kids, lesson, life, memories, nostalgia, observation, reminiscing, summer, youth

How Do You Make Summer Less Magical?

Two words: “GET OLD.”

I cannot stress the importance of this enough: if you have children who are in school, teach them the value of summer. Teach them to go out and absorb the wonders that surround them every time that season of freedom rolls around.

Why? Because that magic doesn’t last.

I was talking to my 13-year-old son a few weeks back. It was a weekday. I asked him how his day was. He said, “Boring. There was nothing to do. I just sat around all day watching videos on YouTube.”

I said, “That might feel boring now, but you ought to enjoy it. Don’t take it for granted because someday you might WANT to do nothing but watch YouTube, and you won’t be able to, even if it is summertime. Want to know why?” I paused for dramatic effect. Then I said, “Because you will be old like Dad, and you will have a job, and summer won’t mean the same anymore.”

Yes, it’s sad but true: summer has no more magic once you finish high school/college/grad school. Once you have bills to pay and a job to attend, that season means nothing. The only exception would be if you are a teacher, but even they can be busy with “adulting” instead of getting some sun on their faces.

I hate feeling so jaded, but I can’t help it. The only positive thing I see about summer is that I don’t have to go outside earlier than usual and clean mounds of snow off my car. For a moment, I was tempted to say that I don’t have to warm my car UP, but summertime means you have to cool it DOWN, so there is no difference between the seasons (other than the way the temperature gauge moves, of course).

Although we are one-third of the way through September, we are still clinging to summer-type temperatures here in upstate New York. Yesterday I got home early, and I was alone because my girlfriend had an appointment. After taking some time to catch up on emails, I had nothing to do. I found myself standing in my living room, looking out the window at the empty street, my arms folded, my mind slipping into a haze of nostalgia. For a moment, I thought, “Man, I wish I still had a bicycle because I’d take it out for a ride right now.”

Then it dawned on me: no I wouldn’t. If I did, I’d probably enjoy the ride for a block or two before adult thoughts crept in. I’d start looking at my phone to see what time it was. Then I’d start to wonder when I should get back home. I’d start to feel anxiety over any chores I hadn’t done or any writing that I was neglecting by going on this bike ride. Not only did I have to get back home so I could get all that done AND get to bed at a decent time, but I also had to be sure I didn’t go so far that I still felt worn out from my trek the next day. Shoot! What was I thinking, taking my bike out on a weeknight???

You see what I’m trying to tell you, ladies and gentlemen? Please do this, for me and for the love of all that is sacred, teach your kids EVERY DAY to appreciate those “boring” summer days because when they get older, “boring” days will be all they wish for!

Billy Corgan, criticism, misunderstanding, observation, reviews, writing

The Right to Disagree Depends on Your Fame

Recently, someone wrote a review about one of my stories. Before they got to the story itself, they said someone sent them a blog in which I gave a rebuttal to a reviewer. (I’m guessing it was “How Reviews SHOULD Be Done.”) While the reviewer did wind up proving that he understood my story and even complimenting it quite well, there was one thing he said that stuck with me: he said that this rebuttal blog was a “red flag.”

I can only assume this statement means something like: “Uh oh, here is a super sensitive writer who can’t handle criticism, and he is going to lash out at every reviewer who says his book sucks.” On the contrary, I can take criticism quite well. However, I think there is a right and wrong way to do it. If you give my horror novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real two stars out of five because the main character is not someone with whom you can empathize, then you missed the entire point of the story. You AREN’T supposed to empathize with him. In fact, that is written in the synopsis.

With that said, I started to think about other artists who have responded to their negative reviews. Let’s see:

  • Billy Corgan (leader of the Smashing Pumpkins called Jim DeRogatis “that fat fuck from the Chicago Sun-Times” because DeRogatis had said of the Siamese Dream track “Hummer” that the lyrics were sophomoric and stupid.
  • When Roger Ebert gave a scathing review of The Brown Bunny, the director Vincent Gallo said that he hoped Ebert got cancer.
  • When Salon book reviewer Laura Miller wrote a brutal review of Chuck Palahnuik’s Diary, the author sent her a letter which includes the following quote: “Until you can write something that captivates people, I’d invite you to just shut up.”
  • The music magazine Hit Parader was very critical of the band Quiet Riot. In one interview, the lead singer said he loved the Hit Parader because it was good to wipe his ass with!

The thing is, I hardly ever hear anyone coming down on these people for lashing out at their critics. Okay, maybe I do with Billy Corgan because everyone thinks he is an asshole anyway, but I have never heard anyone say what a scumbag Vincent Gallo is for wishing cancer upon Roger Ebert…not even after the critic really did die from cancer. Has anyone come down on Palahnuik for his letter? If so, I never heard of it.

Then I started to think: what is the difference between these artists and myself?

There is really only one thing.

Fame.

Well, there is money too, but usually money comes with the fame.

Some people might be tempted to say, “Well, they are better writers than you,” but I don’t know how that can be judged. For everyone who thinks Fight Club sucked, you might find someone who thinks Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real is a masterpiece. So let’s discard any discussion of who is better for now.

So why are things this way? Why is okay for famous people to fire back, but some unknown writer who may very well have as much talent as the famous figures? Does this mean that, if my books were picked up by a publisher and I was suddenly famous, that I would then have the “right” to post a retort?

No, I don’t think so. And do you know why? Because I think I already have that right. We all do. Even if you wrote just one short story, and someone wound up giving you a lousy review, but in that review they prove they missed the entire point of what you were saying, you would still have the right to a rebuttal.

But hey…maybe that is just me. Maybe I stand alone in this opinion. Who knows? All I know is this: yes, I did write a rebuttal to a critical review, but I don’t see how that should count as a “red flag.”

And the sad thing?

By writing this, I’ll probably have TWO red flags under my belt.

You don’t have to be writer or musician to have an opinion on this blog. If you DO in fact have one, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

 

life, observation, writing

When What Was Fun Becomes a Grind

Sometimes the things we love to do can become a grind. I’m sure this happens to all of us, but I want to give an example about what I mean from my life. It is about writing. Now I’m willing to bet that not a lot of people reading this are writers, but stick with me, and I bet you can relate. Just replace “writing” with something you love, and you can probably think of a time when you were in the same spot.

For a while now, I have been following this morning routine:

  • Submit my novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real to 10 book review sites
  • Reformat at least 5 pages of my novel The Humanitarian Murders so it displays properly on Amazon
  • Post a new blog on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

However, when I got up this morning, I realized I didn’t want to do any of these! Yet here I am, slogging through it, because I turned my reluctance to blog into the TOPIC of my blog. Clever, eh?

Well, it’s not clever enough. I still need to think a way out of this rut. It’s not that blogging itself is a chore or that I have already lost the fire to do it. In fact, I don’t think this lack of ambition is tied to the blogging part at all. This is related more to the formatting and submitting part.

When it comes to site submissions, I am almost done. I had a list of a whopping 630 book reviewer sites. Today, I just finished reaching out to numbers 531-540. However, the reformatting is what kills me.

Before I was working on the novel, I was reformatting my poetry collections. I have 30 of them, but I got bored working on them, so I decided to flip-flop between poetry and prose. How so? Easy:

  • Format 5 collections of poetry
  • Format a novel
  • Repeat

Sounds simple, right? I mean, the poetry collections are only about 30 pages each in MS Word, so I can tear through them. The snag came when I got to the first novel. Why? Well, because those are longer, and they have a LOT more words per page than poetry.

For now, I am going to stick to my plan, which is formatting and then releasing The Humanitarian Murders. I will also finish submitting to the remaining 90 blog sites. However, after that I don’t know what the plan is, and I need one. I’ve got  3 more novels and 12 more poetry collections to reformat, and then of course I have to go through the motions of submitting these to review sites. That is where I get one break: once I make it through the list, I can go back and remove any sites that are now defunct, or any that were duplicates, or that don’t accept my genre.

But enough about me.

I’d like to hear from YOU. Can you relate? Is there anything in your life that normally brings you boundless joy, but sometimes feels like a chore?

Leave a comment!

habits, life, observation

A Day to Myself = A Day I Get Nothing Done

On the days when I work, I can accomplish the following:

  • Practice martial arts for at least a half hour
  • Read 50 pages or more in a book
  • Write three pages for a story I’m working on
  • Film a couple videos for my YouTube channel
  • Run errands
  • Post 3 times EACH on Facebook and Twitter
  • Spend time with my girlfriend

And what do I do on a day like today, when I have it off and I could accomplish anything I wanted?

NOTHING!!!

Oh, wait. I texted a contractor about some work he was supposed to do on my house, took down some recycling, and texted hello to my kids. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary.

Why is that? I don’t get it! How can I have more ambition on the days when I have less time?

Can anyone help me solve this mystery? I really need to solve it because there are a lot of holidays that will go to waste if I can’t figure out where my motivation goes. It doesn’t even do me any good to project into the future and imagine the regret I will feel; I just sit there thinking, “Well, I’ll deal with that when the time comes.”

I just need to figure this out!

busy, habits, observation

Being Too Busy or Too NOT Busy Causes Me Anxiety

I’m sitting here in front of my computer, wondering what to write. I have no idea. I’m stumped. This is the only thing I have to do this morning, and yet my blank mind means I can’t get it done. The funny thing is that if I left for work before writing it, then I would have anxiety all day over how I had to finish it when I got home.

That seems to be how my mind works.

One weekend per month, my kids don’t come over. This is that weekend. It also happens to be a holiday weekend. Since neither my girlfriend or I work on Monday, I decided that I was going to kick some major butt when I got home last night, and I would complete all the tasks I planned on doing over the weekend. That way, when I get home from work tonight, she can have me all to herself.

I made this decision around noon yesterday, while I still had four hours to go at work and could therefore get none of it done. What were the tasks at hand?

  • Finish writing a new novella
  • Submit my old novella to a whopping 65 review sites
  • Discuss some money plans with my girlfriend
  • Rearrange some things around the apartment
  • Format a few more pages of my novel for publication on Amazon

For the last four hours of the shift, I was neurotic about getting home to get all this done. When I got home, I was a whirlwind of activity. My girlfriend made dinner while I tore through the apartment. She told me dinner was ready, and I didn’t want to stop long enough to eat, even though my stomach was growling so bad that it hurt. I just wanted to get everything DONE.

And you know what? I did. I completed all those tasks I just listed and then some, making it so the only thing I had to do this morning was write my usual Friday blog post. So how do I feel about that? Do I feel relieved? Accomplished? Proud?

No. I feel bored!

Now is this because I think clearing my schedule so I can go straight to spending time with my girlfriend is boring? No. Not at all. It has nothing to do with her. How do I know that? Because I have been this way for YEARS. If you ask “how many,” then my answer is: “as long as I can remember.” For some reason, I just can’t be without a dozen projects to complete, even if I know that dividing my time means I take that much longer to complete each project.

I can’t explain why. Maybe it has been the fault of my ADHD, but then again I am on medication for that now. With that in mind, I would say that my need to spread myself too thin is a habit. Now it’s my goal to break that addiction!

Do any of you have a similar compulsion: anxious when you have too much to do, bored when you have too little?

I’d love to hear about it. Please comment below!

~~~Steve

 

everyone, habits, life, observation, universal

Strange Habits We All Have

Ugh…I didn’t get to do anything that I wanted to do this morning because, for some reason, my alarm was set to go off only on Saturdays and Sundays. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how the day goes), I woke up just in time to get ready and not be late for work.

Still, it irked me to no end that I missed out on my morning ritual of getting up, having a cup of coffee, and then taking care of various tasks. Writing this blog is one of them. The other two are: (1) submitting my novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real to ten blog sites that accept submissions for reviews and (2) properly formatting at least 5 pages of a novel I uploaded to Amazon.

Out of everything I just wrote in that last paragraph, there is one word that stands out: “ritual.” Routine. Habit. This is what inspired today’s blog because it got me wondering: “What peculiar habits do other people have?” I just revealed a few of mine, although you might not realize it. Let me describe things a little deeper, and you will see what I mean.

Submit to at least 10 book review websites

How is this a peculiar habit? Simple: I have a list of over 600 websites that accept submissions for review. However, I can’t think of the list as a whole. If I did, then it would be too overwhelming for me. (“My God…600 websites to submit my book for review!!! I’ll never finish!”)

Also, aside from having to submit books I already wrote for review, I’m also thinking of ones I want to publish. When I upload them to Amazon, I know the formatting doesn’t translate exactly how I want it when I view it on Kindle. That means having to revise and reformat (more on that shortly).

Last but not least, as of this writing I do this only on weekday mornings. That’s because I have my kids on the weekends. The last thing I want to do is ignore them while I type away on a computer.

Therefore, I had to break down the list to a number that would accomplish three things:

  • It wouldn’t feel so daunting.
  • It would leave me with time to work on other things.
  • It would leave me with a sense of accomplishment by the time I was done on Friday morning.

I settled on the number 10. Multiply that by 5 weekdays, and you get 50. That means in two weeks, I have reached out to 100 sites. At a rate of 100 every two weeks, that means I will have contacted all these sites in approximately 12 weeks/3 months. Then I can give myself two weeks off, and start from the top again.

Formatting at least 5 pages of a novel I uploaded to Amazon

In MS Word, the novel comes to 195 pages. If I do 5 pages per weekday, that means I do 25 per week. 4 weeks would be 100. That means I would finish reformatting in about 8 weeks/2 months. That might seem “long,” but believe me: it takes me a while to slog through those 5 pages because I am very particular about how the writing will look on the Kindle. This means I agonize over those 5 pages. If I tried to do more than that, I’d burn out.

Miscellaneous

Here are some other areas where I have strange habits:

  • When it comes to debts, like a credit card, I plan out how much I am going to pay them by dividing the amount I owe by 10.
  • When I read a book, I count the number of pages and divide that by 10. If there is a remainder, then I read a couple extra pages on the first day. (EXAMPLE: A book is 303 pages long. Divided by 10, that would be 30 days, but there are 3 pages left, so I will read 13 pages on day 1.)
  • Let’s say I come up with a list of CDs, movies, and books that I want to buy. What I will do is look at my calendar for my next few paydays, and I will pick one item from each list to buy on those days.

What quirks/strange habits do YOU have?

Please feel free to share them below. I promise: there will be no judgment here!

~~~Steve