Tree Theory

January 14, 2019 § Leave a comment

Growth is slow.

Not always, certainly; some things, some feelings, some people grow seemingly overnight.

Often, though, growth is frustratingly, annoyingly, painfully slow. So slow, it’s imperceptible—especially to yourself.

I’ve been trying to grow in … well, several ways, really, but in one way in particular, and I’ve been frustrated at how slowly it’s going. It’s been over a year of self-help books and therapy and talking with people who have dealt with or are dealing with issues similar to mine.

At times, I felt like I’ve made no growth at all and said as such. Fortunately, others told me they’ve seen growth, even if I didn’t.

This weekend, though, I didn’t have anyone to tell me that. Snowed in for two days, I had plenty of time to beat myself up for not “getting there” yet. For not evolving fast enough. For not being wired right.

It lingered still this morning, through my ablutions and chores and the drive to the office. But then, sitting at my desk, a thought hit me out of nowhere: Personal growth is like growing a tree. « Read the rest of this entry »


Hey, Mo!

November 9, 2018 § Leave a comment

Normally, the month of November is a month of writing for me. It is National Novel Writing Month, after all.

While I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo in the past—and found it useful—I haven’t written much lately. Which is a good reason to participate, honestly, but I’ve got too much going on to be able to sit down and write 1,667 words a day. Hell, I intended to write this blog post on November 1, and I’m only just now getting to it nine days later.

So instead of tackling a novel, I’ve started in on a project that’s a bit more organic—literally.

I’m growing a mo. A ‘stache. A lip warmer.

In other words, I’m participating in Movember.

I’m not really doing it to raise money, so this isn’t a funding pitch. I’m growing a ridiculous bourbon strainer A) to prod my guy friends to think about their health, and B) because I’ve wanted to grow a mo for a long, long time.

Not Why, But Which?

So the question for me isn’t really “why the hell would you grow an ugly lip mat,” but rather “which uncomfortable face merkin should I grow?”

Because there are so many wonderful options.

My first thought was to adopt Sam Elliot’s recently orphaned nose caterpillar.

The Sam Elliot

That reminded me of the movie Tombstone and Kurt Russell’s fabulous Wyatt Earp handlebar.

The Kurt Russell

Once I was in a Wild-West-Lawman frame of mind, however, I recalled Timothy Olyphant’s Seth Bullock in Deadwood, and man, do I love his kisser tickler.

The Seth Bullock

But then I started thinking about the primary reason for Movember: to stop men from dying too young.

Too many people I’ve known—men and women—have left our mortal party too early. They died from cancer, from random illness, from suicide, from overdose. They died in accidents.

And with each bright flame extinguished, the world grew a little darker.

So I thought I’d honor their lip brooms. My dad had a walrus once, but that seemed overreaching for my first foray into facial foliage. And Bardi’s crumb catcher wouldn’t be the same without his signature gray.

But then I remembered the photo of my brother Rich, taken at 20,000 feet as he piloted a Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia for Comair. Rich, who died when he was only a few years older than I am now.


So that’s the mo I’m going to try to grow. That’s going to be my nose neighbor for November.

If my furry face ferret can get the people I love to think about their health, maybe I won’t lose more. Maybe they’ll get a checkup for that weird pain that’s been bothering them. Maybe they’ll get a regular health screening.

And by “they,” I mean you.

So laugh at my lip wig. Mock my mouth brow. Snicker at my snot mop.

And then make an appointment to get a physical, ask about that cough that just won’t go away, and get that weird mole checked. See a therapist, if the world has been pressing down on you too hard.

Because I like having you around. And I want you to see the glorious Seth Bullock I’m going to grow next November.

Learn more about Movember and men’s health at

Fear Not! (via Leslie Leyland Fields)

June 2, 2016 § 3 Comments

FULL DISCLOSURE: I came across the image below via Writer’s Circle on Facebook. I don’t know anything about Fields other than her brief bio on her website. That said, her seven fears hit all of my buttons. Hit that link for more.


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners.”

March 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

I’m probably late to the show on this, but I saw the Ira Glass quote below for the first time today and thought, “Damn, that’s exactly what I needed to read today.

I’m sharing in case you’re later to the show than I am, or just need to see it again.

Joss Whedon talks about being prolific, and you should listen

April 23, 2014 § 1 Comment

joss-whedon-spReal quick: This popped up today and I read it and think it’s very much worth sharing. So go read HOW TO BE PROLIFIC: GUIDELINES FOR GETTING IT DONE FROM JOSS WHEDON, because it’s worth it. 

I have thoughts on this, and I also have a post brewing on what it’s really like to complete your novel’s first draft (spoiler: it’s HARD), but right now I’m focusing on getting the damn book finished.

In the meantime, listen to Joss. He’s way smarter than me, anyway.

Failure is your Best Friend

November 21, 2013 § 2 Comments

Rosie-the-RiveterHi, writers! If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, we’re in the home stretch — just a little over a week to go!

I’m finishing up the first draft of my book, which currently weighs in at 200 manuscript pages and almost 55,000 words. I’m loving it so far, and can’t wait to start the rewrite. It’s going to need a lot of polish, but I think the end result will be worth it.

I haven’t always thought this.

There have been moments when I thought the book was either A) too derivative, B) too boring, C) too thin, D) too unoriginal, and E) all of the above. But I’ve kept on, because I really enjoy being with these characters and I know that if there are flaws, they will be glaring and I can easily find and (possibly less easily) fix them in Draft 2.

But there are a few first drafts of other novels that are reposing on my hard drive, un-rewritten, because I let fear of failure get the best of me. I was afraid they weren’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and doggone it, people were going to like me or my books.

So that’s why I’m taking valuable writing time to share something I found this morning, thanks to my friends Jesse and Genny. It’s called Be Friends with Failure, and it’s a short comic strip (although that doesn’t feel like the right term) about why you should embrace failure, not fear it. My favorite quote from it is this:

“You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”

In the corporate world, there’s a buzz phrase: “Fail forward.” It’s shorthand for just what Be Friends with Failure is talking about — not fearing failure, but learning from it to improve your process, your product, your company, etc. Move forward by failing. Fail forward.

So don’t despair! Keep pounding away at that first draft. Keep kicking your book forward, even if you think it’s crap. Finish it, and fix it in the rewrite. And if you can’t fix it in the rewrite, take what you learned and write a new book.

Keep writing.

Be friends with failure.

Fail forward.

Are you a NaNoWriMo?

October 30, 2013 § 4 Comments

ImageIt’s almost that time of year again. No, not the Holiday Season (although that is looming). And not Winter (although Winter Is Coming).

No, it’s almost National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.

If you’ve never tried to write an entire novel, start to finish, in a single month, now’s your chance to join the nearly 180,000 other crazy people all committing to cranking out 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo several times, and even “won” (i.e., wrote 50,000 words) twice. I won’t lie; it ain’t for the faint of heart. You have to pretty much give up TV, your friends, your family, social events, and all other distractions to be able to hit the 1,667 words a day you need to write to make it across the finish line by the end of the month.


In exchange for all you give up, you gain a little self-respect for sticking to it. You gain a little insight into what it’s like to be a full-time writer. And most importantly, you gain a first draft of your novel.

You also learn—out of absolute necessity—to silence your internal editor. That’s because what you’ll be cranking out at the pace of 1,667 words per day isn’t going to be good. It’s going to be a lumpy, roughly sewn first draft, with glaring seams, bad transitions, stilted dialogue, and way too much exposition—and that’s perfectly fine. You have to be okay with that. Your internal editor won’t like it, but you have to ignore that voice in your head that’s telling you to go back and change that one scene or that one line or that one word, because once you start going back, you stop going forward. And you can’t afford that, not if you want to win.

And you want to win. Trust me.

You want to win, because you want that rough draft.

You want to win, because then it’s just a matter of polishing; the hard work is getting that first draft out of your head and onto the screen or the paper.

You want to win, because it’s a fantastic feeling to know you’ve written a novel in a month. (It’s probably like a runner’s high. I wouldn’t know, though; I only run if something is chasing me.)

It seems like a lot of words—trust me, I know. My current writing pace is wretchedly slow—300 words a day, if I’m lucky. That’s far less than John Scalzi, who writes (I think) 1,800 words a day, or Charles Stross, who cranks out 5,000-plus.

But 1,667 words a day is doable. I know because I’ve done it. It helps if you have an understanding spouse or supportive friends (and hey, as a WriMo, you’ve got 180,000 supportive friends). I think it helps if you have an outline, but others find it easier to make it up as they go along and fix what doesn’t make sense in the rewrite.

One of my WriMo friends believes in the power of her magic red wine. Another creates a writing soundtrack. Yet another will force herself to listen to the same crappy song, on repeat, until she hits her goal for the day. Some meet up in local coffee shops for write-ins, others schedule writing sprints with fellow WriMos on Twitter or Facebook.

There are all sorts of tips and tricks. The point is, you can do it.

So go sign up at, and write a novel next month! Then come back and share your secrets for WriMo success. And if you’re already a NaNo veteran, share your tips in the comments!


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