Write Your Book

I was inspired by my friend, Susan Kim, to write about how easy (literally) it is to write your first novel. We were talking about writing and the ups and downs of it, when it occurred to me that the majority of people I know dream of writing a book and yet fewer than 5% of them have actually done it. So, as I was taking my Scottish shower (see my earlier blog post for this most energizing and creative way to cleanse yourself – Take a Cold Shower) I started thinking about this more. I decided it was article worthy.

Did you know that most publishers consider 40,000 words to be the minimum word count in a submitted book? My autobiography, Survivor, has approximately 100,000 words in it. That said, there are a few authors that stuff 160,000 or more words into a book; which is more like an encyclopedia in weight and reading time! For simplicity’s sake, I decided to do a few calculations based around a 120,000 word book. This will give us more than enough for an average sized book. The other piece of the calculation that we need to guess is how many words per minute you can type. I believe that the average person in today’s computer age can type 60 WPM (words per minute). This is even true of single digit hunt-and-peckers like me. I can actually type close to 100 WPM with only my pointer fingers and thumbs! I assume most of my friends with aspirations of writing a book can beat the average of 60 WPM, but let’s stick with 60 to cover all bases.

Now for the fun part (I love math). The calculation part… Considering 60 WPM, you could literally type 120,000 words in under 34 hours. You read that right! For all of you procrastinators out there, you literally could write the rough draft of an entire book without sleeping! As a matter of fact, this is exactly how Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky, when he sat non-stop and wrote the entire thing in three and a half days!!!

Now, most of us mere mortals cannot sit in front of a keyboard for 34 hours straight. At the very least there are things like food and potty breaks. However, don’t you think this is encouraging?? Now let’s dive a little deeper and be more realistic.

Most writers that I have read say that they normally write for about two hours per day. With that in mind, you could bang out a 120,000 word book in under 17 days. Even two hours per day is a bit tough for us weekend warrior types. So, what if I asked you, “Could you find thirty minutes each day to write?” Think about it… Can’t ANYONE squeeze thirty minutes out of a super busy day to write? Of course we can. Now that we know what we can absolutely do, let’s look at the math:

At one half-hour per day, you could write a 120,000 (remember this is a thick book) word rough draft in 69 days (actually 68, but I really love the number 69 – plus this gives us one cheat day. HA!) So, even with some missed days, any of us could type in a rough draft in a mere two-and-a-half months!!!

What are you waiting for? Stop being a lazy procrastinator and get off your ass! I mean it! It is seriously that easy!

Now… Since we got the math part out of the way… In future blog posts I will talk about ways to outline and write your desired story. And, where to pull creative juices from. And, finally we’ll talk about things like polishing your rough, getting it edited, and finding an agent and/or publisher. This is fun! And, simple! Remember what I like to say, “Just because something is simple, does not make it easy.” And, writing is a perfect example of this quote. However, now that you have the math laid out before you, you have no excuses!

While you’re waiting for my future writing posts, be sure to checkout all of my previous ones in the InkSlinger section.

I honestly expect to hear from at least one friend in three months time who adamantly thanks me and thrillingly says, “I did it! I wrote my first novel!”

Love you all,
Vaughn

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The Cowboy-up Workout

No, I do not wear cowboy boots and a six-shooter during my workouts. These are merely props to demonstrate my euphemism. Besides, they look cool next to the iron. Right?

Today I am back in motivational mode. Actually, I’m a fan of saying I can’t motivate you to do anything. Only YOU can motivate yourself. However, I can inspire you to motivate yourself. I’ll share what “Cowboy-up” means to me. The idea to post this article was inspired by a bicycle ride that I participated in two weeks ago. You see, this particular ride was fairly tough… 156 miles on the C&O Canal Towpath spread out over three days. The amazing thing about this ride was the team of riders. You see, all of us riding are either hemophiliacs, hemophiliac parents, or advocates of some kind. And, (except for my buddy Barry, Kim, and maybe me) none of these riders are very experienced or had much training under their belts… Yet everyone of us not only participated, but also forced our way past pain, internal bleeds, and muscle failure to complete the entire adventure. My buddy Matt came to the ride with a knee bleed. Andy came with an ankle bleed. I had a separated shoulder. I’m fairly certain you get the point, but suffice it to say that you would be hard pressed to meet a tougher and more determined group of humans than my easy bleeding friends!

Before we get into this subject, I must start with a disclaimer—Actually two of them. First let me tell you that if you came here to whine or expecting me to let you cry on my shoulder, then you came to the wrong rodeo. I’m going to get a little ugly in this one, so you might wanna seek out a bleeding-heart pansy blog if you need someone to baby you and tell you that you do not need to work hard, push yourself, or Cowboy-up.

My second disclaimer is my standard one I give before recommending working out or fitness to anyone:

WARNING: Working out and exercise can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain!

Now, to quote Albus Dumbledore, “Let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

Start by telling me (honestly), Are you planning to just pony-up and maybe complete your fitness goals, or are you going to cowboy-up and break past the barriers? Me … I’m a cowboy.

This article is not designed to teach you proper technique, or even discuss what exercises you need to do. You can find that somewhere else. I wrote today’s post for one reason; to push those of you who want deep-down hardcore inspiration!

Back in 2005 I ran the New Orleans marathon. That by itself isn’t that big of a deal. Tons of people run marathons every season. What you might find a little inspirational is the fact that at the time, I had been HIV+ for around 20 years. Also, I’m a hemophiliac and my left knee and right ankle (my “target joints”) do not have much cartilage left in them because of bleeds from my childhood (blood wreaks havoc on joints). Also (prepare for a few more “also’s” people) I have peripheral neuropathy; which is nerve damage in my feet that makes me feel like my toes and sometimes feet are being stabbed with each step. On top of all that (okay no more also’s), during my training I had burst the sheath of my Achille’s tendon. For those of you who don’t know, that is bad… Especially for a runner. When my injury came, many of my friends and family said, “Well… You gave it a good go. And, you proved that you are capable. But, you really shouldn’t run this race now.” You guys have all been around people at some point in your life who have said the same thing about something similar. Well, I filed that horseshit right where it belonged; in the ignore pile. I followed advice on healing, climbed back in my running shoes, and then did my thing, finishing the marathon.

Two years ago, I damaged my plantar fascia in the middle of the Army ten-miler. Do you think I quit? Nope. I hunkered down and ran my run. Not only did I finish, but I also ran a PR (personal record) and finished in 82 minutes! Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not recommending that you guys run or workout through injuries. I’m simply saying that I have and do. Frown if you like, but I choose to live my life. As a matter-of-fact, I’ve always lived my life. As a small child I had no illusions. Back then, easy bleeders (hemophiliacs) did not live as long as clotters (normal folk). I didn’t worry about it and got on with living. Same thing when I found out I was HIV+ and my doctor told me I had fewer than two years to live. Ask anyone around me and they will confirm… I’m not only a survivor, I’m a liver (I know that last word looks like an organ in your body, that’s because I think I just made the word up) too.

The last thing I will tell you might be a bit shocking for some. Every workout that I do… Every single one. I experience pains, troubles, and issues that most mortal men and women would cry about. My peripheral neuropathy has brought me to my cartilage-free knees in the middle of a workout. Before, during, and/or after almost every workout I am dealing with diarrhea. Actually, I can’t remember a four-day period without diarrhea in the last fifteen years. My body itches (everywhere). My eyes burn. I deal with and have aches that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies (if I had any).

Did I tell you all of that to get sympathy or make you guys and gals feel bad for me? HELL NO! I told you because the next time your punk ass is whining about how tough workouts are, I want you to think about me and thousands like me who have it tougher and workout regardless. Speaking of which, my buddy, Barry, has peripheral neuropathy too. His feet hurt so bad a few years ago that he couldn’t get into his bike shoes, let alone ride. Did he throw in the towel? Nope. He’s a cowboy, like me. He cut the ends off of his bike shoes, let his toes pop out, and then saddled-up. How many of you would be willing to do that? BTW – I should mention that Barry, a severe bleeder, has had a couple of knee replacements among other things. Despite (or maybe “to spite”) these issues, he rode across America on his bicycle… Twice! How many of you could do that even without having a bleeding disorder? Cowboy-up!!!

You know what to do. You know how to do it. Now … Do it!

I’ll leave you with my favorite fitness quote:

“If you like exercise, you’re doing it wrong.”
—Arthur Jones

 

Your faithful friend and potential inspiration,
Rip

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Jump Start Your Day

What if I told you that if you were to give me 13 minutes, I PROMISE your day will be more enjoyable and go smoother!!! What have you got to lose?

Lately I find that I am slower getting out of bed. Perhaps this is because I’m getting older (I’m 46 years young). Another thing I have noticed is that how I get out of bed affects my ENTIRE day!

Starting NOW, I am going to improve this battle in the morning. Wanna do it with me??

Let’s promise each other that we WILL NOT hit the snooze button. I wish I could disable or remove mine. If you find that this is too tough for you, my good buddy Nino Greasemaneli likes to put his alarm clock across the room from him, to ensure that he has to get up and run to shut off the alarm. I do this too… My alarm clock is on a dresser a litte ways away from the bed, so I have to get up and walk some to turn it off.

Train yourself to jump out of bed immediately, with no hesitation, and start your day with movement. When I say, “jump,” I mean it… Literally leap with excitement and land with crazy eyes and a huge grin!!! (My wife is gonna think I’m nuts… Maybe she already does… HA!)

The next thing we will do together is to keep our shoes and a pair of shorts beside the bed and hit the ground running!

I’m going to start walking my dog, Samson, every morning… So, I will simply jump into my shorts and shoes and head down to take him out! If you don’t walk the dog, go outside anyway and do a brisk walk. I am talking about you being outside within two minutes of your alarm going off. No excuses! Don’t stop to take a pee even! Get up and run for the door! (okay… You can pee if you have to, but NOTHING else!)

Here is the fun part of our walk. Breathing exercises…

Start your walk with a deep breath holding exercise that I learned from Tony Robbins. Inhale briskly and deeply to a count of seven (7). Hold this breath for a count of 28 (you might not be able to do this the first couple of times you do it). Now slowly exhale to a count of 14. The ratio is: 1 in / hold for 4 / 2 out So if you can only inhale for a count of 5, then do 5 in, hold for 20, and then exhale for 10. Get it? Good! Repeat this exercise three times (this will take just about three minutes total).

Then, for the next five minutes of your walk, perform “breathwalking.” Essentially, you inhale four times through your nose, exhale four times through your mouth, and repeat continuously for five minutes. During my exhale, I chant a powerful 4-syllable incantation like “my day is great!” Or, you could try, “I will lose weight!” Just make sure you chant something positive! Mucho thanks to Tony Robbins for teaching me this one too!

Finish the last minute of your walk by calming your body and then do several minutes of easy stretches.

So in 13 (or so) minutes, we have just sealed the deal for a fantastic day!

I plan to follow my “breathwalk” with a 45-minute run (after dropping the boy inside the house) and then a more extensive stretch. On days that I don’t jog, I will go right down to my gym and do 45-minutes of “other” training.

Who’s with me? I want a commitment for at least the 13-minutes to enrichment!

Because I am a CDO (my doctor calls it OCD, but I didn’t like the order of the letters) planner, here is my morning routine that I have setup. If you dig, use it as an example of how you can do your own.

4:25 a.m. WAKE UP WITH VIGOR!!!
4:30 a.m. do the Eagle breathwalk exercise with Samson.
4:45 a.m. run or workout for 45 minutes.
5:34 a.m. stretch for 11 minutes.
5:45 a.m. make and eat a healthy breakfast.
6:15 a.m. jump in the shower and get ready for work.
6:45 a.m. drive to work!

Happy mornings to you,
Vaughn

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How to Boil a Frog

I thought about titling this article, ”A Look at Why Some People Thrive, and Others Do Not.” However, that seemed a bit wordy, unclassy, and simply pompous… Talking about frogs on the other hand is fun, goofy, and downright cool. Hence… The title is what it is. I’m sure everyone knows how to boil a frog, but I will waste one minute and explain it… You boil a frog by slowly turning up the temperature. With that in mind, if you were to throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it would immediately jump out. At least that’s how the story goes. Honestly, I have never boiled a frog so I don’t know if this is true. What I do know is that if a frog jumped out of a boiling pot of water he would be one burned-up dude!

Ego digresso.

Today’s article is meant to show how some of us thrive in life and others struggle to thrive. I believe it is the boiled frog syndrome. And, I recently had this very discussion (to some degree or another) with a group of friends. I do not think that anyone purposefully tries to fail or do bad or quit in the blink of an eye. Rather I think it is a series of small doses of negativity, disappointment, struggling, and so on. Thinking along those lines leads me to logically conclude that I can also succeed, do good, or accomplish with this same exact pattern.

A strange epiphany hit me today. A friend said something along these lines, “I reached a turning point in my life when I realized that I’ve lived sick for longer then I’ve lived healthy.” She has Lupus (among other things) and what she meant was that she has lived longer with Lupus than without it. When she said it I was like, “Wow.” Then I thought a moment and realized that I was in the same category with my HIV. I was healthy and leading a fairly (relatively) normal life for 18 or so years. Since then, I have lived for about 28 years with HIV. For some reason, this hit me like a ton of bricks. I have almost lived twice as long sick as healthy!!! So, then I started thinking, How?

Next, another friend in the same group said, “If your problem changes from a physical to mental illness, you’re hosed.” Ha! That is freaking brilliant! That got me thinking real deep and I started formulating how I (and others like me) have survived. Next thing I knew I had another article idea.

Since I am such a firm believer in incantations, and I also talk with those close to me about how I believe in “I Can’t Tations” too, I formulated what I think is the secret to my longevity. It is not one single thing that can be pointed to. Think about it. No one wakes up and has such a negative thought process that they simply die or fail to live. It takes days, weeks, or even years to get there mentally. I believe that how we react to life on a daily basis is the key to our longevity. That’s right, I said it … Prolonged doses of negativity will eventually kill you.

I look back at my life and realize that I’ve had my share of negative beliefs and thoughts. However, my positive thoughts and actions far outweigh the negative ones.

I have heard people routinely say things like:
– I am unlucky
– The world is against me
– I can’t
– A black cloud follows me
– This is just my lot in life

And so on and so forth. Long ago I discovered (or at least I believe I did) that these folks are a part of creating their own destiny. Take responsibility for your thoughts. Take responsibility for your actions. Take responsibility in how you convey yourself to you and others.

Responsible said another way is “Able to respond.” Think about it… You are able to respond. This is in all of us. And, like Rush says, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Make your choice to succeed. Make your choice to improve yourself. Make your choice to inspire others. Make your choice to think positively on a daily basis.

The next time someone asks you how you’re doing, think about your answer carefully. Instead of saying, “Okay” or “Been better” or “Can’t complain” try coming up with something upbeat. You don’t have to say, “I’m freaking unbelievable and have never felt better in my whole entire existence on Earth!” But you could say something along the lines of, “I feel great.” Say it, believe it, live it.

Brought to you with a dose of love,
Vaughn

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Inspirational Passages and Quotes

Quotes and passages can be incredibly uplifting and inspirational. I like to read inspirational quotes every day. I start my day by reading the following quotes… They instill my spirit with motivation and lift me to a higher level. Check ’em out, and let me know what you think!

“Come not between the dragon and his wrath.”
-William Shakespeare / King Lear, act I, scene 1

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
-James Dean

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”
-Amelia Earhart

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
-Albert Einstein

“Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.”
-Amelia Earhart

“Remember: Life is short, break the rules”
-James Dean

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”
-William Shakespeare / Measure by Measure, act I, scene 4

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”
-Amelia Earhart

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world right in the eye.”
-Helen Keller

“Excellence sucks!”
-Tony Robbins

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

“Temet Nosce. It means, know thyself.”
-the Oracle

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
-Helen Keller

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
-George Eliot

“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“Nobody can be successful unless he loves his work.”
-David Sarnoff

“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
-Yoda

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
-Gandalf the Grey

“Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.”
-Amelia Earhart

“Let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”
-Albus Dumbledor (care of J. K. Rowling)

I would be remiss if I didn’t include some of my own personal quotes… Enjoy!

“Dum spiro somnium”
-Vaughn Ripley

“We’re all going through something… The trick is to go through it anyway!”
-Vaughn Ripley

“Life has its ups and downs… Ride the downs and climb the ups!”
-Vaughn Ripley

“Chivalry is not just a fancy word with a neat meaning… It’s a way of life.”
-Vaughn Ripley

“Life throws punches. It’s not about punching back… It’s about taking ’em, and still standing.”
-Vaughn Ripley

Do you have a favorite quote or passage? Please share and chime-in!

Hoping this inspired or motivated you!

-Vaughn

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Dum Spiro Somnium

Perhaps it’s time that you created a life motto for yourself. Maybe you already have one. Could be that you have no idea what I’m talking about… Let’s discuss the potential of this very powerful tool.

Dum spiro somnium is my life motto. It means, “While I breathe, I dream.” Actually… I do not know for certain that it means that, because I simply made it up based on Google translate and a little Latin knowledge. But, it is my interpretation and best-guess as to converting my life motto to Latin. Why did I convert my life motto to Latin? you ask. Well, mostly because Latin is a cool way of saying things in life that are important to us. At least I think so. I do know that somnium means to dream, or daydream. This was close enough for me!

I was able to piece this translation together because I know my family motto, dum spiro spero; which translates to “While I breathe, I hope.” This is a great family motto and a wonderful creed to live by. However, I thought about it carefully and realized that it doesn’t totally encompass my beliefs and motto. I’m a dreamer. Life is a dream of sorts for me, and my imagination is the key to making it day-in day-out. Hence making my very own personal life motto.

Do you have a life motto?

Life motto, vision, mission… All of these things are so important to our continued improvement and success. Along with these powerful tools, I think that short and long-term goals are incredibly beneficial as well. Expect a post in the near future that discusses goals, missions, and vision statements.

If you don’t have one, or are interested in some motto ideas, checkout this list: motto.biz/list-of-life-mottos-to-live-by.

Another great resource, and the article that inspired me to create this one, can be found here: birdsontheblog.co.uk/whats-your-life-motto.

Make sure you chime in and tell me what your thoughts are on this subject, and if you have a life motto.

Until we chat again,
Vaughn

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Get Out of Debt

Did you know that the total U.S. credit card debt is nearly $800,000,000,000. Yes, that is 800 billion!! That means that the average credit card debt per U.S. household is close to $16,000. Average household debt (credit cards and loans) is $54,000. More than 50% of Americans carried an unpaid balance on their credit cards from 2011 to 2012. I imagine this number is only growing.

In 2010 the total amount of consumer debt in the US was nearly $2.4 trillion … TRILLION!!

It is my belief that much of our economic problems and woes are due to this very fact. If I’m right, that means that you and I are at least partially responsible for the economy that we bad mouth! It is time that we (you and me) do something about this. You are probably asking yourself, If he has credit card debt, why is he capable of telling me how to fix my financial issues? And this is an excellent question. The simple answer is, I’m not qualified or certified on any financial level and I’m not really a good example of how to manage your finances. That said, I am adamant in wanting to fix my (and our country’s) current financial shitstorm. Also, I have read literally dozens of books on debt reduction and money management. So, even though I have not been a perfect practicer (is that even a word?), I am ready to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

My humble opinion dictates that I am capable of becoming debt free and eventually experience financial freedom! Together, we can make ourselves Financial Wizards and free ourselves of the debt chains that hold us down and stress us on a daily basis. So, bear with me as I preach about something that I have oodles of knowledge, yet have not perfected in my own life…

Getting out of debt is easier than we might initially imagine. Firstly, the credit cards have recently been forced to share a very important piece of information with us: How much we would have to pay to eliminate our credit card debt within three years. It’s true! Look on any of your credit card statements and there is a small box (often hidden away some) that was mandated by the Federal Reserve. This box contains some vital information including how long it will take to pay off your debt when only paying the minimum monthly payment (this can be terrifying when you see something along the lines of 23 years!) Also, this box tells you a payment amount that would have the debt eliminated in only three years. The surprising part is that this number is often only slightly higher than the amount which might take nine or more years to pay off your debt. For instance, I have a card with a minimum payment of $82; which will take eleven years to pay off at the minimum payment amount. However, if I change my monthly payment to $126 ($44 more per month), my card debt will be paid off in precisely three years.

Think about this for a second, and seriously consider paying one or more of your cards at the higher payment amount than the minimum allotted by the super wealthy financial institute we affectionately call, Bank!

Also, it has long been known/believed that you should pay the highest interest card in your stack of bills first. I concur with this one, with the caveat that it may make sense to pay another card first in a few circumstances. Regardless, it is clearly a good idea to rank your cards and work on paying them down in an orderly fashion. As you pay one card off, do not go out and buy something new on a payment plan, rather use the new found money and increase another credit card’s payment amount.

My sister, Raeghn, gave me a different approach that also takes advantage of the “snowball” effect of knocking away at your debt. Instead of going with the highest interest card, you can go for the smallest balance owed. In this way you eliminate a card much quicker and then can apply that money to the next smallest balance. Either way works very nicely and you need to decide based on your particular circumstances.

Most important is tracking your expenses using a budget. Regardless of whether it’s handwritten, software based, or kept in a spreadsheet, you must do this part. And, having your budget on paper does not make it so. YOU are responsible here. You MUST stick to your budget each and EVERY day! The only way to eliminate your debt is to make a plan and stay the course.

If at all possible, I recommend shredding as many of your credit cards as you can. If you keep them in your wallet, it is too tempting to simply use them again the next time you see a shiny gadget that you absolutely must have. If you can’t bring yourself to shred them, at least keep them locked away in your safe at home. You do have a safe… Right?

Finally, I think it is important to reward yourself from time-to-time. Most people struggle with being frugal every day of their lives. Instead, plan a small celebration every three months (or so) to sit down with your spouse (or friend) and blow a small amount of money on a nice dinner (or something along those lines). Toast the fact that you have created a plan and have managed to stay on track. These small joyous celebrations are something we crave, and they help us to appreciate ourselves and believe in why we are doing this in the first place.

If you have budgeting ideas, or crafty ways to reduce your debt, please comment!

My plan is to eliminate my credit card debt within three years (credit card debt free by: 8/1/16). And, then I will work on my other remaining loans and reduce them.

Savings and savings options are another subject entirely, and I will post some of my information regarding this important topic in a future article.

Until next time, I hope you will join me on my quest to become a financial wizard!

-Vaughn

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