The list had haunted me.

Upon finishing university, I made a list of writing goals. Fifty poems, twenty short stories, one stage play, one full-length screenplay, and one novel (minimum 100,000 words). The idea was that after writing in a variety of formats I would know which I was best suited for and where I should put my writing efforts.

On my forty-second birthday, I checked my list and found eighty poems, forty short stories, three stage plays, and three full-length screenplays. And I still did not know what kind of writer I wanted to be when I grew up. Missing was the novel.

I had done plenty of writing, so my day job and family life were no excuses for not writing the novel. I simply hadn’t figured out how to do it.

The following day I visited Powell’s, my favorite bookstore. My daughter had gone to live with her mother for a few months, and in her absence I often went to the bookstore–as much to hang out in a comfortable place as to browse or buy books.

Ruminating in an overstuffed chair among the stacks, I decided it was a good place to write a short story. I bought a notebook and pen at a nearby grocery store and returned to the comfy seat.

Something strange happened. All the advice about writing fiction disappeared. No narrative arc. No plot points. No character development. Just start with a character who has a problem, and then make everything worse until it finally gets better.

“The man woke up.” I had started.

“The man woke up and opened his eyes. He closed them again and rubbed them.” I had to keep him busy while I figured out what was wrong in his world.

“The woman was not beside him.” And there was his problem. Where was the woman? An hour later I had written four pages. It was a good first session. Two sessions later the short story had turned into a first chapter. Twenty-five chapters later, that small seed had germinated, sprouted, and grown into the accomplishment of my life: the novel, BECOMES THE HAPPY MAN.

The list was complete. Those ghosts silent. But more importantly, the voices of many more ghosts began haunting my imagination. The list had fulfilled its purpose of revealing my writing specialty. More novels have followed in the years since, and now I can’t imagine ever not having one in progress.

The man woke up. He did indeed.


  1. Great “about” page. I love to know why others blog and write. Congrats on setting goals and reaching them! I look forward to reading more! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  2. Whoa hey! A fellow microfiction aficionado! Really enjoying reading your shorts, Rick. Thanks for the follow – it gave me the opportunity to discover your blog as well!

  3. wow rick you are a prolific writer, i look forward to reading more, and thanks for stopping by and reading and following mine ) beth

  4. So cool! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am going to recomend your site to my sister who loves writing novels. I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes a list for herself like you did. Thanks!

  5. Thank you for following my blog! I felt so surprised that my next blog was about having a follower. You might like it (or not…) I enjoyed reading some of your power shorts daily. I like that format. Yep, that is inspiration. Have a blast with your blog!

  6. Thanks for dropping by and following “Heels to Kicks!” I’ve enjoyed discovering your work. Best of luck!

  7. Rick Mallery,

    Thanks for stopping by my tiny corner and following. I appreciate it, coming from a man who is new to the community.

    I hope we could work on a matter sometime.


  8. Nice read. Unlike how your novel came to fruition, mine was carried in my head for 40+ years. I kept turning my back on it and doing my best to ignore it, but it would not give up on me. I finally gave in to the story’s persistence and started writing in December before starting my college education (I procrastinated a tad bit). Between homework assignments, classes, and while sitting at the dinner table, I let the story flow from my brain through my fingertips and I finally finished it last month. My wife was irritated with me because I was even more distracted than when I was just taking college courses but evidently decided 33 years invested was too much to throw away at this point in time, so stuck it out. Once I started letting the story out of my head, I had trouble getting it to be quiet long enough so we could both get some rest. Now, all I have to do is find out if it is good enough for a publisher to accept.

  9. Hi Rick,

    Thanks for following my blog. Loved your about piece,very inspiring story on your writing development. Congratulations on your success,blessings!

  10. Hi Rick,

    What a great story about starting your novel! You did what I always suspected was a good way to begin – just begin- character and problem – love the “make everything worse until it gets better.” Best wishes for your writing. Thanks for stopping by my blog and the follow.

  11. Wow! I have just half a novel, 2 poems, and 24 blog posts!. I only started 10 months ago and I have two young children… but your list still overwhelms me.

    I agree with your conclusion, though. When I started writing, I woke up. This is what I need to do, somehow, in the midst of the business, for the rest of my life. I look forward to reading more of your work as I work on my own.

  12. Thank you for discovering my photography blog http://www.throughharoldslens.com. You gave me the opportunity to discover, explore and follow your blog. Hope we both enjoy our journeys. On behalf of the Through Harold’s Lens Creative Team, my trusty sidekick Mr. SLR Nikon, his brother Mr. Pen Pal and myself, we wish you the best. Harold

  13. Hello Rick! Thank you for the like on The Hunt for Freedom. I really appreciate your visit.

    As I read your About post, I thought it’s good he had goals and…wow, he exceeded most – except for that nasty novel thing. lol As I read on I began thinking about my issues of late. I use to always write in a notebook and I was – and am – very picky about the type of notebook, paper and pen I used. The problem is when an idea for a story hits me it’s an explosion of thoughts that keep racing through my mind too fast for me to write down so I now use computers almost exclusively. Sadly, I miss the…I don’t know. There’s something very personal, very intimate about writing a story in a notebook. Anyway, the problems I have is I use to just sit and write – or type – a story without issue, the thoughts flowing, the creativity building and everything was awesome. Then, I went to college. Don’t get me wrong, going to college and obtaining my degrees is something I’m very proud of and I wouldn’t change that for the world. However, writing essays, various assignments and just falling into the habit of dealing with everything on a college level about killed the way I use to write. There are other events that affected my ability to write – things I’ll spare everyone the details of – but I am finally…finally getting back into the swing of things. In short, different situation, but I understand you struggle. I’m glad you worked through yours and…hopefully I’m getting through mine. The Hunt for Freedom is me working through that struggle! lol

    Good luck to you, Rick! BTW, I suck at writing poetry, I’ve never written or had a desire to write a screenplay or stage play and my short stories…turn into novels! Funny how that works, isn’t it? lol

  14. Wow Rick. This has to be one of the finest “About Me” posts I’ve read from other writers, and I’ve happened upon quite a few. I admire your goals as well as your loyalty to being yourself. This was an entertaining introduction. I look forward to revisiting.

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