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Meet Quentin and Eissa from DimWorld

Meet Quentin and Eissa from DimWorld

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, then you probably know that I am a big fan of understanding how my brain works. As a fiction writer, this is a really big deal. The better I understand how people think, the better my characters will be. I think this is what makes Stephen King so engaging. He understands people exceptionally well, and he’s good at getting that down on paper.

I’ve just completed the second major revision of Genesis Dimension, which is the first book in my sci-fi series, DimWorld. I had to put a new beginning on the story, but I also spent a lot of time trying to make Quentin and Eissa more complete and dynamic people.

Quentin is a lot like me, in many ways. He’s the main character in the series. While he’s a smart, capable guy, and he’s really good at what he does (IT Tech at a big energy company), he has a serious lack of self-confidence. And what do smart, insecure people do? They seek validation from people whom they deem worthy of recognizing their competence, such as their supervisor. When they don’t get it, at least in the form they are expecting, they take it as a personal attack, and the war is on.

While Quentin manages to develop confidence in himself over the course of the story, and therefore reduces his need for validation from outside sources, we realize that if the big disaster hadn’t backed him into a corner and forced him to grow, he probably would have spent his life trapped in that loop. This is fairly representative of my life. I spent years trying to get validation from other people. It started as a kid, trying to win my dad’s approval, and continued into my adult life. Every boss I ever had ended up as a victim of my scorn, because they didn’t spend enough time telling me that I was doing a great job. Even though I was doing a great job, I was a terrible employee because of my insecurities.

Eissa has her own set of problems. As a combat veteran, she struggles with PTSD. This usually manifests itself as anxiety attacks, but it also undermines her confidence because she never knows when something is going to trigger an episode, and that makes her reluctant to participate in the world. She’s also a lesbian and a Native American, and she has a very different understanding of the world than Quentin does. While they’ve been lifelong best friends, she still has to point out to him occasions of privilege and oppression. While he’s on her side and supports her in every way, he still doesn’t always understand the difference between his experience and her experience. Again, Quentin and I are a lot alike, and have had to learn similar hard lessons.

One of the wonderful things about living in the information age is the accessibility of resources and tools. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I have learned so much from them that it’s hard for me to believe that I made it so far in life not knowing all this stuff. Podcasts like Finding Mastery, StoryBrand, and The Liberator have taught me about being a better team member, a better leader, a better friend, and how to understand myself and others. I’ve used this knowledge to make the veterinary clinic that my wife and I own the best place in the world to work (and to get equine medical care), but I’ve also tried to apply it to the characters in my books.

All books have a message or two they are trying to deliver to the world, and mine are no different in that respect. The personal growth aspect isn’t the main point of the story, but I do hope that people will be able to connect with Quentin and Eissa and learn a few useful things from their journey. I know I’ve learned a lot!

Genesis Dimension

J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

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Emotional Stability – The Quest For Balance

Emotional Stability – The Quest For Balance

Emotional Stability – The Quest for Balance

The older I get, the more important emotional stability becomes to me. I’m not interested in having drama in my life, and I’m certainly not interested in other people’s drama. I like my ocean to be as flat as possible, with waves and troughs being gentle. No more raging storms for me, please!

I’ve spent a lot of time studying myself in an effort to change the way I feel about myself and the world around me. I got tired of being on the emotional roller coaster, and not having any control over my mood. Trying to manage my emotions with alcohol worked to some degree for a while, but it wasn’t a practical solution. I needed more.

emotional stability J. Boyd Long

What Contributes to my Emotional Stability?

It took me a long time to figure all this out, and the simplicity of it made me feel silly for suffering so long out of ignorance. I’m an INFJ (or an INTJ, it depends on the day) personality type, so I’m wired to be very emotional. While I can’t change that, I can affect a lot of factors which directly impact my emotional stability.

Not all of these things will apply to everyone, and there are probably things that apply to some of you that aren’t on this list. This is just intended to be a framework which you can customize to suit your life.

Exercise

One of the biggest factors that impact my general mood on a daily basis is exercise. I exercised daily back when I was in the Army, but I stopped the day I got out. I didn’t start exercising on a daily basis again for almost 15 years. When I started swimming laps every morning, I found that I felt better, and I was less susceptible to negative stimuli at work. When I would find myself in a funk that I couldn’t shake, one of the glaring changes in my routine would be that I hadn’t worked out in a few days. As soon as I started working out again, my funk went away. I’ve tested this repeatedly, and I always get the same result. Endorphins are my friend!

Rest

I am blessed to be a morning person. My eyes pop open somewhere between 4 am and 5 am every day, 7 days a week. As a result of this, I can’t stay awake past 9 pm. Therefore, I always get plenty of sleep, and I don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock, which is awesome.

The exception to this comes by way of night-time horse emergencies. My wife is an equine veterinarian, and sometimes we have to go see a sick or injured horse at night. Just to be clear, this is a very exciting lifestyle for me, and I love it! The impact of this, however, is that when I only get 4 or 5 hours of sleep, my demeanor suffers the next day.

Most of you are not morning people. That means you have to make a concerted effort to get enough sleep, because you aren’t ready to go to bed until midnight. Being aware of this and creating routines to help you do what’s best for you will be helpful. You can program your television to turn off at a certain time (or get rid of the TV altogether, you’d be way better off!). You can also set an alarm on your phone to remind you to turn off the light and call it a day, you just have to muster up the self-discipline to do it.

Food

The body needs fuel to do its thing. Not everyone has the same requirements, and I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m not going to give you advice on what to eat. I’m just going to explain what I know about me.

I learned in my 30’s that when I eat every 2-3 hours (snacks, not a full meal) that I operate a lot better than simply eating 3 meals a day. That means that for me to take care of my nutritional needs, I need to take a few protein bars or something with me to get me from one meal to the next. When I get too hungry, my emotional stability goes out the window and I turn into a diva.

Routine

I am a creature of habit. I like to get in the same bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. I like to drink a cup of coffee at the same time every day, out of the same cup. There is a wide variety of tasks that I do for my day job, but they fall within known parameters, and I know what to expect most of the time. At night, I like to play Words with Friends with my wife right before I fall asleep. You know, routine stuff.

When I am outside of my routine, I’ve learned that I’m a little bit edgier. When my wife and I go out of town for a horse show or a convention, my routine goes out the window. My schedule is different, the bed is different, the coffee is WAY different, and so on. I know this, so I can brace myself and remind myself that I need to be calm, that I’m okay, and I shouldn’t be irritable. I know what the problem is, and I can adjust to it.

Coffee

I’m going to give a special section just to coffee, because it was a major problem for me for a long time, and I didn’t know what was wrong.

Like most people, I’ve been drinking coffee at the same time every morning for my entire adult life. What I didn’t know was that at some point I developed a wicked caffeine addiction. In my 20’s and early 30’s I would occasionally sleep in on Saturday. I would still be up by 7, but it was 2 or 3 hours past my normal time. Invariably, I would end up with a headache, sometimes a whopper of a headache that would screw me up for most of the day. Sometimes I would end up puking, it was so bad. Miserable.

I didn’t know it then, but I know it now: if I am late with the coffee, my body will freak out and go into caffeine withdrawals. The solution? Either get up at the same time every day, or wean myself off caffeine. I chose to cut back to 1 cup a day, and I don’t sleep in. Ever. When I travel, I make sure I have caffeine pills with me in case the hotel doesn’t have coffee. It’s a simple fix, and I don’t lose entire days over it anymore. I wish I had known this when I was 20!

The Framework for Emotional Stability

If you are looking to achieve some emotional stability in your life, then you need to identify the factors that impact you. Figure out what the common denominators are when you feel great, and when you feel terrible. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Once you know what your preferred settings are in life, it’s fairly simple to build and maintain a structure that keeps you on an even keel.

The other side of this is diagnosing a funk. If you know what your factors are, and you realize that you are irritable/depressed/hostile, you can run a quick self-check and see what’s off. Then you can fix it, or at least maintain self-awareness and hold yourself in check until you can address the deficiency.

This is all about setting yourself up for success and a happy life. Don’t be a passenger in life, be the driver!

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J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

Understanding Self: The Foundation of Success

Understanding Self: The Foundation of Success

Understanding Self: The Foundation of Success

If you understand others you are smart.
If you understand yourself you are illuminated.
If you overcome others you are powerful.
If you overcome yourself you have strength.
If you know how to be satisfied you are rich.
If you can act with vigor, you have a will.
If you don’t lose your objectives you can be long-lasting.
If you die without loss, you are eternal.

  • Lao Tzu

One of the keys to being successful in any aspect of life is understanding other people. How do we do that? We have to start by understanding ourselves. The better you understand yourself, the better you will be at everything you do, whether it’s working, being in a relationship, being a friend, being creative, running a business, making decisions, and the list goes on. Sound important? It should. Understanding self is critical to everything else! So, let’s get started. Open up a blank document, or grab a pen and paper, and let’s build a reflection of you.

Personality Traits

One of the best tools in our time is the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. If you haven’t already done it, go to 16personalities.com and take the free assessment. Do yourself a favor and take it honestly. Don’t answer the questions the way you want other people to think you are, answer them truthfully. This isn’t a judgement of character, it’s a self-assessment tool.

When you know these things about yourself based on your personality, you can then determine if your job is right for you. You can assess opportunities and determine if they are a good fit for you. You can pinpoint the sources of stress in your life and understand why things are affecting you the way they are, and make changes accordingly. Finally, you can better understand your relationships with other people by understanding the differences in your personality traits. This will make you a better communicator, a better spouse, a better friend.

Exercise: Write out your personality type based on the assessment. What sticks out to you? What surprised you? What did you already know that got confirmed?

Peaks and Troughs

I went over this at length in my recent blog on Effective Time Management. You’ll want to read that too, if you haven’t already, but here’s the crux of it:

Everyone has highs and lows throughout the day. Some of us are morning people. My eyes pop open sometime between 4 am and 5 am every day. After a cup of coffee, I am at my best mental condition, primed up and ready to tackle the heavy thinking. This will wear off by lunch time, and I will only be operating and 40% – 60% capacity at best for the rest of the day. I have a crash around noon, then I get a second wind in the mid-afternoon, with another crash around 4 pm.

This is important for me to know, because it allows me to schedule my activities accordingly. If I’m going to write a blog, I want to be at 100%, so I know not to try to do that in the afternoon or evening. If I have errands to run, I don’t waste my prime brain time by doing them in the morning. Instead, I save them for the afternoon so I can make the best use of my time.

If you are the opposite of me, you’ll find my schedule to be ridiculous. After all, I’m ready to go to bed at 8 pm, and you might just be getting into your prime time. I might not do my best thinking at 10 pm, but it’s important for me to understand that others can be wired different than I am, and I shouldn’t base my expectations of them on the way I do things. Understanding this relieves me of the stress of unrealistic expectations of others.

Exercise: Under your personality type, write out the 24 hours of the day (1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, etc). If you’re on your computer, color code the hours based on your operating capacity at that time. Black is for sleeping. Green is for Best, Blue is for Second Wind, Red is for Crash times. If you’re doing this in paper, draw lines to block the day into sections, and label each one accordingly.

Know Your Triggers

There is an acronym in the recovery community called HALT. That stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. The idea is that if you realize that you are irritable or stressed, you do a quick HALT inventory. The source of the problem is often one of these 4 things.

Hungry: Being hungry is a huge thing for me. You know those Snickers commercials with guys turning into divas when they get hungry? That’s totally me. I didn’t know that for a long time, so I just ran around all morning in a bad mood, jonesing for lunchtime. Now I know that I should eat a protein bar at 10 am, and another one at 3 pm. If I don’t I’ll get hangry (hungry/angry). I have explained this to those around me, and they know to ask me if I need to eat if I’m being grumpy. Guess what? My life is way better.

Angry: Being angry about something can easily spiral into a nose dive for some people. If the source of your stress is being angry, identify what exactly you are angry about. If you can isolate it, then it’s easier to solve it, or at least keep it from spilling over to the rest of your day and those around you.

Lonely: For extroverts, too much isolation is a bad thing. If you are an extrovert, and you get your energy from being around people, then having a job where you are by yourself all the time can be stressful. On the opposite side of that, if you are an introvert, then being around people too much can be stressful. Whichever side you’re on, you can quickly recognize if you need to either get a few minutes of alone time, or go find someone else for a quick people break.

Tired: Being tired is a very common source of irritability. If you determine that this is the problem, take a nap. If a nap isn’t an option, then often a 5 minute brisk walk around can help. If you have the opportunity to just close your eyes for ten minutes (set an alarm!), it can help you out tremendously.

Exercise: What are your triggers? What can you do to solve them as quickly as possible? What do you need to have with you to manage your triggers? Do you have a trigger that’s not on this list? How can you manage it?

Putting The Big Picture Together

Knowing your personality type will help you understand your tendencies, and the way you are wired. This is useful beyond measure. Add in your daily peaks and troughs, your triggers, and your solutions, and you have a blueprint for making great decisions and being prepared to handle life. Once you have been doing this for a while, and read up on other personality traits, you will start to understand the people around you better, and that will lead to a better relationship with them.

Here’s an example of some of the things I learned about myself from this process:

I am an INFJ-T.

I am an introvert. I can function around other people, but I need alone time to recharge, and this is very important. I do best when I am alone more than I am around groups of people. (I know it sounds crazy, but I didn’t know this most of my life. I just knew that I was way more comfortable in social situations if I was drinking.)

I am very idealistic, I emotionally invest in everything I do, I’m sensitive to stress and criticism, I’m organized and decisive, and I have very high standards and expectations of myself and others. (I knew most of this, but seeing it in writing has really made me realize that my job needs to matter. If what I’m doing all day is meaningless, then I’m never going to be happy doing it for long, no matter how well it pays. I also need the people I work with to have a high investment in what they are doing. If I’m the only one putting in 100% effort, I’ll go crazy.)

I don’t respond well to Authoritarian or Command-and-Control leaders. (This is a huge big deal for me to know about myself. I spent 10 years of my life working either in the Army or for the Army as a civilian, and both were 100% C-a-C environments, and I was miserable. Knowing this will help me make better decisions about where I work.

Weaknesses that I need to be aware of and work on:

Very sensitive, get my feelings hurt easily, take everything personally

Prone to burn-out: need to pace myself

I tend to be dismissive of other people’s ideas. – work on listening, and realize that just because someone has a better idea than me doesn’t mean that I failed.

Peaks and Troughs

I have my Time Optimizer Template below, which tells me what time I should do each task. Green is my best time, blue is okay time, red is my worst time.

5 am          1 pm

6 am          2 pm

7 am          3 pm

8 am          4 pm

9 am          5 pm

10 am         6 pm

11 am         7 pm

12 pm         8 pm

9 pm – 4 am – sleeping

HALT Inventory

I need to always have protein bars or crackers with me, everywhere I go. I also need a quiet, isolated spot to get away from people when I need a break (5 minutes alone can do a lot for me). I should set an alarm and take a ten-minute power nap after lunch. If I don’t set the alarm, I’ll sleep for 2 hours, and I’ll be a wreck the rest of the day.

Conclusion

Hopefully your sheet looks something like this, although a bit longer (mine’s short since it’s just an example). The more extensive it is, the better. Refer back to it a lot until you know it by heart. It’s a living document, and it should change as you change, so refine it and update it when necessary.

Use these insights in every aspect of your life. You will find that the better you understand yourself, the more you will be able to build a lifestyle that brings you satisfaction and joy. Your relationship with yourself will improve, and your relationships with everyone else in your life will improve as a result of that. Self-discovery is at the center of everything.

Foundation of success

 

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J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Set Yourself Up For Success

Set Yourself Up For Success

Set yourself up for success: it sounds obvious, right? No one is going to intentionally set themselves up for failure, right? Wrong. We do it all the time. Self-doubt, or lack of confidence, makes us do things that keep us from succeeding. That’s right, we take specific action to avoid succeeding at something we want. We believe that we can’t do any better than we’re doing. We don’t think we have what it takes. No one in our family has done it. Our friends don’t support us. Whatever. We have an endless list of reasons.

Inaction is an Action

One of the most common forms of self-sabotage is doing nothing. Opportunity comes knocking, we deliberate, we hem-haw around, we fantasize, and opportunity leaves. Then we either get depressed about how good things might have been, or we go the sour grapes route and tell ourselves it probably wouldn’t have been very good anyway.

It’s also very common for our friends and family to keep us down. They tell us that we can’t do it, and that we shouldn’t try. They remind us of all the times we’ve already tried and failed. They mean well, as they’re just trying to protect us from failure and pain, but they are doing us more harm than good. Sometimes doing more in life means changing out some of the people in our life. Growing pains.

Develop An Attitude of Gratitude

The first thing you need to do to set yourself up for success is check your attitude. Do you find that you are critical, dubious, and skeptical of everything that’s outside your bubble? If so, you need to start retraining your brain to think positively instead of negatively. That sounds hard, and that’s because it is hard. I know, because I did it. I was one of those people that could find a fault with anything, and a reason to pass up on every opportunity. Guess what? I got tired of living and thinking that way, so I changed. You can, too.

Know Thyself

If you haven’t taken a Myers-Briggs personality assessment, you need to do that today. It takes about 15 minutes, and it will help you for the rest of your life. In a nutshell, there are 16 personality types. Once you know which one you are, then you read up on the characteristics of your personality type (another 10 minutes). That 25-minute investment will help you gain self-awareness, which will guide you to make better decisions based on your tendencies.

For example, I am an INFJ. I know that I am extremely idealistic, which is the core of my personality type. Therefore, I’m never going to be successful trying to scam people. I’m not even going to be a good salesperson, because if I don’t believe in something 100%, I’m not going to be able to push it. I also know that I put 150% effort into everything I do, and therefore I need for my job to matter. Knowing my personality type keeps me out of the wrong career fields.

You can take the free assessment online at www.16personalities.com

set yourself up for successWalk Through The Fear

One of the things I was amazed to learn is that everyone experiences fear, even successful people. The thing is, successful people don’t get mired down in the fear. They acknowledge it and keep on going. My mentor was fond of using a reference from one of the darkest points in our country’s history to nail home the point. He said, you gotta keep walking. When you hear the dogs barking, you keep walking. When you hear the men shouting, you keep walking. When you see the torches burning, you keep walking. You gotta keep walking to be free.

It’s about sticking with it, and not giving up. Persistence, tenacity, determination. Refusing to quit when it gets hard, or scary. It’s always going to be hard and scary, and that’s okay. Fear should keep us from touching the hot stove, but it shouldn’t keep us from going in the kitchen. Recognize it as a tool instead of a master.

Believe In Yourself

If you really want to set yourself up for success, you have to believe that you can do whatever it is that you want to do. Most people won’t ever even come close to achieving what they’re capable of. Therefore, you shouldn’t do what most people do. Find a mentor, someone who has what you want, and do what they do. Learn from them. See that they are just a person like you, and that you can do anything they have done, and maybe more.

Michael Phelps isn’t a super-human, he’s a guy that lives up to his potential and swims through the fear. He acts, he takes opportunities. He believes in himself, and he accepts that failure is part of it, and that it’s okay to fail. He tries anyway. How about Martin Luther King Jr.? Do you think he ever experienced fear and self-doubt? You bet he did. And he still got up every day and tried. Elon Musk. Winston Churchill. Taylor Swift. All people, all have dealt with fear and self-doubt, all walked through the fear and succeeded. None of them were born with a superpower. You can do what they have done.

Set Yourself Up For Success

You don’t have to become a world-renowned celebrity to have success in life, and you shouldn’t judge yourself by impossible standards. Determine what you want to do with your life, and figure out what you need to do to accomplish that. Then set a series of goals to get you from here to there. You need to know what the definition of success is for you, based on your goals. Believe in yourself. Follow someone else who has walked the same path. Dream big. Live big. Set yourself up for success. You can do it!

J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

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Do You Have the Right Job for You?

Do You Have the Right Job for You?

The right job for me

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably know that we have a bottle-baby kitten right now. This isn’t the first time one of these has shown up at our door. As a veterinarian (and crazy cat lady), my wife attracts these sorts of adventures. As a work-from-home hermit, I end up spending a lot of time playing, feeding, and cleaning up pee, as well as typing with a feisty helper climbing on my arm, chewing on my finger, or sleeping in my lap. There’s usually the sound of the wind chimes on the front porch to create ambiance, as well as the sounds of the horses downstairs in their stalls.

Not the right job for me

I used to work in an office where the phones rang all the time, people were in and out demanding this, selling that, complaining about so-and-so, and the drama of office politics was always being played out in one ridiculous way or another. Before that, I was a mechanic working for the Army. I spent my days working on vehicles in a giant concrete parking lot where it was miserably hot in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter. Office politics was a favorite game there too; played with fervor by the amateurs and professionals alike.

J. Boyd LongI’m glad I had jobs that I wasn’t cut out for, in places that I don’t perform well. Those experiences gave me a solid perspective against which I can measure my life today. Without them, I wouldn’t have any way to realize how perfect this job and lifestyle is for me. I wouldn’t know that the office politics between the cats (vicious, but only on occasion) isn’t so bad, that when I have to pause the bookkeeping to go pick up a baby donkey and bring it to the vet clinic, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, for peace and quiet. Those things are important to me.

Know what makes a job the right job, or the wrong job

If you’ve read my previous blogs, then you know I’m a big fan of understanding myself. Did you think this was about kittens? This is about knowing yourself, knowing what sort of environment is good for you, and what is bad. I’m an introvert, a Ravenclaw, an INFJ, an anti-conflict kind of guy. I’m also smart and logical and creative, and I like to do things the way that I deem best, and I don’t handle command-and-control people being in charge of me very well, especially when they’re idiots. I certainly don’t work well under micro-managers, or people that demand that you are busy every moment of the day for the sake of appearances, or people that need to dominate you to get their self-value. Before I knew these things about myself, where did I work? In all the worst places for me to be, because I was choosing them based on money alone.

Know why you do what you do

Knowing these things about yourself, and then finding an appropriate place to work that fills your needs and minimizes your stressors, are a major cog in the wheel of happiness and quality of life. It’s scary to quit a job that pays you well, especially if the place you’ll be happiest doesn’t pay as well. That’s when it’s important to know what you can afford, how you can adjust your lifestyle expenses, and what’s most important to you. Everything has a price. Once you know what you value, you can make informed choices and take action to improve your life. Or, you can do the same thing over and over, hoping for a different result. People do it every day.

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J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

What is your Dominating Emotion?

What is your Dominating Emotion?

What is your Dominating Emotion?

Where do you get your inspiration?

This is probably the most commonly-asked question when people are interviewing authors. It has always irritated me when someone I’m interested in is being interviewed, because I see it as a complete waste of time. My thought is, Come on! You get to ask Stephen King 5 questions, and this is the best you could come up with? I want to know how complex and huge his map and diagram system is for his world-building, and how he kept everything straight between books before computers became commonplace (Most of his books take place in the same town/region, so the different stories have a shared history/future to a degree). I want to know what motivated him to finish The Stand, which took him 10 years to complete. You know, interesting things like that!

Back in October I went to the Florida Writers Association annual conference. On Thursday I spent the whole day listening to a workshop presentation by David Morrell. Who? Yeah, I asked the same thing when I saw it on the program. David Morrell wrote a book in the early 70’s called First Blood, which later got turned into the Rambo movies. He’s also written about 40 other books since then. He’s a really interesting guy, and I learned a lot from him.

One of the things he talked about is where you get your inspiration to write. This isn’t an answer that you would give an interviewer, but it’s a concept that I found really interesting. He said that your writing is generally based on your Dominating Emotion. For him, a lot of his books are playing out various dysfunctions of his childhood. As he has grown and matured, his dominating emotion has changed, and so has his writing.

My Dominating Emotion

I’ve spent a fair amount of time getting to know myself over the last ten years, so this wasn’t too hard for me to figure out in terms of what my writing is all about. At the very core of my gut I have a fiery ball of helpless rage that surrounds a core sense of injustice. There are atmospheric layers of feelings like inadequacy, lack of confidence, need for approval, and all that stuff, but it’s all built around that sense of injustice, both on a personal and a global level.

I was conscious of this when I started planning the DimWorld series. I wanted to take my characters through an enlightening and perspective-changing series of experiences similar to my own journey of understanding myself and the world around me. What I didn’t know is that most writers do this, whether it’s conscious or unconscious.

How it shows up

It’s all in the struggle that your characters are going through. For David Morrell, he struggled as a kid with society as a whole, and with his step dad, who was the tyrannical authority figure in his life. This is represented in First Blood by Rambo’s struggle with the Vietnam War, and with the police chief. Rambo got screwed over by the world, and instead of getting support from what’s supposed to be a trusted leader, he got screwed by him, too. Morrell actually had Rambo die in the book, killed by the police chief.

In the DimWorld series, my characters discover that there are other dimensions. A company called DimCorp has developed the technology to travel between the dimensions, and they use this to go to under-developed places, enslave to people there, and force them to mine resources which are then sold to other, wealthier dimensions.

The goal of my characters is to stop this rape of the world(s) and mistreatment of people, but it’s an impossible task. It’s 4 people versus a megalith company, a giant with unlimited power and resources. The story is exciting (at least to me!) because they realize this and decide to fight anyway, and find ways to make a real difference.

This is a near-exact representation of my perception of life. Some of it stems from my childhood, some of it comes from being an INFJ personality type (we have a powerful sense of idealism and morality), and some of it comes from my conclusions about the human race.

So, what do I do with this?

I got to watch my friend and writing partner Angelique Bochnak as she had a moment of self-discovery during this workshop. We spent a few minutes during a break dissecting her book The Blood Trials and concluding that she is working out some anger issues, just like the rest of us.

I brought home the concept of a dominating emotion and talked to my wife about it. She’s a veterinarian, and her dominating emotion is much different than mine. Hers is centered around compassion, but it wasn’t really something that she had thought much about.

I think it’s a great exercise for everyone in the pursuit of self-understanding (and isn’t that a big part of being alive?). So, I challenge you to determine what your dominating emotion is. What drives you to do the things you do? What is your quest? The holidays are coming, so maybe this will give you something to talk about to all those people you love/hate/don’t know very well. The other challenge is to think about the book you’re reading right now. What can you surmise about the dominating emotions that drive the story? And what in the world happened to Stephen King that has taken him so much writing to work out?!

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Author Justin Boyd Long J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the sidebar, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

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