Doing Anything Creative Like Writing Fiction:

The business of writing is like riding a wild horse through a desert WHILE NAKED, without a saddle, one hand holding a fragile egg, the other a bunch of the horse mane.

You have to be Brazen because you are naked.

You have to be Skilled so you won’t fall.

You have to be Crazy because, who does this?

And you have to be TOTALLY COMMITED to delivering the fragile egg that is your creativity UNBROKEN to the one who will love it, the one who needed it.

I actually wrote this years ago about trying be an artist back in the day, but it applies to anything creative. There are lots of ways to do lots of things, but creativity is a wild horse and being brazen, skilled and crazy, in equal measure go a long way to keep you going. But staying committed and not getting broken, that’s hard. Like everything, if it is not about satisfying our own egos, if the intent is reaching someone, we have a chance of getting through the many deserts.


There is a lens to our awareness of others that we constantly have to adjust for context and proximity. For example, the personality of a comedian is one that often explodes the personal to mythic proportions for laughs, and as the audience grows, the message changes because the audience and impact also changes and the comic must take responsibility or create derision. But, as ego also inflates with the kind of surreal success of celebrity (often) it tends to shut off empathy. The very thing that gave them insight when they started, becomes their blind spot. And those they love, loved and lost, suffer in that darkness too. It is a trajectory we see often in those we once considered “great”.

one or the other bad thing

Sometimes people just CHOW DOWN ON HATE, like wild dogs and there’s not much you can do but find a place where they can’t get you. Because, when I think about it, only one or the other bad thing will happen: If they get you they will tear you to pieces OR, and this is worse, you’ll join them.

Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama

I did Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s “Forgiveness Challenge”. At least I started it, but when I signed up, many years ago, I was still so contracted by anger that I knew it would be very difficult. But at least by signing up I put myself on a road. However, “forgiveness” is a very Christian idea and I am not a Christian.

Over the years (I don’t consider myself a Buddhist either) my Zen practice has matured and many things that were held in a fist of hurt have fallen by the roadside without much effort. I realize that whether we call the loosening of contention “forgiveness” or not, there is no freedom in hate and anger.

As human beings we can be lost and suffer and cause suffering. We can and will always see the rise of tyranny, selfishness, violence and contracted states, but at some point, we come to understand the road we are on and know we can’t pretend to not choose to continue it or to leave it.

There is a movie that will be free on Facebook on June 2nd made by Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama called “Unite for Joy” about their wonderful friendship.

Old Woman in the Retirement Building Across the Street

April, 2022

Her bedroom curtains are always open and I can see when the light beside her bed is off

or on.

5:00a.m. Her pillow askew. The sheets thrown back. The slippers gone: I know that both of us are once again awake before dawn.

Then I get sick.

I’m sleeping around the clock. Until one night, I get up a lot to have a pee or take a pill.

I see her light is still on, her white head asleep on her pillow, curled on her side towards the window.

And I still don’t stop to wonder about her because I’m so sick.

Maybe the day after or the one after that. I finally stop and see she’s gone. Along with everything in her room.

The windows are open.

The light of the sun sweeps across the bare floor.

Until someone comes, and her curtains for the first time, are drawn.

The Coldest February On Record!

Words About

buddha This week at the sitting with the Toronto Zen Community, the teisho was the “Master Ma is ill”. Hekiganroku Case 3, Sun-faced Buddha, Moon-faced Buddha. I was almost moved to tears. A little about what is going on for me. I have occasional bouts of depression that are very physical. I ache all over and it seems that sad facts stick to me like tissue paper does to polyester when the air is too dry. This trek to “the dark mountain” has been accompanied by various concerns and the coldest winter on record. I have succumbed to this state where I plod through my day as the winds of too much thinking and too much pain swirl around  accompanied by Winston Churchill’s Black Dogs barking and Hannibal Hector’s favourite play list.

Now when I say “almost moved to tears” I need to say, we sit in Zazen during the teisho, neither looking…

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“Wight Christmas” an Anthology of Christmas Horror

The “Wight Christmas, Holiday Horror and Seasonal Subversion” is available from Amazon and my story “The Selfless Gift” is included.

My story grew out of a writing exercise where the words “velvet silence” were a prompt.

I have spent part of my life traveling through places covered with snow returning to family homes for the winter holidays, in various states of mind, through different eras and phases of my life.

The thing I like most about snow is what it does to sound, so, the words “velvet silence” could only mean for me a snowy night. From there I saw a lonely road driving away from one difficulty towards an uncertain tomorrow.

Christmas, for many, can be the most difficult time of the year. Birthdays can be ignored but Christmas punches a hole in the calendar and threads wishes, family, love, longing and regret together through the years until it can almost seem an entity in itself. I tried to capture those traditional pains and joys in a short story.

Was there ever a better story than a Christmas ghost story?

War Like

Unwind the balls of barb wire and stretch them out across the land that stood in perfection. 
Take that understanding that had the strength of a heart beat, that was a sound as big as an ocean, that made us say, “I know that sound!” and make it academic. Put it in a library somewhere far away and then say, “it never was for you to understand”. 
And with it 
the light that stretches from one horizon to the other, 
the wind that circles while panting, panting with the breath, 
the water that falls, that funnels, dances and destroys, 
the trees and plants and miniscule things growing, 
the uncurling grasp of a baby’s fist, the fluttering lids of the dying, 
and deliver your surgery:
this declaration, your pretense of history:
“You shall always be divided against yourself along this line and from all who are not you.”
It is no less.

Woman Poem

Woman Poem
by Rio Murphy

When she was my child 
I paused at the perfect curl of her earlobe.
She was a comma in my diatribe
about laundry and bills,
my aching back,
the sticky handprints everywhere,
the runny noses and endless nights of fitful sleep:
The Joy of Her.
When she was myself,
if I looked away
and back again
just in 
She was a blinking cursor.
When she was my old mother
with her tissue paper skin
and brittle bones on which it hung,
one black pupil 
narrowing within
the colourless iris of
her one sighted eye
—the spoon suspended halfway to her lips Like a question mark—
she was the poem
I could not write.
A woman poem is a ribbon in a river flashing underwater, 
It catches on an ankle,
Then slips away over black river stones, unknown.

by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

This reading is part of On Being’s altogether wonderful poetry archive.