What author doesn’t love to hear that?! Especially about their debut novel!
I had a late lunch/early dinner (I’ll call it “lunner”) at a nearby restaurant. It had been a full, yet satisfying day. On many levels, things are starting to improve for me. I won’t go into dramatic detail, but I felt better Friday than I had in months. The stress of dealing with aging parents and now unemployment in the midst of a global pandemic has beaten my mental and physical health down worse than anything I’ve ever experienced.
So I decided to treat myself for a good meal and a couple of mixed drinks. My favorite server, Kendra*, was staffing the bar, and after providing my first beverage, suddenly told me how much she loved my novel, The Silent Fountain. I have known Kendra for a few years and only through the restaurant where she works – long and hard. It seems every time I visit the place, Kendra is there. I had provided her an autographed copy of the book back in June, shortly after my mother died. Friday was the first time I’d been to the restaurant since then.
I didn’t expect Kendra to bring up The Silent Fountain. Her reaction to it was extraordinary. It’s my nature to be suspicious of people most of the time. I don’t know Kendra that well, but I like her. She has a pleasant and personable demeanor. Still, it took me a little while to accept fully how much she seems to like my book. I thought she might be exaggerating just to make me feel good and because I’m somewhat of a regular who tips very well. So I just let her talk.
And I quickly realized the impact the tale had on her. In fact, it had the effect I hope to achieve with my readers – for this and all of my stories. The characters and the locale meshed with the pastoral imagery to create the universe in Kendra’s mind that I envisioned in my own. A few others who have read it so far have had mostly the same response.
It’s intoxicating to hear all of that, but I have to temper my literary ego with sanity. Writers work hard to compose a world – realistic or fantastic – within their stories. We always want to attain that level of likeability as raconteurs; as someone who can dream up a tale – no matter how outrageous – and still be credible. But then isn’t that what all artists want?
I’ve come to accept that I may never become rich and famous with my writing, and that’s genuinely fine with me. I don’t write stories – and I didn’t start this blog – to become acclaimed and unbelievably wealthy. Admittedly, that would be great and ideal, but it simply isn’t realistic. And no one should engage in any kind of artistic pursuit with that goal in mind. It’s foolish.
But if I don’t achieve any kind of notoriety until after I die, then that would be just as good for me. We are still consuming the writings and other artworks of people who passed away long ago. Kendra is just one person, yet her opinion meant so much to me. She expressed what I hoped someone would feel when they read that book. Again, that’s what every artist wants: to be appreciated.
2. A set of guiding principles for a particular science, philosophy, or discipline
An organon is something (such as a textbook) used to help someone acquire knowledge. The “Organon” is a collection of six books by Greek philosopher Aristotle dealing with logic, all combining to create a definitive lecture still referenced today.
Example: During the Senate confirmation hearings, I kept reaching for my spiritual organon; hoping I could make sense of the relentless balderdash.
So far, 2020 has been one of the roughest years in the lives of many people. Not just here in the United States, but across the globe. For me, it’s been extraordinarily tough. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I became leery as my savings dwindled. My freelance writing career hasn’t proven as successful as I’d hoped, so writing gigs have dried up. My mother’s stroke at the end of January sent me into an emotional tailspin. I felt incredibly guilty sending her to a rehabilitation center. But, as her own health failed, I realized she was entering the final stages of her life. She finally passed away June 22.
My mother worked in the insurance industry her entire adult life, retiring in 2003 at the age of 70. She was earning pensions from the last two companies where she worked. One has already informed me there was no final beneficiary payout, and I’m waiting to hear from the other. They have to (snail) mail me some documentation that I have to complete and sign and return to them with a copy of her death certificate. Okay, I’m thinking, this is the 21st century. Did they not get the memo? It’s like much of the Southeastern U.S. with the Civil War. But it’s not financial; it’s an issue I have to resolve from a legal perspective in order to probate the will and get this house transferred into my name.
Still, I remain unemployed, with little financial backup. I’ve had to delay utility payments – something I’ve never done in my entire life. Now my truck is showing its age. Like a dog, 14 is old for a vehicle.
Moreover, I thought briefly I had contracted the dreaded novel coronavirus. Symptoms like fever and a persistently runny nose alarmed me. The lethargy overwhelmed me. I kept thinking (hoping) these were the effects of allergies – a constant plague in my life. Or perhaps I’m simply recovering from the stress of caring for both my parents. Maybe it’s male menopause. (I’ll be 57 in November.) I didn’t know. But a friend recently suggested another problem: a lack of exercise (which I’d already admitted) and/or an iron deficiency (which I’d already suspected.) Thus, I purchased some iron supplements and have become determined to reinvigorate my various exercise regimens. I’ve been out walking along an exercise trail behind my home these past couple of weeks. During one of those I actually made an attempt to jog – and promptly stopped. You just can’t go months without running and then expect to break into an Olympic-style sprint! I’m watching middle age gently fade from my soul in real time.
That same friend, however, said something to me last week that offended me more than anything else he – or most anyone else – has ever said. We’ve always had a sometimes-contentious, yet brutally honest friendship. But he coyly criticized me for spending so much time on my writing – and this blog; that I’m wasting that time and energy on my creative pursuits instead of trying to find a full-time job.
His comments stunned me. I promptly reminded him of my previous years of employment; where I slaved away over hot computer keyboards during weekdays, before turning to my creative writing endeavors in the evenings and on weekends. I’ve always felt a greater sense of responsibility to myself and my community than to suffer for my art and live off the grid and on the edge.
I write because I enjoy it. I feel I’m good at it. It’s the one thing about myself in which I’m 100% confident. Writing is mostly all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. It’s therapeutic. It’s kept me from hurting myself and others. I understood long ago that my chances at becoming a famous author were slim. But I don’t write stories in the hopes of becoming wealthy and renowned. I fully realize the odds of that are incredibly rare. I’m not naïve – or irresponsible.
I continue to search for full-time, even contract or part-time, work. And I continue to write – on this blog and my stories. I’m not writing now just to piss off my friend, which would suck up too much of my energy.
Once more, I write because I love it. It’s who I am and who I always will be.
There are some parts of our souls upon which we can never give up.
“Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.”
As of 1:15 a.m. Central Standard Time U.S. this past Tuesday,
November 5, the Chief turned 56. It’s
not necessarily as big a deal as, say, turning 55. And I remember years ago thinking that, once
somebody reaches the half century mark on life’s odometer, ensuing birthdays don’t
really matter. But I’ve learned every
birthday matters. It’s another year
forward and another chance to improve oneself.
I feel I’m doing that with my writing, as well as more practical moves,
such as joining a new gym.
This year’s birthday was rougher than expected. I got sick – again. Allergies that usually plague me with the
change of seasons (the summer to autumn transition is generally the worst) hit
me harder this time around; thus prompting a visit to my doctor for a trio of
anti-microbial, germ-phobic medications.
My eyes showed the wrath of the usual culprits: ragweed and mountain
cedar. I confirmed my sensitivity to
them some 15 years ago with an appointment to an allergy specialist. Visits to the refrigerator, kitchen cabinets and
local stores had long proven ineffective.
Ragweed and mountain cedar ranked at the top of my allergy reaction
list, along with other suspected villains – oak and cat dander. I’m also allergic to stupid people, but aside
from working outside the home and driving, there’s no definite test for that.
But my eyes looked as if I’d been ambushed by a swarm of killer bees or came out on the wrong end of a boxing match. Still, the drug cocktail – which did include the ubiquitous screwdriver – eased my angst. And then, the little microbial fuckers resurfaced, like dental appointments and property taxes. They assaulted me with their ecological mainstays: watery eyes, congestion, coughing and the tendency not to use Spellcheck. Misery! Misery, I tell you, dear readers! Joining that gym last month was a much-needed lifestyle change. Since the late 1980s, I’ve pretty much been a gym rat. I even wrote about it six years ago. However, when I signed up to this new place, it had been roughly eleven months since I’d been to a gym to lift weights. Note to the wise and health-conscious: do NOT take nearly a year off from lifting weights and expect to be back to normal in a single session. But, at that last gym a year ago around this time, one of the senior staff apparently had an issue with my attire. I wore an old sweat jacket – one I only wear to the gym. Admittedly, I’ve had it since high school. Some 35+ years ago. Okay, it’s a man thing! You wouldn’t understand, unless you bear that rare Y chromosome! The zipper is twisted, and it’s shrunk. I often keep it unzipped during workouts. No one had ever had a problem with that. Until November 2018.
The man – either a lost Viking or an intense Grateful
Dead fan – literally got up in my face and ordered me to “zip it up.” He then walked away. And so did I.
I re-racked a curl bar and left; canceling the membership once I got
This new gym has no such qualms about ratty, decades-old
sweat jackets. It doesn’t cater to GQ
cover models or suburban soccer moms – no offense to suburban soccer moms! It’s an old-school gym – where men can go shirtless,
women can wear sports bras, and dogs run around the front office. Literally, the owners have 2 massive and very
friendly canines practically greeting people when they enter. As a certified Wolfman and canid aficionado, I
love the idea of dogs almost anywhere!
I was determined to visit the gym on my birthday, as I’ve
done with just about every birthday for as long as I can remember. I even did so last year – before the Sweat
Jacket Incident. But I just couldn’t make
it this past Tuesday. Again, those allergies. Or maybe the flu. Or I’m being punished for not completing my
second novel by now, as promised. Perhaps
internalizing all those angry sentiments from work and driving had finally caught
up to me. But then again, I never was
too keen on the idea of being a serial killer.
That doesn’t look good on your Linked In profile.
But other distractions arose, particularly with this
aging house. Bathroom and kitchen sinks,
roofs, foundations and various and sundry attributes boast large repair price
tags. I relish the thought of living in
the house where I grew up. I don’t have
to fight for parking space, deal with noisy upstairs neighbors and getting rent
paid on time. I have the joy of dealing
with aging bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs and foundations. Aaah – suburban life!
So this birthday wasn’t the best. But I made it to another year! I’m always thankful for that. The alternative is not pleasant.
The other day a friend posted a drawing on Facebook of
someone hugging what looked like Jesus Christ with the verbiage: “The best part
of going to Heaven.” I thought, if there
is such a place, the first person I’d want to see is my father, who passed away
3 years ago and who I think of and pray to every day and night. Nearly 5 months later, when my dog died, I fell
into a mortal depression. When I marked
my 53rd birthday that year, I honestly felt I wasn’t going to make
it much longer. I was ready to give
up. I still truly believe my father
returned to get my dog; in part, because he absolutely loved that pint-sized,
four-legged monstrosity, but also because he simply wanted the dog to be with
him. I could understand my 83-year-old
father’s demise; he had been sick off and on for years with gastrointestinal problems. His body could no longer take the
punishment. But then, he came back to take
the dog?! Oh well…such mysteries are not
for this world to understand.
Yet, as morose as I felt at the end of that year, I realized
I had so much I wanted to do. I still hadn’t
published my first novel and I have other stories I want to write. I realized I couldn’t give up. It certainly wouldn’t be fair to the people
who care about me, but it wouldn’t even be fair to me. I’ll die, and the sun will still rise in the
east the next morning. Some people I’ve known
actually think it won’t, if they die!
So, here I am at the ripe slightly-passed-middle-age of
56! I’m still writing and still fighting! Now, I just need to find a new way to assassinate
these allergens and get back into the gym.
I’m excited to announce that a global literary and free speech organization, PEN International, has established a new chapter in Dallas, Texas. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International has a very simple mission: preserve literature in all its forms and ensure everyone can engage in free speech and freedom of expression. These are core elements in any truly democratic society, but they are constantly being challenged and even threatened by self-appointed guardians of writing, journalism and speech; people who seem to think they have the right and the power to determine what the rest of us can say and read. It’s a never-ending battle and, sadly, it never will be won. Those of us who advocate for a free press and free speech will always have to confront the oligarchical bullies who feel they – and only they – are blessed with inalienable rights to speech and literature.
Pen International felt the need to
establish the Dallas / Fort Worth chapter in the wake of the fraudulent 2016
U.S. presidential election, which has given us an arrogant, foul-mouthed,
womanizing, reality TV star in the White House.
“At a time of exceptional threats to
free expression and open discourse, our chapters will bring years of
mobilization, activism and organizing among writing communities across the
country to the next level,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.
The Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, as well
as others around the U.S. will be vehicles for “pushing back against the
breakdown of civil discourse, the marginalization of vital voices, and
encroachments on press freedom.”
This shouldn’t be a surprised to anyone
familiar with U.S. politics. I’ve noticed
over the years that, any time a conservative Republican lands in the White
House, free speech and freedom of the press come under attack. They have no problems loosening gun laws and
sending our military to fight stupid wars (as if there’s such a thing as a “smart”
war). But, when it comes to education,
health care and even voting, conservatives suddenly feel the need to debate the
Regardless of how hard we have to fight
to ensure the rights to free speech and freedom of the press, we will always
take up the torch of liberty and justice.
Everyone has a story and everyone needs to
“The writing is — I’m free from pain. It’s where nobody tells me what to do; it’s where my imagination is fecund and I am really at my best. Nothing matters more in the world or in my body or anywhere when I’m writing.”
“I love magazines and film critics, so I eat it up. I’m not one of those people who says, ‘I never read anything.’ I generally read all of it.”
“I’m convinced that it’s energy and
humor. The two of them combined equal
“Surely the whole point of writing your
own life story is to be as honest as you possibly can, revealing everything
about yourself that is most private and probably most interesting for that very
“Have some sort of private place to work
in. Put up a sign to keep from being
interrupted. Mine says: ‘Please, do not
knock, do not say hello or goodbye, do not ask what’s for dinner, do not
disturb me unless the fire or policemen have to be called.’”
“Thousands of people plan to be writers,
but they never get around to it. The
only way to find out if you can write is to set aside a certain period every
day and try.”
“Some questions are not meant to be
asked as long as the answers are right.”
“The rich are different only because
people treat them as if they were.”