What I’m listening to now. I’ve heard a couple of their songs, and I’ve enjoyed them. I would say if you’re doing something creative or artistic, something that’s your own, and you work better with music (if that type of music is something like this), you may want to give ID a try.
The opulence of the castle’s interior held its radiance as I trailed the wizard’s quiet steps. White walls shot into the sky of its insides, far outside the scope of my vision. I could not help but feel out of place here in these halls; my level of comfort had long been part of the body that was the forest, the trees, and the spirits within them. Although I was the guest here, my body was not right.
The echoes which drifted back to us were those of our footfalls, and they were more whispers than anything else – almost phantasms of sound playing games with my Elvin sense of reality. They existed only if I seemed to imagine them, and when they were not, I questioned whether I imagined them at all.
Upon my travels through the towns of men, I had learned of the word ‘chandelier’ – an arrangement of lights hanging from somewhere above. I did not know the reason for this ceremony, nor why the arrangement of the lights never followed any sort of specific pattern. At first sight, I remember feeling almost afraid. The only reason for such a gathering of luminescence in the High Forest was generally a fire, and one that bright was cause for alarm. Yet those in the world below were mere flickers of a candle compared to those hanging above us as we walked the halls in this place of sorcery. I looked upon them at first with awe in their arrangement. Stagnant glimmering things, they reminded me of the fireflies of my home – giddy spirits of flight and whimsy, which hummed through environments of positivity and celebration. But these were all clustered together, and they changed color, dimming from hue to hue in a progress I could not follow.
But they were floating. The lights were not made in the cities of man, but from some other ethereal material. They were simply hovering fountains of flowing light – and I was there as audience, captivated by their glimmer, their changing color, and their glittered mystical showers.
“My friend.” Heinekin was smiling in the glow of his long untarnished robe. I noticed I had stopped following him and had been led astray by the show of lights off to one of the two sides. Heiniken stood at the other side of a small stone bridge, under which flowed a calming white stream, the extremities I did not attempt to discover. I shook myself away and made my way across the bridge, rejoining my guide.
Several turns and archways later, we entered a room occupied by four others. “Here we are,” Heiniken said, stopping and turning to welcome me to pass him on the way inside. He gestured to an open seat at a short table made of red oak. The light caught the surface and it glimmered as I approached. I noticed the others standing in my periphery. They had risen as we came in. I made cursory eye contact, and brought my eyes back to the glitter-clad stone floor. I took my seat before I allowed my head to swivel in surveying of those seated around me.
“You sure that’s your seat?”
I looked up to the gentle growl of a voice. A swirl of fright rolled through me. Sitting across from me was a ~
“Dragon!” I yelled and the lightening of my reactions thrust me backwards. My seat dropped and my body slammed upon the unforgiving stone. I rose in a flash to my feet, the string of my bow pulled, but my hands shaking with the unsure arrow. Three trials later, just as I had the bow and arrow placed at the ready, they flung from my hands. They moved through the air, separated and lay lightly upon the oaken surface of the communal table.
“It’s not often that guests break my furniture during their first day here,” Heiniken said.
I looked up at him. His demeanor was wizardly – calm, implacable, and I was unsure as to how to read it. Some chuckles came from the table, then I looked down to find the wooden chair now in small jagged wooden pieces across the stone.
“Oh great Mielikki, dear, I’m so very ~”
He chuckled and I watched then each piece, great and small, reform and connect, and the chair in seconds was again standing just as I had found it when I walked in. “Now, shall we try again?” he asked. “Kira, since you’ve already initiated contact, perhaps you should begin.”
The dragon thing cleared its throat and stood. Its frame actually lowered as it stood erect. It’s scaly skin was a beautiful reddish orange, and its eyes were of the same color, but richer and clear.
“I’m Kira, and you needn’t fear me devouring you whole. I am a dragon, yes, but not a full dragon. Not exactly,” she said. “I’m Dragonborn. It should be enough for now that I tell you this much – that I won’t kill you. I’m new here as well.” She gestured to everyone around the table with a nod. “Everyone is.” There was a pause then and I wasn’t sure if she sighed then or was unsure as to what to say to me next. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance,” she said. She grunted and sat back down in her seat. It seemed that it was more the case that she sat ‘up’ in her seat, but perhaps it was a strange ritual of her culture to which I was simply unfamiliar. I was weary of such things; I have never seen those of this creature’s features. The others were human-looking and I felt more accommodated to their ways, but I took my time looking at the draonborn, not knowing what at all to expect from her.
The others went around the table introducing themselves. From the dragonborn there was Tom Cullen, a younger nondescript human. He seemed to me like a farm worker, one closer to nature, from the way he dressed. But it was his behavior that was the most unnerving. I have only found humans to be those I am unable to read. I’ve gotten better with my experience, although most of it has been at a distance. My interaction with them has not always been the most intentional. But this one made my insides strange, turning, different.
He spoke quietly with his eyes down, not to any one of us directly. efusing to focus on those who would listen to his words. His hands fidgeted with something as he spoke. I spotted it instantly as currency, human coin. His hand twirled it back and forth across his knuckles. But the coin moved seemingly without his conscious effort. He looked up and met my eyes once. He made a quick assessment of my face as his fingers allowed quick tickling of the round ounce of silver. He brought his knuckles together and the coin flipped back and forth from one hand to the next.
He straightened then, and smirked. He brought his hands up to his face, begging my eyes to watch. “Did you know that the skin,” he whispered. “Makes the best of masks.” In a fluttering of his fingers, he turned his hands back to me, showing palm and his hand’s obverse. The coin was gone.
“Malcer,” said the man next to him. His voice was grumpy and sounded like the grinding roots of dying elms. A wilted denim hat sat plopped upon the silver tufts which hung upon a young man’s face. His drab traveling robe in need of a good river wash spoke of a man who had known more of the road away from the city of man than the city itself.
“Faëryn of the High Forest,” I said. My voice low with my slight bow.
He grunted. “Been around there a few times in the last hundred years or so. I remember sharing a cup of cinnamon oak wine with your kind once. I was young then, helped out an Elvin friend with some issues with the leaves of the Grandfather Tree.”
I heard my home on this man’s lips and placed my hands together in an Elvin butterfly salute. “Your travels warm the land of my home,” I nodded slightly in the respectful gesture of this man I had never met.
He grunted again, “Cute little fella’” he said. “I was sorry to hear about what happened to your home. And your father.”
Fire grew within me.
“And I don’t think you had a chance to get out of it, if that makes any sense. You or your family.”
“How do you speak of my father like you knew him?” My reaction was swift, but caused by something that still played me like an elm flute.
The man shook his head and looked around the table briefly. “Heineken, I have reason to believe that not all present are understanding of the workings of a wizard.”
The wizard of the castle addressed me then, calmly. “No need to be so hasty for answers, my dear Sylvan. All in good time.” He handed the voice over to the last member of the table other than me, a burly tree of a man who greeted me only with the smiles of the sun. A light from above shone upon him, taking my focus off Malcer, his denim hat falling into the shadows. Heineken’s house was an animal under its master’s control.
“Blessings young traveler,” he said, his arms opening as he leaned in. Without the slightest hesitation his oaken arms crunched me into him and I was clung to his body with force. I yelped a bit and the pressure vanished as he pulled back and held me by the shoulders. “Oh Sweet Lathander, are you all right?! What’s wrong?”
“Elves,” Heineken cut in, “Mr. Thresh, are not accustomed to the necessities of physical touch as you are.”
The man turned back to me and guffawed. “Ha! Well, you have my apologies, young friend. I am Dolan Thresh.” He held a hand out, realizing it would be more accommodating greeting for my kind. Abashedly, I bowed my head and offered the butterfly greeting of my people with my introduction.
“It is by the grace of Lathander the Bright that we have shared this path. You have my sword, my blood, and my heart.”
There was an exhaustive sigh across the table. “Can we sort of push things along, please.” Tom Cullen was looking at Heineken pleadingly.
“Wizards, Mr. Cullen, are often want to enjoy a bit of human spirit,” said our host, graceful. “But yes,” he addressed the party as a whole, “we may continue after we hear from you, Faëryn.”
My words were few, but I stuck to the topic that I knew, wanting only to give the basics of who I was and the story of my arrival.
“And now that you all are here, here is my task for you. Collectively, I’d like you to ensure the safe journey of a particular caravan. There is a family of royalty who needs to make their destination. They happen to be passing through some lands that are rather dangerous.” He looked around the table. “Their survival is something I am asking you to protect.”
“We were brought to you great castle in the sky so that you could tell us to protect people down below to get from one point to another?” Kira’s voice expressed another flavor of dissatisfaction. “I’m sorry,” she said, getting up from the table, the height of her form dropping a bit when she stood. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather just be on my way. Forgive me if I was expecting something a bit more of an adventure.”
“Please,” the great wizard said, raising his hand to her. Kira’s body lifted and was reset into her seat at the table. “Do sit down.”
When she was seated again, Malcer’s voice came through, his head shaking a bit. “The ways of the wizard; they never understand.”
“I beg you all to be patient,” Heineken said. “I am not finished addressing you.
“Let us begin here,” he said. He made another slight motion with both of his hands and, together, we were wrapped with beautiful green traveling capes clasped in front of us with a shiny golden broach – a serpentine beast eating its own tail. The end of its tail carried three small red stones, a deep velvet green one sparked in its eyes. It clasped in front, and each of us, I noticed, felt them, touched them, wanted to understand them.
“You are henceforth to be known as the Clan of the Mist, an explanation to which I am cannot now reveal. This broach is your symbol of unity, your safe ground, your bastion of community and trust. The caravan is your current task, not the full adventure to which I am asking you to commit. I am sending you forth, in no uncertain terms, into an unknowable future of both glory and misery. You will find yourselves risking all in search of your own personal glories, and with great reward, as natural law has it, comes the greatest of risks. From outside the circles of these trials, this very adventure own vision, both Death and Eternity will be watching. I have selected you for a grand and thematic journey, and it has taken me a good deal of strain upon my patience. But I am quite confident that I have chosen with an adequate degree of sapience.”
He looked over to Kira and gestured with an open hand. “Yes, my dear Dragonborn. Should you choose to leave now, and return the sanctity of your mundane life of prize fighting for survival, I will allow you to do so. You’ll not be asked for anything further, you will return to your life, and you will not hear from me again. This I leave as your choice.”
Heineken stopped then and waited, looking at her.
Kira said nothing.
“But should you choose to say,” he looked then at all of us. “I will accept this as your final formal declaration of acceptance, and there will no longer be an option to turn back…ever.”
None of us said anything.
“Well then!” Heineken smiled and opened his palms. There was a renewed light which shone then upon the entire table. “It pleases me to have you! Let this be your welcome from me and the entirety of my cloud home. You will stay for the evening and your entertainment and meal will be grand. You will leave at first light, and it will be as a party in whole.”
We dined, and some of us even laughed, we got to know each other a bit. There were words spoken, and in our own ways, we were still ourselves, yet we also knew that we had given ourselves to Heineken and this party. And the next day we would find out a small part of what that meant.
“Kill the perfect. Slay the angels. Fuck the gods.”
Chuck always seems to find the words.
To the writers, may you run toward your own success.
WRITING IS A PROFANE, IRRATIONAL, IMPERFECT ACT
Writing is a profane act.
I don’t literally mean in the FUCK THIS, SHIT THAT way (though for me that tends to be true enough just the same). But I mean profane in the classic sense: it’s a heretical, disrespectful act. Crass! Irreverent! Writing and storytelling is this… nasty task of taking the perfect idea that exists in your head and shellacking it all up by dragging it through some grease-slick fontanelle in order to make it real. You’re just shitting it all to hell, this idea. You have it in your mind: golden and unbreakable. And then in reality, ugh. You’ve created a herky-jerky simulacrum, a crude facsimile of your beautiful idea run through the copy machine again and again until what you started with is an incomprehensible spread of dong-doogle hieroglyphics.
The end result will never match the expectation.
You will never get it just right.
The idea is God: perfect, divine, incapable of repudiation, utterly untouchable.
The result is Man: fumbling, foolish, a jester’s mockery, a bundle of mistakes in tacky pants.
Nobody is good enough to tell the stories and ideas inside them. I mean that sincerely. The ideas in my head are shining beams of light, perfect and uninterrupted. And when they finally exist on paper, they end up fractured and imperfect — beams of light through grungy windows and shattered prisms, shot through with motes of dust, filtered up, watered down.
But sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes, a beam of light is still a beam of light no matter how diffuse it is, no matter how dirty the light, no matter how filthy the floor is that it illuminates. And when it’s not enough, you keep on trying until it is. Because eventually, it becomes that. The only reason it doesn’t become that isn’t a lack of skill or talent, but giving up before that lack of skill or talent shows up on the page. The only true failure is giving up and giving in.
I write this in response to a colleague who was talking on Facebook about the ideas in his head never matching the expression of those ideas, whether from a lack of skill or talent or intelligence. Thing is, it’s true. My colleague is right. Those things will never match. No matter how hard you try, because the only way to get our stories out of our heads and into your heads we first need to translate them into mundane language. And when you translate one language into another, you introduce imperfections, inaccuracies, misunderstandings. You move the Bible from Enochian angeltongue to Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English and you lose something vital — once, the Bible was about a guy named Dave who saved the Galaxy with his unicorn army. Now it’s blah blah blah something about “Jesus” and “loving one another.” Writing is always this: an adaptation of the sacred into smut. Dragging the divine out of his Sky Chariot and into the human dirt.
But me, I like that aspect.
I like making God into sausages.
I like dragging those angels down into the slurry, dirtying their wings, breaking their harps.
I like translating the beautiful celestial song and grunting it in our human chimp-shrieks.
Because that’s the only way it will ever exist.
Because if there’s one thing that is imperfect about perfection –
It’s that it’s too perfect to live.
It’s unreal. And I don’t truck much with unreality.
Writing unwritten is a promise unfulfilled. I’d rather make the promise and complete it badly than make the promise and never even try. A story untold is a life unlived. What’s the point? If you want to do this thing, you have to set yourself up against unrealistic expectations. You cannot combat perfection because perfection? That smiling, shiny jerk always wins. You do what you do, crass and irreverent as it may be, because committing heresy in the name of art is far better than huffing invisible God-farts and cleaving only to invisible philosophy.
We’re told to do no harm.
But sometimes, you have to trample pretty daisies to get where you’re going.
This also means setting for yourself realistic, reasonable metrics for success. A day’s worth of writing is a success. Finishing the thing is a success. Separate that out from the aspect of professional, business success. You can’t control that kind of success, though you can maximize your luck and that means first finishing what you begin. If you want to create? Create. If you want to write and tell stories, do that. Don’t give yourself over to unkind, cruel standards. Judge yourself fairly. Work despite perfect expectations. Those who try to master perfection will always fall to those who iterate, and reiterate, and create, and recreate. Art is better than philosophy. Creation, however clumsy, is always better than sitting on your hands and fearing what damage they can do.
Kill the perfect. Slay the angels. Fuck the gods.
You’re human. You’ll get it wrong. Everybody gets it wrong.
But getting it wrong is the only way you get close to getting it right.
That was quick, wasn’t it? A flash insight into the workings of Time. As soon as the the ball drops and a new year is upon us, we always think about how quickly time flies. ‘Where did it go?’, we wonder. And somewhere not too long after that thought comes another thought, ‘Shit. I have to go back to work.’ And we do, and boom, before we know it, it’s over again. Another year whizzes by. And in another blink, another 20 years after that.
Oh the comedy of the Universe.
But what else can we do but enjoy each moment given to us?
My first weekend? Well, some of this, some of that. I wish I had more time with my wife. Yes, Love, I know we see each other every day, but hey, when I want more time, I want more time.
Her response is something like, “If you wanted more time with me, why did you play D&D for 10 hours?”
Let’s move on.
Had some pizza, read, a bit of prep, a bit of work,
What about you out there? How was your weekend?
The Wizard’s Plan
They’re the ones to blame,
Singing in silent voices, making the world rain,
They parade in the daytime, take flight at night,
They watch us when we sleep, and sleep not themselves.
Violet robes, long noses, wild hats, peaking above us all,
They carry staves, of course, what wizard would be
without one? And they read, you see? Read, read, endlessly.
Spells, or songs (although those are mostly for the bards),
Incantations, curses, and give no care,
Unaware, perhaps, of right and wrong.
Yet we’re the ones who suffer, aren’t we?
We bare the brunt of their frivolity, their unbidden wizardry.
They are the voices in our heads,
The man in the moon,
The mischief under our beds,
And the men behind the Rune Witches.
I can provide one reason upon another,
Hoping that you’ll understand,
But you’ll never look past my own responsibility,
When I know the truth,
It’s all a part of the Wizards’ plan.
We came upon the temple early in our expeditions. We were a relatively new band of travelers, yet fate had assembled us both with the tools of wanderlust and bloodlust. Not necessarily two words I would have fashioned together artfully, but my reasons for joining the band were simpler than that, and they were my own.
I had left the Mountain earlier than most of my tribe, but I had received permission from Master Grunsi – I alone, one of only a handful in the past ten years. My thanks to him, even now, years after his passing, are still inexpressible, and doubtless just as so in any form of human tongue.
“Charin,” he said, I remember vividly, sitting on the high seat of the Old Oak, his hands together at the tips, and his eyes closed lightly, pensive, but not sleeping. “The world beyond these boarders does not favor the female.” And upon opening his eyes, he said these words to me, the last I remember from his lips, “let not their judgments mask your good sense, even less, your will to be everything your heart calls you to be. You are in this world,” he said. “But not of it. Make what living you must to exist here, but follow always only the road of your innerness.”
The next morning before the sun’s light, I walked out; I descended the Mountain, leaving my tribe and the routine of my life of the previous 20 years.
I drifted among towns, the names of which are all now to me a blur. I made what living I could, practicing my Forms in the bits of the morning where most humans were still dreaming. I stayed low, just as I was taught, allowing those of this place to see me as a servant, an animal, a filth worker, even at times (their thoughts were clear) a whore. I did chores, menial, often sub-human, making what this new world (they called themselves ‘civilized’) called coin. They would pay for anything, even the most simple of duties. I raked hay, cleaned stables, collected eggs and firewood. I even spoke to the blind, told them stories, allowed them to listen to my voice. I collected several coppers each time, giving them only my company, an ear for their voices, a voice for them to hear as well – allowing them to still feel that they weren’t altogether ignored. That they were still acknowledged, part of the village and the people there.
In the morning, under the stars, my Forms were flawless, strong. I was faster than they knew. And I was just as much a part of the quiet that bolstered their sleep as was the silent air around their pillows. When they woke, I was there, dirt-covered, homely, not worthy of rivaling their own self-defined status.
But Wanderers are not made to keep to one town, one group of people, one view of the same. This was something I felt, and a feeling that, although a part of my innerness, with which I was ineffably intimate. I moved when I was called. Left. My belongings were scarce, but far more than sufficient.
Then came the one town where I found a stream of adventure to quench (at least dull) the cravings of my Wandering vessel’s soul.
It began in a small tavern of uninteresting description. It was a regular day, but an irregular late night.
There was a brawl beginning far after midnight. To an outsider, this was perhaps a shocking occurrence. But I had, at the time, been working there for more than several months, toiling behind the bar top, washing unwanted food and spit from used platters and food tools, and the brawl to those of us there, was quite commonplace.
Patrons in the common space were few, which, the barman was pleased reduced the number of lost platters and less clean up.
The initiators were a small group of drunk heroes who had drawn their swords and, for reasons still unknown to me, began swinging wildly.
Without noticing a man in the back suffered a large slash down his back and across his arm at the shoulder.
When he yelled, I jumped from my duties into the center room, grabbing free-standing mugs as I went. The mugs went first with one throw, each tagging the men above the neck with a string of cracks. My flurry of blows was invisible, but heavy in damage.
I recall the breaking of two jaws and more than ten ribs. The men were soft piles of unthreatening whimpers as I went over to the patron of the tavern. I went to check on his status. He had been slashed wholly on the back, but made no mention of it when inquired.
Yet, he offered more than his thanks. He had no name to go with his red eyes – they glowed in an odd inhuman way. He left that night with few words to me other than his brief gratitude. I returned to my chores, ignoring as best I could the surprise and incessant questions from the barman. “Lucky,” I said. “Just luck.”
The man, however, the red-eyed man, found me again the next morning, shortly after sunrise. Four others were with him. F’nor, Wen, and a short woman among them, greeted me as I was already one of them. There was one who spoke very little, another woman. Maynith. She had powers. Inhuman powers. Psionic, they called them. They recruited me into their travellings, persuading me (with relative ease) of the boons of this life. It was for their own benefit, but many would do well during the course of which. We would help others, as well as ourselves. Coin, prize, and the unknown.
I left with them then.
A temple of bandits was our first encounter.
I write this here deep into the long road I have traveled in the shadow of this choice. I have witnessed the death of several of those from this, my original company of friends. I have gained coin and my team glory. We have encountered feral oddities beyond words. And here, and now, I know not whether I’ll be able to see again the quiet stars of an early morning where the ‘civilized’ knew nothing of my origin, my quiet Forms, and my heart’s desire to roam. I have chosen to follow my way as a Wanderer – to face risk of death if it would allow me to see other lands, other people, and breath the air of other sides of this world.
I have made my choices, and I suffer no regrets. Not even if this be my final entry in the script of man.
I’ve told you about how much I love Chuck Wendig in the past. This is another example of his stuff. He writes all the time and is one of my prime inspirations in the writerly life.
I haven’t written in a bit, but it’s still there and I’m still at it, tackling the big piles of the distractive life as it fires it’s photon missiles at me when it thinks I’m least expecting it.
This post is a reminder, Penmonky style, about living for the moment.
There is no such thing as later/tomorrow/the future/ afterwards. There’s only now.
I know you know this, but we’re always the cocky fuckers who forget and think we have time, which is never the case, is it? It’s always Father Time who’s got us, by the nethers…the perv.
YOU ARE TOTALLY GOING TO DIE
It’s there, on the hill. Or in the valley. Maybe under a cherry blossom tree or by a babbling creek. Or maybe you’re a sack of kitty-litter-looking ashes on a mantle somewhere. It doesn’t much matter because, drum roll please, you’re dead.
Or, rather, you’re going to be dead. One day.
No, I’m not threatening you. I don’t have to. Life paired with time have together earned that pleasure. Unless you’re some kind of vampire, you were born with a ticking clock whose watchface was turned inward so that none can see it.
You are totally going to die.
I’m not Miriam Black. I don’t know when. Might be 50 years from now. Or ten. Or ten weeks, days, minutes. I certainly don’t know how. Cancer might juice your bowels. A hunk of frozen shit might fall off a 747 turbine and crush you in your recliner. Bear attack. Meth overdose. Choke on a hot wing. Stroke. Heart attack. Robot uprising. No fucking clue. And I don’t want to know the specifics. I don’t need to know the specifics because we are all given over to the universality of a limited mortality. The one aspect of our lives that is utterly and irrevocably shared is death.
That’s grim shit, I know.
I’ve spent a goodly portion of my life worrying about death. Or, more to the point, about how it’ll get me. I picture death less as a comical specter and more as the black dog of myth, always hounding my steps, ducking out of sight as I look for it, but always regaining my scent and waiting for the opportune moment to strike. Sometimes this manifested as a kind of hypochondria, a condition no doubt exacerbated by a Reader’s Digest Medical Guidebook I found in my house when I was around 10 years old, a book whose graphic flowcharts aimed to help you discern the truth of your symptoms — though of course they usually ended up convincing me I had some kind of rare tropical doom parasite. (For a while I seriously thought I had worms in my face. For no reason other than my teeth had left marks on the inside of my cheeks and became convinced that these divots were WORM TUNNELS. So, y’know, thanks Reader’s Digest.)
If it wasn’t hypochondria plaguing me, it was sheer existential terror. The realization that one day everything I know and everything that I am would one day hit an invisible wall and drop off into a deep, black sea trench, never to be reclaimed. And maybe never remembered — after all, all those who care about me would one day be dead, too.
I know. WHEE, right?
There comes a point when all this either was going to keep pinning me to the ground like a heavy boot or it was going to be the thing that I could push past or even use as a springboard to fling my dopey ass forward. One day it occurred to me that this revelation about death could be viewed as something representative of freedom. A grim, unruly freedom, one with a somewhat grisly underpinning, but freedom just the same. Because we all share this thing. We all share the reality of an impending death. We are all dying. Right now. All part of a cycle of birth, life, decay, death, all part of the washing machine tumble of chaos and order, structure and entropy, light and dark.
None of us — not a single one — are promised tomorrow.
We share that because we share the possibility of death.
But we share something else, too.
We share This Fucking Moment Right Fucking Here.
This one. The one with the masking tape across it and the permanent marker signifying:
We all get now.
We all get the moment in which we exist.
A lot of you are writers. (Or “aspiring” writers, a term I hate so bad it causes a sudden chafing of my testicular region as if some surly ghost were rubbing a spectral bootbrush against my nads even as I sit here and type.) And whenever I talk to writers and we get down to the nitty gritty of what they’re doing or hope to one day accomplish, they’re often mired in a sense of fear. Paralyzed sometimes by the what if’s and the big blinky question marks that look as much like a swooping scythe as they do a piece of punctuation. And a lot of writers are forward-thinking or future-leaning, expecting that the day will come that everything will work itself out and life’s magic highway will present them with an endless series of green lights…
…and they’ll finally get to do what they want to do.
My father lived his life in preparation for his retirement. Set everything up so that he could retire a bit early, move out West, and live his remaining years with the pleasurable, simple life for which he had waited. Of course, he died a few years into that retirement — so, while he had the privilege of living some of his dream, it sure wasn’t much when seen in the shadow of an entire life prepared for it. Too little time in the sun, too long in the anticipation of it.
Writers, artists, anybody: you are not promised that time.
You are promised right now.
I’ve said this before and I like to give a lot of these go forth and do it, please excuse my Doc Marten firmly ensconced in your spongy squat-grotto talks, and this one probably isn’t all that different from things you may have heard me say before. But it’s a thing I sometimes like to remind myself, and since this blog is primarily me-yelling-at-me, it’s a thing I’m going to remind you about, too.
You’re going to die, writer-types.
But you have now, right now, so use it.
And you may think that this advice for the aspiring-types only, for those novitiates on the Sacred Penmonkey Order, but it’s not. It’s for you story-seasoned word-brined motherfuckers, too. Because writers with careers short and long, we sometimes get a little lost in the weeds. Lost in things outside of us. Trends and markets, industries and Amazon rankings. We find ourselves jealous of other writers or fearful of the uncomfortable arranged marriage between the forces of art and commerce. Sometimes we forget that we have things we want to do, stories we want to tell, and we lose that in that the briar-tangle of uncertainty and anxiety and existential unease. Because just as we can as humans worry about the very nature of our existence, we can worry about our existence as writers, too. We worry about how long we’ll be allowed to do what we do. We wonder when someone will figure out that we’re stowaways on this ship, imposters at this party, strangers in our own chosen lives.
None of that really matters. I mean, it matters in little ways — in intellectual, commercial ways. But it doesn’t always help you to tell the tales you want to tell. It doesn’t always force that quantum entanglement between your ass molecules and the chair protons so that you can create some motherfucking art quarks, does it?
You can’t control a lot of the things you’re worried about.
You can maybe adjust them, or nudge them.
But you can’t control publishing. Or the audience. Or bookstores.
You can’t control whether a fridge-sized shit-glacier will drop off a plane and kill you.
What you can control is the height of your chair. You can control a little of your comfort as you sit at the desk — or stand, if you prefer. You can control which word processor you use, or which notebook you prefer. You can control what words you put down, in what order, and what story grows up from those words. You can control the work. That’s yours. Everything else is open to your occasional influence, but the one thing you can control is that you are writing this book.
And you have that control right now.
In this moment.
Not in ten years.
Because you don’t know what happens then.
You do know that one day, it’ll all be over. And I can’t speak to what comes after — Heaven, Hell, Hades, Happy Hunting Grounds, Toledo — but that’s not the point. You don’t live for the end. You live for the moment. You live for this thing you want to do.
So, do it.
Use that to create something permanent — or, at least, closer to permanent than you.
Let death motivate you. Let your inevitable demise impel you forward.
Go. Create something. Be the best version of yourself. Now. Here. This very second.
While you’re still alive.
Seamus in the flesh
This one goes out to the artists, the people who spend their time creating – the painters, the musicians, the designers, the writers, the architects, the drawers, the sculptors, and everything between those lines. This is for those who dream actively, knowing that thought without action is still as unproductive as sitting in front of the television letting Someone Else tell you what to think. This is for those who go out into the world every day knowing that no matter what they make, what they create, or how inspirational and aesthetically pleasing their work is, it likely will not be seen or appreciated by another living being, ever…and they do it anyway.
This is for those who, regardless of age, come home after work, tired, hungry, and unwilling, and still decide to go within and be alone with the voice of their own creation. This is for those who walk past the notion of “do it tomorrow”, because tomorrow is a dream, and yesterday’s gone. The artist knows that now is all we have, and all we ever have.
To the critics, the non-doers – we love that you’ve chosen to spend your time pointing fingers at us instead of using your limitless human potential to build. We love that instead of walking through the swamp, you’ve decided to join the anthill of sideline judges, adding to the swarm of buzzards, and the vultures circling above, waiting for us to trip, fall, fail, and die. You sit there, grumbling, waiting for that one chance to say, “See? I told you, you shouldn’t have wasted your time on that “art” nonsense.”
And we do fall. And we love getting back up for you. We love that you’ve decided to spend your lives blaming the rest of us, and thinking, no, believing, we can hear your voices. But they’re too weak, so easily lost in the hiss of a crowd that we’ve long grown used to. We love that you think your voices matter to us. We love the way you inspire us to succeed. Please keep talking; you’re making what we do look so much better.
This is for those who realize that “our days are the precious currency of our lives,” and take action in that knowing.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and dares to live the life that he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
This is for those who race toward the finish line of their own ideals. Those who, against all odds, all obstacles, all naysayers, “rules”, guilt trips, distractions, and emotional games choose still to take to their calling, and work, every day, even if to a small degree, as this is still progression.
This is for those who’ve met with Fear, and have decided not to turn, not to run, but to hold his hand and keep walking into his cave. To those who, in some way, walk with him every day, and grow stronger, absorbing a strange familiarity in his awkward chill of unknowns.
To those who create, those who have battled with resisting voices, both inner and outer, and have come to hear the softest (but the truest) voice of them all, floating amid that wild tempest of censorious tongues. This is to those who’ve latched on to this voice, the voice of their own spirit, and allowed themselves to be pulled outside the world of logic and “sense”. To those who’ve allowed the Spirit within them to rush out into a world teeming with those too afraid to lead and too quick to follow, those, welcoming whatever reactions make come, still aver with sonorous resolution, “I choose to live my life by my own devising.” …
To all of you, and to your ideals, I honor you, and celebrate the daily pursuit of your spirit.