A Writer's Journal

A Writer's Journal

 

Using the Soul as Writing Prompt

 
Yesterday, frustrated and 
unable to focus on my writing,
I let my mind off its leash
to wander as it wished--
I following with scratch pad in hand,
recording where it went,
what it saw, what drew its interest and curiosity,
just happy to tag along, noticing what I normally might miss, discovering what I'm usually too busy to see, too preoccupied to occupy.
 
And so I offer this suggestion to fellow
frustrated and preoccupied writers during this time...
 
 
 
Practice pointless writing.

Get a scratch pad. The backside of used paper is good.
(avoid clean, crisp paper, which can be daunting) 
and scribble freely, scribble nonsense, 
scribble a limerick or a haiku or grocery list,
or write a haiku from your grocery list.

Write anything,
write to jump-start your creative engine,
to invite in your Muse, to find your Center and Source.

Give yourself a half hour to write nothing much, 
to write something inconsequential, 
something not-uplifting, not-memorable, 
to write something not-good.

Write for the sheer fun of writing, 
prime the pump to see what comes
(Maybe nothing--Wonderful! You're still writing.)

Write without point or purpose and definitely without plot. 
Write for the simple pleasure of finding what comes up,
discovering what's there within you seeking a voice.

Turn your stream of consciousness into a stream of playfulness,
with words as your playthings.

Today use your soul as a writing prompt.
 
 
 
First posted: March 23, 2020

 


I don’t know why I write, exactly. Catharsis, the itch to make something shapely and permanent, the attempt to stare God in the eye, the attempt to connect deeply to other men and women, because I can’t help myself, because there is something elevating in art, because I feel myself at my best when I am writing well. Because because because…

                       Brian Doyle
                       Author of Mink River 
                       and Martin Marten

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Posted: March 6, 2020

 

“I realized that this entire time…my hope to tell a
long-lasting story, to create something that endured,
to be alive somehow as long as someone would read
my books, was what drove me on, story after story;
it was my lifeline, my passion, my way to understand who I was.” 

                           Susan Orlean

                           Author of
                           The Orchid Thief and The Library Book

 

 

 

 

 

First posted: February 14, 2020

 

 

Write every day with a pen that's shaped like a candy cane.
                                                                  David Sedaris

 

 

 

 

First posted: January 25, 2020

 

 

 

“No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

             Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously, Sam?

I mean, given the number who actually make money from their writing,

must be a lot of disappointed scribblers out there,

unfortunate blockheads having to settle merely for the joy

of playing with words and capturing their music on paper,

or leaving a record, however ephemeral, of an ephemeral life--

that one was once here, felt things, knew things, loved things--

reporting from the frontlines on their first-hand experiences of truth,

or wanting to make some small contribution to humanity’s forward movement,

or just tell a good story.

All those unfortunate blockheads dancing delirious with the muse

for a moment, or for an hour, or a lifetime,

alas, without any financial reward.

So sad.

 

 

 

[First posted: November 9, 2019]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
I just write about what scares me. 

 

"I just write about what scares me.
When I was a kid, my mother used to say,
'Think of the worst thing that you can,
and if you say it out loud then it won't come true.'
And that's probably been the basis of my career."

                                          Stephen King 

 

 

 

[First posted: October 5, 2019]

 

 

 

 

August 5, 2019


Today Toni Morrison died.

Not sure what that means. Her books are still here on my shelf,
as they were yesterday, as they will be tomorrow.
So, what's been lost?
A person I never met and, chances are, would never have met.
A vessel, a conduit, a voice.
I salute the voice (Thank you)
but the words the voice spoke are still with us.

Nothing gold can stay, said another who I also honor,
but I respectfully disagree. The gold stays.
It is only the gold that stays.

Today Toni Morrison died.
What's important remains
here on my bookshelves.

 

 

 

[First posted: September 7, 2019]

 

 

As the lightning came closer thunder came with it--the sound seemed to roll over them like giant boulders. Mouse flinched, and Newt began to flinch too. Then, instead of running across the horizon like snakes' tongues, the lightning began to drive into the earth, with streaks thick as poles, and with terrible cracks.

 

Around midnight I was in bed, reading Lonesome Dove, and listening to the soft patter of rain through my open window. Just as I got to the part where the cattle drive is caught in a terrible storm with its thunder and lightning, it began to thunder and lightning over this valley.


I love it when that happens.

 

 

 

[First posted: August 10, 2019]


I am pleased to announce (ecstatic, really!) that my novel about the AIDS epidemic, 
As If Death Summoned, will be published next autumn by Amble Press, an imprint of Bywater Books.

The story is set in Portland and Australia during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and '90s. Much of it covers the early years, before there was a diagnosis, or a test or treatment, before it was even called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The story ends in 1995, when protease inhibitors turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable chronic condition. By that time, 300,000 people had already died in the US.

I sent the manuscript to Bold Strokes Books, who had published my dark psychological mystery, The Unforgiven, in 2012.

Sandy Lowe responded, saying she liked it but didn't think that BSB, who primarily publishes mysteries, thrillers and romance, had the right market for it. She encouraged me to send it to Salem West at Bywater Books and then told Salem about the book.

On April 1st (Yes, April Fool's Day) Salem wrote to me:

 
Hello, Alan.

It might be April Fool's Day, but this is no joke.
 
I had a meeting with the other two owners of Bywater Books this morning, and we were all in agreement that we want to offer you a contract for As If Death Summoned.
 
Personally, I loved your book and read it cover to cover in one afternoon—it perfectly fits our publishing focus: Smart. Richly textured. Beautifully written. Full of heart.
 
 
My sincere thanks to Sandy for taking enough interest in the manuscript to recommend it to Salem, and to Salem for believing in and championing it. The long-awaited novel (well, long-awaited by me, anyway) will be coming out next year, just in time for the 40th anniversary when what would come to be known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome first appeared on the nation's radar screen in 1981.  With expected pathos and unexpected humor, the novel testifies to the power of grief to erode a life, and—for those who can find a way through their grief—the power to rebuild and renew it.
 
Stay tuned...
 
 
 
 
 
[First posted: June 5, 2019]

 

 

Lazy afternoon,

sprawled on my bed,

book and window open,

reading to the rain's syncopated rhythms,

     dozing,

                   dreaming,

                                         waking,

wandering through mind-drifts of memories

              ...the farm at Barwon Downs,

              ...hiking Mt. Takao in autumn,

              ...planting the chestnut with Dad,


while listening to the rain, reading.

 

 

 

 [First posted: October 25, 2015]