Bona Fiscalia

The first time I heard this expression was when I saw Katee Sackhoff at a convention. She had just finished her role as Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica and people were asking her about her tattoos. One of them she described with a hitch in her voice which implied that it was extremely personal and telling. She told of the tattoo which said, “Bona Fiscalia.” Public Property.

In being in the public view, she said, she had a responsibility to being an example to others, good or bad, whether she wanted to be or not.

The reason I bring this up is because my writing here, as well as my travel site have the disadvantage of giving people an idea of who I am. By now, anybody should know that the art doesn’t necessarily embody the artist. But my words on my blogs are continually used to represent me, arm-chair psychoanalize, and are constantly being used out of context against me.

If you have read a blog, you need to understand that this is not a diary. This is a narrative. This is storytelling. In much the same way that JRR Tolkien wrote about hobbits and dragons or Stephen King writes about murderers and the supernatural. I wonder if today, people who cannot distinguish a story from reality should really be allowed to walk the streets unsupervised.

Yet this keeps coming back to bite me in the ass. Writing is therapuedic–if anything just to make sense of the world–but in many of the things I write, I am also telling a story. A story, which I hope resonnates with someone else who has had similar experiences. Because one of the things about the human condition is that we are social animals. I know that when I have gone through some of my hardest times, it would have just been nice to have read someone else’s story and know that I wasn’t alone. That someone else had gone through hell too.

That, my dear readers, is how we got literature in the first place. It’s also what made freedom of speech the First Amendment of our constitution. Freedom of expression is crucial to liberty. Not only on the large scale with government, but also in our interpersonal relationships.

So for anyone to think that by cherry picking what I write here or anywhere else is some shortcut into my true thoughts and beliefs, they need to take a fucking literature class or something. I am becoming more and more aware that my life, everytime I write about it, or an analog of my experiences, or just flat out create content comes under scrutiny. Especially by those who are incapable of divorcing literal meaning from a story, or just accepting that I’m not always going to agree with them. What I write has no more reflection on my mental state than Stephen King’s or Jo Rowling’s does. If anyone thinks I have delusions of grandeur in comparing myself with these authors, let me state that I picked two examples I think just about everyone has heard of. Because those who lose the tone on these might not know what a book is if I got any more obscure in listing authors.

These are the same kinds of people who try to cash in expired coupons and demand to speak to the manager. These are the same kinds of people who text in theatres. Cut others off in traffic. Kick puppies when people aren’t looking. The same kind of people who only shop at Trader Joes and ask if the coffee beans at Starbucks were humanely sourced.

So I can either stop writing…which for a writer is actually awful for their mental health. Not to mention pretty much against my rights to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Or I can ignore them and continue to write, even when someone squawks or completely misses the point of something that I have written. Both suck. Because for some reason people just can’t keep scrolling if they don’t like something I have said. Instead, they fixate on it and obsess over it. Honestly, I would block them from reading it if I could, because it doesn’t sound healthy.

Just a reminder. Katee Sackhoff isn’t really a spaceship pilot, there aren’t clowns in the sewers who turn into big spiders, nobody is going to send an owl to your kid to recruit him for wizard school, and even though I live in a small town in the mountains, I can assure you it is better than any city I have lived in, which have been choked with crime, where homeless people live in the parks, and you can check a website to see what sex offenders have been registered on your block.

For now, I guess I’m just public property.

Better Boundaries

One of the things I have encountered while trying to write full time is how much it just looks to other people like you are screwing around.

Yes, there is some screwing around to be expected, but a lot of what you don’t see is mapping out your thoughts, drawing in information, and trying to get to a state of equilibrium where the outside distractions are at a minimum and your work can begin.

I was talking with a friend last night who was in the middle of helping out a friend with some divorce drama. She had work of her own to do, but being a good friend, she took the time to work things out with her friend who was struggling. After a few hours of this, the end of the evening was closing in and she still hadn’t written her paper. The friend was fine, she probably would have been fine, but for my friend, there was still a paper to be written, an impending deadline, and now a whole bucketload of frustration and exhaustion.

Yesterday was a lot like that for me too. I started off the day after a rough night with the dog wanting to go out at 7:30am. We headed out into the snow, where she took care of business, and then we ran into my dad, who always wants a conversation. I am not much of a morning person. Unlike a retired man who begins every day at 5am and always has some kind of project to fiddle with, my brain refuses to engage until around 10. The reason for this is I often work until 2am. That is when the house is quiet, no kids are throwing Star Wars trivia at me, and nobody has to use my computer for endless busywork projects their online school throws at them throughout the day. Even the dog chills out from her need to be petted, a toy thrown, or let out.

My dad likes to visit. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just I have a finite number of things I have to say in a day, and trying to fill out the early morning pre-coffee with conversation is really pulling the rope a long way in a dry well. So, my day started with guilt.

Are we going to fix the heater in your car today?

No. I hadn’t been planning on it.

Oh. Gonna write some blogs today then?

Fuck. I was. Now that I’ve been guilted about it, I think I’ll do a couple loads of laundry, and about a hundred thousand other things that aren’t writing. Maybe feel like I’m not doing enough to satisfy the production level which is expected of me by my family.

A buddy of mine once told me when I was struggling with some writer’s block and I couldn’t stay off social media, “Avoid garbage words in the morning.” he said.

The old legend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who sat down to pen Kublai Khan and how he was interrupted by the Person from Porlock and most of the great bits of the epic poem evaporated from his head is something that happens almost daily for me. When I have to struggle to talk to people in the morning and force some semblance of conversation, which usually ends in some sort of criticism, I’m not happy. Between my recent daily emails of how I am lacking as a human being from my ex-wife and my dad’s critivisits, it’s a wonder I get anything done.

Sometimes I just don’t want to talk to anybody! Much less someone whose negativity I have to match to make a connection.

The hardest thing about the creative process, whether it is painting, poetry, art, writing, singing, songwriting, broadcasting, etc. is convincing people who don’t have to come up with shit from thin air that you are actually being productive. The same goes for writing papers, writing copy for companies, studying, etc. It’s work. It requires concentration. If roles were reversed, could they just sit down and put their thoughts into some kind of media? Those who can do it well make it look easy. It doesn’t mean that it is. It doesn’t mean that we don’t agonize over details to get them just right, so that a reader can just breeze through it and not appreciate the artistry that went into it.

Think of a cabinet. Somebody planned that, measured the wood, cut it to specifications, planed it, assembled it, stained and finished it, and all the rest. And you just stick your coffee mugs inside of it. Do you ever think for a moment the work and effort it takes to put something together like this? No! Because it is so basic and utilitarian you aren’t meant to throw yourselves at its feet and worship it for the art that it is! It doesn’t mean that passion and thought didn’t go into it. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t step back when it was done and say “I hope somebody really enjoys this.”

We all consume. We all just carry on. To the next one. And the next. And so on.

Stop it.

If you don’t make better boundries, people will come in to your life and grab everything they can carry off. If they get mad about the boundaries, then those boundaries were made exactly for that person. Boundaries filter out the people who just take and never give back. Feel about as guilty at the outrage they exude as you would someone flipping you off in traffic. It’s a meaningless gesture. If what you are doing has meaning. If you are chasing your dream or following a plan to achieve a goal, then keep moving forward. Put up those boundaries and do it without remorse.

Because when your energy is spent, they just go home with a full tank and a comfy bed, and you are the one questioning your life choices at 11:40pm. They won’t feel ANY guilt about it. They won’t be the ones without shit written, a late paper, another sleepless night, a sense of failure, and the whole thing to try to avoid again tomorrow.

We don’t get an unlimited number of tomorrows.

So much time on my hands

“I haven’t posted here in a while” might be the words that are the death knell for a lot of blogs, podscasts, YouTube channels, and other creative content.  It is the holiday season, and among a dozen other excuses, I have to say that there is no one good reason that I haven’t posted here in a while, other than I just haven’t had a lot to write about.  That doesn’t mean I am out of ideas, but more that I have had to change the focus of why I write.

It certainly isn’t for “likes.”

I still have no idea how people monetize their sites.  My attempt to get an Amazon account went with a six month probationary period not even getting me the three sales from linked content that I needed in order to qualify.  My web-traffic is pretty low, except from Russia and China, which I suspect might just be spamming attempts.  In other words, not a lot of people are reading it.

That shouldn’t be the reason for writing things, though it is nice to think that whether it is a book, an essay, an article, or a blog, people are reading and hopefully enjoying what you have to say. If you are writing for attention, to get likes, to get affirmation, or try to get people to like you as a person, you probably need to reassess why you are doing it.

Recharging the batteries

Lately I have been listening to a lot of podcasts.  The ones with creative people were the most interesting, since it allows you to see what their creative process is, especially in a field as insular as writing.  Not long ago, before Twitter and Facebook obliterated the blogging communities, a lot of us got together on sites such as LiveJournal, Blogger, and even WordPress.  There were online forums as well.  I used to frequen the Baen’s Bar and Asimov’s Forum almost obsessively, but it wasn’t just memes.  We wouldn’t have known what the hell memes are.

When I was a kid, I used to go with my dad to his workplace once in a while.  On the breakroom wall, someone would usually post some photocopied panel of a newspaper cartoon on the board.  They are relate-able.  They give you a chuckle, usually along the lines of whatever dismal work experience you are having, and then you move on.  That is what 90% of Facebook is these days.

We gave up our online communities for pictures of a lady yelling at a cat.

Junk food for the mind

It seems like any creative outlet gets blocked by something, some vice, some bit of junk food for our brains that wants us to sabotage ourselves instead of achievement.  The internet itself was networking the minds of the world into a global conversation, beyond borders, which quickly turned into a place for free hardcore sex, black market purchasing, and clickbait news sites that essentially destroyed real journalism.

I have been listening to podcasts because the content is so rich, but there is also an awful lot of junk in there too.  Sometimes it is exhausting and actually winds up draining my creativity.  One of the weird things I get from listening to podcasts is how much they remind me of the mentality of people trying to entice you into illegal drugs.  “You should do a podcast!”

Sometimes I have thought about doing one myself and I have had people tell me I should because I have a voice that would be good for it.  I’m not going to totally nix the idea, but really, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands.  If readership on my blog is any indication of what subscribers would be to a podcast or YouTube channel, it seems like an awful lot of work to just talk to myself for an hour or two.

As it stands now, in writing my blog, I am losing momentum.  It is an awful lot of output, production, and content with pretty much zero return to make it worth while.  I still have to work, raise my son, maintain a healthy relationship with my girlfriend, and just have a life in general.  It takes a lot to keep your life together.  My well for content isn’t dry, but I have to create it, edit it (sometimes), and publish it.

Some days, you just run out of steam.  Last night, I took an hour long nap after making dinner.  I needed that damn nap.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you will pay for it later.

So, no podcast.  No YouTube channel.  And really, if my readership here and at gettingoutmore.org was any indication of interest, I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on one of a hundred million podcasts already out there when something I’m fairly good at–writing–isn’t all that well received.

Just busy

I have been told that the key to a successful blog/Instagram/podcast/YouTube/readership in general is creating a steady stream of regular content.  Eventually people will catch on and they will read/watch/absorb, etc.  But as the person creating content, this is not so easy.  Aside from just being busy with life, two jobs, raising a kid, and having experiences to write about, it’s difficult.  I can see why so many people give up.

I’m not really giving up, but I’m not doing it to get rich either.  At this point, I’m not even doing it to supplement my income.  I’m doing it as a compulsive tendency.  The majority of my readers seem to be Russian spam-bots.

Thankless

Constantly generating content is often thankless, and writing can be such a fickle, gatekeeper controlled venture that I vehemently discourage people from considering it as a livelihood.  God only knows how quickly I would starve to death if I had to rely on writing as my primary income.  Constantly generating content is thankless, and exhausting.  Writing creatively, whether it is a personal blog post, a travelogue entry, or working on my novel are very fulfilling and are the most effective way to keep me sane.

So there is value in that.  More than I could ever attribute to a dollar amount.

Being the Enemy at the Gates

I try to follow leads, I push my writing on social media, and I try to work with connections, but for whatever reason, what I’ve got doesn’t seem to be what a lot of people want.  Emails to editors are unanswered.  Queries might as well be nothing.  And the gatekeepers of social media mean that a socialite in a bikini can get more online presence than anything I write.  Maybe I need to show more skin?

I’ve always sorta felt like an outsider, even with my writing.  I had stacks of rejection letters that were pretty much “Missed it by *that* much.”  Hell, that seems to be how life is sometimes.  It has led to a bad habit of many abandoned, unfinished projects.

It can be maddening, but there’s a part of me that thinks maybe I’m missing something, like one day I will stumble across a button I didn’t know needed to be switched on and my content will be distributed around the world.  Who knows.  Again, writing for other people will drive you crazy.

For now, I will just continue to write for me, and if people like it, they will read it.