I had dinner with Mark Burton last night, one of my oldest friends. I pedaled up just ahead of the surprise rain showers  to the Versailles restaurant (never bothered to figure out why a Cuban restaurant chain is named after a French palace) on La Cienega just south of Pico. I hadn’t seen him since his birthday last May.

We caught each other up about friends and family and jobs and stuff and at some point Mark cut to the chase and wanted to know why I wasn’t writing. It caught me off guard because it’s not like I have the word “fiction” with a big red  circle and a line through it on my blog broadcasting a present lack of creative focus, but Mark’s always been intuitive like that; he didn’t test the water with “working on anything new lately.” or “how’s the writing going.” Nah, he got right to it, in part because he knows me pretty well and was one of my first readers having soldiered through my inaugural short story; a little apocalyptic tale I spun from of a lot of anger at the age of 18 titled Breakdown.

I won’t go into it here other than to say back then as a deeply disturbed and depressed young man right out of high school whose hopes for a future had just fallen apart, I had a couple options: 1) I could write a story about blowing up my world, or 2) blow it up for real. Both Mark and I are  glad I opted for the former, but the resulting tale still bothers him when he thinks about it.

“Still scares the shit outta me,” he said, adding, “fucker.”

Your mileage may vary, but I’ll transcribe it one of these days and post it around here somewhere.

But I digress. Truth is I’ve been asking myself that question about my writing more recently of late, but I didn’t have an answer cop out for him that was any different than for me: “I can’t seem to get out of my own way.”

He nodded knowingly and let it slide but as we said our farewells a short while later he gave me an action plan: go home and give Susan a kiss hello, check your email, do your little blogging thing — and then fucking write something. Anything.

And I did. I gave Susan that kiss when I got inside, then got out of my soaked clothes (the rain had caught up with me basically sat over the section of L.A. I rode home through). I didn’t blog. I didn’t check email. But I did write something. Not perhaps what Mark had in mind, what I wrote in a fresh new word document, centered in 24-point bold all-cap verdana type was:

I WILL TELL MY STORIES. I WILL EXPLORE MY POTENTIAL.

Certainly that’s not the first time I’ve attempted to motivate myself and while it might seem as as cliché and meaningless as my excuse for not writing, every journey begins with a first step, and now I’ve taken it.  Let’s see now if I can take the second and third and 3,000th, because the real answer isn’t that I can’t get out of my own way, it’s that I’ve been afraid to.