Thursday, July 11, 2019

How to Calm Down

July 11, 2019

As I write this blog, I am listening to the weather report for New Orleans; that's where I live.  Wow! We're in for some really heavy rains and flooding. My house has flooded before and after Katrina there was so much damage we couldn't live at the house for two years. I am asking for prayers for all of us in the Gulf South as this storm approaches, makes landfall, and leaves.

On a little lighter note, thank goodness I know about a book called "A Guide on How to Calm Yourself Down," by author C. Kruse. I'm going to need it through this weekend. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs help. The information in the book is excellent. Here is an interview that I did with him.

Tell your readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc. Let them get to know the personal you.
I grew up in Elgin, Illinois.  It’s a fairly large suburb of Chicago, about forty miles west of downtown.  There, I spent my days riding bikes, sneaking Oreos from the top of the refrigerator, and not liking girls.  At least, until I turned 14.  After that, I still liked Oreos, but almost everything else was different.  Fast forward to sometime later, I went on to graduate from Judson College with a double major.  Then, I got married.  Then, had some kids.  I now pursue writing as a passion, a hobby, and a way of making a living.  Fortunately, my life hasn’t given me a shortage of things to write about, because I have a strong poetic side, which sees the world through a somewhat ironic lens.  It has always been quite natural for me to express myself in original, creative ways.  My wife will attest to this if you doubt me.  Other things?  Let’s see… I was in a rock band for about 9 years.  We played in Japan twice!  I won a scholarship contest at Judson for writing a short article about success.  I have a small group of friends that I’ve known for a long time.  I try to stay in touch with them regularly.  I love fishing.  And, kayaking.  And, both at the same time.  What could be better?  Maybe, doing all that… with an Oreo cookie!
 What inspired you to author this book?
Well, I talk about that a little bit in my introduction.  Basically, I was having the worst tantrum of my life and realized that I was on the verge of making life-altering stupid decisions.  But, some part of me was still smart enough to see that the real problem wasn’t what I thought it was.  The real problem was inside me.  Fortunately, this more-rational part of my brain prevailed, and, rather than engaging in bad impulses, I decided to look for help.  However, that’s when I also came to the realization that help was scarce, and that there weren’t many helpful resources that I could find easily, or which applied to my situation exactly.  I decided to try to write down what I was feeling and found that it gave me clarity.  The next time I was upset, I did this again.  And, again.  Soon, I realized that I was already well on my way to writing my own book.  I had come up with valuable insights that wouldn’t just help me, but anyone who was struggling with the same thing.

Where did you get the inspiration for your book’s cover?
This took me a long time, actually.  At first, I tried making my own cover, which was a total failure.  I think I was using Microsoft Paint.  Yeah… the sparks weren’t really flying.  Upon realizing that I was light years away from designing the masterpiece I wanted, I searched for pictures that reflected the way I feel when I’m worked up.  Yet, I couldn’t find a winner.  They all were either too plain, too serious, or too goofy.  I consulted a designer who helped me land on the right idea, and together, we were off.  She put together this cover, which I think perfectly demonstrates what a worked-up person is feeling.  And, what a worked-up person needs – to have a fire extinguisher blasted at them!
Who has been the most significant influence on you personally and as a writer?
That’s a tough one.  I suppose it depends on the genre.  When it comes to self-help type material, I really admire Brene Brown.  Some of her work has been phenomenal.  I pretty much like (and can relate with) anything she puts out.  I also really like Dale Carnegie’s work.  He helped me learn how to speak better.  Work more confidently.  And, win friends and influence people.  When it comes to fiction (which is not really my specialty as a writer), I’d have to say that I really liked Suzanne Collins’ work in The Hunger Games.  Also, Michael Connelly’s series, featuring Harry Bosch.  I think he is brilliant.
What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to get this book written?
Time.  Having a family will do that.  You have to take advantage of every free second you get.  Also, I found it challenging to organize all of this into one large book.  This book is closing in on 40,000 words, which is larger than anything I’ve made to date.  Oh yeah… another big obstacle was that self-sabotaging voice within, saying, “You’re just a phony.  A liar.  A hypocrite.”  Many times, that voice has rung loudly in my ear, reminding me of all my own imperfections and trying to use them as proof that I don’t have anything valid to offer.  After all, even though I’ve written a book, I still blow it sometimes.  Part of me is always afraid that someone who’s seen me at my worst will find out that I wrote a book about calming down, and laugh.  Or, that someone who read my book might one day bump into me on the street when I’m throwing a tantrum.  Seriously.  It’s not out of the question.  I think that, as a writer of self-help, you have to wrestle with this concern often.  And, you have to take it seriously, because it’s not invalid.  You really don’t want to be a hypocrite.  But, I’ve always taken some comfort in knowing that there wouldn’t be any good self-help books out there if only perfect people were writing them.   And, while I may not have a PHD in all of the subjects I write about, I am the world’s leading expert in my own life experiences.  And, if I can figure out something that helps me out in my own life, it can probably help anyone.  That always speaks louder to me than anything that my nagging accusation voice says!
Tell your readers about your book.
My book is a combination of things.  First, it talks about what it means to be worked up.  The problems that it poses and their significance.  Then, it talks about a lot of the phony narratives that are going through our heads when we’re worked up, and sheds light on what is actually true.  Then, it dives into actual strategies you can use (right now, there are 30) to pull yourself together quickly.  In the end, I talk about a number of different principles that can be focused on that will help you to become more well-rounded overall, and inadvertently, make you better at calming down.
Who is your target audience, and why?
My target audience is really just average people like me, who have similarly looked for answers and found that there just isn’t much to turn to.  If you’ve been there, you know.  You need something that works, or you’re only going to continue on that negative spiral downward.  And, you usually don’t have time to take a warm bubble bath or play a leisurely round of golf.  By then, the crucial moment will have passed, and you’ll have already done or said something stupid that can’t be taken back.
If you were going to give one reason for anyone looking at your book to read, why should they buy it?
Here’s why.  When I’m worked up, I usually want someone else to calm down.  I think they are the problem.  I think that they should get help because of how they’re upsetting me.  But, this is the wrong conclusion.  First of all, I can’t change other people.  I can only change myself.  Second of all, the truth is that I usually am the one who needs to change.  Even when it’s true that everyone around me is worked-up, it doesn’t help when I lump myself in with them as just another guy who needs help.  This book helps drive that point home and points to actual solutions.  I believe that there are many other people out there who need this message pounded into them often – as badly as (or more than) I do.  So many of the people I’ve talked to have said, “Oh, I need to get that book for my husband,” or, “Let me know when you’re done.  My kids need to read it.”  Sure, that may be true.  But, I would say that the people saying this need it all the same, because they’re not realizing how much someone else’s upsetness is upsetting them!  This book offers simple (and effective) advice that works far better than blaming.  We don’t need more complex, scientific jibber jabber that we can’t understand.  We need something that we can relate with.
 Tell me about some of the other books you have written.
Honestly, my writing subjects are a bit ironic, because I find myself writing mostly about things that I’ve struggled with.  Like this book, my others too have started out with just me and a pen – desperately trying to make sense of a problem.  Then, my mind goes to work.  My own creativity helps me bring together a wellspring of solutions for problems that I (and most people) grapple with.  My other books have largely been about relationships.  My most recent book prior to this one, called “How To Connect With The People In Your Life,” talks all about connecting with people, which is strange coming from me, because I’m a total introvert.  I am the guy who would be quite content in Tom Hanks’ scenario in Castaway.  An island adventure with no people?  Great!  Can I stay another week?  Introversion offers some strengths, but I’ve learned it can also take me too far away from the crowd.  Into loneliness.  Into isolation.  That is exactly why I needed to learn (and write) as much as I could about connecting. It was a great and needed experience for me.  It helped me piece together a lot of stuff about my own poorly-maintained relationships.  I learned so much about myself.  A few other books I’ve written are “How not to be defensive,” and “Marriage is Work.”  For me, marriage is work!  Probably, because I’m defensive.  Okay, enough joking.  I’m able to laugh at myself because I know that my work is quality.  I’ve been validated many times by my readers.  Some tell me that I am the one person they are able to relate with.  I get the impression that they’d rather hear from someone who’s dealt with real struggles and isn’t afraid to be honest about it.
What do you consider your greatest success in life?
Staying married.  It truly is hard.  Being a dad.  Having a wife.  Having a mortgage.  Trying to manage it all at once.  It’s an insane juggling act, and I think it’s nothing like any of us predicted it would be when we were younger.  Working to maintain important relationships is probably the hardest (and most rewarding) endeavor that I (or any human) can take on.  That is why I’m so passionate about subjects that deal with this.  Death and taxes are guaranteed.  The good stuff in life is not.  It has to be wanted.  It has to be worked for.
What one unique thing sets you apart from other writers in your genre?
It’s no secret that most genres now are oversaturated with low-quality material.  A lot of people are just trying to make a quick buck, and it’s become hard to separate the real from the fake.  There are seriously people out there who do nothing but pay ghostwriters in the Philipines to crank out cheap books all day.  Then, they slap on a chincy cover and put them up for sale.  You already know this if you’ve taken some chances on Amazon, purchasing a lame, poorly written pamphlet disguised as a book that only empties your wallet of three dollars.  I’m not trying to say that I’m Hemmingway – I just truly do put a lot into what I write.  A lot of heart.  A lot of research.  A TON of time.  I care that my readers have a good experience.  I care that they want to come back.  I care that they’re interested in what else I have to say.  I will edit and re-edit a single paragraph dozens of times so that it says EXACTLY what I want it to say.  I will cut out large sections if I don’t think they fit – even though I am emotionally attached to them.  By the time my book ends up in your hands, it’s been scrutinized, developed, and trimmed down so much, that it’s barely even comparable to what it was when it started.  I don’t think all authors in my genre care so much about their content.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
Raising kids.  They’re great, but they’re hard work, and they get you into a problem-solving state of mind.  Before you know it, you have an idea that you just can’t wait to write down.  Soon, a whole list of ideas.  Your writer’s block is gone.  Poof!  Up in a cloud of smoke.  Writer’s block is a supply/demand type of problem.  You have a demand for words, but your mind can’t supply them.  Life has a way of flipping that around.  You get so immersed in something (like being a dad), and soon you have more to say than you do time to write it.  Fortunately, writer’s block isn’t really a problem for me.  I am rarely lost for words on most subjects that matter to me then, I happen to express them best in the form of writing.  I’ll have to get back to you on this if I ever truly find myself struggling.  Maybe I’ll write a book about it then?