Do you sometimes write something and it reminds you of a particular author? I mean, like you weren’t trying to channel that style; it just sort of happened?

I am a big fan of puns and double entendres. Maybe all authors are. I kind of think all fathers are. My father was a huge fan of puns and it made him proud as Paunch (you remember Paunch from CHiPs? He now has a paunch.) Anyway my father was proud as can be when I would manage to out pun him. If puns were an olympic event he would have been a 100 meter dash man. Quick punner, but I’m not sure about cross country.

rocCross country pun champion might be Piers Anthony. He’s written dozens of fantasy novels with titles as punderful as Centaur Isle and Stork Naked. He doesn’t end with the title. (that would be a short book) but fills the pages with fun.

Anyway, my latest script for podcast (in the works) is a children’s story that has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, but also has a small population that are plays on words.

When you are writing what amuses you? Do you write to amuse yourself or to (hopefully) sell books, or both? The true drive of a writer in my eyes, is that you have to write. It just isn’t an option.

Sales or personal amusement aside, the need to jot down thoughts and create worlds isn’t an option. You can ignore your muse for periods of time, but it starts to build up inside. At least for me..

any thoughts from the huge audience reading this?

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Focus focus focus. The more I hear about focus the more I realize that it is the missing ingredient to most people’s “success recipes.”

micWhat do I mean by that? We all start out (most of us anyway) with ‘I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up’ and that thought lasts a lifetime for many people.  The scatter-brain effect derails most people from accomplishing their dreams. I’ve spoken before of the 10,000 hour rule as proposed by Malcolm Gladwell. The world class talent has one thing in common – 10,000 hours worth of focus.

This ends up applying whether you want to be a nuclear scientist, a writer or a musician. (Or anything, really)

I have this ‘curse’ that is shared by many of my friends and that is that I really enjoy doing a wide variety of things, but I can’t figure out why none of them are really working for me (meaning generating income.)  I focused on doing improv comedy for a few years and really enjoyed it, but quickly realized, fun as it was, the odds of making a full time career out of that was pretty slim. There are many folks more talented than I who are trying this path and still not succeeding. But maybe for them (or me) it is ‘just’ focus.

(Sorry for my overuse of quotation marks here. I just realized how much I am using them. Eh, whatever. That does bring focus to the remark if not overused, but .. I have to stop over analyzing and just keep typing. gah! )

The reason this came to me was because I am learning to play the bass and one of my instructors just did a video on focus. Really seriously learning one scale all over the neck will show more growth than trying to learn ten things at once, and without seeing results we tend to lose interest, whether that’s in writing, music or whatever.

So all that being said, I need to focus on one of my writing projects and put the others on hold. This will work for me and keep me in the game. Perhaps it could work for you.

Food for thought.

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Society is changing and morphing and we are evolving in lots of ways that have, perhaps, nothing to do with Charles Darwin. It’s not a physical thing, but a mental thing, and does that mean that changes in the way we think aren’t somehow physical and impacting on our brain?

taking offThe more you think a certain way, the more you are inclined to think in that manner. This doesn’t mean a physical trait will be genetically handed down to the next generation. (Even assuming you are in the pro-creation phase.) What is means is that you get more comfortable in a way of doing things, or processing things.

An example, a poor example maybe, but I’ll proceed anyway, is learning a new language. At first it seems impossible. How in the world do “Man” and “Homme” mean the same thing? and how does “the man” move to “l’homme” when “the woman” translates to “la femme”?** But your mind wraps around the concepts and the words somehow are magically available when you need them.  (so this is where writing comes in. If you want to get to that bit skip down to the asterisk*) If you want to continue along this path, just for fun. Keep reading. If you need this in English, press one.

So we have a skill set that we’ve gradually honed, whether it’s spoken language, graphic design, sales, mechanics, writing or whatever, it’s problem solving on some level or another. “Problem” being used in a very generic sense here. A ‘problem’ could be something very physical,”the tire is flat, I need to change it.” “The surgical equipment is covered in blood and guts, it needs to be sterilized.” OR it could be mental. “These two people need a translator.” “This idea needs to be conveyed through some media (meaning written, audio, video, whatever)”

But these skills, this problem solving, is becoming more and more a mobile skill, than a stationary skill. You don’t have to be a cog in a wheel. You can be your own wheel. A free wheeler, if you like that analogy, free to take your skill set and apply it where you choose, rather than have a defined place in an organization. Rather than being a rat in a cage being offered cheese for pressing the right button.

It’s amazing what is possible in the world because of the internet, tele-commuting, and the like. You can use your skills, your developed skills, to stand on your own. We were taught, back in the day, a hundred years ago, fifty years ago, twenty years ago, to find a company and work for 30 or 40 years, and by doing that we had earned retirement. We could then ‘relax’ and enjoy our golden years. But the golden years were actually those 30 or 40 we spent in a trap. We had earned retirement, but we were too feeble or old to enjoy it. (of course there are exceptions, if you are/were genetically lucky enough to have healthy parents, and you didn’t abuse yourself, but the majority of people made it to retirement and then unluckily jumped into a walker or a wheelchair and a nursing home and silver-haired, wrinkled poverty. What a sad way to spend your life.

This isn’t about that path. This is about “the secret.” But not about the magical nonsense of the movie “The Secret” but about the reality of thoughts becoming things. All things start out as thoughts in people’s minds, and then, with effort those thoughts do become things. They don’t materialize out of thin air, but are created by those willing to put in effort.

The effort to learning a skill set that is transferable and mobile. Being born in the last fifty years is like winning the mobile skill set lottery. We can physically travel or virtually travel with relative ease. Companies and people need people with experience and skill. They might not need them for long. Consultant is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and I may or may not be talking about that. It really depends on your skill set.

In the medical software industry (and probably other IT-type industries) there is a need for a concentrated group of people working on implementation. The implementation, or ‘go-live’ offers an opportunity for those with that skill set to make a well above average income for a brief period of time. Then you move to the next implementation.

This may be the new model of life. Where are we going? What skills do you have? in the above example a core group of people make up the structured ‘stable’ organization, while another group, descends and flourishes and then rolls on to the next opportunity.

There are a lot of examples in different areas. A person in a traveler position, coming in to a workplace because local talent is unavailable for the job at a given period of time. This could be a nurse, an engineer, a software guru or many other things.

This diverged a bit from my original thought (does anyone have original thoughts?) but the point was that skills are what drives the economic engines. If you can develop skills (examples – writing, theater, software, brainstorming, etc) you can take the road once less traveled, but now slowly becoming a beaten path. But the path is your own. The general path may be beaten but the one you blaze is unique.

The world and paths our parents and grandparents took is gone. We can look back, but it’s never coming back. It is evolve or die. It is have or have-not. You have to develop skills or you will end up as a cog and unfortunately the cogs are the have-nots. It’s sad because many of them don’t even understand that they need to get education (not college necessarily) to move up the chain.

*(continued bit as related to writing) So this muscle you have which I am comparing to learning a new language; it needs to get a workout. Just like spoken language, if you don’t write, your strength will never be realized. Writing is a mobile skill. That’s part of the joy of it. you don’t have to be in any one place. You take those thoughts and turn them into things. Those things might be blog posts, or articles, or short stories or encyclopedic endeavors. The beauty is, it’s all up to you.

total side note:

I was talking to my wife the other day. (I talk to her everyday and often, actually.) I went to the library and saw a DVD on how to play the piano. This excited me. “I’ve always wanted to play the piano; here’s my opportunity.” Then I saw another DVD on how to play the guitar. This excited me. “I’ve always wanted to play the guitar.”

The thing is, I’m learning how to play the bass guitar. Picking up one of those DVDs would have been a distraction. Trust me, I don’t need more distractions. I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that the reason I haven’t seen great success is that I don’t have enough focus. My books have some degree of success. They are purchased, they are reviewed well. I get good feedback, but I don’t concentrate on marketing. I’ve always had the “field of dreams” marketing plan, which is generally not great. If you build it, it will be built, and perhaps someone will come, but mostly it will just be built. collecting dust.

Focus. Focus and skills. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

**When I was learning German I was always confused that some inanimate objects were spoken of in masculine terms while others were feminine. Der and Die.. Wait a napkin is feminine and an oven is masculine? What??(In hindsight, maybe this was a bad example.)

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No, not Deadpool, deadlines...

No, not Deadpool, deadlines…

The best projects have timelines and deadlines. I don’t know how anyone gets anything done without imposing those on themselves.

My last article talked about the path less taken and challenging yourself to pursue your passion, but in the end, and at the end of that article, I touched on deadlines.

My biggest enemy is procrastination. I don’t think I’m alone. When I’m at my ‘real job’ I can’t just put things off and ignore projects for weeks at a time, but for some reason the projects I lay at my own feet get delayed and ignored. Why? These are the things I am passionate about.

Unfortunately it comes down to feedback and feelings of self-worth.  No one has jumped on either of my screenplays and my book sales are mediocre, but that really shouldn’t be the thing that holds me back. The writing is the ends, not the means. My self-worth can’t be measured by the judgement/reaction of the outside world. My work has to be ongoing for me.

Well, that got a little personal. I don’t limit what I write here because I think the process has to be organic, not contrived, so there it is for the world to see. My self-doubt… but I have a feeling I am not the only one. We ARE worthy. And we are creating. And the process continues…

Back on target. One thing that helped drive me with the audio works was that there was a group of people depending on me to finish scripts and there were definite deadlines. I allowed other people to determine what I was creating and when it was due, but truthfully my inner demands should be given equal weight. A self-imposed deadline should be just as valid and urgent as anything coming from without.

Let’s make it so.

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Is being silly outside your comfort zone?

Is being silly outside your comfort zone?

We tend to limit ourselves. Yes, I am speaking for all of humanity. I am qualified and obligated to do so. (Just kidding, but I’m going to do so anyway.)

One of my favorite quotes from Robert Frost is the “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”  Life does present us with paths from an early age and we unknowingly decide the course too soon. Who knows what passions we will have as we mature? yet at a tender age we are expected to select a path. Deviating from that path is frowned upon.

One of my favorite stories to tell is when I decided to leave the steel mill. I had arrived at the mill through a series of random events and passion certainly didn’t have anything to do with it. Answering an advertisement, as many people seeking employment do. Not thinking “Is this job a good match for me?” but rather thinking, “can I do this job?” But I digress.

After spending fourteen years at the steel mill I decided to move on. I needed to write and I felt the steel mill was allowing me to keep writing as a hobby rather than a career. I went in to my boss and said I was giving my two weeks notice. He asked what my plans were and I told him I was quitting to finish my first book and to pursue my writing. He had a puzzled look on his face and said, “Rob, are you sure you know what you are doing?” and I replied, “No.” A simple response. I was jumping off a cliff. Leaving security behind. But I did finish that book and went on to write a few more… (you can buy any of them here. Look around and click.. )

But my comfort zone needs to be disturbed again. I have written novels, screenplays and audio dramedy.  Now I embark on the journey of my first musical for the stage. It’s an idea I’ve had for a while, but I never have pursued it. Now is the time. I am writing and am working with an accomplished musician to make it come to life.

It’s scary. I’ll admit it, but I am in a great place for it right now. The audio show (It’s about time travel agency) has wrapped after a great two year run. And now my time is again all my own. But not unlimited time. We all have only so many hours/days/years and you just don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so I have limited myself… or challenged myself to finish this in six months to a year.

I urge anyone to do the same. Think about your passion. Align a project. Give yourself a deadline.  “There is no day but today” to quote another musical, so …Go! Do! Create!

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It’s important to pat yourself on the back once in a while. Writing is a tough job and the kudos don’t come along that often, at least when you are starting – so give yourself props…

Here’s a bit of kudos on the podcast I write for. We were mentioned on Splitsider.com and that got picked up by the Huffington Post. 

It’s about time travel agency is a podcast about two guys who run a travel agency which happens to have a portal that can send people back in time. I am one of four writers for the show, and the episodes mentioned on HuffPo were written by me with a bit of help from my buddy Douglas Clinton.

So here we are. Page one of Huff Entertainment, right next to Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence. They kind of missed that it’s the Rockette’s Red Glare, but I’ll forgive them…

huffsnip

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Some good information here from Josh Bernoff… had to share.

Ten Writing Tips

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Reading equals growth, never stop.

bookfacts

Currently reading: The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Credit to robertbrewer.org. thanks for sharing

#readingisfundamental

 

 

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I’ve never had to use crutches in my life (knock on wood) but I have had to wean myself of verbal crutches in my writing.

My favorite crutch is the word “that.” That is over-used and many times can be dropped from your sentences without any impact on meaning. This is really funny because I glanced at a headline for an article on using twitter and “that” is the number one word to drop. Twitter makes you think of economy of characters for sure and superfluous verbiage should be sliced to the core. Ha. Superfluous verbiage. Who uses words like that in conversation? But you see crazy shit when stories are being told. Using 50 cent words when 25 cent words will do doesn’t make you seem smarter; you’re just making your reader work harder.

One of the best compliments I’ve ever received on my writing was “a super easy read.” Some writers might take that as a criticism or something to try to overcome, but people don’t want to work hard when they are reading. (By the way, this was from the review for Blaze Motors. You might want to check it out.)

A bit of fat goes a long way.

A bit of fat goes a long way.

To keep this post brief, “really” “honestly” and “literally” are the other three words that add nothing. It reminds me of people who start a sentence saying “to tell you the truth.” Um, should I distrust everything you say unless it’s preceded by this phrase? “To tell you the truth” tells me you are about to tell me something I should seriously consider to be bullshit. You are telling me “the next part of this dialogue is going to sound impossible, but “trust me” it’s not.” Ha.

I am not saying cut out every word; just make sure you consider the purpose of each word you write. It’s sort of like a nice cut of beef. Marbled beef tastes sweeter… Cut the fat, but leave in some excess for flavor.

 

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It's about time...

It’s about time…

It’s an exciting time to be a writer. There are so many outlets for writing, whether you are concerned about paying gigs or just expressing your creativity while building an audience!

I have used multiple sources to find clients. websites like elance or craigslist can hook you up with jobs (as always be careful)

I’ve also found that people can find you through writing on websites like Ezine Articles or even by writing for a podcast.

One thing that you can get out of any of these is building a network. Networking can make things happen. I would use, for example, I got cast in a short film because of being involved with the podcast It’s about time travel agency.  It’s a cool writing gig that landed me a role in a film. how cool is that?

Speaking of It’s about time, the first episode of season two is now online and it’s a nail biter. Loose ends from last season get tied up, and new plots start to unravel.. tune in..

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