Curiouser and Curiouser

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Working on a new writing project is always a little daunting for me. I don’t know the world, the characters, the detailed plot, nor the ending. Basically, I know shit. I have found that once I begin to think about a story, I tend to dive into things that seem to have no relevance.

For example, my characters in my fantasy has wings. The world they live in is completely made up. As I moved through my normal life, my mind seemed to come up with things that I could include in the story and world. So much so that I couldn’t keep track of it all. I bought a small notebook, this was before phones had become smart, and I jotted down everything that came into my mind that I thought might be of use. All of the sudden a flood gate opened, and my notebook was filled with nick knacks and tidbits and nuggets and morsels. I was amazed at what came out. And I’m not talking about my first time.

I remember watching a documentary about the evolution of birds. One of the topics it explored was: Do birds prefer to walk, or do they prefer to fly? To test this, the scientists put a bird on a wooden plank. The incline of the plank was increased to various degrees. No matter the degree, as long as the birds could walk up the plank, they would walk. It wasn’t until the incline had gotten so high that the birds were forced to fly up the plank. So I decided that my characters with wings would have that same behavior. That they preferred to walk, unless the place they wanted to go to required flight.

Be it fantasy, science fiction, or plain ole’fiction, the foundations of the world needs to be consistent. I’ve talked about his in the world of Harry Potter where J.K. Rowling almost made a mistake in this regard. Being the writer that she is, she caught it and corrected it.

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In my new book, one of my main characters is a skeptic. He was entrenched in his martial arts school, loved teaching, and loved working with kids. But a slow disenchantment led him down the road of rebelling against his own school, much like Bruce Lee had, and he questioned what they taught and their methods. His skepticism lends well to working with children because he’s willing to investigate their issues to discover their real causes.

Before I knew all of this, I came across YouTube videos from the Athiest Community of Austin, the ACA. Their cable access show, The Atheist Experience, is run live with callers that ranges from theists to atheists to conspiracy theorists. I have to admit the theist callers are fun to listen to because the debate that ensues is not only entertaining, but opened my eyes to what constitutes as evidence and gave me a basic overview of how logic works. Both of these things were not very well defined in my mind beforehand. And this current character that I’m writing understands those things well.

Now, I started to watch the videos before I began to write this new book. To prove that my mind knew to watch these videos because I was thinking about this new book would be difficult. But I’ve always allowed myself to dive into things that seemed unrelated to anything that I was doing in my life. A lot of it went into the ether. Some of it was useful. Quantifying it would nearly be impossible since I don’t remember where anything that I think of comes from. But had I not watched the ACA videos, I may have not had enough of an understand of logic and evidence to write this character well.

Steve Jobs talked about this process in his famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford. In it he mentioned that he took a calligraphy class at Reed College simply because he was fascinated by the beauty of the lettering. He learned about serif and sans serif typefaces and what made great typography.

“None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me...It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

I’m not saying that everything you’re interested in will become useful in the future, but you never know. Why not delve into something just because you’re curious? For me, it’s part of the great joy of life, to learn and experience new things.

Prescription vs. Description

In my last post, I talked about a conversation I had with a friend about happiness. He was upset because he thought I had been mocking him.

I explained to him that I had used our conversation as a jumping off point into my perspective of what happiness is, that my account was really a fictionalized version of that event. And it was because we had been a group of six people exploring this idea and not just him and I.

Going back to that idea, I want to explore a little more about his questions, not specifically, but what a lot of people do when they ponder about passions, happiness, purpose, etc.

A lot of his questions seemed to circle the idea of how we get there. You can substitute there with happiness, success, or any goal. The problem with discussing specific questions like these is we're trying to find a specific path. One of my friends said, "Do what you love and that'll make you happy." Another suggested to try different things to find your happiness. These are good suggestions but all are prescriptions, and more importantly, prescriptions that are very individual.

There's this thing called modeling: a general process in which persons serve as models for others, exhibiting the behavior to be imitated by the others.

So if I wanted to be rich, then I would research someone who is rich and mimic her behavior, a prescription. We see this with Steve Jobs. He was well known for berating his employees to motivate them to perform better. And given the success of his comeback at Apple, many managers have copied this behavior in pursuit of similar results.

Look at it this way: we all know that a dog is happy when he wags his tail. So if I ran into a pit bull who was growling and foaming at the mouth, then I would walk up behind him, grab his tail and wag it to try and calm him, make him happy. I don't have to tell you that I'd probably lose my hand, arm, and shit my pants.

When I started writing, I had read all of the interviews with J.K. Rowling. I would try and map how she came about her inspiration for her Harry Potter books to how I came to my own for my books as a way to say to myself, "Yup. I'm on the right path."

But lightning never strikes the same place twice. Meaning there can be many paths to success. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes it's overnight. All we can do is do the work.

So instead of a prescription towards what we want in life, a better way to approach something is really a description. From the Tao Te Ching:

Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn’t possess, acts but doesn’t expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever. 

What the hell does this mean?

As best as I could put it with my limited mind, wisdom comes to us in the moment. There's nothing we need to do, there's no process we need to have. All we need to do is allow it to come. If you want to inspire your employees to do better, then approach it your way. Whatever that way is, it'll present itself when you need it.

Writing a book is similar. I usually go to a cafe, sit down with my cup of coffee, and dive in. Sometimes it takes a little warm up for the words to come. Sometimes no warm up is necessary. But words will always come.

And as I've said in my last post, happiness is innate within us. Once we let our thinking settle like the what ifs, the sediment of our minds, then we can sit in peace with a clear mind to listen to the wisdom within.

Touch Me

Jobs vs Jobs

Jobs vs Jobs

In my post, The Killing Mood, I talk about how THE KILLING was heavy emotionally because it not only focused on the detectives hunting for the killer but also delved into the hole that murder leaves in a family. And the only way that I know how to do that is to get really intimate with the affected people dealing with their pain, memories, guilt and regrets of their last ragged encounter with the dead.

I had read reviews of jOBS, the biopic about the famed Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs. Ashton Kutcher, from all the reviews I'd seen, stated to some degree that he had done a great job imitating Jobs, but the movie itself didn't do anything to add to what fanboys already know. I think the main issue here is lack of intimacy.

Now you may say, "You haven't even seen the movie." Correctamundo, as Michaelangelo would say, the ninja turtle.

But I've seen enough biopics, even Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, to know that most don't do the subject justice because they try and fit too many things, eventually diminishing the whole person down to a book report written in bad grammar.

I am tired

I am tired

This is where movies like Fruitvale Station and Lincoln excel. Both deal with huge issues, in this case racism, from an intimate point of view of the character. I'm not sure if the fact that both characters die at the end that makes it more intimate, but since many who I've talked to about Lincoln wished there was more action makes me think that's not the case. It is called Lincoln not Let's See Some Civil War Killins.

jOBS, I think, fails in regards to intimacy. In writing, especially storytelling, there's a term called rooting, where the creator emotionally roots the characters to their readers or audience. This can be done through tragedy, an example is my prologue, through teaching someone something new, The Karate Kid, or the sacrifice of oneself, 300. I know. But I loved that movie. The inherent problem with trying to show a life story is showing the life story. We can't get a sense of who these people really are because the storyteller is moving through the events quickly to get everything in.

When any story tries to cover long periods of time, it loses touch, and as a result, loses their audience. That's why most fictional stories focus on important events and rarely dive into the life and times of so and so. It's the tenet of fiction, write about the important stuff, cut everything else.

The Sony film on Steve Jobs is being written by Aaron Sorkin, who wrote The Social Network and one of my favorites, The Newsroom. He has stated that his script will center on backstage events of three Apple product launches.

At first I was taken aback...and beaten. Then I realized that's pretty ingenious. It allows us to get real intimate with Jobs the person, and since so much of him bled into his professionalism--his crying, temper tantrums, bullying, and the like--we should get to see many facets of this master marketer. And this is what biopics try and show anyway, who the person is, at least from the storyteller's point of view.

Are You Your Worst Enemy?

I'm a Hindu God

I'm a Hindu God

I was talking to my closest friend. We were catching up on life and part of the conversation spilled over to our jobs. Both of us have followed through many, many creative endeavors throughout our lives that intersected in wanting to open up our own school that eventually led to writing, storytelling for me, same difference. He's now a father of the cutest little boy, married, and is in a thriving career, not writing anymore. He may continue later in life, but that's a story he'll have to fulfill. I'm still diligently writing.

He asked how my job was going, and I just told him it's just a job. I even forgot to tell him that I got promoted with a salary increase because I don't care about my corporate job title. I do care about having and earning more money, but since I don't flaunt it, nor am a big spender (yes, girls, I'm a cheap date), I don't really think about it.

Eh? Ehh? I can't hear ya boy

Eh? Ehh? I can't hear ya boy

"You're gonna be there for 50 years," he said.

I was taken aback by that comment, despite the fact that I hate the corporate world. But as a writer who is working on making it, I still have to pay the bills, earn money to go on dates, pay for gas and food on those dates. But most importantly, my job gives me the freedom to write without concerning myself on making it, which was the whole purpose in the first place.

I used to have a sales job selling mortgages, which I hated, and it sapped my energy and creativity.

I started doubting myself, my practices, my vision of a writing career, fame and fortune, seeing my name in big, bright hardback covers. In short, I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. Happening onto my current job, I had to decide whether to take it or not because it was a pretty significant pay cut.

At that point in my life, my longest stint at a single work place was two and half years. I've been in this job for eight. Eight? Almost 3,000 days. That's a tad bit more than two and a half years. Maybe my friend was right, as I spearhead toward my fifty year mark.

"What am I doing? I'm such a loser." I should quit writing and concentrate on moving up the corporate ladder.

I started scouring the Internet for inspirational voices, quotes, and whatnot to help me sort out the conflict within me. I then realized something that I had realized during my years mentoring children. There is no single way or technique for success. Even the meaning behind the word success is different for everyone. And I find joy not in my job, but in writing the story that has engulfed me for so many years. Despite how tired I may be, how much I love just vegetating, sleeping, and doing nothing, I find myself thinking, developing, writing even when I'm not in front of my computer. I came to this conclusion when I drifted off into nothingness, watching crap TV, and knew my path is just that. Mine.

Would I change anything right now? Nope.

So in your life, when you're not doing anything, or doing something mundane, where does your mind go? Follow it. Steve Jobs did. You may never know where it may lead you.

My Boat Is Bigger Than Yours

Entering my fourth week living in Hawaii, I find myself a bit lonely and go off looking for parties and get-togethers. So I go to this guy's 65-foot boat, which he told a woman is big (compensating?), and enjoy Waikiki's Friday night fireworks, a regular thing. Everyone brings food and drink, the owner of the boat fires up the BBQ, and friends and strangers talk.

One woman from Taiwan, I think, sulks about her Apple stock. Back in September it was trading above $700 per share, and was da most valuable company on da planet. Sorry. My Hawaiian came out a little. Now it pingpongs in the mid 400's. As much as I love Apple, I don't own stock cuz no one really knows how stocks will behave, AAPL being the most recent and best example. (Just a note: I've done a little research and there's no real reason for the stock's downfall, save for emotional sell off due to false rumors.)

I'm watching

I'm watching

This same woman announced for Steve Jobs' revival, which would scare the shit out of me if it happened, and shakes her tiny fist at the overcast sky. Being an Apple fan, I'm prone to reading everything about the fruit company, even though I may not invest in it, except to give my money to buy those precious--my precious--products. So I said that it wasn't due to Jobs' death that the stock fell, or else the stock would have fallen when his death was announced in October of 2011, and that back in September of last year, the stock had grown to its highest ever.

Then the popular guy in our group stated it was! He went on to say that Apple's map debacle would never have happened had Jobs been alive. People have very short memories because Steve had released products that tanked like MobileMe. Jobs also said, when meeting President Obama for the first time, that he'd be a one-term president. Even the chosen one isn't right all the time.

Duh...where do I go...

Duh...where do I go...

In vain, I try to give my opinion, but the popular guy shook his head and spoke over me, shelling his diatribe, the same crap that helped pummel the stock in the first place, none of it having any basis. My ego stepped in front of me and puffed his broad, massive, humongous, armor plated chest. I, on the other hand, kept quiet.

As an artist, not only do I have to read people, but myself--my ego almost getting me in trouble for arguing with people who regurgitate emotional baseless articles about Apple. Those two would never have listened to me, despite the fact that I was wearing an Apple cap. Not that people wearing Apple caps would know everything about Apple, but maybe I would have a different opinion, given that this is a get-together and we're here to converse.

Nope.

You may ask why I stopped myself? Well, sometimes I feel that I don't connect with people, and I've asked myself why? Normally, the reason is that I judge them. When you judge someone, like that person is below you, you can't connect with them. That's how a lot of slave owners got away with mistreating slaves, slaves aren't human. They disconnected themselves from the real truth.

There were two other guys that were friends with the popular dude, and immediately I read them as being a little closed minded. That's me pre-judging them, so I throw that notion away in an attempt to connect. One of them brought pork bellies to the BBQ, and I said yuck. It's pure fat. The one who brought it looked toward the horizon and said you only live once, and the other stated once in a while is ok, it's the accumulation that you have to worry about. I agree with that. My vice is ice cream, and I consume that once a week. But pork belly? I think that's a bit worse than ice cream. But they slurped it up like it was their last meal before the needle.

Then the conversation got to iPhones. Somehow we got to talking about pricing, and I said that you can get an iPhone for free on a two-year contract, if you're ok to settle for older tech. The guys lectured me saying their has never been an iPhone for free.

NEVER

Suck on this muthahfuckahs

Suck on this muthahfuckahs

Now, at this point I could have pulled my iPhone and proved them wrong. But what's the point. My initial read of them was correct. They're in their own little club, and anyone who brings their own opinion will be met with opposition. Does that mean that I don't like anyone with their own opinion? No, that's stupid. But a debate can only be held if opinions are given, not stopped. Does that mean I should always rely on my first impression of others. Yep. But I give them a chance to disprove it. And in this case, they only proved it.

Onward to another party.

Stealing from Jobs

I’m an Apple fan. Call me a fanboy. Accuse me of drinking Kool-Aid, despite my vice for diet soda. What I love about Apple was Steve Jobs’ philosophy on life, summarized well in 2005 Stanford commencement address. Many Apple centric sites are writing articles about the man who died only a year ago, his legacy, how he changed the world. But I’d like to talk about his autobiography and what a sheep is. Many non-Apple fans call us sheep.

You callin' me sheep, sucka?

You callin' me sheep, sucka?

Sheep – a four-legged animal covered in wool.

I’ve never seen a sheep use an Apple product. Though, I have not seen every sheep in the world.

An article in Wired discussed whether the autobiography Walter Isaacson wrote on Steve Jobs could be used as a path to success and management.

This sticker adds 5 horse power

This sticker adds 5 horse power

I had bought the audio book, unabridged version, from audible.com. As I listened, my ego started to make links between the ways Jobs did things to how I did things. I think we all do this, try to make comparisons with great men and women to assure ourselves that we are somehow on the right path. I stopped myself and knew. I am no Steve Jobs. And no one else is either. I think of a boy in Uganda and know that no other boy in the world will be like that boy. As human beings, we are all different, individuals. That is our biggest strength as a species.

Shut the Fuck Up

Shut the Fuck Up

There’s an app called iTunes U. Basically, it has courses that you can take, a lot of it is free. There’s a section called Creative Writing: A Master Class. There are 10-15 minute snippets of audio/video from famous writers. I’d listened to Michael Crichton, John Irving, Khaled Hosseini. But the one that caught my ear was Sue Grafton, author of best selling mystery novels like “A” IS FOR ALIBI. She said about writing, “There is no path. There is no course you can take. It’s not gonna help if you go to an Ivy League school. It might not hurt you, but it’s not gonna do you any good.”

Now, I’m not playing down education. I certainly don’t want a dude off the street operating on me. But when it comes to paths to success, we rarely know how to get there. I think the important thing is to know where you are, the starting point, and where you want to end up. That way you’ll have a better idea of where you wanna go. Two points make a line, right? Math. It’s an Asian thang. But if you don’t know where you are, how can you know which direction to head? If you don’t know where you want to end up, then are you even asking the question? For most people, no.

After finishing Jobs’ autobiography, my take was success in any form has no prescription. There isn’t a right way nor a wrong way. Sometimes the wrong way will teach us lessons the right way can’t. But going the wrong way all the time won’t get us to where we want to be. If you want to follow Jobs’ path, then listen to your intuition. For that path is unique to you.

Do As I Say, Not As You Do

In my book there is a tattoo culture.  Each family has their own symbol or emblem, which is customarily tattooed within the frame of an armband.  Recreational tats are also used.  If the person is a warrior and is moving up the ranks, then tattoos will represent that. I love tats.

There's a tattoo?

There's a tattoo?

For me, tattoos should have meaning.  They can represent a period in my life, something I may want to let go, something that I want to remember forever, or something that represents one of my philosophies in life.  So I take a long time to decide what I want to get.  But that's part of the fun.  The other part is the pain involved.  But that's another post.

What'd you say, bub?

What'd you say, bub?

One of my favorite shows is The Actor's Studio, hosted by James Lipton.  He's interviewed famous actors, directors, and some writers, exploring how they got to where they are today.  One of the running themes of the show is tattoos.  Every time an actor has one, or several, Lipton asks them about it.  He whines how he can't have a tattoo because his wife won't allow it.

One of my friends wants a tattoo.  He's a doctor.  His wife won't allow him to have one.  She said it isn't proper for a doctor.  My initial thought is, if it's covered under clothes, how would anyone know?

My second thought is, why are these men allowing their wives to tell them what they can or cannot do with their bodies?  It's their bodies, their life; they can do with it as they wish.  Right?

If my friend wanted to quit his job just because he felt like it, then that's different.  He's the sole breadwinner, and his family depends on him.  But getting a tattoo shouldn't change his wife's love or appreciation for him.  Right?  He's still the same person.

If my friend was single and wanted to quit his job, then he should.  He has to live with the rewards or consequences of doing so, but he's only affecting himself and not anyone else.

Isn't getting a tattoo only affecting the person getting it?

It pisses me off that people try to tell others what to do.  We live in a society of blending in.  You wanna look good and be part of the right group of people?  Wear the right clothes sold at the GAP.  Have your hair this way.  Talk right.  Earn this much.  Color within the lines.

You want a good job?  Get a college degree.  Really?

Shiny

Shiny

Steve Jobs never got one and look at where he is.  Is he an exception?  I don't think so.  In his lecture to Stanford's 2005 graduates, he tells them that he's always lived a life of passion, and followed it.  For him, the incomprehensible dots that led him out of college and into that famous garage wasn't planned, nor could he even see what they would lead to.  Not until he arrived could he connect the dots looking back.

So live your life.  Follow your passions.  You'll never know where they'll lead you.