What Lies Between Hope and Myth

There’s a myth that continues to swarm about how certain groups of people are entitled to their position in life. The rich are entitled to everything. The poor are entitled not to work. The left is entitled to feel entitled. The right is entitled because of money. The Millennials are entitled because they’re self-absorbed. The Boomers are entitled because they worked their ass off.

The myth is that one group or generation is actually entitled. Everyone says each group is but no group actually feels that way. Instead they feel that another group is more entitled than themselves and so the myth continues.

It’s sad really. That we all have something in common but don’t stop to realize it.

Life is good. We all can be OK. Whether you are rich or poor, democrat or republican, or whatever you are you probably need a hand. We all need a hand. Some people need it monetarily. Others just simply need a hug. Some might need a meal. One needs medical care, the other a light for their smoke.

This is a diverse and strange country. The people of the mountains of Montana don’t face the same daily obstacles as the people living in Stuyvesant. But as great as their lives might both be, they still might need something that the other can provide. It’s the way the universe works. No one thing is complete without another.

We as humans aren’t complete without plants and animals, to eat, to breathe, to love. Some need to eat more animals than love. Others eat no animals and only love. That’s okay. No one is right because you still need each other to balance out. The person who eats only animals is balanced by the person who only loves animals. Maybe those two get together and figure out world peace. First, get together.

It’s a myth to think that we’ll someday have a collective realization, stop hating each other, and actually help one another. World peace is a myth. Big Foot is probably more likely to be sighted than someone dropping their manufactured hate to take stock in humanity and just enjoy that we are all people. The myth is that me sitting here writing this might inspire someone, anyone, to do that.

Yet the hope meanders on. All that negativity and yet there is hope. Hope is not a myth. I have hope and I know others who also have hope. Hope can be heavy. Sometimes we drop it. Other times we carry it along when we probably shouldn’t. Hope can be carried along and we don’t even know it.

No one person or group is entitled to something more than another. We’re just people, that’s it that’s all. To see it in another way is taxing. To manufacture hate for someone else’s perceived entitlement is hard. It takes a lot of energy, energy that could be used to laugh. Energy that could be used to help someone who needs it.

Or maybe we’re just animals meant to compete for time, money, and space. Grueling over our daily tasks to make a bed in the grass and lie down, our bellies stuffed and our minds at rest. Maybe we’re meant to hate what seems entitled because our path must be harder than everyone else’s. Maybe we’re meant to hate what doesn’t look like us, what we see in the mirror, the ghostly imperfections and deep dark circles around our eyes, imagining all that entitlement that everyone else has, stewing in our growing manufactured hatred for everything that isn’t “us” and feeding the myth.

But still, there is hope.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange: A Poem

Nothing Rhymes with Orange

 

The Corn Hill streets are

Orange with leaves as

Orange sirens whizz by, the sound of

O R A N G E

Ringing in my ears, cigarette smoke rolls from the

Dark porch next door, an

Orange ember barking in October’s northern

Orange wind. Nothing rhymes with

Orange in the fall.

 

But it’s all around anyhow.

Watching Instead: A Poem

Watching Instead

Every day on my way to work I drive by the same house near the corner of Culver and Main

There’s always a woman there with her three kids, loading them onto the bus.

Sometimes she’s drinking coffee or smoking

But she always looks like the weight of the world has been placed on her shoulders

And her sole job in life is to figure out a way to get it off.

I look at her every time and now she’s become familiar and I expect her.

She’s a birthday card from a long distant aunt.

Recently I drove by, and she was out there, in the same way

Except she had been beaten very badly about her face.

Her kids were there, getting on the bus, and her face was there too, swollen in different colors.

I was instantly incensed and I went to work that day and discussed Employee Assistance Programs.

The director of the program showed a statistic about how many people have been helped

It was broken down by category or the reason they called

Financial Trouble – 13

Employee Relationship – 29

Student Loan – 7

Professional Advice – 5

I stared at all the categories and their numbers until I saw

Domestic Violence – 0

Everyone needs to do more than help women and men who suffer from domestic violence and

Everyone in the room agreed, and later, because of my advocacy, I got a raise.

Imagine that: I got a raise for someone else taking the brunt of their loved one’s fists.

I’ll drive by with my extra $25 a week and stare at the black, blue, red, yellow, and purple

Bruises of this city

And just keep driving

With my eyes focused just in front of the hood of my truck

Intent on helping but

Joining the rest of the crowd

And watching instead.

I’m a Writer and I Suck

I have to be honest, being a writer sucks.

There’s so much that I like about it. But there’s one part that I hate and unfortunately it’s the most important part of this job. Before I get to the part that I hate I need to remind myself of all the things I really like about it because again, being honest here, there’s days that I want to chuck my laptop out my window and quit over this one really important thing.

Here’s what my process looks like in order. I’ll follow that with the thing that I hate the most because sometimes that thing comes before and sometimes it comes after the following:

Research

I actually love the research part. I’ve written articles about sports, tech gadgets, bit coin, therapy and digestion. I’ve written poetry, short stories, novels, plays, and essays and every single thing I’ve ever written usually takes at least some research. It might not even be while you’re preparing to write or while your writing it, but some sort of digging has led me to be inspired to write a short story or a poem. Trying to write a short story about a man who fires a Desert Eagle? Head to the firing range with an ex-cop and learn something! That’s the best part of being a writer. I don’t have to actually choose a profession, I get to try them all on for a bit.

Trying to write a short story about a man who fires a Desert Eagle? Head to the firing range…

Planning and Development

Remember in high school when you learned to make an outline for your essay? Yup. That’s all this is. Every paragraph has about 4 or 5 sentences, the topic sentence starts it off and then a few supporting sentences. The last sentence may segue into the next paragraph. But tone and theme must be chosen and then each paragraph needs to fit into that mold. The prose and syntax is where the creativity can shine through. That was a segue sentence.

Creativity

This is absolutely hands down the best part of writing! You just write. Sounds simple and it is. A runner might say that they hit their high and don’t remember the last ten miles. This can be this part of the writing process where your head is down, the fingers are moving, and the brain is on a roll. To me this part can kind of be like watching a movie. I can see the events unfold and I’ll be damned if my fingers can’t move fast enough. I don’t stop for misspelled words or other common mistakes. This is machine gun typing and it’s total madness and it’s friggin’ awesome.

First Edit

Kind of boring but you need to fix all that machine gun typing. Capitalization, correct punctuation, misspellings, goofy errors and other easy to spot mistakes are taken care of here. This usually gets done the next day after a machine gun session when I feel a bit more calm and collected. It’s a completely necessary piece of the puzzle.

Second Edit

Here’s where it gets tricky. This is the body language of the written word. Tone can cover up the theme and sometimes the theme gets lost inside the tone. This goes for the whole piece and also for each and every sentence. “Can this sentence be rearranged”? “Can this sentence be said in a different way”? These questions get asked about every single utterance on the page. In a short piece, an off sentence can really derail a reader and authenticity can be quickly sidelined with a few badly written sentences. (See what I did there? Badly should be replaced with poorly!) As a writer all you have is your words so make ‘em goodly.

Third Edit

This is where I read the piece out loud and if I can’t smoothly read a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter without fumbling over my own mouth then something needs to change. It’s all about flow, baby. Make it flow. Make it beautiful. Make it unique. Make it make it because if you can’t sit there and read it and be entertained and feel the prose come alive then the editor won’t either and that means the reader won’t. Fix the spots that seem awkward.

Fourth Edit

Writing ain’t got nothing to do with writing and everything to do with rewriting and editing. I know I missed something and chances are I missed several things. Read back through very carefully.

Final Read Through

I have a very close friend and editor and this is where I would send it to her but not every article goes through her so sometimes this part is left up to me. For larger pieces she would read through here, put down her comments and I would go back to the first edit stage with what she wrote, sometimes having to wade through the creative stage again. But for smaller pieces I take one last read through and send it. If the editor of the magazine, website, etc. has any edits that need my approval it will come back to me, but nine times out of ten those edits are made without my approval (who the hell am I?) and the piece goes to publication.

Now we can get to the part that I freakin’ detest.

Like I said at the beginning this can sometimes come before the research stage or sometimes it comes after the Final Read Through stage. But it doesn’t matter where it rears its ugly head, I hate it no matter what. But it is more important than all the other stages combined if you want to get published. If you are only writing for you and you never want to share it then this stage will not matter to you and you no longer have to read my drivel.

The Query

You must query. A query is a question that you ask. That’s it. And it’s either “hey do you want me to write this thing so you can publish it”? or it’s “I wrote this thing, do you want to publish it”? Sounds simple enough but there’s a real art to it. I’m not very good at it and it’s by far my biggest downfall as a writer. But here’s why I hate it so much. Everything I believe in and want to write, feel passionate about, love, hate, ideas that I have, damn near everything that can evolve or devolve from writing comes down to a query. They’re about one page long and sometimes include a bio.

So all in all, you have a few sentences to prove to a total stranger, or an editor that you’ve worked with several times but actually never met in person, that whatever the hell you are going to write or have already written is worthy of getting paid for and for publishing. A lot of editors own the company you’re querying, or this is the editor’s dream and brain child and they want to know how you fit into their master plan, their complicated equation, their literary take-over. It’s depressing to think about and because of this my queries stink and I struggle for publication.

The best and most dramatic example is the current novel I’m shopping around. It took me six years to write it and it all comes down to a one pager to a stranger. It happened with a stage play I was shopping around too.

I ended up getting invited to a meeting filled with producers. I gave my one pager away to all of them. No one bit. Two and a half years of developing a stage play and I got fifteen minutes in a room full of producers who ultimately told me to take a hike. Then I had to read how they were reviving Guys and Dolls or some adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird because they knew audiences would come to that. No one is going out of their way to see some play they’ve never heard of by a guy they don’t know.

No one is going out of their way to see some play they’ve never heard of by a guy they don’t know.

It’s gut wrenching and keeps me awake at night. It’s probably the reason writers have the stigma of being drunk and staying up late, smoking by a dim light and eerily staring out the window to  an empty street.

That’s not me. I don’t smoke.

Anyway, I trudge on, trying to get through one cruddy query at a time, trying to make a little money and hoping to catch that break that everyone keeps talking about. I started freelancing around 2007. So it’s only been twelve years. I’m not sure how long you have to wait for your break, but I think I can go another twelve years, another few novels, a few more plays, a thousand more articles, hundreds of poems, and countless mind numbing, gut wrenching queries.

Anthony N. White Blog

Cattle Crossing

I wait. Then I wait some more. The I twiddle my thumbs, play on my phone, and do some more waiting. I’m standing at a cattle crossing and hoping that I actually see some cattle cross. Why does it take so long? Why would they put up a sign that says cattle will be crossing if in fact they do not continuously cross?

Truth is, I’m not at a cattle crossing. I am however at a crossing of sorts.

I have said over and over again that finding a literary agent or a publisher that will take a writer not under contract to publish a novel is much like sitting in front of a cattle crossing sign and hoping to hell you see some cattle. The signs are there for you to know where to find the agents, where to find the publishers that take unsolicited manuscripts from writers without agents. They are not hard to find, but once you get there it’s a whole other story.

No doubt that who you know is much more important that what you know. Pop star Cardi B owns 5 cars but has no idea how to drive. She also can’t rap. But that doesn’t matter because she’s connected. Paris Hilton wrote a book that sold well called “Confessions of an Heiress”. She received $100,000 advance on that book, her first. That’s an unheard of amount. But she’s connected and they knew it would sell due to being famous.

Those are extreme examples but they set the tone for the truth. I’m sitting here querying agents and publishers when I should be out there trying to make real connections with real people. I’m good at it really, but Rochester, New York is not a budding literary scene with agents just waiting at every corner. So now what?

Drink until I pass out!

No. That’s not helpful. Just keep writing, keep querying, and keep the dream alive. It’s pretty easy to get depressed when your sitting here alone at night hacking away at the keyboard and thinking “why the hell should anyone in the world care what you write”?

Before you know it you’re giving up and bowing out, convinced that your words are no better than anyone else’s, determined that your ideas and stories will remain embedded in a heap of convoluted rubbish instead of being neatly stacked on a shelf.

It’s a boring metaphor but the sun rises. Every day. Even if it’s buried beneath so many clouds you can barely see it. Even if it’s brick outside and it doesn’t seem to do any good, it’s still came up. Every day. Every damn day.