the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘community’

a guide to getting along with in-laws over the holidays

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized on January 1, 2013 at 9:37 am

The-Taunting-mother-in-law

One of the many disappointing things about getting older is that you can’t just be an ass and blame other people for your shortcomings.  BOO, old age. BOO!!  Case in point: I’m in Florida for the holidays with my wife’s family.  I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t keen on coming.  I don’t really love traveling over the holidays; I’ve had run-ins with my brother-in-law in the past (though I will say he’s been a real great guy on this visit); and really, Flo. freaks my shit out.

Still, it’s the awkwardness I feel around some of my in-laws that freaks me out most.  When we all sit down for a meal, it feels as if I’m on a bad date–a bad date in which I have to sit across from like a dozen people who don’t want to be there with me.  This is where my progress shines through.  Are you blinded yet?

The other night I was at dinner with the clan.  My father-in-law always likes to go out to some restaurant with everyone at least once.  Odd thing is that almost always, he sits and stares off into space when we get there.  He works hard, to be fair.  And he always works.  He’s also not the only one who seems distant.  My sister-in-law’s boys can sometimes have meltdowns, which only add to the strange feeling because as a whole, I think the family feels some shame for the boys’ behavior, and many of us kind of drift off as the boys are being reprimanded.

Anyway, no one is really talking, or maybe they are.  I am bored out of my mind.  This year, I have The Boy as a shield, and as a friendly face to focus on, SO I’m getting by.  But it hits me.  Part of the reason I feel awkward around my in-laws is that I am always wishing it were different.  Basically, you have a room full of strangers who only come together because of their spouses.  There’s little chance that I would hang out with many of these individuals and the same is true on their end.  And this is where the age thing comes in.  In the past, I would sit back and assume the problem was elsewhere, i.e., with my in-laws.  Occasionally, I would shift the blame to myself.  I know I’m no saint.  But what I think I realized this time out was that I am wrong to assume it’s a matter of blame because the truth is no one is to blame.

It’s no one’s fault.  It’s just what it is.  And I do better when I accept it as such, because if I’m honest, I think that’s where my awkwardness comes in–it’s a masked disappointment that I just can’t seem to find a way in with these people who are so close to the woman I married.  Maybe that’s sad.  Maybe it isn’t.  What do you guys think?  Do you get along with your in-laws?

I hope so.

I also hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season.  See you in 2013.

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a rejection letter to be thankful for…

In career, Uncategorized, writing on November 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

I am not one to be thankful when it comes to writing.  Even when I get published somewhere, the euphoria only lasts so long.  Soon enough, I’m starting down that sad, useless road of comparisons.  If, by chance, you are not a writer/artist of the neurotic persuasion, this road is full of distracting signposts along the way. Ones that tell you that of course you got your story into X or Y magazine.  X or Y are not The New Yorker.  They aren’t even some top lit mag like The Missouri Review or Zoetrope.  X or Y magazine aren’t good; in fact, they are desperate.  As the road keeps going, you see another signpost: if X is a print-only mag, the next signpost tells you that you are never going to get read by the piddly few readers who actually subscribe.  If Y-Mag is web-only, the next signpost on the road tells you to turn off and cry because you aren’t good enough to get into print.

You get the idea, I think.

It might be a sign of where I am now; perhaps I have learned to ignore these unhelpful signs along the way.  But that’s unlikely. Still, just a couple days ago, I received a lovely email from the editor of The Fairy Tale Review, a mag that is especially open to the kind of fantastical (not to be confused with fantasy) fiction I tend to write.  I am going to quote the complete note here because…oddly enough, I’m proud of it:

Dear Mr. Martinez,

Please forgive this atrocious lag in response time. FTR is a small operation – my pair of eyes only!, unless you include my glasses, of course. Whereas I absolutely loved your story (I read your submission many times and found it more and more sophisticated and smart with every read!), sadly, we are going to have to pass on it right now. Please understand that this decision has nothing to do with the quality of your writing. I have struggled to create the most balanced and delicate issue, which means making impossibly difficult decisions, heartbreaking ones, such as not taking your story. Please please please consider submitting to us again in the future!

Yours, with admiration,
Lily

This isn’t about bragging.  It’s just to share a nice point of light in what can sometimes seem like the bleak silence of putting words on the page.  How many days/weeks/years do artists toil in obscurity?  The hardest part for me is not the work.  It’s the sense that no one aside from your friends and family think your art is worth a two-penny damn.  How can you know–really know–if you haven’t hit it with readers/publishers/agents because you just haven’t found your way OR because you just suck.

The answer, the sad sad sad answer is that YOU do not know.  You just write/paint/sing and you put yourself out there.  And then, you wait.  AND wait. And wait some more.  But sometimes you get a nice email, and you add some hope to all the wait.

Here’s hoping!

ps. if you want to read the very short fairy tale, check out my portfolio site:

the key to career success: suck it often and quickly…

In career, life, observations on November 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

start knocking

OK, this is probably not going to come as big news to many of you.  But the notion that if you want to do something well, you can’t be afraid to fail got by me somehow. I know I’ve heard this before.  Maybe it was a late-night infomercial hosted by some self-help guru. But when you boil it down, strip the idea from the cheesy guy smiling his 1000 kilowatt smile in the darkness of night, there is something to it.

I came to realize this a few weeks ago while I was at a conference for Transmedia storytellers.  For a couple days, I had been running into a guy named Donald Cager.  Donald, humble as pie, introduced himself to me as a producer of commercials.  Little did I know that Donald doesn’t just produce any commercials; he produces some of the biggest spots on TV.  If you watched the Olympics, then you probably saw his Samsung commercial about a thousand times.  I say this because it was this humble, successful guy who finally helped me figure out what I’d been missing.

It’s not uncommon for me to have more than a couple projects on the burner at once.  I just work better that way.  But when starting these things, I always waste a lot of time trying to figure out which of the two I should focus on.  More than once, I have gotten locked up and not started anything because I wanted to know which project would be the better use of time, and as I’ve gotten older, this quandary has gotten more severe.  And with each day at the conference, because I was being exposed to so many approaches, my anxiety about my next steps as a writer was increasing exponentially.

I said this to Donald.  I think I used that staid metaphor of the door.  At the conference, I was exposed to so many doors, so many ways to move forward as a writer.  Not that many of these doors would lead to success.  Most wouldn’t. I knew that.  And that truth was scaring me into paralysis.  But Donald, in his quiet way, turned it around on me.  He basically told me that I needed to open any and every door as quickly as I could.  Because the sooner I went through all the wrong doors, the sooner I’d find the right one.

I love this.  It’s amazing, but just with that little bit of wisdom, I feel so much freer than I have in a very long time.  So why didn’t I listen to those late-night self-help guys sooner?  I think they say the same thing.  Oh, that’s right.  Because they usually suck.  That, and the fact that one bit of wisdom just doesn’t make it worth the pain of looking at those blazing white smiles–made from cheese and cynicism.  I guess you get the lessons you need when you are ready for them.

Thanks, Donald.

no thanks, dude

play is the new work…if you’re an artist, at least

In career, life, observations, writers & books, writing on October 22, 2012 at 4:30 am

I recently attended Story World 2012. I’m happy to report that it was well attended, well organized, and the talks were, for the most part, thoughtful and thought provoking, which is a lot of thought when you get right down to it.

If I had to describe the main theme of the event, I’d say it was play. There was a lot of talk of play and the importance of allowing yourself as a storyteller to create experiences (we don’t just create stories anymore according to the panelists I heard) that allow us to be kids at heart, and that allow our readers (experiencers, I guess would be the right word) to be child-like as well.

Usually, I get a little annoyed when people start talking about permission to be a child, about the need to release our inner child—I hear these phrases and think psycho-jargon from a time long since past, a time when bell bottoms and free love were the rage.  (I’m not talking about the 2000’s by the way.)  It’s not just that it sounds dated, I also think that language hides a certain hypocrisy.  It’s like the people saying these things need to take their own advice and not take themselves so seriously. I don’t know, but no child I know sets out to be child-like.  They just are what they are.  Shouldn’t we just be who we are?

Damon Lindelof, creator of Lost

The panelists who I saw at Story World—each and everyone—all seemed to answer this question.  They made me realize that that is the point: people do not act as they really are; they act as they think others expect them to be, and hence, they need to be reminded to allow themselves to be child-like when the occasion calls for it.  According to speakers like Damon Lindelof (creator of Lost), Sean Bailey, the President of Disney, and Brian Clark (Transmedia guru), one such occasion is when creating narrative.

I already knew that as a writer/creative/storyteller/experience maker, I had to get my child on.  I mean, what is storytelling if it isn’t make-believe?  But at some point, I felt guilty for letting myself be that child who likes to revel in stories.  Sadly, make-believe is believed by many to be only for children.  After some time at Story World,  I realize that that is BS. Play is good and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact, I think if I’d let myself explore that inner child a bit more, my writing and my art would be all the more strong.  And I think the same is probably true for anyone who has to be creative.

What do you all think?  Does art require a childlike appreciation of play?  And if art does require an inner-child, does this mean I have to get out my bell bottoms?

being in LA without driving…and liking it

In life, observations, writing on October 20, 2012 at 7:38 am

I’m going to the Story World Conference in LA, my hometown.  And I’m getting there by train.  That’s normal enough in most towns, but did I mention this is LA?

This morning, I’m riding on a commuter train that is basically empty, which is an odd experience.  I am used to the morning hustle of the East Coast, specifically the trains in New York, which can be strange social exercises in that there are no other places in which you can be that close to someone without it being sexual.  But here in LA, people don’t seem to like that kind of morning intimacy; hence, the ghost train.

I almost don’t want to say this, but as I’m moving forward through the metropolitan Los Angeles area, it’s a good thing that this town is Democratic leaning.  I could just see someone like Paul Ryan grimacing if he saw all the open seats around me.  Of course, the dismay wouldn’t just be coming from the Right.  I could see a bunch of Left-leaning types getting up in arms about the waste of energy this empty train represents, a sign of the times: we just can’t keep going on like this, we just can’t keep raping the Earth.

I will table these concerns for a moment.  I’m actually experimenting right now.  I want to see if I can visit LA and not drive on the freeways, not drive at all.  I’m taking up this challenge in response to Alissa Walker.  If you’re from LA and you don’t know her blog, GelatoBaby, get yourself there.  And if you aren’t from LA, I’d still tell you to get over there.  It’s a must because she loves LA, and she certainly does love LA because she tries to see it for herself without falling back on clichés and stereotypes.  LA, I really think, can often be misunderstood.

she loves her gelatto, her Los Angeles, and walking while enjoying both

For the purposes of this post, the issue that I am most interested in has to do with Ms. Walker’s need to walk.  She does not drive, even though she lives in the heart of Los Angeles.  She takes buses, trains, and true to to her name, she walks a lot.  She makes the claim that this is possible.  And I’m going to use these next few days to see if she’s right.

 

I’m a shy tonka truck looking for direction…

In career, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on October 18, 2012 at 5:03 am

I know. The title of this post sounds like some lame attempt to be sensitive on Match.com.

But in reality, I’m getting ready to attend a conference for writers, multimedia-gurus and tech know-it-alls.  I’m staying with my folks, which is great for me, because it gives me the chance to say hey to my peeps while also getting the chance to do some networking.  I say this though the truth is that I’m not sure how the whole networking thing is going to go.  I can be kind of shy, but shyness can sometimes creep up on you.  It hides in the day to day of faces that, if not friendly, are at least familiar.  But once you break that pattern up a little bit, there she is, shyness is there, telling you not to say too much to strangers.

I am hopeful there will be a lot of people in attendance at this thing.  I’m kind of odd this way, but I’m not shy in large groups.  But that only goes so far since at some point, I will want to network with people, schmooze, press the flesh, etc..  That is kind of the point of this kind of event.

Or is it?

I’m making things up as I go.  There is a part of me that is unsure why I am going and what I hope to get.  The conference is for Transmedia storytellers, which, as I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, is a term that can have as many meanings as there are weird technical people spewing it out.  But to put it at its simplest, Transmedia is for people who are trying to tell stories over a number of different media.  So you might have one main storyline told in book form, but then you have a spinoff-plot develop in a game or a character might have a Twitter feed and tweet to people who have bought the book or the game.  It gets a lot more complex and a lot more interesting, but at least this gives you an idea.

Regardless, what worries me is that I am changing things up again.  In previous posts, I made the mantra of 9 months and out, but this might just have been bravado masking insecurity.  I’m 40, almost 41.  Most people have their careers set by now, and what am I doing?  Jumping all about, trying things on, seeing where I fit.  Isn’t that what 20-somethings do?  Or 30-somethings—early 30-somethings?

As my 70 year old mom drove me to the train station this morning, I felt a little bit like a fool, like a man-child being dropped off to school.  Those same feelings of insecurity I felt so many years back: will the people I find like me?  Will they think me ridiculous?  Those same feelings are flooding me.  When I was a child, I knew I couldn’t stop time.  I knew I just had to suck it up and go to school, and more times than not, things turned out well.  I hope the same now, except that I know the stakes are a higher.  I don’t have to worry about a bully or a mean girl.  I need something to work out here regarding work.

I’m not looking for someone to give me a job or offer to buy something I’ve written.  I don’t need anything that big.  I’d be fine if I could just find the next step in this process of reinvention.  I think I have the energy for a big push.  I just need to know where to point myself.

Another memory comes to me as I write this.  When I was a kid, that shy, somewhat anxious kid, I used to love this yellow toy truck.  It was one of those toys that you’d have to rev up before letting it go screaming across the kitchen floor.  I am that yellow truck, all revved up, waiting patiently to go speeding somewhere—but where?  That’s the difference.  I’m a self-aware Tonka truck in need of career GPS.

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.

why do writers sometimes put off…writing

In Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on October 10, 2012 at 5:44 am

WTF?  I am a writer.  Now, it’s true that as a new father who teaches, I am often not writing as much as I’d like.  This is not surprising.  Time is a premium, especially for new parents.  But even before The Boy was born, I was a serial waster of time.  Give me four hours to write and I’ll kick butt for two–the last two.  The first couple hours will be me reading around the web, looking up random things, writing myself notes about other random things that pop into my head while looking up the aforementioned randomness.  I catch up on emails sometimes, too.  It’s the virtual equivalent of cleaning the bathroom, which is what I used to do before I got in the habit of writing in coffee houses, which I did because I thought I’d waste less time.

For a while before The Boy, I was all caught up on blog reading, but my toilet had seen better days.  (My wife hates cleaning more than she hates eating salads, which is saying something in her case.)

Now, I only have dribbles of time in the morning or late at night.  And the dribbles are even dribblier because I still want to read things here and there and write emails.  I’m like my first car, an ancient, brown beast that I bought for 500 bucks.  My father told me when I got the thing that I should always warm her up before driving–advice I have since been told is a bunch of BS.  Oh well, dad meant well, and The Beast didn’t last the summer.  But what was not true that car, certainly seems true for me.  I need time to circle into the writing process, to warm up the brain, to face the fear that I will suck.

I say this even though most times when I do my warm-up, I hate myself as soon as I start writing.  Why?  Because I love writing when I’m not doing everything I can to avoid writing.

I’m not sure if there’s a solution here, other than doing as the good people at Nike used to advise: Just Do It!

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 »

9 Months & Out: Is It Better to Be Open or Focussed When Looking for a New Career?

In career, media on September 8, 2012 at 6:20 am

 

After too much deliberation, I am going to the motherland (Los Angeles where my mother does live, btw) in October, so I can join a lot of other writers/programmers/social media people for what I hope will be a learning experience.  Story World is not cheap, though it is not as expensive as some other professional conferences.  I’d tell you more about what the convention entails except that I’m not sure–not exactly.  The event is for storytellers who want to work across media and incorporate gaming aspects and social media into their narratives.  It’s not really about how to tell stories, as far as I can tell.  It’s more about how to use different media to create new ways to experience stories.

Apart from that, I imagine there will be a lot of trading of the biz cards.

In general, I’m of two minds about conferences. One part of me thinks they are a waste of time and money. I’ve gone to a couple for writers.  And it was fun to be around other members of the tribe, but I didn’t really get anything out of them, professionally or artistically.  How many times can you attend workshops like, “How to Sell Your Novel” or “How to get an Editor’s Attention”?  If it were all so easy, then there would be as many bad books published as there are crazy people writing them.

I’m hopeful that since Story World has a more technical component to it that the workshops will be a little more useful.  I also hope that since this kind of storytelling is mor collaborative than book writing that networking will be fruitful.

Still, I have my concerns.  If writer conferences are just a little too closed, a little too predictable, this kind of conference might be a little too open.  Story World is about new media and new media is so new and untested that it’s hard to know crazy from brilliant.  I think I can tell when a writer is being crazy: that 3,000 page tome about identity with detailed disembodied descriptions of the emotional lint is probably going to never see the light of day.  But who’s to say that some app that allows a person to put on goggles and see that lint for himself will not be the next great thing?

There’s an analog to my career quest. A year ago, I decided I would not pigeon hole myself about the kind of writer I would try to be.  I had tried to write a novel for 6 years because without much thought, I concluded that the novel was the only way to go as a writer.  But then I realized I had other interests: film, graphic novels, blogs, children’s books.  Hell, I even thought about trying to write for video games, which I still think would be frickin’ awesome.  Trying my hand at many different types of writing since then has freed me up enormously, and I think it has made me better.  I learned that I love to collaborate, that in the end, if I do get a book out and if it were to be read by any amount of people that I’d love that book to be a children’s book–one of those children’s books that adults could read, too.  But I also learned that I love to tell stories more than I love to write fiction books of a certain kind for a certain reader in a certain format known as a book.

Of course, there’s a downside to all of this: namely, it can leave you a little directionless, as with Story World, all this possibility leaves me not sure if what I’m producing is crazy crap or crazy good, or worse yet, not crazy enough to be either good or bad.

So, in October, I’m going to a conference to learn what I don’t know.  Am I a fool?  Maybe.  But maybe, that’s all you can do when you’re starting out on a new path.  Keep taking steps and hoping that if you drop enough business cards along the way, someone will find you and tell you where home is.

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