Friday, November 21, 2008

on getting it right

This past week I've had many opportunities to talk about what I do. In a way, I feel like I've been at a trade show, even though I never left Portland. I went to a speed networking event a week ago, then gave a presentation at my small business networking group, PDX Synergy, then met a couple of people at a magazine launch party last night, and today I was on a conference call being introduced as a, gulp, novelist.

My head is spinning with myself. Every time I open my mouth, I feel the urge to reinvent my career. Maybe reinvent is a little strong. Refine, maybe? Or perhaps adapt? Filtering the discussion of what I do with the tools of marketing, occasionally I come up with something new—an invention, you could call it, if you were spinning. Something that hadn't occurred to me before. "I'm the Walmart of words," sprang out of my mouth once. I wish I could press an "unsend" button when shit like that escapes.

But novelist, yes, I like that. What I most like about that is that someone actually sees me as that, even though there are no novels out there by Suzanne Freisinger, Suzy Vitello, or Suzy Soulé, or any of my other monikers. But there will be.

Last night, at workshop, we delved into one of those lamentations that we "novelists" suffer from time to time. One of our members is having, what Tom Spanbauer always referred to as, "failure of spirit." Having spent years on his project, this novelist (who has one published book) is losing heart with his book. The circumstances that propelled the book—the politics and emotions of the day—have changed considerably in the four years he's been writing it. He wants to quit. Not just the book, but writing.

This too shall pass, the group acknowledged. We've all been there. It goes with the territory. There exists for all of us a chasm between our intention and the product. The more time elapses between conception and outcome, the greater the challenge. Especially when we suffer from the effects of our own manic creative drive. Again, I have to reference that Gladwell piece on late bloomers in the New Yorker a few weeks ago. Process is elusive. Trust in our own sense of authority, however, should not be. What allows us to continue to write, to reinvent ourselves vis-à-vis new inspiration, and to fail a heck of a lot of times before getting it "right," is the thing that we must cultivate. This thing lives inside of all artists, and, let me tell you, it's a bit of a tease, and it's very vulnerable. But it has to be, because it's also the thing that will move us toward truth. If we let it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

my day in court

I was a good citizen yesterday. Well, actually, I was a fair citizen yesterday. I arrived at my post as prospective juror only five minutes late, and promptly handed my completed paperwork over at the sign-in desk. Of course, I hadn't read the fine print which mandated I send the paperwork to the court a week ahead of time so they could vet me for Grand Jury status.

Nevermind, they sent me along to the adjoining office where I was processed and given my very cool UPC coded juror badge, held in place by a plastic landyard. The jury pool room was filled up, but there were still some empty seats--and plenty of coffee and pastries. I pulled out my laptop and got to work while a judge addressed us all with the "you're so special" speech they pull out to stir the citizens into a froth of self-congratulation. I was distracted because I couldn't get online. But then the Master of Ceremonies announced the existence of the security code, and I became impatient for him to finish so I could push my way through the other good citizens and retrieve it.

Soon, the m.c. read a list of 35 potential Grand Jurors. They were cleaved from our ranks and, happily, there was now a spot open on the long table where the outlets were. Good thing, because my battery was about to die and I still had a couple of hours of client work to do. I sat next to a guy who was in a similar situation, only he had the balls to be on a conference call! (He was whispering into his cell phone trying not to bring attention to himself and the other members of his call were screaming at him to "speak up").

Another merry band of citizens was soon culled. Then another, and another. Every digit I had was crossed so I wouldn't have to go up and maybe be selected. The last time I was a juror, it was for a rape case, and it was nasty. I kept thinking of catch phrases that would definitely be cause for immediate dismissal during the lawyer q and a, while not being so overtly offensive as to cause the other citizens to look at me askance.

We were dismissed to lunch so off I went, into the beautiful blue sky, me and my rolling briefcase of work. I played downtown "zig zag" all the way to the library to avoid the Green Peace workers on the various corners. Some people congratulated me on my walk, because I still had the juror tag around my neck. I read a few issues of Publisher's Weekly at the library and then bought a salad at a nearby shop and ate it with a plastic fork--which I hate.

That afternoon, they promised more juries would be assembled. I continued working, talked on the phone, went to the rest room, got more free coffee. There were only a dozen or so of us left in the room.

At 3:15, the m.c. got up and announced that due to our diligence (more p.r.) all the afternoon cases had been negotiated out of court. I was trying to make the connection to diligence and settling out of court, but, no matter. We were free to go!

Moral of the story: show up for jury duty late, and with unprocessed paperwork. Enjoy the wi-fi, coffee and donuts.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

650 words a day

That's what I need to write in order to finish STL by January 31st. Okay, one day down, 76 to go.

Friday, November 14, 2008

prose therapy

I don't know any writer who gets to just sit in her ivory tower and pursues her art. Do you? Fiction writers, poets, playwrights, we all have other jobs.

Most of my colleagues write reviews or essays or journalism pieces (I do all three). Many of my cohorts are teachers (I am only a teacher as "cameo appearance").

Then there are the ones who, like me, write copy for the lion's share of their day jobs. I invent copy, edit copy, brainstorm copy and fix copy. I wrestle with words for hours in behalf of my clients who are C-level corporate dudes, small business owners, artists, performers, nonprofits and entrepreneurs. At times, this job has proven stressful and tedious, particular when committees are involved, and the individuals who make up those committees can't agree on tone, style and message. But, fortunately, my typical client is a unilateral decision maker with a passion for a product or service.

I love working with people like that. I love it because I get to channel their styles, their personalities and their dreams, and come up with a story. My business partner, Laura, once called me a "prose therapist." What a great title, eh? Aligning words with the essence of a particular business or service?

These days, when the phone isn't exactly ringing off the hook, and clients are making very careful spending decisions, I feel myself increasingly reflective about the best way to finesse copy in service to helping clients grow, or sustain, their businesses. And reflection, at the end of the day, is a healthy response to the chaotic tumble of a catawumpus economy.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

give it up for love!

Hey all you fans of love out there, let's talk about writing...and love...and writing about love.

Here's where I'm going with all of this. I'm writing a narrative nonfiction--a tell some, let's call it--about the way we (and by "we," I mean people over 35) look for, find, screw up, keep looking, and eventually, hopefully, find lasting love.

Now, in 2008, the vehicles have changed but the grail object hasn't. I have my own circuitous story to tell about my hunt-and-gather, and I've been interviewing others about theirs. This book I'm writing has the working title: But Where Will We Put the Tipi? A boomer's guide to romantic sustainability.

With the help of research and a marriage counselor friend, I'm attempting to weave a bit of "expert advice" into the mix, but mainly, my project is a story-driven one, and in service to that, I'd love for interested subjects to share their tales, tips and successes with me!

For this purpose, I have yet-another blog: that breaks it down a little more succinctly.

At the end of the day, though, what I really want to do with this book is to light the path for those newly or unsuccessfully on the frontlines of the dating world, particularly those who are intimidated by online dating sites, social networking and meeting potential romantic partners in the myriad new ways that exist.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

hail to the chief

I'm wanting to savor today, relish in the optimism that comes from good news, a long-awaited change, and a deep-felt feeling that the people of this country are thinkers, hopers and doers.

I'm not a black-white person, by nature. I don't think in terms of evil and good, right and wrong, or any absolutes, really. Instead, I'm a believer in balance. In Thermodynamic Law. In the innate ability of critical mass to seek survival as opposed to death. Therefore, I'm not surprised Obama won. It was inevitable, because if he didn't, we'd be looking at the spiral towards extinction, and I don't think we're ready for that yet. We're still too young, and we haven't moved into wisdom yet. We haven't accepted, as a species, mortality. And until we do, we're not ready to be obliterated from the planet.

The sum-total of Bush's past two administrations has been the ultimate cautionary tale. From them, we've wiggled out a dark horse, the closest thing our culture has produced as a political prophet since Kennedy. But Obama is no Kennedy. JFK, despite his visionary tendencies and articulateness, was reckless, emotionally immature the victim of an Uber-eager family. I don't see any of that in our President-elect. I did worry, for a time, that he was too green, and that his readiness would best be leveraged four years from now--but given the McCain--Palin debacle, I see that I was being ridiculous.

Our new president will be a thoughtful, careful leader. A role model the likes of which we've NEVER had in office, not in my lifetime (except for Jimmy Carter, maybe, but he was charismatically challenged).

I am exhaling and watching and hoping and happy.

Good job, fellow countrymen!

Monday, November 03, 2008

the all soulé's weekend festivities of love

Posted by Picasa What a weekend! In deference to fun and frolic, I interrupt "Let's Talk About Writing" to post this collage o' people in attendance at our nuptial confab(s) this weekend.
More after I recover.

Okay, I've recovered. See all the pink? Not an accident. I thought it would be fun to demand that our guests wear pink in honor of our "pink cloud" metaphor--which basically means, we're refusing to trudge down the bleak path of normative muck. Why not extend the fairytale into the golden years? Why not wear the color associated with new and fresh and pageantry? Besides, this was "turn the clock back" weekend, which causes suns to set a half-hour or so after lunch. Plus, the rains have returned.

But, who cares? I'm in love!