Writing is living

Writing is Living

It’s been two years now since I released the last book in my sci-fi series The Chronicles of the Great Migration. And though I am coming close to finishing the book now… today, I had a conversation with a stranger that, despite the fact it had nothing to do with what I am working on in the novel, it inspired me to consider one of my characters in a new light.

Because… Writing is living.

We live in a world where indie authors tout rapid release. We are pushed to write quickly and publish quickly. Produce. Produce. Produce. Produce. Produce. Produce. Produce.

For those of you who don’t know there are even algorithms in place that, if we don’t publish quickly, our work stops being as visible on places like Amazon. We writers find ourselves on the factory floor, the assembly line in this algorithmic revolution.

But… Writing is living.

There’s a lot of pressure to write quickly. And, I am, honestly, a starving artist in the traditional sense. I hold multiple jobs to try and maintain my life. I want to write faster. I want to publish more often, but life has a way of intruding on art and art, in turn, life.

Because… Writing is living

I’m not here to argue that writing and publishing quickly is wrong.

I don’t think it is.

There have always been writers who can write and publish very quickly. The Romance Genre has always been that way, and a lot of the pulp novels throughout time are that way as well.

I am far from perfect with my writing habit. I wish I was writing every day. But mostly I write a few times a week and on weeks when money is tight, and I need to drive Doordash for 20 or 30 hours on top of teaching and parenting… writing falls away completely. It seems to slide into the shadows away from my vision and passes from memory.

Almost none of my income comes from writing currently, so I must prioritize.

But… Writing is living?

So, I put a lot of pressure on myself to write this series quickly. I tell myself… you want your dream of being a full-time writer don’t you?

Because… Writing is living.

When I don’t write, I feel guilt.

When I don’t write, I feel shame.

When I don’t write, I feel like I am not being true to myself.

When I don’t write I am miserable.

But then, it’s far more miserable when you can’t keep the power on, or food in your fridge, or you can’t go to the doctor when you are sick. Or you struggle to buy your kids a birthday present because you may have to skip meals. And you hate that there aren’t more hours in the day. If only there was more time…

Because… Writing is living.  

And then, there are moments like today. When I realize that my book will be better because it’s been a long road. That the time between sentences is only as long as it takes to start typing again, even as the setting sun marks the passing of another day.

Because… Writing is living.

When, a conversation, an experience, a thought, triggers this revelation about your characters or your world or your own perception of what is… and you think to yourself, gods, if I had been more consistent with my writing, I may have never had this revelation and my story would have been poorer for it.

Because… Writing is living.

There are plenty of things I can write fast. I wrote what became the first novel of the series, Mimi of the Nowhere in 10 days. But at that time, I was only working one job and, I had only thought it was going to be a short story and it just all hit me at once. Mimi possessed me. She took hold of me for those ten days and I could not stop thinking of her. Two of those nights I didn’t sleep. It was like love.

Because… Writing is living.

Upon Stilted cities, which was originally the first book and was so long, it was split because of length, took me the better part of two years of effort to finish. But the first pages were originally started when I was in graduate school over a decade ago. And then it sat, for 6 years, waiting to be remembered. Then, one day, it called out my name, and demanded my attention. And so, I sat again, pouring on to the page.

Because… Writing is living.

What does all this mean? It’s a good question. Part of me is writing this is to understand the question. At the moment of writing this, I don’t even know if I will ever publish this essay or not. Sometimes I write to discover something about myself or to understand my thoughts. Sometimes I just open a document and begin typing, with no idea what will come. If you’re reading this… that’s what you are reading.

Because… Writing is living.

I have a relationship with my keyboard, where my fingers come to life and I stop thinking and just let words flow, in the same way, a faucet doesn’t think about the water that spills from the nozzle, it just does what it does when the path is open.

Because… Writing is living.

I think maybe I want to say, don’t judge your pace or your speed of writing or sculpting or painting. I think maybe want I want to say is that all that pressure you put on yourself is unnecessary.

That Writing is living.

They aren’t separate.  

Life happens to you, and you reflect, and think about it and feel it out and then it transforms you. And with it, your art. When the caterpillar enters the chrysalis it rearranges everything before it can emerge. But all you see is the final product, we do not bear witness to transformation. We live it.

Because… Writing is living.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need a habit, a time and space dedicated to the act of creation, but if you had a hard week and you couldn’t paint, or photograph or write or compose that song, don’t hate yourself for it. Perhaps, instead, reflect on the lessons you learned about that time, about that space, about the intersection of your knowledge and experience, and draw on it. Let it flow through you so that when you do have a moment to turn on the faucet, so much flows that your cup of joy spills all over and makes such a mess, that you are forever changed. Don’t even bother to breathe… this paragraph didn’t.

Because… Writing is living.

And expectations are the death of joy.

I know so many authors, myself included, want that big break, those huge sale numbers, that perfect agent who will sell your novels for a huge advance, or that fanbase that just can’t get enough of your work, so that your cup runneth over, with great abundance. So you can just write, just create. Just… be. And life will be perfect… won’t it?

But… Writing is living.

That’s the danger of our culture. That we, in fact, mark success by the dollars attached to it. That if you aren’t contributing to the myth of this… supposed American dream… with your everyday actions, you fail as a human. If you can’t commodify what you create, what’s it good for? You have no value without productivity. And so we measure our art, our living, on our ability to produce, to… capitalize on what we have created.

And we think that is living. This… bootstraps mythology. Have you realized yet, you can’t lift yourself by your own bootstraps? Physics doesn’t allow it.

But… Writing is living.

We forget what art, in whatever form, is for.

Writing is living.

Sculpting is living.

Painting is living.

Singing, dancing, running, loving, crying, laughing, fright, anger, pain, they are all living. Maybe nothing gets in the way of art. Maybe our only real enemy is our doubt and anxiety. But then… doubt and anxiety are living too.

We are strange creatures. We have so much potential and yet we evaluate success by the smallest of measures. Greed is so small… so impermanent. But sharing another way of knowing, an experience, a thought, an image, these are great treasures.

Writing is living.

Simple words. But the truth is, we are all just stories, flashlights illuminating dark corridors, but never able to see the bigger picture. At least not alone.

Many lights, many stories, light up the night… together.

Writing is not a lonely act. It is a profoundly social one.

Writing is living.

Writing is walking to the edge of town, beyond the limits of what you have always known, and peering beyond. It is meeting a stranger and eliminating your differences, to discover your similarities.

Writing is living.

It has a time and a place.

Trust life to write your story.

Because… Writing is living.

What is the Value of Art?

Here is a bit of spoken word poetry I just wrote called, What is the value of Art.

“Center of All”

What is the value of art?

It is our birthright, our education,

it’s the smashing of all our limitations,

it’s the last breath as death collects us

In an ever winding energy nexus

It’s the movement of words and thoughts and dreams

Of a plurality of reality, and a sequence of scenes  

It’s what’s delicious and nutritious for the mind and soul

So luscious and rich with wonders to behold

It’s our essence and presence as a universe to witness

A study of truth and the quickest path to fitness

Of our species survival all threatened by meaninglessness

In the hearts of greed where we find only deafness

Or daftness and a lack of meaningful madness

This Art is our madness, our collective sadness,

All balled up and beat up long past the gladness

It’s the laughter of life and the meaning of love

It’s the universe in our hands and as below so above.

So you ask, what is the value of art?

It’s all this and more

For our humanity

is lost

if we lose

it’s core.

Mimi of the Nowhere Cover Reveal

Today I am happy to present the official cover of my very first novel Mimi of the Nowhere. This book is the very first chapter in the Chronicles of the Great Migration. A series about life, death, and war in a Giant Walking Cities in a post-climate change era. Mimi of the Nowhere begins with the story of a Homeless woman living in the Giant Walking City of Manhasten, which was once, long ago the island of Manhattan.

A synopsis:

Life on the street is hard. Drug dealers, thieves, and even the security officers of the giant walking city of Manhatsten are up to no good. But somehow, Mimi’s done it for centuries. Of course, it helps that she is able to peek into other people’s minds and avoid trouble most of the time. Unfortunately, that same talent is about to get her into a whole other world of trouble. One that she never even knew existed.

The cover was created by the very talented Kayla Rose. You can find more of her work at her Instagram page here

Don’t forget you can read the first 6 chapters of the book free at the page for Mimi of the Nowhere

 

Front Cover

 

Want to read this book completely free? Sign Up for our Email Newsletter here and get access to this book for free beginning 5/17/18 as well as a number other great perks. 

 

 

Return

Return

Return

It is beckoned by gravity’s song,

Pulled ever forward, ever along.

Dodging left and right,

Hoping to stay out of sight.

The secret is here, in the act,

In the movement, in the contract.

Down it goes, it jerks, it resists,

Until it mergers from a single kiss.

It kisses some more and increases its speed,

It becomes heavy, weighted down, a larger bead.

It clings tight, to the metal, all it knows,

But it cannot grasp forever, it must let go.

It loses its grip and cascades down,

It lands in the water but does not drown.

Instead, it merges, it melds, it becomes,

Connected existence, it succumbs.

And remembers it forgot all that it knew,

Connected and one, the only real view.

Space and potential, potential and space,

Here, at last, it knows a joy it can embrace.

Thinking About the Tedious

Verse 67 of the Tao Te Ching (via Ursula K. Le Guin’s translation) opens with the following lines:

Inside

Everybody says my way is great,

But improbable

All greatness

Is improbable.

What’s probable

Is tedious and petty.

I think every artist, every researcher, every teacher (or really every human being ever) asks at some point, why do I bother? Why do I bother to create art? Do students even care? Why do I even try? Why am I important anyway? Why do I wake up and go to a job I hate? As anyone reading this knows, self-doubt is a common human experience and for those of us who have chosen to try and create, it is perhaps even more potent and possibly more devastating.

I know I sometimes find those thoughts echoing in my mind as if I was screaming repeatedly into the Grand Canyon, until the feedback of my own mind feel like a high pitched aching distortion of misery. Sometimes, when I stop and watch this, it makes me laugh a little at its utter absurdity. Other times, I allow myself (like many people) to become enveloped by what feels hopeless. It is when we identify with our own thoughts, that we allow this hopelessness to persist.

All identity is crafted from a mix between our internal life, our social interactions and the wider cultural sphere(s) in which we exist. Therefore, identity is ever-changing and ever-moving. You are not the same person you were at the moment you began reading this.

So often, social pressure and cultural history interplay with our own consciousness in such a way that we ignore the small still inner voices that rage so quietly in the back of our mind. We allow the judgements of others, of our wider culture and perhaps most dangerously the wave of expectations from both the outside world and our own ideas of what the world should be, blot out the fact that we have created something beautiful or wonderful or unique. Or perhaps we forget the amazing amount of conditions that have coalesced to create this particular and quite miraculous moment in which we reside.

The easy path is to give up and allow our own misery to wash over us. The easy path is to continue with whatever tedium we have surrendered too. We urge ourselves to repeat the same cycles, because a new one is perhaps too scary or might be harder. But the path towards our own truth, towards the end of suffering is much more difficult. This is the path of honesty, of authenticity.

By the way, I am not going to tell you to take the road less traveled, or present you with some hollow interpretation via Robert Frost because in all honesty, that poem has been grossly misinterpreted.  (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/what-gives-robert-frosts-road-not-taken-its-power-180956200/?no-ist )

We need to be the Hermit, The Shaman, The Buddha, the Christ Figure (or any other symbol of a retreat in the wilderness and the exploration the inner life), seeking to understand the nature of our own suffering and the limitations we put on ourselves. We must ask ourselves, how have we been in our own way lately? Doing so, is the only way we break from the probable, from the tedious, from the petty. That is the only way that human beings as a whole will reach the distance future, for so many systems of suffering have been created by relying on structures we want to last forever, but are in fact impermanent.

In short, find trust in yourself. And for those of us who create, “Do you work and Step Back, The only path to serenity” (via Tao Te Ching verse 9). We must accept that the inner voice or our creations may never be shared with the wider world. That’s okay. Recognition, Fame, Respect, these things are all fleeting. Instead focus on the fact that the mere ability to create is the essence of remarkable beauty.

To Me Writing Is…

Moth-in-handsI am a bit in danger of waxing philosophical here… but here goes. To me writing is the solidification of the very potential of the human experience. In other words, writing takes the empty spaces of existence and creates via a spectrum of possibility and imagination.

Lots of big words I know. But this isn’t just about writing, this is about art.

Art has no easily definable value for immediate survival. What purpose does it serve exactly? It does not keep us alive. It does not nourish us or keep us warm during the cold winter. It does not quench our thirst or fulfill any of our other basic needs. Art is primarily based on social interactions and imagination.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. The very fact that it is beyond the meager nature of basic survival means that it is something entirely important. Art and writing are a demonstration that we, as human beings have discarded the fear surrounding the acquisition of our primary necessities and taken another step forward into the realm of all that is possible.

In particular, writing shares other worlds, other ideas, other possibilities for humanity to interact with. Ultimately all writing is some sort of fantastical thought experiment (yes even dime novels) asking the question, what would the world (or my world) be like if…

That is the beautiful nature of all art, to ask the questions that we may not be able to ask in our everyday working grind. So many of us work multiple jobs these days or are distracted by sitcoms and reality TV that demonstrate the same plots and patterns over and over again. In a time when humanity is undergoing a sizable crucible, when we have to collectively decide what role we would like to play in the future of our species, art has never been so important.

I believe that experimentation, imagined or real, is the only way forward through the fires of human suffering. I believe (there is an awful lot of my beliefs in here isn’t there?) that art and writing to help create a space for the flowering of all human potential. Fiction in particular gives us the opportunity to step back from ourselves and allow questions to be asked, that we would not normally not ask (A master of this was the well-known author Ursula K. Le Guin) and try on a different pair of shoes or clothes or skin.

So, to me writing is… the nourishment of the soul and a meal for the mind. It is the birth of what we can be and perhaps in time, what we will be.