Successful Editing Tonight

I’m editing as quickly and as thoroughly as I can.  It’s painful, exhilarating, exhausting, and reinvigorating, all at different times.  Tonight, I’ve felt all of those things and more.

While editing, I find myself wondering how I could have ever shown this story to anyone.  The story itself is okay, but the writing?  Why did I use the passive voice so much?  Was I in love with the word “was”?

As hard as I’m working on this, progress is slow.  If I didn’t have a full time job, maybe I could get this finished in a few weeks.  At my current pace, I don’t know when I’ll finish.  This is the greatest source of frustration for me, and I have to work really hard to avoid getting discouraged.

I knew the chapter I was going to work on tonight would be trouble when I got to it, and it has been.  The prose needed a lot of work.  The action needed better pacing.  The whole thing needed tweaking.  The whole chapter was a fetid swamp, and I needed it to be a fresh smelling meadow.

I put my head down and pushed through.  Parts were replaced.  Details were enhanced.  Some sentences became shorter.  I crafted better metaphors, and found stronger verbs.  I banished every “was” that I found.

And now I have a much cleaner chapter that actually fits into story and progresses it the way I intended.

I’ve talked before about the difference between talent and skill.  Talent is like raw strength, while skill is the product of work and practice.  When it comes to playing sax, I have a little bit of talent, and enough skill to make my talent seem like more than it is.  I’ve met and played with people that had more talent, but were less skilled.  And I’ve played with a few people were both more talented AND more skilled.  Stefan, the musician that subs in for us in RC Swing, fits that category.

When it comes to writing, I feel like I have more talent than I have skill.  I have a strong vocabulary, and I can get my ideas across.  But as I’ve discovered while editing this book, I’m clumsy and bullish.  There are moments I can be proud of, but those places are surrounded by amateur efforts that detract from the work as a whole.

Looking back at what I’ve said so far in this post, I can’t tell if I’m bragging or putting myself down.  Maybe a little of both.  What I want to say is that tonight, I’ve seen myself grow as a writer.  I feel like I’m starting to really hone my skills.

I still have a long ways to go, but I’m going to get there.  I’m still moving along, one word at a time.


Covering the Democrats

I’ve mostly been avoiding the Presidential race, because everything that happens a year before the election is just distraction and a stage show.  The electorate doesn’t remember what happened last month, let alone what happened a year ago.

Until last night, I’d only watched some clips of the debates.  I watched all of last night’s Democratic debate, and formed some opinions about the candidates.

This morning, I read an article by a major network, and formed an opinion about ABC News.  It is not a very favorable opinion.

I’ve retained animosity towards Fox News for a long time.  The thing about Fox News is that they’re so damn obvious with their spin.  When they present news, they are as subtle as a fog horn.  They are successful, because they know their target audience, and they’re playing to it.

Having watched a debate, and having read what ABC News presents of it, I’m startled by the nuance and subtlety.  There is reality, which I observed with my own eyes and ears, and there is ABC’s narrative, where everything hinges on Hillary Clinton.

As I said briefly on Facebook, if any of the three Democrat candidates became President, I would not fear for my country.  I cannot say the same about any of the Republican candidates.

Being an intelligent, literate adult these last few months, I’ve observed the media’s treatment of Donald Trump.  Again, it is not subtle.  There is a sick fascination and curiosity when it comes to Trump, and what he’s going to say next.  He’s using his experience in the WWE to great effect, painting himself as a heal, and getting the crowd on its feet.

There is a narrative surrounding Trump, and that narrative keeps him in the news and the consciousness of the world.  We’re being entertained by his antics.

And now I see that Hillary Clinton is receiving the same sort of treatment, to a lesser extent.  She’s not following the same script as Trump, but the media that enables Trump to stay on the world’s stage is working their magic on Clinton’s behalf.

As I said before, I wouldn’t mind if Clinton became President.  She’s not my favorite in this race, perhaps for silly reasons.  For one, she’s a slick politician, subtle in the ways she shifts position.  She puts on an accent when she visits the South.  I didn’t like her as a candidate in 2008, and I don’t like her much as a candidate now.  I prefer her over Trump or Cruz or any of the rest of the Republican crazies, but that isn’t saying much.

I prefer Bernie this year, but I have some apprehension.  I’m not excited about his Medicare expansion idea.  I agree with the idea of providing medical care as a right, but I don’t think we’re going to get there anytime soon.  I don’t think Medicare is the way.  Also, I’m not very comfortable with unabashed socialism.

Ultimately, it won’t matter which Democrat becomes the next president.  If by some tragedy/miracle it is O’Malley (I had to take a few moments to look up his name), he hasn’t demonstrated the strength or personality to get equal time on a debate stage.  How will he fair against a Congress that has been willing to fight Obama on everything, just on general principles?

Neither Clinton nor Sanders will have much luck pushing legislation.  There is too much money going into Congress from special interests.  The system is broken, and focused in the wrong direction.  Whatever lofty goals Clinton or Sanders may have, they will find Congress minefield.

And that is probably the one reason I favor Sanders this year, because he acknowledges this, and talks about trying to fix it.  I don’t honestly think he’ll have any success, but I’d like to see someone try.

One of the challenges this year will be catching the debates, rather than relying on the media to give me accurate summaries.  CNN did a better job than ABC, but I think the only one I can trust on this matter is myself.  And I encourage everyone voting this year to do the same thing.  Don’t listen to the parrots and spin doctors.  Watch, listen, and make up your own mind.


Intentional Patriotism

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2016!  Let’s get some great writing done this year.

Before I get back to working on fiction, I want to take a moment to talk about patriotism.  I don’t want to get too much into politics.  I just want to get some thoughts about America out of my heart and mind before my chest bursts.

For starters, I don’t know if anyone else would consider me patriotic.  I have a few idiosyncrasies which separate me from what comes to mind when imagining an American patriot.  For example, I don’t like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

“But Brian!” exclaimed Strawman Number One. “Why not?  Are you some kind of Communist scum?”

“Is it because of the ‘under God’ part?” asked Strawman Number Two.

No, it’s neither of those things.  It’s actually much simpler than that.  There are two main reasons I don’t care to recite it.

  1. I don’t like pledging allegiance to a flag.
  2. A person of integrity shouldn’t have to pledge their allegiance more than once.

That’s it.  There are a couple of other reasons, but those are the main two.  Let’s break them down.

Why should anyone pledge their allegiance to a flag?  If it were stated, “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America,” then I’d probably be okay with it.  But the flag?  What does that even mean?  If someone were to run down the street with Old Glory snapping and waiving on a stick above them, are those that pledged allegiance obligated to run behind?  It doesn’t make any sense to me.

It makes me question the use of flags.  As I see it, the practical uses of a flag are to mark property or to distinguish armies from one another.  Everything beyond that is semi-mystical fiddle-faddle.

As to the second reason, I joined the Air Force.  When I joined, I took an oath of enlistment.  Here are the words:

“I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

When I swore that oath, I did so without reservations, and without an expiration date.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m still under oath to support and defend the Constitution, and will be until either I’m dead, or there is nothing left to defend.

So why should I pledge allegiance again?

I don’t care for mindless rituals.  I’m very uncomfortable with the notion of mixing patriotism and faith or religion.

As to the “under God” part?  I honestly don’t care.  In my opinion, if someone has a problem with that part of the pledge of the allegiance, they can just omit that part, or replace it with the name of their deity.

But since I’ve spent so much time talking about the pledge of allegiance, let’s focus on a part of it that should make people concerned.  There is another word in the pledge that people should take much more seriously.  Here is the full pledge, with the word I’m talking about bolded for emphasis.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Indivisible.  That is, “unable to be divided or separated.”

Looking around our nation, we are divided or separated on everything.  Partisanship is so prevalent that people aren’t listening to each other.  We are divided on matters of political affiliation, gender, race, sexual preference, geographical location, economic status… you name it, we are polarized about it.  And from my perspective, it’s getting worse.

I don’t know what to do about it.  I’ve spent a great deal of time in this post describing how I might not be considered a patriot, but here’s the simple truth: I love my country.  It’s my home.  I want to see it prosper.  I want everyone that chooses to live here to have life, liberty, health, and happiness.

How can we make this a better place?  For starters, I think we should listen more than we talk.  When our president announced his plans for tightening gun laws, I think our first response should have been to listen carefully, and not immediately flee to social media to post misinformed memes.

We need more intelligent conversations, and less parroting of propaganda.  We need calm assertiveness more than we need frantic aggressiveness.  We need maturity and a willingness to compromise, not name calling and blind stubbornness.

This is an election year.  Maybe the first step is to become informed.  Let’s look at what each candidate is actually saying, and what they’re doing, and not make quick decisions based on their gender, race, or socioeconomic status.

And then, once we’re informed, let’s be true patriots and vote our conscience.