Getting Hurt – Yes!

GETTING HURT IS NOT ALL THAT BAD

Yes, that’s true.

Getting hurt is part of living, and the resultant healing the MOST natural evolution of life – which goes to the idea of balance in life. This is critical for writers or anyone who is contemplating a redesign of your life.

THERE IS A PERFECT METAPHOR FOR THIS CONCEPT: EXERCISE

Think about the process of exercise, fitness, conditioning; all of which are based upon hurting the body so that when it heals we are better prepared to handle the next hurtful conditioning. Many suggest also that the optimum challenge for conditioning is at about 70% – a level of exertion that is higher than the status quo but not enough to do damage to the body. Exercising at 100% capacity is a 100% guarantee your body will break down. Professional athletes exercise at greater than 70% because they demand more immediately in their profession. They are trading off injury for immediate gain in ability. There is an axiom in many sports about going “all out!” Going all out is not wise for the long haul because there is no balance.

FIND HARMONY

If getting hurt is natural, and we understand the physical side of the concept, then we must not forget the mental side of getting hurt, because we do get hurt. The healing process is what makes us stronger and better able to handle that level of hurt. Getting hurt in romance, is a must for getting stronger in living and understanding relationships. It therefore must also follow that a writer’s rejection is a necessary part of getting better at our craft. It is hard to think of rejection slips as a daily exercise, because it is very much a part of how we see ourselves; whereas, we don’t think of muscle fatigue as a slight or personal attack.

Interesting how balance in life – all aspects of life – can become confused with ego! We accept the pain of muscle fatigue in the gym, but view a criticism of our writing as an attack on our individuality and value. IF there is nothing wrong with fatigue from a spin class, why should anything be wrong with a criticism of our most recent writing.

AT THE HEART

This goes to the heart of this site’s reason for existing: the intersection of intention and reality. We must accept the jarring collisions that might occur at this intersection with the wisdom to recognize that this belongs to the balance of life which instructs us how and when to use the tools we have to maintain that balance, or harmony, thereby presenting the most promising opportunities for discovery and growth.

This is not – I repeat – this is not a call to seek injury! There is a balance between caution and bold action that will remove fear from our lives. Reckless abandon is the 100% level guaranteed to produce bodily harm, as noted above. Furthermore, seeking injury is a mindset that is narrow, and because it is so focused, usually results in some level of success! Allowing mind and body to work together at about 70% allows for a harmonious discovery of who we are, really.

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When Is a Story a Story?

When an audience of some form says yes.

That’s an obvious answer, but not always embraced for its veracity. Let’s extend this line of thinking: when is a writer a writer? When he writes; or when an audience of some form says yes? This leads me to a perplexing commentary written in a post by David Wong and forwarded to me by my son. The content was both troubling and humbling.

In summary, Wong’s post suggests that the world responds to us based upon what we have to offer; the world is only interested in what we have to offer. David Wong writes “Either you will go about the task of seeing to those needs by learning a unique set of skills, or the world will reject you, no matter how kind, giving, and polite you are. You will be poor, you will be alone, you will be left out in the cold. Does that seem mean, or crass, or materialistic? What about love and kindness — don’t those things matter? Of course. As long as they result in you doing things for people that they can’t get elsewhere.”

David uses the analogy of the troubled young man who does not understand why the good looking girls never give him a passing glance, and they are dating these jerks. Why? Because that Jerk apparently has something to offer the song lady needs. He calls our attention to an Alec Baldwin scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, for which Baldwin was nominated for an Oscar, despite this being the only scene he appears in throughout the movie.

Call it an uncomfortable truth. The scene can be viewed on two levels. Most will see Baldwin as evil, and representing all that is materialistic and insensitive in this culture. Some will applaud his uncompromising, unvarnished, and tell-it-like-it-is style as motivational!

There is no apparent need for my writing at this moment, so I am being less than honest if I say I’m a writer. Let me quote Wong again: “the point is that the difference in those two attitudes — bitter vs. motivated — largely determines whether or not you’ll succeed in the world.” A marketing guru once called it finding the need that hurts. I prefer the more insightful phrase “A crack in the narrative.” Truth and need – especially one that hurts – are very closely related.

The crack in a narrative was a comment I heard on a Tim Ferriss podcast. It refers to an interviewing technique where the questioning technique reveals a break in the narrative because truth comes popping through, unexpectedly, unabashed, honest, and that truth will invariably reveal a human need.

One of my writing interests is Donald Ross, and that interest actually extends to appearing as Donald Ross – he died in 1948! He was a humble incomer from Dornoch Scotland who was persuaded to come to America and teach golf, maintain courses, make clubs, etc. When he got here, he began designing courses and some four hundred courses later, he had created Pinehurst, North Carolina as the cradle of American Golf, and given the golf world the famous No. 2 course, one that did not have grass greens until 1935! Prior to coming to this country, Ross had never designed a course in his life. He witnessed Old Tom Morris design Dornoch and St. Andrews, and was apprenticed to both him and Robert Forgan – the golf club maker. He was given the job of renovating Oakley in Boton because he was Scottish, and of course golf was born in Scotland, so the Scotsmen must know what there is to know about golf. Right? Ross created it from memory and his own singular passion for the game he grew up with in Scotland. At the turn of the Twentieth Century America was just embracing golf, Donald used his particular imagination and skill to run the table, so to speak, during Golf’s golden years.

If you’re not producing something of value that is needed, you’re not producing. You can be bitter about that and make excuses to the effect that you don’t have the time or the money… neither did Donald Ross, he had seven dollars in his pocket when he arrived in Boston. He produced what people needed in an imaginative and stirring fashion, revered to this day. Produce or you have no value. Don’t make excuses. “Saying that you’re a nice guy is like a restaurant whose only selling point is that the food doesn’t make you sick,” -David Wong.

There is a counter-point to this article’s content, and I must mention this argument.

To say that this is all about making money is to miss the point. Some products produced are subtle, ardently needed, but often fly beneath the radar because we’re more interested in “flash.” Circumstances have put me in contact with amazingly compassionate individuals who work for Hospice, and whose talents enable them to care for the terminally ill. There will always be a job for them, because our world desperately needs a better way to handle the end of life scenario. This is a basic need, a crack in the narrative of life that needs attention, but gets little. These dedicated workers often fly beneath the radar, much like the truly talented teachers in our public schools. These workers don’t earn much money, but they are in demand and often used to the point of burn out. You see, the world is only interested in what we bring to the party. We have needs and assign value based on who services those needs. And really, the point is not really money, its producing a product based upon your special talents that have a place in this world.

It does give me pause that we need to see such violence on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in the form of football. Look at the value we assign to that need when people sign contracts for 80 or 120 million dollars! Who is worth 120 million dollars? Really?

My troubling and humbling experience then is finding the value in what I write that people might use what I write, and use it often. It’s a journey, I suspect. I may never find that voice, or even if I do, the world might not find me. I suspect there is some luck involved. I had some very good luck in my lifetime; I just hope it hasn’t been used! It scares me when I think that I might not have that unique talent… When is my story a story? When an audience says yes. That is the sign of a journey, not an end product. It is a quest.

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When An End Is A Beginning

photos-of-deep-space-telescope-hubbleThe end of a movie or book often spawns the beginning of reflection, criticism, analysis; the ending of a life, however, pitches us out into the unknown, where reflection is often troublesome or simply too emotional to sustain. People, I think, like their reflections on life at the time of a death to be neatly tied up in church, accompanied by an invocation, eulogy, music, prayers and some form of closing that enables us to move on. As a rule, they do not like discussions, especially casual discussions, about death.

My sister-in-law passed recently, at the youthful age of 58.  Moving on has been problematic. I first met her when she was but a newly minted teenager of great energy, compassion, and humor. During the ensuing forty-four years of marriage to her sister, I have always thought of her as that young teenager, forever young and energetic. She remained so in many ways. I have experienced significant passings of grandparents, parents, and uncles/aunts; but, none of these passings has impacted me quite like the unexpected passing of my younger sister-in-law.

images-2I willing admit that much of this angst is simply my own mortality creeping into my consciousness. Still, this exercise where my sister-in-law is concerned, is not without more thought provoking experiences than earlier passings. Youth is aware of loss, but largely oblivious to the promise of mortality. The inevitability of death is obvious, but easily put aside inside the rush of youthful possibility. I have read of Galileo hypothesizing that the Bible tells us how to get to heaven; but, it does not tell us where heaven goes! This is a more mature thought, experienced after the passing of youthful blush and excitement. Consider: No one in Orange or Crimson ever truly considered the possibility of losing and walking away empty-handed; not until the final gun at game’s end. Anticipation, hope, energy or passion have a way of masking what really lies ahead.

I noted above that people do not like casual discussions of death, and I experienced the discomfort recently. Most of my acquaintances knew of my sister-in-law’s passing and knew her death came without warning, at a young age. While talking with people at this party, several of them inquired as to how my wife and I were doing. Foolishly, I told them. I don’t think they wanted an honest answer. Looking into their eyes as I laid out my existential concerns and coping methods for my wife and myself I saw a glaze slowly descend over their eyes, as they retreated to safety in the recesses of their minds. Their expectation was for me to say “Ok.” Or, they might expect me to say, “It’s difficult, but we’re coping. So, who do you like Clemson or Alabama?”

I know, I know.  You’re probably thinking it was the wrong context for those comments. Death had no regard for my context, and if they didn’t want to know how I felt, they shouldn’t have asked. They could have avoided the issue by either not mentioning it or simply saying “I was saddened by your unexpected loss. Please accept my condolences.”

The real frustration lay in the fact that I had found a way to cope! I was trying to explain where I was at this moment and why!

The basis for my comfort is that I do not consider my God to be a vengeful, helicopter God, smacking our knuckles when we make an error, or rewarding us with a star when we do something good. This vision makes no sense to me, just as I find no substance in  the idea that our lives are scripted in advance, and we simply play out the plan. All these ideas beg the question of why live at all if this is the case?

images-1There are people on the far right that publicly proclaim that Aids, famine, earthquakes, and other natural disasters are punishment meted out by God for our tolerance of abortion, homosexuality, and every other handy issue of disdain. I find these positions so primitive in thought and logic. If this is true, what did the American Indians do wrong that required punishment at Wounded Knee, or The Trail of Tears? What did so many Asians do wrong that required tsunamis and earthquakes to wipe out whole cities and  civilizations? What did the Jewish people do so wrong that required the Holocaust as punishment? What did African Americans do to warrant slavery and racism? Where was God when the Twin Towers came down?

We are the agents of our own destiny, individually and collectively – people like to stress the individual over the collective, and that is a major fallacy for me. We will be judged on how we handled what came our way; and, what comes our way is often random, or the result of our choices or somebody’s choices at some point in time. We might experience great abundance, or painful need, all of which do not come to us from a plan, but simply as the product of natural life on this physical existence.

Yes, bad things happen to good people; bad things also happen to bad people. That’s life, and we will be judged by how we cope, handle, adapt, adjust, or ameliorate our circumstance. I can’t imagine anger being part of the Creator’s makeup. A spirit that can create eternity would have a more balanced perspective of the universe, or whatever is outside what we know.

A most unfortunate and untimely ending has prompted me to a new beginning, and for that I am most grateful and appreciative.

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When is a Story a Story?

When an audience of some form says yes.

Austin James Photography
Austin James Photography

That’s an obvious answer, but not always embraced for its veracity. Let’s extend this line of thinking: when is a writer a writer? When he writes; or when an audience of some form says yes? This leads me to a perplexing commentary written in a post by David Wong and forwarded to me by my son. The content was both troubling and humbling.

In summary, Wong’s post suggests that the world responds to us based upon what we have to offer. David Wong writes “Either you will go about the task of seeing to those needs by learning a unique set of skills, or the world will reject you, no matter how kind, giving, and polite you are. You will be poor, you will be alone, you will be left out in the cold. Does that seem mean, or crass, or materialistic? What about love and kindness — don’t those things matter? Of course. As long as they result in you doing things for people that they can’t get elsewhere.”

THE WORLD IS ONLY INTERESTED IN WHAT WE OFFER

David uses the analogy of the troubled young man who does not understand why the good looking girls never give him a passing glance, and they are dating these jerks. Why? Because that Jerk apparently has something to offer the young lady needs. He calls our attention to an Alec Baldwin scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, for which Baldwin was nominated for an Oscar, despite this being the only scene in which he appears.

Call it an uncomfortable truth. The scene can be viewed on two levels. Most will see Baldwin as evil, and representing all that is materialistic and insensitive in this culture. Some will applaud his uncompromising, unvarnished, and tell-it-like-it-is style as motivational! Inspiring!

AN UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH

There is no apparent need for my writing at this moment, so I am being less than honest if I say I’m a writer. Let me quote Wong again: “the point is that the difference in those two attitudes — bitter vs. motivated — largely determines whether or not you’ll succeed in the world.” A marketing guru once called it finding the need that hurts. I prefer the more insightful phrase “A crack in the narrative.” Truth and need – especially one that hurts – are very closely related.

The crack in a narrative was a comment I heard on a Tim Ferriss podcast. It refers to an interviewing technique where the questioning reveals a break in the narrative because truth comes popping through, unexpectedly, unabashed, honest, and that truth will invariably reveal a human need.

The Actor
Austin James Photography

DONALD ROSS

One of my writing interests is Donald Ross, and that interest actually extends to appearing as Donald Ross – he died in 1948! He was a humble incomer from Dornoch Scotland who was persuaded to come to America and teach golf, maintain courses, make clubs, etc. When he got here, he began designing courses and some four hundred courses later, he had created Pinehurst, North Carolina as the cradle of American Golf, and given the golf world the famous No. 2 course, one that did not have grass greens until 1935! Prior to coming to this country, Ross had never designed a course in his life. He witnessed Old Tom Morris design work at Dornoch and St. Andrews, and was apprenticed to both him and Robert Forgan – the golf club maker. He was given the job of renovating Oakley in Boton because he was Scottish, and since golf was born in Scotland, the Scotsmen must know what there is to know about golf. Right? Ross created it from memory and his own singular passion and imagination for the game he grew up with in Scotland. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, America was just embracing golf, and Donald used his particular imagination and skill to run the table, so to speak, during Golf’s golden years.

If you’re not producing something of value that is needed, you’re not producing. You can be bitter about that and make excuses whereby you don’t have the time or the money… neither did Donald Ross, he had seven dollars in his pocket when he arrived in Boston. He produced what people needed in an imaginative and stirring fashion, revered to this day. Produce or you have no value. Don’t make excuses. “Saying that you’re a nice guy is like a restaurant whose only selling point is that the food doesn’t make you sick,” -David Wong.

WAIT! THIS IS NOT THE WHOLE STORY

There is a counter-point to this article’s content, and I must mention this point of view, too.

The Writer...
Austin James Photography

To say that this is all about making money is to miss the point. Some products are subtle, ardently needed, but often fly beneath the radar because we’re more interested in “flash.” Circumstances have put me in contact with amazingly compassionate individuals who work for Hospice, and whose talents enable them to care for the terminally ill with extraordinary compassion and patience. There will always be a job for them, because our world desperately needs a better way to handle the end of life scenario. This is a basic need, a crack in the narrative of life that needs attention, but gets little. These dedicated workers often fly beneath the radar, much like the truly talented teachers in our public schools. These workers don’t earn much money, but they are in demand and often used to the point of burn out. You see, the world is only interested in what we bring to the party. We have needs and assign value based on who services those needs. And really, the point is not money, its producing a product based upon your special talents that have a place in this world.

It does give me pause that we need to see such violence on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in the form of football. Look at the value we assign to that need when people sign contracts for 80 or 120 million dollars! Who is worth 120 million dollars? Really?

Man in stormMy troubling and humbling experience then is finding the value in what I write that people might use what I write, and use it often. It’s a journey, I suspect. I may never find that voice, or even if I do, the world might not find me. I suspect there is some luck involved. I had some very good luck in my lifetime; I just hope it hasn’t been exhausted! It scares me when I think that I might not have that unique talent… When is my story a story? When an audience says yes. That is the sign of a journey, not an end product. It is a quest. Calling oneself a writer becomes a destination, and as with all destinations, the story is really in the journey. When is my story a story? Perhaps, today.

Your thoughts?

Getting Off the Proverbial Duff!

_DSF2208
Photo by Austin James Photography

I AM NOT BY NATURE LAZY

As remarkable as this may seem, Yogi Berra is a writing guru who has helped me solve a thorny problem of perspective.

I’m not by nature lazy; although, I can fall prey to bouts of procrastination. The former is a potentially serious behavioral issue, the latter symptomatic of a fear or problem not yet faced. There is a difference. I think I recognize the difference between the two attitudes, and feel safe in my assertion that I am not lazy. I have been forced on occasion to do some heavy lifting on my own, and was more than capable of carrying the load, one foot in front of the other, gutting it out, doing what was necessary. Based upon these experiences I allow myself to assert that I am not lazy.

A recent change in tack, and I’m here referring to the sailing vernacular, is one in which I have endeavored to reinvent myself as a writer, a course that has produced a different kind of procrastination, a different specie of sitting on my duff, and until recently, I have not found a solution for this brand of sitting on one’s duff. I don’t mind saying I feel rather like a “duffus” – a term we used to describe ineptitude when I was young – and for falling prey to this malady.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. WRITE FOR YOURSELF.

Stories are about problem solving. Stories tell us how to live our lives. Show don’t tell. Conflict – a world turned upside down. A Heroes Quest. Story arc. Character arc. Three act. Four act. The terminology is dizzying. Through it all it seems to me that what makes a story is a crack in the narrative, story plus emotion, a moment of realization, internal and external conflict. We are hardwired for rising expectations and questions. The unsolved, the unanswerable is intriguing to us. We need to know more.

Consider this: I recently watched a documentary on the Kamikaze pilots of Japan. The entire undertaking was a terrible waste of men and machine, but it did give the Alies pause, and perhaps more than anything else convinced military leadership that the atomic bomb would really save lives. It was fairly interesting, as documentaries go, until the very end, when something irresistibly powerful grabbed my imagination. Can you possibly imagine what could be that powerful…?

I suspect I have your attention!

_DSF2222Near the end of the documentary, when Japan is about to capitulate, the commander of the Kamikaze squadrons is devastated by his failure to cripple the allied aircraft carriers and thereby crack the air-superiority of the Allies, and perhaps forestalling an invasion of the homeland. The Kamikaze flights are cancelled. There is a side bar on one young pilot who was in his plane, having made his final goodbyes to wife and family night before, was sitting in his plane waiting for takeoff when the flight was cancelled. Ho-hum.

The commander of the Kamikaze’s – whose name I do not remember – asks for volunteers to accompany him on one last attack on Allied ships at Okinawa. There are approximately twenty-four volunteers. The next morning they take off for one last historic face-saving, ancestor-honoring attack on Allied ships; but, they never arrive, never attack the ships, and are never heard from again!

Wow!

I SAT STRAIGHT UP IN MY CHAIR.

 There’s a story! I watched almost ninety-minutes of this video without being really moved until this moment – a crack in the narrative – that raises more questions than were answered in the previous sixty-minutes. This is very much akin to seeing a multiple car wreck on the highway and trying to resist the need to look, to see, to know, to discover what rising action is unfolding. You can’t. That was it. That was story telling hook writ large. The only interesting narrative in the whole piece and it’s abandoned for final credits!

What does this have to do with getting off my proverbial duff?

First, I have heard the adage “Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” It is a most alluring trap, this need to get it exactly right, to be perfect in your telling of the most  important story ever – the one you’re writing at the moment. I have spent years, literally, working on a story that is more than a good idea, but finding the right way to tell the story has given me fits of frustration. It had to be perfect in its shape. The more perfect I attempted to shape its contours the more vapid it became – vapid is probably too harsh; but, I can say that of my work. I have put that project on the shelf on two occasions, and its not yet finished. Sometimes, an idea is just that – an idea, even a powerful idea. An idea does not a story make.

THE INTERNET IS OVERRUN WITH SELF-HELP GURUS of all stripes, some are incredibly perceptive and inspiring, others are somewhat jaundiced  in their perspective. I have watched seminars, read papers and newsletters of all brands that claim to have the silver bullet for crafting and selling your book. The DIY phenomenon is a remarkable development.

One recent seminar I listened to claimed to have the formula for writing and publishing a book in one week. This I had to hear. It’s true that one could achieve the publication of a book in that amount of time; the likelihood of creating a profitable book is something else. Still I listened to the process. His first step was to find a need that hurts, or scratch your own itch. I have been well-schooled in the philosophy of write what you know, and write for yourself. 

I DISCOVERED AN IMMEDIATE CONTRADICTION for me, one which I had not given time to consider at all. His starting point was writing for profit, that is, his principal goal is to sell books, in which case writing what you know may not be shared by a lot of people – maybe no more than 10 or 20! There’s not much profit there. Therefore, finding a need that hurts, or an itch that itches makes brilliant sense. It’s also well expressed metaphorically as a need that hurts. The remaining steps to publication were fairly standard and not especially remarkable save for the mentioned resources needed to handle this lightening speed.

I soon discovered that finding the need that hurts was also a charming trap, much like the perfect anything. Laziness is one thing; but, procrastination is quite another. Laziness might well be damning, and for many people irreversible; but, procrastination, I have learned, is symptomatic of a deeper issue, a deeper fear. There is a cure, however, and I will share that cure with you today. The cure is curtesy Yogi Berra!

That’s right. The New York Yankee Hall of Fame catcher… and sometime humorist.

THERE ARE TWO BERRA-ISMS THAT ARE PARTICULARLY TELLING.

The first is “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.” It is the somewhere else that we should remain open to and receptive to in our journey. Once again, holding on to the perfect when discovered alternatives might be light years ahead in relevance, interest, and marketability are trumpeting a sea-nymph’s call to adventure, if however slight and distant. We have to listen as writers. Or, as Yogie would say, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

The second writing tip from Yogi is this: “Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?”

I have laughed at his remark on many occasions, but Yogi will have the last laugh because it’s basically very true. Think too much and you will end up in trouble. Think too much before the pitch and you’ll be frozen when it happens. Think too much after the pitch and the next will catch you off guard. Hitting is instinctual. Writing is our life turned instinctual, where connections are born on the fly and incubated over time. The impulse to create is born of a moment with attendant references and connections that are produced only by an emotional and internal confict.

MY SOLUTION TO MY MALAISE IS NOT TO THINK.

 My job is not to create a need that hurts, but to discover the need that hurts, and who am I to say what needs have a threshold of pain that reverberates across the greatest numbers of people. It’s a road trip. You have a destination in mind, but along the way you will discover the need that hurts among the greatest number of people and then mastering that discovered need after mastering who you are, connections are made across many ideas that just might develop into one remarkable story.

THAT’S WHERE I AM

I must no longer worry about that need that hurts, I’ll find it if I dig. Ben Hogan was fond of saying that he dug his game out of the ground. His practice ethic was legendary, as was the flight of his ball, the movement of his shot. I’ve read that one can not understand unless you saw it. Dig your story out of the ground. Don’t look for a specific story with laser focus, be ready to find a crack in the narrative that grabs and continues to raise questions that demand answers.

I’ve discovered this today while writing and reading. This post has been dug from the ground, and it’s only fitting that we close with another writing tip from the narrative master, Yogi Berra: “I want to thank you for making this day necessary.” — On Yogi Berra Appreciation Day in St. Louis in 1947. 

Harter here!

A Troubling Exercise In Justice For Brady

football stadium
digidream grafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Justice is an exercise we sometimes avoid for fear of opening a can of worms. Our rationalization is maybe no one will notice- as in a troubling exercise in justice for Brady.

I have a pet peeve: it’s called cheating. Most of us I suspect feel the  same way. Sometimes cheating is a blatant disregard for the rules, and that is not hard to miss. The NBA calls it a flagrant foul. But there aren’t just flagrant fouls, there are degrees of flagrant. There are flagrant fouls 1 and 2, the second could well earn you a one game suspension. We have degrees of cheating… that is a mistake.

It happens all the time, athletes bend the rules for the purpose of an advantage. It seems to me that if you need to bend the rules, it’s because you basically don’t believe you can win fairly, or that in some way you as an athlete are being left behind. Your talent and skill are no longer enough; you need an edge, an equalizer. The more edge we need the more likely we are to cheat. If our livelihood is involved, the temptation maybe irrepressible- witness sports and steroids.

Courtesy Bigjom at Freedigitalphoto.com

Since the beginning of baseball, pitchers have sometimes doubted their ability to throw an assortment of pitches whose trajectories or movement are unpredictable enough to result in either strikeouts, easy fly-outs, or weak groundouts. The various legal choices of pitches are never quite enough, and pitchers may resort to putting something on the ball that will change its trajectory or behavior. The rules prohibit such practices. Does it stop them. No.

We understand there are rules regarding “carrying” the basketball, or the number of steps one can take without dribbling. When I was a youthful player, “traveling” was a frequent call, as was “carry.” The game has evolved from a strategy of spacing and finding the open man to “Stop this freight train if you dare.” The logic, I imagine, is that I’ll move so fast the refs won’t have time to notice and the defense will be too intimidated by the speed and size of me to stop it – nobody wants to get hurt!

We all understand that football is a violent game and because it involves tackling and blocking the likelihood of injury is high. That likelihood escalates when the mindset of assassin creeps however clandestinely into the players head. Recently, a host of players, coaches, and one team were penalized for the purposeful use of bounties on specific players. If the targeted player left the game because of injury, the perpetrator was rewarded with a bounty payment. The players and coaches were soundly disciplined with fines, suspensions, and much talk about the integrity of the game.

I don’t believe it. One way to win today is to knock out your opponent. Don’t bother with beating him, send him home for a vacation. Grown men, most of whom are theoretically college educated – yes, I’m writing that with a straight face; that’s another post – are willing to risk the increased likelihood that too many head injuries will render you incapable of enjoying your signing bonus, may render you incapable of knowing who you are or where you are. The money invites a win at all costs mentality. The games are slowly eroded in spirit until they become gladiatorial and ultimately a war – take no prisoners. We like to identify with our sports heroes, and that was easier in the days of knuckleheads, rogues, and rascals. Our heroes were flawed like us, and not otherworldly or superhuman. Arnold Palmer had a swing that defied his greatness – “That was a remarkable shot, for that swing”. I remember my father practicing that swing, trying to look like Arnie. Never did, but that didn’t keep him from going to the course every weekend with aspirations that this weekend wil be the break through, it all come together.

Frankly, I think baseball needs Pete Rose – the rogue, rascal, and knucklehead. He bet on baseball and its prohibited. He never bet against himself, and I cannot imagine Pete Rose losing a game on purpose. Charlie Hustle is not wired for that state of mind.

Rory McIlroy and Jordan Speith are too nice, too cool, too methodical. They are gentlemen in a gentleman’s game, but they’re almost unregcognizable, despit hitting the ball a ton of yards.They are machine like and that does not inspire identification, awe maybe of the power… but, how do we identify with that?

Our professional sports have crossed a line brought on by everyone being bigger, faster, stronger, and the insidious growth of a win at all cost focus. You’ll notice that no one ever says, “It’s only a game,” when they are winning. Philosophy seems to be a refuge for the loser!

imgres-1The use of steroids in sports has been a most troubling scenario. Sports leaders have cracked down on the use of performance enhancing drugs, but there are always new ways to outwit the “sheriff.” There is a new game on the horizon, however, that is troubling. I refer to Tom Brady and the overturning of his suspension. The problem for me is that there has been no judgement of guilt or innocence. The punishment has been thrown out based upon a technicality, not a judgement. No where in the arbiters decision does he address guilt or innocence. So we duck the win at all cost question, yet again. Some argue that the deflated balls had no impact. Players do; and if they think it does and attempt to circumvent the rules, it’s still a problem. What other rules will they duck under or around. Win at all costs distorts the value of sports and the ethics of all games.

Someone needs to take a stand. Like fossil fuel, too many people make huge amounts of money for needed change to occur.

I’m just sayin’…

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Writing Is Thinking?

gallery-thumbnails-4Someone who thinks logically makes a nice contrast to the real world. And you needn’t worry about what people think because they don’t do it very often. Thinking. Two Scotch witticisms that are especially useful today when I discover yet again that writing is actually thinking.

You might say it’s writer’s block in disguise. It’s not that there is some obstacle confronting our writer’s brain that makes us unable to write. It’s not a block at all; it’s simply the absence of thinking.

I must admit that writing, or the process of writing, which exists somewhere in the recesses of my brain has this finite coat of armor that seems to suggest it springs full-born when the writer takes a pen in hand or fingers to a keyboard, and rejects any notion that it could be otherwise. I allow this silly thought to permeate my brain, inculcating it with a poisonous mask guaranteed to stall whatever juices are moved by the muse. Surely, I am well aware that writing is rewriting, and all that attendant author baggage. We are a mass of contradictions, every one of us; it should not surprise me.

gallery-thumbnails-3If I think that writing is thinking – which is surely true – then there is no pressure to write because I’m thinking – thinking on paper, on screen, on point, target, whatever the on might be. The point is it’s an action that takes place in this moment and is something upon which I can build. No writing; no thinking. There’s your writer’s block! It’s a failure to generate thinking, not writing. The writing is a handy tool for making these thoughts visible and tangible for consideration and refinement. Unspecified thoughts floating about the brain fall into the category of dreams; you know, the stuff of filmy, gauzy, transparencies that evaporate with the slightest distraction.

Think out loud. Think on paper, on screen, on paper bags if necessary, and writing has the potential to materializes; not full-blown but begging for refinement, shaping, and pleading for us to enter the realm of thought to leave our unique imprint. After much thinking, and only after much thinking, does writing truly spring full-blown upon the page. It’s the ubiquitous over-night success on Broadway!

gallery-thumbnails-1I know that writer’s block is a crutch, it’s a warning sign in the Writer’s Storm, a none too subtle hint that thinking has left the building. If we simply think about what we are writing and not create by magical conjuring, our hearts will be rewarded.

It is amazing how transparent these ideas are when finally grasped. I know Writer’s Block is a crutch, an easement, a stalling tactic, a mental illness needed to justify our unwillingness to think. I’ve known it but never admitted it!

Till now.

Happy thinking! And let me know about the full-blown ideas that emerge…

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Immutable Is What We Are

images-2The sea seems immutable, as does this land, these longleaf pines that surround me, this continent, this blue marble in the void. Immutable is what we are; or, so it would seem.

NOTHING CHANGES?

I know better than to suggest the world has not changed, because I know that it has, many times over, and will change yet again. I know for fact that the sun rose in the west and set in the east at one point in earth’s history. The world is far from immutable.

That’s why it is so frustrating to see minds that are immutable, and I mean really immutable. Anything that challenges some perspectives on the world is not be met with curiosity, or with a need to understand, rather it is met with the stiff-arm of fear and lack of vision. images-6

Of all the immutable questions of love, happiness, justice, equality, liberty, and meaning,  “What do we owe each other?” seems the most perplexing, and least considered. I personally cannot give other people love. happiness, equality, liberty and meaning; but, I can give them the opportunity to discover those experiences for themselves.

THOSE ESSENTIAL HUMAN QUESTIONS ARE DOABLE

Providing the opportunity is a doable goal, but as a goal it becomes more complicated when the people we serve expand in numbers. images-5The sandbox gets crowded, and intra-personal difficulties arise. Symbiosis is defined as a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups. This is a concept that is easy to understand at its basic level in the animal or plant world, more problematic for humans in the real world. The larger our groups grow, the relationships become increasingly fuzzy, though of even greater significance.

Fear often results in the stiffening of resolve, the stiffening of defenses, and unfortunately a stiffening of the mind. Flexibility and rational thought often leave the building. Irrational fear causes us to stiffen our thinking to the exclusion of the long or rational view. We shut out reason and fact and respond to primal fears with a fight or flee instinctual response. Some fight, demonizing their foes to justify their anger or irresponsible behavior. Others through up a shield to flee the consequences of their personal fears. Some of my fundamentalist Christian friends use their religion to mask real issues. Turn it over to God and all will be well. They won’t deal with the problems. I don’t think God believes in serendipity. I think God intends us to resolve these differences. We are supposed to exert some influence on our world.

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IMMUTABLE MINDS ARE OUR GREATEST ISSUE

One friend told me that only God could change the climate. Rush Limbaugh actually asserted that we cannot destroy what God has created- this in reference to man-induced climate change.

I suspect he will have a hard time explaining murder, or the deaths of so many soldiers in so many wars.

The biggest issue we face then is our immutable minds… We can comprehend anything: voyages to distant planets or solar systems, plummeting to the depths of our smallest molecular structures, we can invent anything when fear is not a limiting influence, or maximum profit for ourselves.

images-11There are those too, who believe we owe each other nothing. When your neighbor lived 20 miles away, that was possible.

Not any longer.

We are at a crossroads. Knee-jerk reaction from fear or anger is not prudent. We must face the differences.

Writing, Life, and Inertia

Writing and life are as inseparable as action and inertia!

I had to overcome inertia to get up this morning. Inertia is rather like the man in a burning building who wants so badly to get out, he claws at the walls with his fingers, hoping to break through. This is a heightened inertia, but it may well be instructive for all of us.

SUFFERING FROM THE DRAG OF FRICTION

images-9Like all writers we struggle with the very thing we love: writing. Like most writers I am susceptible to advice which purports to tell me how I can overcome the issues that keep me from becoming a successful published writer. Like many writers, I suffer from sometimes paralyzing self-doubt that whispers sad tales of disillusionment in my ear, thwarting any and all inertia: you are not good enough; you don’t have enough to say… I’m certain you know the litany! The one failing that puts in the ranks of failed writers is inertia – or the lack there of.

This morning, driving to the fitness center for my Monday morning lap-swim, I felt particularly tired. Bed had been far to inviting and comfortable in its cozy warmth and darkness. I went on anyway. There was that little voice of my physician telling me exercise was necessary to control my weight and bad cholesterol. With a stroke in my past, and in my genes, I don’t need anyone to knock twice on my door!

FRICTION IS A HURDLE TO BE JUMPED

images-5Normally I swim sixty laps, which is a little over a half-mile. I normally swam a mile until about a year ago when I developed knee problems. I’m self-rehabilitating and pushed myself to seventy laps. It felt good. I’m trying to push myself back to 80 laps by the end of the summer, back to a mile by Thanksgiving. This will be the inertia I need to go further. After swimming, I do knee bends, or squats in the hot-tub to work on strength in that knee. The buoyancy in the tub removes some weight and allows me to exercise the knee safely. I also take a spin class twice a week for further lower body work.

WHAT DO I REALLY WANT, AND WHAT AM I WILLING TO DO TO GET IT?

images-1Pushing myself to seventy laps this morning gave me an epiphany of sorts regarding life, writing, and inertia. I noted last week in my post of the only three tips a writer really needed. Briefly, (and this is courtesy Lou Saban!) those tips were: 1. what do you really want? 2. What are you willing to do to get it? 3. How do you respond when confronted by the inevitable roadblock? Number three carries the weight of my topic this morning covering inertia.

Nothing more needs to be said! When I pushed to seventy laps this morning, it occurred to me that this applies to life in general; there is no separation between our writing life and life – the same inertia or lack of inertia  colors, highlights, and shadows all we do. My real life feeds my writing life – vice versa; and, if that real life is disorganized, chaotic, frustrated, bewitched, bothered, not to mention bewildered, than the rest of me is also. That includes by writing. If I can push myself to go a little further in my workout, that provides inertia for the rest of my life – including my writing. It matters not where inertia comes from, I suppose, just that it’s there and pushing forward. Inertia is a powerful tool, a powerful writing tool as well.

TIPS, SMISHPS! IT’S ABOUT YOU!

images-2If I may be so bold as to use a much battered and used idiomatic expression: If it is to be; it’s up to me. Only I can counter inertia. It’s instructive to realize that most enumerated problems are easily remedied by reversing the problems. Often, that doesn’t happen because 1. That’s not really the problem, or 2. we really don’t want to fix the problem for whatever reason the subconscious deems reasonable.

STORY-TELLING IS INNATE; ACTION… THERE’S THE RUB!

images-7So, my friends, get it all together, and the writing will follow suit. Story-telling is innate, the tips may be be illuminating, but ultimately it is a matter of personal ambition and willpower, not how many books you’ve read, or experiences you’ve had. We are what we want to be – really want to be. Only the true want will cause us to act. If you really want to get out of the burning house, you will; or die clawing the walls with your fingernails to breakthrough the wall! Figuratively speaking, there are probably those when confronted with he burning house will whine, cuss, shout, all the while pushing marshmallows onto their fingers. They don’t really want to get out… They’re not willing to act.images-6

 

The Only Three Writing Tips You’ll Ever Need – Courtesy Lou Saban

UmbrellaI have ransacked the internet consuming any and all tips on writing. I have blindly signed up for numerous newsletters that promised the solution to all of my writing issues. I have taken every free webinar about writing, knowing that they are an obvious inducement to enlist for more detailed study guaranteeing my book would be published, and all my worries would be turned into a six-figure income from writing, blogging, speaking, and publishing.

HELPFUL GUIDANCE IS EVERYWHERE – BUT IS IT THE ANSWER?

I cannot tell you categorically that all the information was wrong, unworthy of my time, not based upon any provable theory, because that would be disingenuous. While there were many insightful observations and helpful hints, most of them miss the essential ingredient to writing. Some do mention the issue, but their solution is wide of the mark, because the only solution is far too blunt if you’re trying win friends, and influence people to pay for your services.

Shocking to me, but I began to realize this essential ingredient while perusing some sports columns! Yes, you read that correctly: Sports Columns! The first incident involved a video recording of Sydney Seau’s intended Hall of Fame speech for her Father Junior Seau. Before Seau’s tragic suicide, he asked his daughter to deliver the entry speech should he be voted in to the Hall. The NFL refused to do so, but the Times videoed the speech in her hotel room that day. The second incident involved Lou Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide pre-season camp. Apparently Saban does not use depth charts, and there is much speculation regarding the quarterback candidates in camp.

WRITING TIPS FROM THE WORLD OF SPORTS?

How does this relate to writing?

Answer: In every imaginable way!

Sydney Seau was not tremendously involved in her father’s career. The father she remembered was overwhelmingly driven. He had a passion for everything, and that included her. As relentless as he was on the football field, he was equally as relentless towards everything that mattered away from football – wife, family, neighbors, friends, the community.

Juxtapose that with Saban’s answer to sports writers regarding why he doesn’t keep depth charts. Saban dismissed depth charts because there are only three things he needs to know about any player: 1. What do you really want? 2. What are you willing to do to achieve that goal? 3. And if you meet an challenge, any challenge large or small, how do you handle it?

THE BASICS ARE PRETTY BASIC…

The Writer...
The Writer…

It occurs to me then, any of us aspiring to a successful writing career – and if we measure that success by being published and making money – these three questions are fundamental, basic, bedrock, absolutely necessary for success (This assumes you are writing for something other than yourself – an entirely different paradigm). That means also, that anyone who says you can’t be a writer because you didn’t start reading at age three consuming War and Peace in less than five days, and start writing by the age of five, completing your first failed novel by age nine, are jealous gatekeepers.

The notion that 10,000 hours equals mastery might well be off the mark too.

RodAll that matters is what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. The third leg of this stool is how do you handle adversity.

All the other hints from Heloise are useful window dressing for the productive work of writing, but heart is the only thing that matters. Nothing matters but you and your heart! If you are not willing to do what is necessary, it will not happen. Junior Seau lived that in every aspect of his life; Lou Saban looks for it in his players as a benchmark for their playability.

Personally, I struggle with time. I lament the lack of time to concentrate on my writing without interruption, conflict, or other irritations. I read that if you don’t schedule it, it won’t get done. Sounds very wise and ultimately true. Life does get in the way, and often the demands of life are not frivelous, but legitimate demands upon our concern, attention, care, and interest. I have written detailed schedules of writing only to have them wasted by real life demands. What do I do about those distractions? How do I handle them? Mostly I back off and succumb to those demands entirely; and by entirely, I mean I allow those demands to bury my life. That’s not how Jr. Seau would handle those issues; and I certainly wouldn’t make Saban’s team!

Time for change, wouldn’t you say? For you also?

I look forward to hearing your comments regarding these thoughts: scriptrod@me.com.