Whatever You Can Do, Begin It

On November 1st,  I was challenged to get involved in NaNoWriMo. I had never heard of such a thing. After a quick Google search I realized I was too late to be involved in NaNoWriMo this year, and that was that.

Except it wasn’t.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term – and I certainly was not 17 days ago – I’ll explain. NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month,” which is November. The premise of it is to encourage participants to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, as a way to get the creative juices flowing. It is designed ostensibly to aid the procrastination-inclined writer such as I. The movement began in 1999 and today has over 200,000 participants worldwide.

I am now one.

Thanks to the encouragement of my peers, I decided to give it a whirl, 3 days after I was introduced to the idea. In other words, I started several days behind, without a concept or outline to my name.

So, to expedite the process, I reached back into the archives of my mind and began to write a novel I had outlined back in 1993. This novel, never writ, became the basis of a superhero RPG campaign I started instead. That campaign is still active today, and nearing its 600th serial episode. Mrs C loves it.

When I started writing this novel, I quickly learned what I had done wrong the previous 437 times I tried to write a novel. Namely, I was trying to correct it as I go. Inconsistencies, bad grammar, half-witted thoughts, they would all be written out at the end of each session, or the beginning of the next. Consequently, I never made it past the 3000-word level of any previous attempt.

Shame on me.

So, the first thing I learned was not to fix my novel as I go. Write the novel. Fix it later.

In NaNoWriMo, you have no choice. You have a deadline. You have to complete the first draft in 30 days, or, in my case, in 27.

Luckily, the first 50 pages (approximately 15,000 words) pretty much wrote themselves. It helped that I knew these characters, and knew what I will call the “unleashing” part of the novel, almost by heart.   Details changed, of course, but the premise stayed the same. The characters were a joy to rediscover.

After that, for a bit, I struggled. I struggled to transition from the introductory section of the novel to the discovery section of the novel; when the main characters began to learn what they had become. Filling in the blanks of a novel is not like filling in the blanks of a game. You have to write your way through it. I did.

I am currently 27,000 words into the novel, and well into the discovery phase. At this point, the story has begun to write itself again and it is not frustration in the morning that stops my writing, but the clock. I have to go to work. I have to pay my bills.

Even though the story is coming along smoothly again, the hardest part is keeping track of the characters. There are 9 main protagonists in the novel; for this novel to work the way I need it to, there must be. So remembering where I left each one, as I jump back and forth between scenes, is a challenge. But a fun one.

A week ago, last night, I met up with some friends for drinks after work and, in a spontaneous moment, I went around the table asking each of them, in turn, what the best part of their week had been. Last night, I met up with them again and one of them asked me, immediately, what the best part of my week was. The answer, both Friday nights, was the same. The best part of my week was working on the novel.

Where does it go from here? I don’t know. In the last 14 days I have written 27,000 words, averaging just over 1900 words per day. To finish on time, this month, I have to average just over 1900 words per day the rest of the way. I am confident I will meet that goal. I am less confident that the entire story can be told in only 50,000 words. I’ll know more about that in 12 days.

Is it any good? I don’t know that yet, either. I don’t get to read it until it’s done.

But I know I won’t stop writing in 12 days, either way. The marathon may stop, and the rewriting will begin, but the process itself will never cease now. NaNoWriMo has taught me to be a writer, like I’ve never experienced writing before.

My eyes watered up when I wrote that last line.

Thank you, my friends, for your encouragement, your prodding, these last 14 days. These last 21 months. I began a process of learning when I launched tombeingtom.com, almost two years ago, and it has led me to this precise moment in time. I owe you for that.

If I can return even a part of that favor it would be with this quote from Goethe: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

It is probably my favorite quote of all time, and has been for twenty years or more. I wish I would have listened to it sooner. Please listen to it now.

Whatever it is you dream, begin it.

You will not regret having tried.

Responses

My last entry, regarding my thoughts on the anniversary of the election of Donald Trump, brought on some interesting responses.

As expected, I had the regular detractors on social media. Mostly, they are people I know quite personally, or have known most of my life. The usual suspects. They are the ones who, for one reason or another, hated Barack Obama. Hate Hillary Clinton. Ostensibly, they also love Donald Trump, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be so. They may, but they may just love what he represents, to them. That could be anti-establishment. That could be a chaotic response to what they perceive as a liberal-biased media and political machine that has, for too long, worked too well against their own agenda. It could very well be that they simply revel in my own disdain for the man, and the disdain others who would align with me ideologically also feel. It could be they just like to troll me. I’m okay with that, too.

There are other responders, of many ideologies – both aligned and opposed to mine – who wish to avoid the public social media discourse altogether. I don’t blame them for that. They can get silly, these Facebook clashes. I hear from these others in private message, text, or in person. Some of my best conversations have come that way. I know those on the right and left of the argument that will turn the public discussion into personal attacks, whether for anger or lack of substantive retort, and it is unfortunate. I see no call for that. It has been said many times that no argument on Facebook has ever changed the mind of another. Not one meme. Not one ALL-CAPS-ENDING-IN-AN-EXCLAMATION-POINT! sentence has ever made someone say, “oh my, this person nailed it and my entire way of thinking is flawed.”

But I suspect those angry railings are not targeted to change people’s minds. They are either not targeted at all, simply a knee-jerk and often regrettable moment of passion, or they are targeted to remind those of like ilk that there is someone fighting for their cause. I generally don’t begrudge such things. I admire passion and understand anger. The only manner of these outbursts I begrudge are the personal attacks I mentioned. I wince when I see them. When they are directed at me I will respond, mostly like an adult scolding a child. “No need for that. Play nice or go sit in the corner.”

I will not tolerate it.

I even unfriended a person, recently, for the first time in my life. They would not heed my warning, and added nothing to the discourse beyond the occasional “you’re an idiot, Tommy.” Actually, most of the time they didn’t say it like that. Most of the time they misspelled one of those words. Sometimes all of them.

In recent months, my dissertations have added a new level of response, one I am distinctly proud of. Another online community. A community of writers. Really good ones, with working brains and thoughtful compositions all their own. These people I interact with at the bottom of my own blog, on WordPress, and in conversations in the comment section of their own entries. To say that they have illuminated me, in many ways, is to fall short in descriptive terms. I am ever so grateful for their input, their feedback, and their own expositions.

Later today, or over the next few days, I plan to introduce you to many of them. If you get to know them, as you’ve gotten to know me, you will not be disappointed. Tom’s promise.

I appreciate all of you. All of you who interact with me on social media. Each of you who contact me personally to talk about my blog. All of you who enlighten me with blogs of your own. As I have told many of you, I do this primarily for me. I love the process of writing, and the clarification of thought that comes from expressing my own inner self, my own thoughts and beliefs. But I don’t do it just for me; I do it for you, too. I do it to hear what you have to say about what I have to think. You are all welcome to join the conversation. You are all encouraged to do so.

But please leave the vitriol behind. Bring the passion. Disagree. Write in all caps. But keep it civil. We are both humans, you and I, with thoughts and histories and methods of processing information that differ. You are probably not an idiot. Maybe I am. But I’m smart enough to know how stupid I am. No need to remind me.

I am almost 50 years old, and I am still learning. Every day. So are you, whatever age you are. I will try to teach you what I know, and learn what you have to teach. I will do it with respect.

Tom’s promise.

Without Somnus

Writer’s block!

Not really. I’ve just been busy working on other things this week and haven’t had time to focus entirely on my efforts here. When I have written I’ve found that what I write scores very badly on every Yoast SEO algorithmic indicator known to man. Bad. Very bad.

But I don’t let that get me down. I understand the why. Partially, it’s the doldrums of the changing seasons, as I indicated last week, and partially it’s all the portions on my plate. My eyes have been bigger than my stomach.

I haven’t written a Rams article in weeks. And the storylines have been the most remarkable in 14 years. My editor has probably disowned me by now.

What I have worked on the last couple of days was a terribly written but thoughtful article on world peace and the hopeful unity of all mankind. It hasn’t panned out. None of it. The world peace part. The hopeful unity part. The writing about it part. None.

So I guess that piece just isn’t ready. Likewise, I’m not ready to write about the Rams and their sudden winning ways. I am ready for tomorrow night’s outrageous Halloween party, so maybe that’s where I am right now.

Shallow. In need of reverie. Discombobulated intellectually.

I had an old friend visit in the middle of the night, last night. You call him insomnia, derived from the root word “Somnus,” who was the Roman god of sleep. He was the son of Night and the Brother of Death. That last part is a fascinating distinction because what kept me from the arms of Morpheus was the very haunting and infinitely intriguing new Netflix program, “Mindhunter.” The missus and I watched the final episode of the first season last night and sat mesmerized, saying, in unison, “That is a great fucking show.” It is. But it is haunting. It makes you want to learn more about the topic of the show, but the topic of the show is the most disturbing thing in society. The further you delve, the less likely you sleep.

Thus, my unfortunate quarrel with Somnus this evening past.

And lack of sleep does nothing to ameliorate our discombobulation.

So, despite the voices of my better angels, I write in the throes of a discombobulated fervor, asking for your patience and hoping that a grain of sagacity somehow finds it’s way through the flowing sands of balderdash.

If not, please read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upon which today’s post was to be based. This, then, is what we should be focused on instead of populist protectionism.

After that, read my favorite article of the week, by local writer, military veteran, and former Trump-supporter R.V. Scheide, “On Bending the Knee.” The comment section, too, is a source of great erudition.

After that, feel free to come read this piece again. Maybe you’ll find that grain of sand I proposed. Or maybe not. Maybe the mindhunter stole it.

I don’t think I’ll be staying up tonight exploring that idea.

I can’t live another night without Somnus.

Where This Thing Has Been and Where This Stuff Is Going

I write TomBeingTom.com because I like writing, and I like Tom. It’s important, I think, to know ourselves, to like ourselves. I like me enough, and what goes on in my head enough, to share it with the world. Generally speaking, two or three dozen people read each new blog I post. Sometimes, that number doubles. Sometimes, it halves.

It isn’t “successful” or viral, but it is fun.

Continue reading “Where This Thing Has Been and Where This Stuff Is Going”

The End of a Thing

Technically, I ought to just skip today’s session and buy the fellas a round this weekend, in thanks for their support. Or maybe I could play the birthday card and wiggle out of that obligation or trade free birthday beers for free blogging beers. Technically, I could fudge on my bet. Technically, I could call 30 days good, since this is 31.

Continue reading “The End of a Thing”

My 100th Entry

Today has the distinction of being the last day of my 48th year on the planet, and my 100th entry.

I started tombeingtom.com in January 2016 as a spontaneous idea I had been working on for months. In my journal, in November 2015, I gave myself an ultimatum: write daily until January XX – 60 full days – and know for certain at the end of that period whether I am going to be a writer, or I am not.

Continue reading “My 100th Entry”

The Smithin’ of More Words by the Juggernaut of Jargon

I took a little time yesterday and read a few of my old entries. The last 25 to be exact. I really enjoyed it. I found some typos that I’d missed on my final edit the first time around, and I corrected ‘em. They were minor, and easily missed, and there were only 4 in 25 entries. That’s a pretty good average, I’d say.

I enjoy reading what I write. I don’t know if that’s one of those “wrong things to say” kind of things, but I’ll say it, anyway. If more people wrote the way I do I’d probably read more. That’s definitely one of those “wrong things to say” kind of things, but I said it. It’s okay to disagree with it; I encourage you to write the way you like to read, too.

Since I’ve started this foray into dedicated daily entries, for the entire month of June, I’ve had two other people tell me they’d love to start a blog. I’ve encouraged them. I’d like to help them get started. I hope they have great success, however they define it. I hope they scroll back to their old entries and enjoy what they see. I’d hope that they hope that others write like them so that they can enjoy what others write, too.

Have I belabored that point?

Honestly, it’s Sunday and I’m on limited sleep and I didn’t feel like getting up and putting in my 400 words before church, so I’m just filling in blank spaces on empty paper so I don’t have to buy the beer.

You knew that, didn’t you?

But let me be honest for a moment. Another moment, I mean. Because what I said above was entirely true, in every way. I love reading my old entries. There were some typos. I fixed them. I wholeheartedly encourage people to write and share. The two people who have said this week that they want to start a blog are clever and dear to me. I can’t wait to see their stuff.

But the other honest thing I was going to say is that I look at my writing like poetry a little bit. I may not have something to say all the time but I endeavor to say it in the most ornate way. It’s art to me.

Poetry.org defines poetry as “an art form in which human language is used for its aesthetic qualities in addition to, or instead of, its notional or semantic content.”

See, even if you didn’t understand all the words in that definition it’s a beautiful use of the language.

I like to take language, take simple moments in time, and write something aesthetically and semantically pleasing about it. I do it in sentences and paragraphs instead of stanzas. I make purty.

Or, at least, I try to.

Whether or not I succeed is the judgement of the observer, just like any art.

So, those are the things that went through my head as I read my own stuff. If you’d like to do Tom a favor, and you find yourself with some time, go back and read some of the ones you’ve skipped. Read them for their flavor more than their content. Let me know how I did. Even if you didn’t agree with the opinion, or care for that day’s topic, did I make you smile? Did I create something artful with my use of the language? Did I create something awful instead?

That’s what I look for when I go back. I can be biased, so your opinion means even more to me than mine does. I hope you find that you liked it enough to want to read more. Or I hope you hate it enough to tell me so. Either comment improves Tom, being Tom.

Okay, so I went and filled a blank page with more than 700 words without really meaning to. I apologize for that, and hope to do it again tomorrow. I hope you read it. If you don’t, I will punish you with another 700 the next day. It’s what I do.

I’m the energizer bunny of semantically poetic prose. The irresistible force of lethal literary illumination. The juggernaut of jargon.

I’ll stop there. You deserve better. 😉

Have a great Sunday, friends!

Shorter, Shorter Would Be Better

If brevity is the soul of wit, then I might be a blooming idiot.

I was talking with a pal yesterday, over a beer, and he made an offhand comment about how he rushed through yesterday’s blog and would need to go over it again. He said it was longer than the ones I had been writing in June, and he was right. Shorter would be better, he intimated, with all the demands of modern life that consume him.

Well, yeah. I agree. And I’m sure you do, too.

Sometimes, though, I have more to say than other times. Sometimes I’m talking about something really important like the fate of all mankind or Ludo getting sprayed by a skunk. That last link didn’t work because I haven’t written that one yet. It’s gonna be long. He deserves loquaciousness.

But, here, in June, while I am forcing upon you this daily diet of delectable dialogue, I should have more consideration for you, the reader. So, I renew my vow.

In June, I will keep my entries to 400 words or less, or I will split the entry into multiple days to save brainspace. This has the added benefit of giving me a topic each day. If it’s too long to shorten and too critical to split, it will wait until July. If it can’t wait, then I’ll break the rule.

It’s my blog I can do what I want. If you want to do what you want, start your own blog. Honestly, that would be cool. I’d be your biggest fan.

And speaking of writing your own blog, one final point:

If you ever want to test drive one of these things send me your entry. I’ll post it on my board as a guest blog. You get to express yourself and I get to post something to avoid paying on my bet, without lifting a finger. Folks these days call that a win-win.

And lest you think that’s cheating, I’ll clear that up. My original promise to Kime and Ryan at the bar was that I vowed to post something in my blog daily. I could post a cartoon that intrigues me if I wanted. An excerpt from a poem. A picture of my deck.

You read that right. 😉

So in closing, I want to let you know that I’ve heard what you said and I promise to …

(Sorry, that was 400 words; you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see the reiterated promise. What will it say? Til then, dear reader, til then! 😂)

The Unnamed Tom Being Tom Dot Com June Writing Project

Before I was ever a blogger I read other people’s blogs. Not with any sort of consistency or fervency, but just to see what was out there. The only three I read with any sort of semi-regularity, at that time, were from James Altucher, Steve Pavlina, and Wil Wheaton. Pavlina taught me that a 7 wasn’t good enough. Altucher showed me a wonderfully irreverent way to look at life, in general. Wil Wheaton got me to start a blog.

I admit I hardly ever read any of the three anymore, but I check in on Wil from time to time. It’s not their fault. I’m just a fickle feather floating in a stream of consciousness within the ether, mixing the heck out of metaphors. In other words, I’m notoriously short on attention span. I read a lot of Mark Manson and Ryan Holiday these days. They’re really good. I can’t imagine ever not reading their stuff. But I probably will (won’t?) soon. It’s impossible to know what I’ll find genius-y next. I’m a fickle feather floating … oh wait, I already told you that.

Moving on.

The reason I mention all of my former and current influences is because it’s almost June. Besides being my birthday month (go me!), it’s also the month I promised a couple of friends a couple of weeks ago over a couple of beers that I was going to write in my blog for 30 days straight. That idea occurred to me because I saw Wil Wheaton do it once back in December and said “I’m gonna do that someday.” I also said, “but not right now because that would be a cheap copycat thing to do so I’m gonna wait until no one remembers he did it and then I’m gonna do it organically and no one will know the difference.”

So, that’s what I’m going to do, starting tomorrow. I’m going to covertly rip off a former Federation officer. Does that make me a Ferengi?

Should that be Ferengian?

Whatever.

The other thing I’m going to do to make this work is keep each entry short. Like, under-400-words-each short. That’s not because I’m too lazy to write over 400 words every day (although that might be true, too). It’s because if I drone on and on every day for 1500 words I’m likely to lose a lot of you by the third day instead of the fifth. I’d probably also say “Donald Trump” too many times.

So, that’s the plan. Starting tomorrow I’ll post something daily for 30 straight days.*

I don’t know yet what each and every day will bring but I vow to you all that they will be concise, politely irreverent and, most importantly, Tomly in every way possible. I’d appreciate it if you joined me daily. It’ll be fun. We’ll chat. I’ll give away prizes. I’ll tell you more lies.

So there it is. Starting tomorrow Tom Being Tom will be brought to you daily while we count down the 30 days until my 49th birthday on the 29th.**

Can’t wait to see what I say!

*Technically, since tomorrow immediately follows today, and you’re seeing this today, I’ll have done it 31 days straight in June, if you count May.

**That’s new math.

***There was going to be a 3rd asterisk but I can’t remember what it was now. Squirrel!

Following Passion

I didn’t get a chance to fulfill my weekly blog commitment by Thursday, this week, but here’s why:

I’m officially a collaborator with Cali Sports News. 🙂

My first article, Rams Seek Answers Around Goff, has been well-received by readers, is the top trending article on the site at the moment, and has received glowing praise from the EIC Mario Hicks and my fellow football collaborator LaVoy Briscoe. I have been welcomed with open arms to the team – to the “family” – as Mr Briscoe calls us, and I’m excited to get to work. If you haven’t read the article, please click and give it a read. Your feedback is direly important to me. I’ve already outlined my 2nd article and am working on the text of it now.

I don’t know if you can tell yet; I’m pretty excited. 😉

I don’t expect this to hinder my operations here, at all. I’ve been wanting to write more. As I’ve explained in past blogs, I usually want to get started on my next piece the moment I finish my current one. I haven’t done that. I didn’t want to overload my readers with Tom Being Tom; at least not all at once. I have a half-dozen completed articles I’ve never published, to be frank. Now I get to write all the sports stuff I want over there and continue Being Tom over here. Life is amazing.

Life is amazing despite the weird week in politics with you-know-who doing you-know-what exactly the way I warned you he would. Fight tyranny, America. We don’t need a king.

That last paragraph is probably indicative of what I’ll be doing my serious writing about when I do serious writing here. Tom Being Tom will continue to be about my life, but also about my thoughts. Major articles about sports will go there, but opinions about everything will go here. Like so:

The New England Patriots will beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, further cementing the legend of Tom Brady as the #GoaT he has proven to be.

People ask me all the time how I can say that about a guy on a team I don’t normally favor (the Pats), and about a team that actually BEAT my team in the 2001 Super Bowl. Well, I can say that because I keep my bias in check. It’s the same reason I can dislike Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. When they both suck, they just do. And when someone is great, he just is.

If you disagree, let’s fight.

Figuratively.

With words.

Pleasant ones, please.

I’m a civil guy. 😉

Once again I want to thank you for joining me over the last year, and for reading my ramblings. I started this path a year ago, almost to the day, and you have made the entire journey something really special. I’m not done. I won’t be happy until my waking hours are filled with too much to write. It really is the best thing I do all week. Now I get to do it more, and I get to do it about something I really have a passion about.

Why didn’t I do it this much before?

Who cares. Life is never made to live backwards. Today is the most important day of our lives, until tomorrow comes. And it will come quick, much quicker than we expect. I know. I have deadlines.

Have a wonderful week, my friends. Join me here next time for short rants and join me over there for sports talk. Most of all, join me in living for our passions.

They are the reason we’re alive.