Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
You might also want to read my own thoughts on the subject here.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
My latest novel, PSI Kids: Willow, is on Amazon.
This is the last of the newsletters under this particular banner. From next week, they'll come from The Easy Way to Success. (There's not much there at the moment - but time will sort that out!) You can sign up on the site if you like - no pressure!
THIS WEEK'S ARTICLE:
How to Write an Article - Fast!
I get asked this question a lot. I usually forget all about it when it comes to Friday newsletter time.
But it's pertinent today because I only have a limited time to write an article - probably less than an hour, so it will be a good test of any advice I have to offer.
It's now ten fifteen - so time me!
In the increasingly competitive world of the Net, you need to get articles and blogs out regularly. Not only do your friends and subscribers like it - Google does too. If you put out article sized messages often - at least weekly - then Google will recognize that you have something to say and start putting you in their search results.
If you're reading this article, you probably don't need to me to sell you on the importance of writing articles...
So, first, how long is an article?
In order to write quickly you need to have a clear idea of how long you've got to say something. I recommend around 500 to 800 words. Less than that and it's not really an article. More than 1000 words and your epistle will be too long for anyone but a devoted fan.
Let's say 720 words is perfect. That's twelve words a minute for an hour. Or fourteen minutes of writing if you write 50 words a minute.
The numbers are not relevant. They're only there to help you realize you have more than enough time to write something if you need to.
The hard part of course is having something to write about - and I understand completely when people tell me this is almost always the biggest stumbling block for a new writer.
Don't think about it. Don't agonize - that will make it worse.
Simply sit down and start, even if you have no ideas at all.
Then just write.
There's a voice inside your head that chatters, right?
Write down what it's saying - without thinking.
You'll need to write quickly - type quickly - because the chatterer has often moved on before you finished writing the sentence. No matter, keep writing what the little fella is saying to you.
This is how you string together coherent thoughts on any subject.
The trick is not to stop, not to go back and read anything and NEVER edit until you've reached the end.
The basic structure of an article is something we all learned at school. As long as this structure is firmly entrenched in your mindset, you'll find that article writing feels natural.
The structure is this:
Paragraph one: introduction of the subject and the terms of reference, followed by:
Three or four points of a paragraph each that expand on or prove or demonstrate the subject you've chosen. You can use this section to cite examples, give your thoughts or merely explain the issues more fully.
Finally, you present the conclusion in the last paragraph where you either show you've proved your point of view or offered some logical 'call to action' based on your words.
That's it. Anything else is too complicated for the article format.
Of course the main thing these days is that nobody wants to read big blocks of text - so make your paragraphs short. One sentence each - never more than two or three.
Keep hitting that return button. It'll make your writing seem more punchy and dramatic - and will also get you to the end of your article sooner.
As an example, it's now ten forty - twenty five minutes after I started and you can see that I'm probably around two thirds of the way through.
Time for me to start wrapping up the first draft.
At this point I'm asking the chatterer: have I been answering the question set by the title? If not, is there anything more I can add? Something profound?
Perhaps the best advice I can offer is that it's all about practice.
I remember years back when I used to try and write articles for magazines that I simply couldn't think of anything to say - and even when I worked from notes or research I felt everything came out clunky and forced.
Nowadays - after writing an article a week for over a decade, I feel much less trepidation because - and this is key - I've trained myself to trust whatever my internal voice has to say. Completely.
Because for the first draft I just put down everything and then go back and edit after.
Okay, it's now ten forty five and I've decided I've probably written enough and will now go back and edit what I have.
So, first draft half an hour.
Second draft: probably ten minutes. Tidying up the text, fixing typos, editing out anything bad or embarrassing and generally making sure the THEME of the article is consistent from the start to the finish.
Done. It's now ten fifty seven.
I'll now spend about another half hour putting it up online - reading and editing it again each time - onto my website and my blog, and then send out notifications to FB, Twitter, Linked In and to my subscribers to tell them that it's now available.
That's how it's done.
Easy! Fast! 889 words and just in time for lunch...
THIS WEEK'S QUOTE:
"You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer."
Thursday, January 19, 2012
If you're curious, here's a link to the latest R&R press release. It will open in a one page PDF.
We're making a video promo for Robyn's latest book, Maya and the Crystal Skull, at the moment. We spent yesterday filming 13 year old actor Leila Clendon against a green screen and on top of a cliff near here. Great fun - though it was scorching hot near the beach!
A writer friend recommended some wonderful free writing software to me. I'm hooked. It's called Celtx and you can use it to write pretty much anything - books, movies, graphic novels, even story boards. It really is free - and I get nothing for promoting it! Go here for that.
THIS WEEK'S ARTICLE:
The Pursuit of Perfection
Had a very strange dream last night. Someone - I don't know who - was trying to introduce me to the notion that nothing is complete - that our brains fill in the holes in our reality. If they didn't, this mysterious person said, we'd all see the gaps in between and totally freak out!
I told you it was a strange dream.
Might make a good springboard for a story - or the subject of a documentary perhaps. At least part of one. You wouldn't want to dwell on the topic in case people thought you were crazy...
There's a great Philip K Dick short story that covers the same ground, that he wrote it at least 30 years before The Matrix. In his version, the authorities were covering up the fact they'd destroyed the world and were using sophisticated holograms to make people believe nothing had changed.
It's a metaphor, of course, for the way our governments try to tell us everything is fine when the world's going down the toilet. In much the same way as celebrity spin doctors make their clients look good when their behavior gets out of line.
The irony being that we probably actually prefer the 'spun' versions of real life - from celebrities and indeed our governments - because it appeals to our need to make sense out of chaos and disorder.
So, in that sense, we really do like to paste over the cracks in reality - as a species!
But as I say, it's best not to dwell on these things publicly, in case the men in white coats - or is it the men in black these days - start to take an interest in you!
Artists like to alter reality if you think about it.
They take what's solid and re-arrange it into another form.
They take the immaterial - like thought - and create new forms and new methods of expression.
I'm reading the Steve Jobs biography this week - along with a few million other people I suspect - and in it he says that taking LSD during the seventies made him realize that creating things, adding to the sum of human consciousness, was ultimately more important than making money.
Interesting from a man who made more millions than most of us can count! But no less valid a point for all that.
Jobs was also the man behind Pixar's Toy Story. Did you know that?
He basically enabled the modern 3D animation industry - as well as a few other things, of course. And though he was apparently a difficult person to work for because of it, it was his pursuit of perfection that made him so important to this generation.
He was obsessive about the details - the fonts on the Mac for instance, the weight of the iPad, the texture of skin and hair and plastic in the first Toy Story movie. All the things we take for granted because he understood that part of taking things for granted is not seeing the gaps in between creativity and reality.
That to me was the secret of his success - and his legacy.
Because if we want to create something new, whether that be a creative project or a different way of life, we must aspire to do the same.
Not least because it's a tough world out there.
Books and movies that influence the world are beautifully crafted these days. Nothing is left to chance - because the odd crack, from bad punctuation in a book to sloppy editing in a movie, can destroy any chance of making millions back in profit.
We're spoiled in this regard these days.
We buy stuff - books, DVDs, computer games - and it's all flawless. We watch TV that's stunningly sophisticated and expensive to produce - and we take it all for granted.
We buy toys and electronic gadgets and demand perfection as standard.
And yet we let our own lives - the most important thing we have - just truck along as though we're not in control. We put up with all kinds of awful things in our daily lives we wouldn't countenance in our 'stuff'.
If you want your life to improve, you need to set a higher standard for yourself - and probably others.
Self help gurus tell us you teach people how to treat you - by participating in their abuse of you.
Demand perfection - in yourself and those around you.
Set a higher standard and your life will improve.
You might not ever get to be perfect. Who does? But that's not the point. It's aspiring that's important.
If we demand more of our spouses, our bosses and our governments - and have the courage to walk away in protest when they insist on behaving badly, I'm pretty sure the world would soon become a much better place.
Hey, can't hurt to try...
THIS WEEK'S QUOTE:
"Change should be a friend. It should happen by plan, not by
accident." Phil Cosby
Thursday, January 12, 2012
I've almost made a decision. It feels right to me but I'm giving myself another couple of weeks before I totally commit...
I'm starting a new website - actually more of an on-line magazine focused on art, wealth creation and achieving true happiness - all the things you'd expect from me.
I'm sure I'll keep you posted on how it's progressing...
THIS WEEK'S ARTICLE:
How To Be Happy
Human consciousness is a wonderful thing. It enables us to feel we exist.
According to the latest research, this ability is achieved by a constant stream of short circuits in our heads.
All day long, tiny electrical impulses fire across the synapses (the gaps) between the connections in our brains. As each spark connects, the quantum space left behind collapses and, as a result, we become "aware" that we existed a split second before the current moment.
Our brains are constantly comparing the previous "collapsed" state of our awareness with the latest version - and noting the difference.
This dual relationship with the world - the ability to see ourselves now and previously - is what we interpret as consciousness or more literally, self awareness.
Time is the critical factor here.
To us, time is linear - by necessity. If there was no human concept of linear time, we wouldn't know we existed. We'd just be, and probably wouldn't properly know it.
Because the problem with consciousness is that, also by necessity, there is not really any such thing as NOW.
Because each NOW is almost instantly replaced by the next NOW, which is then replaced by the next, and the next, ad infinitum.
So NOW you're thinking, what's this got to do with being happy?
We often say to ourselves that we'll be happy when... whatever.
Taking the above ideas about consciousness into account, you can immediately see that the problem with this is that at the very moment you're (in theory) happy, then another moment will come along in which you WERE happy previously - if only just a split second ago!
By the way, this idea is what Keats is obsessed by in his poems, most notably Ode to a Nightingale.
It's also this kind of self awareness that the Buddha, for instance, found unsatisfactory about human existence. Everything is fleeting and therefore meaningless, he said. (Bit of party-pooper was he.) True enlightenment, according to Buddhists, can only be achieved when you're somehow 'stuck' in the NOW and literally lose all sense of time and other trivial human concepts.
For years I've accepted that living in the NOW is a fine idea - in theory.
These days, I'm not so sure.
Because, in practice, nirvana is almost impossible to achieve. You'll know if you've ever tried.
Plus, as any drug taking alcoholic will tell you, there's a much easier way to achieve a very real sense of timeless euphoria!
And even if you could achieve true nirvana, as in total connectivity with everything in the present moment, by definition, you're no longer truly 'conscious' because in essence, you're just 'existing' and not really 'living' in the sense that self awareness usually decrees.
(Ask any drug taking alcoholic.)
So what's the answer?
To my mind, happiness is not a state of being so much as a state of anticipation.
Over the years I've noticed that I'm happiest, not when good things have actually happened, but when I believe they're going to happen.
Actually getting and receiving all that you desire is often anti- climactic - because the brain just goes, ah well, got that, now what?
But rather than thinking this is just a cruel trick our brains play on us, we should use it to our advantage.
If true happiness is merely a state of anticipation for rewards or pleasures to come, then that's something we can work on in the here and now.
If you want to be happy all the time then clearly you just need to have good things to look forward to.
Sounds bleeding obvious when you write it down like that, doesn't it?
But what happens when you can't see good times ahead?
Misery of course.
So the trick is to constantly work on your attitude about the future.
If you see nothing but gloom and doom ahead you will be unhappy - NOW.
But if you believe that you will be happy and fulfilled one day very soon, then you're more likely to feel happy NOW. Just the thought of a future filled with contentment, purpose and fun-filled activity will make you feel happy NOW - and NOW is all that matters.
It doesn't matter what actually happens, as long as you fill yourself with the belief that everything is going to be fabulous soon, you'll find that you're much happier in the present.
It's a fact of life.
To return to Keats, his main philosophy (if you can call it that) was that there were only two important things in this world: truth and beauty.
Both require human interaction, you'll notice.
While truth and beauty might function as independent concepts intellectually, in practice, they require the participation of an observer to truly exist. Ask any quantum physicist!
And it's because our brains are so fickle as to change their perspective on what is true and/or beautiful, it's probably what led Keats into depression and, perhaps, suicide.
There again, Keats didn't know as much about the human mind as we do today. That it's the very fickle nature of the brain that makes us self aware and able to appreciate truth and beauty in the first place...
Similarly, you need to use your knowledge of how the brain works to understand that dissatisfaction and unhappiness are purely emotional by-products of self awareness - and therefore, within your control.
Take control of your state of mind, be positive and expect miracles, and I've no doubt you'll be happier.
Would I lie to you?
THIS WEEK'S QUOTE:
"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backward."
Thursday, January 5, 2012
People keep emailing me - begging me not to stop. It's awesome - and humbling.
In truth, I get to today and the pull of writing an article is too strong to resist. I'd be lost without having to do it.
THIS WEEK'S ARTICLE:
The Search 2
If you could have anything you wanted - what would that be?
If the world conspired to grant all your wishes and desires, would that make you happy?
Perhaps - for a week, or a month, but what then?
If anything was possible, what would you WANT to spend your time doing?
What would make you feel fulfilled?
I like that word - it describes what it represents. Full filled. Filled to the max with - what? Satisfaction? Pride perhaps? Enriched to overflowing with a sense of purpose?
Of course, all of us are going to be uniquely enriched by different things. That's the nature of humanity. Our society enables all of us to specialize because, given the size of the planet, there will always to be someone or some organization that will take care of the things you don't want to do - so that you can get on with whatever gets you going. Makes you happy, in other words.
This is not some Utopian ideal. It is written into the fabric of our economic society. You are free. To do whatever you want.
If you watch a lot of Judge Judy (as we do), you'd be forgiven for thinking that many people want to do nothing in particular - except maybe collect government benefits to sit and watch TV. But I think this a minority problem.
Not that we don't all try it out sometimes - or want to.
But most people - the majority - will eventually tell you that's not enough. Doing nothing is not particularly fulfilling. Eventually some urge to create, help or participate in some kind of activity will take over.
At worst, it may manifest in the desire to take drugs or consume alcohol - if only to make the boredom seem less tedious, fun even.
But at best, the ennui of inactivity will motivate you to get involved in something. Whether that's cutting out coupons or building space stations is down to personal preference. Some us will be fulfilled by knitting a sweater, others will want to write a book. Some will want to help others directly through charity, other may want to daydream about a cure for cancer or imagine a practical use for the Zero Point Field. It's all open to you.
No activity is a waste of time if that's what you want to spend your time doing. If that's what makes you happy.
These are the issues I've been pondering these last couple of weeks.
Because it seems to me there's one main problem with our society.
And that is that most people aren't doing what they should be.
We have this odd idea - an unspoken rule - inherited from the generation before us, that we must do either what we're told or do something that is not fulfilling, just to pay the rent.
In my version of a perfect world, everyone does exactly what they want, when they want. Some of us become lawyers or politicians because that's what we want to do but others become gardeners or paint pictures because that's the best thing they can offer to the world.
So what stops us from doing exactly what we want?
The illusion that society won't support what we really want to do.
The idea that we need a safety net.
You've heard this all your life I'm sure.
"Have something to fall back on."
But the trouble with always having something to fall back on is that you always will.
How do you truly let the universe know that you really want to do something if, in the back of your mind, there's always a safe haven, always a lesser alternative, always the safety net...
Because it's the safety net that stops you.
Not society, not peer pressure, not your family.
Because if you really need something and there's no alternative, the universe really does conspire to give you what you want.
We know this instinctively and intuitively - and yet we fight it.
We don't want to believe it's true because if it is, then we're leading empty unfulfilled lives as a choice - as a preference, spending our precious time building a seemingly secure platform for ourselves that is largely an illusion. Because what can financial security really give you when you get to a certain age and ask, "What have I done? How did I get here? Why haven't I done the things I really wanted to do?"
Always the safety net...
Look at the lives of the great and successful, whether they're actors or physicists or writers or statesmen. It's there - defining their lives: living with a disregard of the safety net.
They live as though there's no alternative reality for them - and that's my friend, how they get there.
By stepping onto that high wire and not looking down!
By listening to their gut when it says this is what I'm supposed to be doing. This is what makes my heart sing. This is what fulfills me.
We love the great and successful because they seemingly have the courage to live without the safety net.
But the reality is that the great and successful don't see it that way.
Because once you launch yourself - on purpose - into your destiny, then you realize very quickly that the safety net is an illusion. It's a societal construct designed to keep you in your place - ineffectual, docile and in a state of permanent quiet desperation.
And you know the worst part?
We do it to ourselves.
We may blame our partners, our friends, our circumstance, our society but really - it's just us, we reconcile and justify our own lives by accepting second best.
Always the safety net...
What I'm thinking now is that I have so much to say on this subject, it will have to become part of where I go from here.
In my life, my writing and in my business.
If I have any kind of integrity I must accept that perhaps it's my destiny to show the world that the true definition of success is the ability to do whatever we want, whenever we want. And that we are all successful inside - and innately happy - already...
And that all we have to do is to accept this simple idea - and spend our lives acting upon it.
Then what kind of world might we create?
THIS WEEK'S QUOTE:
"Luck and strength go together. When you get lucky, you need the strength to follow through. You also need strength to wait for the luck."