This much is true

Of course you can do it.

Of course, you’re scared it won’t be as good as you want it to be, and chances are very good that, yes, it won’t be.

So what? An imperfect-but-realized dream is better than the perfect project that remains in your imagination forever. An imperfect-but-finished-and-shipped project is better than no project in sight.

So sit down, make your thing, and get it out there. Yes, make it as good as you possibly can in the time you allocate, but get it out there, knowing that perfect is always the ideal but it won’t be perfect.

Give yourself permission to release a great product that is not perfect, and then go and make it as great as you can.

You can do it. That’s settled.

Now go do it!

What’s up with the banner

A new effort to motivate my favorite procrastinator, the one I talk with in the mirror every morning:

I have replaced my portrait, the one with the mysterious smile, with a blog banner (above) that features the warrior girl who appears on the cover of my near-legendary unfinished novel Jeep Thompson and The Lost Prince of Venus. The project has been in development for so long that I almost guarantee its release to the world will be anticlimactic, whenever it comes.

The purpose of this temporary banner is to remind me, every time I service the blog (in other words, every day), that I need to write some Jeep words today. Every day I manage to write blog words and day-job words, but I let too much time lapse between Jeep words. This is me declaring I’m going to get serious again about the Jeep words.

It’s not unlike NaNoWriMo, except I’m not even shooting for 50,000 words and it shouldn’t take 30 days before you see my smiling face again. My goal is to produce a novel of about 40,000 words, barely more than a novella, although it is the first installment of a planned trilogy that is also — well, let’s just say for now that it’s the first installment of a planned trilogy. Part of the fun will be unveiling what else it is.

If the “daily reminder banner” works, I will include this trick in the forthcoming companion book How to Beat Procrastination in Thirty Years. If it doesn’t work, I will include this trick in the chapter on failed experiments.

I’m not going to mention this again. The only clues I intend to give regarding progress are that when the novel is finished, I will replace the blog banner as noted above, without fanfare, and as I go along I will conclude each blog post with the strange numbers you see below. This means that Saturday I banged out 845 new Jeep words to bring the project to approximately 23,676 words — and remember the goal is a 40,000-word novel.

And here’s another clue for you all: That’s not a sword draped over her shoulder. It’s a bongrik, and as the story progresses, Jeep Thompson will become a master of that elegant weapon. (That was my little attempt to generate some anticipation for the finished piece. How am I doing?)

845/23,676

A picture of Tucker

The tiny German shepherd pup was rapidly digging a big space in my heart. If I named him, I would never let him go. Because I wanted never to let him go, I was thinking of possible names.

“What about Studebaker?”

My then-wife scoffed. “You’re not going to name a dog after a car.”

“OK,” I conceded, but then, congratulating myself for being too clever by half, said mischievously, “How about Tucker?”

“Tucker’s a nice name,” she said absently, not getting the joke — or maybe she did and was OK with the alternate automotive name.

Tucker lived for a little more than 11 years, surviving twice as long as the marriage and leaving me one melancholy night while I held him in my arms.

He is one of three dogs who have crawled into my heart and refused to let go, each more tenaciously than the last.

This is my favorite picture of him, taken by Son of Red and capturing his inner depth of soul. Tucker was small for a shepherd — we nursed him through parvovirus as an infant and the disease may have stunted his growth — and he was always sweeter than that breed’s reputation.

That taught me that all dogs have an innate sweetness and we train some to be otherwise, intentionally or not.

People are much the same way. That’s why “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” resonates so.

Bus ride from Destiny

 © Hrecheniuk Oleksii | Dreamstime.com

He noticed her as soon as she got on the bus in a little town called Destiny in the middle of nowhere. A small-town girl had no business being that stone-cold beautiful, but he supposed that was why she was leaving town.

She took a seat three rows in front of him on the other side, so he could watch her satin hair and occasionally catch her profile when she looked to the right. He thought about striking up a conversation with her, but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t take the chance.

They rode that way for hours, three rows apart and never making contact, and when morning came and dawn broke, she stood to get off at a bus station in a medium-sized city hundreds of miles from Destiny.

He thought he saw her square her shoulders to take on the world. In his mind he told her goodbye and wished her luck in her new adventure. 

Over the years he waited to see her on a stage or a screen having become a star, and it’s possible he did and never recognized her. After all, he only knew the back of her hair and a glimpse of her profile. Still, he remembered her, and maybe that was enough.

Mal function

 © Dean Neitman | Dreamstime.com

Now it was past midnight, and he was raving again.

“My eyes! My eyes! They burn so! Tear me away from this glowing box — There are demons within!” he cried, and that was what he said when he was making sense. Mostly he descended into gibberish and something that made as much sense as a politician explaining his purpose in life.

They worried about him, what with the midnight babbling fits and all. Once upon a time, he had been a fairly rational  soul, albeit somewhat boring. But then he discovered the box.

“Oh, shiny!” he said, but they figured he was just quoting from that obscure TV show he loved, so they didn’t worry. 

But before long, he began saying things like, “The poor brown fox always seeking seashells by over the lazy candlestick dog,” and “Little Bo Lamb, she ran into a shoe.” Wise men and wise women examined him, and they concluded of course that he had fallen under the spell of glowing box addiction.

Having a diagnosis didn’t help. Not only could he not stop — addiction being addiction, after all — but he seemed to savor taking leave of his senses. 

“Of course I’m insane,” he insisted in one of his more lucid moments. “It’s the only sane place to be.” But his eyes began to fade from all the staring at LED light, and a doctor sort of person finally proclaimed retina burn and brain fog, and oh! the commotion THAT caused.

One day as he was singing, “This old man, he killed Stan, he dropped knickknacks in the can,” he whacked Paddy and gave his dog a bone. 

While all this was going on, the wizards who had created the glowing box were watching from half a world away.

“Our little plan goes perfectly,” they laughed among themselves. “If we can turn enough rational souls into gibbering idiots, we will conquer their land without firing a weapon in anger, or in any other emotional state for that matter.”

“‘Oh, it burns! My eyes! My eyes!’” another cried in a mocking tone. And the wizards all laughed again, and theirs was an evil laugh.

“They can’t beat us!” they crowed.

But suddenly, from a corner, a small voice said, “I got no need to beat you, I just want to go my way.”

They stopped and stared and had no answer for that. “No need to beat us”?!

Somehow, their entire plan began to collapse from that moment.

And just like that, because of the deadline

At 16 minutes to midnight, he still had no theme for the blog that was to go live in 17 minutes. That’s the beauty of a firm deadline: Something is going to ship. Theodore Sturgeon famously said that 90 percent of everything is crap. But the world of creative energy is full of brilliant work that was banged out in 10-15-20 minutes. Although now he had less than 20 minutes to be brilliant.

“Write anything until you write something,” I have said repeatedly. The point is to move your fingers, keep up a pace, make sure words are forming on the page even if it’s Sturgeon’s 90 percent. The theory is that making words of any kind stimulates the brain to focus on trying to make words that count.

Some really crappy college papers have been written when the student waited to get started until the night before the project was due. But award-winning news has been created after someone made the decision that “This story is going on tomorrow morning’s talk show, period.”

There are two kinds of project. There’s the one that you’re going to get around to someday. And there’s the one that goes live at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow morning, and you don’t care if it’s 11:51 p.m. as you type this.

It’s been said so many times that it’s a cliche: Someday never comes.

But 12:01 a.m. comes around every 24 hours. 

Set a goal, set a deadline, and the job gets done.

It really is that simple.

The Consciousness Stream

There is a place where people go to find an answer to the questions that they ask over and over and every day,

and sometimes they find what they are looking for, and sometimes they find they needed something entirely different and they just had to ask the wrong question to get the right answer,

and on the streets of a city, night after night, people ask “Why?” as the life drains from their bodies, and they say “Whoa!” as the life drains from their minds,

and the haze is so dark, and the light is real, and the tea turned lukewarm as they pondered it all.

Next day came the penguin with the sure-footed limp, and everyone laughed until tears and sobs sprang from their hearts.

“I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going,” someone said. “But I think the answer was whispered in my ear while I was shouting.”

And they lived, happily, forever after.

%d bloggers like this: