23 Nov

Does your mirror say that you’re happy?

Banner - Sunrise

In my day job, I do a lot of zoom meetings, and every time, I’m struck by how similar people look on zoom.

You can get 20 images, side by side in a big grid. 20 faces looking back at you. And they all frown. Every single one.

Granted, I’m from Sweden and Swedes are a bit of a dour people. We don’t have that compulsory, smiling thing that they do in Japan, or that big “I love everything in the world is great”-thing they do in the USA.

But still, I’ve spoken to people from other countries on zoom, and they don’t look much happier than I do. Read More

16 Nov

A Note on Time

Banner - Typewriter

Banner - Typewriter

I like to fool myself that I’ve got a fairly decent sense time. This, of course, is utter hogwash.

Humans live in relative time. We simply do not know how time passes, we can’t feel it, can’t predict it. And it’s doing pretty weird things to our sense of self, or rather our sense of accomplishment.

For example, I’ve been writing every day. For the past month, every single day. But some days, even though I’ve marked down that I’ve written, even though the writing has felt quite long and hard, I haven’t accomplished much.

Other days, even though I feel that I’ve just written a little bit and I would have liked to write more, I’ve written thousands of words.

Both of these feelings are false.

Fortunately, I’m pretty good at noting when I start and stop my writing sprints. And amazingly on the days when the writing has felt like it’s taken forever but I haven’t accomplished much, I haven’t spent much time writing.

Fancy that.

See, my writing speed is fairly constant around 1500 usable words per hour. So it’s the total amount of time I spend writing that determines my total output. It’s simple math. However, when I consult my feelings, it’s anything but simple.

On days when I produce less, I feel that I’ve spent more time and more effort on my writing, and on days that I produce more, I generally feel that I’ve spent less time and less energy to produce more.

What’s going on?

What’s going on, is that my flow, my enthusiasm, and my natural fear of encountering difficulties collaborate to make my sense of time as accurate as that of a five-year-old waiting for Santa Claus.

But the more sprint’s I do, the less that feeling persists. Basically, the more I write, the more I feel like writing, and the less time and effort I feel that I’m spending.

Note the key word “feel” here. It’s got nothing to do with actual, observable, measurable time. Everything is about feeling. That’s why time gets shorter the more I write.

It’s a like warming up before a workout. You warm up, and warm up, and it’s hard. You’re still stiff, maybe hurting a bit from the last workout, and things aren’t going so great. But then you move along into the exercise itself. And after about 10, or 15, or 20, or however many, minutes, you hit your stride.

You’re feeling good about it. You’re no longer thinking about how heavy those weights are or how long you’ve been running or biking or swimming. You’re just doing your thing, in the zone.

Writing is exactly like that. Getting into the zone takes time and that time feels like a long, hard slog with a heavy backpack. In absolute terms it can be minutes, maybe quarter of an hour at most, before things get into flow. But those beginning moments, the warm up to the writing feel long. Especially before you begin, when they feel infinite.

That little warm up hump is enough to put a lot of people off, stop them from writing entirely. I know that I’m one.

My methods to break through this brain-hurdle is to count my writing as starting. If I just sit down and start, I get to count that day as having written.

This means that no moment, even if it’s only three minutes of cycling through old text, is wasted. I get to chalk it up as writing.

It gets me past the hard relative time and into the easy relative time. Not always, but often enough. Not reliably, but often enough that I can reach that relative time that just flows, effortlessly and swiftly, like a brook in spring where the words tumble, waiting to be caught.

It doesn’t always work. I’ve got days where the beginning time really feels infinite, and I can’t get past it. I’ve got days when I’m too stressed out, too tired, to worn and depressed and just plain fed up to write.

But the more I write, and the more used I get to the habit of starting, the quicker I get into fast time.

And that’s where I want to be.

09 Nov

Flexible yet indomitable

Banner - Old tree

Banner - Old tree

You want to be flexible. Not like water, which will flow around anything, but will be stopped by a simple dam, be pumped away, forced into a new path, evaporate, or simply sink into oblivion.

You want to be indomitable. Not like a rock, which is hard and strong, but once cracked, will never heal itself.

No, you want to be flexible, yet indomitable. Like a tree.

A tree will grow past any obstacles, cracking concrete, breaking through rock. It will stand against hurricanes and floods, shaking, bending, but resuming its growth once the storm passes.

Read More

23 May

Mathematical Proof that You’ve Got Time to Write

Mathematical Proof You've got Time to Write

Mathematical Proof You've got Time to WriteThere is one in every gathering. The friend-of-a-friend who says “Oh, I’m going to write a novel, too, when I’ve got the time.”

Sometimes they use variations “I’m going to write when I retire.” “When the kids are older.” “When this project at work is finished.” If only they’d have the time.

Well, friend-of-a-friend, since I don’t have the courage to take you by the ear and shake you, I’ll do the second best thing. I’m going to lampoon you on the Interwebz. I’m going to prove to you that you’ve got the time to write, using cold, hard math. Read More

09 May

You Have to Begin

You have to begin

You have to beginYou have to begin.

You have to begin, over, and over, and over again. A new story, a new chapter, a new sentence.

You have to begin. That’s all there is to it.

For me, beginning is always hard. I know of people who look at the page and don’t know what to write. I don’t. If I look at the page, I start to write. It’s the moment before, right as I start the computer, think about what I need to do, that’s the hardest.

I know I should begin. I know that as soon as I begin I’ll be able to write, I’ll be getting somewhere, anywhere. But the moment before I start, that’s pure fear.

I’ve been writing professionally for over fifteen years now, and I still have trouble beginning. I still feel the fear. Read More

14 Mar

5+1 Key Points to Follow Your Dream

Follow Your DreamsYou can plug away at your dream, hoping for that big break, struggling with motivation, with time, with everything, and do it alone. You might make it. It is possible.

But it’s not bloody likely.

I know. I’ve been there. Sometimes I’m still there. But I’m struggling like a worm at an angler’s convention to find support for my dreams. Having support for your dreams can be the difference between making it and giving up. Having support for your dreams can be the difference between burning bright and burning out. Having support makes things easier[note]Not to mention more fun – you get to follow your dreams without losing your energy.[/note].

And it’s damned hard to get it sometimes. Read More

22 Feb

2 Easy Tricks that will Change Your Life

Change your Life

Change your LifeHow would you like to change your life in only 5 minutes per day? Get confident, go for your dreams, and become all you can be?

Impossible? Not at all. I’ve done it, and it took me only a few minutes a day. Here’s how I did it.

Two years ago I was pretty broken. Imagine a dog that’s been beaten too often, slinking along with his head hanging. Or a kid that’s been bullied, folding in on himself. I was like that, and I didn’t like it.

But I couldn’t do anything about it. I tried, oh, how I tried. Willpower! Motivation! Goal setting! Just freaking do it!

Bogus dude. Just doing it only works if you’ve got the foundation for it, and I didn’t. That’s when I discovered biological feedback loops. Read More

08 Feb

No, You’ll Never Have Time to Write

No Time to Write

No Time to WriteI’m sorry, but you’ll never have time to write.

Not when the kids move out, not when you retire, not when you find a friendly billionaire who’d just love to gush money and adoration upon you. If you haven’t found the time to write now, you won’t find it then. Here’s why.

Time is the one commodity that everyone has the same amount of. You, Donald Trump, Brandon Sanderson, Nelson Mandela[note]Well, not Nelson Mandela since he’s dead.[/note], you’ve all got the same amount of time. And they’re world famous in Poland[note]That’s a quote.[/note] while you’re not. So what gives?

When I started out, I didn’t have time to write. I lived a pretty hectic life: I studied full time, I taught martial arts (Ju-jutsu Kai), I had a girlfriend, I had friends. I also played about 100 hours of video games each week.

Later, I didn’t have time to write. I lived a pretty hectic life: I worked full time, I had a wife, a baby, and a number of webcomics and blogs to read.

Later yet, I had a full time job, a wife with a full time job, and two small kids. And I had time to write. Not only that, I now have time to edit, write and receive critiques, read online comics and blogs, be active on social media, write this blog, and submit my work to magazines and competitions.

What the hell gives?

The good news is I haven’t found a time machine. I haven’t cut out everything fun from my life either. All I’ve done is create a few, simple habits and follow them slavishly. Read More

07 Dec

Forget Willpower – it is Worse than Useless!

Self-Discipline - Roy Baumeister quote

Self-Discipline - Roy Baumeister quoteI tried to change my life for a long time. I figured that if I’d just want it enough, if I’d just tried enough, if I’d have enough will to change, I’d make it.

Nopes. Turns out the world doesn’t work like that.

Trying to change on willpower alone is like trying to lift a car with your bare hands. It might work if you’re Superman but for a regular Joe like me, well, let’s just say it didn’t work an leave out all the embarrassing details.

The reason it didn’t work is to be found in a now classic study by Roy F. Baumeister, published in 1998. Baumeister took a bunch of volunteers and put them, one by one, in a room with a bowl of freshly baked chocolate-chop cookies. Read More

28 Sep

The Opposite of Fear is Curiosity

Fear is the seed of regret Bob Mayer quote

Fear is the seed of regret Bob Mayer quoteI’m a scaredy-cat.

I don’t like to be put in situations where people can yell at me, where I can be in the wrong, where I can be blamed for failure. I don’t like to lie, to cheat or to up-sell. I’m a lousy salesman.

Quite simply, I’m too scared.

Everyone understands fear. If only we weren’t so afraid we’d sky jump, get married or sell our sofa and go live in a tiny monastery in Tibet where bald monks would teach us how to kill a man with our pinky toes.

If only we had the courage. If only we’d be fearless then we’d go, do, learn, live.

Sorry to burst your bubble, kiddo. Being fearless does diddly squat. Read More