Friday Firesmith – Writing Friday Firesmith

Like Stephen King, I don’t buy into the idea of “Writer’s Block”. There are times I need a break from writing, but it doesn’t amount to “can’t write” but rather “don’t want to write”. The production exists if will to write does. That’s anything in life, really. I woke up this morning with three things to do; read, write, work out.

Reading is inescapable for a writer. It’s like a workout for your mind, to learn how to, learn how not to, to follow the path of better writers, to once again be part of the river that leads to the ocean, to prepare your own mind for what needs to be done. Printed material is the holy text of writers. What you are reading at this very moment was influenced by books I’ve read in the last few days. 

I finished off “The Last Worthless Evening,” by Andre Dubus, a week ago, slogging through it for about ten days. The title was the inspiration for Don Henley’s song by the same name, which makes me wonder what part of the book, which is a series of unrelated short stories, Henley was most impressed with at the time. 

In three days, I read “Testaments” by Margaret Atwood, the author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and it is indeed a sequel. Atwood is fearless yet calm when describing atrocities in her tales of a dystopian nation, and it’s good writing. Her characters bring forth emotion and it’s not easy to lose them when death comes, and it does often. 

Atwood isn’t the greatest writer ever, and Dubus didn’t do well enough for me to look up his other books. But each of them did get published, and both of them contributed enough for me to see it in my own writing now. 

A young woman picks up a cigarette and lights it as she is sitting across the table from her mother, who is smoking, but has never seen her daughter smoke before. The daughter is sure that her mother won’t protest, and her mother, poised between being a mother to a child, and being a mother to a young adult, must choose who to interact with, the child or the young adult. 

The moment hangs in time for just a heartbeat, and Dubus nails it. 

The last part of Atwood’s tale spins out of the control of the characters, and the reader is frantic to get through each page, desperately seeking the fate of the people hurling towards freedom or execution, each voice raised that of salvation or torture, each life about to expand or be snuffed out, each page drawing closer to resolution in a maddening pace. 

It’s good writing. 

I’ve been doing Friday Firesmith for over a decade now. I’ve never missed a deadline. I’ve never been at a loss for writing, and I’m pretty sure something like that doesn’t exist in my world, even if it does in the worlds of others. I’ll write as long as I can breathe and read. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

6 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Writing Friday Firesmith”

  1. Maybe Henley just liked the line, “The Last Worthless Evening,” if you can’t correlate the song with any of the stories you read in the book.
    Do you find yourself rereading stuff you wrote a year ago, five years ago, and think of how you would change it, how you would write it now?

    • Henley claims the title came from an incident where he was hitting on Michelle Pfeiffer at a party. She rebuffed his advances which caused no small amount of mirth from his friend Jack Nickelson. Yet it seems odd he would have that title in mind when the book had come out a couple of years before. Mostly, I am never done writing anything, and have learned not to read anything I have declared done, because I will rewrite it, once again.

  2. I enjoy reading the things you write. They are often thought provoking, we seem to have quite similar views on many things. I admire a person who will listen to or read another individuals views and consider them with an open mind. You seem to be that way.
    I find many people who read seem to be more open minded, especially when they aren’t dictated to as to what they can and cannot read, but are allowed the freedom to choose where to wander next. They seem to be more insightful and accepting of people the way they are, rather than trying to bend them to a mold, or type, that they think they should fit.

    • Chick, I read “Blood Meridian” and pretty much hated the story, yet loved the style of writing. Everything can teach you something, even Hitler’s book. The man knew his target audience, and he knew the reaction he would get from the people who would want to read that sort of garbage, but it did prove he knew who to write to. There’s lessons to be learned there, oh my yes.

  3. I am glad you do not believe in writer’s block as I enjoy reading what you write.

    I also agree with not reading what you have written and finished. I write articles for a trade journal and do not like having to read what I wrote–even to edit it before I submit it. It is almost as bad as having to listen to a recording of your voice.

    I enjoy reading older books where the paragraphs go on for days. Also, most of those writers assume their readers have intelligence. Jack London, for instance–although once he went to tropical Asia, he wrote books that were really his but re-written with a tropical background and different character names.

    • Tim, I’ve slipped a few real life experiences into fiction and likely, some people are going to know who and what and where and when it happened. But they aren’t likely to complain. I wrote a short story once and a friend of mine sent it to a girl a dated in high school. She wasn’t pissed off, because only two people on earth knew it was her. But I bet she blushed.

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