I consider myself a “has been” lately, in the context of deciding whether I really am a writer. I used to write fiction. Every day. My blog was my outlet for fiction vignettes. I rarely finished a story, but I wrote literally dozens—more likely hundreds—of scenes that I could readily adapt and incorporate into longer pieces of fiction. But I haven’t done it, despite my intentions to do exactly that.

I think everything changed when I was diagnosed with lung cancer about four years ago. Since then, most of what I’ve written has been the equivalent of a stream-of-consciousness journal. My late wife’s illness and death commanded much of my attention thereafter; still does. Those experiences seem to have altered my thinking about writing. Prior to the intrusion of my cancer and my wife’s death into my life, the fiction I wrote was important to me. I wanted to consolidate what I had written into one or more novels. But, now, the products of the time I spend writing are no longer especially important. While I still feel compelled to write, I don’t consider my writing important. Not in the least. I suppose I realize now that it never was important. I allowed myself to think the quality of my writing was good. Good enough to create a novel worthy of publication. This morning, though, I realize I deluded myself. I wanted or needed something that would verify my value and I latched onto writing as that something.

I was a writer. I felt like a writer. I said I was a writer. I intended to publish my work, offering evidence that my claims were legitimate. But I am not sufficiently interested in that any longer. I miss having an objective. A target to pursue. Something to strive for. If I were much younger, I might return to school in pursuit of something meaningful to me. Architecture. Law. Advanced sociology that could lead to research and teaching.  Hell, burnishing my limited skills at welding and improving on them could capture my interest. There are dozens of subjects and/or activities that could keep me interested. But only if I were much younger. There comes a time when almost everything seems out of reach or a waste of time. Why bother learning something new or improving one’s skills when the likelihood that one will be unable to put them to productive use grows by the day? Thinking about this is not productive, either. Why torture myself by focusing on the desirable but unattainable? It’s pointless.


I have never been to The Old Church in Portland, Oregon or McCabes in Santa Monica, California or Freight & Salvage Coffee House in Berkeley, California. Despite my lack of experience with those places, I suspect they are the kinds of spots I would enjoy live music. I base my guess solely on the fact that Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche played those venues during their tour; the one that wrapped up several months ago. I may be wrong, but I suspect those venues are small, intimate, and conducive to music that will fill a room without shattering the eardrums of listeners. And that suspicion is based on yet another assumption; that performers in those venues and their audiences do not like music so loud it hurts. I have never been a fan of music capable of rendering deaf its listeners. Even when I was a teenager who cranked up the volume, I had personal limits. Unlike some friends who seemed to consider listening at excessive volume a measure of teen rebelliousness. I suspect those friends, with whom I lost touch the moment I left home for college, are now deaf and quite possibly brain-damaged, victims of monstrously loud noises that left each of them with a broken malleus, incus, and stapes. Deeper in their skulls, portions of their brains were liquified by the vibrations of sound waves powerful enough to transform solid granite into a wet, dust-laden slurry. My assessment of inexcusably loud music is not the predictable complaint of an old man who once enjoyed dangerous noise. Mine is the assessment of a man who always has intensely disliked over-loud music. Music that transforms one’s inner serenity into bitter, murderous anger is to be avoided at all costs because it interrupts the enjoyment of important conversations.  It drowns out important conversations and wrecks otherwise intimate communications in small places. 


What makes old age so sad is not that our joys but our hopes cease.

~ Jean Paul ~


David Tennant plays a vicar in the television series Inside Man, which I have been watching off and on of late.  I’m still mulling over what I think of the show. In his real life, Tennant is a 51-year-old Scottish actor who is father to five children. He often plays characters who allow the whiskers on the neck to grow unchecked. Unruly neck whiskers, ignored and allowed to grow with no attention to grooming, are hideous, in my opinion. People who permit untrimmed neck beards to sprout without any controls placed on them look awfully unkempt. When I see such people, I immediately assume they are homeless, impoverished, and quite possibly mentally deranged. Otherwise, why would they allow their appearances to look so ragged? I wonder whether David Tennant allows his neck whiskers to grow so wild when he is not playing a part? The more I see his acting, the more I wonder about his personal hygiene. The fact that he is tall and extremely thin contributes to my assessment of him. But, then, I begin to think he may have some kind of skin disease that makes shaving his neck either painful or potentially dangerous. Yet my first reaction is to judge him.

Tennant played the tenth and the fourteenth incarnations of Dr. Who in the British science fiction series. My introduction to him, though, was through his role as DI Alec Hardy in the British crime drama series, Broadchurch. That same series introduced me to Olivia Colman, who I have seen several times since in various other British television productions. I learned this morning that she was born Sarah Caroline Colman. She has to adopt a different name when she began acting professionally because Equity (the UK actors’ union) already had an actress named Sarah Colman. She kept her maiden name but adopted Olivia as her first name; one of her best friends was named Olivia and she was quite fond of the name. When she married, she became Sarah Caroline Sinclair, but she maintained the stage name, Olivia Colman.

I will not remember much about either David Tennant or Olivia Colman; I tend not to know much about actors, but what I learn about their personal lives I tend to forget quite rapidly. I suppose it would be different if I were to become friends with actors, but I cannot imagine circumstances that would lead me to befriend either Tennant or Colman. Or vice versa.


Intimacy—closeness that fits like a tailored glove—protects us from decay. It offers us purpose and hope. But intimacy is hard to find. Intimacy requires letting one’s guard down and opening oneself to inspection. The flaws as well as the precious stones must be acknowledged. The recipient of that kind of openness must reciprocate if intimacy is to be achieved. People tend to be unwilling to expose themselves so completely, so deeply. That is a shame; but it is what it is.


This day has potential, if only I can uncover it and expose it to air and light.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Intimacy

  1. Thanks, Hope, for sharing your perspective on writing. And my writing, in particular. And thanks for validating my bias regarding neck hair! 😉

  2. Hope says:

    I don’t think you need to do anything more than write, which you do so consistently, to be a writer.
    Ha. When my husband was in a major mental health crisis last year, he let those pesky neck hairs grow so much that our hairdresser didn’t recognize him and thought he was homeless.

    Your writing has an element of intimacy to it.

I wish you would tell me what you think about this post...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.