I do not know why so many story ideas come to me when I’m walking my dog. Upon reflection I suppose it is a brief period of time during which I am the sole arbiter of what goes on in my head. No one else’s voice is bending my thoughts in their direction.
The dog is there, of course. He’s the de facto reason I’m out there in the first place. But although he frequently does fun little things like running as fast as he can to see if he can completely separate my arm from the rest of my body, even that doesn’t really impede anything that might be happening in the thought-satchel. It’s not like before he did it he told me his plan, forcing me to acknowledge the sheer beauty of his evil blueprint for pain. I don’t have to stop thinking about the story. I just have to check my arm-to-shoulder connectivity status.
So maybe there is something in the utter solitude that tickles the correct cortex. Maybe it’s the power lines under which we pass to get to Le Grand Champ de la Merde . Maybe the utility company is beaming these ideas into my head. (And can I just say that if this is the case, keep up the good work. You can turn up the juice even more if you want.
Sometimes, however, I don’t get story ideas. At least not at first. Sometimes, I just collect impressions. I wipe the fog from my eyes just long enough to notice something. Such was the case tonight.
It was a little before nine p.m. I remember this because I was watching the Jeopardy Greatest of All-Time tournament and it was getting very close to the final round, and it was looking like James could stage a comeback and…
The dog started licking my elbow. This apparent act of affection is really just a demonstration of how intelligent Miles actually is. He’s learning that his older methods of getting my attention, being vocal and staring at me with an intensity that makes me glad he does not possess heat vision, don’t always work as well now. Especially if I’m really focused on something, like I was tonight wondering if Ken Jennings was going to take it all.
But I am here to tell you that, at least for me, my powers of concentration are flushed right down the dumpah, as they say in Southy, when my elbow becomes moistened. And Miles, being every bit as industrious and dedicated as he is intelligent will not stop the elbow licking until I get up and take him out, or my elbow gets all prune-y like our fingers did when we were kids and we swam for nine hours non-stop. Actually I’ve never let him get that far, so I don’t know if he’d really stop then either.
At any rate, I took him out.
We are experiencing unseasonably warm weather, and have been on and off for a few days. It’s actually rather a pain, literally, as my famous ruined back, (which my wife once referred to as “the third party in our marriage,”) has an issue with rapidly changing weather patterns. Remember those old ass-puppies in the movies, Westerns often, who used to tell the greenhorn that a storm was a-comin’, because their joints commenced t’ achin’? I think we’ve all seen someone like that at least once in our lives.
I am now that old ass-puppy. When ever we go from warm to cold (as it’s forecast will happen later this week), it hurts. Unfairly, the same is true when things warm up quickly. The change hurts.
But on the plus side, I didn’t freeze off any body parts, and with no arctic blasts of wind to crystallize my already fragile frame, I am better equipped to heal after Miles’s arm separation attempts.
So at first most of my attention was drawn to how pleasant it was out. Miles, for his part, had his snout to the ground, clearly on the trail of a fugitive, or if not that at least a dangerous shih tzu. So intent was he on getting his man that it didn’t occur to him to dislocate my arm. It was just a lovely evening. When I had been out the time before I noticed that it was still light, an improvement from just last week. The days are already getting longer. (If you don’t believe me, ask your science teacher. Everything after the first day of winter is daylight on the upswing.)
And then the notion popped in.
The solitude, the very fuel that so often drives the bursts of mental-creativity, occurring next to a squatting dog, struck me as odd tonight.
It was such a lovely evening. Why was I the only one outside to enjoy it? I live in an apartment building, one of dozens in the complex. My building alone houses thirteen or so people (we’ve had a couple of new move-ins recently so I haven’t completely sussed out the actual population.) There is an identical building right next to mine, and if you stand and look down the path you will see others as well, fading off into the distance like some Renaissance painter practicing vanishing point perspective.
So what I realized was that within my line of sight there were nearly one hundred human beings, all of whom were invisible. And that’s just the apartments. We are surrounded by private homes, which are also part of our community, so even more people, none of whom were outside, so none of whom I could independently corroborate were even still alive and blah blah blah, the brain just rolled like an orphan tumbleweed down a really steep canyon wall at that point and the details get jumbly.
And as we began to walk back, after Miles had made his mark, which I promptly removed and carried like a boss to the trash room, I thought that perhaps a little less solitude might not be so bad.
Now as is often the case I like, when I venture away from solitude, to be with people who understand the things I do, and so I look for opportunities to hang with other writers.
At Last He Get’s to the Point
I am being permitted to join the loonies, err – authors at the 2020 North Iowa Book Bash, (NIBB for the lazy, of whom I am king). Look here’s a list of the attendees in which you can find my name if you hone your Where’s Waldo skills or if you know the alphabet.
So if you are in Northwood, Iowa on April 4th, (and why wouldn’t you be?) why not stop in to the Diamond Jo Casino. As you can see my partner in crime, er I mean my writing partner and podcast co-host, Craig A. Hart is also listed. This is a dangerous cocktail. I’ll say no more.
Okay, I’ll say more. In addition to meeting the other authors, (and plotting murders with the ones I already know), and signing books and all the other stuff that goes on at these sorts of shindigs, Craig and I will be recording segments for an episode of Good Sentences, which will be released right after all of us have been bailed out of jail. I’m also planning to challenge Diamond Jo to a jello wrestling match. More on that as sponsorship falls in place.
Now, I know you might be thinking I took a nice introspective blog post about moving in a direction opposite the one in which solitude rests, and turned it into a shameless plug for an upcoming appearance.
You’re right. If that’s what you’re thinking, I cannot deny that’s what I did. But listen to this:
My decision to participate in this event marks the first time I’ve done anything professionally in public in nearly a year. The ferocious battle with an ugly bout of depression made a large part of 2019 a series of lost months in which the extent of my universe was my apartment and the smallest amount of the space outside my home possible. Just as far as it took for the puppy to finish his business.
The fact that the book event comes at a period of pretty decent creativity is serendipitous. I am hoping to have something special to debut at NIBB as well, but you’ll get no details outta me just yet. Just know that I’m writing, and there are a couple of finished projects slated for release later this year as well.
Alright, This Time it’s the Real Point
To paraphrase Pete Townshend from his masterpiece rock opera Tommy, “Gotta feeling 2020’s gonna be a good year.” And I see NIBB as the first step in a path toward very good things.
Why not come along with me? Let’s meet in Iowa in April and see where we end up by the time we start talking about 2021. As long as we’re not talking about it as part of that whole “when does the decade really begin” debate, which as far as I can see is an issue significant only to wieners.
I wouldn’t feel like a good friend if I didn’t remind you that the folks who subscribe to my email newsletter already received this news. They heard it a couple of days ago in fact. And you? You had to sit around for two days pretending to care about anything to do with your life when all you really wanted was to know what the subscribers know. I have good news. YOU CAN BE A SUBSCRIBER TOO! It’s free, it’s fun, and thanks to our new equipment it barely hurts at all, usually.
I am kidding with the bit about the hurting and all, but the rest is true. And depending on whether or not you prefer to navigate using menus, (in which case you can click on the Email Signup link at the top of the page), or whether you prefer to sit in your beanbag chair and have life delivered to you, (in which case you are like me AND in which case you can just click here,) the deed is pretty simple. Do it, and your friends will stop making jokes about you participating in the decade debate.
Also, don’t forget you can hear Craig and I be insane with increasing regularity on The Good Sentences Podcast. Listen where ever it is you scurry off to for podcast enjoyment. I prefer Spotify because I can command my Google Home to play it for me. Like I’m a freakin’ sultan or something. Also feel free to drop by our companion website.