Giving This Up

I tried.  I really did.

I tried to give up this blog.

I cancelled the account.  I voided the renewal payment.  I tried…

And it lasted all of three days.  Shit, even my one pathetic attempt to give up coffee lasted longer than that!

Look, for most of my adult life I’ve lived according to DeNiro’s wisdom in Heat: “Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”

I talk and joke about not buying in to nostalgia.  I talk and joke about being the hobo who just ups and abandons everything from time to time.  I will even occasionally talk — but not joke — about the very real fact that I never let get myself too attached…to anything, or anyone. Yeah, yeah, I know — some aspiring therapist could probably put the next five generations through college trying to fix me…

Look, I’ve lost everything before.  I’ve lost everything, and I decided in the aftermath that I would never again give in to the weakness of having anything or anyone I was afraid to lose.

Okay, fine, so those were the sentiments of a hurt, terrified idiot trying to be all edgy and emo, but still…

Yeah, they were pure bullshit then, too.

I just can’t give it up.  I would love to say something pseudo-insightful like “I have poured too much of my heart and my psyche — of my self — into the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written on this site to give it up.”  I would love to say that, but not even my ex-marketing-weasel soul could write that without an overwhelming dose of irony.

Oh, you and I both know just how much of me goes into my words here.  Just like we both know just how much I need these words to keep my sanity.  In almost every story/piece I write, I allude in one way or another to that demon I fear so much, to that lonely night and the rope…

I’ve held that demon off for a long time now.  I’ve held it off, and the words are a big part of how, but that still ain’t the whole story.

Writing is a rush.  Even when you miss and struggle, there is still that dopamine-flood that is so addictive.  When you nail it?  Oh fuck, when you nail it…

Look, I stopped counting countries a while ago because it got to be too much.  Forget countries, I’ve chased fun — chased sex and drugs and abandon — in more than half of this world’s fucking time zones.  I’ve played hockey against NHL players.  I’ve dived on WW2 wrecks.  Crawled into occupied bear dens.  Successfully completed itemized tax returns.

I’ve done all of that and more.  Far, far more.  And still, even with all of that, there ain’t much that can compare to the feeling of nailing it with my words.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does…

When it all really works…

Shit, like a heroin junkie, you just need more.  The more you get, the more you need.  The more you need, the harder it is to get.

The number of times I’ve legit hit that high…

The number of times I’ve really nailed it…

I don’t care how few those are, how could I ever give that up?

{Musical Note — yep, it’s an old Simon & Garfunkel tune. Nope, I don’t like their version. Gaslight Anthem has a couple of versions that I really do like, however. The album version that I’m using here works best with the post above…}

That Terrible Inertia

It’s a tough choice right now.  Obviously, I haven’t been keeping the blog up.  Obviously, I have left vacant my seat at the bar.  Far too often have I left it vacant.

I wish I could say the words had stopped because there were no more words…  Well, at least I wish I could say it was because there was no more need for the words.  But that would be a lie.  There still is a need.  There still are thoughts and emotions and dreams crying out to be written.

There still are my ghosts, haunting the back of my mind, crying out to be heard…

Crying out to be written.

But I’m a creature of habit.  I’m a creature of habits far more bad than good, by the way — one need only look at my current waistline to know that.  Writing is, for me, a thing of habits, too.  It is a thing of momentum, and of focus.  When everything is clicking — when I am writing with that full momentum behind me — it is an unstoppable urge.  I could no more stop my fingers on the keyboard than I could stop my lungs.

When I stop, however…

When the inertia takes over, when Newton’s 1st Law is proven all too true about objects at rest…

Yeah, to start up again after you have surrendered all movement?  Yeah, that’s the hard part.  Something has to act on that object to get it moving.  Something has to act on me…

To put it in plot terms, there needs to be — yet again! — some inciting incident.  In our stories, out protagonists start out at equilibrium.  Whether that stasis is a thing of happiness or misery doesn’t matter, they are at rest until something or someone* acts on them to change that equilibrium into the motion required for both plot and character development. 

*Us writers, we’re the stone-throwing, stasis-breaking bastards that ruin everything.  When you get right down to it, we are entropy incarnate.

I’m right back at Chapter-freaking-One.  I’m right back at “It was a dark and stormy night…” and I don’t like it one bit.

Of course, there had to be an inciting incident to even get me going this far — how many thoughts and urges have I let pass without so much as scratching out a single word in the past months?  Too many to count.  So what was, that thing that drove me to write?  That drove me to reconsider my silence?  That made me acknowledge my own inertia?

The bill.

No, honestly, it was the invoice for my upcoming renewal for this seat at the bar.  Now look, a  blog is cheap to own and run.  I know this.  Hell, you probably know this, too.  A custom web address with a .bar domain?  Yeah, that ain’t so cheap.

So I looked at my notes and drafts to check if it was worth it to keep things up.  That’s when I noticed just how long it had been since I had posted a piece here.

Then, of course, I had to go and look at the dates on my fiction stuff…


Those ghosts…they’re screaming at me right now.

Even with all the screaming; even with all the voices; even with all the need…

I still can’t make up my mind.

{Musical Note — because, dammit, there has to be music!}

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…}

250,000 Words

400 posts, and a quarter-million words.

I started this blog clear back in 2016 with no long-term goal.  The only goal at the time — if you can call it something so grandiose as a goal  — was to “live blog” the process of conceiving and writing a novel.

Now look, I’m pretty sure we all know just how successfully I stuck to that particular plan, but it at least was something I could point to when people asked me why I bothered writing something so pointless as a blog in a world dominated by Facebook and Instagram…

I gave up the pretense of “live blogging” after the first few months sitting at this bar, by the way.  I gave up the “goal”, but I didn’t give up the writing.

You never give up the writing.

It isn’t much, you know, when you boil it down to raw numbers.

Shit, 250,000 words is all of two novels.  Two novels over three-and-a-half years.  That ain’t a lot of production, not when you really get right down to it.

Hell, it kinda makes me feel guilty to have so little to show for the time and effort I’ve put into this seat at the bar.  Guilty, until I think about the fact that every single one of those words has been the purest stream-of-consciousness.  Every single one of those words has been written with no real plan, and certainly no drafting or editing.  Good and bad, every single one of those words has been me.

I’m not an easy guy to get to know.  I wrote a line once, about a protagonist of mine; about how he didn’t lay himself bare to strangers, not anymore than he laid himself bare to himself.  That line — that very concept — is about me just as much as it was about my protagonist.

For most of my life there has been far more that I won’t talk about than what I will.  For most of my life I have held the rest of the world at arm’s length.

I still do.

But not when I write.

The first novels I tried to write were conceived and written to please other people.  Oh, I believed in the plots and characters, but there was no…soul.  No personality.  No reality.  There was no…me.  To this day, when I go back and reread those words, I cringe.  The bones of something good are there, but the execution…the execution sucks donkey balls.

It was not until I let go of trying to please other people and wrote only for myself that my writing finally started to show emotion and passion.  It was not until then that the words — and the characters, and the worlds — finally started to be real.

But what about this blog?  What about these quarter-million words?

How the hell do you think I finally broke down the walls I had built around my own mind?  Around my own soul?

These quarter-million words are how I’ve learned to let go.  They’re how I’ve learned to look inside myself and…well…be fucking honest.  Be honest with you, and with me.

I’ve written here about depression and despair.  I’ve written about fear and failure.  I’ve written about suicide and death, and about life and laughter.  I’ve written about “terrorism” in Yellowstone, and attack-squirrels and drinking shit beer with college kids.  I’ve written about nonsense and emotion and advice.  I’ve written about far horizons and claustrophobia…

When you get right down to it, this entire damned thing has been about me.  And you have no idea just how much I hope that that’s not as narcissistic as it sounds!

Like most writers, words are everything to me.  For me, it’s just plain easier to pull back my personal curtain when I’m writing than ever it will be when I’m talking.  Hell, my own family has had to read this blog to truly find and (hopefully) understand the person they thought they have known for the last X* years.

*This space intentionally left blank.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

No one, until this blog, has known of my unholy passion for Downton Abbey

No one, until this blog, has known a damned thing about my taste in music, or just how it influences my writing (and my life)…

No one, until this blog, has known just what a love-hate relationship I have with nostalgia and the past…

The suicides of friends were never a subject for words…until this blog.  Err…well…that’s not quite right.  It was not until after I wrote Oz’s suicide (the first scene I wrote, mind you, for Somewhere Peaceful) that I could I write about my own experiences with suicide, even in this blog…

God knows, no one who knows me — not even my closest friends — has ever heard me admit to suffering from depression.  Not until this blog.  Oh, some have suspected, but for me to talk/write about it?

Shit, has this whole thing been nothing more than a quarter-million words of therapy?




Okay, I’m done cussing now.  Sorry about that.

Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: writing is how I live.  If you want to boil that thought down as far as it goes: writing is what keeps me sane.  Without the E77972BB-4315-45E7-BABF-9F256990405Awords — the words in this blog as much as the words in my novels…and yes, the words in my flash fiction pieces, too — I would be just another statistic.  Just another drunk who gave up…

In a very real sense, these quarter-million words have saved my life.  I’ve gone through enough depressive episodes over the life of this blog that I can say with no hesitation, the words have saved me.

Hell, I’m fighting depression right now, if you really want to know.  I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to see anyone…I just want to be left alone.  The good news — and every story should end with good news, right? — is that instead of turning to a bottle of scotch to deal with this shit, I’m turning to these words…