Boo Effing Hoo – get your ass in the chair

vintage-writer-at-old-typewriterOne New Year’s resolution I’m sure plenty of writers made was finally attempting that full-length novel. For some, NaNoWriMo in November gave them their first taste of what long form writing’s like, as a national novel-writing month forces derriere-in-chair and excuses out the window. But what if no amount of incentive will work? What if you just can’t get in the mood to write?

If you consider yourself a writer, then no one has to tell you about black moods. To a writer, they’re as welcoming as a rejection and as familiar as the backspace. Our black moods spawn as much from those brick walls we face as from the months we spend waiting for an answer, and when we do it’s often nothing we want to hear. Our dismal days are frequently filled with endless rewrites, verbal vomit and dead ends, and the inevitable recalcitrant character who insists on upending the plot. Sometimes when it gets really bad we end the day dispirited and frustrated, cursing our near obsession as we cry into our goblets of pinot noir, gorging on double-chocolate brownies and tater tots.  ANYWAY, this writing life can sure enough get you down now and then, no fooling. So what’s a sullen scribe to do?

Milk it, I say. Milk it for all it’s worth, right down to the quick until it’s pink and screaming. Believe it or not, your darkest days can bring out some of your most illuminated writing, as you dig into the depths of your rawest emotions. You need to write a scene where your protagonist loses the love of his life? His job? His home? His space in line for the newest iPhone? Drag yourself to your keyboard and lose your troubles in his, as pouring all that angst into your prose will make it so much richer and realistic, not to mention the cathartic bonus you’ll get out of unloading it all into some unwitting character. The same thing can work in reverse, too. Write your heroine falling in love on the day you finally nail that job, fit into those skinny jeans, eat a perfect peach. Works really well when you’re angry, too, letting that poor, downtrodden patsy finally give the bully his due as he lands a left dead-on his fictional jaw. Hey, it’s better than shoving your own fist into the sheet rock. It’ll save you a ton of dough in repairs, leaving more money to spend on pinot noir, tater tots and–oh, we’ll just leave that up to our very fertile imaginations, now won’t we?


My Post-Holiday Sugar Crash

BirdfeederIt’s a sunny morning in my neck of New Jersey, and unlike the photo to the left, snow-free. The wind is relatively calm, and from my window I can see all kinds of birds pecking at the feeder and except for the barren vegetation, it could almost be anytime of the year. But it isn’t, and I don’t need to step outside into the mid-twenties chill to feel the hollowness of the season in my bones, especially when the Weather Bleaters are predicting a Snowmageddon for the weekend.  Sorry if I’m being a bit of a Debbie Downer, but seriously, after the choreographed optimism of the New Year fades back into the mundane, what are we actually left with? Only the anti-climatic yawn of the Dead of Winter and the mind-numbing ennui that follows.

Maybe it’s just a sugar crash after all those Christmas cookies, but last fall’s good intentions and best laid plans now seem as sensible as earmuffs in August. What happened to that get-up-and-go, those ideas that seemed so workable, those plans set to be implemented as soon as the everything got back to normal, post-holiday? Instead, you’re quickly finding out that things don’t really change, that everything goes comfortably back to the way it was, or more often than not, gets just a little bit worse. (Like waiting for that first paycheck of 2016? Times like these make you wish you’d majored in creative accounting and not creative writing.) You’re finding yourself just a little more broke, a touch fatter, a tad less cheerful and a whole lot lazier. A stretch on the sofa feels more natural that an extended stretch at laptop, and when you do find yourself in front of a screen, it’s more likely for Netflix than for fixing that severely flawed manuscript.

Not that you haven’t tried. To fix that manuscript, I mean. But everything you seem to write is crap. As it was the last time you looked at it just before Christmas. When you told yourself you’d make it better next month. When you had more time. When everything calmed down.  After the New Year. When all that holiday hoo-hah is behind you and you can finally think again. In January. Because in January the Universe presses the big RESET button and all wrongs get righted, everything gone down goes up, all promises are kept. When the Muse of Inspiration suddenly infuses us with glorious plot threads, miraculous turns-of-phrase and endings so sock-blowing that ever-elusive editor you queried back in the fall suddenly jumps from your proposal and screeches “MY GOD! THIS IS GONNA MAKE US MILLIONS!”

As if. So what to do?

Beats me. I’m depressed, remember? Deads of Winter tend to breed brain-deadness. Or at least that’s how it feels from here. All I can offer is this isn’t my first Dead of Winter, that I’ve made it through several, and there’s just something about January that breeds contempt. And invariably, things do pick up by February. Maybe it is all that holiday crap we ingested and like a six-year-old on Halloween night, we just need to sleep it off.

Okay, whine over. Back to work.


RIP Thin White Duke 1947-2016

By Patrick Chappatte for The New York Times

The only time I saw David Bowie was in his Station to Station Tour in the late ’70s. I was very young and impressionable, and wanting to fit in only the most glam-rock way, I wore a sky blue satin vest to his concert at the long-gone Spectrum in Philadelphia. As I sat there dead-center back in the first tier, passing joints and sipping Schmidts as an enormous train chuffed in the background to Bowie singing “TVC 15,” I thought back to the first time I heard him. My cousin had just gotten his Ziggy Stardust album, and was completely blown away by it. “Just listen to this,” she said, playing “Suffragette City.” And we did, maybe ten times over, slam-dancing across her room and screaming “wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am!” I never heard anything like Bowie in my young life and for one reason or the other, being into him as much as I was made me feel part of something unique, like an elite corp of insiders. I can’t explain it, but his music just made you feel that way, and rather than fade I kept being amazed by him well into the new millennium.

You will be missed, Mr. Bowie, but thank you for such an astounding ride. RIP.