I almost got caught up

I almost got caught up

Can you imagine trying to get caught up to cleaning a city? Oh, my

 

I almost got caught up

I almost got caught up on my dishes the other day but I think I’ve discovered a new kind of bacteria, so they can wait

I almost got caught up on my laundry last week but now, I’m building a pyramid to see how the ancients lived

I almost got caught up on my writing but more words showed up, demanding a place on the page

I almost got caught up on my reading but forgot the stacks behind the stacks

I almost got caught up on Facebook but people won’t stop posting

I almost got caught up on Twitter but fortunately I don’t tweet

I almost got caught up, but then I didn’t

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Tom Tiernan
August 2013

 

About Infomercials

Did you know that selling things (AKA junk) on infomercials, both the long shows and short blurbs, originated in New Jersey? At least that’s my understanding of it. When I watched television as a kid I would see these ads all the time. One of the last bits of info to be shown was the address to send your money. It always kind of shocked me a bit, because the town displayed was Verona, NJ, just a short ways down the road from where I lived. Verona wasn’t exactly known for being the hub of anything back then. It straddled Bloomfield Avenue, a road we used to get from home to somewhere else. Maybe that’s changed since then.

The hucksters’, err, I mean salesmen’s voices were always so enthusiastic about the thing they were hawking. Over time I noticed a pattern, a formula, a cadence they used for everything they promoted. That cadence has, for some unknown reason, stuck with me all these years. It’s like a song that gets stuck in your head. No matter what you do, you can’t get rid of it. Perhaps I missed my true calling?

Question for you

What’s the closest you ever got to getting caught up? (This is a trick question)

 

Photo by Tom Tiernan

Dry-age your writing

Abstract photo of crowd in movement, slightly unfocused

This image reflects the early part of a writing project. It appears out of focus, blurry and yet there is action, movement, thoughts unfolding, almost solid.

There is a small ranch in Oregon that produces the best beef you’ll ever eat and oddly enough their way of doing things applies to writing. If you don’t eat beef, hang in there, this is for you too.

Happy Cow Farms is dedicated to providing top notch food, raising it in a healthful way without using hormones or antibiotics and adhering to humane standards. Their cows are grass-fed and then grass-finished, which is a step left out by the majority of beef producers. There is one other thing they do that sets their quality above the rest.

Dry-aging

After butchering, the beef is left to hang for three weeks or as it’s known in the industry, dry-aged. The result of this process is that a lot of moisture is lost, which means a much smaller yield than regular aging and consequently ending up with less meat to sell. Maybe up to a third less. The process takes longer and is therefore more costly.

Through dry-aging the flavor of the meat becomes very dense and flavorful. There is a richness, an earthiness and vitality to it that can’t be achieved using regular methods. This way of doing things requires a patience and dedication to quality that can’t be had by cutting corners.

Dry-age your writing

Your writing can be, has to be, needs to be, dry-aged too. Give it time to hang, to sit, to get to know itself. Let the excess drain out, the not-necessary words to evaporate, the meaning to become dense, rich and concentrated. It has a focus, a desire, a quest. Allow it to reveal itself to you.

Take the saw, the blade, the scalpel to it. Pair it away until it becomes better than you originally envisioned. Lift up the flaps and folds, pierce it with a fork. Does it hold up to scrutiny? Will it give your reader the ability to dream, to imagine, to learn? To see the world differently? To feel or cry?

Let your writing be until it takes on a life of its own, until you become scribe instead of writer, until, like a child, it outgrows its parent. Hold your ear close by, become the fully present listener, the witness, the confessor, the heartless interrogator.

Your writing will yield more if you let it age, die and be reborn, and rise from the ashes.

Do as I say, not …

And now for a touch of irony. I wonder how much better this post could have been if I had only let it age a little longer? Let it ferment, bubble up, allowed the smoky flavor to permeate the whole?

A question for you

What is your process for dry-aging your writing?

Tom Tiernan

 

 

The 12 Steps For Writers

Photo of stairs against grass by Tom Tiernan

Writers write, they don’t necessarily know how to count

The 12 Steps For Writers

  1. Admit that you are powerless over writing and that your life will never become manageable.
    • Admit that you’d rather write than: take your kid to little league, visit your parents, talk to your spouse, clean your house, take a shower, wipe yourself, be social in any way or have sex.
    • Admit that you have made up excuses to cancel dates because a character finally revealed herself to you.
    • Admit that you’d rather bite off a puppy’s tail than sacrifice your art or use a gerund inappropriately, whatever a gerund is.
    • Admit that you weren’t born with scoliosis; your back is messed up from too much time at the keyboard. Save that dramatic headline for the truly gullible.
    • Admit that you don’t care how many tears, false memories, suicide attempts or nervous breakdowns you cause your readers as long as they buy your books.
    • Let’s face it, you’ve got serious problems.
  2. Come to believe that writing is a power greater than yourself and that it will never restore you to sanity. You can deny this but your colleagues know different.
  3. Make a decision to turn your will and life over to whatever collection of lyrical, flowing, soul inspiring, self-serving, self-aggrandizing, egotistical, barely literate words you consciously fill your screen with: Implausible fiction, suffocating poetry, even more implausible love stories, non-fiction for numbskulls, irrelevant history, whiny memoir. Yeah, like this doesn’t apply to you.
  4. Forget about making a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself. You’re a writer. You have no morals, no principles, no ethics. There are no lines you won’t cross. Being a writer means you make shit up for a living. That’s what you do. Own it and move on.
  5. Admit to God, and anyone foolish enough to listen, the exact nature of the writing you’re working on right now. It’s not fair to keep all the laughs to yourself.
  6. Obviously you don’t have any defects of character, so you can skip this step.
  7. Humbly ask God to remove any story inconsistencies, grammatical errors, etc, so you can hurry up the editing process and get on the Best Sellers list. If you have children, offer God your first-born provided He gets you on the New York Times Best Seller list. Don’t forget to throw in a gaggle of geese. If you don’t have any kids, get busy.
  8. Make a list of all the people who have harmed you and write them into stories that will necessitate a name change. Squeeze them till it hurts. Bury them once and for all.
  9. Even if the person who harmed you makes amends continue to write them into stories. Change the name a little so you don’t get sued. But above all continue punishing this putrid piece of dog vomit because he/she had the temerity to offend an erudite, urbane member of the elite literary establishment.
  10. You’re never wrong, only possessing a more enlightened point of view, so you can skip this step too.
  11. Pray and meditate on developing a better vocabulary, understanding the difference between plot and theme, and how to develop more effective marketing strategies for your work.
  12. Having never come close to an actual spiritual awakening, promise that you’ll carry this message to other write-aholics and to practice these principles whenever you are having affairs.

Oh, and by the way, this is for you other artsy creative types too. You didn’t think you were getting a free pass, did you? Get off your high horses and join the rest of us immortals!

Tom Tiernan ©2013