Meditation on Philosophy…

I have a B.A. in Philosophy.

I’ve mentioned somewhere before, but it bears repeating, the exchange I’ve had – more than fucking once – with random people when I tell them about my degree. It usually goes something like this:

Rando – “What are you going to do with degree in philosophy?”

Me – “Whatever the fuck I want.”

But, strangely, that’s not the most common interaction I have on the subject.

The most frustratingly frequent response I hear is,

“I could never do philosophy.”

You know, it’s great that people start thinking I’m fekkin’ brilliant when they find out what I majored in, but it’s also depressing as hell to be told that people believe they can’t do it themselves.

Ok, maybe one won’t be graduating at or near the top of one’s class, but that does not mean one is unable to engage in philosophical exercise.

Truth be told, I think we engage in philosophy all the damn time.

Most of what we get into stays in the realm of Personal Philosophy, but it’s still philosophy.

Not convinced?

Alright, let me give it a whirl. And because philosophy is usually more about the questions than the answers, let’s start with a question:

Do you have any ideas about life, in general?

Yes? I thought you might.

Congratulations, you have a personal philosophy.

You’ve experienced life, to whatever degree you’ve experienced it, and come to some kind of belief about its general nature.

You probably didn’t sit down and puzzle it out. Likely, you didn’t ask yourself a bunch of questions about the belief or what led to it. You never spent any time looking like that statue by Rodin. But you have processed experience and come to a conclusion. This is usually what we refer to as wisdom.

The word Philosophy, literally translates to: the love of wisdom.

So, maybe you don’t love the wisdom, but you’re doing it anyway.

Go you.

I’ll just bet you also have some ideas about life.

You know you do.

I’ve not met anyone yet, above the age of thirteen or so, who doesn’t have some notion of what a good life would be.  Maybe they haven’t thought about how to achieve it, but they usually have an inkling.

Now, that’s not a well-defined, or I would argue, well understood personal philosophy, but it is still a personal philosophy nonetheless.

Have you ever thought about what it would mean if you were happy? How about successful? What about moral – have you thought about how you’d need to act to consider yourself a good person?

Of course you have, even if you didn’t give it sustained thought for long periods.

Even if you haven’t thought about it for ages.

And these are questions we’ve been asking ourselves for as long as we’ve had the capacity to ask questions.

They’re the same questions those dusty old Greeks asked. The same ones Buddha, and Lao Tsu, and Confucius asked. The same ones Hamilton and Jefferson, and Franklin asked.

Somehow, the majority of us has been conned into thinking, because some revered figure from history asked these questions, that the very same questions are somehow beyond us “normal folk”.

And that shit just isn’t true.

Geniuses happen, to be sure. But they are rare things and don’t come along often.

More often it is the case that someone you and I would otherwise consider to be a “normal” person just gets obsessed with a subject and works their ass off on it.

You’d be amazed at what “normal” people, that just happen to give it the full measure – can achieve.

The pyramids.

The Manhattan Skyline.

The entirety of the Modern World.

Not bad for “normal” folk.

Now, I’m not saying you need to sit down and design a pyramid, or skyscraper, or new civilization – but if you want to, I encourage it.

What I am saying is this:

These questions:

What makes for a good life? What is success? What is happiness? What is right? How do we live together in something resembling peace?

These are some of the basic questions of human existence.

And you’re a human.

We all are, no matter how basic we seem or feel.

And these questions are yours to answer, for yourself.

Share the answers you find, or not, as you like. But recognize you’re asking them anyways.

You don’t have to leave it for some faraway “genius”.

They’re in you.

They always have been.

All it takes is for you to come to understand them, and in so doing, understand yourself.

And then, with almost no effort at all,

You’re a Philosopher.

Look at you, you beautiful thing!

Keep asking questions.

Keep looking for answers.

(like you could stop yourself now if you wanted to.)

Until next time…

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Making Your Way in Uncharted Territory…

So, I was watching one of the people I follow on YouTube. It was the first time they’d posted in a while. I dig their content, so I was curious about the absence.

By luck, it happens that this very topic was the subject of their post.

It turns out that they, (and yes, I’m purposefully being vague about specific identity here), have been having an identity crisis.

Because, apparently, we’re all supposed to have a set image we present to the public. And, if that is the case, it only follows that, before we can get to that place, we should have a set vision of ourselves.

At least, that’s the theory.

But I have a problem with this.

Actually, I think we all have a problem with this.

Allow me to explain. (in case you thought I was going to forget about our fucked-up culture and just talk about writing until the end of the universe…)

This particular person, the YouTuber I subscribe to, is in their late 20s.

Being in my 40s now, I thought:

How in the hell can you have an identity crisis, you’re barely old enough to know what your fekkin’ identity is?!

And that’s where I had the realization.

The only reason anyone under 30 should even approach the outer boundaries of an identity crisis is because our goofy-assed culture has been telling them, all of us really, that we have to have exactly who we are nailed down, in precise detail, as early as fucking possible.

That’s a problem.

Sure, we have examples of extremely successful people who are fairly young, but we have just as many, if not more examples of success being achieved much later in life.

40s. 50s. 60s even.

Except those examples don’t get anywhere near as much media air time as the youthful prodigies do.

Here’s a funny aside: if you look at the age demographic in our country, you’ll see that, because of birth-rate decline, there are more people in the “older” category. Just research some of the depressing statistics about Social Security, and you’ll get up to speed with a quickness.

Our culture mutates fairly quickly, anymore. So quickly, in fact, that people of the Millennial Generation are told to expect to have something on the order of 15 different careers in their lifetime.  Fif-fucking-teen.

Why, in a culture of never-ending change, would we drill into the heads of our populace, especially the most young and impressionable of us, that we have to create a crystallized version of ourselves by the time we graduate high school?

(Yeah, that life-plan bullshit started when I was in high school. I can only imagine it’s gotten more intense in the intervening twenty-some-odd years.)

But even beyond the institutional peddling of patently nonsense ideas, we are bombarded with endless articles about how much money we should have saved by the time we’re 30, or how much this or that we should have accomplished by the time we’re 25, or how far we should be able to shove our own heads up our own asses by the time we’re, whatever – you get the picture.

Put it all together, and we swim in a toxic soup of messages that all decree we should have every yard sale bit of our lives labeled and lined up in neat rows before we reach our mid-20s.

In the words of George Carlin, “It’s all bullshit. And it’s bad for you.”

Personally, I didn’t know, really know what I wanted to do with my life until the age of 27. And at that point, the world and my education had done nothing to prepare me to pursue that goal. So, I had to start my learning and make progress as I could. In essence, I began discovering my identity from there on out. I’m still exploring parts of it. I imagine I always will, unless I become boring.

But I’ve always been precocious. For some people, it happens much later than almost-30. Some people reach the autumn of their lives before really knowing what they’re meant to do with the time they have left.

AND THAT DOES NOT FUCKING MATTER!

It really fucking doesn’t. I promise.

The only reason we think it does is because we’ve been led to believe we can compare two dissimilar things. Quick tip: you can’t. It’s all apples and oranges when it comes to comparison. There literally can be no basis to judge.

I’ve said it before: we can note differences. But assigning value does not logically follow from noting differences.

Anyways, I feel like I’m getting off track.

Let me state, unequivocally, I am not pissing on anyone who feels like they’re having an identity crisis – young or old.

I’m not.

I love you, and I hope you pull through it.

What I’m saying is this:

The only reason any of us would even be in that position is that the idea that we should have it all together at an early age has been shoved down our  brain-throats our entire fekkin’ lives.

That shit just isn’t true. And it’s seriously fucking unhealthy to believe.

Life is a learning process.

And it only reaches a stopping point when we die.

Until then, it’s constantly moving, changing, mutating.

And so are we.

(This is not to say that you will never have an identity, we all come to that understanding of ourselves, eventually. But it is to say there’s no need to feel rushed about it. Don’t know what you want to be/do in your 40s? Fine. It’s just not time for you yet. 50s? 60s? Same deal.)

There is not a guidebook for life. Regardless of what articles, list-icles, and click-bait internet headlines would have us believe.

We’re all figuring this shit out as we go., and it’s different for each one of us.

That’s what is.

And what is, is all we’ve got.

If you don’t know what you want to do or be, it’s okay.

If you don’t know who you are yet – whatever that means – that’s okay too.

Just don’t give up looking, and you’ll figure it out, eventually.

And then, the time will be right for you.

We are all explorers in uncharted territory.

We all have to draw our own maps.

I wish you all a steady hand and a good journey.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

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Of Beta Readers and Critique Partners…

So, there’s two things you probably need to know about, if you want to be anything like successful as a writer:

Beta Readers & Critique Partners

(Maybe you’re that one, lone genius, toiling away on your masterpiece without the need for input or feedback – but the odds are against you on that one. A quick test: if you’ve ever noticed a plot hole in your writing – not right away, but like fucking months later – then you’re not that genius person. You’re just like the rest of us. And well, if you want what you write to read by an audience, involving other people is going to be a requirement at some point.)

Now, it’s important to recognize that those two entities are meant for different purposes.

Which is the reason I’m writing this post – to elucidate the differences.

Let’s start with Beta Readers:

Beta Readers can be anybody. Really. Anybody at all.

They don’t need to be writers or editors or even particularly well-educated. They just need to be readers.

The point of a Beta Reader is to get an audience’s view of the work.

Does it bog down anywhere? Does the reader get bored? Confused? Any characters that are notable for either being awesome or complete pieces of shit.

You ask a Beta Reader if they liked it or didn’t, and what they did or didn’t like about it. Does the story make sense? Any plot holes? That kind of thing.

Beta Readers are absolutely essential to discovering if the story is doing what you, as the writer, want it to do.

Critique Partners on the other hand need to have a bit more specialized knowledge.

First, they need to be readers, and preferably writers of whatever genre you’re writing in.

Second, they should know something about story structure. How does a story come together? How does it keep moving? What about tension? Foreshadowing? Thematic elements? Motifs? Plot beats?

You get the picture.

A critique partner doesn’t need to have an English degree, but they need to be at least passingly familiar with how a story works or doesn’t work.

And they need to be able to be honest with you about what’s not working.  They don’t have to tell you how to fix it. In fact, when they do it’s usually wrong. But they have to be able to tell you. That means both finding a good partner, preferably one who understands tact, and making sure, as the writer, you’re presenting an open and receptive mind.

(It doesn’t suck if they’ve an eye for grammar and continuity, but it’s not a necessity.)

Writing is usually a seriously solitary endeavor, but revision can and likely should be a group effort.

As writers, we’re too close to our own work. We need fresh eyes. I know that, personally, sometimes I’m in such a rush to get an idea down on the page that I leave significant parts of it written only in my head. And when I reread it, my head automatically translates those missing pieces.

So, I need someone who isn’t a native speaker to tell me where I’ve let important shit out.

I’m on my 5th novel – I stopped counting the short stories – and it still happens. Hopefully to a lesser degree than it used to, but there it is. Or, there it isn’t, which is more frequently the case.

Now, if you write only for yourself – it’s a hobby and you’re not interested in letting others read what you’ve written – that’s a completely valid way to spend your time. And you can ignore the preceding.

But, if you want other people to read and enjoy your work, you’ll benefit from having a group of readers you can count on to provide feedback in these areas.

Finding people you and your writing fit with is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

I have no advice about that.

I generally impose on my friends to be my beta readers.

So far, no critique partners I jive with. But I’ll keep looking.

(Helps that The Wife is pretty much English savant.)

Anyways, good luck on your writing journey. If you’ve got questions, or you’re looking for another set of eyes, leave a comment and we’ll talk.

Until next time…

 

 

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Process…

Hello to all the people participating in NANOWRIMO this year!

Sorry I couldn’t join in the fun, but I have too many irons in the fire right now, and not enough asbestos gloves.

But you look good. Keep it up.

Thinking about the effort that goes into even coming close to completing National Novel Writing Month got me thinking about process.

I’ve spent more than 20 years now trying to figure out mine. I’m still working, although I’ve got it mostly nailed down. Now if it will only stop squirming…

Anyways…

There are plenty of people out there, writers and not, who give advice about process.

In fact, you can’t throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder without hitting a handful of writers who will each have a different way that, if you don’t follow it, you’re – dare I say it? –  not a real writer.

And they’re wrong.

All of them.

Truth is, if you write and keep writing, you’re a fekkin’ writer. And no one can say otherwise. (There is a difference between writer, published, and successful – that should be obvious based on their descriptors.)

But, besides the point of what makes someone a real writer, the more important thing to note is that we all have a different process for writing.

All of us.

Oh, yours, mine, and half the people we know might have similarities, but they’re not the same.

Some writers do well with structure. They perform better with the daily discipline of sitting down and hammering out words.

Some writers don’t.

Some writers, like me, really can only write everyday under certain special circumstances.

(I found out, last year, that NANOWRIMO wasn’t one of them. If it is for you, that’s awesome.)

Here’s the thing: it is impossible to compare two unlike things.

We can juxtapose. We can analyze the differences and similarities.

But when you’re comparing an apple to an orange, how do you judge? By what standard?

And thereby hangs a tale.

We can’t. All we can do is point out where methods intersect and diverge.

If you want a good rule for whether or not your process is working, or good, or whatever, I’ll offer this:

Does it let you get the work done?

If the answer is yes, then it’s working for you. Truth be told, that’s all that matters – if it works for you.

Maybe you write everyday and maybe you don’t.

(Personally, I don’t. But, like I said, lots of irons in the fire.)

Are you doing the writing? Are you finishing your projects?

That’s the metric you should gauge your process by. If it isn’t letting you do the work, and complete it, then maybe you want to examine your process and try out different methods.

Maybe not.

(Free advice is usually worth what you pay for it.)

Anyways, for all of you banging away at your NANOWRIMO word count goals, and all of you staring out into space thinking about what comes next, and everyone in between, I hope your writing goes well. I hope, fast or slow, steady or intermittent, you’re taking the time to enjoy this weird activity we can’t not do.

And since we can’t help ourselves but write, we might as well enjoy it while we do.

Until next time…

 

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A Friday Morning WTF…

So, I’m driving home from the gym this morning.

It is cold and raining. 50 degrees and dropping.

Near my house, kids – probably teenagers – wait for the bus to pick them up.

And here’s the WTF moment: I saw a girl standing in the cold and wet, wearing shorts.

Shorts.

(Yeah, she had an umbrella, but still – cold and rainy.)

And I actually said – out loud:

“Don’t you have parents?”

No, I didn’t say it to her. That would be creepy as fuck.

But come on, people. Where were any of her parental figures?

Did she have a legal guardian?

Was there anyone in the house who cared enough about this young woman to step up and say:

“Um, no. You’re not leaving the house in that.”

And don’t mistake me, it was not because she is a she. I have the exact same thought for boys.

But, come on, doesn’t she have parents that love her?

I know it was annoying as hell when I was a kid, but my mother telling me I’d get pneumonia if I went out dressed a certain way, probably kept me from getting pneumonia. It definitely kept me from going out in the cold and wet without proper protection.

I did not grow up in what one would call a stable household, but I had still parents that had enough sense not to let me go out in 40-50 degree pouring rain in fekkin’ shorts.

Come on, people!

Preparing your child to go safely out into the world is like the primary responsibility of a parent. If you do nothing else, that’s the one thing you have to pay attention to.

I’ll get off my old man soap box now, but seriously,

WTF?!

 

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Self-Publishing Updatery…

So, I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I’m self publishing one of my novels.

(Ok, I definitely mentioned it. You got me.)

It’s an interesting journey.

I’ve been learning what can only be described as a metric fuck-ton. It is, uh, enlightening.

And damn difficult.

So far the novel has been through beta readings and multiple revisions. It’s also been professionally edited.

I’ve nearly saved all I need for professional formatting and cover art. Maybe a month, month and a half, and I’ll be reaching out to a few companies to see what they can do.

I’m hoping by sometime in January to have a cover to reveal.

Of the many next steps, and the one you can help me with, is looking for book reviewers and book bloggers. I’ve done some research, and need to do more. But, I thought I’d ask you for input.

Do you have any book reviewers you like? Trust? Are you a book reviewer or book blogger, or Book-Tuber yourself?

Then I’m looking for you.

I know most reviewers have a backlog. Just about everyone I’ve researched so far has a three to four month lead time. Hence the reason I’m putting this out here so early.

In all likelihood, by the time I have hard copies and ARCs ready to go out, reviewers will be ready to begin considering them.

So, hit me up in the comments with suggestions or ideas.

Or, if you’re the book reviewer type yourself, let me know.

It also won’t be long before I’ll be looking to recruit a street team/ launch blitz team.

Before I get there, I have to finish my press kit.

Can’t have a promotion team without materials to promote.

Beyond that, good lord let me tell you, this is a nerve-wracking process.

Not the learning. That shit comes easy to me.

No, it’s the trying to talk to people thing. The “what if it doesn’t work?” thing. The “who the fuck do I think I’m kidding?” thing. All that and much more.

But I’ll tell you what: I’m doing it anyways.

Fall flat on my face. Still doing it.

Never make any money. Still doing it.

Embarrass myself in the public sphere.

Still. Fucking. Doing. It.

(Not that it would even come close to being the first time I’ve embarrassed myself in public. Not even in the top 10.)

I believe in this thing, and I’m doing it.

No matter what.

Maybe you’ve had the same kinds of doubts?

The same kinds of misgivings and second thoughts?

Apparently, it’s quite natural, if you’re not a psychopath.

You’re not a psychopath, are you? Good. Just checking.

We all are just a little bit afraid. (ok, maybe more than a little bit.)

But fear is just your body’s way of encouraging you to take notice. To pay close attention. That’s what being wary means.

It doesn’t mean you should stop pursuing your dream. It just means you should be careful and focused about it.

Watch your step and keep your eye on the path.

So, stay focused – sharp.

And keep working.

That’s what I’m doing.

And, all things being equal, and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be releasing my novel sometime in the first half of the coming year.

It’s a dark, funny, urban fantasy, detective story.

“Drawn to Flame” is the title.

It’s the first book in a series. The second book is already in the beta reader phase.

Look for more about it coming soon.

Until next time…

 

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Happy Halloween…

I love Halloween.

It is, bar none, my favorite holiday.

And I do think of it as a holiday, as in the original version of that word: Holy Day.

There has just always been something magical about the day, and the night, for me.

Maybe you’re in the same gear. Glad to have you along.

Beyond the spooks, thrills, and chills that are usually associated with October 31st, I also think of it as a new beginning.

Way back, when Halloween was still Samhain, (pronounced Sow-in), the day was celebrated as the changing of the year.

Just as in the old-time, when they held that the new day began at nightfall and lasted until the next nightfall, the year was considered to begin in dormancy – the dormancy of what we call Winter. Of course, in the northern climes where it was celebrated, Winter came a wee bit earlier than it does for those of us closer to the equator.

Life begins quietly, gestates, grows and emerges. Dormancy yielding to action. So too did they believe the yearly turning followed the same cycle.

Now, before I devolve into a history lesson that I’m certain to screw up, let me get back to why I find the holiday so captivating.

You could wait for January. Make a list. Probably ignore it because it’s too cold, too dark, or whatever.

Or, you could start now.

Think about what you want to become and what you’ll need to do to get there.

Let it gestate through the holiday season.

Let it grow inside you and begin to emerge when the days get longer and the frost lifts from the world.

Give the idea time to germinate.

Give yourself time to plan.

Time to be absorbed in the becoming.

Plant your seed now, and let it rest in the earth until time and purpose nudge it into sprouting.

At least, this is what I do. It seems a good place for it.

A good place for the beginning of plans, for the kindling of desire.

There is one ritual I recall reading about: a bonfire would be set, and burn all night. As it burned down, the embers would be used to start another bonfire. Symbolic of the turning of the year.

Maybe you feel your own fire has burned down.

If so, now is the perfect day to blow the coals to life and move them to where they can burn again.

A new fire for a new year.

A quiet beginning, waiting to burst into life.

Regardless if it’s new beginnings or just tons of candy you look forward to, I hope your Halloween is as happy, spooky, eerie, joyful, hopeful, thrilling and chilling as you wish it to be.

Today’s a good day for wishes.

Happy Halloween.

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