How Ignorance Can Be Your Best Tool

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When I was young I used to think I would make it big in this would and it would be a piece of cake. I used to think that if you wanted something done, you just called someone up or wrote a letter, snapped your fingers, and you got what you wanted.

And then I grew up.

And every. Single. Thing. Is. Difficult.

Raising kids is difficult. Marriage is difficult. Work is difficult. Solving the world’s problems is difficult. Every single thing is difficult.

True as that may be, I think it’s time to go back to the mindset of an ignorant child. Because at least then, everything was possible. Nothing was impossible. And few things were difficult.

In one of my favorite movies, A Beautiful Mind, John Nash is plagued with Schizophrenia and he sees people that others don’t see – they’re imaginary. By the film’s end he isn’t cured of his disease, but he functions like the rest of us because, even though his imaginary people keep showing up and talking to him, he chooses to ignore them.

I like to think that the doubts instilled in us as we grow older are like those imaginary people. We can choose to ignore them – they’ll still be there, but we choose to press on with our goals, our tasks, our dreams.

Your doubts will never leave you, but you don’t have to pay them any attention. You owe them nothing.

And who knows. Maybe ignorance can be bliss.

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Music: She and Him

she_and_himYou remember the movie Elf, right? Or one of my favorites, 500 Days of Summer? That girl in those movies, Zooey Deschanel, is a singer as she shows a little in those movies. It’s her and another guy (M. Ward) in a band called She and Him. I wanted to share this band, as I’ll be doing more of, because it’s one of my favorite genres where the genre is alternative, the music is new, but it evokes the retro sound of pop 50’s music.

Very classical, very smooth, and very cool.

I love dancing around the house with our foster daughter – it’s a good pacifier for her when she’s throwing a tantrum. That’s how happy and upbeat this music is.

The duo has three albums out, plus a Christmas CD. Head on over to iTunes and grab some songs for your listening pleasure. Your day is about to get better!

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Favorite songs:

Don’t Look Back

Somebody Sweet To Talk To

Sweet Darlin’

Over and Over Again

I Could’ve Been Your Girl

I’ve Got Your Number Son

I Was Made For You

In The Sun

Sugar Town

The Elimination Game

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It’s Monday. Likely you are waking up right now, searching for a reason to go back to your soul-crushing job. Oh, right. The paycheck.

Every day you drive to work feeling like Sam and Frodo on their way to Mount Doom. “The one place in Middle Earth we don’t want to see any closer, and it’s the one place we’re trying to get to.”

And if you’re like me, sometimes you cry a little on your way to work.

You just know there are good, creative jobs out there that you’re more than qualified for! …But are you proving it?

Do you want to be a painter? You’re painting, right?

Want to write? You’re writing every chance you get, right?

Want to be a cop? You’re taking classes, aren’t you?

working-hard-300x225If not, then dare I say you’re right where you need to be. You complain about going to work, you begrudgingly put in the hours, then you come home and waste your evening watching Game of Thrones only to go to bed late and do it all over again.

If this is you, it’s time to eliminate.

The principal is simple. Evaluate your daily schedule and determine what sucks up most of your time that doesn’t enhance your chances for a better future and get rid of it.

That’s right. Cancel your HBO subscription. Do away with your Candy Crush account. Shorten your showers.

I deleted my personal Facebook account a couple of months ago because some days I’d realize I’d scrolled so far down my feed that I’d be reading statuses that said: “Boycott Carter for Boycotting the Olympics.”

I eliminated other things from my life as well (like iTunes shopping, reading five chapters a day, movies, etc.), because it is that important to me to become a bestselling author so I can quit my day job and actually make a living doing what I was born to do.

So my life is split into three categories:

1) Family

2) Writing

3) Day job

Now, I may still struggle between giving due time to my family and not write, but I make up for that time at my job. I don’t spend my lunches complaining about work with my coworkers, having the same gripe session over and over again. I don’t zone out to The Price is Right that’s playing in the break room.

No, I have my laptop with me and I’m working it to death because I’ve only got an hour to write as much as I can. I don’t tune out when work is slow – I pull out my pen and paper and write until my fingers bleed, or the ink runs out in my pen.

Every. Second. Counts.

I don’t want to be at this job a second longer than I need to be.

How long have you been at your dead-end job? Make a goal to be out by a certain time, and work to beat that goal.

You weren’t born to watch TV or play online Poker. Have you ever considered that you’re still at your job because of those things? Eliminate that crap and work yourself out of your job.

Or, just be miserable for the rest of your life.

Your choice.

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Fail Early and Fail Fast

Andrew Stanton: 'Spielberg and I compared notes on ET and Wall-E'.

The advice “Fail early and fail fast” may seem a little odd, coming from a country where the best of us still value winning, innovation, and success.

But this piece of advice actually stems from one of this country’s greatest and most innovate minds, storyteller, director, and animator Andrew Stanton. You’re familiar with his work on Finding Nemo and Wall-E.

I learned this advise first-hand recently. I’m currently immersed in a book project that’s literally taking all I’ve got. While I’m excited about it, a lot hangs on the line (more details to come). While I started off making good headway, the last week or so has really brought me down.

The stamina and determination were still there – it’s not a matter of completion. It’s a matter of content. I was struggling through the material, unable to make it convey to readers and myself (first a reader, then an author). With my brain stuck in the proverbial mud of anti-creativity, and with the clock running against me, I had to think back to my heroes of the craft of storytelling and I was directed to a book I recently read by Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc. 

In it, he describes one of Stanton’s mottos while coaching his team on a film. “Fail early and fail fast.” The philosophy behind it is that we’re not perfect; we’re going to make mistakes. So seeing that failure is inevitable, fail early and fail fast. You basically have to ask yourself the tough questions early on: “Will people benefit from my work?”

“Will people really read this?”

“Is this really the best I can do?”

For me, the question was, “Am I having fun with this still?”

I had turned fun and entertainment into all work and all business. No one wants to read a book from an author who did not have fun and employ a liberal sense of creativity flowing through his/her book.

So today, I’m choosing to fail early and fail fast. I’m tearing out the last few pages I labored over. It’s better to do it now rather than later (trashing five pages instead of ten).

To put it into a picture, it’s like a maze on one of those children’s menus. You trace your Crayon through the labyrinth and, if you’re directionally challenged like myself, you’re going to hit a lot of dead-ends. Same with creativity.

So I ask you: Do you have the courage to fail early and fail fast? Back out, tear up, turn around, and start over in the right direction.

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Why I Wake Up at 4:00 A.M.

 

earlybird1I get up at 4 in the morning to work.

Not to go to work, which starts at 6.

I get up at 4 in the morning to work on what I don’t have time to work on the rest of the day.

People are always saying, “I don’t have time to accomplish my dreams, or do what I want to do.” They’re saying this as they’re flopped in front of the TV mindlessly tuned in to The Bachelor or Game of Thrones.

“I hate my job,” people say as they sleep in as late as they can without being late to their day job.

I say, Get up at 4 (and earlier if the alarm hasn’t gone off yet and I’m awake). Freedom didn’t come freely or easily, so why should your independence, or your dream job, or your money?

I get up at 4 because I believe, with all my heart, that if I work hard enough and sacrifice enough sleep, that my dream job will come true. So I get up at 4 in the morning and write, and write, and write.

At least, at the end of the day, I can say, “I got to do what I wanted today.”

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On Writing: Curing the Creative Rut

giphyYou writers and creative-types – you’ve been there. It’s a hellish place, for sure. A chasm of fear, doubt, agony, frustration…

While everyone else around you seems to be excelling in their craft, accolades are given to everyone but you, your neighbors hit the jackpot…

Come on, I’m not the only one. You’ve surely been there, right?

Idea-less.

A hellish place for sure. It’s worse than that moment you’re about to start the first sentence on a blank page.

It’s worse than having to wait 119 days until Jurassic World finally opens.

You know how I find my ideas when I at this point? It’s embarrassing, and no one has ever seen me do it, except Sarabeth when I thought I was alone, or my little girl who just thinks it’s hilarious. 1tumblr_lgp6q5NhE21qcjtu8o1_500

I dance.

I talk out loud.

I sing.

I act.

And I’ve yelled.

It’s humbling, but true. I imagine myself standing before the heads of Universal Studios or Disney and I’ve got five minutes (I’m generous) to pitch them my idea.

So I yell, I act, I pitch like a storyboard artist convincing the director that my idea is the only thing that will work. I talk aloud about something that I believe in.

I might not yet have an idea to believe in, but I believe that I will find one.

I encourage you to give this a try. Crank up some Fun. or Owl City, or Delta Rae on the ipad and dance.

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Yes. Just start dancing. Let your body go. Just release the stress of everyday life. The last thing you want weighing you down when you’re trying to be creative is the rock-hard facts of  life that your readers are looking to escape from.

numa-numa-kid-oSo… escape.

Dance.

And talk.

And then ask yourself later, What did I talk about? Anything interesting? Jot it down.

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The American Dream Revised

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It used to be that people in America achieved the Great Dream by running and sustaining a business or trade, owning property, and passing down an inheritance to your offspring, be that monetary or a learned skill. But that Dream has morphed into something different over the years.

This is what the new American Dream sounds like: Pay off any debts and live on a private beach, emphasis on private. 

Nowhere in today’s revised Dream is there a place for work. To be more specific, people want to earn as much as possible doing the least as possible – and for most of us, that will always remain just that: a dream.

Me, I like to work – the issue is, the type of work I’m doing. My Dream is the freedom (or time) to do my work to earn money for me, not for a company. I want the freedom to travel so I can write about different locations and research history for compelling books.

Stop dreaming about doing no work and start thinking about doing your work.

Think about what energizes you. Maybe it’s teaching kids in Sunday school, or gardening, or critiquing restaurants, or sewing pillow cases.

Dive into your hobbies and personal projects as though you were making millions of dollars off of them. Become an expert in your field. And then find a way to make money off of it.

Make that your new Dream.

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