Archive

Writing

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Just punch those keys…it’s advice I frequently read from bloggers who blog about blogging, especially Cristian Mihai from The Art of Blogging.

Like, punch the keys when? Before or after I have a solid idea? Do I punch them until I see the germ of a workable post? Is it like panning for gold?

I’m taking his advice and punching the keys now to see what comes out.

“Freestyling” like this, I have no idea where I am going – I’m simply punching the keys…

Is it possible to succeed at blogging without drilling down on a specialty – or can my specialty be blogging about the things and people I find interesting?

I love personal development-related content.

I have been sober for more than six years, and I have an endless supply of stories I can tell about this journey – before and after.

I was a single father for quite some time. I have adult twins. There’s a storehouse of gold “in them thar hills” also.

I am a man of a certain age. I used to toss aside mailers and periodicals aimed at those coming up on their “golden years,” but now the people in the photographs are starting to look more and more like me – and I finally realized not too long ago that my time on this planet is limited.

What happened to the immortality I took for granted as a youth? I could blog about that.

Seth Godin blogs constantly about finding one’s tribe, and Kevin Kelly’s “1000 True Fans” concept resonates with me.

Is fragmentation a problem?

Politics? I fear the first time I publish a political post, the bots, trolls and haters will bear down on me with a vengeance. Because this is a fear, perhaps I need to do that.

Feel the fear. Do it anyway…

Aren’t there already too many armchair pundits with way more political expertise than I possess? Yeah, right. What I really mean is that nobody is more of an expert than anybody else. Some are just louder than others…

Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one, and yours stinks…

I have done a good deal of recording. Little did I know that there were so many echo chambers outside of a recording studio.

I share a podcast with my brother.

I have been a freelance journalist for many years, and enjoy working on personal profiles – getting to the heart of the folks I talk to. Everybody has a story – and I see no reason not to include them in this blog.

I have worked in the premium cigar industry for decades. Why have I not explored this at any length in my writing?

Should I podcast about podcasting? Blog about blogging? At this point, I’ll leave that to the folks who have been in the game much longer than I have.

I am also a working musician, but I thought I’d be a rock star with my brother by the time I was a young adult. I’m 57 now.

Let’s just say the consequences of the choices I made have come home to roost. Another rabbit hole to explore.

I have lived. I have learned. I have lost. I have won.

But I have also been profoundly lucky. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to be punching these keys.

My Scribbles

An item I have had on my master list for far too long is one called “notebook review.”

I keep a journal also, and try to make at least one entry a week, usually on Sundays when I am planning the coming week. But my notebooks are separate from the journal.

I also maintain and contribute to an “editorial bible” – basically an ongoing log in Word of anything that strikes me as a story idea, a suitable blog post, song idea or potential action item.

A lot of them suck, but still.

The “notebook review” idea is this: Flip through my old notebooks in an orderly fashion. If something jumps out at me, I will then expand on these things or flag them for action in my current notebook. Some of these items would then go into the “master list,” others would get fleshed out in the editorial bible – or as talking points for my podcast with my brother.

There are song idea fragments all over the place, too.

I remember once listening to filmmaker Robert Rodriguez the Tim Ferriss Show podcast – talking about his compulsive notetaking and  his methodical way of indexing them for easy retrieval. While I’m not ready for such an arduous process of organization, I know that there is potential “gold in them hills.”

I believe that my plan of carrying forward the worthy items is a good way to eliminate the dross and revisit the good stuff.

Although I love the idea of things like Evernote, OneNote, Dropbox, et. al., I am still somewhere in that anteroom between paper/pen and technology.

The tactile response to scribbling – and that hand-to-eye-to-brain connection – is hard to quit.

I am a writer. I should write daily. I should write without restraint. I should say what I want to say without some people-pleasing inner troll telling me to watch out – that I might offend somebody or that I might piss somebody off. After all, isn’t good writing meant to elicit an emotional response?

As writers, our goal is not to deliver a lukewarm version of what we intended to say.

Author Seth Godin put it this way in a 2006 blog post:

“Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone. Average people are good at ignoring you. Average people have too many different points of view about life and average people are by and large satisfied. If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one. The most effective stories match the world view of a tiny audience—and then that tiny audience spreads the story.”

Godin has written extensively about the importance of finding one’s tribe, and that concept makes sense to me. The right people will gravitate to your message. The substance of what we have to say will resonate with some, and that some is enough.

It’s like the old Faberge Organics shampoo commercial. One person tries it. They’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on…

I have been a people pleaser, and that has not worked for my emotional well-being. I have learned over the years that this phenomenon stems from deeper self-worth issues, and I need to get to the bottom of that. Where the hell did these issues come from? It would be easy – and intellectually lazy – to blame somebody else for this. Was my mother the culprit? If I were to point fingers, I’d be sure to include those misguided phys-ed teachers who, brimming with toxic masculinity, failed to see that not all boys were the same.

Over time, I have learned to say “no” more often. It’s pretty liberating, and I need to do more of that.

How about the bullies?

I didn’t suffer much at the hands of bullies, but not all kids get beaten up physically – and I am very good at beating myself up.

Now nearly six years sober, I always thought that I intentionally started using drugs and alcohol because it was simply what aspiring rockers did. But something happened somewhere, and I intend to find out what it was.

Do You Remember?

In Disney’s “The Lion King,” the shamanistic mandrill Rafiki instructed Simba to look deeply into a pool of water, revealing his father to him. Mufasa appears in a cloud, dispensing what was to me the best advice ever: “Remember who you are.”

I would like to get through this blog post without naming the source of the global pandemic currently at play. Rather, this is an opportunity to touch on a subject that might have become muddled for many boomers over time – myself included.

“OK boomer…”

Seclusion offers a chance for reflection. In some cases, this reflection gives birth to an agonizing reappraisal – a reordering of priorities and beliefs and an existential reset.

THE EYES OF A CHILD

I knew who I was when I was a child. My favorite years were likely ten and 17.

At ten, I was already writing and submitting short stories to periodicals like Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. I remember once submitting a song parody to Mad Magazine based on “Jingle Bells” that went something like this…

“Mad Does Smell / Mad does smell / Prices raised too high

First ten cents / Now fifty / Not worth it to buy

Trashing all the Mads / In a single garbage can

Might be pretty tough / ‘Cause there’s too much to stuff…”

You get the idea.

Note that I said I was writing and submitting. As far as selling – well I might still have those rejection slips in storage. I hope so. But I loved to write. I identified with it.

I was also a voracious comic book collector and budding entrepreneur. I used to place classified ads, calling for neighborhood people to sell their old comics. My “business” name was Mr. Comix, and I bought up a lot of books on the cheap. I got more interested in keeping them than selling them.

In my late twenties, the cares of the world and my own bad decisions let to my decision to sell off my comics to Golden Apple Comics on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood – for a fraction of what they were worth. I needed to make in-arrears payment on a 1988 Harley-Davidson Sportster I had no business buying in the first place. Eventually, it got repossessed. No bike. No comics.

I don’t care about the Sportster. I still wake up with a start when the comics pop into my mind.

When I was a kid – I ran around to many of the bookstores in Hollywood that offered scads of used comics at very reasonable prices. Places like Bennett’s (Collector’s Bookstore), Cherokee Books and Bond Street Books.

I was an enthusiastic ten-year-old, and the world was my oyster. I liked nothing better than writing, in no small part because my father was then a screenwriter – and he encouraged me when he saw that I had taken an interest. Dad never got the break he was looking for – but he was prolific, and I still have his screenplays.

HEADY TIMES

At 17, my twin brother Chris and I had already been playing music for several years and we teamed up with a French kid named Pascal Srabian – a great, natural guitarist – and formed a trio called Yale. We played out at places like the Bla-Bla Café in Studio City and actually won a Battle of the Bands at Gazzarri’s on the Sunset Strip. Our dear friend Lee Newman managed us, and we were all inseparable.

Photo: Calisphere

Lee is busy these days running his family business, Jimmy McHugh Music. McHugh was Lee’s great-grandfather and gave the world such priceless tunes as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “I’m in the Mood for Love” and so many more. Lee is the real deal. Hollywood royalty. His other great-grandfather was Eddie Cantor. Think about that for a moment.

Sadly, Pascal was gunned down one morning in 1981 as he was about to get into his Firebird. A jealous husband found out that Pascal was sleeping with his wife. The husband fled, presumably to Mexico. I don’t think there was ever any closure.

But our late teens were heady times. Chris and I believed we would be rock stars. Unfortunately, we partied like rock stars but failed to do enough work. We had several bands in Hollywood after Yale, and our failure to launch haunts us to this day. That’s almost as painful as losing my comics.

20/20 HINDSIGHT

It’s no use pining away for what might have been – and it’s never too late to correct course.

If we get in touch with our inner 10-or 17-year-old selves, we might be able to salvage some of those old hopes and dreams.

What makes you want to get up in the morning? What do you remember doing when you were a kid that lit you up like nothing else? What were you certain about? What would you be doing now if you stayed true to those nascent plans – those stirrings that urged you on?

My world centered on writing and later, music – and although I am not getting rich with either, I am happy to report that I’ve been again engaged in those things for more than a decade – and I still get lit up about it.

A byline, a show completed. There’s still a thrill attached to both.

Maybe I’ll buy a comic book.

Surge Lebowski Cover

Today, the last-ever edition of the Myrtle Beach alt-weekly known as The Surge [formerly Weekly Surge] hit the stands – ten years almost to the day since it debuted.

I was a regular contributor to Surge for the duration.

The Surge, which is – rather was – under the umbrella of McClatchy Newspapers and The Sun News here in Myrtle Beach, was the go-to free paper for entertainment, pop culture, dining and lifestyle here on the Grand Strand, replete with relevant and sometimes racy columns and a dizzying array of cover features rivaling any other weekly anywhere – to say nothing about its top-notch stable of freelance writers.

My particular ongoing feature started as a weekly and later a biweekly installment called Working 4 a Living, where I profiled folks who live and work here – ultimately hundreds of them, and drilling down on what they did for a living – a peek at their daily and weekly lives, as well a look at their hopes and dreams – and what they did in their downtime. Professions of every stripe were included – in keeping with the “tinker, tailor, soldier sailor,” but not so much with the “beggar man, thief” tip.

And then there were my cover features: Everything from the arts to Uber and myriad festivals, to social media trends, Quidditch (it’s a thing in colleges), radio, television and Cuba – four of which were voted Cover Story of the Year by our readers.

Scott Man Surge

I want to thank Surge’s founding editor, Kent Kimes, for giving me that initial break and taking me on all of those years ago – for cajoling and admonishing me along the way – helping me at my rather late stage to become a better writer, a LINEAR writer. Kimes never allowed me to file “good enough” pieces. He extracted the best I could give him at various stages of the game.

I would be remiss indeed without a “good looking out” to creative director Abby Sink – who has been the one constant over the years and throughout the changes at Surge – a true professional who, despite the pressures of putting out a weekly product, always made herself available for guidance and occasional gripes. I will always remember her positivity, kindness and wicked awesome sense of humor.

Former Sun News features editor Caroline Evans took the helm as interim editor of Surge for a time, and was a pleasure to work with.

Sun News features editor Jay Rodriguez closes out Surge with today’s edition – and I look forward to working with him on upcoming Sun News stories, particularly for the Coasting Section.

Thanks for putting up with me.

Fellow writers Paul Grimshaw, Derrick Bracey, Colin Foote Burch, Jilly Garner, Becky Billingsley, Christina Knauss, Kimberly Zackowski, Jeff Thomas and Andrew Levy-Neal kept me on my toes – and there was a time when the paper employed its only staff writer, Timothy Charles Davis.

I thoroughly enjoyed battling with Bracey for votes during our Story of the Year skirmishes!

Surge Story of the Year Culinary

Diana Zipko, now an advertising analyst with McClatchy – the parent company for The Surge and The Sun News, was the glue that held everything together at Surge events. I fondly look back on the early days when Scott Smallin was staff photographer – and that very racy first issue cover that was deemed too racy for some spots.

And what about Charles Slate’s photo of two middle-aged twins with vapes in hand – ready for our big moment as Surge cover models.

Going Vape Surge

Ten years.

“Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end.” – Gene Raskin