Tag Archives: life hacks

How To Combat Writer’s Block: A Few Simple Tips

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Writing is challenging. Anyone who has written a grade school essay can attest to that. It’s even challenging for those who do it every day. I’ve been writing constantly almost every day since I was 15 years old. I’ve more than met the 10,000-hour rule when it comes to mastering a skill, but I still find it challenging.

A big part of that challenge is dealing with writer’s block. I don’t care if you’re Stephen King, William Shakespeare, or Kurt Cobain. You’re going to hit a dead end at some point. You’re going to get to a point in your writing where you feel stuck. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in that position. I’ve thrown chunks of entire stories away, along with entire stories, because of it.

At the same time, overcoming writer’s block is probably the best way to progress as a writer. Overcoming a challenge forces you to refine your skill in unexpected ways. I’ve probably learned more by dealing with setbacks than I ever have navigating a successful idea.

I know there are tons of tips out there for beating writer’s block. Most are just glorified placebos, but some do offer meaningful advice. I know because I’ve tried most of these tips in some form or another over the years. Talk to any writer and they’ll probably tell you they have some special trick to getting around it.

I can say with relative certainty that there’s no one special trick that works for every writer. If there were, then someone would’ve patented it and overcharged for it by now. At best, there are strategies you can utilize. They don’t work the same way for everyone, but they do work in most situations. What follows are some of the most effective tips I’ve used over the years. I just thought I’d share them in hopes they work for others.


Tip #1: Create A Routine For Writing

This works well for me because I like working within a routine. I’m very regimented when it comes to work. I like having set times that I can plan around. Doing that with writing has always helped. I designated a certain chunk of time of day, usually an hour, specifically for writing. Doing so helps with more than just saying productive.

Even when I’m not feeling particularly inspired, I often find my brain starts working better when those times arises. Essentially, I’ve trained my brain to activate its writing function at set times. On some days, it works better than others. It still works and if you’re the kind of person who likes sticking to a schedule, this is a good way to essentially plan around writer’s block.


Tip #2: Exercise (To Get Your Brain Active)

This may not appeal to those who aren’t inclined to exercise. Even if you hate it, I still suggest doing some level of rigorous activity, be it a trip to the gym or a few walks around the block. Anything that gets your blood flowing helps you feel more alert and less lethargic.

For beating writer’s block, that’s important. It’s tempting to just stop writing and lounge about, eventually falling asleep in a stupor. In my experience, that makes writer’s block even worse. I can be stuck on an idea for hours. Then, I’ll just go jogging for a bit and something will come to me. Again, it doesn’t always work, but it works often enough to be a vital part of my approach.


Tip #3: Work On Something Else (That’s Smaller)

No matter how determined you are to finish something, a nasty bout of writer’s block just keeps you stuck in place. You can punish your brain all you want. Nothing will come out. In this case, it’s important to keep your brain working. That’s when having something else to work on can help.

I rarely have just one project to work on. I always have a few little stories here and there on the side. Some never pan out, but they help when I’m stuck on other stories. As long as I’m producing something, it keeps the creative juices flowing. Eventually, they’ll flow well enough to get me back on track with other projects. It can get chaotic, but the key is to just keep your brain chugging along.


Tip #4: Read Over Older Works

It may sound vain, but I’ve found that taking a step back and appreciating what you’ve finished in the past helps maintain a healthy perspective. Even if you haven’t written much and you think your previous works were awful, going back to read them shows that you can do this. You can finish a story.

That reassurance, on its own, helps give you the confidence you need to keep at it. One of the worst effects of writer’s block is how much it hits your confidence. The more you lose, the easier it is to get stuck. Reading over old works doesn’t just show you how you’ve succeeded in the past. It shows you how far you’ve come. It can inspire you in many ways, but you only need one to crack writer’s block.


Tip #5: Write Bits And Pieces (And Combine Them Later)

I find myself doing this often with stories I’ve yet to refine. Most of my work starts off with a focused idea. The challenge is building structure around that idea. While I usually try to go from start to finish in one fluid process, it doesn’t always work that smoothly. Sometimes, I start with the parts I’ve already fleshed out in my head and then just work around them.

It can be messy. Sometimes, the story you craft feels disjointed when it’s written in pieces. You can even tell at times when something was cut and pasted into a scene. Ideally, you fix that sort of thing when you revise it. It’s still a challenge, but it’s much easier to revise something that you’ve already written, as opposed to forcing something out for the sake of breaking writer’s block.


These are all just simple tips that have worked for me in the past. If you have others you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

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Quality Life Lessons From The Cleveland Browns And Their Fans

NFL: SEP 18 Ravens at Browns

Even though I often say that the world is getting better by most measures, I don’t deny that it’s not improving for a sizable part of the global population. There are parts of the world still racked with disease, poverty, and despair of all kind. The unfortunate people in these parts deserve our respect, sympathy, and support.

However, there’s one particular part of that suffering population I want to focus on. While 2017 might have been bad for quite a few people, there’s one group of people whose anguish is unique in terms of its breadth and context. That group is the Cleveland Browns and their long-suffering fans.

Being a football fan, who often finds himself defending the unflattering situations in which the NFL often finds itself, I follow most major news stories surrounding the NFL throughout the season. Few stories have been as disheartening as those involving the Cleveland Browns, who became only the second team to lose all 16 games in 2017.

In terms of a major sports team in a major American city with a rich sports history, you literally cannot get worse than the 2017 Cleveland Browns. Between their long-standing issues at quarterback, a terrible track record in the NFL Draft, and a high turnover of coaches in the past several years, the Cleveland Browns have set a solemn standard for ineptitude.

It doesn’t matter how disappointed you were with your favorite team this year. It doesn’t matter how upset you were when they got eliminated from the playoffs, lost to a hated rival, or made a bone-headed play that made you ashamed to be affiliated with them. Cleveland Browns fans had it worse. There’s just no way around it.

However you feel about the city of Cleveland, their sports teams, or LeBron James, you can’t help but feel bad for the fans of the Browns. They are a very passionate bunch, one whose history includes big names like Paul Brown, Jim Brown, and Bernie Kosar. Given the heartbreak they’ve endured over the years, this latest news is just salt in the wound.

I’m sure there are plenty of Browns fans out there who could talk for hours about how rough it is, being a Browns fan. Up until 2016, being a Cubs fans was the only fair comparison. Now, the Browns are very much alone in their solemn state. It’s a modern tragedy that seems downright masochistic to some.

That’s exactly why the decision by some fans to hold a parade to celebrate their ineptitude is so remarkable. It wasn’t a prank or an elaborate joke, either. This parade really did happen and it managed to draw over 2,000 people.

To some, it seems funny that a team that had such a historically bad season is worth celebrating. To others, it may seem like an elaborate form of therapy, holding a parade instead of just wallowing in the misery of being such a historically bad team. Personally, I see it as an important life lesson, of sorts, that we would all be wise to heed.

Losing in any capacity is hard, whether it’s a major sports team or just losing your keys. There’s actual psychology behind it that is wired into us, even as children. Losing, especially dealing with it, can be downright painful for some people. It’s like suffering a nasty wound and having that wound fester.

That’s why coping skills are so important. Most of us who aren’t billionaires or Tom Brady are going to endure our share of losing in life. Our ability to cope and learn from those losses help shape the kind of person we are. There’s a right way to cope and many wrong ways. Too many wrong ways risks breaking someone mentally or just making them an asshole.

When it comes to the coping skills of Cleveland Browns fans, throwing a parade and celebrating the absurdity of their team’s ineptitude is actually pretty damn healthy. Unlike the fans who riot when their team loses a championship game, this parade caused no real property damage.

It didn’t involve people angrily lashing out, which has been proven to be bad for you. It didn’t involve angry protests, which can be hit or miss in terms of effectiveness. It was a parade, one in which Browns fans overtly acknowledged their team’s failures and essentially accepted it. From a psychological and societal standpoint, that’s pretty damn healthy.

There’s even some real philosophy behind this concept, one that goes beyond sports and their fans. It’s called absurdism, the idea that in order to cope with the struggle to find meaning in a seemingly-meaningless world, we must embrace the absurd condition of life in general. We should even celebrate it.

Some philosophers cite the story of the myth of Sisyphus, the man doomed to endlessly push a boulder up a cliff for all eternity, only to fail every time. However, through the lens of absurdism, Sisyphus is actually the happiest guy in the world because he ascribes meaning to his meaningless act. He doesn’t see what he does as futile. He sees it as purpose and he celebrates it, as such.

The situation for the Cleveland Browns may not be as hopeless as Sisyphus, as many bad teams have gone from worst to first before, but the fact that fans are celebrating the struggle reflects strange comfort our minds find in absurdism. We know the situation is bad and it literally can’t get much worse, but we accept and embrace it. As such, it doesn’t’ destroy us. It actually makes our collective psyche stronger.

 

This is even more useful in sports because, even after such a historically bad season, things are pretty much guaranteed to get better for the Cleveland Browns. They literally cannot get worse. They enter the 2018 season with a new general manager, abundant cap space, and multiple high draft picks. They will get better. The history of bad NFL teams makes that a given.

Until that improvement comes, though, holding a parade to celebrate the rock bottom of such a proud franchise is both fitting and healthy. It’s an act from which we can all derive lessons. Sure, we all have bad days and some of them are worse than most. However, things do tend to improve when we know how to cope.

For the Cleveland Browns, such good coping skills will make future victories and championships feel that much sweeter. It may take a while. It may take a long while. As Red Sox fans and Cubs fans can attest, though, it’s worth the wait.

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What I WISH I’d Learned In School

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I’ve said it multiple times and in multiple ways on this blog. Expect me to say it again in many other ways there is and even a few some thought impossible. High school sucks. I hated it with a passion. When I look back on my life, I’ll always see high school as one of the bleakest, most miserable experiences I had.

There are so many reasons I hated this point in my life, too much to list in a single blog post. Hell, I’d need a whole series of novels to adequately convey the misery I felt every day I had to endure that rancid swamp of standardized tests, cafeteria food, and adolescent hormones. The most I ever learned from high school was never wanting to be that miserable again.

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I like to think I learned that lesson well. My entire outlook on life changed for the better the day I graduated high school. Everything I did after high school, from going to college to getting my first book published, feels like a step up from where I was. Sure, it helped that I got into shape and fixed my horrible acne problem, but that shift in outlook still shaped a significant part of my adult life.

Even though I feel like I’ve done fairly well with that life, there are times when I look back at high school in ways that don’t give me night terrors. Other than not wanting to be so miserable, a lot of what I learned in high school hasn’t really helped my adult life.

I’m not just talking about quadratic equations or knowing what the hell T.S. Elliot was talking about either. A lot of the meaningful lessons I’ve learned came from experience, family support, and internet access. These are all things I could’ve learned without gym class, exams, and stale pizza. High school never really prepared me for adult life. It only ever prepared me to pass a goddamn test.

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With that in mind, as well as the knowledge that many kids are eagerly awaiting the end of the school year, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on all the lessons I wish I’d learned in high school.

These are lessons that would’ve helped my adult life in so many ways. I worry that the kids preparing for summer won’t know just how important these lessons are until it’s too late. Some have to do with life skills. Some have to do with understanding how the world works. In any case, these are the lessons that I wish high school had taught me.


Lesson #1: How To Start A (Non-Awkward) Conversation With A Stranger

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This is something that should come naturally. Having a conversation is one of the most basic elements of non-sexual communication there is. Other than a handshake, it shouldn’t need to be taught, right?

Well, this is where high school, ironically enough, gives teenagers too much credit. It’s half-true that most people know how to start a conversation. The problem is that for most of our lives, to this point, all the conversations we’ve had are with family members, relatives, or childhood friends that we’ve known so long that we remember the brand of diapers we used.

Starting a conversation with a friend is easy. Starting one with a total stranger that isn’t awkward is much harder. It’s also an important skill when it comes to making new friends, working with others, and even finding a lover. The hardest part of any new connection is starting that conversation.

Some high schools do teach social skills, but still give a higher priority to reading Shakespeare and passing a math test. I’m not saying those things aren’t worth learning. I’m just saying that better social skills will help people make friends, improve teamwork, and get them laid. No math test can ever do that.


Lesson #2: How To Tell Someone That You’re Romantically Interested

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A big part of what makes high school suck is loneliness. Unless you’re an athlete or an exceedingly beautiful girl, you’re going to feel lonely. On top of that, puberty is rewiring your brain to make you want to kiss, hug, and hump others in ways you thought were gross as a kid.

Teenagers may be melodramatic and prone to emotional meltdowns over a lost shoe, but they still have genuine feelings. They still feel love for others. Having that love and not knowing how to express it makes for some pretty awkward situations, some of which can be downright traumatic.

I had more than my share of crushes in high school. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to actually talk to these girls to let them know. For this one girl, I actually wrote a note and put it in her locker. I never heard from her again. That’s a clear indication that there’s room for improvement.

Having someone to love and to share your emotions with is healthy, regardless of whether you’re a teenager or a grumpy old fart. Knowing how to explore and express that love with someone goes a long way towards tempering that loneliness. For those enduring the rigors high school, less loneliness can only help.


Lesson #3: How To Spot A Scam

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As teenagers, our understanding and assumptions of the real world is painfully limited. That’s unavoidable because teenagers haven’t been on this planet long enough to have any real idea of how it works. Most of what they know comes from media, their family, or ugly rumors circulating around the cafeteria. To say that’s an imperfect perspective is like saying Kanye West is slightly eccentric.

In the real world, there are a lot of liars and frauds that will exploit the hell out of anyone’s imperfect understanding. When I was in college, I noticed a lot of school email accounts got bombarded with those Nigerian Prince scams. Some actually fell for those scams and lost real money because of them.

Beyond the scams in spam email, there are other elaborate frauds like work-from-home gimmicks, fake lottery winnings, multi-level marketing, and online dating scams. Those with limited life experience are especially vulnerable to these schemes and falling victim to them could ruin your life. Just ask anyone who invested with Bernie Madoff.

It wouldn’t be too hard or take too much time for high school to teach us the basics of scams and how to spot them. Teenagers are already cynical, by nature. Learning how to spot cheats and hucksters won’t just help them save their money. It’ll help them avoid being conned out of their faith, their trust, and their panties.


Lesson #4: How To NOT Freak Out When You Watch The News

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This is something I’ve brought up before. It’s a lesson I learned in college, but one I really wish I’d learned sooner than that. In the age of the internet and smart phones, it’s easy to get bombarded by all sorts of weird news stories that scare people into thinking the CIA put fluoride in their water to control their minds. For hormonal teenagers with limited life experience, it’s even scarier.

The world the news presents us is not the same as the world around us. The news can only ever highlight tiny bits and pieces of a much bigger picture. Most people don’t realize that until they’re adults. If they’re unlucky, they learn the hard way and spend too much of their lives hiding in a bunker, hoping that the Illuminati doesn’t send assassins.

Perspective is an important thing and teenagers struggle with that. As I said before, their life experiences are limited. They just emerged from childhood and began making sense of the world. The least any public school can do is help them.

That means telling them that the news rarely tells a complete story. It also means reminding them that the reason why something is news in the first place. These horrible stories we see every night are news because they’re rare. The world and the people the news describes are only brief glimpses at best and click-bait at worst.


Lesson #5: How To Craft A Resume (And How To Pad It)

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A major part of learning, be it in high school or pre-school, involves acquiring skills that will help you find meaningful work later in life. It’s not just enough to know how to read, write, and do basic math. Most people can learn how to do that for free these days, thanks to online services like Khan Academy.

To give you a better chance at finding a job, it’s important to develop other skills. Unfortunately, the only skill high school ever really teaches you is how to pass a test. That may help you get a driver’s license, but it won’t help with much else.

Even if you have skills, putting them together in a resume is a skill most people have to wing. I’ve actually taken classes that help with crafting resumes and none of those classes were offered in high school. I had to find those in college and after I graduated.

It’s a simple fact of modern life. To find a job, you need skills and you need to sell your ability to make those skills useful to others. That’s what will help you get a job. That’s what will help you find a lover. That’s what will help you get laid. Some skills don’t require college. Others may require a master’s degree. Learning how to seek and market those skills is far more valuable than just filling out a test form.


Lesson #6: How To Invest In The Stock Market The Right Way

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This is a topic I don’t blame high schools for avoiding. When most people, including highly educated people, talk about the stock market or the economy, it usually flies over everyone’s head. I would go so far as to say only a small part of the population is even wired to understand investing and finance.

However, there are few skills in life more important than knowing how to manage and invest your money. Anyone can just go into a bank and open an again. Knowing how to actually manage that money so it grows over time and isn’t undercut by inflation is a skill that’s often overlooked.

A teenager’s limited perspective of the world makes the stock market too complicated to understand. However, most teenagers do understand the value of making money. Why else would they make such a big deal about getting an allowance or a part-time job? That understanding, though, will only take them so far.

Contrary to popular belief, investing in the stock market isn’t just fairly easy. It’s actually pretty effective at building future wealth. It doesn’t just beat inflation. It beats nearly every other investment out there.

I didn’t learn anything about stocks in high school or college. Everything I learned came from a small booklet that a relative gave me. That booklet only had one real tip. Unless you’re going into the financial services business, the only real investment you need to make is in index funds.

Despite what the Jim Cramers of the world may tell you, nobody can beat the stock market. Nobody knows what it’s going to do today, tomorrow, or a year from now. You can’t beat, but you can make it so you don’t lose to it either. In some parts of life, not losing is just as good as winning. With money, it’s one of those lessons you don’t want to learn the hard way.


Lesson #7: How To Find The Job That Best Fits You

Image result for a job you love

This might not be something that can fit into a typical high school class. While most high schools have guidance counselors and career counselors, a lot of what they do is just sell you on the idea of going to college. They’ll help you find an education path. They may even help you find a career path. Finding a job that fits you, however, is not exactly a priority.

It happens all the time. People will make it through high school, go to college, and get all the right degrees for a certain career path. Then, they find out that the job they thought they wanted didn’t fit them. They either end up miserable working a job they don’t like or overwhelmed at the prospect of starting over. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

That’s why I think it’s more important to help teenagers figure out the kind of work that fits them. Some like making things with their hands. Some are more creative. Some are analytical. Some have personality traits that make working in a cubical akin to a prison sentence at Alcatraz.

I’ve worked more than my share of jobs that I hated. A lot of people endure that, even famous celebrities. Finding a job that actually fits someone’s skills and makes them want to do that job is a lesson too valuable to overlook. High schools are in a perfect position to help teenagers do that. The fact they don’t only makes the situation more tragic.


I know it’s too late for me to salvage my high school experience. It was a long time ago and I’ve since learned a lot about life, namely how to not be miserable.

However, I still feel like I started way behind the curve and have only recently caught up. How far ahead would I be now if I’d learned these lessons in high school? It’s impossible to know. All I know now is that high school still sucks and it’ll always suck for me. I’m okay with that. Hopefully, future generations will not know such misery.

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Jack Fisher’s Top 5 Simple Pleasures

I’d like to get less elaborate and less controversial for once. It’s Sunday. There’s football to watch, pizza to eat, and beer to drink. The fact that I can do all these things without my pants on is just a nice bonus. This is one of those days where you just sit back, put your feed up, and enjoy the simpler pleasures of life. With that in mind, I’d like to get a little personal again to cap off my weekend.

I’ve found that getting personal on this blog is a lot of fun. It may even be therapeutic. I’ve admitted that I sleep naked. I’ve admitted a great fondness for foreplay. I’ve even told a very personal story about my circumcision. I dare anyone to get more personal than that. This time, I don’t intend to get that personal. For a nice, warm Sunday afternoon, I’d like to reflect on those smaller, lesser known pleasures in life.

I admit it’s somewhat jarring for an aspiring erotica/romance writer. A great deal of my stories revolve around some of life’s most powerful and endearing pleasures like love, lust, and indulgence. These are themes we see in all sorts of literature, going all the way back to ancient mythology and epic poems. There’s a place for these sorts of stories, but there’s also a place for the pleasures that’ll never get their own epic.

With that in mind, here are Jack Fisher’s Top 5 Simple Pleasures for your Sunday Morning.

Number One: Sleeping In on a Rainy Morning

This is one of those underrated pleasures that feels like a confluence of luck. For one, you have to be in a position to actually sleep in. These days, that’s a challenge in and of itself. As Dennis Miller once put it, “The only reason we’re living longer is because we can’t fit death into our schedule.” Despite this, every now and then we find a day to sleep in and when that day comes on a rainy, dreary morning, it’s downright magic.

You see, it’s usually hard to sleep in when the sun is beaming in through your window, loudly proclaiming, “You don’t get to catch up on all the sleep you missed! I won’t let you! Mwhahahaha!” When it’s raining though, that proclamation is muted. Instead, you get the soothing sound of rain pounding against the window. It triggers this instinct to just curl up under the sheets, purr like a kitten, and sleep. It’s just special in ways that words cannot describe.

Number Two: The Feeling of a Freshly Shaven Face/Leg

Here’s one with a slight gender variation, but not a major one. I come from a long line of burly men with thick beards and wild hair. The men in my family kind of pride ourselves on that look. We take pride in our manly facial hair and how manly it looks. The problem is that if we don’t shave for a few weeks, we look like a creepy mountain man who just choked a bear.

So when I shave my face, that smooth feeling is very fleeting. Naturally, that makes the feeling all the more precious. I don’t know for sure that women feel the same way when they shave their legs, but I think that feeling of smooth skin appeals to everyone on some levels. We all like smooth things, whether it’s our coffee or our flesh. That makes it a feeling worth appreciating.

Number Three: Drinking Hot Chocolate and Wrapping Yourself In Warm Blankets on a Cold Winter Day

Ideally, there will come a day where I’ll be such a successful writer, that or I’ll become the personal gigolo to a rich woman, and I’ll retire to a tropical climate. I’m not a fan of winter. I’m not a fan of cold weather, shoveling snow, and not being able to sit on my porch with no shirt on. That said, winter does create opportunities for certain particular pleasures.

Warm blankets and hot chocolate are the alpha and omega of these feelings. I’ve had days where I’ve spent one too many hours in the blinding cold. I’m shivering. I’m sore. I’m in no condition to do anything. So I brew up some hot chocolate, get some extra blankets, and curl up in front of my TV. It’s a special feeling that warms me up in more than one way.

Number Four: A Satisfying Ending to a Book/Movie/Video Game You’ve Been Enjoying

Let’s face it. It’s rare that our expectations are met, let alone exceeded in this world. We all have to learn at some point that the world isn’t fair and it isn’t going to cater to our whims. Some learn this lesson slower than others, but there are times when it feels like the world throws us a bone.

I feel it whenever I’ve reached the end of a long, satisfying book. I feel it when I see a really good movie for the first time. I feel it when I reach the end of a video game and feel that every bit of effort is worth it. I felt that the first time I saw the Deadpool movie. I felt it the first time I played games like Mass Effect 3 and Final Fantasy X. It’s like reaching the top of a mountain. It’s a great feeling and the fact it doesn’t happen often makes it all the more enjoyable.

Number Five: That First Bite Into A Freshly Baked Cookie/Doughnut/Slice of Pizza

We all have to eat. We all need food to survive. Some enjoy it more than others. Some enjoy it too much. It’s a lot like sex in that respect. Some see it as just a biological process and some turn it into a goddamn religious experience. Also like sex, food has certain situations where it’s extra blissful.

For me, that involves the first bite. We all know that feeling. It’s when we’re at our most hungry. It’s when the food is at its most fresh. It’ll never be as savory and we’ll never want it more before that bite. When it comes, it just feels special. It feels like jumping into a pool on a hot summer day. Sure, we’ll finish our meal and fulfill our basic needs for survival, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the hell out of it.

So those are my Top 5 simple pleasures. I’m sure there are dozens more. I’m sure my list is very different from that of others. So if you have your own list, please share it! What do you consider to be a great simple pleasure that just makes your day a little better? I’d love to know. Life is complicated enough. Simple pleasures are a good way to make it meaningful.

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