Notes on Solitude

IMG_4132I have always sought some sort of solitude, and for a reason singular and unaltered since I was able to put it into words — to sort out what I was thinking. I do find myself a rather poor on my feet thinker, although verbally this may not sound like it to those who know me. 

I tend to take in a lot of information and take some time to process. Either it is an instinctual response, a way to assess the dangers to myself at some level, or, simply the way I view the world and how to interact with it — taking my time. I tended to behave in this fashion as a child, young man, and now I fully find solace in my delay, which requires solitude.

One illustration is my journal, which for years was my constant companion — it still is, somewhat, but with self-consciousness bothering its edges — whenever I attended a lecture, a class, a film, a reading or a sermon. I would put my head down and take notes, scribbling down nearly all that was spoken without a pure understanding of what I was finding through my notes.

This is partly because this was my mode as a journalist. I took copious notes. You had to, your job depended on it. For years, as the reporter for newspapers in news-dry towns, I needed to take down as much as possible in order to write the longest stories possible in order to fill the spaces alloted to such things in the newspaper (also covered with advertisements, photographs and other newspaper ephemera). I had to come up with so many stories and of a certain length or else the holes in the newspaper would be filled with those other things, and I simply, in good conscience, could not have that.

There were times when I would cover a governing body in the morning — the Mountain View County Council, say — and by end of business I would have had to fill an entire 24-page weekly newspaper with stories, entirely being roughly a 60/40 proposition of news to advertising. It was a lot. I needed notes to do this. Head down, take notes. Scribble as fast as you could.

Hemingway once said a newspaper career won’t hurt a young writer’s should they get out in time. Which is to say, Hemingway (yes, once a journalist) thought the reporting life was good for setting up habits, but it would be best to take those habits and apply them to the writing of other things than words on newsprint.

My reporting career created to my mind a grace under pressure, if you will, to borrow more from Papa; it habituated an economy of words, some might say, but also that willingness to test one’s mettle for deadlines and accuracy. It was all this, and more. The newspaper job more than anything prepared me to sit alone with my thoughts and to take those resulting processed thoughts, culled from content scribbled in a notebook, and place them down in some kind of record of reasoning. 

(this is an excerpt of a longer work I’m currently engaged in looking at the research agendas of writer/scholars) 

Hunting & Gathering

We glean.

We gather.

And it is inevitable. When a seemingly random and inexplicable piece of information (data, memory, story, etcetera) crosses the writer’s path it is no longer questioned.

It gets filed in some way or another for that day that will surely come when the information will answer a question, solve a puzzle, or be exactly what is needed at that exact moment.

This is partly why it is difficult for some writers — certainly this one — to discard; for writers, you just don’t know when whatever it is in your hand above the dustbin might be of some use.

So, the files continue to mount in ziggurats; notes get written and stashed; boxes are stuffed and stored, while books are arranged and re-arranged to accommodate more, and more in our offices, ateliers and writing outposts.

Everything is material, after all. A writer’s defense against a charge of hoarding.

Writers are guilty as need be.

I am.


The Darkest Shade of Twilight

Brilliant new short story by my Southern brother, Daren Dean, author of Far Beyond the Pale (Fiction Southwest Press) The story is called “The Darkest Shade of Twilight,” and it was published by Bull a publication dedicated to, “…examining and discussing modern masculinity: what works, what doesn’t, what needs to change and what needs to go. We’re in quickly shifting times and more than ever this conversation is crucial. We want fiction and essays that engage that conversation from every angle. We want stories of exemplary masculinity, cautionary tales, accounts from every possible perspective and persuasion.”

Here’s the  link: Daren’s Story Or:


See This, if You Can

Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler in the very funny, but also sad, Me, Earl & The Dying Girl, a film about growing up that ranks as modern day must sees, like Nick and Nora Infinite Playlist and The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Highly recommended.

Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler in the very funny, but also sad, Me, Earl & The Dying Girl, a film about growing up that ranks as modern day must sees, like Nick and Nora Infinite Playlist and The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Highly recommended.

Freewrite: The First Story

IMG_6070The First Story

The road ahead was unfamiliar, but that didn’t deter them from driving further; there was family to get to even thought they’d never been this way before.

It was new to Nate and Janice, this visiting their son and his new wife, Astrid and it was the first time they would be traveling along on this mountain road.

They left their suburban Indianapolis home in the late afternoon bound for the Missouri Ozarks, near the Tennesee border. Their son, Phillip was a new school teacher. this was their first Thanksgiving with his parents visiting.

The road was busy until they turned off the Interstate for the lonely country road through some high plains and the town of Chulka, which sat on the gown of the Ozarks.

The night was growing dark and as misfortune would have it the rain began to pelt their Vovlo station wagon.

“Are you sure we should go on,” asked Janice.

“Of course,” he replied, gripping the steering wheel tighter.

“We never been this way.”

“Just like any other road, I suppose.”

They drove for some time in the darkening rain. Janice had turned off the radio, which had been broadcasting NPR, but the dire weather warnings were getting to be too much for her. “Do you mind,” she asked before turning the radio off. Wordlessly, he agreed by shaking his head.

The car’s headlights cut the night into torrents of rain and intermittened darkness.

Their son and his new wife had lived with them in their home for two years before Philip finally got a job; they helped with the down payment on the house and were excited to see their only son off to tackle the world. Both Janice and Nate retired from their teaching jobs a month later as had been in the works for several years. They spent their summer working on a boat, which sat docked in South Haven, Michigan. The fall came and they worked together to covert their house into one they could sell. They’d paid off the mortagage several years ago and were excited with their new life.

“Are you sure?”

Nate turned slightly to look at his wife’s face, which dripped in reflection with the rainwater and shadow from the windshield.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do.” he said.

Janice reached over and gripped Nate’s hand on the steering wheel. “I don’t either.”

They drove on through the darkness, uncertain, going slowly, but continually forward.


Good magazine piece on Freewrite can be found:

The Last Comp & Wreck


IMG_6067Yesterday marked the end of my fifteenth year teaching undergraduates the fine art of composition and rhetoric (pronounced in industry parlance: Comp & Wreck) — which I’d taught since 2001, beginning in Houston. This last class contained some of the best student writers I’ve had the honor to guide and I thank them for that very privilege. I continue to teach full time in the MFA in Writing Program at Lindenwood University.




Summer was wealthy with a daze of suntraps, writes Aidan Carl Mathews.

So great a sweetness flows into the breast, writes William Butler Yeats.

There is the creative joy, an acceptance of what life brings, because we have understood the beauty of what it brings, or a hatred of death for what it takes away… Sunspots and watery moats alight briefly. Most turn to fade should attention veer. There isn’t an audience I could accrue at the edges of this ecstasy. Only me and the spark, the flame in my soul.

Wheatgrass Sea

At my hometown across/the wheatgrass sea/forever you can see/along the vanishing point. 

Arise and drift ever so/slowly there’s always time/there always was time.

To point out/Saying exactly/the shape of things to come.