Tips from an Unpublished Writer #1

I know what you’re thinking.

“Why in the hell would I want to take advice from someone who’s not published?”

Well, the answer to that is simple. Why not?

And quite frankly, that’s the first tip and quite possibly, the most important tip. Some would have you believe that the most important tip is to “write every day”.  Others will tell you the most important tip is to “write even when you feel like you don’t want to”. I cannot argue with those. They are absolutely important, perhaps important enough to be classified as 1A and 1B. But I would submit to you that an even more important tip is this…

Connect with, learn from and listen to other writers…whether they are published or not.

Many moons ago, I was a private investigator. When I began that career I had ZERO experience. I’d watched and studied people well enough throughout my years, but there is more to the job than that. And so I was trained. I worked with virtually every investigator within the agency in the first few months. Some had years of experience, some had months of experience and a few had only weeks of experience. But I absorbed everything I could from each one of them and through that I found what worked for me. Additionally, I found myself running into obstacles that often times only another investigator could comprehend, understand…or care about. By surrounding myself with other investigators, by developing a support system connected by that common thread, I became better at my job, more secure, more productive and in the end, more enthusiastic about my profession.

I’ve found the same with my writing. When I was writing poetry, I found that to be a very cathartic, solitary act. It helped me get through the day. Once I moved toward short stories and novels, well, it was certainly a solitary act, but I had no real clue about what I was doing. My writing improved though when I joined a writing group. It improved when I spoke to and listened to other writers…and it did not matter to me if they’d written for a day or several decades. Their thoughts, their words, their mere presence was simply invaluable and inspiring.

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We live in a world where we can easily become distracted by the business of life. Actually, when you think about it, we live in a world where we can easily become distracted by the meaningless and trivial events of life. A sure fire fix to help you re-focus is to place yourself in a position where you are surrounded by folks with similar dreams, goals and challenges. Find out what works for others. Find out how they’ve managed to work through obstacles and distractions. Develop a support system connected by a common thread and then you’ll find a system that works for you and continues to motivate and inspire you on a daily basis.

Then move on to 1A and 1B.

Whether you publish or not, you will at least be secure, confident…and happy!

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Don’t Worry…Be…

So, I left Illinois just over a year ago. Some days it feels like I just left, and other days…well…yeah. No, this is not one of those “waxing nostalgic” posts where I reminisce about the taste of Portillo’s, Chicago style pizza, or the beauty of the lake front as viewed from the Adler Planetarium. No…this is me reflecting on the reasons I left. This is me exploring the reasons why anyone takes a chance to venture out and try something new. This is me, just being me.

People always want to know why I left Chicago. Most will assume it was because of the winter. And to be honest, I cannot say that did not play into the decision making process. Others assume I left because I had a job waiting for me. You would be wrong there. I left with whatever would fit in my Jeep and a little over $1,000. There were no…zero…nada…none…in terms of jobs, job offers or job prospects. A few smart asses will say I was trying to escape a broken heart. True or untrue, that’s not exactly something you escape. My heart has been beaten up enough to warrant an escape beyond the outer atmosphere. Yet here I am.

So, why then did I take off?

The answer is simple. I was unhappy. Not with any one person and not with any one thing…just unhappy in general. Everything annoyed me. Everything sparked some kind of snarky thought or comment in some vain effort to make me feel better about myself. I was unhappy and surrounded by the colorless, gray, metallic field of the urban jungle.
And so I left.

I’m not the only one that has thought to escape in an effort to find happiness, or to find that smile. I’m not the only one who’s ever ventured into the ether in an attempt to find something that helps them look forward to every morning. I am certainly not the only one to ever do it with practically no financial resources. It happens every day. There is nothing particularly spectacular about what I did. Even the fact that I did it at age 40 and walked away from a well-established life and wealth of social and vocational contacts and opportunities is less than noteworthy. What’s noteworthy is the ridiculous notion I had that I would find happiness outside of myself.

There is a reason why people who are filthy rich and folks who live on next to nothing can both be happy. It is because they recognize that happiness exists, not in what you have or what you do for a living, but instead it exists in what and who you are. It is inside you. Loving what you do for a living is not so much about the job or the salary, but instead it is about your inner happiness being in sync with what’s available in the outside world. When we are not happy on the inside, nothing else will be in sync. Everything you do will feel like a chore. You’ll carry this heavy weight on your shoulders daily and that oppressive feeling will make you want to chuck it all and run.

That’s why people do it.

That’s why I did it.

It’s always easier to leave with the pipe dream of being able to start fresh somewhere new. The outside might be fresh and new and very exciting and stimulating. But the inside is still the same old dark, musty, cavernous abyss it was the day before.

I say all of this to ultimately shed light on one thing…it is you who are ultimately responsible for your happiness. Obama is not in charge of that, nor is he responsible for your misery. Your spouse isn’t, your children aren’t, nor your job or boss. Your city is not. Unless you live in the Midwest or Northeast between November and say…March. In that case it may very well be the city making you unhappy. Particularly if the Mayor’s street is always plowed after a massive snowfall and yours is not.

But, I digress.

Don’t worry, be happy, is a silly little song from way back when, but the message is clear and although the practice may be difficult at times…it works. Happiness inside will make everything on the outside feel so much better. Happiness and positivity on the inside will attract wonderful things, opportunities and people to you. Happiness and positivity on the inside will heighten the wonderful experiences you will have on the outside.

You will be in sync!

Bye, bye, bye!

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Crash and Burn Down the ‘Vaguebook’ Rabbit Hole

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And so, my experiment with “Vaguebooking” is over. Over before it even really began. If you don’t know, “Vaguebooking” is the art of passive aggressively sharing your innermost feelings to the entire world when the true recipient is a single individual. My plan was to venture into this world of vague status sharing with a few of my own and then after a month, write a blog about my misadventures. However, I ran into a slight problem…

…I actually a give damn!

I give a damn about the people that take time out of their days to make an emotional inquiry and investment into my well being. I began my experiment on Tuesday and by Wednesday it became clear that I am not cut out for this research. I am a writer, and I research people to make my characters lovable, enjoyable and believable. As a social scientist, I research and observe people to better help them achieve their goals and enrich their lives. But these Vaguebookers live in a world that I’m not comfortable in.

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I knocked out the first blog with only two days of “data” and I’ve decided it will never see the light of day. Why you ask? Simple. Because in the end, it just doesn’t matter.

Trying to enlighten a Vaguebooker is like trying to have a discussion with someone who believes race relations in the U.S. are better than ever, despite the fact that they’ve never been a part of a minority race. There’s this notion that no one else matters, no other thought is important, and if you’re not on board with that thought process, you’ve got no place in this world.

I of course, cannot think that way. I’m not built that way, which is probably why I’m in the profession that I’m in. Based on the comments, texts and e-mails of concern I’ve received about my Vaguebook posts, I’ve chosen my friends well, because they, like me, actually care. That of course only serves to make us potential food for the Vaguebook sharks circling in the waters.

Now, having chosen my friends well (or perhaps they chose me) I also know that we’re all smart enough to recognize when the drama net is cast in the water. But still, it’s in our nature to fix things and help others see the light at the end of the tunnel in the hopes that we can re-ignite a spark of hope when all seems lost.

So my grand experiment, one that I could not tolerate for more than two days, did not do what it was intended to do. It did not enlighten Vaguebookers to take a look at their own behavior and recognize that they actually have close friends they can talk to for assistance. It did not shed light on the inner thoughts and ambitions of those who’ve started a ridiculous social media epidemic. All it really did was shed light on a group of people who demonstrate genuine empathy and affection for someone perceived to be in trouble. All this failed experiment did was show me that there are people out there capable of doing and saying something without looking for something in return. This experiment showed me…no…reminded me…that there’s hope for a world without borders and drama. There’s hope for a world that practices unconditional love and friendship. There’s hope that people can look beyond themselves and realize their impact on others as I did over the last two days.

And that’s a whole lot of alright with me.

Happiness

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Time Machine

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Admit it…you want one.

You know you do!

And there’s no shame in that, because believe me when I say, you are not alone!

But why? Think long and hard about why you want one. Are you looking to relive a moment, or a series of moments? Do you think that if you go back and change one crucial decision…one crucial turn to the left…that everything in your life would be better now?

Or maybe you just want to know definitively who killed Kennedy.

Whatever the case, whatever the reason or desire, consider this…the very fact that you want to travel through time probably indicates that you’re already there. And for all intents and purposes, you’re stuck there. Whether you’re thinking about the future, plotting and planning for every moment to come, or whether you’re dwelling in the past, lost in thought about that one time…that one moment…that last kiss…or the time you stormed out of work…you’re already there, caught, trapped, forever spinning in a temporal loop of hope, anticipation, sadness and longing.

Time is on our side…or so they say. But I submit to you that time is one of our greatest enemies. It’s our Lex Luthor, our Darkseid, our very own Dr. Doom, and it looms over us, heavy and commanding. Our minds get stuck in a constant state of “what if” moments. We look at our present and our emotions get clouded and we wonder why we didn’t try harder that one time. We think about the job we let slip through our fingers…or the girl…or the scholarship. We think, “If I had just gone home that night, everything would be alright now”.

The truth is, we’ll never know what would have happened. Things are the way they are for a reason. We are on the path we’re on for a reason. An even larger truth though is, the more you dwell on those moments long ago, or think about the moments to come, constantly mapping and scripting, the more you miss…everything!

We all have a “temporal loop moment”. Or, if you’re like me, you have several. Some are specific, and some are very general, but we have them. For me, it’s the summer of ’85, the summer of ’88, August of ’91 and ’94, and March 8, 1998. Honestly, there are several more. I could list dates for days on end that I’d like to change, and several that I’d love to relive, but to do so only means one thing…I’m holding onto…clinging to…the past. I don’t need H.G. Wells or Doc Brown because I have my very own time machine running in my head.

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And it seems to have an unlimited fuel supply.

For whatever reason, a part of me…well…parts of me…are forever trapped in the past. My own temporal loop is looming over me like a specter. It’s kept me from taking chances, from committing to things…from living. It wasn’t fear of the unknown that kept me from moving forward, or in some cases…moving on. It was the past, handcuffing me, keeping me bound in a time and place that was joyous, painful, or unresolved. It was the past begging me not to leave it behind…not to forget.

Or perhaps it was fear.

Fear of being forgotten by those I shared those moments with.

And so the challenge now, for me and for you, is to question ourselves when our minds form that one crucial question, “what if?”

The proper response should be, “Things could have been different. But whether they could have been better or worse, my choice led me to this moment, and in this moment I accept what’s happened in the past and I cannot continue to allow it to affect my present”.

As is the case with many things, it may be easier said than done. But that temporal loop has to be broken.

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Otherwise, we will continue spinning in circles, wondering, waiting, longing and reaching, either for a time long past that we cannot change, or a time yet to come that we may never reach. We have to stop letting opportunities for happiness pass us by because we cannot let go. Don’t forget the memories. Don’t let them slip away into an abyss. But don’t let them have the keys to the asylum in your mind.

Cover up that DeLorean, throw it in storage, and take a walk and experience life.

You may just discover, that this world…this time…ain’t so bad after all.

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Somewhere Along the Way…

…I wrote a book.

It’s a strange thing to think about. It’s even stranger to say. But somewhere along the way, I actually wrote a book. There are roughly 80,000 words spread out over a few hundred pages and they’re all mine. It’s not on a shelf yet in a bookstore or library. It’s not available on Kindle or Nook and it’s not sitting on someone’s desk as they contemplate turning it into a movie or TV series.

But that’s ok…it’s done.

I made a decision back in 1998 to write a novel. I started that year and threw out more drafts than I care to think about. Wait, let me amend that statement. I started that year and threw out more UNFINISHED drafts than I care to think about. I had no idea what I was doing, but I tried. To some degree, I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I continue to try. Year after year, I continued to try. Year after year I continued to get frustrated and distracted…almost gleefully distracted actually. And year after year I continued to generate more excuses. Some of them were legitimate excuses, but most of them were, well, just that…excuses.

Excuses that were sired by fear.

FEAR

We all have certain hopes, dreams and goals. In our minds’ eye we see ourselves happy and successful after achieving something that means EVERYTHING to us. What we don’t think about though, is the path to that success. We don’t see it until we decide to embark on our journey. The journey is long, it’s dark, it’s lonely, dangerous and absolutely frightening. Some days you imagine you’re the Dread Pirate Roberts and you’re negotiating the fire swamp one day and battling rodents of unusual size the next. Most days though, you imagine that experience would be much easier than your current one.

But nothing worthwhile is easy. Nothing worthwhile is free of frightening twists and turns. Quite frankly, if you’re not afraid of stumbling…of not achieving your goal…well then, it probably doesn’t mean as much to you as you say it does.

There’s this delightful little, “…danger is real, but fear is a choice” thing going around made popular by one of Will Smith’s less than stellar efforts on the big screen. And it is true, fear is in fact a choice. You can walk that path to success and turn and run out of fear, or, you can choose to not be afraid and embark on your journey. Or, you can do something else.

You can CHOOSE to be happy.

Fear is a choice…but so is everything. The mind is a powerful thing. It serves as both a useful tool and deadly weapon. Because of that, every thought, every spoken word, every feeling and every possible decision is a choice you make. And so I challenge you instead, to walk that dangerous and frightening path having made the choice to be happy. Batman chooses to not be afraid and he sits alone in a cave with bats. The key word there being “alone”.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Batman. We love him because we’re all afraid. And because he’s not, he’s able to fight the bad guys and make us feel secure at night. Yes, he’s bad ass and filthy rich, but is he experiencing life?

Are you?

The choice to be happy as opposed to the choice to not be afraid, keeps you out of the cave with the bats and gets you out into the world with a chance to experience all that life has to offer. Choosing to not be afraid allows you to bear down and power through adversity, but choosing to be happy means that instead of running from the things that would normally scare you, now you stand face to face with them and learn instead. Choosing to be happy provides you with a series of teachable moments that enhance your life experience. Happiness is contagious and creates a desire and need for integration, love and understanding across the globe.

Choosing to be happy brightens that dark path allowing you to finish that novel, poem, painting, work project, or whatever it may be that helps fulfill you.

So what will you choose today?

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I’ll Have a Challenge…Neat…with Two Olives

We use the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, to ultimately convey just how important it is to take the time to watch something small grow into something great. Whether it is a relationship, a city, a nation, a business or even something as small as an idea, it is imperative that we remember that those things that mean something, take time. Unfortunately there is a major obstacle that stands in the way of growth. We all have to deal with an almost impenetrable blockade when attempting to take steps toward growth, prosperity and happiness. And it happens on a global and a personal scale.

We have to deal with the fact that collectively, we are impatient.

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Think of the last time you decided to eat healthier, to work out more or to make an effort to take off some pounds. It worked well for the first week, maybe even two. But once that weight loss began to plateau, or worse, reverse, what happened? If you’re like me, you got frustrated, became grumpy for the rest of the day and said, “To hell with this, I’m going to Baskin Robbins to try flavor number 17.” baskin-robbins-sundae That was pretty much a monthly mantra for me. In fact, I said it just the other day.

Remember the day you opted to take guitar lessons? You bought a nice guitar and some accessories along with an amazing case. You certainly looked the part. You attended your first lesson and day one was awesome. You felt like you were on your way to becoming something special. Your instructor was even pleased and asked, “Are you sure you haven’t played before?” But then, after the first couple of weeks, you decided you were ready to play some Hendrix. Later on that night your wife came home and asked you why that guitar you just purchased was in the garbage can. Well, half of it anyway. The other half was inexplicably in the garden.

Amongst her roses.

change-quote-of-the-day-A-lot-of-people-get-impatient-with-the-pace-of-change.

Comparatively, as a nation, we have come a long way in a very short amount of time. But still, even with all of the advances and technology we have at our disposal, we still cannot build Rome in a day. Things that matter, things that are important and meaningful…these things take time. And it is important to remember that with any project or task we undertake. From relationships, to marriage, to child rearing, to developing and growing a business, to achieving peace in this nation and others…these things take time and if they are important to us we have to take the time to nurture these things and watch them mature.

If you’re like me, nothing is more exciting than beginning a journey or project that you have mapped out in your mind. That first day, when everything is set before you and you begin, can simultaneously be the most frightening and thrilling day of your life. And at the end of the day, when you look back and see immediate results from your efforts…well…few things in life top that feeling. The excitement fills you, heart and soul and you become so anxious that you cannot sleep because you just want to keep going. It is the moment when passion and dreams collide and all that stands before you is the promise of hope and good fortune.

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But in the shadows, doubt and insecurity are lingering. And they too plan and dream and hope and build and eventually give birth to impatience.

You see, that is was impatience is. It is us, allowing our doubt and insecurity to linger, fester and grow into something that scares us. It scares us so much that we say, “I can’t wait. If I can’t have it now I just don’t want it because at this rate…I’ll never have it.” And so, we walk away from it. We walk away from what could have been because we allowed ourselves to be influenced by the potential for a negative outcome.

But what about the potential for a positive outcome?

Think of the most successful people in the world, in any industry and imagine what life would be like if they had given in to doubt and insecurity. Now, think of the happiest person you personally know and imagine what life would be like if they gave in to the same thing. I am by no means saying that these people did not feel those things or experience them on some level, and quite possibly, with some frequency. No, that would make them inhuman. What I am suggesting though, is that they did not allow themselves to be overruled by those feelings. They began their journey, their project on day one and allowed themselves to feel the joy that came from that first day of success…every day.

Change is possible. You can become more and achieve your dream if you work at it and treat each day like it’s the first day. And so, in light of the challenges occurring across the nation, I now issue a challenge to you. Whether it’s for a job, a project, the love of your life, your education, raising your child…whatever it may be…treat each day like it’s the first day as you begin working toward developing and growing something that is important to you.

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And for this, you can leave the ice in the freezer and use it to make a drink later to toast your success.

~Dennis Crosby

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A Day in the Life

He sat there, again, staring at his computer.

He had been waiting for this moment all day. The moment when he would have some time alone with his thoughts. Waiting for the moment when he would have time to write and get all of those thoughts and feelings he’d been struggling with out on paper. Well, maybe not paper in this instance, but at the very least his thoughts and feelings would no longer remain inside, bottled up, strangled, desperate for an outlet.

He had an idea for a short story while waiting for his bus this morning. He wrote it down on a napkin he found in his backpack and jotted a few more ideas down in a notebook he keeps in his office desk. He read an article at lunch time that he wanted to respond to in his blog. He wrote down a few notes about points he wanted to make in the “Notes” section of his iPhone. During his break, around 2:30 pm, he overheard a conversation that he thought would be an ideal exchange between two of the characters in his latest short story. He would change some things of course.

But not much.

He tried to quiet his mind for the rest of his work day because nothing frustrated him more than coming up with great ideas with little opportunity to write and watch the ideas flow from his brain through his fingers onto the page or screen. It was during those moments that life was absolutely magical. He walked through most days like he was drowning in the ocean. Each step he took, he could feel his arms flailing about. He was submerged and could not find his way to the surface. Every second, every movement was energy lost and he felt himself getting weaker. Each interaction with others was like swallowing sea water. Every time he opened his mouth to speak to someone, a rush of salt water flowed into his mouth and filled his lungs, further weighing him down.

But when he had a pen in his hand and paper in front of him, or his hands on a keyboard with a blank Microsoft word page, he was no longer drowning. He was Poseidon. Poseidon He swam through the waters at their lowest depths and commanded every creature, every ripple in the water and every element like the ancient Greek God. His pen and keyboard served as his trident and his words were waves of power with which he commanded the seas. Nothing stopped him when he was in a writing zone.

But now, he was nothing more than a beached whale, staring at the water before him and longing for the safety and comfort of the sea. He felt less like Poseidon and more like a lonely fisherman with his feet dangling off the pier, his line cast in the water, waiting for a nibble while a storm raged around him. The storm was in his mind. The thoughts were there, the words were there, but the howling winds, rain and thunder blew them about in his mind like a small boat in a hurricane.

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And so he found himself, staring again at his computer lost in thought and anxiety. He knew he had something to say. Something good, something important even. But he simply could not get the words to flow today. He looked at his screen, he cringed and shuddered and felt his heart begin to beat faster. He knew he could do this. He’d done it over and over again. The words were there and he was good at it. There was nothing in life that he excelled at as much as writing. When everything else around him failed, when there seemed to be no hope at work, at home or anywhere, writing was the one salvation he had.

He closed his eyes and placed his fingers on the keyboard. He took a deep breath, held it briefly and exhaled. With that breath he let go of all of his doubt, all of his anxiety and all of the frustration within. With his trident at his fingertips, he moved them across the keyboard and quieted the storm in his mind.

He smiled, because he realized once again…he was Poseidon, Lord of the Seas.

He smiled, because he realized once again…that he was a writer.

Chapter 1

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