Enjoy The Magic While You Can

In the early 90s I renewed my interest in a childhood hobby—sleight of hand. I started going to a local magic club, met other magicians, and learned new tricks.

During my first visit to the club they played a video of renowned coin magician David Roth. It blew my mind. I sat mesmerized as coins vanished from under one playing card and instantly appearing under another.

I realized I had discovered a new level of magic I’d never experienced as a kid. A sense of wonder gripped me as I tried to fathom how the tricks were done. From that moment on I devoured books, videos, and watched as other magicians taught how to make the magic happen.

A year and a half later I was performing many of the same tricks that held me spellbound at those first club meetings. I loved seeing the look of astonishment in friend’s eyes as I performed, but I’d lost the wonder. I now stood behind the curtain.

The Writing Magic

When I leapt into the writing world, every conversation about publishing held the same wonder as that first magic club meeting. Every book on craft, every interview with a published author, every article in Writer’s Digest mesmerized me as the coins did. And going to my first conference in ’06? Disneyland!

A year later I became a category coordinator for the ACFW Genesis contest and secretly dreamed of a day when I would be asked to judge an entry. I dreamed of a day when I would enter my own manuscript in the Genesis contest.

I dreamed of the time I would get an agent, then a contract. I fantasized about the day I would hold my own novel, and about the day I’d get an e-mail from a reader saying my book had impacted them. I got a bit giddy when pretending another author would ask me to endorse their book.

Now those days of wonder are gone. I got the agent and the contract. I sat on my front porch and held my first novel in my hands, and my eyes grew moist. Holding my second novel was different. It was nice, but it didn’t get suddenly dusty like it did before. I’d stepped behind the curtain.

Don’t misunderstand. I love being where I’m at on the publishing journey. And I know there is more wonder coming. But it’s different now.

I suppose this entire post is a way to say to those of you who are pre-published, trust me, while it’s hard waiting, there is magic in those moments. Savor them. They won’t come again.

James L. Rubart is the best-selling author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com

I Can’t Kill The Editor!

But I want to.

I long to slay the internal editor keeping me from enjoying books the way I used to. But the more I learn about the craft of writing, the harder it is to find books I can get lost in. I can’t shut off the editor. And there are a number of craft issues that feel like 40-grit sandpaper rubbing on my mind.

Can you relate?

With that in mind I’d like to riff on two of my biggest pet peeves of writing:

The unnecessary use of ‘THAT’.

Back in ’84 during my internship at a Seattle radio station, the first thing the news director said to me after hello was, “’That’ is the most overused word in the English language. He was right, and while I realize I’m bailing water on the Titanic to harp on the subject, I’m going to anyway. If we’re supposed to write tight and cut unnecessary words why do we still see “that” everywhere?

An occasional unneeded ‘that’ doesn’t bother me—much. I’m talking every other page or so. But when it’s every paragraph I get irritated. When I see two unneeded ‘that’s’ in one sentence I want to break things.

And when I see it used THREE times in ONE sentence it automatically passes go, collects $200 and takes its rightful place in the That Abuse Hall of Fame.

Here’s an example of a that tri-fecta from a recent issue of Writers Digest. It comes from an article on an agent. First let’s look at the sentence, with the ‘thats’ taken out:

“When I was an editor, I believed when an agent sent me something, and I thought it was terrific, my response was an absolute—and every editor who had it also must have thought it was terrific.”

Did you miss the that’s? Didn’t think so.

Here’s the line again with the ‘thats’ plugged in:

“When I was an editor, I believed THAT when an agent sent me something and I thought it was terrific, THAT my response was an absolute—and THAT every editor who had it also must have thought it was terrific.”

This from is an accomplished editor who is now an accomplished agent. See how easy it is for anyone to let the ‘that’ mosquito buzz their writing?

Here’s another example—from yesterday’s sports page: “FOX Sports has learned THAT the Broncos have been quietly shopping their one-time starter since the NFL Scouting Combine in late February.”

From yesterday’s political pages: “At the risk of annoying supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who believe THAT the mainstream news media don’t pay attention to their candidate …”

Why is Everyone Starting to When They Should Just Do It?

Do you notice this one? Writers have their characters starting to do something they could simply do.

“John was starting to worry about the boat.”

Really? How can you start to get worried? The only way it can happen is if something interrupts John and he stops worrying. Why not say, “John worried about the boat.”

I think two pet peeves are enough for the moment. But fear not. We shall visit more in the future. And yes, I apologize. Now you’ll see unneeded ‘that’s’ everywhere as well as people who won’t stop starting.

What about you? Is there a writing faux pas that you can’t help but notice? One that you’d like to point out to us? Tell us about it. We’re starting to listen.

James L. Rubart is the best-selling author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com

None of Them Had it Easy. None.

Are you a fan of Biography? Here are a few of the profiles I’ve taken a gander at in the past two months:

• John Travolta
• The Rolling Stones
• Jamie Lee Curtis
• Eminem
• Jodie Foster
• Chelsea Handler
• Anthony Hopkins
• Jennifer Lopez
• Kelly Clarkson
And wait! Yes, I watched more!

It’s fascinating to see where these celebs came from, what got them there and what they had to go through to get there. If I may be frank, even though I’m really Jim, I was surprised.

I had this idea that most stars walked into their gifting/destiny with a few minor pebbles in the road, not a street where bombs had gone off and were still exploding.

ALL of the stories revealed serious setbacks before these stars achieved fame and fortune. All. (And they continued to have challenges.)

A repeating mantra when outsiders describe these people are statements like:

“They were so incredibly determined.”

“They worked harder than anyone else.”

“They knew what they wanted, fixed their eyes on it and refused to give up.”

“No one came to see them at first, but they didn’t care. They just kept at it.”

I suppose I could have made this post much shorter and simply said, “Hey, it’s tough on everyone who wants to reach a dream, you’re not alone.” But I think knowing others have been on and are on this path helps.

It comes down to this: You have to believe in yourself. When no one else does. There is no other choice.

There is no other road.

James L. Rubart is the best-selling author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com

You Don’t Have The Money? Sorry, I Don’t Believe You

For years I told myself I was willing to do whatever it took to be an author.

Like go to a conference.

Not a half day workshop or a gathering of writers at the local library. A full-out writer’s conference with editors and agents. Where I’d have to pitch. Show my work. Risk rejection. Try to make the dream become more than a dream.

I had a specific conference in mind, but every spring when the time to register smacked into my calendar I started dancing the rumba.

You know, the conference fence dance where I wasn’t sure if I was going or not.

And every spring I landed on the wrong side and promised I’d go next year. (For seven years.)

Deep down I didn’t think I was ready to go, wasn’t good enough to go, and I was scared. But I didn’t admit it to myself then. The excuse I used was money; that I didn’t have enough.

You’re not using that one are you? Because that’s all it is. An excuse. Before you lambast me, listen to my logic. By the time the final cha ching fades on the cost of a major writing conference you could shell out anywhere from $500 – $1,200. (Conference cost, hotel, airfare, CDs, etc.)

Yes, that’s some serious coin of the realm, but you have the money. Really.

• Three lattes per week: $5 each x 4 = $60 x 12 = $600

• Monthly cable bill: $50+ x 12 = $600

• Monthly dinners out: $50 x 2 = $100 x 12 = $1,000

“But I gotta have my lattes, Jim!” Uh huh. “I gotta have my cable!” Really? Okay, then have it. But don’t say you don’t have the money to go to a conference.

Say, “Cable TV and lattes and dinners out and new clothes (and whatever else you spend non-essential money on) are more important to me than going to a conference and taking this writing thing seriously.”

My friend Roy Williams says, “The risk of insult is the price of clarity.” I realize I’ve risked insulting some people with the above. That’s not my intent and I am fully cognizant of writers who want desperately to go to a writing conference and have already cut their budgets deep into the bone.

My intent is to reach the people who are like I was. Scared. Feeling unworthy to come. Allowing the dream to stay only a dream. Using the excuse of money to hold them back.

I want to tell them all published authors were once where they are. I want to tell them if they’re serious about writing they’ll make sacrifices to be able to take action. And without question, if you’re intent on being a writer, going to a major writing conference will take your aspirations beyond the next level.

Yes, it costs a lot to go to the Super Bowl, but there’s a vast difference between watching the game on TV and being in the stands.

Yes, it costs a lot to go to a conference, but there’s a vast difference between reading about the publishing industry in a book or magazine and being there live.

So if you can skip a latte or two, laser in on a conference you’ve wanted to go to and commit. If we wind up at the same one, the first Starbucks run is on me.

James L. Rubart is the bestselling and award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. He’s the owner of Barefoot Marketing and lives in the Pacific Northwest with his amazing wife and two outstanding teenage sons. More at: jameslrubart.com FB- James L. Rubart Twitter @jimrubart