Criticism Can Call in Sick Today!

There are no wrong answers when one is writing a short story or novel. Now, yes, of course, there are stories that are loved and considered excellent works of art while others are never published. There are stories that are considered good and those that are thought of as bad or poorly written. What I love about fiction, though, is that it is most assuredly not mathematics or algebra. Algebra and math leave no room for wrong answers or mistakes. Twelve times twelve equals one hundred and forty-four and it will never, not even one billion years from this moment, equal one hundred and forty-five. I enjoy the freedom of writing fiction and non-fiction. There’s room in writing for the good and the bad and the okay and the mediocre. This makes me happy.

The blank white page, however, has intimidation skills. What if what I choose to write isn’t any good? What if someone tells me I’m a lousy writer and that I should keep my day job of sweeping chimneys? What if I’m told to simply give up on my love of crafting story and writing? The blank white page also has limitless possibility. What if I write the next great read? What if someone tells me I wrote an awesome story? What if I even receive a twenty dollar check in honor of my carefully chosen words? There are so many what-ifs in this world.

Now of course comes the idea of inspiration. Honestly, if I waiting on inspiration to knock on my desk and hand me a fancy pen, I would never have written even one story or blog. Perhaps writing is more perspiration than inspiration. Writing can be a struggle just like life.

Perhaps the only answer to the question of how does one become a good writer is that the individual author keeps on writing. Rejection letters be damned! Criticism can call in sick today! ‘Cause I’ve got my pen and my paper ready. Because I have my word processor going strong and I’m determined to keep tapping on the keys. Right on to writing on!

Here is to fiction and non-fiction and what authors may come. Let’s get our pens ready ’cause no one else can tell our stories for us as good as we can tell them.

As Flashy As A Fireworks Show

As fireworks explode outside my home I am reminded of how much I enjoy quiet things. I enjoy reading books in rooms with no television blaring. I like one on one conversations with people where there’s plenty of pauses to plot the next item of conversation. I like music turned down low so I can contemplate the messages of the lyrics. I enjoy being alone with my thoughts with no loud noises to distract me.

Although I have enjoyed fireworks shows before. The color parade of rainbows lighting up the night sky I find fascinating. But this year I am not into the fireworks scene. 2020 has been a different sort of year so far.

If this virus teaches us some new things I hope and I pray that one of the lessons learned is how to sit down and shut up and enjoy life more fully. Most of us members of the human family want our stories to be heard, but not all of us are so great at listening to the stories of our fellow humankind. Let’s sit down, let’s be quiet, and let’s listen. We might be surprised and filled with joy by what we hear and learn.

Life is not always as flashy as a fireworks show. I believe there is more to be learned, however, from the non-flashy stuff life has to offer us. I’ve been at the bottom of the ocean before and I’ve been on top of the world. I’ve experienced deep melancholy and enthusiastic joy. I’ve been chained up by the devil and I’ve been set free by Christ. The older I become, though, I realize all the more that the most authentic life of Christian faith is the quieter one instead of the showier one. Maybe fireworks are overrated.

So enjoy the noise and flash of life, but also seek to enjoy the quiet things. Let us sit back and stop talking so much so that we might become better listeners to our sisters and brothers and friends and human family. Let’s never cease hearing and learning the wisdom life has to offer.

Insert a fireworks finale here.

You Might Just Save a Life

I refuse to live my life in fear and foolishness. Through the years I have fought hard to live as wisely as I possibly can. I learned as a boy that I am far from invincible and that life is a fragile gift best handled with care instead of recklessness. There’s a whole lot of bad in this old world and not one of us members of the human family has an immunity to the bad.

People are often prone to having invincibility complexes. We all know that the bad stuff the world has to offer is out there floating around somewhere, but we then choose to believe it won’t get to us because we are so special or smart or because we’ve lived such wholesome, or clean, lives. Our invincibility complexes lie to us. These lies can prove disastrous or even deadly.

The virus that has plagued our country and world is no laughing matter. For a few months now I’ve been spending a lot of time in my home basement enjoying books and music. Lately, as I’ve gotten out some, I’ve been wearing a mask. From all the way back in March I did not think the coronavirus jokes were funny. And anyone that knows me well knows I love to make jokes and laugh. Let us wear our masks and social distance and let us not lie to ourselves and say that this virus is in the past.

If we let go of our invincibility complexes we might just save a life. We might get some extra books read in 2020. We might discover some great new musicians. We might miss out, for a little while, on our favorite bars and restaurants. And it might all be worth it and wise.

Cheers to life and wisdom and getting over our selfishness and invincibility complexes!

New Ties and Bowling Balls and Father’s Day

My family is always looking for a good reason to celebrate life. Christmas and birthdays and holidays of all sorts are cause for rejoicing and cheer. So this weekend is a big deal of course. Tomorrow is Father’s Day! I guess this means it’s time for many to get their dad a new tie or bowling ball. Whatever the present or presents might be; the true gift is that of a great father.

I’ve always had a friendship with my father. He has always been cheering me on in my corner. If I send him a text message then I always know there will be a speedy reply. If I have a major life achievement then I can be certain he’ll be there to smile and take my smiling pictures. If I am sad then he’ll offer words of hope and wisdom. If I’m happy then I know he’ll be joyful too. When I’ve been at the bottom of my life’s story he was there and the same is true when I was on top of the mountain. Examples such as this are what make for an excellent dad.

Dad and I love to collect and listen to vinyl records. So I got him a couple for his day. One is by John Prine and the other is by Norah Jones. The John Prine album has arrived and the other is on the way. I guess Dad will have to wait until next Father’s Day to get that new bowling ball or tie.

If you have an awesome dad then let him know how you feel about his awesomeness! Let us not ever take those who truly love and care for us for granted. An authentic friendship and a good relationship between a father and a son is cause for rejoicing and celebration. An old saying states, “You never really know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” This preceding sentence might prove true for many. Although it absolutely does not ring a bell of truth for me and my gratitude for having what the tshirts would refer to as The World’s Greatest Dad.

Happy Father’s Day tomorrow to all of the dads. Happy Father’s Day tomorrow to my dad, Jay Brooks. If I ever become a father then I hope to be as good at the job as he is.

 

A Present In The Present to Open

The more I give thanks I find more and more things to be grateful for. I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for my family who are also my friends. I am thankful for my job. I am thankful for the weekends and the weekdays. I am thankful for any and all who have ever shown me an ounce of kindness. I practice the art of giving thanks daily for the large and small stuff this life has to offer. My divorce from pessimism and melancholy was many years ago. It was a difficult divorce, but I’ve never looked back and regretted it.

An attitude of gratitude leads to a joyful life. If you have good friends then be grateful for them because they are not forced or required to be your friend. If you have a job that pays nine dollars per hour then rejoice because you could have no job that pays zero dollars per hour. If someone offers you a sincere compliment do not take it for granted and please do not disagree with their kind words. Say these words: Thank you! Then offer your brightest smile. Let us not settle for an ungrateful or miserable life.

Have you ever given someone a thoughtful present only to have them say through their words or expression that your gift means little or perhaps even nothing to them? How sad this is! It is the wonderful thought and kind action that counts. The receiver of the gift only should’ve said thank you with a heartfelt smile. Instead they looked at you with disappointment in their eyes and said, “Well, I don’t really like dark chocolate; I really only eat milk chocolate bars.” Perhaps you should never gift them chocolate or anything else again since they insulted you and your present while being ungrateful.

Let’s not take life for granted. Let’s notice the beautiful stuff all around us. If you view every new day as a gift then you always have a present in the present to open.

The Best Seat in the House

Do you have a favorite room or perhaps a favorite chair in your home? Do you sometimes discover a new favorite place to hang out around your house? I recently discovered a new reading room at my place. It is a wonderful room full of old photographs and collectibles. Years ago it was my grandmother’s bedroom.

In this room there are two golden colored chairs that match. I’ve adopted one of them as my new cool reading spot. The lights in this golden chair room are fantastic. I find it hard to concentrate on paying attention or reading in a dimly lit room. So this is a great room for me and my love of literature.

Take time to appreciate your favorite places or your favorite people or your favorite pastimes. The old saying goes, Live each day like it is your last. This is a pretty good statement. Although I would prefer to live each new day like it is the greatest new beginning in the history of incredible beginnings. If I really knew today was my exit from my life’s story I would be rushed and terrified. I prefer to travel at a steady pace with joy for the journey.

The more an individual practices the art of gratitude the more that person discovers to be grateful for. Look for life in the smallest of places! Discover life in photographs and old chairs and new friendships and classic books and rooms around the house that you might’ve previously neglected. When we look for the beautiful stuff life has to offer we always find it.

Keep discovering!

As We All Journey Joyfully Together

I finished reading a great book the other day titled The Hilarious World of Depression. The author of this book, John Moe, also hosts a popular podcast by the same title. The book was released earlier this month and I ordered my copy about four days after its publication date. It’s one of my favorite books read so far this year.

The book is a memoir with stories from guests on the podcast also. The podcast and the memoir are about talking about mental health issues that are difficult to talk about. I love books that address mental illness with hope and optimism and humor. I’ve known I have bipolar disorder (manic depression) since I was age 19. Since that age and revelation I’ve studied up on bipolar and I’ve continued to fight hard to have a happy life and share this joy with other fellow life travelers. Oh, and I have also taken my daily medicines every new day along the way. Talking about mental illness is a truly brave occupation to undertake.

I recommend The Hilarious World of Depression book and podcast to any and all that have mental health issues or love someone who does. A choice I made at age 19 was to tell my story unashamedly and with moxie. I have never been ashamed of having bipolar. The moment I would become ashamed of that which I did not choose then bipolar would have me instead of me having bipolar. Although my primary reason for speaking out about mental illness is to help others who are struggling. This is what the book is all about. And that is why it’s an important and inspiring read.

Whatever our stories are I hope we share them with unashamed moxie in order to help make our world a happier place. If you and I talk openly about mental illness then someone else might feel inspired to do so also. And then on and on and on this inspiration can travel as we all journey joyfully together.

Let’s Be Reader Aficionados

Books have been good to me. I became an enthusiastic reader around age 19. As a boy I did not value books or have a great desire to read them. I suppose I was too busy making the mistakes of boyhood and thinking I knew so much already that I did not need books in my life’s story. At age 36 I need books like oxygen. I need the knowledge and pleasure and entertainment and wisdom that comes from books. My life’s story is in desperate need of books.

I’m always in search of my next great read. The next book up could be a memoir or a young adult novel or a science fiction tale or perhaps a story of inspirational Christian faith. It is exciting to me, just like the reading of books, to always be planning the next book to be read. My home is full of books because my father and I collect them. There is a lot of reading yet to be read in our house. I’m always ready to turn the next page.

I set a reading goal each new January and I often average around 38 books per year read. Although I collect books I am also a great fan of giving books away as gifts. If I am able to think of a friend that might enjoy a novel I just finished then I will joyfully surprise them with it when next we meet. This might even bring me greater joy than them.

Books are a way to make one’s imagination grow. My imagination has benefitted much more from novels read than from any TV show watched or video game played. Two of the first books I ever read because I simply wanted and chose to read a book were Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The book explaining Christianity led me to imagine a greater and happier life through faith in Christ. And Bradbury’s most famous science fiction novel was the book that helped lead to the other 600 books or so I have read since then. Thank you Mr. Lewis and thank you Mr. Bradbury!

When I hear someone say that they hate to read or that they don’t have time for book reading I believe that either they just never gave reading a true chance to begin with or they are lying to themselves. Human beings make time for what we love. I hope that you love to read or that you start to love reading. No television show or video game has ever changed my life’s story for the better. But there are books that have.

Let’s be reader aficionados!

The Music Corner

Music greatly enriches my life. I’ve been spending a lot of time in my basement recently listening to CD’s and vinyl records on my Crosley Rochester music machine. It’s been a wonderful time.

What I most connect with in music is the lyrics the singer-songwriters pen. I love experiencing their stories. Often I will read the lyrics as I listen to the songs. This helps me enjoy the music more and I also believe it helps me to be a better listener. Our world is in need of more good listeners. Many of us know how to tell our story. But how many of us truly know how to always listen to the stories of others?

Lately I’ve been listening to the music of Sam Cooke, The Beach Boys, Vampire Weekend, Dixie Chicks, Run Kid Run, The Insyderz, Cat Stevens, Louis Armstrong, The Ataris, MXPX, The Chieftains, Hawk Nelson, The Weavers, The Bouncing Souls, She & Him, Relient K, Matt Maher, Mumford and Sons, Lecrae, Herman’s Hermits and many others. My taste in music is eclectic. I love all different types of tunes.

If anyone ever writes a song about my life I sincerely hope it is the happiest song you’ve ever heard. I hope the lyrics inspire you. I hope you love every second of the three or four minute long track. I hope you love it as much the fiftieth time you hear it as you did the very first time.

The corner where my Crosley Rochester dwells is an excellent corner to be in. I hope you have your favorite hobbies and favorite corners as well. And I hope if anyone ever writes a song about you and your life that it is beautiful and timeless and spun often.

Pen Pals

This flash fiction story was originally drafted on a 1946 Smith-Corona typewriter.

 

Charlie had received a brand new fancy pen as a Christmas gift. Now he was in need of some paper and a pen pal. Who would make for the perfect pen pal? That was the serious question. Charlie thought about writing to his mom or dad. But he talked to them every new day. Mom and Dad were definitely not pen pal material. The boy was a hopeful romantic. What he needed was a young lady to write to. Now that would be amazing and astounding.

Sadly, Charlie did not believe most of the girls at school would appreciate his artistic endeavors. Twelve is often times an immature age. Charlie needed a mature young lady to be his pen pal. Then he thought of his friend Rebecca.

Rebecca was like a rainbow after the storm. She was chocolate chip mint ice cream when all others were simply vanilla. If she were a novel she would have been his favorite book. Charlie thought that there just aren’t enough people like Rebecca in existence. She was his greatest friend, and now she would be his great pen pal.

The mahogany pen was now poised above the paper. The letter was about to begin. But first Charlie had to journey to find a cup of water because he had worked up a thirst plotting his letter. He found the kitchen and guzzled two glasses of water straight down. Then he was back to the task of being the world’s greatest pen pal in the entire history of the universe.

His pen connected with the paper in a brilliant mix of black ink and white paper.

Dear Rebecca,

Have I ever told you that you are a mint chocolate chip ice cream kind of girl in a vanilla ice cream world? Because seriously you really are. You are always so kind to me at school. Other kids dish out frowns like they are being paid to do so. But you serve up smiles that are so sweet and sincere. You always make me laugh and you even laugh at my lame jokes when no one else does. For this I thank you and am forever grateful. So I hope this letter makes you smile and that you will consider being my pen pal. Rebecca, you and I are not vanilla ice cream. I am chocolate chip cookie dough and you are mint chocolate chip. The vanilla ice cream people might not understand us or our pen pal letters or even our friendship. But I do not care anything about any of that middle school nonsense. Thank you for not being vanilla and please write back soon.

Your Friend,

Charlie