2.21.2019

Big Changes (pt.1)

Stunned.

That's about the best word for what I'm feeling right now. And not stunned in the 'I just found out my wife prefers women' kind of way.  More of the "when I really take stock in what's truly been happening in my life recently, it's pretty amazing' kind of way.

Now before I get too deep into this, let me just say for the record. My wife did not come to me telling me that she prefers women. If she had, I'd probably be in a whole different place in my life right now and it would be where I am. It would be, well, different. And that would suck, because the likelihood of the events of the last 4 days unfolding the way they did would be slim, at best.

Last week, maybe 2 weeks ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to be her +1 to a dinner party with New York Times Bestselling authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. There would be other authors there, too. As well as teachers, librarians, and other friends and family. I will be honest - I hadn't read either of these two authors. Nor had I read anything by the other authors that she mentioned.

However, I just recently finished Cal Newport's book on Digital Minimalism and there is an underlying current in that book of making better use of our free time to foster face-to-face interactions and experiences. I remembered reading of Thoreau walking into town to attend social gatherings, or lectures--anything but sitting at home being bored.

I am not either of those men. But I still said yes. And then this past Sunday (4 days before the party was to take place), I purchased this book:


I started reading it. And I couldn't put it down. Trust me, there were times I wanted to. This was not a comfortable book to read. I later learned that it wasn't meant to be (but I don't want to skip ahead).

As a mostly straight, white, male, in his mid-40's in middle-America, I can tell you flat out that this book fucked with me. I laughed. I cried. I was angry. I was ashamed. I saw myself. I saw my friends. I saw the first black person I ever met way back in elementary school.

And when I was done reading it. ALL of it. From cover to cover. When I was done reading all of it, I had to sit there.

It would have been so easy to dismiss what I was feeling. The benefit of white privilege is that I can treat things like this like the refrigerator light. When the door is open, the light is on and it's kind of hard to ignore the fact that there is a lightbulb in the fridge, but when the door is closed - the lightbulb is out. Out of sight, out of mind. EVERYONE knows there's a friggin' light bulb in the refrigerator. But we don't talk about it.

But I couldn't do that. Not with this book. I had to sit with it. I had to let the emotions wash over me. Through me. I had to feel. I had to acknowledge the fact that feeling all of these feelings was the first step in having the conversation about the refrigerator light bulb.

Only it isn't really a refrigerator lightbulb, is it? It's a conversation about racism and white privilege and systemic racism and police brutality. It's a conversation that our children are living every day.
They are having the conversation without us. Only it's not just a conversation for them. It's their lives.

To say this book was powerful and had an impact on me would do it a disservice. This book changed me. And suddenly I couldn't wait for Wednesday when I could thank the two men that wrote this book in person for the impact they had on my life with this amazing tale that obviously had so much of them in its pages.

So, Tuesday rolls around and I get a text from my friend.

"Do you have plans tonight?"

I didn't.

Turns out Jason and Brendan were giving a talk at the Hilliard branch of the Columbus Library and she could get me in to see them speak.

I was in.

And after listening  to them talk about how they met, how they came to the idea of writing this book, and just the sheer differences in their worlds--the book became even more powerful.

Here were a some of the takeaways from last night's library talk.

'Black' and 'White' are not slurs. They are descriptors. Get past that. 

You can't truly love without brutal honesty

It is impossible to write the story without putting yourself into it. 

The only way to write an inauthentic book is if you lie to yourself. 

Every bit as powerful as what Jason and Brendan said, though, were the questions from the students in the audience. That was what was truly humbling. These kids get it. And for now they are looking to us to help. But we have to meet them somewhere...either all they way where they are, or at least close to where they are. They won't meet us where we are. Our world is foreign to them. We have to go to their world.

This book was a window into that world. You need to read it. Because we need to talk about it.

Seriously.

This was originally not going to be a split post, but the full weight of the night I just had (it's Wednesday, for the record) has just landed on me and I need to just kind of get some of it on me, as it were. I need to let some of the things that happened tonight wash over me and I need to take a beat and pause.

There is more to this conversation, dear friends and fam. And if things go the way I think they will tomorrow, I'll have some free time in the afternoon to tell you about it.

Until then, go get the book. Read it. Finish it.

Seriously--you'll thank me.  Ok, honestly, you'll probably be pissed at me on some level. I'm OK with that. You need to read this book.

-Todd

2.10.2019

Obvious Atheist or Clever Christian?


I was driving home from work the other day. From a job that will be on my list of places that I used to work starting February 22nd. Yes, I said it. I'm leaving the company I currently work for and will be starting a new job on the 25th. If you happen to be reading this and also happen to be a current co-worker, do us a favor and keep it to yourself for a bit, yeah?

Now, yeah, on the way home, I found myself behind this Cooper Mini and had a few thoughts going through my head. First, the car.



Rather than feel annoyed by the car moving slowly, I found myself focused on the meaning behind the plate. There really wasn’t any ambiguity in the text of the plate. And as.  Is my nature, when things are too easy, I tend to overthink. And that led me to the thinking of what it could mean. Was it the license plate of an Obvious Atheist or a Celver Christian? The front runner, of course, is the obvious atheist. Declaring that there is no god. Seems a bit pedestrian, although, I can think of a few people with the means to drive Mini’s that might just be willing to slap it in the face of the fine church-goers of a buckle hole on the Bible Belt.

My favorite theory, though, is that it’s actually some Christian using it as a conversation starter. I mean, imagine rolling into the church potluck in this little gem. So, you might be asking yourself why I thought it was a Clever Christian (maybe even a youth pastor at one of those big mega-we-don’t-sing-hymns-like-a-regular-church-but-still-want-your-tithes Churches.  I wouldn’t have thought that if it wasn’t in front of me.

The atheist would get the plate and expect someone to call it out. “There’s no god.” As in there goes the car with the license plate ‘NO GOD.’

But the clever Christian is counting on someone to talk about them from behind.
“There’s No God before me.”

Yeah? Since the car was in front of me, it was before me. No God was before me. So, I’m stopped at a traffic light laughing at how the license plate actually got me thinking of the 10 Commandments. That’s when I figured it had to be one crafty christian to pull that shit off.

And then I drove home.

There are 9 more drives home from the current job. It’s exciting. I’m sure that when they finally announce it sometime this week I will have more to say, but for now, I got nothing that I really want to go into about it. Other than the job will be challenging and I think it’s going to be a good fit for where I am in my life right now. And, it’s going to give me more time to be able to devote to my writing.

All of these are good things.

Speaking of that, I need to feck off and do some more of that. I’ve got a lot to right in 3 weeks if I’m going to meet my goal of having my first draft done by the next NEORWA meeting.

With that, I bid you good evening, fair visitors of SkaggleRock.

-Peace,
AT


...


2.03.2019

The Winds of Change

Well, if the title of this post has you whistling a Scorpions song, you’re welcome. If not, go ahead and check it out on the YouTubes. I am not foolish enough to think that you’ll thank me for it, but at least one of us will get a chuckle out of it.

I’m sitting here in the TV room after what I can only describe as an amazing day. In some ways, it was a continuation of last night, which ended in hot, chocolate glazed Krispy Kreme donuts (only available on the first Friday of the month) and binge watching Orphan Black.

I got up this morning (way too early) to head to Cleveland for a monthly meeting of the North East Ohio chapter of the RWA (Romance Writers of America). They give workshops each month. This month’s workshop was on free graphic tools for authors given by none other than my Bestie, USAToday and New York Times Bestselling Author, Monica Corwin.

So not only was it a good chance to learn about graphics, but it was a road trip with my bestie.

I got a call from work today while we were on our way up to the City that Rocks. I’ll go into details on that in a later post. OR maybe I won’t.  That remains to be seen. Probably not, but suffice it to say that it, too, was one of the things that led me to conclude how amazing today actually was.

After the workshop, I had lunch with some of the authors from the group. It was a great lunch, and some good discussion.

Afterward we stopped over to a friend’s birthday party/game day and got our tabletop action on.

When I got home, I saw that a package I had been waiting on had arrived. It’s this dope keyboard case for the iPad. It’s called the NewTrent Astroslide Star or something like that. It got mostly good reviews, but it does seem to be doing a little double tapping thing, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of charging it and dialing in the sensitivity.

I’m pretty stoked about it.

So, the day, in short, was a rather good day.

I have hinted about some changes afoot in my life. And I can’t quite go into details fully yet, because of some people that may yet surprise me by actually reading this blog.

I see this day as a harbinger. But a good harbinger, not like a harbinger of doom or anything like that, but a sign that some recent decisions have been the right one. I love it when the universe pops in and is all like, “hey-remember that thing you weren’t 100% sure you should do? Yeah. That one. You should totally do it.”

Those feelings are the best. It’s been a while since I’ve had one to this degree, so it’s a bit overwhelming still.

Again, I apologize for the vagueness of the ‘thing’ that is afoot. But, it will become abundantly clear soon.

Alright, I’m going to go charge this keyboard. The extra keystrokes are kind of annoying me at this point.

Peace Out my friends!
-AT

1.30.2019

And I Shall Be Filled With An Endless Sense of Wonder

Some days I wake up and I don't recognize my life. I see the things around me and it is as though I have stepped into a dream. A story. A movie that I somehow stepped into. It's odd. It's like I know that it's a movie I wrote the screenplay for. Or at least it's the book that the movie screenplay was adapted from. 

I read about other authors from days gone by. Authors that I have grown up falling headfirst into their worlds. I wonder what they would have done if they had had the benefit of putting their words out into the ether for all to see. 

Sometimes I think it's probably a good thing that we don't have ready access to laudanum in the same way the authors and creatives of the past did. 

It's a weird thing, to be honest. And maybe that's why the 7 of you that still come here, I'm too honest. It's not like it was on Facebook, where everything is all shiny glitter and unicorn farts. No, here is where sometimes the blood actually gets on the keyboard and slips onto the screen. 

Have you ever been in a situation and you've been in it so long that you don't really see it for what it is? You see it for what you think it is, or what you have come to believe it is. I think that I do that. It's got to be some kind of defense mechanism. I did it in both marriages. And if I'm being honest, I've done it in many of my jobs, too. 

I can't go into to too much detail right now, mostly because I don't want to fuck anything up, but suffice it to say, I'm in one of those phases in my life right now where I am looking closely at the details of the background. The things that blended in and became the everyday. Those things. The things that when you really take the time to look are actually the things that make the beauty. 

Yes, I know it's somewhat bloated of me to think that a) anyone really gives two rips and that b)....shit. What was b? I forget. 

I won't lie. There is a part of me that has seen dreams or visions in which I am actually an author of some renown. Of course, the other part of that is, I actually need to get off my ass and get back into the writing of the books, eh?

I'm in the middle of a change in my life. It's a good change. Or at least it has the potential to be. 

Did I mention I sometimes overthink things?

Well, it's true. I do. But I'm putting that to the side for the next week or so (if I can, no promises--it's kind of a horked up noggin).

In other news, the house is actually...well...looking like a house now. All the rooms are actually sorted and usable. It's kind of really good. And I can't really describe how good it feels to have rooms that feel like rooms instead of storage containers. 

It has been an epiphany of sorts. There's more really to go into, but for now, I think I need to dial it back a bit.

I mean, after all I have a book to finish (and another). I also have the recording area to wire up. And...yeah...all this and we're on the eve of a ball-blistering cold day coming on.

Nope, you're totally right. There really wasn't much to this post other than making sure I didn't go to bed without putting some words down. Such as they are. 

1.06.2019

Dealing With The Inner Critic

There is a long and storied tradition that writers have to be tortured or crazy. Or any sullied variation that deals with being plagued by demons of all sorts.

I know plenty of writers that this holds true for. I think I know of a couple where this doesn’t.

But I’m not really here to talk about them. And you’re not here to read about them. Or, maybe you are. I’m not sure. There is a slight chance that you happened upon this blog by mistake. And, that’s OK. I get it. Happens to the best of us.  I have shelves full of un-opened Scentsy bars for a similar reason. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Here’s the deal, though. Eh.

Or is it?

I struggle with this sometimes. I struggle with how real I want this blog to actually be. I think the danger of someone actually finding out I’m human has decreased significantly since I left Facebook. There was a time in the not so distant past when I would bare my soul, or at least the part of it that I don’t mind sharing with the world. I would come up with some clever title for it and I would put that out there on the book of face. And some of you would see it. I think I got over 200 views on a post or two. It helped me feel like someone was actually reading my stuff, or caring about me as a person. Or both. Both? Both. Both is good.

Not, that’s not to say that I don’t have people in my life who think I’m human or people who care for me. If that was your takeaway, please. Don’t be silly. I know better. Most of the time.

Yeah, most of the time.

There are times, though, where things don’t seem to fire quite right up there in the old brain bucket and I feel like in a crowd of a thousand people, I am alone in the universe.  That feeling usually doesn’t last. I’m a lucky son of a bitch because my best friend is my roommate. And she has this knack for helping me get out of my own way. She usually doesn’t know when she does it and when I thank her she gives me this weird, confused look and the conversation usually ends with one of us being called a dork. Spoiler alert—it’s usually me.

I overthink things. A lot. I learned not too long ago that that is actually a side effect of the general anxiety disorder that I have. Oh.I also learned that I have a general anxiety disorder. The hard part is knowing that this happens and finding myself unable to stop it.

Take today for example. Before I went to bed last night, I made a list of things I wanted to do on Sunday, including some people that I wanted to spend time with. I got up, had breakfast, and prepared to set out. I hit the remote start on the car, grabbed my stuff and headed out.   When I got to the car, I noticed that it wasn’t running. No big deal. Happens sometimes. I know that the 10 minutes runtime that the car gives you before you have to put the key in can sometimes go quicker than I think. Got in, put the key in, and turned the starter.

The car made the sound of an asthmatic yeti and still did not start. I tried several more times, to no avail.  There was much cursing. This, apparently, also does not contribute to resolving problems of a mechanical nature.

The day was going off the rails, and quickly. People were notified, plans were cancelled. I found a battery charger in the garage (because damn near everything is in the garage, or in one of the many closets in this house. If I didn’t know better, I’d say J.K. Rowling herself fashioned the Hogwarts Room of Requirements after the many closets and garage of the Gallifrey Annex.

I digress. I connected the charger, after making sure I wasn’t going to blow up the car.  Insert some additional cursing. Again, no mechanical miracle borne of fitfully thrown obscenities. I checked 10 minutes later and the asthma seemed to be a better, but the car still wouldn’t start.

I made a grocery list. Hey, don’t judge me. Oddly enough, I find grocery shopping with a list resets my noodle. I make a list of things. I put the estimated prices of said things. I then go grocery shopping with the fervor of a Price Is Right contestant.

I borrowed the roomie’s car and hit the grocery store.

Today was a good day. With what I had on my list, I estimated that I would spend $100 of my $100 budget for this pay-period’s groceries. I came in at $89. Not too shabby. Oh, sure, I was over, so I would have lost the Showcase Showdown, but that’s OK. I definitely would have made it that far.

If you’ve made it this far and are wondering what this all has to do with the Inner Critic, you’re in luck, because I’m about to tell you.

Not much.

No, ok. That’s not quite true. It has more to do with the overthinking and the hard time I have with making plans and having them go sideways.

I get that there are things I can’t control. And I get that there are things that I need to learn to let go.

Logically I get all of that.

But today went sideways with a big side of fuck you. Consequently nearly everything I had on my list to work on today is just chilling. I might get to some of it tomorrow after work. I might not.

And that’s OK.

The important thing is that I’m writing. I had a goal this month of getting some words in every day. If they were part of the work in progress, cool. A blog post? Awesome. Tweets? OK I guess, but I’m probably not counting it toward my word count goal.

So, here we are. Groceries put away. And the car has had 3 hours to charge.

I start it...more wheezing, as it is about to give its death rattle, I give it some gas. And then some more. I give it enough gas that the exhaust is a little angry with me (and now the mystery of why my throat feels raw is not such a mystery now).

And it stays running.

I let it run for a bit and then decide to take it to my local auto place to see if they can run diagnostics on the engine. They can. For a fee. And it might not be today. That doesn’t work for me. I head back to the car and cross my fingers.

It starts right up.

And it does so for about 8 more times. It’s as though nothing happened.

Sure, I’m pleased. The day is still spun sideways, but I’m feeling a little better.

Until I see the writing calendar on my wall. There’s a big fat nothing on the day for yesterday.

And here’s where the inner critic, and perhaps some personal wisdom come into play.

I know that if let another day go without putting down any words, then it will become easier to not write. You see, at the moment, it’s kind of hard to not write. I need to write. I need to let those thoughts, disjointed and cracked-out though they may be, I still need to put them on the page.

That inner critic was waiting for me to skip another day. I mentioned something about not hitting my words yesterday to my roomie and she said, with no hint of judginess, “So? Yesterday was Saturday. Give yourself one day off a week.”

Makes sense. And it helped spin the day back around.

And here we are. Thing about that inner critic is this. They usually don’t know shit. Find yourself someone whose opinion you trust more than the opinion of your inner critic.

It can make all the difference in the world as far as your creative endeavors are concerned.

The other thing I’m trying to be better about is sleep. So, with that my friends, I bid you a good evening.

Peace,
-AT

1.04.2019

A Brief History of The Feels

I had a thought tonight as I finished watching "The Theory of Everything." If you have not seen this movie yet, find the time to watch it. If you don't walk away from the movie a changed person with a little more insight into humanity, then watch it again-obviously you missed something the first time. That wasn't the thought, though. No, the thought was something I would tell my younger self (and younger just means "Todd that is before Present Todd" See---Younger Todd sounds better, doesn't it?

It would go a little like this.,

Dear Younger Todd,
When given the chance, always kiss the girl. There will be doubt. When the doubt clouds everything and threatens to shut you down at your core, when it threatens to steal your words, when it turns your hands into a damp washcloth on a mid-summer Ohio River afternoon, you must absolutely, if given the chance, kiss the girl. The kiss will kill doubt. For that one instant. Not for ever. But for that kiss. For that one to 17 timeless seconds, doubt will be gone.

Hold on to that time, that memory, those seconds without doubt. Call them to the foreground when doubt and fear fill your head and heart with lies. And if necessary, kiss the girl again. 

Do this until your first reaction when faced with doubt and fear is a lingering memory of an amazing kiss.  This is your armor. The lips - your shield. 

Dear Older Todd,
Same thing still applies, old man. 


Present Todd


I  have a few memories like this. I must admit that I didn't think to use them as armor until tonight. Did I mention it was an amazing movie? Well, it is.

I had a goal this month to get words in every day. I didn't worry about a word count for this goal--it seemed to me that a count goal might be a little too intimidating. So the deal is just to write. Whatever. Backstory, front story, bloggy blog blog posts, research posts from the library (sorry, I just finished watching The Librarians). Anything. Words. It didn't matter. Just that they got written.

I thought about incorporating art into that. If I do a digital painting (or a real one), does that count toward my words (not sure these pictures are worth a thousand words. Is that even still a thing?).

Anyway, here are the two pieces of art I created in 2019 so far:

I like both of them for different reasons, but I like the fact that light is rising. Seems that what I've been needed to see--the light. The weeds growing where nothing did. Greenery on the sheer face of the rock.

Proof that light brings life, always.

There’s more to say on this, but I’m tired. And I’m doing a better job about listening to my body this year.

Goodnight friends,
-AT

1.01.2019

Hashtag Not Inspired

I was going to start off this post doing that thing where you take a word and you put the dictionary definition of the word in funky font to make it look to the reader as though they are reading form the dictionary. Complete with schwa e and all that fun stuff.

But, I thought better of it at some point. I’m still going to get all up into the word I’m writing on, but I’m going to go ahead and do it without gimmicks. It’s the first day of the new year, so I figure it’s best to just be me. The real, the raw, the cunning scamp you have all come to know and love. Or at the very least that you have found interesting enough to come back to this site from time to time.

I’ve read in places that the blog is dead and that Newsletters are where it’s at. And that’s likely true. And that’s OK. If it is true, then this place will get less attention and I can be more real and honest within it’s walls of ones and zeroes.

So what is this mystery word, Todd?

I’m so glad you asked.

Inspiration.

There. That’s it. Inspiration. I find that it’s peppered throughout my life way more than I really ever noticed before. And maybe that’s not true. Maybe it’s not that there is more of it lately, but maybe it’s that I’m more receptive to it.

Part of me thinks that’s dangerous. Inspiration in itself is not dangerous. I appreciate it. And perhaps that’s a better word for it, appreciation. But if I come to rely on it, to depend on it to propel me into action, then I’m good and truly fucked. If you asked me what inspired me during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you not masochistic enough to participate), I would have been hard pressed to answer honestly. I would have spouted the response of so and so inspiring me because wow, look at their word count. But I wasn’t feeling that. And dammit, I really wanted  to be inspired. I was waiting for it. Waiting for the cerebral lightning shot down from the Muses into my brain bucket so I could put those perfect words on the paper.

That’s just it, though, isn’t it. I was counting on it. And counting on inspiration to lead you to the work often leads to the work not actually getting done. At All.

And it didn’t. I didn’t write shit in November. MAYBE 3000 words on my project total. Maybe more. I don’t remember. I’m not going back and looking, because at the end of the day, I can’t go back.  So, I can only move forward.

What inspires me these days?

Nothing.

And everything.

I know, it’s cryptic. And if you have known me for any length of time, you will understand that in my mind, this makes absolute perfect sense.

Nothing inspires me. And by that I mean that I have come to realize that the things I find inspiration in are things that I have come to appreciate with each passing day. They are things I am thankful for in my life.  They are nuggets that I pick up on Twitter or Instagram from authors, friends, people I know, and people I would like to get to know. When I say that these things don’t inspire me, though, what I mean is that they don’t move me to action.

I used to think they did. I used to see a tweet by Gaiman and think holyshit, that’s awesome. I need to go write now! And I would go write. Or I’d see friends putting out books and that would push me to back in front of the keyboard with the sinking realization that I wasn’t going to fulfill my writing dream if I didn’t actually continually write.Or write on a somewhat consistent basis.

What I didn’t see until recently was there was a middle step there. None of things in themselves inspired me to act. They just stoked the flames. I had to still do the work. And this hit me one Sunday afternoon in December where I was as inspired as I think I have been in quite some time. I think it was something I saw on Facebook about what a friend and fellow author had achieved and I was super pumped. I had visions of riding the NYT Bestseller list right alonside them.

Three hours later, I was still on Facebook. Clearly I had just cracked the code. There was no causality (for me) between inspiration and action.

I have to say this was liberating. For many reasons.The main one being that I finally realized that I no longer had to wait for inspiration to strike for me to actually do the dirty work of writing. Holy crap, you mean I can just sit down and write without the Muses giving me mental handies? Seems so.

Fine, so nothing inspires me (to act).

Cool. So, how then does everything inspire you?

Good question. Simple answer. Everything is connected. And by taking the time to be present, in this exact moment, I can see the beauty in everything around me. I can see the hand of a creative presence in everything. In an argument. In a shitty Spongebob episode. Everything.

Don’t get freaked out on me. I’m not anywhere close to being enlightened, and if I were, the very act of thinking that I was would simply mean that I wasn’t yet. It doesn’t happen all the time, but I can see things fitting together. And sometimes I really am just blown away by the series of events that had to happen just so in order for the me sitting here typing this blog post on an iPad was actually able to get this to you.

So, nothing and everything. And I can actually write without needing to have the inspiration. It helps, sure, but it’s not the key.

The key is writing.

And I think starting off 2019 with that particular nugget of knowledge restored is a very good headspace to be in.

Until tomorrow,
-AT


PS, not that I will necessarily be posting a blog post tomorrow, but I might be. In either event, I will be writing, as I have a goal of having a word count on each day on the calendar in January. We’ll see how it goes.

Have an awesome sauce evening my friends!



























Big Changes (pt.1)

Stunned. That's about the best word for what I'm feeling right now. And not stunned in the 'I just found out my wife prefers w...