Empathy

posted in: Life | 0
I’ve had this topic for a blog post on the schedule for a while now but kept pushing it back because I didn’t know how quite to approach it.  I think I’ve processed it enough and the recent real world events have allowed me to form some thoughts.

There’s a huge difference between sympathy and empathy.  Feeling sorry for others is (in my opinion) the lesser of the emotional responses.  But to be put in the place of another’s tragedy, pain, or loss progresses the human connection.  To empathize with others is to embrace what they are experiencing, to understand their position.  Why is this better?  Because to empathize is to be human.  Again, just my opinion.

I want to approach this with sensitivity.  I originally wanted to write about empathizing with characters and how that allows for a greater reading experience.  I could still write towards that end and believe it wholly important for a writer to understand and write with conviction.  However, in light of the recent hurricane tragedies, I’m being led down a different path.

I’m going to be completely honest with all of you.  I struggle with empathy.  On a personal level, I really do have a difficult time putting myself in the shoes of others who are or have suffered.  This is not to say my heart goes out to those in pain and suffering; I do in fact have a heart.  I just mean I don’t easily put myself in the shoes of others.  I don’t know why this is but it is something I’ve been aware of and trying to process through as I get older.  I should add that this is not just difficulty empathizing with strangers but even with family and friends!  My apologies to any if I’ve ever seemed unaffected by your loss and/or pain.  I promise I’m not some stone-hearted, cold-souled jerk.  I’m not (I can be a bit of a jerk at times but that’s due to my sarcastic nature).  The important thing is I’m conscious of this vice in my life and working towards correcting it.

I have to ask why I struggle to empathize and really dig deep.  Is it because I’ve never experienced loss or pain?  I’d argue that’s not true.  I’ve had family members pass, lost friends, gone through difficult emotional trials, etc.  I’m not immune to those natural occurrences while going through life.  None of us truly are unless you live alone, devoid of human contact, which is unlikely.

I think I struggle with empathy because I don’t jump into the pool right away.  My wife can attest to this best but I need time to process things.  I am not reactionary.  Things come at me and I step back, weighing the toll and consequence.  I would argue this is emotional maturity, however, if I deny myself immediate empathy, then do I risk denying human connection and relationships with others?

We want to feel loved.  To love and be loved back is the greatest human experience.  But with the good comes the bad and sometimes difficult things that cannot be planned for.  My journey in life is about people.  I’ve always known that.  As a writer, I need people.  I need to understand them and know what makes them who they are.  It’s essential.

I don’t write any this to say I do not empathize with those in need of help.  My heart goes out to them and I pray daily that they receive whatever they need.  I’ve watched plenty of recovery coverage and it actually stirs my heart to see people helping each other.  There’s no question of race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.  It’s a matter of helping because they can.

If I were closer to those affected by the hurricane, I’d like to think I would be there, helping wherever I can.  I went with the youth group I was helping with to Galveston, TX, after Hurricane Ike struck years ago.  We spent more than a week helping where we could, joining with another church ministry.  It was a great experience for me.  It taught me to be selfless and compassionate to those affected by tragedy.  While I struggle to empathize, I do not struggle with compassion.  My heart aches and I pray and hope that those in need find joy restored and pain healed.  My prayers are that the country will come together and provide and give ceaselessly to see those who lost their homes find restoration to what was lost.  To see the hungry fed and families reunited.

Little can be done by writing a blog.  I understand that but my hope is people will find it in their hearts to help wherever and however they can.  To do so showcases the true heights of humanity.  Our ability to put others before ourselves should restore hope.  We’ve done it as humans on more occasions than can be recorded and remembered.  It’s in us to prevail.

Call to Action: Donate wherever and however you can.  Look online for charities if you can’t physically go and help those affected by the hurricanes.  Simple.

A Writer on Vacation

posted in: Editing/Revision, Life, Writing | 0
This is a bit reactionary as a blog post.  I am writing this based on on my week-long vacation here in Colorado.  Sometimes, I think I can look at 7 days away from normal life and get a whole bunch of writing done, finish my revision, and start my agent querying letters!  Alas, I cannot… This morning (Friday) was the first chance I got to sit down and revise for more than an hour (which isn’t that long anyway).

While unfortunate, I think I need to be okay with getting little writing done while on vacation.  I’m sure other writers have different methods and can get work done but I think for myself, the pressure to try to write/revise even an hour a day is a little too stringent.  I’m around family and we like to get out of the house and go see the area and not be cooped up.  So, I’ve decided I need to make different goals while on vacation.  If I can write, I will but if I can’t, I won’t let myself be disappointed.

Instead, I think getting a lot of reading done is more feasible.  I love setting a reading goal for the year through Goodreads.  It helps me track, search, review, etc. books easily.  No muss no fuss (what even is muss?).  I finished one book on the drive to Colorado and had another ready.  My hope is to get this other book, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, finished by the time I get home Sunday (while you’re reading this, I’m probably getting close!).


Side note: Ready Player One is almost the perfect book to read before I start my re-watch and review of Stranger Things Season 1.  For those who did not receive the latest newsletter, I announced that I would be re-watching Stranger Things in preparation for the release of Season 2 on October 27.

The purpose of vacation is to get away and relax.  I’m not sure how many people are able to do this and actually relax but I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Colorado.  I did a lot and definitely feel as if I didn’t sit on my butt (which I have done on other vacations unfortunately) the whole time.  So, I hope to return home and to work refreshed and ready to get back in the grind of life.  Hope you all have had a great week wherever you’re at.  Talk to you soon!

Call to Action: If you get the chance, watch the following movies: Logan Lucky and The Big Sick.  The latter might not be your cup o’ tea but both were fun watches with great writing and characters.  My wife and I watched both while here and enjoyed them a great deal.

Release the Newsletter!

posted in: Life, Newsletter, Writing | 0
The second newsletter has been released and I feel relieved!  It’s not a super stressful process or task but it is one I try to begin at least a month in advance and have finished before the release date so I have time to sit on it and make any last minute changes .  For those who received it, hope you enjoyed the news, book reviews, and short story.  There’s so much potential for this Shoals to the Hallowed world that it does become difficult not to get ahead of myself and let it blossom beyond the flash fiction and short story structure.  Patience and self control are needed as a writer.

As I said in the previous blog post, my wife and I are in Colorado for a much-needed vacation and escape of the 100+ degree weather of the Mojave Desert.  I drove over with my dad (something I actually looked forward to) and she flew out with my mom.  Should be a great time with our family who lives in the area.  Particularly, I get to see my sister whom I seem to miss more and more the longer we don’t get to hang out with each other (she’s amazing and infectious to be around).

What I love about long road trips is the opportunity I get to read.  My plan is to read the bestseller and soon to be movie blockbuster “Ready Player One”.  I’ve had this book on my radar for a while now and after seeing the trailer for the film, I want to dive into the book’s pages.  Expect some thoughts and impressions to come soon since I plan on getting through it during the vacation.

While we are here in Colorado, I fully expect to get some rest, eat good food, drink great beer, and go on several hikes (there will be some writing sprinkled into the mix as well).  It will be amazing.  I’ve tried to take pictures and share on Instagram and Twitter.  Follow me on either if you want to see the fun!

Also, I got to see my favorite baseball team, the San Francisco Giants play the Rockies on Monday!  They didn’t win but it was still great to see my team play.

As announced in the newsletter, my Stranger Things project (re-watch, review, and prep for season 2) is underway. I’ll be prepping and putting all that together this month as well.  Look for a explanation/preparatory blog post on September 27th for the details and schedule.

Call to Action: Feel free to send me some feedback on the newsletter if you got it.  I’m always curious to read what people think, liked, disliked, etc.  If you signed up for it but didn’t receive the newsletter on August 31st, please let me know and I’ll shoot your way.  Thanks!

The Big Yellow One is the Sun

posted in: Life, Newsletter, Writing | 7
Was I the only person who was unimpressed with the recent eclipse?  That’s how I feel after seeing the reactions and coverage of the event on the 21st.  I don’t know…I just didn’t get the hubbub.  It’s rare and happens only after x amount of years (I think the next one is in the 2040s timeframe when I’ll be in my 50s).  I just…meh.I find the switch of focus and interest in our culture interesting (I’m not mocking millennials but kind of, yeah, I probably will by the end of this).  I’m always watching and paying attention to the world as it does its thing.  The good, bad, ugly, evil, kind, weird, and “huh?” moments are on my radar.  Sometimes, I think I’m off in some room standing behind a one-way mirror observing like a researcher, trying to figure out behavior.  However, I collect my findings, form my opinions, and go on my merry way.  It’s just how my brain works.  I observe and process before I act or speak.

That kind of leads me to ask myself now, “When will I act and speak?”  To be honest, I have no idea.  I don’t think I’m completely finished processing.  I’ll let you all know once I do though.  That should make for a heck of a blog post.

I’ve shared a lot on writing and my writing process, history, inspirations, etc.  I kind of feel like I’ve laid the foundation.  I haven’t covered everything but I have written dozens of blog posts focused on writing.  I think I need and want to veer to the middle for awhile (maybe for the foreseeable future) and write about other things.  What exactly?  No clue but it will be written about.

I’ve tried to thread my personality into the previous blog posts and sometimes I’ve done so well and other times, it feels like I went through the motions.  To know me is to get a full wash of my absurd thoughts and takes on whatever the heck I’m processing through (my wife knows this very well).

I never wanted to blog just to be that guy who carries around business cards with website and blog info on it.  I knew if I fell into that trough of douchery, I would put out more swill and slop than worthy content.  I wanted to blog to simply create a platform for my writing, which I’ve done and continue to improve upon.  I’ve kept away from looking up the analytics of my website because I don’t want to care or be moved by the numbers.  People who come to read the blog should not be expected to prop up my ego.  I’m not in it for that.

From the beginning, I stated that I would evolve as a writer through this blogging process and I still believe that.  I think I’m transitioning to a place where I can enjoy and have fun with the blog.  That’s the point.  Writing should never be a job or “have to” for me.  Once it does, I’ve sacrificed it to the gods of mundane and stupor.  Don’t expect that any time soon.

Call to Action: Just a few more days to sign up for the newsletter!  Make sure to do so for the Shoals to the Hallowed short story, “The Queen’s Gamble”.  Here’s a link to go back and read all the flash fiction stories and get caught up: http://adamhenderson.net/category/shoals-to-the-hallowed/

Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.  Thanks and happy reading!

Managing Yourself: A Simple Principle

posted in: Fantasy, Life, Writing | 0

NOTE: In light of the events in Charlottesville today, I wanted to say I wrote this blog post weeks ago.  I want to make sure that none of the language used in the my writing could be mistaken for today’s events.  I will speak to the events here and say I am appalled at the racist hate displayed and in no way condone it.  I also am surprised by some of the responses on social media as well.  To think such things do not exist shows a lack of paying attention to the space in which our country has assembled.  I am not surprised and do not condone such actions but also am not scared or worried because a small number of hateful people decide to rally.  The small number of participants should remind us all that there are far more who do not stand with the hateful.  Those of us who choose to love our fellow men no matter color, culture, political side, and/or religious beliefs far outnumber the few who embrace hate in their hearts.

As strange as it is and this being my blog, everything stated is my own opinion and based on my experiences, convictions, beliefs, and research into various topics.  I know, you read that first sentence and think, “Oh boy, where’s this going?”  I try to keep this blog grounded in writing and whatever influences I have in my journey.

However, I have noticed something in recent months that has me somewhat concerned but not apprehensive in my pursuit for traditional publishing.  Just some thoughts I’ve been wanting to share.

Twitter is quite the social media tool/outlet to connect with all kinds of people from all kinds of walks of life.  I’ve been able to follow, interact, and have discussions with unpublished and published authors, editors, agents, and others in the book industry.  This has been a fun experience for me and allows me to ask questions, find resources, and even form acquaintance-like relationships.

In spite of all this, though, I also come up against some things that flash warning signs.  Now, I’m approaching this carefully because I don’t want to offend or stir anything.  If this blog post leads to anything, I hope its respectful dialogue.  I have no interest in debating or converting for any purpose.  I want to share some concerns.

If you are unaware (I seriously don’t know how that could be) but there are a lot of dividing lines right now in the US.  Politics, religion, and even sports produce some really nasty things “said” about and to people who may not share the same views.  Now, I could unfollow those who have these different views from me but I honestly like to read what people are saying so I understand where they’re coming from.

My chief concern though when it comes to the writing industry is will I be ignored or attacked if I don’t share the same views so openly expressed?

I do not get political or even religious on social media.  I follow many people who I share different views than and read things every day I do not agree with.  However, I have and hold to a position that I cannot manage anyone but myself.  It’s not easy but it’s a great discipline to have.  Others are very open about their anger and sometimes hate of other people and this makes me wonder if I will be “denied” opportunities if I disagree with those who hold the keys.  I think it’s a legitimate concern for me to have but at the same time I trust that my writing and storytelling abilities will supersede any disagreements.

If I could offer any kind of advice (totally up to you if you want to follow it or not; you won’t offend me if you don’t or call me a name), it would be that I think people need to be careful of vitriol espoused on social media.  Not because you’ll offend someone but because people like me will wonder, “Can I have any kind of relationship with this person if they find out I don’t share the same views as them?”

The writing community is a unique place in that there’s usually a lot of support and few “rivalries”.  When writers announce their successes, I see way more support and congratulations than the opposite.  There may be jealousy but that drives a lot of writers to believe they can be the next one to sign that book deal contract.

However, and I’ve seen this a lot in recent weeks, there are writers and agents that are extremely hostile and sometimes plain disgusting with what they say in response to something outside of writing that they are upset over.  I get it.  There are things that drive me up the wall and boil my blood as well but I don’t think it’s worth my time or effort to say anything on a social platform (part of me doesn’t think anyone cares anyway).

Obviously, I am not saying this sort of behavior should be stopped.  Far from it actually.  Speak and be heard but I know there are consequences for saying things.  For me, I never want to jeopardize future relationships because of a quick response born out of anger or offense.  As I stated before, I can only manage myself and I want to always be mindful of how my words affect not only others but myself in the grand scheme of things.

Call to Action: Now I don’t know if my concerns are legitimate or not but I’ll probably share stories once I get deeper into the agent/publishing levels.  Until then, sign up for the newsletter!  (Yes, you’ll see this push throughout the month.)

Sunday Levity: A Father’s Pride

posted in: Life, Sunday Levity, Uncategorized | 3

Just as I did for Mother’s Day, I’m going to give equal love to the guy who is my dad.  He’s amazing and we are very much opposites.  He’s analytical and I’m not.  He’s got dad jokes up the wazoo and I’ve got biting sarcasm that got me in all sorts of trouble as a kid.  He likes all the Transformers movies and I’m more ambivalent about them.

Where we are alike is in our creative minds.  He’s an inventor at heart, always thinking of ways to expand technology in the world.  I can’t go into details but I’m pretty sure he could create a teleportation device.  He has a wealth of knowledge that I continue to draw from to this day.  Rather than telling me to go look it up on the internet (which is my default all too often), he will do his best to show me and teach me.

I’ve learned a great deal about the sacrifices a father makes for his wife and children through my dad.  He didn’t do everything right along the way but he’s made a substantial effort in keeping relationship with my sister and I as well as adopting our respective spouses, going out of his way to make them feel part of the family.  His example helps me to look forward to when I’m a dad myself.  He’s awesome and amazing in his own right and he should be proud to be my dad.

Pressure Tester: Meeting the Content Quota

posted in: Fantasy, Flash Fiction, Life, Writing | 0

I took the Memorial Day weekend as an opportunity to conduct a little experiment.  Since I started this blog and launched my website, I knew I needed to up my game and produce content.  I knew I needed to have more of a presence on social media (Twitter primarily because of its format, features, and links to other writers).  What I didn’t know though was the amount of time this required of me.

I’ve done enough research to understand how marketing myself as a writer on the interwebz is important as I pursue my dream of publishing my stories.  The blog was a great opportunity for me to write and share.  The benefits have been great (I’ve already shared that to some extent and won’t regurgitate it at the moment).  I’ve tweeted and interacted with other writers as opportunities allowed.  Overall, the experience has been good but… To put it bluntly, I’ve run into a bit of a wall.

Let me explain (No, there is too much.  Let me sum up).  Being that active on Twitter has been time consuming.  I got into a habit where I always had a tab open to Twitter and would continually keep an eye on my feed.  I wouldn’t tweet something every hour on the hour but I tried to so throughout the day because all the research I did told me I had to be a continuous presence in addition to adding content.  Other than tweeting, my blog posts every other day have been the majority of my content.

A little vulnerability I’d like to share with everyone: it has been a bit a let down but only because I think my expectations were too high.  I get way more spam comments (all of these I have to go through and mark as spam behind the scenes of my website) and I see no real evidence that I am gaining consistent followers.  This could be for a number of reasons (everyone’s got a blog nowadays, especially writers, so I get that there are a lot of options) and the one I keep coming back to is I’m still at the beginning stages of this season of being “present”.

This is not to say I do not appreciate the comments I do receive from real people.  I love being able to read them and respond.  If I don’t respond, I apologize.  I am trying to be better about it.

Even on Twitter, I’ve come to this hovering number of followers and wonder what I’m doing wrong.  Am I tweeting the wrong things?  Am I hash tagging wrong?  Am I focusing too much on writing and not other interests I have?  If I tweeted more about sports, music, food, etc. would I risk losing the followers I do have?  These are questions I continually wrestle with and have yet to find an answer.

Please don’t take this blog post as a rant or complaint.  It’s not.  I’m processing my actions and the steps I’ve taken over the last five months of going all in.  I trust that I am very much in the early stages of this leg of the race and need to merely slow to a steady pace whereas I was sprinting and have started to hit the wall (I carbo-loaded on the Twitters).

In my mind, the experiment during the last holiday weekend was to see what it “felt” like to unplug.  I decided to step away and not have my laptop in front of me with a Twitter tab open the entire three days.  It was difficult at first because there’s this odd sense that I will miss something by not staying connected.  But then, I have to ask myself, why do I feel the need to stay connected at that level?  It was ultimately draining and I suffered from something I truly don’t want to fall under the pressure of and that’s always being connected through social media.  I can easily let my posting habits become more organic than forcing myself and putting myself on a strict schedule.

If not, then I will burn myself out.  I’ve done so in other areas and through different seasons.  Trying to constantly put out content and interact through social media is too much for me.  I have so many other interests and priorities that I don’t want to let slip away.  These “others” are what fuel me and give me joy.  Constantly tweeting and trying to come up with content that would attract readers and followers is exhausting and it’s not how I want to live my life.  What I want is to write and share the stories I have in me with the world.  Writers have done that for centuries before we ever got to this place of instant-connectivity.

This is not to say technology and our current culture of content intake is bad but I think I need to take a step back and refocus.  I can do both but I cannot sacrifice my relationships, writing, and interests for the sake of building my brand when I’m not quite there.  At least not at the rate I have been trying to.  It’s too much weight and I’ve been putting it all on my shoulders.  I think once I have “Dim the Veil” ready for release or leading up to the release, I need to step back.

Call to Action: No, I’m not going to encourage you to step away from your devices today, lol.  We get that from all over now.  While I do think it’s healthy, I want to encourage everyone to simply consider what they’re putting out there.  What’s your involvement?  What content are you pouring out?  Is it about sharing your life and being encouraging or dumping your trash for the world to see?  We should strive to be better than the negative ninnies out there.  Let’s be better.  Let’s be uplifting, honoring others wherever they are at in their journey.

Strong at Five

posted in: Life | 2

Today’s a treat.  My wife and I have been married five years today and I couldn’t be happier to call her my best friend and super awesome spouse (I’m having the t-shirt made #copyright).  I’m all about honoring other people when I can (and I hope to do so in future blog posts but she get’s first dibs).

My wife and I met back in 2010 (I have this nagging feeling that I’m getting that date wrong…she’ll correct me in the comments, I’m sure).  I was her youngest brother’s drum teacher and she was a soon to be graduate of high school.  Friendship materialized and then we had the DTR (define the relationship) talk.  Suffice to say, the feelings were mutual and we embarked on the beginnings of what is now a wonderful marriage.

These five years have not been easy and at times difficult.  I won’t divulge the more personal details (do you really care or just nosey?) but here’s a highlight of what will test newlyweds.  I lost my job a few months into our marriage and while she had a full time job and we did receive unemployment benefits, this was not easy, especially for me as I felt the timing could not have been worse.  However, we never struggled financially.  We were able to pay our bills and we never had to ask our parents for help financially.  That’s not to say generosity took the form of dinner invitations several times a week but I like to chalk that up to our parents simply wanting to see us now that we were out of our respective houses.

This experience though never materialized to anger, fighting, or fear on our parts.  We trusted God to open doorways and He did after six months where I was able to get an amazing job that has led to where I’m at now.  Other hardships have come by way of our learning to live with each other and having to make decisions in areas where our lives would be affected both short term and in the long run.  We’ve stuck together.  No matter the circumstance.  We’ve both made mistakes, displayed selfishness and failed at communicating.  However, there’s always been trust and honor between us.  She sees my faults and calls me out and I do the same for her and we know and are thankful that we compliment each other in this way.

I always feel that I am learning since I’ve been with her.  I learn about myself, about her, and how to navigate through any given situation.  We laugh, cry, love, tease, and live well together (there’s your Hallmark card!).

I’d like to say Happy Anniversary to my wonderful wife, Leesie, who is my best friend.  I love your guts!

Call to Action: This one is for myself.  She will be gone this weekend spending time with friends, so I am going to clean the apartment and get that spare room cleared out.  I’ve never moved a futon by myself.  Should be fun!