Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Time’s Running Out!

Yes, indeed it is. Whenever I start dwelling on this, a palpable sense of dread begins to creep in.

I’m not ready for it to end yet, I think. I’ve still got shit to do!

And yet, the clock keeps winding down. My story will end just like yours and every other goddamn living thing on this planet.

So how do you square that circle? How do you make peace with your inevitable demise? With all the wasted time you could’ve been doing something meaningful?

Well, hold on Kemosabe. You’re still breathing, so it ain’t over yet.

Wipe the flop-sweat off your brow and get back to it.

There’s still time left on the clock.

I Saw You Today

It had been a long time
And I didn’t know what to expect
Had life taken as much away from you
As it had from me?

But the minute I heard your voice
It all came rushing back
The person I loved
In my own broken way
Was still there

Still beautiful
Still strong
Still thoughtful
Still shining

I miss you
But you’ll never know
Because life has moved on

I saw you today

It was enough

This Fucking Blog

Just read some old posts – pretty weird and cool. That was me before COVID. Let’s be real – that’s not me after.

I’m still struggling with aftermath of what happened in the first outbreak here in NYC, and my participation in the tragedy of the whole thing.

This will be the defining moment of your career,” is how I remember an ER doc with a specialty in infectious disease describe it to me.

Anyway, I wonder if I just hit a wall with this blog, or is there still some life left?

I mean, I’m immersed in writing fiction – but less so for this. And yet, I think the personal rewards are pretty significant.

It is what got me writing fiction.

Let’s see if I can resurrect this fucking thing.

Or let it Rest In Peace.

Novel (Part 1)

Today I completed the first draft of my first novel.

I started it on June 1, so it took me four and a half months to reach my goal of 90,000 words while working full-time in the ER.

I only wrote on days off but did so religiously, always meeting my goal of at least 1000 words, usually more. So what it worked out to is 1000 words a day for 90 days.

Is it any good? It’s good to me, so there’s that. I have no control over whether it’s any good to the person reading it; therefore, I don’t waste time thinking about it.

This is probably a good point to make note of some useful decisions I made when I started.

I didn’t second guess anything. Never once thought, Is this any good? Am I qualified to do this? Can I do this?

Never crossed my mind. Thinking like this would only fuck everything up and kill the fun.

I also wrote no outline and had no plot. Just three characters I didn’t know much about with a vague idea of how it would end. BTW, this isn’t all that unusual. Apparently, there are essentially two kinds of novelists — Plotters and Pantsers. Plotters plot and Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. Both are valid ways to work. You might be surprised by which camp your favorite author falls into.

For me, part of the fun of writing this way is that it allows me to discover the story and the characters as I go along. Since I have no idea what I’m going to write about the next day, I can sit back and let the characters tell me who they are and what they’re going to do next. It’s a very entertaining way to write.

Anyway, red-letter day here. Even if it never gets published, I wrote a fucking novel. To completion. And I had fun doing it — not many people can say that. Now I’m going to pack it up for six weeks or so and let the thing marinate in its juices.

Then I’ll get it out, read it fresh, and start editing.

Meanwhile, I’ve got other shit to write.

What if This is as Good as it Gets?

Jack Nicholson asks this question to a filled waiting room after being thrown out of his therapist’s office in the pretty-goddamn-great 1997 film of the same name.

The short answer is yes, this is as good as it gets.

Isn’t that enough?

I just watched this film for the second time — 24 years after the first. It was better than I remembered it; a great, darkly funny script by James L. Brooks that would be completely un-filmable today.

But there’s a great through-line that remains surprisingly relevant.

To wit: Although some people can be insufferable assholes, it doesn’t make them all bad. Maybe they just never learned how to be fully human.

This idea is perhaps best illustrated by the film’s most memorable line, spoken by the supremely clueless asshole Jack plays to the saintly Helen Hunt: You make me want to be a better man.

Sometimes, people just don’t know how to be a functional human. Maybe we should all take a deep breath, relax, and throw them a life raft.

When All Seems Lost

Go back to basics. Try not to get lost in a feedback loop of negative thinking.

  1. What gives you joy? Do that. The joy part is your brain trying to show you where to go.
  2. Get out of your head – focus on helping others.
  3. Cut out all extraneous bullshit. Keep your purpose (and life) simple.
  4. Go easy on yourself.
  5. Allow for time to daydream.
  6. Exercise, meditate, and get enough sleep.
  7. Rinse and repeat.

What I’m Doing Now

On work days I get up and go to the ER for twelve and a half hours, then go home exhausted, my brain and body an over cooked mess.

On my days off, I write my novel. It’s so much fun it’s hard to put in words, and I’m a writer, so if I can’t put something in words, it must be either very mysterious or very abstract.

It’s both.

I’m closing in on my goal of 90,000 words, and the characters are so alive to me I sometimes dream of them.

Soon, the story will end, and I’ll start another one. I hope someone will read them and be moved, but I’m not holding my breath. Hope isn’t a good strategy.

And it doesn’t really matter, or at least that’s what I told myself when I started. See, writing and attempting to publish short stories quickly disavowed me of the idea that my writing meant anything to anyone other than me.

But, it turns out that this was a test, and how I answered the question would determine whether I was really a writer or not.

It turns out that I am, indeed, a writer. Because I’ve learned that other people’s acceptance isn’t why I do it.

I do it for me, because I can create worlds in my head and then live in them for a while.

It’s impossible to describe how fulfilling that is.

ER Alert (Part 1)

NYC ERs are seeing unusually high numbers of overdoses, a sure sign of heroin (or cocaine) cut with Fentanyl, an opioid approximately 100 times the potency of morphine.

Narcan is the drug of choice for reversing opioid overdose, and is available from any pharmacy – no prescription needed. Method of administration couldn’t be easier: it’s an intranasal spray, given like Afrin.

Carrying this with you might save someone’s life. See someone slumped over and not breathing? Give ‘em a squirt and watch them come back to life!

Handy tip: Watch from a distance, it works fast and they’re not happy when it kicks in.

It’s completely benign, so you’ll never have to worry about hurting them – besides, if they’re not breathing they’re already dead!

I wrapped up a 25 year-old in a body bag today.

If someone had given him Narcan he’d still be alive.

Going Along for the Ride

I don’t know if it’s the same for other writers, but I’m coming down the home stretch of my first novel and pretty much all I think about are the characters in it. I don’t mean think as in “I wonder how I can develop this character…” I mean I think about them as if they’re real people.

Instead of me defining the characters, they’re telling me who they are.

This is such an interesting experience — whether or not it’s any good remains to be seen, but I’m having fun growing and learning how to become a better writer.

The scarcity of posts to this blog reflects my total immersion in this experience.

How to be a Successful Artist

Hint: You have to make a lot of shit. Like, really a lot.

Let’s put it another way: As soon as you complete one piece, the next day you want start a new one. Better yet – keep a notebook of ideas for new stuff so you have a backlog of projects waiting to be completed.

And if no one seems interested in what you’re doing, all the better. ‘Cause then you get to walk around thinking about these new worlds you’re creating and feeling sorry for everyone who doesn’t get to live like this.

The act of discovery and personal growth is a very potent high.

As a bonus, it’s a buzz with no negative side effects.

Does the world need new art?

Who gives a fuck! I’ll tell you what the world does need. It needs more people creating cool shit.

So yeah – there’s that.

Asking the Wrong Question

Why is CGI in movies so often irritating?

Hint: Why does attempting to recreate acoustic instruments with sampling or physical modeling always fall short of the visceral impact of hearing the real thing?

The answer to the first question lies in the second.

It’s a doomed mistake to use the incredibly powerful digital tools at our disposal to try and recreate known reality.

The answer is to use this technology to create new worlds we’ve never experienced, not to weakly attempt to recreate something we’ve already seen.

With film, you might think, “Well, I’ve never seen a 300 foot tall dinosaur that breathes radioactive fire before.”

Fair enough – IMHO the 300 foot tall dinosaur works precisely because it doesn’t exist in real life. But even in this case, if the CGI doesn’t convincingly create a believable world with its own sense of logic, it too fails.

What we want here is a total immersion in a new reality we’ve never seen before.

That’s what technology is for.

Not to recreate something that’s already been done.

The Process is the Thing, Dummy

Why can’t everyone see how good my (insert art here) is? Why don’t they love it as much as me? If no one likes it, does that mean it’s bad?

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Wrong questions, wrong assumptions.

You know that thrill you get when you make something?

That’s the point. The whole point.

Rinse and repeat.

What happens after you make something is out of your hands. You might think you have some control over it, and you do to a very small extent.

But you have zero control over whether anyone likes it.

So you’re left with the joy you experienced creating it.

Isn’t that enough?

Thoughts on Writing a Novel (Part 1)

At the risk of stating the obvious: It’s not a short story. Short stories are a particular thing; a very disciplined form of fiction, some of which is inherently tied to word count. If you can’t write beyond a certain amount of words, the whole piece must be pruned to meet that requirement. This inherent limitation gives the art form a condensed punch if it’s done right.

A novel, on the other hand, has a lot more space to play with. Kind of unlimited, really. That’s both good and bad, mainly good. At least for me. But all that space creates its own kind of problem, i.e., it’s easy to go down blind alleys and veer off course. Or is it off course? You never really know until the thing is done because some blind alleys end up showing you what the thing is supposed to be in a way your conscious mind can’t.

I’m deep in the woods here, being carried along by the momentum of the story and its characters. I have no idea whether it’s going to be any good or not, but it’s a lot of fun stretching my legs in all that space.

Here’s Something to Think About

Who, or what, benefits by confusing the general population?

Let me be clear: I don’t think that part of the population is unable to think critically, but clearly they were never taught how. In the absence of critical thinking, conspiracy theories seem to stimulate the same part of the brain, albeit in a clumsy, inelegant way.

Or, let’s ask this question from a different perspective: Were online social networks designed to divide and spread misinformation to the masses, or was that an organic consequence of humans interacting with the algorithms?


The first time I met you, I thought, Well, here’s a special one.

You were clearly very smart and mature beyond your years, and I was duly impressed.

My affection for you was immediate. I recognized your gifts and looked forward to watching you grow and find yourself. I hoped, in some small way, that I could at the very least encourage you to achieve your potential. You were only 25 or 26; I was already over 60 and not easily impressed.

You were just interesting and smart – always fully present whenever I interacted with you. That alone is an exceptional gift that made you so attractive.

Today was your funeral at the age of 29, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I wept for you. It’s almost impossible to process what happened, or rather, I have to accept the fact that I’ll never know.

I miss you already and will always keep you alive in my heart. I’ll honor the memory of the young woman who showed so much promise, who delighted and never ceased to impress me.

Rest In Peace, my young friend. You are gone, but will never be forgotten.

Good News & Bad News

Ok, the good news is this: I’m halfway through my first novel, and the secondary protagonist is emerging full-blown, kind off taking over the story.

Totally unplanned, and certainly unexpected, she is now so real, I’m not quite sure what she’s going to do in any given situation – I’m just hanging on for the ride

The bad news is this: I’m running out of bandwidth, and right now, the novel takes precedence over everything else. So what was a daily blog, is now becoming more and more sporadic.

It’s going to be worth it in the end, though.

The characters are starting to dictate the story to me.