Mark Terry

Friday, March 26, 2010


March 26, 2010
Today my wife and I have to do a little maintenance with our youngest son, a little scolding, some grounding, etc. In the grand scheme of things it's minor, but it's big enough that if we overlook it, it might become a bigger problem. (Not much fun).

I'm sure that one reason my wife and I are being so pro-active on this particular day is that yesterday Leanne was talking to a friend of hers whose oldest son, about 20, keeps getting into trouble. The latest one was that a girl asked him to get her some pot, so he did. So she kept asking, and he did. Yeah, she's a narc and he's under arrest for distribution of a controlled substance. They're willing to let him off if he'll give them the name of his seller, but apparently he's afraid the guy will come after him. (Dude, I want to say, you're fucked either way, but if you give him up you keep your record clear). This isn't the first time he's gotten in trouble, but his juvenile problem was sealed.

I'm not blaming his parents or anything like that, but it strikes me that life requires some maintenance, that you can sometimes see things going off the rails a little bit and you need to nudge them back in the direction you think they should be going. It's pretty easy to let things slide through inattention or laziness. (And sometimes they slide anyway).

Well, enough about parenting and life. How does this apply to your writing?

Uh, in two ways. First, if you're writing a novel and you start to see things slide, and you think, "Hmmm, that's interesting, but I think that's minor, won't be a problem," it's a good idea to make sure that's so. Or once you realize, "Uh-oh, I really got detoured there," it's a good idea to go back and fix it before writing another 250 pages.

The other way is just writing-career things. Did you get a story rejected and give up on it while there were still markets to query? Did you give up on an agent search after only a few attempts? Have you contacted your agent or editor lately to see what's going on, or to see if there's anything you need to do? How are your writing finances? Are you keeping your books up-to-date? It's almost the end of March, are you ready to pay your quarterly taxes? Are you moving toward your writing goals? Are you drifting along, getting nothing accomplished? Are you taking steps to accomplish your writing goals?

That's maintenance.


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Fabulous post, dear Genius. Works on multiple levels.

As a parent, my oldest son requires no maintenance at all in discipline. The kid is such a good guy--volunteers, kind, polite, etc. But in his schoolwork, he is the classic genius/absent-minded professor. So about this point each year, I have to start being Bitch Mom and nag him to organize his notebooks, clean up his papers, remember to do his homework, and so on. Because if I don't, he's way off the rails before you know it.

Writing wise, I tend to edit as I go for precisely that reason.


7:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Well, this is simply that my youngest son's grades have been slipping in Language Arts lately, and at P/T meeting 2 weeks ago the teacher told us he seemed to be delaying his accelerated reader work. So we started nagging him about it & trying to get him to put some edge to the 2 classes he's not doing quite as well in (and that's relative, he's getting B+'s in english & math, but he's capable of better, but into the new term his language grade was really slipping because of dumb stuff). Well, I asked him about the AR this morning on the way to school and he says, "Oh, I didn't do all that great on it." So I probed a bit and found "not all that great" actually was a big fat 0, then he said, "It was boring," which makes me suspect he didn't finish reading it. Which isn't acceptable, so we'll lean on him a bit & probably ground him from video games for a day or the weekend. As Leanne says, it's time to give him the "get your head out of your ass" lecture that we also had to give our oldest son about the same time in 6th grade. Something about middle school boys...

[which could take me to another topic. I was speaking with one of the middle school english teachers at a Christmas get-together (she's married to the band director) and I said, probably too bluntly, "Why are all the middle school reading assignments hostile to boys?" I didn't actually get a resonable answer, and unfortunately for my youngest son that doesn't get him out of reading the work and paying attention to it and actually doing the work, but I don't think much of the middle school reading lists]

7:09 AM  
Blogger Debra L Martin said...

Hi Terry,

When my son was in high school there was a problem semester in his sophomore year. He too is a genius/no street smarts kind of kid. He found school boring - too easy and so his mind would wander. He would come home after school and pay his video games until I came home from work. Comments were always "School is fine."

When I saw the grades for that semester, I enacted my own kind of "maintenance." No video games for the next semester. I literally took the system and games out of his room. He was not a happy boy, but lo and behold, the next semester, he was back on top with straight A's.

I know some people would think that this was harsh, but certain situations require different solutions. My son is a genius, so when something bores him, he tunes it out. Not always the best choice. He's 31 now and doing just fine.

I totally agree with the idea of "maintenance" be it for your kids or your writing. I also tend to edit as I go along.


7:40 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I agree. My oldest son HATED the middle school reading lists and I AM DELIGHTED that he is now becoming a more avid reader (fantasy--Tolkien, and The Last Templar, even Secret Life of Bees).

I would just threaten to "go Amish" on the technology for a weekend, LOL!

7:55 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Sean's very bright and things generally come very easily to him. But clearly he's not interested in this class, so some prodding is required.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Great phrase, "go all Amish on him." Yeah, that's pretty much what we're going to do. The current texting conversation is the length of time.

9:55 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

I just recently realized that the more writing feels like work, the better my writing is.

I have a boy who I have to constantly keep on in school. You could call it lazy, but that's not just it. He really likes to focus on what he likes to focus on.

Come to think of it, so do I. Which is why I must be sitting here blogging rather than WORKING.

Off I go...

11:03 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

You guys have me worried for the MS reading classes! My son's in 5th and has LOVED his reading so far. But if it's boring, he simply won't read it. As in, I'll have to read it to him. He already gets no video games or TV during the week. I'll have to take away his comic books LOL.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Hmmm. Now I'm getting more of the story. For some odd reason this teacher has what amounts to a pass/fail policy for the accelerated reader program, so on a 10 question test, if you get 50% it still counts as a zero. If you have a 20 question test, 75% counts as a zero. May have to rethink the grounding, to some extent.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Wow, that revelation about the teacher's all-or-nothing grading scheme does make a difference, doesn't it... There have been times with my three children (who, of course, have aged out of the children category -- eldest is 41 and youngest is about six weeks short of being 25) when I would get all over them about some lack of effort regarding school work. However, they also knew that (on those rare occasions) when they were being done wrong by the school, I would be just as emphatically on their side.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

p.s. I'd bet you could also use that "May have to rethink the grounding, to some extent" thought as a springboard into an essay on how it might apply to writing.

10:29 AM  

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