Remember where you were — It’s not just physcobabble

Do you remember what you were doing in 5th grade?  What about 9th grade?

If you’re a parent and your kids are driving you crazy, sometimes it pays to stop and try to remember what it was like to be that age.   This is not some call to abandon discipline or to say that your kids can do whatever they want, but I’ve found that I’m often quite more demanding of my kids than I am of myself and I find that my frustration when they don’t meet my expectations is quite often based in unreality.

Fifth grade at Daves Avenue school was a fun year for me (actually except for 3rd grade and 11th grade physics, most of school was fun for me).  My son is in fifth grade and instead of wanting to spend all of his free time reading extra books and becoming a math genious or working on boring but useful drills to increase his future NFL potential, he is more interested in hanging out with his friends, shooting a few baskets, or *gasp* wanting  to play video games.

My ninth grade daughter is a really smart, really funny young girlish womanish type of person.  She runs with straight A’s but instead of wanting to say be the youngest novelist to graduate from Pope High School, she prefers to spend her free time on facebook or watching some crazy British guy criticize the Twillight series on You Tube.

Beyond their habits, my kids occassionally make mistakes.  Little things like dropping glasses of milk on the floor that send glass and debris flying or having friends who break out the glass in my garage doors by hitting basketballs with a baseball bat.  Sound familiar?

Two years ago, I realized that I was really losing my temper with the kids.  Not just getting frustrated with the breakage but moving beyond that into anger.  I’ve apologized to both of them and while I’m far from the perfect parent, I’ve begun to move toward being more understanding.

One of the activities that helps is repeating a few simple words to myself — they’re just kids.

Think back to fifth grade or ninth grade, how did you want to be treated by your parents.  Well in ninth grade, you may have wanted to be ignored by them and certainly publicly ignored.  But in fifth and even in ninth, the last thing that would have helped you respond positively would have been your father yelling at you. 

For parents who are overwhelmed (and who isn’t these days), we have to think back to 5th grade ( all I wanted to do was ride bikes with my friend Neal Opet and John Laporta or play football or trade baseball cards with Greg Phipps).  By ninth grade it was Tunnells and Trolls or talking about girls with Ken Weed.  I certainly wasn’t trying my hand at writing or worrying about my future career.

These are the kinds of things that are NORMAL for kids to do.

And so is breaking things and being loud and many other “kid like” things that often push my buttons as an overwhelmed father.

For me the lesson is simple —

1) Take every opportunity you can to spend time with your kids … they’ll be gone soon.

2) Think of ways that you can show your kids how much you love them (ways that are individual to them)

3) Most of all, remember that they really are just kids and probably aren’t trying to destroy your well conceived plans.


How do I get caught up on my writing?

You’ve set your goals, you’ve picked your story, and three weeks later, you’re desperately behind.

Okay, I’m desperately behind.

Let’s look at my problem.

1) I want to write a 330 page (or so) first draft so I can cut it by 10% and end up around 300 pages.

2) I want it done by June 3rd.

3) I’m starting it on April 1st.

4) I want to write 4 pages a day or up to six pages a day at the most.

5) I’m suppossedly good at math.

6) And I’ve missed a few days of writing.

April 1st to June 3rd is 63 days of writing.

Divided into 330 is about 5 days a page.  But I’m behind so I know I’m going to have to do 6 pages a day.  Doing the math at 6 pages per day, I should have finished yesterday on page 90 which would leave me about 64 pages behind since I was on page 26 instead.

Dont Panic — We’re Professionals

There are three possible courses of action.

1) I could move my finish date by 10 days which would be great if I didn’t have a real reason for the June 3rd deadline, but I do.  That’s the start of the family beach trip and want them to be able to read it even though I won’t be looking at it myself untill August 3rd.

2) I could take a day off and trick myself into believing that I’m going to get those extra 64 pages written today or tomorrow.  This might work.

3) I could plan to write two chunks a day for the next 10 days to catch up.

I will probably do some cross between #2 and #3 above.  I have a day off planned on May 8th for a Uverse installation that is going to take my work at home office offline all day so that is a good day to skip and write instead.  I also have a couple of weekend days that I can probably catch up a bit (including tonight.  I’m planning to write about 15 pages tonight and get myself rounded up from 26 to 30 and then catch up two days).

The important thing is still to remember to BIC HOK (Butt in chair, hands on keyboard) as my friend likes to say.

There is no shortcut when it comes to writing that staying off the web with the TV off and door to your writing place locked won’t cure.

What is holding you back from your main goal?

The writer of the book of Hebrews says to “lay aside anything that hinders” someone from living their Christian life.

This calls out for taking time to consider what might hinder us.

While the writer was talking about our spiritual life, the same concept applies to goal setting.

What is it that hinders you in your goals?

 I have laid out broad goals in eight different areas of my life.  For each of those eight areas, I’ve listed four or five general actions I need to take to be successful.  Beyond that I’ve written out sometimes daily, sometimes weekly goals and actions to take.

So I must be hugely successful with nothing stopping me, right?  I mean I have a plan.

What I’ve been ignoring are the things that are holding me back.

The latest one is a crazy fun (for a perfectionist, control freak like myself) video game called “NFL Coach 2009.” 

Surely, I wouldn’t miss out on prime writing time on my latest novel just to stay up till 1:30 in the morning playing a video game by myself?

Surely, I would and have several times these past few nights.

This morning as I prepared for the day, I reflected on each of the eight general areas of my life: Relationship with God, Relationship with Others, My Day Job, My Writing, My Health, My Gaming, and My Finances.

Without writing down definitive answers, I simply asked myself “What is the one thing that is holding me back in this area of my life?”

Lack of discipline is one of those generic answers but the problem is that  you can’t fight generic problems.  You need to be specific about the problems.

When I look at what is holding me back from writing, it stems from two things:

1) NFL Coach 2009 is sucking my time away.

2) When I do have writing time, I am getting distracted by this little thing called the world wide web

So what do I do about it?

For the NFL Coach 2009 part, I’ve made a decision which I’m putting in writing here to not play it until the first draft of my current novel is completed.  That should be around the beginning of June.  If I do play it then I have to give my wife and each of my kids $20 from my “mad money” fund.  That’s $60 worth of incentive not to play.

For the distraction part, the answer is a bit more complicated, but suffice it to say that I track obsessively my to-do list (using a spinoff of GTD) and that not completing my novel goals on a given day weighs heavily against me on the daily score that my to-do list generates for me ( yes, I’m a type A personality when it comes to my self standards).

So how about you?

What is it that is keeping you from your goals?

Is something distracting you?  Scaring you?  Keeping you from being the you that you want to be?

The first thing you think of is probably the right answer.

Now, what are you going to do about it.

Life Lesson: Pick your emissions shop carefully

This is the first in a series of blog entries where I try to pass on my life lessons to you so that you can save money or time or whatever and not waste it.

Most states have annual or biennial emissions or safety check for their car.

In Georgia, for instance, we have annual inspections of car emissions in order to conform with the clean air standards of the federal government.

So you can just take your car anywhere and it will cost you the same, right?


There are two kinds of emissions stations in the world:  those that are associated with a repair shop and those that aren’t.

Maybe you feel better getting your emissions checked out by a “real” mechanic instead of driving up to a metal frame in a parking lot, but if you do, you’re making a mistake.

Remember that what you incent people to do they will do (hence timeout, stiff penalties for DUI, etc). 

With an emissions only location such as the small metal frame set up in the parking lot, they ONLY make money on your emissions test.  Finding something wrong doesn’t make them any more money than if they pass you.  In fact, I would argue that they are incented to pass you simply because that makes you more likely to return the following year.

How about the other guys?   Well, emissions tests run $20 to $25.  Any kind of basic repair is going to cost at least $100 to $200 dollars.  Now, do you really want to incent someone to find something wrong with your vehicle?  After all, we’re talking about an emissions issue not some sort of safety issue.

It’s not just theoretical either.  While I don’t have scientific numbers for this issue, I have enough anicdotel evidence to back it up.  Quite frankly, I’ve never had anyone fail at the emissions shack, but have had lots of people who needed repairs after visiting an “attached” emissions check station.

Writer’s Blahs — Getting unstuck on writing your novel

I wish that all of us would-be professional writers could be like my newphew Nathan who routinely texts me things like: 4400 words today, 16000 in the last three days!

However, if you’re like me you’re juggling some combination of a paying job, a yard that needs mowing, kids that need to be driven places, and a house that needs fixing and it’s hard to sit down and write the next chapter in your novel.

Here’s a new trick to keep you going.

A novel is not a short story where you’ve got a quick idea of what you want to have happen or where you can craft seven to ten pages around a quirky idea that you had after your third martini the night before.  Novels are beasts who taunt you and dare you to figure them out.  In the middle of your novel, whether you outline in advance or just dive right in, you’re sure to run into a section that is more informational or is transitional but is not a part that you’ve been lying awake at night thinking about writing.

On the other hand are the sequences you’ve replayed in your head a hundred times — the crucial part in the romance where the heroine says something particularly romantic or the action scene where the hero dives through the door does a double summersault and comes up with guns blazing.

The trick is to save the good parts for tomorrow.

Saving the good parts to write tomorrow will bring you back to the computer chomping at the bit.  I’m writing a sequence where I know that in the next room, there is a bad guy lurking.  I know it and the 80 year old mother of my main character knows it and the main character just figured it out because she said she was going to make tea but the only person whoever made tea in the family was his alcoholic father and he only made tea right after he gave the family a good beating (Mom drinks coffee, strong and with two sugars).

So the main character knows that something is wrong and he’s sliding the pistol out of his waist band.

So I hit save and go to bed.

Guess what I want to do in the morning?   I want to write!  I don’t want to play computer games or watch tv or waste my life away playing Farmville.

Nope.  I want to get up and write.  My main character is about to come face to face with something bad and nasty and the cute coed whose life he saved and is sworn to protect is sitting on the couch next to him.  She knows something is wrong but doesn’t now how exciting her life is going to get again in the next paragraph.

So that’s the trick:   Save the good parts for tomorrow.

End your writing day and probably the chapter on a stressful note and be ready to come to the computer tomorrow.

Consistency matters — do something (almost) every day

What are your goals?

Publish a novel (mine)?  Lose some weight?  Find a new job?

What SHOULD your goals be?

That’s a far different question, but I’ll leave it out there.

Regardless of which goal you’d like to pursue, consistency matters.

Four years ago, I woke up in a small hotel room at 5 in the morning.  Slowly getting ready (of course I was drinking Pepsi), I talked with my brother about the day ahead.

We were in Myrtle Beach and about to partake in a marathon.

By which I mean that I was going to walk a half marathon with my Mom and he was going to run a full marathon.  Mark stretched a bit and then leaned against the desk chair.

“Man, I really don’t want to do my situps today.”

“So don’t do them,” I said.

“Well, I only allow myself one day off per year and it’s only February.”

Despite all that was to come that day on the course, I can honestly say that his comment stuck in my brain more than anything else that happened that day.  I recall Stephen King’s comments in his book, “On Writing,” when he was asked about how often he wrote:

I used to tell interviewers that I wrote every day except for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and my birthday.  That was a lie.  I thold them that because if you agree to an interview you have to say something it plays better if it’s something at least half-clever.  Also, I didn’t want to sould like a workaholid dweeb… THe turth is that when I’m writing, I write every day.

Now others will tell you that it pays to take one day off a week or a month (or in my brother’s place, a year).  It gives you something to look forward to.

When I was growing up my mom had a friend who was trying to lose weight but couldn’t because she couldn’t step away from her Rocky Road ice cream. 

She finally made a deal with herself.  Every monday, she’d buy a quart of rocky road and put it in the freezer.  If she walked each day and ate right from Monday through Saturday then on Sunday night, she’d sit down in front of the TV and dig in.  If she didn’t then the ice cream would sit for the next week.  The pounds came off slowly.

Two couples I know are using the Dave Ramsey approach to get out of debt.  One couple has sold a car, moved into a smaller house, taken extra jobs and cut their expenses to next to nothing.  The other couple has cut up their credit cards and made it so they can pay their basic bills with their steady pay.  When they get extra pay, they put it all towards the debt.

Both couples are making tremendous progress because they focus on what they are doing every day.

What do you want your life to look like?

While writing is what most people think of when they think about me, that is actually my number three goal at the moment.  My number two goal is to broaden myself technically in my full time job (more on that later).  My number one goal is to spend quality one on one time reading and talking about the Bible with my son.

My daughter got a lot of one on one time like first-borns do and I think that she got more of a solid Bible instruction from me and Kradan than Logan did simply due to a lack of time.  So while I want to impact all of the members of my family spiritually each day, now is my time to get caught up with Logan in this area.

So the other night while my timer was counting down my ninety minutes of writing, I put it on hold and drug my tired body upstairs and talked with him and read the Bible and explained the things that I’ve learned at the Vineyard and Biola and LGCC.  Last night?  Not so much, but I still managed to pray with him yesterday morning.

And what I see in front of me is that it makes a difference.

Now, #1 changes all the time just as yours will.  For me, I’m trying to do something on several goals every day.

The point is that we have to turn off the TV and turn off facebook and go DO the things that we want to be known for or that will improve our life down the road.

Otherwise, we’ll just be known as that guy who was great at Farmville or Hattrick or fantasy baseball and we’ll wonder whatever happened to all our dreams.


So I’m leveraging off of the idea of P90-X the X-treme exercise program that will take you and shake and bake you from so-so shape to amazing in just 90 days.

My wife and my daughter are doing P90-X and that’s really enough people in one family (don’t you think?) and besides I made some goal decisions at the beginning of the year about what it was I wanted to focus on and while I’m cutting the calories a bit (very little soda), I’m not about to waste my time on P90-X when I could be doing Write90-X.

Write90-X is simply this:  Write for 90 minutes a day for 90 days … no matter what.

If you follow me on facebook and read my note there then you know that I’m rewarding myself with 1 Pepsi per day if I spend 90 minutes the day before doing some writing.  The writing can be in any area, but it needs to be writing.

Today is day 3 and no I don’t know when day 90 will roll around, but I’m sure it will.

For all of you writers out there, remember that writing isn’t the hard part.  Sitting down to write is the hard part.