Category Archives: Authors

Reading William Gibson

Was it only two days ago that William Gibson’s Distrust That Particular Flavor arrived in the mail? I am nearly done and enjoying his wonderful wordsmithing. His new book is really a collection of old articles and other nonfiction Gibson has written over the last couple decades.

I picked up Gibson’s Spook Country a couple years ago and enjoyed it immensely. In this newly published collection he explains what his books are about.

That might sound funny (it does to me), but he makes an interesting point about novels.

Novels require some explanation or at least some prerequisite knowledge in order to fully appreciate them.

They differ significantly from film in that way.

He recounts the very first time he went to see a film and how he understood the experience within an hour.

Ease of use is what I’ll call it.

That ease of use is why multitudes will go to the movies and not bother to read a book (or the book that inspired it).

We do miss something when we don’t read.

Mark Twain said it over a century ago.

[I just added the first name “Mark” because there are a number of people who might not know of a man simply “Twain”.]

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”

We must write in such a way that more people will want to read our work.

William Gibson does that for me.

Thanks to WordPress for reminding me:

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Safia, Er, Jodi McClure’s Blogging Chops

Check Out Jodi McClure! Jodi’s really good! Read The Swing! The only problem I had was a technical one which wouldn’t allow me to post my comment which is below. [This is not an exercise!]

Wish you were on WordPress so this could be reblogged. [Also, I could easily post this and not get the ridiculous message – URL contains illegal characters. This sort of thing is why I migrated to WordPress.]

I liked your references which made me feel like I’m actually literate! Effective comparison with Dali among the other artists. If this is advertising then:

Please sir. I want some more.

40,000 Words In 42 Days

If you want to write a book you can be encouraged by this: the median length of a book is between 64,000 and 65,000 words. I found the article that points that out here. Interestingly enough, “Brave New World” is right in the middle at 64,531 words.

At the rate I’m going in this blog, AOO, I can reach the same word count as “Brave New World” in 76 days. The next trick will be writing not just what comes out of my head, but stringing all those words together in a logical semblance of a story. I am very sincere here. This discipline is helping me immensely.

If you are just tuning in, I’ve been doing something that resembles Julia Cameron’s morning pages exercise for 42 days. Not exactly every day. I wrote 30 days in a row and then was spotty for about 5 or 6 days and now I’m in the first weeks of another 30 days. I’ve also been increasing the average number of words written in each session a little bit at a time.

I honestly believe that what is the biggest obstacle to doing this is the possibility or even likelihood that you will judge your efforts harshly. In fact, Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” points out that you should not be judging yourself at all in this exercise.

Tonight after I finish my 1100 or so words I will then go to my new private blog and write more about a story that has been in my head for years.

Some of you reading this may have no trouble writing at all during the normal course of your day, week or month. That’s wonderful. Really. BUT, if you ever run into a block I highly recommend Julia Cameron’s book. You can also visit my blog posts here starting February 23rd, 2012 to see examples of what morning pages can look like.

I told my wife’s sister’s mother-in-law today that I had written 40,000 words and that I’m ready to write a novel. She was impressed and wished me luck in getting published.

After I get my first draft done I will certainly be open to criticism. I do believe I will get published. My goal is this year by December 30th.

It’s interesting how some folks in older generations don’t realize how their comments can be perceived as negative. I’m not letting her response get me down, but I don’t think she even realized that her good luck sounded pretty pessimistic. And I don’t think I took it wrong. Many people want to protect us from disappointment and think that if we stay “realistic” we won’t set ourselves up for that disappointment.

It’s important to look for the connections and resources you need to get you to the next level in your project – whatever it is.

Don’t focus on the advice of people who have never done what you are attempting to do or are in the process of doing.

Some others reading this are wondering how you could write 40,000 words anytime soon. One step at a time. One day at a time. One keystroke at a time. (Actually, if you’re a pretty good typist like me then you can probably pound out 60 words a minute or more.)

If you’ve been stuck or hesitating, remember this: WordPress is FREE in this format. You just go to WordPress.com and sign up for a blog.

You can write in Visual or HTML and I write in HTML because I know a tiny bit of code that lets me easily insert links like the one in the second sentence above. Visual is the same as “what you see is what you get” or WYSIWYG (Whizzy-wig). If you’ve seen those seven letters before and wondered what they meant, now you know.

I like very much that WordPress automatically saves my writing every so often and if you read my post the other day you know that even if it somehow logs you out you can log back in and then hit the back button to the page where you were typing and it should still be there.

So for me that means that everything that I have ever written with WordPress has not been lost. Unless I wanted it to be.

For me that has eliminated one of the most discouraging and frustrating things about working with computers and the internet – losing your work. Never happened to me fully with WordPress.

If you’ve been procrastinating and part of it was because you didn’t know exactly where to start, get started with WordPress right now. Really! You can go start a WordPress blog right this moment and come back and read this later. Go ahead. It’s ok. This will be right here when you get back. That goes for you writers who have written successfully, too. If you are stuck right now or if you ever get stuck. Start the WordPress blog now and when you need it, it will be there. If you don’t want it to be public for whatever reason, just make sure you check the private button when you create it. That’s what I did when I created this new one: TheNewWrittenWord.Wordpress.com. Nice humble title, eh? 😉

That’s where I’ll be writing next today and hopefully every day that I write here. These exercises here on AOO are for me to get the foam or the head off of the beer. I kind of like that image which I got from a philosophy professor not quite 30 years ago.

These morning pages are supposed to get you flowing. That’s another reason why you want to leave the judgement out of it. It gets in the way of your flow! You want to get to writing, writing and writing some more. Exercise those writing muscles.

I’ve even noticed a little bit of my style developing in just over a month. And I’m getting better at letting it flow. You will, too, if you give yourself a chance.

AND, if you are not a writer and you want to expand your creativity or exercise your creative muscles, morning pages are a great way to do it. However you want to be creative, start with this.

And if you don’t think of yourself as creative but would like to see if you can get there, do morning pages. Just remember that it’s ok if you don’t start out like Mark Twain. I’m guessing that no one would. And most of us will never be Mark Twain. And that’s ok. You want to be the best you. Right along the lines of Oprah telling us to “live your best life.” We can. We need practice.

We need to be humble enough to realize that there is room for improvement in what we do or whatever we want to do.

Are you ready to achieve more? I know I am. Finally!

What’s In A Dream?

Some time ago if you asked me about my dreams I would say that sometimes I remember them and most of the time I don’t. Over the last couple of years it seems that my dreams have become more vivid and interesting more often. This has been especially true since I’ve started to think of myself as a writer.

Last night I had a very interesting dream where I travelled into the future. It felt so real. You could see me gradually fading away as I slipped from this time. This also affected stuff I had with me such as a coin.

If you were looking at me you would see me become more and more transparent until I disappeared into the future. Later I came back and my friend wanted to travel into the future as I had done. I told him it wasn’t as easy for him. He could travel there and when he got there he would have to donate a kidney to someone. Good news though. He would get a kidney back later. The big catch was that he would come back 24 years older. He would be able to experience life – to live those 24 years, but live them in the future.

He came back not too long after he left and he was 24 years older. Then I woke up or finished waking up. It was difficult to know exactly when I woke up.

How strange some dreams are.

I remember seeing a graph on GraphJam.com which showed you the different stages of how believable your dreams are.

When you’re asleep they usually seem perfectly logical. Then you wake up and it still seems plausible. As you drive to work it’s not quite so logical. By the time you get to work it just seems like a bunch of nonsense.

For me this gives me ideas for potential science fiction stories, but I still don’t know what it means.

I used to have a pastor that said maybe the best way to interpret dreams is to see everyone as you. Every person in your dream represents you. Maybe.

I think it’s more likely that you can get insights into yourself by asking what “comes up” for you when you think about different parts of the dream. But I’m no expert.

I am noticing a lot of sentences beginning with I. I wonder what THAT means!

Very tired today. Working on restricting my diet for a few days. No meat today.

Tomorrow maybe a little tuna and no sugar. All through this I’m using Isagenix products. I just had a shake for dinner about an hour ago.

When you’re getting healthier and sincerely attempting to drop some pounds there are some little things that can be a big help.

Somebody reminded me that if you eat dinner early relative to when you go to bed that that is a big help and really, it’s a small thing.

There’s a green drink I can have if I want something before bed. I’ll probably have some not too long after I finish writing.

Beachballs. Don’t know why that popped in there. I remember beachballs bouncing around at graduations at least since my older brother’s graduation in 1976. In recent years I’ve seen schools crack down on that behavior and I think I’ve even heard of a grad night being cancelled when students refused to stop. I think there’s been an overreaction to that type of behavior in recent years.

It seems like we’ve swung the pendulum too far in the direction of obedience to authority. Maybe we were slightly too far the other way in the 1970’s. I don’t know. It was a different time so (relativelY) soon after Watergate and respect for authority was low and drug use was high.

But beach balls? How much of a problem are they really? I think too many people in positions of authority are too uptight. Do we use that word anymore?

In school I was a good kid and I still ditched class when Star Trek the Motion Picture came out. We missed our afternoon classes to go down to the really big theater in San Diego. Five of us guys. I guess you would say I was a good nerd. But that was a big deal to us at the time.

We weren’t going to be valedictorians at that point, but four out of five of us were really smart cookies and the other guy was a slightly better than average student.

We were just having fun. No big deal. It’s not like that turned us into habitual ditchers.

That was definitely a different time.

Today I tutor high school students and most of them don’t even know what Star Trek is! Somebody might say, “Is that the movie with Darth Vader?” or “My uncle likes that I think.”

Live long and prosper. What?

And so many of them would not even have a clue that The Wrath of Khan has literary references to Milton’s Paradise Lost. Now I don’t recall if I ever read Paradise Lost completely. Probably not. But I know who Milton was and I know what Paradise Lost is.

There might be a few seniors who know who Milton is. Then again, maybe not.

And these students are going to college. 96% of them (so far – after 10 years) actually graduate from college with a 4-year degree.

Maybe they’ll learn Milton in college. There’s no guarantee of that these days either.

While I realize that so many today are graduating without the skills to benefit in the job market, r at least without the level of skills you would hope for when they have incurred such a cost to get those skills, I would think that they could learn more about the classics. And I know that there is more to literature than the classics. I discovered Chinua Achebe in college and was completely ignorant of him up to that point. And Rudolfo Anaya. I’m sure there are more, but like I mentioned before, I’m tired.

Maybe I should have a V8.

Writing And Watching Basketball

Just a reminder again that what I’m doing is in the style of Julia Cameron’s morning pages exercise. Right now I’m watching March Madness out of the corner of my eye and moving my fingers along the keyboard. I’m supposed to put a roast in the oven in less than 1/2 an hour. We’ll see how many words I get written before I turn it on. That reminds me – I guess I should go preheat the oven right now.

OK. That should warm things up a bit. Our house is great in the summer because it’s colder than the weather outside. But that’s also true the rest of the year. I’m hoping the sun comes out to stay this afternoon and then maybe I’ll take off this second pair of socks. LOL

We have a lot of birthdays in February and March in our family and my brother and sister-in-law are coming over in a few hours. My nieces should be here, too. That means my grand nephew will be here along with his dad, my niece’s fiance. It’s nice to finally have a place that’s big enough to have people over.

We’ve had some nice parties here over the last year or so.

My wife and I rarely drink and we have actually had a good time playing board games with our family, though they tend to bring their own alcohol. I guess that means they have a good time while they play games like Taboo or Bananagrams, but you reach a point where you aren’t able to play the game so well. 😉

I’ve never really liked the taste of alcohol very much and I’ve seen some people who say, “That’s not the point!” Well, I guess on average I’m a happy guy, though I do have dark enough thoughts to consider writing some interesting fantasy and science fiction. I guess I see alcohol as a way of coping with life and I think we can do better than that. I do have faith in God and that certainly helps, but I know lots of people who share my beliefs who drink much more than I do. On average I have about two drinks a year. My wife drinks even less, though she took a little nip in her coffee on St. Patrick’s Day. I think it confirmed her belief that it doesn’t really do much for her.

Another reason I think many people drink is peer pressure. I’ve been fortunate to have people in my life who are completely fine with me drinking nonalcoholic drinks while they imbibe. Not just family, but people I worked with during my young adult years.

When I was around 20 I worked with people at Licorice Pizza in Escondido and they played a game called Zoom, Schwartz, Bufigliano. They let me play with 7-Up and no one seemed bent out of shape because I was drinking soda while they drank their shots. And these guys used to party a lot. By the way, if I remember the rules correctly, ZSC was a drinking game where you Zoomed someone and and they had to say “Schwartz” back to you. If they messed up by saying something else, they had to take a drink. If they did it right, you had to Zoom someone else who had to give the correct reply just like the first guy. And I’m pretty sure we were all guys at this drinking party. The first rule was that you couldn’t Zoom a Zoom and that was the typical mistake. Someone said, “Zoom” and instead of saying “Schwartz” back, the person typically said, “Zoom!” You never zoom a zoom or you take a drink. This was a long time before that song with “Zooma Zoom Zoom in the Boom Boom room” or whatever it says. Bufigliano was a fake. This worked better and better the more people had to drink. (I just took a break to put the roast in. Can hardly wait. Keep in mind that this writing process is really loose. You want to keep getting words onto the page every day no matter what.) When you were expecting someone to say something to you and they did, you might respond with “Schwartz” and think you did it just right, but if the starter said “Bufigliano!” instead of “Zoom,” well, you had to take a drink. It might seem pretty stupid or silly, but the more you drank, the harder it was to respond correctly.

That was something for me at the time. That these guys let me in on their game and didn’t ridicule me for not drinking. Pretty nice guys I thought at the time and still do.

You’ve probably encountered people who are the opposite. I won’t ask you if you are one, but when someone expects you to drink because they are drinking, that is a signal to me that that person is insecure about drinking. This goes back to my theory about denial in our culture. If you’re in denial that you have a problem, you don’t necessarily want someone around you to NOT have that problem as it makes it more obvious that maybe you do.

That’s similar or related to alcoholics who hang out with bigger alcoholics because they can look at that person and say, “Well, I’m not like so-and-so so I don’t have a problem.”

I’m not even saying that most people who drink have a problem. I’m just saying that if you never consider the possibility that you have a problem with drinking and you drink regularly, you might want to at least take a look at it from a medical or psychological perspective. Don’t ask your peers who drink as much or more than you.

Bonus! A guy who rarely drinks just taught you a drinking game! LOL

Anthony Bourdain & The Layover

For sometime I’ve been watching the Travel Channel and most of that viewing has been Anthony Bourdain’s shows. I have mentioned the Travel Channel in conversation a couple times and been surprise that some people turn their nose up at it. One response I got told me that the man didn’t think it was any more valuable than the Dirt Channel.

I used to have fun with my son about a fictional channel – The Dirt Channel. All Dirt. All Day. If that falls flat you will generally get a better response from an 8 yr old – provided he hasn’t already been violated by a steady diet of Grand Theft Auto and the like.

One of the great things about Kindle is that you can borrow a book once a month and this month I finally got to read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I really enjoyed it and wasn’t too lost when he got into nitty gritty descriptions of foods and utensils and such. I definitely think a big part of his audience for this book is people who have worked in food more than just a little. He went into the origins of his love for food and seemed to leave out no details in his restaurant career adventures. So be warned. I don’t know what rating this book would get if it were a movie, but it is definitely not G rated.

My wife and I have probably seen 80% of his No Reservations show on the Travel Channel, though I’ve definitely seen more episodes. She thinks Bourdain is a jerk and in his book he describes himself using an even harsher word. He is pretty clever though and definitely adventurous.

I’ve only seen two episodes of The Layover and I think I like the format even better. To be fair to A.B. I think he has mellowed since he became a father. Isn’t that always the case? I think he has even mellowed enough to not flinch at the thought of having mellowed. Got that?

In his book he says that he started eating unusual fare when he noticed that he could get attention for the yuck factor. While he and his family were in France for the summer he tried an oyster and to his surprise he liked it. I think he was trying it not expecting to like it, but hoping to gross out family. Earlier in the vacation he and his brother had behaved like ugly American spoiled brats and had even had to endure sitting in the car for hours at one restaurant. Because he and his brother started out expecting American food wherever they went and were generally behaving badly, they weren’t allowed to go into the incredibly famous restaurant whose name escapes me right now. That’s ok. You can read Kitchen Confidential.

I am a little surprised that my wife is so put off by Bourdain, but I guess his creativity and entertainment value don’t overcome the jerk factor for her. But it’s not like she has to have him over for dinner.

Anyway, I’m thinking that I might not want to have a lot of caffeine right before I write as it doesn’t seem to be helping!

If you like food and restaurants and you are the least bit adventurous I think you’ll like The Layover. There are short bursts of information about places to stay and restaurants and eateries. It may be one of the most perfectly suited shows for this attention deficit era.

Though I know that the Kony video has been seen by 100 Million people recently. I’m not sure how long you have to watch it for YouTube to count it as a viewing. I decided to set aside a little time and watched the full 1/2 hour. I have tweeted about it and shared it on Facebook and my nephew is even going to put up posters on the designated “stay up all night and do the work” day. If you don’t know which video I’m talking about, check YouTube for Kony 2012. It’s really worth it even though it’s heartbreaking.

But it’s well done and captures your attention, so it’s not a screed. I think it’s important enough to tell you that you need to watch it and share it with others. If you’re on the fence I urge you to jump over and join the next level of participation. I’m not going to share any more about it, but I really, really urge you to watch it. It’s THAT important.

Unlike Anthony Bourdain’s stuff which is entertainment with some utility if you travel at all or just drive up the road to get something to eat. I think he might have started this new Layover show because he’s been just about everywhere else on No Reservations.

Funny thing about when I saw the very first episode of No Reservations by chance. The episode I saw had him staying the night with someone that he had just met and I thought that was part of “No Reservations” – that he would come into town and eat at different places and at the end of the day he would have hopefully found a place to stay with some kind soul putting him up. Boy, was I wrong!

Where To Begin

When I’m doing morning pages (or even Sunday night pages) I sometimes have to decide where to begin. I just watch the HBO movie “Game Change” with my wife and it’s very interesting, but I don’t want to go in the direction of politics in this post. In fact, while I know you just write whatever comes out, I want to use this to improve my craft. Writing. Hopefully you see some craftsmanship here. Or will soon.

In not too many more days I’ll be done with 30 days of morning pages and I just want it to be the starting point. You can research and see that I’ve been blogging for years. But now I really want to get books published. I want to get to five hours of writing a day soon. Or relatively soon. 🙂

If you are stuck, I highly recommend the morning pages exercise and you can read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way to find out more about them as well as other exercises she urges you to do.

Recently I’ve been having more frequent memorable dreams. I’m guessing that this means something about creativity and the direction I’m taking. Perhaps is just diet, but I don’t think so. The other night I had a sci-fi dream where I was showing my wife around a prehistoric earth. It was really wild with some severe ice in places and giant bacteria-like creatures and huge alligator type animals. I do want to write some science fiction and I think that desire has led me in the direction of some dream state sci-fi.

Have you ever had a change in your dreams that you thought was because of where you wanted to go?

The more I write, the more I like it. For a long time I was stuck on writing on paper, but there is something about WordPress that works very well for me. I think we all need to take a look at what might be holding us back. Whether or not that is an attitude on our part or physical limitations. The real world can be less than helpful sometimes. By that I mean, just as we have different learning styles, some of us have aesthetic ideas that we’re more comfortable with. I actually bought a program a couple years ago that lets you speak and translates (pretty well) what you have spoken into the written word.

Just couldn’t bring myself to open it. I’m sure it seems wasteful to some, but this is all part of what I’ve mentioned about morning pages. Judging yourself can get in the way of the flow of creative ideas. Now that I’ve found that doing morning pages on WordPress really works for me, the sky’s the limit!

Or like some have said, the sky is NOT the limit. The limit is out there somewhere way beyond the sky. I know some people might just think of this as nonsense.

I’m sure there are some incredible well-disciplined writers out there who think this is just a waste of time. Maybe for them it is. Maybe they’ve got their structure and their habits and they just turn work out like a machine. A happy (or at least contented) machine.

If whatever you’re doing is working for you, great!

But just putting your head down and forging ahead hasn’t necessarily worked for everyone.

Find a routine that works for you.

The first thing to do is start writing. The next thing to do is not judge the writing. At least, not right away.

We’re not all Vermeer. Don’t know who that is? Google him.

Vermeer doesn’t have a lot of paintings like Picasso, but most people see every one of his paintings as great or a masterpiece.

Have you heard of The Girl With the Pearl Earring? That’s Vermeer.

Most of us are more like Edison in our creativity. And I don’t think we’re trained to think that being as messy as Edison is ok. That’s not what I learned in school.

What do I mean by that?

Motivational speakers talk about Edison and one the most famous things they attribute to him is this:

I didn’t fail at inventing the incandescent light. I just found 1199 ways to NOT invent it.

There are variations, but the general gist of it is that he didn’t look upon what many would JUDGE to be failures as failures. He saw them as steps to help him on the way to inventing the electric light. I’m absolutely sure he learned from his mistakes.

So, will we make mistakes in writing? Absolutely. Will some of them be published for all to see. Quite possibly.

Is it still possible that we will crank out a really good, even great book? Absolutely.

You have to believe that.

When I say that we shouldn’t judge our morning pages, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t ever judge our work at any point. It’s just at this point in the process, we want to get those ideas out there and get them flowing and expressly NOT impede the flow of ideas.

Keep going even if it’s dah, dah, dah. Remember that song? Trio. That was the band.

ANYway…

Judging our work comes much later.

Remember that Carpenters song?

Don’t worry that it’s not good enough, for anyone else to hear.

Just sing. Sing a song.

That’s what we have to do with our writing. That’s right. I said HAVE TO.

Allow yourself the freedom to succeed.

Judge Not, Lest Ye Miss Out. (That’s MY quote – the first one attributable to me. That’s right. Me.)

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

Then, keep going.

Winston Churchill – Never give up.

OK. He said it more forcefully, more eloquently. But that’s the gist of it. Never give up.

When you’ve got a lot of material together, then you can have someone take a look.

For feedback. But that’s a long way off. For now, write. Write some more. Then write some more.

If you really don’t believe it, then I suggest that you purchase or borrow The Artist’s Way.

If you still don’t “buy” it, then I suggest you attend a personal growth workshop or at least an artist’s or writer’s workshop.

But beware of too much criticism too early on in the process.

Don’t let that flow be interrupted. Don’t do it.

I remember a supervisor in insurance (of all things!) telling me that momentum is a funny thing and you don’t want to lose it. It’s sometimes difficult to get back. No. I think he said it’s almost always difficult to get momentum back.

So that’s one big reason to not stop writing. Every day. Or if you really, really think you need to take one day off a week, then ALWAYS write the other six days.

The consistency is a type of momentum. I’m writing on this first day of daylight savings time. Do I want to snuggle with my wife? Yes!

Right now I know it’s important to stay with my discipline of writing every day. Every day.

The other day I had computer problems and I thought I was going to have to write with pen and paper.

I got the computer fixed just in time.

That brings me to another point.

First, write everyday with consistency!

Second, don’t get stuck on your strategy. That’s another phrase of mine. Getting stuck on a strategy. (Although, I don’t mean that with regard to writing every day. The consistency will get you there.)

The strategy that I was stuck on the other day was using the computer to write. Yes, that’s my preferred method now. By a longshot!

But, if that method is not available…

Don’t let that keep you from do the thing you really want to do. The original goal – writing every day. Writing on paper qualifies and sometime in the afternoon in dawned on me that I could write on paper and stay consistent with writing every day. Not too long after that the computer was fixed.

Minus our taxes. But that’s another story.

I’m getting tired now and don’t remember if I even had a third point, but I’m sure we’ll get to it during a future session.

It is interesting to write when I’m tired. Not too long ago I would have just hung it up when I started to notice that my body and brain were not quite as chipper as 15 hours ago or so.

I think the freedom that this style of writing exercise affords is very beneficial here.

Maybe those of you who are writing somewhat successfully, but you’ve just been stuck for a little while could experiment with doing morning pages precisely WHEN you’re tired.

You don’t know what you might find out.

Even if it’s not the most profound stuff you’ve written, it could be fun.

I know I don’t want to stop right now. And I’m moving ahead like Edison.

By the way, Picasso wasn’t the best example earlier because some much of his work is considered great or a masterpiece, BUT he was prolific in a way that Vermeer was not.

Maybe it’s more like Beethoven. He was definitely no slouch, but did you know that one of his first public performances was badly reviewed? Yet he didn’t give up.

I learned that originally from The Partridge Family, but you can google it, too.

When I was a kid, my favorite symphony was Beethoven’s 5th. I didn’t know much about classical music, but that was pretty recognizable. Dum, Dum, Dee, DUM…Dum, Dum, Dee, DUUUM…

My writing doesn’t do the sound justice, but you can YouTube Beethoven’s 5th.

Most people, whether they know Beethoven’s music, know OF Beethoven.

I confess right now that I haven’t read Toni Morrison, but I definitely know OF her.

I don’t know about her process or how she has progressed, but my guess is she’s more like Edison than Vermeer. But, she could be like Picasso, too.

What does this mean for me and you?

Practice. Keep going. Keep doing. Don’t interrupt the flow. Don’t get stuck on a particular way of doing something. (Except the discipline of ACTUALLY writing.)

Don’t judge yourself very much and NOT early in the process. When you DO find someone to give you feedback, get feedback from more than one credible source.

Yes. You want a realistic assessment at some point. You don’t ultimately want to be in denial.

But, you CAN learn and grow and become a better writer. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. You can get better and you will if you let yourself.

What If You’re Sick?

When you do the morning pages you do them every day. If you don’t do them in the morning, then do them sometime before you lay your head down on the pillow at the end of your day. And, when you are sick – do them anyway.

Right now I’m missing my niece’s birthday party and I hope she and the rest of her friends and family are having fun. Or maybe they haven’t quite started yet. It’s just a little after 5.

Not only am I sick, but I’m really tired. So I’m moving a little slower right now. When I pause as I write this, the pauses are longer than usual. So I better keep writing and not get lost in a pause.

It’s pretty amazing to be in my family and to be my age (49) right now. It’s almost unbelievable that my niece should be in her thirties and have a son who is in double digits. I’ve been a great uncle since I was 38. This kind of thing happens when your older brother has a child.

I remember that my girlfriend in 4th grade (what does that even mean at that age?) had an uncle who was my brother’s age. She was in my grade and her uncle was in my brother’s grade. He was 5 years older than his niece. Seems pretty wild when you’re a kid.

Boy, am I tired.

For those of you just joining us, this writing is an exercise. You write what comes out until you’ve written the required amount. No matter what comes out. Some people have suggested that the three pages recommended by Julia Cameron equals 750 words. Is that true? My range has been around 750 words to around 1700, I think. I am also trying to be a little encouraging and a little instructional to those who might like to try this.

Do it. Really. All you have to do is not judge yourself. Then you are free to write. I promise that if you start out writing blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and blah that that will eventually change. I suggest writing in your native language. It might be fun for me to try this in Spanish sometime, but not today or this week or this month.

Heck, I might continue doing morning pages every day for as long as I can to see what happens. I soon (tomorrow) will start writing much more every day and ultimately I want to get to writing at least five hours every day. I’m sure I can turn out some books at that rate. I’ve got to be better than infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters, don’t I? At least there will be less gobbledy-gook (Is gobbledy gook hyphenated?) to wade through. Presumably.

I just have to keep going today before I fall asleep. It’s only approaching 5:30 and I am ready for bed. I must be sick.

Reminds me of something funny, but I’m tired enough that that thought left my head.

Does that happen to you? I’ve been amazed how much that has happened to me in the last five years or so.

I go into a room and forget why I went there.

Not always. And I wonder how much of it is programming our unconscious by saying that we do that. Better to observe and not pass judgement. Or do the opposite of what my dad used to say when I was growing up.

When we forgot what we wanted to say, my dad would say, “Well, it must not have been very important.” Not extremely negative, but kinda sorta negative.

I’ve learned to replace that with, “It will come to me.”

You know what? It often does. Not every time, but mostly.

Just discovered some cookies at Trader Joe’s made with cherries and oats. Good stuff.

Since I had gout almost two years ago I have been paying attention to some things that most people aren’t necessarily in the habit of thinking about.

I know cherries are good for me as well as sweet potatoes. I look at that word just to make sure ever since Dan Quayle. Oh, right. It’s the plural.

I avoid spinach. I used to love spinach in my salad. Who knew that it had these things called purines in it that contribute to gout.

Meat I have to watch and I’ve even learned to go vegetarian a few days ever month and recently a little more every month.

As long as you are putting good stuff into your body, you won’t miss it much. And I do feel better. Just not so much right now. Today.

Marianne was sick a couple days ago, so maybe this is that.

She’s my wife. My honey. Honeybunny.

Do you have little pet names for your spouse or significant other?

When she was pregnant I called her Booper. And our son was Little Boop before he was born.

I don’t know if he even knows that. I know she remembers.

Sunday Afternoon And Wham

We’re awaiting our guests in just about half an hour and my wife’s taking a bath when the doorbell rings. I think it might be our guests, but more likely it’s a solicitor on a Sunday afternoon. Wrong on both counts. A man I’ve never met before is telling me that his phone isn’t working and he’s taking care of some things at our neighbor’s place because the neighbor and his wife are at the hospital. Our neighbor is IN the hospital and his wife is with him.

Of course he can use my phone and he gives me the number and I dial it and hand him the phone and pretty soon he says that nothing is happening. I’ve forgotten to click the option now that I’ve got Skype on it as well as “normal” calling. After he leaves a message he talks with me for a few minutes about being really good friends with our neighbor and people he has lost in his life recently as well as sharing with me about being a caregiver for his mom.

I’m glad I went to church this morning and heard Ramiro Marchena preach. I’m trying to just be there for him and listen as he shares about the situation and what he’s experienced recently. I didn’t know my neighbor was in such bad shape. I just paused now to say a prayer for my neighbor. Sometimes we really have to stop and pay attention to what we’re doing. Maybe if I hadn’t been paying attention to the sermon this morning I wouldn’t have been as patient. Maybe I would have. I hope I would have.

But it does bring up some interesting questions.

How well do we know our neighbors?

How well do we treat people around us?

Do we care enough to go out of our way for people?

Would we be doing the same thing in this man’s position?

Is there someone there for us if we are in the same situation as my neighbor?

It’s odd to be relating something so immediate in this exercise. I don’t know how long I’ll write today.

I read In The Neighborhood. At least that’s what I remember it being called. A few months ago.

The author talked about how we don’t really know our neighbors like we used to. We even build neighborhoods like they aren’t really neighborhoods in many cases. The author lived on the East Coast as I remember and his neighborhood that wasn’t really a neighborhood was built about 80 or 90 years ago. They built it then in a way that insured so much privacy that it took away from the “neighborliness” of the place.

But architecture and design aside, what about how we behave? The sermon today was about how we can make a choice to be more engaged. Most people will think you’re a good neighbor if you close your door and keep your place relatively clean and don’t make much noise. But is that really the best thing for a neighborhood? Just go inside and close the door?

Ramiro Marchena related how he and his son will deliberately spent about 20 minutes several times a week just “wasting time” with neighbors in order to get to know them.

With my neighbor on insulin and in a wheelchair I knew not all was well, but he’s not that old. Maybe late 50’s or early 60’s.

A while back I got his dog for him when it ran away as he was boarding a handicapped mini-bus and that was relatively easy for me to do. If I wasn’t there it could have been a real pain in the neck for him to get his dog. I have no idea if the driver of the van would do something like that. My guess is that it depends on the driver. Although I would think most drivers would help out in that situation. But these day many people do say, “My job ends here.” I don’t necessarily mean that they say it explicity, but that seems to be the attitude with a lot of people. I’m not singling out drivers or public employees.

When we had a blackout in September I went next door to see if the neighbor’s power was off and found out that it was. She was anxious to close the door really fast after I confirmed that we both had no power. I’m sure she wanted to keep the cool air inside on the hot September afternoon.

Occasionally saying hello is about all the interaction I’ve had with these two neighbors. I don’t think I’m that unusual in my neighborhood, but maybe I will get out there soon and “waste some time” with neighbors so I can be more helpful in the future.

I don’t think anyone resents me not being more social in my neighborhood. That’s part of what the author of the book said. People usually choose that neighborhood for their own reasons and their own reasons usually include this idea of privacy and a certain amount of keeping to yourself. While this is certainly an option in the land of the free and the home of the brave, maybe there are better options.

And this is Lent, too.

Maybe I can give up keeping to myself quite so much for Lent.

Listening To Pandora As I Write This

I don’t recall if I’ve posted this way previously. You can try different things and see what works best for you. Fresh from the shower and reclining in bed with a laptop on top of a pillow on top of me. Pandora is playing my Talking Heads station through my Kindle Fire. This is nice. For me.

This might not be ideal for you. You have to figure that out for yourself. Maybe you just need to have a different station on Pandora. I happen to like Talking Heads quite a bit and Mr. Jones is an interesting and fun song. Maybe you want silence or Sinatra or Kevin Bacon. Does he sing?

Friday afternoon and feeling relaxed. My wife is having some friends over and they take over the rest of the common area in our house when they get together. Six or seven usually. Besides, I love our bedroom. So, I can be tucked away for hours and out of their way. Maybe I’ll go for a walk later.

Where am I going with this? Not sure. Remember, that’s the point of Julia Cameron’s method. Just write. And write. And see what happens about 30 days in. Give or take. You can do it. You just have to give yourself permission.

If you think of it as unproductive, that could really get in your way of doing it or enjoying it. She has helped a lot of people unlock their creativity. And I’ve already gotten some compliments. Strategically, Tweet Geist Guy does follow a lot of writers and people who love books on Twitter. I might have told you previously that my thinking is that writers write. I assume that some writers who are Twitter will tell other people. And, if I get brave enough to have some tough criticism at some point, I’m sure I can find a few of them who are more than happy to step up. LOL

Oooh…love this music. The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star. Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World. My favorite genre is alternative music from the late 70’s and early 80’s. I do like a lot more than that and I stretch that definition when I start to include The Cranberries who really arrived in the 90’s.

I think that certain types of music can make you more productive and some of you may not agree, but maybe classical-type music is one of the best for opening the creative valve. I had a teacher in high school that introduced me to that idea. Alice Byrne. She was really something. I don’t think she thought I belonged in her advanced class, but I think I proved her wrong over a couple years. She was one of the first feminists that I actually knew and interacted with in my life. She really believed in education. Secondary education, to be specific. Ms. Byrne eventually got a Phd. and continued to teach in high school. THAT’S how important she thought high school education was and is. I assume she’s still around. I maintain contact with some of my classmates and haven’t heard about her passing.

Alice Byrne ran for the school board where she lived in Del Mar. This was the late 70’s before the backlash to feminism in the U.S. She ran on the slogan, “Mother’s Milk Pays Off”!
Now THAT’S a feminist! She won. Lots of people thought she was nuts to have that as her campaign slogan, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t close.

She taught me about real literature. I still remember feeling sheepish when I asked her if Sounder qualified as great literature. I had no clue. I learned a lot from her. To this day, if you think anything of the way I write, I believe it’s mostly due to her. I got a better education in high school english from her and my 9th grade teacher than most people get in college today. I’m getting a little sentimental right now. Pause…

I am amazed that more people aren’t interested in reading and/or writing. I am fortunate in that I didn’t have any learning disabilities, though my wife thinks I have ADD. I think she’s mostly joking, but I am old enough that that diagnosis wasn’t around back then, so I was never tested for that.

Really, though. How many times do I hear someone say that they’re bored? Pick up a book. How much crime could we prevent if we got more people interested in reading? I don’t mean to say that we could get rid of all of it, but surely some idle hands wouldn’t find the “devil’s workshop” if the put them around a book.

We don’t all enjoy the same kind of books. I’ve always assumed that readers like some sort of story. My son does to some degree, but he really excells at technical reading. Maybe that’s better if he’s going to read Grey’s Anatomy on the way to the medical profession.

Now I can hear the laughter from the other room over my Kindle playing The Cars “Shake It Up”. I guess the party is almost in full swing.

Maybe THAT’S how we need to sell reading. A party in your head.

I stumbled upon one author that I love many years ago. She certainly made it close to a party atmosphere in my head. I joined the Science Fiction Book club and got some books free with the purchase of a single book and I was introduced to Anne McCaffrey. I think the first book of hers that I read was The White Dragon. I started The Dragonriders of Pern in the middle of the series. I didn’t realize that it was science fiction as it read more like fantasy. Only later did I find out about the technological origins of the people of Pern. My dad even enjoyed them.

This was when my parents were going through a divorce and my dad had to rent a place in Escondido, CA, down the hill from Valley Center, where the family had lived. He borrowed some books from me and really surprised me when he read all about Pern. He was more of a Louis L’amour guy. My dad was really into westerns and John Wayne, so for him to like science fiction really said something about the author. He always referred to Star Trek as Star Dreck or something like that. I don’t know to this day if he actually liked Star Trek and was making fun or if he didn’t really like it at all.

He’s gone now and I can ask my sister, but I may never know. But he did tell me that he liked the Dragonriders.

That’s another reason to read. You can share and talk with friends and family who read. That’s been a problem for me as many people in my larger family are simply not readers.

I don’t get it.

Remember those commercials that said, “Reading Is Fundamental”?

I saw those and it just made sense to me. I didn’t really understand at the time how many people needed to hear that message. Also, remember the “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” commercials?

Some in my family have been annoyed when I shared my personal belief that “Reading Is Not Optional”.

That reminds me. I get a little annoyed when someone wants me to explain a book to them that they haven’t read. I don’t mind if they are thinking about reading it, but some people
basically want me to summarize a book for them so they can “get it” and not have to go to the effort of reading it.

You’re kidding, right? Yes, I’m talking about you, Jack, if you ever read this.

We can go places when we read. Expose ourselves to new ideas. Challenge long-held beliefs. Reinforce others.

Quite simply, we expand our world.

We need more people who want to expand their world. I didn’t mean to get ranty here, but I’m tired of people who don’t want to potentially expand their thinking.

I think I’m about 30 years tired of it. I think it’s time for something. Maybe I’ll talk about that next time.

In the meantime, either read a book or write a book. Or both.