Painting with words

Painting with words

The real purpose of these posts to share my life with my readers. I want it want to be a canvas where I can paint my picture every day. An old Picasso trick was to take out some paint and splash it around before getting down to the “serious work.” Another metaphor for from my buddy Mike would be to fire a couple of rounds to “warm-up” up your gun, lol.

The task of trying to write a book has paralyzed for me a long time. Especially a book about my Team in Afghanistan in 2008. Just the size of the task is daunting. Trying to take coherent shapes of half-remembered times, peoples and heartbreaking emotions is hard. Putting all those events in order to make an enjoyable book that does honor to my friends is a tough job.

I finally feel ready and up to the task. It took six years, four moves and more than a little heartbreak to get here. But here we are and I wanted to mark the journey every day “to splash a little paint around.”

I have always loved to write. Words have always come naturally. All of my poor readers know how much I love to talk. Well words have always flowed, but now, with the book, it is not the time to “let it all hang out.” It is time to get to work. To do what I feel like I was born to do- To tell a story.

The one condition I have above all is to tell the truth. Any historian, writer or good man wants to do that. I see myself in this task in the order listed above. I will strive towards that goal. I will make it my handrail throughout this historic and significant endeavor.


The most laborious is not actually writing, but what Hemingway called his, “… endless pruning of words.” Rewriting is the essence of writing. Good writing becomes great writing through exhaustive editing.

Good writers welcome the gift of the word processor where they are able to endlessly fuss over their sentences- revising and reshaping- without the drudgery of retyping. The real secret is to keep it simple while trying to convey something profound.

Using short, declarative sentences with an athletic prose is what I am trying to do. To be good at something, you just have to practice a lot. You guys are the start of that each and every day. All while using a terse, direct and simple style that is a pleasure to read (hopefully- followed by Dominic’s nervous laughter).

Writing as a vocation

There are schools of writers out there that believed to be a true “artist” you have to suffer. You’re agonizing over your work is a sign of your commitment and enduring as a true “professional.”

Others think that writing is a fun and easy. I tend to land in both camps. There is a little honesty in both ideas, but the truth falls in the middle.

Writing can be hard and lonely. There are times when the words seldom flow. The editing sucks because it’s like “… killing your darlings,” to quote Mr. Hemingway, but it is always worth it.

One of the easiest ways to understand something is to use a metaphor. That’s what makes stories and parables so fun and attention getting. Writing is like doing Insanity or P90X (… more about that later). It is tough while you are doing it, but you are always glad later that you did.

The professional writer must establish a daily schedule and stick to it. Writing is a craft (I actually believe it is a “calling” of a higher order), not an art. You can’t run away from your craft when the going gets tough. Just because you lack inspiration you write every day because it is your job. You learn to do just like any other job.

Where the readers, come in

I am a Soldier. Long before I wanted to do this “writing thing” I was a Soldier. I need the structure and discipline of military life more than ever. I respect, trust and admire all of you. I know I am a moderately talented writer, but I have squandered my gift for far too long. I need some help.

I would like these posts to act as a sort of cadre and accountability for me to write every day. I know that what I say and write will stay here. For my amigos in Afghanistan it will be a daily dose of Oto. For the guys in the States it will serve to keep me on track when I periodically post.

I will also try to go through in a little literature to increase our knowledge. It will force me to prep these emails. Before you know it, I will have you all droning on like Frasier Crane to his brother Niles about the Opera and Literature.


Endings are important. An entire movie or novel can be ruined by a disappointing ending. How something ends is usually how you remember it. So tying up loose ends, whether it is in a book, plot or simply an email is important. Every great beginning should have an awesome ending.

In these posts I will attempt to establish my literary greatness. So later when I am crowned “The Monarch of American Letters,” have won the Nobel Prize for Literature and wrote the definitive history of the American Military Adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan (which I will receive the Pulitzer Prize, of course) you can show them you got a daily email from “The Man.’

‘The Dark Tower’ by Stephen King- “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

I am going to use an old Hemingway technique for writing. He would always stop by leaving a sentence unfinished. The Dark Tower by Stephen King is important because….