Friday, March 23, 2007

Waiting on Computers, Part III (I think...)

Waiting on computers again… (Part 3 I think, although I could be wrong and I am too lazy to go back and check.)
Once again, I am babysitting a computer. This time, it is running a complete set of diagnostics to see if there is a hardware fault that is causing a blue-screen (BSOD) fault. (BSOD is Blue Screen Of Death. Not much for me to do, just hit OK every now and then. So I find myself doing completely unproductive things like surfing the web. What has ever happened while surfing the web that has ever been beneficial to me? Just off the top of my head, not much. NANOWRIMO was one, but nothing else comes to mind. Now think of all the times I have gotten into trouble or at best wasted time that could be devoted to productive pursuits. So now you understand why I write these “Waiting For Computers” pieces.
My exuberance over the possibility of entering into a multi-million dollar real estate deal has cooled somewhat. I still think it is something that I would be capable of handling, but I no longer believe that my friend and I could possibly come up with the money to get it kicked off. At a minimum, we would need around $600,000 to get started, and if we both sold everything we owned we could not come up with half that much. Plus, if the whole thing collapsed in our laps we would be fighting over cardboard boxes in an alley to put our families in. So, no I will not be the newest real estate magnate in the greater Dallas Fort Worth area, at least not this week. My imagination is still sparked however, and I will keep my eyes open to similar (much smaller in scale!) opportunities to jump into a new way to earn a living.
Meanwhile, I continue to sell my soul to my employer for at least eight hours a day. It is not really a bad life, and I don’t wish any of my loyal readers to mistake this for a complaining session. As far as wage-earning jobs go, mine is right up there with the best you can possibly have. I realize this, and am grateful for the blessings which a higher power has provided for me. However…
I still pine to leave this grind for the freedom (or captivity as some have told me) of self-employment. I have been warned before that self-employment is even more confining than otherwise, since you cannot be fired. However, the idea that all of my trials and tribulations are of my own volition and not at the whim of someone else simply because they sign my paycheck is an irresistible dream. Perhaps I have been indoctrinated in the capitalist doctrine of my homeland, perhaps I am a foolish dreamer. The dream remains nonetheless.
Reading books by the likes of Robert Kiyosaki and Suze Orman promote this dream. They preach that money should be the servant, and not the master. In my current situation, I do my best to make this so. I give generously to my church both because I believe it to be a commandment of God and because I realize that giving money away willingly gives me power over money. I try not to stress about the material things I don’t have that are not neccesities and I do my best to differentiate between the two. I spend my money and invest it in ways that I am comfortable with, not because someone else tells me to or because it is what everyone else is doing.
However as my friend and I re-discovered in our dream to invest in real estate, sometimes you have to have money to make money. Bottom line: My intake right now is absolutely sufficient for the neccesities of life. It is not however sufficient to move upward or to expand my financial position, at least not rapidly. I am moving upwards slowly, my 401k is growing nicely, my mutual fund is not losing money, and the stocks that are losing money seem to have bottomed out even though the one that is up has also seemed to level off. Given twenty years, I might conceivably have a comfortable portfolio. Right now, I could sell everything and not have enough to buy a car. Oh well, I don’t need to be Warren Buffett, I just need to keep the babies in diapers and the kids in new clothes as they outgrow them.
I really am grateful for all that I have. It may sound like I am a whiner, but I like to think of myself as more of a dreamer. The trick will be to get the dreams up and running instead of rotting in the back closet.
Rotten dreams in the back closet of your mind is probably a good indicator of the old age disease of crotchetiness and overall grouchiness.
I want to be one of the old folks that sees life as a party, and the loss of my memory just means I can’t stay mad at anyone for long.
Not quite a thousand today and the computer is only eighteen percent of the way through the hard drive integrity check but I am out of words.

Friday March 23, 2007 - 03:41pm (EDT)
© 2007 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dreams, Failure, and Fear

Credit for the photo goes to:
Have you ever had someone put an idea in your head that is so attractive and seems like such a great idea that you suddenly believe it could really happen? At the same time, you are terrified beyond belief at the prospect that you might really be pushing your boundaries and getting close to accomplishing something really, truly great.
Am I really capable of this? Can I really do this? For me, the questions is even more basic than these. It is: Do I dare try?
I think this has been my basic obstacle my entire life. I am good at dreaming about the hard stuff, planning it, even beginning it. But in the end, I have failed because I do not dare to try. I do not dare to put myself in a position to fail spectacularly. In a way, this gives me the appearance of success. How many businesses have I had go bankrupt? How many rejection letters from publishers? How many dreams have I watched go up in smoke? The answer sounds impressive: None. But beneath the surface, we examine the reason for this impressive answer. Because I never tried. I have never submitted a manuscript to be rejected. I have never started my own business to be bankrupted. I have never pursued my greatest dreams to see them crash and burn. Instead they rot and moulder in the back of my mind, where I can pull them out and polish them off when I need an ego boost, but hurriedly stash them back when I have to return to reality.
Hard work is something I am not afraid of, in fact I relish the feeling of collapsing into bed at the end of an exhausting day. This is most likely what fuels my dream of owning a ranch. I remember the crushing labor of a farm worker from my youth. I love the feeling of seeing a problem, seeing the solution, enacting the solution, then standing back to admire my work. I am good at pursuing solutions to problems. I can think outside the box, approach it from several different angles until I find the one that works. I can even admit when something is over my head and ask for help, although that one is harder than the others.
What I dread is failure. Having someone point their fingers at me and say: Look, he failed. He no longer has a perfect record of no broken dreams. He finally pulled that rotten moldy dream out of the closet, dusted it off, polished it up and then promptly set it on fire and watched it burn. How can he live with himself? How can he stand to think of the damage he has done? How will he take care of his family now?
I took a half step towards a dream once. I actually paid $2,000 for a course in purchasing tax liens for fun and profit. I felt pretty daring jumping off into the cold water like that, without even an exploratory swim to see how deep it was. I was going to free myself from the drudgery of the wage earner by investing in real estate. It would take just a few years and I would be free. When I collapsed into bed at the end of the day I would know that my sweat and blood had been shed for the benefit of my family and not to make someone else rich.
After a few weeks, I found that it was not as easy as they made it sound. (Of course, what really is?) This dream required me to call people, write letters, and worst of all to risk failure! I truly could not find time to sit down and focus on it. Family, church, work all conspired to make it hard. Not impossible, just hard. It seemed that the people I needed to call were only available while I was working. I couldn’t call while I was working, I tried writing a few letters but got no responses.
I had leapt into the cold water of trying to make a dream work, but I quickly scrambled back on the bank and sat there shivering. This was just too hard! I couldn’t find the time to devote to it!
This dream, like the others finally got tired of standing around and wandered back to the closet. It sits there today, moldering and wishing that I could find the time to bring it back to life.
Today I got an email from an old friend proposing a new dream. It is reachable, although it will be some very difficult work to make it happen. It will involve facing some of my most deep seated anxieties and fears. However, underneath all of these fears is chiefly this: The fear of failure.
Loyal reader: will I accept the offer and make it happen? Perhaps if someone else is depending on me to do it? Do I dare? Can I face failure?
(Only 849 words, but then I didn’t intend this to be a regular entry…)

Thursday March 22, 2007 - 04:26pm (EDT)
© 2007 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Plot Ninja

(Photo courtesy of: )
Feeling a bit lazy this morning, but committed to shutting Stanley up I have decided to write one thousand words in a free writing word association style. I have no topic for this piece, no idea where it will go and neither do I much care. I am simply insisting that I continue with my idea of writing one thousand words per day and posting them here for you to read. (Both of you…) Dang, I had to nix about fifty words because I deemed them too sensitive to place in a public place like this. Sorry loyal readers, but I still have to try and keep my day job and although the likelihood of someone from work actually reading this, connecting it to my Real Life persona and then informing management is infinitesimally small I don’t like to take chances. Not that it was about any huge crime, or something completely dishonest and criminal. Like I said, I am all about managing risk and that means (at least in my book) eliminating it. So I ramble on about nothing at all instead of risking my family’s livelihood to entertain you. (Both of you…)
Free association can be fun, but it can also be somewhat frustrating. Such as when your brain is still half asleep and refuses to engage in word spewing mode. Therefore, I must turn to some time tested word padding tricks learned from the NANO experience in order to get to my thousand words before noon. Plot ninjas…
Suddenly, a bright light flashed at the window of Will’s office. A millisecond later, the shock wave of a small explosion reached him carrying millions of shards of glass that a moment earlier had been his office window. He flinched instinctively, a million tiny points of pain suddenly arcing through his consciousness. Smoke filled the office, and Will became conscious of human forms moving swiftly and noiselessly around him. The acrid smoke burned his lungs, and he coughed weakly, his mind still reeling in an attempt to grasp what had turned this mundane Thursday morning into a sudden maelstrom.
The smoke began to clear, and his eyes focused on a human shape crouched on the office chair against the opposite wall. It was covered entirely in black, with a narrow slit where the eyes should be. The jet black handle of a wicked looking katana protruded from behind the form’s back, and other menacing shapes were positioned along the belt line. Will had never before encountered a real ninja, and never expected to in his lifetime. And certainly not at the office. What had brought this oriental mercenary to his desk? A thousand similar questions pounded through his harried mind until the dark shape lifted a hand, and placing a single upright finger where his mouth should be signaled silence. Will was still too baffled to disagree, and sat frozen in his chair, staring at the demonic vision before him. The ninja’s other hand reached out and flicked the door to the office shut, the latch snicking softly closed. Cool damp air poured in from the shattered window, and Will’s burning lungs ached to take a long deep breath to clear out the smoke. But he dared not move, waiting for the ninja’s next move.
What happens next? Does the ninja assassinate Will right there in front of his spreadsheet? Or does he introduce himself as Will’s long lost twin brother and invite him on a quest for adventure and treasure away from the dreary world of computer monitors and service level matrix reports?
I don’t exactly know. I didn’t start with anything but a need for a plot ninja, and there he is. Sitting across the room from me. The office door is locked, but I can hear hurried footsteps on the tile floor outside. Worried voices, inquiring about the explosion and the smoke. Still, the ninja sits in his feral crouch, one finger signaling silence, the other resting lightly on the door handle.
My heart is pounding in my chest, pounding so hard that it hurts. Am I having a heart attack? What is happening? I open my mouth in an attempt to say something, but the ninja’s hand flashes off of the door handle and up towards me. I flinch, expecting a razor edged shuriken to bury itself in my skull, but he only holds his palm towards me, once again signaling silence. I obey, the image of the shuriken still foremost in my mind.
Someone knocks on the door, a worried voice asking if I am alright. A slight shake of the ninja’s head emphasized by his outstretched hand keeps my voice silent. The tension is awesome, my heart pounds even harder and the room begins to spin. Never in my life have I faced death in this way. I always imagined that I would be brave when my time came, that I would turn and face it with dignity and poise. Right now however, I am wondering if I have soiled myself in fear. I can’t tell, because my body is somehow numb and I cannot feel anything. Except the weight of those steel blue eyes peering out of the blackness of the mask.

Dang! I was sure that would be over a thousand, but it is only 800 and already I am tiring of this ninja. I guess there could be a story here, but I don’t want to get started on something that will need several thousand words to resolve. I only need two hundred more. I think I can ramble on at least that much right?

The voices in the hall become even more frantic as they fail to open the door. Unfortunately, the only key is in the office with me. They have been threatening to make a copy for months, but never seem to get around to it. They will have to find someone with the tools to jimmy the lock, or knock the door down. Someone has gone outside and is now trying to look in the window and see what is going on. The ninja gestures at the floor, and in one swift movement is himself on the floor beneath the window. He gestures at me again, impatiently to join him. My body obeys despite screaming alarms of impending doom. Clumsily I slip out of my chair and crawl over to the wall, collapsing on the floor next to him. One hand reaches down and grasping my shirt pulls me upright. I am now sitting beside the ninja, I can smell his spicy odor and hear his quiet breathing behind the mask. He leans close and whispers in my ear. At first, my terrified mind can not comprehend what he is whispering, and I shake my head in confusion.

YES! 1166 words! I made it! Sorry I didn’t resolve the whole plot ninja thing. You do understand it was just an exercise right? I never meant it to turn into a complete story…

Thursday March 22, 2007 - 10:00am (EDT)

© 2007 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Shut-Up Stanley!

Entry for March 21, 2007

“Why are you not a writer for… something? You have a gift!”
So says my #1 fan, in response to a thank-you not that I wrote. So I begin to ponder my few feeble attempts at starting down the path to being a professional writer and I start to wonder myself…
My ponderings remind me of something that happened just a few days ago. My wife has been sick. I don’t know how it goes at your house, but when Mommy is not 100% the entire train goes off the tracks. I do my part on a regular basis, washing dishes and straightening up the kitchen, but now I am called upon to go above and beyond “my regular part” and help keep the house from resembling something you see on Cops. The floor needs to be swept and mopped, and each time I walk past the cocoa spill next to the stove, or the trail of grass and dirt from the backyard door I feel a serious twinge of guilt.
From my reading on the nature of internal anxiety, I have learned that a phrase such as this is “weak” and implies that I am not able to do anything about the situation. This is true, my internal voice for this phrase is high-pitched and whiny and wishes he had the strength to do something about this problem. It is the same internal voice that whines about my inability to focus on a career in writing.
Same weak voice, same weak idea. Why don’t I? I have plenty of great ideas to kick it off. NANOWRIMO winner for two years running is one example. This blog, where I have committed to write 1000 words per day is another. (When was the last time I actually did?) I have the talent, I don’t seem to have the persistence.
I read stories of authors who have finally made it after years and years of submitting, editing, being rejected, revising, and above all, trying again. For some reason if I can’t hit a home run right off the bat I get discouraged and give up. I write in this little blog where I am safe. Nobody really reads any of this junk, and if they did they would most likely give up waiting in the months between entries. I try to imagine myself up against a real deadline like a professional writer would have and my stomach clenches with the stress. Ahh! What happens if I write horribly! What happens when I can’t come up with any new ideas after a month or two of writing? Where do I go for new material? I can usually crank out around 1000 words on any topic. They may not be great words, but I can come up with something. But not on a regular basis. That is hard, and above all that internal chatterbox cannot allow me to do something difficult.
Already I have run out of steam writing this. Checked the word count and I am only half way there. I suppose that I should bring in some outside material here to pad out the piece. To stretch towards the deadline. But hey! Isn’t that work? Wouldn’t that be hard? Stanley disapproves.
For some reason, I have fallen out of favor with my favorite blogger, Dave Barry. I was on a streak for a while. I submitted articles that he posted on his blog several times over the course of a few weeks. Now, the well has run dry. I have submitted several articles that should have been shoo-ins for this blog, but they are ignored. Is it possible that I have offended his Daveness or the high and mighty blogerette? Perhaps. How do I get back onto their good graces? Is it possible that they saw my blog entries bragging that I had been featured on the blog? Wow! That would mean that someone famous actually read my blog!
Unfortunately, this brings me no closer to my goal of actually earning money for my writing. Unless Dave reads this and would be kind enough to post some helpful advice to the comments section…
I guess I just go back to the basics. I need to write something every day, just to polish my abilities. (CRAP! There goes that whiny weak voice again. Let me start over…)
I WILL write something every day. I WILL finish writing and editing my novel and I WILL submit it to someone. At least I will have a real rejection letter that I can look at and say to myself: “I DID something, instead of whining about how I NEED to do something.”
I will update you, loyal reader on the status of this writing and editing. I plan to have my rejection letter before NANOWRIMO begins again. Then I can brag to my fellow part-time novelists about my off-season adventure in writing and rejection.
Or perhaps, I can brag about my new career as a writer…
Either way, Stanley had better keep his whiny mouth shut and stay in his place in the shadowy back recesses of my brain where he belongs.
What might I accomplish if I could only convince him to do so?
Yesterday, I stayed home with the kids while Emily took one of them to the dentist. Stanley REALLY wanted me to take a nap. He reminded me that I NEEDED to clean up the house to help out while Em is sick, but that I really NEED to take a nap more.
I told Stanley to shut up and I cleaned up the house.
I can do it. I can silence that chatterbox. I can get rid of the weakness of feeling powerless to improve my life.
I can be a writer. I WILL be a writer. I already know the first steps. I have already made some of them. I have the talent, I have the tools. Up til now, I have only lacked the willpower.
Shut up Stanley. I can, and I will. (See! 1026 words, just like that!)

Wednesday March 21, 2007 - 04:09pm

© 2007 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved