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5 things I hate myself for doing

1) Surfing Facebook when I should be writing 2) Writing a story because I thought it'd sell 3) Worrying what readers will think of me 4) Setting aside a story before I've finished it 5) Pretending I can't think of anything to write (aka "writer's block") because I'm too damn scared/undisciplined to do it I am a Cowardly Lion -- a sack of insecurities. I count each word a victory, a bone for the skeleton of some new me. Success is this: doing less of what we hate, more of what we love....

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Drinking cat’s milk

I had to read this passage twice: "Once I put my face against the body of our cat as she lay with her kittens, and she did not seem to mind. So I pursed my lips against that full moon, and I tasted the rich river of her body." That's Mary Oliver, and she wasn't writing fiction. It's from her 2016 essay collection Upstream. My first thought: who the hell does that? My second thought: who does it and then writes about it? Apparently, the answer is 81-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning poets like Mary Oliver. I started reading her after...

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Privilege

In the 1920s, a 17-year-old boy named Richard Wright was starved for books. Broke, black, living in the Deep South, he wasn't allowed to use the library. So he talked an Irish Catholic co-worker into letting him borrow his library card. Then, he forged a note for the librarian. "Dear Madam: Will you please let this nigger boy have some books by H. L. Mencken?" He "walked out with a copy of a book that would change the course of his life" (per Ryan Holiday). Not long after that, Wright caught a train to Chicago "before...

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Forgiveness

When I was a reporter in North Carolina, I wrote a story about a choir made up of people with HIV/AIDS. I sat in a church pew and interviewed one of the members. He was a young black guy who you couldn't help but like. He was soft-spoken, slow-moving, always smiling. I asked him how he got HIV. "From a girl I was dating," he said. "She didn't tell you she had it?" He shook his head no. I put down my pen and notebook. "She knew, and she didn't tell you?" Nope. "We're still friends," he said. "How can you be...

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Letter to my son on his first birthday

Dear little buddy, Before you came along, I was always looking ahead -- charging forward. Now, I want to stop time. I think about it a lot. I'll hold you and wish I could just stay in that moment, trying to remember every detail. Here's one of my favorite times of day: walking from my truck to the house after a long day of work. I know as soon as I open that door, I'm going to find you crawling on the floor. I'll call out your name, and you'll pause for a second before you smile...

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A special form of hell

Occasionally, I meet authors who say they love re-writing. I hate them. First, I assume they're lying. If I can tell by their eyes they're serious, I think they must be simple. Or maybe they drink box wine and snort prescription pills before they work. I love writing first drafts. They're a conjuring, a summoning forth of unseen worlds. I feel brilliant putting those new words on paper. Then, I come back and find I've written dross. There may be glimmers of something great, but that greatness is ...

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Hours of doubt

A finished book is deceptive. It's neat and tidy and all bundled up with a beautiful cover. What us struggling artists don't see are the hours of doubt that went into its creation. The hours of doubt are hidden in every work of art. As creators, we either learn to work through those doubts, or we crumple up the sheet of paper and toss it in bin -- giving up entirely. When Stephen King was writing Carrie, he did exactly that. He typed up three pages. Then, he realized he didn't like the story; he didn't like...

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On daughters dating androids

I have a 2-year-old daughter. My theory is she'll never learn to drive (thank you, autonomous vehicles), and she'll probably date an android at some point in her life. I'm ok with that for a lot of reasons: 1. He'll help her score in the 90th percentile on the ACT. 2. He'll be able to hold eye contact/conversations with adults. 3. No unwanted pregnancies. 4. He'll know CPR. 5. He'll be able to recite every book available on the Kindle. 6. He'll protect her from muggers. 7. He'll never be able to say he "lost track of time" and bring my daughter home late. 8. He could kill...

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Ode to my first house

Once, I asked dad to take me to his boyhood home. We sat there, engine idling. I stared at the siding, the green shutters, the stump in the yard and tried to feel something. My dad didn't say much, but I'm sure he felt a lot. He'd grown up there with three brothers, all of them dead; his parents dead. And here's this house, filled with different people, different stories, entirely different lives. Now, my wife and I are selling our first house, moving a few miles away to Bellbrook. I keep thinking about the fact that...

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You’ll snap your fingers and 10 years will go by…

I overheard my wife speaking to her mother. "Life's moving so fast right now," she said. "If there's something I want to do, I have to do it when I can." That means sewing blankets at 10 p.m. It means rushing into Valley Thrift 10 minutes before they close to buy bigger shoes for your daughter. It means eating Campbell's soup straight out of the can (OK, I'm the only one who does that). Life is moving fast. I think of it like a gently rising hill. It's so easy when we're children. Our parents carry us when our feet are...

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