Why this writer (and maybe you too) needs the beach

IMG_1725This week while I’m running around getting ready for classes to start next Tuesday, I came across this photo, and right away I started pining for the beach. It’s been a hell of a summer for me, and the fact I haven’t had my toes in the sand since Fourth of July weekend has left me  a bit addled. You see, at least for this writer the beach, or rather the Shore as we say in New Jersey, is an essential muse to my literary existence, and here are five reasons why…

1. The Horizon – Stressed? Have a bit of the old block? I’ll tell you, there’s nothing like zoning out at the beach. You sit your fanny in a chair, bury the toes, slide on your shades and simply fix your sight on the horizon. By the time your gaze glides past the sand and surf and out over the water, your blood pressure’s dropped twenty points. After a few minutes your mind blanks and oh boy, do the ideas start flowing.  Compound that if you’ve got your fingers clamped around a Yuengling.

2. The Surf – Still stressed?  Dive in. This is especially effective if the water’s particularly rough that day. There’s nothing like a wave ass-whooping  to bust the kinks out of those tense muscles. In fact, it’s practically mandatory for an effective day on the beach. Why? Because a dip is an absolute precursor to the…

3. Beach Nap – You’re heaving like a busted bellows, there’s sand in your crotch, and your hair looks like the wet mop coming out of Nardi’s men’s room after a Saturday night. So the only thing left to do is fall on your face and pass out under the sun. Let me tell you, I’ve solved more plot problems through the bizarre REM dreams I’ve had during these snooze sessions.  Or maybe they weren’t.  Hmmm…

4. Chat ‘n Chew – More often than not I have a friend or two (or three or four) along with me as a I sit on the beach, and often that friend or two are fellow writers. I cannot tell you how many books were started or finished in that rumpled milieu, whole characters developed, titles created, contracts debated. Often these brainstorming sessions are aided by a new pack of Twizzlers, various summer fruits – peaches, watermelon, plums, etc  – as well as the mandatory chips ‘n dip. Inevitably, this is supplemented with the Red Carpet chatter that ensues watching the various forms of scantily-clad humanity plodding near the shoreline, invoking even more spirited discussion. Oh–the stories we can weave!

5. And then, as I look to the West… – As our day on the beach comes to a close, and we trod homeward, after we shower, barbecue and before we hoist a few more Yuenglings, we venture to the other side of the Island and Barnegat Bay. In a blaze of red, gold and orange, the sun sets, staining a path across the water, eliciting oohs and aahs. And if that isn’t inspirations, well, I just don’t know what.

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External Hard Drives, Leather and Otherwise

db3b094a0a9f7f84387592c2540a12ecUnless you’ve spent your entire life in a social void, you should know you never ask a woman past twenty-five what her age is. That said, you can assume I’m past that age (though not quite OF the age) when my age is all that obvious. So when I say I’ve been keeping a journal since I was sixteen, know I won’t be insulted if you take for granted I spent my teen years in the other century. (And don’t be a smarty; I mean the Twentieth.) In any event, I’ve been keeping one for a long while, and believe me when I say, it’s been my salvation for all those years in between.

Sometimes your significant other or your friends just aren’t enough as a sounding board for your troubles, and let’s face it, your honesty. There’s always that intrinsic filter that keeps your guard up just a little, and that’s where writing it all out can be such a release. A journal can also work as an external hard drive for your memory, a place to record what’s happened without all the exposure and potential future regret of all those impromptu social media postings (you’ll be the only one who knew you were sauced when you wrote that). But there’s one more purpose a journal serves, tailor-made for a anyone who considers themselves a writer: the fact that journals are specifically intended to be, well…written in. And just that fact that you’ve decided to keep one should be a commitment to keep on writing.

But just because you have one doesn’t mean you will, though here’s a bit of impetus beyond my mantra, writers write: a journal’s very existence will compel you to write OR ELSE. Case in point: my journal, a simple 4 x 6 leather-covered notebook, has a meaner stare than any animal of prey. I have never seen anything, inanimate or flesh-and-blood, that can produce such an overwhelming rush of guilt when ignored, ten times worse than your mother can when you’ve forgotten her birthday. And it doesn’t even matter if I keep mine in my desk drawer. Somehow, you’re always aware it’s there, as I swear, at times I could almost hear it calling to me. So sooner or later, you end up writing in it, and the crafty thing that it is, will then make you feel like you’ve actually accomplished something, and you know what? As the pages pile up you know actually have. You wrote.

But journals are more than just tableau rasas for inner angst; they’re repositories of sketches, plot points, anecdotes, snatches of dialogue, characterizations, and any number of tidbits you can draw from later on in your writing. I take mine with me whenever I travel, and some writers I know bring along a separate volume just to record that specific trip. After you’ve been keeping one for a while, you’ll find out an event just doesn’t seem fully realized until you’ve chronicled it, making it so much richer when you do. But most of all, for all its neediness, you’ll know it’s always there for you, ready and waiting to receive your genius, a touchstone into the writers’ world, one we can always access, with no judgments on our genius, and most importantly, no rejections ever.