Friday, August 14, 2020

Writing: Footprints in Sand Or Cement?

I decided to look  back ten years to see what I posted. It seemed to be appropriate then, and  yet again today. When your book (if you ever get it published) is out, will it leave footprints in the sand, or cement? How about the prints you leave with just your everyday life?

"When my book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, was published I had a friend comment on the cover: "How sweet. His and hers handprints in the sand." It wasn't long until another made a similar comment, except he said, " cement." Which is correct? I wasn't sure then. I believe I am now.

"Cynthia and I used to enjoy trips to South Padre Island. Long walks on the sandy beach were just the time to talk, to plan, to relax and enjoy. And, since she matured but refused to actually grow up, she would sometimes stop and make a footprint or handprint in the sand. Of course, the incoming tide would erase it, but it was fun.

"What child has not been tempted to use the surface of a newly poured sidewalk as a tablet and inscribe his or her initials on it? And many workmen do the same to mark their work, a lasting memorial to what they've done.

"Last week Kay and I attended a golf tournament put together to raise funds for the children of her oldest son, Phil, whose life came to a tragic end this spring. We were sitting in the pavilion at dinner when I saw the pattern of a perfect leaf in the cement floor. We looked and found several others in various places. I don't know if this was a happenstance or a deliberate decoration, but I do know one thing: people will see those leaves for many years to come.

"Doing some things are like footprints in the sand. They're evidence of good times, and those are admirable. But other actions are like footprints in cement: enduring evidence of something done along the way. 

"At the tournament we encountered dozens and dozens of people whose lives Phil had affected in a positive way. After Cynthia's death, I heard numerous stories of how she'd influenced the lives of others. These were footprints made in cement, and they'll be around for decades.

"What kind of footprints are you making? I hope you're walking barefoot through the sand often enough to produce a smile. But I hope you leave some reminders in cement of the positive things you've done, as well."

There you have it. What kind of footprints are you your writing, in your living?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A Word Of Thanks...

On weekends, because we're in the "vulnerable" group and stay home a lot, I usually choose a tee shirt instead of my usual polo short. I had forgotten that I chose the one that had "veteran" on the front of it until a young man came up to our table at lunch and asked what kind of cheesecake we preferred. I didn't know what to say, but eventually my wife answered. In a few minutes, he was back and presented us with a to-go container bearing a slice of flavored cheesecake. He asked what branch of service I was in, and I answered, "Air Force." He replied, "I was in the Army. This is to thank you for your service."

That stuck with me. Then my wife reminded me that the printing on the back of the tee shirt said something to the effect that I swore an oath to protect this nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and no one had relieved me of that oath yet. I've thought about that a lot, since then.

How long has it been--other than on Veterans' Day or Memorial Day--since you thanked a veteran for his or her service? How about thanking a policeman or fireman? How about thanking anyone for serving in any capacity, especially during these tough days? I plan to. How about you?

Friday, August 07, 2020

Writing: Encouragement

Writing is full of discouragement. When I write, I sometimes think of the words of Steven Furtick: "The reason we struggle with insecurity is we compare our behind-the-scenes with someone else's highlight reel." An author may take a year to write the 80,000 to 100,000 word book that is read in a few days. And while it's nice to receive the words that come in after the publication of a new book, there's always the thought that comes creeping into an author's brain: What if this was it? Suppose there are no more ideas forthcoming.

Besides that, is an idea enough? I've said before that anyone can have an idea, but it takes an author to convert it into a full-length book (or even a novella). It's hard work sometimes, although at other times it seems that the words simple flow onto the page. (Those times, by the way, are far between for me). While we're writing, we may get messages like "So-and-so has won the Such-and-Such Award" or "So-and-so's novel, (fill in the blanks), has been awarded the Murgatroyd Medal by the Happy Readers Society." And usually we're glad that these works have been recognized. We may even know the authors mentioned. (It's a small group, but growing larger all the time). Nevertheless, at times it's difficult (though we try) not to be just a bit jealous.

I've addressed before the reasons we write. Most of us feel successful if we get a few nice words in a review for the novel we have published, but what really keeps us going is a message like the one I just received--simple, short, but much appreciated. "Looking forward to your next novel." Six words that make me want to go back to work on my WIP.

Do you post reviews? Good. Do you show a book as "to-be-read" on Goodreads, and follow it up with your recommendation? Good. But if you contact your favorite authors to tell them you're anxious for their next book...  Wonderful. That will keep an author going for quite a while.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

What To Write About?

Sometimes a subject for this blog post just pops into my mind. Sometimes I have to think about it. And sometimes there's simply nothing there. Kneeling instead of standing for our National Anthem? Too controversial.Politics? Not a chance. Religion? Even worse. I have feelings about all of these, but don't feel like writing about anything controversial.

Then I see the Space-X capsule splash down, I see two men whom I don't know and will never meet emerge from it, and my heart is filled with national pride. I'm not going to the Moon. Goodness knows I'll never volunteer for the trip to Mars. But as I hear the commentator talk about all the advances that have been made as a primary or secondary benefit to space flight, I'm glad that America is back in the game, so to speak.

I'll have more to say about controversial subjects in the future, but for now, I'm simply proud to be an American. How about you?

Friday, July 31, 2020

Writing: Time To Write

"You must have lots of time to write. You're retired." I cringe when I hear those words. Why? Because (1) I am retired (for almost 18 years now), and (2) I identify with the people who say, "Now that I'm retired I'm busier than ever." Yes--but not about writing.

Both my wife and I are retired, so you'd think I'd disappear into my "office" and write for several hours a day. Not so! I get up around 6:00 in the AM, although sometimes I sleep as late as 6:30. One of the sad things I've found about retirement is when you get old enough to sleep late, you find that you can't sleep late.

After a cup of coffee, breakfast, more coffee, I'm ready to....oh, wait. Today I have to get the car serviced. It's more than an hour's wait, so I have to go through the process of getting a loaner. Then when I get home I find my wife on the phone. When we're both ready, we talk a bit about the loaner car, including how it looks very much like my wife's car. That leads to a discussion of whether she should trade it in. Then it's time for lunch.

Now she's gone to run errands, and I'm ready to...oh, wait. I thought I was ahead on posts (I have a personal blog that I do on Tues and Friday, plus a fan page that I try to post five or six days a week). I look and find that I have missed today's deadline on my fan page. While at the computer, I do some blogs for the fan page so I'm caught up and a bit ahead. Surely I can write now.

Then I think about the point in the story I've reached. But I want my wife--my first reader--to give me her opinion on the first 7000 words of my story. Might as well wait for that. Meanwhile, I'll just glance through Facebook. Wow, where did the time go?

And so it goes. The life of a retired writer. Want to join me?

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

What's In A Name?

As my fellow writer, Bill Shakespeare, said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet." Those lines, from the soliloquy from the play, Romeo and Juliet, should be familiar to those of us of my generation--can't speak to some of the younger folk, whose education may not have included some of those classics.

The movement toward more "politically correct" names has reached the National Football League, and apparently--even though those of Native American heritage overwhelmingly favor the old name--it has resulted in a change from the Washington Redskins to "The Washington Football Team." I wonder if it's just a hop-skip-and-jump to the point where we call them "the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins."

Will this lead to our saying good-bye to the name of the Cleveland Indians? Will the White House need to be renamed? Is it time for us to stop ordering such ethnic dishes as pizza or egg rolls? Where to we draw the line?

We now are told that almost 2/3 of the population are afraid to voice their beliefs. Is this what it's coming to?

Enjoy the line from Shakespeare while you can. Soon someone will complain about the thorns of a rose so we'll substitute a line about honeysuckle smelling as sweet. Just kidding--I hope.

Your turn. What do you think about renaming things to conform to political correctness? I'd like to know.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Writing: Adapting

Writers, how are you adapting to this new situation? Are you using the enforced time at home (some of you, anyway) to write, or are you (like me) finding it difficult to concentrate in these trying times? Every morning it seems that I'm faced with more information than I want about the latest in Covid-19, together with the riots that seem to gather strength as time goes on. Does it bother you?

And will your next book feature people in masks, social distancing, avoiding contact with others? Or will you write about the old order, when no one wore masks and social distancing was an unfamiliar concept? I guess the writers of historical fiction won't have to make that decision, and I'm not sure what the science-fiction crowd will be writing. But it's another thing to worry about.

Have you thought about any of this? I have, and I don't have answers. Do you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Politicizing Everything

Careful what you say via social media. Can it be misinterpreted? Can it be turned around and used against you? Is it best to say nothing at all?

I've decided to confine my more personal commentaries to my blog, where I can control those comments which are violently at odds with my own philosophy. It's not that I mind differing points of view--I don't, even though I've never seen someone's mind changed by an argument on social media. But when I'm lectured for opinions that are at odds with those of the commenter, opinions that smack of "I know what's best, and you must agree with me," then I think that person should voice them in their own blog--not mine.

The other day I needed a pair of sandals to wear around the house, and I ended up going to a different store and paying a dollar or two more instead of buying something with the Nike brand prominently displayed. My contribution won't amount to much, but I'm serious about boycotting a company with whose spokesperson I disagree. Do you sometimes find yourself buying something that may cost a bit more but is American-made?

We're also being certain to buy Goya products. I don't look at the labels on what my wife buys, but I'm happy to go against the grain and "buy-cot" this product. How about you?

Am I overly sensitive in this area? Or do you sometimes feel that everything you say can be (and sometimes is) politicized? I'd like to know.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Writing: Motivation

Why would anyone sit down and write a book, especially a work of fiction? I can perhaps see doing a non-fiction book if there's really a story you need to tell. But why write a work of 65,000 to 100,000 words? For those of you who are counting, when you figure 250 words per page (Times New Roman font, standard margins), that's up to 400 pages. Why would you do it?

The standard answer, of course, is that "I write because I can't not write." There's just a drive within you to commit words to a page and prepare it for others to read. If that's you, then power to you--get at it, but prepare yourself for disappointment. Lots of us write, and the number is getting larger every day. Self-publication of e-books now makes it possible for you to get your novel out there with almost no investment-- without editing (I really don't suggest that) and with a self-designed cover (again, I don't suggest it).  By the way, if you're waiting for that big contract from a traditional publisher, I'm afraid that you're in for a long wait. Those are becoming harder to come by.

Why else do you write? Is it because you're looking for a source of income? I've written about that before, and I'll say it again:  the number of those for whom writing is a sole source of income is small, and your odds of joining them are slim.

Want fame and fortune? Want to be recognized wherever you go? Sorry.

But if you have a message you feel you have to write, blessings on you. Maybe no one else will read it, but perhaps the only one meant to see it is you--and that's enough.

Can you tell what a writer's motivation is when you finish his/her book? Let me know. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Wearing A Mask

I've never thought much about wearing a mask. When I go to the post office, when I run an errand, I throw on my mask and go. I wore one for many years when, as a doctor, I did surgery. After my residency training (which included a lot of head and neck cases), probably the longest I wore one without a break was a couple of hours. And I never gave it a second thought. Oh, there was the sensation of needing to scratch my nose right after I first put one one, but that didn't last long.

Now, depending on which state you reside in, it's mandatory to wear one whenever you're outside. If you're able to go out to eat, wear one until you're seated, then put it back on when you leave the table and go. No problem. It is just the thing to do. Everyone is doing it. (And I don't want to start an argument in this space, with everyone saying that masks do or don't prevent Corona Virus transmission and giving their reasons--that's not what this post is about).

I saw a doctor (routine problem--no worries) on Friday of last week, and had my temperature checked before going in, wore a mask the whole time I was there, saw a doctor who likewise wore a mask, and observed all the requirements that minimized viral transmission. And I thought to myself, "How quickly we adapt. But, then again, the end result least, to be worth the effort."

To me, it's not a political thing. I don't think "the man" (whoever you think that is) is trying to control our actions. The infection is real, and I plan to do everything in my power to avoid it. How about you?