Tuesday, February 28, 2006

You're LATE! Nothing since Feb 7th!?

Aaaaarrrrgggghhhhh! What, you want to read contracts?! I have been writing my fingers to the bone this month, just not always creatively. (Or maybe very creatively. Depends on how you look at my business contracts...) (Thank you for pointing out the ebbing in the flow of my commitment level to this blog, btw. You made my day. I mean, it's not like it's eating away at my conscience every waking moment of my day.)

I started a piece last week on Reality TV, but halfway through, I realized everybody says they hate it, but we all watch it anyway. How else would we know how lame it is? (I really cannot believe some guy sold a kidney to further his invention...At least, that's what the teaser for American Inventor has been implying.) (And I am soooo ticked that they booted off Stacey and kept Jerry. He's a nice guy, but she can DANCE!) (And I mean, really, Moana [phonetic spelling] when you signed up to go on national TV to find a boyfriend, and the basic design of the show is that he sends one of you home each week, it had to have crossed your mind at some point that he might choose to send you home!?) So anyway, I deleted it.

In between contracts, I've been 'book doctoring.' (That is heavy duty editing; not for the faint of heart.) I spend my days making other people's words shine, while yearning to splash a few of my own. But I've grown accustomed to the luxuries of life, like eating and sleeping with a roof over my head. (No, I didn't make it up. I swiped it off a bumper sticker.) So the jobs that bring in the most money the fastest are the ones that get my attention and take my time, my resources, my very soul!

What we need is the replicator. Wouldn't that solve all our problems? No longer would we have to scrabble in the dust for a mere pittance, a subsistance living. All our basic physical needs would be met and we'd have time for the emotionality of life, the intellectual, the spiritual. Ahhh...

And that's all I have to say about that.

Yes, I just watched a rerun of Forest Gump on TV the other night. Watched Castaway the week before. I bet if they played a Tom Hanks rerun every weekend, we would have at least 6 months of happy watching. Hey, imagine that. Tom Hanks, the cure for Reality TV.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On Speculation and Gambling

Another week. Time to write another blog.

Fantasy: After writing multiple pieces each and every day during the week, I merely need to choose which of my clever and entertaining pieces to post here.

Reality: Uh…Do business contracts and e-mails count? I’ve written three contracts and a zillion e-mails this week.

Actually, I do have something to say today. Being a small business owner, I am always only two steps away from failure and bankruptcy. What can I say? I like living on the edge. But the last few weeks I’ve been closer to the edge than even the most thrill-seeking and desensitized entrepreneur would care to be. Close enough to the edge to hear the surf pounding on the jagged rocks below, to feel the spray upon my face, and to see the roots of the twig I’m swinging from start to give way.

Anyway, during this most recent I-grew-before-I-could-afford-new-clothes phase of my business, I had a client ask why things were so precarious. She was curious to know if I had “speculated” or “gambled” on business being better than it was. I had to think about that awhile.

And the answer is No. At least, not in the usual sense of those words, which imply taking unfounded or dangerous risks. My choices and business decisions were made as safely, as carefully, as well thought out and as prayerful as I know how to be.

The answer is also Yes. If you think about it, every decision we make in life, business or otherwise, could be called a speculation or gamble. We decide to shop at one store over another, speculating that their prices will be lower. We choose to quit one job and take another, gambling that it will provide a better living for our families. We decide to marry, rather than stay single, speculating that it will be a positive experience. We decide to have babies, gambling that we will survive both the experience of labor and delivery, and their teen years. Sometimes those gambles pay off the way we hope or expect. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the consequences are merely annoying, sometimes they are dire. That’s life.

So in that sense, yes, I suppose I did some speculation and gambling in the business, every day, every month, every year. Many times over the past five years, I’ve faced the choice of staying in business or closing the doors. Perhaps I have stayed in business over long, from a purely numbers and financial standpoint. But each time I faced that decision, I gambled on my products, their message, my enthusiasm, and the Lord’s continued help and support.

If I had it all to do over again, knowing what I know now, I’d have done a lot of things differently from the very beginning. If I had it all to do over again, knowing the eventual outcome would bring me here, dangling over disaster, yet not knowing how to prevent it, I’d still have taken those risks. I’d still have invested and gambled on these past five years and called it good while it lasted.

[Do not think that I have surrendered to the inevitable. I have not. The situation is not so dire as to be impossible to turn around. But for the sake of the creative writing to which this site is dedicated, that last sentence was a good stopping place.]

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Jumping Into the Frey

Like Oprah and just about everyone else on the planet, I have an opinion on Mr. Frey's Million Little Pieces of lies. As an editor, I think my opinion is valuable. Therefore, I'm forcing you to read it. (Stop now if you really want to.)

1. A memoir is not an autobiography. It is a narrative based upon personal experience. It is the author's personal experience and interpretation of a memory. Ergo, it's probably not 100% true. Which is not to say that all, or even most, memoirs are purely fiction. I tend to believe most of them are true--or at least true within the frame of reference of the writer.

2. Everyone's memory is fallible and colored by both previous and subsequential experiences. You might "remember" Suzy wearing a red dress, when in fact, it was blue. You might "remember" the gist of a conversation, but you're not going to get it verbatim.

3. While you are comfortable telling your story and taking your own inventory, which obviously includes interaction with others, you do not have a right to print their inventory for millions of people to read. Therefore, sometimes you change the details: use a different name, different physical description, place them in a different location or career. This is not a horrible thing to do. It is protection for both the other person and for yourself.

4. Unlike a biography, which is a narration of facts connected by time and sequence, a memoir is a narration held together by a theme. It describes or teaches some universal truth. People are only willing to read about your life if they are going to get something back in return--insight, a feeling of connection, a good laugh, whatever. Sometimes to make the point, a memoirist waxes eloquent, rather than strictly literal. This is part of the definition of a memoir.

5. Having said that, a memoir needs to be based upon fact. The writer can only stray so far from harsh reality before they cross the line into fiction. Did James Frey cross that line? From what I saw of his appearance on Oprah recently, I believe he probably did. Bad, Frey. Don't ever do that again.

6. Use a little common sense when reading a memoir. If it sounds unbelievable, it possibly is. Take it with a grain of salt. However, don't assume that just because something doesn't fit within your personal frame of reference it isn't true. Really good men sometimes find it hard to believe that other men would beat their wives. Strong women find it hard to believe other women would stay with men who beat them. So while believability is a clue, it also may not be relevant.

7. When reading a memoir, or anything for that matter, I think the question is not so much is this a 100% representation of the honest-truth-in-every-detail reality, but is there enough truth in this story to touch my heart, to make me change?

8. Along with the aforementioned common sense, do what they say in Twelve Step sharing meetings: Take what you like [what feels true to you] and leave the rest.

9. Real life is a big enough lesson, James. You don't really need to embellish it. And in the future, call a spade a spade. If your story is true, with only small changes to protect the innocent (or more likely, the guilty) call it a memoir. If you write a story about months spent in jail, when in reality it was only a few days, say it is based on a personal experience. And if you really want to be creative, call it fiction. Fiction can move people too.

And that's all I have to say about that.