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Monday, July 29, 2013

Of Barriers to Prose

Aloha,
On the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, I worked the opening night at a new private club in Amsterdam.
One of my first tables ordered a nice bottle of red.
A server for nearly a year, I sooo knew how to uncork a bottle of wine.

In my old place, a local restaurant, it was easy: Shove top of bottle into “pump,” pull down (and then push up) lever, which is bolted onto the bar.
Cork comes out, and Bob’s your uncle.
Earlier, the manager at the fancy schmancy place handed me a “wine key.” It was small, mobile and I imagined there would be no trouble to stick the curly bit into the cork, turn the handle and pull…
 After TEN minutes of my sweating and huffing (I couldn’t figure how to open the bottle) the poor customer literally took the bottle, anchored it between his knees, turned the wine key and pulled out the cork.
 
I was immediately suspended from opening bottles of wine until I mastered my traitor-ious wine key. Stuck in the bar, I watched the news all evening and knew something historic was happening. A few colleagues decided to make a quick road trip and be part of history, instead of watching.
I turned down the last place in the car.
To say I was embarrassed at my earlier wine disaster would be an understatement – and that’s my segue way.
·         As Writers, we never know when opportunity arises or inspiration strikes. This is an old school idea, but it works! Keep a pen and pad handy – in various areas. Mine are by my bedside, in my wallet and by the utility bills.
(I have four "categories:" WIP, IWSG, Posts and my You know you’re a parent series. I manage to fill at least a page of each - every month :)
 
·         When “jaded,” spread your creativity and stay fresh by writing “outside the box.” Hate screenwriting or a Haiku? Write one. Hate flash fiction contests? Enter many.
 
·         Don’t over-extend yourself; focus on WIP, not my new series: Tips on Writing Infrequently – Typed. Anyone can be a scribe, but not many can be a T.W.I.T.
 
Moral of the story: Think you’re not good enough to write/publish your work?

Please.
I *get* that Writers can be our own worst enemies, but so long as your heart powers your passion to prose – you *are* a Writer and no one can tell you otherwise.
Never stop learning how to better operate the tools of your imagination and when possible, take advantage of any opportunities (CPs, betas, conferences, etc.)
Talk about going outside my comfort zone, I leave you with an Irish-Hawaiian Haiku:
 Fight to write.
Write to live.
Live to write.
        Some bald guy
 
Oh, and that historic event that happened only hours from Amsterdam? (Talk about missing an opportunity...)
It was "only" the falling of the Berlin Wall...
 

35 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You missed the falling of the wall? That was major.
I'm still learning.
And I can master a corkscrew.

Mark Koopmans said...

@Alex: Dude, I know... talk about a FAIL... but what can you do...

I've been keeping an eye on the Great Wall of China... does that count? :)

Melissa said...

Just don't (not)open any wine bottles in China. :P

Great post. Master musicians didn't become that by not playing or singing, and big name writers don't become that by not writing.

Write on...
;)

Lydia Kang said...

Change is good, if it means you're improving your craft.

Now! Who's Bob?

Rachna Chhabria said...

Fight to write.
Write to live.
Live to write."

completely agree with these words.

David P. King said...

Wonderful post, Mark. New tools can cause hiccups, but like most hiccups, we get over them eventually (paper bags over your head helps). :)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I hate the wine key. I totally mangle the cork every single time. (But it gives my hubs an opportunity to be the rescuing hero, so it's all good :)

I was in college when the wall fell. I remember coming back from class and my roomie had the news on. So, you know, brooding in a bar over not being able to work a cork screw is a cool story too.

Samantha May said...

Even the best need improvement!

And I'm sure there will be another chance to watch another wall fall in Berlin. They have a lot of walls there...oh you meant THAT wall.

Nevermind ;)

S.P. Bowers said...

I remember the wall falling. It happened on my birthday so I'll never forget the date. I've never used a corkscrew so I'm pretty sure I would have just looked at the wine key and given up.

Meradeth Houston said...

I read your opening sentence and was all "wait, he went to the fall of the wall??" lol! Still, great story! And I can't master a wine bottle opener to save my life...hopefully it never comes to that!

Tony Laplume said...

And Bob's your uncle.

Libby said...

I remember when the wall fell. I was so confused, mostly because I was a kid and didn't understand what the wall meant or why it was there.

cleemckenziebooks said...

I have trouble opening any bottle of wine unless it has a screw top. Really. They haven't invented a wine opener that likes me.

As to missing things, I've got a list of those.

That bald guy is quite quotable. Thanks.

ilima said...

Oh...seeing the wall fall would have been epic! I have notes littered all over my house. Even in my shower.

Morgan said...

Oh Mark. What a great post. Only you could make a post funny and inspiring at the same time. :-)

Mastering doubt is a hard thing though. I'm strrrrrruggling to believe in myself every day. Even when I look back and see how far I've come, that nasty little voice comes up with hundreds of ways why I won't succeed. But I do love that quote by that random bald guy ;-)

Love the story. These are the adventures your fans want! :-)

Elise Fallson said...

Learning to open a bottle with a wine key is a prerequisite for becoming a French citizen. True story.
(;

Green Monkey said...

live to write... I like that!

I must confess, I pretend I don't know how to open wine because I like being waited on. Sometimes I pretend I can't even pour it. But I never forget how to drink it.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

So sorry about the wine key debacle. Your haiku would touch any writer.

JJ said...

Great story. I have a piece of the Wall I picked up when I was teaching in Germany, which proves that good German beer works as well as wine!

klahanie said...

Yo Mazza!

I would greatly appreciate bonus points for commenting at nearly three in the morning. That or a bag of cheese and onion crisps. Aka, as you know, potato chips. Thank you.

Oh yeah. A private club in Amsterdam, eh. Good grief and speaking of Ireland, I once had a Cork screw, but that's for another time...

The wall came a tumblin' down...

When you find your comfort zone is actually an uncomfortable comfort zone, you challenge it. That you do with a plum, sorry aplomb.

As for "flash" fiction, finally found out what that was.

Writing outside the blog works for me, Mark. Your posting articulate and informative.

Haiku you do. Very good effort.

Dog sees lawn
Once green
Now of brown and yellow


The Words Crafter said...

Ha! I guessed right! I grew up during the cold war. Alas Babylon-we just knew it was going to happen.

Great advice. I keep a notebook with me at all times. And my phone has a notepad. Sometimes I'll make little entries.....

As for corks....you can't let me near 'em!

Annalisa Crawford said...

I'm taking points for knowing it was the Berlin Wall before you explained :-)

I sometimes find really early ideas are ruined by writing them down - I've learned to keep them in my head and not let them fall out.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Wow, great post, Mark! I keep a little notebook in my purse and I use it all the time! :)

Nicole said...

Powerful story, Mark! Love that quote at the end too.

LD Masterson said...

Seeing the wall come down would have been major but it came down - that's what counts.

I have a house full of voice recorders, note-taking software, a nice new smart phone...and I still have writing notes scribbled on bits of paper everywhere.

Melanie Schulz said...

I've had those wine moments, too. But in your case, I'm glad it happened. Look at what you would've missed!

Tammy Theriault said...

Sometimes the bald man speaks to valuable words!!

T. Drecker said...

Wow, missing the fall of the wall is *sigh*. . .oh well. Guess you weren't supposed to see it ;)
As for cork screws, I have a tendency to screw them in too far. My hubs HATES those little cork flakes in his wine.

Suzi said...

Hey, if you still have problems with corks, they have these handy-dandy electric things. Just place it on, push the button and voila--out it pops.

Of course it sits in our closet and my husband usually uses the old fashioned screw. I should put it in the garage sale, stupid waste of money. :)

Ella said...

Wow Mark-you took me there! I once waited tables and opened wine~ I was cringing for you~ You brought back some fun memories~

Sorry you missed the wall! Maybe you would have been hurt and it was best you didn't go!

Love this post :D







Caryn Caldwell said...

I love this advice -- especially the bit about making yourself write the stuff you don't like to write. That makes sense; after all, I think part of what makes us steer clear of particular types of writing is the fear that we won't be able to do it well. And how are we supposed to succeed at, say, haiku if we never even try?

BECKY said...

Hi Mark. I was SURE that I was a follower of yours, but I guess not. Your face certainly looks familiar...maybe you were a follower of mine at one time?? Oh well, whatever the case, I just decided I better start following you or I'd miss out on a lot of good writerly kind of stuff! :)

BECKY said...

P.S. The follow button wouldn't take my photo I tried to upload, so I'm one of the "blank" faces toward the end of your follower faces. Does that make sense?? I'll try to add a photo some other time.

Donna Hole said...

Some cork-screws are easier to master than others. Since I have so much trouble with them, I drink from a box! Unless I'm out, then I want the waiter to struggle - no I mean - expertly pop that cork. hehehehe

Great writing analogy. Boy, talk about regrets, not seeing the Berlin wall come down. Tell yourself its just a wall!

.......dhole

Michelle Gregory said...

this is a great post.

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