“Success” might be nearer than you think

Some want private jets, some want huge houses, some want a six figure income, some want a spouse and kids and enough money to live on.  Some want to run everything in the world.  Some want political office.  Some want a private island.  Some want vacations in exotic lands.  Some just want a steadily paying job.

My definition of “Success” has changed a lot over the years.

Once, I would have thought that I had to be rich.  “Rich” meant a few million in the bank, a fancy car, trips to exotic places.  I thought I’d probably never see “real” success.

Now, I can see that I have met many of my own definitions of success.  I work a steady job and feed my little family on one income.  We  have a bit to put by each month.  I have a paid off car, a little old, it’s true, but paid off.  We eat good food and live in a place that suits us, and that we like.  We don’t take any kind of government assistance.  We have a few published books to our credit.  We have time for art and living.

How did we get there?

By not giving up.  By not becoming enmeshed in credit. By jumping on opportunities when they arose. By living frugally.  By saying “no” to cable bills and smart phones.  By saying “no” to the huge TV and the false need of a new car every few years.  By standing by our friends and building loyalty with them.  By not living beyond our means.

Some would still consider us poor, but it’s all in how you look at it.

What would greater success mean for us?  Our dreams are still fairly simple.  We want more exposure for our books, more books of ours on the shelf, more art of ours on the wall, one more nice computer.  Someday we want a home that costs maybe two to three hundred thousand dollars.  We want a bigger nest egg.

Those dreams are not so grandiose.  They can be achieved with hard work and ingenuity.

Why not take a few minutes to measure the places where you are successful?  Think about what real success means to you.  Think about the paths to get there.  Maybe the path is shorter than you think.


via Daily Prompt: Successful


Welcome to 2017!

Well, we’ve made it.  Most of us were probably at least thinking about our New Year Resolutions.  At the end of the second week, it may be at that point where we’re flagging, starting to forget about them, and getting wrapped up in everything else we have to do.  So, here’s a little help for anyone who might want to inspiration for goal setting or need a kick in the pants about just how to drop those holiday pounds.  I hope you enjoy them and I wish everyone a bright New Year.


Seven Strategies for Getting Things Done

How to Win at Losing Weight

Success – Step By Step

3 Root Causes Behind Food Cravings and How to Beat Them

For everyone who had writing as part of their resolution, I have a whole new page for you on the ins and outs of self publishing!

Self Publishing


Undreamed of possibilities

In this post, I wrote about things I thought were true when I was five. I was reflecting today on just how different my life is from what I expected. My formative years were spent mostly before the internet was common, and though I grew up around my dad’s clunky yet trusty 286, I never dreamed computers would be such an essential part of my life. I’m sure everyone reading this can resonate on some level, so please feel free to provide your own examples in the comments.

When I was a kid, I never dreamed I’d…

…work with computers constantly, both at work and at home, have a monitor that’s about an inch thick, and consider my internet to be essential while cable TV is not.

…be able to pay somebody to shoot me or my loved ones in the face with a laser, for any medical purpose.

…actually have a published novel in any form, since self publishing in my youth meant you had access to a good copy machine and made ‘zines.

…have a blog, once again, see the lack of internet and lateral communication.

…become good enough at pen and ink drawing to do decent illustrations. Pen and ink was a loved but unheard of dream at the time.

…carry a tiny portable telephone that connects me to anyone anywhere in the country without long distance fees. I grew up in the bad old days of corded phones, peak calling times and long distance.

…learn to blue and parkerize metal, learn to use a mill or a lathe or a grinder, become comfortable with power tools, and learn the pure love of a good pressurized air system. I grew up being nervous even around hand tools.

When I look at the things I can do, that I never dreamed I would be able to, and would have thoroughly envied anyone I knew who could, the future doesn’t seem too dim. What possibilities are still in store for all of us that we never imagined would be possible?

Deconstructing Limitations

My father is blind.

Not “differently abled,” or with “sight issues,” as my mother might say.

Pretending he’s not blind, or downplaying it, makes his accomplishments seem less to me and I don’t like that.

He’s done some pretty impressive things for anyone even if they did have a full five senses.  He graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering.  He programmed his own word processor in Basic, back in the early 80s, because he couldn’t afford to buy one.

He moved to a cabin in Idaho for a couple of years.  Learned to raise, butcher, and can chickens and rabbits.  By touch, mind you.  Learned how to cut down trees, saw them up, and split them for firewood with nothing but a crosscut saw, another person, a splitting maul, and an axe.

He couldn’t find work at anything worthwhile so he got his Master’s degree in adult engineering.  Now he’s a social worker… still not working nearly up to his level because he’s so much more than that, but making a good wage.  He experiments with robotics, 3-D printing, and he’s built a couple of sheds.  When I was little and our washing machine broke, he figured out how to fix it, entirely by touch.

He’s a stout proponent of feminism and quite a liberated individual.  He also brews beer and has made some pretty decent wine.  He bakes, grinds his own flour, and makes a pretty darn good shortbread – he can even do it in a stovetop oven on a wood fired stove.

He’s an author of multiple books and he’s a blogger too.  Check his blog out here, and his books over here, under his pen name, Glynda Shaw.

All this, because he refused to accept limitations.  He, stubborn person that he is, refused to accept “you can’t” and “you shouldn’t.”  I’m proud of him and he’s an inspiration to me.

Speaking of books, he just wrote one about a blind college student going through engineering courses in the 70s – though it’s fascinating to read from the perspective of a blind student, and he does use his experiences to describe things, he promises it’s not autobiographical.  It’s written under his pen name.  Check out Experimental College if you’re interested.

experimental college cover snip

via Daily Prompt: Construct


skater twitter ebooks.jpg

Taking the High Road

Lately things have been so incredibly frustrating.

People who I liked and thought I understood have changed so I can’t understand where they are coming from.  They are operating in a reality I cannot follow them into, a world of black and white duality, no shades of gray, and belief in concepts that are provably untrue that easily equals religious fervor.

If I talk to them, and try to gently bring them back to the world of provable reality, they fight back, tell me I’m a fool, or engage in personal attacks.  They are right, after all, and no one should try to dissuade them.

The problem is, they collectively are leading the world off a cliff.  If they would just take a breath or three, perhaps distract themselves with something analytical, and put down that Kool-Aid cup things would be better for them.  They wouldn’t have to be afraid all the time, they would be able to see that there really is hope in the world and a future if you work for it.

These are all reasons for me to take the high road – the lofty path.  These people, no matter how deluded they are, are still people.  I may have absolutely no respect for their views, I may think they are leading the world into ruin, but in and of themselves, they are still people and worthy of being treated with dignity.

So I will not respond to the ad hominem attacks, I will not allow them to twist my words.  I will take the lofty path.


via Daily Prompt: Lofty


Flames of warmth and destruction

Fire and flames have been rather central to my life.

When I was young, I kept warm at a stove just like this – it provided all heat and ability to trash burner 1000.JPGcook.  My parents scavenged for wood at local building sites and behind supermarkets, burning scrap lumber and cut up old pallet boards.  I was used to fire, used to tending it.  I was as used to this as most are used to flipping on a light switch.  Later, when I owned my own home, 110 years old with faulty baseboards, I relearned how comforting flame is.  I love campfires.

I also learned respect for fire as my house burned down when I was six – it was fall, promising a hard winter in northern Idaho, the stove pipe was too close to the cedar shake siding, and we lost everything.

Fire is warmth and destruction, energy of creation and consuming anger.  As with all things, the internal flames of emotion are useful and warm when banked properly, the damper’s set just right, and you use good dry fuel.

Just like fire, the flames of emotion can be destructive or choke you out with smoke that makes it impossible to see when not tended properly, or allowed to get out of hand.

The mind, rational thought, is like that careful homeowner who sets the wood just right, keeps things managed, so you can warm your fingers and toes and boil a pot of tea.  Then emotion becomes something to inform and inspire you, not something that clouds the truth of how the world really is, or makes you sensitive to every little slight so you spend your life being consumed by the fire of rage.

via Daily Prompt: Flames


Do you believe or do you know?

(Still an important topic, I’ve updated this post.)

Belief is mutually exclusive with Knowledge.

Belief is accepting something as true when you have no evidence.

Knowledge is accepting something as true when you do have evidence and a means to prove it.

Belief is emotion based and tends to resist evidence to the contrary.

Knowledge is thought based and tends to update as new evidence is found.

Belief is the basis of religion, Knowledge is the basis of science.  To cross the two, as people do when they say “the science is settled” about something that clearly isn’t settled, is disaster and is not how science really works.  For the record very little in science is ever “settled.”  That’s the point of science.  True scientists create a theory, test it, change their theory when the facts don’t support it, and try to repeat their results.  False scientists create results to fit their theory, or alter them when they don’t come out “right.”

Here is a great quote regarding belief that truly made me think and I hope it does the same for you, dear Reader:

“Belief is a virus, and once it gets into you, its first order of business is to preserve itself,and the way it preserves itself is to keep you from having any doubts,and the way it keeps you from doubting is to blind you to the way things really are.”  – Philip Caputo

What is more, I have found that Belief and Knowledge are mutually exclusive.  Having a desire to understand the world in all it’s awe inspiring beauty, I’ve made it a personal mission to eliminate belief.  It’s a long process, and a little disturbing how many ways belief is inserted into society as well as my own upbringing, but it’s been worth it so far.  Embracing a knowledge based mindset has given me a firmer grounding in my world, better understanding of how things work, and a deep, abiding joy in existence.  Belief had left me with a shaky foundation and a great deal of uncertainty.

Faith and belief lead to uncertainty for me.  Knowledge and understanding lead to trust.

A customer service training I went to once said “take all hope away from your customer.”  The statement was meant to shock the student, then get them to think, because the follow up was “they shouldn’t have to hope you will do your job well, they should know you will.”

I’ve taken that to heart, and find it interesting food for thought.

I also wish to add a link to this visual article.  I found it thought provoking, entertaining, and a little touching.

“Believe” by The Oatmeal


via Daily Prompt: Believe


7 strategies for getting things done

Have you ever started a project and petered out in the middle?
I have. Hundreds of times, maybe thousands.
No one has unlimited energy and enthusiasm. As creative people, we do much better if we treat enthusiasm as a limited resource. We can build it up with use, but it’s still finite.

Here are seven hints to help you use your precious resources well and funnel all that energy where you want it – into your project. This will work for any kind of project but I have one bonus hint especially for writers.
Plan your strategy

If you are an artist, use a concept sketch. If you’re a writer, use an outline. There’s a moment in every project when your idea sits shining, fully formed in your head. Record as much information as you can, while you can. Capture as much of that feeling as possible.

Break up the task

While you are planning, divide the job into pieces. Roughly decide what you are going to do when. Be specific, so if you have to leave the project you can come back to it easily and know exactly where you are. This is great for working opportunistically, especially if you don’t have the luxury of a set working time.

Find the time – or make it

It often seems like we don’t have any time to work, especially distraction free time. However, it’s vital. You might have to tell the kids to go play, feed the cat so she doesn’t pester you, etc. Self discipline is helpful here. Surfing the web when you are supposed to be writing really makes a novel take longer to write, just ask me.
However, even well spent half hour, can be really productive. If you can’t set time aside, work when you can – twenty minutes during a child’s nap, fifteen while the dog is running at the park, an idea jotted down on a notebook while waiting in line at the bank, etc. Get up a little earlier if you have to. Small efforts over time add up. I wrote a novel, at work, between calls.
Treat your creativity and enthusiasm like a finite resource

I mentioned this already but it bears repeating. Don’t pour your enthusiasm into too many projects at once. Focus on a couple of things at a time. This includes things like gaming, social media and work, so balance carefully. If I want to really focus on my next novel, for instance, I’ll cut back on blogging and gaming. That way those mental resources aren’t under so much strain.
Limit brainstorming

This might seem to fly in the face of other advice you’ve read. Ideas are great, vital really, but don’t keep generating them endlessly. If you do, you can feel like you are accomplishing a lot. “Look at all these lists I made,” you may say to yourself. “I’m really making progress.” But, and this is a big “but,” you need to follow through with one of them eventually. Even the best idea means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING unless you follow through.

Don’t talk about your work!

Mention it once in a while if you need, but don’t get into in depth discussions. I’ve found that the more I talk about my latest project, I use up the energy I have to finish it. Everything I have goes into talking about the project so I don’t actually work as much on it. I get tired of the subject faster, I lose enthusiasm. If I stay quiet about it, all that desire to share my project and what’s going on with it gets channeled into the project itself. I get done faster.

Keep going – no matter what

Even when you aren’t feeling creative, don’t quit. If you are writing a novel, try to write at least a few sentences. It may turn into more, it may not, but at least you did something. If you are fixing a car, try to turn at least one bolt. You’ll probably end up doing more. In the meantime, you’ll be developing a good habit. Persistence is more important than talent, every time.

Bonus tips for authors:

Write without editing. Follow your outline, but don’t stop to look at it, just keep going. When I start editing my work before I’ve finis, I end up with far fewer pages than if I didn’t edit. I wasn’t ever able to finish even one novel till I stopped doing that. If you find something that’s a real glaring error, highlight that part of the text or write yourself a note, but MOVE ON. This will keep your momentum up, and then you don’t end up having only a few well polished paragraphs. This helps your “flow” and helps you finish the book.

Wait before you edit. When you’ve finished your project, wait at least a few days before you start editing. Distance is important because otherwise you will miss mistakes. It also helps to look at your project differently. So if you wrote it online, print it out then go after it with a pen. Read it out loud. I catch more mistakes when I do that! Just find some way that your brain won’t be so used to looking at the same words. And don’t forget to refer back to your notes and your outline.


(This article first appeared in another form on Bayart.org, however I reworked it and added new material since then.  So if you’ve read it before, there’s more to find!)

Don’t be (quite so) careful

via Daily Prompt: Careful

I was a very careful child.

“Be careful!”  “Don’t drop it!”  “Don’t cut yourself!”

I think I’ve only cut myself once, and that was by accident, when I was carving my best friend’s name into a piece of wood.    I almost never drop things. I’ve never broken a bone.  I’ve never hit another car in traffic.  You could say I’m careful.

But I’m also rather neurotic, ruled by fear, and terrified of taking risks.  I’m overweight because I didn’t run, jump and play enough – in part, I was afraid of getting hurt.  I was careful.  I listened to people too much when I was young.  I didn’t develop a healthy sense of rebellion either.  I learned the fine art of sneaking instead.  “Be careful” turned into “don’t appear to do,” or “don’t try at all.”

Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to make mistakes.  We need to try new, audacious things.  Stretch outside of the other-made prison of careful.  Take risks.  Move past fear so we can see the other side – then instead of careful, be mindful.

Mindfulness means we think about what we do, we look at it, but we weigh the risks and sometimes we decide a risk is worth it.  It’s being careful in a new way.  The way I did it as a child, it was fear motivated.


That consumed my young life.

“Well, so what?”

The mistake might not be so bad and the result not the end of the world.

Mistakes can be recoverable.    In the meantime, that scary trip you wanted to take but were afraid to?  Take it.  That exercise class that’s a little too vigorous?  Do it.  Be mindful, and fear won’t rule you.  Sometimes being a little less careful can lead to learning.