Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Perseverance

I have several walls in several rooms of my house covered with the snowstorm of rejections, but they didn’t realize what a strong person I was; I persevered and wrote a thousand more dreadful short stories, which were rejected in turn.”

– Ray Bradbury

One Thing Prepares You For Another

Being a musician taught me so many things beyond how to play an instrument. Dedication and discipline in pursuit of something you love, for one thing. Humility for another.

Understanding that it was a given you would suck for years before you attained any real mastery – assuming you ever got there.

In the real world, I realized that most people never held themselves to the highest standards, let alone dared to think they might transcend them.

I failed to achieve what I set out to do in music, yet it enriched my life unimaginably. I spent years – decades – striving for something and fell short.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Spending hours and hours every day, like a monk, obsessively practicing, studying, trying to get better. Never missing a day, no matter what. As it became more apparent that I wasn’t doing this for money or recognition, casual acquaintances would sometimes ask me why.

Because I’m compelled to was my answer, knowing they’d never understand.

So now, in my third act, I’m trying to learn how to write, and it’s hard. I’m gifted, but uneducated and flying by the seat of my pants. I can do it effortlessly on an instinctive level, but that doesn’t mean it’s good, much less great.

But here’s where I’ve got an edge – I know what it takes to strive for greatness, and for me it’s fulfilling to try. I know how to learn, how to be disciplined, and I like to work hard.

It’s a long haul, but I’ve been here before.

Things have a way of coming around. Everything’s useful in the end.

WTF!?

Thailand (population >66 million, 22nd most populous nation in the world), has recorded fewer than 3,520 coronavirus cases and 59 deaths. The United States, population 330 million, has recorded greater than 7 million cases with 204,000 deaths.

Despite the low caseload, most Thais continue to wear face masks in public and the country never suffered a mask shortage.

The greatest nation in the world?

Pathetic.

Probably True

“If you want something badly enough, you’ll get it. If you don’t get it, that only goes to show you didn’t want it badly enough.”

– Lawrence Block

There’s a thousand iterations of this bromide, all essentially saying the same thing.

Is it true?

Well, the idea is true – but like all things in life, it’s not quite that simple.

No amount of desire will save your life when your time’s up.

No amount of hard work will make you write lyrics like Bob Dylan.

No amount of training would ever achieve the supernatural skill level of Muhammad Ali.

But for most things we desire, yes, it is true.

The one who wants it the most wins.

What if Time isn’t Linear?

I know we tend to think of time as a linear construct, I’m just not quite so sure this isn’t a convenient man-made construct your simplify something that’s much more complicated.

I mean, we’re born, we live a life, and then we die, right? That certainly seems like a linear progression, no?

As we travel from birth to death, we accumulate experiences that form the fabric of our existence. And the memories of these experiences are not linear at all, yet they form the foundation of our reality.

We can all effortlessly time travel to any point earlier in our life, and to some degree we can see (or at least imagine) the future – or perhaps potential futures.

What if deja vu wasn’t just an odd feeling, what if we really had already experienced the event in question? What if time can periodically become “unstuck,” and we’re not even aware of it?

What if we are in all possible states at all times? Death and life would be no different, indeed, one could be both alive and dead at the same time.

I’m not saying I believe this, but is it not a possibility?

Listen Up

“Remember, new ideas are old ideas in different pants. The best thing you can do is listen to different music, read a lot, watch movies, and in general add LEGO blocks to your brain for your imagination to play with.”

– Dan Korneff

Character Notes (Part 4)

Boats. Goddamn motherfucking boats. That’s what was going through my mind as this slowly sinking piece of shit took on water. Whoever thought this was how you got rid of a body must’ve gotten the idea from a fucking movie. Crush it in a compacted car at Joe Clark’s junkyard, now that’s how you get rid of a body. No muss no fuss.

By the time you’ve crushed a Buick into a 3 foot cube and loaded it onto barge hauling scrap metal, there’s not much left for the boys at the crime lab to play with.

So now the body’s 300 feet down anchored by cinder blocks, and I’m in this worthless tub taking on water like some jackass. With any luck I’ll be laughing about this in 6 hours over a bowl and a shot.

Right now I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Character Notes (Part 3)

If you googled weasel, his picture would come up first. Kind of a horsey-face, too long with eyes too far apart, several greasy strands of hair desperately trying to cover an ocean of baldness. And sweating, always sweating.

Whoever told him a pink polyester shirt with sweaty armpits was a good look must’ve had a good laugh. This would’ve been the story of his miserable life – one goddamn humiliation after another.

Yet failure never stopped him, so there’s that. He never gave up on “the big score,” as if he’d even recognize a good opportunity if it stared him in the face.

No, cheating old people with dementia out of their life savings was his idea of grift. Jesus, the world’s a cruel fucking place – always was, always will be.

Remember that.

The Sheltering Sky

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless…”

– Paul Bowles, from “The Sheltering Sky”

Character Notes (Part 2)

Roy had been in Vegas for 10 years and this is where it got him: singing 11 to 3 am at “Dale’s Wagon Wheel Lounge,” a dump on the outskirts of the old strip where a tourist wouldn’t be caught dead. Scratch that – dead was the only way you’d find a tourist in this part of town. Whoever Dale had been was mercifully lost to the boozy winds of time – if he saw what his dream had become he’d be spinning in his grave.

Alcoholic Mexican busboys, cons fresh out of the joint with nowhere to go, meth-head hookers with green teeth, bail bondsman and cops enjoying their booze where they thought no one would find them. You either know this place or you don’t – for your sake, I sincerely hope it’s the latter.

A lifetime of singing for the wilted vegetables in his refrigerator had prepared Roy well for failure, and Dale’s was failure writ large. He wiped the flop-sweat running down his forehead, put his cassette tape in the slot and pressed play. Slamming the shot of Jack Darlene had brought him from the bar, he straightened his rug and stepped on what he pretended was a stage. The opening of “Unchained Melody” blared from the shitty PA as he struck his best Elvis pose.

It was going to be a good night.

Character Notes (Part 1)

She was the kind of woman grown men would cut a wide swath to avoid. Attractive with an air about her that spelled danger, in bright red neon.

Funny, but the kind of funny that could turn dangerous real quick – murderous even. Something about her eyes seemed unstable, like a bomb that was poorly made and might explode unexpectedly.

You know how animals can sense danger from a subtle change in their environment? That’s how she changed whatever environment she was in. Young, old, weak, strong, dim or smart, male or female – it didn’t matter. Everyone knew that this was one fight you didn’t want to pick.

All instincts said: don’t look her in the eyes – just back away slowly.

Some people are like that, it’s got nothing to do with size or strength. They were just born dangerous.

A Failure to Lead

”William Haseltine, the chairman and president of access Health International and a world-renowned biologist, told CNN, “How many people could have been saved out of the hundred and ninety thousand who have died? My guess is a hundred and eighty thousand of those. We have killed a hundred and eighty thousand of our fellow-Americans because we have not been honest with the truth.”

– David Remnick, The New Yorker

A Window Into Your Mind

That’s what you get when you write, but it really gets interesting when you write fiction. Themes repeatedly appear that you weren’t consciously aware of.

This is why I think it’s worthwhile to write – even if no one else reads it.

You learn something about yourself.

It’s good to look in your mind and see what’s going on.

Detour

Sometimes you get an idea for a short story and dive right in. It starts out with a strong opening, but then as you keep writing things take an unexpected left turn.

Now you’re on an unknown street with no directions, but this is cool – you’ve got to figure your way out, and that can be fun…

But after going down a few blind alleys, you realize you’re not sure how to get out of this mess. What you’ve got up to this point is good – really good – so you know there’s an answer somewhere. You’re just not sure what it is.

Step back and let it simmer. It’ll come when it’s ready.

I’m Canceling Myself

Not for any particular crime against humanity, just to see what it feels like.

I mean, I’m sure sure I’ve done things in my life that might warrant this – who hasn’t? But I try very hard to be a good person.

I try because I’m flawed.

Here’s a news flash – We all are.