Saturday, June 22, 2024

HOW I LEARNED TO "WRITE RIGHT" (Or, WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW & Sometimes Y)



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If you want to make it all worthwhile 
You've got to have your own breakthrough
~ Van Morrison 
'If You Only Knew' 
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God has blessed me in countless ways, and I express my gratitude to Him every day. (GiR; 1C47)
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WHERE THE HUMOR WAS BORNT 
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My parents were two of the many great blessings in my life. Both of them had a terrific sense of humor, and yet they were a bit different. My Pa gravitated to wacky stuffs (think: W.C. Fields & novelty songs), while my Ma's sense of humor was a bit more on the cerebral side (think: wordplay & satire). And both of them found Black Comedy to be quite funny.
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When I was a wee-wee boy, my Pa used to wake us kids up for school by suddenly blasting on the stereo the Roger Miller song 'You Can't Roller-Skate In A Buffalo Herd'. If you think you can be awakened for elementary school morning-after-morning by Roger Miller cranked "up to eleven" and you can still grow up normal... well, you is wrong, Wrong, WRONG! My Pa "was a pistol; I'm a son-of-a-gun". ("Am I gettin' through to ya, fella?")
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Thankfully, my well-rounded sense of humor was inherited from both of my parents, so I pretty much get a kick out of everything! And writing became an ideal way for me to express my humor. So, how was the desire to write bornt in me? I'm glad you axed that, because I've been waiting all this time to 'splain it to ya.
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JOHN-BOY GAVE BIRTH TO A SON 
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On December 19, 1971, when I was 12 years old, 'THE HOMECOMING: A Christmas Story' (which later became known as the pilot episode for the TV series 'The Waltons') first aired on television. I saw it on that date, and I was so inspired by the wannabe-writer John-Boy character, that I started adding "Boy" to my first name. The self-applied nickname never quite went away. I still have a copy of The Holy Bible given to me on April 6, 2000, by my Ma, and it says "Presented To: Stephen-Boy. WP&Z. From: MOM".
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So, yes, it was John-Boy Walton (Richard Thomas) who inspired me to put pencil & pink eraser to paper. 
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THE GREATEST SONGWRITERS 
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As a teenager, I really got into Rock/Pop music and collected hundreds and hundreds of LPs. It's my opinion that the two greatest song lyricists who have ever lived were Bob Dylan & the pre-'83 Tom Waits. In an old interview, Waits said that had there not been a songwriter named Bob Dylan, there wouldn't have been a songwriter named Tom Waits... or words to that effect. 
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In that same confessional spirit I can say that had there not been a songwriter named Roger Miller & if the Bob Dylan album 'Bringing It All Back Home' did not exist, you wouldn't be reading this blog bit right now, because I would have done very little writing. Roger Miller and Dylan's 1965 album taught me that you don't have to play by all the rules (adios, Strunk & White, you creativity-murdering bastards!) Roger & Bob taught me that abstraction can be fun; that a bit of mystery inspires deeper contemplation and that there ain't no shame in Maverickism("Am I gettin' through to ya, fella?")
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[I s'pose it's only fair to mention - in defense of Strunk & White - that Mark Twain said, "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please", and I believe that also applies to the rules of Grammar, and stuffs like that. Learn it then burn it!] 
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I have attended some writing classes in my lifetime, but repeated listening to 'Bringing It All Back Home' was better than any of them. (And don't forget this: you can't roller-skate in a buffalo herd; you can't go swimmin' in a baseball pool!)
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RIGHTING STYLE? 
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My writing style - if we can be generous and call it a "style" - was founded upon Miller & Zimmerman & a bizarre hangover I had one morning in June of 1983
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FUN FACT: I believe I discovered my writing style while "so hungover" one morning in the bed of my pickup truck parked near the intersection of Ocean & Linnie Avenues, a block from the Venice Beach canals in helL.A., whilst typing on my "% 500 pound" manual typewriter. It was a twisted, stream-of-consciousness kinda-sorta "love letter". (Remember that! You'll need it later.)
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STREAM O' CONSCIOUSNESS: Trial & Errof 
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In the very early 1980s, I wrote a number poems that I liked quite a bit... and which I STILL like quite a bit, gosh-dern-it all to helck and back!! 
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But, having read stuffs by Jack Kerouac, I got it into my mind that I needed to write something that was true "stream-of-consciousness". Therefore, as a truly dedicated writer of the utmost dedication, I made several attempts over a couple of years to write the "perfect" stream-of-consciousness pome poem. 
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I'd start out with a pome pe poem subject, and then just start typing on my manuel manual Royal typewriter anything that came into my mind. I'd do this in my bedroom with a "Do Not Disturb" sign (stolen from a nearby hotel) hanging on the outside doorknob. I'd drink Kahlua all night long while I was writing. Eventually, I'd end up with countless pages of failed attempts crumpled up and strewn around me, and I'd be so jittery from so much caffeine consumed - full bottles of Kahlua through the night - that I'd be awake all night long, getting zero winks o' sleep. (True ART is hard on the body!)
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I was never able to write a purely stream-of-consciousness peom poem. My overly analytical and 'perfektionist' wiring, and desire to shape the writing (i.e., correct errors; change words here & there, etc.), made it literally impossible for me to write a 100% stream-of-consciousness pe poem. I gave up.
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JUNE, 1983 
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One day in June, 1983 (best guess: Sunday, June 12th) I woke up with a very bad & weird hangover. "Bad" was normal; "weird" - although not unheard of -was not normal.
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Me in my Chevy LUV Truck (sister Bonehead in the bed).
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Somehow... I got the idea to drive my small Chevy LUV truck to the Venice Beach area and write a letter to Terrill, the young woman whom I met in Los Angeles, who grew up in Holland, and who was then living in Greece. (Eat your hearts out, Chuck Thorogood ["I met a German girl in England who was going to school in France..."]. This is REAL LIFE, punks! šŸ˜Ž This "shit could really happen!")
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I had no subject matter whatsoever in mind. All I knew was that I was going to write this gal a letter, period (.). So, I drove around in Venice until a parking spot against a curb whistled me over. I parked, got into the bed of my truck, sat down, and just started typing. I was 100% thorogoodly in the moment! (You actors and actresses know what I mean by that expression.) I wasn't the least bit concerned about formatting, punctuation, or spelling. I put the heavy, old manual typewriter's keys on 'All Caps', because I was too hungover to deal with proper capitalization; and then I just started writing anything & everything that instantly *popped* into my mind. For the first time in my life, my mind was AT  ONE with the typewriter keys (yuk!-yuk!). There was no self-censoring allowed, and I couldn't even be bothered enough to correct typos. The only thing that mattered to me was putting on paper - as quickly as possible - any thought that presented itself in my noggin.
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Within a matter of some minutes, the two-sided letter was complete, and I vowed to mail it to Terrill, although this was an aspect of my personality that she didn't know existed. Somehow the unique atmosphere and the bizarre hangover feeling had allowed me access to a creative channel that had previously remained unexplored, and even unknown to me. Writing that letter freed something inside of me; it removed some sort of mental blockage that, once excavated - as if it were a caved-in silver mine - permitted the "creative juices" to begin flowing completely unimpeded.
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Although there was nut'n the least bit poetic about it, and nothing that one could even describe as "lovely", the letter was 100% pure, barebones stream-o'-consciousness, and I mailed it to Terrill "as-is".
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As time went on, I realized that the LTT (Letter TTerrill) had been a massive breakthrough for me. From that point on, my writing took on a very free-flowing manner. Having done it once, I realized that I could henceforth tap into that creative conduit at will and I no longer felt even slightly self-conscious about what I wrote. I could write whatever I wished, knowing that if it got a bit out-of-hand, I could make adjustments later. {*See: Advanced Editing Technique below.} Such as toning down my natural tendency to write sentences so filled with alliteration that they can sometimes seem artificially contrived.
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ADVANCED EDITING TECHNIQUE 
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When writing nowadays, after completing my rough draft, I return to the beginning and start the editing process. If, for example, I am writing about an elephant, I remove everything that doesn't look like an elephant and I leave it on the cutting room floor. This gives me some additional space which I can utilize later to include more animals, should I think it advantageous to do so. Like, if I feel an opossum, a polecat and/or a zebra would make the elephant feel less lonely and might increase the paragraph's profitability, I will stick them in there when and where I can. 
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THE ENDLESS HANGOVER 
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I certainly do not think that the LTT was anywhere close to being the best thing I've written. But!... I unquestionably consider it the most important thing I ever wrote, from a strictly personal perspective. It was my writing "breakthrough" (*see the Van Morrison quote at the top of this post) primarily because it made my subsequent writings possible. (Look out, Roger Miller & Bob Dylan, there's a new kid in town!) 
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I believe that everything I have written since then - whether typewritten or computer keyboard-generated - has been influenced by that one June, 1983, letter to Terrill. I am quite possibly self-deceived, but I "feel" that my natural intensity tendency still exists in my writing (when its presence is necessary). However, I have also obtained an uninhibited, unrepentant, stream-o'-consciousness quality in my writing that did not exist prior to my LTT. That unrestrained freedom did exist in many of my sketchbook drawings prior to the letter, but it did not come into bloom in my writings until I let loose that strange letter to Terrill. 
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Saudade
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Half-Dead Self-Portrait
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I thank God (GiR; 1C47) and Terrill for the freedom to express the maverick me whenever I write anything. I should probably also thank whatever liquid "Evidence" I drank on the night before the morning of June 12, 1983, when I trucked my old typewriter down to the Venice Beach area. I don't remember what I drank that night, but it has certainly stayed with me.
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LETTER TO TERRILL 
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(If you're wondering where the "dog" is, you'll find it in the letter to Terrill.)
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Letter To Terrill - page 1
[click image to enlarge] 
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Letter To Terrill - page 2
[click image to enlarge] 
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Stephen T. McCarthy 
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POSTSCRIPT: Extra Fun Fact...
On page 1 of the letter, I mentioned that I was planning to see a movie. After writing the letter, I drove back to Santa Monica, found Cranium playing pool in Jolly Jack's bar and convinced him to go see > 'Koyaanisqatsi' with me. For the next 39 years, that remained my #1 all-time favorite movie. And it really did change the way I looked at the world. So, oddly, two personally important & life-long inner shift-changes occurred in my life on that same day.
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Monday, May 20, 2024

HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT (Or, IT'S ALL IN BONEHEAD'S TWITCH!)


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[DOG POUND NOTES are simply random thoughts, ideas, and maxims that have occurred to me. I am totally convinced of the merit of some of them. Others may merely be food-for-thought or even outright Doggy Doo-Doo. I'll let you guess as to how I categorize each of them.]
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NO! That's not me. That's my sister, "Bonehead", as she appeared in the 1986 movie 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'. That close-up of her occurred in a scene where Bueller's teacher was droning on and on and on...
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Every time I see that expression on my sister's face, it reminds me of how I feel about the United States government and "this world" as it is today. 
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(Very well done, Bonehead! You captured your brother's disgust poifectly!)
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy