Friday, August 15, 2008

On The Art of Over-Writing Into the Twelfth Night or What You Will

I overwrite.

I was about to begin this blog with a fun little paragraph about writers having certain specific problems as writers, or all professions having problems specific to their professions…

But that would be overwriting.

For those of you who only have acquaintance of my writing thru this blog---well, you have first-hand knowledge of this particular compositional malady.

However, in more professional outlets---I am far more cautious.

And far more editorial.

Some writers overwrite due to sheer repetition. Others, due to a little something called laziness (of which we all can occasionally be guilty).

As for me---I overwrite due to an insatiable quest to explore every single avenue, lane and rural route of a possibility on my chosen topic till I poison it, beat it and finally drag it to its watery death like a literary Rasputin.

In short, I don’t want to miss an opportunity to expound.

And frankly, who does?

Nevertheless, I think it high-time to state, for the record, that this little blog of mine is…well, a whole lot of exercises in public.


I do put quite a lot of thought into each and every blog entry. As a writer, it’s a nice little place I can go to explore my thoughts on things that I think about as I go thru my daily life. That’s why writers write in the first place. We’re communicating---in the way we feel most comfortable and the least misunderstood.

Once, in an acting class, the instructor was discussing auditions. He suggested to us actors that we think of our auditions as a gift that we’re leaving for directors, producers and agents.

“They may not open the gift while you remain in their presence;” he waxed on, “but the gift remains for them to open at their leisure.”

A few of the actors in the room beamed.

I thought it was pretty cheesy.

Frankly, as someone who’s done quite a bit of casting in her day, I can say from experience that any audition that doesn’t lead to at least a call-back is the next best thing to getting spam.

You won’t work. We don’t care. Thank you very much. Don’t call us... Etc. etc. etc.

But if any of The Seven Arts can be defined as a “gift”, I would say that writing is possibly the closest.

Something you leave on the page to be opened at the recipients’ leisure.

In Shakespeare’s case, some 400 years after leaving it on The Gift Table, but…

The problem is, MY literary gifts seem to be wrapped in several layers of wrapping paper and completely covered in heavy packing tape. And then, of course, there’s the charming box in a box in a box in a box thing going on.

Before the oft-mentioned “dear reader” even gets to the gem in the middle…well, they’re completely worn out and simply toss the gift aside like tube socks on Christmas morning.

Why would I give such a shitty gift?

Well, I love to write.

I’m the literary equivalent of that great-aunt who drags you over to her house and loads your car up with expired canned goods and mothball-scented clothes from 1972.

I just love giving.

A whole car load of unwanted junk.

Sure, you might find a nice pair of vintage woolen jodhpurs in the mix---but who has the time to go thru a car full of 30-gallon garbage bags full of clothes to get to a decent pair of jodhpurs?

I sure don’t.

And I’m a gal who would look quite fetching in a pair of jodhpurs.

But as much as I would love a photo of myself beside a sturdy horse looking all Marlene Dietrich in my jodhpurs---well, I have about as much spare time as you, “dear reader”.

And, by the way, I think the whole “dear reader” thing was growing whiskers back in the days of Thackeray---so if you’re still pulling that old chestnut out of your Runcible Bin… You really need to update your bookshelf.

What I’m trying to say in my over-written blog, exhausted reader, is that I am quite aware of my short-comings.

Or long-comings, as the case may be.

And, to that end, I faithfully vow that for the next week, I will prove to you that I can, indeed, write AND edit.

Yes, this may simply be a place for me to ruminate at length on the world around me…but I DO have a few editorial skills up my long, puffy, pirate shirt sleeves.

I vow, for the next week, that I will write a column every day in 500 words or less.

Yes, believe it or not, I can write less.


Saturday, August 9, 2008


After a horrid encounter with MySpace almost a year ago (see a previous blog) at the insistence of a few friends, I finally decided to join the Facebook Community.

My friends explained it thusly:

Facebook is different.
It’s just your friends.
It’s not creepy pedophiles.
It’s private and secure.
It’s simple to set up.
It doesn’t ask you a hundred questions.
Get on Facebook!
You’ll love Facebook!

My friend Lauren was especially effusive. “I think you’ll really like Facebook,” she had said earlier that week when we were out on the town. “It’s just your friends and it’s really FUN!”

Well, I’ve been on Facebook for a week now and I’m still waiting for the fun.

In any case, for those of you not on Facebook, here’s the lowdown: You quickly set up an account with your email address, insert a few pertinent details about yourself (name, birth date, location) and that’s pretty much it. You can throw a photo in there, if you like. But within moments, you’re all set up and can begin looking for people who are already your friends to own up to being, indeed, your actual friend in a public forum.

So last week, once I got set up, I spent a few hours online trolling for my friends.

It felt kind of creepy. Like I was stalking my friends. But I did manage to find a few of them on Facebook and clicked the “Add as Friend” button next to their names in the hope that they still like me.

The next morning, I woke up bright and early; made a cup of coffee and sat down to my computer all excited to see all my new Facebook Friends.

I had four. Four. I had the sum total of four Facebook Friends. Kind of sad, really. I started to wonder if I’d done something to piss my friends off. I tend to think of myself as a pretty “low-maintenance” kind of friend---but maybe not. Maybe my friends think otherwise. Maybe they’ve all banded together on their collective Facebook pages and mutually decided to shun my Facebook Friend advances.

What could I have done wrong?

Sure, I can sometimes get a little crazy with the emails to my actor friends when I’m working on a project.

Still wondering if you’re going to be able to make that rehearsal. Haven’t heard anything yet. Sorry to be such a pest. Just trying to make the schedule. Have a nice day. Call me.

But only four? Where were all my so-called friends?

It’s a funny thing---you go your entire life thinking that you have loads of friends. But when they suddenly don’t click on you as a Facebook Friend---well, you start to get a little worried. The first 24 hours, I was practically glued to the computer waiting for my so-called friends to own up to knowing me. As they seemed to be a little too busy with their fabulous lives to make a simple click, I started looking around for some other friends. Maybe I needed to look up some old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Happily, I found quite a few of them on Facebook. I clicked on the embarrassing, “Be My Friend” button and waited some more.

While trolling for friends on Facebook, I noticed that some people seem to have hundreds (even thousands) of Facebook Friends. Are these people REALLY their friends? And what makes a Facebook Friend? I needed a qualifier. Some kind of barometer here. And no sappy quote in a Hallmark card was going to help with this particular definition.

After a lot of careful thought and deliberation, I decided that the qualifier was, “Yeah---but would they help me move?”

Okay, maybe they might not be able to actually help me move---they might be out of town, have back problems, or just be classified in that bunch of good (but lazy) friends that we all seem to have. But at least, if they got a message on their Facebook page, they wouldn’t be sitting there going, “Who is this chick asking me to help her move?”

And, may I say, the qualifier came in handy. For no sooner did I get set up on Facebook, than I began to get Friend Requests.

“Joe Stranger would like to be your friend. Would you like to confirm him as your friend?”

Well, I don’t know Joe Stranger. At least, I don’t think I do. Though I will admit to being extremely bad with both names and faces. Aware of this, I always try to be accommodating.

A few years ago, I got a phone call on a Sunday night. The guy asked for me by name. I confirmed that it was indeed me on the phone and then he replied, “Hey! It’s Mike! Do you have a Blockbuster card?”


“Great! Can I use it?”


“Okay, I’ll be by in a few minutes.”


It was only after I hung up the phone that I thought, “Who’s Mike? And why does he need my Blockbuster card?”

There was my friend Michael, from work. But he went by Michael. And I was sure he had his own Blockbuster card.

Nevertheless, some guy named Mike was going to be by any minute now to pick up my Blockbuster card.

I guess I’d better tidy up.

Over the next ten minutes as I was picking up dirty clothes from the bathroom floor and putting dirty dishes into the sink, I realized that I was possibly cleaning up for a serial killer.

It was my Mother’s Two Mantras butting heads: Don’t Let Strangers in the House --- VS --- Make Sure the House is Clean.

In any case, when they found my body, the CSI team would not find a messy apartment.

But there was no time to think about last phone calls to loved ones or laying out enough cat food so kitty wouldn’t have to resort to nibbling at my corpse. As the last dirty dish hit the sink, there was a knock on my door.

I opened the door to find my friends Mike and Jay---musician friends from back home who’d come to town to record their new CD.

“Oh!” I let out a sigh of relief. “It’s YOU GUYS!”

They both immediately laughed and Mike said, “See---I told you she didn’t know who it was!”

“Why are you opening your door for strangers?!?” Jay chastised.

But I’m a little bit older and wiser now. And I had no intention of opening my Facebook door for strangers.

Meanwhile, quite a few of my actual friends didn’t seem to want to open their Facebook door for me. Including my friend Lauren who’d been so enthusiastic about Facebook to begin with. I’d sent her an invitation to be my friend almost a week before and still no response. What could I have done?

Well, I did give her a script the last time I saw her. And there was a part for her in the script. Maybe she hated it? Maybe she didn’t want to do the role and didn’t want to have to tell me? Maybe she figured that if she ignored my Facebook invite, I would get the hint and stop bothering her to do parts in my little films?

This was not good. I was now losing a potential Facebook Friend because I wrote a shitty script. Something had to be done.

I sent her a text.

Hey---if u don’t like the script or don’t want 2 do it just let me know. Don’t feel bad about it. I can take it!

While racking my brain over some possible re-writes, I received a text back from Lauren saying that she DID want to do it and DID like it and she’s just been busy but will free up soon.

However, two more days went by before she confirmed that I was indeed her Facebook Friend. Hmmm.

By this time, I began to suspect that Facebook wasn’t going to be as “fun” as Lauren had promised it would be. I was starting to think that Facebook was a little boring. And, once Lauren finally confirmed me as her Facebook Friend, I went to her Facebook page and asked a question on her Facebook Wall:

Okay, you said this facebook thing was fun. Where's the fun? This just seems like more work to me. Am I doing this wrong? I don't seem to be finding the fun.

But I haven’t heard back yet. Because frankly, I suspect, that Lauren is out actually HAVING FUN. I’m sure she finds Facebook “fun” in its own little way. But I’m almost certain that she finds actually going out with her friends to be way more fun than sitting in front of a computer looking at pictures of them.

I know I would. This sucked.

I sent a text to my friend Nina, who had not only immediately confirmed me as her Facebook Friend, but also invited me to be one of her Facebook Best Friends.

I’m already bored with facebook. What’s the big deal?

And, being a Facebook Best Friend, she immediately texted me back.

Yeah---facebook is not very exciting.


It was a huge relief to discover that I was not the only one who found this utterly boring. And a lot of extra work, I might add. Because by now, I was not only getting friend requests---I was also getting invitations to play games with my friends, invitations to write testimonials about my friends, invitations to poke my friends, send gifts to my friends, take their movie quizzes, tag them in pictures, listen to their favourite songs, rank them, rate them, hug them, love them, FOR GODSAKES LOVE YOUR FRIENDS! LOVE THEM!!!

It’s exhausting.

I spend far too much time in front of my computer as it is just writing. Honestly, I don’t have the time to rate their “hotness” potential. And, by the way---unless it’s all as a goof---it just seems a little weird to me. After all, let’s say you’re my friend. Let’s say you just helped me move. And now I’ve got to tell you that I think you’re way down at number 32 on the Hot Body List. Just doesn’t seem right. But thanks for helping me move! Help yourself to a slice of pizza and a beer. Sorry about your body.

Meanwhile, the friend requests just kept pouring in.

Who were these people? Did I actually know them?

Many of these people were listed as having X amount of friends in common with me? One friend’s name seemed to crop up the most---my Facebook Best Friend Nina. Last night, I gave her a call.

“Okay, I’m having a problem with this Facebook thing. I’m getting all these friend requests and I don’t think I know these people but a lot of them say they know you. Do you actually know any of these people? Or do I actually know any of these people?”

I began to go down the list.

A few of them were comics. Nina works in a comedy club and knows quite a few comics---many of whom seem to be trolling for fans more than friends. Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, I suppose. But what if you’re not funny? And what if I don’t find this out till after I make you my friend? And sure, you might be a nice guy and all (even if you’re not funny) but I don’t know you well enough to be your friend and I haven’t seen you perform so I’m not your fan. So where are we then, hmmm? Are you at least helping me move? Or maybe a ride to the airport? You gotta gimmie something to work with here.

One Friend Request, Nina reminded me that I actually did know---though I’d only known her by her nickname, hence the confusion. Okay, she could be my Facebook Friend.

Then there was a guy she thought I knew.

“You remember him.”


“Does he have a picture up?”

Yeah. There’s a picture.

“And you don’t recognize him?”

No. Was he there when I worked there?

”I think so. Nothing about him looks familiar?”


“Well, you don’t have to make him your friend if you don’t want.”

Would he help me move?

“Probably not.”

Then no.
But later I remembered him and made him my friend. I guess I could let that one slide.

And then there's the mysterious Party Guy. Unlike the other friend requests, Party Guy and I have NO friends in common. Yet, he still sent me a picture of himself wearing sunglasses, with his shirt off, a tattoo on his chest, and standing all cocky beside a pool with a beer in one hand and a thumbs-up in the other. Who was this guy? And how did he find me? And why on God’s Green Earth would he want to be my friend? What could we possibly have in common? Sure, he might help me move---but he’s in California. That’s no good to me. Unless I were moving to California. But even then…I don’t know him from a bird. Would I really trust him with the box marked, "78 Records. Careful. Very fragile"?

Okay, let’s say that I click on one of these strangers and suddenly make them my friend---what’s that going to do for me? I’m buying some bookcases from Ikea soon---can I just suddenly put a message on Joe Stranger's wall saying, “Good news! Bookcases arrived! Need help putting them together! See you tomorrow at noon!”

And even if Joe Stranger WOULD help me put my bookcases together, do I really want to let him into my home? Do I want to invite Joe Stranger to my Birthday Party? Joe Stranger may be a perfectly nice fellow---but how will he know what sort of gift I like?

What if Joe Stranger turns out to be a serial killer. The local news will immediately go to his Facebook Page and look for his friends. I’ll start getting calls from the media. My phone will be ringing off the hook and I’ll be forced to answer questions like, “Did you have any indication that Joe Stranger was a psychopath?”

“Well, he seemed really nice on Facebook. Sent me a Growing Flowerpot on my birthday. Not exactly what I wanted, but…”

Or worse, he turns out to be one of those Unabomber-type people. And then I’ll not only have the media, but the FBI on my tail. I will be pretty pissed if clicking Joe Stranger as a Friend turns into six months from now my having to take a few days off work to answer FBI questions in a small room under a bright light.

Oh, you may laugh---but a few years ago, a good friend of mine rented a truck.

A few months later, she was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

Unfortunately, she had the same taste in rental trucks as the Oklahoma City Bomber. Her name came up on a list of renters of that particular model and next thing you know, she’s got FBI Agents at her door. Originally, she thought it was a joke. She worked in a comedy club and knows a ton of comics who literally have nothing better to do than to fabricate elaborate practical jokes. But this was not another one of Doug Stanhope’s prank phone calls. This was the FBI. And these agents were not smiling.

Of course, once they met and spoke with her, they seemed to realize that she was most likely not the Oklahoma City Bomber.

Most likely, that is...

Because for the next several years, she had problems with everything related to local and national government. Her name had somehow gotten on watch lists all across the country.

In fact, it was only three years ago that the FBI informed her that she was officially OFF the Watch List. Currently, she’s still having trouble getting her US Passport renewed---and she knows why. So you'll pardon me if I'm a little selective with my Facebook Friends. I would like to go to Malta this fall, thank you very much.

As of right now, I have exactly 43 friends on Facebook. But there are quite a lot of friend requests I’m still waiting on.

Over the past week, I’ve been a little paranoid about a few of these dangling requests. Sure, there’s always the potential that my friend Alain back in Minneapolis won’t immediately remember me from so long ago (even though he actually DID help me move once). And sure, there’s the possibility that my ex-boyfriend might not be comfortable having me appear on his Facebook Friends list (even though we actually ARE still friends and chatted merrily just two weeks ago).

But I’m not worrying anymore. Because most likely, these people find Facebook as boring as I do. And I’m actually starting to respect the fact that I have NOT heard from them. Because they’re out there actually enjoying the company of their friends live and in person.

However, the other day, my Facebook Best Friend, Nina, wrote on my Facebook wall:

I figured if I wrote something on your wall, you'd get all excited when you checked your email and saw that you had a new message posted, and you'd be all like, "Aww, facebook, you're not so boring after all". That's what BEST FRIENDS do. The others...not really your friends.

I still think Facebook is boring. And I still don’t see what the fuss is all about. But it is nice to know that I have a group of people all gathered in one place for the next time I move. Except Nina---she’s helped me move so much that she has been given a Lifetime Exemption from ever having to move me again.

And that’s the difference between a Real Friend and a Facebook Friend---Real Friends never have to help you move again.

The rest of you---I’ll be writing on your walls when my lease expires in 2010. See you then!