The Power of Small Steps

October 20, 2017

Recently, I’ve been thinking about small steps and how they can accumulate.

For me, the most obvious one is writing. Every scene, every paragraph, every word written is a small step toward completion and publishing. A phrase I say to myself literally every day is, “Just write the next sentence.”* If I can encourage myself to write the next sentence, then it’s a win. Writing is rewriting, but you can’t rewrite something that does not exist. I find there’s a real power in taking the one small step, and then the next small step, and the next.

I’ll share a secret. Right now, my daily writing goal is just 300 words. That’s in the face of the Day Job and taking are of the sanctuary. Normally, I get in more, but I won’t go to bed until I’ve scrawled out at least that amount for the day. That very doable pace yields around 110,000 words a year, which is two short novels or one and a bit longer ones. Step, step, step.

Worthwhile small steps are everywhere, if you’re willing to take them. Like making the effort to vote “yes” in a marriage equality referendum. Or figuring out a small change to the meal you’re making to make it healthier. Or increasing your step count goal on your fitness tracker by 200 steps (literally, a small step of steps). Or fasting once a week or 13 hours a day. Or choosing to be nice to that irritating person for just this one conversation. Or donating a small monthly amount to a charity you like.

Or or or.

So this week, I encourage you to simply think about a new small step you could add to your life that will move you in some way in the direction you want to go.

And then take that step every day for the coming week, and see what difference it makes.

*(I like the phrase “Just write the next sentence” so much, I stuck it on merch up on Redbubble. If you know anyone doing NaNoWriMo, it’d be a nice gift.)

(Also published as part of my weekly email.)

Whoa, Backup There

October 13, 2017

Today, I’m going to preach unto you the gospel of a back-up strategy. (No, really, you want to read this, I promise.)

Here’s what happened:

I reached a writing milestone (I sent my daughter the first draft of Book 2). I thought, hey, how about I change up the file names and folders so they are consistent, and better reflect the series, rather than the random names I came up with before things were written. No problem. I’ve done this a bunch of times before.

Then. Something. Happened.

All. My. Work. Disappeared.

Gone.

Now, I’ve been using computers, literally, since Ford was president. Want to know why I didn’t have a Major Freak-Out? Because I knew I had my stuff backed up. Not once. Not twice. But three times that come to mind. No, make that four. Maybe more.

The first back-up didn’t work. Ouch.

But I went to another in another place, and behold, my work was restored.

Here’s what you need to know about backing up: you want a 3-2-1 strategy (go ahead, click that link. I’ll be here when you get back). Basically, anything it would cause you pain to lose (photos, documents, the video of your wedding, that one pic you love of Spot when he was a puppy) you should have *three* copies of, *two* of which are local (like, in your home or office) but on *two* different devices (like, on your computer and on a Time Machine backup or an external hard drive). Plus, you should have *one* other copy off-site. Preferably, all this should be automated. Again, something like Time Machine for local backups, and a service like Backblaze (whose article I linked to) or Carbonite for off-site. The same goes for your phone. If you’re not backing up your phone, especially your photos, what happens when it goes kersplunk in that convenient bowl of water?*

Folks, you gotta do this. It’s not that hard or expensive, and doesn’t take that much time to put in place. I like you, and I don’t want you to feel pain. And there’s no pain quite like data loss that is preventable.

And if you’re the techy one, and you have all this handled, then who do you know that you can help out to put something like this in place? Your mom? Your grandpa? That nice Mrs Nelson who always gives you her spare squash?

Embrace the gospel of backing up. You’ll be glad you did (but you won’t know that until you need it and wish you had.)

(First published in my weekly email.)

What Shape Is Your Dent?

October 6, 2017

(This is an excerpt from this week’s email.)

Do you know the Sting song, If You Love Someone, Set Them Free? I’ve thought about that song a lot over the years. Not so much because of the song, but because of what I once heard him say about it.

You’ll remember, his band The Police had a massive hit with Every Breath You Take. Big, big hit. Catchy tune. Horrible sentiment. The stalker vibe and obsessive control were woven into a total ear worm of a song. I remember hearing Sting talking about how he’d written it, recorded it, had it become a hit, and at some point, thought, “My God, what have I done?”

HIs later song “If You Love Someone Set Them Free” was deliberately designed, released, and promoted as a kind of antidote to “Every Breath You Take.”

Lesson: the art we choose to make matters; what we put out into the world matters.

I think about this a lot as I move closer to getting my current work out there. I don’t think that everything needs to be rainbows and unicorns. Some of what I’ve written is a tad eerie and dark (or so my first beta readers have said). But I really do think about how far I want to take things, and what I hope people come away with. What we do creates those ripples out into the world, some small, some large. If we’re lucky, we get to do what Steve Jobs said, and “put a dent in the universe.” (And may we all be so blessed with having such impact.)

I guess I’m thinking about what shape that dent will have.

Maybe I should create a T-shirt that says, “Tell me about your dent.”

Or, like last week, I could just plant potatoes.

Of Perspective and Potatoes

September 29, 2017

(This is an excerpt from this week’s email.)

I’ve been thinking about things that can help shift one’s perspective. Take for example, my veggie garden. About five years ago, we rescued our first mob of cows. Cows, we soon learned, have a much more, shall we say, relaxed attitude toward fences than the horses. The new cows had a little chuckle at the fence around the veggie patch and wandered on it. This meant that the goats, too, could also head in whenever it pleased them. The result: I started referring to it not as the garden, but as “the alleged garden.”

I’m hardly a green thumb, and certainly not like some of the garden magicians that I know. But for five years, I’ve been missing the chance to grow things, to put my hands in the dirt, to pluck a leaf of silverbeet or a sprig of parsley with a “thank you” and help nourish myself and my family.

Then a few weeks ago, we had our fencer, as part of a fencing refurb, redo the garden fence, making it cow, horse, and goat proof (I had to add the bit that made it geese-proof as well). And boom, a shift in perspective. Now, instead of an “alleged” garden, there’s an actual garden again, which has its first new plants (potatoes and garlic), and awaits more love and attention. Now there’s a part of me that can think again about putting my hands in the soil. I can again think longer term, about trying again with fruit trees and berry bushes and a few more veggie and herb beds. I can move the potato patch over there, and maybe grow the pumpkins over there so they’re a bit more out of the way.

A fence has given me a new perspective.

So, here’s my question to you. What small step could you take to change your circumstance so you can change your perspective?

And flip that around, too. Billie, wearing her shaman’s hat, talks about shamans being people of the percept. Shamans change the world by changing their perceptions of it. So, what change of perspective can you engage in to help foster a change in your circumstance? Maybe what really happened is I changed my perception about the importance of a fence, and the feasibility of getting the work done, and circumstances changed from there. Hmmm…

Or, you know, you could just plant some potatoes. There’s value in that, too.

Milestone

December 6, 2016

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-11-49-33-am

I reached a milestone today.

You might know I’m working on my first novel, and today, I crossed 100,000 words. I’ve never written anything this long before, and while there are plenty of caveats to be had (it is a first draft, there are still a few tens of thousands of words to go, writing is rewriting — all of that), it feels good to have achieved this step.

Ear Worm

December 4, 2016

It’s a song about waiting around for a completely unspecified timeframe hoping that some long-for person will make a different choice. And if they do make that different choice, there’s going to be some sort of evaluation, a test which maybe the singer will pass, and maybe they won’t.

As a model for life, this is so disempowering. And it is such a crummy strategy for pursuing a successful relationship.

Also, welcome to my current ear worm.

If you change your mind, I’m the first in line
Honey I’m still free
Take a chance on me
If you need me, let me know, gonna be around
If you’ve got no place to go, if you’re feeling down
If you’re all alone when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I’m still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best and it ain’t no lie
If you put me to the test, if you let me try.

Predictions

November 9, 2016

Predictions:

  • Somewhere around March (perhaps sooner), there will be a great deal of buyer’s remorse.
  • He will be a one-term president.
  • He will run his time in office in the same way he ran his campaign, and his businesses before that. His time in office will reflect his values.
  • The “burn it down,” isolationist, take it back from “them” mentality that created Brexit and a Trump presidency will increase, not decrease. Except, now those on the left will join in more than ever.
  • It will be a good time to be a comedian.
  • It will be a good time to be in armaments.
  • As cronies are rewarded, we will find the calibre of those he surrounds himself with will not elevate the office.
  • With control of both houses and Trump as president, the right will run so hard and so fast, it will knock your breath out. It will be their undoing.
  • It will be a good time to be in marajuana.
  • The sun will continue to rise, but the earth will continue to heat.
  • He will continue to be distractible and thin-skinned. Unexpected people will suffer from that.
  • Animals may not come out ahead when the head of state has a fur-loving, hunting family.
  • Trump’s business interests will prosper disproportionately.
  • There will be so much scandal, it will affect the functioning of government.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I will be.

I normally console myself in times of political disappointment by saying, “They are never as good as you hope, nor as bad as you fear.” Let’s hope that is the case here.

Watch This and See Why Sorkin Is Still My Hero

July 24, 2016

Karel Segers, who Billie and I had the pleasure of working with through the 2015 ScreenACT Accelerator Pod, has a couple of posts up about Aaron Sorkin. The first talks about the Sorkin Masterclass that has had ads blanketing Facebook (spoiler: Karel says to do it, but for the fun of it more than the learning of it). The second picks apart his favourite Sorkin scene, from Charlie Wilson’s War. You should go read both.

Sorkin remains my all-time favourite screenwriter (I know, I’m not alone in that). Karel linked to this hour-long interview with Sorkin that’s a must-watch if you like his work and are curious about how he does it. Happy viewing.

Classic video game endings animated

July 24, 2016

If you dig classic video games, you’ll enjoy this animation.

Are you on Goodreads?

June 5, 2016

iu-2

A couple of months ago I signed up for Goodreads. I’m very much enjoying the site. You can find my author profile here. Feel free to follow.

See you over there!