More than a need

Ignore all advice about writing. Leave your blood on every page. Every page! — Miriam Toews

This week, it looks like I’ll be rolling up my sleeves to get down to the business of building and nurturing the writing life I want to thrive in. 

I’ll be meeting with my mentor this week to catch up on a lot of things. He is going to get an earful from me because of recent decisions I’ve made regarding my writing. This is significant because I plan to do one-on-one sessions with him from now. The writing group set-up isn’t working for me anymore. Things might be a bit constraining.

I suppose it’s partly to do with my development as a writer and the things that I want to pursue as a storyteller. I might be a little ambitious as fuck.

But that’s too simplistic. I think it’s more than just being ambitious as fuck. There is a need. Yes, there is a need to write. But there is also a need to remind myself to have fun. To not turn writing into a job. Because, let’s be honest, that would be the kiss of death for me.

I have a better idea of what will inhabit my writing life and how I want to inhabit that life. I’m pretty excited by the lay of the land. The somewhat scary thing about this is seeing how it will all come together. I know what I want to do. But I don’t know how everything will co-exist. And on top of that, how will my writing life blend into a life that has proven on numerous occasions to be quite chaotic. 

I’m already dreading how chaotic February and March is going to be because in the last 10 years or so, I’ve always referred to that time period as the busy season. The upcoming busy season (February being the bigger villain of the two) could very well be the worst and I’m not being a fucking drama queen when I say that.

I know something has got to give. And I will blow up the busy season if not this coming year, then within the next two years. It’s inevitable.

Quite frankly, I’d like to blow it up now. But it wouldn’t be fair to the parties involved so I’ll have to ride through it to the other side. And then blow it up. Give them time to look for someone else who can volunteer their time. Even if I was getting paid, I’d probably pull the plug all the same.

Depending how crazy things get, I may end up cutting ties sooner than expected. The time is coming to move on. 

This need to write, to be a storyteller, is more powerful than I had expected. And I’m in awe of it and want to embrace it. It’s not everyday you become aware of how powerful a passion can be. Some refer to this passion as a calling.

Do I want to refer to this need as a calling? I probably will refer to it as a calling. But I’m not gonna pretend that whatever I write will change the world. Far from it. If only a handful of people who read my stories ‘get’ me, that’s more than fine with me. I knew a long time ago that I wouldn’t be able to please everyone nor do I want to. That’s a kind of validation I don’t seek.

I seek to be the best storyteller I can be. Most of the time, the way I go about it is unconventional for a lot of people. But it works for me. And at the end of the day, I couldn’t give a shit what anybody else thinks. 

Embracing a need

The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on and suddenly it all makes sense. You get to feel like both the creator and the audienceNeil Gaiman

It seems I’m hellbent on creating a writing life that is far more creatively chaotic (and I mean that in a good way) than I could have ever imagined for myself.

As recently as last week’s blog, I talked about figuring out how to juggle two writing projects at the same time. I didn’t give a reason for wanting to be busy as a bee. I just figured I needed to start writing again. None of this taking time off to ponder my next move.

I was already pondering my next steps when I was finishing up the second book. 

The two projects are in their fledgling stages. WIP1 and WIP2 are in their conception/research phases.

And as of last Thursday, I’ve added another ongoing project/endeavour to my writing plate. I won’t even call this one WIP3 because of the beast it could potentially become.

I say ‘beast’ with zeal and affection. It is a beast I get to call my own. The beast will play with me and experiment with me in the sandbox. I’ll get to flex some creative muscles I haven’t flexed too often in my writing. The hope is that by playing with this beast, whatever I learn from it, it will be absorbed onto my other writing projects. Kind of a win-win situation.

You’re probably wondering why the hell would I throw myself into another writing endeavour. Would it be okay if my answer is “I’m a masochist”? 

I suppose I should say I’m following my heart. But I’m also following my instincts. I’m pursuing an opportunity to grow as a writer and storyteller. I think most importantly, I’m following a need to write, a need to create. The need is not one of those things that drills into you like a woodpecker making holes into a tree.

By the way, I actually saw one in action back in September when my best friends was in town. Fuck that pecking/tapping is loud. When I heard that bird strike the tree with its beak, all I could think about was the kind of massive headache you could get if you weren’t careful with that thing.

Anyway, the need doesn’t feel like something violently poking at you until you bleed or break a rib. Although some folks might like that feeling.

The need feels more like a gentle prod against your ribs and occasionally gives you a fervent, hungry hug. Then it decides to sink into your bones. It’s not there to cause you pain. It’s there to remind you that you are more than how people want to define you. You are more than what the physical world allows you to be. It’s there to remind you that your creative life is just as important than your work life and any other life you have.

More frequently than not, it’s more important, more urgent than all those other lives combined.

So yeah, I’m embracing this need. I’m operating via the phrase “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” To be honest, that’s phrase that been with me for my entire adult life. It hasn’t always been at the forefront of my life but sometimes it’s all there is.

Right now, it’s wrapped up in this need. It’s an incentive. It’s a reminder. But it’s never a lie, never a trick of mirrors. It is something that will never lie to me.

People will lie to me. Lies said out of selfishness, misunderstanding, misinformation, ignorance, envy, weakness, fear or cruelty. 

A need, especially a creative need, will never do that. I choose to follow that need. Nothing else matters.

Looking, listening, waiting

I would like to start by saying the book launch for Risk which was held on Friday was successful. By that, I mean there were bums in the seats. I’m grateful for the support and the interest. The folks who were in attendance were interested and had questions that indicated they were genuinely curious about what I had created.

From those questions, they caught a small glimpse of what makes me tick as a writer. As far as I could tell, they liked what I had to say despite the fact I also spoke in Spanish when I was reading one of the excerpts I read at the launch. The novel contains Spanish dialogue between the characters.

Yes, I have no problem with my characters speaking another language. In fact, I find it a lot of fun. Sure, it probably unsettles folks who only speak and read English but I don’t care to cater to an only-English-speaking audience or pretend everyone speaks English or pretend that the only sexuality that exists is heterosexuality.

If you ever get around to picking up a copy of Risk at McNally Robinson Booksellers (sorry their link isn’t live yet, or in ebook format) you will get a taste of where my personal politics lie. If you do pick up the book… I hope you enjoy it.

*****

Music is one of the last elements in the creative process. It can and hopefully should tie a bow around an artistic concept, how a story moves forward, the pace of that storytelling — Thomas Newman

Now that the book launch is done even though there are loose ends to tie up and ongoing things I need to do that are associated with the book, I can slip into one of my sweat pants and comfy sweaters and really start planning out my next writing projects.

I have mentioned in previous blogs that I have two ideas simmering and I want to see if I can work on them concurrently instead of working on then one right after the other.

So, this is it. I gotta start thinking about them. I gotta start doing a little research/information gathering before laying any sort of foundation. 

Conceivably, I could start on one of the projects as early as this week. But I’m still in decompress mode. Sometimes I wonder if I should just take six months and let my mind fall into the various rabbit holes in which I’m currently entertaining myself. Six months is too long, though. All that lost productivity. Yeah, I don’t think so.

So, I’ll make a concerted effort to lay out a plan for writing project #1 (WP1) soon and let my imagination stew over writing project #2 (WP2) for awhile.

WP2 is nowhere near being ready to map out as a story line. I only have three characters, and maybe a fourth one. I know who they are to each other and that’s it.

The problem is the visual aesthetic for the story. I have a few uniquely different settings that pique my interest as to where the story could or should take place. They all standout to me. The problem is figuring out where my characters would thrive best for the story they want me to tell on their behalf. I think they can thrive anywhere, to be honest. So, that’s a little problematic. All great settings but where do I go to be of greatest service for my characters.

It’s about them. It’s about the story. I am in service to (or is it ‘of’?) them. Not the other way around.

I figure the only way to get the gears grinding on WP2 is to listen to music. While I can see Newman’s point that music is one of the last elements in the creative process, I have to say that music is one of the first elements in my creative process.

Music has always been the driving force in bringing the elements together when it comes to telling a story. It was there for the first two books and there is no way it won’t be there for future stories.

Music is also a good way to clean the palette and clear the mind. It prepares you to be surprised when a piece of music comes along, knocks you on your ass and says “Hi. I believe you’ve waiting for me.”

Yeah, that’s when the light bulb goes on and you think to yourself ‘Jesus fucking Christ’ when your imagination is bombarded with images and an aesthetic that won’t leave you alone for one second.

Those moments are exhilarating, hard earned and precious. To be honest, I live for those moments. That’s maybe when I’m most hyperaware I’m being present.

Right now, I’m clearing my head by listening to ’70s music. You can blame that on the film The Iceman. There’s a scene where Chris Evans and Michael Shannon are walking and grooving to the music, as they make their way towards an unsuspecting victim inside a discotheque. Blondie’s Heart of Glass is playing the background.

Seriously, who knew Blondie and Chris Evans would make a good combo. Anyway, it reminded me of how much I love Blondie. And before the film, someone had mentioned the song Brandy by Looking Glass. The song title didn’t ring a bell but when I checked it out on iTunes —  bingo, I remembered listening to it on AM radio when I was a child.

Then I fell into a rabbit hole of searching out ’70s music. I’m more of an ’80s/’90s brat, though. But definitely a good way to clear the mind. At some point, I’m going to wander through the ’80s and ’90s. 

I’ve compiled a preliminary playlist for WP2 and I’m sure it’s going to grow as I muddle through this music rabbit hole I’ve found myself in. Once I figure out the aesthetic for WP2, the playlist is going to morph again. And probably quite radically as I’m prone to do sometimes.

Time to look forward and take the first steps towards a new adventure. Not sure how long it will take before things start to coalesce but I’m hoping not too long. Trudging along is better than being at a stand still.

Just looking, listening and waiting for that ‘Jesus fucking Christ’ moment.