Tag Archives: Publishing

‘We Regret to Inform You’: A Story About Marriage and Book-Publishing Failure

regret to inform letter

(Image/Now and There)

I felt that little jolt of hope and nervous excitement in my chest when I saw the unopened email and recognized who it was from. Please let this be it.

It wasn’t it.

“Dear Matt. You’re not good enough. I’m not interested. Good luck.”

Damn it, I thought. I can’t believe this is happening again.

There was a lot riding on the first major non-marriage promise I’d made to my wife, because I didn’t know if I’d get to keep her if I didn’t fulfill it.

We moved to a beach town near Tampa, Fla. after graduating from the Ohio university where we’d met. I was a newspaper reporter. I wrote business stories for a daily newspaper, covering things like commercial real estate development and Florida’s regulated energy industry.

We were still five years away from the first iPhone launch, so it wasn’t weird to put your economic future in print journalism back then.

We both liked Florida—its gorgeous beaches, its mostly beautiful weather, its amazing seafood, and having sun-soaked skin most of the year. But. People—family, friends, community—mattered more to us than those great things. We missed home. We had limited financial resources in our early twenties, and it was cost-prohibitive for us to travel home. We missed funerals, weddings, class reunions, and holiday gatherings because of the distance.

It affected my wife more intensely than me. I was raised as an only child who split time between two parents who lived hundreds of miles apart. I was accustomed to living far away from people I love. I was pretty good at by-myself stuff.

But this was her first encounter with it. The distance. And she took it hard.

Living far from home was hurting her.

Her hurting was hurting me.

After our first year or so in Florida, my singular purpose became finding a job back home. That might seem like not that big of a deal. But I was a newspaper reporter. Guess how many newspaper reporting jobs are available at any given time in a livable city in Ohio?

I flew to several job interviews in Ohio. I even interviewed in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Detroit because they were much closer to home.

There was so much riding on these interviews. It wasn’t about me getting more money or advancing my career. It was so much bigger than that. It was me fundamentally fulfilling my first promise to my wife who I married DURING the couple-year job hunt in a largely attended, and beautiful ceremony near Cleveland.

In the car, sitting at dinner, or lounging in bed, we’d talk about how much we hoped this time it would work out. That we’d finally get the offer. Total strangers I needed to be good enough for so that I could be good enough for my wife.

Sometimes I’d get a letter in the mailbox, or receive an email or phone call from a newspaper I’d interviewed with.

My chest would thump. Before answering the phone, clicking the email, or opening the envelope. This has to be it. Please God. Let this be it.

But for many months, the message was always the same: “Thank you for your interest in working with us! It was such a pleasure to meet you! Everyone on staff loved you and thought you’d be the perfect fit! Unfortunately, competition was really high for this opening, and we had a ton of qualified candidates. It was such a hard decision, but we did choose to go with someone else.”

And then I’d die a little on the inside.

“Have fun telling your wife that you failed her again. I’m sure she’ll think you’re awesome and have no regrets about hitching her wagon to a constant failure!”

Sometimes, I’d wait several hours to tell her. Because she cried almost every time. And in a way, I couldn’t make it better, because in some respects, it was my failure to win the job that made it hurt.

Other than the unfortunate situation with my parents living hundreds of miles apart from one another in my formative years, I’d never encountered personal adversity before this. If I tried to accomplish something, I usually did. (Not because I’m awesome, but mostly because I only tried to do things in which I had a certain degree of confidence, and those things tended to work out.)

I thought I was done with that experience. And I was grateful for it. But—in a much different way—I find myself back here once again.

“Sorry Matt! We really appreciate you contacting us, but we’re just not interested in anything you have to say and don’t think anyone else is going to be either. You’re not good enough. But hey! Good luck!”

I’m Trying to Make a Non-Fiction Book Titled ‘She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’

As most of you know, back in early 2016, I published a post with this title, and then all hell broke loose. A few days later, it was the most popular thing on the internet globally for 15 minutes, and I was getting dozens of media interview requests, and large publications seeking permission to republish it.

More than five million people read it on this blog. I can’t imagine how many more must have read it on the larger sites like The Huffington Post, Your Tango, Thought Catalog, Babble, etc.

The Inquistr published an article ABOUT the article. That’s when I got scared, because I was seriously trying to keep my writing a secret in my personal life.

But that’s when everything changed.

That’s when I learned that things I wrote could matter to people more than I ever imagined. A thousand people told me over the following week or so that I’d saved their marriage.

And it was no doubt hyperbole, but all I could think about was that maybe that was a thousand husbands who didn’t have to cry like I cried when my wife packed a suitcase and drove away. Maybe that was a thousand little kids who didn’t have to cry like I cried when I waved to one of my parents out the rear window while we drove the opposite direction.

That’s the moment my life became less about me and more about other people. My blog audience tripled after a solid few months of viral website traffic.

Credible publications invited me to write for them. Event organizers invited me to speak at their events. TV, radio, and podcast producers did the same.

Me! An idiot who started a blog drunk on vodka because I was upset about my divorce, and jokingly named it Must Be This Tall To Ride, because I’m not very tall (5’9”-ish) and was only then realizing what a handicap that was while pathetically trying and failing to online date. The blog was supposed to be about not being good enough for my wife, and not being good enough for anyone else either.

I didn’t think people would actually read this shit. But then they did.

Everything in my life unrelated to parenting is about trying to help others have better relationships. More accurately, it’s about helping people NOT accidentally poison them through a series of innocent, thoughtless behaviors and habits that happen in their blind spots—behaviors that ended my marriage, and ends thousands per day.

Just because we didn’t know any better.

I think I can write a book. And I think I can write a book that doesn’t suck.

Everything I write and publish is a stream-of-consciousness first draft with no editing, and no thoughtful organization. I unprofessionally spit it out in about an hour during a lunch break. Just like right now.

With the guidance of professional book makers and editors, as well as actual time to research and interview, I’m excited to see what’s possible.

But First, I Need Someone to Say Yes

About three weeks ago, I started querying literary agents for a full-length non-fiction book titled “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.” You might say I have strong data to support the title’s effectiveness.

When trying to publish a book the traditional way (through the old guard publishing houses in New York—there are four primary ones that have consolidated most of the traditional printing press industry) as an unknown, first-time author, the first step is sending a query letter to book agents.

I have to research agents and agencies who represent authors writing in the genres I’m interested in writing for. Then I email them a little pitch telling them about the book idea, why I think it has merit, why I think it’s unique, and why I think I’m the person who should be writing it.

And then you email them with something like “QUERY: ‘She Divorced me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’ (nonfiction relationship self-help/memoir)” in the subject line, and hope that someone gives a shit.

The biggest agencies MIGHT write you back sometime within six months. (It can seriously take that long.) Others might write back faster.

Some have. Four, to be exact. About 25 percent of the agents I’ve queried so far.

All with the same message: “Sorry. Not interested.”

And that’s when it hit me that this wasn’t going to be easy. I don’t know whether I thought it would be easy, but somewhere deep down, I guess I hoped it wouldn’t be hard.

And I don’t mean difficult. I don’t mind difficult.

I mind hard. Where you feel it in the head and chest and feel like that 23-year-old all over again: Maybe I’m just not good enough.

Or maybe I am. I think I’m the only one who is supposed to have an opinion that counts. But, and this shouldn’t surprise anyone, it feels as if everyone’s opinion but mine matters.

Ultimately, yours.

But before I even have the opportunity to try to make something substantive for you to decide what to do with, I need some faceless stranger reading hundreds of book pitches per day to decide that mine is worth taking a closer look at.

I wish the fate of the most personally relevant and important project of my life weren’t in the hands of people I’ve never met and most likely will never meet. But that’s where we find ourselves.

Again.

Trying to be smart enough. Trying to be good enough. Trying to matter enough.

Jobs. Wife. Dates.

Must be this tall to ride.

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Maybe You’re Giving Too Many F*cks: A Q&A With Author Mark Manson

Tim doesn't give a fuck. Image/Mark Manson

This makes me laugh every time I see it. You go, Tim. (Image/markmanson.net)

There are bad words in this post.

More than usual. I used to publish many bad words here, but have cut back, probably because I worry too much about what other people think. Which is bad.

That’s what Mark Manson’s new book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: The Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life is mostly about (along with Mark’s original blog post which inspired it).

We all spend a lot of time and energy on trying to be who and what we think other people want us to be. And it leaves us feeling a little dirty and dissatisfied because it’s inauthentic and bullshitty.

Our mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being is affected by a variety of meaningful and important things. Some people think profanity is meaningful and important. Some people want to use only nice words and feel comfortable all the time.

But sometimes, I think we MUST feel uncomfortable, because that’s when we figure out what really matters and what doesn’t.

I don’t intentionally cuss in front of children (or my grandma), and I value politeness and respecting others’ opinions.

But once in a while, boats need rocked, beliefs need challenged, and taking a counterintuitive approach is what’s needed to live well.

You might not like it. I’m fairly certain my mom doesn’t.

But for this post, at least? I just don’t give a fuck.

subtle-art-cover

F-bombing the book title is a bold choice. The word “Shitty” will live in mine.

Mark Manson is one of my favorite writers, possibly my very favorite.

He’s smart. He’s funny. And many of the things he writes hit me in that place where your mind, heart and body go: Ohhh. That feels uncomfortably true.

Other than me being a big fan and admirer of his work, Mark and I don’t know each other. I’m not pimping Mark’s new book for any other reason than I believe his writing has the ability to help certain people have better lives.

I truly believe that Mark’s work helps humans flourish. And that matters.

I think you should read his book. It would be awesome of you to buy a copy. By the time you read this, my pre-ordered copy should be sitting atop my book stack. Which is awesome.

A Q&A With Mark Manson

Matt: I’ve read a lot of your work and have been majorly influenced by a handful of your ideas. I value your opinions. What is so important to you about this specific concept that made it meaningful enough to dedicate an entire book to it?

Mark: I wanted to write a book about the importance of pain — that pain is often a good and necessary thing in life. It’s something that’s not said often and I feel like in our overly-consumer culture these days with social media and everything, it’s more important than ever for people to allow life to suck sometimes. They need to learn how to stop giving a fuck about everything all the time. In a sense, you could say it’s an approach to personal growth not through pursuing and achieving more, but rather by pursuing and achieving less.

Matt: I mostly write about relationships (the dating/marriage kind). How can learning how to give fewer fucks help someone or couples experience greater relationship success?

Mark: Not giving a fuck is essentially about choosing what to care about: choosing your priorities, your values. Most people who struggle in the dating/relationship area struggle because they’re giving too many fucks about the wrong things — being admired or receiving validation, avoiding rejection, or pumping up their own ego. For a relationship to function and flourish, one needs to get clear about what truly matters to them and what does not, and then develop the ability to sort and screen through potential partners to find someone who shares those values.

Mark Manson

That’s Mark. (Image/Forbes)

Matt: It was you who introduced me to David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech which you shared in your post “This is Water.” It had the same chemistry-shifting impact on me as I believe it did on you. (So, thanks.) How do we balance in healthy ways critical concepts like Awareness and Empathy with the self-preservation techniques of fuckage withholdment?

Mark: One of the subtleties to not giving a fuck is that it’s not about being indifferent, it’s about being comfortable with being different. Many people see not giving a fuck as this armor of indifference — by learning to not care about anything, they’ll protect themselves from being hurt. But the truth is that indifference is just another way of giving too many fucks. To truly not give a fuck about what does not matter, we must first discover those things in our life that matter the most.

Matt: If you had to pick just one of your articles, which would you choose that hit on one of those life-altering moments for you, in an effort to help others see the world as you believe it is?

Mark: It’s funny, the articles I love the most are often not the articles that readers get the most out of and vice-versa. For me though, the biggest ones would probably be “Being Special Isn’t So Special,” “Love is Not Enough” and “The Four Stages of Life.”

Matt: One of the great lessons of adulthood for me has been learning about Hedonic Adaptation. It is, in my estimation, the root cause of human dissatisfaction across the board, from how we always grow tired of our shiny new toys, adjust to pay increases, and perhaps most importantly, take for granted our romantic partners. What besides Mindfulness would you recommend to people (especially guys) for combating that psychological condition on behalf of their marriages and families?

Mark: The hedonic treadmill usually only applies to superficial, worldly pursuits — earning more money, buying nicer cars, banging more women, etc. This is why these things are generally considered superficial values and poor things to pursue (or to put another way, poor places to invest your fucks). As humans, we need a sense of progress in order to feel happy, therefore it’s important to choose goals and values that have no definitive end to them — becoming a great musician, being a good father, having a pleasant social life, etc. These are things that can always be worked on and improved upon.

Matt: The No. 1 question I get is: “How can I get my husband to understand what you’ve written here? He never listens to me any time I say anything he perceives as critical.” I care about helping others, and I believe husbands actively listening to their wives (hearing her, I mean; not following her directives) would dramatically improve relationships/marriage. What advice would you give women on how to communicate concerns or dissatisfaction in ways men are more likely to truly listen to?

Mark: Questions like this are hard because they’re so person-dependent. It’s hard to say with certainty without knowing the couple. After all, maybe there’s something in the wife’s communication style that is preventing him from hearing her. Maybe the husband has some deep insecurity that is causing him to avoid dealing with the issue. It could be a million things.

But in general, the short answer, is that whenever someone in a relationship has problems with their partner, it always needs to be communicated in such a way that responsibility or blame for each person’s emotions are not shifted to the other. For instance, many people naturally approach their partner by saying something like, “You don’t care about me and make me feel horrible because all you want to do is X.” Because this is said in such a way that puts all of the responsibility on the partner, they will naturally become defensive or seek a way to avoid dealing with it. After all, I can’t control how my wife feels 24/7!

A much better way to communicate it is something like, “When you do X, it often causes me to think/feel badly because I feel unloved. Maybe that’s my own insecurity, but is there something we can do to make it better?” In this example, the person approaching their partner with the problem is owning their responsibility for their own feelings and reactions, and are looking to find some solution. There’s no blame or guilt-tripping going on. This is far more likely to be successful.

Then again, a lot of men are raised and socialized to be emotionally shut down and distant from pretty much everyone (but especially women), so it can be a much more long-term issue that may actually have little to do with the wife herself.

Thanks, Mark

A big thank-you to Mark for making time for our tiny corner of the internet.

If you think as highly of Mark’s work as I do, perhaps you’ll give his new book a read and share it with anyone in your life who might benefit from it.

This sort of thing is good for everybody.

Because we mostly give too many fucks about the wrong things. And it makes us feel bad as we invest in other people’s opinions of us, or chasing things that ultimately leave us feeling empty.

Remember: Fuckage withholdment isn’t about being indifferent. It’s about being comfortable with being different.

We can participate in bullshit group-think and try to blend in.

Or we can be like Tim in the image up top. Each of us gets to decide.

Now, where did I leave those red balloons?

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How to Find the Classic WordPress Editor

peter griffin grinds my gears

(Author’s Note: Feel free to skip to the bottom of this post for help finding the old “Add New Post” page because most of this doesn’t matter. Also, I know most of you have already figured this out because you’re a bunch of smarties. This is for the people who haven’t and are possibly just one or two posts away from offing themselves to avoid having to use the new editor again. They deserve our support.)

Ohhh. THIS is what she was talking about!

A friend who blogs on WordPress asked me how I felt about the recent changes to the “Add New Post” page.

I think she said something like: “I don’t know how to feel about it. I’m not sure I like it,” but at the time I was still seeing the trusty, familiar WordPress editor page that doesn’t hate children and puppies when I went to post something.

It’s because she’s nice and not dramatic, unlike me who has a tendency to arm-flail and loudly express displeasure with more exuberance than is warranted. I’ve had to point this out more than usual lately: I am all about hyperbole and exaggeration and redundancy and saying things more times than necessary.

So, did I really want to kill myself after having WordPress’ updated “Add New Post” page thrust upon me like an uninvited, smelly penis?

Yes. Yes, I did.

Not All Change is Good

For anyone still reading who doesn’t publish on WordPress, you might be thinking: “Oh, Matt! You’re just being silly! EVERYONE resists change at first, but once you get used to it, you’ll see it’s actually better! You can’t stop progress!”

And if you are thinking that, you can go drink pee and like it.

I was in the newspaper business for a decade. We would infrequently make thoughtful design changes to the daily newspaper, and geriatric anal-retentives would lose their minds because we moved the crossword puzzle from the third page to the seventh and now their lives were ruined and they were cancelling their subscriptions just as soon as they finished their episode of Murder, She Wrote.

I’m not one of those All-Change-Is-Bad people.

So when I stumbled on the new-and-different WordPress editor, I embraced it as a fun new toy to play with.

But THEN, I played with it. I used it to publish five blog posts. And honestly? It was a little bit shitty and kind of sapped my will to live. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But it’s obviously not an improvement, and I’m always confused by “updates” in which regular users lose more than they gain.

The new interface is kind of like a Slinky that doesn’t slink. Or playing basketball with a half-deflated ball. Or playing music with an out-of-tune guitar that’s missing its B string.

Maybe I’m a Terrible User

I may just be doing it wrong.

For example, it’s not difficult to add tags to posts in the new editor. But I’ve posted three times now forgetting to add them because of how different and hidden the new tag box is.

The shittiest change for me was trying to link to old posts. In the classic editor, when I want to add a link, there’s a little search box where typing in a couple keywords will bring up titles of all related old posts, and it’s super-easy to click on them and add the link. But now it looks like this:

Sad Link screen

All the great, user-friendly functionality is gone. I have to open a new browser window and find the post I want, and then copy-and-paste the URL to create a link. And that’s fine! I can handle it, I guess. But why make it suckier and more difficult for no reason?

How to Use the Classic WordPress Editor Instead of the New One You Hate

If you want to use the old “New Post” window that you’re comfortable with, it’s relatively easy to do…

When you’re signed into your WordPress account and you click on “My Site” in the top left corner, it takes you to an Admin page where you can see stats and stuff.

If you choose “Add New” from that page, you’ll be doused in sadness when this pops up:

Booooooo WordPress

BUT. REJOICE!

If you look all the way to the bottom left, you’ll see “WP Admin,” in all its nearly hidden, understated glory:

WP Admin Click That

This is where you want to select “Add New” to create a new blog post:

That's your friend

And now, dear friends, life can suck a little less:

classic wordpress editor

Maybe WordPress will kill the classic editor entirely one day. But until then, keep on keepin’ on and stuff.

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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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Clean Copy

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“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

Because I’m me, stressing about what I’m going to write here has become close to a daily occurrence.

I just stand in the shower trying to think of different ideas.

Another Open Letter to Shitty Husbands? We’re about due.

Some random, embarrassing story from my past? Those are always fun.

Today? I have to apologize to you for all of the typos and poorly constructed sentences you come across here.

They embarrass me. And I’m sorry.

Virtually everything you read from me is my first draft. Sometimes I write from home. You get a cleaner product when I do.

But most of the time? I’m writing this at my desk at work. Squeezing two hours worth of work into one.

The results are poorly edited, hastily thrown together thoughts and words.

And because I’m hyper-sensitive to what people think of me, I wanted to try to explain why it happens.

I do my best to round up the typos and misspellings, but they inevitably slip through when I first hit ‘Publish.’ If you subscribe via email, that’s the version you get. The very first, shitty one with all the misspellings before I find them and fix them online.

The beauty of the Internet is that I can fix an error anytime I find one. It always hurt more when a mistake was printed in a newspaper story. That just stays there. A non-curable blemish. Of course, at the paper, I always had three, four or five sets of eyeballs on my work, so mistakes rarely were published.

Here? This? It’s just me. Just little old me brainstorming in real-time and hitting that Publish button before I have time to talk myself out of it.

But I need you to know that I care about this from a quality standpoint. That I pride myself on giving you predominantly mistake-free copy, because I know how amateur and non-credible the alternative feels.

But when I proofread my own work, my brain automatically inserts what I meant to write, so a lot of times I don’t immediately see the mistakes others do.

This fact of life means if you’re reading this in your email inbox or are among the first to see whatever I’ve posted next, you end up stumbling on my mistakes.

There were a lot of them in yesterday’s post before I fixed them. And I’m sorry. You deserve better.

Pride in my Work

Everyone wants to be good at something.

I’m not really good at anything.

I’m one of those jack-of-all-trade, master-of-none types.

I’m pretty terrible at some things, I guess. I’m not a good dancer. I’m a wretched singer. I’m a terrible bowler.

But I’m average to decent at the vast majority of things I do.

However, I’m not really great at anything.

Except maybe proofreading and editing. I might be “great” at that. I use the term great loosely here. There are editors out there who are true masters. They’re the ones that turn average writing like this into money-making publishing gold.

I’m not like them.

But in the grand scheme of people? I’m a strong proofreader and a decent editor. I pay attention to detail.

And I take pride in that. Being among the best at something. Even if it isn’t a particularly valuable skill. It’s my skill. It’s what I do.

I know the difference between ‘compliment’ and ‘complement.’

I notice when people spell advisor with an ‘e.’ Adviser is a perfectly acceptable word, too.

And a million other totally anal-retentive things I won’t bore you with.

Typos Ruin Everything

Usually it’s a missing word. The word “to” or “of.” Sometimes I’ll replace “it” with “if” because the T and F keys are next to one another.

Whatever mistake I make, I’m mortified when I find it. The worst one was on one of my busiest-ever traffic days.

At the urging of others, I shared this blog with some people I know in real life via Facebook. A handful of people that aren’t connected to my ex-wife.

The very first post they would have seen is my Hey Parents, You’re Doing It Wrong post. Just a few paragraphs in, I wrote the word “anecdote” when I had meant to say “antidote.” I didn’t notice it for a couple days. Ugh.

Everyone must have thought I was a stupid moron.

That kind of stuff pains me.

Because I do care about the little things. Because I think the little things are important.

The little things are the difference between As and Bs in school.

The little things over an entire career are the difference between a large retirement account and living off government aid.

The little things are the difference between successful marriages and failed ones.

The greatest advertising campaign in the world is shit if a typo slips through.

The Pulitzer Prize is not awarded to mistake-filled copy.

The bookstores don’t make a habit of displaying novels and self-help books and biographies full of spelling errors and horrible writing.

The Lessons of Editing

Editing is the worst. Writers don’t like to do it.

Yet, all the greats will tell you how important it is.

In cinema, they give Academy Awards for it.

It’s hard. It’s time-consuming.

It requires patience. Thoroughness. And always attention to those little things.

My life’s that way, too.

And I wonder if I wasn’t just rushing through, trying to squeeze in as much crap as possible all the time, how much higher the quality might be.

What if I mastered something?

Got in phenomenal physical condition?

Poured every ounce of energy I could into being the best father I could be?

What if I got financially disciplined?

Never let my laundry pile up?

Never let the kitchen floor get dirty?

Maximized my spiritual potential?

I think a lot of what ails me would go away. If I could just muster up the patience and discipline necessary to comb through the details of my life like I would a proofreading assignment.

And clean them up. Taking pride in it along the way.

Maybe everybody could do that.

Maybe we could all do bigger things if we spend more time focusing on the little things.

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