I Have My Words

I’ve had that time and energy thing biting at my ankles over the last couple of weeks.  Now, in most ways, I just don’t care all that much when times like this hit.  I can work around my lack of motivation and focus pretty damned easily…but not with this blog.  The sad truth is that when time and energy fail, so does blog-writing.  Or, at least, blog-writing in a timely enough manner to get posts up when I should.

But that’s not what I sat down to write about today.  Nope, today I sat down to write about Thanksgiving…and about what goes with it.

I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but most of the time my life ain’t exactly an unending series of blessings and goodness.  It is, in fact, fairly hard to get all excited and thankful when you know the down side of up better than you know any lover…

Shit, just to give an example — most of you probably remember that I took some temporary work a few months back.  Well, that job quite kindly gave us all the day off for Thanksgiving.  How nice!  If we wanted to get paid for the “holiday,” however, we had to use our own fucking vacation time!  I’d love to say that was one of the worst and most stupid things I’ve seen over the last few months…but…well…not even close.  All that little gem of a policy was worth was a shrug and a mutter about typical managerial asshats and corporate greed.

And for this I should be thankful?image

Yeah, my lead-up to the holiday wasn’t great.  As much as I love the winter, and the holiday season, I just couldn’t get excited this year.

So I did something to myself that I do to my characters all the time: I changed the situation.  I changed the rules.

Screw the regular Thanksgiving rituals, I decided.  Screw the turkey, and the football, and the food-coma.  Screw, more importantly, the self pity and frustration.  Screw the expected.  It was time to do something different.

I spent my Thanksgiving serving at a homeless shelter.

It wasn’t happy.  It wasn’t warm & fuzzy.  It didn’t lead to some “road to Damascus” moment.  The scales didn’t fall from my eyes, and a chorus of angels didn’t suddenly start singing in my ears.

No, it wasn’t any of that.  

It was a reminder.  A reminder of where I could be…but am not.  A reminder of all that I could lose, and haven’t.  A reminder, in the end, of that trite and overused — but still powerful — phrase: “but for the grace of God, there go I.”

There go I.

I’ve talked before — in this post — about the fact that, but one or two changes in my life, I could very well be one of the “clients” of that shelter.  I could very well be that dirty, crazy guy on the corner, that guy holding a sign and begging for enough money to get a meal and a roof for the night.

But I’m not.

No, instead I have my life.  I have my toys, and my hobbies, and my little nerdy obsessions.  I have my stories and all those little ghosts in my head.  I have, when it really matters, my writing.

And for that I truly am thankful.

PS — And, yes, of course there’s a song for that!  By the way, I actually was at the concert this particular video is from…thank you, Red Rocks!

Beware the Plague

Bring out yer dead…HolyGrail003-1

Bring out yer dead…

Err…

You might have guessed by now, but I’m not very good at being sick.  I am, in fact, a big freaking baby when it comes to being sick.  And right now, at this very instant, I am as full of big-baby-ness as it’s possible to be.

220px-Biohazard_symbol_(black_and_yellow)Watch out — I bear the plague!

Okay, so, unlike the Black Death, this particular plague probably won’t kill over a third of the world’s population — hell, it probably won’t even kill me (in spite of my over-dramatizing) — but, well…  Whining can be fun when you feel like crap.  Just ask any four-year-old.

I did try to write this morning, however.  I figured I could get at least one decent hour of production, in spite of my patheticness.

You know what one line I managed to produce?  I don’t wanna go to school today, Mom!

Ahem.

Okay…I have to be tougher than this!  I think my brain and I need to have a talk about putting on our big-boy-pants and making stuff up for a few hours…  I mean, how the hell am I supposed to finish my story if all I want to do is watch RiffTrax movies and feel sorry for myself?

Update: Random music note — I’m listening to a new song from a favorite artist of mine (a cover of a Brandi Carlile tune), and it’s really good:

Creativity, Expanded

IMG_0163“How has your creative life changed,” the IWSG question o’ the month asks, “since you began writing?”

Wait…since I started writing?

Well, I hit puberty, graduated high school and college, started (and ended) a couple of careers…

Okay, let’s limit that, then.  How about this: since I started writing seriously…since I started writing intentionally.   Yeah, that’ll work a hell of a lot better as a starting point than my years of random, impulsive, and inconsistent dives into it as a hobby.

Err…

That’s still a harder one to answer than you might think.  The “expansion” of my creative life into photography and music predates my “serious” writing.*  I still owe those creative outlets to writing, mind you — or, at least, to the creative urges that underlie my writing — but the timing is, umm, complicated.

*Hell, I never could have afforded photography as a writer!  Just to start up, I needed everything I was paid as a (miserably unhappy) sales & marketing monkey…

No, the biggest change to my creative life that I can attribute to serious writing is, well, getting outside of my authorial comfort zone.  Crap, this blog itself is a great example of that.  I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a very private person.  Very private.  I never would have even considered an effort like Seat at the Bar without the lessons I learned, and the benefits I gained, from creative writing. And I certainly would never have come anywhere close to opening myself up with admissions about depression and talk about suicide…

But not even that is the biggest change. Nope, not even close.

No, the biggest change is something I (now) do on a semi-regular basis: microfiction.

Look, you all know — you know because I’ve told you often enough! — that I’m a long-form writer.  Short fiction and I just don’t get along. Oh, we tried to date and get together, but we just couldn’t make it work, so we went our separate ways in the end.  Oh, we would occasionally see each other at parties, but all we’d do is smile awkwardly and move to opposite corners of the room.

Well, since I started writing intentionally and consistently, I…err…well…  Okay, there’s no way around it, no way to sugar-coat it: I started drunk-dialing short fiction from time to time.  Nowadays, when we get together, things are still awkward and uncomfortable, but…ahem…the sex is actually pretty good…

I mean, really, c’mon — I spend three to six months just preparing to write a 125,000-word story, and now I’m posting — publicly, mind you! — 200-500 word pieces I write in under an hour?!

That’s just crazy-talk!

Crazy-talk it might be, but it’s a craziness that actually feels good.  It’s an outlet I never, ever thought I would use…and now I can’t see not spending a couple of hours a week on flash-fiction.  That is so far outside of any comfort-zone I’ve ever had, that I’m still not sure it’s entirely sane…

Shit, even when I was pretending* to be an extrovert during my sales career, I wasn’t this far outside of what is normal and natural for me!sticker,375x360-bg,ffffff.u5

*Fake it ‘til you make it!

And I owe it to the confidence and comfort I gained from writing.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Musical Addendum: The Writer

Umm…

So…

I wanted to do an addendum to my original post today…

An addendum about music and ME

Look…I write.  That makes me weird…even without considering all the, err, weird things I do in my life…

I don’t know about you, but for me, the key to writing is that I pour myself into my works and my words.  But I do so only in ways I can control.  There is an awful lot of ME in my works and words, but only so much.

I am — I seem to recall mentioning before — a very private person.  Hell, as much as I love them, even my own family knows far, far less about me than they think they do…

Okay, fine…I accept it…folks don’t know me because I don’t let them know me — and that ain’t likely ever to change.  I did, once, giving myself to a partner.  I tried going for marriage, two-and-a-half-kids, and a suburban home…

Err…

It didn’t work.

I tried because I thought I had to…

Then I sobered up.  Or I drunked up…take your pick, really.

Anyway, I gave up on the “American ideal” and struck out solo.  Now, various movies and books and essays will tell you that “striking out on your own” is a good thing.  They’ll tell you that’s how great things are built, and that genius lies in, err, eccentricity.

By they way, they kick you out of the bar for eccentricity…trust me, I know this.  But, as often as I try to escape the bonds of sobriety and sanity, music always brings me back.

Maybe it’s because it’s because I listen to such a wide variety…

Maybe it’s because I can always find artists who have gone past the lines I never would cross..

Maybe it’s because I’m (finally) growing up…

When I was young, music helped to define a world I couldn’t understand.  I was too young to deal with booze and drugs and the suicides of friends, so I let the music give me the answers.

Later, I feared those answers.

No, that’s not right…

I was terrified of those answers, because they threatened far too much to close circle of my youth.

I won’t say that I’ve changed all that much since I was 18 — umm, I’m not sure I’ve changed at all — but if there is a change, it is because I now appreciate and listen to such a wide variety of music.  Look, I grew up and matured on Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the rest of the 80’s and 90’s music scene, but I have learned to appreciate so much more

I’m a middle-class white guy, but Billie Holliday well-and-truly speaks to me…

As much as I like energy and dissonance, Chopin is a fucking genius…

Mozart and Muddy Waters both changed the world…

There is a show on British radio that asks, “If you were stranded on a desert isle, what one album would you want with you?”

Oh, shit…

That answer ain’t easy.

Clapton…Pink Floyd…Genesis…Hendricks…

How do you choose?

How do you choose?!?!?

Right now, with where I am today, with where I am right now…

Deep breath…

Sink or Swim by Gaslight Anthem.