Find more of my work at


Receive notifications when this site is updated:

Subscribe by e‑mail.

Subscribe by RSS.

List of categories

Wondering why my posts are showing up here out of order?

I’m glad you asked.

I was 10 days into a 50-day writing workshop called “50/50 Fall 2008” when Hurricane Ike arrived last September. Several days of pandemonium and 11 days without power pushed the workshop to the back burner, where it remained until recently. Except for one anomalous book review, I didn’t make time to put anything else on the blog for most of a year.

A couple of weeks ago, I revived the 50/50 workshop as part of the process of coaching a friend through an exploration of her own writing. I’d been working the exercises for 10 days or so before it occurred to me that I should post them at Incompleat Iconoclast. I’m putting up the newer pieces as I write them, but in the interest of not burying my few subscribers in a whole bunch of messages at once, I’m spreading out posting the older ones until I get caught up. (But I’m dating them at the time I wrote them so that they’ll appear in chronological order on the blog.)

if you want to know more!

Exercise #19: Lead line: “Every morning I sit across from you…”

Every morning I sit across from you, and you stare back at me with a blank screen. I’ve configured you so that the WriteRoom word processor’s solid-black window hides everything else on the screen—the other applications, the desktop, the menus, the dock. I chose these settings so it would be just you and me when I sit down to write every day for the first of two 25-minute periods. The top line of the blank page is dark gray, and an insertion point in antique white blinks impatiently at me.

Some days, I feel as if you’re taunting me. “So you think you’re a writer, do you?” On better days, you are …more

Exercise #14: Lead Line: “I cannot help noticing all the things that…”

I cannot help noticing all the things that I let get in the way of writing. I came in here more than an hour ago, and my agenda was clear: to write for another half hour, including coming up with something in response to this prompt, and then to get my ass to bed at a reasonable hour. But no. I had to have a quick look at Facebook. And then I had to see what was going on over at two or three other “social networking” sites (read: places to meet guys). Nothing was going on, but I didn’t let that stop me from distracting myself there for a while. Then back to Facebook, because I was thinking about what I’d said to my young cousin, Michelle, about maybe setting up a fan page for the Gumnick family. But then I determined that they don’t really accommodate family sites in the “fan page” model, so I had to figure out where to go to set up a group, and then I had to nose around to figure out which category a family group gets filed into. And then I had to figure out a name and description for the group. And then I had to find jussssst the right photo for the group page. And then I had to tweak some of the wording a little. And send an invitation to all of the family members who are on Facebook. And then remember a few in-laws I’d forgotten. Then I had to go back to one of those other sites to reply to a couple of messages that had come in while I was tinkering on Facebook.

And mixed in with all of that, there was a fair amount of staring blankly at the screen and thinking, “I should stop messing around and get to writing, or I’m going to be up half the night. But first, let me see what this thing over here is.” [Sound of mouse click.]

But now I’m here, and I’m writing. So get off my back already.

Note: The title of this assignment is self-explanatory, I think. It didn’t inspire any flashes of creative brilliance (or even dull glows thereof), but I’m sticking to a “warts and all” policy of posting everything I write in this workshop.

© 2009 Edward F. Gumnick

Hey Kids! It’s Time for Another 50/50!

I’ve signed up again for “50/50,” Max Regan’s 50-day online workshop. “Students will receive a writing exercise via e-mail each day and will write at least one page of text a day,” says Max’s introduction to the course. Fifty days, fifty pages—hence the title. For more information about the course, visit Max’s 50/50 blog.

The class provides no mechanism for feedback; its purpose is merely to inspire and stimulate participants to cultivate or expand their every-day writing habit. I’m planning to post my 50/50 output here again, however, so that friends and fellow writers who’ve expressed interest or curiosity about my writing can take a look and give me some comments. [View the archive of my 50/50 pieces from the spring 2008 course.]

If you’ve found your way here, either because I invited you or just by accident, I’d love to know what you think. Please post your feedback as a comment on the posting to which it applies, or if you’d prefer not to make them public, . (Or call me on the phone if your critique is likely to make me cry.)

Boot Camp Day 9: An Apology and a Plea for Patience

I embarked on a new initiative today. Inspired by what I’ve accomplished in the Boot Camp, I’ve set an ambitious new goal: to write 3,000 words of first-draft text every day. It’s my hope that with this commitment, I’ll push my daily writing routine to a new level and generate some material I can get published.

Today’s 3,000+ words took the form of several fragments—the very raw beginnings of a few stories and essays mixed together with assorted rants and ramblings. I’m going to select a chunk of 1,000 of those words to send to Max as today’s submission for the Boot Camp class, but I’m not ready to post anything (else) new to the blog today.

But don’t worry! I’ll be posting more here soon.

Boot Camp Day 6: Things That Stood in the Way of My Writing 1,000 Words Today

The first thing I had to do this morning—after brewing a pot of coffee, of course—was to soak in the bathtub for a while. See, I overdid it yesterday in a couple of different departments. I walked 6-1/2 miles in the stifling heat and humidity of mid-day because I had received an invitation to a party that would conflict with the usual timing of my walk. Then I went to the party in question and drank four beers, which is about four more beers than my normal daily consumption of late. So when I rolled out of bed at the crack of 10:15 this morning, my first rudimentary (dehydrated, hungover) thought after “must have coffee” was “must soak in tub long time.”

Coffee mug in hand, I crawled into the tub with the latest issue of Granta, my favorite “literary magazine.” I had read most of the issue, so this morning’s soak was focused on finding every scrap of text …more

Boot Camp Day 1(b): Writers Write, Right?

I wrote 1,211 words earlier today in the form of my typical daily free-writing exercise. I write stream of consciousness for a period of five minutes, timed by a “Meditation Timer” widget I downloaded from the somewhere in a Macintosh corner of the Internet. Then I stop and read what I’ve written, look for a “center of gravity,” and write for another five minutes. Then I read again and write again. At the end, I categorize the piece by date, form, and subject matter. Today’s free-writing exercise included text on the topics of irritability, frustration, money, noise, distractions, Baby Boomers, and “running around the world and playing” (among others).

After I categorize the exercise, I copy it into my writing Wiki, where I’ve collected and categorized 356 articles of one sort or another. Some day I will figure out what to do with all those words. Or not.

The free-writing exercises don’t produce material …more

Special Event

Community Reading

Sunday, April 13
Doors open at 3:00 p.m.
Reading: 4:00–6:30 p.m.

Spectrum Center
Houston, Texas


The Spectrum Center Writers Guild has completed another year of exploring expression through writing poetry, prose, memoir, fiction, essays, and rants. On this afternoon, members of the guild will read pieces of their works-in-progress.

We gather in celebration of the discovery and surprise we’ve enjoyed by allowing our writers’ voices to come forth.

We would be honored to read for you.

Arrive early, meet some of the center’s practitioners, and tour the new Spectrum Center home. We will offer refreshments and delicious tea from The Path of Tea.

RSVP to reserve your seat: 713.840.8957, ext. 1, or .

50/50 Exercise #50: Fifty Things That Come Next

  1. I will experiment with writing at several different times of day (in the same day), for several days in a row, mixing it up with an occasional day off, etc., to see whether there are some patterns and habits that work better than others.
  2. I will look for magazines and journals that publish the kind of things I like to write.
  3. I will develop a habit for working in several different forms and stages of creative production in parallel, keeping lots of balls in the air—stream-of-consciousness exercises, first drafts, editing and polishing, final drafts, brainstorming exercises, idea-mapping, creative play, etc., in short fiction, personal essay, memoir, flash fiction, a book-length project or two, etc.
  4. Topic: My writing day
  5. I will learn to work in noisy, public places (as a change of pace, not for the bulk of my work).
  6. Topic: My ideal place to write
  7. I will develop more one-on-one social contact with other writers.
  8. I will experiment in combining my everyday writing routine with travel.
  9. I will read with greater intentionality and more careful attention.
  10. I will also read for the joy of reading.
  11. I will make some income writing.
  12. I will win a writing contest.
  13. I will attend more readings by writers whose work I enjoy.
  14. I will subscribe to more periodicals that publish fiction.
  15. I will write on nights when I’m sure that I’m much too tired to write.
  16. Topic: Life in the suburbs
  17. When someone makes a suggestion about a text I’ve written, I will pay careful attention.
  18. I will go on a retreat to a beautiful place when I can write in a peaceful setting.
  19. I will write second (and third) drafts of some of the many first-draft pieces in my possession.
  20. I will open a separate checking account for my writing work.
  21. I will start a QuickBooks file to track the finances of my writing career.
  22. Topic: Imagination as the root of “intuition”
  23. I will return to the practice of keeping a reading list.
  24. Topic: The waterfall at Cade’s Cove, Tennessee
  25. I will schedule writing times and then honor them, even when presented with the tempting offer of a social outing. (But not every time.)
  26. I will explore more deeply the development of characters.
  27. I will experiment with unusual forms.
  28. I will write a six-word bio. (Or many of them.)
  29. I will idea-map on a more regular basis.
  30. I will seek out workshops on some specific areas of writing craft: characterization, writing dialog, etc.
  31. When I travel, I will keep travelogues. But I will try to tell a few interesting stories or observations instead of an exhaustive journal of the trip.
  32. I will figure out how to enable Gallery 2 software to make it easier to incorporate images into my blog.
  33. I will pursue the idea of using my blog as a form of postcard for my next big trip.
  34. Topic: Deception
  35. I will refine a couple of pieces to read at the Spectrum Center Community Reading on April 13.
  36. I will write a book to dedicate to Gika. (Guess who suggested this one.)
  37. Topic: The smell of the bathroom at Latina Café.
  38. I will fire an irritating graphic-design client (or all of them).
  39. Topic: Pasteleria
  40. I will go to the beach.
  41. Topic: The new cathedral in Houston
  42. I will take a few days off from writing to reflect on having completed the 50/50 class.
  43. I will beat myself up about letting my writing habit lapse for a couple of weeks when I had been doing so well.
  44. I will stop reading books about creativity.
  45. Topic: College roommates
  46. I will still think of myself as a creative person even if I’m not having a creative day.
  47. I will feel free to disregard writing advice that doesn’t make sense for my style and voice.
  48. I will agonize over the last exercise, dragging it out for days and days and days.
  49. I will leave this exercise unfinished in the interest of getting on with writing.
  50. And then I thought of a few more things that ought to be on the list.

  51. I will put together the curriculum for a workshop on new technologies for writers.
  52. I will reinstitute the good filing habits that fell by the wayside when I started the 50/50 class.
  53. I will remain curious about ways to improve my writing practice.
  54. I will try to have lots of fun.
  55. I will get better at it.

Note: The assignment was to “make a list of fifty things that might come next for you as a writer.” I’ve been working on it on and off for the last 19 days. Enough!

The items marked with a “strikethrough” line have already been completed.

© 2008 Edward F. Gumnick

50/50 Exercise #15: Book That Changed Your Life

Author’s note

This piece is so far from being complete that I thought it might clarify matters for my readers if I put my note at the start instead of at the end, which is where I usually have been placing notes about the texts.

The assignment was to write about a book that’s had a big influence on me. I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly why this has been the hardest exercise for me since the 50/50 class started. I love books—lots of them! I could name many books that have had a profound impact: The Chronicles of Narnia, any Ray Bradbury short-story collection, The House of the Spirits, Illusions, Walden, A Christmas Carol, Welcome to the Monkey House…the list goes on and on and on. But I settled on One Continuous Mistake a few moments after receiving the assignment, and I’ve been chipping away …more