Someone New (All the Time)

Someone New (All the Time)

I’ve seen the advice quite a bit:

Eat with someone new every week.

The reason: networking — to talk about what you are up to in the hope someone can help you. The theory goes, if you eat with a new person every week, you’ll eventually have a large network and maybe even — through sheer numbers — stumble upon someone who can help you in what you do (or want to do).

Rarely, it seems, do those dispensing the advice talk about what you could do for others; it seems to be “Quantity over quality until you get what you want.”

I’m not saying it’s bad advice, but it seems so shallow.

Lacking Depth

While the idea of 52 lunches with 52 different people in a year appeals to the side of myself that likes to be challenged, if my goal is to have in-depth talks about writing, podcasting, life, or other things…it doesn’t seem like a new person every week is the way to go. In a hurried world, it seems like those lunches would consist of catching up with each other — not enough time for much more than, “This is how I am, this is how my family is, and this is what I’m up to.”

Just an exchange of information that can probably be found on any person’s social media site.

Quality Over Quantity

Last Wednesday, I had dinner with a good friend. Not somebody new…somebody who knows my writing, at times, better than I do. Someone who knows what I’m trying to do with all the things I work on.

We don’t meet weekly, or even every other week, but when we get together and talk about what we’re doing, it beats sharing a meal with someone new all the time. Hell, sometimes we don’t even talk about writing and things like that — it’s not about networking; it’s about friendship.

It’s not about quantity; it’s about quality!

The Thing About Shortcuts

I’ve seen people network with their own needs put forward and seen people get what they want from that move. The staying power, though, is often weak.

It’s always seemed that someone wanting a shortcut to whatever it is they want desires the result without the effort to secure that result. At some point, the work must be done, and those looking for the easy way in often can’t sustain things once they get there because they don’t like the work. So they constantly hit up everyone they know in the hope they can sustain a life through shallow relationships.

I’m fortunate to know people who make a living doing so many cool things, and those who have sustained their dreams are those who surround themselves with a handful of good friends who really understand them — not 52 people, most of whom are acquaintances — in the hope of a quick payoff through networking.

Another Social Media Break

Another Social Media Break

It’s that time of the year: time for my annual electronic equivalent of retreating to a cabin in the woods by taking a social media break. I’m not sure if it will be a break from all social sites, or just Facebook, but this afternoon I said, “Time for the annual Facebook break!” I logged out and removed the app from my phone.

I’m not sure about other social sites right now because I can filter Twitter to see only what I want to see. (I do that on Facebook, but Facebook insists on still showing me things I’ve requested be hidden). Google+ and Tumblr are free of drama, politics, and stress for me — places I can visit and leave refreshed. So we’ll see about those other sites as the week moves along.

The Problem with Facebook

I don’t know why it just seems to be Facebook for me, but it seems there’s usually a topic of the week that gets discussed — and it’s often discussed with a certain angst.

  • One week, talk about how depression kills. Then: “Robin Williams was a coward!” [Battles ensue.]
  • Another week, people doing the ice bucket challenge. Then: “This is why you are a dummy-head for doing the ice bucket challenge!” [Battles ensue.]
  • This week, people talking about a bunch of nude photos of female celebrities leaked online and shared. Then: “If they didn’t want the photos out there, they shouldn’t have taken them!” [Battles ensue.]

I know these same arguments are happening on Twitter, Tumblr, and Google Plus, but I only follow publishers, photographers, artists, and other people who tend to talk about positive things and creating work they love.

So I can’t say it’s Facebook’s problem exclusively. But I can say it’s the only network that keeps presenting things in my feed I’ve requested to not see.

“Are You Crazy?”

Most people I know understand why I take these annual breaks, but there are always a few who can’t fathom giving up the social sites they frequent. Those who use social sites to promote their work, and who know I do the same thing, usually ask:

“But doesn’t that affect your numbers?!”

I’m not a huge fan of tracking things; if you know me, you know I just like making the things I like and if people look, read, or listen — great. If not, it’s not the end of the world. For me, the most satisfying part is in the creation. This isn’t to say I don’t like having a following…especially as that following keeps growing.

When I take a break from one or all social sites and don’t say, “New podcast!” “New story,” or “New video,” it’s reflected in fewer downloads. I’m not there to remind people to check out whatever new thing I’ve created, so fewer people check out what I’m doing. When I think back to every year I’ve taken a break, all the way back to the 101-day break that kicked it all off (and what I learned in taking that break), there is an initial fear of losing the following I have. It’s not long, though, before I remember the sense of peace that comes from stepping away.

Fear of Missing Out

Fear of missing out is enough of a thing that we’ve turned FOMO into a buzzword. With each break I’ve taken, someone has asked me if it bothers me that I miss out on what’s going on — as though nothing happens outside of social media.

Even during the breaks from all social sites, I still read and replied to blogs. I still saw people. There was email. Those closest to me knew how to get in touch if there’s an emergency (or if they just wanted to hang out or say hello). So what do I really miss, outside of the rage of the day or week?

[It didn’t even hit me until just now that there is a midterm election coming up, which means all the people who rarely/never spoke with me in high school (but requested to be friends on Facebook because, I assume, they think I share in their view that our current president is a Muslim lizard man who will impose Sharia law on us before 2016), will be out in full force soon. I won’t mind missing that!]

I may miss out on some good news along the way, some funny memes, and other things, but what is gained from these breaks is something that makes me a better writer.

Writing is What It’s Really All About…

For me, Jonathan Franzen’s words about electronic distractions holds weight:

It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.

I write best when I disconnect from distractions. I also write more when I disconnect from distractions.

I started the novel I’m working on almost three years ago. With a life, day job, weekly podcast, other writing, and additional things I do, my goal for a solid draft of a new book is every three years. I’m on pace to make my self-imposed deadline if I disconnect and focus.

So that’s what I’m going to do…

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.

Achievement Unlocked!

Achievement Unlocked!

I first saw Space Invaders in an Osco drug in Mundelein, Illinois in the late 70s. It’s fair enough to say that it changed my life.

I had piles of Atari 2600 games, and I was the first kid in the neighborhood to have a ColecoVision. I had a subscription to Joystick magazine, and when the nearby Pinball Palace didn’t satisfy my love for video games, an arcade across town with more games did. I jumped on most home consoles when they came out; I spent late nights and early mornings playing games in arcades while others were shutting down bars. I was a video game junkie.

Somewhere along the way, that faded away…

The Choice

I stopped playing video games after the initial version of the X-Box came out. By that time, as much as I like games, I was done. It wasn’t that I came to a point that I no longer liked games — I just looked at the free time I had and thought about how I was spending it. The choice was simple: I could play games in my free time or…I could write, podcast, blog, and do other things.

It’s a personal choice. I don’t care how people spend their free time, but for me, other things won out over games…

Goat Simulator

Earlier this month, Goat Simulator came out.

It wasn’t just the first video game I bought in almost a decade…I pre-ordered it!

The Friday I got access, I played for a couple hours. Over that weekend, my wife and I had a couple beers and played the hell out of the stupidity that is a goat running around town while destroying things.

When we got the goat into orbit, we figured it was time to stop.

Achievement Unlocked

There are about 25% more achievements to be unlocked in our Goat Simulator game, but…I will never unlock them on my system. The remaining achievements are “video game” achievements — by that, I mean the kinds of things where one has to jump perfectly to reach certain points to jump again and again to hopefully land just right in order to unlock an achievement.

For me, that’s where video games lose me. If I’m going the spend hours fixated on something, why spend that time jumping a goat on trampolines and dirty mattresses just so I can say, “I was in the storage container on the crane!” (Especially when I can see others do it on YouTube.)

If I’m going to spend that much time on my computer, I’d rather knock out another chapter of a novel or edit another podcast — that’s a better achievement for me…

Body of Work II

Body of Work II

I’ve talked before about creating a body of work before (even used an image of piled wood to make the point). In fact, that post was in honor of the 25th episode of the Men in Gorilla Suits podcast. Today marks Episode 53 — our one-year anniversary!

Whether hit with overtime at work, sick, busy with other things that come with living life, or even just wanting a weekend or two off, we produced a weekly show for a year — never skipping a week! Looking at the Podcasts page of the site really is a bit like looking at a pile of stacked wood. Everything said in that first blog post about creating a body of work is true: sticking with something regularly results in the ability to look back and see a big pile of work you created!

In this case, it’s a weekly podcast, but it’s not much different than restoring a car over time, creating illustrations or paintings, or piling up pages of a book. The formula is simple:

Effort + Time = Body of Work

Speaking of Books…

The last time I posted, here, was to announce that I was taking a break from social media, and even slowing down with blogs. I wanted even better focus and clarity in the work I do. It did not take long to find both. With the focus of really getting back to the novel-in-progress, I was able to see that the book I’m writing is really three books. So instead of one big book about June’s life and rise to fame as a magician, it will be several books about June’s life — and that excites me more than I’ve ever been excited about anything I’ve written.

For the sake of word count in a single novel, there were things I wanted to stick with longer, but had to move on to other things to avoid a ridiculously large book. June is born in a circus, and circus life lasts only three chapters in what I was doing. I’m now able to spend more time in the places that shape June as she grows into a young woman on her own by the end of what is now the first book of three.

In all the years I’ve been writing, I’ve never enjoyed it more…

Waking Naturally

Waking Naturally

Between a big project at work and an ice storm, I’ve been working from home more than usual, lately. I typically work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I was home all last week. Much like the times I’ve worked from home exclusively, my sleep fell into a much better pattern when working from home. I can’t remember the last time I heard the alarm; I woke up between 5:00 and 6:30 on my own, depending on what my body needed.

Today, it’s back to the office, and while I woke up before the alarm as I usually do, there’s a sense of a starting gun going off and then a rush to get ready. The routine is much more “get up and go” than last week. (Well, I do have time to write this blog entry while eating breakfast because I woke up early enough to do so.) On mornings when I have to wake up at a certain time to allow for the preparation that comes with readying myself to head into work, there’s less free time in the morning to ease into the day. I have mornings like today, when I wake up well before the alarm, but as I get back to the in-office routine, there will be a greater sense of hurry in the mornings, and I might even hear the alarm sometime next week.

Slow Starts vs. Fast Starts

Maybe when working from home, the subconscious knows it doesn’t have to leap to action and hit all the morning points to ensure I’m in on time, even if I wake up early. There’s no background thoughts of, “Soon, you must get ready!” and because of that, I rise easier and feel well rested–even with less sleep some days. I’m still lucky: I work close to home. When I think about the times in my life when I was the most exhausted, there was usually a long commute after waking, eating breakfast, showering, and heading out.

When I read articles about how little sleep many people get, I know even on days I go into the office that I’m doing better than most. But there’s a different mindset on mornings I know I’ll have to jump into what passes for traffic on my commute (don’t miss the hour+ long (one-way) commutes of the past)…on those mornings, there’s a much greater sense of hurry. On mornings when I can wake up and not lose time to traffic or other tasks that come with heading into the office, I’m more likely to work longer hours if needed, and I’m much more alert in the work I do.

(All right, instead of another hour to ease into the day, it’s time to get ready for work!)