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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 267

Updated on July 29, 2019

Stacking Wood

The firewood was delivered last week.

Two cords dropped in the driveway out front, which means it all has to be carried to the back, via wheelbarrow, to the aviary which will act as a wood shed during the winter.

Two cords is a lot of wood for those of you unfamiliar.

I like stacking wood. There’s a bit of an art to it, stacking it so it is secure and won’t topple over, and yet has tiny gaps in it so the air flows through it and helps with the drying process. It is tedious work at times, but it is also rewarding. Every layer is important. If you get lazy laying the first layer, your stack will fall over sooner or later. Concentrate on the details and everything will be all right; skimp on the details and your stack will come tumbling down.

People always ask me how you build a successful writing business/career.

It’s a bit like stacking wood!

Let’s do this Mailbag thing.

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

History of the Mailbag

From Mary: “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?”

Thank you Mary! I actually started them on a Monday because it fit into my schedule best on that day. I think it was a reader who mentioned, after about a month of Mailbags, that it was a good way for her to start her week in the right frame of mind. I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t. Truth be told, I wasn’t even planning on this being a series. I was just trying to toss all the recently-asked questions into one article and be done with them. But after the first Mailbag, more questions followed, and more, and more, and here we are, five years later!

Pinch It Off?

From Mel: “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?”

First of all, Mel, that phrase “pinch it off and get off the pot” is a classic. A bit graphic, yes, but a classic nonetheless. I have never heard that one, so thank you!

No, no one reads my work as I’m writing it. I have a hard enough time getting local friends and family to read it after it’s completed. My wife would be the obvious candidate, but she’s much too busy with her own career to look over my shoulder while I’m writing.

If I write something I’m sure she would like, I read it to her in the evening, but other than that, no one reads my work until I dump it in your lap during the week.

I do agree that a writer cannot see his own writing objectively. What’s that old saying? A doctor who diagnoses himself has a fool for a patient? Kinda the same thing, don’t you think?

My Work Ethos

From Liz: “I admire your work ethos. Do you write every day or do you take days off to recharge?”

Thank you Liz! It ain’t what it once was. When I first started with HP I wrote an article per day for two solid years, 730 in 730, and I was pretty proud of that. But no more! I write five days per week, and on weekends I’ll maybe write two hours in the early morn to tie up loose ends.

My body of work continues to grow, but not at such a frantic pace.

I actually need to think about a vacation of sorts. I haven’t taken one in seven or eight years. I’m thinking of driving down to Southern Oregon to see my best friend Frank in September. I think I need to get away from it all for a few days to do as you suggested, re-charge.

No real regrets
No real regrets

REGRETS?

From Zulma: “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 realized that Harry and Hermione were the better pairing. Any thoughts?”

It’s a fascinating question, Zulma, and my quick answer is no, I really like my characters and I’m quite happy with their development. Any dissatisfaction I have about my books has to do with the development of the storyline and not the character.

I love my very first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle from Yesterday to Today,” but I could do a much better job with it today than I did seven years ago. Truthfully, that’s the only book I’m dissatisfied with. I love “Resurrecting Tobias” and wouldn’t change a thing about it except possibly shortening some of the “readings.” And I love the “Shadow” series. The beauty of doing a series is it gives you a chance to cover up early deficiencies in later installments, and you always have time to add to character development. I’m working on the sixth installment of that series now, and I’m just getting around to an in-depth look at one of the main characters, Striker, so doing a series is very rewarding in that way.

Judging from my meager book sales, maybe I should regret some decisions about my characters. LOL

Great question . . . thank you!

We are a bit unorthodox around our house
We are a bit unorthodox around our house

Back to the Woodpile

So, did you understand the analogy?

Here’s the thing about building a writing career: there are no shortcuts!

I think back to the classic days of Rock n Roll in the Sixties. There were quite a few one-hit wonders back then, as record companies were very eager to sign on just about anyone who had a tune and could come close to singing. But just as quickly as those groups hit the scene, they disappeared, never to be heard from again. They didn’t have what I call “staying power.” They didn’t know how to write music. They barely could play a guitar, and they could barely carry a tune. They flamed out quickly, while groups like The Beatles, The Stones, etc., had hit after hit after hit. Those successful groups had paid their dues early on. They learned their craft, so that when their big break did happen, they had the foundation to build upon.

It’s not that much different with writers. I can think of only one truly talented one-hit wonder in literature, and that would be Harper Lee. But for every Harper Lee there were hundreds of others, like John D. MacDonald, who labored for decades getting any kind of writing gig they could find just to put food on the table. Finally their big chance arrived, and they had the chops to succeed because of all that hard work done earlier.

Build your firewood stack carefully. Pay attention to details.

And have a great week of writing and living. In the final analysis, it’s how you lived your life that’s important; not how you wrote an article or book.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mary! I'm going to give your question some thought rather than answer it here. Look for it on Monday, and have a wonderful weekend.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      12 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I always love your closing words. Yes, what really matters is how we live our life. Bill, there are no shortcuts but weren't there some gifted ones who just put their thoughts on paper and presto, a novel came? There are also times when everything just seems to flow and without much labour, an article comes. Or, isn't this the result of hours and hours of thinking and observing and whatever else it takes to write with such flow?

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My best to you and yours, Dora, and my heartfelt thanks always.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Truth, John! There is nothing worse (I know from experience) than having a stack of wood topple over the day after you finished stacking. Grrrrr!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You and me both, Mel! I just don't do well with long-term planning. I tend to forget what I'm planning for after awhile. lol

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ruby! I have no experience with coal...I think the house i grew up in originally had a coal furnace, but my parents switched it over early on...dirty, nasty stuff is all I remember about it.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Shannon!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      12 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, so little said but so much inspiration from the woodpile reference. "Keep at it" is what I hear and I enjoy doing just that. Thanks again for the weekly mailbag

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      12 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Enjoyable mailbag Bill. I love the firewood stacking analogy. I used to actually enjoy stacking firewood too so that it didn’t topple over. It relates very well to writing.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      12 months ago from San Diego California

      Great analogy about the firewood. I wish I would have started stacking about 30 years ago, but it took the Internet to compensate for my innate laziness. Another stupendous mailbag, thank you.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      12 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I grew up in coal country, so it was my job to fill the coal bucket daily. Now we have electric heat with a gas fireplace, no labor needed, but I bet your muscles are strong? I also liked the wood piled in the closet. The summer has passed too fast. Thanks for all you do to help us be better writers.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      12 months ago from Texas

      Hahahaha!!!!! Thanks for the laugh!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting and quite unique, Linda. Bev gets all the credit for that brainstorm.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh well indeed, Lori. It's their loss, I figure. As for carpenter ants...no bark, no ants. It worked out fine. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I will, Linda, probably in September when it cools down a bit in Ashland. It's 100 there right now and there is no way I'm visiting in 100 degrees.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, that was all Bev's idea. I came home one day and she had filled the closet. After I stopped laughing I had to admire it for its cleverness.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill! Looking back I'm not sure how I kept up that pace and still managed to write anything of substance. :) Enjoy your week, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, you, a Potterhead? who woulda thunk it? Not me...never could get into that series, but I love what you said about getting kids to read...very true.

      The wood in the closet was Bev's idea. Pretty clever woman I married.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Mary, and I appreciate you always being here. It's nice to catch up with friends in the Mail Room each week.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! I'm just giving back that which was given to me.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Pop! Have a great week ahead, my friend!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Verlie! Winter is coming whether we want it to or not, I'm afraid.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I think we all go through that, Liz, looking at old works. That probably means we are growing as writers, right?

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's nice of you to say, Alyssa! Thank you! I always enjoy hearing from the Workout Queen of Ohio!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad to hear that, Melissa. Thank you! You are appreciated greatly!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Shannon, you need a nap...today....on a Tuesday, the real Tuesday...and then you need to go pick up that wood because it just fell over. lol

      Best wishes on your week!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Marlene, you are stronger than me. Editing scientific stuff for engineers? I hope they paid you a lot, my friend. That sounds like a day on Valium to me. lol

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That warms my heart, Chitrangada Sharan. Thank you for saying that.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Pamela and I am grateful I can still do work like this.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      12 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      A stack of wood for the winter sounds like a great idea. The photo of the wood stored in the closet is very interesting!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      12 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      That is a heck of a lot of wood to store in a closet. I hope there are no carpenter ants in it, lol.

      I have had second thoughts on a few things in one particular story. One was killing of one of my main characters. Someone said, "I feel like I've lost my best friend." I guess in a way that's good because it says the character was relatable and endearing as she was meant to be. If someone can make an emotional connection I know I've done something good.

      No one I know reads my stuff either. Nor do they care about my stand up comedy jokes. I do have a few friends who support me in the latter and give me feedback but for the most part, people know the real me and it doesn't work for them. Oh well.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, I sincerely hope that you will take the time to visit your friend. The only thing that is certain is now--tomorrow is not guaranteed. The time away will refresh your creative Muse and nourish your soul.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      12 months ago from USA

      I like the woodpile analogy and when I saw that photo i was curious. Someone should really explain the whys and wheretofors of that woodpile in a closet. That’s the most interesting thing I’ve seen in a while.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      12 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Hard to believe it’s been over 5 years for the mailbag? I do remember the days when you were writing a hub a day. 730 hubs in 730 days must be a HubPages record.

      I hope you take that vacation to southern Oregon. Have a great week, Bill.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      12 months ago from Beautiful South

      Bill, I'm beginning to think your Q & A is turning into a great topic show. I love a couple of the comments from both you and the readers. Another one hit wonder writer I'm sure you'll recognize was Margaret Mitchell. Remember her? "Frankly, Scarlet, I don't give a damn!"

      I'm glad that J.K. Rowling woke up and saw the error of her ways. It was only logical that Hermione should have been with Harry, not Ron. And the wife who ended up with Harry shouldn't haven't even been on the scale. Yes, I am a Potterhead, and so was my mother. Ms. Rowling singlehandedly accomplished something that other people had never been able to do. She made young people read! Thousands of kids who may have never picked up a book became readers, thanks to her Harry Potter series.

      Anyway, loved your mailbag today. Your wood closet is quite unusual. As they say around here "whoda thunkit?" Sure keeps it from getting wet, like today. We went to Walmart in the sunshine and came out in pouring down rain. Have a good week, my friend.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      12 months ago from Brazil

      Have to agree with the other comments, the woodpile is a good analogy.

      I always look forward to your mailbag.

      Thanks for including the TED talks, they often have great information.

      Have a wonderful week.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good questions and answers again my friend. You are my motivational speaker. I'm now ready to tackle the week.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      12 months ago

      Good relationships will grow using your woodpile philosophy. I like it!

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      12 months ago from Canada

      Hey Bill. I envy your wood pile. I do know how to stack wood, so I'm feeling a bit more confident now. Great analogy!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      12 months ago from UK

      I liked the stacking wood analogy. I am getting into a routine of expecting your mailbag at the beginning of the week. I was interested in your comments about getting others to read as you write, as I too prefer to get on with it and let others read when I'm done. I am impressed by your current work rate and even more so by your start up rate on HubPages. Those are impressive figures. It definitely sounds like you are due a vacation. I hope you get one sorted soon. I was interested in your comments about your first novel. I guess that's how writing style and skills develop. I look at earlier articles I wrote and reckon I would write them differently now.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 

      12 months ago from Ohio

      Happy Monday, Bill! Wood stacking is a great workout! (I've never done it, but I realize that it takes a lot of effort.) Another awesome mailbag this week. I look forward to taking a little time to visit, read through the questions, and see what your answers are. I also love the tidbits of wisdom you throw in each week in your intro and conclusion. Thank you for keeping this series going. Have a wonderful week!

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      12 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! I certainly agree that getting your mailbag every Monday has become signal for the start of my week. It's a ritual that I look forward to every week!

      Have a happy and productive week!

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      12 months ago from Texas

      Geesh.....I totally just thought it was Tuesday and that I'd missed your mailbag "yesterday." Maybe I skipped a week? It's all running together all of a sudden. It's been a long month. I think I need to recharge!

      I like the firewood analogy. But it seems to me, the foundation includes networking somewhere near the bottom of the pile and....well, I barely have time to do anything I want to do these days. I find thrills in little accomplishments and then am quickly reminded of all that I still need to do and simply do not have the time to do.

      Hope you have a fantastic week!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      12 months ago from USA

      Wow! Five years is a very long time, yet it seems like the Mailbag has only been around for a very short while. It is enjoyable to read and I like that your introduction gives us a little insight into what's happening with you and the world of writing.

      I once worked in the publishing department of a company that sold scientific material. The publishing department published the company manuals and student guides. There were ten engineers whose work I was hired to edit and send to publishing. On the first day that I sat down at my desk, the first thing the manager warned me about was that the engineers will submit changes all the way up to the final second of the publishing deadline. Some will even send in changes after the deadline. She was right. The closer it got to the deadline, the more frantic it became for the editors. Every time the engineers read their copy, they weren't satisfied with this word or that phrase. They were constantly re-writing. As writers, I guess we all are kind of like that and we do need to, at some point, get off the pot and send the thing in.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      12 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Interesting questions and answers this week too. I agree, that the mailbag is a good motivator, to start the week. I look forward to the mailbags and in fact, have become used to it. Keep them coming.

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Have a great week.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      12 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Stacking wood sounds like great exercise because it is hard work. Be grateful you are healthy and strong enough to do that type of chore.

      I like the analogy of stacking wood to building a writing career. I found your article interesting today, as always on Monday. I always learn a new thing or two, which I appreciate. Have a good week, Bill.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Heidi, for being there for the entirety. As for that vacation, I'm trying to work out a specific date today, so it is definitely going to happen.

      Wishing you a fantastic week!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That is kind of you, Shaloo...thank you! Now I write creatively one day per week, which seems so lame. lol

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad to hear that, Devika. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's kind of you to say, Eric. I try, which is all any of us can do. What I wouldn't give for a firewood shoot right about now. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm with you, Nell. If I truly cared about money I would have taken up another profession.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you William. I'm working on the scheduling as we speak.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad you liked the firewood analogy, Janine. I thought long and hard on that one. ;)

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      12 months ago from Chicago Area

      G'morning!

      Re: Mailbag History. I can't believe it's been that long. But glad you started it. In fact, I remember when you did start it. Enjoyed seeing history in the making. :)

      Re: Perfection. Yep, at some point you just gotta say, "It's done." I just went through this and have decided to move forward. Could what I've been working on be longer. Sure. But would it be better? Probably not. Moving on...

      And, yes, I think you should take a vacation. :) But have a good week in the meantime!

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      12 months ago from India

      It was interesting to read about stacking wood. I have absolutely zero idea about the whole thing. And one hub a day...wow! You were quite a prolific writer...and a good one too!!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      12 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting hub and always full of ideas and hints.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      12 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Back when I did the firewood we had a shoot going down into the basement, one of us hauling, one handing it in and two stacking.

      Then my brothers and sisters moved away. Then it was brutal.

      I think it was rather fun when we were doing an article a day (in my case trying)

      Before the mailbag, doing that and reading yours everyday honed my skill. You always lead and teach by example. Thanks

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      12 months ago from England

      Great advice as always Bill. I may not sell a lot of my books, but when I get a good review it makes my day! no money, but who cares? LOL!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      12 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Bill, I think I would pencil in my day-timer that trip down south. Seven is too long in my opinion. Go get recharged, my friend. Thanks again for all the good information.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      12 months ago from New York, New York

      Bill, love the firewood analogy and makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for the great insight this Monday morning and now wishing you a wonderful week ahead!! :)

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