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.

My Brother and the Destruction of the Death Star

I was listening to a life coach talk about innate wisdom vs the subconscious. He stated that he doesn't trust the subconscious because there were too many weird things in there, where ever "in" is. The kernel of The 7th Province books emerged through a drawing a friend of mine did in high school. Imagine a man with bat wings. The head, though, was of a tiger, so I had to change it to a vampire like one, not bloodsuckers mind you. However, that drawing wouldn't let me go. Plot elements emerged like wildfire. I couldn't help but fantasize about these people. It would be close to two decades before I even came up with a name, but then that's the process.

My dream

My dream

I've always wondered where these ideas came from.  Sure, many of these plot elements were inspired by things outside of me, things like other stories, history, things that affected me in my own life. But they lent themselves with no effort to the story that I wrote. Immediately, I knew these ideas came from some innate wisdom. And from researching other authors that I admired, they were hooked into this wisdom, though they may not have named it. Then pulling my own view off myself and into the universe, I knew all of us have access to this. It's just that most of the time we get in our own way, which is a great plot developing element for my character, something he has to overcome.

I tried to convey this to a woman yesterday when she asked me where I got my idea for my story from. I told her that in a lot of cases writers (and probably all artists) are chosen to do the work. That this story chose me to write it (relay, really). Why? I don't know, nor do I waste time trying to figure it out. She looked at me as if I was smoking some hybrid ganja. Truth be told, I wish I were.

But when the coach said there were weird things in the subconscious, I was a bit resistant because I always assumed that innate wisdom resided in that area. Maybe it does, since there's really no way anyone can prove otherwise. However, I had a dream that might sway the argument the subconscious is weird. Or maybe I'm just weird:

OMG.  A light saber!

OMG.  A light saber!

I wake with a view of a grated ramp with rows of candy bar sized holes running up the metal floor. This leads to a large window where a grand view of darkness speckled with stars opens in front of me, and I realize that I’m a princess of what’s left of the rebel force. Walking around the room, I can’t recall what I’m searching for, but I slam my foot down in various places, looking for wear and tear of some sort. Finding cracks reminds me how old my ship is, how old the tech is, how over-matched we are.

They be tiny

They be tiny

I do wonder why I’m a princess since I’m a man, a boy really, but worry of the impending doom takes me away from that thought. I round toward the rear of my starship, a massive one at that, and gleam at the last remnants of an aging X-Wing fleet. Though, I don’t recognize them as the standard, they do have additional equipment, compartments with additional armaments maybe. A hibernating crew of pilots awaits my order to attack. And, yes, we are going to attack the legendary Death Star.

I continue my walk, seeing familiar faces and quietly saying good-bye. I do not, nor do my crew, expect to come out of this alive. This is ultimately the defining moment of being a rebel. In our deaths I suppose, I’m hoping that something grander happens, but I’m not quite sure what.

Who's the dude down the street?

Who's the dude down the street?

In less than a blink of an eye, I find myself sitting on a parking bump at the San Francisco piers, and given how sunny it is, I take off my shorts, leaving only my boxer briefs on. Getting a tan is a pass time that I enjoy for having no purpose in it except to relax. The Pacific Ocean is at my back, a large warehouse to my front, and the Death Star to the north in the deep blue sky. A crowd gathers looking up at the monolithic battle station, and there’s a growing fear of what’s going to happen. Despite what’s going on, I continue snacking. Then the crowd goes wild and I look up.

Dayem...that's not good--

Dayem...that's not good--

The Death Star plunges toward Earth and explodes upon impact in the far distance. A large fiery wall rushes toward the crowd, and, to my terror, me. Part of that terror comes from being aware that my brother is next to me and the knowing that the wall of death will reach us with ease.

I urge my brother to run into the warehouse hoping that it would give us some shelter. While running, I glimpse down a street as buildings are consumed by the explosion and another knowing overwhelms me: the warehouse is not enough. As we cross the threshold into the warehouse, my last view is a flash of bright light crashing through the building’s rear. Again I find myself a boy, jump into my brother’s arms and tell him repeatedly that I love him. Yellow light engulfs us and the expected pain that comes with being burned alive doesn’t come. My hope was that death is so quick we feel nothing, and my wish comes true. Weightlessness surrounds my embrace and a moment floats by with no end in sight, no resolution of any kind, no purpose, just pure light.

A blinding glare blares through my eyelids, and I turn my head away. The sun through my metal blinds wakes me and the images of my dream are clear as day, emotions resonating to the point where I have to document them on my site. As I sit here typing away, I’m not sure what any of that stuff means, why Star Wars was the main theme in images, and even humor that Disney’s assimilation of Star Wars—resistance is futile—may in some way destroy the iconic trilogy. Not that George hasn’t ruined them already with the release of first three episodes and the many re-releases of the last three, according to many hardcore fans. Coincidentally, or maybe not, George is also my brother’s name.

Side note: Twice now that I can recall, I’ve died in my dreams. In another, I actually hit the ground falling off a building. So puts to rest the myth that if you die in your dreams, you die in real life.

Tell Parents Go to Hell

A movie based on the most beloved children's book opens this weekend. I remember reading Maurice Sendak's book Where the Wilde Things Are.  I was taking a short break at work and saw this picture: maurice-sendak-wild-things-little-bear-gay-nigh-kitchen-art-author-illustrator

In an interview, Sendak was asked what he'd say to parents about the movie being too scary for kids.  His response?

"I would tell them to go to hell. That's a question I will not tolerate."

I love that.  Not that I want people to go to hell.  Nor do I believe in a hell, but one that we create for ourselves.  That's a topic for another post.

I'm tired of parents, or people, telling an author, film maker, or storyteller what their story should or shouldn't include.  First of all, it's not those people's story to tell.  Second of all, authors usually don't know where their inspiration come from.  What they do know is they have to be loyal,honest, to the stories that are given to them.  Any conformity the author makes, outside of story structure, can destroy the story itself.

J.K. Rowling has been bombarded with upset parents and church groups for writing her Harry Potter novels.  Her books have been on many banned book lists.  A sign that an author has made it. Her response has been the same when questioned about her dark material.  She's told them not to read her books.  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn written by Mark Twain has been banned.  And that has been considered a great American novel.

If a parent, or anyone, who finds a movie, book, TV show, anything offensive, then ignore it.  Time is too precious to focus on what you don't like.  Focus on what you do.

Even when a story comes to a writer, and it goes against traditional story structure, then the writer should go with their intuition.  Take the hit book to movie Slumdog Millionaire.  It uses flashbacks to tell most of the story.  I can't tell you how many books, teachers, and professional writers state flashbacks are a big no no.  It simply takes the threat of death away.  But it worked.  It worked so well that tension was still a driving force in those flashbacks.  That's because other's died.  But still, it worked!

Follow your passions.  Follow your intuition.  Great thinkers and leaders do.

Small Adjustments Make a Huge Difference

A couple of years ago I injured my shoulder.  I don't know how but assumed it happened at the gym.  My rotator cuff hurt severely when I did any type of chest exercise. It sucked.

I was used to benching a certain amount of weight, but had to cut it by more than 50%.  I can tell you my ego didn't like it one bit.  I still wanted to workout and knew how to rehab my shoulder.  Within a couple of weeks, my ego agreed to the necessary decreased weight.  But with every gym session I added 2.5 pounds to my bench.  Eventually, I lost track of how much weight I benched and focused on keeping healthy, writing, working, etc.

Several months later, I noticed I was benching a lot more weight than I'd had in my life.  And I workout by myself.  I can't find a training partner that has a similar schedule to mine.  This taught me something.

Small adjustments can add up.

Writing theEpisodeshasn't yielded the audience I was expecting.  That was my first mistake, expecting.  But the audience has grown little by little, even though not all vote.  Despite my desire to bring fame and fortune to my book, I realized something.  My disappointment always vanished when I sat down to write.  My heartbreak wilted when I went to the gym.  My love for story, my love for writing, my love and gratitude for the imagination given to me is precious.

Every day I take steps toward my wants and desires.  Every day I do my best to release my expectations by doing the things I love, andexpressing myself honestly.Every day I go to my day job knowing that I'm providing for my ability to live my night job (job is totally the wrong word here).  Every day small adjustments will be made because small adjustments make a huge difference towardsuccess.

Genius: A Small Ingredient

People will get an awesome idea and get right to work.  Then they realize one truth.  Anything worth having takes work.  It doesn't have to be difficult.  Suddenly, after a few days effort, they stop or quit, stating the inspiration has left them.

What the hell?

There’s a saying. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration.”  Thomas Edison.

To illustrate this, I’m going to paraphrase an example I’ve read by Michael Neill.  Google him.  He’s pretty damn cool.

I have a friend who works at Home Depot.  They have mountains of white paint in the paint department.  How ironic.  When a customer requests blue, for example, my friend places a few drops of blue in the white, and voila, you have blue paint. If the customer changes their minds and wants purple, a few drops of red and there you have it.  Purple.  The drops of colored paint is the inspiration, but the white base is the work.

In all arts, the inspiration is usually short lived.  But your passion and work carries it to fruition.  If people expect ever-flowing inspiration, then eventually the paint turns black.

When I was writing my novel, I had a big problem.  There are three basic types of fantasies.  A professional novelist pointed this out to me:

1.    Strange toad in a familiar garden.

a.     Witches, vampires, and werewolves in the real world.

2.     Familiar toad in a strange garden.

a.     Humans in middle earth, humans in space, humans at the center of the earth.

3.     Strange toad in a strange garden.

a.     Witches, vampires, or werewolves in space.

Mine is the third type. Which just happens to be the hardest because I have to world build the strange toad and the strange garden.  It wasn’t my choice.  It’s not like I sat down and said, “Wow. This sounds fun.  Let’s take the hardest freakin’ thing and jump.”

The story came to me.  And I ran with it.  Now came the hard part.  I needed tons of ideas to create this world.  So I sat down every day, wrote, and ideas came slowly at first.  Then within a few days I was flooded with them.  A lot of other artists has described similar experiences.  I had to buy a notebook or I’d forget them, which quickly filled with disjointednuggets of gold.

Did I use all of them?  Most.

The moral?

Follow through with your flashes of genius.  You’ll never know what will come.  If you need ideas to support your work, ask for them.  They’ll come.

Vampires in space.  Hmmm.

Good Idea vs. Inspiration

Living in a metropolitan area allows me to encounter tons of people.  In talking to them, almost every one I run into have a good idea.  Either they have a book they want to write, an invention that would revolutionize daily life, a hobby they'd like to explore, a business they want to start.  Just to list a few. Question is how many of those people explore or pursue it?

I'd venture a guess that it's 2% or less.

So what's inspiration?  Is it the same as a good idea?

In talking to all these people, a lot of them also have inspirations.  They have a book they want to write, an invention that would revolutionize daily life, a hobby they'd like to explore, a business they want to start.

Again, I'd go on a limb and guess that less than 2% pursue or explore their inspirations.

When you walk into a store, like a Walmart, you're surrounded by tons of merchandise.  Think about this.  Where did all that stuff come from?

A factory in China.

Ha!  Yes but no.  Go further back.  Where did any of those things--George Foreman Grill, flat screen TVs, gum, textiles--really come from?  Someone's mind.  Think about it.  A long time ago someone who loved fish said, "I'd love to have live fish at my house, so I can look at them when I come home."  Hence, fish tanks came to existence.

Any of you know how J.K. Rowling got the idea of Harry Potter?  She had a vision, an inspiration, of this boy.  She then spent the next several hours imagining the world of Harry Potter, spent the next five years writing it.

Look at all the movies that come out every year.  All of them started in someone's head.  Sometimes it took several heads to come up with the story idea.  But it got made and released.

The difference between a good idea or an inspiration becoming real is action.  Go out and do it.