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

Wait

Some of us are quicker to react to comments or actions than others of us and I always appreciate those who are more careful than not about responses. While this doesn’t exactly correspond to spontaneity, it takes a special talent to be fast-thinking without reacting too quickly.

Here’s an example: Last week I was in a situation where a self-empowered and over-zealous guest teacher issued rapid-fire and extremely impolite instructions for a simple and entirely mundane task. My first reaction was to suggest that she enroll in a personnel interaction mediation.

Yes, this would have been a major overreaction and unproductive comment. More importantly, it probably wouldn’t increase my apparent value to the school. Consequently, I said nothing and dutifully followed her directives.

Our first responses aren’t necessarily the best ones. Issuing any type of gestures to rude and unsafe drivers may cause us to feel useful or vindicated but they can also be dangerous.

Normal, unexceptional daily life also creates opportunities to do the wrong first thing that you consider. Instead of saying, “I’ve already told you that at least three times,” it’s a good idea simply to issue the information for the fourth time.

In the classroom, holding out for the second (or third) action is crucial. Sometimes the most intelligent students ask the most ridiculous questions: Do we all have to go to lunch? It’s Friday – do we have school tomorrow? Mrs. Regular Teacher said she was gone for the day – is she going to be back this afternoon?

Too many factors prevent us from the obvious or frequently sarcastic response. The child may have a memory/learning disorder. They may have home issues that prohibit understanding. Or maybe they didn’t hear the original statement.

And so, as I age, I retain my perspective and sense of humor. The kids and adults in my world, I hope, will receive commentary from me that is considered and considerate. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Growing older, not old

Something that I find amusing if not enlightening is listening to people talk about the aging process. Very often, those who have the most definite opinions are those who (probably) have quite a way to go before reaching the nebulous status of being old.

My own version of that observation takes place in the classroom. Due largely to my gray hair, students feel entitled or compelled to ask my age. Depending on my frame of mind, I will either answer that I am 115 or I will smile sweetly and ask, “Didn’t anyone ever tell you that it’s not polite to ask a lady her age?”

Admittedly, I think about the fact that there are a few tasks that I can’t do because I just can’t. While the idea of running a marathon is appealing, the joints in my legs and feet simply won’t allow it. The same is true of downhill skiing, mountain climbing, guitar playing or gymnastics.

But I refuse to grow old instead of getting older. Age is an inescapable reality, being a much better option than its alternative. With that truth, however, I have all choices available to me about growing older with grace and without excuses.

You will never hear me say, “I’m too old to do that” or “I am an old woman and old women don’t indulge in that.” When I see women older than I am participating in dance, marathons, ice skating, writing or numerous other activities, I am inspired to live from intent rather than chronology.

Someday, I half expect that my body will deny me the thrill of finishing a 5k race. For now, I don’t allow for that possibility and often considering entering 10k events. Spending time (almost) daily on my stationary bike is mandatory, not arbitrary. And for as long as my family invites me to join them in Disney World, I will walk the same 10,000 or more steps each day that they do.

Most of us have the option to grow older without growing old. In lieu of so many inexcusable excuses, our bodies are at the discretion of our hearts that are always in charge. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

A matter of taste

Every now and then you run into someone who expresses a hatred for kids. “So glad they are theirs and not mine.” “Don’t know why anyone would have kids.” “Why would I have kids? Dogs are a lot less trouble.” Every time I hear one of these statements or many others, I cringe and think about how much that person is missing.

It’s always possible that these are folks who were unable to have kids and/or partners with whom to raise them. While I understand the habit of dismissing or insulting that which we can’t have, I still cringe but always hold my tongue.

What’s wonderful about kids? They are color and handicap-blind. They want uniqueness while finding reasons to do those actions that are similar to those of neighbors and friends. They have a remarkable selective memory for faces and names while they forget directives delivered as much as a minute ago.

Very often I am glad that some people aren’t parents and wish that some who are had stayed with dogs. These are the dispassionate or misguided adults who ignore, mistreat or otherwise harm children. Victims such as these are easily identified – they are needier, more likely to cling to an attentive adult and illuminate the room when recognized for an accomplishment.

Kids frequently present me with gifts that they have created. These are notes, drawings, fortune-teller toys, stickers or bracelets. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, I have saved all of them and they occupy large folders on my office bookshelves. The specific donor is not important. What matters is that I notify all my generous students that I cherish and maintain all of their gifts.

Where do our children learn that it is gratifying to gift to others? In some cases, my students are from families with insufficient resources to provide numerous toys or clothes. But they all understand that something handmade is special and precious, offering their creations to a grateful teacher.

What really is wonderful about kids? The youngest have no filters whatsoever and tell you whatever is on their minds. While this is a practice that may not work well in the adult world, for me it is just fine. And so, my collection of gifts continues to grow. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Words and words

The other day, I was exhilarated to find a book in my mailbox that my son had sent. He and his sister have unusual talents for finding gifts that are perfect in their taste and subject matter. This was no exception and the book was written by the former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. From the first page, it was captivating and full of information that inspired me.

Within those first pages, I was surprised to find that the author used at least two words that I have deleted from my vocabulary – amongst and towards. While I understand that the British vocabulary frequently includes towards instead of toward, I find it to be a word that I prefer not to use. The same is true for amongst – I much prefer among and believed it to be the preferred version.

The dictionary that I use most often confirms that my choices are preferred and that in both cases, British English opts for the words that I don’t. But as I read and look forward to reading more, I had a flash of illumination that the English language isn’t one of right and wrong.

Those who know me also know that I am the one who reacts to “him and me went to the store” as if I were dealt 110 volts to the spine. In this one case and probably many others, we can legitimately posit correct and incorrect. Along those lines, I also believe that there is importance to good spelling, diction and tense. But beyond that, I realized through this editor that pronunciation and word selection aren’t subject to analysis and evaluation, mine or anyone else’s. If you want to pronounce “coyote” as ky-oh-tee while I pronounce it as ky-oat, neither of us should be subject to correction.

Nowhere have I been designated as the ultimate authority or ruling body as far as most issues concerning the English language. This exercise in amongst, towards and coyote have sufficiently driven that point home to me. If you ask me to correct your writing for whatever reason, that’s another story. But for now, help yourself to the words you want to use. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Lessons

Why would I be surprised about learning something each day I am in a classroom? The kids do – we educators work quite diligently to ensure that learning takes place, whether in big chunks or in subtleties.

Yesterday’s assignment for them required creativity. They were given a drawing and instructed to make it into anything they wanted. It’s practice in thinking without limits and with no possibility of making a mistake in interpretation.

What’s the lesson? Allow for self-expression minus self-criticism. Write or sing or dance or draw without conditions or judgments, internal or external. It’s the process of creation that is paramount. What happens thereafter is secondary.

Next segment was about trust. When I told students to get their computers and do whatever they wanted, they all went to educational sites. There’s a message there about assuming integrity. Of course, if these had been eighth graders instead of second, we might have had other directives. You could easily make the case that I’m in a second grade classroom by intent, just as I am not in an eighth grade environment.

Later I get an opportunity to direct kids through a fifteen-minute writing event. To one young man, fifteen minutes was an eternity. To another, it was an invitation to display every written page he created since October. And to a third, it was hardly enough time to describe his thoughts and dreams.

Clearly, the good writers wrote while the others found numerous methods to avoid or postpone. Lesson learned – those tasks that appear simple or enjoyable to some are torture to others. The lesson included an illustration, after the writing was completed. Not surprisingly, one girl went directly to the picture with not a word on her page.

The last notion I learned was during the math segment. While a few students breezed through four pages of math problems, some required my assistance for each effort. What was the lesson learned? Once again, it is imperative that we educate one student at a time, with each one advancing at his or her own pace. Maybe it’s a life lesson. We move through our tasks, required or optional, at the pace consistent with our abilities and tastes.  Don’t ask me to sit in front of a sci-fi movie when writing a blog will be a much greater gratification. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Growth

Most of us have encountered one or more people in our lives who profess to be completely happy with who they are. It sounds like, “I’m fifty-something years old and I’ve done alright so it’s a little late to change.” The age is insignificant to me because I feel very strongly that we are all in a position to do more and to get better at whatever it is that we do.

Like so many others, I’ve done what I do for quite a long time. My writing began in college and has never ceased. At the same time, I have been working for many years in sales and health care, I’ve been a parent for quite a long time and have spent almost half of my life as a wife. Happily, I’ve had the privilege of educating young minds for close to two decades.

In spite of all that tenure at so many positions, I have never reached the status of complacency. Almost daily, I make errors large and small as a wife, teacher and mother. No-one is keeping score. And ultimately, I hope that those whom I touch will believe that I am sincere and perfectly well-intentioned.

But regardless of age or acquired experience, I will never feel that I have accomplished enough or too much. When my body says that it’s time to stop enjoying my kindergarteners, I will resign from teaching. And while I suspect that there won’t be an occasion to stop telling my stories and teaching through words, my goal is to improve my agility with those words with every blog or essay.

Sometimes I wonder why I never reach the stage of sufficiency. By no means am I suggesting that I am unhappy with who I am or what I create. There is always an opportunity to grow through reading more, writing more and thinking carefully before hitting any type of send button. Learning is growing and growing is improving. For as long as we can continue to build ourselves and our resources, the world will be enhanced. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

On the subject of time

What’s happened to our concept of doing things on a timely basis? In the old days, when we had landline types of phones, usually with some form of voicemail or answering machines, people left messages for us. Whether they were personal or business, with the exception of the rare telemarketer, we returned the calls that day or the next.

We couldn’t send pictures, animal faces, videos or anything else – just a message to please call. While I don’t miss most of that form of communication, it really was fun to come home or return to the office and see if your answering machine light was flashing, indicating that someone had called. You always had a pad of paper and pen nearby to record the name, time of call and any message.

Since that time, we have lost the urgency that was usually implicit to messages. Yes, we get voice mails now. But like the text messages that may or may not request a rapid response, voice mails are not nearly as important as they once were.

Of the many people to whom I send text messages, only two or three will respond within the hour. Have we lost the concept of courtesy that went away with answering machines (or answering services if you’re really an antique)? As a freelancer, I see it as my professional imperative to answer clients as soon as humanly possible. If I am teaching, I’ll respond during a classroom break or at lunch. If I am on the road, I’ll answer as soon as I come to a complete stop or reach my destination.

In any case, it’s simply good manners to answer a text, voice mail or email that solicits information. At least to me, waiting until tomorrow or next week suggests that I don’t consider your needs to be a priority, a message that I simply don’t want to convey.

Because I’m not afraid of technology and feel that I embrace it with open-mindedness, this is not a case of technophobia. Just like many other conventions that I perpetuate, letting you know that I received your message is standard operating procedure. If you don’t hear from me immediately, you’ll know that something serious prevented it. If you’re negligent or merely sloppy about your messages, maybe you want to rethink about your habits. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Change the world

Sometimes I wish that I had special powers to make big, important changes to the world. Maybe some of the changes aren’t necessarily planet-changing, but I still wish that I had more than my own volition and actions to make improvements. Let’s assume for this journey that I consider my life modifications to be universally acceptable.

I would:

Make certain that all school children have enough clothing, supplies and food in their tummies to ensure good learning days.

Have the ability to undo or unsay things that I have said or done in haste or frustration. While we’re on this subject, I would opt to remove or modify all of my weaknesses and flaws that have perturbed me for all my life.

Remind the drivers who are talking on their phones that their lives are as much in danger as mine through their behavior.

Adequately communicate to those I love that my love for them is boundless and without contingencies of any type.

Require our representatives – local, state and federal – that their jobs are to represent us, not to incite, indict or ignore those who elected them.

Return the concept of sport to baseball, football and basketball, making them competitive endeavors, not multi-million contract one-upmanship.

Make healthcare affordable and understandable to all who access it or need to do so.

Return to an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” form of judicial proceeding. If you take the life of a child, your life should have a similar end.

Have all Holocaust deniers spend an hour with a collection of Auschwitz (or any other Holocaust) survivors.

New Mexico appears to be full of pickup truck drivers who ignore speed limits and other drivers. Require them to take annual driving tests if they are repeatedly ticketed for speeding.

Encourage more companies to provide senior discounts. This sector of the population is frequently abused, cheated and victimized. Their lives should be comfortable and free from anxiety.

Many of us are fond of reminding others that we have two ears and one mouth as a reminder that we should listen twice as much as we speak. May this be a habit that we all adopt, for the sake of others and ourselves. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Harmony

What’s the best part about taking a vacation from teaching? The answer is coming back to the classroom. Philosophizing and reflecting about the process of teaching is similar to looking at a piece of cheesecake rather than eating it.

Directing a classroom is a process unlike any other. You learn immediately that each child has his or her own personality, quirks, issues and needs. The best comparison I can muster is that of conducting an orchestra.

All of the musicians in the orchestra know how to read music and to play their instruments. But don’t ask the cellist to play the trombone. And don’t expect the bassoonist to jump into the percussion section. While there are occasions where musicians are proficient at multiple instruments, usually they specialize in one.

And so it goes in the classroom. Student John is good at math and leading others to recess. But you can’t ask him to write an essay and deliver it to the class without considerable struggle on John’s part. Student Mary is very intelligent but as moody as she is smart. She is likely to put all day if you don’t pay sufficient attention to her hair or clothes.

The challenge is that John and Mary don’t tell you what instruments they play or what their quirks are. They can’t express that their father likes the older sister better. And it’s only after time elapses and trust is established do you find out that John is slightly hard of hearing and Mary is afraid of everything.

In both contexts, it’s all about practice, practice and more practice. Just as perfecting a complex symphony or aria, leading this team of miniature musicians requires a thorough understanding of the subject matter.

The problem is the lack of sheet music in the classroom metaphor. Or in this case, a substantial amount of patience will help with listening skills and reading small cues. Ultimately, directing and teaching require passion for the process. Once you acquire an understanding of the ensemble, the nuances and the desired finished product, memorable harmony is inevitable. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Pursuing and promoting

One of my common responses to students who ask the names of my books is that I don’t want to be accused of trying to sell said books in the school environment. Although it’s never happened and I don’t believe the likelihood is substantial, it’s an example of my reluctance to inappropriately self-promote.

With that in mind, I often ponder how much publication of my work is judicious and how much is excessive. There are no rules, no barometers, no panel of wise judges to issue directives. Very often I see people on social media or local publications who frequently display their services or products, often with the qualification that they are passionate about what they do. With that prevalent practice, why do I refrain from what I call shameless self-propagandizing?

Of course, it’s never a competition. Who’s published the most books, who has the most followers and who has the most clients? To me and every other writer I know, measuring success is quite individual and personal. As for how much publicity of my craft is enough and how much is too much, there are no lightning bolts of wisdom that are available.

Maybe its origins are from my childhood. From an early age, I was taught that it’s not “nice” to blow your own horn. That directive has never left me. But the other side of that is what may be insufficient clients or accolades for my writing. And who has the responsibility for that? My view of life prevents me from blaming the outside world. But if we don’t enjoy success, popularity or financial security, is it our fault for insufficient promotion?

Somewhere I read that there were well over one million books published in the year that I released mine. Looking at the statistics, very few make the New York Times bestseller list. Is anything short of that acceptable? It must be. When I ponder the reasons for which I wrote the book, none of them were financial or critical popularity.

Someone much wiser than I once said, “You get what you give” and I was content that I told my story as a collection of suggestions for life. Having accomplished that, it may simply be unfair to ask for more. Shalom.