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.

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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.)

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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.

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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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Savoring Life

Finally! The mix is right.

A few weeks back we had a girl’s night out… at my house, which I guess for me made it a girl’s night in. A portable firepit was brought over and we sat in my backyard on an unseasonably warm February night and had a marvelous time – telling stories, laughing, and just enjoying a night of friendship around the fire. It was so nice, i realized the next day that I wanted my own portable firepit.

When I got a larger than expected tax return, I decided to take a little piece of it and get a firepit. The first night it was operational I sat there, basking in firelight, leaning back in an adirondack chair, looking at the stars through the bare, siloutted branches. My cats were excited to be outside after dark and flitted around my chair as they explored the place at night. Then it hit me. I finally got it right.

Back when I lived in LA I would spend 99% of my time in an overcrowded, noisy, competitive, and lonely environment. The other 1% was comprised of when friends and I would head up to a cabin in the mountains, or a tent in the desert. Sitting by the fire, or listening to wind in the pines in the morning, I would think, “I’ve got it all wrong. Out of the city is where I’m whole. This is where I feel happy. This is where i can breath. I need to spend 99% of my time here, and 1% there. What am I doing?”

Sitting there at that fire in my own backyard, I realized I had finally done it. Any night the weather cooperates, I can sit by the fire. And just about any morning, I can sit on my sunporch and listen to birds and/or wind in the trees. I was able to step back from a fast-paced life and high-paying job and tranistion into a slow-paced life with far smaller financial rewards.

At one point, while recently getting my college degree, it occurred to me that I was probably the only student at the school who was getting their degree with the knowledge that they would use it to earn less money. It goes against everything our culture tells us we should do, yet it is what led me to joy. It’s made me think. Where did we get this idea that life is about toil? Talking about how busy your are has become a badge of honor. Hard work is admired. Savoring life is not. Every generation sacrifices themselves so that the next generation will have it better. However, rather than having a better life, the next generation, learning from the previous, then sacrifices themselves so that the next generation has it better. And so it goes, lifetime after lifetime after lifetime sacrificed. At what point does it stop and a generation actually get to savor the better? It isn’t just our individual lives that are on a hamster wheel, it’s our entire culture. Maybe the best thing we could pass on to the next generation isn’t a better life, but living life to its fullest.

Now I fiercly defend my slow-paced life. I balk at over-scheduling myself, even as I feel guilty for doing it. I know my friends are going from morning to night, and if they do it, why shouldn’t I be willing to do it? And then I remind myself… that’s not the life I want. I didn’t come here to run, run, run. I came here to live, maybe for the first time in my life. Savoring life is a glorious way to live.

The mix is right. Finally.

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1st Anniversary

February 20th was my 1 year anniversary of my last day of working for CBS. For many of my coworkers it was a sad day. Had it ended 10 years earlier, I would have joined them in their sadness. As it was, I had stayed too long and there was nothing but joy and elation knowing I would never drive onto that over-crowded, parking-spots-barely-wider-than-a-Prius, cars-parked-just-inches-from-each-other-so-you-have-to-wedge-yourself-into-whatever-door-opens-wide-enough-to-get-into-and-climb-over-the-seat parking lot. That was if you actually found a spot on the lot. Always fun walking past all the empty executive spots and parts of the parking area filled with trailers and set storage as you hiked in from the public lot nearby. That way you were sure to arrive at your job, having been reminded that you had absolutely no value to the company. Even the sets got better parking.

But of course the parking wasn’t the real issue. That was just more irritation that made an already unpleasant situation even more unpleasant. Lack of opportunity was the real issue. My naivity of the business led me to think a network job would provide more opportunity for upward mobility than freelance. Oh, foolish me. It would have been hard to turn down the steady work, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have. I had made those hard decisions before. When I was just starting out and desparately needed a job, I turned down steady work in a bookkeeping firm, and an exciting job as a green room attendant at the Columbia Records recording studio. It was hard, but in both cases I knew it would not lead where I wanted to go. If I had known the truth about where the network job was leading (nowhere), I have no doubt I would have turned that down as well.

I definitely would have turned it down had I known they could use me as a daily hire, with no rights or job security, for 20 years. If I had a problem I would go to the network and they would say, “You aren’t an employee. We only hire you for this production. Go talk to them.” And if I went to the production company I was told, “You don’t work for us, you are hired by the network, go talk to them.” I existed for 20 years in no-man’s land. At any time they could have called me, without severence or notice and said, “Your services are no longer needed” and that would have been that. Instant unemployment. Nothing I could have done. This could happen if the host, a producer, or even director decided they didn’t like me, or something I had done. I’d seen it happen to others. One wrong Facebook post, one wrong comment made to the wrong person, one bad mistake, and we would hear, “It was best for the show if Mergatroid pursued other opportunities.” Then we quietly went back to work hoping it wasn’t us next time.

Late night television was also the absolutely wrong field for a dramatic writer. There were no connections to be made that could move me forward. If I wanted to be a comedian, or a sitcom writer… perfect. There was also very little creativity, and what little opportunity there was for that was guarded more carefully than Golem guarded his Precious. So for me it was a mind-numbing monotony of monologue jokes, comedy bit, guest intro, guest intro, music or comedian, close. Night after night after night after night after night for 20 years.

The culture on the show was also difficult for me. Rather than pulling together so that we could get farther together, from day one, lines were drawn and groups were set against each other. Resentments and jealousy ate away at the fabric that should have bound us together. Others have talked of such different experiences in the business, and I often wonder how my career would have turned out if I had been part of a tight-knit, supportive team.

But knowing none of that, I jumped into a Late Night Network job with all the optimism of the country girl I was. It took me 20 years to extricate myself, and that was 10 years too long. By then my career was pretty much over. There just aren’t too many women over 50 who break into television writing, if any.

Despite the joy of that last day on February 20, 2015, I was crying when I drove off the lot. It was also our Executive Producer’s last day in the business. He was being lauded and honored… and rightly so. He had an amazing career. However, it wasn’t lost on me that my last day was met with deafening indifference. 25 years in the business and nobody cared. It hurt a little. Oh, who am I kidding, it hurt a lot. It was a sucky way to leave.

Regardless, it was the right thing to do. The year since then has been magnificent. I am free! I am no longer working in a job whose main goal is to make a few people at the top rich. I am now working in a job whose main goal is to, yes, make enough profit to stay open, but equally important, our goal is to help people be physically and mentally well. The job doesn’t follow me home. It doesn’t stress me out so much that I can’t write when I have the time. and that has allowed me to get 45,000 words deep into the best work I’ve ever done. On my job I am given credit for my work. At least so far my boss hasn’t denied I exist and claimed that she does it all herself. Sometimes she even spontaneously thanks me for things, not just waiting until I make a mistake to acknowledge my existence. Imagine! Oh wait, I don’t have to anymore. There are opportunities to be creative with marketing and writing articles. There are also silly ways to be creative in decorating the studio and dressing up the anatomy skeleton. I just can’t seem to get away from working with skeletons. In every way, despite the huge downgrade in pay, I have gotten a huge promotion.

While there’s clearly a lot of bitterness in this post, I know it is beginning to fade. One of the things I found delightful about my fellow Missourians – few ever ask me what I did in LA. Because of that, I rarely told anyone about my life in Hollywood. I didn’t want to talk about it, or even think about it. I just wanted to bury it. However, a year later, the stories are starting to leak out. It gives me hope that eventually I will remember more of the good than the bad. Because honestly, it was quite an adventure for this South Dakota farm girl, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped.

Happy freedom anniversary to me.

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