Writing

Steven Barnes is a New York Times bestselling, award-winning novelist and screenwriter who is the creator of the Lifewriting™ writing course, which he has taught nationwide. He recently won an NAACP Image Award as co-author of the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with actor Blair Underwood and his wife, Tananarive Due. Nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and Cable Ace awards, writer of the Emmy-winning “A Stitch In Time” episode of The Outer Limits, winner of the Endeavor and the NAACP Image Awards, NY Times Bestselling author, Steven has written comic books, animation, newspaper copy, magazine articles, television scripts and three million words of published fiction published in seven languages, making him one of the world’s most honored, diverse and popular writers.

“Epic!”

Jewel Barnett said THIS of Saturday’s brainstorming session, where Tananarive and I are writing a story in a month with a sentence a day, starting TOMORROW:

 

This was so epic!!  I was so amazed at how everything flowed and the learning and sharing was definitely out of this world!”

 

There will be 3 more Saturday sessions, and you can join any time, as the previous sessions will be made available (hey, I’m taking today off.  Don’t bug me!).  You can still sign up at: www.lifewrite.com

 

What is our immediate goal? To construct a story right in front of you, based on your prompts. T and I have identified two possibilities, and I’ll explore them tomorrow.  You’ll get a link to the document on which the brainstorming is happening–at least one sentence, I promise you.

 

What is the better  goal? A REALLY good, solid, but realistic goal?  We SELL the story.  And document the process. What do we have then?  A record of a story, from concept to publication.

 

And what would be PERFECT?  (Hey…I’m not only on a tightrope, but there are SHARKS in that pool down there!):  Not just selling, but winning an award.   Hey, I can dream.

 

If THAT happens, which cannot be predicted…then we have a document unique in the history of writing instruction, and it will be an utterly amazing course.   Following the creation of a story from inception to completion to publication to celebration. Every step detailed and “exploded” so you can see our thoughts and approaches.

 

Can you even IMAGINE how valuable that would be? That is so exciting to me. My perfect student is ME, 40 years ago.  THAT kid.   And if I could create something like this and send it back in a bottle, can you even IMAGINE how I would change his life?  Holy crap.   I can feel THAT juice!

 

Would YOU like to read over his shoulder as he learns? Then help us create this.   Join us.  Participate and create your own story  using the tools we’re going to lay out for you. And…have just too much fun watching us tiptoe above the sharks.

 

 

Write with passion!

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

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More WHAT > WHY > HOW

 

I pointed Jason at the wall sign of  rules for his Morning Ritual, the things we do in the five minutes we spent every morning.  First, remember, we hug. NO MATTER HOW STRESSFUL THE PREVIOUS NIGHT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.

 

The things on the list are things like “check homework” “check spelling” “go over math”  “explain anything parent doesn’t understand” and so forth.  About ten different distinct steps from the book “How to Double Your Child’s Grades In School” by Eugene Schwartz.

 

I asked him: is that a WHAT, a WHY, or a HOW?  He studied the list for a moment, and then said: “its all three.”

 

No, I said. There’s no EMOTION there.  No “Why”.     I’d say it is a HOW.  In other words, the WHAT is to raise your grades to a B average.   The WHY would be “so I can play football. So I can succeed in school. So I can learn HOW to succeed at anything and have the life I want.   So that my parents will be proud of me” (remember the hug?)

 

The HOW is to spend five minutes every day doing the things on that list.   Now…that said, each individual HOW can be focused on to create a mini-WHAT:

 

WHAT:  Check Homework to be turned in.

WHY: to  complete the “recipe” for the Five Minute Ritual>Which leads to academic success> which leads to life success if I learn the larger lessons.

HOW:  Find my homework, bring it to the table, read through it, make corrections, put it back in my backpack, turn it in.

 

Can you see how each of these can also be broken down? WHAT: Find my homework…

 

Can you see how “Do Morning Ritual” can be part of that larger plan? And what is the ultimate level of that plan?   IMO: “Be happy.” in the sense that all life is a search to avoid pain and gain pleasure, this makes sense.  But to be happy LONG term, it is necessary that this not be “drugged out bliss” or “eating Screaming Yellow Zonkers while watching cartoons all day” happiness.  It has to be in alignment with adult values and obligations, involve self-growth and community sharing, family connection and healthy disciplines.  Without ANY of these, there is serious pain waiting down the road.

 

So: HAPPINESS<BALANCED SUCCESS<GROWTH AND CONTRIBUTION<DEFINED OUTCOMES AND FOCUSED ACTIONS< PROFESSIONAL SKILL< EDUCATION < GOOD GRADES< GOOD HABITS< MORNING RITUAL

 

From this model, any lack of success will either be a problem with the “What” (I didn’t have a clear outcome), the “Why” (I didn’t have sufficient motivation to overcome inertia) or the “How” (I couldn’t break the larger outcome into smaller and smaller bites until I had something I could do TODAY without being overwhelmed.)

 

This applies to ANYTHING.   Working on my new script, I finished the first 126 page draft in a torrent of writing, 5-10 pages a day for a month.   And…I got scared at the thought of the re-write.  This PRECISE same thing happened to me when I wrote my first TWILIGHT ZONE episode, and my first OUTER LIMITS episode.   Fantastic first draft, struggling with the re-write

Why? Because the “editor” part of me ain’t the “writer” part of me. They only know each other professionally.  Hell, they don’t even wave to each other on the street.

So the editor says: EEK!  I can’t do this!

And…he’s right.  What I have to do is break the work down into small enough chunks that the editor can handle it…and WHILE he is handling it, what Stephen King calls “The Boys In The Basement” work and play, like elves that make shoes while you sleep.

 

So…All my “editor” has to do is read over the script, and just fix easy, simple things like spelling, while I notice what else needs to be done.  Hey, I can even do this while watching television!

 

Then make a list I call “Bits and Questions” (spelled “!&?”) at the start of the manuscript.  Just a list of shit to think about or do…eventually.  NO RUSH.

 

Read though the whole script again and again.  Print it and make corrections on the paper. Or…just do it on the computer.    ONLY fix the easy stuff. And keep listing the things to be done in ‘!&?”

 

Every time I go over it, I can “feel” the overall pattern of the story getting stronger and stronger.  It is like a geometrical figure: give me three points, and I can draw a circle.  My unconscious mind starts sensing the overall arc of story, as well as the individual epicycles of each character arc.  Its all balanced.  I focus in, I pull out.   Always RELAXED.   Try to do too much on a single day, and I’ll freeze.

 

But the WHAT is “the best story possible”

The WHY is satisfaction, self-expression, money, career growth, contribution, fun.

The HOW is to move in, pull back out.  Only pluck the “low hanging fruit” of the easiest ‘fixes” every day.

 

And if I do that?   The “hard” problems are pushed back, but my unconscious mind is still chewing at it.  And every day, a layer of ‘hard” problems becomes “easier” “Low hanging fruit”.  The big problems become new “WHATS”, and THOSE get broken down day by day, nibbing away at them, never taking enough to choke and panic.

 

And at some point, ALWAYS, it gets to be fun. I notice that my !&? List is getting whittled down.  That the things to “fix” get smaller and smaller. That problems that used to seem insurmountable are now complex but not terrifying.  Its just…work.  Focus.  Discipline.  Having fun.

 

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If I can teach Jason this one thing: WHAT > WHY > HOW, and get him to pump up his emotions every morning, identify the 1-5 most important things to do every day, and evaluate whether or not he took care of business, I will have given my boy a huge chunk of what makes my life work.   Then he can add tools like Lifewriting, and learn to intensify his Morning Ritual, or improve his ability to maintain flow state, or model, or whatever.

 

But he’ll be on his way.  Heck: Good Lord willin’ and the river don’t rise…he already is.

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.morningwriters.com

(P.S.–if you want to see this process working LIVE to create a new story, watch me and T do a high-wire act creating a story in a month starting Saturday!  WWW.LIFEWRITE.COM)

Another Success Story! You’re Next!

“Hey, I wanted you to know that the story I wrote during the class I took with y’all (a few years back) is up on Apex Magazine’s site. It’s called “A Siren’s Cry is a Song of Sorrow”. (The writing prompt was write about something you never told anyone.) Thanks so much for the class. It was really useful for me!”–Stina Leicht

https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-sirens-cry-is-a-song-of-sorrow/

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Do you have any idea how happy it makes us to get letters like this?  THIS IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT.   Helping writers raise their game.   That means:

  1. If you’ve never finished a story…finish one.
  2. If you’re blocked, unblock
  3. If you’ve never submitted, submit.
  4. If you’ve never sold…sell.
  5. If you aren’t selling regularly…do so.
  6. If you want to constantly improve your craft…do so.
  7. If you want to enjoy the process more…ENJOY IT!

 

No one can promise you will become Stephen King or J.K. Rowlings.   But what we CAN do is get you on the path to writing, finishing, submitting, publishing, improving.   GUARANTEED.

 

I was an unpublished, unhappy newbie, my guts churning every time I asked a friend to read my work, every time I submitted.  It was PAIN. Real, deep, aching agony…mixed with hope and enough faith to keep me going.  Then one day I found a mentor, and everything changed.

 

T and I have mentored countless writers, but we are searching for ways to help more of you, without it draining our own precious energy and time. The solution is posts, free webinars, and low-cost educational experiences, live and downloadable.  This seems to be the best mix we can offer.

 

For the next year, we’ll be doing weekly webinars hammering in the “Sentence a day to a book a year” approach. In November we’ll focus on the “Nanowrimo” contest, but in October we’ll focus on writing a spooky story.

 

And T and I will be holding your hand and walking you through the entire process, from initial idea to finished, polished product.  I’m aiming this squarely at a younger version of ME, as T is aiming it at a younger version of herself.

 

If this sounds like you…if you want to create your own work, or are fascinated by the creative process and want to get a deep, deep look inside…JOIN US starting this Saturday at 3pm Pacific, every Saturday until November 3rd (there will be one break).   I’ve never ever heard of anyone doing something like this–you will give us the core ideas, and we will develop them LIVE. You’ll hear us fight and fuss.   You’ll have dynamic links to the documents themselves, to actually watch the work in progress.

 

It’s gonna be messy: creativity is not a pretty sight. But I’m willing to be vulnerable.  Are you willing to show up?   Sign up today!

 

www.lifewrite.com

 

See you Saturday!

 

Write with Passion!

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

First, Get Your Head Right

I was listening to a video of a lady named Stacey Martino, an internet millionaire who coaches broken marriages, talking about how she would get it all back if she lost everything. No money, product, reputation, Rolodex, NOTHING except her knowledge of how she did it the first time.    WHAT WOULD SHE DO IN THE FIRST MONTH?

 

What a great question!   The thing that was so terrific is that she really could access that place inside herself.  The scenario HAD really happened (as if often true of successful entrepreneurs–most of them have gone flat busted in the past).  It happened with money, and with her marriage:  her husband walked out on her, and realizing she really was responsible for at least half the problem,  she went on a balls-to-the-wall campaign to win him back.  She was utterly miserable, broken-hearted, overwhelmed with a sense of depression and despair. And somehow, she climbed her way back out of that place.   She not only did it, but she learned lessons she has used to save thousands of other relationships.   The fascinating thing was the similarity between a “30 Day” campaign to save her marriage and the campaign to save her business.

 

In both cases, she took full personal responsibility for her fate, and realized that the only way to handle this was to start with her own attitude, her mindset, her “energy.”  She spend, and would spend, the first week GETTING HER MIND STRAIGHT.  GETTING HER EMOTIONS RIGHT.  Stripping away every bit of insecurity, guilt, fear, blame and shame away, leaving clarity and commitment.  “My net worth does not equal my self worth” was an affirmation she used during her recovery.

 

If her mind wasn’t in the right place, she wouldn’t be able to function.

 

Starting Saturday, Tananarive and I are going to show you how we would write a story in a month.   The reason I want to do this is that I want to show EVERYONE exactly how the process of creation can work. I am totally aware that many people are “pantsers” and just flow with it. GREAT!  All that is is “Unconscious Competence” in all of the pieces leading to success, integration of the ‘Editor” and “Flow” states, and deep permission to succeed.  Intellectual, emotional, and physical arenas all integrated. WHEN IT WORKS, IT LOOKS AND FEELS LIKE MAGIC.

 

Most people, most of the time, don’t have this “flow” sense at this level.  Not all the time, or anything close to it.  Even the greats talk about their struggles, and many of them make the mistake of using drugs or alcohol to access that space. Inevitably, they lose the ability to do it WITHOUT the intoxication. And the next step is…they can’t do it even WITH the intoxication, and then they are blocked, and screwed, and often destroy themselves.

 

T is more of a “Pantser”, but she does research exhaustively, and that is when she is thinking through structure.   I tend to think of an idea, people it with characters, then ask how their hopes and dreams and needs connect to the story.  She starts with Yin and ends with Yang. I start with Yang and end with Yin.   Whenever we’ve worked together, one or the other of us takes the lead on the first draft, and the other helps with planning, bouncing questions, psychology (male or female, for instance) and rewriting.  Outside in to inside out.

 

But first GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT!  It would be easy to feel “blocked” with performance anxiety, if I didn’t have a process.  Just…do it in a particular sequence.   The first is GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT.

 

That is the Morning Ritual.  For business, for relationships, damned straight for fitness, for creativity.  GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT.  FIRST.  Everything else flows from that. If you are accomplishing, with joy, without such a ritual, you have this at “Unconscious Competence”–you are automatically managing your mind, body and emotions.  Good for you!

 

But if you struggle, if you aren’t accomplishing as much as you want, if you aren’t able to wake up knowing who you are, what the most important thing to accomplish today and WHY you want to do it…then a MORNING RITUAL can be a life saver.   Movement, thought, and emotion all connected, deliberately and consciously, every day.

 

I can promise you I’m going to need that like crazy. I have no idea what story prompts will be thrown at us. Or how they will develop into a story.  It is POSSIBLE that I’ll freeze, or some business or personal thing will gobsmack us.  And then I’ll have to get my head right and plow on, or fail massively, right in public view.  Arrgh!

 

Join us, starting this Saturdy, as we start across the tightrope, sharing everything we know about the process of creation.   It’s going to be scary…but hey, isn’t that what Halloween is all about!

 

Write with Passion!

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

(and yep, this is designed to be a perfect run-up to Nanowrimo!)

Who Knows what evil (and self sabotage) lurks in the hearts of writers?

I’ve been having such a wonderful time working on the script (Hint: the initials of the title are “MS”) that I am overwhelmed with gratitude. No, I have no idea if I’ll be able to sell it, or if it will get made, or if it will be good.  If I focus on those things, I’ll go crazy.  My task is to focus on what is right in front of me: doing the very best job I can bringing these characters and this situation to life.

 

I was a lonely, bespectacled, nerdish little kid, who lost himself in books and movies to protect his heart from an often cruel world.  No father in the home, dreams of being a writer that no one believed in.  Stories of heroes who triumphed over adversity saved my heart.  I wanted to create those stories myself.

 

The Hero’s Journey says that moving from one level to another you will ALWAYS hit the “Dark Night of the Soul” and God knows I did, again and again.   It felt like I never got anywhere, and in combination with the discouragement from my family and school, it often felt like I was trying to climb Everest wearing a concrete jacket.

 

And even after I “made it”, that same struggle was part of the process. The only difference was that I now recognized that I wasn’t in an endless loop, I was in an upward spiral.  As long as I paid attention to the steps, remembered my long-term objective, modeled success and maintained sensory acuity…as long as I defined my goal in achievable terms (in other words, not “be the best writer in the world” but “publish consistently and constantly improve, while having fun and making enough money to live”) I would hit problems, but also have a wonderful life.

 

Right now, at this moment, I’m having that wonderful time.   And wanted to speculate why this is happening, so that you can have similar fun in your own work. And…life. If you’ll just take a step back, you will be able to see how to create moments of grace in any arena of your life.

 

  1. I’ve done my million words.  Almost four times.  So all the basic skills are at “unconscious competence”.  I don’t have to think about the basics, which allows me to go into flow and just…write.
  2. I have “safety rails.”  By working from an outline, I know that if I execute the outline, at the very least it will be a competently structured piece of work.  This allows me to ignore the negative voices in my head.  “Pantsing” is fine…if it works.  When it stops working, you need to have a fall-back position.
  3. The subject taps into my passion.  It is like nothing I’ve ever written. And…it is exactly in line with everything I’ve ever done.   It is absolutely a “Steven Barnes” story.  I would LOVE to sit in an audience and watch this movie.   It comes from my heart.
  4. I set myself a doable amount of work every day.   Five pages of script ain’t that much, especially if its mostly dialogue.  Writing dialogue is EASY if you know your characters and just let them talk.
  5. I gave myself permission to suck.  That’s right.  SUCK.  First drafts are “suck drafts”. I don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or whether it is any good at all.  JUST GET IT WRITTEN.   The “writer” part of your head is NOT the “editor” part of your head. They are different aspects of your mind, and except for a fortunate few, are not friendly to each other.  The “writer” is the little boy, the “editor” is the pitiless adult.  SEPARATE THEM.  In general, I don’t do both in the same session.  “Pantsers” are usually switching back and forth between them rapidly and fluidly, and that is wonderful.  I can do that.  Maybe I “should”.  But I found that this process works very well for me, and seems to help me climb that “upward spiral” of improvement with minimal stress.

 

There are other things too.   We’ll talk about them on our “Write a Sentence A Day” webinars, starting October 6th at 3pm Pacific.   I’ll be discussing process and connecting it to real production, in real time, and embarrassing detail.   Watch me humiliate myself…or get a major win. Who knows?  Who knows what evil (and self sabotage) lurks in the hearts of writers?

The Shadow Do.

 

Write with Passion!

Steve

https://events.genndi.com/register/169105139238449714/65f171c4b9

Totally FREE Webinar: Crowdfunding your movie!

You’ve been studying Black Horror and screenwriting– now it’s time to learn how to crowdfund your short film or web series. Check out our panel of experts to learn the good, the bad and the ugly of raising the money to bring your work to the screen – and why it’s important to create your own film/TV projects. This webinar is one of your FREE extras for signing up for The Sunken Place.

Here’s your registration link: https://events.genndi.com/register/169105139238449714/aa4d4c8db3

Here are Saturday’s panelists:

Xavier Burgin

Xavier Burgin is a Sundance Lab Fellow, an HBO Short Film Finalist, a part of the Ryan Murphy Television Half Foundation, and one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business for 2017. Xavier’s filmography has been accepted in The American Black Film Festival, HBO Short Film Competition, Raindance Film Festival, Urbanworld Film Festival, Anchorage Film Festival, and many more. Xavier is a fellow of The Sundance Institute’s Youtube New Voices Lab where his web-series, Lame Lance, was one of eleven projects selected. Xavier shadowed on the set of American Horror Story as a member of the RMTV Half Foundation, a diversity directing program created by Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Scream Queens). (We also worked on an upcoming project that hasn’t been announced yet.)

 

M. Asli Dukan 

M. Asli Dukan is an award-winning filmmaker and visual artist who works primarily in the genres of speculative fiction as a subversive artistic and liberatory practice. She has screened at numerous film festivals around the country including, the Newark International Film Festival, the Imagenation Film and Music Festival, the Langston Hughes Film Festival and the Blackstar Film Festival. In 2017, her mixed-media, augmented-reality installation, the “Resistance Time Portal”, which centered Black radicalism in a futuristic narrative, made its debut in the Distance≠Time exhibition at the Icebox Project Space. She has been the recipient of several grants, awards and fellowships, including a 2016 Transformation Award from the Leeway Foundation, a 2016 NBPC 360 fellowship from Black Public Media, a 2018 Philadelphia Independent Media Finishing Fund and a 2018 Flaherty Seminar fellowship. In 2018, she completedResistance: the battle of philadelphia, a near-future web series about a community’s struggle against surveillance and state violence. She is in post-production on Invisible Universe, a documentary about Black creators in speculative fiction and in development on the anthology horror film based on the book, Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson. She holds an MFA from the City University of New York and currently resides in Philadelphia.

See her web series “Resistance” at https://youtu.be/WsGoVOXeGSw

Luchina Fisher 

Luchina Fisher is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. She wrote and executive produced the documentary “Birthright: A War Story” and has produced three nationally broadcast documentaries on Gladys Knight, B.B. King and the history of Title IX, as well as numerous segments for television. Her work has appeared on Discovery Health, A&E, ESPN, National Geographic Channel, ABC and in syndication. She is also the writer, director and producer of two award-winning short films.

See our short horror film, Danger Word, at www.dangerword.com

That’s How Boys Play

I want to be a little oblique about this.  Back in my 20’s I was in a martial arts school that produced many champions. And none of them were more impressive to me than someone I’ll call “Ted.”  Ted had distance, timing, and precision down to a level where he slid in and out of critical distance range like a magician. Man, he was beyond good.

 

I wasn’t even vaguely in his league.  We re-connected years later, when our mutual instructor was being honored, and got together a few times. The man was still magic, but like most of us, had moved on to other priorities in life, although martial arts was still close to his heart.  Still…I wasn’t even close.

 

About a week ago I got a call from him.   “I want to be you in my next life, Steve” he said.  I was a little puzzled by what he meant, then he mentioned that he’d seen a Youtube video of one of Cliff Stewart’s “Camp of the Masters” weekend workshops (there’s one coming up in three weeks–I HIGHLY recommend them) and apparently had seen some images of me working out and having fun.  I still didn’t quite understand…

 

Then he told me that he’d had a stroke early this year.  I was stunned.   It was a little hard to imagine this dervish with any kind of diminished capacity, but he was learning to walk again, as if for the first time.   He spoke of his friends, many of whom boxed, and how they couldn’t recognize him any more.

 

I felt something beyond sadness.  This is one of the things you learn to deal with in life: everything rises and falls.  He had been a great champion, that focus dictated by his environmental pressures: learning to fight was simply what every young man did in our neighborhood. If you didn’t, you were dead meat, victimized and disrespected by both the men AND women.  Did he stress his body too much? Take too many shots?   I don’t know. It’s possible.

 

Achilles’ Choice: a long dull life, or a short glorious one.  Or…just the circle of life.  Everyone loses everything in time.  And now, this paragon (who is about six years younger than me) envies me.   It is tough to think about.

 

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When I was a kid, I wanted to be strong.  Had been bullied by guys and ignored and mocked by the girls.  I understood where “Ted” was coming from, but didn’t have the athleticism to master the skills as he did. Lacked the self-confidence, and hadn’t had a father or brother or uncles to “push against” to discover my strength and learn what this aspect of “being a man” was about.  I remember when Jason was about eight years old.  Every night when I tried to put him to bed, he attacked me.  Every night. Heck, Nicki hadn’t been like that!  And one day I asked him point blank why in the world he did that.

 

He looked at me with surprise and simply answered: “That’s how boys play.”  That’s how boys play.   The simplicity of that answer was gobsmacking. I suddenly realized I had misinterpreted countless antagonistic interactions with guys over the years. They hadn’t disliked me. It was nothing personal. They just pushed to make themselves strong, using other guys like living gymnastic equipment (wrestling and boxing are among the most extremely taxing physical exercises. Believe it.  Nothing is more extreme than a resistant human body), or trying to learn where they were on the hierarchy.  Without that knowledge, it is impossible for a tribe to respond swiftly to external threat.

That’s how, and more importantly WHY boys play.

 

I couldn’t compete with those guys on their terms. They terrified me.  The energy was just amazing.  And even years later, speaking to Cliff about them, I was still a little nervous about the very idea.  “I was so intimidated by those young warriors” I said.

 

And he laughed in my face.  “They weren’t warriors, Steve.”  They weren’t???

 

“No. They were athletes, playing warrior games.”   Then….what WAS a warrior?

 

” Those guys would have been good at Hula Hoop, or basketball, or break-dancing. A warrior is someone whose word is good. A warrior protects his community. Raises his own children.”

And in that instant, the light went on in my head.   No, I hadn’t been the best.  Or anything close to it.  But my fear of being weak had kept me in the game.

 

I remember forty years ago, driving down La Brea avenue in Los Angeles, tears streaming down my face, wondering why I had so much fear and agony around practicing, but being unable to stop.  “Please, God,” I prayed.  “Either take away my urge to practice this stuff…or just let me do it.”

 

Why couldn’t I quit?  Because I knew on some level that if I did, I would never know who I was.  That I would have let fear stop me from becoming a complete human being. A complete MALE human being in some very specific ways.  Remember I said that a core perspective in my life was that I wanted to be respected by the men I respected, and desired by the women I desired?

Well, you can believe it or not.  I’m not controlled by gender politics, I’m interested in what is true, actual experience,  especially when it is aligned with history, anthropology and animal behavior. The reality is that once I saw it, it was obvious: if you couldn’t hold your ground, you were not respected, and I couldn’t marry a big guy to hold that ground for me.  Both men and women made it very clear.  VERY.

 

And anyone who thinks that the physical threat isn’t subtextual in emotional and intellectual arguments isn’t paying attention.  The animal and savage underlies the civilized shell. What is explicit  in the barroom is implicit in the board room and even the bedroom.

Fortunately, the answer is NOT a matter of physical size. It is a matter of the following statement:  “I’m ready to die, and I’m ready to take you with me.”

That forces you to connect with your core survival drive, the emotional Third Rail of your psyche.  It is beyond culture, beyond social rules.   And all the techniques of the martial arts are secondary to “plugging in” to this high-tension line.  Really, in a lot of ways they are just toys to keep your monkey-mind busy while the real work, the deep work, re-wires your hand brain.

Everyone has it.  You could be depressed, and suicidal, and if I stuck your head in a bucket of water you would fight like a tiger.    Ego has nothing to do with this, and once you find it, it is almost like magic. And…the martial arts are about approaching it in a safe fashion, and plugging in in a way that doesn’t shred your psyche.  Real survival situations often do this, drastically, but without the care and balance, producing genuinely dangerous human beings who often struggle to function in the “normal ” world.

 

I was forced by fear and guilt and pain and hope to find that place. And once I found it…and connected it with what Harlan Ellison called the “Burning Core” that artists must find…and connected THAT to the kind of heightened orgasm experienced in sexual magic work…

 

Wow.   I began to be able to channel that energy, to put it where I wanted, and learned how to keep it in a healthy way in my mind and body so that it wouldn’t burn me out.    In other words…I turned my bullies into blessings.  I never would have found myself without them.  Thanks, Rudy.

 

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If I had been stopped by comparing myself to the Teds of the world rather than letting myself be inspired by them, I wouldn’t be who I am.  If I hadn’t kept 80% of my attention on improving who I was yesterday rather than beating or comparing myself to others, I would have quit, and lost my childhood dreams, and paid for it with a loss of aliveness.

 

You have to admire the Teds of the world. But not be intimidated by them. To use them to drive you on, without beating yourself up for not being them. Ted walked his own path.  He hit heights I never did, never could have

 

And now…he wishes he was me.    How humbling.  How terribly sad, and wonderful.  Life is an unknown adventure, and you must always, always, work your own diamond mine and not pay so much attention to what the other guy is pulling out of his.

 

Sigh.   I need to work out today, to celebrate my life and aliveness, and give thanks for all I’ve been given, and the wonderful men and women I’ve met along the way, so many of them fallen now.  Every one made my life better.

 

I think…I think I’ll make time to go and see Ted.  Thank him for being one of my heroes…

 

As I am now one of his.  You never know, you know?

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.morningwriters.com

The Power Is In The Process

A fine writer was recently complaining about a book he’d finished that was heavily criticized by an editor. Major revisions were requested, and he didn’t know whether to make them, or self-publish, or even give up his career.

 

There was real despair and discouragement there, and this is someone who has published over a dozen pieces of work, not a “Newbie.”   My suggestion was to remember that all writers, all experts in any field have failures, and also that a single editor’s opinion is NOT an absolute statement on the worth of a work…let alone the potential of a career.

 

So…stay on the path.  Keep writing.   There were specific issues that could be addressed, but the most important had nothing to do with the specific book. They had to do with the process followed to build a career.

 

There was no difference between this situation and a horrible sales cycle, or a bad print review. Both trigger discouragement and doubt.

 

Remember the Hero’s Journey? It says, CLEARLY, that if you are moving from one stage of your life to the next, you will fail, and enter the “Dark Night of the Soul”.  That the way through this is “The Leap of Faith”…faith in yourself, or a higher power, or your companions.  If you don’t take this leap, you fall back and repeat the cycle, only this time you might well have even less energy: your failure to go forward creates even more doubt, which syphons off the very energy you need to make the leap.

 

A descending spiral which leads many of us to abandon our dreams.

What is worse is that we have little demons that WANT us to fail.  Want to fail at the gym?  Constantly put more weight on the bar than you can lift.  Lift more often than you can recover from. You could have the potential to be the best in the world, and if you make this single mistake, you will screw yourself totally.

 

The answer?  Keep going.  Focus on your outcome. Model the behaviors of others who have made the journey (faith in your companions). Remember past accomplishments, and the fact that you felt doubt there as well (faith in yourself).  Notice your results without being attached to them, and maintain behavioral and conceptual flexibility.

 

Use “small cycle” thinking. Rather than spending years on a massive quarter-million word work that took years to complete, write short stories, where the investment of emotion, time, and energy is so small that if you fail you can laugh at it. This is exactly like a boxer who gets knocked out in the championship fight having a few “small fights” in the hinterlands to build confidence back up and try out new approaches.  Take the pressure off.

 

But the core of it is: keep your eyes on your outcome, tap into your most positive emotions, and work your butt off, doing TODAY what needs to be done TODAY and trusting (Faith) that one step at a time will take you up the mountain.

 

This is why a “Morning Ritual” of physical, mental, and emotional power is so essential. That triple braid creates a lifeline.  For just ten to twenty minutes a day you are totally connected.  And slowly, you will begin to notice how you have to move, think, speak, focus and behave to have the positive emotions that lead to the consistent actions along a defined path.

And…you’ll start getting different result. Better results.  And your faith will deepen. You’ll take more actions, leading to better results. An ascending spiral.

 

The failures, disappointments, betrayals and setbacks WILL happen.  There is ZERO question about this. Deal with that reality, or lose your dreams.

 

Better still…deal with it in advance.  Every morning. Every day.  Connect with your vision, your passion, your faith in your path.

 

Then…reap the results.

 

 

Write with Passion!

Steve

www.morningwriters.com

What are you offering the world?

I’ve mentioned that my friend Otis was homeless at one time, and living in an abandoned apartment behind my house.  He was lonely, and I remember one day he rather miserably said:

“I don’t understand why I can’t get a girlfriend.”

Such grief in his voice.  I said, “well, tell me what it is you feel you have to offer a woman.”

“I’m loyal, and honest, and warm. I listen, I’m supportive, and kind.”

I didn’t want to hurt him, but the words just tumbled out:  “she can get all of that from one of her girlfriends. What is the specifically MASCULINE quality that will motivate her to project her specifically FEMININE qualities? What is you demonstrable power?  Your ability to build a nest?”

He looked at me as if I was speaking Martian.

Otis knew something about everything, a wide-ranging, fine mind. But he had never, ever focused that mind and those emotions to produce any result a kid in high school couldn’t have done.  No power.

Nothing to trade for beauty.  And because he was physically unbeautiful himself, he had nothing to trade to find and hold a woman he would want, and it was painful to watch unfold, year after year, decade after decade, until in time his health collapsed, and he died.

Those are the only options: either trade power for beauty, or make an even-steven trade across the board.  What I very rarely see is HER power for HIS beauty. And what I’ve never ever seen is a total mis-match, where one has both and the other has neither.  Not even once, although people have told me of such unicorn relationships.

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I use his name because I don’t want my friend to have died for nothing.  I see aspects of Otis’ story in so many otherwise intelligent and good people.   They never develop their power, and then wonder why they can’t get the results from life they crave.

 

Let me put this in the adult-child framework:   they never grew up. Never fully developed their adult selves.  Because if you do ANYTHING long enough, with emotion behind it, you will gain experience. And if you pay attention, you will travel. And if you ever had a specific outcome in mind, you’ll notice if you are getting closer or further away. If you learn to control your fear, you will overcome obstacle after obstacle, and eventually reach at least the short and medium-range versions of your goal. And then, all you have to do to earn a living is guide people along the path you’ve walked, so long as you have been heading somewhere someone wants to go.

 

##

 

If there is a single thing I’m trying to nail for Jason in our five-minute morning sessions, it is the concept of “Atomic” “Fractal” goal setting.  It is:

 

  1. Knowing your outcome clearly (“What”)
  2. Knowing your “Why”–the emotionalized reasons why you want this thing.
  3. Knowing the “How”, the specific steps to accomplish it, and what the most important thing you must do TODAY to accomplish it.

 

Today fits into your plan for this week, which fits into your plan for the month, which fits into the plan for the year, the decade, and your life.

 

If you can see the clear connection between the long-term overall life plan and the actions you take on a daily basis…you have it whipped.

 

Ultimate Outcome: Joy

Long Term Outcome: A life spent in blissful “Flow State” as much as possible

 

To do this, I must avoid pain as much as possible. That means fullfilling my obligations to family and society. This means I must make money doing something that brings me joy and puts me in flow state. Writing is a great example of this.

 

Long Term Outcome (clarified): To be a successful professional writer.

Ten year goal: Ten novels

Five year goal: Five novels

One year goal: One novel

Quarterly goal: First Draft of novel.

 

If I were unpublished, my one year goal might be:

 

One year goal: Selling a story.

Quarterly goal: 1-4 stories a month.  4-12 stories

Monthly goal: 1-4 stories finished and submitted

Weekly goal: 1 story.

 

The more important your goal is to you, the more critical it is to operate at the higher level of output and performance.  The question would be to clearly define the WHAT and the WHY.   Increase the WHY until you are burning with motivation. How?  By connecting your goal to every chakra. I can tell you why my writing relates to survival, sex, power, emotion, communication, intellect, and spirit.

 

If YOUR goals do this…nothing will stop you from kicking ass to get it done.

 

DAILY: ONE SENTENCE EVERY DAY, minimum.

 

Get that? There is NO excuse not to do one sentence, every day, if it is something important. If you go to bed at night thinking about it, your dreaming mind will kick out at LEAST one sentence. Write it down.  You have just made the connection between the “atomic” level (smallest possible action) and the global lifetime ultimate intent (happiness, ultimate success)

 

WHAT: Write a sentence every day

WHY: The life you desire, on every level.

HOW: Think about your story last thing before you go to sleep.  First thing when you wake up.   Write or dictate and transcribe one sentence.

 

 

If you do that, then you will advance. Learn. Grow.  You will accomplish goals. The INSTANT you have sold a story, you have a skill you could turn around and sell. Hell, there are people teaching writing who have never published a thing.  You’ll be ahead of the curve.

 

Being the master means being the student. Others will call you the Master if you are far enough ahead that you are beyond a horizon. They cannot see where you are.

 

IF YOU CANNOT SEE WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER, you probably have an unrealistic expectation of yourself. Be where you are. The person you were last year could really, really, use your advice.  There’s your market.

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.morningwriters.com

The Power of the Enneagram

Some twenty-five years ago, studying Transcultural Shamanism with Mushtaq Ali Al Ansari, I was introduced to the mystic symbol called the “Enneagram”.   I was fascinated by its endless uses and the power to diagram complex and sometimes invisible processes, and puzzled that of all the myriad uses, no one outside our little study group seemed to understand anything about it other than its applications to personality.

220px-Enneagram.svg.png

For instance, when I diagrammed the Hero’s Journey on it, a fascinating thing happened: the EXTERNAL journey (plot) traveled around the outside edge, but if you looked at the internal connecting lines a completely different approach to story was revealed.

 

Just one example.    At position #1 (1:00)  is “the hero is confronted with the challenge.”  That’s pretty straight-forward: unless your lead character wants something he doesn’t currently possess (an external goal, relief from an external threat, an internal state of being, relief from a painful internal state) your character will take no actions.    Living systems crave homeostasis.

 

So…you have to design your character and ask what they want and need, deny them that thing, and force them to take actions to change or regain their status.  Simple, right?

 

But the Enneagram goes much further.  #1 connects with #4:  It also connects to #7.

 

Let’s focus in on just #4, the Road of Trials.   If we know that the next step after #1 is “Rejection of the challenge” then the question is: WHY does he reject it?   Why not take the action that will relieve pain or gain pleasure, once they see what must be done?

 

Because of the pain they must endure to get there.  Oh, yes. The greater the potential reward, the greater the obstacle or journey must be. Why? Because we are programmed to move away from pain and toward pleasure.

 

If it is a straight road, we are NEUROLOGICALLY programmed to move in that direction.  You can teach tapeworms to tap-dance if you get this Skinnerian aspect right.  But if you look into your own life, you might say “well, if this is true, why do I X? (smoke, overeat, procrastinate, etc).  Why? Simple.  You see more pain than pleasure associated with the actions.

 

  1. You might not have a clear idea of what must be done.
  2. You might see a path, but lack belief that you, personally, can and should do it.
  3. You might have a reference group (tribe) that tries to dissuade you from taking those positive actions (damaged sub-cultures often have this issue)
  4. You might have past experiences that create beliefs contrary to the actions you’d have to take.

 

It took me SEVENTEEN YEARS to earn my first black belt, because I was still carrying an image of myself as being small and weak from a bullied childhood.  I trashed my own college education for fear that I would absorb the negative habits of my writing instructors, and sabotaged my career because my mother had been terrified that I would be killed if I was too intelligent and aggressive.

 

My road of trials was one of finding clarity, courage, healing my self-image, and having the confidence to speak my truth and be who I was.  Finding a tribe that would support my dreams, developing flexible plans to go over, under, around and through my obstacles.

 

Anyone who knows me will see that the martial arts gave me confidence and strategy for my career and relationships, my relationship with my first wife Toni gave me the self-confidence and support to make my career moves, and my writing career gave me the connection with my child self that powered my “adult” through years of martial misery (protecting your child educes the maximal defensive/survival response). They were all intertwined. Which meant that progress in any of them fed into the others, in an ascending spiral.

People who are blocked by their own pain, fear and confusion, and have struggled with it, often say “well, I guess that’s just me.”  They then make the mistake of looking at others who are struggling, including entire social groups, and instead of seeing the knots they’ve been tied into, or the corrupted ground on which their seeds were sewn, just say “well, I guess that’s THEIR nature.”  You see it?  They can’t get out of THEIR box, so they define their box as “them” and then do the same to others. Worse is when they had advantage and privilege, don’t give thanks for it or even see it, and become one of those “born on third base and thought he hit a triple” types who look down their noses at “lesser” beings and “breeds.” If it weren’t so sad, it would be infuriating.  So much human damage has arisen from people who simply never understood themselves.  Who mistook confusion and damage for wisdom.  Ugh.

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Whew.  That’s the power of the Enneagram.  The “Hero’s Journey” tells you what is coming…in advance. The Chakras tells you the path of balance and human maturation.  But the Enneagram is kinda like an internal map showing you how all these parts and processes RELATE to each other.  It is as if you have a secret way to pretend to be smarter and wiser than you really are.  Amazing, really, and with infinite uses once you understand it.

 

It’s been my secret weapon for decades. Why didn’t I share it?  I COULDN’T. I didn’t understand it well enough.   My mind just didn’t want to grasp its power, because if I did…I would integrate my life at higher and higher levels, smash my ego again and again, build sky-castles and move into them.

 

I so dearly wanted to understand it enough to share it.    But I needed Mushtaq to do that, and he wasn’t at all sure it could be done, outside the “small group” format.  It took me almost twenty years to convince him to give it a shot.

 

The result is the ULTIMATE ENNEAGRAM program, which is…well, it just rocks. There are hundreds of classes dealing with the “personality” stuff, which is like eating one bite from a banquet and hallucinating that you’ve had the entire meal.

Hell, that wasn’t even a balanced SNACK.

There is just so much more.

 

And what we’ve done is make this amazing secret available in a webinar format FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME. Much of this information has NEVER been revealed publicly.  From time to time  I’ll be plucking apples from the grove and sharing them with you. But…this is amazing. I’m so proud of it.  This is so powerful that the Fiverr lady who transcribed the sessions said her life had been changed JUST TRANSCRIBING THE SESSIONS.

 

That is power. That is THE ULTIMATE ENNEAGRAM.  We’re still building the class, taking feedback and adding features, which is why I’m happy to be offering such a  uniquely high value at such an absurdly low price.

 

More on this later. My head is still spinning. Can’t wait to share my secret weapon with you.

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.ultimateenneagram.com