January 07, 2006
Some thoughts on Fear

Funny thing. We finally got around to sending out year-end letters to friends and family, and for many of the news items we noted that the reader could find more details by visiting my website.

At around the time as we started preparing the letters, I stopped posting to the website. Which means that if anyone has been visiting my site of late, they've found nothing new except lame wishes for a pleasant end of the year.

It hasn't been for a lack of things on my mind. There's been more than enough subjects I've been wanting to comment on. The current bribe scandals unfolding in both houses of Congress, the continuing nonsense being referred to as "Teach the Debate", the idea that I should make up some New Years Resolutions, parallels between the war in Iraq and the Spanish-American War, the status of the Patriot Act, and possibly the most profound recent event, Jessica Simpson's pending divorce*.

No, it's been fear. All writers occasionally bump into a block of some sort. Some find themselves daunted by the blank page. Others find themselves bereft of ideas. Still others are thwarted by the internal censor. "No, don't write that. You could get into trouble for writing that." Therein lies my own block. The internal censor has been my bugaboo.

The internal censor has been warning me lately not to dive too far into the issues that touch upon religiosity. Don't want to offend any of my family or friends who feel passionately about their beliefs (or disbeliefs).

Likewise, because I find myself simply overcommitted with work and family commitments, I am not taking the time to be as well informed on contemporary political issues as I would like to be. So my internal censor cautions me against political punditry lest I make a fool of myself.

The problem has not been confined to my blog -- although, certainly there are many topics I'd like to present to you that discretion dictates I make just a wee bit less public than this House of Cards. But private and semi-private means of communication are also proving to be a challenge for me these days.

Having occasionally been chastised for being too informal in my dealings with clients and coworkers, I often find myself writing e-mail messages complete with very direct communication about how I feel regarding a certain course of action, only to delete that message and write something a little less forthright. (This kind of self-censorship might be referred to as "maturity".) This is probably as it should be, but it fits as part of a larger pattern: it has created a habit that has extended to my online journal entries. I've got about five posts I've written that currently reside in my content management system in "draft (unpublished)" mode because, after writing them, I thought better of making them public.

I'm on several listservs where participants have practically begged to be slapped upside the head, but after writing my little rejoinders... I delete them and simply let it go. Better to let someone else do the e-slapping, and take the resulting heat that follows.

What the hell is that all about? Who am I, and what did "they" do with the real me?

Someone on a listserv I'm on checked out this website after I'd mentioned that photos of Alexander and Nolan appear here, and they were kind enough to say that I'm "interesting." How messed up is this -- I've been afraid, ever since, that I might post something that is not interesting. The internal censor again:

"Dude. Don't talk about your 'Solipsist Manifesto'. It won't be interesting enough. No more baby pictures! They're not interesting enough!"

So, yeah. My writers block has been fear -- the Internal Censor that kills with a thousand paper cuts.

Okay. Now that I've admitted my insecurities, let's move on. At least I've posted something. I'll leave the task of posting something *interesting* for another day.

* By way of apology, I should acknowledge that anyone who reads this entry more than fifteen minutes from now will wonder who Jessica Simpson is (or was). Sadly, I'll have forgotten by then, as well.

Posted by at 01:54 AM in the following Department(s): Writing | Comments (2)
 January 17, 2006
Emotional Truth

Let me see if I understand this correctly. I don't have much time to read the news these days, so all of my information comes to me via intermediaries of intermediaries. So when I heard this, I doubted it could be true.

Some guy wrote a novel that is loosely based upon, among other things, exaggerated stories from his own life. His publisher agrees to buy his book and sell it as a memoir instead of selling it as fiction. It becomes a bestseller as a memoir, one of the very top sellers of 2005 thanks to an endorsement from a certain famous book club persona and talk show host. Then a website dedicated to uncovering such things publishes their evidence that the memoir is, in fact, a work of fiction. Pandemonium ensues.

Do I have the gist of that right?

The book club persona/talk show host as well as the publisher have defended the book in question, saying that if it is not, strictly speaking, true in any real sense of the word, it is nonetheless emotionally true.

In doing research for a novel I am working on, I have read a great many books on certain New Age topics (both defending and deflating). One such book defended its subject matter in the face of contrary evidence as being nonetheless "emotionally true". The subject in question was past life regression -- I don't want to get too into that topic on this site, since it's relevant to my work-of-fiction-in-progress (and, I've learned from my Do Over project what a bad idea it can be to publicly discuss works-in-progress). But... if past life regression's "emotional truth" helps in therapy to resolve real patients' real issues, then that's great. If, on the other hand, it is being presented as an actual truth as opposed to a mental construct, then it must hold up to certain standards for establishing what is real and what is not.

Since readers of this site are generally well read and above average intelligence (and, may I say, damn good looking, as well), I probably don't have to go into the rules of evidence and scientific method that should be employed to establish that which is real/true and that which is not real/not true.

The New York Times opined that the book in question should have been advertised as Fiction rather than Non Fiction. While I agree, them's still mighty strong words coming from the Times, which is becoming increasingly notorious as peddlers of Fiction in the guise of News.

But what of it? Why doesn't the Times use this as their Get Out of Jail Free Card (tm) and tell the world that Judith Miller's and Jayson Blair's fabrications and misinformations were "Emotionally True", which is why they didn't bother -- nor need to bother -- with anything so mundane as "facts." (Those pesky facts again.)

For that matter, the current Presidential administration has been operating under an Emotionally True doctrine ever since taking office in 2001. That Al Queda was based in Afghanistan was not only emotionally true, but also actually true. Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, on the other hand... well, maybe that wasn't so much factually as it was emotionally true. Likewise, North Korea's nutcase leadership rushing headlong into a nuclear confrontation with the US -- factually true, but it doesn't have the emotional resonance, so let's ignore it and maybe it'll go away.

In fact, isn't that the whole problem with Kim Jong-Il? He's not feewing the wuv, so maybe a big ol' nuclear tantrum will get some attention.

If "Emotional Truth" is enough of a justification to absolve fraud (and, after all, isn't deliberately mislabeling fiction as "non-fiction" and "news" exactly that?), then by all means let's embrace this New World Order. Let's embrace the teaching of Intelligent Design as "science" and the idea that States' Rights trump the Feds (except where the States disagree with the Right). Let us further embrace the idea that all criminals are victims, all victims are righteous, and whenever something goes wrong, it must be the government's responsibility.

Let us embrace the notion that we all deserve more pay, but that prices should never rise. That Walmart is pure evil, except when we find a really good deal on a plasma screen TV there. That the millionaire ball players (and managers and owners) of the Boston Redsox were "cursed" until they won the World Series. That it's wrong for male teachers to take advantage of their female students, but it's okay for female teachers to fuck their male students.

If it appeals to us emotionally, let's embrace it. If it rings true, let's believe it. Life is too short to bother with the real truth. As with aspartame and other substitutes: Emotional Truth now; consequences later.

Posted by at 04:07 PM in the following Department(s): Essays | Comments (2)
 January 24, 2006
My Son, France

Alexander: Where's Mommy?

Me: She's at work. She'll be home soon.

Alexander: Where's Nolan?

Me: He's here in bed. Let him sleep.

Alexander: NOLAN, WHERE ARE YOU?!?!

Nolan: WAHHHH!

Me: Shhh. Maybe we can still get him back to sleep.

Alexander: (jumping up and down on bed) NO! LAN! NO! LAN! NO! LAN!

Me: Thank you for making the world a better place through your cooperation.

Posted by at 09:16 AM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (1)
My Son, the Soviet Union

Alexander: Nolan gave me the train!

Me: No he didn't. You took it from him.

Alexander: He gave me.

Me: I watched you take it from him. You reached over and grabbed it.

Alexander: He gave it to me!

Posted by at 12:33 PM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (0)

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