I can think specifically of a few times when teachers worked to indoctrinate me.
The first time was in elementary school. Those were the days when anti-littering propaganda… well, littered school hallways and classrooms. And yes, I was one of those kids who, under the age of ten, was out in the streets lecturing people for littering, yelling out the car window from the backseat at passersby who dropped cigarette butts or napkins on the sidewalk, picking up pieces of trash and railing at the ilk of those ruining our world. I must have been adorable.
The question posed on Facebook went something like this (and I paraphrase): Is listening to an audiobook the same as reading a book? If one listened to an audiobook, can that be added to a “books I read this year” list?
My initial response went something like this: No, they are not the same, but I suppose you can put it on the list.
But as people chimed in, and as I was given more time to think about this, I realized that the answer is actually not that simple.
Every day, I wake up in awe. Every day. Every day I set my alarm for a half an hour before sunrise, and when the alarm rings, I struggle to open my eyes before turning toward the window at my left. Through trial and error, I have discovered that by this point, a faint glow will line the horizon. There have been a couple of mornings where cloud cover hides that glow, but most mornings, the orange color that swells and deepens as the earth rotates to reveal the sun propels me out of bed.
One of the decisions I made for 2017 was to do things that are difficult. One night I was thinking that it had been too long since I did something that was really hard for me, where I really challenged myself.
I felt this was especially important because I have finished one major writing project (my screenplay) and have not started another yet. Well, the screenplay is not “finished,” exactly. But I like the draft I have, and I am taking a break from continuously nitpicking at it. I figured I could use some distance from it while I wait to hear from people who are looking at funding it.
Any decisions in that regard have been put on hold for a few months to wait and see what this Trump presidency will do to investments in entertainment, if anything. That’s fine. I get it.
This is the second in a series. To read part one of The Fear of Those Who Are Different, click here.
A story I relate to my classes each semester regards a proposal made a number of years back in, I believe, the Oakland Unified School District. It stated that the required literature assigned to high school students must be written by authors who reflect the gender and race makeup of the student body. So, for example, if the required reading included ten novels, and fifty percent of the student body were female, then five of those books would need to be written by women authors. And if sixty percent of the student body were Hispanic (which was the word of choice at that time for people who came from countries whose primary language was Spanish), then six of the authors would need to be Hispanic. And so forth.
My daughter was home from college for winter break, and after watching yet another news story about a horrible crime steeped in hatred, we found ourselves discussing how much hatred there seems to be in the world. My daughter resignedly asked if I thought there would be a time when people are simply accepting of others.
What is more important? The effort or the results?
I guess it depends.
I teach at a university on the side of my writing. And I teach writing – no surprise I am sure.
But I had an interesting exchange with a student yesterday. She was upset that she received a C on the report that I had just returned in my business writing class. I have turned this class into much more than simply business writing, however. I have emphasized professionalism and leadership as well.
I’ve neglected this blog, but I am back! A large reason I have disappeared for a minute is because I teach part time at a local university, and the new semester began. I am teaching more classes than I usually do, and so I have been busy getting into a groove.
But as I grade papers, I have been thinking a lot about feedback and it’s importance. I tell a story at the beginning of each semester about a poetry class I took in graduate school. As I paged through the first essay returned to us, I noted periodic checkmarks, which I assumed meant that I was hitting a point the professor was looking for. On the last page, he wrote “Good” and gave me a B. Hmmmmm. That made no sense to me. I must have uttered my confusion out loud because a student next to me assured me that the problem was probably that I had a lot of grammar errors – hence the B.
I am not posting on here as much as I would like to, but I have a good reason for that. I am in a writing frenzy as far as my screenplay goes. Every time I think I should write a post (and I have a dozen or so topics and partial posts in my queue!), I can’t tear myself away from my screenplay. But I am pretty sure that’s a good thing!
The last couple of days have been full of thinking about how to fill a couple of holes in my script. I cannot even begin to explain the satisfaction of finding solutions to those holes. In fact, I am feeling really emotional right now because I just solved a problem with the mentor character. And I felt compelled to share my feelings here.
I don’t know how many people can understand the satisfaction I feel. No, that is not the right word. The triumph. That is more accurate. It literally brings me to tears. It is that beautiful.
So I sit here at Starbucks doing my best to hold it all in, amazed at the characters I am creating, and falling in love with them over and over again. Who knew this was possible?
The is my first shot at fiction (and I chose a screenplay to experiment on!). I never considered myself creative enough to write fiction. And just to prove the saying “Whether you say you can, or whether you say you can’t, you are right,” I have never been able to create a decent story in my few feeble attempts.
But this project is different. I know I can do this. And so I am. And I am amazed at what I am capable of.
I am in love with my story, and I am in love with my characters. I can’t wait to share them! Thanks for indulging me. Now, back to work.
Other times, it is a breeze; it is a joy. It is as natural as breathing.
But not now.
I am not lacking in ideas. I have plenty of those, and they just keep coming. I just simply don’t have the focus. Or the drive.
This doesn’t happen to me very often. But I am currently sitting inside the eye of the motivation-draining perfect storm.
For one, I teach part time, and even though I absolutely love being in the classroom, the other benefit of my classes is that they give a foundational structure to my week. I only work three days a week, but that is enough to provide a trellis to grow my writing around.
School ended a couple of weeks ago. I am struggling without it, despite my complaints that it was cutting into my writing time. My days are wide open, and the distractions are plentiful.
Then in the beginning of May, I finished the latest draft of my screenplay and sent it out to attract investors. So in my mind, that meant putting the script away on the shelf while I waited. Of course, this is always good periodically. Get some distance; develop some objectivity.
Word from the investors is that they are thinking about it. I’m not sure what exactly that means, but I definitely know that that is a lot better than “No thanks!”
So I have some ideas of areas to fix, to tweak, to change, but I am still busy getting some distance.
Also, during these past few weeks, I participated in an intensive transformational writer’s workshop. It was amazing, inspiring, life-changing. Coming off of it, I was completely motivated, especially to begin working on a new project that has been in my head and on 25 pages in a buried file on my computer for ten years.
But rather than dive in on the following Monday, I crashed. I crashed for three days. At first, I was concerned. How could I have been so high only to drop so low? And then I remembered. I had done another transformational workshop, one having nothing to do with writing, with a group of friends. And none of us were prepared for the crash we all experienced after that. So this is familiar territory.
The other problem I am struggling with is finding a place to write. Evidently, I have convinced myself that my brilliance does not manifest when I am at home. Actually, this is not entirely true. I just don’t like sitting alone at home in the silence, at my desk, facing the wall. Besides, I get easily distracted by my dog or the pile of laundry.
I like writing at Starbucks. I am incredibly productive at Starbucks. But it feels tortuous to sit in a Starbucks and not order a mocha frappuccino with whipped cream. And quite honestly, I don’t want to have to spend money every time I want to write.
Then I have the problem of trying to figure out which Starbucks to go to – there are a dozen that I know of within a 15-minute drive. The one on Tampa is full of middle school kids. The one on Hayvenhurst is the one where someone brazenly stole my wallet out of my purse as I went to grab a napkin. I won’t go back there. The one on Louis is ALWAYS packed – it’s hit or miss when it comes to finding a seat. The one on Van Nuys is so small I feel claustrophobic. The one on Shoup is my favorite, but it seems so silly to pass by multiple Starbucks just to get to that one.
Often, I am paralyzed by the choice, and I just head out, figuring I will land where the wind blows me. Do I need to tell you that more than once I have driven around for awhile and then just end up back at home anyway?
I tried out the local public library a few times. That was ok. But I tend to write in long blocks, and I could not bring food or drink in. That was a problem. And the quietness of the library simply magnifies the distraction of those who are snoring, watching music videos with earbuds but at full blast, reading books to groups of children (as cute as they are).
(I think what I am going to do going forward is to put on my calendar at the beginning of the week where I will go to write for each day. Then maybe I won’t waste so much time thinking about where I should go.)
All I know is that this has to end. It is time to get to work. It is time to write, whether I want to or not.
I have two blog posts, including one of my interview with Kelly Raymer, a friend of mine and the producer of the award-winning “Fragile Storm.”
I have improvements that need to be made to Captain and the Greyhounds. No matter what any investor, or anyone else for that matter, says about the movie, these changes will make it better. I need to just do them.
And I have my novel, which currently exists of only 25 pages and a powerful vision and message.
Thanks for indulging me today. I think this is the kick I need to refocus. There is work to be done! And I am committing right now. Tomorrow, I am dusting off my screenplay and heading out to the Starbucks on Shoup.