Write That Down!

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Writing is an exercise, it is a muscle, it is a discipline.

If you can learn to write, if you can teach yourself the discipline it takes to sit down and stare at the blank page and THINK, then you can do anything.

You should start writing because it’s hard.

Most of the best things in life are hard to obtain. Writing is this way, it is hard to do, but if you do it, it makes you feel better. You will have accomplished something, even if it’s just the discipline of putting your butt in the seat, your hands on the keyboard and forcing yourself to think.

Always be suspicious of people who give advice on things they have not done.

I’m telling you to write because I learned I need to write. It is hard for me to write. I can come up with all the excuses in the world not to.

I was forced to write.

My sister made me do it.

I was crushed by an avalanche. I was in the hospital, hooked up to life support. I had broken every bone in my face. They cut a hole in my throat and inserted a tube to support my airway. Because of the trach and the fact that my jaw was wired shut, I could not talk. I could only communicate by writing with a Sharpie and a piece of paper on a clip board.

My Mom and my sister lived in the hospital during that time. My sister stayed in my hospital room, while Mom would sleep in a hotel room in a different part of the hospital. My sister would go to the hospital room occasionally to get away from me and rest for an hour or so.

My sister is a nurse practitioner. She knows her stuff. She looked out for my care while I was in the hospital. She would send updates to friends and family through the Caringbridge website she set up for me. This way she could update everyone without having to answer the many phone calls and text messages.

She got tired of writing the updates, she was already doing so many other things to related to my healthcare. She wanted me to write the updates.

At first I refused (I always have an excuse not to write), then because I appreciated everything my sister was doing for me, I decided I write a post on my Caringbridge webpage.

One of the first posts I did was at 2 am. I couldn’t sleep because of all the pain, I had no energy and wanted nothing more than sleep. So I started typing. I was crying the whole time but it felt good to do. That post might be the best thing I’ve ever written.

That first post came from a deep dark place. It was pure emotion. The act of writing made me feel better.

I started this blog to keep up the practice of writing.

When I tell you, “You should write”, I mean it. I am talking from experience.

People will always be drawn to good shit. It’s an innate part of humans. We like the good stuff.

Everyone knows a lot about something. Everyone is passionate about something. Everyone goes through hard times.

This is what you should start writing about. Write about what you know, write about what drives you, write about your hard times.

I’ve encouraged many people to write. Because I was insecure and didn’t feel like an authority figure I’d tell people to write even if they never share it with anyone.

Now I think I was wrong.

I think you should share your stories, even if they are traumatic and personal. If you want, you can write them under a fake name or anonymously, just get them out there. The internet is a beautiful thing.

Everyone can have a blog, everyone can put their work out there.

The expert knowledge that you have, the passion about a subject, the adversity you’ve faced, these stories can help other people out there in the vast world. But only if you do the work, then put it out there, the people that need to find it will.

Here are 6 examples of people that I’ve recommended to “Write That Down!

I have a friend who is an executive at a major oil company. She grew up in the oil business. She has been all over the world working in the oil business. She is a smart and articulate woman I have a lot of respect for. She has always been there for me, including after the avalanche when I needed a lot of help.

She almost died. She had a major health scare that put her in the hospital shortly after her third failed marriage. She wasn’t feeling so good. I encouraged her to start writing.

This woman has repeatedly overcome adversity in her life. She has a lot of powerful stories that can help people. If she started a blog about her knowledge, passions, and emotions during adversity, it would attract a lot of people. She could positively impact a lot of people, especially women.

I want to read her stories.

I have a friend who was a successful CEO of a mid-sized company. He is a smart, polished dude, and one of the strongest athletes I’ve ever met. He got fired by the board of the company he ran. It was a shock.

He was thrown into adversity.

He’s a talented guy and I knew he would come through the ordeal stronger than he was before. I encouraged him to start writing. I knew it would make him feel better, and I knew he’d have some powerful stories to share. There are lessons to be learned from this man.

The world needs to hear what he has to say.

One of my friends is a talented chef in wine country. He’s one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met. I hadn’t seen him for two years when I went to visit him in the hospital. His head was shaved, he had a large horseshoe shaped scar on his head, and his speech was slow. He had just had brain surgery for a cancer tumor.

He was surprised to see me. I was there for support, just to say hello. I wanted to listen, if he wanted to talk. After I listened for a while, I encouraged him to write about what he was going through. I told him how much writing on the Caringbridge website made me feel better.

I knew his stories could help a lot of people.

One of my best friends is a nurse. He has worked the night shift in ICU’s all across the country. He was a wrestler in high school and ever since then he has been interested in health and fitness. I view him as an authority figure on these topics.

If I ever have a health problem, I run it by him. If I ever have questions about fitness, I want to know my buddy’s opinion. I encouraged him to write a blog about what he knows. He’s the man, and he could help a lot of people, including himself, if he got his body of knowledge out there.

What did he tell me when I encouraged him to write?

He told me about all the ways he’s not an authority figure on these topics. Here was the man I know, knows more about this stuff than anyone else, telling me he doesn’t know his stuff.

I get it. I have my excuses too. Silly humans.

My other friend sells life insurance. He knows more about the benefits of life insurance than anyone else I know.

He realized that people getting close to retirement age have no idea how to best handle their retirement benefits. He created a seminar to teach people simple steps they could do to boost their retirement income. He was disappointed that he couldn’t reach more people with his seminar.

I encouraged him to start a blog. Once a week he should write a blog post about the good stuff he knows. The people who are looking for good honest information will find him. Then he told me how he always reads this one guy’s blog because he knows more about life insurance than anyone else and he learns a lot from that guy.

I said “See? Do that.” My buddy agreed it was a good idea.

But he never started writing a blog.

My Dad!

My Dad knows all about fixing computers, fixing printers, fixing crap around the house, RC planes, and fixing Chryslers.

I hate Chryslers because I grew up with my Dad and we were always fixing his broke down Chryslers.

But who cares?

Turns out there is a large sub-culture of people who love Chryslers for the same reason my Dad does, because they break down and then they get to fix them. My Dad would be an authority figure on this subject if he wrote about it. People would seek out his advice.

If Dad wrote about networking computers, fixing printers (PC load letter!), and building RC planes people would seek him out because he could help them solve their problems with these subjects.

I told Dad about this and he did his Dad thing, he just smiled and chuckled. Which is his way of saying there’s no way he’s going to consider what you just suggested. He probably doesn’t think he’s an authority figure on these topics.

I get it.

Writing is hard. You have to battle what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance.” You have to battle the blank page, you have to battle yourself. You have to overcome fear of not being an authority on the subject you’re writing about.

It is a worthy endeavor. You will learn. You will help others.

You will become a source of light in the subject that you feel you are not an authority figure in. Everyone needs a good source of light to illuminate the path.

I don’t think anyone I’ve suggested to start writing has actually started writing. This is understandable. No one asked for my advice, but I gave it anyway.

That’s a No-No, never give advice if it isn’t asked for.

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If You Like Chocolate Chip Cookies, Don’t Mess with Texas

Texas does not like chocolate chip cookies.

Texas does not like chocolate chip cookies.

It seems every few years I move from the East Coast to the West Coast or vice versa. I have made this journey several times. I know the highways well enough.

The southernmost interstate that traverses the country, Interstate 10, passes close to the border of Mexico in west Texas near El Paso. Due to the American government’s war on some drugs, the third world country of Mexico has become a savage land that services the American people’s demand for illegal drugs. Because the drugs are illegal they are highly profitable since no taxes are paid on them. Where there are illegal drugs there are violent criminal organizations that trade drugs for money.

This violence and these drugs first make their way into the States near the Mexican American border. Interstate 10 is a major thoroughfare for this activity. As a result, the US government takes extraordinary measures on policing this highway.

One of these measures is a Border Patrol inspection checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, located on the border of nowhere and nowhere in west Texas. I would say the checkpoint is located in the town of Sierra Blanca, Texas except the only thing in Sierra Blanca is a Border Patrol inspection station.

The extraordinary thing about this checkpoint is that Interstate 10 goes through it. This is a permanent checkpoint that chokes Interstate 10. Every car and truck, commercial or private, has to stop at this checkpoint in the desolate middle-of-nowhere west Texas. This is the only place I’ve ever seen in the U.S. that shuts down an entire interstate.

Usually checkpoints for D.U.I.’s or drugs or whatever, are temporary chokepoints on smaller highways. There is too much traffic on Interstates to bring all the traffic to a halt. This is why the Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 10 at Sierra Blanca is so unusual.
I’d been through this inspection checkpoint 10 years earlier. I vaguely remembered that it existed and its location. I was not surprised to see it when I was driving through the middle-of-nowhere, then had to come to a full and complete stop at a check point.

HELD UP AT GUNPOINT

As I come out of the darkness of the Texas summer night into the bright lights of the inspection station, I brought my car to a complete stop before a white line and a large red STOP sign. A serious looking man greeted me, he was not smiling. He was outfitted in a forest green Border Patrol uniform. He looked like a soldier. He was wearing black military style boots laced half way to his knee and he carried some type of automatic rifle slung low across his chest. His torso was padded, he was wearing a bulletproof vest under his uniform, across his chest in white letters were the words BORDER PATROL.

I had the window of my car rolled down.

“Good evening officer.”, I said.

“Are you a U.S. citizen?” the officer said in an aggressive tone.

I didn’t expect such a question. It didn’t make much sense to me, plus I’d been driving through the desert for the last 6 hours, so I paused a second before answering.
U.S. citizen? What else would I be I thought.

“Uh, yes” I replied.

As the Border Patrol officer questioned me, I watched through my rearview mirror as another officer with a German Sheppard walked around the back of my car.

“Ok, pull over for inspection” the officer said.

He directed me to park between the office building and a series of orange cones. I was the only car I saw that was asked to pull over. The other vehicles seemed to stop briefly, then proceed down the interstate.

As I parked my car another Border Patrol officer said, “Turn off your vehicle and get out of the car.”

“Do I need my license and registration?”

“No, step away from the vehicle.”

I got out of my car. I was wearing a t-shirt, a thin pair of shorts made out of a breathable fabric, short socks and athletic shoes. I had nothing in my pockets.

The officer told me to stand in a spot that was 10 yards in front of my vehicle. An officer stood and watched me and made sure I didn’t cross an arbitrary white line on the pavement. I thought, “This will be interesting”, but I wasn’t worried. I looked back as two Border Patrol agents opened the back gate of my car and started rummaging through my belongings. Another agent had a German Sheppard on a leash. The German Sheppard had climbed in to the front passenger seat.

I wasn’t thrilled at having dog hairs all over the seats of my car. There wasn’t much I could do but watch.

I’ve learned how to deal with Border Patrol agents, cops, and highway patrol. You need to be cordial, respectful, and then talk about the most boring shit ever. I started asking what the elevation was in Sierra Blanca.

“What is the elevation here? Is it higher than El Paso? I just drove over some small mountains.”, I asked.

“No, it’s lower” replied the Border Patrol guy.

It’s always a good idea to talk about the weather, they can’t stand that stuff.

“I heard there was flooding in Texas. Will I have to worry about that on I-10?”

“No, that was over 3 weeks ago.”

The idea is to talk about tourist stuff so that the Border Patrol, cop, or highway patrolman will want to get away from you as soon as possible. It’s like bug repellant for those types.

It didn’t work on this occasion.

The officer with the German Sheppard had found something in the cooler full of fruit, energy bars, and a 3-liter bladder of water that I kept in the front passenger seat on the long cross country trip. He found my half full gallon zip-lock bag of made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookies.

He comes charging up to the officer that was watching me, with the leash to the German Sheppard in one hand and holding my bag of cookies up in the air with his other. He had a smirk on his face that seemed to say, “I got you sucka.”

When I saw this I was not stoked.

He walks up to me holding my bag of cookies up high and says “You smoke bro?!”

I stare at the cookies and reply “No”.

“I said You smoke bro?!?!” he yelled with more force than the first time.

Again, I look at my beloved cookies. What the fuck is this guy saying? What am I gonna do? Stick chocolate chip cookies in a pipe and try to smoke them? Or is he asking if I smoke cigarettes?

“No!” I reply, enunciating properly so he could understand me.

The accusing officer looks at the bag of handmade chocolate chip cookies for a second and realizes he may have made an error in his line of questioning.

“These cookies are laced with THC!!!” he accuses.

I thought “laced” was a terrible word. Laced? What the fuck? “Laced” sounds like something that is done with crack or meth. Or maybe something industrial food producers put into fast food and junk food. Laced?

This is all fantasy land speculation, this is completely hypothetical–but if those cookies had THC in them, they most certainly were not laced. If those cookies hypothetically contained THC, then maybe they were made with the best THC oil to be found.

Remember what Papa John likes to say, “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza”? Same is true for chocolate chip cookies. T hose cookies hypothetically could have started with the highest quality strain of high altitude hand crafted cannabis to be found on the West Coast.

Then maybe said cannabis was used to make potent ganja butter by the hands of a master chef. Then most assuredly the chef used flour, sugar, butter, and chocolate chips, just the basic ingredients, no preservative garbage, to bake some wonderfully delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Then, hypothetically, I tested the cookies while out playing a game of disc golf and decided the cookies were too strong because after playing two holes I went over to a park bench, sat down drooling on myself, and stared at the clouds for an hour.

I may have told the master chef that the cookies were too strong, that I needed something less potent because I was driving across the country and couldn’t afford to pull over for a couple of hours at a rest stop while my cookies wore off.

The recipe, using the same high quality ingredients, could’ve been altered a few times until they were as Goldilocks would have liked them–just right.

Those handmade chocolate chip cookies were definitely not laced with THC.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about” I said.

“Has anyone been in this car besides you?”

“No one has been in the car. I’m driving by myself across the country and those are my cookies.”

The officer that was making sure I didn’t cross the arbitrary white line on the pavement completely changes his demeanor and becomes mean. He grabs my hands and puts them behind my back.

I realized I was getting arrested.

ROUGHED UP

“This sucks”, I thought. I’m in the middle of bum fuck nowhere west Texas getting arrested at a Border Patrol station.

The officer takes me in to a long white hall in the station and makes me face the wall. He starts asking me my personal information like name and date of birth, that type of stuff. I answer respectfully but I don’t volunteer any info.

Next he tells me to put my hands on the wall, and raise them as high as I can. When I say “tell”, I mean it was like a low volume yell. It was a command.

I put my hands on the wall but I didn’t understand the “raise your hands as high as you can part” so he repeats the command “raise your hands as high as you can!”

“Huh?” I say as I raise my hands up the wall a bit more. Now my face is right against the wall with my toes a few inches away from the wall. My arms are raised up so high my armpits are almost touching the wall.

The whole time I’m facing the wall he was his hand pushed firmly in the middle of my back. I guess this gives him more leverage in case I start resisting.

“Do you have any knives, needles, or weapons on you?” he commands.

“What? No.”

I had left Phoenix, Arizona that morning where it was 110 degrees. It was the middle of June and I was driving through west Texas. I was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of thin breathable athletic shorts, a pair of tightie whitties, below-the-ankle tennis socks and running shoes.

If I had my keys or my wallet in my shorts you would have been able to tell just by looking that something was in my pockets. When I got out of the car they told me to leave all that stuff. I thought it was obvious I didn’t have anything, besides where could I have put it?

Since his one hand is firmly pressed against my back, he takes his free hand and starts aggressively searching me.

Then he takes his hand from my back and puts one hand on each side of my leg. If you’ve ever skipped the x-ray machine at the airport and had the TSA do the manual search, this is similar.

The difference is the amount of force. The officer raises his hands with way too much force and the impact of his hands and my undercarriage, or “nads”, was too much. I coughed, my nads aren’t used to blunt force trauma. Then the officer moves to the next leg and repeats the procedure. I cough again at the uncomfortable assault.

The feelups the TSA give you at the airport are quite pleasurable compared to how the Border Patrol does it.

The officer stands back up and immediately puts his hand in my back again and with his right boot he steps on and crushes the heel of my right shoe.

“Take your shoe off.” the officer commands.

With my hands high against the wall, my face an inch from the wall, and his hand pushing me against the wall, I had no idea how I was supposed to lean down and take my shoe off. I didn’t want to struggle with the guy. I thought it was in my best interests to be cooperative, but everything was happening so fast, and I was confused as to how I was supposed to take my shoe off without being allowed to bend over to do so.

I made the mistake of saying “Huh?” again.

“Take off your shoe!” he yelled.

“Look, I’m trying to cooperate here. I don’t want to cause trouble, but how am I supposed to take my shoe off if you won’t let me bend over to do so?”

The officer responded by crushing the right heel of my shoe even more.

“Slide your foot out of your shoe!”

I was happy to do so because it did not feel good with his boot crushing my heel. I slid my foot out of my shoe.

With his left hand still firmly planted in my back, the officer reached down and picked my shoe up and examined it. I guess he was looking for drugs, weapons, or human trafficking.

After a careful examination he did not find anything except the unique smell that I insert into all my athletic shoes.

After examining my shoe he dropped on the floor and commanded, “Lift up you foot.”

I lifted my right foot off the ground maybe an inch or so. I thought it was some sort of test like they give to people suspected of driving while intoxicated.

He was pissed. I didn’t do what he wanted. “Give me your foot!” he yelled.

I was confused again.

I didn’t know how this process was supposed to work so instead of saying “Huh?” I just stuttered a few times. He realized that I didn’t know what he wanted so he reached down and pulled my right foot up, with the bottom of my foot facing the ceiling. The position is the same if you are trying to stretch your hamstrings while standing on one foot.

With his left hand firmly planted in my back, me standing on my left foot with my hands up on the wall, he takes his right thumb, while holding my right foot, and runs his thumb up and down my sock.

Again, I guess he was looking for drugs, weapons, or humans that I might be smuggling into the country. Again, he found nothing.

The officer dropped my right shoe then crushed my left heel.

“Take off your shoe!”

This time I knew what to do and promptly obeyed.

Next he commanded, “Put your ankles against the wall.”

Now I was really confused. How do you put your ankles against the wall? I can put my big toes to the wall, but I can’t put my ankles to the wall.

Again, I reiterated that I wanted to cooperate, I wasn’t resisting, but I had no idea how I was supposed to comply with his command.

The officer became somewhat reasonable. He could see that I wasn’t resisting and I’m as harmless as I look.

With his hand firmly planted in my back he calmly explained the procedure. I was supposed to twist my leg 90 degrees so that the inside ball of my ankle was touching the wall. Then I was supposed to repeat the maneuver with my left leg, so that the heels of my feet are facing each other about shoulder width apart. The right leg was easy enough. The leg left was more difficult. I severed my ACL 3 years earlier and had surgery to repair it. Even though I’ve done a massive amount of physical therapy it doesn’t work or flex like a normal knee.

I didn’t bother explaining this history to the Border Patrol guy. As I was trying to set my left leg the same as I had my right, I began to wonder how I was going to do this without falling over. My hands were so high on the wall that my armpits were almost touching the wall. I had my head turned to one side so my nose wouldn’t be crushed against the wall. With my legs in the position I’ve already described it was almost impossible for me to keep my balance.

It was as if the officer could read my mind.

“Don’t worry, I got you. I won’t let you fall.” he said as he applied more pressure to his hand that was in my back.

Oh thanks, I thought as I maneuvered my left leg into the position he desired. It was one of the most awkward positions I’d ever been in. If the officer wasn’t holding me up I’d have fallen over.

You are completely defenseless in this position. I guess that was the point. I was put in that weird position to see if I would be cooperative and to display the officer’s dominance. He didn’t do anything else while I was in that position, he didn’t pat me down, he just had me stand there for a while.

When he was satisfied he let me off the wall to stand like a normal human being.

THE INTERROGATION

Next we walked into the large office area adjoining the wall. There were several Border Patrol agents in their green military outfits typing at computers and joking with one another. On one wall was a long bench that ran the length of the room. There was a Hispanic mother and her young child sitting on one side of the bench while a Border Patrol officer sat typing at a computer in the desk facing them.

I noticed that every 2 or 3 feet on the bench there was a set of handcuffs attached to a chain. As the officer walked me to his desk he told me to sit on the part of the bench right in front of his computer terminal that was facing me.

I was a relieved when I realized he was not going to hand cuff me to the bench.

The officer informed that I was being arrested and slid a piece of paper across his desk. There were 3 boxes at the top of the page. I had to check 2.

The first box was informing me of my rights. Instead of verbally reading me my rights, they were written down. I had to check the box indicating that I had read them.

The officer explained the next 2 boxes.

The first one indicated that I would cooperate with the government and they could ask me questions about the cookies. If I cooperated I might be able to get a better treatment.

The second box indicated that I chose the right to remain silent and requested a lawyer. If I did this then the officer couldn’t speak to me about the allegations and couldn’t “help me out.”

I was getting arrested in a Border Patrol checkpoint in west Texas. It was the middle of nowhere. I figured I would sit in jail for a few days before I was able to talk to a lawyer.

I was not happy about the situation I was in.

I told the officer, “I dunno. What do you think? It kinda sounds like I need a lawyer.”

I was trying to play as dumb as possible while also being polite to the guy.

“If you ask for a lawyer then I can’t talk to you and I can’t help you out” said the officer.

I politely checked box number 2.

**Helpful Hint**

In case you don’t know… NEVER TALK TO THE POLICE. This also applies to any other branch of government that can arrest you. Remember, “Anything you say, can and will be used against you.” What they don’t say is nothing you say can be used in your defense.

Do yourself a favor and don’t say anything.

Please watch this video. It explains in detail why you don’t say anything when you are getting arrested.

****

“Ok, he lawyer’d up” the officer announced to the other Border Patrol officers milling about the large open office. They didn’t seem interested enough to look up from whatever they were working on.

The officer takes my license out of my wallet and places it on the desk next to his keyboard. Then he starts asking me the question of name, date of birth, place of birth, social security number, height, weight, occupation, those type of questions.

I politely answer but don’t volunteer any extra information than asked.

“Have you ever been arrested before? Remember, don’t lie to me.”

This is a tricky question for me to answer. Being a young, rebellious, and a fan of alcohol, I made a few mistakes as a kid. Most of those mistakes got taken care of by lawyers and were expunged from my record. The one that stayed on my record was a DUI I got as a teenager.

I figured that’s all they needed to know about.

“I got a DUI as a teenager” I said.

“You’re lying! I told you, don’t lie to me!” the officer fired back.

This is another reason why you don’t talk to the police, they hate it when you lie to them. And they ask you questions in a way that is meant to confuse you and trip you up so that they can yell “Don’t lie to me!”

I stumbled. “Well, I got arrested this one other time but I it was expunged from my record”
“Where?” the officer asked as he peered at the information on his computer screen.

“Stillwater, Montana”

What I didn’t realize is I was dealing with the government. The government collects everyone’s data on everything.

You’ve heard of the NSA? They know that you’re reading this website, they know you buy food at McDonalds, and that you watch a lot of Katy Perry videos on YouTube. The government also knows how many times you’ve been arrested, and whether those instances were expunged or not.

I realized I needed to shut up because I was only going to get myself in more trouble. I realized that they didn’t ask me about another scrape or two I’d had. I wasn’t going to volunteer the information and I knew if they asked I would just lie to them.

The questioning ended and the officer was content to let me sit there and worry while he punched at his keyboard.

After a while the officer said, “Were checking your information against the databases in the FBI, the Dept. of Homeland Securtiy, and the DEA. If you’re lying to me you’re gonna make it worse.”

“Holy shit” I thought. I hadn’t done anything and these guys think I’m some international criminal. I kept my mouth shut.

The longer I sat there the more worried I became. I was in the clutches of the government and the government can do whatever they want to do. There is no rule of law. There is only the will of the physically stronger.

It did not matter that I was not hurting anyone or breaking any laws. It didn’t matter that I was minding my own business. It did not matter that I paid my taxes.

The only thing that mattered was reality. The reality was my future resided in the whims of the Border Patrol.

I realized the situation could spiral out of control.

I remembered hearing a story about a guy who got arrested with some cocaine. The guy didn’t have that much cocaine, but he concealed it inside a plastic box with a bunch of other stuff in the box to try to hide the cocaine. Instead of taking the cocaine out of the container and weighing it by itself, the police weighed the container and all the contents with the cocaine. This weight was of a much greater weight than the cocaine itself.

The suspect then got charged with possessing the weight of the entire object as if it was all cocaine. This made it seem like the suspect had way more cocaine than he actually did and the penalty for this greater weight was much more severe.

I had a large bag of chocolate chip cookies that allegedly was infused with THC. If they wanted to, they could weigh the bag and the cookies and consider it all THC and come up with a large weight that made it seem like I possessed an enormous amount of the illegal plant substance.

They could also charge me with DUI, intent to distribute, resisting arrest. Hell, they could charge me with whatever they wanted to.

I tried not to dwell on all the terrible possibilities.

As bummed as I was, I was kind of happy about how I was handling the situation. I was responsible for the situation I was in and I’d take it like a Stoic, I would face whatever came my way. I tried to use my Dale Carnegie powers of persuasion, I was polite to the mean guys with assault rifles. I tried not to laugh when they talked about my bag of chocolate chip cookies as if they were a dangerous substance.

Several times over the course of the holdup the officers had to call in the situation, either by hand-held radio or by phone to some superior officer. It was funny to hear their explanations. On the phone they would say, “Yeah, we got a Mr. Paulson here with a bag of THC cookies.”

They would always have to repeat that part, then say “No, cookies. Marijuana cookies. They have THC in them.”

This explanation would usually be followed up with, “No, they’re for personal use.”

That was good to hear. I didn’t think they would try to get me on an “intent to distribute” charge. I didn’t look like a Girl Scout selling Thin Mints.

It took awhile for the background checks to come back from the various government agencies. During this time Border Patrol agents would come up to me from time to time and hand me possessions from my car. They gave me my phone and wallet. Then someone brought my emergency cash I keep in the center console of my car.

I became depressed sitting on the bench thinking how miserable it would be to rot in a jail in west Texas. I let out a deep sigh of resignation.

The officer sitting at the desk in front of me did not like this.

“I’m tired of hearing you moaning and moping around. Be quite. As long as you’ve told us the truth and nothing comes back on the background checks, you’ll be free to go. But if you’re lying to us or if you have a warrant out for your arrest, you’ll be going to jail for a long time.”

I sat straight and perked up. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. What? They might let me off? I hoped nothing came back on that background check.

I didn’t mention that the state of California had just suspended my license for letting my insurance lapse. The California DMV had screwed up the paperwork. I moved out of Cali and was a resident of Nevada with legal license, registration, and insurance. California didn’t get the memo, thought I wasn’t paying my taxes and suspended my license. I was tired of dealing with the bozos and gave up trying to correct them. I was hoping that didn’t come back to haunt me.

I sat on the bench and did not say a word.

Time started to slow down as I waited for the background checks. At last the officer informed me that there were no outstanding warrants for my arrest and I was on good standing with the Dept. of Homeland Security, DEA, and the FBI.

“You got lucky. If you had been here this time last week you’d be getting arrested. But, we’re gonna let you go” the officer informed me.

Holy smokes. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea what he meant by “If you had been here this time last week you’d be getting arrested.” I didn’t dare ask what had transpired in 7 days that would change my status from criminal to non-criminal.

I was stunned that I was going to walk out of that place. And I was proud of how I handled the robbery.

When I was younger, it was known amongst my friends when we went “out on the town”, if we ever were to encounter the cops, that I was never allowed to speak to them. I was always sent to the back of the group and those in our group with better social graces would converse with the police. For some reason, when I would talk to the police, it always ended up badly, usually with handcuffs.

If I had this encounter with the Border Patrol 10 years earlier, I would have gone to jail, guaranteed. Since then life has crushed me. I was forced to admit how weak I was. I was forced to learn. I learned much about psychology and the inherent weakness of human thought. I learned how to consider the other person’s perspective from Dale Carnegie.

The Border Patrol officers had no idea what was going on. They had no idea that they were the criminals. I was traveling along peacefully causing no harm and interfering with no one, and they stopped me at gunpoint. They stole my property. They harassed me.

The Border Patrol agents didn’t know they were engaged in criminal activity. They didn’t know that they worked for a vast criminal organization called the government. They thought they were they good guys.

They probably had a good laugh after work that night while enjoying my chocolate chip cookies.

There was a warm breeze that night as I walked out of the Border Patrol station to my car. I was relieved to be set free and I was also tired. The interrogation took about 2 hours and it was late when I got back on the road.

I drove for an hour more, then pulled over to a rest stop and slept in the back of my car. I woke up the next morning to a vast dusty view of west Texas stretching out as far as the eye could see. As I pulled onto the highway, with 14 hours of Texas driving ahead of me, I thought, “Damn, it’d be nice if I had a cookie.”

I’m not a writer but I write shit. Or… 7 Ways writing benefits you

Start writing!

Start writing!

1. Forces you to think about your thoughts.
Humans are the only animal that can think about their thoughts. This is a weird benefit and often we don’t know what to do with this. Writing helps with this effort. Writing forces you to think about your thoughts and how to express them in a way in which a reader can easily absorb them. It’s like exercise for your brain… and exercise is good.

2. Forces you to become creative.
In order to write, you have to have something to write about. You have to have something to say! What are you going to say? Who knows? Only you know, and if you don’t know what to write about then you need to think about what to write about. You need to be creative and come up with ideas. Again this is exercise for your brain… and exercise is good.

3. Focus.
The best way to get your idea across with writing is to Focus. You want to focus your thoughts so you can have a clear and concise message. You want to cut all the stuff that is not needed in getting your point across to your reader.

4. Discipline.
A famous writer (I forget who) once said, “The easiest thing in the world is to not write.” I agree. I hate writing.

I have attention deficit disorder, I’m easily distracted. Writing is hard for me. It’s hard to stay in one place and try to complete something as easy as a blog post. But I have a blog and the only way anything gets posted on the blog is if I write it.

I have to force myself to start writing, then I have to force myself to finish the darn thing and at some point and post it on my blog. This is a huge pain in the ass for me. I’d rather be rummaging through my refrigerator looking for something to eat. But I have to exercise discipline and force myself to write, edit, and post.

5. Learning.
Writing forces you to learn. When you start writing you will most likely create garbage. You will want to create something better than the garbage you start out with. So you will force yourself to learn writing and to try a lot and to get better at the craft. This takes work and continuous learning.

You will also notice what your audience likes or hates. This will help you to refine your writing and the way you deliver your message. You’ll want to get better so you will learn.

6. Reading.
To write well you need to read a lot. There are no good writers who were not good readers as well. You will need to read far and wide to expose your mind to different styles and ideas.

7. Action!
Writing forces you to act. You have to publish your work. You have to turn in an article, publish a blog post, or finish a book. Your work will never be perfect but you have to put it out there.

These are a few ways in which writing will benefit you. If you take out the word writing and replace it with any project or goal you are trying to accomplish, these skills you learn from writing will help you on your way.

If you are trying to achieve a goal, or create a product, or even climb a mountain, you will first need to think about what you are trying to achieve. You’ll need to map out a strategy. You will need to focus and come up with creative ways to reach your goal. You’ll need discipline to stick to reaching steps that will move you closer to your goals. You’ll need to read and learn about the obstacles in your path and finally you will need to act to take the steps needed to get you where you want to go.

The benefits of the writing process are applicable in many different areas of your life. It’s really about getting work done.

And another thing, once you finish your article or book or create and launch your product, you immediately need to start to work on the next thing.

Once you finish your work it, the process has only just begun.

What do you think? Did I leave anything out? Are there other benefits to writing that you can apply to the rest of life? Let me know at brucepaulson1@gmail.com

BIRTH OF AN UGLY DUCKLING

What do you do with your manuscript, painting, or piece of creative work once it is finished? The next step is really hard. Once you’ve finished you have to show your work and get feedback. When I started writing, I never thought I would finish, so I never thought about the next step. Once I finished the first draft I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to show it to anyone because I thought it sucked and I was embarrassed not only by what I wrote, but also the quality of the writing. I’m not a writer and it showed in my work.

But when you’re done, you’re done. I could have keep rewriting the thing over and over and claimed that it was never done. I could have made improvements on the manuscript for years, but even if I’d known what I was doing it would have made the story only marginally better. Plus, I was glad the first draft was done.

It took me two years to write the damn thing, it was like battling a monster for two years, I was tired of it. Not only was the process of writing difficult for me, the subject matter was difficult.

The whole story is of me talking about a traumatic event and my physical and psychological challenges in dealing with it. It was exhausting to keep going over the stuff. I don’t want the avalanche to define me. I don’t want to be that guy that spends the rest of his life talking about some tragedy that befell him. That scared me. I wanted to move on.

I just had to finish the damn manuscript. Once I did finish I felt lost all over again. I no longer had the routine of waking up early and writing before I’d go to work. I didn’t know the next step. Well, I did know the next step, I had to get someone to read it but I didn’t know who.
I listened to a podcast with the author Steven Pressfield and the editor Shawn Coyne about how you don’t want to dump your book, screenplay, manuscript, etc. on your friends or family; you need to find a professional and pay them to read it and give you feedback. This suggestion made sense to me. That’s where I’m at trying to find and editor to work with. I think I’ve found one but I don’t know. I’ve read a bunch of articles about how to find an editor. At this point I’ve got information overload. I don’t know what I’m doing. I think I’m just going to pick one and move on.

In the meantime my sister said she wanted to read the first draft. She thought it’d be a good idea for her to read it, give me some feedback so I could clean it up before sending it to an editor. That worked for me, so I sent it off to her. I think both her and her husband are going to read it which is good, I’ll have feedback from two people. Maybe yes maybe no.

Because of the personal nature of the story, it’s a memoir, and because my sister is biased because she’s my sister and she was a major part of the story, I wanted to find someone that doesn’t know me to read it and give feedback. That will happen soon enough I guess. In the meantime I’m looking forward to hearing the first criticisms of that ugly duckling I wrote.

Writing Is Medicine

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I never learned “writing” in school. I never took a class and I had no interest. Obvious right?

One time, I think it was in 7th grade, we had to learn how to diagram a sentence in English class. This was the worst experience. I actually tried to learn it at first, failed miserably, then became so scared I did the smart thing and gave up. Better to get an F not trying than an F while trying really hard. I’ll die a happy man never having learned how to diagram a sentence.

I didn’t read much growing up either. I convinced myself I couldn’t find anything good to read, which was partially true, so I didn’t. I was ignorant.

In the summer of 2009 I was homeless. I was going through my first mid-life crisis. I moved across the country to a place where I didn’t know anyone. The only thing that made me feel better was reading. I started making lists of names of books mentioned in books I was already reading. The list ensured I always had something interesting to read, I solved my childhood problem. I began reading voraciously. The TV was thrown into the garbage. For the first time in my life I began to learn.

When I was in the ICU my sister set up a page for me on Caringbridge.org so she could update friends and family on my condition. She tired of the updates and wanted me to write it. I was hurting and on a lot of morphine because I broke every bone in my face. I couldn’t hold a thought for more than 30 seconds. I couldn’t write. Josie kept pestering me to write, she said it would be therapeutic for me.

Since reading had improved my life so much I figured I’d listen to my sister and try to write something. And I wanted all the relief I could get so I started typing. The first thing I remember writing was a post late at night. I was in pain and couldn’t sleep so I took to Caringbridge to bitch and let out some weird energy. I started crying while I typed. I couldn’t figure out the “Why?” of life.

Somehow I wrote a post called The Road To Recovery Is Not A Road. I have no idea where it came from but I liked it. The act of writing it made me feel better.

Writing is a powerful form of therapy. I can’t prove it, but it is. If you experience devastation, which you will at some point, write about it.

And you don’t have to be a “writer” for writing to help you deal with your problems, you just have to make the effort and put the words down and voila, you start to feel a little better.

Write about how the pain makes you feel. Write about what you’re going through. Write about the best and worst case scenarios of your condition.

For some strange reason you’ll feel better when you write it out. It’ll be some raw stuff, it’ll be ugly, you’ll know you’re doing the right thing when you feel embarrassed by what you write. This is also when then medicinal powers of writing are the most potent.
The writing process, putting your thoughts and emotions down, releases a bunch of negative energy. When you experience devastation your body shuts down and sends all the energy to your core to help you survive.

Once you are in Recovery you have to release all this energy or it spoils, causing damage. Writing is the release valve for spoiled negative energy. Let the bad out so the good can do its work.

Writing helps you deal with pain. It shifts your thoughts from your devastation to creating something. Writing helped me focus my thoughts then let go of them. It helped me move on.

I encourage you to write about painful events, even if you never share them with anyone. Hopefully you will share them with someone, anyone, but maybe you won’t and that’s ok. If you have written down how you felt when life was horrible, you can go back and read it when life is good and be grateful for how not terrible life can be.

Being grateful for what you do have is the medicine that will help you get over what you have lost.

If you know someone dealing with devastation, encourage them to write. Show them this post. If you have questions just ask.

Brucepaulson1@gmail.com
@Fakebruce1

Some Resources For Self Publishing

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Do you have an idea you are passionate about? That you can’t stop thinking about? An idea that consumes you so much you could talk about it for hours and hours? Then you should write a book about this idea. Writing a book will help you focus and refine your thoughts on the idea. Writing a book will also show that you are an authority on the topic, helping to further your career or open up a new one for you. So you should write a book.

Once you have written your book then what? Then you should self publish. At least that’s my opinion. The world has changed, business has changed, technology has knocked down barriers. By writing and self publishing your book you can promote the brand of YOU. If you have no idea how to go about self publishing buy would like to know more, then this post is for you.

I got the entire idea to self publish a book from James Altucher’s blog. I got much of the encouragement to write a book from Altucher’s writings as well. So much of the little bit I know about self publishing is from that guy. I definitely recommend checking out his blog and podcast.

How To Professionally Self Publish a best seller is a blog post from Altucher with a lot of great information on it.

I learned about Hugh Howey from Altucher’s podcast. Howey is a prolific author that follows the happening in the space through his blog.

Meb Faber has a blog post about how he self published his latest book. It’s got some useful information in it as well.

You can’t leave out Tim Ferriss in this list. His blog posts have so much content in them it’ll make your head spin, but in a good way. If you want to learn, learn from a master.

Jane Friedman, who specializes in helping people learn to write and publish, wrote a post with a tremendous amount of info titled How to Publish an E-Book: Resources for Authors. She’s got some much useful info that I signed up for her email list.

This is also where I found an article by Stacy Ennis on how to find a book editor.

This is the part that I am stuck on now. I need to find an editor I can work with. I rambled on for 153,000 words. Now I need a thorough edit because I am not a writer. I had no idea what I was doing. I read The Elements of Style, thought it was full of quality instructions, then proceeded to forget all the instructions because I can’t remember anything.

I just wrote as much as I could to get it out before I forgot how bad it felt getting crushed by a wall on snow. The healthier I got, the more I forgot about the pain and misery. So I tried to get it out while I still remembered. And now the manuscript is in need of serious editing.

I listened to a short podcast from Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne about how they have to tell their friends they don’t work for free. You need to pay a professional to look at your work. That made sense to me, I need professional editorial help. So I emailed Mr. Coyne to see if he could recommend anyone. He recommended Nils Parker of commandzcontent.com. I spoke with Nils via email but I haven’t yet got a quote for services. Nils has worked with several bestselling authors, I doubt I can afford his services.

The search for editorial help continues. I’ll keep ya posted.

p.s. If this post helped you out or if you have any ideas to make it better, let me know at brucepaulson1@gmail.com or on twitter @fakebruce1

I DON’T KNOW HOW TO WRITE! – THE WRITING PROCESS

ImageWhen I started writing my book I was terrified and confused. I had no idea what I was doing. I never learned anything about writing in school. Never had any desire to write anything.  There was one class where all we did was learn the Excel spreadsheet program. I was shocked at all the stuff Excel could do. As soon as the class was over I forgot everything I learned about Excel. I actually never learned anything in school and I graduated from university with decent grades.

I just started writing. The first two pages came out easily. I recounted what it was like to get pounded by an avalanche that I never saw coming.

Then it became difficult to write. It took me 6 months to write the first 10 pages of my manuscript. Even for me that is slow. I needed some help, some advice, on how to write. I can’t remember where, but I read something that recommended Stephen King’s “On Writing.” I’d never read Stephen King, he didn’t seem like my style, but I gave the book a shot anyway. I’m glad I did, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I learned a lot about the writing process. I learned to leave a little blood on the page. The most important thing I learned was to do the work, to get my butt in the chair at the same time everyday and write.

Strunk & White’s short book “The Elements of Style.”, is a must read, even if you never plan on writing a book. This is where I learned:

-omit needless words
-do not overwrite
-do not explain too much
-avoid fancy words

I then proceeded to break all the rules because I didn’t know what was doing and I forgot many of the helpful pointers.

Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”, is fantastic. This is where I got the encouragement to carry on with the project I’d started.

I read a bunch of James Altucher’s stuff. I read many of the posts on his blog and I read several of his books. Altucher is good at encouraging you to write and he gives many examples of how he learned to write. This is where I got the idea to self publish.

There are many other great books and resources out there to help you learn how to write. The internet is a great source for finding information on writing. But all the reading in the world only gets you so far. The difference between Theory and Practice is an ocean of experience.

After 6 months and only 10 pages I was overwhelmed. I thought there was no way I could complete a “shitty first draft.”

Then I forced myself to get my butt at the desk at 5:30 am everyday. A year later I had almost 200 pages. Terrible and unedited pages, but I had them. This is the most important thing when you start out writing, to write. To put in the seat time. You can only get better by doing. I want to get better at writing because often when I’m proofreading what I’ve written, I hear a monotone voice in my head reading the words. That’s means it’s boring and needs to be deleted. But this is the only way to get better. There was someone, I wish I could remember who, that said you have to write 10 pages of crap, to get to 1 page of quality writing.

You gotta put out the crap first. This is the only way to get better. This is the most important lesson I learned about writing. You have to write. A lot. And a lot of it’s going to be crap. Once I got into a regularly scheduled time in the morning, the volume of writing began to accumulate.

You can’t write a book until you write a shitty first draft. This was an important lesson, learning the discipline of getting my butt in front of the computer.

After staring at my computer screen for so long I wanted to finish the damn thing. I didn’t know it at the time but the story wasn’t over yet. Over this last winter (2014) I lived the last 2 chapters of the book.

The first draft was complete 2 years after the avalanche. As I proofread it for the second time I felt like hitting the delete button and getting rid of the damn thing. The writing is terrible.

The question is, “Can enough of the garbage be taken out that leaves something worth reading?” I don’t know. I would like an unbiased person, someone that doesn’t know me or the story, preferably a professional editor, to look at this thing. I need some constructive criticism.  This manuscript needs a knife or probably a chainsaw to cut, cut, cut.

This is the next part of the journey.

HOW TO PROFESSIONALLY SELF PUBLISH YOUR BOOK: AN EXPERIMENT

Hello. My name is Bruce Paulson and I am not a writer. I am not an author of any sort and I have no training in writing or publishing. But I am going to self publish my book and I want it to look as good as any book from a major publishing company. And I have no idea what I’m doing or how I will accomplish this task. But I am stubborn, I’ll figure it out eventually.

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

Why do I want to self publish a book when I’ve never written anything longer than an email? What gives? Here’s the short version:

In 2012 I was crushed by an avalanche while skiing at a ski resort. I died, then, for reasons unknown I came back. When I came back it was painful. I broke every bone in my face and I was drowning because my lung had filled with blood. I got pulled off the mountain and sent to the hospital where I had a bunch of surgeries. My life changed, I had nothing, I had hit bottom. My family was by my side, they picked me up. Then friends and coworkers and all manner of people came out of the woodwork to help me out.

Through a period of intense self examination I realized I wanted to change my life. I looked back on my behavior and was not impressed. I realized that I was always complaining and that most of my problems in life were a result of being consumed by self pity. It was time to change. I wanted to show the people that helped me out that they didn’t waste their efforts. My goal became to create value for other people, instead of thinking about myself all the time.

Several people encouraged me to write a book. I’d reply, “Yeah right.” I had no intention of writing a book. I had read a lot of books but I don’t write books. Authors write books. Smart people and famous people write books. Bruce does not write books.

A family friend who is a pilot and all around smart guy, a person I greatly respect, told me about Charles Lindburgh. He said Lindburgh wrote his first book after he made his historic flight across the Atlantic. Lindburgh also wrote an autobiography much later in life. My friend told me he liked the first book better than the last, even though the writing quality of the autobiography was much better. He encouraged me to write a book.

So I wrote a book. Sort of. I wrote what the author Anne Lamott calls “a shitty first draft.”

I’ve got 152,000 words of ramble. I explain what happened in the avalanche, the surgeries, my Mom and sister in the hospital, my experience with medical care, insurance, and tricks I learned to reduce medical bills. I keep going on and on about my thoughts on the Recovery process, physical therapy, the realization of self pity and the fight to get rid of it, really understanding how life is not fair, and my desire to create value for other people. The shitty first draft is mostly done.

THE EXPERIMENT

Now I need help. Now I need constructive criticism. Now I need an editor. Now I need to get out of my comfort zone and figure this whole process out.

The publishing industry has undergone radical change over the past few years. The internet has destroyed the gatekeepers. I don’t need to hope that a publisher likes my book and decides to publish it. I can take my manuscript and treat it like an entrepreneurial venture and publish it myself.

But this process takes more work. And capital I don’t have. I will have to raise money, I will have to find an editor, I will have to learn how to format, and I will have to learn how to market this thing, and bunch of other stuff I don’t even know of yet. I am starting from scratch. I have no background in any of this, I’m a ski bum and I ship wine for a living. This will be one heck of a learning experience.

It would be much easier to fail and do nothing, to leave my manuscript saved in my computer and never show it to anyone. But then I think I’d let down a bunch of people who helped me pick up the pieces. So I’m going to try this thing. If I fail then I fail, but I will fail trying. And I will learn. I always learn more from my failures than my successes.

THE BLOG

I will post everything about the process here on the blog. I figure if I’m successful in publishing my book then anyone can do it. I will tell you what worked, and what didn’t. I’ll break down every step of the process. I have no idea what I’m doing so I welcome feedback. I’ll be using the blog to test ideas like the title and the cover. I’m interested in putting together a high quality finished product, again feedback will help. If you’re an author and have experience self publishing, I’d like to hear your ideas. If you’re experienced with formatting or designing websites, drop me a line. If you’re an expert at marketing, especially direct-response, I’d love some good advice. Or if you just like reading books and have some suggestions let me know.

Hopefully this will become a source of information for you if you want to publish your own book. You should write and publish your own book. You have a unique story to tell and a book is the best way to get it out there. Let’s see what happens…