Write Like You Run

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Mason-research2

These index cards represent the research for 23 books and many magazine articles. Writing is for endurance athletes.

The request came late November. A children’s book packager reached out asking if I had to time outline, right, and research 6 nonfiction books. Oh, and by the by, could I get those done in 6 weeks?

It was grueling work. I rose around 5am every morning. I worked until my various day jobs required me to leave the house. I returned in the early evenings to eat a quick dinner, wash dishes, and then settle back at my desk to resume the project until midnight or 1am. I gathered research facts on index cards which I could easily shuffle into outlined chapters. I drafted crappy paragraphs. I revised them into mildly improved paragraphs.

I repeated the process day after day.

I am no soldier. I moaned and griped when glopping out of bed or trudging back to the desk with the same relative energy and personality of ear wax. I couldn’t do this! I was spent. I’d already had a long day. My brain was shot! I should just forget about it and go back to bed.

That negative, sinister, doom-and-gloom voice every person hears whispering from time to time…. It has successfully talked me out of many accomplishments, big and small, over my lifespan.

But I knew every hour I put off was an hour I could not afford inside this contractual deadline.

As the weeks passed and raw fatigue slobber-gnawed on my spirit, I delighted one evening when a different voice whispered out of the mental ether.

This one had a defiant, dauntless, take-charge edge. It was as warm and steady and confident as the light from an oil lamp. Best of all, I recognized it as the same voice that arose when I started learning how to run longer distances.

20181221_104832I am not a natural or gifted runner. Even so, I enjoy it immensely. I get hours of meditative time out on high desert and alpine trails. Time spent in the precious present moment. No past regrets to haunt me. No future events to boogey-man me. Just the sprawling, limitless now.

Joys aside, I struggled with form and pacing when I needed to attain half marathon distances. Miles short of my daily or weekly training goals, I would often putter out and walk the remainders. Then, one day, when my goal was only 1.5 miles away and my feet were aching and my leg muscles were screaming louder than Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solos and I was on the verge of tears thinking I’d have to yet again quit and fail to reach a set goal…the lamplight voice emerged.

You can do this, the voice said as a matter of fact. You can keep running to that tree. It’s only a few feet away. Try it.

Its tone was so declarative. It neither mandated nor manipulated me with guilt. I couldn’t help but follow its suggestion. Just before I reached the target tree, the lamplight voice indicated another tree further ahead. You can make it to that one. And so I did.

20181223_124551Tree by tree, I hit my goal that day. On future runs, that inner coach always emerged. It was there on race days, guiding me to the finish line.

And here it was again, when all I wanted to do was cry and punish myself for taking on a ridiculous project with a ridiculous deadline.

You can do this. You can do anything for about 30 minutes, it coached me.

Yes, I thought. Yes I could.

30 minutes passed and I had more words on the page. I was also warmed up and on a roll. Now the ideas were flowing fast.

You can do 30 more minutes, the lamplight voice indicated without pomp or demand.

I sure can, I thought.

And by midnight or so, I had a yet another chapter drafted. And at last, the entire project was done. On time.

I enjoyed a brief break for the winter holidays. And then, the book packager reached out again. They had 10 books authored by others in need of a dynamic voice with supercharged language–my specialty. Could I…?

Yes, I replied. Yes I could.

Oh, and could I take on writing and researching 4 other books due in 4 weeks?

Yes, I replied. I absolutely could.

I am not advocating for extreme assignments with catastrophic deadlines. I am, however, here to say that we all have little voices in our heads. Each one tells us a particular story about what is and is not possible. Luckily, we get to choose which voice we listen to.

Lakpa’s Lucky Day

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“It must have been my lucky day,” Lakpa Sherpa says, encapsulating the miracle his family performed to secure his exit from Nepal during its recent, bloody civil war.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, a Maoist communist insurgency faction fought to topple Nepal’s 240-year-old monarchy. Most members of the royal family were massacred and the ensuing decade-long conflict witnessed summary executions, purges, kidnappings, and other war crimes.

Eventually, the monarchy abdicated and the Maoists established a people’s republic; however, governance has stagnated amidst infighting and widespread corruption. Officials struggle to bring prosperity where a strict caste system determines every aspect of a person’s life. Each of Nepal’s 134 castes mandate particular clothes, customs, family names, plus occupation and marriage restrictions. Each caste also speaks its own language.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, although his last name is Sherpa, Lakpa was never a mountaineering guide hauling gear up and down the Himalayas for Western adventurers. “Sherpa” only recently acquired that connotation. Historically in Nepal, Sherpa designated a particular ethnic group living primarily in the remote, high mountain regions.

Children born into the Sherpa caste are commonly named for days of the week—more accurately, for the deity protecting that day. For example, Pasang translates to Friday. Lakpa’s day is Wednesday.

Lakpa’s family suffered persecution because they…[keep reading]

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This excerpt is from a recent article I wrote for the Durango Adult Education Center, a 501c3 devoted to filling educational gaps to help people achieve social and economic mobility. It represents a body of work that I am very proud of. One of the most rewarding aspects I find in being a freelance writer comes from my collaborations with fantastic organizations filling deep, societal needs.

The DAEC is exactly that kind of group! I am always so honored to lend my writing to their cause. Relating these stories helps donors and grantors personally witness the benefits stemming from their contributions. Plus, as an added bonus, I get to spend time with amazing individuals like Lakpa!

As a writer for hire, I also team up with local businesses who are passionate about sustainable, ethical entrepreneurship. I love going on assignment for a company, to investigate what makes their clients, products, and customers unique and incredible. Whether that content winds up in a brochure, a marketing presentation, or company newsletter, I feel gratified having helped consumers or investors understand the impact their dollars exert.

Stay tuned. I’ll be sure to share more excellent stories in the months ahead.

As always, thanks for your readership.

Lakpa Sherpa’s family temple where his grandfather serves as a Buddhist monk and guru.

Beyawned Earth: Pillownauts and the Downside of Space Travel by Yours Truly

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This Saturday, July 20, 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The feat cemented humankind’s toehold on the final frontier’s doorstep. In the coming year, engineers and scientists are poised to establish a permanently inhabited base on the lunar surface. From this launch pad, cosmic explorers and entrepreneurs hope to dive ever deeper into space.

Heather Archuletta blazed the path that today’s intrepid explorers will pursue. Over a decade ago, she was a frequent flyer to the Moon and Mars.

Er…sort of. Archuletta participated in NASA’s Pillownaut program. One among many analog missions, the Pillownaut simulation mimics the microgravity of space travel by restricting volunteers to a tilted bed for many months at time.

In so doing, NASA is able to study and mitigate space travel’s destruction on human tissues and bones.

Read all about Archuletta’s adventures in Muse magazine’s Bodies in Space issue featuring my interview with the famous Pillownaut in “Beyawned Earth: Pillownauts and the Downside of Space Travel.”

Choose Your Challenge by Yours Truly

I am so pleased to announce that Mountain Flyer‘s Issue No. 61 features my in-depth profile on the teens whose lives have cycled from average to amazing thanks to mountain biking.

“Choose Your Challenge: Durango Devo’s Winning Formula” trails a wildly popular local 501c3 organization in my community that gets young people ell beyond their normal comfort zones, riding bikes not just over mountains, but also over life’s larger challenges.

Durango Devo kindly let me follow their butt-kickin’ State Championship team on a thrashing ride through the local Star Wars trail system!

Get your copy of Mountain Flyer and shift your expectations of what’s possible.

The Limber Inventor by Yours Truly

How hard could it be to teach yourself to build and program a robotic arm that receives instructions from your thoughts?

If you’re a bored sixteen-year-old like Easton LaChappelle, the answer is: sorta not hard at all. Easton grew up rather isolated in Colorado’s Four Corners region–down the road from where I live now. All he had was YouTube, persistence, and unlimited curiosity. His robotic creation won the state science fair, which launched him into a NASA internship, which then resulted in a handshake with then President Barrack Obama.

Now almost old enough to rent a car, Easton heads up his own company which is enthusiastically revolutionizing the prosthetic limb industry, bringing affordable, wireless prostheses to the young people most in need!

You can read all about Easton’s story in the February 2019 issue of Muse magazine. I had the privilege of interviewing Easton and he kindly answered all my technical questions about programming and robotics. More importantly, he outlined how crucial it is to have a simultaneously very hungry and well-fed curiosity.