Monday, December 27, 2010
I was planning to write about something else today then lunch with a friend derailed that plan and led me back to The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.
This book is among my favorites (indeed, I may head right back into another read of it once I finish the work that has piled up on my afternoon).
The essential message is that in life we build up defenses which rear up at any sign of danger. Better than letting them do so is consciously staying open instead. We don’t disregard the potential risks but rather accept that they might exist without assuming that they do.
Earlier, I was at lunch, with a girlfriend, discussing relationships/men. Hers, but once you start that conversation it’s yours as well (even if unstated). And relationships with men don’t just include “relationships” but also fathers, sons, brothers and friends. I’ll maintain that men operate slightly differently (and think differently) forever; and I also work in a male dominated industry so I spend a lot of time with men. Anyone want to disagree?
I told her to read the book. Don’t shut down, pre-suppose, try to control, second guess, assume, etc. And the beauty of the book is that it is about life, not men. We should stick to those rules when we can (and it can be so hard!) in all aspects of our worlds.
And then I started talking about the universal themes. How certain narratives, characteristics, fears and situations repeat. We can’t fight life. So, so hard for me (a control freak) to admit. Yet much as I try to predict and script my life in advance, as a novelist, I still turn back to The Untethered Soul and try to just stay open to whatever may happen. I’m never disappointed because my control usually loses to the unpredictability of life and of people. God bless.
Picture from Ken Rutkowski
Saturday, December 18, 2010
As we come to the end of a year I turn philosophical. New Years is my favorite holiday. For me, it symbolizes a time to reflect on what you’ve done and learned over the past year. Each year my resolution is the same: to do slightly better (I don’t seem capable of large change; like many individuals incremental change is a more realistic goal).
What I’ve been reflecting on this morning is how hard some of push ourselves. Yet no one can ever reach that stage of being flawless or perfect.
In writing a novel a flawless or perfect character would be boring and readers would have a difficult time connecting. Flawlessness, ultimately, is boring. Unapproachable, and unsympathetic. Rather, when learning to write you are instructed to provide small, quirky and distinguishing characteristics …. and flaws. At its worst, this direction reads artificial. We’ve all gotten lost in writing class novels; so full of cute details that a narrative never gels. Vladimir Nabokov, more masterful than most of us, is able to distinguish Pnin, a seemingly undistinguished man. Nabokov subtly builds a world around this professor who initially seems so uninteresting and sadly comical. I read the book over twenty years ago yet it sticks with me, as does the touching character who becomes more (with less) as the novel unfolds. Indeed, even Nabokov’s more famous Humbert Humbert is drawn more by his obsession than his character. The flaws stick with us.
My point? Subtly; not overkill. Accepting imperfection; no, rather embracing it. Each flaw can endear someone as flawless, in its coldness and unapproachably, never can. Why do so many of us thus still aim for perfection (and in our worst manifestation punish ourselves for not achieving it).
I pushed myself too hard this year. When I do that some things – important or not – fall by the weigh side. Perhaps this year my resolution will not be to do slightly better but rather to accept when I don’t do better. To truly accept myself.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Running errands today I almost got into two accidents in about a minute. In the first, a woman driver apparently decided that she couldn't wait for a break in traffic to pull out of her spot and had to exit immediately into traffic. I almost hit her (but needed a spot and I got that).
As I was reversing in to the spot a man walked by my car, then between my car and his, which was right behind me. I saw him jump (rear view mirror) when he realized that I was still reversing in. Who steps behind a car as it's already backing up and MOVING?
I'm writing about these two close calls because they play on a theme I've been pondering and one that many authors explore. We, in certain parts of this mostly stable country, expect things to work for us. We've been relatively safe, most of the time. How do people handle it when things don't work out; as sometimes they can't?
Where did we get this idea that life is safe such that we can explore - in literature - that it isn't? Is it a purely American in this day and age concept?
So I'll return to a book recommended by a dear friend ... Point Of No Return. Published first in 1947 it pulls us back into the world that preceded our own. The narrator works hard to create a better life then that of, as it turns out, his peers. He makes conscience choices, not expecting an end result, then returns to his home town (inadvertently) to contrast his own fate with those he knew. His is better.
And this narrative really is my chosen universal story, even more so than that of life surprising us. How much do we control our own fate and can we understand it even with the distance of time passing?
Both themes recur which is why authors like them so much. In our own lives, as opposed to the world of a book, we are left with the haunting repercussions.
I've started revisiting Captive's sequel again. I'd wanted to write something else first but was persuaded otherwise. Want to bet you might see one or both of these familiar narratives when I'm done?
I added the tree for the holidays. Slick pictures you can buy on your own.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Last night someone read me the Buddhist story about two monks crossing a river. One, the older one, carries a nasty woman across to save her dress. Hours later, the younger one asks why the other monk did so when she was so mean and unappreciative. The answer? “I put her down hours ago why are you still carrying her?”
This week I let down a burden that I’d been trying to shoulder but didn’t belong to me. You can’t carry other people’s burdens. Most often, they are far from appreciative when you try (even if you can miraculously help). Sometimes I need to stand back and let someone else jump off a cliff (they may have a parachute).
A finally self admitted control freak (sort of) I don’t like to admit that I can’t do or fix something. And I’m learning (slowly) to let go of that concept. The truth is that every one of us has limitations.
So this week I’ve let go of a burden that wasn’t my own. I feel so much lighter; my body had been tightening up and I wasn’t sleeping. Both symptoms (of stress) lifted as I yielded to failure (on this issue). I’m so much happier!
I keep trying to be a better person. Once and a while I succeed. On this one I’m proud. I could exlore the issue further but think I've done enough introspection for today (I only handle it in bits and pieces).
And, the pie? I made it!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
I always have so much to say/write sometimes I don't know what to say/write.
Today I resolved the last barrier to writing the Captive sequel. Odd, in that I already have about a hundred pages written. But that draft was forced (an external deadline that killed the draft) and I've been trying to unriddle it ever since.
A walk on the beach with a neighbor I met a week or so ago (we run into each other on morning jogs). An email exchange with a friend of a friend that read the book.
Commitment has never been my strong point; I can sometimes do it. I do commit. But doing so isn't a natural leap. And, the crux of the conversation came down to owning your life and choices; accepting that there is no way out and that you've made mistakes. Self acceptance is the central point in that if you can't accept your own role in the life you create you can't fully commit to what's around you.
Why are we our own out? Because we want to be.
So, I now need to decide who commits to what in the sequel. And only by committing can you fully engage (the rest is escape). Did my characters commit in Captive? What held them prisoner? Obligation or a true commitment? Can you escape those ties?
My biggest commitment is to my children and they bring me the greatest joy I've known in life. I committed to this book; what a lot of work - but I believe in it.
What to do? I'll have to write it all out.
The tree? A surprise for my kids. One commitment I made this weekend; to their happiness and pleasure.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
My life has been such a hodgepodge lately. Good, bad, busy, always busy. I keep learning...often more than I want to learn.
Thoughts for the evening?
1. My son has a job, at sevem, getting payed to plow fields online
2. People surprise you; on the upside and the down
3. I like a lot of what I do; I don't like this economy
4. December is shaping up to be another interesting month
5. Maha keeps me sane and balanced
6. Apple (computer) really is a better company
7. No, I haven't seen enough movies lately
8. I do have a book recommendation every few days or so
So that is my mood of the moment
Friday, November 26, 2010
So that’s my thought for the day. Being somewhat creative I try to grasp the vastness of the subject (in my life: Coro, work, my friends, writing the next book with Characters). But I’m also a lawyer (focused on the actual meaning) so I typed the term into a favorite site: thesaurus.com.
I liked the note better than the definition:
Character is what one is; reputation is what one is thought to be by others.
Don’t you love that?
My character. I have 100 plus pages of Captive’s sequel. I work; have kids. Instead of writing with the time left over I’ve decided to market. That goes to my character, doesn’t it?
The book is among the most fulfilling things I’ve done. The writing also comes very easily. I could sit down – and if I could afford it – write book after book. Is character shaped by economics?
But to lead you need character. Why is it that with that quality we know it when we see it yet it doesn’t fit the confines of a definition? All of our leaders are so flawed. I’m so flawed but that doesn’t make me a leader.
My leadership principles for today (and I’ll only comment on today)”
1. Respect and caring for others (empathy and interest included)
2. Clearly thought out missions/goals
3. Standards of behavior to adhere to (and they may be controversial)
4. Willingness to compromise when necessary; strength not to when necessary
5. Faith and a belief in a higher power
And, gosh, for now I don’t know. The list goes on but yet character isn’t leadership and it isn’t always good.
As I learn in yoga – accept.
So, we all have our characters. Mine is to jump around and ramble sometimes as I figure out where I’m going. It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else.
Read Michael Cunningham’s new book By Nightfall for more.
Send me book recommendations!
Friday, November 19, 2010
I'm seeing the next book again. I'd lost it and now I can see so clearly what to write and how the story unfolds. Since I'd started working on it - then stopped after too many comments from an agent had me lose it - now I know where to cut and what to add.
The characters are less clear; other than the main ones. And I have one huge, huge question (which will absolutely change the tone of the book). One path is a little bit sweet; something I don't usually write. The other option takes me into a reality that I've little explored in writing to date.
What to do, what to do?
Right now, go pick up my kids.
Yes, I've taken a break from beach pictures and headed downtown. Another photo from the roof of City Hall.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I spent yesterday at City Hall downtown with Coro and met some amazing people – elected and otherwise. While the people themselves were admirable I did need to (internally) question their commitment to what “works” within the system. Works for whom?
Los Angeles had a budget shortfall of $500 million last year and is projected to have a higher one next. They used some short term fixes to hold things in place this year but will accounting tricks work as the shortfall continues to grow? Will the municipal bond market continue to support cash strapped municipalities?
The majesty of city hall, the commitment of the people working within it and the absolute dedication expressed were impressive. I wonder at the system itself.
The picture is of downtown from the roof of City Hall.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Friday night, coming home from Coro and a drink with my other fellows in the program a car zoomed past me, lost control and hit another car just ahead of me. The driver tried to drive away and was blocked physically by the man whose care he'd just hit (with his little kids inside).
Today in yoga my teacher, Steve, told us that yoga is to help us control the mind; the body is much easier to control.
Yet how much control do we really have when so much happens independent of our actions or thoughts? Can we, through imagry and effort, control our own outcome?
I got some good news on Thursday which I'll be able to share (hopefully) soon. It was a hit of luck... that I'd worked some at cultivating. Miracles do happen yet somehow they seem to happen more for those who work hard at finding them.
A car can wreck your night or your life. Someone irresponsible (or stoned?) can do irreparable damage. But in our country we've had the opportunity to fight back and search for yet another miracle.
What will the world bring going forward? I'm hopeful. With Captive we've made some traction...slower than I'd like but it is moving.
Spread the word, write a review and thank the miracle that saved a family of four from being hurt when hit at 65 miles an hour on the freeway last Friday night.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I learned that a good story works in any culture (let's just define a good story). What is culturally acceptable changes but we all like to connect with a story in any form of media.
Sounds so basic but it really comes down to good stories connect - across divides.
Today on my morning beach run I finally saw the book I want to write next. Writing speaks to you and can't be dictated in reverse (much as such an effort has been pushed on me). The words create themselves once we see where they should be going. I lost that sense in my writing when I listened to those dictating what they wanted to see. It has come back.
Too tired for a picture right now. Perhaps I'll add one tomorrow.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Thank you to my two great hosts: Richard Riordan at the Oak Room and Brigitte Bren at the Regency Club (thanked in order of the parties).
And to my wonderful friends who came (and to those who couldn't) thank you! For the support and friendship. Thank you also to Village Books. The events were a benefit for them but we benefited from their involvement.
My thought for the day is only that I am truly, truly blessed. The book is an aside to life itself.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Thank you Dick and Brigitte for hosting two great book parties! You aren't pictured here but I will get some pictures up soon - promise.
I've been so busy this week but am so impressed with the turnout and love I got this week. Wonders to a new author to realize that her life is already so complete.
I love you both and will write more soon?
These two? My kids who dropped by the OR Monday.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I do a lot. I do too much.
Work, the book, selling the book, yoga, runs, reading, friends and most of all my children. And then some more on top of that!
Many times I’ve been asked how I do it all. Yet how do we all do what we do? Some people handle so much more than I do.
Focus is key. When I’m doing one thing I’m engaged and focused on that one thing. I’m not letting my mind wander through the lists of other (sometimes pressing) items I’ll need to address later in the day. And may not get done. And if they don’t get done? Well, so far I’ve survived. Most of us do.
A huge part of my workouts is that focus which they provide. Clearing my mind and exiting the world’s realities helps me re-focus on myself and my objectives. It also releases stress (which builds up based on my busy lifestyle).
I really do compartmentalize well and can ignore the thunder on the horizon; even when I’ve seen the lightening and feel the rain.
Part of it is rooted in childhood…but let’s not go into that here and now. Part is the incredible influence that fiction has had on my life and my mind. In a well written book I learned early on how to escape into another world. I haven’t always liked what I’ve seen in this one… the magic of a good writer, who introduces us to a more compelling and interesting storyline, taught me that concept of escape.
Escape becomes focus when you channel it correctly.
Now back to my other realities (the list of so many “to dos” for the day).
Monday, October 18, 2010
Today at Digital Hollywood Michael Eisner declared that he is very positive on the movie industry; and, the worse shape it's in, the more positive he is.
Because that is what spurs creativity. I love that!
Another quote: "making movies for less can often lead to a better movie - forced to be creative."
Captive was written on a budget (no advances here!). Is it creative or not? Hopefully.
I'm crazed for the next 10 days. Kids last weekend (fun but so busy); Digital Hollywood today; Milken State of the State tomorrow: back to Digital Hollywood.
The key point I'm getting from running around like crazy is to know your message (or what you're trying to accomplish). On that, I'm clear. It's the juggling that drives me nuts!
Oh, and that blur on the right is Michael Eisner/
Friday, October 15, 2010
Is the gloom inside or outside of us?
Today is cold and overcast again, like much of our summer here in Santa Monica. Yes, we had some lovely, even hot, days. Overall, we had an unusually winter-like summer.
And I'm feeling it in my mood. All of this week and last I've been so busy, running and never keeping caught up. I stopped this morning and felt the gloom. Looking around me I see it and I'm cold even in my sweater.
Our lives are so busy that sometimes we can't take time for reflection. But we all need it. My solution is yoga or a jog on the beach but yesterday my jog felt heavy.
My guess is twenty minutes of stepping back from my life, tasks and obligations, time spent reflecting priorities will re-balance my mood and the gloom will depart from inside and just exist out.
Who said anything is wrong with moods. Embrace and accept them, right?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Don't we wake up to face the morning after with (at most) a few hazy memories and perhaps a slight hang over? Do we remember a love's touch or imagine we do?
Captive was officially out late yesterday (as defined by Amazon who, after shipping dead lines for one day, seems to declare the next).
I wrote yesterday about how much everything feels the same upon Captive's release. Today, too, the world goes on much as it did before. My son turns seven...he's so excited...but even his world isn't likely to change much with the passing of this day.
Hopefully, Captive will have a bigger impact. It addresses real issues with global impact. But for today, not much has changed.
Yes, that is a picture of my bed. Did I mess it up for effect or...?
Monday, October 11, 2010
And I'm so excited. Though the world hasn't changed... and I won't sell so many books so soon (not being a name author). Now I start marketing!
But I've never had a book for sale before; of course it feels great (after all that work getting to this point). And the idea that people can and will read it (some of my friends/family have pre-ordered copies...). Well, you don't put in that kind of work in the hopes that no one reads it.
I loved researching the book; I loved writing it. I'm proud that I actually finished it and got it published.
So, being me, I'll cry a little. I cry at happy things more than sad. But first I need to rush to a meeting!
Please read Captive!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
As a society, do we want children sleeping in the streets with drug addicts and the mentally deranged? Do we believe that thousands, or tens of thousands, of people starving in the US and sleeping in the cold is acceptable?
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly I’d never asked myself these questions before yesterday. And, for a current figure, an estimated 41% of the homeless in Los Angeles are under 18.
What happened yesterday? I went (with Coro) to Union Rescue Mission for a tour and to meet with Andy Bales, its CEO. He is trying to end homelessness in LA with love. He’s a reverend.
So? Well, he made the point that people should all be treated as God’s special creatures and none should be left in the cold. He is passionate, driven, articulate and eats with his flock. He talks a lot to the media and takes on local politicians. He made me think.
And this does related back to Captive. George, at one point in the book, feels bad about attacking Khalil in his weakened state. He feels shame and remorse for taking advantage of that and pushing, cruelly. Yet what if George is right and Khalil is planning to kill many others?
Bales is denied money from some donors because of his affiliation with God. George judges Khalil because of his relationship with his Allah (which in Khalil’s mind allows for killing others).
Bales talked about sitting down to eat with the homeless. I don’t want to do that. Would I? Of course. Do I want to? No. We all have our prejudices. Can we defend them? In front of our God?
And the picture? I couldn’t bear to take one of Skid Row. It seemed exploitative. I’ll write in a book about George exploiting a fictional character. But, as the reverend said, I don’t want to judge someone at what may be their lowest moment (desperate people are what line skid row in LA).
So you are seeing the same stars I observed the day before when I was in Hollywood.
Promise to lighten up these postings, honest. Just a reflection of what I’ve been seeing, for whatever reason, lately.
Book out on Tuesday!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I went to a Warren Bennis book signing today. Still Surprised, his memoir. He spoke about his life, writing about leadership then about himself.
And a main point was anecdote versus situations you had lived. Which carries over into living leadership or writing about it. His early experience with leadership was in World War Two.
He warned about false modesty, not protecting other people as you “use” them in your writing and writing truthfully but not including embarrassing points.
And he discussed how the feedback he got from friends was that his memoir was about people, not events or even leadership.
Someone who has had such success as a writer was charming and gracious to those in line waiting for an instant of his time. I gave him my book and he called me a writer (I still don’t feel like a writer though I’ve seen the book.
Impressive man. At such a different stage in his writing career.
Monday, October 4, 2010
The picture herein is such a moderate version of a riot's aftermath. Why do we feel so immune (and do we). The picture depicts a riot the lovely Ana Berman (photographer) encountered on her recent trip to Spain.
I have pictures from the LA riots in the early 1990's. Greece, France, Iran... We've seen recent riots due to economic issue, lack of freedom, racial unrest, raising of retirement age...
I wonder what happens here - as we don't seem to be exiting the recession. Headed for inflation (in which the savers, and middle class, get decimated) or a deflation (in which we all get decimated but perhaps "restructure" our debt).
Thank you Ana for showing us that the people make sure they have a voice.
Friday, October 1, 2010
I've been pretty self involved this week. And, so, so busy. My actual books arrived yesterday (saw Cative in print) and I went to a charity function with a friend, run by a friend.
Then, finally today I read my newspapers (for the week).
I saw that a friend (Richard Riordan) and an acquaintance (Frank Baxter) along with Eli Broad bailed out the ICEF Charter Schools. Caprice Young has stepped in to help Mike Piscal - both of whom I know.
I've heard Mike talk about teaching a ten year old how to read. How much harder it is at that age. The boy ashamed and crying the whole time. How he told the boy he wouldn't give up on him and didn't.
There is a place in the world for the Mike Piscals. I'm glad some business people stepped in and put their time and money behind him.
I didn't accomplish as much this week.
But I'm proud to know those who did.
The picture is a part of town that some residents know all too well. How blessed some of us are.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Today, at the Media Innovations Summit, I met Mark Cuban. And, I heard him speak. Those who follow my work blog know that I wrote about him in the context of the Lionsgate battle with Carl Icahn.
What is it like to meet someone you’ve written about? Well, I remembered writing positive things but double checked when I got home. I felt responsible because I liked him and what he had to say. And, he is a larger than life personality so I’d walked into everything with pre-conceived notions.
Pre-conceived notions and biases has been a theme in my Coro Executive Leadership Program. We all have them; how aware are we of them? How do they affect us?
Captive face that issue. Writing about an Islamic terrorist, a polarizing issue, leads many to make assumptions about my position that aren’t right. Those that have gone on to read the book have acknowledged the disconnect. How many of us follow through to test our pre-conceived notions or biases?
I’m glad I met and spoke with Mark Cuban today. He was approachable, brilliant, knowledgeable and articulate. And he was willing to take a stand and express strong opinions. I admire him for doing so.
On my end, I’ll continue to ponder how I cast a light on events before they happen
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Running. On the beach. Yoga. With my daughter.
Taking her to get her ears pierced. And to dinner.
Coro program. Leimert Park and doing the related presentation.
Article in the WSJ about macro-factors affecting stocks more than/as much as fundimentals.
Trying to finish reading a novel tonight. I will. Not great; engaging.
Interest rates and the impact of unintented consequences.
A conference tomorrow and a trip out of town Tuesday.
Pictures? So many pictures.
Lesson learned? Do as much as you can and enjoy what you do. None of it comes again.
Back to reading my novel.
I'll post a few pictures tomorrow.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I was sitting at my desk and asking myself "what is the best use of my time right now?" and I couldn't come up with an answer.
The issue isn't that I don't have many, many things to do. Rather the answer to my question hinges on priorities. Over the weekend we shot raw footage for the Captive video,I went running on the beach and to my gym, I spent a lot of time with my kids and starting shopping for Halloween decorations (a holiday we take seriously at my house) and I read. I also did so many things (laundry; fed the cats; checked email) that I had to do. What was the best use of my time over the weekend?
Last night I went to bed early after a few kid related emergencies (which are their private affairs and not really that bad after a good night's sleep). I'm rested now and have already accomplished a lot today.
What next? Yoga? More work?
I haven't decided yet.
Friday, September 17, 2010
This weekend we'll be shooting a video for Captive (thank you Amy Sommer). My kids will be there; helpers, not "extras". We mulled over the video strategy: why I wrote the book, what I hoped to accomplish and how I felt about the related issues.
Terrorism is a heated topic. I took UCLA extension classes while writing this novel to learn how to write it better. At the beginning of each new session at least one fellow class mate would take offense at the topic and my "politics". What are my politics? Pretty quickly that person would realize that they had judged too soon and the book itself wasn't nearly as polarizing as they'd assumed.
Writing about terrorism allows for the posibility of controversy. Related attention can help sell books. But that isn't the point of the novel. People grow up in vastly different societies and make decisions (at an early age) based on what opportunities are available to them.
I had a conversation last night with someone who had volunteered as a criminal defense attorney during law school. One of his clients got the death penalty. Yet that client was a broken and brutalized man. How much choice and free will is due to circumstance? Read Captive to see how I address that question.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
While I don't always agree with Kristof I do agree with his piece in this morning's New York Times. We all have a responsibility to see outside our own little worlds. While I feel no obligation to agree with the beliefs or even opinions of others I do think that they need to be free to have/state them.
Education is one answer. Not judging pre-maturely, focusing on solutions not blame, crossing party lines and attempting to create change. That latter point is the reason I read Kristof - agree with him or not he does make an effort.
As does George, for you to judge how effectively, in Captive (Khalil too, by the way - his viewpoint is just very different).
Go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/opinion/12kristof.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
The idea of monetization, an issue which I face as part of my other life, my job, came up repeatedly last week.
I was talking to a friend of mine from a large studio here in Los Angeles. She questioned why I was spending any time marketing and distributing Captive. She questioned why I wrote. All of it was so hard to monetize – as I didn’t have a large marketing budget or wide distribution. At an earlier meeting that day a prominent local blogger – who’d written a book as well – thought that pursuing the marketing and promotion was very worthwhile in our increasingly fragmented world. Do we create only to monetize? Does quality play into monetizing and what is quality? Interestingly, neither party had read Captive.
Today in the New York Times book review I read the numbers for the top selling authors (though I’d seen them before). Last year (year ended June 1), James Patterson earned $70 million. Stephanie Meyer was at $40 million; Stephen King was at $34 million: Danielle Steel was at $32 million. Not in that article but listed next elsewhere was JK Rowling – who did not release a book last year.
But does anyone seriously write a book just to make money? Perhaps those on the list above…since they know that if they release a book it will sell (lots). Cervantes, a favorite of mine and the writer of a “classic” spent serious time in debtors’ prison. Dickens wrote his books in installments so that he could pay his bills.
No, the writing part is long and requires tremendous discipline. I went through seven plus drafts of Captive and can’t bear to look at it anymore. The time involved is beyond explaining because not only do you write and revise but you also research (ponder, and obsess). Something like 70% percent of books don’t make back their advances (which typically aren’t high).
I write because I have something to say, and will keep writing as long as I do. Captive I wrote straight through and not chronologically. I just saw the book in my mind and it wrote itself. Today I re-wrote the beginning of the sequel because a thought led me to take the characters someplace new.
That is why I write, and not because James Patterson can earn $70 million in a year (though I commend and admire him for doing so – all those people read his book – what an accomplishment!).
Thursday, September 2, 2010
48 states are projected to have budget deficits this year. Countless municipalities (with more limited taxing power) are in worse shape and we’ve already seen the first bankruptcies in cities such as Vallejo, California. Harrisberg, PA passed a budget that didn’t include debt payments (effectively a default). Central Falls, RI has turned its finances over to a receiver. In all, about $2.8 trillion in municipal debt is outstanding ($1 trillion directly held by households; the effective number is much higher). Municipal debt is that which is issued by cities or other local governments and their agencies.
Ben Bernanke recently stated that the Fed will aim to keep interest rates low for the near term, citing the “sluggishness of the national recovery” and the resulting budget woes at the state and local government (a “significant” or “severe” threat to the economic recovery, as per an AP Economic Survey). High and lingering unemployment, decreased consumer spending and corporations remaining conservative due to economic uncertainty are keeping tax revenues low.
Experts have estimated that the states face $350 billion in deficits over 2010 and 2011. While President Obama has pledged $140 billion in aid over a 2.5 year period that sum doesn’t come close to narrowing the projected gaps. If interest rates don’t stay low, some of that debt will most likely need to be rolled over at higher rates of interest – pushing up the projected deficit numbers. At the federal level, the average maturity of US government debt is currently about three years; meaning that rising interest rates will greatly increase the federal government’s own obligations, making it harder for them to bail out state and local governments.
The municipal market is also quite illiquid – so the ability to find bid/ask prices will freeze should there be a rash of defaults. Much as we learned during the recent financial crisis an illiquid market can close almost completely, leading institutions to liquidate higher quality assets to meet obligations (such as margin requirements, loan covenants, reserve requirements or redemptions).
Add to the municipal debt burden unstated debts – such as shortfalls in state and local pension funds – and the municipal burden only increases. Joshua Pauh (Northwestern University) and Robert Novy-Marx (University of Chicago) recently recalculated the 50 states pension plans by valuing the obligations as the bond market values debt. They arrived at a $5.17 trillion number. As only$1.94 trillion has been set aside in state pension funds the resulting deficit is $3.23 trillion.
In the news media we read about the battle for teachers’ jobs, the post office stopping Saturday delivery and four day weeks at schools and governmental agencies. What are we actually seeing?
Hawaii has gone to a four day school week. Illinois announced earlier in the year that it was $9 billion behind in payments to its vendors. Clayton County, GA has cut bus lines. Colorado Springs, CO cut a third of its streetlights this past winter. Schools across New Jersey are cutting language classes and using online programs instead. The Pentagon has announced that it’s cutting thousands of jobs. Each day we read about one more cut or threatened program. Can we really fund such large projected deficits by closing parks or limiting library hours?
This country needs its elected officials to organize a comprehensive approach instead of trying to nickel and dime their way out of a crisis. The cuts need to be felt across the board – including among the unionized and government workers – regardless of fears related to how these vested special interest groups retaliate in future elections.
Otherwise, which career politician will volunteer to turn the last light off?
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
The effect was glorious. Private, intimate and soothing. I had a lot to think about and that’s what my runs are for. I can escape the busy day for a minute and just focus on working through the issues I’m confronting.
I did think about Captive and its forthcoming release. I’ve never released a book before so every step is a new one: approving the final proof, deciding on a cover, putting up a website and Facebook page and getting back to writing a blog that I started years ago and dropped.
I’m a huge believer in incremental steps. Had I written a short piece once a week on this blog I would have a substantial body of work by now. I didn’t. The time invested wouldn’t have made a difference to my life – or so I think now. And privacy? How much of my life do I want online? How much of my life is exposed by the mere act of writing and publishing a book (a lot!).
Everything we write reveals something of who we are. Even the topics we choose. I wrote Captive because I feel passionately about the topic. Religions don’t kill people; people kill people. And someone needs to comment; fiction is more accessible because it weaves information and insight into narrative.
Someone commented that the book was targeted at an ultra-conservative audience. No! They obviously hadn’t read very far (and they’re the first person to see a draft and make such a statement). What will a broader audience think? We’ll see if I’m fortunate enough to find out.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Posted: 10 Mar 2010 07:35 AM PST
Editor’s note: This guest post is written by Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com. In it, he responds to critics of his last guest post arguing that enterprise software should be more like Facebook.
Two weeks ago on TechCrunch I posted “The Facebook Imperative,” which posed a simple question, “Why isn’t all enterprise software like Facebook?” It was the next iteration of the question I asked in 1999 that spawned salesforce.com, “Why isn’t all enterprise software like Amazon.com.” If you have read my book, Behind The Cloud, you are well aware how that one question launched a company, and a movement. Its been an exciting decade. But the real excitement is just starting.
Frankly, I’ve been amazed by the huge amount of responses, tweets, and comments (aka “the ruckus across the blogoshere,” as Joe McKendrick calls it). It only strengthens my conviction that we are about to see the greatest revolution in enterprise software, ever. Well, really, the most exciting revolution in computing, ever. It will create more value for users, customers, and vendors by an order of magnitude over what we saw in the last wave. And, it’s really starting to happen right now. It is realtime. It is social. It is mobile. And, it is about time. Literally, it is about productivity.
I’m energized by the excitement I see for a new generation of collaboration software in the enterprise to replace antiquated Microsoft Sharepoint servers and IBM’s Lotus Notes. I’ve enjoyed seeing my observation—that Lotus Notes was conceived before Mark Zuckerberg—reverberate around the web. But, the reality is the Facebook Imperative contained more than a funny line. It hit a nerve. We are all responding—debating—a question that is an imperative because we all need to take software to a new level, and now is the time. Microsoft and IBM have maintained the status quo on enterprise collaboration software too long, and it’s time for a change.
There are an overwhelming number of you who agree that its time to transform the business conversation the same way Facebook has changed the consumer conversation. We are betting salesforce.com’s future on it. Approximately 40% of companies are already deploying or planning to deploy a social computing platform, a number that’s expected to rise, says Irwin Lazar of Nemeretes Research. Not everyone agrees, mostly the vendors that are milking their cash cows. But, make no mistake about it, this generation of social platforms is very different than the last.
Charles Zedlewski emerged from a long blogging hiatus to argue that Facebook is designed for entertainment—not productivity. Well, that’s not surprising given that he works for SAP, one of the companies I have previously referred to as “innovationless”—in my view they remain the Anti-Cloud. Their actions speak for themselves. Still, I’m astounded that more enterprises haven’t figured out how to tap into the real collaborative power of Facebook and Twitter, and the new social models that they have pioneered.
I consider Facebook and Twitter—and the ability to tap into my network of friends and followers—one the most productive ways I can start my day. Using these new Internet phenoms, I’ve tested new ad campaigns and elicited great customer responses, promoted my book to a large audience of people who cared, and with the help of my network, even named new products—all before I sat down for breakfast. I’m not alone; ask Vinnie Mirchandani for a sneak preview of his new book and read how Starbucks, Avon, and Pepsi are using these new social services to increase productivity in their enterprises. Or, look at how Causes, one of Facebook’s most popular apps, is having a fascinating impact on the future of philanthropy.
While my admiration for Facebook is no secret, the fact is that the Facebook Imperative—much like The Amazon Imperative of 1999—is just a metaphor. Like all metaphors, they are terrific catalysts to introduce an idea and orient people. They are rooted in inspiration, but they do not funnel down to the granular details. And, there are details that make this movement entirely new in practice. The power of this new model is to create the next level of productivity, collaboration, and learning in the enterprise. And, I see it happening now in our own company.
For years we’ve been reading about the potential for institutional memory to transform a corporation into a learning organization. But, have we seen it happen beyond very few unique organizations? A true paradigm shift occurs when the barriers of entry are removed for everyone. That is changing fast. With these new social models, there is a way to immediately leverage the knowledge of an organization. People with expertise and relevance are instantly looped in, can participate in the conversation, collaborate, and make contributions more simply than ever before. That will be the catalyst of this new productivity revolution—delivered through these new social enterprise platforms.
We have deployed Salesforce Chatter internally through our own beta program, and we are now using the social models proven by Facebook and Twitter to run our company. Our new social enterprise is built atop our existing business information and applications. It’s not partitioned off from other enterprise applications, but is an integrated part of it—offering a new view of the data that is more productive and easier to use. Through enterprise sharing models, filtering and discovery tools, users have full flexibility over which people and data they follow—allowing them to fully maximize the value of their own feeds and eliminating the risk of “pollutants” some critics fear.
I have learned more about my own company in the last three weeks using Salesforce Chatter than I have in the last three years. It reminds me of the time we went live with http://ideas.salesforce.com. The awareness I have today of what is happening with our employees, our customers, our products, our customer service escalations, and even the deals we are closing is spectacular. Social computing for the enterprise is about seeing what matters to your company, what is happening with your products, and among your people. It’s about the information you need to make decisions finding you. I’m amazed at the potential of this technology. There is just no way I can explain it to you in writing, so here is an actual screen shot that I took off my desktop to give you an idea of the flow (click to enlarge):
It is time to let go of the past and start to create a compelling future for the software industry. I’m energized by the skeptics. It’s familiar. They all eventually convert to what’s important to customers, or become increasingly irrelevant. You don’t have to look any farther than last week when Steve Ballmer spoke to the University of Washington telling them Microsoft was finally “All-In” the cloud. Well, that only took a decade or two. No more software plus services, now they are 100% cloud too. Sure.
I’m living in the post-PC revolution. I’m in a desktopless world that is about feeds and profiles running in all my browsers and mobile devices, and interacting in exciting new ways. It doesn’t matter if I am in the office, at home, or at Starbucks—I am productive wherever I am. The enterprise is not just going to the cloud, it’s now going social, and it’s going mobile. Facebook and Twitter have shown us the way. Like Microsoft, and IBM, not everyone has to get it yet, but eventually they all will. As they say: Shift happens.