Friday, January 28, 2011

Opportunity Knocks But You Don't Have to Answer

I have never been one to sit still when it comes to working.  I have been promoted from an entry level position to management in every job I've had, except one- but I hated that job anyway.  This is because I've always tried to go above and beyond in any position. I've always looked for the next opportunity, and created many of those opportunities myself. Basically I just get bored doing the same thing over and over.

A few years ago I found that my work and opportunities had led to a position where I was making an amount of money high enough to make a difference on a budget spreadsheet so when cuts were considered in order to balance the budget, I became nothing more than a expense line on an overinflated budget. So I got cut.  That was my "welcome to reality in the workplace."  Its pretty humbling.

Now I can tell you that I was angry, bitter, felt sorry for myself and I was scared.  I was also relieved.  I was in a position that I didn't want to be in.  I had pursued opportunities that I didn't want only because I thought its what I was supposed to do. Its the American way! Move up! Get promoted!  Be a success!

Once I lost that job and learned the valuable lessons about being true to oneself, I decided to pursue my love of writing.  Finally!  I had been putting it off as I took all those "great" opportunities. I decided then and there that any job I took was only to get me from point A to point B while I pursued my passion on the side.

So fast forward to now.  I'm back at work at the same place in a lower level position I'm comfortable in and I just finished my first novel.  Everything is good..... except that old familiar ambition is coming back.  I find myself wanting more in the workplace, but feeling conflicted about it.

I need to make the choices that will take where I want to be, not where I think I should be.  Writing as a career is still the ultimate goal, but why do I find the distractions so appealing?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And the Award Goes To.....

I was thinking today after the announcement of the Academy Award nominations that there should be awards given to the everyday people who are doing the best the can do in circumstances far beyond a nicely written screenplay.  For example, James Franco is nominated for best actor for his portrayal of a man who cuts off his own arm.  No disrespect to Mr. Franco and his acting, but the one who really should get an award is the guy who cut off his own arm in order to survive.

I think we all know people who manage life through extraordinary circumstances or projects.  They should get some recognition.  I don't want to embarrass anyone, but I'll pick on some of my friends.  

If I were giving awards for Best "Actress" in a Leading Role I would choose my friend, Erin in Waiting for an Agent,  or another friend Erin, in Freelance: A Story of a Mom, or friends Ashley, Heather, Wendy, Charlie, Brian, and others in Nightmare in the Call Center.   My friend Wendy would also take home an award in The Kids are Alright, but I Don't Want Anymore. Katrina would walk with gold for The Pervy Writer's Network.   

The list is endless, everyone has a story. One day a year, we should all dress up, walk the red carpet and salute ourselves.  Whose with me?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Revisions: Round One

When I was writing the first draft I took the advice of my friend and mentor, Katrina Kittle, and put everything down.  She assured me that I could go back and edit, cut, revise, and polish to make it all work.  Now as I've finished the first draft, I'm doing some minor revisions to cut the things I may have dropped later on as I was writing.  I'm also doing minor revisions, correcting grammar and making sure all the characters names and facts are consistent, etc. Mostly, I'm reading my novel.

I know it sounds like a silly thing that I'm reading my own novel, but there were pages in the middle that I was cranking out and haven't looked back on so I didn't remember them all that well.  Certain scenes meant to build character or sprinkle exposition throughout became part of what I knew about the characters, but I had forgotten how I had written them.

As I read through it, and at the risk of sounding egotistical, I like it.  I actually like what I've written, which is pretty good for me since I tend to be overly critical of my own work.   Mind you, it will still need revisions and polishing, some of it I'll need to clarify, but overall, I'm not ashamed to show it to my first readers.

What began as a childhood dream is starting to look like it could become reality.  I don't delude myself into thinking that it's an easy road, but it is one I feel prepared to explore.

I love days like this.  Someone please remind me of this when I'm having those days of self doubt.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Other Stories

So... I finally finished the first draft of my novel.  I finished on Monday evening and had it printed Tuesday. As I'm going through doing minor revisions, before I turn it over to some readers, I'm thinking about what's next.

Although the first draft is done, there are lots of revisions, editing and sending the novel around to find an agent, publisher, etc.. to go.  One way to keep myself from going crazy waiting, is to jump into the next project.  One might worry that I'd have to come up with some ideas now.  Well, that's not the case.  I have two ideas and have to decide which one I want to pursue. That's the hard part.

The first idea is a little dark and is in contrast to this first novel.  It would be a story about two childhood friends who are all grown up now, but share a dark, deadly secret from their childhood.  The problem is that one of the men doesn't know he holds this secret.  He's blocked it out and only after he begins having flashbacks, does he seek out his long lost friend and tries to to get to the truth he's buried. When he finds his friend, he finds him on a path of self destruction because he's been living with dangerous guilt and can no longer bear it.  He wants to confess and seek absolution, but his confession would implicate his friend, who has everything to lose.   It could be dark, mysterious and delve into  the seedier underbelly of people's personalities.  That intrigues me.

The other idea is a sequel to the current novel. At first I never considered a sequel.  This was to be a one time story, except that I find the characters still have so many stories to tell. There is a lot to explore with this art dealer from New York, his Native American lover, and their circle of friends.  This one could be fun.

Decisions, decisions....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Afternoon Delight

I hated them as a kid, but love them as an adult.  No, I'm not talking Brussel Sprouts, but that would be true also.  I'm talking naps.  A good old fashioned nap.

I remember Mom putting us down for a nap in the afternoon and we'd kick and scream the whole way. I was always afraid I'd miss something.  Or maybe I was so hyped up on sugar that I couldn't sit down.  Now, about forty years later, I live for an afternoon nap.

I really became re-acquainted for the afternoon delight when I was unemployed a few years ago.  Every afternoon around 3 p.m. I'd slip into bed (with two dogs joining me), close my eyes, and forget that I was unemployed and any other cares I might have. I'd drift off to dreamland for just a short visit.  Man, I missed that time when I went back to work.

The really great thing about a nap is that it refreshes you both mentally and physically.  It's a break in the middle of the day that many of us need.  For such an "advanced" nation such as ours, we really missed the boat on downtime. 

We all know that Spain and many Latin American countries celebrate the siesta every afternoon between 2 and 5 p.m.., but did you know that other countries also encourage slipping away into the sheets.  Afternoon sleep is also a common practice in Albania, Azores, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Montenegro, North Africa, Pakistan, the Philippines, Serbia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Imagine how much more peaceful the world would be if we'd all just take a nap.  I'm going to do my part right now. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finding Balance

I know we all struggle with finding balance in our lives. It's right up there with losing weight, quitting smoking, and being a better person.  If you saw the headline and thought you'd find some answers here, I'm sorry to disappoint.  I have no freakin' idea how to do it.

I have several things I'd like to do.  Finding the time is always the challenge.  If I try to solve this analytically here is what I come up with.

There are twenty four hours in a day.  I need a good eight hours of sleep, I've never been one to get by on five or six.  I need eight, so that leaves me sixteen.  Ideally I'd like to write two to three hours a day.  It seems like the best I can really hope for when I'm working.  I seriously need to get to the gym on some kind of regular basis, so that's about an hour and a half for a good workout, shower, slap on some fresh clothes, etc.  I know I'm supposed to eat five small meals a day.  I shouldn't rush, so I figure about twenty minutes for each of this small meals, including prep time.  I have two dogs who need to go out for walks about four times a day.  Each walk is about ten minutes.  There is about 20 minutes of feeding and play time, so that's another hour for dog care.  Since I'm stressed, my doctor recommended at least 30 minutes a day of meditation.  I have relationships which require attention, so that's another hour at least per day.  Now I've taken care of the basics. Throw in an hour for showering, shaving, and such personal business.  An hour should cover commuting. An hour of downtime helps my creativity and an hour of entertainment keeps me current.

So, the way I figure it, I have about four hours a day to earn a living. Considering that I really need to bring home about a eight hundred dollars a week to keep me in the lifestyle to which I could become accustomed, I need to earn about $75 an hour.

I could probably do that with one particular profession, but that's going to require that I spend a lot more hours in the gym.

Balance is hard.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Finishing a Novel

As my friends, and anyone who knows me on Facebook will tell you, I've been working on my "first" novel for a while.  I say "first" because there was one I wrote when I was about thirteen years old and horror novels were all the rage.  I entertained myself by writing a novel about a haunted school.  It ended up at around 300 pages, but I never did anything with it.  The handwritten pages from yellow legal pads got lost somewhere in the tumultuous time we call the teenage years.

As for the novel I've been working on, it's been a little over two years in the making.  I've written the bulk of it over this past year and it's veered off course from the original concept. That's good.  Not that there is anything wrong with the original concept, I just happen to think what I'm ending up with is richer and will make for a better read. It's like life. We make plans and then life happens and we find we're in a better place for it. 

My novel is about finding meaning in ones life.  Putting aside the superficial and looking for something deeper.  The idea began as I was also searching for the same.  It may have taken these two years because I've been learning the lessons just minutes before my characters did. Sometimes I learned the lessons as my fingers tapped away at the keyboard as if I were in a trance.  Those were the moments where I would finish the thought and get a chill as I realized something bigger than me was writing the story and directing the plot. 

So now I find myself wrapping up the first draft.  I'm going back and making sure I've answered all the important story questions and am moving toward the climactic finish.  The problem is that I'm dragging my feet.  I've fallen in love with these characters I've created and our time is coming to an end. I'm trying to savor every moment in every scene.  Of course I'll be spending lots of time with them as I begin the revision process, but it's just not the same. It's never like the first time. 

So, I must move on and finish the journey I've started, even if it will hurt so say goodbye.  Besides, my friends are starting to look at me like, "Sure you're writing a novel, you've been saying that for a while." 

Indeed I have.  The good news is that I have a whole new set of characters waiting for me in my next project.  Yes, I've already begun the next novel.  I get cranky if I don't have friends coming to life on a page. 

In the beginning....

I've always wanted to try my hand at blogging, but was never really sure what I would blog about.  The problem is that I tried to define everything right up front and give myself rules.  Guess what?  I rebel and wouldn't follow them anyway.  So this blog is about "no rules."  I'll write whatever happens to catch my fancy that day.

Welcome to my world.