The Starting Line

To build some consistency into my writing habits, I said to myself in late July 2020, “I bet I could write a blog post every day from August through October. I did the math: 31 days plus 30 plus 31 equals 92. And thus was born my 92-day challenge.

If you search the internet, you will find times when I announced big plans. I will release a Myke Phoenix story every month. I will write a trilogy of novels about a kaiju (big monster in the tradition of Godzilla, if you don’t know the word). I am writing a novel about a girl, an alien, and me. I am starting a mystery series about a detective and his pookha partner, who resembles a 6.5-foot-tall skunk.

I wrote 12 monthly adventures and stopped. The novels are half-written. When I challenged myself to write every day for 92 days, I didn’t want to make a big declaration and stop, again.

So I didn’t announce that I would write every day. I just wrote. And what do you know. I posted every day for 92 days. And then it was 100 and 200 and I grew committed to writing a 365th consecutive blog and calling it a year.

This has been an illustration of one of the lessons they teach you: Don’t declare to the world what you’re doing, just get down to doing it. “I made this” is a more powerful statement than “I’m going to make this.”

Shall I now declare that I will keep blogging every day until I depart this mortal coil? I actually did declare that it has become a daily habit, but as I learned when I started a habit of writing a monthly superhero adventure, habits are easily broken. The road is cluttered with the wreckage of well-intended new habits.

I thought of calling this little piece “The Finish Line” and celebrating a pretty nifty achievement, because yes, I have never blogged every day for 365 straight days before, and that is cool. But the lesson I learned from the lack of a 13th consecutive Myke Phoenix story is to decide what’s coming next before you reach the finish line.

“Good for you!” Steven Pressfield’s mentor said when he finished his first novel. “Start the next one today.”

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” is the brilliant line in the song “Closing Time.” And so, “The Starting Line” and not “The Finish Line.”

What am I starting? I’m not saying; that’s gotten me in trouble before. But I plan to keep sharing every day, so you can see what I make along the way.

Becoming Full

Full made a splash and then stopped selling. Or I tossed it in the water and watched the splash and then stopped talking about it.

The book is really three small collections around themes that are important to me: the human need to create, the freedom and uniqueness of each individual soul, and the encouragement to positive action.

Should I have expanded each collection until I had three separate books? No, I think not, because they are interconnected. Each individual has something to create, to build, to make, and each of us needs to be encouraged to create it, to build it, to make it — so why not combine these thoughts?

Hopefully the book will leave the reader Full and more ready for the building than before she started reading.

(I will be at OtherWorlds Booksellers in Sturgeon Bay on Aug. 7 to sign books or just sit and talk and listen. Please come.)

The moose at the top of the bookshelf

There’s a moose at the top of my bookshelf,
His antlers are touching the ceiling.
He always looks warm with his sweater and scarf
And he sees everything in the room.
He never says a word, just surveys the scene
And reminds me to look to my whimsey.
He doesn’t mind if my poems don’t rhyme
And forgives when my words are too flimsy.
At least I think he doesn’t mind because, as I said,
He doesn’t speak. He just sits up there being cute
While I slog along forgetting he’s there
Until sometimes I look up: I raise my eyes
And see and remember. I think everyone
Needs a moose at the top of their bookshelf.

+ + + + +

“That’s not a sonnet,” Beauregard sniffed.

“It has 14 lines, a certain rhythm,” I offered.

“It’s not consistent, there’s no rhyming pattern,” he insisted.

“Fair enough, I won’t call it a sonnet,” I conceded.

“Thank the stars,” Beauregard exhaled.

“I like it just the same,” I exulted.

Step down from the bully pulpit

So I sat down before bed Sunday night and wrote a short burst about “write only what you love” and the futility of sinking into the mud time and again. Life is too short, I shouted to the heart of the world.

I slept better that night. I awoke Monday morning rested, or at least more willing and ready to face the world. “I wrote something important last night,” I said to myself, even though I was too bleary-eyed to remember the specifics. I read it back over coffee and said, “Yes. Yes, this is what I’d rather spend time saying. Ray was such a wise man.”

You political types, do you really believe the worst of people, or do you cynically hurl insults at the wall knowing some will stick to your opponent if you fling enough of them? Do you really believe I hate all people of a certain hue so much I must oppress them? Don’t you think it’s simply that we have different ideas about how to love our neighbors and help them succeed? Do you realize that we agree that love, peace and understanding are universal values? I think you do, but being a political animal (and I insult animals by calling you that), you cannot acknowledge our common beliefs — you must not only disagree with me but question my humanity.

That’s why I don’t like to dwell on the political anymore, why I resist the call of my addiction, for, you see, I am a recovering political junkie. Politics appeals to the basest of our instincts, the instinct to force our way of thinking onto others, the instinct to bully. Roosevelt (Teddy) called the highest office a “bully pulpit” and he meant bully in a different sense than is common today, but the description fits: Politicians use their podium to bully the people they consider common, those they call “my people” or “my constituents” as if they can own human beings and impose their will. I reject the political; when I share my opinions, it is in a spirit of love so that you will understand, not in hate and spite so that you are demeaned and bullied into accepting that which you may not believe.

And here I am rambling about politics when I’ve just embraced “Write what you love, and love what you write.” I guess I just felt a need to explain why I don’t cry from the mountaintops, “The emperor has no clothes! No bullies! No hate!” every day. I guess I just need to repeat if we’d just love our neighbors we wouldn’t need all this political fuss.

Where angels dance

“Write only what you love, and love what you write,” Ray Bradbury wrote.

What would be the point of writing words of hate, or words that don’t speak love, no, shout love? What would be the point of wasting any moment of life on the mean, the small, the spirit-breaking nastiness?

Given a finite time to have any impact on this universe, spend every minute in love, in spirit-lifting, on big ideas, on generosity, on making every moment count for something positive.

Do you see why I do not write of politics if I can avoid it? Oh, I stumble sometimes and snap back at nasty minds, and I point out foolishness when instead I should laugh and turn another cheek, but in my most free moments I soar in love and remember those who lifted me, not those who dragged me into mud to wrestle with demons.

Angels walk among us (most of them on four loving paws), and I love to write about those angels and victory over those demons.

When I write what I love, it’s easier to stay in the glow of that love and dismiss the baser senses, and it’s easier to rest at night knowing I reached for stars where angels dance.

How can I hold onto this thought and speak or write only in love? That may be the biggest challenge of a life — or indeed, of an age.

The affair of the fedora

The fedora had sat untouched at that jaunty angle for months. Did it miss my head? Was it forlorn and feeling forgotten? Would it ever move again?

All of these thoughts would be rushing through its head, if it only had a head. But fedoras being fedoras, it needed someone else’s head to be complete.

I picked it up and settled it on my head.

Sure enough, it whispered, “You complete me.”

“I hear the voice of a fedora,” I said. “Yes, I have passed through the zippy door into insanity.”

Here, in this silly space, I am comforted to learn that insanity doesn’t make me dangerous — only detached from reality. As such, I am a perfect citizen, compliant and oblivious.

“Are you insane?!” an old friend cried. Why, yes, yes, I am. Just ask my fedora.

The insane, in fact, have conquered the world. That makes more sense than any other conspiracy theory.