Tag: honor

An Author’s Writing Resolutions

Another new year is here, and millions of people have made resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, save money or eat more healthily. Statistics say that by mid-February, a large percentage of those resolutions will already be broken.

As an author, what sort of resolutions should I make for the new year?

Goals, Not Resolutions

First off, I don’t make resolutions. Not personal ones and definitely not ones for my writing career.

I learned the hard way that breaking resolutions is easier than keeping them.

Does this mean I let a “new” opportunity to make changes leave me in the dust? Nope. I decided to set goals instead.

You’re wondering, “What’s the big difference?”

The difference is in mindset and planning.

Goals are written down (or should be if you’re serious about meeting them). More intentional thought goes into forming goals because we WANT to meet them.

No one wants to say, “I set these goals, but I didn’t reach them.” It sounds like failure and it feels like failure.

Failure is no fun.

Some writers make a resolution to:

  1. write every day
  2. finish their novel,
  3. submit their novel

or other reasonable sounding things.

But do they have a plan?

If their GOAL is to write every day, they might get out their appointment calendar and block out time each day for writing. Since they want to meet that goal, they form a plan to do it.

Resolutions are generally vague and abstract which is why they’re hard to keep but simple to break.

Goals need to be finite and measurable.

Maybe an author is going to finish a novel. They need to pull out their calendar and block out time to work on the novel. Maybe they’ll do a little math to figure out how many words they’re going to write so they can set a FINISH LINE.

Who wants to run a race when they don’t know where it ends?

Not me. I don’t like running that much.

So, how do I meet my goals?

Tracking My Baby Steps

I’d love to say that I have met every goal on time with finesse and verve. But that would be false.

However, in the past five years since I’ve being “doing this writing thing for real,” I’ve learned what helps me meet goals. And what doesn’t work for me.

First, I lay out a plan. It includes a step-by-step list of what it will take to meet my goal. And I track the markers I meet along the way.

This is like watching the mile posts go by on that run I mentioned earlier. It lets me know I’m making progress, and it reminds me that there is an end in sight.

I also like to reward myself for meeting these markers. It’s an incentive plan, which is something writers probably need more than the average non-author.

Why? Because you get a regular paycheck from your job (one that probably meets your expenses) but many authors get sporadic and often anemic paydays. Not that I’m complaining. I write for the joy not the money.

But it’s human nature to produce better results when an incentive is involved.

For example:

I know I can write 1,000 words per hour once I get in the groove. I’ve been known to write up to 1,700 in an inspired hour dedicated solely to writing. I give myself a word-count goal every day I write. Then I plan the “reward” for when I finish. It might be, “You get to read that awesome fantasy novel you checked out from the library.” Or it could be, “You can sit outside in the sun.” It varies depending on WHAT I WANT THE MOST that day.

I’ve also started keeping checklists on a free site called Workflowy. You can mark things off your lists there (which feels pretty amazing) and you can lay out every step in the writing process. Such as first draft, rewrite, first edits, submission deadlines, editing deadlines and publication dates.

This same strategy works for me if my goal is to lose (or maintain) weight or save money for a vacation.

Why not try these simple steps for your “resolutions”:

  1. Make the plan.
  2. Work the plan.
  3. Reward yourself for the baby steps along the way.

What about you? What resolutions have you made for 2019? What plans do you have in place to help you KEEP those “best intentions”?

 

**This post first appeared on the Roane Publishing blog in February 2018. In honor of that wonderful small independent publisher, I’m reposting it here. Share the love. Spread the word.

Why Tarzan is Still my Hero

Tarzan has been around since before black and white television had Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller portrayed the character whose legend has been recapped many times in movies and comics. Tarzan of the Apes was an all-human superhero (in the jungle at least).
Recently, my husband and I watched the 2016 remake called THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, and I was reminded of my childhood crush on this hero of the jungle.


Edgar Rice Burroughs breathed life into Tarzan in 1912 with a story in The All Story Magazine. In 1918, Hollywood produced the first of nearly three dozen movies (not including TV series) featuring this vine-swinging man who could talk to animals.
Weismuller stared in twelve of these films between 1932 and 1948, so it’s no wonder his name was the first to come to mind.
Even Walt Disney took a shot and animated a couple films featuring this well-loved hero (if the frequency of remakes and story lines is any clue). Millennials remember the music of Phil Collins more than anything else about those movies.
Regardless of the worldwide love affair with the loincloth clad man, I watched this latest movie and recalled several reasons why Tarzan is still a hero to me.

Overcoming Obstacles

Tarzan’s parents died when he was a baby. A female gorilla found and adopted him, but imagine being a human in the troop of gorillas led by a 500-pound alpha…who didn’t want you around.
His humanity would have made him weak among the powerful apes. He wouldn’t have the protection of fur against the elements and predators, nor would he have the strength and bone structure to travel with speed among the trees.
But humans are adaptable. In this newest movie, there was great care given to the changes in his hands and arms because he’d learned to be an ape before being human.
He would have been bullied, an outcast among the troop.
Talk about an underdog.
But his humanity made him curious about the other animals, and he befriended them. Yes, even learning to communicate with them. We all know about the Tarzan yell.

Standing for the Weak

Likely because he had been the weak one for much of his life, Tarzan champions the cause of those being targeted by stronger species. Whether it is his gorilla family or elephants being poached, he doesn’t accept senseless brutality.
As you know in my posts about Captain America and Wonder Woman, this, in my opinion, is the mark of a true hero. He has power but he uses it to help others.
In this movie, it’s the tribesmen who are being enslaved and the animals being poached that earn his protection. Of course, he intends to rescue Jane, but she’s as adamant about protecting their “families” as he is.

Adapting without Losing Character

One of the lines that stuck with me from this film happens near the dark moment. Tarzan has been “sold” to a tribe of natives. The chief of this tribe wants revenge because Tarzan killed his son many years ago (the son had killed Tarzan’s ape “mother”).
Tarzan defeats the chief and much of the armed tribe in hand-to-hand combat and hold a knife to the chief’s throat. They discuss this impasse.

The chief claims his son was just a boy and asks, “Where was your honor?”
Tarzan honestly replies, “I had none.”

He was raised by animals to be an animal. The argument of nature versus nurture comes into play. Was he little more than an ape when he carried out the retribution against the native? Or should he have had more scruples, as a man would (although a goodly number of the men in this film did NOT have any)?
He admitted his lack. He acted on instinct and out of pain and anger. Wasn’t the chief now doing the same thing? Where did this talk of honor come from then?
But as Tarzan learned to be human, he rejected those traits that didn’t mesh with his ingrained love for family. Gorillas are fiercely protective of both territory and troop members, and Tarzan learned this well.
When he met humans, they saved him. Then they tried to capture him and ruin his home. He learned not to trust them. That they would lie and steal and cheat. Were they really more “advanced” than the apes who raised him to survive in the jungle?

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN sends Tarzan and Jane back to the Congo at the request (so they believe) of the Dutch king, since Congo became a colony of the Dutch when all the Europeans finished warring over it in the late 1890s. Really it’s part of a plot to mine diamonds to pay the Dutch debt.
Samuel L. Jackson played an American fighting against slavery and offered plenty of comedic relief in the tense plot.
What do you love about Tarzan? Or who is a figure you saw a heroic in your childhood that doesn’t get much recognition these days?

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Patriotism: One Woman’s Perspective

Old Glory Flying High
Old Glory Flying High

Sitting in a metal folding chair, I’m surrounded by parents. We’re in the gymnasium of our neighborhood elementary school. My son is receiving a reward.

The principal approaches the lectern and asks everyone to stand for the flag salute. All those first through fifth graders who were sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the floor stand. In unison, 100 youthful voices say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag…”

I freely admit that an enormous clot of snot clogged my throat. Tears set my eyes on red alert. Something about a crowd of young people reciting the pledge with one voice chokes me up every time.

It’s the same with the National Anthem. This embarrassed me twenty years ago. People stared at me, wondering what I had to cry about. It was only a song, after all.

Eighth graders at the middle school where I worked for seven years still learn the history behind it. Sadly, I think to them, it’s just another meaningless factoid they’ll be expected to know for a test.

Patriotism dies a slow death in American public schools. How can I say this? Here are a few proofs:

  • Kids don’t stand for the pledge. Only five years after the incident where I listened to an entire school recite the pledge in unison, I stood dumb-founded at the back of a classroom. Tuesday morning the principal came over the intercom and “offered the opportunity” for students to say the pledge. In a class of 34 students, maybe 20 stood up.
  • Some of them talk during the pledge. The teacher in the room during a specific year I’m recalling is a veteran of the navy (and I served in the Army Reserves). A few students decided to have a confab during the pledge. When it was finished, she took them to town. It’s disrespectful to talk during this ceremonial action that takes all of 20 seconds to accomplish. You know what happened? One of the kids complained to his parents. Parents called principal and the time for the pledge was moved to a different class period so that student wouldn’t be in that teacher’s class during the pledge. Really? That’s a solution?
  • What’s the name of the National Anthem again? You might think I’m joking, but if I asked 20 students at the middle school, only 60 percent of them would be able to tell me.
  • Freedom is a right. American youth have an incredible sense of entitlement. The example of the kid tattling on the teacher is a perfect illustration. They have the right to do and say as they please. They are free to disrespect anyone and everyone. Freedom is a privilege, but these kids have so many privileges that they could care less about it (unless you infringe on their right to wear an obscene t-shirt to school).

Maybe I’m just an over-emotional woman, but I cried when I stood in front of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC, for the first time. A long wall of names of brave men and women who died so some kid could talk during the pledge.

Vietnam War Memorial in D.C.
Vietnam War Memorial in D.C.

Okay, that was an exaggeration, but in reality, what would make these kids sit up and take notice that their freedom of expression was bought and paid for by millions of pints of blood over hundreds of years?

Freedom is never free. As soon as we start taking it for granted, we’re disrespecting all the patriots who gave it all for our liberty.

How do you define patriotism? Do you think the youth of today lack it? Will they “grow into” it as they become more mature?