better than true

A writer puts into words a moment in time. What happened, what she paid attention to, what she felt about it.

And when she chose to write about it, she will have the perspective of that time and place.

It’s a time capsule. Books capture history.

Books are history. History is considered to have started with the development of writing. Before we wrote it down, it was pre-history.

But where does that leave fiction? Fiction didn’t happen.

Fiction isn’t true. It’s all imagination.

Fiction isn’t science–it’s art.

There is an art to imagining a story. The people and the circumstances coming together in a way that fascinates.

And there can be failures of imagination.

We all have blind spots. Looking back, I can see how I missed the obvious. I was convinced of a certain point of view, committed to it.

With perspective I see what I did not see then.

And I see the same in famous books. What was most precious to my ancestors in the past seems limiting now. As clear as cut crystal now that the assumptions were wrong.

When I read the stories that were treasured by my predecessors, I know what comes next. I know how this led to that and how the next thing happened.

My culture is a carpet behind, a littered path of pages. A scrapbook of memories.

Remember when? They are not my stories, but the group has told and retold the stories they are like my own. I remember the plot twists and turns.

A people’s literature is how we tell each other who we are, what we wish we could do and what we want to avoid.

Every day there is a new story, or another hundred. These old ones that we all know though have special significance.

That’s why studying literature is important. Even if it is painful. It is history even if it’s fiction. Our stories tell us who we are and who we want to be. Use your imagination.

Also Mommy

Also mommy…

Why does my daughter always begin addressing me as if we are in the middle of a conversation? Her young brain must be in dialogue with me all the time.

I’m probably a bad mom since I’m always trying to get out of conversations with her. I want to be left alone, so I can use my brain for my own purposes.

For working at home, I spend a lot of time talking with other people. All those meetings, IMs, text messages and phone calls to track down whatever I’m supposed to keep track of and then I walk into my house where my daughter picks up where she left off in our conversation.

It’s not fair to give her the dregs, but I haven’t got much left after everyone else got there first.

Take a breath. Reach deep. Be nice.

All I want to do is be by myself. I microwave some food because I’m starving, and take the bowl into my own room. Let me have my thoughts to myself!

Now I feel bad and guilty for wanting to have time to myself. My acting teacher tells me there is nothing like the energy that is created between people in the same space. That’s probably true, and it would be just the sort of thing I would miss out on. My whole career is remote communication, right?

I specialize in not being the same space as other people. Suits me fine.

Just like a live concert is surely better than a recording. But I get more music in my life with all the recordings.

I am sure it’s better, but I can only do what I can do.

And I can’t do with all these people pulling on me! Can I not be in the middle of these conversations?

I had a whole conversation with myself I was trying to pick up again.

It won’t be today.


“Also, mommy…”

Thinking about life

“Every day I write the book” – Elvis Costello

Last episode of the weekly wonder I referenced a book I hadn’t finished yet. I was in chapter 21 of 26.

I’ve heard that everyone is the hero of his or her own story. My friend suggested that lives could be viewed that way. What chapter is my life in right now?

I think about this a lot:

What story am I telling?

Do I want to go where I am heading?

What are the possible directions to head?

A week does not go by that I am not poking at these questions. I’m hard on myself too. At the end of every day, I judge whether I have put the most important things in that day.

I always wish I had filled it even more full. But at the end of the day the only thing I have the capacity to do is sleep.

And I’m not even that good at sleeping right now.

Those characters in books never have to think about what they are doing. They just charge about taking action. Kiss that girl, quit that job, and take that trip. No hesitation, GO!

Almost nobody shows the thinking. Very few characters show up and show us how. Hamlet, Leopold Bloom and Mrs. Dalloway choke on it. And they are mostly famous for not accomplishing much. Too busy thinking to actually do anything.

Real life has sleeping, prep work and planning in order to do things. And doing is not even the target. I want to produce, leave a mark on the world and make it a better place for others. It feels small to me to live a life that is only for myself.

That takes planning. Boring, behind the scenes planning. Set crew to my own life. If I want something in my life I have to go hunt it and bring it in.

But somebody has to. How else is this story going to be beautiful?

Adventures and Accomplishment


In preparation to my recent trip to Chicago I picked up The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. Augie’s story is almost entirely set in Chicago, and I will say he sure did have a lot of adventures. I’ve followed him around through all kinds of places with all kinds of people.


It’s very long, and I may finally be coming in for a landing. Here in Chapter 21 of 26 it dawns on me that Augie has done a ton of stuff but not accomplished anything. All that activity for what?

Dude, you’ve got 5 chapters to turn it around and leave a mark on the world. I don’t think it’s going to happen. He’s most likely to be who he’s always been.


There is a big difference between adventures and accomplishments.


My day job is all about accomplishments. We call them Scope and Action Items. Accomplishments do not happen by accident. It takes intention and effort. And when multiple people are needed to do it, there has to be consensus on what the goal is.






These are big expensive words. Even bigger ideas.


I’ve read some political books as well, large academic tomes that describe problems of sexism and racism. Big problems. The academics are full of notebooks and observation.


That’s one kind of effort. There is value is defining a problem. Famously, that’s the first of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.


Those books define brilliantly specific instances and circumstances that make up the -isms. But I don’t see a plan for how to change it.


Just like Augie March. What are you doing with all this effort? He hasn’t put his effort into consensus with anyone else for long enough to follow through on a plan.


Adventures can be enough for some people. Not for me. And for anyone that wants to reshape the world more is required.