Guest Post, Brian Doyle: Eight Whopping Lies

briandoyleThis won’t hurt a bit. Yes, it will. It will hurt so bad you will blubber like a Los Angeles Lakers fan. It will feel like someone shot an arrow into your tooth and the arrow went through your nether parts and is now sticking out of your knee. Any dentist or hygienist who actually says this won’t hurt a bit should have to spend a day in a closet with the Reverend Al Sharpton as penance.

It is a peacekeeping operation. No, it isn’t. It is an operation during which tall children will be shot in the face and shot in the groin and have their legs and faces blown off, and all because neither side of the argument had the wit to figure out another way to solve the problem other than choosing some of their brightest and most muscular children and paying them to die. Did you think human sacrifice had faded from the world? Not so. Not so at all.

God is on our side. No, He isn’t, or She isn’t, and how incredibly foolish, by the way, to even assign human gender to something we all admit is so unimaginably epic that any shred of claim to knowledge, let alone possession or intimacy, is lunatic, not to mention murderous. “God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells,” says Mark Twain, “help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst…”

It’s not you, it’s me. No, it’s pretty much you she didn’t fall in love with, or fell out of love with, or fell in love with someone else instead of. This doesn’t mean you are a flawed and scurrilous being, not at all. It does mean it’s you whom he or she does not love, or no longer loves, though. Let’s at least get that straight.

A baby inside a mother is not a person. Sure, she is. Alive is alive, and dickering over what counts as a Person is blather designed to let up tiptoe away from the fact that someone died. But people die all the time for all sorts of reasons. We kill prisoners in jail, we kill other countries’ soldiers and civilians, we sell gobs of alluring products that lead to death, a lot of babies die after they are born, from being abandoned and starved and beaten. We are pretty comfortable with people dying, isn’t that so? So why bother to pretend the dead person was not a person?

It’s not about the oil. Sure it is. If there was an incredibly cruel dictator squirming in a land without vast reserves of oil, and he (dictators are always male, why is that?) made loud donkey noises about weapons, would we start a long savage war there? No? Are we at war with the dictator in North Korea who is the third in his family to starve his own people? No? Did we go to war with Charles Taylor, Robert Mugabe? No? Any pattern here?

We are stewards of America’s land and water, and we do our utmost to protect our national legacy, and similarly beautifully phrased and designed full-page ads from Exxon and BP and mining companies. But those are whopping epic egregious astounding lies. Actually you are terrible stewards, and you grudgingly do only the minimum as required by law, if that, and you would happily dodge that if you could, so as to elevate share price. You know that, and we know that, and if you really were stewards you would go into another business altogether. You assume, reasonably, that you can dodge most legal action, or outspend the shrill screaming greens, and dump the company the instant you decide you have maxed out the profit margin. We all know this. It’s excellent business. We won’t pass harsher laws, because that would trammel the market, so you’re good to go. Thanks for the lovely advertisements, though. They may be the last place to see clean water, in the end.

My campaign is all about family values. No, it isn’t. If that was the case, why are there 15 million American children who don’t have enough to eat today? Why are there 8 million kids with no health care? Why do so many kids have one parent, and no place to live, and never go to school, and get raped and beaten every blessed day? Why do kids get shot every few days by twisted loners with garages full of guns? If your campaign was really about family values, would you ever rest until there were no kids weeping in dark corners in your city and state and country? Well? Wouldn’t you?

Guest Post: The Secret to Getting Started

I love being a writer.  What I can’t stand is the paperwork. ~ Peter De Vries

If we all felt the way De Vries purports, the world would sorely lack reading material. I believe the great Mark Twain offers a solution to the daunting task we often ascribe to writing and the reason we procrastinate, telling ourselves we’ll do it as soon as we’ve finished X, Y or Z. According to Twain, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

While Twain’s quote easily applies to myriad goals or projects, I firmly believe his advice also works well when it comes to the writing process as a whole.

I’ve found that for me, it helps to take a good look at the big picture and then put into practice what Twain suggests: break down the seemingly insurmountable goal into doable steps. But even more importantly, each stage must be easily attainable, or I will hesitate to begin the first one.

The following is a model for accomplishing Twain’s solution.

Step #1: Planning

  • Make time to come up with the gist of your story. This may occur through daydreaming, brainstorming or writing organically for a pre-determined length of time, and can take place anywhere you do your best thinking: working out, meditating, hiking or lounging on your chaise.

Step #2: Writing

  • Commit to write a minimum number of words a week. This requires you to put pen (or pencil) to paper, fingers to keyboard, voice to recorder — anything to get a word count somewhere other than the gray matter inside your right brain.
  • Set aside the required number of hours per day, preferably uninterrupted. Accomplish this by removing distractions; i.e., log out of Facebook, instant messaging, Google, Dr. Phil — whatever keeps you from the first part of this step. If you’re the type who’s inspired by a little Beethoven or Pit Bull, by all means turn up the volume on your iPod. Along these lines, don’t underestimate the power of your muse; keep it forefront in your mind (stay tuned for a future post on this concept). The short of it: if an ocean view is what you need to write, then plaster your surroundings with the sights, sounds and smells of a tropical paradise. And if you can bring the real thing to life, all the better.

Step #3: Editing/rewriting

  • Read drafts one at a time, making notes/edits as you go. Try to read your words with new, fresh eyes. Pretend you’re picking the piece up for the first time and gauge your reaction as if you’ve never seen it before. Be critical.
  • Schedule a day or a week to rewrite. This is where a lot of us lose steam. But it’s important to consider this just another part of your “job” as a writer. Take what you’ve edited in the first part of this step and get it done. If you don’t, someone else will.

These manageable steps can be adapted to any writing assignment, such as articles, short stories and blogs. It simply takes an idea and a commitment to see it through.

What is your secret to getting started?