Tag Archives: Writing

Bucket Dipper #parenting #storytelling

My son, who turns six in May, didn’t want to keep working on his dictation assignment for kindergarten.

The task called for me to read a short sentence, which he would then write on the paper. He’d had a decent day at school – even completed his in-class work – but it was late afternoon and I sensed he was tired.

I didn’t want him to quit, though. We were halfway through this. I just wanted him to finish. But he wouldn’t.

So, I said, after a long sigh: “OK, go to your room.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head.

“Yes,” I said. Calm, but firm.

His brow furrowed. Foot thumped against the chair leg. “No.”

“I’m counting to three. One…”

Eyes already glistening with tears: “No!”

“Two…”

Grimacing: “No! No!”

“Three.”

Fists clenched. Tears streamed from squinted eyes. “NOOOOO!” But he was already climbing down from the chair at our high kitchen table and stomping toward the stairs.

The baby monitor in his room is the same that let us keep tabs on him when he was an infant in the majestic old house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Durham in 2013. It now broadcasts to a speaker in the kitchen in the townhouse our family has called home since 2016. Through it, I could hear him ranting between sobs:

“You’re a…a…a…bucket dipper, Dad! That makes me so sad! I bet you didn’t know everybody’s got an invisible bucket! And bullies take from other people’s buckets! I can’t believe you dipped into my bucket! You’re a bucket dipper!”

While this went on, I plucked my iPhone off the counter and opened the web browser. Apparently, a teacher at school had read the students a book called Fill A Bucket. I’d never heard of it before, but the premise is that, as the boy related, everyone’s got a bucket and when you do nice things for people, you fill their buckets. When you do bad things, you take from them. You’re a bucket dipper.

Well. I wasn’t going to settle for that. “Get down here,” I said up the stairwell.

Sullen, he made his way back down.

“You don’t have to like the consequences I dish out for your actions,” I told him. “That’s fine. But I didn’t do anything to your bucket. I gave you time to pick a different path. You refused. You made your choice. You took from yourself and you kind of took from me too. I didn’t want to spend our time together this way today.”

He looked shocked, fresh tears spilling down his cheeks. “I can’t believe I dipped into my own bucket and poured it out.”

“It happens,” I told him. To a lot of people, kids and grownups alike. More often than I dared admit.

Telecommuter’s Lament #amwriting #storytelling #struggles

Working at home works great for work. Not so much for creativity.

About a year ago, my supervisor asked if I wouldn’t mind giving up my cubicle on the fourth floor of an office park building about 30 minutes from home.

I didn’t put up any kind of fight. I packed my laptop and an extra monitor, drove home, and converted a corner of our upstairs bonus room into my workspace.

So much to love about this arrangement:

  • No commute. Great gas savings and reduced wear and tear on my car.
  • Relative autonomy while remaining connected to co-workers via email and Slack.
  • Freedom to care for our infant daughter in the mornings during the week, saving us money on child care.

I don’t have trouble focusing on work. Never have. Back in 1994, I launched a regional edition of The St. Petersburg Times from a spare bedroom in my house in Land O’Lakes, Fla. It took a few years to win approval for planting the flag with an actual strip mall bureau, so I already had plenty of work-from-home experience.

It’s not perfect, though.

One really challenging aspect of this arrangement: work brain never seems to turn off.

In the year since I started working from home, my creative productivity has plummeted. My work computer and personal computer sit on an L-shaped desk, inches apart, and yet – no matter the hour – 9 times out of 10, if I sit at this desk, my attention is turned to the work laptop and whatever the next thing is on my to-do list.

This week, I *finally* finished a roleplaying scene on OtherSpace that had been lingering for months. It wasn’t a crazy combat sequence, just characters talking to each other as part of a denouement for a crazy combat sequence that took just a couple of weeks to play out. That conversation scene? Started about a year ago.

I *did* manage several #bookstorewindow stories soon after the 20th anniversary of OtherSpace in June and July, but with the resurging obligations at work for product releases in August and October, I totally lost my creative focus and went into workbot machine mode.

I’m not sure how I’ll find balance. All I know for certain is that I must find that balance. I’m not getting any younger and the stories in my mind won’t just magically put themselves on a page. Scenes won’t run themselves on the Slack platforms.

I don’t suffer from the traditional kind of writer’s block where I can’t think of anything to write – I have a lot that I want to write, but I keep finding excuses to work instead.

It’s time to figure out how to compartmentalize my work obligations at home the way I could always compartmentalize my creative interests during work hours when I was at the office.

[NOTEWORTHY] May 22: Happy Birthday! #acting #amwriting #storytelling

Arthur Conan Doyle

Laurence Olivier

Paul Winfield

What Do You Say No. 2: Favorite Parting Lines?

What have been some of your favorite lines uttered by your character (or other people’s characters) as they leave in a huff?