Tag Archives: Writing

A Brief Detour to the Other Side of my Brain…

 

So the dearth of posts here recently can be explained by something other than my general lethargy or reticence to engage.

For the last year-and-a-half, my academic career (community college) has taken me from one side of my brain to the other.

I originally re-enrolled at the community college that I took my first class in 1979. Yes kids, you heard that right…1979. It was an Emergency Medical Technician class I took as a senior in high school. That class led to a 26 year career as a first responder (EMT, Paramedic, Fire Captain).

When life intervened in 1999 and my world turned upside down as the result of my step-son’s car accident…all the best laid plans I had flew out the door before I realized they were missing. Without rehashing the last two decades (artfully hidden elsewhere in this blog), in the spring of 2013 I decided that a degree in Addiction Studies would afford me a stable career in a field I believed deeply in.

Well, two things happened: when I began my coursework, I also found a job in the field and was quickly disillusioned at the profit-making nature of the business; but more importantly, while taking my basic coursework for the AS, I found a passion for learning again. Not to say that as I younger student that I craved knowledge (far from it), but I found that as an adult with some life experience under my belt, that what I was learning about politics, world history, literature, and mathematics simply enthralled me.

Yet again, I steered a course change and decided to obtain a BA in English at UCLA (other fantasy universities include Berkeley and Georgetown).

Based upon by GPA, I was accepted into my colleges Honors Transfer Program for UCLA, and for the past three semesters I’ve been slogging through Math and Spanish courses. I dreaded Math and looked forward to Spanish. Both expectations were misguided.

It turns out that in order to attain fluency in a language, immersion and more than three semesters of the language is required. So after 3 semesters I can read and conjugate verbs like a boss but am panic stricken if I actually have to form real sentences in my head. Still, I managed to get A’s all three semesters.

Math was the surprise. I have always suffered from profound math anxiety, and frankly was dreading these classes. What I found was a real “duh” moment. If you put in the work, study, ask questions, seek outside help, that math is actually pretty stimulating. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in Logarithms where I was sure the nuclear anxiety would take me out, but I persisted on and moved onto Honors Statistics last semester; another class that 4 years ago I would never have even had the courage to attempt.  I’ve received A’s in all 3 math classes the last 3 semesters. No one is more shocked than me…

So here I am…finished with the core work to get into university and back to my true love…general knowledge. This semester is going to be very challenging as I have three Honors classes: Physical Anthropology, Cinema, and English (persuasive writing). It also means a boat-load of research papers and familiarity with MLA/APA that I haven’t used in the last year-and-a-half.

So, of course the panic has set in…but it’s a panic that has enabled me to maintain (fingers desperately crossed) a 4.0 GPA during my time here. I didn’t set out to do this by any means; it has simply been a by-product of my thirst for knowledge and has now become self-perpetuating.

Three more semesters to go and I’m hoping to report my entrance into UCLA (or CAL or Georgetown or, as my life seems to arc, somewhere else I haven’t planned) as a junior.

Until then, my brain has shifted back to the other side, the non-math/language side and I’m hoping to crank out some more Conversations with the Moon…

 

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Why I Write

old-typewriter

Because I must.

Because if I don’t, the wellspring of thoughts and emotions roiling under the surface will spill over in ways which are neither appropriate nor constructive.

I need to write.

Some people need to run, to ride, to work-out…to breathe.  I need to write.

I continually aspire to greater perfection in this craft; in fact at times, my words embarrass me, but if I let that stop me, the spigot runs dry and the unhealthy pressure begins to build again.

I am no wordsmith with an appropriate grasp of sentence mechanics but I do know this much: when the sentence starts, it’s hard to stop…the flow must continue to fruition.

I have loved to write since 1974 when an English teacher named Mrs. Doi inspired in me a passion for communicating that continues to this day. I’ve enjoyed accolades over the years for my ability to communicate verbally, but it has never produced the personal satisfaction that a carefully crafted sentence brings me.

John LeCarre is my inspiration. I began reading Mr. LeCarre because I enjoyed the genre, but developed a deep appreciation for the English language I had never imagined. His ability to seduce and convey imagery through the written word is unrivaled in my opinion and this gift is a goal toward which I gleefully aspire.

Ironically, I have yet to be able to clearly convey on paper,  the feeling…the emotion within me that is produced when I write.

It just is.

It is satisfying like no other.

It is life.

 


No…she’s not gone forever.

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(My daughter and I at dinner last night before she left for college)

It started here.  365 days ago I started this blog.

I had just had hip surgery, was out of work for 6 weeks, and wanted to start writing.  My first post lamented the fact that my daughter was going across the country to college.  As I write this post, she is on a plane headed back to college after spending the summer home (and I saw her maybe a total of 5 times in the two months she was here). So to answer my first post…no, she’s (thankfully) not gone forever. In fact, at our going away embrace last night, the feelings of melancholy were replaced by pride and admiration.

A lot has changed in the last 365. She’s grown from my high school senior into a young woman in college. She’s made some choices I don’t agree with, but has been ruthlessly honest with me and for that I am eternally grateful. And when I review my choices at her age, my pride in her increases exponentially. She’s a good kid. She will kick ass in life and I’m beyond proud of her.

In the last year, this blog was “Freshly Pressed”, I discussed my aspirations with regard to becoming a writer, I posted a lot about politics, culture and sports.

Personally, I went back to college, and changed careers.  I’m riding 60-70 miles/wk. on my bike and hope to continue to fight the inevitability of aging with every fiber of my being.  Life is good…

I gained more followers than I could have imagined and made some nice friendships here.

I thank each of you that has followed my blog and look forward to producing content here that may be thought provoking and dare I say inspiring in the next 365…


It Takes A Village…To Keep This Idiot Inspired

In the last 24 hours, I have decided to delete my blog and quit writing.  I can’t do it.  I have no business being a writer, I’m posing and you folks are all better educated than I am and I was kidding myself.

In the last hour, after taking a long walk, I have a protagonist, and a solid plot outline for my novel.  I’m also going to work on my memoir concurrently.  I’m excited as hell.

WTF you ask?  I hit the wall in the last day.  Self doubt crept in and opened a can of whoop ass on my confidence.  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to write fiction and resigned myself to plod along on a memoir.  Then I just decided to quit altogether because it was a joke…I’m no writer.

It truly does take a village and this would not have happened if not for the inspiration and support of my friends in the blogging community here at WordPress….

Thank you all, even though I don’t really know any of you…your “likes” and your comments have kept me afloat…have kept the dream alive and gotten me over the first real hump of self-doubt.

How cool is that?

P.S. I promise I’m not Bi-Polar or on psych meds…some may argue I should be, but I’d like to believe every new writer shares this experience…at least it’s what keeps me out of the doctor’s office…


Call It What It Is…

It’s a damn memoir.  That’s my “novel”.  I was struck like a hammer one and a half pages in.  I’ve been infused with the notion of “write what you know” and was buoyed by Gregory David Roberts Shantaram and figured I could pull off something similar.  I can’t…or I won’t.  If I’m going to write a memoir, it needs to be authentic, and I was wrestling with way too many plot devices to hide my identity.  I just need to be honest and write the damn thing.

That said, now I’m fucking terrified that this memoir is all I’ve got in me and that I don’t have the creative chops to play make believe.  To that end, I think the plan now is to seek inspiration for the work of fiction…the novel, and continue on with the memoir.  Believe me I am the last guy in the world that thinks I’m special or that my life warrants a memoir, but I do believe there are some experiences in my life that might ring true for others and possibly help them.  Or so I’ve been told anyway.

Where yesterday I was planning one book, I have now committed to two.  It will be interesting to see if I can do both concurrently or if one will dominate the other.  I really am anxious to see if I can write fiction.  I submitted a short story in a local writing contest but it too was like Shantaram…veiled fiction.  I really need to step outside the box and create my own world…it’s exciting to think about…now all I need is to be struck like a hammer again…this time with inspiration.


What? I Might Need Help???

In third grade, I got into a fight with a bigger kid because he tried to help me fix my bike.  I didn’t want any help and I was willing to get my ass kicked to prove it.

This inability to ask for help has been a thread that has “run” throughout my life.  It’s actually another story altogether and will surely find its way into this book.

So I had written a WHOLE page prior to my decision in the last 24 hours to commit the time and effort into writing a novel.  And today I forced myself to write a few more paragraphs…and then it hit:  I really have no clue what I’m doing and I need help.  Heretofore, I had assumed that my natural talent would just flow and I would pen the next breakout novel.  Reality bit me in the ass, thankfully, and I realized that I didn’t become a really good paramedic through instinct (although later on that helped) but it was through practice and a willingness to learn.

I headed over to Barnes & Noble tonight in search of a new journal to use for outlining and story/plot ideas as well as a platform for note taking.  I thought I might need some help in figuring out how to proof my manuscript and how to go about getting it published (all mind you before I’m even on page two…does anyone see a pattern here?).  Well, some divine humility reared its graceful head while I was there and I bought a book about how to actually write a book…it’s called the Complete Handbook of Novel Writing 2nd Edition by the editor’s of Writer’s Digest.  This book may suck and I’m sure some of you may recommend some better resources, but I needed to just settle on one and move forward.  I know myself and I could easily waste a ton of time researching “the best book on writing” and find myself still stuck on page one.

So I’ve got some basic tools and am looking forward to starting my new second job, novelist, first thing tomorrow morning!


Jumping Off…Novelwise

I started this blog while I was off work for 6 weeks recovering from a hip replacement.  To say it has taken on it’s own personality, or a life of it’s own, is an understatement.  It has become something I could never have imagined.  It has become a catalyst for me to get off my scaredy-cat ass and write my book.  And I have all of you to thank for that.

I have made some wonderful virtual friends through this blog and you all (or y’all) have both inspired and shamed me into getting out of fear and just doing it.  So many wonderful authors out there in the blogosphere and I want to be a part of it…at least I have to try!

I’m terrified.  I’m afraid it will be trite.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to get past ten pages.  I’m afraid I literally have no idea what I’m doing and simply don’t have enough education or know-how to actually construct a novel.

I’ve decided to just do it anyway and see what happens…and I have you guys…this blog community to thank for that.

I’m not sure if I’m going to outline or just start writing…or a combination of both.  I’ve been collecting bullet points of ideas/themes over the last year so I suppose I’ll start with that.

This is terrifying stuff…I’ll keep you posted, and thanks for the encouragement in advance!

 


Blogonymity…

Blogonymity.  Heretofore, I’ve maintained a relatively low profile here on WordPress with regard to my identity.  I’ve provided some hints here and there, but realistically I haven’t really shared any deep personal insights other than my take on the issues of the day.

I think that’s about to change.

I need to write.  I always have and have been blessed to find that passion again recently while I had some time off work for a surgery.  Since I’ve been back to work it’s been MUCH harder to find time, but I’m finding that I NEED to write so will be getting up a little earlier than I normally like, so I can make the time to write.

And not just political/cultural criticisms.  I need to write about what’s in my heart and soul.  That’s where the passion lies…within.  So my fear is that in addition to coming off nihilistic, I will bore my readers to death.  I sure hope not.  I’ve decided to share some of myself and some of my life experiences here on this blog that I may experience the catharsis self-examination does, but most importantly I hope to find common ground with the reader.  Community, if you will, in the words and experiences I share.

How much is too much?  Enough to get me fired?   Enough to prevent getting hired at another job in the future?  I don’t know…these concern me greatly, but I guess I’ve decided to risk it.  Whether it’s ego or not, I haven’t decided, but I’ve chosen to be very open with those around me about my private life.  It’s time to share those things with you…the reader.

Wish me luck…


On being…”Freshly Pressed”

Being relatively new to WordPress, I had yet to explore everything the site had to offer.  So when I received an email last week from a woman named Cheri telling me that my post, “The Reluctant President”, would be featured on their “Freshly Pressed” page, I immediately assumed Cheri was a Nigerian overlord and this somehow involved me divulging my driver’s license and credit card number. In fact, I posted as much on my Facebook page.  “Hey guys, I’m pretty sure this is a scam…but in case it isn’t…” and proceeded to let a few of my friends know that I think maybe something relatively cool may have just happened.

I debated whether to even compose the post you are now reading, because if you know me, the last thing I want or need is attention…yes, I appreciate the irony.  Being “Freshly Pressed” for me is sort of like standing at a podium in a crowded auditorium that is so silent you can hear a pin drop and everyone is waiting for some pearls of wisdom to flow through the microphone.

The reason I’m posting is this:  Thank you.  Thank you to Cheri Lucas at WordPress for choosing my post.  Thank you to all of you that took time out of your day to read my post.  Thank you to all of you that liked it.  And a special thanks to all of you who are now following my posts.  I will try my utmost to provide you with some nuggets of intrigue and passion from here on out, but please realize I’m just a guy that loves to write and loves to express himself in the written word.  This blog is a commitment I’ve made to myself (and by extension, you now) to write “something” 6 days/week in order to improve my craft.  I love writing and am finding that by doing this I am transitioning from the infatuation stage into the full-blown psychotic, possessive love state where I want writing to have my children.  Okay, that may have been a little over-the-top, but you get my point.  I love writing.

So thank you…thank you WordPress, thank you followers and people who liked it.  And finally a special thanks to the posters and people who have commented…although I couldn’t disagree with some of you more, for the most part everyone has been incredibly civil in the discourse and that has given me great hope.  Hope that someday we can find some compromise among a currently fractured electorate.


But for the grace of God go I…

I had surgery 4 weeks ago tomorrow and although it was quite the bureaucratic nightmare, I am receiving short-term disability from the state.  In other words, I’m off work and I’m getting paid.  This may not seem like a big deal, but I am grateful beyond belief.

The only real physical therapy required for my recovery is walking and today I decided to step it up to 3 miles from 2.  As I was on the last leg of the walk, I noticed a guy about 200 yards ahead of me crossing the freeway along the same path I was taking.  I could tell from his gait and the heavy clothing he wore, that he was probably homeless.  He stopped at the exit of a local shopping center and pulled out a tattered cardboard sign.

I passed within a foot or two of him as I traversed the crosswalk and couldn’t help but notice how the back of his neck looked like aged leather…this guy was younger than me…probably in his 30’s…maybe even younger.  I considered asking him if he had any interest in going to a 12 step meeting with me but his vibe just didn’t exude the tell-tale signs that he was much of a drinker.  He was just homeless.

Just homeless.  I am grateful I have a job, for if not, I am a few months away of asking this guy where a good place to sleep is.  My financial and family situation is such, that with the right combination of bad luck, my safety net is gone and I’m seeking shelter on the streets and that scares the hell out of me.  It makes me think twice about the constant petty annoyances at work.  It forces me to be an adult about my financial decisions (a bigger deal than one might think in my case) and it makes me guilty.  Guilty because I never give money to the homeless.

I’m a big believer in tough love and not enabling someone who is sick.  But maybe he isn’t sick, maybe he’s a guy who had the right combination of circumstances occur in his life.  Maybe that dollar I give him isn’t going for booze or drugs.  Maybe that guy is me.


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