Always be starting

Am I too often seeking the sense of safety or control? (And it is indeed only a sense-of. It is only an illusion.) What happened to the simple feeling of joy in being?

What this means, as I understand it, is that when we let go of all attachment to the outcome of our novel publication/album release/opening of our Thai Fusion restaurant … we shift the locus of our enterprise from the ego to the Self (or the soul if you prefer.)

The Muse likes this. Heaven likes this.

We are now operating on the plane of the soul, not the plane of the ego.

~ Steven Pressfield from,

Sometimes an outcome is important; the measurements, the color, the specific dimensions. When the idea began with the intention of trading the outcome with another. But not every waking moment. Too much of that is obviously an imbalance.


Horror and systematic idiocy

Have you ever looked at your own writing and wondered: What author’s work might it resemble? And if you haven’t, I hope I didn’t just break writing for you.

All I can remember of these once indispensable arts is the intense boredom by which the practice of them was accompanied. Even today the sight of Dr. Smith’s Shorter Latin Dictionary, or of Liddell’s and Scott’s Greek Lexicon, has power to recall that ancient ennui. What dreary hours I have spent frantically turning those pages in search of a word for “cow” that could be scanned as a dactyl, or to make sure that my memory of the irregular verbs and the Greek accents was not at fault! I hate to think of all that wasted time. And yet, in view of the fact that most human beings are destined to pass most of their lives at jobs in which it is impossible for them to take the slightest interest, this old-fashioned training with the dictionary may have been extremely salutary. At least it taught one to know and expect the worst of life. Whereas the pupil in a progressive school, where everything is made to seem entertaining and significant, lives in a fool’s paradise. As a preparation for life, not as it ought to be, but as it actually is, the horrors of Greek grammar and the systematic idiocy of Latin verses were perfectly appropriate. On the other hand, it must be admitted that they tended to leave their victims with a quite irrational distaste for poor dear Dr. Smith.

~ Aldous Huxley from his essay, Doodles in a Dictionary from, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Other Essays

Lest you think that’s an overly long quote, I’ll point out it’s still only about half of the paragraph. Huxley can really unspool a sentence. Some of the writing in that book—Huxley’s, omg no not Smith’s dictionary—are overwrought. But some of them have a delicious tinkling of structure and grammar with an occasional punctuation of solid snark.


148 lines

Preparation—getting everything just so, the right desk, the right software and computer, the right room, the right beverage, the right time, the right mindset—is really simply a form of hiding. Sometimes it’s only a few moments, sometimes it’s days, but I always hide before writing every single one of these blog posts. I definitely don’t enjoy the hiding. I mildly enjoy the writing. I love the reading and thinking parts that this 13-year labor of insanity requires. But some people are not only good at the writing, they absolutely love the craft of writing itself.

While you or I may respond with a counter-argument, Tolkien went home and wrote 148 lines of heroic couplet […]

~ Brenton Dickieson from,

This seemed insane. Who would take an idea for a counter-argument, from a conversation, and rush off to go write for what must have been hours? And then I realized that I do that sort of thing all the time. I run with an idea down some rabbit hole, forming it into something real in the world. It’s only that I don’t it with writing.


Moving scenery

I like Carl Sagan’s point about humans being able to work magic. (I’ll pause here while you read the quote.) Writing enables us to transmit ideas across time and space directly into others’ minds; It’s a natural and obvious development once we had language and storytelling. I am so far, endlessly fascinated by that.

My soul is three generations old

~ Jesse Danger from,

Does what someone says, or writes, need to make sense? It would be insane to expect it to always, or necessarily, make sense. What about poetry? And what about mental imagery incited by reading or listening? And what about literal imagery? I find there’s a vast range of media, and mediums, that interest me once given a chance. Sometimes I want to read logical and reasoned text. Sometimes I want to relax by the window of the train as the scenery slides past.


What would it take?

A little more than a decade ago I rediscovered my need for play. A few years ago I started working on my writing as a direct application of filtering and improving my thinking. All of that was built upon a lot of reading—a reimmersion of myself into reading as it were. *sigh* There’s still, a bit more reading to do.

Before he became unresponsive and refused to speak even to his family or friends, [John] von Neumann was asked what it would take for a computer, or some other mechanical entity, to begin to think and behave like a human being.

He took a very long time before answering, in a voice that was no louder than a whisper.

He said that it would have to grow, not be built.

He said that it would have to understand language, to read, to write, to speak.

And he said that it would have to play, like a child.

~ Benjamín Labatut from,

Grow, read, write, speak, play… There’s an immense variety of human beings resulting from that. There’d be an immense variety of those other beings too. Good!


Because I want to

I value writing because it forces me to winnow my thinking. (And I hear you snarking: If this is the winnowed thinking…) I appreciate that writing begs me to review and rethink. I appreciate that writing slows me down and that hand writing is glacial in pace.

Likewise, they say, handwriting is going the way of the dodo. I don’t think that’s precisely true—it sounds like one of those lazy assumptions about technology, that it exists to flatten, to eliminate anything that brings a tactile, objective permanence. It may be, rather, that the objective has changed. Now we handwrite because we want to, not because we have to.

~ Neil Serven from,

It feels odd to me that “handwriting” is mostly just a noun. Maybe I’m lost in pedantry here, but I’m intrigued by the interplay and overlap of the following simple sentences and fragments, and their multiple meanings. I write. My writing. My handwriting. My hand writing.


I arrange my thoughts

[A]s I write I think about all sorts of things. I don’t necessarily write down what I’m thinking; It’s just that as I write I think about things. As I write, I arrange my thoughts. And rewriting and revising takes my thinking down even deeper paths. No matter how much I write, though, I never reach a conclusion. And no matter how much I rewrite, I never reach the destination. Even after decades of writing, the same still holds true.

~ Haruki Murakami



The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It’s the same with our lives. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps as an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence. It’s very philosophical—not that at this point I’m thinking how philosophical it is. I just vaguely experience this idea, not with words, but as a physical sensation.

~ Haruki Murakami


The practice

I am often stuck in the resistance right before actually writing. It usually takes me several attempts to approach the work. It feels like walking up the slippery slope of a small hill, where the initial speed and direction has to be perfect, and then with continued effort—a penguin waddling judiciously—I reach the gently rounded top of the hill (after sliding off obtusely a few times and beginning again.)

I can easily be nudged into sliding off that small hill by distractions. I’m drawn to address the distraction. Can I fix that so it doesn’t happen again? (For example, change fundamentally how my phone is configured.) But I know that distractions are not all bad and I know that I can hide in the busyness of getting things just right. (Hazards warned of by both Pressfield and Godin.)

Besides that, if you want to get anywhere interesting, there’s no substitute – not even talent – for grinding away at something year after year until you’ve put more work into it than almost anyone else alive.

~ Cierra Martin from,

The word grinding feels too negative a way to spin simply doing the work. If I think, “that’s going to be grinding,” I’m setting myself up to more easily slide off that little hill. Because invariably—for the things I have to, and want to, do—the actual work is exceedingly easy. Easy like gleeful skipping. All of the hard part is in the way I think about the work before I ever begin. Even using the word “work” feels too negative. All of the hard part is in the way I think about the practice.


Exerting yourself

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: That’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life—and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree.

~ Haruki Murakami


Writer’s block

Re: Writer’s Block. Perhaps more should have it. Perhaps the disease, the dilemma, the affliction is trying to tell the writer something. Much that is being produced is unnecessary, indulgent. When the sincerity, the weird naïveté and enchanted stupor of writing leaves the host—the writer—one can only pray for their return, their reintegration.

~ Joy Williams


Driven a little mad

Reading is letting someone else model the world for you. This is an act of intimacy. When the author is morose, you become morose. When he is mirthful, eventually you may share it. And after finishing a very good book one is driven a little mad, forced to return from a world that no one nearby has witnessed.

~ Simon Sarris


On creativity

A writer—and, I believe, generally all persons—must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All this happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may sharpen our art.

~ Jorge Luis Borges


Make a point

I write because it requires me to think. There’s no particular reason why I need to publish what I write. Having targets for what to write, and on what schedule to publish it, simply keeps me accountable. I am certainly better off for having done the writing and the thinking.

Make your point, make it clear, and get out of the reader’s way.

~ Morgan Housel from,

By reading what others have written, I’ve found myself standing on the shoulders of giants.


The letter kills

Individually and collectively, men have always been the victim of their own words […] Taken too seriously, symbols have motivated and justified all the horrors of recorded history. On every level from the personal to the international, the letter kills. Theoretically we know this very well. In practice, nevertheless, we continue to commit the suicidal blunders to which we have become accustomed.

~ Aldous Huxley