Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Getting in Tune

  No, I'm not talking about my musical skills, which are pretty limited, though I'm trying to change that. I'm talking about perspective, my continued theme from last week. I have spent several months now working on my goals, while still sticking with the status quo which allows me to earn money while I'm trying to get the rest of this stuff in order. You gotta make some sacrifices (e.g. selling out) to get what you really want (e.g. making a living doing what I enjoy).
    Sidenote/bonus: the inspiration for my post title, and arguably the greatest band in rock and roll history: THE WHO.

    I'll admit, I've become a little despondent about my progress. I'm still enjoying working on my own projects, but I feel like my present track has hit a plateau in terms of progress toward my ultimate goals. It's been very frustrating to have the feeling that I've worked so hard and accomplished so much, while having so little to show for it.
    I feel like I need to revise my strategy, but I feel like everything is running at such a fast pace right now that I don't have quite enough time to reevaluate everything I've been working on to find a way to do it better. It's extremely frustrating to know that you're on a plateau in terms of results and productivity and not having the time to be able to improve it. If I were to stop work on these projects completely to strategize, I'd fall far enough behind that even if I came up with a better strategy, it'd take a lot longer to implement and might even undo some of the progress I've made so far.
    I have scaled back my work on a few things because I was on the verge of burn-out a few weeks ago, and it seems to have helped me get back on track a little bit, but I'm still not where I want to be with these projects. I believe in hard work, and I know nothing comes easy. I just wish I didn't also have to deal with everybody else around me trampling on my goals so that I can become their version of a productive member of society. I'm working on that in my own way with my projects; it's just a process that takes longer, and while more fulfilling, can take a long time to be lucrative, if it ever is.
    The argument against me is: you have to be realistic. You have to have a car. You have to have a place to live. You have to eat. Granted, I do have to eat, but I don't absolutely have to have a car. And if you want to get right down to it, I'd probably survive even if I didn't have a place to live.
    Case in point: I just saw a post about award-winning actors who were once homeless. And then they worked really hard for a few years, caught a break, worked really hard some more, and won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, etc.
    This was inspiring to me. Not that I want to deliberately live out of my car until such a point as I'm successful with my writing, but if these people made it to where they are after living out of their cars or at a bus station or whatever, there's hope for the rest of us with dreams. There are no hand-outs. We all have to put in the work, the perseverance, and the time to get to where we want to be.
    Sometimes that means we have to make sacrifices, and sometimes it means we have to do things that our families and friends disapprove of in order to achieve our dreams. Of course, looking like Halle Berry probably wouldn't hurt.
Success is simply getting up one more time than you fall down. 
(I attribute this to a wall-sign in Jerry Maguire,
but I'm not sure where it came from originally.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Great Morale Booster of 2013


  While I've made some great progress so far in 2013--I've already lost 4 pounds on my new diet (sidenote: counting calories sucks when you like Coke and Chipotle so much), I've added over 8,000 words to my edit-in-progress, putting it over 50,000 now [cue excited shriek], and I'm even getting back into a better exercise routine.
    Yet, 2013 has already been a little tumultuous. My car may now have transmission issues. The check engine light came back on with the same error code as before. My release date for my edit-in-progress may need to be pushed back a few weeks. And I'm still not any closer to moving out.
    However, perspective is the theme here. Whenever I feel like nothing seems to be going right, I turn to Ally McBeal. Yes, the television show. Why? Because nothing in my life ever seems as awful as she seems to think things in her life are.
    Ally McBeal always makes me feel like my life is in way better shape and the winning combination is just about to make itself known. Although season 1 and 2 did a better job of this--I'm now on season 3--her neuroses and hallucinations and self-sabotage make me feel like things around here are on the verge of turning around. It may seem silly, but if it weren't for Ally McBeal, my outlook on life would be a lot more pessimistic than it already is.
    Over time, the show has actually become funnier, too, which helps. And, Ally became more of a sympathetic protagonist. I actually hated her character when I first started watching this show, but I kept watching it because it was cathartic. Over time, especially with the addition of Lucy Liu's character, the show has become funnier, more complex, and more entertaining overall.
    If you can get through the obnoxious theme music (the show's theme, not Ally's personal theme music), you're golden. I muted the Carole King theme song from Gilmore Girls almost every episode I saw over the years because it was so annoying to me. The Ally McBeal theme has grown on me a bit (sidenote/funny coincidence: Vonda Shepherd, the theme's singer and show regular just sang the Gilmore Girls theme song in an episode I watched earlier), but it's a little too loud and not quite pop enough to be catchy and enjoyable. Unlike the theme from Friends ("I'll Be There for You") or Scrubs ("I'm No Superman").
    Back to this show's ability to help boost my morale: Money problems, job dissatisfaction, disappointment with the progress (or lack thereof) on my personal projects that I work so hard on and which mean so much to me--all of these things seem to be much less terrible circumstances than how Ally McBeal's life seems to her.
    So, if that's what it takes to keep my morale up, I guess I'm only sorry there are only 5 seasons of the show to watch. Hopefully by the time I watch the series finale, some of these issues will be resolved and I won't have to start over or find a new show.
Lillian: "...When Jesus closes a door, he opens a window."
Mary: "Yeah, so we have something to jump out of."
-Saved, 2004

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Of Cultural Norms and Ridiculous Gender Standards

  Today, I wanted to focus on a particularly ridiculous piece of news I came across recently. A court in Iowa ruled that it was legal for a dentist to fire his dental assistant for being "irresistible." Apparently her clothing and behavior was deemed inappropriate, by the dentist or possibly his wife, and he anticipated that he might experience an infidelity in his marriage if they continued to work together. I find this ruling so typically midwest, and so incredibly offensive to women everywhere.
    First of all, the woman worked there for ten years. If she had been acting or dressing inappropriately, it seems such an issue would have had precedent. A jealous spouse or a wandering spouse are no reason to fire someone who has performed their duties correctly and loyally for such a long time. Granted, I don't know the full details of the case or have photographs or anything to judge whether the woman was actually in the wrong, but I'm going to speak to the principle of the matter.
    It is not the fault of one person for another's insecurities or inability to remain loyal to their partner. If this woman were coming to work in low cut tops or really short skirts, see-through blouses or bending over more obviously than is necessary to pick up a file or a pencil, that would be one thing, but it's a dentist's office. I was under the impression that most dental assistants, as well as hygienists and dentists themselves, wear scrubs. At least they do at my dentist's office. It's the administrative people, the file clerks and receptionists, who are supposed to wear the business professional or business casual attire which might offer more freedom and opportunity to dress inappropriately.
    The frustrating thing is, once again, it's the word of one person in a position of power versus the word of another person who is in a position to be fired. Sexual harassment is supposed be under a strict "no tolerance" policy at pretty much every job in the country. It should make no different whether the harasser is a supervisor or not, and yet, office politics and issues like gender bias seem to always place the blame on the person lowest on the totem pole.
    "Oh, s/he dressed too provocatively, I couldn't help it," the higher up person says. You know what? No. If you have no self-control, that's your problem. You don't get to get away with this just because you can't keep it in your pants. And you know what, spouse/partner of no-self-control person? This won't be the last time this happens. You can demand they fire every good-looking employee in the office and they will always find a way back into the gutter. Firing others doesn't address whatever the real problem is in the relationship, and there usually is a relationship problem if the spouse is requesting the firing.
    Speaking up about harassment in the workplace is important, whether you're a man or woman, though unfortunately, it is often women who experience it. Whether your coworker or boss comments in an offensive or inappropriate way how nicely those jeans fit you, whether they make sexually or otherwise inappropriate jokes, whether they look at porn on their computer when you happen to show up for a meeting--whatever the case may be, it's important to let the right people (HR or whoever is in charge of enforcing the policy) know about it.
    If you put up with it when you're uncomfortable with the words, attention, or actions, even if they're not particularly offensive to you, you're just letting the negative environment propagate. If it makes you a narc, so be it. You have to do what you feel is right, regardless of politics or the ridiculous possibility that you may lose your job in the process. I say "ridiculous" because coming forward with something like this should never cause you concern for your job security. It's ridiculous that things still work that way in the 21st century.
    You are entitled to a safe, harassment-free, and healthy work environment. Your job may still suck, your coworkers still may not pull their weight, and you may never get that ergonomic chair or mouse you requested, but at least you don't have to put up with demeaning or offensive attitudes when you're just trying to earn a living.
Fight for your right
to a healthy work environment.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Swearing: Vulgar or Free Expression?

  I've been told I sometimes have an "unladylike" tendency toward adult language (I attribute this to being a hockey fan and befriending too many dudes in my teenage years), but I thought I had gotten better at censoring myself that it was not as widely known now as it once was, but as I edit a story I wrote just two years ago, it's quite clear I must have been a sailor in another life.
    The editing is going well, but I'm starting to realize that I may have pushed through it too quickly when I was writing it. It seems to be missing some things that will add some depth, so I've made some notes to add some more character development, and even a little bit more plot development, to clarify a few things and make the story more complete.
    One thing I've noticed, however, in addition to having rushed through the first draft a bit, is that when I write strong women, they often become a little vulgar. They adopt some more male personality or behavior traits in order to compete or keep pace with the men they are constantly surrounded by. I don't have a problem with the concept--I swear, I spend time with people who swear, and I think it's perfectly acceptable for women to swear as long as it's not over the top (e.g. every other word).
    Looking at it from a reader's perspective though, the average reader, and potentially the type of reader who might pick up a story like mine, some of my character's swearing might be a little over the top. It's not excessive and I don't think it's especially vulgar, but in some cases, it goes beyond what a woman might say among her female friends and ventures into the realm of how she would express the same sentiment or tell the same story among a bunch of male friends.
    Again, I don't find it especially problematic, it is after all how I would probably tell the story to just about anyone, but I think it might turn some readers off. Not to say my hypothetical readers are necessarily prudes or old-fashioned, but it just might be off the mark from what they would expect, and that in itself can be a turn-off.
    So, I have cleaned it up a bit. Not to the point that it isn't my character or my writing style anymore, but I do get a little Tarantino when I write dialogue sometimes, particularly if it's during a heated exchange in a scene.
    Still, to my mind, swearing is a part of modern vernacular. The English language would not really be the English language today without the innuendo, curse words, and vulgarities it has spawned over the years, and while some are just there to be insulting or ugly, others have actually helped us express ourselves in new ways.
Sticks and stones. 

+Constant Writer

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