Let’s Confer

In between putting out work fires, I’ve been attending a conference all day. They’re a good opportunity to catch up on the latest technologies, network with other professionals, and most importantly, pick up all that vendor swag (all right! another novelty USB flash drive!)

An event like this also reminds me to throw off the chains of the tyrannical computer screen and participate. Observe everything around me. After all, being a writer isn’t just about pressing keys or scribbling symbols.

-Phillip

* Image courtesy of freegreatpicture.com

Are You a Unicorn?

I’m a unicorn. I say this to people all the time. I am a total unicorn—you wouldn’t know I existed unless you saw me, that’s really the deal.

 

Crews, Terry. “Terry Crews on Doomfist, Battlefield 1 with Snoop Dogg, and building high-end PCs” Interview by Joe Donnelly. PC Gamer

Between acting professionally and running a fashion and furniture design company, staying in shape and bonding with his son over computer games, you can’t say Terry Crews isn’t ambitious.

I don’t know where he finds these hidden slivers of time in the day. Actually, I do know where he finds the time. He decides what’s important and makes the time. But that’s a bit of a side-trip from my main point here.

When Terry talks about being a unicorn, he’s acknowledging his diverse hobbies and influences. I can only imagine how much this gumbo of sensations and experiences contribute to each area of interest. With his planter filled with so many different seeds, they can’t help but cross-pollinate and bloom new and exciting things.

That’s something I try to take into account with my life. Whenever I feel myself growing comfortable and resistant to something new, that’s a pretty loud signal I need to indulge in new knowledge. Something completely outside of my wheelhouse.

My goal is to become the most magicalest, rainbowiest unicorn there is!


* Terry Crews image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Categories: Me

INTJs and the Continuing Theme of Fear

I’ve been published!

No, not my fiction. Still cruising the streets of Rejectionville there.

But friend, author, writing coach, mom, and all-around-Wonder Woman, Lauren Sapala, asked that I write an article for her popular website.

**PSSST** If so inclined, please support Lauren by buying a copy of her highly-rated book…

Lauren is an INFJ on the popular MBTI inventory (a lot of acronyms, I know). If you’re not familiar with Meyers-Briggs Type Indicators, start here. The system is based on the work of Carl Jung and is essentially a psychological framework that explains why we tend to think and behave in the ways we do.

A portion of Lauren’s audience have a similar personality makeup to her INFJ-ness, but are off by a single letter; oh what a difference a single letter can make.

You see, like me, these people are INTJs. We’re very close to INFJs on a lot of things, but when it comes to making decisions, we tend to favor cold, hard logic above personal concerns. To be clear, there should be no bias as to which is better than the other. It’s just a scale on which most of us tend toward one side more often than not.

Anyway, please check out the article if you’re interested in what it’s like to try and write fiction, essentially emotion realized, yet continually wrestle with the tendency to keep feelings bottled up. To fight to finish our work while contending with an amazing ability to convince ourselves that the odds are against us.

I learned a lot about myself writing that piece. I hope you find it useful as well.

-Phillip

Contemplating Fear

“Our greatest growth spurts happen when we are children risking and daring and falling down and embarrassing ourselves.” – Steve Chandler, Time Warrior

If you met me in person, you’d realize that I don’t have a lot to say. It’s not that the thoughts aren’t there. It’s just that they won’t come out of my mouth. Typically, it’s because you’re not interested in whatever’s on my mind, or more aptly put, I don’t believe you’re interested in whatever’s on my mind.

I might be right. I might be wrong. But you know what usually happens? People think I’m boring. People think I’m shy. People think I’m arrogant.

Of course I think those things about myself some of the time, and some of the time, I am being those things (*gasp*). Still, I don’t want to be boring. I don’t want to be shy. I don’t want to be arrogant.

It’s just the comfortable actions and reactions of an introvert.

Yesterday’s post was an example of me attempting to face this particular fear. I had several moments of indecision about the title of that story, because I’m normally not one to curse or be “crude” in polite company (outside of stubbing my toe on one of Angus’s toys for umpteenth time — then I’ll make the saltiest sailor blush).

This post is a continuation of facing that fear, admitting that I felt ambivalent over the post. I believed that title illustrated the levity with which the characters viewed the subject. Not sure if that came across, but I was willing to take the risk.

I’m human. No shining example of propriety. I often find things funny that some people find abhorrent or offensive, and others have laughed at things that I find wrong. That’s just the nature of humor. Who can explain it?

I’m learning that to be a good writer, I have to stop worrying about being appropriate. It kills the creative mind and it’s a losing battle — in the end, there is no final arbiter outside of your own mind regarding appropriateness. You have to accept that you may upset those whose opinions you value. It’s the only way to move forward. Ask anyone who’s ever done anything worth a damn and I’d bet dollars to donuts that they didn’t operate on fear.

You can be nice. You can even try to explain yourself if it matters that much to you. But don’t regret making that decision. Don’t stop facing down those fears.

In other news: Game of Thrones is back for its seventh season. My amazing wife had surprise GoT-themed cookies baked for me. I’ll post pictures this week. The sad feeling of destroying such beautiful things was quickly replaced by lots of “mmmms.”

Also, it’s an odd thing, watching a television show based on a series of books, in which neither has reached its end. Paths have diverged here and there based on character emphasis, character choices, and character deaths. I’d be lying if I said I was through waiting for George and his publisher to put out the next book, but I’m as anxious as anyone.

-Phillip

* Image courtesy of Max Pixel

The Dicks and Tits of Khalid Nabi


“I hope this is worth it.”

“It is the best idea ever dreamed of.”

“And what if it is all destroyed next year? Or the year after?”

“Great art requires great risks, brother.”

Nizam snorted, though he was short of breath. “Oh, this is art now, is it?”

“Of a sort,” Hiraz replied. A grin stretched across his face.

Nizam continued walking backwards, carrying one end of the stone phallus up the grass-covered hill.

“Think of all of the head scratching and postulating,” Hiraz said. “‘Oh, these people must have prayed to these large penises and offered sacrifices to the stone breasts.'” He shook his head. “It kills me inside that I will not be around to see it.”

“Here,” Nizam said. They stopped and dropped the heavy cylinder. It sank slightly into the moist soil. While his brother took a shovel from his sack, Nizam looked out over the past year’s progress. Already, hundreds of graveless headstones had been sunk into the ground. He wondered if there was anyone actually buried out here. Centuries of conflict between horse-riding raiders and settled peoples had taken place in these hills. The restless souls would be spinning in their graves.

A deep hole had been dug and together, Hiraz and Nizam lifted the penis on end and dropped the bottom half in. Hiraz stood back and admired the work.

“It is beautiful, is it not, brother?”

“Whatever you say, Hiraz.”

* Flash fiction based on article from Atlas Obscura – Khalid Nabi Cemetery – pg. 114, Article 2 – website version of article

** Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Shortcuts = Long Delays

We had an insightful speaker today at my writer group’s monthly meeting: Joe Ide, author of the acclaimed IQ.

I’m definitely picking up his books for a couple of reasons:

  • If he writes a story as well as he tells one, I’m already sold. The guy is full of charm and has an eye for telling details that really hook you in.
  • His two greatest influences are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Elmore Leonard. Given the fact that I’m in the middle of reading and absorbing Elmore’s western stories, I’ll take that as a slap-you-in-the-face sign.

He instructed his captive audience that there are no shortcuts to true greatness and that if you’re not going to try to be the best that you can be in such a competitive field, you’re just wasting your time. Despite his success, Joe still writes close to eight hours a day, seven days a week.

Good reminders.

A Saturday morning well spent.

-Phillip

Tell Your Fears to Go Eat Mud. Play BTFI.

Has the increased level of attention in the years since the show came on made you feel like more of a perfectionist in your writing? Is it more challenging to write now?

 

Yes! And that doesn’t necessarily just revolve around the show. Although the show may, indeed, be part of it. The books have been enormously successful. I think I’m now in 47 languages, which is pretty astonishing. My earlier work was always translated but, boy I’m being translated now into languages I’ve never heard of, in every corner of the globe. The books have been nominated for many major awards and they get prominent reviews. That’s great, but it also brings with it a certain pressure. Instead of just writing a story, there’s this little guy in the back of my mind saying: “No, it has to be great! It has to be great! You’re writing one of the great fantasies of all time! Is that sentence great? Is this decision great?” When I started in 1991, I was just trying to write the best story I could. I didn’t think this will be a landmark thing for all time. The fact that this has gotten all this favorable attention and praise, wonderful reviews, award nominations, it does increase the pressure to do it again.

 

Martin, George R. R. “George R. R. Martin on the One Game of Thrones Change He ‘Argued Against’.” Interview by Daniel D’Addario. Time Magazine Online

*cue Queen song*

As I painfully typed my first few minutes of fiction this morning, I thought of poor George. I know, I know. Who has any pity left for a man sitting atop a mountain of cash built on a multimillion-dollar brand?

But for just a moment, try to imagine the pressure he talks about here. I feel a weight every time I begin writing, hoping that I get things right. If I had George’s level of obligations to an already tempestuous fan base, I’m pretty sure I’d crack right in half. Literally. Somehow defying everything we know about reality, my body was just split in two.

This brought me two very conflicting thoughts: Why am I working so hard to create something that would exponentially increase the pressure on my writing? And the much more logical second thought; Wow, you really think you’re going to create something as wildly successful as George? Better go back and read that post on humility and hubris

I realized I carry on because the possibility of making a living while doing what I love really exists. It’s tangible. People do it every day. They all got there in different ways, but I’ll tell you one thing they didn’t do — stop writing.

If George were to ask me for advice, because, you know, he’s always seeking advice from writers still seeking a clue, I’d tell him to start practicing what Benjamin and Rosamund Zander refer to as “playing BTFI (Beyond The F*** It).”

“…our universe is alive with sparks. We have at our fingertips an infinite capacity’ to light a spark of possibility’. Passion, rather than fear, is the igniting force. Abundance, rather than scarcity, is the context.

 

The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander,

Maybe my advice is just what he needs. The best advice, I’ve found, comes from those removed from our situation and limited viewpoint. From those who are able to see things with a more objective eye.

BTFI doesn’t come easy, but as I work on practicing it every day, I find it kicks in after a few minutes of writing. And when I look back at the words I’ve written, I realize that they’re not half as bad as I thought they would be, because I told all of those expectations, all of those imaginary, lingering faces of disapproval, to go eat mud.

-Phillip

*Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

Perception and the Manster Wheel

“…perception is what drives human behavior. We behave based on how we perceive things—not based on how things really “are.”

– Steve Chandler, Time Warrior

1 = 20.

Sometimes.

As I was running on the treadmill this morning, it struck me that unless the odometer is broken, one mile always feels like twenty. I’m constantly looking down, watching the accumulated distance increase slowly by 1/100th of a mile, trying desperately not to mix sweat with tears.

When I use the manster (man + hamster) wheel, it’s on my gym days when the treadmill is more convenient to knock off a quick mile run at the end of my weights routine. The other days when I’m just running, I prefer to do so beneath the hazy streetlights of predawn.

It’s during those outdoor excursions that I’m surprised every time my phone tells me I’ve hit one mile.

“Wow, already?”

So what’s the deal? I’m doing the same amount of work here. In fact, I typically run flat at the gym but I hit several inclines along the sidewalk path.

It seems apparent that I’m not working with reality here, but with how I perceive it.

It’s an hour in the dentist’s office vs. an hour of good conversation with friends.

It’s a Monday vs. a Sunday.

It’s abstruse, polysyllabic, figure-of-speech comparisons of one thing to another vs. pithy similes.

I’m not claiming this to be some brilliant insight, but I find it helpful to remind myself that in the end, I have some level of control over how I process these inputs. Sometimes it’s easy to change your perception, but I would say that most of the time, it’s very difficult and requires work.

When I sit down to write, it’s usually after several minutes of hand-wringing and yelling at myself to just get started (only in my head — don’t need another concerned-neighbors-calling-the-cops incident).

The writing always starts slowly. A word here. A deletion there. A peek at my watch.

“It’s only been a minute!?”

But then I remind myself to just keep putting down words and at some indeterminable point in time, I catch something — A glimmer of a thought. What might be tracks, but I need to follow them to be certain.

Before I know it, my 25-minute timer beeps loudly (Pomodoro technique is brilliant). I quickly shut it up and continue my train of thought before I take a break.

Again, the world’s not spinning faster and physics hasn’t been turned on its head.

It’s perception.

My advice for you today: Get off the manster wheel and hit the trails.

-Phillip

Your Imagination: The Original Frenemy

“Situations—even “dramatic” situations like bankruptcy, divorce, death and economic recession—cannot directly cause a feeling of any kind until the brain interprets and creates a story about said situation.”

 

Steve Chandler, Time Warrior

As a writer, I find my imagination is a true frenemy. He lacks a conscience. He can spin a hell of yarn but he cares not for the consequences. He says he’s there to do a job, and by God, he’s going to do it.

When he’s cooperative, I love the guy. He’s inspiring. He’s fascinating. He’s turning left when I expect him to swing right.

But like any bullshitter, there are times when you just want him to tell the truth or go away. Stop trying to scare me. Stop trying to goad me into thinking that I’m making a horrible mistake or that I’m just no good. We all know you’re convincing, Mr. Imagination. We all know you’ve figured out exactly which buttons to press.

Please, just get back to pressing other people’s buttons so they’ll keep reading your stories. Use your powers for good, for heaven’s sake!

-Phillip