This Post Breaks All the Rules

Socially speaking, I’m not allowed to write this post.

Even the business world would frown on me.

Because we’re supposed to only present our best selves, right? And as a business owner, I’m supposed to give the impression that I’ve got it all under control.

To a degree, these are good rules. Personally, I don’t like it when people show up to work and start crying about their broken marriage. But I don’t hold it against them. I don’t tell them to stop. I just ignore them if I don’t want to hear it.

So if you don’t want to hear it, I suggest you stop reading now. Because I’m about to unleash as a father, a husband, a middle-class citizen, an aspiring bestselling author, and a brand-new business owner.

This post breaks all the rules. I trust you’ll forgive me.

I’m mad. No, I’m perpetually pissed off. My wife sees it, my kids see it, and I wake up and go to sleep each day feeling it.

Today I had to take our foster son to the doctor to get staples removed from his head. A quick two-minute procedure. But since Kentucky passed a new law mandating that foster parents have to get consent from the kids’ social workers before a doctor can do anything, they have to get permission from the already-hard-to-reach social workers. We were at the doctor this morning for almost an hour. No response. We called and called. I ended up having to reschedule and leave with the staples still in his head so I wouldn’t be late for work.

Because, you know, being a law-abiding, working middle-class citizen is no different than grade school. Can’t be tardy! (My particular day job is actually good in this regard compared to others’, but you get my point.)

Which is half the reason I’ve started my own business. I’m tired of being told when to show up to work and when I’m allowed to go on vacation. That is, if my insurance hasn’t robbed me as blind as the previous month.  I’m tired of getting permission to be sick.

I hate that the foster care system is crap deteriorating to shit that even makes the bacteria sick, never getting better, always getting worse.

I hate the state giving drug-addicts every chance under the sun (and then years-worth-of-chances after that) to get their kids back only for them to likely be abused and neglected even more, just so the faceless assholes running our government can come out looking like the good guys. All the while we foster parents are trying to do a good thing for these kids and we’re treated worse than the felons!

I can’t do a single thing about it and that really pisses me off!!!

I hate that running a business and writing a book takes nearly all the risk and energy in the world. And it’s driven by pure fear. I hate that no hours in a day is not just a cliche saying. It’s really, really, really, really true. And that sucks so bad.

I’m terrified that I’m going to fail. I’m terrified that you’re all going to read my book and hate it. (I’m not so terrified that you’re going to hate the other authors’ books because they’ve got more talent than I have in one of my graying hairs.) But the bigger fear is that you’re not going to buy our books. You’ll like the pages and posts and share the excerpts, but come book release, you’ll shrug it off.

I’m terrified that my kids won’t discover their passions until late in life, like me. And they’ll be stuck clocking in at a job they don’t care for making money for someone they don’t even know.

I’m terrified that my wife and I will just be done with each other. I’m terrified that I really can’t change. I hate that I love my kids so much and that one day they’re not going to care. I hate that I can’t take care of babies. I make them cry. My rapid heart-rate and boiling blood freaks them out.

I hate that I don’t know how to raise my kids.

Just on my way to work this morning (I made it on time, no thanks to the foster care system), blasted the music and just screamed. I’m sick of working my ass off and being robbed nearly half of my paycheck by our insurance. If you don’t know that money is only going to fatten corporate wallets, then you need to do your homework. (Where do you think your premiums are going if you still have to pay extreme medical bills?) And that doesn’t account for taxes.

I’m sick of the hardest working people getting paid nickels and dimes and the comfortable corner-office inhabitants getting perks and hiring maids to dust out their Ferraris.

I can go on. And believe me, each day I do. But I’m not going to be another one of those bloggers who pretends everything is great and that my life is all peaches and flowers. I’m a human being with real issues and real problems and real effed up emotions.

I’m a terrible husband at best.

I’m a paranoid and angry father.

I’m a terrible writer.

I’m a terrified business owner.

I’m completely unraveled.

You’re all going to comment and say things like, “It’s okay, we feel your pain,” or “You’re a great writer! I’ve been following you for years!”

Don’t.

In fact, you’re as messed up and in as bad of a situation as I am. Gripe. Just let it out. Writing this didn’t fix anything, and honestly, it didn’t make me feel better. But at least I’m not lying or presenting a false image. Because this is who I am. This is how I feel.

And I’m really sorry, but I’m going to keep trying my hardest. Because I’m just. That. Stupid.

Writers Have Been Believing This Lie for Decades…

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Editing. It’s often seen as the summit of the mountain after a long, tumultuous climb, complete with hand-cramps and carpal tunnel.

I have a different picture in my head. Writing, as hard as it is, is more like the packing and driving toward the first day of your climb. Writing is gathering all of your equipment, literally dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, all the busy work. None of it’s in order, and half the time you don’t even know what the hell you’re writing. You’re just…writing.

But then you reach the last page, your last paragraph, your last word. You think you’re done. The world tells you, “You did it!” You get all sorts of accolades, you’re blinded by the paparazzi, and angels blow on trumpets as the opposite sex throws themselves at you.

But that’s a bunch of bull. I finished my YA novel back in February and I’ve been working on it nonstop ever since. Heck, I’m still editing a book I finished back in 2012.

Don’t. Be. Fooled. Editing is the first step up the towering mountain.

Both of my books look very different from their first drafts. Eighty-percent of both manuscripts look vastly different from their first-draft counterparts.

Andrew Stanton, of Pixar fame, describes editing as molding a lump of clay. Unless you’re Charles Dickens, your first draft is absolute crap and it’s a long way from being where it needs to be.

It may be what you envisioned, but oftentimes what you envision and what the world wants are two very different things. If you want to be a successful writer, you must come to terms with the ice-cold fact that at some point, it must not be your book. 

It’s fine to allow your first draft to tickle your fancies and be all you wanted, but if you want to bring your vision from bad (if we’re being honest here) to great, you must be willing to let go of it and please the masses.

That. Is what editing is all about.

That’s why I hand my manuscript to trusted people and reviewers. I need to know if I’m still heading toward the summit or if I’m free-falling in a hypo-thermal state of oblivion.

Editing, my friends, is a beast. Editing is only the beginning. But keep at it, because that’s the only way you’ll surprise yourself with what you have in you. There may be an unexpected plot twist ahead.

Naivety = Awesomeness (How do you pronounce “Naivety” anyway?)

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The great Steve Martin, in his book, Born Standing Up, defines naivete: “That fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.”

With that logic, every person who’s ever done anything great is undeniably, unequivocally naive.

If we were all aware of how hard something was going to be before we embarked in projects or work, I believe very little would get done.

Think about it. Doctors are like, “Eight-thousand years of college?” No sweat. But what they don’t account for before enrolling for their first $2 million class is the tedious lectures, the endless research, the nerve-jarring tests. Not to mention no money, no food, no sleep. College has its perks, but we forget how much dehydrated noodles can make us gag after the thirtieth consecutive cup.

“Let’s make a movie!” Easy. But first you’ve got to scrounge up the money for filming equipment, put out ads for crew members and actors to work for cheap (or for nothing at all), not to mention the hundreds of takes, waiting for the traffic to die, the weather to clear, the dog to stop barking. . . And the grueling editing hasn’t even begun.

Writing a book? Easy. Just tappity-tappity on the keyboard and off to New York you go! (I’d hate to be the one to break it to that naive amateur that you’re lucky if you sell six copies even after less than fourteen rewrites – of course when I broke that news to myself after years of writing, I wanted to kill myself.

My wife says, “You don’t know when to quit, do you?” I take that as a compliment. No, I don’t know how to quit because I’m too naive to believe I can fail. Even though I probably will. But who knows.

Steve Martin failed as a comedian for eight years before he achieved even a modicum of success. And then he had to refine everything he ever knew.

But it’s a gamble. And the odds are in no one’s favor. For every gazillion stand-up hopefuls, there’s only one Steve Martin. For every gazillion-billion-trillion writer (because, let’s face it, who’s not?), there’s only one J.K. Rowling.

How’s that for a drop of inspiration? No? Not good?

Try this: Nativity makes the world go round. So help me keep spinning it.

I’m Back!

I hate that blog title because it insinuates that I’m just a casual blogger and just remembered to post something after an eight-month hiatus. Well, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything on here, but let me fill you in on what’s been going on in bullet-points:

  • I tried to earn a Dad of the Year award by spoiling my kids and taking them to Chuck E. Cheese’s each Saturday.
  • Sarabeth said that place is dirty.
  • I laughed it off.
  • “Come on, kids! Do you want to spend another Saturday at Chuck E. Cheese? Show me your happy dance!”
  • One sick kid.
  • Two sick kid.
  • One very sick dad.
  • Spots. Fever. Chills. Hallucinating (apparently). Bed rest.

Basically that bed rest is what did me in. I developed a blood clot in my left leg because I hadn’t moved in over a week. The blood clot developed because I had my ACL repaired ten years ago and had a blood clot then. Apparently they’re famous for encores.

So that required an impromptu trip to the ER. Mind you, this is after a stubborn and determined walk around the zoo with the kids and an uphill walk to the library even with my leg swelled to the size of an elephant’s testicle.

“I’ll be fine,” I kept telling Sarabeth. “Let me just run it off.” So I stretched, jogged, did Yoga, and continued doing the Happy Dance with the kids from Chuck E. Cheese’s Youtube channel. Some habits die hard.

Finally Sarabeth put her foot down (because I no longer could). She made me ask a trusted crmekjgxgaebxcadoctor and he said to haul ass to the ER pronto. The kids and I finished our snow cones (I was still going for Dad of the Year), I dropped them off at home, grabbed a book, and told my wife they’ll probably keep me overnight.

They did. For five nights.

The only reason the clot didn’t reach my lungs or my heart was because apparently I was born with abnormally narrow tummy vessels. So the clot couldn’t fit, even though it was trying.

Twelve episodes of Breaking Bad, four CAT Scans, three ultra sounds, two surgeries and about a trillion-and-a-half blood tests later, my leg was as good as new – new like a newborn baby’s who can’t walk.

Oh, speaking of babies, I came home from the hospital to a phone call saying that the state of Kentucky has a child they would like for us to take in. A normal couple would have said no, except this normal couple made a promise years back that we would never say no to a child. No matter what.

And, my mom-in-law was in town already, so she was happy to be around for the arrival of a new kid.

All of this to say that I’m alive and well, my publishing company is still (miraculously) on track for releasing our first two books next month, and we’ll be continuing the story of “The Underneath” by popular demand.

So… how’s your month been?

Ever Thought About Quitting This Way?

Pardon my absence lately.

I’ve been super sick for almost a week and until today, just the thought of opening my laptop made me even more nauseous. So I’ve been doing lots of Olympic-watching, sleeping, The Walking Dead, sleeping, a Lethal Weapon marathon, sleeping, and I just started Breaking Bad (I’m one episode in and it’s kind of weird, but I’m intrigued). 

My wife deserves the gold medal for taking care of me and the also-sick kids. Or whatever is better than gold (green and wrinkly maybe?).

Anyway, I’ve been thinking.

Writers often feel like they’re alone in the struggle to conceive and develop a good story. But being at home for practically the last 144 consecutive hours, I’ve stared a lot at our personal library. And I was thinking that behind each book is an author who probably felt they were alone in the struggle.

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Each one probably wanted to give up, to call it quits, to throw their hands in the air and yell, “What’s the point?”

Hell, just a quick glance through your Netflix library, and you can come to the same conclusion. Behind each movie or TV show there’s a writer or staff of writers facing the same struggle.

That’s a lot of movies. A lot of books. A lot of plays. A lot of writers.

So maybe quitting isn’t as common and “normal” as we think. Maybe quitting is actually the weird thing to do. Perhaps quitting actually makes us losers in a world of winners.

The Burden of Creativity

space-exploration-43327We creative types have a difficult job. Essentially, our job is to create something out of nothing. Our job is to be original. To stand out. And eventually, to not only find fulfillment in our creation but fulfill others with it.

For most creative-types, we strive to guide our audiences through an emotional journey. . .

I take that back.

We strive to control our audience’s emotions. Through our creations.

And the fact is, we cannot live without creativity. Creativity turns the wheels of the world.

The reason people go insane in jail cells or on deserted islands? Many will say it’s because of a lack of community and communication. That’s true to a point, but I’d like to add a third option to create a holy trinity of functionality: There is also a lack of creativity being given and received.

When we’re not creating, or thinking organically, or processing, we go stir-crazy. When we’re not being stimulated by other people’s creativity, we get bored, we lose interest in things, we lose focus of life in general.

After all, a single life is a creative force in process, is it not?

So back to us creative-types. We are more than just wayward wanderers, or left-filed players. We are shape-shifters, world-changers, earth-spinners.

 

We are the inventors of existence in that we create something out of nothing. We storytellers guide and influence people’s thoughts, actions, and decisions. We decide what is relevant and important.

But being born centuries late into a creative world, we are faced with a problem. We’re torn between exposing ourselves to creativity for inspiration and shielding ourselves for fear of the temptation to mimic.

As serious storytellers, we are charged with the task to explore uncharted territories. We don’t have the luxury of recreating a school for wizards, a son-hunting fish, clashing superheros with differing powers.

I see serious storytellers as space explorers, forced to venture further than anyone has gone before. The storytellers before us have claimed the nearest stars, those stories have been told and many have been well received. But now we must go further, push ourselves deeper into the darkness and uncertainty of space. It can be scary because what if we waste too much time on an idea, or a star, that’s going to burn out?

That’s the risk we take. But we’ll never know unless we test it. And if we let one story go untested, that just may be one less the story the world, or a life, can be influenced by.

Not What It Seems

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Since I was young I’ve had bad hearing. Thirty-percent hearing loss in one ear and forty-percent in the other. Something like that.

As a result I used to get words words wrong all the time.

For instance…

I thought there was an N in early: “Earnly.”

I used to say “supposebly” instead of “supposedly.” (Except I don’t know what sentences would require me to say that word, but if I said it, that’s how I would have pronounced it.)

I pronounced helicopter: helicockter. 

And if something was corny, I’d say it was horny.

A lot of times things aren’t what they seem. Your life could be heading in a direction completely different from what you expect.

I heard of a guy at work who got passed up for a promotion. Turns out the boss was holding out for a better promotion which he didn’t get because he let his performance slide.

I thought those spots on Michael Phelps were because he sucks at Nerf. Turns out it’s a form of therapy involving suction cups.

I once thought my highest aspiration was to be an author. Now I own my own company.

So take my advice with a great assault and remember that things are hardly ever what they seem.

And check out Endever’s serial novel, “The Underneath” if you’ve caught up with your Olympics viewing.