Sunday, November 1, 2009

How many hours should a novelist spend on their novel each day and why am I not doing it right now?

Aidan Donnelly Rowley got it exactly right ( There's an anxiety that creeps through all writers. All that wasted time in a day. Why am I not writing?

I read the blogs of other disciplined writers who comment they've "written their 3500 words for today", or managed to put in their 4 hours of writing time. These are writers. People driven by anxiety. Anxiety has forced them to prescribe a formula to tackle their anxiety and meet deadlines too. Man, that sounds so writerly.

I wish I had more anxiety in my life. More ways of getting stuff done.

I'm lucky if I lately I can sneak in a half hour or less on writing each day. Plus, it usually comes at the end of the day after work, dining, dog walking, cleaning and a snifter or two. I'm a novelist, but can only squeeze in a half hour per day (or less)! Could a surgeon say that thirty minutes really makes him a surgeon? A newsboy claim that thirty minutes a day makes him a truly gifted dispenser of newspapers.

Shouldn't I feel anxious about this?

The truth is, writing is a lot like meditation for me. It's not that it's got to be perfect or any specific period of time - there is no such thing as time when meditating. As long as it's exploratory, as long as it digs deep inside me and pulls out lessons I haven't yet learned, then it's worth each and every second, no matter how few.

That's meditation.

And that's efficient writing too.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Publishing is a Business. So what's that mean?

Really great article by Eric on his blog PIMP MY NOVEL. Eric works in sales at a NewYork publisher, and has great insight into the business of publishing.

Check it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

We are made up of false beliefs

Eventually, we all need to be willing to face the deepest, darkest beliefs we have about ourselves. Only in this way can we come to know they are only beliefs, and not the truth of who we are.

- ezra bayda, from The Three Things We Fear Most

Friday, September 4, 2009

What are these things called dogs - children or wolves?

Interesting update on an old Piaget experiment. Here's how it works.

Take a toy, an ordinary toy, and a kid 10 months of age or younger. Have an adult put the toy in Hiding Place A. Let the kid loose. He'll drag, crawl, or catch the first bus accurately to Hiding Place A to get the toy.

Do it with a dog. Same results. They'll go to Hiding Place A each and every time.

Dogs are just like our children.

All right, well, let's add some confusion and check it out further. Have the adult now move the toy to Hiding Place B. The babbling child still first crawls to Hiding Place A and only then moves onto Hiding Place B.

But WWDD (what would doggie do)? The dog will ALSO move first to Hiding Place A, and only then proceed to Hiding Place B. Creepy!

Children and dogs are really no different, until it comes to the Health Care , but that's a different experiment concerning the number of sheep you can get to stampede away from change.

Interestingly enough, wolves behave differently from either kids or dogs (wolves raised by humans/not wild wolves since there's no toys in the wild). Put the toy in Hiding Place A and the wolves will find it. Then put it in Hiding Place B, and the wolves say the hell with Hiding Place A, I'm headed straight for B and they'll find the toy there too. Wolves be not fooled.

Lesson: toys are no deterrent against wolves in the wild.

Second lesson: there's more similarity between babies and dogs than between dogs and wolves. So which species evolved from which?

Particularly, it seems, both dogs and babies look to the adult as a teacher with information to convey. They'll follow rules set by the teacher rather than believe their own "lying" eyes. Wolves don't fall for it.

But now throw in a whole bunch of adults, like say, a set of parents or a church congregation. Have the whole bunch of them put the toy first behind Hiding Place A, and then move it to Hiding Place B. What happens? The babies still crawl to Hiding Place A, and only then to Hiding Place B to actually find the toy.

But that's when dogs get all wolfish, and go right to Hiding Place B. It seems dogs can tolerate one alpha human adult laying down the rules, but more than that it's as confusing as democracy, and they'd prefer to go with their own understanding of where the toy is hidden.

While babies believe any old adult that comes along, even as they mature into voters, which would explain an election or two we've seen.

The lesson - it takes a village to raise a child, but just one human to raise a pup. Or, put another way, pups are more cost effective than children.

Now that's baseball.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is this a democracy?

I went to last night's Move-On for Health Care in Boulder. I think there were a zillion similar events around the country. I know there was one in Denver, but I only made it to the one in Boulder.

I went down early to help set up. It was a very democratic affair - completely unorganized and then with a flash of brillance it all came together at the last minute.

As I get older, I realize, I'm sort of an organization nut. Like why didn't we hang up the crowd attracting advertisements on the Pearl Street Mall first, rather than wait until five minutes before the event started. And if was really going to be a candle light vigil, did anything think of bringing matches.

I fretted over many petty little things like this, and in the end it came off beautifully, and was well attended to boot. But I question now if my frustration at the lack of organization isn't really democratic? Isn't democracy supposed to be chaotic. Isn't that the spirit that makes it run? And if I - a good leftie - can't settle into the chaos, how can I expect those on the right to?

So that's the fear I'm hearing from them. They'd rather stick with the worst and most costly system in the industrialized world, rather than face the potential of it getting somehow worse still. I thought democracy was supposed to be that the best and the brightest perculate to the top. Instead it's dissolved into a lock step craving for the status quo.

That's not quite baseball.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Wisdom of Failure

A college professor I knew used to tsk tsk the dishonesty with which our celebrity-obsessed culture emphasizes success. We hold up one dimensional portraits of patriots, rock stars and politicians who we believe we need to mimic.

He’d cracked wise about the money wasted on self-help books and personal improvement seminars that promise to lift us beyond who we to something we’d really really like to be. We strive for the unattainable, for failure.

We spend too little time learning how to cope with failure. The closest we come is the delight we share when one of those rock stars or politicians stumbles. We need to move beyond the crass marketing of success. Failure these days is a hot commodity, and now more than ever we need coping strategies for embracing it, and a reservoir of strength to keep us from running away from it scared.

The measure of a human being isn’t their success. That’s just the stuff of obituaries. Our true character is shown in how honestly we deal with failure. Don’t blame others. Don’t pin it on bad circumstances. Face failure, as if looking into a mirror that reflects that bit of ourselves we find hardest to look at.

I’m not sure you can actually build a marketing plan around people’s aspirations to fail, but I do believe there’s a character building exercise in learning to deal with life’s let-downs.

Master Sheng-Yen says in his article “Being Natural” (Tricycle, Summer 1995):
"The objective of practice (meditation) is to be in accord with the natural way, so that your true nature can manifest itself. Practice according to the methods taught by the Buddha and do not worry about success.”

Obsession to achieve that success which lies beyond us is neurosis.
Focus on being who we are, with all our success and failures, is truly achieving that enlightenment the Buddha taught.

There’s honesty in that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This is the explanation our nation has been waiting for

Neo Conservative Bill Kristol says Government Health Care is the Best Health Care Available in America Today

Neo-con, Iraq War proponent, and editor of the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, has said it - "SINCE SOLDIERS ARE PAID LESS, ONE OF THE WAYS WE MAKE IT UP TO THEM IS TO GIVE SOLDIERS FIRST CLASS HEALTH CARE."

Kristol spilled this revelation on a recent episode of Jon Stewart's show (see full clip below). Stewart then went to raze Kristol, asking him to repeat his affirmation that the Health Care the government provides to veterans is fair superior to the "shitty insurance health care" the rest of us have. Kristol then waffled (flip flopped is another way of saying this), saying he wasn't sure if it was better, but then saying reconfirming that yes, the government plan is far superior.

Here's the clip. Check it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

What Makes Cheney Spin?

Excellent article in this week’s Time magazine about Bush’s and Cheney’s falling out in the late articles of the Bush administration about how to spin Scooter Libby a pardon for his lies to the grand jury.

Cheney was for it

Bush …, well, there’s some who say Bush felt Scooter just wasn’t sounding properly contrite. Hmm, wonder what made Georgie start looking up that word up at the end of his administration? Wonder why it doesn’t show up in any of his own post presidential talking points?

Let’s remember that Scooter was convicted of lying to a grand jury in an effort to foil an investigation about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The Time article maintains that the lie was about Cheney’s direct involvement in the outing. They needed Scooter’s confirmation to bring the case forward, but three times Scooter lied to them saying that, despite his vivid recall of conversations with Tim Russert and others, he had no recall of discussions with Cheney. For Cheney to keep the lid down on the cover-up, he now needed a gripe-less Scooter free and untainted.

But Bush refused to give the pardon, despite all Cheney’s nagging. There they were at the end of a failed presidency with Bush assuming the Herbert Hoover mantel, and he must have been considering why after all of Cheney’s lies and deceptions should he bother helping the schmoe out in his moment of desperation. Let Cheney dangle. Even Bush had to realize that his eight years in office had been the equivalent of the American Dark Ages, and, dagnabit, it was all because that slick talking Dick had wangled little Georgie into one too many bad decisions.

Even after Bush (the decider) had waffled for weeks and then finally decided, Cheney continued to moan. He said Bush’s ultra successful War on Terror would be viewed as a failure if they “left a man on the battlefield.” That’s macho-code for “even though we’ve never been to war ourselves, we can’t leave poor Scooter out there languishing.”

Wonder why Cheney never gave the same thought to the thousands of actual soldiers he left on the battlefield, or to Valerie Plame and the undercover associates who worked with her that he exposed, or to the sacrifice he made of Pvts Lynndie England and Charles Grainer for carrying out his and Rumsfeld’s torture orders.

And why didn’t it ever occur to Cheney that if he really wanted to reward Libby for taking the fall on the Vice President’s behalf, all he need do is stand up and tell the truth himself – Yes, I ordered the outing of a CIA operative for political reasons. And if any son or daughter of America who is serving their country ever tries crossing me, I’ll out them as well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Future of Small Press & its Importance to Writers

Here's an interesting article by a small press publisher about the future of small presses and their importance to us writers.

The link is a distillation of an essay written by Eric Obenauf in the Brooklyn Rail. Eric is head of indie publisher Two-Dollar Radio.

It does raise the interesting question of how much publishing reflects American business in general. In these days of few dollars, small presses are lean and wiley enought to survive. But what about the big houses? Isn't this the same phenom that's overtaking the auto industry, real estate, and the rest of corporate centric business?

Read and enjoy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

An (encouraging) update on Colorado real estate

Money Magazine has once again named Louisville, CO the number place to live in the country out of all communities with 50,000 or fewer residents. That's based on recreation, affordability, lifestyle, and job opportunities.

Superior, CO came in a respectable #13.

Also interesting to note this week is a Realty Times article which provided some insight into our rebounding market. Here are the highlights:

First, the national trend. Pending home sales rose sharply, by nearly 7 percent, in the last month measured by the National Association of Realtors.

Pending sales were up in all four major regions of the country—and that caught the attention of some key industry economists.

Orawin Velz, economic forecaster for the Mortgage Bankers Association, said in a commentary that "the steady improvements in pending home sales are encouraging," and confirm the view that existing home sales hit their cyclical bottom in January and are likely to continue to rise in the coming months.

Since the January low point, she noted, the Realtors' pending sale index is up by 13 percent.
Mortgage rates continue to be favorable, an average of 5.3 percent last week for 30 year fixed rate loans, 4. 8 percent for 15 year fixed, and those rates are pulling in growing numbers of home purchase loan applications.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey, new applications to buy houses increased by nearly 7 percent in the week ending July 3rd.

Now let’s take a look at this week in real estate:

Boulder/Longmont—New listings took a jump of over 20% in the Boulder county market last week. Yes, I know - the number of houses on the market has been historically low this past year. That's one of the factors that allowed Boulder housing prices to increase in an otherwise pathetic economy. But consider that sales have been very steady for several weeks, seldom varying by more than 2% for the entire Boulder market.

That doesn't put us out of the rough. Agents continue to report that the ongoing problem of late and inaccurate appraisals continues to cause headaches. That's mostly because Boulder doesn't look like other markets. Appraisers are having a hard time keeping up with the prices that are offered. Bidding situations are happening. The loan process is not for the faint of heart. Underwriters are asking for lots of supporting documentation and they are asking for it more than once. Patience is being tested at every turn. The benefit is that most buyers are getting some wonderful homes at great prices.

We are still seeing homes under $250,000 move quickly.

Central Denver — There is still lots of activity in the price point below $400,000 with multiple offers more common than ever. We are seeing the upper end market moving. Sellers are getting their homes on the market & we are seeing offers coming in on those houses. Price is crucial, as well as staging, in order to get top dollar in this market.

Larimer County—Well priced inventory is moving very quickly and even the condo market is picking up steadily. We are still seeing issues with appraisals and underwriting is taking a significant amount of time to review buyer's credit history and clear loan conditions. The Northern Colorado real estate market is relatively strong in comparison to much of the state. Larimer County in particular is fairing better than surrounding counties. It is still a great time to buy & I really don't think we will be in the doom and gloom for much longer. We're already seeing signs of life in the Northern Colorado market and it is only a matter of time until those buyers sitting on the fence will be kicking themselves for not making a move in what was a declining market.

West Lakewood—Short sales are becoming more streamlined and we continue to have multiple offer situations on bank owned properties. We are hearing back from banks more expeditiously. It seems that sellers are listening to their Agents. They are becoming more realistic and are often adjusting their listing price.

Regardless of the market or the reason behind the recent upswing, things are starting to pick up throughout Colorado. It seems buyers are finally starting to get the message that we may have hit bottom and, as buyers take action, we’re slowly but surely working our way into a transitioning market. It’s been a challenging ride but what we have to look forward to is exciting. Prepare. The coming months and into 2010 are going to be an exciting ride.

Growth is an act of separating

When you plant a Linden tree and its roots are young, they’re tightly bound in a burlap sack. Drop the sack down a hole, fill it with dirt, water it, and the roots soon will break free and spread far away from one another. They wander from the trunk, each root spreading.

I heard about a mother who gave birth to a baby girl. Years later when the girl was a teen, she needed a blood transfusion, and the mother volunteered. The nurses found the blood types didn’t match, and they refused. Later the lab said that the mother and daughter did not even share the same DNA, and the girl must have been adopted. They scolded the mother, who insisted it was her birth child. The lab said impossible. Everyone played it like they were stumped.

The mother visited her own mother, the girl’s grandmother, and the grandmother told this story – that the girl’s mother had been conceived as a twin, but that the sister had died in the womb. It was a strange pregnancy, the grandmother said, sad and hopeful all at one time, carrying one living fetus and one dead. The grandmother wondered how she might give birth, one child crying for life and the other not. When the day came, it was joyous. Only one girl emerged, and she was fat, strong and red.

Upon hearing this story, the lab tested the mother’s DNA a second time. Only this time they did not draw blood, but saliva. The saliva proved a perfect match to the daughter. It seems the mother carried two sets of DNA – one her own, and the other of the dead sister she had absorbed in the womb. What had happened in there? Was it hunger, or just a rivalry between sisters that was nipped in the bud before it got out of hand?

Growth is an act of separating. Sometimes we separate by devouring those we mean to leave behind.