Finding Focus

In a world that’s so fixated on things like Facebook and Twitter, where do we find our focus? Microsoft has done a study showing how technology coupled with these services has begun to degrade our attention span and cause us to lose focus on our lives (that last bit is just a little bit of interpretation by yours truly).

I keep trying to think of ways in which I can change my own approach to things, to find my way out of the technological maze I think so many of us get lost in.

What’s the next tweet? Who said what? What’s happening on Facebook? Did somebody text me? Was that my email? Oh, Tumblr!

For all of us, or at least many of us, this all translates into “Squirrel!” and drags our attention away from the task at hand. I am guilty of this to a degree that disturbs me as I have already checked Facebook, posted to Facebook, looked at email, read an article, and checked Facebook again in just this small amount of writing space.

I feel the strong desire disconnect from technology for an extended period of time, but that is next to impossible when I work in the tech industry. How do I disconnect when it’s staring me in the face every day for hours at a time?

Even if you’re not working in technology, it’s quite likely that you spend much of your day sitting at a computer terminal doing computery things like spreadsheets, word processing documents, CAD, or something else.

Even if your company has blocked access to social media, it’s likely that you found a way around the block and can still access Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and all the others. Maybe it’s using a browser like TOR that will bypass your firewalls and allow you to surf the web anonymously, or maybe it’s using your phone with the wireless turned off so you can access all the social media sites out there in the world. Chances are many of you have spent more time trying to find some way around the blocks than you have on your own work.

The truth is that it’s not up to your company to control your behaviors, it’s up to you. It’s up to me. We have to find our own ways to disconnect from the technological timesuck and again find ways to make the technology work for us instead of being a slave to it.

How that happens, I cannot tell you. What works for one person may not work for another person. I can provide some ideas, which I need to try and follow myself, so I make no claims as to how well these may or may not work for you as an individual.

Turn off your phones and tablets and laptops at night and spend the last hour before bed working on a crossword puzzle, reading a book (not on a tablet, but an e-ink based ereader is okay), working on a puzzle, writing paper with a pen (in a journal, poetry, the next great American Novel, whatever). Do something that doesn’t involve passive intake and makes your brain work. Play chess with your partner or kids or a neighbor, take a walk and leave the phone at home.

If any of these work for you, leave a comment about it. I’d love to hear your experiences in attempting to get past this technological prison we have built for ourselves.

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Shameless Self Promotion

My previous post is in regards to the short story I have had published in a small horror anthology based here in the great state of Maine. This is just me plugging that anthology again and asking everybody to go and buy a copy.

I do not see any money from the sales of this book.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy it and enjoy it and then post reviews of it. The more exposure I get, the better.

Especially for you, dear readers, if you enjoy my work. The more I get published, the more you can read.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/macabre-maine/haunted-me/paperback/product-22081888.html

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Published Short Story

I have a short story that’s just been published in a horror anthology by Maine authors. I ask that you please go and buy it. Then talk about how awesome my story is.

Thank you.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/macabre-maine/haunted-me/paperback/product-22081888.html

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Writing Time

The truth is that I don’t post here nearly as often as I should. I have a very full life with a teenager, a two and a half year old, and another on the way. Add that to a full time job in IT and trying to find time for my wife AND my creative writing endeavors, and this place sometimes just falls by the wayside.

It shouldn’t.

I really need to make use of this space to sell myself a little. Not to publishers or agents, but to potential readers who might want to pick up my stories and delve into them for a little while.

Assuming that there are any out there.

On the one hand, I’ve been praised for my writing by the agents I’ve submitted to and have only recently received a form letter rejection. However, despite the kind words I receive on my writing, I continue to receive rejections.

Didn’t Madeline L’Engle receive rejections for something like ten years? I can hope that one day my books will be as widely read as her stories were.

For any who are interested in reading a little bit of my writing, please check out my Amazon Kindle eBook on the Amazon store, titled “The Graveyard and Other Stories.”

It’s a combination of horror and supernatural fiction, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Here’s the link: http://amzn.to/10hyXfR

Hope you enjoy!

-MCB

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Book Writing

It’s been a long time since I’ve managed to finish a book I was writing. I have eight done and I’m working on 9, 10, and 11. Since they all tie together in a way, I swap between them due to timeline overlaps and trying to keep all the events straight and in order.

As a quick note, I don’t outline my books – I don’t believe in that (but if it works for you, keep doing it). I write as the story comes to me. Sometimes it’s fast and furious, sometimes it’s trickle. Since I quit smoking in 2007, it’s been a trickle. It doesn’t help that my muse, a mischievous elfin girl with silver eyes, smokes like a chimney whenever she shows up to encourage my writing (and while she’s not real in the sense of flesh and blood, she’s real enough for me).

Other writers may understand the need for ritual when it comes to their writing.

I could write anywhere that I could easily grab a cigarette.

Sit down and open laptop. When working on a continuing piece, read the last two pages to find myself again. Then close my eyes and picture my muse sitting down at the table with me (or sitting in another chair in the room if I was writing at my desk). Light a cigarette and a take a long drag. Exhale and watch the smoke drift through the air while the story cranked away in my head while I smoked that cigarette.

Once the cigarette was gone, square my shoulders, sit up close my eyes again and “wink” at my muse who would grin back at me.

Open my eyes and start writing. I would write 1000 words a day, or for an hour – whichever came 2nd. If I couldn’t get to 1000 words by the end of an hour, keep going until I did. If I reached a thousand words in the first twenty minutes, keep going until I hit an hour.

I have never believed in writer’s block, but when I would get to place in the story that needed some extra time, I would stop writing, take out a cigarette and smoke it while allowing the story to untangle itself in my head. Never did I have to smoke more than two cigarettes in a row to find the thread, and most of the time I was writing again before I’d finished my first.

Now when I get to a pause like that, I don’t know what to do with my hands. seven and half years later, and I still fidget, and get up and walk around, mutter to myself, sit back down and look to my muse, stand up again.

I could still do 1000 words a day, but it would take me hours that I just don’t have with a teenager, a two year old, another on the way, and both my wife and I working full time jobs. It could take me that hour I set aside for writing just to untangle part of the story and so I may only get one-hundred words down on the page before I have to go back to family matters.

Every day I want a cigarette just to get back that part of myself I feel I’ve lost. To find my way around the pauses more quickly.

Every day I still choose not to.

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Catalyst

Sometimes you need a catalyst to make necessary changes in your life. Sometimes that catalyst is something small, sometimes something big.

I know I harbor a lot of anger, though I’m not really certain why. It’s been fun to blame it on the redhead part of me – quick temper, easily angered. On the flip side, I also know I’m more sensitive to other emotions as well, the good and the bad, but most of the others don’t boil over the way anger tends to.

I really need to change a lot of things in my life. Well, attitudes, not things.

I need to find a way to stop being so angry.

This is not an easy task as there are so many things in the world to be angry about.

Politicians who yell for religious freedom, but only if it’s their religion. PETA, who claims to be pro-animal, stealing pets from people’s homes and killing them (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/douglas-anthony-cooper/peta-steals-and-kills-lit_b_6156196.html), people who claim to be Christian cutting funding for the poor or killing people over the color of their skin, religious extremists of any faith killing and maiming and taking away the rights of citizens, pollution going unchecked because people want to be rich, and so forth and so on. There’s so much in the world to be angry about, it’s hard not to be.

What makes it even more frustrating is the lack of any power to do anything about it. I can write letters to my senators, I can point out to others how their beliefs are harming humanity, I can try to find ways to make little differences, but it’s hard when so many other people are doing nothing.

We had the chance to stop much of what was happening in this country simply by going out to vote in the last election and remove the harmful senators and congresspeople, but so many people sat on their butts at home, our world fell a little deeper into the abyss.

It’s hard not to be angry.

I needed a catalyst to try and find a way around that anger, to feel like I was in control of something again and use that sense of control to move forward in my life.

While some may not understand the precise reasoning, while some may even call my choice of catalyst silly, stupid, or a waste of money, it’s what I needed to restart the calm inside me.

I bought a car. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy. A 2015 Honda Fit, 6 speed manual transmission. The base model Fit is nothing to brag about in regards to horsepower, or top speed, but it is the first (and most likely ONLY) brand new car I will ever buy.

There are other reasons for the purchase as well – reasons like knowing everything about the car and how it’s been treated so there are less likely to be any surprises due to maintenance issues.

Reasons like the fact that the engine is easier to access and work on so that when the car is out of warranty, I can do more of the work myself without having to dissemble the front end to get into it, and some of the safety issues found in the 2009 to 2012 Fit have been remedied (offset front end collision issues have been taken care of).

Those are nice, but the main purpose behind this was to feel in control of something again and use that to throw myself forward into some necessary life changes.

It’s time to save money (I know, I just bought a car), it’s time to finally lose the 85 pounds I’ve put on since my wedding, it’s time to stop spending so much time on little mindless games on my iPhone and read a book (whether a paper book or one on my tablet or phone, it doesn’t matter), or write another book. It’s time to take more time with my wife when we have it and focus more attention on her.

It’s time to change.

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More Friend Stuff

I sometimes find it strange to realize that some of the people who were once simply acquaintances in college have managed to become people that you really care about. I’m finding this out about a friend of mine in L.A. with whom I attended Emerson. During our years there our paths would cross only on occasion and I would try, awkwardly, to flirt with her from time to time. That flirting thing was never something I was very good at, but that’s for another post sometime. Maybe.

Graduation happened and then we lost touch for many years until we reconnected at the 10 year reunion. It was there that we started to talk a little more and then connected through the evil that is Facebook (though it does some good, as this post is demonstrating). Since then, I’ve found solace in knowing that she’s on the other side of the keyboard and can genuinely make me laugh with a few typed words. We both have kids now, though neither of us have met the other’s offspring, and I always hope that one day my daughter can play with her children. It probably means breaking the one rule I ever really set for myself, which was NEVER visit L.A.

Anyway, I think that sometimes we forget that we can have real connections through the keyboard. Just because we’re at a distance doesn’t mean there’s any less there.

There’s something else that people often times choose to overlook when it comes to friendships, and it’s not something that anybody should feel bad about, or slighted by.

I don’t know if she views me in the same way. I know she has many friends, and a great support system in L.A. The truth is, I don’t care. The people who we care about don’t always have the same level of care back toward us. This isn’t a bad thing – this isn’t something that we should feel embarrassed by or made uncomfortable by (within reason – don’t stalk somebody, people).

It’s nice to know that there’s somebody out there who can make me laugh. And yet another parent I can bother for parenting advice when I get flustered.

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