The Obstacle is the Way–Ryan Holiday

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius


I just reread Ryan Holiday’s nonfiction piece about Stoicism in today’s day and age. Basically, the idea is to turn everything into an advantage. Failed relationship? Rejection from a publisher? Ripped pants on your wedding night? Stoicism–as explained by Holiday (who is only thirty)–is the applied philosophical idea that through three steps, everything can be turned to an advantage.

Image result for ryan holiday

(Above: Ryan Holiday)

Here’s how:

  • Perception
  • Action
  • Will

Using examples like Earhart, Churchill, and others, he shows how terrible events are not “terrible” until we label them as such.

Example: My novel is not selling like hotcakes. I could bitch, whine, and blame this and that. Instead, Holiday explains I need to step back. Chill. View is objectively.

Why isn’t it selling? Do I have a target audience? Do I have a platform? Do I know enough about website-building, blogging, networking, SEO, etc.? 

No. I don’t. Therefore, this failure is just a chance to improve.


Holiday repeatedly uses the example of the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Perception must be controlled, because I can control that. And a failure–like low sales–that can provide me a chance for growth.

BUT . . .

Then it’s time for action.

Regular, consistent action with an end-goal in mind. Daily, regularly, always “sharpening the saw,” as Stephen Covey said.

Holiday gives this example: Steve Jobs gave a deadline to his engineers. They said, We can’t. We need another week. Jobs said, What’s the diff between one week and two weeks? Just get it done.

And the engineers did.

Holiday explains: The engineers could’ve bitched. Instead, they spent that energy proactively. Jobs did nothing, but the engineers took his glib order and turned it into a positive.

Action. Deliberate, directed, timed, measured, and optimistic (although, not delusional).

FInally, Holiday explained the final step.


Sticking to it. Holiday explains that perception is mental. Action is physical. Then will returns to mental–and “spirit” or “soul,” if you want to sound like Tony Robbins.

This is discipline, showing up each day. Small steps in the right direction.

Holiday mentions an idea worth remembering:

Marathon, not a sprint.

He finishes the book with the idea of mortality. Embrace mortality–the fact that it is all limited, so do it now. Move on now. Don’t bitch. Spend the energy on what can be controlled. What can’t be controlled? Take that and learn from it. Make it into a strength.




If you’ve never read the slim book, it’s worth the time. It’s an annual read for me.

Now I better learn more about building a platform and networking and all that non-writing stuff . . .


Continue reading “The Obstacle is the Way–Ryan Holiday”

The Obstacle is the Way–Ryan Holiday

Now the Airlines are EVIL! A PANDEMIC! FEAR!

We love a villain. Something to unite against. And the media will always feed us something, even if said villain is no villain.

First, Muslims. (Terror! I’ll ban Muslims.)

Recently, the police.

Now the airlines.

Up next, my prediction: TEACHERS.

In our society, one in which everyone is entitled to the best of everything all the time–my cell phone didn’t work for five minutes. I demand a refund–we’re all victims.

Had to wait in line at the DMV? And they were rude!?


An airline wasn’t 100% nice to you? They treated you like you were on a bus? And you paid $100 to fly through the air like a bird? How awful. They should be sued.


A teacher punished or spoke harshly to a student?


What a weak society. We ask and ask. But what do we contribute? All we do is consume. Want. Desire. Demand. Complain.

“But I’m a hard-working American.”

Eh . . . I’d say a small percentage of America actually works hard. We all claim it on our Twittergram accounts. But we usually do that at work.

I’m calling it: Teachers are next.

Breaking news: Teacher takes away cell phone, violating student rights.

The daytime TV windbags will recall all the horror stories from their childhood school days–all the details, misremembered and magnified to sate our sugar- and sodium- and conflict-loving society.

We love to hate things we’ve agreed to hate.

My teacher bullied me.

Three or four months, the media will need to move on. It’ll be teachers.

At least our horse-blinded media will give our police a break for a bit.


My novel is coming out soon in paperback: Check it out.

Drunk in the Warm Glow


Now the Airlines are EVIL! A PANDEMIC! FEAR!

UP NEXT: Lakefly Writers Conference

Isolation and a lack of direction.

That’s how I feel when I haven’t interacted with fellow creators.

That’s not a good feeling.


A good feeling: Attending a conference. Mulling around with people who do what you do. Some of them are hugely successful. Some of still near the same plane as me (albeit still ABOVE me–people I look up to).

That’s why I love conferences. But conferences tend to cost money. A lot of money. Limbs. Severed hands and feet. Then the conference isn’t so great. Paying a ton and leaving with knowledge is great . . . but most knowledge is available online.

Instead, the best takeaway from a conference is HUMAN INTERACTION! (Yes, I am yelling and typing.)

But that money thing . . .

Go to Oshkosh’s Lakefly Writers conference. It’s like $60. (Pretty sure there’s food on Saturday, too. Pretty sure . . .)

Lakefly Registration

They have lawyers, comedians, series writers, freelance writers, novelists, musicians, voice-over artists, detectives (yes, detective), children’s book writers . . . and so on.

You get the idea.

And it’s a good deal. Check it out, especially if you’ve never been to one. (I’m especially talking to any high school or college students who are dabbling in writers, but aren’t totally sure.)

The keynote speaker happens to be a man I’ve read before I know he’d be coming to Oshkosh: Nickolas Baker. His novel Shotgun Lovesongs is a must-read for Wisconsinites, especially if you appreciate character-driven tales. (Gotta love Beth; she was my favorite character.)

I went to a conference in Indiana. Then Chicago. Then some other places. All of them–$200+, not including lodging, etc.

If you’ve never gone, try Lakefly. They’re accepting of all ranges of creative people. They welcome me each year–especially my first year. I was (and still am) a nobody. That’s totally okay. Acceptance. Ah.

And last year, they graciously gave me the opportunity to present. They took away that feeling of isolance and lack of direction. So much advice, so much optimism–a great way to spend a weekend. (Certainly better than drinking alone and plotting a novel in a dark, dank basement. Not that I do that . . .)

Great group of people. Excellent conference.

Best deal around here.

I’m excited.

I’m also excited for next Monday. My first novel, Drunk in the Warm Glow, is being published by Creators Publishing. I wrote it over three years ago. After getting the contract finished and whatnot, it was another year or so.

Finally, it’s here.

And soon, so will be Lakefly (May 12-13).

Hope to see you there.







UP NEXT: Lakefly Writers Conference

Ode to an Object

Remember Ode to Joy? That song a piano teacher teaches right away?

Yeah, let’s talk about Odes.

A classic ode is structured in three major parts: the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode. Different forms such as the homostrophic ode and the irregular ode also exist. It is an elaborately structured poem praising or glorifying an event or individual, describing nature intellectually as well as emotionally.

Basically, it’s expressing appreciation/love/praise for an object or person.

Here my example:

Ode to Betsy (the Buick)

I fell in love with Betsy that first sizzlin’ day by the rail tracks. Betsy glistened emerald (or dark booger) as the train’s rumble shook the pavement, rattling pebbles as if they were on a trampoline.

I slid inside and took Betsy for a spin. The milky-eyed salesman sat in the middle of the back seat, leaning forward. When I say milky, I mean glaucoma left partial eyesight in only one eye; the other was sealed whitish-blue. Like an iridescent marble.

As Betsy groaned into drive, Milky Eye’s mothball breath blasted into my air bubble. He pointed at the features: “Heated asscheeks. CD and cassette deck. Enough room in the trunk for five or six bodies, heh-heh-heh.” He nudged my shoulder. No doubt, this guy has murdered people. I did my best to ignore that irrefutable notion. I cranked the radio; Alice in Chains’s “I Stay Away” played.

But I did not stay away from Betsy.

Half an hour later, sitting in the cigarette-cloud office, I was signing papers and nodding like I knew anything about what I was signing. Especially the no returns part.


Four thousand in cash. Bam.

Milky Eye smiled, holding his paperwork, a Salem hanging out the side of the his mouth. He flashed his gold tooth and tossed me the keys. Of course, with only one eye functioning, his depth perception was off. The key landed like three feet in front of me. Pathetic—that’s a good word for the toss.

“I got it,” I said, snatching the keys from the shag carpet. Has this been washed since . . . ever?

A month later, that car shop was closed. No idea why. No idea where Milky Eye and his gold tooth went. Maybe he was a low-budget traveling wizard?

It didn’t matter. Betsy the Buick was mine.

Ah, but I missed so much during that test drive. I missed all the signs, all that was flawed with Betsy. But it’s okay. Betsy just needed some love. She needed me. I needed her. (Mainly for getting places.) Anyone else would’ve dumped her at some junkyard. Not me.

I stuck with ol’ Betsy, my junky gal.

Bit-by-bit, Betsy fell apart.

Day one, I notice the gas gauge spun. Like a time machine. Solution: Just remember how much gas in the tank and how many miles per gallon I’m getting. And never forget or I will get stranded and a horror movie will unravel.

Betsy, so unknowable.

Day twenty, the driver-side wiper flings off during a rainstorm. Zipping down I-94, I’m leaning over my friend’s lap, trying to see out her side of the window. Then that wiper flings off. Turns out, Betsy’s wiper motor was roided-up; it was set four-times the normal speed.

Betsy, so strong.

Day forty through sixty-five:  Door-by-door, latches snap off or refuse to work until I only have one working entry point: the passenger side door. When I carpooled, I crawled in first, my . . . caboose in the air like a child crawling through a playground tunnel. Wiggle, wiggle. All right, you can get it now.

Betsy, playing hard-to-get-inside.

But it was okay. All was good. Betsy ran. She got me all across the country; never once did her CD player fail. In fact, I can only remember one time it skipped:

Day . . . five-hundred-something: I’m twenty. (AND IT’S PRESENT TENSE NOW!) It’s snowing. The radio’s warning Wisconsinites to stop driving. For example: “Stop driving,” said the radio.”

I keep driving. Snow peppers my windshield like the sky is a shakin’ salt shaker. I’m driving twenty MPH behind this white car. Long and ugly, like a giant bobsled. The Chevy is swerving left and right.

Without a signal, it whips into a left turn, cutting off oncoming traffic. The Chevy loses control. It drifts sideways down Main Street, blocking the entire road. I slam the breaks, but Betsy’s wheels don’t stop. They’re cue-ball bald.

The wheels don’t stop. Not Betsy.

Betsy, so unpredictable.

I crank the wheel to the right, avoiding the Chevy. The front of Betsy kisses a snowbank. A violent kiss.


The airbags don’t deploy, so the rearview mirror cushions my face. Blood’s dripping from my forehead like a faucet leak. Drip, drip, drip onto the leather–err, pleather–interior. The hood is scrunched like an accordion, and I almost laugh.

My brain dented and concussed.

Then I remember my license is suspended.


I get out, my vision blurry, my words slurred. “Whaddya do that fir?” No doubt, my brain’s sloshing around like a sponge in a water bucket.

Two girls get out of the car. Both are dressed in Hot Topic gear. A glittery girl wears an Invader Zim t-shirt. She says, “Don’t call the cops, please.”


The other girl–wispy and frail–says, “I’m fourteen. I . . . borrowed this from my boyfriend.”


I call a friend. His Ford F-15-Million pulls me out of the snow bank. I drive to Wal-Mart’s parking lot where I take a nap to end the headache.

~ ~ ~

Ah, Betsy. I could go on. But I won’t. I don’t need to elaborate on the fun times she and I have had all across America. We both remember them.

It’s about to end soon, though. Nine years now we’ve been together. But her wiper motor is dead. The doctor says it’ll cost $400 to fix. But she’s only worth $250 (according to that judgemental prude Kelley Blue Book). Only one door opens now–the white-handled driver door. My door. Just for me.

I could sell her to a junk yard. But no. Not my Betsy.

Instead, I’m gonna let her rot away in a front yard. I’ll let grass and weeds grow through her. I’ll let her collapsed roof collect rain–patter, patter, pattering. Squirrels and raccoons can hole up in the trunk; after all, it can fit five or six bodies in it, heh-heh-heh.

Oh, Betsy, now I just need to buy a yard in which you can rust away.

Actually, on a second thought . . . that three hundred bucks sounds pretty nice.

Now, write your own Ode to an Object. Post it in the comments.

Ode to an Object

Stuck? Use These 5 Indirect Characterization Techniques

We’re closing in on the end of National Novel Writing Month. Many writers are stuck in the saggy middle. Many don’t know how to end. Some still don’t know where to start.

I’ve heard complaints from friends:

I don’t know where to start.

I don’t know what to write next. 

I’ve hit a wall. I’m just going to take a break . . . and watch Netflix . . . forever.

My characters seem boring. My plot is saggier than Grandma Mildred’s . . .

I’ll put my money on one main cause of all these problems:


Meaning, the portrayal (and knowledge) of your characters.

Character drives story & plot. If I didn’t care about Walter White, I’d stop watching Breaking Bad. After all, the pace is a bit slow. But I care about Walter White and his family. I’m rooting for him, even while he’s degrading into a deplorable humanoid.

He’s killed. He’s lied. He’s done this and that–all of it, terrible.

But I kept watching.

Why? The showrunners made him a complex character with DESIRE and WANTS. However, what he wanted, he couldn’t have.

Bam. Conflict.

And because the writer knew their character so well, they knew what was going through his mind. However, they never TOLD us; they showed us.

And that’s the key difference.

They used Indirect Characterization.

Here’s the difference between indirect & direct characterization:

Direct characterization = you simply tell the reader facts:

  • “Walter loves his family, but he’s becoming a bad man.”
  • Image result

Indirection characterization = You balance five techniques in order to show your character. This is why people love TV and movies; both mediums show characters and their development.

Here are the five techniques:

  • Dialogue: What does your character say? How do they say it? Are they sarcastic, robotic, serious, careless? Show it through their dialogue.
  • Thoughts: What goes through your character’s mind?
  • Relationships: How does your character speak & interact with other characters? Don’t tell me he’s a jackass; show me through his interactions with friends/family/enemies.
  • Appearance: What does your character dress like? Does appearance mattter to your character? Does it influence his/her daily life? Think of Jack Reacher. He’s a 6’5 brick house. This influences everything he does.
  • Actions: What does this person do on a daily basis? Actions define who we are. Likewise, actions define your character.

If you get stuck after juggling these five aspects of characterization, odds are, you need to do one thing:

  • Get to know your character better.

For example:

  • What do they want?
  • What do they fear?
  • What has happened in their past that influences their present/future?
  • What do they value? Money? People? Relationships? Sex?

Once you get to know your character better, you’ll probably have more success with your writing. And once you use the five characterization techniques, you’ll probably have more of a concrete story that blends all of what we love in TV and movies: Conflict between characters in physical locations.








Stuck? Use These 5 Indirect Characterization Techniques

Writing Prompt: Post Your Best “I Am” Poetry Lines

Hey, everyone (or no one, depending on who sees this),

I haven’t written on here because I forgot how to type. That or I forgot about my website.

News: I’m about five thousand words from finishing my newest novel, Terminal Clarity. 


So, here’s the deal for today’s prompt. Write a bunch of poetic-ish lines that start with “I am.” These should be metaphorical, such as:

  • I am the sticky popsicle stick stubbornly stuck to the bottom of the bedside tin garbage can.
  • I am the left sneaker, laced to my partner, the right sneaker, doomed to an eternity dangling from Main Street’s phone line.
  • I am the skydiving white bird poo, thrilled for the impending splatter on the most expensive open convertible in the entire executive parking lot.

You get the idea. They are all metaphors, and I’m taking the perspective of them. Brilliant, huh? No? Yeah, you’re right. Not so brilliant. But it’s a good exercise.

In the comments section, post your best “I AM” line. If you have a few good ones, post ’em all. The more the merrier, fellow humans.

Random quote for you: “The worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades.” —Demetri Martin

Have a lovely Tuesday.


Writing Prompt: Post Your Best “I Am” Poetry Lines

A Review: “Honestly Funny”

Hello, fellow internet people,

I just learned how to reblog, and Mr Thomas Cannon (author of The Tao of Apathy) wrote a review of Mind the Gap. Check it out (and his blog. ) Thanks to Thomas for spending the time and energy to read and review. Truly I appreciate it. I’m much obliged. (Not sure why I sounded upper-class British there.)

Also, remember: “Dogs are always in the push up position.” –Mitch Hedberg


Recently I read DW Anderson’s book Mind The Gap.  Despite being very jealous that someone so young writes with so much polish, I enjoyed it a lot.  He strikes the right tone and pacing in every Chapter.

Here’s my review    Mind The Gap on Amason

Mind the Gap is honestly funny. In other  words, Anderson shows us stories with humor that comes from his candor. For the sake  of our amusement he tells us his true stories along with short stories that seem to be based on real life. Either way, the stories he writes are engaging and polished.

Anderson  gives us an abundant amount of funny,  but he dalso adds to it.  Reveals angst behind the zany stunts he has  pulled.  In his way he makes sure  his stories have substance-    what we need.

He gets a lot of americana in his stories with his choice of…

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A Review: “Honestly Funny”