The Sad Truth About Art

Apparently there seems this ideal, prevalent among artists, of some space or time where they could safely pursue their creativity. Melville called, “The Calm” or something like that. Well there is a problem with this, that I shall demonstrate simply with these words, “With no sand, the oyster makes no pearl.

According to my understanding, a pearl is made inside an oyster when a grain of sand gets in, causing the pearl to secrete a substance around it, which over time (I have no idea how long) becomes a pearl. I assume the more time it spends in the oyster, and the older the oyster gets, the more beautiful the pearl.

There is one rule relevant to the artist, and I advise you write this down: “Art does not exist in a vacuum.” In other words, the irritants in the world and, more specifically, in your life, are those things that, when worked over and smoothed through art, become the masterpieces all artists secretly long to create.

Also there is no perfect way, technology currently notwithstanding, to draw from your head the exact, beautiful ideal you have in your mind. All you can do is tease it out as best you can, and you have to try, or it will come to life, take a few breaths, then die right there inside your noggin’.

So toss out both of these foolish ideals. There is no artist’s heaven in our sometimes heavily censored and materialistic modern society. Even though wonderful things like Netflix and YouTube exist because of artists, how the world works is generally without acknowledgement or appreciation of our work. Why do you think you encounter so many wonderful musicians along the sidewalks, standing or sitting as they preform with an opened instrument case or upturned hat close by?

So stop looking for that perfect space in which to create – even if you were to find it no creativity would be possible inside it. Likewise quit seeking to support yourself with your creativity. It is antithetical to all muses to be the provider in the relationship. That, unfortunately, is your job! But be thankful, because your annoying boss or coworker are just more grist for the mill. Turn everything you dislike or outright hate into a beautiful pearl!

I am not just writing this advise for you. I am writing it for myself also. I have struggled with writing, specifically having no interest in being a “professional writer”, despite my gifted understanding and use of the English language. In other words, I am a Poet and a Writer, but I would rather play video games and make content for YouTube.

Also I hate the “daily grind”, even the idea of it, even more passionately than most. But it has become clear to me that it is time to embrace this unwanted part of myself, and in order to pursue writing in any form, I will have to find a way to earn some money to clothe and feed myself. That is just how it is. I can wish all I want that it would be different or easier. But, as they say, “It Is What It Is.

Embrace the irritants, the negativity and the struggle. Acknowledge it, come to terms with it, make peace with it, accept it. Don’t try to spit the particle of sand out, or you will never make a beautiful pearl! Work it in your mind, secrete your secret desires and longings around it. Express yourself in whatever creative medium that most draws you. Create and transform all your undesirable experiences or situations into beautiful works of art. You can do it, I know you can.

Believe in yourself.

What Is Working In My Writing?

Sage Cohen, in her book, “Fierce on the Page“, talks about focusing on what is working, instead of what is not (chapter 13). As I took a look at myself, all I could think about is what is not working, what I am not doing. Obviously I am focused on what is not working if these are my thoughts. Especially since I am struggling to pinpoint what is working in my writing life.

So, in my writing, what is working? I thought I would sit down and work this out in a blog post, as my last blog post kinda sucked (again, focused on what is not working.) You can do this with me. What is working in your creative life, in whatever way you express yourself creatively?

For me, one of the things I love about when I am writing is when I sit down and sort of fall into a flow state, AKA “The Zone.” When I just get lost in a story I am telling, and it’s like I am experiencing the story at the same time I am writing it. Which, going back to what is not working, why it hurts me so much, why it sucks so much, when I loose the thread and can no longer “pick up” the story. I hate that!

Something else that works for me in my writing is how some things I am working on seem to resonate with me. I have a bunch of shortcuts on my desk to various documents that I felt strongly connected to at the time I created them. I will likely write in one of these. It is so satisfying when you open up a document, and can “pick up the thread” as it were. When this happens I absolutely love it!

Another thing that was working for me in my writing and might work again, is my chosen established writing time. It wasn’t a huge victory, but enough of one that I noticed, when I managed to establish a writing habit. I accepted that I am a writer, made it clear to the others that live here when I am writing and identified myself to them as a writer, then wrote at that time. When I was doing this, it was nice to have that small victory in my writing process. It is also easier to fall back into it now that I have been away from it a while.

I love the high energy, high frequency, high vibration, positive state I am in when poetry comes. Those days when multiple poems would come at once. Nothing phased me, I was in love with the world, engaged with it and all I was experiencing around me, whether it was scenery I was watching or a breeze playing over my skin or the sounds of water flowing, or children playing. If I knew how to live in that state forever, I would. But when I find myself in this state, especially after long absences away, I just enjoy it, relish it and the poetry writing flows effortlessly.

I loved the stories I was able to complete. The short horror stories and, to my eyes, the satisfying endings. I loved creating those endings, and most if not all of the time I never had it planned out in my head. I had this idea for a story. I created a character, plunked them into the story and built it around them based on the idea. Then I watched things develop through their eyes, from the beginning to the end. I went through everything they went through. I lived the story with them. I got scared when they got scared. Then I would wrap everything up, and it hardly ever felt wrong. It felt right. It felt complete. I would like to return to writing short stories like that, and I would LOVE to be able to write longer tales the same way!

I love how certain things I read can have such an impact on me, even to the point of affecting my writing. I once started a story that was completely in rhyme, inspired by the Tolkien books. Managed to get through the first chapter or introduction, then lost it. But I would like to figure out how to access that way of writing, and do an entire short story, or even a novel, completely in rhyme, I am sure I could do it, if I could just figure out how to fall into a state conducive for that writing to happen.

I loved the beauty of that piece I linked you to in my last blog post. I can barely remember when I wrote it. But on discovering it, and reading it again all this time later, I cried a little. It spoke to me. I can hardly believe I wrote it. I can’t even recall the spirit or state I was in when I wrote it. I have some vague idea, but nothing concrete. Yet it says so eloquently what I wanted to say at the time, what I still want to say. I strongly desire to write more parables and things like this. I mean it worked for Kahlil Gibran!

I think that if when I sat down to write I experienced more of these things I enjoyed and loved and less of the struggle I have been wrestling with I would write a lot more. I would develop and grow as a writer much quicker. I know I denied this aspect of myself all these years, and there are consequences for that. I likely have a lot of slogging uphill in the mud to do before I get anywhere in my writing. But I am looking forward to that sunny, green hilltop. That alpine meadow with all the flowers, birds and a few hardy trees. That space where my writing has become more than habit, it has become my life, and I am literally putting my life energy into every word I type. Bleeding on the page energetically, in a state of ecstasy. I look forward to that day, and desire it to come soon!

So, reader, if you are a writer, what are the things that are working in your writing? If you are an artist what are the things that are working in your drawing, painting, sculpting, etc? Any advice or thoughts that you would care to share with everyone? Please comment below.

This Imperfect Circle

I find myself coming back around again to where I started, when I started this blog. A sort of imperfect Zen circle. A little gap because it is incomplete, because there is always more to learn, more to realize.

I named this blog Bliss Writer because Bliss was the last part of my internet moniker. Or at least I thought that’s why I named it that. But perhaps there was something more going on?

I watched the latest episode of Yahtzee’s Dev Diary today on YouTube, and he said something that woke me up a little. I always wondered how Stephen King could collect those rejection notices on a nail above his writing space, when he first started writing. The pressures of everyday life, all the resistance he must have encountered to his desire to write – none of it stopped him.

I think that’s because writing was his hobby. As Yahtzee said (not quoting him exactly), “If you don’t enjoy your hobby you need a new hobby.” Whatever thing you enjoy doing, that might be considered work by others, but does not seem like work to you, whatever it is you can do for years and years without any fame, recognition or monetary compensation, that should be your “hobby.” I would call it your passion.

If there is something you do that you do despite what anyone says, simply because you enjoy doing it, and can continue to do that thing even if it never brings you any money, then you have the right motivations. That should lead you to success. It is how Yahtzee started out with his Zero Punctuation game reviews. It is how Stephen King started his writing career.

If your hobby seems like work, then you need a new hobby. If you do whatever you enjoy doing because you want to become wealthy, then you have the wrong motivation. Even if you were to find success, it would be short-lived.

The quality of a “work” comes from the joy and love put into it. You can’t put joy and love into something if you intention is to become wealthy by it. You can only put joy and love into something you truly enjoy doing, and will do regardless of whether or not success comes to you.

I see now that writing is my hobby. But it has become corrupted by the wrong motivation. I have become discouraged, because it has never brought me any fame, money or recognition. I feel like you, my audience, do not appreciate my work, by your lack of support. So my writing has suffered.

I need to be able to come in here and write simply because I love to do it. I need to find the same motivation that Stephen King used that had him sending out letters to agents in the first place, and allowed him to not be bothered by their rejections. What started him in submitting his work? Whatever it was, it must have been pure, because it did not corrupt his writing, his hobby, his passion.

Writing has to become my Bliss, in other words. Bliss Writer needs to be a blog written in a state of bliss. Of pure enjoyment, no matter what obstacle I, the author, face. No matter what resistance I encounter. I must write for the joy of it. Writing will now be my hobby, the thing I can do for years to come without any need for any compensation, fame, money or recognition.

The only thing that troubles me is, with my uncertain future and current age, is how long do I really have to do invest in this, to follow this path when it may lead nowhere? But then again, if I am really writing in  a state of bliss, I would not be worried about that. I am sure Stephen King and Yahtzee never worried about the road ahead. I have to figure out how to let these fears and worries go and follow their examples.

I definitely have some internal work to do.

My ending for the Magician King

This takes place right after Elliot gives Quentin the button at the end of The Magician King:

Quentin limply took the button from Elliot. It was not over. No. It couldn’t end like this. Quentin felt the rage boiling inside of him. He felt the pressure building, pushing against something. He felt it giving away, and he allowed it. Suddenly he was filled with power. Incredible power. Everything he had endured, all he had learned. It all came boiling to the surface and Quentin screamed, “NO!”

Then he hit Ember right between His fucking horns, and Ember flew back and hit the wall with a satisfying smack. “You think you can just use me and throw me away? Alice gave her life for this stupid world. We stopped the beast for You, and this is how You repay me?”

Quentin turned to the man and Eleanor, still stupidly sitting in their chairs. “You not only prevented me from going to the other world, you took away my crown, took Fillory away from me, and all over a stupid fucking passport! On top of that you were going to prevent Julia from joining her tree? Why? What fucking  purpose would that have served?” He felt the energy erupt through him, through the ground through the chairs and the people sitting on them. A giant gout of white-hot flame enveloped them, and then they were gone. It even burned away the sound of their screams. Nothing escaped.

Quentin felt himself growing bigger. As Ember shook Himself off and stood up he said, “All the people that have died for You and Your fucking world.” Quentin’s voice was growing deeper, “Everyone that has died while you” Quentin gestured to the scorch marks on the ground, “and they sat around and did nothing. We all suffered for You, and this is how You choose to repay us?”

The injustice of it was unbelievable. Ember started running towards him. Quentin stood there and waited. Just when He was about the hit him in the chest. Quentin grabbed His horns, spun around and threw Him against the wall. He hit with a sickening crunch. The force of it cause the bricks to crack and buckle. One of Ember’s horns had broken off in his hand. “You stupid fucking sheep!”

Quentin looked towards his former friends. He felt something hot and wet running down his cheeks. “You betrayed me. You used me and betrayed me. You knew what was going to happen. Everyone else gets to stay here. But I get nothing. Fuck you.” He was met with stunned silence.

Quentin turned away and walked for the still partially open door to the new world. Below him was a world waiting to be born. “Maybe I will be the God of this new world. I would certainly do a better job than Him.” The former magician king pointed at the still form of Ember, laying limply against the wall. Poppy started to say something, but he didn’t hear it. At the edge of world Quentin paused a moment, then jumped down. The door closed behind him.

Quentin had finally received His reward.

The End

I was so pissed off at what happened to Quentin at the end of The Magician King that I resolved to write an ending I thought was much more satisfying. I do realize that all through the series I have been wishing Quentin would just grow up, and the way the book is written it seems he has. It seems he needs to endure still more shit in his life to finally emerge a true king, if not in title, then in spirit and attitude. In short, the way the book is written, the way Quentin handles everything, is the last step towards his “growing up.”

Also Quentin chose this path, back on the hill, earlier in the book when he last met Ember. He said he wanted to be a hero, and now he is. But in Lev Grossman’s world a hero is someone who is always getting the short end of the sick, always doing the right thing for little or no reward. I am not sure what a hero really is, but if  hero is just a sucker given a title that makes him or her feel better, then I would rather be a villain.

Besides who says even God or gods get to make the rules? Even if they do, does that mean we just obey them unquestioningly and never fight them? No, I don’t think so. If I don’t like the rules you better bet your ass I am going to challenge them! I will look for the loophole, and if I fail to find it, as a last resort, I will find a way to destroy them!

So maybe Quentin will be better for all the shit he has gone through. But I don’t like it. Not at all.

I might have more to say on this later.

On Writing

All these
books on writing
asking me to recall
some pleasant memory
from my childhood,
but I cannot recall
even a single one!

Nothing. Nada.

All I remember
is leaving the house
all the time, biking
around the country
with my brother
collecting cans for
candy and junk food.

Where are those
happy memories
that others have?
Playing catch
with their dad
or learning how
to ride a bike?

Why don’t I have any?
Was my childhood
really that unhappy?
Or are unhappy things
easier to remember
and happy things
easier to forget?

I can not draw
any conclusions,
I just get stuck
on these types
of exercises
or am forced
to skip them.

Who knew writing was so hard?

Poetry

These words
do not flow easily
from my pen,
or the fingers
that hold it.

Poetry requires
some energy or force,
which draws you
to the page and
compels you to write.

If you try
to make it happen,
the result is jittery,
rough and full
of sharp edges.

You can not
draw the page to you
and make a poem come out.
The result sounds a lot
like what I have done here.

Poetry must flow
out of you,
just as water
flows over
smooth stones.

Poetry requires
a certain lightness
and openness.
It will not flow through
a preoccupied mind.

Poetry loves
to sneak up on you
when you are
doing anything else
but being a poet.

You have to learn
to stop what you are
doing and write down
the words you have
been given.

Poetry will not
come when called,
at least not willingly,
and it absolutely hates
keeping to a schedule.

If you want
to be a poet,
you must have
pen and paper
easily to hand.

You must write
the moment words come.
You must also be open,
receptive and filled
with a lightness of spirit.

Once you get to know her,
poetry is a constant friend,
a reliable companion
and a direct channel
from your heart to the world.

Poetry is an exterior manifestation
of the inward seeking expression.

12-21-2016 – My Struggle

Every beloved story has an element of darkness. I can still vaguely remember the terrible scenes that played on my mind’s eye as I read through The Lord of the Rings. I can remember even more clearly the horror as I read through Harry Potter. Then I relived some of that when I saw these movies in the theater. Some of the things I have read and seen seem to be obsessed with the darkness.

Even when a story, on page or on screen, has a “good” ending, I somehow find myself feeling that the losses on the way to the conclusion are too great. Dumbledore’s death in Harry Potter, the elves leaving for the west in The Lord of The Rings, the destruction of the D’ni people in Myst. Nothing can make up for what has been lost. No matter how evil the “bad guy” was, how desperately I needed him or her to be annihilated, nothing makes up for all those I loved in the course of the story who gave or lost their lives, and sometimes, things even more valuable. Priceless even.

I desperately want to write an epic story like one of these I have enjoyed over the years. Mostly enjoyed anyway. I don’t want to copy anyone else, I want to be true to myself in my writing. And even though I feel I am a writer on par with the best out there, I am under no delusions that I could be anything more then almost as good, or maybe, just maybe, just as good. I have no designs to excel those writers who have gone before me. I will let my readers judge me, and they will have a hard time doing that if I don’t getting something written of publishable length. So that is my main focus. I am not even worried about whether or not I will be published. I just know I will be, but I have to write something that can be published first. It is this quest at which I have, so far, utterly failed.

I perceive many obstacles in my writing path, and one of the biggest, I think, is this stubborn tendency I have to leave out the darkness. I can certainly include it. I am not incapable of doing so. But I have this strange and silly desire to write something different. An adventure that is all about the thrill of exploration, just the bright, happy things. All the magical elements I loved in Harry Potter. All the positive aspects of the wondrous D’ni, their ability to create entire worlds. But I fear this is an impossible task I have set for myself. Sisyphus pushing that damn rock up the hill, never getting anywhere.

Every story I have started in this way has died at childbirth, never living more than a couple of chapters. A well respected writer and teacher of fiction writing, in a book of hers I am studying, tells me that I must have conflict. That conflict is integral to a story. Indeed I can see conflict in every story I have ever read and loved. I can’t think of a single memorable story, or even an unmemorable one, without it. Also the only stories I have been able to complete, just short ones so far, have had conflict, and darkness, within them.

It seems there must always be a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” A hero and a villain. The antagonist and the protagonist. Sprinkle in some characters with no particular allegiance to the light or dark, just pursuing their own ends, and you have a variety that fools the reader into thinking the story has more beyond good VS evil. But every tale ever told or brought to the screen, as far as I am aware anyway, has had this duality at its root. Can a story without duality even be written? If it could, would anyone read it? Be moved or transformed by it?

My heart wants to find the way, but my head, logic, dictates that I should just stick with what works. Use the same old tired formula man has used since time immemorial, start and complete something I can publish, edit it like a gem worker polishing a precious stone, and then claw and fight my way into the publishing world, which hungers for new writers of things like Harry Potter, yet at the same time does not want them. The marketplace is too crowded. Nobody buys books anymore, there is no money in it as an author, agent or publisher.

All I have to do is write a good VS evil story that captures the imagination of young and old, or at least has the potential to do so, and eventually, if I am persistent, if I have edited it enough, if I am lucky enough, someone, somewhere, will read it, be moved by it, and publish it. I am like a young man in high school playing football, hoping the man over there, hiding behind a tree, is a scout for a local professional team. Or a dancer hoping that she has moved gracefully enough to get a position in the company. As a society we make these things far more difficult than they should be. We should be able to pursue or dreams and passion without limitation. We should see a clear open path ahead of us, not a bunch of fucking hoops we have to jump through. It’s almost as if we have to pay a price to be anything other than some wage slave at some menial job somewhere.

When we tell others we want to be artists, authors, dancers, musicians or singers mostly they just laugh. Some may only shake their heads. A handful may actually silently encourage us while doing so. Even less may openly encourage us. We are treated as if what we want to do is too easy, therefore it is childish, foolish and immature to pursue it. But it is actually easier to get a job at your local McDonalad’s than it is to write a book, much less become a published author, and even less become a successful published author. We should be pushed to pursue or dreams and passions, not some unwanted position at an unwanted job, working for someone else.

I am fortunate that I have no naysaying voices surrounding me. Just a few I encounter in the written word. I struggle enough just to write something, just to find an idea and pursue it to its conclusion. This is where I find myself even now, in this moment, as I write this. I have started another story. And I will include the good VS evil duality. I will include conflict. Copious amounts of it. But still there is this fear, this worry, that this story, like all the other seemingly healthy babies before it, will die in its crib, never growing to maturity, a completed story.

Also my heart is not entirely in it, because this is not the way I want to write a story. But I have at least come to understand that it is the way it must be written, because I have to complete at least one take of publishable length, in order to have that experience of completing something, which will forever silence the whispering voices inside of me. Once I have done it I will always know I can. Nothing can shake that faith. But I have to do it first.

Then maybe, someday, I can tell the tale I want to tell. Maybe. But I doubt it. Why does the one thing I have any penchant for at all have to be so hard? Why do I dislike so much this one thing I can do so well? I don’t know. I have no answers. Maybe I will find them someday. Maybe they will be waiting for me at the end of the story my heart wants to write. If I live to see that day, maybe then I will finally understand.