Author: R.J.Harrigan

Musings

With All This Talk About The Wall


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wallcoming

Where The Wild Things Are
and where they came from
by R.J.Harrigan

When it comes to immigration, I say let them in. I believe the world shouldn’t have borders and we should all travel more. Sure, there are some bad apples in the bunch, but I don’t think that makes up a large enough percentage to damn the whole lot. While defending their stance on being anti-immigration, someone once said to me,

“If you had a bowl of M&M’s, and one was poison, would you keep eating them?”

I thought about it a moment, and said,

“No, I wouldn’t. However, I wouldn’t assume that all M&M’s are poisonous and ban them from being sold in America.”

I get the point they were trying to make, but it’s logic based on fear, and often easier to shut down the temptation then to deal with the issue.

For example, I used to drink. It didn’t have a negative consequence on my life, at least not in the way that I would consider it to be alcoholism, but I noticed that I had a high tolerance, and that I have a family full of heavy drinkers, so I decided to take a break. That break has been about 5 years now. In this case, I let my fear of turning into an alcoholic decide to remove the temptation altogether. However, if my decision was to remove all alcohol from the country because of my personal fear, then that would be a problem.

Keeping alcohol in the country means that we will have some bad apples who drink and drive and kill people; who drink and make bad decisions with their finances; who drink and abuse their children; who drink and sexually assault people. These are all things that would be greatly reduced, or eliminated, if we removed alcohol entirely. But we like alcohol too much, so we take the risk. If we could love people as much as we love alcohol, then we would be more willing to take the risk.

It is completely acceptable to distance yourself from the things you fear. If you don’t want immigrants here, then don’t make friends with immigrants. Don’t hire them. Don’t interact with them any more than you must, and even though I find that narrow minded, I also believe it to be your human right to do so. If an immigrant works at a store you shop at, and if that offends you, then go to another store. If they are driving you in a taxi, then please, get out and wait for another. If they are packaging your food, go support your local farmer’s market. There are options.

Now, I understand that many people aren’t opposed to immigration, but are opposed to ILLEGAL immigration. In which case, I understand, and even though I don’t believe in borders, I respect that they exist and should be treated as such.

Do I think our immigration process should be a little easier? Probably. I had a friend back when I was fresh out of high school that was going to take her citizenship test. She was nervous and asked me to quiz her. I knew 10% of the answers. She knew 100%. By the test’s standards, she is more American than I am, yet I am awarded citizenship for geographical circumstances that I had no control over. I think a background check, sitting down with a counselor to help map out your trajectory/intentions, and a time limit to get a job or enroll in school should suffice. Knowing our country’s entire presidential history seems unnecessary, but maybe that’s just my fear of being judged for not knowing it, so I want to cast out the entire system. You decide.

Motivation, Musings

Writing Tips


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Writing Tips
by R.J.Harrigan

Being a writer is one of the hardest but most rewarding passions to pursue. Unless you’re thinking monetary rewards in which case, be a doctor or something. I kid…not really.

How to be a writer is another challenge. Here are 3 simple tips to follow so you can call yourself a writer too!

1: Carving Time

The single most important thing when it comes to writing is actually WRITING! The number one excuse I hear (and have used) is

“I don’t have time.”

I know it might feel that way but let’s be honest, there’s time. You have a few options. Either accept that you’re never going to write the next great American novel – or find the time. Take note of how you’re spending your time throughout the day. How much are you spending:

  • Watching TV
  • Browsing the internet/social media
  • Playing video games
  • At the bar
  • Chasing dates

You see where this goes? You have the time, but you’re not prioritizing writing. Find a time that you can use to write, whether it is 30 minutes a day, or an hour, and keep to it. Be consistent.

I only started prioritizing my writing in the fall of 2018. So, just a few months ago. However, I decided to write in the morning, before my day starts, and that meant waking up earlier, around 5:30 am to write; which meant going to sleep earlier, which meant adjusting my night routine, which meant eliminating caffeine after 5 pm. It seems like a lot, but it was actually easy after the first week. I wrote every day, regardless if it was a few hundred words or a few thousand. I didn’t put pressure on it, I just enjoyed writing. Now, as of this post, I have 53,000 words, 168 pages written. You can do that to, one page at a time. Just make sure to keep writing!

2: Don’t Get Hung Up On The Details

If anything prevents you from writing, put it aside and come back to it.

Look, I know what it is like to write a line, or a paragraph, or a page, and think, “This sucks, I need to revise it right now.” However, that can lead to frustration, and exhaustion, and eventually quitting.

Guilty.

I’ve quit so many times in my life, taking months off before writing again. It wasn’t until this recent attempt that I decided not to get hung up on a line. If something doesn’t feel right, I just highlight it in yellow and move on. The important thing to remember is that writing is rewriting. You can always come back and make it better!

3: Take It Seriously, And Make Sure Those Around You Do Too

Yes, that means your spouse, children, friends, etc. My wife is very supportive and understanding about my writing, but we’ve bumped heads a few times when I said,

“I can’t right now, I have to write.”

Those around you will see it as a “hobby,” because you’re not getting paid (at least I’m not, yet!) to write. So, if it gets in the way of what they want you to do, whether it is a chore, or drinking, they will tell you that your writing can wait. If those things fall inside the time that you’ve carved out (see step 1), then you must choose writing!

Obviously, you can make the exception if it is an emergency, like hospital worthy, but not emergency like, “Bro, it’s my only night off this week.”

That’s it! 3 Simple tips. Make time. Keep writing. Take it Seriously. Do these things, every day, and you will be a writer! Good Luck!

Motivation, Musings, News and Updates

New Year’s Resolution


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This year I am going to finish my memoir and hopefully get it published!

I also want to get more viewers to my site, especially participants that will submit writing to me for my “What’s Your Story?” section.

Most importantly, I want to be happy and as stress free as possible. I put in some serious work in 2018 to lower my stress and I made it a good portion of the year being happy, but the last month started taking its toll on me and I can feel myself slipping backwards. I am fully aware of it and doing what I can to prevent myself from taking too many steps back. Sometimes a step back is necessary to move ahead, so I’m going to chalk it up to that and keep it moving.

Writing has been my outlet that has saved me from breaking. I always feel better, calmer, lighter, after writing. It feels so good to put my laptop screen down, signifying that I’m done for the moment, and knowing that I am one step closer to finishing this book. I can’t express the joy I feel in being proud of myself. It isn’t a feeling I’m familiar with. I’ve always downplayed my achievements because they weren’t things I cared about, just what I thought I should do. Writing this book is something I care about, and every day that I write, I still can’t believe that I’m actually doing it. If I can, anyone can, a tired cliche that I loathe myself for saying, but (again at the risk of sounding cliche) it is true. Ask anyone who knows me personally and they’ll tell you, I had the potential, but not the drive. But here I am, new year, 52,000 words deep in this memoir. I can’t be stopped and I can’t wait for you all to read it when it is done!

Happy New Year!

2019’s mantra is “Keep it light, Dutch. Keep it light.”

Musings

Goodbye 2018!


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I am glad that you’re over!

Why was 2018 so tough for everyone? For me it was the year of uncertainty. I felt stuck in life and complacency gives me anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. The problem was that I had to wait. For instance,

I took the firefighter’s exam in March. I had to wait for them to schedule the physical exam over the summer. Then I had to wait for results to come out. Though I am still waiting, I’m in the final phase, which is waiting for a job opening in my city! That could take years but because of my veteran status, I’m higher on the list. *fingers crossed*

I have to wait to purchase a home. I have the VA loan waiting for me, but I need a provable income and for 2018, my income was the GI Bill (Thanks Uncle Sam!). Unfortunately, though it was acceptable money to pay my bills, it isn’t acceptable money to take out a loan, so I was waiting to graduate, which I did this December! Look out 2019! I’m making moves this year.

I had to wait, again for the provable income, to refinance my car through my bank. The Honda dealership I went through got the best of me that day and I signed a horrible deal that I can’t wait to get out of. Once I have obtained provable income, which I am currently job searching for while I patiently await for my firefighting position, I will take out a loan from my bank, pay off my car, and have a much better deal to pay every month.

Most importantly, I had to wait to grow mentally and emotionally. I have spent too much of my life harboring anger inside, and though I am not perfect, I am far better at expressing myself. I used to hold it in and self destruct. I wasn’t much of the “lash-out” type, but more of the implosion, giving up, and making bad decisions type. I have been putting in work for years on this, but it still takes time to become habit, and I’ve been waiting to reach the point that I am at now, which, over the past few months, has allowed me to sit down and read and write daily. I love the person I have become.

I appreciate 2018 for its challenges and for the opportunities for growth, but I soooo look forward to sending it packing and welcoming in the new year!

2019, this one is mine.

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Musings

The Hardest Part of Writing a Memoir


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It all comes down to one question. Did that really happen that way? Memory is a tricky thing. However, when writing a memoir, it is your job as an author to bring as much validity to the story as possible. We’ve all heard about that best selling author that turned out to be a liar. If I don’t remember this exactly the way it happened, will they call me a liar too?

Worrying about that prevented me from writing for a long time. Whenever I reached a moment of uncertainty, I stopped writing, and eventually gave up. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a professor at my school that I was able to put that fear aside.

He told me that a memoir is called creative non-fiction for a reason. While we try to keep as close to the truth as possible, in the end, you’re writing a story. Readers don’t think of the character as you do, they see it as a character in a book. He urged me to see it the same. “It is a character based on you, with a story based on your life.”

That one simple sentence helped me to keep writing when things got foggy. Is my memoir entirely true? In a word, no. The events that took place are true, but most of the people’s names have been changed. Some of the details about where we were or which day could be off. Dialogue gets reconstructed, and though I try my best to keep it to the actually conversations that took place, I don’t remember every word that was said. I recall the essence of a conversation and that’s where I get creative.

Do any of these things prevent you from writing? Do you agree that creativity can be a part of a true story? Some people don’t and that’s okay too. However, I believe intentions matter when writing. If you intentionally fool your audience, then that’s fraud. If you do your best to recreate truth, but have to fill in some gaps, then that’s the thin line of acceptability.

 

Motivation, News and Updates

The First Draft is Done


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Today is a very special day. I have finished my first draft of my memoir. It is just a skeletal outline of the whole story, but it give me a framework to work with. I have just over 50,000 words and 157 pages.

I have been taking notes along the way and already have at least another 30,000 words to add. So, I am a little ways away from being completely done, and like my professor told me in college, “When it comes to writing, nothing is ever done, just due.”

I can’t even begin to express how happy I feel about this. I never thought that I would actually do it. I have been talking about writing this memoir for a decade but didn’t sit down to do the important part…writing.

The only thing that kick started it was my final project for my master’s degree. I didn’t want to write a thesis paper, so I asked if I could do something more creative. They green lit the idea to write a sample of my memoir, then a 10 page paper “justifying” it. I had an adviser, Askold, that guided me through the process and read my work along the way, but most importantly, he gave me deadlines to adhere to.

After I finished the requirement for the project, I passed it in and received my passing grade, only to tuck away the memoir and not look at it again for almost a year.

I made a promise to myself that since I spent my twenties focusing on physical growth (I was skinny growing up so I hit the gym and kitchen hard), I would spend my thirties on intellectual growth. That meant more reading and writing. I wasn’t keeping that promise to myself until a few months ago when I read this quote that said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who can not.” That hit me hard for some reason.

I made a new morning routine that I still stick to. I wake up early everyday, and the first thing I do is make coffee and sit down at my computer and work on my memoir. I don’t have a word count that I must hit, but I average about 1000 words daily. Then, I read 25 pages of a book. Then, I write a blog post. That’s the routine and it has changed my world!

50,000 words, four 300-500 page books read in a just a few months. I can’t wait to see where I am in a few more.

Musings

The Day I Rapped For Ice-T


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ice-t

It was a day like any other in February of 2015 when I found out that the Legendary Ice-T would be coming to speak at my school. I was near the end of my two-year degree program at Bunker Hill Community College and nervous about what to do next. I hadn’t yet decided on furthering my education at Umass Boston.

The moment that I found out about the event, and its limited seating, I called and emailed everyone that I could think of at the school to get a ticket. I succeeded and patiently waited for the day to come.

I thought that it would be cool if I got to rap for Ice-T. I wondered which verse I would do if I got the opportunity. I picked out 3 of my favorites; that way I would have one ready for any mood. As a rap artist, I always came prepared to a show with multiple cds of instrumentals so I could gauge the temperature in the room and decide what performance would be best to give.

As the day grew closer, I got this determined feeling. I put it out into the universe. “It would be cool if..” turned into, “I am going to rap for Ice-T.” I practiced in my car constantly. I imagined the audience’s response. I pictured him saying, “That was so good that I am going to sign you right now!” I am a dreamer after all.

The day came. I sat in the auditorium, about mid-way up, a little right of center stage. I wore my Boston Bruins beanie, hoping the bright yellow would stand out. When Ice-T came out, I joined in the applause and enjoyed the speech he gave. I was surprised at how funny he was. His storytelling was amazing, and I had no idea that he was in the Army before his rap career. That decided it. I had a verse about PTSD and veteran suicide that I had written recently and figured it would be the best fit for the occasion.

After his speech, he said that he didn’t have much time so he could only take 3 questions. I shot my hand up in the air, I tried to lock eyes with Ice-T but he was looking at the other side of the auditorium. He called on a guy who asked general life advice.

He asked for another question. Again, I sat straight, arm raised high, eyes focused. He called someone else. I wasn’t going to give up.

Third and final question. “This one’s mine” i thought, but he called on a girl in the back. I felt defeated. I was so sure that I was going to get my chance. She said that she was an artist and drew him a picture and asked if he would like it. He was happy to accept, and then he said, “Well that wasn’t really a question so I’ll take one more.”

Without hesitation my arm when up. I leaned a little to the side to get an extra inch of height in my finger tips. I locked eyes with Ice-T, he saw me. I gave him a look that said, “Trust me, call on me.” He didn’t or couldn’t turn his eyes away and he said,

“The man in the Pittsburgh Penguins hat.”

I stood up and proudly said, “It’s a Bruins hat!”

He put his hands on his head, realizing where we were. “Of course!” he said.

I told him that I wanted to thank him for his service and that I was a big fan of what he’s done for Hip Hop. I said, “As a fellow veteran, and a rapper, I was wondering if I could rap for you?”

I could feel the audience’s smiles, some ready, some pre-judging.

“Yeah, go ahead. You better kill it though.” Ice said.

They brought me a microphone and I rocked it. We weren’t allowed to bring phones in, but somebody snuck a phone video here.

They cheered, Ice-T clapped and told me that he could tell that I rap for real and put in the work. I felt like the man. He didn’t sign me though.

For the rest of the day, I was a local celebrity. I was approached in the hallway for pictures and people asked about my music. It ended when I left to go home, but I will never forget that day and how great it felt to get a compliment from someone so established in the game.

They Boston Globe wrote a short piece about it here

What's Your Story?

What’s Your Story?


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Typewriter What is Your Story
Concept image with What is Your Story printed on an old typewriter

There is nothing I love more than great conversations with interesting people. What I’ve discovered over the years is that everyone is interesting, just some don’t believe it.

I want to know about your life. Truly. How many people will tell you that? Not many. I especially love the look on people’s faces when we talk and they realize that they are more interesting than they believed themselves to be.

I want to hear from you! The whole reason why I started RememoirMe was because of my fascination with memoirs and other people’s lives. I wanted to create a platform where people could share their stories. Now that the site is stable and has some consistent readers, I feel it is time to open it up!

Please, send me your story. If you’ve already written a memoir, or autobiography, then send me one story from it (maybe a chapter). I’ll read them and select one to share every week.

Send all submissions to: rj@rememoirme.com
please include your name, a brief introduction to the story, and a link to your website (if applicable).

I look forward to reading!

Musings

Don’t Tell me What to do


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Ever since I had my first job, I hated working. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing work, but I hate having to. It’s just my mentality that probably stems from my childhood. I have a severe problem with authority.

Having a job that you have to be on time to, day after day. That you have to request for time off, even when it is an emergency. Don’t even get me started on jobs that ask you to do more tasks than you were hired to do. If i’m a cashier, don’t ask me to unload a box or stock a shelf.

I don’t know what it is but it doesn’t just apply to work. Have you every said to someone, “Dude, you have to see this show!” or “You never read that book? It’s so good, you have to read it!” Guess what? No the fuck I don’t. And now, because I “have to” see it, or read it, or whatever it is you’re telling me I “have to” do, I promise you that I won’t.

You should see the looks I get when people find out that I’ve never seen nor read any of the Harry Potters.

I just watched Breaking Bad this year. I felt like the hype finally died down and nobody was telling me that I “had to” see it anymore, and I was bored, so I put it on Netflix. You know what? I liked it. But fuck you.

There’s no limit to my petty when it comes to authority. I dare you to tell me that I have to see your kid’s new talent.

I love chocolate ice cream, but if you bought some new brand and went to your freezer like, “OMG you have to try this ice cream, it’s the best!” There is a good chance I’ll tell you that I’m lactose intolerant. Then, I’ll harbor resentment because I wanted some but not because I have to. I eat ice cream on my terms. Fuck face.

It could be argued that I spent three years being homeless because my dad told me that I had to babysit. Obviously there was other stuff built into it, but that was the conversation that tipped the scales.

Just do me a favor. Don’t tell me what to do. I’ll never tell you either. Ask and you shall receive, but the moment you make demands is the moment you decided to be cut out of my life forever. Which is your loss. I’m pretty cool otherwise.

queenfingers

News and Updates

100 Pages


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I have officially passed the 100 page mark for my memoir. I never would have dreamed that I would find the discipline to sit down and write this book. I had the idea nearly a decade ago, and I wrote a few pages here and there, but I have made it my goal to sit down and finish this project once and for all!

I am thankful to my friends that have been helping me along with encouragement and feedback. I can’t even describe in words how much it means to me.

The more I write, the more I believe I am a writer. I have fallen back in love with my passion and I hope you all enjoy it when it is finished!

100 pages and counting!

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