While I am writing, I am having garlic bread and bacon for breakfast. I just have some random thoughts and observations across the scene. This is just a personal invitation into my insanity.
There is no such thing as a”thought leader.” Despite the cogent advice from a friend, I still do not understand this phase. Aren’t there more suitable words? The world has enough experts, scribes, scholars, and commentators. Besides, thought leader sounds like an individual in charge of a cult.
I really love quiet time and spaces. There is enough noise pollution to go around for everyone.
Do you believe the children our are future? If the children are our future, we are in so much trouble. The shrinking attention spans and ever-expanding waistlines are not reassuring. What is going on with this knockout game? Are kids becoming so desensitized that they think random acts of violence are fun?
The most important three word phrase is I don’t care . What about I Love You? Sorry, no one cares about you outside of your family and friends. The world subjects people to so much crap. Some members of humanity are unworthy of your time and attention.
Speaking of my fellow members of humanity, my first impression of Washingtonians was hardly positive. Beltways maniacs seem rude and inconsiderate. When did ”excuse me” become so inconvenient when you bump into someone?
There is something I realized after the occasional person to person collusion. Commuters are checking their phones, reviewing the paper or reading a book. Sometimes, I get the loud conversations and singers practicing for their American Idol auditions. Despite this, most people are leaving me alone and minding their own business during my daily commute. What a wonderful world.
Can you smell the psychological scarring? The scent resembles bad coffee and toast. The daily grind just keeps getting better.
Does anyone have time to write letters by hand anymore? Mason Currey examines this question in The Death of Letter Writing published recently in the New York Times.
Mason expressed concerns regarding the death of the literary letter. He cites the publication of Saul Bellow’s letters in 2010 and William Styron’s last year as examples. Some critics are speculating regarding the future of such collections. At this point, no one knows if there is demand for the correspondence of writers. Is anyone waiting with batted breath regarding the e-mail collection of J. K. Rowling?
Letters are nice way of staying in touch. Also, writers use letters as an opportunity to tweak idea and to get feedback. For some writers, letter writing provides a nice transition to ease out (or into) more demanding writing. According to Mason, Ernest Hemingway turned to his letters when his fiction writing wasn’t going well. Letters (for Hemingway) offer a welcome break from what Hemingway called theawful responsibility of writing.
Ironically, I believe e-mail provides a nice pause from juggling tasks that pile upon my desks. Is e-mail truly different from the handwritten letter? Some individuals think that e-mails are a distraction. Unlike the old fashion letter, e-mails are far more active. There is a chance that users cannot put the e-mail message out of their minds. Also, what do people do when there is a pile of unanswered e-mails? We do not want to ignore or disrespect the sender. However, managing e-mail is just another task on the never-ending to do list.
What is the price for all of this progress? There is never enough time in the day. Meetings and deadlines dominate work. We make time for family and friends. After this, we go home and start this vicious cycle all over again.
There is no bigger fan of e-mail and social media than yours truly. I use such tools to stay connected . Are we really accomplishing anything with all of this connectivity? Some of us may not have the time or patience to discuss the details to important matters. Some individuals experience frustration regarding all the e-mails, text messages, voice mail and all the projects at work. The best of us are very skillful at multitasking. While for others, multitasking is making several mistakes simultaneously.
No, I do not think e-mail will mark the end of humanity. In other ways, I do believe are losing out. Sound bites have replaced a thorough discussion of important issues. There is no adequate substitution for the specifics.
Sometimes, we need enough time and space to give work and task the appropriate attention. In writing letters by hand, there are so very important takeaways. Letter writing demands focus. The handwritten letter demands you carefully build each sentence. This process allows the writer to convey something both clearly and heartfelt. Maybe we can learn something very important from this so-called archaic form of communication.
Is there anyone participating in National Novel Writing Month? Aspiring novelists from across the country will work on their manuscripts beginning next month. The objective is to write a 50,000 word opus (which is around 175 pages) by November 30. The goal is to encourage individuals to take up writing. Is this inspirational or complete insanity?
The opportunity to write something longer than an online piece or article is appealing. I just do not know. Lately, my mind is churning over what Christina Thompson wrote for online publication Essay Daily. Thompson serves at the editor of Harvard Review. In Prose Matters, she provides a meticulous description of her criteria regarding a submission.
Of course, it’s not really true that I don’t care about content. But what I mean was that I don’t judge work based on its subject matter. I am not looking for pieces that make certain points or take certain positions or express certain views. I am not essentially, interested in the political angel. What I am interested in is artistry that is, an author’s demonstration of mastery of his craft.
Although Thompson’s forte is essay writing, this viewpoint is applicable across the board for the journal she edits. She is providing invaluable insight from the other side of the process. For some individuals this specific point is obvious. No editor wants to review a work that is not polished or incomplete. The following passage really caught my attention.
What I really like-what I’m always looking for-is writers who know what they’re doing. This is not necessarily the same as those who have written for a long time, though, to be sure, practice helps. The real difference, I think, is between those who see writing simply as means of communicating something they feel needs to be said, and those who see writing as an art form. While there is certainly place in the world for the form, it is not Harvard Review.
Fascinating, are all my efforts to develop informative work is for nothing? Shakespeare, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes and Saul Bellow are artists. These authors have reached immortality. My goal is to draft a crisper form of prose with each piece. This is just great. Dr. Thompson’s conclusion hits home like the Peanuts comic strip. After reading this, she is playing Lucy and I am Charlie Brown. She just yanked the football away.
After landing on my back, my brain starts churning. Good writing must evoke sensation in t readers. For example, the fact that it is raining tomorrow is irrelevant (from a writing point of a view). As an aspiring scribe, I must capture the experience of the rainfall coming down on someone. This is an example of the artistry Thompson discussed. I must develop this in my style of writing. Unfortunately, I am not there yet. However, this is something worth striving toward.
At this point, I will not take part in the National Writing Novel Event. Writing is a solitary activity. This event offers a chance to connect with the writing community. Regardless, I want to wish everyone participating in this event good luck. In time, I must think more like a painter and less like a carpenter.
Have you ever watched a jaw-dropping performance by an incredible artist or athlete?
Growing up, I idolized NFL wide receiver Lynn Swann. He never defeated his opponents with lighting caliber quickness. Swann would jump up in the air to catch the pass and float pass his rivals. He smoothly defied gravity with the greatest of ease.
Also during my childhood, I witnessed an awe-inspiring performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on PBS, of their signature work Revelations.The choreography captured my emotions and imagination. The dancers executed each move with so much strength, elegance and style that it still resonates with me so many years later.
What do sports and dance possibly have in common? Both activities require a crazy amount of hard work, sacrifice and dedication. Dancers and athletes are extremely fit and very competitive. People enjoy watching them because of the power of that grace that both dance and sports demand in order to achieve greatness.
Lately, I have been wondering how I can include lessons on grace in my life. Ironically, I am the most awkward and clumsy individual I know.
However, very few people can match my heart and hustle, the relentless drive and determination in my system. Some former mentors have accused me of stubbornness.
I’ve spent a lifetime battling demigods and demons. There have been educators that didn’t think I had the intellectual capacity to finish high school, let alone college. Since I entered the workplace, I have found numerous land mines and obstacles in my way. Some people made the mistake of underestimating my resolve. However, I have always known that I will fight in my sleep in order to fulfil my dreams.
I take this Olympic-caliber effort into every aspect of life, including my yoga practice. For example, I struggle with the posture Marichyasana C. Both my shoulders and hips are very tight, which makes this specific posture very difficult. Thank goodness my yoga teachers have a great deal of compassion and patience: specifically, Jen Rene of the Flow Yoga Center. She sees me struggle and provides the appropriate modifications. After her adjustments I sit there, covered in sweat, feeling frustrated and depleted. This is hardly the behavior of a gentleman. Despite these types of displays, I am fortunate enough to practice there.
While taking a step back, I realize the importance of the practice. Grace truly is the balance of ease and effort. Grace is floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Virtuosos inspire audiences because of their exceptional skill and the power to pour their personalities into each performance. Musicians like Yo Yo Ma really enjoy their job and make it look easy.
The following are just some qualities which are important for forging a more graceful path.
No, I have no plans to emulate the dance moves of the beautiful ballerinas in The Washington Ballet.Poise consists of a dignified, self-confident manner, being or composure. The best performers and athletes maintain their confidence regardless of adversities. Ironically, they welcome challenge as an opportunity to test their skills.
Life will test us all regardless of where we stand. Have you ever noticed a professional athlete’s expression or reaction after a loss? Some athletes have the ability to handle their defeat in a very dispassionate way. They must have confidence to let go and move on because the next game is coming soon.
Life offers a lot of uncertainty beyond death, taxes and change. Yoga is the art and science of living. Also, the practice is a skill-building exercise. The workplace demands that individuals be willing to extend their expertise.
I admire artists so much because they have mastered an activity that requires great skills. Regardless of how much effort I exert, if I cannot produce worthwhile results I cannot move forward. My spirit may be willing, but I cannot move forward if my skills are nil. Uncertainty will demand that we have the dexterity to face difficulties.
As clichéd as this may sound, haste truly makes waste. In rushing because we are managing so many priorities, quality may become compromised.
Grace requires meticulousness and this means that every detail is covered. When this happens, execution will seem effortless.
So, am I still envious of the awe-inspiring performance of athletes and dancers? Of course, but I will not take for granted the sweat and sacrifice behind the scenes. Grace embodies so many wonderful qualities that are worth cultivating. This may take me a lifetime to learn, but in the end it will be worthwhile.
The journey demands striving for something extraordinary.
According to John Keats, beauty is truth, truth is beauty. Can you find something beautiful in the midst of adversity? Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn provides an excellent example of finding something extraordinary in the middle of misery.
The novel opens in 1912 and introduces readers to Frances Nolan. The Nolan family resides in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. There are three other members of her family. Cornelius (he goes by Nelly) is Frances younger brother. Johnny and Katie are the hardworking parents.
The family depends on Katie’s income from cleaning apartments. Johnny’s wages as a singing waiter are too erratic to provide stability. Unfortunately, there is never enough money for the Nolan family.
Johnny is a very talented singer. Despite his best efforts he struggles to find a better life for his family. Also, Johnny wrestles both with his low self-esteem issues and alcoholism. Johnny is clearly the idealist. Katie is the rock of the family. She has very little time for chasing dreams.
Despite their troubles, there are poignant moments. For example, Katie had married Johnny because she liked the way he sang and danced and dressed. Womanlike, she set about changing all those things in him after marriage.
Francie is remarkable because she relies on her imagination and love of literature to cope with her family’s poverty. Despite the struggles and sorrow, she is irrepressible. The following passage provides an captures her resourcefulness.
People always think that happiness is a faraway thing thought Francie something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; place of shelter when it rains-a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone-just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.
In reading this novel, I struggled with Smith’s transitions. For example, when Johnny dies, Smith does little toguide readers to the events that lead to this tragedy. He dies and then the author fills in the blanks afterwards. This segment of book feels awkward. Fortunately, Smith’s beautiful words and resilient characters will resonate with readers.
When there is too much going on, more than you can bear, you may choose to assume that nothing in particular is happening, that your life is going round and round like a turntable. Then one day you are aware that what you took to be a turntable, smooth, flat, and even, was in fact a whirlpool, a vortex.–
Saul Bellow, “Something to Remember Me By”
(From his Collected Stories, newly minted in a Penguin Classics edition)
Monday First Sentences | Every Monday, we offer the opening sentences of a Penguin Classic to start the week.
Most of the time away from work, I am sifting through publications to stay informed. Newspapers are an essential part of this process. Speaking of news,Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is buying The Washington Post. Bezos will pay 250 million in cash. This transaction has set the social media into a roar and shocked many readers .
In a letter regarding his most recent acquisition, Bezos maintains, “The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners.” Also, he will not lead the daily operations or change the current leadership of the paper. Fortunately, there is a consensus emerging from all of this.
- The leadership of the publication will not change.
- There are no plans for layoffs among the paper’s employees.
- Jeff Bezos will become the sole owner and it will take 60 days to complete the sale.
- Bezos plans on taking the Washington Post company private.
There are more details in an article by media reporter Paul Farhi. According to Farhi’s report, the paper suffered a 44 percent decline in operating revenue in the last 6 years. The paper’s management believes this move will give the paper an opportunity to succeed (and not just survive) in the future.
The Washington Post is not immune to the economic turbulence which still affects papers across the country. We are in the age of the Internet. People can go anywhere to get their news. Also, individuals can place classified advertisements (once a viable source for a newspaper’s income) on Craigslist for free.
There are some concerns. What will Bezos change about The Washington Post? At this point, it is premature to offer anything but speculation. I cannot imagine that the founder of an Internet conglomerate will continue the print version of the newspaper. Some individuals do not own a Kindle or I-Pad.
Will Bezos give The Post the same amount of patience and latitude he allowed for Amazon?I have concerns regarding coverage. The Post develop its reputation my providing coverage of politics. What about local news and features which represent the heart of any newspaper?
All anyone can do is express their apprehension and wait. The Internet provides individuals with opportunity to get access to information. Arguably, social media offers more democracy than our political system. The downside is that most people do not have the time to sort through endless amount of data.
Journalists have a vetting process and check their sources. Reporting culls through all of the nonsense and present useful information. The Washington Post is far from perfect. However, we need more than 140 characters and 60 second sound bites. Readers need more coverage in a world that is constantly changing. The Post will receive an infusion of cash. Hopefully, this invaluable publication will not have to compromise its editorial independence for the sake of profits and market share.
Can you imagine a construction crew building a house without blueprints? Essentially, this was my approach in writing. In the past, I use to write, review and click send. I was a lean, mean submission machine. The time I spent waiting for a reply fueled my insanity.
This approach is ill-conceived. If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, what is ignorance? Thank goodness there is a learning curve. Most of time, I just want to forge ahead. Is there anything cooler than seeing you hard work pay off? The writing process resembles a tailor designing clothing and not someone sprinting in the 100 yard dash. Writing requires intricate command of details, like a drafter drawing blueprints.
Speaking of the craft, I discovered the pitching process. The pitch letter is a writer’s case for a story. I discovered pitching while participating in an article writing seminar offered by the Gotham Writers Workshop. Since then, I have pitched ideas to a handful of publications. This saves me so much time. If an editor agrees, I can move forward. If not, I can move on to another publication.
You can never really escape the classroom. We all have to engage in lifelong learning. There are online resources that can help. Sometimes, I need an instructor to provide feedback and act as a sounding board. There are some intriguing opportunities in the fall. I have to develop a plan for the future.
For example, The Writing Center offers a wider variety of classes in both fiction and nonfiction. More importantly, this organization provides an opportunity for writers to meet with prominent authors. There is a strong sense of community which is very important. The Writing Center is hosting an open mic event. This sounds so fascinating. I always welcome an opportunity to interact with writers.
This journey is about improvement and not perfection. In looking back, I have come a long way. There is still room for improvement. Sometimes, there is discouragement when I stumble. I have to recall the wisdom of Frederick Douglass after I fall. If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Riches I hold in light esteem,
And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of fame was but a dream,
That vanished with the morn:
And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is, “Leave the heart that now I bear,
And give me liberty!”
Yes, as my swift days near their goal:
’Tis all that I implore;
In life and death a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.