Category: Examined Life

Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz

As these things go, screaming in the high end of falsetto while babbling incoherently and getting my nose licked by what is possibly the most deadly snake in existence* seems a pretty good place to leave off our narrative.

In the writing biz, it’s what we call a cliffhanger. So called because, back in the days when entertainment was serial, writers would often get to a point where the protagonist was in an impossible situation. One where you knew — just knew — there was no escape. And then end that installment right there.

So it’s not a cliff, but I think you get my point. Also, it’s darn cute. Right? Right? Of course it is.

If they’d done their job right (and, often, they really, really did), the viewers/readers would be desperate to know what happened next. It’s one of the better surefire tricks to bringing back an audience. Provided it’s done well.

Again, in the early days, this resulted with a protagonist or his trusty Gal Friday, or his feisty Love Interest, or his beautiful Damsel in Distress (are you sensing a pattern here?) actually hanging from an actual cliff. Or stick. See above.

Any Sort Of Delay Can Count As A Cliffhanger

When the next installment opened, the first thing to do was solve the cliffhanger and then move on with the story. Sometimes, though, the next installment would open and it would be torture because the emphasis would have shifted somewhere else, leaving people in suspense about what happened next.

That technique is called burying the lead. Of which, for those of you paying any sort of attention to these posts, you can see an example right here.

Not QUITE what I meant, but close enough.

I do this to make an important point. Not simply because I’m an inconsiderate bastard who delights in pulling the wings of flies. I mean, I am, but that’s not why I’m doing this right here. It’s just I thought it was about time you and I touched base and talked a bit about craft.

You’ll notice that, in all the bits, pieces and full stories I’ve posted so far, there always has been at least a few moments during which you’ve at least cracked a smile. Or maybe paused for a grin. Or something.

My stories tend to have a bit of humor in them despite my best efforts. (Even pieces I’ve written about surviving a heart attack and another about watching my mother die have funny moments in them.)

I do this for a number of reasons. Many of which I will elucidate below in handy, bulleted form.

Look! I’m Using Bullets

  • To point out that, you can have the best blog post ever, but if you don’t bring in more readers, you’re going to be discouraged and quit
  • So I could use that picture of the lizard holding up the other lizard, saving his buddy from almost certain doom. I really needed to use that picture.
  • Because this is a blog supposedly about learning how to write memoirs, not only as an outlet for memoirs that I am going to write
  • And, finally, because I wanted to point out just who we’re laughing at in these last few posts.

See, we all like to laugh at someone else. When someone falls down, or gets hit in the headMel-Brooks-Quotes-1 by a ladder while their friend is turning around, that’s slapstick. That’s funny. (That’s debatable, as not everyone likes The Three Stooges) As comedian/writer/director/author Mel Brooks put it:

Yes, that man is a genius. He also explains why so many memoirs or personal essays that have comedy in them tend to be about the author and also tend to have most of the jokes being played do so at the expense of the author.

We like to laugh at someone else, but (and this is important) then we often will start to feel guilty. We’ll especially start to have bad feelings about the person who’s doing most of the pointing and laughing. To wit: the author.

However, when you’re pointing and laughing at yourself. . . Well, that gives permission to people for them to laugh at you also. And that’s good. We want people to laugh at the things we write that are funny. And, since most of my things tend to be (my attempts at being) funny, that is a good thing.

It also makes my life a lot easier because I do a lot of stupid stuff that makes people laugh at me when I tell them. Funny how that works out, yes? Different kind of funny that.

The Big Finish

So. Now that we’ve got that out of the way. . . Let’s get on with the story.

Where were we? Right. . . The sna–

Oh! I see by the big clock on the wall that we’re out of space.*!*

Until next time, friends. . . Take care of yourselves.


*but probably isn’t.**

** Okay, it definitely isn’t. In fact, as it turns out, the snake’s not even venomous. The above sentence (way above) is an example of what some people call my marked tendency toward exaggeration.***

***By others I’m called a liar, a damn liar and a statistic. That was my only math joke.

*!* Oh, like you didn’t see this one coming from a mile away.

Examine Yourself In The Mirror

Examine Yourself In The Mirror

I’m almost positive I meant that whole getting used to being naked in public thing as a metaphor, but. . . Oh, well. Guess I’ll know better next time. Or at least remember what I was talking about from one post to the next.

So. Where were we?

Ah, right.

Getting Naked In Public

I don’t mean that I actually want you to get naked in public. (Ah-HA! It was a metaphor. I knew it.) What I meant was that, if you’re going to become adept at memoiring your life, you’re going to have to get used to the idea that you’ll be talking about parts of your life — often some of the darkest or most embarrassing — that most sane people would do almost anything to keep secret.

You, on the other hand, are going to go looking for just such an incident, peering back into the depths of your mind and look yourself straight in the eye, take that embarrassing incident, huff on it a bit, 347c684c2ca94889ae1e324dda03a12bpolish it with your sleeve and then start showing it to anyone who will stop long enough to read. Those lucky readers will get to learn all about the time when you were six and you tried to tiptoe into your parents’ bedroom on Christmas Eve and accidentally saw the (to you) lifesize T-Rex skeleton you wanted more than anything else in the world glowing in the dark, especially the teeth with the glowy thing. And you screamed and screamed until your parents woke up, came to calm you down and say all the right things. But then kept laughing at you about it for the next forty-five years.*

And, in some cases, it’s going to involve sex. I’m sure (engaging sarcasm filters) none of you have ever had an embarrassing incident revolving around sex or love or unrequited love (disengaging sarcasm filter), but there could be some amongst your friends who might relate.

Makes You Want To Hide In A Tiny Space

Those things that make most people want to curl up and hide until the heat death of the universe just in case someone actually knew what you did last summer? You’re going to be digging around in the dustier bits of your brain, searching for those exact things so you can use them as the basis for a good memoir.

This is what I mean by getting used to being naked in public. Nothing to do with clothing at all.

Did you know that being naked in public is one of the most pervasive fears amongst American adults? (It’s not No. 1. Snakes are No. 1 for some reason.) However, being naked in public is a profound fear of most American adults. I think this is because being naked removes any sort of protection between you and the world.Judging

The world can see you for exactly who you are. It can see your flaws and it can see your imperfections and it’s judging you. Or at least you think it is.

There is a difference, though, between nude and naked. At least there is in my own personal dictionary. Nude means you have no clothing on. There’s nothing salacious about it, nothing provocative. (As an example, dig into Discovery Channel’s misnamed Naked and Afraid “reality” show. It should be Nude and Afraid, but I’m guessing naked sounds better.) You simply are nude.

Naked, on the other hand, means that you are wearing no clothes and you might as well be transparent for all the good it does you to try and hide your secrets. Your personality and your thoughts all are on display for anyone who wants to look. If you’re like most people, you’ll do just about anything to avoid being naked if you can help it.

The Right Attitude

The difference is all in the attitude. If you’re going to be nude, you simply have to believe it’s no big deal. You might have something you want to show the world, something similar to what they have but different enough that it might make for a good story. Naked is being featured on an hour-long TMZ special and finding out the sleazebags have seeded your bathroom and bedroom with hidden cameras.

file_101560_0_Baby_MirrorWe didn’t start out afraid to be naked, you know. How many of you have ever had the joyous experience of trying to chase down a gleefully naked child sprinting for anywhere but where their clothing is? If you’ve been near a child, you’ve also been near a naked child. That’s just the way it is.

As we grow up, though, we begin to accumulate secrets. . . We begin to notice we’re different from other people and, because we’re human, assume that means we’re worse off than everyone else. . . We begin to wonder what’s wrong with us. . . And we begin to make a conscious effort to never let anyone (except under very special circumstances) see us naked and certainly not with the overhead lights on.

Wishing I Were A Nicer Person

At this point, a nicer person would suggest that he only is resized_depression-meme-generator-still-battling-depression-from-looking-at-self-naked-in-mirror-cdc88esuggesting you get metaphorically nude to begin your excursion into memoir. I  am not that nicer person.

If you want to succeed as a memoirist, you’re going to need to get naked. And what’s more, you’re going to need a spotlight pointed right at the dodgier bits of yourself. And you’re going to do it without feeling badly about yourself or even getting (eyes right) depressed over the whole thing.

Until next time, friends, when we’ll be discussing just what the heck I’ve been babbling about for the previous near-thousand words and what it has to do with writing. Promise.

And that’s the naked truth. (Come on, did you really think I’d be able to make it through this sort of post and not make that kind of pun?)


*While this is an oddly specific example of an embarrassing incident, the management would like to assure you it was completely made up and does not represent the real experiences of any actual person living, dead, or witting at a typewriter right this minute.

Fight Or Flight

When I was six, I believed a man could fly. I believed I was that man.

Standing on that windowsill in my hospital room, looking out over the grassy areas far down below, I surveyed the wide world before me and wondered how hard it would be to find my house from the air. Not that hard, I reasoned.

After all, I was Batman. And Batman could fly.

Childlike Wonder

While my grasp on physics remained lamentably weak, it was inspiration from Batman batman_v_superman_logo_minimalist_by_movies_of_yalli-d9izsg9and his pal Superman that powered me onto that windowsill. I get the feeling there won’t be much of that sort of inspiration in too many young children after the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This movie features a world that hates Superman and an angry Batman who vows to bring down the horrible alien powerhouse. I don’t see a lot of hope there, nor anything to inspire a child to believe he could fly.

That day, I was as certain of the simple, indisputable fact that Batman could fly as I was that Santa Claus needed my help. I leaned forward, over the sidewalk four floors below, and prepared to fly.

Dimly heard screaming and thumping exploded behind me, but I wasn’t worried. I’d been hearing stuff like that ever since I’d come into the hospital with fever and inflamed tonsils.

When Nurses Go Wild

The nurse rampaged across the room, slammed into the railing beside me at exactly the same instant she wrapped her beefy left arm around my waist and pulled my six-year-old self back inside the hospital room.

She threw herself away from the balcony, landing hard on her back. I bounced off her ample stomach and rolled across the floor. I quickly tangled in the Batman cape my grandmother had made for me. I glared at the nurse, angry she’d stopped me. Now who would help Santa?

Not me. The nurse made sure of that when she tossed me into the bed and raised those stupid rails on the sides.

“Stay,” she growled, her finger pointing shakily at me. She closed and locked the window and drug away the chair I’d used to climb into the window. Tired, I closed my eyes to the serenade of the nurse screaming at my parents.

I stretched out on the mattress, smiling. So close. I’d get it next time.

Learning To Fly

I never did learn to fly, but that was not for lack of thought and wishing. Not as much leaping out open fourth-floor windows, so my parents were happy about it. I was a true believer. Comic books were to showcase everything I wanted to be.There was nothing I wanted more than to be a super hero. I settled for reading about them.

These four-color wonders stoked a fire deep inside me, reminding me that heroes did the right thing and acted heroic. More importantly, I learned anybody could become a hero. Surviving my stint in the hospital with those oh-so-tempting launch windows wasn’t easy, but I finally was convinced by my mother that it was Superman who could fly, not Batman. She showed me comic books that proved it. If it was in the comic, then it had to be true.

At times, it felt like I was the only one in the world to even come close to thinking that. When I grew up, we didn’t have fan communities or ways to talk to anyone that didn’t include a string and two cups. Or possibly dinosaur mail. That didn’t really matter, though, because what was inside the covers of each comic book was worth having to live in the boring real world. Comics, then, made a huge impact on how I lived my life. I grew up certain the subterranean Mole People would invade any day now and wondering why I never developed spider powers despite getting, like, twenty bites.

Superman jumperComic book stories aren’t only about violence. Often times, they play out across the page as modern morality tales. They weren’t always the most complex of moral codes, but they were codes that I, as a young kid, could understand and emulate. For years now, my wife has said that even though I’m not religious in the slightest, I’m the most ethical and moral person she’s ever met. I smile humbly, shuffle my feet a bit and demur about taking all the credit.

Doing the right thing is a bit easier when Superman rides around in your head, personality almost fully formed from decades of reading about him. I know his fictional self so well,  he acts as my own conscience. I’m quite glad he’s no top-hat-wearing cricket. Though I can’t say the outside-underwear thing is all that appealing.

Generation Inspiration

The idea this fictional Superman represents used to be so amazingly powerful, it inspired entire generations, even if they didn’t know it. I mean, think about the inspiration to be good when you read about a being who could do anything and chose only to do good. Simply because it’s the right thing to do.

When written well, Superman is capable not only of the most amazing feats of strength, but feats of emotional power. This powerful man is there to help, but not to lead. He is there to offer assistance, but not to take over. In many ways, the way I think of Superman as an individual is the way I wish the United States could be on an international level. 

Heck, he’s so amazing, even killer robots from deepest space bent on world conquest admire Superman.the-iron-giant-superman

It’s not easy to live up to that example. The thing is, Superman is about the trying. So many of the parts of myself I consider to be essential and essentially good I can trace back to lessons from comic books. The never-quit attitude of Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spider-Man drove me back to graduate school. Acceptance of those different from me comes from the X-Men. Always looking for the truth comes from Batman. Capt. America taught me it’s okay to be corny when you believe in something.

I worry, though, that the folks behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice might have learned the wrong lessons from these once-inspirational heroes.

especially-not-supermanIn the movie, the people of Earth are afraid of Superman (after the damage and deaths from the Man of Steel film, all of which can be traced directly back to Superman’s presence on Earth) and he ends up fighting against Batman. I understand that, to many, the idea of a Superman hated by the world is more realistic. I wonder, though. . . Do they realize they’re complaining about realism in a movie about a man who can fly, another man who dresses up as a bat, a super-powered woman who comes from an advanced, hidden civilization, a cyborg and a human living under water?

I understand that emotional realism is what allows us to accept these fantastical elements in the movie world. I only think it’s possible to achieve emotional realism with a main character who actually inspires hope rather than fear. The problem is, I don’t think the writer and director behind this new slate of  movies based on DC Comics characters really understand that. Even glossing over the idea that a man who famously does not kill, ends the first movie killing someone, these men don’t get it.

tusetjwiwzzwoqtvo7nsWhen everyone on Earth would have been demonstrably better off had baby Kal El explosively decompressed somewhere beyond the orbit of Neptune, I think the filmmakers substantially misinterpreted their main character. I and many others left the theater after the Man of Steel movie depressed and tired. I ask myself if I really want to get my hopes up and then have them dashed by an overly violent and cynical movie. I really don’t think the answer is yes.

superman_by_d_kaneIf given a choice, which would I rather have? Leave a movie theater depressed, cynical and ready to hide while the world becomes worse and worse? Or leave the theater uplifted, grateful and wanting to make the world better?

I know which one I would choose.

But, then, I believed a man could fly.


Examining The Ingredients

Examining The Ingredients

Laws are like sausages; it’s better not to see either being made.*

By which, of course, we mean that there are some things that we simply must enjoy and not worry about how they came to be. And there are some things that we cannot enjoy if we know how they are made.cookbook

All of which has very little to do with what we’re talking about today, but I like the aphorism and it does imply something about ingredients and that, friends, is why we’re gathered here today.

In our last post, I talked about how I’d recently competed in and finished the BattleFrog obstacle race series 8k run in Charlotte, NC. I gave you a brief overview of what it was like competing in the mud, as well as the horrible exertions I had to endure to make it across the finish line on my own two feet. As opposed to the relatively small, but statistically significant, number of people who had to be driven over the finish lines on the back ends of the medic trucks.

Keeping Time

Essentially, I took that one memory and made a short memoir or personal essay from it, focusing not on any one thing, but, rather, on the memory as a whole. I took the event and created my memoir as essentially a timeline of smaller events. This happened and then that happened and then that happened.

While this can be an effective manner in which to relate a memory and turn it into a

Symbol of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Because, that’s why.

memoir, it’s not necessarily the best. As I mentioned previously, to successfully sell your memoirs, you’re going to need to find a way of taking an intensely personal experience and making it into something that you can relate to a wider audience.

Sure, your mom, dad or cousin might buy a memoir that’s only focused on you, and has no applicability to anyone other than you. . . Though I’m pretty sure you’re not going to be making many sales beyond those three people. Even if the cousin is a conjoined twin, I still say they’re going to share a copy rather than purchase two. That’s aside from the point, though.

Moving On

To create a story that’s relatable to a wider audience, I find it’s necessary to take part of the event and focus on the more meaning rather more than on the actual thing that happened.

For instance, I casually remarked that I’d done this obstacle race because a year previously my wife had run the race while also saying with absolute certainty that I was not in good enough shape to finish it with her.

Sense of Direction

That bit, right there. . . That can be the basis for any number of different takes on the actual event, as filtered through the eyes of a married man. I could focus on the bit about being a man and hating to have my athletic prowess questioned (even if my most difficult exercise is walking the dog [well, strolling with the dog while he sniffs and waters every three feet]). I could focus on the depth of stupidity to which I will gleefully excavate myself when I think I need to show I am . . . man! Both of these could easily support comedic retellings of up to 1,500 words. Easily.

Or, I could go in a more serious direction, and talk about the distance that grows between long-married couples, lamenting the breakdown in communications which can lead to resentments and anger. This decision also could benefit from  bringing in outside sources, such as books I’ve read about how to invigorate a long-time relationship, or how to deal with anger. Maybe even include a clip from the Esther Perel TED talk that’s created quite a high level of interest among those who study relationships and love.

The reason I made mention of those two (possibly three) directions is because I think that they could lead to the most viewers or readers to the memoir. While not everyone might be in the mood to read about the Saturday where someone they didn’t know went out and did some sort of exercise thing or other. . . Almost everyone can identify with doing something stupid just to prove a point that probably wasn’t even being made by someone else and was all in their head. Although, oddly, I think I might identify a bit too closely with that, looking back on some of the things I’ve done.

I also think that most people in a relationship could identify with or want to see how someone else handled discovering a growing chasm between themselves and a partner. It can be quite shocking, especially if it comes from something so seemingly innocuous as running an an obstacle course race. The feeling of suddenly discovering what you thought was solid ground is actually loosely aggregated silicon grains sliding across a sharply declining slope is both recognizable and frightening at the same time.

Next Time On. . . 

We’ll move to the related subject of getting comfortable being naked in public.

Yes. Really. It is related. Promise. Well. . . You’ll just have to come back next time and see, won’t you?


Fun Notes

*This aphorism often is attributed to Prince Otto von Bismark, though a more likely origin is from John Godfrey Saxe. FSM, I love stuff like this. Seriously. I know this makes me more of a geek than most are comfortable admitting, but this stuff is fascinating. Simply fascinating.

One time? At band camp?

One time? At band camp?

The darkness ate the world, leaving behind only the soft susurrus of moving air gently swirling past my ankles, bare in the night. Seeing nothing, feeling only my soles against the hard, cold surface beneath them, my nervous system seemingly extended out from me in all directions, willing for there to be something, anything other than the darkness.

I stepped forward, praying I was right, praying I knew where I really was. A sharp pain lanced through my foot, the skin parting for the smooth, hard metal shoving its way inside me.*


Last night? When I woke up? I had to go to the bathroom? I didn’t turn on the light and I stepped on a pin? It hurt!


So, friend. . . Out of curiosity, which do you think makes for the better story? Which of these versions do you think will make people want to read more, to continue giving me their time, attention and focus? Which one of these grabbed readers by the eyeballs and refused to let go?

Will I ever stop asking rhetorical questions to which we all know the answer and really wish I would get on with the flapping post?

Yes. Yes I will.

319859These stories cover the same memory. Yes, I did once stumble through my darkened house in the darkness of night’s middle. Yes, I did step on a thumbtack. No, I still haven’t figured out what a thumbtack was doing on the floor in the first place since we didn’t have a bulletin board and hadn’t for years.

The only difference between the two story beginnings is that one is told with an eye toward drama and one is told just about as blandly, as offensively, as boringly as I could make it in a few words. (Yes, a few words. I mean, it’s not like these words are free or anything. They do cost. Words don’t grow on trees, mister.**)

I know what you’re thinking. The answer is, no, I don’t know how we’ll get the chickens to wear corduroy, but that’s not important right now. I’ll tell you what I’m thinking. I’m wondering if maybe one of those two story openings are true and maybe one isn’t.

The purpose of this blog is to talk about how we can take our memories and turn them into good stories. I stand by that purpose. However, I also believe the way we tell stories has a direct impact on whether or not people want to read it. Think about it.

These two guys? They floated down a river on a homemade raft. It’s Huckleberry Finn, a classic of American literature by Mark Twain.

There’s this sailing ship, right? And the captain is sort of crazy. And they go fishing for this really big fish. It’s Moby Dick, by Nathanial Hawthorne, another American classic.

There’s this guy who goes looking for his lost love in a really creepy place and he finds a guide to show him around. It’s Neuromancer, a science-fiction classic by William Gibson. No, it’s not The Divine Comedy by Dante Alegheri. Don’t be silly.

There’s this girl? And she falls in love with a sparkly vam– You know what? There’s just no way to talk about that story that’s more boring than the way it was published. Let’s consider the point made and move on.

As long as my memoir deals with the events that happened to me, I feel telling the story for maximum effect is just fine. Which doesn’t mean that I can start dragging in exciting things that happen to other people or what I think might be a fun thing to have happened just because it sounds cooler than what really happened.  No, we stick with the truth.Boring-Life-Status-for-Whatspp

Only, I’m thinking we might want to consider telling the truth. . . on fire.

All right. So you’ve got my justification for seeing my memories through the lens of an old-time pulp adventure magazine. I’m thinking it pretty much works out okay. As far as justifications go, that is.

Next go round, I want to talk about how to pick the memory you want to light afire.


* Just so you know, I wasn’t serious there. I would have used that opening for a humor piece. It was way too dark and brooding to actually, seriously talk about merely stepping on a pin while somnambulating through the house. One of the best tools to make fun of something minor, which we will discuss later, is to overdramatize it, blow it up all out of proportion.
**Sorry about that. I seem to have some of my fatherhood blog leaking out here in the writing blog. You know how it goes. Sometimes, A Dude’s Guide simply must be pimped out a bit.
Blank Screen Blues

Blank Screen Blues

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t.

No, wait. True, but not the bifurcation for which I was searching.

There are two ways to approach a blank computer screen, staring at you, demanding to be filled with information, riveting information, information that will change the lives of readers and the destiny of nations and the course of civilizations: fear or eagerness.

Despite the last sentence above, I see a blank screen as an invitation to dive in and begin creating something, anything. Nature abhors a vacuum. (Much to the dismay of the Orek people, who keep having to replace Mother Nature’s vacuum system almost every week.) I abhor a blank screen.

If you’re the type who sees a blank screen and immediately your fingers begin itching for a keyboard so you can start filling that screen. . . We’re good. You can come back next time. Class dismissed for you. Go out and do something. Get some experience so we can strip mine that little memory, rip it into its constituent engrams and rebuild it into a story worth telling.

It’s the rest of you I want to talk to today. The ones who still are fixated on the whole blank screen sentence up above. Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey, you! Down here. Right.



Good. That’s good. Time to let go of the panic (at least a little bit) and concentrate (at least a little bit) so we can get to writing (at least a full page). (What? You thought I was going to advocate for only writing a little bit? We’ve got a lot to learn about each other, friend.)

So, the idea of a blank screen fills you with fear? Makes you quake in your Joseph Campbell high heels? Makes you tug on that full, manly beard and mumble about doing the dishes? (Hopefully one or the other because Joseph Campbell doesn’t make shoes big enough to fit the beardy types and no one likes to write with sore feet.)

There’s no need to fear a blank screen. The odds are very low that it will bite you or otherwise do you physical harm. The only damage that’s going to be done to you is by you. Or, more accurately, by your poor frightened brain.

People afraid of a blank screen are a little like my oldest son, Sarcasmo (Names changed to protect the not-so-innocent-but-still-likely-to-complain-incessantly) when faced with a roller coaster. He hated the things when he was younger. He would start to build up the idea of the roller coaster in his head until it was some massive monster, barely slapped together with dry chewing gum and goblin spit. Taking him to an amusement park was a waste of money because he was not getting on anything that moved fast or had the possibility of intentional loops.

Until the day he went with friends and they teased him into going on a roller coaster. (I didn’t say they were good friends) Forcing himself to step forward one foot after another, Sarcasmo climbed into the coaster car and prepared for the worst. Which never happened

He later told me he kept expecting to be torn apart, or feel like someone was trying to twist his brain around in his skull. And it never happened. The roller coaster wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d built it up to be in his head.

Now, insert you for Sarcasmo and blank screen for roller coaster. It’s the same deal.BS flag

People will build up the idea of a blank screen so much, they begin to fear it. They begin to fear it because they believe they must produce deathless prose the moment fingers touch keyboard. They must outwrite Shakespeare, out copywrite Don Draper each time they see a blank screen.

That’s a load of . . . bunk. Throwing my bunk stuff flag on this one.

Precision and nigh-perfection come with rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting some more. Before you can get there, though, you have to write. And that does not have to be perfect. Or pretty. Or even likable. It just needs to be there so you can work on it later.

In fact, let’s make this formal.

You, hereinafter known as “the writer,” are formally given permission to produce sucky first drafts. It’s what you do with the sucky first draft when you’re done that determines your worth as “the writer.”

When faced with a blank screen. . . type. That’s it. Just start typing. It doesn’t matter if it’s any good, or even on point. Just type. Sort of like what I did to start the post. (Which was kept in there as an example that I could point to from down here.) I typed out a stupid joke and that enabled me to get warm and start warming to the topic from there on out.

melting iceThat’s all you have to do.
It doesn’t matter what you type, as long as you begin to type away. Once you’ve got some words, that fear will simply melt away.

Let’s get to it.

All Greek To Me

All Greek To Me

Η ανεξέταστη ζωή δεν αξίζει να ζει. – Σωκράτης

The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates

The above quote is attributed, as you can probably guess, to the philosopher Socrates. To me, the idea behind his words is that we should all look deeply into our lives and try to determine if we are doing that which makes our lives better. Are we enriching our lives?

Are we living? Are we existing?

And, in this age of social media, are we busy telling anyone about that life?

The idea behind this blog is to work together to understand the best way to produce essays (or tell stories, if you prefer) about your life. I want to work together to craft highly personal stories that still reach out and offer meaning and insight to others reading our words.

Even personal stories aren’t all about me. Or you, for that matter.

So, what do you say? Get to it?


The goat? Not a simulation. That, my friends, is a real goat.