Crap, Diapers Are EXPENSIVE!

Okay, so I’ve started to slack on the posts a bit (again).

*Sigh*

I do have a good excuse this time, however.  I’ve been spending as much of my time as I can planning and preparing for a new venture that I’ve hinted at in previous posts.  Now, before I describe that venture, let me offer a bit background info…

Those of you who have read this blog for a bit now are aware that I simply cannot write at home.  For those who are new(ish) here, let me say this by way of explanation: When I put myself in a quiet, solo environment, I can do a lot of things.  Some of those things are even mentionable in polite company.    They do not, however, include fiction writing.  Whenever I try to write at home, that quiet, private space is very much reflected in the mood and tone of what I produce.  When I write at home, I end up with material that is introspective, reflective, and generally far more influenced by my personal black dog than is good for me (or anyone else).

I know, I know…a lot of folks find it surprising that a writer can’t write when it is quiet and private.  I mean, just how counter-intuitive can you get?  Okay, so maybe that environment is conducive to writing, but that would be for a completely different person, and different kind of writer, than me.  For me…

For me, I need life and activity.  When you get right down to it, I need people around me — I need to feel in contact with the real world — if I want my characters and scenes to be anything close to what I originally envisioned when I planned them.

Now, like most writers, I do a fair bit of work in coffee shops.  That work, however, is usually the planning and editing of my pieces; the actual writing part of writing, I do in taprooms.  That’s it, that’s my personal rule.  Put me in the corner, surrounded by my fellow drinkers, with a beer at my elbow and my earbuds blaring directly into my skull, and I’m the happiest writer in the world*.  I am also, more importantly, at my most creative and productive.

*Err…even if I have tears in my eyes from what I’m writing, I’m happy…I’m just happy on the inside!

Err…writing, in a taproom?  Isn’t that loud and obnoxious?  Isn’t that kinda, well, distracting?

Yes.  Yes it is.  And that’s the point.

Hey, remember that dissonance thing I’ve talked a couple of times?  The heart of my stories — just like the heart of who I am as a person and a writer — lies completely inside that dissonance.  Intellectual dissonance; emotional dissonance; cognitive dissonance, it’s all there, and it’s all important.  Hell, there’s even quite a bit of social freaking dissonance; I mean, c’mon, how else do you find a semi-recluse misanthrope who has to be around people to be creative and productive?!

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a good taproom — like a good pub — is one of my absolute favorite places in the entire world.

Well, that love of taprooms went and got drunk.  It got drunk, then it got all funky and passionate with my compulsion to do the most random and unexpected things.  A few months later, the inevitable happened…

It wasn’t the easiest birth in the world, but that baby is finally in my arms, shitting and puking all over the place.  I am, in other words, the proud proprietor of an infant taproom of my very own.

Oh, it ain’t ready for the world, not yet, so don’t get yourself all geeked up.  In a year or so, however, when it is solidly into toddlerdom — and has been toilet-trained — then I’ll officially introduce it to y’all.  Just watch out for your shoes; those baby taprooms can be pretty messy, you know!

For now, if you’re anywhere near Michigan’s thumb coast, maybe I’ll let you play with the little tyke a bit…

Forgive the crappy picture — its my cellphone, and I was in a hurry!

{Musical Note — I just like the song…and it kinda fits the mood}

Out and About

Wait…it’s been HOW long since I did a blog post?!

See, this is what you get when you destroy your routine.

In my “real” life — in my life exploring the backwoods, and traveling the world — I crave adventure and unpredictability. I intentionally seek out the unexpected.  Real life without those things, to be honest, is but the palest, most miserable shadow of existence I can imagine.  But in my writing?

I don’t know about the other writers out there, but I am very much a creature of habit when it comes to writing and creating.  Maybe it’s because I am, when you get down to work and professionalism, pretty damned task-oriented.  Give me a complex issue to solve, and I will break everything down to the constituent parts to get it done.  Back when I thought wearing a shirt & tie every day was the route to happiness, that quality made me a good project manager.*  It has translated, now, into the ability to break down how to write a story into the component tasks that can be achieved in a single writing session.

*This was not a natural skill for me, by the way.  I had to learn it the hard way.  To those younger writers/folks out there who think you only ever have the skills you are born with, and that success only comes from success, I will say this: I learned to be task-oriented from failure.  I failed miserably in life- and career-terms a couple of times before I figured this shit out…

It is those writing sessions, however, that are the problem.

My “real” life might consist of this (and, yes, this is an actual example from my travels): wake up in the hotel, get lost walking through the city trying to find some random hole-in-the-wall bakery for breakfast, then flip a coin to determine which train to take next…

When I write, I can’t do that.  To be fully productive, I have to have a routine.  I have to get up and go to a coffee place for breakfast, and to write.  After lunch, I have to (a) go to a taproom or (b) sit in a nice spot outside, and write.  I can of course do those things at home, but it doesn’t work as well.

I’ve said before that writing at home is not a route to success for me.  When I am out in the world, I am surrounded by life and by others (as strange as that sounds, coming from someone as quiet and introspective as me), and that makes my writing more open and energetic.  It makes the writing easier, too.  I don’t have to force the words when I am out and about amidst all that life, they tend to come on their own.

When I am sitting at home, however, my writing veers towards the introspective and internal.  That “at home” writing is when I withdraw inside myself…and when the black dog comes most into my thoughts and words.  Working at home leads to words on the page that are not comfortable to read, and still less so to write.

Erm…

Okay, so this post took a wrong turn somewhere around Albuquerque.*  

*To my international (and younger!) readers: if that line makes no sense, that’s probably a good thing.  It refers back to a frequent line from that literary genius, Bugs Bunny…

I was actually planning on doing this as a list-post, with a few random points that hit me as I read the news this morning.  I am, however, already well over 500 words into this piece, so I think I’ll have to put that list together for a post later this week.  Nope, no list today! Instead, you get the random ramblings of a guy barely into his second cup of coffee…

Oh, and in addition to the list, I have an image I want to do for a flashfiction piece this week, too.  I am trying not to think about that piece, actually.  At least, not yet. Not until I am ready to give it that hour of undivided attention and focus it needs.  As for the image?  Walking down a dark road, and ahead snowflakes falling gently in the light of a streetlamp.

Shit!  Now I’m thinking about it…

Flashfiction: “Movin’ On Up”

Wake up and go to work. Come home for some TV and sleep. Check your accounts to make sure the paychecks go in, and the bills go out, at the right times…

Lather, rinse, repeat…

Hold on a second, something just hit me.

Holy shit, in the time it took me to type that last sentence, this post just changed from a random piece I wasn’t sure was even gonna work into a flashfiction piece (that I’m still not sure is gonna work, just like every flashfiction piece I write)!

I don’t know how it is for others who write, but, well, welcome to my brain and how the idea and creative process works…

At any rate, let’s give this a shot, shall we?  And to illustrate the “one hour rule” I have for my flashfiction pieces, I’m taking the idea that just hit me and starting to envision and write at 9:05 AM.  I’ll (hopefully) be hitting “Publish” no later than 10:05 AM.

{Note — it is now 9:55, and I am about to hit that “Publish” button…}

Movin’ On Up

He went to work every day.  Never late, never absent.  Hard work and dedication had paid off for him.  After four years on the second floor, in a tiny beige cubicle, the call had come.  He was on the way up, they told him.

Up he went, then.  All the way up…to the third floor, where the cubicles were grey.  The walls stood all the way to his shoulders, up there.  Extra space and privacy?  What more could he want?

His pay was up, too.  Oh, the taxes took a bigger bite, but his daily checks of the bank app on his phone were still satisfying.

Four more years, then.  Four years of overtime and vacations to Columbus.  Four years of satisfied little sighs when he checked his phone.  They had even come to know his name, his bosses.  Well, six of them knew his name, anyway, and that wasn’t too bad.

Finally, an extravagance.  Those satisfied little sighs when he checked his phone had grown larger and larger over the years.  They had grown until he felt comfortable enough to step up at home, too.  No more Columbus for him.  No sir, he was on the way up!

He shuffled back into the office after his week-long vacation.  Sunburnt, hungover and exhausted, the week in Sarasota had been everything he’d dreamed.  As tired as he was, he felt ready to face the next year with a renewed vigor.

He had his eye on that corner cubicle down the aisle from his.  It had a view, that cubicle.  A glance out the small window and he’d be able watch those going to and fro on the elevators.  He’d even be able to see the office doors.

They were the Promised Land, those offices.  The dream he never dare mention.  Life with walls and a door!  The ultimate goal.  He would reach that office.  He had confidence; hard work was always rewarded, wasn’t it?

And then, after the office?  All those satisfying little numbers on his phone would grow and grow until he that magic day when the hard work was no longer necessary.  Then he would be happy.  Then the trips to Columbus and Sarasota would become trips to Paris and Tokyo.  Then the drudgery would give way to adventure.  Then life would truly begin.

The years were a blur in his mind.  His wife and kids were a blur, too.  The hard work continued, and he continued on the way up.  Up to that corner cubicle he coveted.  Up, even, to that office.  So what if half of it was taken up with boxes of paper they had nowhere else to store?  It still had walls and a door.  It still was his own space at work.

The demands on his time were up, too, to go with the bigger numbers on his phone.  He hadn’t made the last few trips to Sarasota, however.  He couldn’t go, he’d told his wife, not if he he wanted those numbers to really climb.  

He’d make it up to her, he promised.  When those numbers were up enough, they would go to all of the places they never talked about.  When he was up enough, they would really live.

She had cried a bit, then.  Oh, she had tried to hide it, but he could feel her tears.  He would make it up to her, of course.  In the end, he would make it up.

The kids were gone by the time he reached the fifth floor.  His wife by the sixth.  But the little numbers, they were impressive.  Dreams became plans, then.  Plans for month-long trips to Europe and Asia and Africa.  Plans to see the world…to see all of the world.  This what he had worked for.  This was the way up.

The seventh floor and a new office.  Oh, not a corner office, but still one with windows and a secretary shared only with six others.  They all knew his name now, of course.  They all proved that by speaking at the funeral.

“He was too young…” they all said.  “He’d climbed so far,” they all said, “only to die at the top.”

He never did make those trips.

Musical Note — it’s an older song, and most definitely not one of the greats of musical history, but it still kinda fits…

Unquiet Words

Do you ever get cocky?

Ever know that something won’t work, but still think you can overcome the universe and make it work for you?

That’s pretty much me right now.

Look, I’ve talked before about how I need life and activity around me to write.  I’ve talked about the sense of release, the sense of freedom, that comes with writing in coffee shops and taprooms.  To write — I mean really write — I have to be out.  And that’s great, as far as it goes.  But sometimes…

But sometimes you’re at home, and the urge hits you.  Sometimes you’re somewhere quiet and peaceful and alone, and the ideas start to come.  That’s when my iron-clad rule #1* can become a problem.

*You always write it, right freaking then.

Now, for most writers a place of quiet, peaceful serenity is probably the best place in the world for the creative process.  Unfortunately, I’m not most writers.  Hell, we established that when I described the fact that I couldn’t write a story in linear order if you held a gun to my head.  I can’t write the scenes in the order they appear, and I can’t write when it’s peaceful and quiet.AF488EBD-3EAC-4D16-942B-85A0EEA3E32F

Yeah, yeah, I know…I’m weird.  You’re just now figuring that out?

So, here I am, sitting at home and trying to put my thoughts and ideas into words.  In the peace and quiet.  And it just ain’t working.

Oh, I can get words onto the page, but they…uhh…they kinda suck.  Do you have any idea at all just how frustrating that is, by the way?  How frustrating to know, as soon as you type them, that the words you’re putting down are a waste of time and effort?  That you’re just going to delete them later?1A69DA5C-BF5D-4E3D-8042-98F1A0E64B9A

Honestly, I feel like I’m in detention, being to forced to write lines over and over.

Screw it, I’m not working today.  I think I’ll just head over to the bar for a beer and a thousand words…

Oh, the crosses I bear to be a writer.  But, hey, I’m doing it so you don’t have to.  Yeah, that’s it!

See, I’m not just a writer, I’m a giver…