Monday, March 31

Um. . . Let me Deal with These 300 Other Things Before Writing.

This is why I haven't posted any writing for a while. Like many other writers, I have put it off with excuses. Anyone who says they have no trouble writing, that it just pours out is either a liar or should be shot out of professional jealousy.

Even the prolific Stephen King had trouble and became alcoholic. Most writers suffer from the fear their work is just no good. Other artists suffer this too but not to the degree of writers for some reason. We pour out our souls just as much as the actor, singer or slam poet but we tend to be more inhibited. Having acted I know that everything up to the moment you step on stage is an abstraction but once you are before an audience, there is no turning back.

The parallel to writing seems easy but it's closer to doing stand up comedy. The audience expects, no- demands you be funny and they will let you know immediately if you're not. But when you are writing, the only audience is the interior critic. The voice that levels scathing disbelief that you have any talent what so ever. It's just words on paper, what's the big deal? Why do I listen to it when I have no trouble expressing my thoughts out loud in front of people, in fact I revel in the image, but I'm reduced to a whimpering coward at the idea of putting them down in writing?

The interior critic is present at the silent, solitary work of writing and so it has your undivided attention. No glimpsed smile from a friend in a sea of faces to encourage you or the interplay with fellow thespians to distract you from it's attempt to sabotage your efforts oh no, It's just you and your ego. Normally the ego loves to be in charge but this time it always back away from the challenge as if stung. Why?

When I do a painting I'm sure someone will like it even if I'm doing it for my own pleasure. If I'm on stage I'm sure my performance will appeal to someone in the darkness sitting and watching. After all, it's not acting without an audience.

So why do I think my writing is any different? If a therapist knew how to get rid of such a self defeating block they would be filthy rich and people would be a lot happier.

Meanwhile I managed to avoid writing for another half an hour. Whew.

Sunday, February 23

" The Mighty One" Saves the Day

Either this excerpt from the novel still in progress reveals too much, or it's a great teaser.

         We got to a smoldering house where a family huddled on the porch against the cold as it was tho only dry place they could find. The mother held a young boy with a badly burned arm. They were drying a towel on the open door of the oven when it caught fire and he tried to put it out and got burned in the process. He wore a polyester shirt that partially melted on his skin giving him an ugly third degree burn.
" What's the ETA on the ambulance?" Darryl asked as he examined the wound.
"Another ten." Fisher informed him. Ten minutes! The kid was in shock and needed to be at the hospital now.
"It's the roads. Slippy as shit and clogged with vehicles." Fatty grumbled in frustration. I had a a better idea.
"I can get him to West Penn in four. Call the ER and let them know I'm coming." I looked at the Captain and he nodded approval. I got a blanket and plastic tarp from the truck and wrapped him in them. He moaned in pain as I gently hoisted him over my left shoulder, letting his injured arm drape over the other. Still in full turnout gear with my helmet strapped in place I took off into the darkness. I keep a flashlight secured to the side of the helmet for additional lighting and it illuminated the driving snow as I tried to keep my head down out of the cloud of wet confetti hitting me in the face.
"Are we really flying?" I heard the boy ask with a quivering voice.
"Sure, but don't worry, we'll be at the hospital soon."  I whispered, holding him close to me.
"Uh, take your time."  I smiled, relieved he wasn't so worried about his injury.
I found the parking lot at the ER entrance where two nurses and a gurney waited. I came down slowly so as not to slip on a patch of ice. A flash of light distracted me momentarily.
"What the hell." I complained when I saw a photographer.Turns out he was doing a story about the burn unit a nurse explained.
The next day a photo of me twelve feet off the ground clutching a kid in a snow storm appeared on the front page of every major newspaper. 
So much for paying attention to other things.

Thursday, February 13

How Not to Be a Writer

I'm beginning to think all the books, college course, and seminars on how to be a writer are a sham. Like the latest diet telling you how to lose weight.

Telling someone " You can be a writer" is like telling someone " You can be a painter." but all the teaching will not make you a Hemingway or a Rembrandt. It's just the mechanics of a craft that can be passed on not the art. Knowing the mechanics will not necessarily unleash creativity. That must come from something undefinable within you. The place where dreams, visions, revelations come from. The muse must be called by means no one understands. Passion, imagination, the will to create are intangible and can not be taught.

Focusing on just the skills will not summon the creative muse, it will inhibit it. Cram the flights of fantasy, imagination and the divine insight into a box marked " How to" and see how quickly true invention gets buried under the weight of all those rules. The mechanics are fine for guidance and comprehension, think of them as "suggestions" but don't confuse them for the Real Thing.

Monday, February 10

"The Mighty One"- Another Excerpt

Where our hero learns more about the extent of his skills.


         Next on the list was a speed test. I walked to an empty race track at a nearby school. The feel of gravel under my feet brought back memories of my track team days in high school. A thin, gawky kid and shy as hell. I didn't get picked on because the guys learned I wouldn't back down if challenged. Besides I was too fast to punch. Running helped channel my hormonal frustrations as well as develop my speed in a productive way.
         I warmed up for a few minutes with stretches and a slow jog around the track. I stepped up to the starting line and the familiar excitement rushed up. For me, the competition was about besting myself rather than beating the other guy. If I lost it suited me fine as long as I was happy with my performance. I usually won.
"Hi there. " a voice halted my reverie. I looked up to see an older man standing by the bleachers with a small dog on a leash. I waved and he took that as an invitation to join me.
He obviously wanted company and I didn't mind. Despite a shock of white hair, he looked to be in good enough shape to run himself.
"Training for a marathon?" he asked and I shook my head.
"I used to run track in college when I majored in business. Good way to work the body after using the brain all day. " he tapped his forehead oblivious to his interrupting my workout. I fidgeted with my stopwatch. 
"Can I keep time for you?" he offered and I decided to have some fun with this.
"Sure." I handed him the stopwatch and  he took his place a few feet in front of me as I crouched from a standing position. He gave me the signal and I took off. 
In my mind's eye I ran against the big man on campus Tommy Lewsom or  "lose some" I used to taunt him and enjoyed beating him whenever we raced. I had to cut back when Dad expressed disapproval of my prideful behavior, but the arrogant jerk needed to be taken down a peg every once in a while which I gladly did. 
I went into brake mode after crossing the finishing line after four circuits for a mile run, panting from the effort. I made a note to start jogging to stay in shape. The old man looked at the stopwatch than at  me with a furrowed brow.
"There must be something wrong with this young man. " He said with curt disbelief as he handed it back to me. According to the time, I just broke the current world record.
" Yeah I guess so. " I said as my breath returned to normal. He bid me goodbye and hurriedly continued on his walk with the dog in tow.
Well, I thought it was funny.

Sunday, February 2

"The Mighty One"

Neil Archer is a regular fire fighter with the extraordinary ability to fly- among other things. Working in Pittsburgh during the 1980's, he keeps his 'special skills' secret until fate and a dangerous fire forces him to go public. Dealing with the frenized interest of the media, the public and the suspicious FBI may be more than he can handle.

He has to learn who he can trust and and who is out to stop him: his fellow firefighters, an ambitious politician, a captivating reporter or the Feds? When several rescues threaten to overwhelm him he has to come to grips being "The Mighty One".