Compost: Starving Artists

My grandson is 18 months old and I think he has musical talent. Now I suppose it is remotely possible that I am the tiniest bit prejudiced in his favor, but I don’t care, I still think he is gifted musically. He clearly reacts to music– bopping his head, wiggling his shoulders and hips in rhythm – and he has his own taste in music – he likes classical like Mozart, and seems to have a thing for Springsteen too; Country and hip-hop, not so much. He loves making sounds on his toy xylophone and he will sit on my lap for a long time while I sit on the piano stool and play the piano. His grandfather, my ex-husband, is musically gifted, so why shouldn’t our grandson have inherited his grandfather’s talent?

So what, you say? Because I want my grandson to live a happy and fulfilled life, and I can hear those voices in my head shooting me the very same line of BS that I got when I first knew I wanted to be a writer. These voices are familiar to all American artists, whatever their art form.

Art is just a hobby, not a profession. You can’t make money at music, writing, painting, etc – unless you are really really lucky and become Beyonce or Dan Brown or Judy Chicago – you have about the same chance of becoming rich in the arts as you do of winning the lottery. Make sure you train for something else to fall back on. People who try to become artists are immature Peter Pan types who don’t want to grow up and face the real world. Most artists end up broke or mooching on their relatives. Artists are selfish types who are always looking to others to support them. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

One of the things I find ironic and infuriating is that the same negative messages are true for athletics also, yet sports does not get this treatment nearly as often or as stridently as the arts do. Children are encouraged, even expected, to try their hand – and other body parts – at sports.

What if we encouraged budding artists the same way? Arts are the heart of any society; we need artists. What if we actually compensated artists for their contributions to society – and not just the tiny percentage who manage to rise to the top? What if painters and sculptors and poets and trombone players made as much money as corporate executives and engineers and doctors?

What would have happened if Mozart, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Van Gogh – or to take American examples, Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, Meryl Streep, Ansel Adams, Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison, etc – what if they had given in to those negative messages and gave up their dreams? Our society would be unrecognizable if there were no artists. In fact, our society would be dead without them.

What if my grandson was encouraged to become a musician? Would that be so bad? Would he really be condemned to starving in a garret?

If we encouraged children to explore and develop their artistic side, what would happen? Perhaps we would have a nation of art lovers, instead of money lovers and sports fanatics. Perhaps that would be just as good, or maybe, just maybe, even better.

Technorati Tags: compost, starving, artists, gifted, grandson, musical, writing, painting, lottery, sports, encourage

Haiku Friday: Right

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Right:

If you think you can
or if you think you cannot
you are always right

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of Haiku for the Seasons I, or Haiku for the Seasons II.

Technorati Tags: haiku, writing, syllable, right, think, can, cannot

Writing Tip: Focus, Focus, Focus

As a ghostwriter and editor, the most common problem I run into with my clients is that people want to tell too much. They know a whole lot about their subject and they want to put it all in one book. What a bad idea.

When particularly frustrated with a manuscript I’m editing, I often wish for a bright scarlet stamp that says “OFF TOPIC!” in Big Block Print that I can slam all over the text. Pow! Pow! Pow! (Yes, I know I could do this on the computer, but I can’t Slam and Pow through the computer, so where’s the satisfaction in that?)

Focus! That’s my tip for today. Just that. Focus!

I once had a client who I met at a book fair where I had a table. He came up to me and said, “Oh, I want to write a book – I need to talk to you.” I said, “Great – what do you want to write a book about?” And he goes, “I don’t know.”

Now there was a challenge. He just felt that he had a book inside him somewhere, but he’d never written anything, or really thought much about what he wanted in his book, until that moment. And he actually hired me to find out if he had one – I charged him a consulting fee to spend some hours talking about why he wanted to write a book, what his passions were, who he wanted to reach, and so on, and I recorded the conversations. And you know what? Eventually a focus for the book did emerge, and he then hired me to ghostwrite it for him.

The book was about psychic hunches and how to follow them through.

I sometimes share writing tips that have worked for me or my clients/students. Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share? If so, leave a comment here. You might win something! At the end of each month I’ll gather up the “Writing Tip” comments from the month and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of How to WOW Your Readers or You Can Be An Author, Even If You’re Not a Writer.

Technorati Tags: writing tip, ghostwriter, focus, off topic, book fair, manuscript, editing

Compost: Goody Beagle, Back by Popular Demand

Goody Beagle here, blogging through my human. I know you are dying to hear what’s going on at the dog park, so here goes:

Peggy Pitbull is full of fun, but unfortunately her definition of fun is not mine. She thinks it is fun to run towards me at full-tilt, her tongue flopping from side to side hanging out of her big pitbull grin, and she doesn’t stop or even slow down, she just keeps coming until she is upon me and she jumps over my head.

Wouldn’t this make you nervous? I had to tell my human I wanted to go home. Who can enjoy smelling when you think a pitbull is going to use you for jumping practice?

But before we could get out of the park, Homer Husky and Bart Boxer got in a fight. (Yes, you guessed it – they live with the same human, who is a Simpsons fan.) Homer started the fight. He made bad eyes at Bart. Bart told Homer to cut it out but Homer put his ruff up and stuck his tail in the air – and you know what that means! (If you don’t, it means the same thing as your middle finger.) So Bart really had no choice. But it was ugly anyway.

I could hardly wait to get out of the park. I am a peace-loving dog. I do not like conflict. Somebody might get hurt, and it might be me.

So we went back home, although this is where The Cat lives. Someday I will tell you about The Cat. But I have told enough horror stories for today.

Love, Goody Beagle

Technorati Tags: compost, goody, beagle, dog park, pitbull, blog, blogging, fun, tongue, husky, boxer

Haiku Friday: Split

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Split:

if you split in two
would you speak to each other
or go back to sleep?

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of Haiku for the Seasons I, or Haiku for the Seasons II.

Technorati Tags: haiku, writing, syllable, split, two, speak, sleep

Sharing History: First Votes

During my teleclass “Playing Your Part on the World Stage” we had a fun discussion about the first time we ever voted. I shared my story – the first time I voted I was 8 ¾ months pregnant and I the main thing I remember about the experience was how afraid I was that I wouldn’t fit into the voting booth. So much for patriotic fervor! Another woman wrote about how it was very foggy the night she went to cast her first vote. She drove round and round in the fog, trying to find the polling place, and while she drove she went round and round in her mind about who she was going to vote for. She couldn’t make up her mind who was the “right” candidate. Turns out she got so confused — both about finding the polling place and who to vote for – that she just went home instead. What I got out of the stories that were shared was that when we were young we were motivated to find the “right” person and the “right” way, and even the “right” place, because we were too young to know that no such “right” things actually existed. The truth is far more complex than our simplistic political notions. But even though I know this now, now that I am no longer young, I still vote, and I still try to find the “right” candidate. This reflects a central paradox that we all have to face: we must continue to search for absolute perfection even though we know there is no such thing.

If you’d care to share a story about this topic, please leave a comment here. At the end of each month I’ll gather up the Sharing History comments and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing my e-book: your choice of a Making History Workbook.

Technorati Tags: history, first, votes, voting booth, stage, patriotic, right, confused

Compost: The Thought Jar

For many years, I have kept a “thought jar” in my house, and another one in my office. The thought jar contains strips of paper on which I’ve printed quotations from all sorts of people; quotations that made me think, or made me laugh, or even made me angry. Anyone who comes into my house or my office is welcome to pick a thought out of the thought jar. The only rule is that you can’t put it back. Once you pick it, it is yours. Perhaps it has a message that is only for you. Perhaps the universe is talking to you. Or maybe it is just random chance and means nothing at all; but even so, the thought is now in your head, and you’ll probably have to do something with it – think about it, at the very least.

One of my favorite stories about the thought jar was many years ago. I invited a man who I had just started dating to my house for dinner. I was very attracted to this guy – I mean weak-knees and drool attracted. And I hoped he had the same feelings for me. He had not been to my house before. When he arrived, one of the first things he noticed was my jar full of little strips of paper. I explained what they were, and that he was welcome to pick one. He did.

He picked a quote from Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne. It said: “Time for a little something.”

Oh, the magic thought jar. I just love it.

Technorati Tags: compost, thought, jar, paper, strips, quotations, message, universe, random

Haiku Friday: Write Haiku About Haiku

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Haiku:

haiku chooses you
measures snippets of your life
distills your essence

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of Haiku for the Seasons I, or Haiku for the Seasons II.

Technorati Tags: haiku, writing, syllable, topic, measures, snippets, distills, essence

Writing tip: One Less Piece of Guilt

If you’re a writer, or any kind of artist, there’s a good chance that you operate on a different schedule that most of the other folks in your life. I found a great essay by Paul Graham (www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html ) that explains the difference between the “manager’s schedule” and the “maker’s schedule.” Most people are on the manager’s schedule, but writers and such are often on the maker’s schedule. Managers’ schedules work on short increments of time – one hour, two hours, etc. Makers’ schedules work on much larger blocks of time – a day, a week, even a month. When you try to make a maker carve up their days into hourly blocks, they become totally unproductive.

Graham doesn’t offer a way to turn a maker into a manager, or vice-versa, but he did get rid of my guilt over why I let a one-hour appointment or meeting turn my whole day into a useless mess. I’m a maker, that’s why!

Anytime I can rid my psyche of a blob of guilt, I’m all for it. If you’re a writer, maybe you suffer from this particular kind of guilt too. I recommend you read this article.

I sometimes share writing tips that have worked for me or my clients/students. Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share? If so, leave a comment here. You might win something! At the end of each month I’ll gather up the “Writing Tip” comments from the month and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of How to WOW Your Readers or You Can Be An Author, Even If You’re Not a Writer.

Technorati Tags: writing tip, guilt, artist, Paul Graham, schedule, hourly, unproductive, psyche,

Compost: Goody Beagle Here Again

My human is allowing me space on her blog today, so that I can tell you about the stuff that happens at my dog park. It’s always exciting.

Rabbits got in the park last night. They were gone when we got there today, but you know Beagles can always tell. Nothing smells like rabbits except rabbits. I wish I had been here. It would have been so much fun! Not for the rabbits, of course.

Since the rabbits weren’t here to play with, I played with Georgia Pekinese, even though Georgia leaves a lot to be desired as a playmate. She has bowed legs and takes tiny rolling steps even when she tries to run – she looks like she is drunk. And she yips instead of barks. Sometimes she squeals like a piglet, and other times squeaks like a rat. She never howls, of course. Only us hounds can do that. What a beautiful sound we make! Don’t you think it’s a shame that more dogs cannot learn this art?

But the thing I feel most sorry about for Georgia is her nose. It is just pitiful, all smished instead of sticking out like a proper Beagle nose. The smells cannot get in no matter how hard she sniffs. What good is a life without smells, I ask you?

I know you must think I am a bigot, but I’m not a member of the species who fools around with what is called “breeding.” That’s what humans do, and it means making dogs with short legs and smashed-in noses and dogs that like swimming and dogs that have ears that stick straight up or drag on the ground. Do humans think they are gods? I guess they do, and that means they have a lot to answer for.

Well, that’s it for now. Blog at you later whenever my human ghosts for me.

Love, Goody Beagle

Technorati Tags: Goody Beagle, dog park, rabbits, writing, beagles, fun smells, Pekinese, leaves, playmate, hounds, squeak, rat, breeding