Writing is a Habit

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Fuck.

I haven’t written anything this whole month.

It’s a funny thing about habits. You get in a routine, and everything goes on auto pilot.

Like in Dallas it was

-4:30am Gym

-6:00am breakfast

-6:30am writing

-7:00am shower

-7:30am leave for work

Real simple. Every Monday, Weds, Thursday.

But now in Chicago, my gym schedule in the evening because the entire city has an allergy to early morning workouts.

So my writing suffers.

….Or so that’s the excuse I tell myself.

In reality, I just need to find a regular time slot.

15 minutes or so everyday is all I need.

It’s how I wrote my first shitty draft of my first shitty Novel back in July.

It took me a only month and a half.

Shooting for only 3 paragraphs a day.

Everyday.

It’s 90-some hand written pages filled with spelling mistakes, crossed out words, coffee stains.

It can easily be longer with some polishing.

But it’s going to take going to take some work,

and in order to make that happen, I’m going to need to find sometime.

To edit only three paragraphs.

Everyday.

Regardless of rain, snow, sleet.

The funny thing is when I put it that way,

it really doesn’t seem so hard.

 

This post was inspired by the book “Atomic Habits”.

Mr. Clear is a very smart man, highly recommended.

Words of Wisdom by Billy Pilgrim

It’s painful.

But not the physical kind where you sweat through your grey sweatpants at the gym.

No.

The mental kind, like when you have poison ivy and you think about anything fucking else but the sweet orgasmic relief of slowly ripping the top layer of skin with your nails.

That kind.

I haven’t written a story in over a month. That’s like fucking forever.

This time last year I was pumping out stories like Octomom.

Lately it’s been feeling

hurting

constricting

……Fuck it. You get the idea.

The thoughts come in and I want to “one up” every single one of them like that annoying kid from third grade who always had a cousin that did everything you just said, but better.

Fuck that kid.

And fuck this post.

It sucks.

The next 20 are going to suck too.

Then the next 12.

And finally there will be one good post like this one, which I’ll love but no body will read.

Then 20 more shitty ones.

Oh well.

It’s like my man Vonnegut says:

“…And so it goes”

30 or so Stories I’ve written in 2018 that have been rejected: Long Live The King

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I was stretching my hands to hit a C chord in the G position in the CAGED system. Something I’d seen a million times but never really knew what it was until then. My guitar teacher passionately waited for me to strum what would sound like failing out in guitar hero. I wanted to riff like Pat Martino in Sonny but I was a while away. He saw a red truck pull in the drive way behind me and dropped the hint for me to pack it up.

“I really think your not too far away from getting to were you want to be” He said.

I gave him look like he just shit his pants.

“I’m serious. Practice this week and we’re probably going to get into some blues next week. So it wouldn’t hurt to listen to some B.B. King either.”

I was still skeptical, but despite the sandals and socks, the man could play.

“I don’t think I’ve ever listened to B.B.King before, well at least a other than a song here or there. Got any good suggestions?”

He smiled and opened the door of his studio, signaling me to get the fuck out.

“Oh you’ll be in for a treat then. Live in Cook County Jail.”

I thanked him and walked out with my guitar case in hand.

The next day it poured outside and I was held up in the apartment. I played until I got hungry and threw on some B.B. while I prepped. The convicts boo’ed the jail staff for a few minutes and B.B. got into. The man came out swinging, literally. It was jumpy, so much so, my shoulders got into it during my carrot cutting. Almost as instantly as it began he slowed it down and whaled on one of the best, yet simplest solos I’ve ever heard.

The man screamed out every word, like a hot air balloon with a leak. It just poured out of him. I got goosebumps on “How blue can you get?”. The band stops and the man commands the room with

“I GAVE YOU SEVEN CHILDREN. AND NOW YOU WANNA GIVE THEM BACK!?!”

The crowed roared. I roared, knocking pieces of celery for my soup to the floor.

The more I listened the more I realized these weren’t just songs for B.B. I was hearing a man journey. I was hearing the pain of what it means to be alive sometimes. It wasn’t just the words or Lucille doing her thing. It was a summation of every thing. The rises, the falls, the screams, the whispers, even the pauses. He didn’t play with his head. It was all heart baby. And to this day,

I love every minute of it.

30 or so Stories I’ve written in 2018 that have been rejected: Eliot Smith (Self-Titled)

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Elliot Smith

Elliot Smith

1995 Kill Rock Stars

37:57

You wore a suit. At the time, I didn’t know you owned a suit, yet wasn’t surprised to see the jacket hang over your shoulders like it was stolen out of your dad’s closet.

Even when we moved in, I didn’t see a suit. We moved boxes and listened to Elliott Smith. His self-titled was your favorite, but Roman Candle was the only one not hidden in box. I had just gotten back from following Phish around the mid-west, and hated anything I couldn’t get stoned too. It took me several listens before I came around to liking his music.

The night you wore the suit, you stormed in the house with your work polo on, and played Christian Brothers off Elliott’s self-titled. The irony wasn’t lost on me as we tossed the brown bottle back. I tried to cheer you up about all the loss you suffered that week. We took shots and you spilled half the bottle of whiskey all over your grease stained denim. Looking back on it, I should’ve put it together when you uncharacteristically through a fit to your room.

I didn’t see you for a while and got worried. My shoulder forced your locked door open to the sound of Alphabet town. It was dark, but the orange pill bottles stuck out like a stop sign on your desk. You shivered as you tossed on the bed, forcing my gray windsor knot to unravel. I heard you mutter, “I’m sorry,” over Elliott’s harmonica. I ran over and called an ambulance.

I was relieved when you survived, but I knew I couldn’t live in that house anymore. I went back to college and we eventually lost touch. A few years back, I got a deal on Elliott Smith’s self-titled at the record store. Although it was one of the first records I ever bought, I have never listened to it once. It just sits in my closet, wrapped in plastic with my gray tie over it, and haunts me.

Drink: Christian Brothers straight from the bottle

30 or so Stories I’ve written in 2018 that have been rejected: On Call

 

We met in English class. Micah was a proper gal, that knew her way around a Neiman Marcus. It was light years away from my trailer park background but we shared a love of books. I fancied more Cormac McCarthy stuff, while she thought Faulkner was god. I gave her my number and told her to call me if she wanted to study. I never thought a girl like that would, but she did.

After that, everything happened so fast. We started on your typical college dates to the library to study. But it wasn’t long before we were that Facebook official couple on the couch at house parties. It was all going so well, until she showed me that double line on the First Responder Pregnancy Test.

Micah was only in her third semester of college, but it’s not like it mattered with the amount she went to class. This all happened so fast, I don’t even think she received a syllabus. I was in my junior year, and in an instant graduation seemed further away. She looked at me to say something. So I grabbed her hand and said the first thing I could think of.

“Let’s get out of here.”

She remained on the couch, so I grabbed the arm of her oversized gray sweatshirt and started walked. The keys clanked when I picked them up.

I chose a direction and drove it as far as the road would let me. Micah was silent. Only sound was the heater and the occasional wiper blades. It drove me nuts, so I put in a Kings of Leon CD.

“Are you hungry?” I asked.

Her eyes stared ahead at the passenger airbag sign.

“Yea” she whispered.

Sonic was close so I pulled in. She ordered a cheeseburger with a blue raspberry slushy and I pushed the limit with my Citi Card. The Grand Am was low on fumes, so I turned the car off. Micah rolled her eyes. I clicked the ignition to keep the heat going and she smirked. It was the first time her worried expression changed. We talked about our food until the courage came for the heavy stuff.

“Look I know we’re young, but I think we should keep it.” I said. “We could move to Phoenix. My parents have a place there, I’m sure they’d be willing to help us.”

The windows were fogged up, yet Micah still look out them.

“Yeah?” She said.

“Yeah, I could get a job working construction with my uncle. It wouldn’t be glamorous but it could work for now.”

She let out some air.

“You just got it all figured out. What about my parents? What do I tell them? They’ve never even met you!”

“I know. I know. It’s not an ideal way to meet. But I want this and I know it’s a lot to process right now, but think of baby. Our baby.

He moved the extra large cup from her grip and placed it in the cup holder. Then he grabbed both of her hands.

“I don’t care what she says. I love you. We can do this.” I said.

She looked in his eyes and took a deep breath. She looked scared, like she wanted to say a few more “what if”s but decided against it.

“Okay.” She said.

He kissed her on the cheek before turning the ignition. The wiper blades unlocked from the middle position and water flew in both directions.

#

Days went by, and I made the arrangement to move to my parents place. I told them everything and they were angry but understood. Micah was taking it hard so I’d show up with a gift at her place every time I came over. I’d bring boxes over too and we’d get to packing up her dorm room. She was quiet most of the time, still taking in the situation. The day before the move she said she was going to hang out with her girlfriends one last time. I let her go, as I had to pack my own things.

On the moving day, I swang by Starbucks to get her favorite, a double mocha with just a splash of almond milk. It was rainy and I almost dropped my coffee trying to open the glass door against the rain. I took the elevator up four flight to find a sticky note left on the door.

Tom,

I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you this in person, but I just couldn’t. I can’t do this with you. I moved home to figure this out.

Please don’t hate me.

-Micah

I pounded on the door out of reaction. I threw the coffee at the wall and started pounding louder, even yelling her name. Her neighbors started staring at me. Then I just ran. I didn’t know what else to do. I guess, I felt like if I got far away from the note, it didn’t exist. I sprinted all the way home. Once I caught my breath I called Micah’s like I was a telemarketer. Every voicemail I cursed, apologized, and pleaded until I wore myself to sleep.

Years have passed, and I’ve barely spoken to Micah. After a month of calls and letters, the restraining order came in the mail. I got the hint then. I eventually graduated I moved back to Phoenix.

The math tells me my boy should be around six but I don’t know for sure. I’ve never seen a picture of him. I just know he exists on paper because the child support keeps coming out of my check. I don’t even think he knows that I exist. That’s sad. He doesn’t even know where half of his features come from. My lawyer is still working on getting me some sort of custody. But it hasn’t been going well.

I’ve kept my phone number the same all these years, hoping he’ll call one day. It’s one of the things that keeps me going. Everyone I know hates unknown numbers. Not me. I get exited. I’ll even answer them at four in the morning. I can’t tell you how much it hurts when Comcast asks me to rank my internet service. My friends think I should give it a rest and I’m starting to think they’re right.

I’m always on call,

and it’s fucking killing me.

30 or so Stories I’ve written in 2018 that have been rejected: Why I Write

(For the record this isn’t a story and it was accepted. However after numerous failed attempts to upload and several emails to the editor, I ended up saying fuck it.)

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I suck at writing. I cheated on my spelling testing in the second grade. My reading comprehension is garbage. When I read fast, “wrods look lkie thsi”. In high school, I worked on a paper for two weeks straight only to get a note from my teacher telling me I didn’t even try. I scored a 2 out of 12 on the writing portion of the ACT. I got beat out for a non paid editors position for a small College newspaper by someone who’s first language isn’t English. All this begs the question, why am I writing this essay? Because I have to.

No, nobody is forcing me to do this. I like to write, so that’s what I do. But this doesn’t make me a “writer”. That’s a word my Aunt uses at Thanksgiving to talk about the novel she’s worked on for ten years. To me those are just six, ego boosting letters, that give other people permission to be a dick at a workshop. I don’t need anyone’s permission. Honestly, I don’t give a fuck if you read this or not. To me, the act of writing is it’s own reward.

So what am I trying to accomplish? Wow, talk about a tough question. I feel like most people would say something along the lines of “I want my voice to be heard.” That’s a solid reason. Everyone wants to leave their mark on the little planet. And now with all these technological avenues it’s easier than ever. But that’s not me.

See, you have to understand this wasn’t ever the plan. I was a failed musician who bitched in notebooks and found relief. I’m an avid online dater who uses imaginative language to set himself apart. I’m an Engineer who sends daily project updates with a story arch. So what am I trying to accomplish? Shit, I don’t know. Writing chose me, not the other way around. I’m just playing the hand I was dealt.

I submit my work because it keeps me honest. The longer that something stays in the drawer, the more my mind will play with it’s value. Idea’s aren’t stocks. They’re for everyone. Why not submit? There’s nothing to lose. Getting a gently worded letter by an overworked, underpaid editor doesn’t mean that was a bad idea. It just means I believe in it. That’s all.

Plus, my goal isn’t to write one great piece, it’s to get better at the craft. So when I get a rejection I know it’s time to turn up the heat. I’ll sit down and ask the tough questions. How bad do I believe in this? How many red-eyed nights have you stayed up pushing that pen around? How many early mornings have I gotten up to edit? How many rejections have I received this month? This week? I already know the answer to all of these questions, and it’s not enough.

It’s funny but when I think about it, everything has been right there in front of me the whole time. It always has bee. The feeling of accomplishment when I finish a piece. The smile I get after writing a great sentence. The focus I get after a rejection. All of it is right there and no one can stop me to go after it. So I ask myself again, how bad do I want it? Bad enough to take a break from my fiction writing to type of this essay? Bad enough to get goosebumps on the first draft? Bad enough to red line two drafts this morning? Well, I don’t know about anyone else but I want it bad.

…And that’s why I write.

Actual Cover Letters I Send To Literary Magazine Editors Pt. 2

Dear Editor,

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00000000000000000000000000000777777777000000000000000000000000000000000000000

 

….I bet you were waiting for me to start off the cover letter like a professional and not some 90’s retro computer game. Well expect the unexpected, my friend. Here I would love to tell you that there is some deep significance to the number seven that applies to the story I’m sending, but there isn’t. I thought it would be fun to draw.

If you couldn’t tell, this letter isn’t going to get any different from what’s above. I’ll probably ramble a few more sentences about nonsense and sprinkle in some inappropriate jokes here and there, because well screw it. I really don’t care if you publish my work or not.

Trust me, it’s not that I don’t think my work is good. Everything I write is fireworks on the 4th,  including my name. I would like you too, if you feel it fits you journal. But if not, we’ll do this song and dance again soon.

You see for whatever reason, I measure my success by the amount of times I hit the green submit button. That’s the gold metal to me. Whatever happens after that is a bonus. This year I’ve submitted 30 pieces, which means I’ve kicked ass 30 times. Chicago Marathoners have nothing on me and you best believe 31 is coming in a few brief seconds. Well, that is, until I figure out how to tie in a solid joke at the end.

………

………

……………………So I got nothing. I was trying to out smart you by making a pun with a movie quote from Se7en. But I’m done. I wasted all my creativity on this this piece. …Okay and this cover letter that you probably won’t read. So you won this round, but I’ll be back. You can count on that one.

P.S. Please enjoy my my 700 word piece entitled “Oscar”.

P.S.S. I really loved your last piece “Mooncake” by Grace Prasad.

Sincerely,

Darby Cashed

Aka the people champ

Aka the Voodoo Child

Aka the Italian Stallion

Aka the most successful deadbeat writer you’ve never heard of

 

Part 1 Here