Category Archives: Writing and Social Media

“Heather the Totality” by Matthew Weiner

Provocative. Evocative. Compelling. Matthew Weiner’s debut novel Heather, the Totality delivers characters who will linger in my imagination for a long time. Characterizations are captured in short, visually stimulating scenes that keep the action moving and the reader reflecting on karma, the many nuances and challenges of parenting, and the pursuit of personal fulfillment.

“Her parents weren’t bad people, but they were living in a self-righteous delusion that they deserved everything they had,” Matthew Weiner, Heather, the Totality.

I can’t remember the last time I was disappointed by a non-fiction book that I read based on a review. I’d say I’m batting less than 1,000 when it comes to fiction I have chosen based on reviews. One best-seller was written from four points of view… that all sounded like the same whiny character.

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What Donald Trump could learn from the NFL

Integrity. Colin Kapernik had the courage to use his platform to make a statement, to force us to dump our cultural denial, to start a conversation, to make things better.

The NFL brings joy and community to so many Americans. Football gives youth something to look forward to, an outlet that helps them concentrate in school, strategic thinking skills, physical fitness, and teamwork. (It needs to figure out a way to make tackling safer. I vote for touch football until 18… but that’s a separate issue.)

Donald Trump is the most thin-skinned, negative celebrity I can recall. Make America Great Again? More like, Make America Hate Again.

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Healthcare maze inspired fiction

Ever since I became aware of Bernie Sanders’ platform in the fall of 2015, I have become a bit obsessed with healthcare, because he spoke single payer. Mathematically, it is the only system that makes sense, whether by each state or by the entire nation.

I have several novels started, but only one published, Dream Walking. Recently, it occurred to me that two of my novels were inspired by two distinct healthcare journeys.

I conceived Dream Walking twenty years ago, and it has been through many incarnations. Georgia’s journey through trading addictions and the mental health system is harrowing at times, because although there are many variables in the mental health equation, many of them are not addressed in conventional treatment.

Although brain disorders (a more accurate term than mental illness) and addictions are often braided, they are separate conditions and each needs its own treatment. The subconscious plays a huge role in addiction, which generally is not properly recognized, let alone effectively treated.

I am in the process of writing Baby Fever, a sequel to Dream Walking, which was inspired by my journey toward motherhood. I was a recurrent miscarrier, and then as time ran out had trouble getting pregnant. Without Fern Reiss’s The Infertility Diet: Get Pregnant and Prevent Miscarriage and the detective work of three amazing high-risk obstetricians, I would never have either of my two children. I ended up needing low-level intervention, but if your doctor can’t figure out the underlying issues, it’s hopeless.

For those with overactive imaginations, it’s much easier to tell a story through fiction than memoir.

What’s beyond anyone’s imagination is the twisted and torturous economics that lie at the foundation of our healthcare system. Elizabeth Rosenthal’s compelling An American Sickness details the triumphs of the special interest groups that brought us to where most of us are today — one devastating accident or illness away from bankruptcy and needing a PhD in medical coding to interpret a hospital bill.

 

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Every Song Tells a Story

Some songs are better at storytelling than entire novels or movies. The nuances of the music, the lyrics, the tone, and the emotion of the singer quickly take you through the main character’s journey. Two recent songs come to mind.

Every woman who has a habit of falling for “bad boys,” can relate to Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”. These two lines sum up the fix, the rush, that instant, intense romance provides.

You can tell me when its over
If the high was worth the pain

Novelists spend pages and pages establishing characters, but what better way to describe a spirited young woman with a self-destructive streak than these seven words:

I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream

Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” laments the aftermath of the endless party enabled by designer drugs and the fall from popularity of a pop singer.

But you don’t want to be high like me
Never really knowing why like me

On his blog, Mike Posner details the evolution of the song, and the elaborate and unusual mixing process he came up with to showcase the lyrics.

Ironically, the song didn’t become a monster hit until a couple of Norwegian music producers called Seeb produced a dance club version of it, which is a story unto its own.

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Rick Springfield—Sex and Depression and Rock and Roll

Reading that rock and roll singer/actor Rick Springfield penned his first novel reminded me of his 2010 memoir Late, Late at Night. I had been drawn to it, because it detailed his lifelong struggle with depression.

Curious about the novel, I went online and found an October 2012 appearance of his on Dr. Oz. I was touched by Springfield’s courage in being so forthright regarding the most highly personal of addictions, sex addiction. I also admire his wife for supporting his decision to go public.

I researched sex addiction 10 years ago for a not-quite-done novel whose main character is a highly creative rock musician who kills time creating abstract art, moonlights as an actor, and amuses himself with “mini love affairs,” which become more and more unusual as he sinks further into his addiction. One of the books I found insightful was Don’t Call it Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction by Dr. Patrick Carnes.

Although, as a writer I have always been more fascinated by the shades of gray within human behavior, such as individuals who cannot sustain intimacy, rather than the more extreme behavior one would term sex addiction.

Springfield is not as unlikely a novelist as some might think. Not only did he write an autobiography first, he has been writing songs, interpreting scripts, and creating characterizations for decades.

Despite Springfield appearing slightly mischievous, athletic, and much younger than his 63 years (at time of taping), he recollected a suicide attempt at 17 and intermittent struggles with depression since his teen years. He described how he feels during his bouts, “I feel worthless. I feel like I get no joy out of anything.”

Sex as an Antidote to Depression
Springfield recounted how sex helped ease the depression, albeit temporarily, “There is no outside source that can heal that depression. Although sex helps.”

He deadpanned, “The orgasm is the only time you are truly at peace.”

Springfield explained how he used sex to escape from his symptoms, but that ultimately it was not effective, “It’s a great coping mechanism. It’s a dead end. It’s an outside source.”

Depression Triggers
Regarding what causes the depression, “I get overwhelmed really easily,” Springfield said. He also discussed how the demands of the entertainment industry could trigger depression, “There’s always work to do. I get depressed when I write. I get depressed when I don’t write. I get depressed when I don’t work. I get depressed when there’s too much work.”

Integrative Remedy
Springfield took time off from the music business to focus on figuring out how to beat depression without using extramarital sex or alcohol. He settled on an integrative approach that, at times, included medication. In addition to music, meditation, writing, and his pet dog became his most effective weapons.

The Link Between Creativity and Depression
Springfield is far from the first famous creative to struggle with depression. There are several theories as to how creativity and depression are linked; they are probably linked in more than one way. My theory is that those born with sensitive and empathetic temperaments sense other’s feelings and pain, which drives them to create as a way of releasing the accumulation of intense feelings. Psychologist Elaine Aron wrote a number of books about sensitive temperaments including The Highly Sensitive Person.

Also, creative brains are able to jump around, make unusual connections, and go in many directions, which, at times, can be overwhelming as it can be very difficult to follow through in multiple directions, and that frustration can lead to depression.

CreativeSomething.net’s blog, The Link Between Creativity and Depression and How it Can Be Good for You, expresses another theory, “…Countless psychologists and psychiatrists tend to agree that major depression is amplified in those who tend to ruminate on their thoughts. Rumination… is one of the major keys of thinking like a creative genius.”

The blog explains another link between the two, “For creatives, this depression is what amplifies motivation to do their work better. It’s not enough to keep doing what you’ve been doing as a creative, you have to do more, and do it well.”

Scott Barry Kaufman’s blog for Scientific American, “The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness” assesses several studies. He writes, “It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible.” Too much information can lead to overload.

The Dark Side of Creativity: Depression + Anxiety x Madness = Genius?” by William Lee Adams for CNN is another blog that explains studies that explore the link between creativity and mental illness including depression.

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Anticipating Sinead O’Connor’s Memoir

Sinead O’Connor’s memoir could be as gripping, insightful, and empathetic as her song Black Boys on Mopeds if its sex scenes explore the emotions and the spiritual energy that are part of sexuality along with the quest for intimacy and connection.

When I wrote Dream Walking, a coming of age novel, one of my goals was to write sex scenes that were compelling to read, but multi-faceted. My main character is a blocked creative, and her creative outlet became picking up men.

I could not read Fifty Shades of Gray, which struck me as phony and contrived. Two flawless novels with sex scenes that capture the emotional journey as well as the excitement:

The Cheerleader by Ruth Doan MacDougall

The Detroit Free Press said, “One of the truest portraits of an American girl ever written . . . Everything works in MacDougall’s book.”

Forever by Judy Blume

“I wanted to present another kind of story—one in which two seniors in high school fall in love, decide together to have sex, and act responsibly,” Judy Blume

 

 

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Must read biography – Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is about passion, the creative process, the digital revolution, and so much more. In addition to portraying the phenomenal vision, energy, magic, and explosive temperament of Jobs, Isaacson masterfully takes us into the board rooms, the R&D rooms, and the bathrooms of Apple, Pixar, Disney, Sony, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, The New York Times, and Corning amongst others.

Although Jobs redefined “control freak,” he gave Isaacson unlimited access to every aspect of his life and made himself ignore the research process.

Isaacson tells the story of how each of Apple’s products came to be made in compelling mini chapters. For example, before the iPod could be born, Jobs had to first invent iTunes which involved convincing several major record companies to revolutionize the way that they did business. Another mini chapter details the decision process behind choosing the ungrammatical “Think Different” campaign.

Despite Jobs passion for every facet of designing, manufacturing, selling, and experiencing Apple products, his abrasive management style got him ousted from Apple in 1985. Jobs eventually became CEO of Pixar and then CEO of both for several years. He gambled his personal fortune and nine years of his time on developing Pixar’s animated movies.

Famous for making the impossible happen, Jobs convinced Corning CEO Wendell Weeks to quickly produce a signature component of the iPhone, Gorilla Glass. Weeks who initially balked at the request recollected, “We did it in under six months. We produced a glass that had never been made.”

When Jobs defied his board to create the first Apple store, he indulged his passions for architecture and retailing by becoming involved in every detail from seeking the perfect Italian marble for the floor to the design of the windows and layout.

Unfortunately, Jobs could not will away his cancer, nor could he follow medical advice to adjust his extreme eating habits in order to help him battle the disease that did him in.

My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products,” Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs should be required reading for every business major. Although the first 55 pages dragged, I relished each and every of the next 520 pages and captivated my 4th grader and 8th grader with selected passages.

First published Jan 2012 @ WritersWhoRock.com

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