I Am the Fire, the Fury, and The Cool of the Ocean

A few days ago I began working on a short piece I titled ‘Why I Write’. But I couldn’t get it to come together and instead, it opened up a box inside my mind I thought I had gone through but needed to go through again. I had a nice ranting piece ready to go but luckily I held it back then deleted it entirely. Why? I have no need to rant and rave and say ‘fuck off’. And I have quit worrying about someone not liking what I write and trying to make it all about them or some other passive-aggressive bullshit.

So instead, I want to talk about what a simple writing piece has led to. It led to a title change and an overhaul of a project that really needed it.

A couple of years ago, not long after I came up with the title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’,  I came up with a piece I titled ‘My Relationship With Writing Is Complicated’. I wanted to put that piece into the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project but as I began to work on it, I realized it wouldn’t fit in with that project because it’s focus is pretty narrow. So I spun it off on its’ own and then sort of forgot about it until yesterday.

Yesterday I retitled my writing-book project and I’m in the process of overhauling it in terms of structure and outline. But I nailed the introduction and realize I’ve got another non-fiction hybrid project in the works. I call this book a hybrid because it’s a mix of memoire and writing how-to. My other two non-fiction books (Breaking Radio Silence and Intersections) are also hybrids mixing memoire with self-help and history and commentary. I don’t think I’m the first writer to do this but I may be the first one to put a label on it.

But I will admit here, I’ve been holding back on all three projects.

Why?

Because I thought I needed more time to be ready to write and post about them. But I realize that if I wait until I’m ready, I’ll never be ready. What that means is I have to stop waiting and start doing things. And most of all, I have to stop being afraid or worried about what someone might think. So I’ve revived the title ‘My Relationship With Writing Is Complicated’ and made that the introduction to my writing book. It’s a piece two years in the making and it’s a great introduction like the new introductions I’ve written to my two other non-fiction books.

These three books are deeply personal and will be hard to read at times because I know they will be hard to write at times. But I know now that I can write them. I know I can write them because all I have to do is what I did earlier: delete the shit in my mind that tells me to be scared and run and hide rather than risk pissing someone off with my writing. As you’ll read in the introduction to my writing book, which I’ve titled, “Writing Through Fear, Imagination, and Courage”, you’ll see where that fear comes from. Having written about it over the last day or so and realizing I can finally put it back in the box where it belongs, means I can move forward and just shut the fuck up and write.

Writing is sometimes easy for me, and sometimes it’s harder than hell. It’s harder than hell when I have to burn off a lot of shit to get to what I really need to write. I don’t need to justify my words or my ability to write them. I’m not a scared twenty-something kid anymore. I’m a pissed off middle-aged woman with a sarcastic sense of humor.

I am the Fire, and the Fury, and the Cool of the Ocean.

I wrote this phrase yesterday and it’s really resonated with me since then. What it means is I have the fire and the fury of wanting to write without hesitation or fear, but the cool of the ocean not to let fire, fury, and fear overtake me.

So starting tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the new introductions then other stuff, too. I hope I don’t find any more boxes I need to unpack and sort through again but now I know I don’t have to take days to do that.

Most of all, if I’ve got something ready to go, it’s going out into the world.

Living a Lifestyle, or Living a Life

A few days ago, I read an advice column on my Google news feed in which a woman wrote in wondering what to do about her husband. They’d been married for a long time and had raised a son together, built a small business, and spent a lot of time working on their house. But now that their son was grown and on his own and they no longer had their business, her husband didn’t want to do anything she wanted to do activity-wise. She said in her letter she wondered if they had stayed married for the ‘lifestyle’.

I thought this was interesting question because I had never really thought of the term ‘lifestyle’ for what she had described. But it got me thinking and finally a question has come to my mind:

Are you living a lifestyle, or living a life?

I think in this woman’s case here she was looking back and thinking they had spent so many years on a set path of childrearing, business, and home without anything else. I have a feeling if you looked further past the surface of what she described you might find a need to maintain a certain appearance or a certain way of living.

Many years ago after I went out on my own for the first time, I began to wonder if  a certain type of lifestyle would be for me. I wondered if I had ventured out and gotten married and had kids, would I have settled down as a stay-at-home mom or a working mom? Would I have gotten so caught up in that I would have put my own goals and dreams aside for everyone else?

Now please understand, I’m not knocking anyone’s life choices. I believe with all my heart and soul every single person has to figure things out for themselves. But I will say this in return: who are you living for and why?

I spent my twenties trying not to let my own life get in the way of my responsibilities though that didn’t work out too well. I will say this, if you ever feel you have no time to yourself then do whatever it takes to make that time and stand up for it, too. And to anyone who thinks someone is a selfish brat for doing what they want to do in their sometimes-limited free time, fuck you. In reality, no one should have to feel like they’re hoarding their own time and freedom and feel like they have to defend it.

Another question here then is this: do you feel like you have to live to someone else’s expectations and not your own? If so, why? To be honest, I really don’t think people give two shits about what other people are doing unless they’re exceptionally bored and stupid. So if you’re worried about what some bored and stupid person thinks and what they’ll say to you, I say this:

You do NOT have to respond to everyone who says something to you or about you and the life you live.

This is a radical concept to say the least because I’m sure the first reaction is how rude. But I don’t think it’s rude to a let a stupid comment or piece of advice lie on the table untouched like the turd it is. Why? Because your time is your own and unless you’re out destroying mailboxes or beating on people, you can do what you want in your own free time.

But this feeling that you have to respond or show someone that you’re doing what you’re supposed to just to keep them quiet is total fucking bullshit. Most people don’t advertise their every movement and there is no need to. I mean, if someone wants to sit on their sofa eating potato chips and vegging out to Netflix, more power to them. But this idea that people have to do certain things because of this or that or because of what someone might think, again, that’s total fucking bullshit.

And most of all, if you’re a crazy creative-type like I am, it’s a real battle sometimes to push all those stupid boring-ass people out of your mind. Of course I’m sure they would fire back and say what about this here? My response to that: this piece here isn’t about you. This piece is for anyone who needs to know it’s okay to live a life and not some ‘lifestyle’. For as I wrote the day before yesterday, there is no such thing as a sure thing and there never was in the first place. Don’t try to live your life like it’s a guaranteed path that won’t have any bumps or detours.

If you want my opinion on this: don’t live a lifestyle. Live a life. Sure life can be messy and unpredictable as hell sometimes. But unless you sit around boring yourself into a puddle of bullshit and destroying your brain cells, it won’t be so bad. You don’t have to numb yourself out to put up with people’s bullshit. You just have to shut the door on their bullshit and live your life the way you want to.

Running To Something That’s Not a Sure Thing (and never was)

A few days ago the word ‘running’ came into my mind and sat down in front of me. I sat down in front of it and said, “I’m listening.” In reply, I heard this:

  • You are running to something.
  • You are running from something.
  • You are running with something.

Before I the question could be asked as to which one I was doing, I replied with:

I’m running with something.

What am I running with, I asked myself.

My answer: knowledge, faith, hope

Knowledge is knowing what I’ve been through, where mistakes have been made, and why I have thought and felt the way I have.

Faith is in myself and my abilities, faith in the good in this world, and faith that I will persevere no matter what obstacles I have to overcome.

Hope is what I carry with me always, and especially as I go forward into an unknown future. Hope is what stands up to hate, fear, and cruelty.

Frankly, I was surprised by the thought that I’m running with these things. But as I thought about it over the last few days, I realize although I’m still prone to anxiety and fear I can keep them from taking over my life. I also realized the things I was running from, pain and fear, are things I have been working hard to deal with and put in their proper places and perspectives once and for all. And I’ve realized that as you run with the things you need, you are running to something you want.

What do I want?

Not just a career that’s driven by my work. I want to use my work and my words to help make this world a better place in my own tiny way.

I will admit right here and now that I still feel fear and anxiety over decisions I have to make big and small. I know the source of my fear and anxiety is from knowing that for so many years I lived with that at the forefront of my mind. I know in my past any confidence expressed or felt wasn’t really backed up in my mind with any real faith in myself.

But over the last few months, another thought has been kicking around in my head:

Everything that you thought was a sure thing wasn’t, and never was in the first place.

This thought actually came to me this past April on a morning run to downtown San Antonio at about five in the morning. I was driving by a strip bar that had been closed due to the initial lockdown because of Covid-19. In the past, places like bars and strip clubs could weather any economic downturn but Covid-19 has proven that’s not true.

I say there was no such thing as a sure thing because there wasn’t. Things like jobs were never guaranteed because I don’t know about anybody else, but I worked in a lot of places you could be fired pretty much for any bullshit they could come up with. Or worse, jobs where they would ‘manage you out the door’ (I actually heard that phrase one day in the last call-center I worked in).

I also know there was no such thing as a sure thing when my mother died of cancer at the age of fifty-three. She used to say she and my dad never saved for a rainy day because they didn’t think they would get one, and because you never knew what could happen in life. At times I’ve wondered if she was precognizant of the future she knew awaited her and my dad. In reality, I think she just knew there was no such thing as a sure thing.

So I’ve known there is no such thing as a sure thing for a long time. But I think I’m getting better at accepting that reality because I’ve stopped running from my past. I also know we are always in motion even when we might feel like we’re not. And though we may have a destination in mind, I think we need to try and realize that sometimes we’re going towards a destination that might not be on any map.

So You Want to Be a Writer…

I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how or where to start.

Yes, I’ve seen and heard this said by people for many years. And for anyone who has said that, I may have some answers for you. Though I do want to say right here and now, I didn’t say that at all when I started writing thirty-six years ago. I just picked up a spiral notebook and a pencil and began to write.

How did I know to do that? Simple. I knew what I wanted to write, which back then was poetry that I could turn into song lyrics. Sadly that dream didn’t come to fruition because I couldn’t find an Elton John to my Bernie Taupin. So I moved on and decided I wanted to be novelist then later on through my high school years, a screenwriter. After high school, I kept up with the screenwriting for a couple of years then went back to novel writing. Now I’m working on my novel, three book-length non-fiction projects, short article-essay type pieces like this one, the occasional poem, YouTube video, and short stories.

So now that you have my background let’s get back to the statement that started it all:

I want to be a writer.

Why? And I’m not being mean by asking that. I can understand if you’re not quite able to articulate your answer clearly just yet but you should have some idea as to what inspired you to want to be a writer. Because if it was just a thought out a thin air that sounded good, well you’ve got some work ahead of you here if you want to make that a reality.

I wanted to be a writer because I loved to read and I love words. I also have an overactive imagination and a brain full of thoughts and feeling. I discovered writing was a great way to get all that out of my head like other writers have done since the advent of writing.

But I don’t know how, or where to start.

This is actually doable though to get good at writing will take a lot of work. Some people are naturally gifted verbal storytellers but on paper, or in a digital format like most writers use today, not so much. But in order to know where to start, you do need to know why you want to in the first place. And also, you need to figure out what you want to write. Is it stories? Poems? Essays? You don’t have to stick to one thing and yes, you can do more than one thing at a time though I strongly encourage you to finish something before moving on to the next project. Whatever you decide to write should be something you want to do because if you’re making a conscious choice to write, you’re doing it for yourself first and foremost.

The ‘how’ part is just a lot of work. Basic writing should start with basic grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure, which hopefully you will learn in your basic education in school. You can also find lots of books, articles, and even YouTube videos on the many aspects of writing. But in addition to studying, you’ll have to write. And keep writing, and learn how to edit, revise, rewrite, and keep doing it until you find the flow as I call it. And know there will many times where your words won’t flow out of you. When that happens, you’ll have to figure out a way to work through that.

My advice is don’t write for attention, approval, fame, glory, or to get a date. Trust me, writing doesn’t work like that. Successful writers write because they want to, they believe in what they do and they’re willing to put in the work to get good at it.

Many years ago when I started writing, if I had announced with joyful abandon that I wanted to write people would have said this to me in total seriousness with absolutely no joy: “Great, kid. Now get to work.” Back in those days, if you wanted to be taken seriously you had to put in the work. You had to study, practice, and really keep at it. Today… not so much to my chagrin.

Frankly, I’ve always been puzzled by people who just think they can dash off words and expect instant gratitude and adulation. Legends in their own mind, I guess. But trust me, past a certain point, they won’t have the long and storied careers of best-selling authors. Whether or not I’ll ever hit a best-seller list remains to be seen but it won’t be because I didn’t work my tail off to try and hit it with the best work I can produce.

So you want to be a writer.

Great. Now get to work because in the end, it’s the writing itself that matters most, not the title of ‘writer’, or just wanting to be one.

Origin Stories – The De-Inspiration Behind My Novel ‘Not Enough Time’

My novel, ‘Not Enough Time’, a romantic suspense, was de-inspired as I say by the movie ‘Proof of Life’. ‘Proof of Life’ starred Russell Crowe as a former Special Forces soldier turned hostage negotiator who tries to negotiate the release of the husband played by Meg Ryan’s character. Now in real-life, hostage negotiations can take months, if not years. Also, in the movie Crowe and Ryan’s characters don’t get together but there’s an attraction there (in the novelization I read their characters did have a one-night stand but I don’t know if that scene was filmed or not).

I watched the movie with my mother when it came out on home video in 2001 and after the movie was over, my mother asked me what I thought of it. I said to her it wasn’t that bad but it could have been better. I said the story could have been much tighter and more emotionally engaging if Meg Ryan’s character had been the sister of the guy Crowe’s character was trying to rescue instead of his wife. Also, I thought if the kidnappers had a reason for kidnapping other than ransom then a rescue plot could worked so much better.

My mother’s first reaction was: “God I hate watching movies with you sometimes.” Then she said right after that, “But your ideas are so much better.”

I looked up in complete and total shock because I’d never, ever told her any story ideas I had or de-constructed a movie plot like I did and turned it into a story idea. If you read the origin story I did on my writing book, you’ll get a piece of that story. But because of her support and my strong reaction to this movie, an idea was born. The next day I hammered out what would become the first scene in the first attempt at writing this as a novel.

I’ve written several complete drafts of this book and I got two of them rejected outright by two different publishers. It’s gone through at least three title changes that I can remember and my hero Jake went through a name change. But the basic plot elements have remained the same.

Why haven’t I given up on this?

One, every time I’ve told people about this story they’ve reacted well. The rejections were because I didn’t have the skills to develop it like I needed to. I’ve gotten people hooked on the premise and I’ve just been working on the execution ever since.

Two, this story won’t let go of me. I’ve spent a lot of time away from it over the years but sooner or later, I come back to it. Usually it was because I had a new idea for the story and wanted to give it a go.

So if anyone asks me when to give up on a story I will not answer that question. Because if I haven’t given up on this damn story in close to twenty years, then I won’t tell anyone to give up on theirs. What I will say is if you have to, feel free to step back from it and let it simmer on its own for a while. I’ve written a lot of other stuff since then, including a few more novels that haven’t seen the light of day.

At present, I’m four chapters into this with the goal of having a working draft by the end of the year though if I maintain my current pace I could have something finished by Halloween or sooner maybe. I believe I’ve got what it takes to make this damn story work once and for all. And that is because I’ve done the emotional work on myself and in turn, on my characters. Also, I remember what I said all those years ago about keeping the plot tight.

But here’s some tidbits about a few things with this book:

My hero, Jake, got his name from a cat I had. I forgot what Jake’s original name was now but it just wasn’t working for me so one day I looked up from the computer and saw my beloved floof-ball of a cat looking at me. Then I turned back to my computer and made the name change and it’s stuck ever since.

My heroine, Laura, has kept her name and profession but her inner emotional struggles do mirror mine. I won’t say in exactly what ways but I started using her first to work through my emotional baggage long before I started my therapy book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’. The title, ‘Not Enough Time’, came from a song by the Australian band INXS. I was listening to their ‘Greatest Hits’ cd while washing dishes one night and as I listened to the song’s lyrics, I thought it was a perfect fit for the story. Now the title has worked its way into the story itself.

Origin Stories – The Origins of ‘Intersections’ (aka, my ‘political book’)

Warning: I am a flaming-liberal Progressive Democrat who never has, and never will have much use for conservative right-wing ideology. Here’s the short version of why.

After that awful night in November 2016 when the US Presidential Election was stolen via Russian election interference and that original vestige to slavery courtesy of our Founding Fathers, the Electoral College, I asked myself a question along with a few million other people:

How in the Hell did this happen?

Shortly after that, I created a file on my computer simply labeled, ‘Untitled Political Book’. Like my other project, “Breaking Radio Silence”, I had the idea of using writing to answer that question. It’s a big question because there’s a lot of stuff to sort through. And worst of all, I’ve had to live through the four years since then and I’ve watched any real good prior to 2016 ground down to almost nothing, and stacked up in morgue trucks, too.

Finally, back in March of this year I created an outline that’s stuck even after some revisions to it. It came to me after I decided to start looking for answers from the year 1992 onward. I used 1992 as a start because it’s the year I turned eighteen and voted for the first time. The 1992 Presidential Election was a changing of the guard and the first election set to a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. But that hope died in an impeachment that shouldn’t happened followed by eight years of war-mongering Republicans who put two wars on a credit card but didn’t set aside any money to pay the bill. The hope of the Obama administration was never fully realized due to a Republican opposition that took civility and partisanship and sold it along with their souls to the evils of white supremacy and Vladimir Putin.

Any tolerance I may have once had for racism, oligarchy, environmental destruction, and all-around greed has died and is buried six feet under the wreckage of our world now. And I’m not looking to resurrect that tolerance. Instead, I’ll fight like Buffy with her stake to keep it dead and buried forever. The last twenty-eight years has fully exposed conservative ideology for what it is: all about preserving the status quo for a chosen few no mater what. The term ‘compassionate conservative’ was, and is now a completely dead campaign slogan that never really came to life at all.

Growing up in the 1980’s, glitz and glamour was just what I saw on tv. My existence was a middle-class one my parents held on to by the skin of their teeth. For the most part, it was an illusion at best and one I saw through even at a very early age. Yet because I grew up in a dysfunctional way like so many of my generation, I learned not to talk about it. Because I was to made to feel like I had nothing to say and if I tried to speak at all, I was nailed to the ground with an MX missile straight down my throat.

I have been told to my face I have no ability to think or write about politics and nor should I even try to talk about politics at all. We’re all supposed to just get along, right? Not anymore. Not with people shitting all over science, common-sense, and worshiping at the altar of deflection, disinformation, and death.

History has a way of repeating itself time and time again but I want not only to see where the mistakes were made, but to see what we can learn from those mistakes. Most of all, I want to see if we can take that knowledge and build a real foundation for the future. Despite all the pain and suffering of the last thirty years, and the last few months, I still have hope. And despite seeing the values of hope, compassion, and kindness torn apart by people who say those values are dead, I still believe in the good of this world.

Will I be critical of the Left? Hell yes. I don’t do left-wing purity bullshit so I’ll hammer that at any opportunity I get to do so. I will also hammer at cynicism and getting bogged down in the past. Because as I’ve looked back, I’ve seen people lean in time and again, and in my definitely not-so-humble opinion here, anyone who just leans in needs to lean their ass right out the door. We have to go all-in today because there’s no time to do otherwise. If you want to throw in the towel and say to hell with it, this book might not be for you.

I used to get really scared at wanting to speak out against shit like injustice, poverty, environmental destruction, and all that’s terrible in this world. Now I know I can speak out and be exiled and shunned and live to tell the story. I’m not out to convince anyone that I’m right and they’re wrong. Most of all, I want people to pull their heads out of their asses and really look at things. I want people to tune out the rhetoric and bullshit and take nothing at face-value. And I want people to put it all on the line and think for themselves.

Origin Stories – How I Am Working on Breaking Radio Silence

In the Fall of 2016, I created a file titled ‘Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid’ with the goal of using writing to figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. Looking back, it seemed such a simple of an idea but in reality, it became so much more. What I didn’t know then was that I would go into the deepest, darkest, and most painful parts of my mind to answer my questions. I would go into the storage unit of my mind as I call it and open boxes of memories, thoughts, and feelings I hadn’t dealt with.

I don’t regret what I’ve done at all because it was necessary to bring me to the point I’m at in my life now. I’m much more calm and focused in my mind and my emotions don’t run away with me in an out of control spiral. I’ve learned to trust myself, to trust my instincts, and know that I don’t have all the answers and neither does anyone else.

The title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ came to me in the Spring of 2018 and has stayed with me since. But what followed after that was the deepest dive into my mind, and one of the most painful times in my life. I felt like I was just functioning enough just to stay afloat, like I’d reach an island and find shelter when another storm would toss me back into the waves. Each realization as I call them brought me clarity and lifted weights of shame and guilt off my shoulders, but they didn’t bring me happiness and joy.

In March of this year, I created an outline for this book that I’ve kept. It’s pretty basic but I was finally able to create the map for this book. I tried writing this book like I do my fiction by just writing and editing as I go but that didn’t work for this project. It turns out with non-fiction I need structure to go off of.

Early on in this book’s life, the phrase ‘peeling back layers’ came to me. What I mean by ‘peeling back the layers’ is that I placed layers of silence, denial, shame, and guilt over so many thoughts and feelings that I had buried the truth about them. One big layer I peeled back was denial that I had made certain decisions in my life though in the past I had denied that with every ounce of strength I had. But now I realize I stayed silent about making those decisions at all because I didn’t want to deal with anyone’s bullshit attitude about them.

Not wanting to deal with anyone’s bullshit attitude is a big reason why I stayed silent so much throughout my life. Because all my life I’ve been told ‘no’ more often than ‘yes’ and I internalized that to where I thought I was weak and fragile, and to where I thought I had no right to my thoughts and feelings at all, even inside my own mind.

Because another thing I had to overcome in writing this book is learning how deal with someone who will mouth off and say I’m doing this for revenge, or to get even, or to prove a point, or win an argument. I have had to learn how to come up with a strategy to deal with someone mouthing off at me saying I’m just looking to profit from my misery. To both arguments I just have one response now: fuck off.

This project may have started out as what I called a ‘therapy book’ but it’s turned into so much more. I know there are people in this world who have thought and felt like I have, and have been through things similar to what I’ve been through. And because of that, I know they’re hurting like hell. My wounds will never completely heal nor will they will just disappear. And though I’ve been broken by a lot of things, I’ve forged my broken pieces back together with the shiniest of metals to show my wounds and what I’ve healed from. That’s the reason I’m writing this book: to help others. Because if anything that I write gives hope to someone, gives them something to hold on to, or helps them work through their own pain, then all the storms I went through will be more than worth it.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting excerpts in progress (I hope to have a complete working draft finished by the end of this year). I don’t want to work on this 24/7 because I think I’d drive myself nuts if I did. But in the last four years, this book has never left me though there were times I would have loved to have walked away from it.

But I’m not one to walk away from the hard stuff past a certain point, especially if the world is crashing down around me. I’m just breaking my silence about that with this book now.

Origin Stories – The Origin of Wanting to Be My Own Boss

Many years ago when I was working full-time in call-center Hell, my father once said to me: “Most people need to be told what to do and when to do it. You’re not one of them.”

At that time, I was thinking about quitting the full-time job (and my highest-paying one at the point in my life) I had because I was burning out and headed for a huge crash. Also, they were talking about a ‘reorganization’ and my gut was telling me that wasn’t going to be a good thing (I later found out how right I was on that). But that’s not quite where the idea of wanting to have my own business began.

No, it really began right after my mother died in October of 2002. I probably wasn’t thinking too straight at the time as I’d been on a seven-year roller coaster from Hell but I did have an idea of starting some type of business I could do off my recently-purchased laptop. I’d read about Virtual Assistants and also looked into learning how to do creative work like graphic design. But reality crashed in on me along with a shit-ton of fear and doubt and I eventually went back to call-center Hell (I’d lost my first call-center job in the summer of 2002) and stayed there minus one break from 2010-2011 before I left that world for good in May 2016.

But I’ve had a dream that goes back much further and that is to be a full-time published author. That dates back to about junior high for me, or before the Internet was even a pimple on some techie-bro’s butthole in Silicon Valley. I also had a dream after I graduated high school about becoming a screenwriter and going to film school and maybe becoming a writer-director of movies. I put that dream aside when my mom got sick and I don’t regret it.

The world has changed since all those failures to launch. The internet has truly revolutionized our world (and just amplified the shit-show the world has always been, too). Since 2016, I’ve been trying to figure out how to earn enough money to live on without taking on a day job. And right now with the economy at the bottom of the sewage treatment plant like it is, I honestly don’t know if I could get a day job. But I can hustle in the meantime and live on next-to-nothing. I’ve got a laptop, an internet connection, and a lot of ideas.

A couple of years back now, I created a few YouTube videos. They were pretty basic narrations of PowerPoint presentations but I really liked doing them. And I discovered I’ve got a good voice for narration and creating content. And I’ve finally begun to accept I’m a pretty good writer and can bang something out in less than a thousand words that’s short and sweet and makes a point. Also, with some good software help, I’m not half-bad at creating graphic designs and slogans.

The biggest obstacle I’ve had to face with making my dream come true is shoving the asshole-voices out of my head that hiss at me that I don’t know what I’m doing, and that I don’t have what it takes to make this work. Here’s a newsflash for everyone: no one has all the answers or knows everything. All I know how to do is take things one day at a time and work on one thing at a time. I can also keep my eyes open and look for opportunities to work with, too. Most of all, the days of putting all my eggs in one basket are over and done with, and have been for a very long time.

I know I’m doing this on a seriously-minimal DIY budget and mindset but last time I checked, there weren’t any laws against that. And most of all, I’m totally aware and have known all my life that there is no such thing as a sure thing. My problem has been giving up too easily.

What I want to do now is get a decent noise-canceling microphone so I can re-do my YouTube videos (the material needs a serious rewrite), squeeze out a few bucks for advertising and promotion, look for promotional opportunities that don’t cost money in the meantime, and most of all, work my ass off to create content. It’s the creating of content, which starts with writing that’s the easy part for me.

In the past, monetary capitalization was the big issue with getting a personal venture off the ground. But with technology being what it is today, things can be DIY’d on a very thin shoestring to get started with. Decent hardware is nowhere near as expensive as it used to be (my first laptop cost me $1200, my current one was about $300 used). I also learn pretty fast and yes, eventually I’ll probably upgrade my equipment and software but for now, I’m going to make what I’ve got work for me.

And I’ll let you all know how I’m doing it and how it’s going.

How I Learned to See Myself as a Brand and Own It Like the Boss I Am

In the early 2000’s when the internet and the World Wide Web were coming to life, there was talk about how authors needed to create a ‘brand’ for themselves. In the romance-writing community I was a part of at the time, this was a big topic of discussion and not necessarily in a good way. To say there was considerable pushback against the idea of ‘branding’ was putting it mildly. My smart-ass response was that I wasn’t a can of soup on a grocery-store shelf.

When you put your work out into the world, you are creating a brand whether you like the term ‘brand’ or not. The best thing to do is accept that you are creating a brand and create one that reflects how you really are (because if you create a brand that’s the opposite of who you really are trust me, it won’t end well: see the current news about Ellen DeGeneres).

About a year ago I launched a website and over that website’s short life, I created what I thought was merely a tag line/warning: sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious. But now I realize I created a brand for myself and the content I produce, and also a warning about what I do, too. I sure as hell didn’t set out to do this but it’s stuck like super-glue, and I like it because it’s truly me.

Now I think the pushback against ‘branding’ today is mostly bullshit about how there are some people who put themselves and their work out into the world just to further their brand and be greedy and uncouth people (like Meghan McCain is fond of saying on ‘The View’ to various guests or in commentary on certain people).

So if anyone pushes back on me and says I’m only saying or doing something to further my brand those idiots are going to get a head-tilt followed by, “And your point is?” Because my point is this, if someone is out and about promoting their work what are they supposed to do? Talk about the weather? If you’re being asked to talk about your work then told that if you do you’re a self-centered ego-centric money-grubby dumb-ass… fuck that shit. Or if you want to be polite you can quote the lovely and talented Arianna Grande and say, “Thank U, Next.”

I will confess here I used to think I couldn’t speak up against being put-down for trying to put my work out into the world. Why? Because I thought that any asshole who ever told me what I was doing was dead-on-arrival and not worth anyone’s time and effort was right. How wrong I was, and how grateful I am to realize that now. Because people who mouth off and shit all over something or someone because they’ve got a case of mental and emotional hemorrhoids isn’t worth thinking about, listening to, or responding to with anything other than as much irreverent sarcasm that ends with a good wise-cracking punchline.

Now a better question to ask here is, can you go in a different direction than you have before, or even go off-brand? Uh, yeah. That’s called ‘life’ and life is constantly changing and pretty fast sometimes, too. Also, sometimes things don’t work as well as they should and if that’s the case, then a change is needed. There’s no need to keep doing something if it isn’t working for you just because some moron thinks you can’t do anything else.

I think what holds people back more than anything is worrying about what ‘someone’ might think. I used to let those ‘someone’s’ run my life more than they ever knew or would have cared to had they known. So a goal in successful branding is this: don’t listen to ‘someone’s’ bullshit that you don’t know what you’re doing, or that you have to stay on-brand no matter what, or that you can’t do anything but the one thing they want you to do. I’m a writer first and foremost, but writing has led me in a lot of different directions and will continue to do so. And whether or not to go in those directions is my decision and my decision alone.

Finally, reaping the rewards of your branding success is not wrong either. Making money is not inherently wrong, especially since the vast majority of people who earn money don’t earn countless billions that they would hoard. The vast majority of people in this world are just trying to survive and they sure as hell don’t need any shit in the process.

So I will embrace my brand of ‘sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious’ and wherever it takes me. Because in this crazy world more than ever, there is no such thing as a sure thing. Yet despite that I say this in my way of staying on-brand:

Do more. Be more. And if anyone doesn’t like that, tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine. Or to put it bluntly: own your fucking shit.

My Moon Shot

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

In 2009, on the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, I remember watching a lot of coverage of that event and listening to my dad’s stories about seeing it happen live and thinking one thing: I want my own moon shot.

At the time I was working at what was then my highest-paying job and also the most stressful. It was also just a few months after my dad’s stroke and he was staying with me though he sure as hell didn’t want to (we eventually worked out a way to get him back to his place until he passed on). I wanted to quit that job and do anything but sit at a desk for eight hours a day answering the phones. But I also knew I was stressed-out and exhausted and not thinking straight, too. So I told myself to stay where I was then see where I was at a year from now. A year later, I reached the same conclusion: I had to get out of there. And I did in October 2010.

Five and a half years later, in May 2016, I walked away from my last call-center job. This time I did it for my health as two disks in my lower back were in critical danger of blowing out. In the four years since, I’ve lost a lot of material things but gained knowledge about myself that more than makes up for the material things that were just piling up in my life (and my apartment).

What I’ve gained in the last four years is a lot of knowledge about myself and why I have thought and felt the way I do. But as I sit down to launch this website-blog, I realize what I’ve learned the most and have begun to truly accept is that I am so much stronger and capable of so much more than I ever realized, or believed in about myself.

Because all my life I’ve felt weak and fragile, and dumber than dog shit. Those thoughts came from being told ‘no’ much more often than I was ever told ‘yes’. And a lot of that was from people who said they had my best intentions and just didn’t want to see me fail, or fall on my ass. But here’s the thing, those people with good intentions hadn’t done what I was going to do so they were coming from a position of complete ignorance. I won’t ever try to figure out why people took one look at me and decided I was fragile and weak and dumb-as-shit in some cases.

Yet many years ago, when my world came crashing down around me I was the last one left standing. And I didn’t remain standing out of stubborn pride like I’ve been told so damn many times.

I remained standing and kept my shit together because I was terrified if I let go I would shatter into a million pieces and never be able to put them all back together. I did break and crack many times throughout my life, but I forged those broken pieces of myself back together with the strongest and shiniest metals I could find.

Five years ago, a thought came into my mind changed me and my life forever: everyone else is just as full of shit as I am, but I’m not a bad person either.

This thought was followed about three years later by one that helped me reconcile my past once and for all: I was where I needed to be.

And about a year after that reconciliation, I began to throw off huge weights of shame and guilt I should never have taken on in the first place.

Most of all, I’ve faced my deepest, darkest, and most painful fear with this thought: no one can take my work, my hopes and dreams, and the life I want to live away from me. Many years ago, I thought people could take everything I wanted from me and force me into exile through lies and well-intentioned disapproval at any attempt of mine at forging some kind of life for myself.

I know now I’ve been an exile all my life and probably will be until the day I die. And I’ve survived that lonely exile with my hopes and dreams along with my stories and my words in my head.

In the coming days, weeks, and months you’ll be seeing my words and stories here presented in many different ways. You’ll be learning the stories behind what I’ve written here today along with many others, both in non-fiction and fictional form. In addition to sharing my stories and my words, I will also be doing to my absolute best to share this with as many people as I can along with working my ass off to earn money from it, too. I hope you find things here you like, that put a smile on your face, or help you in some way and give you hope. Because no matter how hard the world has tried to beat me down, I’ve never lost hope.

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