Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing the great American dream

Ask almost any writer, "How is the novel coming along?" Chances are the conversation will be off and running. Most writers "have a novel. Extremely rare, though, is the author who has actually had one published. Slightly less rare are those who have really finished such manuscripts. And then there are we plodders – some with practically finished stories and others who have yet to touch pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) but with a head full of ideas and a heart filled with good intentions.

Yes, every writer knows that one day he or she will find the time. When the kids are all in school. Or when the kids are all out of school, married and moved away. Or after retirement. Just wait and see. Most of us have a lot of great ideas - and have been taking notes. And have started working on an outline. Maybe next year we will enroll in a typing class - or a computer class.

My own magnum opus is about 80 percent complete, lying in a box, where it has remained, untouched, for almost 10 years. Who knows? Maybe when I've tamed and mastered this wild and headstrong computer...

Until then, we are all still "dreaming the dream" – which is pretty much what life seems to be all about.


The evening sun tires
Of its work in the heavens,
Beds down for the night
Beyond the western sea.

Blackness closes tight
'Round the sleeping wharf, quiet –
Waves murmur – telling
Strange old stories to me.

Tales from ageless days
Of time immemorial –
Until now, untold,
Mysteries yet unsolved.

Lost creatures of old
Now extinct and forgotten...
Dim, dark days before
Humankind had evolved.

Some yarns are about
Sailing ships and grave dangers,
How brave seamen once
Plied the deep with full sails.

Whalers and jailers,
Roving fierce cutthroat pirates –
Adventurers who
Bravely blazed strange new trails.

Soon clear, vivid scenes
Fill my imagination,
Breathe color and life
Into a growing tale –

Material destined
To be the next best-seller
A great masterpiece –
At last – my Holy Grail!

Small waves murmur on,
The half-moon surfs the cloud curls.
New chapters are born,
Quite enough to fill reams.

Then, too soon, my eyes
Close; my quick pen falls idle.
The novel takes form...
But only in my dreams.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Now, having burned one week of Year 2011, it may be a good time to check out all of those great New Year’s resolutions we made and see just how well we are doing.

Sorry to say, I’ve never taken these promises to myself as seriously as I should. I’m sure that if I, and at least a few other folks, were to look very hard we’d be able to see at least several – or perhaps many – changes we could make in our lives that would result in our becoming better, happier, and even healthier people. And, in so doing, make a number of those around us happier, as well.

OK, why not? That shouldn’t be too difficult. So we make a mental list. But a few days into the New Year these resolutions are forgotten, old habits again hold sway, and life goes on just as before.

Robert Burns said, “The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley (go oft’ astray)” Many priests, ministers, politicians, and folks of various other walks of life make good and frequent use of the old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I’ve listened to a number of public speakers who claim to know the secrets of personal and financial success. Most of them advise their audiences to first study their lives, assess their current situation, and identify any problems that have been hindering them. Quite often when people zero in on the stumbling blocks in their path to success and happiness, they are surprised to find that the most harmful of these are really simple things such as laziness, procrastination, and/or their inability or refusal to take and carry out orders.

These obstacles are often just bad habits picked up along life’s way. Old ways of thinking and methods of doing things that have been built and strengthened by years of repetition. They can best be starved out, or crowded out, and eradicated by the constant, frequent practice of the good, new habits. First, a goal must be established, and a list made of the actions that will be required to reach that goal. This list of plans and resolutions must be written down and then kept in a prominent location. Some handy place where it will not be lost or forgotten, but will be seen every day, preferably at least twice per day, morning and evening. Plans for the day can be made in the morning. Then in the evening, successes and failures can be totaled up and compared, and plans made for more positive progress.

While some folks constantly seek improvement and perfection, a few seem perfectly content with the status quo. One old fellow constantly assures his friends and anyone else who will listen, “Sure, I could quit drinking any time I want to, but as flimsy as the national and local economies are right now, I don’t think anyone should do anything to upset the apple cart. The alcohol industry brings in a ton of tax money. And the owner of the Corner Bar here has just bought himself a new SUV and I know that ain’t paid for. And if I quit smoking and chewing, what would happen to all those small farmers who are growing tobacco up there in Vernon County? No sir, if our country slips into another Great Depression I don’t want a lot of people poking their fingers at me!”

Some optimists feel there is no need for major change, and are confident and content just going through life with a positive attitude.


At heart, I’m no “down and outer,”
Not a whiner or a pouter,
I’ve learned negative
Thoughts don’t pay worth a dime.

And, though I’m not good at saying
Lots of fancy words, or praying,
I can sound quite
Optimistic at this time.

New Year’s Eve often sees drinking,
Followed by some fuzzy thinking,
But I’ve grown too
Old now to participate

I prefer philosophizing,
Perhaps even moralizing.
These days I’m in
Bed early more nights than late.

I do no stewing and fretting
And a lot more gray hair getting,
Worrying what’s
Around life’s next turn or bend.

I’m don’t get in a big hurry,
And I don’t wonder and worry.
Usually things
Turn out OK in the end.

With this New Year now upon us,
May the Lord’s blessings be on us.
May our hearts and
Souls be filled with joy and cheer.

May our New Year’s resolutions
Provide the needed solutions
To what problems
We’ll be forced to face this year.