Tag Archive for motivation

Some Creators Need a Smack Upside the Head

It’s okay to gripe about a job. Everyone does it at some point, and it’s good to get things off our chests once in a while. But to walk away from a dream job because it’s harder than one expected? That’s just stupid.

I have a lot of friends working full-time in the creative field. Some write books, some write comics. Some are artists, some are musicians. To many of them, this is the dream job. Heck, to me, this is the dream job. They’re realistic, though. They know there are pros and cons to this kind of work, and there are times they get pretty stressed out. Every so often, however, one of them wonders why he didn’t stick with a “real” job and avoid the array of troubles he’s dealing with.

This makes me want to punch them square in the face.

Let’s put these troubles in perspective, shall we?

Complaint 1: Money, or, “I miss a steady paycheck.”

Yeah. As if going back to the grind of a day job suddenly makes home improvements, emergency car repairs, and other unexpected financial hits go away. As if all of us can afford steak dinners and expensive bourbon every night of the week. Learn to manage your money as it comes in, rather than blowing it on books and bar tabs because you happen to have a full wallet at the moment.

Complaint 2: Insurance, or, “I can’t afford these medical bills!”

News flash: insurance is the single biggest hit on most of our paychecks, and it probably was on yours, too, back when you still had said “real” job. Even then, it doesn’t cover everything. Most affordable insurance plans are garbage. I’m still making payments on family surgeries from two and three years ago, just as you will have to do when you have that sudden unexpected medical crisis that wipes out your savings. (And you do have a savings account, right? Refer back to “learn to manage your money as it comes in,” above.)

Complaint 3: Taxes, or, “Holy shit, I owe the IRS a ton of money!”

Hahahaha! Yeah. You can move to a state without sales tax, or without property tax, but you’re still going to owe Uncle Sam. Our employers siphon Uncle Sam’s cash off our paychecks for us. Learn to do the same on your own.

Complaint 4: Working for The Man, or, “My editor’s a moron.”

Everyone is beholden to somebody, and that includes editors at major publishing companies. The bigger the company, the more stockholders and board members there are breathing down their necks. Congratulations, you’ve just figured out your boss is just as good or as bad as any other boss out there.

Oh, you’ve got deadlines? Poor baby. Remember inconvenient schedules, mandatory overtime, and someone watching your time card? Remember having to work holidays, or not being able to just take a break to work down at the coffee shop? Remember not being able to take a walk around the park when you feel like it to clear your head?

Work is a verb. It’s something you do, wherever and however you do it. Even if we start calling it “super happy funtime,” I’m sure there would be some part of it we hate.

Complaint 5: The Fanboys, or, “Man, they’re tearing me apart on this forum.”

Let’s take Superman for example. The problem is everyone knows who and what Superman is, what he represents, and how his story should work, but these things are not the same for everyone. When a fanboy says “Superman would never . . .” he means “My Superman would never . . .”

Now extend that same thing to any other character, or to a traditional monster like werewolves. Things are tough all over, precious. Many critics and reviewers write from the perspective of “I wouldn’t have done it this way,” and all you can do is ignore them and move on. If Stephenie Meyer lost any sleep over the “vampires don’t sparkle!” thrashing she received, she consoled herself with thick wads of cash.

Complaint 6: The Letdown, or, “This isn’t as fulfilling as I thought.”

Finally we have the Big One. It kind of ties back to work still being work, but part of it is perhaps reevaluating expectations, and why exactly you felt this was the dream job in the first place.

If a writer landing a regular gig at Marvel or DC thought that meant he got to hang around the hallways with his favorite superheroes all day, for example, then he had the wrong expectations. If a writer landing a tremendous contract with a New York publishing house thought book tours meant packed signing events and rivers of booze, then he had the wrong expectations. If a screenwriter thought his screenplay would make it to the screen without a million studio notes, directoral changes, and input from actors, then he had the wrong expectations. All you can do is do the work and hope for the best, and work work work until you reach a point that you have the juice and the trust to do it your way.

If the expectations of the work are in line, then maybe it’s time to ask what your expectations of satisfaction are. If you find fulfillment in the steady paycheck and the insurance, then fine, begone. Make room for the rest of us.

You have to find the work fulfilling.

Let’s compare two products: a fantasy book and a widget. Both bring in the same amount of cash for an individual, whether it was paid out through royalties, an hourly wage, or a salary.

The fantasy book gets mixed reviews. Some folks are calling it a Game of Thrones knockoff, but there’s also a group of people who really dig the book. It dips in the Kindle charts, there’s a modest movie option but no real traction, and the author moves on to his next project.

The widget, meanwhile, is just another product on the shelf. Whether we’re talking production or sales, it’s the same, day-to-day business: go to work, move widgets, go home, collect a paycheck. Once in a while the employee beats a production quota or sells a shitload of widgets and gets a pat on the back, maybe even lands a nice Christmas bonus. Then it’s back to business as usual. The industry slumps and rebounds, and pretty soon it’s on to the next widget.

Me, I’ll take the fantasy book every time. I’m not writing for fame and fortune, I’m writing because I enjoy it. Some parts of the business side are a pain the ass, but some parts are a lot of fun. I know not everybody is going to enjoy my work, and I know it may not bring in tons of cash and solve all my financial woes, yet I still find it fulfilling.

So again, every job sucks. Some may sound like the bestest gig ever!, but then you still have to deal with people, and with disappointment, and with financial hardship. It’s okay to bitch about these things.

Just don’t sit there and tell me you never should have taken on that dream job, or that you’re going to walk away because it’s too difficult, because you clearly haven’t considered the alternative.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

White Belt Wisdom

Inspiration comes from the strangest places.

Three of us were promoted to black belt together, and last night it was my turn to demonstrate at the dojo’s graduation night. I chose to demonstrate an empty hand kata and a sai kata, then break a few boards. I could probably run these kata in my sleep at this point (I certainly had enough dreams about them as I was first learning them), and I’ve done this break before, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal.

Yet I’m not a fan of demos and tournaments. I can do readings, panels and presentations at conventions all day, but put me in a gi in front of everyone—especially families and strangers—and I get this funky self-consciousness thing going on. I also have this added false pressure that says, “You’re a black belt now, don’t screw this up.” The demo reflects on me, my instructors, and my school. As such, I had a case of the shaky nerves as we got closer to showtime.

Shortly before I was set to take the mat, we had the white belts all lined up and ready to walk out for their demonstration and promotion. This seven- or eight-year-old boy looks out at the crowd and asks, “We don’t have to go out there by ourselves, do we?”

We assure him that no, they will all be out there demonstrating their punches and kicks together, and he breathes this huge sigh of relief. I tell him I have to go out there all by myself, though. Kid says:

Yeah, but you’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have! It should be easy for you.

Kid was dead on.

So I went out there and rocked the shit out of that demo.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Using the Time We Make

Last night, I sat down on the weight bench so exhausted I could hardly lift the plates to put them on the ends of the barbell. I thought about just skipping the workout. To hell with it. Crash out and get some much-needed sleep.

Tired as hell, but the weights will not beat me.

Not as heavy as the soul-crushing weight of defeat

Then I got pissed.

I don’t have time for this shit. When do I make up a workout? When I’m at work? When I’m writing? When I’m in karate class? During my next workout?

No, I made the time for this workout, and I needed to use it. I got under the bar and started pushing. I kept moving and watched the clock during my rest periods to make sure I didn’t waste any of that precious time. An hour later, my sets were done and I felt great.

The same attitude applies to creative tasks.

When I’m writing, I don’t have time to screw around. The fingers need to be flying on the keyboard if I’m going to get anywhere. If I’m tired and the words come out in long streams of crap, I can clean them up later.

It’s about time I remembered that.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Make Time Your Bitch

Time is a bitch.

There’s always something to get in the way of what we want to accomplish. It could be the day job, it could be family obligations. It could be surprises like your kid picking a fight with the rabid badger in the back yard or your brother calling because he woke up in the middle of Tijuana with a hangover and no pants. Hell, sometimes it’s just tough to do anything but sit your fat ass on the couch and watch shitty reruns on TV.

This is why you have to make time your bitch.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: This is reality. If you climb in that souped-up DeLorean with your mad scientist neighbor, a lot of strange and uncomfortable things are going to happen, and time travel is not going to be one of them. If a mad Englishman whisks you away in a magical phone booth, it means you’ve been partying just a little bit too hard and you’re going to wake up stranded in Tijuana with no pants.

So no, you can’t time travel. Instead you have to make time your bitch by viciously protecting the time that does belong to you.

Making time is not enough. Nobody respects your time but you, and if you’re really honest with yourself, you don’t respect that time nearly as much as you think you do. Time is your bitch and you’re her pimp, dealing out pain and punishment to all who threaten your territory. Curbstomp those shitty reruns (I did)! Tell your brother to stand on the nearest corner and earn his own damned bus fare home!

Point being: prioritize, and make sure you—and those around you—respect those priorities. If that makes you an asshole, so be it. They’ll either get over it or you’ll realize you weren’t near as close to those people as you thought.

This may even mean re-evaluating your sleep pattern. Getting six hours of sleep a night is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s six secrets to success:

I can function on six hours of sleep, easy. If I wake up at 6:30am, I don’t need to be in bed until 12:30am. Given the time my family goes to bed, this gives me an average of about two hours a night of quiet time to write. If I stop dicking around on the Internet—in other words, I give my own priorities the respect they’re due—that’s a lot of time. Ten hours during the work week alone adds up fast.

If I’m still having trouble, then there’s Arnold’s top secret seventh secret to success:

That’s right, the evac plan. The Exit Strategy. Got a boss who demands sixty-hour work weeks? It may be time to seek alternatives.

No, that’s not going to be easy. You’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed, and if you listen to the media, the job market is a barren, radioactive wasteland populated by ravenous cannibals.

Suck it up, Sally. Touch up the resumé, put on your hazmat fighting trousers and make time your bitch.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

How Bad Do You Want It?

Yes, I’m alive.

Apparently everyone decided to call me this weekend while I was at hockey, karate, and the motorcycle show, and because I was unable to return calls they worried I finally snapped and killed somebody, or maybe my children were eaten by bears.

On the up side, it was a killer weekend. On the down side, I didn’t get shit done. I felt it was high time to revisit this video featuring a Floyd Mayweather motivational speech:

I got to thinking, just how bad do I want it?

To be a full-time writer, that is. I spent all day letting Microsoft bend me over a desk and ram it home. Eight hours wrestling with two different PCs. Eight wasted hours which probably cost more in both hourly wage and lost productivity than the dollar value of both PCs together.

This is how I learned you can’t schedule writing.

See, I expected a quiet day today. I thought I’d wrap up a few loose ends before my wisdom tooth extraction surgery tomorrow morning. I thought I’d even be able to sneak in a little bit of writing-related work at my desk, including posts to both this blog and my professional edtech blog. Instead I got the phone call five minutes after I walked into my office: “My computer doesn’t work!”

Those of us with families, let’s reflect: how many times have we planned to sit down and write at a given time, only to get hijacked by something else? More than I can count.

The habit shouldn’t be planning, the habit should be doing. Write every day before or after work. Write every day before the kids get up or after they go to bed. Write every day at lunch. Write during your coffee/smoke break. Write on the train or bus. Write while your meals are cooking or before they arrive at the table.

If I apply the same dedication to my writing as I do to my karate, I could have as many books available as Brian Keene does right now.

I’m going to start sleeping with my Bram Stoker Award statue close by. I’ll see it before I go to sleep and after I wake up. It will remind me of what I’m capable of.

The Stoker

If nothing else, it will be at hand to beat a burglar to death with.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Powerful Beyond Measure

Killer motivational video.

“All you chumps are gonna bow when I whoop him.”

A friend of mine sent this to me just as I was finishing the day’s weight lifting, and right before I sucked down supper on the way to karate class. I showed up at the dojo pumped up and ready to go.

Someone once told me I was too old for martial arts, and later that weight lifting is a young man’s game. Bullshit. Bring it on.

Back to writing and other stuff soon, I just had to share this. Too much running around the last couple days and tomorrow.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Lifting and Writing: Back in the Swing of Things

I haven’t done my weight lifting yet this week. My Fitocracy account mocks me.

Friday and Monday I was on airplanes. Over the weekend, I had hoped to at least get a dumbbell or treadmill workout in, but I was too busy catching up with friends. Yesterday I rested. Today, I didn’t have time to lift after work and had a special night of karate class. It pisses me off, but I’m going to swap my Wed/Fri lifts to Thurs/Sat and get back on track next week.

I beat myself up over workouts the same way I beat myself up about writing. I need to regroup and remember my motivation, and just get back to work as soon as possible.

Funny thing is, there is no shortage of motivational videos out there for weight lifting or body building.

Writing doesn’t quite work the same. Beyond opening a box of books hot off the press, there’s not a lot to get writers pumped up to spend hours behind the keyboard. Yes, we do it because we have to, or want to, but it’s still hard work, and motivation can, at times, be hard to come by.

Until you visit something like Sundance.

It’s not so much being part of the scene or the promise of big Hollywood bucks as it is the simple energy and excitement of it all. It’s contagious. I would be more than content to make a living off writing. Yet even if I never see a movie made, I can still push forward and build upon what I’ve written. I can expand my fan base and, ideally, increase sales to earn a steady wage.

Now we come back to my lifting, where my goal is similar. I don’t want to big as Jay Cutler. I have no aspirations to be Mr Olympia, or even to get on a local stage (I’m not especially interested in the fake spray tan and shaved chest, either). I just want to build upon what I have, get into better shape. I want to increase my strength and endurance and feel better.

We should aim high, but not call it defeat if we land in the middle. Day jobs and family and life in general is going to get in the way. It’s inevitable. Just take care of the disruption and then get back into the rhythm.

Push forward.

Onward and upward.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday’s Workday:

Today’s Workday:

I’m sure someone makes a pill for this.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

It Ain't for the Money

It’s amusing when people think I’m sitting on a secret fortune after they find out I do a little writing on the side. Or they think someone like Brian Keene or Tom Piccirilli are making money hand over fist because they’ve got several novels available. The reality is most writers don’t make a lot of money. Sure, some luck into Hollywood cash or a mega-hit series like Twilight, but even bestsellers are far from guaranteed riches.

Now one writer has proven that by posting her royalty statements. She sold over 47,000 copies, which sounds exciting. However, for all that, she’s made a little over $30,000. Sounds like a lot, but if that was the only book she put out that year, she’s earning the equivalent of about $15.00 an hour (and she still needs to pay her own taxes on that $30k). Even worse, she hasn’t earned out her $50k advance at that point, which means she faces the possibility her publisher will dump her. It’s more like being fired than getting laid off, as the next publisher may look at her numbers and not want to take the risk on her.

The inevitable next question is “Then why do you do it?”

The easy answer is because we like it. Some writers like to tell you they have to, but I’m not going to get all metaphysical on you. The plain truth is I enjoy the process of writing, I enjoy the business of it, and call it ego, but I like the idea of people being entertained by something I’ve written. Yes, the financial realities make it impossible to go full time at the moment, but I’d love to be at that point sometime. I don’t need to get rich doing it, but I’d be content to do it as a job.

It sure beats solving others’ computer headaches all day every day.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Run For It!

What keeps me running?

As stupid as it sounds, it’s this guy:

I keep this Nike+ avatar on my screen saver and on my Facebook page. When I run, he’s happy. When I don’t, he gets bored and makes smartass comments while he plays paddle ball or video games. They’re subtle jabs, but man, I hate seeing them.

I really didn’t feel like running tonight. I was nodding off in front of the tube, the ground is saturated and mushy, I had some email to take care of… pick an excuse and it ran through my head. I had my laptop nearby, and when I jerked awake I noticed the screensaver had come on. There was the little guy, running right along. He was happy for the moment, but I didn’t run for a few days due to travel and the rain, so he wouldn’t be happy for long. I finally decided to suck it up, grab my sneakers and iPod, and hit the track.

Half an hour later I limped back to the house, sore and drenched with sweat but feeling pretty damn good. And though the numbers I uploaded didn’t reflect it, I had one of the better runs I’ve had in some time.

So thanks, you little bastard. You rock.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Measures for Success

I found something that might interest the many, many people who made weight-loss resolutions for New Year.

Too many people focus on numbers on the bathroom scale to measure their success. We hear alleged ideal numbers thrown around all the time, but people rarely take into account their height and age. In fact, studies are showing that it’s better to be fat and fit than thin and unfit. I’ve also read recently that thin people in poor shape may have hidden fat; the fat hides inside muscle and around the organs rather than between the muscles and skin where we’re used to seeing it.

This same focus on the scale makes some people drop out of their programs. I’ve seen a few fellow students drop out of my karate school because they don’t feel it was worth the money or they didn’t lose any weight. They’re amazed to learn I lost 30 lbs my first year, but can’t figure out why it’s not working for them. Then I explain I also work out on my own at home (not to mention I show up for class far more regularly), and they’re disappointed.

“You mean this weight loss thing takes work? Aww, man.”

Some people then turn to body mass index, or their doctor and/or insurance agents rub it in their faces. Unfortunately this, too, is a fuzzy number as it makes no distinction between muscle mass and fat. When people described me as skinny, I weighed 185 lbs. I’m a little short, so my BMI worked out to 28.5 at that point, which is labeled overweight. In fact, to get down to a BMI at the upper limit of “normal,” I’d have to get down to 163 lbs, which I haven’t been since the 8th grade. It might have been a little more accurate at that time, but through high school and for a couple of years after graduation, I converted a lot of the pudge to muscle mass.

To get down to 163 lbs now, I’d probably have to cut off a leg.

Which is exactly why I’m glad I found this home body fat test. It takes into account your age, weight and gender, then looks at different body measurements to calculate an estimate of your lean body weight and your body fat percentage. If I was skinny at 185 and I’ve gained/recovered muscle while studying karate, my numbers looked pretty damn close, even allowing for a modest margin of error.

Keep in mind, however, this is an approximation of your lean body mass. In other words that would be your approximate weight at 0% body fat, which is not a realistic goal. The chart supplied with the test says as a white male, 15% body fat would be healthy for me. To get a target, then, I would just take the supplied lean body weight number and divide it by .85. (See that? Algebra comes in handy after all.)

As luck would have it, based on these figures my goal to lose another 20 lbs by October 1st is a realistic goal. Not too shabby. Maybe I’ll add the body fat test to my Weight Tracker worksheet and see how I’m doing from month to month.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Charge Up the Batteries

I should be writing right now.

Instead I’m talking to you people about motivation while I watch a UFC retrospective show, and I’m lamenting on how Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Prison Break are both on downhill slides due to chronic failures to address any form of reality.

Flawed product or not, at least those writers are working. Maybe the problem is as simple as I’m watching what they’re working on rather than working on something you could be reading, and their work is sapping my creative strength. Instead of creating, I’m re-writing all of the astounding bullshit occurring on-screen and wondering how I can go about getting a series pitch in front of a Fox exec’s eyeballs.

Oh, look, Anderson Silva just put a hurtin’ on Nate Marquardt.

Huh? Oh, yeah. Writing. Damn idiot box.

It used to be I could write in front of the television. In fact, I almost needed to, as the noise made a welcome distraction. An occasional glance at an action sequence or flash of titty while the gears were spinning and the fingers weren’t was almost helpful, not hurtful. Now? Now I get the same slack-jawed, hundred-yard stare the rugrats get when they’re watching Transformers.

Wow, the Philly-Dallas game is close! It’s getting hairy for my fantasy team, The Magnificent Bastards, too.

Damn. I did it again, didn’t I?

So let’s talk about motivation. They say there’s only one motivation that counts: the desire to write. That’s true to an extent, but let’s face it: desire without discipline doesn’t amount to much, and without moolah — or at least results — to justify the discipline, it’s just a hobby.

That’s right, I said justify.

They’re replaying Forrest Griffin vs Shogun Rua! Sweet!

Whoops. I’m back. What’d I say? Oh yeah, justify discipline.

I still enjoy writing. I really do. Yet it’s tough to justify the time spent away from my family, my chores, and my other hobbies when there’s no result from the writing. While a cliché like “a writer needs to write” sounds really cool, the fact of the matter is it’s a load of pretentious horse shit. The truth is a writer needs to be read. Sure, there are guys out there with trunk novels they wouldn’t submit if their lives depended on it, but they’re the exception. Those are the guys who are happy to just write. The rest of us want to entertain you. The rest of us want the results of said entertainment, be it as simple as money and fame or something more emotional like validation and exhibitionism.

“But Mike,” someone always says, “you’re published! You’ve got stuff out there!”

Yes, but how recent? Restore from Backup took a couple years to sell. Brimstone Turnpike was five years in the waiting. Five. Years. That top secret book deal I mentioned a while back? The publisher is having some difficulties, and more recently has gone incommunicado. That’s happened twice before, and while I’m willing to be patient for this project, history suggests I shouldn’t hold my breath.

No, it’s not all doom and gloom. A conference call last week went very well, and now I’ve got deadlines. My German publisher is also willing to look at more of my work. Justification or not, I best muster some discipline. Basking in their interest and contemplating potential money is nice, but it’s exactly green in hand, is it?

I read how Neal Stephenson’s typewriter forced him to write: if he didn’t keep the keys moving, the plastic ribbon melted, which meant no more writing. That gave me an idea. Well, two ideas, but switching to Vista and having to hurry up and write between crashes and reboots would quickly get annoying. So, one idea:

A taser.

A taser hooked up to my nads, to be exact. Every time my words-per-minute rate falls below a certain threshold, my baby makers get 10,000 volts. And there’d be a perimeter sensor on it, too. I walk too close to the TV?

Bzzzzzaaaaappp!!

That’s motivation!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.