the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘career’

Running in Circles is moving…so come on along

In career, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on January 14, 2013 at 8:00 am
moving sale sign

we’re not exactly selling anything–except good writing.

In case you didn’t see the previous post, my friends, this blog is a moving to a new spot.  It’s still all the neuroses you’ve come to expect, but it’s a newly designed site with a really new theme: reinvention.

Like I mentioned previously, you can only run so long in circles.  Sooner or later, you need to get moving towards something.  So, the new site is called re-Do or Die, and that’s what it’s about.  Just so you know, this very day, we have our first guest blogger, Joe Ponepinto, from Saturday Morning Post fame.  Joe is the editor of the Los Angeles Review, and he’s a friend of this blog.  Most importantly, he’s an up and coming fiction, and he’s got some inspirational words about re-inventing himself as a fiction writer.

Come on out and check out the post.  See you in my new diggs!

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we are packing it up

In career, life, writers & books, writing on January 12, 2013 at 5:00 am

210440-Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-Of-Retro-Black-And-White-Men-Carrying-A-Were-Moving-Sign

I’m moving sites, and I’m really hoping you will come along for the ride.

For over two years, I’ve been writing this blog, which kind of roamed free over a number of subjects, but the underlying theme was this idea of spinning my wheels and not going anywhere.  Hence, the name of the blog.  Eventually, as the great film, Shawshank Redemption, will remind you: you got get busy living or get busy dying.  I choose life.  I choose motion.  And hence, as a symbolic gesture, I’ve chosen to self-host a blog about reinvention defined broadly.

The new site is called, re-Do or Die.  As I mention in the description of that site, my hope is to chronicle this next year and my goals.  But I am also hopeful the new blog will be more of a dialogue than this blog has been.  I really do want to create a community of and for other reinventionists.

To that end, I’m going to have regular guest bloggers, and I’m going to try and get a little more interactive.  So, come along for the ride.  It should be fun.  At the very least, it should go somewhere, not just around and around.

what Walt Disney taught me about getting the job done

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on December 5, 2012 at 5:01 am

It’s no secret that the secret to better writing is to put words on a page often and frequently.  (Yes, I now there’s some irony to what I just wrote.)  What’s also ironic is the fact that I seem to come to this conclusion every few months as if it were the first time.

Case in point: this past weekend, I applied for a Disney Living Worlds fellowship.  Or is it a grant?  Is there a difference?  Whatever it is, I applied for one.  I actually applied with two different projects.  It didn’t cost anything to apply, and there was no mention made as to a limit applications you could submit.  The really interesting thing for me is that I wrote both applications over the weekend.  These weren’t the most in-depth applications, I’ll admit. There were tight word limits, and basically, you had to explain what your project entailed and how you would incorporate multi-media into it.  Tight word limits can sometimes be more difficult because you really have to choose your words wisely.  You have to get to the point.

I’m not really sure I did a great job on these apps.  But what’s worth pointing out is that I just forced myself to get them done and turn them in.  In the end, I think that’s a lesson I’ve come late to.  There’s a quote, I think it’s Emerson.  I’m paraphrasing, but it’s something like,

“perfection is the enemy of progress.”

I’ve never done anything perfectly, but I know I’ve tried to make things so good that I’ve become paralyzed or overwhelmed or so frustrated that I have given up.  You need not look further than the hard drive of this computer, which has on it 3 versions of 2/3 of a novel, which I referenced in an earlier post. The novel was never going to be perfect.  Maybe it was never going to be good, for that matter.  But if I would have finished it, I could at least say I had a novel done and be free to move on to the next.

I know there are some who are going to argue that this is facile.

    • How do you know something is done?
    • There’s real value to sitting on something until it is as good as it can be.

To the question, I’d say that it’s done when you can’t think of anything else to do with it and when a trusted reader can’t come up with something that you think is valid.

And to the other point, DUH.

But at the same time, I’m reminded of a podcast interview I heard recently with Mark Duplass.  He’s a filmmaker, supposedly some hero of the mumblecore aesthetic.  That’s not that important. What was really cool about this podcast is that when asked about his process, Mr. Duplass basically said it’s all about being good enough.  It’s not about being perfect.  It’s about giving it your best and then moving on.  Mr. Duplass, where was your wisdom when I was struggling that beast, AKA, my novel?

So, my application this weekend.  Hey, I’m not saying it was genius.  But I had a goal of getting that thing in, and I did it.  And I’m feeling good about that.  I’m not going to let myself think I could have done better if I’d taken more time.  I’m not gonna.  And neither should you.  Go out there and get shit done.  Done, being the much more important word than shit, by the way.

 

an early new year’s resolution: SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on November 28, 2012 at 4:45 am

Who’s kidding who?  I’m not going to do that.  I’m genetically programmed for complex.  I like hard.  I am unsuited for calmness.

Some of this is hyperbolic, of course.  I am not a complete nutjob.  But I do have a habit of choosing difficult things.  As a kid, I decided to be a violinist–yes, a professional violinist.  More specifically, I had this idea that I’d be a soloist.  If you can’t quite imagine what that means, I would liken my chosen career path to wanting to be a professional athlete, but not just any professional.  Being a soloist is like being the top player in your sport, the Michael Jordan, the Pele, the Lance Armstrong without the doping.

You might be thinking this is impressive on my part.  Please don’t make that mistake.  I started seriously practicing at about the age of 16–soloists usually start when they are 4.  I didn’t have a great ear, either.  I practiced like the dickens, it’s true. I can say this without exaggeration: from the age of 16 to about 23, I might have missed 5 days total in the practice room.  But the truth is that I was not smart about practicing.  I was a grunter.  I was all about effort.  I took pride in how hard I worked and not in how good I sounded.

True, I got decent eventually.  By the time I stopped playing, I was good enough to gig for a living in LA.  My last year in LA, I played more Korean weddings, Jewish high holiday parties–more pick-up gigs for more local orchestras than I can tell you.  Basically, by the time I stopped playing, I was…ok.

Did I mention I had gnarly stage fright?

My need to strive beyond my talents did not stop with the violin. As a writer, I felt the same kind of calling.  I let my need for complexity cloud my judgment.  For four years, I put in hour after hour on the computer working on a novel that I didn’t have the chops to write.  I was reading The Corrections at the time and Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, was rattling around my cranium.  In fact, I was trying to channel these big books as I wrote my own “big” book about a group of caretakers looking after an autistic man the year his elderly mother was dying.

Did I mention that I had some Salman Rushdie magical realism mixed in with some elements of Sound and the Fury.

I am no Faulkner…I know, you are surprised!

YES, dear reader.  WTF?  This “masterpiece” was my first attempt at a novel.  I probably could have written three novels in that amount of time if I’d just kept it simple.  I’m not saying they would have been great novels, but by just getting through a whole thing, I would have learned a lot more than writing and re-writing and tri- and quad-writing the same 2/3 of that thing.  I mean I got into writing after reading Raymond Carver and Richard Yates and Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene.  I still think they are great writers, but they are not extremely sophisticated, uber clever writers like Rushdie and Faulkner.

Did I mention that I am neither clever nor sophisticated?

an author with the skills to be complicated.

Did I mention that I have come to the conclusion in middle age that I am not exceptional?  Oh, you know that already, don’t you?

I tell you all this because I am doing it again–at least, I fear I am.  In January, I’m moving away from this site, packing up the verbal luggage and moving over to a wordpress.org self-hosted thingamajig.  Why, you ask?

I have decided I want to try and focus on something in my blog-writing.  More details will come over the next few weeks.  It’s enough to say that I have been learning the HTML and reading up about traffic and blog structure and some other tech-craziness.  I’m enjoying it, but I’m nervous I’m being complicated to keep myself from really doing the hard work of digging in.

And yet, and yet, I feel alive.  The great Joe Ponepinto, whose blog is very cool and worth a look, recently mentioned in a comment that I should just follow my bliss.  And maybe that’s the thing: I bliss out doing shit the hard way.  I don’t know if it will be good for the writing career, but I think there’s something to this strategy.  Let’s see.  I’m just hoping some of you will come over with me to the new site.  Come on!  It’ll be different, but I promise I will fill those posts with the same kind of neurotic-complex-loving love I show here.

That’s a promise.

just cause I’m poor doesn’t mean you need to treat me poorly…

In career, humor, life, observations, writing on October 15, 2012 at 4:55 am

OK, I’m trying to change things up.  I’m trying to reinvent the wheel–yes, I am the wheel in question.  I am getting old for this, though–not turning as well as I once did.  But I’m trying.

I will be going to a conference for multi media storytelling later in the month, and I will be writing about the experiences, which I am sure will be full of me fretting about asking dumb questions of smart people.  But talking to strangers about what they do is still not as daunting as talking to people about trying to get work.  Recently, I put in an application with a local non-profit that has a program for career changing folks like myself who want to work in media-related fields.  It seemed like a great fit.  The application process was a bit daunting.  I had to fill out a number questionnaires, write an essay, research potential ad agencies/film production companies I’d like to hit up for a job during the course of my training.  I had to come up with a social media plan for myself, which included setting up a portfolio site.  I ended up making two: one for writing and a second for visual/film stuff that I am still building.

The application took a bit of time, but I thought it was worth the trouble since the program would give me training and the opportunity to talk to people working in the field.  Little did I know that the guy who runs the program is a bit of a flake.  He never confirmed receiving the application and all the materials I sent–FINE. He didn’t get back to me about a couple questions after the fact.  FINE.  And then last week, we were supposed to have a telephone interview, and he flaked.  NOT FINE.  An hour after the appointed time, I get a form email–addressed to Hi ____.  (Yes, the blank was included, which is so NOT FINE).  In the email, he apologized for not getting back to me and the other people he must have flaked on.  He was behind on interviews but wanted to know if we were available any other time on Friday or Monday.  I wrote him back, forcing myself to be polite, though I wanted to tell him off, honestly.  I moved things around to be available, and the only thing I got for my trouble was a damn email that wasn’t even addressed to me.  By the way, I never heard back from him.  (Need I say how UNFINE that is?)

SO what to do?  I still think the program is worthwhile.  I think it would be good for me.  But I also feel like I should complain to the guy’s boss.  I mean, I know what it’s like to work for a non-profit.  I’m sure the guy is super busy.  But I also know that this program is geared toward people who don’t have work and are looking for training.  I’m fortunate.  I have a decent job with benefits, which is nothing  to sneeze at in this economy.  That’s why there’s this part of me that feels like the guy is not being sensitive to the people he is trying to serve.  Just because you are poor, doesn’t mean you should get poor service.  And that’s why I feel like complaining.

I probably won’t in the end.  I want to see if I can get into this program, and I doubt I would if I started bad mouthing the guy who decides who gets in.  But then again, I’m an old wheel trying to be new and squeaky.  And you know what they say about squeaky wheels.

some advice for bloggers…DON’T BE USEFUL!!

In life, observations, Uncategorized on October 8, 2012 at 6:09 am

Blogs, this blog at least, tell stories in addition to the ones told in words.  You get to know someone through a blog not only by what the writer tells you, but also through the subjects he chooses to explore and the manner in which that exploration occurs.  True to this blog’s name, I have been running in circles for a long time.  I’ve been running a 40 year marathon, to be completely frank, but that’s too long a tale to to get into here, so let’s start with the last couple of months.  It must be the Catholic guilt my mom didn’t instill in me but that I somehow still inherited –can you say original sin?

I’ve been trying to figure out why I blog.  My answer: I don’t know why.  A few weeks ago, i decided I should try to be useful.  There’s something too indulgent, I think, about just writing for writing sake.  And yet, isn’t that what we should be doing as writers?  I love this blog, not because it’s great, but because it gives me an outlet to share myself with the people who decide it’s worth a few minutes .  I know this is a good thing, but I’ve fought the impulse.  After reading one too many books about social media and making a career of this writing thing, I briefly tried to limit the scope of what I want to write about.  I tried to find a thread, a theme that I could use to unify what I’m doing here.  The result was that I became tight and unsure of myself.

The thread of this blog, the unifying factor I’m only now realizing, is me, which probably names me a lille bit of a dumb-ass for not having figured it out sooner.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be a little focused, read obsessed, with trying to find my way as a father/husband, my voice as an artist, my next career move as a ????. I’ll still write occasionally about education since I teach every day of the week.  But I’m going to also use this blog to work out some ideas about next steps for me.  Even circles have steps.  My goal, extending the metaphor, is to try and widen that circle so I can cover more ground.  Maybe it’ll be an elliptical shape of some kind, though I won’t change the name because Running in Elliptical Shapes sounds a little dumb.

I guess, the best way to say what I haven’t really said yet is to say, if you’re writing a blog, don’t worry about being useful.  Be yourself.  Hopefully, in that you might help someone else.  At the very least, you will help yourself.

i ride in circles, too

Read the rest of this entry »

the two-hours of crazy, aka., my writing time

In career, life, observations on September 10, 2012 at 5:54 am

 

It’s not unusual.  I know this.  But I’m still struggling to figure it out.  How can I get myself writing as soon as I get out of the house?

Let me backtrack.

I do not–not usually–write at home.  (I am currently sitting in my kitchen, though I’d rather not be.)  I’ve always been this way, but until recently, it has always been by choice.  Now, with a baby, it’s a necessity if I’m to get anything done.  My wife is wonderful and understanding, but there’s just something about my typing at the computer that says to her: he can help me.  I can’t help her.  I mean, I want to help. I certainly don’t want to be that lame kind of husband/father who isn’t available.  But the writer needs to write. Know what I’m sayin’?  This need makes me feel a little guilty, and that guilt, in turn, drives me to do the groceries and cook meals and wash dishes and scrub the bathroom (pretty regularly).  I do this to help.  But I also do this because I feel bad for stealing a couple hours every day to write in loud coffee houses.  I like, no, I love loud coffee houses.  The noise somehow focuses me–sort of.

On average, I find it takes me a good 30-45 minutes to focus in and start writing.  I want to check the Twits, read an article or two about God-knows-what.  I long for a day, a whole day of overpaying for multiple coffees as I spend hour after hour in dimly lit rooms, lost to the muffle of my headphones, which often are not playing anything at all. But, alas, I get two hours and I am thankful for them.

I try to make the most of my time, but the truth is, sometimes I just can’t get to work until I use some of it to do nonsense.  There’s something of a procrastinator in me.  I admit it.  But I’ve come to think of procrastination as a result of something, not a cause.  Fear is at work.  I look at the list of things I want to get done: look for some publications for some new stories, read over the last chapter of my graphic novel, write something new.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  I get a tight stomach and a little nervous–not bad nervous, maybe excited is the word–and the nervousness can sometimes overwhelm me a little.  Too many steps.  Too many things to do.  I want to run.  I want to escape. I start wondering what the point to this stuff is.  I should spend this time with the kid and my wife.  What are all these little things I’m working on leading to?  Why am I doing this? What’s the point?

And then, about 45 minutes in, I trick myself into starting.  I give myself a reward, a cookie, a bite of chocolate or a High-Chew, if only I start.  I can do any of the things on my list; I don’t have to start with the hardest thing.  And then, I’m in.  I’ve transitioned to creative-time. I’m happy. I’m free.  At least I am for the hour I still have.  And then, a little sadly, I pack everything up and I’m off to work or back to the flat to hang with The Boy.

Is this sane?  I don’t know.  I’m heartened that I least I do get something done each day.  But Jesus, it would be so much easier if I could just sit down and get to the list as soon as the tattooed young’n hands me my overpriced caffeine.  That’d be great, and I’d also be thinner.  Those pieces of chocolate are staring to add up.

 

9 Months and Out, Lesson 2: DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR AGE….

In career, humor, life, media, observations, Uncategorized on September 1, 2012 at 6:15 am

I’m middle-aged, and I’m not happy about it.

The other day, I went some place for coffee.  It’s right across from a Starbucks, which I don’t pooh-pooh as a rule.  Starbucks is fine.  It’s good.  It’s ok.  I just felt like changing things up.  This other place is more hipster.  The lines are longer.  The people better looking–no tired looking middle-managers in khakis sitting around with their PC’s in this here place.  This was a Mac crowd, which if nothing else means the coffee is fair traded, cold-brewed with spices from the Himalayas and infused with Madagascar fairy dust–ingredients you pay for through the nose–pierced nose, naturally.

So, surrounded by all the new hipsters and the new shiny Apples, I ordered my Madagascar fairy-infused brew on ice and noticed that the barrista (hate that word) was wearing an LA Kings t-shirt.  In San Francisco, you don’t do this unless you’re looking for abuse.  For Angelinos, San Francisco is a quaint town up north.  In San Fran, LA is all pollution and water-theft and Satan.  Anyway, sensing a fellow Angelino, I asked the man where he was from.  He said Venice.  I grew up in next-door Santa Monica.  We smiled.  We were both Angelinos and Westsiders, to boot.  Cool.  Then he tells me he went to my high school.  Holy ducklesworth!  A fellow Viking!  I almost broke into our school song, which I, as a choir member back in the day, sang many many times at all kinds of events.

I decide against the singing, but still we’re all smiles at this point.  We’re on the same wavelength.  That is until the guy asks what year I graduated.  I feel a tightening around my smile.  I say, “I think I might be a little older,” and then, I tell him the year.  And that’s when he does the same.  He’s 16 years younger.  16.  Oh, fuck you, Mr. Coffee.  Go choke on your Madagascar BS coffee that gives me the runs.  He probably doesn’t even know the school song now that Prop 13 has removed music from the school.

Now, I wasn’t really pissed.  I just felt a little awkward especially because it seemed like he got awkward.  Of course, he probably got awkward because he sensed that I got awkward. Oh, who knows?  It doesn’t matter.  Why do I care?

I probably wouldn’t except that when you’re looking to build a new career as I am, you’re surrounded by young people by definition.  Usually, these young’ns don’t care about me.  I’m just another guy.  But in my head, I assume that they must be thinking  I’m some middle-aged loser.  My issues.  Not theirs.  Which is the moral of this little lesson: go and reinvent yourself if you need to and don’t let yourself be limited by the number of candles on your cake.

I’m 40. So take that, Mr. Coffee?  I can appreciate cool music and non-exploitative coffee like you.  But I have also lived long enough to know Starbucks is ok in a pinch.  I’m older.  Life has made me flexible and ready to drink any cup of coffee life’s barrista throws my way.

nine months and out…a manifesto for switching careers

In career, humor, observations, parenting, Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 5:40 am

 

 

I read somewhere that you have to name to claim it. Or something like that.  I’m terrible about memorizing quotes.  I’m a paraphraser by nature and by limited intellect.  But you get the gist.  I’ve known for a while that I couldn’t keep on as I’ve been–a teacher of poor young people who also tutors the wealthiest among us on the side.  It’s not the work itself, though I don’t love the tutoring as much.  The truth is that it boils down to economics.  WOW, that’s really unique, isn’t it?  But let me tell you a story, which might make a my point a bit more personal if not more interesting.

My family comes from Uruguay, a small country in South America, in case you don’t know and you would not be alone if you didn’t.  The last time I went, I was walking around the downtown of the capital, and I realized that the beaches, which the country is known for, were all being bought up by wealthy Argentines and Brazilians, and a few Americans as well, which meant that something as public as the land one walks on could be bought out by foreigners.  Public beaches in one country were becoming privately owned extensions of another country–colonies by pocketbook.  I naturally thought that this was unheard of in the US of A.  We buy things.  We don’t get bought out, which is still basically true though changing.  And yet, I live in a city, a major American city, where the not-rich are being forced out by the newly-minted techie-rich.

I am not from here, originally.  So in a way, I don’t have the same stake in the game as many of my friends who are native to the City by the Bay.  But I’m a proud, probably to a fault, and I’m an urban-dweller, which means suburbia is not an option, which means I’m locked into a fight here.  I am, for the first time in my life, thinking about money and my need to get a bit more of it.  It’s not just the San Fran, of course.  I saw the same stuff happening in NYC where I used to live before moving here, but I was single then.  There’s something about having a family that’s changed me and how I think of work and career and getting paid.

There’s some personal stuff, too, which you can read more about in a guest post I recently made for Le Clown’s Black Box Warning.  If you’re interested in the inner-pains of my being, check out the post.  For the purposes of this blog, as I’ve said before, I am trying to lay down some plans for getting to a new place with writing and social media campaigns.  I’ll get into the social media discusion in the next post, but for now, I gotsta to get paid regardless of what I do.

It’s possible, I think.  When I first got to SF, I knew I didn’t want to work in an office anymore.  I knew I needed a job that gave me time to write and I knew I was a teacher.  Well, I found that.  Now, I need to get that and just a few more dolars so I won’t be muscled out by all the hipsters and their beards and beamers and benjamins.  This is will be a fight for the proletariat.  Either that, or I’m just plain sick of running in circles.  It’s time to go some place.

the 10-year itch or why i am still struggling with my career…

In life, media, observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized, writers & books on December 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm

 

Age is like a riptide. Without realizing it, you get sucked out farther and farther until you die. I say this and I’m not sad or depressed–not a bit. I’m just feeling a little sheepish because whenever I try something, I’m always about 5 years behind.

When I turned 15, I decided I was going to be a professional violinist. It’s an odd thing considering I came up poor an no one in the family was musical. But I met a great teacher my sophomore year of high school, and he made me think I could do it. So I went for it.  I mean I WENT for it. From the age of 15 to 23, I practiced 7-8 hours a day and missed no more than a handful of days in the practice room. It was hard. Not only is the instrument brutal to learn, not only was I not a great talent, I also was ancient in the classical violin world. I can’t tell you how many times I had these little 7 year-olds go up before me at a recital and just sound amazing while I, the old teenager just sucked it. I mean, SUCKED it. Out of tune, bad rhythm, the whole sucky stew of lame. But I didn’t give a damn, or I tried not to. I stuck to it, and I started getting better and I think I might’ve even ended up being pretty decent by my early 20s. I started to gig a lot. I played some nice venues and in some good orchestras. If I would’ve stuck with it, I would’ve never been an amazing musician, but I could’ve made a decent living between gigs and teaching. I also had caught up with all the little kids who were now in their early 20s and who were not quite so amazing as I’d once thought. I was, if not as good as them, then certainly in the running for my age.

And then, I started getting antsy. I’m that classic case of a person who won’t be part of any club that would have him. SO, just as I was getting decent, I bailed on the violin–left it and didn’t look back.

I’d been a good student in high school, and I guess I realized how much I missed reading books at that time, so I took a philosophy class at a community college and POW, a year later, I was off to New York to study Religion. I was 24 when I entered Columbia University, young by most standards, but once again, I was the old man for what I was doing. Undergrads thought I was the TA in almost every class. I was starting to lose my hair, which didn’t help me any with the young ladies. I could’ve gone for a grad student, but I felt inept and lame, so I kept to myself and my books. In a way, I didn’t have a choice. I’d been out of academic classes so long that I was always behind. Once again, I was the lame old guy who couldn’t keep up.

8 years later, I’m inn grad school, completely miserable because again, I had the itch. I didn’t want to spend my life chasing after academic minutiae AND there was the fact that I finally had caught up again with the people around me for where I was. I wasn’t the youngest person in class, but I wasn’t the oldest, either.

To cope with grad school, I started writing fiction, and I loved it. I started a novel the same year I left school. I was 33–kind of old for a first novel, but not impossible except for the fact that I didn’t have the chops for the medium. Seven years later, I’m still at the writing thing. I feel old, though. There are a lot of people in their 20s and 30s who are trying to break through as I, 40 with a wife and kid on the way, am trying to do the same.  Struggling to get an agent to rep a collection, a graphic novel and a first script, and not having much luck. I’m trying to get out there. Network. But the tide is pulling at me and it scares me a little. I’ve never been one to look back, but some times when I hear people my age who are making a life in the arts, and I hear how they’ve been cracking their heads against walls since they were in their early 20s, not more than ten miles from where I was sawing away at a violin that now is quite dusty and neglected, I get a little wistful. I wish I’d started to put myself out as a writer then, not now.

Again, but by necessity, for the last time, I’m the old guy.  Again, I’m late to the party.

 

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