Carpe Diem – The Death of Robin Williams

The death and apparent suicide of Robin Williams saddens me. In addition to being a writer, I’m a comic actor and improviser and Williams is someone I’ve always greatly admired. I owned rainbow suspenders as a kid and quoted Mork and Mindy and his stand-up recordings all the time.

Williams once drew a doodle for a fundraiser that Live Bait, a small theatre company in Chicago, was having to raise money for their season. It was a fun and expressive drawing of Albert Einstein in a flying car in Williams’ flowing hand and it said, “Einstein traveling at the Speed of Life!”

I wanted that drawing so badly because I thought if I owned something Williams created, some of his creativity might rub off on me as well. Sadly, I didn’t win the drawing because it was one of the more expensive pieces to be auctioned off that night.

I did win a doodle by George Carlin, though. His drawing was a series of heavy straight lines connected in a series of angles. The straight lines seemed too stiff for the philosopher comedian, but I was glad to have it. If anyone has a copy of the Robin Williams drawing, I’d love to see a photo of it after all these years.

Like many, one of my favorite Robin Williams films is Dead Poet’s Society. 

One of my favorite moments in the film is when Robin Williams, as John Keating, kneeling on the floor speaking to his charges says, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.

But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!…of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless…of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

I ask this question of myself often.

Oh, Captain, my Captain, you will be sorely missed.

Flickr photo by Charles Haynes

Flickr photo by Charles Haynes

Anne Lamott on Williams’ suicide

John Steinbeck – Writing Quote Wednesday



Created by Paul Jenny with a Flickr photo by Cliff Hutson


I’m in the thick of slogging away at my MG paranormal adventure novel’s first draft l and I often find myself meeting with a lot of resistance when I try to start.

I like Steinbeck’s quote about abandoning the idea of finishing because it gives me the sense that I’m engaging in an ongoing process and the work to be done is  just the work that needs to be done for that day. If I can get through my word count for just that day, I am always surprised by the end of the week at how much I’ve actually accomplished.

If you sign up for the Stories are the Wildest Things Insider newsletter, I’ll send you a free book of all the Writing Quote Wednesday images I’ve created for the blog when it’s completed.


Watch John Steinbeck “roaring like a lion” during his Nobel Prize speech on

Annie Dillard – Writing Quote Wednesday


Created by Paul Jenny using a Flickr photo by Julie Jordan Scott

Annie’s writing keeps me thinking deeply about the writing process and I keep a copy of “The Writing Life” on my desk to refer to often. If you don’t have a copy, pick up one HERE.


Watch this inspirational writing video by about Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life and her idea to “follow the line of words“.

Soccer – Wildest Word of the Day

With all this talk of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I started thinking about the origin of the word “soccer”. A lot of countries other than ours call it “football”. We’re often made to feel bad and wrong for calling it soccer. But where did the word come from and which one is more “correct”?

I did a bit of searching around on the internet and found a lot of different sources by Daven Hiskey wrote a great article called “The Origin of the Word ‘Soccer'” that is one of the best.

According to Hiskey, the word “soccer” preceded the word “football” by about eighteen years.

Apparently the word soccer came about because British school boys had a habit of  speaking in slang by adding-er to the ends of shortened forms of the words. Thus, rugby became “rugger” and Associated Football, the original name for the sport became known as “assoccer” which was shortened even further to “soccer.” Legend has it that the first use of the term came from the Oxfordian (Oxer?) Charles Wredford-Brown who was asked if he’d like to play a game of “rugger” and he replied that he preferred to play “soccer.” This supposedly happened right around 1863, shortly after the creation of Associated Football. It was considered a sport for gentlemen and played by the upper classes but quickly became popular with the middle and lower classes as well. When this happened, around 1881, everyone shortened the name from Associated Football to just football.


Charles Wreford-Brown from

5 Reasons SCARY Goals are Better than SMART Ones


Flickr photo by profaniti

We’ve all seen this graphic of SMART goals if we’ve done any searching for ways of making our days more productive. Productivity gurus tell us over and over again that we have to set GOALS that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.  A Google search for the term SMART goals returns 86,300,000 results.

But I think SMART goals are kind of DUMB. They might be good for getting that report turned in on time at work or getting all the filing put away, but they seem to encourage the mediocre and bland.

What if you are trying to do the NEXT BIG THING?

If you want to be a DOER of DEEDS, someone who makes a DIFFERENCE, a CREATOR of SOMETHING from NOTHING, I think your goals have to be kind of SCARY.

By SCARY, I mean just that.

When you think about them, you get that funny feeling in your stomach that tells you that you are about to embark on something slightly outside of your comfort zone.

A BIG IDEA won’t feel safe. You’ll feel inadequate, not up to it, like you want to run away. That’s a good sign. That feeling means that you are setting a SCARY goal.

SCARY goals are great because they are just like riding a roller coaster. You stand in line, knowing that you’ll be terrified when you get to the top of the first drop, but that you’ll be in for a heck of a ride all the way down.

You can also break SCARY goals down by the acronym SCARY as well.

A SCARY goal is See-able.

If you can visualize it. You can do it. This has been proven over and over and there are tons of websites dedicated to how this works. If you don’t know how to visualize. Learn. It’s a powerful tool for achieving those goals.

A SCARY goal is Creative.

A SCARY goal is not just wanting to make a lot of money. It is using your powers of creativity to create something that people value and can get some use out of. When you give value, the money follows. Don’t just follow that first idea, create lots and lots of ideas. Work your creativity muscles by keeping lists of ideas on waiter pads. Come up with 100 ideas and then pick one to create. That is what creativity is all about. Not settling for one idea when you can come up with hundreds.

A SCARY goal is Artistic.

Even if your SCARY goal is something that has nothing to do with art with a capital “A”, make it the most artistic expression you can. A SCARY goal is achieved with style and grace and flair. If you want to grow pumpkins, create the farm in an artistic way so that is pleasing to you and the people who visit. If you want to sell cars, make it your art to know everything there is to know about the kinds of cars you are selling and what draws people to them. If you want to climb a mountain, explore all the possibilities of how to make that happen, just like an artist does.

When you are pursuing a SCARY goal, you want to be Ready to Learn.

I never want to stop learning. Any BIG IDEA doesn’t even have the knowledge base developed yet to do it. You have to be ready to learn what you know, learn what you don’t know and learn what you don’t know you don’t know. By always being Ready to Learn, you open up so many more possibilities than if you already have all the answers.

My favorite part of a SCARY goal is that You Get to make a Difference.

Your next big idea, your next SCARY goal, just by pursuing it, will make a difference in the world. By keeping in mind that your SCARY goal, the one that gave you that funny feeling in your stomach, can possibly make a difference in the lives of many people, you’ll continue to pursue that goal no matter how SCARY it is.

Don’t be DUMB by pursuing SMART goals. Try taking on a SCARY goal today.

Let me know what your SCARY goals are. I’m very interested in hearing about them. Stories are the wildest things.