Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Stress and Adversity

These things keep us sharp, they give us our edge. The last thing you want is for life to be easy, ‘cuz that makes you soft.

We think stress is bad, but it’s not.

Every time you overcome some obstacle or persevere through hardship, you become stronger and more formidable.

Remember that the next time things start to go south.

New Shooter Coming Out

It’s a great honor and joy to teach someone at the beginning of their journey in a very difficult but rewarding profession.

I forgot how good it felt.

It was a good day.

Oh Boy

This is getting hard. Very involved with writing – not so much here.

Maybe this has outlived its usefulness? Hmmm…

Worth Remembering

“If there is nothing to grab the reader in the first page, it’s probably getting a “no” vote. Thems just the breaks. This is part of why writing teachers harp on the importance of the first page, first paragraph, and first line. That may be all that’s read.”

– Lincoln Michel

It took me awhile to get this – I always assumed the story started where it needed to, and that setting up the characters and narrative evolved at its own pace, as long as it was interesting and well-written.

But I get it – if you’re a slush reader, something needs to grab you quickly or else it goes in the rejection pile.

Duly noted.

Alarm Fatigue

One alarm shouts Emergency!
Attention must be paid
A dozen other alarms join in
And begin to form music
Making a comfortable ambient bed
That says Welcome home

Here’s Your Fucking Trigger Warning

“I would urge writers that if something doesn’t work, it’s not because it’s gone too far – it’s because it needs to be dialed up even farther.

There is an authority in doing the thing that is completely above and beyond wrong.

So if a line is not quite working, maybe it needs to be more extreme instead of less extreme.”

– Chuck Palahniuk

When to Call it Done

In music, the first takes are usually the best – warts and all. It’s a hard concept to grasp if you’re an artist, if only because you want your creation to be perfect. But here’s the thing: Nothing is ever perfect, and it would probably be boring if it was.

Musicians are notorious for never finishing anything, because they’re constantly tinkering and polishing – until the thing is no longer alive, it’s dead. You polished the life out of it.

Does that mean you ship something with mistakes?

If you’ve captured the idea you were trying to get across, yes it does.

If mistakes worked for Bob Dylan and Miles Davis, then they’ll work for you. Caveat: In Dylan and Miles’s case, they were masters at conveying their art in a way that connected deeply with the listener. Few of us are this gifted, but you’ll certainly never get there if you can’t finish anything.

Does this axiom apply to other art forms as well?

It’s an idea worth exploring.

Adapt or Die

  1. Wake up every day with the intent to create something & be of service to others.
  2. Strive to learn something new and improve.
  3. Be prepared to adapt when life throws up obstacles thwarting your plans.

Numbers 1 & 2 are necessary for growth and being useful to society.

But number 3 is the most important – it’s the ultimate tool for survival.

Adapt or be left behind.

Good Advice

“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.”

– Neil Gaiman

Well, That Was Timely

Yesterday, even in the throes of some serious self-doubt, I still submitted a short-story for publication. It was designed to evoke horror, something I hadn’t attempted before. So I knew this one would be tough to find a home for.

Prior to this, none of the stories I wrote were designed to fit into a particular genre – I was just having fun expressing myself. For those who aren’t writers, constant rejection is a big part of the game (if you are trying to get published), and yesterday, for the first time, I was wrestling with the idea that my stuff might be too dark and hard-hitting to find a home.

Not twelve hours after submitting, it was accepted for publication. To say it pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable would be a gross understatement.

There are some important lessons to be learned here – I need to think about this more to fully grasp the implications. But I’ve often said that life will tell you what your next move is, you just have to pay attention and listen.

The timing here seems important.

Disturbing Self-Revelations

I’ve written quite a few posts about how writing is an act of self-discovery, a way of peering into your mind, of interpreting the world around you.

Well, I now have 13 short stories under my belt, and I’m beginning to see a pattern. One of the things I’m discovering is that I have a penchant for writing material that is disturbing to others. A recent rejection acknowledged the story was “a good concept, well-told,” but was deemed “too brutal” for publication.

That wasn’t my intention, I just thought it was a good story. But re-reading it, I kind of get it, although it didn’t seem that way to me when I wrote it. I knew it was intense, but I didn’t think it would be that hard on the reader.

On reflection, I realized similar themes run through several other pieces. These are stories I understood might be difficult for some readers. The problem is, the “difficult” parts aren’t gratuitus or put there to shock. They’re the foundation that powers the whole story.

To me, art should have no limits. Everything is on the table, available for exploration. But the reality is that most people aren’t going to have the stomach for graphic depictions of things THAT HAPPEN ALL THE TIME IN REAL LIFE.

Sorry for the caps; but it’s a big point. Can we not tell stories about the disturbing things humans do? That seems weak, doesn’t it? On the other hand, if it’s too unpleasant, why would anyone read it?

I like extreme juxtapositions – people triumphing over trauma, for example. But the triumphing part has no meaning if you don’t talk about the trauma too.

Am I discovering that my voice is unpublishable? That’s probably an overstatement, but it seems clear there’s a limited audience.

Ultimately, the artist has to be true to their vision, whatever that might be. I’m still figuring out how to best express my ideas without alienating people who might find it meaningful.

Where are my boundaries? Or is this the wrong question?

Maybe the right question is: Should there be any boundaries at all?

Election Day

Full disclosure: I am not politically involved; moreover, I am disgusted and disheartened by the state of Washington today. Our government has not become dysfunctional – it doesn’t function at all, except as a machine of corruption.

And yet…

I have voted in every presidential election since registering in 1975. As a citizen, I feel it’s my duty, whether I like any of the candidates or not. Sometimes decisions must be made on the assessment of which is the lesser of two evils. It’s just how life is, and if you don’t understand that, you need to grow up.

It’s none of my business who you vote for – just vote.

You can’t partake in the (rapidly vanishing) advantages of being an American without expending this most basic effort to participate in the process.

I fully get why you may not want to, but put on your big-boy pants and just do it.

Then you can go back home and fully disengage for another four years.

Useful

When life is uncertain and I’m feeling a bit unmoored, I simply try be useful.

It’s not that complicated.

Their Time Was Up

Two cardiac arrests within five minutes, unrelated.

Two people who woke up this morning like every other day of their life. Why would this day be any different?

Woke up unaware that this would in fact be their last day on earth.

Make a pact with yourself: No half measures.

Make it count.

Vacant

See them? Look, I’ll make it darker, you said, blowing out the candles.

With no electricity in this squat, after dark, you didn’t have a lot of options for light.

See them now?

Your hand on my shoulder, I could feel your warm breath on my neck as we both looked out the dirty window. Your breath smelled of tobacco. Across the overgrown yard stood an old vacant three-story victorian house that hadn’t been occupied for at least fifteen years. We were on the second floor of a carriage house that sat directly across from it on the same property.

You thought it was a good place to live, what with it being abandoned and all.

Looking at the empty broken windows on the third floor, I thought I saw something move but couldn’t be sure. I started to speak but you squeezed my arm hard.

Shh – be quiet, they’ll hear.

After what seemed like far too long, I realized I was enabling your delusion and stood to leave. Still you sat motionless on the floor, legs crossed, transfixed by whatever you were imagining was happening on the third story of the decrepit structure.

Just as I was putting on my jacket, you whispered,

Wait – the’re here!

Not Everyone in This Country is a Selfish Ignorant Prick

Every national public health agency in North America may have spectacularly failed this nation during the COVID pandemic, and let’s be clear: it can’t all be blamed on Washington.

But you know who didn’t fail the American people?

Those of us who work in your local ER. We have done everything possible to mitigate its effects, both with individual patients, as well as the communities we serve. We had zero guidance in the beginning, but our knowledge base has improved considerably. Contrary to what the American people think: you can die from it. I can’t count the number of people who died while in my care. I honestly have no idea. It was so traumatic it’s hard to think about.

But we care for every person who comes to our ER as if they were our loved ones, and we try to teach patients and their families the importance of quarantining and taking advantage of the free testing offered by the NYC Department of Health to try and control it in our communities.

And shame on every public figure – yeah, you know who you are – who downplays this like it’s nothing more than an inconvenience.

Not that you care – but history won’t judge you kindly. You people should be ashamed of yourselves.

Sorry, but I’ve had to get that off my chest.