Short Fiction

Week 418- Advice; Action; Distraction


I believe that doctors, mechanics and everyone else whose work alters material objects should always listen to advice offered by their peers and seek it when in doubt. “Dr. Smith, I know I am only assisting–but is there a reason to leave a scalpel in the patient?”; “Hey boss, we got some doo-hickeys left over from that 737 engine we just serviced–you think that means something?” Indeed there are situations when ego should be set aside, but I do not believe that is always the best policy in works of imagination.

I feel that no one but you should have any say in what you create. If it is the closest you can come to the thing you saw in your imagination, the work is done. Asking someone else for his or her opinion, for me, is the same as asking that person to read your mind retroactively.

Plus, maybe that puts the other person in an uncomfortable position. You know, the old “does this dress make me look fat?” conundrum that exists only to make people aware of how close the air is in the room. That “spot” that no one wants to be on. Now, I know that some people are married to (as the redoubtable Mr Hawley has offered) an “Editor.” Well that’s good news honesty wise, but for those of us who need to outlive our pets lest risk being partially eaten before the smell alerts the neighbors, such is not an option.

In real life, a potential Victor Frankenstein might hear a slightly less Mad Scientist wonder if a flat head and neck bolts will make it difficult for a monster to blend or cause personality issues*. But would we remember Picasso if he first asked for someone’s thoughts about eyes on one side of a face?

(*I know Mary Shelley’s original creature didn’t look anything like the Karloff-Jack Pierce Universal monster; but I like the example and it’s already established that I work without a net.)

Feedback is good for workers and students who want to improve in disciplines like cooking, engineering, playing God and building houses. But I think it is not applicable to acts of personal exploration or those based strictly on imagination.

Now, writing formula romance or a commercial pop song is production work, and since as much calculation goes into those as what is invested in the layout of a weekly supermarket circular, I suppose there should be feedback involved, since there’s a demand for those products. But I can’t shake the notion that needing to ask someone (no matter how close) if your creation comes from your heart is just another way of saying no.

Still, I will always do my best to give productive feedback when asked. But, personally speaking, I do not see anything in it of greater value than attending to surface details. The heart of it, if it has one, is your own. I’ll be interested in any thoughts on this matter–which I guess is a lot like requesting feedback.


Only one writer new to the site appeared this week. The rest are repeat offenders, at large, and still at it for the sake of the written word.

I happened to be up on Monday with Music. About fifty, fifty-five years ago I lived in the sort of place described in the story. Although the Statute of Limitations has long been up for a child who may or may not have broken and entered–in the technical sense, mind you–the adult the child became doesn’t regret it and she ain’t sorry. So there.

A. Elizabeth Herting dazzled the site on Tuesday with her tenth story (a rare feat!), Swing. Although it had to be tagged out of deference to the sensitive element (who probably should just stick to The People’s Friend), the culmination of this work is brilliantly measured and ends at the best moment possible for full effect.

Site friend and fellow American Northwesterner, Doug Hawley, invited one and all to Pool of Dreams on Wednesday. It is Doug’s fourteenth appearance (with more to come), and it is a fine example of his cocked-brow form of ironic writing. Always interesting and always a bit more to it than what you see on the surface.

We welcomed Michael Hutchinson to the site on Thursday with Rear Window. Although Nandos deliveries replaced Grace Kelly, this is a brilliant look at a dwelling whose inhabitants have probably been inside too long. Wonderful bits of paranoid humour throughout. We certainly look forward to seeing more from Michael.

Gentlemanly James Bates closed the week with his third (and also counting. appearance) with Maybe I’ll Grow a Beard. Such a clever and ironic look at the discovery of one’s Big Plan already on the table elsewhere. If it went on I bet the guy would be begging for a second chance. So well done.

Let’s have a hand for all our performers, except maybe, Monday, who appears to have been taken off in irons.


It’s been long known that writers are creative when it comes to finding reasons not to write. If we put the same energy we apply to dodging the work, we would all be prolific indeed. Of course there are the usual suspects: The job and the family rate high–as do drunkenness and other time-eating addictions. But for me the only two truly valid excuses are coma and death, and I’m not entirely sold on coma. And it might be telling that many of the shelves in libraries of the world are filled by works written by imprisoned authors (regrettably, Hitler and the Marquis de Sade come to mind in that department).

I used to be so lazy that I could convert anything into a good enough reason not to write. This was back when I liked the idea of writing better than the actual process. But mainly it was because I was younger and could think of about a million funner activities than sitting at a desk and dredging through the filters of my subconsciousness. Many of these “funner” activities led to troubles whose only use nowadays are as “experiences” to examine like something nasty snaked out of a clogged drain. And although I still prefer the idea of writing over doing it, I work at it seven days a week anymore, for those other attractions are not as much fun as they used to be, nor can I run away from them as fast as I once could.

And I finally realized that there are three acts in a writer’s “career.” 1.) Gaining experience; 2.) Putting off sharing the experience; 3.) Writing something best described as a prolonged obituary, after the experience. To quote Leonard Cohen: “I feel I have a huge posthumous career in front of me.” Looming shadows have a way of motivating people.

Still, I often break away in the course of the night; for an overall lazy nature is difficult to eschew completely. I now offer a brief list of items that I allowed to distract me tonight. Please add your own if so inclined.

  • I decided that Cat A wanted to be brushed though sleeping.
  • Then decided that Cat B wanted to be brushed even though she hates it.
  • Once again I found myself googling “Notable Deaths in 2023.” It’s my morbid fixation.
  • Broke off in mid paragraph to arrange a fresh playlist on my tablet.
  • Frequently leaning back in the chair, as though in thoughtful repose, but actually just gazing with no more thoughts in my head than what there are in an eggplant.


10 thoughts on “Week 418- Advice; Action; Distraction”

  1. Another excellent post. I work with two nets. My wife and a good friend read early drafts of my stories. If they disagree … sorry, good friend, but I’m not stupid. Some of my distractions from writing are watching sports on TV, wine, snacking, walking the dog, reading. I could go on. Life is good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Leila –
    This has happened before. I wrote “Pool Of Dreams” as straight horror, high tech insanity, I now find it is irony. As long as it is published, I can be told what I wrote.
    I’m fortunate the editor Sharon edits more than my words. Helped me to live this long.
    I’m trying to improve my status by showing up with Jim Bates different places. The better, award winning writer “lost” to me in the print Down In The Dirt “My Homeland” -his one story to my two – at least I think so I may have missed some of his stories.
    My one act hobby – throw crap up on the wall, see if anybody licks it (yum- gross imagery). Don’t learn / don’t change – sort of works Going on ten years, things scheduled for Stray Branch in 2024.
    Enough of me and my hero worship. Happy you are not in CA? Our puny snow is mostly gone south of Portland OR USA.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello and thank you Doug

      Raining up here, but I am fine with it. Was sick with a stomach bug this week and it is nice to eat again. I recall the 70’s when all the Criswell types predicted that California will break off at the fault line and sink like Atlantis. Sometimes I think they got the event right but the timing wrong.

      Thank you again

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Something like Criswell speech “Plan Nine From Outer Space”.
        We all care about the future because that is where we will spend the rest of our lives.
        He may have been crazy, but he wasn’t wrong about that.
        When I lived in CA 1979-1997 I wondered how bad housing prices, traffic, and disasters would have to be before people started to move out. I have my answer now.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you, Doug

      His movies were dreadful, but it must have been fun on the set with Ed, Criswell, Vampira, Tor and Bela.….well Ed’s wife’s chiropractor who doubled for the late count. Only in California.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Leila,
    Interesting thoughts on feedback!
    The two things that stop me writing are work and lack of ideas – I despise both!
    I loved ‘Plan Nine From Outer Space’, I can’t really remember, was it ‘Glen Or Glenda’, how bad that one was!
    And not by but about Ed Wood, ‘ED Wood’ – Martin Landau was brilliant!
    Excellent post as always.


    1. Thank you, Hugh

      Ed Wood is a fine film but so few saw it. Landau got the Oscar for playing poor old Bela. Bill Murray, Johnny Depp and of course the one and only George”the Animal” Steel. Also had one of the Arquettes, forget which


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