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Welcome to Zen Madman Dot Compadre!

I’ve been contemplating this move for over a year now. I’ve finally decided to go ahead and divide my writing interests into 7 semi-broad categories. I’m going to publish one article in each of these areas every week. The categories are as follows:

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Juicing: Beet It

BLOQhedonistherbivoreI love juice. Always have. Apparently warm milk was or is a thing. When I was a kid, I couldn’t go to sleep at night without my glass of orange juice. The juice I’m going to talk about today is actually sold under the name “Sweet Dreams,” so there’s that.

Not only did I need my anti-insomnia ambrosia, I was always a juice mixer. “Apple and orange juice mixed together,” was my beverage request before I could properly pronounce the words in that sentence.

I just got a juicer for my birthday. My juice mixing experiments have begun anew, with the freshest of ingredients this time around. So far I’ve played around with apples, oranges, lemons, carrots, beets, and cucumbers. I’ll get into more adventurous stuff like kale in the future.

Whether or not juicing is the optimal way to extract nutrients from fruits and vegetables, it’s delicious, and makes the consumption of said nutrients a lot easier. You don’t even have to chew! If you don’t believe me, put your faith in the words of Idris Elba, a man who (spoiler alert!) makes a habit of cancelling the apocalypse.

Idris

I think juicin’ fruits and vegetables is incredible. It’s very good, a good way to nourish your body, especially if you’re like me, you work a lot of hours, need a lot of replenishment. I don’t juice as much as I want to, but when I’m home in a stable place, I like to juice.


Apple-Carrot-Beet-Lemon Juice AKA “Sweet Dreams”

Ingredients:

  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 beet
  • 1 bunch of carrots (like 7 small ones or a few big ones)
  • Half a lemon

Instructions:

  1. Wash the fruits and vegetables.
  2. Core the apple, peel the lemon, and chop the ends off the beet and carrots.
  3. Quarter the apple and beet.
  4. Stick stuff in the juicer.
  5. Drink the juice that comes out of the juicer.
  6. Wash the juicer. (Okay, this step is no fun.)

Pretty simple! I stole the ingredient list from Raw Organics, a delightful little shop that sells and serves raw and organic food near Madison Square Garden.

The first time I drank this juice, I asked myself the questions: “What is going on in my mouth? And why is it so awesome?”

Well, the carrots form a slightly sweet backbone for the mixture, while the beets add richness and depth. The green apples contribute a crispness to the elixir, with a little lemon providing the finishing freshness. Oh, just drink the damn thing. It’s ridiculous!

Learn From Your Successes:
Skill Acquisition

BLOQramblingpathLearn from your mistakes. Learn from your failures. These are solid pieces of advice. You’ve no doubt heard them countless times. There’s another thing you should do that gets said less often.

Learn from your successes.

When a Zen Madman sets along a Rambling Path, he doesn’t know where he’s going unless he’s lost. (Jan 16, 2009)

I spend a lot of my time making big plans. I usually want to feel like I’m going somewhere that matters. Sometimes I get there, and sometimes I don’t. Not arriving at my intended destination can be a unique delight, like leading a group of taekwondo travelers into a Buddhist institute where a monk serves us tea and gives me rice bars that function like lembas bread. Other times it can lead to the question, “What the hell happened and how did I end up here?”

When I hit that second scenario, I can benefit from examining the path I took. Maybe there was a better path available to me. I can learn from my mistakes and my failures. I’ve had plenty of those to learn from! But today I’m going to take a look at the flip side of that equation. I’m going to look at the times when I was a bit less of a Zen Madman and more of an ordinary citizen. Or maybe just less of a rambler and, instead, a more zenned-out madman.

Skill Acquisition

One area where I’ve had consistent success is the acquisition of skills. I love learning new concepts and information, but what I really need is to be good at something. Whenever I want to do something, I feel driven to learn to do it well. Whether it’s catching a baseball, playing guitar, kicking and punching, crushing at Tetris, or writing, I have a deep-seated passion to do well the things I do.

For the most part, developing skills takes consistent and focused effort stretched over time. Let’s look at a few of these skills, one at a time:

Catching a baseball: I wasn’t much of a hitter when I was in Little League, but I was the best fielder I knew. I could run, catch the ball, and throw the ball. My coach would shift me around the field depending upon the tendencies of a particular batter. But why was I such a good fielder, yet just a mediocre hitter? Approach to practice.

When young kids play catch, they make a lot of bad throws. Most kids watch the ball sail over their head or bounce off to the side. I didn’t. I jumped for, ran to, and made a play on every ball that came near me. I’d slide, dive, fall down, and do whatever was necessary to make a play. If I had only caught the balls that were thrown right to me, I probably would have gotten good at throwing the balls that were thrown right to me. But by always stretching for the balls at the edge of my range, I expanded my range and became good at fielding the balls that were hit or thrown at the edge of my range.

Contrast that approach to fielding with my approach at the plate. I had a discerning eye when I held a bat in my hands. I never took a swing at a ball outside the strike zone. Most young kids are terrible pitchers. So I racked up the walks and got hit by a lot of pitches. This was helpful to my team, since I was on base a lot. Getting on base is a valuable skill. But by only swinging at the best pitches, I never learned to hit the tough pitches. I didn’t even get that good at hitting the best pitches. I guarantee that Vladimir Guerrero had a very different approach when he was a kid, and that’s why adult Vlad was able to get hits in the Major Leagues on pitches that bounced.

Playing guitar (and bass): I was not a very musical child. Up until I was 13, my musical experience was comprised of Suzuki violin as a 3-year-old, some recorder and glockenspiel in school, and a lot of Weird Al records and tapes. Then I started listening to Metallica and Guns N Roses and Nirvana and a lot of other music.

On my 14th birthday, my mom took me to Sam Ash Music. The dude there (and he can only be described as a dude) asked what kind of guitar I wanted. “A black one,” I answered. I got a black Charvel Charvette and played the hell out of it. I was lucky enough that we could afford lessons, but only every other week. This gave me ample time to practice between lessons, so I was always ready to learn something new and challenging.

After about 6 months, I decided that I wanted to learn Slash’s shredding solo at the end of November Rain. Not the easy one in the middle. The sick one where he’s standing on the piano at the end. I wasn’t remotely good enough to play it yet. My teacher transcribed the first repeat of it, anyway. I took it home and spent 8 hours a day practicing 13 seconds of music. My fingers bled as I tore through the callouses I’d built up over the prior 6 months. Two weeks later, I could play that part of the solo. The next part was even harder to play, but much easier for me to learn because I was a different guitarist. I had gone from late-beginner to early-advanced through sheer force of will.

It’s not always possible to skip an intermediate phase, but sometimes an exceptional level of motivation and focus can lead to fantastic results. I had spent months building up the vocabulary necessary to understand what I wanted to do, and then did the 10,000 reps necessary to change the muscles in my forearms and the pathways in my brain.

Kicking and punching: I wrote a book called Way of the Poker Warrior that discusses how I learned, and what I learned from, taekwondo. It also explores how I learned to play poker at a high level. I won’t delve too deep into that here. But I will say that it was a matter of consistent effort applied over a long period of time, combined with occasional bouts of exceptional motivation and focus applied over a short period of time.

Taekwondo patterns were always easy for me to practice and easy to do well. Fighting and breaking took more work. Breaking boards often involved practicing a single technique ad nauseum, which happens to be the sort of thing I enjoy doing. So maybe that was pretty easy, too. But fighting? That was tough.

The thing about fighting is that it’s extremely improvisational.

  • “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” That’s one oft-quoted gem.
  • “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.” The Marines will tell you that.
  • “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” That’s Mike Tyson at his most eloquent.

It’s hard to learn improvisation. We get little habits. I got a lot of my guitar improvisation habits from “November Rain.” I got a lot of my fighting habits from drills that we practice 100 times, 1,000 times, maybe 10,000 times. But as I practiced actually applying them against a live opponent, I learned to adapt. I learned to improvise and overcome. This is where actually practicing the skill in context is critical. Hitting pads is one thing. Hitting an unpredictable moving opponent is quite different.

Crushing at Tetris: Repetition, repetition, repetition. I played a lot of Tetris. I got very good at it. But there’s a reason I got so good at it, whereas my chess game has stagnated. When I played Tetris, I worked my way up to the highest level and constantly played the game on level 19. Level 19 pushes the limits of what is possible. So I was always training myself against tough competition. In chess, I’ve been playing against the same weak robot player. Why? I like to win. But it’s lazy. If I have a goal to become legitimately good at chess, I need to study the game away from the board, and then play against challenging opponents.

Writing: I took two years of creative writing in high school. After that, I did some practice by writing an autobiographical novel and a not-so-autobiographical screenplay. But I also wrote about poker on poker forums. I wrote about baseball on baseball forums. And I wrote a lot of instant messages to my friends. I would carry on conversations for hours.

Can messaging (or texting) really improve a person’s writing ability? I think so, yes. Maybe this is worth an entire Write the Lightning post, but I’ll give a few thoughts here. If you write full sentences with proper capitalization and punctuation; if you converse with people who challenge your vocabulary or your ideas; if you are never too afraid of using the wrong word, but always interested in finding the perfect word; if you wonder why I suddenly turned into Rudyard Kipling, then you can probably improve your writing skills by conversing with your friends in text. In fact, you may even learn how to write in a more conversational tone by literally conversing in writing.

The main thing is getting the repetitions in while maintaining a curiosity and consistency of focus. There may be good and not-as-good ways of doing this, but I think any kind of consistent and challenging effort is better than irregular effort.

Playing Limit Holdem Poker: I started playing poker as a teenager, and became serious about it when I was 20. I learned how to play a lot of variants of the game, but Limit Holdem quickly became my best publicly-spread game. (I was pretty ridiculous at high-low chip declare, but good luck finding that at a casino.)

When I first started playing poker, it was easy to win. A little study and a lot of discipline did the trick. No one was playing great.

After taking a break from poker and missing the poker boom, I started playing seriously again in 2006, right before UIGEA went through. The game became harder in the post-boom era. I struggled with various forms of No Limit Holdem before deciding to dedicate my full energy to shorthanded Limit Holdem.

At the beginning of 2008, I watched every Limit Holdem instructional video on the internet. I read every decent book on the game. I took notes and dissected hands. I also played almost every day, usually with a very high level of focus. I played Limit Holdem almost exclusively for three years. I went from a very simple approach to the game to a very sophisticated approach, making more money in those three years than I had in the first thirty years of my life.

Conclusions

So what have I learned from examining my successes in skill acquisition? I see a few common threads here.

  • Consistent work over an extended period of time.
  • Spurts of exceptionally hard work over shorter periods of time, often drilling a component skill until it is automatic.
  • Finding something that I can’t do well yet and making that the next thing to practice, so that I’m always challenging my limits.
  • Actively applying the skill to real scenarios.

What do you see? Do you enjoy acquiring skills? Got any tricks or techniques for getting good at something? Let me know in the comments below.

To Start Like Champions

BLOQttwThe 2015 New York Mets began the season with a 2-3 record in their first 5 games. They followed that meager start with a glorious 11 game win streak. On Friday night, that streak came to an end at the hands of the New York Yankees.

The 1986 Mets did the exact same thing, minus the whole interleague, subway series rumble in the Bronx. And then they won the next 7 games. Matching that streak would require the Mets to win on Bronx Harvey Day today, as well as every game up through Harvey Day #6 back in Queens against the Nationals on May 1st (also known as Ultron Day and my birthday).

Whatever people think about this real-world 13-4 start, it seems like they would be hard-pressed to ignore a 20-4 start. That’s a lot of domination for a team that was supposed to play .500 ball throughout the summer. Another win streak like that would make a nice birthday present, I’ll admit, but I won’t hold my breath. Instead, let’s examine this 13-4 start that the Mets have already put together.

Before last night’s game, some analysts on ESPN predicted that the 2015 Mets will end up with no better than a .500 record. I’m sure they’ll look at this loss to the Yankees as confirmation that the Mets’ easy early schedule was the primary driving force behind their 13-3 sprint out of the gate, but even Mets non-believer Dave Cameron over at fangraphs thinks that strength of schedule is a relatively small part of the equation:

This isn’t the kind of variable that explains the entirety of the Mets success so far, and we can’t just wave away 13 wins in 16 games as the sole product of having played a weak schedule. The weak schedule explains just one of their extra five wins.

If we agree with Cameron’s conclusion, which seems reasonable enough, then what accounts for the other 4 wins above expectation? The answer appears to be: Sequencing.

This year, the Mets have scored 4.56 runs per game and allowed 2.94 runs per game. Put another way, they’ve outscored their opponents by over 50%. That’s fantastic! They should absolutely have a winning record. But if those runs were randomly distributed throughout their games, they should have only won 11 out of their first 16 games. By scoring runs at opportune times (and by not allowing runs at inopportune times), they won 13 games instead of 11. The 11-5 expected record would be their pythagorean expectation.

But we can take sequencing a step further and look at something called BaseRuns to determine how many runs the Mets should have scored and allowed, had the sequencing of in-game events been random. It turns out that according to BaseRuns, the Mets should have scored just 3.86 runs per game and allowed 3.38 runs per game. That’s a lot worse than what they actually did! It’s still pretty good, but guess what their expected record is according to BaseRuns? 9 wins against 7 losses. (Here’s a chart that will be outdated soon.)

So if the sequence of events on the baseball field were entirely random, then the Mets should have won the 9 games that their easy schedule was supposed to allow them to win. The additional 4 wins can be accounted for by the favorable sequencing of events.

Here is where most sabermetricians and old-schoolers differ. The prevailing SABR opinion is that sequencing is primarily the result of luck. Old-school baseball people tend to believe that sequencing is heavily dependent upon how players perform in the clutch. When faced with this sort of Luck Versus Skill type of debate, I tend to come to the conclusion that everyone’s a bit right and everyone’s a bit wrong.

There’s no doubt that an element of luck is involved in the sequencing of events. Players can’t always control when their skills are at their peak, and even the proper execution of a swing or a pitch can result in an unfavorable outcome. But anyone who has had to perform under pressure knows nerves are a real thing that can inhibit performance. There is also the fact that managers can insert their best relievers in high-leverage situations and use their worst ones in lower-leverage situations. (Good sabermetricians acknowledge this and thus accept that some teams might be able to reliably outperform their pythagorean and BaseRuns projections.)

So if we assume that there’s some amount of skill and some amount of luck involved in sequencing events in order to win baseball games, how much of each is involved? I don’t know. You probably don’t know either. In fact, I’m pretty sure that no one knows. I think it’s a fun thing to discuss, and you might too. Or you might prefer to sit back, sip a beverage, and just watch the games. Whichever you prefer, I hope you have a happy Bronx Harvey Day.

Way of the Poker Warrior:
White Belt

BLOQpiasThe following is an excerpt from my first published book, Way of the Poker Warrior. I am making the entire book available here on zenmadman.com by releasing one chapter per week under the Poker Is A Skill section of the site. I’m skipping the introductory material, which you can read on Leanpub.


wpw_cover_2

CHAPTER 1: WHITE BELT

The week before I started running the Times Square school, a fifth-degree black belt signed up. As only a second-degree myself, I wasn’t expected to teach him anything. He could take class and get his practice in, but I wouldn’t be making corrections. Shortly after he joined the school, his girlfriend signed up. She was charming, intelligent and coordinated. Despite having no experience, she could have made an excellent martial artist someday.

As a teacher, it’s often preferable to start with a white belt (a complete beginner), as they tend to hold an emptier cup. The trouble with this particular student, though, was that she put too much pressure on herself. She was eager to learn, but expected to get everything on the first try. It doesn’t work that way. Learning requires repetition – repetition without expectation. Learning requires having patience with yourself. For her, this did not come naturally.

As a new student, she was starting with the absolute basics. Step forward, punch. She got this pretty quickly. When we started working on low blocks, that’s where the difficulty came. The basic premise is simple: drop one arm in a downward arc to protect your lower belly. The challenge comes from drawing the opposite fist to the hip at the same time in a coordinated motion, while twisting both wrists, stepping forward and forming a precise stance. Each arm and each leg is doing something that seems unrelated to the other three limbs.

And don’t forget to breathe.

What looks like the most basic technique requires coordination that is completely unused in everyday life.

The student saw the huge gap between her boyfriend’s skills and her own, and she focused on everything she didn’t know. She did not give herself time to learn or a chance to make mistakes. Despite putting in the effort, she put too much pressure on herself and quit after one month.

Between martial arts and poker, I’ve seen many students like this. Over time, I’ve learned how to help new students adjust their short term expectations to suit their current situation. Ultimately, it’s up to the student to release their expectations and allow themselves to be a white belt.

The white belt represents innocence. The blank slate. Tabula Rasa. The empty cup. If you can’t learn to be a white belt, you’ll never be a black belt.

Being a white belt is like being a baby in diapers. No one gets mad at you when you spit up all over their clothes. It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, making mistakes is a necessary part of the learning process. The most valuable time to realize this is right at the beginning. Unfortunately, most people find this almost impossible.

It’s so easy to think about everything you don’t know, like how to apply a block or how to play a hand. It’s so easy to think about everything you’re doing wrong, like punching poorly or getting your chips in bad. It’s good and natural to work hard to improve as quickly as you can. But you can’t rush the learning process. There is a critical difference between doing something fast and doing it too fast. Rushing an education leads to incomplete knowledge and improperly formed skills.

I can still remember how I felt when I started learning TaekwonDo, first as a child and later as a teenager. I was both nervous and excited to learn. I wanted to know everything and get my yellow belt as quickly as possible. I thought I had to prove that I was the best and the fastest. I wanted to learn all the patterns, flying kicks, and fighting techniques. The basics bored me. I was so eager to move on that I failed to enjoy my martial arts innocence while it lasted.

Just as carrying the spirit of childhood into old age is the secret to staying young, carrying the spirit of a white belt into more experienced years is the way to continue improving forever. It’s the only way to stay ahead of the curve.


HAND NO. 1

Pot Limit Omaha: $.50/$1 blinds, 5 players
Reads: Small Blind ($97.75) is loose, bad, and moderately aggressive over a small sample

Preflop: I have KsJdTh7d in the cutoff (CO)
Action: Hijack (HJ) folds, I raise to $3, Button (BTN) folds, Small Blind (SB) raises to $10, Big Blind (BB) folds, I call

Flop: Td5d4h ($21 – 2 players)
Action: SB bets $19, I raise to $77, SB raises to $88.25, I call

Turn: 3d ($197.50 – 2 players all-in)

River: Kh ($197.50 – 2 players all-in)

Showdown: SB shows AsAdKc4c and I win the pot

I played this hand shortly after taking up Pot Limit Omaha (PLO).

When the Small Blind re-raised my cutoff open, I believed he would almost always hold two aces and two random cards. Being fairly new to PLO, I could have avoided danger and folded to the preflop re-raise. However, I remembered hearing that non-paired hands without an ace played well against aces, particularly in position. So I took a flop.

I hit top pair to go with a weak flush draw and some backdoor straight outs. With up to 19 outs, I figured that my equity was a little above 50% against my opponent’s range. I also assumed that this opponent would be unable to let go of his aces on the flop if I re-raised close to all-in; but if I just called, he might fold the turn on the flush cards that improved my hand. If I did not improve, my equity would be worse on the turn than on the flop. So it looked like I could get my money in with better equity against a weaker range on the flop than on the turn.

Without a large amount of experience in Omaha, I was not sure of any of the above. Years before, when I was learning No Limit Holdem, I was hesitant to ship my stack in when I was unsure. In this case, however, I gave myself permission to make a mistake, provided I checked it out later. I posted the hand on a PLO forum after my session. The knowledgeable posters all seemed to agree that I had made the correct play. My flop equity turned out to be 54%, plummeting to 35% on blank turn cards.

The moral of the story isn’t that shoving was correct. It’s that I took a chance, and then sought out a more experienced opinion so I could learn from the hand. It would have been just as valuable if I had made a mistake, as I would have learned what not to do in the future.


The full book is available in PDF, MOBI, and EPUB formats at Leanpub for $9.99.

Public Journals, Social Accountability, and Procrastifectionism

By now, I hope you’ve gotten tired of reading me write about procrastination and perfectionism. If not, you possess entirely too much patience. If so, I’ve got some good news for you. I’m going to stop doing it! Tomorrow…

For now, I’m going to talk about why I want to stop writing posts that read like journal entries. Let’s go with bullet points:

  1. I have a goal.
  2. I make that goal public in order to keep myself socially accountable.
  3. I try to write interesting posts to make my progress worthwhile reading material.
  4. I find my posts excruciatingly repetitive, and can’t fathom why anyone would subject themselves to them.
  5. I stop posting about my goal, so I lose the edge of social accountability.
  6. I lose my focus on the goal because I’ve let go of the accountability mechanism before the goal becomes a habit.

(Those weren’t bullets, were they? Those are numbers!)

I think I have a solution. I’m going to keep a public journal, but I’m going to do it in the forums on this site. I’m going to continue my daily posts, but I’m going to write things that more closely resemble articles rather than bloggy journals. As with everything I do, this is an experiment. We’ll see how it goes.

Spitballing Here

BLOQramblingpathThis site got a decent bit of traffic today. Looking at my recent posting history, I wouldn’t blame a fair number of visitors for thinking, “What exactly is this website?” Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people still thought that after looking at my less-recent posting history.

Here’s the question: why should anyone else know what this site is when I don’t really know myself?

Six years ago, I named my blog The Rambling Path of a Zen Madman. It was hosted on Blogger until 2012, when I moved it to ZenMadman.com. And here we are. But where is here?

“The Rambling Path” suggests a lack of linear storytelling, along with an autobiographical quality. It is my path, that of a Zen Madman. But what the hell is a “Zen Madman”? As I said, that’s me. Poker players may know me as GiantBuddha, but I’ve used the ZenMadman handle away from the tables. It’s a nod to my philisophical nature, and my sometimes psychotic obsession with learning, understanding, and growing.

So The Rambling Path of a Zen Madman is my personal story. At its heart, it was always a bloggy blog, as much as I resisted the label. (Oh, how I hate labels!) But this is ZenMadman Dot Com. The whole site doesn’t have to be about the rambling path. I enjoy writing articles as well, on a veritable cornucopia of subjects. (I also enjoy using large words for sport, though I prefer going for long walks on concrete. Eww…sand.)

In my next post, I’ll write up a rundown of the principle subjects I aim to tackle on this here website.

Spoiler Alert: the menu items should give you a pretty good idea where I’m going with this.

Well that wasn’t the answer

BLOQwritelightning

As the title indicates, simply repeating a phrase over and over was not the answer to my procrastifectionism troubles. When push comes to shove, I am a highly skilled procrastinator. A master procrastinator, even.

Yes, I have failed to write the copy that I had to write today (or last night). So when will I write it? I don’t know. Not right now. I have a lesson to teach and some poker to play. Perhaps sometime after I teach my lesson, I can learn my own lesson. I’m open to suggestions.

And now I have about three minutes to write 100 words that are not complete nonsense. I’d say that does the trick, wouldn’t you? Why was that so easy and everything else so hard?

Procrastifectionism

BLOQwritelightningI’ve said it more than once. Procrastifectionism – procrastination due to unabated perfectionism - is the bane of my existence. For instance, I could procrastinate writing this sentence, due to deliberation over the use of the word “unabated” in the previous sentence. Was that the perfect word? No, I don’t think it was. But I powered through nonetheless, and wrote the next sentence.

Now, Mark Twain said something along the lines of:

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is a rather large matter. It’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

That quote is half of the inspiration for the title of this blog column, Write the Lightning. (The other half is Ride the Lightning, the second Metallica album.) But the difficultly of finding the right word can become an excuse for not finding any word at all. I fall on that excuse too often.

When I have something that I know I must do now, and I simply don’t do it now, it is often because of procrastifectionism. A would-be author explained her procrastifectionism to me thusly:

If I can’t write something as good as Shakespeare, then what’s the point?

Well, the point might be having something to say and then saying it. If you have nothing to say, then by all means, don’t say anything. But if you do have something to say, then do your best to say it, even if you don’t say it perfectly. These are words I must tell myself.

We’ve covered Mark Twain and Shakespeare, so let’s take a moment to appreciate another font of great writing, Saturday Night Live. To quote one Stuart Smalley:

I’m good enough.

I’m smart enough.

And gosh darn it, people like me.

That’s an affirmation. I’ve always thought affirmations were pretty cheesy. Maybe that’s because I loved Saturday Night Live. But maybe there’s something to them.

I’ve been struggling with a copywriting project lately. I picked it up last Monday, but I put it right down again. I’ve had a hard time approaching it. I’m still having a hard time. But I just came up with something that may help. I wrote myself an affirmation.

I am a writer.

I write well.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

So, first I identify with the thing I’m going to do. Then I reassure myself that I’m good at the thing I’m going to do. Finally, I remind myself that my first draft does not need to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be particularly good at all. That’s what the second draft is for.

The first draft exists as a step towards the final draft, but there’s no final draft without a first draft, and even in the rare instances where the first draft is the final draft, there would still be no final draft without a first draft.

I just walked around the neighborhood repeating those three lines to myself. I probably looked like a crazy person. That’s okay. I look like a crazy person often enough. Those words spurred me to write this post, and hopefully they’ll help me write some rip-roarin’ copy. We’ll see.

For now, I’ll leave you with this thought: I just wrote 515+ words in about 10 minutes. It might not be the most perfect expression of this idea, but I had something to say and I said it. At the very least, I made myself smile. And if I can make at least one more person smile, laugh, or think about something that helps them a little bit, I’ll consider that ten minutes well-spent. And well-hyphenated.

Another boring food journal

BLOQhedonistherbivoreThere’s something super boring about writing a log of what I’m eating each day. It’s probably a good habit to cultivate, but it’s a bit of a weird habit to cultivate in public. I guess there are weirder ones. Well, let’s get to it.

I started the day off by weighing in. Down from 220.6 to 216.2. That’s a big difference! Now, I may have been pretty full the day before, because I had eaten a lot very late at night. So my 220 may have included some food in my stomach. The good news is that my 216 was not the result of dehydration. Nope. I drank a lot of water yesterday.

I drank a lot of water today, as well. I didn’t eat much early on in the day, just some nuts and a smoothie for breakfast. I ate a banana a little while later. I love bananas and smoothies, and I like nuts, but all this raw stuff was getting boring.

A brief aside regarding raw food:

I went to an excellent raw food restaurant a few years ago. The food was fantastic. But it was all cold! I mean, it’s raw, so that’s sort of the point. Nothing is cooked. And while I felt like I ate enough, I didn’t feel full. I imagine this is sort of the feeling that meat eaters describe when they have a good vegan meal and feel like something is missing. I never feel that way when I eat cooked food. If I stayed with the raw diet, perhaps the feeling would pass re: raw food.

Long story short (too late), I cooked my lunch. Well, it was around 4pm, so let’s call it dunch. I threw some broccoli and cauliflower in with some Rao’s arrabbiata sauce and seven cloves of roasted garlic. Yes, seven.

You know that feeling of drinking a cool glass of water after coming in from exercise or a long walk? That’s what eating cooked food felt like after a day and a half without it. Slaking and satisfying. A glass of soy milk provided the protein that I’d been lacking all day.

I ate a cooked dinner, too, comprised of brown rice, Brussels sprouts, and sesame “chicken” soy protein.

We’ll see what the scale says tomorrow. Yeah, day-to-day weight isn’t a great indicator of progress, but it’s a little piece of the motivation pie. Mmm…pie. Ahem.

I’m not planning on continuing the whole raw experiment, but I will keep it up with the smoothies and salad and nuts and whatnot. Maybe I’ll just let dinner be the warm meal of the day.