Inspiration of the Day

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May I have a moment of your time?

 

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Editing is the writer’s greatest weakness.  No one person, with the exception of the OCD genius with IQ of 150, will be able to produce a masterpiece on the first attempt.

I am constantly reminding myself to pour as much attention into the finished product, as I do when creating it, lest I give you something not worth the spit on the bottom of my boot.

One of my tricks is to surround myself with inspirational quotes, books, or the occasional test reader, to remind me the error of my ways.  While I don’t surround myself with the test reader, no matter how willing he or she may be, I do appreciate their scrutiny.

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How many times have you done this?  Writing on bated breath?  Mr. Fitzgerald believes that this is how all good writing is done.  Let me ask you this: do you fancy yourself a writer, or, do you just desire to be a writer?

Writing comes from the soul.  You either have a story, (or in some cases, stories), to tell, or, you want to tell a story.  Whichever side of the fence you are on, you desire those moments when you forget to breath.  You thirst for those brief times that you tap into your soul and the words march from your fingertips, covering the paper or screen before you.

Some would say that those who desire becoming a writer aren’t actually writers. Others argue that stringing together a body of words, and publishing them, makes one a writer.

I argue that it’s the ability to tap into those moments, which make one a writer. To write is to tell a story, but to tell a story properly, one must be able to tap into the soul.  That’s where true magic is born.

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There will be scars.  Any writer, worth his or her salt, already knows this truth.  You may think you have written the greatest story, or collection of words, since (insert author name here), but the final decision is not up to you.  If you are an independent writer, the choice may not even be up to the reader as well!

In today’s society, ANYBODY can publish a body or work.

This does not mean that you are going to be an instant success!   Your book is now swimming in a virtual sea of books, and chances are, you aren’t going to find what you were looking for!  Neither, for that matter, is your potential reader!

You’re hurt.  You can’t understand why it didn’t work for you, the way that it did for that young lady that wrote the books about the boy wizard.  After a few months, you throw your hands in the air, in frustration, and vow to never create another word.

Mr. King, among many others who have found success as an author, know that you must have the ability to heal from these wounds.  More importantly, in his own words, you must remember the origin of every scar!

 

These three things define me, as a writer.

  1. The ability to recognize and correct one’s mistakes.
  2. Being able to tap into the soul, and infuse it into one’s work.
  3. Knowing that it is the ability to rise from failure, which defines one’s success.

Writing isn’t a science.  Ultimately, you take what works for you, and you jump right into it.  Every writer has his or her own edicts, and in truth; what does it matter, as long as he or she writes?

 

Across the White Line

This isn’t my typical fare for those of you expecting something delicious.  I don’t have any monsters in this post, nor will anybody die.  Sadly, there will also be no twist endings, no surprise villains, and I will not be creating a world you’ll want to visit from time to time.  Tonight I will be stepping outside of my comfort zone to talk about something that happened last week.

Life changing?  Sure.  For some, this was an event that might give cause to completely alter one’s life.

Enlightening?  Possibly.  I suppose there is something to take away from all of this. Later that day, my boss says to me; “Do you believe in God?  You should, because he believes in you.”

The day in question was August 4th, the day I nearly died.

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The image you see here is the wreckage of my 104, the truck I had been been entrusted with when I took my job as a driver.

I had just left the quarry in Edgarton KS, headed to a job site less than ten minutes away.  I had a number of routes available to me, three to be exact, of which I had chosen the quickest one; hwy 199, going east.  For those of you without any knowledge of this road, and I expect that number to be in the ‘most of’ category, it’s a narrow two lane jobber.

Normally, I try to follow the highways that have a full, or in the very least, a partial shoulder, in case something should happen.  Today, I thought that I could get a little bit further ahead by shaving a few minutes off of my route.  Three, to be exact.

Somewhere deep down, I knew that I had made a mistake when there was no shoulder on the other side of the line.  Once across, you were in the grass.  These fears came to fruition about a mile in.

Ahead of me, I noticed an extra large pickup coming my way.  More specifically, I noticed that his two rear-axle tires were on my side of the road!  I had only a split second to react and I moved over a little to the right.

Two things immediately happened:

  1. Because I was carrying a full load, and as it always does when I move a little too suddenly, the trailer began to rock from side to side.  When I felt it move, I looked out the side view mirror, wrongfully thinking that it had gone over the white line.
  2. Because I looked out the mirror, as nearly every driver would do at this point, my hand hand followed the movement of my head.

At that moment, what I thought my trailer was doing, was happening to my tractor!

I wouldn’t realize this until later, however, as I swore it was the former of the two that sucked me down.  That being said, there were only six seconds left until –

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I watched in horror as my truck slid from the road.  To my credit, I almost kept her on her wheels!  However, and as I was later informed, I did what eight out of ten drivers would have done in this situation.  I kept fighting to get back on the road.  As such, when I reached that point where only five of my eighteen wheels were still on the pavement, my tractor overturned and slammed into the ground at a little over forty-four miles per hour, give or take.

There were only six, when I felt myself losing control, but they were the longest six seconds of my life.  It was at that moment that I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I had come to the end of my life.

I wish I could say that I said something memorable, like in that movie; “The Perfect Storm.”  Remember when the boat went down and the crewman said something to the effect of; “This is going to be hard on my little boy?”

Or what if I had gone with a witty one-liner?  “Well, this is one way to lay down some rock!”

Unfortunately, the sad truth of it is I went with; “No.  No, no, no, NO – OH FUCK!”

That’s when the ground exploded into the cab.  That, and about two feet of the rock I was carrying that day.  When the dust settled, I didn’t have time to think about how I was alive.  I looked down into what was left of the passenger area of the cab and tried to make sense of it.  It looked, and I would later discover this to be true from the outside as well, as if it had been crumpled up like a wad of paper.

I heard steam.  I could hear something leaking.  I looked out the hole where the windshield had been and saw a pool of liquid forming on the ground.

The dust settled, and I burst into action.  I had seen the movies enough times to know what happens next.  Directing my attention to my side, I located my seat belt release and fought for escape.

*CLICK*

Success!  I was free!

The next two or three seconds are a blur, nearly lost in my memory, but I somehow birthed from that unholy compartment and back into the world.

I remember pulling myself to my feet and charging away from the truck as if the hounds of hell were at my heels!  What a sight I must have been to the bystander who’d stopped to help.  THIS man, bloodied, and wearing a terrified expression, pulls himself from the wreckage and charges as if possessed!

I remember the expression of shock/amazement/fear on his face as I waved him away.

“Got. To. Get. Back,” I shouted between gasps.

I was struggling for air.  I was also trembling from the adrenaline rushing through my veins.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I had sustained some damage to my left shoulder.  Maybe in the impact of the crash?  Or, maybe pulling myself out?  Who’s to say…  As I write this, pain is consuming every nerve ending in what I believe is the rotator cup area, and I’m wondering just how much more I can pound out on my keyboard before I’m happy with the results.

And actually, there’s little else to tell, from then on, that I feel is relevant to this post.

The bystander allowed me to call my work, 911, and my wife before leaving.

The person who caused my reaction, the one driving the extra-large truck, never stopped, and hasn’t been heard from since.

And, I have been on the mend now for over a week.

I don’t know how long this place in my life will hang on to me, I’m hoping to have some good news after my next doctor’s visit, but I do know that the wounds will take longer to heal in heart, than just in body.

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Amazing that these are the worst of the abrasions I suffered!   Not pictured were the scrapes, cuts, and scratches on my arms and legs, probably earned during the escape.  And, obviously, we can’t see the damage done inside my shoulder, but I assure you the bruises forming there are telling a story of their own.

Strangely, this hasn’t changed my outlook on the future.

Once I am able, I plan to get in another truck, back at it.  Since this job is seasonal, and most of the work is in the warm months of the year, I anticipate (as well as look forward to) the remaining months to be used writing my books.  Of course, I work on them during the week when I can, but some nights I don’t get home until well after dark.

I guess I am sharing this with you, my friends and avid readers, because I wanted to show you what was on the other side of the computer screen.  I don’t do this often, for I am not always fond of what I, myself, find there, but this time I felt compelled to.  As I mentioned before, I find myself heavy of heart as of late, but I’ve heard that sometimes it’s best to just tell the tale.

104 has been laid to rest this week, but I have not.

  • R. Richardsson

Another Time, Another Place

I find myself feeling a little nostalgic this evening.  As I sit out on the patio, listening to my neighborhood celebrate this nation’s independence, I can’t help but reflect to an experience I had while traveling abroad.

In the winter months of 1997, and for all the wrong reasons, I found myself in the Dutch community of Nijverdal, just an hour and a half east(ish) of Amsterdam. While I would like to say that I was there for myself, it was for matters of the heart that had put me so far away from home.

I don’t believe I made a mistake in going there.  Okay, sure.  Maybe I was a little out of my element.  No.  That’s not exactly correct.  I was a LOT out of my element.  At that time of my life, I had very little direction in life, other than where my heart led me.  Unfortunately, the heart knew not what was best for me.  That was something I had to discover on my own.

I was terribly alone in a place where I only knew one other person who spoke my language.  Fortunately, I found shelter with a family who rented out a room for people such as myself.

I would like to say that I went out often, that I explored this strange new land, but if I did, I might be telling a taller tale that I am used to sharing.  No.  The truth is much more boring than I’ve ever admitted.  Most days, when I wasn’t desperately seeking her companionship, I sat alone in my room, staring out a window, and wondering just how the hell I had gotten myself into this situation.

My hosts were kind, if not understanding.  I think they knew why I was there, but they encouraged me to get out and explore when we weren’t together.  Of course there were some days when I did just that.  They weren’t many, but I did the best I could, given what I was prepared for.  I did walk from one end of the community to the next.  I explored few local places to eat, walked through a market just to see the differences in food, and I even found a pub(?) in which I stopped to have a drink from time to time.

Every morning they laid out an impressive spread for breakfast.  I could never eat everything they had for me, but I enjoyed trying foods I wasn’t used to having.  You could ask me to recount them, but sadly, I’ve lost most of those memories to the things I’d thought more important at the time.  It’s weird how memory works.  I can recall enjoying strange pastries, having a poached egg for the first time, and many different kinds of crackers and jams, but I can’t, for the life of me, tell you their names.

Never-the-less, it was a magical time.  There aren’t very many people in my life who can say that they have had such an experience.  Most have barely ventured outside of my home state, let alone into another country, and I am thankful for having been there when I did.

Tonight finds me comparing the differences between our communities and how we celebrate the holiday, and I am a little saddened at what I’m discovering.

Tonight, two-hundred and thirty-nine years after the fact, we continue to celebrate the day that the thirteen colonies declared their independence.  It represents our freedom as a country, from another whose ideals we no longer wished to uphold.

It’s a night that should feel as important to us, as a people, as does the sanctity of our flag.  But, I have to wonder how many of the people around me are truly thankful for what we celebrate.  How many people have paused to reflect on why they are outside launching hundreds of dollars worth of colorful explosives into the air.  Is it really about this day?  Or has it only become about who has the better fireworks display?  Have they, just once, thought about the struggles our forefathers had to overcome?  Or are they simply concerned about drinking beer, eating good food, and the company they keep?

I have a very specific reason for asking these questions, you see.

I’m sitting out here, desperately searching through the trees and power lines for those pretty colors, but I am not feeling any of the magic that I did in Nijverdal.  (But more on that in a minute!)

The air smells of sulfur and burnt paper.  All around me, explosions interrupt the night with varying degrees of loudness, and the sky flashes as fuses reach the small amounts of gunpowder in each device.  Sirens sound in the distance as emergency vehicles rush off to help some unfortunate fool who wasn’t careful enough not to blow off their fingers.  There are screams in the distance, punctuating every firework.  Some are from children not accustomed to the sound, while others are that of adults arguing over something trivial.

Perhaps my heart isn’t in it this year?  Maybe I’ve been bitten by the humbug?  I can’t help but sit here, close my eyes, and for the lack of displays in the sky, imagine I am on the edge of a war zone.

There is no sense of joy in this night.  The colors in the sky are too far and few between for me to enjoy, and even the sounds seem a bit off to me this year.  We, as a community, are failing at what should be the greatest celebration of the year!

It’s nothing like New Year’s Eve of ’97-’98, but then again, I don’t think anything will ever come close achieving that level of greatness in my eyes.

I’d had made no special plans for that night, except to turn in a bit early.  I also had no clue as to what was in store for me!

Shortly after sundown, one of my gracious hosts knocked on my door and beckoned me to follow.

“Come!  Come,” she said with a smile on her face.

How could I refuse?  Her good cheer was infectious, and I have to admit that I was curious as to what was about to happen.  She took me by the hand and all but dragged me down the stairs, out the front door, and to a lawn chair, where I would be teleported into another world!

The whole community was buzzing with activity!  I was no fool.  I had seen such preparations being made a hundred times before, but never had I seen so many people getting involved!  Every family in the neighborhood was busy setting up tables, securing launch stations, and laying out the most impressive cache of fireworks I had ever seen!

I can’t even imagine how much money was launched into the sky that night, but for me, it wasn’t about just that.  People wandered up and down the block, pausing to shake a hand and offer a warm greeting.  Children laughed, played, and brought smiles to everyone around them.  It was as close to heaven I think that a person could be on this mortal coil.

The night stretched on for hours.  HOURS!  The mood never lessened, and after the children went inside, strong drinks only helped to enforce the good cheer.  All of these people, so happy to send out the old and bring in the new.  It was absolutely amazing!

Yes, the air was thick with smoke and the smell of sulfur, but it was also as bright as day.  There was a multitude of colors above me, before me, and all around me, that had it been a tangible substance, I might have drowned in it.  If home and heaven were the same place, I knew that I had finally arrived.

It’s hard to imagine the feeling I experienced that night, but if I was to try to explain it to you, I’d be remiss to capture it in words.  I’d like to think that I must have been a lot like those children from The Sandlot, when Benny hit the home run. Was it a home run?  I think, only because nobody had their eyes on the ball.

Have I felt that way since?

Not in the way that you’d imagine.  Any sense of community I’ve ever felt was left behind.  I’ve never known my neighbors in the way that they knew each other, nor have I felt the trust or open hearts they shared with this foreigner.

The differences in our communities aren’t subtle, by any means.

There, everyone knew each other’s names.  They celebrated their holidays with passion, and the day after?  The day after, they ALL worked together to clean their streets and properties of all litter from the night before!  By lunch, there was no evidence that thousands of dollars worth of fireworks had been blown to kingdom come.

Here, most people use today as an excuse to not go to work.  As I have already mentioned, it’s a day used for cooking food, drinking large amounts of alcohol, and comparing their cache size, by seeing who can shoot off the load the fastest.

Okay, maybe that’s a little crude, but how many cries of “Happy Fourth of July,” have you heard tonight?  Okay, how many have you heard past your initial greetings?

“Hey Joe, happy 4th of July!”

“Oh, hey Phil!  Happy 4th to you too, man!”

And that’s usually it, right?  Or, maybe you even close the evening with the same four words, but what I want to know is; “Do you use them as you eat, drink, and make merry?”

I’m not the most political person I know.  In fact, I’m the farthest one can be from politics, but on this day I have two-hundred and six patriotic bones in my body.  I’m thankful for the insight those men had so long ago, in signing that Declaration, and I think often of the men and women who continue to fight for the freedom we’re supposed to be celebrating.

Does every action need to be weighted with the reason we’re doing these things today?  No.  Only your thoughts.  Because, ‘Murika, am I right?

I don’t know if I’ll ever find that level of awe I experienced that night, but I will always carry it in my heart.

Before I came in tonight, I shouted; “Happy Fourth of July!”  I know I am the only one to do so, for even the person who responded wasn’t able to return in kind.  Do you want to know what he said?

I think it was; “Hey!  Shut the fuck up over there!”

*sigh*