Tag Archives: development

So, now you’re a writer?

I’ve been published; I’ve received money, real money, for my work. Now, I’m truly a writer, right? Well, yes and no.

Having only been recently published, and receiving money for my work, I can say its one of the most interesting turning points in my life. In that, nothing turned. I have kept a journal for many years, and in that time have written many things. Shallow and deep things on many subjects that were important to me at the time, and in retrospect and after careful reading, the vast majority of them weren’t very good. I’ve always tried to create, while I’ve pined through different jobs that have paid me very decent money, but all the while I’ve wanted to make a living with my art. Either drawing, or painting or writing; I didn’t want to continue existing simply maintaining the bottom line of some corporation.

I don’t expect my writing or my art will ever produce enough money to sustain me, but just being able to create something for public consumption is all I was really aiming for. But that’s different than what I thought it was. In hindsight, it seems so obvious now; and some reading this may even find it silly: when you create for public consumption, other people will read it. They will judge you, and that’s good. The worst thing you can do as an artist is surround yourself with people who will not openly criticize, when invited. These people know you, they know how you act and how you speak, and they will put your voice behind everything you write. To them it sounds natural, because it’s you, in the context of you.

I don’t think that’s what makes a good writer. It’s not about knowing when to put the fancy words in, or show off your vocabulary skills. Writing is for the reader. You’re painting a picture, and letting the reader fill in with their imagination. If you are forcing your own language into your work, you’re essentially forcing the reader to receive it as you’ve imagine it; you’re not letting them play in their own imagination.

Growing up, I remember reading many books. I had significantly more time then, and I would spend hours reading and rereading through all sorts of genres, novelists, screenplays and comic books. Isaac Asimov, Anne Rice, Carlos Castenda, Michael Crichton and Neil Gaiman filled my head with new worlds that didn’t exist before they created them, and that power amazed me.

201px-NeverwhereI remember reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and having this perfect image in my head of what Door, and Richard may look orsound like, the battle of the Hunter and the Beast of London Below was so vivid in my mind, I was engulfed in this imagination so deeply, I could almost smell the underground. I heard there had been a BBC television adaptation, and I had to find it. This was long before downloading a film was optional. I eventually found a bootlegged version on eBay; and anxiously waited for it to be mailed through the post from the ether, because in those days, people just left, and things simply came. They weren’t tracked and available at an instant.

When I received this VHS with its hand written label, I couldn’t wait to watch. It was a spiritual moment; surely what I had envisioned was what they had filmed! What I read and saw in my head what the only way it could be!

It wasn’t, and I hated it. I kept it, and still have it. I’ve even purchased its reprinting when it was officially available in the states, because I loved the story so much, but I haven’t watched it since. My imagination ruined that film before I had even received that bootlegged version; when it was written, it was done in such a way, whatever Neil saw was not forced onto me. His words gave me a nudge into the direction he wanted the story to go, he gave me elements of the environments, without demanding my imagination see or do anything other than the storytelling.

I’m sure all of my writing for my own amusement forgot that lesson. They were only letters written to me. The few people that have read them already had a concept of my voice, and where I probably intended to go. But when writing for people on the other side of the country, or the world as a new writer does today; one simply can’t bully the reader. They will never hear it in the writer’s voice, and generally, they wouldn’t enjoy it if they did. Only writers lucky enough to have built a fan base, who are familiar with their own voice, will be able to succeed in such an environment.

Miles Davis once said “You have to sound like a lot of other people before you sound like yourself”, and that’s very true. But another element of that, at least in my writing, is: you have to let your reader sound like themselves. I want to be the writer that lets the readers experience their own imaginations, nudging them along, giving a fresh idea, or my own spin on how I saw it, without forcing my own voice. In that, I will have found how to sound like myself.

When I Learned How To Drink

When I learned how to drink the first lessons I learned were what I could drink.  To avoid the sugars, to appreciate the burn, the fun was in the drunk, in the inhibition.  I learned how to dance, and how to sing.   Those people that judged you didn’t matter, and you were to enjoy life, as best as you could; and still, they didn’t matter.  I brought something new, they had never seen before; and the things I said were new, and they had never seen them before; when I drank.

The second thing I learned when I learned how to drink is what I could do.  The social iniquities were lost, and who I could be.  I found the humor and attention; the fame and infamy, so I stopped pretending to be who I wasn’t.  I spoke, I preached.  I said what was on my mind, and the drunks laughed, or scowled, or agreed or disagreed.  I poured what was in my mind out for consumption, bitter or sweet.

The third thing I learned, when I learned how to drink, was to allow adventure.  I learned to go, and live, and fuck the rest.  It was mine, and it was my experience for my story, all the stupid chances and immature risks .  My stories were eternal, and they were mine, and no one else could have them.

The fourth thing I learned when I learned how to drink was what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t draw, or paint, I couldn’t design or create, or sing, or dance; because the ability of my hands would not develop along with the creativity of my mind, so I put down the pen when I drank.  I didn’t draw, or write, or sing or dance or learn, because they’d see in, and that wasn’t why I drank. I didn’t want them to see in, I wanted to see out.

When I learned how to drink, the fifth thing I learned was to be quiet.  Things people told me, things I saw for sale, and that last drink.  They were unnecessary, and if I wanted to buy them or needed them so bad or should have expressed them, I would have done so while sober.  So I stopped opening my mouth, my wallet, my mind, and my expression; when I drank.

When I learned how to drink, the sixth thing that I learned was how to control myself.  To not let go, to not act like a child and not let those around you see the weakness in your drunken mind, the expression or the vulnerability.  To stop being someone I wasn’t and hold perfect control. So I stopped letting myself play up to who I was when I drank.

Lastly, when I learn how to drink, I will learn how to speak.  How to be as eloquent as I was before I took the first sip.  When the drinking has happened, and I’m keeping complete control, and not spending too much, and not drawing or writing to express myself, or trying to be the life of the party, then I’ll learn how to speak, and how to be me, even when I’m not in control anymore, to say the things I was thinking before.  How it was better to not have to apologize, and stay to yourself, when I learned how to drink.  Then, I will stay to myself, and not dance, and not sing, and not draw; because when I drink I wont be sure of me; so I’ll be the best me I can be, and if I don’t, but no one else is around, then I wont have to apologize anymore.

So, when I learn how to drink, I will be me; even when the “me” isn’t here anymore, when I drink.