The Music…Oh, The Music…

Well, shit.

How many times do I have to write about music?  About how important it is to me?  About how it inspires and drives my creative side?

How many times?

At least once more, it seems.

So, if you haven’t guessed by now, I decided to take a break from the blog.

A long break.

I haven’t written since Thanksgiving, and — quite honestly — I wasn’t sure when I stopped if I was going to take up again my keyboard and the commitment to share my thoughts and myself three times a week.  I was burning out, I was tired, and I wasn’t sure I gave much of a damn anymore.  Oh, the words were still there, but they were harder to find.  The urge to share was still there, but the energy…the energy was not.

And the worst part was that I didn’t know why.  I couldn’t put it together.

“What changed?  Why is it so hard now?”

What changed?

What changed, indeed.

I had stopped listening to music.

Oh, it wasn’t anything conscious or driven or intentional.  No, it was the stupidest of things: I got into a few podcasts, and they took up all of my “listening time”.

Now, look, I’ve talked many times before — many, many times — about music, and about how it matters to me.  Well, none of that was exaggeration.  Take away the music, and I find it hard…no, strike that.  I find it all-but impossible to really write.*

*The shitty pseudo-temp job didn’t help, either, by the way.

So tonight…

Tonight I was sitting there, starting to cook, and I decided to fire up some music.  I had no stinking idea what I wanted to listen to, so I went with a favorite artist…an artist who has inspired a number of writing sessions and flash fiction pieces in the past.

Umm, not to repeat myself or anything, but…well, shit.

It wasn’t a chorus of angels — that is reserved for when I have my first coffee after a long time without — but it was stinking close.  Almost as soon as the music started, the urge came back.  The words came back, and the energy came back.  I had to take that bit of advice that I’ve given to others so many times: when a thought/idea comes, you don’t wait, you don’t try to “capture” it, you write it. 

So I did.  Write it, I mean.

The particular song?  Well, I’ve talked before about my current favorite band (Gaslight Anthem).  The creative force behind that band has a solo career as well, and he is far and away one of my favorite songwriters.*  As for the song that…err…well…got me going (again)…well, it speaks to me.  It’s a symbolic song, a song with a lot to say.  It is, in the end, a song that speaks to me about a number of things, but especially it speaks to me about me (and, no, you don’t get any more explanation than that):

*The artist’s name is Brian Fallon, by the way.  He wrote, for vastly different songs on vastly different albums, two of my all-time favorite lines:

“I get up in the morning / Like a ghost chained to a haunting” from Proof of Life

And

“With everything discovered just waiting to be known / What’s left for God to teach from his throne / And who will forgive us when he’s gone?” from National Anthem

Oh, I burned my dinner, by the way…

On Hiatuses, And Creatures of Habit

Okay, look…I know I haven’t posted in a while. I also know that I’ve failed to fulfill the semi-promise I made in the last IWSG post to have several posts queued up…

I mean, shit, even my freaking MOM got on me for slacking on my blogging!

Okay, so, I’ll ritually drown myself in beer in abject humiliation, if that will make you feel better*.

*It sure as hell will make ME feel better!

When you get right down to it, the bottom line is that I kinda needed a break from blog writing. I enjoy the hell out of writing from my seat at the bar, but sometimes…well…sometimes it can start to feel a whole lot like homework. And, to be honest, I’ve always pretty much sucked at homework — I was always that kid madly scribbling away on an assignment five minutes before it was due. Thank God for a certain gift for extemporaneous bullshit with which I have been, err, “blessed”…

Ahem…that’s enough of that, thank you very much.

It wasn’t all about taking a break, however.

Nope, there were — as usual — other forces at play.

In a lot of ways, I am one of those people who likes to just make shit up…and I’m not talking about my stories, I’m talking about life in general. When I travel solo, my detailed itinerary looks a whole lot like:

1) Get off the plane
2) Do random shit
3) Return home

Crap…if you’ll recall, I am that random idiot who just up and moved to Yellowstone on nothing more than a momentary whim…

But that is just part of me. That is the personal me.  When it comes to work — especially when it comes to writing — I am very much a creature of habit. I like to have the same schedule every day. I like to go to the same places to do the same things. I like the rhythm that predictability brings, and the (surprising) freedom.

But…

But

BUT, those habits can turn me to the Dark Side, too. Yet another recollection for you: I took a job a few months ago, to help make ends meet. Err…well…it was mostly to temporarily use and abuse my employer for the health insurance, actually, but they’re abusing the shit out of me, so we’re about even I’d say.

The problem with that job is that I (far too easily) fall into it’s rhythm, rather than my own. That job’s obnoxious, creativity-killing rhythm, in fact, is the main reason why I left working for other people in the first damned place!

But, for the moment, I work my forty hours…and I get into the habit and rhythms of that schedule. Sadly, that rhythm makes it all too easy to forget that writing is supposed to be Job One. I don’t generally have the time to go to the coffee shop as much as I’d like…and I certainly don’t have the time/energy to go the taproom as much as I’d like — let alone as much as I need in order to truly keep up my writing.

I’ve mentioned before that writing for me is a thing of momentum and regularity. I need to be producing scenes & stories regularly in order to keep up that momentum. When it breaks? Yeah, when it breaks it’s not just one step back, it’s “go back to Start and begin again.”

Sigh.

The ghosts, by the way…

The ghosts that are my characters and stories…

The ghosts are fluttering.

Actually, they’re not so much fluttering as punching me in the face in order to get my attention.

Shit, let’s be honest here: the ghosts won’t leave me the fuck alone.  And the only way I have to exorcise them is to write them…shitty-job rhythm and habits be damned.

Remember what I said way back when? Writing is not what I do, it’s who I am.

More Bloggin’ About Bloggin’…Plus A Random, Drive-By Snippeting

As a blogger, you read blogs. A lot of blogs. You subscribe to ‘em, you navigate to ‘em, you get sent to ‘em…but no matter how you get there, you read ‘em. Now, that’s no bad thing — there are a lot of good writers out there, and a lot of unique and interesting viewpoints.

There is, to be honest, a lot of great stuff out there that’s well worth reading.

But there are, also, only so many hours in the day. And there’s even fewer hours if you want to, you know, make a living, too…

Since I subscribe to a whole bunch of blogs, however, I get a whole bunch of e-mail updates when new posts go up. Which…umm…more than “occasionally” leads to pretty significant blog-envy. While I struggle to put together three posts a week, all I have to do is check my email to see folks who do as many posts in a day as I can (just) manage in a week.

I do want to say that I respect the hell out of the dedication and effort it takes for folks to post with that kind of regular frequency. I respect it almost as much as I dread the headache that inevitably comes when I think about considering trying to evaluate the possibility of posting more frequently!

D4ECBE11-B017-432F-9F83-57FCA8777361AAARRRGGGHHH!!

And that’s when the blog-envy sets in…

It could be worse, I tell myself…I could still be writing listicles for cheesy websites or — to come up with the only writing job I can think of worse than that — I could dive into writing scripts for porn movies.

So, hey, let’s give that one a try!

JOE
Oh, yeah, baby! Just like that!

SANDRA
**orgasm sounds**

Ahem…never mind. I think I’ll pass, thanks…

Ummm….

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m kinda struggling for a topic today. I’ve talked about DockRat enough lately, and my other “big” fiction project isn’t even ready enough to begin my normal prep and planning work.

Shit, maybe I should just go back to my old fallback of posting snippets when I’m struggling to come up with a post…

Connor pressed himself as deeply into the corner as he could. The shadows around him, the bottle in his hand, the worries and fears that he wouldn’t live to see the sun come up again…it was like being back Dockside. He could all but hear Oz asking him just how fucked up did he plant to get?

“What the hell are you doing out here, Connor?” a voice asked.

He knew that voice. He knew it, but it didn’t fit. Not with Dockside, not with the memories.

He looked up, met Matt’s eyes. Innocent, earnest Matt. Poor foolish, naive Matt. The one who still believed in…anything.

A move of his hand and he offered the half-empty bottle. “Sit down and have a drink. I could use the company.”

Hesitation as Matt looked at the cold, wet ground before sinking down with a small shrug. He took the bottle and sipped cautiously. “Holy…what the hell are you drinking? This could strip paint from the walls.”

Connor laughed, then, with more than a hint of pain and bitterness. “Good ol’ fashioned homemade shochu. Makes me feel young again. Y’all don’t get this kuso around here, so you don’t know what you’re missing.” Connor knew he should be careful about his speech, about letting Dockside slip back onto his tongue, but he just couldn’t muster the energy. Or the care.

The bottle came back to him and he took a long, long drink.

It really was kuso, but he needed the particular burn that only cheap, harsh liquor could provide. The burn of memory. The burn of forgetting…for a time.

“It’s, what, ten degrees out here? Are you insane? Why the hell are you sitting in the darkest, coldest corner in this whole city?” Matt asked, his voice full of care…and of all the emotions and tells that Connor could so easily manipulate.

No. Not this time.

Matt wasn’t a kamo, wasn’t someone to read and scam. He was a friend. That was all, just a friend.

Connor hadn’t realized just how much he had needed a simple friend until he met Matt. Hopefully he wouldn’t kill this one.

Stop it, Connor, Oz snapped. You didn’t kill me. You did what you had to, and the price was paid. That’s how it works. Shit, I thought I taught you better than this.

The silence said Matt expected some kind of answer, so Connor obliged. He could laugh, and did, but he couldn’t stop the bitterness, not tonight. “It’s an old habit. If you’re in the corner, you only have to watch in front of you. Safest place to be. Of course, that means it’s also the place everyone wants. I’ve seen kids knifed for their little spots in the corner.”

A look over and he could read the shock and dismay on Matt’s face, even in the dark.

Fuck it, Connor decided. In booze lay honesty, they said…or something like that.

Another pull at the bottle. “I saw my first murder when I was eight. But that wasn’t the worst. Not by a long shot. Shit, I watched some poor fucking makeinu get his tongue cut out, but not even that was the worst.”

“What… Who… Connor, what’s going on?” Matt stuttered, his voice stricken.

“I watched the only person in the universe who mattered die, did I ever tell you that? My dad, my friends…none of them could hold a candle to Oz. This…this carnival you call civilization, it’s just a sideshow. I know the truth behind it all. I know the pain, and the blood, it’s built on. My pain, and my brother’s blood.”

“What the…” Matt struggled, completely staggered, completely at a loss. He very obviously did not know what to make of Connor’s little speech, so he focused instead on the smallest of details. “Brother? I thought you said you were an only child…?”

Connor thought about that for a moment. “Some families you’re born into, but some you choose. Oz meant more — means more — to me than any random aho who just happens to share my genes.”

Bloggin’ About Not-Bloggin’

C7BEDFC4-2A44-4AB5-B615-27A84C9D92C8Okay, so I cheated on Monday. I mean really, really cheated.  I didn’t just glance at my neighbor’s paper to copy some answers, I did the full-on steal-the-test, copy-every-answer kind of cheat.

It pretty much sucked. I felt guilty as hell.

I know, I’m most certainly not the first blogger to just recycle an old post, but I didn’t even do a good job of it.

*sigh*

Often, I will keep a few of these posts queued up and waiting so I don’t have to scramble to write one at the last minute (like I am now). That means, of course, that I also tend to use that “backlog” of posts as an excuse to, err, get stinking lazy. It’s not all that hard to convince myself that, since I have a bunch of posts ready, I don’t need to work on the blog today.

You know, it’s kind of making me flash back to college, flash back to a professor trying to explain to a bunch of freshmen that scrambling to recover from NOT doing the work is just going to take longer than actually DOING the work. I spent more time thinking about the post I needed/wanted to write today — the post about NOT writing a post on Monday — than I would have if I just written a 300-word humor piece on beer-can art on Monday.

The good news — not excuse, or even reason, just good news — is that I am, finally, back to doing fairly serious fiction writing & work. That doesn’t really help, however…at least not to me. It may sound weird, but this blog is an outlet, and a type of writing, I don’t have in fiction writing. It’s an outlet, I should add, that I have found very valuable over the two years I’ve been writing Seat at the Bar.

I started this place as a way to work on short-form writing, as a way to try to condense my normal wordiness into something (hopefully) more efficient and effective. It was also a venue to share aspects of my writing, both in terms of the process and the real-world experiences.

The blog became more than that, however. It became a place to share bits and pieces of myself, bits and pieces I never did — never could — share anywhere other than through the written word. I told you folks things I never told even my family: from my battles with depression to my shameful love of Downton Abbey to the suicides and tragedies that have defined my world. There has been as much personal honesty here as random squirreling, ranting and drunk-bloggin’.

Writing is a hell of journey. If you get it right — if you have the talent and the drive and, yes, the luck — it can be a journey both wonderful and rewarding. It also can be the most frustrating, difficult, disappointing and exasperating journey imaginable. To share that journey with you — even if such sharing does mean the occasional foray away from writing and into music or beer or the wonders of Young Frankenstein — is something I have, much to my surprise, come to look forward to three times a week…look forward to far too much to cheat myself, to cheat this blog, and to cheat you.