These Are Words To Live By

time and love
Sometimes it is disconcerting to realize I am old enough to be the father of some of guys who play ball with me.

So very strange to hear their comments about how it is cool that an old guy plays so hard and to realize they are talking about me.

They ask why I play so hard and I tell them the twenty seven years between us will pass far too quickly and they’ll recognize they never fully appreciated just what a gift a younger body is.

And then I shake my head and hear the echoes of the men who once said that to me and I remember thinking how ridiculous it sounded.

I was young and stupid and too inexperienced to understand.

It was before I knew about real love and real heartbreak. Before I understood what was truly possible and before I understood that I hadn’t figured it all out the way I thought I had.

That boy/man never could have predicted how things would go and if he had, well I don’t think I would be who I am today.

These Are Words To Live By

I don’t know if I had a real motto that meant anything to me when I was younger. I had ideals, principles and values but I don’t know what my motto would be.

Not sure if any of that matters but sometimes I think about it because I think of it as being something a good father would do.

Why?

Because I am an active participant in the lives of my children and I look for things that will make their lives easier and better.

Sometimes I share with them some of the quotes I put in these blog posts because I think they’ll get something frmo them.

What is your story?
What is your story?

or
The Lonely Blogger
Or
walk

I don’t always expect them to understand or appreciate them the way I do. But it is good to hear their thoughts and to learn from them too.

Sometimes Writing Is Scary

It felt like dawn broke inside my head and the sunrise melted all of the doubt that had lay in the shadows.”  I Found You Again

The kids tell me I am different from them, that I have no fear and that I don’t worry about things the way they do and I laugh.

When they look at me I explain I am not laughing at them, I am laughing because dear old dad worries about more than they know and fears a few things they don’t.

They ask me to give them an example so I tell them about a few and then my daughter asks if anyone makes fun of my writing.

I tell her it happens all the time and that I have heard a million different complaints and criticisms. Writing can be scary but sometimes it can be amazing.

I play with words and phrases and I stare at them, try to figure out if I sound like a buffoon or a genius. Sometimes writers fall in love with words they shouldn’t.

That sentence in the box is one I have been wrestling with.

When my daughter asks me to give her more details I talk in non specific terms about some of the fiction I have writen and how surprising it is to me to write some of these tales.

But I don’t tell her that I find writing some of these stories a bit embarrassing and that I am not entirely sure why.

Maybe it is because I have some sort of preconceived notion about who should be writing them or maybe it is because I think people will laugh.

Doesn’t really matter because as I tell my kids my nature is to confront the things that scare or upset me. I don’t always do it immediately because sometimes I like to chew on the idea a while.

Home, that is what we were for each other. A refuge and a sanctuary that provided incredible amounts of strength. An indefatigable team who was naturally able to heal each other and who could do it still…Love Burns

But one thing I have learned about life that comes being a father is that when you discover you have some unexpected skill or talent you ought to spend a little time checking it out.

It might not be something you have interest in pursuing and then again it might. Can’t hurt to check it out.

So that is part of what I am doing, revisiting some old stories and thinking about whether I ought to bring them back to life or try to weave them into a longer tapestry that just might become something more than it was as a simple blog post.

Do You Read The Blogs You Follow?

tracks
There is so much to see and so much to read.

In the days of yore during the grand period people refer to as the Golden Age of Blogging we had amazing tools called Blog Rolls that we used to keep track of blogs we liked to read.

Sometimes I think about blog rolls and how they touched the Sneetches with stars side of people because we kept track of who was on ours and whether that other blogger reciprocated.

I remember getting emails from bloggers asking to exchange links as well as those who wrote to tell me that it wasn’t fair for them to provide me with a link unless I did the same.

Boy, I miss moments like that, good times.

Do You Read The Blogs You Follow?

Remember when I asked Do You Miss Old Fashioned Blogging?

I asked because I have had this ongoing push-pull thing going on inside my head where I have been trying to figure out how to balance becoming a better writer, growing this blog and maintaining time for my offline life.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying I don’t like the online world any more because I still do but our time is so limited and I am in the midst of this crazy time in my life where everything is changing.

It is an evolution and I welcome it but it means I have to make more significant choices about how and where to spend my time.

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”― Oscar Wilde

I don’t use RSS to read blogs or use an organized list to read blogs. It is not because am unorganized or uninterested either.

It is because when I make those lists I follow through. If I decide I am going to follow a blog I read it. I may not always comment but I show up.

A list is a commitment. That might sound silly to you, but it is how I operate.

Ask the Shmata Queen about how hard it is to pin me down and she’ll tell you that I am slow moving about some things but once I say I’ll do it I make it happen.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Until Saturday I had 47 boxes of books in my garage.

Forty-seven boxes of dictionaries, biographies, autobiographies, history books, works of fiction and all sorts of other books that I gathered throughout my life.

That doesn’t include the books inside my home either because this place is filled with them.

But that evolution I mentioned earlier has me going through all of my stuff and evaluating whether I need it or not. I have more stuff than I need, time to let go of some of it.

I spent a chunk of Saturday morning going through boxes and thinned the herd down by about 12 boxes or so.

Later today I’ll go through the boxes again and try to winnow through more because sooner or later it will be time to move again and I don’t want to drag all of it with me.

And because when I get situated I’ll want to move many of those books from boxes into the house library. Books in boxes are good for exercising the body (those boxes are heavy) but do little for the mind.

Ask me why I have so many books and I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my kids, because books are a part of how we can learn to do and become anyone and anything.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Blogging, Writing and Reading

Blogging, writing and reading are all intertwined for me.

You can’t become a better writer without doing a lot of reading and writing and part of how you find more material to write about is by getting off of your computer and living.

If you don’t spend time in the offline world you miss things. You miss moments, some important, some less so but you can’t see which is what without being there.

And that my friends is why I keep a very short list of blogs to follow. There just isn’t enough time.

I have places to go visit, people to see and books about so many different topics to read.

What about you? Do you read the blogs you follow or is there a large cyber pile of posts waiting vying for your attention?

Men Use Pinterest Too

You don't last unless you love it.
You don’t last unless you love it.

Writing reminds me of a hot, steamy and heavy love affair. When things are great you feel invulnerable, unstoppable and convinced that you have figured out one of the great secrets of life.

Then there are those moments where you sit there dumbfounded, slack jawed and amazed at how quickly your arch nemesis discovered and used your Kryptonite upon you.

And sometimes in the midst of you sorrow you discover not only did that bastard drop a dime on you, he took your girl and made a film of them doing things you never want to think about and now you curse having a more active and colorful imagination than most.

This is the moment when you figure out whether it is true love or not because instead of throwing that bleeping, bleepity bleep out you scream at her and tell her you wish you’d had never met her and seconds later you beg her not to leave because you can’t live without her.

Later on in the dark of the night when she brushes her lips across yours and wraps her body around you the anger fades completely and you remember that your invulnerability is based upon you working together as team.

Somewhere in the midst of the moment you forget about the hard times and smile because you are back.

Men Use Pinterest Too

I used to view Pinterest as being a social media platform for women. I didn’t care about dresses, frills or jewelry or need a place to search for recipes and crafty stuff that moms do with kids.

One day as my daughter did my hair and talked to me about stuff she wanted to do I thought about trying to come up with something that she would see as being special because it was just her and I and didn’t include her brother.

So I figured I ought to look at Pinterest because it would probably be a good resource and I discovered I had this silly, misguided stereotypical impression of it.

And as I spent time thinking about the The Pinterest Predicament & The Rule Of Four it became clear I could make my Pinterest boards into something that served my needs.

The level of my engagement there varies from week to week. There are days where I barely acknowledge it but I always do something with it.

Initially I did it because my focus was on trying to use it as a way to drive more traffic but somewhere in the midst of that I saw it as a great resource/tool for writers and that has been where my most recent efforts have gone to.

That is not to say I have decided against using it for driving/generating more traffic to my blog because that would be foolish but our time is limited so I chose to focus on where I think I will get the most return.

Why I Write Daily

I write daily because writing is the one mistress I dare not ignore and because when I want something I go after it with a passion.

There is no way to become better at this than through practice and since it is a true love of mine I never get tired of chasing after that brass ring.

Pinterest helps provide inspiration and food for thought. Sometimes I pin posts/articles/quotes there because I am using it as an electronic bookmark.

Don’t have time to read now, but I’ll check it later.

It is part of why I try to go through my boards periodically to delete what isn’t needed and better organize that which isn’t.

Writing isn’t always glamorous. You don’t always find yourself sitting by a roaring fireplace watching the snow fall outside of your chateau or on a beach chair at your island hideaway.

Sometimes it is a take your lunch pail to the quarry and hammer away at rocks until you get something suitable and then you collapse from exhaustion.

But I love that crazy chick far too much to ever go away so I guess I am here for the long haul.
Visit Jack Steiner’s profile on Pinterest.

Bloggers Need The Write Stuff

Internet Trolls
The commenterus assholus is also known as a troll.

Bloggers need the write stuff is sort of tongue in cheek for me, a comment about the eternal chase to write a post that goes viral.

It is a dread disease that I have succumbed to more than once for no reason other than blog envy.

You read some post that is being passed around Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and wonder what the fuss is about because the writing is awful, the post is pandering to a particular group and you can’t figure out why some schmuck gets the attention you deserve.

Sometimes I read those posts and I ask myself, “Self, what would you tell your children if they came to you and said they were jealous of the success someone else had?”

The answer is I would tell them we don’t find happiness by comparing ourselves to others. But in the silence of my mind I am making like Gollum and staring at the accolades saying “my preciousss.”

And if I am not careful I start thinking about how to get that other writer arrested so I can have them shanked in prison. Do you think I took Sons Of Anarchy too seriously?

Maybe I ought to go Heisenberg and start screaming about being the writer who knocks. I suppose I’d Better call Saul and ask.

Where Our Focus Should Be

If you ask me for a serious response I will always tell you to stop writing for SEO and start writing for people. People read blogs. People like stories.

Computers don’t care what you write. They have no feelings. Writing for keyword searches and SEO benefits might position you in a way that provides more organic traffic but it is not the kind of thing that lasts.

There needs to be a balance of some sort. That is why my focus is on trying to entertain, educate and or inform. It is why I keep tweaking my blog in ways to try and provide a reading experience that is easy and pleasant.

It is why I don’t limit myself to writing about one topic. I write about what drives my passion and when I do it well it seeps into the pages and the reader feels my energy.

They feel the effort and they respect that or so I like to believe. Might be wrong. Might be misguided. Might be a lot of things but I am entering into my eleventh year of blogging so maybe there is more going on inside than a Masters in Mishegoss.

If you are among the more active readers you know Success Is More About Effort Than Luck. It is about putting in the time and doing the best you can to learn your craft.

Easy Versus Hard
Easy Versus Hard

Most of the time the biggest challenge I have is to shake loose restraint and just write with reckless abandon.

The funny thing to me is sometimes I find it easier to just write here than when I focus on my fiction.

It is a crazy contradiction because fiction shouldn’t have the same restraint as fact. It should be easy to just write and adjust as needed but my internal editor barks more loudly during fiction than almost any other time.

*****

I have never read any of Gaiman’s work but I plan on rectifying that.

That quote brings a sort of wry grin across my face because I get it. I get it, I get it, I get it.

Sometimes the children complain about how easily I do certain things and I laugh. I always ask them how they know it is easy and if they can tell me how long it took to reach this place where it is easy.

Easy comes after countless hours of work, effort and practice and no, they are not always the same thing.

If you are lucky you find the write stuff and figure out how to put it down on the page in a way that makes people sit up and notice you but it rarely happens solely because of luck.

It is not all based upon talent either.

I can’t say there is a single formula we can use but I can say there is a recipe and like every good recipe for a home cooked meal the ingredients vary and the method is slightly different for each cook.

The reason I keep throwing myself back into the breach each day is because I figure one of those times I’ll find the mix that works for me and catch lightning in a bottle.

But it is more likely to happen because of the time and effort I put in than because I got lucky but between you and me if getting lucky makes it happen sooner I’ll gladly accept luck.

What about you?

Success Is More About Effort Than Luck

Jousting

“It is only a game, you don’t have to hit me so hard.”

I smile and tell him that is why his team is going to lose. He tells me I need to back up the trash talk or it doesn’t count.

Fifteen minutes later my team has won and he is yelling for us to get back on the court because he wants a rematch. The third time I dive on the floor for the ball he goes with me but I outweigh him by at least a 100 pounds so he bounces off me like a pinball.

“Kid, don’t get in the way of a freight train. I won’t ever lose this fight. It is basic physics.”

Two hours later we walk off of the court and he reminds me they won two games.

“We took four. Five years ago we wouldn’t have lost any.”

He shakes his head and tells me it is just a game.

“Don’t you worry about getting hurt?”

I shake my head no.

“I play hard or I don’t play. Don’t have enough talent to half ass it and if I did I would be ashamed of myself for not trying harder.”

*****

The 19 year-old kid I mentioned above is a real person and that was a real exchange between us. The conversation was friendly and though I barely know him my intent was to try and teach him something.

Don’t know if that is obnoxious or pretentious on my part but after setting picks that rattled his teeth and crashing through the screens he set I felt like it was only fair to share a tip he could use for his own success.

Success Is More About Effort Than Luck

Somewhere in the pages here are a comment or two about why sometimes it is better to be lucky than talented. Call that a comment on how sometimes some people have tremendous success not because they are smart or good at what they do but because they won the birth parent lottery.

If mom and dad own an empire and you are born into it well, that is a good thing for you but it doesn’t mean you deserve it or get it because you worked hard. Just means you are lucky.

That is really not a value judgment, it is a comment.

But that doesn’t mean those of us who don’t seem to have the same kind of luck because good things come to those who put the effort into making things happen.

A cynical person might respond to that by pointing out how bad things happen to good people and how working hard doesn’t always translate into the type of good things I am referring to.

I take a middle position here and teach my children to do so as well. We might not be able to guarantee that working hard is going to give us all we hope to achieve but it is more likely to help than hurt us.

It is the type of attitude that lends itself to sleeping well at night because it is much easier to close your eyes at night and feel good about yourself when you know you tried hard than when you didn’t put in the effort.

Sometimes that effort doesn’t yield the results you want it to. I am frustrated with how He Named His Intention Texas came out because it fell short of the mark I set for it.

But I published it because sometimes the way you improve is by looking at what you did so that you can figure out how not to make the same mistakes again.

Sometimes truth is better than fiction.
Sometimes truth is better than fiction.

Sometimes heroes fail to save the day and sometimes murderers save lives. Part of the absurdity of life are the daily contradictions we encounter.

The kids tell me stories about how the kids who are jerks to everyone sometimes break character and do something really nice for someone else.

Can’t tell you how many times I pulled a card from the deck praying I’d get the Ace of Spades and discovered I pulled the Joker. But some of those moments where I wished I could punch that fool in the face led to places I never expected to reach.

I like to believe that effort had something to do with it because in the moments leading up to that one I created a chance to turn possibility into opportunity.

That 19 year-old kid and his team should have beaten us at least fifty percent of the time. They had youth and talent on their side but they lacked effort and I took advantage of youthful naivete the same way the old guys once did to me.

I suppose it is proof that maybe this hard head of mine isn’t so damn thick. Maybe I have learned a thing or two.

When it comes to writing I’d sum it up by saying my favorite thing to do is tell a simple story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. Some people mistake simple for being an insult but it is not.

If the goal is to tell a story that people respond and relate to simple is the way to go. Don’t mistake it for condescending either because that is not it.

Simple is the comfort food of writing. It is what you read when you feel blue or sick and where you go when you just need something to warm your heart.

This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”― Neil Gaiman
photo by: Jeff Kubina