A writing contract came in today and it set me to thinking about all the ways this profession (calling?) I’ve chosen (followed?) has led me to where I am today. I was thinking first about the buildup of residue around the work that I do–a type of creative discharge like plaque on teeth. I was thinking how such a thing weighs down creativity and makes it harder to pass ideas through the brain-keyboard barrier. Then I was reflecting about how fortunate I am to be in a position where I have to think about and thus get to wax philosophical about the brain-keyboard barrier.
I could’ve been a garbage man.
I suspect I would have a higher tolerance to roaches in that case. I would not, however, have remained in this perpetual state of creative happiness. I might not always be pleased with what I am working on or how it turns out but I definitely am pleased to actually be writing and working and have both space and opportunity to create. I respect the art of writing and overlook my ability to share in that far more than I probably should. Not many people get to do what I do and even fewer are successful enough to turn it into a lifestyle. So where I go from here is to pour more energy and dedication into my craft, because it deserves it.
I deserve it.
Looking at my office walls I can see that I’ve become a version of what I always thought a writer was as a kid. The walls are covered with pictures and cool framed passages of writing–some of it my own. There are magnetic strips in the places where I sit to collect my thoughts and there they are, collected in scribbled blacks and reds and blues on little yellow squares of paper or on the backs of things that weren’t meant for notes and suspended from the walls on colorful round magnets.
Here I sit, sipping on a sugary mess of coffee, wondering what if anything I have to say next. I came to this place last night. I was holding a beer (the remains of which I pushed aside to plant my coffee on the solitary coaster) and grading papers. There were tortilla chips and music in the background and the whole thing felt different. It lacked the reverence of the morning session and even that kindling of desire to be in the space producing something more. I don’t know what that means–if it means anything. Here is what I do know:
Louis Pasteur said (loosely translated), “Chance favors the prepared mind.” I believe he meant to express that inspiration and intuition are cultivated through practice and, ultimately, by creating the conditions that allow for such things to flourish. Lately I have been focused on learning what that preparation and those conditions look like for me. By that I mean the ‘me’ of the present. Often I feel like I am restricting myself by relying on–catering to even–the me of the past and the me that, then, I believed I would become. I can often fall into a set of idealized behaviors and beliefs based upon an outmoded value system. Or, to quote Doc Dre, ‘Trying to turn me back to the old me.”
But he’s dead. He’s a fixed part of history and the new me has new goals, patterns, beliefs, etc. The new me takes his coffee with less cream and drinks the occasional beer. The new me wants different things out of his writing and thinks in different ways. The new me loves differently.
So, if this is to have some warm ending message then I suppose it would be that the way you do things ought to be based on who you are. Not were.
- Call. Coffee. Post. What comes next?
I spent the better part of the last 48 hours thinking about and planning a lesson for this morning’s class on AI in science fiction. The lesson planning was more like lesson learning for me, as it allowed me to advance my own understanding of the no-longer fledgling field of research and the possibilities inherent therein. I suppose from a philosophical perspective the planning was my largest leap in understanding since I began reading Simulation & Simulacra after watching the Matrix all those years ago. I mean for my teaching to be reflective of my own learning process in a way and to ignite the process of others. Movies are meant to cause conversation and discussion and to promote more than entertainment.
One thought that continually stood out throughout the process of creation was the idea of process itself. For example, I have been on the path to ‘habitizing’ this process of how and when I write the blog (2.0) for 13 days now. It takes on average 66 days to form a habit and 21 to break one. I don’t believe I lasted the full 21 in my brief repose from the talisblog, but the formation of this new process should subsist for the entire timeframe. In fact I plan to make the number, 66, something of a goal of mine moving forward academically, personally, etc. 21 is likewise to be part of my process.
I am engaged in a number of transformative processes at this point in time. One is the breaking of my reformed soda habit. I’d like to quit entirely, but I like Jack and cokes and the occasional Red Bull, so the best I am willing to allow is a great moderation. 21 days from now we will see if I’ve broken the habit of simply reaching for a soda in the ‘soda fridge’. In truth, the best option there is to remove the stimulant and replace it with a better substance for me and my jazzed up boys.
In the end it all swirls back to the idea of process and the comfort and security of that. Each morning I wake up, say good morning to my love, go downstairs to prepare coffee and languish in the stages of that process. Then my coffee and I are here at the desk writing for the next ten minutes. That process–that familiarity is extremely grounding. If my kids are with me, they become a part of that process. However, they are not always here and will eventually grow and move on, so the core process remains love, coffee, and words. There is a simplicity and a wonder in that which warms my heart and lightens my soul.
- A friend asked me if I was a jealous person. I said no. I don’t think I was lying, but I feel like the answer is incomplete. In matters of the heart I am jealous to a certain extent. That extent is less physical than emotional. I don’t understand how to share love. That continues to be a problem.
- I don’t believe my writing days are over. I don’t think the stories are gone from my mind or that my access to the stream has been revoked. I believe it is clogged the way a drain clogs from too much rough use. I know this because in moments, in flashes of shadow and movement I see stories.
I can hardly believe it has been a week since my life shifted phases and I restarted the blog. I talked about habits, basically to death, in the first few months of blogging. I probably related a lot to the Little Engine that Could (that relationship is going to be renewed shortly as I am soon to start Stephen King’s The Wastelands). The early ra ra was meant to get me excited about forming this habit. Lately the feeling is more of a settling down into what is right and important in my daily life. Connect to my love, connect with my boys, generate coffee, write. This four part harmony forms the shield over my day. I can take on the world the moment I click publish.
This feeling I get of sending words out into the digital ether reminds me of the sensation of tithing or prayer. I’m giving something of myself back to the storyspace without any real expectation of physical reward. I am not doing it to get famous or even to have people read the blog. Some (one?) do I suspect, and maybe that is part of it. Maybe I cast a phrase that impacts someone in a positive way the way script diving into quote archives occasionally yields beauty. Here’s one now:
To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.
That gem from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. is housed at brainyquote alongside other gems from the same learned man. I believe he means to remind us that while the ocean of our opportunities is dark and chopped with frothy fear, it is only at sail that we can discover what exists outside of ourselves.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what exists within me and what I believe I need to feel whole. Those things are separate but exist as part of a larger whole. There is who I can be alone and who I can be when I am connected and loved and loving. I used to believe one form was less than the other. Now I am drifting towards an understanding that they are instead different kinds of living. I am entirely capable of living a life unto myself and absent of connection. It is not the same kind or style of life I would live should I let love in. That other life is not exactly better. It is an apple to an orange. It is a different way of being and the way I prefer.
That kind of thinking represents an evolution–a departure from a shore where I truly believed there was no life in living and being alone.
- I intend to go to Europe in the next ten years and enjoy that part of the world. Then I’m going back to Africa for a while. Then Asia. Ten years here on the grind and then I’m out.
I continue to tackle this idea of impermanence and this related concept of living in the now. I am not very good at it though. I get bogged down in things and get lost in the oft awful fantasy of ‘what if?’
The reason I write all this is to reflect on the idea that happiness is not a straight line. It is a series of moments, a wave that crashes over you again and again… or not at all. Perhaps that serves as an exaggeration. Everyone finds happiness. I used to find it more than others, but nowadays I’m about average. That right there speaks to a lot of things: My average and the normal average is entirely different. This gets into the idea of both racial and financial inequality where people are dealing with change that reduces their averages, or so they think.
So, what does it all come down to? Understanding that happiness is a journey. You aren’t going to be happy all day every single day. If you were, the idea of sadness would be criminal and the thought of happiness would be, well, limited. See, too much of a good thing is a bad thing and maybe it is okay to have less happiness in order to appreciate how good it actually feels.
The same can be said of sex. Or coffee. One becomes numbed to the effects of both overtime.
This blog on impermanence is brought to you by the failure of the Fluff and Smoke Tumblr. I didn’t know you could steal another company’s tunblr, but it happened. My Enovella site was hijacked and replaced with something standard. At least this wiz audio still exists. I discovered the missing story by accident. A link to the story popped up on a page I was reading and I clicked on it. Then I realized it was gone. Sad moment, but it led to good moments. As I tried to track down another existing version of the story, I ran into a lot of feedback about the work. One reader called it better than most full length Shadowrun novels he’d read. That gives me the warm fuzzies inside. It also took place years after my so-called loss of ‘the gift’ which means I didn’t actually lose anything.
I got lazy.
Here is where we get into impermanence. We are never the same people we were a moment ago, so we are never the same writers we were a story ago. That does not mean we are not good or even special. It means that there are other things going on with the work, which create the tableau of experience with any given story.
I am a person who wants to live every bit of life and experience everything and do and lead and write and sing and travel and teach and play and listen and so on. There is not enough time in a day for that all to take place and still manage to have clean laundry and a house that doesn’t belong to mice. Priorities must be defined and observed and honored. Beyond that, I ought to start keeping a bucket list. While I cannot do everything, I can do most of what I aim for in this brief existence in this small universe.
- Speaking of impermanence, the new Diary of a Wimpy kid features a new actor playing Rodrick. The problem? He’s Asian. You can’t change race mid-series. Not even Micheal Jackson could do that.