When you are ready…

I’ve read it. I’ve said it. I’ve proved it true… You will get what you need when you’re ready for it.

I actually almost wrote about this last week, but the experience was a little too fresh and I guess I needed a little more distance…

As regular readers of this blog know I’m working on a young adult novel. The novel (actually the series now… Hard Way is the second book) has to do with a teenage boy trying to sort out his life. He is trying to sort out who he is; who his family is; who his friends are; and what he really believes. As the writer, it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’m willing to take. It’s a challenge I am taking.

I’m editing the second book and learning a great deal in the process. I’ve accepted that the third book (which I’m starting the first draft of next month…) is going to be even more of a challenge for reasons I’ve discussed here (link) among others.

I’m working hard, putting all the pieces I can into place. And yet, there are things missing. There are things that I can’t seem to find (on my own at least…). And then it happens…

Out of that tangled web we call the internet the girl I cared about back in high school, the girl my wife and I are both grateful to for having the courage to introduce me to the gospel of Jesus Christ, contacts me on facebook.

At the time I needed it most, the moment I was ready to receive it, someone from my past appeared and gave me what I needed. Someone provided the trigger to the memories I needed to get through the project.

You can get what you need to achieve any worthy goal dear readers. You need to be worthy of it. You need to look for it and prepare for it dear reader. But, whether you choose to call it a loving God or just a bountiful universe there is a source out there that will provide what you need when you are ready for it.

So dear reader, figure out your worthy goals. Figure out what you need to achieve them. And then get started. What you need will be there for you when the time is right.

I’m grateful to Susan and her family for really helping me when I needed it. And whether she knows it or not she’s helped me once again (Thank you Susan).

(A note for anyone wondering… No, neither one of us is going to allow anything inappropriate to come out of this. I love my wife. Susan loves her husband. I’m just telling the story of my adventures and thanking an old friend for some help along the way. (Oh, and my wife is nearly as good a shot with a handgun as I am…))

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

P.S. In an effort to become more social I’m going to be trying to respond to likes, follows and comments more consistently in the near future…

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.

You should at least try…

At some point today a Kickstarter I set up for a Forever Mountain Publishing novel (worse, one of my own novels…) is going to close without funding. Yes, it is a temporary defeat. But, you can’t let the temporary defeats get in the way (Napoleon Hill said that back in the 1930’s…). In fact, as an author and as editor in chief of Forever Mountain Publishing, I have gained a lot through this process…

Since the Kickstarter got started I managed to get the website for FMP up and running; I found and started my plan to rework the social media presence for my company; my wife (who is graduating with her doctorate in Education this semester) discovered a part of the company that she could participate in; and I got to give a talented young artist her first shot at a book cover. A variety of other positives have come out of the process as well.

But, the Kickstarter didn’t go…

No, it didn’t, but the Kickstarter was an avenue, not the only avenue. In truth my wife and I had a backup plan in place a week or so ago. We could have pulled the Kickstarter last week and still had a way to publish the book (I am starting a publishing company after all…). I let the Kickstarter run because it gave more people a chance to feel like they were participating in the launch. It was an avenue to show support that resonated with some people, and it would have felt more like a defeat to admit defeat and pull the campaign than to ride it to the end.

Even though the campaign didn’t completely go the way I hoped, I gained ground. Positive things happened that outweigh the negatives.

Yes dear reader, sometimes we fail. Sometimes we are defeated. But, if we never try we never succeed. (For those who want to pull out “Do or do not, there is no try”, or any other variation I will be dealing with Yoda and Mr. Miyagi at another time…)

The saddest defeat is self-inflicted. The saddest defeat is caused because you never tried.

There are other elements, dear reader, knowledge, planning, resources and other factors all have their place, but you never succeed if you never try.

That’s it for this one,

See you next week…

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 secret art of stepping away

Earlier this week I found myself talking to a friend who is getting ready to go back to college. I gave her the usual advice that my wife and I give to all our college bound friends, make sure you take a fun class every semester.

Contrary to what some might think, we don’t give this advice just to make sure the person has fun. The reality is it helps with their other classes.

Why stepping away helps

Taking a fun class, or taking a day off from your big project to do something else, helps you because it changes your focus and lets your conscious mind rest from working on the class/project. We see the same effect with studying. You see better outcomes if you shift subjects every so often and come back later. (How long is a ‘so often’? That depends on the individual and your mileage may vary. For me it’s about an hour to two hours (for studying))

The key is to get enough in, and enough time in, to make a worthwhile step forward without spending so much time that you become counterproductive. In fact we can see the same principle in play in physics and chemistry when painting or putting a patina on metal. It is often a good idea to put on multiple thin layers rather than trying one thick layer that goes on all at once.

The multiple layers allow for better drying and damage resistance while the thick layer gets gloppy, takes longer to dry, and is more prone to chipping. Biologically multiple contacts and repetitions help build neural pathways and muscle fiber in ways that are very different from the patterns developed by the one shot approach.

Growth applications

We see the same principle in a lot of self-help and personal growth applications. This is why goals and affirmations are to be put up in visible places, so you can see them frequently and they get ingrained. It is much more effective to do it this way than the “think really hard about it once then go out for pizza” technique.

I know that this isn’t easy dear reader, but I also know it works. That’s why even though I’m up to my eyeballs in book stuff it’s a good idea to get away once in a while and do something different (even… Gasp… something that has nothing to do with writing a book!).

That’s it for today dear reader. Keep working on those projects, but remember to take some breaks along the way.

See you next week.

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.

What do assumptions really make?

There is an old saying about what assumptions make you and me, but what do assumptions really make?

Assumptions can be powerful. They can make thinking and planning easier. They can also help us get things wrong and make things worse than they already are.

Assumptions make things easier

Assumptions allow you to set bounds on things, on what is happening and what you should do about it. They make things easier because you can say “as long as this assumption (assumption) is true we can do this (technique or action)”.

Assumptions save you time in that you don’t have to filter through all the possibilities and all the situations that might be going on. That works great as long as the assumption is actually true…

Assumptions are based on a lot of things. Many assumptions are based on surface details. Many assumptions are made on what usually happens, and what things usually mean. They may be made on the basis of empirical tests and research, or anecdotal evidence and personal experience/opinion. Often they are rational. Sometimes they aren’t.

Assumptions make things worse

Maybe it would be more correct to say: not verifying your assumptions makes things worse.

Rational or not, an assumption allows you to say “this is what this means 99% of the time; therefore, 99 times out of a hundred this is how I should respond.” The problem is 99% isn’t 100% (and if you think your assumption is true 100% of the time you have either done something to cause it to be true 100% of the time, or your assumption is faulty). If your assumption isn’t true you can be headed for problems.

This happened to me last year when some hospital folk saw a fat guy walk in with what turned out to be a new diabetes diagnosis. Several people assumed it was an old diabetes diagnosis and I was just an idiot who wasn’t taking his meds or following his doctor’s instructions (wrong!). That led to several patient care and treatment issues… It happened to a cousin of mine when she and her family assumed they were talking about the same airport. She landed at LAX and they were waiting in San Diego. It happened to a whole boat load of people when the crew of the RMS Titanic assumed their ship was really unsinkable and plowed into an iceberg.

People sometimes cling to their assumptions even though there is evidence that warns them the situation is different, or that the assumption is wrong. I personally have watched people make major goofs because of an assumption, even though the person they were just talking to told them not to do it (I may have done this a time of two myself, but I try not to…).

So there is our answer. The old saying about what assumptions make you and me can be true. Our assumptions can make for big (and expensive) goofs. But, they can also make our lives easier and our decisions more efficient.

So, the next question is what do we do about it?

Check reality…

Our assumptions can be a useful tool. We just need to check that they reflect the reality we’re dealing with.

In the field of statistics we have a lot of tests that have basic assumptions. We also have tests to verify whether the assumptions are met or not, and research that demonstrates how far we can push the assumptions of our tests. We can and should check that our assumptions are accurate before we drag out the old ANOVA, MANOVA, EFA, CFA, SEM or whatever tool we’re going to use.

In life it gets a bit messier. The field of Statistics is meant to be rather objective and empirical. In life egos and other realities can get in the way, and there are a lot less well documented way to test our assumptions. The good news is there are a couple of things that we can do…

  • Listen: Actually listening to what people have to say rather than trying to jump ahead in the conversation; figure out your response; or waiting till the noise goes away, can have a big effect on our ability to get things right. Even my neighbors three year old can come up with something I’ve missed once in a while.
  • Look: Often we use assumptions to save time. That can be useful, but we shouldn’t try to save that time in the arena of actually looking at what’s in front of us (literally or metaphorically). Again this is a case of don’t be in such a hurry that you miss the information. Often warning signs will be there (like that iceberg or your check engine light…), but if we ignore them they can’t help us.
  • Be willing to be wrong: None of us like to be wrong (well most of us don’t). Unfortunately you sometimes have to be wrong before you can be right. There is a natural tendency called confirmation bias that can lead to cherry picking the information that supports what you’ve already assumed or decided, and leaving any other information out. We need to learn how to get past this problem. If you are willing to be wrong, and recognize when you’re wrong, you have the ability to fix mistakes and eventually be right (as opposed to the guy who swears he knows where he’s going right up to (and after) he drives off the cliff).

When we listen, look, and are willing to be wrong (and make changes) our assumptions really can help us be more efficient, and right more often. But, we have to learn to verify them and not just depend on them.

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

(This is a little out of my usual lingo but I like it…) “Check yourself, don’t wreck yourself!”

Delayed Gratification

Years ago there was a psychological study in which children were given a marshmallow and told that if they waited a short period of time to eat it they could have two marshmallow. Years later it was determined that the two marshmallow kids, the ones who could delay gratification, were more successful in life. This was a good discovery but what does it mean for us in day-to-day life?

As I write this I’m actually working on no less than three books.

The first is a novel. I’m finishing up the pre writing stuff (character sketches, where is it on the map, and a (basic and subject to change) outline).

The second is also a novel. I’m at the point where there may be changes that need to be made, but I’ve worked on it enough that I can’t see them. This one is at the point that peer readers and editing people are really what’s needed.

The third is a non-fiction book that was supposed to be out in E-book tomorrow… they just got the proofs back to me today…

I can see the finish from here…

The third book looks great except for five little errors in formatting that don’t work out the way I want them. I have a choice. I could just approve the proof, get the book out on time, and live with it; or I could send in a correction order for the changes that need to be made.

I really want to have this done. I want the book to be out and selling (making money and getting to say “Hey first book of the year is out!” are good things). I also want the book to be the best it can be. The errors are going to reflect on me and people may feel like I’m not as good as I really am because I let the errors slip.

It’s a delayed gratification question. Sure having the errors fixed moves the publication date to the middle of next week, but it makes it a better book. I don’t get to say it’s out tomorrow, but it’ll be a better book and really doesn’t hurt me in the larger goal of having two books out this year. No one is really waiting for the book that can’t wait a couple more days (I didn’t take any prepaid sales and I don’t have any events planned until after Mother’s day anyway…). I have to make the best decision for me and my book even if it means waiting just a little longer.

I really want these things out and being read… but…

The same thing applies with the second book. I want to go ahead and start sending stuff off. But it is of greater benefit to have some other eyeballs on it before I do; so that it can be the best book it can be. It’s the start of a series. There’s a lot of future good that comes from choosing the best path and a lot of harm that can come from an impulsive move.

Before I do that, it’s a good idea to make sure I’ve protected myself copyright wise… I trust my friends but there are people to not trust out there and an ounce of protection can save a lot of headaches in the long run.

Seeing where I’m going before I get there…

The book I’m finishing the pre writing stuff for is a clear shot ahead. This one I’ve taking the time to figure out where I’m going and the foreseeable problems along the way. There’s no real point in delaying gratification, because I’ve already done it. It’s at a point that I can run free and have fun and so I will. I just have to be conscious of where I need to stop and check and take appropriate steps.

The secrets of making dreams come true (well one of them)

Everyone (or almost everyone) likes that immediate gratification. It can be nice to give yourself a project that you can have immediate gratification on. But you need to be aware you need to recognize where things are at and make the best possible choices. Sometimes that means going right now. Sometimes that means delaying gratification and making things or situations better before you take that gratifying step.

Sadly, not all of our choices are a good option versus a bad one. Sometimes it is two good choices and we have to choose the best. Sometimes it’s two less attractive choices and we have to choose the least bad.

Part of growing and learning dear reader is knowing when to delay gratification and when to plunge on ahead. It’s not easy but it is necessary.

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

May all your choices be good, and your marshmallows be tasty!

Learning More, Becoming Better

The other day I was pondering what to do with this blog. I felt like I was going to loose one of the things that I like to talk about here. One of the ones I’ve gotten a lot of reactions to.

For a moment I thought I was going to give up on writing about diabetes stuff here. I felt like I was a victim of my own success. I’m not really having a lot of side effects or trials, so what’s to write about?

I realized having things to talk about diabetes wasn’t the problem. I needed to reorganize the way I think about, and write on, the blog!  There are really four main themes/subjects that I want to be the focus of this blog: Writing, Creativity/creating, Independence/ability, and choice.

My fight about whether I had anything to say about diabetes was flawed. If I wanted to sit around groaning about symptoms, then I don’t have a lot to say here. But, if I look at it in terms of my four subjects/themes there is a lot to say. I can talk about the choices one makes in living with diabetes. I can talk about being independent while dealing with diabetes. I can talk about creative solutions when dealing with diabetes. I can write about what I’m writing about diabetes. That’s a lot of good options.

Using this system I can (and will) talk about a lot of things I’m interested in. They’re all fair game as long as I can fit them into one or more of the themes. I will probably keep writing about diabetes fairly often (I hope to have at least one if not two books on it out in the next year or so). I will also be talking about psychology, history/mythology, family experiences and other things I run into. I’m just going to make sure that they are talked about in the context of the four themes.

This way I get to talk about the things I want to. And you, the reader, have a more solid base to know what to expect on the blog. The blog will be both free to vary, and consistent in content. This change is really going to help me, and hopefully the better focused content helps you too.

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

remember focusing and limiting aren’t the same thing!

Interesting question…

Here’s a question that came to me…

“Does writing on the blog affect your fiction writing?”

I thought about this, and yes it does. The blog affects my fiction writing in several ways.

If I work on just a words per day goal… say I decide to write 1000 words per day and then spend 600 on the blog. That would leave only 400 for the fiction. But, the 1000 words is a minimum. I can write more if I want to (this month I’ve averaged over 2000 a day just on the Novel…)

On the other hand, the blog gives me another avenue to look at and think about ideas and situations and to develop my thinking. This means that those ideas can be incorporated into my fiction in a more developed and thought out manner.

On the other other hand… it is a different kind of writing. Fiction and blog posts happen in different mental spaces, which means I can write one when the other isn’t quite pinging. This can distract (if you stick to the 1000 word goal) or it can ‘prime the pumps’ helping me get other stuff out of my head so I can be in a space to write fiction (or vice versa).

So, yes the blog affects my fiction. If I let it it’s a limiter. But, it also allows me to process and develop ideas to incorporate into the fiction.

They are also different kinds of writing, so they don’t necessarily conflict. I can do one when I’m not in the mental space to do the other.

In practice I think I (and others) have to take charge of what we are writing and make choices. Definitely follow your heart and write what’s on your mind, but you get to make some choices in terms of what form that takes. And, in any case some writing is better than no writing. Allowing yourself to be in the habit of writing blog posts is a lot closer to writing fiction that the habit of not writing. Some times it’s a lot easier to turn the flow of your words into a different course than to get it moving from zero.

That’s it for this one Dear Reader.

Until next time follow those dreams. Write and be healthy (I’m over 26,000 words this month and I haven’t wanted do bang my head against the wall once!)