The Blank Page

I have to fill it. It won’t get filled on its own. It’s my job to do the work and most days I’m just not sure I have it in me. I’m sure today is one of these days. These many days. This, despite the fact that my head is swimming with ideas. Dozens at any given moment.

My fear is perfectly represented here. The fear of the unknown. The fear of failure. Because I can’t even see the finished product of what this thing will be once filled with words and ideas. The hardest part of writing, of anything really, is starting. I just don’t know where to start. Then, even if I manage to start, will I know what finished looks like?

Sometimes, rarely, the page pops into my head. Completed. Finished. Before it is even started. I approach the blankness and type it and ship it and people love it and they let me know and I never reveal my secrets. The secret that it took me so little time or real effort. The secret that it almost never, ever, ever, works that way. That, most days, I spend hours completely paralyzed in front of the grave in which I’m sure my talent is destined to proceed me, long before it is time for my body and mind to follow.

I have to force myself to sit here and stare at it. To look into my fear and let it mock me with the possibility that it will beat me. That I won’t be able to start and it will remain perfectly fine. In its natural state. Blank. Therefore, I too will remain in my natural state. Afraid.

But, I know somewhere deep and primal, it is a matter of time and a test of will. That I can overcome my fear. That I have plenty to fill that empty space with. That it does not require some rare moment of clarity or enlightenment. That all it requires is the courage to write one word. Then, follow it with another. Pretty soon you have a sentence. Then, a paragraph. Then, soon enough, ideas will form. Those could turn into a letter. A post. An essay. Or, eventually, a book.

It starts right here. For me. For everyone. Every day. A hole we are required to face our fears to fill.

An empty space on the floor by my bed waiting to be filled with my first step. An empty pot waiting to be filled with my coffee. A spouse waiting to be filled with my devotion. A waking child waiting to be filled with my love. A page…

This was originally written for my now discontinued subscription newsletter. I’ve made the decision to take some of my favorites from there and put them here.

The Perfect Old Fashioned…

…Does not exist. It’s fiction. Fantasy. A flat out lie. Anyone who tries to sell you one, or convince you that they can produce one, is trying to hornswoggle you. Or, perhaps, it is better to simply agree that they all are perfect.

You see, an Old Fashioned is more an idea than an execution. This is what makes it my favorite cocktail to both make and enjoy elsewhere. To paraphrase the great 20th century philosopher Forrest Gump, it’s like life – you never know what you are going to get. Everywhere you order one it will be different. Sometimes only slightly, sometimes so drastically as to almost be considered another drink entirely.

There are no specific ingredients or hard measurements – only elements. These elements, combined with enough whimsy and panache to support the basic theory of what an Old Fashioned might be, consist of the following:

Spirits, Bitters, Water, and Sugar

That’s it. Any combination of the above may be called an Old Fashioned. Combine just about any of these and you can call it an Old Fashioned. In fact, it is long held that the very definition of what a cocktail is was derived from the description of these elements (see here: Old Fashioned – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

I recently ordered up an Old Fashioned at a hip and trendy restaurant here in town and here is what I got: Makers Mark Whiskey on top of raisins soaked in house made bitters and muddled at the bottom of the glass. Splash of tonic and diced apples for garnish.

It was an interesting take to be sure. That said, it was no more or less an Old Fashioned than the ones I make. All the ingredients were there. It was, therefore, perfect.

Now, I’ll describe how I make a perfect Old Fashioned. Try a couple; you’ll either agree with me or not care.

  1. Grab a lo-ball glass, the unofficial official glass of the Old Fashioned. Its flat, wide bottom and straight sides make it the ideal palette for the artistry about to be performed.

  2. Throw a couple of teaspoons of sugar in there. Nothing fancy. Just plain white sugar.

  3. Sprinkle in some bitters in there. I use Angostura but any will do. You want enough to add flavor to the muddle (see below) but not so much that it begins the muddle without the next step.

  4. Grab an orange. This will both stand in for water and be garnish. Cut an end off of the orange and squeeze just enough juice into the sugar and bitters so that you can muddle these together with a spoon. The resulting concoction should resemble quicksand. Thick, but not too thick. Runny, but not too runny.

  5. Throw a few cubes of ice in the glass. How many depends on how strong you ultimately want your drink. Just a few if you like it nice and strong. Fill it up if you are a lightweight.

  6. Now, grab some whiskey. Any whiskey is good whiskey. But don’t use stuff that is too good. That stuff is for drinking straight. Anything else will be just fine. Cheap blended Canadian? Great! Expensive craft distilled Rye? Great! Just make sure it is whiskey. Not Brandy. Never Brandy… Pour the Whiskey in the glass, about a finger from the top.

  7. Cut off a slice of the orange and throw it in the glass on top. Also put some Maraschino cherries in there, two or three. Use a spoon so you get some of the cherry syrup in with those too.

  8. Mix carefully. You want to combine all of these flavors without spilling a single drop over the lip of the glass. Such waste of anything this amazing is a crime and sin.

There you have it, Drink one of these regularly and you can tackle (or forget) almost any problem you might face.

Of course, what I describe above is nothing more than my take on it. Adjust it, change it, no matter. As long as the four elements are there, you will have made the best Old Fashioned you have ever had. Until the next one.

This was originally written for a far past issue of the Read & Trust Newsletter (now Magazine). I thought encouragement to enjoy a nice drink on a Sunday was reason enough to share it here.

Your Biggest Fan

Who’s your biggest fan? Do you know? Is it you? Are you your own biggest fan? If not, why not? Perhaps, you should be.

My bet is, you are already your own harshest critic (I know I am). You are perfectly willing to play the role of your own devil on your own shoulder. A never ending loop of negativity when things go wrong or you mess up. You have no problem taking the lead in recognizing your failures and doubts.

Why not, then, make it just as easy to give yourself a pat on the back for the jobs well done?

Not in a self-centered and egotistical way, mind you. I’m not talking about any sort of grandiose illusions here. I’m simply saying that you should be ready and willing to take a step back and recognize and take note of work you feel proud of. And, to graciously and humbly accept, when others recognize it as well.

And, if there is a bone fide reason for your self-criticism, then let your inner fan motivate you to do better next time.

Personally, I keep a “yay me” file — a plain text document named “yayme.txt”. A love letter, of sorts, to myself. Whenever I do something I’m proud of, I write it in this file. Whenever someone has given me a standout complement, I write that in this file too. If a reader sends me a nice email letting me know I’m appreciated, here’s where it goes.

Whenever, I’m feeling the inner critic begin to rear it’s ugly head, I open up this file to find my biggest fan reminding me of how much I have accomplished and cheering me on to the next victory.

Your free will donation of any amount helps to support a full-time independent writer. I also note it in my Yay Me file. Thanks for reading!

home/ journal/ books/ dash/plus/ archives/ rss