The Listener

I was fresh from completing my six month Listening and Communication course, when I dropped into my favorite watering hole and Tom, the barkeep, greeted me:

“Hi Dave, what will you have today?”

“Give me a tonic water with ice and a slice of lemon. I’m trying to lay off of the alcohol.”

Tom came back with my drink and said:

“Are you waiting to listen to someone with a problem, like you used to do?”

“Tom, I’m open to anyone who wants to talk about a difficulty. I’m a good listener. Humans are social beings and they find release in sharing their thoughts with others.”

“There’s a chap at the end of the bar who told me he has problems. I’ll bring him over,” said Tom, pointing to the darkened corner of the tavern.

“Sure, bring him over Tom.”

A couple of minutes later a tall, dark haired chap hopped up on the stool next to me.

“Hi, I’m Jim, I was told you’re a good listener.”

“I’m Dave, and yes, I know listening helps people unload burdens.”

Jim looked at me with questioning eyes.

“What is good listening?”

“Listening is a form of helping conversation. When I’m listening to someone’s problem, I try to put aside my own judgements so they don’t interfere.”

“Does a listener ask questions?”

“Oh yes, a listener asks questions to clarify issues and to broaden the horizons of the talker and to challenge their thinking.”

“I tend to get upset and angry when I talk about my problems,” said Jim, waiting for my reaction.

“A burst of feelings from the talker can be scary for the listener but, hopefully I can manage because I know expressing emotion can be helpful and it might make the help-seeker initiate change.”

“Well Dave, I feel comfortable in your company. What are the reoccurring problems you’ve encountered?”

‘Well Jim, most problems in counseling practice involve change and some kind of loss. All changes and transitions in life bring stress and have a great impact on the help-seeker.”

“Well, I’ve got a problem with finding meaning in my life.”

I took a long sip of my tonic and lemon.

“I’ve found there are three avenues that lead to meaning fulfillment.

First, doing a deed or some creative work, like listening to people’s problems.

Second, experiencing something or encountering someone. Meaning can be found in Work and Love.

And third, facing a fate we cannot change so we have to make the best of what we have by rising above ourselves and changing.”

“Are you telling me that meaning can come out of suffering?”

“That’s right, Jim.”

“Well, I better tell you my problem then…

My wife has been depressed for a year now since her parents got killed in a car accident. She doesn’t feel like doing anything, housework, cooking, or socializing. The doc has her on antidepressants. She has even threatened to become a recluse. She has lost her energy and inclination to do anything. She has lots of moods. The situation is getting me down now. I’ve lost hope in the future because my wife and I used to do everything together and now that is gone.

So it has ended up with two depressed people under the same roof. I now tend to get angry with my wife because she can’t get better. I feel guilty about that. I can see myself becoming her carer and I don’t know if I’m fit for that role.”

Jim ordered another pint of beer and waited for my reaction.

I was so intent on listening to Jim that I found it hard to get my mouth moving with an answer!

“Well Jim, you’re seeing the event of your wife’s sickness in an unfavorable light, and it is regrettable, and it’s affecting your stability. Your thoughts are distorted and your belief of no hope for the future is unhealthy, consequently you have destructive actions such as your anger, guilt and fear. You are responding very negatively to the event.”

“What am I supposed to do to stop these anxiety feelings?” Jim’s voice was getting louder.

“Your wife’s G.P. and therapist are in charge of her depression but sadly you have been left out of the equation to fend for yourself. There is a tendency to forget about the carer in many cases. We have to find a way to get rid of your toxic negative thoughts.”

“I have these thoughts all the time,” said Jim, dejectedly.

“That’s why they are called, “Negative Automatic Thoughts”. You see Jim, these thoughts are distorted and unhelpful ways of interpreting a situation.”

“So how do I get rid of these distorted thoughts?”

“You need to ask yourself: “How can I change my thoughts in order to feel better and act more constructively?”

“So, should I try to find an alternative thought?”

“That’s right, instead of thinking there’s no hope for the future and being consumed by anxiety, instead think, “If I MUST go through this bad patch, I might as well try to make the best of it and live as enjoyably as I can. I will ACCEPT the situation and live my life.”

“Okay, I’ll try it, but my concentration is all over the place now days and I get very emotional.”

“Remember Jim, and this is important, the best way to really consolidate your new thought is to ACT on it. Don’t get angry at your wife, be more compassionate.”

“I have to go now Dave, thanks for listening and giving me some pointers. I probably will need some more help, can we meet up again sometime?”

“Sure thing Jim, lets make it on Fridays at 6PM after your work week is over. I’ll be here on my green padded stool waiting. We will talk about concentration and emotion next.”

Jim and I shook hands and off he went and there was a faint smile on his face.


I Had A Dream…

I was walking in a fog but through the fog I could see people jogging, dieting and loading up on health-store formulas, to hopefully extend their lives as long as possible. I shook my head.

Then I saw other people drinking and smoking and taking life risking chances as though they were impatient to shuffle off this mortal coil. I thought, people are a puzzle and also very funny.


The fog became thicker but I kept walking forward. There was an owl hooting in the distance.


Then the fog cleared and I was in a huge room with a gigantic clock on the wall.

The time on the clock was 11 PM, I knew it must be PM because it was pitch black outside. Then a fella popped out of nowhere and he was trying to hold back the second hand on the clock, but he failed. Time marches forward!


Out of the mist a long bench appeared with 12 black-robed men sitting behind the bench. They were all faceless!

I was sitting below the huge bench looking up at these judges. Then one spoke:

“You are accused of NOT conforming to the rules of Aging. We are here to interrogate you.”

I shivered in the damp mist.

“Of course at the end of Aging is Death, what is your view?” said another judge.

“I have a mature view on death. Mortality is universal, everyone dies, personally, me too, it’s inevitable, final and irreversible.”

The judge nodded his head

“Do you hear voices in your head?” said another judge.

“Yes, a voice in a dark corner of my mind says:

“I will die.”

My death is a certainty, only the timing is uncertain.

The 12 judges looked at each other with their faceless heads, knowing that what I said also applies to them.

“Do you think it’s a chaotic world?” said two judges in unison.

“Yes, I do. But many people need their illusions such as religion, myth and ideology to establish a meaningful world in their minds. When in fact it is a chaotic world and many people deny their limitations.


There was a hush in the room and the faceless judges were squirming in their seats. One judge spoke up angrily: “So how do you propose people should face up to aging and eventual death?”

All of a sudden the same chap that tried to stop the huge clock’s second hand before, jumped up for another go, but he failed.

I thought, I must convince these faceless judges that I know what I’m talking about and I am being falsely accused.


I took a deep breath and said:

“Many people have personal perspectives on aging and dying. They have seen family and friends go from health to illness and from illness to death. We all should realize we are living under a suspended sentence of death that could come at some unknown time in the future. So, there is some facing up to do.”


Some of the judges got up from their chairs and started pacing up and down behind the bench. I began to wonder if these black-robed creatures were “Death’s Disciples!” There was a chill in the air.


“Well, lets see, how do people face up to aging and death? Many people go into Denial. They say, “No, Not Me! I can’t be getting old and dying.”

These people feel numb and paralyzed.

Then after denial usually comes Anger. Facts must be faced and resentment sets in, “It’s Not Fair!”

Then some people think they can make a Deal with fate. “Please hold off the aging and dying UNTIL some event or goal is accomplished.” It’s a sort of rekindling of hope.”


“What next?” the judges yelled.

“Hope fades and Depression sets in, this is a difficult time. And finally there is Acceptance. The struggle is over and the inevitable is accepted and they live their remaining life the best they can.

“Is there an upside to all of this?” said the faceless creatures.

“Yes there is, with the prospect of NON-BEING comes the motivation to live the remainder of life fully.


The judges were mumbling among themselves. There was much commotion going on.

I blurted out: “ Aging and dying are part of living and living is part of dying. It’s a paradox.”

The faceless ones were really squirming now.

“So, if you’re so smart, what is the process in the last chapter of life?” said the head faceless creature.

The fog was starting to reform.

I thought, if I can get through this, I will have them beat!


“The situation process of aging and dying starts with Restricted Activity. This means you can do less.

Then comes Limited Energy. You have to conserve your strength.

Physical Downturn comes next with aches and pains.

Then comes Disempowerment and Incompetency. People aren’t persuaded by you anymore and they think you can’t do anything right.

Becoming Ineffective is next. You can’t meet challenges anymore.

Then there is Anxiety about Time. I have a short future so I can’t do all the things I wanted to.

Loss is the feeling of loosing all that is important to you.

Disengagement is next. You are content to let the world go by and withdraw from interactions and responsibilities.

Then comes Brain Flaws. Mental functioning slows. The world seems to be slipping away.”

The black-robed faceless judges started disappearing into the reforming fog.

“And finally we come to The Story Telling. We make up stories to integrate the aging and dying into our whole life. There is a need to put everything in perspective. People are concerned with finding or creating a story that summarizes the meaning of their life. This job is carried out in the most difficult of circumstances. This job has to be done before the ultimate separation of the person from the world.

It all boils down to:

Living One Day At A Time And Enjoying The Day As Much As Possible.”


The owl stopped hooting and the 12 faceless judges were gone!

The clock struck 12 and the fog was getting thicker!

I woke up in a cold sweat!

Remind me to read Freud’s Dream Theory.


The Muse

I was sitting in my favorite booth in my favorite restaurant/tavern, mulling over some notes on a book I was writing, or trying to write. I was wondering if the plot was good enough to cover 250 pages. I didn’t want to get stuck in the middle wondering how to proceed.


“May I join you?” A soft voice was speaking.

I looked up from my papers to see a slim, mature woman dressed in a white silk dress with a short matching cape draped over her shoulders.

“Of course,” I mumbled.

She sat opposite me in the green upholstered booth. She had a margarita in her hand. I was staring at a beautiful woman with honey blond hair. Her crimson red lipstick sent an inviting message.

“Do I know you from somewhere?” I stammered.

She shook her head and her long dangling earrings wiggled.

“No,” she whispered, “but I saw you looking so serious at your papers, that I was intrigued to find out what you were doing.”

“I’m trying to figure out the structure of my new book.”

“You need a muse to help you.”

“Funny you should say that, I was looking for a muse to give me inspiration.”

“Well, I’m available for muse duty,” she smiled.

She took a sip of her drink, keeping her green eyes focused on me. Her eyes seemed to penetrate my very soul.

I took a big gulp of my beer and asked:

“Are you familiar with a muse’s duties?”

“Oh yes, I’ve been a muse before. I can help your soul by taking away the awful burden of responsibility for the outcome of your creative efforts.”

She reached across the table and held my hand and smiled. I felt myself melting under her stare.

I composed myself and said:

“Can you define for me the work that a writer’s muse does?”

“I would be happy to, Dave.”

“How did you know my name?” I said, abruptly.

“I noticed it on your papers, Writer Dave, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.” I said in wonderment.

We both sat looking into each other’s eye, at one point I thought the booth was on fire, the heat was so intense.

Her eyebrows were arched above her sweeping eyelashes, her green eyes flashing, when she said:

“The muse is the feminine part of the male writer. Her job is to penetrate the writer and bring out the creative work from the womb of his mind. It’s a sort of gender reversal. I can provide a source of inspiration for you, a sense of passion to create better works.”


The waiter came and asked if I wanted another beer, but he didn’t even notice the woman in white opposite me.

“Yes please, another beer plus a shot of whisky. I needed another stiff drink.

The woman in white was still there looking at me with those dreamy eyes. She had hardly touched her margarita. She was stroking my hand now and the hairs on the back of my neck stood erect.

Her voice was all around me, whispering in my ears. I could feel her warm breath!

“Dave, I will make you a creative whirlwind propelling you to high levels of artistic creativity.”

My hormones were starting to stimulate me to a high level of emotional intensity. I was enjoying the rush of creative juices.

She spoke again:

“All my powers are rushing through you. Are you happy now? Do you understand that everything I do, I do it for you?”

She stood up and gave me a long hug.

The next thing I knew, I had my head in my folded arms on the table in slumber mode. The waiter was shaking me.

“Where is the lady in white?” I mumbled.

“There’s no lady here, just you,” said the waiter, quizzically.

I shook my head and left the tavern. Out in the fresh air, I felt good because now I knew I had a muse of my own.

The book I was working on became a success and I hoped I could call on the muse again in the future. It wasn’t just a dream. I know it was real!!!



Being Alone

He lived alone. I was his self-appointed part-time carer, sounding board and friend. But he needed none of these, as he often said. He was the most self-reliant man I ever knew, who loved his solitude for his thinking time. His mind was his companion and he was happy.

I lived in the same apartment building. I used to visit him ever so often, to give him some company and to do things for him. That was when he turned 78 years old and his legs were giving out on him. He hobbled around the apartment with a stick. At this time he had been living alone for 30 years.

He told me he was an only child, he used to play by himself and he got used to his own company and he enjoyed it. He liked being alone with his own thoughts.

He lost his parents early, his father when he was 15, his mother when he was 25. Then he was an orphan. His wife died when he was 48 years old. That’s when his real solitude started.

We had many good conversations, he had solid opinions on everything. He watched a lot of news on the TV and he read all the newspapers. His apartment was lined with bookshelves filled with non-fiction and fiction.

“You know all I hear and read is the media shouting at me. They try to inform you but all they do is leave you on the fence, undecided and confused.”

“What do you do to rectify that?” I said.

“Well, I don’t accept everything I hear and read, so I’m left with my own thinking. I often wonder, if I can trust my thinking. My intellect is limited but with a lot of things I use common sense and logic acquired over the years. But lately, the world seems to have gone crazy!”

“I know there is a lot of injustice and unfairness in the world.”

“That’s right, I’ve been disappointed so much through the years. I almost expect disappointment as a way of life. I cannot conceive of a world run the way it should be run.”

“Maybe you’re expecting too much from the world,” I countered.

“I get disgusted when the people I meet all think in terms of the accumulation of goods and power. If I have more than you, I am better than you. Think of the drunken bum, who never worked a day in his life. Then he wins the lottery. Now, he is an eccentric millionaire. No longer a drunken bum. He now, has power and recognition. Has he changed? Not really, but he’s accepted as a superior being now.”

“Well, I read a columnist in the paper the other day and he said…”

The old man interrupted me.

“See, this is another thing that aggravates me. My father lived through the first World War, Prohibition and the Depression. He had his ideas about life. What came out of his mouth, was my father speaking out. When I listen to people today, so much of what they say is from other mouths. I tell them, I’m looking for you in your conversation, but I can’t find you!”

I got up to leave.

“Well, I’ll see you in a couple of days, old fella, you’re a real thinker,” I said, patting him on the shoulder.

“Yes, okay, I’ve got some thinking to do and I think best when I’m alone. But thanks for dropping in and giving me more inspiration to think.”

I left him smiling.

A couple of days later, I popped in to see the old fella.

“How are you today?”

“Okay I guess, but I spent an hour looking for my glasses. Finally found them, memory isn’t what it used to be. The joys of getting old.”

He seemed to be losing his short-term memory lately.

“Don’t you get restless and bored being alone most of the time?”

“Not me, I’ve got my thoughts to keep me busy.”

I shook my head.

“Don’t you get lonely?”

“Not me, son, I like my own company and my thinking time. I find when I have “me time”, I feel good.”

“But don’t you get tired of thinking about concepts and conundrums?”

“Not in the least, periods of solitude teach me to live with me, the one person I’ll never be apart from.”

“It seems to me too much solitude would be difficult and painful.”

“No, I find I need solitude to think. Being alone forces me to come to terms with every corner of my mind.”


The weeks went into months with the old fella telling me how happy he was with his own thoughts, feeding and exercising his brain with whatever problem he came across.

Then I left town for two years to work at another branch of my company. I often thought about the old man with his thoughts on solitude.

When I returned, I dropped in on him. I found him in a chair staring at the TV. There was a far away look in his eyes. Lots of books were strewn across the floor.

“My brain is black,” he mumbled.

“What’s that mean?”

The old man’s hands were shaking.

“It means my brain is dying and I am dying! My thoughts are all jumbled up, I can’t think clearly. I’ve lost my companion.”

I left his apartment feeling very sad and I was determined to get him some professional help.

The next day I visited him again. I knocked on the door, it opened a crack by itself. I walked in and found the old man slumped in his chair. There was a smile on his face. On the table next to him was an empty glass, two empty bottles of pills and a half empty bottle of whiskey.

Two Old Men (Tom and Dave)

I was on a walk with my old friend, Tom. We are both 78 years old and we were school buddies from age 6 through 18, when we graduated high school. Then we went our separate ways. Tom ended up retired in Florida and I ended up retired in jolly old England.

But one day we both ended up on a walk in Lincoln Park in Chicago, where we grew up. The walk was our constitutional. Old men need a daily constitutional.

“Hey Tom, lets go for a drink.”

“Sounds good to me, Dave.”

“Look, there’s a tavern with the name, “The Old Man”. Lets go in and have a beer.”

“Okay Dave, the name sounds interesting.”

We entered and sat on green padded stools and ordered two steins of beer. We sat sipping our beer and looking at our reflections in the huge mirror behind the bar.

“Ha, ha, look at us, Tom, two heavy-set old men.”

“We both look timeworn, Dave, but we’re still smiling.”

There were several oil paintings on the walls of old men with interesting faces staring down at us.

“Maybe we should put our pictures up there.”

Tom smiled and said:

“Yea, with the caption, “Everything is Transitory” or “Nearly everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work!”

We both laughed.

“Hey Tom, how are you dealing with old age?”

“Sometimes I feel very alone.”


“Doesn’t everybody, Tom?”

“Yes, I guess so, but it becomes more exaggerated in old age.”

We pondered aloneness for a minute.

“But, on the whole I’m feeling good, knock on wood,” Tom banged his knuckles on the wooden bar, “But I know our age is associated with illness, loneliness and death. How do you feel about getting old?”

I took a long sip of my beer.

“Well, I’m a writer in my retirement and that keeps me busy. But I know I’m getting a little forgetful and my physical and mental performance has been reduced the last couple of years.”

I thought for a minute about the questions the elderly think about.

“Here’s a question for you, Tom. How are you dealing with mortality?”

Tom laughed, “Hey buddy, what is this, Existential Questions for the Elderly?”

“Something like that,” I said, as I ordered two more beers.

“Well, I enjoy a bit of acting and singing which keeps me busy and this enjoyment distracts me from that question. But I do realize my remaining time is becoming shorter and shorter, but I use that thought as a motivator to live each day to the fullest.”

“Good on you, Tom, we have to live within the limitations of old age and adjust to the boundaries of human existence.”

“I’ll drink to that,” said Tom, taking a big gulp of beer.

“We finally get to the BIG questions. What meaning does this life have? And, is there something that transcends this life? It is essential to find a personal answer to these questions.”

“Why?” said Tom, with a quizzical look on his face.

“For psychological reasons, the old person must answer these questions so they don’t have a seed of unrest and get drawn into a depressive world.”

“How do you answer them?” Tom was putting me on the spot.

“Well Tom, as far as the meaning of life goes, I was productive and I contributed to society in my work life. Now, I find satisfaction in my writing and I hope it gets some people thinking about how to better their lives. I make my own meaning out of life. As far as something that transcends this life, I believe there is nothing beyond our death. I am an atheist and I believe that our death is final.”

“Yes Dave, I see, from what you have said, that failure or denial in dealing with these questions in old age can result in psychological disorders.”

“I believe we can be happy if we live in the present, Tom.”

We shook hands, finished our beers and walked out into the autumn mist singing:


My Summer Night’s Dream

It has been said that there are two Dream scenarios, the dream of being awake in the Real world and the other form of dream when you are asleep. This dream that I had made me think about the difficulty of distinguishing sleep dreaming from wakefulness, fantasy from reality. I also remembered what Freud said:

“All dreams are wish fulfillment.”


It was hot and humid that night, my window was open wide to catch any wandering breeze. I only had a thin sheet over my body when I fell asleep…

I was in a forest, the trees were tall and close together. Their branches seemed like arms swaying in the wind and the lower ones would swing down and almost grab me. I started walking fast, the leaves were crunching and the soil was damp under my bare feet.

The whispering wind seemed to be talking to me.

“Writer Dave, oh Writer Dave, why isn’t your novel a best-seller?”

I was turning around and around trying to hear where the voice was coming from. I got so dizzy that I fell on the ground looking up at the stars.

My recent novel, “The Becoming”, came to mind. Fifty copies had been sold but now it seemed like it stopped selling. I had thought the novel was my best work up to now. But now, I was frustrated with the low results.

I closed my eyes, and then a woman’s voice came from behind me.

“Hello, Writer Dave.”

I open my eyes and there was a beautiful woman standing over me! She wore a gossamer dress that rippled in the breeze. Her hair was long and golden, falling over her chest. Her face was milky white, her eyes emerald green and her lips crimson.

This woman was gorgeous, like a goddess brought to life. Her eyes were sparkling like the stars in the night sky.

“Who are you?” I mumbled.

“Don’t you know me? I’m Mary, your publisher.”

I only met my publisher once and I didn’t remember her quite like this.

“What do you want?’

“I’m here to give you some tips on best-selling fiction.”

She then sat down next to me and put my head gently in her lap. Her slender fingers were caressing my temple. She continued:

“To have a best-seller you need clarity and focus on a single idea. You need the novel to bring an issue into clear view.”

“But Mary, my novel does that, I tell the reader that they are “becoming” every day of their life.”

Her fingers circled my lips.

“Relax Dave, I’m just stating the facts. You need writing that provokes, writing to make people think and act.”

“Again Mary, “The Becoming”’ was supposed to provoke my readers to think about change and their “becoming.”

Mary smiled and continued:

“Did you have a fast pace and excitement in your writing?’

“Yes, I did. I tried to inject enthusiasm into my readers.”

“Well, Writer Dave, if you did all that, you should have a best-seller.”

I told Mary, my girlfriend wouldn’t even consider marrying me if my novel wasn’t a hit.

“Dave, she’s not worth worrying about. She just wants money and fame to bask in.”

I thought about that as an owl whizzed past my head.

Then as fast as Mary appeared she was gone.


One of the trees started moving toward me. It was a giant in the form of a tree. Can you imagine, foliage for a head, branches for arms and roots for legs?

“Is that you, Writer Dave?” he said in a booming voice.

“Who are you?” I stuttered.

“I’m your public, your readers.”

“What do you want?”

“Your public want to know: Why should they buy your novel?”

Many voices were yelling this sentence, over and over. It frightened me!

“Why should we buy your novel? Why should we buy your novel?”

Then, after a few minutes, things quieted down.


“Hello, Writer Dave.” It was an angelic voice coming from somewhere.

The next thing I knew a beautiful woman with wings and flowers in her hair and a long flowing white robe was sitting in the tree above me.

“I’m Blossom, your fairy, but I warn you I’m mischievous.”

“Can you help me get a best-selling novel?”

“I’m in possession of a magic potion that might help. I was going to give the potion to your public giant, which would make people love your novel and buy it in great amounts. But I thought I’d have some fun first. So I gave some to Mary, your publisher.”

“So that’s why she was so loving toward me.”

“I’m sorry, Dave, but I told you I was mischievous. I will, now, give some to your public giant.”


A mist came rolling in and I found myself back with my head in Mary’s lap!

“Dave, I’m here to tell you that your novel has sold over one thousand copies in the last month. You’re on the way to becoming a best-selling novelist.”


I woke up in a cold sweat. A voice in my head whispered:

“What is dreamed may prove REAL and what seems REAL may be just a dream.”

The Magic of Writing

I was sitting in my scriptorium (study), one late afternoon, gazing out the window, daydreaming. When there was a heavy knock on my front door. Startled out of my idea-catching mode, I went to the door, opened it, and there stood my old schoolmate, Tom. I ushered him into the scriptorium. I sat in my swivel chair and he plunked himself down on the settee.

“Long time, no see!”

“It’s been a fair few years, I guess.”

“It’s good to see you. Now, what’s on your mind, Tom?”

“Recently, I stumbled across your blog. I read your blog stories and I’ve also read your novels. I like your writing and I want to be a writer myself.”

“Thank you for the compliment. Do you want a drink?”

“No, thank you, I want to stay sober because I’m going to practice my writing later.”

“I find a glass or two of red wine helps me with my writing. Have you written anything lately?”

“Yes, I’ve tried my hand at a few short stories. My wife says they’re okay. But I question, can I write?” Tom looked confused.

“Well, my friend, there are a few measurements available to see if you can write.”

“Such as?” Tom said eagerly.

“Lets first take, “Technical Proficiency”, how well you understand the component elements of writing. Such as, dialogue, description, exposition, characterization, punctuation, grammar and narrative.”

“Oh boy, that’s a lot of elements.”

“That’s not all of them, also you have chronology, flashbacks, backstory, show or tell, tense and point of view.”

“You need to know all that?’ Tom looked worried.

“Of course, my friend, if you want to write well. Every element melds together flawlessly to create a powerful impression on the reader.”

“So, it’s like magic?”

“That’s right, the writer’s magic! You can get your reader excited, scared, angry and full of emotion. But they never see how you did the trick.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, next comes “Structural Proficiency”, the more word count you have, the more demands on you as a writer. You have to understand pace, storyline, character arcs, suspense, conflict and twists.”

“What kind of writer are you, Dave?”

“Well Tom, I’m a blend of two types. I like to write chronologically sometimes and other times I prefer to write bits of the story separately, here there and everywhere. Just so I don’t lose the thread of the storyline.”

“Boy, this is interesting stuff, Dave,” said Tom, his eyes sparkling, “Tell me more.”

“A writer sometimes takes a strong experience in the present and it awakens a memory from his past, maybe childhood, from which he proceeds to write about a wish, or a daydream, which then finds fulfillment in his story.”

“So, what are the problems that a writer has starting out like me?”

“The problems are personality problems. The writer starts a story but loses heart and confidence, gets stuck and is blocked. Sometimes he writes good, sometimes bad. It’s frustrating! In other words, there are problems of confidence and self-respect. Then there are the demons of the subconscious, where a lot of our ideas come from.”

“Lots of problems then?”

“Yes, but you can work hard and get rid of the habits of thought that impede your progress. You must strengthen the right side of your brain, which handles expressive and creative tasks.”

“Any final words before I leave?”

“Yes, Tom, but they are on the light side. I asked a guy, the other day, what he did for a living.

“I’m a brain surgeon, what do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“Oh, that’s what I think I’ll do when I retire,” said the surgeon, matter-of-factly.

“That’s interesting,” I said, “When I retire I want to be a brain surgeon!”



This article was posted by David Wise author of “Web of Guilt”, “24 Traumatic Hours, Twice”, and “The Becoming”.

All available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.


If You Are A Writer, Call Yourself A Writer!

I was at a luncheon, where the speaker’s topic was “Becoming a Writer”.

During lunch, before the speaker spoke, the gentleman next to me asked:

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer in my retirement,” I said, and all the other six people at the table suddenly looked at me with raised eyebrows.

“Are you now, and what do you write?”

“Non-fiction, short stories, blog posts and I’ve written three novels.”

“Anything published?”

“Two articles for a magazine a year ago. Now, I publish blog posts on the internet and I self-published three novels in three years.”

The chap smiled and said:

“Should you really call yourself a writer if you’ve only been at it three years?”

This guy was getting under my skin. The others at the table were waiting for my answer.

“Of course I’m a writer and I have a pile of rejection letters to prove it! Only writers who write and submit can get rejected. What do you do?”

“I’m a doctor.”

“That’s nice, nobody at this table is going to ask you to prove it!”

Everyone laughed.

“It’s interesting that writing is one of the few jobs where people put the “burden of proof” on you.”

“I guess it’s a form of identity,” one person across from me said.

“Yes, you’re right. I look at myself in the mirror and say, “I am a writer”. It’s a way of interacting with and viewing the world.”

“I guess if you call yourself a writer, you have to write often, probably daily,” said the doctor, humbly.

“That’s right, a writer has to produce. Nobody will ever miss something you didn’t write. Writers have to create their own motivation.”

“You must have to discipline yourself to write,” someone said.

“Yes, a writer must have self-discipline. Writers are people who write!”

“What about writer’s block?”

Questions were coming from all directions now!

“Well, questions like the one the doctor put to me, “Should I call myself a writer?”, contribute to writer’s block!”

“What do you mean?”

“All writers have a little negative voice in the back of their heads saying:

“Are you really a writer, maybe you should put your pen down and walk away from the table.”

“Writers hear voices?’

“Yes, so do you, it’s the voice of self-doubt!”

Everyone at the table nodded their head.

“The doctor’s controversial question just fortifies that voice, which is the enemy of writers and really the enemy of all art.”

“Well, you sure know a lot about writing. I’m sorry I said what I did,” said the doctor, shaking my hand.

“Apology accepted.”

At that moment the M.C. announced:

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, our speaker: Writer Dave.”

The applause was deafening. I GOT UP AND WENT TO THE PODIUM!

P.S.-This post is the 206th on my blog:

Existential Crisis!

One day, when I was feeding the birds in the park, I realized everything I was doing and thinking about lately, was an existential crisis!

My friend told me not to worry:

“If you get up in the morning and then do what you want to do during the day, you can sleep easy because you are living right.”

I was still skeptical.

Just the other day, I was thinking: I was a living, breathing, fragile functioning persona that was going to die one day! That’s scary!

Someone called me an old git last week. Am I really a bitter old person? Am I having an “Old Age Crisis” also?

It seemed like I was questioning the very foundations of my life, whether it had any meaning, purpose or value!

I have experienced the death of loved ones and had traumatic events in my life. But things have come to a head now that I became a senior citizen. Now, I’m always looking for answers!

I’ve gotten very emotional recently. When I’m reading a book or watching a movie, I get tearful. Also, cemeteries have started to bug me. “I’m going to die,” I think. So now, I avoid cemeteries!

The other day I felt my heart skip a beat. Oh no, is it now, so soon? Hypochondria looms!

I’ve started reading existential novels and watching existential movies, in order to find answers. All these goings on was becoming like a “Dark Night of the Soul” or “Ego Death”! What can I do to handle this crisis?

My friend told me to “Anchor” onto something I could be passionate about, something to focus my attention on consistently.

So I started writing articles, short stories and novels full time. It worked and I’ve never looked back. In other words, I’ve created my own meaning and purpose in my later years.

My friend also told me, it’s important to have a sense of humor. So he told me a joke:

“Descartes is in a tavern having a beer. The bartender asks him if he would like another. “I think NOT,” he says and disappears in a puff of smoke.”

“Very funny,” I said.


The Day I Met Nietzsche!

Imagination is a wonderful thing. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, this man was sitting opposite me in a large leather armchair. He had dark hair combed back in a sort of quiff. He also had an enormous walrus mustache and penetrating eyes. Good golly, I was staring at Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher I recently read about. He must be embedded in my subconscious!

“Are you Friedrich Nietzsche?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Can I ask you some questions? I’m in a state of confusion.”

“You may.”

“When you said, God Is Dead, what did you mean?”

“I meant, science has seen off the concept of God! The religious systems of thought that humans created to make sense of the world are gone.”

My jaw dropped!

“Mr. Nietzsche, does this mean that now, with his death, life is meaningless? I mean, God has been the source and keeper of all values and meaning for the world, so now what do we do?”

“Yes, my son, with God dead, you lose all that and with that all gone, yes, life is meaningless!”

“But, Mr. Nietzsche, what’s to become of us?”

He smiled beneath the monstrous mustache and said:

“Be brave, my son, after the death of God, you will be able to face the meaninglessness of the world.”

“But how?” I cried nervously.

“You will take responsibility for creating your own meaning and direction in your life.”

“That doesn’t sound easy to me,” I stammered.

“God has done the job for over 2000 years, so it will take a while for you to get the hang of it.”

“Mr. Nietzsche, sir, what is your Number One principle that I can use as a guide?”

“My Number One is, To Make One’s Own Laws For Oneself.”

“Oh, I see. Don’t become your Master’s shadow because the Master is dead.”

“By jove, you’ve got it! Be Master of your own shadow! You, and you alone, are Master of your destiny. Set your own goals and create your own meaning.”

“I feel better already,” I said smiling.

“Sure you feel good. You will become an “UBERMENSCH”. A man in control of your own world.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said, expanding my chest.

“I hope some of your confusion is gone, my son.”

“Oh yes sir, by the way, what are your favorite sayings?”

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger, and He who has a WHY to live can bear any HOW.”

With that, Nietzsche disappeared.

I was left whispering to myself: