Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Google Drive Saved My Life

Last month robbers broke into our home while we were at work. They wore black hoodies and the hoods hung over and concealed their faces. My neighbor, who watched the whole thing, said, “You couldn’t tell if they were black or Mexican or white.” They drove up in a black sedan. A tall thin one--probably a woman--went to the front door and knocked while a stocky guy looked through our garage window. Once it was established that no one was home, the stocky guy went to the front door and with practiced efficiency put a shoulder into it hard enough to break the frame. They took my laptop, my PS3, a lockbox containing a pocket watch that belonged to my grandfather, and a bunch of games and movies.

I can live without all that stuff. It’s a bummer, but I’ll live. But the laptop is where I write my stories...years and years of work on the hard drive...losing that would be like losing years of my life. Okay, I’m not a fool, I have everything backed up in multiple places. But what about the work I’d done since the last remote backup? I was lost; I didn’t know how long ago I’d done the backup. I knew I’d never be able to reconstruct what I’d lost; it would all have to be reimagined. And how many things would I think I’d done, but had actually disappeared with my computer?

But my daughter told me I should be using Google Drive some months ago. Have I told you how much I love my little girl?

I lost nothing. Not one paragraph, sentence, word or period. I bought a new laptop and, after installing Google Drive, I’m right back to where I was. So if you are a writer I’d highly recommend Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, or Microsoft’s SkyDrive. I’m not saying that you should back up your files to the cloud...I’m saying you should work in the cloud. Your backup files should be on your computer or external drive. The cloud is where your files should live.

Another lesson I learned that can be applied to my writing: people’s actions are sometimes unexplainable. My neighbor is a good guy. Let’s call him Bob. A couple times my dog has gotten out and Bob has brought her home. We’ve had many long conversations. I went to his wife’s funeral. I admit I can’t say I know all my neighbors, but I know Bob, and I trust him. But on the day of the robbery I guess Bob just wasn’t thinking straight. When he saw the robbers breaking in, he tried to call my other neighbor because he didn’t have my number. Yes, instead of dialing 9-1-1 Bob called my other neighbor (who coincidentally was out of town on a business trip). Later Bob told me and the policewoman, “I didn’t know if they might be people you know.”  Hmmm....

Maybe there is a reason that ‘truth is stranger than fiction.’ Maybe it is because stories need to be believable...they need to have that Discovered Story feel in order to be enjoyed. Real life—truth—doesn’t have to be believable. It just is.

#GoogleDrive #SkyDrive #iCloud

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Visitor from Oman

We had a guest for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year: my daughter’s dorm roommate from Oman. It was a learning experience for us as we all tried to make her feel comfortable in this place that is so very different from her home. I learned what constituted halal food, and tried to make sure there was enough available so she wouldn’t go hungry. We had to explain to everyone in our families that it wasn’t permitted for a man to touch her (not even a handshake), and in our house I had to be careful to avoid intruding on her when she might not be wearing her hijab. It was a new experience for her because she had never celebrated Thanksgiving or Christmas. And before coming to Oklahoma she’d never seen snow either.

I think about how brave it is for someone to travel half way around the world to study in a foreign country, where people talk a different language and where so many people have vastly different customs.

I also think about what a profound affect this will have on her.

As I worked on putting the dishes in the dishwasher, my wife and I talked to her about life in Oman. She said they lived in a big house with 3 or 4 bathrooms, but they didn’t have a dishwasher or a dryer, and her description of the washing machine made me think it was a mechanical contraption. I asked if her dad or her brothers ever helped with these household chores and she just laughed and shook her head.

I wonder, how could it not change her to see men and women as equals in the household? Will the girl who left Oman six months ago be the same one that returns this summer?

As a reader and a writer, I like stories in which the characters evolve and grow as they face life-changing situations. Naturally, it piques my interest when I see people in these situations.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Do What You Love

“If you could be paid to do something you really love, what would you do,”
Professor Daniel Gilbert asks in a Prudential television commercial. One woman responds, “I’d be a writer.”

I understand the sentiment. The romantic idea of being a writer, of working on your own schedule, of having an audience, of being anonymously famous...yes, that is what I want. But for most of us that is just a dream. But still we write. Why do we do it?

For me it’s just something I like to do. It’s fun to allow your imagination to run wild, to see characters spring to life and grow, and to sometimes be surprised at where the story takes you. My wife and daughters play instruments and sing and make art; my main creative outlet is writing. Everyone should have something in their life that inspires.

And, I’ll admit it--I would like to someday be a paid writer. But if I never get a penny, I am nonetheless a writer, and ultimately that is enough for me.

If you are a writer, I’d like to know why you write.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tolkien vs Lewis

Tolkien vs Lewis
“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.” – J.R.R. Tolkien.
I’ve heard that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were friends. In any case, they both were faculty at Oxford. I’ve always wondered...did they ever talk about Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles? It seems the conversation might have been a little uncomfortable, judging from the quote above, since Christian allegory is at the very heart of the Narnia tales.
I love it when Tolkien says, “I much prefer history – true or feigned – to the applicability to the thought and experience of the readers.” Tolkien, it seems, was also a fan of the Discovered Story.
Do I think Lewis’s use of allegory was wrong? No. I’ve read the books numerous times and I really enjoy them. But I think the allegory puts a layer of indirection between the characters and the reader. When the reader begins to recognize the allegory, then the reader is drawn out of the story to contemplate the allegory.
So here is my imagined conversation between the literary greats:
“So, Jack [Lewis], this lion named Aslan...he’s actually Jesus then?”
“Yes, Ronald [Tolkien].”
“And you don’t think that’s somewhat heavy-handed?”
“As if your war in Middle Earth isn’t an allegory for the World War.”
“Certainly my experiences in the war are applicable, but no, it isn’t allegory. The reader is free to come to his own philosophical conclusions.”
I understand that the two had a falling out at some point. Maybe this is where the trouble started.