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In answer to Karen Rawson’s recent gauntlet throw-down, I managed to sneeze out this, my first attempt at flash fiction. So here’s the 98-word “Drowned Out” which I based on the photo below.

DrownedYard

“Guess the party’s cancelled, huh?” he jeered.

“It’s nothing to smile about!” Kim snapped, hating him even more than the night before.

Her daughter’s 6th birthday party washed away in minutes. Streamers, croquet, cookout, slip-n-slide—all gone before Sandy had even woken. Kim’s tears welled as sandbox toys swirled in a darkened eddy by the grill.

“I guess I’ll call the moms and let them know.”

“Ya think?” he assed while she pondered his funeral as a suitable birthday gift. “Whole day’s free now! What to do…”

Drop dead, she thought and thanked God she’d hidden the whiskey.

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I finally broke 300. And it’s been a hard-fought 30 pages.

The closer I get to the end, the further away it seems. Not in terms of actual pages or plot points, but in all the holes and unresolved, unrefined, unrealistic details that pop up and needle me as I keep trudging forward. Which is disconcerting since I’ve been following this outline for almost two years.

I push this awful beast ahead; it pushes back. I make it through a tough chapter; three revisions stem out of what I wrote to be implemented at a later date. I’m starting to lose details I wrote months, even years ago. I know I have something to say, I just don’t think I’m saying it and I don’t even trust myself right now to be able to judge.

Unlike earlier in the process, any long day of writing ends with more misgivings and inconsistencies than when it started. I don’t hear my story, hear my characters…I don’t even hear my voice anymore. And while I may be sluggishly plodding toward a finished draft, with each page I become even more confident that it’s a giant pile, that the story is complete garbage, and that no one, NO ONE is ever going to read it.

I want to quit.
I mean I really want to quit.
But if I don’t finish this monster, I’ll be damned.

“The best way out is always through,”
                                                                            -Robert Frost

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate.”
                                                                           – John Steinbeck

I hate that I want this.

“So it goes.”

It’s a simple phrase.

Three words. A catchphrase, of sorts. Almost insignificant. And yet it perfectly demonstrates the magnificence of Vonnegut’s exceptional “writer’s voice.”

I’m still forging ahead. I took a little time off around the holidays (couldn’t you tell?). And I reluctantly embraced some long-avoided but necessary technological advances—namely a smartphone and a new(er) computer— which brought with them some setbacks to my workflow and productivity. But I’m back.

Story is coming along. Cranked out a long avoided chapter today that wasn’t easy to write. Probably still need lots of work, but it’s written.

Generally speaking, characters are coming along nicely. They are developing in ways that I like and, in turn, they’re starting to carry the story. I’ve had several 5-10 page days and when I do, they happen sort of effortlessly. So I’ll count my blessings.

But then I start thinking about that pesky “voice.” As in, I’m afraid I don’t have one. Or that it’s inconsistent, or undefined. Or that it just plain sucks. Read the rest of this entry »

Writer’s conferences are a double-edged sword. On one hand, you expose yourself to other writers’ sagacity and experiences that you would not otherwise encounter, expanding your horizons and possibly giving you a fresh perspective.

On the other hand, you also open yourself up to the sob stories, tales of woe, and harsh realities of the writing and publishing industry, which can snatch the wind from your sails faster than a slaughtered albatross.

The conference at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop was of the first kind.

The one this past spring in Badgerland was of the latter.

So many of its speakers and attendees were quick to relay the “truths” and statistics that serve only to muddy the waters of creative process: the unlikelihood of finding an agent, the slim chances of getting published, the even slimmer chances of your first book selling well (and the likelihood it will be your last), and of course, the absolute impossibility of ever making a living writing fiction.

One of those painful tidbits is looming large these days. Read the rest of this entry »

Forty.

40. 4-D. Two score. Four dimes. Over-the-hill. The mid-point. Intermission. Halftime. On the flip side. The start of Act II. The third quarter. Entering my fifth decade. Coasting downhill. Past my prime. The dawn of middle age. The beginning of the end.

Yes, it’s true. I recently passed the arbitrary milestone that carries with it enough gravitas and gloom to bring even the most spry and vigorous traveler to at least a brief period of introspection, if not melancholy.

Truthfully, becoming a quadragenarian did weigh on me some. Not so much for the age or the number itself (such trivialities as round numbers do not impress me), but rather in examination of my life and how, on the surface at least, I largely am right where I was a decade ago.

I entered my thirties living in the same house in the same city in the same job with the same company in which I find myself now. I had an unfinished novel at the time, and I still have one (albeit, a different one). And while I have much to show for that same decade—in knowledge, and love, and friendship, and maturity, and wisdom, and experience, and even writing—it is also a stone cold reminder how fleeting time can be and, when our daily schedules and surroundings remain unchanged, how quickly we can lose awareness of its passing.

In addition to that realization, it also was just over a year ago that, creatively charged after my trip to the Writer’s Workshop, I boldly purposed to have this novel drafted as a 40th birthday present to myself.

Well, the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men… Read the rest of this entry »

My apologies for leaving you hanging, I’ve been away for a while and I owe you an explanation.

Just to put it right out there, I haven’t been writing much. Not here, not on the novel, not on anything (except my day job of course). I’ve got 20 pages since my last post, which is something at least. And no, it didn’t take me four months just to get those 20 pages.

I wish I could say I’ve been “taking a break,” but that would imply a summer spent relaxing. Far from it. I’ve not been idle, mind you; been plenty busy in that time. But admittedly I’ve been away from my story for too long and it’s time to start regrouping.

Truth is, I’m stuck. I’ve been stumbling on one of my main characters and how the story relates to him. One primary character’s arc and story have come into focus nicely. I can see his path points well and was using them to pull myself along for a while. But my second character is just as, if not more, important and his development and plot points have remained blurry and elusive.

As a result, the relationship I worked so hard to establish leading up to the 1/3 mark (back in January, ugh!) lacks half of its density. It feels one-sided, perhaps even unrealistic now. Until I can better clarify the one character, his story, and arc, I fear the relationship and the other character appears hollow, unengaging. So I’ve been stuck; been there for months now, which makes it really hard to move forward.

Adding to my pusillanimity, I’ve had so many other worthy, important tasks in the queue (homeowner stuff, friend and family visits, travel) that I’ve been all too happy to let them distract me from writing, thereby facing my obstacles, for much of the summer.

My sticking points are big enough that I want to avoid them and concentrate on the pile of other tasks, responsibilities, pleasures, and obligations that invariably spring up. The pile of other stuff is so available, rewarding, and seemingly important, it is all too easy to use it to avoid concentrating on those sticking points.

It’s a vicious cycle for sure, and it’s time to acknowledge that and start working on the story again, problems or no.

A year ago, charged and empowered after my visit to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, I had set an aggressive-yet-confident goal to have a draft in time for my 40th birthday, which by the way arrives, warranted-or-not, next week. Obviously, that’s not going to happen, not without a Rocky-like* comeback and an intravenous feed of espresso for the next six days.

I’ll just have to let that arbitrary, perhaps unrealistic deadline pass by and appreciate this process for what it is…a journey, and not a destination. At least I’ll keep telling myself that in hopes of one day believing it.

Climbing back on this horse is going to take some heaving. But I’ll get up there again.

Write on.

 

* Stallone wrote “Rocky” in two and a half days. Surely a Pulitzer-worthy novel can be cranked out in a week, right?

I’ll admit, it has been a rough winter. I’ve only had a few productive days since the turn of the year as I’ve been ensnared in my own web of hesitation, second-guessing, and the urge to go back and fix stuff.

Last week I took off to watch basketball (a once-a-year guilty pleasure) and the week before my writing time was like chewing on tin foil. The words weren’t coming, my phrasing was crude and disjointed, and after struggling for six hours on two pages, I deleted most of what I had written and then switched to a different project just so I could salvage a little taste of feeling productive for the day.

It was deflating, demoralizing, and depressing and I had more than one thought of throwing in the towel.

I’m happy to say that today I broke the logjam. I worked out a significant kink and it feels like I’ve got my story back on track. It took a while to get going, and I deleted entire paragraphs, even pages, more than once. It was nearly 2:00 in the afternoon when I finally felt I had a hold of something good. Six hours later and I’ve got eight solid pages to show for it and several good hooks to latch on to in my next session.

I really want to hit the next milestone by the end of spring. Here’s hoping that the tap stays open for a while.

Write on.

We hear about the work-life balance. Dedicating enough time and energy to your job without giving up too much of the time and energy you want to spend actually living.

Most people just have to balance the two. Working too much? Your life suffers. Living too much? Your work suffers. Live to work? Or work to live? It’s a tough balance for anyone to maintain, of course.

As wannabe published writers, we have it much, much worse.

We writers have another chunk in there: our writing. It’s not quite life, because it often feels like work, and it’s not quite work, because (at first) we’re not getting paid for it. And if it’s fiction we’re writing, there’s a painfully good chance we never will.

So somewhere between work and life, we have to carve out what moments we can for our writing, adding another variable to the balance equation, another master we hope to serve.

We want to be writing. Our hearts and our minds drive us to. We feel best after a good session, a finished work, and that only contributes to our enjoyment of life.

We also want happy, fulfilling lives, because we can use them to fuel our writing, to give us the positive and creative boost we need to keep going. Plus it just feels good to be happy. Mmmm…happy.

We also need to survive: food, shelter, clothing, and all the things Maslow said come right after that. Unfortunately, that’s why we work.

Very few of the writers I know find much fulfillment from their job-type jobs, even if it involves writing. Yet not one of us has figured out a way to avoid it, short of a trust fund, a sugar mama/daddy, or a winning lottery ticket.

Work is a necessary obstacle, and a rigid one at that, demanding a majority of your time and typically the best hours of it. Which generally leaves us only “life” to cut from to make time for writing.

That makes it twice as hard to do. Harder.

So hard, in fact, that our writing often gets shifted, or shafted, or flat-out trumped when life’s demands simply won’t let go. For every great story idea, or turn of phrase that comes to us, there are blizzards, and taxes, and flooded basements, and car repairs, and illness, and stubbed toes conspiring against us.

Our writing suffers; our spirit suffers; our lives suffer; eventually our work suffers.

It’s not fair, I know. But we’ve got to suck it up. Make time to write. It’s the only way we’ll ever find that true satisfaction.

Work is work, and it always will be. We’ve got bigger plans than the bloated egos, shortened deadlines, lame policies, and office politics that surround us there. Work-Life? That’s not the balance we need to be focused on.

To hell with the cliché; for us, it’s write to live, live to write.

Write on.

I just realized tomorrow will be the 1st anniversary of writing what has become the first chapter of this novel I’ve been chewing on ever since.

I suppose it started as an exercise, a challenge to write a character that needed to be brought to life, if only for one very short story. That brief introduction to him was enough to get me hooked and out of it a story was born.

Twelve months (though really only 5), eleven chapters, and 128 pages later I’ve hit that first major milestone, the one-third mark. My two main characters are alive; they’re real and struggling, and more importantly, I’ve finally brought them together despite the unlikeliness of their meeting. I suppose, not knowing I was starting a novel back then, that’s not too shabby.

Of course, after reaching the milestone, it didn’t take long for the ol’ writer’s curse to set in – doubt. On top of the ever present, “No one will ever want to read this,” and “What the hell am I wasting my time for?” I’m now battling all sorts of story-specific questions like, “Are my characters real enough?” “Will anyone actually care about them?” “Have I shown enough of their struggles and strengths?” “Was their meeting too contrived?”

Shadows of such shallow confidence are darkening the path ahead and I’m not sure what to do. I’m still caught in the quandary of going back or forging ahead. Do I throw it in reverse to add the stuff I know I need to add, to change the things that surely need to be changed, and to analyze what’s there to see if it even holds water? Or do I plod ahead, knowing full well that there are things missing in the first third of the story that I’ll have to go back and add later?

There are arguments for both, and I’m stuck between them. I hoping for an inspiration or revelation to push me in one direction or the other, especially since I really want to finish a draft this year.

Man, I didn’t see this coming.

I’ve had a couple of really productive weeks now, making huge gains on both of my writing days. Once I set things in motion, scenes are flowing out of me rather smoothly and I have a lot of confidence that what is getting down on the page is pretty good, for a first draft at least.

As the story evolves, however, I find myself starting to recognize that some things I’ve written will have to change, move, or even be deleted entirely.  I’ll be working on a chapter and remember that something I had written much earlier might conflict with what I had just put on the page. Then, once I knew about it, it would needle me, popping up again and again in my head, nagging me to go back and change it.

I’ll admit, I did a little of that, the going back and changing. Just a touch. One big conflicting piece that simply had to be moved and edited. I had to in order to keep moving the story forward. But beyond that one instance, I decided to make a few notes and leave the rest be for now.

Mistake? We’ll see. But my logic was based on the fact that I am SO close to reaching a major milestone—basically the end of the set-up and exposition—that to turn back now would be almost entirely self-defeating.  Indeed there is something to be said for the motivating power of momentum.

Here’s the deal: the ten chapters I’ve written thus far all lead up to two significant scenes, likely told in two chapters, one of which I’m ¾ of the way through. These scenes are tough; they involve a lot of careful wording and, since the story is written as a 3rd person narrative with limited omniscience, a high degree of fairness and introspection from the two main characters involved. In other words, I’ve got to adequately and realistically portray both characters’ thoughts, emotions, and inclinations, while still bringing them together in what would otherwise be a relatively unrealistic scenario. But hey, I can do that; I’m the author and that’s what fiction is all about.

In any case, knowing how good it will feel when I’ve finished these scenes and reached the milestone, I want to keep trudging toward that. Then perhaps I’ll take a little break, circle back and see what pieces I’ve left out-of-place or no longer need.

Until then, write on.

I’ve had some really productive days in the last six weeks, despite not typing a single word of my story for the past two.

Life stuff happens, you know? Good or bad (in this case, very, very good), every now and again, something bubbles up that just can’t be pushed aside. Life is a shifting sea. Sometimes you find yourself in calm, peaceful waters; sometimes you’re twisting under gargantuan waves and clinging to the oars as tightly as you can.

So despite my best intentions, turbulent tides have forced my attentions away from my novel for two weeks. Yes, I feel denied. Yes, I feel guilty. But I don’t feel the least bit lazy since I’ve hardly had a moment’s rest in ten days and I’ve got plenty to show for my time. But of course, none of it gets me closer to finishing a novel. Which brings me to my point.

In past years, I would have felt bad putting it off, thinking I couldn’t do it. But because the preceding four writing days had been so productive, I’m not that down on myself.

Hoping not to jinx it, the truth is I’ve been quite successful lately at making the most use of the time that I do spend working on my story. Knowing that life can, and will, get in the way, that sometimes I will not be able to spend as much time as I hoped writing, the secret is not to beat myself up over it. Because when we do sit down to pound the keys, it’s just not going to help if we’re black and blue with self-defeat and frustration.

You’ve got to make the most of the time you have. So when I get there, when I’ve cleared out the obstacles, reined in the perceived responsibilities, drowned out the distractions, and I sit down to actually work, I clear my head deliberately, look at where I left off, step into the zone, and start cranking. It wasn’t easy at first, but after three weeks, it started to almost feel like ability, even skill. Inch by inch, yard by yard, I can tell I’m getting better at it.

It feels good honing myself, finding that state of calm, creative alertness. Hopefully, it will still be there next Friday.

Write on.

I just spent an incredible week at a fiction writer’s workshop and I’m exhausted.Pen

See, I’ve been having some trouble plotting lately. No, not my nefarious plans for world domination, my novel. It’s not that I don’t have ideas for my plot; I have plenty. It’s that I don’t typically have a lot of confidence when to comes to those ideas. I get all caught up in my own head worrying that what I’ve laid out is uninteresting, or cliché, or weak, or inconsequential, or mundane, or lacks sufficient buoyancy to sustain an entire novel.

Yes, the age-old writer’s curse—self doubt—seems to have grabbed hold of my former amateurish confidence and choked it out like Royce Gracie on a championship night. I’ve been stuck. Floundering in a lack of self-confidence, I would stare blankly at my noble and approachable characters, unable to craft any tasks and challenges that I deemed worthy of them, or worse, of my potential readers.

So on a whim, I trekked to Iowa City for some writer’s respite and much-needed instruction from the “sages of the Foxhead.”

I went hoping that I would acquire some methods and tactics to eventually formulate a plot that could sustain a novel. Instead, I left with an actual sustained plot for my novel!

Granted, it’s a rough one, but when my incredible instructor helped me drop the last significant piece into place, the floodgates opened and a newfound clarity caused the rest of the story to flow out of me so quickly my fingers could barely keep up.

What started as a half-dozen key plot points quickly became a comprehensive outline, which then evolved into a full scene index with several dozen installments. By the end of the week I had all of my milestones laid out before me (well, most of them) and I couldn’t wait to start writing my way down that winding road.

Yes, it was a very rewarding, invigorating experience and for any writers out there, I highly recommend it. Much can be said about just the opportunity and environment: taking a week off to be away from work, home, life, and its responsibilities and dedicating that time instead to writing, thinking about writing, and surrounding yourself with writers who are doing the same. Cliché though it may be, it’s magical.

So with this renewed sense of purpose, and a wee bit of validation to bolster my confidence, I’ve got a roadmap for my newest literary project and frankly, I’m stoked about it.

Why am I telling you? The reasons are twofold. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m going to tread on dangerous ground today. It’s likely to garner more dissension than anything I have posted about heretofore. Mired in controversy and known to provoke extremely emotional responses, I am already bracing myself for the backlash that will likely result from this post, and others to follow on this same, touchy subject.

It’s not abortion, nor same-sex marriage. Nor is it school prayer or the role of government in society. No, this is something much more polarizing and tempestuous. Today I’m posting about Star Wars.

Interestingly, I actually was going to publish a post on the current status of gun control; but Star Wars, I fear, will produce even more vitriol and ire, into which I shall now dive.

Here it is: Simply put, the Star Wars Prequels suck.

And I don’t just mean they’re bad, I’m mean they are so tremendously horrible that they have now successfully poisoned my 35-year enjoyment of the Original Trilogy (Episodes 4-6).

There! I said it. God that feels good! Why, now, am I making this proclamation? Glad you asked. Read the rest of this entry »

PrintUsually, I try to concentrate on new writing projects. But every now and again, I am compelled to crack open my musty folders full of unpublished stories of auld lang syne and pore over them once again, full of reminiscence and longing.

In many ways they have withstood the test of time. They are still relevant, for the most part; I still like them and believe in them. I typically still like the characters too. And in feeling as much, I find I experience some regret, if not sorrow at their never having been published. And once that starts, I get sucked in.

“Why didn’t it get published?” I wonder. “Can I do anything to it to make it better?” After all, some of these tales are 10 or 15 years old and I freely admit that I’m a better writer now, by leaps and bounds. That being said, what if the story was great, but my talents were simply not up to the task at the time it sprang forth? Sure, I gave it my best, but now that the older and more experienced me has applied his scrutinizing eye, I can see scores upon scores of editorial notes that I know would make it read better. So out comes the red pen and the markups begin. Since they’ve never been published, what’s the harm in touching them up a little? No one would know but me.

But here’s the quandary, these stories have a certain sentimental value in their original state. As their creator, it is now somewhat painful to read them and hear the voice that I once had, laden with crudeness and amateur phrasings. Yet they are still reflections of who and where I was at the time they were written. And certainly they serve as a literary photo album, offering glimpses of past milestones on the road of my maturation as a writer. It occurs to me that, though they might not have been good enough to be published, they still have value, if none other than a stepping stone to the next story, and the next, and so on.

I don’t try to sell my short stories anymore; there just isn’t much of a market for them it seems. And what market does exist is inundated with submissions, slow to respond (if at all), and often governed by ridiculously low word counts. So in the end I suppose my time is better spent on other projects, but the question remains: is it wrong, a betrayal of sorts, to revisit old, unpublished writings from the past and try to remold them with the words from my inner voice of the present? Do an unsold story and its crafted characters deserve the finest presentation I can give them, the best shot possible at ever seeing pages of print? Or is it nobler to preserve the scribblings of my past persona, errors, clichés, and homespun howlings all included, and retain them as souvenirs of the writer I once was?

Perhaps someday I’ll publish a collection of my short stories and an editor will finally help me decide what to fix and what to forget. But until then, I fear I shall be tempted again and again by calls from my past yarns, yearning to be re-spun with the shinier tools I have today.

What’s your persuasion? Should I shine them up or shove them aside?

I practice a sort of thievery.

Not a malicious one mind you, or illegal, at least not yet. And as far as I know my crimes are victimless, and if I do well, often embraced and appreciated. I never plan my heists and never know what tiny observance may spawn one as it may be years down the road that I eventually recognize my plunder. My spoils are random, and often worthless by themselves, and they’re impossible to reunite with their original owners, but nonetheless I stole them.

Yes, in truth, I’m a bit of a thief. You may even be my next victim, and there’s nothing you can do about it; I have immunity. After all, I’m writer.

One of the arcane and villainous joys of creative writing is the license it gives me to draw upon just about anything I’ve ever encountered and use it unabashedly for my own selfish purposes. Read the rest of this entry »

About every six months or so, I write myself into a corner. And I don’t mean that I get caught up in plot or dialog, or while formulating a concise argument; yes, I sometimes have those problems, but that’s not what I am referring to. What I’m talking about is an unreasonable trap in the English language, the lack of a singular, androgynous pronoun for an individual.

“What?” you ask? I don’t blame you. Let me demonstrate.

“The problem with formulating simple-yet-sound education policy is that we’re trying to write a single, universal plan to address every student’s needs, but any given individual student is not the average, or median, or norm. ???? (insert third person, singular pronoun) is just that, an individual, containing thoughts, emotions, experience, and a frame of reference entirely specific to ???? (insert third person grammatical object).”

In the above example, there is no accurate, androgynous, and grammatically correct pronoun to replace the question marks, and that drives me insane!

Think I’ve got options? Let’s look at them: Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t write much poetry, though poems are one of the few things I’ve had published. But in these troubling times, we must explore new methods and mediums. So I’m branching out a bit.

I wrote this little ditty for a work event about a year ago and then performed it as a beat poem, sunglasses and all. It was meant to be a call to arms for great minds to get cracking in the hopes that we can innovate our way out of this mess we’re in. Today, the call is greater than ever. So here is my:

Ode to Innovation

Innovation, bold creation, mind gyration,
How shall I quest for thee?
In the sly, dry, suburban countryside
or in a midnight tide of lazy apathy?
Don’t wait, or abate our fateless world of greatness!
Your sultry eyes can hypnotize and make huge tasks feel weightless.
Great brains and willful souls, fraught and bought with the wild fire of desire,
once plagued with doubt and mired in bouts of ignorance and frustrated ire,
can find in you the spark to start with pounding heart down the path where
none have ventured
to lurk and work to shirk the jerks to whom we’re all indentured.
For the mind that finds no kind of light as he cuts the rind from his rightful life,
a glance to you, and effort true, gives one so blue a reason to concoct a means
to end his strife.
‘Tween the boring, plain, and outright mundane lies the lifeless pain of everyday
and the death of ingenuity.
Without a nod from you, the hearts of few would find the drive to right themselves
to success in perpetuity.

Hark!

Harken here Creative Spark and make your mark upon the hearts of those who sit before you.
Bump and grind within our minds to move along our crusted spines; we swear we won’t ignore you.

Do you hear us? Do you fear us? For we fear not you!

Don’t hide as though your petty goal is to deprive our lives and mortal souls of finding drive to boldly strive against the humdrum, which defeats you.
But show yourself in broad daylight, from the cobweb corners of bromidic night,
apart from all the hapless doubts, and you’ll find us there to meet you.

© 2011

It seems either I have the wrong skill set, or I was born in the wrong time.

I’m a writer. I like writing. I think I’m pretty good at it. It’s what I create; it’s what I am proud of; it’s what I have to give to the world.

Unfortunately, it seems that visual representations are becoming more and more central to the art of communication, if not its very foundation. If a picture was once worth a thousand words, its value has no doubt appreciated of late.

To be totally honest, I’m a visual appreciator myself. I love motion pictures and spend a small but dedicated amount of my time enjoying them. Great photographs catch my eye easily. I admire visual art and am often awed by the talent and ability that such creations require. Talent and ability, mind you, which I neither possess nor desire. Believe me, I know. I’ve tried.

Even in technical writing I recognize the value and importance of visual aids. I use them as much as possible (for me), especially when words just can’t accurately describe a particular procedure. But it is a challenge and without the help of gifted manipulators of SolidWorks, I’d be lost.

No, for me, what talents I possess lie either in public performance (acting, comedy, or improv) or in the manipulation of grammatical criteria to convey thoughts, concepts, and emotions (also known as writing). Whether I’m very good at it I’ll leave to your preference. Nonetheless, it’s what I do. Read the rest of this entry »

Here I am, roughly 20 years into my working life. Throughout that time I’ve been lucky enough to never be unemployed, with the exception of a couple of spread out months following the occasional change of venue.

In terms of work, I have had mostly successes, though no big ones. A few failures too. I’ve been lucky in terms of finding jobs, keeping them, and leaving them at the right time. I’ve been “responsible” with my paychecks (for the most part) and used them to build a decent lifestyle, I suppose.

Professionally, I don’t have a whole lot to show for that time though. No awards. No postgraduate degrees. Certainly no saved lives or groundbreaking accomplishments. No impressive body of work. No significant title, power, or salary to speak of. No influence at my current position, really. Half of the companies that I used to work for, the smaller ones, are now defunct  (no, not because I left) which means I can’t even get a reference out of them.

In my formative years, I always envisioned myself being more successful, accomplished, or even satisfied at this age. At a minimum, I expected that my time spent working (for pay, I mean) would be important, engaging, or fulfilling, or that my peers, friends, community, or even some self-aggrandizing organization that doles out shallow but plaque-able recognition might come to respect the fruits of my labors. But it seems that 20 years in, I’m not, it isn’t, and they haven’t. Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s a stunning admission: I have no qualifications to be a writer.

That thought alone is enough to paralyze me; is reason enough to make me want to throw in the towel. I mean, why would anyone want to read what I have written? I’ve never taken a creative writing class, or a class on writing commentary, nor blogging. In fact, aside from a one-day course to brush up on business writing and grammar, it’s been almost 20 years since I took a class that was centered on writing. That was “Freshman Writing” in college; hardly advanced training.

I’m not saying that I necessarily require more training. After all, how much training does a writer need? How much did Vonnegut have before he sold his first short story? What about Eco, or Steinbeck, or Twain? More importantly, how much training would it take for me to feel better about what I write? I have a feeling that if I re-entered academia to obtain more letters behind my name I may get caught up in that world again and possibly never leave. I could lose years (I’ve lost enough already) making myself feel better about how qualified I am to write and still be no closer to finishing a major work.

I’ve read a lot of advice to writers from other writers, tips on how to stay fresh, keep in the game, not give up and so on. It’s all very inspiring, of course. But inspiration isn’t the shortfall. I have lots of inspiration, but in its shadow Read the rest of this entry »

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