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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

IWSG August - Motivation

 Welcome readers, writers, authors, and bloggers!

For the eighth time this year, it's the First Wednesday of the month when we celebrate IWSG Day, in the form of a blog hop featuring all of the members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Founded by Alex Cavanaugh and fostered by like-minded associates, IWSG is a place to share the fabulous views and exciting news that occurs along our fascinating writing journeys. So pull up a chair and join us!

Our awesome co-hosts for this month's posting of the IWSG are: 

PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!

How was your July?

We recently completed a few long over-due renovations in our Great room, which (naturally) includes the kitchen, the water and ice dispenser, and everyone's favorite – the pantry. As a result, we were temporarily banished, each from our own comfort zones, as workers diligently strived for expedience while still providing expertise. At the same time, we suffered mild cases of separation anxiety.

Basically exiled, as I was in my office, I expected to get a lot done. For the most part, I did. But when it came to writing, distractions were plentiful. What was going on in the Great room? Would they ever be finished? Have we ever had a monsoon such as this? In fact, we've actually surpassed the all-time record for rainfall during July - in only a few short weeks! Storms can be so thrilling.

At last, I found myself with ample time to write, only one story to finish, and no motivation to do so. How could this happen? When all else fails, I read.

Because I've often wondered if anyone besides me ever has trouble finding time to write, I read with great interest about O. Henry (pseudonym). He was an American short story writer whose troubles eventually earned him time in prison, where he had nothing else to do but write.

While I wouldn't want, much less need, that kind of incentive, it worked out well for William Sydney Porter (real name), whose career took flight behind bars and successfully soared well beyond those confines.

Porter used several pen names, and not only during his incarceration. He felt it was prudent in case no one liked his work. Or perhaps living among the willows for nearly a year had made him cautious. Interestingly, it was Porter who coined the term banana republic in a story he wrote after hiding out in Honduras during the infamous banana wars in 1896.

Not unlike his eventful life, Porter's witty stories typically have surprise endings. But, the biggest surprise was yet to come: While four administrations (since Porter died in 1910) have considered a posthumous pardon for the prolific writer of everyman stories, it has never been granted.

But that's not to say he hasn't been or isn't to this day acknowledged.

The prestigious "O Henry Award" is an annual prize given to outstanding short stories. There's even an annual spoken word competition that takes place in Porter's hometown called the O. Henry Pun-off in tribute to his love of language. In addition, a museum, schools, a street, and even a postage stamp are named in his honor.

"O Henry's Full House" is a 1952 film highlighting five of his most popular vignettes. I have to agree with fans (SPOILER ALERT!), "The Cop and the Anthem" has one of the most ironic endings!

Porter's last words are said to have been, "Turn up the lights. I don't want to go home in the dark."

The optional IWSG question this month is: What is your favorite writing craft book?

I own a total of thirteen books on the craft of writing. I've read them all at least twice and will likely reread one or all one day, depending on my needs or insecurities. But, because you asked and I simply can't choose a favorite, I plucked from my collection one that seems the most dog-eared: "Bird By Bird" by Anne Lamott. 

Now, I have a question. Does a pardon even matter once you've served your time?

Happy writing!


  1. I read like you when I'm not inspired to write and just in general. I really enjoyed Bird by Bird when I read it. I could probably use to reread it.

    1. Hi Natalie!

      Sometimes all it takes is a single chapter and I'm back on my game again ;-)

  2. Just pardon the poor guy!
    Glad your renovations are done.

    1. Hi Alex!

      Haha! What could it hurt, right?

      Me too. Having it done is a huge relief ;-)

  3. I'm constantly amazed by how many people love Bird by Bird. I really need to try this one out.

  4. After we take our summer trip we are going to have to do some much needed work on our house. Not looking forward to the expense or inconvenience, but I don't see where we have much of a choice other than maybe sell our current house which would be nice if we could move to another state than CA. Don't think my wife would be willing to do that--not yet at least.

    I can always find excuses not to write and there is plenty that legitimately keeps me from writing. Now I'm hardly even blogging. But I'm retired so maybe I don't need to write? After the vacation maybe.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. Hi Arlee!

      Here's hoping conditions will improve - sooner than later - for the good of all in your state. Like you, I can't imagine moving. But if I made a change it would have to be a big one ;-)
      I do hope you'll blog now and again. We miss you! Do you still plan to put your memoir in book-form?
      Enjoy your summer trip!

    2. I should be back to regular blogging in September after my trip. I still want to do the memoir someday before I die, but other things keep popping up too. Maybe our trip will rekindle my initiative.


    3. Oh good! I'll look forward - and help in any way I can ;-)

  5. When I first started writing, I had no trouble finding time to write. After my first book came out, the time crunch started. Now after nine books, I'm like a chipmunk on a wheel and writing has to happen in short stops along the way. You are not alone. :-)

    1. Thanks, Cheryl-Lee. It's good to hear of other experiences so that I don't think mine is fatal - ha!
      Indeed, you are one busy chipmunk. I don't know how you do it, but you're an inspiration!

  6. I always refer to renovations as Contractor Hell. So glad it's behind you now.

    I love Bird by Bird. It's one of my go-to classics.

    1. Ha! The term is so fitting ;-) Nevertheless, it all looks so nice we've yet to hang anything back on the walls.

      May our wrestles with words be few and triumphant!

  7. Hi Diedre - glad the renovations are over and finished ... for now! Interesting book you've suggested, while Portern as have some othersn thrived in prison and set their writing careers out on the straight and narrow. His Pen name captures our thoughts ... cheers Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary!

      I was most impressed with Porter's acceptance of a well-deserved sentence while making the absolute best of it ;-)

      Happy August!

  8. dIEDRE ~

    >>... O. Henry (pseudonym). He was an American short story writer whose troubles eventually earned him time in prison, where he had nothing else to do but write.

    Hokey-Smoke! I had no idea. In fact, although I've heard of him a godzillion and 14.6 times, I'm not sure I've ever read any of his short stories. I'll need to fix that! And now I definitely want to see "O Henry's Full House" very soon. You have definitely piqued my interest in the O. Dogg! (Are you surprised that I didn't mistakenly write that word as "peaked"? C'mon! Admit it, you ARE! ...So am I. ;^)

    April 24, 1983 -- I wasn't in jail long enough to do any writing (although 10 hours in a Mexican jail feels like about 10 years). However, in my early twenties I spent a lot of time writing in the "jail" of intoxication. I was a big fan of Kahlua back then, and I would stay up all night drinking Kahula and writing. That delicious coffee liqueur would get me so wired that I'd be simultaneously buzzed (or more) and wide awake, with my fingers doing the caffeine shake.

    I remember that back then my goal was to write the *perfect* stream of consciousness poem. NUTTIN' from those experiments survives to this day because I always discarded them as not being *perfect* enough. I always felt that too much "preconceived thought" sneaked in at times.

    Then one June morning in 1983, I accomplished the impossible by writing what I deemed to be the *perfect* stream o' consciousness piece. Except it wasn't a poem; it was a love letter to a girl living in Greece at the time. I was sitting in the bed of my truck with my portable typewriter, and parked on a little side street near Venice Beach. I had a hellacious hangover, which put my mind into some kind of Twilight Zone-ish alternative reality. I just started typing this letter to "T." without ANY preconceived notions about what I should say and without the slightest self-judgment about what was going on the paper. "T." and I were still getting to know each other at that time, and when I mailed that letter, I was a wee bit o' worried that it would scare her away but... no. She pretty much flipped over it.

    I still have a copy of that letter, and it's still one of my very favorite things I ever wrote. I probably should have stopped writing after that, because that low point was probably me at my best.

    Anyway... I got way off track here. But thanks for the O. Dogg inspiration! I will check 'im out.

    >>... Does a pardon even matter once you've served your time?

    I don't know, but I'm still checking my mailbox daily for a letter of apology from the Federales!

    ~ D-FensDogG

    1. Hi Stephen T!

      "She pretty much flipped over it." Assuming that was a good thing, why on earth would you consider not writing again? Glad you kept a copy ;-)

      Ha! An apology would be one gran milagro!

    2. >>... "She pretty much flipped over it." Assuming that was a good thing,...

      Well, "flipped" may not have been the rite word (and neither was "rite"), but I think she appreciated getting to see a different facet of my personality. And it didn't scare her away, so that was a hopeful omen.

      >>... why on earth would you consider not writing again?

      You know the old adage, "Quit while you're ahead"? I often tend to hang around longer'n I oughta. (Kinda like I'm doing right now. :^)

      Have you a terrific day, friend!

      ~ D-FensDogG

      POSTSCRIPT: Oops! I nearly forgot the primary reason I returned here. I wanted to tell you that I now have rented and seen the movie 'O. HENRY'S FULL HOUSE' and I really enjoyed it a great deal! It was almost like watching a collection of E-Ticket 'Twilight Zone' episodes, and it's a movie I would DEFINITELY watch again sometime. Thanks for mentioning it!

    3. Hi again!

      Ha! The essence of Twilight Zone is what caught my attention. Glad you enjoyed!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing this information about Porter with us. I found it fascinating.
    Love your header.
    Have a creative day.

    1. You do the same, Sandra ;-)
      Thanks for co-hosting this month!

  10. Hi Diedre - I hope that Great Room upgrade is now well on the way to being finished ... sounds fun, and will make life easier for you all.

    Writing is always tricky ... I know Anne Lamott's book, as too Save the Cat ... thankfully I seem to be able to draft, sometimes I get stuck - but not often.

    Good to see you - cheers Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary!

      Yes, thankfully, the project is complete. I think we'll take a break before tackling the next one ;-)
      Good to see you as well!

  11. Wow! I can't believe I missed your blog last month. What a fascinating glimpse of the life between O'Henry's popularity and his 'real' life. I'm now a fan of your work!

    1. Hi Beth!

      I guess my curiosity is boundless when it comes to the journeys we writers face. It's often just the encouragement I didn't know I needed ;-)
      Thank you for visiting!


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