new plan

I’ve put far too much on myself. Between work, family and my own aspirations of writerdom, I’ve put way too much on.

With the sage of my wife’s mother coming to a close, that’s one huge thing that while I’m sure is not entirely finished, is at least no longer a daily struggle that co-opts hours out of all our days. Rest in peace, Judy. You were loved and we are glad you aren’t suffering anymore.

The bad news is we’ve lost someone we loved. The relief is that there’s no more suffering, and we can return to our lives, for now.

I am intentionally scaling back because I’ve been away from the world for too long. The comfort of friends and family was something else, and reminded me of the beauty that can be found in connection.

I need to get out of my head. Less work, less writing, less pressure.

If it happens, great. Whether it’s four minutes or five-plus hours, we’ll get there.

staying focused

It ain’t easy. Working my way through this first draft, I’m falling farther and farther behind.

Editing is going to be time consuming to make up for it.

I wish I could say it wasn’t my fault, that all the stuff with my wife’s parents has taken my time (and it has, partially). But a lot of it is just excuses. Fear of getting started. FOGS.

New acronym alert.

But as the book said, start. Start, start, start. Start doing, and you’ll be okay.

I’ll be okay.

Kindness to the self. The gift that keeps on giving, even as I consider myself wholly worthless, untalented and destined to fail.

It doesn’t matter, as long as I try.

august already

Man, the clock moves fast these days. I long for the days of sitting in a classroom, feeling the heat through the window and knowing that in only two weeks, which felt like FOREVER, summer would start.

Or Christmas break. Or just the weekend.

Now, it’s run, run, run, morning to night. Would that I could fall into a Jeff Bridges category, Dudeing my way through life, sitting in a lawn chair on top of a cliff enjoying the view, as all the lemmings leapt their way to oblivion.

what form kindness?

There are different types of kindness, certainly. Kindness towards others. Kindness toward the self. Kindness in action. Kindness in words. Kindness in intent, possibly.

There are kindnesses that affect global populations, like creating algae that converts carbon dioxide to oxygen in order to save the planet (thanks, Sean Murphy, for that idea! Read Punk Rock Jesus, if you haven’t). There are smaller kindnesses, like helping an old woman across the street or making a kid laugh when they’re feeling down.

These smaller kindnesses are infinitely more attainable to the average person who isn’t a scientific supergenius with unlimited resources, and therefore, much more applicable to the everyday person. It’s these I must master if I want to improve the quality of my contributions to life.

Kindness toward the self is critical for me these days as well. I feel, at most moments, as though I’m a failure and little I’ve done lately has made me feel much different. No matter the effort, no matter how hard or smart I work, no matter what problems I solve or ideas I have, it seems not to matter. It’s never enough.

Perhaps I haven’t found my tribe. I’m a recluse at best and I prefer a small company of friends to any grand gathering, so I’m certainly potentially to blame for that, at least in part.

Partly, I’m not sure what I do is conducive to sales, even selling it to an agent. I’ve been published a few times lately, but mostly to outlets that aren’t there to make authors money, but to promote art.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always striven for that universal “what does it all mean?”, greater depth thing. I need themes, not just plot. I need complex characters, not bodies moving from one place to another. I can appreciate that in a popcorn movie or spy novel, but from me?

It’s beneath me.

I suppose that makes me egotistical, if it weren’t for the ever-present sense of failure at living up to that level of expectation for myself.

My life is a perpetual state of fear.

Maybe popcorn is the way to go, but in the end, can I even do it? Everything I write gets too big, too grand, something that feels so far beyond my reach that I end up paralyzed by my own inability (and my own fear of finding out just how deep that inability runs). Then, of course, I see others doing it so fucking well and I want to throw up my hands and ask, “what could I possibly have to offer that hasn’t been done elsewhere better by someone more qualified?”

Pray for me, if you’re the praying type. I will need all the kindness I can muster to move past this.

worries and doubt

I know this blog does little to market me. I don’t promote it, beyond having the link available on my social media profiles, and it’s not exactly engaging in the sense of providing value.

It might have some salacious interest, in the sense that anyone reading gets to understand the frustration of a struggling artist as he tries to discover his place in the world, whether the art he wants to create is viable and whether it’s actually possible to find a way to live with some sense of joy in this crazy world.

There’s a point I reach every time I sit down to really write, where I just want to chuck it all and start over, but that’s not the way the world works, is it?

We can’t just throw the baby out and start again. We have responsibilities. History.

We do not exist in a void – a fatal error I made in my youth before I learned to see past my own nose. Truth be told, that is still an issue at times, and only really became something I was able to move past in the last four or five years.

The Mungk was meant to embody the hopelessness I felt, the constant sense of impending doom, where everything seemed to get worse and worse and every action taken to make things better only drove me further into despair when they failed. Life, particularly in the last few years, has been a hell of an educator in that regard.

I am trying something different with Father Lightning. Ironically, the idea is similar to The Mungk (and in fact, I have at least two more pending ideas that revolve around ethereal dark entities guiding us toward destruction in the works – based on hopelessness, appetites, addiction and depression, though certainly not so delineated as that).

However, unlike The Mungk, these later ideas have positive resolution. Three wins and one loss isn’t bad, right?

Kindness plays a huge role in this, and while I’m a big advocate of kindness and compassion and understanding, actions are what matters there, and outside of family, I’m not sure I’ve lived up to that advocacy. Even inside family, at times.

My incompletion is forever a source of pain, but also a driving force. I’m not sure I could exist if I were already complete. Completeness, perfection – these things imply stasis. Fluidity, growth, retraction, change – these things give us movement, places to go, things to contemplate and discover. Omnipotence is boring. Static.

And static decays, always.

Going forward, I need to focus on kindness. On its theories and application, in philosophy and in reality. In words and action.

Still, I worry it’s not enough. I don’t need to take over the world; I just want my part of it to be better for having me in it – in actual fact, and not simply appearance.

I’m not certain I’m living up to that promise. I certainly didn’t during the ninety-nine days of enduring misery while writing The Mungk. My goal over the next few months is to do better, to find that spark of real kindness and come to a better understanding.

And through my actions, maybe put a few of these doubts and worries to rest.

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.

the mungk – reading list

I read. A lot. Not everything I read is mindblowing or revolutionary. I appreciate a good solid straightforward story as much as the next guy and I’m far less interested in reading the “right” books than in reading things that are enjoyable or bring me a perspective other than my own. Understanding another perspective doesn’t necessarily imply agreement, of course, and sometimes, a book just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t really enjoy rating things, because I think it’s a little gauche. Lists of greatest songs or movies or whatever bore me. What might feel like a number one to me today may feel like a number eighty-six tomorrow, depending on what’s going on. Sometimes, something cheesy will strike me in the right way and bring me to tears. See or hear it again ten years down the road and I’ll think, wow, that’s bad.

Mostly, I’m reading through my extended library (which as a guy who lives off e-books and has a full attic library, is a lot).

Anyway, here’s the stuff that blew my mind while I was working on The Mungk.

One Small Step Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way – Robert Maurer
Is Your Genius At Work? – Dick Richards (yep, Dick Dicks, for reals)
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark – Michelle McNamara
Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach
The Practicing Mind – Thomas Sterner
People Of The Deer – Farley Mowat

As you can tell, I was working through a little bit, trying to find some good old fashioned personal development. Sterner’s terrific; everything I found Tolle was not. I wanted to delve into some classics, and Farley Mowat fits the bill as a fellow Canadian. I was suitably blown away.

This is the stuff that I really liked, but for some reason or another, found something just a little off about that didn’t connect. Stylistic questions, a viewpoint that I didn’t quite agree with or minor plot hole – that kind of thing.

Getting Things Done – David Allen
Face It – Debbie Harry
The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher
SexRx – Lauren Streicher
Good Sex – Jessica Graham
If Chins Could Kill: Confessions Of A B-Movie Actor – Bruce Campbell
Welcome To Night Vale – Joseph Fink/Jeffrey Cranor
Dancing Barefoot – Wil Wheaton
The Art Of Non-Conformity – Chris Guillebeau
Hammered – Elizabeth Bear

I don’t typically care about celebrity or their bios, but I deeply admire Carrie Fisher and Debbie Harry (the latter being one of the first women I obsessed over as a kid, along with Kelly LeBrock from Weird Science). And who doesn’t love Bruce Campbell or Wil Wheaton? Night Vale is a guilty pleasure. Elizabeth Bear filled my sci-fi quota. The sex books? Well, what can I say? Sex is great. Finding ways to improve it is never a bad thing.

These represent things I found entertaining, but not really mindblowing. Standard fare, basically. Not bad, not amazing, just decent or enjoyable.

Get It Done When You’re Depressed – Julie Fast
The Power Of Less – Leo Babauta
Start With Why – Simon Sinek
The Sorrows Of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Fire Starter Sessions – Danielle Laporte
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies – Seth Grahame-Smith
Gregor The Overlander – Suzanne Collins
Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris
High Hunt – David Eddings
The Sword Of Shannara – Terry Brooks

I’m sorry, I wanted to like it more, but nothing can make Jane Austen not at least a little boring to read for me, not even zombies.

The next bit is stuff that didn’t resonate. It had some redeeming quality, like I didn’t think it was total trash, but yeah. Wasn’t great.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach
Hot Sex – Emily Morse
The Power Of Less – Eckhart Tolle
Aesop’s Fables – Aesop

I realize there’s probably some stuff people will give me shit on there, but JLS is intensely patronizing and Aesop’s casual reinforcement of racism and hierarchy didn’t sit well. I actually wanted to give Hot Sex a 1, for being little more than an oversized Cosmo article from someone who came across as having done their research on listicles and PornHub, not reality, but I did appreciate the willingness to go beyond standard positions, I guess. Tolle’s little more than a grifter ripping off Taoism and Buddhism, and using demagogue tactics to set himself up as a new Messiah. Pro tip: if the author of a self-help book spends all his time trying to establish how much better they are than everyone else, they’re an egomaniac trying to grift you out of your hard-earned dollars, not someone who genuinely cares about enlightenment or personal development. I gave it a two only because presence is an important concept in happiness and that’s it. Thomas Sterner’s The Practicing Mind is essentially the same book, but with all Eckhart Tolle’s insane ego stripped out, and the concept made much more practical. I mean, Tolle mansplains periods, creates his own Revelations and afterlife, constantly compares himself to Jesus, the Buddha and Lao Tzu, and basically endorses faith healing. Repugnant. How anyone takes him seriously, I don’t know. The whole book reads like a testament to his ego, even as he rails against your ego. He sounds like the Donald Trump of new age mysticism.

Anyway, enough ranting. The last part are books that I found little to no redeeming value in. Either they were just bad, or morally repulsive.

Choose Yourself – James Altucher
Ultimate Power – Tony Robbins
I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell – Tucker Max

the mungk

I was going to rant about how my work can’t leave me alone for even one day, just one goddamn day that I called in sick, the first in ages, so I can finish this thing called The Mungk, but fuck them.

The Mungk has owned my brain for the last three-plus months. Three months of spiralling down the drain into hopelessness, hoping that this thing is worthy of being published.

Trauma, microaggressions, the general malevolence of the universe, that’s been my focus for the past ninety-nine days, and it has taken its toll.

Add to that a hostile, abusive work environment, where the relief of getting away from those deceitful, lazy shits we had as contractors never materialized because head office couldn’t be bothered to follow through on replacing them, and you’ve got an interior that feels like it’s been scraped out with acid all of the time.

The Mungk is a manifestation of my worst impulses, my great fatalism. It is hopefully the first in a series of novels, each hopefully moving toward a life and canon that is better all the time, not just in execution, but in outlook.

I’m sorry if I bum you out. Life sucks sometimes. Life sucks a lot of time these days. The Mungk has me so often that it’s nightmarish and the relentless imposition and unwillingness to allow for any leeway of the people around me has me running for asylum (or an asylum, or a body bag). The pride I felt at finishing this, the joy of finishing it and letting go, completely overshadowed by the demands of assholes who refuse to listen when I try and set any kind of boundary.

Anyway, The Mungk is coming. Sell first, publish later, pray for enough revenue to leave this place forever.

The assholes don’t get to win.

shunned

Working on the submission manuscript today, whole hog. The whole deal.

Courier 12. Proper margins and indents. Page breaks.

The little stuff. I try not to make mistakes and I’m not always great at this kind of hyper-focused super detail, but only when I get distracted by depression or stress. When I’m on, nothing gets by me. That’s where I am today.

Hyper-focused, doing my best not to let the little things get to me. Not to let this encroaching pressure crush me.

I can’t deal with other people’s shit today.