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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wicked Crazy Writing Life

Creston Mapes is the author of NobodyDark StarFull Tilt, and the brand new thriller, Fear Has a Name. A journalist, copywriter, and editor, he works from his home-office in Atlanta for some of the nation’s top media companies, Christian ministries, and nationally-recognized corporations. His early years as a reporter inspire many of his novels.

By Creston Mapes

I’ve been writing for a living for 30 years and doing it as a freelancer for 22. Many people look at me suspiciously, probably wondering: a) If I received a huge inheritance, or b) Won the lottery. Neither is true.

Writing is a discipline and I work hard at it. What I’d like to share with you as you write and try to make a living (or at least earn some spending money) as a writer are some quick points and fun insights that I’ve picked up over the years. I’m hoping one or two of these things might help you increase your productivity, feel better physically and mentally, and keep your creative juices flowing better than ever.

As Dolly Parton would say,
“What a way to make a livin!’”

First of all, for some background, I write marketing copy for a living. Large corporations, colleges, ministries and magazines call on me to help tell their stories—on websites and videos, in ads and corporate collateral materials, and in newsletters and magazine articles.

Secondly, I write fiction “on the side.” This actually takes up much more of my time than the marketing copywriting. This is my true love, which I hope to do full-time some day soon (if you will buy my novels, tell your friends how much you love them and insist they go buy them, too).

Right now my writing journey consists of what “feel like” two full-time jobs. So, I treat them as such.

From 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., I write fiction.

From 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., I write marketing copy.

Okay, here is the schedule I’ve fine-tuned over the years. It may not be set in stone, but it is close. That’s because, if you’re going to write, you’ve got to be productive. This basic agenda has helped keep me energized, creative, fun, healthy, happy (for the most part), sociable, at my proper weight, awake, and earning a living (or, as my Dad used to say, ‘Keeping the wolves away from the door”).

5:30 a.m. – 2 – 2.5 mile walk/run
6:15 a.m. – Read Bible, pray
6:45 a.m. – Breakfast (egg and fruit)
7:10 a.m. – Get family off to school and work.
7:15 a.m. – Shower, shave, dress.
7:50 a.m. – Coffee on, into office, check email, Facebook, Twitter, news, book sales.
8:30 a.m. – Write fiction.
12 p.m. – Knock-off for healthy lunch and quick snooze (see below).
1 p.m. - More writing. Usually afternoons are spent on freelance copywriting projects, which don’t require quite as much creative power as the fiction does, which is why I save it for afternoons.
5:30 p.m. - Knock off and forget about all of it. Enjoy family, friends and life.

Secrets from the Creative Dungeon

Several things have made a big difference in keeping my energy levels up and my mind as lucid and creative as possible.

Stand Up to Write – I had a friend build me a “stand up desk.” It actually sits on my current desk and holds my mouse, keyboard, notes and coffee cup. I simply tilt my Mac screen up so I can write while standing. It’s easy to remove, so I can switch back and forth, sitting and standing, throughout the day. This has been a huge help in giving me some variety, improving my circulation, keeping me alert, encouraging me to stretch and walk around, and to burn more calories.

Drink Water – Once I’m finished with my all-important coffee intake for the morning, I start drinking water for the rest of the day. It helps keep my body relaxed and fluid, and keeps me from getting a stiff neck and headaches. When I feel a headache coming or my neck and shoulders getting sore, I know immediately it’s because I haven’t been drinking enough H20.

Eat a Healthy Lunch – Mine usually consists of soup or salad with mixed greens, cabbage, carrots, celery, soy nuts, raisins, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If I eat much more or heavier foods for lunch, I get too tired in the afternoon.

Take a Snooze! -  Often I take a quick 10-30 minute nap on the hammock in the sun right after lunch. Then I splash water on my face and get psyched up to put in a full afternoon of writing.

Take Breaks, Rock the House – Stand up and take frequent breaks. Walk around, lift hand weights, stretch, play of your favorite music: loud. This always sparks some good creative energy for me.

Leave Some Crumbs for Tomorrow - Here’s a fiction writing secret. When I’m finishing up my fiction for the day, in the flow of thought I’m in, I jot down 3 to 7 things that might happen in the manuscript the next day. That way, when I come fresh to the screen the next morning, I immediately pick up where I left off and get right into the flow.

Change the Scenery – Pick two days of the week, the same days each week, to go someplace else to work other than home. For me it’s Starbucks. For you it might be Panera, the library, McDonalds or Barnes & Noble. The point is, pick those two days and stick to them. For me, this breaks up the monotony and solitude of working at home alone, and forces me to at least get a little bit social.

I think the most important thing for me is what takes place at 6:15 each morning (see above). For, if I am not going to the well each day and drinking deeply of His living water, then I am parched and hungry and find myself trying to live out the day in my own strength. I don’t know about you, but I would rather leave all my burdens and pleas and concerns with Him each morning, and simply let Him carry me all day, every day.

I hope to meet up with you on the road at a signing somewhere, or on Twitter or Facebook, where I have a lot of fun connecting with readers, writers and all kinds of lovely people.




“Captivating from breathless start to throat-clenching finish, Fear has a Name possesses everything a great thriller should, and more. A must read for fans of Terri Blackstock and Brandilyn Collins.”
— Tamera Alexander, USA Today Bestselling author
of To Whisper Her Name and A Lasting Impression
In Fear Has a Name, Creston Mapes proves once again that he is a master of building deep characters and sending them on a twisting, breakneck journey of terror and triumph. His vivid and concise storytelling pulls you in, and by the time you realize you can’t breathe from all the suspense, it’s too late: you’re riding this baby to the end. A truly captivating work of ratcheting thrills and surprising grace. You will not be able to put it down—or get it out of your head once you finally do.
— Robert Liparulo, author of The 13th Tribe,
The Judgment Stone, and Comes a Horseman
I love novels where I look for any spare moment to keep reading. Fear Has A Name is one of them. Maybe because the tension never lets up. Maybe because Mapes left out all the boring parts. Maybe because of a plot that kept me on edge from the first words till the very end. Well done.
—  James L. Rubart, bestselling author of Rooms,
Book Of Days, The Chair, and Soul’s Gate


  1. Wow, sounds like you go about your writing in a healthier way than most of us, Creston! I do think it's great for authors to get exercise as they can--really gets those neurons firing. I've longed to be more organized in my approach to writing time, but as a homeschooling mom, I have to work around my kiddos. So if I have a goal, I get it done, often at the expense of sleep and health! All the best with your new book--sounds very intriguing.

  2. Thanks for dropping by Heather. I have to exercise, because I sit at the computer all day! Feel like a blob otherwise.

    Hey have you heard of author Amy Wallace? She's a friend of mine and has written some fine books....all while homeschooling!

    By the way, another author friend, Meg Moseley, writes some great fiction based around the homeschooling theme. She's an excellent to watch.

    Thanks again!

    1. Yes, I've gotten to know Meg some and can't wait to get my hands on one of her books! Haven't heard of Amy. But I know stay-at-home moms can write. Stephenie Meyer (oddly enough) was actually an inspiration to me, that I COULD finish writing a novel while having younger kiddos. Kiddos are bigger now, I've finished 3 books. Still waiting for publishing doors to open. But it certainly can be done.

  3. Creston, Thanks so much for sharing such details. VERY helpful article in discipline (and in more areas than just writing). You've inspired me! Thanks so much!

    Gina, thanks for a great site!

    1. Wow! I'm a homeschooling mom too! Heather, you and Creston have both inspired me!

    2. Thanks, Susan! So sweet of you. It really is a dream you have to hold on to and fight for!

  4. Susan, excellent. That's what we were hoping for.
    All best to you!

  5. Hi Creston

    Love how you outline your daily schedule as you juggle 2 professions.Do you get a sore back standing for so long? "Leave some crumbs for tomorrow". Yes, I follow that principle too. I never like finishing a writing spell with nothing left in the tank.

  6. Hey Ian,

    I only stand for periods of an hour or two at a time, then I sit. So it's back and forth.

    Great hearing from you bro.



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