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Monday, March 30, 2015

Be Here Now!



Be Here Now!

There is a lot of college I don’t remember, but the things that have stuck, I use almost on a daily basis. One of these morsels of knowledge was from an “Introduction to College” course, and the only thing I gleaned out of that class was the statement: “Be Here Now!”

The concept behind that statement was to focus your attention on the task at hand. They wanted to make sure that all the former high school seniors who were present college freshmen were able to focus on doing their coursework and graduating; not quitting college.

I was going to night school, and my attention had been focused because I was in the Navy at the time. However, this phrase was something I could take with me.

I will say this concept helps me when I am writing as well. Especially when it is a beautiful spring day, and looking out my window: I have to remember that I am a writer, and my “Here” is what I am working on, and later I can change that location - as soon as I am done with my priorities.

In my “Brick and Mortar” I have to remember to give all my attention to that position as well. This can sometimes be a difficult task. I will say that to keep my sanity - I do write between calls, before work and at lunch: Which makes a 250 word post sometimes stretch out to take eight hours to write; when the phone rings - I stop my writing and I focus on the call. 

That might seem to be mental gymnastics, but really it is easy enough to switch gears. The only issue is when I am in the middle of a thought, and then I come back, sometimes I cannot remember the thought. Oh well we all have crosses, right?

Goals

I guess this is a great time to talk about goals. When I was writing my first novel, I had a daily goal of typing 2000 words. 

I would wake up at 2:00am, write on my book, and then go to work. I knew I needed to finish the book, so I needed to be there at that time. I don’t recall ever thinking, “I just want to go back to bed,” or “Maybe if I could just watch some TV.” I had to be there, at that computer and work on that story.

So today, I am blogging, and I have started a new project. When it is time for me to work on my new project, or when I get an idea for the blog, I have to turn off all the distractions and be there writing. Sometimes this is difficult, but I know it is important. 

What distracts you? Is it television, the sun outside of your window, kids, a dirty kitchen or your dog? Put your distractions behind you, and “Be Here Now!”

Friday, March 27, 2015

It’s Good For You.

How many times as children are we encouraged to do something, just because it is good for us. From Cream of Wheat to spinach to gross fish. We choke stuff down, in an effort for our parents to get some kind of nutrition in our bodies: Why? Because it’s good for you.

I remember when I was a child, and my mother was cooking Halibut. She cooked everything in the microwave, and this was no different. As I remember, it was slimy, it smelled and it was sitting in about a quarter inch of water. 

I hated fish.

I snuck into the bathroom, and I flushed my fish down the toilet, I turned around and there was my father; he was not amused, and he made me eat the rest of the fish.

My mother did try, she was not a chef by any means, but I do believe she enjoyed cooking, or at least baking. But when I was growing up, the microwave was her friend. 

Now as adults, we get the same thing. Once when my “Brick and Mortar” was a restaurant, and I was the manager. I ate well, and my waist line proved it. My wife decided that I needed to eat better, and not have all the greasy fried food I was eating, so she wanted me to start eating fish at least once a week.

I approached the chef, and he told me to go sit down. He said I could fire him if I did not like the fish he cooked; because if he could not fix a piece of fish I would like, then he was not the chef he though he was. I enjoyed my first ever piece of salmon.

I went back to the kitchen, and he taught me how to prepare and cook the fish.

Because I love my wife and I respect her opinions. I learned how to cook fish: Now I eat fish all the time. 

Where am I going with this?

This is not a post on nutrition; this is about readjusting our minds to accept something we find distasteful, because it might be what we need right now.

I have explained that my writing is mostly cathartic. I am writing this, because I know that my “Brick and Mortar” is what I need right now. I need to have this, because I need to have money to survive: Ergo - stay at work.

My “Brick and Mortar” is like that steamy hot plate of stinky fish: Sometimes, this place does cause my stomach to turn. However, this job is good for me.


So what is good for you? What do you have to do that you don’t want? Learn how to readjust your feelings about what is distasteful - another words learn how to cook it correctly. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What to write


I will admit - I did not have any idea of what I want to write. I have started so many topics this week, and then went over them and thought; now that is never going to work.

I did not want to write of excellence and then two posts later give my readers, my audience something that was garbage. So I hit the delete key, and started over.

Lying in my bed last night, before going to sleep, I had idea after idea. This morning those ideas were not even worth putting to paper.

Am I now to be concerned that I cannot come up with any more ideas for blog posts? Should I just throw it in, and feel that I have emptied the chamber of all its bullets? No.

Even in my stagnancy, there is something to be learned.

Sometimes you have to dig deeper, just to survive. Look at the story of Eric Liddell’s performance in the 1924 Olympics. He tripped over a fellow competitor and got up. Now he could have seen the 30 yards that he was now behind to be a problem, he could have quit and said, “I’ll race another day.”

Eric Liddell started running, and taking the outside track, so no one could see him coming, he passed every runner on the track to win the 400 meter – which indecently was not his race, but he held the European record for 12 years.

My point, sometimes you need to dig deep, you need to say, “I will write, even if I don’t have anything to write about.” You need to just do it.

I write not only for me, but for my friends and my audience. If I do not write, if I do not post, I let my friends down, I let my audience down, I let myself down and I let my God down, because he is the one who allows me to write.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Equilibrium



Balance in our lives is very important, because when we are out of balance we start to feel overwhelmed; that overwhelmed feeling can lead to other disruptive and destructive feelings, as well as stop momentum.

The notion of balance is a personal struggle for me. My wife says for me it is all or nothing - and that can be great in some instances, but to maintain balance, we have to be able to create separation in our tasks to allow for other things to take our time.

Out of Balance Creates Burnout?

In My “Brick and Mortar,” back in October 2014, I was asked and even encouraged to work twelve hours a day. I would go in at 5:00am and work to 5:30pm with a half an hour lunch. Because I am a bicycle commuter, I would get up at 2:45am and I would get home at 6:30pm - eat dinner and go to bed by 8:00pm. I had only an hour and a half with my family. 

My balance was off.

In January I started showing signs of burnout. I became a true hot mess. I was not doing well at all, so I took some time off and went back to eight hours a day, now I am back to working the 12 hour days. However, I did something different back in January. I started writing again. 

I needed to do something else to create equilibrium: I recognized I not only needed to do something different, but do something to express my creativity. 

What if I like doing, will I still get burned out?

I have heard that if you do what you like, you will never work another day in your life. To some extent I agree with that sentiment, but it begs the question: If you drank chocolate milkshakes all the time (or whatever you crave all the time) will you get sick of it? 

I submit that even if you are doing exactly what you want, you still need to keep equilibrium. 

For a writer, this can cause a problem with Writer’s Block. The movie “Not Another Happy Ending” with Karen Gillian and Stanley Webber shows what happens when your equilibrium is thrown a skew. Jane Lockhart (Karen Gillian) has writer’s block, and she tries to do anything to get over her writer’s block: Now the story is just that she wants to have a, more than working, relationship with Tom Duval (Stanley Webber). 

So what should we do? We love writing, the fun, the challenge the ability to weave a story and create images in our reader’s heads. The high - the thrill, plus seeing our “baby” on the shelf or our words being recognized by our peers.  We should still push the chair back, get up and do something else - let your mind change gears for a while. 

Writing is important, but don’t let it get you unbalanced. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Excellence



When we strive for excellence, what are we striving for? But most importantly who are we striving for? What drives our motives, and how do we know when we have reached that pinnacle?

Starting out as a writer, I thought all I had to do was just sit down, prick my soul and the words would just flow onto the paper -The first time I tried my hand at writing, was in the early 90’s, yes there were computers, but they were not as prevalent as they are today. My handwriting was atrocious, so was my spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, progression of thought and the list goes on. 

Writing takes practice, over the years, my penmanship has not gotten better, unless I am focusing on my handwriting - I use a computer, so my handwriting is lazy. My spelling is getting better and I am relying less on spell check and getting the words correct (Mrs. Clark, my English teacher would be proud). I have studied sentence structure and punctuation, so my sentences and progression of thought are clear. 

I was a writer, but I needed to have the skills to be a good writer. I know I still have a lot of work to do, but to strive for excellence never stops. 

In 2003 Vijay Singh was beating Tiger Woods in the golf scene; he beat Tiger Woods by over $900,000. Even though all golfers practice, after winning one of the tournaments, the next day Singh was seen out practicing. He was striving for excellence, even though he won. You may call it drive, work ethic what have you. Just because he was at the top, he did not just sit back and relax, he kept trying to improve.

We should always try to improve, but how? Well there are many ways. Reading is the best instructor for a writer; read what you write – what I mean is, if you write blogs, read blogs. If you write fiction, read fiction and so on. If you are a blogger and when you read a post, you will see how they format, you see what works, how it looks, how easy it is to read and how they use punctuation.

Who are you striving for? This might sound like a basic question - In other words what motivates you. 

When I was a child, there was this hill near where we lived. The hill had caves at the top, so on one spring day: my father, two brothers and I went hiking up “Cave Hill” (don’t blame me, I didn't name it).

The bottom of the hill was a gradual incline, which turned into a steeper climb the further you went to the top. Getting close to the top of the hill the climb was very steep, and I can remember; my legs burned, I was tired, hungry and thirsty. Making it to the top became less important to me: I wanted the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my knapsack and a drink from my canteen. My dad said I could eat and drink when we reached the top. I reached the top and had my lunch - that was the best tasting PB&J I ever ate.

That PB&J was my motivation. So what motivates you?

 What would your pinnacle moment look like?

So you are striving, working, reading and above all you are writing, but how do you know when you are at your pinnacle? 

I really hope I never make my pinnacle: Why? I remember that hill, once I made it to the top, I had to go home. I could not go any further than the top of the hill. 

Some people are at the very top, some have plateaued and some have started coming down. Of those whom have come close to the top, glean what you can from them, and most of them are willing to show the ropes. 

You can ask for people to give you suggestions. It was suggested to me, to change my blog’s background, and so I did, and there were many positive reactions to the change.


Keep a look out how to excel at your passion. Once you start getting accolades, don’t just sit back, keep striving: Have Singh’s work ethic. Keep pushing yourself, and the rewards will start coming in to you. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Integrity



Have you ever told a lie? If you answered no, then “The truth is not in you.” We all lie: There is the social lie, “Hey Bob, how are you doing?” Bob would answer great, even if his life was crashing down around him. 

There is the biggest lie on the Internet. “Please check if you have read the Terms and Conditions. Some websites have replaced read, to agree with, but still if you have not read the Terms, then how do you know if you agree with them?

Point is we all lie.


There is a guy I work with, and I am quite surprised he still works here. He came in, saying he was 27, was a war veteran, and was shot in Afghanistan and medically discharged. He said he was a pilot and had a degree in Mechanical Engineering and owned his own software company. The way this guy talked, He could part the Red Sea, or walk on water - or both.

He progressed through the ranks at my “Brick and Mortar”, and was hired for a training position. He was in the middle of his first class, and they came and took him out. It was discovered that starting with his age - which is actually 19 year old - all of his claims were false. He still works here at my “Brick and Mortar” but nobody believes anything he says anymore.

His credibility is shot.

Being truthful is a very important aspect of our lives as a writer - unless all you write is fiction. Be a fact checker. I was going to use a story about a company that put in the middle of their Terms and Conditions a $10,000 prize for reading the Terms. When I fact checked this information, I could not find anything to substantiate this story. 

Remember if you tell a story that you have not checked out, that will ruin your credibility just like outright lying.

Lie to get more followers?

When I started out this blog, I was very interested in getting followers on my blog - like we all are. I was reading what would drive people to my blog, and one of the suggestions was: Tell an outlandish lie, and have people respond to dispute the lie. 

Really?! I believe that would end all credibility for future posts.

So don’t rely on inflating your story just to get views, rely on the truth and people will flock to you.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Finding your path


A Priest, a Baptist Minister and a Rabbi were out in a boat fishing. The Priest looks at the Minister and asked, “Did you get the worms?” The Minister laughs out of embarrassment, and says “No, I forgot them on shore.” The Priest says, "No problem," and he gets out of the boat and walks to shore, picks up the worms and walks back, gets in the boat and puts a worm on the hook.

A little while later the Minister asks the Priest, “Do you remember the cheese for the bait?” The Priest laughs out of embarrassment and says, “No, I forgot them on shore.” The Minister says, "No problem," gets out of the boat and walks to shore, picks up the cheese, and brings it back to the boat.

The Rabbi is astonished, so he said, “I left some soda on the shore, let me go and get those for you,” so he gets out of the boat, and sinks. The Priest looks at the minister and says, “Think we should show him where the rocks are?”

Do you know where the rocks are?

No matter if you are writing for cathartic reasons, because you feel the desire to write or because you are in school and it is a necessity. You need to know where the rocks.

I like to read a lot of blogs, I read for content, but I also read for technique - what I mean is I see how others format their blogs. What is readable, what do they do that creates more traffic: Since they know where the rocks are, I let them show them to me.

If you are looking to start a blog, or maybe your blog is not working out the way you want it to, start looking around, see what other successful bloggers are doing and emulate them. Don't necessarily copy their content, just take a look at how they put their blog together. 

If you are a successful blogger, give helpful advise, because I guarantee, you needed advice when you started. This is a great community, and we all have valuable information to share, so find out where the rocks are, so you don't sink.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ghosts



I was sitting across the table from my grandfather at my Cousin Michael’s graduation. I was a year behind Michael, and my grandparents flew out for Michael’s big day. As we sat at this dinner, my grandfather looked at my father and said, “Thom is never going to grow up and do anything, he is going to be your greatest disappointment.” 

My father did not argue and I left the table.

My grandfather did not show up for my graduation, but in my mind his presence was not needed: I was the great failure in his eyes. A few years later my grandfather passed away.

I have been haunted by that ghost for almost 30 years. 

I was thinking about this on my bike ride to my “Brick and Mortar:” Evaluating my life as I usually do. I realized my grandfather made a prediction - even though he thought it an off handed comment. I made it his prophecy come true, but only for what he would deem a success. 

My grandfather built K-Marts across the country. He moved to city, built a K-Mart, and then moved to another city. He was a successful contractor - he had money, drove nice cars and was a feared and mostly respected boss. However, the love from people around him - including from his family - could not fill a thimble. He was a hard man, a disciplined man and focused like none I had ever seen before, but when it came to love: he was bankrupt.

I got married young, my wife and I have been married 28 years, and we have five wonderful children and two grandsons and a granddaughter on the way. I am greeted with a hug from each of my three oldest children (hugged sometimes from my two teenagers at home) and my grandkids smile when they say, “Hi Papa.” I might not have a lot of money, I might not have property and my resume might look like a who’s who of desperate employers; I have love.

I am a rich man, because of my blessings. I might not be the captain of industry or travel from town to town building shopping malls, but when people see me, they smile and say hello. 

What is important to you? What do you deem a success? Are you basing your life on what others have said, done or what they deem important?

When you can shed those shackles, you can really be free. If money is your greatest reward, and you have money - I am happy for you, because you have made it. If you define your success with something less tangible, than you are the only one that can evaluate your own worth. 


For those that say, ”hugs will not put bread on the table,” and “working as a writer when it is clinch time is tough,” and “when you have a deadline it is very hard, and a smile will not satiate your boss:” You are very right. I didn't say I didn’t work. Working is necessary; my life has work in it - just like everyone else. I know what drives me, But what drives you?


Monday, March 9, 2015

Never too late



Have you ever heard a child say? “I want to grow up and work for someone else, and make their dreams come true.” 

People usually gravitate to careers that are exciting, that are noble or rewarding. It all depends on what you want.

I remember when I was a child, most of my peers wanted to be an astronaut or a firefighter: they want to be James Bond or a policeman. I wanted to be rich. I had plans that I would be a millionaire by the time I was thirty. When I turned thirty, I was very disappointed.

I can remember when I was in my late twenties and thirties thinking, “If I do that, it will take too much time.”

Riding in this morning to my “Brick and Mortar” I was thinking about this subject, and going through my daily list of personal disappointments: There are things that I wanted to do, and time passed anyway.

I recently watched the movie “My Old Lady” with Kevin Klein. The movie was listed as a romantic comedy, but it was more of a drama (which, for this post, really doesn’t matter). The best line in the movie comes from Mathilda Girard, played by Maggie Smith, where she says, “You have life!”

I am 46 years old, and she is right: I have life!

We need to remember that faint hearted people never make history. Joan of Arc could have said, “I’m just a girl.” William Wallace could have said, “I’m nobody.” Where would we be if Paul Revere didn’t do his midnight ride? The point is these people didn’t say “Oh well, I can’t.” My wife use to tell my kids “Can’t never did do anything.”

Deciding not to let another opportunity pass us by, should be our daily mantra. How many opportunities pass us by every single day? How many of us go thru our daily grind, with our heads down, focused on just one small part of the “Big Picture,” without stepping back and looking at the whole picture.

I heard a phrase “Seeing the situation from 35,000 feet,” Which means you seeing everything at once. This is something we need to do sometimes. Now seeing things from that far, and “The whole picture” all the time will diminish your ability to focus on specific areas. What I propose is see the big picture, but focus on what is important - when it’s important. 

My focus is to be a writer.

When I worked at a print shop in Arizona, there was an author that would come in to copy off his transcripts. I told him one day, “I always wanted to be a writer.” 

He told me, “You either are a writer or you aren’t a writer, you cannot ‘want to be’ a writer.” I decided right there I was a writer. However, I always felt I never was good enough. So I have never poured myself into it. I have had many false starts, but it has never been a true focus: Until now.

So the best thing I can tell you is: get out there. If you aren’t good enough, then keep working till you are. Nobody is born with knowledge of how to do something, they have to learn it, and then practice it over and over and over again. 

If you are a writer (and I assume you are since you are reading this), make it a habit to write every day. I write at my “Brick and Mortar” between calls. I write in the morning and at night; I write in the bathroom and at lunch.

I guess the whole reason for this post is to remind you, it is never too late to do something you want to do. As for me, I am looking for freelance writing jobs, I still have my “Brick and Mortar” but I am still looking, and one day - no matter how old I am - I will find that job.

Monday, March 2, 2015

End douchebaggery - A rant

OK, first this article might offend some people, and if you are offended by words, like the one in the title, please do not read on - I do not wish to offend anyone. Second, I was told not to rant so much, because people don’t like to read rants; I was also told not to smoke - I didn't listen to that either. Right or wrong, here I go.

I was reading a post from a new blogger, she was saying that she was ready to quit, and wanted to know what people thought of her decision. I wrote to her, and gave her some ideas; I was being positive with her. She was fragile, and she thanked me.

Then not two hours later, this douchebag gets on her post and says, (and I paraphrase) “You think you can just sit down and start a blog, real bloggers…” WTF dude! She needs encouragement, she needs to grow. You weren't born to be a blogger, you were not born with a keyboard in your hand (if you were, I am sorry for your mother), and you had to start somewhere. Who was your inspiration, who taught you the ropes and who gave you encouragement?

I like people who are positive, and helpful. People that lend a helping hand - ones that don’t forget from where they came.

In my “Brick and Mortar” I called a customer back for a co-worker. I was pre-warned that this customer was difficult, but difficulty was not what I experienced

After my greeting, the customer lit into me and started swearing and using fowler language than I heard in my twelve years in the Navy.

After he was done, he said, “I would never speak that way to a woman, but you are a man, and I will speak that way, because I am a man.”

No, dude, you are a douchebag.

Being a male is a matter of birth, being a man is a matter of age, being a Gentleman is a matter of choice and effort. There are a lot of men out there, but to change from being a man to a Gentleman takes effort on the part of the subject. 

Being merely a man, beating your chest, dragging your mate by her hair to your cave and chasing off beasts with your club: You are dangerously close to being a douchebag.

My point is, we need to be nice to each; for instance, I was connecting to a blogger named Matt Banner from OnBlastBlog.com, this is an awesome guy, and I really liked his blog. He then sent me a message saying “Thanks for the +1.” Wow, that was really nice! and then I thought how many times did someone +1 me, and did I thank them? To be honest, I never have done that. 


So apparently I need to update my Gentlemanliness and decrease my Douchebaggery: So, here's to change.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Never Give Up - Never, Never Give Up.



How many times as a writer do we just toss in the towel and walk away. We think “Nobody is going to look at my blog,” or “How can anybody even hear me, above a thousand voices?” I tell you, don’t give up.

My daughter was a big inspiration to me: when she was in school, her teacher told her not to be her worst critic. She would come home, and I would be writing or painting or playing music, and I would be saying “I am no good, I should just quit.” 

My daughter would put her hand on my shoulder and say, “Daddy, don’t be your worst critic.”

Well, I have to say, the criticism I have given my self has caused me to cap my pen, put my paints away and fold my music stand. I gave up on it all - why, because I didn’t think I was good enough.

Back in 2004, I was challenged by a co-worker to write a short story. He did not think I could write a short story in 24 hours. I came up with a story line, composed the story on my way home, sat down at my computer and wrote a 4800 word short story. Printed it out and took it to him the next day. I just wanted to prove him wrong, but it created a spark.

Two years later, I picked that story back up, and turned it into a novel. I worked really hard on the novel, and then I self-published it. I was in love with the book, and I had dreams of making it big as a novelist.  However, my book never sold. People I let read the book gave me feedback of: “Wow, you should donate this to a sleep center, because it could cure insomnia,” and “So did your third grader write this, you must be so proud.”

I was crushed. My book, my baby was being scorned. I was not going to be deterred, my first book was not well accepted, but I will try again. So I wrote more,(not publishing of course) and nothing ever was accepted. I then capped my pen, and decided to never write again. I gave up!

I tried again to write after I had brain surgery. What brought me back? Well I love writing, and I missed it. I never publicized the blog, so once again - I capped my pen. But I still missed writing. 

This last time, after taking test after test, I was pointed to writing and storytelling. So I started up again. This time, I have had over a thousand page views in a month (BTW Thanks for that), and I feel encouraged. I have also started another book - with my wife’s insistence, but the most important thing to remember – mistakes are learning opportunities; learning from your missteps in the past, will help you avoid them in the future.

I guess what I am saying is: We are artists, we do ink play, we paint with words, invoking thoughts are our canvas and words are powerful. We need to do what we do best, and when you stop; you silence your own voice. 


Quit smoking, quit doing drugs, quit drinking, quit bad relationships and bad jobs, but don’t quit writing. Never give up! Never, never give up your voice.