Playing Scales

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It’s not that I have nothing to write. I have a list of things to write. An essay nearly finished,  interesting exercises that I could run through, the writer’s equivalent to playing scales. Tonight an invented one: I found a website that generates random photos. When I asked for one, this is what it sent me.


I can do something with this picture. I can invent a story about it. That might be fun. For awhile I noodled around with it, but other than riffing on themes of (first) abandonment and (second) longing I didn’t get anywhere. One of the toughest things about writing fiction is keeping out of the cliches that riddle our psyches like land mines. Maybe I’ll write a story about this photo, but I have to think on it awhile.

Years ago, a man disappeared on a jet ski in a local lake. It’s a man-made lake, and it lays like a little dimple on the Ohio landscape. You could sit in a canoe in the middle and see every shoreline and everyone on the shoreline could see you. They found the body of the man, may he rest in peace, but by then I’d already written a story — in my head, of course– complete with Maury Povich, Belize, and the underbelly of Dayton’s east side. I need to get that stuff down on a page.

Non-fiction is so much easier– you just tell the facts. Or try to. Journalists are human, so bias creeps in, even if it’s just in the choices of adjectives we make, or which quotes to include. Yesterday, the Register Guard newspaper of Eugene, Oregon ran a story about an elderly dog who was stolen out of her yard by “rescuers.” Not “a woman”. Not “a thief”, but “rescuers.”

The story, by Chelsea Gorrow, has gotten an enormous amount of play on social media lately. The dog turned out to be 17, and was being provided with palliative care by her life-long owner. This news story called the dog “Hope” the name the “rescuers” had bestowed on her and quoted them as if their beliefs were gospel. Even though the dog’s name was Zena and they knew that. Eventually she was returned to her owner, who felt his hand was forced and took her to be euthanized the day she returned.

I was moved by this example of bright yellow journalism to do something I rarely do anymore–  to correct the story and send it back to the writer and all four of her editors. They all ought to be ashamed. Of course, I didn’t hear anything back, they probably chalked up the email to “some crackpot old woman.”

But aside from those kinds of egregious lapses in judgment, writing non-fiction is just answering these challenges: make it plain, make it engaging, make the reader stick with it. Who, what, when, where and why is also helpful.

Of course, fiction has those too, but starts with the initial enormous hurdle: make it believable.

I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that.

Like I said, I have a list of things I intend to write lo, these 40 days. A list.

So, how is it that I find myself, once again at the keyboard after one in the morning, writing the equivalent to chopsticks? It’s everything I can do not to creep into the living room to watch Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar  host the Late Late Show. Bob Newhart’s his guest. But if I do that, nothing will get written. Nothing at all.

I am just so damned tired. I have projects on every burner, some of them in crisis, some of them boiling over. Today I took time out to go for sushi with my friend Rita. We’ve been trying to get together since before Christmas. It’s been close to a  year since we actually went to lunch. So even though I wavered for a moment this morning and thought maybe I should just work instead, I didn’t. I went to lunch, by God and I’m not sorry. Friendships deserve tending too.

Then I worked.

By the time I was heading home from the office, I felt crummy. One arm aches. I’m plagued with lightheadedness. There are weird twinges here and here and here. I keep dropping things. I believe that stress is either killing me or making me a hypochondriac. Maybe both. So I had a nap on the sofa, and didn’t get anything written and now I’m too tired and I have to go to sleep!

There’s a little flourish, there at the end, did  you hear it?

Maybe there’s some benefit to just dragging my carcass here to the desk and writing something. I hope so.





I am entirely wrung out. I functioned on four hours of sleep last night. Though the first day of the event was successful, the experience for me was at times hellish. I am so exhausted, and I have to get up and do it all over again so soon. Next year this has to be different. A migraine nibbles around the edge.

Target number 60. Step after step after step:  8933. Consumed yogurt and granola.  Half a cup potato soup. cookie, six stalks asparagus, half a cup of potato, 4 oz filet. Bourbon, one.

Into the Dark



This has been a difficult day for me, for no particular reason. There is no meaning to why I feel as deeply despondent as I feel. It’s a busy time, and I usually thrive on that, feeding off the deadline pressure, buzzing with adrenalin. But not today.  I am sad about the death of my son’s teacher, but it isn’t her departure that makes me feel like nothing is worthwhile.

I am tired to the bone, but I think it’s just depression. I’m working on a book length project that I care deeply about, but I haven’t been able to spend much time on it because I am caught up in our hobby (dogs) and distracted by this weight loss project. Going out for all these walks takes up a hell of a lot of time.  I’m a week overdue on the newsletter that I am supposed to produce for one kennel club, and tied up in knots about the dog show coming up with the other.

Tomorrow is the entry deadline for that show. In a way it is the “do or die” day. We will know tomorrow if we have a prayer of breaking even. I feel a little sick about it all. I’d been left a parting “gift” from the former club president that has cost the club a significant amount of money. Though she moved away after we declined to elect her president again, she generally comes back for the show, and the last two days have been chock full of unpleasant and argumentative emails from her which she copied to everyone on the kennel club membership list. I know that I should not let this get me down, but it does. I am so tired. I have spent enormous amounts of time, energy and money on this project and I hate to see it spoiled. I just feel like giving up.

Hand me the pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

Today’s target number is 62.8.  I walked 3037 steps, and I’m just too unhappy to make up the rest on the treadmill. Consumed today: 2 cups of watermelon, half-cup of blueberries, thin slice of ham, banana, Rally Burger with cheese, three small chocolate eggs.