Moving On

Writing is a journey, and there is so much to learn along the way. One of the things you must learn is when it’s time to move on. I knew the odds of publishing my very first novel were slim. It didn’t stop me from loving the book and trying my best. It has been through many revisions, and no one has shown much interest. I still believe in it, but know it needs help that I don’t have. So I had to take a hard look and decide it was time to move on. Doing that in the midst of the stress of a pandemic and social unrest made me feel a bit like this.

While querying, editing, and querying again, I also wrote two other books. One is another children’s book that I have yet to even begin editing. The other is my memoir, detailing the 25 years I spent in the entertainment industry. I was able to use the stay-at-home order to find more time to finish it and finally pare it down to find its form.

I thoroughly enjoyed going through my work orders, reading my journals, and falling deep into the memories of the time spent with Kevin Costner in South Dakota, or with Bob Hoskins on a soundstage at Television City, I relived the infamy of turning off Bill Clinton’s mic in the middle of a speech, and the sublime feeling of standing on the field of an NFC championship game with my eyes closed, imagining what it would feel like to have the roar of the crowd be for me.

Professional Eavesdropper takes the reader behind the scenes in Hollywood and leads them on a journey from naïvely wanting to be a part of celebrity culture to the realities of the toxic environments that culture encourages. With help from beta readers and wonderfully honest critique partners, the memoir began to take its shape. It likely still needs a lot more work, but I think it’s a fairly entertaining read.

Tomorrow, after finishing the polish on my query letter and synopsis, I will send out a couple of queries, testing the waters. I am cautiously optimistic that I have something people beyond my friends and family will find interesting, and something that can begin a dialogue on what celebrity culture does to society.

Some day I hope to return to Fear Unleashed and find the missing pieces to it. Until then, I am moving on with renewed optimism and excitement where this memoir might lead. Wish me luck.

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The Rhyme of History

If you live long enough, you begin to see history repeat itself, or at least rhyme with itself. Almost 30 years ago a black man was beaten on camera, though unliked George Floyd, he lived to tell his side of the story. But the lack of justice, the years of pent up anger over police abuse, and systemic racism, boiled over into the streets of Los Angeles. Businesses were burned. Lives were ended. Society unraveled. The conversation on systemic racism went national and so many promises were made after the violence ended, because sadly, it’s only after a paroxysm of violence that political leaders tend to take notice. But obviously those promises were left unfulfilled and nothing really changed, because here we are 30 years later, experiencing similar events in a different city. Making things worse this time, these riots are now packed with outside agitators.

Here is a section of my memoir, Professional Eavesdropper: The Adventures of a Teleprompter Operator in Hollywood. It will give you a small glimpse into what it was like to live without the peace and safety most of us take for granted.

In April of 92, I was finally leaving the crime-ridden streets of Hollywood for the safer streets of North Hollywood. It would be a little further drive into Hollywood, but I looked forward to a quieter neighborhood. Weeks prior I had asked for the day off to move. As I was loading up boxes, my phone rang. It was work. The Rodney King verdict was in and going to be read soon. After that, the mayor would be speaking, urging calm. My boss needed me to go downtown and prompt his speech.

            I was furious. I had been promised this day off. I was going to be working the next few days, and wouldn’t have another chance to move. I had been in the business long enough not to feel the need to take every job offered, I refused the job. My boss was angry with me but finally convinced another operator to take the job. During the violence, he became trapped downtown. I felt bad for him, but as a woman amidst all the violence, I was grateful I wasn’t there.

            The verdict was read, and despite the pleas for calm, violence began to break out. People were being pulled out of cars and beaten. It was coming closer to Hollywood. I threw everything into my car that I couldn’t bear to lose, and fled to my new apartment in a part of town that was not erupting in violence. I had a little 13 inch black and white TV I had bought when I first arrived in town. It was one of the things I had grabbed. I set it up in my new bedroom, maneuvered the rabbit ears until I picked up the local stations, and watched the city burn. 

            I saw businesses just up the street from our teleprompting company go up in flames. I saw buildings not far from my old, only partially vacated apartment on fire. It seemed like society was collapsing. And yet somehow, the next day I got up and went to work. I think everyone expected the worst was over. There had been a spasm of violence, and now order would return. Oh how naïve we all were.

Edward James Olmos – Marina Del Rey – 4/30/92

            The memories of this shoot have been wiped away by the violence that started the night before. I remember it was outdoors on the marina. I remember Edward James Olmos couldn’t have been nicer. At one point during the shoot, he gathered the crew together and told us that everyone thought the riots were over, but they were just getting started. When the shoot ended for the day, he wanted us to go straight home and not leave. Things were about to get very bad.

            We wrapped at 12:30 p.m. and we all felt the urgency of Mr. Olmos’ words. I was out of the location by 1. I dumped the gear off and fled the shop by 1:30. There air was dingy with smoke, and I saw a few people running, but nothing too horrible. Another operator was driving back to the shop around the same time, and while stopped at a stoplight, several guys came and started beating on the hood of his vehicle. With an open bed pickup full of teleprompter gear, he had to run through the red light to get away.

            I felt lucky to have made it back to the shop unscathed. I went straight to my new North Hollywood apartment and watched my world burning on that little black and white screen. A cold fear started to form in the pit of my stomach. What if it didn’t stop? Right now average, everyday people, were rampaging through the streets, breaking windows, stealing, beating, and killing. There really was very little keeping us civilized. I came to understand how fragile the fabric of society is. Anarchy is nothing to aspire to. It’s terrifying.

            I didn’t work for several days as the city burned, and finally order was restored. National Guard troops stood on the street corners of Hollywood, armed with rifles, though we later found out they had no ammo. There was a curfew in place, but work was the one exception. I was never stopped on my way to a job, but it was unsettling to see soldiers on the street. That was not the America I knew. It was not the America I wanted to live in.

{Journal entry made at the time – It started with young, black men, probably gang members, pulling white motorists from their cars, beating, robbing, and shooting them. It soon went to looting and burning. In all of this, the police were non-existent. All this went completely unchecked.

            It started in South Central LA, a primarily black community. It quickly spread to areas previously thought safe from those kinds of disturbances. The area of Hollywood where I first lived, was heavily looted and burned. The area where I was living until the day the riots broke out, was looted and burned. Two stores on my block were destroyed. Even Beverly Hills was not unscathed. By the time the police and national guard were in place, it was all over. To this date, 58 peole died, almost a ½ billion dollars in damage was done. Over 2000 people were injured, 200 critically. This does not even begin to figure in those now homeless and unemployed because their businesses were burned.

            Even worse is the fear and mistrust that have tripled since the rioting started. Rather than try and solve these problems as human beings, our leaders are pointing the fingers and saying, “It was the whites who held us down.” “It was the black gangs and criminals.” “It was rude Korean shop owners.” Etc. 

            After things settled down and the damage was assessed, there were lots of promises made about how the city was going to step up its services in black communities. They talked about police reform, more black-owned businesses, an end to food deserts, and more opportunities. As usual, there was talk, but the racial-socio-economic divide in Los Angeles continues to this day, with some of the worst homelessness in the country.

Will anything really change this time? Or will we just put a bandaid on it as usual. Tell ourselves it’s not our problem. Or will we all step up and make the Declaration of Independence finally ring true, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (ahem, and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Because it should be self-evident. George Floyd has every bit a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as anyone else. I don’t know if he was truly passing counterfeit money. If he was, I don’t know if he knew he was. What I do know is that no human being deserves to die for 10 or 20 dollars.

I think about my friend Jeff, who years ago, was stopped for DWB (Driving While Black) in Burbank on his way to work at NBC. Jeff was a skinny, sweet, African American guy who loved to ride his longboard, meditate, and was about as non-violent as they come. Yet, because of the color of his skin, the police thought he looked suspicious. They kept him in handcuffs, sitting on the curb as cars drove by staring at him, repeatedly asking, “Who do you run with?” meaning, what gang do you belong to. He showed them his NBC credentials. It didn’t matter. “Who do you run with?” He had been tried and convicted in those officers eyes. He was black, therefore he belonged to a gang. Eventually, after verifying his employment, they let him go. Can you imagine having to wonder every day of your life, if this will be the day you get pulled over? And then wonder if it’s the day you might just die because of it?

Something has to change and as Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Well, I’m not affected directly, but I’m outraged. So are many others. Are you? Will this finally be the tipping point? Will you finally step outside of your comfort zone and stand up to ensure the systemic racism built into this country is exposed and reformed? Will you vote in leaders who work to unite and repair our rifts instead of casually firing off incendiary tweets that divide us? Will we all finally step up?

We must, because a change is gonna come. It must, or our divided country will fall to the injustice we have chosen to perpetuate.

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Boredom Update

By this time each year, most people have let their new year’s resolutions slide into oblivion. So, it made sense to wait six weeks before reporting on how my boredom experiment is going.

It’s been an abject failure.

Let me explain.

My life has improved dramatically in just a few weeks. Last year I read 16 books over the year. More than one a month. I considered it acceptable, though for a writer, less than stellar. This year, on Goodreads Reading Challenge, I committed to reading at least 50 books. With largely TV free evenings and weekends, I read 9 books in January. (So far, Beneath a Scarlet Sky – a true story of a 17 year old Italian boy during WWII, is my favorite.)

With more free time away from screens, I began meditating regularly again. I decided on the schedule of 20 minutes, twice daily. Yes, it meant getting up earlier, which I am loathe to do. There have been many mornings when I thought about going to just 1 evening session a day, but I wanted to stick with it until it was a habit — give it a fair shot. I’ve reached that point. I look forward to the time on the cushion, and am reaping the benefits of a regular practice, though some mornings, I would still rather sleep another 20 minutes.

It’s great I’m reading so much more, after all, I recently heard that every hour of reading is like an hour of studying writing. But, I also have a shelf full of writing books, many of which I’ve never read. It made sense to add more academic endeavors to my reading regimen.

After looking over the titles, I picked The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. In just the first chapter I saw things I could do to improve both books I’ve been working on. It felt like my opening chapter of Fear Unleashed didn’t grab the reader like I wanted it to. My intention was to create a slow build of getting to know the main character, but I don’t think that helped sell the story. It has inspired me to rethink much of my first novel, and since I have a lot of passion for those changes, I think I’m jumping tracks and letting my current work in progress go for a moment while I rewrite Fear Unleashed.

The truth of my boredom update is this… I have failed miserably at being bored in 2019. I now see that I already was bored and screen time was just a lazy way to fill the boredom. So I guess I am sort of breaking my resolution. I no longer resolve that 2019 is the year of boredom. Instead I resolve it is the year I switch boredom off and reengage with the things that give life meaning. It’s an easy resolution to keep.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Have you also tried less screen time? How is that working for you?

Read any good books lately? Please tell me about them, as I’m constantly looking for my next book.

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I’m bored.

I remember whining “I’m bored” from time to time when I was a kid. Most of us over the age of 30 did. Apparently kids today are saying it less and less often, because they’re never bored. They pick up their phone, their tablet, their game controller, or the remote control.

Back in the olden days, you know, the 70s, do you remember what happened shortly after uttering those words? Our parents would either suggest something to do, which sounded good, and we did it. Or, they would threaten us with chores if we continued to complain about boredom. And with that, we would evaporate from their presence before chores could be unleashed. Out on a farm, 12 miles from a town of 400 people, there didn’t seem to be a lot of choices, but the sheer weight of boredom would force out some creativity. I would go work on my fort in the trees, maybe build something, or pretend I was on some adventure in the barn or pastures. Much of my love of writing comes from being bored and losing myself in a book, or being bored and playing out some story I’d invented in my head. Obviously, being bored isn’t fun, but it makes me sad that today’s kids aren’t enjoying the adventures that come out of boredom.

The problem is, I now feel sad for myself, as well, and doubly so, because I’m trying to launch a creative career. You see, I, too, have ceased being bored. There’s always something to watch on Netflix, or Amazon, or Hulu, or Sling. And if that’s not enough to entertain me, I’ll play a game on my phone while watching. Then there’s Flipboard, which lets me read all the news from so many sources and viewpoints, that it’s a black hole that can suck me in, leading me from one story to the next. I might sit down to write, but then YouTube seems infinitely more interesting than pounding out the next chapter. I mean, you can tour abandoned sites, learn about cults from those who’ve left, hear inspirational Ted Talks, watch a video on history, telling yourself it’s research for future ideas, watch music videos… again, a black hole that can suck one in for hours.

And then I complain that I just don’t have time to read. I just don’t have time to write. LIAR! I do have the time for both those things, and if I were bored, I would be clamoring to do them. My mind would be filling the boredom with ideas, just like it did when I was a kid.

So, I am doing something I don’t know that I’ve ever done before. I am making a New Year’s Resolution.

I do hereby resolve to be bored in 2019.

Often and frequently.

I will be getting rid of several of my streaming services. Not all of them. I am not a troglodyte, after all. I will be removing the games from my phone. The iPhone OS now lets you monitor your screen time, and I will keep an eye on that, perhaps creating time limits if I feel that’s necessary. Anybody have any other suggestions?

How often are you bored? What distracts you from boredom? Want to join me in my New Year’s Resolution and get your boredom on in 2019?

Let’s get bored!

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Weaning Myself off Amazon

Before I get to the main topic, I want to speak to any writers who read my blog. There is a terrific podcast out there called Write or Die. Authors are interviewed about the road to publication and it is eye opening. I knew it was a long process, but until I listened to these authors, I had no idea how long. A part of me thinks it would have been good to know it can take 8 or 9 years to get a book from written to published before I took my leap. My 3 year financial cushion wasn’t nearly enough. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I didn’t know, or I never would have taken the leap. Give it a listen. It’s great information about getting published.

Now to the title – I’ve made the decision to end my Prime Membership and wean myself off Amazon. It’s something more Americans might want to consider. Let me lay out the reasons.

  1. Brick and mortar stores have long warned that Amazon hurts local businesses. Local businesses employ local people, giving them money to spend, and building thriving local economies. I’ll admit there have been many times I have ordered products through Amazon that I know I could get locally, but it seemed so much easier to have it show up on my doorstep, rather than drive to get it. There was a good chance the price was better too.
  2. Amazon’s policies are impossible for smaller businesses to compete with, and are creating entitled customers who expect the same service. No shipping expense, and if you don’t like it, you don’t pay to ship it back. Package stolen – Amazon refunds it fully or sends another, without many questions asked. When a business isn’t doing the volume Amazon does, they lose all profit with those policies. But if they don’t provide them, they lose all customers.
  3. Amazon is the poster child for corporate greed – Recently, on the same day they announced huge profits, blasting through all expectations, they also raised the fee for Prime Membership citing rising costs. Riiiiiiiight. Jeff Bezos has so much money he’s using it to go to space, but he can’t pay his workers a living wage, and provides horrible working conditions. When Seattle tried to tax Amazon to help the homeless population, which has grown due to the high cost of living in the area, partially due to tech companies, Amazon fought back and killed the tax.
  4. And for me, there’s a final kicker. They broadcast extremist views that are contributing to the deaths of Americans – NRA-TV.

I’ve got until December before my Prime membership renews, but I’ve already begun the process. I can’t get my cat food anywhere in town, but I can get it through PetCo. I’m searching out item after item and am finding it locally, ordering it directly from the manufacturer, or at the very least, another distributor. That doesn’t mean I won’t use Amazon from time to time. In fact, if I’m trying a new product, that’s exactly who I’ll go to, precisely for the free shipping and easy returns. But once I know I like something, I’ll buy it elsewhere.

Greed is not good, and right now neither is Amazon.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

This is America

I’m going to go a little off the writing topic here. Last week a really interesting piece of art entered my consciousness, and I feel compelled to comment.

Last weekend, I watched Donald Glover host Saturday Night Live. As usual, I fell asleep long before the second song performance by Childish Gambino. The next day, everybody was talking about the video of This is America – the song from that second performance.

 

In case you haven’t seen it… (warning – some graphic violence)

 

If you feel a bit overwhelmed, you will probably want to watch it again at some point. There’s a lot to see.

I’ve read several interpretations, and you will likely have your own, which is only right when it comes to art. Some say that Childish Gambino is portraying America. He is showing how entertainment can distract from the chaos going on behind him. His jerky dancing is a reference to the contorted images from Jim Crow and black face.

I have a slightly different interpretation. i acknowledge that the above interpretation may come straight from the artist, but everyone has a right to see it through their own lens. I see Childish Gambino as representing the black experience in America, not as America itself. His contorted movements and facial expressions show the contortions black American go through in trying to live safely in America. Smile. Fight back. Look tough. Look weak. Comply. Resist. Subvert. Submit. Most of all, don’t get caught slippin’ now. And his struggle, the drama it creates, entertainment in general, becomes a huge distraction from the chaos all around – chaos created by a culture focused on greed, where profits matter more than people. The culture of celebrity that tells us money, power, and fame are what matter. All around is chaos. Crime. Guns. Drugs. Violence. Hopelessness. But, don’t look at that. No! Look over here!

Black man, black man, get your money!

Because in today’s America, money is what matters. You want respect? Get your money. You want privilege? Get your money. You want access to government? Get your money. You want equality? (at least on the surface) Get your money.

You take it by any means necessary…

When I first aspired to work in Hollywood, I dreamed of telling stories. I longed to make people feel the emotions I felt when I watched a movie. It was so idealistic. While pursuing that goal, I was as happy as I’ve ever been. But once I moved into chasing the security of a steady job and paycheck, the idealism fell apart.

No longer was I engaged in the idea of bringing people together with shared stories and experiences. Instead, I was simply paying the bills and attempting to save up for retirement. Our show wasn’t making a difference. Or saving lives. Or doing anything remotely noble. Some people tried to make me feel better by telling me that giving someone a laugh after a long day, or some entertainment to lift their spirits was a noble profession. But we were telling tired jokes in recycled sketches, and trotting out a never ending cycle of the latest ‘it’ actor. We were telling America, “This is what is cool. This is what matters. This is what you should aspire too. If you aren’t this, you’re nothing.” I could see it was working when I looked at the ecstatic fans lining up to see the show, or the questions I got peppered with if I admitted what I did for a living. Nothing was funnier than being ignored during a flight by my seat mate because I was a fat, middle-aged white woman, only to suddenly become the most fascinating person on the earth when they made chit chat before deplaning and discovered what I did for a living.

My disillusionment became complete when I realized that more than anything, what I was doing with my job, was making rich people richer. Rich people, who didn’t necessarily deserve to be richer. Then telling America, those rich people are the only ones who really matter… the ones they should emulate. Talk about a soul in crisis.

Don’t get me wrong, I think entertainment is important. I still think stories can bring us together. I think art can bring us together. I just think today’s entertainment industry has been subverted by corporate Hollywood into a money-making machine that doesn’t care about the damage it is causing to the fabric of society. After all…

Get your money. Get your money.

(I truly hope that because a 53-year-old white woman admits to being a fan of this video, it doesn’t mean that all the cool kids will now flee Childish Gambino. It doesn’t mean he’s over. This is art so powerful that it breaks age and racial lines. This is an artist to pay attention to.)Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Crossing Boundaries and Pushing Limits

A few weeks ago, I posted this meme on my Facebook page.

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It made me think about artists and their progressive/liberal nature. Many conservatives look down on Hollywood for being a bastion of liberals… and it is. Without a doubt, conservatives are the minority in that industry. But it’s not some liberal conspiracy. We didn’t all get together and decide the best way to infect the world with our sickness is to go into the arts and insert our message into stories for the unwitting masses to consume.

In truth, artists are progressives because that is the very nature of art. Art is looking at the world in a new way. It is exploring the human experience, in all its dimensions, and reporting back. It has been my belief for some time that conservative thinkers cannot be true artists. They may engage in artistic endeavors, but they’ll never break free to create something truly unique. It’s impossible, because every time they step up to the boundary of what’s never been done before, they will retreat.

Last night I finally watched Moana and that message was reinforced. Moana’s father wanted her stay safely within the boundaries of the reef. It was dangerous out there. Bad things would happen. If she stayed home, there would be adequate food, and life would be pleasant. Yet Moana felt an irresistable pull to go past the boundaries. She refused to listen to those who held her back, and you know what? Her father was right… bad things did happen. There were moments of great despair and brushes with death. But he was also wrong, because by pushing her limits and going past the reef, she brought new life to her people.

Years ago I watched a documentary called The Lords of Dogtown. It was about the skaters who revolutionized skateboarding and took it from riding sidewalks to doing aerial tricks on ramps. They did this by breaking into abandoned homes in Los Angeles and skating in empty pools. They were trouble makers. They were jerks. They were at times, destructive. If it had been my home, I would have hated them. Yet, by pushing limits and breaking boundaries, they enriched our culture. They brought us a new sport and a new way of experiencing life.

It’s the outliers of society that move us in new directions. We generally despise them at the time, but looking back, we appreciate what they did for us. Just as many conservative women today, who at the time would have fought against women’s rights as ungodly, now enjoy and appreciate the rights those devil-influenced, rabble-rousers gave them.

I’ve never really understood the religious objection to the creative type, especially since one of the main worship-able qualities of God is creator. Yes, artists live lives conservatives don’t like. We live in a world of grays, not in the easily identified blacks and whites that they prefer, but our nature is God’s nature – one of creator. Satan is the great destroyer, yet so many religious people support war and despise artists. It makes me wonder who they are really following.

Right now society is in a time of retreat. Those afraid of what’s ‘past the reef’ are in charge. Now is when artists have to be most brave. We have to find the stillness in the cacophony of nay-sayers and listen to that still small voice of truth. We have to push past the limits and defy the boundaries they throw up in front of us. We have to move forward and bring new life to our people. As Howard Zinn said, we must speak to the world and wage the battle for justice. It’s what we do.

I’m proud of my tribe. It’s not an easy life, and it’s one lived on the edges. But we are creators, and we almost always find ourselves on the right side of history. If you are a member of that tribe, take heart. Be brave. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. There’s a lot to be done, and we need you to take us to the other side of the reef.

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Everything is Possible

It’s been a long while since I posted, mainly because little was happening with the book. It was with the proof reader and all I could do was wait. Sure, there was the next book to begin work on, but it felt as if time stood still while I waited for the first one to be polished.

Finally, it was back in my hands. I spent an entire day going over each change suggested and either accepting or rejecting them. More time consulting with the editor. A few more changes and I fired it back to the editor, waiting for a final chat this weekend before it was given to the literary agency that has some interest.

It’s kind of a surreal moment. I’m like a plucked harp string – thrumming with excitement. Everything is possible… perhaps not probable, but possible. For instance, it is not probable that I will top J.K. Rowling in sales, but it is possible I will publish this book and finally be able to support myself doing what I love. It’s also possible it will be very successful, be turned into a movie, and I’ll get sucked back into the very industry I fled. Or it’s possible it will get published, fail, and I’ll still have to find another way to earn a living. Who knows. It’s pretty much all possible.

I feel change on the horizon, and as I drove to work the other day, I reminded myself to be present because it’s possible my life could be changing. And I have been far more mindful. Two years after I replanted myself in Missouri, it still feels like paradise. I sit at my desk to write this blog and look out across the green field in front of me, binoculars nearby to watch the little red foxes that live in the park and sometimes come out to play… as well as the human wildlife that occasionally jogs by on their way to the greenways trail. I have just come in from sitting on my sun porch, sipping on my first batch of homemade kombucha, and eating a couple of mulberries from my neighbor’s bush that drapes into my yard. We had a delightful thunder storm last night, and today puffy white clouds with dark undersides push their way across the sky, telling me more storms are coming. Tonight I will go to a drumming circle with my friends at the Friday Night ArtWalk.

It all feels perfect. In the past two years there has not been one microsecond of regret for the move.

Perhaps that’s what made it easier for me to absorb the latest bad news, when I found out the book is being put on hold just a bit longer. My editor is unexpectedly unavailable until next week, and once again I’m cooling my jets and putting my dreams on pause. One silver lining, I am pleased with my ability to absorb the disappointment and not get dejected. In LA, the frustrations had piled up to the point where even the slightest disappointment led to a spiral of despair – proving to me once again that I was never destined for a career as a writer – that the universe was conspiring against me. This time I took a deep breath and went on with life. No big deal. So, if that was the test from this hiccup, I think I passed.

I’m grateful to have made some personal progress, if not book progress. I’ll focus on that for now. It’s good to take the time to notice when you handle your struggles a little bit better, and then celebrate it. So what did you handle better today than you did last year? Give yourself some credit for improvement. Celebrate. Look out the window. Listen to the birds. Take it all in, before it changes, because it will. It’s inevitable.

Hopefully the next time I post, it will be with the news that I have an agent, or the news that I am continuing the hunt for one.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

One Year Later

A year ago around this time, I ended a stress-filled life in Los Angeles with a mega-stressful day. First there was a rushed packing job, followed by running late and getting stuck in Friday night rush hour traffic out of the city. As soon as it got dark rain started to fall, and I had to navigate Phoenix through windshield wipers, squinting against the wet, reflective roads, all while my cats cried for a home that no longer existed. One particularly stressed cat turned into a devil-cat and delayed my start the next day by hiding so well it took several hours to discover her wedged under a filing cabinet. I don’t want to relive that 24-hour period any time soon, and thankfully I’ve settled in nicely here, so I shouldn’t have to.

My leap over the chasm was a strong, solid leap. I can’t say I’ve landed safely on the other side, but at the very least, I’m gliding comfortably, still waiting to see just how things turn out. So far the view has been delighful. From time to time, someone will ask if I miss LA or the life I had there. The answer is still, “no,” though it doesn’t rush out of me quite like it used to.

Recently I’ve seen interviews with two other survivors of late night, though they are just a little bit more famous than I am – David Letterman (my old boss via WWP) and Jon Stewart (briefly my boss when he filled in for a week hosting the show). Despite our different levels of success, I learned we’ve arrived in the same place.

In an interview with a local Montana paper, the Whitefish Review, David Letterman said about his career, “you believe that what you are doing is of great importance and that it is affecting mankind wall-to-wall. And then when you get out of it you realize, oh, well, that wasn’t true at all. It was just silliness. And when that occurred to me, I felt so much better and I realized, geez, I don’t think I care that much about television anymore. I feel foolish for having been misguided by my own ego for so many years.”

And Jon Stewart realized the same thing. In a recent interview on The Axe Files he was asked if he missed what he did, and the summary of his response was that he did not. That while he was in “the soup” he thought what he did was important, but once out, he saw the world differently. He pointed out that only LA and New York foster that kind of arrogance. To me, that says nothing about the cities and everything about the entertainment industry that operates in those towns.

Compared to me, both of those men are extremely fortunate, not just becasue they walked away from their careers financially secure, but because they didn’t have their awakening until they were out of the business. I saw the truth while I was still in it, and I had to go to work every day knowing I was contributing to this massive lie. That caused serious stress, and seeing the people around me buy into it only made it worse.

You see, the worship of celebrities in our culture ensures that self-importance and entitlement isn’t just a problem for the stars, it trickles down to everyone working in the business, and it gets reinforced every time someone gets excited over what you do. It’s like being the popular kid in class, and you really start to believe you are cooler than the other kids. We know behind the scenes stuff that they report on entertainment shows. We know famous people. Famous people know us. Everybody wants to work in the entertainment industry, but we actualy did it… aren’t we special!

Not really, no.

Whether it was because I was thinking of the anniversary of my leaving that life, or just one of those things, I got triggered a few weeks ago by an old memory. It sent me spiraling into shame. From shame, came sadness, from sadness came fear. I was afraid that nothing had really changed. I was afraid I was delusional and that there is little to no chance I can earn even a modest living as a writer. In a few years I will be broke, and the end of this story will be me in a pile at the bottom of my chasm. Negative, fearful thoughts filled my mind, just like they did in LA. It seems that no matter where I choose to live, I am going to die an unfulfilled failure.

Thankfully, now that I am in a healthier, more supportive environment, this funk lasted days, not weeks, months, or years. A few kind words, a lack of being poked and prodded by new jabs, and a conscious effort to focus on the positive brought me back to myself.

Sitting in my backyard, enjoying a warm breeze on a sunny day, I looked at the deep green that surrounded me and the blue sky above. I thought of the beautiful life I’ve built here. I thought of my job – contributing to the health and well-being of people, and also being a small part of a program that drastically improves the lives of Parkinson’s patients. I remembered all the good friends who reach out to steady me when I stumble. I thought of how full my life is, and realized, whether or not I ever earn a cent from my writing, I can never be called a failure.

To put it in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is Success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.

No longer misguided by my ego, I’m successful in the ways that really matter.

Cheers to Dave, Jon, and I for surviving television and finding our way back to life.

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Get With it, Grandma

Let me start by saying, just so I don’t worry her, the title isn’t about you, mom. I’m saying this to myself.

Right now, I am my own worst enemy. I know I’m a good writer. I know I’m reasonably intellgent. With just those two traits, I could be making money writing on the internet, and yet, in the past year, I have not even attempted this feat.

Why?

Because I don’t want to write the way I need to write if I’m going to write for the internet. In other words, I’m being stubborn.

Here’s the problem. With dating and writing, you get two conflicting sets of advice. The most common advice the single person and writer gets is: Be yourself. However, this is then followed with a hundred gazillion rules you should follow if you want to be successful. So what is it? Follow these rules, or be myself?

A couple of years ago I entered a flash fiction contest. We had 750 words to tell a story, The excercise was inspiring, and I felt I turned in a very creative and fun story. Then I read the winner’s entries. It was so confusing. They didn’t tell a coherent story. They didn’t even really follow some of the rules of the contest. It was like they picked the one with the most bizarre content. I didn’t enter another one, because I figured I was completely out of step with current trends.

It’s true for internet writing as well. The current trend is to fill your writing with SEO (Searh Engine Optimization) words. In other words, fill your page with words that will be found when someone is searching the internet. That’s how you get hits. That’s how you get readers.

It’s also necessary to keep it short for today’s short-attention-span reader. I wrote an article about meditation and gave it to a friend who is big in social media to read. Her response, “That might be the best article I’ve ever read on meditation, now cut it in half and put in a list.”

Aaaaaaahhhhhh! I do not want to be a part of the dumbing down of America.

So what do I do? If I write with my voice and if I’m myself, I will continue to write blogs like this one – not optimized for searching, not filled with cute lists that people can scan quickly, and probably getting very few readers.

The Yahoo Style guide sits on my shelf – a book that would teach me all I probably need to know about writing for the internet. I read it once, and despite a 4.0 in college, I didn’t grasp it, probably because I didn’t want to grasp it. I want to write how I write.

Is that so wrong? I mean, writers spend years finding their voice? Why bother when we’re just going to have to write in another voice?

Would it make more sense for me to continue to write in my style, perhaps drawing other readers who are sick of the style the internet has imposed on us, but likely drawing none because they never find me? I don’t know. Probably I just need to “get with it, grandma,” and learn to write like the kids these days want to read.

Tell me your thoughts. Are you a skimming list reader? Or do you prefer to put in a little effort and read some well-constructed prose from time to time?

I guess I will face my stubborness and pull out the style guide. Hopefully this old dog can learn a new trick.

 

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