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.

Things come…

This week I’ve been reading Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich as part of research for a project I’m starting. One of the things that I keep seeing really resonates with me right now, things come to you when you are ready.

Between me getting Johnson Farm ready to go (It’s officially on the market in May and nothing is going to stop it this time!) and my wife finishing her dissertation we’ve cleared a couple of major projects. It is a time to look back at what we have done and what is coming up next.

We have achieved things. We have had really positive things happen that seem like they are just being handed to us. But, in reality, the things that we are “just getting handed” today result from a series of steps we have taken.

This year I am able to sign my emails with the title Editor in Chief. This week my wife was invited to speak at a conference. Neither of these things would have happened if we hadn’t put in the work and started ourselves on the path a long time ago.

The amazing thing about the world we live in is that we can achieve more than we think we can. We can definitely achieve more than our critics tell us we can.

We are dear reader. We exist and exist for a purpose. We have potential dear reader. We can achieve more than we think. But if we are going to do that we need to put in the effort.

We are agents unto ourselves able to choose and act. We are members of a family, a community, a world. We need not be alone. We are stronger with others. But, we have to do our part in achieving what we want.

If you have a desire, even if it’s still just a dream, strive for it; prepare yourself for it; make yourself worthy of it; and if it is a right thing, a true thing in the eye of God and the Universe, it will happen.

And if not? Well… It is better to stand and act, to make the effort and learn and become, than it is to fail because you never tried.

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

No sequels…? That’s two sequels!

About a year and a half ago I started on a book, a flat run write it in thirty days book…

Well, that book has changed a few things for me.

First, as I’ve already announced I’m involved in my first successful team up. Sariah Anne, a talented young artist created a cover for me. (link)

Second, in the process of working on the Kickstarter campaign I really pushed myself to develop this whole social media presence thing. The Kickstarter is closed now, but its legacy lives ono in my website and social media plan.

Then there was the Kickstarter itself. It didn’t fund, but you know what? That won’t stop me. Like they said in Serenity (link), “…You can’t stop the signal…” The book is still coming out, just not quite the way I planned.

Speaking of not quite the way I planned…

The biggest thing (for me) to come out of this book is the sequel that was never supposed to happen (but really has to!). When I started the story in 2015 I told myself I was going to ‘break the pattern’. The story was a one off, a straight forward story that I would write, publish, and be done with. Well… when I picked it up to start editing I realized sequels were not only possible, but at least one was necessary for me to reach closure on the story.

I started the second book as a NANOWRIMO project in 2016 and as I’ve started the editing process on it I’ve realized that another sequel is necessary to really explain some of the things in the book. If I’m going to really finish this generation of the family’s story a ‘sequel’ is necessary and can only be done in a certain way.

I use quotes because the ‘sequel’ isn’t really a sequel. It also isn’t a prequel. It is a parallel. It is also going to be a story that stretches me as a writer.

In Johnson Farm I introduced a character, Jamie. She’s one of the people that helps the hero figure out what he has to do. She’s also a character with a secret and she’s really not willing to tell anyone…

She won’t tell anyone (yet), but I as the author have to tell someone (the reader). Fortunately I tend to favor a ‘close third’ perspective. I am not writing the series first person, but I’m close enough that the characters thoughts bleed into what I’m writing. And that is why this one is going to stretch me… To pull off the third book I have to write the parallel story at least in part from the point of view of a 14 year old girl (God help us all…).

A different gender? A different language set? A different way of thinking from the protagonists I’m used to? Yep, I’ve got to master it all for the story to work…

So here we are dear reader, on the brink of a new story that will stretch me to new heights as a writer. If I can get away with it…

Wish me luck dear reader, and see you next post (I hope…).

 

Postscript…

Next post probably means next week as my wife will be defending her doctoral dissertation on Friday…

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…

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.

1000 words? 10,000 hours? Doing what needs to be done.

 

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There are writing teachers that tell me I should write 1000 words a day to get a book written. Sometimes I do less. Sometimes a do more (NANOWRIMO…).

My wife likes to cite Malcom Gladwell who tells us you need to do something for 10,000 hours to reach proficiency.

This is probably true, but what about beginners luck? What about natural talent? As a writer would the 10,000 hours include the time I spend thinking about my story or just the time I spend with pen to paper or fingers to keys?

The realities…

The reality in writing (and life) is it’s a bit of both. Sure, if you churn out 1000 words a day you’ll eventually churn out enough words to make a book. Actually if we take the NANOWRIMO target of 50,000 words you should churn out 7.3 books per year at 1000 words per day. But… they probably wouldn’t be good books.

There is more to be done than hitting a word count to make a good book, just like there’s more to being a Super Bowl quarterback than playing with your ball…

Similarly, 10,000 hours flogging a keyboard doesn’t make a book, not any more than flying coach for 10,000 hours makes you a fighter ace.

The reality is you do need to write if you want to be a writer. And 10,000 hours working on anything should make you better at it. But, it’s not just an arbitrary time or word count that leads to success. It’s the effort and learning that matter. Effort and learning usually take time. How much time isn’t easily dictated (or determined).

The truth…

Everyone is different. Every story is different. That means everyone has a different path or process to achieve success (the differences may be slight but they exist). Every story, painting, sculpture, football game, business deal, potato crop, or (insert your own item here…) has its own unique requirements and needs its own attention.

Today’s project might need 1,000 words and 10,000 hours. The next one might need 2,000 words and 3,000 hours. The one after that might need 550 words and nine months…

Each project we do and each goal we achieve changes us and helps us grow. Each one also has its own challenges and quirks. To succeed dear reader you will need to learn and deal with each project as itself, not as some predetermined quota. You need to do this every time.

During the next three months I will be working heavily on finishing a novel (My NANOWRIMO project from last year). I will also be stopping in the middle to write the sequel (My NANOWRIMO project this year). I’m not sure how often I will be getting to the blog in that time. But I will be here from time to time.

Until next time dear reader…

Success in all your good endeavors, no matter how long they take (or how many words…)

Walking lines and standing for truth

I’ve recently had a realization about this blog. I was shackling myself. I was setting myself up for failure, but no more.

As usual (in my world at least) it’s not a one factor model. Over the last year or so I’ve gotten a small body of likes and followers. A small body, but not a large one. I hate to admit it, but a bit of a starvation  mentality set in. I was afraid to speak up because I was afraid if I did I would loose the followers I had.

That’s a bad idea… Actually both sides are bad ideas… Loosing follows would be bad; less people would be reading what I have to say. At the same time being afraid to speak weakened what I did say. Weakening my words also results in less people reading what I have to say.

I was falling pray to the fear of offending anyone. You’re never going to make a strong statement if you’re afraid of offending people. And, if you want to make strong statements, but don’t because it might offend someone that undermines you as a writer/speaker and as a person. Reader/hearers can detect that and don’t respond well.

Then, I allowed myself to loose focus. I would give lip service to doing and writing good things here, but I never allowed myself the time to do that. The reality is that not taking the time to do things right is another loosing position.

The reality is that there must be opposition in all things. Often that opposition does not want me (or you to) talk about the things that we believe and stand for.

So, I will be making changes here at WMS. I am making a new commitment not to be afraid to talk about things that matter to me. And if you’d like to weigh in I’m happy to make it a conversation.

If you are interested in or concerned about things I choose to talk about here dear reader, please respond and comment. If not publicly send me an email…

I’m not going to waste my time on trolls, or people that just want to push their angle with no discussions (that’s not what this blog is for). I’m not going to deliberately offend anyone. But, I am going to say something when I have something to say.

And, I welcome comments, discussion, questions, and requests from people who want to discuss things in a civil manner. That is what this place is for dear reader, to talk about ideas and what the words mean.

Words do mean stuff dear reader. Now lets get talking…

A Funny Thing Happened…

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Tax Day / My Mother’s Funeral / Mother’s Day / (Insert Huge Event Here) / The End of the Semester…

You’d think I’d have gotten around to this one before this but, as you may have guessed from the title, life happened.

I’ve had a book! My goal as a freelance writer is to put out two books a year. The first one is out this month (people who mistake flexible schedules and dress codes for not working take note!)

It’s a little book but I’ve learned a lot in doing it and had a lot of fun with it.

What is it?

Well…

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Would you like to have a cool and attractive way to carry that water (or soda… or (insert beverage)) bottle with you? Would you like to have a project and skill that allows you to be productive in meetings or watching tv? Have you ever wondered about medieval technology and how to make it into a modern fashion statement? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, this book is for you.

In Chainmail Bottle Carriers you can learn (or expand your knowledge of) how to make cool projects with the ancient art of chainmail. You can turn wire rings into a flexible fabric and an attractive wearable accessory that repays you by helping you be healthy.

For more information on the book (or to buy it) look here. (There will also be a PDF version (that I think is better) released in the near future…)

For more information on what I learned from this process, stay tuned for future posts…

For right now dear reader know that you two can find a way and fulfil your dreams. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible (and sometimes less about the dream itself and more about what you find along the way.

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

Sometimes you have to dream it before you do it!