Charles Dickens and Speaking to Ideas

My goal has always been to one day become a published author, but lately, I haven’t been doing much to get myself any closer to that goal. I need to light a fire under my ass, and that fire has come in the form of NaNoWriMo and the demise of the beloved blogging event Writer’s Quote Wednesday previously hosted by Colleen.

In thinking over both, I have realized two things: I enjoy learning about authors who have come before me, collecting their words of wisdom, and sharing both with all of you, and two, I know nothing about writing a novel, but I think I might learn as I go. So, I am combining both. On Wednesdays, I will continue to write about writers and their advice, and I will also let you know how I am faring so you might hold me accountable.

This week I have chosen a quote from the English author Charles Dickens, who’s book, Great Expectations I am currently enjoying.

239579From Wikipedia:

“Charles John Huffam Dickens, born on February 7th, 1812 created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth-century critics and scholars had recognized him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.

Born in Portsmouth, Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors’ prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children’s rights, education, and other social reforms.

Dickens was regarded as the literary colossus of his age. His 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted, and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London. His 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris, is his best-known work of historical fiction. Dickens’s creative genius has been praised by fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to George Orwell and G. K. Chesterton—for its realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism.

 

On June 8th, 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at his home after a full day’s work on Edwin Drood. He never regained consciousness, and the next day, five years to the day after the Staplehurst rail crash, he died at Gad’s Hill Place.

Contrary to his wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral ‘in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner,’ he was laid to rest in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. A printed epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads: ‘To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England’s most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathizer with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.'”

“An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”

― Charles Dickens

To be perfectly honest I decided to give this NaNoWriMo thing a go only yesterday. I figure I thought of it just in time too, I still have a whole month to prepare! For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every year in the month of November and the goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by November 30th. Whew!

I don’t have much to go on, just a few characters, and few ideas, and a feeling, but I think that might be enough to start.

I’ve always wanted to write a series, so 50,000 words will quite literally be “only a start” for me. I want to write something about the future, something sci-fi-ish, something where everything we thought was going to be good has gone to shit instead.I want to write something with a message, about how we are loving and cruel and how we repeat the past over and over until one day we decide to stop. I’ve always wanted to write something where someone who looks like me saves the world. I want to write something I would want to read.

So, I’m starting with that. I do realize what I have is next to nothing but feels like it could be something, even if it’s only ever something to me.

I signed up over on NaNoWriMo.org this morning and saw that everyone was gearing up for #NaNoPrep during the month of October, which is exactly what I was planning on doing too. I started pre-preparations this morning by firing up Ulysses on my iPad and getting acquainted with how it works, doing a little novel writing how-to research, and jotting down some ideas. I already I have pages of notes!

I’m not just writing down ideas, though, I’m talking to them. I’m treating each one like something apart and outside of myself and letting it tell my what it means, what it wants, and where it wants to go. I’m asking not telling and letting the story tell itself to me. I’m learning a lot in a very short time.

I don’t believe any of the ideas I come up with are especially great ideas. I don’t get the feeling that this novel will be a bestseller and that I will be rich and famous. I don’t even know if there will ever be a novel, but I know I like the way this feels. I like sitting down with my ideas, and letting them take me out, and back, and out, and back through the plot and problems I might write about one day.

I like learning what I am capable of imagining.

I like talking to the ghost and letting it explain to me what this journey is all about.

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Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

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We Will be Okay

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

As for me, this Monday is a nonstarter. I’m still very sick so instead of bringing my awful cough and negative attitude into work I’ve decided to stay home. I’ve been in bed all day, getting up only to take meds and to eat. I imagine the entire day will be like that, and the highlight will be when I gather enough energy to take a shower. Tomorrow I have to go back to work, but I’m really hoping I feel better by then.

You will be okay.
You will be okay :))

Being sick means I haven’t been able to do everything I would normally do. It means I feel like I’m falling behind. It means I am thinking about all the ways I have ever fallen behind, didn’t do what I meant to do, or failed entirely. It means I am feeling sorry for myself and imagining that I will never get where I want to go.

I’m just tired, and not feeling well. I’ve been cooped up in the house, and feeling like a burden for a few days, and it’s depressing me.

It’s amazing how quickly my morale can plummet when faced with a setback as simple as the common cold.

I’m fragile. We are all fragile. Physically and emotionally. I’ve been put down by a virus, this time, but sometimes I’m put down by other people’s words, by anxiety, by my past, by fear, by frustration, even by the emotions and hardships of other people. It’s too easy to start thinking about all the ways things that are going wrong and to imagine that they will never go right gain. How the human species has made it as far as we have a tendency to be so negative, I will never understand.

Except that, obviously, things always get better. We always survive, we always win in some way in the end. We will always get better, we will always land on our feet, and we will always be okay. That “okay” might not look as good as we’d hoped but it’s never as bad as we fear.

This week, just try to remember that you will get through this. Remember that it’s not as bad as you think, that the world will keep turning, you will keep going, and good things always follow bad.

I’ll get better, and I’ll get back to it. You’ll feel better too and you’ll keep marching toward your dreams and goals.

We will be okay.

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If We Were Having Coffee // I Feel Awful

Hello, dear reader. I am so sorry I’m late for our coffee date. I thought about canceling, but I enjoy these chats so much I couldn’t let the weekend go by without dropping in to say hi. I should tell you, I am working my way through an awful cold right now, and I beg you to please excuse my coughing and the interruptions to blow my nose, it’s gross I know. I’m sorry.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that besides this cold, my week was a decent one. My route barely ran, and I had plenty of time for writing, or so I thought. Apparently, I am suffering from some strange affliction where I cannot perceive time accurately nor manage it at all. I started the week planning to get so much done, and somehow I feel like I got absolutely nothing done at all.

I spent most of the time reading, both online and off, and gathering some ideas. I did do a bit of writing here, and I worked on some drafts too, but I still feel like I haven’t accomplished much. I guess that’s what “progress, not perfection” feels like huh?

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this cold has 100% ruined my plans for the weekend. It started Thursday night with a bit of swelling in my throat and escalated quickly into painful sinuses and coughing. I had plans to go out with friends who I haven’t seen in forever and miss very much. I felt awful having to cancel. Worse, I was supposed to celebrate my brother’s 21st birthday with dinner and drinks. As you can imagine, i feel even worse about that.

Not to mention my poor girlfriend, who spent the weekend not only not doing all the things I mentioned above, but spent it taking care of me instead, making me chicken soup, lemon tea, administering meds, and trying her best not to get sick too. She’s so good to me, too good.

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If we were having coffee, I would apologize for the negative attitude. I’m just tired, and my nose is doing that thing where only one side of it is clogged up at a time and blowing it does nothing. It’s infuriating.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I think I’ll be taking the day off of work tomorrow. I don’t want to bring all this negativity, and snot, into the workplace. This week was going to be an another easy one, my route isn’t running at all, and I took off Thursday and Friday anyway, so I doubt it’ll be a big deal.

I want to get better before next weekend, my lady and I have some big plans. We’re kicking off Halloween season with a Beetlejuice party at The Alamo Drafthouse, and I hope to celebrate with my brother too.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my nighttime medicine is finally kicking in and I better wrap this up before I’m snoring and drooling over this coffee. Thank you for stopping by, and for sitting through my sniffles and negativity, I promise next week will be better. In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful week.

Until next time :)

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Privacy’s Place in the Presidential Election

“Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”

— David Axelrod

Harsh words, but true. For those of us living in fear that Trump and his “basket of deplorables” are going to be running this country for the next four ears Clintons lack of transparency can be frustrating. It seems simple to us. If she would just be open, honest, and forthcoming with all the details of her life, this election will be a breeze.

She’s been caught deleting emails her and her team deemed private. When asked about it, she only says she’s provided what she needed to provide and reminds us that no one would want their personal emails read. End of story. She been asked to release transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches, but she blows it off and assures us it is fine. When American’s question her health she says nothing. Then when it comes out she has pneumonia, she says she didn’t think it was a big deal.

Each of these incidents and much more besides have only raised suspicions, inflated conspiracy theories, and cost her votes. The media continues to focus on these issues rather than her policies, or Trump’s very real, very shady dealings. The American people continue to call for transparency from her, and she continues to fight it.

I’ve started to wonder why she does this. I’ve wondered because any other candidate—if they are working to deceive the American people—would work harder to spin and cloak the lie when the truth comes out. Clinton instead acts as if she really does not understand what the big deal is. She explains her answer again but offers very little apologies. She doesn’t want to waste time on it, and she is annoyed you are asking again.

“My sense of privacy — because I do feel like I’ve always been a fairly private person leading a public life — led me to perhaps be less understanding than I needed to of both the press and the public’s interest as well as right to know things about my husband and me.”

Hillary Clinton

I am not here to tell you there is nothing at all to see behind the curtain. I believe Clinton, like all people, probably has some dirty secrets. What I am trying to figure out is whether she is as calculating and dishonest as her critics say. I don’t think she is; I think she is just the kind of person who decides for you whether something is important enough to talk about. She’s the kind who will give you a direct answer if you confront her with it, but that is all. She won’t apologize, and she will consider the issue closed afterward.

It can be frustrating for sure, but I don’t think it is malicious.

I happen to be very much in love with another woman who is uncompromising in her demands for privacy. My girlfriend hates to have to answer for or explain something when she knows she is either not at al wrong, that she may have made a mistake but obviously did not have bad tent ions, or if she thinks it is simply none of your business. She also hates to be forced to divulge information before she is ready. To talk about things like that are exhausting to her and after awhile become annoying.

If I ask her a direct question, she will no doubt give me a direct and honest answer, but it is up to me to figure out what questions to ask.

I never know if I’ve gotten the full story but I always know that if something is really bad, she will tell me, so I trust her, I let go, and I let her have her privacy. Not because she hasn’t ever made a mistake, or lied, we all have, but to push her only makes her cling to her privacy tighter. She lives in a world where to give up her privacy leaves her vulnerable in a way she cannot cope with.

I wonder if Hillary Clinton feels the same. Especially after decades of the public hounding her and making the most awful assumptions and jokes about her, her family, and her character. I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel the same.

“The cumulative effect of that is a perception not unfounded in the public that there’s always a part of the Clintons that they’re holding back from you, that there’s always a more complicated reality than what they’re really telling you,”

Matt Bai

She asks for privacy, she asks for understanding, but is she asking for too much?

I do fear that whatever Clinton does, whether she is transparent or not, she will be demonized. If she had told us she was sick, we would have accused her of being weak or unhealthy and therefore unfit, so she powered through it. I certainly don’t blame her. She may have been thinking about the American public’s tendency to overreact.

Does she deserve privacy?

I think so.

Some might argue that she knew what she was getting into and has no excuse for holding back. To that, I say Clinton seems very much like the type who believes she can do the job without having to give in and live up to the same expectations of those who came before her. I can’t say I don’t admire that.

With each elections cycle we ask more and more from our candidates, but is it because we need to know, or because we have a sick fascination with consuming as much of our candidates as we can. They are not potential leaders of our country, not to us. To us, they are players in a reality game show and the more entertained we are, the more votes they get. The player with the most votes wins the grand prize.

For a candidate taking the job seriously, the rules may be a little confusing. A candidate taking the job seriously may refuse to play by the rules

I am not sure if she is right or wrong, and I am sure, like all of us, Clinton has her secrets but is it right to press her so? I don’t have the answer; I just want more of us to be asking ourselves where the lines lie. What areas do we not have a right to force our way into? We should examine why we need to know something. We should examine how we might feel if it were us.

We should also ask ourselves how much of this comes down to gender? How much of this is about a woman who should have nothing to hide? How much of this is about our access to women, their bodies, their minds, and everything they do? We should ask ourselves why Clinton must tell us more about her health when she has released more tax information, more health information, and who we have a complete history of.

We should ask ourselves whether we are being unreasonable before accusing our candidates of the same.

We should ask ourselves what these elections really mean, and what is important to pursue and what is only filling time and satisfying a sick addiction the American people have with knowing every intimate detail of our politicians and celebrities.

Think about what kind of people we are electing when we are making that the criteria.

“I’ve always believed in a zone of privacy and I told a friend the other day that I feel after resisting for a long time, I’ve been re-zoned.”

Hillary Clinton

 

 

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Clifford D. Simak

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a bit too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event that calls on bloggers share their favorite quotes to inspire and motivate one another.

For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the American science fiction writer Clifford D. Simak.

Simak was born in Millville, Wisconsin on August 3rd, 1904, the son of John Lewis and Margaret (Wiseman) Simak. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison and later worked at various newspapers in the Midwest. He began a lifelong association with the Minneapolis Star and Tribune in 1939, which continued until his retirement in 1976.

23012He married Agnes Kuchenberg in 1929, and they had two children. In a blurb in Time and Again he wrote, “I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-three years and have two children. My favorite recreation is fishing (the lazy way, lying in a boat and letting them come to me). Hobbies: Chess, stamp collecting, growing roses.” He dedicated the book to his wife Kay, “without whom I’d never have written a line.” He was well liked by many of his science fiction cohorts, especially Isaac Asimov.

Simak became interested in science fiction after reading the works of H. G. Wells as a child. His first contribution to the literature was “The World of the Red Sun,” published by Hugo Gernsback in the December 1931 issue of Wonder Stories with one opening illustration by Frank R. Paul. Within a year he placed three more stories in Gernsback’s pulp magazines and one in Astounding Stories, then edited by Harry Bates. But his only science fiction publication between 1932 and 1938 was The Creator, a notable story with religious implications, which was then rare in the genre.

Simak returned and was a regular contributor to Astounding Science Fiction throughout the Golden Age of Science Fiction. During this period, Simak also published a number of war and western stories in pulp magazines. His best-known book may be City, a fix-up novel based on short stories with a common theme of mankind’s eventual exodus from Earth.

Simak continued to produce award-nominated novels, writing and publishing science fiction and, later, fantasy, into his 80s. He believed that science fiction not rooted in scientific fact was responsible for the failure of the genre to be taken seriously, and stated his aim was to make the genre a part of what he called “realistic fiction.”

He died in Minneapolis in 1988.

“I’m just a propagandist and a propagandist doesn’t have to know what he is talking about, just so he talks about it most convincingly.”

— Clifford D. Simak, Time and Again

All writers, all artists, are propagandists. We work to spread ideas about ourselves, and in doing so, about all people. We write about the past, present, or future, in ways that tell the truth of the events, not just the facts. We write about what right and wrong without giving clear answers. We write about what hurts and what feels good too so that you can experience all of life.

We spin lies and tales so well you can’t hope to decern what might be true or real. You give up and fall into our world where we catch and cradle you all the way. We spoon feed you exactly what we want you to think and feel and you love every bite.

The world needs more propagandists. The world needs people who will pick a side, take a stand, and inject some color and feeling into the cold hard facts of the world. Us creative types, for the most part, have good intentions. We would do it if it weren’t of the utmost importance, for us, for you, for the future. Lat us take you on a journey. Let us into your mind and heart, give us the benefit of the doubt. Believe every world and spread our gospel. We bring the truth.

We would never steer you wrong. It’s hard to be hateful when all you wish to do is express who we are. It’s hard to be hateful when all you want to do is tell the truth, even if you use lies to do it. It’s hard to be hateful when you are creating characters who must overcome and worlds where good must triumph. A propagandist takes his title seriously and works for your trust, and your repeat business.

If you are a peddler of truthful lies and big ideas yourself, be sure you know what you mean to say. Be certain you say it with confidence and be sure to say it again and again. Convince people, push people, drag them over to your side of things by any means necessary. Use all the tricks in the book but make sure you are authentic and true at least to yourself and your message. If you aren’t, you may lose them as fast as you can gain them.

Don’t worry so much about facts. Feel free to emphasize, exaggerate, and steer the story along in whatever direction you need it to go to show your reader what it is they cannot see. Feel free to make it all up as you go.

Don’t write what you know, write what you can imagine.

Embrace the propagandist inside yourself and release them in all your art.

Let them bring readers over to your cause.

P.S. I was very sorry to read that this week’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday event will be the last. I have enjoyed them immensely, so much so in fact, that I think I will continue to write them. I may change the format, and the frequency, but I will continue to feature writers and their advice regularly on this blog. Thank you for reading.

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Biographical information via Wikipedia

Original image via Unsplash

Each of Us is Capable of Compassion

Compassion has a biological basis and an evolutionary advantage and yet, we often stifle it and deny its place in human culture and condition. Why do we do this? Why isn’t compassion a human instinct, automatic and regular, like our drive to seek out water, or a mate? Why isn’t it as easy as breathing?

It isn’t because the biological basis relates to potential. The way each of us is born with the potential to speak, read, and perform complex mathematical equations, it all depends very much on how you are raised and when you are introduced to the subject. Like most things it depends on your childhood.

Studies have shown that our negative feelings are much more inheritable than our positive feelings. We can receive tendencies toward depression, anxiety, and possibly cruelty from our parents but we don’t get much of their generosity, empathy, or compassion. That has to be taught to us. That has to be unlocked through healthy relationships early on and seeing other people treated as people and not merely means to ends.

I like to compare it to understanding and performing math. It seems the closest analogy. Some people will struggle with it and for some people, it will come easily. Most of us need to be taught how to do it, some of us will never get it, and there are some who will invent calculus in their spare time like it’s nothing.

Parents who have healthy boundaries and allow their children to develop with the right amount of support and care, and use reason to teach their children right from wrong obviously raise more empathetic children. Conversely, and also obviously, children who are abused, invalidated, and who do not observe their parents expressing compassion do not develop the ability to show it either.

Compassion can develop in reaction to us not being taught or shown how or why to feel it. Some develop a high-capacity for compassion even when a parent attempts to stifle it. While parents are a child’s first examples of how to behave and treat other people, a parent’s example can also be the first to be rejected as the child enters society, encounters new ideas, and becomes independent from the parent.

But the norm is probably that children turn out a lot like their parents. A cruel parent raises a cruel child who grows into a cruel adult.

But I question whether compassion the emotion is ever really eradicated in a person. I tend to believe that even the child raised in cruelty and insecurity grows into an adult who still feels compassion but just can’t express it. I believe that child becomes a person who uncomfortable with those feelings. To alleviate the anxiety associated with compassion the child learns to express them as the inverse feelings of cruelty or indifference.

That person is not at all beyond redemption. They can be made whole, healthy, and empathetic when they are shown that compassion is nothing to be afraid of. They need someone who will not give up on them and who will take the time to reason with them and lead by example. It’s tough, but it can be done.

There is room to argue that their capacity for kindness is stunted. Like a person who never learned to read as a child, but I believe they can still feel it on some level. I believe no one is beyond the ability to care about the welfare of another human being.

That unconditional love, that dedication and that time is something we desperately need as a society. We have raised and taught each other that compassion is weakness and is avoided at all costs by all but the most foolish. We need to show each other that compassion is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, the increased development and expression of compassion in each of us can only result in a better world for all of us to live in.

The same way we do whatever we can to make sure our children learn math, or science, or history so that they will have a better chance at navigating and succeeding in the adult world, we should be teaching our children how to express compassion. The same way we cultivate and encourage a child who exhibits a talent for math, music, or art, we should be doing our best to encourage the child who has a naturally higher capacity for compassion.

The same way we could never imagine telling a child that the ability to do well and learn in school was a weakness or an undesirable trait, we should never tell them that kindness, understanding, empathy, or caring are either.

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