This week – unless my sorry brains finally squirt out of my ears first – I intend to finish the zero draft of my haunted house story. NB: the zero draft is not the first draft. If the zero draft had feelings it would be wishing on stars and hoping to become a first draft, one day, when it grows up. Right now the possibility of becoming a finished story remains, of course, too rarefied and celestial a concept for the zero draft’s poor amoeba brain to envision. But, in evolutionary terms, while an amoeba isn’t Homo sapiens, it’s still a lot better than no life at all.

The other big thing happening this week for me is that for the first time in a while my band is meeting up again. I’m very excited, playing with them makes me very happy, so here’s something related to that…

This is Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart:

Here (via Boing Boing and The Captain Beefheart Radar Station) are his Ten Commandments of Guitar Playing. I think they work for writing too, or some of them do for me at least, maybe they will for you.

1. Listen to the birds
That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar
Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush
Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil
Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out
If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone
Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key
That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf‘s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty — making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it.

8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument
You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place
When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine
Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

“Though they bear numbers, they are not arranged hierarchically — each Commandment has equal import.”

…I’ll be back to blog again in due course – barring, as I say, brain-squirtage. Until then, keep your hat on. 😀