Friday, April 20, 2007


I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a philosopher. That would be a cool gig to have, but I don't know how well it pays, or how you even get the job. It would be amusing to sit in the bank filling out a form for a loan and in the space for Occupation write in Philosopher. On the income line put a question mark.

I thought about majoring in Philosophy, briefly, back when I was in college. I don't know if I ever even mentioned it to anyone, it was such a flash of a thought. I took a philosophy class and I think my roommate had some good weed at the time. It was a powerful combination, weed and abstract studies. I remember logic was involved, and I could get into those theories when I was in the right mindset.

I'll admit, I don't recall much from that class. For that matter, I don't remember much about any of my classes. Mostly I played a lot of raquetball and backgammon, smoked a forest of weed and drank rivers of whiskey, went on nightly coed round-ups, and attended class sporadically, at best.

A scholar, I was not. My education wasn't something I took very seriously at the age of nineteen, twenty. I'm not proud of it, that's just the way it was for me.

But I digress. My point is, most of what I know to be true and valuable in life, I've learned from experience. Hard lessons, for the most part, but every once in a while when I have my eyes open I learn from someone else's mistake.

So I've been philosophizing lately about the state of my existence. Maybe it was the tragedy at Virginia Tech this week that started me thinking about it. The images the last few days have been disturbing, no doubt, but this isn't another rant on that tragedy. It was a catalyst for me, though.

I didn't have the best week. In fact, the last two weeks haven't been very rewarding. I've just completed my first month with this company and I came out of the gate pretty strong. First two weeks I had some amazing luck. The last two weeks, though, my luck has gone sour. Nothing bad has happened, really, but nothing good. Today was particularly frustrating. Lots of activity, but no positive results. I've got one deal hanging in the balance this weekend, and I'll have an answer on Monday. If it goes my way, it'll be my second deal in the first month. A pretty good first month. If it doesn't, well... it just doesn't. It's out of my hands now. So, I was kind of wallowing in self-pity this afternoon and we all left the office a little early. I went to the gym and was soaking in the steam room, listening to the audio from the TV in the locker room, tuned in to Fox News. Talking about the shootings.

It was a reality check. I'm moping because things didn't go my way this week? What? Here I am sitting in the steam room at my gym after a good workout. I'm in very good health, to the best of my knowledge. My bills are paid and there's still some money in the bank. I have a job to get frustrated over. I have friends and family. I am sober today. What the hell am I moping about?

I thank my Heavenly Spirit for the clarity of mind to see things with this perspective, on the rare occassions that it occurs. I don't mean to minimize the tragedy by this juxtaposition, I use it to illustrate how trivial was the nature of my self-pity.

I don't always have this kind of peace and gratitude for my daily station in life, but it's what I strive for. I'm usually caught up in my own stuff, working and dealing with life in general, but every now and then I'll have a moment where I think, "This is all going to work out one way or the other, and I'm gonna be okay either way." I just have to get out of the way and let it happen.

When I stop and consider my experiences, good and bad, and look for any common truths, I'm able to see patterns in the flow of energy. So now I try to find the flow of the positive energy, the truth of the energy, and get in the current and go.

Easier said than done, but when I practice this philosophy, my life seems to go more smoothly.

So, I guess now I'm a freelance philosopher. Feel free to toss some change into the hat over there.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fine Tuning

Fine tuning my writing is something I enjoy now, but it hasn't always been that way. Maybe it's an indication I'm learning to appreciate the craft of writing as much as the creative experience. The creative component is why I started writing. It's the "fun" part. Creating characters and their realities and experiences. The thinking, planning, brooding on plot. Settings and scenes. Actions that advance the plot, pulling the reader in and moving them forward. For me, this is what writing was about for the first couple of years when I started to write long stories.

My problem, like many other young writers, is that when I created and put the story down on paper, I fell in love with my words and thought the first draft must be pretty close to being finished. Man, it's a different perspective I have now.

The first draft is fun and tedious and requires more thinking than writing, without question. But editing and revising is now just as much fun for me, because I have a more refined perspective on the process of writing.

The first draft is just the beginning, the shape and the form of the story. Maybe most of the right words are in there, but not quite in the right order. It's definitely too many words, and the knife must cut deep, sparing no word that doesn't carry its weight. It's like the camera coming into focus, the lines becoming clear and distinct.

It amazes me how, after revising the first six chapters of my current WIP countless times, I can still find a comma that needs to come out, or a way to rearrange a couple of sentences that makes it read so much better. I wonder how the hell I didn't see it the first fifty times I read it. But when it happens I say, "Yeah, that's the way it's supposed to go."

Rearranging sentences, restructuring paragraphs. I kind of like it now. The thing is, I know that once the first draft is complete I'll have already edited the thing hundreds of times, but I'll do a complete edit and probably still find thousands of words that need to come out.

It's okay, even preferable that it happens that way. I appreciate it now, because I know those first words I write, though I might fall in love with them, are just the beginning. The shape and form. I might have to take out some of my favorite lines to make it the best it can be. Unfortunate but true.

The focus and clearly projected imagery comes with fine tuning. This is where the prose takes on a voice that is distinct and in harmony with the tune of the story. We hope.

So I divide my time between creating new shapes and forms, and refining those that I've already created. My time is limited these days - bills and other such trivialities make considerable demands on my temporal resources - but I try to work on my current project for at least an hour or two every day. Sometimes more. It makes for slow but steady progress.

I need to make some progress now, before I get my towel and go meet some friends at the beach. Salty breezes to the ones it pleases...