WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM MY 44TH YEAR ON EARTH

For the last decade I’ve written a poem just before my birthday. It’s been insightful to look back on these and see how I’ve grown or not (sometimes I’ve slipped backwards.) This year it’s not quite a poem but, nevertheless, the tradition continues.

So here it goes…WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM MY 44TH YEAR ON EARTH

There are no such thing as, “golden years.” Enjoy today.

Life is fragile.

The largest obstacle is my own mind.

Experiences are always better than things.

Two glasses of wine can indeed give you a hangover.

Happiness in life is 98% perception.

Vintage or artisan are just synonyms for “expensive.”

Being busy doesn’t equate to being productive.

A writer’s work is never done. Ever.

The sooner you remove toxic people from your life the better.

Most everybody has an angle (and that’s okay, people have to make a living).

Absinthe is a powerful laxative.

Talk less, listen more.

People can be fickle.

Things happen in their own time, you can’t rush fate.

White Castles taste better than 90% of gourmet meals.

The US political system is far more corrupt than I suspected.

Simple is almost always best.

There are more productive hours in a day than I thought.

I care less about what people think than I used to.

Meditation is more important now than ever.

Say what you mean.

Never sacrifice what is important to you.

Excuses create regret.

Be yourself, always, no matter what.

Dreams must be made a priority. Now.

Success never happens without risk.

I need at least seven and half hours of sleep to be my best self.

When you think you can’t go on, you’ve only just begun.

_________________________________

For more of my writing check out my website at www.ericvancewalton.net and please sign up for my newsletter for upcoming projects and events.

How To Fail

HOW TO FAIL MISERABLY AS A WRITER (or anything else)

It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you think you are, if you can’t figure out how to connect with readers you’re not going to sell anything. Internet marketing for indie authors is especially tough to figure out. Often our budgets are small or even non-existent and the rules are changing often.

This is important stuff. If you don’t figure it out eventually you’ll be discouraged enough to give up on your dream. I admit that marketing has never been one of my strong suits. This is one of the reasons it took my writing career so long to take off. 
I was that skinny and awkward kid with thick glasses that few things came naturally to. I would practice things hundreds of times until I perfected them. One of the few things I had on my side was persistence. I’m still that same kid inside, only larger, with a few gray hairs, and the nagging thought that time goes far too fast to waste it.

A month ago I tried to make a poached egg. It ended up looking like egg drop soup. It was terrible. Ten or so attempts and a few YouTube videos later I can make a perfect poached egg. The secret, once I learned it was like magic and made the process easy. What is the secret? Soak the eggs (still in the shell) in white vinegar for five minutes before cracking and boiling them. That was it.

Things are incredibly hard until you figure out the secret and then they’re easy. To find success you must have to have the patience and persistence to get to the EASY.

Most of us have heard the quote by William Faulkner, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” If a sentence or passage doesn’t work for the good of the overall project you must get rid of it no matter how brilliant you think it is. This is excellent advice but it isn’t easy to do partially because of ego but to a greater degree because of fear that you can’t write something better.

To become a successful writer you must subdue your ego and have the confidence to believe that great ideas come from an endless source within you. When you believe this amazing things begin to happen.

The opposite is true as well. The surest way to fail at this is to write from a place of fear or hold on to ineffective ideas. They become bars in an invisible prison cell that will keep you stuck right where you are.

I know this “kill your darlings” philosophy works for writing so I applied it to marketing. Sometimes the entire marketing idea stinks and has to go but sometimes part of it can be saved, retooled to try again. I’m not getting any younger and the books aren’t selling themselves so I’ll only try a retooled idea once. If the idea doesn’t get results it must go to the scrap heap.

Some of you might remember last summer I had a marketing idea that I was super excited about. While traveling I decided to hand out a few copies of my novel, Alarm Clock Dawn, to random people for free. There was a note inside the front cover asking the recipient to leave me a message on Facebook letting me know what they thought about the book. After they were finished reading it I asked if they would pass the book onto another friend to read and they could do the same, and so on. The whole idea was based on the Pay It Forward philosophy.
It was a hard thing to accept because I was sure it would work but the whole thing fell flat. I waited for months but all I heard were crickets…not a single response from anyone. Ever. I had to accept it and move on to something new and better. All of us are a constant work in progress. 

Failure is not an option.
Next week I’ll be traveling to Chicago for a long weekend, partially for business but mostly for fun. I’ll be visiting a few independent bookstores and doing some research for my new novel Truth Is Stranger. Along the way I’m going to try this Pay It Forward marketing idea once more. It’ll be interesting to see how it works after a few tweaks. I’ll be updating you all on my experiences throughout this process.

All it really takes in this world to be successful is working through the hard to get to the EASY. I hope your path to easy is a short one. More importantly, I hope you learn quickly from every misstep along the way.

With Gratitude,
~Eric Vance Walton~

What If?

What if all that we’ve been taught is wrong?  

What if we live in a world

where vanity is a kind of virtue?
A place where confidence and

self-love are the first steps

in opening up your heart

to the miracle that exists

within you.
What if reality, as we know

it isn’t truth at all but its antithesis?
Comprised of falsehoods 

that serve all but the greater good, 

bars to keep us imprisoned 

so that we may never know 

the true power of our souls.
~Eric Vance Walton~

THEY WALK AMONG US


I was five years old and panic stricken. I was away from my parents for the first time, laying on a hospital gurney in some cold and sterile holding area waiting for my turn in the operating room. Through my tear filled eyes I noticed I wasn’t alone, there was a man lying there on a gurney beside of me. He resembled a young Cat Stevens. This man reached through the bars of his bed to pat my hand as he asked me what my name was.  He told me his name, of which I forget, and shared that he was a poet. He asked if he could recite some of his poems to me. A great sense of peace washed over me the moment he began reciting his poetry.

This small act of kindness calmed my racing heart and made everything feel as if it was going to be okay. It was the first time I realized the true power of words.  This kind soul gave me only five minutes of his time but these five minutes were immensely valuable to me. So valuable, that the lesson has survived inside of me for almost forty years. Small deeds can have a huge impact, they can transform lives. and create lasting change. Could this experience be partially responsible for my becoming a writer and poet?  Maybe or maybe not. It’s interesting to think about.

I have many other examples in my life that I can share. There was Mrs. Bohl, who could have made me repeat kindergarten for being out sick so many days but she didn’t. Mr. Morgan, my seventh grade teacher who took an extremely skinny, shy, and awkward pre-teen boy and over the course of the school year transformed him into a much more confident young man.

There was also that one boy in the group of twelve who chased me down for blocks in our inner city neighborhood that dark Friday night in the mid-80’s with every intention of beating me up and/or robbing me. I had been in enough of these situations to understand what the outcome would be if they caught me and they were gaining on me fast. I ran through all of the options in my head and chose the only one I had left, I stopped under a streetlight, turned to face them, and plunged my hand inside my jacket as if I had a gun. The group stopped instantly. Suddenly this boy said to the others in his group, “Wait, I know him! It’s cool, he goes to our school.”He didn’t have to say anything, but he did.  A few of them paced, high on adrenaline and testosterone, itching to take part in a beat down.

More recently, as my writing career has started to go global, I’ve had the good fortune of having many virtual mentors. The largest, by far, has been James Altucher. I’ve devoured his podcasts and blog posts and feel as though his guidance alone is responsible for most of the growth in my writing career this past year.  There’s also Maja Gray, Joan Holman, and many more people that I’ve met through the Choose Yourself Facebook group who give so freely of their time and their ideas even though they’re busy themselves.

Add my loyal readers to this list, my true fans, people like Ulrika and Cecilia Fjellborg, Annie Rider, Bobby Leigh, Anthony Smith, Jeanne White, Charles Bond, Claudia Tucker and the list goes on and on. These folks have been with me from nearly the beginning of my social media presence. They enthusiastically purchase my books, they like and share my social media posts. Some even geek out on the fictional characters in my novel (I LOVE this.)  I feel like they are an army rooting me on, they make me continue to march on when I feel like I’m up to my knees in mud. They make me believe in myself through the countless struggles of this profession.

Each of us are presented with opportunities. I call them Angelic moments. These are brief points in time in which we make a difference or not. We can step outside of our comfort zone or not. We can risk being ostracized by the herd by voicing an unpopular opinion that we truly believe in or not. We can have the patience to lend an ear and offer words of support or not. It takes a certain kind of courage and isn’t always comfortable. The choice is up to us and the beauty is each moment presents us with new opportunities to test our wings.

We simply can’t help everyone but if you feel a strong urge to do or say something in a given moment, take heed. If you feel something tugging at your heart, pay very close attention to it. Act, don’t over think. Act. It could make all the difference.

The truth is Angels are more common than we think. They walk among us. Sometimes they’re dressed to the nines and other times they wear filthy clothes. Sometimes they offer sweet words of praise, sometimes they swear at us like sailors. Yes, sometimes the angel is even walking in your shoes.

~Eric Vance Walton~

HOW TO FAIL MISERABLY AS A WRITER (or anything else)

It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you think you are, if you can’t figure out how to connect with readers you’re not going to sell anything. Internet marketing for indie authors is especially tough to figure out. Often our budgets are small or even non-existent and the rules are changing often.

This is important stuff. If you don’t figure it out eventually you’ll be discouraged enough to give up on your dream. I admit that marketing has never been one of my strong suits. This is one of the reasons it took my writing career so long to take off. 
I was that skinny and awkward kid with thick glasses that few things came naturally to. I would practice things hundreds of times until I perfected them. One of the few things I had on my side was persistence. I’m still that same kid inside, only larger, with a few gray hairs, and the nagging thought that time goes far too fast to waste it.

A month ago I tried to make a poached egg.  It ended up looking like egg drop soup. It was terrible. Ten or so attempts and a few YouTube videos later I can make a perfect poached egg. The secret, once I learned it, was like magic and made the process easy.  What is the secret?  Soak the eggs (still in the shell) in white vinegar for five minutes before cracking and boiling them. That was it.
Things are incredibly hard until you figure out the secret and then they’re easy. To find success you must have to have the patience and persistence to get to the EASY.

Most of us have heard the quote by William Faulkner, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” If a sentence or passage doesn’t work for the good of the overall project you must get rid of it no matter how brilliant you think it is. This is excellent advice but it isn’t easy to do partially because of ego but to a greater degree because of fear that you can’t write something better.
To become a successful writer you must subdue your ego and have the confidence to believe that great ideas come from an endless source within you. When you believe this amazing things begin to happen.

The opposite is true as well. The surest way to fail at this is to write from a place of fear or hold on to ineffective ideas. They become bars in an invisible prison cell that will keep you stuck right where you are.

I know this “kill your darlings” philosophy works for writing so I applied it to marketing. Sometimes the entire marketing idea stinks and has to go but sometimes part of it can be saved, retooled to try again. I’m not getting any younger and the books aren’t selling themselves so I’ll only try a retooled idea once. If the idea doesn’t get results it must go to the scrap heap.

Some of you might remember last summer I had a marketing idea that I was super excited about. While traveling I decided to hand out a few copies of my novel, Alarm Clock Dawn, to random people for free.  There was a note inside the front cover asking the recipient to leave me a message on Facebook letting me know what they thought about the book. After they were finished reading it I asked if they would pass the book onto another friend to read and they could do the same, and so on. The whole idea was based on the Pay It Forward philosophy.

It was a hard thing to accept because I was sure it would work but the whole thing fell flat. I waited for months but all I heard were crickets…not a single response from anyone. Ever. I had to accept it and move on to something new and better. All of us are a constant work in progress. Failure is not an option.

Next week I’ll be traveling to Chicago for a long weekend, partially for business but mostly for fun.  I’ll be visiting a few independent bookstores and doing some research for my new novel Truth Is Stranger. Along the way I’m going to try this Pay It Forward marketing idea once more.  It’ll be interesting to see how it works after a few tweaks.  I’ll be updating you all on my experiences throughout this process.

All it really takes in this world to be successful is working through the hard to get to the EASY.  I hope your path to easy is a short one. More importantly, I hope you learn quickly from every misstep along the way.
With Gratitude,
~Eric Vance Walton~

Just Before The Dawn

I’ve been in this business longer than I care to think about. If I think too much about how many years of my life I’ve been pursuing the goal of becoming a full-time writer I sometimes get depressed. Up until just a couple of years ago I didn’t even have a real plan, I was only a dreamer and the dream didn’t have teeth. It’s good to dream but that’s only one element of what it takes to get you there. Recently just such a moment of depression descended on me. My sales had hit a plateau; there were no new opportunities to speak of. It only lasted a few hours but it was a gut wrenching feeling that this was as big as my dream would ever become. I feared my fifteen minutes were over.

Then I remembered that I’d felt this a few times before and usually when I did a breakthrough was on the other side of that dark night. What I’ve found is the closer I get to achieving that next burst of exponential growth in my writing career the more seems to be working against me. I’ve learned from talking to others who are trying to achieve a dream similar to mine that this experience isn’t unique.

The challenges can crop up from a variety of places…the news, envious people, and, yes, even my own mind. All these challenges need to do to be successful in derailing you is to plant that seed of doubt and it will grow into a dream killing monster. But, you know what? None of that matters once your mind is made up and my mind was made up a couple of years ago. I am a writer. I will do this for a living while traveling the world with my wife, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures.

The most effective way out and on to the next plateau begins with deciding to just focus solely on what you have control over. I know I have control over my mind. Most often I’ve learned getting out of this kind of slump requires a simple shift in mindset. Think about it, anything can seem difficult or even impossible if you’ve made your mind up that it is.

The secret is to make up your mind that your goal is attainable, not just attainable but easy to achieve. This isn’t fooling yourself, well maybe a little, but this Jedi-like mind trick fills you with such confidence and positive energy that I believe you attract opportunities and people that can help. The truth is most of us can’t do this alone and that’s okay. Build a team of helpers who are geniuses in their particular field (marketing, editing, etc.) You will be simply unstoppable with an army of experts behind you.

Whenever find yourself in a funk such as the one I just described ask yourself these three things:

1. What do I really want?

2. Why don’t I already have what I want?

3. What do I need to do to get what I want?

To answer these questions as honestly as you possibly can gives your dream teeth. In my case, my most limiting factor is always inside my own head. The mind is quite good at self-sabotage by peppering your inner dialogue with negative statements like, “This is going to be a real challenge” as well as countless other statements that begin with those two dreaded words, “I can’t…”. Negativity is pure poison and will keep you lost in delusion.

The truth is you CAN do this and if you want it badly enough YOU WILL. The other option is to find yourself right where you are in ten years from now doing the same things in the same way. Stay with me and we’ll build our dreams together. Create a strategy. When you make it through to your next day’s dawn I’ll be there to greet you. Maybe we can have a beer or a nice glass of cabernet at some quaint Parisian café and swap stories.

In just a few short days from ground zero I have renewed hope. I also have a few new and exciting irons in the fire. I can tell you from experience that what I speak of works and this sunrise, it’s such a beautiful thing.

I wish you the very best,

~Eric Vance Walton~

Big Boy Pants

I was feeling depressed and stuck a few days ago. After nearly twenty years my writing career underwent a quantum leap in growth in the previous two years and then began to sputter. I started to panic. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally grateful for each and every step of my journey so far but working with others can be difficult and when our personal aspirations aren’t met it’s easy to become impatient and frustrated.

I had a shift in attitude this morning that was triggered by a comment from one of my loyal readers. This is a precise example of why it’s so valuable for creative folks to communicate with one another. This particular interchange was Zen like and forced me to think about things from just a slightly different perspective. It was a reminder that it’s up to no one but me to take ownership for my own success.

What was the magic question you ask? It was a simple question but one that when deeply contemplated was absolutely transformative. It’s something that I challenge all of you indie authors to answer yourselves. If it were totally up to you what would you do to promote your books? Think about it, if you had to rely on no one else and the one person on Earth responsible for you achieving your goals was you, what action would you take? The secret is this is absolutely true…ultimately we’re all responsible for our own successes.

This writer’s life is really a difficult path, it’s one of the most difficult professions on Earth to make a living at, and it’s so easy to get discouraged. The truth is the very minute you think you have to fully rely on someone else for your success you instantly diminish your power. Although literary agents, publishers and the media can play an important role in your success, your fate never has been and never will be dictated by them. Your savior is yourself. If you keep remembering that, no matter what, no one else is responsible for your success but you, your power and confidence will grow exponentially.

I’ve learned from the James Altucher show that podcast guest appearances are the best book promotions available today. Author after author has confirmed this. So today I’m going to begin researching and contacting the
hosts of the top writer-focused podcasts to give my pitch and ask to be a guest. If nothing else this will give me some experience and help foster new connections that I can draw on. I will also begin to learn more about the industry incase I want to host my own podcast at some point in the future. It’s time to put on the big boy pants. The sky is truly the limit, I’ll make sure of it.

~Eric Vance Walton~