Life Happens…

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

-John Lennon

You know, sometimes it’s just not worth trying to make any kind of plans at all. As I recall, somewhere back in the dim and distant past (well, for this blog anyway), I thought I’d have And/News done by around, um, the end of 2002. Oh, well.

The thing is, recent events that have kept me away aren’t really the kind of things that are earth-shattering (like the last couple of weeks were).

Things just got senselessly busy. This is my new term to describe an intangible kind of occupation with things; a conversation with someone who was senselessly busy might go like this: “Where were you?” “I was busy.” “Doing what?” “I don’t know, really. Lots of little things. All I know is that I was really busy.”

Let’s see. There was supposed to be a work-related meeting on Tuesday night. I stayed at work and ate a Subway sandwich at work. When my colleague came in, a nasty storm had rolled in, and it’s epicenter was the place we were supposed to go. We decided not to go. Good thing. Tree branches and power lines were knocked down all over the afflicted area. Oddly enough, the meeting went on without us, but I know for a fact that we weren’t missed.

Wednesday was supposed to be church, but the same storm that kiboshed the meeting the night before did the same thing around the church building. No power. We had an abbreviated service in our pavilion and went home early to… other kinds of busy things.

Thursday I had to go to the vet’s to get some special anti-mange shampoo for the puppy and discuss the older dog, who is not eating, obsessively licking metal objects, and throwing up all over the house. I got as far as waking the iBook and gave up.

Last night I taught my family to play a game that I stumbled on in my internet travels; 1000 Blank White Cards. It’s fascinating conceit for a game: you make up the cards you play on the fly, while you’re playing. From the looks of some of the sample cards posted on some of the sites I visited after discovering the basic rules, it looks like this game is quite amusing when accompanied by large amounts of alcohol. We played a sober and much cleaner version and had a great time. What kind of Dad would I have been if I had kept the game to myself and written last night?

Right now finds me sitting in a cavernous building at the fairgrounds where my daughter is undergoing some kind of ordeal for her 4-H; she is being grilled about the nutritional pyramid, how to set a table, how to cook and serve healthy, nutritious meals, and all of that. This afternoon is a game of Diplomacy with my son and some friends from church. Later on, some work I brought home from the office.

My novel? What’s that?

Oh, and here’s one more admission of fun: yesterday on my lunch hour I took my Alvarez to a Henry J Productions. Henry J is the 20-year veteran of the Holiday Inn circuit, so he’s got one of the rooms set up as a recording studio. And we started recording one of my songs, Dirty Old Rabbit. It took a long time to get set up, and even longer for me to get the hang of trying to count and keep track of where I was and try to play well. At one point Henry J decided that, while I could follow the metronome click track for the song’s intro, I “just went off into a world of your own,” so we came up with a workaround. Meantime, the ghost guitar track is down. Next will probably be vocal, and then me playing along with all of that for a real guitar track.

During playback of the ghost track, Henry J sat down at his keyboard and just started jamming with what was on the tape. I was instantly hooked. This is something that is going to be a lot of fun.

At one point, I was grumbling about trying to do this given my status as a rank amateur, and Henry J told me this story (paraphrased, but in Henry J-ese):

“You know, I talk to guys who are just incredible, killer musicians, and they complain when they hear stuff that’s been released by the major labels. ‘Hey, I can play better than that!’ Well, they might, but they never finished what they started. I don’t know how many times I was in the studio, waiting for the rest of the band to show up, and they just blew off the session. And I’m like, ‘Hell, if I’d known they were going to do that, I would have worked on some of my solo stuff.’ The difference between the great players who never go anywhere and the mediocre ones who get major deals is that the mediocre guys finished what they started.”

That’s true in the world of writing, too. I have read some books that are awful, dreadful, were an absolute waste of trees. But I know why it was published. Because the author stuck to it, finished the manuscript, and kept it in the mail until an editor bought it. Now, granted, the editor who bought it may have simply said to himself, “Hey, I need to fill out our release list for February of next year, so here’s what I’m going to do. The next manuscript I pick up that is coherently written and has an okay plot and a legitimate beginning, middle and end is going to be the filler title.”

And that’s how we get books in print like *** ******** *****.

But of course, if you keep writing, keep practicing your craft, and work at it, you won’t end up as filler. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. I used to say that anyone could grow to be a good writer… but I no longer say that. Why is a story for another day.

Meantime, I need to steal some more moments alone with Richard and K so I won’t end up on the filler list…

NP – iTSP (XTC, “Harvest Festival”)

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