Generally speaking, when artists or writers or musicians talk about the creative process, I run away as if pursued by a monster. Not only do I find such talk nonsensical, but many of the hundreds of writers I worked with as a teacher and editor were made to feel like failures by authors of famous writing books, and famous authors pontificating in various venues, all of them preaching the necessity of writing for many hours a day and adhering to arbitrary rules guaranteeing failure for just about anybody who tried to tie themselves into such knots to please the people who, I guarantee you, did not walk their own talk.

Dogmatizing creative expression is always done by people taking advantage of aspiring artists longing for easy-to-follow recipes for creating marvelous things. There is only one such recipe. I will give you the secret for free. Try to create something and keep trying whenever you are so moved to try.


Long ago when I published novels with mainstream publishers and had enough success to land lucrative gigs appearing at writers’ conferences and speaking to writing groups, I was forever being asked about my creative process. More often than not, I would feign going into a trance and say in a somewhat robotic voice I am a channel for Kavon Knarf speaking from Dimension Gazornen Nine. Or something like that. Depending on the group I was addressing, this got big laughs or big uncomfortable silences.

This was in the early days of personal computers, and many of the people listening to me wanted to know whether I used Word or Word Perfect or another of the many writing programs vying for supremacy in those days.

When I said I wrote my first and second drafts with pen and paper, many of the attendees were terribly disappointed. They were hoping the kind of writing software I used would be the key to unlocking their creative treasure troves. And then came the inevitable follow-up questions: What kind of pen do you use? Lined paper or unlined?

If that seems silly to you, it is. Yet I have heard famous authors say, “You must write for at least three hours a day,” and “Never use the word suddenly,” and “Always write on an empty stomach,” and “Never write in First Person,” and “Always write in First Person,” and lots of other insulting unhelpful poo poo. 


Why am I going on about this? Because I want to tell you something about my creative process. Tee hee. Not a rule or anything, just something that happened.

So for the last few months I have been writing and rewriting, at least a dozen drafts so far, the novel I’m creating from the Healing Weintraub stories some of you may recall from my blog in the second half of 2022.

For my last run through, before turning all those pages over to Marcia to proof before we embark on publishing the book, I read the twenty-six chapters in reverse order (out loud), starting with Chapter 26 and working my way through to Chapter One. This proved helpful and revelatory. For reasons no doubt neurological, my brain/imagination loved doing this.

Suddenly everything fell into place. Not really.

Suddenly I understood who I really am. Not really.

I had a wonderful time. Really.


When Marcia has done her work and we begin the process of publishing the book, I will embark on the making-of-the-audio-book adventure. To that end I’ve been acting out all the dialogue with gusto and in character, and having big fun honing the many accents required for a neato narration: British (various), American (various), Jewish (various) Irish, German, French, Polish, Norwegian, and Spanish (various).

I’m beginning to feel there may be a sequel on the way.


Max a modern jazz piece from Through the Fire.


Spring Things

circa 2016

When we first moved to our two acres in the redwoods eleven years ago, I endeavored to grow vegetables in the ground despite the warnings from neighbors that the redwood roots would defeat me. In my ignorance, I believed otherwise and dug massive quantities of roots from my beds every few months until after five years of futile labor, I finally I hurt my back one too many times and surrendered.


Thus began the era of tub farming. Easy living with great results! Yesterday I prepared one of my orchard tubs by turning the soil and adding aged chicken manure and compost, and then planted seeds of chard, lettuce, sugar snap peas, and arugula.

In another tub I planted potatoes next to last year’s chard. Zucchini and tomatoes and other vegetables that like hot weather, or at least warm weather, do not grow well here a mile from the coast outside of greenhouses, and we do not have a greenhouse.

When we came to look at this place before we bought it, the first thing I saw was this magnificent old tree in our woods, her twisted trunk having saved her from felling when the area was clear-cut a hundred years ago. Her twisted trunk means that usable lumber cannot be made from her trunk. We believe she is more than two-hundred-years-old.

We mostly heat our house with a woodstove. We buy tan oak from Frank’s Firewood and harvest soft wood from our two acres. Every year I clear brush and thickets of young hemlocks from which I make great piles of kindling. We also occasionally have trees felled that are threatening to fall on the house or on our neighbors’ houses, and from these trees we get soft wood to go with the tan oak in our woodstove fires.

We recently had five yards of gravel delivered for various projects, and every day I move a few wheelbarrow loads to places around the property. I am very careful not to load the shovel or the wheelbarrow too full lest I hurt my back in the process, something I do with annoying regularity these days.


Really Really You a song by Todd from his new CD Through the Fire.


Guitarist from New York

I went to bed last night thinking about fences and walls. We recently removed a large section of the old fence topped with barbed wire that surrounded our two acres when we bought the place. All our neighbors and visitors have told us how much they love the fence being gone, how beautiful the forest vista, and how spacious this whole part of the neighborhood feels now.

When I was growing up there were no fences or walls dividing the lots in our suburban neighborhood, which gave a marvelous spacious feeling to our environment. Everyone, adults and children and dogs, felt connected and could connect easily with each other. Fifty years gone by, high walls now surround all those lots, and the neighborhood feels like a vast prison.

I was going to write more about walls and fences, but the dream I had last night is much more interesting to me, and I thought you might find the dream interesting, too.


I’m walking on a dirt road on the coast of Spain in summer. I’m younger than I am now, wearing a T-shirt and jeans and I’m barefoot and have no possessions.

I come to a house on a hill with a view of the ocean. There are no other houses anywhere to be seen. In search of food, I enter the house and find three women there. I don’t know them and they don’t know me. Nevertheless, they accept me into their midst and one of them says of another of the women, “She’s a guitarist from New York.”

This woman, the guitarist from New York, has long brown hair and is very beautiful to me. She’s wearing a skimpy purple dress and invites me to embrace her. We embrace and kiss and disrobe, and she leads me away from the others and we make love.

The other women inform me they are a lesbian couple, and one of them says she’s never been with a man and would like to try. So she and I have sex, which upsets the guitarist from New York. She gives me a look to say From now on you will only have sex with me. Okay?

I give her a look to say Will do.

Now I’m doing some kind of work on the place and need a shovel. A moment later I’m in a big city in the 1930s in winter. There are electric trolleys and automobiles from that era, and the people are dressed in the fashions of those times.

I wander around until I find a hardware store. I choose a shiny new shovel and an axe, and on my way to the counter with them I remember I have no money. So I lean the shovel and axe against the counter and walk out of the store intending to go to my parents’ house in California to get some money.

I walk up a street where all the buildings collapsed long ago and trees and vines are now growing in the rubble. I come to a bus stop amidst the ruins and ask a man if buses still stop here. The man speaks English with a thick Spanish accent and says, “Yes. Buses still come here.”

A crowded bus arrives. I get on and say to the driver, “I don’t know how much it is. I want to go to the airport.” I get out my wallet and it is bulging with fifty and hundred-dollar bills. The driver gives me a ticket and two dollars.

I take a seat beside a woman wearing a heavy coat, her hair and face covered by a bandana. She removes her bandana and let’s her hair down. The guitarist from New York!

“Why do you need to fly to California?” she asks, pursing her lips for a kiss, “when your wallet is full of money?”


Something piano solo from our new CD Through the Fire