Guest Blog Post on J.A. Konrath’s site by Silas Payton:

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Today is a special day for me. Joe Konrath has posted a guest post by me on his site. What makes this special for me, as some of you may already know, is that Joe Konrath holds a special place in my heart. I started following his blog in 2011 once I read a number of his books, and was hooked from day one. I have since read almost every word the man has published. The inspiration and motivation from him on his blog and from the comments generated by his followers, led me to give this fiction writing a try. He and his wife were the first people to read my writing after my wife and oldest son, after which he offered me a chance to collaborate with him…seriously! On my first book! His life became too busy, and that book turned into White Lady, in his Kindle Worlds.

It is very fitting that this blog post is on writers working together to cross-promote. I owe Joe Konrath so much for introducing me to this wonderful world of writing. To him, and his wife, I say… Thank-you.

Here’s the beginning of the post. Please click over to Joe’s blog to read the rest.

The F-word Authors Should Learn from Rap Music

Hip hop or rap has done extremely well in the past twenty years and I would argue it is largely because of the F-word. Fans want the F-word, plain and simple, and I’m willing to bet this holds true with writing just as much as with rap music. I would argue one of the factors in the success of rap is the F-word… Featuring. It’s seen after the title of many, many hip hop songs, used to highlight a guest performer. Many music artists have worked together in the past, but no other music genre has done it so effectively. Writers would do well to learn from this strategy. In this post I highlight some rap examples of this success and discuss ways we can apply this technique to writing.

When someone starts listening to a particular rapper, it’s not long before they have a list of other rappers they also want to check out. Fans quickly become aware of other artists similar to, or liked by, their new star. When they are looking for something else to listen to, guess where they are going to turn.

Rappers seem to enjoy promoting each other. Not only do rappers collaborate on songs and show up to each other’s concerts, but often other performers will be mentioned in a song without even being featured in it. The only benefit is to raise awareness. Perhaps it’s from the roots or history of rap, I’m not sure. What I do know is rappers take cross-promotion to a whole new level.

Find the rest here:
http://jakonrath.blogspot.ca/2016/01/guest-post-by-silas-payton.html

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Freaky-dream Friday

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Yes, I know it’s not Friday, but it’s sounds cool and I had hoped to write this Friday.

Followers of my blog would know I’m a night owl. I like to stay up late writing or editing while the house sleeps. When I finally pack it in, I often fall asleep thinking about my characters or a story I’m working in. Like most, I occasionally wake with bizarre half distorted memories of dreams that, and some when I remember, make it into my “must write about this” list. A couple days ago I woke to one of the most vivid dreams I remember having and thought I’d share.

First I have to give you a little background. We live about 6km from the airport and are just off one of the the flight paths. It’s a small airport…20 seat planes max with the occasional Hercules landing and taking off for training. When the planes take off in our direction, they fly over about half a block from our house. We hear them but don’t take much notice.

Within a few blocks radius is a our home, our office, the primary school and high school. This has been our community for almost twenty years and we know the area well. The airport is on the shore of Lake Ontario and a road drives almost straight from there inland to our subdivision. It courses up a hill and once over the hill flattens out to out neighbourhood.

In the dream I had, my wife and I were driving along this road near the airport, as a small plane took off…nothing unusual. But in this case, as the plane took off, the noise became louder. Much louder. It was so loud we pulled over and looked out the side window to see a large jumbo jet attempting to land but way over shooting the airport. We sat and watched as the plane flew straight toward our area of town, barely making it over the crest of the hill and out of site. Seconds later, there was a tremendous explosion followed by multiple smaller ones, presumably from the gas we all heat our houses with. Black smoke was raising into the air above the trees, soon followed by the orangey red glow of the flames. There was no question of what happened, and the devastation, left us stunned and speechless, watching and wondering…what, and who was left.

In my dream, I wasn’t aware if our kids were in the car or not, and luckily I woke before considering the consequences of them being at home. I must say this was the most vivid dream I recall having. Not sure what it means. I don’t fear flying although it’s been many years, and I don’t have any foreseeable plans to. The airport is in the beginning of a two year expansion project but the idea of that has never bothered me.

Since this dream, there have been a number of times that I’ve heard a plane flying by and thought back to my dream. Doesn’t really freak me out but I do find dreams fascinating. My kids are all teens and it won’t be long before they’re moving on. The thought of that does freak me out. Who knows? Maybe thoughts of my life changing wove themselves into the dream. Perhaps the dream was pure chance, I’ll never know. I’m sure somehow, but part of this will make its way into a story.

If any of you have ever worked a dream into a story or book tell us about it in the comments and leave a link to the book. If you don’t have a book out, link to a dream related story on your blog. What was your most vivid dream?

If you wish to see where some of my dreams have led me, check out my books on the side panel.

Silas Payton

Music and Writing: Write with Passion

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I’ve been in business for almost twenty years now, and in that time, I’ve seen many small businesses come and go. One of the biggest predictors I’ve noticed in the success of a business is the passion of the business owner. Are they driven to put in the extra work? To do what it takes to make it succeed? I believe the same holds true for writing.

As a fiction writer, you have to be driven to keep going. Driven to make it the best you can. Writing a book is a huge project, way too big to be guilted into finishing it, or to do it so you can make some money. It has to be for you. You have to want to write it so bad you regularly stay up half the night because you have to finish a thought. So bad that the next day as you’re a walking zombie, trying to do what ever you do to pay your bills, you’re semi-functioning brain continues to think about your book, looking forward to writing again. So bad, you’ll keep writing, even standing out in the snow, waiting for your dog to pee. Writers who are driven by the passion to write will find the time, will find the help needed, will find ways to improve their craft, will find a way to make it happen.

I’ve also wondered how many finished books are out there…books where the writer lost steam before getting it published. When a writer finishes ‘writing’ a book, they still have to make it into an actual book, and whether paper or digital, it takes a lot of work to finish it off. Even when that’s all done, there’s self-publishing and marketing, or approaching publishers.

Music has a way of turning up emotions. Much like a book, it can allow us to escape the world around us, to forget our problems, and give in to the writer and follow down the path they are leading us. Here are a few great examples passion in music. The first is, When your Mind’s Made Up, by Glen Hansard. When I used to play guitar at open mics a few years ago, this was a favourite for me. It’s hard to listen to it without really getting the feeling of what was written. I’ve ripped more thumbnails on this song than any other. I’d get so into the song, when I was done and out of breath, I’d have blood splatters on my guitar from catching a nail on a string…even while playing with a pic.

The second and third pieces I’d like to share are from one of my favourite performers, Jesse Cook. Although totally different from the first song, Jesse brings forward a feel from his music that makes it hard to sit still. I’ve seen him twice now and his shows are phenomenal. Usually by the halfway mark everyone is on their feet moving to the music. If you ever get the chance to see him, go. In the first one, Dance of Spring, he’s sporting his custom hand made William Laskin guitar. The second one, Tempest, is just seriously cool to watch.

If we strive to put as much into our writing as these two do while writing and playing their music, it will most definitely be evident to our readers.

If you have any other examples of passion in music please share in the comments.

Silas Payton

Writing and the Influence of Music: a Tribute

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I’ve long thought of writing a series of blog posts on the topic of music inspiring writing, highlighting a few songs at a time. There are few things that have the power to drive thought and emotions like music does. I love listening to music while I run and just letting my mind wander. A song can come on, stimulating a thought process and suddenly I’ve got a new book idea, or I’ve figured out a difficult scene. I’ve intended to share some of the great music that has stimulated some of my writing for a while, but today was a special kind of run and I thought it’d be a perfect day to start.

As some of you might know, we lost our family dog and companion of 18 years earlier this week. It has been difficult and emotional week and as writers do, I put up walls and barricaded myself away with my WIP editing and re-writing, just trying to get through the week. Emotions can bring out creativity and that it has. As my Facebook followers would know, the creative juices have been flowing since Monday. I’ve done skeleton outlines for seven book ideas, and dove into a book that I wrote last year trying to get through my first editing pass. The prose has been flowing like crazy. I’m in the last 8k of the book and it’s all coming together to the climax. Conveniently, it has been all I can think about.

I took a break after getting through another 1000 words this morning and went for a run. I grabbed an old MP3 player I hadn’t used in likely 8 years and hit random. A few songs in, one came on that was a perfect representation for the end of the book. The beat, the mood, the feel were perfect. So much so, I listened to it 4 times. I couldn’t wait to get home. Today would be the first day of my blog series on writing being inspired by music, although in this case it was more a representation of the writing.

When I decided to move on, I heard a few cool tracts then one came on that changed the topic of this post. It was a piano instrumental that immediately brought back a slew of memories of my dog in his prime, which would have been the last time I heard it. Hearing this one song brought down the walls. In the middle of nowhere, as the song played on, so did my memories of my good friend.

To start this series on music inspiring writing I’ll start with this one song. Oltremare by Ludovico Einaudi. Music will bring out different feelings and memories in all of us, and I don’t recall if I used to run with my dog listening to this, but it does bring back memories of his playfulness, his love of play, a little of his mischievous character, and his love of life. You can find it here. http://youtu.be/R8MzHqkNBwo

I hope you join me with my love of both music and writing in these blog posts, as I share what I enjoy from almost all varieties of music. I plan to usually highlight a few songs with each post, but to start, I share just this one. A special song from me to you.

For those who are curious about the song that represents my upcoming book, 14 Gable Lane, a supernatural thriller, it’ll be coming in a future post.

Thanks for your continued support,

Silas Payton

The Most Important Article You’ll Ever Read: The Ultimate Quick Guide to Increased Happiness. Part 3 of 3

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Welcome to part 3, the last of my series, The Ultimate Quick Guide to Increased Happiness. If you haven’t read part 1 or part 2, please do. They are loaded with great tips as well. I broke this into three posts so readers would have a chance to digest each recommendation. Each one is important, and each one will work at increasing your happiness.

This is the more controversial of the three posts. As with parts 1 and 2, this post has a lot of good information. Some may not agree with everything, and may even have something against what I say, but give it a chance. Read it over, think about each point. You don’t have to agree with everything…these suggestions still work (although the verdict is still out on having kids) but they have to work for you, your personality and your beliefs. Here are the recommendations making up part 3 of The Ultimate Quick Guide to Increased Happiness. Please pass this on.

Explore ways to relax – meditation techniques and yoga
Although it’s changing, there is a fear in some out there of both yoga and meditation. I’ve heard it said in response to recommending yoga, that it is a “slippery slope.” To where they think they might slide…I’m not sure.

Neither yoga or meditation are religions. They are techniques…practices. Meditation is the practice of slowing down, of taking time to not worry, to not be distracted, to enjoy the moment. There are many benefits of learning the principles and techniques of mindful meditation. By learning to focus on our breathing, we can calm ourselves in stressful situations so we can react appropriately. It can also help us focus on what’s important. A technique can be as simple as taking a slow deep breath while counting to five, then exhaling counting to three, and repeating this five times, thinking about the sensation of breathing while you are doing it. Try it. There are many good books and blog posts written on different techniques.

Yoga is a mindful exercise. I would even argue that it could be one of the most well rounded, most efficient, and beneficial exercises we can do. It often employs some of the meditative techniques during and at the end of a session. Start with beginners yoga and don’t get discouraged. We all have to start somewhere.

Slow down and enjoy the moment
Be aware, and present…thinking about what we are seeing and how we are interpreting what’s going on around us. Whether you’re playing with your kids, cooking dinner, or talking to your spouse, try and focus on what you are doing right then and there. Put your concerns aside about all the things you have to do, all the things that stress us out, and enjoy what you are doing.

Try to think the best of people
If something is said or done that could be interpreted in more than one way, try and give the person the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be naive and don’t be a doormat, but when ever possible, think the best of people.

Have pets
There are times when being a pet owner can be stressful, frustrating, expensive, and a lot of work, however, pets have an amazing way of lifting our spirits. The wag of a dog’s tail as you rub it’s head, the purr of a cat as it makes bread in your lap, fish coming to the surface when you feed them…they remind us that we make a difference. This is an important ingredient for achieving and maintaining happiness.

Show respect
There are many people we come across who have been through a lot. Whether it’s an elder, a veteran, someone who is trying their best, or someone who is just trying to get by. It may simply be someone who has been around and seen things we haven’t. Show them the respect they deserve. Slow down. Don’t rush them. Listen to what they have to say. Learn from them. It will likely make their day…and yours.

Spirituality
I throw this one in because it’s mentioned a lot in articles about happiness. There are some studies which support a notion that people who are spiritual are happier. I would suggest that it is not as important that we be religious or spiritual, but instead, that we be content with our beliefs in that area. We should all explore what spirituality means to us personally and continue to ask questions until we are content with our beliefs.

Be Organized…Intentional Living
I’ve had a number of periods in my life when I’ve felt overwhelmed…bogged down by overcommitments, deadlines, and demands on my time and mental energy. The more things pile up, the more we become stressed, scattered, and fragmented in our though processes, and at the same time, we become less productive. It’s a terrible feeling, but sadly, it’s all too common. It is human nature to desire some degree of control in our lives. If we feel we’ve lost this, hopelessness sets in.

One of the best ways to combat this is to be organized. Spend some time, every day, planning. What do you want to accomplish tomorrow? What about in the next week? What projects do you have hanging over you and what is the smallest next-action step that will move you forward on each. There are many great books on this. Even a little time organizing will lead to greater satisfaction in your accomplishments, give you more control over your life, less stress, and more happiness. Think of it as intentional living.

Have kids
Like spirituality, I’m mentioning this one because the topic of kids is often discussed in happiness books. It might come as a surprise that current research suggests that having kids makes us miserable. Well, okay…maybe not miserable, or at least not all the time…but couples with kids rate their happiness significantly lower than couples without kids. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there is no rebound. As far as I’ve found in the available research, there is no payback…our happiness returns to the same level as those that don’t have kids…once the kids move out! Sorry to break the mythical illusion passed down from generation to generation, that having kids is fantastic.

“Wait a minute,” you say. “I thought you were recommending we have kids.” I do, because I believe the research is flawed. It hasn’t been researched closely enough yet. Anyone who has had kids knows it is hard…in fact, it is damn hard, but it is rewarding. I believe that with kids, we have higher highs and lower lows. If you can ride out the lows, the rewards are like nothing I’ve experienced before. To watch your child take their first steps…okay, you’re still be in the zombie years then and just want to go to bed, but later…to watch them score a basket in basketball, to see the excitement in their eyes, to see them joking around with friends, to have them look up to you…you can’t explain the feeling. So I say to ignore the research we have so far, and continue to perpetuate what may turn out to be the greatest myth in human history.

Limit the things that bring you down
1. Beware the effects of the news.
If you are sensitive to what you hear and what is going on around you…and all of us are to some extent, limit how much of the news you are exposed to. This might seem unreasonable to some…like poking your head in the sand. However, mainstream news is inflammatory and designed to stimulate fear and concern, and is almost all negative. You do not need it. Believe me, if something important is happening, you’ll hear about it. You can quickly skim internet feeds if you want a brief, controlled summary, reducing some of the impact on your stress level. Also give some consideration to greatly reducing how much television you watch, altogether.

2. Limit the time you spend with people who are bringing you down.
This might sound selfish, but is it really? Think of all the people you come in contact with. Your partner, kids, family, co-workers…these are all people you can have a positive impact on. You need to have the mental energy to be there. Given the power of mindful actions, of acts of kindness, of being aware of how you can help each of these people by being present and happy, ask yourself, can we really afford to be brought down? I’m not saying don’t be there for someone in need, but I am saying be careful how much of yourself you donate to things that bring you down.

3. Limit your Debt
Debt has to be one of the greatest stressors in today’s society. Be careful to keep it under control.

There you have it…the ultimate guide to increasing happiness. Concrete tools to implement. I suggest you try as many as you can. Review these strategies regularly. Print this out. Pin it at work, and at home. Bookmark it on your computer or tablet. Go back to it. Re-read it. Keep a Happiness journal mentioned in Part 1. Start watching and being aware of your thoughts, and what is influencing them. Implement as many of these strategies, as consistently as you can, for one month. Then report back here and comment on your progress.

Please let me know what you think. Do you think these strategies make any difference? Do you think we have any control over our happiness?

Wishing you well,

Silas Payton
I have a blog where I post articles on writing, happiness and other areas of thought stimulation. Click here if you wish to visit.
If you’re interested in purchase my thrillers, they are available right here on Amazon.

Image from Philippe Put on Flickr

Do cliches have any place in writing?

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Do cliches have any place in writing?

Just so we’re all on the same page, here are a couple definitions of a cliche:

Merriam-Webster.com
– a phrase or expression that has been used so often that it is no longer original or interesting
– something that is so commonly used in books, stories, etc., that it is no longer effective

dictionary.com
-a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse

Have you ever heard a saying so much it makes you cringe? That’s definitely a cliche. But there are so many that have been interwoven into everyday speech, we may not even think of them as cliches. Many are passed down over years. Some have historical significance that we don’t even remember or aren’t aware of. Sports and sailing are the root of many, such as: they talk a good game, take one for the team, they’re a team player, know the ropes, clean slate, and above board.

There are more cliches than I could possibly list, but here are a few:

Behind the eight ball.
Out of left field.
Out for the count.
By the skin of my teeth.
Make no bones about it.
Read between the lines.
Raining like cats and dogs.
Get with the program.
Go the extra mile.
Make out like a bandit.
Money doesn’t grow on trees.
Firing on all cylinders.
Flat as a pancake.
Chew the fat.
Cat’s meow.
Live and learn.
Dime a dozen.
Smart as a whip.
Sly as a fox.
Plenty of fish in the sea.
Thick as thieves.
If only walls could talk.

Here are a couple sites listing cliches.
Clichesite
Clichelist

I’m sure you get the idea. These are all phrases that were at one time clever and catchy. Over time however, according to the definitions above, they become overused, stale, and tired. Some of these sayings even start to make people cringe.

For me, there is one cliche that makes me chuckle at the ironic nature of it. Given that a cliche is an overused saying, when I still hear “think outside the box,” I want to ask the user if they realize they are not “thinking outside the box” by using a cliche.

Back to my original question. Is it ever okay to use cliches in writing? Well in my opinion, no…and yes.

According to the definitions, cliches have lost their originality…their effectiveness. They are phrases that have lost their impact from long overuse. I’ve also seen them referred to as sayings so overused, they’ve become annoying. Why would we want this in our writing? Writing is about connecting with the reader. Getting your thoughts or story into their head…taking them away for a ride in your imaginary world. Why would you want to annoy them? This is the type of thing that could jolt your reader out of the story, like inconsistent points of view or mixing past and present tense. Elizabeth Spann Craig wrote a great post on yanking readers out of a story.

I think as writers, we should try to be fresh and original without laying down easy phrases that have become cliches. Sure they may quickly pop into our heads when we’re in a hurry getting words down, keeping up with the ideas and thoughts in our heads. Perhaps they can act as place holders in the first draft, but if that’s the case, maybe highlight them to change later.

I generally try to avoid cliches in my first draft. While editing, I purposely look for them, making a conscious effort to pull them out. It’s not easy. One could argue that some cliches are so common place that they are hard to avoid. I think, even trying to avoid them, you’ll still end up with a few. While writing this post, I had to stop myself from dropping a few…even harder when you’ve got cliches on the brain.

There may be times when a writer wants to include a cliche in dialogue to create a certain feel, and that’s their decision. One of the best parts of being a writer is the complete freedom to write what you want. If you want to string a bunch of cliches together, go ahead. Lay a beat to it and it might make the top 50 music charts. There may be a particular part in a story where you want to use them. It’s up to you.

I would, however, suggest that writers should know what a cliche is, be aware when they are using one, and to make sure it’s use somehow fits with the story. As with any skill, the more you know about writing and language, the better.

In my opinion on whether or not writers should use cliches, it comes down to…intentional writing.

Oh, and in case I’m way off base here, I didn’t mean to send you on a wild goose chase. When it comes to cliches, you can avoid them like the plague, or you can take them as they come. Live and learn, I say.

Nailed it.

Do you think cliches have any place in writing? Drop me a line in the comments.

Silas Payton
You can find more articles on writing, happiness, and other areas of thought stimulation on the Silas Payton Blog.
If you’re interested in spreading the love by purchasing my thrillers, they are available on Amazon.

Image found on lovethispic.com Was not able to find any owner.

The Most Important Article You’ll Ever Read: The Ultimate Quick Guide to Increased Happiness. Part 2 of 3

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This is part two of a three part series, divided to not overwhelm, and to allow anyone a chance at trying each and every strategy. In part one of the Ultimate Quick Guide to Increased Happiness, I discuss the benefits of keeping a Happy Journal. If you haven’t read it go do that now. I recommend a standardized list of things you look for and track each day. If you consistently look for things that make you happy, your brain will start to see them where you might not have before. Tracking what makes you happy also helps highlight just how much you enjoy them, and helps you make decisions. After doing this a while, I quickly realized that one of my favorite things is playing basketball with my kids. It may sound obvious but believe me, these things get lost in the busyness of life. Now, I’ll almost drop anything to play some ball.

The suggestions laid out in this Ultimate Quick Guide to Increased Happiness do take a conscious effort, but they get easier with practice.

In your Happy Journal, I suggest the following two headings:
Things that made me happy (3), or that I feel grateful about, and my successes:

People I helped, Acts of Kindness, &/or Gifts given:

If you maintain a digital Happy Journal, you can copy and paste it over and over. If not, just write it at the top of the page and refer to it. This has to be as simple as possible so we don’t avoid doing it daily.

We should all strive to be as consistently happy as possible. When we are happy we are more productive, have a better quality of life, are healthier, and we make life better for those around us. I know the strategies in this three part series will help. Each one might not fit with you but try them all. Find what works best for you. Review this list over and over as a reminder and pass it on. Here are my recommendations in part 2.

Make someone laugh
Laughing is one of the best ways to bump up your happiness and the happiness of someone you meet. If you can make someone laugh, you may be turning their day around, as well as yours.

Give something away
This can be in time, material items, or money. Studies have shown that when we give something away, we feel better, not only at the time but anytime we look back and remember doing it. This can be volunteering our time, or giving what we can to a charity or someone in need. Of course, there are many other reasons to give of yourself other than to make yourself feel good, but it is a bonus. Make a note in your journal, of what you gave away that day.

Get some sunshine
This may go against popular convention for the past decade or two, but we know exposure to sunlight, effects our levels of three very important chemicals in the body: Serotonin, Melatonin, and Vitamin D. There is a biological mechanism by which we feel better when we get some sun. Don’t take this as my support for tanning beds or sun bathing…that’s not what I’m saying. Some safe sun exposure has been shown to be healthy and make us happy. M. Nathaniel Mead wrote a good article in Environmental Health Perspectives, outlining the health benefits. You can read it here. As a word of caution, there are many variables and much disagreement on how much sun is safe, so I’ll leave that up to you to research and decide upon.

Nurture your relationships
We are happier when we have a significant other in our lives. Be sure to protect your relationships. Show some love. Some gratitude. Do something special for them. I love the saying, “The grass is always greener…where you water and take care of it.” This also goes for other relationships we have, whether it be our family or friends, keep in touch. A short email, or phone call can go along way.

Focus energy & spending on experiences – Conscious Spending
Studies have shown that when we do something, we tend to be happier than when we purchase material items. This can be a dinner out, a show or concert, or a trip. It doesn’t need to cost a lot. I doesn’t need to cost anything. It really doesn’t matter as long as it’s something you enjoy and will look forward to. To get even more benefit from it, plan ahead. If we book it in the future, we enjoy the thought of it coming up, we enjoy doing it, and we enjoy looking back at it, with fond memories…all of which increase our sense of well-being and happiness. I’m not suggesting you go on a big trip instead of covering your basic needs, saving, or working toward something you really want. This is more about conscious spending.

Exercise and Eat well
In many cases, we feel better when we are active. Fifteen minutes of mindful exercise…walking, biking, running, yoga, gardening…can be very helpful in making us feel better. This evening I was becoming more and more agitated with the constant interruptions of being in a house with three kids, four cats and a dog. During one of my interruptions, I came back to find a cat had eaten the chicken off my dinner plate. While I tried to salvage the un-munched portion, my twelve year old son asked if I’d play some basketball. Thirty minutes of laughing and joking with each other totally changed the direction of my evening. My ego took a beating, as he cleaned my clock, but my mood was much better for it.

Equally important is the food we eat. Cooking and eating healthy meals together with family (even with the cat), whenever you can, is a great way to bond while getting the benefits of quality healthy food. Healthy eating is a very complicated subject that I’ll leave you to explore further.

Feel music
One of the fastest ways to instantly feel better is to feel some music. Put on something with a beat and really feel it. Don’t just listen to it, but feel it. Move your body to the beat. A hand, a foot, nod your head, shake, move…it doesn’t matter what or how you move but move something…feel it. This works. Go try it now.

Part three will be coming next week.

How have you found any of the suggestions so far? Leave your results or any recommendations in the comments. Do you think any of this really matters?

Wishing you well,

Silas Payton
You can find more articles on writing, happiness, and other areas of thought stimulation on the Silas Payton Blog.
If you’re interested in spreading the love by purchasing my thrillers, they are available on Amazon.

Image by Gatto Mimmo on Flickr. Not one of my cats, but I envision mine looking this happy after eating my chicken.

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The Most Important Article You’ll Ever Read: The Ultimate Quick Guide to Increased Happiness. Part 1 of 3

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I’ve been reading and following the research about happiness for over twenty years. Over this time, I have seen the effects we can have by making simple changes in what we allow to influence our thoughts. We all have ups and downs, which is natural, but it is generally agreed, that most of us want to be happy. I’ve put together a list of strategies that can change our outlook…to increase the positive influences in our lives while limiting things that bring us down. Many of these have been proven through research to help, and some, which are based on our current understanding of how the brain works, I’ve just found to be helpful on my own. All are designed to increase or highlight our happiness and sense of well-being.

Background
It looks like some of our ability to be happy is genetically coded. In fact, genetics is thought to account for 50% of how happy we normally feel. We can’t control this portion, but it does means we have 50% which we can play with, and influence. Our brains are massive consumers of energy, but at the same time, they try to be as efficient as possible. Without our awareness, our brains are looking for patterns…categories to slot new information into for easy recall. I’m sure most have experienced this. When you are reading a particular style of magazine, home and garden for example, you start to see all the things you’d like to improve around your house and yard. If we immerse ourselves in anything, we start to see more of it. Ever buy a new-to-you car and suddenly start to notice all the other people who drive the same car?

Because of the patterning of memory and thought processing, our brains have uncontrollable biases based on the kind of information it has recently been analyzing and storing. At the beginning of most abnormal psychology text books, there is a disclaimer which states, do not be alarmed if when reading this, you feel you have many of these disorders. As we read, watch, or listen to something it creates fresh patterns of thinking. Our brain then wants to use these fresh patterns to view and categorize new information. Commercials use this principle as well. Marketing companies plant images and emotions into our brain so when we are hungry, we envision their burgers, or when our car needs replacing, we want their product. We see things based on how the brain has recently being patterned. Fortunately, with this knowledge, we can actually re-train our brains to see, notice, and feel more reasons to be happy.

Knowing how the brain works gives us tremendous power to influence how we think, feel, and react to situations…how we perceive what goes on around us. A number of the suggestions I pose here work on this powerful principle. Try some. Try them all. Every one might not be a match for you, but I have no doubt that by implementing some of these strategies, you can increase your happiness, and the happiness of those around you.

The strategies:

Train your brain to find events that make you happy.
Get yourself a journal, or set up a document on a tablet. Dedicate a few minutes a day, to increase your happiness. Every night, write down three things that made you happy that day. Write three sentences about each one. This can be something you did, an accomplishment, something that happened to you by chance…it doesn’t matter. Don’t cut corners here…our brains need to focus and think about what it was that made us happy, and why. Doing this regularly will subconsciously train our brains to look closer for events and encounters in our day that make us happy.

Be grateful.
Sometimes we have crappy days…days when we’d be hard-pressed to think of anything that made us happy. At the end of each day, give some thought to what you can be grateful about. A friend, a relationship, something that happened in your past. It doesn’t matter what it is or was. If you can’t think of anything that made you happy on a given day, think of something you feel grateful about and make a note of it in your journal.

Remember and celebrate your successes.
Success is very personal thing. We all define it differently, but if you feel good about something you’ve achieved it is a success. Maybe you received a complement, achieved something you were working towards, got a good mark on a quiz. If you feel good about an accomplishment, write it down in your journal. It is important to celebrate and remember our successes. It doesn’t need to be a big celebration, but there should be a mental recognition or a personal pat on the back.

Help people with acts of kindness.
This is absolutely my favourite. Help as many people as you can, making sure you help at least one person each and every day. And, of those people, try and make one of them someone you don’t know. It can be anything you think will make a difference for someone. Hold a door open, wish someone a nice day, or lend a hand. You can even re-post a blog article, buy an author’s book…anything counts. Studies have shown that when we are kind to someone else, not only do they feel good, but we also feel good. As an added benefit, acts of kindness increase the likelihood that both parties will go on and do further acts of kindness for someone else. It creates a spreading positive feedback loop. Record any acts of kindness in your journal at the end of the day.

Smile
Like I mentioned above, our brains group certain reactions, feelings, and behaviours together. We generally smile when we are happy, or laughing. Our brains have these linked together in a pattern and we can use this to our advantage. Even if we don’t feel happy, if we smile, it tricks our brain into thinking we are happy. If our brain thinks we’re happy, we start to see things that make us happier. Also, when we smile, it makes people around us smile and feel happier.

Tune in next week for part 2 of the Ultimate Quick Guide to Increased Happiness. Until then, try these consistently and let me know how they work for you.

You can now link to Part 2 here.

Wishing you well,

Silas Payton
You can find more articles on writing, happiness, and other areas of thought stimulation on the Silas Payton Blog.
If you’re interested in spreading the love by purchasing my thrillers, they are available on Amazon.

Image by Kevin Stanchfield on Flickr

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One of my All Time Favourite Books on Happiness.

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I’ve been pre-occupied lately, posting and tweeting about a recent book promo for Going Under, and the launch of the Jack Daniels & Associates Kindle World, which includes my second book White Lady. Launching two books in just over a month has been quite an experience…an overwhelmingly pleasant and enjoyable experience. I’m trying desperately to get my third out within three months of the first…if it wasn’t for the editing.

In returning to happiness posting, I wanted to share with you, one of my all time favourite books on the topic. It’s called Stumbling on Happiness, by prominent Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert.

It is a look at the research of what makes us happy as well as what doesn’t make us happy. It looks at the flaws of what makes us worry and puts in perspective that most of what we worry about is based on our ideas of what our future will be…which is in turn, based on our very flawed memory of the past. It is a funny read, highlighting the research in a way that you can play along and ask yourself what you would pick or do in the situation. The results are surprising.

Publishers Weekly says: Not offering a self-help book, but instead mounting a scientific explanation of the limitations of the human imagination and how it steers us wrong in our search for happiness, Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, draws on psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy and behavioral economics to argue that, just as we err in remembering the past, so we err in imagining the future.

I’ve included an interview with Daniel Gilbert so you can get a feel for his humour and area of interest, but regardless of what you think of the interview, I encourage you to try the book. (With Amazon, you can return it if you don’t like it.) It will change the way you look at your worries and help put in perspective, what happiness is.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Silas Payton

Please Note: I am an Amazon Affiliate which I set up to get an extra 10% when people purchase my books through linking on the right of the blog (which I encourage you to do if you like thrillers). Unfortunately, it also involves any books purchased via linking from my blog. I do not want to profit AT ALL from books I have enjoyed and hope will increase happiness for someone else, along the way. Please use my link above to read about it, but cut and paste the title into Google to bypass this. Just get the book!

Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor of psychology and best-selling author of “Stumbling on Happiness,” on Wednesday presented an impressive array of scientific research from economics, psychology, and neuroscience to assess his mother’s recipe for happiness.

“If your mom was like my mom, she gave you more advice than you probably wanted on how to be happy,” Gilbert said, before telling the capacity audience at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology that “mom was partially right” in suggesting three keys for happiness: marriage, money, and children.

With a photograph of his late mother on the screen behind him, Gilbert asked the audience members how many believed getting married led to happiness. He laughed when a woman in the fourth row pushed up the left arm of the man next to her. Smiling at the man with the forcibly raised arm, Gilbert nodded, “You’re right!” And so was mom, he said.

“Married people are happier than unmarried people. They are healthier, live longer, have more sex,” and do better on nearly every indicator of happiness, Gilbert noted during his lecture titled “Happiness: What Your Mother Didn’t Tell You.”

Gilbert pointed out that the quality of a marriage is, unsurprisingly, closely connected to one’s level of happiness. On average, marriage “makes you happier for eight to 15 years,” making it a worthwhile “investment,” but happiness levels may diminish over time, Gilbert said. Of course, “staying in a bad marriage” makes people unhappy, he said, but people in bad marriages “get much happier after divorce.”

Gilbert then turned to money, describing how people typically deny a connection between money and happiness. Gilbert explained that he’d once conducted informal research at the Boston Common, asking people if money could buy happiness. Nearly all of them responded in “Hallmark card clichés” about how the important things in life are free. Gilbert offered the audience a Cheshire-cat smile before delivering his findings: “Of course money buys happiness,” he said. “A little money can buy you a lot of happiness, though a lot of money buys you only a little more happiness.”

The interplay of money and happiness is subject to diminishing marginal returns, noted Gilbert, who showed a graph revealing a correlation between the two increases at lower income levels and lower returns at higher levels. What’s the sweet spot where each dollar buys the most happiness? Gilbert cited a per capita income between $50,000 to $75,000.

He then suggested that people with higher incomes aren’t spending their money on the right things. Time spent resting, for example, the dream of so many working people, simply doesn’t deliver happiness. “People are happiest when the mind is engaged,” Gilbert said, whether talking, creating, or having sex (another point for marriage). “People are [also] happier when they give money away rather than spending it on themselves.”

Gilbert then discussed children, mom’s last ingredient for happiness. While people might refer to them as “bundles of joy,” said Gilbert (who has a son and grandchildren), “they’re not a source of happiness.” He displayed a bar graph showing that childless adults are much happier than parents. “Once people have kids, there’s a downturn in happiness,” he said, which isn’t reversed until the kids move out. “The only symptom of empty nest syndrome,” Gilbert said, chuckling, “is nonstop smiling.”

So why do people speak so joyously about their children? Gilbert likened having kids to watching a Red Sox-Yankees game where no run is scored until Sox slugger David Ortiz hits a game-winning homer in the ninth. “One will always remember that magical, momentary ending,” but forget the uneventful innings before. “That’s just like spending a day with a 5-year old,” he said, when an “I wub you” from the child may validate all the difficult hours.

“Of course we love our kids,” said Gilbert. “I never said don’t have kids,” but the scientific data is tough to refute. Mom’s advice on kids may thus leave something to be desired.

Gilbert concluded his good-natured deconstruction of mom’s happiness formula with a final word: “Maybe your mother doesn’t know everything about happiness, but call her anyway.” While our mothers never considered backing up their theories of happiness with scientific data, Gilbert put his mom’s recipe under a powerful microscope, offering insights, surprises, and plenty of thought-provoking science.

This interview with Daniel Gilbert was originally posted on The Harvard Gazette

All Bloggers and Writers Should be on Flipboard: Here’s Why, and an Idea on Collaborating

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If you’re not Flipping your writing, you should be.

How are you driving people to your blog?

If you have a blog, chances are you want people to read your words. If you didn’t, you’d be keeping them on your computer and not loading them up for the world to see. Once you have a blog and some content, the trick is to get people to your site…to get people to actually tune in and see what you have to say.

Most bloggers I know turn to Twitter and Facebook which are fun and a great way to build a following and meet connections. But, one of the best ways I have found to increase hits on my blog, is with Flipboard. It involves a very low time commitment and draws viewers from around the world. Once you have it set up, you can load post in seconds.

A recent article in Wired, describes Flipboard, the personal magazine now available on desktop and mobile browsers (PC, Mac and Android), as a beautiful, responsive, and algorithmically impressive website where you can read about your favorite topics, catch up on news, and browse photos and GIFs.

You list your own interests and Flipboard creates a magazine with many articles on the topics you have chosen. You can also create your own personal “magazines” based on your interests, giving them their own titles. You can then Flip content you like from the main magazine or the web, into your personal magazines, as well as “love” them or comment on them. You can also send it out via Tweet, Facebook, email, chat, etc.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The articles that feed into everyone’s main magazine are chosen partly by the Flipboard editorial team, and partly by the other users, meaning they come from everyone else’s personal magazines. I also have no doubt that the cream rises. The more an article gets flipped, “loved” and commented on, the more it will appear.

To add to the visibility, as the user is turning through pages in the magazine they are in, Flipboard will suggest other magazines with similar content. This could be one of yours. As users find magazines they like, they can “follow” them as well, which clips them to their main page.

Every time someone clicks onto an article, they are directed to the original source, ie. your website. So, if you have side content like a subscription button, a giveaway, or a list of your book titles, the reader will also see those!

As an example of the power of this app, I wrote an article and in a few seconds Flipped it onto one of my magazines on Flipboard, and went to bed. I woke to see a message from WordPress that there has been unusually high activity on my blog. By the end of the day I had reached 953 hits, whereas my usual before that was 20-50. Twelve days later now, that page has been hit close to 2000 times. I know that this is mainly from Flipboard. Granted this sort of traffic hasn’t happened for my other articles since, but Flipboard continues to drive significant traffic my way.

Let’s Work Together.

What I’m proposing is that you find friends with similar interests and work together to Flip each other’s writing/posts. You can look them up by user name. It’s a great app to use, is enjoyable to read on, and has lots of interesting articles. Why not help your fellow writers to get noticed as well. A couple Flips, “loves” and comments could be enough to tip the scales and drive them onto the main magazines.

I would love to be added to your list of friends!

I have interests in writing, happiness, and mindfulness, science, and music, to name a few. If anyone has similar interests, I welcome you to contact me with your areas of interest. Invite your friends to create their own magazines and follow along. Together we can have fun, find new articles and information, and be helping our our fellow authors and bloggers at the same time.

Leave a comment if you have any questions or are interested in following each other.

Let’s flip stuff together on Flipboard.

Silas Payton

Here are 2 links you might find helpful:
A Quick Tutorial on Flipboard, and
Steps to Flip Your Posts into Flipboard.

Image copied from Flipboard but I’m promoting their app so hopefully they won’t care.