Archive for the ‘Second Draft’ Category

Inevitable Detours: Life and the Pursuit of Happiness

February 14, 2009

tap_alisdair

flickr photo: alisdair

Hi. Welcome back.

Hopefully, the past year has been good to you and yours. In light of the recent emotional-political-economic roller coaster, I offer a toast: May there be more good days than bad days ahead, and may we learn at least a little something from both.

Yup, I haven’t worked on Strain in a year. About the time the first draft trickled to an end, I got caught up in some new research. It’s Alfie Kohn’s fault. See, I identified some crossover between my attempt to be a better, less-overwhelmed, more-understanding dad and the underlying motivations found in neuroeconomic/behavioral economic marketing. There are some striking similarities between the two approaches towards understanding behavior and influence. But that’s an ENTIRELY different blog. Let’s leave it by saying I was consumed; still am, but now that I’m out of the immersion, I’m ready to get back to a balanced post-office hours evening filled with kids, darling wife, a little Strain, and a little of the new gig.

The New Gig

While we’ve been able to get by on my income alone, it sure would be nice to have a second source of income. For a while now, J’s been talking about going back to teaching. She loves teaching and helping students, but the idea of returning to a school setting was less than motivational: classroom management, school politics, and hours and hours of paperwork at home.

J is passionate about teaching kids. And big on one-one-one, or individualized, instruction being a key to a student’s education and growth. We talked about her working as a tutor and kicked around some other ideas, but nothing really sang the sweet song she wanted to hear. Then it occurred to me: I write interactive tutorials, demonstrations, web seminars, speeches, you name it. I’ve written close to 600 of ’em for our clients over the last four years…(Is this beginning to sound like her elevator speech? Because if it is, and it’s good, she’ll start using it.)…why not write interactive tutorials for students?

And her little business was born. I’m part of her little team of bootstrappers.

The idea is this: the fundamentals of education are still the same: 2+2, i before e, except after c, etc. Common technological advances make available alternative (supplemental) methods of delivery. So, she’s developing a dynamic learning environment that helps students identify their individual learning style, create multidisciplinary (science, math, reading comprehension) lessons, and adapts the content delivery to the student’s learning style. The dynamic environment monitors the student’s progress and adapts to their skill level, while providing a setting that encourages students to take chances without the fear of failure or embarrassment of being ‘wrong’ in front of their peers. (Notice a subtle crossover with neuroeconomics/behavioral economics? I certainly did.)

J leads the enormous task of developing the curriculum, I’m the typing monkey, and we’ll gather together her team of smart designers, animators, and developers to help us build the thing.

We’re working nights and weekends. It’s exhausting and exciting, and we’re flying by the seats of our pants. We’ve been having a wonderful time working together. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

So, I’m starting this new phase of the book nice and clean. We’ll talk about that next time.

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Thirty-nine years and counting…

April 17, 2008

“Is something wrong?” she said.
“Well, of course there is.”
“You’re still alive,” she said.
“Oh? And do I deserve to be-
“Is that the question?
“And if so
“If so,
“Who answers?
“Who answers?”

‘Alive’ Ten

Pearl Jam

Once an intimate personal anthem, the song is now a point of reference, a dogeared page in a chapter full of wild times, raving idiocy, and occasionally, a dry, genuine encounter. I listen to it every April 17. I look forward to it each year.

Completing the first draft: A look back at the writing process – Part 2

February 18, 2008

What didn’t work

Pinning down this list was more difficult. There are so many variables; when did a method slip from the ‘Worked’ category to the ‘Didn’t Work’?

For instance, NaNoWriMo 2005 was instrumental at the start. Our son was six-weeks old, we were exhausted; it was a stressful time. Our daughter was 2 years old and she didn’t give a whit if her brother was up all night. She’d slept her 10 hours and when morning came you better be ready for action. NaNoWriMo 2005 was an island in the storm. I wanted to complete the 50,000 like a dog begging to be let outside. It was a relief, but completing NaNoWriMo was a pipe dream. There was no way I could manage and not be a self-absorbed yahoo. My wife was all for it, but with a daughter and a newborn, we had no idea what we’d gotten ourselves into. So NaNoWriMo worked until it didn’t.

Since NaNoWriMo 2005, I haven’t felt the need to participate because I never quit the NoWri part.

So with that, let’s dig into the things that didn’t work:

The deadline: Wha…? I know, it’s not what I said previously, but by it’s nature, a deadline has to be met to be considered a success. Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely. My very first deadline was to complete before my 20-year high school class reunion. Stupid idea – right motivation, wrong implementation. The second deadline was more plausible – four months – and I was close. Really close

Attempted assault: It was one encounter on a business trip, but it severed the continuity and momentum I’d built and sustained. I really, really hope those three boys got everything they wanted for the holidays and have since found more gainful employment and are giving back to the community in which they live. At the very least, picked a different form of after school entertainment.

Prime time television: It’s a crutch. Some days after work and getting the kids down, there is nothing better than a healthy dose of mind-numbing television to get you through.

Wine, wine, wine: This is not a cry for help. But if they could caffeinate it, I would’ve spent less time nodding off on the couch.

256MB of memory : I love, love, love my Dell C400 laptop. It weighs less than 4lbs, but until very recently (three cheers for profit sharing; hip, hip!) working in a document and opening the browser brought my little CPU to a 100% standstill. The new, additional memory has made a big difference. (Would it be irony or coincidence that the lack of computer power put the kibosh on browsing the Web instead of writing? Should this be considered a ‘Worked’ column item? Hmm.)

Self-(insert item): If there is one thing I learned, I have no control over the story; only the process. The only influence I have is putting my ass in a chair with a keyboard on my lap every night.  The story is outside of me. I’m recording the events. Events that are happening with or without me. Once I got me out of the way, things worked…better.

Trust the story. Be diligent and responsible and it will be just to you. Now, I’ve got to get back to work. Thanks for dropping in to take a look.