3 Reasons Why Fear is Good

“Once fear enters your life—whether it’s been there for a second or a lifetime makes no difference—it will take you in one of two directions: empowerment or panic,”—Georges St. Pierre.

I never expected a man so competent in physically dominating other people to talk so much about fear.  Georges St. Pierre is a mixed martial arts fighter of great acclaim. Though currently retired, the Canadian athlete is considered one of the best UFC fighters of all time.

photo credit: wikimedia commons
photo credit: wikimedia commons

I picked up his autobiography in a local used bookstore. It had migrated, most amusingly, into the Christianity section. I pulled it from the shelf, laughed about its location with my friends, and then ended up buying it. “Don’t judge me,” I said. Even pacifist Mennonite writers can take an interest in Ultimate Fighting.  I don’t understand the urge to fight.  I’m not sure I agree with it.  But I’ve learned you can learn a great deal from anyone who is at the top of his game, and St. Pierre is one such person.

Lesson one: anyone who becomes a champion must push past fear. Based on how much St. Pierre talks about it, he must have conquered a lot of fear.

Fear Needn’t be Negative

“The key, I discovered, is to understand fear and how it works… I don’t have a choice, because fear walks next to you everywhere in life. It has a reason for being there. People feel fear because they sense a threat… So fear’s purpose is ultimately good—that’s what people forget. Fear is designed to bring you to a safe place…

The problem with fear is that it’s talking to you about the future—it says, MOVE! Something else that is bad and painful could be coming your way… And people are like animals in this instance; they tend to follow their instincts. They follow the fear and dedicate all their energy to moving out of the way, toward safety.”

We tend to see fear as a negative thing, and understandably so. It’s painful to be afraid. It puts a lot of stress on our emotions, our minds, and even our bodies. But fear can actually be quite valuable. First, in instances of actual, physical danger, fear releases adrenaline and give our bodies the strength to survive. Second, fear can be the motivator that gives us the strength to win. Our dread can be our driver.

Dread Drove him to Victory

St. Pierre wrote about his first UFC fight. He was caught in his opponent’s hold, and everyone thought he was done. But he knew if he lost he wouldn’t be able to pay rent, or buy food that month. His opponent was fighting to win. He was fighting to survive.

“I was ready to die to get out of that hold. Break my arm if you have to, I thought. I didn’t have a choice. So I used the surge of adrenaline to roll him, got him on his back, and won. The fear-based adrenaline, the training and the empowerment of making a decision all helped me to victory.”

Our fear can be the ‘why’ that makes us push hard enough to win.  One reason this works is that fear can drive us to prepare for the unexpected.

Fear Keeps us Moving

“Standing still is never a good option. Not in the ring, and not in life outside the octagon either. When you stop moving, you’re done. When the status quo becomes your main weapon, your arsenal is diminished. When you can find no other way forward except for repetition, your mistakes are compounded into defeat.”

We’ve heard of the ‘deer in the headlights’. Those who grew up in wooded areas may have experienced the moment when the deer appears from nowhere, lit up by your headlights. You freeze. The deer freezes. What happens?


It’s bad for the both of you, trust me.

Likewise, if we freeze from fear, we’ll lose. But fear can drive us to improve in order to master our fears and be prepared.

“I want to fight guys who are better than me in all kinds of techniques. I want my training to be harder than my actual fights so I can be prepared to face the toughest opponents—so I can be ready to deal with fear.”

My Own Fears

When I began writing this post, I thought I was afraid of my book not selling–of being a failure as an author.  I realized that this isn’t the case.  I’m afraid of judgement and embarrassment.

I am no more than a month away from releasing We are the Living, and I am mentally preparing myself for the worst.  It’s my first book. How good could it possibly go? I know that success is usually a process of small increments (something GSP says himself) but I dread being asked “so, how many books have you sold?” and having to answer, “ten.”  So this fear drives me to research, to mentor with other writers, to tweak, to write better and better, and to network more and more. Ambition drives me too, but fear provides double the motivation.

If there is any theme in GSP’s biography, it is that success is stress, tension, fear, never accepting ‘good enough,’ and never, ever being done. But it is clear that he’d never trade it for a comfortable, couch-potato existence.  I don’t know enough about him to say if he is a man of good character.  No doubt he’s done things I disagree with (being a UFC fighter not the least of them).  But he is clearly a smart and courageous man, and I can admire that.

I’m going to contemplate the idea of fear and examine my reactions to see where they are fear based.  How many of my decisions are based on fear?  Probably more than I’d like to admit.  But recognizing them is the first step to growth.

The Top 10: Swapping Heads, Swapping Stories

How many stupid things can one person do in a year?  And write about them?

Yes, I’ve been blogging for a year now, and as I look back over what I’ve written, I realized that much more has happened than I thought.  I’ve lost weight, I’ve written a book–and I’ve had my foot run over by a truck.

I began writing while unemployed, and now, doubly employed, I’m still going strong.  This is post 101, and to celebrate, I’m listing off my top 10 posts.

1. For Trade: One Head

Have you ever wished you could escape from your own head?  In a moment of silliness and disillusionment, I wrote an ad, trying to sell my head.  Read through the comments section to see other’s ads for their heads.  Some are hilarious, others are heart-breaking.

2. I Don’t Plan on Getting Married

Single gals can get pretty desperate around Valentines day.  I decided that this time, I wouldn’t be the one saying “I’m okay with being single,” because I wasn’t.  The response to this article was amazing.


3. The Funny Version 

Tragedy plus time equals humour, I was told.  So when my foot was run over by a truck, I tried to reframe it as a comedy.  By the way, if you want to meet cute medics, put your foot in front of a truck.

4. Why I Left Christian Music

If I love Jesus, why don’t I love Jesus music?  Btw, few things will bring out the therapist in your Christian friends more than admitting you don’t like Christian music.

5. Fat Girl’s Guide to Fashion Freedom

Do you ever look at pictures and say “I can’t believe I wore that?”  When I was little I was fearless about my fashion choices, but when I grew into a chunky, acne riddled teen, my confidence evaporated.  How could I get it back?

purple and pink me

6. The Great Pizza Failure

After an epic quest for low-carb pizza produced disgusting results, I had a small existential crisis.  In hindsight it was pretty funny.

7. Trim Healthy What?

After enough people asked me ‘aren’t you doing some diet thing,’ I decided to own up to it and explain what Trim Healthy Mama is about.  Update: I am indeed still on that ‘diet’, and have dropped two pant-sizes.


8. 5 Ways to Name Your Baby (Or Not)

I don’t have a baby, but I think this is how to name one–if the baby names I’ve been hearing are any indication.  Did that Mom just call her kid ‘Satan’?

9. I Caught the Bouquet. Now What?

I caught the bouquet at my friends wedding.  I know that’s supposed to mean that I’m next to get married, but I’m not holding my breath.

And I still maintain that I did NOT knock that girl over.

10. Comment Section Wars: 3 Ways to Rise Above

Some people truly enjoy a good fight.  If you want to attend one, pick a YouTube video at random and scroll down to the comment section.  After reading through a comment section debate, I offered these three tips on how to succeed in this blood sport.

I’ve gained a bit more experience in this topic now, but I still stand by these three points.

Well, those are my ten–to a degree, in no particular order.  Now that I pick them I can think of others, but there we are.  Friends, it’s been a good year. Thanks for meeting me in the coffee shop and saying, ‘hey, I read your blog’.  It still gives me a thrill.  Thanks for  your ‘therapeutic’ advice.  Thanks for offering up your head when I needed to swap mine.

Here’s to a new year.



One of the Biggest Lies I Know

One of the biggest lies you will ever hear is “Mom, these aren’t my cigarettes. I’m holding them for a friend”–to paraphrase Claude Hamilton.

Another is this: no one understands you.

Have you ever just known that no one ‘got you’? Have you ever been sure that if people knew the real you, they’d never accept you? I’d venture that we all have, and I’ve come to believe it’s a lie.

We are not alone.

I’m the only writer in my family. They find my imagination and my humour and my obsession with social media to be rather off the wall. Don’t get me wrong–I love my family to death. But sometimes I find this frustrating, because I can’t talk about what is important to me. I thought I was completely unique–perhaps even a wacko–until I found entire communities of others just like me. It was sort of a homecoming. “You mean you’ll take me seriously if I ask ‘do clones have souls?’ You mean we can have whole conversations about punctuation?”

I had an addiction that was eating away at my insides. I was ashamed, and didn’t want anyone to know. I wanted to deal with it myself, but I couldn’t. When I finally confessed it to friends, they said “Uh huh. I know what you mean,” and gave me grace and encouragement. Just having it the open took away its power.

It’s a humbling thing to realize that your eccentricities and your dirty secrets are actually not uncommon. What? I’m not special?

Well, yes, you are.

But the belief that we are the odd one out may actually make things worse. It drives us away from those who could help us, and who may actually understand what we’re going through. We get all turtled up in ourselves and don’t see that hands are reaching out.

Its actually a great strategy. I don’t know if you believe in the devil, but if you were the devil and wanted to destroy God’s creatures, what better way then to drive them all apart? Feeding them the lie that ‘no one understands’ is a great place to start.

There may be a scenario where we actually are alone, and in that situation, it is helpful to have a solid grounding in faith. My own faith is in Jesus Christ, and he is always with me. Sometimes it just requires me to pull my head out of my troubles and look up at him. Because he came to earth as a human being, he can empathize with the failings of our mortal selves.

My brothers and sisters, the weirdos, you are not alone. Your oddities and your secrets do not have to isolate you. Keep looking. We will find each other eventually.

A Year is a Lot of Time to Waste

I’m afraid of commitment, so I don’t make New Years resolutions.  I do make resolutions, but not New Years ones.  A year is a long, long time after all, and six months in I might change my mind.  Making a decision?  Oh, not me.  Do you know how long it takes me to pick out a bag of chips?  I mean, what if there’s a better flavour?  What if I change my mind?

But I am a planner.  I make one month plans, I make one week plans.  And now I feel the need to make a one year plan.  “Like New Year’s resolutions?” my coworker asked, when I told her this.

“No.  Well… yes.  No.  It’s different.”  I mean, it’s a plan, not a wish, right?  That’s different, right?

I’ve got a whole list of plans by now, and the whole things scares the pants off of me when I think about it, which means I can’t think about it right now because I’m in public.  I guess I’ll chance it.  Maybe the boots will keep the pants in place.

I have financial goals–pay off my car, for instance.  I have health goals–losing weight, of course.  I mean, it was working before Christmas, it should work now.  I have writing goals–a stack of them.  I plan to publish for the first time in 2014, and this scares me even more than my list of goals.  I also have a goal of how many books I want to read, and on what subjects.  And, best of all, my sister and I have planned a trip for the summer when the plant shuts down.

I’ve heard it said that “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year, but they wildly underestimate what they can do in ten years”.  And I suspect this may translate into months as well.  What could I accomplish in twelve months if I deliberately planned this out?  When I began writing a to-do list for the week, it was because I was tired of forgetting things.  In one year, you can forget a lot.  I don’t want to forget the things that were important at the beginning of the year.  I don’t want a year to go by haphazardly, because time is the most important resource I have.  I don’t want my money to go to the wind, because I spend far too much time to get it.  I don’t want to finish another year without progress in my fitness, because after a few of those years I’ll wish I’d taken better care of myself.  I want to finish the year with better relationships, and new ones.

I want to thrive in 2014.

2013 was a hard year, and I’ve come through with scars on my body and on my heart.  I am sorry for the bitterness that has taken root in my soul, and for the spiritual complacency that I see in myself.  I’m sorry it was necessary to spend so much of my year at work, because it seems to have strained my relationship with my family.  I’m sorry I spent so much money on myself.  I wish I’d saved it, or spent it on others.

I don’t want 2014 to end like that.

And so, I resolve to plan.  I guess I’ll finish the plan tomorrow.  Yeah, tomorrow. 

Blue Saw the Rabbit: Make a Point, Tell a Story

Young Jessup and Grandpa sat on the front porch one lazy Sunday afternoon, drinking sweet tea.  Grandpa’s hound, Blue, lay snoozing by Jessup’s feet. Grandpa had just asked Jessup about his fishing the day before, when a rabbit dashed across the road. Blue, who had been by all accounts asleep a moment before, exploded from the porch and disappeared into the scrub on the other side of the road, barking like mad. A couple moments later the terrified rodent skittered across the yard and behind the house. Blue burst from the bushes, hot on its fluffy tail.

Jessup laughed and slapped his hand on his knee. Grandpa only smiled and leaned his head back. Blue could be heard yipping and howling behind the house, and soon the ruckus doubled. Blue shot around the house with the neighbour’s collie right behind them.

“Where’d the rabbit go?” Jessup asked.  If it had passed by, he hadn’t seen it.

Grandpa shrugged.

But the dogs were undeterred. They could be heard baying and barking up and down the road, around the house, and down in the gully by the river.  Soon every dog in the near vicinity was chasing after Blue and the rabbit.  The hullabaloo was tremendous, but they didn’t seem to be getting any closer to catching a meal.  And next time they came into view, it was just the collie and Blue.  Blue didn’t seem at all discouraged that the rabbit was yards and yards ahead.  He was still charging ahead, tongue hanging out, eyes bright.

A few minutes later, only Blue’s barking could be heard. Every other dog had deserted him. But Blue came back, panting and spraying saliva past the limp rabbit in his jaws. He set it down in front of Grandpa’s feet.

“Go on, Blue.” Grandpa kicked the rabbit off the porch, and Blue bounded after it. Moments later, all Jessup and Grandpa heard was his smacking and chewing.

“Grandpa,” said Jessup. “Why did the other dogs give up?”

“Well…” Grandpa rubbed his chin and gazed at the floorboards. “The other dogs were just chasin’. Blue?  He’d seen the rabbit.”

I didn’t make up, or look up this story.  The pastor told it in church a solid year ago. I fleshed it out a bit here, but the gist of it is still locked in my memory. I don’t even remember what the point of the sermon was, but the story is almost self explanatory: a clear vision, an eye on the prize, is the key to not giving up.

That Sunday, the kiddies I teach couldn’t tell me what the sermon was about either, but they could tell the story back. Six year olds paying attention to the sermon?  Well, they heard the story.

Don Norman said:

Stories have the felicitous capacity of capturing exactly those elements that formal decision methods leave out. Logic tries to generalize, to strip the decision making from the specific context, to remove it from subjective emotions. Stories capture the context, capture the emotions…. Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.

A story connects the facts together and makes them real.  A story gives both the solution and the application.  A story can illustrate, entertain, convict, clarify, and sell.  A fact and a date might disappear but the flow and colour of a story sticks in the mind like hair on a biscuit.

Have something to say?  Tell a story

For further reading, check out A Whole New MInd by Daniel Pink, particularly his chapter on ‘story’.  A fascinating read.

Chris and Terri Brady are fantastic at teaching by telling stories.  Check out their blogs:

On Duck Dynasty, Empathy and the Right to Refuse

I am the voice crying in the wilderness “Can’t we all just get along?”

I don’t like conflict. I don’t know if that makes me a coward, or one of the peacemakers that Jesus called blessed. I don’t now if being anti-conflict is a strength or a weakness, and no more have I questioned this than in the last couple days.

It began on Thursday when, on my break at work, I had the misfortune of clicking on #DuckDynasty. I inhaled venom and vitriol like so much chemical fumes. They burnt my insides and left me feeling confused and ashamed to be part of the human race. I understand that Phil Robertson’s comments were offensive, but I don’t understand how his comments give license to be equally offensive. The level of cognitive dissonance displayed would have been funny if it had been on some more trivial subject. But it wasn’t funny at all.

I felt the need to take a side.

Thing is, like Phil, I am a Christian. I believe that, like a good father, God has set boundaries for his children and homosexuality is outside those boundaries. I do not hate gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people and I respect their right to act according to their beliefs, but I cannot agree with them.

According to comments I read, that makes me ‘hateful’.

On the other hand, having now read Robertson’s comments in the original GQ article, I agree that he lacked tact. Whether it was naiveté or simply not caring what people think I do not know, but I am appalled that he would say such things in an interview. That’s just asking for it.

That makes me ‘afraid to stand for the truth’, apparently.

My confusion continued yesterday. My coworker and I were assigned the cleaning of one of the coaters (I work in pharmaceutical manufacturing). In order to do this job well we are required to climb inside the coater, which is dangerous and often leaves us bruised and sore. The procedure does not tell us to do this, but we can’t get the coater clean without doing so. My coworker announced to me that he was ‘going to be a d***’ and refuse to go into the coater. As part of our employee rights, we can exercise the ‘right to refuse’ if we believe the task is unsafe. He explained to me that the management and safety committee knew that the job was unsafe, but when he protested to them they told him that we just needed ‘more training’. Well, he called that BS, and this was his formal protest.

I decided to stand by his decision, and also refused to go in. The supervisor was notified, and she was pissed. So was our senior operator, and he talked to me and asked me if I actually agreed with this whole thing. I said yes, more or less. He continued to wheedle, and I began to waver.

He was called away, and I walked away feeling like such a weakling. Yeah, I didn’t ‘change sides’ so to speak, but I felt that I was way too easy to persuade because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.

I told my coworker that I wasn’t going to stand in his way, but I wasn’t going to be around when the feces hit the fan either. He didn’t mind.

Is there any happy medium? Is there a way to stand for truth without being offensive? Without alienating the other party? Without shooting my mouth off and looking like an jerk?

In the fallout of Robertson’s remarks, I found an article that really encouraged me and shed some light on a solution. The Huffington Post article is by Shane L. Windmeyer, an LGBT activist and founder of Campus Pride, and is titled “Dan and Me: Coming out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A”. You may remember that Chick-Fil-A was at the center of it’s own controversy in 2012 when it came forward that Chick-Fil-A was funding anti-LGBT organizations. Windmeyer and Campus Pride advanced a national campaign against Chick-Fil-A.

But then Windmeyer received a phone-call from Chick-Fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy, and that hour-long conversation led to more and more conversations and texts between the two men. Windmeyer says:

Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being “a follower of Christ” more than a “Christian.” Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-a — but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.
And in that we had great commonality: We were each entirely ourselves. We both wanted to be respected and for others to understand our views. Neither of us could — or would — change. It was not possible. We were different but in dialogue. That was progress.

Neither man changed his views. Windmeyer did not agree with Cathy’s Christian views, and Cathy did not condone Windmeyer’s lifestyle. But, Chick-fil-a ceased to fund the most divisive anti-LGBT groups in favor of marriage enrichment, youth and local communities. Campus Pride dropped their campaign.

In my mind, this is true tolerance: to respect the other enough to hear them out, understand their views, feel sorrow for wrongs and right them where possible, and love them as a person, not a stereotype. That is the person I would like to be.

I believe that there will come a time where standing for the truth will be inescapably offensive, but I do not believe that must be the norm. Does that make me weak? Maybe. I will continue to explore this. But in the meantime, I wish to emulate the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Read the full Huffington Post article by Shane L. Windmeyer at:

For Trade: One Head

I’m getting a little sick of this brain of mine. Actually, I’m thinking of trading it in. My thoughts and my troubles are getting tiresome, and if I could just swap my head for another one I could get a little relief. Besides, I’ve noticed that other people seem a little sick of their heads too. Perhaps they’d like to trade.

Would you like this head?


Let me tell you about it.

Processing speed runs at average to slightly above average, with excellent information retention capacity through the audio and visual receptors. Expect to learn concepts quickly, and memorize easily. Short-term memory is a little shabby, but this can be counteracted with the use of lists and calendars.

You will inherit a highly active imagination, as well as some ability to translate this into written stories. This comes with the added benefit of never being alone, as the head is generally occupied by anywhere from two to several thousand tenants, all vying for attention and occasionally doing and saying rather nasty things. These characters are likely to get out of hand, so keep the gates well monitored, but there are one or two in there that I call my friends. I trust you will enjoy their company.

The brain comes fitted with a musical ear. Unfortunately, this musical ear is stuck ‘on’ right now, and the files must be corrupted as it keeps playing the same songs over and over again. But, if you get tired of those ones, the musical ear comes with a ‘mix’ function that can add harmonies and countermelodies.

Because of a compulsion to gain more and more knowledge, the brain is rather cluttered. If this becomes bothersome, simply take the brain off its steady diet of books, articles and audios, and it should soon become empty. It works for me every time.

You may enjoy my many wonderful memories of my family and friends, though you are unlikely to see them much as you will be far too busy. When you do meet them, they probably won’t know you that well any more. Make sure to unload on them about how your week was. That will catch them right up.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that you would be required to work as a retail clerk part time as well as in the role of a pharmaceutical manufacturing operator full time. Fortunately for you, this brain actually likes these jobs and is quite passable at them. You will also be expected to peg off the remaining things on my to-do list for the month and maintain this blog.

Mechanical difficulties may include: spinning mind, overload, fatigue, negativity, depression, and chronic overthinking. I should also mention that the brain is rather disillusioned with its church and volunteer work right now. It might be a drag, but keep it up anyway. A little more sleep, and much more worship and meditation will help.

Do what you can to maintain some semblance of order in the financial and fitness departments. The brain is equipped with a rather limited capacity for each, and no athletic ability whatsoever. Perhaps on your body it will perform better.  See photo for physical attributes of said head.

Interested? Feel free to post adds for the head you’re looking to get rid of in the comment section, and if I see anything of interest I’ll contact you.

Seriously, though, I tend to think that my life and my troubles are the worst, and that no one understands (and I know others think this as well). If we would listen to each other, I bet we’d find that “everybody’s got a story that would break your heart” (Amanda Marshall). And what we want is someone to listen, empathize, and tell us it’s going to be okay. Please do post ‘adds’ for your head below. I promise to listen.

I bet, though, that I’ll go running back to my old, familiar, messed up head.

Scoreboard, I Hate You

A few days ago I downloaded this app called “My Fitness Pal”. Anyone else tried that one? You enter everything you eat and drink during the day, and it tallies up your calorie intake, as well as the nutritional info.  And then it tells you “If you eat like this, you will weight X kg by X date.”

Oh. Dear.

Every day so far, I have exceeded my recommended calorie intake—and it’s not even an unreasonable goal because of my active lifestyle. But I like chips.

What changed? Did my diet change for the worse because I started tracking it? No, I just got a reasonable picture of what I am eating.

A few days before that, I tallied up my expenses and receipts for the month of November to see if I made budget. I didn’t. Not even close—saved only because I worked overtime and made more than I’d projected, and even then I went backwards last month. Ugh. I’ve been tracking my budget for the last four months, and I have never made budget perfectly. But this much I know, I’ve been a lot closer when I’ve been tracking it.

Of course, that doesn’t make it any less depressing.

I also track what books I read, how many audios I listen to, the stats to my blog, Twitter and Facebook. Most months I make my goals, but the progress seems really slow.

Claude Hamilton, in his book Toughen Up: Basic Training for Leadership and Success, says, “We track what we respect. If you don’t respect your money, you won’t track it. If you do respect your time, you’ll track it… those who don’t respect their time and money enough to track them are always too busy and broke.” Ouch. I suspect that the same thing applies to my diet: I didn’t respect my body, so I didn’t track my diet, ergo I’m overweight.

I don’t know if tracking my food-intake will help me lose weight, but not tracking it would have kept me on the same path of weight gain I was on, just as not tracking my finances would have kept me broke. As it is, I am able to live off 80 percent of my income, and slowly am gaining financial traction. Because I set goals and revisit them regularly, I read more, learn more, and do more because I respect my time.

As you see, I go from failure to failure. When you’re losing, the scoreboard is depressing. That’s why some kiddy sports team have eliminated it—as if that could boost the self-esteem of said kiddies by sticking their heads in their sand.  “Oh, they’ll feel bad if they see that they suck.”  Yup.  They will.  Maybe it does boost their self-esteem for the moment, but it will ultimately hurt them by giving them unrealistic expectations: their boss will keep score on their productivity. Their bank will keep score on their accounts. Keeping a scoreboard keeps you honest about your failures, and when you have the courage to confront your weakness and do something about it, there are few things that build your self-esteem more.

For further reading, check out the chapter on keeping score in Resolved: 13 Resolutions for LIFE by Orrin Woodward, or the chapter on putting first things first in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Or this article on keeping score at Orrin Woodward’s Blog here

Exit Interview: The Nanomath

Well, I’m done.

Yesterday I looked down and saw that my word count had reached 50,000.  I validated my novel on the NaNoWriMo site and it was official.  I win.

I feel like I should be more excited about this.  Truth was, I knew I would do it.  About two days in I knew I would do it, which takes a lot of the glory out of it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy, I’m proud. I’m just not elated.

Plus, I’m still writing.  50,000 words brought me to the point just before the point before the climax, if that makes sense, so of course I have to keep going.  Coupled with the fact that this morning I killed a character…

I had to do it!  I’m sorry!

So, to recap the whole thing and maybe to make it all sound grand, here are three of the best things about NaNo.

1.  Getting immersed in a new story.

Just for a month I had nothing else to write.  I could focus on my characters, my world, my plot, and just getting it out there.  I didn’t have to worry about editing or censorship (though I did edit and censor).  I really got to love my characters, or at least some of them.  Hence, why I feel bad for killing one off.

2. I get a new story.

A new, full length, first draft is like a heap of playdough that I now get to mould into something awesome.

3. Pushing myself and blasting past boundaries.

I’ve never ever written 50,000 words in a month.  And now I know that it’s actually not that hard.

And then, lest you think it was one giant picnic, three of the worst things about NaNo.

1. Editing and censorship.

This novel covered ground that I’d never written before, and sometimes it was confusing.  For the sake of the story the characters had to do and say things that I wouldn’t do or say.  That challenge was not to appear to be condoning them so much as just saying ‘this is what this person is like’.

2. So called “writers block”

Getting in the bulldozer and writing crap until I busted through the block wasn’t fun, but it needed to be done.

3. Getting tired of coffee.

I drank so much coffee while writing that, after a while, I didn’t feel like drinking it, but I did, which made it worse… and now I’d probably go through all kinds of withdrawal if I quit.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo?  Got any stories, lessons, or hardships to share?


The Halftime Report

Hey!  Long time no… see, read, whatever.

As some of you will recall, I haven’t been blogging because I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in which writers endeavour to write a 50,000 word novel.  I thought, ‘hey, this will be insane.  I can’t blog’.  And, I was wrong-ish.

Here’s how it’s going so far.

Today is 18 days in, just past half, and I am sitting at 40210 words–well past target.  I’ve had several days when I have been able to write 5000+ words.  Making 1700 words isn’t as hard as I thought.  Not to say it’s all been wine and roses.  It has really pushed me to write when I don’t feel like it, am tired, or can’t think of anything–to get out and push, or shovel, when I got stuck.

And that is the sort of discipline that every writer needs.

I’ve also learned about structure and organizing.  I am writing from a scene-by-scene outline, and while it hasn’t been perfect, it has helped keep things moving, on target, and in a proper structure.  I’m a by-the-book person.  I want a perfect 3 act structure (not possible, but we’ll try).

I’ve learned that whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.  Cliche, I know, but my big reason to NOT do NaNo was that the most I’d written in a month was 30,000 words, and that was when I was unemployed.  Definitely NOT unemployed now.  But, it turns out I am far more disciplined than I was just six months ago.

I’ve learned a few random things as well.  For instance, while procrastinating I learned that the Graham Norton show is very entertaining.  And, while writing at McDonalds, I was watching the TV from the corner of my eye and got a small education about the UFC.  I don’t understand it at all, but I find it a most interesting psychological study (bet you never expected to see ‘UFC’ and ‘psychological’ in the same sentence).  As a Mennonite and a pacifist, I don’t know what to think about it.  Anyone care to ‘splain?

I’ve drank way too much coffee, and listened to way too much music, and watched at least one really weird movie.

Good times, in other words.

Stay tuned for scenes from “Sons of Earth”.

The possibilities are endless.

Over and out.