Flow

Flow

One of the main lessons I have learned in the past few years is the value to me of flow activities.  By flow I mean the type of task you get so wrapped up in you lose track of time.  This time loss I believe is  the result of intense, sustained concentration.

I am not a psychologist nor do I play one on T.V.   I will not attempt to describe the details.  I would not do them justice.  There are many excellent books and resources out there if your interested.  The Book Flow is a in depth work, worth the read if your interested and the best, most authoritative starting place I know of.

Even after some research/reading, the term seemed a bit overwhelming, mystical and all encompassing.  I have come to know it is not.  The state of flow is obtainable, at will, with practice and putting one’s self in the proper conditions. Once you identify an activity that puts you in flow, you can, overtime, develop a process and move into flow whenever you engage in the activity.

For instance, when working on creative projects such as video editing, vector animations, even developing custom spread sheets all lead to flow for me.   A few hands on projects around the house also allow me to slip into a flow state rather easy.  Carpentry projects for my daughter, bookshelves, etc. for my office, all work.

They key seems to be there must exist a unknown to solved, then a process of solving smaller tasks leading to completion.  I may have an idea of the final solution, but a certain amount of trial and error seems vital.

My process is simple.  I need to schedule time, no less than 4 hours in my case.  If I feel pushed for time or in a rush, flow eludes me.  I must be solo.  Joint projects don’t induce flow for me.  Like many writers and creatives I perfer to work alone anyway.  That’s pretty much it.

Why?

Why you ask?  Why take the time?  For me, as an introvert, flow is a release valve, a reset button and a tonic my brain craves after I force myself from my basic personality characteristics.  You see, I can stand in front of hundreds of people or small groups to speak, or teach.  I can in every sense of the word chameleon myself into a chatty extrovert.

It has taken practice, time and effort. I must deeply believe the reason to do so important.  I can’t fake it, and say, sell used cars.  If the topic is important to me I can flip the extrovert switch, like an actor slipping into character.

However, this ability comes with a price.  The price is a need to shut down, withdraw inward and be the ultimate introvert.  A flow state does this for me.  It allows the debris of living, woking, training and teaching to settle, to allow the core of who I am to reassert and reset.

Before I understood this aspect of myself, of introversion and how to return to a normal state after turning “extro” I wondered if being a trainer was the choice for me.  I now realize the obstacle of introversion is the path for me, for my career, and my artistic pursuits.  Flow and flow activities are a key part of the process.  Perhaps for some of you as well.

Video

 

Here is a short video of my last “Flow” project.  I decided to make a short video to test some new camera gear and refine my editing skills.  I wanted to show the passage of time without words, or other obvious means.  I also wanted to show the process as it is from my perspective, the lapse in time, the repetition, the trial and error.  I limited myself to 2 minutes or less.  First, so as to not bore you.  Second,  I am the most creative when self imposed or external restrictions are in place.  The tighter the rules, the higher the performance.

Thanks for reading,

Tony

 

 

Visual Training Aids

The last few weeks for me have involved copious amounts of keyboard time behind the screen staring pixel-eyed blindly ahead.  I don’t mind.  The creative act of revamping material the ashes of outdated world weary presentations, forging new ones with fresh perspectives satisfies me as much as writing a new piece of fiction.  As a consequence I have developed and continue too small snippets of video training aids I like to use.

It occurred to me that these may be useful to others in similar positions as I often find myself, having to explain somewhat complex processes in a simple way.  For those of you not in the tree climbing world, you will find little of interest here, less you have some strange fetish for cartoonish videos related to tree work!

These are two no frills short video segments that explain in a visual way concepts I need to explain often in a classroom situation.  If you find them useful by all means download.  I ask only that if you like the material and want to use it to attribute credit to Gravitationalanarchy.com and drop me a comment or like below the video on Vimeo.  Just follow the links to the Vimeo page and they are available for download.  If for some reason you need it in another format, leave me a comment here and I will get in touch.

 

This one looks at one hazard of using self-feeding drum style chippers

This one displays when the hinge breaks on four different styles of face notches in tree felling

Tony

Manifesto of Strength

Recently I have turned my attentions back to physical training.  While I never really stopped training, I had lost focus for a number of months.  This summer seemed a good time to step back, re-evaluate my efforts and then surge forward.  In the process of all this I was forced to ponder the nature of change, of how it applies to my life in all is faucets.  I have learned that any activity I engage in is interconnected.  For instance when I have trouble craning ideas for a new novel or story it is usually because I lack in some physical aspect, am feeling physically poor or distracted.   The mind and body cannot be superseded as I will discuss below.  So whether your pursuits are physical, like climbing or mental like writing the next great novel I offer the general blueprint of the journey I stated in ernest six or so years ago. 

 

Manifesto of Strength.

It began 5 years, 8 months, three days, 13 hours ago. But who’s counting? I am. I know the time. I wrote it down. I recall the place, my home, my living room in fact. The old, rapidly becoming ratty, red sofa under my ass. The Vermont Castings wood stove clicking faithfully, heating up. I had just loaded it full of a fresh load of dry, seasoned oak. Winter-yellowish late afternoon sunlight slanted through the large picture window. The silence (well as quite as it ever gets around here) of a house waiting for the rest of the family to come home, fill it’s space, turn this brick and lumber structure from house to home, surrounded me.
Tired, dirty and cold from a day at work, the habitual piece of my brain craved a beer, then another, then another. My stomach growled. My hands just began to regain that wonderful trait called feeling. All in all a typical post work winter day, an end, but also in retrospect a beginning

Change

Voluntary change is funny. We resist it, yet crave it. We composite cliché and mysticism around it. The dumbest book I was ever wheedled into reading, Who Moved My Cheese ,centered around it and sold/was read by millions. No offense to Dr. Spencer Johnson, but if you have not learned the moral of his metaphorical tale by the end if first grade, your teachers failed you.
The humorous aspect of change for me is that no matter how we try, how we cajole what we demand of ourselves and our world, true change happens not when we will it, rather when we accept it, never before. The odd bit is we can’t force change, only set the circumstances for it to surface, dark and miasma-like from the depths of our subconscious and acceptance. The description light fluffy and halo like descendent from the heavens also works, which gives us further insight into the dichotomy and our disparate views of change.
Odder yet, the constant trying, the desire, the failed attempts are the process, stages we must progress through. Only through these do we come to the state of mind and body to accept change, internalize it, act or perhaps reject it thus, starting the process anew.
For me, the realization that change is not one static event, not a simple flip of a switch, but an ongoing process opened my eyes and mind. The opening of the curtain must happen before the show can begin, but it is just a part of the whole.

Introspection
39 years old, I sat there. The past 3 months a wreck of failed attempts to begin a physical fitness plan, a regimen as I like to think of it. Attempts to force discipline on my diet, my activities, my schedule ended in a myriad of excuses and yes, guilt.
Now don’t misunderstand or read too much into my story. I cannot tell you an epic tale of going from hundreds of pounds over weight and near death to perfect health. You need to travel to other places for that. You see, I was not that bad off. Over weight by about 15-20 pounds, my body mass index a bit high, but all in all a reasonably healthy, active tree climber, retaining mobility better than average.
What spurned the desire for better health boiled down to the future. Where would I be in 10 years? How would I feel, What would I be doing? All these question afflicted me a bit, like a mid-life crisis case of mental Poison Ivy. The term midlife crisis perturbed me . To even think the term “mid-life” admitted to being half way to the end. At 39! Intellectually I knew it to be closer to the truth than further away. It seemed a surrender to say half way. Surrender is a term more perturbing to me than mid-life.
So I tried and failed, then tried again, and again, and again. . . My attempts to establish a protocol for physical training became like my drinking, habitual and never really getting me anywhere. This particular afternoon I simply stood up, sawdusty work clothes and all, walked into the kitchen, down the stairs to the basement, to a clear space on the hard concrete floor and began the only exercises I really knew, the push up, the sit up and the squat.

Process: Work for work’s sake
What was different? I did not prepare, I did not tell myself that this was IT. I did not engage in analysis to paralysis. I did not spend 10 minutes flipping through iTunes playlists, looking for the perfect music. I did not even fill a water bottle. I went down stairs, and started to move.
Unintentionally I did most of the key things I would discover are the best for mental and physical health, fitness and change. No, unintentionally is the wrong word. I did them subconsciously. That is the process of change. All the prior weeks, the backfired attempts, the analysis, the reading of articles, blogs, anything. Looking up exercises and plans and Guru’s with all the answers. The constant search for the Silver Bullet, the one thing, the apocalyptic moment of change led me to the point of complete confusion, yet total absorption. In this state my mind boiled it down, returned to what it knew and added only new information as necessary.
What new information was added? Just go. Just do. Start or not the choice was mine and simple. Anything was better than nothing.
So I started. I sucked. My form terrible, endurance bad, my strength esoteric and mostly illusory. I told my self to suck it up, to change slowly, to accept the poor and work to the good. The sounds of labored breath became my mantra and I fell into the rhythm. In time, my training sessions became a tonic, a form of meditation, sacred space and time for me personally.
To this day I prefer to train alone. I like to fall into the simultaneous mindlessness/mindfulness of shear physical activity. It clears my head, it clears my body. I have learned that mind and body are not/cannot be separated. What affects the one, must affect the other. Operate separately, yes. Independently, never

What Cannot Be Separated
Eventually about a year into this process, at the ripe age of 40+, introspection let me refine the cause for my desire for change. While my physical health remained decent, it would continue to degrade on the path I traveled pre 40 years of age. I think most of us accept this, the aging process. Unavoidably, the body ages, we degrade a bit day by day. The curse/blessing of mortality we all bare.
This is not to say we must suffer, that we cannot live full, active lives as we age. Quite the contrary, like the ancient Romans, I have come to believe that 40 years of age is a significant turning point in physical health as well as mental acuity. In our 40’s we can recognize more deeply our experiences for what they are and perhaps more importantly what they are not. We posses a lens of life experience to view them through. We can appreciate the value of health, physical and mental, because we have seen a lot of good, a lot of bad and get an honest glimpse of what may come. A snatch of future we can honestly feel in our bones.
Our friendships at this time of our lives are the best friendships we will ever have. They have either stood the test of time or we establish new ones under strict filters developed over our decades. This leads to strong support networks. Beliefs embedded, but not engrained.
No, I felt good physically. I knew I could do better sure, but what drove me was the mental side. A truly strong body means a strong mind. However, all the research I conducted, all the mainstream media put forth was fluffy stuff to be bigger, stronger, faster, but not better by my definition. I needed to sort through and discover my goals and the path to take. I did this by trying and failing, again and again and again. . .
Te lessons I learned can be applied to all aspects of our lives. They apply to mental and physical pursuits. By no means do I have al the answers, but I see the path I need to see. I share this with you.

Destination Strength
So now, 5 years, 8 months, three days, 13 hours later (well 14.3 hours ago, I write slow) where am I? The following is my Manifesto of Strength. I am not a doctor, medical or psychological. I offer no advice on the what or how. I give you only the map of my journey, of how I choose to progress and the ideas discovered along the way. The only credit I can take is the amassing of these ideas at this time and this place. The ideas themselves are others’ to many to name and mostly forgotten. The organization of them mine and mine alone. As always take what you can use, leave the rest.

Strength
It is the capacity to act mentally and physically as you desire. It is the resiliency to recover from set back and tribulation. The tendency to advance continually, to gain slowly, but with purpose, that which you do not already possess. The act of meaningful growth.

Limits
Put constraints on your actions. You cannot do it all nor should you try. One thing done well and consistently is better than 10 things done half-assed. Avoid confusion, inspire creativity and execute concisely by choosing small to accomplish large

Selectivity
Not all things work for you. Try many things. Read and attempt wide, then when something peaks your interest read and try deep. Delve into it and run it to it’s end of your curiosity, then move on. Through this process, take what you can use, leave the rest.

Everything Works
Well for the fist 6 weeks or so. Then you’re going to have to change; again. The human body and mind is excellent at assimilation and adaptation. Use this to your advantage. Work in 6 week cycles, whether macro or micro you decide. Remember I said 6 weeks OR SO. Figure it out for yourself. Establish humble, measurable goals Go into anything with out a target and you will miss it every time! Can’t hit what is not there.

Document
Write it down, in any format. If you only ever read through it 50 years from now then it will be worth it, trust me. I hate journaling. I know this, won’t do it. However, putting results, goals in a reviewable format is a must and tolerable. Again figure it out for yourself, but develop a system, change it, make it work, keep it simple like me if you are not fond of the process

Functional
How you train physically, mentally and eating habit wise should reflect how you live (or want to live) your life. In the Army, our physical Training (PT) was always mission specific. I like to model that. Never once in all my years have I ever been pinned under a heavy weight that I needed to lift straight up up the center of my chest over and over again. Hence, the reason you will rarely see me bench pressing anything!

Prepare to fail
Never fail, never progress. I could go on. Accept failure for what it is, a chance to evaluate. Celebrate successes with abandon.

Make your circles smaller
Master the basics then instead of adding new and different practices or techniques, refine and master the basics. There is a wealth of effort in every simple exercise, mental puzzle or any task worth doing. The best programs nest the mastered basics together.

Consistency
There is no silver bullet save work and consistent effort. Anything worth achieving will take time, effort and include set backs. Do not fear the plateau, look to it as a challenge, a time to reflect, then a signal to push harder, in new directions.

Simple does not equal easy
Get only as complex as you need and not one bit more with your plans. Just because something is simple does not mean it is easy. Making a training, eating or any plan plan overly complex is a way of stalling! It also set you up for complications and more excuses down the line. Another old Army maxim: Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. If you think I am telling you to poo-poo planning, STOP, go back, reread.

Muscles do not know repetitions
Muscles know only time. Stop counting and work with a timer. Maintain perfect form. If you cannot, then stop. If you do not know how learn. Do anything correctly or don’t do it at all. Your brain also does not know when the project is over, only when it is done creating. Having trouble getting things done? Stop counting tasks and set time limits for valuable action.

Compare yourself to yourself
Forget the magazines, the blogs, all the input that tells you where or what you should be. Accomplish your goals in your time. The inner light is the strongest.

Old questions, old answers
When your questions are old, look to the old sources. New age self help texts either repeat what the masters said centuries or epochs ago or are worthless. When it comes to age old struggles, age old answers are the best.

Choose your teachers wisely
When picking role models, teachers, sources to glean info from choose from sources that are like you or how you would like to be. The caveat is be reasonable and filter your goals with humility and reality. The old adage that those who can do, do. Those who cannot teach sometimes holds true. The way to protect yourself and your valuable time and effort? Choose teachers who walk the walk, say what they mean and mean what they say. words are fine, actions often the proof.

There you have it. I could go on, but only to amuse myself!  I have a rather comprehensive personal list of books and resources on the subject discussed above.  Let me know if I can be of any help.

 

Back Story

As I wind my way through edits, versions, choices and words aplenty with the new novel.  It occurred to me one of the things I like best about fiction is the back story.  The details of character and scene, plot and tension, that should always, in my mind be shown, not told.

Fall Factor is my first real attempt at writing anything of length in first person.  As such, I found it tough to “show” not “tell” the characters’ back story.  A few characters are left blank, so to speak.  Their history is left to the reader to guess.

I do not see myself ever writing a serial character.  I love to read those series, but as a writer it seems a crutch.  It is also hard to do very well and few writers in my opinion accomplish it.

That is not to say that my characters will never reappear in later works.  I enjoy that intertwining of worlds, histories and “realities” I have constructed.

Some of my characters have been with me a very long time.  Chris Beckett, the main character in Fall Factor originaly appeared in a slightly different form in a short story I wrote in college.  It was published in Penn State’s literary magazine, the Palimpsest Review (1997)

Here it is in PDF form Uncertain Reconciliation.

I considered rewriting, but decided to give it to you as I wrote it 18 years ago.  Chris is not the same in this story as he is in the new novel.  Then neither am I.  However, this Chris was the basis for that Chris.

I look forward to sharing more backstory with you all as I lead up to the release of Fall Factor.

Enjoy.

5 Things To Know About Self-Publishing A Book No One Tells You!

My first novel Free Falling has been out for about a year and a half.  Getting it to print was journey in and of itself.  One I found at once daunting and exciting.  Getting the package in the mail, opening it, holding the paper bound book, my book, in my hands for the first time, thrilling, the culmination of many goals.

Tresselt - Mock 4

Now I am embarked upon yet another journey.  The journey to get the book out to actually have people read it!  Marketing in other words.  Here is a list of 5 things I have found out, discovered, or just simply had reemphasized in my mind in the last 18 months or so.

1.  Be prepared to invest even more time than it took to write your book into your marketing efforts!  As a general rule of thumb, if you are not willing to invest 6 to 7 hours a week into some activity that will expose your book’s existence to readers, then you will not meet with much success.

That time can be spent researching markets, making call lists or writing blog posts, but it must be spent. 60% or more should be active, as in, not just research.   Research is important, but action is necessary. Set measurable goals and embark with steady, constant effort.

 

Kayak Trip  #167

 

2.  Be creative and try many things when marketing.  I figured I could whittle my marketing efforts down to a few activities within a year, then focus on those.  Not so easy, I found.  You must be as creative as you are diligent and persistent.  Try lots of things and keep up as many as you can.

Contrary to my initial belief, I did not whittle down my marking effort due to results.  Those are extremely had to track.  I narrowed my options due to time and to activities I enjoy.  Blogging and video are my digital choices.  Speaking and training engagements are also on my list as my work lends itself to those activities.   I also have started a campaign I call seeding which leads nicely into number 3!

 

2012-07-13  #48

3.  Be prepared to give a lot of books away for free!  Initially I was loath to do this.  I felt it undermined my value as a writer and my investment.  However, I have found that getting books into the right hands at no cost to those hands is money well invested.  The trick is choosing who!

Nothing in life is truly free.  Sure I give books away without monetary charge, but I ask for reviews in return.  I ask for exposure and for the book to be passed on/ recommended to others who may enjoy it.  Recently I stared leaving books if I am staying at a guest house or B&B.  I do not know if this works, nor will I ever have a measure, but it sure is fun!

Kayak Trip  #680

4.   Know your audience, then get to know them better!  I write stories about tree workers and arborists.  I have spent the bulk of my professional career being one.  It never actually occurred to me that the great majority of tree people are men.  Odd, I never thought of that!  Ironically, it occurred to me as I sent my latest novel out for proof reading that almost all the people who review it for me are women.  I do not know if that is an issue or not, but it points out that I did not spend enough time really thinking about my market!

Pomeroy 152012-06-28

5.  Deal in the long term.  The downside of self publishing is if you do not market your book, no one will.  The upside is your book only goes away when you stop marketing.  No book store can take it off the shelf for the next hottest trend.  I have often equated book marketing to rolling a snowball down a hill.  You gather snow and get it rolling.  You don’t know how fast or far it may go, you just keep throwing snow under it!

I now put the analogy this way.  Yes, your book is a snow ball, but there is no hill!  You must push it constantly, sometimes up hill, level ground if you are lucky, but always pushing.  Sometimes somebody else throws some snow in the path.  Other times you must do it!  Sometimes you can steer the growing snow ball to a fresh patch.  It does not come easy or overnight!

 

My final advice for those of you thinking about publishing or already at that stage.  Keep going, set goals you can meet and keep pushing the snow ball.

In that vein, I want to thank the many how have written me a review or sent me an e-mail regarding the book.  I am so very grateful.  To those of you that have read the book, I ask your for help!  Please write a review, good bad or indifferent!  It goes a long way for me as a writer as well as exposure online for the book.

Thanks to all, too many name, who have helped me on this journey!  Let me know if I can do anything in return.

Tony

Inspiration

There are times, as a writer, trainer, human I feel  alack of inspiration of creativity.  I wonder what the next step artistically is for me, my life.  You see, I have come to rely on the expression writing, creating, teaching grants me.  Without it I seemed to hollow out a bit, lose focus, drift.

These times always seem to come as one project ends, but another yet to begin.  I wonder if I have another good book, story, sentence, hell, word left.  Have I used up all the mojo the universe bequeath me?  How can I add something of meaning to this world of ours.

Life and experience has taught me to weather these times with a smile, to know inside that the right thing, one word, one idea, one glimmer of the next project will appear.  Usually when I least expect it.  Experience also teaches me to go looking, oft times in subtle ways with out preconceived notions.

Here is my next source of inspiration, the fodder from which the next work, story, book will rise, grow and bloom.  I hope it helps you too!

 

Tony

Context, Content and T-Rex

As an instructor and writer I understand the vital role context plays in absorbing thoughts, ideas, information. Like a cracked coffee cup, no matter how rich and delicious the coffee inside, a leak causes the content to be diluted, lost, wasted. Make no mistake! The content must be good, but if the context is faulty then much is lost.

The same is true for the written word. To tell a story with out context looses something. The details of time, place, atmosphere, the physical details of character action, the nonchalant expressions and gestures tell the story more richly than words. With out them the tale loses verisimilitude, depth, passion.

A good friend of mine recently reminded me of this in his own Blog writings. Mark Bridge, author of the Treemagineers Blog.  In a recent post Why the Treemagineers Blog? Mark mused on the value or conversely the non-value of on line contributions.

His conclusions outlined for me in clear, concise ways how I see my own writings in all aspects from social media to novels.  I used to believe that writing success is defined by selling books/writings.  I now know I could never be that type of writer.  For me the context of my work is so much more important than the content.  The world the story exists in, the way characters conduct their lives, the dreams they concoct, the failures and successes experienced become analogous to us, the reader.

Of course I want many many people to read my work to share it to think on it.  But only because it adds value to their lives, to mine.

So why T-Rex?  He reminds us that the content is only as funny as the context.  That even simple things can add value and depth.

For me?  T-Rex reminds me to look beyond the obvious, to enjoy the small details of life and mostly to laugh, at the world we live in, at myself.

IMG_3195
 Tony

Page a Day Writing Plan

The good news is I am rapidly finishing of the first draft of my second novel,  Factor Two.  There is still much to be done, but for me the hardest part has always been putting the words to paper the first time around.  Once they are there, I enjoy working with them, fine tuning, forging a story worthy of the reader’s time.

Much has been said by many  better at writing the writing process than me about process and getting the job done.  As a reference my favorite writing on writing is   Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield.

http://www.amazon.com/Do-Work-Steven-Pressfield-ebook/dp/B00NK0MJBK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427463866&sr=1-1&keywords=do+the+work+by+steven+pressfield

A no nonsense approach of a accomplished professional.

Even though I know the idea of a first draft is to get ideas down and that is the most important task, I struggle to do it.  I fear not getting it right.  I know intellectuality this is silly.  For me at least, the “Writing” part really happens as I edit.

However, knowing that creativity is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, I have developed a simple method that works for me.  I call it the page a day plan.  The goal is simple.  Write a page of new text a day.

Being pretty much a visual learner I respond to things I can see, fill out, or otherwise work with.  To that end, I created a simple spread sheet.  The goal of a page a day is greyed in and I color in the columns of my actual accomplishments as I go along.  Dates along the bottom, page numbers up the side.

One month plan

Here is my current one taped next to my desk.

 

Here is the spread sheet in Excel.  I work natively in Mac, so the PC version is simple and barely adequate, but it is a start should you wish to try.  If you would like a copy of the Apple Numbers spread sheet, drop me a comment, I would be glad to send it along.

31 day Writing Plan

Hope the writers out there find a bit of value if not in my plan, but in knowing your struggles are not unique.

 

Tony

 

 

 

 

 

 

Critique

As a writer, feedback on my work is vital whether it be a professional article for a trade magazine, or a short story simply scribbled for pleasure.

As a trainer, critique is equally important.  Not only the critique of my own skills of mentoring, teaching and instructing, but my ability to provide valuable, pertinent feedback, comments and suggestions to those I instruct.

Critique is a two sided coin.  Receiving and giving.  Like a coin, the sides are conjoined and related, indivisible and intrinsic.  As such, to know how to receive critique also allows insight in how to give it and vice versa.

Most people do not want to tell somebody they are doing something wrong.  It is difficult to read something someone else has written and tell them it stinks!  It is hard to watch an arboricultural student revert back to old habits and then tell them there are better, safer, more efficient ways.

The more valuable the feed back the harder it seems to give.  The harder it seems to take.  However, not all feedback is created equal.  Many people, many critics, in all facets of life, from literary, to photography, to training, have an voice on what you do, create or teach.  Ferreting out the good from the worthless is the challenge.

PTRR Van  #302

 

Here is a link to an interesting article on a blog I enjoy reading.   In it David duChemin offers sound advice for choosing critique/critics of your work.  Although David speaks specifically about critique in the photography world, the medium does not change the advice or technique.

 David duChemin Blog

The lesson to be learned from how to select and choose your critics applies to giving critique. Are you respected in the field, topic, genre you are critiquing? What specifically did you like or dislike? Can you give concrete examples? Critique, to be accurate and valuable, must be grounded. Sure the overall comment might be “that story seemed unrealistic.”

The value comes from telling the writer the character’s actions were predictable, the words he or she used seemed trite and canned.  Telling the author there was not enough detail to fill in the blanks of the story.  These are comments an artist can take to heart and either work on or dismiss. Look at critique as a means to point out specifics, not give over all opinion. Judgements are grounded. Opinion is just unsubstantiated thought.

Seek people in your life that offer judgements, not opinion.  Don’t choose them because you agree with what they say, or have a good opinion about them or their work.  Choose to listen to them because you can offer their contributions sound judgements as well.

 

Sask Power  #4

 

With all the talk of critique let me that all of you who have read Free Falling and written reviews.  Your feed back is appreciated and valuable.  For those that have commented to me personally, thank you as well.  Authoring a book is a bit like watching a child grow.  When the book finally gets out in the world you hope the best for it, but are never certain if you did your job well or not unless others tell you so!

For those of you that have not read it, or perhaps you want another copy!  I have some here I would love to send you!  I wish I could offer a super deal or some fantastic promotion.  Alas, I cannot.  Self Publishing is no road to riches.  It is however a wonderful way to share my view, my voice!

What I can do if offer you a autographed, personally inscribed copy sent to you for $12.00.  A bit more than you could get it from Amazon, but the only way to get one with my personal thanks written in ink!

Hell of a deal I know, but marketing is not my strong suit , but I am trying!  That price includes shipping and makes the whole deal break even.  See, no road to riches!   Not to mention, as I have heard so many times in the last few weeks, Just In Time For The Holidays!

If you are interested, comment below or feel free to e-mail me at keystonetrainingsolutions1@verizon.net.  We can work out the details from there.

Thank you so much for your time,

Tony

 

Creativity, Writing, Trees and Stories

Creativity, Writing, Trees and Stories

There are times in life when reflection and looking back becomes almost mandatory, at least for me. The timing does not always coincide with events, season, change or responsibilities. Often these seem to imply the need for introspection, but I think it is more illusion than fact. Times of personal trial are times that character shows. Character is built during the in-between times as we go through life.

Creativity

The best correlating factor I have found is my desire to write, to tell stories, to engage in the catharsis that putting words to paper always gives me. That desire, in turn, forces thinking, thinking to sorting, categorizing, recognizing, perceiving in the conscious mind what the subconscious has digested and wishes to regurgitate.

It is a strange cycle of creativity I both love and loath. Often the idea for a story comes from a simple question I am asked or ask myself. However, the question is not the “what if?” kind. That would be too obvious. Those questions lead to science fiction stories. No, the questions that spur my thinking, my urge to tell stories are more the “how did this happen?” the “Why?” Recently, I have had cause to think on what I wish to accomplish with the time left to me and what I have accomplished so far. No, these introspections are not as big as words on paper seem to make them. More so, they come slowly, one sentence at a time, fragments of thought drifting in, stolen from a book I am reading, a song I hear, a quip from a friend.

I look at my professional decisions and why I choose tree work. For the work? Yes. For the people? Yes. A known and safe path for me? Yes. My family and friends approved? Yes. However, I maintain a suspicion that something deeper lies at the core of the decision. You see, like all of us, I had many paths to choose. My service in the Army opened opportunities, my education others. The list is extensive, yet I choose trees.

Writing

I also choose to write; to pursue the often lonely, always, grueling path of chronicler of words, thoughts and ideas to the page. I realized at university that how I write is how I think. I believe that to be true for everybody. I also discovered that to improve one was to improve the other.  In order to clear my mind, to organize the trials and tribulations of a young man, a student, a combat veteran, I set off down the path of writing.  I stopped for a while. Immersion in life, work, relationships,marriage seemed to not coincide with the writing path.  The tree work path proved a better road to travel.  I thought then the two were separate, parallel, never to cross.  To tread one meant foregoing the other.

Money played into my decision. Writing, for all its rewards, does not pay well.  Certainly exceptions exist. I am not one.  The physical act of writing, for me, requires energy.  Lots of it. I  hunt and peck away for a few hours.  Get three or four “good” pages and I am exhausted, mentally.   I need loud music, time alone or with others who do not require interaction beyond spending time and a cold drink. I now understand Hemingway better!  If it is true what William Faulkner said, that “to pour out liquor is like burning books,” then no books get burnt around my house!!

Part of this is my introverted personality.  For me writing is communication, with myself, with my intended audience, with the world.   Sitting alone, cup of cooling tea, keyboard and screen in front of me, I envision myself on a stage making a speech to millions. I love both sides of the page that is writing.   I found a desire to write well requires reading, a lot of reading!  I love the act of sitting down and losing myself in a good, book, story or article.  More so, I love the act of creating that experience for another.

My passion for writing, I discovered, lies in creating a world from the elements of thought and experience, of relating that world, the stories within my created world to another in the best theater imaginable, the reader’s mind. No other audience members present to distract. The set is decorated as the reader sees it with my guidance, the voices speak in timber, inflection and accents familiar. We read in our own voices or those we know the best. To share that experience as a writer, a teller of stories, drives me.

Trees

Still the nagging question, “Why trees?” Two years ago, I decided to publish my first novel. Just over a year ago it hit the press. I wrote a story about tree people at a tree climbing competition. I felt I discovered the perfect mix. Stealing inspiration from Dick Francis, I decided to write stories all based around arboriculture, climbing, trees. Write what you know? Well I went with that, in spades.

Finally I told myself I could blend the two, writing and tree work. One could help support the other. I could tell stories. I uncovered a limitless cast of characters, trials, tribulations, passions and emotion, all in one small segment of the community. I had found my own version of Faulkner’s “little postage stamp of native soil!”!

I embraced this new theory. I even thought it the total summation, the answer to why I write, why I choose tree work. In my efforts to promote my novel I started working on a video.
Video is another powerful medium I love to dabble in. Video is a great way to communicate via the internet and a direct line to many generations. I approached my promotional video with the tree guy being writer. It failed. I could not produce anything that touched me on an emotional level. Sure I put together some decent clips, some “profound” dialog, but it lacked.

I stopped on the project. I started again. I stopped again. Stalled and knowing that stagnation is the enemy of creativity, I directed my efforts to finishing the second novel. Yes, there is always a second, then a third, then a fourth. This is truly a long, winding, up hill path!! In the course of developing that story, those characters, I stumbled upon this. It is a few paragraphs where the main character, Chris, relates a philosophy his father had about production tree workers.

Tree people are a strange bunch, my dad used to say. They all possess a caring, artistic side he theorized. At least the ones that stuck with it, earned more than a paycheck from the job. Why else care for trees? However, most hid this side behind an exterior of strength, often sloppy guile and a perceived toughness. One drunken evening on the front porch, he explained. This outer shell, as he called it, stemmed from the nature of the work; physical, demanding, out-of-doors. However, he said, a dichotomy developed. Tree work called to those who long to be artists. With tree work, arboriculture, they reckon this desire for beauty, balance and peacefulness with a self-perceived notion of toughness.. My dad could be quite the philosopher.

I realized something about myself. Allow me to explain. Never confuse the author of any book with the main characters, even biographies, auto or not. However, for me there is a great deal of me in there. I can’t help it. It’s not so much, write what you know, but write about that which I want to discover.

Stories

Stories are what drive me. I see life as a series of them. Some are but a mere word, others volumes long. The plot may be similar, the characters may look alike. I even buy into Christopher Booker’s contention that there are only seven original plot lines in theater, literature and cinema. However, the variations are endless, the combinations intriguing, the interpretations as numerous as the people experiencing them.
For me, I now believe, it is the stories I see around me, my need and desire to tell them, from my point of view. Tree work is just an extension of that artistic want; the ability to tell stories, to change them, to create them from what others have done, what nature has given.
Trees are stories too; rooted into the earth, formed of sun, air, water and dirt and most importantly time. They stretch to the sky; all similar, all different. Some parts of trees are obvious, some hidden. The cover often hides what is on the inside. They live. They grow. They die to return as fodder for the next generation.
Trees represent a symmetrical imbalance that I strive for as I write, a dichotomy in slow motion, a twisting of words, ideas and tangible material into that word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, body of work, designed to move you, to tell of what I know, what I want to know and how I see the journey we call living a life.
Tree work has allowed me to express this not only in words, but in a career, a skill set, a collection of equipment and knowledge. You see, I thought I had to stop tree work to write, when in fact, tree work was just another type of writing for me.

Going Down To the Crossroads

It is strange, this path. What I think now will change. Will I always be a tree guy? No, I think not. Already I have started to move on to satisfy my craving for art and creativity in teaching others, in exploring new challenges. Trees are how I started telling stories, teaching is how I continue. What will the future hold? I do not know, but there are many ways to tell stories.

I have come to realize that, on many levels, we all strike bargains in life. We wheel and deal in the currency of fate and decision. I choose to write, to tell stories at an emotional cost. I sacrifice energy and time to put words to paper, to share my stories. Time and energy I will never reclaim. I receive my benefits, I reap my rewards, but I still see it all as a deal with the devil. What I must remember is that the devil is an angel too.

 

PTRR Van  rigging Composite #2

 

“Anyone can achieve their fullest potential, who we are might be predetermined, but the path we follow is always of our own choosing. We should never allow our fears or the expectations of others to set the frontiers of our destiny. Your destiny can’t be changed but, it can be challenged. Every man is born as many men and dies as a single one.” ― Martin Heidegger
 

For those of you in the United States, have a great Thanksgiving holiday.  For the rest, enjoy your stories and give thanks for the ability to live them.

 

Tony