Best writing advice ever!

I’m in deep into the sequel to my first novel,  John J. McDermott & the 1971 U.S. Open.

The working title (and my bet the final title) of the sequel is Cottonwood.

I am dedicated to moving the narrative along at a rapid clip. I hike fast. I play golf fast. I speak fast and I write fast, until I take a break, which I did too often with JJM.

That’s a mistake I will not make again. In fact, I’ve put a serious time limit on writing the narrative to the sequel. I want to finish the narrative by the end of 2019. It’ll take another three to five months to edit and format the dang thing, so it’s really not all that fast compared to other writers.

Anyway, I wanted to pass along the best writing advice I ever heard. The advice is in Doug Nichol’s 2016 film, California Typewriter and it came from the late Sam Shepard.

I’ll paraphrase the advice:

Never quit when you’re stuck. When you start up again you’ll still be stuck.

Now the funny thing is that I rarely consider myself to be struck. If I fail to work on my book it’s nearly always because I’ve been distracted by lesser things like work. But, there’s still a lot of wisdom and usefulness to what Shepard said. Since I heard his admonition I try to quit when I’m on a roll I know I can keep it going later. In fact, a lot of times the momentum of the roll is actually enhanced by the renewed energy that comes from taking a break to go on a hike or drink a fine IPA.

When I do nudge up against stuckness (to borrow a word made up by Robert Pirsig) I dedicate myself to the kind of written thrashing about that, if I’m lucky,  gets a few more words and hopefully good ideas onto the page. The small success of getting those kinds of difficult words down blunts the sharpness of feeling a little stuck and replaces it with the confidence that a way forward can be found with a bit more effort.

Anyway, think about what Sam said the next time you find yourself stuck.

 

 

Best writing advice ever!

Kingdom of Dreams Part 2

This is Part 2 of Kingdom of Dreams, my 2014 golf short story.

Part 3 will be available soon so please check back.

I hope you enjoy it and thanks for stopping by and having a listen.

You can buy the ebook here: Kingdom of Dreams ebook at Amazon.

Kingdom of Dreams Part 2

The software I’m using to write my new book is…

I’ve been making good progress on my new book, especially considering the hodgepodge of software I’ve been using.

I wrote my first book in Microsoft Word and it was a harrowing and creativity-sapping process. Word is like a huge Swiss Army knife of a word processor. A knife with a shit-ton of tools can be impressive. You look at it wondering how many tools there are and whether you’re likely to use most (or any) of them.

Then you realize the damn thing’s heavy. Then you realize that using any of the tools except the main blade is a fiddly and frustrating experience.

In the end, you leave the knife at home more than you use it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that Word exists. The choices made by the folks who created it result in a benchmark product. I would never refer to Word as a bad piece of software. It’s simply a bit of software that’s unsuited to the creative flow of my writing.

A while back, I was prattling on about Ulysses and iA Writer. Later, I discovered and used Bear for a while. I deemed each of them as interesting but not quite useful enough. Each design is good at pretty much keeping out of the writer’s way.

It’s the issue of sync that settled the matter, and not in favor of iA Writer, Ulysses or even Bear.

Each of those platforms rely on iCloud for sync. That’s OK if the writer uses the same Apple ID across all devices and the iTunes Store. There’s the problem for me. Also, I think the software companies should use their own system and servers for sync rather than relying on iCloud.

I think WorkFlowy does sync right. Their ingeniously simple software is truly web-based, syncing by username, seamlessly.

I encourage those folks to develop WorkFlowy for Writers and let me know when it gets to beta. If they can build on the way WorkFlowy works and apply it to the work of long-form writing it would be a real game changer.

The software I’ve chosen to write my book in is Apple’s very own Notes. File organization is simple and straightforward. You can choose your own font and basic formatting is a snap. I will continue to use Word as the destination software (and archived backup) for the eventual manuscript. Importantly, documents created in Notes paste cleanly into Word without any weird or unexpected formatting problems. Notes also syncs both immediately and perfectly across all devices, as one would expect of one of Apple’s own creations operating in their own ecosystem. The UI is clean and uncluttered and this helps me to focus on what I’m working on. 

I’m glad to be watching that hodgepodge of software vanish into my rearview mirror. I’m also glad there are software folks out there who are trying to make the challenge of writing easier and I’m really happy Apple did such a marvelous job with Notes.

The software I’m using to write my new book is…

My novel is done, done, done.

My novel is done. No, you can’t go buy it yet.

I’m preparing it for submission to a handful of publishers and it turns out they don’t fancy looking at books that are already in the throes of a self-publishing campaign.

I’m quite certain that’s where my book will end up and that’s OK by me. I’m glad I wrote it. It took a lot longer than I had hoped but I learned so much about the kind of long-form writing thought that a novel requires that I now regard the span of time as something of a necessity. That’s another way of saying I’m a slow learner.

I had written a great deal over a very long period of time before I decided to write a novel. Now that I’ve done it, I want to do another and to do a better job of it. I can look back on my book and can see it clearly for its good and bad. Something about writing it broke away a kind of resistance that had set in to that kind of writing ambition. Suddenly, writing a book seemed like something I could do and do with meaningful results.

I think often of Steve Earle’s dark years in Amsterdam when he was addicted to heroin. When he had finally clawed his way back into the light, he had a creative boom of sorts, making records and writing books and plays with a speed and intensity he never showed before. He attributed the burst of work to his release from smack.

Even though I wrote for both pay and fun I avoided the idea of writing a book until I hit my 50s. Rather than being addicted to heroin I had instead succumbed to the belief that I didn’t have anything to offer; that I wasn’t that kind of writer. It turns out that I am…

So, I’m grateful that I simply had the idea to write my book. Obviously and as always, it is the idea that made everything possible.

Now I have another idea and it’s led me start writing my second next novel.

Here’s hoping it moves along faster than the first one.

 

My novel is done, done, done.

Horizontal Banding in Untitled 29

Someone at Flickr was kind enough to point out that Untitled 29 suffered from horizontal banding. I hadn’t noticed it, to be honest, but there it was staring me in the face.

Kind of…

Actually, even after the banding’s presence was called to my attention its presence didn’t really matter to me. Still, I fooled around with the photo for a while in an attempt minimize the banding’s impact.

Untitled 29 Small

Nope, it’s still not close to perfect but I really don’t have a preference between the original version and this one. The photo still means what it means to me. It would be the same if it had been shot on film and the negative was scratched. Absent its qualities and faults I still like the photo and, to me, the photos of an amateur photographer only need to please one person and I think you know who that is.

Obviously, I’m not one to hide work that might be less than my best. I believe we learn from our successes but often much more from our failures. I try my best with each photo I take in the very same way I try to use words to precisely convey my thoughts and feelings, yet knowing my efforts will often fall short.

I once heard a writing coach say something that I think about often.

I’m paraphrasing here but this is the essence of what he said:

Let’s say that in your career as a writer you will write seven novels, three of which you will eventually regard as good. There’s a natural temptation to ask, why did I even bother to write the four novels that turned out badly? That’s missing the point: The bad novels had to be written so that the lessons that created the three good novels could be learned. Try as you might, you cannot decide or decree to only do good work. You can only work and hope for some success.

I take writing seriously. As much as I love photography, I know somewhere in my bones that I will never reward it with the kind of devotion needed to create genuinely good work. Still, that’s what is so cool about photography. You don’t always need to be that good to take enjoyable and sometimes beautiful photographs. And, sometimes, the rewards for a humble photograph come as a happy surprise long after it was taken.

And, so it is with Untitled 29, horizontal banding or not

Horizontal Banding in Untitled 29

What’s Special About This?

Sage Park survived…

The Woolsey Fire is now all but out. The evacuation area got as close as a mile from my home. I got out toward the end of last week and saw some of the devastation along the north-bound 101.

Most of the oak trees I have photographed on many of the trails I hike have burned. They stand now like charred skeletons on the fire-darkened slopes. Compared to many of who live not very far from where I do, I was very lucky.

The fire started to the south and west of Sage Park. For days, I wondered if the prevailing winds would allow the dried grasses and oaks of the park survive the inferno and they did.

There’s always something to be thankful for and today I’m thankful for all of the oaks and all of the wildlife and all of the rare open space of Southern California that came through the Woolsey Fire unscathed.

Snapseed (1)

What’s Special About This?

A Passion for Learning: Tony Manzoni

Tony Manzoni SM

I can’t remember if it was 2008 or 2009 when I first met Tony Manzoni. I know I was in the desert on a golf junket and that I had picked up a local desert golf magazine that had an article on Tony that alluded to his swing theory. The article was pretty sparse, and didn’t really get to the essence of what Tony was saying, but there was just enough there to pique my interest.

Soon thereafter we met but it was years, many years, in fact, before our book, The Lost Fundamental, saw the light of day. Those many years have now flipped by as the days and weeks and months and years of the calendar are destined to and now my friend, Tony Manzoni, has moved on.

Tony battled cancer over the last few years. He fought the good fight and fought it with optimism and good humor but in the end cancer or the fates or God in heaven ended the game and now we are all left to face the world, and especially the world of golf, without him.

Yes, he had played alongside of the greats of our game.

Yes, he taught golf to movie stars.

Yes, Frank Sinatra was godfather to his daughter.

Each of these are undisputed facts but what they don’t convey is what truly matters about Tony Manzoni. In the end, as great a teacher as Tony was, as fine a player as he was, his real calling in life, his real gift, was as a lifelong student of golf.

Of course, Tony was an amazing player in his own right.

Of course, Tony coached his College of the Desert team to no fewer than five state championships.

I had the good fortune of working with Tony on his concepts many times over the last decade and each and every time I met with him in person, or when I spoke to him by phone, his mind was always on the game.

Once, I met with him in his office during a time when we were feverishly editing one of the final drafts of our book. I was reading the book, out loud, to him while Tony silently read his copy of the draft.

I was watching his hands as he read but I couldn’t figure out why he was moving them as he was..

Then I realized what was happening. Before we had gotten into the edits I had mentioned the premise of an article I had read concerning the action of the wrists during the golf swing. The writer said that only the left wrist truly hinged while the right wrist merely shifted right to accommodate that hinging action. What I was seeing was Tony working his hands to see if this was true or not.

After a while, Tony looked up and me and said, “You know, Paul…that’s absolutely right.”

Perhaps this is the final and best lesson of a true master of golf. Learning never ends. Part of being an expert is having an open mind to different ways of experiencing golf and also to explaining it. Tony had this gift. A part of it gave him the ability to relate to his young students at College of the Desert though he was many years their senior. It was easy for him because Tony was always learning, just like his players.

Tony has only been gone for a few days now but I already miss him dearly. My own golf game will surely suffer for his absence but my life will always be enriched by the echo of Tony’s ongoing presence and his passion for golf and learning.

I am proud to count Tony Manzoni as a friend and I was honored to work with him on the mission of bringing his knowledge to more and more of those who love our game.

If you would like to read more about Tony’s storied career you can read his obituary in the Desert Sun here.

 

 

 

 

A Passion for Learning: Tony Manzoni