Reading The Books I Collect

One of the things I do is collect books. We’re talking lots of books. Thick books, skinny books, hard cover, soft cover, really, really old books and just-published best sellers. 

Books. Lots and lots of books.

I collect them.

Note, I haven’t read them all. In fact, there are hundreds of books on my shelves I haven’t read yet. For example, I have 56 Hardy Boys and 50-something Tom Swift Jr books I haven’t read but collected because I read them when I was younger – much younger.   Did I mention Churchill’s five volume,”A History of the English Speaking Peoples” or Durant’s 10 volume “The Story of Civilization”?  Hoagland’s “1000 Years of Irish Poetry.”  Or…

You get the picture I’m sure. And I haven’t even begun to mention the gardening book collection. My 100-year old, antique books were used for background research for my award-winning “Gardening Wisdom” book but then ignored. I won’t even suggest I should read the 4-volume RHS ‘Dictionary of Gardening’  that was a standard pro-level reference before the Internet. 

I Retired Earlier This Year

I happily built stone walls, gardened and did a few other projects this past summer but then fall rolled in and winter – quite naturally for Canada-  has followed.

And Covid.  Well, there’s little need be said about this except we’re continuing to self-isolate and wait for a vaccination. As seniors, we’re in a high-risk category so we’re being particularly careful. (Update: we’re both vaccinated now)

Instead of Driving South, I Went Looking For Projects

I thought I might do some stone carving and I’ve messed about with some tools and stone getting back into the hand-eye coordination necessary to use carving tools. But you can only chew up so many big stones and spend so much time out in an unheated garage. Plus after farming and running a nursery for years, early rising seem to be a feature of my current life.  To be frank, I now prefer to drink my coffee, make some notes on the computer rather than wander outside in the dark to minus-forever temperatures so I can cut up half-frozen rocks. 

But then, in reshelving a small book, I realized I’d quoted from it but hadn’t read the entire thing.

“Wait a minute,” a small voice in the back of my head whispered. “Wait a minute.”

The Short Version Of Starting Reading Seriously

I decided I’d take a day to read the book. And I did. And then my winter project appeared in one of those flashing thoughts you need to grab on its way through your head before it disappears into the ether.

I’m going to spend some serious time reading or rereading my library.

There’s no chance I’ll get through it before next spring but what a challenge and opportunity.  I have the books. I’ve ordered extra bookshelves to get the stacks off my office floor and I’m retired.

The current plan is to write a few words, carve a little stone and read as many pages as possible.

It’s an experiment but what a joy to realize the objects of my collecting obsession will now become part of my inner life as well as decorative objects on a wall.

Damn, who thought you could read the books you collect?

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Will You Be Remembered?

There is a certain conceit as a writer around hoping you’ll be remembered in the future.

But my reality is I’ll disappear after a single generation or perhaps two.

The transient nature of electronic media is unlike the black and white photographs of my parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents that survive multiple generations. And an ebook isn’t even close in staying power when compared to the century-old books on my shelves.

A faulty hard drive and disintegrating electrons consign my children’s, children’s memories to electronic chaff.

So while I have excellent black and white picture of my great grandparents, there will be none of me or mine to live in dusty boxes and framed hallways to back bedrooms.

My writing? Half a dozen print books live in national libraries. The other thirty-ish are electrons and when my heirs stop paying the storage,  these too will disappear. The electronic books will – I’m told – degrade even with good storage.

If nothing else, this thought reminds me of the fragility of life and memory and how important it is to live in this moment, on this day. 

To take the time – in the moment – to love.

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Writer’s block doesn’t exist

I’ve long been of the belief that writer’s block doesn’t exist in the form that many writers describe. They tell of facing pages and not being able to write — of struggling mightily over words and phrases and still turning out dreck — of seeing massive brick walls between them and their work. This concept of writer’s block is legendary.

I see it as being in the wrong place, the wrong project or the wrong expectation.

When I’m in love with a paragraph, and I can’t write around it, it’s the paragraph’s fault. That paragraph usually winds up being deleted.

Yes. Those wonderful paragraphs you fall in love with are usually a sign there’s a problem with the paragraph. I’ve learned to simply delete them and move forward.

When I’m looking at a blank page and am afraid to start because it won’t be any good or as good as I’d like, that’s fear.

I really don’t like the concept of writer’s block. Fear I can understand. Wrong project, wrong expectation or wrong place I can understand. And that means there’s a way to deal with the problem.

A Simple Technique To Break Writer’s Block

When you’re feeling stuck, simply start writing anything. Seriously. Write anything at all. Yes, even up to and including a shopping list in great detail.

It will slowly but surely come around to something you should be writing. Keep on writing.

Then simply cut/paste the extra to a “notes” file and ignore it until you need those words. And yes, it may take some time. But in my experience once you get a head of steam up, you’ll separate your mind from your fingers in the writing process and the words will flow.

Another Option

Is to simply start with a description of the setting. Describe it in boring detail and continue doing it. Sooner or later, it may take five minutes it may take an hour, you’ll veer away from this out into the broader world. And you’re writing again.

Yet Another Option

You’re stuck. Agree with your muse that you’re stuck and don’t know where to go. But then make a deal that you’re just going to write something that’s really terrible anyway. And do so.

Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself pounding along on the keyboard and not even considering whether the words are good, bad or indifferent. Writer’s block unblocked!

You Do Need To Recreate Yourself Regularly

Sometimes when the words start to dry out, I head out to do something totally different. Driving the sports car, gardening, walking, drinking coffee while watching the people stroll by, going to art galleries and museums are some of the things I do down South. At home, I wander down to the shore, take a long walk, go swimming or just spend a few minutes in the garden. Anything but writing.

I take my mind away from the project, accept other thoughts, sounds, and sights. I totally and completely immerse myself in a new activity.

It’s not about trying to blank out and recreate the project, it’s about abandoning it.

After that, I usually start small, with a morning note (usually garbage) but still, lots of notes about what I’m seeing, hearing. I get the juices flowing and the words tumbling out. Once the words begin to roll out, they’re on their own on the page and all I’m trying to do is get words out there. To be sure they may be un-edited words, non-paying words but there are a lot of them.

Sooner or later, as long as I keep on writing, my muse delivers the sentence, paragraph or concept I need.

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Do You Know How Good Your Supplements Are?

Are you as confused about effective supplements? And your health? And do you really know how good your supplements are?

The honest truth is that I don’t know enough myself. It’s a confusing subject and my primary research hasn’t reassured me at all.

You see, there’s so much marketing and self-serving bovine excretia flowing over our media, the average person hasn’t a prayer of understanding or keeping up with the data flow. I know when I decided to lose weight and improve my diet, I immediately felt lost and completely out of touch. There were so many “helping voices” out there, I surely didn’t know where to turn. Or, frankly, in which direction to turn.

This information will be a work in progress. Much like ourselves I note.

Consider it a snapshot of the current state of the art and as I learn more, I’ll update right here. Simply understand, as I said above, it’s a work in progress.

I wanted to get a snapshot of the industry before I began so started searching around on random topics.

It wasn’t pretty.

For starters, the industry is a well-protected one with significant Congressional support in the U.S.

A Time Magazine article said:

“1994 law, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which prevents the products from the scrutiny and approval given to other drugs. “I could pretty much create something this afternoon in my kitchen and sell it and not have to do any kind of testing ahead of time,” author Catherine Price” 
You can read the Time article here.

Price wrote a book outlining the industry and its “issues” here on Amazon

OK, but what about the size of this business?

Well now, we run into a few problems getting numbers. There are a multitude of small companies promoting products that fly totally under anybody’s radar. And the industry itself got into a “PR war” between two competing groups arguing whether the industry was a 12 Billion or 37 Billion.

But those numbers dwarf in comparison to the 278 Billion projected for 2024 by Globe NewsWire.

What we can agree on is this is big business.

But It’s All Safe. Right?

Well, here we go again. If you note the U.S.A. regulations above (the largest consumer market for supplements) there are no testing requirements as there are for other foods. As long as you make no outright medical claims on the label, you can sell it as a “dietary supplement”.

And the FDA said

But There Must Be Controls On Production

Well not that I was able to discover. In fact, one of the things I discovered was that you could start your own supplement company quite easily. And if you don’t know how to do this (yet) you can take a course here on Udemy


One of the most famous author/podcasters Tim Ferriss (The Four Hour Workweek etc) got his start this way. He formed a company, sold it and funded his empire.

And celebrity endorsements are legion. Here’s an interesting report on which celebrity is endorsing which product and data about the product.

Speaking of sports celebrities and products

Consumer Reports magazine reported in March 2012, “We’ve had more than 400 recalls of spiked products since 2008,” says Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s division of dietary-supplement programs. Most were marketed for bodybuilding, sexual enhancement, and weight loss.” That, by the way, was in 4 years.

Are you confused yet? Or a bit hesitant to take a look at your own supplements?

I am.

I’m starting to investigate and research every supplement I’ve read about or take and will report back to you on some of the more interesting information.

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This Change In My Author Website Made Me Money

I’ve been looking at my author website again trying to understand modern publishing as it’s currently working in the trenches. Here’s where I landed this week.

What’s Process and What’s Content

  • Process is about the author’s life and working habits. The process of creating.
  • Content is the end product – the book, the video etc

Top selling authors share all the process but monetize all of the content.

That’s why all the how-to articles on my website were unpublished and why some of the posts are being added to my gardening ebooks. Here’s the first of these improved ebook – Tomatoes

My Fiction Sites

These have also been reimagined and separated into process and content. 

My Income Depends On Readers Buying Content

And if this is the case, giving it away doesn’t make much sense.

Reimagining The Attention Economy

I’ve obviously misunderstood the Attention Economy thinking that gaining reader attention was the primary, driving force.  My understanding was that by gaining attention and building reader trust – sales would follow.

I’ve obviously done it wrong. I gained lots of attention and book sales were mediocre. 

When I mostly abandoned the websites and adopted Amazon advertising, sales went up.  

When I mostly abandoned the website building by unpublishing hundreds of how-to posts, ebooks sales went up.

Even I’m getting the message now that content is what I sell and process is what I write about. The task is to make both things interesting and valuable.

But at least I now know which is which.  

p.s. The garden website is currently being rebuilt and modified. That one has too many posts to modify easily.

Do You Waste Precious Time On Facebook?

The recommendation for writers and other creative types (and all other business operations as well btw) is to create a “page” on Facebook and develop an audience.

But once you develop an audience, Facebook wants you to pay them for that audience to read your posts. 

If you have 5000 people like your page, they only show your posts to 300- 500 people. The message is clear. Want more of the people who’ve liked your page to see it = pay Facebook.

Why not just skip the audience/page building phase – save a lot of time and effort – and go right to the pay-Facebook phase?

Just asking.

p.s. Facebook is an advertising medium – not a social medium. Rethink your position on this

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