Archive for February, 2009

A literary driveby

February 27, 2009

The other day, while writing a blog, my mind was hit by a stray bullet from a literary drive by.  I am, by nature, a perfectionist, and when writing a blog I like to stay focused on the subject.  In this case, however, right after the first paragraph I saw a phrase that caught my creative side off guard.  I ended up in a mental tug of war that had me writing and deleting for 30 minutes.

My perfectionist side told me to “stay on subject, don’t stray.” while my creative side said, “Let me take you down this road, you can always come back to the subject.”  This is the internal struggle that I go through on a daily basis.  The perfectionist usually wins, and I feel the creativity turn around in disgust.

If I would have let my creativity have its way, the worst that could have happened is that I had a second blog going, and my blog at that time would have been delayed by a few minutes.

Blogging is, at first, a free writing exercise, and then you edit later.  We should feel free to go off on a tangent.  Tangents take us in new directions and give us new insights that we can perhaps tap into later.  Instead of deleting what I was coming up with I should have continued to see where my creativity could take me.

After finishing the blog and posting it I realized that the simple act of forcing my mind to stay focused on one subject may have cost me another subject to explore, and a future blog that could help someone.

Challenge: If, while writing, you start to go off on a tangent, go with it and see where it takes you.  When you edit later, do not delete it, save it to a file for future use.  It could save you from future writer’s block.

Enjoy,
Allen

How do you know when your project is a waste of time?

February 23, 2009

This past week I saw a question I have seen, and heard, for years.  “How do you  know when you’re wasting your time on a project?” or “When should I give up on what I’m working on?”  Same basic question.  These are questions that every creative person has faced at least 3,000 times.(I picked a number)  As a writer, and photographer, I wrestle with this all the time.  I call this the anti-conscience.  The anti-conscience is the voice that tells you  “you’re no good“, and that “you’ll never amount to anything, that what you’re doing is worthless.”

Don’t let it win.  Writers have to fight these feelings off all the time, with every rejection slip, with every critique, this voice chimes in.  It tells us that we can’t write and should give up without a fight.  Before you run to the corner, with your head hanging in shame, just remember that even the greatest have had to face this problem.

We all have dreams, and when we persue those dreams the anti-conscience has an opening to shut us down.  Sometimes we can give ourselves the strength to go on, and sometimes we need to look to others for the inspiration and guidance, but in the end we can never give up.  Our dreams give us hope that we can make a difference, our hope gives us faith to believe in our abilities, and faith gives us the strength to see it happen.

As long as we don’t give up on our dreams, we can keep this voice under control, and it will never win.  Only then will our dreams come true.

Challenge: If the anti-conscience is still strong, and you feel you can’t go on, let these publishing statistics inspire you.  Print them and put them where they can help you the most.

1)  Mary Higgins Clark’s first story was rejected 40 times.

2) Alex Haley’s “Roots” was rejected 200 times.

3) “A Time to Kill” by John Grisham was declined by 15 publishers & 30 agents.

4) “Robinson Crusoe” was rejected by 20 publishers

5) “Harry Potter” was rejected 30 times.

6) Zelda wouldn’t marry F. Scott Fitzgerald until he sold his first story.  He used the rejection slips to wallpaper his bedroom.

Enjoy,
Allen

Is 2012 the end of the world? who cares!

February 20, 2009

I’ve been hearing a lot about the year 2012 being the end of the world.  To this I say, “poppycock.”  According to the Mayan calendar, on December 21, 2012 the magnetic poles are supposedly going to switch, and cause worldwide destruction.  I’ve seen many predictions of world events, and even made a few myself, and all they’ve been is taking current situations and following them to a logical conclusion.  It’s a process called future history, and it uses statistics, and patterns to make a prediction.  While there is some degree of accuracy to it there is no true way to guarantee any prediction.

The end of the world has been predicted so many times, and none of them have come true, so my own philosophy is to live in the present, and plan for the future, for you never know what the future holds until it actually happens.  I was reminded of a letter Paul had written to one of the churches.  They had stopped working and planning for the future because they figured that Christ was going to return quickly, of which he didn’t do.

You can’t put your life on hold for something that might happen, if you start doing that then you will miss out on a future that could be rich, and full of meaning.  Everything in life happens for a reason, and you should spend your life pursuing life instead of chasing the shadows of the future.  Whose to say what you are still destined for.

As far as this end of the world thing, forget it.  There is not one person in the world that can predict the end of life, and only paranoid types would even want to.  Life is too precious to waste it worrying over nothing.

Challenge:  Write on a piece of paper, “Live for today, learn from the past, and plan for the future.” and put it where you can see it.  Every time you hear a stupid prediction about the end of the world, look at the paper and laugh, for you are living your life.

Enjoy,
Allen

Organize your time to lower stress

February 16, 2009

It never ceases to amaze me how some people will obsess over something at the most ridiculous time.  My wife is the perfect example.  Every Saturday night before I headed in to work, she would tell me to check my other job for my paycheck.  I could understand  if it was a weekday, when I could go to the bank to cash it, but it was Saturday night when the only thing open was a Tim Horton’s doughnut shop.  When I would remind her of this, she would just say, “I don’t care, get it tonight.”

I always believed that one of the many causes of stress was worrying about the right thing with the worst possible timing.  When I was growing up, one of my biggest problems was that I would stress myself out over nothing, like what was going to happen in a test the following week, instead of working on the homework I had to accomplish first.  Of course, as the homework deadline drew closer, I would start to panic, and do substandard work.  My biggest problem was that I was a perfectionist, who would regularly obsess over one thing after another, to the detriment of everything else,  cleaning my room, socializing, just about everything.  Once the project was completed, never to my satisfaction, I was left to get everything else done all at once, and I’m not known for my organization skills.

To end my own stress I had to learn a couple of lessons.  One was to try to organize and plan ahead.  That way I wouldn’t be rushing at the last second to try getting everything done at once.

Another great lesson is that obsessing to get things perfect doesn’t always mean you’ll get them right, in fact you may make things worse.

The biggest lesson is that worrying about things at the wrong time doesn’t make them any better, and just adds to your stress.

Challenge:  Try to reduce your stress by organizing your time and getting things done in the right time.

Enjoy,
Allen

Perfect health is not so perfect

February 13, 2009

As some of you may have noticed, I didn’t write a blog at the beginning of the week.  There is a perfectly simple reason for that.  I caught what a lot of people in the Northeast are catching. What I later found out; it’s not a flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia but it resembles the latter two.  I had a temperature of 102 for two days solid, and I could only get out of bed a couple of times to check e-mails.  My doctor told me it is a viral infection that has to clear up on it’s own. The temperature returned to normal yesterday, the cough and sinus problems will take a couple of weeks.

As I lay in my bed half in and half out of an illness induced exhaustion my mind kept running to two things, one was “What purpose do viruses serve?“, and second “I can’t wait to get enough energy to get into the shower, because my feet stink.”

Of course the shower thing worked itself out on Wednesday, but I still hadn’t worked out why we have to have viruses.  As far as I was concerned, their purpose was just as much a mystery as why we have mosquitoes.  Then yesterday, in a coughing fit, I suddenly realized it.  Viruses exist to strengthen us; or at least our immune systems.

One thing I learned in third grade was when we feel sick, it’s not the illness that causes the pain, it’s our body fighting the illness.  A fever is caused by the energy our body uses up while fighting.  Our body has to use reserves of energy stored in our bodies to fight off these viruses.  This in turn is why we have to get our strength back after an illness.

While viruses may strengthen our immune systems, getting sick too often will keep taking our energy and not allowing us time to recharge.  Working while you’re sick stretches your energy reserves further, and could have the effect of extending your illness because your body will have less energy to fight, not to mention you could spread it to other people.

Do viruses serve a purpose?  Yes.  Without them we would be left defenseless to attacks of worse biological threats, like bacteria.

Challenge:  Next time you have a virus, rest.  If you can’t sleep, get a good book , a nice cup of hot tea, and give your body a chance to recover.  You owe it to yourself, and everyone else around you.

Enjoy,
Allen

The importance of getting out of a rut

February 9, 2009

If you could freeze time at any point in your life you would probably stop it in the happiest moment in your life.  Just like the bad times, you must move beyond the happy times, or you may miss out on something better.
I have a saying; “You should be happy with where you are right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to be satisfied.”  I am married, live in a nice place by the ocean, and have a job with good pay and great benefits.  While stocking shelves in a grocery store is honest work, and it pays the bills, it isn’t my life.  I am still searching for a job that allows me to use my creativity as well as my writing and photography.  I’m not ungrateful for my job, but I feel I can greater benefit others by using my creativity, which is something I was born with.
Even if you are doing what you are supposed to do, for a living, there are still areas in your life where things can improve. Of course we have to be willing to look closer at our own lives before we’ll see our weak areas, like our financial standing, health, spirituality, or education.  Once we see where we’re weakest, we can begin to strengthen those areas, and the only way to strengthen anything is by exercise, or hard work.
Life is a growth process that everyone must go through.  Sure, you may find where you are to be a good and exciting place, but eventually you can get comfortable where you are, and you stop looking to improve, which is when you stagnate and life becomes a rut that the longer you remain, the harder it will be to break free.
Ruts become like a poison, spreading through our spirits, like some energy sapping plague, eventually leaving us with nothing more to look forward to than an empty existence filled with the same motions every day.  The only way we will ever break free from this lifeless existence is by trying new things on a regular basis, and not being afraid to fail once in a while.  This is the only way to not only live, but to have life.

Challenge:  Closely examine your life and see what areas you can strengthen to keep you out of a rut, and move beyond your comfort zone.

Enjoy
Allen

Christian Bale blows up, and shows no respect

February 6, 2009

This past week on “Youtube” many tubers decided to have a little fun making parodies of the incident with Christian Bale blowing up on the set of “Terminator 4”, just because someone walked onto the set during filming.  Before that was Bill O’Reilly shouting at his crew for not having something on the teleprompter; proving that he would be nothing without his crew.
Entertainers of every kind are getting paid millions for playing, and they think that just because they have fans, they are indispensable.  There are thousands of people on the internet who are a lot more entertaining than Christian Bale, and a lot more believable than Bill O’Reilly.  Those two, as well as other prima donnas feel they have the right to treat others with disrespect, for doing nothing, because they are “STARS!”
The thing they need to remember is that the type of respect they get from position and money is just a front coming from greed; I will treat you like you want if you give me what I want.  True respect has to be earned.  Not with money, or position, but from respect for others.
If we want to get that kind of respect, we need to remember that there is no one better, or worse than we are.  We all have talents, and if we all work as equals we can do anything.  My own philosophy is that I never respect a position, I respect people who show respect to others.  I work at Hannaford stocking shelves at night.  People who only respect position say that I work for Hannaford.  True respect says I work with Hannaford to give the customers what they need.
The customer service statement I made last year was written to reflect this.  “I am not here to give customers what they want. I am here to give customers what they need and to help them get the most out of what they have.”  If a customer came into the camera store I also work at, and asked for a point and shoot digital, but they want full versatility, they need an SLR digital. Point and shoot Cameras are very limited in abilities.
Of course respect goes beyond the work place, it should be part of our everyday lives.  It’s what gives us the drive to help others, and to think beyond ourselves.  It’s not always easy to tell the difference between authentic, and false respect, but it can be done.
Just keep this in mind.  False respect says “I will stick with you as long as I get what I want.”  True respect says, “I will stick with you whether you give my something or not.”

Challenge:  Take a closer look at some of your relationships.  If the respect is based on someone wanting something in return, then it’s a false respect, and it should be worked on.

Enjoy,
Allen

Is the digital conversion too little too late?

February 4, 2009

Since its invention in 1928, by Philo Farnsworth, television has quickly become the primary source of entertainment and information for the world.  Just a few days ago, television finally converted to the digital age, which leaves me wondering, is this conversion too little too late?
Forty years after television was invented, information was exchanged between two computers for the first time which marked the beginning of the internet.  In 1969, when UCLA and SRI interconnected their computers the technology wasn’t as fast as television in passing on information even though  they were able to exchange information (television just gives you information).  As time passed, television stayed the same, except for adding color, while computer and internet technologies advanced.
The internet has now surpassed everything the television can ever hope to be.  Computers now entertain us, inform us, we can now shop on the computer, as well as do our taxes.  In essence, we can now use the computer to control every aspect of our lives.
With entire cities starting to offer a chance for anyone with wireless antennas on their computers to get free internet, as well as the hotels, condos some cafes and other internet friendly establishments, I view the conversion to digital as a last ditch effort by the cable companies, and television manufacturers to save their collective revenues.
My own prediction is that by 2028 people will no longer need their televisions and the internet will completely replace TV’s as the only source of entertainment and education in this country.
Companies, like Time Warner, will have to put all their research funds into new internet technologies, or they will have to face fading into obscurity.
I don’t have a challenge for this blog, just a message:  Welcome to the 21st century.

Enjoy,
Allen

Don’t be embarrassed by mistakes

February 1, 2009

Let’s be honest.  We, as humans, are imperfect, and we will make mistakes.  We can handle these mistakes in one of two ways.   We can either get embarrassed and wallow in self pity, or we can use these mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
The question of whether mistakes are bad or not isn’t always easy to answer. I’m not talking about the obvious ones that cause financial ruin and death.  I’m talking about the little mistakes that most people get embarrassed by, like taking the wrong road and getting lost, or forgetting an ingredient in a recipe.
Sometimes our mistakes can actually have a positive result.  A few years ago, I was at the beach looking for subjects to take pictures of, when I happened on a small shell.  I thought the lines on it would make a perfect texture shot.  I was making sure to get the shell in perfect focus so that I wouldn’t lose any of the detail, but I was concentrating so much on the shell that I didn’t realize that the water was heading right for me.  I gently pressed down on the shutter, and that’s when I noticed the water filling the lower half of the frame.  I jumped to avoid the water at the same time as tripping the shutter.  My first thought was, “There was a wasted shot.” because when the water went out, it took the shell with it.  Imagine my surprise when I had the film developed and found not only the water half way up the print in perfect focus, but the shell was still in focus, and the water was just starting to surround it.  You couldn’t plan better timing. It just goes to show that even a mistake can end good.
Mistakes also show us that we still have a long way to go, and that we will always have opportunities to grow.  I personally feel that life would be pretty boring without them.  We would never know our own limitations, or have the chance to work around them.
By accepting our own imperfections, we open ourselves to what life has to teach us, and maybe a few surprise happy endings.

Challenge: Instead of being embarrassed by your mistakes, try to see what you can gain from them.  You might be surprised.

Enjoy,
Allen