Tuesday, 10 February 2009

More Charitable Than Thou.

I’m reading Jeremy Clarkson’s book ‘And Another Thing...’ and reached a section about the charity bashes he attends or is invited to. He said, while looking around at the waiters, bands, caterers and entertainment, he wondered how much it all cost. After making enquiries as to how much money actually made it to the charities, the answer was disturbing.

‘Not a lot’. Most charities get a mention in the paper or a tiny percentage. It’s almost as if rich people use the charity as an excuse to have a party, get themselves some publicity and raise their self-esteem in regards to their philanthropy.

Personally, I believe the Karma of public giving has already been balanced. Nothing has been banked. Sometimes the accrual falls short. If the giver receives more benefit from the act than the charity itself, it’s a pretty poor reflection on that individual, (or company), whether you believe in Karma or not.

We’ve managed to bypass the guilt-tripping, holier than thou, door-knocking, telemarketing annoyances who wait until you’re sitting on the toilet, or engrossed in work, to interrupt you with tales of woe. They still waste my time, (although I’ve stopped answering calls that aren’t on our pre-approved list), as we won’t give money to these collectors anymore.

But that doesn’t make us miserly, skinflints and hard-hearted bastards. We aren’t.

For all its faults, my Wife’s employer, a major Australian-owned company, has a system for donating that can be taken directly from an employee's pay. Better yet, they vet the charity to make sure the money goes to the right place. And amazingly they match employee donations dollar for dollar. Sometimes two for one.

But armed with this fact I still have to face down the dubious or outright scornful collectors leaving our doorstep empty-handed. I don’t even know these people, and I don’t know what they get out of making me feel like a child murderer. For argument's sake, so what if I am lying? That’s between me and Karma. Where’s the percentage in bringing their charity's name into disrepute with snide remarks?

We are completely fine with our level of support to the extended community, and we get offended at some charity's unprofessional volunteers. These tin-rattlers have had a crash-course in ‘bunging on the guilt’. We got a good one recently. “So you don’t care about brain damaged children?”

Answers to questions like that is nitrous to the engine and I’ve found revving up their self-righteousness doesn’t get them out of our yard any quicker.

I have a new strategy to avoid fist fights. I give them the Wife’s employer’s number, and ask them to add their charity to the approved list. Then I put it to them directly. Which is preferable? A double donation into a charity's bank account or ten bucks right now that has to make it past a collector’s conscience.

Stop. Stop. Stop. You’re bashing the keyboard to tell me a few things about tar and brushes.

GUARANTEED delivery of a donation or POSSIBLE filching by the ‘carton of beer for my trouble’ collector. Do the math.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

How to write - Part 2

Writing fiction successfully – What’s it all about?

I define ‘it’ as extracting an idea from one’s head and forcing it into words that must line up in orderly rows on a page in such a manner that other people can understand the information contained therein. And be blown away by the result.


Personal attempts to fulfil the above are difficult to break down, so good luck getting anything useful from the following.

I relate my methods neither as advice nor enlightenment. You’d agree if you had the opportunity to check out the haphazard and unprofessional way I peck at the keyboard, offhandedly playing a game on a social networking site at the same time, or ducking out to dig a hole. Take what you want from my opinions here but if you expected a foolproof formula backed up by rigid discipline as my Grand Plan, forget it.

I take breaks. Removing myself from the story from time to time is an important part of writing. It’s not due to laziness or the result of a short attention span. It’s amazing what the brain comes up with by itself when you stop trying to force it. Theories abound about this phenomenon and I’ve picked a couple that suit me. We’re all different so go ahead, choose different ones.

(Deadlines really balls-up this essential requirement.)

How about 'Inspiration'? Halfway through mowing the lawn can be an awkward time for the Great Idea to happen, but breakthroughs should be written down immediately. You’ll hate yourself later if it evaporates un-noted. So what if you get grass clippings all through the house and the neighbours scratch their heads because your mower sits idling unattended for 20 minutes? What price can you put on Literary Nirvana?

(Until the edit. That’s when you’ll find the paragraphs refuse to mesh, and the tenses are all wrong. By the way, if you’ve ever experienced the loss of an idea because of your own laziness I can commiserate.)

Then there are the exceptional days. Unnoticed, darkness has descended and you’ve edited an inconceivably crappy bunch of words into a remarkably readable paragraph. That’s right; sometimes a day’s work will result in one, single, usable paragraph. Hopefully you’ve also jotted another bunch of junk below it for tomorrow’s repair session.

And you might have a headache.

Beware the generically offered ‘Secrets to Literary Success’. I know the people selling this crap are rich and successful. Look who’s throwing money at them. You, Dummy.

It’s the bunch of worthless, shitty platitudes you purchase that annoys me. I’m convinced that there is no secret. You CAN seek advice from many sources and build a support base of intelligent people, then use your mind to create new worlds by actually typing words on the screen. Or you could try whinging a lot and write nothing at all.

Harsh? Yes. True? Absolutely. Unnecessarily arrogant? Maybe.

Writing is an intensely personal, human-spirited endeavour. There is no 'wrong way' if the end result is pleasing. Find YOUR way.

Like it? See - How to Write - Part 1