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News & Events for C. Dennis Moore

READY! SET! OOH, FUNNEL CAKE!

Posted 7/26/2017

I’ve read it several times over the years, that writing/publishing isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Meaning if your first book doesn’t sell gangbusters right out of the gate, don’t lose hope because there’s plenty of time and in this new self publishing e-book world, we don’t have to worry about books going out of print. So the book you wrote and published yesterday will still be able to bring you money ten years from now.

And while I believe that logic, I hate that metaphor. Writing is a marathon. God, I get winded just saying it. I have a better one.

Writing/publishing is an amusement part. Not only can you stop and rest whenever you want--there are no more contracts putting us under deadlines we might not meet--but we get to have FUN!

This monthly comic book-style series I’ve been writing, no one is going to buy this thing, and I know it. But I’m having a great time writing it. Every week this month I’ve worked on a different project, and I’ll continue the practice next month because I’m really enjoying the freedom it gives me. I can spend a week on one thing, then move on and get away from that one for a while and do something different. That way, when I do get back to the previous work, I’ll be able to do so with new eyes. And I won’t start to resent this damn novel that just WILL NOT END!!!!!! That’s something I hadn’t allowed myself in a couple of years because I was stuck in that sprint/marathon mindset.

Sure, writing/publishing was a marathon, but there’s only so many dollars to go around and if you don’t get that new title up NOW, readers will spend their money on someone who DID hit Publish instead. So while I’ve got plenty of time to start making money on each particular book, I had to get those books up there as quick as I could. It may all be a marathon, but you still have to run if you don’t want to be dead last to the finish line.

With my new weekly schedule, though, it’s truly an amusement park. AND I feel so much more productive lately. I currently have several titles in my first draft folder. Soon I’ll have several titles undergoing revision. And eventually I’ll have several titles ready for publication, plus a whole new round in first draft and revision status.

For years I’d wondered how it was any writer managed to work on more than one project at a time. I never could do it. I’d always lose interest in one and drop it until the other one was finished, but with this new weekly method, I can’t see why I would ever want to go back to just working on one thing at a time.

If you’re a writer who wants to feel more productive and really energize your creative muscles, try this routine for two months. Get out your calendar or day planner or whatever you use and allocate the first week’s writing to one project, the next week to a different project, and the week after that to something else. Do this every week for however many projects you have that you wish you had time to work on.

If you don’t finish something in that week, who cares? Move on to the next one and come back to the other one next month. This week’s project, adapting the script to my friend Caleb Straus’s movie IT’S OVER to prose form, is not going to be even almost done this week. So I’ll move on next week to something else, and come back and do some more work on this one next month. That’s the thing about amusement parks, so many fun, exciting options. Why limit yourself? My daughter and I have our favorite roller coasters when we go, but we do stop and ride other things during the walk from one coaster to the other.

There’s no reason at all, in this current self publishing landscape, that you should ever feel stifled or blocked. Be organized, yes, be diligent, absolutely, but also be creative. See what you can do once you allow yourself the time and space to work like a true creatively free person. I guarantee you’ll be a much happier writer in the end.

What other metaphors could you replace with better, more empowering ones, to alter your emotional state when you encounter them?

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EMPOWERING WORDS EMPOWER.

Posted 7/25/2017

I’ve just had a breakthrough.

I often run into people, acquaintances at work or family members I haven’t seen in a while, and they’ll ask me the same question every time. “You still writing those books?” And I always answer the same way. “Yep. Writing every day.”

I need to stop saying that. Because words affect the way people view us. So instead, from now on when someone asks me that, I’m going to respond with, “Yeah., I’m a writer.” As if to say, “DER! Did you just meet me?!?”

With any luck, that’ll get it through their heads and they’ll stop asking. And if they need an alternative question for the next time they see me, they can ask “Got any new books on Amazon I can buy?” That would be a much better question.

Words are such powerful things. Writers use them every day and we understand on an unconscious level what they can do. After all, we’ll sit and struggle for the longest time with whether or not to use one word in favor of another. Which one better suits the emotional impact we’re trying to make? Which one better conveys the horror of the situation, for horror writers. Which word choice will get the biggest laugh?

But I don’t think we often stop to think about the effects our word choices can have outside of the page.

For example, I never say, “I’m going upstairs to write.” Instead I say, “I’m going upstairs to work.” Because I do see my writing as a job. Not just because I make some money at it, but because I treat it like a day job, a serious day job with consequences if I don’t show up.

And usually this could have some negative connotations, but working doesn’t bother me. As long as I enjoy the job. I could spend all day at my computer working and never give it a second thought. But even a couple of hours at night on the hot dog line and I’m constantly asking, “Are we about done yet?!?!” But again,, that comes down to the words we use. I’ll say, “I’m going upstairs to work,” in the morning, but in the afternoon it’s, “I have to go to work.” The change between I AM and I HAVE TO is all the difference in the world.

(Ok, when it comes to my grandkids and I tell them I’m going upstairs and they say “Why, Pop?” I’ll say, “Pops has got to go to work,” but that’s for their benefit, implying I don’t WANT to go away, but Pops HAS to. At the same time, however, it also implies some amount of responsibility, which I’m okay with. Because the words won’t write themselves.)

I almost never say, “I’m writing this story.” Instead I say, “I’m working on this project.” Project sounds much more productive and serious. I’m writing a STORY sounds like I could do it just as easily on the couch with everyone, scribbling on a legal pad which I’m later going to shove into a drawer after everyone oohs and aahs over it for a minute. And when I do use the word “story”, I always put “work” in there with it. “I’m WORKING on a new story.”

This room I’m in right now isn’t “the back bedroom” or “the spare room”. It is my office. I remember my very first word processor, I never called it that. Instead it was “the machine”, and I did a TON of work on that thing.

It’s really just a matter of finding the right euphemism, but euphemism or not, the impact of the words doesn’t change. If you’re struggling with finding the time, the motivation, the desire, the inspiration to sit down and write, change the words you use to talk about it. Instead of saying, “I should really sit down and get some writing done,” say, “I’m going to do some work on this new project.”

Instead of, “I don’t have time to write,” say, “I will set aside the time to write.”

Instead of, “This story sucks,” say, “This isn’t turning out how I hoped it would. What can I do to fix it?”

As writers, we use words every single day. Now we just have to start using the RIGHT words, empowering words that will improve our emotional states and fire us up. What disempowering words do you use that could be changed?

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LESSONS FROM A TWO YEAR OLD.

Posted 7/24/2017

My youngest grandson turns two the day after tomorrow and that boy questions EVERYTHING. What’s that? What’s that? What’s that? Why? Why? Why?

But that’s good. We SHOULD ask questions. Questions are how we learn things, about ourselves and about the world around us. Questions have power. And the QUALITY of those questions is important, too.

I learned this lesson not too long ago. I had a lot of success with my novel THE THIRD FLOOR, so I did what any writer who’d been struggling for 20 years to make something happen and finally saw it happen would do. I tried to do it again. I dropped the writing plans I’d made and started concentrating almost exclusively on writing more Angel Hill novels. But no matter how many Angel Hill novels I wrote about ghosts, nothing hit the way THE THIRD FLOOR did. They sold, sure, they did alright. But nothing took off.

So I started asking why not. What’s wrong with those books? What did I do wrong? What did I do with THE THIRD FLOOR that I didn’t do with these books?

It took a while, a couple of years, in fact, before I realized the problem. I was asking the wrong questions. See, our questions determine our thoughts and I stopped seeing my writing as something I GOT to do every day and it became something I HAD to do every day. And questions have answers, so when I was asking myself what I’d done wrong the second, third, fourth times, my mind came up with answers. The books aren’t good enough. You’re no good at marketing. The book was a fluke and you’re fated to work a crappy day job for the rest of your life and only write during your off time.

I had to change my thinking. I had to change my questions. Instead of what did I do wrong, I had remember that I’m not beholden to anyone in my writing and ask what CAN I do next? The answer was anything I want.

Instead of why did those books fail, what did I learn from writing them? I learned I CAN write a novel and not take two years to do it.

Instead of what do I need to do differently, what am I happy about in my writing? Instead of what do I regret, what am I proud of? Instead of what do I wish would change, what am I grateful for?

Once I changed my questions, my entire outlook on writing changed. I went back to all those writing plans I had years ago and decided to get back to them. Because they were good plans, and I was excited for all the things I wanted to write back then. And I’m excited again now that I’m going to write them. In fact, I’ve already started. I got out my calendar and scheduled the next two months, one new title a week (the one-week deadline keeps me from procrastinating and keeps me working), and now when I look ahead at what’s coming up, it’s always a story I’m eager to work on.

I don’t know if any of these stories are going to sell. I HOPE they do, of course, but whether they do or not, I have to ask another question: since I have a day job that pays pretty well, which is more important right now, selling a lot of books, or writing a lot of books I’m excited to write? I don’t even have to ponder the answer. I’m writing books I want to write again and it’s changed my entire mood.

You should always ask questions, obviously. But make sure you’re asking the right questions. Ask questions that are going to inspire you to move forward, NOT questions that are going to make you focus on the negative.

Questions are powerful tools, so use them wisely. The right questions can change the world. Just ask Einstein.

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SELF-PROMO SUNDAY!

Posted 7/23/2017

Wow, it's been a while since I've announced any new audiobooks.  It's been a while since I've had any new audiobooks.  But also even longer since I've announced any.  I was very lazy about this.  But here goes.  My latest audiobook is for my short story collection DANCING ON A RAZORBLADE and you can get it HERE.

Horror author C. Dennis Moore's third short story collection, Dancing on a Razorblade, is intense, hard-hitting horror fiction that refuses to let up until the bloody end. Starting with the first story, "Cuneiforms", which finds a quartet of carpoolers following a strange school bus full of seemingly drugged children as they head for an abandoned school. The foursome watch as the kids are unloaded to the playground where they're used in a mysterious and puzzling ritual meant to call forth an ancient beast from Hell by unlocking hidden glyphs in the playground diagrams. Guaranteed you'll never look at a school playground the same again. In "Maggie Andrews Gets the Facts", a journalist desperate to keep her job follows a lead to a rich eccentric's house when he tells her he has the devil locked away upstairs. Is he serious, or is the little girl Maggie finds just a little girl? The shocking end of this story will keep you awake long after you've closed the book. Dancing on a Razorblade is a serious collection of horror fiction which reveals the monsters truly are hiding everywhere. In "Renovation", Jack just wants to spend the day looking for a job and taking care of his son. But when the walls of his house start breathing, then calling his name, he has only one thought: survive. In "Revenge of the Roach King", Jerry has a serious bug problem stemming from a heist gone bad. It seems his dead ex-partner had a million silent partners of his own, and now they want his share. In "Raw Materials", a wrong turn leads a man into a strange little town where they use every part of the animal, leading to a desperate game of hide and seek as their hunger gets the best of them. 

The audiobook is read by CDM mainstay Curt Campbell.

Also, I have these:

 The Angel Hill novels:

The Man in the Window

The Third Floor

The Ghosts of Mertland

The Flip

Housequake

 

The Monsters of Green Lake:

The Werewolves of Green Lake

The Vampires of Green Lake 

 

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A CONVERSATION ABOUT DOUBT.

Posted 7/23/2017

I’ve found the time to write every day. I’ve got my family on board.. But still I find it hard to sit down and DO it every day. Can you help?

First you have to raise your standards. Stop thinking of writing as something you WANT to do every day, something you CAN do every day, and see it instead as something you MUST do every day. Even if you have to trick yourself with the reward system until you get the habit firmly established.

I knew I had a first draft I COULD finish today. But I got off sort of late last night, didn’t get a lot of sleep, and after the morning reading and walk, REALLY could have used a nap. But I had two fail safes in place for just such a day as this. One, I MUST finish this first draft. I have my weeks scheduled pretty full, working on a different project each week. Next week I’m starting the adaptation of a movie a friend made into a novel. I’ve already told him I would, so I HAVE to do that next week, which means if I’m going to finish this story, it can’t be next week. And with the current story, I’ve got three accountability partners, friends to whom I’ve been sending my daily word counts. I knew THEY knew I hoped to finish this story today and I’d made such a good showing of my daily words so far, I would have felt like a failure had I skipped out on today’s words. So I HAD to write.

And then there was the reward aspect. I told myself if I finished this first draft today--not just added words and finished it later, but finished it TODAY--I could have Dairy Queen for lunch.

But really, these are just minor things. Because for me, I really do HAVE to write every day. MOST days, anyway. Some people exercise, some people clean, some people garden, I write. It’s my drug and my safe place and the thing I spend most of my days thinking about. But if you haven’t reached that point yet, you can easily use these other methods as a way to tell yourself I HAVE to do this. Get an accountability partner and think of a great reward for a job well done.

Second, change your limiting beliefs. You might be thinking I COULD write today, but I’m too tired, or I’m not inspired or I don’t have any ideas or I don’t have time to really dig into the meat of the story anyway so I’ll just watch some YouTube videos. Believe me, I’ve been there, all over it, many many times.

One of the biggest hindrances we face is we’re afraid it won’t be any good. SO WHAT!?! It’s NEVER as good in first draft as it is in final draft, so who cares if the sentences are clunky or the details aren’t fleshed out or the plot is a little confusing. Christ, I wanted to write SO MANY years before I ever actually DID, but didn’t because of ALL of these obstacles.

How can I possibly foreshadow something sinister later if I don’t know the whole story yet? You don’t! You come back later and add that detail. Do you think the first draft I just finished was perfect and beautiful from the first word all through to the end? It’s 7227 words, and took five days to write. I missed a detail here and there, I messed up a plot point or dropped a bit I meant to foreshadow, I promise you. But I powered through, wrote through the doubt and finished the first draft because I know I’ll just go back over it again later and fix all those broken bits and smooth out the winkles and tie up the loose ends. Writing isn’t about saying it right the first time, it’s just about saying it. Period. All the other stuff comes later, so whatever doubts you’re carrying around in your mind as to why you have time to write but still can’t, just know up front that they’re bullshit.

And last, find a role model you can emulate. I don’t think it takes a genius to realize my love of Stephen King. And when I heard years ago that he wrote 2000-2500 words every day, no matter how long it took at the keyboard, I knew that was the role model for me. But I was also realistic and set a realistic goal for a young writer with a day job and a family. I wrote EVERY day but I was only trying to reach 500 words. As I became more self confident and proficient at getting those 500 words, I upped it to 1000. Now, however, 20+ years in I know I can do 2000 a day when I really want to. But I also know I’m not Stephen King and I do have another job to go to every night, so I’m happy to meet the 1000-1500 word goal. Even happier still if I get to 2000.

Find someone who is doing the work you want to be doing and then do what they do. Sean Combs said once that he built his empire by doing everything Russell Simmons did. Russell started a record label, Puffy started a record label. Russell started a clothing line, Puffy started a clothing line.

We need role models. Following another person’s path to success is also a great way to avoid the pitfalls they faced along the way.

You have to allow yourself the ability to mess up, because making mistakes is one of the ways we learn to be better at what we do. I’ve messed up MANY times at my job, but never in the same way twice. It only took running out the bottom film one time to make sure I pay attention now and never do it again.

So stop being a baby, stop being afraid of that blank page. Stop seeing it as an obstacle to creating something amazing and see it instead as an OPPORTUNITY to create something amazing. The story I just finished was inspired by a very personal story a friend told me and I was terrified at first of not doing it justice. But I wrote through my doubts and now, I have to say, MAN I really really like this story. I want to say I LOVE it, but it needs another pass, it needs some smoothing out, and it needs some feedback, all of which will get done. The hard part is OVER now.

And next week I get to do it all over again with something new. And I couldn’t be more excited!

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OOH, PRESENTS! I LIKE PRESENTS!!!

Posted 7/20/2017

Okay, so you’ve conditioned yourself to make some big changes in your life. You’re writing more, you’re reading more, you’re exercising, you’re eating right. Whatever the change, you’re doing it.

Now how do you maintain that change?

There are six key steps to what’s known as neuro-associative conditioning that work to guarantee our new, better habits become a permanent way of life. The steps are very simple 1) decide what you really want and what’s preventing you from having it now, 2) get leverage: associate massive pain to not changing now and massive pleasure to the experience of changing now, 3) interrupt the limiting pattern, 4) create a new, empowering alternative, 5) condition the new pattern until it’s consistent, and 6) test it!

I want to talk today about one of the ways in which we can help instill these new behaviors until that part of our brain has grown in strength and these new, better habits are simply “the way”. One of the most effective methods is reward.

Depending on the behavior we’re trying to modify, the modification can be its own reward. I want to walk more. I used to walk all the time, every night after work, a good 2 hour walk, but since starting this job at the hot dog factory, I’m on my feet sometimes 10 hours a night, 6 days a week, and on my one day off, being on my feet some more is not something that appeals to me. But standing at a machine and watching hot dogs rolls by all night isn’t exactly a workout. Well, sometimes, depending on how well they’re running. But on average, I’m not working anything but my feet and my eyes and sometimes my hands. I feel lazy. I feel chubby. I feel I need to get off my ass and DO something. Remember, we make small changes every day that will improve our quality of life.

I also used to read a lot more than I do now. So for quite a while now I’ve been reading a chapter a day before I ever get to work at my computer. But I usually do it on the couch in my library. Stretched out. Comfortable.

Today I put on my shorts and shoes and read my chapter while I walked. It wasn’t a long walk, wasn’t a far walk, just a few blocks away from my house. By the time I finished, I was sweaty, tired, and just wanted to sit down. So that was my reward. I finished the chapter and rewarded myself by coming home, kicking off my shoes, and collapsing. It was glorious.

Often I’ll check my email while I’m brushing my teeth. But I don’t let myself answer it until I’ve done that day’s words. I know I could always just wait to check it until afterward, since I’m not going to answer it anyway, but this way I know there’s something there waiting for me at the end, and getting to open them and reply to friends’ emails is my reward for a good day’s writing. Or a bad day’s writing. It’s my reward for TRYING some days. But it works.

For rewards like this to work, they have to be immediate. We’re not going to do something difficult and reward ourselves with something later in the week. The impact is lost. Sure, we remember oh yeah I’m getting THIS because a few days ago, I did THAT. But to our brains, the connection isn’t as strong as it would be if we got our reward right away. This goes back to strengthening those parts of your brain and conditioning yourself to your new habits.

Sometimes I reward myself for NOT blowing a lot of money on action figures or some other bit of geekery I don’t NEED by buying myself a comic. Comics are cheaper and, to me, just as much fun.

My daughter and I are currently working our way through the new season of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 on Netflix. I would love to just take a day and watch the rest of them. But I have writing to do. So in addition to emails I’ll reward myself, especially on a day I get everything on my to-do list DONE by taking the last few hours of the day and relaxing on the couch with my sweetpea watching Jonah and the bots.

Rewards are an excellent way to convince your brain that thing you know you should do but don’t want to do is really worth doing after all. What new habits are you trying to condition yourself to adopt? Write it down and then come up with a suitable reward you think would motivate you to DO it.

One warning, though, you can’t use the same reward every time, otherwise you’ll grow used to it and it won’t serve as strongly as the reward you meant it to be anymore. Come up with several alternatives and break them up. Schedule them if you have to. God knows my love of schedules. My reward for walking tomorrow won’t be sitting down. It’ll probably be a shower which I’m wishing now I’d taken when I got home instead of deciding to wait until before I go to work today. Blech! I know when I’ve spent enough time walking that I don’t feel like I’m waddling down the street anymore, my reward will be an expansion of my wardrobe once I can fit into all the old jeans I can’t wear anymore but can’t bring myself to throw out.

I’ll get there. Sooner or later. Baby steps.

 

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THE TRUTH ON A SHAMPOO BOTTLE. LATHER, RINSE, REPEAT. THEN CONDITION.

Posted 7/19/2017

When you put a new set of strings on your guitar, you have to tune it up, then stretch the strings and tune it again. Then stretch the strings and tune it again. Why? You have to condition the strings to be at that tension level.

When it’s time for the dog to go back into his kennel, I stand up from the couch, click my tongue, and he knows to go in. This simple, unspoken command wasn’t bred into him, I conditioned him to know that means it’s time to go in.

In the great war between inspiration and discipline, conditioning plays a huge role.

When I was younger and just starting out writing, I thought you had to be inspired to write. And when you felt that spark of inspiration, stop everything and run immediately to pen and paper! I’m inspired, dammit, you can’t stifle my creativity! How very DARE you!

Well, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to be at work and do your JOB. And then on the opposite end, sometimes the words just aren’t coming and inspiration is nowhere to be found.

So we condition ourselves to write. For over a decade, my routine was up at 4:00, write for two hours, go to work. Then I suddenly found myself without a job for several months and I had all day. But my mind was already conditioned and it wanted to be writing no later than 4:30, and if I hadn’t got started by 5:00 at the latest, the entire day was shot.

It took a while, slowly starting later and later, writing for longer periods of time, later into the day until one day my mind was finally at a place where I can write AFTER the sun comes up, AFTER everyone else is awake and the world is in motion.

By repeating the same steps, sitting down and writing, my mind was conditioned. Trent Reznor said in a song, “I believe I can see the future cuz I repeat the same routine,” but for me, routine is a way of life. If you’re waiting to write that novel until you’re INSPIRED, you’ll die with an unwritten novel in you, I promise. Because inspiration is a fickle bitch. But discipline and conditioning get the job done every time.

So how do you condition yourself? By doing the work.

Remember Pavlov’s dogs? He rang a bell every day at feeding time and soon the dogs began to salivate at the sound of the bell, whether food was coming or not. Their neural pathways had been altered.

Michael Merzenich did a study with monkeys in which he mapped a touch-activated area of one monkey’s brain and then taught the monkey to use a particular finger in order to get food. When he later mapped that area again, he discovered the part of the monkey’s brain associated with touch had grown by almost 600%. Through repetition and conditioning, the neural pathways of the monkey’s brain grew stronger until it was ingrained in this monkey to use that finger in order to be fed. This is the same principle you’ll use to condition your brain to know when it’s time to write, it’s time to write.

This works best, of course, if you’re able to write at the same time every day. Even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. Find those times and condition your brain to know at these times you’re going to be writing. So be prepared to make with the words.

Back before I had conditioned myself, I would find I had thirty minutes to kill and nothing to do, so let’s try to write something. Sometimes it worked but a lot of times it didn’t. It was only when I picked a time of day to write, whether before or after work, and sat down at that same time every day, day after day, that I started having fewer and fewer days with no words written. It’s the same as working out ANY muscle. You do it enough, stretch it, work it, use it consistently, that you start to see real physical progress.

Your mind is a muscle and like every other muscle it can be dormant and grow weak or you can exercise it to the point it’s like a rock, a big hulking rock ready to smash anything in its path. When Merzenich’s monkey was trained NOT to use that finger anymore, subsequent brain mappings showed those neural pathways had started to shrink. I’ve made a consistent effort to be at my desk at the same time every day for 25 years--that time changes depending on my job and what shift I’m working, but since I don’t change jobs very often, I don’t change writing schedules very often either--and I’d put my conditioning up against even the most dedicated writers out there. Because I’m pretty damned dedicated myself.

If you’re a struggling writer trying to fight through the haze of writer’s block--another problem I very very rarely face; my brain knows that between these hours I’ve set aside, I’m writing--or lack of inspiration, know that there’s hope. When you take writing seriously, treat it like a second--or third--job, and give it the respect and time you would to any other job, when you TAKE the time every day to shut out the world and the people in it and just WRITE, the words will come. I promise you they’ll come.

And when you’ve got family or friends who give you a hard time about how come I can’t get hold of you at this time every day, well they can be conditioned too. At the same time you’re conditioning YOUR mind to be a working writer, you’re conditioning THEIR minds to leave you the hell alone during that time you’ve set aside. You’re welcome.

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CAN YOU SPARE SOME CHANGE?

Posted 7/18/2017

From Jan 2000 to Jan 2003 I worked in the electronics warehouse at Altec, maker of aerial and derrick trucks the world over. I was good at that job. I took what had been believed to be a two-man job and, within 6 months, proved one person could do it alone, so they moved my boss out to the production floor, hired me full time, and I ran the hell out of that warehouse until the company hit a rough patch and, on the third round of layoffs, I got caught in the net. It sucked. It was one of the lowest points in my life. But one thing I learned there, a lesson I’ve taken with me ever since, was something Altec did as a company, something they’d learned from the Japanese, called kaizen, which translates to “continuous improvement.”

Altec didn’t make company-wide changes overnight, they implemented small changes here and there, improving things as they went. I’ve said writing is hard? CHANGE is hard. When you’re set in your ways, when you have a routine, man it’s hard to get out of that mindset. And if you try to do it all at once, it’s damn near impossible.

This is where the kaizen philosophy comes into play. By making small changes day to day, we can slowly, gradually, make the improvements we need to make.

I like this process because it’s also exactly how writing works. No story is finished the moment you start it, no matter how clear it is in your head. We chip away at it every day, adding a little here and there. I started a new first draft yesterday and when I sat down at my computer and opened a new document, I had no words.

I started the story and one word at a time turned into one sentence at a time turned into one paragraph at a time until around half an hour later, I had 1049 words. That’s not going to finish the story, not by a long shot. All I’d done was write the opening scene.

But I could pick it up again today and do a little more. And do a little more tomorrow. And a little more Thursday. I hope to get the first draft finished by Friday and I’m feeling pretty confident that, one word at a time, I can make that happen. Today I did over 1600 words. Tomorrow I may only get 1000 again, but that’s cool because every little bit helps in changing this blank page to a finished short story.

I’ve been a devotee of kaizen for almost 17 years now and still use it in almost every facet of my life. From what route to work is the best to making sure I have time for writing AND time to spend with my daughter every day before work, I’m constantly working on things, making small adjustments where I see them in order to make things flow as smoothly as possible.

One HUGE help in this regard is my calendar. For the longest time I knew I had so many hours in the day to get things done so I just tried to cram as much in as I could and hope for the best. But it never failed that, every night at work I would remember something I had wanted to do that day but forgot. And I ALWAYS ran out of time and didn’t get as much with my daughter as I’d wanted.

I started off texting reminders to myself but of course sometimes forgot to check those. I moved to jotting down reminders when I got home from work at night, but sometimes things fall off your desk and you forget or just neglect to pick them up, so I started writing them in a notebook. But I’m left-handed and spirals dig into my wrist when I write in them, so I wasn’t doing that quite as regularly as I should have. And then I remembered I had a calendar shoved into my desk drawer. The spaces aren’t that big and I’m a sloppy writer, so I can’t fit too many things into each space, but that works out perfectly because it keeps me from overextending myself every day. Instead, every day when I get done working and am about to sit down to spaghetti and Mystery Science Theatre with my daughter, I take a minute to write down the next 5-6 things I want to get done the next day. I do it early, while they’re still on my mind, so I don’t forget until I get to work anymore.

And now, through making those small changes here and there as I progressed, I’ve got a nearly ironclad system for scheduling my day and maximizing what time I have before it’s off to work again.

And the beauty of kaizen is it applies to every aspect of life. To relationships, to education, to finances, to health, to … everything. Little changes, incremental changes, CONSTANT changes as you go will eventually result in a life well lived. What do you want to change? Start today with ONE change.

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I WANT TO BELIEVE!

Posted 7/17/2017

What do you believe?

I believe I can write a short story in a week. I believe I can average 1000 words an hour, and I believe that, when I’m REALLY into it, I can do it in half that time. I believe these things because I’ve done them.

There was a time I believed I would never write fiction. I had tried several times in my younger days and could never get past the first page. There was a time I believed I could never be a voracious reader because in grade school I was always the last to finish in Reading class when we had to read the story to ourselves. Now I have a library in my house with 11 bookshelves stuffed full of books and I’m almost never seen outside my house without something to read at hand. How did I change that belief that I’d never be a voracious reader? I read.

Beliefs are precarious things, subject to change on a dime. Surely you’ve heard the story of Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile? If not, in summary: For years, it was a commonly held belief that running a mile in four minutes was simply impossible. And then Roger Bannister applied himself and did the impossible. Once that barrier had been broken, it began to happen more and more frequently and within a few years of Bannister having changed the commonly held belief, hundreds of people had run a mile in four minutes.

Whatever you believe today, you might just believe the exact opposite tomorrow.

But what about those beliefs that are based in nothing more than fear or self-doubt?

The writer who says I don’t have time to write. They spend all day at work, slaving away and then, by the time the end of the day rolls around, they were so busy keeping up with their hectic lives, they simply didn’t have time to sit for thirty minutes and WRITE. But I bet you they had time to Tweet. And I bet you their Facebook status is updated. They don’t have time to write because they BELIEVE they don’t have time. They take a look around at their lives and see the kids who need a ride, the spouse who needs this or that, the dog who needs to be walked, and they just don’t have time for anything else.

But I also bet you if you look into this writer’s list of credits, you’ll see PLENTY of finished stories and novels. They HAVE written. Obviously they had time. So what’s changed?

A schedule change, a job change, a shift change, a change in the family dynamic, these things have a tendency to throw one off-balance and some people have a hard time finding that rhythm again. Ergo: they just don’t have time. That’s their belief, anyway.

But remember, beliefs are precarious things. I started a new first draft this morning and at one time that would have scared the hell out of me. But since I’ve tackled so many first drafts over 25+ years of writing, I BELIEVE I can tackle, and finish, another one. The next time I sit down to start a new novel, I’ll be intimidated by the length. But a look at my shelves and all the other novels I’ve finished will reinforce my belief that I can do it. I won’t go so far as to say you can do ANYTHING you believe you can--we’d all be flying and shooting beams from our eyes--but I will say that if you believe you CAN’T do something, then you absolutely cannot do it.

So how do you change your beliefs?

1) Get your brain to associate pain with the current belief. “I don’t have time to write, so I won’t write” turns into “I’m stuck in this dead-end job I hate with no way out” turns into, “okay, so maybe I can carve out a LITTLE time to write. I can get up a little earlier, stay up a little later, dictate on the drive to work, write on my lunch break.”

2) Then you have to associate pleasure to the idea of the new belief. Look to all the self publishing authors out there who had that one hit and were able to quit their day jobs and write full time. You know you want that life. Imagine it. Put yourself in their place.

3){ Next, create doubt. Take a serious look at your daily routine. How much time are you wasting on YouTube? A lot, I’d bet. How much time are you spending watching television? I dig a good Seinfeld rerun as much as the next guy, but you’ve seen that episode and that’s 30 minutes you could be writing. I could do 1000 words in 30 minutes. Not every time, but I can definitely do 500 in that time. Are you SURE you don’t have ANY time to write? You have to question those beliefs because doing that enough times, sooner or later, you’ll begin to doubt, and doubt, as Megan Phelps-Roper can tell you, is how we get our brains to start adopting some NEW beliefs.

We’ll never change our behavior and our patterns as long as we hold to the old beliefs. And if you’re constantly telling yourself I don’t have time for this, or I’ll never be able to finish something like that, you’re on the wrong end of it. Save the cheerleader, save the world. Change your beliefs, change your life. The process might not always be simple, there might be people standing in your way, trying to hinder your personal growth, but if you don’t start with YOURSELF, there’ll never be any personal growth in the first place. Believe that, and it’s true.

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CURRENTLY READING, MARVEL COMICS FROM OCT. 26, 2016

Posted 7/15/2017

I'm just a LITTLE bit behind on my Marvel comics.  Well, since I read them almost exclusively through Marvel Unlimited, I'm going to be at least six months behind regardless.  But I've been reading other things lately, too, so I'm just a bit further behind on my Marvels.  My upcoming reads are from the October 26, 2016 release.  I am SO ready to get past all these Civil War II tie-ins.  Sheesh!  And I'm really looking forward to that Prowler book.

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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