The Summer of Jack

For most Americans of a certain age, the summer of 1968 is viewed as a kind of dark chasm that yawned between the Summer of Love and the Summer of Woodstock. It was, after all, the summer of Martin, the summer of Bobby. Of My Lai and Biafra. It marked the rise of Nixon and the collapse of Prague Spring. It hosted the Democratic Convention in Chicago and the Olympic riots in Mexico City.

For me, the dog days of 1968 evoke different memories, fonder memories, and none more enduring than the memory of my improbable audience with the King.

Iron Man, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four. It was these Ektachrome heroes of today’s CG cinema who formed the warp and weft of my boyhood narrative, their parallel universe of lantern-jawed heroes, buxom damsels, and evil villains bent on world conquest the golden latchkey for a yearning pre-teen fettered to the terrestrial orthodoxy of 1960s Levittown, New York.

Captain America, the Avengers, the Mighty Thor, the Silver Surfer. Conflicted but righteous, misunderstood yet unerring, they and countless other pulp paladins all sprang fully-formed from the sharpened No. 2 pencil of one man, a man who today is acknowledged, posthumously, as the greatest artist and innovator in comic book history. I’m speaking, of course, of the King of Comics, Jack Kirby.

And all I wanted was his autograph.

It was in 1968 – that tumultuous summer of my twelfth year – that my pal Jimmy and I hauled out the Nassau County phone book and started paging through the Ks. We’d reasoned that if Marvel Comics was headquartered on Madison Avenue, then some of the artists must surely ride the Long Island Railroad to work just like our fathers. Just like ordinary mortals.

We found several possibilities – Johns, Jacks, and Js – and I wrote to all of them, effusive in my adulation, and humble, or so I’d hoped, in my request for a signed photograph. I posted the letters and waited.

A week passed, two weeks. My attention, meanwhile, wandered to the more prosaic diversions of a Levittown summer. The Village Green swimming pool. Curb-ball. Ringalevio. The not-yet-amazin’ Mets.

And then, all but forgotten, it suddenly arrived – a stiff manila envelope with artful block lettering. Inside was no photograph, however, but an original pencil drawing. The Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing, his arms bulging beneath a tight T-shirt, sat hunched over a drafting table with a word balloon suspended over his rocky brow. “Is this shot okay, Chuck?” he asked, the smoke from his stogie curling upward to form the magical number 4.

Jimmy was jealous. Jimmy was, in fact, beside himself. And Jimmy had a plan.

Over the phone, Mr. Kirby was gracious. Yes, he worked from his home. No, he enjoyed having visitors. Tomorrow? Sure, not a problem.

We lied to our parents, naturally, and set out after breakfast on our bicycles for what would prove to be a half-day’s ride into uncharted territory. A suburban neighborhood, a modest home. We knocked. We waited nervously. And Jack Kirby answered the door.

He was friendly, avuncular. He offered us Orange Crush and led us downstairs to the basement studio where he’d been working on a forthcoming issue of the Fantastic Four. The room was littered with monochrome panels of mutants and monsters, machinery and mayhem.

We watched him work. He patiently answered all of our inane questions. We hung. And in the end, after we’d wrung the last drops from our soda bottles, he offered to make a drawing for each of us.

My favorite comic book hero that week was T’Challa, the Black Panther, Marvel’s first-ever African-American superhero, yet another of Kirby’s pioneering creations. He seemed surprised by my choice, and pleased.

He found a clean sheet of paper. He sketched, he shaded, and in less than thirty seconds he confected an astonishing image. The Black Panther, tightly muscled and perfectly proportioned, sprang forth from the page. Above his head, a word balloon declared, “Chuck, it’s great meeting you!”

Today, almost 50 years later, I look at both drawings every day where they hang on the wall of my writing office. They’re totems, I suppose, paeans to innocence in turbulent times. And they’re tributes to a man whose genius continues, even in these trying times, to offer the same promise of magic and adventure to a new generation of dreamers.

As a work-for-hire artist, Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg on New York’s Lower East Side, profited little from the billion-dollar media empire his imagination spawned. He died in relative obscurity on February 6, 1994 in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 76 years young.

Jack, it was great meeting you.

Chuck Greaves is the author of five novels, most recently Tom & Lucky (Bloomsbury). You can visit him at his website.

 

 

 

 

Crafting a Killer Title

Since I’m between drafts on my novel-in-progress, I’ve been working on a lot of short stories lately. Besides honing my writing skills, the experience has given me new appreciation for an oft-overlooked element of the short story: the title.

It may be the smallest part of the story, but the title gives the biggest first impression. And while a poor title probably won’t nix your chances at publication, a killer title can give you an edge over the competition.

Titles are tricky. A decent one must, at minimum, hook the reader's attention. A better one will also provide a flavor of the story's genre, tone, and style. A truly killer title will provide some added meaning or a new way for the reader to look at the story. That’s a lot for a single line—sometimes a single word—to accomplish.

When I’m lucky, the perfect title swoops in from out of nowhere, and I know right away it’s the one. But 99 percent of the time, I have to work hard to dig up a good title and polish it till it shines. Here are some strategies I use in the digging process. (Although I’m focusing on short stories, many of these also apply to titles of novels, nonfiction, poems, and other works.)

Zoom out and in.

Look at the big picture of your story. If you had to condense it to a paragraph, or a sentence, how would you describe it? What's the point of the story? What is it about? Then put a magnifying glass to your story. What details stand out to you? What characters, objects, or words are particularly meaningful? These often provide good title fodder.

Find the connection.

Most stories have both an external plot (what happens) and an internal one (how the character grows or changes). Can you find a parallel between the two? Is there a title that evokes both plots?

Mine for meaning.

Sift through your story and jot down key themes and symbols, meaningful metaphors, and anything else that highlights the story’s underlying meaning. These will often spark a great title—one that is significant to the story, without being heavy-handed.

Look for killer lines.

Read through your story and highlight any lines that strike you. It could be a bit of dialogue that foreshadows the story's ending, or a line of description that hints at the story's central theme. It could simply be a line that catches your attention, maybe because it offers an unexpected idea or poses a question. Many a great title has been snipped directly from the story itself.

Get inspired.

Skim through the titles on your bookshelf, or open an anthology and read the table of contents. See what techniques other authors have used in their titles. Think about which titles appeal most to you, and why they catch your interest. Then try applying what you’ve learned to your own work.

Go with your gut.

When the title feels right, it probably is. If you’re torn between multiple contenders, run them by friends, family, and critique partners to see which grabs their attention the most. When you finally find that perfect title, it’s a magical feeling—the cherry atop your story’s ice cream sundae. Happy titling!

Words Matter

As a mere child, I’d cut letters from words to make more words. For example, from the title of this blog, Words Matter: matt, rat, as, word, sword, words, matter, toward, wad, or, more, war, roar, stat, at, dot, draw, date, mate, rate, ate, watt, smart.

Then, I’d form silly sentences:

Draw Matt as a rat

Or a dot like dat.

I confess, libraries were far and few, and both television channels broadcasted in black and white. But we had running water.

Then I’d say something like, “Ouch! That smatted.” Can you believe nobody understood me? Although, thinking back, the family dog made an occasional effort.

When I discovered that one guy—what’s his name?—J.R.R. something created a language for elves, oh my gosh, I immediately set forth cutting letters from Sears and Roebuck catalogs again!

Writers must love words and choose them wisely and consistently for their characters. (I’m doing the best with the mind I have.)

Elton John wrote and sang: "And I would have walked head-on into the deep end of the river." What a great line.

Cowboy poet and veterinarian Baxter Black—in his own spelling—penned:

"…It’s a comf’terbul feelin’ when you don’t have to care

‘Bout choosin’ your words or bein’ quite fair

‘Cause friends’ll just listen and let go on by

Those words you don’t mean and not bat an eye…"

Baxter’s one of the funniest ol’ coots there’s ever been!

William Shakespeare, in his play The Tempest, left this immortal advice: "What's past is prologue." One cannot avoid liking William.

In Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George, we not only see what Zed looked like, but feel how stressed he was:

"…Zed looked up thoughtfully. He glanced at the window. It was pitch-dark outside, so all he saw was his own reflection: a redheaded giant with worry lines becoming incised on his forehead because his mother was attempting to marry him off to the first willing woman she was able to find and his boss was ready to deposit his well-written prose into the rubbish and he himself just wanted to write something marginally worthwhile…"

Whoa.

What about words from a character who packs chewing tobacco between his lower lip and gum? “To” may sound like, oh, anything from “yu” to “ooo” to “tvo” (isn’t that how you pronounce the number two in Swedish?). Seriously, put your tongue against the inside of your lower lip, push out, and converse away.

In Donald Maass’s book Writing the Breakout Novel, one of his “assignments” is to create a chart. For example, write a common item, and then write how five characters refer to it. (Charles the plumber says “toilet.” Dani the sailor says “the head.” A homeless man from England says “loo.” A teenager from Georgia says “goin’ naw.” A mom from Texas says “ladies’ room.”)

Do your protagonist, their nemesis, and all secondary characters sound alike?

Please, say it isn’t so.

I hope not.

Dang, what are you tellin’ me?

Plug my ears and cover my imagination.

Start over.

Next month: Ideas—where’d they go?

A special thank-you to the organizers, crew, and guests of Western Reboot: Authors of the Modern West. Excellent program!

When I’m Sixty-Four

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me?”

Fill in the blank…

Of course: “…when I’m sixty-four.”

Yeah, I played the HELL out of Sgt. Pepper when it came out.

My older brother and I each had record players, but one copy of the record between us. We would sit in each other’s rooms and listen. Rapt. Over and over. The White Album, too. Holy smokes. We were nuts about The Beatles. When a new album came out, we would own it within the week.

I liked The Stones better than he did; he liked The Who more than me. (Tommy changed my mind. But every band took second place to The Beatles).

But that song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.”
Catchy, bouncy, plaintive—impossible. And so clean and melodic, the second song on Side Two after the psychedelic “Within You, Without You.”

Sixty-four seemed ancient. I pictured a wheelchair, watery oatmeal, infirmity. Will you still need me? Will you still feed me?

Then my father died at age 54 in 1979, and seven years later, my mom died at the same age. By the late 1980’s I thought maybe there was some sort of ticking time-bomb inside me, too.

You know, an expiration date.

By the time my mother died, I had been writing fiction for a few years. I was working on a draft of an early novel.

Three years after my mother passed away, I got married in a double wedding on the top floor of an old funky warehouse in LoDo (when the buildings were empty). It was 1989. I had just landed a good agent in New York for that first book, a mystery, and quit a good TV news job to write a second book. The first book had taken six years. I didn’t want the second book to take that long.

At the wedding, the bar was open before the ceremony started. We had a great rockabilly band on hand for the dancing.

And we walked down the aisle to…

“When I’m Sixty-Four.”

Our friends loved it. We laughed.

Sixty-four seemed, still, so distant.

Eighteen years later, I finally got published at age 53—a small, indie press. I had a great time seeing a book reach readers. Phew, published. Right under my personal deadline (literally).

Did I have one year left? It didn’t feel like I was about to die. I mean, what does that feel like?

A second book came out when I was 57 and a third when I was 60. Then, a fourth at age 61. The third and fourth with Midnight Ink, a fine house.

Last week, I turned 64. (No wheelchair! No watery oatmeal!)

I Feel Fine. (Another Beatles song.)

And I am making plans to publish Book #5 next fall—the fifth book in the Allison Coil series. It’s called The Melancholy Howl. At the same time, my amazing agent in New York is shopping a standalone mystery. It’s called No Lie Lasts Forever.

And I’m starting to write a new one.

My heroes are writers like Pat Stoltey, still in her mid-70s and cranking out books. Or James Lee Burke (born in 1936) and Lawrence Block (1938) and still, yes, cranking out books. How about Mary Higgins Clark? Born in 1927.

Every day I write is a good day. Every day I wrote was a good day.

There are lots of cool things about the writing business, starting with the writing itself.

But here’s one more. As I start to think about winding down the professional career (Note to my mortgage holder: starting to think about it, not actually doing it yet!) I am glad to have writing out there as something that will keep me going, interested, engaged. Most of all, it will keep me writing.

No matter what happens to the stories I put together, I’ll be writing.

Maybe even when it’s time for watery oatmeal.

Cast Your Book

Writing can often become labor-intensive. We become so focused on rewrites and editing and tightening up the grammar and narrative and plotting and on and on and on... Sometimes it's fun, for a break, to remind yourself why you're writing this thing - at it's most basic, because it's fun to tell stories.

One of the fun things I've done in the past to break monotony is cast my WIP as if it was a movie. I imagine which famous person would play each character and look up pictures of them in poses or settings that might have occurred in my story. This is fun, plus I find it helpful when writing the story. It's especially helpful when working on series, to help recapture the tone and feeling of each character that you may have been removed from for a time while, say, working on other projects.

In the end, we don't know these people as people, the ones I pick from pictures I find on the Internet. We're really only casting them as characters we remember them playing in past roles. You may think this makes your own character less than unique, basing them on other characters from film or television, and you would be right if you tried to write them exactly as they were in that other work. For me, though, I only use it as a sort of template, if I do it at all. I don't try to write them exactly as they might have been in someone else's story, but use them only as a prototype for the character I have created, only as a reminder, not as a carbon copy.

Kaley CuocoZoe SaldanaFor example, in my current WIP, the next book in my most popular series beginning with the book Rogue Agenda, I imagined casting one of two actresses as the main character, Lainie Parker: either Kaley Cuoco or Zoe Saldana. Wait a minute, you say, that can't work. Lainie is a white brunette. One of these actresses is blond and the other is African American. Well, while I originally wrote Lainie as a Caucasian brunette, in the end, there's nothing about that character that requires her to be either. If they were truly being cast for a movie, either of these actresses has played parts in the past that remind me of Lainie in different ways. I would be just as pleased if either one was cast.

What actors/actresses would you cast as the primary characters in your current WIP? Share with a comment below.

It’s December again, and the world needs your novel

Wow. It is December, 2017. Another year ends.
Time for reflection!

I could do the standard New Year's resolutions thing, or I could do the standard reflect on all the good in your life thing, too. I’m not sure I want to do that. What to talk about? OK, let’s talk about my favorite virtue!

If you know me, you know that I am really big on courage. I think most of the world’s ills stem from people not exercising their courage.
It takes courage to be kind.
It takes courage to live your truth.
It takes courage to forgive people – especially yourself.
It takes courage to be honest.
It takes courage to change your mind.
It takes courage to write a book.

So ask yourself, were you courageous in 2017?

RMFW is a writer’s organization. It is filled with people who believe they have a story to tell. Did you tell your story? Did you go to our monthly programs to learn craft, or take an online class? Did you go to one of the announced book signings, or to the Writer of the Year panel? (I’ve always found those fascinating.) Did you listen to the RMFW podcast or join a critique group? Did you go to the Colorado Gold Conference? Did you finish your book? Did you start it? Why?

Did you do everything in your power to tell your story?

Writing a book is a courageous act, in and of itself. It’s a daunting task filled with self-doubt and fear. There are people who will question your passion, question your reasoning, and question your resolve to be an author. In spite of them, you still have this dream. You, gentle reader, should be praised for even attempting it.

But I don’t want you to stop with the attempt. I want you to celebrate the end of your journey. I want you to write that book!

I know you’re super busy with work and young children. I know you’ve got relatives to worry about. I know you’ve got a thousand different things on your plate that should get done before you write your story. I get it. But listen, if you don’t make your story a priority in your life, who will?

If you wrote 500 words a day, five days a week, in 32 weeks you would have an 80,000-word book! That’s eight months of writing. If you wrote 600 words a day, you could cut a month off of that time.

Does it sound daunting? Does it sound scary? Well, good. Now I’ve got your attention. All you have to do is write. Everything will fall into place once you begin to write. Don’t worry about that shady character in chapter three. Don’t worry about how the star-crossed lovers are going to get together. Don’t worry about the sea of zombies, beavers, or zombie-beavers that are the standing in the way of your protagonist. Find a solution, even if you don’t like it. Go with it. Let go of your desire for perfection. I don’t remember who said it, but perfection is the ally of procrastination. There will never be a perfect time to write your book. The washing machine will break. You will lose your job. The kids will get sick. In spite of all of that, write your book.

Write your book with its run-on sentences and misspelled words. Write your book with its flawed premise and its lack of scientific or historical accuracy. Write your book with its bad dialogue. All of that can be edited. A flawed written book is much easier to fix than a flawed unwritten book. Put your butt in a seat with your favorite beverage and computer and write. You don’t need a lot of courage. Just enough to begin.

Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, is fond of saying “The world needs your novel.” I agree. The world does need your novel.

So write your book.

Thrillers, Part 3 of 4: Villains

The villain in a thriller is generally not your run-of-the-mill murderer. He is someone with a goal in mind, and he is driving toward that goal, regardless of the damage he causes along the way. While he may enjoy that destruction, whether human (serial killer, assassin, strong-man dictator) or property (arsonist, bomber, unscrupulous land baron) he could just as easily be someone who reluctantly sees the damage he leaves in his wake as an inevitable cost to the good he thinks he's doing (religious fanatic, environmental extremist, patriot assassin). While she may be evil, to me it is much more fascinating to read about the villain who thinks she is the hero of the story, who is a true believer in a cause she has either lost perspective on or has just gone too far in support of.

Either way, his plans are greater than a single act, usually building to some larger, ultimate goal that our protagonist must prevent. In the book Silence of The Lambs, [SPOILER STARTS] Buffalo Bill is building himself a lady-suit [SPOILER ENDS]. In the film Taken, [SPOILER STARTS] Marko is seeking to keep a steady supply of fresh flesh for his human trafficking operation [SPOILER ENDS]. In my own book, Presence of Malice, [SPOILER STARTS] Gerald Gannery is determined to gaslight his partner for the embezzlement of which he, himself, is guilty in order to free himself up to take a lucrative development deal for cable TV [SPOILER ENDS].

The villain's evil usually comes not just from his own selfishness, but from his willingness, even eagerness, to accede the pain and suffering of others in order to meet his aims. Even if she agonizes over each and every life taken, she takes it anyway because to her, the end will justify whatever means she sees necessary to apply.

In a thriller there is the concept of the ticking clock, which I will explain in more detail in the next and final part to this post, but I wanted to mention here (and will most likely repeat next month) that the ticking clock doesn't necessarily have to be a literal clock. In many cases it is the deadline for the fruition of the villain's plans, whether arbitrarily set by him or by his own need for urgency due to other schedules being enforced upon him (the president's plane departs, a shipment to be hijacked is en route, the laundry truck departs the prison, etc.).

As I mentioned before, my favorite villain is the one who thinks she is ultimately doing good, or better yet the one who is besieged by guilt over her own actions but compelled to do them anyway. But there is also something to be said for the gleefully evil - the serial killer, the psycho musician convinced he is a soldier for Satan, the unhinged skinhead with a hidden lair full of torture victims, etc. Whatever your taste, always remember that to keep the tension, either the villain must not be redeemed, or if she is, it must already be too late to stop the events she has put in motion (or seemingly so, until our hero takes action).

I wanted to spend time on henchmen and other companions of the villain who must be defeated on the way to the villain himself, but that will have to wait for another, longer discussion on villains.

Meanwhile, what are your favorite villains? What bad guys do you love to hate? Let me know in the comments, below.

Thrillers, Part 2 of 4: Heroes

HeroHeroes in thrillers can be anyone: male, female, any walk of life, any level of expertise in solving crimes, spying, or thwarting villains. Heck, in the long-running television series Dexter, probably the single best example of genre-bending fiction, the hero was a serial killer. (If you haven't binged this series, I submit it is among the top ten indispensable for any aspiring thriller writer.) In my own series of books starting with Rogue Agenda and continuing this fall in a title yet to be announced, the protagonist and heroine is a phone-sex girl.

A common trope of the genre is the washed-out, disgraced ex-professional, usually an ex-cop/detective/soldier. Usually a guy, he is usually an alcoholic heavy smoker with a harridan ex-wife, an embittered child, and a long-suffering girlfriend. He's wracked with guilt and self-recrimination, all of which usually eventually turns out to be undeserved. I see the attraction of the trope; these can often be great, complex, layered characters to write. The problem is it's been played and played out. I would encourage aspiring thriller writers to reach deeper, find other ways to make your protagonist interesting and complex.

Some scholars of fiction will tell you that the hero must have some personal stake in the outcome of the conflict. It isn't enough that he/she is just doing their job, investigating a crime or seeking to thwart a villain. They must be under threat themselves, seeking to clear their own name from suspicion, prevent the death of a loved one, etc. It is the only way, they argue, to justify the hero moving forward against obstacles and resistance. Otherwise, why would they bother? Why suffer through depredations, torture, and possible death for the sake of something less? I agree that this often makes a compelling plot, but I think it is extremely dogmatic and cynical to try to maintain that this is the only way to impel a hero and their story forward.

I think it is just as compelling to witness a hero risk life and limb for higher ideals than self-preservation, to read about the patriot soldier willing to stake his life for his country, experience the conviction of an advocate undergoing agonizing trials in the name of just doing the right thing. To me there is no more noble sacrifice than one that saves the day in such a way that no one will ever know, for which the hero will never gain notoriety or gratitude.

What makes the hero compelling is conviction and the lengths to which they are willing to go to defend their ideals. These can be every bit as personal and precious as his/her life and limb if written in an engaging, interesting, and exciting way.

Who are some of your favorite heroes in fiction, thrillers or other genres? What is it that impels them through the story? I'd love to read your comments below.

What Is This Blog Post About?

Into The DistanceSometimes an idea for my next post on this blog comes to me in a flash, all at once, all written in my head. Other times I struggle. Sometimes the struggle is to come up with an idea, sometimes the struggle is to pick from way-too-many ideas teeming around in my head. Today the struggle is that I have all kinds of disjointed thoughts about writing flitting around back and forth like an unruly flight of starlings, some near misses but never a collision, and no single thought amounts to a full and complete blog post. I'm trying to decide if any combination of thoughts might amount to one. Let's explore together, shall we?

One thought came to me as I binged on several movies and TV shows in rapid succession during a recent convalescence, interspersed with news coverage of the recent "peaceful" transition of power in Washington DC. No, this isn't a political post, as such. However, I saw vast numbers of people who desperately clung to their own paradigm of the world, so consumed with insecurity in their own beliefs that they simply - and quite publicly - flat-out refused to accept any reality that clashed with what they so desperately wished to be true, in the face of facts quite to the contrary. Often making up things out of whole-cloth in a shocking attempt to negate reality, and convincing themselves fully that their made-up things were true.

This got me to thinking about those who read what I, as a novelist, write. They are not reading my stories in a vacuum. They bring their own paradigm to the experience, as had I when I wrote it. To the degree that their paradigm clashes with mine, there is a sliding scale to which they are willing to continue reading. Some might accept my paradigm and still enjoy the story, perhaps even altering their own to some degree because of what they read. Some perhaps not, but still appreciating my vision of reality. Then again some, if the shift between my paradigm and theirs is too right-angle, might reject my story out of hand, some not even finishing it. Some who, I submit, are insecure in their own strata of beliefs, might feel threatened by my outlook, to the degree that they feel compelled to pen a particularly acid-laced rant in a review of my book.

I, myself, have only been unable to finish two or three fiction books because I couldn't tolerate the premise, but there was at least one book that I literally threw across the room in rage before I even knew what I was doing. Others I have put down it disgust, only that one gave me such a visceral reaction.

The point is, each reader who comes to peruse our work is diverse from any other at the margin, and in a spectrum those differences become vast. Can we predict what any one person is going to think of our writing? In some extreme cases perhaps, but at the margin I suggest it's impossible. There are just too many variables.

I often make the point that market chasing is a fool's games. Trying to read market trends and writing to what's currently selling is the quickest way to insanity, especially given how fast our market shifts. It's why the term "sell-out" is spoken with such disdain - people who attempt to do so fail more often than they succeed and often in the process lose sight of their own original motives for writing.

Just ask any published writer who sold the first book of a series that they wrote after years of market chasing. It's exciting at first...until they realize they have to write a sequel, and another, and yet more, all based on a premise they shopped for, not one for which they felt any real passion or love. Suddenly they're locked into a vortex of having to churn out book after book on a story line they feel no real connection to and invariably grow to hate. This also consumes all of their writing energy and time and leaves little or none for them to pursue the writing they always wanted to do from the beginning.

I have always encouraged other writers to write what they like to read, write what they love to write, write for themselves. The readers will come. The right readers. The ones who will love what you write because they can sense the love, the integrity, the heart with which you write. You will be much happier writing what you enjoy, and that will come through as well. You will write better because it's what you love. And you'll save yourself a lot of tail-chasing, teeth-gnashing, and head-to-brick-wall contact.

Enthusiasm Refill

The festive holiday season fills us with excitement, hope, cheer, enthusiasm, optimism. For several months we have something to look forward to. For many of us it is the excitement to see family and friends we haven't seen is a long time, for others it's seeing what Père Noël left for us under the Christmas tree, and for still others, like me, it's the anticipation of watching loved ones open presents we chose and wrapped just for them.

Inevitably after the holiday season there is a period of blahs, the unavoidable doldrums as we look ahead to what can't help to be mundane pursuits after the bright tinsel and blinking lights of such a heart-warming and lighthearted time. The lingering hangover from New Years Eve doesn't help.

Santa WritesHere's a perfect way to reignite your enthusiasm: write. Whenever I write, even when I have to force myself to sit down and put fingertips to keys, whenever I allow myself to be transported into the world I'm creating in my own stories, my spirits are always lifted, my heart lightened, my mind liberated.

It's safe to say the time-constraints of the season have necessitated that many (most?) of us have had to neglect our writing, even if only for a couple of weeks or so. This is the perfect time to get back to it. It's therapeutic, it's fun, and it's productive.

And it will keep at bay the post-holiday blahs.