Ripping Off Bob Dylan

On Tuesday, my post was about quick writing exercises. I taught writing workshops for years and our ‘go to’ exercise was something I called ‘circle writing’ (creative, no?). Everyone sits in a circle. Five minutes. No revision. Share. Usually, I provided a prompt. Sometimes it was something very vague like ‘sky’. Sometimes it was more complex: ‘You are an 80 year old blind man.’ The prompt quickly becomes unimportant because it is merely a jumping off point. So, that was Tuesday.

I also write music. The sound and feel and rhythm of writing are very important to me. And they are very important period, really. So, this is something else I do. I rip off Bob Dylan. I don’t feel bad about it. He ripped off Woody Guthrie. There are several pieces like this on my blog, but they usually stay on the computer. So, here is the idea: Dylan-esque beat poetry nonsense. The focus is on feel, alliteration, assonance, and rhyme. It is not a story as much as an abstract jam. Freestyle rapping for those of us who can’t rap. Solo poetry slam. Whatever. So, like Tuesday, five minutes. It is now 2:25 (yes, late again).

Thoughts drift and you sift the ones you can. You grift and watch the silt tilt the world grey while inside it’s a brand new day, but you can’t see it. You can’t steal it, and you can’t free it. It is you and you are nothing but the thoughts you stumble over as you bumble towards something…something you hope won’t embarrass you, but screw it if it does. Screw it if it doesn’t. Nail it to the wall. Pound it home with the sound of one hand clapping. You never knew what that meant cause it’s a trick, something people say when they want to sound slick. But it just makes you sick.

Time is hustling by. Christ, it’s rambling. Like a blues band on a bad day afternoon, you want to be generous, but there’s no room. Cool Hand Luke, stop feeding off me. Christ and more Christ imagery. Stories abound…they’re all around. You flail at them, fail at them, rail at them and you listen to the coughing from next door. From the blunt smoking hustlers wearing city work shirts, boots covered with dirt, damn, that’s one hell of a cough, son.

One minute left and you’re gone. You’ve said your piece and sang your song. It was a blip in the tip of infinity and it don’t mean shit. But you do it. What else is there to do when the whole world’s shining to make you blue and blue’s just a color it ain’t a feeling, it’s something you can wear or paint your ceiling. And as you look up you see your time is dwindling, so you stop while you’re ahead and toss the match on the kindling.

Man, (cringe), I want to rewrite this. But, so be it. That’s part of why this is valuable. Aside from the things I mentioned before, you are riffing on the current contents of your brain. I saw a generic old boomer blues band the other day. The rest is made of scraps your brain collects in its drain pan and ambience.

I write all day, now, but these kind of exercises are PERFECT for assuaging your guilt when you are too tired to WRITE write. Again, it is like working out. Five minutes and you can rest easy knowing you did something to get your brain active and your writing flowing. (See, now, I’m trapped in Bob Dylan land).

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JD Mader is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of the novels ‘Joe Cafe’ and ‘The Biker’ – co-author of the mighty ‘Bad Book’ (available here): . For more information, please see the IU Bio page and his blog:

Author: JD Mader

JD Mader is an award winning short story writer and novelist. 'Joe Café' and 'The Biker' are out now, as well as 'Please, no eyes'. and the collaborative 'Bad Book'. Mader has been writing for half his life and has no plans on stopping any time soon. Learn more about JD Mader at his blog and his Amazon author page.

14 thoughts on “Ripping Off Bob Dylan”

  1. Word. Or should I say, words? As fleeting as this is, Imma be tweeting this, shining a light, a highlight, a high light, making it fly right. Like a little bird.

  2. My first attempts at writing anything beyond emails and memos that anyone else would see was reviewing music. As I'd be struggling to describe how a particular song made me feel, what message I was seeing in the song, or whatever other lame slant I'd found, what impressed me was not just the rhythm of a well written song lyric, but the economic use of words. That always impresses me because I'm a why say it in ten words when you can use a hundred guy. I suspect there is a lot that can be learned about writing for one venue from looking at the best writers for other venues like this.

  3. The rhythm, beat, cadence of sentences are what bring me the most joy when I'm writing, and when I'm reading. This post speaks directly to me.

    I've of course read your blogged versions of this style(gosh, one in particular really stood out for me 🙂 !) but, except for the Bob Dylan connection, I wouldn't have known how to describe it. Another wonderful post, JD. I look forward to trying it.

    1. Thanks Jo. 😉

      I don't really think about it anymore. It just happens. Like I always told my students, you don't really think 'hmm, i'm gonna throw some alliteration in there'.

      I gotta think of a better name for this style. None of the ones I can think of sound complimentary. 😉

  4. Wow this moved me, grooved me, entered my brain, a runaway train, 100miles an hour, caught in the headlights, falling, into a trap, there's no hope for me, I can't catch up, my words are crap. Brilliant JD! My words really are crap! Yours are as always, touched by genius. 🙂

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