Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

It won’t be forever

Don’t Walk Away

Many people I’ve loved, truly loved, have walked out of my life. At 31 years, I expect it to be an occurrence that will happen more than a few times going forward. My Grandmother was afflicted with dementia. The year before she died, I traveled to Arizona to escort her back to the east coast. I had shaved my head, and grew a goatee, but she remembered me (even though she thought I was going to fly the plane home). She barely remembered anyone anymore, but she knew who I was.

When she passed, she did not go quickly. For a week I sat by her bedside, talking to her, and holding her hand; she made me cry many times during this exchange.

“I want to go home…” she said.

“You can go.” I told her. “But I’ll miss you.” She aimed her face at me, that same face the told me to listen in church, and assured me everything would be ok, and once told me I’d have enemies everywhere, but I was the one that I needed to worry about; I could almost feel her hands, like paper, touching me, assuring me.

“It wont be forever.” She smiled.

That stuck with me. Now, I can convince myself it was the dementia, but with eyes closed she told me “It wont be forever.” Her mind may have meant something else, but to me it didn’t, it wont ever be forever.

One day, she held my hand. I’m sure she was asleep, I’d been sure of it for days, but she squeezed, she introduced me to her parents, whoM I had never met and had passed many years before, but she wanted me to meet them so badly. She’d sleep while I read Neil Gaiman to her. She smiled from time to time, and I told her stories from when we were both younger.

When she passed she knew everything I said, and she had a lifetime of people waiting for her. Anyone who knew her would expect no less than an army of souls waiting to greet her.

One of the last days I waited by her bedside, there were a small group of people at her bedside, holding hands and letting her know we were there. An old friend, Barbara, came to her. She held her hand, and stroked her hair; I sat in my same chair on my grandmother’s right side. From her left, Barbara said to her:

“You might not remember me, but I sure do remember you”

In my memory, she smiled. But I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t care, really, I just care that she smiled. “I sure do remember you.’

I couldn’t even scratch the surface of what she did, of the person she was; and who she will always be to me. She anchored me; and I’m sorry she will never see the man I might become. Any belief I carry in me, is not for me its for her. So she might be there to see what happens to a sheep; so very lost by its Shepard.

Frances Barnett was loved. She was my grandmother; and because of her, three children, and seven grandchildren, and a gaggle of great grandchildren that might not remember what a hero actually looks like, I will remember her; she left us one day in October, I’ll miss her, but she taught me, “it wont be forever.”

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.