What is a writer?
Well, the simple answer is, a writer is someone who writes. Easy enough to explain something by citing its definition. Bricklayers lay brick, dancers dance, musicians make music, and writers write. Simple.
But why do writers write?
The answer to that question is a bit more complex. It is, as they say, a whole other ball o’ wax. The reasons people choose to write are as varied as the writers themselves. I could list all the reasons for writing by it would take up more time that I’m prepared to spend on this post. For those interested in exploring the topic, l suggest you pick up a copy of Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating With the Dead, A Writer on Writing. She offers an extensive, although by no means comprehensive, list of reasons why writers write; some of them surprising, others not so much. One reason that appears elsewhere in Ms. Atwood’s book, although not among the listed reasons for writing, is that it’s a comparatively easy thing to do. There are no prerequisites; no intellectual or educational background is required beyond a certain facility with one’s native language. That, and the determination to see the process through from beginning to end. After all, it is, as Neil Gaiman is supposed to have said, simply a matter of putting one word after another on the page until you’ve finished saying whatever it is you want to say. Simple, right? Not really.
There’s a small addendum to Mr. Gaiman’s description that’s worth noting if one aspires to be a published writer. (Not all of us aspire to that lofty goal, but I’ll get to that in a bit). The addendum is, that along with putting one word after another on the page, a should be able to put the right word in the right order after another on the page. Makes this ‘writing thing’ a bit trickier, don’t you think?
Ernest Hemingway once described the act of writing as, “You just sit down and open a vein.” Ironic, considering Hemingway did a lot of his writing standing up. I’ll confess that Hemingway’s description is a bit more strenuous the Mr. Gaiman’s, and anyway most writers – not all, but the majority – manage to confine their bloodletting to the page. Suffice it to say the actual process of writing lies somewhere between the two extremes. I, myself, picked writing because it was one of the few things I was suited to that didn’t require an inordinate amount of time trying to dislodge the dirt from under my fingernails.
So, what’s it like, being a writer?
For the most part writers live pretty much to way everyone else does. Most of us have ‘day jobs’. We get up, get the kids ready for school, go to work, attend PTA meetings, grocery shop, pick the kids up after school, get the car washed, the tires rotated, go to the barber or the hairdresser, maybe go on vacation when we can afford it. Pretty much the same thing everyone else does, except when all the other stuff is done, we write; usually late at night or early in the morning, and sometimes on the weekends if there are no soccer, baseball or football games, or piano or ballet recitals to attend. We’re just like everyone else. We’re kind of like witches in that respect; you can’t tell just by looking whether we are one or not.
Writers also tend to be avid readers, and we read across a wide variety of subjects and genres. I’ll give you an example. My own small library contains books on history, biography, memoirs, religion, business, art, writing, cooking, science and politics. I have thrillers, literary fiction, classics, philosophy, occultism, humor. books on photography and crafts, wine and winemaking, books and book collecting. And these, in one way or another, inform my own writing, as well as the way I tend to see the world around me. By reading how others viewed their world, I gain insights into my own world, and how it came to be the way it is. It’s also a handy how-to for using words, a turn-of-phrase that, with practice, helps me improve my writing.
Writers have always experienced a peculiar, Janus-like relationship with the non-writing public. Being among the ‘creatives’ in society, we are encouraged, even celebrated, in our ability to provide entertainment for the masses; to allow them to slip the bonds of their work-a-day lives and enter realms where good and evil battle endlessly for supremacy, and where good doesn’t always prevail, at least not until the next installment rolls off the presses. Then the god smiles on the writer, and the critics praise his efforts and lament the dearth of creativity in society, and presses roll out another spate of how-to books exclaiming, “You, too, can be (or become) more creative!”
Writers – and this applies especially to journalists, whether they write books or newspaper and magazine articles – have also always had the responsibility to “speak Truth to Power”, to expose, whenever possible, the misdeeds of governments and corporations, and provide the public the information necessary to combat the abuse of power. Then the god frowns on the writer, and governments and corporations berate him or her for the “misleading information”, “the lies”, “libels”, “unfounded accusations” and “unsubstantiated rumors”. These centers of power and influence have always viewed the writer as suspect, unreliable, and possibly subversive. Writers who continually joust with those in power have often been described in stereotypical terms; alcoholic, drug-addicted and mentally unbalanced, all to discredit those who question authority; and not only those who currently challenge authority, but those who would do so in the future.
That’s what it means to be a writer. It’s just like any other job or avocation. You have your good days and your bad. Like my mother used to say, “You pay your money, and you take your chance.”
In the end, I guess, it really doesn’t matter what type of writer you are (or become); whether you labor in the public eye like Stephen King, John LeCarré, or Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, or you labor in secret like Winston Smith, the reluctant hero of George Orwell’s 1984, or even if you write a single word. It doesn’t matter what you do, what matters is that you do it. But if you’re human, and I’m betting you are, sooner or later you’ll give in to cacoethia scribendi, “the itch to scribble”. Just be warned, if you scratch that itch once, you won’t be able to stop.
Five – nearly six – years ago I wrote a post entitled, “You Have To Know the “Rules” . . .(before you can break or bend them)”. It was a not-all-that-subtle attempt to explain how to approach the interview process; how to dress appropriately combined with an attempt to advise job-seekers on the (then touchy) subject of tattoos. The job market had tanked and I felt there was a need for information about finding work, and the various problems that arise during the job search. There are a lot of them, and not all of them have to do with “pounding the pavement”, submitting resumés, etc. . . There was nothing new in the post, nothing that shouldn’t have been “common knowledge” or “common sense”. Still, the article seemed a “good fit” so I posted it, and then promptly forgot about it and moved on to different topics. Then a funny thing happened.
Of all the posts I’ve written on this blog (and I’m the first to admit there haven’t been all that many), “You Have To Know the “Rules” . . .” is the one post most often referenced by people stopping by this blog. I began to wonder why. I’ve written on a variety of topics, not all of which have to do with job-hunting. Many have been (at least to me) humorous or autobiographical; some have been straight fiction. So why did this one post elicit so much popularity after so many years? Are there still people “out there” who need help job-hunting, or dealing with the interview process? Or was it something else?
Were people looking for some “magic bullet” that would allow them to find the perfect job, the most satisfying career, the most blissful life? Was the title of the post misleading? Were my readers referencing the post in hopes of finding some “inside track” that would magically supply them with the key to finding happiness? Is that why people were reading “You Have To Know The “Rules”. . . ? God, I hope not!
Because the simple truth of the matter is, there aren’t any. There are no one-size-fits-all “rules” for anything. In fact, the only “rules” are the ones you make for yourself. Everything else is a “guideline”, a “suggestion”. Sure corporations large and small have “rules” for how the work gets done, how the employees should behave, etc. . .(but they’re the corporation’s rules, not yours) and you can accept them or reject them, along with the job. That’s entirely up to you.
What it comes down to, in the final analysis is this: “Rules”, whether they’re set up by your parents, teachers, pastors, employers or friends are really their expectations of how you should behave, or what you should learn, or what you should believe, or what you should do to try to fit in and nothing more. It’s up to you to decide those things, not someone else.
You have your own ideas of what constitutes a good life, a happy life. You have your own dreams and plans and hopes for the future. It’s up to you – and you alone – to make those plans and dreams and hopes reality. You’ll never get there if you spend your time (and it’s a very limited amount of time) trying to live up to someone (or everyone) else’s expectations, or “rules”. (Image courtesy of gapingvoid,com)
It’s been rumored, in some of the print media, Sen. Rubio will drop out of the Republican race after the Florida primary this coming Tuesday, and throw his support behind his soon-to-be-former opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz in what appears to be a last-ditch attempt to stop Donald Trump from amassing the delegates to claim the Republican nomination.
Should “The Donald” win the nomination — and the likelihood of that happening increases day-by-day — he would become the standard-bearer of the Grand Old Party; a homophobic, bigoted, billionaire, misogynist, reality TV star who attracts right wing, lunatic fringe, conspiracy theorizing, violence-prone nut-cases to his cause. And the GOP elite and powerbrokers don’t think the Trump campaign represents “core Republican values”. Think about it! This is the party that campaigned for ‘Citizens United”, restricting voting rights (including restrictive voter ID laws) and against funding for Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare), immigration reform, marriage equality, and gun control (along with a host of other issues of vital interest to the citizens of this country). And who do they think would be a better representative of “core Republican values”?
Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz. Senator Ted Cruz, who since being elected to the Senate in 2013, has managed, almost single-handedly, to shut down the government over ‘Obamacare’; referred to the raising of the debt ceiling to avoid another government shut-down “a complete Republican collapse”, called the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, “a liar” on the floor of the Senate, and thus alienating all his fellow senators. During his campaign Cruz has vowed to repeal “every blessed word of Obamacare”, dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and eliminate the Dept. of Education. He has enthusiastically encouraged the Republican-led Senate to not hold hearings to confirm (or reject) President Obama’s pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court as a result of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and, in related comments, said he would not allow “our” Supreme Court (meaning his and his Christian-cloaked Tea Party cohorts’ Supreme Court) to be “stolen” by liberals who would destroy the Constitution. Sen. Cruz fashions himself a “strict originalist” when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, which means he feels the Justices should cleave to the ideas and meanings the framers originally intended; making the Constitution, as we understand it, irrelevant in today’s society but very relevant to the 18th century. This is the man the Republican party would choose, in place of Donald Trump, to be the representative of “core Republican values” in 2016.
Donald Trump would be a huge embarrassment to the Republican establishment; a caricature of what they see as a “true” Republican. But a manageable embarrassment. He is, after all, a neophyte when it comes to politics. Trump may be a “wheeler-dealer” but he would need people around him who could advise as to when to “wheel” and when to “deal”. If the GOP isn’t going to support his campaign, the least they could do is offer him some much-needed “assistance” should he win in November.
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is a horse of a different — very different — color. The junior senator from Texas has already in his brief Senate career shown his willingness to disrupt the traditional workings of government. Like a petulant child, he would rather there be no game unless everyone agrees to play by his rules. Sen. Cruz is, like his colleagues in the Senate, unwilling to compromise, but unlike his colleagues in the Senate, he is unwilling to compromise with members of his own party, not just those on the “other side of the aisle”. He has said he will tear up the Iran Nuclear Arms deal brokered by President Obama, and thereby destroy whatever modicum of trust the President has managed to extract from, not only the hard-liners in that country, but the other eleven signatories of the agreement. As if this weren’t enough to give pause, Sen. Cruz has stated he would make the Middle East sand “glow in the dark”; a more than vague indication he is willing to use nuclear weapons. Ted Cruz would be more than an embarrassment for the GOP. He would be a disaster for the Republican Party and a catastrophe for the rest of the world.
One of the problems with not being a “committed” writer (although many have suggested I should be — committed) is that I have a problem trying to decide how I want to say what it is I have to say. This, more often than not, leads to long periods of apparent inactivity, as anyone who has taken the time to follow this blog can attest. It also means I’m often “beaten to the punch” when it comes to subject matter. Take, for example, this post.
I’ve seen in the media – both print and televised – reports that members of the Republican establishment opposed to the Trump candidacy are actively searching for someone other than Marco Rubio to try and stop, or at least delay, the freight train that is the Trump campaign from pulling into “Nomination Station” before his coronation — excuse me, I meant to say the convention. It seems the Republican establishment has soured on Sen, Rubio, owing to his less- than-stellar showing in all the primaries and caucuses thus far. Sen. Rubio is placing all his eggs in his home state of Florida’s winner-take-all basket; a strategy many of the Republican elite don’t see as viable. The result of their second-guessing on their strategy is that they have to find someone else to rally around in hopes of, if not stopping, at least slowing the Trump juggernaut and forcing a “brokered” convention, where they can, or at least hope to, deny him the nomination. To that end they may have found themselves in the distasteful position of picking the one candidate they see as being able to, if not defeat Trump outright, bring him to the convention sans nomination.
It has been reported former presidential candidate Jeb Bush is scheduled to meet with all the remaining Republican candidates except Trump. There are two meetings set up before the Florida primary; one with Sen. Rubio and a second meeting with Sen. Cruz and John Kasich. The agendas of the upcoming meetings have not been made public, but it’s a fair bet to say they do not bode well for Sen. Rubio. That could be (and probably is) the reason Jeb Bush was tasked with breaking the bad news to the senator, rather than some other high-ranking Republican. Bush is a former governor of Florida and for a time acted as a mentor (of sorts) to the young first-term senator. It’s likely Jeb’s presence will take the sting out of the news he has to deliver; that the GOP “kingmakers” don’t think Rubio can win in his home state, and, in the unlikely event of his doing so, that he would be unable to sustain whatever momentum such a victory would provide. I’m only “spit-balling” here (I have no insider information or leak sources to draw on) but during the one-on-one with Rubio, Jeb could – could – suggest his one-time protégé step aside before the primary and forego the embarrassment of losing what the senator has described on numerous occasions as a “sure win”. The alternative would be to face the humiliation of losing his home state, and all the bad press that would result, drop out of the race and throw whatever fast diminishing support he could muster behind the party’s preferred candidate.
Jeb, in all likelihood, has the same message for Gov. Kasich who is pinning his meager hopes on carrying his home state of Ohio (which primary is held on the same day as Florida’s), without the courtesy of a private delivery. That would leave only one viable alternative to Trump (or Drumpf, if you’re a fan of John Oliver) – Senator Ted Cruz. The choice makes no sense to me. Why would the GOP pick a candidate they despise (and the GOP despises nobody as much as they despise Ted Cruz)? The Republican party is in a panic over the possibility of a “Drumpf” (you guessed it, I’m an Oliver fan!) nomination. It’s palpable and in their desperation, they’ve turned to the one man capable of completing the destruction of the GOP.
After next Tuesday, the race for the GOP nomination gets really scary. I’ll have more in the coming days. Until then. . .
It’s been 2 months since I posted anything on this blog. I’m not apologizing, just stating the facts. Two months. And it isn’t “writer’s block” that’s kept me from posting. The thing that’s kept me from writing on this blog has been my anger. Yes, anger; anger that I’ve been suppressing for the last two months out of fear. I was afraid that, if I expressed my anger, I would disappoint my family and friends (a few of whom would likely read my post), or that people I do no know wouldn’t like me because of what I wrote. I know it’s pathetic. Why should I care what people I don’t know and will likely never meet think about what I have to say? Actually, I shouldn’t, but there it is. I was afraid. And the fear allowed the anger to fester and intensify to the point I became fearful of my anger; an anger I felt was justified if not rational.
It’s taken me two months to come to terms with my feelings. There was the anger I’ve already mentioned, and the fear but there was also a feeling of disappointment and I guess, betrayal. The last, the sense of betrayal, I think has a lot to do with my anger. John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country.” A lot of us back then took those words to heart. I know I did. I went overseas to defend my country (at least I thought I was defending my country; turns out it was something else I was defending, but let’s not go there now), came home, got a job, paid taxes, and tried mightily to grab my piece of the “American Dream” which I was still naïve enough to believe in. I always thought — erroneously as it turned out — there was a “quid pro quo” implied in Kennedy’s message; that if I did what I could do for my country, my country would do for me. Turns out that’s not really the case.
I was frustrated and a little angry, manageably angry. After all, I knew it took money to “grease the wheels” of government and those that had the money could apply the most grease. “Things would change with the next election cycle”, I told myself, hoping but not really believing. There wasn’t any change in the next election cycle, nor in any of the succeeding cycles. The government has turned its back on “the will of the people” in favor of the will of the rich people, the ones who can afford to send armored cars full of money and legions of lobbyists to “grease the wheels of government” and have them turn in their favor. It’s now at the point where I can’t contain the anger any longer. What angers me the most isn’t that I feel abused and betrayed by a system of government that, in truth, was never designed to serve “the people”, only made to serve the people, and then only when there was political advantage to be had. What angers me most is that I was complicit in my own betrayal and abuse. I believed the rhetoric, the obfuscations and the outright lies of those who were (and are) in power and those who aspire (or is it conspire?) to that power.
Donald Trump, multi-millionaire (there are doubts about his billions), gold-plated huckster, reality TV personality, megalomaniac with a messiah complex, who is so convinced he will win the nomination (and the presidency) he thinks he could win even if he shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, or is it Times Square? (probably the former, Trump wouldn’t be caught dead in Times Square — not “classy” enough). His prescription for how to make America “great” again? Get rid of all the “losers”; the immigrants, Hispanic and Muslim first and foremost. Throw the ones that are here out and build a wall so they can’t come back. Oh, and while he’s at it, let’s not forget the gays, blacks and women; they’re all “losers”. He’ll put them “in their place”. It’s gonna be great! Great!On the international front, Trump’s idea of how to deal with terrorists is even more repulsive; “You gotta go after the families”. He’ll deal with terrorism by committing “War Crimes”! And I wouldn’t hold out much hope (none, actually) for the economy under Trump. The Donald has made no bones about the fact he’s “all about the money, all about the money.” He’s made much of the fact that his campaign is “self-funded”, that he’s so rich he doesn’t need financial backers like the other candidates. Actually, he’s in a position to make a very tidy profit from his campaign, even if he doesn’t win the presidency or even gets the nomination. You see, “The Donald” lent his campaign — his own campaign — more than $11 million dollars, so even if he loses, he wins. That loan will be repaid out of any leftover campaign funds, and you can “bet your bippy” there’s a hefty interest rate attached to that loan. If Trump does, by some perverse twist of fate- or- whatever, become President, you can kiss whatever surplus is left in the budget good-bye. It’ll become Mr. Trump’s personal “Gold Card” account. After all, he’s “all about the money!”
The other two contenders on the Conservative (I wouldn’t call any of them Republicans) side are worth mentioning only in passing.
Ted Cruz, the Canadian-born (don’t hold that against him, though. Canada is also known as, “America Lite”) Senator from Texas is so despised by his colleagues in that “august” body he hasn’t managed to garner a single endorsement from among them. In fact, fellow Senator, Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina has said if he shot Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, nothing would happen. How’s that for “bringing folks together”? Ted Cruz’s nickname should be “Mr. Obstruction” or “Senator Destruction”. Anything he doesn’t like, he obstructs. If he can’t obstruct, he destroys. I saw an article on the Internet — it was on either the AlterNet or Salon website, I forget which — that reported Sen. Cruz was working to block efforts in the Senate to do anything about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan; a crisis that resulted in the poisoning by lead contamination of hundreds of children, CHILDREN! And Senator Cruz thinks it’s not something the Senate should be involved in. How’s that for “Compassionate Conservatism”?
Florida Senator Marco Rubio is still in the race only because he has the backing, for what it’s worth, of the Republican “establishment”, and the only reason they’re backing Rubio is because they can’t stand Cruz and they don’t believe there are enough bigots who are registered Republicans to win Trump the nomination. I wouldn’t count on that being the case. In any event, Mr. Rubio is out of his depth here, as he is in the Senate.
The “slug” at the top of this post is a quote from “John Wick” the recent Keanu Reeves movie. He says this after his one-time employers stole his car and killed his dog. I can empathize with his feelings.
I’ve been away for awhile. Awhile. Four months to be exact. I’ve been trying, more or less successfully, to deal with some “personal issues” which have made it pretty nigh impossible for me to be polite in mixed company. I’m talking (typing, actually) here about the continued presence of Donald Trump in the media. I first wrote about my feelings for this jackass back in August (which was, if anyone is keeping track, the last time I posted anything on this blog). Back then I likened the prevailing republican campaign atmosphere to that of the “Mad Tea Party” from “Alice in Wonderland”. Since then it’s gotten worse . . .much worse. And I have to ask myself, “Why?”
Why hasn’t anyone — the media, the other Republican “candidates”(I’m talking Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio & Jeb! Bush(league) — called this narcissistic a**hole out? Are they so afraid of losing their “base” they’re afraid to confront a demagogue who’s running roughshod over their party? They’re afraid, terrified they may lose a vote; after all, if they don’t win the nomination they (Cruz and Rubio, anyway) have to go back to be being senators and they’ll need the votes to stay in office and continue being insufferable, obstructionist jerks on the public’s dime. And Bush will have to go back to being bush-league; an ex-governor and one-time “smarter” Bush brother. Somebody should sit these yahoos down and explain to them that they can’t hope to win anything if they’re not willing to risk everything. But they’ve convinced themselves they can win their party’s nomination by risking nothing, and thereby losing everything.
There was a time when the leaders — the supposed leaders, and the aspiring leaders — of political parties actually led their parties. That is no longer the case. The wannabe leaders of today’s Republican party have abrogated their right to be called leaders. They have relinquished that right (or any right they may have hoped to gain) to the ultra-conservative fringes of their party; instead of leading, they’ve chosen to be led and forced to jump through ever smaller, ever tighter hoops.
Of course, there’s still hope. Primary season hasn’t actually begun yet. No one has cast a vote, for or against anyone in the race. Polls can be manipulated — an outrageous claim spoken at the right moment and the polls swing this way or that — but voter tallies can’t be so easily manipulated (well, they can be but it’s unlikely anyone will try that particular trick anytime soon). Sooner or later, “The Donald” will be forced to make some sort of serious policy statement, take a real position on matters of national import instead of telling us what to be afraid of (gays, Muslims, “terrorists”, etc. . ), assorted ad hominem attacks on his competitors, and how unfair the media is to question anything he says.
Sooner or later (and the sooner, the better), the public is going to come to the realization the Trump “campaign” is a joke, and one not worth repeating.