Read. Play. Write.

Read.

Read everything. Read what you like. Life is too short for bad books, so if the author doesn’t grab you in the first 2500 words, they weren’t writing for you. That’s okay. There are plenty more to choose from. Read to see how other writers get the job done. Admire their words and celebrate for them. Pick out the hidden bits like they are diamonds in a coal mine. You know how you sometimes insert things into a story that are just for you? So do they.

If you want to read something new, don’t give up because it’s hard. I love ‘Ulysses’ and read it every few years – I read at least an episode every June 16th, because, well, it’s June 16th. If you don’t know why, that’s fine. Because there are dates from books that appeal to you, too. I couldn’t tell you Harry Potters birthday, but I imagine there are a great many who could. All that aside, I will not recommend ‘Ulysses’ to anyone unless they are looking for a dense, incomprehensible read that requires a second book just to begin to grasp what is going on (‘James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Study by Stuart Gilbert) not to mention two other books to get something of a background. I wouldn’t do that to you any more than I would recommend reading ‘Finnegans Wake’ – which also requires a second book just to kick things off (‘A Skeleton’s Key to Finnegans Wake’) before you go down that rabbit hole of a novel. For the record, I own a copy of Giambattista Vico’s “The New Science” and have read it but don’t pretend to understand it but I do get a sense of how it applies to the ‘thunder’ in ‘Finnegans Wake’, nor do I grasp how each of the thundering translates. But I do love the line ‘riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by commodious vices of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.’ and I will for the rest of my life. Why? Because I love to read and I remember the things I love. Reading does that to you.

Play.

Play with words. Play at games. Play at work. Play at home. Play with your kids. Play when you walk, play when you talk. Play, play, play.

It excites the mind and stimulates you. It’s a kind of meditation. You lose track of time and focus on the moment. It humbles you and shows you that sometimes you do take yourself too serious. It grounds you in a way like nothing else can.

I have two silly references for you.

Remember that episode of Friends, where Rachel is avoiding Phoebe in the parts because of the way she runs. Rachel has this measured pace, with the heaving breathing and the panting, while Phoebe runs like a fool, arms flailing, legs splayed. Rachel is embarrassed for Phoebe. Phoebe doesn’t care. She asks Rachel, “Do you remember how you ran when you were a kid? How much fun it was? Why do you run if it makes you unhappy? Why do you have that serious look on your face?” Rachel then proceeds to run like Phoebe and realizes the wisdom of her words – then for comedic effect, she runs into a police horse. But besides that, Phoebe was right. Run like a kid. Run because it’s fun, don’t run because it’s works.

Reference two is an example my son gave me the other day. He plays with abandon. Whole worlds are built and crumble when he plays. And every chance he gets, he wants to share that with me. I get involved as often as I can (which is not as often as I’d like – chores and work tend to get into the way from time to time) and we have epic wars that span the whole house and I find my mind wandering into all of the wonderful things I can have these toys do. I’m not worried about grammar or sentence structure or what someone might think of the ridiculous story being played out in the living room, I just want to have fun. How often can Brainy Smurf be the major domo of a crime organization that includes an enforcer group made up of undead dinosaurs? This does not happen in any work of James Joyce, Umberto Eco or Salman Rushdie that I know of.

Anyway, the updates Reido gave me while I was cleaning the kitchen and making dinner and doing loads of laundry included:

  1. A unnamed Sith Lord used The Force to compel one HALO Spartan to chop off the arms and head of another HALO Spartan.
  2. The HALO Spartan then became a Jedi who then used The Force to turn the other HALO Spartan into a Force Zombie so they could get back at the Sith Lord

Am I the only guy who sees a novel right there? And that’s all from playing.

So, I implore you. Just play.

Write.

I’ve already said this in another post, but it bears repeating. I write every day. Every day. 500 words minimum. I must admit, it is not always a story, but sometimes it is. It is not always good, so I don’t always share it. It’s not always happy, so I don’t always keep it. But I write. I write because I have to. It’s the monkey on my back.

The more you write, the more you want to share. A compulsion builds in you. And then you end up showing it to someone you love and trust. And that’s the first step. Some don’t get further than that, and that’s okay. Because writing should be done first and foremost for love.

Then you show it to friends. These are the people in your writer’s groups. These are the people you hang out with from time to time. Even people at work. And from here, people sometimes want to see more. Even if it’s 10 or 11 people (like the kind people that follow this blog), you end up doing it for fun.

Finally, once you have shared with the one you love, and then did it with friends for fun, you then have the desire to try and do it for money. This is the hard part. Because there are many more people out there who are already doing it for money and competition is fierce. You may have to settle on never getting paid a dime for what you do, but there is other forms of payment. Recognition from a contest of your peers, a few free copies of a magazine, a complete stranger reading your stuff and saying ‘not bad, not bad at all’. That’s payment. But you have to be prepared the form that payment might take.

But if you don’t write, if you don’t do it every day, you won’t get there. How do you know what to write? Where do you start? Well, you can start with reading something you enjoy….

Writing Every Day

Writing every day means you will always have something to write about.

I’ve patted myself on the back pretty good over the past few weeks. My output hasn’t been this great since I was a teenager.

In those days, I carried around my zippercase – a plastic binder that could be sealed shut with a zipper. I loaded reams of three hole punched lined paper into that thing and I would write all the time. This is not an exaggeration. All the time. Some of it – hell, let’s not mince words – most of it was typical teenage angst that grew into adult anger issues when I turned twenty and then it just went away, dwindling until it was a few hundred words written every day about whatever hit my fancy, notes on what was going on in my head.

About six weeks ago, Facebook and the Writers Community of Your Region ‘conspired’ to get my attention – a mini National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for those of you are cool like me). You didn’t have to write a novel, just make a commitment to write every day for the month of June, to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

Well, I didn’t write every day – the month was not that kind – but I did hit my target of averaging 500 words a day. And I felt great. I imagine this is what normal people feel like when they exercise and start to feel fit. I didn’t want it to end. I found myself checking Facebook every day to see how everyone was doing, to offer encouragement, to see what else was going on that I could be part of. I made a friend and I created a shared folder on my OneDrive account and got to read some seriously good prose. Prose that I could never write. Prose that would exhaust me if I kept up that level of skill. Everything was so amazing, but June was coming to a close and it was going to be over.

“It can’t end,” I thought.

Then the moderator of the WCYR NaNoWriMo Facebook page (is it just me, or is that a mouthful?) took the trouble to make the page not just for the month of June but to make monthly commitments for writing – you make your ‘pledge’ at the start of the month and then post as you see fit. And then I’m write (sic) back at it.

For the past few days, though, I’ve managed over 2000 words a day. I feel like a rockstar. I have to make a conscious choice to stop and walk away or I get lost in it all. Where is all of it coming from? It’s made up from old story ideas and snippets and thoughts collected over the past thirty years or so – that notion of having been at this for most of my life is daunting and I will leave it be for now.

Even today, I wanted to sit and make notes on what I wanted to write for the next 10 000 words or so and I caught myself slipping back into writing mode. That’s when it struck me – the reason I have something to write about is because I wrote every day for the past thirty years.

“Hey, you know what. I think I’ll post this to WordPress.”

So I did, if only to tell the 11 fine people that follow me to keep writing every day. And if you aren’t, then today’s a good day to start.

Mulligan

Mulligan
Miss this big guy

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.

Those are the first lines of my favourite book of all time, Ulysses, and the inspiration for this guy’s name. He went to sleep for the last time this past Thursday, surrounded by his family and his best friend, Reido.

Before the kids went to school on the Wednesday, my wife and I explained that he might not be coming home from the vet. So, Reid brings down all his stuffies and puts them around Mulligan.

He wasn’t able to walk much and hung around his food and water bowls. I carried him every so often to his litter box to see if he would go to the washroom.

Reid went right down to eye level and talked to Mulligan and I asked what he was doing.

“All my stuffies have known Mulligan at least as long as I have. He’s known Monkey just as long as I have. They all want to say goodbye.”

If I had to mortgage the house to save this cat, I would have signed the papers right then and there. But money wouldn’t fix Mulligan. He was just old. Fourteen years old – almost as long as Mell and I have been married.

Mell and I agreed to treat him for 24 hours and see if he would stabilize. After that, it would be just maintaining with diet and medication. No problems there. Like I said, no matter what the cost. I wouldn’t be able to face Reid if he asked me if we tried everything.

It sounded good in the evening when I called, and again in the morning. He might be turning around. But, in the afternoon, when the doctor explained that the kidney disease had turned to kidney failure and it was time to say goodbye and I turned into a blubbering mess.

 

When it came time to make the final decisions about the urn, Reid and Elena decided what to get. Reid wanted to make sure it matched the colours in his room, because “that’s where he’s going to go, right?”

Finally, the attendant asked if we wanted to be there for the whole thing. Meaning the euthanol injection.

“Fuck, no,” was my first response. Then Mell stepped in. It was Reid’s cat, she said. And he was. The two were together all the time. If Reid was playing, Mulligan sat with him. If Reid was on his tablet or doing anything, Mulligan wasn’t far away. And the stuffies.

We asked him what he wanted and he wanted to stay with his friend. So, we all gathered around, took a few last pictures, and Reid petted and held his friend until the doctor put her stethoscope to Mullie’s chest and said that she couldn’t hear any more heart movement. He just went to sleep. We stayed with him a little while longer and then just said goodbye.

A bouquet of flowers came today from the vet’s office – a very pretty arrangement. And we should be bringing home his ashes before the end of the month and they will be going straight to his buddy’s room.

I’m going to miss the little bastard. Swear to you, I felt his nose on my shin as I was typing this evening. I do want another cat and I think Reid does, too.

“It doesn’t matter what pet we get, Daddy,” Reid explained. “Because whatever we get, Mulligan is going to come back as part of it, right? Right, Daddy? Just like that movie about the dogs. Mulligan can come back as a dog, right?”

“Absolutely, Reido.”

And you know what? He’s right.

 

Why I Am Not An Atheist

*n.b. This is a repost from almost 5 years ago and it seems worthy of repeating*

Atheism is an exclusive school of thought. It excludes. It says what they don’t believe in.
I prefer Humanism. It is inclusive. It says they believe in human beings.
I am inclusive, too. This is what I believe.
I believe no one should ever attack anyone else’s belief system. Everyone is entitled to their own doctrine, even if it is demonstrably wrong.
I believe everyone has a thirst for wonder.
I believe nature is better at wonders than we are.
I believe everyone makes mistakes. To err is human.
I believe the way to reduce the mistakes is to remain skeptical.
I believe experiments reveal truth.
I believe that if I were to stand at the edge of a Focault pendulum, put the 500lb bob to my nose, and let it go, that when it swung back towards me, it would not hit me in the face.
I believe we should examine and correct and experiment to verify every hypothesis.
I believe there are no privileged frames of reference.
I believe no child should leave grade school without a complete understanding of “The Bullshit Detection Kit”.
I believe in Occam’s Razor.
I believe an agnostic is an atheist without the strength of his convictions.
I believe Jesus Christ to be an admirable, historical figure.
I believe the Sermon On The Mount is one of the greatest ethical statements and one of the greatest speeches in history.
I believe “Love thy neighbour” is a long shot solution to world peace.
I believe the world needs an inspiration.
I believe Jesus Christ was a great, brave man with insight’s into unpopular truths.
I believe Jesus Christ was just a man.

via Studio for WP app.

Pics or It Didn’t Happen

Downtown Newmarket was so busy for Canada Day that I had to drop off my wife and kids and go hunting for a parking spot. I elected to park at The Town Of Newmarket building and walk through Fairy Lake to get to Main Street. I didn’t get very far before I saw the turtle.

He shell must have been two feet in diameter and it looked like he was dead. From where I stood, it looked like his head was tilted to the side and his tongue hanging out in an almost cartoonish depiction of death. A pair of girls came by and one of them had a bottle of water. As she poured it over this poor creature, it seemed to come to life, like those speeded up videos of a flower blooming. It didn’t take long for a crowd to form.

No one, save myself, knew what to do. This guy (I insisted on referring to him as male) looked to be a snapping turtle and if the internet has taught us anything, it’s that snapping turtles are deceptive. Those jaws can snap two by fours like twigs and would make short work of finger bones.

“Alright,” I said. “Enough of this.”

I dropped my backpack, phone, and umbrella. I searched my backpack, looking for a pair of gloves. Didn’t have any but I did have a first aid kit, which would come in handy if the internet told the truth about these fearsome beasts.

A new bystander was brave enough to make physical contact and he didn’t react. So, I took it further and touched it all over, trying to get it accustomed to me and to gauge his reactions to my touch.

Looking at his tail, it struck me how prehistoric it looked. It really did look like a dinosaur’s tail, long and scaly and spiky.

After saying an internal ‘aw, fuck it’ I grabbed my man by the shell and trotted him to the river via a beaten path I could only assume he had beat in the first place.

I made it to the rivers edge without incident. No issues. Then he began to thrash. And, yeah, they really can almost reach their head around to their own tail. Anyone who relates slow movement to a turtle hasn’t ever grabbed a snapping turtle by the shell. This big bastard was fast.

What I had intended to be a gentle release into the river, something that would make Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom proud, turned out to be a clumsy, upside down toss into the water. I watched as he figured himself and went back to swimming.

Everyone on the path was happy. We did our good deed for the day. I thanked the girl for sacrificing her bottle of water and said, “You know what? I bet this is how Steve Irwin felt every day of his life.”

I walked fast to meet up with the family. They’d be wondering what was taking me, I was betting. I tried to get ahead of the two young girls, conscious they might be worried about the creepy old guy with the old backpack and the umbrella.

“This would make a great blog post,” I thought. Then, on the heels of that. “Damnit. No pictures. No one will believe me.”

via Studio for WP app.

Chay-Chay-Cha-aange

Decided to upgrade.

I like the look.

I made the decision to upgrade because I wanted to have a reason to write every day. Not an email or a story (I can’t always write a story every day and I write far, far too many emails – just ask the people that work with me) but just to write about what comes to mind.

-Write every day

-Write 15,000 words by July 31st

-Have my story “The Garden” ready to be submitted somewhere

The “Street Art UFO” image is one I’ve admired for a long time. I don’t know who the owner is and until they contact me to take it down (after I am internet famous, of course) I will continue to use it. The image reminds me of my youth.

No words today, other than these. Wish me luck.

via Studio for WP app.

Our Age Of Trust

I’m still writing.

I just stopped posting about writing. I’ve averaged about 168 words a day this year to date, but over 600 a day for June, absolutely slaughtering the target I set. I’ve been lucky enough, too, to make contact with another writer and now we have a writer’s group of two going on, which is exciting.

But I find I miss blogging every day. So, I will blog a thought now, if only to share. I don’t know if I’ve overheard this or read this and the reason I say that is because it came to me fully formed, like Athena from Zeus. So much so, that I am hesitant to say it’s my idea but I’ll share it anyway.

The Age of Trust

I’ve come to accept that logical is only a quarter of the equation. It can make perfect sense but if someone doesn’t feel “right” about it, then it’s doomed to fail.

We live now in The Age Of Trust and facts don’t matter. The Age of Truth is a long way off, a time where the facts of the matter prevail and you have the data to learn from your mistakes.

Such as it is now, in our Age Of Trust, if we get it wrong, we blame the person we put our trust in and not look at ourselves and ask why we were compelled to believe them in the first place.

I’m committed to building my own world of truth. I’ll ask questions and question the answers. I won’t stop until the narrative make sense.

I’ll criticize a movie for it’s plot holes yet won’t dig deep into the things that steer my life.

I won’t always get it right, but at least I’ll have the data to learn from my mistakes instead of blaming the person I trusted in the first place.

I will own my mistakes.