Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

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Like Riding a Bike

June 5, 2014

People like to say that one never forgets how to ride a bike.

People lie.

Skipping the back story, I was invited to go bike riding this past Sunday. I liked the idea. Indianapolis has a rapidly growing bike culture that I have yet to participate in.

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Two recent phenomena in town made the evening bike ride appealing. First is the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. This network of downtown pedestrian and bike paths connects various shopping, dining, and cultural destinations. The second is the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare program. One can rent a bike from any of several stations downtown, ride it locally, and return it to any of the other stations.

As it happened, the bike ride plans fell through. But I wanted to try out the bikeshare anyway, just to see if I could make it work. So I put on my exercise clothes, drove myself downtown, parked my car, and walked to a bikeshare station. The program must be off to a good start, there was only one bike available.

I passed the intelligence test of the computer that rented the bike to me. I pulled it off the station with great satisfaction.

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Only then did it occur to me that I was standing in a public place with a bicycle. I haven’t ridden a bike since I learned to drive a car. That was four presidencies ago.I straddled it like a pro. I could stand there holding it all day. I successfully adjusted the seat for my height.I seemed to recall that I was supposed to start by pushing the pedal and lifting myself off the ground, simultaneously. More easily remembered than done.I did not, as you may suspect, fall on my face. Or any other body part for that matter. I rolled the bike in a small arc before I hopped off again and thought, How the hell did I think I was going to do this with other people?

I thanked my stars that I was alone. I made a toddler-esque loop around a parking lot, pumping my arms like mad and locking my knees. Somehow that seemed backwards.

My pride wouldn’t let me stay in the parking lot. As luck would have it, I found a straight, underused section of bike trail adjacent to the interstate. I made a few laps back and forth to tame my flailing limbs. With that warm up, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and ventured onto the Cultural Trail amid the pedestrians, vehicles and other targets.

I enjoyed exploring downtown without my car. One misses so many details by driving — plants, sounds, houses, stores and entire streets wash by. I found art installations, balcony gardens and lots of other bikers. I discovered that the Cultural Trail runs down a quaint alley underneath the raunchy gift shop attached to a gay bar. Who knew?

I might apologize to you for my long break from blogging. I’m actually still in the midst of my other projects. But I’d like to get back to writing. It’s cathartic for me, even if it’s a chore for you. In rereading some of my older posts, I found I can be rather depressing. I do apologize for that.

I suppose blogging counts among the things that are as memorable as riding a bike. But I always have trouble making time to write. Judging from my wobbly sea-legs after gracelessly dismounting the bike, I not sure how soon I’ll get back to either riding or writing.

 

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What I Did on Summer Vacation

September 3, 2012

I’ve been on a hiatus, obviously.

I’m still crossing my Rubicon.  I’ve just been writing other things lately.

I was informally commissioned last year to compose a Mass for my parish.  If you’re not Catholic (i.e. headed for hell) “composing a Mass” means that I set some of the weekly Mass prayers to music.  Theoretically, that music coordinates together as a suite.

I enjoy composing music—creating new melodies and playing them with ad libbed accompaniment for myself.  I’ll play in a stream of consciousness, or toy around with melodies or harmonies I’ve already written.  Adding constraints to the process—existing lyrics that must be incorporated or limits on singable ranges—somehow paradoxically makes the process easier for me.  An English writing analogy might be limiting a post to one hundred words, or writing a short story without using the letter “T.”  I’m more engaged when solving a complex problem than I am writing with no constraints at all.

Notating music, on the other hand, is a royal pain in the patooty.  I’m glad I was writing Rubicon before I started notating my Mass.  Blog posting has made me practice editing, adjusting layouts and polishing my output for public consumption.  In writing, the author strives to lead the reader to an idea through words, punctuation and paragraphs.  In music notation, the composer attempts to recreate his performance through another performer by handing him or her a sheet of paper.  Music notation, for me, has a lot more room for error than just writing words.  As an amateur hack musician, I don’t know exactly what I’ve written until I play it.  And I often don’t play what I’ve written, I play what’s in my head.

So I’ve been writing, rewriting, printing drafts and red-lining all summer long.  The project is almost complete.  My blog photographer Michelle Codarmaz-Booth created a fantastic cover for me.  When the Mass is finished, I plan to offer it for free online.  I’ve tried sending music to publishers before.  My submissions had no result, other than pummeling my frail ego. Like most industries—writing, art, engineering, etc.—music publishing is not about talent or ability. It’s about who you know and nearly limitless perseverance.

When the Mass is finished, I’m still going to be busy in musician mode. I’m playing for a cousin’s wedding in October.  I generally play weddings for our family.  I’m very opinionated about it.  But that’s another blog post.  After that I have yet another mixed media project that will limit my blogging output.

So, although I’m not producing many blog posts, I should have some nearly tangible alternatives to show you soon.

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What’s New Yourself? An Introvert’s Perspective

February 4, 2012

Matt Chong, an enthusiastic extrovert over at The Pinstriped Suitwrote a recent post that was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page.  Mr. Chong, like most enthusiastic extroverts, believes that the world would be a much better place if everyone else were enthusiastic extroverts.  The main point of his post is that we should have a ready answer for the question “What’s new?”  He suggests that if one mumbles, “not much,” in response, then one’s life needs shaken up in some fashion.

Lest Mr. Chong believe that many lead lives of quiet desperation, I would submit that introverts may see the conversation differently.  At least one introvert does.

If we’re in daily contact, I assume what’s new? is the same as how’s it going? and what’s up?  If I’ve asked someone what’s new?, I don’t rightly care about the answer—and I assume they don’t rightly care about mine.  We’re oiling the gears of human interaction; I don’t need to know about someone’s personal growth (in whatever form) while at the urinals.

If we’re not in daily contact, what’s new? trips an odd switch in my brain.  I infer that my answer should be newsworthy: births, deaths, marriages; a new job, house, or car; upcoming vacations or major weather systems.  If I have no news on any of these fronts, my mind goes completely blank.  My running shoes may be new, but they aren’t equal to the magnitude of the question.

Mr. Chong suggests that my answer to what’s new? should be drawn from my current passions in life.  I disagree—that’s not what was asked.  If I’ve been passionate about something for a year, it’s not truly new and is excluded from the category.  Thus, all the stray thoughts on the white-board of my mind are wiped clean by what’s new? and I’m left with nothing to offer.

Sadly, I lost a friend due to this quirky neuro-misfire.  We used to work together.  We talked every day.  She moved to Michigan for another job.  We kept in contact by phone for a while.  But her standard question to me was what’s new?—not just once at the beginning of the conversation, but any time there was a lull.  These were highly stressful phone calls for me—I was continually emptying the junk-drawer of my mind, sorting through the mundane daily nonsense to find something that would qualify as “new.”  My friend’s need to know what’s new was a millstone.  I dragged my feet when returning her calls.  Eventually, she stopped calling.

It is also possible that I shortchange the answer to what’s new? because I dislike the person asking.  I don’t share my thoughts with people I don’t like.  (I realize this is a bizarre concept for extroverts.)  I cannot abide the loquacious, the disingenuous, or the incompetent.  I refuse to reveal any intimate part of myself—and certainly nothing I’m passionate about—to them.

I may be writing a book, composing a new Mass setting, creating a Shutterfly travelogue, remodeling my kitchen, or just fighting interpersonal communication wars in blog posts, but one is unlikely to find out about any of these things by asking me, “What’s new?”

Many thanks to Matt Chong for his post.  It certainly gave me a lot to talk about.


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Blogging Out

October 4, 2011

A week ago I was ready to take a hiatus from blogging.  I’m being pulled in other creative directions lately.  I felt I wouldn’t be able to devote the time needed to polish up blog posts.

As soon as I made this resolution to myself, a dam broke in my mind.  Four ideas for blog posts came rushing in.  (Posts of the real kind, not the ones where I’m making knuckle-headed comments about popular culture in hopes of drawing web traffic.)

So you’re stuck with me a while longer.

While I’m stopped though, here are a few random tidbits:

  • I’ve preferred not to talk about my writing process on Rubicon.  As a result, I very rarely tag my posts with the word “writing,” since they’re not really about writing; they just are writing.  Here’s the funny part: when I want to find something new to read on WordPress, one of the few tags I regularly click on is “writing.”  That’s bizarre.
  • Rubicon doesn’t get a lot of web traffic, which is my own fault.  I’ve not handed out my blog address to everyone I know.  I don’t post links on my Facebook wall.  Instead, I’m practicing marketing by osmosis.  I approach most things in life similarly.  I presume that if I do good work, people will recognize that.  For anyone else trying to expand your blog traffic, I want to let you know: my approach does not work particularly well.
  • I have been plugging away at my novel.  I’ve not finished Chapter 7 because I stopped to write an outline, which was more difficult than I imagined.
  • The search terms that land visitors on this site can be amusing.  My favorite search string so far has been “They bring smooth comforts false – rubicon.”  I have no idea what this means.  But I suppose that which brings web traffic shouldn’t be questioned, true?
  • My most popular search terms?  Variations of “Box 5 at the Opéra Palais Garnier in Paris.”  I only made a passing comment about it last year.  Perhaps I should elaborate.
  • A few weeks ago, Michelle, her camera and I made another romp through Indianapolis in search of bridges.  I forgot my sunglasses and hat this time.  Nonetheless, we came back with 933 new pictures that I can play around with for the next year.  I’ve revamped my “About” page and posted a new avatar image there.
  • I still hate the word “blog.”  Yuck.
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A Fortunate Failure

February 25, 2011

I mentioned that I’ve joined a writers’ workshop.  We have seven writers and a moderator.  We meet weekly and review two pieces distributed at the previous session.  Usually they are short stories.

I’ve written two pieces for the group.  Except for my post, Taking Orders, and a few like it, these are the first short stories I’ve attempted to write since high school.

We reviewed my second story, What Laura Knows, this week.  It was universally disliked.  My attempts to be subtle and draw readers in did not succeed.  Instead of leaving bread crumbs to gently lead readers where I wanted them to go, I had shredded several loaves of irrelevant information and scattered liberally.

I received compliments on some nice phrasing and sentences, but ultimately there wasn’t a focused point to the piece.  (Wait a minute! That’s what a blog is for!)

I knew the story wasn’t finished, but I had no idea it was so far off-base until I heard fellow writers review it.

It was a fantastic night at the workshop for me.

For many years, I’ve had a nagging anxiety that I couldn’t trust positive feedback from people I know.  Teachers, bosses, family, musicians and audiences alike have regularly said that my work, performances, and efforts were very good.  Personally, I doubted that the end products could consistently be as well done as people claimed.  It seemed more likely that I received compliments because I’m loved by my family.  Or I followed protocols and etiquette.  Or  I smooched the proper posteriors.  Or I intimidated people into thinking I must be smart and talented with my pretentious manner of speaking.

But the writers’ group was entirely different.  They completely trashed What Laura Knows—not in a mean or derogatory way, but logically and honestly saying why the story didn’t accomplish what I had hoped.

It was a revelation and a relief.  Not only did I receive constructive criticism, but it came from people whose writing I have reviewed and admired.  So, God as my witness, when I do hand them a story they’ll gush over, I’ll know it’s an honest opinion and something I can trust.

I walked into the workshop this week wondering if I would be encouraged to submit What Laura Knows to a literary magazine after a few minor edits.  That honor deservedly fell to someone else.  I left with a complete change of perspective—about myself, about writing and about my workshop group—which was a much better outcome for me.