A jolt of bad news with your morning java

I think we are becoming a bunch of depressed people, unwittingly. I mean, look at that piece of converted tree pulp we call a newspaper that we reach for each morning before sipping our wake•me•up coffee. And you computer geeks, you who reach for your laptop or Blackberry instead, you are not absolved either —you are just getting your dose of bad news in just another way. Most medicines can be taken in liquid or tablet form, you know.

So, back to where I digressed, I open this newspaper and what do I get? “Young Girl Stoned to Death”? “More body bags returning from Afghanistan” “Hurricane Karl” – oh, yeah, are we up to the letter K already and September’s not over? “Employment numbers worsen” —who cares; I am not looking for permanent employment any more, gave up that foolish pursuit a long time ago. Wait, there’s more: “Economy on the tip of a double dip” – sure, blame it on greed! “Interest rates rising”, “House sales flat”, “Forest fires in BC”, Refugee flotillas bound for Canada”. “HIV infected needles implanted in gas pumps” – just squeeze and die!

I then reach for my coffee. A balancing of my mental state takes place: the low of the news is counteracted with a high from the java. And I need stronger and stronger java these days. No wonder, the bad news is getting stronger and stronger too!

We seem to be addicted to that damned newspaper. We read it over breakfast, in the subway, in parks, at Tim Hortons, in the office, in the cafeteria, and even on the way home if we have not devoured it end to end by then, just to re•assure ourselves (after our morning reading) that the world is still unchanged, that this joint is still a BAD PLACE!

Is bad news a necessity for life to continue? The low to every high? I mean, would anyone buy a newspaper that has headlines like: “Couple happily celebrate 75th wedding anniversary” or “Families celebrate Thanksgiving in record numbers this year”, “Canada is still a great place to live”, “Life expectancy rates rise”, “SID death rates drop”, “Crime virtually eradicated in Canada,”, “Cure for Breast Cancer Found?” Nah, too boring – they say!

They say that thoughts manifest themselves, and a surfeit of bad news can sometimes manifest in recurring bad events. So why bring new disaster by wallowing in yesterday’s disasters every morning?

Hey, you know what? I am throwing out the newspaper and turning on the cartoons on TV with my morning (mild) java for the next little while, at least until those damned gloomy newspapers cheer me up with some good news for a change. And I’ll probably be inadvertently joining the masses of displeased readers who have already cast their vote like me and plunged journalism into its new Dark Age. Blame the Internet, Blogging, Self•Publishing and all that bull? Nah • look at your content, brother.

A day in the life of a shameless self-promoting writer

Bill sets down his second coffee cup, rubs his eyes in the early hours of the morning and starts on his blog. In it, he declaims world hunger, the war in Afghanistan, greedy corporate types and the malaise among readers who were still migrating over to TV, twittering and texting, and leaving the printed word in the dust. East week he writes the same article with variations on the theme. “Stick to the core message” was what he had been taught at Writer’s School.

On his third coffee, he opens his query letter template, scans the agents he has targeted from the week before, there are five left in his list of 45. He cuts and pastes, adds the customary links to his website and blog, attaches the standard chapter of his novel which is so well edited for grammar and punctuation that it has lost its spirit, and puts the three envelopes in the mail tray – later he will take them down to the post office, where he has become a regular.

Then he enters his standard five short story contests for the day, all sourced from the internet the day before. Each has a differing word length and he picks from his 500 word, 1500 word, 2500 word, 5000 word and 10,000 word stories, depending on the rules for application. Today’s contests have higher entry fees, $50.00 in some cases, instead of the customary $15.00.

After a lunch of bread and butter, washed down with more coffee, Bill get onto his social networking sites where he has to maintain his presence: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon and a few new ones that are sent to him daily via his “network”. He comments on the various online forums, where he is reputed to carry a heavy stick and is known for his literary flair, always ending by listing his website address. He sources more contests for entering tomorrow.

By 2pm he is dozing in his seat – time for his nap to re•charge the brain cells.

He wakes with a start – it is 3.30pm – he has really dozed off. The sun is warm outside and the skies are blue. It is time for a walk down to the beach, where he could blow the cobwebs of sleep away and find out if any grains of inspiration have been planted during his temporary visit to Dreamworld. He returns at 4.30pm after a brief stop at the post office, having found no grains other then the grains of sand sticking to his shoes after walking the beach.

Time to write my three pages a day. He dives into it with gusto. He is writing this crime novel in which he does not like the heroine, she just sort of came to him from that Dreamworld place. So halfway into his writing he gives her a cancerous tumour and sends her off to hospital, while her husband has wild sex with his administrative assistant on the office couch. Feeling vindicated, Bill ambles off into the kitchen and fixes himself a tuna sandwich.

Now for that grant application. Bill hates begging for money, but he needs it – he has not sold any work in six months, the last being a freelance journalistic article. His only published novel never made the top ten, and sank into oblivion soon within three months of its launch. His publisher never called him back.

At 9pm, Bill yawns – it’s been a long day. Time for bed. Tomorrow he will repeat the cycle. Eventually, something will give. Spoiler alert: Wannabe Writers – this could be you!