Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Almost Forgot

“Father, I pray this will bless You.
I pray this will bless the world.
I pray this will bless my family and friends.
I pray this will bless my Muse and me.
Guide my head, my heart, and my hands.
In Your Name, Amen.

Prayer I pray every day before I start writing

I almost forgot.  I almost forgot why I’m doing this.  Sometimes I can get caught up in things and lose sight of my true goal.  I start focusing on secondary goals.  In this case, I forgot my main purpose in writing and I focused on the secondary purposes.  My main purpose in writing is love.  I do this because I love God who gave me this gift and I want to honor him by using it.  I love the world and my hope is that my work will bless as many people as possible.  I love my family and friends and I hope this will encourage them.  And I love my Muse and myself and I hope this will encourage us, bring us healing, and keep me moving forward. 
My secondary goal is to make money.  I see nothing wrong with this goal, nor do I see anything wrong in the desire for or the honest acquisition of as much money as I can get.  I will not hide my desire for money.  Money would solve a lot of my problems, because the more I had, the more choices I would have.  I would have more choices with my time and that is what is most important to me.  But my life is what it is right now and I believe I am being tested.  If I wisely use the time and freedom I have now, perhaps I will be given more in the future.  But for now, I have to do well with the time I have.  The good news is this:  I can choose.  I have the same amount of time as every single person in the world, 24 hours per day.  I can get a lot or a little done in that time. 
Theodore Roosevelt said, “It’s surprising how much reading a man can do in time usually wasted.” 
It’s surprising how much of anything we can do in time usually wasted.  From The Power of Five, I learned that often if I take just five minutes, I can clean the whole kitchen or my car.  And if I can’t finish the job in five minutes, at least things look a lot nicer.  Often, however, my enthusiasm over what I’ve done in five minutes motivates me to put in more time until the job is finished.  Time really is one of the most precious gifts we have.
This is why I bring a book with me almost wherever I go.  If I can’t read, then I often listen to audiobooks.  I write almost every morning and I usually do at least one blog a day.  I try to use as much time as I can to better myself and contribute more to the world.  Why?  Again, love.  I love myself and I love others and I want to make a difference.  I’m not perfect.  I fail in many ways, including my use of time, but my failures don’t keep me from trying.
They almost did.
As I mentioned in a previous blog ( I’ve had serious doubts about my writing.  They started when a well-meaning friend told me why my blogs weren’t financially successful.  That created some doubts for me about my work.  I was no longer sure if what I was doing was helpful or relevant.  Did I need to take things to “a new level?” Did I need to be more “professional?”  I sought mentoring but was turned down or ignored.  All I could do was keep working. 
Or I could give up.
I decided not to give up for an odd reason:  fear.  I’m afraid of being a quitter.  I’m still struggling with my message and how I want to deliver it, but I’m not quitting.
There was a third goal I had with my writing – to remind others, and myself, to Get Started and Keep Going.  I’ve gotten started but I forgot how important it is to keep going, even when discouragement sets in.  I have goals – personal, professional, spiritual, and financial – and I need to keep them in mind and keep moving forward.  That’s all I need to do.  I can even add more goals.  In fact, the more goals I add, short-term or long term, the more I can get done.

I was reminded that what I do means something – to God, to the world, to my family and friends, and to my Muse and me.  I almost forgot.  Almost.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Knew a Man

“I’ve had enough of living,
I’ve had enough of dying,
I’ve had enough of smiling,
And acting like I’m tough.”

Pete Townshend – I’ve Had Enough

I knew a man.  He was a good man, but he was, like many of us, a damaged man.   He also was, like many of us, a talented man.  But, for whatever reason, he did not pursue his talent, his love, with his whole heart.  Perhaps his obligations made him believe he didn’t have the time.  Perhaps he didn’t get the support he wanted or felt he needed.  Perhaps he thought he didn’t have enough talent.  Perhaps he had had too much pain in his life and he couldn’t focus on anything else.  Perhaps he equated success with money and if he couldn’t make money from his talent, he thought it wasn’t worth pursuing. 
This may be judgmental and unfair, but I believe this man gave up because it got too hard.  He also gave up because he had neither a vision nor a plan.  First, one needs a vision, a visualization, a picture in the head of how something may look.  It may change over time, but something needs to be there in the beginning.  Then a plan is needed.  The more specific, concrete, and quantifiable the plan is, the greater the chance there is for success.  A vision without a plan is pointless.  So is a plan without a vision.  Eventually, even though he tried in fits and starts, he never lasted long because he didn’t know what he was doing or why he was doing it.
What he needed was a crisis, a grand crisis.  I don’t mean the ordinary events of life, such as sick kids or job problems or relationship troubles; I mean something huge, something so overwhelming it would make him sick and miserable and despairing of life.  Then there would come a moment when he would have to make a change or live out his life complaining and wondering and shutting off his heart from the world.  He would have to make a change or he would die, spiritually, emotionally, and perhaps literally.  His own misery would slowly kill him.
I knew a man.
This man was me.
But I am very fortunate.  I faced a grand crisis and I decided I had had enough of complaining and wondering and shutting my heart off from the world.  I had enough of dying.  And for a reason I will never understand I was greatly blessed with two huge advantages.  First, I had a Muse who loved me and would not let me settle for anything less than my best.  Second, I was blessed with the common sense to listen after too many years.
This man (or woman) is also you.  He or she is all of us who have not yet pursued their calling, who have not yet created a vision or a plan, who have not yet been able to Get Started and Keep Going.  That man or woman is you.  But it doesn’t have to be.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Reasons I’m not going to write tonight:

Reasons I’m not going to write tonight:
1.     I’m tired.
2.     I’m discouraged that my writing doesn’t seem to be getting much notice.
3.     I may be fighting the Enemy.
4.     I want to get up early so I can write tomorrow.
5.     I need some new ideas.
6.     My life may be taking a new direction.
7.     I might be scared.
8.     I might write less, but not stop writing and be one of those guys like Theodore Roosevelt, who does many things in his lifetime.

So it turns out that I am writing, but only for a little while and only so my Muse knows that I love her.  She may be pointing me in a new direction, but I will need to take some of the same tools.  I may need to utilize what I’ve been learning in the last two years.  My next life path may require even more diligence.
I may have to Get Started and Keep Going even more than I’m doing now.  I may be in for an even harder journey.

I can’t wait.

20 Miles a Day

I’m having doubts about my writing…serious doubts.  Sometimes I feel like it hasn’t gone anywhere for a long time.  Sometimes this feels like a marathon.  Steven Pressfield took almost 30 years before he got noticed.  Some writers never get noticed.  Still… I don’t care.  Even with my doubts, I have made the decision to keep writing. 
I am also doing a lot more reading.  I’ve made the commitment to read at least 30 pages a day.  I’ve only missed one day of that so far.  What I’ve learned is that I don’t have time to waste.  Even when I think I have a lot of spare time, I don’t.  When I don’t use my free time wisely, because I think I have time to spare, something almost always happens to make me regret not using my time more constructively.  When I do use my time well, it often seems to multiply and when it doesn’t, then I’m even happier that I used it well.
Oddly, I learned this concept a long time ago, but I had forgotten it.  But now I remember the event and what I learned.
Over fifteen years ago I did a 3-day, 60-mile walk for breast cancer.  I did it for no other reason than I thought it would be fun to walk 60 miles.  I’m not sure if “fun” is the word I’d use to describe my experience.  Perhaps the word “educational” or “enlightening” was closer to the mark.  I was also motivated by the idea that this would unify my co-workers because there was a lot of unpleasantness at my the-current workplace.  That didn’t happen.  In fact, my two strongest opponents to the idea were a feminist and a woman who was dealing with breast cancer.  I also had to raise funds and that took a lot of time and effort.  Despite the obstacles and setbacks, I raised what I needed.  I filled out my paperwork and I was ready.  There was only one thing I didn’t do – train for the walk.
Yes, I walked, usually every day.  In fact, I even walked one day when I had the flu.  But I didn’t really know how to train to walk 20 miles a day for three days in a row.  I had done a 20-mile walk when I was in my 20’s, but that was only one day; this would be three. 
But the day came and the walk was on.  My first day was difficult and slow.   There were lots of rest stops with lots of friendly people and I stopped at most of them, thinking I had plenty of time.  At around the 18th mile, I was feeling extreme pain in my ankle and I had to stop for a while, but then I continued and finished for the day.  I couldn’t sleep because there were people all around me and some of them were snoring loudly.  I finally found a place off by myself and fell asleep.
The second day was the hardest.  There were a lot of hills and the walk was actually 22 miles that day to compensate for the two miles we wouldn’t walk the next day, which would be 18 miles.  Again, I stopped at every pit stop and got water or socialized with others, still thinking I had plenty of time.  It was very slow going.  At the end of the day I was exhausted and discouraged.  I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to finish the next day.  We were fed and entertained.  During the entertainment, an aerobics instructor coached us on how to walk more effectively in these kinds of events.  I finally got the training I needed. 
The next day I had a lot more enthusiasm…and a plan.  There were two parts to my plan.  First I was going to use the aerobics instructor’s advice on how to walk more effectively.  Second, I wasn’t going to stop unless I had to eat or use the restroom.  I was going to take advantage of every moment.  It’s good to have enthusiasm and it’s good to have a plan, but the two together are unbeatable. 
On the third day I did my best time.  I walked faster and more confidently and I wasted very little time.  Instead of taking eight hours to finish, I finished in about six.  Even with the shorter course, that was a good time, because I used my time well.  Coming in at the finish line was one of the proudest moments of my life.
At the beginning of this blog, I said I had serious doubts about my writing.  Those doubts don’t matter.  I’m still using my time well.  I’m still going fast and furious and not letting anything, not even doubts or fear, keep me from reaching my goals.  Today I felt particularly frustrated and I thought, “Why aren’t I there yet?”
I’m probably not where I want to be because I’m not ready yet.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not working towards it.  Unlike the 3-Day Walk, I’m training this time.  I’m working every day.  Every day I Get Started and I Keep Going…even if I have to walk 20 miles a day.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Nice Surprise - 400 and 463

“I think that growth and spiritual awareness come in slow increments.
Sometimes you don't know it's happening.”

Mariel Hemingway

Recently I had a nice surprise.  I wrote a blog.  (That’s not the surprise.)  It wasn’t my longest blog.  It may have not even been my best blog.  (Also, not the surprise.)   But I got it done.  (Still not the surprise.)  Ironically, it was called I’m falling asleep… because I was. ( But, as I said, I got it done. (Almost there.)   The next day, while looking at my blog page, I realized that this was the 400th blog I’d written this year.  It was the 463rd blog I’d written since that time a year ago.  I have been writing and writing.  And this doesn’t even include the hundreds of pages I’ve written by hand this year.
Am I bragging?  Maybe a little, but that’s not the main purpose here.
Here’s the thing.  I wasn’t counting.  I was just working.  That’s what I do every day.  I work.  Some days I do more than others.  But every day I work.  And I’m adding more work and more goals to my days.  I want to accomplish things so that I have something to contribute to the world, so that I can make a difference.  I want my life to mean something.  It’s not that my life is meaningless now, but it is my job to give it the meaning God intended for it. 
So I work.  It doesn’t often feel like work because I’m doing what I love, but it takes the same amount of discipline as if it were a paying job that I loved…or hated.  I still have to show up.   If I want to be effective I can’t waste time.  And the only things that count in work are that I do my job well and I produce as much as possible.  Quality and quantity.  That’s it and that’s enough.  So though I have been known to say that a particular blog may not be my best blog ever, that doesn’t mean I turn in anything that I’m ashamed of.  I do my best every time and I do it almost every day.
It should be noted – and again, I am not bragging, but trying to set an example and show what is necessary – that I write every day.  I write when I can, which is usually on early mornings, late evenings, and weekends.  I can choose to do other things during my “spare time,” but I don’t see how wasting time will bring any of us closer to our goals, make us happier, or make us more useful in this world.
Currently I’m considering new possibilities, not because I’m giving up on writing, but because I want to see what other options are available.  I’m going to add more to my plate rather than take things off.  This means I need to use my time even more effectively.  But I know this – time is the one thing we all have in common.  We all have 24 hours in each day.  And we all have one day at a time.  So it behooves us to use each day, each moment, as wisely and as well as we can.  We can use each moment we’re given to take care of others or take care of ourselves.  When I waste time, I’m doing neither. So I’m writing one more blog because I believe it’s the best use of my time, the best way of taking care of myself and others, and most of all, the best way of doing what I’m supposed to be doing with my life and my gifts – the life and gift God has given me.

I Get Started and I Keep Going…and…who knows?  Perhaps one day soon, I’ll have another nice surprise.