The Writer’s Junk Drawer

When my writing loses direction and momentum, the easy first response is frustration. A few days of this often leads to Keyboard Avoidance Syndrome. K.A.S. can go on for a while. K.A.S. is easy, just pick up that remote, push a button, and catch up on the previous season of Casual, Bosch, and whatever suggestion pops up on the Netflix splash page. K.A.S. inevitably leads to malaise, which, without any effort, mutates into shamefully indulgent self-pity. Oh, poor pitiful me, writing is easy for anyone else! (Insert retching sound here.) Occasionally it leads to interesting exercises to shut up this whiner and kick his ass back into the real world where “buck up, little slugger” is an appropriate response.

I have a “junk” drawer. I call it that, but it’s not really junk. It’s a drawer full of notes I’ve scribbled on anything, from receipts to fast food napkins. There are articles and advice columns torn from actual newspapers. It also contains a small collection of mini composition notebooks. I carry one with me all the time. Except in the shower, of course. There are more of these than I recall completing. Over the years I’ve filled the notebooks with character name ideas, title possibilities, random thoughts, and things I’ve heard or seen. And random dinner menu ideas. Not sure why I put food ideas in these, but I did.

I was carrying one of these notebooks when I crossed the border from Canada to the USA a few years ago. In a case of mistaken identity, or more likely the extreme exuberance of the border patrol thinking they were going to break up the monotony of the day by capturing a violent fugitive, my wife and I were cuffed and thoroughly searched. (I’m not of the same race as the fugitive, but why let pesky details like that get in the way?) When we were permitted to go back to our vehicle, my wallet was on the front seat with the contents spread out around it. Among the Papa Murphy’s coupons and insurance cards, was my notebook. As we drove away, I contemplated what they must have thought if they read the notebook. One of the pages near the back had only three words, scrawled rather large: “The fart bet.” I can’t say anything about that note, except you should feel sorry for my poor wife. The initial horror at the thought of them reading it changed to laughs as I decided they deserved it for needlessly putting us through the ordeal. Ok, there’s proof some of it is junk. Though some of it is gold.

The material isn’t necessarily the benefit. I sat down today and decided to go through the drawer. Desperation. I sorted. I organized. I read. I laughed. I was glad my desk locks.


Not the lock, but the K.A.S. leaving the room. It was gone, and all I wanted to do was write. The fear, or spineless avoidance was gone. No matter how worthless those little notebooks and bits of paper would seem to any sane person, the “junk” lead to this. Writing. And as cliché as it is, it’s like riding a bike. Today I’ll embrace the cliché, but only because I’m on the bike again.

Meaningless Facebook Apologies

It seems there isn’t a day that goes by without another meaningless apology from Facebook. They’re like the kid that keeps getting caught doing the wrong thing. The kid learned a long time ago that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. The kid might get grounded for a while, but soon they’re back at the same old deeds.

It’s pathological, and it’s eerily similar to the methods Facebook uses to deceive its members. This time, Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) is apologizing for “poor communication” on a psychological experiment conducted on over 600,000 users without their knowledge. Please note, from what I see, as is usual, there is no apology for the deed. And Sandberg is using the tried and true formula of “ask forgiveness” instead of permission.

Where is Mark Zuckerberg on this matter? No apology from him? Or is it Sandberg’s turn in the rotation? Is Zuckerberg going to pick up the next apology? Or will they add another executive to the apologizer pool? You never want to weigh down one person with delivering these meaningless apologies.

Strange new writing experience

This is a bit odd, so bear with me while I explain this.

I’m working on my second fiction project for class this semester. The first draft isn’t due for about five or six weeks, and I just turned in the draft of my first project last week, so I have plenty of time. I’ve had the itch to get going on it. I did an outline, which is unnatural for me even though it’s a vital part of writing. (My outlines are usually half-assed random notes and ideas scribbled in four or five different notebooks.) After doing a real outline I’ve been doing extensive research. The story takes place about 1969 and in the American southwest. There’s a car that’s a big part of the story and it involves a road trip. I’ve reached out and found somebody with this classic car that is willing to help me out. I also tracked down a 1969 USA road atlas. I’m familiar with the time period, but I’m fact-checking, etc., all in the name of authenticity.

So what? Well all the research, note taking, and outlining have made me impatient to write it. So I sat down and started tonight. I just wanted to get something down. And oddly, this time I went to the computer instead of my normal handwriting method. The story starts out in the car with my four key characters having a conversation. I was about three pages in when I wrote an exchange that made my stomach flip-flop. This was strange for me. One of the characters said something that sent a shockwave through the car and I was writing the reactions and sudden discomfort of the other three people. I’ve gotten attached to characters in books or movies and felt a pang when either I thought something bad was going to happen, or something bad did happen to them. Never did I ever think that I would write something that would have that effect on me, because I’m writing it. And certainly not after a couple pages.

Hey writers, I know you’re out there reading this. Please tell me, has this ever happened to you?

Good day of writing

I’ve always wanted to write. As soon as I understood what writing was, I remember wanting to write. This came from a love of reading. But I never really understood what it meant to write. I never knew what I had to put into it. What kind of passion and perseverance it took. I misunderstood my wanting to write and how completely inadequate wanting is. Wanting isn’t enough. I need to have a need to write. That’s the thing. What I want doesn’t matter. Wants don’t matter. I’m not the kind of person that chases wants. I work for wants, steady as she goes. I’m patient for wants. But I need to need to write. Needs are something we don’t give up on. Needs aren’t put off for another day. I need to write. (If that all makes sense to you, I’m impressed. And please explain it to me.)

I had a great day writing. I wrote some really good stuff. Probably the best I’ve written in months. I read it aloud to myself. It sounded good, it felt right. It’s probably still crap, but it made my day. I’ve been rewriting a completed short story. It’s a story that I feel is lacking, it could be better, oh so much better. I’ve worked on it on and off for almost two years. It keeps nagging at me because it feels weak. Feels? Hell no, it is weak. People have read it, they were nice and said they liked it, but they always say nice things. Who wants to be my dream crusher? But it never felt whole to me. It feels like a car with only three wheels, no seats, and no windshield. I started another class two weeks ago, fiction writing. I have to write two complete stories for the semester, along with about ten weekly papers. I volunteered to be in the first group for work-shopping our stories. (Next week I’m going to volunteer to go play on the freeway!) I decided to use this same short that I keep meaning to fix. My problem is that in the current state, it didn’t meet the minimum length requirement. Which really isn’t a problem. It’s a much needed kick in the ass.

I now have a deadline, so I sat down today and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I doubled the length, with content that enhances the story. I know, doubling content doesn’t equate to improvement. But I got in touch with my characters. I felt their lives, their pain, and their desires. I finished for the day and went back and read what I had written. I was bursting with pride. I think it’s some of the best I have written. I know, it’s just my opinion, but I hate a lot of the crap I write. I have files and files of the crap that I write. I felt like spiking my laptop in the end zone. I read it, and I love it. That’s scary. The new stuff seems good, but the older stuff is, well, it’s crap. Time for a complete rewrite.


Broken Path

I walk this twisted, broken path. Unseen forces reach out and tear at me, attempting to rend flesh from bone, attempting to steal sanity. Their grip is often painful, sometimes numbing, infrequently comforting. The path in front of me is dark. This darkness is not foreboding, it’s the unknown. These forces reach out and push me. Mostly forward, sometimes back. The forces change the path ahead. It becomes steep and hard to climb, only to drop precipitously before me. I plummet, whisked along the path, losing grip, losing control. This is my path, but I only rent it. I travel alone. I’m a navigator with no compass, no bearing. I’m in no hurry to reach the end. This path leads to just one destination. The end.