Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

RIP My Friend

I just found out you died in your sleep, peacefully. I’m so grateful for that – if anyone deserved a peaceful death, it was you.

I remember when we first met, you tentatively approached me. Somehow you’d heard I was recently diagnosed with cancer, something you’d already been fighting for a few years, and you wanted to reach out, to provide support to someone who didn’t even know he needed it.

But you did.

It was the beginning of a long, beautiful friendship. I’m sure I benefited from it more than you, but if you felt that way you never let on.

If we’re supposed to give of ourselves in this life, you were the ultimate teacher. Just being around you made me a better person.

I’ll remember and miss you until the day I die.

As Another Day of Life Draws to a Close

Did you do something that matters?

Did you attempt to contribute something to the world?

Whether that something means anything isn’t really for you to say.

It’s enough to make the effort.

The alternative is not to try and give something of yourself, and that just seems selfish, doesn’t it?

So even if no one’s listening, or maybe especially if no one’s listening, make something and put it out there.

Or not.

It’s your choice.

Rejection (Part 2)

”When you get a printed form attached to a story you wrote and worked on very hard and believed in, that printed rejection slip is hard to take on an empty stomach. ‘Dear sir: We regret to tell you that your submission does not meet our editorial needs.’ Well, fuck it. I regret to tell you that your rejection slip does not meet MY editorial needs.”

– Ernest Hemingway

The Nice Thing About Being an ER Nurse

I get paid to help people.

Even better, here’s the trick: No matter how shitty life may be, the one thing that can give meaning to a meaningless world is the act of helping someone else in need.

So if I can help a single person for a single moment in a 12 and a half hour shift, that was a good day.

And to be clear, it doesn’t have to be a big thing either. Anything counts. And if you’re wondering how you’ll know if you’ve helped someone, don’t worry.

There won’t be any ambiguity, just like there isn’t any ambiguity when you hurt someone. It’ll be clear as day because that’s how we’re wired.

You’ll know it when you feel good.

I’m lucky, ‘cuz that’s my job. Ka Ching!

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

No Second Guessing

If you already know something’s good, why would you let outside forces change your mind?

Pull up your big boy pants.

No second guessing.

“Edit Until Your Eyes Bleed”

When I began learning how to edit (a process that’s ongoing), I came across this piece of advice that immediately burned itself into my brain. I think the full quote was “Edit until your eyes bleed, then edit some more.”

I’ve come to realize this is painfully good advice. I’ll edit a short story over and over and over again. Reading it out loud, questioning each word, sentence, and paragraph. Checking the flow, asking myself what parts need to come out, pruning adverbs and pronouns, trying to remove everything that’s unnecessary.

Then, when I am absolutely certain I’m done, I’ll send it out, hoping to get it published somewhere. Each time it’s rejected, I’ll go back and read it again, and sure enough, I’ll find more things that need to be changed. So I edit it again. And again. And again. Hoping I finally get it right.

Sometimes I’ll think, am I making this worse or better? But I figure if I spot something that might be improved, I’ll take the pruning shears to it once more. Am I getting better? Who the fuck knows?

I’m trying, though. I’m really trying hard.

ER Lessons (Part 1)

People die while doing the most innocent things. One minute they’re partying with their friends, the next minute they’re in the trauma room and we can’t get them back.

What’s the lesson? If you love someone make sure you tell them everyday.

And don’t take anything for granted.

Keeping On In the Face of Adversity

You didn’t really think it was going to be easy did you? Besides, what’s the real goal here?

If the goal is to grow, express myself, and write cool shit, then I’m succeeding. If the goal is for me to publish in literary journals, so far I’m failing. I would like for the things I write to be useful for someone else, and I think they could be. I’m just not yet sure how to make that happen.

See, whenever I get a rejection I try to send something else out right away. But this process is surprisingly time-consuming. I’ll always reach a point where I think, “Fuck this – I just want to get back to writing.

So I do.

You can (and should), constantly try to improve. But you can’t control how others will interpret what you’ve made. So if you feel compelled to do it, and the process is gratifying, what’s stopping you?

Nothing.

So damn the torpedoes and carry on. Failing means you’re on the right track, it forces you to become better, stronger, and more resilient.

Besides, I’m working on this great short story…

Tony Joe White (Part 2)

I get it, you’re probably thinking “What’s so special about Tony Joe White?

Well, for starters he wrote this timeless classic in 1967: “Rainy Night in Georgia.” At the time, he was 24 years old and had been playing in bars for years – always doing other people’s material. This version is just him singing while playing guitar and harmonica. I defy anyone to listen to this and not be moved.

Born poor in Louisiana, he had worked in the cotton fields and was making his living driving a truck. Where does this shit come from? He says “Rainy Night” and “Poke Salad Annie” were the first two songs he ever wrote.

On “Poke Salad” the Muscle Shoals rhythm section featuring the the great Jerry Carrigan on drums is just fucking magic. The drum pattern is virtually unchanged throughout the whole tune, yet the groove is so deep you can listen to it forever.

Some art just creates its own world and instantly transports you to this place that’s at once recognizable but foreign at the same time. You can actually smell it and feel your emotions change, like it’s hijacked your neurochemistry. Life’s always a little better on the other side.

It’s food for the soul.

Tony Joe White (Part 1)

On October 15, 2014, White appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman alongside the Foo Fighters to perform “Polk Salad Annie”. Pointing to White, Letterman told his TV audience, “Holy cow! … If I was this guy, you could all kiss my ass. And I mean that.”

Flow

You know – that state where you’re not over-thinking things? Where you’re just letting it happen?

That’s flow.

When you relax and just start letting go, being open to anything – there’s your flow state right there.

Not being afraid to fail, and not judging. Creating like a child, playfully. Doing whatever you want because there are no rules.

That’s when the good shit happens. Something’s flowing through you, whether it’s great or not is irrelevant.

This is the fun part. You’re fully alive and engaged. It doesn’t get any better than this. No one can take this feeling away from you unless you let them.

Don’t work for it – let it happen and enjoy the ride. This moment is all the reward you need.

It’s a Choice

Depending on your personality, you’ll tend to see life either through a negative or positive lens. One’s not necessarily better than the other, although you’re probably going to be more pleasant company if you fall into the latter camp.

But even if you fall into the “glass half empty” group (guilty as charged), you shouldn’t always assume the worst. Life can surprise you in ways both good and bad.

Be open to the possibility that something good could happen, especially if someone you respect thinks it’s imminent.

Enjoy the moment when someone believes in you.

BC & AC

I’ve got a feeling that the 21st century – or at least the first half – will be divided into the pre-COVID and post-COVID eras.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever be the same as before. We’re now living in the new normal, for better or worse.

People will still laugh and good times will be had – but life as we knew it before this fucking pandemic is gone. It’s a new world now, and clearly a lot of people haven’t gotten the memo yet.

I get it – I miss the old days too. I’m not sure we’re going to see each other’s faces ever again – or at least not in my lifetime. Humans evolved to read each other’s faces – that alone will change how we relate to each other.

I could be wrong, but if you’re older and want to survive, this is your reality.

Fuck me.

This (Part 2)

“The last thing we should be doing is holding back on anything that might fucking give somebody some good vibes!”

– Kathleen Edwards