Tuesday, February 27, 2018



I'll be the first to admit this entire writing thing can be devastatingly lonely. However, if writing is as much a part of your makeup as eating, sleeping, copulation, and neurosis - There's only a few remedies open. The first, of course, is to become stunningly famous and spend the rest of your life on a never ending book tour (Want to bet how long it takes for adoring fans to start becoming life sucking drains on your time and creativity?) I get it, no fans = no income. The converse is also true. Fans equal demanding crowds who never want to see you evolve or change.

So, what else is there? Alcohol and drugs? Not bad, if you can find the balance between inebriation and creativity. Not to mention all the brilliant young careers, and lives, ended in a stupor. Of course, you could turn out to be the next Charles Bukowski and make eighty proof self-abuse into a genre. But the odds aren't with you, take it from a non-practicing alcoholic. (Then again, I was never really a practicing one. No practice necessary. I had it down coming out of the gate.)

You could throw in the towel. If you're like me you stand in front of the bathroom mirror first thing in the morning wondering, "What's the fucking sense?" An hour later, and a couple of cups of coffee, I'm in front of this damned keyboard - Write, revise, submit, rewrite, revise, submit. It's what you do. PERIOD!

There's another route. The 'Writers Group'. As they used to say, "Here there be monsters". Not all groups are the same, just as all writers aren't. With the Internet there sprang up any number of groups. I don't know about you, but the whole faceless entity judging my work from afar, robbing me of the opportunity to choke the life out of some bastard I'd reached an impasse with just doesn't play.

There are, of course, long running local writers groups. The ones that are dominated by either memoir writers or those devoted to illustrated children's books. The first generally turns out to be people committed to leaving a written record of their existence to their great grand kids. The second, well - I'll leave that one alone.

Lately I've run aground on the shores of 'Meet Up'. Again, I urge caution. Being the only entity in the room sporting gonads I immediately wondered after my sanity. When the main pursuit of the other faction turned out to be fantasy novels they've been working on far too long I definitely got the feeling I'd slid a bit over the edge of the map. Not that you can't get something out of any critique done with sincerity and candor, but sometimes gender warfare is camouflaged beneath the most pleasant of approaches.

I'm nostalgic for an earlier time. One when writers got together with one another through a shared mutual appreciation and knowledge of each others work. When we pushed one another for originality of subject, plot, and language. Before the entire world thought it was going to conquer the literati fortress with self-publication. I'd ask for honesty in that also, but I'd rather not be implicated in some inadequate sot's suicide.

What's my point? If you must have companionship, exert the same discretion you would choosing a puppy. Preferably pick one with some training and a bit of pedigree. Not a thoroughbred, but one that won't piss in your shoe, eat your lunch, and keep you up all night with its whining. Find that one you can spend a lazy day walking down the local rail line and splitting a beer with. (Yes, I have unabashedly contributed to the substance abuse of a canine.) Find the kind of companion who will help you dig an escape route under whatever fence you find yourself stuck behind. The one who knows where the free eats are and the occasional bitch in heat.

If you really feel out of place in a group, duff it and move on. Better morose and lonesome in front of a typewriter than listening to inane drivel you have utterly no interest in. Above all remember, if you write for any reason other than you simply have to write, you're a god-damned liar. Any really good endeavor should cause you great discomfort south of your navel before it lifts you to the stars.

Then, get up tomorrow morning, look in the mirror, and ask yourself, "What's the fucking sense?"

That out of the way, GET TO WORK!  

Sunday, February 11, 2018


Here it is, late Sunday afternoon in mid-February and it dawns on me that so much of what I do to rest and recreate also is consumed by my creative process. Like the three different books I finished today. Well, I have to admit, one was a re-visitation. That was Miyamoto Mushashi's, "BOOK OF FIVE RINGS". The others were Dan Varley's "JAPANESE CULTURE, 4th Ed" and Leonard Koren's, "WABI-SABI for ARTISTS, DESIGNERS, POETS, & PHILOSOPHERS". The first of the three is research for the next long piece of fiction I intend to pursue. The second was for a refresher in history and to deepen my sense of a people and nation. The third was to tickle my aesthetic sense and artistic conceptions.

In the in-between time I have been writing and rewriting short fiction while researching markets. I've re-opened the novel I have in the works for another revision and am exploring possible agents. Fresh poetry has been put to ink and I've begun to conceptualize a new direction in my work as a painter which I'm hoping to open time for soon as I can get queries out the door for the novel.

Meanwhile - C'mon? You had to have seen that coming - I've made contact with a couple of local Writers Groups. Nothing beats putting something down in front of a fresh set of eyes that have the courage to speak honestly about what they see. Unfortunately, most of the groups I've encountered locally have been of the mind that you can't judge someone else's quality of work or artistic intent. Hogwash. That's a re-issuing of the same tired old crap I've heard for years from the timid or inept. Really? The Greats were all part of communities that spoke their minds openly to one another! Sometimes it led to hurt feelings - Or duels - But what's wrong with a little honest emotion?

What's this all about, just where am I going? I hope beyond both our horizons. Do you have the courage to admit that, without stimulus and input from outside your own thick dome, you will never really excel? Whether you are a musician, writer, painter, potter - What ever - If all you ever really delve into is your ego you're not getting out of the Kiddie Pool. I keep harping on this because I see so much of it. Artists who are afraid to venture out beyond the surf line where the really big 'Bite You's' swim. Those who will not take the plunge into an unknown because it is just that, UNKNOWN!

Nothing of significance would ever have or ever be accomplished without risk. No one in this world gets remembered for being boringly mundane. There are any number of examples of under-achievement in the self-published drivel being offered at a to remain unnamed mega-online outlet.

Go for a road trip, take in a concert outside of your usual comfortable listening habit, visit a church, tabernacle, or temple attended by a faith you have no reference to. Go to a land where you have no history or language. Learn to cook. Bake bread. Sew. Sail by wind power alone. Navigate without a GPS. Fly a plane or sky dive from one. Even if you never produce anything artistic - You will have led a life beyond the imaginations of the VAST majority of people crawling across the surface of this planet. When you finally come to the end of days you will know you have lived! But, just maybe, it will start a fire under that creative boiler that I believe exists inside every soul and you will be amazed at what's inside you!

Thursday, February 1, 2018



Everyone wants to be part of a group. If for no other reason so you can behave like a Musk Ox when the wolves of reality start circling. You know you're familiar with the behavior. Trying to sink into the center of the herd so that when the predators make their move it's the ones on the fringe they take down.

That works for herd animals. Not so much for creative humans. Face it, we all go through it. I'm a poet so I hang around with poets. I'm a painter so I associate with painters. I play a kazoo so...You get the image, right?

It's not that being part of a community is a bad thing, unless that community is so afraid of criticism it avoids it like the dentist. Reacting with that, "Yes. I know the dentist is a necessity and I should occasionally submit to having him prod and poke me. But it huuurrrrtttssss!!!!" Of course the alternative is slow rot and decay. Which is the fate of a lot of people in the arts who barricade their egos inside a cuddly little group of ass-patters. People who tell them what wonderful examples of the aesthetic ideal they are and no one has the right to judge them. They all attend the same soirees. They all patronize the same venues and outlets. They all bore each other to tears with their patent, suffocating emptiness.

Truth is, if you're not being challenged by those around you - If you're not being pushed and prodded - Your chances of making any real headway starts to resemble an un-cared for water craft wallowing and sinking. If the people around you are so insecure in their own talent and dreams as to be deathly afraid of  rejection, they will never push you to be better than they see all the members of their clique or, God forbid, themselves! They may even take every opportunity to make sure you never rise on your own two feet to walk like Homo  Sapiens.

When you're seeking out the peers you deserve, find those with a brutal honesty. When you're looking for a place to publish, perform, or exhibit, aim higher than you ever though prudent. When you fail, take note of the possible reasons, get up off the floor, and try it again. Rewrite, repaint, rearrange. Then go right back into the maelstrom lashed to the mast. As the Samurai saying goes, "Three times down. Four times up."

I keep track of all my literary submissions in a spread sheet. There are a lot more entries in the "Rejected" category than any other. But I have had my successes and continue to do so. Last year was a marvelous year for my paintings and prints. I've won several prizes and now have art exhibited in a number of private homes. I've sat on a stage playing solo at a local Bluegrass festival and sweat and shook my way through the entire performance. But I did perform and was rewarded with some very kind applause. Every bit of it sharpened my desire and skill. Every bit of it made me a better artist.

When something I've submitted for consideration isn't accepted, it isn't a failure. It's a learning experience. I sit down with the piece and I say, how can I do this better. I solicit criticism, suggestion, and feedback. I research and experiment until I'm cross-eyed and dizzy. I write scared because I have learned if it doesn't scare the hell out of you, you're not trying hard enough!