Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Coffee with Roger

Roger and I went out to one of our local coffee shops the other day just to talk. Roger is my neighbor. We mainly talk about writing. Roger has written and published two books and is working on his third. I have published nothing. So when Roger talks about writing, I listen. As we sat talking and drinking our drinks, I ran some story ideas past him. He told me they were good ideas and that he thought I could write some good works, and he was sincere. Well, I’ve had good ideas before. In fact I’m loaded with good ideas, but I come up short on the great works department. Writing a great work takes sticking with one of those good ideas and following it through. When I wrote my unpublished novel, I was encouraged along by my writing teacher Mary. If I hadn’t been in her class I don’t think it ever would have been completed.
I’ve always had a lot of trouble deciding what I want to do. I can still hear my mom asking me when I was a kid, “What do you want?” The truth be told, my answer then and now, much of the time is, I have no idea. But the other day after meeting with Roger I thought, there are so many exciting and wonderful things to do in life and so little time. I foolishly thought this feeling of purpose and exhilaration would sustain me and propel me into many interesting and rewarding projects, but when I woke up this morning, sat down at my computer ready to go…nothing. I was staring at a blank page in front of me with the same blankness in my mind. When I tried to conjure up some of those wonderful ideas that I shared with Roger, instantly up popped multiple reasons why I couldn’t do it, shouldn’t do it or I’m just not that interested in doing it.
Once when I was a college student I listened to a recorded conversation between Bertrand Russell and Aldous Huxley. They were both getting old at the time and I remember they were talking about death. One of them said one of the things they disliked most about dying was that there were still so many interesting things in life to investigate. I thought then as now, if I could only have that kind of passion about life.
Well, I should have started writing right away when I got home from the coffee shop, but it had been a long morning of conversing and I decided instead I needed a nap. I’d like to be able to get back to that inspired place whenever I want to. I can’t depend on having coffee with Roger and besides he and his wife Sue are snowbirds and have already returned to their home in California for the summer. When I honestly think about why I felt so enthusiastic and motivated the other day, it may have had more to do with feeling appreciated and worthy talking with an accomplished writer. It reminds me of Sally Field accepting her academy award, “You like me, you really like me.”
As I looked for a clue as to how to prime my own creative pump, I remembered Roger talking a little about dealing with students when he was teaching. He said it always bothered him when students told him that there was nothing they were interested in. He said he would tell them, “Just get started on something and the more knowledge you get about it, the more interesting it will become.” I thought that was excellent advice and plan to use it myself. Now if I could only figure out what to get started on.


  1. Hey Mike, I haven't checked in for quite a while. But I was thinking of you, and looked up your blog. I wanted to comment on your teacher's thing about "start learning about it, and it will become interesting." When I was unemployed, between careers, a friend of mine who has a roofing business hired me to work the sheet metal "brake" to make gutters for a roofing project. I had absolutely no experience. The first couple of days, I remember thinking, "I'm glad the rest of his crew likes what they're doing, because I don't give a crap about this." But he was paying me "prevailing wage" $27/hr, so I stayed on the job. By the third week, when some of the metal pieces weren't going together perfectly smoothly, I went out to check what was going on, and discovered that if I made one of the bends 1/16" closer to one edge, it would make a big improvement in my product. All of a sudden, I noticed I was interested in doing a good job on the roofing. Just because I had been doing it for a while and paying attention. Haven't done any roofing since.

  2. Love the article, and because of the phone call I received last night, I just had to post a comment. You wrote.."How many of us dreamed of hitting the road with our guitars slung over our backs, telling the stories of our lives through song." Well, that's exactly what my 20 year old daughter has done and got a call from her last night and she is traveling in Washington state with her and a bunch of other roving minstrels and she called to say she is collaberating now and staying with Mikya Dawson the girl who wrote the music for the movie "Juno". Yes I made my attempts at fulfilling that particular dream, but now my daughter is taking up the torch, and actually running with it. If you're interested in a retirement community website that lists communities try 55places.com its a great place to find what you're looking for. Just wanted to throw that in there.