Category Archives: Blogging

Weekend Assignment #197: Surviving the Writers’ Guild strike.

Karen Funk Blocher at Outpost Mavarin is taking over John Scalzi’s old beat and giving out “Weekend Assignments” for bloggers. This week it’s Weekend Assignment #197: Now that the WGA strike has had lots of time to affect the prime time television schedules, how is it affecting you as a viewer? What shows do you miss most, aside from reruns?

My response:

It hasn’t affected me at all. I know this sounds really snobbish, but I don’t watch any series television. I occasionally watch the news, and now that the primaries are in full swing I’ll watch MSNBC and CNN more in the evening, but that’s it. I’m working my way through my brother-in-law’s DVDs of the first season of Battlestar Galactica, which is fantastic, but it has taken me three months just to get halfway through the set. My kids mostly watch DVDs (we were watching shows from the second season of the original Scooby-Doo cartoons earlier this evening) or children’s shows that are always reruns anyway — they’re not old enough for series TV.

My wife and I gave up series television a couple of years ago. I remember when we knocked it down to just a few series — House, Desperate Housewives, one or two others — because our Tivo was getting too full. Then we dropped everything but House and — for my wife only — that show that was about Saturday Night Live (not the Tina Fey show, the Aaron Sorkin one). Then I got too busy to bother with House, and my wife’s show was canceled, and we were done.

It wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy the shows when we watched them — we did. It was just that something had to go, and I really couldn’t give up any more sleep. The thing is, once I made the decision to stop watching a particular show, it was really, really easy to stop giving a rat’s ass about it. And once you make that decision about one show, it’s even easier to stop caring about the next one. Deciding to give up the last show was probably the hardest, because I knew that I was entering the realm of the crazy no-TV people, who didn’t understand cultural references and couldn’t carry on a simple conversation at lunch, but who was I kidding? I was barely watching it anyway, so the only conversation about television I could participate in would be the one about how backed up we all are with stuff on our Tivos. Now the only shows backlogged on the Tivo are Thomas the Tank Engine and Super Why. And I’m one of those people who drift off when the conversation turns to TV series (the way I always drifted off when the conversation turned to sports, or golf, or cars).

What do we do instead? In 2007, I worked. Most nights, if I wasn’t on the road or stuck late at the office, I came home, helped get the kids to bed, had dinner if I missed dinner with the kids, and then worked until 11 or 12. If I didn’t have to work, the Mrs. and I might talk or go to bed comparatively early, or read, or just mess around on the Net. On weekends, if we watched anything at all, we would watch one of our backlogged Netflix movies (I think we’re responsible for a measurable percentage of their stock price, because it takes us months to watch a movie). Series television? Who has time?

One thing, though: starting Sunday night, presumably because of the continuing WGA strike, NBC is bringing back American Gladiators, with Muhammad Ali’s daughter and Hulk Hogan as regulars. That I might watch.

About Me: in which I begin yet another project with no clear way to finish

Husband (married my college sweetheart years ago).

Father (two great kids).

Lawyer (that’s what it says on the business cards).

Runner (when I can get my sorry butt out of bed early enough, or break out of work long enough to head for the gym).

Writer? Not lately.

It has been a long time since I wrote anything for pleasure. I write all the time for clients — briefs, memos, complaints, settlement agreements, nastygrams (wait — I’m going to see if anyone has registered nastygram.com … it is, and it’s a porn site, as I should have expected — when I say nastygram, I mean an aggressive, snarky letter to opposing counsel), etc. But nothing that I felt compelled to write for my own reasons. Nothing, frankly, that I didn’t know in advance that I would get paid for.

When I was in high school, I was the first one of my friends to get a rejection slip. I probably have a dozen or more in a box somewhere, from Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I collected a few more while I was in college, although I slowed down my fiction output and focused on acting and my column for the student newspaper.

I wrote a little more during law school: 75 pages of a coming of age novel (with, I must say, a really good mugging scene, but nothing much else worth salvaging), and a few humor pieces for the law school newspaper at my first law school.

No, I didn’t get kicked out. I transferred. The future Mrs. Unfocused was still living in Chicago, and I wanted to come back before she found someone more focused.

That was it, though. I’ve jotted down some story ideas since, and somewhere in the study there’s a spiral notebook with 20 handwritten pages of a comic science fiction story (or novel) that I started maybe four years ago, but otherwise, nothing.

Between the age of 11 and the beginning of law school, the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer or journalist. Even as I started law school, I thought I would keep writing and end up with that as my real career.

I surprised myself (and everyone who knew me, except, I think, my mother) by actually enjoying law school. I got to spend three years reading about other people’s problems and arguing with a bunch of really smart people — what’s not to like? I also found — again, to general disbelief — that I liked, and continue to like, being a lawyer. I like solving problems, and I like a job where there are winners and losers. Not every day, not all the time, but far more often than not.

So I like my career, and I’ve had some success with it — nothing that’s made the papers, but I’m doing alright.

But.

It’s time to start writing again. I need to put words on a page for no better reason than that I want to put them there, that it pleases me to do it. This blog is my way of getting started.

It is 10.5 months until the start of the next NaNoWriMo — by November 1, 2008, I want to be in a mental space where I am ready to participate. Before then, I plan to write one professional article that I have been thinking about but putting off for months, and to complete the first draft of one of the short stories I have notes on. In the meantime, I plan to use this blog to push my self to write something — anything — a few times a week, to practice writing in my non-lawyer voice again.

That’s it for now. More tomorrow.