Archives for Writing
Today is quiet. The southern Rockies that I see out my windows are dusted with snow and the sun peeks in and out between broken clouds. The wind is picking up and the temperature is below 50—it’s a pretty typical winter day. Later as it cools, I think I’ll make a fire. My goals for today are modest, sort through the recycles, do a few loads of laundry, and write a blog. I’m trying not to get a cold so I’m drinking lots of juice and I am spending most of the afternoon reading, one dog sleeping below me and the other curled up on the couch. It’s a bit chilly so I cover myself with an afghan that my mother knitted years ago. Pretty cozy.
When we write books we review hundreds of research studies—combing the literature for evidence based treatments as well as interesting new possibilities. We spent many months preparing and writing our last book on child psychology and development. We took a huge amount of material and clinical experience and organized what we (and many reviewers) believe is an original way to conceptualize childhood and child psychopathology. So, one afternoon, after a grueling day of working at home sitting in front of the computer screen, we decided that we needed a change of position (and our tired eyes, aching backs, and sore behinds agreed). We were spending way too much of our recent life writing about people and their problems. Although we do get many emails from people who read our books and benefit from them, it’s not the same as having someone in person in your office who gets better, and feels better. So, in a moment of pure madness, we decided to go back into a limited psychology practice. We want to work with kids and their families and put to use some of the techniques we’ve been writing about.
We just returned from a much enjoyed vacation to the British Isles. When I can remember, I like to write down ideas for blogs or other projects and carry them around. Many times I forget to use them or look them over later and can’t figure out why the particular phrase sounded so interesting. Well, we were taking a tour of some prehistoric ruins and for some reason the tour guide (I forget why) said that something was “as useless as a chocolate tea pot.” That description seemed to me so utterly British and I immediately imagined a picture of chocolate melting from hot water. I couldn’t resist getting out a scrap of paper to write it down but had no idea how to use the words.
Well, we finished our next book: Child Psychology and Development for Dummies. It’s not out yet, but you can order it online. We’re really proud of the book and hope our readers will find it interesting, fun, utilitarian, and educational. Perhaps some of you have been reading about the developing competition between hard or soft cover books and e-books. Amazon recently relayed that their market share for e-books has exceeded their market share for traditional books. Between the long, lingering recession (which sends many folks to the libraries or postpones their book purchases), and the somewhat pitiful e-book royalty rates, frankly, the writing business just isn’t what it used to be.
I’ve been thinking lately about what it was like giving birth. My first labor (with twins) was many years ago. I know it lasted 36 hours and that I was conscious for most of the time. I vividly remember the bed, the room, and the sound of an IV dripping and the sad faces of those who visited knowing that the twins were coming too early. The second time, about 6 years later, the labor was shorter—just about 8 hours I think. I know it was pretty frightening. I remember the worried look of the doctor and the run down the hall for an emergency c section. I remember shaking in the recovery room. I remember looking at the amazing babies with tiny fingers and toes and laughing and crying. But, I can’t remember the feeling of the pain. Some of our regular readers might know that we took about 6 weeks off blogging. We were overwhelmed by giving birth to a book. During the labor we struggled to complete this huge project. At any one time during the day one of us would say things like, “This is horrible,” or “I can’t stand the pain,” or “Never again,” or “Why did we ever agree to do this project?”
We were both the kind of students who showed up early to class, got all of our homework done on time, and worked hard to get good grades. Both of us can still recall the times we didn’t quite meet our own very tough expectations. Through the years, we’ve attempted to listen to our own advice and do our best—but also know that we can’t do everything all of the time. And so, when our fun biweekly blog turned weekly, well that worked for a while. But lately blogging became the oh my gosh we’ve got to write a blog today as well as write the next chapter and read those papers and supervise this student and we don’t have time to watch the grandkids or take the dogs running or go to the grocery store.
A small article about the Belmont College Mindset List appeared in the morning paper today. Each year the college puts together a list of interesting bits of information about the incoming freshman class. I was surprised by one of the items. Apparently, most of this year’s incoming freshmen do not know how to write in cursive. This fact led me to my computer where I have spent the last few hours researching cursive handwriting (of course I am supposed to be working on a book project today so the topic of handwriting had great appeal as a way to delay the inevitable). It appears that although the majority of elementary school teachers teach cursive, it is not required in some schools and students don’t appear to be using cursive as much as they used to.
When I was a little kid in elementary school, my father used to take me to the impressive main branch of The Detroit Public Library to look up material for school assignments. He wouldn’t allow an encyclopedia in the house because it wasn’t a primary source. That was just the way it was at my house. Another fond memory from childhood is riding my bike about two miles (without a helmet or a parent) to the local library during the summer months and filling my bike basket with books to read during the week. No one at my house paid too much attention when I read late into the night with a bright flash light under the sheet providing just enough light to read. Our grandkids won’t ever do those things.
I admit, I can be a bit of a news junky—sometimes when I’m supposed to be working at home, I can’t resist a look at online news or a quick video of some current story. I confess, the oil spill has got me riveted. That’s not good when there are outlines to finish, blogs to write, bills to pay, or articles to read. Okay, so the laundry needs sorting so I can turn on the news while hanging and folding. Those pictures of black oil gushing into the gulf make me nervous. How about you? The current controversy is about how much oil is actually spewing out. The company originally guessed about 5,000 barrels a day was leaking, but estimates now have grown from maybe 20,000 barrels to possibly 100,000 barrels. A barrel of oil produces about 19 gallons of gas (among other things). Hey, when I fill my car up at the gas station, I usually put about 19 gallons in my tank. So, for me if the lowest estimate (5,000 barrels) is correct, I could fill my car up about 5,000 times from one day’s worth at the lowest estimate. I usually fill up about once a week—5,000 weeks, that one day’s worth of leakage will take care of my car for the next 96 years. Now, I do drive a reliable car, but…
Here’s a secret. When traveling, most authors go to bookstores and check to see how many copies of their books are on shelves at the local bookstore. For us, it used to be a gamble. Chuck would say, “Do you want to get depressed?” and I’d say, “Yes, let’s take a chance.” Now, since we’ve been writing For Dummies, it’s a pretty safe bet. Today, we are in Overland Park Kansas; it’s pouring rain, and we’ve nothing to do. So off we go to the local bookstore. There are 13 copies of our books. Pretty cool. Anyway, we noticed that the 2nd edition of Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies is out. We’re proud of our work on the 2nd edition. We updated the material and added a part on what’s making people more anxious today. We included chapters on finances, violence, natural disasters, and terrorism. Chapters packed with timely information, common sense tips, and strategies for dealing with tension. But, as walk among the shelves here in Kansas today, we’re facing another source of tension and anxiety. We’re here visiting family.