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After the Fall 2016

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June Surprise: My Blessings On Your Sweet Whatever

Last week I promised y'all a surprise, in addition to the just-published 5th chapter of my Action Manifester. And, true to my word, here it is--in the form of the best tool you're likely to find to help forge your own personal changes.

I guaranty you: the tool works, whether you're writing a novel...beefing up your online promo...looking for a better job...or trying to lose weight. I could write a book on the subject, having used it in different forms to quit drinking, quit smoking, lose thirty pounds...and, now, achieve mastery of Action Manifesting. Instead of a book, though, I'm keeping this short...the precise length it needs to be for you to keep it in mind.

Here we go:

Find your own hard-copy 'prompt'.
And then wear it down to the nub.

Every word in that sentence counts. First off, you need your own visual prompt to help you keep your engine  revved and to stay on point. It must be yours and it must, I'm convinced, be solid and not digital. Some live on their laptops and smart phones. That's cool. But neither of those can afford the same oomph to be gotten from a hard-copy prompt...or what I call your 'whatever'. Here's why:

Though I prefer a pocket-sized Moleskine and you may prefer some index cards containing your days' notes or mantras, we'd both share one major advantage over a digital prompter: As we flip through our pages or cards, they begin to acquire a cheesecloth-like consistency. And this reinforces the sense of their familiarity and usefulness. The more worn they become, the more we have been through them--checking on our progress, reviewing our old notes. In fact, we can witness our progress as we see the differences in color of the pages or the cards.

If you're using it right, your whatever should look battered, almost bloody. My Moleskine's used pages look ready to disintegrate. And the cover is creased from my having sat on it so many times. I don't really give a damn: it's not a cocktail party toy--it's an instrument of war.

Coach Joe Gibbs' book 'Game Plan for Life' may put some off because of its Christian slant. But something early in the book is worth a look from everyone: a copy of an actual play plan. Here you'll see a game--like life--broken down into a battle for the inches.

So, please: set your smart phones aside...find a hard-copy prompt...and wear it down to the nub. Believe me when I tell you:

If you do this daily--you can't lose.

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Five

Many fabulous things have occurred since this adventure began. These include: appearance of real results from the fanatical workouts...near-completion of the 25th anny edition of THE SUITING for August release...steady preparation for my upcoming move to a much better apartment (Sept. 1)...making some wonderful new friends through Tweeter...and the weekly discovery of new tacks for rejuvenating the 5-part rotations I do. It's a little like keeping a marriage alive by contriving occasional reboots.

Still, something astonishing happened this week. I was twice taken by surprise: first by my old boldness in even conceiving the notion...then by the beauty with which the game worked.

A wee bit of back story first, if I may: As some of you may know, I've 'played cards' with rapper/entrepreneur 50 Cent and his co-writer Robert Greene for well over a year. I'd extracted a 'deck' of 52 cards containing key quotes from his book, The 50th Law. Each day I still select five cards from the reshuffled deck. The new combinations I get every day always jolt my spirit.

BUT--thus endeth the back story--this week another player demanded in on the card game. Ladies and gents, nay I introduce you to the late but still great:

JULIUS CAESAR!!!

Now, I know what you're thinking: JC's been dead a good long while--and wasn't he a tyrant, murdered by his own best friends who feared he'd become king? So they say, anyway. And, for all I know, maybe he did go bad from the lust for still more power. Not only that, his being dead so very long presented some real problems in bringing him into the card game.

Or did it? Did it, really? The Caesar I admire, the younger Caesar on the rise, consists of certain qualities that will never die: boldness and decisiveness, unwavering self-confidence, political acumen, charm, physical and mental courage, sexual razzmatazz, visionary brilliance...I saw little gap in Caesar between the vision and the act, the wish and the fulfillment. So I decided to allow the spirit of Julius Caesar into the game I had played all along.

And I'm here to tell you JC plays a real mean game of cards. He's the bomb! Let me sign off with just two examples:
1) The day's question had become: 'How would JC tackle the list of Don't Wants I still waste time thinking about?' 
--JC, I wrote, did not waste time on Don't Wants or worries re defeat. And, though he'd never have gotten into some of my predicaments, if he had he'd have acted boldly and decisively. The lingering sense of Powerlessness that I very much don't want? JC would have laughed, delighted by the challenge of making new alliances, charming and campaigning past the foes who hoped to block him. JC would have laughed again at my 'I don't want to be in second-rate shape, thrilled by the chance to grow in discipline through training.
2) Yesterday's question had become: 'How would JC succeed in imagining his top intentions as already achieved?'
--Thanks to JC, I wrote, my attention shifts to practical, doable measures--strong interim steps I can take on the way to the dreams it's hard to imagine. I need Caesar-style steps. Billiards-style set-ups. Careful orchestrations. If JC were in my shoes, with confidence that had been shaken--in the bedroom and the boardroom--he'd rebuild his confidence through his sense of destiny and the actions he saw himself taking.

No, I'm not out to rule a world empire. And I don't confuse myself with a Roman genius. But I can tell you with great pride: the smartest move I've made in my life has been letting him into this card game.

This is my report.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Interim News till Next Week

No, the blog hasn't died.. Over the weekend, I worked a marathon double-shift, which discombobulated me.

I've got my energy back just in time to begin a new third-shift rotation.

BUT: next week, to make up for the silence here, I'll release a small blizzard of posts, including: 
a) The thrill-packed 5th chapter of Reb MacRath, Action Manifester!
b) Master Hwang In Shikh's Great Question:  the master writing lesson I learned from a great martial artist, back when I lived in Toronto. And he ought to know--he co-starred with Bruce Lee.
c) A surprise post that will drop all jaws.

See you next week!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tongues are wagging over this one!

My new Authors Electric posts about 'Literary Shoplifting' has caused a bit of a stir. Check it out and you'll see why!

http://tinyurl.com/lfsa2qq

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Four

The action heats up in our fourth installment as I call on Julius Caesar to help me cross the Rubicon that we all have to cross--whether we're writing a novel, continuing a quit or hanging in tough to a diet. 

In the third chapter, I addressed the central problem of personal change:

If you're human, then you know we all begin like gangbusters...then feel the wind go from our sails. We'll need to row a while, we know. And we're okay with that...we think. But every time, without fail--no matter the port of our choosing--the Sirens start to whisper: The journey's too long...You're not ready to quit smoking or work on your big novel yet...You're too busy...There's just too much stress in your life...Next year you'll be ready...

And I made a bold move in the next batch of five questions: Each day I tackled one more zone where I was still a pussy. I got a rush from doing this, and accomplished a couple of pretty cool things. But--I've got to be honest and tell you: I found myself facing a new kind of cat: a vision of a lifetime as nothing but withdrawal from the cozy little ruts that had at least offered the comfort of routine. Nothing but hard work and sweat? Nothing but advancing without ever really arriving? Where the devil was the fun?

Suddenly, I cried: "Oh-ho! Oh, Reb, you wicked devil, yesssss!" For I'd just found my new line of attack on the 5-question list I was working: How could I have fun each day while working through serious issues? How could I have fun, fun, fun while taking bigger baby steps away from crap that had plagued me for years?

For your entertainment, and personal use, here was the new list of five, one per day:
1) How can I party with the remaining items on my list of Don't Wants?
2) How can I party with the list of Do Wants that still seem far away?
3) How can I can party with the top items on my list of things I need to 'clear'--or work out--if I'm to be free?
4) How can I party with the intentions that I most need to see as already achieved?
5) How can I party with the things I most need to let go of?

As you can see, I'd shifted the emphasis to play--not suffering or work. Even the keeping of my log became a daily high. I did not ask myself--not once--What do I have to do next? No, I asked: What do I get to do next? Where else can I party with the things that plague me?

A few specific examples? Of course.
From day one: 'I don't want to be out of shape or get into daily encounters with bums that I meet on the street.'
    Party time: Hit the gym three times a week, regardless of my work schedule--and hit the abs six times a week. See each workout as a party, a chance to grow in bulk and strength. Eat well, and eat a lot, treating the proteins and carbs like royal transfusions.

From day two: 'I do want to create a more elegant personal persona.'
    Party time: Celebrate by throwing out old clothes that don't meet my new standards. Shop carefully, as the budget allows, each item reinforcing the image I choose to create: Ruby Reb. Party with far more attention to hair, absolutely impeccable grooming. Never wear anything cheaper than Armani Code cologne.

From day five: I need to let go--let go NOW--of people and places that still bring me down.
    Years ago, because of a business disagreement, someone put my name in a black box. There, he said, it would remain--never looked at , never spoken. I felt a little spooked back then because of the voodoo implicit in the cruel remark. But, damned if he didn't do just what he said--ignoring any efforts at reconciliation. Well! The other day I chanced upon, wouldn't you know it, a little black box from a Swiss Army pocket watch...
    Party time:  I quartered two pages from my trusty Moleskine notebook. And on each piece I wrote the name of a person or a place I would bury for keeps. I'm proud to say I didn't put my ex-friend's name in my black box. After all, he'd given me the party hat I needed.

Tony Robbins referred to his better strategies as 'elegant technologies'. I plan to borrow that term from now on, with all due credit to Robbins. This breakthrough at the end of my fifth rotation has brought me onto higher ground. And from this new vantage point I can see things that I couldn't before. More elegant technologies.

Today I begin my sixth 5-day rotation with a still different tack: How will I feel when (I've completed the following list)?

Onward and upward now! See you next time.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Coming Wednesday!

The 4th chapter of REB MACRATH, ACTION MANIFESTER is running just a little late...but for a good reason. A breakthrough in strategy now brings the true adventure onto higher ground.

Tune back in on Wednesday--and you won't regret the wait.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Selling vs. Selling Out

Some of the world's best-selling writers have been hard-as-nails at business too. Virgil drove a tough bargain with the emperor Augustus and became one of the wealthiest men in all Rome. George Bernard Shaw and Lord Byron both kept gimlet eyes on sales and dickered with their publishers. James Clavell was once described as a 'filthy sea pirate' in all matters pertaining to contracts. I'm sure we could come up with a very long list of like-minded sharpies. But then we'd need another list of writers, even great ones, who were financial clowns with no sense of the market and no interest in sales.

At the end of the day we'd know on which list our own names belong. And I wouldn't mind seeing two long lists at all. But I have something else in mind: a general confusion about writing and money or writing and success. Take a quick look around and you'll see no confusion about this in the fields of music, sports or acting, where earning hundreds of millions of bucks is the common goal. 

But pity the poor writer. Sit some of us down at a laptop, or a yellow legal pad, or a Moleskine notebook, and our noble brains are filled with images of geniuses--too good to live in this cruel world--dying dead broke in their garrets. Many have, true. But then many of those simply failed to see the difference between selling and Selling Out.

To some extent, all writing is and must be salesmanship--and not just in the marketing, in the creative act itself. What are we doing but selling when we devise an outline to ensure that our structure and pacing are sound--and sure to draw in the most readers? What are we doing but selling when we revise over and over again to make sure each word does its job--and has the most impact on readers? We'd do well to admit it and sell just as hard in the writing as in the marketing. For the better we well, the better our chances to earn the bucks we need to buy the time to write more books.

Well! Now that we've got that cleared up, let's move on to Selling Out. For once the Sixties got something dead-right. Though the Hippies were also confused about selling, they knew that Selling Out was wrong. To Sell Out means to compromise something of great value for money or security. A brilliant film may be sold out to a committee that insists upon a different ending. A masterful book may be sold out at an agent's insistence, gutting it of parts deemed to potent for buttoned-down brains. But generally we use the term in a more general way, referring a dazzlingly original talent that's been deliberately watered down for commerce.

Two examples. One a Sell-Out, one not quite.
1) James Patterson is less a writer these days than the superintendent of a literary factory. He lends his name to projects that he conceives but which are written by 'co-writers' then, he says, polished by him. Some are quick to say that Patterson's Sold Out. Not quite. His literary aspirations were never really high and he'd already gotten rich as the 'god of all things creative' at  J Walter Thompson. Patterson was a master marketer with a passion for money, business and great hooks. He simplified his style for speed: short chapters, snappy sentences, two-line paragraphs, etc. And from there it was a simply a logical step to mass produce the novels...then stop writing them, almost completely. Say what you like, JP never Sold Out. He kept putting new spins on his marketing plans. And he went on to rule his world exactly as he'd planned.
2) Robert B Parker, however, is a different story. The first half-dozen entries in his Spenser series were bold and fresh and young and new. In a world of jaded and tired P.I.'s, Spenser came on proudly as something new under the sun. But read the last books, if you can, then sit there and weep for a while. Paint by numbers all the way with Patterson-style paragraphs and uninspired prose. Parker had become, in his own mind, his hero. The saintly Susan had become his wife. The books were now speed-written Valentines to the happy couple...and their bank account. Parker joked about laughing on his way to the bank, near the end. But the joke was all of his fans. He'd Sold Out.