Posts in Essays
The Wrong Path

Thought-A-Day calendars are generally pretty cheesy. (Today’s thought: You CAN do it!) For years, though, I’d receive them as Christmas gifts, and I’d dutifully flip that page every single day. It usually produced an eye roll from me.

Until one day it didn’t. On a random Thursday in August I tore off the preceding page to find this Turkish proverb:

No matter how far you’ve traveled down the wrong path, turn back.

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The Myth of Life Balance

An article recently caught my eye, and not because it involved a celebrity. (I personally find stories on celebrities to be mind-draining and borderline painful, but I suppose there are people who can’t go a day without reading about Taylor’s current love. People are different.)

This piece focused on a comment Reese Witherspoon made regarding life balance. Or, to be accurate, the lack of life balance when you choose to work while raising a family. The interview in the magazine Southern Living quoted her on work/home balance: “No one’s really doing it perfectly.”

I suspect she’s right, but I’ll go a step farther: I don’t think it’s even possible to have balance.

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The bed-and-breakfast sits about a mile from the historic City Centre of Canterbury, tucked into the somewhat-modern suburbs of the British town. The perfect distance, as it turns out; one can find a peaceful night's sleep outside the hubbub of the action, but get in a good walk when it's time to explore.

With a backpack slung from one shoulder, I cross a pedestrian bridge over the A28 and approach the stark, gray stone walls encircling the city. They're about a thousand years old, and look it: forbidding, in a way, and yet softened over time by weather and distress.

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More Than a Book Signing

After doing book signings for more than ten years, I wanted to offer up an explanation of how my signing events have changed - for the better - and why you might wanna drop by sometime.

If you’ve been to an author’s book signing event, chances are you found a writer sitting behind a table, staring up at people and holding a pen in his/her hand. Maybe there were people in line. Maybe you were the only person there.

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The Absolute Laws of a Garage Sale

My friends chuckled when they heard I was having a garage sale. I guess I’m not what you’d consider “garage sale material” - whatever that is. True, the last time I did it Reagan was in office, but I think that’s just about the right frequency. Everyone should have a garage sale once every thirty years.

Of course, now I’m an expert. Not because I’m so experienced in the ways of peddling and bartering, but because I’m a lifelong learner and first-class observer. While you may simply sell your junk and pocket the dollar bills, I study the process and the people.

And, by doing so, I’ve developed: Seven Iron-Clad Laws of The American Garage Sale

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One of My Books Was Banned?

My goal was simple: Give away 1500 books - written under one of my pen names, Buster Blank - to elementary schools. This would be a slam dunk. Dozens of schools signed up for the giveaway, ten were selected, and the congratulatory emails were sent. Next stop? Happily delivering boxes of free books to schools that too often have to scrape together funds to purchase library materials.

But wait, not so fast; something strange happened on the way to Littleton, Colorado. One of the winning schools, in the course of ten days, shifted from accepting $850 worth of books to BANNING the book entirely from their campus.

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Music As a Soul Refresher

was a teenager when Paul McCartney released a single called Let ‘Em In. I was a huge Beatles fan, and enjoyed Paul’s solo work, too - but I hated that song. At the risk of sounding like some intellectual snob, the song was just plain dumb. Consider the lyric: “Someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing the bell. Do me a favor. Open the door, and let ‘em in.”

C’mon, man. I know Macca wrote some silly tunes in his day (the guy actually released a version of Mary Had A Little Lamb, for chrissakes) but my initial reaction was that he was using his superstardom to just put out anything - really, anything - and his name would sell it.

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No new ideas? Or just low expectations?

Oh goody, there’s a new entry in the Superman/Batman movie series. The third Divergent film debuted last week. The seventh Star Wars movie splashed in December.

Scan the top twelve box office hits of 2015 and you’ll see that nine of them were sequels, reboots, or retreads. Two others were animated hits aimed at kids. That leaves one - one!  - non-cartoon film in the top dozen that was an original idea (The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s fantastic and fun novel).

This likely will launch a new round of complaints that there are no new ideas coming out of Hollywood.

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Solitude and Creativity

There are few things that make me cringe more than receiving notice of an upcoming “brainstorming” meeting. What the notice should say is, “Please join our group as we stare at each other and accomplish little.”

I’m sure there have been some great ideas that have sprung from these sessions, and there likely are constructive ways to collectively dream up a winner. But I’m an advocate for getting away from the group in order to truly stimulate creativity.

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First, Write

We live in an age where promotional hype outshines almost everything else. It has trickled down from national television programs to just about every creative outlet in the country. And, with the explosion - and undeniable power - of social media, it’s now easier than ever to hype a message to thousands - sometimes even millions - with a click or two.

But an important ingredient is often left out of the cake that eager artists are trying to bake: Good content.

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