DraftsWe’re all drafts.  Our lives are spent making notes on the backs of hands, in files, or on scraps of paper, musing on half-finished ideas, starting and abandoning projects, and constantly revising what we do finish.  I like to be busy, I like to listen, and I love telling stories.

These desires, for a long time, have been mutually exclusive.  I am slowly learning to make them work together. My main tools during this time are mindfulness, self-compassion, and compassion for others.

I recommend metta meditation that you can access on the Insight Timer app if you’re so inclined.  It may not make us more “finished,” but it can help make a more serene world as we create the drafts that will become our legacies.

Image credit: Pixabay.

Cramped Futures

Parked cars

I like inventing futures.  It’s fun to think of what humans will be like a thousand years from now.  There are the “macro” factors, like economics, sexuality, art, politics, and starships (of course).  But part of the fun is also thinking of the minutiae.


  • Will we still drink coffee in the year 3000?
  • Will schools and learning be drastically different?
  • Would people commute to jobs? (Will people have jobs?)
  • How would one a utility upgrade infrastructure, especially if the technology was put in place in the year 2538? (And will we still use the current methods to mark time?)
  • Would the environment of a world fundamentally alter the biology of people who lived there?
  • Will we still live in neighborhoods?

Even if none of these considerations end up in a finished work, I think it’s still fun to think about, because it helps me live in a constructed world.  I wonder how we might (and might not) get out of various challenges we encounter.

A current challenge I live with is population density.  I live in Oregon, where the law ensures an urban growth boundary around each city’s perimeter.  It is meant to limit sprawl and preserve green spaces, and as a second-generation environmentalist, I applaud it.  It achieves long-term preservation through public policy and makes a much more meaningful impact than “do one thing” actions like recycling a tub of yogurt.

There’s a problem with this kind of policy:  it runs into human nature.

What happens when you put a boundary around a city?  Well, you create neighborhoods with homes spaced six feet apart from each other and streets designed for two-way traffic (barely) with illegally-parked cars at each curb.

You have the neighborhood where I’ve lived for seven years.

Few homes on my street use their garages for their cars.  Most use them for storage.  And most have two (sometimes three or four cars) per home.  Guess where all the cars are parked?!  It may seem like a trivial problem, but this kind of congestion is a safety hazard, because it makes it difficult for first responders to save lives, it is dangerous because you have to pull halfway into a cross-street to see if a car is coming your way, and it doesn’t solve the whole “carbon emissions” problem at all.  While writing this post, I came upon a blog (Focus on San Antonio by SimplyFineSAHomes.com) discussing this same problem in San Antonio, Texas.

Apparently professors at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) published a book in 2012 about the subject:  Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century.   The blog quotes the book’s co-author Jeanne Arnold (also a professor of anthropology at UCLA): “the typical household had a car parked in the driveway, a car parked in the street and a garage packed with heirlooms, clothes, shoes, bikes, toys, even laundry.”

So, to my mind, the county and city planners are ignoring human nature, and sometimes common sense.  One case in point is a planned development in Beaverton, Oregon.  Driven by population forecasts, looking into the crystal ball 50 years(!) into the future, planners designated thousands of acres for development, and then annexed the land.  According to the Oregonian, the development is meant to accommodate 7,000 housing units; 56% of those units would be high-density town homes or condos.  These would exist in the city area; larger lots would be located in the unincorporated county areas.

Residents have raised concerns that the roads are already at over-capacity, but another Oregonian article includes this telling quote:  “Finding the money for road improvements is one of the biggest hurdles for transportation planning, according to city officials.”  (Full disclosure:  I freelance for the Oregonian Media Group, but I didn’t work on this series of stories.)  And it isn’t helped when voters fail to approve funding road improvements (which is what occurred on Election Day this November).

This is a classic example of multiple needs:  housing, transportation, schools, and infrastructure improvement.  The process is slow and includes strange designations like Area 6-B.  You’ll note that the reportage doesn’t really discuss that people tend to ignore the narrowness of the streets and inadequacy of their home’s storage.  I’m all in favor of preserving green spaces and keeping the rural reserves intact.  I think that they need to understand that those housing units do not have enough space (or parking spaces) for the families they want to attract.  A simple survey, or even city councilors and county commissioners walking through these densely packed neighborhoods would be a wake-up call for how projections and reality do not meet.

As I construct my own worlds with their own challenges, it’s not difficult for me to project that even in civilization with thousands of worlds would still have infrastructure problems. I imagine that certain worlds would be densely packed and others would be more sparsely populated.  I think good intentions gone awry would also play a major role, which is clearly the case in Oregon.  Economics would play an important role (a galactic civilization would have its 1%ers).

As I’ve worked on this blog post, there were several reports of airline customers getting angry with each other because of the unpleasantly-cramped quarters in airplanes.  This is directly driven by profits.  I remember a time when two people could walk side-by-side down an aisle with the beverage cart in the middle, and I’m not that aged.  Airlines have squeezed more seats onto planes and then squeezed seats, inch-by-inch.  This happens because we let it happen to ourselves.  I speak from experience.  I usually think, “oh, it’s just a three-hour flight.  Then I’ll be out of here.”  A strong consumer response would lead to market changes and legislation.  But, with governmental regulation, you’d be back to the “road of good intentions” that we experience with neighborhood planning (and, thus, my attempt to tie this post together).

All politics are local. Even galactic ones.

Photo credit:  © Dga1958 | Dreamstime.comCars Parked On The Street Photo

Facebook Purgatory

Concept of dislike © Ohmaymay  via Dreamstime

It seems like a social media rite of passage to write about quitting Facebook.  Many hate its privacy (or anti-privacy) policies. Then there’s the company’s brazen admittance that it messed with its users emotions.  I get it.  I’m not a fan (friend?), either.  I’ve deactivated my account before, and I haven’t had the mobile app in years.  But I still have a profile, and I still like and occasionally make comments, but my updates are minimal.  It’s Facebook Purgatory.

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Father’s Day

The last time I spent time with my Dad, before the end, was around June 5, 2011.  He had just recovered from surgery, and I wanted to see him and spend a couple of days with him. We went to Chicago Street Deli in Shawnee, Oklahoma, I took a huge coffee to go.  He drove us to the part of Shawnee that had the country club and newer developments. We used to do that every Saturday the last time I lived in Shawnee (around 2000-2003). We wouldn’t talk much, just enjoy each other’s company as he pointed out if someone we knew still lived in a house. We always made fun of one house that had a garish orange color. Then we drove back to the house where I grew up. I didn’t know at the time it would be the last time I spent time with Dad when he was well, but it will always be one of my most favorite memories of him.

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Whenever I want to type, “last year was challenging,” I always feel the need to write about the year before that for context, because that year was challenging, too.  But then that year requires the previous year for context, and so on.  I have to go back to when my life went from manageable and relatively calm to one filled with precipitous highs and lows across every facet of my life. 

I believe there is a line in our lives when we become not only self-sufficient and self-supporting, but when our loved ones (whether they’re children, spouses, parents, or grandparents) begin to depend on us, while we juggle the responsibilities of our own lives.  For me, that’s when I turned 31.

Now’s the part where a blog narrative usually gives details, and this is where I usually stumble.  As you can see from the few posts I’ve made this year, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with revealing personal details about my life. I come from a long line of “non-whiners” … we just shrug off whatever setback has come into our lives and move forward, inexorably.  More importantly, much of the tumult occurred to loved ones, and I want to respect their privacy.  But I’m also a writer, and the entire point of writing is to reveal.  I admire writers like the late Jay Lake or my friend and interviewee Steven Harper Piziks.  They’ve fearlessly discussed the highs and the lows of their lives.  They also wrote about mundane topics and reviewed films or books.

It’s become clear to me that while I work on projects for other people, and my own projects, I need a platform to just … write.

So here we are.  I’m not sure where this latest writing journey will take me, but I’m planning to find out.  I will write at least a couple of times per month, with one planned recurring topic.  Stay tuned for more on that.

Your comments are always welcome.  So, if you’re willing, please tell me when you first considering yourself an adult?


The First Draft

In the early 1990s, George R.R. Martin (GRRM) called it quits with Hollywood and hunkered down at his home in New Mexico.  He was tired of being told to cut his scripts down, and he wanted to write a sprawling epic that was not constrained by budgets or other meddlesome hands.  He began to write his A Song of Ice and Fire Series (which the mainstream public primarily knows as Game of Thrones).

GRRM, of course, has weathered criticism for the length of time that occurs between his novels. I’ve been a fan of ASOIAF since 2000, and I’m definitely someone who gets impatient with the delays.  But as I was thinking about his books, and their relatively recent mainstream fame, I’ll bet there are times when GRRM wishes for the peace and serenity of working on that first draft.  When he started writing the series, he was a well-known figure in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror fandom, and he obviously had contacts in Hollywood, but the Ice and Fire novels hadn’t hit the bestseller lists, and he hadn’t achieved his current level of mainstream fame.

And that got me to thinking about my own fiction and my friends’ projects.

All writers are basically GRMM when we face a blank page on our computer, tablet, or notebook.

I’m a writer who has a very strong urge to self-edit.  It’s actually a personality trait (which is a topic for another blog post), but it can be oppressive when I’m working on a new story or project.  I’m learning to let go and just enjoy the initial process of drafting, of creating itself.  It’s okay to go onto strange tangents in the first draft stage, and it’s okay to write scenes and dialogue that are not polished.  It’s a draft.  The first draft.  It needs to live and breathe and take its first few imperfect and awkward steps.

Because I know that one day, external success or not, I’ll think back happily to the moments of writing a first draft, when the future was unknown and it was just me, the story, and the characters.

A Tale of Two Blogs

I mentioned in my last post on this blog that I would be moving all topics related to my job as a freelance copywriter and editor to a new blog.  That worked out; I wrote several blog posts on copywriting or editing topics.  But I wanted to also write about the films I saw or stories I read, or I wanted to comment on the state of movie making or publishing.

I didn’t write about those topics at my new site, because my home page shows my latest blog post, and discussing Star Trek Into Darkness might be too cognitively dissonant for someone just trying to find info on my freelance writing services!

Meanwhile, this blog collected Internet dust.  I didn’t want to delete it, since it’s attached to my author and screenwriter website.  Some older posts remained  excellent lead generators for my small business.

And so, with the new year rolling around, I decided to engage in an experiment.  I will continue to discuss copywriting/editing/marketing at Enlighten Writing.  I will talk about anything not related to commercial freelance writing here.

I hope you’ll join the conversation.

If you arrived at this blog seeking my help on a business writing or editing project, head over to Enlighten Writing, where you’ll find lots of information on how I can help you!  Or you can send me an e-mail. :-)

New Site/New Year

Happy Almost New Year!  I’ve made some changes to my business. Enlighten Writing is now the home of my freelance writing and editing business.  All of this blog’s posts currently exist at the Enlighten Writing site.

So … what to do with this blog?  Honestly, I’m not sure right now.   The site that bears my name is now a showcase for my fiction works.  My screenplay, Indian Errand Day,  won the  Willamette Writers Kay Snow Award in 2011.   And my short story, “The Unrequited Love of Captain Davis,” appears in the anthology .

If this post is the most recent thing on this page, well it just means I’m still trying to decide what to do with it. ;-)

I hope you all have a safe and happy new year!

The Importance of Website Content

Mahesh Raj Mohan

Website content is probably the most viewed content today.  And yet, I think it’s often written as an afterthought.  Sometimes website content focuses on over-selling a business, or it doesn’t include enough information about a product.  For example, a client of mine (a Portland-area dentist) told me that my home page didn’t sell my services well enough.  Talk about throwing the gauntlet down!

I based my former site design and color scheme on my business cards.   My client gave me points for branding myself, but he pointed out that with the emergence of tablets like the iPad, site designs should focus on simpler graphics with more information about services.  The verdict is still out on that, I think, but I definitely agreed that my site needed an upgrade.

I included more information about my services, and I included a testimonial. Check out the results, and let me know what you think!

If you, or someone you know, needs website content, my initial consultation is always free.  I love learning about different businesses and organizations, so let’s talk!

The Lucky Seven

Although Twitter and Facebook dominate the blogging and sharing spaces in our lives, there is something pretty special about blog memes.   A typical blog meme entails some kind of a list, then you “tag” your friends, ask them to make their own lists, tag more friends, and so on.  I fondly remember a few blog “meme tags” when I was a more frequent blogger (2004 to 2006).

I was thrilled when Julia Munroe Martin (“wordsxo” on Twitter) tagged me for the Lucky Seven Challenge, which has some pretty straightforward rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your WIP or latest book.

2. Count down seven lines.

3. Copy the 7 sentences that follow and post them.

4. Tag 7 other authors.

Julia chose to list the sentences on page 7 since page 77 had a huge plot turn, which makes me wonder what it is!  I thought about doing something similar because I wasn’t sure I even had 77 pages yet!

I’ve written about my novel’s progress here and at Natalia Sylvester’s blog, and I kick my behind every day about various aspects of the book (progress, plot, characters, setting … you name it).  But I saw that I had indeed written a total of 88 pages (on the actual document; there are hundreds of pages scattered in other files and in two Moleskine notebooks).

It turns out that The Lucky Seven tags a few sentences that I like:

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