A Point? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Point!

I was thinking about doing a post on writing today. A few ideas have been chasing themselves around my mind, and I was looking forward to developing one or two of them. Of course, those damned ideas managed to chase themselves around until they got all tangled up and derailed what passes for my train of thought…

FAC5F2EB-C5EF-4DAC-80F3-F8D89A7AC9BBAhem.

Derailed may, in fact, be putting things (more than) a bit lightly. They derailed me in the same way the Hindenburg was “derailed”…

Why is it that I find it so damned hard to remember that first, most crucial rule of writing? When an idea comes — everyone say it with me, now — YOU WRITE THE DAMNED THING!!!

Yeah, I forgot/ignored that one. Again.

*sigh*

It would’ve been a great post, too.

Ahh, well…maybe it’ll come back in time for Friday’s post.

Of course, another problem cropped up while I sat in the shade today, trying to recover from hiking in the unrelenting, hot sun and flipping through articles and editorials on my phone…

FF48DB56-1970-4187-86FB-6EDF6C47A8F4Now, it’s not all that often that I run across something that makes me nod and go all agreeable. Very, very rarely has the phrase “Amen! Preach it!” ever crossed my lips (other than as a joke), but today I ran across one of those few.

I love it when someone else gets it. I especially love it when they “get it” from a totally different perspective from me. Things like that give me hope for the future…which is something in short supply in my cynical little corner of the world.

Saritha Prabhu has a great editorial in USA Today that you can find here. Read the whole thing, and take it in the spirit in which it is written. For those that want to short-cut the actual reading, this little pull-quote gives a good sense of things:

“Politicians from both parties have gotten away with letting down ordinary Americans for decades because millions of Americans are culturally wedded to their tribal political identities of Republican or Democrat, and can’t think outside the box.”

Amen! Preach it, sister!

Her conclusion does a good job, as well:

“I see myself as a political independent these days, who’ll opine based on what she sees and thinks, not along party lines.

For what it’s worth, renegades like me are like that canary in the coal mine: We’re trying to warn Democrats when they’re tone-deaf or still don’t get it.”

Now, look, I don’t want to go all political — and I especially don’t want to veer off onto some libertarian tangent — but holy crap, could we use some independence from the two-party-rigmarole* nowadays. I’ll let Ms. Prabhu’s piece stand for itself with her criticisms of Team-D, but for Team-R…shit, don’t get me started on Team-R. Can we PLEASE just do away with the whole, damned “social conservative” thing? Pretty please?!

*And if you think I didn’t have to spellcheck THAT particular word, you’re nuts!

I can’t think of anyone more problematic to a functioning, vibrant democracy than aggressive social conservatives. I’ve said it many times on this blog, but it bears repeating: my morality is none of your business, and yours is none of mine.

1365C924-B5E2-4C89-A6D7-1F992C8D6A51Look…I’m a libertarian. I don’t give two shits if you smoke a pound of pot every day, marry your lampshade, and attend full-moon orgies in the middle of a National Park. I don’t care who you love, or what you do, so long as you aren’t hurting anyone other than yourself. Adults are responsible for themselves and their own choices, and that includes the right to make decisions that others might consider “bad.”

And that’s where the Republicans and their “team” lost me — the social conservatives who drive that particular bus want freedom and libertarianism in some (very limited) ways, but in the truly important ways,* they want to control every single aspect of folks’ lives.

*The areas where NO ONE should have control…

No. Just…no.

Financial conservatism? A pragmatic — dare I say, Bismarckian — foreign policy? A strong military? A system that focuses on equality of access rather than equality of results?

Yes, to all of that.

But a system that dictates who you can love/marry? Or what you can do? Or that elevates one religion, or one interpretation of that religion even, to ideological and political supremacy?

No. Not just “no”, but “HELL NO!”

I agree with the Founding Fathers that our rights are inherent in us as human beings. They are rights that cannot be alienated away from us…and especially cannot be alienated away by any government or controlling power that “knows what’s best,” whether we agree or not.

Okay…crap…this is starting to turn into a screed, so I think it’s time to stop.

Ahem.

The next time I start to go all political, I’m gonna skip the problem and just post excerpts from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  All hail Douglas Adams!

Ahhh, Excess…

Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.”
—Oscar Wilde

Ahh, Oscar…thank you for those words!

I’d love to say I admire that line solely for its literary merits, but…well…I might as well have the damned thing tattooed on my forehead. No, really. For me, if something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.B1AA577A-B316-4402-A87C-3C2FDC880975

All those old “moderation in all things” sentiments can kiss my ass…

Now, one point I should make is that I love to cook. The only things I obsess about more than cooking/food, in fact, are writing, music and booze (which is pretty dang close to being a part of the food thing). I study food and flavors like I never studied, well, anything in college.*

*Hey, there is definitely something to be said for the “C’s get degrees” mantra!

It’s a pretty normal thing for me to overdo even something so simple as a quickie-meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup. At this particular moment, I’m throwing together a picnic for some folks. Doing this for other people is probably a good thing, I should add, as I would undoubtedly go completely and totally gonzo if I was doing it for myself…

Three kinds of cheese, two kinds of meat, a fresh ceviche, some bread, dessert, wine, beer…I’m even contemplating throwing together some quick-toasted flatbread and making a mango chutney to go with it.

See what I mean? Things like this should always be done to excess! Hell, if anyone I know actually agreed with me and went in for the good things in life, I’d throw in some cold, pickled tongue and maybe a bit of pate de foie gras.

I am, I should probably add, also drinking beer and cranking old-school Frank Sinatra as I get all this ready…

Ahhh…excess…how I love you!

Wait, I’m supposed to be writing, you say?

Crap!

This kind of thing is why, by the way, I write in coffee shops and breweries — there’s nothing to disturb me there. Well, nothing except people, but…well… Shit, I’m a writer, for the love fo God…I’m supposed to ignore the rest of the human race!

Pure Randomness

Well, crap…

I’m gonna do a “cheat-post” again, today. Over the last couple of days, I’ve mulled over a few different ideas for this post, but none were really…well…worth a full post. So I’m going to employ the old (cheap) freelance trick of doing a “list” of things:

1) Poor Ahmed Best. I read a story earlier this week where he was lamenting the effect that playing Jar-jar Binks had on his career, and on his life overall. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy. He took on a role in the biggest movie franchise of all time, and he shouldn’t be punished for the fact that his character was…umm…not good.1FFB0D93-3F4B-4DFE-9D19-C17CB8544DBA Okay, look, Jar-jar Binks is an abomination, I think we can all agree on that. The truth, however, is that Jar-jar isn’t the worst thing in the Star Wars series.  Hell, Jar-jar isn’t even the worst thing in that particular movie! Can anyone actually say “midichlorians” without throwing up just a little bit in their mouth? Yeah, try to top that plot device for insulting the damned fans, I dare you. So, please folks, all of us fans need to give poor Ahmed Best a break and let him move on from the Curse of Jar-jar. Or, better yet, let him reprise the role, but do it this time as some badass version of Darth Jar-jar!

A18FB0D2-FB56-4114-A30A-FA5D2B0B198A2) A warehouse storing whiskey barrels collapsed, ruining the poor, innocent booze aging away inside. All those barrels…all that whiskey… I cried. A lot. No, really — can I wear a black armband for something like this?

3) My niece is researching universities. Auditioning them, really, for the place that best fits her wants & needs. That, of course, means that family members are coming out of the damned woodwork to inflict all of their own prejudices and dreams and opinions onto the poor girl. Crap, folks…how about we just let her figure out where she wants to study? I have degrees from two universities that are about as diametrically opposed as it’s possible to be in every major respect: location, age, culture, population, education focus, take your pick. And you know what attending those two extremes taught me? There ain’t no magic, right answer…and that what mom & dad, or grandma & grandpa, or various uncles and aunts, want doesn’t matter even the slightest bit — well, shouldn’t matter the slightest bit. Of course, hearing about this whole process also makes me wax nostalgic about all those things I did back in school that I — ahem — don’t generally talk about in public. I do wonder, though, if I can still do a keg-stand…

F9A1CDC4-5E7E-4BEE-8562-7205DC5E6DBF4) Going back to work reminded just how valuable writing is to me. I haven’t actually worked for anyone else since I left a publishing company back in 2011, and it’s not…err…never mind, I don’t need to go into that again. On the other hand, it does give me added incentive to pick up the pace on some of the writing projects I have going. It doesn’t give me any time, mind you, but all the motivation in the world…

The Things We Do to Survive

IMG_0163Note: this post is a day early because of July 4th — Happy Independence Day, everyone!!

I am not particularly thrilled with the world, right now. I took on some non-writing work to make ends meet, and I hate every minute of every day that I do that. I don’t just hate the job, I hate myself for taking it…for needing to take it. I feel…well…more than a bit dirty about it.

Of course, I have long been a fan of the phrase “it’s all grist for the mill.” Everything you see and do, everything you learn and experience, is a part of you. Everything goes into the hopper to contribute to the experience and emotion and reality of the characters and stories you write.

Look at it like this: do I need a scene involving bartending in a college town? I got that. Do I need something describing life in the beige hell of an office cubicle-farm? I got that, too. Heck, do I need something involving high-end food and exotic international destinations? I’m covered there, as well.

And those are just the things I want to talk about. I got a million more that are…err…none of your business. But each and every one of them has had an appearance, and an impact, in my writing.

This current job feels different, somehow. Maybe it’s because it does nothing except take me away from my writing. Well, that and pay some of the bills.

And, honestly, if I look at things objectively, it is no less pointless and obnoxious than some (many) of the freelance writing projects I have done simply for the paycheck. Or even those projects I have done and then been stiffed on…DF168F59-4FEF-4989-AE6E-9F11B1BEF83F

Ahem. Penalty for over-sharing!

Never mind.

All of which brings me to the point of today’s (early) IWSG question & post: What are your ultimate writing goals, and have they changed over time?

Okay, let’s be honest here — like a lot of young writers, I dreamed of the best-seller and the six- or seven-figure advance. I might as well have dreamed of a career in the NBA (as a short, fat, white hockey player) as that kind of writing-money. It took a great deal of cold water and disappointment to learn just how little money there actually is in writing.

And, no, I don’t need to hear stories about “Aunt Berenice” and her million dollar travel-blog business, thank you very much.

The thing is…

The thing is, my goal never really has been money. If money had been my goal, I never would have left the marketing and sales side of things. The six-figure salary was a wonderful thing for a good, long time…

But I hated it.

By the end of that career, I hated it even more than the job to which I currently subject myself.

Look, let’s be honest here: I write.

That’s who I am, not what I do.

So, NO, my goals have not changed. The only thing that has changed is the time and experience and effort it took for me to learn the truth of that statement above about being a writer. I don’t write for fame…and I certainly don’t write for the (crappy) money. Honestly, it goes back to something I’ve said before: I write for me.

Put less succinctly (and less confrontationally), I write for the stories that I have to tell. I have this collection of story-ghosts that flutter around the back of my mind, all wanting and needing to be told. I write for them.

I also have this need to share my thoughts and opinions about life, the universe and everything,* and the only way I have to truly communicate those — this blog aside — is through my stories. It is not always (or even usually) the protagonist, but in every story I write there is at least one character who is, essentially, my “mouthpiece” as the eminence grise of the whole damned thing. Oz’s cynical humor…Kiran’s sarcasm…Runae’s desperate loneliness…those are all parts of me.

*Douglas Adams is my patron saint, by the way!

No, in the end, for me, the only goal that matters in writing is telling the stories. If I die penniless, broken and alone, I will still have the various stories I told…

The more I think about it, the more true it becomes: I write for me. I write for the stories I want to tell, and for the characters that are the ghosts in my mind.

Your mileage, by the way, may (and hopefully will) vary.

If you get into this game for the money, more power to you. If you happen to actually make good on that desire for money…shit-howdy, I’ll build a statue to you! But I won’t actually change what or how I write. Nope, those are mine, those are me.