Dribbling Metaphors (and Other Sporting Pursuits)

The grammar coach works with a recalcitrant verb

 A Grammar Coach Works with a Recalcitrant Verb

It’s easy to tire of the exhausted sports metaphor: “He dropped the ball; it’s in your court; that was a slam dunk; we had to punt.” Most clichés have altogether lost their pepper, but ones involving sporting feats—employed with particularly ruthless disregard for their applicability in the business world—seem to have withered before they even rounded second base. So for me to drag you, punting and dunking, into an arena where basketball is used as a metaphorical muse for writing might cause you to think this is an exercise in sweaty nonsense.

And yet. This past weekend I went to a professional basketball game in Santa Cruz, where the Oakland Warriors have their D (developmental) League team. If you’ve watched (or even played) much basketball, it can look like a manic maelstrom of movement, the ball whipping from player to player, defenders darting, many a feint and many a collision of shoulders and legs. And that’s just on one possession of the ball. It begins all over again when the ball changes hands.

But when a team is running the court in high gear, when passes are crisp, cuts away from or to the basket are sharp, when a jump shot floats off the fingers of the shooter like a soft fluttering dove to nestle in the net, it’s a thing of beauty. That’s how it is when words, sentences, paragraphs are working right. There is motion in language, there is exchange of motion, there is anticipation and delivery. The smooth pause can lead to an explosive conclusion; a quiet turn of phrase can open up a delicate cat and mouse communication, one that can lead to a ferocious end or a finessed bit of finery.

Words Work in Teams

While I watched the action on the court, word weirdo that I am, I thought how words work in teams, how there is an energy exchange between words, and how when you move them around in different ways, their meaning is recast. So it is with the movement on the court. Of course, the court movement can have a slapdash, arrhythmic outcome, as can a poorly rendered sentence or paragraph. Use the wrong verb and your sentence sags. Put your center out on top of your offense in place of your point guard, and watch your offense go to sleep.

I also started thinking of how your first-string team (your conflicted protagonist, the opening lines of your blog post, the value prop of your business) is supported by the structural material of your second string team (the backstory, the summary section of the blog, the features/benefits box), and how your bench material can hold the dam together while the prime design shines. But then I realized I was mixing sports metaphors with other writing clichés, kind of like making a meal of old boxing gloves and thumbtacks, and nobody’s hungry for that. Slam dunk!

Addendum: Awesome Engagement (and Comment for Cash)

I am a finalist in Firepole Marketing’s Awesome Engagement Strategies guest-posting contest. My post, which is about how being a human being in your dealings with clients or with your audience is so much more helpful than being a crazed-for-sales wolverine, is running now. I’d greatly appreciate it you’d stop by and agree, disagree or leave an epic poem in the comments section. The five best commenters throughout the contest get $100. If I win the contest, I get to do some kind of go-go dancing with Danny Iny, the site’s head honcho, so go out and buy some thigh-high white boots for me in anticipation.

The Rhythm Method (Or, Why Self-Employment is Better Than, Um, Chocolate)

Today’s guest post is from the bubbling cauldron of Joel D Canfield’s mind, and he provides us with an unbridled rant—er, measured assessment—of the painful yoke of conventional employment vs the fresh, cool air of entrepreneurship’s open road. Joel is the author of many books, including a new one on this very topic, as you’ll see when you round the corner on this post. He is also a pal, a fellow who makes fine pancakes and a general smarty-pants.

I’ve never been good with schedules.

I eat whenever I’m hungry. (In Mexico they tell the joke about the gringo who has to look at his watch to see if he’s hungry.)

I sleep when I’m tired. (I went through a phase where I worked 3 hours and then napped, ’round the clock. Longest sleep period was the 3 hours from 2am to 5am.)

I work when it makes sense.

And that requires far more than a parenthetical phrase.

Jobs are Unnatural

I’ve had jobs. Not only was I miserable, I wasn’t good company for those around me, at home or at work. Not that I didn’t deliver. I take my work seriously and do it right.

But when you need a 90-minute nap at 10:30am, most employers get miffed. When you nibble constantly all day, whenever you’re hungry, the HR department wonders why you won’t take your lunch break. And asking to leave an hour early because you didn’t take it is about as simple as negotiating peace in the Middle East.

No, my biology tells me I’m not cut out to be an employee.

Neither are you.

Maybe your biology is suited to the rhythms of employment.

Your psychology isn’t.

Psychology Says No to Jobs

Over and over again, psychologists of every stripe tell us that happiness is more important than money (and, by they way, totally unrelated to money, once you’re above the poverty line.)

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is noted for his work in the study of happiness and creativity. He is best known as the architect of the concept of flow, the altered state of consciousness we sometimes find ourselves in when totally engaged with a challenging task.

Csikszentmihalyi on why it matters what we do for a living, and whose job it is:

“Because for most of us a job is such a central part of life, it is essential that this activity be as enjoyable and rewarding as possible. Yet many people feel that as long as they get decent pay and some security, it does not matter how boring or alienating their job is. Such an attitude, however, amounts to throwing away almost 40 percent of one’s waking life. And since no one else is going to take the trouble of making sure that we enjoy our work, it makes sense for each of us to take on this responsibility.” — Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, p. 101-2.

Dredge up Maslow’s Hierarchy from the muck at the back of your mind. Certainly, sleeping indoors and eating occasionally are needs which must be filled.

Frederic Herzberg’s Motivation/Hygiene Theory points out that at some point, Maslow’s levels flip from removing dissatisfaction to adding satisfaction. It’s important to note that they’re not on the same continuum. The things which remove pain, eliminate dissatisfaction, can’t just be increased to create satisfaction, a joyful life.

Herzberg, Maslow, and Csikszentmihalyi, among others, point out that we need purpose, we need autonomy, we need something grander than a full belly and a dry bed to sleep in if we’re going to be happy.

The Pursuit Of

I discovered long ago that writing juices my synapses. Occasionally, whether it’s a song, a business book, or more often of late, a mystery, when I string together the right handful of words, it makes even my short hairs tingle.

You have a gift. Somewhere inside you is that thing you do that brings you joy, every single time. That thing others identify with you. That thing that you’d pay to do, if you had to.

If only you could make a living doing that.

Maybe you can.

Dreamtime is a Big Place

Remember all the jokes about hoping our kids could get jobs playing video games, since that’s the only skill they had?

Guess what. It’s happened.

Of course, it’s not the breezy glamourous gig they were all hoping for, but it exists.

Did you ever imagine anyone would pay to have their shopping done? How about a private chef?

It’s not just the wealthy who pay for these services. Folks who are just plain busy at their full-time-plus-overtime job pay to have all the tasks done they just don’t have time for.

Maybe shopping or cooking or beating the Leaping Hammer Brothers level isn’t your thing.

You know what is. Stop, right now, and think about what you’d be doing right now if you weren’t at work, reading blogs to avoid working.

Parallels

Get creative. Stretch it out. Don’t be afraid to be ridiculous. (Remember pet rocks?)

Don’t quit your day job yet, if you don’t have to. Read Seth Godin’s Bootstrapper’s Bible for practical guidance on launching your rocket without spending much (or any) money.

Find something parallel to your joy. I love writing fiction. Non-fiction sells better.

Mark McGuinness is a poet. He makes his living, though, teaching business savvy to artists.

You Will Leap, Or You Will Be Pushed

Here’s my concern: that you’ll think you can wait. That your job is secure.

The age of the job is over. Like a dinosaur, the heart has stopped beating and the head just doesn’t know it yet.

We’re all hanging over a precipice.

Would you rather be hanging from someone else’s hand, or hanging on tight with your own?

About the Author


He may have taken a knock to the noggin in his leap off the hedonic treadmill, but Joel D Canfield still manages to string sentences together most days. Though he pays the bills as a web developer (self-employed, of course) he’s managed to write and self-publish his 10th book, released this month. Its cheeky title is You Don’t Want a Job and he believes every word of it.

The Year of Magical Writing

Writers’ funks are funny: sometimes it’s a single botched sentence that can send them into a tizzy. Or maybe reading about the success of something like 50 Shades of Grey turns them 50 Shades of Green. My own writer’s funk is restlessness. I do OK as a freelancer, both in writing for businesses and getting my stuff into magazines and other publications. I’m a long ways from writing for content mills or leaving a bleeding kidney on the doorstep of an editor that ignored my query. I’m two-thirds of the way through a second novel, and I know I won’t abandon it to die hungry in a cave.

But my attentions are scattered, and my discipline needs disciplining. I’ve been in the muse stew lately, paddling about the chunks of “why spend time writing that?” and “aren’t you just repeating yourself?” and “yeah, but you have to make a living, right?” A lot of the stewing has to do with thinking I’ve been writing at the same level for a while. I’ve become a bit too comfortable with both my professional and my personal writing—though god knows they’re still six stars short of stellar.

You see, I fear I’m the proprietor of Ye Olde Writer’s Junque Shoppe, where you can find a case-study plate with a little bit of food still stuck on it, another coffee-stained press release, a short story wearing worn shorts. I’m hungry for a challenge to my complacency.

Get Your Red-Hot Writing Wisdom (And There Might Be Cookies Too)
That’s why I’d be thrilled to win a free year of Carol Tice’s Freelance Writer’s Den. Carol is the den mother (along with the formidable Linda Formichelli), and the big brains behind the Make a Living Writing blog, which I’ve read for a long while. The level of practical writing (and writing-career) advice on the blog is consistently high—imagine what it might be in the close confines of the Den, where there are in-depth discussions on the nuts and bolts of writing for a living, and writing as an art. And besides the year in the Den, there are more perks galore to the winning writer.

The Den gives you access to webinars with guests like Peter Bowerman, Sean Platt and Chris Brogan. You learn juicy stuff like how to negotiate with clients, setting rates, knowing your audience, dealing with billing, and scads more. At least I hear you learn all those things, because I’m on the outside, looking in. But I know a big part of being a Den member is the electric exchange of ideas with fellow writers, who understand the struggles of freelancing. And who would likely prod someone suffering from Midlife Writer’s Crisis with a swift and deserved keyboard kick. Or an electronic hanky, if need be.

So, admission to the Den wouldn’t be a retreat, but an expedition to new writing territories, a Lewis and Clark unfolding of a new writing map.

Besides, I suspect there are chocolate chip cookies there too, and I’m hungry.

How to Find (and Go With) Your Flow

I recently entered a travel-writing contest. Normally, I’m pretty balanced about deadlines and details, but I’d let some things pile up, so I only had one day to write the contest entry. I did know the direction I wanted the piece to go, so I dove in. For some people, deadline demand is keyboard caffeine: it’s only when the threat of a editor’s talons or a manager’s teeth is near that production ramps up. I’m better when I have a more measured command of the deadline, when I can pool-cue ideas around to see in which pockets they sink, when I can return to a work in progress and let its established path move me forward.

Instead, lunatic typing to meet this deadline. When I judged I was about one-third of the way through the piece, I revisited the submission site to make sure I had all the facts straight. Nope. The contest had a 1,200-word restriction; I was already at 1,100 words. Gack! My first thought was to abandon this contest—I needed WAY more space to develop the ideas in this piece. And I knew how hard it would be to condense those ideas, as well as re-work the existing material to fit in the smaller space. My thoughts, in essence: “Ugh!”

But I was already at the keyboard, so …. For the next couple of hours, I worked that story, snipping where snipping was due, expanding where there was a loose fold in the lines. The upshot is that I was able to put together a credible entry. But the uppitiest upshot was that in that phase of cutting and crafting, I was really lost in the work. I rarely get in that state of flow—as it’s so compellingly elucidated by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi—that I felt its appealing allure. [Note: C’s name can be used to stop crimes in progress: just shout it at the perpetrators at the top of your lungs.]

The Goldilocks Challenge: It Ain’t About Hair Products

As Daniel Pink so convincingly explains in Drive, his great book on motivation, we need the Goldilocks challenge: something not too easy, but not too hard: something that challenges us just right. And when we get those challenges, our reward is intrinsic—the task is its own reward. Lately, I’ve spent some time considering narrowing my range of services, and I had been considering removing book-length editing (I edit both nonfiction work and fiction) from the list, thinking it secondary to my copywriting work.

But I realized from my travel-essay edit how trying to make sure that every word counts, and nurturing a budding idea through its page-length life is fun. For me, it’s a source of flow. I’ll be editing a science fiction novel late this summer, and one from the bubbling cauldron of Rick Wilson’s mind. I was leaning toward shutting down that end of my business, but I’m leaning back. It’s all in flow.

Look for those moments in your work that also feel like play, where both your mind and your mouth might be humming, where Poirot’s “little grey cells” are singing in chorus. That’s the work you’ll do best, and the best work you’ll do.

But man, the next contest I enter, I’m going to get the details straight.

What Does Editing Have to Do with Potatoes?

Let’s consider a nice serving of mashed potatoes, hot and buttery. Most cooks probably don’t think too much about preparing their potatoes, so it’s often a rote task, hurried through to get to the entree. But what if those potatoes were served with panache, with some kind of style point or spicy twist? Say you were served potatoes with a tiny derby hat on them. You’d remember those spuds, wouldn’t you?

You’d probably remember them even more, if under the tiny derby was a clump of hair. Wouldn’t that drag an interesting expression of creativity into an unappetizing corner? The reason I bring up potatoes, derby hats and unwanted hair is a point I want to make about editing. Competent editors are able to shape the standard serving of potatoes so that it’s without lumps, smooth and palatable. Good potatoes, but still just potatoes.

Better editors recognize when a piece of writing has a derby hat in it—they would never take that hat out, robbing the writer of a unique angle or voice. They’d find a way to allow the hat to fit snugly in its potato surroundings, fully expressive of its quirk and charm, without it seeming unnatural or foreign. And of course, a good editor would remove that hair—typos, kludgy expressions, dully passive voice, et al—posthaste.

Seeing What’s Missing from the Plate
Another skill possessed by a good editor is recognizing when something’s missing. If you don’t provide the reader with a fork, they can’t fully enjoy those potatoes. Some pieces of writing are strong, but they might have gaps in logic, or need to be buttressed by a few more starchy facts. Good editors notice if the writing meal is missing ingredients, and they know how to persuasively suggest adding them so that the writer chefs promptly step back up to the stove.

Of course, editors should always recognize when that potato serving is too big. I remember one of my first copywriting jobs out of college, writing catalog copy for an outdoor equipment retailer that sold a lot of camping goods. One of our products was the Backpacker’s Bible, which was a tiny book that gathered some of the most powerful/popular Bible verses (no “begats” allowed). My first round of copy for it had the line “The best of The Book with all the deadwood cut away.” [Note: for some odd reason they didn’t use my copy.]

And editors recognize when something’s just off. If you’re serving your potatoes to Lady Gaga, you don’t want her wearing her octopus-tentacle bra tinted some neutral shade of grey, do you? It cries out to be Day-Glo puce! If writing has a certain rhythm established, and the rhythm, without context, goes awry, a good editor will re-establish that rhythm. And the proper bra color.

You Don’t Mean He’s Trying to Sell Us Something?
Why is he going on like this, about potatoes and bras? Easy. I’m getting ready to unleash The Write Word’s Easy Editing and Spiffy Style Guide on the world, perhaps as soon as this week. It’s a 55-page ebook chockablock with editing potatoes and other good stuff. And unlike my first couple of ebooks—available here for free—I’m going to charge money for it. But it’s worth it, because it will keep the hair out of your potatoes, while preserving the stylish hats. The guide is filled with editing tips, so that you don’t have to pay me to be the potato masher. Look for its buttery goodness soon.

Chopping the Copywriting and Creative Writing Salad

Copywriters that have a clearly defined niche—”I write sales letters for mid-tier businesses selling nuclear-powered rabbits”—are both constrained by their choices and freed by them. They are constrained in that they may have always dreamed of writing sales letters for nuclear-powered goat companies, but instead they are known as the rabbit guy, and thus they don’t want to dilute their focused offering, and potentially blur the boundaries of their defined space.

However, they are freed from casting their “I-need-new-work” lines in the thistle-tangled fields of businesses small, medium and large, who might peddle soap made from recycled comic books, or tongue scrapers for denture wearers. Generalist copywriters tend to a casual work garden of mingled (and sometimes flopping) stalks, colors and scents, while the specialist might have a sturdy monocrop of clients and cutoff dates.

You might guess that I’m a generalist.

The 360-degree Rotating Exorcist Head
I’ve thought about trying to restrain my 360-degree rotating Exorcist head (minus green spewings) of writing endeavors, but it’s just not my nature. While I can admire the ferocity of focus some copywriters employ, I can’t join their ranks—I don’t think I could breathe. And, genial bigot that I am, I have to sing the praises of the generalist’s keys, because polymath writing pursuits are inherently interesting for their variety. This month alone, to wit:

  • I finished an article for Fine Books and Collections magazine on the makers of exquisite and zany handmade books, touring the U.S. in their gypsy wagon.
  • Finished editing a book on social media for nonprofits.
  • Edited the first in a series of short books on Nonverbal Communication in Dentistry.
  • Wrote logo taglines suggestions for a home design and remodel company, and begin writing their brochure copy.
  • Discussed writing “replies” for a company that’s developed an advanced virtual personal assistant chatbox app; the replies will cover the branching potentials for suggested questions that users might want answered.
  • In discussion with a company that needs someone to update the documentation for the new version of its novel-writing software.
  • Am writing my two monthly articles (a recurring gig) for the Airstreamer, Airstream’s email newsletter.
  • Sending out queries for a variety of articles, many of them travel-related (though a few are about whiskey and one about old cars).
  • Sending out short older short stories of mine to some lit magazines.
  • Berating myself for pausing in what had been a steady (and productive!) half-hour of writing per day on my novel, having used Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then my father’s death for an excuse for not doing the work. Get after it, man!

Building Expertise, by the Paragraph and by the Project
Now, I have varying degrees of expertise in the areas above, but having written and edited nonfiction books, having written question-and-response dialog for software products, having written a novel (unpublished), having written travel pieces, having written brochures, heck, having written lots of grocery lists, I’m confident I can deliver what each organization needs, granting the many iterations of review and rewrite that some projects necessitate. For many writers like me, once you write website copy for a company, they may call you later to write headlines for an ad.

You might not have written headlines for ads before, but the good generalist will always pipe up with a merry “Yes!” when asked about their ability to write a heady headline. Many fundamental writing skills translate across boundaries—cross-writing is often more comfortable than cross-dressing. (High-heeled pumps just don’t work well with my size 13s.) So, if you are breaking in to the copywriter’s fold, and you’re thinking that you could write sales letters not only for the nuked goats and rabbits, but perhaps for radium-isotope gerbils too—go for it. Next thing you know, you’re a reptiles-with-battery packs specialist too.

Writing Tools and Writing Fools

I love the word cacography. And that affection is amplified because it has an obverse term, calligraphy. I say the obverse, because the two words aren’t precise opposites of one another, but rather counterparts. But your fervid brain is saying, “Why Tom, why do you love cacography?” Because the word has an almost rude sound, a yanking of the earlobe, that works well for me—I have wretched handwriting, and “cacography” serves to describe it in sound and fury.

But the real direction of this post isn’t toward ear-twistings. I mentioned cacography because I wanted to talk about writing tools, and one of the most natural—though less enamored of keyboard clatterers today—is the pen. However, because my handwriting is such a cruelty to the eye, no matter if I painstakingly slow the cursive motion or speed it up, or ply it with bourbon, it always comes out as sadistic scratchings, the Caligula of cacography.

However, I do still take notes by hand when I’m mulling over an article or story, or sometimes just single words which are designed to later prompt an image or situation. Sad are the times when I’ve gone back to my notes and read “Xdz?mph” or some other transmogrification.

Does This Macbook Make Me Look Fat?
So, my writing tool in the broadest sense is my Macbook Pro, which has been my companionable computer for a couple of years. The specific applications I use to wrest words from the ether are Microsoft Word or TextEdit, Apple’s built-in word-processor. (Ah, “word processor”—think blender experiments that render smoothies of beef tongue, lightbulbs and turn-signal lamps.) Many people decry, and with good reason, the tyranny and arbitrary nature of Word, but I have been using it for so long that it’s second nature to me, unnatural nature that it is. But when I just want to write notes without the overhead of a bells-and-hellacious-whistles word-churner like Word, I use TextEdit. Which is what hosts this post this very moment.

However, because I’ve been working on a novel lately, I’m probably going to start using an enhanced writing tool like Scrivener, which is a database-style application that lets you arrange, search and manipulate documents, text snippets, outlines, images and more without opening a rack of individual documents. Because I’ve been saving the novel chapters as individual files, I keep going back and opening them separately to remember some earlier details about a character or situation, and that’s clumsy. Almost cacographous. A tool like Scrivener lets you poke around in a bunch of associated documents and find which one has the red socks and which one the blue, without going through the drawers one by one. And it lets you color-coordinate.

Make Something Great of the Blank Slate
One thing I’m doing more of (with a nod to Leo Babauta) is to try and close out my full desktop of overlapping applications and just have a single naked document onscreen, so that it gets full attention. Thus I’m less tempted to jump to the browser to search for pancake recipes or to my email to see if the pope has written back. Some people use the most bare bones of word processors, without any pallettes or menus showing, in order to crystalize focus, but I’m not distracted by menus. Except in restaurants.

I had a nice device called a Neo a while back, which was a dedicated word processor of sorts. Neos have a built-in keyboard, boot up in a heartbeat, run forever on rechargeable batteries, and could also be used to hammer in loose nails on the deck. I wish I still had it for taking on trips, for those times when a full computer is overkill, but I sold it a while back to buy additions to my twig collection, or something like that. But long before that, I had a magnificent Underwood typewriter, which required brisk workouts with free weights to pound the keys, and which would have produced a seismic reading of 6.5 if dropped out of a plane. Those were the days.

So, which writing tools strike your fancy?

Brutal Poetry Smackdown!

I used an interesting creative tool from Xtranormal to create this lively literary debate. It’s a fun tool, because you can add all kinds of camera angles, effects and gestures to your characters and settings. But I also thought it might be a great educational tool to prompt kids to write—as you can see, it’s not wholly necessary to have your characters speak sensibly. Passionately, yes.

Even though the cinematic challenges are at a pretty fundamental level, there’s also a good deal to learn here about moviemaking, with the availability of the tools to change perspective and the flavors of scenes. I only spent about a half-hour making this one, and it shows, but there’s potential to make something quite effective and communicative. Thanks to Rex Williams, my friend on Triiibes, for pointing Xtranormal out.

Writing Is Music (Warning! Tintinnabulation Alert!)

Words are creatures with different voices, different moods. One combination might sing, another scream. Thus, it’s time to hit you with my rhythm stick, one so POEtic.

[audio:http://www.tombentley.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Bells2.mp3|titles=Bells]

Go Ahead—Eat the Ice Cream

A few musings on the writing life (originally an essay for an ebook for Seth Godin’s Triiibes network):

  • Perhaps because I ate too many Snickers Bars as a child, since adolescence I’ve been set upon by bouts of existential dread. It harkens to Sartre’s great work, Nausea, when even everyday objects—the lamp, your keyboard, your wife—appear sinister and threatening. Is it true? Oh, absolutely, everything has its dark side. But you must outwit them: don’t stare the mad dog straight in the eye, but give it a sidelong glance as you skirt its sharp teeth. After a while, the lamp goes back to looking like a lamp. Your wife might be more dicey.
  • I have an inner voice that often tells me I’m a horse’s ass. Though that yoke occasionally fits, much of the time, it’s just the little voice of habit and self-doubt. As most asses need slapping, I’ll step to a mirror, look at the ass looking back at me and say, “You’re just a horse’s ass in the mirror, not my real self. My real self is a combination of Gandalf, Mother Teresa and Eddie Murphy. Begone!”
  • There are a lot of open fields in my neighborhood, where coyotes sometimes roam. I like to think of the mind, with its fears, hesitations and plunges, as a creature—like a coyote. Sometimes I see the coyotes slinking around, cur-like, with a guilty look. Other times I see them racing across the fields, and hear the merry yip-yip-yipping in the evening. I like to think of my coyote mind in this way: when it’s slinking and guilty, it’s but a small turn in perspective to release that mind. Release it to become the version of the Trickster that is both cunning and kind. That coyote brain yips its joy, not its fear.
  • Shakespeare, Faulkner, Austen all had days in which what they wrote was dung. On those days, they went fishing. So, whether in a bassy lake or a lake only of your imagination, drop a long line. Think of nothing. Feel the sun on your hands, the breeze on your forehead. The work will be there waiting for you, so bob that merry line until due time.
  • Laugh often, laugh loud. The world is a preposterous place, of pratfalls and puzzlements, where you go to scratch your nose and put your finger in your eye, where governments bloviate, where your neighbor wears his wife’s bra (not that there’s anything wrong with that), where the day you wax your car for the first time in a year, it rains. You can’t really account for the surreal, the stifling, the boring aspects of life. But this is the life you have—seize it, lick its neck, raise it skyward. The stories about the Other Place in the afterlife are just like filling an inside straight to me: possible, but not likely. So, it’s this world, this NOW, that has so many tears in it—sometimes all you can do is laugh.
  • A writer’s life is a peculiar one, of crooked gratifications and queer slights. So much is interior, subject to the fickle tastes and electrical storms of your own mind, which though you’ve sat in the room with it all your life, remains a mystery. Some days you might sling 1,000 good words over your shoulder, and shrug at its meaninglessness. Some days a single sentence will shine, and that’s enough.
  • The hell with it—once in a while, choose to eat as much ice cream as you want.