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?

Friday, July 10, 2020

Writing: Is A Blog Helpful?

About a year ago, I wrote this. In looking at it now, I wonder how accurate it is in light of the changes that have taken place. Is a blog necessary? Has social media changed? See what you think.

"Writers are told we "need to have a social media presence"--perhaps even more before we're published than afterwards. But rarely does anyone ask why. As a multi-published author, both via conventional publishers and self-published, let me give my frank opinions. (And you realize, if you've followed my Random Jottings for very long, that rather than a love/hate, I have a tolerate/hate relationship with social media).

"While we're still looking for that agent who says "I'll represent you" or that editor who offers a contract, we're blogging because we want to be able to say, "Yes," when asked if we have a social media presence.It's even better if we pick up some potential readers along the way, people who will say, "Yeah, I've seen his/her blogs. Maybe I should read this book." But honestly, before we're represented, before we're published, we want to see our name in print and know that we've taken that big step forward.

"After the big day, whether we've gained representation by an agent, signed a book contract with a publisher, or even are celebrating the launching of our first book, we want to be able to share the news. And what better venue for that than our blog, where the readers will be able to see the culmination of our struggle. (And, in case you're just now thinking of writing a book, it is a struggle--but hang in there).

"As each book comes out, we can mention it on our blog. If there's a pre-order or other special, who better to tell about it than our blog readers. Doing an interview, especially if there's a giveaway of your book? Let it be known by posting it on your blog. And occasionally you may even be able to work in the title of your book or something about it on one of your posts. But please don't make every offering sound like, "Please buy my book." That gets tiresome after a while, and will cause people to turn away from your blog.

"Finally, and I think this is very important, your blog, your Facebook and Twitter posts, your participation in Goodreads or other social media sites, will allow readers to get to know you. And ultimately, that's the best things about a blog from an author."

So, is this still true? I just saw a post by an agent who says "Yes, an author needs a website"--and her writing academy will design one (for a fee), as well as teaching you how to write. What do you think of that? Is it still true that an author needs a website? I'd like to hear from you.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Random Thoughts After Independence Day

I personally thought the speech the President gave at the foot of Mt. Rushmore was his best yet. Others may have a different opinion--as I've said before, no one was ever convinced during a Facebook argument, so I don't plan to engage in one.

I watched the Press Secretary hold another "briefing" just now. It seems to be a time when every reporter who's called on tries to focus on something that the President said or tweeted and asks questions that gets them their five minutes of face-time. Still wonder if the briefing would go better if the camera stayed on the podium, and even faster if they submitted written questions.

We flew our flag on Independence Day--actually, we fly it every day. Enjoyed the speeches and fireworks from a distance (sometimes with the sound turned way down). How about you? We have some things we still need to correct, but I'm glad to be living in the USA.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Independence Day, 2020

Tomorrow is July 4, the day we celebrate the independence of this great nation. Some people will take off for a varying length of time. Others will work. Some will head for sales. Others will go to the lake. But whatever we do, let's understand the meaning of the holiday. And be especially mindful of that meaning this year.

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies marked the signing of the Declaration of Independence, declaring themselves free from the British Empire.The framers of our documents of freedom--the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution--didn't all agree. And sometimes, their discourse wasn't very civil. But as Benjamin Franklin put it, "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." They argued, but they didn't loot and burn. Remember that these people put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors on the line to help give us the independence we celebrate.  This Independence Day, may we reflect on all that has gone before. What we now have is too precious to lose.

Enjoy the holiday--but recall why we celebrate it.God Bless America.