“If You Love Someone…DON’T set them free, but…”


“If you love someone, set them free.   If they come back, they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.”  Richard Bach

Not quite what I have in mind.  But almost.  Let me explain…


Seth Breidbart said:   “At Detcon, at a room party. Someone asked you for dating advice, and you told him to treat every woman as if every other woman he’d meet would ask her for advice about him.

Felicia (his current wife)  was sitting on the bed trying not to die laughing, because before she agreed to go out with me that’s exactly what she did. She asked three of my exes if they thought she should, and four of them said yes.


This is so cool (and yeah, I wonder about that math…).   We did one simple course on “The Soulmate Process” which is a branch off the “Lifewriting” tree: the assumption that the Hero’s Journey, examined, will reveal successful patterns of behavior.  That if you identify people who have achieved the goals you seek, if there is a consistent difference.  And it was by talking to hundreds of people who had been married over 20 years, and listening carefully to what they said, that this particular tactic arose.


Why?  Because so many people met their partners by being introduced by friends, often friends they had dated who had “friend zoned” them (and yes, I’m using this in the neutral sense: one person wants a romance, but the other wants only friendship.  Happens all the time, and mature people roll with it.)


But…there is also another way to look at it: It gives each partner a chance to evaluate the other BEFORE the relationship begins, based on opinions of other trusted people.   People who (you hope) will tell you the truth:  Is this person honest?  Do they have a temper? Are they loyal?   Do they bad-mouth their exes (fail to take responsibility) and on and on…all the way to “are they emotionally stable?”  “Are they possessive?”  “do they respect boundaries?”  and the all important “are they violent?”  “are they bat@#% crazy?”


Things that are good to know in advance.  (and yeah, the notion that people are doing this does keep you mindful about treating people well.  In a way, it is acknowledging that in days gone by, we usually married people deeply embedded within a web of family and social relations, often people who grew up in the same village or neighborhood, whose histories it was easy to determine)




I was shattered after my first marriage died.  Knew that I’d made mistakes, and vowed to correct them.   It was in that painful process, throwing aside everything I thought I knew, that it was politically “correct” to believe, and actually WATCHING human mated pairs as if I was an anthropologist from Mars, that I noticed the things that became the core of the “Soulmate Process.” It was in practicing them and getting a thunderously positive response (it was actually frightening how easy it was to attract women once I made a few tweaks.  Jeeze.) that I realized I’d touched something real, and that I was at a crossroads.  I could use what I’d found to be the biggest Playa I’d ever known…or I could channel that energy appropriately (given my stated values and desired outcomes)  and find a life partner.


And I clearly remember the night I got on my knees and prayed that I would find that partner, and expressed my willingness to wait for her as long as it took.


The next morning, I met Tananarive, and 2  1/2 days later we were effectively engaged.  Bonded.  Neither of us have ever looked back.


But…there was a problem. I trusted my instinct about her quality.  But I wasn’t totally certain she could trust hers about ME.   It wasn’t whether I was a “good person”, it was whether we were a match.  She was making a BIG decision.  Maybe the biggest of her life.  If I really, really loved her, I would want her to have all the information she needed to know for sure.  How could I do that…?


A plan occurred to me. At the time, I lived in Vancouver, Washington, and she lived in Miami. Our social circles didn’t overlap, so there was little help there. But she was doing a West Coast tour for her novel MY SOUL TO KEEP, and we decided I’d drive down to San Francisco, and drive her up to Vancouver to spend some time together.


It was a great trip, driving up the 101 along the Pacific Coast.  When we got to Vancouver the game really began. At the time I was separated from Nicki’s mom, and we lived in a side-by-side duplex, so that when Nicki came home from school she would come to my side of the house, and when Toni came home from work she’d go over there.  We were on very good terms, and I often ate dinner over there.


Well…when T and I arrived, to my absolute delight, Nicki greeted her with a great big warm hug. Wow. I hadn’t set THAT up.  And I’ve never exactly asked Nicki why.  I suspect it was because my little girl knew I’d been unhappy, and now Daddy was happy, so she assumed T was a nice person, and was grateful and happy to meet her.   But…all I know is that I went “Whoa!”


But the next thing was what I HAD planned.  I walked T over to Toni’s side of the house, sat the three of them at the living room table, and said:   “You guys talk about whatever you want” and LEFT for two hours.  To this day, I don’t know what was discussed.


But here was my thinking: this could only be good for T. 

  1. She would get a sense of what attracts me in women by meeting Toni.
  2. She would sure as hell get to know what Toni thought of ME.
  3. She would also probably think “this guy is confident!”  and that is NEVER a bad thing.
  4. IF there was bad mouthing from Toni, then no matter WHAT that would be a warning sign.  If she was telling the truth: run. If she was lying, that calls my judgement into serious question, both in terms of marrying the wrong woman, and in terms of being over-confident and putting them in the same room.
  5. She could, if she wished, get a sense of how and why things had gone wrong, a chance to make her decision about whether similar things might happen to her.
  6. And…there were doubtless things I never thought of, and maybe even things I won’t say publicly.


But no matter what…I felt that whatever happened in that conversation WOULD BE GOOD FOR T. It would allow her to make an informed decision, and I DESPERATELY wanted that.  I knew from the first 12 hours I was with T that she was exceptional, a woman of intelligence, beauty, skill, and power.  She had her own destiny.  I would have cut my arm off before voluntarily doing ANYTHING to harm her, or take from her one atom of her potential, or do a damned thing to diminish her spirit. No.  ONLY if I could be good for her and help her reach her destiny did I want her to make the decision to be with me.


Otherwise?  I would have gladly turned her into a Little Sister, shared everything I could about the writing business, and been as much friend and confidant as she needed.  Why?  Because due to the “Soulmate Process”  I was 100% confident that if I was a woman, I’d want to be with me.   And have no reason to believe I’m all that unique in terms of values, actions, energies, and direction. Which meant that yeah, I’d find someone.  After all, the MORNING AFTER I had made my decision, I’d met T.  Life was going to be great.  No need at all to obsess.


Would it have hurt if we hadn’t worked out?   Sure. But less than the eventual pain of a shattered life and precious lost time.  I can handle pain.  No problem. I ain’t made of glass.  And much less than the guilt of harming someone I already loved.   So the conclusion was: if I loved her, I had to be prepared to let her go. 


I had to be WILLING to lose her, in order to know she was mine.


How does this all sort out?

  1. Be willing to let your intended meet your friends and family. If you are really courageous, be willing to let them meet your exes.  If not, ask yourself why?  What does that say about your judgement?  Or your perception of the Intended’s judgement?
  2. Be insistent about meeting your intended’s friends and family.  And Exes.   If they put up barriers or bad-mouth them, factor that in to your decision making. Be careful: this is your life, and your heart is owed to no one.


What if it is IMPOSSIBLE to meet friends, family (and especially) Exes?  Be cautious.  Let a caution light burn in the back of your mind.  Pay extra careful attention to how they treat children, animals, waiters and service people.    Listen to what they say about their exes, and remember they are talking about THEIR judgement.  Note if they tell crazy stories about family, and ask if you want to be in that web.  Pay extra attention to how they behave when stressed: tired, broke, intoxicated, whatever.


Don’t rush into things. And if you do…and things go wrong…it was NOT their fault.  YOU  are the one who misjudged. They were just being who they are. You MUST take responsibility (literally “the ability to respond”) for your actions and decisions, or you are SCREWED.  If you cannot take that adult responsibility, you should not be having sex.

Yeah, I said it.


I’ve used this with same-sex friends as well.  I remember being at a guy’s house once, and something seemed…a little off.  So when he was out of the room, I FLINCHED at his dog…and the dog cowered.   Oh crap. I learned later than he was a rage-aholic who had abused his kids.

I remember being at another guy’s house, and I flinched at HIS dog. The pooch stared at me as if I was crazy, and just panted.    Love that guy.

Just some thoughts about a sliver of the SOULMATE PROCESS, how and why it works, and how you can apply it.  More to come…






The “Geek’s Guide to finding your Soulmate” is cooking now, at the same time as the “Write a story in a month with a sentence a day” program, and at the same time that I came across a person in deep pain, struggling to make it through his day.   I made the suggestion of a Morning Ritual to access their positive emotions, and received the following heartfelt note:


(“Sidney” said:)

“I know you’re trying to be helpful but — a morning ritual? It’s a victory just to get out of bed, get dressed, and brush my teeth. Often enough, I don’t manage the teeth-brushing.


My family is in a time of extraordinary stress. I’m sorry to subject you to the detail below, but if I just leave it at that, you may not understand that the situation is not something any adult could easily cope with.


After an X-year fight, a corrupt judge just gave joint custody of my two young (ages X andY) grandchildren to their violent, untreated   sex offender, twice-convicted child rapist father. Know that one of the convictions was against his X yr old step-daughter on the night he married her mother (a different marriage, he’s had X), so a X yr old definitely isn’t safe from him.


All of the adults involved (on our side of the fight) are struggling, even the ones who aren’t being triggered by all this, as a few of us are. All were blind-sided by the judgment. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I rage. I have flashbacks on a daily basis. If I can snatch some moments of peace in the middle of all this, I do, but then I get word (like I did this morning) that the police have been called. And here we go. Again.


I’d have to be heartless to be in control of my emotions right now.”




This is horrendous.  And PRECISELY why and when a “Morning Ritual” or some other practice designed to channel that fear and rage and helplessness is the most important.  Yesterday we explored the notion that one of the most malicious things about stress is that it discourages you from doing the very things you need to cope with it.


Note the last sentence:  “I’d have to be heartless to be in control of my emotions right now.”  In other words, “if I love my family, I CANNOT be functional.”


I would say that the more critical the situation is, the more desperate, the more vital it is to be able to perform.  Is it COMMON to be able to perform well under such stress?  NO.     But at such moments, do the ones you love need a hero the most?  YES.


And the problem is that here is where the ego will sabotage you. If depression is the “dark night of the soul”, then the way THROUGH it is “the leap of faith”: faith in yourself, your companions, or a higher power.


If you believe that loving your family means being crushed, you have no leverage.


If you guilt-trip yourself because you cannot act,  AND GUILT-TRIPPING WEAKENS YOU, you have no leverage. (While not ideal, it is true that some people can actually motivate themselves with guilt and anger)


This is how stress protects itself.   It is NOT your fault, not in the slightest.  But it IS your responsibility, because “the ability to respond” is all that makes it possible to act, and action is what creates change.


“Sidney’s” situation, as described, is about as bad as it gets.  ANYONE would feel that pressure.   t.  And this is where “being the hero in the adventure of your lifetime” is what can save your heart, and save your family.   While it is best to have integrated a “Morning Ritual” style practice BEFORE you need it, the truth is that any time you start you are starting to build the resource you will need the next time.  And if you need it now?  If you can see your way to making the decision, you might be able to create a “Ritual Buddy”, someone who will call you daily and remind you.  That’s the “Faith in your companions” aspect.  It works.


But note how much this ties back to “Love yourself.” Under stress, especially bad things happening to the people you love, a sense of contempt, of anger with yourself for being helpless undermines the very motivations that could create clarity, leading to more efficient and effective actions.


WHEN IN THE STRESS TUNNEL, YOU SEE NO OPTIONS. Even if there ARE no external options, staying free of that tunnel is still the best option.  At the very, very least…you now have the capacity to help your FAMILY stay out of the “stress tunnel” so that they can brainstorm answers that no individual can possibly find.


And if there IS no answer?   Then a tragedy has occurred, and the rest of the family must protect each other, their hearts and their children, so that the actions of a monster do not destroy an entire network of souls.   NO matter what the circumstance, what you and your family needs is as much clarity and positive action as humanly possible.


Maintaining that attitude without excoriating yourself for not having that strength currently is the Inner War.  And for the sake of your children, and the child within you and everyone you love, you might be slain, but you cannot surrender.



That is an extreme. But what of those other arenas?   Writing a story in 30 days?  Finding a soulmate?


Both require the same thing: the capacity to control your state, which makes it possible to define and take actions leading to your solution.  How do you control your state? By controlling your mental focus, the language you use, and the way you use your body ALL AT THE SAME TIME.


Writing a story?  That minimum is a sentence a day.

Finding your Soulmate?  If you want a healthy, balanced person with positive energy YOU MUST BE SUCH A PERSON. It is brutally simple.


How do you do that?  Start with self love.  How can you do that?   So many ways, the “Ancient Child” and “Heartbeat Meditation” and dream journaling and a Morning Ritual are just a few.  But all that takes time!  Well, how much time did you just spend reading THIS?  There was your damned time.  You have the time.  But the stress protects itself with lies.


Five minutes. THAT’S the minimum.   Distributed through the day in 60-second increments of deep breathing, so that the “minimum” is actually sixty seconds.  One minute.


One sentence

One minute.


There are your minimums for creating a story. Finding your Soulmate.    There are others for making or protecting money, or becoming fit.    But once you see the minimum, if you don’t do it, does that trigger self-loathing and depression..?


THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO START WITH SELF-LOVE. You cannot wire around this, ignore it, postpone it, trick it or lie your way out of it. You have to go into the pale places within you, face the Dark Night, and find some bedrock of faith.  Can’t find it? Then find the bedrock of survival. Don’t know where that is?  You can find it simply by slowing your breathing down below about 4 breaths per minute, because when the carbon dioxide level rises in your blood you will hit emergency. Then…imagine this is happening to a helpless infant (“The Ancient Child”) and that YOU are his/her only protection.


You’ll find that strength. It IS within you.   That ability to fight until the last drop of blood.   And whether it is protecting your family or building your dreams, the doorway is ALWAYS there, even though when you are IN the “stress tunnel” you cannot see it and might need someone else to point it out to you and support you.


That’s why there is more than one of us.  That’s why, come what may, I will ALWAYS encourage you to believe in yourself.  Always.  No matter what.  If you want someone to agree that you are helpless, you will need to go somewhere else.


But personally?  I’m hoping you’ll stay.






October 13’s “30 Day Story Writing” after-action report

So we had another great webinar Saturday, where T and I chose an idea, and then dove into process: how do you turn an idea into a story?  To avoid pure instinct and emotion, I discussed the technical aspects, questions like “Who, What, Where, Why, How, When?” and patterns like the Hero’s Journey.


If I had ANY lack of clarity or faith in my ability, I would never begin a story until I had applied these tools, understood the overall shape and HAD AN END IN MIND.   I wouldn’t write it unless It felt like it would be fun, and also could see a direct way to write it. There are ALWAYS unexpected problems, so starting with something that has energy and direction is a must.


I don’t know what the final title will be, but the brainstormed possibilities were great, and right now I’ve chosen “Fugue State.”  I like that.  Multiple meanings that allow us to twine thematic elements and subtext. Yummy.


One of the most important things was THE PROCESS ITSELF.  Brainstorming (between multiple people) mindstorming (when by yourself), the importance of foolishness, how to collaborate without tearing each other apart (one person holds the kill switch, always.  It varies between projects: if T’s name is first, SHE had the kill switch and did most of the mechanical work.  And vice versa) and so on.


So I hope people are watching the PROCESS as much as the CONTENT.   Most readers only see the finished PRODUCT, and that is the least useful in terms of learning, like trying to figure out an internal combustion engine by looking at the paint job.


Anyway, serious fun.  Today, I just transferred the simple paragraphs of description into WRITER DUET, a great on-line screenwriting/collaboration software.    Wednesday, I’ll break it down into scenes and Friday I’ll add dialogue.


On Tuesday and Thursday, I’ll work on the current Larry Niven project, “Ghost Writer.”   And every day, I’ll tweak the Mississippi Shuffle script.  By the way…I sent it to my agents last Friday.  Fingers crossed!



Write with passion!


(www.lifewrite.com is the way to join the fun.   Be a part of history!  Our goal is not just to write a story, but a GOOD story, a PUBLISHED story, and one good enough to be win an award.  Hey!  I dream big.)

Love is the greatest thing in the world…so start with yourself

So…the next major project will probably be our first complete “Soul Mate” course, probably a four-part Webinar.  I’m just dreaming about it now.  Frankly, I wasn’t convinced I could do it after my first marriage broke up. But when T and I passed our 20th anniversary…I said: “yeah. It is now honest to talk about this.”  So…I am.

A couple of things about finding a “Soul Mate”

  1. Definition: a person with whom you can see and feel your entire life path opening before you.  They are the other half of you, and that new whole is in alignment with your values, dreams, goals, and higher self.
  2. Friendship will be a part of this, but also the ability to function with aligned adult values )business: nest building) and unleashed passion.   Like, respect, love, lust.  All of them.
  3. This doesn’t mean “no stress” or arguments.  Give me a break. I argue with MYSELF.   On what planet could I expect to never argue with another person?



Like (friendship), respect (business/survival), love (open heart), lust.  All in the same package.  It seems to me that there are a ton of people who are confused about how to get these things.  They feel that they can’t do it, or don’t even know if it CAN be done, or feel that the rules have changed too much, or feel that they are lost in a conflicting maze of beliefs or suggestions.


It will be for people who want to understand how we got here as a species, and how we have the chance to create something new and wonderful.  MOST of the rules will relate to gay relationships.  There may be modifications I’m unaware of, but nothing excludes that I can see.


Because my experience has been in the heterosexual world, it will primarily be for men who love women, and women who love men. For people willing to consider the genders basically equal in mind and heart (with some biological complementarity, of course.) and want to step out of the politicized wars. To call a truce.


For people willing to be BOTH strong and nurturing.   And grasp that if you aren’t…you will attract either what you are, or the balance to what you are in both positive and negative ways.


For people who love themselves enough to value their hearts and bodies.  Or wish to learn to.


Here’s the biggest hint: START BY LOVING YOURSELF, or you have nothing of value to offer another.  The best you will be able to do is co-dependency.


If you like the kind of relationship T and I have: passionate, loving, laughing, working together, sometimes fighting but NEVER putting the relationship on the line…giving thanks every day that we found each other… we can lead you to that.


If you don’t, this won’t be for you.




The thing I love about the process most is that it is about being happy, whether you are with someone else or not. That’s the paradox.  That line from Broadcast News:   “Wouldn’t it be great if needy were a turn on?”   Well, it isn’t.  Not to any healthy person. Predators and damaged people will flock to your wounds, however.    Blood in the water.  Beware.


Anyway, I’m starting to collect requests.  What people want to know.  And…we will teach this when we feel we know 80% of the core questions, and can find people we’ve already helped who have solved those issues so that we can, either from our own experience or those of students, be SURE we can help you.


But remember the steps for socially conscious people?


  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Don’t waste your time arguing with trolls. Instead, support your tribe.
  5. Win with integrity.


This was designed for politics and racial issues. But if you can apply this to gender as well…you are seeing the world as we see it, and on your way.



Love is the greatest thing in the world…start with you.



Can’t have it both ways

I had a recent FB conversation with a gentleman  who defended Confederate statues and memorials, and insisted that they were appropriate.  I do believe I understand his position.      But if he simultaneously claims to be a greater ally of black people, with more respect for us, than those opposed to the maintenance of those statues, I can only conclude that he is either asleep, or a snake.  If he would make the same argument to a Jew about a statue of Goebbels, he is at least consistent, and I can respect consistency.   But he cannot, with a straight face, claim to be more of an ally to Jews than those who side with Jews about such things.


And I cannot think of a reason a black person should respect the Confederacy more than a Jew respects the Nazis. I just…can’t.


And if your mind goes immediately to the question of “is it appropriate to have such statues?” you are looking at the wrong part of the question.  The right part is to look at the relative compositions of the groups that say “yes” and “no.”   That is the tribe you have chosen, and while I wish you well there, there is a serious difference.   Consider yourself right, better, smarter…that’s fine. But you can’t do that and simultaneously claim that you respect us more than the people who respect our judgement and perspective on the matter.


You simply cannot have it both ways.




How Much Is Your Life Worth?

I had some fun today asking people how much money they would take for a year of their life.   At this point, the average is over 1 million for one year.

I ask you a serious question: do you live every day as if it is worth 3000 dollars?   If you wouldn’t trade a year of your life  for less than 3 million, are you living as if your life is worth 10k?  Do you seek that kind of joy, commitment, passion, contribution?   Do you treat each new day as if you have received a gift of that value?


I have a breast cancer survivor friend, who is having the time of her life in retirement, because she KNOWS every day is a gift.  It took almost dying to wake her up to the glory of existence, and how she wouldn’t trade even a single day for less than the maximum joy she can possibly have.


So…how much would YOU take for a year of your life? And are you living as if that’s the truth?


Why or why not?


We all have dreams for our lives. And all hit walls on the path to those dreams. But if you lose track of the real value of a new day, a hug, a sunset, another chance to tell your loved ones that they dance in your heart, another chance to learn, to contribute, to express yourself…you are selling your life FOR PENNIES.  And saying a year of it is worth a million dollars is some kind of bizarre fantasy.   Or…you are cheating yourself as no one else has ever, ever cheated you.


What would be different if you LIVED as if your life was worth as much as you claim it is?






My most important thing today:

My most important thing to accomplish today: rest. I’ve not taken a day off in almost eight weeks, pushing to create my new script. The title: MISSISSIPPI SHUFFLE. Just turned it in to my agents yesterday, and while it is far from perfect…I think it has the potential to be the best visual art I’ve ever created. LOTS of work to be done, yes.


But…I can feel that my regulator is “stuck” on “on.” I have to chill, calm down, work out (done: Kettlebell intervals) and sleep until my body feels “light” and my throat doesn’t feel scratchy. Then probably eat sushi and watch movies. Done my basics for the day: more than a sentence on that story (219 words, actually, two paragraphs describing a possible story arc) and when T gets back from UCLA i’ll run it past her. If she agrees, tomorrow I’ll integrate her thoughts. Saturday on the webinar I’ll discuss all the thought patterns I’ve employed so far. Then next week…I’ll write a short script, as if it were a 15-minuteTwilight Zone episode. If it still works, the following week I’ll turn that into text. And the week after that…we polish. Not the only way to create a story (it’s the opposite of “Pantsing”) but it allows me to detail every step of the process for the students.


You can still join us!  Go to www.lifewrite.com and get ready to create A HALLOWEEN STORY IN A MONTH, WITH A SENTENCE A DAY!


(The trick, of course, is that the “sentence a day” is the MINIMUM. No one says you can’t do MORE.  Heh heh.)


Now, what was that most important thing? Oh yes!  A nap!


See ya!



Stress Conceals Itself

I was talking to a dear friend yesterday who was feeling massive life stress over current events. Last week, a nice lady told me that I was literally the only person she had spoken to who wasn’t in despair.   A couple of days ago I watched an entire thread of people talking about how much anger, pain, sleeplessness, and stress they were boiling in.


And what I know, beyond any doubt that the common thread is that none of them are doing Heartbeat Meditation.  None doing a “Morning Ritual.”  None doing a Spider Technique.  Or “Glitter in Water” or any of the other techniques that create clarity.


T and I were talking about it. There is this horrible truth: the more you need to meditate, the less likely you are to do it.  You are likely to let stress push you into “doing”, into rushing about putting out fires rather than asking yourself where the dragon is.


And worse?  When the fires pause, you don’t use THAT time to quietly search for the dragon either.  You distract yourself with entertainment, work on trivial things.    Then, the next time the first starts, you will claim that you are too busy.


Do you get the ugly joke?  When things are GOOD  you “don’t need to do it.”  When things are BAD  you are  “too busy to do it.”


What is the common thread?  You don’t do it.


Casey Bernay, an old friend, once said something really smart to me a long time ago: “wherever you are in life, some part of you defines that as `winning’.”


Wow.   Let’s investigate that. What part of you wants you to be swamped in stress?   Well…did I SAY that’s what it wanted?  No. I said that in either case YOU DON’T DO certain things.  The result is that you are boiling in stress.  But…what if that is a side effect?


What if the point isn’t to kill you in stress…but rather to keep you from meditating?   Now…why might that happen?


I suggest that the reason is that it will kill your ego.  Your ego thinks it is you.   It is made up of concepts and memories, most of them emotionalized.  FEAR is more intense than LOVE.   It is acute rather than chronic.  (Love as a chronic condition.  I like that!)  A tiger can kill you in a moment, so such dangers evoke a stronger response, even if the total “cubic inches” of emotion aren’t greater over time.  Not in a healthy life they aren’t.


But the things you fear are “acute” in the same way that if there is one house burning in an entire town, THAT is what you see on the news.  Stress creates tunnel vision.  And once that kicks in it looks as if the world is burning.  No…a house is burning. We need to put some attention there. But if you lose the wider perspective, you are screwed.


So the ego can think “we are dying!  Focus all your attention on the pain!” and build its castle on that hill.  Meditating is saying “I have time to pause and think and feel.” That challenges the survival response.


And…even when things are good, if you try to go inward then, you will challenge the edifice as well. Begin to deconstruct the fortress.  And the part of you that thinks you ARE the fortress, ARE your memories and impressions and concepts and values, will fight like hell.


Unfortunately, this can be like a smoker who cannot quit, and will claim “I don’t need to quit. I can quit any time. I’m fine.”   This is them thinking “I AM a smoker.  I NEED my cigarettes.”   I’ve known a few of these people on their death-beds, where and when all denial has suddenly vanished, and they are dealing with the reality of the cancer, or the emphezema. And then, when they can’t con themselves or the people around them (but mostly themselves) they finally “get it.”


Oh. They screwed up. They were wrong, they were lying to themselves.  Their values were scrambled.   They believed they were someone they weren’t, traded temporary pleasure for long-term pain and death. And all they can do now is make peace with it.  And maybe be an object lesson for others.


That’s what we do. What can YOU do?


  1. Understand that you need to have a “daily ritual” of stress-busting, mind-focusing, heart-clearing action.
  2. There are countless methods. Find one. Try it.  If it works for you, go deeper. If it doesn’t, try something else.
  3. Stress conceals itself.  You don’t feel the damage until it is too late–you are drifting down the Niagra river and just trying to keep your boat straight. And only panic when you are about to go over the falls…and it is too late.
  4. And the sad, sick thing is that people actually beach their boats and have picnics. They have the TIME to actually learn to back-paddle, but hey, everything is fine and it’s a sunny day. Why bother?  Well, time to get back in the river…
  5. EVERY PERSON READING THESE WORDS HAS THE TIME.  Every one of you. What lies do you tell to distract you from this?
  6. If you can do NOTHING else, then every three hours take a sixty-second breathing break.  If stress is killing you, take this break every hour, at the top of the hour.  Deep, slow belly breaths.  Sixty seconds.
  7. If you can’t get yourself to do this, for God’s sake ask “why?”



I can’t beg you enough.  I’m on track to create a story in 30 days.  If I let myself think about it too much, with everything else I’m doing, I’d panic.  Instead, its just do a little every day.  Yesterday I broke one of the two ideas into the 10-step Hero’s Journey…and it fits just fine.  But I had to do that in a relaxed state.  If it weren’t for my morning routine, I just couldn’t do it.  COULD NOT.   I’m not superman. Hell, most of the time I don’t feel like Clark Kent. I’m just a guy who loves his family, and loves the world, and is committed to doing the best he can every day.   So I start by doing the things that have proven, over time, to produce the best results.   And that “set up” is more important by far than rushing around “doing” shit.




Then focus on what is most important.

Ask yourself WHY it is important, connecting this to the source of your joy.

Ask yourself WHO does it well, and model them.

Follow their HOW.

Decide what the 1-5 most important things you have to do to stay on track today AND DO THEM.


That’s it. That’s all there is.  Do just this…and life works.


Please. Take care of yourselves. I really do love you.  You really do matter.






Fourteen Solid Notions

We’re pushing into the “Sentence a day…horror story in a month” territory.  Today I’ll be choosing one of the two main ideas we came up with.  And I’ll let the students know which it was.   But meanwhile, in  a completely different arena, I’m getting some business coaching, and was given the following list of principles. And (surprise surprise) every one of them applies to writing this story.   As there are many students who are working on their OWN project along with me, I thought I’d share it to stimulate conversation:

  1. Do the Work
  2. Show Up Hungry
  3. Not use your current or past situation as an excuse
  4. Not make someone else responsible for your results
  5. Be polite to your naysayers
  6. Only compare you to you
  7. Earnestly attempt to answer all questions on your own
  8. Buy success with your own time
  9. Take imperfect action, viciously
  10. Not freak out at the clock .
  11. Choose to get uncomfortable every day…
  12. Be brutally honest about where you are
  13. Kill parts of your old self (if not all)…
  14. Lean in


Good stuff, yes?  Join us!   WWW.LIFEWRITE.COM

Steven Barnes

First Question From Saturday!

We did a webinar Saturday, the first of the “Write a Halloween Story in a Month With a Sentence A Day” class we’re doing all month. (you can join at http://www.lifewrite.com)

Got a question today from “Judy”:


“Good morning Steve, I enjoyed the 1st. part of the short horror story we’re going to build together. I wasn’t able to tune in live as I had guests from out of town. I can already feel the anxiety starting that always seizes my mind when I want to write. I think that I have pinpointed my issue. I don’t have a full understanding of story structure. I have some great books that I have read and am reading but the “click” moment that everyone says will happen, isn’t happening. Is there a foolproof approach that I could use. I’m tired of freaking out about it. It’s zapping the fun out of a creative process that I want to get better at. Thank you. Judy”


Judy isn’t alone in this.  “Pantsers”, people who can just sit down and write, can be very intimidating. In reality, everyone is a “Pantser” about some aspects of life, and not in others. All “Pantsing” is is having all the component skills at that “Unconscious Competence” level so that you can enter flow state and run with it.


If one of those component skills is NOT integrated, you hit a road bump. Frustration, fear, and “writer’s block”.  If everything is fine, just drive down the road and enjoy the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair. But if the car breaks down, pull over, pop the hood and haul out the tool box.


Lifewriting is the tool box.    What is Judy’s need? To have a form of story structure that will serve her, that she can then integrate to the level of Unconscious Competence.    O.K.–got her covered.


The Hero’s Journey.  Yep, back to basics.  A story is like a circle. Once you understand geometry, if I give you three points, you can draw the rest of the circle.   So…IF you will apply the HJ to a dozen movies (movies are great because the storytelling if usually more direct and easier to extract than stories and books, more of which can be experimental in structure), you are going to start to get “A-hah!” moments.  Then, once you understand how it works, you can play with it.  So…ask yourself the questions implied by the ten steps:  EVEN IF YOU CAN ONLY ANSWER THREE OF THEM, YOU SHOULD START TO GLIMPSE THE REST OF THE “CIRCLE”.

  1. Hero Confronted with the challenge. Who is the hero? What is their challenge?  Does it take them by surprise?  Could they see it coming? Why or why not?
  2. Hero Rejects the challenge.   If the challenge will change their lives or make them grow, it is likely to be frightening on some level. Why?
  3. Hero accepts the challenge.  Why do they finally own their situation? How are they forced to, or allowed to, engage?
  4. The Road of Trials. What are the steps a character must take to resolve this? Where must they go? What must they do?  What actions must they take, and what will they learn as the result of taking them?
  5. Allies and Powers.  What must they either express of their core capacities…or what must they learn? Who are the people they must align with or learn from to achieve this goal?
  6. Confront Evil and Fail.   The largest defeat usually happens in the last 1/3 of the story. What is it? What goes catastrophically wrong?
  7. Dark Night of the Soul.  This defeat will empty them out, destroy their self-image, or throw them into the depths of despair.  What is their psychological response to the structural disaster?
  8. Leap of Faith.  Always one of three things: faith in himself. Faith in his companions, faith in a higher power.  Which is it, and why?
  9. Confront Evil and succeed.  What is the victory?  How does it come about?
  10. The Student Becomes the Teacher.  What transformation occurs as a result of the action?


Now…note that this is the basic structure of story. It can be twisted, turned, minimalized, repeated, expanded or shrunk. Every story actually does variations on it, but I can take ANY story that has been at all  recognized as “story” by a significant number of people, and show how it fits.


I consider it a perfect starting place, because, unlike any other structure, you can also apply it to your “journey” of writing.


  1. Judy is confronted with a challenge to write a story in a month.
  2. It’s scary to do, because she doesn’t understand structure.
  3. She decides to take the challenge anyway.
  4. She starts writing and planning.
  5. She asks me for tools to help guide her.  (“What is structure”?)
  6. She WILL hit a major stumbling block.  Possibly, this was it!  Most likely, though, it will be found along the way.
  7. She will feel fear, despair, even want to quit.
  8. She will find a way to keep going (or…she will QUIT!  In which case this story ends there, but it is a part of a larger life saga)
  9. She will finish the story.
  10. She becomes a more accomplished writer. Possibly, she will be able to teach others how to travel this path, because she now has greater knowledge.


See how this works?  If not, take a dozen movies and “map” them on this pattern.  Choose simple, straight-forward movies, not complex delicate emotional dramas.  They can be harder to “map”.


By the time you do that…you’ll be a different writer.  Stronger and clearer on your process.


Now get to work!


Write with Passion!