The Journal, Tuesday, 12/27

Hey Folks,

Rolled out a little before 3 this morning, checked email and Facebook, coffee in hand. I also spent some time in thought.

I wrote most of the stuff below between about 3:30 and 7, then worked on a friend’s website to create a new page. Then I made a horribly unhealthy (but delicious) breakfast for myself and my grandson, then came back to finish writing the stuff below.

Now, at 10 a.m., I’m moving to the edit.

* * *

I recently experienced a major epiphany, actually as a result of something I read while editing a very long memoir.

Some background…

Speaking very generally, as a child I didn’t have a positive male role model. In fact, I had a very strong negative role model. He was so strong in that regard that my stepmother, who was a very good woman, was rendered ineffective as a mother. I had a roof over my head (one of the standards of my day) but the price I paid for it was dear.

My father was a man who never worked-through many of the bad experiences to which he was subjected as a child, and as a result he passed along a lot of that to me. (I was the eldest of six siblings.) I’m happy to report that the two youngest had a much different father than I had, and I’m glad for that.

But the upshot is, I learned nothing positive about being a man from him except through negative lessons (i.e., he acts like this, so I will act differently). Possibly the most evident example is my own hyperactive sense of compassion. Another is my selfishness. (The excuse was “If I don’t take care of myself first, I can’t take care of others.”) On one hand, that is an invaluable lesson and something of a truism. On the other, taken to extremes it becomes an excuse for being self-absorbed.

When I was 12 years old, I read a filler in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (a newspaper) that read, “Live your life so that when you’re all alone, you’re in good company.” I haven’t always lived up to that, but I’ve never forgotten it.

My first positive male role models were my drill instructors in Marine Corps basic training (SSgt Abraham, Sgt Salgado, Sgt McGrew). They at least set me on a path, and I learned everything else I know regarding manhood in bits and pieces from other men I encountered through my life. Most of them were (and some still are) friends who aren’t even aware of the impact they had.

Move to present day…

Over the years I strived to help others, human or otherwise. But even with all that, I never quite got the hang of being the best husband and father; the best “head of the family.” And that leads me to my recent huge epiphany.

I won’t go into detail about that epiphany here, partly because it doesn’t matter outside of myself, and partly because it has nothing to do with my self as a writer.

I will say that it has a great deal to do with beginning a master’s course in being the head of my family. The undergraduate courses consisted of taking care of the Marines who came under my watch and even some things I learned from that little cat I often talk about here.

The final exam was (and is) my grandson coming to live with me. And my “cheat sheet” is what I realized while editing the current project.

But if you’re still reading, you’re wondering (rightly) what all of this has to do with writing. Here it is.

Topic: Life Events and Life Rolls

I’ve always felt more alive when I’m involved in a challenge.

It just struck me this morning that what’s going on in my life as a writer right now is what Dean often refers to as a “life roll” or “life event.” A definite challenge.

First, these are two distinct areas of focus.

The life event is a major bump or dip in the road. Sometimes the life event is all-inclusive (e.g., the anticipated death of an elderly loved one) and is over within a few days. Not the mourning, of course, but the immediate disruption.

Other times, the life event (e.g., a family emergency with which you can help) leads to a life roll. It might last a week or a month or several years.

Recently I realized someone in my extended family needed help that either only I could provide or that I could provide more easily than anyone else; that combined with the decision to act on that relization comprised the life event. It was over in one fairly long day.

The life roll is everything that comes afterward. Yesterday I realized that life roll probably will last from a few to several years. Still, this is not a sentence but an opportunity.

Dean often talks about life events and life rolls as situations that practically require a writer to set writing aside until the life event/life roll has ended. He’s never stated that outright as far as I know, but every example he’s provided seems to point in that direction.

Believe me, the easiest decision I could have made in response my own recent life event/roll would be to suspend my writing until all of this is over. Unfortunately, in my case that would almost certainly mean stopping writing altogether.

But that’s silly. So I had a conscious decision to make.

There are, and will be, adjustments. But I’ll continue doing my “job,” sitting alone in a room making stuff up.

I don’t “have” to suspend doing what I love. I just have to be patient and work with my schedule.

So yes, there has been a major life event, and yes, I am now in the midst of a major life roll. But wrapped as it is in a challenge, I find the whole situation invigorating.

For me this happens at a very opportune time. Witness,

I’ve been distracted from my writing by the edit I’m working on.

Which in turn provided me with the impetus for an epiphany.

Which in turn enabled me to clearly see that I needed to take on this life roll/challenge.

Which in turn means I’ll have to made adjustments to my fiction writing time. But in making those adjustments

I’m abetted by the approaching end of the edit itself and by the approaching New Year, both of which will happen almost simultaneously.

So on January 1, the edit will be behind me and my first-ever million-words year of fiction writing ahead. And it’s all gift-wrapped in the colorful paper of the life roll. What could be better?

Goals for 2017

My own fiction goals for 2017 (2017? Whatever happened to 1978?) are as follows:

3000 words of publishable fiction per day
1 novel per month, 12 on the year
1 short story per week

* * *

At this point, I’m over two days ahead on the edit. That feels good.

Of Interest

From Dean, a Blast From The Past To Help With the Future (

And another great bit of reading in his Dare To Be Bad Revisited For 2017 ( (An excerpt: “For seven years my fixing and polishing had gotten few stories written and finished and no sales. Mailing unfixed stories got me a career.)

Ever get confused when attempting to conjugate a verb? Check out Verbix at It’s also now in the left sidebar of my website along with roughly half a ton of other useful links under Writers’ Resources.

Today’s Writing

Nothing today. Back tomorrow.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1240 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1240

Writing of “”

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 21254
Total fiction words for the year………… 700948
Total nonfiction words for the month… 14220
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 272120

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 973068

Edit Totals

Day 1…… 51 pages. Total to date…… 51 (+16 in the bank)
Day 2…… 26 pages. Total to date…… 77 (+7)
Day 3…… 41 pages. Total to date…… 118(+13)
Day 4…… 38 pages. Total to date…… 156 (+16)
Day 5…… 73 pages. Total to date…… 229 (+54)
Day 6…… 40 pages. Total to date…… 269 (+59)
Day 7…… 36 pages. Total to date…… 305 (+60)
Day 8…… 00 pages. Total to date…… 305 (+25)
Day 9…… 38 pages. Total to date…… 343 (+28)
Day 10… 37 pages. Total to date…… 380 (+30)
Day 11… 00 pages. Total to date…… 380 (-5)
Day 12… 87 pages. Total to date…… 467 (+47)
Day 13… 00 pages. Total to date…… 467 (+12)
Day 14… 60 pages. Total to date…… 527 (+37)
Day 15… 71 pages. Total to date…… 598 (+73)

4 thoughts on “The Journal, Tuesday, 12/27”

  1. Touched beyond measure, Harvey.
    My thoughts are with you in this significant event. (I’ve had a few, or at least two)
    At a conference long ago in my education days, William Glasser did a whole program on “SEE’S” or significant emotional events that change people’s lives.
    Sometimes we provide them (to our children, our grandchildren, or a friend) but we all have them. A good licking from my father at age five was a significant emotional event designed to change my behavior. (It didn’t) A sound tongue lashing from a football coach was designed to make me cover the outside as a defensive end. (It did)
    Sometimes life provides them. The sudden death of our son certainly did but I’m not sure where that will end up and that was 24 years ago.
    We all have these SEE’S.
    Maybe having a grandchild live with you will provide a significant emotional event for you in a positive way. I pray that will be the case for you, my friend!

    • Thanks, Duke. My grandson being here is definitely a good thing for both him and me. Very seldom do we get such an opportunity handed to us. I suspect neither of us will waste it.

  2. Thank you. I guess I was finishing or at least coming to the knowledge of my own “life roll” recently. I’d been trying to cover it up (so to speak) for three years by jumping into my writing with both feet. Now with the new knowledge you just imparted here I think I know that I need to juggle both my “life roll” and my writing. My goals for 2017 are still to write, but not to force it. Put in around 8000 over the course of a week and put out 3 to 4 new books. Thank you again, my friend.

    • You’re right, Mary Ann. And of course, when we lose someone close to us, the initial event is over fairly soon but the effects continue to roll up on us for years (I should have said that originally), especially around significant anniversaries, etc. And I’d bet everyone deals with this stuff differently, especially for different types of events. Mine is minor compared with yours. For me this is an opportunity to pass along what I know (and what he needs to hear). Makes me feel more like a wise old man instead of a wise-a** old man. 🙂

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