Winning the Inner War

A reader made a very reasonable  statement dealing with negative emotions: that even after you find the answers, you have to keep fighting every day.


I’d say yes…and no.   That the SPECIFIC issues you deal with can, once you’ve found the right approach, be subsumed under a larger category of “emotions” that you are guiding into a healthy balance. The specifics don’t need to come up again and again and again.


The trick is that you need a Daily Ritual.   It could be meditation, prayer, affirmation, action of some kind, visualizations…there are many approaches. You know that mine is a combination of MOVEMENT, EMOTION, AND FOCUS, designed to check in on ALL your emotions and be sure that they are lining up to support your short and long term outcomes: body, mind, and spirit all moving in the same direction.


So long as you are getting the result you want: living your life on your terms, in your way, in such a manner to be happy, healthy and evolving toward your destiny, contributing to the world in a way that heals and expands your heart.


I DON’T CARE WHAT IT IS.  I just want you to have the life you want.  But you need to grasp: the work is never complete.  In John Steinbeck’s wonderful memoir “Once There Was A War” he described the expression on the face of a naval cook, as if he is just realizing that there is “no way to feed a man once and for all.”




And that’s how you need to be. Every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY, you need to do the things that will protect, heal, and advance your body, mind, and spirit.   That ritual, whatever it is, is designed to keep you on the road of integration and progress.  The only measure of success is non-dogmatic: DOES IT WORK?  Are you able to take another step on the road, with joy and satisfaction?   Is fear in its proper place in your life: motivating you to action?  Or does it stand between you and your dreams?  If so, dig deeper.   Talk to people who have succeeded in turning their demons into allies. THEY EXIST.    “Put your fear behind you, your love in front of you, and run like hell” is a perfect expression of this.


It’s your life.   Own it.  Every day that you eat you should exercise, play, and perform a ritual of emotion, action and focus that aligns your emotions so that you are a spiritual being with a logical mind driven by emotions on an animal chassis.   Nothing, no reward, is worth selling out your own dreams. There is no safety if you won’t stand up for yourself.  Love yourself, protect yourself, like a Mommy Tiger protecting her cub. There is no one else to do it.


Be the hero in the adventure of your lifetime!





(if you would like a copy of the terrific conversation T and I had about fear and writing, drop me an email at:  Put NO FEAR in the subject line, and I’ll tell you how you can get it TODAY!)

F.E.A.R. and Writing

images.jpgRecently, Tananarive and I asked the Lifewriting community what you really wanted from us, to help you reach your dreams. And overwhelmingly, you said “help dealing with fear.”

And I get it. Fear, which manifests as depression, aversion/avoidance, writer’s block, despair, discouragement, self-loathing, and any number of other secondary emotions or states, has killed more careers than lack of ability ever could.

The first step is to admit that the problem is real. To be able to say: “I am afraid, and it’s hurting me.” Then you can seek the tools, techniques, and perspectives to deal with it.  You can start to cope, and seeks ways to let go of the guilt and confusion.

In my own life, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to have my career. My mother burned my stories.  Everyone I knew (with a couple of wonderful exceptions, thank God!) told me I couldn’t do it.  I’d never met a professional writer in my life.  And if I hadn’t admitted that I was afraid, hadn’t confessed and sought the way through it, I’d have given up my dreams, would never have published thirty novels or written for OUTER LIMITS or won an NAACP Image award.  Never in a thousand years.  Fear is the dream-killer.

So T and I had a very serious conversation on this topic, how it has affected us, and what is really going on, and how we’ve helped our students with this.  And…we recorded that conversation.  For the first time, we’re really diving into this tricky, painful issue.   T and I have created something honest and powerful to help you deal with it.

We’ve been writing a combined total of OVER A CENTURY (gulp!) and every critical thing we know about that emotion is in this little course.  If you’re interested, just send me an email at  Put “Fear” in the subject line, so I’ll know we’re on the same page.

‘Cause believe me: I’ve been where you are.

Write with Passion!


Overview of the Soulmate Process

(a post from about 2007)


Let’s think some more about the heart, and how wounds to it manifest in other arenas. I’ve known heart chakra wounds to trigger suicide, and a loss of willingness to live. A dear friend was raped, and within a year contracted terminal cancer–It ate her alive within months. Fear, guilt, shame and anger cripple the sex drive, as well as resentments: I know several women who completely withhold their sexuality from their husbands, and several men no longer sexually active due to a lifetime of stuffed emotions. And anyone who has read this blog knows I think that people stuff negative emotions into their bodies. Rape, child abuse, fear, disappointment–all can manifest as obesity. I’ve had women tell me they were afraid that if they were sexually attractive, they’d cheat on their husbands. Men who say that they feel non-existent unless they are huge. Others who hide behind a wall of flesh. And of course heart wounds kill relationships: marriages, friendships, and the most critical relationship, the one with yourself. Heart wounds cripple the chakras above, as well: the ability to communicate is based on belief in self, and a sense that it is safe to be honestly expressive. My mother, who grew up in the lynch-happy South during the 30’s, warned me that “if you show white people how smart you are, they’ll kill you.” Can you imagine what this does to a young man’s head?

Probably the majority of fine writing is about wounds to the heart, and the ways we cope with them, try to heal them, how they poison our lives. Or about the glory of love. As much pain as love causes us all, the only thing that makes it worthwhile is the fact that, when it’s workin’, there is just nothing better. So next time (or real soon now) we’re going to address the question of relationships–how to find one, how to nurture one, how to keep one.

Fourth chakra wounds damage the health, cripple the sexuality, create obesity and anorexia, limit communication, and confuse the intellect. The expression “you can awaken the kundalini from the heart out or from the bottom up, but never from the top down” was making direct reference to the primacy of the heart. In Lifewriting, we use two major tools for connecting with the heartspace: heartbeat meditation and the dream diary. There are other meditations and therapies, but in many ways the very best medicine for the ailing heart is a healthy romantic/sexual relationship. For many people, the quest for love is a long, lonely road. I wanted to provide a few perspectives, and then in a day or two we’ll re-visit what I call the soulmate technique, an approach to finding and keeping the love you want.

I’d like you to consider a homily: “In life, you don’t get what you want. You get who you are.” If you find that you aren’t attracting people who you are attracted to, you may well have an unrealistic self image. Your lovers are mirrors for you, friend. You ARE your husband or wife or significant other, albeit flipped for gender and mirror-imaged. Searching to understand the ways that you and your partner are two halves of the same creature is one of the most fruitful things you can do–as well as one of the most educational. It can free you from anger and resentment. Folks, if you could have done better than your partner, you would have. If you misjudged them, whose fault is that? If you didn’t have the awareness, the self-confidence, the clarity, whose fault is that? Every human being does the best they can with the resources they have. You traded your intelligence, your sensuality, your beauty, and your power and energy and mental health for the greatest good you could find in the arena of relationship. When you stop blaming and start grasping that we are all both victims and beneficiaries of the human condition, you are on the road to healing.

Weight issues. This one is tricky. I think that the first 5-15 pounds of excess weight or so is no big deal. Just lifestyle and personal preference stuff. But by the time your secondary sexual characteristics become obscured, by the time joints are hurting, backs hurting, and it becomes a burden to walk up a flight of stairs, this is no longer lifestyle. It is no longer a little metabolic situation. It is emotional. I’ve simply had too many former obese people tell me that when emotional issues cleared up, they were able to drop the weight. Too much evidence that it relates to depression, anger, pain, fear, loss, and grief and resentment. I just don’t believe what I was told growing up: that overweight is simply a choice, or that it is a physical condition that can’t be helped. No. I don’t. Sorry. I’ve had too many friends die. DIE. From obesity-related illness. If I had spoken the truth to them, maybe they’d still be alive. But they surrounded themselves with people who would tell them pretty lies, and allow them to continue on down the road to self destruction. I will be damned if I will EVER do that again.

What we consider attractive usually relates to damned good reasons. Much (not all) of human behavior relates to survival of self and family. Most of what we consider beauty relates to health: clear complexion, strong bones and teeth, symmetrical faces, high energy. Or emotional health, like discipline, self-love and respect, clarity of purpose, emotional endurance, resistance to fear. When women say they are attracted to ambitious, intelligent, successful men–what the living hell is wrong with that? Aren’t they supposed to seek out the healthiest mates possible? And men are attracted to women who, by visual appearance, give them sexual stimulation: secondary sexual characteristics, self-confidence, sensuality… all of these things relate to mothering and fathering. Subtract these from the equation, and the entire human race collapses. So if you have moved beyond the need or desire to raise a family, fine! But better than 80% of the human race wants these things, so it’s legitimate to address them. In no way do I suggest that those in non-reproductive relationships are unhealthy, any more than if you’re in a marriage you are automatically somehow healthy. No. But if you’ve had a string of failed relationships, I suggest you want to look at that closely.

I don’t consider myself enlightened. I do consider myself on the path of enlightenment. This isn’t just about having a good life. It’s about having a good death, to be clean with myself about who and what I am in this world, and to do absolutely everything I can to leave it a better place than I found it.

I offer what seems to me, at this time, to be a pathway.
1) Be clear on who you are, and where you are going.
2) Be certain that you love yourself. Not just like–love. Be certain you have internal permission to be ecstatically happy.
3) Make a list of the qualities you desire in a partner. Find the person you know, or can find, who comes closest to that list, sit them down and ask them what they are looking for in a partner. Look at the gap between what they describe and where you are. To the degree that those changes are positive, incorporate them at the rate of about 1% per week.
4) As you head toward your dreams, make it clear to the people around you who and what you are, what your dreams are. Walk your talk. Begin to eat, sleep and breathe your intentions in the world. Make them positive, and loving, and powerful.
5) Don’t settle for less than you are worth. As you begin to express your beauty and power, people will be attracted to you. Be choosy. Be certain to spend your intimate time with those who actually match your values, needs, and desires, and empathize with your goals. Don’t waste your energy.
6) If necessary, celibacy might help you concentrate your energy.
7) Be honest, and kind. Treat prospective lovers and partners the way you would want someone to treat your brothers and sisters, your mom or dad, your own children. There is enough pain in the world. Don’t add to it.
8) Have faith. Believe. Love is real, and powerful, and transforming.
9) Be certain that you are heading in the direction of the values you want in a partner. Want a tight body? You’d better have one. Want someone successful? You’d better be manifesting. Want someone emotionally healthy? Lover, heal thyself. Remember the saying “you can’t have a relationship with someone crazier than you”? Well, you can’t have one with someone saner, either. If you want to go old-school, guys may well be able to trade a higher level of power for a greater amount of beauty in a lady. This has worked for thousands of years, and will likely work for a thousand more.
10) If your aspirations are higher than your accomplishment, be willing to partner with someone else who is “becoming”. After all, if you want someone to overlook your flaws, you had better the hell be ready to overlook someone else’s. Be brutally honest with yourself. If you wouldn’t want to jump into bed with you, live with you, love you, you’ve got your work laid out!
11) The meditation, goal-setting, exercise and self-reflection tools on this blog can help you. There are other tools scattered around the world. Find and use them. But start by loving yourself, and giving yourself permission to have a passionate, committed, long-lasting, healthy, supportive, bountiful, sexy relationship. It’s worth it!

-Steve Barnes.

These two traits will kill your dreams

There are two things I’ve noticed which, in combination, doom dreams.   Together, they are a predictor of failure at a level of certainty that is scary.  Here are the two things:

  1. Dishonesty
  2. Inability to keep your word.


Now, the two are obviously connected. “Dishonesty” means not only lying to others, but lying to yourself.   THESE are connected as well.  We lie to others because we tell ourselves: “it is better to be dishonest about X.   I will experience less pain and more pleasure if I do.”  There are circumstances where this is true, of course.   If a mugger asks you if you have any more money, and you have a thousand dollars in a money belt, you have zero responsibility to respond honestly.  But in general circumstances, the habit of lying is based on self-deception, and that means a distortion of your reality map: you literally do not understand the world around you, aren’t learning from your mistakes, and can become lost in what my old friend Lee Taylor’s mom used to call a “crazy maze of lies.”




Not being able to keep your word to other people is connected to not being able to keep it to yourself. The power to DECIDE.  To say “I will Y” and then be able to RELY on your capacity to do this, is critical as well.  If you have a weakness here, one of the following may be true:

  1. You misjudge the situation or your capacities, making promises you cannot keep rather than being honest and saying “I cannot or will not accept that responsibility.”
  2. You are unclear on the negative consequences of past promise-breaking, such that you minimalize the pain, and hallucinate that it doesn’t mean anything.
  3. You are unclear on your own motivations and intentions, such that it is easy for you to lie to yourself and say it doesn’t matter, that NOT losing weight, changing a bad habit, writing, finishing and marketing 100 stories is a minor matter, and won’t impact your life.  That avoidance of the temporary discomfort is more important than the accomplishment.


In combination, these two will destroy your dreams.  We tell our children these things, but accept it when they creep into our adult lives.  THIS IS THE DEATH OF DREAMS.


We make excuses for our failures

We hallucinate that we “tried everything” when we really tried two or three approaches, then quit.

We blame the environment: the “industry”, the “economy”, the “statistics” about this or that…without looking at the people who succeeded despite these things.  Consider them anomalous, rather than looking at the fact that we have stumbled off the path.


How to correct these two core errors?  The first is that we must DESTROY the illusion that it doesn’t matter. That there is more pleasure than pain in allowing them to erode our lives.


  1. Connect with your ultimate outcome.   Writing that book, getting that movie made, publishing a story, supporting yourself as a writer…whatever it is.  WRITE IT DOWN.
  2. Connect to the EMOTIONS that power the outcome.  WHY do you want it?  All of the joy you will experience if you do, all the pain and disappointment you will experience if you don’t.  FEEL BOTH OF THEM.
  3. Study the lives of people who have accomplished your intention.   NO path, NO system of action guarantees success.   Great martial artists lose street fights.  Parachutes fail to open.  Expert mathematicians make mistakes. But it is foolishness to say that studying self-defense, using a parachute, or studying math are not paths to increased probability of success. That’s all we can do.  Prepare, but also understand that there is no certainty.
  4. Choose a joyful path.  One which has rewards in and of itself.  ENJOY THE JOURNEY. The brotherhood of others on the path. The joy of discovery. The satisfaction of a healthful discipline.  The knowledge that you are leading by example, that you are BEING the change you wish to see in the world, providing congruent leadership for your children and community.


And…love yourself.   Believe in yourself.   Know that the “dark night” will come, inevitably. This is why “the machine” concentrates on the individual steps, and suggests that you write, finish, and submit 100 stories before you question your process.  That you write 1-4 per month, so that by the time one is rejected, you are on to the next, and you can feel BOTH the pain of rejection AND the satisfaction of knowing you are one of the few with the focus to keep going.


That by studying the lives of other writers you know that rejection is just a part of the process.   That the greatest ball players in history miss the pitch 2/3 of the time.   That’s just the way it is.  If you know this ahead of time, BEFORE you begin, you get to ask yourself:

  1. Am I willing to handle this pain and rejection?
  2. Can I trust myself to keep going, to keep my promise to myself to write 1-4 stories a month UNTIL I’VE FINISHED 100 STORIES?


If you can speak the truth, and keep your promise to yourself…if you can see the path clearly, and prepare for the pain BEFORE it gets here…


You will be one of those the newbies look up to with wonder, with shining eyes, and say: “how did you do it?” roiling in their own fear and uncertainty, concealing their doubt with lies and false ego.  And you will be able to tell them that yes, it is worth the pain.  It is worth the discipline. That there is NOTHING in life as important as becoming who you are.  Nothing.


And there never will be.




What can I do for YOU?

One thing creators rarely consider is what the audience/customers want. Our attitude is often: “I’ll TELL you what you want.” That’s fine for the artist part of our personalities. But the BUSINESS part has to ask the opposite question: “what do YOU want?” and then provide it. When these circles overlap, you have both personal and professional success. If you find the right audience, what they want, and what YOU want to provide, fit each other very nicely. The sweet spot. I want to ask you guys right now: I’m ready to create a little mini-course on some aspect of writing.  The “Machine” is the overall structure of a writing career, and ANY problem you have will be on one stage or another. If you follow it, you will simply succeed:


  1. Write at least one sentence every day
  2. Write 1-4 stories a month
  3. Finish what you write
  4. Submit them, continue to submit until you sell.
  5. Don’t re-write except to editorial request
  6. Read 10X what you write
  7. Continue for 100 stories.


The theory: ANY problem in your career is a failure to take one of these steps.   And once you understand the strategy? Most of the reasons are EMOTIONAL.


Let’s apply “Lifewriting” and look at this “Machine” from the perspective of the Hero’s Journey.

  1. Have you accepted the REALITY of this map to success?  What do you argue with, and why?
  2. Have you dealt with the FEAR related to any step to step?  Which step triggers the greatest discomfort and why?
  3. Have you accepted the RESPONSIBILITY to navigate this map?   Which steps have you rejected, and why?
  4. Do you have a DAILY/WEEKLY/MONTHLY program of work that will take you to your goal?  If not, why not?  If you break down, where does it happen?
  5. Do you MODEL work and strategy  of better writers?  Do you have a circle of MENTORS, ADVISORS, AND PEERS to support and evaluate your work?
  6. Are you prepared for the INEVITABLE FAILURES AND DISAPPOINTMENTS you will encounter along the way?
  7. When you hit the “Dark night of the soul” depression and confusion, what do you do to snap out of it?  What WILL you do next time?
  8. What do you need to have greater faith, gratitude for, to move through the negative emotions?  Yourself?  Your teachers, mentors, and peers?  A higher purpose in life?
  9. When you take action and WIN, how do you celebrate?
  10. How do you choose your next challenge, or the next step in your process, the “higher level”.


Note: ANY interruption in ANY  step of “the Machine” should be considered WRITER’S BLOCK.

Not writing

Not finishing

Not submitting

Not constantly improving

Not continuing the cycle until you succeed.


Anything that CREATES the interruption must be questioned, healed, rooted out…or it will destroy your dreams.  So I ask you…right here in the comments: please TELL ME where in this process your breakdown is, what you want me to address in my next mini-course, and I’ll get right on it.  I want YOU to succeed!


HERE is a link to a one-minute survey you can take if you prefer to tell me anonymously:

Write with Passion!


If you can’t trust people, who can you trust?

(modified, from 2008)


We can’t predict the future behavior of others, but I remember something one of my teachers said: “Do not trust people. Instead rely upon them. Rely upon them to do whatever it is they consider to be in their own self-interest.” The only way to do that is to be able to determine what that self-interest is. And in my mind, the only way you can possibly do that is to know yourself. To look fearlessly at your own flaws and fuck-ups and take responsibility for them, to get real about the way you’ve lied and sold yourself out… or stood up for yourself and been courageously honest in the face of pain and disappointment.



If you take responsibility for all three aspects of your life, you have a good chance to see right through other people’s B.S., because you’ll know all the rationalizations. Over and over again, I’ve had people with weight problems straight-up lie about being “unable” to lose weight because of physical issues, when eventually it turned out the problems were really emotional. A student recently emailed me, confessing that when she loses weight her sex drive increases, and her husband’s lack of sexual interest frustrates her more deeply, risking their marriage. In other words, she slows herself down to remain hobbled to a man with low energy.

I’ve run into versions of that many, many times. But here’s the trick: I’d bet ANYTHING that there are parallels in the domain of money and relationships: people who blame external circumstances for lack of financial success, but actually cripple themselves out of resentment, fear, or programming. It isn’t the economy: in the worst economies, the top 20% are still doing fine. The real question is: why aren’t YOU in the top 20% of your field?

Or ladies who say that there are more women than men, and that’s why they’re not in a relationship. Really? All that does is explain why X percentage of your group is unmarried, NOT why YOU are one of them. Stats don’t have that much to do with the individual.

(You know the joke: “I don’t have to outrun the bear.  I just have to outrun YOU.”)

But I suspect it is miles easier to blame genetics, or the economy, or gender statistics, or racial statistics or whatever than it is to examine your own motivations, beliefs, values, and actions. So easy. For one thing, when you stop behaving like a typical member of your group, you lose your protective coloration. You stand out and become a target.

You take the chance of being alone. The trouble is that we are all “alone” and the “protective coloration” is just an illusion. I am male, American, of mixed ethnicity, a writer, etc…. but all of these are just interesting labels. If I hide behind any of them, I inherit not just their strengths but limitations. It is simple: in terms of playing the game of life, either you take responsibility or you do not. Life doesn’t care. You can be happy, healthy, and successful, but the doorway to adult rewards comes from adult responsibilities. And the instant you blame society, your family, or your genetic circumstances for anything that can be modified by action, you are being a child. Adults realize that they are all that stands between the next generations and chaos, and that they are going to die… and vow that their death, and therefore their life, will have meaning. That that meaning will be found in their actions.

If you can’t admit the ways in which you sell yourself short, lie to yourself, are asleep, you cannot rise to your greatest level, and walk the world awake and alert. Complaining about injustices is one thing. Suggesting that those injustices control how you feel about life is quite another. Every day, you have to polish your perceptual lens, and take responsibility for living fully and honestly. Either you make that commitment, or you allow the external world to control your internal experience. And that is one of the great existential fallacies.

Who you are to yourself influences the way you are with others. The lies you tell yourself will blind you to the lies others tell to you. The more honest you are with yourself, the harder it is to be conned.

-Steve Barnes,

Saving Yourself, Saving the World

Today I’m going to give you a core tool that will change you forever, if you listen carefully and take it seriously.

Real talk.



Almost 30 years ago, I was teaching at UCLA, a “writer’s toolbox” class that ranged over flow-state management, organizing, brainstorming, researching, time management, and more.  It was a fun class!

But about 3/4 of the way through it, a student asked me a life-changing question.  “Mr Barnes,” he said.  “You’ve given us all these great tools, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to use them.”

“Why not?”  I asked.

“Well…my wife doesn’t understand my wish to be a writer, and my kids need a lot of my time, and my job is just burning up my energy…” and on and on he went, and as he did I felt the energy in the room, that had been building positively for hours, suddenly begin to drain away.


There’s an expression I’ve heard.   It is that from time to time, life gives you a cubic inch of opportunity.  That when that happens you either grab it, or its gone forever.   This was one of maybe ten I’ve had in my entire life.  I don’t know where it came from: maybe Steven King’s “Boys in the basement.”


I said to him: “if you were a character in a story you were writing, and at the end of that story the character got everything they wanted…what would you have that character do RIGHT NOW.”


That guy stared at me, with steam coming out of his ears.   You could hear the gears stripping in his head as he caught himself and jumped to another track. And then slowly started speaking:  “well,” he said, “I could exchange some household tasks with my wife, in trade for some private time…and I could bring my lunch to work and eat at my desk. That would get me at least a half-hour I could spend writing…and I could enroll my kids by getting them to see all the fun stuff they’d be able to do if their Dad was a published writer…” suddenly, instead of seeing obstacles, he was seeing possibilities.  Suddenly, he had the perspective he needed to see ANSWERS instead of PROBLEMS.   Total shift.


Confused, I used the same technique on the other students, and the whole class was buzzing with new energy.   That guy’s question had unleashed a firestorm of creativity, as everyone began to re-frame their lives as a heroic conflict with their own demons.


I drove home that night with my head exploding, and told my wife what had happened. Did she think this was something real, and that it was worth investigating.  She enthusiastically agreed, and I started research.   About three days in, I came across the work of Joseph Campbell, he of “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”.   I thought his cross-cultural analysis of myth patterns fascinating, but was riveted by a specific quote, something like: “cultural myths are the de-personalized personal dreams. And personal dreams are the personalized cultural myths.”


That hit me like a bomb.   Suddenly, I asked a question: if Campbell was right, that there were core patterns to all world mythology and storytelling, from Eskimo shamans to Ibo Griots to Irish Bards to New York Playwrights to Hollywood screenwriters…where did they come from?  I mean, had there been some kind of world-wide conference down in a cave 10,000 years ago, where all these folks got together and agreed to some synthetic pattern that sounded cute?


Or…could it be that the pattern of story was universal because IT WAS THE PATTERN OF LIFE ITSELF, as observed by the village elders, over the entire length of their lives? That those stories were, in essence, the older people of the village telling the younger members:   “this is what your lives will be…this is how it goes.”  Love, and fear, and growth, and death, and hunting, and gathering, and fighting, and fleeing…all the basic aspects of life, the rise and fall of tension, the acceptance of challenge, the solving of problems, the dealing with the demons in our hearts…


All the gathered wisdom of mankind RIGHT THERE IN PLAIN SITE.  And I asked myself: what would happen if you took any goal in your life, and laid it out on that pattern. Would you be able to see the inevitable path of action, in advance, because patterns repeat?


And holy crap, it worked like Gangbusters.  And Lifewriting was born. Then I asked the next question: what happens if a writer SPECIFICALLY applied this pattern not just to plotting a story…but WRITING a story…and the process of living life as a writer..?


That question changed everything.  And LIFEWRITING FOR WRITERS was born.  It opened the door to realizing that A SINGLE SENTENCE A DAY is all that we need to keep our feet moving on the path. All the rest is rememebering WHAT we want, WHY we want it, and solving the problems as they arise, one at a time.


“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home. All right, questions?”–Mark Watney, “The Martian.”


That’s you. That’s your life.  One step at a time.  One sentence a day.


This is amazing stuff, this is how we’re going to write those stories.  This is how we’re going to change the world. One person at a time. One story at a time.  One sentence at a time.  One DAY at a time.   I challenge you to join us.  Do you see dragons? Then be a damned hero.   We’ve gotten tired of Damsels in Distress.


Be the Hero in the Adventure of Your Lifetime. If you have a story to tell…we have the way to set it free.

Review: John Wick 2

Hi,  Steven Barnes, here with a movie review

By the way, I really should be writing this from a hospital bed today.  Tissue elasticity is a wonderful thing.  Fell on the slippery pavement at the Arclight Pasadena, and if my left thigh socket hadn’t been flexible, the stress would have radiated down to my knee and probably torn tendons and ligaments.    Please practice your yoga and tai chi, or joint mobility at the least, and combine with balance work.


Now…back to nice, comforting FANTASY violence.

John Wick 2 is a kind of perfection of the ultra-violently absurd, so over the top that about 2/3 of the way through I was bored with all the action…and then suddenly I ‘dialed in’ on the movie’s frequency,   and was kind of stunned.   In a very good way.

I couldn’t recommend it to anyone who has never chuckled at a good head-shot, and even then you have to have a very sick puppy rattling around in your head somewhere.

I do.  Fantasy mayhem is where I put my anger and fear.  Works for me just fine.

The set up is that retired uber-hitman Keanu Reeves is called out of retirement when a marker is called in, leading to angst and lots and lots and lots of people killed in a variety of entertaining ways. If you like that sort of thing. Reeves is now the Fred Astaire of bone-cracking in American cinema, and the choreography is flat astonishing at times. But…be warned. NOT for every taste. At all. But I got into the mood, and somewhere past that 2/3 mark I felt like I was watching a genuine classic of its kind. If you ever wanted to watch Neo fight Justin Bieber, this is the movie for you.

For the aforementioned sick puppies like I can be…an “A.”


Without any spoiler not present in the trailers, let’s look at the film from the Hero’s Journey perspective:

Hero confronted with challenge: to accept a kill assignment.

Rejects: he cannot do it and save his soul

Accepts: He is forced to accept after his house is blown up–he will take the assignment, and then kill the man who destroyed his life.


The “Road of Trials” will be the places he goes, the things he does on the way to the challenge that forces him to grow and change.

The “Allies and Powers” will be his friends and associates, his will and focus and skills.


All leading to the confrontation with evil where he FAILS.  Oh, yes. You’ll know. And the dark night. And the “What have you DONE, John???”



After you’ve seen it, I challenge you to map out the rest of the process for yourself.  It’s all there, very clearly, once you understand.

A brief look at how this maps to the “real” rather than the “reel”:

My fall was a challenge, and if I hadn’t accepted the responsibility for protecting my health, I’d have ripped my knee out–allies and powers, people.

IF you want to know more about applying these concepts to your life and work, LIFEWRITING PREMIUM, our membership platform incorporating REVOLUTIONARY WRITING and THE LIFEWRITING TEN-WEEK program is now open until March.   Once it closes, it won’t open again until summer.  The first month is only ONE DOLLAR!   WWW.LIFEWRITINGPREMIUM.COM


Now…I have to get into some of the most important writing of my life.  Have a great weekend…and be safe out there!


Write with Passion!


If you can’t be sure of a good apple…

(I’m enjoying these “classic posts.”  This one was from 2008)


Maybe you can at least avoid some of the rotten ones.

More specifically in terms of relationships, we may not be able to come up with a way to ensure success. But we can probably look at some things that raise the chances of success–or pretty much guarantee failure. Each of the following has doomed at least two relationships I know of:

1) Track record. If you have to ignore the person’s track record with relationships… watch out. If they’ve left a trail of angry partners, willing to lie about abuse, drugs, infidelity, etc: you have to ask why they’re so angry, or why your potential mate has such terrible taste in partners. And… what if it’s true?

2) Lack of track record. What if you can’t find out anything about previous partners? There is no discernible dating or mating history? Based upon the instances I’ve seen, be VERY careful. Can you speak with his/her friends about previous relationships? Their family? If not, if there is no one you can trust to give you a sense of why their past relationships went wrong, keep your guard up. Example: when I met Tananarive, I wanted her to have every chance in the world to know if I was good for her. The first chance I got, I put her in a room with my ex-wife Toni, and daughter Nicki, told them to talk about whatever they wanted, and left the room. She deserved to know if I’ve left a trail of destruction behind me, didn’t she?

3) Dishonesty. There is a gap between what they say and what they do. 90% of your opinion of someone should be based on what they do–or have done. In comparison, what they say is irrelevant. Do people deserve a second or third chance? Sure, but you have no obligation to be the one who risks your heart, home, finances and family to give it to them.

4) A serious mis-match in values and life goals. They need to be either similar or complementary.

5) Sexual heat is a very nice thing. If your partner doesn’t groove to you, and vice versa, don’t think it’s gonna get better.

6) Financial security and calm. I hate to say this, but finances screw up more relationships than infidelity. If you can’t save and balance your checkbook, if you’re still living with your parents or working a job you hate, don’t be surprised if others can pick up on this subliminally, and you find yourself unable to attract an appropriate partner.

7) Someone who does not like/love themselves. Danger, Will Robinson. Someone afflicted with self-loathing CANNOT be loved enough to “fix” them. They do not see the divinity within themselves, cannot make contact with the loving child within them… were not loved without reservation by their parents… this person has work to do. Unless you want your bedroom to turn into a battleground, stay away.

8) Someone who expects you to follow their commands. Unless you like being dominated, stay away.  (UPDATE NOTE: I recently heard a story about a Silicon Valley billionaire.  On his wedding day, at their “first dance”, he whispered in his beautiful executive wife’s ear:  “I’m the Alpha in this relationship.”   How long do YOU think that marriage lasted?)

9) Someone who expects you to read their minds. Often with the b.s. “I know what you’re thinking/want/need. Why don’t you know what I’m thinking/want/need?” Utterly infantile, but we all do it a little bit, and some of us do it a LOT. Buy into this crap, and you’re sunk, locked in a can’t-win position with someone who has never gotten over the fact that, once upon a time, all needs were eat/sleep/change me/love me. When they grow up, they might be fine. Until then, beware.

10) Someone at a very different level of energy. This might be intellectual, physical, spiritual–whatever. “Energy” here is a deliberately vague term. You should feel either matched or complemented by their strengths and weaknesses.

11) You can’t be in a relationship with someone crazier than you. If crazy people keep falling into your life, YOU are the one who needs help. Something is very wrong, and you may have a blind spot large enough to swallow your entire life.

12) Don’t expect people to change. You can’t fix people. If they have taken responsibility for changing, you can support them (there was a GREAT scene at the end of the second episode of the second season of Dexter that deals with this. I LOVE that show!)

13) Don’t expect people not to change, either. Human beings are dynamic not static. Note the direction of their growth or decay. Does it match their stated values, beliefs, and goals? If so you can be pretty sure they’ll continue on that path… but there will be change. We grow, we are wounded, we learn, we advance, we decay.

14) Know yourself first. If you’ve had a bad relationship history, take a year off and journal every day. Watch relationships around you. Specifically seek out people who have been happily married for ten years or more. I PROMISE that they did different things than you. Find multiples of them. Interview them about their relationship attitudes. Overlap the resulting data: where do they agree? Disagree? How does this agree or conflict with what you have done? Assume that your external relationships mirror your internal aspect. What would this say about you if this were true? The conclusion may not be “true” but it is likely to be embarrassingly fascinating. At the least, it points out potential directions for growth. And frankly? I’d rather assume it was true and do the work… and have it turn out that the work wasn’t needed… than ignore the evidence, assume it was “those women” (or “those men”)… and years down the road, after myriad heartbreaks, finally realize it was me, after all.

That all I ever had to do to find happiness was take responsibility for being an asshole…and change. I sometimes suspect that such insights come to too many of us only after we’re run out of places to hide from ourselves. For too many I suspect that doesn’t happen until we are old and broken. And God, that would suck.

-Steve Barnes

(Go to WWW.SOULMATEPROCESS.COM for your free copy of TEN COMMANDMENTS OF FINDING YOUR SOULMATE.  Do it today, please.  The heart you save may be your own.)

The connection between “The Morning Ritual” and “The Machine”

I’ve been talking about both these things, and wanted to pause and make it more explicit.  I’m just a guy who wanted a particular kind of life.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to create a life of meaning, and knew that if I couldn’t do that, my life would implode in fear and bitterness.  I remember the day a bully chased me out into the middle of the street–the only place I was safe, even though there were cars and trucks whizzing past on both sides.   HERE, IN THE MIDDLE OF DANGER, I WAS SAFE.


OMG. The realization that I could risk my body–my ego–or risk my heart–my dreams–was stunning, and one of the strongest images of my entire life.  I chose my dreams. Decided that I would rather die here, now, than be a ghost in my own life.

I hallucinate that you are the same, or you wouldn’t be reading these words.

I never wanted to be a teacher.  What happened is that, over time, people kept asking me how I was doing the things I did.   And I couldn’t keep it to myself.   I’d traveled across the country, driven a thousand miles to spend ten minutes with someone who could give me an answer, and finally compiled, from countless teachers, a path that actually seemed valid.   Two expressions of this are “The Morning Ritual” and “The Machine.”


“The Machine” is the path ahead.  It might take years, months, at the least about 100 days.   With writing it is “100 stories”.  With the body it might be “100 weeks of dietary and exercise discipline”. With martial arts it might be “1000 classes”.   With your spirit it might be “100 days of meditation”.  With your heart, seeking your soulmate, it might be “100 different dates.” The point is that you set a number that is HIGHER than what you will probably need to reach your goal.     Most writers start selling about 30-40 stories in.  Most long-term marriages happen after the people have dated fewer than twenty people.     Most physical training programs will give you addictive results within about thirty classes.  You design your “machine” so that it is so powerful that all you have to do is operate it, and you’ll get there.   It makes logical sense to you, modeling the very best information from people who have actually achieved your goals.


Here is “The Machine” for writers.  It takes only a little imagination to create one for ANY goal you might have:


  1. Write at least one sentence every day
  2. Write 1-4 stories a month
  3. Finish What you write
  4. Put them in the mail, keep them in the mail until they sell.
  5. Don’t re-write except to editorial request
  6. Read 10X what you write
  7. Repeat for 100 Stories.


Get it?  Have any doubt that if you DID this, you’d be at a different level of your dreams?  See how to adjust it to other goals?


But…HOW DO YOU KEEP ON TRACK?   The “Hero’s Journey” says a terrifying thing: you WILL hit the “Dark Night of the Soul” and slide into the pit of despair. You literally CANNOT move from one level of your life to another without killing your self image a bit.   I mean–if you could already do it, you’d have already DONE it!   Your ego thinks it is you, and doesn’t want to die.  So it will generate fear, convince you that the inevitable rejections, aches and pains, failures or doubts are dream-killing demons that will eat you alive if you continue.

IT WILL HAPPEN.  100% guarantee.


So what do you do?  You inoculate yourself against it by creating micro-cycles.  You make EVERY day a miniature version of your entire life, setting small challenges that are a push, but not big enough to break you.  Then, all you have to do is keep track of what you did TODAY.   And if you are off track, you get another chance tomorrow. But if you kick butt, you celebrate!

The “Morning Ritual” is a Sigil, a magical symbol, a compression of countless different principles into a form so compact that just this single action, performed for 100 days (there’s the “Machine”, get it?) will change your life.  And so powerful that you can feel the results within ten days.


THE MORNING RITUAL IS THE WAY YOU GENERATE THE FUEL TO FEED THE MACHINE.  It is also the way you create and read a “map” to be sure you are on the road to what YOU want.  YOU desire.  One day at a time, you are creating the life of your dreams, walking the “thousand mile road” to your destiny.  Here are the steps again:


  1. MOVE YOUR BODY for 10-20 minutes, moving with power, authority, and positivity. Walk, run, yoga, tai chi, joint mobility, dance.
  2. WHILE YOU ARE MOVING “flood” yourself with gratitude.  Think of all the things in life to be grateful for, all your blessings.  Are you lying to yourself and saying you have none?   Try this: you have the economic, cultural, and physiological resources to be reading these words on the internet. Would you miss your computer, your internet, your eyesight, your ability to read if they disappeared?  Then what the HELL is wrong with you?   Do you only appreciate things when they are gone?  That is no way to live–but it is a GREAT recipe for misery.
  3. Do Gratitude for 2-5 minutes.   Really connect with that feeling.   Then spend 2-5 minutes focusing on victories of the past.  SPEAK IT OUT LOUD.   Again, are you lying to yourself that you never had any?   I’m gonna bop you.  Once upon a time you couldn’t walk, or talk, or read, or ride a bicycle.  I PROMISE that when you learned to do these things, you were OVERJOYED.   All you have to do is reconnect with that emotion, those memories, and you are filling your tank with emotional gas.
  4. Now…THINK OF YOUR LONG TERM GOALS. SPEAK THEM OUT LOUD.   What do you want to be doing in 3-5 years?  Set a goal in your physical, emotional, business, and financial arenas.  BE SPECIFIC.  And here is where a bit of magic comes in: take your PAST positive emotions and flood them into your FUTURE PLANS.  Feel it.  Experience is.   And remember–you are MOVING while you do all of this.  2-5 minutes
  5. Now…what do you need to do TODAY to make these long term goals happen (your “Machine!) speak OUT LOUD what you will do TODAY to take just one more step toward your goal.
  6. If you need to re-make yourself, be sure you give yourself at least a year to do it.    A common mistake is to set such a short time frame that you have no prayer of doing it.  Then you can say “I tried!” and your ego grins like a thief in the night, slinking back into its cave, content that it has, once again, convinced you that it is the limit of your capacity.


That’s the basic pattern.   I could take any piece of it and make a month-long workshop out of it, but wanted to give you the overview.   If you are serious, define your “Machine” clearly ON PAPER.  Design your “Morning Ritual” ON PAPER.  The goals. The path. The affirmations you will speak aloud with passion.  Then perform your Morning Ritual EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.


That’s what I committed to doing.  Part of MY morning ritual?  Talking to you.  Every day.  Because I see you as me, at an earlier phase of my life.  Not that I’m better–you have things to teach me, too, if we ever meet, and I hope we do.  But I know THIS stuff. And I’m paying back my teachers by teaching you.

That’s how it works.

This pattern, along with other wisdoms, is what makes the LIFEWRITING PREMIUM program so powerful for writers.  Most programs supply tactical tools of structure and characterization. We stand that on its head, saying that YOU are the hero in “the adventure of your lifetime” and invite you to create your career, your life, as if you were writing a story about an intrepid explorer.  And we’ll cheer you on, help lift you up, tell you the truth about the journey ahead, as well as open our rolodex and introduce you to our friends and allies, so that they can tell you from THEIR perspective what it takes to succeed.


Help you build your “Machine”.  All YOU have to do is perform your Morning Ritual, and take your daily actions…and you will have a better chance of reaching your dreams than you’ve ever had.


Join us! The first month is only ONE DOLLAR!


Be the hero in the adventure of your lifetime!