How to Write a Book in 25 Years (Or Less)!

 

 

Always better the second time around . . .

writer

Writing is a simple avocation that can be entertaining and rewarding even after a few short decades. Here’s how!

It’s pretty simple, really. All you need to do is:

1. Come up with a great idea. Say to yourself “That would make a great book!”. Start to write it down. Talk to other people about it. Bask in their encouragement.

2. After three or four false starts that each fail only fifty or sixty pages in, realize that you have no idea what you’re doing. Silently damn yourself for ever thinking that you could write a book. Decide to do something else with your life.

3. Spend the following 10 years or so in an unrelated career field. Encounter frustrations, limitations, stultifying boredom, and a sense of being out-of-place. But enjoy the fleeting sense of self-importance and the real estate. Keep telling yourself you are successful. Congratulate yourself on how much of a participant you are in society. At night, read a lot. Think to yourself that you really should have written that book. Or something.

4. As a relationship is failing–and while in a deep depression–try writing the book again. Fail again when things get too real and too painful.

5. Start another relationship. Have a kid. Keep telling yourself things will get better. Start to wonder that the hell is wrong with you and/or the world. As you get a bit older, realize that it’s probably just you. The world does what it does.

6. Lots of therapy. Lots of psych tests. Lots of talking to people who have also felt estranged from their own selves and recovered in one way or another. Or maybe haven’t recovered yet. Both are worth talking to. Both have part of the answer.

7. Have someone in authority tell you that things just aren’t working out at your job anymore. Feel a certain relief at this news.

8. In a moment in Nietzschean affirmation, say to yourself “Yes! Yes, this book will be written. Yes! Ja! Jawohl! ” Realize that over the last 20 years or so something’s been happening in your background: i.e. your background has been happening. Now–now you know what to do and what to say. Or so you think.

9. Drop everything else  and ram-rod the first draft through in one month. Type until your fingers bleed. Keep coffee and martini fixings and whatever else you need close at hand. You’re going to need them.

10. Rewrite the whole book a few times over the year that follows. Hire an editor or two or three. Tune it here and there until the fateful moment when you force yourself to call it good and let your pearl of great price out into the world.

Voilá! A book in 25 years or less.

Oh, and realize the following:

“We have all at some time eaten the fruit from trees that we did not plant. In the fullness of time, when it is our turn to give, we must in turn plant gardens that we may never eat the fruit of, which will benefit the generations to come.” — N. R. Narayana Murthy

In the Eye of the Diamond T will be released this Spring. Available through Amazon in Kindle and paperback. Check for progress against the 25-year clock on http://diamondtbook.com

Why Do You Want A Life Where Nothing Happens?

Story time.

dashing-Spanish-days

I was on a train in Spain crossing the plain eating plantains maintaining my brain.

Ok, that last part was wrong. I was on a train in Spain, but it was going along the Mediterranean coast. It was somewhere between the French border and Barcelona. And I was in the train compartment reading and eating — but probably not plantains.

This was back in student days. I had inexplicably found myself not only able to study in Rome for four months in a convent a mile from the Vatican, but I still had enough money left over at the end of the semester to spend ten days wandering around on my own in Spain, reliving some of what I had read in Hemingway as an impressionable 13-year-old. I was in a state of perpetual amazement at the experience back then. I still am, in some ways.

Anyway, to enrich the Spanish experience in my proto-hipster way, I was reading Don Quixote by Cervantes like some pretentious dweeb. The thing is, I was really truly enjoying the book. More people need to read it these days. It’s comedic in a way that we’d recognize as comedy. Cervantes and Shakespeare died within the same day in 1616, did you know that? Shakespeares “comedies” are kinda . . . ehh. . . . it’s funny, I suppose. Cervantes stuff could be translated into modern idioms and people would think it was Judd Apatow or Joss Wheedon behind the keyboard. There’s stuff in that book that makes you laugh out loud, and not just LOL. I mean audibly.

Anyway, so I’m on this train in a compartment and there’s this Spanish tradesman or something sitting across from me. He kinda smiles, then asks me what I’m reading. I show it to him. He says:

Ay, Don Kee-zhot. No me gusta. Nada mucha pasa.

 Yes: He didn’t like it. Nothing much happens in it. That’s what he said.

So much for Cervantes being a national hero.

But in a general sense, despite him being kinda wrong, I had to admit he was kinda right. Who wants to read a book where nothing much happens?

And by extension, who wants a life where nothing much happens?

My life has been a comedy far more than a tragedy. Wacky, crazy things have happened. The older I get the easier it is for me to look through the telescope the wrong-way and see all these wacky events unfolding through time. It’s been a hell of a ride.

And I don’t understand why anyone would want a life where nothing much happens.

The Only Lonely One

I used to think I was the only lonely one.

victorville66

Everyone seemed to have so much going on — so many friends and interests and achievements. They were all busy, busy, busy. I really wasn’t. I felt alone. I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to be lonely anymore. I wanted to be someone else — someone who wasn’t lonely.

I knew busy married people with kids and good careers. Certainly, they weren’t lonely at all: No sir! No time to be lonely. Try to start a conversation with them and it immediately turned to whatever little Tommy was doing in swim club. Or they’d talk about work, which was a pain in the ass the way that some cantankerous-but-tolerable rich old uncle was. Life was so full and exciting and yet secure for them. I wanted to be one of those people.

But if I couldn’t be one of those people, then I’d be an artist of some kind. I’d strive to perfect my craft. I’d live simply and in close communion with my muse. I’d court patrons. I’d have artist friends. We’d enjoy long, semi-drunk conversations long into the night, and we’d run out of new ideas and wine just in time to stumble towards breakfast at some run-down diner, bleary-eyed and still trying to make our points to each other like two exhausted boxers in a ring. Surely, I wouldn’t be lonely then.

But if I couldn’t be an artist, then I’d perfect the methods of seduction. I’d learn the right things to say and — more important — when to say nothing at all. I’d frequent the popular spots. I’d find a target and ply with booze and flattery. One or another would end up in my car and after a short drive I’d end up in her. For an hour or so we could be there for each other and not be lonely as we panted, grunted and screamed. You can’t be lonely when you’re inside another person. Right? Right?

I tried all those things, and I was still lonely — which didn’t surprise me that much. I’m frequently clumsy and careless. I was all-too-willing to believe I had just gotten it wrong. Maybe I flubbed the setup. It was an experiment, after all–and experiments sometimes fail due to poor preparation.

But with each phase of my grand experiment, I found something unbelievable. I really couldn’t imagine what was revealed.

I found people doing those things were lonely, too. They were at least as lonely as I.

I’d talk with them a bit and they would suddenly grasp my shoulder and share far too much about their lives: things they hadn’t been able to tell anyone else. No one would listen — no one would help. They spoke a sort of heresy. They were supposed to be happy and fulfilled and they just weren’t. They were panicked about things they could only share with an outsider. Stunned, I couldn’t really help them beyond nodding in amazement and making sympathetic noises as I watched them recede back into desperate confusion.

For a while, I despaired.

Then, I sensed someone was in the room with me–strangely familiar, close but distant. I looked up. It was myself. For the first time I really looked at myself. I looked myself over and said “You poor, misguided thing. Why are you lonely? I’ve always been here for you. You’ve just been ignoring me. Here — let’s sit and talk. Tell me what you remember. I feel like I barely know you at all.”

Since then it’s been weeks or months. It feels more like years.

I’m really not lonely anymore. At least . . . I don’t think I am.

Chef Steve’s Story — or — The Last Seventy-Five Cents

“I was in Greeley and this long-distance trucker asked if I wanted to come along to help unload his truck in California and I had nothing else going on, so I said ‘sure’.”

steve-the-chef

“So I had only seventy-five cents on me when we left Colorado and we’re riding in his truck through Utah. We cross the state line on I-80 and there’s that first town on the Nevada side of the Utah border — Wendover I think it is. Lots of casinos there.

“So I take my seventy-five cents and a few quarters he gave me and put it in the first machine I see, because I’m like — what the hell? And you know what happens next? Two hundred and fifty dollars! I was like, damn!

“Of course I think I’m on a roll and all, and this trucker is tellin’ me ‘We ain’t gonna hump this truck. We’re gonna win enough to pay someone else to unload it,’ and I was like, sure! So I got like ten machines going all at once with quarters–mine and the other guy’s. I was playing whole lines of machines. And that trucker was throwin’ more money at me. It was great!” he laughed.

“So,” I asked, “how did it work out?”

“Oh we lost it all. Happened really quickly, too. I even lost the seventy-five cents I came there with.”

That’s how they get you,” I nodded.

“Yep! That’s how they keep the lights on!” he laughed.

“Good job on the hot wings today, Steve! And happy birthday!”

“Thanks!”

The Social Liberals of One Adam-12

Something I’ve noticed in re-watching this with the kid:

Adam-12_S1

  • The two characters do their jobs by knowing their beat and using horsesense. They rarely draw their weapons.
  • They counselled an old guy who wanted to bust “hippies” for parking in front of his house. The old guy defined “hippies” as anyone who “doesn’t look normal”. They tried to reason with him to show he was being ridiculous.
  • They busted a bounty hunter (from St. Louis!) who seemed to just like beating up black kids.
  • They busted a fellow cop for brutality and being a bit of a psychopath.
  • They bused a former Yugoslav who was trying to resolve a blood feud by ambushing his business rival.
  • They greeted the new female officer (who happened to be a bit of a hottie) with fairness and without patronization, though they had to tell her to stop being a bitch to a woman with a misbehaving child.

    police-woman-joann

  • They had to advise a landlord that a guy who served his time is considered to have been rehabilitated and deserves a chance.
  • When they pulled someone over for running a light to find the driver was trying to get his sick kid to the hospital, they put the kid and his mom in the squad car and rushed him to the emergency room.
  • Their military-grade hardware is limited to .38 Colts, 12-gauge shotguns, and billy clubs.

So by today’s standards, producer Jack Webb (also of Dragnet fame) and the cops of Adam-12 qualify as sappy left-wing liberals who are destroying America.

Call me a Jack Webb liberal.

Poem: The Segmented Woman

“The Segmented Woman”

At school they suggested it was best
To not take her own side in this argument.
So while her mouth was forming words
In support of a freedom she soon was to learn
Meant drab days and nights seeing the world
Through a luminous Venn diagram,
A voice inside of her was screaming:
The null-set that her life was to become

 

segmented-woman
©
2014 Bill LaBrie

REVIEW: THE DRAMA OF THE GIFTED CHILD by ALICE MILLER

The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True SelfThe Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self by Alice Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a child I grew to shun and hate the label “gifted.” As I aged, I never really understood why. I had forgotten –or rather never understood — the significance it had to me at one time.

In the years that passed since I was last referred to as a “gifted child,” my hairs have stood on-end whenever I’ve heard parents fawningly describe their children as “gifted”. I came closest to understanding this response after I heard the heart-rending story of a couple whose “gifted” son shot himself in the head while his mother was watching. He had been the apple of their eye and knew it: their “perfect child.” He had only run into some ordinary behavior problems in middle-school, but the shame of that failure was too much for him to bear. His last utterance was  “uhn-uh” as he put the pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger, his mother running towards him.

“Gifted” sounds like something we should want. Everyone should be happy to have a “gifted” child. I didn’t really understand why I had a resistance to the notion.

Then, as part of my project to understand my own attachment issues as an adult and thanks to the recommendation of another recovering “gifted” person, I read The Drama of the Gifted Child.

When we call a child “gifted” we move our focus from the child and onto the “gift.” As the child becomes aware of this, the natural result is anxiety and self-loathing. If there wasn’t a strong basis of unconditional love set in very early childhood, the gifted child comes to feel that he’s not worthy of love without the “gift”. He will try his best to please the parents and arise to their ideals of “giftedness.” This is natural: To lose their external validation means to lose parental love and face possible extinction in the cold–at least in the primitive, instinctual mind of the child. As the child matures, he tends to develop warped ideas of other people based only in contempt. He looks down on the less-gifted who are almost certainly as worthless as thinks he would be without his “gift.” True intimacy isn’t possible for him, because he was never accepted for being himself–and has never accepted himself. He was accepted only as “gifted”. He’s become his gift, and his greatest fear is that it will be stripped from him in some way–leaving him worthless and alone in his own eyes.

Wow. Just wow.

As if that weren’t heavy enough, the “gifted” child who lacked true acceptance as a human will almost surely pass along all the negative aspects of his upbringing to the next generation, unless he himself confronts his own feelings of sorrow, regret, and anger towards the parents who fated him with their lack of love, and the label “gifted.”

I had long sensed that “gifted” usually had no discernable benefit to the child himself. It was a way of giving parents some compensation and an ego-boost. The ego-boost is needed due to the parents having lacked love themselves as children.

That–that is the revelation that first came to me through Alice Miller’s book: Parenthood among these types is the practice of the blind insistently blinding those born with sight–their own children. And so it goes.

Other (arguable) wonders revealed by this text:

* The notion that a childhood lack-of-love is a necessary prerequisite for being a psychotherapist. It’s a job requirement. No normally-adapted person would submit themselves to delving into the lives of the emotionally-broken with such determination. Your therapist is likely a recovering broken and unloved child herself.

* Grandiosity (excessive pride in one’s accomplishments, a deep desire for other’s admiration of what we consider our own achievements) and depression are two sides of the same coin. Both are consequences of the failure of infantile attachment and defenses against honestly confronting the negative emotions that formed in the sufferer. We can’t honestly confront those emotions because we subconsciously fear doing so will result in the total removal of parental love. So we vaunt or we cower. Both are destructive.

* A debunking of the idea of “unconditional love” among adults. It’s not really possible. We can only experience unconditional love from our parents or a parent-like figure, and only in a very narrow timeframe. Early infancy and pre-toddlerhood is the critical time for this formative ur-experience. If that fails, all that can be done is to mourn the lost opportunity and to gradually repair the soul as an adult. Unconditional love a one-shot deal that determines the rest of one’s life.

* The idea that sexual perversions, substance abuse, narcissism, self-harm, and what would probably be called “borderline personality disorder” all have a common root in the failure of attachment, and all show up far too frequently among “gifted” people. The co-morbidity of “giftedness” and being psychologically challenged is far too common to ignore, and leads one to see that the enthusiastic acceptance of the label “gifted” is frequently the result of parental guilt and neurosis.

The main prescription that comes through this book in ways both spoken and otherwise: Don’t treat your child like a thing.

My personal experience comes from a childhood spent under the rubric of “giftedness.” At some deeper level I knew that being labelled “gifted” wasn’t for me but for my parents. I could also sense that “giftedness” put me under pressure to compete with my own “gift” for attention, and compete with other kids who were judged as more gifted than I. Nevertheless, enough poison of “giftedness” stayed in me to cause considerable problems in my adult life. You can read more about them here: The Parking Lot.

Hot tip: Don’t do this to your kids. Love them and let them just be kids. Where they end up is where they end up. Labelling them “gifted” isn’t likely to help them long-term.

The Drama of the Gifted Child gives great insight, but for the victims who will almost instantly recognize themselves in it, it can’t serve as a comprehensive treatment plan. Nor can Miller the psychotherapist express what’s going on in the limbic system of the infant when he reaches out to find no one. This is a psychology book from the 1970s without the physical science that might accompany it if it were re-written today.

The answer Miller leaves for former “gifted” children to fully confront and embrace the rage, sadness, loss, and anxiety remembered-but-suppressed from childhood. However, there’s no step-by-step means offered. Let the book serve as a wonderful entrance to seeing how one’s conflicts in life might have been caused by a childhood remembered as idyllic, but was likely in some very important ways, more like hell.

View all my reviews

The Advice Column

Lots of people ask for my advice. No, Really. . . .  they really do!

personal-advice-column

 

I’ll post the answers some of the questions here. Keep in mind these are only my opinions, and are likely worth about what I’m being paid for them. Feel free to read along!

To “Dave in Vermont”: She’s telling you she’s not what you thought she was. “Loving, well-balanced” women don’t put their kids in that much danger. They also actually try to behave like their kids’ parents rather than their peers. Back out before you sign any legal documents.  Be well.

To “Pete in Panguitch”: A good thing to remember when trying to choose between different makes of used cars is this: If you can’t afford a new one, you can’t afford a used one, either. You might pay only $10K for the 10-year-old Mercedes that was $100K when new, but it still comes with maintenance bills proper to someone who can afford a $100K car. Get a five-year old Honda Accord instead, one with fewer miles. Anyway, Mercedes started building shit in the mid-90s after the Chrysler acquisition. Any Merc made after about 1994 has a lot of Dodge Neon in it, and they are driven mainly by flashy fools. Be well.

To “Loafing Olaf”: English Lit is a good thing to study, and you should follow through as soon as you are pretty sure you can pay for it. One way to be sure you can pay for is it make sure you have some job skills going into your wonderful venture. Learn basic car mechanics or rough-in electrical skills, or anything else that’s portable and valued by what I condescendingly call The Propane-Yard World, then sign up to read Chaucer. Try to attend a program where they’ll really work you by making you read and write and speak all the time. You get back what you put in. Be well.

To “Suspicious Susan in Syracuse”: There are two reasons guys don’t cuddle after sex. One reason is very good and should cause you to treasure the man. The other is not so good. The first explanation is that sex is so demanding and sensually overwhelming for us males that when we come, we are mentally and physically exhausted and need some time out –or maybe just a nap. That’s the good reason. The other reason is that we generally don’t cuddle toilets when we’re done using them. Try to figure out which one it is before committing to this guy. Be well.

To “House-Hunting in Houston”: You can eventually make money by being house-poor for a while. If you’re lucky, buying far too much house, scrambling to make the payments while eating ramen and sitting on cardboard boxes, then flipping it within a few years can lead to riches. It can also lead to doom when the market suddenly acts like a market, as it did for millions not even ten years ago. We have short memories when it comes to the American dream, I guess. Keep your personal happiness in mind first. Lots of nouveau riche wrecks out there who eventually became nouveau pauvre wrecks. Be well.

To “Vacation Dreams in Victorville”: Since it’s your first trip to Europe you might not be aware that it’s been really sanitized for American tastes. The ten years between my first two visits showed some remarkable strides in the areas of not leaving dog shit on the sidewalk and not publically peeing on walls under political posters featuring hardcore porn, etc. This might seem like a good thing, but really it’s not. When you go to Europe you want to know that you’ve been somewhere, and not just to the IKEA in City of Industry. Thus, I recommend sharing accommodations with a host family through something like AirBnB or others. That will get you on the ground where you can make friends. Note: some of them might still pee on walls. If I were to go again it would be to Amsterdam where I would live on a private barge in a canal for a week or so. This sort of thing is much more affordable than you seem to think, and leads to some great memories. Be well.

To “Azeroth, Prince of the Damned”: In the words of a wise ex-wife of mine, you’re playing with your toy. No 17-year-old this side of Baghdad has seen enough to justify that much darkness. Next time, try slamming HIM into his locker and see how it works out. Eat your Wheaties, and be well.

To “Jehoshaphat in Joplin”: Try to spread joy and love wherever you go, and in whatever you do. That’s job one in the Christian duty list. Being a judgemental militant asshole is — notably — far towards the bottom.  Pop the mag out of your AR15, spend a minute or two reading up on Matthew 6:1 – 21, and be well.

Photo: Courtesy Ed Georgevich

Poem: People

People.
Lovely people.
Sociable people.
Smiling, warm, friendly people.
Not-one-thing-wrong people.
Want-to-know-and-care-about-you people.
Warm-hearted, joyful, loving, non-judgmental people.
Want-to-do-more-during-the-week people.
Have-another-round people.
Get-our-kids-together people.
Too-much people.
Fading people.
People.

people-broken-hidden
@2014 Bill LaBrie