Listening to the Rain

87FF5970-0CF7-4BF5-84CE-E6E59E143C91I sat there, the other day, listening to the rain. Not doing anything…not writing, not planning, not thinking about anything at all…just listening to the rain.

It’s one of my favorite sounds, the rain. A bit of thunder, and the constant patter of drops on the roof? There’s a hypnotic quality to that, a quality that encourages a certain detachment, and a certain blanking of all the things that have such a tendency — and so much power — to overwhelm our minds and our thoughts.

I was asked once, by my sister, if I could sit and meditate. If I could sit in silence and hear…nothing. No worries, no thoughts, no emotions…just sit in silence, and in peace.

Yes, I can.

I have to, it helps keep me sane.

And, no, I’m not going to dive into everything that goes into that statement. Mostly because, as honest as I usually am on this blog, the majority of my thoughts and my troubles are mine alone.  Sorry if that sounds harsh, but the need for privacy is an important part of my make-up.

There are, however, examples I can give…examples that matter. They matter to me as a writer, and (hopefully) to you folks as insight into how someone else deals with everything that goes with that life.

I just finished editing a story. It was far too long of a process — longer than it should have been, to be honest, because of my foray into other projects…and because of my six months living in the wilderness.

It is a story intensely personal to me. It is a story I believe in, and one I felt deeply as I wrote it. It also is a story I let languish in the process because, well, it was hard to go back to. But I had to finish it. I had to finish it for commercial reasons (yes, I DO like to get paid for this stuff, you know!), but more importantly I had to finish it for personal reasons.

And I did.

I don’t know about you, but when I write, I feel. I feel my characters, I feel my story, and I feel what I want my readers to feel. Probably more intensely than I should, all things considered. To abuse an old writing rule: I write what I know. More than that, however, I write what I feel…and that can be difficult.  Very difficult, sometimes.

So, I finished this particular journey of writing and editing and revising…

And I was drained. Completely.

Now, I’m an introvert at the best of times, but when I get done with an intense writing or creative session, you can multiply that by a thousand. It takes me a while to get my head back above water. I’m generally a couple of hundred feet down when I’m into my characters and my stories, and — as anyone who scuba dives will tell you — it takes time to come back up.

So I sat there, listening to the rain. The rumble of thunder, the fall of the drops…nothing in my mind except silence and peace. I needed that silence to come up from the depths. I needed that silence to regain a semblance of balance.

I still need that silence…everyday, in fact, is a quest in some way for that silence.

There is a reason why my next story is titled The Silence That Never Comes

Bloggin’ About Not-Bloggin’

C7BEDFC4-2A44-4AB5-B615-27A84C9D92C8Okay, so I cheated on Monday. I mean really, really cheated.  I didn’t just glance at my neighbor’s paper to copy some answers, I did the full-on steal-the-test, copy-every-answer kind of cheat.

It pretty much sucked. I felt guilty as hell.

I know, I’m most certainly not the first blogger to just recycle an old post, but I didn’t even do a good job of it.

*sigh*

Often, I will keep a few of these posts queued up and waiting so I don’t have to scramble to write one at the last minute (like I am now). That means, of course, that I also tend to use that “backlog” of posts as an excuse to, err, get stinking lazy. It’s not all that hard to convince myself that, since I have a bunch of posts ready, I don’t need to work on the blog today.

You know, it’s kind of making me flash back to college, flash back to a professor trying to explain to a bunch of freshmen that scrambling to recover from NOT doing the work is just going to take longer than actually DOING the work. I spent more time thinking about the post I needed/wanted to write today — the post about NOT writing a post on Monday — than I would have if I just written a 300-word humor piece on beer-can art on Monday.

The good news — not excuse, or even reason, just good news — is that I am, finally, back to doing fairly serious fiction writing & work. That doesn’t really help, however…at least not to me. It may sound weird, but this blog is an outlet, and a type of writing, I don’t have in fiction writing. It’s an outlet, I should add, that I have found very valuable over the two years I’ve been writing Seat at the Bar.

I started this place as a way to work on short-form writing, as a way to try to condense my normal wordiness into something (hopefully) more efficient and effective. It was also a venue to share aspects of my writing, both in terms of the process and the real-world experiences.

The blog became more than that, however. It became a place to share bits and pieces of myself, bits and pieces I never did — never could — share anywhere other than through the written word. I told you folks things I never told even my family: from my battles with depression to my shameful love of Downton Abbey to the suicides and tragedies that have defined my world. There has been as much personal honesty here as random squirreling, ranting and drunk-bloggin’.

Writing is a hell of journey. If you get it right — if you have the talent and the drive and, yes, the luck — it can be a journey both wonderful and rewarding. It also can be the most frustrating, difficult, disappointing and exasperating journey imaginable. To share that journey with you — even if such sharing does mean the occasional foray away from writing and into music or beer or the wonders of Young Frankenstein — is something I have, much to my surprise, come to look forward to three times a week…look forward to far too much to cheat myself, to cheat this blog, and to cheat you.

The Writes of Spring*

IMG_0163*Okay — so I suck at puns.  I know this already…

It’s spring, and the question is: does this time of year affect writing? Now, before I answer that, I have to solemnly promise and swear to you that I hadn’t yet read this month’s IWSG question when I settled myself down to write in this particular spot:IMG_1065

As for the question itself…well, this time of year certainly gets me out more, I will say that. Hell, as I write this, I’m at 8,000 feet, it’s sunny and 60+ degrees, and I’m sitting on the shore of a small lake. Between the sun and the wind and the water, it’s a pretty damned nice spot. But am I writing more?

Err…well…about that…

Look at it like this: I’m writing this post instead of working on a story. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but…hey, at least there’re words on my screen!

Okay, so I still haven’t answered the (not-so-difficult) question…

Yes, this season affects me. And, yes, it does help me to write more. Anyone who has read my previous IWSG posts knows I write pretty much anywhere and everywhere except at 147AB40A-880A-4D00-94FE-42D4B56A5675home. Restaurants, libraries, coffee shops, taprooms, national parks…take your pick, I’ve written there. Hell, I once wrote a story sitting in the middle of Prague’s Stare Mesto. This time of year doesn’t make writing in those places better, but it does make it more fun.

To be honest, when I write at home, whether at the kitchen table or the desk, I feel confined and limited. I’m stifled, both in environment and creativity. I would rather, in almost every case imaginable, be at least somewhat out-of-doors when I write. I don’t care if there is howling wind and blowing snow, I’m the guy looking to sit outside, or — at the very least — to open windows and doors so I can pretend I’m outside.

And, before you ask, I have absolutely ZERO idea as to why I find the quiet calm of home so incredibly distracting, let alone why the noisy chaos of a brewery taproom is relaxing and creative.

Look, I get it: I’m weird. I knew that already, thank you very much. I am a writer, after all — weird is pretty much part of the job description. But, well, who’d‘veIMG_0152 thought I was this weird? The taproom regulars may have grown used to me, but to them I’ll always be that strange guy typing away in the corner…

Now, as much as I enjoy spring, there is one problem to this time of year…and to writing in a setting like this: holy crap, am I scattered and unable to concentrate! I now have THREE blog posts half-written (including this one), AND the beginnings of an opening for a new story…

Maybe it’s time to quit while I’m ahead…and, well, the fish ARE in fact biting right now…

Just Words On A Page

I had another post written for today, a post that was a perfect example of how I write…a very, very negative example.

There really is a reason why I write these posts in one sitting. Just as there really is a reason why I don’t bother to plan them out, and why I let them grow & evolve as “organic” things.

That “perfect post” I have still-sitting in my Drafts folder is — not to put too fine a point on it — crap.

I didn’t have anything I particularly wanted to write about when I sat down that day, so I pushed and pulled and tortured my brain to come up with something. And, well, come up with something I did.

Unfortunately, what I came up with was something for which I had no passion, and in which I consequently had no real confidence or belief. I certainly had no emotional investment. As I’ve mentioned before: if I (or any of us!) put out something that isn’t interesting to write, why the hell would anyone ever want to read it?

Which brings me back to how I write. Now, look, I know there are other, less internal, dynamics and ways of operating in the writing world, but they are as alien and strange and incomprehensible to me as my friend’s job designing computer chips…

The simple fact of the matter is that I have to give a damn about what I write. There has to be a level of feeling and investment in order for me to believe in it…and for me to trust myself, and (more importantly) to trust the words. Otherwise, why the hell would I, or anyone else, give a damn?

In the end, the reality for me is that writing is passion. Writing is emotion and connection and honesty. As writers, we want and need to elicit those things from our readers.  We want and need our readers to connect with our story, to feel the emotions and struggles of our characters. Well, if we want them to invest themselves in the story, we better damned well invest ourselves in what we imagine and create.

And, yes, if you’re wondering, I did just happen to finish a book that failed to do any of the above. Reading the thing was a serious chore…a chore and a waste of time that I regret. By the time I was a third of the way through that story, it had become impossible to ignore the fact that the author just didn’t give two shits about his characters, and cared only the littlest bit more about the story itself.

The saddest part of that, for me, is that the writer in question happens to be a “name” who can and will sell books solely on the basis of reputation and previous works. I hate the very concept — and sad reality — of that. I hate the fact that, for some writers, a story doesn’t have to matter, it just has to exist…hate the fact that a story can be just words on a page.

Just words on a page.

Shit…why would you ever bother?