Gut Instincts and Glory

I’ve already shared a story about detrimental reliance at the workplace, where I very nearly deep-sixed a matter by relying on a colleagues incorrect work.

I learned an important lesson that day: stay paranoid.

Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of a difficult task, the temptation to rely on someone else’s work exerts as strong a pull as an oasis to a dying man in the desert. But don’t do it.

Now here’s an even better story about professional failure for you. And it does not have a happy ending.

NOT the ending screen to our story.

I call this story “better” because of a very important axiom I just coined two seconds ago: THE BIGGER THE FAILURE, THE BETTER THE LESSON.

(Hey, failure is what we do around here).

This particular failure happened early in my legal career. I was maybe…a month into my first post-law school job. I had been scheduled to oppose one of our defendant’s summary judgment motions.

You see, the attorney who’s case this actually was couldn’t make it. So on short notice, I got the call.

“Great!” I thought. “A chance to prove myself!” Diligently, I told the attorney I’d get cracking on our opposition.

“No, don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll write it and send it to you.”

Against my better judgment, I agreed. Hey, I was busy, still getting my feet wet…and a little lazy.

Time passed, and I still didn’t have this attorney’s opposition. I was frantic, until the night before the hearing when she emailed it to me.

And it was garbage. Continue reading “Gut Instincts and Glory”

Learn Or Die: Criticism, Setbacks, and Process

If you’re not learning, you’re dying. If you’re not willing to seek out and take criticism, you’re not learning.

And if you take criticism personally, you’ll never learn.

It’s a lesson I wish I learned fifteen years ago. Who knows where I would be? Instead I let my ego get in the way, imagining that I already knew everything, and thereby stagnating. Hey, at least I felt good about myself!

This lesson hit home when I got edits back from Brian Niemeier on one of my many works in progress, The Rust Man.

Brian, an author I greatly admire, was brutally honest, frank, and helpful. You can tell he wants to help.

Anyway, after reading his edits and his notes, I’m going back to the drawing board on the book. The funny thing is that I stared writing The Rust Man (name subject to change) before I started getting into the PulpRev and it’s ethos.

What ethos? How about clarity over cleverness and short and punchy beats “epic” and bloated. A lot of his suggestions, I’d say 85% or so, are things I was planning on doing anyway as I thought about the book in the months since I wrote it, edited it myself, and sent it to him. My goal is getting it down to 450 or so pages from its current 850.

This also ties into process, which we’ll get to later.

See, I was weaned on epic fantasy, brick-sized tomes by authors like Robert Jordan, Tad Williams (a highly underrated author) and George R. R. Martin. Sure I loved Tolkien and Lewis and even enjoyed Lloyd Alexander, but Big was where it was at. More = better.

But you know something? People generally aren’t buying doorstop-sized books, especially on Kindles and other devices, and especially not in fantasy and sci-fi. And if you want to sell books and build an audience, you do have to give them what they want. There is no shame in this. Continue reading “Learn Or Die: Criticism, Setbacks, and Process”

Free Stuff

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A funny thing happened on the way to being a professional: At conferences and lectures and continuing education courses, organizations just give away a ton of free stuff. Some of it is even useful, the pens and pads of paper, maybe. Others . . . not so much.

We’re talking headphones of dubious quality, tote bags that manage to be bulky and at the same time have so little available space, and drink koozies. Like, hundreds of them. You know, those things used to keep your drinks cold.

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Behold! The pinnacle of human ingenuity!

Does anyone actually use these? If so, leave a comment because I’m curious. They just never seemed useful to me.

Anyway, I do have a point here, and that it’s this:

Why do we feel compelled to grab something, no matter how chintzy the quality, just because it’s free? Continue reading “Free Stuff”

More Thoughts About Playing to Your Audience

Video number 2 is live on my YouTube channel. I expand on my thoughts from my “Your Audience Doesn’t Care About Your Feelings” post, as well as discussing how this related to my music playing days. You’ve got to change, people! That’s why I’m even doing these videos in the first place!

Generally speaking, you don’t have to sell your creative soul, but there is a thing called “reality,” which can roughly be translated as “What your audience wants.”

In other words, if you want to make your art a business, treat it like any other business: find a need and fill it.

And when you’ve made a name for yourself, then you’re free to be a bit more of an auteur. Until then, play to your audience because they’re the ones who pay your bills.

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

My YouTube channel is here.

And check out my Instagram here.

Your Audience Doesn’t Care About Your Feelings

In addition to being a great, fun author, Brian Niemeier offers some of the best analysis of the state of the publishing industry on his blog Kairos.

A recent discussion all started with this tweet of his:

I jokingly told him to stop sub-tweeting me, because (a) he’s editing one of my books, The Rust Man, right now, and (b) The Rust Man clocks in at around 850 pages.

The interesting thing is, I have the book split into two roughly equal parts, and had been wrestling for months while writing with the idea of releasing two separate books, even though they tell one complete story.

And yes, the story continues after The Rust Man.

Generally, I’m not a fan of long, epic series. Three books is a sweet spot for me when it comes to a series . . . three 100K-plus books.

But I’m going to be in the business of trying to sell this thing, I’ve got to change my thinking. And that’s where Brian comes in. Continue reading “Your Audience Doesn’t Care About Your Feelings”

The Devil and Ideology

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If I seem obsessed with evil lately, it’s only because it’s an important idea to understand. Evil takes many forms, and one of the most prevalent being ideology.

You see, the devil–or whatever you want to call that malevolent part of humanity–isn’t a guy with horns and a pointy tail living in a place full of fire. And the devil doesn’t do stuff to you or force you to do stuff. It’s worse.

The devil makes you choose, of your own free will, to do stuff that’s bad while thinking it’s really, really good.

Tempter . . . seducer . . . dare I say it, the champion of convenience.

This is how we get a world where, for example, babies are killed in the womb in the name of “liberation,” and we all just go, “Meh.”

The worst part of this, the most devilish of all, is that, since no one likes to change their minds, ever, any such behavior that leads to bad results is nearly impossible to reverse.

I’m sure you can see the connection between devilishness and ideology now.

Ideology, and we’re talking political ideologies here, box you into a way of thinking that’s tough to break out of, no matter how consistently bad the outcomes are. It’s the old saying about how when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail come to life.

Ideologies can be useful. They provide a framework for seeing the world, for conceptualizing causes and effects, and for proposing solutions.

In a way, though, they are like science, or at least what science should be: constantly tested, constantly revised, and in danger of being falsified. In short, they should be flexible in light of new information and evidence.

Instead, ideologies become rigid, entrenched, and oddly antifragile. Indeed, it seems that the more holes you poke in a given ideology, or the more flaws you point out, the stronger its adherents devotion. They become highly dogmatic and, dare I say it, cult-like.

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“But Alex, aren’t you a Christian? Isn’t religion just another ideology?”

In short, no. Christianity is (1) a highly individualistic religion, (2) not concerned with political structures, (3) is reliant on a person’s own actions and faith for salvation, and (4) doens’t require forcing every other person on Earth to live the exact same way you do. Other religions might be more akin to an ideology–I can think of one, in particular, that just can’t seem to keep itself out of the news–but I leave further discussion to the experts.

Back to the secular, and smellier, realms of law and politics. Whether you’re a hardcore free-marketeer or a Marxist, your answer to everything is more of the same. The market-worshiper is just as apt to lament “We’ve never had really free markets!” as the communist is to whine “We’ve never had real communism!” And in both cases, there is a strange belief in the magic power of laws, as though laws are powerful spells that can compel proper behavior if only we use the right combination of words!

More, more, more. Hammer, hammer, hammer. Continue reading “The Devil and Ideology”

What Can You Give Up?

Yet another American institution has become a flashpoint for political controversy. This time, it’s professional sports. I’ve already written about the firestorm Colin Kaepernick started last year when he decided to protest what he saw as America’s continued unjust treatment of blacks and other minorities by kneeling for the National Anthem.These protests have intensified this year, at least during the first few weeks of the NFL season.

I refrained from writing about this, because hot takes like these are rarely useful and serve to be mostly nothing more than empty virtue signaling with no mention of a solution to any such problems, perceived or otherwise. There’s also typically a debate about free speech, which no one, including me, seems to understand fully anyway.

All I know about free speech, the rule of law, and everything in general involving man’s relation to government is this: Power is really all that matters, and the illusion of self-government will exist until it becomes too expensive to maintain. He who has the guns, wins.

America’s done a pretty good job with the illusion of self-government because we were founded by people who believed in the illusion too. But I digress. The takeaway is that this is the world we live in, so we need to know how to navigate it.

If you’re sick of politics in things like professional sports, your movies, your place of worship, your workplace, and other forms of entertainment or spheres of your life, what do you do? If there are no alternatives, you can create alternatives of course. You can also vote with your wallet. This doesn’t have to be an organized boycott. You can just . . . give it up.

Think about all the stuff we do in life that really doesn’t matter. That’s mere entertainment. Do you really need to know who beat whom in which sportsball event, or which character raped/murdered/lied to which other on Game of Thrones, when most of the people involved in the production of both events probably hates you merely for your difference of opinion?

Back to sports. Of all American cultural institutions, it seems to provide the least value. Let me explain before you jump down my throat: I’m making a distinction between participating in and spectating.

  • Participating in sports. Important. In addition to athletics helping promote a healthy body, they inculcate mental toughness, teamwork, pride and ownership, self-discipline, and being gracious in both victory and defeat.
  • Spectating. Watching. Sitting, eating, and drinking. Maybe getting drunk. Cheering for laundry, for players and owners that do not care about you. Obsessing over trades and stats. Letting the outcome of an event literally govern your thoughts and emotions.

You get this in any form of entertainment, really. Look at comic books, right? Even if you don’t care about them, the seemingly deliberate destruction of the industry to parrot an incredibly narrow, though highly influential, strain of far-left identity politics is stunning to behold, and instructive to how this happens across many such industries. The writers and artists have made it clear that they don’t care about storytelling. So why be a fan? Why devote time and money and energy to it?

Everything is a business. Your favorite musicians, artists, athletes, writers, actors, and so on, all want to get paid. They care about you inasmuch as you will give them money. And if you’re a participant in any of these endeavors, you likely feel the same way. And there is nothing wrong with that.

We used to live in a world where creators gave the audience what it wanted. The debate as to whether that leads to high or poor quality isn’t worth getting into here. But I think we can say that there are certain universal human principles that make for good storytelling, the kind that people want, but will still allow for maximum creativity on the part of the writers and directors and actors and everyone else down the line. Hollywood used to understand this. Not anymore.

People, all people, can engage in whatever speech they want. Let’s stop pretending that some speech isn’t deemed more important or acceptable than others though.

This all gets me thinking about what I can, and have, given up, and why. Continue reading “What Can You Give Up?”