I’m not talking about my ass, either. This year has been an experience for me, in so many ways, it’s hard to count. But you know me, I’m going to try anyway.


As a soldier, I’ve grown because I understand the need for pragmatism. When I was a private or a sergeant looking up at the seniors in my company, I never understood some decisions that were made. Now, I think I can at least look at a decision and understand why, even if I still disagree with the what. That doesn’t mean I’m going to let it go, if its something I feel very strongly about, but I at least try to understand where someone else is coming from.


Taking that angle in trying to understand decisions from higher, I look for motivations to try and make my characters stronger, better and more realistic. I look at hard decisions that have been made over here and I put them on paper. I’m absolutely sure that my interpretation is wrong from what the folks experienced on the ground, but I’m trying to understand. I think in a very real way, writing about being over here has helped me channel some of the fear that I hold inside me that today might be the day the shit hits the fan. Am I ready?


As a soldier, I’ve tried – and failed – to maintain relationships. I’m very much a believer in say what you mean and I have an incredibly hard time dealing with people who say one thing to my face and do something else behind my back. I generally try not to deal with those, but once more, I try to understand. When it comes to posting on my blog, everything has been tempered with what if my brigade commander reads this? What would my friends Darcy say (as an officer and as a friend) or Bill (as a CSM and a friend)?  I’ve tried to maintain professionalism both publicly and privately and still struggle with this. There have been errors in judgment on my part and I won’t try to excuse them, just that I’ve learned from them.


I learned some powerful lessons about loyalty this year, both as a writer and as a soldier. When you have loyalty to someone, you expect that it is returned. It might not be and when that happens, it’s a major shift in how the world upholds balance. When loyalty is betrayed in a public sense, it’s all the more difficult to deal with. I have loyalty in odd places and in other instances, they make perfect sense. I have incredibly loyalty to soldiers on the ground who are accused because no one knows what decisions they’ve had to make or how they made them.  I won’t defend some decisions because they are an anathema to everything we stand for as soldiers and I won’t say I won’t try to understand. But I do know that a soldier on the ground makes a thousand life altering decisions in the space of seconds, so I try to understand that before I step aside and let the stone throwing begin.


As a writer, my single biggest accomplishment (other than landing a fab agent) was learning to revise my own stuff. Working with an awesome critique partner taught me how to look at her stuff and say why something was bothering me. In turn, I was able to take that same skill set and start applying it to mine. I’ve still got miles to go before this skill gets to where it needs to be, but I’ve at least been able to look at that draft and say nah, you need to go, the whole thing. I’m starting over. So we’ll see what happens when I start revising that second draftJ


This year in Iraq has not been easy. I’ve struggled with depression and insomnia. I haven’t used my insomnia to write – but I’m fixing to. If I can’t sleep, I might as well get out of bed and do something worthwhile. I’ve read and read and read some more and learned so much about writing and different authors and techniques. I’ve added some new favorites to my list of will read everything they write and I’m always open to suggestion for something new. I learned a lot about the publishing industry as a whole, just as I’ve learned about how the army works and the pragmatism that is ever present, regardless of the ideals you might hope for.


The whole point of this post is to keep learning and keep watching. There are character studies all around you. Look at a reaction and try to figure out where they’re coming from. Never pass of a moment to learn from something or someone around you. I’ve had some great teachers and I’m just grateful they haven’t given up on me, because I’ve learned some powerful lessons this year.