No Change in the Weather

No Change in the Weather

The day after the summer solstice, I posted this entry…about how I was waiting for the heat of Texas summer to broil me.

It has yet to happen.

Odds are, it will happen, but this summer rivals one of the better Texas summers I remember.

It was in the lower 70s today. An area 30 miles north of us almost got almostĀ  a FOOT of rain this morning (we got two inches of rain).

Mild temperatures and flash flooding — I am not complaining.

In fact, the weather has made me think…

Change in the Weather

In that earlier entry this summer, I posted this:

I know the weather will change. Our drought will continue, and some lakes will dry up completely this year. The sun will be big and bright and offer no quarter as it sears all it touches.

Those days are coming, but for now, the weather is nice.

And…the writing is nice.

Do Not [Try to] Predict the Future

It’s easy to say, “I’m usually busy in the summer at my day job; therefore, I will be busy and unable to write…”

It’s easy to say, “It’s hot in the summer; therefore, I will wait for cooler weather to get back to walking…”

It’s easy to look at any pattern and call a near future that may or may not happen…

This is another novel that will not work out as planned…

This is another exercise program that will not work out as planned…

This is another job that will not work out as planned…

I can say those things, but this week, things I didn’t expect to come together with the current novel came together. It’s been a good week for walking and moving my body. My day job isn’t a job I hate. (An improvement from the past.)

The Funny Thing about Predictions

Anyone who knows me knows I think predicting the future is a silly thing.

But every day, people tell others what will happen. Worse: we tell ourselves what to expect. We predict futures that never happen.

This morning, one of the major interstates in America was cut off because almost a foot of rain fell in a matter of hours.

I’ll this about the summer rains: they are cleansing!

And, just like the summer rains this season, if you allow yourself to just go with the flow, all your preconceived notions about the immediate future may be washed away…revealing something rather wonderful!

Muscle Memory

Muscle Memory

I played tennis for the first time in a couple years this morning. Well, I should say, “My wife and I knocked tennis balls around at 6:30 this morning.” I didn’t actually play a full match…or even a set or a game.

I haven’t actually played tennis for quite some time — back when a friend and I played every Tuesday night. It didn’t matter if it was 100 degrees out or 25 degrees out…Tuesday nights, unless it rained, we played tennis.

Letting Things Slip

It’s easy to let routines slip: going to a weekly juggling club, tennis on Tuesday nights, and other routines that come and go in my life. There have even been a few times I didn’t write fiction as much.

These things always come back, though — and when they do, it’s important to not be discouraged.

This is where a lot of people let things slip for good. When things come back, the memory of doing something with regularity often shouts:

REMEMBER WHEN WE USED TO DO THIS?! REMEMBER WHEN WE WERE GOOD AT THIS THING?!

And because we were once at least better at something we’ve let slip — maybe even good or great — it’s easy to think, “Man, I stink at this and was kidding myself that I could get back to it.”

Muscle Memory

I used to juggle at least 4 hours a day. When I take a long break from juggling and get back to it, I get frustrated. Juggling numbers is harder; moves that were almost automatic seem like they are now fighting against rusted joints. But something wonderful always happens: in time, things come back. Muscles remember how to juggle 5 things well enough that I get some good runs with 6 (and believe, “I can do 7 again!”). More than that, though, my mind cuts loose — and I start doing things I’ve never even thought of before.

In a short time, I’m not only back to where I was when I stopped, but…I’m better — even after a break. My mind is no longer locked into whatever pattern it was in when I stopped.

Muscles remember; my mind, acting like a muscle itself, tells my muscles to do things I never dreamed I could do when I juggled at least 4 hours a day.

Back to the Tennis Court

I won’t say with any degree of confidence that I’m ready for the old Tuesday night tennis matches. But there were moments this morning when I thought, “Don’t chase that shot down,” only to have my legs keep moving and then: my mind and body working as one to send a shot I thought was impossible to reach back into play.

It’s more than a just reminder that tennis is a thing I do. This morning was a reminder that anything I’ve let fall to the side, for whatever reasons, should never leave me thinking, “Who am I kidding…those days are done…”

All that needs to be done is pick things back up and do something long enough for muscles to remember what to do. (And not let your brain get in the way!)

The Payoff for Doing What You Love

The Payoff for Doing What You Love

My friend Weldon recently got his perfect job: cataloging and grading comic books and comic art for a large auction house. In recent weeks, he’s held the original artwork for the first appearance of Wolverine and the original art from a page of The Killing Joke (the page where Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon…yes, he got to hold an original Brian Bolland page). He also held the first Batman comic book and Action Comics #1.

Millions of dollars worth of art and comic books have passed through his hands in recent weeks. Some say he’s lucky; others have asked how they can get a job like that.

The answer is simple: by doing what you love, without expectation of anything more than the love of the thing — and creating opportunities for yourself that might one day pay off.

That’s how Weldon got his recent job.

“Lucky” Friends

I’m fortunate to be friends with a lot of “lucky” people. By lucky, I mean the perception that some people have regarding how friends came to illustrate comic books and book covers; how they came to write novels and record the voices for well-known cartoons; how they became people who spend their days doing exactly what they love.

I’ve heard people say those who do what they want for a living are lucky. While luck (or some kind of break) often factors in after years of hard work, if it’s luck — it’s luck they made for themselves.

What many people never saw in these friends are the years of hard work behind the scenes. People staying home on Friday nights in their 20s because they were at an art desk. Using vacation time to work on their thing, instead of going to a beach and relaxing. Taking the lowest job in a creative company and working their way up. The effort of it all can be exhausting. Years of working alongside “nobodies” while others clamored for the attention of those who could help — the hope of a shortcut to fame. Eventually, those “nobodies” bubbled up and connections were made…and a hand of help was extended.

Hey, I’ve been doing art for this publisher — let me put you in touch with them…

Luck has little to do with it.

How Do You Get to Do What You Love All the Time?

I still have a day job, so take this next bit for what it’s worth. It is, however, based on what I’ve seen happen in the lives of more than a few people I know.

How do you get that dream job? By doing what you love with no expectation other than doing the thing you enjoy doing. Do it first and foremost because you love it — not because you want a huge following.

Mel Brooks once said:

I don’t really do anything for the audience ever. I do it for me, and most of the time the audience joins me.

Live by that. Do what you love because you love it — not because you want to be a brand. Do what you love because you love it — not because you want a big audience. Do what you love because you love it — not because you want fame.

If you do what you love because you love doing it, maybe one day what you love will become the bulk of what you do.

But if it doesn’t, you’ve still won.

Back to Weldon

Weldon once made six figures selling software, but Weldon has always been happiest when he’s worked around comic books. From his early days of working in comic books stores to eventually editing and marketing comic books, it’s a field that often didn’t bring in tons of money for him, but it’s always made him happier than selling something solely for a paycheck.

There are decades of struggling for what Weldon loves, in much the same way artists struggle until their love pays off.

So the answer to “How do I get that cool job?” is to do what you love.

Independent travel writers aren’t born overnight. People making a living with their YouTube channels didn’t just build it and watch the audience roll in like the tide. Most successful novelists wrote 1-5 books before ever being published (and then wrote another 1-5 novels before they saw decent money (and even more never even see that)).

What looks like an overnight success rarely is.

There Are No Shortcuts to Great Work

One doesn’t sit down to write fiction for the first time and create a masterpiece. No one has sat with a cello and done something like this from the start. Canvases and brushes don’t guide an artist’s hand; decades of hard work do.

The friends I have who make a living doing what they love didn’t go all in and hope for the best — it was never a gamble because they just did what they loved for no other reason than they loved it and always pushed themselves to get better. There have been times in Weldon’s life that it might have seemed to those who look only at numbers that he was painting himself into a corner.

Clearly, he wasn’t:

Original Alex Ross and Steve Rude art.

Oh, just some original Alex Ross and Steve Rude art on Weldon’s desk…

Original art for the first appearance of Wolverine. (And the first Frank Miller Wolverine sketch.)

Holding the original art for the first appearance of Wolverine. And to make the image cooler? Why not bring in the first Frank Miller Wolvie sketch…from Weldon’s personal collection.

Batman: Killing Joke. Original page - the shooting of Barbara Gordon.

I think it was Weldon who introduced me to Camelot 3000 back in the 80s. So I’m not TOO jealous that he got to hold an original Brian Bolland page…from a great one-shot comic book. (Batman: Killing Joke.)

 

Weldon Adams holding Batman #1 and Action Comics #1.

Just another day at the office: Weldon holding Batman #1 and Action Comics #1.

 

With Regularity…

With Regularity…

I woke up a little earlier than usual. I could have slept for almost two more hours, but instead — I got up to write.

Tomorrow I’ll record episodes 76 and 77 of the Men in Gorilla Suits podcast.

This week at work, we wrapped up two big software releases.

In between it all, there are walks, planning new things, learning to play ukulele, and time to relax.

Someone recently said to me, “You don’t watch much TV, do you?”

I smiled and said, “Not really.”

Most of us are fortunate to choose at least some of the things we do with regularity.

How I spend that time is important to me.

I like looking back at the end of a year and seeing a body of work.

(The Day After) the Longest Day

(The Day After) the Longest Day

There are places in America where the sun scours the landscape, leaving nothing but the heartiest things on Earth behind to survive. These are the places that make Texas summers seem tame (with the exception of Houston, which can feel like a sunburned armpit in any given month). Texas still has a reputation for hot summers — and as I approach 30 years in the state (August 8), I can say with confidence there is truth to that.

So far, though, we’re off to the best summer I can remember…

Summer Solstice

The summer solstice was obscured by clouds yesterday. The only hint of the sun all day was a burning cataract hanging low in the sky before falling below the horizon and consumed by darkness. Sure, it was warm and humid (and I was in a long-sleeved shirt and jacket because I spoke at the DFW WordPress Meetup), but without direct sun, heat isn’t so bad.

Today I slept a bit longer than usual because the sound of rain I didn’t know was coming tapped a steady rhythm made for dozing against the bedroom windows. A jaunt into the world in search of breakfast found my wife and me wet with rain and enjoying 70-degree weather. Mourning doves formed avian flash mobs, gathering on fence railings and curbs to shower and welcome the last rain we may see for months.

This Will Change

I know the weather will change. Our drought will continue and some lakes will dry up completely this year. The sun will be big and bright and offer no quarter as it sears all it touches. But for now, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the first Sunday of summer than by enjoying the rain, a mug of Earl Grey tea, and the sound of the dishwasher in the kitchen.

For at least this morning, I can pretend it’s spring or fall — not summer in Texas.

From Goooooal to Noooooo!

From Goooooal to Noooooo!

The World Cup has started. People who normally don’t post much online about sports are taking to social media and shouting GOOAAALLLLL!!!!

Recent Sunday nights have had people watching Game of Thrones shouting NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

It can seem strange, people posting these things on their social media feeds with the assumption that others will know what they are talking about. But connections are made…

The Importance of Connection

It’s easy to say that social media leaves us all with a sense of connection where there is none. I see so many people say, “Nobody gets together in person anymore.” Yet, every time I go to restaurants to meet friends for lunch, they are packed with people getting together in person. To hear it from some, the only things in the streets are tumbleweeds and blowing leaves because people are all inside, “connecting” through social media when they “should” be meeting in person.

First, the notion that what works for one should work for all is a bit presumptuous. If a person wants to connect through social media and not in person, that’s their right. I understand the sentiment, though; I enjoy when I’m with people in person. I leave my phone in my pocket when visiting others — but that’s my thing. (My phone is always muted — it doesn’t even vibrate — and has no push notifications set. That’s what works for me, but I don’t come unhinged if a friend jumps on Facebook and says, “Having lunch at Al Wadi with Chris.” For whatever reason, that connection to a larger group is important for someone in the moment.)

Ranting online about people not behaving the way you want them to behave online is the digital equivalent of shouting, “You kids get off my lawn!” There are some people I will not see in person because they cannot stay off their phones, but that doesn’t mean I think they are wrong in the way they choose to connect with others. It’s just not my idea of a good time.

When I Avoid Twitter

While I understand this connection in the moment, when the Super Bowl, Oscars, or any big TV event that can be shared online comes around, I avoid social media. I find millions of people all watching the same thing and talking about it in their feeds fascinating, but it often moves from simply making a connection to displaying like a bird in mating season — a struggle to come up with the funniest (or snarkiest) tweet in the hope of retweets and 34 seconds of Internet fame. But is there anything really wrong with that?

I have never watched an episode of Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, but I know quite a bit about the shows, simply by seeing friends’ social media feeds lighting up on evenings new shows air. I know that tonight the San Antonio Spurs have a chance to win the championship…and while I have never been a basketball fan, for the sake of some friends, I hope San Antonio wins. I’ll know if they win through Twitter and Facebook tonight, just as I know what’s happening in the World Cup, even though I’ve only watched about 10 minutes of one game so far.

In a way, it’s not much different than talking about sports in a bar.

“It’s Not Real”

I’ve seen people say that connecting with others online isn’t “real”; that somehow, since the connection is made digitally, that it’s less than face-to-face connections. (Never mind that there are millions of people who can’t get out and around; for them, an online world has opened up so much to them!) But I understand the sentiment.

I prefer talking to people in person when I can, but I’ll say this: if I meet you face-to-face and all you can talk about are sports stats, for me, I can get a better connection with people online talking about deeper things. I’m not knocking sports or people who can only talk in stats — I believe adults should do and talk about what they want if that’s their thing — but I would see a conversation on Google Plus about writing and creating things more “real” to me than sitting in a bar and listening to someone spout off sports stats, rant about politics, or fume about how social media is destroying society.

It’s All Real (If We Want It To Be)

I’ve had great conversations about writing and creating online and offline. I don’t see one any better than the other. Online, I have the ability to talk about writing with people in other states and countries. I can get a much wider view of what’s being discussed than I could if I talked with the same handful of people, face-to-face. There are some face-to-face conversations I can predict before they even happen, and there are times I sidestep those meetings and write a blog entry in the hope of discussion about a topic, or take to social media and see who has the time to discuss things.

I’d go as far as saying that going into the world of an online role playing game and talking with people can be more “real” than the experience of going to a club just to be seen and stand around with a drink in hand, bobbing my head to music. For others, life doesn’t get much better than going to a club and holding a drink while bobbing one’s head to music.

The connections made by being seen in a club, typing “GOOOOOOOAL!!!” online (knowing others are watching with you), or having an in-depth talk about something that means a lot to those involved — whether online or in person — is as real as people want the moment to be.