Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Home-Building, Pueblo-Style

A musician friend of mine gave me a few chapters from The Dance of Life by Edward T. Hall, a study of how rhythms shape our individual lives and the way we interact with other people. It's intriguing enough that I'll be reading the rest of the book, once I get my hands on it.

Anyway, just came across this passage that resonated with me and thought I'd share. Discussing the different rhythms of Anglo-European American culture and Native American culture, Hall points out that before Anglo-Europeans build a house, they buy the land and secure the financing. Pueblo Indians, he says, do the same things but have one more precondition:

"Before a shovel of earth can be turned, all the right thoughts must be present. The Pueblos believe that thoughts have a life of their own and that these live thoughts are an integral part of any man-made structure and will remain with that structure forever. Thoughts are as essential an ingredient as mortar and bricks."

You Never Know (or, My summer reading so far)

I tucked into my first book of the vacation ready for some intellectual stimulation. Just because the sun is out doesn't mean I can't learn something that might improve me professionally, right?

The Black Swan turned out to be (as advertised) well-written and well-argued. Also an incredibly subversive read for a girl with a specialty in financial services who makes her living writing speeches for corporate types. This book could get me fired, I thought, even as I giggled my way guiltily through the author's dissection of...well, all the things that pay my mortgage, like narrative and causality and forecasting.

So my next selection - Brother Ray, the autobiography of Ray Charles - is turning out to be lemon sorbet for my overstimulated brain. And while I thought I would be reading it from my perspective as a musician, the speechwriter in me is extremely impressed at how the co-author, David Ritz, has captured Charles' voice perfectly.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Six Years Ago: Happy

Just stumbled across these notes I made back in June 2003 and they made me smile. It's not often you get such concrete proof of moments of sheer happiness; I'm glad I stopped to write about these.

5 June 2003
I need to write this down before the world intrudes and I forget how unremittingly happy I have been in the last few days.

All my life, since I began my life as a speechwriter, I have wanted to write political speeches. One week ago, I started my first – no, a week ago yesterday, Wednesday. By Friday, I’d sent in the commencement speech; by Saturday, the long (40-minute), substantive speech in which the candidate was announcing a new policy initiative. Saturday, pretty much all day, I was a wreck – convinced that the speech was too long, too wonky because of all the details they wanted included. I was convinced that the speech (to use a technical term) sucked.

Sunday morning, 11:44 a.m. – an email from the policy director to what seemed like everyone in the campaign, from campaign manager on down: “Attached is a wonderful draft by Elaine Bennett...” Monday an email to me from the same guy: “Elaine, you really are a wonderful writer. I’m thrilled to read your work.” Tuesday, my boss was driving around with the candidate and he says, with what sounds like awe when he recounts it, “Hey, you’ve really got a wonderful speechwriter there.” Yesterday, Wednesday, the candidate says to me, “Thank you – it was a wonderful speech” or – I don’t actually know what he said (I was too amazed that he was saying it to listen), but he was smiling when he said it.