Unhappened Stories

I often wish I had made the effort to enjoy music with my grandmother when she was alive.  On lazy days my vinyl treasures blast Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, and Count Basie, with singers from that era.  I wonder what facial expressions grandmother would have made, what tapping of a foot or shake of a finger.  I crack a bittersweet smile.  A slippery clarinet reminds me how I might have entertained her back then, if only I’d practiced more in high school band class, or explored beyond my age-accepted genres.

I’d ask, “Why does that man’s voice wiggle like that when he sings the last word in each stanza?”  She’d say, “That was the style in those days,” meaning, “… in my days.”

She’d add her sweet soprano to Marlene’s voice, somewhere between alto and a place exotic.  I’d smile, my gleaming eyes telling her how relevant her music and her passion remain.  “I never really cared for Dietrich, but the boys sure loved her.”

“What boys?” I’d ask – wondering if she meant one of her husbands, or my uncles – looking for a story.

“The ones that came home after the war.”

But I never was much for listening to stories back then.  Wasn’t big on sitting still and paying attention to older folks, even my grandmother.  That is why this story never happened.

… Long Live the King

I nudged the lever with the outside of my wrist to to turn the water on in the upstairs bathroom. I was careful of the cheap tile counter top. Lord knows how tough it is to get any kind of dirt stains out of the grout, worse with blood, I was guessing. A whirring sounded in the pipes from the ground floor and, before I could trace its path, it was drowned out by the spurt of water, a projectile from the pressure and sheer gravity, shooting from the ridiculous, tall faucet, down into the drain with no stopper. The sink basin in this room reminded me of the camp sinks out at Bunyan Park, as deep as it was round with just enough room to rest a severed head. That startling thought made me wince.  “Where the hell did that come from,” I wondered; I hadn’t severed anyone’s head.

With my elbow, I slowly pushed the lever down to lighten the stream; I needed to avoid a splatter affect on the mirror when I washed my hands. The mirror. Shivers rippled from my core as I caught sight of the naked woman staring up at me.  Were the eyes questioning or accusing? “It couldn’t be helped,” I heard the whisper, and for a moment thought it had come from the woman, standing now, her mottled hands carefully dangling over the opposite basin ledge, away from the water.

I had buried that little girl – the one that believed she’d fight fire-breathing dragons some day … with swords of truth. Silly little girl thought she’d be president. She was dead, as dead as all my victims, and buried along with them on federal land. It was land that was likely to be bargained out of its sanctified landmark status and placed in the hands of the corporate dirt-bags that own this country.  Dirt-bags that would drill for oil and gas in the years to come. Sooner or later someone would dig there, and when they did, my secret would be discovered. That was actually my plan. Not really a plan, per se, since it all happened reflexively. More like an after-the-fact resolution.

Several had died earlier that night: the feisty little girl, a beautiful park ranger, Stephen King … As my mind raced through the tick marks of things that remained for the doing, I stopped just long enough to ask myself whose blood this was on my hands. I couldn’t remember. Did I even know?

The liquid soap foamed out a lather that smelled sickly sweet, like honey.  It mingled in my nostrils with the iron tang of the blood that seemed permanent there; I nearly blew chunks. Committed to the sink, I couldn’t spin around to the tub and get the solid bar soap now. “Evidence,” I repeated over and over again in my head, swallowing the lump in my throat. I massaged the soap into aged hands, frowning at how much they reminded me of my mother’s hands.  Had they been this weathered before?  Would I ever have noticed if not for this terrible night?  Pink rivers swirled around the drain and disappeared.

I scrubbed underneath and around my cuticles with a manicure brush I kept by the faucet; I wondered if the bristles would melt like the rest of the plastic when I tossed this in the burn barrel where the rest of my clothes were likely ash by now. Dark lines framed my nail beds. I couldn’t tell anymore if it was the blood or the dirt. I flicked the water drops, now clean, from my hands several times into the sink and swung around to the tub. A hot shower would ease my nerves and the steam would help rid the lingering scenes from my air passages. scratching the shampoo into my hair and scalp might complete the work on my fingers too. I replaced the towel on the rod with an old beach towel from the linen closet. That would burn too once I was finished.

Stepping into that shower was like entering a deep, restful sleep. I felt almost instantly relieved, as if it was all over. I let go and let myself forget for awhile. “At least until the hot water runs out,” I thought. As hot hit cold on the ceramic at my feet, steam billowed up around me and I drifted back to a time before – when the little girl lived, I was in love, and King was my hero.

By Rémi Dubot (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Fight with a Clock and Reality

At first glance, it was nothing special.  An open floor space of living room, dining area, and kitchen shared a floor of burnt orange Tuscany tiles; a wall of windows covered in cloth beige blinds smudged the room’s colors with filtered sunlight.  A worn area carpet covered the majority of the living space, tufts of cat hair unevenly adorned the geometric patterns of maroon, blue, and shades of tan and brown.  A rustic wooden chest that served as a coffee table was covered in the mundane piles that accumulate when long days at work strain shoulders and and weaken backs: a pile of bills unpaid, a crumpled napkin, a magazine untouched for months, and a plate and fork abandoned.  In this dull setting, the hum of a distant refrigerator and the meticulous ticking of a clock lingered just outside the temporary force field she had developed around the perimeter of her zero-gravity chair.

On her knees, a piece of technological wonder balanced beneath her quick fingers – their stodgy dance establishing a dominance across the MacBook Pro’s keyboard.  This time-machine could envelope its owner in a temporary gap, folding a very small fraction of the fabric of time and space, and permitting a person to cease from the present existence.  The field enveloped her, blocked cares and concerns about schedules and obligations as she poured alternate realities onto a screen.  Like Alice and her mirror, the Time Avoider yearned to escape into the black and white world displayed on the flat screen, the curves and sharp points of the letters beckoning her even as the chill of the room crept around her cone of separation.  A purr erupted from the land of the dinner table as her work phone signaled a meeting reminder.  Defeated, she pulled the screen shut, the transparent panel simultaneously dropping to the floor, ushering in the sound of car tires on gravel, birdsong from the front yard trees, and the incessant poking of the ticking clock – bullying her to the shower and then to work.

A Meditation on Shadows

The rain poured out of nowhere like the soothing brush of hands against the skin of the house, strengthening into a rake of tiny hailstones so as to scratch the apparent itch in the metal roof tiles and mossy skylights.  Tendrils of hail – pin pricks to a nasty rash – buffeted the house and sparkled in tiny bounces off the deck rails giving testament to their purposeful pressure treatment for a bored, lazy, and docile home.

Shadows appeared where before had been rays.  Dark over light – was something winning, and why hadn’t I been notified of the war?  Or was it just a contest?  Is there a difference?  Actually, shadows aren’t the equivalent of darkness; sometimes shadows are like a blanket over your lap as you sit in a comfortable chair on a Saturday afternoon.  Sometimes shadows aren’t foreboding.  Sometimes they keep the chill of real darkness from touching you.  Not exactly the absence of light – shadows – but the shade before pitch black, more like a softer pallet for the eyes to travel … giving more credibility to the surfaces, more notice for the edges of things.

Maybe that’s how it should be in good literature.  Bright lights spotlighting specific issues should be used sparingly to avoid overexposure, to help the eyes and soul adjust to the scenes of the crimes, or the scenes of love, the scenes of neglect and stupidity, the scenes of victory and salvation.  Shadows are magical in that regard.  Like running fingertips over piano keys softly, not producing notes of music in a traditional way, but accentuating the moment and exploration along with the silent words formed and forming in the mind.  Touch and sight combine with history and experience and flow in ink from the other hand, fisted around a pen, forming the story as it should be told.

Anger on the Other Side

[This is what happens when you follow the sage advice of other writers and force yourself to write non-stop for ten minutes on a day when you don’t feel like writing.  You jump onto the first thing that enters your mind and riff.]


Unplugged UpI’m cold in a cold house with lukewarm tea.  I sit here listening to a rotating vinyl disc with the voice of a man I don’t know speaking truths I’ve not lived (other than vicariously) and a cat circling like a shark.  My hands are cold.  The tips of my fingers are ice cubes.  The edge of my ass cheeks are frigid.  The only reason my toes aren’t cold is the thick wool socks in Sherpa lined slippers.  But I’m cold through and through.

What is reason or the value of retrospect in such a cold place – in my body – in my soul?  Could a monster named Jasper conquer here if his only weapon was fire?  I think not.  The timer beep-beeps – over and over … the song moves on and the next one begins; yet I sit here freezing.  I suppose that’s an exaggeration since hypothermia hasn’t lulled me to sleep.

There isn’t a breeze in the house – just no warmth.  Not physically and certainly not metaphorically.  I burn with frigid anger.  Like frostbite – it takes my appendages and blackens them, breaks them, until I cannot walk.  My vision blurs and the cold mist of dry ice vapor envelopes my heart until it is no more.

Perhaps in an alternate universe where planets revolve around a golden sun of plasma bubbling flares of radiant light out across the nebula – perhaps in that universe my anger would burn like fire.  But not here in this universe where we count backwards and swirl around the absence of light – this black hole we call our sun and core of our system.  In this universe I burn with that anger which is not solid liquid but is beyond ice – a whirling dervish of skin ripping vapor that depletes the air of anything you would find breathable in your place of space-time.  I’m cold in a cold house and I sit here and feed off this daily dose of nerve numbing power – anger.

I Dreamed I Was Harry Nilsson

UnpluggedWriting2If I could just get in front of a microphone and grow a beard I’d be a hit.  They’d drink their beers and fruity concoctions and hear tales in stream of consciousness rhyme, like ee cummings with no capitals.  Maybe I’d strum some guitar strings or pull out a harmonica for a bluesy bridge with soul, or a tangent of hardship so heartbreaking everyone would pull out packs of Marlboros and light up.  Then when the song ended, me and the band all covered in sweat and tears, we’d open our eyes and look across a silent crowd – all of them inhaling deep thoughts and pondering the “what was,” and the “what ifs.”  Then they’d let out a long slow release of memories and bittersweet clouds of hope and appreciation and we’d sneak out through that smokey mist of fame.

And in an equilibrium of thought and emotion, they’d all mash their burning stubs on plates of half-eaten chicken wings, or drown them with their fears in unfinished amber and cherry-red oceans of anxiety tonics no longer needed.  And they’d just get up and leave because they’d know there would never be a performance like this one again and although life is not fair, it’s still mostly good.

After that, I’d shave my beard and drift into some other form of heroic social work.

Squirrel Noise Avoidance


How to escape – through a door, past shelves, leave the light off and feel my way – until laughs and voices become murmurs and static with muffled volume rises and falls and darkness becomes the womb.  Will I find you there?  Will you share secrets again and fill my breath with excitement and what is close to truth without church and rules, judgements and eyes – looking, staring, noses being picked?  Please?

Here I am.  Now I’ve scraped my finger on the old metal shelving like grocery store isles.  A little worse than a paper cut.  Not sticking that in my mouth.  Could be germs from God knows who and when.  Don’t know if my immune system would hold up to such a challenge.  Just wipe the blood on my jeans and press a pool into my pocket edge, side seam – where there’s more material.  Yes – now it’s stopped – with everything else – so focused on me now – no one around.

Can’t say there’s shadows here – too dark and not cold, but not hot either – even with the coffee I just finished ten minutes ago – no hot flashes for me.  Where’s my truth?

#NaNoWriMo Best of the Daily (Day 3, 2015)

The weather was agnostic.  There was no commitment to any particular sort of forecast, not even short term, except for the leaves.  Those things couldn’t hold water.  The trees were showing their colors.  Ditches on both sides of the road spilled over with their fallen vestiges, and the skies made their cards known with clouds, as still as ever, dark but not foreboding, standing sentry duty.  No rain, bright sky, but no sun to be found.  Macon knew winter was close, but the air was still polite and her hands could stand to be without gloves.  She drove the roads at dusk.

She left the radio off and focused on the taillights fifty yards ahead.  “Focus on the taillights of the car in front of you and you won’t have to worry about staying in the center of the road; you just will.”  She remembered the lessons her foster dad tried to teach her.  She’d heard horrible stories about foster families over the years, but hers was one of salvation.  Her only regret was that she hadn’t been placed with them sooner.

A trio of Lodgepole pine trees presented themselves from the other side of the bend in the road up ahead.  Two were upright while the third leaned in as if preparing to tell a secret to the others.  She rounded the corner and caught a sip of the Hood Canal before more pines crowded in to block her view.  Another opening and she glimpsed one of the Olympic peaks, “The Brothers,” she recalled, before the sign ahead offered “Fresh Steak Gyros.”  She slowed and pulled in, parking where the gas pumps had been many years ago.

PrintTune in for quick reads of the best (or least despicable) selections from the previous day’s word count, by virtue of my daily writing regimen for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  WARNING:  editing has not taken place.




#NaNoWriMo 2nd Verse, Same as the First

Keep in mind, the purpose of WriMo is to write, not edit.  Editing is for December … or January if you’re still finishing in December.  Point is, I’m not editing these “snippets” before I post them.  There will be no “set up” for the scenes.  Just raw, unadulterated, first draft train wreck coming at you for the next 29 days.   If that sounds familiar, you may recall my NaNoWriMo posts from last near.  Here’s the daily:

It was well into one o’clock on a Tuesday.  Apparently hers wasn’t the only office with a soap opera playing out in the staff lounge where idiots acted like their mothers worked there.  It took twice as long to drive the main strip, the coffee shop only two miles away.  Halfway there as sign read, “Hold’Em Tables Tuesdays @ Two”  If not for traffic at a standstill for nearly a minute, she probably wouldn’t have noticed.  If not for the drive through coffee shack in the bar’s parking lot, she probably wouldn’t have stopped.

The kid at the window was chewing a wad of gum that looked like he’d shoved the whole pack in his mouth.  She wondered why he wasn’t in school, but their first verbal exchange explained it.

“Tired o’ waiting in traffic, eh?” he flipped a paper coffee cup like Tom Cruise in that 90’s movie.

“I don’t usually leave the office this time of day.  Is it always like this?” she nodded back at the road as a Mercedes and a Volkswagen Bug entering the lot caught her peripheral vision.

“Coffee rush hour.  No joke.  It varies throughout the week, but every Monday – from seven to eight, from ten to eleven, and just a tick past lunch, they come out.”  He scratched his head, and shrugged.

Zombies in search of a cup of caffeine brains, she thought.  Herself among them.  “Why no line at your window?”  she was getting tired of this conversation already.  She glanced at the letter sized, laminated paper that served as a menu below the window’s sliding glass.  Three choices were offered, all of them the same price.  Before he could answer she blurted, “Are you kidding me – a buck fifty for a coffee?”

He smiled and pointed to his name tag.  She hand’t paid attention to it yet.  She read his name, and below it in smaller print, “Owner.”  He said, “You got it dude.  It’s a long story, but I’ll keep it short.  You get what you pay for; the coffee here sucks.  I guess word’s gotten around to most the regulars at this hour.  I’ll give you a break, you not being a regular.  You should go into Smitty’s.  They have better coffee than burgers and, I’d say they have the best coffee for at least twenty blocks in all directions.”

“I was hoping to grab and go, Stuart,” she motioned to her watch, “people are expecting me back.”  Before she could shift into gear, however, he caught her by surprise.

“How old do you think I am?”  he asked, leaning a little out the window.

“I don’t know,” she answered without a beat, but paused before releasing the clutch.

“I’m nineteen.  Do you know how I bought this, my first business?”

She was getting antsy.  How did this hour, this moment, get so out of line?  She just wanted a coffee.  Maybe she’d just break down and make a thermos in the morning.  Those Keurig machines were on sale at Costco.  She couldn’t bring herself to buy into so much waste – a whole plastic and paper capsule for each cup.  Where was the landfill going to be found.  Is this why they were going to Mars?  She felt a long, beleaguered sigh escape as she answered, “How would I know that?”

“I won big at cards as soon as I turned eighteen.  Now I’m not even that good, but I can read people.  You don’t like a lot of small talk.  You have a little problem with OCD, although you wouldn’t know it to look at your car.  Ever think about getting one of those yearly car wash memberships?  I mean, you can afford it, even though you drive a low-end car.  See I know all that from observing you.  I know, right?  I’m not what anyone expects.  Kinda’ why I get along at poker. So when you look at your watch and tell me you gotta’ get back?  I see someone who just wants to leave this place, really, and maybe get the coffee somewhere.  But lady, oh um, excuse me, ma’am?  You don’t really care about getting back.  I’m just sayin’.”

Now this, she thought, this was good.  A refreshing surprise – this kid.  Rude and obnoxious, not very clean, granted.  Still, she was intrigued.  She actually allowed a smile as she said, “Tell me, Stuart,”

“Stew,” he interrupted, “You can call me Stew.  I’m really sorry for the ‘lady’ routine.  Table talk.  Got a game in ten minutes.  Yeah, call me Stew.”

“Right.  Stew.  Tell me please, if you know so much from our brief interaction here, what makes you think I’d rather be in a bar,” she motioned to Smitty’s and smirked, “correction – a run down bar, probably full of smoke and bad jukebox music (I’m thinking George Jones era Country Western from the looks of it) instead of a posh coffee shop with free wi fi?”

Stew plunged his hands in his pockets and gave a head bob of defeat.  “That I don’t know.  I should have guessed from the OCD thing maybe.  Then again there’s the car.  Do you know you have like,” he paused and appeared to be counting, “five crumpled Whataburger bags in your back seat?  I don’t know.  I don’t really think that far out when I’m postulating.  I already told ya’ I get by at poker.  I’m not great.”

She put the car back in neutral, pulled the brake, and stuck her hand out the window with another smirk.  “Macon Belfair,” she announced.

This move caught him off guard and drained all confidence he’d been faking.  “Stew Graves, serious as a heart attack,” he placed his now sweaty palm in hers and gave a weak shake before pulling it back and blushing.

This time, she waited a beat, stumped for that short time.  Finally, “Why would you not be serious about your name?  Did I miss something?”

“Table talk again.  Speaking of – why don’t you just park and come check it out?  There’s no smoking inside.  They don’t  allow the jukebox or TVs while they have the game, for real.  That’s why they do it at two.  Used to be at six thirty and people complained it was too loud.  What are they gonna’ do, make it quiet as a cemetery while people are trying to enjoy their happy hour after their eight or ten lousy hours?”  He was cleaning off his counter and unplugging his machine as he spoke.  “Anyway, I wasn’t joking about the coffee.  Smit Jr. drinks it non-stop from noon to four and he’s pretty picky about it.  They don’t have all the flavor fluff you got at these other places, but you’ll see if you come it.  It smells up the place and, I mean, it smells good.  Smit says he read somewhere that’s the real benefit of coffee to a human body anyways, the olfactory job it does on us.”

“Okay.” she caught herself by surprise as her body complied with her answer, dropped the brake and shifted into first, “Just for coffee though.”  She meant she wasn’t going to join in the poker game, since he’d been talking about it as much as the coffee.  She could tell by his look of fear that he thought she meant something else, but she’d already started rolling forward too far to explain.  Now she was blushing.  She laughed out loud in her solitary trash mobile after turning off the engine and grabbing her wallet.  Most people didn’t get her.  She thought she actually liked it that way.  If they didn’t know her, she didn’t have to put forth the effort to get to know them only to find out that she thought they were idiots and should take a long leap off a short pier.  She didn’t turn on charm unless it served a purpose for business … or pleasure with no commitments.  This kid had made her smile twice, surprised her more than once, and here she was, blushing from a mishap in her verbal communication.  She hadn’t turned on the charm for the usual reasons; she was after all old enough to be his mother.  He’d charmed her into being charming.  “Tricky kid,” she said aloud.


Another NaNoWriMo! Who is With Me!?

Today starts that crazy 30 days of scratching your brain and rearranging your daily schedules to find the time and discipline to crank out 1660 words a day, or a whopping 50K words for the National Novel Writing Month.  I have participated for several years and finally made the count last year.  Anyone can play (I’m smirking), so check out the website at nanowrimo.org and get started.

I don’t have the sense of direction I had last year.  I had plot lines scribbled and edited all over my house and stacks of books for exoplanets and astronomy (the story was sci-fi), character sketches and even artistic pictures of the scenery in my head.  This year I have a character, a hint of an idea, and an interest in professional poker to go with.  I also have this foggy idea that this will be a literary novel, and am going to pull from my popular post on this blog “Doom Pie,” somehow.  I’m “pantsing” it this year.  I’ll post snippets daily like before, in no particular order.  Here’s the first 204 words:

People told her to smile as a kid.  She wasn’t unhappy.  She found little use for the palette of emotional expression that most people employed.  She felt the same about small-talk.  She’d wasted so much youth speaking in trivialities with adults; she didn’t want to be trite in her own adulthood.  The table was the only exception to this rule.

When content her face stayed relaxed, no hint of an upwards slant in the cheeks, no pursing of the lips.  Happiness looked no different but for a sparkle in her eyes if one looked close enough.  If anger seethed in every part of her body, her face betrayed nothing of the inferno lurking beneath.  It wasn’t that she wore a mask – everyone else wore too many, substituting facades as it pleased them.  Millions of one-man vaudeville shows for the world audience.  She wasn’t big on theatrics.  Control was her thing.

Confusion, her most common state in social settings, required an exhausting effort.  Her forehead bunched and by her twenties she’d noticed a crease was fully formed there.

To make this pillar of composure laugh made the whole world do a standing ovation in your soul.  To play poker with her would wreck your bankroll.

The “I remember …” Writing Prompt

US Navy 020712-N-5471P-010 EOD teams detonate expired ordnance in the Kuwaiti desertI remember … a voice.  Soft and low, it beckoned me from my sleep.  My eyes were reluctant.  Soft and low, then a hint of discord – the voice reached, the beat of its language growing more insistent.  I reasoned with my eyes, my limbs … perhaps a little stretch.  “Mueller – wake the hell up.  Dammit, they’re here.”  Heat pricked my skin before I felt the concussion, and my eyes snapped open just as a shroud of dirt flashed over my body from the impact.

Writing Spaces

Smoke by THORMarge scratches her head in the midst of the last remaining place of business where smoking is allowed, “The Everyone and their Mama Meeting Place Bar and Internet Lounge.” The dank odor is already permeating her heavy overcoat, a vital accessory since the owner saves money by not turning on the central air unit. In the summer Marge wears the skimpiest tank top she can find and has to purchase several rounds of water before she’s through with her writing. Gone are the days where she could enjoy the little writing shack she fixed up in her back yard. Once a hot tub outbuilding, it already had water and power when she cleared out the insides and swept away the spiders. A fresh coat of paint, a small desk and ergonomic chair, built-in shelves, a work table, and two dry erase boards later and she’d put together the best writing environment. The man at the computer kiosk next to her lets out a loud burp and jams his fist in the air as his screen emulates a winning slot machine. Her blank screen yawns at her. It’s enough to make her start smoking again.

Lead by the Leader Who Leads Me to Lead

Just an update to those who might be wondering – “Was this just another leap of hope off a cliff of effort lacking?”  I did jump.  I was free-falling for about two months and finally found my wings at month three.  I added about 20K (after editing) to my working novel and about another 10K total across three other active projects.  At month four I faced a moral dilemma in my cloud-puffed dream land.  Having returned home, living in semi-retired bliss with my wife, I felt called back to leadership with the youth program I had left more than two years prior.  Called I was, for I was hired back in the beginning of month six and now find myself working four – tens, and attempt to stretch what days I have off between family, home chores, and scribbling occasional notes in my notebook for the “later more.”

Perhaps my cliff diving experience will not inspire other aspiring writers.  Perhaps, like Disney, if the birds don’t keep flitting and the sun doesn’t keep shining while melodic tunes play and dancing goes on forever – then you feel as if the dive was a failure.  So to those that are Disney-tized, Corvus_ruficollisI bid you adieu and wish you well.  To realists, clothed in sackcloth but clinging to your capes nonetheless, I share the following.

I haven’t hit the ground.  The forced scheduling has pelted my spirits with frustration and anger surrounding my writing goals;  I concede to the pangs of discouragement on a regular basis.  Still the raven that cries “Nevermore,” bolsters my resolve to prove the wicked little wit wrong.  I’m not soaring anymore, but I still glide, and sometimes I manage to flap incessantly.  I didn’t want to return to my previous life, didn’t want to have to be “in charge” of anything again.  But the same One that nudged me off the cliff and gave me wings the first time – still stirs my muse, drafts my days, and knows the numbers of the hair on my head.  My times are in the Creator’s hands.  I already sense a deeper maturity in my word formations, in my structure, and in my ideas when I write them.  The 2018 date remains.  I can’t even see the bottom yet.  Realists rock.

My Romance with Green

PlattenwegThe rain, it spilled out onto the green and brown velvet

an iced doughnut of foliage and flower in my yard

beckons me from books and house

leads me to the floor and twirls me round

rings my fingers with dirt lace

wonders collide

sun peeks


By Jeff Kubina from Columbia, Maryland (Typewriter) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Where From Art Thou?

I had a thought this week about the core of a writer’s inspiration or drive.  I used to think there were a few writers that went about their art in an orderly fashion, making little piles and sticky notes of ideas and dreams, thoughts and overheard quirkiness, and they would eventually sit themselves down and make something of these.  I couldn’t relate to those folks.  I thought I was part of the majority of writers and we were all lunatic geniuses or possessed.  A sort of collection of disturbing savants that readers don’t always associate with some of the resulting masterpieces they come to cradle like babies.

Here’s an example:  someone sparks an emotion in me and it hooks onto an idea (similar or not) and enforceable yanks my doppelganger (the little shadow-woman that lives inside of me) until it writes it all down … drips it all out, extinguishes the fire.  Here’s another example from the opposite side of that spectrum:  I get my feelings hurt or I go into a deep depression and the shadow-woman trails me everywhere, looms over me in my sleep, trips me for the hell of it, and generally makes my life a living frightmare until I exorcise whatever daemon in the form of a poem or prose.  Either way, I might go for days, weeks even, without a productive writing day, but when it comes there is steam on the windows when my hands leave the keyboard.

Having made contact with a few writers and a poet now, I’m beginning to think there are innumerable kinds of shadow men and women, muses, sticky-note methodology, prompt tooling and daily regimens, possessions, and general mayhem when it comes to the spark that turns a writer’s hand to paper.  I don’t understand writers that function differently from me, and that’s okay, I guess.

What’s my point?

If there are possibly as many kinds of … I’ll call them “instigators,” … as there are writers, then maybe it’s like finding a mate?  What would my daemons do if I started trying on freewriting non-stop, or turned my radio on every morning and used the first ten words I heard as a prompt?  I’m not talking about the occasional dry spell where I try these kinds of things to hunt for my shadow-woman.  I simply wonder if Shakespeare would have been Shakespeare if he’d put aside his usual writing method and tried on something else for a year.  Maybe some other Bill would have been a household name if he’d tried Shakespeare’s.

But don’t mind me, I also sit around wondering how the author of Annie got away with stealing Dicken’s Oliver Twist story?