09.09.08

Wanted: A Clear Head

Posted in Life in general, On writing at 9:20 am by Marion

Yesterday was nearly a bust for writing, as I’m still struggling with laryngitis and a head full of cement. Last night I was up most every hour to drink something for my throat, but today, I’m starting to feel like I just may pull through.

Writing requires a certain enthusiasm and healthy ability to think. Anything that tampers with that balance means wooden prose, bad phrasing and downright boring turns of phrase. Even on my best days it’s hard enough to capture a living voice in mere words but when sick, it’s impossible.

Today, however, I think I’ll be able to at least get a few good sentences down. A few interviews need to be completed if I can muster up enough of a voice to talk on the phone. Meanwhile, the world keeps turning ….

09.08.08

Is it just me?

Posted in Life in general, On writing at 10:09 am by Marion

Gone are the days … but … wouldn’t it be fun to write this morning and write about my stellar weekend keeping nightclubs open until dawn?

Instead, I’m sitting at my desk with a killer sore throat after a quick weekend trip to the mountains, where I was in my grandmother’s hospital room most of the weekend, at her side. Nothing serious, and she’s doing better.

Late yesterday afternoon, after a long drive home, tired and quite sick, I settled in to watch two more episodes of “Six Feet Under” (Season 3). I admit it! I’m hooked! At least through the rest of the season … fireworks started between the characters, they became more interesting and I guess it’s just a soap opera for artsy types.

This morning I had to climb back in bed with a heating pad around my neck because I was in such pain … but on Monday morning there’s not a lot of sympathy in the working world for sickness. I took a few minutes after reading my e-mail to run through the three-inch thick pile of bills … where am I going to get the money this month … I guess my novel won’t be ready in time …

So begins another week in Fiction Dailyland … but the sun is out and my throat is feeling better. Pretty soon now it will be time for lunch. What could be better?

09.05.08

Journey-people

Posted in Figuratively Speaking at 6:19 am by Marion

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING

We all know that when you go somewhere, you take a journey.

What’s less known is that word’s relationship to a day’s work. Journey comes from the Old French journee, a word that refers to the course of a day, a day’s travel or a day’s work. That word derives from the Latin word diurnum, or “daily portion.”

A journeyman is someone with a skill, who works for another person. It comes from journey, in the sense of “a day’s work,” combined with “man” — so named because the journeyman was no longer bound by indentures but was paid for the day. He was able to decide where he worked … and to keep his wages … and in that sense, he was free.

Some synonyms expert, artist, craftsman, artisan and everything from Renaissance man, illuminati and genius to handyman and technician.

I’ve written before about what it means to be a self-employed writer. Not a lot of security … and I’ve learned not to look too far down the road, to sock my earnings into savings and don’t spend any more than I have to, and enjoy the scaled-down pleasures of hiking over plane trips to exotic islands.

Yet in the 13 years I’ve worked for myself, I have come to appreciate the idea of being a journeyman (journeygal? journeyperson?). I have worked plenty of nights and weekends, even once stayed up all night to write a script for someone on short notice.

Yet though I’m meeting someone’s requirements or requests, I do so by my own choice. Maybe it’s fear of letting someone down … maybe it’s my inner sense of perfection … I just don’t like failure.

The trick is applying these standards to my own personal writing. That’s harder to do. While it’s one thing to work for someone else, with the promise of a day’s pay for a day’s work … when writing a novel, there’s no promise … no pay, at least not for years … and no one setting a deadline.

09.04.08

Tech Thursday

Posted in Computers & Technology, On writing at 7:43 am by Marion

If you’ve been reading FD for a while, you know I’ve recently purchased a new laptop computer. It’s got these crazy guts … really, it’s a “gaming computer” … not sure what that means, but it sounds fast and dangerous!!

So here I sit, a writer whose craziest day means a trip to the grocery store or a long run through a nearby neighborhood, sitting like an outlaw at the helm of this outrageous laptop. It has a 64-bit version of Vista operating system … 4 GB RAM … I can’t even remember the hard drive size but it’s so big it has a partition with a mirror image of itself. (It was on sale. I am a writer, after all, not a futures trader.)

During the day I write my articles and short stories … then at night, it becomes my DVD player. (We watched “Into the Wild” a few nights ago. A riveting story, incredibly well-made movie, about a young man leaving civilization to live in Alaska on his own.)

The new technology in my life was just getting started, because about two weeks ago, my iPod battery died in earnest. I had purchased an extended warranty, so I traded it in for the “3Gen” video iPod Nano. It’s a squat, square thing, and so I had to purchase new cases, learn the commands, get a feeling for it. I was just getting used to it when yesterday I read that Apple is announcing a new iPod Nano … back to the tall thin design, but with a larger video screen.

My FM transmitter wouldn’t work with my new iPod (it sends music to my car radio … can’t live without it) and I’m waiting for a replacement.

Meanwhile, our wireless router is dying a slow, painful death … seemingly worse after I spent $32 for a so-called “firmware upgrade.” When I called the company to tell them their “upgrade” killed our router, they offered me a new, discounted router, for only about $82. What a bargain! I am too tired to fight. I coughed up a credit card number. I bought the refurbished router … am waiting for delivery … which means installation … port and gate numbers … obscure settings that mean the difference between flowing Internet service and “DNS error” and “Page failed to load. Try again.”

If there’s a point I’m making here (and I’m not sure there is), it’s that computer technology is leap years ahead of where it was when I got my first newspaper job in 1986. In those days, our entire newsroom used a 2 MB server. Yep … 2 MB. It crashed once a week or so.

These days, there’s not the sense of an emergency surrounding our computers the way it was in the old days.

Still, you have to keep up, or the world changes so fast you’re in the dark again. No matter how unpleasant, I’ve found I have to keep up the pace behind the “betas” (or early adopters, those people who jump first onto new technology).

For a writer who finds it all too easy to do something else, I have to make sure technology doesn’t replace meaning.

09.03.08

Politics & religion

Posted in Events, Life in general at 8:33 am by Marion

No, I’m not going there in Fiction Daily … yet as this election season gets under way in earnest, I know that for the next few months it will become more uncomfortable to be around many familiar people … harder to pass their houses in my neighborhood … tougher to make small talk, even to chat with one of my oldest and best friends. People I know in one way — as animal lovers, good parents, friendly neighbors — become someone else, as they represent larger, often angry, political dogmas.

For the most part I keep my political views to myself. I learned to do so after working with large groups of like-minded people on a couple of local issues … helping protect a large piece of property from development and preserve it as a public park … working to halt plans by an out-of-state developer to build a shopping center in the wetlands behind our house.

To take meaningful action on these vital local issues, I’ve learned to keep larger political and religious issues out of play. That’s because my Unitarian and Baptist friends can equally agree that parks are good … dogs are good … cats are good … children are good … clean air and wildlife are good … and if we keep to these common matters we can get something done.

Yet on the larger stage, battles loom this fall, and the stakes are considerable. My private choices are steered by a belief that compassion and nonviolence are paramount, that individuals should have the most freedom possible as long as they don’t hurt others, and that a person’s private life is, well, private.

We have to structure a world where people can make choices safely and learn without too much hardship, where we can work hard and enjoy a fair return for our labor, and where other sentient beings — children, animals and the natural world around us — are held in highest esteem.

09.02.08

Running away

Posted in Running at 9:21 am by Marion

With fall’s cool days, there are few things better than a long run. Yesterday, I headed out into bright sun, down the highway and reached the nearby neighborhood where I was able to enjoy the shade of overhead trees.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, The Great Carp, October 1889Crossing the first stream on my course, I stopped to look into the water and saw the fish. If I sneak up to them carefully I can gaze down at them for some time.

Later in my run, at a larger stream crossing, I see turtles and more fish. It’s often at this bridge I see the familiar large carp or trout, about 15 inches long.

This particular fish has been something of a spirit guide for some time. It was gazing at him one day that I felt the full meaning of words from His Holiness the Dalai Lama — that all beings want to be happy and avoid suffering.

I imagined this great fish going about his daily business of avoiding hooks and herons, turtles and raccoons, and doing so long enough to grow to this size. Somehow, I was with the fish, looking for food and minding my own small daily affairs in the world.

Seeing this fish is always a highlight of my run, reminding me to stop and consider my kinship with all sentient beings around me.

One time I saw some teenagers perched on that bridge with fishing poles. I asked them to reconsider what they were doing … because there was a large fish down there I was fond of. It probably sounded pretty flaky, but the thought of that old fish getting hooked and then discarded was unbearable. Sometimes being an adult has perks … I must have seemed like some kind of authority figure.

I’ve seen my buddy from time to time since then, although not yesterday, and I know one day he’ll be gone. And when he goes, it will remind me that what we call reality is always changing, and that everything will pass and fade away — the stream, the bridge, the neighborhood, my running shoes and these runs, my breath, my world.

That’s both unsettling and reassuring. It means life goes on, with or without me. I’m not in charge. The best I can do at any moment is just breathe in and run.

09.01.08

Labor Day

Posted in Life in general at 6:23 am by Marion

Fiction Daily will return on Tuesday. Fire up the grills, soak up the sun.

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