The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

I Can Fix the Cubs

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So why does a team that won 95 games this season need to be fixed, anyhow?  Simple.  They didn’t play to their potential.  They have one of the most talented lineups in baseball, and should be lacing ’em up as I write this.  Instead, we’re watching other teams in the playoffs.  Or even other sports.  Welcome to new expectations, Cubs fans.  “Wait ’til next year” is no longer the optimistic rallying cry, and it shouldn’t be with the salary numbers the Cubs are posting and the potential that exists in their lineup.  “You’d better win it next year” is far more realistic, and should continue to be the expectation for at least the next 3-4 years.

Remember… way back in the day?

I’m more than familiar with what the Cubs faced this season.  A top-tier pitcher who went 1-3 in eight starts and didn’t pitch at all after May 20.  A former MVP and perennial candidate who only played 102 games and never found his power.  A top-tier closer who saved 22 games but none after July 18 due to injury.  But still, Joe Maddon pulled through.  “Smoke and mirrors,” they said.  And it’s true.  It takes a high degree of talent and genius to take any team with those problems as far as they went.  But smoke and mirrors doesn’t work in the playoffs.  Power pitching shatters the glass; timely hitting and the ability to manufacture runs aerates most ballparks, home or away.  Unfortunately, the Cubs were still playing “smoke and mirrors” when they needed to change the game plan.  But you can’t change into a new mode you never really utilized throughout the season.

First, we need a full-time lead-off hitter.  I’m hoping that Daniel Murphy wasn’t a summer rental.  He hit .297 for the Cubs, a lot of that coming from the lead-off spot.  But you know Joe Maddon, the “mad scientist.”  He’d rather use the “lead-off by committee” approach.  I don’t think anybody knew who was leading off most days until they showed up at the ballpark.  And while it’s been fun to watch Anthony Rizzo dig in to start games, it’s little more than a gimmick.  Management backs Maddon on this.  The days of Dexter Fowler are long gone, but we need them back.  So if Murphy hits lead off and plays second base (his natural position), what becomes of Javier Baez?  He moves to shortstop.  But what becomes of Addison Russell?  Goodbye.  The club needs to maintain integrity, and being so closely linked to a second player who has faced (and and continues to face) domestic abuse charges is too much for the Cubs to maintain respect across their entire fan base.  Character counts, not just for individuals, but also for franchises.

Speaking of “mad scientist” Joe, it’s also time to give Ben Zobrist a firm handshake and slap on the back and say thanks, but goodbye.  I like the guy plenty, but he’s a reason why Joe is so experimental.  The guy can play so many positions that it’s tempting to put him in wherever on any given day.  But Zo is past his years and can no longer excel at a single position day in and day out while still producing at the plate.  He’s getting in the way of several players making it to the club from the minors and having a decent stay to see how they’ll work out, and that’s a helluva good reason to let Zo go.

Kyle Schwarber?  Gone.  I like that guy plenty, too, but he’s a career-ending injury waiting to happen so long as he has to endure the grind of NL play.  He can’t do it with his frame, even with his tremendous weight loss last off season.  Get him to an AL club, and he’s got years and years left in him as a quality DH.  Certainly other clubs see this and somebody out there is willing to part with a top-tier starting pitcher.

What?  Another top-tier starting pitcher?  Yes.  I hope like crazy that Darvish rehabs and comes back to live up to his salary.  But we’ll need more than Darvish.  Jon Lester is on the backside of his career.  He’s hopefully got two more years as a top-tier starter.  Outside Kyle Hendricks, who improved later in the season, the rest of the staff includes a trio of innings-eaters in Cole Hamels, Mike Montgomery, and Jose Quintana.  That’s great.  Every team needs a few hurlers who are a cinch for 6-8 innings every time out.  The bats will pick up for them so long as they keep the team in the game.  Hamels plans on retiring after next year, so there’s need for help now, or at least the ability to develop potential help.  So, more dominant pitching, please.

Bullpens fluctuate a lot year to year on most teams, so I don’t see the Cubs struggles there as fatal flaws.  We have some solid middle relievers.  Morrow will be back next season to close out games with authority.  Bench players like David Bote and Albert Almora, Jr., and Ian Happ are great and should stick around, as should Tommy LaStella.  But how about a solid, everyday batting order?  Beyond having a consistent lead-off hitter, power in the power positions every day would be a refreshing change, wouldn’t it?  Rizzo and Bryant in the three and four slots would look downright traditional.  And I guess that’s what I’m getting at.  Traditional practices in baseball are traditional for a reason—because they work.  A lot of people will say, “But no, that’s not how Joe Maddon works.  That’s not why the Cubs hired him.”  I see that.  He’s a great manager, despite his meddling almost costing the Cubs the World Series in ’16.  But there’s no need for so much experimentation.  It ends up getting in the way of traditional practices when those are most needed (i.e. the playoffs).  Take the pieces you have, which top to bottom are among the tops in baseball, learn and use much, much more classic baseball strategy, and watch the Cubs return to glory next year.  If Joe can’t or won’t do that, then goodbye, Joe.

 

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Written by seeker70

October 8, 2018 at 8:39 am

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It Took 48 Years

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How often do you say that you don’t feel your age?  You don’t!  And why should you hide that feeling?  It’s grown difficult the past decade to recognize on sight people who are in your age range because you don’t feel you look like them physically (despite your grayed-out goatee), plus you can still run faster than you did when you were sixteen, plus you’re a high school teacher and it’s true what they say about the kids keeping you young.  If all that isn’t enough, you’ve never seen cause to stop doing some things you’ve done since you were a kid, like playing video games and watching your fair share of animated television shows.

Sadly, this feeling of not feeling your age has been shot in the ass in the last month.  Perhaps you should have paid closer mind to the consequences of hubris as conveyed in Classical Mythology.

48

It started with tuna salad.  You’ve got a damn good recipe (try it!).  But it makes too much for one person, so you usually give some away.  You didn’t last time.  You kept it around longer than you should, which you swear wasn’t that long, and bam!  Within two days, you had enough gas to inflate The Hindenburg (with potentially the same results).  That was followed by violent diarrhea.  Like Krakatoa, minus the lava.  The only good thing that came from this whole experience was learning a new definition of “uncomfortable.”  Some people might be thinking to themselves, “I already know what uncomfortable means…”.  They don’t.  Uncomfortable is when you’re leasing an Air BnB in Ann Arbor, Michigan before the food poisoning fully set in, and then the food poisoning fully sets in.  It arrived in a manner similar to the Uruk Hai arriving at Helm’s Deep.  And you weren’t staying in one of those private-access, private-entrance Air BnBs.  It was the spare bedroom in a young Asian doctor’s townhouse, down the hall from her master bedroom.  At 3:30am, you had to make the longest walk of your life fifteen feet down the hall and knock on her door and ask her to take you to the emergency room.

Stories that start like that never end well unless the first line is “Dear Penthouse…”.

So you got a few bags of hydration at UM Hospital, laid low the next day, and still made it to the soccer match you were there for in the first place.  You even had enough pep in your step to tailgate and fully enjoy the experience.  But be careful, because, “…you’re still weak and dehydrated and blah blah blah,” said the ER doctor.  No problem.  You can chill and recover.  But for two weeks?  It turns out you were so gutted that the probiotics in your gut were blasted away with everything else.  So you can’t digest dairy.  Every time you had a big bowl of Honey-Nut Cheerios and a container of Chobani for breakfast, which is practically every other day, you were treated to an episode of The Return of Violent Diarrhea.  You can’t figure this out until you take the probiotics your regular doctor said to take, and cut out all dairy.  They probably told you this in the ER.  That was probably the “blah blah blah” part.  Great job listening, wiseass.

Things settle down in time for you to take a trip the next week with the girlfriend to Door County.  You’re feeling strong and healthy, mostly, and are happy you made your summer weight goal even if the last few pounds came by way of diarrhea and dehydration.  Monday morning rolls around, and you wake up with a back spasm.  But this isn’t your typical back spasm.  Your typical back spasms are in your trapezius, and even those aren’t so typical since you haven’t had one for eight years.  But you know what a back spasm feels like, and what you’re feeling feels like one, right there at your right kidney.  Damn, what a sting.  Still, no worries.  You know how to deal with spasms.  Some ice and Aleve are enough.  Cut back a little bit on your regular workout routine, and it’ll work out.  Even the chiropractor a few days later said, “Yep.  That’s a back spasm.”  She tweaked the hell out of it with her thumbs (which outta be registered with the police) and told you to put some heat on it.  Okay.  Gotcha.

You wake up a week ago and head to yoga class to work out some kinks and get some good stretching in.  It’s hard to believe that back spasm is still with you, huh?  But hey—you’re so active in the summer, so maybe that’s why it’s lingering.  But what about those funny bumps you feel on your back at your kidney, right where the spasm occurred?  When you look in the mirror at home after class:  Holy fucking shit.  Those things look nasty!  And they’re wrapping around from your back to your navel.  What the hell is going on?

Shingles is what the hell is going on.  Congratulations.  You’re officially getting old.  It took 43 years, but Shingles (also known as Chickenpox II:  The Reckoning) has finally emerged.  It’s been waiting since you were four years old.  All it needed was to find a time when your immune system was weak, combined with some life stresses.  “That wasn’t a back spasm,” your doctor says.  “That was Shingles emerging.  Here’s three different medications to help.”  And, well, fuck.  You don’t even take one medication.  Now here’s three.  Better fire up that pill reminder on the Walgreen’s app, wiseass.

So now you have Shingles after food poisoning that you completely underestimated the effects of.  And why did you underestimate it?  Probably because you don’t feel your age.  Which translates into you truly don’t believe you’re as old as you are, so why would you worry so much about routine food poisoning?  Because Shingles is why.  You’re most likely to get it once you’re in your fifties.  Forty-eight is close to fifty (you looked on a measuring tape to confirm this).  Now you’ve got to deal with the rash, the ongoing ache from the back-spasm-in-disguise, the fatigue and general malaise, and the Post-Herpetic Neuralgia.  It’s too soon to tell, but something with so many syllables is generally not good, even if it is preceded by “Dear Penthouse…”.  You text your friend, and he texts back, “I definitely don’t want post-hook-up-herpes necromancy.”

It’s a helluva way to spend the last month of summer vacation.  Here’s a good idea:  Stop saying that you don’t feel your age.

 

Written by seeker70

August 26, 2018 at 6:45 pm

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Ten Years of The Seeker?!?! Da Fuh???

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Lo these many years ago I sat in a friend’s basement while on vacation in Nashville and took the steps that established The Seeker.  That’s way back when Blogspot was still a thing.  I guess that rather obtuse interface is still a thing under Google, though it’s probably been re-branded and re-imagined since I moved The Seeker to WordPress after a year and a half.  Not that it matters—I won’t be going back to Blogspot.  No need.  WordPress is doing just fine, and I’ve gotten used to using it.

So why a blog?  I had heard it’s a good idea if you’re a writer.  It keeps you accountable to something so you at least keep writing.  That’s true, by the way.  It helps if you have a focus, and it didn’t take me long to figure out this should be a blog mostly about writing.  Plus other stuff.  I used to write movie reviews.  I used to write a lot about baseball.  I’ve written too much about running.  I used to write some about teaching.  These days, I’m mostly writing about writing.  But that’s okay.  I’ve never restricted myself too much on these pages, and the original intent of the blog was to write about writing anyway.  And speaking of restrictions, I always have my students in the back of my head somewhere when I write, so I try to keep content and language mostly appropriate.  No shit.

As fate would have it, I was sweating throughout the first year of The Seeker to complete my thesis at Northwestern.  That process provided content for a long-running serial, and I’ve been casually in pursuit of serialized content since then.  The thing that strikes me just now is how much I used to blog.  For the first few years, I was blogging more than once a week; this last year, I’ve done little more than once a month.  There are several factors that influence frequency, though.  One is how busy I am teaching, and last year was a beast of a year unlike I’ve had for about ten years.  That cut out lots of blogging time.  Another factor is whatever other writing I’m working on.  I’ve been working on a helluva lot of stuff this past year, so my blogging frequency diminished.  I’ve found, too, that my affinity to take on the poem-a-day challenge the last four years has reduced my blogging quite a bit November through January.  But the blogging I’ve done in the past year has been a lot about writing.  So I guess I’ve returned to the function of the blog, and that was helped by having a banner year getting stories published and hashing out what led to them reaching print.

You may have noticed that I don’t do much to spruce up The Seeker.  I stopped using “categories” shortly after I started using them, so that’s one element of organization I flushed.  I also haven’t revisited older posts to refresh or take out dead links, nor have I even changed my profile information too much.  I just keep letting the entries stack up month to month.  That’s not unlike how I write my other pieces.  I let shit stack up and then keep other things around forever, always thinking I’ll get back to them.  I won’t, and last January I wrote about how and why I’m changing that habit.

I joined Facebook two years ago with the intention of using it to get more people to read my blog.  That worked to a degree, though I posted on Facebook recently that more people read my Google Reviews than read my blog.  That’s okay.  I ain’t hatin’.  But now Facebook no longer supports publicizing my posts on their platform.  Who the hell knows why.  The darkness that is Facebook has ruled that it is forbidden, so that shoots my idea to publicize my blog right in the ass.  It doesn’t, actually.  Now I just have to publicize manually rather than having it done automatically from the settings I employ.

So here it’s the 10th birthday of The Seeker, and I’m pretty much “Meh…”.  Yep.  That’s where I’m at.  I’ll keep blogging because it does keep me somewhat accountable, I enjoy reflecting on my writing process on the occasions I get published, and the space is still available to catch loose pieces I would otherwise not write and to air out thoughts worth airing out.  I ran a little “greatest hits” 5 years ago at this time, and while I’m not going to do that now, I will reflect on my favorites piece I’ve written here.  One would be the Ted Nugent reflection, which I think is still the most-read piece in the history of The Seeker.  I had a helluva lot of fun writing one of the earliest pieces, that one being about Dirty Harry.  And I surprise myself sometimes not by what happens but by what doesn’t happen.  I thought this three-parter two years ago might grant me an audience with the principal in the building given its content and that it was my first piece widely disseminated on Facebook, but that didn’t happen.  I think that goes back to more people reading my Google Reviews than my blog.  So maybe that’s a good thing.

Written by seeker70

August 10, 2018 at 9:01 pm

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Shades of Blue: Revisiting Cubs v Brewers

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The nice folks at Lovable Losers Literary Revue published my piece “Shades of Blue” ten years ago (ten years?!?!  I was so young then…).  It was a timely piece in which I discussed my dual citizenship to Cubs and Brewers Nations as the teams vied against each other in a late-season playoff race.  I thought this would be a good time to revisit it given both teams are again thusly engaged.  I just now reread what I wrote so long ago—so many forgotten names!  But you’ll see Craig Counsell figures prominently into the results of the game that got me on-board with the Brewers, and he’s again making a difference in this race from a different perspective.

If you care to see the original piece, peep it here:

Shades of Blue:  Bleeding for the Cubbies…and the Brewers.

You can also comb through the rest of Lovable Losers, which has been stagnant for some time now.

Anyhow, the piece is pasted below.  If you want to dig all the dirty details of the game under consideration, here they are from Baseball Reference.

Shades of Blue: Bleeding for the Cubbies…and the Brewers

By Jeff Burd

I possess a dual baseball citizenship that triggers many sideways looks when I announce it. My fellow baseball junkies don’t understand how I can cheer for both the Cubs and the Brewers when they are division rivals. Some dismiss it as a result of living in Gurnee, which is almost the midpoint between Wrigley Field and Miller Park. The truth is that my burden can be traced back to a moment of transcendence I experienced in Milwaukee on July 5, 2004.

I was in my fourth season as a fan of baseball and of the Cubs as I settled into a seat behind home plate that day. I loved the Cubs, and had a pretty easy tenure with them up to that point. They had been a playoff hopeful my first season, a miserable mess the next, and then ran deep into the playoffs nine months previous.

Matt Clement was on the mound for the Cubs. He was one of the remaining starting pitchers saddled with keeping the team afloat until Kerry Wood and Mark Prior returned from their residencies on the DL. Ben Sheets was pitching for the Brewers. I was concerned about his status a Cub killer; he had compiled a 5-2 record against them in three seasons.

I blanched when “Jose Macias” flashed on the scoreboard as lineups were announced. He and his anemic .260 batting average would supplant Moises Alou in left field and bat second. Slugger Aramis Ramirez had been replaced by .262-hitting Ramon Martinez and the frustratingly inconsistent youngster Cory Patterson was batting fifth behind Derrek Lee. It wasn’t the first time that season I was questioning Dusty Baker’s judgment; in fact, it felt like it had become instinctual to do so since the Cubs’ failure in the NLCS.

The Brewers’ struck quickly when Craig Counsell unwound his corkscrew stance and popped a pitch over the fence in right center to grab a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. The Cubs missed their first chance to strike back by stranding Macias on third the next inning. The same happened with Todd Walker the next inning, and they managed an early-game hat trick of wasted chances by leaving Michael Barrett on second base in the 4th.

Nothing changed by the top of the 8th, courtesy of the twelve Ks Sheets hurled to help the Brewers hold on to their 1-0 advantage. Clement was lifted for a pinch hitter as the Cubs faced Sheets’ relief. Dusty put his faith in Tom Goodwin’s .214 BA instead of turning to Alou and his reputation as a feared clutch hitter who could deliver in critical situations.

As I watched Goodwin dig in, I thought about the game up to that point. The Brewers’ solid play impressed me. They did all the little things you need to do to win games. Ned Yost had his team playing like a highly disciplined squad in the mold of Arizona, Anaheim, and Florida– teams that had won World Series championships since I started following baseball. It was like they had planned this game as their coming out party to announce their legitimacy to the dismissive Cubs fans.

Goodwin struck out swinging. Walker did likewise. But then the Cubs rallied and had a runner on second base. Had Alou batted, it was likely that he too would have been on base or would have scored during the rally. When Lee struck out, wasting the Cubs’ fourth chance to score, Brewer Nation roared. I sank into my seat, shook my head, and sighed. Like all the other fans Cubs fans. Dusty leaned against the dugout rails throughout the inning, shifting his toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other.

Dusty didn’t try to manufacture any more opportunities for the Cubs. He could have called on Alou with two outs in the ninth, but instead allowed Macias to hack futilely at the first three pitches he saw to become the seventeenth Cub to strike out.

I muttered a stream of profanities as I walked among jubilant Brewer fans in the parking lot. They were singing the praises of Ned Yost. His team played tough defense behind their pitchers. They made a single run stand up, despite striking out eleven times and managing only three hits. They were easily the best team on the field. It was all true; I realized that the Brewers were playing the type of ball I loved to watch. They had won my respect by doing so.

As for Dusty, he did nothing more than confirm what Chicago sports writers had been saying. He couldn’t manage tight games. He didn’t preach fundamentals. His players had no plate discipline. He wore out his pitchers. He couldn’t develop young talent. I had no respect for him, but could no more abandon the Cubbies than I could a close friend who had made some poor decisions. I decided that if I wanted to be happy watching baseball, I would have to do what most sports fans would consider unthinkable– especially Chicago fans in regard to Wisconsin teams– and adopt a division rival. Respect trumped my regional obligations, and that was enough for me to make my decision.

*

I’ve cheered for both teams with equal enthusiasm the past four years. The tension that would seem to naturally evolve because of my dual citizenship has been non-existent, probably because the teams have never slugged it out with something at stake late in the season. That is all going to end over the next two months. When the Brewers inked CC Sabathia as a summer rental, they elevated what had been a tepid regional conflict into an arms race in which the Cubs immediately fell behind, despite the addition of Rich Harden. If he is able to impact the Cubs the same way Sabathia already has the Brewers, then my teams will be engaged in a full-blown divisional war late this season that could rival the intensity of Bears-Packers.

My friends have grilled me about what I’m going to do since the Cubs and Brewers will play ten more games before all is said and done, including four this week and three the last weekend of September at Miller Park. They dream up scenarios involving bean balls and take-out slides and extra-inning grinds and the possibility of the rivals meeting in the playoffs. They press me for answers in emails and text messages and during phone conversations and at parties and over beers as we watch games. They don’t understand that there is room enough for me to love both teams, that I don’t consider my baseball allegiances to be a monogamous marriage from which I can never stray or even be divorced, that I never stopped loving the Cubs and that I’ve been as happy as every other Northsider to see them return to playing winning baseball. I know they won’t cease their assault until I tell them the truth: if it comes down to game seven of the NLCS, I’ll be cheering wholeheartedly for the Cubs. Of course. You never forget your first love.

Written by seeker70

August 3, 2018 at 8:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Slotted

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I’m retiring from teaching.  Don’t fret, though.  It’s what happens.  You pick a career, you work in it for 31 years, you retire.  You know that.  But you’re asking yourself:  What the hell, Jeff?  You haven’t been teaching for 31 years.  Because you would had to have started when you were 17.  We all know that you were a gifted student (you know how we know?  because you keep telling us), but you weren’t all that.  So shut up!  You ain’t retiring!

Well, no, I’m not.  Not right now.  But 8 years from exactly right now, I will be in starting my third week of retirement.  I’ve had in mind for a few years now when I will retire, but I had no intention of announcing until the last possible moment before my retirements benefits were seriously affected, which would have been ’round about 2022.  State of Illinois legislation had a different plan, though, and some last-minute changes in the laws that shape teacher retirement forced me to show my hand and submit my intention to retire at the end of the school year in 2026.  That’ll be 31 years right there for those of you keeping score at home, which I doubt is anybody except me.  Quick:  How many of you can even name the school district in which I teach?  Exactly.

If you’re keen on math, you’ll know that I’m retiring early.  My life circumstances and savings enable me to do so, so I decided why not?  Others have asked me why?  Why not stick around for the full 35 years and take all you can for as long as you can?  Two reasons:  1.  I know my limitations, as Dirty Harry said I should, and 2. I can name about six other reasons that would require me to name names, and I’m not going to do that.  I can easily name 6 people who I’ve worked with in the last few years who have been flamingly unprofessional as they rode out their years to collect all the pension money they could.  They stuck around not because they were still feeling good about teaching, but to grind through and get all they could.  I don’t see the need to put myself, my school, and my respected coworkers through that.  Seriously, folks, some of the people I saw cross over into retirement were flat-out assholes their last few years in the building.  I wouldn’t want that label following me out the door.

What about that first point?  Yeah.  I know how far I can go.  Here’s how I see it.  I don’t know if you know, but I have an affinity for running 5K races.  I may have written about them a few times here and there over the years, despite running being one of the most banal things you can write about.  Anyhow, a 5K is 3.1 miles.  I plan on teaching 31 years.  Right now, if I convert my years teaching to 5K mileage, I’m in the third mile of the race.  I’ve found my form, I still feel strong most of the time, and will want to stay at it hard through the finish line.  I learned in high school cross country that you don’t puke out the final mile no matter what.  Your teammates won’t respect you, and if you’ve never been a fast runner so much as a persistent one, that respect is what you live for most days—and the satisfaction of having accomplished something.  There was slightly more there for me, too.  I was deathly afraid of disappointing my coach.

I’m thankful that I already had my plans in hand two months ago when the legislation broke through.  I was one of about 25 teachers in my district who had to make a quick decision, and for once in my life from a financial perspective, I was already in position.  Still, it was unsettling to have to call my retirement so soon.  I’m still so damn young!  Really!  Writing the letter wasn’t too big of a thing in the end, but maybe that was because I was seriously dragged out by end-of-the-year business and couldn’t summon the emotions one might usually experience.  What was more unsettling was the long conversation I had with my financial planner last Friday to explore my options regarding investments and protecting what I have for when I need it.  Here’s a startling thought:  Imagine the economic collapse of 2008.  I was told to ride it out because the economy always turns around.  And thanks to Obama, we got there.  Slowly.  But we got there.  Now I’m in a position that if the economy tanks yet again (and it probably will…), I don’t have enough time and earning potential left to ride out the storm and recover anything that might get lost.  So guess who just got real conservative with his savings?  This guy!

Anyhow.  I’m retiring in 8 years.  I’ll be subbing a lot.  Why not?  I’m pretty used to the gig by now.  Plus, I live a two-block walk away from the nearest high school.  Before that, though, you’ll see me keeping pace this last mile.  Used to be the day when I was a pretty good sprinter at the end of a race, until I started running at a better pace.  I eventually got back to being a decent end sprinter, though it’s a rare day when I still do that.  It’s still in me, though.

Written by seeker70

July 20, 2018 at 5:54 pm

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A Transition

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My journals are dry.  All of them:  my standard 9.5″ x 6.5″ spiral notebook for all-purpose journaling, my hardbound 8.5″ x 11″ journal for drafting poems, my micro-sized seed journal, my slightly larger bedside journal, and even the thin, floppy number I keep in my car (journal much?!).  I constantly tell my students that if writing is water, your journals are the well.  Keep your well full, and your writing life will prosper.  So how is it that my well is dry, but my writing is prospering (found out this week that I’m getting something else published, but more on that later)?

It’s complicated.  Just like every other damn thing regarding writing.

A recent snap of my journals. I use a Cannon Metaphorical camera.

First, my writing routines were disrupted last fall when Garrison Keillor was called out for not keeping his hands to himself.  Why does that matter to me?  Because Keillor ran The Writer’s Almanac, which has been a part of my writing life ever since I became intentional about my writing life.  I got a poem each day in my email, mostly blue-collar poems that promoted the philosophy that poetry should be for the everyday Joe Sixpack and Sally Housecoat.  Poems that brought people into poetry instead of pushing them away.  Poems that were easy to put ones feet down within and that showed simple but powerful flourishes of craft.  I was seeing TWA poems every day, saving some of them for transcribing later, and using them as content for my Creative Writing classes.  And then I was writing those types of poems, and even if they weren’t getting published, they were sharpening my writing skills and in some way feeding whatever else I was writing.  They were pretty damn important, Mr. Keillor, so shame on you for victimizing others and losing The Writer’s Almanac.

Without TWA, my writing imagination was not being fed consistently.  Hence I wasn’t journaling as much, and wasn’t developing ideas very consistently.  At least not on paper.  If you ever get into writing, you’ll hopefully find out very early that you never really stop writing.  You’re always developing something in your head, and a lot of what you develop in your head stays there.  Do you have to write those things down in a journal?  Well, no, you don’t.  But I habitually did because to me journaling was tangible evidence that I’m doing my due diligence as a writer.  Journaling was therapeutic.  Journaling proved my legitimacy.  Proving it to whom?  The inner critic.  I guess I always thought that if I can prove that I’m always writing, then I can call myself a writer.  But I guess that this year I’ve found that getting published also means that I can call myself a writer.

The loss of TWA is not disastrous, per se.  There are other poem-a-day services of which I have availed myself, though they don’t strike the same note with me that TWA did.  I’m still getting poetry everyday, but I’m seldom excited about it, saving even fewer of the poems, and transcribing less.  I can dig back through the TWA archives, which thankfully are available, but that requires more effort than merely opening up my email and processing whatever was in front of me.

It’s interesting to note, too, that my most recent flash fiction never saw my journal.  I started typing that sucker out the moment it hit me, and then did the standard drafting and revising along the way until I got it where I wanted it.  Skipping the journaling phase with a published piece has been so rare in my writing life that I can count the occurrences on one hand, and I’d still have fingers to spare even if that hand was short a few fingers.  But what’s liberating about working sans journal is that I can type a helluva lot faster than I can write, so I’m not losing my thoughts along the way so much.  And my handwriting is so god-awful that I don’t struggle to move words from my journal to a word-processing document.

I could also be talking here about the fundamental differences between writing in different modes and genres, and maybe that’s what I’m discovering.  Poetry should be slower and more drawn out in process because poems are such exact things.  There needs to be a lot of deliberation.  Flash fiction focuses on short, explicit episodes, so I guess they can be hashed out rapidly and then re-approached for shaping and refining afterwards.  Hell, I don’t know.  I write what comes to me, and try to write it as best I can.

I am also deliberately mindful of my writing habits, and when they change, it’s worth thinking about how and why.  It’s hard to process changes like this because I think most every writer has their methods and clings to them desperately, telling themselves this is what works for me.  I sure as hell do that, but now I wonder if my methods could work better if I used different methods.  Dunno.  But I guess I’m going to find out.

Written by seeker70

June 15, 2018 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

I Bought A Clothes Dryer Last Fall

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It’s a nice one, too.  A Whirlpool electric dryer, perfectly sized for my household.  Hell, it’ll probably last me most of the rest of my condo-living life.  It has numerous heat and time settings, and perhaps my favorite thing about it is that I can turn the buzzer off so it won’t wake me up on those nights when I put a load of clothes in to dry and then go to bed.  I consider myself lucky to have such a nice appliance, doubly so since it led to my latest story getting published.

Da fuh?  Indeed.  I got another piece of flash fiction published about two weeks back.  This one went up at BULL:  Men’s Fiction.  I’ve had my eye on these guys for a while, and am still a bit surprised that they passed on Last Time when I petitioned them last summer.  It’s all good, though, because part of what kept me writing was trying to score with BULL.  I identify with their mission statement and felt I have something to add to the conversation:

We are dedicated to examining and discussing modern masculinity: what works, what doesn’t, what needs to change and what needs to go. We’re in quickly shifting times and more than ever this conversation is crucial. We want fiction and essays that engage that conversation from every angle. We want stories of exemplary masculinity, cautionary tales, accounts from every possible perspective and persuasion.

The thing is, though, that I wasn’t trying to write directly for them.  I figured if something came up that fit their M.O., I’d give them another try.  Something did come up, and I’m glad I tried them again, because they liked Last Word.

“Last Word” came up because I bought a dryer last fall.  No shit.  One of the first things I noticed was the lint trap.  It’s one of those top-mounted curvy-type ones, rather than the type that pulls out from underneath the door of the dryer.  I remarked to myself that it looked like I could play Jai Alai with it, and was so tickled with my observation that I posted it on Facebook.  I kinda stored that bit of whimsy in my head, and it popped up one night when I was doing laundry and had just gotten a prompt from a flash-fiction writing class I was taking at the time.  The prompt was to write about somebody who had found something.  Nobody really finds a lint trap, though.  It’s not like you ever have one outside of your laundry room, or one falls off the moving van.  So what would possess someone to have a lint trap with them?  Answering that question spawned the story, and the standard sweating through the writing process helped me get things where I wanted them.

So why does all this matter?  Because of the inner critic.  Time after time when I read craft articles, something comes up about silencing the inner critic.  The inner critic is perhaps the greatest deterrent to people writing, and even to established writers writing more than they do.  It’s that stupid voice in your head that shoots your ideas down before they even reach paper.  I’ve written about this strange phenomenon before–it’s definitely something that affects me.  However, I find that when I let myself have absurd observations about the mundane facts of life, and even discuss the observations as if they are serious things, that I’m successfully combating the inner critic and keeping my writing mind open.  I wrote about “Last Time” last summer, and made a similar observation.  It’s what works for me.  I guess this winds me around to an apology to those who find themselves in my company when all too often I am going through this process.  So, to all of you who have suffered through this with me:  I’m sorry (not sorry!).  My nephew AJ Wilson might have something to say about this phenomenon and my fondness for fig newtons, but that’s a post for a different day.

 

 

Written by seeker70

May 19, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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