• Perfect!

    Throughout the years phrases, affectations, fads come and go, but the strangest ones are, oh what would you call them, key words, that pop up as common affectations. I’ve noticed a new one that’s been around for, I’d say, the past year anyway. It’s the word: Perfect.

    I started noticing it, oddly enough, when I found myself using it. It made me self-conscious, so I started listening for it in others. I suppose it’s a sort of societal osmosis that I picked up this odd affectation.

    I ordered a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s the other day. “A half-decaf, with-room, americano, please.” The barista smiled and said, “Perfect!”

    Wow! I think I overshot a bit; I was simply aiming for getting my order correct, which I almost always do. But not only was I right on with my order, I’d gotten it perfect. I was on top of the world. How many people can boast of getting anything perfect in life?

    And then I made a deposit at the bank. The teller said, “Perfect!” My terryaki order? Once again, perfect. I seem to be hitting the mark each and every time I do anything these days.

    And then I became melancholy; if I’m so perfect at everything, what do I have to shoot for? If I’m pumping gas, getting coffee, shopping for groceries, and ordering my meals so perfectly, what other than a future of perfection do I have to look forward to? Nothing to improve upon.

    And then I got home. Asked my wife if she’d like a latte’. She said, “Yes,” and I said, “Perfect!”

    I brought her her cup, having taken particular care in preparing the foam. I asked her what she thought.

    She said, without the slightest hesitation, “Not bad.”

    Hallelujah! Now I have something to strive for again. Thanks, Babe.

  • I Could have Done it Better; Not!

    I heard someone talking about how they could have made a better movie than…. I can’t remember the flick, but it got me to thinking, as a writer—a creator—about all those people out there who think it’s so easy to write, to create something worthwhile.

    I think many of them forget that when they say they could have done better, they’re talking about making something that already exists better. Maybe they could; making something better is usually easier than making something in the first place, but that’s not the point. While they’d begin with an existing piece of art, writing, painting, movie, whatever, the artist, writer, film maker, starts with this: ___________, a giant blank. A blank page, canvas, block of clay, or whatever.

    The act of creating something out of nothing, which emanates from within ones own mind is magical. The act of editing, rewriting, assessing, critiquing, is important, but it’s almost always technical, and it’s certainly not normally creative.

    So, the next time you’re about to let the world know, you could’ve done better, go out and try creating something out of nothing. Only then you might have standing to utter those words.

  • Learn from History–warts and all–or Repeat it.

    We often talk about the differences between the political right and left in America, and those differences are often glaring. One of those differences is an interest in American history—good and bad. Once one reads history, one realizes why the left is so resistant to it, or we find how often they’ve changed or obscured it when they had the chance.

    Have you ever read a book and then felt ripped off by your school system, exclaiming: Why the hell didn’t I know this? I have, and continue to every day I read history. The thing is, the left will defend their “history” by saying each side is presenting their point of view, but this is crap. There is too much out there, for those willing to look, that comes from original sources. For example, don’t only read what others wrote about Thomas Jefferson, read what Thomas Jefferson wrote about Thomas Jefferson.

    Another example: Why is it that we aren’t taught more about true black history in American schools? Why is it that black history is limited to a few notable figures, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King? Not that these weren’t great people, but there were so many more.

    Is it because the left, the progressives, feel if black kids learned in school that they really do have a stake in America, with a real “official” (non-slave) contributive history in earlier times, it would be harder for the left to instill that sense of victimhood in this portion of our society?

    While of course the repugnant crime and sin of slavery must be taught, and mustn’t be forgotten, the fact a black man was elected to public office, by his mostly white community, back before America was even an independent republic, should be known too. Warts and all should be our goal with teaching American history. After all, if we don’t teach it all, kids grow up thinking every white person was a bullwhip wielding slave owner and every black person was a beaten person nursing a flesh torn back.

    How about the black slave owners? How much do we know about them? What about that ugliness? Does that detract from the suffering of the black masses? No, of course not. But it’s one of the warts we should all know about. Teach history—teach it all.

    After the Civil War—after a Republican president had emancipated them—blacks filled the ranks of the South’s state legislatures. That is until Democrats, many in the form of the Ku Klux Klan, used political dirty tricks and outright violence to force these black legislators from office, not to return in significant numbers for more than a century.

    The 14th Amendment was needed because Democrats in the South refused to recognize the rights God granted to people, enshrined within the Constitution, now also rightly applied to freed slaves.

    This is just one example of how history can teach us what we need to know about our national story, warts and all, in order to continue creating that more perfect union. Don’t take my word for it; do your own searches, discover our history on your own, and as often as possible use original sources. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.

    Can you imagine what our nation would be like today if the southern Democrats hadn’t forced those black legislators from their rightful positions? The turmoil and heartache, and sometimes savagery, rendered over the next century might have been at least mitigated, and the crime of slavery better atoned for on a national scale.

    This is not simply a diatribe against Democrats; this is an appeal to them to explore not only the warts of America in general, or Republicans in particular, which they seem to have no problems doing, but the significant warts in their own party’s history.

  • The Literary Agent-Bomb

    It’s funny how, as a writer, you can wait, and wait, and wait…what was I saying? Oh, yeah, and wait, for a break—little or big. However, while waiting in this biz is unavoidable, overt effort is often necessary.

    When I got my first agent, I’d just engaged in, to paraphrase recent political parlance, an agent-bomb; frustrated with the one-at-a-time deal advocated by, of course, agents, I sent queries to about thirty. I heard back from about six, considered four, and signed with the one who contacted me within fifteen minutes of my query. She sold my book within six weeks. (Which lead to two other books).

    The other day, prompted by similar frustration, I did a similar “bomb,” but didn’t go nearly as “nuclear,” and sent queries out to four agents. I’ve heard back from two, one within a day requesting I send the entire manuscript, and the other within three days requesting she might represent me if I tweak a few minor things in the book’s construction.

    So, don’t sit back waiting for something to happen; go out and make it happen. The worst that will happen is they’ll say, “No!” Oh, and they will say, “No! No! No!” But every once in a while they’ll surprise you with that, oh-so-sweet, “Yes!”