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.

Eye on the prize

Writing is such a weird emotional thing. It’s hard. If you sit down with a plan to write something, it’s going to be harder — Lauren Miller 

Yeah, writing is a weird emotional thing. And I am referring specifically to fiction writing. Yes, there are other forms of writing (non-fiction, poetry, essay, journalistic, etc.) but I’m not focussing on them.

I think being creative is a weird emotional thing. Period. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Anything worth having, anything worth experiencing, anything worth creating, anything worth fighting for will be hard. 

When it’s hard and you want it badly enough (please excuse any double entendre you might perceive), yeah, you’ll get a little emotional. Depending on the obstacle I encounter, either I get mad and double down on reaching the endgame, or give it the stink eye and double down on reaching the endgame.

Regardless of my emotional reaction to the obstacle, I always have my eye on the endgame. I can’t ever lose sight of that. No matter how much life can get in the way, no matter if I’m in some sort of holding pattern when it comes to moving forward with the storytelling, my eye is always on the prize.

And what is that prize? Being able to successfully tell the story I want to tell. Being able to tell the story my characters want told and to do justice by them. That’s my prize. 

How do I know I earned my prize? By how I feel about the completed first draft of the manuscript.

For my upcoming book, Risk, I was pretty proud when I arrived at the complete first draft. I’m not proud because I just finished writing it. I’m proud because I knew the story that needed to be told was completed. From Point A to Point Z and everything in between felt right. I have no regrets.

And as a writer or as a creative person, having no regrets is so important. Even if there are regrets, acceptance of those regrets is just as important. You can’t let them eat you alive. There are lots of other things in life that will try to eat you alive. Don’t add regrets to that mess.

Another part of the prize for me is I knew the goals I set for myself when I started writing this book had been achieved.

There’s nothing more satisfying than realizing your goals. Those are the things I can call my own. No one can take that away from me. And yeah, I’ll pretty much rip anybody’s head off if they try.

Knowing yourself

Learning who you are is really a part of the process of becoming a writer. You can’t skip it. Knowing who you are as a writer takes trying things to find out. There is no wrong path to getting there — anonymous

Last week, I was talking to a friend — well, it was more the case of being interviewed by friend for a personal passion project of his — about the process of writing and being a writer. That was one of the subjects we discussed but not the main subject although the two are linked.

Anyway, it was great speaking to someone who is a fellow creative and interested in the writing process. I can’t remember the exact question he asked but it led me to make the remark that in the process of becoming a writer you end up learning who you are as a person.

It’s true. Every time you work on a writing project, or anything creative, you learn things about yourself — not in an epiphanous kind of way (though it could happen with other people, just not me), but in a slow burn kind of way that you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s staring at you, giving you a smart-ass smirk.

After I wrote The Raven Sonata, I came away with a more defined sense of what I wanted to do for the next story. No specifics, just certainties. I just wanted to become more ambitious with regards to story and character. I wanted to walk the path towards becoming a more complex storyteller.

In the process of writing the second novel, the more I learned about myself, the greater the clarity I had regarding the kinds of stories I wanted to write in the future.

It’s one part refining, one part clarifying and one part keeping the mind open to ideas that seem whimsical at the moment, but could gain the kind of traction you would want to take into the next writing project. It’s constant evolution. 

One of the interesting things about writing is learning about yourself. The characters you create, the world you want to build for them and the research you put in before and during the writing process reveal more to you about who you are. The process opens you up to embracing your true nature. This is more than just discovering you’re really good at playing beer pong or knitting slippers.

And another thing: your 9-to-5 job (or whatever your shift hours are) doesn’t define you. And I know there are folks out there who will disagree with me about that statement, but this is my opinion. Your passions define you. Everything outside of work is a greater determinant in defining who you are. The different passions/interests you have, reveal parts that create the whole that is you.

The time period where I was a horse owner and equestrian revealed a lot to me about the person I am. The good and the bad. And what I learned, I applied to the rest of my life more purposefully. Well, most of the time.

There were other interests I pursued between the equestrian life and the writing life. But they all revealed other aspects of my character.

Now, as a writer (I’ll never get used to referring to myself as an author), there is so much more clarity as to who I am because of the kinds of stories that interest me. In order to explore those stories, I have to embrace all the reasons I want to tell those stories. Some of those reasons speak to the true nature and complexity of my character.

In facing the true nature of your character, you accept who you really are. This isn’t a case of not liking what you see in the mirror and wanting to change it. This is different. This is the effortless acceptance of knowing who you are. This is embracing the fact your true nature doesn’t scare the shit out of you and it never will scare the shit out of you.

The people around you might have a different opinion about that but fuck ’em. You can’t live under their microscope.

I know who I am. Knowing that doesn’t scare me.