Monday, January 21, 2013

No Dearth of Excuses


Been thinking in terms of minimalism for the past several months, or so I told myself. I need to minimize my outside interests in order to concentrate on core commitments, like the three college courses I decided to take the Fall of 2012. That sounds fine. Minimize until all I have to worry about is family, school and work and I repeat that particular load of horse-hockey until I almost believe the lie I tell myself.

In truth, as hectic as school was, I was capable of more. Sure, my wife and I went on a cruise in the middle of the semester, and three classes should have been two classes instead, but to say that I was stretched would be, well, a stretch.

I can write five page research/ opinion papers all day every day and even with half a mind toward the end result, I am confident in my ability to get high marks. That sounds arrogant in the stark black and white, I know, and yet, being as old as I am, it is a statement more on experience than it is on quality. I know what the professors want and I worked out the formula years ago so it just becomes a process of plugging in the necessary facts in the correct sequence.

For example, there was one week when I found myself pressed for time with a thousand words to bang out and about a hundred or so pages of source material to sift through, spread among six or seven different sources. I finished that particular beauty in maybe thirty or forty minutes complete with citations and ended up with a perfect score from the professor. There was a time in my early college years that I would have sweated out that paper, agonized over the details and anxiously awaited judgement.

I’m different now, I just don’t want to admit that because then I would have to demand more of myself.

I would have to tell myself the truth.

I wasn’t employing intelligent minimalism in my life, I was being lazy.

A dearth of motivation, of commitment, of fortitude, of honesty. A dearth of engagement with life simply because I had a convenient excuse.

If I really had minimized my life, so as to concentrate fully on school, I should have sweated every paper. I should have pushed to be better than the limits of my skill I had already set years ago. I should have blogged, tweeted, written more. I should have spent less time mailing it in, as it were, and more time in trying to push beyond my limits, striving to see how far I could grow, risking failure if for no other reason than as proof that I dared.


So much more honest than anything I told myself in awhile. In the end, who really wants to say I was going to do such and such rather than I tried?
Monday, January 7, 2013

(Traditional) Publication Rules of Writing


Thinking of a post I wrote recently titled Manuscript Length A Thing Of The Past prompted me to consider what I thought about the current state of publishing. Normally I go with the flow, write short blog posts of little consequence, but the times we find ourselves today as writers is exciting, a little scary and confusing.

I felt the need to sort my feelings with more structure than I typically apply to my blog. In doing so, I discovered that one post was too constraining but I also understood the need to begin somewhere, so what follows is a (long) overview of where my mind is at today concerning the state of writing. What I find wonderful as a writer is the ability to rewrite previously published work, to expand and grow opinions more organically than at any other time in history.

There are things I’ve left out due to space, half-formed thoughts that remain undeveloped and sections that I’m not even certain I agree with, but here they stand for others to read. To disagree with, to argue for and argue against, to dismiss or take to heart.

Here, then, is my first draft. A writer in progress begins with a word, hoping others will follow for the rest.

What Are The (Traditional)  Publication Rules Of Writing?

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
-W. Somerset Maugham

Rules. There are as many rules about rules as rules themselves, but unlike Maugham, I was able to sort out in my mind four rules as regards to writing publication. Remember as you read further, my rules are broad and in no way meant to be comprehensive. Other folks will come up with their own rules I suspect, and that in no way diminishes their rules or my own, I think. It just means that writing and publication isn’t definable to the tenth decimal point. Writing and publication must be viewed in terms of range and described with phrases such as ‘most likely’, ‘I believe’ or ‘In all likelihood’.  

Or so I believe.

Here, then, are four rules of (traditional) publication:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Writing Skill Diminishes In Youth

Here’s the rundown of my life so far in college, a place I never thought to be again, and perhaps somewhere I shouldn’t be, not a t my age. I say to people that I am old and though thirty-six isn’t young, I don’t actually feel old beyond a few aches that I never noticed before. Then I arrived at college a few weeks ago and bam! Pow! Right in the kisser with the age-punch I never saw coming.

Those kids are young, but it isn’t in the way they look, which is obvious, but in the way they think. They’ve come from a different education system than the one I grew up in and I guess... it irritates me. A grumpy (old) man am I? Maybe I am, maybe I’m just out of touch, or maybe I forget that once I was nineteen and thought I knew everything.

Of course, that’s part of the problem, knowing everything. In comparison to the kids in my class, I will claim an advantage now in terms of knowledge and I’ll claim that same advantage for my nineteen year old self, too. It goes beyond the spelling errors (adgenda? When the fuck did they put that second ‘d’ in there?), or not knowing how to write in cursive (I’m sorry to Mrs. Morang, my sixth grade teacher, who struggled so hard to teach me legible cursive, since apparently that sort of thing doesn’t matter anymore). Turning in papers for class that are handwritten instead of typed is a thing now, I guess (it is 2012, with fucking computers practically inserted in our asses, right?), but even that doesn’t burn me the most or make me feel ancient.