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Hours of doubt

A finished book is deceptive. It's neat and tidy and all bundled up with a beautiful cover. What us struggling artists don't see are the hours of doubt that went into its creation. The hours of doubt are hidden in every work of art. As creators, we either learn to work through those doubts, or we crumple up the sheet of paper and toss it in bin -- giving up entirely. When Stephen King was writing Carrie, he did exactly that. He typed up three pages. Then, he realized he didn't like the story; he didn't like...

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On daughters dating androids

I have a 2-year-old daughter. My theory is she'll never learn to drive (thank you, autonomous vehicles), and she'll probably date an android at some point in her life. I'm ok with that for a lot of reasons: 1. He'll help her score in the 90th percentile on the ACT. 2. He'll be able to hold eye contact/conversations with adults. 3. No unwanted pregnancies. 4. He'll know CPR. 5. He'll be able to recite every book available on the Kindle. 6. He'll protect her from muggers. 7. He'll never be able to say he "lost track of time" and bring my daughter home late. 8. He could kill...

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Ode to my first house

Once, I asked dad to take me to his boyhood home. We sat there, engine idling. I stared at the siding, the green shutters, the stump in the yard and tried to feel something. My dad didn't say much, but I'm sure he felt a lot. He'd grown up there with three brothers, all of them dead; his parents dead. And here's this house, filled with different people, different stories, entirely different lives. Now, my wife and I are selling our first house, moving a few miles away to Bellbrook. I keep thinking about the fact that...

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You’ll snap your fingers and 10 years will go by…

I overheard my wife speaking to her mother. "Life's moving so fast right now," she said. "If there's something I want to do, I have to do it when I can." That means sewing blankets at 10 p.m. It means rushing into Valley Thrift 10 minutes before they close to buy bigger shoes for your daughter. It means eating Campbell's soup straight out of the can (OK, I'm the only one who does that). Life is moving fast. I think of it like a gently rising hill. It's so easy when we're children. Our parents carry us when our feet are...

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Setting sail with Margaret Wrinkle

"I'm going to get a little woo-woo here," Margaret Wrinkle says. That's code for going deep down in it – for talking about things with elusive definitions; things we must analogize. "Your rational mind is a boat drifting on the ocean of your subconscious," she says. "Do you want to tell the story from the tiny boat or from the ocean?" Wrinkle keynoted yesterday at the Antioch Writers' Workshop in Yellow Springs. The room was dim, hushed as she described the 15-year journey that lead to the publication of her first book, Wash, in 2013. It's...

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Will you pass the 100 year test?

Wikipedia editors debate who deserves an entry on the site. In the past, it was common for the "100 year rule" to be evoked. It was a simple, one-question test that went like this: will this person be of general interest to the world 100 years from now?  If the answer was yes, that person was granted an entry on Wikipedia. If the answer was no, well, sorry pal; history's moving on. Much debated, the test eventually got dropped in favor of more general criteria. I still think about the 100 year test, though. It keeps the flame alight. Will...

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Thank you, Mr. Webb

Once, I tried to egg my teacher's house. I was in high school -- a junior maybe? A senior? It was dusk. We drove by Mr. Webb's house slowly. The plan was this: I'd stand up in the passenger seat, poke my head out the sunroof and launch two eggs -- one right after the other. They'd explode on Mr. Webb's porch, maybe even the front door. Then, we'd drive off laughing, high-fiving and hell-yeahing as we imagined him trying to solve the mystery of the egging. The grand irony is this: when I look back...

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What David Bowie’s death says about art

David Bowie learned he had liver cancer 18 months ago. Six months later, doctors told him it was terminal. He'd already suffered a series of heart attacks. The writing was on the wall, and he agonized over the realization that he wouldn't get to see his 15-year-old daughter Alexandria grow up. And yet, there he was writing music, sending thank you messages to his oldest collaborators, working on musicals and videos -- often to the point of collapse. His final album, Blackstar was his farewell. The lyrics to Lazarus stare at mortality and grin like a Cheshire...

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Dancing with your fear

I think about art every day. What I've learned is this: art is counter-intuitive. The good stuff looks and feels effortless. It's whole and solid as a shiny metal ingot. It's as if there were no other possible way the work could have been formed. And yet, the process of creating art is painful. It's riddled with doubt and fear. What matters is butting heads with your fear and pressing forward. No artist who has been in the trenches will tell you different. It doesn't matter how good you get – the fear never goes away....

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2015 Year in Review

When Socrates was on trial 2,400 years ago, he condemned himself to death with these words: "The unexamined life is not worth living." I spent my first 30 years wandering and exploring – doing pretty much anything but examining my life. More recently, I've been obsessed with improving myself and the lives of the people around me. The only way I can do that is by looking at what's working and what's not. Here then is my first public year in review. With inspiration from James Clear (I highly recommend you sign up for his email...

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