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Does Your Writing Come From You or Through You?

The HillsideI’ll state right up front that while I believe all art is a divine gift I do not believe in a literal Muse who is responsible for my (or your) art.

But sometimes, it certainly feels like what I create is coming, not from me but through me.

In those moments what arrives in my fingers is closer to the truths I feel than when I’m using my head, obviously and overtly making stuff up.

I once spent a week carefully crafting a complex 7-minute long Arabic trance instrumental. It’s all kinds of fun, and the Little One still loves to listen to it.

Most folks pay little or no attention to it. It has no real depth, no emotional tug.

On the other end of the spectrum is my song The Hillside which, once I realize what these three repeating chords meant, these dead simple chords anyone could play, the song flowed in minutes, all but one word which was supplied by Best Beloved. Continue reading “Does Your Writing Come From You or Through You?”

Mixing Up My Art

Many artists don’t confine themselves to a single medium. You may know that besides writing nine non-fiction books and working on my second, third, fourth, and fifth mysteries all at once (whew!) I’m also a songwriter.

Writing songs with lyrics that don’t rhyme, or lyrics that don’t make any sense; writing songs with short lines, long lines; story songs, message songs, love songs, pain songs — I’m far more confident playing with words in my fiction than I was before I invested 10 years learning the craft of songwriting.


Continue reading “Mixing Up My Art”

Art is Love: The More You Give Away the More You Have

bucket at the wellSince I’ve started a daily routine of writing come what may, I’ve noticed something.

The more ideas I spit out, the more I have.

In the past week, I’ve written 1,000 words a day on the sequel to Through the Fog. Another story forced its way into my head, and I’ve managed 1,000 words a day on that one as well.

The past few Februaries I haven’t participated in February Album Writing Month. But this year I’ve had so man song ideas I can’t bottle them up. Four written and recorded with another well on the way. Since I spend the 3rd week of every 3rd month writing 3 songs with my buddy Terry, I’ll be doing that whether I push for 14 songs at FAWM or not.

The well doesn’t run dry, it refills itself. The more art I create, the more wells up to be created.

What Question Can You Answer Best? (Guest Post by Phil Wrzesinski )

I’ve known Phil for some time. His intense love for his family sometimes outshines the fact that he is a brilliant marketer and incredible teacher.

?My first book started writing itself the day a local childcare owner asked me, “Phil, I shop a lot, and I have to say, your store has the best customer service I’ve ever encountered. What is your secret?”

The short answer was simple. I hire good people.

She pressed me further. “Can you do a presentation to our Child Care Association about it?”


Now I needed a longer answer. Fortunately, the answer was there and pretty soon I had a presentation and the outline for a book.

The funny thing is that I never set out to write a book. I think the book had a life of its own, born when the question was asked. At least a dozen times throughout the process I wondered what made me think I was capable of writing a book. Mostly I ignored that thought and kept writing. After all, I was just answering a question.

Your business has the answer to a question, too. There is something you do better than most other businesses. You have a philosophy, a reason, a method for why you do what you do and how it makes your business better. It may be one of your own design, or one you stole from someone else, or one you pieced together from several sources. Someone has probably already asked you why or how you do what you do.

You just have to start writing it down.

My second book started the same way – with a question.

Continue reading “What Question Can You Answer Best? (Guest Post by Phil Wrzesinski )”

Why I Want to Be Raymond Chandler When I Grow Up

Raymond Chandler has the second most distinctive voice in fiction. (Dr. Seuss has the first.)

I’ll pretend you don’t already know everything there is to know about Chandler and his invention of mystery noir and creation of the most human detective in the genre, Philip Marlow. I’ll also assume you don’t need the full story, just enough tease to make you want to find out for yourself.

At the age of 54 the Great Depression took his job as an oil exec. (What a wasted life that would have been.) He published his first short story a year later, and his first novel 7 years after his life change.

The Big Sleep.


The Big Sleep.

Yes, I’m shouting.

Writers and readers and lovers of the mystery genre will live in its shadow eternally. It is a universe unto itself.

The first paragraph annihilates all the foreshadowing of Poe (inventor of the mystery story) and Hammett (creator of Sam Spade, author of The Maltest Falcon which is the greatest mystery film ever made.)

Approach this with an open mind. Let the words be what they are and not what you expect. And hear the voice of Philip Marlowe, a man who sees the darkness around him and knows irrevocably his duty to bring light.

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved, and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

Try reading that aloud and not sounding like the wise-cracking tough guy from the movies. This is that guy, the original.

Look at what meaning he conveys in a paragraph full of non-meaning: a man who shares that much about his clothing is clearly a careless dresser. A man who announces he’s sober, well, if that’s news, we know one more thing about him. And a man who says he doesn’t care who knows it — this is a man who feels the weight of society’s disapproval and wishes he didn’t.

In fact, he shares precisely two facts of any value in that paragraph:

  1. he’s a private detective; and
  2. his client is wealthy.

You will never once care that it is October or that it’s a gloomy rainy day, although Chandler is brilliant at giving us enough environment to let our unconscious put us there with Marlowe. We may or may not see the black wool socks with blue clocks on them again. We will not care, either way (though Marlowe’s attire is at least a hint of the time period.)

Whether you care about mysteries or not, The Big Sleep is an important book and should be read by any writer of fiction.

I had some fun with it at my personal site.