Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Note to self: Chill out!

This is a post regarding stress.

Stress often begins with money. We stress about money, because in today's society, we use currency to purchase food and shelter that allows us to survive.

And if you run out of money, you die!

At least, that's how it feels. More likely you will wind up in a smaller house, or apartment, or on your buddy's couch for a while.

If it isn't money, it's relationships. As a moderately social organism, humans require a fair amount of companionship. It stinks when you don't have a companion. You get lonely. You get bored.

And if you get lonely and bored, you die!

Not really, but that's how it feels sometimes, especially if your heart got broke all hard and stuff.

And if it isn't money, and it isn't a relationship, it's work.

Work is married to money, and they're in bed together, but when they have sex, work comes first and leaves money unsatisfied. Money, out of low self-esteem, cheats with Uncle Sam, but he's a user and a liar, full of empty promises and racked with venereal disease. So she seeks out creditors and bankers, who give her shiny things she thinks will bring comfort, but they nibble away at her until she's been turned from green paper into a sixteen-digit piece of plastic with a magnetic slide reader on the back.

And yet we beg for work when it's gone. Why?

Because without work, You will die!

So now I give you, and I give me, some advice that might save your life.

The first piece of advice is this: Breathe. Drink. Be comfortable.

I say that, because there are only four things you need to survive: Air, water, shelter, food.

In that order, though water and shelter are often swapped. Note that FOOD is at the end of the list! How often we feed for comfort, eh.

Air is always the first thing you need. All human (and mammalian) life dies from one single cause: lack of oxygen to the brain.

So get some oxygen to your brain! Then drink some water. Then find a comfortable shelter, such as a couch or a fluffy bed.

Then get food, but only if you're hungry.

The second piece of advice is this: Enjoy.

Do something you enjoy doing. I hit the gun range, or the gym, or take a nap or a walk. Yours may be a cup of tea, or splurge and get a massage!

The third piece of advice is this: Have lots of sex.

This is easier said than done, folks. But if you have a willing partner, and you beg long enough, and offer something expensive in return, and convince her you will die without it, maybe she'll give in, just this once, if you hurry it up so she can get back to her game of Angry Birds.

Ah, the most wonderful words in any language: Fine. Lock the door.

The fourth piece of advice is this: Escape!

It's about an escape, really. You might read a book, or play in the garden, or do what I do, watch a movie.

Nothing like a round of Zombieland or Beerfest to change your mood.

The fifth piece of advice is this: ??

You tell me, but if all the above doesn't work, this is where I usually earn my MD and initiate the self-medication procedure. Stat.

- Eric

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fame, fortune, power! Gimme gimme!

So if any of you still believe that fame, fortune, or power can bring you happiness, I would rank you as either comatose or naive.

I have to assume that if you are reading this, you are not comatose. Which leaves only the latter, and if you are naive, then watch E! True Hollywood Stories, or watch The Aviator about Howard Hughes, or remember Elvis or Julius Caesar.

See, it's like this. I'm an engineer, and as an engineer, it's my job and my nature to look for correlations. While the data I have is anecdotal, I do make some conclusions based on what I've seen.

And what I have seen is this: There is no correlation between personal happiness and the following: how much money you make, how powerful you are, or how famous you become.

Maybe there is some correlation, as seen in this article: $75,000 Can Make You Happy. I'll give you that. If you make too little, you can stress about day-to-day basic needs.

But as you cross that threshold and start making huge bucks, you buy a bigger box in which to store more stuff. That's what George Carlin says: That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff.

With all that said, I know many of my friends and fellow writers and fellow artists are after that all-powerful big-league signing bonus, a huge mansion, and your name as a household word.

You might not admit it, but that's kind of where you are angling. I admit it. I want some of that.

But I will say this: I really don't care about money. I have enough that I don't hurt, and not so much that I have to guard it and fess over it.

Fame never has suited me -- I prefer anonymity, to be honest.

Power has almost no power over me. With power comes great responsibility. Have you ever really thought about that quote? It's true. If you're the World President, then you have to worry about the entire world. Man. Can I get a capital-bold FUCK THAT!


So if it isn't about fame, or money, or power, what is it about, then?

For me, it's about personal satisfaction. It's about entering a person's head and changing the way they think. It's not about Character Arc for me, but about ~READER~ Arc. I wrote about Reader Arcs a year ago, here: Reader Arcs.

I want the reader to be a little bit different when they put down my work. I want them to be a little bit better, a little bit more curious, a little bit more open.

That's what I want.

How about you? Why are you doing all this? What do you want, really?

- Eric

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My excuses! What are ~yours~?

Excuses excuses! We all have excuses. It's the old adage: Excuses and assholes, everyone has them.

So in that spirit, here are a few of my excuses, used for writing, working out, eating well, avoiding the drink, and being a responsible, mature, human male.

I'm tired!
Classic, right. I am tired. I'm exhausted right now. But that's no excuse. Get more sleep next time; take a pill; drink some coffee; but quit whining and get off your excuse! (Note: Excuse is synonymous with ~ass~, so, well, there you go, get off your excuse, see.)

It's boring!
Lots of things are boring. Sleep is one of them. So are vegetables. Sometimes when you do something boring, it's good for you. If it needs doing, do it. Quit making asses. (Note: Ass is synonymous with ~excuse~...)

I don't enjoy it!
Boy, now you sound like an old wife, don't you. Boo hoo. If it's something you said you would do, and you promised you'd do, do it. Believe me there is no greater satisfaction than doing something well that you hate. Cleaning the house is a classic example, with scrubbing the tub and shitter being the most-hated chores. It sure feels good to sit on a clean potty, now doesn't it.

I don't fee well...
Drink some juice and get to work. Slacker.

I'm too busy!
You're busy because you keep making assholes rather than finishing your projects! Get off your excuse, close out some actions, and you'll be surprised how un-busy you are in just one day.

I left my good brain at home!
My son used to say this when he was five or so. He said he had multiple brains, and sometimes he used the wrong one. For once, I can't argue with this excuse. I mean, if you have the wrong brain, there ain't much you can do about it.

All right, enough about me. What about you? What are your excuses du jour?

This post brought to you by Eric's inner voice, which right now is saying, Get me 1250 words today, slacker-boy!

- Eric

Friday, February 3, 2012

Politics and your image

Here is the question: Should you post political thoughts on your blog?

What about in your writing? Your poems? Your songs?

Should your paintings or drawings or photographs be politically motivated?

The answer is simple: Only if you mean to.

If you insert your beliefs into your writing, do so with panache and subtlety and a great deal of intentional intent.

As an example, in the movie Blind Side, the character played by Tim McGraw makes this remark, after meeting the ultra-liberal Kathy Bates: "Who would've thought we'd have a black son before we knew a Democrat?"

I personally wasn't sure what to think about that line. I'm still not sure what to think about that line.

You might believe I am against bands who are anti-establishment, but there is one key rule they all follow: They are politically neutral in that they hate or love the country, not the people in it.

They do not force their audience to choose sides!

Green Day and Marylin Manson, for example, hate the system. Toby Keith sings songs about patriotism and the American way.

They express opposing beliefs without forcing the audience to choose sides.

They do not attack individuals, or specific groups such as Democrats or Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives.

You as the author (or artist) should always be on the same side as your reader. The person reading your blog, listening to your song, inspecting your artwork, watching your movie, has signed a silent contract that states you will not attack them.

Never -- NEVER -- force them to choose sides!

As an example of how ~not~ to express your political beliefs, I give you The Dixie Chicks and their attack on Bush. When they singled out Bush, they alienated their conservative fan base.

It only takes one post, one line, one concert, to ruin your career.

Be careful during this election year. The blood will boil. Resist the temptation to blog on politics, and certainly don't force your audience to choose between you and their beliefs. That's why we have Political Pundits (PP).

How about you? Are there political biases in your writing/artwork? Should authors/artists avoid becoming too politically polarized? Do you have more good or bad examples?

- Eric

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When are you ~finished~ with your book?

Q: When are you finished with your book?

A: Not even when you die.

Many authors celebrate the completion of their novel after the first draft. A fine example of this fictionalization is Stephen King's Misery, where his MC lights a cigarette and has a glass of wine following the last page of his first draft.

I think we are all smart enough to know the first draft is not your finishing point.

But how about after your first revision?

Again, most of us know you'll at least need two good passes to produce a readable manuscript.

How about after the editor gets through destroying everything you wrote, gutting you like the little fishy you are and feeding your guts to the gulls and laughing as she rips out your spine!

Well, it might sound like you're finished, but you're not. If the book goes to publication, you're just getting started. See, you'll have marketing to work on, and readings, and reviews, and so forth.

So maybe you're finished with that book after it's been in print a few years, right?


Again, we'll go back to King and I'll mention that I only recently read his book 'salem's Lot.

That was his second book, originally published in 1975, and as you can see, he's still not finished with it!

Alright, what about this: You DIE.

Are you finished with your book then?

Nope. A fine example of this is Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

His original draft had been cut from 220kw to 160kw.* After his death, they found his original in his archives, as submitted to the publisher, and released it as "THE ORIGINAL UNCUT VERSION of the bestselling classic."

So even if you die, you might not be finished with your book.

There have been endless rewrites of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and of Shakespeare's plays, and of Homer's work, and you can keep going on and on and on if you like, but I feel my point is driven home.

The fact is this: You are ~never~ finished with your book. Your book is borne into the world and will live on with a life of its own.

As someone once said, I never finish my work. At some point, I just stop working on it.

How about you? Thoughts on this point? Do you feel like you are "finished" with one of your pieces?

- Eric

* Source: Stranger in a Strange Land forward, reprint 1991