Freedom of speech?

Independence day is fast approaching. It’s a day when we celebrate our freedoms as Americans. For writers, freedom of speech is among the most important. But, for a writer, that freedom carries an obligation. Unfortunately, for me, it is an obligation that I have considered and chose to ignore. Why? I guess one could say that, in recent years, I’ve become increasingly neurotic. I hesitate to speak or write my mind for fear of offending someone. As our country continues to devolve, the fear of rejection and reprisal is becoming all to real.

One has to admire John Bolton and Mary Trump for their courage in attacking the current administration and those responsible for our plight. I wish I had that courage, but I don’t. Whenever the “President” does or says something stupid, I become angry and want to strike out against his obvious ignorance. That has become an almost daily occurrence. Of course, I say nothing. There have been a few times when I have started to do so, but I have always deleted that which I’ve written.

I went to bed early on election night in 2016. It seemed pointless to watch the returns. I was confident Hillary Clinton would take the election.

When I came downstairs the next morning, my wife met me at the foot of the stairs. “The light is out in the refrigerator.”

“Damn!” I hated changing those bulbs. They were hard to access and difficult to remove.

“Don’t worry about that now. We have bigger things to worry about.”

I looked at her quizzically. “What?”

“Trump won the election.”

It’s hard describe the feelings of fear and uncertainty that flooded my mind. Later, I took time to analyze those feelings. I could only compare them to how the German Jewish community must have felt when Hitler came to power. I shelved those emotions, but I have to admit that they do return from time to time. In fact, I shudder whenever I read of him being compared to a Nazi dictator.

As I said, I’ve never expressed my feelings in writing. What you have just read is probably as close as I will ever come. Take it for what you will.

What’s in a title?

Last week, during a virtual reading of my novel, someone asked, “Did you come up with the title first or after you finished writing?” My reply was, that in this particular case, I had the title long before I put pen to paper. However, this is not always the case. Often, the title for a piece can be elusive and can require quite a lot of thought. I’ve experienced both scenarios. Needless to say, I prefer the former.

When I was fourteen, I wrote a story simply for my own enjoyment. The title popped into my head at the very beginning of my endeavor. I submitted the piece for my senior high English class three years later. During my Freshman year of college, I revamped the story and used it again for an English class. In my Junior year, I submitted it again for a creative writing course I was taking. Most recently, I dragged it out once more, dusted it off and updated it for a Halloween anthology submittal. The editor liked the story and made a few suggestions that I readily accepted. Then came the surprise.

“You need to think about changing the title.”

“Really?” I replied. The title was something that I had never considered changing. “Why?” I asked.

“It gives away too much of the story.”

I had never thought of that, but he was right. The title did divulge more than it should. Now, the question was, “What was a good alternative?”

I was at a loss. I was so comfortable to the existing title that I could not see beyond it. I finally tossed the ball back into the editor’s court. With his help, I finally arrived at a more suitable title, and the story was published in the anthology.

Titles can be tricky, and I don’t really have a pat formula for choosing one. If one of you does, please let me know.

Between a rock…

Well, here we sit … between a “rock and a hard place”. The hard place is our current pandemic caused by COVID19. The rock is a completely unprepared and totally incompetent Federal government. Needless to say, we are all doing our best to deal with this unfortunate situation.

Our local writers’ group meets every other Sunday for about four hours. We have been doing so for the last five years. We read and critique one another’s work, have lunch and exchange personal stories and opinions. With the advent of the virus, we have been meeting virtually, and, for the most part, this has worked well. The one exception is that it seems difficult to really converse. I suppose that is the result of being on line and having to wait until it is one’s turn to speak. Any overlap leads to confusion and somewhat garbled comments. I suppose this problem will gradually wane as we become
more familiar with the program.

However, to date, no one has raised the topic I would like to touch on today. Certainly, such a subject requires much discussion and personal feedback. Our group may be avoiding it because of our limited on- line experience.

Regardless, I can’t help but wonder what this pandemic means from a writer’s standpoint. Over the years there have been various novels, short stories and movies dealing with the subject. Now we are in the midst of the real thing, and any presupposed assumptions are now truly fiction. We are seeing what really happens in such a case and have been exposed to a variety consequences. Personal accounts of sickness, death and hardship abound. People have lost their jobs, their sense of security and their naivete. We are experiencing the gamut of emotions that accompanies such a world-wide attack. We are also experiencing the lack of leadership that we always assumed would be there when country faced a major crisis.

As writers, we often ponder possible scenarios, characters and situations. COVID 19 has now provided us with a multitude of possibilities. The question, now, is, are we up to the challenge?