#SoCS – 10/28/17 – Creativity

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Which should I take, the black or the navy? That was one of the questions I asked myself as I packed my clothes last evening. I am soon off to the ocean and, along with color-coordinating my wardrobe, I found myself thinking about all kinds of things while packing. One of them was how busy I always am and how I look forward to my months by the sea. My thoughts aren’t exactly rocket science, but I do want to share them with you. The busier I get, the less creative my writing becomes. My inner finance professor is screaming at me to call that a negative correlation. The writer in me simply calls the lack of creativity a problem.

My months at the ocean are a time when my life slows down and simplifies. I’ve always thrived on being busy and the complexities of life. As I’ve taken up this career of writing, particularly the writing of fiction, I’ve found that my previous way of life doesn’t work as well for me. Being busy and having a complicated life does not foster creativity. My head is simply too full of the details of my life for creativity to find a foothold. Perhaps that’s why my first career was in finance. Numbers and even the explanation of what those numbers mean do not require much creativity. They are right or wrong with explanations that are obvious. There may be a bit of creativity, but not much.

My creative outlet during my years as a finance professor was primarily music. Specifically, playing piano, generally classical music. I could lose myself, and everything that was in my head, during hours at the piano. I always wrote, but during those years, I wrote either academic writings or non-fiction.

Fiction writing is a completely different experience. Unless I give myself time to be quiet and still, to slow down and make myself feel instead of think, then the creativity needed to write fiction just doesn’t come. This is a tough gig for someone like me. Being still and letting myself feel is a new experience and I’m not very good at it. Developing these skills makes me feel vulnerable. Out of control. I haven’t allowed myself to slow down and feel in a very long time. It’s scary.

Scary or not, writing fiction makes it necessary. So soon, I’m off to my island in the sun. To experience a slower life where I don’t live inside my head quite so much. Instead I let myself have new experiences and actually feel the feelings they arouse. For me, that’s what arouses the passion that it takes to write good fiction. We’ll see what I come back with when I incorporate it into the books and stories I’m writing. Perhaps I’ll even come back as a more well-rounded human being again?

SoCS

 

 

#SoCS 9/23/2017 – Hot/Cold

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When a writer is running hot on a writing project, it’s easy to write. The ideas are coming hard and fast. Creativity is at its highest. Everything is going well. You’re not always running hot. Sometimes, either you or the project grows cold for no particular reason. Burnout may be the case if it’s a long project. When that happens, it may be time to switch projects for a while. Writers usually have several going at once. A couple on the front burner. A couple on the back burner. Several in the desk drawer. That’s the case with me.

I’m in the middle of a long writing project that’s grown a little cold to me. It’s sagging. I’m not sure of the direction I want to take. I feel my creativity flagging. My ideas are not flowing as freely. My characters are getting boring to me. So, I’m going to shove it to the back burner for a month or two. I’m going to see if I get my enthusiasm back for the project. It’s a project that’s important to me, so I am, in fact, sure that I will. I need some thought, some new sources of inspiration, some time to sleep on it, some time to think of the direction I should take. Such a thing often happens to a writer in the middle of a novel or in the middle of any long writing project. You lose your way. Particularly if it is a complex story, with lots of characters and subplots. Mine is that – a complex story.

While I work on getting my mojo back for my long project, I’m going to tackle a shorter project. I think it’s going to be a novella. Novellas seem to be gaining popularity among the reading public as we have less time and more commitments. After doing my market research, there are new publishers out there for this shorter work. I’m not going to give too much away about my project, but I’m excited about it. I have a good idea which may actually dovetail into my longer project.

Stay tuned!

 

He’s Toast

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April was up at 5 a.m., fixing Keith’s breakfast. Eggs and toast. Marriage didn’t seem good to April. He never made her feel loved. She tried all kinds of things to endear herself to him. This morning, she had even cut little heart shapes out of his toast.

Keith walked into the breakfast room and sat down without speaking. She served his breakfast. He started to eat and looked at the pieces of toast.

“April,” he said, “if all the bread has holes in it, take it back to the store.”

April threw the skillet on the floor and walked out.

 

Photo Credit Kelvin M. Knight

Pretty Terrible

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Marianne has been in with the doctors a long time. That’s what Marianne’s husband, Joseph, was thinking as he sat in the hospital waiting room. He noticed the flowers. Pretty. He hated hospitals. He’d just focus on the flowers while he waited on Marianne.

“Excuse me. Mr. Hayworth?”

Joseph jumped. He’d nodded off, staring at those flowers.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Hayworth. Your wife has a collapsed lung. We accidentally caused it to collapse at the end of the procedure. She has to stay until it resolves. She’s in Room 412.”

Joseph was still trying to wake up. He jumped up, thanked the doctor, and shook his hand. The doctor left and walked quickly down the hall.

“Now what?” Joseph thought.

He walked over to the flowers, snatched them out of the pots, and started walking quickly to Room 412 to see Marianne.

140 words

Photo Credit Shivamt25

Dover and the Dignitary

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“Some big shot is flying into Dover this morning or so they told me.”

“Who told you, Jack?”

“The Captain. He wouldn’t say who it was. Very hush hush and all.”

“I wonder why such a secret?”

The three men drove the tank toward the Dover airfield. They were part of the artillery detail that was scheduled to greet the plane of the incoming dignitary. U.S. dignitaries would be at the foot of the stairway to the plane, standing on the red carpet. They didn’t know it would be the President.

Jack said, “It must be someone really important for them to bring them in secretly to Dover since we normally have the funeral and mortuary duties.”

“Strange use of such a big runway,” commented one of the men, as they lined up in formation.

A British Air Force jet landed and taxied into place. Out walked a small boy and Prince William, second in line to the British throne. All the men clapped when little Prince George waved. The men were shocked when they found out later that Prince William was going to fly with the American Air Force during maneuvers in South Korea.

Photo credit to A Mixed Bag

Play Ball!

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David climbed to the top bench of the falling-down bleachers at the old baseball field. When he was a child, he played Little League baseball here with all his buddies. He looked to his left and saw the dugout. It was in disrepair. He could see behind it from  his vantage point. Even the yard was grown up. Who was taking care of this place? No one? He knew the field wasn’t used anymore. Kids today would rather play video games or surf social media on their phones.

David had done well in life. He had an idea. Why not get his buddies together and raise money to repair the field. Try to start up the Little League teams again. He started making phone calls. HIs buddies were interested. They went to work.

The following spring, flyers were up all over the city advertising Little League. On sign-up day, the field was beautiful. There were long lines of young boys anxious to try out for Little League teams. David’s hometown, once again, had a thriving Little League program thanks to David and his friends.

The words, Play Ball, sounded wonderful to them and to the entire town.

The Gothic School

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“This place scares me, Amanda,” Carrie, a student nurse, remarked to her friend.

“Yes, Carrie, it scares me too. I can’t believe we have to live here during our nurse’s training,” Amanda replied.

“You know this place used to be a hospital for people with smallpox?” Carrie said.

The girls were walking along the corridor of the Renfield building, now a training center for nurses. They were returning to their rooms.

The corridor became cold and the girls heard a moan.

“What was that?”

In front of them, there was a dim apparition. A person walking and moaning. They ran.

100 words

Photo Credit Roger Bulltot

 

Lessons From Hurricane Katrina: Hurricane Harvey

 

Today, August 29, 2017, is the twelfth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the five deadliest hurricanes and the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. As we note this anniversary, we watch with horror as Hurricane Harvey continues to drop unprecedented amounts of rain on southeastern Texas and, now, Louisiana. Hurricane Harvey is now the wettest hurricane ever recorded in the U.S., surpassing Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978. There are places in Texas where more than 50 inches of rain have fallen.

The tragedy in Houston, TX cannot be calculated. It will take years, perhaps decades, for Houston, our fourth largest city to recover. It is impossible to know how long it will take for the water to recede. The rivers and streams are still rising. The reservoirs are failing. The underpasses and bridges are failing. The number of homes that are destroyed cannot be determined yet. We don’t even know how many people have died. The ongoing tragedy in Houston, Texas is not over. In fact, Hurricane Harvey has moved back off into the Gulf and is expected to move back onshore. Houston may yet get more rain..

Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 Hurricane when it came ashore in southeastern Louisiana. Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm when it landed north of Corpus Christi, around Victoria and Rockford, Texas.

Hurricane Katrina took over 1200 lives, primarily in New Orleans. The storm caused the levees to fail in New Orleans. The city flooded and the flood did not recede for many weeks. Many fled New Orleans and many of those went to Houston. Those from Houston who could flee and wanted to flee could not go to New Orleans. That city is already flooded. The new pumps installed by the Corp of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina have failed, at least some of them. The flood in New Orleans had nothing to do with Hurricane Harvey at that time.

My question. Why have the pumps in New Orleans not been repaired? Prior to hurricane season?

New Orleans had not recovered before Hurricane Harvey. Now, a flooded New Orleans is getting the rain from Hurricane Harvey. One has to wonder what is going to happen to that wonderful city this time.

Houston is using a large center much like New Orleans Superdome to house people who had to evacuate and they may have to open more large facilities. Will the lessons learned from the Superdome tragedy help the mayor of Houston make appropriate decisions? Do you agree with the decision not to evacuate Houston? How would you evacuate a city of 6.5 million people?

Hurricane Harvey is ongoing. The scope of this tragedy is hard to wrap one’s mind around. Did Hurricane Katrina teach us some lessons about how to cope with a tragedy such as Hurricane Harvey?

Full disclosure: I have three cousins who live in Houston, all in different parts of the city. So far, they are all right. One is without power. We’re keeping in touch and there is water very close to their homes. We have no idea yet what will happen.

 

Defunding Planned Parenthood and Government Welfare

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When someone mentions the defunding of Planned Parenthood to me, I don’t dignify that comment with a response. The very idea of defunding an organization that has helped so many women is offensive to me. My feelings on this subject has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that some Planned Parenthood’s offer abortions. My feelings have everything to do with how much Planned Parenthood has helped not only women, but men, since its inception.

They offer pap smears that screen for cancer, a variety of birth control methods, including compassionate abortion in some cases, HIV services, LGBT services, services for men, and more.

Planned Parenthood offers general health services for low-income women. Women who are either receiving some sort of government welfare or, if they become pregnant with a child, will have to receive government welfare. Women don’t become pregnant by themselves. If Planned Parenthood is responsive to low income women, they are also assisting the men who are their partners. The men involved in an unplanned pregnancy might also need government welfare. The services that Planned Parenthood offers can keep a couple, not just a woman, off the welfare rolls.

The current Congress and President, as part of the conservative movement in the U.S., has been determined to defund Planned Parenthood on the federal level and turn whatever is left over to the states. This Congress and President also want to severely cut back the Medicaid program, our current version of government welfare. The two initiatives don’t seem to be compatible. Cut Medicaid and Planned Parenthood? Where are women and men who are low-income and possibly out of a job going to get health services, particularly in the face of a pregnancy? Where are low-income women going to get birth control services, along with family planning advice?

Does the conservative government really think that low-income women are just going to stop having children? They have to know that such a scenario is ridiculous. They will keep having children and the welfare rolls will swell. Emergency room visits will also swell as the women will have no health care options.

Does the conservative movement in the U.S. care? My thoughts? They will only care when it starts costing them money. They won’t care about the men and women they are hurting in the process.

Other posts by other bloggers:

What Gives White Men the Right to Take Away a Woman’s Right to Basic Health Care?

Coal Mining, Appalachia, and Alternative Industries

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I’ve written several articles on the plight of the Appalachian people and the occupation of coal mining always comes up. Many coal miners cast their vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. They will see no long-term benefit in their chosen occupation. It is a fact that Donald Trump dropped a regulation that stopped coal mine owners from dumping waste water into rivers and streams. It is also a fact that since he became President, a deep mine about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh came online. That mine contains metallurgical coal, not thermal coal and 90 percent of the coal mined in the U.S. is thermal coal. What’s more, this mine, the Acosta mine, was planned in September of 2016, long before Trump’s election. It created about 100 jobs.

Since Donald Trump became President, about 1300 coal mining jobs have been created. Even if he drops coal mining regulation after regulation, it will only stem the tide of the loss of coal mining jobs temporarily. The rise of natural gas as an alternative source of energy has seen to that as has automation.

Donald Trump could do something to help coal miners. He could support retraining of miners and give tax breaks to alternative energy manufacturing corporations if they would locate in coal mining country. Former coal miners need stipends in order to feed their families while they learn new occupations. Firms like wind farms and solar companies could be promised tax breaks if they would locate near where the miners live. Those would be positive things that the President could do for the miners instead of making them empty promises. Alternative energy firms need tax breaks to locate in coal country because geographic access is difficult.

There is one thing that coal miners could do to help themselves. They could relocate. I understand their wish to stay in the place where they are, where their family is. My mother’s family came from Appalachia and I spent 27 years teaching Appalachian young people on a university level. Sometimes, you have to make hard choices and one of them is that you do not sit and starve in place. You learn the lessons of the past when there was an out-migration from Appalachia to find jobs.

Unless the world changes in a way we don’t expect, coal mining is a dying industry. If you are a miner or former miner, don’t die with it. There is something better out there for you.