For The Lost


Here’s a secret:  Everyone, if they live long enough, will lose their way at some point.  You will lose your way, you will wake up one morning and find yourself lost.  This is a hard, simple truth.  

– The opening lines of THE TICKING IS THE BOMB


Yesterday I went to see Nick Flynn.  I took pictures.  Not a single one turned out; every attempt a too-dark or too-light blur against the wrong landscape.  This, even though I hauled in a very real and very heavy Nikon and turned off the flash and adjusted all the settings and, seemingly, set myself up, prepared to do it right.  Funny how that can go, being too prepared.

Nick talked about the writing of THE TICKING IS THE BOMB, about how it was a book he’d had no intention of writing, didn’t feel prepared for, and how he wrote it anyway.  The writing took 7 years.  He wasn’t sure what the book would be when he started.  Was it even a book?

After 2 years, the first draft was so scattered it was unreadable.

It took 2 more years to find a structure.

And so the writing went ….

Sound familiar, anybody?


I didn’t get his photo, but no matter.  I have his words.

If an idea or subject comes to you and seems like a place you shouldn’t go, go there.

Do not fear being lost.  Being lost is valuable for an artist.  It forces you to come alive in a different way, to follow paths you might not otherwise follow.

19 thoughts on “For The Lost

  1. macdougalstreetbaby

    I’ve lost my way more times than I can count.
    But I’ll never admit that to my kids.
    Love the wall behind him.

    1. Teri

      I believe losing my way is like making a mistake — it’s scary as hell but usually ends up being the best thing that happened. I wish I’d known earlier that this was okay.

      1. independentclause

        I have a hard-core crush (writerly, only) on him. “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City” was one of the books that gave me the courage to write nonfiction. It said “Rest assured, little poet, there is more than one way to write to the right edge of the page.”

      2. Teri

        Agreed. I loved that book for a number of reasons, particularly the way it’s structured. Structured in it’s nonconformist to structure kind of way, if that make any sense.

        I’ll say again: the poets write the best memoirs. I don’t what the hell I think I’m doing.

  2. girl in the hat

    At this moment, I’m completely submerged in a revision and so these words were particularly appealing, because I feel like my head is being held under the surface and I’m beginning to panic. What does it mean that all my writer-crushes are dead? I really need to get out more often.

    1. Josephine

      “…all my writer crushes are dead”

      What about, “All My Ex-Boyfriends Are Dead”

      I think I would pick up that title if I saw it on a display cover.

    2. Teri

      I’m also drowning in revision. I mean drowning in a good way — this is where all the good stuff happens, painfully hard as it is. I panic constantly. This week it was teeth-clenching. Next week?

  3. Josephine

    I just bought the A.M. Homes book May We Be Forgiven tonight and ordered The Ticking Bomb b/c I had read your post on my phone earlier today and had a thought to leave a comment here about the places I’m too scared to go to. but now there’s been a lapse of time and my fear has beat out my original idea. Without even reading Homes new book–just the blurbs on the back–I think there’s a thread here that I have yet to pull through the eye of the needle.

    speaking of blurbs, have you checked out the heavy hitters are on the back of the homes book? Rushdie, Shteyngart, McInerney, Sayles, Winterson. that’s a fuckin’ party, right???

    1. Averil Dean


      I spend most of my writing time hopelessly lost, with a tiny light of hope that it all may come right at the end. Good to know I’m not alone.

  4. Catherine

    I love the last sentences – it’s impossible not to! And of course if a direction seems weird or inappropriate or challenging, I’m already heading that way. Being lost is just that, a place from where new paths begin.

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