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”

The Curse of the Midwit

One of the worst things to be is a midwit. And I am one.

Let me explain what I mean by “midwit.” I have seen the term used many ways, and they boil down to these six points:

  1. Someone who is not as smart as the truly intelligent, but is of above-average intelligence,
  2. Who wants other people to think they are actually more intelligent than they are, so they,
  3. Ape positions and mannerisms they think intelligent people espouse, without,
  4. Doing their own research or,
  5. Amending their positions when provided with compelling contrary evidence, and most fatally,
  6. Don’t realize that they are not as smart as they think they are

Point six is the one that causes trouble. And here’s where I like to think I differ from most midwits: I always try to acknowledge when I don’t know something, which happens quite a bit.

I recently finished listening to a podcast where Dave Rubin spoke with Bret and Eric Weinstein. Now those guys are smart, on a level I could never hope to approach. One thing that struck me was not their encyclopedic knowledge of a variety of topics, but how they approached the world:

  • They fully admitted when they didn’t have enough expertise to make anything other than an educated assumption based upon what they did understand
  • They were fully aware of what they didn’t know or understand
  • They were able to articulate the opposite position of what they personally thought or believed
  • They very incredibly careful with their language
  • They thought conceptually
  • They saw the potential flaws in their own positions
  • They made connections between various disciplines, and had interests and intellectual pursuits outside of their stated, credentialed areas of expertise

Eric Weinstein said something that stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was essentially that the idea “jack of all trades, master of none,” is both incorrect and harmful. He they said “specialist in one trade, connector of none.”

Connector of none . . . 

Wow. Continue reading “The Curse of the Midwit”

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 Anti-Self-Loathing Manifesto

People hate themselves. 

It is now a big part of my mission to help end self-loathing. Not just in me, but in others. As an idea or a way of life.

Self-loathing is at the root of many societal and cultural problems we have today. And I do not understand it.

So what happened?

A part of it seems to be the Western Enlightenment tradition of questioning everything. The endpoint of this, with no objective truth to ground this search, appears to be “Well, we’ve run our course lads. We’re uniquely evil upon the world. Let’s all die!”

This is bad. 

Another aspect seems to be subconscious boredom. When you’ve reached the top and live in peace and comfort, there’s nothing left to do but tear it all down and start over. Instead of starting a new project, we seem hellbent on wrecking the one we’ve built over the millennia.

And of course there are the enemies of civilization who foster and actively work towards this. 

But this is societal self-loathing. And societies are made of individuals. Individuals whom have that fallen, common, all-too-human tendency towards self-destruction.

I cannot change society myself, but it makes me sad to see my fellow humans, in real life and online, hate themselves. If my words can make anyone reconsider this course, I’ll consider all of this blogging a success. 

But what to do? What authority do I have?

Let me tell you: I have been there. And it’s still a struggle. But I’ve learned to not hate myself. It can be done. You don’t have to become an arrogant, selfish psychopath…but a little swagger never hurt anyone. 

Below I humbly declare my Anti-Self-Loathing Manifesto! Continue reading “The Anti-Self-Loathing Manifesto”

One Year of Failure

Oh my goodness I’ve been writing on this stupid blog for over a year.

My first post was published on May 14, 2016. So I missed the official one-year anniversary. So I failed at commemorating the occasion. Big deal.

Here’s how I opened that post:

Hello. My name is Alex, and I’m a failure.

And that’s okay.

If you’ve never failed at anything, that probably means that you haven’t tried anything.

So you see? I’m merely living up to expectations.

All kidding aside, it’s always cool to look back and see that you’ve been doing something consistently over a long period. I’m going to claim victory on this one, since it’s the longest I’ve ever kept a blog.

And you know something? I’ve actually learned a few things during this time. Things I’m gonna go share because this is a blog and pompous, long-winded explanations are what people do: Continue reading “One Year of Failure”

Eat A Rock

There’s something floating around the zeitgeist holding that failure is not the end of all things, but the beginning. 

“Fail forward.”

“Have a system.”

“Keep grinding.”

“Failure makes you stronger.”

It’s an idea that’s gaining a lot of traction, it’s proponents now looking like geniuses (Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Scott Adams come to mind).

My high school music teacher–the best teacher I ever had–used to say something to us before every performance: “Eat a rock.”

As in, go out and do something bold. Impossible. Dumb, even. But also glorious. And in order to eat a rock–and here’s the important part–you can’t give up or let up, not even for a second. Because if you do, you’ll never finish. 

It’s a silly metaphor, and it conjures up all sorts of interesting visual imagery, but it’s stuck with me all the same ever since. 

Eat a rock. 

I had a big failure recently. Like, a massive one. But something strange happened when I got the news. I wasn’t angry, or worried, or filled with self-pity. I felt–and this is where it gets weird–empty. Numb. 

Though this is the kind of thing that would make most wail and gnash their teeth, it didn’t move the needle for me one way or the other. It was just a thing, another thing in life that needs to be dealt with. 

Maybe I’ve been internalizing these messages. Maybe saturating myself in the world of self-improvement, systems-thinking, philosophy, and brotherhood so much these past two years is actually rubbing off on me. 

In truth, things will get worse before they get better. Life will get more difficult. But once the numbness wore off, felt oddly exhilarated. I went into my room, hit the knees in prayer, and when I got up, I felt a sense of resolve. 

I have a responsibility and a duty. To my family and to myself. 

There are things, like my thoughts and my health, that I can control. 

And nothing, not even failure, lasts forever.  Continue reading “Eat A Rock”