Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Why write? Why not write?

Having been in the writing business for almost ten years (although I’ve been writing for quite a bit longer than that, on a non-business basis), I’ve learned many things. My hope is to impart them to my readers, both to share wisdom and to prevent you from making the mistakes that I did.

When you have something to say, say it. Sharing information is cathartic and if you find someone or some entity that wants to read it, so much the better. One of the lessons that I’ve learned through a significant amount of experience is that you are not the same as the work that you create. In other words, people will like you and not your work. Or more importantly, it’s critical to understand that a lack of positive response to what you’ve created in no way diminishes you. It’s simply the taste fairy thing.

Now that I recognize the value of this medium, I’ll be adding comments much more often. If you want to see more of me and what I’ve done so far, my website is http://www.csscribe.com. Looking forward to hearing from you – Shalom.

 

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Work

If you are anything like me, you have a difficult time putting aside your busy life to relax. Three or four days per week, I spend some time in a classroom,  a pursuit that requires my full attention and concentration. On an average of two to three days per week, I find myself completing some freelance work or maximizing my opportunities to secure new assignments.

On those days when I have no tasks to complete, I discover that I continue to find efforts to occupy my time. Sometimes that consists of cleaning a closet, regardless of the fact that I’ve cleaned said closet at least three times in the last three months. Sometimes it’s reorganizing my office, a space that consists exclusively of my possessions that were already in logical and accessible places.

What all of this means is that some of us find it difficult to do nothing unless it somehow resembles work. Be certain that I earned a semblance of retirement. My first full-time, permanent position happened in 1969 and except for a few months following my final job, I have worked nonstop since that time.

It appears to me that the problem is not a lack of endeavors on which I can spend my time but that I have spent so long doing work that it’s nearly impossible not to do something productive. Is that my version of the Protestant work ethic – work hard, thrift and efficiency? In other words, you will be doing that which you are “supposed to” do. Or is it the voice of my dad saying, “You’re lazy and always will be,” a voice that should have been silenced long ago.

Happily, I think that I’m just a person who derives satisfaction and gratification from building, creating and completing. So far, I don’t see that this has produced any negative consequences. Life is happy and without significant stress. My family brings me unequalled pleasure and I’m not missing anything that I can identify. Most importantly, I agree with a fifth-grade teacher whom I met recently. He said that he had been teaching for four years but had never had a day of “going to work.”

And so, if I am unable to stare at a wall and watch the world go on without me, so be it. When I am no longer part of that world, I hope that others will remember me as someone who always wanted to contribute more. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Keeping promises

For this, the 300th of my blogs, it made sense to me to elaborate on a subject that means more to me than many others. It relates to keeping promises and fulfilling obligations. Among the many cultural trends that I observe, the failure of many to do what they say they are going to do leaves me frustrated and worried.

Here’s an example. Not long after we moved to New Mexico, we spent some time with a young man who was very charming and persuasive. Because of him and his enthusiasm, we were moved to make a major investment in our home. Among the other commitments he made to us, he assured me that I would receive part of his recent shipment of Kona coffee, something I truly love. My cupboard is still devoid of Kona.

From a different organization, we were promised a refund for our warehouse club membership as a demonstration of good faith from our purchase of another home improvement. This was right around Christmas time and we continue to wait for our check.

Why is it that people don’t believe that their assurances are as binding as their reputations? Prefacing the guarantee of something with “promise” or not doesn’t make a commitment any more or less sacrosanct. If I tell a client that I will have an edit done by tomorrow, he or she will receive it tomorrow if it requires my staying up all night to furnish it.

Is doing what we say we will do a vanishing habit? Can we tell our children that they will receive this or that and fail to have the item materialize? Absolutely not. When I tell a class that they will have pencils or candy by the end of the day, you and they can be certain that they will.

Don’t promise me something that you can’t provide. It’s a much better idea to indicate you’ll try or that you’ll make every attempt. In the event that the pledge is incomplete, I will believe that you have tried. We must keep our words. If those words are lies, ultimately so are we. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Cries for help

Watching a group of fifth graders struggling with math, I wonder if it’s possible to over-teach. Some teachers leave instructions not to assist students with their calculations and I always wonder why.

One of my students today has labeled herself as ADHD, offering it as an explanation for her challenges with fractions. For those unfamiliar with that acronym, it represents Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder. The manifestations of it are difficulties with paying attention, hyperactivity, lack of focus and interrupting others. According to the scientists, it can last for years or be lifelong.

Is it better to watch kids such as this ADHD student hit intellectual brick walls or offer some direction and support? There are at least two distinct methods of analyzing the subject.

Sometimes these ADHD students use the acronym as an excuse rather than an explanation. What exactly does tagging yourself with initials have to do with desire to learn and determination to focus?

Because I seldom get to know any of my students on a long-term basis, I don’t observe all of their behavior. Maybe said child really doesn’t have ADHD. What if she’s intellectually lazy and the teacher doesn’t want me to feed that laziness by providing too much information?

This argument reminds me of the concept of loving a child too much. Is it possible to do so? And in this case, isn’t there a way to end of the frustration of a struggling student without prolonging a habit or doing too much teaching?

Ultimately, I adhere to the teachers’ guidelines by my definition of not providing answers to problems. But if I am to function as an educator, my mission is to educate, not to observe.

Encouragement, suggestion, commendation and compliments are all part of the education process. Great educators don’t provide answers – they furnish methodologies and fundamentals with which to find those solutions. More importantly, they assure students that they are fully equipped to find their intellectual footing. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Music in my soul

Too many years ago, due to the crowd with which I was associated and a deep love for music, I decided to learn how to play the guitar. As I remember, by virtue of a tax refund or by purchasing it a few dollars per week, I was finally the proud owner of a classical guitar.

Because folk music was so popular, I took several lessons at the Old Town (Chicago) School of Folk Music. Ten years later, I was living in San Diego and pursued two courses in classical guitar. While Segovia had nothing to fear from my accomplishments, I was very proud to do what I did.

The guitar is still with me, lonely and unappreciated in the corner of my office. Rheumatoid arthritis makes it impossible to play chords and my musical endeavors are limited to vocal ones. As recently as last night, I began to wonder what lesson is to be derived from being unable to do something I loved.

There are no obvious answers. But because of my guitar background, I have a profound reverence for guitarists who craft magical musical melodies. While I’ve thought about other instruments, very few don’t include some level of manual dexterity.

Beyond observation and camaraderie, I remain an educator. Now and then I accept music teacher assignments and enjoy helping young people create and immerse themselves in music. And as in the case of so many abilities lost and saved, I remain grateful for what I can still accomplish.

For now, I am capable of an occasional 5k, singing as part of a professional choral ensemble and cooking a festive meal.  A number of people around the globe call on me for editing. So many who are around me have fewer capabilities and depend on others for essential activities of daily living.

And so, my lesson is that of gratitude instead of the sorrow of loss. One day, my guitar will find a new home with someone who can retrieve the memories and secrets it preserves. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Beauty

Watching our garden in extremely high (hazardous) wind, I am touched and amazed at the strength and stamina of our flowers. We have marigolds, geraniums and several other types of blooms that refuse to surrender their petals and hang on as if their lives depended on it. In fact, I suppose they do.

As I watch them, I remember being aware of the wide variety of people whom I have seen lately. Each of them was buying flowers of some sort. Young people, older people, female people and male people were all approaching the cash register to purchase various types of flora.

At that time and now, I find it intriguing that everyone wants to appreciate beauty, particularly the natural type. Never do I see people purchasing artificial flowers with the energy and intent with which they have been buying flowers these last few weeks.

Of course, there is a moral to all of this. We all need beauty in our lives. If it’s pink, orange, red, lavender, purple or white – beauty makes our lives smooth, meaningful and placid. It’s found in the way we decorate our homes and our bodies. It’s why some decide to turn their vehicles into masterpieces or monuments. And it’s why many dedicate themselves (ourselves) to the integration and creation of beautiful music.

To my knowledge, I haven’t seen any studies on the physical reaction of human bodies to the perception of magnificence, whatever the type. We can all relate to the effect that music has on us, just as we are fulfilled and enhanced by the appreciation of fine art. And so, why should it surprise me or anyone else that people of all shapes and flavors surround themselves with the beauty of nature?

We all have the opportunity to contribute to the quality of the world that surrounds us, if only by paying attention to our gardens. It’s a better option than road rage, dumping trash on the street and breaking into someone else’s home.

Nurture your garden and watch how your life blossoms. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Good taste

It was breakfast at a familiar restaurant where we have enjoyed numerous meals. We were seated in a somewhat reserved area and prepared to enjoy a meal. Not long thereafter, a man was seated just behind me and he was joined by a younger man a few minutes later.

None of this was exceptional until the third young man arrived. This was the trigger for man number one to launch a diatribe that lasted throughout our meal.

He spoke in a loud voice (there was no other indication that he was hard of hearing) and went on an on and on pointing out everything that he could identify that was wrong with someone who apparently was one of his staff.

The recollection of a manager in my past undoubtedly occurred to me. But beyond that, this very unpleasant human was totally unrestricted in his castigation of the younger man. He (the employee) was accused of being an alcoholic, was told that he was sloppy in his appearance, was unsuccessful in hiring and training staff and had violated a confidence by discussing company business with an uninvolved third party.

Why did I hear all this? Unquestionably, I had no choice in the matter. Our conversation was nearly impossible due to the booming boor voice in the rear. Among other reactions, I felt very bad for the man who was listening to all of this criticism.

Several things are wrong here. For one, lower your voice so that the entire room doesn’t need to listen to your insults. Another reality is that he had not one pleasant thing to say to the man next to him. I believe in you; you’re going to be successful; you have great potential; let’s see what we can do to focus on your many strengths and the difficulties you’re having will vanish.

While I’m not involved in any of this except by proximity, I was required to listen to it. It occurred to me thereafter that had my dad been present, he might well have said, “Hey look, creep. Why not take your nastiness someplace where I don’t have to listen to it.” Dad was pretty direct.

Of course, I didn’t say anything at all. But we all have something to learn about not airing grievances where anyone and everyone can hear. The recipient of his abuse certainly deserved some privacy. And I can watch R movies if I want to listen to endless swear words. Give us all a break. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Write

What is it about writing assignments that causes otherwise verbal students to freeze? As we all know, some of us have strengths in math, some in art, some in technology and some in to be determined.

It’s always my personal challenge to identify those students who are writers. They express joy at the opportunity to articulate feelings and thoughts. They do whatever is necessary to prepare for the adventure.

Others will do everything imaginable to dodge the activity. I don’t have a pencil. I don’t know what to write about. It’s too noisy in here. It’s too cold. And in a few rare cases, I don’t like to write.

My observations suggest that too many would-be writers are halted because of fears of something. It may be fear of misspelling. Or it may be insecurity about a lack of words to communicate a finely developed thought.

Sometimes, the excuses are more sophisticated. In spite of about 200 books in the classroom, one pair of girls couldn’t find anything worth reading and then reviewing. As a result, there was their “legitimate” reason not to write several sentences.

But it’s not always bad news. Occasionally, I’ll have a student ask if he or she can write more sentences than requested. And sometimes, I’ll have a student say that she or he is writing a book, and can I help publish said book.

It becomes clear that our responsibility as leaders is to promote any and all forms of self-expression, no matter what shape, size or color they take. Needless to say, I’m not likely to include proficiency at video games or social media participation.

Spelling doesn’t matter and neither does having five sentences. (I learned from one class that their teacher said that paragraphs need to contain five sentences – I’ve never heard that before.) What matters is recognizing that you have something to say that is unique, important and exclusively yours. With those conditions met, writing can be sufficient in itself or as a starting point for many great accomplishments. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Life is but a river

One of the books that I have recently completed includes a passage from Talmud (Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend) that is delivered by a father to his son at the beginning of their Nazi experiences in Germany during World War II. Although I’ve seen the quote attributed elsewhere, the gist of it from Talmud is as follows: Life is but a river, with no beginning, middle or end. Our value is what we do while we float upon it and how we treat our fellow man.

Taken within the context of the Holocaust, the advice is clear and valuable. No matter what we may do, our actions and reactions will be within the course of the human experience. We can direct some of it but are incapable of controlling all of it. The best we can hope is to float peacefully along our individual and community rivers of life.

Beyond that, how we treat each other is crucial. My guess is that our treatment of the other residents of this world becomes more important because it is one of those few things that we can manage. Our fellow men, likewise, can only control how they treat us and everyone else.

While initially this quotation seems dismal and sad, I believe that it is helpful and constructive to see ourselves as part of an entity much more formidable than any one of us. As residents of that which we call life, we were not present at the beginning of life and will not be able to see the end of it (we hope).

Whether or not that reality is good or bad is not for me to determine. But I do like the idea that the way I treat others is the means to improve and enhance life in general, both for me and for all those whom I touch, either personally or through my writing. That’s a considerable responsibility and one that I consider a gift and privilege. Shalom.

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Mr. Twain revisited

Mr. Twain – it’s wonderful to see you again and resume our fascinating conversation. I’m hopeful that you’ve had some time for further reflection and life observations that I can share with my readers.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

That’s a great idea except when writing or any other act of creativity is blocked or uninspired. What do you think?

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

Don’t you ever experience frustration over the need for self-expression and the limited areas in which to do so?

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

If you’re anything like me, you find that our emotions surface in our writing, regardless of our attempts to be analytical or dispassionate. Maybe, the truth for those of us who are authors is that emotion is the triggering mechanism and the prerequisite for words that follow.

When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained. When angry, count four; when very angry, swear.

As always, you find the right words to express what many of us are feeling. Before we adjourn, do you have any final thoughts that you seek to express?

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Put all your eggs in one basket – and watch that basket!

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of a joy you must have someone to divide it with.

Thank you for your wisdom, Mr. Twain. My hope is that my readers are inspired to read more of your work and learn a great deal about your powerful philosophies. You’re obviously passionate about life and its intricacies and I am so moved to have spent some [imaginary] time in your presence. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Mr. Twain

Mark Twain is a familiar and well-loved American author who distinguished himself as someone who had many strong opinions and a lack of reluctance to express them. In following with my last blog in which I discussed having lunch with someone, Mark Twain occurred to me as an excellent candidate for an engaging and informative meal.

Because of the vast number of Twainisms and words to remember, it seems judicious to divide our lunch into two blogs. During the first part of our luncheon, we will approach the subjects of age and playing well with others. The second blog will take place during another meeting.

Good afternoon, Mr. Twain. I’m so very pleased to have an opportunity to spend some time with you. With both of us in our days less concerned with work, it’s always a pleasure to relax.

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Well said. If you’re at all like me, you are finding that we never have the time to do everything that’s important or most enjoyable.

Do not put off till tomorrow what can be put off till day-after-tomorrow just as well.

Are you finding that as we age, we find that we don’t have the patience we once had for petty disputes and disagreements?

You can straighten a worm, but the crook is in him and only waiting.

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.

Sadly, I agree with you. My observations suggest that being careful about what we express is ultimately wiser than blurting out anything and everything.

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.

You and I agree once again. If we choose those who are honest and sincere, our lives become much more pleasant.

Never tell a lie, except for practice. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

Mr. Twain, this has truly been a pleasure. Shall we say next week, same place, same time?

Go to Heaven for the Climate, Hell for the company.

Shalom.