Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hello Goodbye

Here it is, two hours until the end of the day and I still haven’t gotten any writing done. Not a thing.
It’s really embarrassing too because I keep telling people I’m doing all this good work and just nothing. The spirit to do creative work is usually crushed by this point in the day. I need a new way to make myself get up in the morning.
I’ve come to conclusion that early rising will probably be the only way I’ll ever stick with my daily writing program. By this point in the day there’s almost no point. All my energy has been spent just getting through the day.
And at night? Well, all I want to do is sleep, or something akin to that. I watched three episodes of Boston Legal tonight. I don’t know why. It’s not even my favorite show. It was just something to do.
I feel like I earn my free time because everything always ends up being more difficult than I intend it to. This is probably also part of my problem. I budget in my day for a certain amount of distraction and work and by the end of it the quotas for both have been raised so high my gas tank ends up on “E.”
But enough about that. I’m working on getting excited about things. Here’s a rundown of the my writing projects:
- This blog. I used to keep a daily journal that I would show absolutely no one. I still have it saved somewhere in my files and I’ll still probably never show anyone. I’ve determined the problem with much of my writing is just that; I’ll never show it to anyone. This blog is an opportunity for me to have the same single-paged assignment, you know, for others to actually read.
- My zombie story I’m writing with Sean. I’m having a lot of fun with this. The idea sprung from our constant weekend chats about the zombie apocalypse. It’s a fun subject to think about and it’s even more fun that I have someone to bounce ideas off of.
- My book proposal. I haven’t really decided what this is going to be on yet, but I’m making it my goal to finish work on this by June 24. This goes along with my overriding goal of doing something big with my writing.
- A movie script. Same as before, but in a different format. This is more something I want to do after I put my book proposal together.
- Freelance articles. This is something I’ve been working towards for quite some time now with no success to speak of. This is part of the reason I’ve been freaked out about if I can make it as a writer or not. It seems like everyone has turned to freelancing nowadays. Coupled with the fact that all I’ve received so far are the incredibly tiny rejection slips in my extra-large self-addressed and stamped business letters and my fire has been somewhat dimmed. I now set to bash my head even harder against a wall that seems to have only become more firm every day.

I’m really only working on the first two of those goals daily, but I’m adding another tomorrow morning. Morning. Morning. Morning. Writing will take place in the morning. One way or another I will be a morning person. Coffee makes me nauseous. Getting up early makes me sad in my bones.
Some way this will work though.
Keep me in your thoughts. I have a lot of work to do. I now recognize that this will require massive amounts of fortitude.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Work is hard

The second half of this year is going to mean hard work.
I’m trying to change everything about how I go about doing things. What has been comfortable hasn’t worked. I’m looking to rise above what I’ve done before.
Mostly what I’m looking for is freedom. My ultimate goal is to become independent in every way.
This will mean a change in work ethic.
It’s not that I don’t like work, it’s really that I just don’t like to be pushed very hard. I only really like to do the pushing myself. I’m the kind of person who shuts down when pushed too hard. However, if I get on a tangent myself it’s hard to turn me off.
Getting excited about something is really the main piece I’m missing.
It has mostly been the freaking out I’ve done over the future of the printed word that has stopped me from producing anything. It seems like when people see a problem that big, they often just power down. Why confront a conundrum so immense that it won’t matter what you do anyway?
I’ve heard of plenty of fine writers being a left behind or abused by their cash-strapped parent organizations:
- I read that some of the winners of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for journalism had been laid off in between the publication of the entries and the announcement of the selections.
- A journalist who had been shot at a city council meeting and survived was laid off by his newspaper.
- Even the guy who wrote the successful blog “The Recession Diaries” for the Chicago Tribune got laid off? I mean if that guy can’t keep a job when he’s writing about the most important issue facing most people today I don’t know what to do.
The answer, I think, is to double my efforts.
The fact that everything the industry has known before is crashing around us means those who want to survive to the next round of play have to work twice as hard and force their game into a new level.
One of the smartest things I’ve heard said recently was a Wayne Gretzky quote by way of writer/director Kevin Smith: “Be where the puck is going to be, not where it is.”
I really like that. It’s what I’m striving for coming up. I was just reading in the New York Times today about these two guys who started a textbook rental company called chegg.com. It works like Netflix but for college texts.
It’s so obvious I can’t believe someone, even me, hadn't thought of this before. Everyone complains about how much textbooks cost for school. It’s just that one idea no one else has, but perfectly fills a void everyone on some level knew was there.
I have to start viewing doing work for myself as a second full time job. I have to give myself the attention I deserve to actually do the things I have to do to be successful. I have to treat this writing thing like it’s another thing on my list for the day. It’s not a burden to try to create unless you think of it that way.
Like AC/DC say, "it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll."
Even the most successful writers making it look like they lay back and do nothing all day, are obviously working hard. You wouldn’t hear anything about them if they weren’t.

Independence (from thought) Day

The Fourth of July was truly a harrowing experience for me.
I generally don’t care for crowds. I’ve been around too many mad mobs to know you never turn your back on one. There’s no accountability. It’s a big stupid animal with no morals or personal regrets.
So not only is everyone crowded together on this most special of holidays they’re all infected with the Independence Day spirit. It’s a second cousin to Senioritis. The air is sparkling with it. Much like Halloween, it’s one of those public holidays that come with a lampshade squarely on their head.
In short, everyone has an excuse to cut loose.
Oh, and did I mention there were no fireworks in town this year? Apparently no one stepped up to collect funds.
The general consensus of the populace was less than favorable.
I think if people don’t get to see things blow up for long enough they start loosing their minds.
Yesterday was one of those times.
It started at the Safeway at around 10 a.m. I should have figured this would be the exact same time at least one representative from each gathering in town would think to pick up a few quick items at exactly this time.
People were frantic. I used the shopping cart in front of me for protection. We were nearly crushed several times and not even in the middle of the aisle. There was no escape. Nowhere of was safe. People were everywhere. Upon further reflection I thought of it in terms of the Maxis computer game SimAnt that I played in junior high.
The ant tunnels were out of control.
The last straw was the gigantic woman pushing one of those cart/toy car combinations which people with more than, say, two children at the supermarket at once often take advantage of.
As we were checking out she got in line behind us and without taking her eyes off the tabloid magazine she had snatched off the rack, she pushed the contraption forward, almost running us over.
This happened at least two more times, each time the end result getting closer to contact. We couldn’t leave quickly enough.
Later on that night we had stopped by our friend’s birthday party. We made our way back across town and not two minutes after leaving the party a gigantic truck with its high beams on started tailing us hard. In front of us were two slow moving cars, so I couldn’t go any faster and the line in the middle of the two-lane road was double yellow. Then the truck started honking and weaving. I quickly turned right on the first side street I could find. As I looked over my shoulder I could see the truck illegally passing both cars, honking all the way. This so freaked the driver in front of us out that it ran him on the small shoulder for a few seconds before zooming away.
We caught our breaths and decided to drive as carefully as possible the way back since there were obviously more than a few inebriated drivers out. We turned off at the first road we could when we got back to town. Just then an explosion of sparks and noise went off not 15 feet in front of the car. I looked over and saw a party of gigantic celebrants, many of which were small children. They had been throwing fireworks into the middle of the road. I rolled my window down and yelled at them. I didn’t wait around to hear their response for their foolishness.
So in short, Happy Birthday, America…I’m hiding from you for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Roll up and shine

I really hate waking up early in the morning.
By that I mean that if I had my druthers I wouldn’t step foot outside my bedroom before 10 a.m. Alas, the world was not made with people like me in mind.
I think back to college one early Sunday morning. I was returning from a party at a friend’s house. It had to be 4:30 a.m. or so on a summer day because the first lights of dawn had begun filtering into the otherwise pitch black night. I was driving through the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. and I stopped at a red light. The street was mostly empty as was the sidewalk, but as I looked to my left I saw someone making their way towards me going the opposite direction.
On the sidewalk was a middle-aged woman in a blue spandex top and tight black running shorts. She flung her arms wildly from side to side. I seem to remember her wearing a baseball hat and sunglasses, but being so early in the morning I highly doubt this detail. In any case, she had on earbud headphones and was powerwalking her way towards downtown.
Her day had just begun as mine was ending.
It was at that moment that realized that she and everyone else like her were the people that ran the world. While I was to be curled up in bed until at least the early afternoon those people had already started making money.
I want to get better at waking up early, but I’m having a hard time figuring out just how. I hate going to bed early because as soon as you give in for the night you just wake up and it’s tomorrow, and honestly, what fun is that when you have to work?
I also have a strong dislike for coffee. I don’t hate it, but I try avoiding it whenever I can. I had some this morning because I had an early appointment. It did the trick, but an hour or so later I could feel my heart rate climbing and the first pangs of chest and left arm pains.
I concluded this was my body’s way of saying I needed a new strategy.
I want to be better at waking up because I have so much writing I’d like to get done. I want to start forcing myself to be productive on a daily basis. When I get home from work though, I don’t even want to look at my own pursuits because I’m so drained from chasing everything I’m assigned to during the work day. Also since I work in a creative job I feel like I’ve already spent whatever juice I have left in my right brain.
When I worked at Eastern Greene Elementary School as a teacher’s assistant I would hide my writing in my folders like it was illegal. It was my own special thing that no one could take away from me while I toiled at a job I didn’t like very much. Now that I have a job I like I have to figure out a way to balance both the work I have to do with the work I want to do.
I’m going to try an experiment tomorrow and wake up early as possible so I work on my writing. This blog is one of those assignments and I’ve committed to doing a page on Microsoft Word every day so it can be dropped into this feed. With this post I’m two for two so far in July so I feel good about that. I also want to keep working on a zombie novel I’m writing with my friend Sean that will require one page of my attention per day as well. In addition to that I’ve got book proposals, short stories, query letters to magazines, essays and articles I’d like to get under my belt.
Me and this keyboard have some work to do and I want to have a life and a job at the same time while I do it. The cruelly early alarms my phone will be set to will be the call of a new day of possibilities, not an excuse to push the “snooze” button so I can feel vaguely bad about myself for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Yesterday was my last day as a reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal.
It feels weird to say that because since March 2007 I have self identified as a full-time reporter of some kind for a daily newspaper. Starting out with no experience or credentials to speak of and after almost a year of freelancing for both print and radio news I obtained a position at the Reporter-Times in Martinsville, Ind. and four months later, in August of 2007, I started as a reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal in Ukiah, Calif.
It’s also weird to be leaving this field I worked so hard to get into because I also happen to be the fourth generation in my family to work in the newspaper business. Both my mom’s grandfather and father owned and wrote for a slew of newspapers and she herself began as a columnist and eventually rose to the position of Lifestyle Editor for the Times-Mail in Bedford, Ind. I have pitch black newspaper ink that never dries coursing through my veins.
It would be a sore understatement to declare that I have a certain affinity for the format.
Like a lot of people with eyes, ears and a brain though I can tell that times they are ‘a changing. I don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows or any additional Bob Dylan references to know that there has been a seismic shift in the way people receive information even from when I started in this field.
Over the course of the last few months I’ve spent countless hours at work freaking myself out by Googling some combination of the words “future” and “newspapers.” As you might have guessed, none of the links I was directed towards were anything but frightening.
Surely you know the score so I won’t spend any more time rehashing the gory details. In short though, the whole thing seems to be going down in flames. There’s a million reasons from drops in advertising revenue to declining readership, but suffice it to say the future looks less than bright for print media.
The feeling I get most often from a review of these facts is first sadness and then overwhelming anger about how unfair this all is. The way it looks now I’ll never be able to write for a San Francisco Chronicle or New York Times because it seems even I keep chugging away at climbing this mountain there may not be a mountain left by the time I get to the top of it. I feel history has cheated me. I want a fair shot. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and dog gone it, people like me.
As far as feeling as if I’ve been cursed with being born in the wrong time, it seems like I ought to take a number and shut up about it from looking at everyone else’s take on their own situations. This portion of history has not been kind to anyone and any industry that was already teetering on the brink might have failed anyway. This crisis has just sped up what might have otherwise been a 10 year smooth decline we’d all have time to adjust to into a mere months-long frenzy akin to a Black Friday sale at Wal-Mart.
So what do I do with these feelings? I tried to turn them into action.
That’s why today I started my first day as a full time Head Writer at the local news site ukiahvalley.tv.
In short, it’s a digital newspaper that uses video instead of words to tell stories. After working my first full day there today I’m really excited about what I can do with this new format opportunity I’ve been presented with. I can already tell we’re going to do some great things.
The future is wide open for anyone who is brave enough to take it. I’m viewing this crisis of faith as an opportunity to stretch myself into new areas I never would have otherwise thought possible.