Tag Archives: Book writing

Should I Be Afraid to Publish My Name?, Vol. 2

(Image/ericjames.co.uk)

(Image/ericjames.co.uk)

I had never considered using a pen name. Not really.

I don’t know why.

Maybe vanity. Maybe I wanted my name out there so everyone I went to high school with would see that I’d finally done something with my life.

Maybe credibility. Because I write a first-person narrative in a pseudo-journalistic style, I thought putting my name on it was the only real option.

I finally asked myself the question: What would really be so bad about using a pseudonym?

There are only two, and both are stupid:

  1. Vanity. It’s stupid because no one from high school gives a shit, and if they did it wouldn’t matter.
  2. Money. It’s stupid because writers don’t make any real money, and it’s foolish to assume I ever will. There are logistical challenges related to receiving checks, banking and paying taxes from money earned writing under a fake name. But if I was ACTUALLY making money from something I published, wouldn’t the hassle be worth it? Of course it would. But I probably won’t, so who cares?

I found some online resources addressing this topic. I read them and started warming up to the idea.

The internet marketer in me knows having my own URL would be beneficial in the long term. I could make sure whatever name I chose had an available web address.

I found a random last-name generator. I’ve been playing with it.

The first one I liked and researched ended up being the name of a gay porn actor. So… probably not.

Step one, pick a bunch of names I like. Matt and Matthew are both options.

Step two, research the name to make sure there isn’t another famous one.

Step three, find a sensible URL that’s available (much harder to do in 2015 than it used to be, and picking anything but a .com seems like a poor choice, though I could see that changing someday).

It would help protect my son. His mother. My friends and family.

It would protect my professional interests that don’t involve writing.

I’d like to tell you I would be the same amount of honest no matter what, but the truth is, writing under a different name would probably keep the bravery and honesty quotient higher.

I’m coming around to the idea. And it’s kind of fun thinking of names.

Do I want to be Matthew Hawkins? Or Matt Shaw? Matthew Church? Matt Jackson? Matthew J. Warren? Matt Keller? Matt Watts? Mateo Juarez? Matt Chase? Matthew R. Hendrix? M. W. Hood?

The possibilities are endless.

What I haven’t settled on is just how much any of it matters.

I only know erring on the side of caution regarding those I love and care about would seem the wisest course. And I find myself (surprisingly!) leaning that way.

As always, I’m interested in your opinions and how you feel about it.

A penny for your thoughts. An imaginary penny, of course.

Sort of fits the occasion.

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The Book Project, Vol. 2

(Image/timemanagementninja.com)

(Image/timemanagementninja.com)

You probably think I’m procrastinating. (And you’re technically correct.) But in the context of my life, things are right on schedule.

This is how I operate. I’m not defending it, nor proud of it. It’s just a fact.

Remember that one time I pledged you’d want me by June 1? Because I said I’d be in good shape by then? I didn’t even start seriously working out and altering my diet until a week before June 1. I can’t be entirely sure you’d want me today, but it’s at least 200-percent more likely than before. You’re welcome.

In April of LAST YEAR, I told you about the book I am planning to write. And I do have several thousands of words written for it. It’s not like the workout thing, where I literally did NOTHING I said I would for a few months.

But, still. I’ve been putting it off. And that has to stop. Now.

My 500-Words-Per-Day Strategy

I won’t know I can do this until I actually do it, but there’s nothing particularly daunting to me about the prospect of writing 500 words a day. I think it might help.

My favorite writer James Altucher preaches generating 10 new ideas every day. (It doesn’t matter what for. It only matters that you do it.)

Bestselling novelist John Grisham has published 33 novels in 25 years because he commits to writing at least one page daily, and sticks to it.

Perhaps the most successful comedian of all time, Jerry Seinfeld, set a simple target for himself: One new joke per day.

It’s a productivity hack to harness the power of momentum and reap the long-term benefits of incremental gains.

Writes Cathryn Lavery in the Medium post that inspired this one: Persistence creates luck and experience.

I know it to be true. Now, it’s time to apply it to finishing this book project which I hope will lead to new ones.

I am a world-class procrastinator. I will NEVER publicly admit all of the problems that have cropped up in my life over the years because of my tendency to put things off.

I am the captain of the ADHD squad.

And I am a little bit childish in that I prefer to spend pretty much all my time doing whatever it is I want to be doing, and pretty much never wanting to do things that don’t fit nicely into that little Things Matt Likes silo.

I can continue to use those things as excuses and never achieve goals I set for myself, or I can make small changes and slowly but steadily inch my way toward the finish line.

The key takeaway from going through the StrengthsFinder program in May was the realization that I need to sometimes protect myself from myself and structure projects and parts of my life in ways that minimize the negative effects of some of my (less-than-desirable) tendencies. In other words, in order to finish this book, I need partners.

A friend and co-worker agreed to be the person to hold me accountable to writing 500 words per day. If she does her part, and I do my part, the book should be written by the holidays. I am grateful to have people in my life who want to help me with this project. Much like the workout thing, one morning it was finally time to move. For book writing, today is that day.

Improve at something 1% each day, and you’ll be twice as good at that thing in 70 days. Improve 1% each day, and at the end of the year you’ll have improved 3,800%.

All it takes is repetition and the will to say yes every day. And like working out and disciplined eating, I can do that.

Which is good.

Because it’s time to scare the hell out of Bruce Lee.

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Help Me Find a Partner

partner

My wife would get frustrated with me because sometimes I don’t finish things.

It’s a pattern that reemerges in my life repeatedly. A new idea captures my attention. I obsess about it. I dive right in, fully immersing myself in it, sometimes at the expense of other things.

I think that became exhausting for her because she isn’t that way.

I think she saw it as a sign of immaturity and lack of discipline.

I know she saw it as a weakness.

Discovering Strengths

I participated yesterday in a self-assessment program called StrengthsFinder, a program run by The Gallup Organization (the polling institution) designed to help people better understand their strengths and behaviors.

Strictly from a personality-profile standpoint, it reaffirmed what I already knew about myself.

Strength #1 – I am inquisitive.

I have a naturally curious mind. I collect information. I crave and pursue knowledge. I tend to collect things that interest me. I am interested in many things, so I am constantly trying to learn new things.

Strength #2 – I love meeting people and making friends.

I love meeting strangers and learning about them. I want to discover common interests and build connections. There is no such thing as too many friends.

Strength #3 – I am fascinated by new ideas.

“You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are,” my assessment report said.

No sentence in the history of the written word has more accurately described me. It is the very premise on which the majority of this blog’s content is based.

Strength #4 – I am hopeful and fascinated by the future.

I dream of every aspect of life being better in the future than it is now. It is that vision for my future and the future of those close to me that drives me each day. I am a dreamer. And I pursue those dreams. But, sometimes…

Strength #5 – I have an inherent need to start a new project or hobby.

I am interested in many new things, and when something captivates me, I need to be a part of it and throw myself into it. That makes me awesome at idea generation and starting exciting new adventures, but that also lends itself to me “quitting” things in favor of chasing the next dream that has captured my intense interest.

Something dawned on me very quickly as I evaluated my results and contemplated their meaning.

Everyone has a very different, very specific combination of strengths. And when those strengths don’t jibe exactly with our individual goals, or don’t align with our strengths, we can convince ourselves that…

Lack of Strength = Weakness

And that’s a lie. A lack of strength is an opportunity.

My ex-wife can be very shy. She is sometimes not a good networker or can come across as unfriendly because of her shyness and general preference for surrounding herself with a few close friends and leaning heavily on them.

And I might be guilty of thinking of my wife’s shyness as a weakness, instead of properly identifying her strength as a loyal friend who builds super-tight bonds with those closest to her.

Similarly, my wife thought I was undisciplined and flighty instead of recognizing what I actually have is a strong ability to generate new ideas and passionately pursue new challenges.

Our individual strengths are hardwired into every one of us.

I Want to Write Books

As you can imagine, my strength profile makes it very difficult for me to see a project somewhat epic in scope (like a book) through to completion on my own.

Frankly, that applies to virtually every aspect of my life (I’ve said many times that much of what ails me will naturally work itself out when I have a full-time romantic partner again).

The woman (a friend) who is coaching me through this StrengthsFinder process said: “Based on a cursory look at your strengths, you’re gonna need a partner,” in regards to completing book projects.

“What do you mean? A co-author?” I said.

“You’re a starter. But can tend to let things cool… a co-author… a publisher pushing you. Someone you empower to give you deadlines,” she said. “You need a partner of some kind who can propel you. Motivate you. You’ll have to figure out what that looks like.”

“Interesting,” I said. “Maybe an editing partner.”

“Exactly,” she said.

I love writing. I have a lot to say. And I’m very close to being ready to pull the trigger on these larger writing projects I have floating around in dozens of notebook pages, computer files and folders.

My favorite writer James Altucher often writes about the need for collaboration.

“There’s no such thing as a lone genius,” he writes. “Every Steve Jobs has a Steve Wozniak. Every Marie Curie has a Pierre Currie. Every Lennon has a McCartney. Even the most isolated genius (Picasso) had a Braque.”

I am no “lone genius.” I think that goes without saying.

But I do really want to finish these book ideas, if for no other reason than to learn how (or how to NOT) write and publish a book. It’s time to get started.

But I need a partner.

I don’t just want a partner. I need one. And I’m DONE thinking if I keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, it’s going to magically work one day. It will ALWAYS end the same if you keep trying the same thing.

We can call it a weakness if you must.

But I’m going to embrace my strengths. Everyone has them. And I’m going to leverage them. And I’m going to supplement my missing strengths with people in possession of the ones I need to accomplish my goals.

And I need one of those now. A person who possesses what I’m missing.

Are you a writer who has worked with an editor you like and respect? Are you an editor looking for a new project? Do you know how to find editors outside of traditional publishing? Do you have any tips for how to know when you’ve found the right person to work with on your most-important work?

I’m asking for your help.

I need a partner.

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The Book Project

And we're off...

And we’re off…

I’m attempting to write my first book.

I’ve been treating the project somewhat like I do my blog posts. I get an idea and just run with it with little forethought or planning. I just wing this stuff. Sometimes it turns out. Sometimes it doesn’t.

In the end, this project will require infinitely more organization than I’m accustomed to. I’m not a very organized person. The day I’m holding an actual finished product in my hand will be something akin to a miracle. But it must happen.

I believe that human relationships—not counting the deeply personal spiritual relationships many people have—are the most-important and most-impactful things we experience in our lives.

I believe adulthood is more difficult than we’re generally led to believe growing up. And I believe marriage, or committed relationships like marriage, are even more difficult.

I think people have expectations for how things are going to be. Then we grow up and things are nothing like what we thought they were going to be. Our partners don’t act like we thought they would. They don’t make us feel as loved or safe or good as we thought they would. We change into people different than who we thought we were going to be. Our partners do, too.

All of that builds and stews and compounds and complicates. Before you know it, people are sleeping with other people, or wishing they were. Homes and bedrooms that used to represent sanctuary become hostile territory.

We feel like we’re losing everything. We hurt. We cry. We’re afraid. Because the future is uncertain and now we know just how horrible it can be. Now our minds can conjure up frightening and painful outcomes much easier than before, back when life was simple and happy and easy and we had our entire lives ahead of us.

Before the scars. Before the brokenness. Before the fear.

Divorce is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I believe it’s the worst thing many people experience.

In addition to all of the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual strain everyone going through it feels, a bunch of other things also break along the way.

Children’s lives are completely changed.

Friendships evolve uncomfortably or break altogether.

Family relationships fracture.

Divorce is shitty and horrible. And I don’t think it needs to happen as frequently as it does.

A Higher Calling

I think we all have the capability of having healthy, sustainable relationships. By “we,” I mean people like you and me. People who have the mental and emotional awareness to participate in conversations like the ones we have. People who care enough. People who want to grow and contribute to making this world just a little bit better than it is.

I cannot build a house or fix a car. I don’t know how.

But I believe if I spent time with capable contractors and mechanics interested in helping me learn, that I could. I COULD be a guy who builds houses and fixes cars.

Some people are good at relationships. Most often, they’re women. Women are better at relationships than men. Not always. But most of the time.

Which is why I believe men have the most power in this world to stem the tide of divorce and all the shit storms it causes in the lives of so many of us.

We can’t do much about the super-selfish or apathetic ones. They are who they are. They must choose unselfishness. They must choose to care.

But there are A LOT of good men out there. A lot. And they WANT to be good husbands and fathers. Deep within their hearts, minds and souls. A lot of guys don’t know that being nice isn’t enough. A lot of guys don’t know that good men can be shitty husbands.

They don’t have the tools or knowledge to build the house or fix the car. But with those tools and a little help, they could.

A Book with No Genre

I’m not proposing a self-help book here. My bachelor’s degree and judge-stamped dissolution of marriage documents DO NOT qualify me to pontificate on how to do things right.

But here’s what I believe—and most of it is predicated on my experiences since launching this blog:

1. My stories about my failed marriage ACCIDENTALLY help people. They either relate emotionally so they don’t feel alone OR sometimes cause people to rethink some of their beliefs about what it takes to make relationships work.

2. My days as a newspaper reporter make me decent at finding good informational resources that teach me things. I like sharing those resources with others.

3. I believe men (and perhaps many women) don’t understand just how different (and potentially complementary) men and women are from one another. Gender differences. In our chemistry. In our mental and emotional genetic makeup. I think if all men truly understood these interpersonal dynamics between the genders—and respected them enough to alter their behavior accordingly—we’d start winning the fight against divorce and broken relationships. Like, make-divorce-our-bitch-style winning.

A husband doing things the right way will:

  • Never leave his wife feeling emotionally abandoned and unsafe.
  • Set a great example for sons and daughters (and other friends and family) about what successful marriage is supposed to look like, making it more likely they will have healthy relationships in the future.
  • Significantly reduce the likelihood of a wife looking for greener pastures because she feels loved and respected and wanted by her husband. In turn, the husband will feel loved and respected. He won’t feel SHAME—an absolute relationship killer for men. They will have a healthy and vibrant sex life. This will greatly reduce occurrences of emotional and physical infidelity.

4. The average man is not going to read The Five Love Languages or Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. They’re just not. My wife asked me to read “Men are from Mars…” several years ago in an attempt to help me understand why she would get upset with things I said and did, or didn’t do. I read three chapters and never opened it again. And that right there is the kind of shit I’m talking about. I wasn’t a bad guy. I was just a shitty husband. What if I read that book and respected my wife’s emotional needs way back then? Isn’t it possible we’d still be married today? Isn’t it possible we could have avoided all this brokenness? Isn’t it possible we’d both feel safe and loved and optimistic about our future, and have our five-year-old son at home with us all the time, instead of just half?

OF COURSE, it’s possible. I’d argue, likely. I’m really talented at breaking shit and figuring out how I broke it. I’m reasonably good at not making the same mistake twice. At least not the really big ones.

So, I’m always thinking: There MUST be a bunch of other guys out there like me. There must! Guys who still have time. Who haven’t broken their relationships yet, or are early enough in the process where they can turn it around. Or, better yet? Guys who are in the very early stages of laying the foundation for their lives with their significant others. If they knew what I knew, wouldn’t they have a MUCH better chance of making it?

Yes, they would.

And I want them to. I’m not even almost as smart as John Gray or Gary Chapman, the authors of Men are from Mars… and The 5 Love Languages, respectively.

But I have an advantage over those guys. I don’t have “Dr.” in front of my name. I say bad words and watch football and play golf and air hump random stuff after one too many drinks at a Saturday night party.

In other words, I’m just a totally average, regular guy. And maybe a small percentage of other regular guys will read something I write whereas they won’t read some “girl book” their wives or girlfriends wanted them to read.

Maybe. I don’t know.

I hope so.

The Book’s Framework

I’m making broad generalizations here. I know this.

But men tend not to read much. We have subpar attention spans. Already, this blog post has WAY exceeded the average person’s TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) threshold. Most dudes stopped after the third paragraph because it didn’t have the word “boobs” in it.

This is the part where I ask you for advice and feedback.

Currently, I’m planning to make the book something in the general vein of “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married.” We will come up with a better title. I promise.

I want each chapter to cover each of the following things.

I would REALLY appreciate any and all feedback and/or suggestions as to how I can make this list better.

Here’s the current chapter list, subject to change, and in no particular order:

1. Getting married is NOT like having a permanent girlfriend.

2. Yes, it can happen to you. (Don’t get too comfortable, married guy.)

3. Love is a choice.

4. Know your role. (The importance of gender differences.)

5. Your parents might have done it wrong. (As far as these gender roles and telling us the truth about marriage.)

6. Don’t keep secrets. (Big and small. This will cover sex and lots of mind, body, spirit stuff.)

7. Monogamy can be hot. (Have lots of sex. Make it dirty if you want to. If everyone is honest with one another, this can work fabulously. I think this is one of the ways we cut down on instances of infidelity.)

8. Being good at marriage is a learned skill. (Men are often naturally competitive creatures. It’s a huge mystery to me why men aren’t competitive about being studs at marriage. They should WANT to be amazing husbands and fathers to stoke their fiery competitiveness. Perhaps those desires can be drawn out with the right language? Seems worth exploring.)

And there will be more. Or less. Whatever. This is a fluid work in progress.

Each chapter will be written a lot like how I write blog posts—present-day thoughts with back-story personal anecdotes that apply to each topic sprinkled in between.

I have no idea what the end result might look like. But I hope it can matter to someone. And I hope I come out the back end a more-confident, capable writer. One who contributed a few ideas to the world.

Only time will tell.

Thank you for being a part of it.

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How to Crowdsource Book-Writing Ideas

I've wanted to write one for as long as I can remember. I think it's time to try. Please help.

I’ve wanted to write one for as long as I can remember. I think it’s time to try. Please help.

I’m going to die.

I could be well over halfway to the end as I sit here and type. And I’m such a time-waster and procrastinator.

The hourglass—my hourglass—is always spilling from top to bottom. When it’s full, I’m gone.

Might be today.

I must never forget this.

That this might be the last post I ever write.

I want to think about it when I’m hugging my son. When a pretty girl is smiling back at me. When I’m surrounded by my family. By my friends.

I don’t want to live in fear. Or be scared or paralyzed by the morbidity of all of this.

I just want to be mindful of our precious time. To capitalize on all this world has to offer.

To live.

Because if I knew I had a week to live, I would do everything different.

So, why doesn’t knowing I MIGHT only have a week to live incite action within me?

Because I take things for granted, probably. Because the law of averages suggests I have more time.

Even if that’s true, I’m going to regret so much on my deathbed, all of my wasted, do-nothing moments.

It’s Time

If not now, when?

What am I waiting for?

I’m just scared. Really scared.

It’s time to write a book.

I’ve been blogging less than nine months. But the data sample is large enough and the evidence is clear: People care about personal, human, honest stories. And they REALLY care about their marriages, or their relationships with boyfriends or girlfriends.

It didn’t take me long to see the truth.

It doesn’t matter whether you live in Malaysia or South Africa or New Zealand or Spain or Korea or Canada or the United Kingdom, or here in the United States.

You love.

And you want to be loved.

That’s what we all do.

That’s what we all want.

Human relationships and all of the joy and sadness and anger and ecstasy and heartache and connection and brokenness that comes along with them affect each and every one of us. All seven billion.

There’s no market cap on the real gritty human being stuff that goes on within our minds, hearts and souls.

I always thought you had to be an expert to write non-fiction.

That’s another lie that so many of us believe.

You don’t have to be an expert. Because without asking the question, or having any way of finding an answer, I KNOW that all those well-read therapists and psychologists who are considered experts on marriage and family and relationships deal with the exact same bullshit we do.

No one is immune or safe from the human condition.

I am an expert.

And so are you.

I’ve written a series of posts titled An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands. There are six of them. Some are poorly excuted. Others are decent.

They are the only blog posts I’ve written which have been organically shared by hundreds of people to their friends and family on Facebook and Twitter outside of this WordPress bubble.

And I think I understand why.

I think I’ve written about something that millions of people fully understand and can relate to.

And I think I’m sort of uncomfortably right about most of it.

Families break apart and children lose their security—their entire worlds—because two adults who just three or five or ten years ago swore before God, friends and family that they would love each other forever, but now can’t take it anymore.

It’s so bad they are willing to lose half or more of their children’s childhood. They’re willing to sacrifice their comfortable routines. Their homes. Financial security. Friends. Entire families.

Because the person they loved above all others became the bane of their existence.

And for what? So we can go try again with someone else and figure out it’s the exact same shit with EVERY person on Earth?

Surprise! We’re all human beings!

It’s a big secret, I guess. But I don’t want it to be. Because I don’t think there has to be this much brokenness.

And—Lord, forgive me if this sounds vain—I think I can help. Not everyone. Not even a lot of people.

But maybe just one.

Because I don’t think the average man is ever going to read Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. I don’t think they’re going to read The Five Love Languages. I don’t think they’re going to read my favorite—How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.

And that’s great.

Because maybe they’ll read something I write.

Because I’d like to write something accessible to the average guy out there.

Guys just like me. Making the same mistakes as me. As well-intentioned as me, but maybe without the knowledge and tools to make it work.

Not because they’re not good enough. Not because they’re not smart enough. Not because they’re not strong enough.

But just because their toolboxes didn’t have the right stuff for the job.

I’m not cocky enough to believe I can help everyone.

But what if there’s one?

What if one family makes it because I spent some months writing a book? What if one guy reads it, and it just makes sense to him and he changes his life?

Isn’t that worth it? Even if it’s just a fool’s dream?

Of course it is.

I Need Your Help

I’ve never written anything longer than a couple-thousand words before.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

But I also believe I can do this. And that’s the first step.

My Questions for You

1. If you’ve been following along for a while, can you share what post topics you’ve read here that you consider meaningful enough to include? Ideas to expand upon. To research more. To potentially interview people about.

2. How long should a book be that we actually want men to read? As everyone paying attention knows, I’m entirely too wordy. When do we hit TL;DR status?

3. I will never repurpose a blog post in its entirety. That feels like cheating. But I am wondering to what extent I can use existing content (There are more than 250,000 words on this blog. The average book is about 75,000 or so, I think.) to help supplement the project and serve as the framework. What percentage of a book do you think is acceptable to supplement with previously written-about ideas?

4. Do you think this is a stupid idea?

5. What am I not thinking about, or what do you think I should be considering?

6. Would you think me an asshole if I scaled back on my posting frequency here in order to put more time into that?

7. Is this even remotely interesting to you? It’s okay to say no. In fact, I’m begging you to if you feel that way.

8. Do you think because I’m a divorced guy that failed at marriage that I’m in over my head trying to write a book like this? Or do you think it makes me the right guy for the job?

9. Do you ever wonder how long you have to live, and ask yourself why the hell you’re waiting to do something you really want to do?

10. I love you. Seriously.

The end is where we begin.
It’s crawling back, when
We run away, run away.
‘Cause the end is where we begin.
Where broken hearts mend
and start to beat again.
The end is where we begin.

­— Thousand Foot Krutch

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