Wednesday, December 11, 2013


“Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”

That’s the title of one of the best articles I’ve read all year, and it’s from The Motley Fool. If you’re not a stock market investor, you might not know what the Motley Fool is, but they’ve made many investors wealthy with their superior research and investing skills. (No, I’m not one of the wealthy ones, but my little portfolio is doing okay.) The article is too long to repeat, but here are some of the important points.

A comedian says if his cell phone is out for 30 seconds, he’s upset. The cell phone itself is awesome. He should be thrilled instead of complaining. Same with the U.S. economy. “Everything is great but no one is happy.” Everywhere you go these days, gloom wins. It says, “Americans are pessimistic and miserable.”

It needs perspective. These are the good old days.

If I say the average American family earns less today than it did in 2000, it sounds scary. But if I say that family earns more than in 1995, it sounds better. Today $51,000; 1995 $50,000. And that’s adjusted for inflation.

The average American born in 1950 could expect to live to 68. One born in 2010 will probably live to 79, eleven more years. African-Americans did even better. They added 15 years of life expectancy. Mostly because childhood mortality has plunged, from 32 per 1000 in 1950 to six in 2012.

Older Americans now have something they once only dreamed of: retirement. Even as recently as the 1960s, the average man had two stages of life, work and death. Now, the average worker retires at 62. In the first half of the 20th century, the average working day was ten hours, six days a week. Today the average worker has 22 days of paid vacation.

In the 1960s, in most states, a woman could not take out a loan or a credit card in her own name. In 42 states, she had no legal claim on the earnings of her husband.

High school graduation rates are at the highest level in 40 years

Traffic deaths per 100,000 have fallen by half since the 1960s.

In 1973, 49% of new homes had air conditioning. Today 89% do.

“Today,” Matt Ridley writes, “of Americans officially designated as ‘poor,’ 99% have electricity, running water, flush toilets and a refrigerator, 95% have a television, 88% a telephone, 71% a car and 70% air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of them.”

Sure, inefficiencies, injustice and inequality exist today. But they always have. By comparison, we live in the most prosperous time in the history of the world. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Honest, I was going to write this post about creativity last week, but at the last minute decided that honoring Thanksgiving was more appropriate. And then, The Passive Voice, one of my favorite blogs, ran an article called, “Is Creativity Destined to Fade with Age?” in the meantime.

Originally published in Valley News, the article mentioned Doris Lessing, who died recently at age 94, who said, five years before, that the writing had dried up. “Use it while you’ve got it,” Ms. Lessing was quoted, “because it’ll go.”

The article then asked the question, “Does creativity have an expiration date?” and mentioned Philip Roth and Alice Munro, both of whom announced recently they would stop writing. He was 79, she was 81. The National Endowment for the Arts, together with the National Institute on Aging, is apparently looking into how creativity can be fostered throughout a person’s life.

Meanwhile, should the rest of us be worried? Not necessarily. In math and science, creative breakthroughs might occur at younger ages, because studies show the frontal lobe is still building myelenization, a sheath around the brain. After the early 40s, however, demyelenization starts to occur, and that benefits older people. “When you see a retired person undertaking creative pursuits, it may be that their brain organization is different.”

As an aging writer (and aren’t we all?), I’ve wondered how many books I can write before I decide to quit, especially with the record of Nora Roberts taunting me. But what is creativity anyway? Is it writing the same romantic formula in different ways? Is the author of science fiction or fantasy more creative than the one who writes about contemporary or even historical times and places? Is an artist who produces abstract paintings more creative than one who makes representational art, putting on canvas what one observes of the world with the human eye?

After years of writing romance fiction, I’m moving into mystery (which I’ve always preferred to read) and I’ll be anxious to see if my newest books get accepted by editors, published, and then meet with approval by readers. However, even my romance novels usually held an element of intrigue, or a problem the characters had to solve before the inevitable happy-ever-after ending. An example of the latter is THE ITALIAN JOB, which gives my heroine the task of investigating an old problem haunting the hero, and the surprising truth she uncovers. I loved writing that book and, judging by the copies I sold at the Book Fair a week ago (and the later comments), readers like it too.

Fellow-writers, do you consider yourself creative? Do you always feel creative? Do you sometimes switch genres to challenge yourself?