Love is a lot of little things

“I say this is a wild dream—but it is this dream I want to realize. Life and literature combined, love the dynamo, you with your chameleon’s soul giving me a thousand loves, being anchored always in no matter what storm, home wherever we are. In the mornings, continuing where we left off. Resurrection after resurrection. You asserting yourself, getting the rich varied life you desire; and the more you assert yourself the more you want me, need me. Your voice getting hoarser, deeper, your eyes blacker, your blood thicker, your body fuller. A voluptuous servility and tyrannical necessity. More cruel now than before—consciously, wilfully cruel. The insatiable delight of experience.” – From a love letter of Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin

Valentine’s Day has come and gone this year with (fortunately) nobody sending a Facebook message or a Tweet saying, “Happy VD, Malcolm.”

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a smoking hot letter like the one quoted above from Henry to Anaïs. As a shy, retiring writer, I don’t think I could cope with that.

On Valentine’s Day, I was at the local hospital’s surgical center for a laser procedure called YAG that removes a cloudy film from one’s eyes that sometimes occurs after cataract surgery. It’s painless, takes only a few minutes, and then one goes home. The Center requires a driver, so my wife got up at 4:30 a.m. to drive me to my 6:00 a.m. appointment.

While several Facebook friends commented about eye surgery on Valentine’s Day, having your spouse drive you to the hospital while it’s still dark in the morning is more what love is than “A voluptuous servility and tyrannical necessity.”

In a series of e-mails with my publisher, I wished her a happy Valentine’s Day. She said that after 25 years of marriage, she and her husband don’t make a big deal out of February 14th. She said that her husband “re-routed the washer hose out through the dryer vent until we get the septic tank replaced so we can still do laundry. If that doesn’t say love, I don’t know what does.”

My wife and I watched the pairs figure stating via NBC’s Olympics coverage. Then we fed the cats and had a snack. These everyday moments seem more like love to me than Resurrection after resurrection.

Some couples go out to a restaurant for a $100 dinner with a another $100 for champagne. Then there’s dancing or, let’s say, the opera or a play. At my age, I must confess that all of that’s way too much trouble, something out of romance novels that seems overly orchestrated in real life. Can’t we just splurge with a $15.00 bottle of wine and a Stouffer’s TV dinner and exchange silly cards in red envelopes?

You know I love you because I cleaned up the last hair ball one of the cats left of the carpet. Or, because I stopped by CVS for your prescription. Or, because all your clothes went through the washer and dryer and ended up neatly folded in your dresser drawer. Seriously, playing out a steamy scene from a romance novel would probably kill both of us.

Perhaps you have also discovered this truth about Valentine’s Day even though love remains a many splendoured thing.






Love that writing advice, the good, the bad, and the strange

If you spend a lot of years writing, you’ll hear a lot of advice. In addition to writing books and the features and lists of tips on Internet sites like NPR, Flavorwire, The Millions and Brain Pickings, Facebook and Twitter supply advice. I visit these sites every week to keep up with books, authors and publishing for my Book Bits blog of links to reviews, author interviews, book news, and “how to” articles for writers.

gallicoSome wise and/or humorous words about writing have been around for so long, they’ve become almost lame, yet each new generation of readers and writers discovers them and posts them in writing blogs and Facebook. You’ve probably seen a few of these before:

  • “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.” – Red Smith, Ernest Hemingway and Paul Gallico have been credited with versions of this one.
  • “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  – Stephen King and other authors tell us that if we don’t read, we can’t possibly write. (Aspiring writers have enjoyed King’s advice in “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”
  • “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” – It’s not surprising that William Faulkner’s version of that advice is longer.
  • stephenking“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain’s version of this age-old wisdom is memorable.
  • Professional writers don’t sit around every day waiting for their muses to contact them or for imagination to strike. They sit down and write. – So many people have said this, it would take the rest of this post to list them all here.

Famous Authors often Dispense Advice in Lists

  • “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” – W. Somerset Maugham – Okay, this is actually a non-list and probably not very helpful.
  • “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” – from Kurt Vonnegut’s eight tips.
  • kerouacphoto“Write the way you talk. Naturally.” – from David Ogilvy’s ten tips. Actually, most people don’t talk like anything I want to read, especially if they use the words “you know” ten times in each paragraph.
  • “Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind.” – Jack Kerouac’s advice from his thirty beliefs and techniques, most of which are as unclear as this one…even if it’s true.
  • “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.” – from John Steinbeck’s six tips. . .this one probably annoys writers who begin with an outline and a list of character traits and motivations for each character.
  • “Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.” – from Henry Miller’s eleven commandments

And then there are the random gems

  • woolfphoto“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.” – Virginia Woolf…probably true, though most of us try to keep some semblance of love in it.
  • “The first draft of anything is shit.” ― Ernest Hemingway…typical Ernest.
  • “Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.” ― Meg Cabot…this sounds reasonable, though it has a sting to it for those of us who like reading James Joyce.
  • “Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” ― Flannery O’Connor…this seems more true today than when Flannery said it.
  • Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it. – Russel Lynes…Russel is obviously more cynical than Flannery.
  • “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald…this one ends my lists on a more practical note while also serving as another example about why we shouldn’t write like we talk.

What are your favorite tips, even the ugly ones?


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Malcolm R. Campbell, who used to dispense writing tips as a college journalism instructor, has turned his talents over to the dark side of writing paranormal short stories and contemporary fantasy novels.

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