“How old are veterans anyway? I wanted to change that perspective.” – Dr. Robert Snyder, author of “What is a Veteran, Anyway?”

Veterans’ Day has come and passed. Yet, I am reminded of a great conversation I had with a veteran – and author – who was kind enough to let me interview him. On both fronts: being an author and being a veteran.

Dr. Robert Snyder is a professor, author, and former Iraqi war veteran whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a book signing back in October. He was covered from head to toe in military garb, and when I asked what he’d written a book about, I was (somewhat) surprised to find that he’d penned a children’s book. Its title was What is a Veteran, Anyway? And after some conversation, I asked him to appear in an interview for my podcast, The Writer’s Lens. When he agreed, we were able to dig deeper into the inspiration behind his book.

Turns out, Dr. Snyder had a vision for teaching young people about war veterans – a concept I found as intriguing as his rationale for doing it (and I’ll paraphrase): “When you think about a war veteran, you may visualize someone well into his or her’s later years. But, not all veterans are like that.”

In addition to that, Dr. Snyder hopes to educate others on what a family may experience when one’s parent is overseas. I can say I’ve never had that experience as neither of my parents served in the military. But, I have had the experience of family (my eldest brother) and friends / acquaintances being in active duty. The strain of these circumstances can be relationship-threatening both abroad and back on home soil. Dr. Snyder tackles these bigger concepts in picturesque form that isn’t too gritty and isn’t too “child-like” either. His work has earned him the distinction of being the 2017 winner of the Notable Social Studies Trade Book award for young people and a rather rigorous tour schedule (see his photos from recent events here). 

To see my full interview with Dr. Snyder, you can hop on to YouTube. Or, if you’d rather audio over my smiling face, you can find the audio-only version on iTunes or going here.

You can also find Dr. Snyder on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Interview with Nic Saluppo: Overcoming personal obstacles

I have a special interview to share with you this week. And though each is special, this one is unique in that it’s in written form, not audio. A friend of mine and fellow alumni of Mount Union College (now University), Nic Saluppo, is a former track star and fitness enthusiast. But, he is also someone who works to inspire others via his vocation and through his social media reach. I won’t spoil what kick-started this desire to help others so you’ll just have to read more about it below (ha!). I had bugged Nic about doing an audio interview some time ago, but due to recent struggles with his vocal cords, Nic was not able to. However, he was gracious enough to send me some answers via email that I am now happy to share with all of you.

That being said, here’s that full text below:

Nic, thanks for wanting to be interviewed. I wanted to inquire about your desire to inspire others so let’s start there. You’ve had a blog for a while now where you share plenty of inspirational quotes and stories (even having yours truly on your site). What got you started doing that?

Josh, thanks so much for having me as part of your program. What got me started with wanting to inspire people is this: Life is short. A very simple concept, but very big implications. I used to live as if my problems were actually me. That is, I identified with my problems, rather than observed my problems. As I found healing from this condition, I noticed that 99% of the population was doing the same thing. Navigating life became so much more clear for me when I gained a new perspective of listening to what my pain had to say. This is in stark contrast to living as if I am my pain. Once I began learning from the inevitable pain that comes with life, the pain wasn’t so scary anymore. As mentioned, I began noticing that most people have no other perspective other than living to avoid pain. This causes people to sacrifice relationships and never take part in living out their God-given desires. My hope was that a new perspective would allow more people to embrace who they are, including the painful parts, and therefore not need to make the unnecessary sacrifices that go along with avoiding squarely facing the painful situations that are a part of life.

 

What’s a personal triumph you try to share with others? Or perhaps turned tragedy into triumph?

Nic Saluppo

I often share about my bout with depression. From the ages of 19-27 (I’m currently 33), I struggled with depression. Now, I don’t struggle with depression because I process my emotions as they arise. By processing what arises, no struggle is necessary. What was most significant about healing my experience of depression was that I needed to face some seriously scary, dark pieces of myself. I had to stop blaming others for my sad lot in life and begin looking at the fact that some of the painful experiences I’ve had in life were not my fault, but my emotions associated with those experiences were my responsibility. Nobody was going to fix me. Even if someone wanted to, they weren’t capable of doing so because the emotions causing the depression were inside of me. If the emotion is inside of me, then I am responsible for taking measures to resolve those feelings. As a result of taking responsibility for my depression (again, being responsible for my emotions is different than being at fault for them), I took drastic measures. I drove 90 minutes to Erie, PA every week to see my mentor, and I traveled all around the US to attend various workshops. The investment was a lot of time, energy, and money. If I didn’t take responsibility for my depression, I would still be depressed.  

 

Are there any mentors you’d attribute your successes to? Why were they helpful? Why were some not so much?

There is one man who was significantly helpful in my healing journey- Ron Gainer. After knowing him for less than 10 minutes, I could tell that he knew more about me and my situation than I did. In other words, he had walked the road before me. I still had to walk the road myself, but Ron was my guide. I drove to Erie PA weekly to see him for 5 years. A lot of time and energy, but I wanted to heal. Essentially, depression results from “stuck” emotions. Something on the inside needs to be processed, to move. I’m not talking about acute depression, but chronic depression that becomes a lifestyle. I met Ron at the age of 25, and before meeting him, I was taking medication for my depression and believing the lie that if my outer circumstances were to change, then I wouldn’t feel so bad. In other words, I was looking everywhere but inside of myself for the cause of the depression. Ron told me, “If you want to heal, you need to get off the medication and have the courage to look inside. Looking inside will be painful. It will be like walking through fire. But on the other side of that pain will be great joy.” LOL: I mean, how could I have known this? There’s no way I could have known this. Yet, Ron knew that this is what needed to happen if I wanted to heal the depression. Looking inside was painful. But, as it turns out, there was great joy on the other side of the pain. He knew the path.

How do you cultivate a creative edge to what you do?

Definitely meditation. Meditation is like clearing the road. It’s like laying out the red carpet so creative ideas can walk upon it. When I go into meditation, all the thoughts, worries, and anxieties about finding an answer dissipate. Then, when I come out of meditation, creativity simply arises with no effort other than being present to it. It seems that too much analytical thinking actually blocks the creativity that is beneath all of the endless thoughts. Take writer’s block, for example. It’s not a lack of ideas, it’s that there are tons of ideas swirling around in the writer’s head, but none of them are pertinent or relevant to the current piece of writing. None of them move the piece of writing forward. The creative answer is beneath all of those swirling thoughts. And, the way to access the creative answer is by dissipating the swirling thoughts through meditation. Once the swirling thoughts have dissipated, the creative response can arise naturally.

 

I know you from your running days at Mount Union. Do you still do that? What else do you fill your time with?

Haha. Sprinting on the track team was a big part of my life. I still do some of the sprint workouts. Interestingly, I also train sprinters. I’m currently training a sprinter from my alma mater high school who is almost definitely going to break my records. What I love about sprinting is that you get out of it what you put into it. Unlike football, for example, you can train your butt off all year, but if your teammates don’t do the same, then success may still allude the team. Sprinting is much more simple- if you train well, the time on the clock will be lower than it was.

I also read a lot of books and attend workshops, both about inner healing. I’ve found that the more I work on myself, the more I can offer other people.

I said Nic was a track star, didn’t I? Here’s the proof.

What would you say to people who say they’re constantly let down by circumstances? By other people even?

I touched on this earlier, but the first thing I would say is nothing at all. People first need to know that I care about them. When I facilitate workshops, groups, and one on one coaching for inner healing, the first thing I do is ensure that the person who is dealing with a difficult circumstance knows that they have been listened to. What they are experiencing truly matters. It’s hard and painful. But, there is a less painful way, and that is the way of inner healing. The fact that there is a solution to their problem doesn’t matter much if they don’t understand that the person providing the solution cares about them. When it comes to helping those dealing with intimately personal issues, depression, for example, providing a solution is much, much different than when it comes to less personal problems (repairing a flat tire, for example).

When it comes to issues of inner turmoil, a person must first know that they are cared about. Without this, your “solution” will fall on deaf ears. Mother Teresa talks about this extensively. Do a quick Google search of “Mother Teresa quotes,” and you’ll find quote after quote about simply caring for and about people. The reason this is true is because most people dealing with inner turmoil have an underlying issue of needing to know that they matter, that they’re cared about. If they keep going forward on the journey, people will eventually realize that they can care about other people. But, when a person is raised in a family incapable of offering them love, it will be very difficult to turn a corner in life until they encounter someone who does care about them simply for the sake of caring, not in order to get something. I see many well-intentioned Christians and pastors struggle in this area. “Here’s the solution to your problem!” they say. But, the true solution is caring for the person, not giving advice. Once a person feels cared about, they will ask for advice; it can be a mistake to offer it too early.

 

Are you a believer in hard work? Having God-given talent? Or both coming together somehow?

I’m a believer in smart work, plus paying attention to circumstances.

 

What would you like to be doing if you weren’t working at your current vocation?

Working in the area of inner healing is the most meaningful thing I can think of. Last year, I facilitated a great workshop. Since then, I’ve been facilitating small groups and one on one coaching. What I’m working toward now is having a piece of land where outdoor retreats can be held. So, although I admit there are times when I wish God would move things along FASTER (I am a sprinter, after all LOL), I can’t say that I’d like to be doing anything else. I’ve been looking at a few plots of land, so prayers from yourself and your audience are greatly appreciated—if I do end up finding the right piece of land, may it be a place of healing.

 

Lastly, do you have any endeavors like penning a book or opening a gym in your future? I’m all about writing books, as you know.

I definitely touched upon this in the previous question. However, YES. I do have more writing in mind for the future. Whether it’s an e-book, or a complete 225 piece of non-fiction, I’m not yet sure. It will depend on what will best bring healing to people.

Thanks so much for having me, Josh!

 

For anyone who would like to contact Nic directly about what he does or any other follow up, you can reach him at this email: nicsaluppo@gmail.com. 

When You Aren’t Watching

It’s hard waiting for results. For one, our expectations are rarely met and for two, we aren’t the most patient people. We ask and we expect to receive right away (we can partially thank Google for exposing this trait of ours). However, such is never the case with things that really, truly matter. Time has to be a key player. Whatever is worth doing will take time. But, what matters will also require a participant’s unyielding contribution to the journey. Just as time ushers along opportunities, time also presents hardship. This is where the will is most tested: when no one else is watching.

I find it extraordinarily difficult to tell people about my challenges as a writer (and no, this won’t be a “pity party” type of blog. Stick around a while). Unless he or she is a writer themselves, it’s a tough place to speak from. Artists, authors, architects – they’re all like event planners: starting with a concept, a sketch or an idea, and building daily until the moment of completion. It’s a different kind of work. There are no immediate outcomes. There’s only the road. And it’s a road as long and diverse as the task required of the traveler.

That’s where the will comes in. A will that must be tested and as we discover, tested daily. Nothing is more grandiose (or frustrating) than standing on one side of a canyon, seeing the other, but not knowing how long it will take to get to that other side. You can’t fly across. You can’t take a car. And you can’t hitch a ride. There’s just you, your feet, and the ideas you started with.

A lot of aspiring writers (and artists) believe there’s a “quick road” to the other side; that if they wait on the edge long enough, some miracle bus will come along. And they’ll be taken away because they deserved it for waiting so patiently. Then they’ll be able to tell everyone how smart and wise they were for doing so. There was never a need to get their hands dirty, their morale rocked, or their time “wasted” under reworks, revisions, and failures. It will come to them. Someday, it will come.

However, I’m here to tell you that this type of thinking is delusional. It doesn’t hold merit and it won’t give gratification to the journeyer. There’s a reason why the chasm is so wide: it’s meant for molding, shaping, and preparing the one whose taken the challenge. It’s meant for narrowing the job applicants. It’s meant to set free and unleash the burden of what’s inside. There is no greater risk, but there is also no greater reward.

It’s a narrow and long trail, but it’s one that must be accepted once headed off. The landscape that awaits is minefield of tiny battles. All of which, we find at the end, were laid down for our betterment. And fought when hardly anyone else was watching.

Post-Showcase, More Thoughts

In my last post, I opened up about some things I learned from the author showcase. The environment, the presentation, the reception – all of the good and the bad of what made the experience memorable. And what I need to do to improve for next time.

But, now that I’ve properly digested everything, I want to get down to business. I’ve been self-publishing my work for a couple years and Amazon is my current distributor. Overall, I’m happy to be working with them. The platform is solid and remarkably user-friendly. Those are the pluses. And though I have no aspirations to find an agent at the moment, I’m always open to the possibility of having one.

All that being said, here’s my debacle: talking with others about self-publishing. To any aspiring writer, self-publishing has been sold as “the way to go.” You can “make it big overnight” and do so without the hassle of paying an agent or big publisher. And as I spoke with other authors last Saturday, the consensus was this: “give self-publishing a shot – it’s easy, it’s cheap, and it lets you reach a wide audience, faster.”

I want to address each of these statements separately. And hopefully do so without sounding like a curmudgeon. Here goes:

1) It’s easy. Yes and no. First of all, self-publishing has changed the landscape of the reader’s experience. Aspiring authors can go directly to a mass distributor – like Amazon – and publish a story within hours. This puts their work among thousands of others like it, leaving readers just a search away from finding the writer’s work. That’s the easy part. And it’s the most attractive one to an ambitious writer.

Now, here’s the dose of reality: writing a book is hard. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Most people will tell you, “I have an idea for a story. I’d like to write a book someday.” But, how many people actually go through with that idea? Not many. Why? Because it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to bring an idea to completion. If you want to do it right, you can’t rush your work. Again, this is not easy. I spoke with an individual at the showcase who told me she’d had an idea for a book for the past decade. Yes, a whole decade! Can you imagine beginning a business that takes 10 years to kick start? That’d be asinine. And you’d quickly have to consider other options for your career.

2) It’s cheap. That depends on where you go and who you shop with. Self-publishing was initially touted as the “new wave” for publishing material. A writer with some change in his pocket could search for and pay a publisher to distribute his work. Yes, pay the publisher to mass produce what he’d written. In the old days, agents would seek out hopeful writers. Now, it’s the other way around. And because of that, many publishing companies have become less concerned with the quality of their authors – only the volume. Possessing a large library of clients is far more attractive than one that’s without. Why advertise when you have hordes of people coming to you?

This is a conundrum. And it applies to more than just new and upcoming scribes. Established writers, those born out of the initial social media explosion, may encourage newbies to share work for free. Advising to do so because their success – the writers – was often found through sharing work on a blog or social media site. This helped them gain a following, but it also made them accessible to agents and publishers. As I talked with other authors at the showcase, most people seemed excited to share their work freely while others were holding their cards close to the vest.

As for me, I’m more inclined to believe in the latter. This blog, for instance, is a free service to any who want to read it. And that’s where I want to draw the line. I can share work all day long, but where is my investment meeting my reward? At what point do I break even and stop giving it away for free? Obviously, it’s when you have a few things going for you: the first being a readership, a definitive following that looks forward to every new piece you shell out.

Financially-speaking, it’s cheap to start up a blog or begin a new website. But, what about the time it takes to write one? There’s the daily, weekly, even yearly grind of posting material that may or may not catch the eyes of readers. This can be draining. And unless you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll find yourself at odds with what you’d been originally sold on: write a blog and the readers will come. Not exactly. Self-publishing is not the “Field of Dreams” on the Internet. A writer must be willing to invest deeply in what he’s begun. Success stories crop up after long hours – even years – of trudging through mud to come out looking clean.

3) It lets you reach a wide audience, fast. Am I going to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to this one too? Yes. And here’s an example why: let’s say you’re sitting on a bench, somewhere at a busy intersection, reading your newly hatched story as people pass you by. You’re talking loudly, loud enough for people to hear you, but no one is stopping to ask what you’re saying. So you talk louder. You repeat favorite phrases or lines from your manuscript, looking for a reaction. And let’s say you start to receive some. If the listeners like you, you encourage them to tell others – share what they’ve heard – and trust that when they walk away, they do just that. And feeling encouraged by this, you keep at it. Maybe you set up shop at another park bench and start reciting your lines again – the ones that worked – and stay at it.

This process, if repeated, may warrant some eventual success. You’ll establish a small following of individuals who don’t mind stopping amidst their busy schedule and hearing you for a few minutes. That’s the good news. And marks the end of this metaphor for social media spamming.

Now, here’s the difficult news: doing it all on your own is an arduous, grinding, and oftentimes, tedious task. Marketing a book requires HUGE amounts of attention and time on the part of the author. That’s why I shake my head when I talk with other writers who say, “Once I get a blog going, I’ll be doing it right.” No, actually you won’t. Where is your reading base? Do you have people all ready interested in your work? Have you created a strategy for reaching multiple channels without extending yourself beyond your means? These are business questions a writer has to be asking of himself, and if he isn’t, then he might want to consider another hobby or vocation. Readers just don’t appear over night.

Agents and publishing companies specialize in doing this kind of leg work. Their success, and their paycheck, depends upon how well they reach more than the passerby. That’s a team effort, not just the efforts of one.

Closing Thoughts: This is the longest post I’ve done in a while, but I hope you’ve stuck around till the end. Truly, the self-publishing “explosion” is something that shouldn’t be overstated or understated. Just keep this in mind: the quick route to something worth having isn’t quick, at all. It’s more than that. It’s full of persistence, diligence, and hard work. Self-publishing is merely another tool available for hopeful writers. It could be the future of writing, but it’s certainly not the easiest one.

Post-Showcase, After Thoughts

Last Saturday, I was fortunate to be a participant in Cleveland’s Indie Author Showcase, as hosted by the Cuyahoga County Public Library. It’s the second showcase I’ve been to and was really a great experience. I took some photos, had plenty of visitors, and handed out lots of info on my latest works. It was a blessing, but also an opportunity to learn some things. For example, I had no idea you could fit so many writers in the same room (45 to be exact). The initial atmosphere felt like swimming in a shark tank. Thankfully, we all came out unscathed. And with some renewed faith in playing nice with one another, I’m sure.

From a business perspective, having something to give out – like a brochure – was key. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’ve got books on your table, the thought of handing anything else out may feel like overkill. However, I’ve been to several trade shows. And I know that unless someone walks away with something in hand now, they aren’t going to remember you later. Doesn’t matter how intriguing you were, people need something tangible to hold onto. Especially if they’re seeing your product for the first time. I am glad to know I was prepared in that respect. And lastly, it doesn’t hurt to have friends come out and see your table (as evidenced by the candid below). These guys gave me some insights and ideas prior to the event too. That was invaluable – thank you again.

Thanks to my fellow scribes, Paul and Immanuel, for coming out last Saturday.

Thanks to my fellow scribes, Paul and Immanuel, for coming out last Saturday.

How to improve? More presentation and pricing. I had an adequate display, but found myself talking price quite a bit. Thankfully, my ebooks are relatively cheap – under $5 at the moment – but as my wife suggested, a pricing chart would be helpful for next time. And of course, have something in paperback. Currently, my work is all digital. I was the only person at the conference permitted who only had ebooks available (much thanks to the Library staff for letting me twist your arm and have me. I trust your elbows and shoulders are healing nicely). Their compliance was great, but after looking around and seeing the majority of tables packed with paperback and hardcovers, the answer was obvious: I should do the same. More on that as the year rolls forward.

For now, it’s an onward march for name recognition – and reviews. If you happen to read any of my work, then please leave a review when you finish reading. I encourage feedback for a couple reasons. For one,  if you’re willing to pay for it and read it, then I’d hope you’d be willing to leave some closing thoughts. Granted, no news can be good news – as people are more apt to share opinions when they feel jaded – but a good review can go a long way for the author. Thanks to those who have all ready! But, that leads me into my second reason: readership. I get emails, texts, comments from folks who read my stuff on a semi-consistent basis and though I appreciate it greatly, I want to encourage those same people to leave their thoughts on Amazon, my blog, or anywhere they can. Truly, the support goes a long way; reaching further than just a bank account, I assure you.

There are some other thoughts I have on the showcase, but these were my initial decompressions. I’ll save the others for another post. Overall, it’s always encouraging to “get out of the think tank” and share your story with others. That was a major highlight last Saturday. As was having my wife help explain my work to others. Kudos to the Mrs. for being such a big help.

Finally, I’ll leave this post with my favorite question from readers who approached me: “So what’s your dilemma anyway?” (in reference to The Scientist’s Dilemma story). I had fun with that one, but another guy went so far as to ask me if I was formerly an astrophysicist. If only! I regretfully had to say, ‘not yet.’ That seemed like the most appropriate response.

 

Bring Your Kindle or Kindle App!

This Saturday, March 7 from 2-4 pm, I’ll be showcasing my latest ebooks at the Cuyahoga County Library in Parma, OH. I’ll be one of 44 other local Cleveland Indie authors getting to showcase work to an open audience. That’s a cool thing.

And hey, it’s a free event.

There will be a few other self-published writers speaking, but hey, you should totally come and check out my booth regardless. Just sayin’.

And oh, did I mention it’s free?

Here’s a link to register for the event itself if you like. Otherwise, hope to see you at my booth. With a mobile scanner ready.

 

#12Months12Books

I’ve started a personal campaign to write and publish 12 books in 12 months this year. Yikes, right? I would invite anyone else to join me, if they wish. Or take it as a challenge too. Much of this decision had to do with a desire to share my work more. And do so on a consistent basis. The rest came during some reflections over the past year.

In 2014, I did a lot of writing behind closed doors. Rather, I did a lot of experimenting. I started about 20 short stories, finished nearly half of them, and by year’s end, I published one of those of short stories. By the numbers, that’s not incredibly bad. But, if I were to continue this way – following through once every 20 times I began – it wouldn’t bode well for me in the long run. I’ve recognized I need greater discipline, specifically in bringing things to completion. This challenge will help me become better in that arena, I feel.

Or cause me to have a nervous breakdown by August.

No matter – I’ve started off 2015 on the right track. As I’m typing this, my January story is done and released –  The Color of Soul – and February’s title, A Dinner with Titans, is on its way to a final edit. Here’s my hope and prayer to stay the course as I head into March, April, and beyond.

Good to luck to those who are facing their own challenges this year. #12Months12Books, here we go.

So Your Book is Out – Now What?

Yesterday, I finally got to release The Scientist’s Dilemma on Kindle. Might go without saying, but hey – that was very exciting. It’s surreal knowing my thoughts and ideas are now open to praise, criticism, and verbal shellackings. I’m sure I’ll never tire of the high it gives me; be it for good or for bad. But, when the day is over and I’m lying in bed, an annoying question may creep up and invade my thoughts: so what now, Josh?

Obviously, I have some options when that happens – four of which I find to be the most immediate during this process.

My first option might be to keep checking up on my story. The Internet is a double-edged sword in this way. I can track views, likes, clicks, purchases – just about everything other than tracking my readers via satellite are some things I can do. And yet, if I’m not careful, I can find myself staring down the rabbit hole of never-ending browser clicks; hoping and praying that someone may have shared my link, viewed my webpage, or took the ultimate chance and made a purchase in the last five seconds.

Yes, the dark side of tracking one’s book can be dangerous. It’s nice to know how things are going, but if that’s all you’re doing then you’d best get to doing something else.

My second option would be to keep posting information about my book. Of the first two, this is the one that keeps things moving. A good business practice is to operate with forward motion. Lingering over concepts or ideas for too long creates stagnation and if you’re interested in being a professional writer, you have to view yourself in that same way. Your name brings a certain product and people – as nice or as thoughtful as they are – don’t always remember to check out your book. So you must remind them by continually getting yourself out there. This can be a tough one to execute and must be done with the level of charm that doesn’t turn people away.

Again, a double-edged sword, but if worked at, can become a powerful asset in your arsenal of online marketing. Am I pro at this myself? Oh, heavens no, but I’m learning as I go and this has proven to be a major part of what helps to build one’s platform.

My third option would be to look for more opportunities to share my work. I can post and connect links and write as many blog posts as I like, but I may be just working inside of a vacuum. With that in mind, it’s good to take a moment and think, “what am I not doing that I haven’t done before?” For this particular venture – The Scientist’s Dilemma – I decided I should only release it as an ebook. In the past, I would have scoffed at doing such a thing. “That’s too small. Either get recognized by an agent or nothing,” – that was my thinking. And with that stubborn attitude, I probably missed out on some opportunities along the way.

The downside here is looking back in hindsight, but there is a silver lining also: any chance you didn’t take doesn’t really matter anymore. If you’ve arrived at a point where it’s easy to look back and say, “should’ve done that” then you can ultimately use that to your advantage later. Learn what works and what doesn’t, but don’t try to recreate old scenarios for the sake of just trying to prove yourself.

My fourth (and last) option would be to work on the next project. It’s in these times when I can feel the most invigorated or the most demoralized. To know that my next work could be months, maybe even years away, is a daunting feeling. All sorts of doubts and dreadful thoughts can surface – and they can come from inside my own head or even come from the tongues of those around me.

The key in beating this is to be decisive in what project you choose to undertake. Oftentimes, I’ll find myself floundering between ideas, unable to get a solid grasp on what the best use of my time will be. This is normal though and is a natural part of the process, but it’s also not something to dwell upon or beat yourself up over. If anything, it might be healthy to have more than one project going at a time. Journaling is a good deterrent and can be very beneficial in flushing out the gunk that clogs things up. I’ve found journaling to be very helpful.

All that being said, back to it. I got some options to work with.

“The Scientist’s Dilemma”

The Scientist's Dilemma Cover

I’ll be releasing this short story in just a few weeks. It’ll be available for direct to Kindle only – so no paperbacks. It’s not as lengthy as a full scale novel and it’s not the first in a trilogy, but it’s a story that has a significant place in my heart. And that’s as good a reason as any to share it, I figure.

The title alone isn’t meant to be a complicated one. This story is actually about a scientist and it’s actually about a dilemma too; one that just so happens to belong to the scientist (told you it was simple, didn’t I?). That’s the premise of this tale and it’s a premise I believe so many other people – even those without the title of ‘scientist’ – find themselves struggling to answer at one point or another: just what the heck are we all waiting for?

It’s a huge question to tackle; overwhelming to some and perhaps strangely intoxicating to others, yet it’s a question I find simmering under the surface of practically every person I run into. Or have the pleasure to read about. That strange hunger that rises up within and says, “I don’t know if I belong to this world alone. Is there something else?” In my case, it’s a question I’ve pondered on many-a-starry night, which is why I like the cover so much. It represents that curious nature any person possesses and it’s an image that ultimately brought legs to this story. What’s waiting out there to be discovered? Is there anything at all? 

The universe is a big place and has plenty to offer while we’re here, but sometimes looking out is an easy alternative to looking in.

So to quote Shakespeare and wrap this up, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.”

 

Courage – what it means to a writer?

Nowadays, most people can claim to be writers. Not that most people do; it’s just that most people can. Your coworker, your uncle, your unborn child – all are capable of having webspace. And all are capable of pushing their thoughts out for the masses to read and evaluate. We know that in the past, there was a definitive gatekeeper; someone who kept that barrier from being breached. But, today? Not so much. That’s why when I hear someone say, “I have this story idea. I think I’m going to write about it and get it published,” I can’t help but cringe a little. Not because I feel the sting of competition – I just cringe because this person has unknowingly entered into an agreement that is not what they think. Writing a bunch of thoughts down is easy. Writing a book is hard.

Generally speaking, someone’s perception of something can be lightyears from the truth. Experiencing a vision is much different than merely gazing upon that vision. That’s why when I hear those words, I don’t get angry, frustrated, or anxious – I just wonder what that person perceives as “being a writer.”

For example, I’ll be 30 this month. I’m in pretty good physical health, but if I were to tell someone, “Yeah, I’m thinking of taking up karate. World black belt champion sounds fun so I’m gonna do that” – people would probably think I’m crazy. Sure, I could do karate and work towards becoming a world class black belt, but do I possess the personal conviction to do it? Is it in my heart to work towards that goal? More than likely, there are years of practice, years of dedication, and years of failures ahead if I want that distinction. It simply won’t happen overnight. And yet, I feel like that’s what has happened to “being a writer” – we’ve seen or read stories of people who had popular blogs and we think a stellar book deal is easily achievable. Or rather, we think it’s easy because everyone is writing. Everyone has a voice somewhere. Everyone has a platform.

So, from the outside-looking-in, the logical question becomes: “Why not me? That looks easy enough….”

I don’t fault anyone for thinking that. Who am I to judge if someone has a killer idea for a story? But, in some ways, I feel like the courage associated with following that killer idea – the perception of what it takes to become an established writer – has been forgotten. And the only way someone will be recognized for having “made it” is when hashtags begin trending about their book idea. Obviously, a hashtag is not a sign of “making it”, so what is? Is that something an aspiring writer should be concerned about? Is this the only part of writing that’s “courageous” anymore – to have made it commercially or financially? People can get their 15 minutes of fame for a popular book, but is that all anyone should be after?

Well, that may all depend on what your perception of success is – a concept that’s difficult to pin down if you’re afraid of what success looks like to you. As a person who has been self-published, entered numerous writing competitions, and been freelancing for several years, the decision to be a writer was a hard one. It wasn’t as simple as creating a new Facebook page. What’s behind me, I see as a success. What’s in front of me, I see as more opportunities for success. But, success is relative without courage. And courage is relative without joy upon completion, which is truly what any writer should be after: joy. Consider who has more joy – the person who gets 15 minutes of fame for a popular, yet fleeting idea? Or the one who toils, working hard for years to master a craft that is long-standing and definitive of the voice and resolve he’s carried with him for a job well done?

The answer to that question – the person who can claim to be a writer –  is the one backed by their courage.