Category Archives: Blog Post

Lesson 6: … I don’t know much

I’ve learned that I really do not know very much.

Years ago, I read an illustration about our own perceived intelligence. I cannot remember it verbatim, but to briefly paraphrase it said, as teenagers we tend to think that we know everything. In our twenties and thirties, we still think we know most everything but also start to see the need to get some instruction from others. By middle age we realize we only know half the things we need to know. And finally, in old age, we realize that we know nothing or at least very little in the grand scheme of things.

I am not an old man, at least from my perspective. A sixteen or twenty-year-old might view me that way, but I am determined that I am not old. It’s the whole, “Build it and they will come” mentality. If only that worked.

Up until now, I have always considered myself a relatively intelligent man. I keep up with current events and have always been an avid reader. In this digital age, I still prefer to read my news or instruction manuals rather than watch videos. Everyday I make it a point to learn at least one new thing and am always looking for ways to improve myself.

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly more obvious that in reality, I know almost nothing. Never has this truth shined brighter than the last couple months of starting a blog and self-publishing a book. All my dear writer friends, why didn’t you warn me? As I read more blogs, interact with more writers and consider their work, I feel overwhelmingly unqualified and outclassed.

I did not just jump into blogging and self-publishing without any guidance or forethought. I read blogging advice for several years before finally committing and starting one of my own. I perused publishing and writing journals for years contemplating publishing options, comparing traditional to self-published routes, whether to get an agent or editor or not. I felt like I had done all my research and was prepared to move forward. Wrong!

Wrong

Jumping into the arena, or fire as it might be, and getting started has revealed a whole world of things I never thought to include in my preparations. There have been hundreds of questions that I did not know to ask. Should you monetize your site? How do you keep a posting schedule? What social media sites should you use? What should you be posting on them? How should you interact with your followers? How often? And on and on and on. In addition, there have been systems and procedures that I did not know to implement and unexpected expenses I was not fully prepared for. Add to the fact that I was still working a full-time day job for the first two months, and it is amazing that I have any hair on the top of my head. Although it has grown noticeably grayer in the last two months.

I had been in my prior career field for 18 years before decided to leave and pursue writing full-time. I was the go-to person for a lot of my colleagues because I had put in the time and was constantly working on learning more and improving myself. To go from a seasoned veteran to a flailing newbie has been a true test of my mettle.

Please do not misunderstand me. This is an amazing experience and a dream come true. I worked so hard for so many years so that in time I could devote myself to my writing passion. Never was I so naïve as to imagine that this would be a seamless and painless transition. Still, to interact with all the amazing writers I have had the pleasure to interact with, has not only made me feel like I am out of my depth, but that I need to get out of that Olympic pool and go back to the kiddie pool. Probably floaties would not be a bad idea while I am at it.

yellow bath duck toy

On the flip side, oneamazing, heart-warming and completely unexpected lesson I am learning is that writers are true kindred spirits. We are all laboring to bring our wordy offspring into this world. It brightens my day to get on social media and see how writers are constantly supporting other writers, supporting me. In the financial world, it was every man for himself. This sense of community and support has been my biggest buoy to keep afloat as the waves of what I don’t know keep crashing over me. My hope is that in a year or two or five that I will be the veteran writer, blogger and self-publisher that is out in the world encouraging others and convincing them to continue forward.

As I tend to do, I have again gotten completely off track. My life lesson learned is that the older I get, the more I recognize just how much I do not know. I am trying to own that and seek guidance from as many sources as I can find. I will never know everything, but tomorrow I will know more than I did today.

Until next time.


Should You Write Every Day? A Close Look at the Oldest Piece of Writing Advice

https://wp.me/p2ZHlF-qG

New Year – New Possibilities

In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to visit a variety of different blogs. Many offer writing advice, both in general and regarding blogs specifically. All of them recommend posting consistent content on a regular basis. Some recommend posting every day. I would like for that to be my goal.

It is a funny thing that in the past few years I have pondered at length having a blog. I am opinionated and thought it would be nice to have a platform where I could rant whenever I wanted. Now that I have taken the plunge and started a blog, I find myself with few words. It is not for lack of crazy things happening in the world. One only needs to follow the Twitter feed of a few well-known individuals to have an abundance of fodder to rant or muse about. Still, the posts are coming with much more difficulty than I expected.

Another topic I have seen repeatedly is writer’s goals for the new year. Some have quite ambitious goals of writing five or more books this year. One writer told me he just set out a fourteen-year plan for himself. Another writer has listed in her profile that she had written over fifty books in five years. Fifty in five years? That figure blows my mind, especially since I languished for fifteen years on Getting Home and it still is not what I wanted it to be. I finally self-published for the sole reason that it would force me to stop editing and move on to something else. That is probably a tidbit I should not share with my readers, but the whole reason for this blog is for me to rant about things.

One or two completed books this year would be ideal for me. I have six works currently in progress. I have finally forced myself to commit to one, at least for the time being, and will hopefully carry on to completion of the first draft. In addition, I intend to post at least weekly posts on my blog. Posting daily would be a wonderful achievement. I know that if I impose that requirement on myself, one of two things will happen. One, I will start posting meaningless dribble. Or two, I will get so frustrated and discouraged that I will stop writing altogether. I have committed to too much to allow the latter to happen.

It would be nice to know what a variety of writers have for their 2018 expectations. I imagine the dreams of a newbie will be considerably different than the realism of a veteran writer. Please post your comments below or reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook. I would love to hear what you have planned.

Until next time…

Music for Writing

Music for Writing

To say I love music would be an understatement. As a child I spent hours recording songs as they played on the radio. Much of my allowance went to buying cassette tapes. Waves of excitement would wash over me as I hit record every time a new song came on the radio. When I got older I became obsessed with CDs and built a pretty enviable collection. Digital music came along, and my collection was growing exponentially until the option of music subscriptions. With some now, like Amazon’s Music Unlimited, you can listen to pretty much anything you want whenever you want. I buy much less music as a result.

This blog post is not about collecting music. Maybe I will devote another one to that topic later. Rather, I would like to rattle on a little about using music while writing.

Are you a writer? Do you play music while writing? If so, what music do you turn to?

My music tastes are very eclectic, largely decided by the mood I am either in or want to be writing about. If I am dabbling with a bit of romance, Adele or Dido might be my artist of choice. Dealing with confrontation I may turn to something a little angrier. Two of my fallbacks are Linkin Park and the heavier tracks from Evanescence. A mellow passage might turn me to Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan or Enya. Looking to be happy or humorous, I may call on Michael Bublé.

Editing, we all know how painful it can be, typically points me to something without words so I can concentrate fully on butchering my work. My favorites are piano based, but there are many orchestral ones as well. There is a techno old favorite, David Arkenstone’s In the Wake of the Wind, that has been with me for decades. The soundtracks to A Beautiful Mind and Pride and Prejudice are also calming favorites.

I am not stuck in the past as many of the above references might imply. Streaming today’s pop, alternative and country stations frequently create the right mood or desire. Much of today’s music draws me, but a good playlist is like comfy slippers and a well-worn cardigan. Hence, I find myself returning to old friends often.

Perusing my digital playlists, I seem to be drawn to certain themes. Many of the songs in my collection have “home,” “breathe” or “rain” in the title. It remains a puzzle as to what that means. Still, I am fascinated by the fact that I am drawn to songs with similar subjects.

At times, rare as they may occur, I may turn off all music. Sometimes the voices in my head need to speak clearly for me to get through a particularly challenging passage. The silence does not last long. While it helps to focus momentarily, I tend to find myself drifting mentally or inclined to walk off and do other things. The music comes back on and I can (mostly) focus again. Music helps to drown out some of the lesser voices that are not needed in the moment.

Music is an important part of my writing ritual. What rituals are important to you?

Lesson 5: …to be flexible

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Lesson 5

Lesson 5

Dear readers, let me start today’s post by saying I am a little OCD. {Pause for comedic effect.} Okay, if those of you that know me personally would stop laughing now, I will admit that I am perhaps a lot OCD. I have mellowed some with age, but I still prefer most things to be done a certain way. I am also a big fan of schedules and routines. Think Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Thursday night is laundry night and Chinese food.

When I was a young man it was much worse. I liked training people to do things because then I knew they were being done the right way. Most of the jobs I have had throughout my adult life have involved some form of teaching or training others.

The little things are very important. The toilet paper should come over the top. The toilet lid should always be closed when not in use. The shower curtain should always be closed. When cooking, most of the prep dishes should be cleaned before the meal is ready to be served. Shoes should not be worn in the house unless they are house-only shoes. The house should be quiet by 9:00 PM to give everyone some quiet time to unwind before going to sleep. And do not even get me started on the big things.
Toilet

It is no wonder that my first and only roommate was an utter and total failure. We lasted about seven months, and our friendship did not survive the experience. Though in that instance, I am confident that our friendship would not have lasted regardless. But I digress. My point was that I was a difficult person to live with, to date or even be friends with.

I cannot say when it was that things finally started to click in my mind of just how insane I was acting. We all know that there is more than one way to do most things. It was not a problem of not having the knowledge. I was just particular. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Particular. Except that it would probably be more accurate to say that I was exacting and inflexible and, sadly, at many times, unreasonable.

What was probably the craziest thing was that when someone did something differently than I might have, it not only frustrated me, but tended to make me very angry. It felt like something was wrong with the universe, or like a personal affront to me. Now you can see why my wife sometimes called me, “The Beast.”

angry-1297540

Credit for my change must largely go to her. My dear wife had a way of training me in such at way that at the end it felt like it was my idea from the beginning. That seems to be a skill that God only gave to women, and maybe that is why as men we are so often frustrated with each other.

The details of what had happened are long forgotten, but her words to me still echo loud in my head. Something had been done in a manner I did not like. My wife reasoned with me that the important thing was that the task was now complete. That should have been the important thing, but once again I found myself fixated on how it was completed. When she finally got me to admit that, yes, having the job complete was all that mattered, she moved on.

“Now as to how it was done,” she had a sparkle that would appear in her eyes when she was accomplishing a goal and a little hint of a smile that always melted my heart. “Does it really matter?”

“No,” I answered begrudgingly, “I guess not.”

“Because, as you can see, the task was completed, and the world did not end.”


She turned around and walked away from me then to give me a chance to mull over her words. She knew I was a wordsmith even with the spoken language, and that sometimes those words too quickly became vicious. She seldom allowed any conversation to get to a point where negative words would even start to be spoken. That might have been the secret to our marital success.

It took a lot of effort, but in time I was able to assign tasks to people and celebrate the fact that they were completed even if in a manner different than what I preferred.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still days when I would much rather take over a job than to watch someone do something the “wrong” way. For the most part, though, I hear my wife’s voice in my head, and it holds me back. When the task is complete, I can tell myself, “And the world did not end.”

Couple Bench

The View

The View is billed in part as, “the original forum in which real women discuss everyday issues, share their opinions and engage in colorful conversations.” It is a talk show on US television on ABC. I tend to watch it later in the day on Hulu because my current schedule does not allow me to watch it during the day. It has become one of my favorite hours of the day.

The ground-breaking show debuted more than twenty years ago with original cohosts Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Debbie Matenopoulos, and Barbara Walters. Joy Behar was originally set to be a fill in cohost but quickly became a regular cohost and is the only one of the original five that is still cohosting.

I am a little late coming to The View party. Though I have known of the show from its beginning, I never imagined it would be the type of show I would be interested in watching. For me, TV time is a time to escape. Generally, the last thing I want is to think about reality and what is happening in the world.

A little over a year ago, Hulu added The View to my recommended list. I decided to give it a shot with my usual skepticism. I typically give a new show ten-to-twenty minutes to hook me. If I am not sold during that window, I quit watching and seldom give the show another shot. Surprisingly, I was sold in the first five minutes. Though is seems to be an ever-changing panel, the current cohosts are Whoopi Goldberg, Sara Haines, Joy Behar, Sunny Hostin, Meghan McCain and Paula Faris. They are a cross-section of intelligent, strong women that are not afraid to stand up and defend their beliefs and opinions.

The show is not engaging because I find myself agreeing with the panel. No, the opposite is generally true. Every day I find something that I feel strongly against. The congenial way that the ladies share and debate each topic, though, keeps me engaged and opens my mind to thoughts that I may not have been inclined to before.

There is an abundance of humor in each episode, and that is the biggest reason why The View has become one of the most enjoyable parts of my day. Getting to take a few minutes at the end of a workday to catch up on the insanity of the past twenty-four hours, and we have to agree there is an abundance of insanity in our world today, and yet find a few reasons to laugh during that review is the best reason to watch this show.

I should mention that I do not personally know any of the ladies currently or in the past serving as cohosts. I am not affiliated with ABC and am in no way being compensated for this post. No, I am just a crazy, getting older man that has stumbled upon this gem and was moved to put my musings down in writing.

Lastly, I must give props to the show for highlighting so many authors. Many of the authors are political fellows, but the show has a long-standing tradition of keeping literature and reading in the forefront. In this age where some think that reading and writing are dying arts, it is refreshing to see a show that still devotes so much import to writers and reading. As a writer, how can I not love that?

If you live in the US, do yourself a favor and check out the show. If you find nothing else you like about it, I am sure it will at least make you laugh. If you are outside the US, well, I am not sure what options you might have. If you know of a way to watch The View where you are, take a few minutes and check it out. I know you will enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Lesson 3: …to not say, “Just kidding”

I have a friend, and, in this instance, that is the broadest definition of the word, who is infamous amongst those of us who know him for being the Just Kidding guy. You know the type. I am confident that all of you have at least one in your midst.

They are the ones that find an abundance of ways to disparage you but always do so with a smile and a postscript of, “Just kidding!” Even though he is a senior citizen, he still will punch you in the arm or try to put you in a headlock after he delivers one of his zingers.

As a young man, I frequently laughed along, even when I was the butt of the joke. I honestly believed that the people thus attacking me cared about me. At the time, I believed that people should be taken at face value, and that the things they said should be trusted as being sincere.

Age and experience has taught me that yes, the things that are spoken should be trusted, but not all of them. I was putting faith in the wrong words.

Just Kidding guy was quick to tell you he cared about you or was interested in your best interests. Time proved that the words he qualified with, “just kidding,” were the true ramblings of his heart. It was a hard, painful lesson to learn.


When I first met Just Kidding guy, I had recently moved and was many miles from my home and family. His family took me in, in a manner of speaking, and introduced me to people and included me in their social circle. On the outside, things looked very genuine. Indeed, for several years I enjoyed their company.

In time, other messages reached me of the things Just Kidding guy and his family would say when I was not around. Reality began to dawn on me that the things he said he was kidding about were how they viewed me. I was devastated. I am not one to cry. In fact, I probably can list the number of times I have cried as an adult in a matter of a few seconds. This truth, this lesson, made me bawl like a toddler for most of a night.

The lesson was a good one, though, and for that I do have to thank Just Kidding guy. It taught me to listen to what was really being said by people. As I paid closer attention, it became more evident that the people who said, “just kidding,” rarely were. That, in turn, taught me to choose to avoid those people in my daily life. There was some time where my social calendar did have quite a few openings, but the relationships I did develop have proved to be enduring, quality relationships.

I also learned to be vigilant with the words that escaped from my mouth. Internally, I ask myself, Am I sincere in what I am about to say? How will my audience interpret my words? Are they kind and upbuilding? Those questions taught me to keep my lips in check and not rattle off hurtful things, even under the guise of kidding.

Read Lesson 1 in the series

It is more than twenty-five years since I first met Just Kidding guy. He and his wife still live a few miles from me. I rarely see them, and we run in very different circles. When he does chance upon my path, I always maintain how great it is to see him, but in my mind I cannot help but think, “Just kidding!”

Do you have a “Just Kidding” experience. Please share it below.

Until next time…

Friend or Foe? – Poem

Author’s Note:

I wrote this poem specifically to work out the obsession with alcohol of Tom Jacobs, the protagonist in my debut novel, Getting HomeTom suffers from a long and ongoing battle against alcohol. If you enjoy the poem, be sure to check out the book as well.

 

Friend or Foe?

It winks at me with single eye

And offers peace before it’s dry

It beckons me, “Take just one sip”

Then noise of mind will slowly slip

It swears to smiles and joy of heart

All in minutes of when I start

The price to pay is fairly small

Some little change for quite a fall

And maybe head or stomach aches

But what is this when peace it makes?

And though I swear this time the last

I take that drink to drown the past

It laughs at me, knows I am weak

My chance to win looks less than bleak

For this old friend, this wicked vice

Knows it holds me in frozen ice

My only friend, my only peace

This liquid holds but gives release

So I stay bound, each time I cave

A helpless ship tossed by the wave

No other way for me to cope

This drink to death my only hope

– June 5, 2005

 

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Poems

This poem is about the struggle of addiction. | #poem #poetry #poet #addiction

This poem is about the struggle of addiction. | #poem #poetry #poet #addiction

This poem is about the struggle of addiction. | #poem #poetry #poet #addiction

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Getting Home – A Retrospective

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November 2017 will forever be a pivotal date in the story of my life. This month I decided to stop making excuses and a bucket list and start checking old items off said list. I have promised myself since I was a small boy that some day I would be a writer. In the second grade, writing with colored markers and crayons on three-lined paper, I began to tell my stories. That love of storytelling has since grown inside me, but this is the first time I have ventured out and decided to share my stories with the world.

This month I put my first novel out for self-publication. Getting Home is the culmination of fifteen years of hard work. It was the way I worked through the loss of my best friend and then the death of my soulmate. It was the means I used to forgive myself for past mistakes. It provided me with validation that I was not the monster I was rumored to be. It was my way to heal and forgive. It was my voyage to peace, to catharsis.

Book cover

It was a rainy August afternoon when pen first met paper. The words of the prologue came first. Writing a novel was my dream, but I did not have a story waiting to get out. I only knew that I wanted to write. I immersed myself in the moment I was experiencing: the rain outside, the sound of birds, the sound from the aquarium next to me. The prologue is almost entirely my experience on that August afternoon. From that simple opening poured the tale that I hope all of you will read. Tom Jacobs was born. He was as real as the pen in my hand. The sky was not fully dark that evening when I knew what path Tom Jacobs would take and how the journey would ultimately end.

With the flood of details that washed in upon me, it should have been a simple task to sit down and write every word. It would be an exceptional blog post if that were true, and many of you would be contacting me wanted to know the secret of writing a novel in one sitting. As I approached each part of Tom’s life, I was forced to look deep inside myself and discern what in me was the catalyst that spawned what we be Tom’s journey. That process and the subsequent chapters took years to complete.

Part of me feels like I cannot take credit for being the scribe of this narrative. Yes, I did put each word down on paper and those words seeped directly from my mind. I wrote the prologue and gave Tom his name, but from that moment on it was no longer my words. Tom became a real person relating his experiences and honoring me with the opportunity to put his journey in written form.

After fifteen years, Tom and all the other characters in Getting Home are old friends and family. I know their pasts, their likes and dislikes, and for some, I know how their stories end. I am not sure if I will ever put more of their words on paper, but I am happy to have known them.