Tripio The Novel

How I found my mind, brewed some coffee, and learned to write novels.

 

                                                                                WE SUFFER MORE IN THE IMAGINATION THAN WE DO IN REALITY

                                                                                                                                                  -Seneca

Sure, but he didn’t live in my neighborhood. Actually my neighborhood rocks. It is a throwback to before the time when houses were built around garages that swallow up neighbors. Neighbors that I have experienced take your kids to school in a pinch, loan you a lawn mower, sit on your front porch and shoot the breeze, give you tomatoes, walk with you and overall look after each other from a close distance. Before I go on with the meat of this post, I believe the end of civility began when the homes stopped having front porches. We now know our neighbors cars, not our human neighbors. Mull that over your local Starbucks on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I was suffering in the middle of the night

 

 It was with trepidation and a little fear that I headed off my porch, coffee in hand, back to my grass alley where I made a left  (the opposite direction of the all of my known neighbors) in an effort to discover the source of the noise that kept me awake on and off all last night….

I work the night shift

         I work the night shift

     It was around three last night, when one should be asleep, that I was woken by an odd humming noise. I had gleefully anticipated this particular night of slumber for days. It was predicted that the temps would be cool enough to open the windows. They had. I sleep much better with the windows open, as the choir of bug sounds and soft evening breeze soothe me into slumber. On top of that, I had taken a short evening walk. In addition I practiced  my “restore, release and relax” yoga asanas on the front porch about an hour before bedtime. It was Friday and even though I would not be sleeping in, I knew that I would sleep deeply. That created anticipation of a pot of Crimson Cup’s Sumatra Mandheling to accompany a morning of writing which would produce not just content, but, surely, genius.

    Then comes the odd humming noise coming my windows. It had to be originating from one of he two rentals on that end of my solid, working class, tree lined street. It is not uncommon in big cities in the U.S. to have stable neighborhoods populated by a couple houses that are occupied as nearly as quickly as they are vacated. Life in the big city. If the noise had originated from any of the half dozen known neighbors who I have in my phone and even trade house keys with, I could have texted the problem away.

I begin to suffer in my imagination

 

No such luck. As I lay awake, fully awake now, and listening, I knew that it had to be a motor of some kind. OK. Not a car motor but a generator or compressor of some kind. It was not as loud as said car motor, so I figured I could fall back to sleep to it’s compressing or generating. Right. It will have to stop generating or compressing soon. I redirected my thoughts for a time to a metaphysical exercise of visualizing a candle flame- a lot less taxing than counting sheep. I next tried some yoga breathing, letting the mattress of my bed rise up to meet my limbs and torso. That did not work. The compressing did not stop compressing. The generator did stop generating. I could not reclaim my sleep. A thought locomotive made a stop in my head:

I kick the suffering into high gear

   “What if it is like this Sunday night before work? Or even tomorrow night. I have yoga tomorrow. I’ll be tired and that will be a mess. What if I stop doing yoga. My writing will go down the drain. I’ll be tired at work all the time. My job, home and all that I worked for are in jeopardy. I can creep under the cover of darkness to the power source of the generator and unplug it, damned the consequences. A bit of a stretch. I’ll call the police. But it’s not a 911 type call. Can’t someone else hear it and do something? Why me? If I can’t sleep then tomorrow will be waste. My productive Saturday gone. Whole weekend will be shot to hell. And my life disrupted forever…

     Or, I could take my very real fears into the next room, empty for now, where the windows were open but facing away from the compressing generator, and fall back asleep. Which I did. Luckily for you, however, this is not the end of the story.

I make a decision

     We resume the next morning with me holding my cup of coffee, the aforementioned Sumatra, and headed towards where I suspected the noise to originate. Still in my slippers and sleepwear, I walked out of my back yard and headed toward the unknown: the end of the grass alley, the other side of the tracks as far as my immediate neighborhood was concerned. It was a generator. I saw the extension cord leading from a small mobile home through a fence surrounding a beat up house at the end the grass alley. The yard and that section of the grass alley had the look of a parking lot of a Walmart that had just exploded. There was crap everywhere: a wooden pallet, plastic chairs, soggy cardboard boxes, several lawn mowers and shapes of things wood and plastic that were once recognizable, useful.

 Writing this now, I am struck that I had so little fear of walking into an unknown, potentially confrontational or volatile situation with a stranger. I noticed movement over the fence. There someone moving around in the yard behind the beat up wood slat fence. I could only see him from the forehead up to his curly reddish hair. This forehead topped with reddish hair held my life in it’s hands. I looked again at the extension cord that powered the generator, which led from the small trailer to the yard in which he was working. I stepped closer, holding my coffee cup, inhaled, and began. “Excuse me, I...” 

I suffer no longer

  In a few moments it was all over. Not a shouting match, not the call to the police, just a quick conversation. From the forehead with the curly reddish hair  on down, the man was quite reasonable. He summarized his situation by the following “Been evicted, have to be out of here by Wednesday.

As for he moral of the story? Don’t believe the worst you think of your writing, painting, scrap booking, deviled-eggs or your life as a whole. None of the the worst case situations that I convinced myself were very real outcomes, are now going to come to pass. In this blog, I blather on about the power and wonder of the mind. We are our thoughts. But with observation and some slightly courageous action, we can tell some of those thoughts to take a hike. Or in my case, a short walk in your jammies. Ultimately, one must walk down the grass alley to the source of our fears. Then we need to call them out. You’ll sleep a whole lot better.

Re-Post disclaimer

By the way, this is a repost. It is relevant to me because I have to practice what I preach. I am taking a class at the Indiana Writer’s Center on “Revising your work”. It is required that you submit and then discuss live on Zoom a 1,000 work expert from one of your works. Let the suffering begin….or not.

 

I will not suffer beforehand.

 

10 questions to verify your morningness chronotype

Image result for the lark

Morningness-eveningness or chronotype is an individual difference trait1. This trait refers to the sleep-wake behavior (preferred bed times and wake times), as well as to times preferred for peak cognitive and physical performance and to psychological aspects, such as affect (e.g., the feeling after awakening). Some people are early risers that get up early, but go to bed early in contrast to people that get up late and go to bed late. Morning types (sometimes colloquially labelled as ‘larks’) usually feel refreshed soon after awakening and have their peak cognitive performance in the morning.

Like me, you might posses a monringness chronotype

 

  • If you wake up, roll over, see that the clock reads 5:58 and feel good because you’ve slept it. On a Sunday.
  • You enjoy the view from your front porch-before the sun is up.
  • Your know the meaning of antelucan because it describes your favorite time of day.
  • When you’ve been up and writing for an hour or so before heading to work, and your start time is 6 a.m.
  • When your son texts you asking you to get him to the airport at 5:45 on a Saturday morning. And you text back ‘That fits into my schedule”
  • You’ve been up long enough on weekends to want a nap before Sunday Brunch.
  • You can verify whether it is actually darkest just before dawn.
  • It’s your job to wake up the “pre-dawn” hours.
  • You are up weeing before the wee small hours do.
  • You can observe and marvel at just how calm and beautiful this world really is.

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Is Jeff Foxworthy a lark or an owl?

. ‘He reminded us that the ambitions for Starbucks were focused on large and global company growth.”

 

– from Barista to Boardroom recounting Howard Schultz announcing Starbuck’s IPO

 

 

 

I look down the now quiet tree lined street and wonder why it wasn’t enough? Why wasn’t a record breaking weekend at store #204 enough?’

 

– from my historical fiction novel, Tripio

When is enough enough?

Because, Jay, it is the easy way out.  I am working on this blog in the living room of my house. It is over 100 years old and on this November morning the house is already inviting fall inside with a little too much enthusiasm for my taste. And it is not event that cold yet. I can turn up the heat but that costs money. On balance this old place has survived over a century in good shape. I have hot and cold running water in two bathrooms. Plus all the electric appliances still work and continue to make my life easy. I don’t do laundry, my washer and dryer do. Nor do I make my coffee, my coffee makers do. Don’t boil water for my paste noodles, my stovetop burners from my oven do. Hey, I got it made.

Then why the hell to I refer to this place as a “hell hole?” I mean I make it a point to offer what I call “brick and mortar” gratitudes for my house, car and employment. Maybe I need to do this more often. Or maybe I can move to a newer place. Perhaps I should move somewhere warmer. Maybe have replace these seasonally receptive windows replaced. But that ain’t cheap.

Or maybe I can put on a sweater and be happy with what I have.

The quotes above

The quotes above are from two different books which partly address the early days of Starbucks. The top one is from Christine McHugh’s memoir and the bottom one from my historical fiction work. I am just getting started with reading Barista to Boardroom. I am not going to post something as useless as a “review” of the book when I’m done. That ain’t my style. In fact, I spent a bit of time just now searching for a post I thought I had drafted in which I compared reading a book to a rain drop hitting a leaf.

Two completely different forms of energy, the reader’s mind at that moment and the book at that moment, meeting for that period of time. That’s what reading a book can be. Now you see why I am not going to bother with a review as such. What are the chances of your rain drop hitting that leaf during the same storm over the same forest as the same time as mine?  You don’t’ need to answer. In fact, you  are probably breathing a sigh of relief that I didn’t find that post after all.

Back to the post

And that also goes to the conundrum found in the title of this post. When is enough enough? In Tripio, Jay felt that if he could have enough Starbucks stock money, he would move to Costa Rica, write and be happy.  The brass at Starbucks wanted global growth. When I say I said it was the easy way out to start this post I think I meant that “global growth” is way more easily definable. Isn’t it always easier to tell someone where you are going, planning to go or hope to be at one point?

It is easier to look over to the stranger next to you at the wedding reception nd say “I am going to downsize to a smaller, newer house in a warmer climate.” Than, “I am grateful for what I have?” The first response engagers a nice conversation, the second will lead to person next to excusing themselves and head for the complimentary bar.

Which is easier to aspire to be -Billionaire Howard Schultz or Jay Altonstreet acclimating to his draughty house?

Recognizing enough is the hard part

The recognitions is the hard part baked into the answer. For my money, if I had it, I think to this day the Howard Schulz believed that success is better when shared by everyone. By extension, I think the sharing  of that windfalls of that growth was enough for him. (I know its easy to demonize Howard but I was in the same room with him on multiple occasions, shook hands with him, spoke with him and that’s he vibe I got.)

As for Jay from Tripio, he is little harder to define to recognize with one word. If you are playing along at home, don’t try “billionaire” or even ‘millionaire”. Don’t get me wrong, I am still the Jay wondering why enough isn’t’ always enough. Especially when it is reinforcing constantly  that I don’t have enough of it, need more of it and must have the latest version of whatever it is.

Yet, this morning I sit in my house with no “for sale sign” out front and I recognize this house as good as it’s going to get for me. This living space is enough for me. I also recognize that I have a world of blessings out there, some of who grew up this drafty hell hole. So I believe if Howard and I were reunited in my living room right now having coffee and he asked, “Jay, do want me to turn up the heat?” that Jay would reply, “No, Howard, I’ll just put on a sweater.

 

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This apron is pretty warm.

“It is odd to realize how little we know ourselves.” -Oscar Wilde

“What is sometimes simply needed is just a gap of pure time, an insulating period, between the making of your art and the time your share it with others.” – Art & Fear -Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Art Making

 

 

Image result for paralles parked cars on the street

A true work of art

I will put these two quotes together with my usual brevity, clarity and skill in just a few lines. First though I want to clarify something. I do not consider myself an artist or call my writing art. At least not in a conventional tortured artist sense. We are all artists at something We all do things with ease that others can’t. Consider parallel parking for a moment. Many people hate it. However, I am gifted at parallel parking.

I remember one time when I was living in Chicago. I did not own a car but had to parallel park the rental car of a visitor in a space on my always packed street. I grabbed the keys, took the wheel without much thought and put the car in the unforgivingly small space on the first try.  Then, I jumped out of the car quickly because the look on my visitor’s face was one of amazement. At first  I thought I had hit something. But no. I had parked the vehicle without backing once, leaving about  a foot or so of space on either side bumper. That parallel parking job was a work of art.

“Such respites allow the finished work time to find the rightful place in the artist’s (there’s that word again) heart and mind – in short, a chance to be better understood by the maker” –from Art & Fear

How well do you know yourself?

I am working though my fourth  work of long fiction. It is called Altonstreet & Philpatrick, a novel set entirely in a pre-Starbucks era coffee house. I am using a series of short stories I wrote over the years as flashbacks which allow the entire novel to be set at a coffee house. Hey, I was coffee before it was a thing so why not leverage that? Anyway, I am going to make it as fun and funny as possible. I say that because I am having a good time writing it and making it funny. Plus, I love comedy and humor. Why not leverage that?

I am getting to know myself through my art- writing, that is

The other fun part of working on Altonstreet and Philpatrick is that is I am getting to know myself better, in much the same way I did as I reworked Ironjaws, Back outta the World  and even Tripio. Thank the creator for that “insulating period” mentioned above. In looking at myself from a distance as I move through the work, I can smile at my foibles and faults as embodied by the Altonstreet character.

To be fair, I wasn’t that bad. The Altonstreet & Philpatrick stories themselves are all set in and around my collegiate years. I lived in rental double and commuted to the university. As such, it was a challenge to make new friends, especially female friends. The university in question was big enough but since it was a commuter school there was not much campus life, not many chances to meet and mingle.  But, I uncovered another valid, more personal reason for my introversion in an excerpt written around those very years that I just came across during the revising process.

Altontreet remembered an incident early last fall when he was navigating the masses in halls on his way to class. He had met eyes of a beauty who was doing the same. She wore a red sweater upon which fell a bouquet of thick black hair. For just that moment their eyes held each other’s. The rest of the students at Commuter U vanished. The next moment Altonstreet’s steps took him into the wall just next to his classroom door. He had literally walked into a wall.  Goodbye raven-haired beauty, confidence, and social life.

 

Getting to know myself a little better

There are a million directions I could take that expert. But I want to keep it focused on getting to know oneself. In my own case that excerpt gave me a chance to consider myself from a safe distance. The next line of that expert is-

Hello Philpatrick and the Trier.

In context of the novel, it helps clarify why the two aspiring but clueless wanna be writers end up spending so much time together at the coffee house (The Tasty Trier). But in real life it made me wonder if the humiliation of walking into a wall in full view a beautiful woman sent me into coffee house seclusion, into loving coffee and into an fairly introverted pastime of writing. A bit of a stretch perhaps. Maybe not. One could easily lose their way in self reflection, or even walk into the occasional emotional and spiritual wall. But as Socrates once said, “an unexamined life is not worth living.”

Be your own best friend

That may be a little harsh. Maybe he needed a little insulating period himself. In my case, the insulating period presented in my fiction allows me to look at myself less critically and seriously. I can reach back to Altonstreet and tell him “It’s OK that you embarrassed yourself in front of the beautiful young women, dumbass”. As for the work, piece, project (I’m determined to not use the word art here as I refer to my fiction), I think the insulating period gives me a chance to do something similar. I can enhance the story of A and P without the pressure and stress of the moment, which is so influential these days.

Back to “that word” to close and unify this post. I do think that there are folks who are gifted in music, painting, sculpture, and poetry in ways that others have chosen not to be. Of course these folks could be cutting lawns, balancing the company books or making bread instead. The point is that whatever we do do, no matter what we do, the most beautiful, difficult and meaningful work is to create a better you in a self-loving and ego-free way. Now that is art.

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May I help who’s next?

 I found it. As I have been writing these posts it has become important to confirm facts and dates. If the writing of Tripio, as recounted in this blog, is going to help even one person find their own voice and thus create their own unique work, then I have to check the facts. In this case, they are found in my journals, or what I call Sketchbooks of the Mind (SotM). Those contain the dates, times and places I need. For close to thirty years I have kept a SotM to track where my thought-producing mind is. I like to refer to journals as both the landing spot and launching pad of my mind and thoughts. A place where journaling and the mind meet.

Nothing is external

I know that the above statement is true today. However, for the first 25 years of journaling, for keeping my SotMs, I did not fully realize I was tracking my mind. Yes, I was noting where I was, what I doing and noting things I wanted to remember. I saw the world as external. Today, I am quite happy to be able to pinpoint the birth of Tripio as a seed planted in my mind garden. But the date is only relevant as it tracks where my thoughts were at that time. My thoughts give the date meaning and not the other way around.

    My thoughts in the days before Tripio was born were occupied on a variety of things, which is the norm for most all of us. I was reading the books of James Allen. An entry from a few earlier notes that a 22 minute mediation was “just about the quickest 22 minutes to ever pass”. I was religiously practicing the Five Tibetan Yoga rites.

 

The job was taking it’s toll on me. I was keeping busy with my two older kids still at the house. My writing consisted of a short story called My Dinner with Padre and an attempt to re-work another short story called Altonstreet and Philpatrick and the Mystical Antagonist. I had also been searching old letters and typed notes from the years I lived in Chicago. I had just put those in a folder which I labeled Chicago Days. This was all noted in the SotM and all taking place in and around the grocery store, paying bills, watching sports on TV, placing calls to relatives and making visits to the gym and my therapist.

 

No such thing as one size fits all

    Why recount all this? I hope I am making clear that there is no “one size fits all” approach to writing and creating. There is no “one size fits all” approach that works for anything in life, really. Tripio was born on an early spring Monday in 2017 among events, people and places that will never be sequenced, made relevant, or affect me the same way ever again. Consequently, there is no prescription for starting a novel here except perhaps to begin your practice of paying attention to your own thoughts which are growing out of your own wonderful, unique, bountiful and beautiful mind.

 

    Maybe that was a prescription. It is now. It has become a “red apron recipe” since the last paragraph. Be that as it may, as spring of 2017 arrived, I was just becoming comfortable with the practice of paying attention to the internal world of my mind. I understood I was journaling my mind, not external events and places. And, believe me, I am not claiming to be an expert on anything. I just know that just as I was discovering how to track and cultivate my thoughts from an observed mind, Tripio was born. These more closely observed and carefully cultivated thoughts were noted in the SotMs of course. One of which records the original seed of Tripio:

   “Odd, but I’m trying to hit on what to write next. And maybe I have. The early days of the Cosmodemonic Coffee Company are stirring in me. It’s there and ready on my desk. Chicago Days”

 

May I help who’s next?

 

 

A recipe for writing?

I have two chive plants in my herb garden. I have a sage, oregano and thyme which all have returned this spring. And, for you climate changes doubters out there, my rosemary plant came back this spring. I have had a rosemary plant every summer for ten years and each winter it has died. This year, I checked it and saw new growth. It has survived the mild winter in the Midwest for the first time ever.

 

 

It has occurred to me that my advocacy of the use of “using your mind garden to produce your own unique story” may ultimately come down to money. What doesn’t? I find it works not to outsource your creativity, process, inspiration, validation in order to to write, in order to find your way as a writer. I primarily use my own mind, which is free and always open. It works for me. It may or may not work for you. Although, It may work for me because I have had not a choice but to make it work.

It is?

Over the course of my writing, starting just out of college in the mid 80’s until now, I have not been able to spend a ton on money on it. I could have, but my kids needed to eat. So, I think out of pure necessity I had to devise my own belief system, which aligned to life as a whole. I did not have the time or money to take seminars, workshops or fly overseas to retreats. I ain’t pissed. If fact, the years that I am referring to when I was raising a family produced a human being who has something worthwhile to share. I did occasionally get back to writing short stories and always kept a journal, but was nowhere close to being able to plan a couple hours a day “writing”.

The green stuff is always a part of it

How do my chives figure into all that? Well, they are green, like US dollars. The lack of which left me recently without the ability to hire an editor, which had temporarily halted my 5 novels in 5 years plan. A plan that I hope ultimately produces some more green stuff, and I don’t mean chives. For the first time since my wondering post college years, I had time to write. Unfortunately, I felt stuck due to lack of funds and direction. Then it occurred to me to practice what I preach. I had written a series of short stories called Altonstreet and Philpatrick. Like the herbs in my garden, I could use them for free. So I headed to my garden and got to work.

 

 

                                                                                                                                   Once used by Altonstreet

Here is where I brilliantly tie it all together.

I wanted to make pesto earlier this week, partly to feed 2 of those adult children I mentioned. I could not afford to pay to go to a weekend writing seminar i.e. buy pine nuts. To make matter worse, I had no way to get to Italy and be inspired at the grave of a dead Italian poet, i.e. my basil wasn’t ready. So, I found a recipe for pesto using chives and toasted walnuts i.e. I began a short story using my old characters, Altonstreet and Philpatrick. The chives were already in my garden and the walnuts were way, way cheaper than pine nuts. I used what was at hand, what my mind garden had ready and waiting.

The pesto with chives and walnuts was quite good. The short story is titled “Altonstreet & Philpatrick receive a letter” and made me laugh out loud a couple time, which is good because that was my intent with the story. So, I took my own advice, fed my mind, body and spirit on the cheap. And this years’ garden is just getting started!

 

 

That was brilliant, wasn’t it?

 

 

I’m now finished with “Back outta the World” and feel good about it. I don’t really mean I feel great about the stuff on the pages but rather how it got there. Plus, I had the thought towards the end that I really learned how to write – why then and there?- About 90 pages in? It was more than a decision to move away from the passive voice of Jay. Maybe I hit my 10,000 hours? Who knows? Just noted it for the record”

Journal entry from Sunday March 29, 2020 5:59 a.m.

 

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No cap and gown

So there you have it. No diploma, certificate, accreditation, grade or outside validation in any way shape or form. In fact as I searched the couple journals I thought this entry originated from, I told myself it would sound more meaningful when I did find it and read it. The entry is fairly mundane. ‘Just the facts, mam” .

There is no entry from the previous days or weeks that hinted or foreshadowed the above entry. I read it again just now and doubt if you all will be convinced all that much that I believe every syllable, that I believe that the writing I have been doing since that entry on “Back outta the World”- BotW- has been something that I see as writing filled with opportunities to make the novel more interesting, engaging, intriguing and entertaining for the readers. And, just as important to me, that the writing is staying as true to my unique self as my dental records would be in case of a grisly accident involving, perhaps, a flaming sword.

As it turned out, the key words in the entry are not even words. Words are the thing in writing. Numbers are the thing in math. Yet, on the momentous occasion of my realization that I feel like I learned how to write, specifically novels, it is the numbers that tell the story. Oh well, too late for a career change.

10,000 hours later

The 10,000 reference is from Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” theory. It can get complicated but means to me simply, one must put in the time.

The second number and the more personal and equally significant to me, is the year 2020. I wrote the first draft, or version, of BotW during the early 90’s while living in Chicago and working at an early Starbucks. This is one of the story lines that make up my first published novel, Tripio. More math will let one come to the conclusion that BotW was started before Tripio and will be published after. So, am I saying that I published Tripio AFTER learning how to write? Well, yes, in a way. But only because I had to. “Those are the facts, mam,”

A writing formula Time + Intention + novels

Sorry if this is starting to sound like a word problem in math. Yet, I wrote and published Tripio because of BotW. There could be not be one without the other -as books- in the journey of my life. I had to write Tripio to get to my 10,000 hours, to put in the time, to get back to Back outta the World, started over 20 years earlier. Make no mistake, Tripio is certainly worth buying and reading- it is about as honest a book a one will find out there- but I was still learning to write while writing it.

Again, where is the proof, the diploma, the certificate that proves that? There aint’ one. But after putting in the time, I know it to be true, I know the truth about BotW. Which to me make both books, and any future ones, worth writing and reading. Put in the intentional time (my phrase, not Malcolm’s) and when the time comes, you and only you will know when your own books will tell the truth back to you.

10,000 hours and counting

More facts, mam. This is a repost from early 2020. I am currently working to transform a series of short stories entitled Altonstreet and Philpatrick into a novel. In these stories I see more opportunity for improvement.  Since this original post I have added a thousand hours or so to the 10,000 noted earlier. That must mean A & P is going to be better than both Tripio and Botw. I am not sure. It’s going to be up to you to do the math when you read them.

 

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                         “Time + intention = novel

 

 

 

 

 

“What else was in it for me? Just to say I had done it? To look back in 20 years and then understand why I did it? That made as much sense as anything to me standing in the kitchen of a stranger’s house in Louisville.”                                                 

 – The excerpt above is Jay talking to himself in “Back outta the World.”

Three reasons why I write

  #1 I am having a great time looking back at me. Through the revising process, I am getting a clearer understanding of who I was, and who I am now. And perhaps most importantly, who I want to become. I do believe the newer, current me is writing a better Back outta the World than the one I wrote two decades ago. To put it simply, I see so many opportunities to improve. I see them just sitting there in the older version saying ‘change me, enliven me, describe me”. For example, it now drives me crazy that I wrote so much in the passive voice back then. This can be quite a humbling process, which in turn creates a nice vantage point to realize that we as people are never a finished product. And never will be. That wouldn’t be any fun now would it?

It is fun

  #2  It is fun!  My writing process is not a gut wrenching process. I do not spend hours searching for the perfect word. If I still used paper to write, I wouldn’t fill a waste basket with rolled up pages of crumpled pages of paper. I am not saying it easy. Therefore, I think it would be more accurate to say that, at least for me, one cannot be taught to write, but you can learn how to write.

I go at writing by first clearing, cleansing and energizing my mind. I begin to understand and notice my subconscious mind in order to trust it to supply me with what I need when I do sit down to write. It usually works. In this way, my time actually at the keyboard is productive. I am usually “in the zone”, having done most of my writing during yoga, mediation, on the cross-trainer, blogging or even while driving, cutting the grass or journaling.

My motivation

#3  I do for it me, me, me! I most likely will never sell enough books to be recognized by Amazon or whoever. Whatever. I not doing this for that type of validation as such.  The validation I seek cannot be measured by any instrument created by humankind. Sounds a bit pretentious, eh? Well, it ain’t. I have come believe that writing my fictions and blog helps me see myself. These writings are a mirror to look closely at who I am. You are reading words, I see a reflection. Totally selfish. I can look at myself all day and not be bored. You may be bored already. If so, there is always Twitter.

To clarify, I am writing to this mirror in order to produce a better reflection for me to look at. Yes, and I when leave the house and head into the world to share me, it will with the intention that I have a little bit better version to give to you all. I do this with the belief that most of the good in this world in done via small, nearly invisible acts of kindness or grace, performed on a daily basis. So, there you go.

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“Why do you       write?”, he felt compelled to ask

 

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Funk off

A funny thing happened to me yesterday on the way to do my grocery shopping. This was after I went back inside to find my cloth face mask. As I drove off with my mask in the car I began singing aloud to an old Funk Compilation CD that I have been listening to recently. Take a moment now to say a gratitude that this is not a podcast.

 But seriously folks… Just before I left for the store I had checked my Amazon sales graph for Tripio. The arrow pointed downwards with a vengeance. Hmmm. Was this confirmation that Tripio sucks? Sure, if I let it be. Maybe it was also confirmation that I should keep up my writing. You are curious why I should keep it up exactly when the arrow points down? The very arrow that bestows approval and validation on Tripio and  by extension me, is telling me to quit? I would answer that I was telling external validation to funk off.

Who says?

 I was filled with song because my reaction to the arrow was confirmation of what I always claim; that I ain’t in this writing for money, fame and rankings. So, funk off, external validation. I’m not doing this for you.  To clarify, sleeping in for me that means getting up at 6:30 a.m. That night’s rest had a  significant part in boosting my spirits. I had nothing urgent to pull me out of bed to the keyboard.

When I was in the process of revising Back outta the World for the last time I would be pulled out of bed by the need to get it finished. Sometimes that meant my eyes would open as early as 4 a.m. My physical body was pissed, but got over it soon after I had my morning doppio. (never fear-I have an espresso machine at home). My emotional, spiritual and mental bodies were in charge then. Now with Back outta the World done, I decided to  give myself a break. After some contemplation, I decided to halt the search for an editor and take a break from longer form writing.  Well, I am still blogging and working on a short story or two. My four bodies had come to an agreement and I was able to sleep in.

 

Back outta the World

Funk me

    So here I was, singing along to “You dropped a bomb on me on the way to the store yesterday morning. My sense of self, my intention for all this writing had been confirmed. I have said all along that writing is merely one of the results of a well-tended Mind Garden. Of course, maintaining that garden is the hard part in all of this. The writing itself isn’t. My horrid singing validated my process and that intention. The mind garden was fertilized, watered and ready for the coming day. I am as good as my word. Which is pretty important if you are a writer.

If you are lucky to have read this post you may be thinking that you have read it before. It is indeed a repost. I have improved it here and there. Recently, my own mind garden was trampled. It has been beautifully restored and I am up early these days working on another writing project. The working title is “Altonstreet & Philpatrick”. The adventures of this pair of aspiring yet clueless writers is getting me up early these days. I am glad that it is.

 

                                                                                                                                             “May I help who’s next?”

  When my sons were much younger they loved dinosaurs. And so they loved animated series of movies starring a group of singing dinosaurs called The Land before Time. I watched those movies with my sons those twenty plus years ago on prehistoric format known as VHS. I had just left a career at a burning fuse of a coffee company called Starbucks. Why? Well, my historical fiction novel, Tripio was written partly to explore that. For today’s post I am focusing on that very time when most of the country was watching VHS, driving with both hands on the wheel and drinking coffee from gas stations – a country I now call The Land before Starbucks”.  

I can’t find a Starbucks

The land before Starbucks

In Tripio, Jay’s prehistoric coffee landscape does share much with the one in which the modern barista roams. Tripio is three plots and narratives alongside and intertwined with each other. The Starbucks growth narrative is told from a barista’s perspective. Jay starts out as a barista. And even when promoted up the chain to store manager, Jay remains a barista at heart. After being promoted Jay still takes pride in his performance on the espresso bar at his current store. He realizes that he must display mastery of the espresso bar for the customers and store functionality.

This was the time, I call it the land before Starbucks, when Jay (me) cared about how you drank your coffee. Yet, it was not even the first time, nor the last time I cared about how you drink your drip coffee, latte or mocha. I cared about how you took your coffee when I worked at The Oregon Street Coffee House, Boston Stoker, Brazilia Coffee, Starbucks, Barnes and Noble Cafe, Aramark Refreshment Services, Filterfresh Coffee, Hubbard and Cravens Coffee, Julian Coffee Roasters and Harvest Coffee Roasters.

 

In any case, all my coffee extensive and varied coffee experience came before I came to know blogging. In that way consider myself a dinosaur. Yet I also consider myself a heritage barista. A spiritual great uncle to thousands of baristas come and gone since the start of the first Bush presidency. And much like the singing dinosaurs, I once knew, I did go extinct. Unlike them, however, it was partially it was by choice.

A confession

I can very honestly say, I do not care how you take your coffee. You see, I’ve been there and done that for real. I once had to care about how you took your coffee because it earned me the money I had to make in order to keep food on the table, to feed my dino-loving sons. I HAD to know, memorize and prepare your coffee drinks to keep my income coming and my life going. Then, I truly cared about how you took your coffee.

 

The flip side is that I don’t care about how you take your coffee now. So, I am not to use coffee as click bait. This means that I care about you as readers and followers of this blog too much all to tell you I do care. I won’t pretend I want to know, now, just to get a couple cheap clicks. That honesty and work ethic kept me working in coffee for all those companies for about 25 years total. I will apply those traits to my career in blogging, no matter the duration.

Stepping off my high eohippus, I admit that I actually enjoy responding to click bait once in a while. Just don’t expect it from me here. I am reasonably sure that dinosaurs didn’t sing. And this coffee dinosaur doesn’t have to pretend like he can.

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