Stepping Back: How to Pause the Writing Machine Gracefully

Life is unforgiving when it comes to our hobbies, and it’s hard to find the quiet, dedicated time required to truly delve into writing.

Case in point: I started to draft this article, and then my roommate walked in on the phone with one of our friends. By the time that was sorted out, my laptop battery was close to dying, so I had to give up with only one sentence completed. I wish I could make this up.

Beyond temporary interruptions like these, there may come a time when it’s necessary to step away from writing and redirect that focus to more pressing needs. This has occurred twice already in my life, and now I’m on the cusp of the third. But unlike the other two times where it happened as a byproduct of large changes in circumstances (moving out of my parents’ house, enrolling in a development boot camp), this time I am doing it intentionally.

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Dash Point

The air churned around Sam Darkmore, slamming the waves into the shore. Frothing, the saltwater raced at him, but Sam kept his feet just out of reach. To the south, black clouds approached. The sight of the storm sent a chill down his arms despite the leather Coast Guard jacket.

Sam turned away from the simmering edge of the North Atlantic. I don’t want to be anywhere close to here when that storm breaks, he thought. His assignment was already what the seamen of the Provincetown Coast Guard Station referred to as a “shit detail” without being trapped for a night on the tip of Cape Cod. Naturally, he couldn’t help but feel Chief Petty Officer Wyler had chosen his least favorite ensign for the job. He hates anyone that didn’t come from the academy – and I’m not from around here, either. Two nails in the coffin.

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Outside Mission Parameters

Space shuttle launch
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Sixty seconds after launch, and everything was running smoothly. Michael ran through the checklist for the twelfth time, eyes flicking across the flight control dashboard. Fuel holding steady. Engine temperatures normal. Approaching 60,000 feet.

For the first time, Michael allowed himself a moment to think beyond the immediate demands of piloting the shuttle. It was his first mission into space, and after years of training and waiting, he dared to anticipate the feeling of weightlessness for the first time. Of seeing the Earth from above. Of seeing the stars and the galaxy surrounding the crew.

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Beyond the Cape

Big Sur Light against night backdrop of stars
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Out along the rocky crags that formed the coastline, I walked through the autumn sunshine. It was a daily habit rooted in all the good intentions of health and clearing one’s mind, but I had recently found another reason drawing me out into the cooling air. The pine trees thinned, and I began to pick my way along the pile of red and gray boulders that formed the cape. On this spit of land jutting into the dark waters of Mobjack Cove and the Atlantic beyond, I often found a solitary fin plying through the waves.

I had never been a sailor beyond my weekly foray in the skiff to check the fishing net I had rigged in the cove, but I had known men who traveled the world whether for trade or for war, and they all agreed that sharks were nasty beasts.

Yet, here I was, sitting atop a boulder to observe Mobjack Cove’s resident beast at work as he maneuvered back and forth only a few hundred yards from where I sat, forming a grid pattern. Then, the fin dove out of sight in a flash; he had spotted prey.

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Hunting Shadows: My Tiger King Inspired Short Story

This story was started and finished during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdowns that swept the country. In those days of anxiety and uncertainty, I could at least take pride that I had finished “Hunting Shadows” at a record pace. After all, what else did I have going on every evening? Now, as Tiger King Season 2 debuts, I am once again reminded of those early days when the virus was not yet a political issue, when we were united in our resolve, and, of course, when Tiger King seized the national conscience.

However, unlike most other viewers, I was less captivated by the boisterous Joe Exotic and his zoo empire and more intrigued by an event which was presented as little more than a footnote in the first episode: Zanesville. In October 2011, an exotic animal collector in Ohio unleashed a horde of 50 tigers, lions, bears, cougars, wolves and monkeys and then killed himself, forcing the local police to put the animals down with force before they escaped into the surrounding woods and town. The idea of being a police officer in rural Ohio forced to hunt down nature’s greatest predators was captivating enough. The fact that nobody except the owner who committed suicide was harmed is short of miraculous.

The story below came as the result of me asking the question: what if things hadn’t gone so well, as they very well could have in the real incident? What would it be like to be one of those police officers called in to face a horde of massive predators with no training and no grasp of the true magnitude? What would the insanity of this unlikely event feel like to witness first hand? These are the questions “Hunting Shadows” attempts to answer.

Read on for the story!

King of the World

Abandoned brown house
Photo by Nikolay Maslov on Unsplash

Author’s Note: I have been listening to several audiobooks recently, and that made me wonder what it might take to record some of my stories. As it turns out, quite a bit of effort, despite these works being a fraction of a novel’s length. Fortunately, I found out that a good friend of mine, Jonathan Kilgore, was interested invoice acting, and our two goals aligned perfectly. This has allowed me to not simply repost “King of the World” (originally published on Vocal) here, but to add a whole new format for you to enjoy it through. I have also included the original text below so you can follow along as you listen.

 

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Looking Back: Advice to My Younger Self (and Any Other Beginner Writers)

Author’s Note: Many of the below sections could have their own entire post dedicated to the details, but I’m not sure a just-starting writer would really want to keep track of all that. After all, as I cover in Point 1, I don’t want them to spend too much time thinking as opposed to drafting – and throwing minutiae at them around the finer points of editing and submitting would directly counteract that goal. I am also a prose writer at heart, so, while many of these points can apply across the spectrum, I will most definitely be biased toward advice to help fellow fiction writers. You’ve been warned.

Writing is key

This sounds stupidly obvious, I know. But it seems like a lot of folks out there spend too much time talking about writing when they’re first starting out than doing it. There’s nothing wrong with planning, but if you’ve spent months strategizing without picking up a pen (or pulling out the keyboard), then you may be in for a rude awakening when you find that you don’t like writing. Imagine spending all that time for no return. I’d always rather jump in too quickly and do more editing later than spend so much time thinking that I never start. Which brings us to the next point:

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Adventures on Vocal

Recently, I’ve been entering Vocal fiction contests, and I thought some of you who have also heard of the platform might appreciate the insights of an “insider.” Of course, I haven’t won any contests yet, so I wouldn’t put myself in the ranks of their elite users by any means, but I have been using the platform to post content all the same.

Like most things in life, there are benefits and drawbacks to a Vocal membership. Let’s start with the perks.

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My Voice AKA Adventures in Podcasting

A few months ago, I went on the Creative Conversations podcast. I didn’t really listen to podcasts before this, and I certainly never thought I’d do an interview, but then a good friend told me about one an indie author was starting that focused on writing and the creative process. I replied that I didn’t think I could talk about writing for a full hour and was assured it didn’t need to be that long. I then spoke with host Marissa Lete for 52 minutes (you can check the tape).

1) I guess that makes me a liar and 2) I had a lot more to say than I thought. Indeed, writing since the late 2000s has given me a robust perspective and many opinions, which have also evolved as my prose matured and I studied the technical aspects of the craft in college. Reading lots of writing advice books throughout this time also helped.

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New Age Writing: Exceptionalism or Visibility?

What comes first? A piece of writing is unique, which gains it views – or a work is popular, which distinguishes it?

SEO: It’s a Metaphor

As a professional marketer, I researched SEO, expecting some magic formula to instantly promote my company’s website, which I then planned to re-purpose for my own budding online brand. Instead, I found that the Internet has changed a bit since SEO first became a field. For instance, did you know you don’t have to capitalize “Internet” anymore? AP style guides got rid of it – spread the word!

Spread more words!