Role Reversal

Esquire

“What’s right isn’t always popular. What’s popular isn’t always right.”

–Howard Cosell

Out of my many travels between Europe and America, I’ve learned many major difference between our two cultures. The one that stands out the most to me is how quickly American men are feminizing and American women are emasculating themselves.

The Problem, As I See It

We know live in a world where being feminine, or girly, is considered a bad thing. And to make things worse, this concerted effort to shame women from being women is coming from women themselves. Men are still the driving force of making women going against themselves as they always have, but women are now giving in into the fallacy and even lying to themselves that somehow this is empowering.

Do any certain roles belong to one sex over an another? No, that is not that case. But biologically, certain roles do favor one sex over the other, that’s just how we’re built. There is nothing wrong with men taking on more feminine roles as there is nothing wrong with women taking on more, historically, manly roles. The problem, as I see it, is the full-court press of pressure that is now, not only encouraging for the sexes to switch roles, but now shames and puts down nature’s natural order. Basically, gender switching is celebrated (which it should be, if that’s what works for certain people) but the pendulum swing of bashing those that would like to stay with how Mother Nature made them is the concerning part.

How Men Are to Blame

Men, throughout history, have tried to de-feminize women and lower them to their level. For nearly all recoded history, women have been the last bastion of civility and even-temperedness . Men have always been the reckless ones, trying to have sex with as many people as possible and running from responsibility from the bottom of a bottle. Those are two of the more shameful traits that we as men carry. Women have, or, I should say, had, been the voice of reason and, more importantly, the real strong ones in the male female dynamic. If the two greatest sins in the world are pride and gluttony, then it goes only to show that humility and self restraint are the two greatest virtues. And there is nothing stronger in the world than virtue.

Men have tried, again and again, to break down a women and lower her to our poor standards. Finally, it has worked.

Under the guise of “sexually liberated” women have now become the sexual pastime of men instead of carrying the flag of what a moral relationship should be.

The term “girly,” once a compliment, has now become a slanderous word and way of being.

Women are increasingly becoming the main bread winners in the family. While it is fantastic that women are getting paid more fairly than year’s past and are now able to be in positions once only thought of being “men’s only,” the backlash has been huge. In a women’s move from family caregiver to family provider, there is now a vacuum in that caregiver role. Children are no longer being cared for. And no, a smart phone or tablet doesn’t count.

And how does this help a man? Many men now don’t feel the need to be the caregiver in the household. They can sit and play video games while their woman goes and makes the money. “But what about stay at home dads?” I hear you ask. They’re great but nothing beats a mother’s love and rearing, nothing.

All these those so called liberations of women are nothing but knocking women down to a man’s level. And now that men have successfully brought woman down to our sad level under the lies of helping, now is the time, more than ever, that men are taking advantage of women.

How Women Are to Blame

But what about women? Don’t they have a part to play in this?

For a long time I thought no. I thought that men where the only ones behind the attack on a women’s femininity and character. While it is true that the attack has always started from men, women have become more complacent in destroying their own identity.

Drunken, promiscuous nights are now brushed aside as simple results of youth or worse, the if-men-can-do-it-why-can’t-do-it mentality. The dumb, neandrothal behavior that was once the flagpole of what not to do has now become a goal.

Just look around at how we dress. For the most part, men only dress up and shower to keep up with the appearances of the fairer sex but since many women have now reached for a man’s laziness, we’ve become a culture of slobs where denim and loose fitting clothes is the norm, not the exception.

And finally, the biggest piece of blame that falls on women running away from being a women is the lack of voice. Gone are the days that a woman had the courage to stand up for herself and her dignity, whereas she was standing up for all of us, women, men, and children alike.

Sure, there are still feminine women out there who enjoy being a loving person first and taking care of their hygiene. The only problem is, they’re quiet. While men and women are working together to bring women down, the few that are not falling for the lies and tricks aren’t really saying anything either. They’re just there, on the sidelines looking phased through their massive sunglasses.

You Don’t Get a Free Pass Either, Men

Men today are winning. While yes, they have finally torn down the wall of feminity from women they have also inadvertently harmed themselves and society as a whole.

Men no longer need to lead.

Men no longer need self restraint.

And I’m not immune either. I’m an indoor guy, not the classic man’s man that most women want. I’d rather wear Ted Baker than camouflage. My idea of a night’s entertainment is the ballet over an MMA fight and I can’t open a tight bottle without the help of someone over six-years old. We are all part of this reversal in roles, and I’m no different.

But there is one thing that does make me different. I am one of the few men who is trying to tell women to stop being had and falling for the lies of men. Trust me, most other men aren’t. They want you having abortions. They want you having one night stands. They want you getting drunk. They want you paying their bills.

So what is left? We need women to be strong. No, not in the benchpress department but in the character one. We need women to standup to the lies that modern society is feeding them and making them weak like men.

I only fear that the age of the strong women has passed.

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I Am Not a Nice Person

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I am about to do something that is not nice. It’s not mean, but it’s not nice either. What is this thing I am about to do that isn’t nice? I’m about to tell you something nice I did. Let me explain.

As many of you know, many of my friends are Jewish. One of my first Jewish friends, Michael Rosenthal, taught me a very prolific thing in Jewish culture, the mitzvah. A mitzvah is good deed, basically. Once, while we were at a summer camp, I noticed that a building was paid for by an anonymous donor. I pointed out how foolish this was to Mike and he told me that one of the biggest mitzvahs is giving your money without the recognition most attache to it. That lesson has stayed with me all my life.

I guess it all goes back to the thinking that, if you do something nice so people can see and say you did something nice, then you didn’t do something nice at all, and I agree.

So that is why I am about to do something that isn’t nice. That’s why I am about tell you about something I did that was nice.

After nearly two months, my blinds came in. The guy who installed them is named Jim. Jim is an amazing person with a huge heart. He told the story about how he lost his only daughter to liver cancer. He has only one grandchild, Wyatt, that she left behind. Touched by this story and just at how nice Jim was, I decided to buy us both lunch. He happily agreed.

As I went to the Thai place to pick up my food, I noticed that my debit card was missing. I panicked briefly then remembered where I thought I had left it. I went back inside my building, explained to Jim what happened, and asked him if I could borrow twenty bucks. Lunch was still on me, but let me borrow the twenty spot and I would get my debit card and his twenty back. He agreed.

After lunch I went to the store where I left my card. I had to send a fax to work and left it inside the automated fax machine. As I walked out of the business center, it was fortunately right next to my bank so I would avoid those troublesome ATM fees from other competing banks.

As I walked down the street, back to my place, I was going over the thought of giving money and not telling people. This lunch that I was buying Jim would be between God, him, and me. If I tell anyone else, it wouldn’t be a nice act, it would just me doing something to get attention and praise, the complete opposite of something nice.

As I walked back, a timid man began walking next to me. He asked if I had any money. I didn’t want to lie so I just told him that I was sorry.

The homeless man smiled and said thank you and continued to walk next to me. He commented on how hot the weather was becoming. I could just tell he was a pleasant guy looking for a quick chat so I started asking him about his day and how he was doing. He told me the shelters are full and there isn’t any space for him. He also told me that it was a good thing since he didn’t want to be around that. He told me how he had had food poisoning and was finally feeling better. I think that’s when it hit me. Even a starving man could get food poisoning. With that, I told him the truth. I told him I did have twenty dollars and for him to have it. He left me with God’s blessing and I went over to another ATM. I still had to get Jim his twenty dollars.

After I was hit with the three dollar surcharge on my next twenty, I was nearly home. All these thoughts of doing nice things for others were swimming in my mind, first Jim and then the homeless guy. I began to tell myself how great I was and how much better I was than some of my other friends. Some of them don’t give money to homeless people, something I think is horrible.

Just as I was telling myself how wonderful I was, I saw her eyes. It was another homeless person, this time a lady. As we got closer and closer her eyes didn’t let go.

“Excuse me sir. Do you any change to spare?”

“No, I’m sorry. I don’t have any money on me.” I said, lying.

My inner dialogue was telling myself I can’t give forty bucks, forty-three if you count the surcharge, to two homeless people in under five minutes! I’m not made of money! I mean, my kindness only goes so far!

And soon enough, I was home handing Jim a twenty and not feeling too good about myself.

So what’s the moral of the story? It’s not to make you feel sympathy for me, that’s for sure. Is it a happy ending since I did a little good or a sad ending because I’m a hypocrite for not giving that lady money while I was judging my friends’ past actions?

I learned a lot of lessons inside those fifteen minutes. I learned that I was wrong to think I was better than my friends for giving to the homeless. I learned there is only so much we can do, no matter how well our intentions are. I learned I was taking away the nice thing I had done when I decided to share this with you.

I Turned Pro

Saint Philip Neri

This is an open letter to two people. Author Steven Pressfield and, more importantly, to myself.

I turned pro.

Those three words, not I love you, have been the hardest to say. Honestly, I thought they’d never come. Mister Pressfield always talks about how you will know the moment you turn pro. It hits you. I never believed him, until today, until a few moments ago.

I have been a dilettante on a lot of things, and in particular, my writing. I have finally finished a rough draft but that has been through wishy washy commitment at best.

Then today happened.

Someone in my family just lost their job. The reality of life, money, and all that just hit me. I asked if there was anything I could do. She asked that I pray for her.

I consider myself a man of faith, but I know, in my heart of hearts, I would not share her faith in the same time of need. I would ask God why He would repay for all my faith by cutting me off. But I did as she asked, and I prayed.

Every morning and evening I try to bookend my day with prayer. In the morning, I try to read about the day’s Saint. Today, May 26th 2015, was Philip Neri’s Feast Day.

As I read his autobiography, I wasn’t even paying attention. My mind was in another place, obviously. My heart was aching for my loved one but I continued on reading about the Saint. He was a good, pious man who received lots of attention from everyone around him. Like many Saints, this story is told several times over. Basically what I’m trying to say is, coupled that story with my mind on other matters, I wasn’t really paying attention to the biography.

As I got to the end, there was a quote from the Saint, “Let me get through today, and I shall not fear tomorrow.”

And that’s when it hit me, God has been listening. This Saint’s story that I didn’t think was different, was. Every Saint’s story is particular if you know how to look. I wanted to stop reading, I wanted to give up. Out of respect for the Saint since I was not giving his life’s story the proper attention it deserved. And then finally, that quote.

I prayed to the Saint to pray for my loved one and myself. I looked out the window and smiled. In a rush it all came to me. If she was on the chopping block, I could be next. I had to do something. Something not just for me, but for her, but for all my family.

May 26th 2015. That’s the day I turned pro.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have work to do.

I Fell in Love in Paris

Eiffel Tower in the background. Photo by the author.

Eiffel Tower in the background. Photo by the author.

I fell in love in Paris. Cliche, yes, but also very true.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit France for a World Federation of Hemophilia conference they were having there. Every two years, the WFH holds an international congress, and that year it fell in Paris.

I didn’t know what to expect from Paris or the meeting. The latter was a bit disappointing, not because the WFH does a poor job of putting together a meeting, far from it. Their congress is probably one of the best in the world that provides some of the most useful information out there. And that’s what the problem for me was. I’m just a layman and this was designed for medical professionals. Which it should be. The greatest and smartest minds in the world of bleeding disorders get together and share their ideas.

The good takeaway from the meeting was the several activities they had. I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people from around the world involved with hemophilia. So even though the congress wasn’t directed towards someone like me, I still had the chance to reap the amazing reward of meeting folks from all corners of the world.

Is this where I met my love in Paris? No. I met her in the streets of Paris.

I met her at the Louvre.

I met her next to the river Seine.

Don’t worry, this isn’t some analogy for falling in love with a city or a place. I genuinely fell in love with a woman there. I’ll explain.

Back home, in Phoenix, I was seeing this girl. We had a lot in common yet were as different as night and day. We loved to read and think. Our conversations flowed because it was like talking to someone you’ve know your whole life who knows you better than you. Yet our differences were pronounced too. Not just our ethnicities, she was white, but she was very feminine where I could be brash. We were the perfect mix of commonalities and differences. There was only one problem. Me.

I took her for granted. Something I have done previously with other women. I knew I had her so I didn’t try to have her.

When I was in Paris, I met amazing people, women too. But my mind kept going back to Phoenix, going back to her.

I thought about how only she would appreciate the sights and sounds that I was witnessing. Sure, everyone loves the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa, but she would’ve loved the history and all the backend stuff that only bookish people like us would be interested in. And that’s when I realized, in Paris, away from her, that I loved her.

When I returned home I waited a few days, trying to play it cool. I sent her a message and it took awhile for her to get back to me. After a day or so, she got back to me and told me we needed to talk.

We couldn’t see each other anymore, she informed me.

You see, I was the other man. She was dating a wonderful guy. Seriously, everything I heard about the guy just showed me how great he was. Her and I just met and hit it off too well.

But she finally told me that she had come to grips with the fact that what she was doing was wrong. That the guy she was officially seeing was great. She didn’t say it was easy, but I’m sure it wasn’t that hard either.

I understood. Should I have fought for her? I don’t know, I still don’t. I never was or planned to be a home wrecker. It was just that this woman and I happened to meet at the wrong time, that’s really it.

I could have had her when I was in Phoenix, before I left, but I decided not to. When I came home and was ready to take her, she was gone.

I fell in love in Paris. Too bad I didn’t earlier.

On Franco-American Relations

Voeux 2015

This morning I awoke to the nicest news from France, only to then hear some of the worse and it made me reflect on the state of Franco-American relations.

I woke up this morning and did my morning prayers. I woke up a little late and had a doctor’s appointment so I was in a little rush. I had enough time though to open my phone and check my e-mail.

There I saw the most lovely message from my friends in France, Dorothée and Mayeul Fournier. They were wishing me a Happy New Year. It felt great to get that note from France and to know that I was in their thoughts. I was smiling.

But no sooner had I began to smile, that that happiness turned to shock and sadness. I then checked social media and saw responses towards Islamic terrorism. I wasn’t sure what was going on but I knew something wasn’t good. After a few more moments I soon learned about the horrific massacre on France’s media.

This post is not to talk about our shared threat, Islamic extremism, but to touch more on the friendship between our two countries.

How Many Americans View the French

Americans, unless we know it or not, are taught, subtlety, to hate the French. This may come as a shock to my French friends, but not my American ones.

I truly and honestly believe that it comes from a defensive reaction. Americans think that the French don’t like us so we in turn don’t like them. It’s like an act of preemptive hate. Ridiculous.

Now there have been some strains with our first ally, no doubt about it. During the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, France was one of the loudest voices against military action in Iraq. I, and many other Americans, were furious that our so called ally, would halt us from stopping what many considered a clear and present danger to the United States and her allies.

I remember telling people that, if I ever travelled to Europe and had to do a layover in France, I would ask for a wheelchair so that I could get transferred across the airport so my feet wouldn’t touch French soil. Yeah, I hated France that much.

And it wasn’t hard either. At the end of the day the blame falls solely on my shoulders for being so naive but it didn’t help that I was brought up in a culture where disliking the French was part and parcel with watching baseball.

How Many French View Americans

Then, a few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to France for the first time. I had gotten over my anger and was genuinely looking forward to it. I was there for humanitarian reasons as the World Hemophilia Conference was being held in Paris that summer and was on my way to Macedonia, where I was helping their Hemophilia community.

I remember my first day on the Champs-Élysées, strolling and looking at the sights (the girls) when I started noticing something strange. I started seeing tons of people in pro-American clothing. Mostly takes on the American flag, but still, there was a large number of French people wearing American themed outfits. I was stunned. By the end of the day I counted at least five French people wearing US themed garb.

The next day I hit the Champs-Élysées again, this time, with a more open eye. I was sure that all the French people wearing USA stuff must’ve been a fluke, some type of strange chance that I just happened to be upon. And sure enough by the time I had lunch at my favorite French restaurant, Quick (it’s there McDonald’s), I had only counted three. The world seemed right again.

Then, like clockwork, I saw more French people in USA clothing. In the next hour or so, I counted up to seven people! I couldn’t take it anymore and I saw a French girl standing outside a clothing shop wearing American flag shorts. I had to ask what the deal was.

“We fucking love America,” was her response. Consequently, she also designed the shorts herself.

I quickly learned that the French not only like Americans, but they loved us. And when I thought about how most of my countrymen hate the French, I felt horrible.

But Aren’t the French Rude?

Yes and no. I tell people this; how would you like it if people came up to you and spoke gibberish expecting you to understand them? You wouldn’t like it either, in fact, it would probably make you angry to the point that you may come off rude yourself. Armed with my limited French, I could say things like, “Excuse me, I don’t speak French. Sorry. Do you understand English or Spanish?” One-hundred percent of the time I would get a happy response, friendly smile, and help that almost became embarrassing. When I would ask a French person for directions they would literally walk with you for a bit to make sure you would’t get lost. I haven’t felt that sort of welcome in any other country. The reason they were so nice? I tried a little, that’s it. I spoke enough of their language that they then became receptive towards me. They weren’t rude because I wasn’t rude.

Which brings me to another point. A friend of mine pointed out that one time, in Paris, it took them forever to get serviced until they had to call the waiter over. At first I was understanding but then later realized his unintentional mistake.

Would you like it if some stranger came into your house, didn’t say a word, and just started grabbing food from your fridge? No, of course you wouldn’t but that’s nearly the same thing as walking into a restaurant in France and not announcing yourself with a hello. Walking in and taking a seat without being shown is the near equivalent.

How were they dressed? Was it the “American suit” of a t-shirt and baseball hat? Americans have some of the worse hygiene in the world, visually. We stink up places with our sweatpants, shorts, and t-shirts.

In short, the French and Parisians can be rude, just like any other culture. We just have to remember that we can be the ones that are being rude and not actually knowing it.

Franco-American Friendship

Americans like to remind the French and the English that they wouldn’t be under German control right now if it wasn’t for America, but Americans also tend to forget that without the French, we would still be kneeling to an English crown. Next to George Washington, the most important man in creating a free United States of America is Lafayette, a Frenchman.

Yet here we are, 2015, and Americans feel closer to our first enemy, the British, than our first friend, the French. Meanwhile anti-Americanism sentiment is higher in Britain than it is in France. We have it so backward here.

What Should We Do?

Americans should do two things. One, remember our history and, two, have the same love and concern that the French have for us.

I’ll close with this final thought. I have only cheered on two national soccer teams in person in my life, the US and France. It doesn’t make me less of an American because I support the French, if anything, it makes more of one.

Allez les Bleus!

Stade de France

The Writing Myth

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So this is like my fourth or fifth post on the craft of writing, but this is the one that I’ve been itching to write about. The myth of writing.

First, what is craft? I keep saying that word and if you’re a new writer, you’ll be hearing a lot of it too. Craft simply means the art and creation of writing. There is a ton of stuff that goes into creative writing. You have to learn how to master as much as you can, all these different skill sets to get better at the entire act of writing fiction. I’m not sure there will ever be an all around great writer, but your job is to not be bad at a lot of the aspects but trying to be good or at least better than average on all the different aspects of writing.

You can be good at description but stink like a gym sock when it comes to dialogue. Your grammar might suck. You can’t really spell that good. You don’t understand the basics of story structure. You don’t know how to create suspense. You don’t know how to organize your ideas. The list goes on and on, and all these things make up what people call the craft of writing. (By the way, I can be pretty bad at all of them.) Our job as writers is to get better at all these different aspects of writing. Which brings me to the subject of this post, the writing myth.

There has been a long debate as to what is commercial fiction and what is literary fiction. I think there isn’t one. It’s just that there are some book snobs and then there are not.

For most of my life, I bought into the writing myth too. I thought like most people, great writers were just born with it, having a great book inside of them just waiting to come out and then one day – BAM – while their hair has grayed they sit down for the next two to six years in a cabin or somewhere in Africa and then out comes nothing but pure genius.  That’s not how it works.

Writing, is like any art. You need to practice and do a lot of it. That’s it. You can talk about painting and playing a guitar all day. You can read about painting and playing a guitar all day. Heck, you can dream about that painting and song all day too, but at the end of the day, the only thing that will get you closer to painting that painting and playing that song is to, wait for it, start painting and playing. Crazy, I know.

Sure, there are flukes, freaks of nature, but they are not the norm, they are the exception. There are examples of folks who wrote their first book and it was genius, but for the rest of us, most of the time, to learn something, you have to practice the skill over and over.

That’s why it irks me about literary snobs. There’s the rightful saying that those that can’t, teach, but I also think that there should be something along the lines of, those who can’t create art, critique.

Take some of the best writing that has come out in the past few years. Like Stephen King’s 11-22-63 and John Grisham’s Sycamore Row. Had these two books come from a new writer, they’d be getting awards and acclamations up the wazoo, but instead, since these men have created previous works that – gasp – appealed to large sections of the public and have also written some clunkers, these books are to be just recognized but not applauded for the great pieces that they are. Hot tip people, that’s not how it works, that’s not how anything in life works. No one just grabs a guitar or a paintbrush one day and knocks out a Rembrandt or a Stairway to Heaven. What it takes is a lot trial and error, mostly error.

As of right now, I have three works in different parts of disarray. A novel and two short stories, both for my eyes only. Every time I look at them, I am so unhappy because as a person and a writer, I keep changing and growing. Things I was once proud of I now hang my head in shame about. Why? Because it’s a process, that’s why. And if you want to get good at this writing thing, you need to swing your bat and strike out more than you get hits.

So when it comes to your writing, don’t expect to write your Magnum Opus the first time out. It does, but rarely, happen. Instead, just do what nearly all successful writers do. Suck a lot. First in private, then in public. Eventually, you’ll stop sucking and something good will come out. As for those who will then hold your first or early works against you for your entire writing career, it doesn’t matter. They were too scared to suck and played it safe anyway. Don’t let their envy be a reason for you not reaching your success.

I am a Writer

IMG_2760One of the first things you need to do is change your attitude. You need to stop thinking of yourself as someone who may write, to someone who does write. Again, I can hear your excuse making mind (more on that weasel in later posts) doing what he does best, make excuses. “But I haven’t written anything yet! How am I a writer? I’m still reading your stupid blog posts!” First, thank you for reading my stupid blog posts. It’s nice to know someone is. Second, you can’t get to where you want to go unless you start acting like it.

It’s sort of like someone who is successful at losing weight. Where most people say to themselves, “I’m overweight by a hundred pounds,” and that thinking gets them nowhere, you need to think like those that do lose the weight instead. Most of there minds think, “Okay. I’m a fit person. Starting today and now, I am an exercising, health food eating freak. It’s just who I am. These extra 100 pounds? No problem, I’ll just do what I do and it will come off eventually, because I’m healthy.”

And that’s what you need to do to. Not lose a hundred pounds because you look wonderful. Trust me. I’m an Internet blog post from the past. What I mean is, you need to start thinking and acting like a writer.

Now, I’m not saying you run into your boss’s room and quit your job and announce to the world that you’re gonna write the next Harry Potter, once you buy some pens first. You can even keep it to yourself. But the most important thing is, look at yourself as a writer. Treat yourself as a writer. Act like a writer. Eventually, you’ll become a writer.

This mindset does several things. Of course the first thing folks think about is the confidence it gives you. That’ not bad. But what really matters is how you look at the world, and in turn, yourself. You start reading books on the craft of writing or watch an interview of your favorite author. Only this time, you’re not a fan but his or her equal. It’s a mental game changer.

When you start reading books like a writer, or watch movies and television like a writer, or just walk around thinking your a writer, you will become that writer faster than someone who was full of doubt.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should just daydream and do nothing. On the contrary. You need to get into the habit of writing above all things. (If you haven’t noticed yet, I’ll be saying those words over and over again, habit and writing.) There is nothing more important than actually writing something, anything. It is better than writing nothing at all. However, this slight change in thinking, this paradigm shift, will make your sitting that much more important.

Guess what I suggest you do know? That’s right, write.

No, seriously. Stop reading this.

You’re still reading this and not writing. Why are you reading this?

Where to Start

IMG_2761On my last post, I ended with saying that aspiring writers need to get into the habit of writing. Okay, so you turned off the Internet, opened up an empty document, or grabbed a pen an paper, and you just sat there, frozen. I thought this writing thing would be easier?

Writing isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard either. Like most things, getting started is the hardest part. So what should you do when you’re stuck at the blank screen?

Journal

Just write about your day. What’s on your thoughts or your mind. Anything at all. The important thing is to just write for the sake of writing. Once you do this, you are 180 degrees from where you were; someone who was dreaming about writing, to actually writing. I can already hear your objections through the magic of space and time, “What does me talking about my laundry have to do with my space western zombie story?” Everything. Again, I cannot stress how important the act of actually writing is.

Is you, sitting around, writing about how the room you’re in looks actually part of the novel you have in your mind. Yes! Especially if you’ve never really written before. We are talking about not writing, as much as getting into the habit of writing.

Look at it this way. If you spend a week not writing, after that week is done, you would have finished exactly no writing. But if you wrote everyday, just for five minutes, you will more than likely write at least one sentence about your WIP (work in progress) which is 100% more than the first example.

Journal About Your WIP

Write about your story. You don’t have to write your story, but it wouldn’t hurt. Just start by talking to yourself. It could look something like this:

okay. here i am. i was reading this webpage by this dumb guy named tony hernandez and dude was sayin that i just need to write and that anything is better than nothing. well here i am! nothing. see, he is stupid. I should have listened to everyone who gave him a bad review. But he also said to write about my story. I’m not even sure what it is! i mean, there’s a cowboy and he’s in space. but why is he a cowboy in space? I guess he’s like a sherif or something. Yeah! that’s it. he’s the sheriff of a planet, or a star system. Whatever. and then, a zombie apocalypse brakes out on a spaceship and he needs to check it out.

And so on and so on. Seriously. Just write. If journaling doesn’t start it, then talk to yourself about the story. What scene is it? Where are you stuck? What do you want your story to be about? Sometimes, you’ll have a scene in your head. Write it! Just write anything. And then, do it again later. Either that day, but at least the next.

On Writing

IMG_2757This will be the first of hopefully many posts on the art, craft, and creation of writing. It will be by no means extensive or the magical one-stop shop for all aspiring writers needs. What this will be, is a journal on my thoughts and experiences that I’ve had as a would-be writer. Lord willing, I become some sort of successful writer one day and this will help other writers go from dreamers to creators. And most importantly, save them from the mistakes that I made.

Where I Am

To understand where I am I guess I need to start where I began.

First of all, my status is: unpublished. Pretty gutsy for a guy who hasn’t had a single word written to think that one day people would want to come back and hear what I had to say about the process. Call it cocky, call it confident. I think I’m a pretty good writer and I hope that one day my work will reach an audience. An audience that includes future writers.

It all began with an idea, a what if that rolled around my mind. I am keeping my work’s title private now, so we’ll just call it Red Corvette. Like most story tellers, I had this idea for a story, the big event that happens in Red Corvette. It ate at me and ate at me, until I had enough and thought that I wanted to write this. I needed to write.

So where do you start as a writer when you haven’t written anything in your life?

That was the question that I had, like most writers. I grew up poor and was a high school dropout. The closest thing I ever came to a creative writing class was when I went to community college and took a pre-English 101 class, because I failed to place. There was a time where we free wrote for sometime in our class in our journals. I loved it! But like most of my schooling endeavors, I quit.

I bring this up because I want to bang home the fact that I have had zero creative writing teaching classes. If you hate my work, you probably already knew that. No fancy diploma or literary background. Just a kid from the barrios of West Side Phoenix and a dream.

So how did I start off my writing? With perseverance.

When you don’t know something, the first thing you do is search the Internet and I was no different. I read tons of articles and blog posts. Read some posts on message boards. But mostly, I searched Amazon for books on writing.

I told myself that I would buy one, maybe two, books on writing. That was nearly forty books ago. I cannot stress enough how important it is to buy, and read, books on the craft. More on that later.

The first book I bought was The 90-Day Novel, by Alan Watt. After looking at so many books, I finally decided on that one. It was getting great reviews and it seemed to answer my questions I had about writing. The results were instantaneous. Just after the first exercises I was rockin’ and rollin’, getting the creative thoughts from my head onto paper. It was great.

Not sure how long after that, maybe a week or two, but then my writing fizzled out. I won’t blame the book, heck, I give it the highest recommendation since it helped me start my path to writing, but it was too unstructured for me. I didn’t know that at the time, but it was my first real foray into the writing process.

It had done it’s job though. I knew I could write, and more importantly, I loved it! I knew there was something there. I just needed the right guidance.

So again I went to the World Wide Web and continued to search and search. I came across a writing workshop by Holly Lisle. Again, highest recommendations. What sold me on one of her products, How to Think Sideways, was her wonderful book, Mugging the Muse. This book is jam packed with tons of stuff that every new writer should be aware of. I bought the How to Think Sideways course and was well on my way to becoming a creative writer.

Then I went to a hemophilia summer camp.

I am not blaming the interruption of my studies for the fact that I was not getting everything out of the course. More than not, it had fallen into the same issue that happened with my first book; I got what I needed from it.

These two resources are invaluable but I needed more. So I broke my rule and I bought another book on the craft (art) of writing.

And then I bought more. And then more.

I have now bought quiet a bit of e-books on writing and their paper counter parts. I have probably spent about three to four-hundred dollars on writing material. If you’re scoffing at this, old Tony would have too! But now I realize, that as someone who had no education in writing, spending under $500 was nothing compared to all the knowledge and insight I’d be missing if I didn’t buy them. In fact, it pales in comparison to what people pay in college. That wouldn’t even cover a semester of a creative writing school!

So I guess that’s what my first, major point is. Get as many resources as possible. You don’t need to buy them, but it doesn’t hurt. Start by reading what other aspiring writers do. Go to kboards Writer’s Cafe. Trust me, I wish I would have done this earlier. Do an Internet search of [your favorite author] and [writing process]. More times than not, you’ll get some cool links to some interviews they have given.

Also, diversify your intake. Don’t just read about writing, check out videos, and listen to audio books. My favorite audio book is the inspiration to the title of this blog post, Stephan King’s On Writing. Part autobiography, part writing class, it is all great to listen to the master talk about the craft of writing and his journey. Plus, since he reads it, it’s probably the only time most of us will get to hang out with the man.

And finally, just do it. Just write. Something. Anything. Don’t wait for perfect conditions.  If you’re reading this now, odds are you’re on the Internet so that means you’re on a computer. Close your Internet browser and open up a text document and just start writing. Every computer has one, even the most basic text DOS will work.

Don’t have a computer? Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Just write already! The hardest part is starting. Stop waiting for the stars to aline. Tip: they never will. Read about writing. Watch about writing. Listen about writing. And most importably, write. I don’t care if it’s a pencil on a napkin or an envelope, just start doing the most important thing when it comes to writing; getting into the habit of actually writing. Then you step back from that envelope, and if you want, you can toss those few sentences away in the trash can. But everything will be different. You’ll no longer be someone who wishes they were a writer, but you’ll officially be one, a writer.

Welcome to the club.

Will Obama Do the Right Thing?

President Barack Obama meets with his national security advisors in the Situation Room of the White House, Aug. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama meets with his national security advisors in the Situation Room of the White House          Aug. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 

The current situation in the Middle East right now, in particular Iraq and Syria, is increasingly dire. Now, with the news that an American journalist was executed, America is once again at a crossroads with Iraq. The question then becomes; will Obama do the right thing?

The correct course of action differs on whom you ask but our choices are clear. Remain vigilant in our air strikes and continue to supply Iraqi and Kurdish forces with the supplies and logistics they need, or an extreme change in our current road of action.

On one end, we can take a step back with our military presence. This seems highly unlikely. America does not negotiate with terrorists and pulling out and letting the Islamic State continue to grow seems like an option that no one is willing to consider. On the other end of the spectrum we can up the ante and get more involved into a continually deteriorating situation. Also unlikely but not as much, but it would be the correct course of action.
So if the United States did ramp up offences in Iraq, how exactly would that look?

For one, we can continue with air strikes, but with more firepower. The United States has been selectively choosing its targets. America can become more indiscriminate if it wanted to. This, however, will only be a fleeting change. Today’s enemy is different, not a traditional fighting force. We can send them back into their holes so we can let a decent society grow again, but they will be there, waiting to come out and spoil whatever peace has been seeded.

Another option is limited ground support, meaning Special Forces. This seems the more likely path since it’s one that the President feels comfortable doing, especially after the success of Operation Neptune Spear. This will have limited troops on the ground and get rid of some High Value Targets, but it wouldn’t come without risk. There is no question that our Special Forces community is the best in the world, but even they carry so much luck. If we throw in all of our Operators in at the same time, it could have the effect of ridding one of America’s strongest arrows in her quiver if the situation disintegrated.

The third, and arguably, best option is to reestablish ground forces in Iraq. While our air power will push the enemy into their holes, ground forces will be able to smoke them out and put finality to the problem that the world so much desires. It would even be easy for the President to authorize. He could label it as an Iraqi operation with Americans providing supportive forces. Current to the Wars Act, he wouldn’t even need Congressional approval. He would just have to inform them within twenty-four hours of the attack. But will he?

The situation and the way to deal with it are clear. The go ahead, however, is politically muddy. The country is still war weary from its two previous engagements and the President ran on a platform of getting troops out of Iraq. Putting forces back in would be a watershed moment in his administration and legacy. It would admit fault that he created a vacuum by pulling American forces out too soon from Iraq and it would bring on a political firestorm from his supports that elected him. Men are stubborn creatures and the President is no different. Could he admit wrong and go against one of his cornerstone promises? No one but him knows. But if he does decide to act, it would be the toughest decision in his presidency and quiet possibly, the greatest. History remembers those who make the tough decisions when the world says otherwise.

All we can do now is wait.