Sunday, February 9, 2014

Has it really been fifty years?

Was it really fifty years ago today that one of the most electric moments in cultural history occurred?

It amazes me that the screaming, bouncing girls in the audience then are either close to or at Social Security age. (It's also something I don't want to think about.)

Back to the Beatles. All four of their Ed Sullivan Show appearances are available on this DVD, which deserves a place in your video library.

I'm sorry I couldn't find more footage to share on my blog. But when you watch the whole video, take a look at the faces of the Beatles. Take a look at the faces of their fans. So much joy. So much hope.

I cannot in truth say that life was better in 1964 than it is today. Back then, we were so ignorant about issues that we're just learning to understand now. Something was in the air in 1964, and that was hope. A belief that humanity was moving in the right direction - and the will to work to make that happen.

Many of us, alas, have lost both the belief and the will.

That cannot stand.

Something else rode side-by-side with hope in the 1960s...that something was called creative courage.

Popular rock musicians and singers and songwriters and producers had greater freedom to be artists, to evolve, to change styles. To listen to the mandate of their creativity, not the fickle winds of what might sell most. And that music got played on commercial radio.

Today, the risk-takers live in the indie world - where you may not find them unless you listen to public or Internet radio. Pop music - the kind you hear on today's commercial radio - is too dull. It's doesn't touch the heart or echo off the bone. It doesn't tell your story. It's like a commercially grown tomato - pretty, shiny, and as nourishing as a plastic toy from a vending machine.

The Beatles will never get "old," or "tired," because theirs is the music of joy and hope, and we need that always. Listen to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" today...and then hold the hand of something (or someone!) good.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Should I go to grad school?

The UC Irvine campus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Continuing the thought in the previous post, one of the things I could do with my life now is earn a master’s degree.

As of 2012, 30.94% of Americans 25 and over have achieved at least a bachelor’s degree. That means I am still in a privileged minority – but I still feel shame that I’m not one of the 8.05% that has earned a master’s degree or above.
I think a master’s degree is something I should have. It would help me become more employable. And it is a tangible achievement. It’s like a mountain...I want to climb it because I want to be able to say I did.
If I were to earn a master’s degree, though, it would need to be in a subject that a. I genuinely care about and thus would have motivation, and b. is realistic for me given my background. That subject would be creative writing.
It would be good for me personally to have an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in creative writing.
Unlike a teaching credential or a medical school degree, I don’t need that piece of paper to write. Many successful authors do not have that MFA, and some don’t even have a bachelor’s degree. Why wait two years to earn that degree when I can start writing now?
It will cost thousands of dollars. Over $60,000, if I attend the well-regarded program at UC Irvine. That is money we don’t have right now.
Going to grad school would mean going into debt. Again.
I have been in five-figure debt. It is not a pleasant place to be. At all. It takes over nearly everything in your life, eating you alive with worry and fear and shame. Debt gets in the way of life.
Needless to say, I really like the feeling of being totally debt-free. Perhaps more than having a master’s degree.
Perhaps it is better to just write a book, and bring in $60,000 (or more), than go $60,000 in the red before the book is even finished.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Here comes the new year, same as the old year (?)

New years, according to the popular media, are supposed to bring new beginnings. January is the month for us to overhaul our mindsets and finally do what we have to do to get to where we want to go.

In order to do that, though, we have to know where we want to go in the first place.

I don’t.


I’m starting out 2014 the same way I ended 2013 – lost, unfocused, not sure of exactly where the hell I am going.

To be honest, I’ve felt this way for several years now.

I don’t know what I want to be yet – decades after most other people my age have not only answered that question, but are living it.

(Please don’t suggest that I volunteer. I haven’t changed my mind about that.)

I do know what I don’t want: a full-time job in an office building.

I want to earn money, of course, enough money to take care of my needs and a few special wants. But I have been working outside the 9-to-5 routine for so long that returning to it would make me feel like an ex-prisoner being dragged back to jail.

I have not looked for or applied for a full-time office job for quite some time now. Only freelance, temp, or part-time.

Strictly speaking, I don’t need a full-time office job right now. Money is tight for Two Dogs and me, but for now we’re hanging on. (Our neighbor pays us to help him out with laundry, doctor’s appointments, etc., and that is a boon to us.)

But I do feel guilty.

I feel guilty about not looking, and I feel guilty about not wanting something that most adults take as a given of responsibility. I think I’m a lazy bum sometimes (even though in fact I almost never “laze around” during the day). I ask myself, am I doing right by myself by not earning as much as I can before I get old? Am I doing right by my spouse by not bringing in more of the bacon? (My freelance income for 2013 was about $2100. For the whole year.)

What is wrong with me?

Possibly nothing, in fact.

It may be that as I become more definite in what I don’t want, what I do want will become clearer.

I guess what I really want is to make a living doing something that I enjoy (most of the time), that I feel is important, and that will have impact beyond myself. I like to see myself with my laptop in the coffeehouse or library, sometimes doing things for others, sometimes in Word writing the fiction which is breaking out of me. That is a happy Meandering Mouse.

Maybe we shouldn’t think of January as now-or-never for goals. Maybe we should see that it is an ongoing process, subject to change of mind. It could be that in June I’ll discover an office job that I’ll jump to apply for.

I will keep in mind this quote from psychiatrist M. Scott Peck:

Life is complex. Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another…The journey of life is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Let’s get 2014 started already

Well, 2013 was supposed to be the Year of the Snake Mouse.

As it turned out, it was more like the Year of the Snake Mouse Curled Up and Hiding in Dry Bush that Served as Camouflage.

I did not have my best year, financially or creatively, for reasons I hinted at in previous posts and am not yet ready to make explicit. I often felt unmotivated, uncertain, unmoored. I didn’t even create a new calendar like I usually do. (Went and bought them at the B&N at 50% off this year after Christmas.)

That will change in 2014. I feel that my mindset is already reverting to normal – if not better. (Sometimes, that happens when you’re not actively trying.)

I’m tired of the way things are now. I’m tired of dragging my feet.

I am ready to dance.

Photo credit: Dalbera (Flickr)

Let’s get the party started.

P.S. Today is our fifth wedding anniversary, too. Right now, we are out there, enjoying our time together.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Note to self

Spend more time (and money) in places like this in 2014:


(Photos taken at Bookman, Orange, CA)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No no, NaNoWriMo

In November, I announced that I would attempt two writing goals at the same time: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). As you can tell by looking at last month’s posts, I succeeded at the former. The latter...not so much.

Needless to say, I did not partake of this cake.
Photo credit: cvillewrimos (Flickr)
My participation in NaNoWriMo consisted of fitful writing on paper and a few pages in Word.
It looked like this.
I learned two facts about myself.

One, I cannot achieve two major writing goals in a month. And have a busier-than-average-for-this-year freelance slate. And help take care of our neighbor. And do all the other things I need to do.

Two, the NaNoWriMo format does not work – for me.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word (or more) novel in the thirty days of November. I did some calculations, and this is what it means:

50,000 words divided by thirty days equals (approximately) 1,667 words per day.

A letter-sized (8.5 x 11 inches) page of words in Courier New font, double-spaced (the usual standard for writing submissions) adds up to about 250 words.

1,667 words divided by 250 equals approximately 6.7 pages per day.

Now, I can write 6.7 pages of fiction on any given day.

I am not sure about writing 6.7 pages of fiction every day for a month – on top of all the other things I must do.

But you know what?

That’s OK.

I don’t need NaNoWriMo to write a novel. Most writers don’t.

If you were to average just one page a day for a whole year, you would end up with 365 pages (on non-leap years). 365 times 250 equals 91,250 words – way above the NaNoWriMo minimum of 50,000.

(Did you notice that there’s more math in this post than in the previous 262 combined?)

If I take just half a year, or six months, I’ll just need to write two pages a day.

Hey...I can do that.

If I keep it in mind...and just do it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

This is not a NaBloPoMo post...'s the first of December!

But I just want to show you what I waited for all last week...

...sitting at a coffee shop to read and write.