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.

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Those little thoughts right when you close your eyes, and the world just feels so heavy, are enough to drag you right out of the promise of sleep. I have those a lot. I haven’t slept right for a long time, and my cardiologist (yes, I have cardiologist–now that I am a man of a certain age) tells me in a very off-handed way that problems like heart arrythmia, high cholesterol, etc. can all be tied to people not getting enough sleep.

Those thoughts that come into my head just as I am about to drift off are cruel. They are those stupid moments that I could have thought about all day long, and at the very least done something about. Why they come to bother me just at that threshold of waking and dreaming, I don’t know. I hate it. So, I take the pills prescribed to me to sleep. Pills that have warnings on them about kidney, liver, and ironically enough, heart damage as potential side-effects.

The most peace I get is when I am productive. When I sit down and I write my story, but there are even nights when the story is still wanting to be told and I can’t sleep. Tonight is a little like that. It’s late. I should be in bed, asleep, but I know I will just lie there and hear my own heart beating, those little whispers will climb into my head and I won’t be able to sleep. My dog will put her head on my chest until I am still or roll over on my side, and she will go to the foot of the bed. Sometimes she will start snoring, but I’m not asleep. I will roll back and forth a few times until she comes back up to soothe me again with her head on my chest.

Tomorrow I have more podcasts I want to record, but I usually only do this at night, when the streets are quiet. During the day, my same loving companion barks like an idiot at any noise she hears. And in the day, there are the doubts that don’t affect me at night. The doubts of “What are you doing?” Somehow, in the quiet of the night, I feel like anything is possible. During the day, like today, I only see what I am getting behind on. Today, it was dishes.

I am a firm believer that the state of your home is a reflection of your mental health. For the last few days, I have neglected my chores. The dishes have piled up and even though I haven’t been cooking much or eating much, somehow there was a sink and counter full of dishes that took nearly three hours to wash. I also cleaned my kitchen, vacuumed my floors, and hung laundry outside on a rare, sunny November day.

Sometimes it’s like that joke. If you want a job done, it can be good, cheap, or done quickly. But you can only pick two. In my case, I can keep the house clean, eat right and exercise, or write. Pick two.

Days like today, I could no longer ignore my dishes.

I have my nights too where I feel lonely, but not in a way that makes me want to compromise my peace anymore. My peace, my values, any of it. After all that housework today, my hips were aching from being on my feet all day, so I took a nap. I watched some TV, and I wrote a little bit. Yesterday was a big writing day. Even with a sink full of funky dishes, I scripted out three more podcast episodes. I took a bath to relax and wrote the last one in the tub using the Notes app on my phone. I’m running each one at about 1500 words. Total was around 4500 words for the day. And editing on the book.

Some of the episodes are going to be about what I know about writing and publishing, some are going to be about my life up here in the mountains, and some are going to be about my travels. Right now I’m working on a series about Ireland, which will post intermittently. My podcast is called Sixty Miles from Anywhere if you are interested. You can find it on Spotify, Amazon Music, and other places you find podcasts.

It has been a lot of fun to script these episodes and record them in my office. I can’t believe the accoustics in my new office as opposed to the house where I was living two years ago. Jeez…two years went by so quickly. I was just thinking about my last international trip. My first solo international trip to the UK. That was three years ago already. 2019. How things have changed in the last few years. I don’t want to make a habit of traveling so infrequently. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, since I was seventeen, and unfortunately, due to a shitty marriage, I had to put those dreams on hold for a while. My visit to Ireland was amazing. Different than the UK in a lot of ways. Easier in some ways because I had the experience from my last trip, but also more challenging in other ways. I couldn’t pick a favorite trip between the two. I only wish I had more time in both places.

I was watching a video yesterday about how people think they have time to go back to places, when in fact they really only have a limited number of times they will ever see something in their lifetime. They might watch only twenty-two more full moon rises in their lifetime before the end. But they take for granted how many they could see, when really it isn’t that many. I don’t know if I will ever get to Ireland or the UK again, but I know I want to go back. There are so many other things I didn’t get to see, and a few things I would love to see again.

These are also things that keep me up at night.

How many more times will you get to spend time with your parents before they are gone? How many times will you get to play ball with your dog? How many times…but we act as though there is no limit, just waiting for the next time, forever. When the reality of it is we have a limited number of days on this planet, in these bodies that wear out, in a chaotic world that could kill us any day.

Tonight I watched a movie, missing someone to watch that movie with. They’ve been gone for a while. I still think about them. I still miss them. Who knew that the last time I saw them…there would be no more times after that? We made plans. Doesn’t that count for something?

No. It really doesn’t. Everybody knows the war is over. Everybody knows the good guys lost.

That’s enough for tonight.