A little night music

It’s midnight and the house is still and quiet. All of my friends have gone to bed for a few hours now. I was going to edit, but I know how my brain gets this late at night with something like that, so instead I have been listening to music. Tonight it has been Alice In Chains, specifically their Unplugged album. Brother, Down in a Hole, Nutshell…it’s a smooth as the whiskey I wish I had right now. But I don’t.

There’s nothing in my glass tonight to cloud my thoughts or mask my feelings. Stark, like dancing shadows cast on the wall by candlelight.

There are just some nights like this where the world is so silent. I’m not even drifting through an evening of melancholy. I’m just here in my place, listening to the harmony of Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley. I’m sure if I could plot it on a graph, I would see that this time of year is rife with Alice in Chains listening. I don’t know what it is about November. The change of the seasons, the creeping darkness that takes over just a little bit more each passing day, or the emptiness that surrounds this month like a scratchy blanket.

The music keeps the night at bay. It’s like the warmth of a glowing fireplace, the sound of crackling wood popping and hissing in the flames.

Today I produced a new episode of my podcast. None of my posts sold on the platform I write for. There’s always next week to build more potential sales. But I am hoping to get away from that. Making the podcasts is a lot more fun, fulfilling. A friend suggested I add some intro and outro music to boost production value. I have been holding off on that because royalty free music is more than I can afford. Then I remembered that twenty five years ago, I was in a band and we made a demo. I still have most of the songs on my computer, and hell…might as well dust them off and let them see the light of day for a change.

In doing so, I had to watch some tutorials on GarageBand, which is what I use to record the tracks. For being a piece of software that comes with the computer, it’s not bad. I don’t think I had wittingly played any of these songs in years. They might have come up in my shuffle from time to time, and I would probably skip them if I was paying attention. Just like a lot of things, I only hear the mistakes. I only hear how green and unpolished my playing was. And sometimes I remember the end of that time and the friendships that faded. But we all made something together, and at the time, we had fun doing it.

I had to choose between a couple of the songs. Just about any of them would have worked, and fading in and then ending the show with one was a nice touch. I guess you just have to use your resources and do what you can and sometimes you are pleased with the result. Each day I record something new, I learn something I didn’t know before, and I get to add that to my skillset. It’s genuine growth and accomplishment that I can measure. Sometimes it’s a nice diversion from editing, which I’m having a problem with lately. Mostly because I am being forced to look at my mistakes, and can quantify my growth as a writer from even a year or two ago with the novel, but also because there is no promise or monetary reward. My conditioning–like a lot of us–has been to give value only to things with a payoff. We shuffle off to our jobs every day, and we are rewarded with money that sustains us just well enough to keep us coming back to our jobs.

When you take on a project like writing a book, or making a podcast without any promise of a paycheck, it’s hard to keep yourself motivated. You have only yourself driving the process and a lot of the time you wonder what the point of any of it really is. That fear that creeps up just out of your periferal vision can be real sometimes. You can feel it breathing down the back of your neck. Hot, stale breath. Putrid. It’s the smell of a mass grave where so many dreams have gone to die.

Yet, if you listen to a beautiful song, or read poetry, someone else took that path, just like you are trying to do. They made it to the other side and they gave a gift to the world. That gift gets to fill your heart when the empiness would otherwise allow it to collapse. It’s moments I think about that which push the fear back into the shadows. A bright light that warms my bones and lets me keep going. Understanding that this work is as important as anything I could do pushing papers from one side of my desk to the other for someone else. Likely much more important.

It’s hard sometimes to remember that. Especially late at night when the bills are due and I have responsibilities the Muse doesn’t concern herself with. Anyway, not a lot of people will get what I’m saying. It probably makes no sense. The only reason it does to me is because I lived the other way for so long, and it did nothing for me. It started to break my spirit down until I could hardly do anything unless it was assigned by some kind of boss or schedule.

You can water plants and they might grow, but without sunshine, they will never bloom.

I fight myself everyday to do the work, and once I’m in it, I absolutely love it. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take time, with a lot of quiet evenings wishing I had a drink in my hand to counteract the demons of fear with the spiritis of oblivion. It’s going to take the rattle of my fingers on the keyboard, the scratch of my pen on the page. Reading silently, reading outloud, and hammering away at it until it is ready.

Or something to that effect.

Tonight’s podcast is about getting out of your own way. I wish it could have been longer, but I’m out of free minutes for the month. More will come in December. In the meantime, I’m going to script out some new episodes, record them, and post as they are produced.

That’ll do, Pig

Today I was supposed to work on paid posts, and instead, I decided to edit the book and then I took a nap and recorded two podcasts I had scripted last week. My batteries are drained right now, and though I had tried to edit a little bit more, the words are all just mushing together. So, I’m going to spend the last bit of my energy to post here.

I cut through the last chapters of the first 1/3 of my book. I gutted a lot of stuff. I decided one plot point really wasn’t that important. I might come back to it in subsequent drafts, but really I was just sick of that character and needed to end it. I was getting bogged down in the details. The character needed to make their departure and it was done for the sake of pacing. By cutting out that one detail, I was able to compress three different scenes and really bring out another scene that was more important.

Onward and upward with the next section! I can already tell that the writing here is more solid. The story is coherent, focused. I can work on things like technique and threading storylines together. Flashbacks. Parallels. Themes. Developing characters and their story arcs. The first part was mostly just to set the stage, make a connection, and like beginnings, it was a little rough. I’ll smooth that out in future drafts.

When I was recording my podcasts, I had to turn off my floor heater because of background noise. I just realized now why my legs are cold. It’s kinda neat when I figured out that I hadn’t even noticed being cold. I was putting things together, doing good work, and just in the zone. It would be awesome to make a living doing this kind of thing. In just under two weeks, I have eight episodes and 58 downloads and climbing. Here’s the link for Spotify Here’s the link for ApplePodcasts. That’s all I’ve got left in me for links tonight.

The other day, I watched the Jonah Hill documentary, Stutz, where he interviews his therapist. He had a lot of good things to say which helped this whole process of being a creative. Particularly what we attach ourselves to as far as self-worth and work go. He said there are three things we all have to experience as human beings. Pain, Uncertainty, and knowing that there will always be more work to do. Sometimes people, like me, have a hard time even getting out of bed. We see the constant work as unsurmountable. Pointless if it keeps coming and there is no reward to it. Stutz seemed to take a stoic approach that the work is its own reward sometimes. He had a theory he called the string of pearls, which has helped lately. The idea of it is that you look at everything you need to do during the day as a pearl on a strand. No pearl is more important than the next. Your goal is to just take each moment of your day and add it to the string. Starting with getting out of bed. And in each pearl is the crap you have to deal with. So each pearl is good and bad, encapsulated.

I think today I strung enough pearls together. In a few minutes I’m going to go to bed, hopefully exhausted enough to just fall asleep. Penny has already come in twice to tell me to come to bed. She’s been laying out in front of the furnace, and her fur is nice and toasty warm. Her nose is cold and wet, and she keeps using it to nudge me. Dad! It’s time for bed!

I think I did enough today. I didn’t put the pearls of paid assignment writing on the string today, but I did something that gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. The book is moving forward. The story is being told. I understand now that the story doesn’t have to be told as everything happened. I can work the story like clay and it can become something else with the same lessons learned. The same growth.

That’s all I’ve got in me for tonight.

Meditations

Recently I was reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Talk about the definition of you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. He had so much stuff figured out over 1800 years ago. We’ve had these books he wrote forever and yet…

There were many passages that resonated with me. I liked the one about living in the past.

No one can lose either the past or the future – how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? … It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.

–Marcus Aurelius

Yeah, I know the stoics are getting a lot of traction these days, especially with men. But I think that is because they are some wise words that are needed in some crazy times. Men aren’t taught to be men anymore. Maybe they haven’t been for a while. When I think of a man, I think more of Atticus Finch than I do some guy with truck nuts on his lifted square body Chevy. People who set about doing what needs to be done, using their brains instead of beating their chests. I grew up in a place that was very man’s man oriented. Mostly these men worked a hard job, came home, sat on the couch and told everyone not to bother them, and fell asleep in their underwear watching TV. On the weekends, they would stand around and drink Bud Light with their pals and worry about whether or not their sons were “queer.”

The women in my town also worked. Then they ran their homes. Took care of the kids. And someplace in the middle, usually one would cheat on the other and they would all pair up with somebody else at the bar. It’s a small town. You have to be civil, since you are definitely going to wind up having to be around one or several exes.

People in all sorts of places I have lived have just always found a way to fall into drama. They are always fighting with someone, screwing somebody over, hurting themselves or each other. People feel an obligation to make each other’s lives hell, and I can’t figure out why.

I can’t figure out why whenever I do something that makes me happy, like go on a trip or do something for myself, I’m expected to feel guilty about it. Like that isn’t for me. It’s for anybody else but me. I no longer subscribe to that kind of silliness.

I am the person I am. I am not the culmination of the bullshit I have endured in my life, but I have been tempered by it. These days I do what I want and honestly, I haven’t found it any harder than doing what was expected of me. I don’t have a great history with doing what was expected of me. There are so many billiion of us on the planet, with most of us subscribing to some sort of social construct. In America, you might be familiar with: Choose life…

Go to school, get good grades, get into college, get into a relationship, find a job, get married, have kids, take a vacation once every year or so, save money for retirement, spend a day a week catching up with friends (usually drinking), get divorced, go wild for a bit, experiment with alternative lifestyles/get really into church, go back to school, remarry (usually without doing anything to fix yourself), get divorced again/or just compare your first spouse with your current one forever, wear socks with sandals, wear matching jogging suits with your second spouse. Have some sort of surgery that limits your mobility. Live vicariously through your children who are doing nearly exactly what you did. Get frail. Wish you had done more when you were young. Die.

See how easy that is?

Well, I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. I chose peace.

Which sounds great, but I still have to eat. I still scramble each month to meet my financial obligations, and I still have rough days like today.

This morning started off at 7am. I got up, noticing the light outside was nice. I loaded Penny up in the car and started driving. We stopped along the road to Steamboat several times to take pictures. I’m working on building my portfolio, but the thing I keep running into is it seems like that sort of work is part of a tightly knit network of people who don’t want anybody else in the treehouse with them. I am struggling with knowing how to break into it all. Some days I think about giving up. But the work feels good. I was happy to be up this morning early to work.

The writing has stalled briefly. The paid work has overshadowed it just a little and though I just want a day to sit down and edit and work on my book, I keep wondering what the point is in all of it. I post cool stuff on social media that only a handful of people see. I write things on my blog that even fewer people read.

Who is going to read my books?

Maybe I should quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock?

But one thing I do always remind myself is a bad day of writing is better than the best day at a day job working for someone who would replace you within two weeks of your death. Within a year, nobody would even know you sat in that chair for fifteen years. Watching your life tick tick away on that clock on the wall.

No thank you.

Some days I just have to give myself a little grace and know that I’m working. Maybe my rewards are just further down the line. I can only control what is happening now, and I shouldn’t worry about the future, and I shouldn’t be saddened by the past.

Here are some shots I took today. I’d like to think my photography is getting better.