Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Editors

One of my greatest amusements or frustrations is seeing how many typographical or grammatical mistakes prevail in the world. As an editor and writer, I confess to being more aware and potentially more sensitive. But almost daily, I see areas where the general public should employ the services of an editor and do not, for reasons I will never understand.

A very good one had to do with two celebrities who have been extremely public about their relationship. The article described them as being, “…attacked at the hip.” While that conjures some interesting images, it is clear that they were attached, not attacked.

One of the local TV news stations has come up with some interesting mistakes. They described a nearby community as “Bernallilo” instead of the correct “Bernalillo” and I am certain that the locals of that community were not happy.

And in another case, I saw some news coverage of a local movement that described a “Buisness” instead of “Business” that was open. Do any of these have lasting significance? Probably not. But every time I see one, I think of my dad’s favorite statement, “Any job worth doing is worth doing right.” Another local one that I just saw was the blatantly incorrect use of the objective case when the subjective case was needed: “To whomever was shooting off fireworks.”

If you are one of those who are shy or tentative or disinterested enough to enlist the services of a competent editor, I wish you all the best. I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in releasing something that says I was not careful or thorough or concerned. My services are always available to you, as are thousands of other editors who have become readily available, thanks to online access.

Another worthwhile expression crosses my mind: You only have one opportunity to make a first impression. If you take the extra minute and dollars to see that your work is accurate, you will make a first impression that is editorially correct. That must be worth something. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

To sleep, perchance to dream

To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come – Hamlet

 William Shakespeare

Most mornings, I don’t wake up feeling Shakespearean. When I do, I find it to be a good idea to determine why – both for the wisdom inherent to feeling that way and to find a way to share that wisdom. In this case, the quote refers to Hamlet considering suicide – a concept that has no relevance to me whatsoever. But it’s a good exercise in spending a few minutes of my day in reflecting on he who used language more fluently than anyone before or since.

None of my training as an educator or a writer has enabled me to do legitimate dream analysis. Because of that, I always attempt an amateur version of it. For the sake of simplicity, we can delete the dark, suicidal message of this quote and simply think of dreaming.

My most recent and important analysis concerned a dream about meeting with a publishing committee about the book that has been my focus and priority for over a year. This was the essence of the dream – the committee said they liked the plot but I need to work on other components and they would publish.

What does all of this mean, you ask? For one, I’m thinking that whatever occupies my daytime hours will appear when I sleep. That is not a message to stop thinking about my book. Most likely, that won’t happen until it’s published. But in some way, it tells me that I am on the right track, maybe to worry less about its reality.

In no way am I suggesting that we do our own dream interpretation. We have a responsibility to think positive as often as possible. It may be awake or asleep. And that inspires us to plan for success as one of the best choices available.

The objective for the book has always been to educate and inspire. Whether that will affect one person or many is really out of my control. When I am ready to authorize publication, I will be certain that I have written, edited and dreamed enough for it to be everything I want it to be. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Seize the day

It took only three or four minutes to write and send the email and I found myself wondering why it had taken me so long to dedicate that small sliver of time. Thankfully, I sent my most recent blog to my rabbi, the man who had more influence on my life than anyone before or since, other than my parents.

Not surprisingly, he responded within several hours and by doing so, made me happier than I can remember feeling about any email. In his honor, I will receive his return correspondence strictly as a learning event, rather than feeling guilt or regret that I waited so long.

You never need an excuse or justification to re-establish contact with someone you value. The opportunity to make a huge positive impact on someone is staggering. If you have doubts, think about someone with whom you haven’t recently engaged and imagine how glad you would be to hear from him or her. Return that feeling by making the first step toward communicating.

Once you have identified the recipient of your letter, email or text, don’t load that with reminders of how long it has been since the two of you have spoken. Taking responsibility for that hiatus will feel much better than handing it off to another. And I recommend that you make the message positive rather than negative. Your frustration with the quarantine is universal and boring. It’s old news and probably not worth sharing. A new hobby, family event or simple celebration of life will be much more joyous to receive (and to send).

As you’ve heard many times from many sources, today is the only certainty and tomorrow is guaranteed to no-one. If you have a person in your past or present who would be enhanced in any way by hearing from you, make it happen today.

From this desk, I will send more emails to my rabbi and others whom I treasure. I’m hoping to be able to do so tomorrow but I have no way to be certain that it will be a reality. It is time to seize the only day that is truly mine.  Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

You can do it

What is it about telling a class of first, second or third graders that I am an author that always results in a big reaction? That is absolutely not why I tell them. In all cases, I choose to tell my students a little bit about me so that they know that I am a real person, not a mannequin dispatched to supervise them.

Ages of the students determine the imminent questions. For the younger students I get, “Are your books in our classroom? How many books have you written?”

Older students will ask the names of my books or if I am a famous author. After that, do I have a book on the bestseller list and am I fabulously wealthy? My usual reaction is that if I were John Grisham or someone similar, I probably wouldn’t be teaching school.

My best guess is that I become as close to a celebrity as have or can expect to experience. If we were in Los Angeles or New York, that might not be the case. But my kids don’t have much chance of meeting someone famous. If my title as author may somehow make me famous, it becomes a major opportunity to tell someone that they know someone who has done the extraordinary of publishing books.

There are other possible explanations. Maybe, having written books distinguishes me from other adults. Or it may be that I now have new credentials that entitle me to review, edit or evaluate their work.

One day, I will have the right occasion to ask a student or two why they are affected by my author title. In the past, I have been told that students want to read my work. And I also believe that one or two have wanted to make certain that I was telling the truth.

Very often, I will add more info, that I am also a writer and editor. They will inevitably ask me to explain and I always do.

Admittedly, I am also creating a teaching moment. Any of you can grow up to be an author and now you can say that you met someone who did. All you need is a subject, the time to dedicate to your work, a good editor and the belief that you can do it. This is the most critical part – you can do anything you want in life if you believe in yourself and your eventual success. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Let’s walk

When you think about going for a walk, what image does that conjure for you? Does it seem like something that old folks do? If you were young and agile, you would be running, right? Another alternative is that you walk when you have nothing better to do. Race walkers and those who walk in competitive races might disagree with your interpretation but that is not my point here.

One of the habits that I have come to identify as a special courtesy is to invite someone to go for a walk. The first images that come to my mind are two managers, in different positions, who would invite me to go for a walk, generally without a specific reason to do so. Sometimes we would walk to get coffee, sometimes we would walk to have some privacy about a certain issue and sometimes it was simply to spend some time.

Here we are, some years later, and I know that one of those managers has died. The other fell out of my circle of friends and I haven’t spoken with him in a number of years. But I still have very positive memories of that walking time and the information or observations that we shared.

Today is as good a time as any to invite someone for a walk or take one for yourself. Most of the time, I think about subjects other than walking while I am doing so. If I’m not alone, it is typical to carry on some form of conversation. But neither is obligatory. It is perfectly fine to observe the plants and animals along the way, to see how others garden and simply to breathe air that hasn’t been circulating in your home for days or weeks or months.

It is absolutely irrelevant to me that we are quarantined as far as walks are concerned. If someone with whom you would like to walk is at another part of your city or town, you may or may not be able to enjoy that person’s company. But it’s almost as good to extend the invitation for whenever the quarantine is over.

Take a walk, clear your mind and your lungs and appreciate the fact that you can put one foot in front of the other. That is a pleasure I will always enjoy and hope that there will not be any time when I cannot. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Enough is enough

Finishing something as formidable as a book, the book that I have described as the defining work of my life, is a process leaving me extremely ambivalent. On the one hand, I am confident that the story is told, the critical points have been made and I have adequately covered the book’s central meaning. The expression that occurs to me is one that I heard frequently as a child, “Enough is enough.” From the competing perspective, how many areas could I expand or improve? It is a certainty that the book will undergo two or three or more edits before it is published and that should sufficient.

Enough is enough is an intriguing concept for me, especially right now. Arguably, there are entities or actions that can reach the state of enough. These would include learning, giving, teaching, traveled, observed and saved. At this moment, however, I could make a good case for the fact that we can have enough of very few things.

Is there such a thing as too much kindness? How about tolerance, generosity, contemplation, worship, gratitude, patience and love? Is it possible to love too much? In other words, I’m of the opinion that the quality of “enoughness” is  very rarely seen and desired less than it is observed.

Some might believe that I have taught enough for one lifetime. To that I say a hearty “no,” primarily because I love the entire process. Almost daily, I get an indescribable opportunity to encourage a child to reach for the moon and accomplish much more than anyone thinks he or she can. Does my health determine when I’ve taught enough? My answer is only when it prevents me from walking around a classroom. On a daily basis I miss being with my students.

Likewise, can we garden to the point of enough? Watching plants of all varieties grow is a joy that should have no limits, other than those dictated by space or budget. We cherish our family members but that process will never be more than enough. The same is true for feeling good, supporting the causes in which we believe and in my case, writing.

As I remember, the occasions for which I heard “enough is enough” probably had to do with spending money, staying up past bedtime or some other mundane context. And so I recommend, don’t let the idea of enough keep you from doing what you love and what makes you happy. There will never be enough tomorrows for you to run out of options. Shalom.

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

I lost my pencil

Something that makes sense to me is to carry around a bag of mechanical pencils when I am teaching. They’re in my magic substitute bag with pom-poms, stickers, candy and other craft supplies.

What’s funny is the clever methods by which my kids secure these treasured pencils. Can I please have a pencil? I lost my pencil. Can I have one of yours?

It’s a matter of good sense that I don’t announce, “Does anyone need a pencil?” because the entire class would swarm my desk. You could easily make the case that I bought them to distribute but I tell myself that I do so only for emergency purposes. In reality, emergencies rarely involve pencils.

A class of twenty-some students competently does math until I have a sanity lapse and give one away. Then I’m amazed at how many have suddenly lost their only means of doing math. You would never consider using a pen because it deletes your options to correct a mistake.

Don’t ever underestimate the creativity of elementary school students. They help each other log into their laptops. They quickly rush to the aid of a fallen comrade, patting shoulders and assuring the wounded that he or she will be fine. They hurry to remind me exactly what they are required to do at this hour of the day. And they will commiserate about euthanized dogs, a friend who moved elsewhere or stained clothing.

Of course, the pencils require no justification, by the class or by me. It’s simply fun to observe the processes and procedures by which they are secured.

Just for fun, the next day my students were directed to create mazes from a collection of materials. The classroom teacher furnished the idea and boxes while I added ribbon, bows, stickers and felt. One student who had distinguished himself as a troublemaker quickly determined that others had more than he did and he just didn’t have enough supplies. This was a method by which he could make inquiry as to the contents of my magic bag.

Kids never exhaust their energies or creativity. It’s my privilege to watch them create solutions. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Give

Give me a break. Cut me some slack. Give it up. Give it a rest. Our language is filled with the word “give” and if we didn’t hear it enough in our everyday conversations, we are inundated with those who want us to give to something.

If that isn’t obvious from the comfort of our homes, spend an afternoon in downtown Las Vegas. We watched a man wearing only a G-string campaigning for nakedness and accepting money from those who were sympathetic to his need for nudity. Another man had a cardboard sign that read, “I need a beer.” And on the journey from one location to another, I was stopped by a cosmetics guru who needed a few minutes of my time to convert me into a fashion model, one facial molecule at a time.

Every now and then I wonder how it would feel to have enough money to donate to each cause to which I am exposed. My alma mater solicits funds every week, whether it be to support our famous basketball team or to enable a worthy young person to attend the university. The Red Cross, an extremely important and worthwhile organization, sends me mail each week that solicits a donation.

What’s the point of all of this, you may be asking.  My observation is simply that we may find ourselves feeling guilty for not donating to each and every cause that approaches us. Because I have pockets that have bottoms to them, I simply cannot donate to everyone and refuse to feel bad about it. While I continue to appreciate those who have the resources to make huge contributions for the hungry, homeless and undereducated, I choose to select my recipients without feeling regretful that I can’t support them all.

My guess is that some of those who approach us simply don’t have the ingenuity or initiative to earn a legitimate living. While I suppose that wearing a G-string in a public space constitutes expending energy, I simply can’t see the justification in funding nudity. I guess that I just continue to support cancer research, the Salvation Army and leukemia, in addition to other causes that seem worthwhile. As for the rest, maybe your actions need to be directed elsewhere. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Do something important

Many of us began hearing the expression, “Do something important (significant, worthwhile, respectable) with your life” from the time that we were very young. In those days, it meant that you had to go to college and become a teacher, a doctor or a lawyer because those roles were considered to be worthwhile.

The rules changed minutely if you were a female because at that time, it was sufficiently valuable to be a mother and perpetuate our society. If you were very fortunate (and unusual) you could have both a career and motherhood. Thankfully, today’s women have opportunities to dedicate their lives to careers, opting out of marriage and/or childbearing.

Thankfully, norms have changed but we are still lagging with respect to considering many roles and titles as less noble than others. Now that we are seeing a noteworthy movement toward respecting trade schools and other non-traditional occupations, I believe that we are moving in the most appropriate direction.

First, I give profound thanks and admiration to the caregivers, educated, licensed or not, compensated or not, who dedicate themselves and their time to the care and comfort of others. These are true heroes to me as they make life exceedingly better for those who are unable to fend for themselves.

And thank you to the public servants of all types – fire fighters, law enforcement officers, teachers, administrators and jobs at all levels within our schools. You save us from disasters, criminal activity and ignorance with your individual and collective contributions.

Finally, thank you to our armed forces personnel. Without you, our freedom and security would be at risk and we are all grateful for your sacrifices and daily acts of bravery that preserve this country’s freedom and greatness.

The fact that these people may or may have the degrees that we formerly thought to be mandatory is a profound tribute to our country’s diversity. We are made up of millions of citizens of all sizes and configurations, educated and under or uneducated. Without your doing thousands of important tasks, our lives would be devoid of past, present and a prosperous future. Shalom.

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will not use this address for less than honorable purposes.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Guilt and absolution

One of my recent sojourns of solitude produced the word absolution for my reflection. While this word is one that is significantly Roman Catholic or Protestant in its origins, I find it free of religious connotations for me but worthy of my consideration nonetheless.

While I may have dismissed this word as insignificant or irrelevant in the past, my patio time causes me to reflect on words that persist in my consciousness. As writer and educator, it is my intent to spend time on it, rather than dismiss it as simply another vocabulary word.

For those unfamiliar with absolution in the secular context, it is the freedom from blame or guilt. We who do wrong things are often quick to blame or assign guilt to ourselves when we consider some acts or thoughts for which we are responsible. Ultimately, God is solely capable of creating our guilt and absolution.

Aside from that, we often burden ourselves with the recollection of actions in our pasts for which we feel guilty. This is familiar to me, having committed at least two or three major mistakes in judgment for which I have felt guilty. But my question becomes, for how long must we remain responsible for those deeds that we did in years past?

So much of that has to do with inexperience or lack of counsel that would have prohibited us from making bad decisions. Clearly, we can’t change what we committed in the past – we can only learn from it in the hopes of not repeating our secular (or perhaps, religious) transgressions.

For fear of appearing sanctimonious, I simply recommend that we free ourselves from the guilt that hinders our present tense clarity or positive outlook. Learn from what you did wrong in the past and it will inevitably result in better decisions. Just as with so many other negative messages that we send ourselves, remorse is non-productive and can be filed away with the other mistakes of our youth or lack of wisdom.

 

Forgive yourself. If you can understand a mistake, you are halfway to not repeating it. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. Shalom.