Guilty Pleasures

Just what is it about the old nine-to-five that makes my brain all mushy? It’s like my imagination is suffering from depression. Seriously, this post is the first thing I’ve written in two months.

Take a guess at how long I’ve been gainfully employed.

It’s not that I don’t have plenty of creative fodder here (that’s right; I’m writing this at work). My Boss is a used car salesman who bullied himself into a comfy position in life years ago, and my Office Partner is your run-of-the-mill, disgruntled, divorced, former millionaire car dealer.

They are exactly what you’re thinking right now. Don’t feel bad.

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The Boss never, ever graces us with his presence after 12 pm (and rarely before, either). My OP? He’s always at the office. ALWAYS. If he’s out, I’m probably with him, having been guilted into accompanying him on some personal errand.

Our office has two rooms, no hot water and the tackiest blue floor tiles in existence.  Our battered, laminate desks peek at each other from around a cornflower blue half-wall.  This wall would provide a modicum of privacy, except OP shifted his desk so that he could see me from his chair. He is a witness to every move I make. No private phone calls. No snacks consumed without prying eyes.  No smiles directed toward social media posts without a questioning glance.

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As much as I adore being on display, that joy cannot compare to my elation when OP starts one of his “fishing” stories. “Fish” is code for the women he meets online. At the tale’s end, I’m cornered into providing feedback on the conquest. Disgust and distaste, I say! (Oh, who am I kidding…? I enjoy his wildly inappropriate stories. They’ve given me an endless bank of “skanky bitch” traits. Yep, next to these broads, my shit is alphabetized and color-coded.)

Then, as though Fate read my mind and said, “Wound, allow me introduce you to my friend Salt,” I have read three -THREE! -articles that popped onto my Facebook feed about boredom and sleepiness and mind-numbing-ness, and how those things actually engage creativity. The words stung and left me confused. Doubtful. Overly analytical. Y’know, beyond my normal amount… like, way, WAY too much analysis.

Something must be wrong with me, I thought.

But another thought occurred in spite of my self-loathing. If those articles are true, I am going to break open the entertainment industry and become the best-selling author ever, from now until the laboratory – bred dinosaurs reclaim the home we destroyed. I have the recipe, and all the ingredients are right here in my Blue Ghetto Hell, where I spend 40 hours a week. Wait, how much time could I devote to this process of inevitable superstardom? I only do, maybe, five solid hours of work per week, so that leaves 35 paid hours to write! This is unbelievable!

In all seriousness, I couldn’t have asked for a weirder group of associates, and I have so much free time. Really, how can I fail? I’ve got to figure out a way to channel some energy into writing while I’m here, but I think I refrain from writing because I feel like a terrible employee. In my mind, company time equals company work. And while that’s not wrong, I can’t be expected to sit drooling, wishing for death when I have nothing to do. I mean, I don’t feel bad for browsing the Internet. I guess it’s all about the degree of engagement, and working on my novel takes a big chunk of that.

Be honest: should I feel guilty for writing at work when I have nothing work-related to do?

– sld

The Lost Boys of YA: Are Young Men Reading Less? :: LitReactor

boys_tvHow do we get dudes reading?

My husband is a total dude, and he admittedly hates to read.  He says he gets bored with reading, and he’d rather just watch the movie anyway.  I even let him borrow my copy of Fight Club, because he adores the movie (and what dude doesn’t like reading Chuck?!), and I think he got through a chapter. Maybe.

So, what’s the real issue?  I know plenty of guys who read fiction… and read a ton of it.  Does my husband’s analytical mind prevent him from using his imagination against the written word?  Or did he, like many others, fall victim to the whole I-hated-the books-we-read-in-high-school-so-I-don’t-enjoy-reading attitude?  We read the classics in high school, I know, but some of them were excruciating.  I didn’t read them all.  No one did.  So I can see how that experience might make some people book-shy.

Back to my first question:  how do we get dudes reading?  I wish I had an answer, but I really think the solution needs to begin at an early age.  What are your thoughts?

– sld


The Lost Boys of YA: Are Young Men Reading Less?

COLUMN BY LEAH DEARBORN

A friend of mine who recently finished six years of military service used to read on the bus between training exercises. It seems like a pretty innocuous thing to do. The ride from one base to another was four hours long, so he brought a book to entertain himself. At least, that was his original intent when he started out as a 19-year-old private. He quickly found that his peers viewed reading as a strictly feminine activity, and a laughable one at that. Tired of the constant harassment that it provoked, he eventually stopped bringing books on the bus.

This incident, although anecdotal and somewhat extreme, is not inconsistent with other outside data on adolescent reading habits:

  • A Canadian study published in the Alberta Journal of Educational Research found that 24 percent of second grade students thought of reading as a “feminine activity,” and later, additional studies have mirrored that result.
  • Only 12.5% of teens report that their fathers read more often than their mothers, and reading rates among young men have been dropping.
  • Guys Read, a group dedicated to reversing these trends, notes that boys of every age group have scored worse than girls on reading tests for the last 30 years.
  • Pew research conducted in 2013 reported that men read fewer books of any genre— 21 percent fewer in the category of YA titles, to be precise.

Based on the information at hand, it’s difficult to pinpoint how much of this is the result of cultural norms, and how much might be chalked up to other unknown factors.

Read the entire story at LitReactor.

Chaos Theory

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An androgynous voice globbed over the intercom: “Flight 479, direct to Columbus, will be boarding three hours late.”  A young man rolled his eyes, taking a seat in the scantly occupied terminal, and fished his smartphone from his backpack.  Two new text messages, both from her.

Paul, please come back.  I need u here.  

Can we just talk?

He slid the phone into his sweatshirt pocket and sighed painfully, leaning back against the vinyl seat.

“Now there’s the sound of a man in love,” someone declared.  Paul jerked and turned around to see a man’s well-worn face smiling at him.  “Well, aren’t you…?  In love?”

“I thought I was,” Paul smirked over his shoulder.

The old man shrugged.  “Eh.  You are, or you aren’t.  Love doesn’t come and go like hunger pangs.”  He shook his head.  “No.  Love is love and nothing else.  You a college boy?”

“Yeah, um, I go to Ohio State.  Biology major.”

The old man’s head tilted back.  “A buckeye.  Man of science.”

“I guess so,” he shrugged.

“Well,” the man grunted, slowly standing, “tell me about the girl.  She the reason you’re on the red-eye?”  He took small, rheumatic steps and sat down a couple of seats away.  “You’ll feel better if you talk it out, son.  You’re just going to think about her for the next three hours anyway.”

Paul inhaled sharply, his shoulders rising, and eyed the old man, pensive.  “We’ve been friends – well, we were friends – forever, since middle school, and we dated off and on throughout high school.”

The man shook his head.  “I assume you and she were each other’s ‘first’?”

Blood vessels dilated on Paul’s neck.  “‘First?'”

“First love,” the man said, matter-of-factly.

“Oh,” he breathed, “yeah.  Mine, for sure.”

The man nodded once and focused his gaze straight ahead.  “Go on.”

“I mean… well, we were each other’s first everything.”  He crossed his arms.  “So, we headed off to different colleges, and I thought we should see other people.  Mika didn’t agree, but she tried.  She thought we were meant to be together.  And the thing was every time we’d go back home, we’d get together… it was almost like we’d never been apart.”

The old man grunted.

“But I screwed it up.  I pushed her away.”

“Eh, why would you do that?”

“I don’t know.”  His fingers played with the latch on his wristwatch.  “I thought that’s what I wanted.  I knew her.  Too well.  I thought I wanted something different.  Someone new.”

“And you tried to win her back,” the old man guessed.

Paul leaned forward, elbows on his knees.  “I waited too long.  She’s getting married tomorrow.  To a guy I used to play baseball with as a kid.”

Watery eyes cut to the forlorn boy.  “Mercy.  Did you tell her how you feel?”

“Yes.”  He sat upright, as though the words pained him.  “Tonight, the first minute we had to ourselves.  We went into her old bedroom.  I sat her down on the bed and just blurted it out.  I said, ‘Mika, you always said we’d end up together, and I believe you now.  I love you, and I want to marry you.'”  He chewed on his lip.

“What’d Mika say?”

“That I have a special place in her heart, but she didn’t know what love was until she met John… that I’d always be her best friend.”  He shrugged, heartbroken.  “She was so sure before.  I never thought she’d do this to me.  I thought she’d always be there for me.  Mika was mine... she was always mine.”

“Therein lies your problem, my boy,” the old man pointed.  “You cared for the girl all along, but you expected her to hang around like a stray dog.  You fed her – just enough for her to justify staying – until it became inconvenient for you, and then you cursed her for leaving once she starved.”  The boy’s head hung low.  “I know this is difficult to hear, but there’s always design in chaos. You’ve got to recognize this girl’s purpose in your life.  Sometimes what you want and what you get don’t coincide, but what you get always coincides with what you need.”

“What do you mean?”

“A friend gives you a birthday gift.  You open it; it’s a scratchy wool sweater, but it’s the hottest day in July.  What do you say to your friend?  You say ‘thank you,’ because he didn’t have to give you anything at all.  No matter how untimely the gift, you show appreciation.  You don’t understand why that particular gift was chosen for you, and maybe your friend doesn’t even know precisely why, but, rest assured, there is a reason.”

“Like, six months later, I’m in a freak snowstorm with nothing but that wool sweater to keep me alive?” Paul snickered.  “I just can’t believe everything is designed, predetermined.  That implies some almighty intelligence, one that cares whether or not I have sugar in my coffee or if I wear a blue shirt or a red one.  Science teaches probabilities out of chaos, and that’s what I believe.”

“You don’t say?” The old man’s watery eyes sparkled, and he chuckled, low in his throat.  “You don’t believe there’s a reason you met Mika?  Or a reason you’re here now, obliging a strange old man with talk of unrequited love?”

“Could we change the subject?  I really don’t want to talk about Mika anymore.”

The old man sighed.  “Alright.  But, just think about it, eh?  Listen to an old man who’s had more than his share of heartache.  You trust me… life may not make sense now, but it will later.”

And so, he yielded, and they discussed muscle cars and books for the next hour, until all the other passengers of Flight 479 had stretched out across the empty rows and fallen asleep.  Paul fetched his cellphone and started a game of Texas Hold’em.  The old man watched every flick of his finger, and soon he and Paul played together, whispering about strategies, blind-stealing and semi-bluffs.

A few minutes into their second tournament, a new text flashed across the screen.

I need to talk to u…  I can’t let u walk out of my life like this.  We’ve been friends for so long… why can’t u still be my friend?

“Mika?” the old man asked, rubbing his eyes.

“Yeah.”

“Why don’t you call her?”

Paul checked the time.  The plane would start boarding in a half hour.  “I don’t know.”

“Eh, go on.  At least let her know you’re okay.  She hasn’t any idea where you are, and she’s concerned.”

Paul still loved Mika. Whatever the outcome, he loved her.

He texted back: Calling.

“Smart boy,” the old man said, getting to his feet.  “I’ll give you some privacy.”

Holding the phone to his ear, listening as it rang, Paul said, “Hey, I never caught your name…”

The old man turned and faced him, eyes steadied, posture a bit straighter. He answered in a strong voice, “I am –“

Paul’s finger shot up to silence him as Mika answered the phone.  “Hey,” he said quietly, “just wanted to let you know that I’m fine, I’m at the airport…”

The old man looked on, a gratified expression on his face, like a grandpa at his grandson’s wedding.  After a moment, he turned and walked away, down the concourse, out of sight.

Paul paced, the phone wedged between his ear and shoulder.  He spun around after the call ended, expecting to find the old man.  He eyed the terminal, searching.  Fellow passengers milled around, shuffling into boarding position at last, but the old man wasn’t in line.  He hoisted his backpack and wandered through the terminal, looking for him.  The last few passengers plodded down the jet bridge, and Paul had no choice but to leave without saying goodbye.  He trotted down and out of the concourse, abandoning his flight plans, and hailed a cab back to Mika’s house.

Wrapped in blankets, Paul and Mika perched on the roof just beyond her bedroom window.  They confessed everything – feelings, wants, regrets – until the sun peeked over the purple Rockies. Though he hadn’t thought it possible, Paul felt better about their situation.  Mika would be a lifetime friend, and suddenly, he longed to confide in the old man.

Instead, he told Mika about him.

“Too bad you didn’t get his name,” Mika said.

“I know.  He’s halfway to Ohio by now.”

“But I think the real question is,” she said, smirking, “would you still be here right now if you hadn’t met him?”

Paul grinned.

Downstairs, Mika’s father yawned as he poured himself a cup of coffee and switched on the news.  A stoic reporter read the teleprompter, “…After a three-hour delay for mechanical repairs, Flight 479 to Columbus, Ohio, crashed early this morning, killing all crew and passengers on board….”

– sld

Here’s to Breaking Writing Rules—Rebels With a Cause or Rebels Without a Clue?

stephanie-l-dockery:

Rebellion promotes art – a fantastic lesson for us writers. There’s a reason why I love Hemingway….

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Orignal image via Wikimedia Commons Orignal image via Wikimedia Commons

For the past several years, I’ve always begun the New Year with predictions of what the publishing industry would or wouldn’t do in the year to come. But this year? I’m being a rule-breaker and taking a different perspective—one I believe has greater impact and longevity. Algorithms rise and fizzle, publishers go out of business, change paths, or change rules. Heck, Amazon changes its mind more than my mother trying to pick a restaurant. So…eh. Not going there this year.

Unlike the days of early artists, we live in a light-speed society where something can fall flat or catch fire in an instant. This is an exciting time to be a writer.

We are in a New Age of the Artisan. When I give advice to young people about a future career, I simply want them to ask these simple questions. Can what I do be…

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