How To Start a Rewrite

I need to print out the original for reference. Compile a PDF. I should use that junk paper that’s already printed on one side. How many sheets do I need? Load the printer. Print the first chapter. Neatly jog and staple, vertical, upper left corner. I will need my index cards outline. The pile could get scattered, best to use paperclips or a rubber band. Oh look, the foam from an earbud disintegrated in the desk drawer. It made a real mess, must clean now. Hmm, no suitable rubber bands. I wonder what’s on these memory cards? Ah, a bookmark! I can always use another bookmark. Danielle’s business card. It’s her old information. This roll of Lifesavers is ancient. I forgot I had this tape measure. Another bookmark! Not enough paper clips. I don’t recall what this key unlocks. Is this battery still good? Maybe I only need the early part of the outline right now. All these books on the desk are too close, I feel cramped. The compile didn’t keep the proper formatting. The music is a little too loud. Recompile? Switch to headphones so I can concentrate? (Now that I’m getting serious here.)
This could make a good blog post. I should write it down.


I’ve been waiting for seven weeks to find out if I’d be accepted to a novel writing program through a northern California university. I received notification yesterday that I was accepted. They only accept “about 30 students per cycle” to this two-year program. I was doubtful I would get in because of the odds.

Seven weeks of ups and downs, optimism and pessimism, waiting and endless indigestion, finally over. The last 34 hours or so have been filled with relief, celebration, elation, disbelief, and nervousness.

Thanks to my family, friends, and coworkers for listening to me drone on endlessly about the waiting. Thanks to everybody that I cornered and forced to hear about my acceptance. Thank you to Mark E. and John R. for your support and references.

Now it’s time to get to work.

For the Writers

I always thought writers had to be tortured souls in order to create anything of value. Anything that anybody would want to read. I eventually talked myself out of that notion. Today I had a different thought. I don’t think writers have to be tortured to create, I think writers are tortured because they have the need to create. Let me expand on that. The need is deep, it’s irresistible. In my case, I kept coming back to it after years of denial and suppression. The “tortured soul” comes not from life’s challenges, but from the self-doubt. The need to create followed by the absolute notion that everything you churn out is as vile as fly-covered pig shit rotting in the sun. It’s that feeling that anything you put on paper feels simplistic, shallow, juvenile, and vapid. That puddle on the sidewalk has more depth.
This isn’t a plea for pity. God no, don’t pity the fool that thinks they have enough talent to write something that anybody wants to read. No pity needed. Indeed, the true writer pounds the self-doubt into the ground while they march forward. We torture ourselves, creating something better, something worthwhile. Without self-doubt, it would be a world full of mediocrity, filled with dreck you would never want to read. Thank God for self-doubt.

It’s Better This Way

I’ve been sitting out on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine. It isn’t a place I usually go at nearly 1:00 a.m. The air was still, thick, and cool. The yard was dark, it took a while for my eyes to adjust, to pick out the shapes of the trees. No moon, but the sky was full of stars. They were easy to see despite being in the city. Well, a suburb anyway. I looked around and my mind turned to how I would describe it all. It’s a preoccupation now, the thought of how I would describe the world with the written word. It’s not a bad thing at all. It doesn’t take me out of the moment, instead it enhances it. I see and feel things I may have overlooked when my mind wasn’t in tune to what was right in front of me. All of this got me thinking about how I feel about writing, again. Which isn’t unusual these days. Another introspective moment.

I don’t remember the exact moment, how old I was, or what the context was, but I recalled something my dad told me at least a few decades ago. I believe we were talking about what I wanted to be or do when I grew up. I remember him telling me to find out what I was good at and do it. That one statement stuck with me. It was so simple of an idea that I thought it must be true. And for the most part, maybe it is. But I know I will pass on slightly different advice to my daughter. I will tell her, very often, to find out what she loves to do, and do it. There’s a world of difference.

I’m not ripping on my dad for what he said. I think it was great advice. He didn’t want his son living in a cardboard box under a bridge and scavenging through garbage cans behind restaurants for his next meal. I can’t fault him for that. It was good advice for immediate returns. And I earned immediate returns. It set me up well. I stood on my deck in my lovely suburb at nearly 1:00 a.m. and thought of how nice I have it. I can’t deny it. And then I thought of how unsatisfying and empty of a trip it’s been to get here. I don’t like what I do. I don’t come home at the end of the day and feel like I do something I enjoyed. It’s quite the opposite. I never get up in the morning thinking of how I can’t wait to get to work. Never. Call me spoiled and out of touch, I don’t care.

I took two days off of work before the 4th of July holiday. (I’m in the USA.) These last two days were meant for staying up late, watching DVDs or the DVR, going for long walks, and sleeping late. None of that happened. I stayed up maybe an hour late each night. I was up and out of the house early. I went to breakfast, and then I went to a place I like to write. A quiet little tea shop. Emphasis on quiet. I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I was excited to get up and get going each morning, it wasn’t a chore. I didn’t dread the day. I wanted to do what I love to do, not necessarily what I’m good at. I could do this every day. I could be excited to work every day.

For the writers that read this, I’m well over 5000 words in five days. Plus this rambling mess. Do what you love to do. Cheers!

Say it with me, “I am a writer”

I was buying wine Friday night. I got carded. I told the cashier that I was flattered, considering I’m old enough to have children that are of legal drinking age. I got over my initial burst of pride when he put on glasses to check my ID.

He rang up my purchase and told me the total due was $19.70. While I swiped my card and cycled through the screens on the keypad, he reminisced about how good of a year 1970 was for him. He mentioned music and some songs in particular. A pleased look took over his face, along with a smile. Not the overdone, comical, huge ear-to-ear type of smile, but one of those smiles you get when you don’t even realize you’re smiling.

We were just about done with the transaction when I blurted out “I’m writing a novel that is set in 1970.” It was out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying. I’m not one to bring up my writing with people I don’t know. I stick to discussing it at school, with family and close friends, on my blog, at writing festivals, or at my writers group. I don’t wear it on my sleeve.

He started asking me questions about my story. My transaction was complete and there was a line behind me. I had put myself in an uncomfortable position. I felt like I was being interrogated by the police, shackled to a table with the bright light shining in my face. “Confess! Or else.” I gave him some vague details. As I did I noticed that the woman in line behind me was leaning in with her head turned and tilted to hear what we were talking about. I took my bag and left the store.

As I walked through the parking lot, I realized that I had just admitted in public that I am a writer. The amazing part was that nobody heckled, snickered, or pointed at me and laughed. They showed interest instead of laughing at me and my silly dream.

I am a writer.

How Did I Get Here?

The pressure appeared out of nowhere. It was as if someone had clapped a cupped hand square over his ear. Throbbing and a faraway high-pitched whine followed. His left ear was okay, but his right felt like he was under water, listening to a jet engine above the surface. Pain started, first his inner ear, then it crawled around to the base of his skull. It took hold, sinking its burning talons into bone and muscle. His vision filled with thousands of flashbulbs firing in the dark. The pain slid from the base of his skull forward. It carved a path along the inside of his skull, like the tip of a rusty screwdriver dragging through his brain.

He looked at his hands through the blast of lights. His palms faced up with his fingers spread wide. They were covered in thick red liquid, dripping in ribbons to the black marble floor. His trembling hands were the only clear thing in his fogged vision. The blood ran. It wasn’t somebody else’s blood. It was his, and it was pumping from his wrists.

How the hell did I get here?

Untitled (because everything else seems like a cliche)

I hide, sliding from one shadow to another, a step behind you, out of sight. Watching. Observing. Taking notes. I search for clues to your state of mind, your wants, your needs, your dreams and regrets. I need what you have to fuel my creation. I’m blank. I’m empty. I’m void of feeling. I’m desperate to keep up with you, lest I lose the source of my one true need. You move faster, sensing my presence? Don’t fear me, I do not take, I only borrow. I use it and return more. I’m only a conduit. I write in the shadows.

Little Bits of Paper

I treasure these little bits of paper. I hoard them now. I secretly squirrel them away in my pocket. I’m careful not to lose them when I take coins or keys from my pocket. My thoughts, my ideas, my inspiration, they’re scribbled on these little bits of paper. I once carried a neatly folded sheet of paper in my pocket. I carried my list. My to-do list. It was a never-ending list of tasks. Those are the old days. My pocket is no longer a place for a to-do list. There is no inspiration longing for a keyboard, in a to-do list. There is no subtext waiting for a conversation, in a to-do list. There is no title without a story, in a to-do list. There is no perfect line of dialogue searching for a story, in a to-do list. I carry my scribbled notes of random, odd, and disconnected ideas. These scribbled things are not to be forgotten. I’ll use them someday. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but someday they’ll fill a gap. They’re my coins in a piggy bank, saved for a rainy day. They’re my safety net. My life preserver. My emergency supply kit. I treasure these little bits of paper.


Fly the Sexist Skies

I know this veers off the usual idea behind my blog, but please forgive me for this quick rant.

I read an article today about an airline passenger, most certainly male, who left a note behind after his flight that pretty much told the female captain that she should be at home raising kids. This supposedly had nothing to do with the quality of the flight, it was just an ignorant sexist commentary.

As a male, I took offense that this knuckle-dragging moron was representing my gender. Or humankind at all, for that matter. As somebody that has had grandmothers, a mother, sisters, a wife, a daughter, and countless female friends and business associates, I just can’t understand the idea behind this sexist position. I want the best pilot in control of my flight. Man or woman, I don’t care which, just the best. Why would we relegate women to only child rearing just because they happen to have a uterus? Does this caveman think that men can’t handle child rearing? Haven’t we been enlightened enough yet to know that these stereotypes are antiquated?

Even though I was born in the era of the Mad Men-type mentality, I’d thought it was now past tense. I had difficulty believing that this type of thinking would still be openly expressed. I’m not surprised that it still is present in the heads of some people, but I’d expect most of them to be in their twilight years and not worrying about setting back the clock by at least a few decades. I guess I was wrong.

I really hope that this whole thing was a hoax. I’d be less irritated by that. And my biggest hope is that my pre-teen daughter grows up in a world that sees this kind of thinking as abhorrent as I do.