Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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A Book Starts with One Page

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Shameless plug, but it serves a greater purpose.

My book, “Hitting Water” began over a year ago as a dare to myself. I would write 500 to 1000 words a day of short story or chapters toward a novel. There was no excuse. I had just come out of a major medical ordeal, and it was time to realize the burning need to create was dieing inside me. As Dr. Wayne Dyer has often said, “Don’t die with the music still inside you.” I took a vow to not let this happen. I even wrote it out on a Post It and tacked it to my kitchen cabinet. I read it every time I eat breakfast.

In late 2013, I dared myself. Double, triple dared. I was going to pick up morning pages once again and write stream of conscious nonsense until I covered three pages, both sides with words. Even if they were nothing. And then, I was going to write 1000 words a day of story and characters swimming in my mind for years. 1000 words of productive work – not just rehab “The Artist’s Way” work alone. Cameron’s work is a therapy you use on the side to help your real work get done. Everyday. Write something you will want to publish. Write everyday until something gels into a tangible project you can focus and hang up as a goal.

The 1000 words a day goal not only created (and is still creating) a flood gate of ideas and outlines for various novels I plan to write – but it created my first stake in the publishing world – “Hitting Water”. Creating this little book eventually changed my world. Just putting it out there for the world to see is proof that anyone can do this. I hope just it’s existence and the personal challenge I placed upon myself to make this (and other future work) happen, inspires others to do the same.

There were days I could only do 300 words. You know what? It was perfect. The next day, those 300 words turned into 3000 words of good, useful work that provided a profound amazing feeling of accomplishment and purity. Call it euphoric. Writing those words everyday – whether good stuff came out or not – was the most authentic I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s a delicious feeling – and I despise using the word “delicious” to describe anything other than food.

To my fellow writers who are placing your dreams on the shelf. Don’t push your writing aside. Ignore the voice inside that says you can’t do it. You can do it.

Don’t think about fame and glory. That’s not the purpose.

Think about what is before you.

Think about the now of your story.

Don’t think about “The Book”…page one. Think about the ideas you want to impart, the characters you want to create. Write it down even if it’s not great, even if your head says “This sucks”. Because it doesn’t. It may not be perfect now – but it will be with love and care like a seedling in a garden. Write it. Show up. Everyday. Water it with thoughts and ideas. Give it some new food for thought, new characters and twists to gain conflict and juicy, page turning possibilities.

Spring will be around the corner and glorious summer will provide the fruit.

What is “the fruit”?

“The fruit” isn’t a big publishing deal – although one should expect their work to be worthy of such. “The Fruit” is a complete work you feel is ready, with edits, rewrites, proofing, etc… HOWEVER…

Don’t embark on the novel of your life with the heavy thought of how daunting it will be. It’s not a mountain, it’s a well thought out story that will unfold when you show up.

And publishing it? Don’t care about right now. Think of your audience and know who they are. Who are you telling this story to? While you’re molding this incredible journey of life,  tell the publishing world to fuck off.  Don’t let the concept of “Who will publish this?” cloud your view. Keep thinking about the people who will read this. Who are you telling this story to?

A book starts with one page.

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Happy Valentines Day

queenofmyheartMy mother used to celebrate Valentines Day like it was a serious holiday. It was a day to celebrate love. It was also a celebration of chocolate. My mother had her favorite – Russell Stover Ambassador Candies. She wouldn’t accept less. My dad used to run down the Rexal’s Drugstore in Ardsley Village and pick it up first thing in the morning with a bunch of roses before it was too late. Then, she’d sit happy as a clam picking through the vast assortment of chocolate nibs.

She would buy me a small heart box of candies herself, along with a Hallmark card designed to hold money and signed checks. My mother was Jewish. Not to perpetuate a stereotype, but I will: She loved to give you a little something. It could be a few dollars, a ten, a twenty, a few twenties. She saved it up in pouches of cash envelopes from the bank. She budgeted her money that way. Although she wasn’t the most religious lady in the world, she did inherit the uncanny ability to slip you a few dollars in thanks, or because she loved you. One time she tried to give my friend Marie a few dollars just for coming by and acting as witness to the signing of her will. When she refused to accept it, my mother brought out food instead. Marie took the food.

I don’t have a Valentine this year. In fact, I never really do. Not that I’m complaining. Life has always been a solitary one for me, and no matter how much I like a guy, he always seems to like someone else more. At my age, I realized that some people are not meant to share their lives with anyone. And when I realized that – it seemed to take off the burden. I’m meant to do others things in this world, share the love in other ways. That’s why I write, and am working to help others write too.

Valentines Day on a Saturday. Nice. I’ll buy some cupcakes at Crumbs or perhaps a little box of chocolate, and  re-watch my favorite episode of 30 Rock.  It’s the one where Liz Lemon,  boyfriend-less, decides to spend the day getting root canal. “Happy Valentines Day No One!” she says in her goofy anesthesia haze, after mistaking the nurses for boyfriends past – Jason Sudeikis, Jon Hamm and Dean Winter – and before making out with a plant she thought was Jon Bon Jovi.

Happy Friday Everyone!


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Famous Books That Were Self Published – A Short List

selfpublishercartoonSome inspiration for writers everywhere who want to do it themselves.  A short list of famous books that were self published.

  • The One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spenser Johnson
  • The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White
  • A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
  • Real Peace, by Richard Nixon
  • A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  • Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
  • Remembrance of Things Past,  by Marcel Proust
  • Ulysses, by James Joyce
  • The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller
  • What Color is Your Parachute?, by Richard Nelson Bolles
  • The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer


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Bug Day Horror

My fellow WordPress person, “Writer with a Goal” initiated a blog prompt for the day: Write one or two paragraphs about  – “Feeling Like a Bug”.

Bug in my closet...I WILL CRUSH YOU, figuratively speaking.

Bug in my closet…I WILL CRUSH YOU, figuratively speaking.

I’ve never felt like a bug in my life. Bugs creep me out. Once in a while, these giant water bugs find their way into my bathroom through the drains. Their dark black and the size of your thumb – if you had a really big, long thumb.

Last week, just as I was leaving the bathroom, I caught a quick glimpse of one of these monster scurry under the door to my hallway closet like the lousy little wimp that it is. Ha! It thought I didn’t see him hide like a little fool into the dark hole that is closet of laundry and luggage! Bwhahaha!  He will never find his way home again.

I immediately ran to my other closet and grabbed my Dyson vacuum, went back to the other closet and looked for that son of a bitch. (Pardon the language – I really hate these things.)

Never found the guy. He’s buried in there somewhere.And I never put away the vacuum. It’s still standing in there, in front of the closet door, waiting, hopin g to nab this little sucker into his suck hose. It stands –  taunting, a reminder that if that SOB leaves and even THINKS of climbing on to me or my hound – it will be sucked quickly into the bowels canister of hell, left to wallow in filth and carpet residue, dog hair and the mighty horrors of under-bed dust bunnies – that is – if it doesn’t die from being mangled by the spiky churning floor brush first!

Just you wait oh, water bug. Don’t even think of touching my barefeet while I brush my teeth or step out of the shower. If there is a little space around the towel I jammed at the bottom of the door to prevent you from sneaking out – that you find as an escape – forget it.  I will crush you. Not really crush you – that would be gross because you are like a mini truck…but I will use my vacuum’s hellacious wind tunnel and make your eat dirt!


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Bob Dylan’s MusiCares Speech Speaks Volumes

Bob“The songs are there. They exist by themselves, just waiting for someone to write them down. If I didn’t do it, someone else would.”   ~Bob Dylan, 1962

If that ain’t a writer…

Whether you like him or not, it’s evident Dylan knew how to crystallize the human condition down to lyrics in a song. Every track hit the nerve of so many yearning for common ground. Whether it was about love, politics, history, romance, love, hate, anger, comedy, caddy bullshit, society coming down hard, or losers hanging around Dylan’s door – he amalgamated and borrowed aspects of life, people, old songs and inspired hymns to create an image. A by-product of that image is a body of spectacular work.

But Dylan isn’t God. He’s not the savior. He’s just a man who proved he wasn’t what he seemed by hiding behind the flour dust mask during his 1975 Rolling Thunder Tour. He’s a troubadour. He’s an historian. He’s a soothsayer. He’s an imposter. He’s the truth. He’s a man. A father.  He’s flesh and blood. He’s a writer.

The quote above is the personification of the writing process. Our creative process – this mysterious output of words and thought – is not something to be questioned or judged. It’s showing up and finding the song that already exists – that’s the stuff. The mystery is in finding the key.

No wonder why Dylan was so indignant when tiresome journalists asked the same questions about his songs.  Some accused him of everything. “Judas!” “Imposter!” “Savior!”  They tested his resolve, treated his songs like they were bars of gold that he stole from a vault. They demanded answers. How did he write this? What is this song about? Who are you do this? How dare you?

In last Friday’s speech, Dylan was finally able to ask them the same. Face to face. It didn’t take a rendition of “Idiot Wind” to do it. “How dare YOU?” he said to naysayers.

Even if he raged and rattled his stick against their cage – the answer was always there. He had nothing to do with the songs. Oh, yes he had a way with words, or he held a sensitive radar on the human condition.  But maybe he created something new from something old, in order to produce something unique on it’s own. Maybe just living, exploring and relishing the work of others sparked new thought and inspiration.

We all have this in us. We’re all Dylan in a way. Just showing up and and sticking to it helps. Kind of comforting to know it.

When MusiCares honored him last week, Dylan’s now famously long, angry, humble and transparently refreshing speech summed it all up for a writers and creative folk. You can take it as it is.

“All these songs are connected. Don’t be fooled. I just opened up a different door in a different kind of way. I didn’t think I was doing anything different. I thought I was just extending the line.”


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If The Good Lord’s Willing and The Creek Don’t Rise

There’s nothing better for a writer than to have a little musical fortification. It feeds the mind and enriches the soul. Here’s some Americana from the man in black – the mighty Johnny Cash.

If the good Lord’s willing and the creek stays down
I’ll be in your arms time the moon come around
For a taste of love that’s shining in your eyes
If the rooster crows at the crackin’ of the dawn
I’ll be there just as sure as you’re born
If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise
I’ll comb my hair down brush my teeth
Shine up slick up dress up neat
Get everything looking just right
Cause I want to look pretty when I see you tonight
Just as sure as the rabbits are a jumping in the hollow
I’ll be there you can bet your bottom dollar
If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise

If the good Lord’s willing and the creek stays low
I’ll be there a knockin’ at your door
With a hug and a kiss for the one I idolize
I’ll wear my suit my Sunday best I’ll be there lookin’ my best
If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise
I’ll feed the mules and slop the hogs feed the cows and chop all the logs
Get all of my working done cause tonight we’re gonna have lots of fun
Just as sure as there ever was a preacher man
I’ll be there with a ring for your hand
If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.


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Foggy LA Morning

foggy la2

“There’s a fog upon LA,

And my friends have lost their way…”

‘Blue Jay Way’ – Words and music by George Harrison

We had a foggy morning in Los Angeles today. Not smog. Fog. Real dewy, low laying clouds.  LA gets a bad rap for its air quality, but things have improved in the last thirty years. Now when you can’t see beyond several yards, it’s a force of nature until the winds change and the sun burns through the mist.

If you’re a writer, you’re constantly dealing with the fog when you’re in the midst of writing a book, article, or blog. Nothing makes you want to bang your head against the desk more than handling the mist of nothingness clouding your once crystal clear vision.

bluejaywaygeorgeBut the problem with our own personal fog, is that we tend to create it ourselves.  I’m super guilty of blaming my brain for the brick wall of futility holding back those pearls of awesome dripping from my imagination onto the keyboard on a particular day (or a succession of days – even weeks). That blame game can be the root of one’s futility.  We put it there by saying, “I can’t write because I’m not a good writer,” or “Why bother when nobody is going to read or publish it anyway,” or “I have nothing to write about.”  Nothing can be further from the truth. Really. Drop kick those beliefs down the street into manhole.

It’s alright to go easy on ourselves and take a break from the daily grind of writing to fill up our shoe with some living. Sometimes we do run aground in creating those pearls of story from our brains. We’ve used up our well of ideas, and now it’s time to fill up our empty imagination with books, museums, movies, music, or just hanging with your friends and chill. Yet, when we have done all this, and blank brain prevails, you have to push through by ignoring the fog and letting your fingers do the work. Just say, screw it and blah blah blah your monitor screen until you get a thought.

I do it all the time. I’m not perfect. There’s self doubt, laziness, too many projects at work that sap my brain energy from focusing on the thing I love the most – writing and working on the foundation of my consulting business where I want to help others writers write. Nevertheless, I cannot succumb. I can take a break, but I have to keep my eyes on that glorious goal.

Don’t fall for the “nope, not feeling it” thing for too long. Remember, not feeling it is just part of the process. There will be days when you don’t really have the flow to produce useable work.  There are productive days and crap days. On the crap days, show up anyway. Screw the resistance that tries to put you in a place of frustration. Put down about 500 words of nothing until you start writing about the cup of coffee you had this morning, or how the chatty coffee clan who sit in front of the Coffee Bean everyday were noisy, or how they ignored your dog. Then suddenly, you’ve taken “a nothing day, and suddenly made it all seem worthwhile.” (I’ve been watching a lot of Mary Tyler Moore reruns). It will not only open up the fog, allowing you to see the light on where you need to go on your book, but it might be the germ of story you can write months from now, when the sky in your head is clear and bright.

But like the weather. Understand the clouds. Be the wind and the barometric pressure. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just try to allow positive thoughts to flow like cool, clear high pressure fronts. Even if you can’t do this, try to rise above negative or heavy thoughts and sit down to write. Write anything. Sometimes putting down 500 words of crappy thoughts will flourish into something awesome.


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For Those Who Didn’t Think They Could But Did It Anyway

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My Uncle, Charles Rotmil. Big Sur. Somewhere in the 1950’s.

My father wrote stories. During his retirement years, he wrote and relished the process of creating novels, poems and plays. He sent his manuscripts to publishers and agents time and again. He would receive rejection upon rejection. Sometimes, a publisher would ask him to re-write various elements so they could ponder the probability of accepting it. That’s when my dad’s hopes grew and visions of being the next wealthy Stephen King filled his head. He’d revise and send in his work, only to be met with vague decisions and ultimate rejection.

He finally self published one of his books, “Faustus in Pasquack” on Amazon, long before the self publishing craze began. The cover was home made. From a marketing perspective, it was simple and pedestrian. The writing between the covers was good. The story was captivating, and it garnered nice, polite responses. He wanted fame, but in the end, I think he was satisfied that he did it. He didn’t have to win the lottery of the literary world. He finally wrote his visions and created stories people read and enjoyed. He had a small following of readers. Al least he wrote something tangible. He did it. That’s what counts.

I know this isn’t the usual success story one finds after hearing about the travails of rejection while on the road to fame. We should all be acknowledged handsomely for our work, and with the persistence and luck, we can get there.

However, success doesn’t have to be fame. Success can be the act of doing something we find impossible – and just do it – despite the fear or self doubt. We each have a different road. My dad’s may have been different. I have all his work, all his words, and I hope to bring them back to the world one day. He left behind a body of work. That is success.

My Uncle Charles, my dad’s brother, wrote me an interesting reply after an email exchange regarding the day we laid my parents ashes in the bay in Sag Harbor back in the summer of 2010. He came up with the idea of spreading their ashes in this quiet, lovely coast, and I expressed how forever grateful we did this. Instead of visiting my parents in a dark cemetery, I can go to the banks of the inlet bay in East Hampton and visit the spot where their remains drifted off – my mom heading for her hometown of Havana, Cuba, my dad somewhere beyond the blue horizon.

He wrote:

“We all come from the sea and there we return. Life is a mystery. I cherish every Sunrise. Charles.”