Luke the Drifter, a comeuppance and Tom Robbins calls it quits…

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Art is subjective and the first subject is the soul of the artist.

I recently watched I Saw The Light, a Hank Williams biopic starring Loki and the Red Witch.  Old Hank was a lyrical genius with more than his share of inspiration and damnation.  He put it out there and out there and still it wasn’t enough to allow him the thing all artists crave.

Connection.

Connection with others.  Connection with the world at large.  Connection with an understanding of their own psyche.  When filled with the emptiness of lonesome, any connection will do; alcohol, drugs, sex, food, money, power, fame, failure.  Connection.

I spent time in Alabama this week.  Hank’s home state.  I had connection on the brain when I pulled in Sunday night and kept it there all week.

He wrote from the heart.  Quickly, without much editing and without much regret.  His alter ego, Luke The Drifter, carried the weight of his more soul-searching work, but Hank was the canvas of Luke’s art.  He was a tormented soul yearning to break out and be free.

Let’s regroup….

I pulled into Alabama thinking of Hank and my writing and the unspoken reality that connecting with others has never been easy for me.  Does it look easy?  Sure.  I learned to use humor years ago to impress, deflect, entertain, flirt and distract as I saw fit.  A manipulative skill but one that leaves them laughing and wanting more…

My own art is suffering from a plague of mediocrity that only I will openly admit.  Others won’t for fear of hurting my feelings or disrupting a friendship etc.  Craig S. stands out on this topic for his brutal honesty.  But, as a Man dealing in reality, he is as honest with Me about Me as he is about Himself.  This makes his criticisms constructive, reasonable and easy to swallow.

I started this years ago because I had this Tom Robbins inspired notion of writing 500 words per day, no matter what.  Broadcasting to the world seemed to satisfy two criteria:  Engage an audience, receive feedback.

Both failed.

So now is the time to rethink this entire pile and focus on turning mediocrity into something that is not mediocrity.

I hit Alabama by reaching out to writer friends about editors/publishers and the writing community at large.  I never really considered myself a writing group type of guy.  I don’t even know what genre is fitting for my writing.  I just write the words in my head and let them go.  Full disclosure:  I’ve never edited any story on this page.  100% of what is presented was written directly into the blog and only after the fact was it saved.  Including the Romeos stories.

You deserve better.

I deserve better.

My characters deserve better.

My soul deserves better.

To that end, no more stories will appear here.  I’m engaging an editor and moving in the direction of publication and becoming a serious, if underrated, underpaid and unknown, writer.

My last story, Purpose, was written in the San Antonio airport after reading three pages of Notes from the Underground.  What if the people we think of as having Special Needs were able to think clearly, perhaps more clearly than us, and were using our ignorance and compassion to fulfill their goals.  Be they good, evil or indifferent.

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Back to ranting then.

I could rant for hours about a limitless number of topics.  The desire to express one’s self, so necessary for artist, makes me a boorish snob at dinner parties, a know-it-all ass successful in self-aggrandizement others can only envy.  I’m fun to drink with, tough to get close to and unforgettable for reasons I forget.  I admire Bukowski because he shuns admiration and love Kerouac because he needs it.  Palaniuk is my favorite modern writer.  His writing, satire, wit and intelligence is unrivaled in this Stephanie Myers world.

I often think I should disappear to a remote island.  Indulge in my alcoholic dreams, consume Rum and write a memoir no one will read.  But the truth is I would end up sunburned, arrested and my memoir would consist of two paragraphs about railroads, midgets and the smell of Schlitz.

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Trump and Hillary are symptoms of the same disease.  We’ve spent decades accepting the lesser of two evils.  Now we have nothing but evil to choose from and, ye gods, we double-down on this fact.

We have to take sides.  If you’re Liberal, you’re a Libtard.  If you’re Conservative, you’re a KKKonservative.  If you’re pro-Black, you’re anti-White.  If you’re pro-Cop, you’re anti-Black.  If you’re pro-White, you’re the KKK.  The Hispanics show up in here somewhere but seem to have the sense to recuse themselves for the most part.  You’re either pro-Gun or a Socialist.  You’re either a Socialist or bible thumping gay-hater stuck in an all-White past.  If you disagree with Me, you’re a Communist.  If I disagree with you, I’m a Fox News watching Zombie who should be mocked.  You’re either forever Rich or forever Poor.  Pick a side God-Damn you!  If you don’t repost that video about a Black kid getting killed, you’re a bigot and part of the problem.  If you don’t repost that video about a Cop being killed by a Black kid, then you’re not American.  You must fly Old Glory just above your Don’t Tread On Me Banner or you’re some sort of commie-fucker and probably love Obama.

We…that means YOU and I…encourage, support, promote, reblog, repost, share, LIKE, Retweet, Comment and otherwise ENDORSE the very DIVISION we lament…

We the people, have created a less perfect Union which divides us along superficial, political borders…

We ask our kids to pick sides and then wonder why our country is divided.  Being Conservative doesn’t make you anti-Gay anymore than being Liberal makes you anti-White.  Plug in any names/agendas/topics  you wish in that sentence and it makes just as little as sense as the original.

We’ve let our Politics decide our Principles instead of our Principles deciding our Politics.

I think most people view their own lives as a Conservative and the lives of their neighbors as a Liberal.  I know I do.  I don’t care what you do, at all.  Just don’t ask me to pay for it.  I’ll stay out of your bedroom and take my wallet when I leave.   The Ten Commandments at a courthouse don’t bother me because I don’t feel as if my government is forcing me into Christianity anymore than their Speed Limit sign tricks me into going 55…

I believe that most people are Libertarians.  They just don’t understand Libertarians-so they naturally are apprehensive-and the media/education system has convinced them it is some sort of no holds barred Anarchy.  The Sheep count themselves to sleep…

Think of it this way.  Fiscally conservative, socially liberal.  That sounds like most everyone I know…

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I’ve been reading Seneca, Letters from a Stoic.

Try it.

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As always,

John.

 

 

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Everything I needed to know I learned from Dead Frogs.

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It was this time last year when I took account of my life and found some things lacking. About twenty years and 150 pounds ago, I had an inkling of how my life would go. I wanted to wake up in distant lands, see the known & hidden places of the world, and somehow make a mark that lasted more than my expected life cycle. Little did I realize that every 18 year-old full of piss & vinegar has such grandiose notions and few really make it. But off you go anyway…You see some sites, visit some places, meet some people, and then wake up on a 9-5 commute before you settle your hangover. As Frost said, way leads to way…

Back to last year.
I realized that of all the things I’d wanted to do, one was still with me after 20+ years like a rash without ointment. Writing. I sat down last year and wrote this sentence on my computer screen.

John Duffy, Writer.

Yeah, I was drunk…but I got the message buried in the bottle. If I was going to be a writer then it was time to make me a writer. You can’t make me one, neither can a publisher, agent, critic, reader, or a thousand plastic compliments. I have to make me one.

Over the past year I’ve picked up a few lessons that I thought worth sharing.

1.) Writing is tedious difficult work. Hemingway once quipped, “Write drunk; edit sober.” The former is easy, the latter…not so much. Taking a critical eye to your work is as important as letting your critical eye sleep while you bang out a rough draft.

2.) Writing is predominantly an inside job. The TV show “Castle” offers a glamorous spin on writing that gives a schmo the impression that a laptop and good hair a Writer do make. I tried what I call the “Latte Literati” gig of sitting in a coffee house and playing Writer for the world to see. Trouble was, I couldn’t see it, even if all the caffeine junkies could… Writing is tough enough for me without an audience. Hell, the reason I can fly through this blog most of the time is because I have trouble believing the “Ego Counter”.

3.) Inspiration can’t be found, it must arrive of its own accord. I go places and work hard at keeping my eyes & ears open. It’s tight to pay attention to the world around you when you sometimes feel the world inside you is a dumpster fire. But I try. Sometimes inspiration arrives. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve learned to have faith that it will always show up…when it wants to.

4.) Reading is fundamental to Writing. I glance over my blog and other writings and notice a stagnation buried within. Thinking back to when I wrote whatever piece is stagnated I realize that at that time, I wasn’t reading much and I wasn’t “moving around” much. Reading is a simple way to see the world. If you can’t see the world, who cares what you have to say about it…?

5.) Thorns have their place. I appreciate the compliments people feed me, but after that, I enjoy a cup of strong critique to complete the meal. Only I can make me a Writer, but others can help make me a better writer.

6.) Grammar matters.

7.) Keep the story moving with action & words. Perhaps I feel that way because I’m too lazy to wrestle adjectives or hold down an adverb for three seconds. I don’t know. Show, don’t tell…

8.) I need to meet more Writers. Networking seems incredibly important. I need to work on my “networking” skills more.

9.) A Writer will write. Whether it’s a comedy skit, jokes, a restaurant review, or a newsletter for work; a Writer writes. If I’m not actively pursuing “Writing Gigs” then I’m not living a Writer’s life. For me, it is that simple.

10.) This may seem harsh, and contradictory to #8, but a Writer has to clear the clutter from their mind, their desk, and their life. That last one is the toughest.

11.) I’m not the Story. When I enlisted the assistance of a pro editor I was stoked. I felt as if I were doing the hard work…shelling out money, staying up late to do rewrites, discussing the why, when, & what of my work. Then I got my first edits back. Cut this, slash that, add here, delete this, rework this piece, why? Why? WHy? WHY?….I remember sitting in that office listening to my stories being dissected and feeling a sudden kinship with dead frogs found in the high schools of America. I had to remind myself, “I’m not the story, I’m not the story, I’m not the story…”

12.) Writing is tedious difficult work. I know I’m repeating #1…but if you knew how many times I rewrote #11, you’d understand.

13.) Biggest thing I learned this year: John Duffy, Writer. I like it.

-John.

Bastards walk all over you sometimes, eh?

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This is a sign of my growing distaste for real work.
I woke up with a twisted haze floating around my eyes and the feeling that hangovers are in my DNA. The Drunkard’s Genome Project should receive some Stimulating benefits via Uncle Sam Adams. Most of the low-end bottles I saw in the trash can this morning had “Union Made” on the label. That makes it a legitimate industry for gubment help. Yes? No? Yeah, I don’t see my point either. This is further proof that I’m avoiding real work and rambling in hopes of finding something worth saying…

The real work is not taking yourself so seriously that every little thing is called “Real Work”, when typing to total strangers and those randomly courageous friends one has inherited along one’s path.

Right now, the real work is overcoming a bubbling distaste for my writing. This foulness, similar to sucking rancid meat juices off a homeless guy’s big toe, has developed into a full-blown nightmare. For the moment.
NOT the “Writer’s Block” everyone dreams about. I say “dreams” because it often seems that folks use “Writer’s Block” as an excuse to smell like a writer because hot bath of reality is too painful. They are trapped in a world of Fear and Laziness so perplexing, it is rationalized by Psychologists, Psychiatrist, and your favorite hair stylist alike. No, what I’ve got going on is running along this way.

I’ve got plenty to say, plenty of ideas, and plenty of work ethic…but every thing I hear in my head SUCKS comparatively speaking, to the words I’ve spent the day reading. That, my friends, is FEAR. NOT Writer’s Block.

Comic Interlude:

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I once thought of self-publishing a series of short stories and entitling the collection, “A Writer’s Block.”

Get it?

If writer’s get Writer’s Block, do executioner’s get Chopping Block?

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The source of my literary halitosis is my ill-advised attempts at finding ‘inspiration’. I also think ‘inspiration’ is overrated like Mojitos and drunk girls making out in front of cell phones…but skip that, for now. I picked up this book of Short Stories, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat outside to read a line or fifty. By the time I finished the first story, I was as depressed as a Jewish kid on Christmas morning.

The truth is every writer feels this way but, well, I normally don’t feel this way at all. Of all the hatchet jobs I’ve done on my frail self-esteem, insulting the words in my head as never crossed my mind. But I read a few more stories and heard this low moaning coming from deep within…down where words are scarce and ill-fitting (I’ve used that same description in a story once).

I guess the part of this that applies to other writers is that we’ve all felt like shit on the shoe soles of successful scribes. Those bastards whose words dart off the page and into our minds with a laser’s pace and precision.

It can make you sick, really. Yeah, they’re professionals, and have paid their dues, and have had their work edited, sliced, diced, collated, collaborated, and passed around to enough literary snobs to fill a private college campus…but still.

It makes you sick when that little voice says, “You’ll never ever be that good.”

Bastards.

By the end of the night this will pass. I don’t really mind the random attack of Fear. Most times I just laugh at it, sit down, and write whatever random words I hear.

Which is what I did just now…

-John.

Listing history, calling the faithful, reflecting on a fictional childhood…

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We are looking to buy a house. Yes, I’m 40, married and the father of 4 (known) children and just getting around to buying a house. I had a choice once about 8 years ago: Buy a house or start a business. Currently I don’t own a house or a business so yeah…not too bright.

We contacted the real estate folks and they sent listings. Growing up in Crewe (population hovering 1,000) I lived in a total of 9 different houses in 18 years. In the last 5 years we lived in 5 different houses. The constant moving was a reminder that money was a theory, not a fact.

Of the houses I lived in, three are now for sale and within our price range. The one my parents had built before their divorce in 1980 now has English Ivy growing INTO the chimney while a foreclosure notice flaps on the breezy front porch. Two others were rentals but now have been “renovated” by homeowners hoping to make a profit.
I think about that country song out at this time. A woman sings about visiting her old home and refers to it as “The House that built me” or something like that. I like the song. As interesting it may be to buy a home that my family once rented, or to renovate the home my parents built I just can’t see it. Crewe is still Crewe. We are waiting for a house in the country with some land. We like living in the back yard during summer, turning up the music, having open containers of alcohol, riding four-wheelers, swimming in the pool and letting the dog run free. We enjoy telling the kids to go outside and knowing they’ll be alone.
Those old houses built me, but now they need to build someone else.

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I started this blog to talk about writing but soon realized I don’t have much to talk about. I don’t organize an outline, agonize over characterization, develop symbolism or consider writing ‘hard work’. Maybe that’s my problem, but so far, my editor doesn’t think so.
She calls it free writing.
Editing requires work, writing requires courage. Or stupidity. Or arrogance. Truth is I’ve got plenty of courage, stupidity, and arrogance. I’m covered.

You need some courage to say what you want to say and not give a monkey’s nut if anyone else gets it. Someone will ‘get it’, even if the first person who reads it says, “Yeah, maybe you need a urinalysis and some therapy.”

For the record, taking a whiz quiz doesn’t show how much Robotussin you drink or if you slip a blotter of acid under you tongue every other Friday night.

So I don’t have neat little lists and writing prompts to offer. Sorry.
But I do offer you faith.

I have faith you can write the words you hear in your head.

I have faith those words will ring true to someone, somewhere, one day, eventually.

I have faith that if you think about writing, want to write, and enjoy writing then you are a Writer. Period.

I have faith that Life is much simpler than the human brain can fathom.

I have faith that sitting in front of a computer waiting for inspiration is akin to playing the lottery; odds are you lose and feel stupid for even trying. Go Live. Inspiration is a grown up, it’ll take care of itself. Promise.
Writing is your Life reflected by a mirror disguised as Inspiration.

Being yourself isn’t easy, that’s why so few people do it.

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Monday I plan on posting the beginning of a story called, “Roscoe’s Marker”. It’s another story based around Mahalia, VA. The idea is to eventually collect the short stories based in Mahalia. Right now, they are being edited for submission to magazines (print & online) in hopes of developing a resume. A writer’s resume is essentially a list of published work, workshops attended, awards etc.

Mahalia is a place filled with tragedy, rumor, gossip, inspiration, comedy, beauty, abortionists, love, pedophiles, drunks, one-eyed midgets, circus freaks, ghosts, retired secret agents, homeless Phds, rednecks, Yankees, rapists, preachers, monkeys, and suicidal buildings. We have no grocery store but seven places to buy beer & lottery tickets. Storefront churches fill main street as old churches are demolished for parking lots. We had a canibal but he was killed years ago when his propane grill blew up. There are rumors of a voodoo lady who lives just out of town, but others say she’s more of a witch doctor. Apparently, there’s a difference. We have one “buy-here, pay-here” car dealership run by a bible-thumping Nazi with a lisp and an out of control shoe fetish. The cemetery has a tombstone shaped like a dollhouse. Everyone is related to someone who goes by the name “Bubba”. No one waves at strangers since that accident up on the big highway.
There are 3 degrees of seperation in Mahalia.
Six is just too much.
The whole town is on the wrong side of the tracks.

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Watch The Bucket List.

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Fiction over fact always has my vote.

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Here’s a story about a story that isn’t a story, yet.

Riding down a road in Dinwiddie this morning I heard a song which makes me think of a friend. It’s “Say” by John Mayer. I heard it for the first time in the movie, “The Bucket List”. If you haven’t seen that movie that’s a drinking shame. But on.

I heard the song I thought of my friend. Today she is having one of her kidneys transplanted into another person. Read that again, slowly. Now, one more time. She’ll be what is known as a living donor. (www.onelivingdonor.com) This knowledge caused my mind to focus on the difference between a “living” donor and a “dead” donor. The living donor chooses their host, I suspect. And gets the indescribable feeling of knowing another person is somewhere breathing because of their generosity. I”m sure there are other ethereal benefits my finite mind can not comprehend. Some knowledge can only come from experience.

So, I’m contemplating living vs. dead organ donation concepts. Then I ask, What if you wanted to die so that one specific person gets your organ? Not some unfortunate soul who marked “organ donor” and then died in a car crash, but rather a person who died in a car crash of their own creation so that they may be an organ donor. Suicide with purpose. How would society, legally, react? Do we value life more than we devalue death? But then it changed.

What if a person deemed guilty, by his own conscience, decided to die so that an innocent may live? Do we value the life of the innocent over the life of the guilty?

Would we allow someone to commit suicide so that a child would gain an organ?

Characters, plot twists, and images flooded my mind.
Once Red Hammer is over(4 more postings and its done)I’ll start another one.

“Jared, Rising”

John.

Keep your weekend, the sliding wall–Salesman interrupted.

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I woke up at 2:41, 3:29, & 4:06 a.m.s, respectively. The weekend was filled with events and obligations that, if I were so inclined, would more than satisfy my 500 word a day promise. But, no. I don’t want to write 500 word replays of every boring moment of my weekend. It wasn’t boring to me, but it’ll bore the click button out of you. I know it. Often I wonder why people write page after page about what movies they watched, how much beer they drank or what some random stranger (to the reader) said over dinner last night. Bite me right there in the ass but don’t tell me about your damn weekend.

As I intermittently woke up this morning I felt as if in a dream where, instead of falling quickly, I was rising slowly. A circular wall hiccups down a tube lined with sandpaper, inched its way down towards me as I levitated like a balloon with enough air to float, but not enough to soar. The A/C helped relax me for brief spells before I pulled the cover back on, then off, then on. It’s demoralizing to lose sleep because your mind is obsessed with what will need to be done when you wake up. My mind kept saying, “Ok, you gotta get up at 5 am and do blah, take care of yadda, and make sure whatever gets done right. Don’t forget now. Get some sleep. But REMEMBER. Ok, relax now…turn the pillow over it’ll help.”

Red Hammer was on my mind so I rode by his house again. In reality there are four houses like his in my hometown. All sitting there, empty. I went by the spot where the story will end. I start with the end, usually. That’s the inspiration part. An image of an epiphany just shows up. Sparked by a song lyric, a story from my kids, the image and words arrive softly. It never lasts long so I write the last paragraph first, in my mind. I say it over and over to myself, wording and rewording it, saying it loud then soft. Then when I get a chance, usually at work, I write it out. After that, I create characters. Up to this point all the nouns are genders. There have been stories where the first few lines come to mind. When I write those out the ending usually surprises me. More often than not, the ending is “bad”. I put the obligatory ” ” around bad because thousands of stories have “bad” endings but are still excellent stories. Easyrider comes to mind.

Speaking of Easyrider a friend once commented that I reminded them of Dennis Hopper. Insult or compliment? I didn’t get an answer, really.
Billy the Kid, Paris Trout or that nut from Blue Velvet? Crickets. C’est la vie.

Fiction later. Right now a salesman keeps coming in here asking for distribution information. There is an implied blah in all professional references. Do you trust salesmen? Or salesperson for those pc types? I have trouble with it. I just don’t believe people can turn off their Bullshit Button that easy.

www.onelivingdonor.com