Five Years to Independence: Year Three – The Year of Accomplishment

Welcome to year three of the Five Years to Independence program. Or system, or scheme, or deal… what it’s called isn’t as important as what it is. What’s in a name?

Name notwithstanding, this is not a self-help program, or a get rich quick scheme. This is just a different way to view the road you’ve traveled, and to adjust your thinking to find success in the way ahead.

Here’s something I hadn’t considered but is true: although this program is meant to help you if you know you’re talented, have spent your life hiding from it, but now realize you must become who you are,  this scheme actually works if you’re living on your talents, but want to move up to a higher plateau. I know this because I developed this thing to turn my own life around, and am now using it again to further my products (the novels Droppington Place and Marigold’s End). You marketers: did you see this shameless plug? Shameless.

Year one, as we recall, was the Year of No Regrets, in which you stopped whacking yourself upside the head for not having explored your talents when you were younger. You changed the way you looked at the past, recognizing that the road you took led you to this new road.

Year two was the Year of Confidence, in which you viewed yourself as the creative talent you know yourself to be. If you dance, in this year you become a dancer, or a writer, or a painter, or a videographer. The Year of Confidence is the year in which you stop hiding behind the ordinary to finally be the extraordinary person that you are.

The secret behind these two years of mind-changing is that you were also practicing your art: working on your talent, albeit behind closed doors. You did this so that, when you announce to the cosmos that you ARE a singer, you’ve been singing for at least as year.  That’s the keystone to this whole project: stop hiding from your talent, stop regretting that you’ve waited so long, and USE IT!

If we do a bit of math… let’s see, carry the one… that brings us to Year Three: The Year of Accomplishment.

Here is where the chicken hits the road. In this year, we move our art from inside ourselves out into the world. Yes, into the world.

Years ago I worked for a major international bank, helping people find solutions to their mortgage problems. The management catchphrase in use there was “if you didn’t document it, it never happened.”  Essentially, if no one saw the transaction, it never took place.

In my revision of myself, I realized that a writer who thinks about writing but doesn’t do it is not a writer – he’s a thinker. A writer writes.

But that’s not quite right, is it? If I wrote beautiful poems every day, but kept them hidden in a closet, or burned them, is that writing? A writer’s work needs to be read, just as a painting needs to be seen and a song needs to be heard. A song sung to one’s self may be beautiful, but does not further one’s career.

So, this year, we stop singing to ourselves, and we put our talent out there. Out there on the world stage, come what may.

The glory of this age in which we live is that you now, finally, have a world stage at your fingertips. Now you can do your stand-up before a world audience – every nation in the world can see you dance, hear your song, read your words.

That’s an accomplishment, to get your work out there into the world. I’ve advocated doing that throughout the previous two years, if you’re brave enough. If you haven’t been brave enough to do it before, then this is the year you overcome that fear and let ‘er rip.

So, here’s how I faced my fear of the  World Stage: It’s a busy place, with a hundred million voices all clamoring for their moment in the sun. Being one in a hundred million is a pretty safe, anonymous place to be. (For example, my books (see the shameless plug, above) are out there, waiting to be read. and have only sold 17 copies so far).  That’s a nice comfort. On the other hand, I’ve sold 17 books so far, which means that a shaft of sunlight DID shine on my work, at least 17 times.

So, that’s your job this year. Put yourself out there, either in the safe and comfortable way of YouTube or Instagram, or, as I did, pushing my online published work to literary agents (can you spell “rejection letter?”).

Do it. Don’t hide from it. If no one sees your dance, how can you become known to the world as a dancer?  Don’t forget, that’s the point of this whole exercise.

You’re a talented individual who has hidden from that talent all your life. You can keep hiding, or you can become who you really are.

“Be brave, little Piglet.” Owl’s stentorian tone emboldens little Piglet to hold on and endure the flood of the Hundred Acre Wood, according to A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

You and I, we must be brave. What is talent, except the bravery to do the unusual, isn’t it? The talented have a vision, a world view, that needs to be shared.

You’re talented. Let’s get out there and share it!

This is really long-winded, I realize, but it’s important.

Ideally, by the end of the Year of Accomplishment, you’ve exhibited your talent in a place that will get you noticed. Ideally, that shaft of sunlight will illuminate your work, and you’re on your way.

The first time I ran this program, my Year of Accomplishment took two years, at the end of which I made the leap from under-employed customer service rep/novelist to technical writer/novelist.  I became a writer.

I’m in another round of the program, with the goal of accomplishing the title change from technical writer/novelist to novelist/technical writer.  I’m in year two of that accomplishment.  The accomplishment will be to get seriously published: that’s a big one.

Like the speed limit on the freeway, the five-year structure of this program is just a suggestion: it may take you seven years, or six months.

Thanks for staying with me. Two more years to go!

Oh, and, visit my Smashwords page, or my online home.

Tomorrow Never Comes


Well, I don’t suppose it’s true that tomorrow never comes. If that happened we’d all be sorta stuck in a perpetual Groundhog’s Day scenario – say, haven’t we met, you know, today?

Disneyland of the late ‘60’s had The Carousel of Progress, a huge, revolving theater that brought you scenes of an exciting future life. The song that thrummed between the scenes told us “there’s a great big, beautiful tomorrow, waiting at the end of every day.”

At the end of this day, I’ve got to clean out the cat box – I hate cats – and do the dishes, and fix the pool pump. At the end of the day that follows this one – I won’t say tomorrow – I’ll have to fix the pool pump again, clean out the cat litter box – I hate cats – and catch up on the roughly 714,000 other little things that need doing every single day.

If, like me, you work a nine-to-five, those magic windows of sit down and think time, of play with the words time, of what-if time, well, they’re sort of like the windows of the apartment building across the street – you can look into them from here, but they are oh so hard to open.

Tomorrow is just like today, and will just the same as yesterday and the one that follows. Trudge, trudge, trudge right into the grave. Sigh.


That’s the dinkey-toons answer. That’s the gee-I’d-like-to-be-a-writer-if-I-could-just-find-the-time answer. That, my dear writer friend, is the excuse.

The truth is that you’re a writer, and you know what that means. What time is it? Time to work, day in, day out.

Why are you changing the cat box – I hate cats – when you could be working? The dishes’ll get done, they always do, and the pool pump is a Sunday afternoon item. What’s the rush? Why put those mundane things ahead of your important, life-giving work?

Tomorrow comes when you make it come. It will be the best tomorrow you can imagine because you earned it – you worked hard and busted your knuckles to build it.

A tomorrow in which you are a passenger is just another day. The tomorrow that finds you creating, crafting, working – that’s the one to live for.

So, my literary friend, tomorrow doesn’t come. You have to bring it on.

Take a Team Across the Stream


You’re a writer – you know how it goes.

You’re working feverishly on a project, everything fits like fingers in a bowling ball. And then, when you absotively least expect it…whammo, like a two-by-four to the forehead: the deadly stall. A character says something that reveals a plot hole so big you could fit a Buick in it.

In DROPPINGTON PLACE we simply ran out of story. It was great fun, and everybody was lively and having a good time. And then, around 42,000 words or so, Arvy, a perfectly nice kid who was sadly turned to paper, paused and looked at me.

“I’m bored.”

“You can’t be bored!  You’re, like, a key player in this thing.”

“Yada, yada, yada…key player this. If I’m such a hotshot, give me something to do.”

A quick review of the Something To Do cabinet revealed empty shelves. And there Arvy sat, with so pained an expression he was impossible to look at.

That’s okay, because we can just change horses right here in the middle of the stream and work on another project that’s been a’hangin’ around.

A couple of weeks on the new project, just starting to feel it, and, son of a biscuit, here’s a new idea: something for Arvy to do.

“Leeme see, lemme see, lemme see!”

“Sit down, Arv…or, I guess sort of fold yourself ‘cuz you’re, like, made of paper…we need to plot this out a little bit.”

“Well, I categorically demand that you cease work on your new project and give me a challenge!”

So, we drop the reins on the new horse and leap back on the first one.

Their must be some old story about fording a river and changing horses in which something bad happened. I’ll bet you it has to do with Conestoga wagons. Let’s pretend it does, okay?

So, like, what’s the point?

I know, right?

The point is this: when you hit a creative wall with a project, it’s perfectly cool to start a new one. If the old one calls during the new project, it is equally cool to go on back to it.

One suggestion: make lots of notes on each project. Although today the plot thread is perfectly clear, tomorrow… well, after all, tomorrow is another day!

Frankly, Scarlett, I’m changing horses!

Alert: Monster in the Cupboard (not Closet)

If you write a lot, but don’t get feedback, yours, my friend, is a lonely game. You toil away, fitting together the pieces of your written puzzle like so much cheese at the mousetrap factory, when, one day, the monster grabs you.

I am a miserable novelist. I just realized it. Not misery like in hey lady, that was my ANKLE thank you very much, but in misery as in whoa, dude, do you, like, know any words? How many ways can you say “said” without sounding moronic, he intoned.   Whimpered, whispered, hissed, murmured, muttered, uttered, grunted, yelled, roared, bellowed. Well, that’s it for me.

And that sentence structure, what’s up with that? He opened the door and looked inside as the tree fell through the neighbor’s roof. He drove the car and whistled a happy tune as the rain pattered joyfully through the open sunroof. He wrote the post and congratulated himself on at least writing something as he bored his reader (bless you, whoever you are) to tears. Subject verb the noun clause and verb a noun clause as noun verb preposition noun clause. Booooooooooooooring.

Maybe it’s because, as a technical writer, my is writing is limited to “attach the motor mount to the casting with (2) socket head cap screws.” It isn’t romance, but it pays the bills. While it’s easy to write “carefully place the hinged device against the casting and thread the screws, one-by-one, into the small holes”, my editor would hand it back to me faster than a greased bowling ball on Crisco Boulevard.

In truth, there’s something else going on.

You’re a writer – I ask you: who is your worst critic?  Go ahead and think, we’ll wait… do you need to make a phone call?

Of course it’s YOU, you ninny!

Except not really you, but the monster in the cupboard. I was going to say monster in the closet, but that now leads to coming out of the closet, which has a whole different meaning than what I was shooting for, and oh, now everything’s all tangled up. One moment, please…

So, the monster in the cupboard is your own self-doubt, self-fear and self-loathing (if you’re in Las Vegas), trying to sell you a bill of goods. I know it’s just a bill of goods because my daughter told me today that she likes my book better than Hunger Games. She might be bucking for extra allowance, but I’ll take what I can get!

The monster lives in the cupboard of your mind, next to the windmills, and sees the absolute worst in everything that you do. And it loves, Loves, LOVES to point it out to you.

Part of the monster is good. I mean, it’s the only one who makes you go back and polish that sentence once more – you know it needed it. It’s the only one who makes you question whether this book really needs this scene.

But the monster is also baaaaad, baaaad, because it can convince you that you are a miserable writer. You know it isn’t true, but the monster seems so authentic, so… so… so right.

You know that you are the monster – your parents said you were a little one when you were a kid – which means you can stop being the monster.

The next time you flop into a heap in front of your word processor, crying because you just aren’t good enough to write this book, and you really should not have quit your day job, and how could you have EVER thought that you could do this…well, you can just stop it with the Mr. Nastypants routine.

Nobody’s buying it, and you’re just being a whiney crybaby because you listened to the monster in the cupboard.

Shut the cupboard and get back to work.