Whine or Do?

Occasionally when you are working on a project you get to learn something. If you’re lucky you might even learn something about yourself…

I initially wrote this on Tuesday after finishing a little work on Going Home the Hard Way, my next novel (and my most recent NANOWRIMO project). I’d just finished going through chapter 1 for the fourth (fifth?) time. While I was feeling pretty good about the chapter I was a bit worried about my hero being a bit of a whiny brat (he is fourteen…)

I realized that, for the character, occasional bouts of whininess are to be expected (again, he is fourteen and from a broken home…). John growing out of that whininess is part of the story I’m trying to tell. The important part of things is to not let myself (as a theoretical adult) be a whiny brat.

It is easy to complain about the ‘breaks’ and chance you didn’t get. It is easy to say “if only I had what he/she has, then I could succeed!”

One of the miracles of our world dear reader is that we have the ability to change. We can become more than we have been.

Another miracle of our world is that we can achieve our worthy desires. Maybe not in quite the way we initially see them, but we can achieve them. We will be given what we need to do so, if we will do the work and be ready to receive what we need when it is given.

It takes thought and effort, but we can really achieve our worthy desires.

Stay tuned dear reader, and see you next post.

Geometry and Reality

I’d like to start with a thought I had while doing some book research:

In geometry terms a line is a theoretical, it has no ends. A line segment is the thing with two end points. For our purposes we can have as many line segments as we need, in any direction we need, as long as the overall line from us to our goal is followed.  When we stray from that (mental) line we are in trouble.

When we actually try something we want to do the result can be pretty ugly. We will make mistakes. We will have missteps…

But, if we learn from our mistakes and missteps we can progress toward the thing we really desire, even though the line segments in reality don’t line up as perfectly straight and true as the mental/theoretical line we wanted.

How this has applied in my life:

As of this Saturday (20 May 2017) the novel Johnson Farm is finally on sale. It’s been a long time in coming. It would have been quicker to arrive if I could have held closer to that mental/theoretical line between where I was and me being an author. It would have been a much longer process if I had continued to listen to those who told me I couldn’t do it, or pushed me in other directions.

I will admit that my first attempt at writing a novel wasn’t very good. It was a first attempt; I was going through a lot at the time; and I was about twelve… Just because I didn’t knock it out of the park on the first one doesn’t mean I should have given up!

That first attempt still exists as a file on my computer. Elements of that story also exist here and there in other stories I’ve written (and some I’m writing right now…). I keep that story around because it helps me see where I was when I started down the path to being an author and novelist. It helps me measure my progress.

What it actually means:

Sometimes the real life line isn’t as straight as the mental/theoretical one. But those shifts aren’t necessarily mistakes, unless you give up. That’s an important distinction. The time I said “that person is right, I can’t succeed as an author, I should be a computer programmer” was a mistake. It was me shifting from the true line. The times I set a story down to get a little distance and perspective before I picked it up again were not.

Ultimately it is that mental line from where you are to where you’re going that matters. If you have to side step to get around (or over, or under) an obstacle that’s OK. If you’re beating your head against a cement wall, you’re not getting anywhere. If you shift slightly to walk through a doorway you’re making progress.

The sidesteps and diversions that come from giving up on a goal are the ones that can kill you. The ones that you can explain in terms of how they get you closer to your goal (including making it possible to get to your goal…) are the ones that save you.

The biggest threat to your success is the same thing as your biggest asset in becoming successful. It’s  you, dear reader, ultimately it all comes down to you, and your active choice to do the things that will get you where you want to go;  even when it doesn’t look to others like that’s what’s happening.

That’s it for this one dear reader, see you next post.

Strange bedfellows?

There are a lot of people out there who (whether they admit it or not…) operate under the principle that because I am in group A and you are in group B we can’t associate with each other. Not only is this false but it is dangerously false!

We’re not all the same. It’s a given, just accept it. But, the fact that we’re not all the same doesn’t mean that we can’t share values and beliefs.

Here are a couple of examples:

First example

Last Sunday the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints announced that they were going to build a temple here in the town I live in. Naturally the LDS community here was thrilled. And, sadly, some of their neighbors were angry…

Several people have made comments that the building will be an eyesore. Others claimed that the Mormons were going to invade and take over…

But then there was the reaction from some prominent individuals in the Muslim community…

The Muslims welcomed the announcement of the LDS temple!

Now the LDS church is not the same thing as Islam, but these influential Muslim leaders were able to recognize the announcement as proof of a continuing, and growing, faith in God in the community. Both groups have some intolerant and outspoken members (to say the least), but both groups also value faith in God and family values.

The prominent Muslims in our community were able to recognize the event as one that built on common values and goals. (And for the ‘take over’ people: I believe the LDS community is already over 50% of the community, so it ain’t exactly an ‘invasion’… For the eyesore crowd: I’ve heard it before… And every time it’s been said (in my presence at least) the new temple sent property values UP

Second example

Down in Florida there was a guy who shot up a nightclub…

The clientele of the nightclub happened to be largely homosexual. The shooter claimed he did it because they offended his religious beliefs…

Most of us who’ve seen the news remember something about the event…

Do you remember what those ‘rednecks’ down at a local gun shop said?

The owner of the shop, and the community around it welcomed the local homosexual community in…

Now, this event was painted by some as a marketing stunt by a notoriously conservative and intolerant community, but…

Knowing the community around my own local gun shop, knowing enthusiasts of a variety of colors, creeds and political loyalties, I can also see the level where it was an honest offer.

At least at the gun shop I go to community would rather see people have the freedom to choose and live their lives than see the reign of intolerant idiots who would kill you for disagreeing with them. They are willing to stand with and defend those who they might not wholly agree with because they do believe in the freedom to choose, they do believe in people and the rights that they are given under the U.S. constitution including the right to believe as they wish and seek happiness as they understand it. (Again: at least where I go…) They do not and will not support those who would seek to oppress others by force of arms.

The point of it all…

The point is, just because I happen to be part of group A and you are part of group B, that doesn’t mean that we can’t work together when our goals values are the same. True, I might not agree with the Muslim down the street about the precise book of scripture, but in terms of valuing family and having faith in God, we kind of agree. That is something to build on, not something to run from.

True, I may be heterosexual and the neighbor may be homosexual, but that doesn’t preclude us from having the same concerns about a wave of break-ins in the neighborhood, or not wanting a meth lab across the street, or wanting good paying jobs in our community, or…

When we build on common bonds and values we grow. We also hold out the possibility that those we disagree with may eventually come to agree with us on other things (or we may come to agree with them as we learn…). If we let differences that don’t matter overshadow the things that do, we’re really cutting ourselves off from the good that we could share.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Find some points of agreement!

Keep it in front of you…

Let’s face it, we’re busy…

All of us have things to do. And if we’re going to be successful we have a lot of things to do. So, how do you keep it all straight? How do you get it all done?

Between thinking of today’s topic and actually writing about it I spent some serious time trying to remember what the heck I was going to write about.  The problem was that between getting the idea and actually writing I had to get to my office from dropping my wife off at work, I had to get through my morning office start up routine, I had a great idea for my blog over at Forever Mountain Publishing, and of course I hadn’t been in the right spot to make any notes in the first place…

Worse, I actually got the idea because I checked my progress on another project and found I hadn’t made any progress in the last two weeks, nothing. In fairness I am in the middle of a book launch; and figuring out my company’s social media plan; and researching for a non-fiction book; and writing for another fiction project; and helping my wife with her doctoral dissertation. But, the reality is I just plain forgot!

Having more than one goal and wearing more than one hat are facts of modern life. Conflicting priorities are a reality in today’s world (actually they’ve pretty much always been realities. The old timey ones are just easier to forget…). This means you have to make choices. You have to keep things organized. And, you have to keep the things you’re going to do in front of you.

Choosing and tracking

First on the list is choosing. This isn’t necessarily easy. Sometimes we have to choose between two things that we want, or want to happen. We’ve talked about this before and will probably do so again. The important part, for now, is that sometimes you have to make choices in what you do. That may mean saying no to an opportunity because you have one that you feel is better or more important. It can also mean asking if you can postpone an opportunity.

This isn’t always comfortable, but it’s a key to getting it all done; don’t overload yourself, or others, just because someone asks you to… That’s a sure road to failure.

Next is keeping track of it all. There is a variety of organization tools and plans out there (and by “a variety” I mean enough to spend a lifetime just trying to find the right system…). There are a lot of systems because different people work differently and have different needs. The system I use as a writer/artist/publisher is different from the one my father in law uses as a contractor because our projects have different demands. I use a different system from my friend down the block because I don’t have to cope with ten kids…

It’s probably a good idea to accept the fact that there is no “one system of organization” here in earthly life (if you’re going to drag God into this that’s not fair (I’m a believer, but God’s organization system is a few orders of magnitude different from ours…)). This means that you have to put some time, thought and research into what system works for you. That means you have to spend a little time figuring out who you are and what you do.

Actually doing!

Once you have made your choices about what you’re going to do, or not do, and found an organization system you have to keep it in front of you.

I’ve known a lot of people that tell me organization systems don’t work for them. Sometimes that is because they just chose the wrong system for them. More often their problems result from setting up an organization system and not using it. Sorry guys an organization system isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of deal.

There is one constant that I see in organization; the things that you think about, the ones you actually have on your mind and take steps toward, are the ones you make progress on. The things you forget about are the ones that will probably never get done.

What you need to do to keep things in front of you depends on who you are and what you do (again there is no “one plan” in earthly life). If I tell you to put a note on the refrigerator that works great, if you go to the ‘fridge often. If you don’t, that won’t work. If I tell you to keep it in your phone, that might work for you. But what about people like me who don’t tend to use ‘smart’ phones…

What you need to do can depend on the project too. For me an art/sculpture/jewelry project needs to be out, and somewhat set up to work on, in a place that I will be. For writing (which I do pretty inherently) I just need to make sure I have a notebook somewhere around me (not necessarily in sight at all times but where I can find it when I want it). For other things a note on my Google calendar works just fine (if you look at the calendar!).

Again this is one of those where you have to learn about yourself and find what works for you. But, I can promise you dear reader, when you keep the important things in front of you the important things will be the ones that you think about and the ones that get done.

Until next time…

Keep those goals in sight!

The road goes on…

I’m a writer with a graduate degree in Psychology. It’s pretty safe to say I spend a fair amount of time watching people. One of the things I’ve been watching lately is people freezing up and stopping. They stop because it doesn’t seem like they’re getting where they want to go. Sometimes they really aren’t. Sometimes they are getting where they want to go, but don’t realize it. Sometimes they didn’t really know where they wanted to go in the first place.

The thing is we humans are a bit like sharks. If we stop moving we die. In our case it’s not a literal physical ‘if you stop moving you die’; we humans need a purpose and if we lose our sense of purpose we wander. And that’s the part that gets us….

We need to know what we want. We need to know what our purpose is.

It’s a simple truth, if you don’t know where you’re trying to go you probably won’t get there.

If we’re going to keep moving and live, it would really be helpful to know where we’re going. It would also be helpful if we knew why we’re going there and doing what we’re doing.

If you’ve started your trip already, and you’re not sure about where you’re going (or why), it might be a good idea to stop and figure things out before you go on.

Remember if you don’t know where you’re going it’s really hard to get there. So, stopping to figure things out probably isn’t hurting much! The thing to remember is that you are stopping purposefully. You are actually still moving toward your goals because you’re figuring out what our goals are. We are not just wandering.

We need to move toward it.

Just having a purpose, just having a goal, won’t really get you anywhere. Once you know where you’re trying to go, the next step is to figure out how to get there.

When you start, you probably won’t entirely know the road. You may have to change things on the way. Even though you might not know all the challenges, you’ll be more prepared, more able to overcome the challenges, if you spend some time thinking and preparing before you get to them.

The straight and narrow path may not look straight…

The path that leads where we want to go might not look like the right path. That’s because our perception isn’t perfect. Sometimes we encounter obstacles we hadn’t planned on. Sometimes we lose track of our actual desire/purpose. We need to be able to keep one eye on the immediate obstacle while we keep the other eye on the overall goal. That way, we can figure out not just how to overcome the problems of right now, but how to get to where we really want to be.

That’s the take home for today dear reader… Figure out where you’re trying to go, and then keep moving. Keep your eye on what you’re trying to do, and not just the immediate problem.

I know that there are more questions. How do we actually do these things? How do we keep an eye on the goal and one on the road? How do we get where we’re going?

I will help where I can dear reader, and other parts you will find on your own. I have confidence in you.

Until next time …

Figure out where you want to go then start moving.