How Then Shall we Write?*

Image: Freddy Castro via Unsplash

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

*Apologies to Francis Shaeffer for the “paraphrase” of the title.

Over the last forty-seven years of our pandemic house arrest, and this summer’s unpleasantness, I’ve been trying to narrow my focus a bit. [See: Busy with Too Many Things].

Along that theme, in the past couple of weeks I’ve turned down or delayed some projects I initially said yes to. I told a good friend who is collaborating on one of the projects that perhaps the lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to say “I just don’t need to do that right now.”

Instead, I’ve been trying to focus on the writing which I think is one of my true callings and I’ve spent some time thinking about what my writing style really is.

I’ve written scripts, and short stories, and (unpublished) novels. I’ve written political commentary and snark.

Lately, I’ve been realizing that my writing is a little unfocused. I think that’s why I often struggle with what to write on this simple (yet brilliant, he said humbly) blog.

I been reading a collection of Neil Gaiman’s works. The other day I read a short story in which he referenced the Norse gods. I confess that my “knowledge” of them is pretty much limited to the Marvel universe.

Likewise, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road lately. While driving I’ve been listening to Chopped Bard and understanding again, how many references to Greek and Roman mythology there are in Shakespeare’s works.

It made me realize what I think I’ve known all along. I don’t have the depth of knowledge to effectively write science fiction or even great works of theater. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just not what I know.

Write what you know, after all.

I’ve said before that I want to be considered a southern author. And I’ve said that perhaps one of the best ways to do that is to focus on reading southern authors.

Which of course is why I decided to spend 2021 focusing on British literature and British history.

Work with me. I don’t think that any of us should be held responsible for major decisions we made in 2020.

Well, unless you voted for Biden.

Too soon?

Nay, my friend, it’s nearly too late.

Where was I?

Oh yes, about that writing style.

I’ve come to realize that I’m not a science fiction writer, I may or may not be a playwright.

But I think my style has been right here on this blog all along.

Short. Quirky. Sometimes funny. Often snarky.

And occasionally schmaltzy.

Maybe it seems silly after all this time. But it’s been somewhat…what’s the word I want…eye opening…revolutionary…liberating…something like that.

We’ll see how it plays out in the other writing projects.

You know I’ll write about it.


So while I was tying my neck-tie that morning
I suddenly saw myself in the glass:
My hair all gray, my face like a sodden pie.
So I cursed and cursed: You damned old thing…

Eugene Carman, Spoon River Anthology
by Edgar Lee Masters

I had a difficult time tying my necktie on Saturday morning. Even before the pandemic, I rarely wore ties anymore except for the occasional meeting, wedding, or funeral. I’d actually taken to wearing bowties, but I discovered last year that the beard now covers up the bowtie, so why bother?

As I was getting dressed for the first of what turned out to be two funerals I attended on Saturday…I’ll explain that in a minute…I struggled with getting the tie to the right length. Never mind the knot. It was also hidden

I thought about how I was tired of putting on the black suit. I’ve worn it far too many times this summer.

As for the two funerals. The first, Saturday morning, was to say goodbye, or rather see you later to a beloved pastor at our former church. Pastor Bill had been there for decades and in recent years suffered from dementia, He passed at home surrounded by his loving family.

Because there was so much of his life to share, the funeral went on for a while. As we prepared to leave my wife and I discussed her plans to attend the funeral of one of her students. Let’s just say that I don’t need to into why an eighteen year old was taken so soon.

We quickly realized that if we had followed our initial plan for me to go home and tend the livestock while she joined fellow teachers that she would not make it in time. So, I went with her. I mean, I was already in the black suit.

Needless to say, Saturday evening we were exhausted.

I was glad when I could finally take off the tie.

It’s funny. Wearing a tie is an odd occurrence these days. I spent probably the first thirty years of my professional/government career wearing a tie every day. In those early days I cared a lot about fashion sense. I had the Nordstrom bill to prove it.

These days, I have a couple of suits hanging in the closet that, like I said, generally come out for funerals or weddings. Even the business meetings call for a blazer.

It seems that my wardrobe needs have changed and any shopping that’s done usually focuses on what would be more North Pole appropriate, if you get my (snow) drift.

I’m weary. But we press on.

I spent Sunday trying to regroup and make plans for getting through another week. You know I’ll tell you how that worked out.

As for the black suit, I need to send it to the cleaners.

And hope that I don’t have to take it out of the plastic bag for a long, long time.