Learning a New Skill

Whenever I set out to learn a new skill, I generally prefer to have someone show me how its done first while explaining how they do it. Then I try to copy them as best as I can, which inevitably means I make mistakes but that’s okay because the only way to learn is by making mistakes (even though making mistakes is rarely fun, especially embarrassing ones).

Interestingly enough, this isn’t how I learned to write fiction. I didn’t have someone show me how to do it. I just sat down one day and started writing really awful fanfiction (that I cannot find anywhere at the moment). Of course, since then I’ve read countless books, articles, blogs, and videos on the art, craft, and business of fiction writing, but I’ve never had a teacher or mentor of any sort, even though I find the idea of a writing mentor really cool. I’m self-taught, I suppose you could say.

I’m not exactly sure why I like hands-on learning best. I guess it’s because I find explanations and instructions, even well-written ones, difficult to follow. I’ve always appreciated having someone show me how to do it and then letting me try to copy how they did it, even if it means messing up. It’s probably because explanations and instructions, whether verbal or written, are more open to interpretation than watching or doing something yourself, and misinterpreting instructions can cause a lot of grief for everyone involved (especially on projects that require following the instructions to the letter).

This preference for hands-on learning extends to teaching as well. Whenever I have to teach someone something, I usually show them how to do it while explaining what I am doing. I then let them try it themselves; after all, how else am I going to know if they learned something if I never let them try it?

What is your learning style?

Why Aging Doesn’t Scare Me

In response to this prompt:

Aging doesn’t terrify me, the way it does some people. Admittedly, the idea of my body getting weaker, my memory becoming poorer, and losing my health doesn’t make me look forward to it, but I understand that aging is something that happens to everyone and is unavoidable, so it’s best to accept it.

Besides, aging has some advantages over youth. As a 19-year-old, I have a better understanding of the world than I did when I was nine and I will no doubt understand it even better at the age of 29. I will still make mistakes, but I will be able to handle them better because I’ll have the experience to know how to deal with them.

Additionally, as a writer, I am constantly striving to improve, so the older I get, the more time I have to practice and the more stories I get to write. I honestly cannot wait to see what kind of stories I will be writing when I get into my sixties or seventies (assuming, of course, I don’t get into an accident that takes away my ability to write).

Overall, I am looking forward to getting older. I’m enjoying my youth, of course, but I’m constantly thinking long-term and, if all of my plans materialize, I think my older years will be even better than my younger years. One can only hope.

-Tim

Swimming

Swimming is my second favorite activity in the world (next to writing, of course). There’s nothing better than a long dip in the cold water on a hot, Texas summer day. Even before stepping into the pool, looking at the clear water reflecting the bright rays of the sun is one of the most striking images in my memory. In some ways, that initial step before you get into the pool is almost as good as actually swimming.

In spite of my love of swimming, I do not own a large pool in which to swim. I have this little metal above ground pool, but it’s only good for sitting in, not actually swimming. Sure, sitting in cold water on a hot day is good, but — like taking a cold shower — it’s really not the same as a large in-ground pool.

So whenever I do have access to such a pool, I often spend what may be considered a ludicrous amount of time in it. For example, a couple of years ago I went to a summer camp, which had a nice in-ground pool available for the campers to swim in. During the free time we got every day, I would spend most of it in the pool, simply enjoying the water.

I’m not one for pool games, though, and don’t even get me started on crowded pools. If you want to play games in the pool, that’s fine by me, but don’t expect me to join in. It’s not that I hate pool games. It’s just that I find that pool games often distract me from the actual experience of swimming itself, rather than enhance it.

Nor have I ever considered becoming a professional swimmer. This is primarily because I’m not Michael Phelps, but it’s also because, like I said above, swimming is only my second favorite activity. I like to write more than I like to swim, but I admit that swimming is very, very close and is definitely something I’d do daily if I had a large enough pool.

Another good feeling I associate with swimming is tiredness. I mean the good kind of tiredness, the kind you feel after a long day of doing good, hard physical labor. It’s one of the best feelings in the world, much different from the tiredness I get from writing, and one I wish I could experience more often, to be honest.

Maybe someday, if I make a lot of money through my writing, I’ll buy a pool. At any rate, it’s certainly something to think about.

Do you like to swim? Share your thoughts in the comments!

-Tim

Solitude: Its Benefits and Downsides

I like solitude.

That’s a good thing, by the way. If I couldn’t stand being alone, I doubt I could get any writing done. Solitude is a necessity for most writers, especially if you intend to be a fulltime professional writer like I do. If you love being around other people all the time, you probably shouldn’t pursue writing as a career.

Solitude has many benefits. In solitude, you can explore yourself deeply, brush off the filters that other people and the media place around us, and master new skills without interruption. For me in particular, I’ve found that I need solitude in order to give my story ideas the attention they deserve before I put them down on paper.

Having said that, in my experience I’ve found that too much solitude can sometimes give me a distorted view of the world. Solitude can give you clarity, but if you do not go out into the world to test your views and interact with others, it is far too easy for this clarity to turn into opaqueness.

For example, whenever I hear bad news, I tend to become unhappy. That doesn’t make me very different from most people, I suppose, but it can be worse for me because I live in my head so often. I can take this bad news and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else, even if it’s not an issue that immediately or directly affects me.

When I catch myself doing that, that’s when I know that I need to interact with other people. Preferably people who can crack a joke or tell a funny story, people who can distract me from the problem or help me put it in perspective. While entertainment can sometimes do the trick, I’ve found that lighthearted people are generally a better antidote for sadness than lighthearted entertainment.

Solitude is helpful and necessary; however, it is useful to remain aware of its possible dangers and to counteract them with socializing so you can fully embrace solitude’s precious gifts.

-Tim

Snow

When I woke up this morning, I was greeted to a thin layer of snow on the ground around my house. Snow is extremely rare here in Texas; in fact, this is the first snow of the winter, so I’d say it’s pretty special in that regard.

It’s not a whole lot of snow, though. It’s not like the amount of snow they get in the northern states, where so much of the white stuff falls I hear they have to close down schools and businesses sometimes. It’s not enough snow to build a snowman, although you could probably have a snowball fight if you wanted (though don’t expect to make anything larger than your fist, if even that).

Still, it is snow. White, wet, and cold. I hope to enjoy it as much as I can today because I am not sure if we’re going to be getting more anytime soon. On the other hand, it’s so cold outside right now that I am probably going to stay inside and do some reading or play some video games (been playing Pokémon X recently, which is a fantastic game. Highly recommend it to anyone who likes Pokémon, even if it’s been years since you last played a game from the series).

-Tim

R. I. P. Tuna

Last night, we had a bitterly cold night. Now it wasn’t cold enough to snow, but it was below freezing and we had to make sure to drip the faucets so we’d have some water in the morning.

Our cats stayed outside. They always do. They’re outdoor cats. They were tough. All four of them were used to sleeping outside, even in the freezing cold. We’d only ever lost one cat to the cold before, and he had been an old cat on the verge of death anyway. I know I went to bed, at least, fully expecting to wake up in the morning and see all four of our cats waiting for their cat food, as they usually are.

But as I did my usual morning writing, a family member came in and told me that one of our cats — Tuna, as we always called him — was dead.

I could hardly believe my ears. Tuna? Dead?

You have to understand. While Tuna was one of the sweetest cats we’ve ever had, he was tough. He was the only other male cat on our property, which is incredible when you consider that all of the other male cats were chased off by our other male cat, Mufasa. Not to mention that Tuna was young and strong. We didn’t know how old he was (he was a stray cat who basically adopted us because we fed him), but we knew at least that he was no old cat.

I went out and looked for myself. I knew he was dead as soon as I saw his body. He was unnaturally still. I covered the body with a blanket and my older brother buried him a few hours later.

This isn’t the first time we’ve lost a cat, but it’s the most recent and for me, the hardest hitting. Tuna was a unique cat, almost like a dog in terms of friendliness. Losing a pet is always hard, but losing Tuna was even harder.

I hope this isn’t a portent of things to come because if it is, this year is gonna suck.

-Tim

Solitary Walks

One of my favorite activities to do is taking a solitary walk. Especially on beautiful days like today, where the wind is blowing, the sun is shining, and everything seems more alive than usual.

I like to walk by myself because it gives me a lot of privacy and time to think. While I usually do my best thinking in writing, there is something about talking aloud to oneself that cannot be replicated on paper or on a computer screen. I usually come back from those walks with a much clearer idea about what I think or what I need to do.

I am blessed to live in the beautiful Texas hill country, where I sometimes see wild animals on my walks. Around this time of year, I’ve seen quite a few deer, sometimes a squirrel or two. I can never get too close to these animals, of course, because they’re afraid of humans, but just being able to see wild animals like that is something, in my opinion.

If you ever get a chance, try to take a solitary walk through nature. That may be the park, if you live in a city or town, or the countryside if you live in a rural area. A walk might be just what you need to help clear your mind, figure out how to solve a vexing problem, or enjoy nature, all of which are good things to get from a walk.

-Tim

New Year’s Resolutions

Christmas has come and gone (too quickly, in my opinion) and New Year’s Day is less than a week away.

Most people — perhaps even some of you who are reading this right now — will be making resolutions for the New Year. How many of these we will actually follow through with varies; nonetheless, New Year’s resolutions are a part of our culture for better or for worse.

Personally, I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions. I cannot even remember what my resolutions for 2013 were, if I made any. It’s too easy to join a gym with the intent of getting in shape and then a week later falling back into your old routine. I find it better to keep my goals open as things happen

Nonetheless, this year I have decided to make one New Year’s resolution. I decided to make it only one because it is a pretty big one and I don’t want to distract myself with other resolutions, especially because this particular resolution has been a dream of mine for a while now.

My New Year’s resolution for 2014 is:

To publish my first novel.

Yes, that’s it. To publish my first novel. Nothing too fancy or crazy. It’s pretty ordinary if you think about it. Especially with the ease of self-publishing nowadays, making it so that almost anyone — whether they can write well or not — can publish a novel.

Still, I have realized that in order to make bigger steps in my writing career, I will need to publish a novel. I will probably self-publish it, ’cause that seems to be the way to go right now, although I have been looking into small presses, too.

However I choose to go about publishing it, I will publish it. This will be my year, the year where I take a large step forward in my writing career.

I hope all of my blog readers will be with me as I get the novel ready for publication. I do not have a release date for it yet, but I can assure you it will come out next year.

And I know it will be awesome.

What do you think of New Year’s resolutions? Did you make some for 2014? How did 2013’s resolutions work out, if you made any?

-Tim

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to wish Merry Christmas to all of my blog readers. I am not going to be online today in order to spend time with my family, as well as enjoy my Christmas present, heh. I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas take the time to do the same.

I set this post to post itself automatically today. It’s a feature I’ve never used before, but one I might use more often next year if I like it.

-Tim