Category Archives: Writing

Keeping a journal, what’s the point?

typewriter vintageWhy do I keep a journal? Good question. I’ve done it off and on for most of my life. I’m sure I started when I was still in elementary school. I wish I had some of those still!

That’s one good reason, it gives you the chance to look back on your life and remember what you were thinking at a given point. A way to measure how you’ve changed and developed over time. Or perhaps how you’ve degenerated. How you were feeling at important milestones in your life. Unfortunately, I don’t think I really chronicled the big events, like getting married, the birth of my children, my experiences in college. Maybe I should go back and try to remember those events. Good subjects for future posts.

And there’s another reason, it gets you thinking. Putting something down in writing helps you confront your feelings about what’s going on. “Confronting feelings” might be a little too much of a touchy feely phrase for me. Maybe explore the aspects of an event or concept.

It helps you build an argument for something you believe. Actually committing your thoughts to paper forces you to lay them out in some kind of logical manner. Or at least realize that what you’re saying is the ranting of a bat-shit crazy crank. Or maybe not.

As I’ve said before, creative activity feeds on itself. As I’m writing, I’m flipping back to a list of blog ideas that I keep. I keep the list but most mornings I sit down to write without a clue of what to write about. And do I ever go look at that list. No.

I just searched Twitter for writing prompt feeds, there are a lot of them. Even one that throws out a one word suggestion every hour.

Another reason is I just like to challenge myself.

Ball dropped

The streak is broken. I didn’t get my 300 words yesterday. Probably because I didn’t do them in the morning as I have been. Break the routine and the day just gets away from you. I did take over 4,000 steps though. It’s all about the numbers baby.

I’ve heard that 10,000 steps is the number one should shoot for. I summoned the ghost of algebra past and figured out that’s about 4.5 miles. I think I heard that one should have realistic goals. Maybe I should shoot for 5,000.

Trying to write 300 words a day didn’t seem like that much of a challenge. At first my biggest problem was keeping it under 900. But in an effort to be more concise I started watching the word count at the bottom of the WordPress editing window. And suddenly I found myself trying to pad my posts to get to 300. Things just weren’t jumping out of my mind and onto the keyboard.

I think 300 words is a good goal, but I also think I need to worry more about just writing every day instead of the number. I keep thinking by writing every day I’ll start producing some good material, which if I’m honest with myself, just isn’t happening right now. Have I lost my sense of humor. Is it because I’m aging? George Burns managed to keep it going way past where I’m at now.

On another front, we’re producing a special six page insert for the paper this week. In honor of Black History Month. I’m in charge of design and layout, so it’s a lot of extra work for me. Not that I’m concerned. It shouldn’t be a problem getting it out and I’d rather be busy than not while I’m at the office.

Monday and Tuesday mornings I usually have some butterflies in the gut when I head into work, even though I know that we’ve gotten to the point where we finish up well before the deadline on Tuesdays. But usually when I get in, they go away. Mostly because of the people I work with, nobody gets panicky and things seem to go pretty smoothly.

But now I have to get ready to head down to the city and start wrangling type.

Progress Report: Day Five


typewriter vintage

I’ve been able to maintain my string of 300 words a day. This will be day five. I’m not that excited about what I’ve written, but I have written.

One of the interesting things about this experiment is that writing begets writing. Flexing one’s creative muscles makes them stronger. What do you know? After being blocked for months, if not years, now that I’m forcing myself to write daily, I’m finding it easier to write. While I was blocked, I had no ideas of what to write about. If an idea came to me, I would dismiss it as something no one would want to read about. I was worrying about writing for an audience instead of writing for myself.

That’s kind of crazy, because I don’t have much of an audience anyway and who am I to judge what anyone would find interesting.

I’ve found that the act of writing itself leads to more ideas. In the last five days I’ve had more ideas for things to write about than I have in the last year.

There are, of course, writing mentors that have been preaching this forever. It’s not like this is a big revelation. There’s even a hashtag, #300words. But there’s a difference between getting advice and taking advice. It’s like organization, I know how to organize things, I just never seem to get around to it. Thus the mess that is my desk.

One of the tricks I’ve read is to block out a time and sit down at the keyboard, say fifteen minutes. During this time, you don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else. This won’t be easy, especially if you are like me and are easily distracted by shiny objects.

The biggest thing, whatever your creative discipline, is to do it. Don’t judge yourself or your work. There is plenty of time to go back and make improvements, to learn from your mistakes and hone your skills. Over time the quality will come.

300 Words

springfall 1 digital
springfall 1 digital

Another long gap between posts. You might think my heart really isn’t into this blog. Don’t let me be misunderstood. My intentions are good. So I’ve decided to write 300 words a day. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not much good at following through on challenges like that. But if you don’t try…

That was 54. Now what? I’ve been struggling for a long time to decide what this blog was actually for. It started out over on Xanga (anyone remember Xanga?) and it was fun there because I was part of a group of people who wrote humorous, ironic personal essays. I still am in contact with those folks, but I think most of them are just posting on Facebook now. In fact is anyone doing personal blogs anymore? Does anyone read them?

Lately I’ve been pretty busy for a retired guy, I have a part-time job and also have some freelance projects going as well as prepping for a class I’m teaching. The procrastination of all those tasks takes up a lot of time. I’ve been thinking that most of the stuff I’ve been working on is production. I’m pretty good at production, I have a high skill level in all the software, I’m accurate and when I finally bear down, I’m pretty quick. But that’s not what I really want to do. I want to create content. It could be writing or it could be visual art. If I’m good at anything, it’s making art. I don’t know why I’ve avoided doing it for so long. Dabbling in this and that, guitar playing, chess, web development. Geez, learning coding? That’s pretty left brained for an artist. I guess it’s just the ADD in me.

So for right now, every morning, somewhere between my second and third cup of coffee, I’m going to try to bang out 300 words each day. I’m not going to guarantee that I publish all of them, because some might end up being complete drivel, and others might be about stuff that’s none of your damn business.

That wasn’t so hard.

Writing about writing

If you’ve been following this blog… wait, who am I kidding, no one follows this blog. If anyone was actually following this blog and you were that hypothetical person, you would know that I’ve been in a major productivity slump lately. My writing isn’t so much blocked as it’s embedded in concrete. Every time I sit down to write and manage to think of something to write about, my first conclusion is either “That’s not something I want to share with the world,” or “No one in the world would be the least bit interested in that.”

I noticed awhile back that the word “I” shows up a lot in my posts. And I guess I concluded that was a bad thing. I decided I was going to write more about ideas and causes and art and all that important stuff. But then I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really know enough about any of those things for anyone to care what I had to say. After all, no graduate degrees here. I guess that’s the perfect recipe for concrete. Continue reading Writing about writing

From the beginning

This post was originally going to be about WordCamp Minneapolis, a meeting of WordPress enthusiasts that took place over the weekend at the downtown St. Thomas campus. People come from all over the world to these events, to learn about WordPress and to rub elbows with other true believers. It’s a great community and I love being a part of it.  I was going to start out with a brief history of how I got into WordPress, and I started thinking about how and when I got into blogging.

Me in 2004
Me in 2004

And that brought me back to Xanga.I ran across the concept of blogging and I’ve always kept journals and kind of fancied myself as a writer so I dug in to find a blogging platform. Not sure how I landed on Xanga, but I think when I did, my kids immediately abandoned it.

Continue reading From the beginning

Back by Popular Demand

Horizontal Ambition… what’s that all about? Damned if I can remember. And I’m not sure how you quantify “popular demand,” but I have had a couple of folks ask me if I was still blogging and mention that they read the thing. Plus out of nowhere the other day I got a tweet telling me that I’d been added to the Pioneer Press’s twitter group “Blogs We Follow.” How the heck that happened is a mystery to me, since the last post was over a year ago. But if they want to follow me, I guess I better put down some tracks.

So why the long absence? Writer’s block? I’m not even sure I’d call myself a writer so I don’t know if that’s what it is. Over the last few years I’ve been doing the behind the scenes work for and that’s kind of distracted me from my own blog, but that’s a lame excuse, because it certainly wasn’t overwhelming me with work. The main thing that was keeping me from writing was the fact that the stuff that was front and center in my mind was stuff I didn’t really want to share with the world. I’ve been turning into a curmudgeonly old hermit.

That’s got to stop. So here I am back in the saddle, ready once again to fascinate you with everything Bob.


One of My Encounters with a Giant

I’ve been meaning to start Horizontal Ambition up again, and although there’s been plenty of things going on in my life to write about, but I guess I’ve been blocked. By who knows what. So, in hopes of having a laxative effect on my writing, I’m going to tell you a story from way back in the past. 1975 to be exact. Or fairly exact, the time blends together. I spent the early years of my adult life supporting my self with a wide variety of jobs, seasonal and part time, in order to have blocks of time to work on my art. They way that worked out is another story. I have lot’s of stories, this one’s a bartending story.

Continue reading One of My Encounters with a Giant

Joan, you will be missed.

If this is blather is to seriously be considered as a personal blog, I need to acknowledge the passing of a dear friend, memorable character and a woman who I thought of as my surrogate mom. Joan Benson, the mother of Bill, one of my very closest friends, the guy who taught me everything I know about basketball. Except what I learned from Red on Roundball.

The first time I met Joan was in 1972. I had just graduated from college and Bill and I had loaded up a Driveaway Oldsmobile to be delivered to Spokane and headed west to seek our fortunes. After driving all night we pulled into the Talking Bird Saloon in St. Regis Montana for breakfast. As we were mounting the steps to the restaurant door we saw the headline in the newspaper stand, “93 miners trapped in Sunshine Mine fire.” Bill’s father was a miner, working at another mine in the area, the Galena, but he was on the fire rescue crew and Bill knew his dad would have finished his shift at the Galena and gone right down into the Sunshine to find the survivors. If there were any.

That moment on the steps of the Talking Bird and the moment his Mom came to the door to greet us are as clear to me as if they happened yesterday. Actually much clearer, but I’m old. His dad had indeed gone down into the Sunshine the evening before, and hadn’t come home yet. “Oh, Billy” were the fist words out of her mouth, our eyes met as she embraced him and they were wide and tears were streaming down her cheeks.

In those days Bill had shoulder length blonde hair that made him look a bit like a Viking warrior. He was pretty sure his parents didn’t share my noble view of his appearance. I think the next words out of Joan’s mouth were, “God, your hair!” We went directly into the kitchen and she took the clippers to Bill, giving him a new recruit buzz in about five minutes. The rest of the next couple of days are not so clear to me. I think there were only two survivors, so the death toll was ninety-one. Bill (Big Bill, my friend’s dad) had been up all night, down in the mine which was full of poisonous gas, pulling out bodies. He had to stop because he couldn’t hold his stomach and if you lost it in your gas mask, you’d be a statistic too.

Imagine a small community losing 91 people in one terrible accident. The area consists of a scattering of small towns built up on every patch of scarce level ground along the South Fork of the Cour d’Alene River. The Bensons lived in Wallace, there was Burke, Silverton, Mullen, Pineville, Osburn and the big town, Kellogg. Bill could remind me of others. Every person in every town was effected. And that’s how I started the most memorable summer of my life, four months that played a major part in making me the person I am today.

Joan didn’t suffer fools well and she didn’t suffer me much at first. The thing that we joked about through the years was her finally forgiving me for spilling milk on her new carpet at dinner. But I also think she recognized me as a soft and pampered “Easterner.” The summer changed the soft part, but that’s another story. Fortunately she was receptive to my charm and more importantly she really liked the two women in my life over the years. She and  Bill’s dad bonded immediately with both my girlfriend at the time and the woman who eventually became my wife, both of which possess irresistible charm and neither of which could ever be described as pampered. It didn’t hurt that my antics were always good for a laugh and a story. She didn’t hide what she was thinking so it wasn’t too long before I knew I was accepted into the family. I thought of the Bensons as surrogate parents.

So rest in peace Joan. You were a beautiful, smart, loving person, fiercely loyal to those you loved and not a person anyone would mess with.

That summer is the source of about three quarters of my stories. Firestorms, whorehouses, narrow brushes with the law, my basketball baptism and rubber duckies in the river. But more about that later.