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.

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.

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 – playlist

I love music. I’m an old school punk and grunge kid from the eighties and nineties, though in the last couple of decades, my musical tastes have radically expanded. I’ll listen to anything from Billie Holiday or Frankie Valli to Anti-Flag to Alessia Cara. While writing The Mungk, I listened to thousands of songs, starting with Los Angeles by X and finally Popcorn by Muse, with stops ranging from AFI to Joni Mitchell to Katy Perry to The Tragically Hip (a lot of Hip – there always is. I listened to Get Back Again over three dozen times while writing that piece, now in Retreats From Oblivion).

Anyway, music is such an intricate part of art for me, that I inevitably can’t help creating playlists to match the bigger works that I write. Sometimes, it’s a song that caught my ear in the act of writing or editing and fit so perfectly, I can’t hear it without thinking about that scene or its emotions. Other times, it’s tongue in cheek or counterintuitive, but somehow, just works.

The playlist for The Mungk is as follows:

The House In The Country: Julian Plenti – Skyscraper (3:18)
The First Appearance Of The Mungk: Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare (2:48)
We’ll Get You A Nightlight: The Who – Helpless Dancer (2:34)
What Does That Mungk Do?: Nirvana – Drain You (3:44)
Cracks: L7 – Crackpot Baby (2:38)
The Doctor: Snow Patrol – Run (5:57)
Goodbye, Alice: Violent Femmes – I Know It’s True, But I’m Sorry To Say (5:06)
Alice Aftermath: Billy Talent – Living In The Shadows (3:16)
The Fight: INXS – Never Tear Us Apart (3:07)
Bumps In The Night: The Rolling Stones – Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow? (2:37)
The Power Goes Out: The Tragically Hip – Frozen In My Tracks (4:04)
The Storm: Bruce Springsteen – My Father’s House (5:08)
The Aftermath: Beck – Morning (5:20)

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.