Endings . . . and Beginnings (Or, “This IS Next Year!”)

When I was growing up, my mother would plan holidays like no one else.  For Halloween, she’d have literally hundreds of candy bars at the ready for the throng of trick-or-treaters that showed up, without fail, year after year.  For Thanksgiving, we’d have so much food, it’s quite possible we could have fed every soldier in the 82nd Airborne.  And Christmas.  She went all out for Christmas.  Every year she would try to top the previous year’s tree, and she’d hand-make gifts for her brigade of friends–hundreds of people.


But things at our house were curiously quiet for New Year’s Eve.

“It’s the death of a year,” my mother would say.  “I don’t want to be awake when it happens.”  And she never was,

I sometimes was.  It never was a big deal for me, one way or the other.  But if I could stay awake and watch the ball drop in Times Square, why not?  After a while, it set me to thinking.  Why did “the death of a year” depress my mother so much?  And was that really the way to look at it?


Maybe the end of the year is not so much a death, but more of a chance to take a step back, look at the months that have come and gone, and reflect.  Certainly where I grew up, and still live–in the northeastern United States–it is a fitting time for reflection.  It’s cold and dark, the days so short it often feels like you wake up, eat breakfast, blink a few times, and then it’s sunset.  It’s a time for quiet contemplation, for warm fires, hot chocolate, ruminations.  Deep thinking.


Like the end of a story, a novel that has traversed hundreds of pages, we can look back, assess, and recognize the highs and lows, the lessons, the areas still ripe for improvement.  The next story looms.

The next year. The new year.

My mother was okay by January 1.  The old year had been snuffed out–it was over and done.  The new year was upon us.  Beginnings.  Resolutions.  Promises.  Fresh vistas of opportunity.


True, it is all man-made, arbitrary, artificial.  There are several different calendars, of course.  And no doubt there could have been dozens more.  Even so, the new year means something . . . just as the new story does.  The new creation.  The new endeavor.  There is always something new to accomplish, learn, pursue.  There are new sunrises to savor.


“Every moment is a fresh beginning,” as T. S. Eliot once said.

Decades ago, fans of the old Brooklyn Dodgers would struggle to keep the faith.  Every year, it seemed, the Dodgers would win the National League pennant only to lose to the cross-town New York Yankees in the World Series.  It wasn’t every year, of course, but it was a lot!  1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953.  Like clockwork.  The Dodgers perennially felt they had the more talented team–why did they always lose?  Indeed, their roster was dotted with a veritable who’s who of the all-time greats: Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges.  They were overflowing with talent.  But they could not beat the Yankees.


“Wait ’til next year!” the Dodger faithful would say, year after year after year.  “You’ll see.  Wait ’til next year!”

And then, finally, after all that coming up short, the Dodgers defeated the Yankees for the World Series championship in 1955.  Pandemonium in Brooklyn.  “This IS next year!” the fans proclaimed.  And, in fact, so did the front page of the New York Daily News the day after the victory.  It had happened at last.


And now, nearly seven decades after the Dodgers finally triumphed, let’s make 2023 something to write home about.  Write that novel.  Paint that portrait.  Sing that song.  Pursue that dream.

When 2023 arrives, let us all proclaim, “This IS next year!”


Thanks so much for reading!



Gutenberg–An Opinion and a Question

I must begin this post with an admission: I, generally, am not the first person in line to try out a technological advancement. In fact, if I’m being honest, I tend to stick with the tried-and-true, technology-wise. If something works for me, and always has, I see no reason to “upgrade.” The thing is, in the 2020s, often, upgrades are forced on you. At times slowly, gradually, with some advance notice, but, nevertheless, forced on you, just the same. And so it is with WordPress.

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A couple of years ago, I began to notice a new editor in WordPress. “Gutenberg,” it was called. I didn’t pay it much attention, as the Classic Editor, which I had been using since joining the blogosphere in 2012, was easy and convenient to work with. I had never had any issues with it, and I enjoyed its clean, crisp document-creation functionality.

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Then, about a year ago, when I would create a new post, a new editor would pop up by default–Gutenberg. For me, honestly, it was hate at first site. Where the Classic Editor struck me as easy to navigate, efficient, and user-friendly, Gutenberg was an eyesore, confusing, and needlessly “busy.” (For those who like the Gutenberg Editor, I am glad! I wish I did!) Alas! There was an option right there on the screen to revert back to the trusty Classic Editor. Which I most certainly did. Problem solved.

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Until about a month ago. When I created my last post at the end of March (and now this one here), the option to use the Classic Editor had vanished. Gutenberg was now being forced upon WordPress wordsmiths. Or was it? Surely there must be a way to go back to the Classic Editor. Right?

Sort of. Plug-ins! I researched the issue online, and it appeared as though the Classic Editor was now an easy-to-access plug-in you could add to your WordPress toolbox. But when I looked for it, it wasn’t there. Evidently, it used to be–it had been a free plug-in, easy to find and employ. But now? When I selected it, WordPress informed me that if I wanted to have access to the old (and much-preferred) Classic Editor, it would cost me close to $300 per year. That was the apparent cost for adding the Classic Editor plug-in to my customized WordPress menu.

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I doubt I’ll fork over $300 a year for a plug-in that should be free. So, I am creating this post with Gutenberg. Will I get more used to Gutenberg over time? Surely. Will I ever like it as much, and find it as user-friendly, as the Classic Editor? Not a chance.

But I wanted to take this opportunity to ask the WordPress community: What do you think of Gutenberg? (The WordPress content creator, not the inventor of the printing press.) Do you like it better than Classic?

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Also–does anyone know if I am missing something? Is there a way to be able to work in Classic Editor mode anymore without paying $300 a year for the privilege?

I am not one to complain in a post, nor do I usually write about WordPress nuts-and-bolts issues like this. But I genuinely wanted to hear from the wonderful WordPress community on this. Please share your thoughts!

And tonight? Tonight, I feel motivated to open an old-school book–the kind you hold in your hands. The original Gutenberg, from the fifteenth century, surely would approve.

Thanks so much for reading!


The Morning After . . . An Exciting Idea Strikes (Or, Overcoming the Doubts)

I am the first to admit–I am not immune to creative dry spells. Indeed, following the publication of The Singularity Wheel in 2018, I have had a dearth of ideas for new novels. Plenty of scenes, scenarios, characters, and situations come and go, but none of them have had the layers, endurance, or promise to propel me to begin a new novel. And so, it has been a frustrating season creatively.

Amazon.com: The Singularity Wheel eBook: Fedison, Michael S.: Kindle Store

Until last week, when everything changed. It happened as it often has for me–unasked for, unplanned. In fact, it happened one weekend morning, upon first waking up, just before sunrise. I had gone to sleep the previous night without any fresh ideas (or, more accurately, no fleshed-out, workable ones), and yet, somehow, some way, I woke up with the structure, plot, and characters of an entire novel in place. Immediately, I logged on to my PC, opened a fresh Word file, and jotted down all manner of notes. I didn’t want to “lose” the idea. The risk is always there that if I don’t immediately write the essentials down–especially for an idea that came to me while I slept–they will dissipate, like mist, on a sun-splashed October morning.

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So, I wrote–notes upon notes upon notes. And then I closed the file, and let it sit for a while. And then . . . hours passed. A day passed. And I began to doubt. Was this really a good, workable novel idea? Now that I had the benefit of twenty-four hours of hindsight, a day removed from the epiphany of literary revelation, I examined the idea in a harsher, more questioning light.

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Were the protagonists really convincing? Was the “villain” three-dimensional, and did I avoid the common stereotypes? Was the plot outline tight and structured, or meandering, full of potential pitfalls and tangents? The more I examined what I had, the more I doubted what I had. Had I fooled myself when the idea first hit? Did the unexpected revelation of a new idea blind me to the possibility that what I had was not worth pursuing?

I felt like a pin-pricked balloon, and was tempted to delete the notes file altogether. But I didn’t. Instead, I forced myself to open it up and go through everything I had–in painstaking detail. And as I read through it again, an interesting thing happened–I began to grow excited again. The doubts and nagging questions faded into the background, and I came up with new ideas for the plot, for the protagonist. I even created a new supporting character, on the spot. I generated another thousand words of notes, took a sigh of relief, and then . . .

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. . . I opened a new document, created a title page, and then moved on to chapter 1, page 1. I began to write. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I needed to begin. Surprisingly, the words flowed like water, and I hammered away at the keyboard, almost frantic, my fingers struggling to keep pace with my thoughts. One paragraph turned into two, which turned into three. Dialogue sprang forth, out of the ether. New ideas emerged. The creative process was in full bloom.

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And I was reminded, again, of a truth that every writer understands. Doubts and insecurities are our constant nemeses. Every writer, every artist, is plagued by the same questions: “Does it work?” “Does it make sense?” Is it any good?”

The initial splash of inspiration, so glorious when it first strikes, is replaced by second-guessing and hesitancy. The morning after the epiphany is a time fraught with peril, when, if we’re not careful, we might sabotage our fledgling idea before it has chance to take flight. Before it has an opportunity to be told.

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The only way to push through is to write, to cast aside the doubts and the questions, and to key in the first sentence, and then the second, and then the third. And to keep going. And, all the while, to have faith, to believe–that, eventually, the toil will be worth it and a story will be told.

Here’s to creativity. Here’s to ideas that enthrall and excite, and motivate us to make something new.

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Thanks so much for reading!


Into the Dark (Or, Braving the Basement at Night)

Growing up, I had something of a love/hate relationship with the basement.  Though perhaps “hate” isn’t the most appropriate word.  It was more like fear–a fear of what might be lurking in the shadows.  I believed in monsters, that was certain, and ghosts, and goblins who dwelled in cobwebby corners, their feral eyes gleaming.  Not to mention the living doll.  I had encountered her face-to-face!


And yet, for all of that, I loved the basement, too.  It was a quiet, cool place to escape to, to think and reflect and imagine.  Several of my earliest short stories were birthed down there.  I’d head down the flight of stairs, shoot some pool on the bumper-pool set, maybe mess around with my brother’s weights, or just poke through the canned goods my parents kept on the wooden shelf lodged tight against the front wall.


Oh, and I’d turn on the light switch, too.  That was the first thing I did.  The switch was right at the base of the stairs, so I didn’t need to journey into the basement itself to flick on the light.  Nor would I have.  The only time I felt bold enough to brave the basement in the dark was when my friends were over–the same friends who inspired the characters of Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Marc Kuslanski, and Ryan Swinton in The Eye-Dancers and The Singularity Wheel.  On those occasions, we’d play “Rubber Animals,” a kind of hide-and-seek affair where one team would hole away and the other team would pursue, armed with numerous rubber snakes and giant rubber insects that, when whipped at you from close range, would sting and sometimes leave a bruise.  “Ow!” we’d hear, in the dark, after a rubber rattlesnake found its mark.  We’d usually play at night, in the pitch-blackness.  When an animal missed its target, it would crash into the wall or against the pool table.  Thud!  Whomp!  Sounds in the dark.


One night, however, when I was eleven years old, I decided to go for it.  To be brave.  To face the dark heart of the basement, alone.  No friends around to protect me and insulate me from the unknown.  No strength in numbers.  Just me, and my fear.  Just me and the dark.


It was late–a weeknight in midsummer, after midnight.  I’d been in bed, waiting for the entire family to turn in.  My parents went to bed early.  My two older brothers stayed up later, and my sister latest of all.  I remember the light from the living room filtering in through the slight crack in my bedroom door, the low, muted undertone of the television, and wishing my sister would hurry up and shut it off and retreat down the hall to her room.


Then, finally.  It went quiet, and the lights went out.  I heard my sister’s footsteps, softly, tiptoeing, fading.  The sound of her door across the hall, shutting.  The house lay in darkness, the night beyond the walls thick and heavy with July humidity and buzzing with the serenade of crickets.  The whine of a late-night motor drove past, down the street, temporarily drowning out the crickets.  Moments later, they were back, playing their unseen fiddles in the grass.


I waited–a minute, maybe two.  Just to be sure.  Then I hopped out of bed, slowly opened my bedroom door, hoping the squeaky hinges wouldn’t be overheard.  Down the hall, through the living room, the kitchen . . . to the top of the basement stairs.  Up here, there was a night-light on the wall, giving the room a faint orangish glow.  But when I looked down the stairs, into the basement, there was only a Stygian veil, black as the moonless night.


“Why am I doing this?” I said aloud.  But I knew.  I felt foolish for fearing the dark, for imagining things that couldn’t be real, for being afraid of a space and a portion of the house that I loved–in the daylight.  “When you’re afraid of something,” my teacher had told the class that spring, “the best thing you can do is confront it.  Lots of times, you’ll find that what you were so scared of is really nothing to be scared of at all.”  Lots of times.  What about the other times, though?  The times when what you fear turns out to be even worse than you imagined?  What then?


“Shut up,” I whispered.  “Just do it.”

I took a step down, then another, plunging into the dark.


There are times in life when we’re at a crossroads, when the decision we know we need to take feels harder than administering our own, unmedicated root canal.  In times like these, it is tempting to bail, to waver, to rationalize a path of least resistance.  “No one will even notice if I don’t do it.”  “Why should I be the one?  Leave it to somebody else.  I have enough stress in my life already.”  “But what’s the point?  No one will listen to me anyway.”  Or, if hemming and hawing about a piece of writing:  “Why submit it?  It’ll just get rejected.”  Why go for that job interview?  Why report that crime?  Why confront that person with the cold, unvarnished truth?  Isn’t it easier to just withdraw and hunker down and look the other way?


But, if something’s important–it won’t let go.  It will claw and dig in, and will not let us alone.  It will demand release, insist on action, urge us forward, no matter the resistance. Just like what happens with Mitchell Brant, in The Singularity Wheel.  He knows he must see Heather again, find out how she feels, if what they had shared before, five years earlier, is enduring and real; or fleeting, like an errant wish.  Or Joe Marma when confronted with the mental image of his brother telling him to deal with the ugly, inconvenient truth about his pursuit of a football scholarship.  Or Ryan Swinton finding the courage to “play a trick” on Monica Tisdale, the “ghost girl,” to save them all.  Or Marc Kuslanski daring to approach his mom and brave the wrenching conversation they’ve been avoiding since his brother’s accident.


None of this is easy.  None of it is a “want to.”  But they realize they cannot run, cannot duck forever.  They each need to face their personal Cerberus.


Eventually, we all do.


As I climbed back up the stairs, emerging from the darkness below, I forced myself not to go too fast, not to ruin it at the end–but to walk slowly, step by step, unwavering.  I had explored all corners of the basement, no matter how sinister or menacing.  I even dared to journey to the very back, by my father’s old workbench, a place where, I was sure, little boys went to die.  I didn’t know how long I’d been down there–it felt like hours, in the dark.  (Moments later, I would learn, upon checking the wall clock, that it had been merely ten minutes.)


But as I reached the safety and security of the kitchen, finally back at ground level, none of that mattered.  Ten minutes or ten years–who cared?  I had made it.  I had gone into the after-midnight basement and returned, unharmed and whole.

I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and walked through the kitchen, down the hall, to my bedroom.

Shortly after falling into bed, I drifted into a sound sleep undisturbed by the specter of dreams.


Thanks so much for reading!


Year-End Post Special: Twenty Things We Learned Blogging This Year

I am very grateful to the Holistic Wayfarer for including me in this great joint blogging effort! Thanks so much! This was a lot of fun to be a part of. This is just the kind of collaborative effort that makes WordPress the special community that it is.

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