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Bad Advice


Bad Advice Wednesday: Balls to the Walls

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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Counterbalance

 

I like to go balls to the walls.  I like to climb slow grinding mountain bike trails that make my heart pound against my ribs.  I like to feel my skin dampen until the wet collects and beads and finally runs in streams down my body.  I like listening to the shrill calls of birds and chipmunks squabbling while I spin my unrelenting rotations and take in the soft rough squish of my tires pushing over rocks and the hard twisting roots of sage and trees.  I like the surprise when a shining doe bounds over my path or freezes into quaking stillness, and we look across the stirring grass into one another’s face and wonder what will happen next.  I like to scan the changing terrain and plan how to ride through a sliver of open space where protruding rocks could catch my pedals and knock me to the ground or off the edge of the hillside.  I like to click through my gears with dead-on precision, meeting the changing grade in exactly the right moment to maintain perfect efficiency as I climb a long steep hill, swallow it’s mineral dust, and rise out over its crest, legs aching, lungs bursting, and no stopping, but ride on past that place to a farther, higher distance.  I like to come apart in the emerald landscape.  Let my bones break and my organs rip open into a gory mess.  I like the relief as my thoughts empty and the wounds I’ve been carrying tight in my gut and the set of my jaw and the muscles clenched around my spine and right there behind my twitching left eye pass out of me into nothingness.  And I say, See, it was all nothing.  See that. Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Find Your Voice

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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Allen Ginsberg

 

This week’s thought comes from Allen Ginsberg, who was born June 3, 1926, making him yet another vital member of the greatest generation that Tom Brokaw forgot to mention, and a few months older than my father, who regards him as a child of the sixties (like, blame him on my generation, but no).  Okay, Here it is, plenty to think about: “To gain your own voice, forget about having it heard. Become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness.” Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Let’s Write Some Fiction

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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Let’s write some fiction.  First, we need a character, a time, and a place, everything as usual.

Jack arrived at the shoe store at nine Monday morning as usual, tidied as usual, unlocked the door as usual at ten to the quiet mall. Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Don’t Believe What You Think

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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A great place for a personal essay to start is with a long-cherished belief.  Like that vitamin C helps colds, or that Jesus wasn’t married, or that the ocean is too vast to harm, or that such-and-such a writer is great or horrible, or that such-and-such type of music is boring, or that such-and-such city sucks.  And on and on. Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Finding Time to Write

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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How many of these objects really need to be made?

Recently writer and professor Shawna Kenney invited me to take part in an online class at the UCLA Extension Writers Program, visiting virtually by way of Blackboard.  Students asked questions, I did my best to answer, and discussion ensued.  I got permission from a number of students to use their questions, and I got permission from myself to use my answers.   Today my interlocutor is Andrew Ring.

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Hello, Bill it’s great to meet you. Writing takes a lot out of us and sometimes the motivation isn’t there; so what keeps you writing? What is it that inspires you to sit down and write, do you feel there’s a story that needs to be told that you can only tell?  How many times per week do you strive to write, are you always writing in the same spot for the same amount of time? Tell us a bit of your writing process Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Release Your Hate!

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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     So I had a big party on my 30th birthday. Eight days before I had been operated on for testicular cancer, and the whole next week I’d waited to find out what flavor the cancer was. I had already planned the party when the good news came that it was a seminoma, the best kind. It was a great celebration.
     On the night of the party, however, perhaps retaining some residue bitterness from my week in the hospital, I tacked up a large poster that I called “The Wall of Hate.” On the poster there were a hundred blank spots where partygoers could write in their nominees for their most hated human beings. This was 1991 and some notable write-in candidates for most hated personalities included Nixon (still and always), Bill Lambier, Yakov Smirnoff, Garfield, Sinbad, Dick Vitale, The Blonde Poseur who played guitar on Saturday Night Live, Judas, and, finally, later in the night,“One-Balled Guys who Sing at Parties for Attention.”
     I still have that poster somewhere, I think. The reason I bring it up today, other than the fact that I think it’s kind of funny, is that it is an example of something I have been thinking about lately: how outrage, anger, and Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Remake

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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Elizabeth Bowen

Not too long ago I was thinking about how I might grow my writing, move into a new phase, switch things up, rise up out of the ashes of the old and into something fresh, different, not to be expected.  We’re all stuck with our minds and our set of biases, also with whatever genetic inheritance, a certain approach to language, to structure and structures, and certainly to character. Our pathways through narrative may resemble neural pathways inherent in our brains, and may account for the wide divergence of what’s considered great storytelling.  I might dislike Thomas Pynchon while you love him, for example. Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Is That So?

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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Speaking of Flannery O’Connor, someone I once knew actually met her, and not only that, spoke with her.

It might have been about 1960, for my acquaintance was a college student at the time.  He had gone to a reading or some sort of literary talk and, terrified to meet the writer, he willed himself to remain in the line of people approaching her.  Trembling he was, the closer he came.  After all, it was she, The Flannery, The Queen of the South, known as much for a terse sensibility as a turn of phrase.  He struggled over what he would say to this great one, and was still discarding ideas when he all too soon found himself face to face with her.  She was accurate to the photographs.  Tightly curled hair.  Winged spectacles.  Sharp eyes.  The complete Flannery.  Rattled, he opened his mouth and heard these words come out I want to be a writer.  He was, of course, immediately mortified.  How could he?  Never a published word, in fact he had hardly put pen to paper really.  His eyes went wide at his mistake.  He could have fallen at her feet in his despair.   But it was too late.  The writer’s face went to stone.  The sharp in her eyes sharpened.  Her lips barely moved, but she said, very distinctly, Is that so.  Not a question.  Dismissed!  And that was the end of that. Continue reading →

Great Advice Thursday: Don’t be a Dummy. Get Health Insurance Now.

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour / Don't Talk About Politics

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March 31 Deadline to sign up for this year.  If your application is in progress by that date, you will be included!

Self-employed folks, adjunct profs, artists, musicians, under-insured, catastrophic coverage drones, uninsured friends: take notice: I just jettisoned my catastrophic coverage ($15,000 deductible PER PERSON per year at $684 a month, 3 people, criminal), in favor of a far more generous policy ($4000 deductible for all 3!), with out-of-pockets caps, etc.). I was under the impression from quick looks at the Health.gov site earlier and invidious rumors that I’d be paying more, but with the under-heralded automatic tax credit for families making under, like, 94K, the new amount here is $419 a month. I could have gone $10,000 deductible for $129 a month!). Thank you Obamacare. And fuck you Fox News and half our governors and every Republican in Congress for all the disinformation. It’s still not single-payer, but it’s something! The health insurance marketplace works, it’s far cheaper for all of us (lies aside), and it’s going to save my ass. No doubt surprises loom, but after five years of paying a great deal for NOTHING (but denials of service), I’m pretty happy, and can’t believe I waited even this long. Deadline for this year is March 31, get on it.

Here’s the link for the Health Insurance Marketplace.  I’d suggest using the site, which any 12 year old should be able to understand, as brokers just add expense.  You’ll find bronze policies, which are cheap and basic, silver, gold, and maybe platinum.  Remember that health insurance is not the same as healthcare, and you get nowhere comparing your healthcare expenses for a year with projected premiums.  What you are getting is production against financial disaster if you fall sick, get in an accident, etc.  But most of all, don’t fall for the bullshit.

I put this call to action in a public post on Facebook last week, and what follows is the passionate and sometimes hilarious public dicussion that ensued.  Feel free to join in here or there.  Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: UCLA Q and A, with Rona Elliot

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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Virtual Bill

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Recently writer and professor Shawna Kenney invited me to take part in an online class at the UCLA Extension Writers Program, visiting virtually by way of Blackboard.  Students asked questions, I did my best to answer, and discussion ensued.  I got permission from a number of students to use their questions, and I got permission from myself to use my answers.   Today my interlocutor is Rona Elliot. Continue reading →