Other Things

I was about to close this blog down.

I was about to end the WordPress subscription and let the domain fall idle.

I was far too busy to write, I said.  I had far too many other things on my mind.

The world had its demands, I said.  All of those other things were more important.

And what did it matter, anyway?  This blog, this little seat at the bar I’ve occupied for the last five years, has never been anything more than a place for me to write in a personal, intimate style I would never use anywhere else.  It started as an experiment, morphed through a stage where it was “practice” and training, and in the end became…something else, something I can’t define.

Now, my father likes to talk about optimism.  He likes to remind me — the cynic of the family — that how we choose to view things is important in how we react to them.  Why I don’t share that same outlook is something we could debate for a very long time, but it is not germane to these words.  I understand the outlook.  More than that, I can even sometimes manage it…

So, when a technical trial and some serious process changes turned to a layoff notice months before I expected it, I decided to play the optimist.

Err…well…I decided to get drunk, actually.  Then I decided to play the optimist.

I haven’t written a creative word in months.  I haven’t explored a character, conceived a scene, or even so much as contemplated something so diabolical as subtext and socio-political commentary.


I couldn’t figure out why I was so unsatisfied.  I couldn’t figure out why my temper had so frayed, nor why energy and enthusiasm had fled.  That black dog, he was beginning to howl, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Two days ago I started thinking that I needed to write something…

…and I didn’t know where to start.  Hell, I didn’t even know how to start.

The blank page on my screen was no longer an invitation, it had become a barrier.  It made me feel small and insignificant.  It reminded me of better days, and I think we all know just how poorly I handle nostalgia and memory.

You have a choice at that point, you know.  The obstacle can be too much; the mountain too high; the price too steep…

Or you can just shut the fuck up and go back to the basics.  That was advice I gave four or five years ago, by the way.  When the writing suffers, when the words won’t come, just shut up and go back to the basics.  Just write.  Just be you.  Be who you are, whether you chose to be that person who lives through the words, or were born that way, doesn’t matter.  For good or for ill, it is who you are…so be that person. Be that writer.

For me that means sitting down in a pub with a beer at my elbow, music blaring in my ears, and an intentional pushing back of the cacophony of mental noise that has so drowned that little voice at the back of my mind…

Welcome back, little voice.

{Note — Yep, I’m re-using a song from a Christmas post I wrote a few years ago.  I love the song, and the sentiment still works, so here you go…}


It’s Christmas time.

Now, normally, the sentence above would have had an exclamation point or two.  That’s the key word, however: normally.  Just what about this freaking miserable year is normal?  Right now, in spite of the Christmas season that I so love, about all I can muster is one big “meh.”

Oh, it’s not anything bad, nor anything specific…it’s just…well…2020.

All of my Christmas stuff is still in storage — along with the rest of my life — back in Colorado, so I don’t even have that to help me out.  I finally picked up a couple of strings of lights and a small fake tree when I was grocery shopping, just to try and force myself into the mood.  If there is anything more sad and pathetic than buying twenty bucks worth of cheap Christmas shit along with some bread and a dozen eggs, I don’t what it is.

Err…hold on…need to change the music…

There, that’s better.  Remember when I talked about how music really, really influences the words?  How my mood and the tone of what I write are far too intertwined to ever separate, and how that mood and the music influence each other in an infinite feedback loop?

Wait, what?  No?

No, you don’t remember?  Or, no, I never got around to writing that particular post?

Crap, even I’m not sure which it is.

Oh well, there you have it: what I’m listening to influences not just what I write, but also how I shape it.  Conversely, however, the flow and tone of what I’m writing very much determines just what I listen to as I work.

By the way, if you can figure out which is the chicken and which the egg, please let me know because I have no freaking idea.  Honestly, I just go on a combination of gut-feeling and success.  If the words aren’t coming out right, if the mood/feeling of the piece isn’t what I intended, I either need to change what I’m writing, or change my music. Err…or change my drink.  Given that it’s nine in the morning, I figured it is probably better to try a different artist rather than switch my coffee for beer…

Of course, the historian in me just has to point out out that Churchill drank champagne for breakfast.

Ahem.  Never mind.

When I was growing up, my parents taught me that old, traditional bit of wisdom, “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing.”  I believed it then, and I still (mostly) believe it now.  So…well…no writing on the current state of affairs in the US…

My original intent with this post, as late and delayed as it is, was to put in a snippet from one of the stories I’m working on.  That was the intent, but as is usual in my world, intent and result don’t always match up too well.  The snippet I was going to post just didn’t come along like I wanted, and I really can’t muster the focus to replace it with a flashfiction piece this morning.

Maybe switching to beer isn’t such a bad idea, after all.


Okay, so a small writing lesson — there is a certain frame of mind, a certain feeling, to creating.  I can’t really describe to you what it is because it is different for everyone.  When you are first starting out — when you are producing in fits and starts, with no predictability — you learn to recognize that feeling and take advantage of it when it comes.  When you get into a routine and are producing regularly, however, you can start to create that feeling for yourself, rather than passively accept it when it comes.

It takes routine, however, and constant production.  It takes also — at least for me — the right mix of surroundings and subject matter.  It takes a plan, and a song.

I know this post has been rather pointless and forced.  I know the last few have all suffered from those particular sins.  COVID has been part of it, as has the toxic cloud of politics and strife suffocating the US, but those are excuses not reasons.  I won’t justify not producing like I should because, well, if I won’t believe my own words, why the hell would you?

All I can say is that I feel the need to write.  Not a post…sorry. These posts are fun, but they are light and easy.  They don’t scratch that deep-seated need to really write.  You know the itch I’m talking about, the one you can scratch only by creating your own worlds.

The music has come, by the way, and the plan…the plan is always there.  Time to start scratching…

[Musical Note — I can’t remember if I’ve yet posted these guys or not.  If the singer sounds familiar, and if you are within the right age range, you will know him (and two others in this band) as being part of a very, very different group.  It takes a special creativity to produce stuff like this at the same time you are producing stuff as Blink 182…]

Winter is Coming

It’s coming…can you hear it?

It’s coming!

Okay, look, I was once described — quite accurately, mind you — as a 12-year-old with a car and a job.  It doesn’t actually matter how “old” I am, a big chunk of me is still that young kid who wants nothing more than to lose himself in fantasy and dreams and other worlds.  For me, as a writer, that is an inescapable part of who I am, and of why I write.

But it spills over into the real world, too.

Last night was the Gardiner Christmas Stroll.  For most of the year, Gardiner, Montana is a busy gateway community, one of the main entry points into Yellowstone.  But right now, after the close of the autumn season and before the start of the winter, it is just a tiny, tight-knit town.  Everyone who lives and works here supports the park, and caters to the tourists, in some way, so we all share many of the same highs and lows, many of the same frustrations, the same jokes, the same reality…

Yellowtone’s winter seasons kicks off on December 15th, so the Stroll is the last chance we really have to enjoy and celebrate each other, rather than the tourists.  It is a chance to chat and get to know the others, those who you won’t get much of a chance to see and talk-to — except in passing — when the buses and snowcoaches and hordes get running again.

For me, the Stroll marks also the beginning of that which I love so much: the Christmas season.  That’s why I talked about being an arrested-adolescent, by the way.

Like most kids, I love Christmas.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, in spite of my best efforts to be that “12-year-old with a car and a job,” Christmas looks different, and certainly feels different from when I was young, but…  But, I can still feel the echoes and hints of that little kid I used to be, back when what I was matched who.

I have friends to whom Halloween is the ultimate holiday.  The license to let loose their own inner-child in dark, over-the-top worlds of fantasy and nightmare is just too much to resist for them.

For others, it is the whimsy and drunken idiocy of St Patty’s Day, or Cinco de Mayo…

The patriotism and backyard traditions of July 4th…

For me, it’s the snow and the trees.  It’s the lights and decorations.  It’s the breathless enthusiasm and dreams of the young.  It’s the sense of community and sharing with family and friends.  It’s the knowledge that the deepest, darkest part of winter is genuinely a reminder of the spring to come.

And it was the Stroll that truly brought home to me that it’s coming…

shutterstock_543528610George RR Martin had it wrong, by the way.  His words, intended to be dark and fearful and foreboding, are nothing of the sort.

Winter is coming.

Winter — Christmas — is coming!t0z4r3mwzccfc_600

Oh, I’ll be out I the park watching the wolves and snowshoeing the trails.  Never doubt that.  I’ll also be working long hours, through frustrations and annoyances, to support the organization and the park.  But…but, more than that, I’ll be who I really am: that 12-year-old kid, staring off into the distance in wonder and delight.  That kid who still dreams, who still lives in a world of magic and possibilities.  And the adult shell that exists around that little kid will still use those dreams to write, and to create.



I’ve written before about this time of year.  This is the most recent (and Christmas-y) of those old posts.  But, for those who are just as lazy and slacker-ish as I am, I’ll boil all that down to — of course — a song.  My favorite Christmas carol, as a matter of fact.  The Christmas carol, if you want to get right down to it, for the broken and flawed who have nothing to offer but themselves…



Err…I talked about two songs in the linked post above, but I hadn’t yet learned to link the videos inline with the text.  Below are the videos of the other two Christmas carols that truly matter to me:

When Writers Don’t (Have To) Write

A short post today — it is, after all, an important day…

Merry Christmas, y’all!

I bitched about no one taking time out just to relax and live in last year’s Christmas post — well, the post from the day after Christmas — so I suppose I should take my own advice this year.

Still, that concept makes me wonder…  Okay, okay, it makes me kinda semi-wonder in the most general, unfocused way: does that rule apply to writers?

Is taking an hour or two to write on a holiday actually work?  I mean, c’mon, we’re writing, it’s not like we’re actually working

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the self-directed jab.  Not even I can be all dark and cynical today.  The sun is out, there’s several inches of snow on the ground…and I didn’t have to take twenty-three hours to drive all of two hundred miles in a snowstorm the other night, as did a family member.

I considered trying to come up with some profound, serious post for today.

I considered it, then I got better.

Have a great holiday, everyone — wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, take a moment to smile and just enjoy things.

I will, of course, be back to the regular programming of writing and snarky, bitter cynicism later this week!