Living is storytelling: Narrative realities

Overheard, an item of happy hour flotsam: “I never read fiction. I’m only interested in the real world.”

Yeah, well. So you go ahead and tell me all about your ‘real world.’

narrative and living didionPersonality, culture, our realities themselves are narrative in structure. We and our worlds are stories we tell ourselves and each other, individually and collectively. This is something most people don’t understand. Reality is a social construct. Always. Once people do recognize this, even only tacitly, then the construction … Read more

Get rich quick: Plan B

pike jumpingJack Shackaway here.

I’m free. A freelance writer. A free spirit. You name it. Currently a bachelor.

So why don’t I feel better? Where’s the lift of adventure, the sense of new horizons?

In my experience, the advantages of living alone are generally clearer when you’re living with somebody. (And vice versa.) Meanwhile I recognise another unfortunate fact of nature: Money serves in much the same way a shiny new Johnson Weedless Silver Spoon does when you’re fixin’ to catch … Read more

Losing the plots

This is the longest I’ve neglected my blog since I started it about three years ago.

And right now I should be working on a novel, rather than poking at this post. Except I’ve lost the plot. The structure of my narrative escapes me just now.

Call it writer’s block, or simple lack of sleep. Or maybe this book is really a classic hobologoistic project that should be presented to the jury now, with a view to burning the ms. … Read more

What is writing?


J.P. Donleavy, an early literary hero of mine, was quoted in Playboy (May, 1979) as saying, “Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money.”

Would that this were so. Meanwhile, another spin on the essence of writing is going the rounds on Facebook:



In other quarters, writers instead turn whiskey into piss and engage in binge writing in the intervals between their alchemical endeavors. (I encountered the expression “binge writing” listening to a Letterman interview Read more

The Muse wears black leather

Back before New Year’s, I posted a couple of blogs that meant to ease writers into the process of writing, rather than only talking about writing. I was subsequently sidetracked by the need to outline some flaws in the Scheme of Things, but now I’m back into this solipsistic writing workshop. But all we’ve discussed so far is only part of the story. Now I’m going to talk about The Muse Effect.

“Wherever do you find the discipline?” they ask. … Read more

Two hats: Darwinian yarning

Where do stories come from?

In the last post, we looked at stories as products of a process. The writer doesn’t proceed like this: “I have this story in my head, and now I’m going to record it in written form.” The text isn’t a given that merely awaits transcription. It’s often—perhaps usually—the product of a writing activity. It didn’t exist before being realized in that activity, not even in the mind of the writer. In such cases the … Read more

Story: A conversation with the page

I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a kid—the notion just smacked of romance and freedom. It also had the advantage of annoying my father, who wanted me to be an engineer. But I was 40 years old before I wrote anything for publication.

Twenty years before that, having just spent a couple of years working underground in an Ontario nickel mine, and having more money than I’d ever seen in one pile before, I … Read more

Writerly occupational hazard: Premature thought

Today I present two gnomic items of writerly advice. Subsequent posts will expand upon them.

These are aimed first of all at myself, who knows better but, it seems, keeps forgetting. In fact, in drafting this second of a series of futuristic novels, the sequel to Syn, I’ve been committing these most basic of errors.


1. Don’t think. Write.

2. Don’t wait till you know what your story is before you start writing it.

In fact, the … Read more

Recipe for a 10-stone story: Souffles as boat anchors

“Good writers have two things in common: they prefer to be understood rather than admired; and they do not write for knowing and over-acute readers.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

1. Expanding on Nietzsche’s insight

The writerly impulse to be admired rather than understood is generally associated with certain stylistic horrors.

Right away, seeking the admiration of “knowing and over-acute readers,” the unwitting writer  serves up long and complex sentences like a tangle of  spaghetti. The more clauses the better, eh? And … Read more