Typecasting a writer: folly or not?

pigeonholed.expertise

“Don’t classify me, read me. I’m a writer, not a genre.” 
― Carlos Fuentes

In one of my earlier blogs (New Year’s Revelation No. 5, “Never, Never Assume!”), I wrote about the unfortunate common practice of making assumptions ― about people or situations.  So many of us, whether intentionally or unintentionally, fall into that trap – to our detriment.  In so doing, we run the risk of making erroneous assumptions (because we are not aware of all the mitigating factors) and rush to judgment, perhaps too quickly.  The same applies to pigeon holing or typecasting someone.

In the acting world, for example, actors are often typecast as comedic, dramatic, character, leading role, action hero, and so on.  Yet many actors have proven – time and time again – that they can seamlessly apply their acting talent and skills to any genre. And when they do this, we are always surprised (yet delighted).  Why are we surprised? The answer, of course, is that we made an erroneous assumption. Yes, Robert De Niro has played some seriously intense and dramatic roles.  However, as “Vitti” in Analyze This and Analyze That (opposite Billy Crystal), De Niro had me rolling on the floor, laughing.

The same applies to writing.  Just because a writer publishes a book in one genre, this does not mean he or she is incapable of writing in a different voice, for a variety of target audiences, or in multiple genres.

As for myself, I have multiple book projects in the works.  Many are non-fiction.  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is a political and economic commentary and collection of real-life vignettes.   This does not mean that the only genre I write is non-fiction editorial.  I write fiction, as well as industry-specific pieces and scripts for documentaries. 

Whether one is a writer or a photographer, an actor or an artist ― the fact is, we are complex and multi-faceted.  Labels are very limiting and should not be assigned so readily.

If we only focus our eyes on the moon, we may miss the beauty of the rest of the galaxy.

Image via trivworks.com.

New Year’s Revelation No. 3 of 7: Resist the Mañana Syndrome

image-articolo-i-benefici-della-vacanza-manteniamoli-cosi

“Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it.  No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
~ Lord Chesterfield 

In theory, I completely concur with Lord Chesterfield.  In practice, however, I’ve been known to occasionally follow Scarlett O’Hara’s logic (from Gone with the Wind):  “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow …… After all, tomorrow is another day.” 

Putting things off until tomorrow — or, as I like to call it, The Mañana Syndrome …. has been a challenge for me throughout my life — not because I’m lazy, but because I always have so many concurrent projects and so many lists-upon-lists-upon-lists, that it becomes overwhelming sometimes.  And then I completely detach.  But, something changed for me last summer.  It wasn’t any specific event or drama.  I was just sitting at my computer, with Janis Joplin rasping in the background.  The song was Ball and Chain and the lyrics that spoke to me were:

“That’s what it is, man. If you got it today you don’t wear it tomorrow, man. ‘Cause you don’t need it. ‘Cause as a matter of fact, as we discovered on the train, tomorrow never happens, man. It’s all the same fxxxxxx day, man.”

And, right there and then, I thought to myself  “What if tomorrow never happens?”  I would not want to leave this world without having done the things I needed and wanted to do.  Now, I know that I’m taking the meaning of Janis’ lyrics out of context … but it just triggered something in my head.  So, then I thought “How can I complete what I need to complete?”   And the answers came to me in short staccato words and phrases:  You’re not Superwoman.  Be reasonable.  Prioritize.   Compartmentalize.  Streamline.  Keep it simple.  Stop writing lists.  Take a breath. 

Let’s be real, here.  This is not a Mensa puzzle.  I just needed to tweak my thinking and my process of multitasking.  And so I did. 

It worked. My book, Casualties of the Recession Depression, is written and currently in the editing phase.  The launch is set for the 26th of February, barring any glitches. And, I’ll soon pick up where I left off on my next book, When the Child Becomes the Parent. Everything is on track and on schedule. 

Yet, each day I make time to read a book while enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of my garden.

Speaking of thought processes, I’ll leave you with another very loosely related anecdote.  One evening, my husband and I were gazing up at the stars.  I asked him “What do you see when you look up in the sky?”  He looked at me quizzically and said “Well, there’s Orion’s Belt   ….”   He saw the starry sky in a structured, compartmentalized way.  I said, “When I look up, I see a sea of stars in an endless array of different sizes and formations …. too many to count, or even discern.  I just love to soak in the beauty of it all.”  And so I wondered whether the stark difference in the way we saw the night sky was a function of gender (i.e. ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’) or  was it simply that our personalities are such that he see things in black and white and I, in every shade of grey in between.

Which is why I tended  (note the past tense) to bite off more than I could chew. 

Lesson learned.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” 
Mother Teresa

Image via donnamoderna.com (Photo credit:  Inga Ivanova)

Balancing time: back to the halcyon days

“The more you sense the rareness and value of your own life, the more you realize that how you use it, how you manifest it, is all your responsibility. We face such a big task, so naturally we sit down for a while.”

Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi

My greatest challenge is balancing time. With so many book projects — in different stages of development — I sometimes feel overwhelmed.  Experience has taught me that when this feeling washes over me, it’s time to press the “pause” button in my life and switch gears.  So, I put my gardening shoes, hat and gloves on  and then step out into my very own tropical garden.  When I’m pruning, weeding, planting and tending to my herb garden, fruit trees and flowers, I am in another zone.  A zone were mobile phones, emails, LinkedIn and Google do not exist.  This is a time and space when/where I am able to think, imagine, and create — not on paper, but in my mind.  This is a place of peace, of balance.  So, I’ve made some decisions as to how I should balance my time. 

In this country (United States), many people work 24/7.  Some, because they have to and, others, because they want to.  It is very easy to get caught up in that work ethic. Whatever the reason, it is simply not healthy to work continuous long hours, seven days a week.  In many locations around the world (notably, Europe), Sunday is still considered a day of rest. In Israel, Saturday (the Sabbath) is observed as a day of rest.  In the days of yore (pre-1970), North Americans happily left work behind at the end of Friday and prepared to enjoy their weekends (Saturday AND Sunday) with family and friends. 

It is my belief that those were the halcyon days.  Granted, the world is a lot more complicated and intense.   But, and think about this,  does it really have to be?  Do we not have the power to make choices about our own lives?  Can’t we figure out a way to balance work and play, business interaction and family interaction, money and quality of life?  Are they all mutually exclusive?

I think we can strike a balance between all the components of our life, although we may have to choose to let some go.  For example, does little Suzie really need to go to ballet class, Girl Guides, tennis, AND Glee Club?  Shouldn’t two extracurricular activities be enough? I’ve said this many times — to anyone who will listen — we overschedule ourselves and our children.

I, for one,  intend to recalibrate my thinking.  I now refuse to answer business calls during the weekend (yes, Saturday AND Sunday) and after 9 pm on weekdays. On weekends, I will not check LinkedIn or respond to business emails.  I will not do client work on weekends, only my own projects. 

Weekends are for family and friends. No exceptions.  I will go on Facebook and Skype, because that’s how I communicate with family and friends who live miles (and oceans) away. 

So, there you have it.  Back to the 1950’s, but with a 21st century social media twist!

As for Volume 1 (When the Child Becomes the Parent) in my 4-volume Baby Boomer Series, it’s still in progress. Spring has come and gone. I am eye-deep in research.  It will be done when it is done.  Sooner, rather than later.  I’m not getting any younger.

“Writing is not a matter of time, but a matter or of space. If you don’t keep space in your head for writing, you won’t write even if you have the time.” 

— Katerina Stoykova Klemer

Image (stones) via groupsoutdor.com.

Gone fishing …

I haven’t been blogging much these days, partly because a lot of my time is consumed by writing my book “When the Child Becomes the Parent”  and also because I am being lured by so many distractions — all of which involve home renovation projects and gardening.  Okay, perhaps “lured”  isn’t the right word.  Let’s shift the blame back to the real culprit.  Me.

Mea culpa, mea culpa.

I admit it.  I am addicted to home improvement — inside and out.  I am an avid (rabid?)  HGTV and DIY television channel viewer.  Candace Olsen. Ty PenningtonDavid Bromstad. Genevieve Gorder. Vern Yip. Mike HolmesJamie Durie.  These talented designers, architects, builders, and landscape artists are my muses.

Not to mention my very own live-in architect and engineer.

In my view, there is nothing more rewarding than working with my hands (my nearest and dearest now calls me Rosie the Riveter)  and either creating something from scratch or restoring a room to its former glory.  Each Christmas, I tell my husband that in lieu of exchanging gifts just for the sake of it, we should simply get ourselves a new power tool — like a jack hammer, for example.  To which he replies, eyes shining, “I am such a lucky bastard!  A wife who loves power tools and motorcycles … amazing!”  

I never disagree with my husband.  That would be just rude.

But, I am getting distracted again.  As I mentioned earlier, I am trying to finish writing my book.  It is about one month (give or take a few days) behind schedule … a schedule that is completely self-directed.

Mea culpa, mea culpa.

Here’s my reasoning:  it is important to balance intellectual pursuits with physical activity.

Sitting in front of a computer, writing and researching for twelve hours straight is simply  not conducive to good health.   Although writing marathons/binges can be very productive,  the downside is that they can cause eye strain, circulation problems, and muscle pain.

I am an extremist.  I do go on writing binges which render me oblivious to time and sound.  I believe it’s referred to as “being in the zone.” However, when I let myself get distracted by my beloved house and garden projects, I push myself to my physical limits and, once again, I forget about that she-devil called Time.  The downside?  Chapter Nine was supposed to have been completed two weeks ago.  And, to add insult to injury, I just threw out my lower back again — very badly.

Mea culpa, mea culpa.

I should heed my own words. Balance.  Wasn’t that what I said earlier? Not one or the other. Both. In moderation and harmony.

Of course, now I can’t do either.  Sure, I can manage a 500-word blog, but I keep getting sharp twinges of pain when I move this way or that. So, I will have to press the Pause button for now and take it easy for a few days.

Gone fishing …

h.f.t.g.

P.S.  I welcome any suggestions for tried and true home remedies for back pain …

Image via paisleyperspective.com.

Juggling writing time between multiple book projects

Sometimes I think I’ve fallen off that precarious balancing beam – from possessing a modicum of sanity to diving head first into a state of complete and utter madness.  The reason?  I am juggling multiple book projects. Thank goodness I’m compulsively organized, because the only way to handle the work load (without sacrificing creativity) is to compartmentalize my time.

Yes, compartmentalization is the way I am able to maintain my sanity – relatively speaking.  But it would be remiss for me not to mention the occasional help I receive from Mr. Glen Livet and Mr. Mac Allan!

h.f.t.g. taking some quiet “me” time with Mr. Mac Allan
and enjoying a stogie, in between intense writing sessions

(Note: the photographer is also partaking in some libation!) 

So, here’s the plan. As mentioned in my inaugural blog post, “Finding Grace” (the Novel) is set for release sometime in 2013.  In tandem, I’m writing a series of four non-fiction books targeted to the Baby Boomer generation.  I’m a quarter of the way through the first, entitled “When The Child Becomes The Parent,”  and am hoping to release this book by the end of 2012 (fingers crossed).  By setting an aggressive schedule, I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself – in an effort to battle my most dreaded enemy: Procrastination.

Here’s a sneak peek of the book summary (which will be located in the  book’s inside left flap) – as well as  the book cover design:

“We are the Baby Boomer Generation. That makes us forty-something, fifty-something and sixty-something.  Our parents and beloved aunts or uncles are in their twilight years. They need our help. The measure of a person is the degree to which she treats her fellow men and women with respect, kindness, compassion and – to those close – love.   Why do we all too often forget to tender the same treatment to our elderly? They are supposed to be our nearest and dearest. They gave us Life!  The child must now step up to the plate and become the parent.  

No one wants to reach the end of life’s journey and suddenly become a burden to their family or friends.  Perhaps we might find it helpful to see the world from their perspective and accord them the dignity they so rightly deserve.  Perhaps we should not be so overwhelmed or impatient with them and maybe we should shift our fear-of-aging mindset a bit.  After all, shouldn’t we consider it a privilege to help them through this final chapter of their lives?

This is a gentle guide on how to care for the elderly loved ones in your family – from home care to hospice care to preparing for death.  The author will also share stories about some of her own experiences – both deeply sad and delightfully humorous.

She is fifty-something, by the way and, yes, a Baby Boomer.”

Copyright © 2010-2011 Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved.

— To all the writers out there who are juggling multiple book projects – courage, my friends!  We will all complete our books and, once we do, we will very likely move onto the next project.  Are we masochists? No. We simply love what we do.
And that’s a good thing.

Image (top) via Sarparker.com.