I live for every spare moment with my wife

Are other people unhappy in their marriages? Because I feel like some are. Perhaps this is an emotionally charged rant, but there is some truth in it. Maybe people have different relationships that work for them (or that they think work for them). But, here we go:

I don’t understand why everyone wants to plan things and invite me but not necessarily my wife. I’ve had people say to me “Well, why can’t you spend a little time without your wife? or “Why can’t you go do this crazy fun thing that’s not really fun to do with kids and isn’t easy to do with kids?” (ok, that’s not how they word it). 

My wife is my best friend. Therefore I spend as much time with her as possible (between kids and work this isn’t alot). I don’t just ditch her and play cause raising children is “women’s work” so I’m always going to want to figure out how to include her and probably the kids into whatever extra activities occur. 

I really appreciate my friends wanting me to come hang out with them, and I definitely want to, I just want to figure out how to include my best friend (my wife). 

People will do the same to my wife and ask her to leave and go and have girls nights or some  church-related activity 5 times a week (slight exaggeration). It’s not that I’m not willing to watch the kids, and I have done so that she can go do something. But people treat me and her  the same way. They look at us funny when we say “well, when I have time off I kind of like to spend it with my wife/husband.” 

This occurs more with single people. Having a life style where two people try to become one and share in all they do is a little foreign to them. I understand that. The concept is different and that’s ok that they don’t just automatically understand that (hopefully it’s less foreign after reading this blog post). I do sometimes feel that if we weren’t married, people wouldn’t think it so odd that we want to spend all this time together! As if it is less odd to want to spend every spare moment with a friend instead of your eternal companion! 

But so many others are married but they don’t seem to want to be around each other.

It’s like they don’t understand why I want to spend every spare moment I can with my wife. She’s my best friend. She’s the love of my life. They don’t seem to get it.

I can’t understand how people can have both husband and wife work different schedules and therefore never get to see each other. I don’t get how they can live like that. Time with my wife is one of those rewards of life that I value above all others. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t have friends. That doesn’t mean I don’t like spending time with them. But what it means is that my family members are my most important friends. And that’s ok.

I just wish people would accept the fact that since I want to spend time with my wife as much as I can that it does not mean I am a slave. It does not mean I am attached to a ball and chain. It doesn’t mean I don’t have freedom. It just means that I like her the most. It means that she is my favorite person to be with and if I can’t do things with my wife, then I’m not sure if I want to do them. I don’t think that I agree with the idea that husband and wife should have their own lives. Why the heck did you get married if you don’t want to be together? This might work for some, but often I just think people only think it’s working for them. Time will tell. 

Friends and family are all important. But my time is limited. And my best friend just spent all day with the crazy kids and I don’t know if I want to give up that almost one hour of one-on-one time with her. 

Just a little rant from Thomas. Peace, love, and all that jazz. 

Booyah!

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Do you like or share without actually reading? 

Why do people “like” articles without reading them? They read the title, or see the featured meme, and just give it a like without knowing the full extent of what they have just promoted.

I had one blog post for which I used a cute meme for the featured image and I noticed that it got many more likes than the blog post where I simply posted a link alone without a picture. I think many, on first glance, thought I was only sharing a meme. And therefore liked it.

I was excited that so many had liked the last post, but I didn’t want them to like the cute cartoon, I wanted them to read the blog post! So I decided I’d rather have less interactions that are more meaningful. People don’t mistake it for a meme if the picture on my blog post has no words.

I don’t want my blog post to get shared through the like-osphere and never get actually read!

I fear that that happens a lot. People like and share articles based on the picture or title alone and most don’t read the article itself. This blog post about Bernie Sanders becoming president through a weird loophole talks all about this.

You can chart out a whole network of people who shared that article and only a tiny percentage read it. How many articles suffer the same fate?

Don’t be a shallow sharer. Share less. Read more. Think more. Social Media is shallow enough. Dive deep. Learn more. Then share only what is truly valuable.

Go forth and be epic!

Booyah.

Picking the right philosophy to solve your problems

I find that we humans sometimes become obsessed with philosophies that we think will help us overcome our flaws or that are the opposite of our weaknesses. We find the exact opposite of our reality and repeat it like a mantra. Sometimes, this works!

But have you ever found yourself repeating a mantra that doesn’t work? The problem persists? More often than not, we pick philosophies that only sound like the solution, but in actual practice they don’t work.

Sometimes you just have to keep striving and the philosophy will help you. Just because something takes a while to work doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But, sometimes you’re backing the wrong horse. Sometimes you’re trying a philosophy that really won’t help you.

I’ll use myself as an example. For years I felt powerless over certain weaknesses and habits and I sought a way to overcome them. Many talk about how you should “man up!” or “just do it!” or “pick yourself up by your bootstraps!” (a physical impossibility, you need something to push off of to pick yourself up, all you’ll do is tighten your boots if you follow that advice!). They say that by throwing agency and willpower at problems that you can conquer anything! You can be anything that you want! Like in the poem below. I once had it memorized and repeated it thousands of time. Hoping that it would give me strength:

Invictus
by William E. Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may
for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

Sounds awesome right? Sounds epic? How many memes and songs are out there today that are all about “Look at the awesomeness of me! I can do anything!”

Well, the poem didn’t fix me. I fell prey to the same weaknesses over and over again. Anger. Selfishness. A desire to consume entertainment and mental stimulation to excess. I was powerless to break my habits.

Thomas S. Monson (one of my Church’s leaders) said: “It is a great poem. It places upon the individual the responsibility for what he does with his life… But on the other hand, it may sound arrogant and conceited in terms of the Atonement.”

I learned over time that I couldn’t overcome my flaws by agency alone. That poem didn’t give me power. Why not? Why couldn’t I “man” myself out of my weaknesses? After some new understanding, I found this other poem which was written as a response to Invictus:

The Soul’s Captain
by Orson F. Whitney

Art thou in truth the master of thy fate?
The captain of thy soul?
Then what of him
who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
and snatched thee from the raging flood?

Who bore for all our fallen race
what none but him could bear–
the God who died that man might live,
and endless glory share?

Of what avail thy vaunted strength,
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his Light
may pierce the gloom,
that thou might see aright.

Men are as bubbles on the wave,
as leaves upon the tree,
O’ captain of thy soul, explain!
Who gave that place to thee?

Free will is thine–free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.

Bend to the dust thy head “unbowed,”
small part of Life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.

Whether you are religious or not, the example works. Both poems are used as a solution to a flaw: feeling powerless to overcome weakness. One says grit your teeth and be tough, the other says use your agency to rely on something more powerful than yourself. You need someone/something to help lift you.

I had felt powerless that I chanted “I’m powerful!” a thousand times. But now I know that I am powerless. And only through the surrender of my will and my life to God do I find power.

Now, by switching philosophies, I have made much more progress with my flaws. I’m not perfect, and don’t expect to be anytime soon. But when I encounter a weakness, I surrender the battle with it to God. I bend with the wind, letting it pass over me, letting God take care of it. And the wind doesn’t break me nearly as often.

Not my will. His will. Not my glory. His glory. Not my battle. His battle. Let go and let God.

There are others that I see chanting their mantras such as miserable people who say “Do only what makes you happy and you alone.”

Those who have hurt others that say “If it’s in the past it doesn’t matter, accept what everyone does, have no expectations” and say nothing of the need for repentance, forgiveness, and restitution for harm done.

Those who are promiscuous and say “This lifestyle makes me happy” yet end up wondering why they are so sad and lonely.

Likely the greatest and the most harmful is the modern philosophy: “To follow your impulses with no restraint is freedom” and those who repeat that often learn too late that following impulses alone with no control leads to a life of slavery to addiction and to habit, with no friends or loved ones, broken and weak. Lonely and alone.

If you take a hard look at yourself, past the lies you tell yourself, you might find that the mantra or philosophy you keep repeating isn’t yielding the results you want. You might see that you need to double your efforts and persevere, you might see that you misunderstand the philosophy you are repeating, or you might see that you are trying to implement a philosophy that just won’t work. The philosophy is either a lie, or a half-truth.

Good luck! Keep trying, or give it up!

Booyah.

Debating the value of an idea or belief is not debating the value of the person who holds it.

Some people are willing to separate themselves from their ideas, while others are not.

I have some acquaintances who are easy to discuss differences of opinion with, because they don’t take it personally. Others get frustrated when I question an idea. I don’t necessarily question because I disagree, but because I want to view it from all angles and want to see if there are any holes in the idea. They see it as a personal attack.

Most people are not interested in truth but only in confirming what they believe.

People should be willing to place their beliefs on the altar of truth and then sacrifice it if the belief proves unworthy. Like Abraham and Isaac, you might not have to, but sometimes you will. You must be willing to leave behind false, broken, or incomplete ideas if they fail to pass the test of truth.

But the world is full of people with confirmation bias. They only want echo chambers.

Facebook and the current election are great examples of that. Facebook will show you that which you are most likely to like and interact with and that which matches what you say in your posts and what your search for on the web (and peeps usually search for things to confirm their beliefs, not offer an alternate perspective). Therefore everyone thought their favorite would win because “everyone on Facebook says so and agrees with me!” Facebook is flooded that way. Google too.

Am I wrong?

These three words have been vital to my growth. To constantly ask myself this has helped me to keep an open mind, to discard weak beliefs, and to keep and strengthen those that can stand the test of analysis of the evidence time and time again.

Rather than taking offense and shouting and declaring that my education or some vague authority makes me right (my argument not my authority should make me right instead, but I know people who do such blanket appeals to authority), I try to be open to the ideas and arguments of others.

I try to provide all foundations and steps of my argument so people don’t have to make leaps of logic or leaps of faith to accept my conclusions.

And I try to not take criticism of my ideas personally. Every false belief rejected is not a tragedy but a triumph, for you are now one step closer to the truth.

Boo yah!

-Thomas

How to overcome getting overwhelmed and work efficiently

I sometimes have a problem with getting overwhelmed and feeling anxious about all that I have to do. Over time, I’ve come up with these ludicrously simple (and ludicrously difficult for someone who has a hard time focusing) rules and tools.

Here are my rules of efficiency:

1: Focus on one task at a time

Focus on one task at a time, work on it for at least 30 minutes (use a timer, it helps) or when you need someone else’s input, then make the contact (in person, set up a meeting, make a call, or send an email).

2: Focus on a task for at least fifteen minutes to get momentum

I find that if I focus on one task for at least fifteen minutes, I get into the groove and the rest of the time comes much easier.

3: List all projects and subtasks, put aside and focus

List all projects and sub-tasks needed to get those projects done. Put this list aside when focusing on 1 task (this helps keep you from feeling confused and overwhelmed because you won’t have to remember it all, there is a list!).

4: Multiply expected time by 2 or 3

Assume that everything will take 2-3 times as long as your first impression. Don’t commit the planning fallacy!

5: Listen to non-distracting music

Listen to wordless, calm music like this meditation track (it must be music that will help drown out distractions but won’t be a distraction itself).

5: Wait to check texts or emails

Do not check texts or emails until you are between tasks.

6: Take breaks

Take short breaks (5-10 minutes) every hour or two and long breaks (15-30 minutes) every three or four  hours.

7: Spend 5 minutes pre-task getting pumped up

Spend 5 minutes before each working session to plan, visualize, brainstorm, understand and get pumped up for what you are going to work on next, write this in a paragraph or two on paper. It helps you to get in the mindset.  (Thanks to Rachel Aaron for this glorious tip!

8: Be patient with yourself

Some days you can’t do it all. Forgive yourself. You’ll have to shorten your list and simplify your life as you go along. But if you stress about everything you have to do, the guilt will make you explode!

There you go! Quit lying to yourself about your ability to multitask. You can’t. Become a monotasker (someone who can actually focus). Quit stressing out about all that you have to do, and do one thing at a time. You’ll get a lot more done.

You can do it!

Booyah!

-Thomas

Note: Article Updated Mon Dec 5 2016

When the worst thing that CAN happen will ALWAYS happen (in fiction)

I hate fiction where the worst thing that can happen, will always happen.

A lot of writing books tell you “Make it worse! Did you? Now make it worse, again!” This is done as a technique to increase tension in a story.

But when the worst thing and the worst thing alone happens consistently, it starts to erode my suspension of disbelief (or, the believability of the story goes down). No matter how bad someone’s life is, no one has the single worst possible thing happen to them in every and any situation.

(Unless you’re Job from the Bible, but thank heavens that was only one story and not a trilogy!)

It doesn’t make logical sense for a character’s parents to die, then his mentor, his dog, his best friend, then his girlfriend turns evil, his leg is chopped off, (actually, this is starting to sound like an interesting story and a bad analogy). I’m trying to say it doesn’t make sense to look at all the possible outcomes of a scene and to ALWAYS pick the single WORST potential outcome. There are times, many times, where you want to pick the worst, or one that’s pretty bad. But to feel a little more REAL, you need to sometimes pick the good outcome, or, more often, the OK outcome.

This problem, however, usually isn’t enough for me to shut a book. Though my suspension of disbelief and my trust in the validity of the story are damaged, I usually see that as a plot problem. If the writer has done his most important job, I still care about the characters enough to want to know what happens to them.

The true problem comes from thinking “What’s the worst?” to thinking “What’s the next logical thing to happen with everything here?” Part of the problem is foreshadowing, but sometimes, you wonder why the enemy arrow always hit’s the throat. Or the character makes the wrong choice every time. Or the bad guy wins every time. Mix it up. Make it make sense.

And most of all, don’t feel you have to always make it “THE WORST.” Also, don’t feel you have to listen to my rules either.

 

Booyah!

False progress activities (Getting nowhere, but working so hard!)

One thing we do when working towards a goal is something I will now coin “False Progress Activities.”  This is when we want to procrastinate the hard part of a goal (e.g. actually writing the darn query letter) and we instead focus on tasks that help, that are far easier, but give little progress.

For example, I researched a bunch of articles on writing query letters, and am now combining them into a super-article! Taking out every tip and sorting them by topic (overall style, intro paragraphs, synopsis paragraphs, closing paragraphs). It’s very educational!

Or… I should be reading 1 article, attempting a draft at that query letter, and then reading some more and editing it and having others read it and rewriting again…

BUT I LOVE ORGANIZING! It makes me feel industrious! I’m getting nowhere but I’m working so hard at it!

Time to toughen up and write a first draft of that query.

 

 

And I just realized… I can’t procrastinate giving my novel a title if I’m going to submit it. 😛

(Anti-)Social Media

Why do they call it social media? People share a lot of words, but so much communication is lost. Body language is gone. Tone of voice is gone. Touch is gone.

People spend their lives experiencing other people through the medium of little pixels on a screen, rather than directly experiencing them. It’s like a meta-sociality. I see/comprehend text. Text comes from internet. You physically type in text/think the text. I know that in the physical world we have mediums too (sight, sound), but the fidelity is higher, the people are actually present.

Maybe someday, when video/audio/social media is a matrix-level VR experience, we’ll be having a different discussion about this. But the majority of people right now are have a different kind of sociality. A weaker one.

  • Sharing pictures of babies rather than letting our friends hold our babies.
  • Sharing scores of games rather than playing frisbee or flag football in the park.
  • Sharing a relationship status rather than actually enjoying the company (or the identity) of that person we have a relationship with.
  • Having “friends” we never are physically near to, and wouldn’t contact in case of emergencies.

Let’s put down the phones and have richer physical experiences. Or we’ll reach the end of our lives, and the majority of our time will have been spent looking at tiny squares on a screen.

We can see people in one of two ways. We can see the light reflecting off their face directly as they stand in front of us. Or we can see the light from pixels on a screen taken from the image recorded when once upon a time real light reflecting off of a person’s face into a camera’s sensor.

One is a direct experience. The other is a diluted experience through variety of filters and mediums.

The first sounds better to me.

How do I find the right editor or agent?

So I’ve been searching for agents and editors, and sheesh this process is hard!

First, I bought “2016 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market” and “2016 Guide to Literary Agents.” Then I went through the publishers and agencies that represented fantasy and I highlighted which ones I thought might be good (because they didn’t explicitly say “No epic fantasy!” That’s about all I had to go off of.)

Then I made an excel spreadsheet and listed them all.

Then I went online and checked out their websites and removed some because they didn’t seem my style. And then I wanted to understand their style better. How do I know which agent works with which authors and which genre and which publisher and which agent and… and…

HOW DO I KNOW IF THEY LIKE MY “STYLE” OF FICTION?

I was listening to Writing Excuses to get feedback on how to learn what “style” of fiction agents and editors prefer. And they said:

  1. Check out their twitter for MS wishlists.
  2. Check out their publishing house to see what books they’ve published (p.s. those don’t list the editor).
  3. Check out publishers lunch to see recent deals (since there are many more genres than epic fantasy, there will be a lot of deals that aren’t even remotely my genre).
  4. Listen to individual agents and editors talk at conferences and chat with them (wait, with the likelihood that they DON’T publish my kind of fiction, how many agents and editors are there exactly?)
  5. Go to the bookstore and read the acknowledgements of books you like (which you probably haven’t read cause they’re new and there’s not a lot of old books at the bookstore so you’re not even sure if they are your particular “style”) and list the agents and editors named in books you like.

There are A LOT of problems with this system. Some of which I’ve already mentioned. With how many agents/editors out there, my potential sample size from the above suggestions makes it nigh impossible to find the “right” agent/editor. (Note: They all say, research me first!)

The answer is a database, that lists the agents and editors, what publishing houses they’ve worked with, which agents and editors they’ve worked with, which authors they’ve worked with, which novels they’ve worked on, and a complex/detailed genre classification system so that I can know what genre classifications my book has (Epic, heroic, feminist, religious, magic, hard science, whatever), and so that I can go from that angle. Instead of sampling random hard to find agents, searching by the traits/classifications of my novel, and finding the agents and editors that match that “style” of fiction.

If that were to exist, agents and editors (might) get less junk mail that doesn’t fit their style, authors will be less confused, and less time would be wasted all around.

Maybe instead of whining, I should build this thing. 🙂