When the Clouds Part: The Best Part of Writing

Someone said (probably a famous writer whom I can’t remember) that writing a novel is like driving in the fog with one headlight out.

I like that analogy because that’s the way I write. I have no idea where I’m going. I don’t know the climax, the end game, the resolution, or who takes whom to the dance. I’m as lost as the reader until ….

THE CLOUDS PART. THE SUN SHINES THOUGH. THE ILLUMINATED IS BATHED IN A HEAVENLY SPOTLIGHT AND I HEAR THE ANGELS SINGING.

It is revealed. I love it when that happens.

I never know when, or if, it will happen. Sometimes it doesn’t and I just muddle through and try to think what is the best ending. But other times, it is revealed. Not created. Not imagined. Revealed. It just comes, to me, but I did nothing to allow it to come to me. It just does.

And when it does, I’m just so happy to be the conduit of the revelation. It’s one of the BEST parts of writing. It’s kind of like a vindication of the hours spent in front of the screen and the gods of writing finally nod and say, “Ok, let’s give him some satisfaction.”

Thank you.

If you haven’t guessed by now, it happened today. I’m writing my tenth novel and I’m having an absolute blast. Probably the best time I’ve ever had in writing. It’s about baseball, of course. What else could cause me this much joy?

I’ve always admired the works of W.P. Kinsella and I’m not ashamed to say that my work is heavily influenced by his ideas. Not that I’ll ever attain his impeccable prose, but I hope to take the spirit of what he wrote about baseball and humanity and just have fun with it in wrapping it up in an engaging historical fiction that runs through the American century  from 1920-1955. The Mythology of Baseball is its pretentious title. I love it. Truly do. Early this week I was lamenting to my students that I wish the main characters were real people. I want them to have walked the earth and to have done the things that they have done. I wish it were so. But I guess that’s what makes good fiction. I hope, at least.

Today, as I was finishing one part of the story – this is not a conventional novel that starts from the beginning and ends at the end. Certainly not. Baseball is not that neat and tidy. It is many stories. Yet one story.

Have I told you that I love it?

Anyways, I was finishing one part of the story that had been causing me some consternation. I really didn’t know what was going to happen until the character made this gesture that even surprised me. It surprised me, the writer. I couldn’t tell you how much I loved it, cause the recipient of the gesture sure loved it a lot. The clouds cleared and the beauty of the moment emerged.

I couldn’t have been happier.

I can not wait to share The Mythology of Baseball with the world. It’s already at 77,000 words and counting. It will likely be my first work ever to top 100,000. I hope so, cause these characters deserve it. Every word.

“What Was It Like?” – Beautiful!

One of my former students – a beautiful person and a beautiful dancer – passed away suddenly this past week. Please keep her grief-stricken family in your prayers.

Her father posted many moving dance video tributes to her amazing grace and talent. Here’s one from a rehearsal of my 2014 show RLT Players present “For All Generations.”  This video features the ever poised and beautiful Thizbe as she rehearses with her partner David Beak for the finale of the show. They are using my voice-over for rehearsal purposes. You can hear me reading the script I had written. In the final show, the actors recited the words live as Thizbe and David danced.

Thank you, Thizbe, for sharing your talent with our theatrical group. You added much! As you are right now in heaven, too.

 

“Have an Emergency Fund”, they said.

Why do the sage financial planners have no influence over Washington D.C.?

Any financial planner worth their two-cents will tell you to build up an emergency fund, for, well, emergencies. One never knows when a person may lose a job or become ill and can’t work. There are myriad reasons why an astute planner will do their best to put aside at least a couple of months worth of wages to deal with unforeseen circumstances.

It’s prudent advice to follow. Unfortunately, it’s also true that some people are unable to put aside extras as they are living paycheck to paycheck. But if one can, it’s advisable.

And then there’s the government.

Now before I say anymore, I want to say that I was for a stimulus package to help Americans through this unprecedented pandemic. People lost real wages, businesses were shuttered–through no fault of their own. It is prudent for the collective–the government–to aid the country through such difficult times.

And so what has the government done? Passed more than a 2 trillion dollar stimulus with another nearly have trillion currently on the way to help small businesses. Fine. I’m a fiscal conservative. These are big numbers. I may not agree with all the targets of these stimulus packages, but fine. I’m okay with them.

But–and here’s the point–the government has NOT been following the sage advice of financial planners at all. Conversely, it has acted like a free-spending teenager with their parent’s unlimited credit card for decades now. When the American people needed it the most, the government did not turn to their “emergency fund” or their “rainy day” fund, because they didn’t have one. They had no insight or political fortitude to get their own financial house in order, and so all they can do is plop it mom & dad’s credit card. Deficit spending has driven the US debt into farcical territory. Oh, gone are the days of the “fiscal conservative” George W. Bush who racked up a “massive” 400 billion deficit in his last year in office. That amount was unprecedented. Too large to believe.

That, my friend, is mere pocket change compared the the spending which followed in the Obama years and now the Trump years.

2020 will dwarf them all.

BUT-there is a reason for 2020. The people needed it, and the government responded. Now because the established Washingtonites didn’t have their financial house in order, they have created a financial bubble which does not seem sustainable. Hey, I’m not an economist. I don’t dare say I have a crystal ball. But the financial planners tell us to PLAN.

There is no planning in Washington. They have let down the American people. Now as our debt will balloon beyond 25 trillion, we need to ask the question: What have they done to us?

The Apple Tree & Writing

The idea behind the following metaphor is not new. Other writers have expressed similar ideas. This is, however, how I envision a successful writing process.

Here goes.

Writing is an apple tree full of red, ripe apples. Every apple is an idea. From a distant observation, each fruit looks equally delicious. What a bumper crop! You shall never run out of things to write about.

However, the writer would be wise to show restraint and not impulsively climb the tree to pick every reachable apple, for every reachable apple is not a quality apple. A conniving worm might be eating out the core. It’s impossible to tell at this point.

Good ideas are more apt to come to fruition when accompanied by patience

So what’s a writer to do? Find a comfortable beach chair. Put on a Hawaiian shirt, keep the front unbuttoned, and have a beverage of choice within arm’s reach. Sit in the chair, stretch out your legs and ponder the apples. Patience leads to a little miracle called inspiration.

One by one the rotten apples will begin falling from the branches. Caution: a writer may not want to sit directly under the tree.

Once the rotten fruit has revealed themselves and lay a stinky mess on the ground, what remains is the one true apple, the sweet one, the crisp one, the one you desired all along, only you didn’t know where it was on the tree.

Suddenly, there it is. Redder than the others. Sweeter than the rest, with a hint of sour crispness which will make the plot even that much more unpredictable. Choose that one. The one remaining.

Be patient. Be observant. Allow nature to do the rest.

Then place that apple into your hand and devour it with every bit of strength that you have.

 

 

Look in the Mirror, Writers

It’s that time of year. A little inner reflection. Soul-searching, if you will. Writers of all stripes are known to stare out into the vast unknown of their empty page and wonder, “What am I doing?”

I’m never at a want for words when it comes to writing. I’m always stocked with more ideas than I have minutes in the day. But it doesn’t mean I approach these writing tasks with confidence. Not at all. I often wonder what I’m doing. Will any of these myriad words make sense? Will anyone find them interesting? Will I ever get out of my writing tendencies and make something truly creative? Will I ever stop using THAT word? Will I ever be good enough?

The answer to all of these questions is to look in the mirror.

The reflection you see is your answer. That reflection is you, or in my view, me.

I have to ground myself from time to time with these mundane thoughts which should be as plain as the sun is hot. But writing life doesn’t work that way, so I have to remind myself these few simple facts.

  1. I love to write.
  2. I was born to do this.
  3. I would continue writing if no one ever read another word I had written.
  4. I have a voice.
  5. I have unique experiences.
  6. I am not Hemingway or Steinbeck or any other of the greats.
  7. I don’t need to be them, either.
  8. I am not the sum of the doubts in my head.
  9. I am not the sum of the critiques from others.
  10. I am unlike any other writer who ever lived.

I just need to be that person. Me.

I always try to encourage young writers to be themselves better than anyone else can, and you will find that you have a unique voice, one worth sharing, one worth listening to. This is why the question “Will I ever be good enough?” is the wrong question to be asking.

Press on. Create like there is no tomorrow, because you only have a short time on this earth and we will be blessed to know how you look at the world. We’ll all be better for it.

Keep writing.

The Irony of Writing Time

I woke up this morning to a text message from Saudia Airlines, telling me my flight itinerary to Greece in May had been cancelled. I had planned a self-derived writing retreat, where I was going to split my time between the island of Poros and Athens for nine, sublime, uninterrupted writing days.

But like the rest of the world, well, yes; we know what’s going on. Travels, jobs, nerves have all been frayed by the little novel virus, which decided to wreck havoc on many untold and told plans. You know the Jewish proverb: Man plans, God laughs.

However, there is a bit of irony about this situation for me as a writer. It was not long ago – no more than two months – that I was lamenting to whoever would listen that I did not have any time to write. I had for months been busy with teaching and producing shows – all of which I love – but I was feeling it deep down in my being that if I did not get extended writing time in the near future, I would experience some severe life fatigue. Yes, writing is my release. Thus, I booked my trip to Athens. I’d at least have nine days.

Little did I know how the world, let alone my little writing plans would be thwarted and changed. Ironically, my 9 writing days in Athens has been multiplied. I did not see this coming. Ever since my country of residence (Saudi Arabia) clamped down to fight the virus, time has been one thing I have had. All flights have been cancelled. All school is virtual. Evening time is under a curfew starting at 7. Low and behold, my writing time has a bank ledger brimming in the black. I have so much time, I am starting projects I didn’t know I’d ever get to!

In the past two weeks, I’ve edited and compiled three play volumes I’ve been wanting to produce for years. My first play volume was published in 2016. It’s been four years, and now, all of the sudden, I have three new volumes which will release all at once. More on those later.

Now I’m staring down 9 days of spring break (I was supposed to be in Turkey) where I can begin a brand new writing project. And I still have those 9 days in May where I will be able to write from here.

My how things have changed. The tragic circumstances of the coronavirus is nothing to be thankful for, but one never knows when time, the most valuable commodity we have in this life, will give itself back to you. Please make the most of it. I know I plan to do so.

Theatrical Duets: Now Available on Kindle!

After way too long, my collection of theatrical duets is now available on Kindle! Included in the volume are twenty-two plays great for forensics competitions, stage shows, or theater classroom. It includes several award-winning plays including “Words to Say at the End of the World.”

Only $5.99 on Kindle

Also in Paperback

Pass this on to the theater-lover in your life! Thank you.

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Three New Play Volumes in the Works

Well, it’s about time. In 2016, I published a volume of plays entitled “Theatrical Duets.” I’ve updated it twice already with new scripts, but I have such a backlog of content to publish that I ended up not doing a follow-up volume to my 2016 release.

Well, no more. I have three new play volumes that I am currently working on for release, and, yes, I’m excited to get them out there. Again, all of them are short plays from very different genres and focused on completely different niches. Here’s what’s coming, though the titles may change.

  • Tales of Wonder: Secular & Sacred Christmas Plays for Stage, Schools, & Churches. (The Short Play Collection Vol. 2)
  • Dear High School (The Short Play Collection Vol. 3)
  • Christian Drama for Stage, Schools, & Churches (The Short Play Collection Vol. 4)

“Tales of Wonder” is the complete collection of the Christmas shows performed by the RLT Players at Penang Performing Arts Center in December 2015, 2016, & 2017. The first two of these shows were directed by myself. This is a delightful collection of funny, nostalgic, and dramatic pieces which, I hope, captures the true magic of Christmas. They are super fun to produce, and I hope a lot of people will enjoy them. I can’t wait until I can produce them again at some point.

“Dear High School” is a collection of high-school themed drama which focuses on the crazy and up and down years of being a high school student. This is a fun volume and I have a couple ideas of sketches to add to it before release time.

“Christian Drama” is an extensive collection of short plays focusing on a variety of topics related to the Christian experience.

The goal, if all goes right, is to release them all at once this summer, right around the time of the release of my ninth novel.

Lots coming together that I’m excited about.