Posts by WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith, journalist and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and a couple of cats.

What it all means

Of late I’ve been using the blogosphere to write about more apolitical themes than I did in previous iterations – things like confronting the fear in your heart and living in the here and now – things like “we become what we think about” and “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

So what’s the point? Why am I writing about stuff like this? (Besides the obvious point that I’d love for you to buy the corresponding books and read what I’m saying in more detail.)

The idea is to introduce you to the power you have. Some might say “I’m writing to empower you,” but I can’t give you any more power than you already have. As Glinda the Good Witch says at the end of The Wizard of Oz, “She wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.”

I have striven to let you, the reader, see that if you are afraid, often it’s because someone wants you to be afraid and so he can take advantage of your fear – empowering himself to control your life and your thoughts. The answer is to bring your fear under control, refuse to be afraid, and do what you know to be the right thing.

The stresses of everyday life can lull you into a meek sense of unconsciousness and compliance. Your eyes glaze over, literally and figuratively, physically and spiritually. The answer is to wake up, embrace the moment and live in the present tense. Be here now. Be alive. Scream your consciousness to the world.

The point of these writings has always been to let you know that you have the power to conquer fear – you have the power to live your life and on your own terms. The decisions in your life are not up to someone else, and in fact someone else cannot have power over your mind unless you give them permission.

Now, with great power comes great responsibility. You are responsible if your life sucks, and you are responsible for the way you wield the power within you to make your life better. You don’t have to wait for the right mate, the right home, the right boss, the right car, the right governor, the right congress critter or the right president. You can make your life better now. Just refuse to be afraid – and be here now. and now. and now.

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Take a stand

In a memorable scene from one of my favorite movies, Serenity, a dying character grabs the hero and says, “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe.” The film in many ways is about the power of belief, the energy that comes when you invest yourself in a decision to take a stand.

I tend to find a lot of life examples in films, books, music and other creative works. That’s not an accident. Each such work represents, in itself, a decision to take a stand. The creator(s) made a conscious decision to tell a story or express an idea — and stayed conscious long enough to complete that creative work.

What is it about the status quo that you’d like to be different? Start working, now, to change it. Decide that you’re not going to take it anymore, because things can be better than this.

Tap into the power of taking a stand. Grab hold of this moment, and then the next, and, as Mohandas Gandhi said so memorably, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

What’s with all the anger?

Everyone’s so angry in the glowing box and in the talking box and in the boxes on the political pages and websites. Why are they all so angry?

I think it’s because other people disappoint. Every other person is unable to make my life right. Only I can work on fixing my life, and only I am able to accept the responsibility for my life, because only I have ultimate power over my life. With great power comes great responsibility.

If my life is not what I wish it was, only I can change that.

If my life is not what I wish it was, day after day, the only one to blame, really, is me.

This is a hard fact to face when my life is not what I wish it was.

So it’s human nature to blame someone else. This creates a conflict. And a good dramatic conflict makes interesting news.

Conflict makes people uncomfortable, and discomfort can eventually lead to anger.

And angry people make good television, good radio and a good read.

I think maybe that’s why it seems everyone on TV and radio and generally in the news is angry lately.

And it must equate to the politicians that it’s important to get people angry, so that the media will pay attention, because angry people are newsworthy.

So they make inflammatory statements. “My opponent is just not wrong or mistaken, my opponent is morally wrong and unethical.”

This is not Republican versus Democrat versus libertarian versus green versus individualist versus statist. This is good versus evil. When the conflict is stated in those terms, it’s easy to get angry. Because the threat that evil may triumph makes anyone angry.

So the ads are designed to make you angry. If you believe what the ads say, you get angry at the ads’ target. If you don’t believe what the ads say, you get angry at the ads themselves. In either case you get angry.

And when you’re angry, you make the political operatives happy. Because they want you to be angry. They depend on you to be angry. An emotional person is more easily persuaded.

Here’s what I think. I think my happiness is in my hands. I think the responsibility for my life is mine.

I don’t think my life will get better if a Democrat wins the next election. I don’t think my life will get better if a Republican wins the next election. I think my life will get better when I stop believing that the Democrats or the Republicans have the power to make my life better.

I think my life will get better when I stop waiting for the next election and just get down to the business of making my life better. I think my life will get better when I stop waiting for any politician or corporation or anyone at all besides myself to do something to make my life better.

My happiness does not depend on the right president. My welfare does not depend on an external force of any kind. If my life is not what I wish it was, only I can change that.

Your happiness does not depend on the right president. Your welfare does not depend on any external force. Your life will not get better if someone else is running the government. If your life is not what you wish it was, only you can change that.

Don’t believe it? That’s because you let someone else get you angry.

And next, The Imaginary Revolution

Back in 1988 an image jumped into my mind, and I jumped up from whatever it was that I was doing, and I wrote it down:

It’s hard to believe that the brilliant bands of light that sweep across the night sky haven’t always been there. Great poets have written wonderful romantic songs through the years about the effect those gleaming streaks have on hearts young and old — so many songs in so many years that we must be reminded from time to time that, before the imaginary bomb, there were no rings around the Earth.

I had begun foundering around with an idea for a novel called The Imaginary Bomb, but until I wrote that paragraph I didn’t know where to go with it. But now I had an ending — a destination, if you will — and all I had to do was take aim and write the novel that preceded it. Sure enough the story was essentially completed a few weeks later. (Why it then took 20 years to publish is a whole nuther story.)

I tell this anecdote because over the weekend, I wrote the end to The Imaginary Revolution, a story that has been on my mind for about four years or so and which I’ve started and stopped several times but foundered. I even started podcasting the early chapters of the first version in hopes it would motivate me to plow ahead. But still I foundered; I generally knew the whole story but, I now realize, I had no ending, no destination.

I did have a file in my I-Rev folder called “the last chapter,” because based on that earlier experience, I suspected I needed the ending first. But I had a lot of files in my I-Rev folder, including several versions of the opening chapters. I looked through those files over the weekend.

And I realized Sunday morning how the last chapter needs to end. Wow.

It was like, err, a scream of consciousness. Now I can’t wait to go back and fill in everything that happens before the end.

There’s nothing that energizes any project more than having a goal, a destination. Otherwise it’s just a lot of foundering about. Life being a foundering kind of exercise, it’s easy to forget that simple fact.

Where do you think you’re going?

Answer these 2 questions and own the world

… perhaps not quite the world, but you will definitely own your reader. And if you connect with your reader, you stand a better chance of getting your message across. That’s why we communicate, isn’t it? To convey a message.

You have only seconds to convince the reader to pay attention. In those few seconds you must answer these two questions, or the reader will go no further.

1. Why is this important?

2. Why should I care?

Answer these two questions and own the world. It makes no difference if you’re writing or telling a news story, a headline, ad copy, a press release, the Great American Novel or a grocery list. The person thinking about reading, hearing, watching or otherwise consuming your work needs to know the answers, or you’ve lost him/her.

And the first person you need to convince is you. If it’s not important to you and you don’t care, move on. You’ll never convince your audience.

Know why this is important, and why you should care, and you have begun to create something good, perhaps great.