Get Obsessed and Stay Obsessed

The only way to ever get anything done, and done well, is to have ruthless focus.

That’s the truth. If you disagree, you’re wrong.

I’ll use Leonardo da Vinci as an example. The man was a genius, sure, but he seemed too scattershot in his doings to really make that much of a lasting impact in any one field. He’s know for doing a lot of things really well, but he didn’t paint and sculpt like Michelangelo or compose like Beethoven.

Speaking of Beethoven, the man lived music. That’s all he did. Even when deaf, he still composed. Talk about obsession.

It’s not just the arts. Look at what Arnold Schwarzenegger did with his body. Look at what Henry Ford did regarding automobiles. Look at what Bruce Lee did with marital arts.

The problem as I see it is this: We live in a society that discourages the pursuit of excellence by turning leisure for leisure’s sake into a worthy goal in and of itself.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying a movie or a drink or a trip to Vegas or video games of whatever. I argue that there is something wrong with filling every angstrom of free time with entertainment.

There’s not much culture other than pop culture, true. And it’s good to get out of reality from time to time. But it’s more worthy to create something, even if nobody else will see it.

Keeping minds active and inspired is one of the greatest things one human being can accomplish for another.

Continue reading “Get Obsessed and Stay Obsessed”

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”

Axiometry, Part V: “If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is.”

"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

All of this talk about free stuff has got me thinking about another saying that lots of people seem to live by:

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Now, in my post as an optimistic cynic, the impulse behind this saying is spot-on. But as with anything we take as a bit of conventional wisdom, it’s worth unpacking this particular maxim to see if it really makes sense as a guide for how to live one’s life.

And so without further review, it’s time for more axiometry!

A refresher for what it is that we are doing:

Axiom: “A rule or principle that many people accept as true.”

-metry: “Art, process, or science of measuring.”

I want to measure these axioms to determine whether we should accept them as true.

Here we go.

Continue reading “Axiometry, Part V: “If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is.””

Free Stuff

logo

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.

pl180520-coors_beer_koozies
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”

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”

Interesting Times

man-facing-tsunami

It’s easy to feel yourself swept away by things, insignificant and out of control. Watching the world unfold, one question–maybe the first question–should be:

Why do you care?

The second question, then, might be:

How could you not?

Simple questions with no good answers. Simple questions that, I’m sure, human beings have been asking our ancestors first formed questions in their minds.

I imagine a caveman watching the blizzard from the relative comfort of his cave and pondering his existence. Is this all there is? Am I destined for nothing but fleeing the saber-toothed, hunting the mammoth, and finding shelter? Luckily for us, his answer, and those of thousands like him, was no.

So what’s our excuse?

Are we destined only to scrape enough to pay the taxman and the other bill collectors, to undue the sub-par education of our children, and to try and end life without running afoul of the endless laws that surround us?

It’s a reactive pose, which is why I suspect it creates such deep feelings of powerlessness.

The caveman sure thought so. It was this discomfort that eventually led to the skyscraper and insulation and central heating, the firearm, architectural principles, and the automobile.

So what’s our excuse? Continue reading “Interesting Times”

Inhumanity Is All The Rage These Days

The logo from the Marvel comics The Inhumans

What is it about tragedy that brings out the worst in people?

I know what you’re thinking: Tragedies can also bring out the best. We have seen how America has banded together in the wake of the terrible devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose.

But then, there’s the recent Las Vegas shooting.

I’m not going to go into the gory details here, but suffice it to say an incredibly evil man shot a bunch of people at a music festival, killing close to 60 and wounding hundreds of others before turning the gun on himself.

Once again, the reaction to this act of inhumanity is nearly as inhuman as the act itself.

No, you see, it wasn’t the killer who bears responsibility. It’s the NRA. It’s NRA members. It’s the Republican Party of the United States of America. It’s any lawmaker who didn’t vote to enact laws (that wouldn’t have made a difference anyway).  It’s anyone who supports the Second Amendment. It’s anybody who likes country music. It’s anybody who voted for Donald Trump. It’s Donald Trump himself (for God’s sake, the man is living rent-free in 60,000,000 people’s heads. Why does anybody let a politician control their thoughts and emotions?!).

The impulse to immediately start casting blame at people who had nothing to do with an act of violence instead of blaming the actual perpetrator is terrifyingly inhuman and evil. 

It’s sick and it’s wrong and it explains so much of what is going on in this country.

This attitude explains why there seems to be no hope of communication, no hope of reconciliation. One group of people wants the other to actually die.

How do you overcome this? How do you get over hatred, which seems to be one of the easiest, most enjoyable emotion to succumb to?

For starters, you have to imagine the other person as a human being with a soul and inherent worth. This might take a hell of a lot of imagination, but it can be done. And once it’s done, you start to extrapolate what would happen if this person were to die:

  • Do they have wife? Children? A family?.
  • Do other people enjoy spending time with them? Are other people relying on them?
  • How would other people’s lives be impacted if this person were to die?
  • What about the important people in your life? How would they be affected if you died?
  • How would you feel if someone that you cared for were murdered merely for their beliefs or opinions?

Really, it’s no different than the old cliche of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. These are really basic, human questions to act. And yet humanity seems in such short supply. Continue reading “Inhumanity Is All The Rage These Days”