An experimental essay

Perspective is everything. One man’s “primitive” was once another’s state of the art, or at least within shouting distance.

The Radical Midwesterner

From the Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking, July 8-13, 2018.

1.

I always go back to this question of who or what I am as a writer. A year or two ago the answer seemed relatively clear: I was a scholar, an academic, even an “intellectual” on my more confident days. I taught an wrote and thought for a living. But now that I am living the post-academic life it’s not so clear anymore. Who am I as a writer and a thinker? What identity do I want to have? I think I should write for a popular audience. I should get paid. But I really can’t think at the pace of the internet, nor do I really want to learn. And yet the slow and painstaking work of developing and sustaining a scholarly argument for a year or two or more so it can be published for…

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The path back to life in technicolor

I mentioned recently that I know what to do when my nemesis comes skulking around, wrecking my mood, sapping my energy, and sometimes rendering me grouchier than usual. It took me a good while to figure it out some years ago.

hot air ballloonYour own path back to the technicolor world is unique to you, but these things help me:

  • Bicycling. I’ve said before and it proved true for me again over the weekend, exercise always helps. You don’t have to ride fast or far, but ride — or run or walk or do something else that suits your capabilities and makes you feel good.
  • Talk about it or write about it. I’ve done both, the first with Mrs. Smith and with professionals on occasion, the second right here and elsewhere. Great combination for me.

It isn’t always easy to act. Getting results can take time.

Now, back to the final edit of my new crime novel.

Pedal on.

B.J.

Nemesis begone

My nemesis had not stopped by in many months, maybe years, to remind me that it was still there, waiting. It returned almost imperceptibly.

The thing arrived in recent days like Sandburg’s fog, on little cat feet, while my attention was somewhere else. By this morning all the vibrant colors of the world had faded to black and white and then to drab shades of grey.

Sleep is a haven and waking unwelcome. Numbness is a blessing.

Now that I recognize the old signs I’d almost forgotten, I know what to do, what help I need to send this depression back to its dark lair. Maybe someday it will remain there.

For now, a little patience. Soon it will move on, and so will I.

 

Thoughtless writers and the stigma that needs to die

The chaotic world of social media is awash in nonsense, much of it perpetrated by those who claim to be or imagine themselves to be writers.

They consume precious bandwidth by tossing around famous quotations of questionable provenance, Instagramming their groan-inducing sentiments about “the writing life” and, with their often careless use of language, perpetuating damaging stereotypes about writers and others.

Take the example that set me off today, a post that said:

ALL WRITERS ARE LUNATICS

The poster asked: Haven’t you noticed that all writers are just a little bit… off? (In the best way possible)

A couple of dozen followers agreed, celebrating their alleged lunacy and the apparent cool and oh-so-specialness of their writerly selves. I responded with a simple “Nope.”

Why?

  1. Both the image used in the post and the related question make light of the serious issue of mental illness.
  2. The notion that “all writers” are a “little bit off” is a myth.

The term lunatic itself is outdated, pejorative slang, though it does seem to be useful in Twitter snark and other online commentary. It was even removed from the U.S. Code in 2012. Its use may seem harmless and even lighthearted in some contexts, but no serious writer who seeks to destroy the stigma that surrounds mental illness will use it lightly.

writer's deskRegarding 2, while it is true that some famous writers suffered from mental illness that shaped their creativity (and sometimes led to their deaths), writers in general are no more “off” than the general public.

For the record, I have been treated for depression for nearly 20 years. I’ve been writing for a living a good bit longer than that.

Take that, stigma.

Write on.

B.J.

My ebook free for the weekend???

OK. Last time. Just this weekend. My first Detective Red Shaw thriller is free on Amazon (ebook only).

Go get it.

You’ve got time to read it before the next one comes out. That’s all I’m sayin’.

The case of the cat and the bicycle

A good editor is like a good detective. Both take note of the obvious, and both notice the things that slip by others.

Here are two examples to think about.

One

Some guy tweeted this the other day:

Two

The same guy put a bicycle in the header of his new Twitter page.

Go ahead. Take a look. Be curious.

Why a cat and why a bicycle?

A casual reader or distracted digital passerby might not ask why. It’s just a cat and just a bicycle. An experienced editor, like a good detective, wonders about the choices and the writer’s or the suspect’s reasoning.

Are the cat and the bicycle just eye-catching visuals or is there some deeper significance? Were the selections deliberate or careless?

Why those images?

In this case, a reader familiar with the writer’s work might recall the fate and symbolism of a yellow-eyed cat. The reader might also begin to wonder if the bicycle foreshadows something not yet revealed.

A skilled detective might begin to poke around.

What do you think?

B.J.

On a lighter note…and a darker background

Hello. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Please forgive the somewhat darker keyboard image. It may seem a little moody, but it’s simply providing more contrast with the verbiage that runs across the middle in front of it. Some day I’ll find a WordPress theme that I don’t feel compelled to fiddle with.

Two other things

  1. I have a new Twitter account that you’re more than welcome to follow if you are so inclined. It’s going to focus on writing and written stuff. There may be an element of grouchiness at times, witness the pinned tweet about writer’s block.
  2. I’m on track to have my next crime novel available as an ebook by the end of July. Here’s to not being derailed yet again! Join my email list and you just might get a free copy. (You will for sure if you’re among the next 10 to join the list).

Write on.

B.J.