I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Eddie and the Cruisers

Over the weekend, I got the itch to watch Eddie and the Cruisers again. [A movie about the mysterious disappearance of lead singer Eddie Wilson and a journalist’s attempt to get to the bottom of it.] The movie was released in 1983 and I probably saw it for the first time in the mid-80s. I saw it again in the late 80s, but not since then.

One particular scene in the movie really stuck with me when I first saw it and I loved it just as much this time around too.

Eddie Wilson, the leader singer in the group, has a disagreement about the the way bass player Sal Amato wants to play “Betty Lou’s Got a New Pair of Shoes.” Amato wants it to be upbeat without any pauses in the lyrics. Wilson on the other hand says, “I’m just saying words. You gotta give me a little room so people know what I’m singing about.”

As the debate goes on, Wilson asks for the opinion of a guy named Frank who works at the club they are practicing in. Frank is a little shy at first but he comes over and here’s what transpires:

“Now you heard what we’re talking about,” Wilson says, “What do you think?”

“I think he’s right,” Frank says. “I think it needs a caesura.”

“See,” Wilson says pointing to himself, “My way with a cesarean.”

“A what?” Sal says.

“Tell ‘em Frankie,” Wilson says.

“A caesura?” Frank says. “That’s a timely pause—a kind of a strategic silence.”

“That’s exactly right,” Wilson says.

“If you want, I’ll give you an example,” Franks says pulling a book out of his back pocket. “One evening I took beauty in my arms and I thought her bitter and I insulted her.”

“Sounds like sh**, right?” Wilson asks the group.

“Now I’ll do it with the caesura,” Frank says. “One evening I took beauty in my arms . . . and I thought her bitter . . . and I insulted her.”

“Now that’s got class,” Wilson says says turning to the group. “Does that have class Sally, right?”

Then Wilson looks back at Frank and says, “Hey kid, you can stay.”

Life would have more depth if we inserted more caesuras. Instead, it seems like we do everything at breakneck speed for the sole purpose of getting it over with so we can can do the next thing in the same manner.

I’d rather read a book in a contemplative fashion than reading it for the mere sake of getting through it—even if it takes me a lot longer. I’d rather listen to a song on a CD several times that speaks to me instead of simply allowing the CD to play all the way through without ever getting anything out of it. I’d rather read the Bible in small portions as I think about the context, setting, possible symbolism, and application instead of reading it quickly without any of those things.

Speed has it’s time and purpose too. But being conscious of the appropriateness of pace goes a long way toward making sure we get the most out of each experience.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wanting More for the Next Generation

Read this beautiful post over at Everyday Stranger this morning about what it feels like to grow old and how it doesn’t meet with our expectations. Shannon’s post made me think.

When we’re 18, we have ideals and independence and confidence coursing through our veins. We’re going to do things differently than our parents and the rest of the adults we know. We’re going to be kinder, gentler, bolder, more engaged, more concerned, more determined, and less judgmental. We’re going to listen better and scream less often. We’re going to change the world.

What we can’t possibly know at the time is that most of the adults we were quick to condemn internally have been hoping for the same outcomes for us all along—even if they never say so, even if they have been crappy role models.

I’ll probably never have children, but I have two nieces—one is nineteen and the other is four. I love them both dearly.

I suspect the nineteen-year-old already sees me as a curmudgeon, but underneath all of the crustiness, I want her to know that I want more for her. I want her to be a better person than I am—to be wiser, more consistent, kinder, more understanding, and more godly than I am. I also hope she’s able to attain all of her major life goals. And yeah, I’m hoping she’ll be happy too, but happiness is overrated in my opinion because it’s fleeting. 

My four-year-old niece doesn’t see me as anything other than a person to climb on right now, and I love that. She’s 400 miles away from me, so I’m just thrilled that we’re to the point in which she’s comfortable enough to want to climb on me. But, when she’s 18, I’ll be 56, so, by then I’ll be beyond curmudgeon status in her mind. I’ll still want all of the same things for her that I want for my other niece.

Wanting more for the next generation is part of the aging process. As a 42-year-old, I know how it feels to fall short, to lose dreams, to lose confidence, to lose perspective, to give up too quickly, or to hang on too long. But I also know what redemption feels like. So, as my nieces experience real life in the coming years, I’ll be rooting them on through their mistakes and losses in the hope that their mistakes and losses aren’t as debilitating as mine have been to me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Energy as a Commodity

I started reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen a couple of days ago in an attempt to maximum my productivity. I’m always looking for ways to streamline. Not sure if this will be the method I choose or not, but so far I like what I’ve read. Early in the book, Allen said this:

“. . . in the last few minutes, has your mind wandered off into some area that doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re reading here? Probably. And most likely where your mind went was to some open loop, some incomplete situation that you have some investment in. All that situation did was rear up out of the RAM part of your brain and yell at you, internally. And what did you do about it? Unless you wrote it down and put it in a trusted ‘bucket’ that you know you’ll review appropriately sometime soon, more than likely you worried about it. Not the most effective behavior: no progress was made, and tension was increased.”

Okay, first, the editor in me wants to rewrite that paragraph for clarity, especially the second sentence, but this isn’t about me being an editor—it’s about the thought that popped into my head after I read this paragraph.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that money and time are valuable commodities. I never thought about energy being a commodity though. I guess I always knew it was, but I never thought it about it on a conscious level. Now that I have, I totally agree with Allen—I get tense and irritable when my mind gets overloaded with what it perceives as having so many tasks to complete that some of them are slipping through the cracks of my poor memory. Ultimately, I spend energy—a real commodity—in ways I wouldn’t need to spend it if I just found a system that kept track of what I need to do and then actually followed through and did it.

That led me to this conclusion: If money, time, and energy are all commodities that have limited resources, then I need to make sure I’m spending all three wisely. And conversely, whenever possible and appropriate, I need to either save or replenish those commodities so I’ll have more in reserve when I need it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Great Adventure Journal

I am one of several writers who contributed to a devotional book called The Great Adventure Journal. It’s going to be a beautiful leather-like hardbound book with color inside and a ribbon marker. The devotions draw a parallel between the Christian faith and popular outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, biking, hunting, etc. Each devotion will also include a place for readers to journal. I can’t wait to get my advance copies.

The book is set to be released in September. I got to see the cover for the first time yesterday (pictured). The tan and brown rectangle that you see located to the right of the tent is a cut-out in the box lid to show the color and texture of the book cover. Amazon.com is already taking advance orders, which is nice to see.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Short Conversations

When I go on the road, like I did last week, I tend to let my grocery supply run pretty low or completely out before I leave to avoid coming home to a refrigerator full of spoiled goods. I hit the grocery store last night knowing that I needed to buy a ton of things but also hoping to stay under $100.00.

Not an easy task, but possible.

I’m normally not very talkative with store clerks, but I’m better than I used to be. I don’t really consider myself shy any more, but I’m still introverted. The store was dead last night and for some reason I felt like having a conversation so I told the clerk, a woman who is probably in her sixties, that I was hoping to stay under $100.00.

“That worked out well then,” she said. “That’ll be $84.75. I think we’re all in the same boat. I usually keep too much food in my house, but I’ve been cutting back too.”

“Oh yeah?”

“For Easter, I told my kids that if they wanted anything to drink, they needed to bring it,” she said.

“Sounds fair. You supplied the food, right?”

“Yeah. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

The conversation didn’t last long but I enjoyed getting to learn just a little about what went on in someone else’s home during Easter. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know her and will probably never meet her again. For me, it was the interaction that counted. And it made me wonder about how many other chances to interact with people I’ve missed out on.

Surface-level conversations will never satisfy the way an hour-long conversation with a best friend will, but I think they have more power than we realize.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Letting Go

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally ordered a dumpster to get rid of the junk that has been accumulating in my house over the past 30-40 years. Lots of guys have come and gone through here—including me a couple of times—and nearly every one of them left something behind; a broken recliner here, an old broken down television stand there, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Several guys helped me and it took us close to three hours to get rid of about 80-90% of the stuff in the basement. I can’t tell you how good it felt to finally be rid of it all. I held on to several items that hold sentimental value, but when I was in doubt, I dumped it. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be.

I’m always afraid of throwing things away that I wished I hadn’t. I still feel that way to a lesser degree, but I feel less affinity toward the past than I used to. I want to remember the past, but I don’t want to live there. This felt like a giant step in the right direction.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Sacred Moment

I’ve been on the road since Monday morning. I’m mixing business with pleasure. On Tuesday, I spoke at a journalism conference in Jefferson City, Missouri. I had a great time while I was there (except for the parking ticket I got, but that is being straightened out). I met several new writers and spent some time with old friends—including one I got to brainstorm with about a book he’s been struggling to finish writing for quite a while.

At one point in our conversation, an understanding about a new direction for his book hit both of us at the same time and it was one of those sacred moments that you know you’ll be able to remember ten years from now. Of course, you’d love to be able to bottle up a moment like that and tap into it at any time but if you were able to do that it wouldn’t be sacred. Or, at the very least, it wouldn’t feel sacred.

I’m learning something new about sacredness though. Most of my adult life, I thought that sacredness found a person when he or she least expected it. And sometimes that might be the case. But more times than not, it seems to appear from on high when I’m struggling and working my way through an issue. And I love that because it encourages me to keep struggling and searching for answers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

An “Eye of the Tiger” Kind of Day

Last night, I was in the mood for the Rocky IV soundtrack. It’s music to contemplate life by.

I love the song “No Easy Way Out” on that album by Robert Tepper. And of course, “Eye of the Tiger,” and “Burning Heart” by by Survivor. Great stuff. Technically, “Eye of the Tiger” first appeared on the Rocky III soundtrack, but I’m starting to sound like a geek now, so I’ll stop.

Anyway, I haven’t heard the Rocky IV soundtrack in ions. I searched my iPod frantically and it’s not there. In fact, it’s been so long since I’ve heard it that I was pretty sure I don’t even own it on CD. I was right. I own the cassette tape version and it is so worn out that it’s really not worth transferring over to MP3. I just need to bite the bullet and download the album from iTunes.

All of this thinking about the Rocky soundtracks prompted a memory I haven’t thought about in a long, long time.

When I was probably 19 years old or so, I bought a cassette deck and I wanted to install it in my car. I didn’t have a clue how to do it and I didn’t have a lot of money. A couple of my friends said they could figure it out, so one Saturday morning we pulled my dash off and dove in.

One of the guys said we needed to match the color of the wires on the back of the cassette deck to the wires that were attached to my previous radio. Sounded easy enough . . .  until we realized that not all of the colors matched. But that wasn’t a problem. We’d just match the orphan wires up with similar colors and surely it wouldn’t be a problem.


When I tried turning on the radio the windshield wipers came on instead. And then I hit another button and the heat came on. We had a real mess on our hands, but even then, it was a comical mess. Eventually, I think we tracked down someone who actually knew what he was doing and we got the cassette deck working.

As I pulled out onto the main road with my two buddies in the car, I popped in my Rocky III soundtrack (I don’t have that on CD or MP3 either, but I so need to get it) and cranked it up. I had the windows down and a sense of freedom washed all over me while “Eye of the Tiger” rattled our teeth because it was so loud.

If you ever need a shot of adrenaline, just pop this song into your stereo and turn it up.

We “cruised” (that’s what we called it back then) by our place of employment with the song blaring and then looped our way back to where I dropped the guys off.

It was one of those days you never forget. Did you ever have one of those?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Join Me This Afternoon

This afternoon at 1:30 pm (Central), I’ll be a guest on the blogtalk radio program “Communicating with Power.” I’ll be discussing “Blogging Made Easy . . . well kind of!” From what I understand, they’ll have a chatroom set up on the website where listeners can interact.

I’ll be covering topics such as:

  • Questions to ask yourself before starting your blog
  • Ways your blog can enhance your writing/speaking career
  • How to increase and hold readership
  • And more . . .

Stop on by if you get a chance. You can even stop after the interview is over because it’ll be archived and available for download.

If you want to know more, I have several blogging resources available:

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Put Something in the Basket Every Night

During the Royals vs. White Sox game yesterday afternoon, Royals’ television announcer Paul Splittorff said that White Sox slugger Jim Thome often talks about putting something in the basket every day—whether it is a hit, a walk, an RBI, moving a runner—anything to contribute to the success of his team.

I found this quote from Thome that explains it a little further:

"You have to understand you can't get five hits in one at-bat. You learn that over time. It comes with experience. My big thing is you put something in the basket every night. Then, in the year's time, you look back and that basket will be there. You grind it out. It's a long year."

Thome spoke these words after getting the night off because he was struggling at the plate one night last season. There’s probably no better time than when a person is struggling than to do at least one thing every day to try to turn the tide. Thome’s notion of putting something in the basket isn’t new. Some would say that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Some would say that the little things lead to big things. However you phrase it, the power of multiplication works.

By the way, Thome put a game-winning, three-run home run in his basket yesterday. I’m hoping that his addition to his basket today is less dramatic since he’s playing against my beloved Royals again.

Photo credit: Cris DeRaud

Monday, April 06, 2009

I Dig Mondays

Monday and I haven’t always been good friends.

When I was in school, Monday was the beginning of another long week in which I was cooped up in a place I didn’t want to be in. The same thing could be said about most of my work career. But when I began to work for myself, my mentality changed.

Throughout the weekend, I began to think about projects I wanted to start, make progress on, or complete. I began to think about how I needed to touch base with editors or other people I’ll be working with throughout the week to make sure our schedules are coordinated for the coming week.

Now, I’m anxious to get to my desk on Monday morning so I can get the week off to a good start.

Monday is also the day I do laundry. And it’s the day I bowl in a league. And after a long day, I watch several of the television programs I recorded over the past few days.

Monday seems like an old friend to me now.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Benefits of Twitter for Writers

I signed up for Twitter about eight months ago and like most people, I didn’t really understand it at first. I heard about a software client called Twhirl that organizes “tweets” (the name used for the micro-posts people send to Twitter) and that’s when I started to see how Twitter could work for me. Twitter can serve different purposes for each user, and that’s the beauty of it.

As a writer, I determined that I want to follow several groups of people beyond the people I actually know or are interested in for various reasons. Here’s the list of people I came up with: other writers, editors, agents, publishers, and anybody else with industry knowledge. By putting a plan in place regarding who I would follow, it kept me from following everybody who followed me (and thus being overwhelmed with Tweets that don’t fall in line with my purpose for using Twitter), and it kept me from simply following large numbers of people hoping for a reciprocal follow. It’s not about numbers for me; it’s about being connected to the people in my industry.

With that in mind, here are 10 ways Twitter can benefit a freelance writer:

1. Access to Industry insiders (and their knowledge). I wasn’t able to attend the Christian Book Expo in Dallas a couple of weeks ago, but I was following the Tweets of many industry experts who were there. It gave me a sense of what was happening. I could have went to their blog instead, assuming that they have a blog, but having all of that information in one place was so much easier.

Recently I learned about about something called editorchat on Twitter that includes editors from the New York Times, Advertising Age, the Orlando Sentinel, and other publications. Writers are invited to join the conversation. Why would a writer not take advantage of this?

2. Expanded network. Knowing the niche markets I want to break into, I am following editors and other writers to position myself to get more work. I’ve been placed into Twitter directories as a working journalist and that has led to more follows. And not long ago, I had a conversation via Twitter with an editor I met several years ago at a writer’s conference. It ended up leading to an assignment.

3. Living encyclopedia. If you want an answer to a question, there’s a good chance that one of your followers on Twitter knows it—especially if you’ve been strategic in following the right people.

4. Sources. Rather than just following editors, writers, and industry insiders, I also follow people who are on the inside of the sports world since I am a sports writer. Just the other day I saw a racing insider looking for funding for a driver. If I do a story about how the economy is impacting NASCAR, he’ll be the first guy I contact to use as a source. I’m guessing that he’d jump at the chance since it would give his driver some media exposure which might lead to funding.

5. Branding. As I link to sports stories I write, and as I engage in dialogue with followers about sports, my sports writing brand benefits. In fact, I have multiple brands and they all benefit from Twitter.

6. Breaking news. I used to be a lot better about keeping up with breaking news, but in the past few years I’m finding it harder to concentrate with the television or radio on in the background. With Twitter I receive links to breaking news from people I’m following and that helps to keep me current—which is always a good thing for a writer.

7. Trends. Keeping up with trends is not easy for me, but I know it is necessary for me as a writer. With TweetStats, I’m able to check on current trends whenever I want or need to.

8. Article Ideas. Everybody has a cause. With Twitter, I learn about new ones that people I’m following are passionate about and that always prompts me to think about new writing topics.

9. The social aspect. Most of my writer and editor friends are scattered all over the country and I only get to see them once a year at a writer’s conference or an industry trade show. So, I love seeing them on Twitter and being able to interact with them more regularly. Yeah, we could do it via email, but you know how that goes. Out of sight, out of mind.

10. Opportunities to serve. I love to be able to provide a bite-sized answer to a follower looking for help. I’ve answered techie questions, provided links to websites with info that people are looking for, and offered opinions when they are sought.

Are you convinced yet? If so, set up an account with Twitter, and then follow me.


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