HANGING BY OUR COMPUTER IS a sheet of paper I look to for inspiration. Sometimes it inspires me, sometimes it depresses me, but always it gets me back on the horse. It’s called “Why (and How) We Write.” If you too find it useful, please hang it by your computer.
1. Do it for the buzz.
— Stephen King
2. Finish what you start. Keep submitting until it sells.
— Robert Heinlein
3. a) Fanaticize yourself
b) Fanaticize something greater than yourself
c) “Sheer delight in what you are doing.”
— Robert Anton Wilson
4. a) Arrange events in linear order
b) Now arrange them in narrative order.
c) Write the story.
d) Revise the story.
— H. P. Lovecraft
5. “Most of the characteristics which make for success in writing are precisely those which we are all taught to repress … the firm belief that you are an important person, that you are a lot smarter than most people, and that your ideas are so damned important that everybody should listen to you.”
— Robert Anton Wilson, reprise
Mom in the drug store
Called out to her son: “Brooklyn!”
Am I getting old?
Posted in Writing
AFTER MUCH CONSIDERATION, I HAVE come to the conclusion that of all God‘s creations or man’s adjustments thereof I should most like to be a rock; not so small as to be skipped by errant boys nor so large as to make the blind stumble, smooth enough to sit on but too rough for graffitti, blended with the landscape yet not so much as to be entirely unknown, not so corporeal as to be uninteresting but solid enough to watch the world slide by for a few thousand millennia. Slow rock thoughts — bird chirps and rainsfall and mountain chains rising like silent supplicants — and under all of it, the constant whirling thrum of Earth’s viscous spin.
Let others become astronauts and firefighters, nurses and movie stars: I shall be a rock, simple and content, my inside like my outside, one with the passing stars and the clinging lichen. (After all, one needs someone to talk to.)
(Inspired by Rabbi Rami Shapiro‘s 4/2/10 Facebook post.)
Posted in Writing
HE SAID HE WOULD FIGHT Wall Street, but it wasn’t long before he was brought down by a perplexed SWAT team.
Posted in Writing
THE VIEWS OF THE AUTHOR may not reflect whatever he’s thinking about now, or however he’s thinking about it, although they most likely did when he wrote whatever you read; thus and likewise, he is not responsible for anything you do before, while, or after you read whatever he wrote. The author’s responsibility is to communicate as clearly as he can at the time he’s writing, and if he’s failed in that mission then by “God” buckle up and try again.
I looked up from the computer, wondering about the “thump.” Then I saw the robin on the patio — fluttering wings outspread, struggling to get up.
Outside, through the gate, into the side-yard. “Are you okay?” I asked reflexively.
She wasn’t, at least at first. Her beak and eyes were wide open, and she was panting — or do robins always breathe that way? She seemed dazed but unhurt (no broken legs or anything), so I sat down next to her and babbled softly: “You poor thing. We’ll get you fixed up, give you some nice worm broth and pyracantha cobbler,” etc.
After about ten minutes (during which I wondered what I could wrap her in for transport to the local bird-rescue center), she closed her beak and blinked at me. Then she stood up, wobbled, and hopped away.
“Good! You’re okay!” I said, relief warming me more than the chill morning air. “But can you fly?”
She flapped her wings a couple of times, then rose from the patio and soared across the creek. I don’t think she saw the hawk. It took her in midflight and a cloud of feathers, with no sound but a faint rustle.
HAD I NOT BEEN SWIFT,
He would have brought the rat in.
It’s the thought that counts.
Posted in Writing
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE Renaissance Pleasure Faire and a guy named Greg Pursley, who hired me to help him sell fencing lessons in Elizabethan garb and accent. The Cardiff Rose was no mere concession but a virtual privateer, with each crewmember having a complete character history as an aid to improvisational acting. (Fun? “Those who know, grin.”) In the interests of all-in-one-eggbasketry writingwise, I’m including here my own, or rather that of “Will Thrustwell,” purple prose and all, just as written in 198…8? 9? It’s necessarily in-jokey for a tight circle of friends (and includes the origin of “Trolle Sweate,” a particularly potent potable with which “Thrustwell” is synonymous). Some of whom may get a bit of a nostalgic hoot hereout, others may simply enjoy. I know I did. (Even the “heaving, tortured bosom.”)
UPDATE: I just Googled “Will Thrustwell” on a whim. All I can say is, “If it’s not a pirate, it’s not me.”
Thrustwell’s Tale, or Beware the Bottle
(Being the Somewhat Revised, yet Mercifully Succinct, History
Senior Pilot of the
Set down by his good friend Peter Boggs, Special Correspondent to the London Illustrated News
Posted in Writing
NOT ALL MITZVOT TURN INTO ghost stories — but when doing holy work, it’s always a good idea to expect the unexpected.
Ann and I are members of the Sonoma County Chevre Kadisha, which literally means “holy fellowship;” it’s a centuries-old Jewish institution committed to preparing the dead for burial. Doing this is considered to be the most selfless of all mitzvot (commandments), partly because there’s no way the beneficiary can pay you back.
In 2002, we joined a crowd of about 50 at Cotati’s Congregation Ner Shalom where, over the course of an afternoon and under the tutelage of Rabbi Elisheva (Sachs) Salamo, we learned — as one participant put it — to “gift-wrap people for sending them back to God.”
AS NOTED EARLIER, THIS BLOG will feature periodic updates on my new Work In Progress, Under Oasine: the adventures of Twiz, Ij, Hapler, and the author as they pursue a desperate quest to save their world.
(I want to bang out a first draft of the entire novel on the thousand-words-a-day plan before I polish (and post) the first two chapters, while (partly to motivate myself, and partly to come down off the inCREDible buzz one gets from making up and banging out a thousand words a day) posting occasional synopses.)
Thus: With 4,000 of an estimated 50-70,000 words in the bag, our heroes have reached the end of the first chapter, wherein we are briefly introduced to the world of Oasine and its inhabitants. The planet is one big desert from pole to pole, orbiting a big red star; life evolved late in its history, and only around scattered oases of various sizes. Some are connected by caravans, but in the oasis of Fint one man wants to prove they’re also connected by water.
Twiz Beelan and his best friend Ij have talked Hapler the podgrower into growing a mobile pod big enough for two, stocked with everything needed to withstand a two-day journey to the neighboring oasis — assuming that Twiz’s theory is more than just a crazy dream. The big day arrives, the Deeper is set for its maiden voyage, when disaster strikes! and the pod sinks into watery darkness!
Apparently stranded, the three work out a desperate plan. Soon they are heading surfaceward once more — but when they break water, Fint is nowhere to be seen.
Reaction: Novels are very, very different in process from short stories. My reporter training makes short stories a natural medium — clean, concise, pointed — but something as big as a novel? With multiple characters, viewpoints, subplots, etc.? It’s really hard, as all writing is hard, only more so.
But it’s also fun. I’m using the ol’ index-cards-for-every-chapter-character-and-setting method of organizing my notes and keeping track of new ideas. (Annie Lamott’s first draft advice from “Bird by Bird” is very helpful too.) This is also entirely different from the Prosatio Silban pieces in another way: this isn’t a world I’ve been working on since 1978 in my scrap time, but something which came to me idly drawing (now worries, no spoilers): “What if there’s a world called Oasine, populated only around its separate oases but linked by the water beneath them? And what happens if somebody goes under Oasine?”
And remember; Just because I’m writing it, doesn’t necessarily mean I know what’s going to happen next. I hope you enjoy finding out as much as I do.
Posted in Writing
When I worked for the Sonoma Index-Tribune between 1998 and 2003 (and for the Sonoma Sun in 2008), I wore a pager that one of the departmental chiefs had loaned me for the duration. It was the same make and model worn by the firefighters themselves (professional and volunteer), and would beep three times before broadcasting the appropriate jurisdiction’s “tone-out” (a two-note musical chime, unique to the responding department[s]) and an abbreviated situation report along the lines of: “Sonoma; possible structure fire; Andrieux Street cross of Broadway; time out, 1400.”