The Year End Review

Do a Regular Year-End Review



This post is from a journal entry written at the beginning of 2014. I'm posting it here in anticipation of doing another "End of the Year" review for 2015. Instead of waiting for the new year to start I want to get a jump on things and complete the next one before 2016 begins. By looking back over the past year I'll put things in perspective. My goal is to increase my personal creative productivity. More to come on 2015 later, but this is a look back at 2014.

There are lots of suggestions on how to start the New Year. Every year you hear about all the resolutions people are making. You hear people talk about new healthier, smarter, safer, wiser choices. People are trying to build new habits with the beginning of another calendar year. Plans to lose weight, read through the Bible, etc. etc. and on and on.


Many people plan to be kinder. More assertive. More forgiving. Less argumentative. Some people plan to pray more. Do devotions with more regularity. Get more exercise. Eat healthier meals. Save more money, spend less, earn more ... by now you get the drift.

After trying to do many of these things year after year, I decided on only a few things. Again for the second year in a row I’ve implemented the Be Awesome Check Board. This is an idea based on the Jerry Seinfeld "Don't Break the Chain" practice of writing a new joke everyday using a chart from The Writer's Store.

I expanded on that to try and move forward in several areas. In this I choose a limited number of things that I am working on and post a 365 day calendar with a box to check off for every day I’ve completed something toward one of my major goal. I did this last year and it really helped me focus on those things and make some progress in them every day. My method was to use several of these check off calendars to mark each day I made at least some progress in a given area.


The trouble was that after about a third of the year I began to fail, and to get tired of doing all of the things that I had said that I wanted to do. I did do much better and was much more focused than I normally would have been for that period of time. At the end of the year I had moved forward in each of the areas I was attempting to concentrate on.

Drawing and Photography was one area, and until I started to forget the tracking part of it had added about 138 separate acts of concentrated progress. My drawing improved substantially as did my photography as well. So, all in all this was a good effort.


I did the same thing with my writing, and journaling. In the beginning I fully intended to write 1000 words a day, and I still think this is a worthy goal. I actually recorded writing on approx. 175 days, but not on every day of the year as had been my goal. 

My output was probably closer to 1500 words a week rather than 1000 a day for the whole year. But, I did in fact manage to pump out the first draft of a new novel with about 50,000 words total during the month of November. Even though that was not entirely according to plan, the check off sheet did help with reaching some part of my goals.

I must admit, that this was also the 2nd year that started off with great difficulty in having the death of another close family member to contend with, and all the other distractions and emotional ups and downs that come with that. Hopefully this year will be better.

Keeping the check list for drumming also helped remind me to practice. Here I tracked approximately 175 days. There were probably more days than this that I failed to chart, but it did help me maintain some level of focus.

Exercise, was the same thing with about 164 days of tracked exercise. Only about half of what I had hoped for, but still better than if I hadn’t tracked it, I’m sure.


Another area I attempted to track was Recording, or the study of recording. This was probably the least effective area, not that I’m not into it, it is just that, I think it requires so much set up, and things have been somewhat unstable with having to move things around and again dealing the loss and death of a close family member, and figuring out what to do with all of the left over things, all this has made this a more difficult area to stay consistent in.

Blogging and Social media was originally intended just as blogging something every day, but has over the year become simply adding something to social media.  I have not been adding blog entries consistently, but I have been networking and interacting with people a lot, also reading online a lot as well.

In the end of the year I was strong in moving forward in many areas, more consistently at first and then not so much through the rest of the year.

So now we come to the beginning of another year, and I’m setting up some fresh calendar counting charts and getting ready to post those up once again for the New Year. I’m thinking of setting up fewer and a little more broadly defined areas going forward.



Writer Quotes about Writing





About Writing: I enjoy collecting quotes from popular writers about their craft. As a writer myself, dealing with all the challenges that every writer faces in one way or another, I find that many of these quotes resonate strongly with me.

These are just a few quotes that spoke to me. Many of these ideas can be applied to other creative arts as well. I think it's just part of the artist's temperament to be challenged in these ways.

It gives me comfort to know that many other writers have gone through these same inner struggles. We are not alone, even in our aloneness of the creative moment, we are not alone.

“You don’t live there always when you write. Mostly it’s a long hard walk. Sometimes it’s a trudge through fog and you’re scared you’ve lost your way and can’t remember why you set out in the first place… But sometimes you fly, and that pays for everything.” – Neil Gaiman

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” – Joseph Heller

“Writers are not just people who sit down and write.  They hazard themselves.  Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.” – E.L. Doctorow

“A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” – Thomas Mann

You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble.” – Harlan Ellison


Songwriting with Friends

Who's Gonna Love You Girl?

One of the things I enjoy doing with friends is writing music.  Here's a song I started writing back in my college days and then completed several years later with my good friend and occasional co-writer David Janssen.

It's a song about a lonely guy trying to get up the courage to call that special girl he admires from afar. In his mind he's asking the question, "Who's gonna love you girl?" and yet he gets no answer.

What would George Washington do ...?



The thought came to me today, after listening to a week or more of discussion about what should be done about this or that problem in our world and how to get the nation back on the right course. After listening to endless debates about the view of one party or another, one political candidate or another ... the thought, the question really, just popped into my mind ... "What would George Washington do ...?"  He was after all the first American President, and one of the most important of our founding fathers, at least as far as North America and the United States of America is concerned.

I also happened to watch an old Audie Murphy movie this morning called 40 Guns to Apache Pass.  I couldn't help thinking what a strange world we live in where values get turned around, depending on what your point of view might be, either upside down or  right side up.  This was your typical American Western set back in the old west. The story represented some location in the south western US sometime after the Civil War, where tensions still remained high between settlers, Apache Indians, and Southern Confederate soldiers who had joined the blue coats after the war was over.

The Cavalry soldiers were there to protect a small community of settlers including women and children from marauding Indians, and other more unscrupulous bad guys, notably greedy white gun runners who in this case were considered the traitors, and turncoats against the US Cavalry.  The Traitors in this instance intended to sell 40 rifles to the Indians in order to obtain about 30,000 to 40,000 dollars worth of Gold that the Indians possessed.

After the turncoat profiteering traitors had deserted the Cavalry leaving the character played by Audie Murphy to die in the dusty desert, it appears all is lost for the films hero. But in the end, through his craftiness, skill, and some daring help from another young but confused soldier, he once again gets the upper hand, almost single handedly defeats the Apache warriors, and tracks down the greedy deserters and kills them and then returns what's left of the 40 rifles to his commanding officer. The small community of settlers are once again safe. Having saved the day, he is welcomed back as a hero, gets the girl and lives happily ever after.

I've watched and enjoyed many films just like this one. These conventional Westerns were standard entertainment for those of us growing up in the early 1960s.  This film produced in 1967 was just one of hundreds and hundreds of films in that genre, and from that era.  But it got me thinking, which is often a dangerous past-time of mine. I was thinking that in today's world there is certainly a different way to view this story and these characters, than how they were originally conceived and intended to be understood at the time the film was made.

By todays standards and attitudes, it could be seen that the Indians were simply trying to obtain weapons to protect their families and homelands. The unscrupulous profiteers, hoping to obtain gold for the sale of the weapons could be seen as good guys helping the Indians, and the hero could be seen as an anti-hero, in that while he kept the weapons out of the hands of the Indians he wasn't doing them any favors. While protecting the settlers, he had to kill a sizeable number of Indians, who may or may not have been completely innocent depending on un-established facts that we will likely never know with full certainty.

But it is clear in the film that the profiteers really were the bad guys and had no real intention of helping either the Indians, or the settlers, and were only in it for the money. They had plans to escape with the gold acquired by theft of Cavalry property. Had their plan succeeded they would have simply escaped across the border into Mexico where neither to soldiers or the long arm of the Law could catch them.

My point in all this, and with the review of the film is that today we live in a very complicated world where often up is down, and down is up. It is all quite confusing in a world where what is fair and what is right are no longer seen as absolutes, but exist on a sliding scale that breeds more and more uncertainty day after day. Culturally we are changing, technologically we are changing, many human values are changing for many people, long held beliefs are often understood differently today than they were even just a few short years ago.

I'm reminded of the book by Alvin Toffler, entitled "Future Shock" where he takes a long look at changes coming in the future, or at least the future as it was envisioned some forty years ago or so.

Which all brings me back to the perilous state of the world, and the body politic, with wars and rumors of war, and terrorist threats from within and without.  I think we are all suffering a bit of Future Shock as we try to figure out which way is up, and where it is we really stand on the important issue of the day as we try our best to adapt to a world in flux. And that is what brought me to the question, "What would George Washington do ...?  The question has little to do with the morality of mankind as portrayed in the film, but rather the question of what should be done in terms of the larger issues facing our world today, and the urgency pushed forward by strident voices from both the right and from the left. Can't we find a better way, "What would George Washington do ...?


Addendum: What would George Washington do ...?  We have an answer. He would issue a Proclamation, something like the one he actually did back on October 3rd, 1789.

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war -- for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

Cartoon Panels

I'm continually developing new cartoon characters. This is one of the more recent ones.  I'm always interested in letting these people talk and finding out just who they are. This is the first appearance of this particular fellow.  I haven't given him a name yet but he has an interesting face.  I think he's talking to me ...

 

How was your weekend?


Funny you should ask.

My weekend is off to weird start. Because of the heavy rain I decided that I needed to try and fix a leaky downspout that was flooding the pump house, nothing serious,  just wanted to get it fixed as a safety precaution.

So I had already put my dirty clothes into the laundry to run while I was doing other things like fixing the rain spout. So I'm out in the rain, in my bath robe, wrestling with the leaky gadget, eventually I get a small improvement and I think it's better, but I'm not sure yet.

So then the washing machine completes its cycles and so I go to unload it to transfer everything over to the dryer on the other side of the room.  As I'm bending over to unload the wash, I'm also thinking about another problem I’m having some frustrations with, so I'm not really paying close attention to what I'm doing.  Then I pull out some clothes and BAM, I hit the top of my head on the sharp edge of the window frame.  OUCH, I say, and then put my hand up to feel for a bump on my head, and then I notice the spot is bleeding a little, I can't quite see the top of my head, so I notice the red substance on my hands and think ... I better go take a look in the mirror. I get a hand mirror and it's still hard to see the back of my head with two mirrors, but then I see a big one-inch gash right in the middle of my bald spot on the back of my head.

I'm looking around for band aids, but all I can find are little small ones.  So then I grab some toilet paper and fold it over a few times and start to soak up the blood, changing it over and over for a few minutes, until I remember there might be some bigger band aids in the other bathroom on the other side of the house. I open up a large band aid, but can't quite get it placed right on the back of my head accurately and have to try a second time. Finally I get another band aid placed and the bleeding stops.  So I've been wearing a hat all day.

By this time it's raining very hard again, and I notice my efforts to fix the leak have failed, so I wait until the rain stops and I go out and find a tarp just large enough to cover the little pump house and keep the water from leaking into it, Praise the Lord for small victories.

All of this is kind of funny to me because last night I watched the Robert Redford movie ALL IS LOST. In the film -- if you've seen it you might remember -- he is out on the ocean in his little sailboat all alone sleeping until he realizes his boat has a hole in it and is quickly filling up with water.  So the whole film has just one actor, Robert Redford, and just shows him trying to cope with one problem after another to try to keep from sinking in the middle of the ocean.

So today, I felt like that character, running around the house trying to take care of all these little issues and problems, one after another. So that is how my weekend has begun.  Fortunately I have a sub drummer playing for me at church this week end so I don't have to show my big bandaged head. 

Yesterday I was cleaning out some file drawers and found some old report cards for kindergarten, thru 6th grade, and it was very interesting to see that some of my most basic character traits are still the same now as when I was in pre-school and the early grades.  Ha ... some things never change. But that is another story.

Did you see my cartoons I sent to you earlier?

Here is another -- See attached: 

I like this little guy in the hat … the other guy here is obviously me, on a better day.

 

1000 Words a day.

 

1000 words a day. Back in 2005 I challenged myself to begin writing a thousand words a day. This is a journal entry from January 30th 2005.
 
Should I have taken my own advice?  It was a perplexing question. It can be frightening, even dangerous. Being truly honest can be a hard thing. I suppose it all depends on how you think about it. This calls for a time of true confessions.  I can imagine this as an adventure, a challenge, a great task, a story to be told, a tale to unfold. It is above all things the adventure of my life.

If life is like a story waiting to be written, then it is up to me to write the letters large. To be bold, be daring, throw caution to the wind and speak my mind. So cliché, so common, so droll this story of mine, but still, it must be written.  The story must be told. The story must be lived.

            If I could leave my ordinary life and live an extraordinary life, what would I be, what would I do?  I’d definitely leave behind the 9 to 5 grind and start working or doing what I really want to do, and on my own time schedule. Let’s just look at this writing business. What I’m talking about here is setting aside a small amount of time everyday to put some words on paper, electronic words, pixels etc. and into some form of order or sense of order. Really it sounds so easy. Of course, to have something that I could feel good about, or feel proud of would be the real goal. Of course the ultimate end would be to have my writing published and actually be able to make some profit. I’m enamored like every would-be writer with the idea of seeing my books in the bookstores around the country, the world.

            I’m just like so many people doing the 9 to 5 thing -- on some levels -- I truly hate my job. It is a daily sacrifice to the institution of slavery. We are the new slaves in the modern sense of the word. I mean we can quit at any time, but the social pressure and the expectations of others would be overwhelming.

           “You WHAT???  You quit your job? You can’t do that. How are you going to pay your bills, how are you going to LIVE??? You must be crazy. You’ll never be able to retire, and what about your health insurance?  . . .  On and on it would go.

            So, be that as it may, to get to where I’m going, I have to start from where I am. I’m a hack writer, making a living in the computer industry with long held dreams of being a star. But the edge I had when I was younger has now vanished. I used to look good, I was a hip, with it kind of guy, or at least that is how I thought of my self. I was made for the stage, for the spotlight, I thought, it was my destiny. Now so many years later, I wonder why I thought those things, and I think it was just like the musings of so many young kids growing up in the sixties. The Ted Mack amateur hour was no longer on television and the American Idol show had not yet been dreamt up. I had dreams alright. I dreamt of playing on American Bandstand and of being on The Tonight show with Johnny Carson. There was a group from my home town that had made it to the big time, or so we thought. They played on some battle of the bands, something like “Where the Action Is.” We were all so impressed. Then, years later, another kid from my home town hit the big time. But that is another story for another time.

            I made my run at it in my youth. We went down to LA and into the big time offices of the entertainment world and as far as we knew we were on our way, bright lights, big city, look out here we come. We experienced some small success, but then everything went awry. We got thoroughly spanked and taught a very painful lesson. The entertainment world can be very cruel and very unforgiving on some levels. During that time I learned more about the legal profession and the civil court system then I ever wanted to know. It was us against them, and I was caught in the middle of a game I had never chosen to play. Like Billy Joel sang, I just wanted to scream. “I am . . . an innocent man, yes I am, an innocent man.”

            And while all these troubles were going on I was still living an ordinary life, because when you get right down to it, I am simply an ordinary guy. Despite my delusions of grandeur, and my “change the world” dreams born of the 1960’s American Cultural revolution, idealism was on the minds of every young person growing up in those times, that is, for those of us who managed to maintain fully functioning minds in those years. Those were the days of mind expansion, and mood altering, and exploration of cosmic realities, both natural and unnatural. It feels odd to think how much times have changed.

            I had to have a van. So I bought a van, never mind that I could not afford this big monstrosity of a vehicle, and that this was also a time of gas rationing and a very unsettled world political environment. I had to have a big van. So I bought a big van, a big bright yellow and orange van. This was a van so brightly colored you could see it coming from a mile away. Port holes on the side, carpeting, wood grain paneling, I was stylin’ for sure. I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to be a star.

            I still lived an ordinary life. Except for the fact that I had no job, no intention of ever getting a real job in the real world because I didn’t live there. I lived in some fantasy world of my own making. I was a rock star, or so I thought. I didn’t need a real job. I made money making music, what could be better than that. The truth is I didn’t make much money making music. I had generous parents that subsidized my dreams and fueled my imagination. Were they enablers, maybe, but I believe they were well intentioned, and only had my best interests at heart. So here I was just 18 years old and living out of my big yellow van, like a yellow submarine on wheels. I went from gig to gig, playing with this band and that, picking up a few bucks here, and a few there. Living on chocolate chip cookies and milk while on the road, and then coming back home every so often to recharge my batteries and get back to some sense of normal. I was one of those people making the transition between being a child and an adult, and I don’t think I was handling it that well.

            1000 words a day.

            What a joke, it’s been over 5 months since I last wrote in this 1000 word a day journal. Let’s see if you break it down my average is more like 6 words a day, truly pathetic. And I call my self a writer, HA. I only pretend to be a writer in my own mind. Sometimes I feel I’m not really anything. I’m just a pretender. Listening to Frank Sinatra sing Mack the Knife with Quincy Jones big band. I was impressed; Frank was the real thing, a genuine star, an artist. I wish I only had a small portion of the cool that was Mr. Sinatra.

            Update to October 29th, 2015

            Looking back on the 1960’s when I first started, to the present days in 2015 - 2016, there are now hundreds of channels of satellite radio and television on demand. The internet hadn’t even been thought of back then. You-tube, iTunes, iPhones, wireless phones in general, computers, thousands of great new music artists, and huge new talents are now available to be heard and watched 24/7.

           This only goes to show that after almost 50 years of playing the drums, I’m still at it, and now, after 10 years since I first wrote this journal entry / blog post, I'm still doing that too. I’m almost ready to move on to the next phase. I’ve gone far beyond my original goal of 1000 words a day, I do them more in large bursts from time to time, but I still try to do something every day. My first novel is almost ready to publish, and I have a few others ready for the re-write process. Add to that some songwriting, some cartooning, and all the creative projects that lay ahead, I’m actually quite busy. I can hardly wait.  Ramble On -- Peace and Love etc.

Can't we all just get along ...

 
 
 
Hmmm, it almost makes sense ...
 

I knew it ... it's not just Climate Change we have to worry about it's a whole cluster of psychological ramifications from all this Hope and Change we've been going through.

Hillary's House

All one has to do to come up with these things is watch the various news programs and read the papers. As Will Rogers said sometime before 1935:

"All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that's an alibi for my ignorance." 

Sometimes ignorance is just ignorance, sometimes it's just a distortion of the truth used to make a point, and sometimes it's just an out and out lie designed to hide or conceal the truth. And as we all know, only too well, the political class is deft at the practice, and so become what are commonly known as career politicians.

Updated . . . Images from the Vault.



This image of some performers celebrating African Music and Dance was taken in Eugene, Oregon at what was then known as the Saturday Market one early spring in the late 1970s. In those days I did a lot of human interest photography. Some of it was used in either the Lane Community College Torch, or the Oregon Daily Emerald. Both were college or university student newspapers. I worked at both of them for a period of years, and managed to do quite a lot of photography while still carrying a full load of classes and work study assignments. This is one of several shots I made that day. The music and the dancers were both lively and joyful and even though the weather was on the cool side, an enthusiastic crowd gathered around this celebration of African culture.  This was also about the time that the television mini-series of Alex Haley's story of "ROOTS" had its first national exposure. I also read the book at about the same time. Alex Haley's book together with the TV mini-series, were important events in raising the consciousness of America. The larger culture previously had little understanding of the African experience in America.   During that time there seemed to be a huge cultural shift where understanding had grown in a way that was not present earlier. It was a remarkable time.


See a collection of my work here: http://tinyurl.com/qegxxub