slight consideration

I’m taking my own well-being into account these days. I knew I would start small, and I did.

I read short books. Crappy books. Short comic series. Standalone movies. Single season shows that got cancelled.

I wrote a haiku.

A piece of flash fiction.

A one-shot comic.

A short story, which was really more of a noir, back-twisted rant I didn’t believe in.

Weirdly, all the individual work was published. The comic is pending, because comics are collaborative, and I’m an anxious collaborator, in the sense that I’m terrified of anything beyond the script stage.

I try to remember. Little things build to bigger. Most overnight successes spent ten or more years laying groundwork.

Learning. Mastering. You don’t pick up a guitar and channel Jimi or Kim Thayil.

That shit takes time.

Piece by piece. Trying to remember, it’s not about hitting targets. No such thing as delayed gratification; the joy is found in each stage. To defer it to the end is to guarantee frustration and a fleeting moment of exultation, if we even make it that far.

Most of us will not.

Target: 800 words
Written: 631 words, novella: The Mungk

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’m writing 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 head into a new draft of The Mungk, having ideas for 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, the next one has to be about finding a way forward. Finding a few moments of kindness in the dark. Being nicer to myself, included.

Target: 700 words
Written: 1324 words, novella: The Mungk

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, as 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, 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.

Target: 600 words
Written: 194 words, novella: The Mungk

myopia

Nothing tears us down quite like the things we don’t acknowledge in our lives.

The subjects we ignore – like weight or the effects of smoking or a toxic relationship. The need to move on from a soul crushing job. That was the impetus behind the Birds Fall haiku; the idea that what ultimately defeats us is not the thing we saw clearly, but the thing we never saw at all, or tried desperately not to think about.

We let it slide until it’s too late, until it’s too big of a problem to fix without suffering some serious collateral damage.

I know I have these blind spots. Depression. Shyness. Alcohol. Weight. The aforementioned soul crushing work. On any given day, there’s probably a half-dozen to a dozen of these types of things I’m actively trying to avoid thinking about, and probably twice that when you factor in the stuff I’m so oblivious to that I won’t see it coming until it punches me full in the face.

Life ain’t easy. Presence and awareness are wonderful watchwords, but most of us could never do it so consistently that we actually manage to have most of our shit under control. Control is an illusion. We do our best to avoid suffering and increase pleasure in the moment (more often opting for less suffering than actual pleasure), because that’s the best we can do.

We haven’t been raised to pay attention to these things. I suspect our world would be a very different place if we were. Capitalism, fascism, Trumpers, conspiracy theorists – all gone, because we’d be able to face our greed, our lust for power and control, our willingness to smother our brains in delusion and the false promises and outrage of others.

We’d look straight in the mirror and say:

This is bullshit. We are bullshit. We need to do better.

And then do better. Or not. Who could ever tell?

The world will end one day and it won’t be because we opened our eyes and called ourselves out on our poor behaviour. It will be because we squeezed them tightly shut and pretended there was no such thing as consequences.

Target: 100 words
Written: 213 words, short story: The Ineffable Hat

from nothing

It hasn’t been a good couple of years. Life, as with all lives, has its ups and down. I have a beautiful wife that I love, two good stepkids, two wonderful nieces and a trio of siblings with whom we hang out regularly. A granddaughter who is heart-burstingly adorable.

The rest of life, on the other hand, hasn’t been ideal. Crappy jobs, extra weight, aches, pains, depression, stress, tachycardia, name it. I’ve frequently gotten lost in fictions, in ego, in insecurity, food, alcohol, drugs, whatever.

That makes it sound like a season of Euphoria or some Nineties-era drama of the bleak, but it’s not that exciting.

It’s pretty much the same story as everyone else. Life carried them along a path and before they realized they were too far down it to control the direction, all the traps and constraints were in place to keep us from course correcting without massive upheaval and destruction.

Enter Donald Trump, pandemic, war in Ukraine, and the stripping away of compassion, to be replaced with conspiracy theories, absolute stupidity, soul-crushing delusions and entitlements, and I feel like Foreman in the final round, punched out, about to be beat down by the man Ali himself.

Only, instead of Ali, it’s not some grand wizard of boxing. It’s a fat, chubby orange man, a redneck with no common sense, a myopic boomer with no willingness to see past their own nose.

It’s an outraged millennial, or a hysterical Karen. It’s a pompous Gen Zer who thinks their way is the only way.

No one is listening. No one wants to listen. The same folks that scream gender and sexuality are not binary forget that neither is a particular viewpoint on any given subject. There are shades. Perspective is also a spectrum and we begin understanding and compassion only by acknowledging that fact. By trying to see from a viewpoint outside our own, by uncovering new facts, new ways of thinking, and letting go of the ones that no longer make sense.

It’s not about outrage. It’s not about enforcing an outdated point of view.

It’s about understanding. About being open.

I have not been very open. Depression and stress make for potent oppressors and it can be difficult to recognize that one’s mind does not have to remain trapped in a prison of its own making.

I am trying to do that now. I am writing. I am creating things – poetry, short stories, comic books, hip little things and transcendent ones. And yes, books, full size motherfuckers that range from the fatalist to the pure Tao.

And I will suck. For a bit. My views will change. I will fuck up, make mistakes, say dumb shit and have to apologize. I will not get it right, not all the time.

But I will try. And I will remain open, and hopefully, that’s enough.

Target: 100 words
Written: 83 words, haiku: Birds Fall