Back to Your Flavors

I will let you go, now, so you can return to your writing and your own unique flavor. Cherish it, my friends. Your writing is uniquely you, and I happen to think that is very cool! My favorite flavor, by the way, is Reese’s Peanut Butter in ice cream. I have it every night, thank you very much, which probably explains why my belly is growing.

Ya think?

Someone asked me the other day how many times my blog has been read. The answer was a few thousand, and this guy expressed dismay that the number was so low. I guess it is . . . but whatever! I told him if you added the blog to HP to my books, the number is closer to two million. He seemed to think that was much better.

Whatever! I'm just a writer, not an accountant!

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      8 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Genna. Thank you! I do have to walk away or I'll worry a piece to death and never publish anything.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      8 days ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Bill. That Puck quote is great! "...there are only so many flavors - it's how you combine them that sets you apart.” Yup! And therein lies the challenge.

      " I’ll tell you a secret, Brian: I am never satisfied. I never think my writing is as good as it could be. If I could just make this sentence better . . . if I could just tweak this paragraph . . . maybe I should add a clarifier here . . . it is endless if I allow it, and if I allow it nothing will be accomplished."

      I have to admit that I'm never satisfied, either. I never know when to walk away, and let it go. It's an ongoing struggle for me. I like your edit schedules, Bill, which make a lot of sense. You write so well, I think you've crafted the perfect solution. :-)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      It's always good enough, Jo! Thank you for always being here.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      3 weeks ago from Tennessee

      Great start to my day again, Bill. I loved the little video, Good Enough, that you shared, maybe especially since I'm a week late again getting to this article. I hope that's good enough.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      That is kind of you to say, Rochelle. Thank you very much. I feel the same about you. Blessings to you in Sri Lanka, my young friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Me too, Zulma! I just went to the library yesterday and came home with some books. I love the library. There is something very comforting about being surrounded by all of those physical books.

      Have yourself a fantastic weekend, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm going to start blushing, Audrey, so stop it! :) Thanks my friend....I happen to think you are pretty special too.

      love,

      bill

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      Rochelle Ann De Zoysa 

      3 weeks ago from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

      Hi Sir Billy how are you? I'm glad you began to write and I got to know you through your work :) I learn so many things from you :) God bless you!!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      3 weeks ago from United Kingdom

      Although I have a quite a few ebooks, I have to say I'm not a fan. I only purchase them when it's the only format available or the book's free to download. It's just not the same. I like the feel of the paper and smell of the ink when I open a new book. It's like letting my brain know it's time to gear up the imagination for an adventure. I just don't get the same feeling with an ebook and it takes a little longer to get into the story.

      Have a great weekend, Bill.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      How in the world could we ever get along without you, Bill? It seems that whatever we need, you are there with one helpful mailbag after another. You sweeten our writing with your unending kindness and willingness to share pieces of your gift for writing.

      A cherished friend comes along once in a million years, and you are truly one-in-a-million.

      Thank you,

      Love,

      Audrey

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      It ain't easy, Verlie, for me or anyone else, but thank you for your kind words. Enjoy this lovely summer of ours.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Bill....I might have to go out and buy a newspaper. I miss reading one. Have a great week, buddy!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Great question, Zulma, but that comes as no surprise. I was just thinking about this the other day. Weird...quick answer yes...longer answer coming Monday. Thank you my friend!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Venkatachari M. I can honestly say I've never read an e-book and probably never will. Just call me old.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Good for you, Marlene, and yes, it is her loss. My attitude exactly!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Li-Jen for thinking I'm funny. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Heidi! I do miss the dead tree version, but not enough to go buy one. lol Perfect summer temps here, and I'm one happy old man.

      Cheers!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Lori, that is sadly funny! A sign of the times, for sure, but I'm not sure that is progress, you know? Thanks for sharing that.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Peg! Wishing you a brilliant week ahead.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I will for sure, Dora! Thank you always, my friend!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      The pleasure is all mine, William. Thank you sir!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm with you, Nithya! It is an enjoyable way to spend some time.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      3 weeks ago from Canada

      Hi Bill, There are so many obstacles in the way of the writer; it is a miracle that we find the time, and the presence of mind to write at all. But you make it look easy, and that is encouraging. Love may not fix all the world's troubles, but it can't hurt. Have a great week!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I've never had either of those, Flourish, but now I must try them. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Alyssa, for sharing your memories of newspapers. Sad that we've given them up, isn't it? Sigh! Come on out and I'll buy you an ice cream cone. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm happy to hear that, Linda. Thank you as always.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks MizB! Luck for sure...in the right spot at the right time, for sure...know someone in the industry, for sure. Other than those things, which is like getting hit by lightning, it ain't going to happen. :)

      Mild summer all the way here, which is perfect for this wimp.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      It's odd about newspapers, Liz. Why don't we take the time to read them any longer? I'm guilty as well, and I used to love sitting down and reading the papers....such a strange thing to give up because of a hectic schedule. Oh well....no, I don't write every day any longer. I take weekends off. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Shaloo, I'm sorry to hear that, and unfortunately I don't see the trend changing. Best wishes to you always.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      All is well here, Melissa. Not much of a heatwave here...one day! It's been a mild summer so far, and I'm just fine with that.

      Have a great week, my friend!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      4 weeks ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Great advice on researching information. There is truly so much misinformation out there at this point. I also like your "enough is enough" sentiment with editing and with traditional publishing.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for that warning on second-checking research information, and I can relate to that "When to Quit" answer. We're never finished. Have another wonderful and productive week!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      4 weeks ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I like your flavor, Bill. Works for me! Thanks for another mailbag. Heavy or light, I always have the pleasure of learning from you. Thank you, my friend!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. I haven't read a printed newspaper in years. Like you I now get most of my news from online sources. The "When to Quit" question certainly rang a bell with me. I could get caught up in editing and rewriting hubs for weeks on end. But, if I allow that then nothing ever gets finished. I seem to be just as OCD when it comes to the photos. Sometimes it takes me longer to edit and decide on which photos to include than it does to write the article. have a great week, Bill.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      4 weeks ago from United Kingdom

      Here's a question for you, Bill.

      Do you ever regret any decisions you've made regarding your characters. I heard recently that JK Rowling said she made a mistake shipping Ron and Hermione. In hindsight she realised the Harry and Hermione were the better pairing. Any thoughts?

      Sorry for the brevity, but I've got loads to catch up on today. Enjoy your day.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      4 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

      An interesting mailbag with good discussions. I agree with you that each profession is great in its own way, whether cooking, drawing, painting, or writing.

      I love the hard stuff of books or newspapers so that I can touch and hold in my hand. I read the newspaper every day in the afternoon time, especially the front page with breaking news and the editorial columns. I appreciate those writers on different issues of life expressing their opinions with some pun and thereby conveying some good message to the people.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      4 weeks ago from USA

      I was talking to my husband today about my writing career. Writing career! Imagine that. Eight years ago, I did not categorize what I did as a career. Yet, so much of what I do involves writing. Today, I quoted to a long-time client, a price for a writing assignment she offered. She said she couldn't afford my price. Eight years ago I would have reduced my price just to get the assignment. Today, my attitude was, "Oh well... her loss!" Thanks for today's mailbag. It is a valuable resource for me.

    • Li-Jen Hew profile image

      Li-Jen Hew 

      4 weeks ago

      Hi Bill, thank you very much for answering my questions. Your answers is something I look forward to. Enjoy the process of researching World War 2. The other questions are interesting as well. Your humour and creativity are your flavours. Thank for sharing!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Happy Monday (still)!

      Re: Newspapers? I remember the old newspaper days. We never got the dailies, but we got the big, honkin' Chicago Tribue Sunday paper. It weighed pounds, full of ads, classifieds, special segments, TV listings... wow. Today, I have an RSS feed reader with the half dozen or so blogs I follow daily. Not missing the dead tree version.

      Re: When to Quit. I'm dealing with this at the moment. I'm doing a short book. I've said pretty much all I want to say on the topic, but am torn between "it's enough" and "is it enough." I think I'll add a few more points and then move on.

      It was beautiful today here in Chicago. So good start to the week. Hope yours is starting good, too. Cheers!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      4 weeks ago from Dubai

      Another great writer’s mailbag, I read online newspapers but I still love picking up a newspaper and reading it as soon as it is delivered in the morning with a hot cup of coffee.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 weeks ago from USA

      My favorite ice cream flavor is Heavenly Hash. You can barely find the stuff anywhere but wow is it ever good. My second favorite is Black Walnut, the mustier flavored the better. I wasn’t really hungry until I got to the end of your article.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 

      4 weeks ago from Ohio

      Hahahaha! I love that last bit you included! And ice cream each night? That's an evening ritual I can get behind! :) Another excellent mailbag this week. I also miss having the newspaper. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' house. The dining room table was always covered in the latest editions of newspapers.. both local and national. I have fond memories of sitting at that table with my grandpa and uncle while they hashed out their political beliefs and opinions on the current news. Have a wonderful week my friend!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      4 weeks ago from Pacific Northwest

      Bill, what is a newspaper? Haha. I miss that experience also. I could be wrong but it seems newspapers are not as toxic as online news. But I like hard copies of things. I go to church or a recovery meeting and all I see is everyone using their device to read. It's not wrong or bad, but I prefer to feel something in my hands. I love the sound of turning pages, the smell of print.

      The funniest thing happened at my church one Sunday morning. One of our elders was bringing the message. All his notes and Scriptures were on his tablet. The media guy in the back also had some points he was supposed to put up on the big screen. Well, right in the middle of the message, the elder's tablet went wonky and his message notes disappeared. He started freaking out. He told the media guy to put up his notes and that malfunctioned too. So the guy is still freaking out. I was in the second row directly in front of him and I yelled out "We have Bibles." Then I pointed to the table with Bibles and literature on it. I don't recall what happened after that. It's actually kind of sad but much more funny.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This week's Mailbag contains some interesting points, as always. My favorite part is the "When to Quit" section. It contains some useful things for writers to remember.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      4 weeks ago from Beautiful South

      Hi, Bill. Love the quote by Wolfgang Puck. I think Larry found that out the hard way this week when he found a recipe and tried to improve on grandma's flour gravy. LOL, it can't be done.

      A continuation of my previous statement on publishing. I've never tried to find a publisher, and I probably never will. I think those are effective only for somebody who knows somebody...or sheer luck, like the beautiful actress who was "discovered" at the local malt shop.

      But in our world, success comes to those who persevere, eventually. Have a good rest of the hot week, my friend. We are getting some rain and cooler temps here. Down in the lower 60s tomorrow night.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 weeks ago from UK

      How times change. I still pick up free newspapers in hotels, but rarely read them through as I don't have time. Like you I find that computer news feeds come in small digestible chunks, but I question their viewpoint at times. Gone are the days when I had time to read a broadsheet all the way through. Though I envy those I know who still manage to do this.

      You give good advice about checking two sources for references.

      I admire your work ethos. Do you write every day or do you take days off to recharge?

      I am one who can edit, re-edit and go back again several times, so I value your input on the subject.

      Thanks for sharing the benefits of your experience. Have a good week, Bill.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      4 weeks ago from India

      An interesting quote to start the mailbag. It's not just you who is not into newspapers anymore. This is a general trend. Most of the readers have switched to online papers. Newspaper industry is finding it really hard to survive. I have been working with print media since more than a decade and these are definitely the worst of times for us.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      4 weeks ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Thanks for sharing your wisdom, as always. I don't know if you were caught up in the heatwave last week, but if you were I hope all your family (pets and livestock included) were able to keep cool! It's finally a little cooler here, so much more pleasant.

      Have a good and productive week!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Mel, I'll be laughing the rest of the day over your line "pinch it off and get off the pot." I've never heard that one but it's an instant classic.

      Your answer is coming next Monday. Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Pamela....it's a good day when we can spend it creating, my friend.

      Wishing you a wonderfully creative week ahead!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mary and yes, they have always been on Monday. I'm not sure I started out with that intention, but it has worked out that way.

      Wishing you an equally brilliant week down there.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Trust me, Linda. You do not want me cooking. You would need therapy after tasting some of my concoctions. :) Stay cool indeed! I just gave up yesterday and didn't even try to do anything outside.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Very kind of you, Pop! We sure wouldn't have met at a political rally. lol Thanks my friend!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      it is enough, Mary. Even if it is just for your enjoyment, it is enough.

      Thank you my friend!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Nicely stated, John. Thanks for adding that...I totally agree, of course.

      Wishing you a brilliant week ahead! Take it easy on me in Words.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 weeks ago from San Diego California

      I love your comment about tinker with it until hell freezes over. That applies to me too. At some point I guess you just have to pinch it off and get off the pot.

      Unless...Maybe that's why a writer needs another set of eyes, because his own writing eyes are only turned inwardly, and he or she cannot see his work as it really is. I think I need someone to review my work objectively, but I'm too damn bashful. What do you think about this, do you have somebody read your work as you are writing it?

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      I like the Wolfgang Puck quote. It sounds like everything is really art, including cooking. Being creative satisfies a need we seem to have about writing, and also making stained glass in my case.

      I enjoyed the mailbag today as it had some interesting questions. Have a good week Bill.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      4 weeks ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill,

      Your mailbags are a great way to kick start the week. Did you always have them on a Monday to get your reader's off to a good start?

      Have a brilliant week up there.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, here's a question to make you stop and ponder--what if you were the cook and I was the one writing the novels? (I hope you know I'm kidding with you).

      This was a particularly fun mailbag. Not weighed down with questions about grammar and punctuation; just friends having a conversation. Stay cool my friend and be thankful that we are living here and not in the Midwest or on the East Coast.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      4 weeks ago

      I am glad you chose writing as your outlet. If not, I would never have had the pleasure of reading your work.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi Bill. Your mailbag never stops to encourage me to keep writing. This is why I check it out regularly. Today, you made me even keep on. Just write. Your own writing is unique. Even if it satisfies only myself, it is enough. Thank you.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Bill, a nice little mailbag. I like the analogy of flavours and colours. It is what makes reading such a wonderful experience because every writer have their unique voice or style..no two are exactly alike. It is much like cooking..two people can follow the same recipe and come up with two totally different dishes, because they usually add a couple of special touches to make it their own. Have a great week.

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