Archive | March, 2018

When Second-Best Is Good Enough

27 Mar

League championship game, 1960, Tacoma Little League Babe Ruth . . .

My team, the Pythias Giants (I’m being dead serious) against the League powerhouse Cheney Lumberjacks.  I was pitching for Pythias and Don Carlson for Cheney.

I pitched a hell of a game.  Gave up a run in the 5th inning and another in the 7th, both on broken bat hits, dying quails we used to call them, those agonizing little floaters that just make it to the outfield, out of reach of an infielder’s glove.  Cheney managed a grand total of three hits off of me.  I struck out twelve, my nasty knuckleball dancing like a ballerina.

We lost 2-0!

Don Carlson no-hit us!

I was totally dejected riding home with my dad who, to his credit, allowed me to wallow in self-pity for a full ten minutes before he had had enough.

“Bill,” he said.  “There is always going to be someone better than you.  That’s a fact of life there is no escaping.  So that leaves you two choices, or so it seems to me.  You  can either work your butt off to get better, knowing you’ll never be the best but still able to play the game you love, or you can take that glove of yours down to Goodwill and let some underprivileged kid use it.  Let me know now, though, before we get home, so I can swing you by Goodwill if that’s your decision.”

Those words are still with me fifty-eight years later, and they apply to so many of my pursuits in life. I am never going to be the best writer, but I can become a pretty damned good writer.  The best husband?  Father?  Friend?

Where’s that old glove of mine?  I need to practice some more.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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A Random Trip Through My Mind

20 Mar

I just looked up at the sky.

Great revelation, right?

I saw the ocean.

I saw the baby blanket for my nephew when he was five days old.

I saw the haunting eyes of my long-deceased father.

I saw Spanky and Our Gang . . . don’t ask!

I saw Sunday drives with my Mom and Dad.

It’s the same for you, right?

That’s how a writer’s mind works.  We tend to see things and connect those things to real, or imagined, events, people, and places.  Color becomes memories, or emotions, or whatever . . . they are not merely colors.

A SLIGHT SWITCH OF GEARS

I was watching a documentary the other day about teaching creativity in schools.

Can you really teach creativity?  I guess so, but I have to tell you my heart isn’t fully behind that guess.  I’m not completely convinced that creativity can be taught, at least not the type of creativity it takes to paint or write or sculpt or play something that is exquisitely beautiful.

But then maybe I’m just full of it, which is entirely possible.

This is a random blog this week.  It’s going where my mind leads it.

“Pick up your damned tools, Bill, when you are done working with them.”  Those words were spoken by my father after he had tripped over a hammer I left on the garage floor.  Those words do not do justice to the emotion behind his comment.  LOL  My dad had a temper and he was not afraid or hesitant to unleash it if he tripped over a hammer.

Funny thing is, those words are still with me today.  It’s one reason why I’m so anal when it comes to putting things away after I use them, which I do and have been doing since that day back in 1964, and those words are the reason why I’m so organized during my work day and in handling so many different tasks during the week.

Words like that are great fodder for writers, as are events, as are emotions spawned because of certain events or words spoken.

Randomness!  I warned you earlier.

MORE RANDOMNESS

I cry every single time I watch an episode of “This Is Us,” and I cry while watching “The Voice.”  I’m a sucker for human interest stories, and I’m a sucker for dramas which show the humanness we all share.  I guess you could say I’m an Empath, although I hate labels like that.  I do, however, feel deeply things that other people are feeling.  I see a young girl on television telling me that singing means everything to her, that it is her way of remembering her mother, who died when the girl was eight, and man, that kind of stuff is a gold mine for a creative writer.  I know what she feels.  Losing my father when I was nineteen is still one of the defining moments in my life, so yes, when she cries I cry.

And eventually she will make it into one of my novels, or short stories, if not her then a character like her, or the spirit of what she said…the humanness of it all!

Time to end this randomness!

Thank you!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

 

Memory Lane and Writing Ideas

13 Mar

I was trying to explain to a young friend the other day what a party line was; she had no clue what I was talking about when I told her my earliest memory of a telephone was picking it up and listening to the neighbors have a conversation. She thought that was the strangest thing she had ever heard and, looking back, I guess it was pretty strange indeed.

Same neighborhood, everyone knew everyone’s name, they all looked out for each other’s kids . . . I remember having the flu one time, I must have been six or seven, and neighbors stopping by with comic books they had bought for me . . . can you imagine that happening in a neighborhood now?  Heck, I remember our family doctor making house calls after his office hours were over.  Old Doc Larkin, good man, kind man, cared deeply about his patients, pulling up to our house in his Chevy, carrying his black medical bag, just stopping by to make sure little Billy was okay.

Random memories . . . black and white television, rabbit ears, aluminum foil on those ears for better reception . . . but before that the big radios in a cabinet, listening to serials, the whole family gathered around the radio, laughing at Jack Benny . . . yes, I’m that old!

My grandparents had a recorder with a microphone . . . we would all sing songs and it would record on a 78 phonograph . . . great fun!

Trick or Treating with friends, carrying pillow cases, walking for miles, two, three pillow cases of candy.

Riding our bikes all over Tacoma, Washington, no parental warnings other than get our butts back home before dark.

I never knew anyone who owned a gun.  My friends, their fathers, all vets of World War 2, but no guns in any house; no need for them, really, left the windows open at night, doors unlocked, middle of a city of 120,000 people, no fear at all.  That all changed in 1960 when a little girl by the name of Ann Marie Burr disappeared one night . . . evil had visited our neighborhood.  She was never found, snatched from her bedroom, chubby cheeks and a warm smile.

The point of all this:  writers never lack for something to write about.  Plumb the depths of your memory.  Allow your muse to ransack your brain for writing ideas. They are all there waiting for you, the ghosts of the past, friendly like Caspar and malicious like a screaming banshee.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Powerful and Meaningful

6 Mar

 

Words!

They can be so damned powerful, or they can just be a collection of letters unique only in their mundane nature.

Let me share the lyrics from a song titled “Ghosts” by the late, great songwriter Dan Fogelberg.

“Ghosts”
Sometimes, in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath
and yet, untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Along the walls; in shadowed rafters
Moving like a thought through haunted atmospheres
Muted cries and echoed laughter
Banished dreams that never sank in sleep

Lost in love and found in reason
Questions that the mind can find no answers for
Ghostly eyes conspire treason
As they gather just outside the door…

Every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery
Death is there
To keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days
That we left behind

 

Unbelievable!  I have listened to that song now for thirty-five years and I still get goose-bumps when I hear it because of those powerful words.  The same is true of some books I’ve read.  No matter how many times I read them, they still manage to fill me with awe.

Words!

How many speeches have you heard in your lifetime? I would venture to guess I’ve heard hundreds, if not one thousand, but there are only five, six, maybe seven I actually remember, and I remember those because of their unique words, their special phrasing, and yes, the way they deliver a particular message.

Words!

I know I risk sounding corny, but I believe writers have a responsibility to deliver a message, or deliver a story, or deliver a poem, in the most powerful way possible.

There is more than enough mundane in this world.

There is more than enough half-assed boring in this world.

What we need more of is meaningful and powerful.

Just a random thought from an old man.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”