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Archive for April, 2014

I have read more self-help books than I would like to remember (as has Connie) through the sublime position of judging for contests. There are all kinds of self-help books in the world. You would never think that so many self-help books are published each year, not if you walked through a bookstore. While those places (with cash registers) are becoming rarer, I would still not have guessed from browsing Amazon or Barnes and Nobles online, where quality fiction is presented in a changing carousel.

Well, now I know. Self help books are printed in yearly profusion and some of them have made a bundle of bucks–notably The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and Think and Grow Rich by Nap0leon Hill, which are both about making money come zinging out of the stratosphere and adhering to your skin.

Then there are the apocalyptic Christian self-help, the easy-going Christian self-help, the spirit-guide (occult) self-help, the daily diary or journal self-help, the how-to-face-death self help, the love nature self-help, the how-to-overcome divorce , the dog is your best friend self-help and the low self-esteem self-help. And more.

But I have yet to see one  about how to deal with bad neighbors. If a book like that had any good tricks in it, I might even buy it.

We have an alley bordering the back of our house. Some new renters have come to a house that is very close. They use the garage, which opens onto the alleyway, as a pool hall, rapper disco, gambling and possibly cock-fighting party zone. M***F**** is the main compound word in the lyrics of the songs they play. These are not the kind of people one should talk to. I daresay they are not aware anyone else exists in the universe, and if they are aware, they do not care.  garage rappers

So where are the books to help me cope? I am so sorry that all those self-help writers in their ivory towers or Hawaiin grottos do not know that just possibly, a few hundred thousand readers might actually profit not from journaling about our disappointments or lack of self-esteem but from reading a really well written self help book for people with bad neighbors.

 

 

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ImageA writer can do all kinds of things to not be distracted, but I think most will agree a quiet setting is important. One playwright I know, while living in a roomy penthouse, could not assure that her spouse would not interrupt her frequently while she was trying to compose. Her practice was to get in the car with pen, paper and headphones, and find a nice parking lot or children’s playground at which to station herself. It worked. Another playwright friend says he too does best if his apartment is empty.

I find even the kind of music I listen to impacts my ability to write. Instrumental works best, particularly if it is melodic and not too loud. I favor classical. While I enjoy rock and roll, lyrics of any kind make me think about the words. That prevents me from composing any of my own.

As far as distractions go, spouses may be the worst of offenders if for no other reason than they are in close proximity and so more likely to step on the landmine of disturbing the (creative) peace. Artists who marry one another are especially guilty, for one will want a cuddle or a conversation while the other is immersed in a project. Unless they want to resent each other for the same reasons,they have to learn to tell the signs and hold back.

Telephones and the internet can both be distractions. Writers writing on computers that  can be connected to the internet (only 2.5% of all world writers, correct?) have to do a lot of psyching to not trawl the web right after looking up a historical fact. Nor should we care if our friends have posted a funny note to Facebook. Self-discipline must be cultivated.

Cats and dogs can also distract. Everyone’s got the cat who parades back and forth in front of the monitor. Dogs have their needs too, so a careful writer will see to those needs or psyche herself not to be irritated if she has to stand up and see why someone is barking.

Neighbors’ dogs are less manageable, as is the volume level the neighbors’ music speakers are set at. Our newest next door neighbor used to be prone to playing his music at a volume to shake walls. That is, until he got a cute little puppy. When the neighbor wants, I don’t know, to go shopping or take a nap, he leaves the dog outside. The darling little creature comes to the steel fence nearest our house and barks his head off in between trying to chew the steel wires apart. I know he is just being himself. Luckily, headphones help.

Some distractions are as unavoidable as they are unexpected and unmanageable even with headphones. Yesterday’s party from hell, in which our overly exuberant diagonal backyard neighbors had an 11 hour fiesta outside complete with nonstop screaming and whistling, conjuring a probable scene of stripping competitions to a steady pulsating background ( I could feel it through any part of my body on the couch) of bass beats and who knows what the band’s name was, provided an excellent atmosphere in which nothing could get done without a headache.

Luckily I had nothing significant to do–just clean, cook, and write. My husband and I attempted to be politely tolerant and succeeded, although various personal physical manifestations suggested my tolerance, at least, came at a price. It was probably due to all those nasty thoughts of revenge popping up in my head–the idea of honking outside the party people’s house at 5 A.M. or releasing a virulent strain of extra-terrestrial bacteria on my neighbor’s front porch.

The enlightened will tell you that ugly thoughts can create conflict in the body and illness. I must work on thinking good thoughts.

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