To Conform or Not To Conform

One of my friends read my post Don't Be You where I talk about conformity. He messaged me later saying that he felt good about conforming to societal norms.

The bratty little boy within me rolled his eyes and said, "Of course you do." He tends to be afraid of rocking the boat.

Then my grown enlightened self, dressed in a nice sun dress—don't ask, reminded me that I'm not a rebel. And she was right. I stop at stop lights. I don't go around beating people up. I open da door for da ladies. I work so I don't have to steal food.

There are moments where I'll follow the rules because it's advantageous for me. Like stepping on the brakes when seeing a red light helps prevent other cars from colliding into me. But a lot of times I tell it like it is, even if it hurts, because I feel it's the right thing to do.

When I hired my writing coach, she told it like it was, like a cold machete shredding my pages. Did it hurt? Hell yeah. And that's perfectly fine because I learned so much. She was never discouraging, however.

Living your life, ignoring what society tells you what you should do, is something I always preach. In other words Be You.

I think the divorce rate is so high because so many people get married because they think they should at a certain age. And if you ask people at what age is marriage appropriate, you'll get wildly different answers. Or they'll get married because they've been with this person for this long so why not?

On the flip side, the divorce rates during your grandparents' generation may have been low because it was the norm to stay with your spouses till death parted them. And they could have been better off by breaking their marriages.

I think the worst thing that could happen is if you live a life society, or your parents, has dictated. You may be missing out on a big adventure. Will mistakes happen? For sure. So what? Mistakes can guide you, help you see far enough to make corrections. Imagine a baby trying to walk. They'll fall a thousand times. And they needed to in order to master the art of walking.

I remember learning how to snowboard. Gazing down the bunny slope was like looking down from the top of Mount Everest. I must have fell a hundred times my first day. Now, bunny slopes feel like the shallow end of the pool. Good place to warm up. Not the best place to find excitement. Unless you're having sex there, but that's a different thing.

I've told my boss that I see my job as a job, a means to earn money so I can eat, have a place to call my own, and the freedom to write. You'd think that was a mistake because if there are layoffs, I'd be the first one on the beheading block. Eddard Stark!

But I center my life around writing, spend a lot of my free time working on my novel. I wake up early to go to work so I can get off early. I go to the gym before it gets crowded by the 9-to-5ers. Then I eat and head over to Starbucks and write.

Being a writer is pretty unique. Yes, I'm tooting my own horn. You tend to find a lot of people that want to write or have a book inside them. Not literally, of course. That would hurt and cause indigestion. From that group you find that many have started the process. Then a smaller group may have written a first draft. Then even fewer who have done rewrites and edits. Still fewer are those who hire writing coaches and workshop their books.

And I think that's why we love celebrities. We celebrate their courage to achieve their own dreams. Because living a conventional life of conformity ain't gonna do that for you. I'm not saying you need to live an amazing life by society's definition. But live a life that amazes you.

The Shunned

Since postponing the move to Hawaii, I've gone on a bevy of hikes, happy hours, house parties, game nights, BBQs, writing groups, and whatever else you can think of. Well...no swinger parties, but not because I wouldn't...just don't really know where they're held. Aside from that, I seem to have a hard time connecting with people, save the writing groups. Interesting discussions and analysis are always had, and I've always connected with people in those groups as they've helped my writing. Maybe because we all have a singular goal, I'm not sure, but I look forward to those whether I've submitted something for critiquing or not.

Damn Dat is One Skinny Pencil
Damn Dat is One Skinny Pencil

Recently, I've really had a hard time connecting with non-writers. On an urban hike to sightsee holiday lights, I ran into an acquaintance of mine and said Hi to his clique of photographers. Fellow artists, right? They joked about who had the longest lens, and one guy asked another if he was happy to see him. If you haven't figured this out, ladies, they were all men. So I quipped, "It's the girth. Girth is more important."

The breeze blew. Crickets fell silent. Even the stars seemed to stop twinkling. Girth. It's a double entendre. Common! The width of the lens is an important factor. Same goes for the penis. Ask any woman. Pencil dick is a real term.

What Tha
What Tha

They stared at me like I was an uninvited guest. I was, and my attempt at inserting myself into their banter failed. Or maybe they all had pencil dicks and wondered how I knew.

Aren't we all artists? Can't we just get along?

In high school, I always found myself with the nerds and geeks, not that I had a problem with that. I loved my friends and loved being passionate about geeky stuff. But, at this point, my inability to connect with fellow artists was the tipping point.

There's gotta be sumthin' wrong wif me. A Jew even scolded that my sarcasm could be construed as truth. Uh...yeah. Sarcasm. Look it up.

What do I need to change to gain acceptance? Am I too aggressive? Too assertive? Can people sense the anger boiling behind the humor? Do others feel my antisocial tendencies? Or am I so set in my ways that I just choose not to connect with people?

Then I got a hold of myself and shook. I found that to be rather difficult, easier to do to another person. Thinking back to the people that I had talked to, I wouldn't hang out with most of them. I didn't feel any type of connection to the group of photographers even before I said one word like the woman from the hike and dinner, whom I wouldn't touch with a ten foot electric cattle prod. OK. I would but that's because she's a freakin' bitch. In fact, the only people I seem to connect with are people of depth. Often times, peeps ain't open to discussing anything that deeply, which is kinda sad.

Chatting it up with a dude one time, I asked him why he thought his son needed to choose a practical career. "So he can get a slice of the financial pie." But is that going to make him happy? "You're thinking too deeply about it. He needs to support himself." I didn't dispute that, but if talking about happiness was too deep a subject, then, shit, what isn't? The weather?

Sun sure is bright and yeller.

Yeeup. And circular like a circle.

Is That Poo?
Is That Poo?

For a moment, I feared that I scare people away. Then Oakland came to mind. Whenever I looked lost in the murder capital, brothahs have always helped me out. And one guy who was late meeting up with his buddy asked if he could use my phone, then offered to pay me a buck for letting him. Common. I gots me unlimited minutos.

A part of the issue is people are afraid to feel. They don't mind feeling good, but anything that makes them feel bad, NO, stay away. Unfortunately, bad feelings do come up. That is the nature of being human, just like the nature of the weather is that sometimes it's sunny, sometimes it rains. We need both in order to grow.

Think about Hawaii. Everyone thinks it's a sunny local, and never in their minds would tha islands rain and have overcast. But they do. And it's not bad, nor is it good. It's just the nature of weather. Dammit! Somehow I made the weather a deep subject.

Coming back to my problem of not connecting, I realized there was nothing for me to do. For one, it isn't a problem. Trying to run away from a bear that can run faster than the fastest human without breaking a sweat is a problem. I'm going to connect to some people, but, at the moment, I don't connect to most. Changing myself, applying a filter, is the worst thing I can do because, as a writer, I have to allow my creativity to fly. Are there times when I need to filter myself. Of course. But at an outing when we're celebrating life? Fuck no.

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.

The Unbeaten Path

In my postAre You a Complainer,I ask the question, "Are you a complainer?"  Some of you may complain that the last sentence was a bit redundant.  My friend made a comment:  Odd that people would accept a habit that makes them feel miserable.  I think the reason may be people are comfortable.

People want the above picture.  A road that lights up that leads to their destination.

People will even follow a road like this, which I think reflects life a bit more.

But if you were the rock, which path would you follow?  The straight path?  The curvy one?  How about the third?

I was reading another writer's post, and they were talking about why writers write, knowing thechancesany kind of success is freakin' low.

Here's my view: Learn the lesson of the turtle.

I wrote The 7th Province and will continue to write the two books in this series and the prequels because some how for some reason these stories were given to me to write.  I write these posts because when I come across something that invokes a thought close to my heart, I write about it.

It is what it is cuz it ain't what it ain't.

Duh.

Despite the millions of books that are written each year, writing is the unbeaten path.

When I went to the San Francisco Writer's Conference, I talked to a lot of writers.  Many were published.  Many had written books.  But I was also surprised to find that many writers hadn't even begun.  Was it their destiny to write?  That's not for me to answer.  But it seems that those who write, write because they are inspired to.

God!  Here's that freakin' word 'inspire'.

That word invokes an internal meaning.  It's not 'outspire', which isn't even a word.  Nor is it perspire, which invokes strange odors.  But it's inspire.  In.

In The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi asks Daniel to close his eyes and imagine a perfect picture of a bonsai tree.

Mr. Miyagi:  Wipe your mind clean.  Everything but the tree.  Nothing exists in whole world...only tree.  You got it?  Open eyes.  Remember picture?

Daniel-san:  Yeah.

Mr. Miyagi:  Make like picture.  Just trust the picture.

Daniel-san:  How do I know my picture's the right one?

Mr. Miyagi:  If come from inside you, always right one.

Do what you love, love what you do.

Literary Agents Are People, Too

Today, I’ve uploaded my second favorite lecture from the San Francisco Writer’s Conference.  It’s not a lecture but a panel of literary agents from fiction to non-fiction, from Christian literature to inspirational.

We were allowed to ask questions on what they wanted to see in books, how to submit queries, synopsis, and they talked about platforms and self-publishing.  All of it will give you a glimpse into what they’re looking for.

I do want to warn you that a hyena sat next to me who didn’t have the most pleasant of breath.  Imagine me sitting, and every time you hear him laugh, his fiery breath singed the left side of my face.  However, it didn’t take away from what I learned.

The surprising thing about the whole experience is that the answers to some of these questions varied widely.  Amazingly, agents are just like people.  So finding the right agent is just a matter of sifting through all the wrong ones.  For most successful authors, they tend to stick with their agents for a long time.  Again it’s just a testament that perseverance is vital in the achievement of our dreams.

And the other thing that I learned from the whole conference is how much of an author’s success rests in the author’s hand.  One person went as far to state that 90% of our success sits with us.  If you're curious to how, go to my posts on Brenda Novak and Branding.

agent-panel-part-1

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Branding...The Stuff that Makes Cows Go Moo

Can you imagine taking a red hot metal 7 and sticking it on your supple skin for a few seconds, so that  can be displayed till the day you die?  Much like tattoos. I love tattoos and have a couple.  Anyone have them?  It took me five years to decide on my first one.  My friend and I stayed up all night designing it on the computer.  The next day we were going to go to a car show.  But before we'd arrived, I went to a tattoo shop, slapped the print out down, pointed to my arm, and said, "I want this here."

The tattoo artist looked at the picture we spent hours on and simply said, "That's not going to work."

Man!

My hopes for a tattoo flushed down the toilet.  He asked me what I wanted.

"Just an armband, but I want it to frame two Chinese characters for Inner Strength." It's part of the tattoo culture in my book, where family emblems are framed by the arm band. The idea was spawned by Superman.

"Hmmm."  The guy straightened his glasses, tightened his headband, took a pen and quickly sketched on the back of my print out.  It took him like ten seconds.  "I think this is what you're looking for."

"Yeah!"  And damn.  That was quick.  That was about ten years ago.  And I still love it.  Inner strength. Not surprisingly, it's a theme that the 7th Province explores.

Below, you'll see an an audio to a woman who did a lecture on branding.  Talk about inner strength.  This woman exuded serious determination, passion and confidence.  Her name is Philippa Burgess.  Check her out at www.creativecvg.com.

I've broken up the 42 minute audio into three parts. Feel free to download them. She was part of the San Francisco Writer's Conference.

branding-part-1

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branding-part-3

Richard Paul Evans Key Note

Richard Paul Evans is a New York Times Bestselling author.  His first book is called The Christmas Box. His subsequent books - Grace:  A Novel, The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth, The Last Promise - just to name a few, have also gone on the best seller list.  His keynote speech at the San Francisco Writer's Conference was awesome. He discusses what he did to get his book out to the world.  Richard was cool enough to tell a few other stories.  Some were touching and others funny.  He also  gave some inspiring advice to us authors.  I highly recommend listening him.

richard-paul-evans

Tell me what you think.  Please forgive the poor recording.  All three hundred of us were having lunch.

Tomorrow, I'll upload a lecture about branding.