Hare Brains

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Yesterday, as I was on my way home from running errands and grocery shopping, I thought my heart was going to stop.

There is this wacky couple mile long stretch of road between my last stop and Prescott Valley. So when I exit the parking lot of Costco, I get immediately over into the inside lane of a three lane section (five lanes in all, three in my direction and two in the oncoming). This three lane section shortly becomes two lanes (four in all). Not long after that the road widens to three lanes in one direction (six in all) again and the inside lane I was in becomes the middle lane. Once again, not long after that, the road narrows again to two lanes each way and I am traveling in what has become the outside lane. Don’t ask me why someone thought this little bit of insanity was a good idea.

I prefer to be in the outside lane because I don’t exceed the speed limit and it causes fewer problems for me with the other drivers. Dirty looks, horns honking, that sort of thing. Plus sometimes nasty gestures.

So there I was, driving along in the inside lane of an undivided highway and already outside of my comfort zone. I was heading for a downhill stretch and knew my car would speed up. As I approached an intersection, my speedometer read 51 miles per hour and the limit is 45 mph. So even though I would be braking going into an intersection with the traffic signal green for me and the people behind me, I put my foot on the brake pedal and started to brake just a little. I’m a little fanatical about obeying the speed limit.

Good thing I did that. A woman at the front of a line of cars in the oncoming lanes was in the left hand turn lane waiting for the green arrow. For some insane reason, she opened her door. It stuck out right into my lane. That’s when I thought my heart would stop.

I pressed down hard on the brake pedal. Her eyes flew wide open and her mouth made an “O” and she yanked her door closed. Just in time.

I honestly believe that if I had not already had my foot on the brake pedal and was already pressing down on it, that I would surely have hit her door and maybe ripped off her arm in the process.

I was pretty rattled all the rest of the way home. I can still see her face and her expression. I have no idea why she thought opening her door at that moment was a good idea. Maybe she had a bee in her car, or a sudden and intense need to see the black top. In any case, it was harebrained. That was the word that popped into my head. I know, you’re probably thinking all sorts of swear words were going through my mind. That didn’t happen until much later.

Being the person that I am, I had to look up harebrained when I got home. It means what you’d think:  rash, ill-judged, foolish, reckless. But why?

This is from word-detective.com:  Our modern English word “hare” (in Old English, “hara”) comes from Germanic roots, possibly carrying the sense of “gray,” which many hares are. The adjective “harebrained” first appeared in written English in 1548, simultaneously with the appearance of the noun “harebrain,” meaning a witless or reckless person.

Another site says it stems from “having no more sense than a hare.” A hare is a cousin to a rabbit. Given that rabbits around here are prone to darting into the road in front of cars, I suppose this is apt.

I survived the encounter. Made it home. Prepared a nice Valentine’s Day dinner for me and the hubby. But I can’t help being a bit angry that some crazy, harebrained woman tried to kill both of us.

Waiting for the Hot Water

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Every morning before dispensing my supplements, I wash my hands. I’ve rubbed our cat’s belly, given the dog a good scratching all over to help her wake up. Maybe I’ve cleaned the litter box. Often, just as I am about to wash my hands, Bernd is ready for our good-bye kiss ritual and wants me to hurry up because he has to go to work. But there I am, waiting for the hot water.

I can’t seem to wash my hands with the cold water that precedes the hot. I don’t feel right until my hands have been warmed by some nice hot water. That it is currently winter and we keep our house at around 65° might have something to do with it. But I do the same thing in the summer.

I have a bit of Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder. It’s not as bad as Adrian Monk’s from the television program “Monk,” but I do have some things in common with the character. Just not the fear of germs that he has … despite the hand washing. But I do tend to count repetitious things and there are just some items that beg to be touched. Really.

Hot water on my hands in the morning is all about feeling “right.” And that’s a fairly easy thing to parse out. When my hands are warm, the rest of me feels warm too. When I put my hands into cold water, I shiver all over. So I wait for the hot water.

I have waited for other things in order to feel good as well. But many of them are less tangible and much harder to figure out. Usually, the realization comes well after it would have done me any good. That’s when I slap myself upside of my head and say, “I could have had a V-8.”

A lot of people equate feeling good or feeling right with happiness. I’m going to say this just once. It is not possible to be happy all the of the time. And the expectation that you should be happy all of the time can be a major source of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. So just dump that expectation. I know. It’s not nearly as easily done as said.

But how many times have you found yourself thinking you could be happy if you had a little more money? Or a new car? Or if you lost ten pounds? Or if you were a little smarter. Or if you were married? Or if you had kids? Or didn’t have kids? Or a little more time. Or maybe it’s not even as concrete as any of that. Maybe you hunger for something more and do not know what that something more might be and you are waiting for it to just fall from the sky.

So … are you waiting for the hot water? And the next time you find yourself waiting for something, ask yourself why. And then maybe get off your back side and go get it. There’s never a better time than the present.

Practical Jokes and the Need to Laugh

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I think it’s interesting to note that sometimes in a still shot laughter can look like a grimace of pain.

Both my parents loved practical jokes. My mother told me that once she sewed shut the flies in all of my dad’s underwear. Apparently, he was not very amused, but she laughed and laughed.

My parents played practical jokes on me and my sister when we were still very young and not really able to understand what was going on. Mostly I ended up feeling very stupid while they would laugh until tears would fill their eyes. I don’t think they knew how it affected me. If they had, I’m sure they wouldn’t have done those things. Well, I’m mostly sure.

I remember one time in particular when my sister was about three years old and I was around six. We were in a restaurant (something that didn’t happen very often) having dinner. Both Mom and Dad (by some unspoken cue) jerked suddenly and lifted their feet off the floor exclaiming “Did you feel that!?” Then Dad looked under the table and said “There it is! There it goes! What IS it!?” In a fraction of a second, both my sister and I were standing on our chairs and then she started crying. As soon as Mom and Dad started laughing, I knew it was another one of their practical jokes. It scared the … you know what … out of the both of us.

Unfortunately for us, we were easy marks and fell for that one a couple more times. And oddly enough, my younger sister “wised up” before I did. I was still fair game for such pranks until I was around 13 years old. If they were trying to teach me skepticism, they did finally do a good job of it. It wasn’t their fault it took me so long to get it.

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Along with practical jokes, my dad loved sight gags, slapstick and pratfalls. He thought the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote were hilarious. And we went to see every movie the Three Stooges made. Mom wasn’t as into that sort of thing, but she loved a good gag just about as much as she loved strawberry ice cream. No … make that Neapolitan.

I think I was born serious. My dad did not display much emotion (other than laughing at tasteless jokes) and fancied himself a totally rational and logical man. But I think the truth was that he was an imp inside. He showed one face to the world and lived another in the privacy of his mind. So I have no idea where all my seriousness originated. It certainly didn’t come from Mom who continually delighted in the “Quick! Pull my finger” gag.

I think practical jokes are basically cruel. There, I said it. Giving someone a fake winning lottery ticket is simply mean spirited. Okay, there are some practical jokes that are basically harmless. Like putting a rubber band around the sprayer on a kitchen faucet so that someone gets sprayed when they turn on the tap. I’ve laughed at that.

Or putting shaving cream in someone’s hand while they are sleeping and then tickling their nose so that they slap the cream all over their face. That is, providing they are not allergic to shaving cream. I’ve often thought that whipped cream would be better, but then I’m allergic to milk and others are too. See my problem?

Oddly enough, I’m not nearly as serious today as I was when I was younger (ordinarily you would think it would be the other way around). Oh, I could play and laugh and have a good time with all my friends. And I was enthralled by the beauty of a sow bug or a butterfly. The sky could just send me. I had a good time as a kid … I still do. But there were just some things that were not funny to me that most people thought were hilarious. I never could understand why “hurting” people was funny.

Then there is the other kind of seriousness that can be a detriment to your life. The kind where you take every little thing so seriously that it causes you undo stress. I went through a very long phase of this. I’m glad to say that I’ve cured myself of that … mostly. But I still don’t personally get the appeal of practical jokes. And I may never.

However. I do understand laughing at adversity. I understand the need to make light of difficult situations in order to better cope with them. So, most likely, practical jokes will be with us forever. Just don’t try pulling one on me. You might not be happy with the result.

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I have to admit, whoever did this was brilliant.

15 Things I Like

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There was a time when banana flavored popsicles were my absolute favorite treat to buy from the ice cream man. He had the worst hands, chapped and cracked and callused from putting them into a cold ice cream truck every day, but he handed out the most wonderful treats. And we were always happy to see him, icky hands and all.

Banana flavored popsicles had two things going for them as far as I was concerned: (1) they were relatively cheap and (2) none of my friends liked them and so I didn’t have to share. I’d seen what “sharing” involved and I worked for my money while my friends got allowances. End of story.

Today you couldn’t get me to eat a banana flavored popsicle if your life depended on it. Well, okay maybe. But I’d have to be absolutely 100% certain that was the case.

These days my tastes run to the natural (those popsicles were artificially flavored and frankly didn’t taste all that much like banana), but bananas are a no-no for me these days because they give me a migraine headache. Go figure. Strawberries do too. And chocolate … ah well. Frozen chocolate covered bananas … picture my eyes closed in rapt appreciative memory.

I also once just loved to watch a good musical. Didn’t matter if it was black and white or color. If it had Fred Astaire, Gene Kelley, Bing Crosby or especially Donald O’Connor in it, I was glued to the television set. More recently, with the exception of “White Christmas,” they just tend to set my teeth on edge and make me wish I’d never given control of the remote control to my husband. I solved that one problem by cancelling all television reception.

So here is my list of fifteen things I like today. Fair warning … it could change tomorrow. It is presented in no particular order.

  1. I like dogs. They are funny, just about always happy to see me and nice to pet. They are more complicated than some people might think, but still uncomplicated enough that you can pretty much figure them out. You know where you stand with a dog. I’m never shy around dogs.
  2. I like horses. I can’t be around them anymore due to PTSD from a really bad accident that almost killed me, but I still like them. They smell nice. They feel nice. They’re just nice.
  3. I like to hike. I like to hike in the desert. I like to hike in the mountains. I like to hike around lakes. I could have made this into three separate “likes,” but thought that might be cheating. I think it is fairly self-evident why I like to hike, but I’ll spell it out anyway. It gets me into nature and away from the complicated lives of the people around me. A tree is pretty much just a tree and a rock is pretty much just a rock. No guess work involved. Does there seem to be a theme developing?
  4. I like to write. I always feel as if I am doing something when I am writing. Even if it’s just a bit of inanity, I usually feel better after writing something.
  5. I like the video “Recovery Room Rambler.” It’s a short thing that aired on America’s Funniest Home Videos and won the $100,000 prize. You can find it if you search with the words “afv recovery room rambler.” Why do I like it? Because it makes me laugh every time I see it.
  6. I like cats. We have a cat named Bonfire. He is not all that uncomplicated, but I’ve never held that against him. He can’t help it. He’s a cat. I like cats because I like cats and you’re not going to get any better reason why from me. That might be a whole article all on its own.
  7. I like my husband. I also love my husband. The two are very different and not really all that interchangeable. But liking him certainly makes loving him easier and more enjoyable. Imagine if you loved someone that you didn’t really like all that much. As to why I like him, well that might take up an entire book.
  8. I like whole grain rice spaghetti pasta with homemade meat sauce. I like it so much that I eat it once a week pretty much without fail.
  9. I like sunrise. I like the pink and blue layering of the sky in the west as the sun comes up in the east. I like to hear the birds sing and I like the smell of the morning air.
  10. I like sunset. I like the pink and blue layering of the sky in the east as the sun sinks below the horizon. I like the calling of the ravens as they fly from tree to tree while working out who will sleep where and with whom.
  11. I like my computer. It is the best computer I have ever had. It’s fast and dependable. It gives me very little grief. And while it is quite complicated, it is not complicated in a way that vexes me … for the most part. The same cannot be said for many of the people I know.
  12. I like spinach. When I was young, I hated spinach. But then, it came in a can, got warmed in a sauce pan, plopped on my plate and doused with vinegar. What kid would like that? Today I will eat spinach just about any way you want to fix it. Just don’t try to feed me frozen or canned spinach unless you like to wear it.
  13. I like sleeping. I may not always like my dreams, but I like sleeping nevertheless. I always feel better after a good night’s sleep. There isn’t any more to it than that.
  14. I like water. I think it is the perfect drink. There are no artificial flavors in it. There are no sweeteners in it, either real or artificial. There are no colors in it, either real or artificial and there are no calories. It’s pretty much the perfect drink. I don’t know why more people don’t drink more of it.
  15. I like living … for the most part. Some days I like it more than others. Some days I like it less than others, but I always like it. Do I really have to explain this? Because that might require a book from me and I’m really not up that at this moment. Right now, I think it’s time for me to indulge in a little #13. Bernd already is.

Things I Have Learned

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For the most part, a lot of the things I’ve learned over the years have been the source of a great deal of retrospective chagrin.

I also laugh about a lot of them now, but at the time maybe not so much.

I’ve compiled a bunch of them for the last chapter in my memoir. This assumes of course that I will one day finish my memoir. It’s only occurred to me just now that it might have been good to have decided on a time span to cover before setting out to write it.

You might be asking yourself why I am writing a memoir. I also sometimes ask myself that question. It was a suggestion in an AARP magazine some years ago and I thought it sounded like fun.

I doubt anyone will ever read it. My husband and I decided before we were ever officially wed that we would not have any children. And guess what, we didn’t. So there are no later generations to read my memoir and wonder just what the heck Grandma thought she was doing.

In any case, I thought I would attempt to entertain you all with some of the things I’ve learned over the years.

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If you want a hot chocolate from a vending machine and not a coffee or a tea, you have to press the correct button. No amount of swearing at the machine will fix your problem.

It’s kind of a metaphor for life.

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When making any kind of household repair that necessitates the use of a ladder combined with the use of a hammer, do not leave the hammer lying on top of the ladder when you climb down from the ladder. For certain, when you go to move that ladder, you will have completely forgotten about the hammer.

Massive headaches ensue.



Do not wear roller-skates while walking your dog. What seems in the beginning like it would be a load of fun often degenerates into a mass of limbs flailing about with your body desperately trying to remain upright while your dog, normally very complacent and even tempered, takes off after a rabbit.

Be sure to have some antiseptic and Band-Aids on hand.



There is nothing you can do to canned spinach to make it edible. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Sorry, Mom.

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Weird Words, Part 8

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1973 edition


That’s a word you don’t hear very often any more. I’ll call it a word and not a phrase because it is hyphenated. I’m not picking nits. It’s just that I like to make my article titles accurate and relevant to the body of the article. Really. Well, mostly anyway. Now, where was I? Oh yes. As a kid, I heard hunky-dory quite a lot and never gave it a thought. If you are at least as old as I am, you know that it basically means something is satisfactory or just fine.

So … let’s take it apart (ask my husband, Bernd, and he’ll tell you that I love deconstructing things; houses, boxes, jewelry, you name it; if it comes apart I’m your gal). According to one source, hunky is (was?) a disparaging term for a laborer from east-central Europe. Or it referred to a person of Hungarian (wouldn’t that then be Hungy or Hung as in “well hu …” uh, maybe we shouldn’t go there) or Slavic decent. I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever heard this word used in that way. But I haven’t been everywhere and I am only 67 years old. There’s still time. I hope. At any rate, I can’t see that this is where the first part of it came from.

Taking a look at the word hunk doesn’t really offer any enlightenment either. Most commonly it means a large piece or chunk. So why not just say chunk? Although chunky-dory just doesn’t have the same feel to it. Actually, that doesn’t sound good at all. Less commonly, or maybe that’s just my age showing, hunk refers to a sexually attractive male human with a well developed physique. They do still call the cuties hunks, right? But one has to wonder … hunk of what? If you’re a die-hard Elvis fan then I guess it might be burnin’ love.

Then there is dory. So far as I know, that’s a small boat propelled by oars and having a fairly shallow draft and a pointy bow. There are usually a couple of seats across the width of it. But don’t confuse it with a canoe. And why do we say “can-ooh” instead of “can-oh?”

Therefore, I guess that hunky-dory really should refer to a large piece of a sexually attractive male Hungarian boat. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

I did a little research (a very little research) and found a bewildering amount of fanciful speculation. There is no agreed upon origin for hunky-dory, but it’s believed to be an American invention (why doesn’t that surprise me). It first appeared in print around 1862 in a collection of songs (“George Christy’s Essence of Old Kentucky”) and Hunky Dorey was the title of one of the songs.

According to another source, hunkey originally meant fit or healthy (why?) and hunkum-bunkum meant much the same as hunky-dory. Hunkum-bunkum’s first recorded usage was in a sporting newspaper around 1842. So it would seem that the hunky part of hunky-dory came from that original hunkey. But what about the dory?

There just might have been a Japanese influence. Of course, “Japanese Tommy” wasn’t at all Japanese. He was a Black (back then that would have been Negro) dwarf and variety show performer. The word hunkidori was supposedly introduced by Japanese Tommy (Thomas Dilward) and is supposedly derived from the name of a street in Yeddo (a.k.a. Tokyo). The Japanese term, honcho-dori, does mean main street or something like that. Hmmm? Could that be where “head honcho” comes from? And if so, wouldn’t that be redundant?

Also, consider that American sailors in Japan would have been familiar with the word “hunkey” and could have added the Japanese word for street (dori) as an allusion to the “easy street” where they found themselves after long, long, looong stretches at sea.


After all that, I just had to take a look at this word. How could I not?

Along with hunkum-bunkum we also get hunky, okey-dokey, hunky-dunky, and hunky-doodle used to help define it. Obviously the more commonly accepted usage of bunkum does not apply here. Most often bunkum refers to talk that is empty, insincere or merely for effect; humbug (oh the possibilities). So how does hunkum-bunkum become something that is good?

I don’t know, but this search led me to another source that offered up a more credible origin for “hunk.” It pointed out that the use of hunky-dory predated the prevalence of American sailors in Japan. It traced hunky-dory to the Civil War times and the Dutch word “honk” which translates roughly as a goal (a safe or satisfactory result or ending) in a children’s game. It was later rendered as “hunk” by Dutch immigrants to New Amsterdam (New York).


With my limited knowledge of the Spanish language, I always assumed this was a Spanish word. Now I am thinking that it is not. And because I love alliteration, I just had to have a look at this word as well.

Honcho generally means someone who is in charge or an important and influential person. It can also mean “officer in charge” and probably came from the Japanese word hancho meaning group leader (“han” or squad plus “cho” meaning head or chief).  Honcho is thought to have been used by American servicemen in Japan and Korea around 1947 to 1953.

So, laying all the bunkum aside, I should probably go and wake the head honcho and see what he thinks would be hunky-dory for dinner.

Static Pages vs. Posts

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I can’t help but notice that the static pages on my blog don’t get much attention. Obviously, a page that is a new post will get the most activity. But to me this says that people in general don’t really navigate a site all that much. I might be an exception to that rule. If I take the time to visit a blog, I’ll look around a bit before I leave.

So how do you get visitors to your site to look at all the interesting stuff you’ve worked hard to create?

I guess the obvious answer is to add to your static pages as usual, but also post those additions to your blog in the appropriate category, if you use categories. And why wouldn’t you. Categories make things easier to find.

But even with that, I find there are certain types of posts that get more attention. Maybe it’s the title that grabs someone. I don’t always give a title to the postings on my static pages. Hmmm?

 I know that I’ll click on a title that is catchy or looks interesting. But I’ll also click on just about anything from a blog that I’ve decided to follow. It means I have faith in the author to write something that will either interest me or entertain me or make me think or educate me.

I’ve also thought that I should put a call to action at the end of each of my regular posts encouraging readers to check out my static pages. But sometimes I feel that might be a little too pushy.

When I read post after post with a call to action in it somewhere, I personally start to feel a little pushed around. It’s like that friend who nags and nags and nags at you to do something you don’t necessarily want to do but end up doing just to stop the nagging. It’s a real turn-off for me and so I don’t really want to do that to others. My mom instilled a great and abiding appreciation of the Golden Rule in me.

Possibly when (or maybe that’s if) my blog catches on, things will change. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to provide content that I think readers will want to read and hope that it inspires them to look at what else I have to offer.

And I guess I’d better go update the My Novels static pages. Haven’t done that in a while. There. Wasn’t that a sly way to get in a call to action?

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Beneath Certainty: Some Ramblings about Life in Dianne Land

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Beneath certainty lies a very nastily tangled web of doubt. It seems to me that any rational person could not possibly be certain at all times about all things. And therein, as I see it, lays the problem. For me it is a large one.

Mostly, I go about my life certain that I am doing what I should be doing in the manner that I should be doing it. Even though I realize that everything I do is just my best guess, it still gives me some comfort. Well, actually, quite a bit of comfort. Foolish as that might be. Sometimes very foolish.

Every now and then, though, I am wracked by doubt. I don’t mean simple “ooh-maybe-I-should-have-done-that-differently” kind of doubt. I mean serious doubt about my place in this world, how I relate to others, what I should and should not be doing, what others expect of me, doubt about everything. I don’t much like it.

Certainty is fragile. It’s built upon beliefs and beliefs can be shattered in an instant. It doesn’t require much. A small, seemingly innocent comment from a friend can, upon reflection, become a world ending calamity. Even a silence at a crucial moment can spell disaster. Talking myself out of these doubts can sometimes take only minutes, but often days. Or it may never happen. Those are the “deal breakers;” the times I lose faith with myself … when I lose all belief that I know what I am doing. It’s important for me to feel (at least a little) that I know what I am doing. Otherwise, I might never do anything. In those times, I think I must know how the clinically depressed experience life. It isn’t pleasant. I can’t imagine feeling that way day in and day out.

How does one get past the doubts? I wish I knew. As I said, sometimes I can talk myself through it. Other times, I just have to wait and hope that the doubts will magically disappear of themselves. Now and then something will happen to tell me that my worries were unfounded.

I have not yet truly figured out how to live with doubt. And because of my age, I’m beginning to think that I may never.

I’ve worked hard on the issue of financial security (that can be a big, worrying-at-you kind of doubt) by keeping in mind that “security” is merely a concept and doesn’t have any true bearing on reality. And I’ve had some success with that. But I’ve pretty much ignored working on all the other doubtful things in my life.

I seem to have some of my most difficult moments around what others might expect of me. On the one hand, I hate to let people down. On the other, there is just a whole lot of stuff people would like for me to do that I have no desire to do or am simply incapable of doing. When I choose to stay true to myself, I feel all sorts of doubts about my “goodness.” It’s a mess. Why should doing what makes me most happy make me so unhappy?

The problem in relationships, is that I can’t truly know what someone is thinking or expecting of me. I can only guess. That equals more doubts. And with my tendency to put a negative spin on it, it gets totally out of hand in a heart beat.

Doubt and worry go hand in hand with each other for me. A little more real certainty in my life would be nice. Of one thing I am certain … my husband, Bernd, loves me, has always loved me, and will always love me. That may seem a foolhardy thing to be certain of, but it’s seen me through many tough times. It will have to do.

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The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1973 edition

I’ve written about writer’s block in the past. I might even have said that I don’t really suffer from it. I suppose that might depend on the exact definition you give it.

If you define it as an inability to figure out where to go next with the story you are currently working on, then maybe I do have it. If you define it as an inability to get any kind of words onto the page, then for sure I don’t. This might be a good example of that.

Of course, “any kind of words” doesn’t always make for a good piece of literature.

I think what it all comes down to is inspiration. If you have it, it’s golden. When you don’t, it’s … well it’s any number of things, most of them depressing.

You might think that the trick is to find your inspiration. The truth is that it’s all around you all of the time. The bitter truth is that sometimes you are not in a mental place that will allow you to see it. Or to let it in.

Maybe you are disillusioned with what you have been working on for the last few months. Maybe you have come to think that it’s no good and that no one will ever want to read it. In that case, inspiration could be staring you right in the face and you’ll never notice.

Or maybe you are depressed for some reason. An expected check did not come in the mail. Someone you thought was a good friend doesn’t really understand you. The raise you asked for at work was denied. Being depressed is like having tunnel vision. It’s hard to see anything but the depression.

There is this idea that has been knocking around the collective consciousness for a very long time. It goes like this: all great artists, no matter the medium, are depressed and do their best work in that state. I say that’s poppycock. I’d use a stronger word but I’m not really made that way. At least not as far as my writing goes. My feeling is that when you feel like doo-doo, you produce doo-doo.

So what do you do when you are having trouble finding your inspiration? First off, don’t worry about it. That will just make it worse.

My solution? Do something else. Anything. Doesn’t matter what. But don’t say to yourself, “I can’t think about (fill in the blank), I have to think about something else.” Because then all you’ll do is think about why you aren’t thinking about what you shouldn’t be thinking about. It’s the “why” that’s important in that last sentence. It will pull you right back around into that stuck place you want so desperately to get out of.

I’ll be out walking the dog or doing the dishes, folding clothes or cleaning the bathroom, and suddenly, it will come to me. I’ll know the next move my protagonist has to make and I’ll have a picture of how that will play out many pages down the road. I can see the scene and how the other characters will react.

But what inspired me? Was it the way that Maddie’s ears flopped around as she trotted down the road in front of me? Was it the odd way the clothes to be folded were piled up on the bed so that they looked like a dinosaur? Maybe. Or maybe not.

I think it is this. I cleared my mind. I focused on my current task. I quieted all the negative thoughts by doing something positive. And this allowed the front of my brain to hear what the back of my brain had been yelling at me for the last few hours, days or weeks.

I do truly believe that inspiration is all around us all of the time. We just have to learn to see it. And then how to let it in.

And now I have to go fold the clothes.

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The Reader

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A few days ago while I was on a walk around the neighborhood with Maddie, we stopped in to talk with one of our neighbors. Maddie is always happy to do this because treats are frequently offered.

We got past the usual pleasantries and then he asked me what I had been doing that day. I paused. I thought. I could have said any number of things but I told him that I’d spent the day writing. He asked if I was writing letters. I paused. I thought. Then I said that I was working on another book. I smiled and fastened my gaze on my feet.

Some of my neighbors know that I have published a novel. One of them has even read it. But in general, I’m reluctant to talk about it with the people I know. I find it to be a bit embarrassing on a number of different levels.

He hadn’t missed my use of the word “another.” So I gave him the short version. Then he had to get his wife involved because she loves to read. She has cancer and can’t get around much and reading helps her to shift her concerns elsewhere for a while.

She said something to me that triggered a revelation. She told me it amazed her how a person could write something so well that you can actually see it. Without thinking I said to her that it’s really the reader that does that. I told her it was her imagination that let her “see” what the author had written and that without her imagination, it was just words on a page. I had no idea that is what I thought until the moment I said that.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since then.

When you watch something on the big screen, or the little one, it’s all laid out for you. You see the characters and the setting. The actors arrange their bodies and faces to match the words they are saying and it all leaves little to the imagination. Watching something like that play out is very passive.

But when you read a book, even if the scene is described in minute detail, there is still a lot that is left to you to fill in with your imagination. Reading is very active.

I can tell you that the room is dark and the window is open. I can write that there is little wind to disturb the heavy draperies. I can say that the sound of an unseen owl sitting in a tree outside of the window comes quietly into the room and seems to add a sense of foreboding to what is about to happen. But the exact appearance of the window and draperies is left to your imagination. The type of owl and the sound of its hoot are only something you can know. And if a chill runs down your spine, you did that. Not me.

She told me that she didn’t think she had a good imagination. I told her she was wrong. Anyone who reads and, more importantly, who enjoys reading has a good imagination. I’m not sure she was convinced. But it didn’t matter. I knew I was right.

To be sure, an author than can create a great scene and turn a phrase well is an absolute delight. You might select that author’s work for just that reason. But there are authors who offer up the barest bones of a description but also know how to move a story along so well that you read them for that reason, filling in the missing details without even giving it a second thought. From my own experience, I’ll say that Dean Koontz is a good example of the former and Lee Child is a good example of the latter.

As a writer, I worry from time to time that I have not sufficiently described a certain scene. I worry that the reader won’t get it. But perhaps that is not as critical as I once thought it might be. Maybe all a writer ever does is set the stage. We provide the matrix upon which the reader’s imagination adds the embellishments that bring it alive and therefore makes the experience more personal and relevant.

It’s a symbiosis of sorts. Readers need writers. Writers need readers. But writers also need to have faith in the reader. It’s truly the reader who makes a writer’s words come alive.