Singles or Doubles?

I have just learned that I am a dinosaur. There is a distinguishing characteristic of dinosaurs when it comes to writing. I didn’t know that. That characteristic, which I’m trying to overcome even as I write this, is I’m a double spacer.

I learned to type in school. Standard practice (at that time) was that you put 2 spaces after a period when typing. After years and years of this, decades in fact, it is ingrained. I type a period and I hit the spacebar twice with my thumb. I am currently in therapy to remove the habitual twitch, but it still happens. Sometime in the 1990’s or so, (according to Wikipedia,) it appears that the style guides have changed to only having a single space at the end of a sentence. I learned this last week. It was a random read of a random blog which I cannot even find in my browser history. Doing a random Google search of course turns up hundreds upon thousands of articles, helpful tips or just plain comments about it. Since I learned this, the format change has hung around in my brain bugging me. So fine, whatever. It is a blank space. Does it really matter to ANYONE other than someone who is setting up for a typesetter or that same typesetter that there are two spaces rather than one following my end of sentence punctuation?! Isn’t that what search and replace is for? I am not going back and changing over all the lovely documents I’ve accumulated/produced/written that I have unless I’m tightening up something for submission. In the meantime, I will stop trying to stutter on the spacebar after every period.

Yes, I am a dinosaur who is learning new tricks. Write on.

Is There A Plan?

Job, career or vocation? They are all really different. Let’s look at the definitions from

job – noun
1. a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price: She gave him the job of mowing the lawn.
2. a post of employment; full-time or part-time position: She was seeking a job as an editor.
3. anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility: It is your job to be on time.

Now, there are lots of ways to use “job” as a verb or adjective, but let’s stick with this one for a moment. Is your job to produce words? Canvases with paint on them? Music? Comics? Sculpture? Or <insert art form here>? Mine isn’t.

career – noun
1. an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework: He sought a career as a lawyer.
2. a person’s progress or general course of action through life or through a phase of life, as in some profession or undertaking: His career as a soldier ended with the armistice.
3. success in a profession, occupation, etc.

A career actually seems to me that you have a plan. I don’t know that I had any plan beyond my first job. In fact, I was ahead of my time, I got a degree in a field that didn’t even exist when I got the degree, but it does now. Once I had the piece of paper in my hand, aka “Diploma,” I set about trying to get a job to earn this useful thing called money. I like having a roof, heat, food, electricity to run the computer, etc. After working in my degree field for about 3 years, I figured out that I wasn’t making enough money. I changed jobs and career fields to earn more. Did I plan that? Not really. Once I got tired of working 60+ hours a week for CorpAmerica™, I decided to go back to school to be a paralegal. Now I’m back to earning no money again. Did I learn a lot, yep. Is it a career for me, nope.

vocation – noun
1. a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
2. a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
3. a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.

I don’t pretend to preach beliefs to anyone, but let’s just go with “calling” to something without defining what made the calling because that is personal to each and every one of us. No matter where I go, what I do, how many careers or jobs I have, I ALWAYS come back to writing. I can write anything. I’ve written scientific papers, grant applications, proposals, technical specifications, technical manuals, legal pleadings, legal briefs and now a blog. My vocation is writing. I use words to communicate. I am a writer. How about you?

My next step: turn that vocation into a career. Write on.

Inspiration or Desperation?

Are you an inspired writer or one who sits down and pounds out the words whether you feel like it or not? I have days of both. It’s usually one or the other. Rarely a combination. I can get inspired if I do sit down and start putting words on a blank page. Once I get that hesitation out of my head and get my editor to turn off, (easier said than done some days,) I can usually get something out. Will it ever see the light of day? Maybe, maybe not.

The times that I am inspired are truly some of the most fun writing I’ve ever done. Something just hits me and I’ve got to get it down. I can throw so many words at the page that my fingers can barely keep up with my thoughts. When you look up, the time that has passed doesn’t matter. What mattered is that the words and the work have been everything during that session. I live for those moments. When I’m not inspired, I sit down and push the words out, sometimes one at a time.

What do you do to get yourself going? Writing prompts? A walk through the woods/beach/jungle/city? A trip to your favorite coffee shop to watch people? Or an open notebook, page or screen in front of you? There are a myriad of tricks and primers to get working. Do you stop in the middle of what’s going on the previous work session so you can run back to it the next time and know exactly what you’re doing? (Never tried this one myself.)

I’m fairly certain that the method of getting yourself to write doesn’t really matter as long as you are writing. That is what this is all about, isn’t it? You cannot chase your dreams unless you actually start chasing them. Sit in the chair and write. Write on, friends.

What’s on your mind?

Sometimes someone says something that just hits you in the gut. You know that you cannot say it better.  (For the sake of obviousness, she’s published, I am not. Yet.)

I was thirty years old before I learned how to learn things. Nobody has ever taught me. Either I could do things or I couldn’t, and there was never anybody who explained to me that no, you have to study. You have to fail. And keep failing better (and trying different things and researching and stuff) until you’re not failing any more.

It was writing novels that taught me this, by the way. Because I never could. And then eventually I just kept trying long enough and did. Then I wrote four more, and sold one.

Reader, I had an epiphany. Stuff doesn’t just happen or not happen. I mean, some of it does. But some of it happens because you keep doing hard things long enough to learn the knack of it, and then it’s less hard.

Writing novels is exactly the same thing as running thirteen miles, or doing a headstand, or learning how to cook.

And I’m better at this stuff at 41 than I was at 14. It’s amazing how useful it is to know how to learn things.

The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. Write on.

Decision Time

Yet another on the “what are you waiting for” theme . . .

We make decisions all the time. Anywhere from at least one to hundreds a day: what to wear, what to eat, how to get to work, etc. All of these decisions are made in a heartbeat and we go merrily (hopefully) about our lives. Most people don’t even consider these decisions, but they are. When it comes to the bigger questions of life, why do we shy away from a decision?

“I’ll do it someday.”

“I don’t have any time.”

“Maybe I’ll get it done later.”

These are excuses we’ve all used. There are hundreds more, but most have the same theme: I’m not doing it now. My question is why not?

I have many different calendars. I keep track of work schedules, school schedules, even my spouse’s schedule on occassion, and various other things like birthdays and holidays. You know what I’ve noticed? Each of them has the same seven days, and nowhere on it do I find a “someday”. Someday never comes for most people because they aren’t really committed to making anything happen. Can you do something for 7 days? 14? How about 30? Someday is something that I no longer want to wait for. I’ve spent the last 20+ years looking for someday and it hasn’t shown up yet. I have lots of practicing to do on my craft. So my someday has changed to today.

But you aren’t like me, you don’t have any time. You know what? We all have the same 24 hours in a day. We each have the have-to list and the want-to list. Take the biggest blocks, calendar them and then ensure that you make time for your dream. If it’s 20 minutes here and 30 minutes there, make the time. Schedule it. Turn off the e-mail and the phone. Guard this time as your personal space. If <insert important person here> wanted to meet with you for 20 minutes out of your life, you’d block out the time and make sure there were no distractions, right? Take this time for yourself.

There are so many things wrong with “maybe I’ll get it done later” that it is hard to know where to start. So we begin at the beginning: maybe. You’re not even giving yourself a break here. You’ve already sabotaged yourself with admitting that you might not do it. Give yourself a chance. Take the maybe out. So then when is later? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? What is so all-consuming in your life that you cannot carve out some time to work on your dream? To quote Chris Guillebeau, “if you don’t take decisive action, nothing will ever change.”

Make a decision for yourself. Write on.

7, 14, 30?

More on the “what are you waiting for theme”…

I read. A lot. Sometimes I learn new things, sometimes I don’t. I’m currently in the mode of where do I want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. It comes from just passing a mid-year. I still have a corporate brain for the annual review even though I don’t work for “AmeriCorp” any longer. For a lot of people putting things in the perspective of trying to do something for a whole year, or even trying to change a habit for a new goal or resolution is hard. Most people cannot conceive of doing something for that long. They only see the hardship and the journey, rather than focusing on what can be done here and now. Think AA – get through the next minute, hour, day. Once you do that then work on tomorrow. I’m one of those people who when they decide to do something they want it NOW. Do you know anyone like that? Uh-huh, raise those hands. Who out there really is patient enough to work through something or set long term goals and make sure they get them done? Some people are successful at that, and good for them. I, however, am not one of them.

So I always am open for a “new” way to do things, even if it is an old way. Periodically I browse around the web and find myself somewhere I never expected to be. This time I ended up on Steve Pavlina’s website. If you’ve never heard of him, well, welcome to my club. Its theme is “Personal Development for Smart People”. I started out reading a blog about goals and personality and found a link to something he wrote ages ago that might be of use. I might have to modify it a bit, but here goes: You can do anything for 30 days. Ok, 30 days might be a bit much for me, but what if I took a more AA-like approach and worked it for a week. I can do anything for 7 days. It might not be long enough to see any benefits from it, specifically if I picked the diet ones as there is usually a 10-14 day detox involved. Now here is my thinking: if I manage to get through the 7 days, would I be more or less likely to continue having gotten that far into it? I can easily see the jump from 7 to 14. And then 14 to 30. Once you’ve already committed that much time to something it makes sense to continue, doesn’t it? Depends on what it is, I know. I am working with a presupposition that whatever I am attempting to do will be good for me, not bad.

Besides, what’s most likely to happen? I learn something? More importantly I learn something about myself?? Write on.

Are you waiting?

What do I want to be when I grow up? Do I even have to grow up? I know I’m getting older. We all are. Am I getting any wiser? These are some questions of the ages.

I’m currently reading a book called Start by Jon Acuff. Basically it says (as far as I’ve read) that you need to get started on the road to awesome by living with purpose rather than trying to find out your purpose in life. Opportunity does not come to those who are waiting. “Purpose is attracted to motion. Purpose is attracted to momentum. Purpose loves to surprise you mid-stride.” Start. In a previous work incarnation there was a lumber store right across from the coffee shop I stopped at most every morning before heading into the office. They had someone (or maybe the whole staff, I never went in) who posted interesting sayings on their sign board weekly. One of my favorites posted more than 10 years ago went something like: Changing directions while standing still means you’re going in circles. Did I listen? Sort of. I did say it was a previous work incarnation.

Stop trying to find a purpose. Live with purpose and see what comes along. You might be surprised. Even better, you might surprise yourself. Just because you don’t know where you’re going to end up, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start. (How’s that for a double negative?? Acuff actually says it better.)

What am I waiting for? What are you waiting for?