Changing your environment (probably part 1…)

Nope, I’m not wading into the global warming debate… my daddy told me you can never win an argument about politics or region… and global warming is both politics and religion.

I’m talking about your personal environment.

My wife and I have been talking a lot about research lately (she is working on a doctorate…). One of her concerns is that a lot of people at the university get stuck in  a particular journal or database and if the research isn’t listed there, “it doesn’t exist”. This is yet another flavor of the dreaded “not invented here” syndrome.

I’d like to think psychologist and artists (my areas of interest) aren’t as stuck in this rut; but it can happen here too. Actually, speaking of psychology, some of the places I really see being stuck in a rut (or one’s personal environment…) are problem solving and depression.

Some times, whether it’s your next research paper; next novel; next business deal; next painting/sculpture; next math problem; or just feeling better about yourself, the answer is to change where you are mentally or physically. I’m not going to try to cover all the ways this change can go right now, so for this post this is the main point folks: sometimes a change (even temporarily) is good.

Changing where you are, something about where you are, or what you’re doing does several things for you. It creates an opening for new information and new thoughts. It gives the part of your brain that is working on whatever a chance to rest. It gives you a diversion that can allow your mind to bring down the doubts, barriers, and blocks that are keeping you from finding the answers (why do you think so many ideas happen in the shower and not at the desk).

Having your work/living space (both mental and physical) is good and can be optimized for the way you work, but sometimes you need to get out (Hard to have a voyage of discovery if you never leave the dock).

You might want to empower yourself to change your space too.  Just changing the lighting around in my office or workshop sometimes makes a difference (not to mention putting stuff away, taking our the trash, or just opening a window).

If what your doing is working keep doing it, but sooner or later change is needed.

The change may be big or small, but if you’re stuck change something (right here I was going to put another quote, but I was stuck on which one to use… I changed plans and used my own words). The changes don’t always have to be big… unlocking a door isn’t a big movement but it’s pretty important to actually opening the door. Some times it is the little changes that make the big ones possible.

You have the power to affect and control your life and environment. Sometimes it’s a step at a time thing. Some times you have to figure it out before you do it, but you do have the power.


Well dear reader, that’s the post for this week. More to say on the topic but for now it’s time to change to another project.

See you next week


Is the beginning really the beginning?

So, I can officially announce that I nailed the opening for a novella I’m working on. The only catch is that the opening I nailed was written in revision. The beginning people read was not the beginning of the story from my perspective writing it, but it is the beginning of the story I want to tell (got that?).

I have to say that this happens to me a lot, with stories and other projects. The first step others see, the opening held up to the world, is never where things really start. In the case of the Novella, the point where I started writing isn’t a start from the textual standpoint or the idea standpoint. It is close to the start of the story, but not the actual start. The starting Idea doesn’t really show up until the last chapter.

Generally before you put words on paper (bend metal, measure ingredients, what ever) there is an idea. Unless you are 100% inspired or a total and complete savant the idea probably isn’t a starting point (it might not be an end point either) but it is important and interesting enough to work with. Even if you are inspired or a savant there is probably a lot of work to do before the opening the world sees is visible.

You need to do some thinking and deciding. Sometimes (ok, usually…) you need to do some learning. And, you need a plan.

I’ve become more of a fan of outlines. They do help your thinking, plotting and planning; however, I don’t feel that you should be so stuck to a predetermined outline that you can’t follow the story (this also applies to visual arts, music, medicine, cooking, etc.). Your outline needs to be flexible and/or you need to rebuild it from time to time. You learn and realize things in the process that can materially change the project.

This is why the opening I nailed was written in the revision. When I first put words on paper I still didn’t know enough about the story to really do the opening. Truth be told, when I had my initial idea I didn’t know what it was in terms of the story, it was an idea about a place. I was as surprised as any one else (maybe more so!) on how I got from A to B.

Projects rarely start out looking like what they will become. There will be discoveries and adjustments along the way. That is part of the fun!

The beginning often isn’t the beginning, and the end is often another beginning. The stuff in the middle is what we call life.

Take care,

See you next week.

By the Numbers

I guess I could title this one “numbers mean stuff”. I’ve been dealing with/thinking about financials… I working on setting up a business (aren’t I always?) as well as writing. At the same time my wife’s income is going up as she is taking some teaching gigs as an adjunct faculty. And, were doing conferences and conference travel. This is all good stuff, but it makes keeping all the finances in my head impractical at best.

Putting your finances on paper (or the computer…) isn’t usually a lot of fun, even for people who actually like numbers, but the benefits out-way the negatives. Money and how its handled is a significant factor in business and marriage failures, as well as being a source of insecurity for family members, workers, partners (of all sorts) and so on. Two of the biggest culprits are hiding what you’re just spending or just not wanting to (and not) facing the numbers.

Yes, I understand its not fun sometimes to put the numbers down (it can be scary and tedious!). Nobody wants to face not having the money for what they need/want and budgets can feel constraining. At the same time, having a budget is a vital step in taking control of your finances; and control of your finances can be very empowering. And I’ll let you in on a secret (and I know this from experience) the budget it’s self can be liberating if you do it right.

How? Build in some flexibility. Give yourself a small amount you know you can spend on whatever. You’ve just given yourself a little pot of money that you know you can spend without worrying about making rent. It might not be much but its there every month and you can count on it. Another way is to put some money in savings, then you know you have some wiggle room when things get scary.

By the way, this isn’t just advice for “poor people”. If you’re not just scraping by you can get that money under control and build wealth!

It’s not just about the budget either. Doing this right isn’t just about how much but also about when. I’ve known people who pawn things to make it through the month. Then they get the stuff out and pawn it again at the end of the next month. If they can break the cycle then they save money because they don’t have to pay pawn fees (this goes for late fees and overdrafts too). It may take a scrimp for a while but in the long run it’s a lot more in your pocket.

I’m not going to tell you what your budget should be or what should be in it: 1) it’s your choice and depends on your situation, and 2) I’m a stat’s guy not a finance guy. I will say that if you take control of your finances, plan, and make choices; you will make your life better. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it.

Well, till next time… it’s your life, go live it