Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Things to do during the writers' strike

Well, the Writers Guild of America strike has finally started to take its toll on TV-philes. Favorite shows are segueing into reruns and promised programming will be delayed. What's a body to do? Surprisingly, a lot.

Here's my list of 13 things to do during this unrequested, but ultimately highly beneficial, TV hiatus:

1) Read a book.
2) Have a conversation with someone about something other than what happened last night on TV.
3) Get on the web and research the presidential candidates. Decide for yourself who to vote for.
4) Use an hour of your daily TV time to cook good, healthful meals.
5) Go outdoors.
6) Exercise.
7) Talk with your children, your parents, your siblings, your neighbors -- anyone you like. After all, you now have the time!
8) Teach your old dog a new trick. If you have a cat, try to teach it a trick... then experience American hospitals' ER system firsthand.
9) Spend a half hour of your daily TV time listening to a foreign language lesson. (There are oodles on iTunes, including several free language lesson podcasts.)
10) Start a hobby. (Want to learn to play a musical instrument? Guess what? There are dozens of free lessons on YouTube.)
11) Volunteer. (Yes, having no TV is a bummer. Guess what? It could be a lot worse. Don't believe me? Visit a cancer ward or volunteer with hospice. That's an eye-opener.)
12) Pick one of the things on your Gee, I wish I'd done that list -- and do it!
13) Most importantly, don't automatically make room for TV when new programs start to appear. If TV fits in with your new schedule, great. If not, it's probably not a huge loss.

That's my list. Any ideas from anyone else?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A new perspective...

First of all, note to self: Either memorize The Merry Peri password or come up with something easier. Something like, oh I don't know, Why do I keep losing the slip of paper with my password written on it???

Okay, moving on...

Years ago, baseball hero Yogi Berra was quoted as saying, "It's deja vu all over again." Do you remember that? (To be honest, I never actually heard him say that, but I read it once. Somewhere.) Anyway, I always found that comment to be funny. Until recently, though, I had no idea what it meant and no sense of how profound it really was. Then, one day in October, in a fit of organizational zeal, I started cleaning the dumping ground known as our library and found a list of annual goals I'd created in 1993.

Guess what? It was exactly the same as my List of Things To Do Before I'm 50. Sure, I'd accomplished a lot in 14 years, but the big things -- the things I wouldn't want to die without doing -- were still undone.

That was scary.

So, in late October, I made a decision to tackle the biggest To Do: Write a novel. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and committed to writing a minimum of 50,000 words in November.

I figured this was a good idea because, during the summer, I'd finally accepted that, while I really, really wanted to write a novel, I didn't have a clue of how it was done. My work in progress had a nice first chapter but the rest was a thinly disguised therapy session in which all of the "good" characters were a lot like me and all of the "bad" characters were a lot like, well, everybody else. It had been hard, but I'd dumped the story and read everything about story and structure that I could find. Then I'd written character profiles and done some hard research.

With all that under my belt, I decided to complete a real first draft -- of the whole book -- in November.

But something happened. After 14 years of putting this same desire into the world, the universe wasn't so willing to make things easy. I'll be honest. When I set the goal of completing the first draft in November, I truly felt as though a voice replied, "Yeah, well. Heard that before. If you want it this time, prove it."

I assumed I might have a little writer's block or a few other delays. I had absolutely no idea what was in store.

First, after several years of procrastinating, I got a mammogram on Oct. 29. On Oct. 30, a rather breathless receptionist called and said, "There are some, um, abnormalities. We'd like you to come back. Soon."

The earliest they could see me was Nov. 6. As you can imagine, I didn't get a lot of writing done in the interim. What I did do was agonize about all of the things I wanted to do and all of the chances I'd squandered. I did a lot of bargaining and I made a lot of promises ~~ and I swear, I continued to hear a voice in my head saying, "Prove it. Prove it."

The good news is that on Nov. 6, after another mammogram and two ultrasounds, I was told that I was fine! Yea!!! I figured I'd go home and write. Right?

Well, no.

Here's a brief list of some of the other things that happened in November:

* Someone broke into my car and stole my radio. (Good news: I only paid $69 for it at Car Toys!)
* My dad had a health crisis during cataract surgery.
* My mother, for reasons known only to her, began to dabble in selective anorexia.
* My computer hard drive had a stroke.
* An organization I'd offered to do some volunteer writing for in June decided they needed my November.

There were other things too. I'd guess an average of one calamity every other day.

Prove it. Prove it.

Yeah, right.

Actually, Yeah! Right!

Here's what I learned last month:

1) It is deja vu all over again...until one day it's not.
2) Life is either going to be full of I Wish I Hads or I'm Glad I Dids.
3) A really bad first draft can be edited into a fantastic book. An excellent first chapter means nothing if that's all there is.

This is turning into a very long post, so here's the short story: That first draft? Done! I mean, totally, completely, thoroughly DONE!!! 50,000 words? Yep...and more!

Second draft? Underway...and set to be finished early next month.

Am I glad to have experienced all that happened in November? Uh, no. Not really.

Am I glad that, in the midst of everything, I heard the words, "Prove it! Prove it!"

For sure.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Good things are coming!

"Vision reaches beyond the thing that is, into the conception of what can be."
-- Robert Collier

The Merry Peri is going on hiatus until December 3. There will be exciting news to share when I come back.

See you then!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Last week's Quote of the Week

"Talent is never static; it's always growing or dying."
--Stephen King

Beginnings and endings...

It's hard to believe that it's been almost a month since I posted last. (Thanks very much to all those who emailed to ask what was going on.)

It's been a time of beginnings and endings.

A few weeks ago, I went to the funeral of a childhood friend. She died at 42, yet left a legacy that was staggering. Her funeral was held in small, inner city church on an unbelievably hot morning. On a good day, that church could hold, perhaps, 200 people comfortably. On this day, there were well over 300. The lower level of full; the balcony was packed.

People from all walks of life, and ranging in age from a few weeks to more than 90 years, attended. Unmarried and without children of her own, my childhood friend touched more lives than I can even imagine. She was the director of admissions for a local college and dozens of current students, aspiring students and college graduates joined family, friends and work colleagues to say to good-bye. It was an awesome testament to the value of having a purpose in life and fulfilling it.

Prior to this, I never really understood what people meant when they said a funeral could be inspiring.

Now I do.

Anyway, that was ending I mentioned earlier. Now for the beginning.

You've probably heard the term, sandwich generation. If not, it describes baby boomers who juggle both childcare and elder care. Since I don't have children, I guess I'm an open-face sandwich.

The past few weeks have seen the beginning of a lot of heavy lifting with elder care. My mother now requires a great deal of supervision. Whether this is the result of age-related cognitive problems, a small stroke or the beginning of Alzheimer's, I don't know. What I do know is that I've started the dance of monitoring a host of medications, removing the option to drive, finding small tasks to keep her occupied, and other tasks many of you have likely dealt with for a long, long time.

If you have advice or suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Does this man EVER sleep?

I asked this question of a friend of mine. Tyler Perry's latest movie is coming out in late August. Now let's see, he's written -- what? -- four movies, a dozen or so plays, a book, a sitcom pilot and several scripts for a television show...and I'm still plugging away on my first novel!

Jokes aside, Perry is a testament to what can be done when one is focused. Bravo!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Last week's Quote of the Week

Two quotes this week, both by Alfre Woodard, one of my favorite actors.

On inner beauty:
"Inner beauty is not taking personally whatever you think is a disaster physically about yourself. Why would you think your thighs or your nose is the only thing nature has screwed up on?"

On spirituality in Hollywood:
"I understand where my creativity comes from. It's not from me. I'm in service to the divine an instrument. Hopefully, an instrument for healing."