Positive Thinking

I ask the same question every day. Will today be a good one? Sometimes the answers are ambiguous.That’s OK, because the answer really isn’t important. What is important is the frame of mind with which you face the day. If you are in a lousy frame of mind, your day will most likely go sour. It all boils down to attitude. If you have a good one, you will do well. If you have a bad one, you likely won’t do as well. The question or the answer doesn’t make the day good; it’s the power of suggestion. We have a lot more influence on our lives than we think. If you think it will be a good day, you will make it good. Or you will consider it a good day when it is done.

Now, I’m not saying that a positive attitude will make you rich in the monetary sense. It will help you achieve goals because you will believe that you can and that will make you try. Of course, there is an element of luck in our lives, but we can influence things in our favor, if we try. Positive thinking won’t prevent unexpected accidents, but it can help you get past the temporary roadblocks that life seems to always have on hand.

A lot of those roadblocks are things we place in our own path, usually because we are scared to go there. We blame it on life or fate, but it is really our own fear. Overcoming fear is hard, but it can be worth the trouble. It isn’t easy, but nothing worthwhile is easy. If it were, we wouldn’t value it so much. Sometimes all it takes is a little push to get you moving past your roadblock to the goal.

I self published my first novel, Accidental Colony, a couple of years ago. I wouldn’t have written it if it weren’t for NaNoWriMo. I hemmed and hawed about doing NaNoWriMo for a few years before I took the plunge and the challenge, because I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I conquered it. I did a trial run, and learned that I could write sixteen hundred sixty-seven words in a single day. That gave me the confidence to write the story. The point is that I didn’t do NaNoWriMo for those years because I didn’t think I could.

Fear of failure keeps many people from even trying to achieve goals. I conquered that fear. I decided that I could write a novel in thirty days. As a result, I have published two novels and a novella to prove that I can write stories. I have more novels to edit into a publishable condition. I’m working on revising the third one. I’m also considering editing the Feline Freedom League blogs into a series of short stories. I just need to find the time to do that. I think I can. That’s the power of positive thinking. So shove those roadblocks out of your way and forge ahead to your goal, whatever it may be.

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Posted in General Opinion

Compelling Characters

What makes a compelling character? The reader has to engage with the character. They have to have some flaws. No one is perfect and a character shouldn’t be either. Each character in a story should have a mix of good and bad, even the villain. Just as no one is perfect, neither is there a person who has no good qualities at all. You could have a cold-blooded killer who loves and protects puppies and kittens. Sometimes the contract between the good qualities and the bad make the bad seem so much worse. Adolph Hitler had a dog that he loved, yet he was the leader of the Nazis who were responsible for the slaughter of millions of people.

In my writing, I use this Fiction Writer’s Character Chart that I found on the Internet. It is long with lots of questions. I usually complete them as a paragraph in a document. It works well to allow me to get to know my characters. Getting to know the characters you are writing about, makes them real to you. If they are real to you, then they have a better chance of becoming real to your readers.

Some people just sit down and interview their characters. That would work as well, as long as you know what questions you want the answers to. Just take a blank piece of paper or word processor document and put the character’s name at the top. Then follow your instincts on what to write. The chart I use has questions that I answer. I don’t always answer all the questions. That is not the point of the chart. It’s a tool to use to get to know your character. If you like, you can take that chart and complete what you can on someone you know well, then ask them the questions you couldn’t answer. You might be surprised at how much you didn’t actually know about the person. That’s the purpose of the chart.

That chart’s questions are vague on purpose. The charts won’t produce cookie cutter characters, all the same character. The character development depends on the whole, not the parts, so don’t worry about that. You don’t even have to answer all the questions, if you can’t think of an answer to a particular question, leave it out. Not everyone plays computer games, so if you can’t think of the answer to questions in that section, don’t. It’s good for your characters have blanks spots, they are supposed to change in the story after all. what the chart is supposed to do is to help you determine if the change is for the good or not.

Scrivener has a template that is more vague, but covers the same ground. It gives you a place to start with your character. Once you get your characters developed, by whatever means, it will be easier to bring them to life on the page. so, sit down, open a word processor, or get a sheet of paper and a pencil or pen, and start interviewing your characters. Your work will be stronger for it.

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Posted in Writing Fiction, Writing Techniques

Time

Time is a human thing. We humans are obsessed with it. We are ruled by it, at least here in the United States, we are. It’s Big Business that does it. In our quest to make a living, we have enslaved ourselves to Time. We take little time for ourselves. That makes me wonder if we are at the top of the intelligence chart of the bottom. You don’t see any other animals constructing clocks or watches.

Time is money. We need money now to survive. That’s the problem. We didn’t always need money. Time was important, but on a much larger scale than it is now. Now we count the minutes we are away from work. When humans were hunter-gatherers, we measured time by the season. We went from reckoning seasons to reckoning minutes in only a few thousand years. What is wrong with us? Why did we do that to ourselves? When did we do it to ourselves?

We invented money. We divided time. We equated time with money. That’s where we went wrong. We began gathering things, rather than food. Sure life as a hunter-gatherer was no picnic, but are we really any better off now? Life is still not a picnic. Well maybe it is for a chosen few, but not for the majority of people. We have screwed ourselves. In the mid twentieth century, the fear was that humans would use nuclear weapons to go extinct. In the latter half of the twentieth century, the fear was that humans would poison themselves into extinction. Those are real fear. We could still do that to ourselves, but the reality is that we will likely nickel and dime ourselves into extinction by chasing dollars, or your currency of choice.

It’s a real danger. Here in the States we’ve become pampered pets of Time. We work our tails off to keep a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. In the days of hunting and gathering, we moved south when it snowed. We followed the things that fed us. We didn’t kill each other for our possessions, because we didn’t have anything more than the next person had. OK, there were probably fights over hunting and gathering territories, but there were no weapons of mass destruction. There were no real toxins that we made and casually tossed into our own water supply. We traded things we made for foodstuff we didn’t have or foodstuff for things that we needed. There’s a lot to be said for the barter system. We have circumvented a number of checks on our population growth and that is another place where we went wrong. That’s another blog though. I don’t know if there is any hope of reversing this trend we have towards timing ourselves into extinction, which, given the stress that we load on ourselves is a possibility. Perhaps Mother Nature is trying to get our attention. She may be trying to tell us to stop behaving so high and mighty because she is still in charge. I think that she is. What do you think?

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Posted in General Opinion

My bad.

Apparently, I didn’t set up last week’s blog to publish. it’s here now, along with this month’s FFL report. I accidentally posted them as drafts. So this week you get two blogs. I hope you like them.

Posted in Uncategorized

Feline Freedom League April 2015 Report

From: Agent Snickers To: Mr. Whiskers Date: 5 April 2015
Subject: Mission Report

I must point out that Agent Cuddlebug retired at just the right time. He seems to have a problem with ice. He is addicted to it. I do not understand it, myself. Ice is cold. He can’t get enough of it. He keeps pestering the humans for ice. I do not see the reasoning for that, myself. This is not good. He appears to have lost all semblance of pride. I feel he must undergo treatment for this issue. The others think this situation is amusing. Personally, I’m appalled. The constant groveling for ice is repulsive. His behavior is becoming disgusting. I am not sure if this is something we should be concerned about, could you please send information on curing addictions. I think we should work with Agent Cuddlebug to cure his addiction.

Other than that, things have been quiet around here. The humans are always underfoot. The younger female complains of pain in her back. She walks with a cane and we need to avoid her when she walks around this habitat. She laughs at Agent Cuddlebug when he begs for ice. His behavior is disgusting. We need to get him help. I would not normally care, but I think he needs help. Please advise how we can help him to kick his ice addiction.

From: Agent Storm To: Mr. Whiskers Date: 5 April 2015
Subject: Mission Report

Agent Cuddlebug’s ice addiction is not something we need to be concerned about. In fact, I do not think he is addicted at all. I have eaten ice once or twice myself and I believe it is only very cold water that has become solid. I do not think there is anything else to be done. He will be fine. I think he is just in need of water. It is warm here and I believe that it is the same as the warm time in our old place.

While it seems to be quiet here right now, I believe that there are issues going on. We have the canines who insist on going outside. I wonder what they find so intriguing out there. I see birds that I do not believe existed in the area around our old location. The trees are also strange. We still see the weird, scaly creatures, on occasion. They don’t come around here as much anymore. I think the canines have scared them away.

If you believe that we need to do something about Agent Cuddlebug, please advise. Once again, I do not believe that Agent Cuddlebug has a problem. I think he is merely thirsty and ice is just water that is so cold that it is hard. I will abide by whatever you say in the matter of Agent Cuddlebug and his alleged addiction. I will also agree with Agent Snickers that the way he carries on in order to get ice is disgusting. Please advise us as to what you think we should do or not due. The loss of pride is alarming.

Michigan Humane Society: Somebody here needs you.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Taking Good Notes

When I was in high school, I took a typing class. I should have taken a stenography class at the same time, except I don’t remember them offering such a class. It would have good to take such a class. it would have been useful in college to be able to take notes like that. I could have transcribed them into English and done better in the classes as a result. Instead I created my own technique for speed writing.

Taking adequate notes is essential, whether you are in a class, a meeting, or you just want to evaluate a document for your family history project. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to take things down verbatim. Paraphrasing what the instructor, meeting leader, or document is the best way to understand the material. In the case of a document, you have the decision of whether you are transcribing or abstracting the document. Transcribing a document means that you are copying it word for word. That requires you to include all punctuation and spelling errors that you may encounter in the document. You can paraphrase if you are abstracting. Abstracts are a summary of the data in a document. That can mean taking a two-page document and writing down the data from it in less than a page. One to two paragraphs is sufficient. Taking notes in a meeting or class gives you more of a leeway as well. Again, you are taking an hour or two of words and abstracting them to a few paragraphs. Leave out the examples and just take the facts. If you need examples later, you can find them in the textbook or the real world. Just get the facts.

For a document, like my great grandfather’s naturalization paper, an abstract is the best way to go. That document is on legal paper and is two pages long. Here is the abstract.

In the district court held at Montpelier, Vermont on September 1904. Carl Mauritz HENDRICKSON of 5 Edward Street, Montpelier, Vermont said that he was a granite polisher, by trade. He said that he was born on Goteborg Sweden on 28 July 1867 and is 37 years old. He also said that he was not of the nobility of Sweden. He arrived in the US on 25 June 1894 and has lived in the US ever since. He lived in Barre, Vermont, nine years and Montpelier Vermont one year. He made a primary declaration of his intention to become a US Citizen in Barre City, Vermont on 5 February 1901. He is in the US legally. The document was signed by Carl M. Hendrickson and witnessed by Edward Goddard on 31 August 1904.

That’s just the first page, but you get the idea. I took a legal sized page of legal language and boiled it down to that single paragraph. There’s another page, but I won’t add that to this blog.

Taking good notes will help you understand what you are reading or hearing. For example in the above abstract, I realized as I wrote it up, that I have a date and location in there, 5 February 1901 in Barre City, Vermont, that I can use to find his document of intention, the other part of the naturalization process. I’m going to look into finding that. you can learn a lot when you take good notes.

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Posted in General Opinion

Memory

I write myself notes all the time. I have the calendar app on my phone set to remind me of things I want to do later. I’m not always successful at following through on them, but I am getting better at remembering to get the things that I want to do done. At least, I’m getting better at keeping my To-Do list updated and checking it.

My memory is poor in some instances and good in others. I am not alone in that. I can’t remember my childhood before age five that well. I see stories where people remember their lives at age three and wonder how that’s possible. I have a poor memory and sometimes wonder if those people only think they remember their lives at age three.

I’m told that I climbed a ladder at age two and was found wandering around on the roof of the house. I have no memory of that, just the memory of someone telling me that story. When I was a baby, my oldest brother took me into his pup tent at the back of the yard because I was crying in the hammock where my mother had put me. I gather she spent time looking for me before discovering that. I have no personal memory of that either. Again, someone told me that happened. I think that I overwrote my memories of that time in my life were overwritten by later, more interesting memories. After all, there are only so many synapses in the human brain.

I admit that my memory is not good. That’s why I write myself notes and keep a To-Do list. I have managed to establish a few routines that I follow to the point that I am annoyed when the routine is upset by unexpected events. I don’t think I am alone in that.

I also don’t think that my memory issue is due to old age, although I have family members who might say that. My memory has always been poor. I’m not even sure that there is any way to improve your memory. You just have to keep reading a list or doing something until you can recite or do by rote, but that takes time. Some people have the gift of total recall. They may be able to remember their lives from day one. I don’t know. I only know that I can’t. There are times when I wish I had total recall, and then I think of the bad things in my life. The times where I lost a loved one or a beloved pet and think, a poor memory is not so bad. I remember who I am and who my family and friends are. That’s enough.

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Posted in General Opinion
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