Carpal tunnel… is there a light at the end?

As a writer, I’ve used every excuse not to write:

“I can’t think of any ideas.”—This even has an official name, writer’s block.

“My kids are too noisy.”

“I’m too busy.”

“My computer is having problems.”

“I have to check facebook first.”

Many of these are preventable; however, especially one can threaten a writer’s livelihood.
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How to trick your writing teacher

horse and his boy

When I read The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (which my wife often misnames The Horse and His Nephew), I was jealous of the Calormene civilization. Unlike our schools, where we learn how to use thesis statements, transitions, and references, they learn to tell stories. Wouldn’t that be heaven? Who actually reads essays anyways, beside teachers with their sick forms of punishment?

So, how can you trick your teacher into thinking you can write?
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Want to learn Gothic?

Goth Lord's prayer

Want to learn Gothic?

Now, you can’t start with the basics of conversation, since no one really speaks this language any more. None of the “Hi. My name is ___. How are you?”

To find the Gothic that Alaric and his family would have spoken, check out It’s a bit academic, but you can impress your friends with this language, which none of them have ever heard!

 Check out other articles on the Goths:

Sack of Rome


Why didn’t the Goths take over the Roman Empire


Weapons and armor of the Goths


True or false




For more information on the Gothic quest for a home and freedom, check out “Alaric, Child of the Goths.”


Procrastination is your friend?

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How do you live the life you want? How can you slow life down so you can look around and enjoy it?

How do you make time for the important things in life, when everything else clamors for your attention?

Drum roll please…


The important part is what you procrastinate.

My whole life, I have wanted to do everything. And as I get older, the list of goals keeps growing. In college, I realized that I could put in 60+ hours a week practicing music, exercising, writing, thinking, traveling, learning … in all, not working! Now I have a wife and two kids. And a job. That 60 hours has shrunk to about 60 minutes—travel time included.

“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”—Brian Tracy

So I have to decide what I will procrastinate.

1. Email and Facebook—check it once a day.

2. Answering the phone—I bought a nifty device that politely takes messages when I don’t answer.

3. Work—As a teacher, I often save my grading and prepping until after I do my own work. Because I fear getting fired, I know I will be ready for work. But if I do that work first…

4. Putting things exactly where they go—make a pile of things for other places, then take the pile all at once.

Do not procrastinate these:

1. Rest—you need sleep and will actually accomplish more with it. Plus, you can enjoy and remember your life this way. Live the dream, not in a dream.

2. Marriage—never let things get between you and your spouse. Not work. Not even children.

3. Exercise—five minutes can wake you up and give you energy. Keep it simple—pushups or squats. Take a walk. No equipment necessary.

4. Your goal—do it now! Before you check your email and Facebook. (Yes, I’m serious.) Set a timer and stick with it. Only then can you stop procrastinating.

One final tip—in order to best procrastinate, never end your work without planning your next stop. Otherwise, you will forget to procrastinate.

Taking a well deserved vacation


Multiple choice—choose YOUR best answers.

Imagine your perfect vacation. Amidst all the gorgeous scenery of _____________________,

A. the mountains

B. the ocean

C. the woods

D. the moon

you think of all that you finally have time to do, such as _____________________.

A. hiking

B. swimming

C. relaxing

D. not breathing oxygen (applicable only if on moon)

You are with your favorite people in the world: _____________________.

A. spouse

B. children

C. friends

D. dog (because you have no friend)

And you finally can spend time with them _____________________

A. playing euchre (if you have 3 friends)

B. embellishing and arguing memories

C. cuddling (save this for spouse and/or small children)

D. budgeting

Great work—A+. Feeling excited about getting away from it all?

Why do we say “get away from it all”? Didn’t we choose to fill our lives with the people and activities we seek to escape?

I have a theory that most of us want two things in a vacation. 1. New experiences. 2. Not having to do anything.

How can you make changes so that you can avoid having to do things? The simplest and least realistic is to say no to everything: job, spouse, volunteer opportunities. In this case, other volunteers will be required to make meals for you at the homeless shelter. So, scratch that thought.

Perhaps a better idea is to use a timer. Set it whenever you have something you don’t want to do:

Phone calls





The timer allows you to blame it instead of yourself. About to talk to someone boring? Make sure your timer is set. When it goes off, politely excuse yourself, saying, “Sorry, I’ve got to go. I have an appointment.” It’s not a lie, and it will free you.

A second tip with a timer is to set it for less time than you need, just like when baking. This gives you a tiny adrenaline rush as you strive to beat the timer. I use this when grading essays. I leave myself just enough necessary time, but no extra. This keeps me from daydreaming.

When I finish whatever horrible task I couldn’t wait to get away from, I then can begin my “here” vacation, my “staycation,” trying new experiences and not having to do anything!

Please write comments on your experiences with making vacations with a timer.

Take time to make time: How to increase your energy

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8:00— too early to focus.

11:00— too hungry to focus.

1:00— too full to focus.

4:30— too late to focus

So when do you get anything done? How importantly, how do you avoid all these excuses?

They say exercise gives you energy, but don’t you just feel tired after it?

So keep it easy. In class I ask my lethargic students to get up and walk around the room. We take an unscheduled 2-3 minute break. Does it mean I’m a boring teacher because I have to do this?


Sometimes at home when I try to grade a stack of essays or write for an extended time, I lose focus and waste time counting how much longer I have to continue. But if I exercise every 10-15 minutes, can I get it done faster?

Here’s what I DON’T mean by exercise:

Going to the gym

Running 5 miles

Watching Richard Simmons

Doing any kind of full workout

Watching TV

Instead, try this:

Pushups or Squats (no equipment needed)

Dance to one song (no equipment needed)

Play with your kids or dog (no equipment needed—except the obvious animate object)

This latter group is better, why? Because it’s so short, requires no set up, and sure beats doing nothing.

Try this: Do your mundane task (possibly with a timer– ), after which you choose an exercise and do a set. Then back to the task.

Oh, yes, one further tip: choose an exercise you like. You will not work faster if you have to do hated pushups every ten minutes.

Now, I’m still trying to figure out how to implement this at work, although hiding in the bathroom to do a quick set of squats or wall pushups (not on the floor—yuk!) every hour or so might work. Just be careful not to grunt like a weight lifter, for then your coworkers may think you have many more problems than simply lack of energy.

On second thought, try taking a walk.

Why do you live?


I was excited when Timothy Ferriss recently came out with his third book, “The Four Hour Chef.” His goal in each book is to deconstruct one aspect of life (work, fitness, learning languages, cooking…;) in order to learn it faster, master it, and spend time on what he values most.

Ferris’ train of thought goes like this:

-Why do we learn and work? To get money.

-Why do we want money? To buy things we want.

-Why do we buy things? To get experiences.

According to his reason, life is based on getting the experiences we want. I think these can be…

-Travel, not be stuck at home.

-A job I love, not one I dread.

-Joy and pride from my purchases, not jealousy over what I don’t have.

-Time with people I love, not being alone.

I would add one final aspect to all this. Why do we want experiences? For the memories.

When I am old and incapacitated, I want to lie in my comatose state thinking of all that I experienced. I want to dream of my family and friends, the people I’ve influenced for the better, and the goals I’ve accomplished, and how I’ve done my part to make others’ worlds better. Those are the memories I live for.

4 ways to survive rejection


After winning the Creative Print Publishing competition last year, I felt that I was finally noticed as an author. So I finished my next novel in time for a second competition, hoping for a cash prize as well as publication.

Instead I received a rejection. After feeling sorry for myself, I reread the judges’ advice—too much repeated repetition, prolifically included additional words, and confusing points of view. (The judges gave specific examples of these.) Though I felt disappointed, the comments will make my book easier to read, with a smoother flow and better chance of publication.

Tips on handling rejection:

1. Don’t take it personal

Nobody rejects your book because they don’t like you personally. Well, maybe some people do, but cry it out and work at getting thicker skin. You won’t last without it.

2. Use the specific advice

As long as you get more than the “Dear Author” rejection, read it carefully and make the changes throughout your work. Don’t just fix the mistake on page three—look for it elsewhere and annihilate it.

(If you do receive the “Dear Author” rejection, at least pride yourself in the fact that someone thinks you are one.)

3. Don’t take one person’s opinion on it

If you feel that you received a wrongful rejection, check with others to confirm. Obviously, don’t check with those who always side with you, as that just keeps you from listening to the truth.

4. Try again

You may want to take a little time off after a rejection, but don’t quit. Set a date and mark it on your calendar for when you will begin again. If nothing else, keep going to spite those who criticized your work.

5 things you should never try

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Here are five experiences that I tried that make me who I am today. If you don’t want to end up like me, never do these. Never:

1. Try out for the long distance track team

-In high school my dad made me join the track team. When the coach asked me what I like to do, I told him, “Well, I like to read.”

-2 miles means 8 times around the track—do you feel dizzy yet?

2. Write a novel

-If you don’t finish it, you feel like a quitter.

-If you do finish it, you feel like you have just begun. Here comes the editing, marketing, and the need for another go at it.

3. Ask your wife if a flower is necessary for Valentine’s Day.


4. Volunteer at church

-You may know how this works. If you volunteer as a teenager, especially for Sunday School, you will have to remain the teacher until you are teaching the grandchildren of the first class.

5. Eat a chicken foot

-Not the leg, not the thigh—but the yellow part that holds the bird off the ground. The scaly part with claws. It tastes like chicken skin. Something to brag about, perhaps, but not a delicacy.

Each of these un-recommended activities (which I actually do recommend, except number 3) help you expand your horizons, make more memories, and improve your ability to sympathize and relate to others. So, try something that you think is impossible or strange and let me know about it.

Disclaimer–this is all sarcastic. Please don’t think I’m against Sunday school!