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Two Dogs

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Both dogs, at separate times, walk into the same room. One comes out wagging his tail while the other comes out growling. A woman watching this goes into the room to see what could possibly make one dog so happy and the other so mad. To her surprise she finds a room filled with mirrors. The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him while the angry dog saw only angry dogs growling back at him. What you see in the world around you is a reflection of who you are.*

Shorter: Perception is reality.

I had an epiphany at the Day Job a few years ago during a particularly miserable time when management and staff were not in sync. “Loggerheads” is both a reasonable description and an underused word. The circumstances are not as important as the question at the height of the darkness: why do I hate coming to work? Many of us, if not most of us, dread Monday as a culture. The epiphany came when I took a step back and made a list:

  • My job is very interesting. The constant stream of questions and situations challenge me to do my best every day.
  • Most of my colleagues have their heads on straight. There are always exceptions, but they usually have bosses who will listen to reason.
  • The people I’ve been lucky to supervise over the years are the best in business, and most left my team with a promotion. Equally cool: some still talk to me years later.
  • I’ve been blessed with above average bosses 80+% of the time. The mediocre ones never last long.

The list showed me that my perception was the problem about the “going to work” thing. And fortunately for me, my perception is also the solution. Implementing the “get over myself” solution took months, but I’m coming along. My blood pressure is down, there are more good nights of sleep than bad, and I don’t hate Mondays.

One surprise outcome is how this has affected my Night Job. I don’t know if I’m a better or worst writer, content or technique, but I don’t hate opening Word or Google Docs anymore. I do dread opening them up when I lack something to write about, but the “I totally suck at writing” feeling is gone. Confidence is a wonderful tool.

Maybe it’s human nature to seek complex solutions for hard problems, but I found this time that pouring the camel through the eye of the needle wasn’t necessary. I changed my perception of work and I changed my life. And it started when I recognized the problem was me.

(*The parable above is from the internet, as is the puppy picture. Neither were posted with their creator’s name. Please forward their names and I’ll be happy to recognize them. Thank you.) 

Who Are My People?

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It’s said we cannot know where we are going unless we know where we’re coming from, yet I hesitated participating in a genetic study to learn more about my ancestors. Echoes of “Big Brother” holding my most intimate of data – my chromosomes – and I was worried they’d re-engineer them to create a conquering army (it’s been done, you know, a long time ago). The request came from our daughter, and our family’s most successful author (brag), as she is doing her own research on her/our backgrounds.  I spit in the tube and dropped it in the mail after remembering the amount of my blood that’s flowed in hospitals and donation sites.

Before the results, this is what I knew about the family tree: diddly squat. The Bride is our in-house ancestry researcher, and she found my family’s strong European roots, including a direct line to the American Revolution (hey, DAR, how you doin’?) and a Civil War doctor (Union, natch). Frankly, I’ve never been interested either way. Her work was interesting, but nothing changed the fact that I’m a tight-ass white guy.

Then the results rolled in. And they were a tad unexpected.

Here’s Generations One and Two from the 1900s. Nothing weird. Yet.

Generations Three, Four, and Five from the 1800s. Did not see that coming.

Recapping: when my ancestors weren’t trying to kill each other, they were having sex. There’s a thin line between love and hate, you know.

Then my ancestry went north, south, east, and west.

Jaw Dropper.

As you see below, the genetic percentages for some of these folks is fairly small, but, hey, let’s hear it for my randy great-grandparents.

The reality check here is not where my ancestors may have called home, but where they conceived and raised their descendants. It’s possible my ancestral lands are in Africa, Scandinavia, and Italy, but I think it’s more likely my ancestors were ashore in Europe and the Americas, and in tragic conditions (slavery and/or as indentured servants).

It’s likely they looked to the sky and prayed for a better life for their children and grandchildren, one of freedom and choice, and with less pain in their children’s lives than their own. If true, Grandmothers and Grandfathers, those of us in the 21st Century thank you for your strength, perseverance, and sacrifice. We thrive because of you, and now that I know you, you will never be forgotten. God bless.

NSFW

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OFLC_X18_Rating

Because I’ve been absent from the writing social networks doesn’t mean I’ve been absent from writing. Last month I wrote a 60-70K-word novel that’s publishable once I finish editing it. There’s strong characters, a (mostly) believable plot, and it’s the culmination of the technical stuff I’ve learn from the writing craft. Not saying it’s my best work, but it doesn’t suck, either.

But it’s Not Safe for Work (NSFW) due to pornography of a sexual and violent nature.

I’m having a problem with this genre because I believe personal ethics are best displayed through actions, not words. I have held, and continue to hold, a position of trust and have done so for most my adult life. This is not by accident. At the other end of reality: I am probably the least successful writer you will ever meet. It’s not for lack of passion or energy or expenditure. The market is flooded with thousands of great books, and I am one grain of sand in this great age of self-publication.

Mindful of this, I sat down a few weeks ago and wrote. And I kept writing and opened a door to something inside that I didn’t know existed. Sex, violence, hate, abuse, family drama, organized crime, murder, the whole works. It spewed out and felt like I vomited on the keyboard when I was done. My favorite fan read about 25K of it and has not gone back to finish it. I don’t blame her one bit. But in this age of anything goes, this book would probably sell a few dozen copies. Maybe more.

There are those not bothered by such a dilemma. This is the “the end justifies the means” crowd. Give up a little piece of your soul and earn those thirty pieces of silver. I’m not above this idea. Lord knows I want the “standard rich and famous contract” so I can sleep in every day, but doing it through porn like this makes me feel the wrong kind of dirty.

I don’t know how this will turn out. I tempted to bury this puppy, or I could adopt a porn name and publish the sucker just to get it out of my system. That’s a slippery slope because if I do one book, I may be trapped into doing more, not my first choice.

For now, the draft goes into my “Ideas” folder with the seven or eight other unpublished works. Maybe then I’ll stop thinking about it. I hope so, anyway.

What Did You Say?

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Writers love metaphors and similes like peanut butter loves honey. We whip them out faster than shit through a goose and hope they hit the reader like a ton of bricks. Done right, they tickle our funny bone or make us cry like babies. Done wrong and it’s cricket-city.

They’re a key part of our writing toolkit. We use them to express emotion and action so readers can relate to our words and meaning on an emotional level, no matter where their background, culture, or location. It helps that human nature and physiology are our ally because no matter where you live, a smile is a smile.

Even so, metaphors and similes are dangerous ground because the author often forgets they’re not always universal. A sub can be a poorboy, a pop can be a soda, and a slice can be pizza. The trick, I suppose, is to tread carefully and know your audience.

This random blog topic came to mind tonight as I watched a fireman throw an Uncle Charlie in the Friendly Confines.

(Drop mic.)

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