Category Archives: Blog

Goal setting at any age.

Recently, I was asked about goal setting to be quoted in a book on the subject, targeted mainly at senior citizens. But I think this applies at any age.

When talking to people of any age about career choices and goals, I often ask, “Do you think Betty White is working because she needs the money?”

If you are in the right career, you don’t want to retire, you want to go on doing it forever. Gore Vidal only stopped writing when he died. And it’s not just celebrities or those making big money in the limelight who don’t want to quit. I have met a man who is still ushering at Pittsburgh Pirate baseball games at the age of 95. He ushered his first game in 1936.

The point being that having a goal, doing what you love, keeps you alive and wanting to get up in the morning. Whether it’s volunteer work, finishing a quilt, or visiting a friend in the hospital, goals are what keep us going at any age.

Tips for co-writing and ghost-writing

I have written two books for hire, “Going for the Green: selling in the 21st Century” and “Day Is Ending: a doctor’s love shattered by Alzheimer’s disease.” You can learn more about them on my web site:

Before I undertook my first project, I contacted everyone I knew who had ghost- or co-written a book to ask for their input. Most hated the experience and warned me about going into such an arrangement. Some likened it to a bad marriage that at some point they only stayed in for the sake of the child (the book) and in at least two cases, the writers I talked to said they now only communicated with the person who hired them through their attorneys.

But I have never been easily deterred from a challenge, and I did want the first book deal to work and used it as a pattern for my second.

First, I wanted us to talk a lot about the project before we signed a contract. I wanted the nature of the book and the expectations to be clear. Then I wrote a contract that I had a lawyer put into proper legal terminology. (She said that she had done other book contracts, but never seen one so well done and told me she would be borrowing from it for other deals she negotiated.) It spelled out a four-phase process, and the end of the first three was a no-fault divorce. (The last was the completed manuscript and last quarter-payment.) At any of the first three phases either I or the person for whom I was writing the book could walk away. They would have the work done to that point, I would have the money paid at the point. This had us both wanting to keep the other happy so the work could progress to the next phase—we never had major fights and neither party ever cancelled the project.

One other important factor was giving the person for whom I was writing the book regular updates and having them read each set of chapters (usually 3-5, or whatever made sense based on the content) so they could make corrections and change course before I went too far in the wrong direction. Part of phase one was a detailed outline that would serve as my road map, but sometimes in the writing, things shift.

I also wanted cover credit and a piece of the royalties so negotiated to be co- rather than ghost-writer.

Happy writing!

Overcoming Writer’s Block

A friend recently had to write something at work and asked for my advice as he was, he said, suffering from “writer’s block.”

First, if you’ve ever worked for a newspaper, you stop believing in writer’s block. If you have a story due, it’s due. It doesn’t matter if it sucks and your source hasn’t returned your call, you do the best you can. They can’t leave a blank space on the page with a small note saying, “We’re sorry, but Walt wasn’t feeling inspired today, he’ll try again tomorrow.”

When I have taught writing, I have told the students, I belong to the Nike school of writing: just do it. Having said that, if I’m stuck and have time, I go for a walk or to the gym to clear my head and think about something else. Usually while I am thinking about something else, good ideas about what I am writing pop into my head so I carry a notebook or dictate to my phone so I don’t forget those thoughts.

Either with or without the exercise break, (or before or after it), I start jotting things down (long hand allows your brain to be more expressive than typing two-handed). Just words or phrases–okay, I need to talk about X, I need to say blahblah about ZZZ, I need to include Y. Soon the words getting longer and become phrases. You accidentally write a sentence. Then accidentally write a few sentences. Then you go back and fill out that phrase about A. And then fill in the rest about Y. Soon, without really trying, the article is half-done. Sometimes I take my walk at this point. Sometimes I just finish it since I’m so close. Often I end up writing more than I needed and have to go back and trim. Not a bad problem to have.

“How To Coruscate”

An essay Walt did for the Good Men Project on how sparkle, but not like an annoying vampire.