Sunday, November 20, 2011

Making Time for Yourself in This Time of the Year

Well, here we are again. The holidays. Oh, I know we’ve had holidays before -- MLK’s birthday, Easter, Independence Day, Labor Day.

But, those were just holidays. Each one meant something different, of course. Celebrating the life of Martin Luther King or the resurrection of Christ or our nation’s birthday or the common working man and woman.

And, yes, these next three holidays -- Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day -- each have a specific subject of honor.

We know different, though. Those three events are the megalopolis of holidays. All across this great nation, families are making important travel plans for Thanksgiving. I, myself, will be on the road as well.

I don’t make such grandiose schemes for any other holiday. I don’t have to go to anyone’s barbecue for Memorial Day or Labor Day. The most important thing on Easter is my church.

But, woe to the person who has nowhere to go for Thanksgiving.

After Thanksgiving comes Black Friday (or Black Thursday night if you’re Wal-Mart or Target), kicking off the official Christmas shopping season. So, now, you’re in the Christmas mood (and, no, Hallmark Channel’s 200 days of Christmas movies doesn’t put anyone in the mood).

Should you and your wallet survive the yuletide, you come to one of the most important choices. As Al & Vicky once intoned: “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?”

The point I’m trying to make here is that from this point on, until Jan. 2, we are one a different plane of reality. Family, friends, food, travel, shopping, gifts, celebrations will be on our minds for the next 40 or so days. Some of us may even find time for some good will on Earth, peace towards men.

What we may not have is time for ourselves. And I don’t just mean not hearing screaming kids or chatty in-laws or the belching airline passenger behind you. I mean actual free time for yourself.

If you’re reading this blog, you know I’m talking about writing. Isn’t it ironic that November is NaNoWriMo? The true test of writing a novel in a month is November when you’re bound to be heavily distracted just when you need the most concentration.

Still, you must continue your craft. You must get in that minimum one hour of scribbling per day.

Trust me. After all the hoopla of the holiday season, you’ll welcome an hour of silence in which to write.

The question is: Will you give yourself that hour?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A New Appreciation for Editing

I’ve been doing movies off and on for the last 20 years. From being asked to fill in at the last minute for movies in Hong Kong, Australia and Japan to being a vicious killer in a low-budget Japanese trilogy to being a mystery man in several episodes of Homeland with Claire Danes, there was always one part of the experience I never considered.


Yeah, yeah, I know I’m a journalist and I’ve been doing it for 30 years. Editing is the most important part of the news writing process.

I’ve also published numerous short stories, novellas and, now, novels. The editing portion of those works still gives me headaches.

No, what I’m talking about is the editing associated with radio.

A different monster than movie editing. Robert Zemeckis is primarily concerned with Denzel Washington looking good in Flight, not with the fact that the same black guy in a tan jacket keeping driving by Denzel in a Toyota Prius. I just did what was asked, so I wasn’t bothered. Jennifer Aniston wearing pasties instead of really being topless in Wanderlust bothered me, but the Zemeckis thing didn’t.

Anyway, this past Friday, I got hit with a whole new level of editing when I hosted my new Internet radio show called What's Out There. Thank God I wasn’t on a time limit. I needed three hours to do 60 minutes of interviews. I also learned that I can’t say the word “okay” on the air (George Carlin failed to mention that one). I also found out my voice has modulations I didn’t know existed.

I got to the studio early, got a quick lesson on the layout, including testing the microphone to find out how close I needed to be to it. The special guests arrived and my producer Rob got soul jazz artist Cheri Maree and her manager set up as well. In case you’re wondering, I was so nervous during the interview that I said “soul jazz artist” at least half a dozen times.

Rob had to stop me about 25 times during the interview to correct my mistakes or modulate my, uh, modulations. I still have no idea what he meant.

We did the real interviews in 10-minute segments and needed 45 minutes to answer 10 questions. At least, Cheri Maree and her manager were great and talkative guests. I really only had my sense of humor. (I would like to take this time to apologize to Ms. Maree for pretending to be back on the air that one time she was in the facilities).

All through this time, Rob is monitoring things or attempting to blind me with a laser pointer when the clock was about to hit “0” for a break.

At last, I got to the finish. Then, we had a second interview to do by phone. That was a whole other kettle of fish. Laptop computer. Skype. Headsets. 3-M (the headset volume control got stuck).

The interview went well. Yet, I still felt weird talking into the headset microphone and the radio microphone at the same time.

Now, it’s all done, save for the...get ready for it...editing.

I’m depending on Rob to make me sound like a genius, which is no easy task. I have tried to imagine what he’ll have to do to cut out all the “okays” and keep the flow of the interview going. Most of all, I need a good editing process to make me look good.

Zemeckis, Soderbergh and company are concerned with the real actors, not the extras. Newspapers and publishers have the writers make the changes.

However, this Internet radio editing process is completely in the hands of someone else and it’s the most important editing of all.

Wish me luck.

Update: The show was just posted on Youtube and I sound okay. There’s room for improvement (a lot of room), but the editing obviously went well and kept Rob up all weekend.