30 April 2013

The Power of a Decision

People always say things like, “Yeah, I need to lose 20 pounds,” or “One of these days I’m going to learn to play the piano,” or “I should get my stuff together for the impending zombie apocalypse.”  These words get said, but I’d venture to guess that only about 10% of the people who say them actually do anything about it.

I’m one of those 90% who talk a lot and don’t usually follow through.

You know, the type that talks about losing weight and then decides that I need ice cream more than anything else in the world at that moment.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world that is this weak willed.  Really. Sure of it.

BUT, during my time in this life, I have learned a few key lessons. One of them has been this:

If you want something, you have to go after it

 Or, if I could steal from Nike for a second:

Just Do It

As I mentioned above, I am a weak willed person when it comes to food.  I’ve been especially naughty with it over the past few months, and all of my efforts toward losing weight (my knees can’t take much more) have been completely thwarted by, well, me.  So I decided I would do something drastic.

Something insane.

Something no woman in her even mostly wrong mind would do.

I gave up chocolate for a month.

I’ll give you time to digest that, become appalled, circle back around to confused and finally decide to read on. If for no other reason than to listen to my chocolate withdrawal symptoms and convince yourself that this is a terrible idea.

In the beginning, I thought I was off my rocker. I had my boyfriend take all of my Girl Scout cookies out of the house, along with anything else I could find that was chocolate and was mine.  His receding footsteps down the front stairs felt like I imagine the clang of the prison door shutting behind you does.

I imagined it would be hard. I imagined clawing my way through to the candy jar at work somewhere around the 12th due to a great need for chocolate. I imagined myself being really, really grouchy.

Much to my surprise, none of these things happened.  It wasn’t at all hard to walk by the candy jar, refuse chocolate silk pie or politely decline a brownie.

Although I must admit to eating a few bites of some pumpkin chocolate chip bread the other day and not even realizing there was chocolate in it until I’d swallowed.  This is how fried my brain is, people. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I’d done drugs at any point in my life.

So I’ve been thinking about this whole experience, and wondering why it’s been easy.  And as I pondered, I went back to some of the other big things in my life looking for correlations.  I found a simple answer.

I made the decision to do whatever it is I wanted to do.  I moved out of my parent’s house. I lost 50 pounds. I wrote a novel. I decided to write a novel with the purpose of getting it published. I got my black belt. I read the Old Testament.  And many more.

The key really is to make that decision. In your mind and in your heart and in that place inside of you that you can’t lie to.  Once the decision is made, the choice is already made and you don’t even have to think about it.

So if you’re hesitating on something, or wanting something but not doing anything about it, do some soul searching and figure out what you’re willing to do for it.

Then do it.

Don’t look back. There’s too much right ahead of you to look at!

18 April 2013


Sometimes you don't realize just how well you're doing.

No, really.

Stop wallowing in your negative outlook of yourself, step outside and look around.

We all wish we were doing better at something. Am I right? Personally, I've got about eight things I wish I was doing better at, including (but not limited to) writing, kung fu fighting, eating, reading, early Christmas shopping and being more positive. There is literally no end to the “to improve” list.

So do yourself a favor, and stop looking at it for a few minutes.

Allow me to elaborate with a personal experience.

Over the past few months, my Sensei has been having us do a new workout at the beginning of class. It keeps us moving, kicking, punching and in general wears me out. Which I like. I go to class not only to learn to destroy people who are foolish enough to attack me, but also to stay in shape.

Granted, even after 10 years of kung fu fighting I'm still the rather pleasant shape of a pear. Not a skinny pear, just to be clear. So most of the time I just figure that I suck. We won't go into how keeping your expectations of you low is certain sabotage.

Well, the other day one of our awesome black belts came to class. She's been focusing on her art and hasn't been around much. She's in much better shape than I am, and is a great fighter.

Poor thing, had to go first through the workout line, and claims she almost died.

That's serious exaggeration, but she did look tired. And she tried to tell me she sucked.

At this moment I caught a glimpse of both of us feeling like we sucked, but I also caught the realization that we were both there, at class, trying and improving. Even if it was slowly.

It's way too easy to look at the “to improve” list. Looking forward is good, but don't forget to keep track of where you've been and where you are now.

10 April 2013


An earnest or strenuous attempt

This particular “Rule of the Dojo” is the one that I pour the most belief into. I pretty much live my life with the attitude that if I do everything in my power to get something finished, then the rest of the little things will take care of themselves.

I’m happy to say that this often happens. You can chalk it up to faith—I am a religious person-or karma or comeuppance or whatever, but it works.

Allow me to talk about my black belt efforts. I started Kempo at 25 years old. At the time I was about 120 pounds overweight, couldn't do a single lunge and the thought of running was, well, really, really funny.

I'm not fast at anything physical. My body doesn't like to be pushed, and my willpower quickly gives out. But if I can do it slow, things sometimes work out. I was always the distance swimmer on the swim team in high school. Sprints—not so much.

So it took me seven years to get my black belt. Some people can do it in two. I'd have to say five is pretty average in our system, if you're putting some good effort into it. I put effort into it, but not enough to move very fast. However, I always practiced and for the longest time I could remember anything I ever learned in class.

I recall on my purple belt test (4th belt out of 10 to black) my instructor said that I would get my black belt. Keep in mind, this was during the test. You know, when you get punched for thinking too loud or for not yelling loud enough. I laughed. Out loud. Really loud. I never had the aspirations of being a black belt.

But I just kept going to class. Every once in a while my instructor would send me to a test. I slowly gained ranks until...black belt.

Now it took me a long time, but I consistently put effort into it. And eventually I got there. I'm still short, I'm still over weight and I still can't do as many lunges as the young kids. But I did it my way, put my effort into it, and it all worked out.

The same principle applies to writing. Or anything else you're working at in your life. Put effort into it. Move forward. Even if it's just a little at a time. If you do, other things will fall into place. I've seen it happen in my own life, I've seen it happen to others and history is filled with success stories of people who “plugged away at it” until they got there.

Figure out your destination, keep your eye on it, and move toward it.

03 April 2013

What's in a Cover?

I'm going to be very honest for a few paragraphs. I'm a sucker for a good cover. I have often picked up a book because of its cover, but I only buy a book when the back blurb really catches my attention. And if the cover is good and the blurb is enough to pique my interest but not enough for me to spend money on, I write it down and get the book from the library.

So I don't judge a book by its cover, but I certainly am lured in by good artwork and presentation. Which means that this is something every author should be concerned about. If you are publishing traditionally, then your publisher will probably take care of it. I've heard horror stories about badly done covers that have significantly hurt book sales. I've also seen covers that blow me away. So like anything in life, it can go either way. If you're indie publishing, then spend the money to at least get a respectable cover. Go for a level above that. You won't be disappointed.

Personally, covers give me an idea of what sort of feel I can expect from the book. It should evoke emotions from me, and if I like the combination it presents, then I'll pick it up and look at it.

I'll only bore you with one example. Below is the cover to Time Riders. I picked this one up off the shelf because of the cover. These were my reasons:
-The title has time in it, which means time travel! I was thinking Quantum Leap
-There is a city with a zeppelin in the background, and zeppelins are always cool.
-The whole picture looks a little warped—a little off, which is what I assumed the characters would be fighting against.
-There are three characters pictures. This is a YA book, which means they are a team of some sort. I love a good team story.

This combined my love of light sci-fi with comradeship and time travel, leading me to buy it.

And that's how I use a cover when I buy a book. Notice that the title came into play as well. The blurb didn't do much for me this time around, but sometimes they really draw me in.

What about you? What role does a cover play when you're looking for a new book to read?