Looking To My Heart

“Look into your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.”
– 
Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

I have stories in my heart screaming to be told. I imagine everyone else does as well. Maybe it is the written word, like me, or maybe a painting, a song, a business, an adventure. There is this aching inside of me that longs to be set free but there is a barrier up, this “Resistance” uses all the tricks it can to keep me docile, keep me safe, keep me unfulfilled, keep me average.

So, what can I do? How can I fight?

Well first, that story must stop just circling around my mind and I must translate it to words. I don’t know how the story begins or ends, I don’t know who all the characters are (or even who the protagonist is), that hasn’t been made clear to me yet… but I trust it will in time. The only thing that is really somewhat clear is the world I want to build. So here is the basic idea of the world I want to build.

I want to explore a fantasy “D&D” style world that is grounded in science. Humanity has conquered nearly everything and has started exploring the stars. They are immortal, can travel instantaneously, can alter space and time and matter, but on one world something goes wrong. Maybe they face a species with similar technology or a rare natural occurrence erases their advancements or something else entirely that I haven’t figured out yet.

Regardless, thousands of years pass and a subset of the human population grows and evolves in this world with other species. The technology partially remains, as does the DNA of their ancestors, and it continues to grow and evolve and adapt even if the source of the technology is lost to time. These super-human powers are magic to the intelligent life on the planet because they have forgotten their history.

I haven’t worked out all the kinks (obviously), but this world will be populated by the “classic” species like elves, dwarves, humans, etc. who are all either ancestor of the humans who landed or the species that originally inhabited the planet. They have the power to transport or control the physical world through technological artifacts and long-dormant genes that occasionally show themselves.  Gods and goddesses exist as the inhabitants of space stations stuck in orbit around the planet. Each station has a different power set and the inhabitants have different personalities, maybe one has gone insane from immortality and isolation.

So, that’s the basic idea. I need to more formally identify the different species, magic, and gods, as well as the scientific principles that make their powers possible. As Arthur Clark said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And I’d like to find away to make all sorts of magic out of technology.

Do you have a question or comment for me? Feel free to use the links below. There is literally nothing that is off-limits (as you will probably notice if you read through the on my AMA page). You can also email me if you want a personal response and I won’t post anything publicly if you want privacy.

Sarahah: pneiger.sarahah.com
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Email: pjneiger@gmail.com

Oh, and if you get some value out of this I’m always accepting tips and my book is available via the Amazon link below on Kindle and paperback.
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Weekend Off

This is part of my weekly project at self-improvement by following the battle plan found in “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth.” This book is incredibly valuable and only $0.99 on Kindle.

For the first time in a very long time, I took a weekend off from life. I don’t normally work for money on the weekends, but I do tend to schedule and structure my days. In the past, that structure has been necessary for me to complete projects, but I’ve felt so burnt out lately that I needed a break. So, between 5pm on Friday and 6am on Monday I had nothing planned that I wasn’t enthusiastic about, and it was exactly what I needed.

I didn’t write or blog or exercise or check my email (I actually didn’t turn my computer on all weekend) or complete any of the daily rituals that I feel like I must to complete, and now I feel energized and my brain is overflowing with inspiration and ideas and motivation. My weekend was mostly beer, naps, weed, and junk food, and my body feels a bit sluggish paying for those sins but my mind is sharp. A little time off can put things in perspective.

So, how did I do on last week’s Forward Tilt action item? Terribly. I think I really missed the entire point of the exercise. Instead of slowing down, I sped up. I tried to schedule big projects that I wasn’t necessarily passionate about each day and they ended up (mostly) ignored. Oh well, I can’t do anything about last week so I shouldn’t let it impact me.

This week’s Forward Tilt chapter is titled “Stop Thinking About It” and is a battlecry to stop thinking and planning and instead, just take action. The perfect time to apply for a job (or quit a job), take up a new hobby, start yoga or MMA, break up with a terrible partner, etc. will never happen. All you have is today to take action and make changes. As Morehouse says in this chapter:

“‘I’m going to’ and ‘I’m thinking about’ are dangerous phrases. Keep saying them and you’ll miss opportunities, delay action for weeks, and perhaps never do anything at all.”

This week’s action item is to pick one thing that I’ve been thinking or talking about doing and actually do it. Start to finish, this week. I’m not sure right now what that project is going to be, but I’ll update here when I figure it out.

Week 2: Slow Down

This is part of my weekly project at self-improvement by following the battle plan found in “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth.” This book is incredibly valuable and only $0.99 on Kindle.

It seems like we are always racing each other to get to some random objective. First up the career ladder. First to have ten children. First to make $1,000,000. First to retire. First to start your own business. We get stuck on a certain path because that is what “successful” people before us did.

But man, what is the use of racing around your whole life?

Instead of focusing on the end goal, we should be focusing on our daily lives and enjoying what we have around us. Yes, working hard is important, but that work should make sense. “Work for work’s sake” is waste, but if you are working towards bettering yourself or working to remove the pain points or working to find your passion, then that will get you far in life even if it means passing up a high paying job.

My favorite line out of this week’s lesson is, “I don’t care if you’re sixteen or thirty-three, because you’re not on any conveyor belt or timeline. The path you’re following is your own.”

The action item this week is to write down one thing that I want to do each day of the week to add value to myself. That value can come in many forms and will change with my mood, but my rough plan is this:

  • Monday: Begin recording Audiobook
  • Tuesday: Run 10 miles
  • Wednesday: Bike ride to the beach and relax
  • Thursday: Start a Coursera course on a subject that I’m interested in
  • Friday: Nude sunbathing in my back yard
  • Saturday: Register for a triathlon and begin training
  • Sunday: Attend a Unitarian Church Service

Week 1: The Two Biggest Secrets to Success

This is part of my weekly project at self-improvement by following the battle plan found in “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth.” This book is incredibly valuable and only $0.99 on Kindle.

This week’s lesson (practice? guideline? challenge?) focuses on the two most important factors in creating possibility in your life: creating value and signaling the value you created. This lesson comes at an important time for me. I just completed my first book and have been struggling with advertising it. I feel like I’m bragging if I talk about it more than just the original post, but maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should put more effort into advertising what I created and am proud of.

So, in answer to this week’s challenge, I am going to work on cultivating a professional outlet for my creations. I will also be writing daily fiction and putting it on my blog (my first creative love is fiction writing). Like Steven Pressfield discusses in “The War of Art”, in order to overcome Resistance we need to be a professional. I am a professional writer and I should act like it.

My rough plan looks like this:

Monday – Research advertising options Facebook and such
Tuesday – Create a professional page on Facebook, set up a Twitter account, update LinkdIn
Wednesday – Website Complete
Thursday – Set up Podcast
Friday – Wrap up loose ends or work on other stuff that came to mind this week

Everything Has Value For Artists and Entrepreneurs

I consume a lot of information from a variety of sources, that is one of the perks of living in this amazing age. At my fingertips I have more music, books, podcasts, and magazines than I could consume in ten lifetimes, and more is being created every day. It is overwhelming and awesome and terrifying. At times, I am painfully aware of my own mortality when I finish a book and am trying to decide what to read next.

Do I pick up Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman or The Sandman Volume 5 by Neil Gaiman? Should I dive deeper into my interest in yoga or should I read about the history of anarchist theory? How about trying to improve my life by reading a self-help book, or maybe my time would be better spent finally finishing Crime and Punishment. Or maybe, I should take a break from reading and watch Star Trek: EnterpriseThe X-Files, or Jersey Shore, or play World of Warcraft. I could also sign up for MMA classes, listen to The Beatles with the lyrics pulled up on my computer, listen to a D&D podcast, join the local board game club, or start learning German (again).

As awe-inspiring as my options are I find comfort in knowing that there is no wrong decision. However, I choose to spend my leisure time I know there will be value in it because value is created by me. Value isn’t something tangible that you can pick up, hold, or store away in a sock drawer where it will sit waiting and unchanging. There is no objective measure of value where A Tale of Two Cities has 374 value points and is, therefore, a better use of my time than watching Top Chef: Seattle which only has 196 value points.

No, there is value in all things. If I watch or read or experience something and can’t find value in it, that is my weakness as a student and not necessarily a reflection on the creator. As an artist, I should be on the lookout for inspiration everywhere. Each “trashy” tv show is a collection of characters for a dystopian novel. Every game of Settlers of Catan is an opportunity to hone my strategic thinking and to understand how other people behave when under stress. Every experience I have, from reading Anal Pleasure and Health: A Guide for Men, Women, and Couples to listening to The Dungeon Master’s Block podcast provides nearly infinite inspiration and value for my life, if I just know how to see it.

I create my own value. I find my own inspiration. I just need to keep my eyes open and consume, consume, consume. And the more diverse the sources, the more tools I’ll have at my disposal when I sit down to create.

My Need For Feasts

I spent the last five days “feasting”, and boy did I need it. I ate anything that I craved, including heavily processed foods, I stayed up late playing video games or watching movies, I drank more beer than necessary, and I neglected my fitness routine and my writing. I need a time dedicated to possible gluttony and slothfulness to be healthy and happy in my life, and I also need it to grow stronger.

Part of life is having a good time and enjoying leisure. Pleasure is a good thing and we should enjoy it when we can. It is certainly important to eat healthy foods, exercise, and be responsible, but that isn’t the point of living. Those practices are means to an end, and the end is joy and pleasure and fun and new experiences. We can’t spend our whole lives preparing and getting ready for some unknown day in the future when we will cash in all our hard work. No, we should seek out vacations and long weekends and sinning in regular intervals. If we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy life a little bit it can be mentally unhealthy.

If I don’t allow myself to enjoy life a little bit it can be mentally unhealthy. The first two days of my winter feast I felt incredibly guilty. I had this feeling in the back of my mind that because I wasn’t being 100% productive towards goals I was being wasteful. I felt like inefficiency was a betrayal of some sorts and I felt an internal panic. I got anxious and frantic because I was watching Netflix instead of writing, I was eating french fries instead of vegetables, and I was playing video games instead of reading. This knee-jerk anxiety towards leisure is unhealthy for me and I need to allow myself to be inefficient occasionally, I need to allow myself to be human and to have a few days or hours of guilt-free living in the moment. This is a psychic muscle that I must in order to have a healthy mind. It is unhealthy for me to hold myself to an impossible standard and sabotage my own happiness because I’m not living up to that standard. Hell, I may not even care about that standard but decades of schooling and working in an office has internalized a need for constant productivity at all costs.

Now that my break is done, I am now 10x more motivated than I was a week ago. The aches in my body from eating terribly, drinking too much and neglecting my exercise motivate me to get back into a healthy routine. The time off from writing and creating allowed me to come back more focused and with a handful of new ideas. I’m ready to finish my book, start new projects, and see what I can do with my body. I’m actually excited again to experiment on my mind and body.

If I had just pushed through the winter season without a break I would have burnt out on everything. These last five days made me realize that I really need to schedule in feasts, as well as other “off” time throughout the year. I need to establish systems of leisure and celebration, and I think using the seasons is a great way to do it. The pagans are on to something with seasonal festivals and I think having a 5-day break every 3 months is a good foundation for me. I think I’ll pair that with monthly long weekends and one day a week where I don’t have any specific goals or measures. Those types of breaks should help keep me healthy, allow me time to appreciate the reason for living, and excite me for future productivity and fitness.

Now I have some things to look forward to. Next Wednesday I can take the day off if I want and relax, and in a few weeks I’m going to Colorado for a wedding and may not do anything productive, and then in March is the Spring Equinox and I will feast again. All of it guilt free and filled with pleasure.