What I’m Legitimately Bad At

Well, for starters, I’m legitimately bad at allowing myself to use technically questionable grammar like that which appears in the title above – even when it would be appropriate in context (e.g. in the conversational tone of a blog), and is accurate to the jargon of the time (e.g. the phrase “what I’m legitimately bad at”).

But then again, when I first sat down to write this post, I was originally going to go with “My Struggles” or “Where I Struggle” or some variation thereon for the title – and obviously, no.  Just no.  No to any combination of I/me/mine and the noun or verb “struggle” anywhere in any title to any piece.  Ever.  (If the reason isn’t immediately clear to you, you may want to look up the translation of “my struggle” in German.)

The incomparable Herbert Lom, best known for playing Chief Inspector Dreyfus opposite Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.

And besides, forcing myself to employ a technique that would typically make me twitch worse than Chief Inspector Dreyfus from the Pink Panther movies is actually very appropriate for this particular discussion.

Consequently, I’m going to make myself leave it there and move on (more on that later)…

Continue reading “What I’m Legitimately Bad At”

Further Thoughts on the Election with the Benefit of Six Months’ Hindsight

This is, in my opinion, a good, patriotic woman, who was an eminently qualified candidate that would have made an excellent President.

So, back in November, when we (the coalition of liberals and non-liberals horrified by Trump) were all reeling in the wake of the election, I wrote a blog post on how the Democratic party had failed the country.  In case you don’t want to return to read it in its entirety (and honestly, who could blame you?) it essentially boiled down to the twin conclusions that:  1) the Dems failed to offer a clearly articulated plan that addressed the needs of a disheartened populace, and 2) the traditional party machinery had produced a candidate/campaign hamstrung by both outdated mechanics and thinking.

Since then, we’ve learned a lot more.  To begin with, when the late votes were tallied, we discovered that the actual margins were:

2008: Obama: 69.5MM votes | McCain: 59.5MM votes
2012: Obama: 65.9MM votes | Romney: 60.9MM votes
2016: Clinton: 65.9MM votes | Trump: 63.0MM votes

Looks like my overall point re: turnout was wrong.  Trump had many more than I thought, and Clinton matched Obama in ’12.  Wow.

Continue reading “Further Thoughts on the Election with the Benefit of Six Months’ Hindsight”

Hillary Lost Not Due to a Diminished America, but Due to a Diminished Democratic Party

Her concession speech was excellent, but it was far too little, and decades too late.

[NOTE: I’ve added an updated blog post looking back on this same subject with the benefit of six months’ hindsight here.]

Friends, as I watch a lot of you process what happened in this past election, I see a lot of people talking about the rise of racism and misogyny and xenophobia, lamenting these awful specters as the primary cause of defeat. I also see many saying that Bernie could never have won because he’s a socialist jew, and the same forces would have aligned against him. Let’s be clear (and I say this not as an I-told-you-so, but in hopes we can all learn an important lesson for 2020): that’s all hogwash.

Did the bigots all turn out for Trump? Absolutely. And his victory has, in their minds, justified their outlook, which is terrifying and points to troubling times ahead.

But to believe that somehow, despite the demographic shifts, there are now MORE bigots in the country than there were just in the previous decade, is ridiculous. This is the same country that elected a black man, not for the first time, but for the second, IN A ROW, just four years ago.

Take a look at the numbers:

2008: Obama: 69.5MM votes | McCain: 59.5MM votes
2012: Obama: 65.9MM votes | Romney: 60.9MM votes
2016: Clinton: 59.8MM votes | Trump: 59.6MM votes


Continue reading “Hillary Lost Not Due to a Diminished America, but Due to a Diminished Democratic Party”

Sometimes Less is More

Okay, I realize that this is one you’ve heard before.  And in fact, I’ve already provided a more macro example of how this maxim can apply to a manuscript by sharing an earlier version of the prologue to The Herald’s Dark Progress, and explaining why, and how, it needed to change.

Here, however, I want to discuss “less is more” in the context of page-to-page writing, which is a very different thing.

Man carving stone statue
Again, NOT generally how I go about my writing.  But it DOES seem to be how many others do it.  And it may well work for you.

As I told you in an earlier post on my writing process, for me the standard “plow forward and come back” or “ramble and revise” or “spew/cull” methodology that most writers seem to employ (for the record, I don’t think any of them actually call it the latter) is generally the exception, and not the rule.  In fact, for me, the concept of “less is more” usually means not that I’ve included a bunch of extraneous text that I will subsequently need to cut, but that I have tried to pack too many ideas/images into too little space, and I will subsequently need to separate them.  Ironically, the way I almost always fix this version of the “less is more” problem, is not to subtract from my manuscript, but to add to it.  Or, as I described it in my post on the subject, I tend to “comb out” the text rather than to “chip away” at it.

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My Process: Combing through the Tangles

Hi there!  Remember me?  In looking at the calendar, I see that it’s been several months since I last blogged about writing.  I trust none of you were worried that I’d given up on the practice completely…?  The truth of the matter is that I’ve been so busy working on new material (both revisions for The Herald’s Dark Progress as well as a completely new project) that I didn’t have much time to offer any new commentary along the way.  Nose to the grindstone and all that.  As a result, I’ve only used this space to offer a couple of moment-in-time political comments, which will soon be outdated (and which probably 40-50% of you found irritating anyway).  I hope you will forgive me, both for the lack of activity, and for the non-writing-related nature of the few posts that I did share during that period.  What can I say?  Such is the life of a writer (a topic, by the way, that I plan to cover in more detail in a subsequent post).

But now, after a stretch that lasted much longer than I initially anticipated, I have finally reached a natural break point (having just sent out a bunch of content to my wonderful beta readers for feedback), and am once again back to tackle a new subject:

The writing process itself.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author of The Little Prince, among other titles) on the writing process:  “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” BOY does that sound a lot easier than the way that I do it…

Or, er, mine, anyway.

If you research how other writers go about their work, you’ll discover that many (most?) begin by typing out a rough draft in the truest sense of the phrase, plowing forward from beginning to end without being overly concerned about rough patches, rambling detours, or even entire sections left blank.  As the author Shannon Hale describes it, they begin by “simply shoveling sand into a box so that later [they] can build castles”.  (I have to admit, I’ve never read any of her work, but I LOVE that quote.)  Then, only once they’re done with the unfiltered first take, will they come back to the beginning to revise, gradually perfecting both plot and prose over and over again, in pass after pass, until in the end, they arrive at a finished product.  For those who follow this methodology, writing a novel can mean running through quite literally dozens of drafts before finally declaring the manuscript “done”.

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My Last Commentary on Politics (Well… at Least Until the General Election)

So here’s the thing: for all the raging and sneering I see on both sides of the Democratic Party right now, I actually believe that we on the left have a GREAT opportunity ahead of us in the coming election.

So long as we don’t let our internal differences screw it all up.

The country has had it with the status quo, and for the most part, the underlying causes are rooted in elements that Republicans (at least as the party self-identifies today) would want to continue to prop up and Democrats would want to change. Bernie’s candidacy has energized a base that was disaffected (and in some cases didn’t yet know it even was part of a base), and has reminded us of the core principles of what it means to be liberal. Meanwhile, Trump’s candidacy has brought home to roost the anger, fear, and bigotry that the leadership on the right has cynically played upon for decades to advance an agenda that works against the best interests of its base. Things are moving on both sides. And if you dig under the piles of vile hate-mongering that the right is using to obfuscate matters on its side, you’ll see that the great tectonic plates of the electorate in BOTH parties want, in my opinion, to shift towards the progressive (though many don’t yet recognize it as such, obviously).

Wasn’t she amazing? I now have another reason to hope that I can someday gain some small acclaim as a writer. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, I will one day meet Michelle at Princeton Reunions, and after I’m done babbling about what a fan I am, she’ll look at me and say, “oh, yeah, I know who you are.  I read your book.  It was pretty good.” Hey, a fella can dream.

And while honestly, neither Bernie (I’m a supporter, but he is not nearly left enough on guns for me, and frankly, I think he’s overly, knee-jerk left on the seriously nuanced issues of trade agreements and the position of the U.S. in the world at large) nor Clinton (too hawkish, too pro-business, and has made disturbing choices in her past that call into question her judgment and/or seem to show a willingness to go with short term political expediency over commitment to liberal ideals) is perfect, they are both FAR better than anything we’ve EVER seen on the right – much less the current choice, who very well may be the worst of all time.

Continue reading “My Last Commentary on Politics (Well… at Least Until the General Election)”

Another Comment on the 2016 Presidential Election

After some time away (hard at work on revisions, as well as a NEW project!), in light of the news this morning, I’m back with another post on the state of the 2016 elections, to remind those of you who empathize with my political leanings:

It is possible to be BOTH idealistic AND practical at the same time.

Hillary Clinton is by no means perfect (nor for that matter is Bernie Sanders – to wit, his stance on guns), but she is far, FAR better than Donald Trump. And though I continue to have misgivings about her as a person, the platform that her advisors and Bernie’s have hammered out together is the best of any candidate for President we have seen so far in my lifetime. I believe it continues the important progress begun under President Obama and sets the stage for further movement towards true progressivism in the future.

Thus, as of Bernie’s announcement this morning, I am giving Hillary my full support.

Continue reading “Another Comment on the 2016 Presidential Election”