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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #364

The Dream

And now, for something completely different . . .

I had a dream the other night. I rarely remember dreams, but this one was so vivid it was still with me when I woke up. My dad and I were in a jungle village, and we were under attack from invaders. My dad had a sniper rifle, and he told me to hold off the invaders with my rifle while he snuck around behind them.

I looked at Dad with confusion, looked at my rifle with more confusion, and asked him “how do I shoot the damned thing?” And he looked at me, laughed, and said: “Bill, don’t complicate things so much. Just pull the damned trigger.”

I had a mentor many years ago who basically told me the same thing. He said to simplify life and just keep moving through it. He told me I could make a hurricane out of a glass of water, and the sooner I learned to just simplify life, the better for me.

Just pull the damned trigger, Bill! LOL

I know people who are that way with writing. They suffer from the paralysis of analysis. They think too much. They don’t trust their writing skills. They talk themselves out of publishing because they don’t think they are good enough.

Just pull the damned trigger!

Let’s get to the mail, shall we?

The Mail Room!

The Mail Room!

Success in Writing

From Liz: “I like the comparison between songwriting and literature. Both are examples of creative writing. How do you measure success in writing? Is it by remuneration, readership, recognition by respected writers and critics, personal satisfaction or a combination of them all?”

Well, that’s a sticky wicket, isn’t it, Liz? LOL You have no idea how many times I’ve asked myself this question.

It seems, to me, that this answer is subjective for each of us. I will never be a bestselling author, so if I measure success by sales, I am completely wasting my time. I measure my success on my growth as a writer. I know I’m good. I know I could be better. I’m always chasing that “better,” and as long as I show growth, I’m satisfied and I consider myself a success.

But, that will most likely be different for every writer you ask. Some believe, if they aren’t making any money, they are a failure. Some measure success, as you said, with personal satisfaction for having wanted to do this writing thing and moving forward and actually doing it.

God, if we all measured success by the amount of money we make on HubPages, almost all of us would be failures. LOL

More on Editing

From Mr. Happy: "I limit myself to three edits." - How much time do You give in-between edits? I find it frustrating that sometimes (like yesterday), I look at an old piece of writing and I find a missing comma, or an odd typo and so, I feel that I need long periods of time between edits, or I can find that I missed something that should have been changed.”

It’s a valid point, Mr. Happy, and it’s true for me as well. I usually do the first two edits back-to-back with no “cooling off” period. On the third edit, however, I let some time pass, usually a week or two. That time away allows me to clear my mind of the story, and I find, when I return, I am much more productive during that third edit than I was during the first two.

As a side note, on one of my books I actually did six edits. I found mistakes during every single edit. I’m not sure there is such a thing as the perfect manuscript.

Talent in Our Genes

From Mary: “Bill, my sister is one of those gifted to write and she does it without much hassle. She has not done anything to improve her talent except reading. She loves to read and did it all the time. Her university asked her to be editor in chief of their paper but she refused as she did not want to work hard. She has not really done anything about her writing but herds and grandkids seem to have the talent, too. I wonder if it is passed on through the genes or through close interaction.”

This is a fascinating question, Mary. It’s something I’ve wondered about in the past. Your question spurred me on to do a little research about it.

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Studies show that about 30% of artistic ability is derived through the genes. I have no idea how they arrived at that percentage, but it has held consistent from study to study, so that’s what I’m going with for this answer.

The other 70% seems to come from other factors such as environment and encouragement and social standing and things like that. Put it another way . . . an artistic child, born into a stable and loving family, who attends schools where creativity and art are encouraged, has a much better chance of developing artistic ability than a child with none of those advantages.

Let me put it another way. I am convinced that I can work with any kid and make them a decent to good writer, as long as they have some grasp of the English language. Mind you, it would take hours and hours and hours of one-on-one instruction, but I know I could do it. The key, though, is the hours of one-on-one instruction, something most kids do not have access to, no matter how “gifted” they are or how good their genes are.

30% genes? Sounds about right to me!

For what it’s worth!

Picture Prompt

My last picture prompt was not too popular (composting toilet, anyone?), so let’s see what you can do with this photo. One paragraph of your absolute best creative writing, please. Share it here or email it to me at


Returning to a Project

From Rodric: “I have a question that possibly can make it to the next mailbag. What are methods you have used to start again on a project that you stepped away from writing? I remember you writing about a book you meant to get back to writing for years and finally realized that goal. How did you do it? What tips can you give me, being in the same position?”

Rodric, I’m not sure I have any “tips” for that. In my case, I returned to that project you mentioned when it became a priority for me. It was that simple. For years I had talked about doing it, and finally I decided to quit talking and actually do it.

I don’t say this to sound sarcastic of snippy, but there are a lot of reasons not to do something. Some may be very valid i.e. poor health, but I have found most of those reasons are simply excuses (in my instance) because that “something” wasn’t important enough for me to make the time to do it. The day I put it on top of my writing priority list, that’s the day it got done.

Sorry, no tips for this one!

The grape arbor

The grape arbor

Just Pull the Trigger

It was a weird dream for me to have because I don’t own a gun. Quite frankly, I don’t like guns and will probably never own one. I’ve only fired one a couple times, decades ago, for sport, when my nephew in North Dakota wanted to take me “shooting” at a local shooting range. I did not enjoy any aspect of that experience, and I’ve never shot one since then. Before that, I fired guns quite often, in college, for ROTC, and I didn’t enjoy that experience either.

But the message, well, that’s something which has been drilled into my subconscious, by my father, by mentors, by just about anyone who cared about me during my lifetime. Like they say at Nike, Just Do It, and live with the consequences.

I just had that conversation the other day with a neighbor. He asked me how I learned to build a grape arbor. I told him nobody taught me. My wife wanted one, I had the time, I didn’t have the money to pay a professional to build it, so I just did it. Is it perfect? Hell no! But it’s pretty darned good, and my wife loves it, so there you go.

God, I wish I could work, one-on-one, with all of you who lack confidence in your writing. I would have you believing in yourself pronto, and I would rejoice in the joy you experience.

Just do it!

Have a great week! If you have a question for the Mailbag, include it in the comments below, or email it to me at And if you need a writing coach to help you to be the best writer you can be, hit me up at that same email address.

And finally, please, do all things with love.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 10, 2021:

Thank you, Denise, and welcome back with your new computer. Keep on dreaming indeed, my friend, and blessings always.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on June 09, 2021:

I think that's the best advice anyone could have for just about anything. Like "Swallow the frog" it says a lot to just do it and see where it takes you. Keep on dreaming!



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 09, 2021:

Thank you, Flourish! I'm so glad you like the grape arbor. Not bad for a guy who has very few carpentry skills.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 09, 2021:

I found it and commented, my friend. It was funny!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 09, 2021:

Rodric, I'm glad my dream helped you. And I'm very happy you are writing with some regularity again. Bravo to you for taking those steps.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 09, 2021:

Hi Sha! I did take that photo, about twelve years ago, a trip with my son to Yellowstone. They really are magnificent animals. As for the dream, I don't think I'm grappling with a decision. I have no idea why the dream came. I don't have enough experience with remembering them to know, I guess. :) Be well, my friend, and thank you for the kind words about the arbor.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 09, 2021:

Beautiful grape arbor. There is quite a parallel lesson for folks in writing for making up your mind and applying oneself in how you did that.

Rodric Anthony from Surprise, Arizona on June 08, 2021:

I did the picture prompt. It was so fun! I really let myself wonder on it. Here is the Link:

Rodric Anthony from Surprise, Arizona on June 08, 2021:

There WAS a tip you left me, Bill: pull the trigger. The tip is, as John so wonderfully supported in his comment, to make it a priority.

You are correct. If I make my writing project a priority in my life I adjust my other functions to fit completing it. I do it all the time with other things, why not my project?

I complain about health issues all the time. Those are not going away. They are also excuses. I am writing now and my vision is still poor. I grew tired of waiting and just started to type again using software to help me see. I pulled the trigger.

The dream you had of your father telling you to keep things simple is my tip. All I have to do is pull the trigger! Thanks, Bill.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 08, 2021:

Bill, your grape arbor is beautiful! You're really getting exceptionally good at building things.

This is quite a diverse mailbag this week. Your audience and the questions they pose are getting more sophisticated and in-depth. You really have people thinking, my friend.

I'll have to do some pondering on the buffalo pic. Did you take the photo? It's a great shot.

While your dream is disturbing (I don't like guns, either), the message is a strong one. Were you grappling with a decision that your dad needed to come in to tell you to get off the pot?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

EK, I hope you hear from your grandmother soon. I can sense your apprehension and desire to have her speak to you. Blessings always, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

You are just an obstacle to be demolished by that creature. lol

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on June 08, 2021:

Again a helpful and creative mailbag, Bill. You must have been very happy to see your father in a dream. I also often dream of my late grandmother but she does not talk to me. I don't know why she is always so quiet. I have not been able to resolve this confusion yet.

Stay safe and healthy...

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on June 08, 2021:

I knew I had it here. There's that "dead stare": lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

Email me, Mary, and let's get you back on track. It is not a lack of talent that is holding you back.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

It is indeed, Miebakagh! It is indeed!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

It is a good philosophy, Devika, for people who tend to overthink things. Just do it!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

It is always my pleasure, Gyanendra. Thank you sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

Thanks Greg! I think it turned out okay for a guy with no carpentry training at all. I just wing it...I just pull the trigger and do it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

Hi Heidi! No heatwave here. It was down to 42 degrees last night. Brrr for June if you ask me, which nobody did.

It's always good to hear from you. Best wishes to your doggo and family. Fell better soon to them all.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

Mr. Happy, any animal over a thousand pounds that can run 30 miles per hour is a good animal to stay away from. Every year people are hurt by them at Yellowstone National Park because they think they can get within ten feet of them for the perfect photo. It amazes me just how ignorant people can be at times.

Have a wonderful week, my friend. Stay safe and healthy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

Thank you Miebakagh! It has been a good seven years and I love the interaction with all of you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

It is old and I am old, Amara! Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2021:

Just did it indeed, Peggy! I love that attitude. It was the attitude I grew up with, learned from my dad, and it has served me well. Thank you!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 08, 2021:

Bill, thank you for your answer and the advice at the start of this hub. Just pull the trigger. I know I procrastinate because of my lack of confidence in my writing. I always thought I lacked the talent. Anyway, time to start pulling the trigger.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 08, 2021:

Here's the thing. Life is a challenge. Whatever we do, life is challenging us.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 08, 2021:

Bill I always felt that if I just did it than think about it is the way to achieve it or lose it. I think you have written an interesting hub through the dream of your dad. Do it and think about it afterward sounds challenging but a good attempt to life's challenges.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on June 07, 2021:

Hi Bill,

Happy Monday! Just pull the trigger. Thank you for inspiring me and many readers from around the world. Thank you again.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on June 07, 2021:

Bill - sometimes the best strategy is to start doing something that looks like it's going to have positive impact on desired results. That's what I heard you say here—I think—when you said, "just pull the trigger." I like that advice muchly. I liked this week's Mailbag a heaping spoonful, too. Really good stuff, as always. And that arbor's pretty damn nice. I can see why Bev loves it.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on June 07, 2021:

Happy Mailbag Monday. It's still Monday. And that is sayin' something this week. Sick doggo and family health stuff. Some new sales which is good, but time consuming. So I'm glad to be here.

Re: More on Editing. Time is THE best editing tool in my opinion. The more time, the better. Depending on the length of the work, it can be as short as a few hours for pieces like blog posts, to weeks or months for longer works. The fresh perspective cannot be overestimated.

Hope you and the doggos are staying cool. It's been hot here in Chicago. Have a great week!

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on June 07, 2021:

I found out it's Monday when I was scrolling down the feed and saw your mailbag, haha!!

Thank You for answering my question once again. I will have to try to give a piece of writing a couple of weeks and see the difference. I only have ever given a few days at most for a final edit. It usually is just an over-night sleep nowadays, if that.

"grape arbor" - never even knew such a thing existed. I usually just see poles and wires for grapes. Or, that's what we've always had, haha!! Man, You blew me away: "grape arbor" ... I'm speechless. I guess part of me is still living in that Romanian dictatorship where poles and wires is all You have. Haha!! Thanks though, it's good to learn.

Now, regarding that bison/buffalo picture, I gotta say that I have seen many animals in my life but have never gotten such a "dead stare" as I got from a buffalo at a few feet distance, some years ago. I felt like there was absolutely no connection between us. There was no trust of any sort either: not that it would ram me, not that it would lick me, or ignore me, or anything. It was the oddest thing. I stay away from those. I'm not sure people realize how massive they are and how they could plow through walls if they wanted.

Okay, enough of me. Thanks for another fun piece of writing. Cheers!

"Just pull the trigger!" - Gonna remember this one, haha!! Thanks for this too.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 07, 2021:

Happy Monday Bill. Thanks for another happy mail bag and its questions and answers. And congratulations on the mail bags 7th anniverssary! I met it last year.

Amara from Pakistan on June 07, 2021:

Happy 7th anniversary of mailbag Bill. I didnt know its that old.. Well it is interesting..

Infinite gratitude..

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 07, 2021:

Great mailbag as always. I love the look of your grape arbor. Like you, my husband and I forged ahead and built a grape arbor in my mother-in-law's backyard many years ago. We had no previous experience, but it turned out well. We also built a raised garden bed for my mother. It was about 3 feet tall by 8 feet long. She raised an amazing amount of vegetables in it without having to stoop down to do the gardening. We just did it!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2021:

Alyssa, some people get offended when I mention the KISS Method, like I'm calling THEM stupid. No, that designation is reserved for me. lol Happy Monday to you.

Alyssa from Ohio on June 07, 2021:

I'm a big fan of the KISS Method myself. It was something my 8th grade math teacher taught that stuck with me through the years. I haven't been able to apply it to writing, though. haha!

Have a wonderful week Bill!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2021:

I'm with you on the gun issue, Bill. No way will I ever own one. That's one Conservative value they will never convince me of.

Have a great week, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2021:

Thank you Pamela! What did I eat that night before bed? My usual, ice cream and peanut butter. lol I'm a hopeless case of a man who thinks he is still a teenager.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2021:

Curiosity, Dora! I'm interested in the answers to these questions, and research is the only way for me. Chalk that up to the teacher in me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2021:

Thanks for the visit, Rosina! Have a fabulous and successful week, my friend. I hope you are feeling better now.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2021:

Misbah, it is always lovely having your visit. No more composting toilets for you, young lady. I promise. lol Have a wonderful week and blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2021:

Thank you for the kind words about my grape arbor, Chitrangada Sharan. Not bad for a guy who has no background in carpentry. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2021:

Glad to see you first today, John! Might be a good time to purchase a lottery ticket. :)

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on June 07, 2021:

Hi Bill. Really enjoyed the mailbag this week. The question about how to measure success as a writer got me thinking. I really have no idea! It’s certainly not the money, perhaps for me the feedback I get from travelers who have found my articles helpful? Interesting question and answer.

I also never remember my dreams. I’m not sure why that is. I wish I could remember them. Funny how that works. And regarding guns I don’t own one and never will. They scare me and there are way too many guns in this country as it is without me adding to it.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 07, 2021:

I think the fact that you built a grape arbor foe Bev is great. The fact that she loves it says you are a success.

Your "just pull the trigger" dream is interesting. That may help me when I am procrastinating. I wonder what you ate just before bed that night. LOL

I think Liz's question is interesting. My parents read all the time but they didn't write. My grandfather wrote and had published articles, but no books. So, here I am writing articles for Hubpages and certainly not for the money. This was an interesting mailbag, as usual, Bill. Have a good week.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 07, 2021:

I like your habit of researching for answers you don't know. That's another good lesson you teach by example. Thank you.

Rosina S Khan on June 07, 2021:

Simplifying things and just pulling the trigger seems like a good way of dealing with life. Thank you for reminding us. Great questions and great answers- definitely learned a lot. Happy Monday, Bill.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on June 07, 2021:

Happy Monday, Mr. Bill. Always an interesting and informative read from you, Sir. From the time I started following you here on HP, I am glad there is something good about my Mondays :)

I thought it was only me who got distracted by the word composting toilet. I'm happy to know that there were more people with the same problem... Lol!! The last image really made me feel like I'm not a creative person at all... Lol...

Interesting question and answers... Thank you very much for this lovely mailbag. Stay happy, healthy, and smiling

Many Blessings to you

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 07, 2021:

Hello Bill!

Interesting read, and I am touched that you dreamt about your father and the message, through the dream. Just do it, rather than thinking, and counter thinking.

Useful questions and helpful answers, as always.

Your grape arbor looks so good.

Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful week ahead.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 07, 2021:

Well, I am amazed that I got in so early to read the mailbag this week, and a good one it is. I love the advice to "Just pull the trigger!" It is easy to overthink everything and worry about the consequences when there is really no need to. Excellent questions and great answers. Thanks, Bill.

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