An Undisciplined Writer

Did you know that Walter B. Gibson, creator of the wildly popular character The Shadow and prolific author of hundreds of stories and novels, one time typed so much his wife was forced to intervene because he broke his damn fingers typing?

Damn.

I learned this on my buddy JimFear138’s most recent podcast, where he talked to another friend of mine, Rawle Nyanzi, about all things genre (and why genre doesn’t really matter these days; check out J.D. Cowan’s recent post about this if you’re interested in the premise).

Anyway, the point is that these guys in the 20s, 30s, and that general era wrote fast. And they produced quality.

This, of course, translates into money. You can see why guys like Nick Cole and Jason Anspach have been so successful with their Galaxy’s Edge series, both with the fans and financially.

Information like this, of course, has the tendency to produce self-reflection, and I realize one vital fact about myself: I am a very undisciplined writer.

Seriously. I don’t really enjoy the actual act of writing. Maybe it’s because I don’t like sitting still for that long. I don’t think it’s necessarily a focus thing, because given the right objective, I can be occupied for hours.

And writing can be like that, when I get into a groove. It’s just that getting into said groove can be a challenge.

This gets me wondering if it’s a free time issue: Free time is so limited, as it is for most of us, that I almost have a checklist of things I’d like to do–work out, read, check some website I’m fond of–before I get to the writing, which can sometimes feel like work. So I’m scheduling writing time–I keep this blog going, after all, I’ve written several novels, and I’m getting others ready for publication–but I can’t shake that I could be doing more with my time.

Is it a balance issue, then? What if I wrote to the exclusion of other things I like to do with my time? I know what would happen: I’;d feel as guilty as I would if I, say, worked out to the exclusion of my writing and other things that interest me.

And then I look to my heroes in writing the way I looked to my heroes in music, and realize I don’t measure up.

For example, when I tried to make a go as a musician, I’d look to my idols like Frank Zappa, Prince,and David Bowie, how ridiculously prolific they were, and get sort of depressed by my own inadequacy.

Likewise, looking at guys like Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the aforementioned Walter B. Gibson, I start to fall into the same trap.

But the important things to remember are that these guys did this for a living, and they weren’t getting paid the big bucks (or having the massive TV/movie deals) the way guys do today. So they had to write to pay the bills.

Me? I’m doing this solely for the love of it . . . for the time being.

Stephen King and Dean Koontz are two super-rich authors I can think of off the top of my head who pumped out tons of books in their heyday, even when they’d already received financial success. I can’t help think of guys like George R. R. Martin, though, who acts as though he actually hates writing.

Enough musing! What to do about it? Here are some things that work for me, both physically and psychologically. I hope they help! Continue reading “An Undisciplined Writer”

Better Late Than Never

My family was late to church this past Sunday. Not so late as to miss communion, but we cut it close.

There are several reasons for this. Illness, for one. Second, we were all dragging, perhaps due to the dreary weather and unseasonable chill. Third, there was a family event following immediately after the service at a location just far enough away to be a pain to get to. Maybe we should just bag it, despite having woken up more than early enough to be ready on time if we tried?

Indecision lay over the house for the better part of the morning, And then, a half an hour before the service was supposed to begin, my wife and I looked at each other and decided, Yeah, let’s get ready.

The lesson here isn’t necessarily that it’s good to go to church, even if you’re late (which it is), but that it’s always good to show up.

Jesus discusses this concept himself in the parable of the vineyard workers: “So the last will be the first, and the first will be the last.” This is not to say that you should show up late to work all the time and expect to earn the same trust, accolades, responsibility, and yes, money, from your manager or your customers–punctuality is important! But taken as a general principle, there are two important things at play here:

  1. It’s good to show up late as opposed to not at all. While still embarrassing (usually), it at least demonstrates that you care enough to risk shame by taking the effort to show up.
  2. It’s good to be in the habit of getting ready and going somewhere and doing something on a consistent basis. This might be what some mean when they use the term “grind.”

You might not succeed at your given thing 100% of the time, but by being consistent, you’ll succeed far more often than you’ll fail. And even if you fail, you’ll be able to get right back on your feet again.

Here’s an easy example of this philosophy in action: Working out. How many times do you just not feel like going to the gym or doing whatever physical activity it is that you do, only that when you don’t go, you feel guilty as though you let yourself down? On the flip side, when you do drag yourself out of your state of inertia to do the thing, you’ll feel better even though–and here’s the key–you might not have done as good and hard a workout as you would have preferred.

The important thing is that you were there. Continue reading “Better Late Than Never”

Physicality = Mentality = Spirituality

 

Here we are in February, and I can reflect upon two New Year’s Resolutions I decided to make in late December:

  1. Adhere to every Greek Orthodox fast day in 2018
  2. Lose some fat

No, these two things aren’t unrelated. And I have done both before. But this year, I felt that I needed a little spiritual cleansing as well as physical cleansing, which often lead to mental and emotional cleansing. It sounds esoteric, but to paraphrase  Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes (who you should follow if you’re in any way interested in fitness):

Physicality = mentality = spirituality

Everything is connected. I’ve written about the benefits of fasting before, and I stand by my assertion that “When I’m not worrying about the food I consume, I start to think about the other stuff I consume.”

I’ve also discussed my thoughts about physical fitness, and how it helps improve other aspects of my life. It’s amazing what a little self-discipline and enforced unpleasantness can do–let’s face it, lifting feels good, but there are some days when you just don’t want to go to the gym.

strength01

Lastly, I’ve discussed how the only way to get anything done and done well is to get obsessed and stay obsessed. Ruthless focus is what you need. At least in my life, when I haven’t been obsessed with something, I just kind of meander around.

This isn’t a post to brag, although I’ve been pleased with my results. Instead, I’d like to hopefully inspire anyone reading this to

So let’s put this all together. First, we’ll go over what I’m doing, and then we’ll go over what I’ve learned. Continue reading “Physicality = Mentality = Spirituality”

The Only Way Is Forward

There’s a funny thing about time: It’s a one-way street, theoretical physics and sci-fi aside. 

And it moves so fast

You are going to get old and die. There is nothing you can do about this. Stuff will happen between your birth and your death. And eventually the sun will expand, engulfing the entire inner solar system, up to and including Mars, in its fiery bosom, before exploding altogether. The end. 

But we have a few billion years until then. 

I saw a great line recently, something akin to “Your life is two numbers and a dash in-between. Make the dash interesting.” I like that. 

Born at point A. Die at point B. Kick ass between. We’re all in the same boat and no amount of potions and serums and computer programs will change this. 

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, we just crossed over into the year 2017 a few days ago, and while it’s pretty arbitrary, it’s just as good a time as any to take stock and plan ahead. 

That’s right: There’s nothing wrong with goals per se. And yes, the arch-cynic here is looking ahead. 

(Reminder: I did not do this in my New Year’s Eve post).

For the purposes of this site, I would like to continue writing about various topics of interest, only using personal experience as a springboard to interesting themes. Expect the writing schedule to be a little more “normal,” i.e. 1-2 posts per week. 

I would like to get some writing published in 2017. I have one novel in the hopper ready to go, another almost done, and my NaNoWriMo novel to finish (it turns out that 50,000 words represented the first half of my story). 

I’m thinking of following the examples of my pals Rawle Nyanzi and Russell Newquist, among others, and going the indie or self-publishing route. 
I also have some professional and personal goals, but again, won’t be sharing them here other than in vague terms as a launching point for something else. 

I’d like to revise some earlier posts. I have done a few, but there are plenty more to go. 

And as always, there’s the overarching question of “why?” Why do this? Why write? Here are some answers:  Continue reading “The Only Way Is Forward”

Living for Dying: No One Said Life Has to Make Sense

Kandili.JPG

It’s can be frustrating, can’t it? The ambition inflation of a certain generation weaned on the belief that it could do anything, be anyone, all because you were you? Both being of and dealing with this generation.

The truth is, you can do nearly whatever you want in America. But it’s not because the world owes you anything. In fact, it owes you nothing (or, as my grandfather used to put it, “The world doesn’t owe you shit.”) You have to go out and grab it.

But if you were raised in a cage of safety, affluent, and never facing any hardship, you likely don’t have that drive. It’s a strange paradox.

So your life sucks and it’s entirely your fault. What are you going to do about it?

My life doesn’t suck, but it hasn’t worked out as I planned it. This is for two reasons:

  1.  Life rarely, if ever, works out how you plan it; and
  2. I failed to go all-in on the things I should have gone all-in on.

Things didn’t work out as planned–who cares?

I don’t! I enjoy challenges, and life is a challenge.

When you’re 18 or 20 and you’re making plans, it’s delusional to think they’ll pan out to the letter. Unforeseen things pop up. They always do.

With the right kind of plans–that is, overarching visions and systems to achieve them, as opposed to nothing more than concrete goals–one’s younger years can be better served achieving some level of fruition later on.

If you tell yourself “I have to be X by this date,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. 

Far better to tell yourself “I shall do X every day so that I’ll put myself in the best position to achieve Y.”

This requires being comfortable with ambiguity. Many of us aren’t comfortable with this when we’re younger, but the older you get and the more you experience, the more ambiguity becomes a puzzle to figure out than a scary monster to run from.

That said, ambiguity can have its drawbacks. And yet, aside from things like career and where you live and family composition, it can seep into other areas of your life. Things like:

I’m going to dive deep here, so hold on. You have been warned. Continue reading “Living for Dying: No One Said Life Has to Make Sense”

Guitar Challenge: Why Working on Your Weaknesses Helps Your Strengths

Music is something I’ve always loved. Which is funny, because I was pretty shy and reserved as a kid.

I still get recharged by being alone, but I’ve managed to overcome my inteovert’s tendencies in large part thanks to music. After all, if you want to perform, you can’t be shy.

It’s only fitting. After all, you’ve got to be a little cracked in the head to open yourself up to such criticism.

The terrible thing about all of this is that, in addition to selling 99% of my musical equipment (I did the math) recently to pay bills while I wasn’t working, the last time I’ve performed any kind of music on a stage in front of people was way back in 2012, the spring before my son was born.

Yow.

But the itch never went away, and seeing as how I’m just down to my acoustic guitar, a new goal has come to mind. I’d like to do something I’ve never done before.

I want to play at an open mic.  Continue reading “Guitar Challenge: Why Working on Your Weaknesses Helps Your Strengths”

Book Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

I never “got” Dilbert until I started working an office job. And then it all started to make sense.

Dilbert comic strip
Copyright Scott Adams. Used without permission. If Mr. Adams wants me to take this down, I will do so without hesitation.

In just a few panels, creator Scott Adams is able to get to the heart of the workplace absurdity in corporate America. Adams brings this same clarity of thought to his political analysis, being one of the few people to accurately predict the course of the 2016 presidential election.

Whether it’s because of his persuasion and hypnosis training or just an inborn way of looking at the world, Adams provides a fresh perspective and a clarity of thought to everything he writes about.

Oh, and in 2013 he also published one of the best “self-help” books you’ll ever read.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life is, by Adams’s own admission, “not an advice book,” cartoonists being notoriously unreliable role-models. Instead, Adams catalogs all of his life’s failures and explains the lessons he learned from them, suggesting that the reader “compare[s] my story with the stories of other people who found success and see if you notice any patterns.” (p. 1)

This sounds funny, and it is. Adams has a way with words. But aside from making you laugh, you’ll be blown away by the insights and just how practical Adams’s advice is. Here’s a big piece, for you:

Systems are where it’s at. Goals are for losers.

There. Now you don’t have to read the book. I saved you $10.00. You’re welcome.

Dilbert creator Scott Adams
Scott Adams

That was a joke. I highly recommend you give Adams your money in exchange for his book. But I’ve made my point: Although he illustrates his lessons through the use of stories, Adams doesn’t play games and he doesn’t hide the ball. His descriptions of things that have worked for him in his life are direct and incisive, and he provides practical tips on how to incorporate these lessons into your life. Even better, he uses his persuasion techniques to plant the seeds in your head in a memorable way so that, months after you finish the last page and put the book down, the lessons still percolate in your head. Continue reading “Book Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams”