Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Alternatives to Writing

Instead of my usual Just For Fun monthly offering, I thought I'd share this story from humorist, Slim Randles. He's a frequent guest here at The Blood-Red Pencil, and this story of Dud and his writing challenges resonated with me. There was a time when I gave up on writing after a college literature professor suggested I take up basket weaving as a creative outlet. He was not fond of my writing. What I learned from that experience, and perhaps what Dud has learned from his, is to never give up on writing if that is your passion. 

If you ask Dud Campbell, it’s all right to take a break from the arts now and then. Well …  since the arts are a part of a person, that’s not quite right. All right, it’s okay to switch arts now and then. Dud had pretty much beaten himself to death trying to fathom what to do in the novel about the duchess and truck driver, and it had left him gasping for ideas.

So he went back heavily to his accordion.

From the early lessons of squeaking and squawking and driving most of the cockroaches out of the neighborhood, Dud’s playing had progressed to the point where people actually smiled when they discussed it.

When the cold weather hit, Dud would hurry home from work and pick up the squeeze box and work diligently on it. Polkas and waltzes, primarily. A few of the easier Cajun tunes, too. He concentrated on those left-hand exercises, of course, where hitting the exact right little black bass button every time is a challenge known by all stomach Steinway artistes.

He had told the guys down at the world dilemma think tank (aka the philosophy counter at the Mule Barn truck stop) that he was ready to go out that weekend and squeeze out some money at a local night spot with his music.

Monday morning, Dud pulled in to the counter and flipped his cup back to the upright and fillable position.

“Well?” said Doc.

“Well what?”

“How did it go? The music. The accordion. "Lady of Spain" out on the town. You know?”

Dud just shrugged and threw some sugar into the coffee.

“Did you make money playing your accordion?” Steve asked.

“Yes,” Dud said, glumly.

“So it was a success, right?”

“Well, not … entirely.”

“Why not?”

“Went down to the Covered Wagon Saturday night. They had a good crowd in there. Played some waltzes and a few polkas to get the crowd warmed up. You know Bill? The owner?”

We nodded.

“He gave me $20 to go play somewhere else.”

Have you had more encouragement for your writing than discouragement? Please do leave a comment and share your experiences.

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, Home Country, and is the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press.

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery Doubletake was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. Slim Randles always makes her laugh.


  1. I took accordion lessons when I was a kid, but that didn't go anywhere. I took piano lessons after I got married, but got too aggravated with the way I had to change where my hands were depending on the music. I was too used to the computer keyboard where everything stayed where it should be all the time.

    1. I've taken a few guitar lessons, but mostly learned on my own playing with a choir. I have always wanted to play piano, and my add that to my bucket list.

  2. Music = math. Which is why I stick with wordsmithing.

    1. Absolutely, Diana. I can count to 20 but I'm in trouble if I lose a digit. :-) However, I am pretty decent on guitar.

  3. Music is my other passion, Maryann, so I related to this post. Since submitting to getting bashed in two disciplines is twice as humbling, makes me wonder why I do it. Low self-esteem, I suppose.

    1. It is sad to be bashed like that. In addition to what my college professor said, I was once booed off the stage in a talent show. I was ten, and really couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. I am better with vocals now, but still prefer just to play guitar and let someone else sing. Do you play guitar?

    2. Yep ... I pick and grin a little.

  4. I played the sax in high school. Tried guitar, but as Morgan mentioned above, I didn't like having to move my hands around so much.

    1. I suspect that many writers have also dabbled with music and other art forms. At least most of the ones I know explore several creative avenues. I think they all feed each other.

  5. Music is my other passion; but for the benefit of any who might be in hearing distance, I typically limit my involvement to listening -- unless, of course, I am alone.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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