Cutting back

bothendsAs some of my readers are aware, I have two blogs, this one (SITS) and Limping in the Light (LITL). Keeping up two separate blogs, even as minimalist as these two are, is a significant amount of work, especially if quality is an important consideration in their content, which it is to me anyway. I’ve written about time constraints and priorities in another post, so I won’t bore you with it (again) here.

Combine these blogs and the daily mundane activities of life with attempts to actually write stories to be sold, published, or otherwise used beyond the realm of the blogosphere and there’s a serious conflict. Something’s gotta give. Everything we do represents something we don’t do because that slice of time and energy has become unavailable.

The conflict is illustrated most tangibly blog-wise when I take shortcuts, such as using the same post in both blogs (q.v. here), write skimpy posts (q.v. here), and when I’m late with a post (q.v. what you’re reading now, one day late.) On the whole I’ve maintained an exemplary record, considering the longevity of the blogs. LITL spans over five years and 300 posts while its little brother SITS is comprised of about 70 entries spread over the last 14 months.

Not a bad run, but it’s going to slow to a walk after today.

In order to devote more time to my “job”, i.e. writing – and also to accommodate some other “opportunities” insinuating themselves into my life – I’m cutting back to one post a week total, that is, for both blogs. From today forward, I’ll write a single post per week, the intent being to alternate between the two platforms. The day of the week is TBD. Recommendations welcome.

This eases up the demands on my schedule, but it frees up your time, too.

You’re welcome.

To tell or not tell

snoopyTo become a Writer is arguably the most common hidden dream of the average person (or beagle) on the street or in the cubicle. So when someone actually takes the plunge and decides to try to fulfill that long held dream, there are a number of critical questions to ask, among them…

  • What should I write about?
  • How do I get an agent?
  • Do I have what it takes?
  • Should I quit my day job?

And one that can be very perplexing for the neophyte scribe:

  • When people ask what I do, should I say I’m a writer?

True, anyone who puts figurative pen to paper can claim the title.  By definition, a writer is one who writes. End of story, right?

Not so fast. Something about calling myself a writer feels arrogant. Faulkner, Austen, Dickens, Seuss – now, those are writers. How can I possibly claim membership in such an elite club?

Okay, let’s reason this out, weigh the pros and cons, mull over the upside and downside. (I’ve just said the same thing three times. Would Faulkner have done that? I submit to you that he would not. Seuss, maybe.)

Consider the advantages. Everyone you inform becomes part of your network and a potential advocate. You never know who’s a friend of a guy who once dated a literary agent’s cousin. Boom! You’ve got an in with no more effort than telling the truth. Less concrete but maybe even more significant is the way claiming to be a writer builds your resolve, your commitment, your sense of being a writer. What we call others – including ourselves – goes a long way in determining how they view themselves. I’ve given this concept some thought and even wrote about it in a post on my other blog. (Interest piqued? Check it out here.)

As you might expect, given the structure of this article, we also need to examine the drawbacks of so bold a declaration. First of all, it might not feel like a fit unless you’re somehow getting recognized for your efforts, either in the form of remuneration or publishing. There’s nothing like a little legal tender to make one feel worthy of one’s title. That’s a lie of course, but it’s how the world works and how we too often feel.

The greater negative from my perspective as a person who shamelessly wears the scribe’s moniker, is that anyone and everyone then feels they have the right, indeed the responsibility, to feed you their brilliant ideas for stories. This is an excellent and surprisingly easy way to lose friends and alienate relatives.

You’re a writer? You should write about my grandmother.

I’ve always thought the lives of trash collectors would make a great story.

The most dangerous unwanted sources, unfortunately, have been my Christian friends. They tend to give me not their ideas, but God’s. “God told me you should write this story!” This immediately conjures up several questions: How do you say no to God? Why didn’t I hear God tell me to write that story? Why didn’t he tell you to write it?

Example: Someone once approached me and told me God had given her an idea for a Christmas play. Of course, He wanted me to write it. I won’t divulge the entire plot, though I can tell you that the story wouldn’t have taken more than ten minutes of stage time. Suffice it to say that the denouement of the play was nearly everyone in the cast frying in Hell. Wouldn’t that enliven your Christmas spirit?

While I managed to restrain myself from jumping all over that killer idea, I did go so far as to come up with a couple of potential titles:

It’s a Wonderful Death

Have a Helluva Christmas!

writerI get my revenge, however. Anyone and everyone I encounter are story fodder. It just happened here. The person did in fact give me a helluva basis for a blog post. It might not have been her intention but, last I heard, turnabout is still fair play.

It’s not all bad. Some people have given me excellent prompts for stories. Even then, though, if my heart isn’t in it, there’s little chance I’m going to spend much time thinking about it. Most often, I jot it down as a note for future reference.

I never know when I’ll want to write about the trash collection lifestyle.

Still Alice

stillaliceWriting two blogs eats up a lot of time, especially when trying to maintain the rigorous discipline of generating one post per week per blog. Now and then, when my schedule demands it, I cheat. This is one of those times.

I’m putting this post up on this blog two days late. Sorry. It’s also being published on my other blog two days early. While you could accuse me of double-dipping, using one post to take up two slots, it’s okay because the topic serves the distinct purposes of the respective target blogs.

There. I’ve rationalized my sloth.

Limping in the Light, deals with chronic illness, specifically MS. Scribbling in the Sand concentrates on my writing, including screenplays, which leads to an occasional movie review. What happens when those two worlds collide?

You get “Still Alice”.

Every now and then, a major movie is released that restores my faith in what film can do. This is one of those times. Here’s a movie about a realistic human being facing a realistic, if excruciating, fate: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve wanted to see this film for which Julianne Moore deservedly won the Oscar for Best Actress, but for some reason I just got around to it last week. It was worth the wait.

Hollywood doesn’t get too excited about the chronically ill, the exception being mental illness, but only if said condition leads to exploitable sexual or violent behavior. We were fortunate to have two quality films about “disabling” illness recognized by the Academy for 2014, the other being “The Theory of Everything”.

“Still Alice” accurately and vividly portrays the maxim that individuals don’t get sick, families do. Alice’s condition is almost as destructive to her family as it is to her. Yet it somehow brings about healing as well. How people react to sickness is as revealing as how it affects its victim.

Not enough can be said about Ms. Moore’s performance. Subtle, powerful, gripping, disturbing, and true are all words that capture the essence of what she does on the screen. I felt her slow retreat into lostness almost viscerally. The “making of” featurette on the DVD was particularly enlightening as it dealt with how she prepared for her role.

In any other movie, two characteristics found in this film would have upset me. It contained the obligatory puke scene and it easily toed the depression line that was de rigueur for most 2014 productions. Both were acceptable, maybe even mandatory in this context. I lambasted 2014’s bummer crop in a previous post, even mentioning this movie as an example. This is a film that will indeed be depressing for most, but the courage of battle can be uplifting as well.

Don’t watch the movie for a lightweight escape. Watch it to be entertained in the best possible way. Watch it to learn more about this particular condition. Watch it to develop more compassion for people dealing with disabling illness. Watch it for a master class in acting. Watch it because it’s not “Mortdecai”. Watch it to make the statement that not every movie has to have aliens and/or explosions and/or serial killers.

Just watch it.