Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Find Your Passion

Nearly halfway through my fifth decade on this world, I met a little red-haired girl. Well, “girl” is a bit of a misnomer, since she had also spent almost four and a half decades on this planet. When I began writing newspaper columns, she became Red — well, actually, her dad had been Red, and she was known as Little Red when she was a little red-haired girl. But for all practical intents and purposes, she is Red now. And more than a decade later, she is still my best friend and dearest companion, a relationship I suspect will continue until my last breath.

Red is a joy to behold in a garden. She will spend hours digging in the soil, trimming wild growth into some semblance of order, planting seeds and nursing them into bloom. Sometimes I will step into our yard, where wildflowers and roses and morning glories and cedar trees compete for the eye’s attention, and am overcome with the beauty of the fruits of Red’s labors. I can only imagine what she feels when she steps back to see what her dirt-smudged hands have wrought.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Staying in the moment

Inspiration can strike in the most exciting ways when you keep your eyes and ears open to the moment at hand.

All you have to do is stay conscious and be aware of the moment. Every moment. Tend to this moment; it’s all we have.

Easier said than done. Every day is full of traps to rob you of your consciousness, lull you with a dull routine, and pretty much turn your brain off. Ever arrive at work taking the same route as any other day, and suddenly realize you didn’t remember the trip? What a day for a daydream!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

If not the government's job, whose?

"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."

Thoughts from King Solomon, son of David, king of ancient Israel ... Proverbs 14: 30-31 (NIV)

What springs to mind as I read those words is that for many years I have argued that charity is not the work of government. Public-sector schemes to redistribute wealth are based on envy - punishing achievement based on an envious and false belief that great wealth is inevitably ill-gotten. But

Monday, December 13, 2010

Look to your zest

Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
by Ray Bradbury remains perhaps my favorite book about the subject of creativity. Here is the master's view on finding the passion needed to write memorably and, in doing so, creating unforgettable characters ...
"Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer's make-up,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Freedom from fear

What is freedom?

Freedom is a place that seems to be the opposite of fear. And by definition, of course, freedom will mean different things to different people.

Freedom is often described in terms of absence: Freedom is the absence of present tyranny, barriers, threats, debt or other restrictions, or it is moving beyond the past to a promising future.

But freedom is more than a void; it is what fills the void: The actions, the peace of mind, enabled by the removal of those barriers.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A conversation about fear, friendship and fun - oh, and the book too

Wally Conger and I chat about Refuse to be Afraid and ... well, I'll let Wally explain here.

Oh, and during the conversation, I mention putting up a way to e-mail me. There!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Refuse to be Afraid: The Book

We all live with fear, ranging from little anxieties to sheer, stark-raving-mad, paralyzing terror, and everything in between. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of getting started, fear of being stopped before we’re finished, fear of what to do next after we’re finished. Fear of hate, fear of love, fear of hating, fear of being loved. Fear of sickness, fear of health, fear of other people’s habits, fear of our own.

Fear of death.

Life is scary. But you don’t have to let your fears control your actions.

As I've been blogging these themes have come up time and again, and I've long been tinkering with compiling them into a book. The book is here. Thanks for your encouragement.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Self Help: Words that could have been written this morning

I am still amazed that the opening paragraphs of Samuel Smiles' book Self Help were published in 1859. Except that he uses an occasional word or turn of phrase that people don't use anymore, Smiles could be writing about the contemporary debate about government bailouts versus the power of the individual and the private sector.

Smiles' book is packed with examples of real-life (19th century) success and encouragement. No wonder it created an entire new genre. I'm tickled to be in a position to re-introduce this classic to modern audiences. Check this out (and click on the book cover to find out how to buy or download it):

Monday, June 28, 2010

What Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Poison Belt' tells about the creative process

There is a message for us in the creative life of Arthur Conan Doyle, who tried to kill off his most immortal creation.

Doyle got tired of writing the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and wrote a stirring final episode in which the famed detective dies. The public outcry was such that he had to bring Sherlock back.

As an alternative to Holmes' death, Doyle instead breathed life into new characters, notably the bombastic but brilliant Professor George E. Challenger and the three friends with whom he discovers The Lost World. Instead of destruction (killing Holmes), Doyle chose the creative act of assembling an entirely different iconic character.

While the world largely knows Challenger through The Lost World, there are four other tales, three of which are collected in The Poison Belt, my latest little product under the Richardson Press emblem. In the title novella, the four adventurers reunite to face a graver threat than dinosaurs: a section of outer space the Earth is passing through that may result in the death of the human race itself. In "The Disintegration Machine," Challenger investigates an inventor who claims to have created a device that can scramble a person's atoms and then bring him back — sort of an early version of Star Trek's transporter. And "When The World Screamed," the professor theorizes that Earth is one giant living being, and he proposes to get that being's attention. Still to come to complete my little Challenger trilogy: The Land of Mist, a novel steeped in the spiritualism that marked Doyle's later years.

The lesson from Doyle's work: Don't dismiss the good you've done before. Do keep finding new ways to exercise your creative chops.

Challenger is not as immortal as Holmes — but The Lost World and its sequels are still something special nearly 100 years later.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

W.B.s Book Report: Thou Shall Prosper

Rabbi Daniel Lapin's book is one of those eye-opening, game-changing books. He purports to explain what money is and how money works.

The laws of the marketplace don't change — you can try changing the rules as governments often do, but it won't work. Lapin explains the rules as clearly as I've ever seen, drawing on the ancient teachings of the Torah itself.

Business and money itself, Lapin says, are products of humanity's spiritual nature. As such they only work well when values like trust and integrity are at play. Again, some folks find temporary success with business and money without trust or integrity — but the emphasis there is on temporary.

This is one of those rare books that needs to be read more than once — studied and absorbed. I would be doing a disservice by trying to relate its concepts based on my still-growing understanding.

This much I can and will say: The attitude of our nation's leaders and most entertainment venues toward business and business people is based on falsehoods and a complete misunderstanding of the free market. I knew that much instinctively before I picked up this book, and Lapin does a nice job of explaining why it's true.