27 November 2018

Too Much Time, Knowing Where You Stand, Taking Notes, Horrible Memories and Good Times

A few days ago I pointed out a grammar mistake in a comment on a message board. In response someone wrote that if that sort of thing "triggers" me I must have "too much time on (my) hands."
This got me thinking about what the proper amount of time one should have on their hands. Also, why aren't the guidelines for this published? Also, who decides the proper amount of time one should have -- on their hands? Yet another question: what should one do upon finding they have an excess of time -- on their hands. (And why is time on one's hands? Honestly, I don't get that.) I wish I knew the answer to these questions.

I did find it interesting that the person who alerted me to having -- too much time on my hands, was able to make that determination based upon my having pointed out a simple grammar mistake. He must be an expert on time management. I wonder about this term and whether it is uniquely American. People in this country seem to love to be busy. They even brag about how busy they are. Why? Shouldn't we strive to have more leisure time? Time to think, reflect, ruminate, time for introspection? Plus if we are not terribly busy doesn't that mean we have time to do volunteer work, help others? I guess that could put us right back at being busy again.

Americans take much less vacation than people in other first world countries. In many European countries workers get six weeks off. In the US you can be lucky to get two. Being busy isn't so great, sometimes it just represents poor time management. Also, couldn't it be that a person who keeps themselves busy, is trying to avoid being alone with their thoughts? Maybe being busy is fear based. You have time "on your hands" and you've got to face certain realties and contemplate who you are. Maybe people would rather be busy.

I was recently reminded of a conversation I had some years back. The person I was chatting with had just returned from visiting family in the south, Alabama, I think. Someone asked him about racists in that area and he pointed out that bigots there were very upfront about their prejudices. "It's not like here. Back there you know where you stand with your neighbor, here you don't." Yes I can well imagine how comforting it would be for an African American living in the Deep South to have a neighbor who has a Confederate flag sticker on his pick up and can occasionally be seen donning his white hood for a Klan meeting. Imagine that same African American moving to San Francisco. His neighbor is friendly, chats with him, invites him over for a barbecue, but he can't really be sure where he "stands" with this neighbor. Maybe all the friendliness is just a cover for a latent racist. Better to know for sure. By the same token if someone is lynching you, you damn well know "where you stand" with that person, while that person who cheerily greets you everyday may really be up to no good.

When I'm otherwise occupied I'll often come across topics that I want to write about about here. Then when a moment presents itself when I can write I can't think of a bloody thing to write about. I should start talking notes. Everywhere I go, everything I do, I should carry a notebook to be prepared to jot down what's up. I frequently think of things, some very clever things when I'm in bed shortly before dozing off. I assure myself that there's no way I'll forget this idea, or joke, or line. I always do. Sometimes I remember that I had a very interesting notion the night before and go through fits of agony trying to remember what the hell it was. So there's one place that I should take notes in bed before the sandman arrives.

Sometimes I remember the exact feeling I had as a little kid when my schizophrenic mother would yell at me (not about me) while I was in my room playing. It was an awful voice, angry and loud spewing utter nonsense that had nothing to do with me. It was impossible to ignore and equally impossible to digest. I just had to take it and good lord it was terrible. I want to time travel and find that eight year old me and give me a hug and say it's okay. Poor kid. That was a childhood that fucked me but good for a lot of years. I've spent a lifetime in recovery. But people have dealt with worse so I don't complain. I just carry on. What else can you do?

I've got a lot of happy memories. My wife and children alone have provided tons (memories probably don't come in tons or pounds). Most of my late teens and 20s were a riot of fun, laughter, parties and good times. I've done a lot of work that I've enjoyed and have fond memories of students and co-workers. I have great memories of travels, vacations, sports events attended, sports played, movies seen and friends and relatives. It's hard to feel the warmth of those memories when I'm depressed. But I'm not depressed now, so it's all good.

Life is a balancing act and you can never have too much time.

06 November 2018

The Writer Explains His Absence From this Blog is Due to Work on a Novel

I haven't written anything on this blog for awhile. Not that anyone would notice (except of course for you my faithful reader Mrs. Elaine Cartwright of Dayton, Ohio -- by the way, is little Jamie over his cold?). It's not that I haven't been writing at all, because in fact I've been writing up a storm (though not a storm big enough to damage homes). But the writing I've been doing has been in an effort to complete a novel. I'm delighted to say that the first draft is finished and I'm currently revising and refining and making sure that it is truly Pulitzer Prize material.

Now that you've all had a good laugh....

This will be my third completed novel. Unlike its two predecessors this one is very good. Of course that's just my opinion as I am thus far the only person to have read it. My first novel was interesting but a mess and now it is lost to the world. The second was pretty good but perhaps a bit too ambitious and as it involved a school shooting was a turn off to would be literary agents. I believe the third time is a charm. In any case it has been a labor of love and I'm proud of it and when it's completed and at the mercy of strangers I will write a prequel and then a sequel.

It is a gross exaggeration to say that "everyone has written a novel." Very few illiterate people have attempted to do so. Most plumbers do not spend their idle hours plugging away at the next Moby Dick. It is also rare that an infant even attempts writing so much as a novella. But it it is true that a lot of people try to write novels and many, such as myself are teachers. Many teachers aspire or did aspire to be something else. Some just teach.

Also there is something of playing the lottery to writing a novel. While your odds of getting rich by writing a book are probably greater than the odds of winning a multi hundred million dollar jackpot, the odds against being published are long indeed. Also the fame and fortune many would be novelists long for are rarely achieved. For every JK Rowling who has made a lottery's worth of dough writing books, there are thousands who've made enough to pay a couple of months rent and many thousands more who can't understand why no one will publish their book.

There, is, of course, self-publishing, the last refuge of the writer. Many writers aiming for the best seller last eschew the very idea as beneath them. Many who do go that route don't even break even on the proposition. But a lot of people don't write novels solely for the chance to be rich and famous or even widely read. Some people just love to write. If not a word of mine ever gets published (perish the thought) I will be sorely disappointed but I will not have regretted one second of the writing process.

It has been my ambition to write a successful novel since I was eight years old -- maybe earlier. Over 50 years later I've only written three and at best only one that may see the light of day. There are various reasons for this. One has been drugs and alcohol which stymied a lot of my artistic ambition. Another has been depression which has at times rendered me incapable of typing a word let alone enough for story. Of course work and family have eaten up a lot of time. I've needed both to survive. But the biggest impediment to a successful writing career has been laziness. Which is no excuse at all. I owe myself a lot of apologies for not forcing myself to write daily.

Writing a full length novel takes work. As one can see on this blog I've easily written a slew of short stories (some aren't bad). I can write a decent short story in one day, though most take longer. A novel is infinitely more complex an endeavor, especially when you have work and family obligations.

I hope someday to share glad tidings here of the publication of my first novel. I've finally conquered my laziness and write religiously. This has allowed me to complete the first draft of my novel and make headway on the revisions. I'm really loving the hell out of it and recommend to anyone who has an inkling that they'd like to write to just do it.