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One of the strange things about writing fiction is, you can accomplish a lot without actually writing anything. In my “spare time,” I wrote 3000 words this week, without ever opening the file for the novel I’m currently working on, and yet I’m quite sure I made good progress on it.

The first piece was a sad one, a remembrance of a friend who died last Saturday, guitarist Ronnie Montrose. For 14 years we were casual friends—the sort you catch up with three times a year, but every time is memorable—and it would not be an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t have written Believe in Me without him. He let me interview him at length. He got me backstage. He told me things about life as a working musician that I couldn’t have picked up any other way. And like narrator Tim Green, I soaked up every bit of those experiences to use later.

The second piece was a lengthy review of Bruce Springsteen’s new album Wrecking Ball. It’s a difficult album from one of our most self-conscious (and important) musical artists. Even though it’s far from my favorite of his, parts of it were absolutely compelling and I found the whole exercise fascinating and worthy of describing in detail. Springsteen is that rare bird, an artist who believes that because he can make a difference, he should. In fact, he must. In Believe in Me, Jordan Lee is driven by an imperative that’s a little more concrete and personal than Springsteen’s self-imposed duty to make a statement, but the impulse is the same. Having earned your audience’s attention, how will you choose to use that gift?

Fiction is life, distilled. I lived a lot of life last week. Time to open the tap again.

*The title of this post is taken from one of Ronnie’s finest songs, “Voyager” by Gamma. Check out the clip for a listen to one of the most exquisite guitar solos ever recorded, starting at 1:55.

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