forty-five

I don’t know why, but this birthday feels different. Perhaps it’s because I just went through one of the roughest periods of my life. Call it my Mungk phase, in which I learned most definitely what I did not want in my life.

It could also be my mother-in-law’s hospitalization. I’ve already had three grandparents die, but this is the first in the generation right before mine that’s gone. Everyone younger has been more tragic than fact-of-life aging.

I’m definitely feeling it. Still, I can’t claim no progress. I wrote a novella. I had three things published – two short stories and a haiku. I wrote a one-shot comic that could be fun to draw (and it’s increasingly looking like I might need to do that myself, despite my lack of ability).

The process could be good. Find the pitfalls on my own so I can have a better rapport and understanding with future collaborators.

As I start into a new first draft of the next book, having sketched out a four-issue crime comic, three more short stories (including one that strays into novelette territory) and another couple of poems, I’m actually a little proud, even if the work is a bit raw and I’m feeling less than inspired lately. I’ve read over forty books since I penned that first haiku back on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve read almost five hundred comics. Lost a pound. Built my meditation practice up to five whole minutes a day. Listened to almost a hundred and fifty albums. Learned forty new recipes.

I get it. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s important to acknowledge even small steps forward. If The Mungk was about feeling all the bad things at once to understand how I don’t want to feel, this one has to be about finding a way forward. Finding a few moments of kindness in the dark. Being nicer to myself, included.

running up that hill

No offense to Kate Bush. Good song, but I’m on a Nirvana kick. Matches my mood.

It’s taken a lot of strength to get up off the floor and keep moving this week, with this godawful workplace, my wife’s mother’s hospitalization, new floors being put in, a thousand different chores popping up at each moment…

Plus, I’m trying to write still. And read a little. I feel a little like Abel in Middlewest, tossed violently on the wind by circumstance and relentless emotion. Beautiful comic, FYI. Props to Skottie Young and Jorge Corona. Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colours are fucking gorgeous. Buy it if you get a chance.

I love stuff that hits you right in the gut with bad feelings, and then does its best to pull you out. The Mungk doesn’t quite fit that concept, but I’m hoping the next one does. A glimmer of light, in the dark.

huh, again

Well, this is exciting. I broke down my writing career into a little more than three dozen book ideas, plus another dozen or so comic ideas, and like a lot of writers, a few hundred short story ideas. All in all, by the time I was done brainstorming, I had almost two thousand ideas.

Anyway, for the first part, while I was writing The Mungk, I thought I’d take a crack at a half-dozen other smaller things while I was at it, and you know what? As of today, three of the four things I’ve sent out have been published (or will be shortly, which is cool). The fourth is a comic book whose artist is yet to be found (well, technically, he was found – a friend of mine whose style was perfect for it, but we’ve been out of touch for while. I miss him, to be honest. I meant it to be a one-off, a showcase issue to show I can write and he can draw, by giving lots of different looks to create, intended as a one-and-done, intentionally light and self-contained. It was more punchline than plot, which was fine. It had an internal logic.)

Anyway, someday on the comic, I hope, even if I have to do it myself, like so many of my indie heroes. (Unlike my indie heroes, I don’t draw often, so let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that, since you know. Not great.)

There’s another “super-secret” project that’s really just freewriting around a very loose idea, to be published for free online, more of an audience builder/test subject type thing, but we’ll see. It won’t be officially published anywhere save as a self-published, online deal.

But still. Exciting. And kudos to the editors, particularly Tom Ball at Fleas On The Dog and Matthew Sorrento at Retreats From Oblivion. Great editing means addition from subtraction and they’ve both done a hell of a job with my short little pieces. Good on them for being better able to see what I could not. We get so close to these things that we lose perspective sometimes. Having someone who can see through it and strip the fat from it, even in a piece of flash fiction like The Ineffable Hat, is much appreciated.

I’ve read enough articles about writers railing against bad editors to wonder what it was really like. Not being from the publishing world, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but these guys have proven how valuable a good editor is. I suspect there might be more than a little ego at play in those articles I read; some loss of perspective or inability to step outside oneself and see the bigger picture. While I’m sure bad editors do exist, from what I’ve been exposed to, the feedback has been more liberating than off-putting.

I continuously push myself to open up my world, no matter how miserable that can be at times, so anything that forces me to set ego aside and look at something with fresh eyes is invaluable.

I look forward to sharing the new thing, when it comes out.

to live

There’s a point in Monstress: Talk Stories where Maika calls Kippa a coward, because Kippa thinks she should die for having made a poor choice that led to a lot of death.

Maika calls her a coward, because that’s the easy way out. The more valiant way is to remain alive and find ways to make up for what you’ve done and leave the world a better place despite your mistakes.

I am trying to remember this. I am trying to remember this, even as everything seems hellbent on poking all the hurt places, where every decision, every action is criticized or mocked, where every moment of peace is merely a new opportunity for someone to dump more upon you, to pile it on. If I seem idle, I must have time for more, right?

What if idle is all I need? What if idle is the ideal?

Decisions I’ve made have led to this. The course of my life is one long arc bending with increasing tension toward an inevitable snap. A mental breakdown is coming. Maybe it will be as simple as deciding to let go of feeling responsible for everyone and everything, of my expectations of a better world, and simply focusing on some enjoyable, quiet moments. Let the chips fall where they may. Let the Rube Goldberg machine fail; let all the spinning plates fall. Let someone else clean it up. Or let it lay.

Whatever happens, happens, no matter how life-altering. Radical acceptance of the whole.

That would be ideal. Would that I were Jimmy Buffett or The Dude. My taste for weed isn’t strong enough. It makes me more paranoid and anxious than I already am. Would that I could be rich and idle, or poor and irresponsible.

Sadly, we must live. Deal with the consequences of our karma. Of the decisions we’ve made and the words we’ve spoken. The attitude with which we face the people around us and the world at large. Our own behaviour, for better or worse.

I strive for better, but it’s hard to do crushed under a mountain. The first job is to get out from under.