Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Monthly Archives: March 2024

It Had to Happen Sooner or Later

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Against all odds, I somehow made it five years without COVID, Flu, RSV, or even a cold.

Until yesterday. Whatever’s got me under the weather, it’s not COVID, and certainly nothing serious. Just annoying as fuck.

But let’s take a moment to appreciate my rather remarkable run of good luck. I don’t think it can be attributed to some kind of super-powered immune system, although I do think mine is robust. As an ER nurse, I’m constantly exposed to every respiratory virus known to man. Four years ago, I worked the front lines of one of the hardest-hit ERs in NYC during the first wave of the COVID pandemic. No need to rehash any of that now except to say that I’ve worn an N95 mask at work from March 11, 2020, until today.

More specifically, I put on my N95 in the parking lot at work and only take it off to eat (by myself) and go to the bathroom (where I rehydrate). Other than that it stays on until I walk out into the ambulance bay at the end of my shift.

Masking is why I haven’t gotten an upper respiratory viral infection for five years. This cold (or whatever it is) was probably picked up at the gym, where I no longer mask, so it’s just an inevitable annoyance of being alive.

But my five-year streak has to be the longest cold-free stretch of my life and should be celebrated. Just saying that is starting to make me feel better already.

Solving the World’s Problems

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When everything seems hopeless, just do something nice for someone else. You’ll feel better because you made theme feel better. Mission accomplished.

See how easy it is to change the world?

Poor Things

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So Emma Stone won the “Best Actress” Academy Award for “Poor Things?”

She should have won a goddamn MacArthur Genius Grant.

Seriously, I get that art is a subjective thing, but her performance in this stunningly original film was simply jaw-dropping. After debating whether to take in yet another two-and-a-half hour film, I decided to give it a shot and watched the thing last night. I sat there like a six-year-old seeing The Wizard of Oz for the first time, glued to my seat. Didn’t so much as get up to pee. Yeah, it’s that fucking good.

So, kudos to Director Yorgos Lanthimos (and everyone else who contributed to this). Each of you deserves all the credit you get for this unclassifiable masterpiece.

But Emma Stone? WTF!? This is a performance for the ages

Lost On The Wilder Shores Final

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Today, I completed reading (what I thought was the final edit) of “Lost On The Wilder Shores” out loud and, of course, made many more changes before saving the manuscript in a folder labeled “Final for Query Submissions.” So, I guess my February 23rd post was a month premature. Oh well. Writing is a stepwise endeavor, and this is my first novel. I knew this was the final step, but was surprised at how many (admittedly minor) changes I made. Duly noted.

Important note 1: The final manuscript isn’t really done until you’ve read the entire goddamn thing out loud. It’s shocking how many changes you’ll make to something that’s already been exhaustively edited. Mind you—I already went through this process with revisions one through four, but they’re not this revision.

Important note 2: After two years and ten months, I still love this book and know that it has an audience. The size of that audience, however, remains unknown. First, people have to know it exists.

Important note 3: My loose plan is to query agents for a year (or get 100 rejections—whichever comes first), then self-publish if no one picks it up. This is going to be hard, but I’ve got a few years of submitting short stories to literary journals under my belt. Although I have published nine, I can safely say that rejection is the norm. It’s just part of the game—the sooner you can accept this, the less painful it becomes.

Important note 4: REJECTION DOESN’T MEAN WHAT YOU’VE WRITTEN ISN’T GOOD. At the same time, it goes without saying that you should constantly be working to improve, but please don’t assume your work sucks just ’cause it keeps getting rejected. It would appear that there are more good writers than there are readers.

But enough blathering, please join me (imagine large crowd chanting) in the cheer of the day:

Hurrah, Hurray! It’s a red-letter day! Today I finished my first novel!

Memory (Part 1)

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The first thirty or so years of my adult life, I was about as serious a musician as one could be. That is to say, it’s all I ever thought about.

I played two instruments, sang, wrote music, performed jazz, R&B, rock, and pop. Gigged in all these genres while practicing and studying obsessively, always striving to be “better.” Knew hundreds, perhaps thousands of tunes.

Then, at the age of 45, I went to nursing school, eventually becoming an ER nurse at a major teaching hospital in NYC. Stopped gigging and focused on writing, producing, and recording, while also immersing myself in disease and its medical treatments, e.g. pharmaceuticals, surgical procedures, and lifestyle modifications. Once I got in the ER, it was all learning, all the time.

Now, right this moment, if you asked me the changes to “Giant steps” or “Dear Prudence,” I wouldn’t be able to instantly tell you. I’m not even sure I would eventually be able to remember them, but I suspect with a little work, I would.

So where did those memories go, or rather, where are they stored? Do we need to constantly access these memories to keep them? Clearly not, because we obviously haven’t forgotten our childhoods, have we?

Here’s what I suspect to be true: it’s all up there. Everything. You may not be aware of it, and you might not be able to call it all up at will, but it’s there just the same.

Influencing every decision you make.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

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Border. Remember that name. 2018, Swedish film, directed by Ali Abbasi. Won best film at Cannes in 2018, and an Academy Award for best makeup in 2019.

Somehow I missed this. I’m not sure if it even had a U.S. theatrical release, or was just another COVID casualty. Saw it last night on Tubi, and was completely unprepared for the experience, in the best possible way.

I’m not going to give up any spoilers, so I’ll choose my words carefully…

I’ve been compulsively watching movies for many decades, so it’s highly unusual for me to come across something I’ve never seen before. My tastes are wide-ranging — I just love the medium — but this one caught me off-guard.

It’s a film that constantly surprises, with an acting performance and story you will never forget. Emotionally moving, it’s an allegory for our times, done with such conviction you never question it for a minute.

This is visual storytelling at its finest. Don’t miss it.

This

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”And if you’re writing for any reason other than that you love to write, you’re chasing a phantom.”

– Chuck Palahniuk

The Read-Aloud

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Writing is a sequential process—particularly when editing. I’m coming up to the end of editing my novel before querying agents, and the final step is to read the whole goddamn thing out loud. It’s the last thing I want to do at this point, yet it’s critically important.

Why?

Well, for one thing, good writing has a rhythm, and the best way to hear it is to read it out loud. The words and sentences all work together, creating an ebb and flow that (hopefully) carries the reader along effortlessly.

It’s shocking how many changes you’ll make to something that has already been edited a thousand times. Everything affects everything else.

Regardless, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it clearly…

Habituation: A Double-Edged Sword

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Habituation is a powerful survival mechanism that allows us to adapt to difficult environments. But there is a dark side: the very act of becoming habituated implies that whatever one is exposed to on a regular basis becomes normal, and some things we don’t want to normalize.

Bad behavior, for example. Lying. Cruelty. Xenophobia, racism, hatred, scapegoating. Wars, murder, death.

Just sayin’. Sometimes it’s hard to see the person you’ve become until it’s too late.

Goals As a Writer (Part 1)

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  1. Write compelling characters. I don’t know about you, but if I’m not curious about the characters, I’m out. Everything else is secondary. If there is one thing all humans are interested in, it’s other humans.
  2. Make it fun to read. I realize this is different for everyone; thus, it’s kind of impossible to quantify. Let’s make it more precise: Make sure it’s fun to read for you. I would even go one step further: Make sure you have fun writing it.

How To Get Better at Anything

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Let’s say you want to become really good at something, maybe even great. So you work hard, and over time proficiency is developed. Now you can actually do the thing, albeit not at the level you want. You run into a wall and find yourself stuck.

How do you break out and move to the next level?

You’ve got to find out where your weak points are. Where do you suck?

That’s where you need to spend your time. Focus on the painful shit you can’t do.

Greatness isn’t going to come easy.

Neural Processing Downtime

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AKA boredom, daydreaming, “zoning-out,” etc. You know, the stuff “productive” people aren’t supposed to do.

Turns out that’s the wrong way to look at it. Here’s a useful metaphor from my days as a personal trainer…

When clients would start out, they would assume that the harder they worked, the more gains they’d make. Imagine their confusion when I’d tell them that their muscles would grow on the days they weren’t in the gym.

”You break the muscle down on your workout days so it can repair itself and grow on your off days. If you just keep working out everyday, your body never has a chance to rebuild.”

It’s the same for your brain. Read, study, and learn to your heart’s content. But it’s only when you’re doing “nothing” that all that new information gets processed and encoded into data that will be available for future recall.

Describing a Murder in One Paragraph

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“Without hesitation, the masked silhouette shot him once at point-blank range. The wino’s skull bounced up from the impact, surrounded by a red, halo-like mist; his body convulsed once and then was still. A pool of blood formed around his head, draining into the gutter like crimson molasses. The whole thing happened so fast I didn’t have time to think.”

From my novel “Lost On the Wilder Shores”