Am I A Writer?

30 11 2014

All Work

“I’m a writer. You are a writer. Everybody writes.” ~ Anne Handley

Although I have been writing in one form or another for many years, I have never considered myself a “writer”. Part of my work in marketing every day is producing emails, website copy and social media content. And I have this silly little blog… but is it really “writing”?

As I’ve stated here many times, “Surround yourself with creative people.” It’s become my mantra, and if I ever muster up the courage it could be part of my first tattoo. I’ve been fortunate over the past two years to have met a lot of writers – authors who have a true commitment to the written word. They are artists who are true storytellers, some who I now call friends.

I’ve also attended conferences, workshops, book signings, and more than a few get-togethers in bars and restaurants. Besides the fun, I’ve used these opportunities to sponge whatever information and inspiration I could. And while I have always felt very welcome, my lack of cred certainly left me on the fringes.

That “cred” was my perspective of what goes into producing the written word – the hours, the research, the sweating over each syllable and turn of phrase. George Orwell said that “writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.” I’ve always kept that in mind when reading a story. I continue to find myself in awe of the journey… going from the smallest spark of an idea to an actual novel.

I know a few people who are full-time authors, but most I’ve met are just like me – working people with families, bills and other responsibilities. Writing is not their primary source of income. Still, they produce novels and stories in varying frequency and with vastly different levels of success. But what most have in common is a strong desire to help and promote each other, and give back to the writing community space they occupy. And as I learn more about all of the things that must happen to get published, it seems that the writing is the easiest part.

short-story2-10af47pLast week I posted on Facebook and Twitter that I was proud of myself because “I was very productive, finally finishing a long term project.” Anyone that follows me on social media knows that I’m usually not that coy, but it was very personal. That project was a work of fiction, a short story that I have been writing – off and on – for about a year. A few weeks ago I had made a promise to myself that I would finish it by Thanksgiving, so I powered through for about eight hours last weekend and completed my first draft. Yeah, it doesn’t sound like much. But when I lifted my fingers from the keyboard after applying the last bit of punctuation to that last sentence, I will admit that I allowed myself some celebration… an actual yell and fist pump. The poor dog was very confused…

So what I have now is a story… clocking in at 9,651 words over forty-five pages. It’s been put away for now, and I think I will look at it again in a couple weeks. I’ve given it to a few select people and I’m looking forward to any feedback. I don’t know what is next… a second draft? A third? Maybe it will be published one day, or maybe it completely sucks. Clearly, I haven’t thought this through! What I do know is that now I have two more ideas and can’t wait to start again!

To be honest, I don’t think I have ever felt such a sense of accomplishment. It’s partly because I did what I set out to do – getting that spark of an idea out of my head and onto paper. I also experienced what I’ve always appreciated in others – sweating over each word and sentence of my own story. But mostly, it’s because when I finally finished that first draft and threw that fist pump on the air, I was a writer.

Yes, I am a writer. That’s cred, baby…





I Love Football, But…

17 11 2014

Google-NFL-Field

“When I meet a European, the first thing I say is, ‘I’d much rather watch football than football.’ But I’m just teasing them, and they know I’d really rather watch football than football.” ~ Jarod Kintz

One may assume that because my Eagles got pounded yesterday that I am down on football and ripe for a rant. Au contraire! These issues have been eating at me for some time. But maybe the Packers have given me a push…

In case you didn’t know, I’m a big soccer fan… I’ll put it right out there! I live, sleep, eat and breathe it. But that love has only been around for less than twenty years, dating back to when my son started to play. Before that I preferred – in order – hockey, football, golf, baseball and basketball.

I still watch these sports, just not as religiously as before. There are only 24 hours in a day!! I do watch every Eagles game, a lot of Flyers games (all of the playoffs), and a lot of Phillies games, too. And I still love them all.

In any sport, there are things that could be better for the good of the game. I’m not a big fan of fighting in hockey, and I think there are just too many baseball games to make the season interesting beginning to end. But that’s just me, one opinion.

No other sport causes me as much consternation as football, especially the NFL. Don’t get me wrong… I’d love to love football. I just don’t have the patience for the rule inconsistencies, slow game play, and the prima donnas and thugs that populate the NFL rosters.

So… my opinion on what is wrong with NFL football, and some things I’d like to see changed. For what it’s worth…

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  • The Plane – The rule that a player is deemed in bounds on the sideline and back of the end zone according to the position of his feet – but deemed “in” the end zone based on the ball breaking the plane of the goal line – is strangely inconsistent and makes no sense. Everything else – touchdowns, first downs, field goals, touchbacks – are decided by the position of the ball relative to a line. Please change the sideline rule…
  • Moving The Kickoff – The league mandated that the kickoff spot would be moved forward to increase the amount of touchbacks, therefore decreasing the amount of violent hits that can cause concussions.  The stats have confirmed that there has been a reduction of injuries on kickoffs. But if the NFL is serious about eliminating concussions, remove the kick off altogether. Each team starts at the 20 yard line.
  • Charlie_Brown_Lucy_Moves_Football-1LGIcing The Kicker – The practice of calling a timeout seconds before the ball is snapped on a field goal is bush league. It very rarely works, but I do laugh riotously when it backfires on a coach. Come on, guys… grow the hell up!
  • My Time Has Value – In 2013, NFL television broadcasts ran an average of 3 hours and 10 minutes. In that time, only 11 minutes consisted of actual football plays… kickoffs, punts and plays from scrimmage. To me, that is a stunning number. One hour of the time was used for commercials, but I can live with that – I go to the bathroom much more these days.  But 17 minutes of the time was devoted to instant replays of those 11 minutes of play. Add as many as 75 minutes for shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just doing nothing between snaps. And that means I am watching people standing around doing nothing. Not the best use of my time…
  • 100514-THROW-THE-FLAG-PI-CHOfficials – There are seven officials on the field during an NFL game. SEVEN!!! It’s amazing to me how they aren’t tripping over some of the 22 players on the field!!! I do not think that officials are bad, but I do believe that instant replay has reduced their effectiveness. Nothing is sadder than watching the play end and the obvious uncertainty on the face of the officials, afraid to commit to a call. While I’m all for accuracy and getting the call right, the current system is a detriment to the flow of the game and needs a major overhaul to be a workable solution. And why does the ref have a microphone when a hand signal should explain everything (as in every sport on the planet)? And another thing… yellow flags are stupid.
  • Screen-Shot-2014-09-15-at-12.27.08-AMPriorities  – I won’t add much to the debate and outrage about the behavior of a small number of NFL players, other than my sadness that the chart on the right exists (click to enlarge). But for the good of the game for the long run, discipline needs to be taken out of the hands of people who can experience financial gain or loss as a result of such action. The furor over Ray Rice not being suspended immediately by the Ravens is a prime example. It was argued on one side that any team action was premature in that he was not charged or found guilty, while the other side called for immediate dismissal from the team.

    Cutting the bullshit… it was purely a business decision. How would the team or league be affected financially by doing something, or nothing? Weigh all of the scenarios and make a conclusion. Forget what’s right and what’s wrong… the question is always about dollars. It has nothing to do with the rights of players, and certainly not their victims.

The reality is that most of the rule changes enacted by the NFL over the past twenty years have not improved the game, but have added significant time to the game day experience. But the good news is that profits are up in the stratosphere from licensing and advertising revenue, so these are wonderful days for the NFL. And clearly the league rolls on, impervious to bad press.

Their shortsightedness will be costly as the kids raised on technology enabling immediate returns will state, by their disinterest, that they don’t have hours or dollars to waste an entire Sunday afternoon.

But that’s not me because I’m no kid, and I like football. I would just like to love it again.





Vote, Or Not

4 11 2014

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Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

I voted this morning… stopped in on my way to work. I got the sticker to prove it! I politely refused the candidate handouts on my way in, and I said my “hellos” the nice poll workers who are also my neighbors. I was in and out in three minutes.

Voting always makes me feel good about myself, and my country. I firmly believe that my vote counts, and in some small way I am involved in shaping our laws and policies. It’s interesting there is nothing explicitly stated in the constitution about our “right to vote”, only amendments that guard against discrimination – age, race, sex, etc. But the language of our constitution fills us with the pride and sense of duty that many have. We often talk of the battles fought to ensure this pride, and of those that “have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”*

True patriots have made those sacrifices, not me. But I am patriotic. I feel that pride very strongly, and voting is how I express it best.

The news is reporting about expected low voter participation, and which candidates will be adversely or positively affected. Reporters are at the various polling places talking about turnout or issues with machines. The pundits are having their day… their fifteen minutes of fame.

My social media feed is full of people talking about how they got out and voted this morning… Awesome! I’m glad. There are also statements saying that “if you don’t vote today, you have no right to complain in the future”. This notion that participating in the election gives you more rights than others makes me uneasy.

handRights… such an interesting word. Technically, most of us are “allowed” to vote without restriction. But like anything else, there are rules we have to follow… registrations, residency, frequency, etc. When we talk about rights, we should make sure that we fully understand them.

My feeling is that if you don’t vote today, you have your reasons. Maybe a last-minute business trip or perhaps you are sick or unable to get out of your house. Or maybe the candidates or issues didn’t inspire you – a sadly increasing situation.

If the spirit of our constitution inspires us to have the freedom to vote, then part of that freedom must be the choice not to vote. I’m not a constitutional law scholar, but this is the sense I make of it. So, while I revel in the opportunity to vote, I won’t look down on those who don’t think as I do.

Vote, or don’t vote. And complain all you want… enjoy that freedom of speech!

LET’S NOT GET INTO THAT MESS!

* Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, 1864