I’m Back

After many months away from all my sites, after many months of combining work with campaigning, after many months of doing no writing except for campaign blurbs and publicity pieces, I am very pleased and excited to share this important news:

I’m back.

After the election was over, I took some time away by doing one of my “custom Bruce Maples trips” (point the car in some direction, in this case Northeast, and take off). After that trip was over, I had to do some campaign clean-up tasks, and get some music things ready at church, and catch up some things around the house. But now, almost exactly a month after the election, I am ready and eager to begin writing again.

I am cross-posting this to all four sites, so if you follow me in more than one venue you will see it multiple times. After this, though, I should be back to keeping different content on each site.

Thanks for hanging in there while I was away. Thanks for coming back and reading this. And thanks for your encouragements, your friendships, and your willingness to see what I have to say.

Let’s get to writing.

First Post With Windows Live Writer

So, I’ve just discovered this tool in the Windows Live suite for posting to your blog, and decided to give it a try. Fired it up, pointed it at this blog site, and it grabbed the format and styles and was ready to go in about a minute.

It’s got LOTS of  formatting and media tools right on the toolbar. One of the most important for me is color. I like to use different colors when I format things, as I think it makes things easier to read. Of course, it’s got all the standard formatting things as well.

I also like that I can do a local post, save it to my computer, then post it when I get an internet connection. Hmm, bus-ride writing, anyone?

I already had a tool built into my browser, but it (the tool) was a little flaky. This may be much better for some things. So, we’ll see.

Discovered: the Problem With the Louisville Orchestra

I have found the root cause of the demise of our Louisville Orchestra. It is in the first two sentences of the recent letter from the LO board to the Courier-Journal. Do you see it?

As the board of directors of the Louisville Orchestra, we are the fiscal stewards of the organization. We are the designated trustees of the money that our many donors generously provide …

In case you didn’t immediately see the problem, let me spell it out for you and for the board:

You are not stewards of the money! You are stewards of the orchestra itself —
and you have failed in your stewardship!

You were given a treasure, a heritage, a living, breathing work of art, and you destroyed it. You were entrusted with one of the foundational articstic resources of our city, a resource upon which other artistic groups depend, and you squandered that trust.

In your attempt to break the union and reduce the Louisville Orchestra to the size of your limited vision, you have ensured that your epitaph will be “They killed our orchestra, but they hung onto the money.”

It is time for a New Louisville Orchestra, with a new board and new leadership. It is time for leadership that understands the treasure it has been given, AND that understands its role and mission:

To nurture and grow the orchestra itself, and not just count the money.

Working On a Book

Taking off this weekend for a writing retreat. Planning on working on a book idea I’ve got about threats to our democratic system. Not threats to the nation or the world, necessarily, but to our actual system of governance: representational democracy. Here are some threats I see —

  • Dishonest and/or distrusted elections
  • Influence of money in elections and governance
  • Declining role of journalism
  • Rise of corporate power
  • Loss of civil liberties

If you read this and have ideas or suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments or to email me. Still working through the outline in my mind, and open to other threats I haven’t considered.

Interesting moment in Sunday worship

So there I was, singing away on some hymn like I usually do, glad that it had four verses ’cause that meant that I could try to sing all four parts (not at once, although some claim I try that too), when a thought crossed my mind:

“You know, Bruce, you’re going to die some day. And when that day comes, your vocal cords will be stilled and you won’t be able to sing these hymns. And your hands will be stilled, and you won’t be able to type and write and speak your piece. You’ve only got so many notes and so many words in you, dude, so use them well, use them wisely — but above all, make use of them while you still have the chance.”

It wasn’t a bad moment, or a guilt moment, or anything like that. It was just sort of a start, a shift in perspective that said “speak out and sing out while you have breath to sing and speak.”

The other thing that seemed to go with it was — speak the truth, or at least the truth as you see it. Don’t be mean, but don’t hold back either. It would be easy to attribute that to being 57 and being past worrying about what other people think — but the truth is, I DO care, probably too much. So, I temper things, and try to be fair and even-handed, and in the process just water down what needs to be said. This moment was like being told “make it count, dude.”

Don’t know if anyone can relate to this. Don’t know if it means anything, or was just a nice thought during a worshipful moment. But, it meant something to ME, and I thought I’d share.

I’m Back to Writing

Work and life has been kicking my butt for about two months now, but I’ve decided to overcome and get back to writing. Sorry to post so erratically; working 60-80 hour weeks can do that to you.

Now that Fancy Farm is over, and the fall election is completely under way, it’s time to get back into the fray. Plus, politics or not, I just need to write. So there.

Let’s see if I can string two or three mornings together in a row.

A Book for Artists and Humans of All Kinds

Just finished The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a book about the struggle to create art, to live to our higher calling, and to be and become what we are intended to be. And it has entered a very select category for me: Books That Changed My Life.

If you think that’s hyperbole, think again. Pressfield nails three concepts that any artist — indeed, any human — struggles with daily:

  • Resistance — that force that tries to prevent you from achieving what you are supposed to achieve.
  • Professional versus Amateur — how to approach your calling with the attitude of the Professional, not the Amateur — including the realization that Resistance is real and must be both respected and overcome, every day.
  • Muses and Angels — the idea that when you commit, even in the face of Resistance, there are forces outside of you that come to your aid and align themselves with you.

I’ll be honest — I wasn’t expecting that third section. Every since I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I have wondered about her assertion that the Universe helps you when you are moving down the right path, and that only by starting down that path will we find that out. Seemed too “new agey” for me. But even while I struggled with the concept, I had to acknowledge that there were times when my life felt “in the flow” and times when it didn’t. And, there were times when committing to write or create seemed to unleash forces within me, or even outside of me, that I didn’t know I had.

Pressfield’s discussion of Resistance is worth the cost of the book, all by itself. By putting a name and a personality on the force that seems to oppose our work, he gives us a way to identify, discuss, and defeat that force. It has already helped me to say “this is Resistance at work” in various areas of my life, and to begin using Pressfield’s strategies to fight back.

And lest any of you think this is only for artists, let me point out that Pressfield takes pains to note that Resistance and Being a Pro apply to any activity in our lives that can be classified as either Calling or Higher Purpose. He talks about writing, music-making, starting a business, helping others — almost any human activity that comes from Self and not Ego.

And yes, at the end of the book he ties it all together with a discussion of Ego versus Self. It provides a surprising ending to a surprising book. Whether or not you accept his metaphysical approach to Angels and Muses, the distinction he makes between Ego (the seat of Resistance) and Self is useful and insightful.

This is an important book for anyone looking to better understand the forces in their lives and the path to fulfilling their life’s purpose and calling. Get it, read it, apply it. It may become part of your collection of Books That Changed My Life.

In Remembrance: Molly Ivins

(If you do not subscribe to the Writer’s Almanac, you should. It comes each day and includes a poem for the day and various biographical tidbits about writers. Today’s Writer’s Almanac brings this entry for August 30:)

It’s the birthday of journalist Molly Ivins, (books by this author) born in Monterey, California (1944) and raised in Houston, Texas. She went to a New England liberal arts college and to Columbia’s School of Journalism and spent years covering the police beat for the Minneapolis Tribune (the first woman to do so) before moving back to Texas, the setting and subject of much of her life’s writing. In a biographical blurb she wrote about herself for a Web site, she proclaimed, “Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated political columnist who remains cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasizes the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never has to write fiction.”

Ivins especially liked to poke fun at the Texas Legislature, which she referred to as “the Lege.”

She gave George W. Bush the nickname “Shrub” and also referred to him as a post turtle (based on an old joke: the turtle didn’t get there itself, doesn’t belong there, and needs help getting out of the dilemma). She had actually known President Bush since they were teenagers in Houston. She poked fun at Democrats, too, and said about Bill Clinton: “If left to my own devices, I’d spend all my time pointing out that he’s weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal.” Clinton later said that Molly Ivins “was good when she praised me and painfully good when she criticized me.”

Her fiery liberal columns caused a lot of debate in Texas, with newspaper readers always writing in to complain. One time, she wrote about the Republican congressman from Dallas: “If his IQ slips any lower we’ll have to water him twice a day.” It generated a storm of controversy, and the paper she wrote for decided to use it to their advantage, to boost readership. They started placing advertisements on billboards all over Dallas that said, “Molly Ivins can’t say that … can she?” She used the line as the title of her first book (published in 1991).

She went on to write several best-selling books, including Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush — which was actually written and published in 2000, before George W. Bush had been elected to the White House. Ivins later said, “The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please, pay attention.”

Molly Ivins died of breast cancer a couple of years ago, at the age of 62. She once wrote: “Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that.”

Molly Ivins once said: “I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.”

And, “The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.”

The Daily Grind

(or, Writing Ain’t Beanbag)

I’ve been trying to get back into the blogging mode, doing something every day, for about a month. And it ain’t easy.
The job seems to take more and more time; I’m often in the office by 6:30, or even earlier. The club work takes its toll, as well. Then there’s the everyday stuff of life: paying bills, keeping the files sorta current, yard work. There’s the small contribution I make at church. And somewhere in there is time with my dear wife and my two sons.

So, it’s hard to make the time to write, and revise, and research, and revise again. Then post, and see if anyone reads and responds, and respond to them in return. And so on, and so forth.

The problem, of course, is that “can’t never could” and each of us is given the same number of minutes each day and if you want to be a writer then you write, that’s all, and whining about it or blowing it off or saying “manana” only means you’re a wanna-be.

So, for anyone who drops by — I’m starting today to get back into the Daily Grind — and I don’t mean coffee.