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The Adventures of Zen Writing Coach

The Adventures of Zen Writing Coach



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Published by Christopher Horton
A tale of the fringes of Hollywood and life. It's supposed to be fun. Maybe.
A tale of the fringes of Hollywood and life. It's supposed to be fun. Maybe.

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Published by: Christopher Horton on May 04, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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a short fiction by Christopher Horton
I met the Zen Writing Coach in a bar in Hollywood. Really a café and bar. The kindwith rotting stuffed chairs and odd wooden tables scattered about. Dark so you couldn’tsee what you didn’t want to see on those chairs. The walls were painted navy blue. Thatnicely set off the truly hideous original art work posted for sale on them. Once in awhile, there was one that I didn’t think was hideous. But what do I know about art?The Zen Writing Coach looked like a hideous work of art. I sat down next to him at the bar. Well, I left one stool empty between us, of course. He was wearing a flowing robethat was undoubtedly Asian, but to me it looked more like what those American Indianswore at Wounded Knee when the blue coats shot ‘em down. He was a slight Asian man,as you probably figured---but young, which you probably didn’t. Twenty-five give or take. A hell of a lot younger than me. I was disintegrating my way through my forties. Iordered my usual---for the middle of the afternoon at least---a double Americano and a piece of pumpkin bread from Lilly, a tatted, pretty little thang out of Jersey. She wasvery hot. Also gay. There ya go---much better than if she were straight and showed nosexual interest in me. I liked Lilly, and she was one of the few gay women I’d ever metwho didn’t automatically treat me like I had killed her dog.The Zen Writing Coach had a laptop open in front of him and was meticulously arranging piles of note cards around it in an easy rhythm. It was almost hypnotic to watch. Likethe three card monte dealers in New York. I was curious. The robe, the cards, yet, hedidn’t seem insane, or even homeless. So I spoke to him even though I never start upconversations with strangers. But I went out with a woman whose Native Americanname was “Talking With Strangers”, so I know how it’s supposed to be done.“What are you doing?”“I am attracting business. I only tell you that because I can tell you are not a potentialclient.”“What?”He handed me a card. Surrounded by Chinese characters, it read “Zen Writing Coach”,and, underneath that, in smaller but equally lovely calligraphy, “living is writing, writingis living.” Huh.“It’s really mostly lifestyle coaching. I wish it were all writing coaching.”“Why do you think I’m not a potential client?”“Because you don’t look like a man who follows the guidance of others.”That took me by surprise. Partly because it was true. To a fault. Maybe he did have astrong Tao.
“I thought you were going to say it was because I was a lot older than you.”“People of all ages seek advice.”Really? Not me. But then, he’d noticed that. Actually, I was a little miffed. Part of meexpected that he’d say he sensed that I was already a writer. The part of me that wasgetting both crazy and pathetic now that I was way past being a hot property. Or employable. When I was his age, I’d wiped my ass with a piece of unlined eight byeleven paper, and it turned into
 Psycho Summer Camp IV 
, which, for some unknownreason, grossed triple what part three had. So folks figured I knew the secret. I figured Idid too. I sold a great screenplay. Big. About smuggling drugs by yacht into Californiain the ‘60’s. They killed it. They drowned it in a puddle of their own piss. They turnedit into Rambo. Except that people went to see Rambo.I never sold anything again. After a while, I couldn’t even get anything read. A has been by thirty-three. I used to say it was a Jesus thing. Eventually, I started writing novels,one or two of them were good. I tried to make them funny because I figured peopledidn’t like to read. I was wrong. People hate to read. It didn’t matter---I had enoughmoney, at least as long as I was content with Hollywood boho living. Whatever. It’s justsometimes I get cranky like some retired athlete whose glory days are getting to be a longtime ago. Like when twenty-five year olds exude that “got the world by the tail vibe.”So I gave him a flyer for my newest novel. It was the best I could do.He read it, and smiled quizzically at me. I did like him. And I don’t like that many people instantly these days, except for hot younger women who won’t give me the timeof day. Even if they’re not gay.“I am working on a novel. About the Vietnam war. Jacob Lazarus.”He was watching me. I kept a straight face. There of course were jokes that could bemade, but it wasn’t a way that I liked to be rude. We shook hands as I introduced myself.“I am Korean. I was adopted by non-religious Jews living in New Hampshire. A professor and an artist. So you see.”Well, now I saw. He had an interesting way of talking about himself. It was pleasant, hesmiled easily, but oddly detached. Which maybe made sense for an obviously smart kidwith that combination of nature, nurture, and environment.“What brought you to L.A.?”Some Midwestern columnist had written that the continent was sloped and all the loosenuts rolled toward California. Well, most people would say that I was crazy enough.Although most people who don’t live in L.A. have no idea what crazy is here. I wasrelatively sane. I knew a guy kinda like me who once directed some forgettable.piece of shit. Now he ran a children’s theatre for young teens and charged aspiring parents
hundreds each. What’s so crazy about that? Well, one of his productions was “WhoseAfraid of Virginia Woolf?” With fourteen year olds. Before Liz Taylor died. Anyway,I’m just saying that this kid didn’t seem crazy by the local standard.The Zen Writing Coach almost giggled, almost shyly. It made me feel old.“Oh, you know, I studied philosophy and literature in college. So to write, to maybe getinto the movies, to avoid going to law school.”Ah, yes, the movies. Fair enough for twenty-five. But that made me feel old too.Because I did know. Or at least remember. Avoiding going to law school had been veryimportant to me back then.“So, how do you get writing clients by shuffling those note cards?”“It fascinates people. It did you.”He was pretty quick. I felt like I should utilize more of my mind with this guy. It waskinda like stretching muscles. It didn’t happen every day in L.A.“People ask me what I’m doing, and I tell them it’s a system. It can be taught. Writing isa system. And so living can be a system. People like systems.”“Yeah. . .people can be taught. Up to a certain point. But it’s like music, everyone can’tdevelop perfect pitch. You’re born with it. Don’t you believe in talent?”“People with real talent---for writing or living---don’t want guidance.’He knew how to get on my good side. Definitely should put a few more synapses on the job. Although he’s certainly not the mysterious type.“Like I said, it’s really lifestyle coaching. But living is writing. And it lowers the oddsof being sued for practicing without a license.”He would have done well in law school. Just like me. “And how much do you charge?”“Twenty-five dollars a session.”That didn’t seem like very much. If you’re forty-eight. So I figured at least I wasn’tmissing a trick.“And how long are your sessions?”“It depends. Usually not very long.”He gave me a sardonic smile. It was like a friendly game of chess.“You can see. I have a clients coming now. One of them even wants writing advice.”

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Joe Hagen added this note
Ha! That was a lot of fun to read. Clever characters, good humor and well written. Congrats and thanks for posting
Claire Hennessy added this note
This was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your writing is fabulous. I totally agree with Carla - I would love to read more. In fact, I would love to read a whole book with this character. 5 stars.
Luddite added this note
Just stumbled into this totally delightful story about Z Writing/Living Coach. Such fun! Thanks Chris for perking up my Thursday afternoon!
Claire Hennessy liked this

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