Monday, October 24, 2011

It’s time to take the window screens down. It’s past the time when they will be needed and I can’t leave them up all winter to deteriorate. There are other things I have to do before winter really sets in but I’m procrastinating on those. I’ve no good reason for that. I think a great deal of it is a reluctance to admit that balmy weather is really over and that I must prepare for less welcome temperatures.

I suppose I’m never really satisfied. I recall that last January I complained—along with many others—of snow that piled up and temperatures that dipped below freezing. I’m sure I will do the same this coming winter. Last summer I complained just as loudly because it was too hot. It would be different if there were a possibility of finding a solution to the problem. As it is, about all we can do is complain. But then would we be happy with nothing to complain about?

Perhaps having things to complain about is good. First of all, it keeps us occupied and second of all it keeps us busy—some of us, anyway—trying to come up with ways to eliminate or at least make more acceptable all the things we complain about. The results of those efforts, devices or schemes to protect, prevent, modify or otherwise spare us the discomfort caused by disagreeable weather or other imperfections of life, provide a means of livelihood for many. And the sale of devices resulting from such efforts brings monetary rewards to many others.

But I am not one of those who are involved in such businesses. So it would be best if I cease my complaining and go out and bring in the window screens. Winter’s not that bad. Neither are the other periods of distasteful weather. But we can’t discount the benefits to our society of the poorer conditions in changing seasons. And we can’t discount the value of complaining about them. After all, if everyone were completely satisfied with all types of weather it would surely be bad for our economy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I started writing a new book about a week and a half ago. I didn’t intend to. What I intended to do was finish “Mountains”, a book I started on the first of this year and which I have largely neglected since then. A week and a half ago, another idea started niggling at me in such a way that I had no choice but to begin work on it. The writing’s going pretty well—about three and a half chapters done, but I have no idea how long the book’s going to be or what its final form will be.

I told my publisher about it the other day and described it in a superficial way. “Is it a children’s book?” she asked. “No,” I told her but I couldn’t tell her any more. It’s an odd sort of piece, a type of work I have never before tried, and I don’t know how to describe it. I don’t even know in what category to put it. Of course, I don’t usually know in what category to put any of my writing. The pieces seem to flop out of any convenient space in which I try to place them and not fit properly into any other.

That makes everything difficult. It’s important to have your work fit in a category, genre, etc. That labels it clearly. People like labels—for everything. That makes everything easier to understand. If something doesn’t have a label it’s too easy for a person dealing with it to become confused. Unfortunately, labels make it much easier to misunderstand something, too. Being too quick to label things such as governments, political parties, social actions, religions and personalities (and I suppose books, too) causes no end of difficulties, not only for that which is erroneously labeled but for society as well. Some classic examples of labels that can be misused are: democratic, socialist, communist, heretic and cult. When one tries to put people into categories, the whole thing degenerates even further.

So I’m not even going to try to put my new book in a category. I’ll wait until it’s finished and then see what suits it, if anything. Until then, I’ll call it a fantasy-science fiction-juvenile-social commentary-spiritual-inspirational-fairy tale-educational-essay adventure fable and let it go at that. That’ll have to do.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Getting back to a subject I started a month ago—being happy. On September 6th I mentioned that I thought the chief purpose of life might be enjoying oneself. I also mentioned that statement required clarification. I’m going to try to do that here—for my own benefit. I’m just going to ramble for a bit and see what I come up with.

At first it may seem that by a purpose of enjoying oneself I’m advocating simply going out and having fun all the time—drinking beer, eating up a storm or whatever. Those things may be enjoyable, but that’s not what I consider to be bringing happiness to one’s life. A couple synonyms for the word “happy” are joyous and ecstatic. That sounds like somebody who is “high”, either due to a physical substance or some emotional zenith. Both are shallow and temporary states. What I’m talking about is something deeper and more lasting.

True happiness comes from the core of one’s being and I believe that at that core we are all basically the same. No matter what one exhibits as personality, there is a basic desire—a need—for certain things. Those things go beyond food, clothing and shelter. There is a need for what we might call “security of self.” That’s an over-simplification but it’s a handy term to use. Security of self—it might be called belonging—consists of a sense of being valuable and respected (both by others and by oneself). That, again, is an over-simplification, but without that how can one be happy?

It seems to me that a person’s sense of a lack in this “security of self” causes even more unhappiness. The individual attempts to compensate for that lack and usually he or she does it by making himself or herself feel more important than others. That is done by physical means, the only course obvious. It could be done by acquiring things—clothes, jewelry, cars, houses, money or by changing one’s appearance. It could be done by establishing dominance over others or one could try to avoid the problem entirely and escape through use of drugs or alcohol.

But do any of those methods ever bring true happiness? They are all temporary fixes. They do not really give one “security of self.” That elusive state is not achieved by physical means alone.

I have to think about this some more. Anyone out there have any ideas?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Subject for today—writing, and especially starting to write. I’ve met a lot of people who want to write. But, they claim, they don’t know how to start. They seem to be waiting for someone to tell them how this is done. I suppose there are as many ways to write as there are people. There’s no one way that is right and each person must find his own way. But if you feel you must write, then there is only one thing to do and that is to write. Write about what? Anything. If you can’t find anything to write about, then write about not being able to find anything to write about. After a while you will think of something and all the time you’ve spent writing about not being able to think of anything to write about will help you to put some words down on paper.

Many years ago I wanted to write. I was about fourteen when I had a chance to do that. I was told about a poetry contest for teenagers and I thought I would enter it. I made a number of starts at writing a poem. I wanted it to be a beautiful, profound piece of literature. None of the starts I made measured up to that in my estimation. And I feared what others might think of my poor efforts. I never did enter that contest. And I didn’t write again until many years later. As a result, I denied myself years of pleasure at an art that I have come to love.

In my life I have come in contact with many people who are very good at one thing or another but the people I have come to admire most are those that are willing to keep at something they really want to do. They don’t give up. Putting that in terms of writing, there is a quote by Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that, in my estimation, says it beautifully: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

I believe that in every person there is a need to create. That need to create can take many forms: inventing; writing or one of the other arts; designing any number of things; cooking. To deny that need is denying a part of oneself. That is a very dangerous and unproductive thing to do. But if you do try to write, don’t make the mistakes I did. Don’t set standards for yourself that are too high, don’t worry overly much about what you fear others may think, and once you start, keep at it.

But over and above anything else, if you want to try writing, by all means try it. You may like it. It may like you.