A home for my words

“I could sit in the middle of Sunset Boulevard and write with my typewriter on my knees.” Louis L’Amour once said. “Temperamental I am not.”

I grew up seeing those words as the terrifying mark of a great storyteller: someone so engrossed in the flow of the art that their surroundings became something lesser. And this transcendent state too often eluded me.

Later, advice from Stephen King, Jim Butcher and other greats provided a different way to parse L’Amour’s words: as a challenge. A quiet prompt to let go of all preciousness and pretension. To write, because you write, irrespective of where you are or how you’re feeling.

This distinction matters, because otherwise environment too easily becomes justification for procrastination and defeatism.

Those writers are simply better, that’s why they can write anywhere/are so prolific/are so inspiring, yet eternally beyond my reach. When my internal monologue offers such helpful input, I now edit it. Because they choose to write anywhere, those writers are prolific and have grown great, and if I let their example inspire me, my writing might grow in kind.

My favourite place to write, then, is beside my sleeping wife at 2amsuffocating under the sheets to shield her from the light — tapping a sudden turn of phrase into my phone before it’s snatched away by slumber.

It’s sitting on the beach where I first encountered heartbreak, scribbling in a notebook and letting those long-ago stirrings play with the pen.

It’s at my desk, internet blocked, and a list of chapter outlines on the screen.

Desk, dark, couch, mountain, café: there are places that colour my writing, and places that facilitate the craft, but any environment can provide both context and constraint, which is the space in which writing feels truly at home.

This article was first published in The Writing Cooperative on Medium.com, and won the 2016 Autumn Writing Challenge.

Rest in peace, Terry Pratchett

I remember swiping The Colour of Magic from my father’s library pile, at age 8 or 9. That was my first encounter with Sir Terry’s words, followed by the Witches books, Moving Pictures and Eric. Even my mother (never a fantasy reader) streamed with tears of laughter as we read choice passages to her. I was hooked long before I reached the City Watch and Death novels, where Vimes, Susan and Death himself became immediate favourites. Pratchett’s work only improved with time, despite his health struggles, leading to my personal favourite, Thud, and the well-loved Moist von Lipwig series.

While I never had the chance to meet the man himself, Pratchett’s characters, his satirical eye and his prolific and consistent output have been inspirational. More importantly, his work was always, and primarily, entertaining. And that work will live on. It doesn’t dull the edge of loss, but it matters. Rest in peace, Sir Terry Pratchett.

The last post

Vimes could feel the cobblestones beneath his boots. And then he couldn’t. He opened his eyes. The street was indeed gone, as were the various targets of his protection and ire. A swirling fog filled his vision instead. The dwarves must have pierced a steam line again, although that didn’t explain the cobbles. Maybe… A figure strode through the mist, its joints clicking loudly.
“Oh,” he said. “Bugger.”
“AN APPROPRIATE TURN OF PHRASE,” said Death. “MAY I RECOMMEND ANOTHER?”
Vimes was rarely at a loss for words, but he hadn’t been expecting this. He had been expecting death, that is, for most of his life, but it had always been a little less personal. Or personable. He nodded.
“IT’S NOT MY TIME. PLEASE DON’T HURT ME. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.”
“Child.” Vimes corrected. “I only have the one.”
“AH. THINK OF THE CHILD.”
Vimes did. It was probably best that little Sam learned about death early on. Lady Sybil would have disagreed, he was certain, but this was one argument she wouldn’t win. He smiled at the thought.
“AHEM.” Said Death, after a minute. “WOULD YOU LIKE SOME MORE SUGGESTIONS?”
“No thank you, I think I’m ready.” Vimes replied.
“OH, IN SOME KIND OF HURRY, ARE WE?”
“Are you.” Vimes corrected again. A sloppy Death, after all. And he’d had such high hopes. He sighed.
“I’M SORRY?”
“Don’t be sorry, let’s just get on with it.”
Death blinked. There had been others, pushy individuals with little to lose, mostly. But this was a human with it all. A job. A house. A family. He even had a pair of boots.
“YOU WOULDN’T LIKE TO STAY?”
“I hadn’t realised that was on the table.” Vimes said.
“IT ISN’T.”
Vimes waited in silence.
“ANY LAST WORDS?”
“Oh, for…” Vimes stopped talking, because it’s hard to talk while grappling with an over-active skeleton for an over-sized scythe. He had intended to go peacefully, but intent doesn’t matter when a maniac swings an obsolete farming implement at a copper.
There was an OOMPH. And a THUD. Followed by a very subdued rattle as dozens of bones fell to the nonexistent ground and faded away.
“BUGGER.” Vimes said again.

The witnesses speak

There is an art to choosing a phone,
or any gadget, really.
It starts with the marketing, of course –
there’s something out there for you,
something new and remarkable –
you can check the specifications,
can read the reviews,
but the moment of desire really starts
when you first catch sight of it,
and soon becomes a need, driving you
to make it your own.

Marriage is a little less creepy than that.

Marriage is not an art. It doesn’t have a regular upgrade cycle, or come in the shiniest packaging.

But it starts with the same moment of need and desire, the same irresistible impulse.

It won’t fix what is broken. It isn’t about a sudden change, or revelation.

But it is about the essence of love and generosity of spirit, a commitment to share your life with another, and it matters, to you and to us.

You get married today, but we
we watch,
we witness,
and we share in your vow.

We may not always be there in times of sickness – especially if it’s contagious.
Our paths may diverge, may take us from you for weeks or years at a time.
But we stand with you today, and in doing so
we offer our love, our support and our every intention
to help you both as you continue the path you walk.
To encourage and support and listen in the hard times
to laugh and share in the good times,
and we stand witnesses, this day and into the future, to the love you share,
and the meaning it brings to our own and to your lives.