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Coffee Break No. 24 – Miles Away

by Jonathan 0 Comments

Just a little something to ease you–or me–through a snowy Sunday.

Though I may be miles away from her
With years that pass without a word
I’ve never seen a moon so high
Her name hangs down from there tonight

So put your little hand away
I’ve seen such needy days before
On nights like this my hope returns
Though I may be miles away from here

A locket just for good luck
A pocket knife for long nights
And a sleepy little dreamer
With still miles to go

27 take me home
And pour that last year down my throat
The days will fade and the nights will burn
Though I may be miles away from her

I see her in the doorway
Staring a hole through it all
The first of many fits
And the last one was, man the last one was

So check your lock and close your eyes
When you wake up I’ll be all right
Never tell them where it hurts
And keep your bullet safe inside

The wind has wept and the sky is slurred
But we slept through the sunrise too
I’m dreaming still of who you were
Though I may be miles away from her

Happy Thanksgiving

by Jonathan 3 Comments

And it’s only the giving that makes you what you are.

Wond’ring aloud —
how we feel today.
Last night sipped the sunset —
my hands in her hair.
We are our own saviours
as we start both our hearts beating life
into each other.

Wond’ring aloud —
will the years treat us well.
As she floats in the kitchen,
I’m tasting the smell
of toast as the butter runs.
Then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed
and I shake my head.
And it’s only the giving
that makes you what you are.

Hope your day is wonderful.

Working with Fred

by Jonathan 3 Comments

Never underestimate what can be made in the basement.

Those of you have read Damon Knight’s Creating Short Fiction are likely familiar with the concept of Fred:

“Unconscious” is a lousy term, by the way–it isn’t unconscious, it just has trouble communicating. “The silent mind” would be better, maybe, or “the tongue-tied mind,” but I prefer to call it “Fred.”

“To be productive, Fred needs a lot of stimulating input–odd facts or fancies to knock together, insights, specimens, interesting data of all kinds.”

I write about this now, because I’ve been feeding Fred over the last few days. He doesn’t know it, but I’ve peeked in on him working away while I walked the dog or drove to the store or washed the dishes.

I’ve been revising a short story and I’m relying on Fred to help me round things out and give a sense of wholeness to the story. To that end, I’ve been feeding Fred bits of this and that to see what he churns out. He’s all about production. The more he churns out, the more likely there is to be a nugget of goodness in there.  So I keep feeding him and wouldn’t you know it, Fred has been busting his hump.

Stephen King, in On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft referred to his muse this way:

There is a muse… He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level… You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think this is fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what i get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration.”

Hm. Fred and this basement guy seem to have an awful lot in common. Maybe Fred is the basement guy’s name. Or at the very least, they play pinochle and swill Schlitz together on the weekends.

Who’s your muse? Where do you draw your inspiration? Fairies? Homonculi? Aliens? I wanna know.

This guy’s not a bad muse. Just saying is all.

I Don’t Know

Many who saw Inception still have no idea what the hell happened.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one in the room who has no clue what’s going on. Maybe that’s the case or maybe others are better at faking or maybe, just maybe, everyone feels the same way but is too afraid to let on.

I’ve got a four-year-old daughter (soon to be five) who, like so many kids trying to figure out the world, is not afraid to ask questions when she doesn’t know something. Sometimes I get frustrated with her constant need to know why, but most times I hang in there and answer all her questions the best I can. Usually the line of questions ends with me saying I don’t know.

Chris Smither captures this experience perfectly here.

Even before I got back into writing fiction, I attended a conference for outdoor businesses (whitewater rafting in my case) and got a pretty good primer on how to make social media work for my company. Wouldn’t you know it, in order to compete and do well, I needed to be the go-to guy for information on white water rafting in West Virginia (see what I did there with those keywords?).

Like most writers in 2010, I have my thumb on the pulse of the writing and publishing world. Which means that I’m not really picking up everything clearly because I’m supposed to be using two fingers instead of my thumb. So I sift through the Brobdingnagian mound of must-do lists and must-must-never-do lists and try to figure out what is relevant for me.

All the while, I’m pounded over the head about author platform and how I need to offer value to keep people coming to this blog, to be an expert on what ever I’m trying to sell online (just my natural charm right now) so that people come to me for answers (which they still don’t).

Through all of it, I think to myself, “I don’t know enough to be the go-to guy for anything, unless people want a run down of what it’s like to be me.” I’ve tried that and I can most assuredly tell you that 99% of anyone I ever talk with do not desire that run down. I don’t either. I have to live with me every day (ask my wife, it’s no pleasure cruise).

Out there in the twittersphere, the blogosphere, the, shit, I don’t know, facebookosphere? and all those parts of our atmosphere that don’t actually help sustain human life I see people slinging their opinions fearless of how poorly received they may be, or how ill-conceived.

Maybe I’m just jealous of those people because I think way too much about the fallout of what I put out there. Sometimes to the point that it immobilizes my trigger finger from hitting the button. Maybe it’s the election season effect where everyone with a mouth is happy to tell why their candidate is the best or why mine sucks. Maybe I’m tired of the way everything is pitched in brilliant white and inky black with no shades in between.

It’s not just writers who are guilty of this. It’s human nature to lean on our beliefs for security purposes. But perhaps if we delved a little deeper and peeked at our insecurities once in a while (make sure the room is well lit), we would need to spout less sound and fury to make ourselves feel better.

I’m okay with people sharing knowledge. No, really. I love anecdotes and information that inform my world and make it richer. I love to hear other people’s stories. I love to know other people’s dreams and fears.

But occasionally I like to hear people say that they don’t know.

What Keeps You Going?

by Jonathan 1 Comment

That's Mr. Boss to you.

I came across this bit from the Kennedy Center Honors Bruce Springsteen. The guy is a marvel. He’s been rockin’ for over 40 years. You’ve got to have some kind of love for your job to keep at it that long and that well.

Me, I’m a Nebraska, Born to Run and Ghost of Tom Joad kind of guy, but I could watch Mr. Springsteen ply his trade any time. He lays it all out there every single night.

It’s a great reminder that,  just like other artists, writers need to lay it out there all the time to inspire readers, to leave them wanting more, to have them think about what we’ve written.  Just sit down at the keyboard and open a vein.

P.S. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a good long while to come around on Bruce Springsteen. Maybe he was too much on the radio when I was a kid, or maybe it was that the music that made it to the airwaves didn’t satisfy or resonate like the albums I mentioned above. Anyway, better late to the party than never arriving at all.