~ The Morning Muse #12 ~
Note: This was supposed to be posted a few months ago (mid-October to be exact), but for some unknown reason I let it sit longer than intended. And come to think of it, yesterday’s Resolution: Regain and Retain Attention is a great companion piece to this one, actually.
As life and the world become increasingly disappointing, an increasingly cynical fella who once was brimming with optimism for the future now wants to retreat and self-indulge even more than he normally does into books and writing and music — Read|Write|Rock. The key word is retreat, though, not escape. It’s more like a strategic mental regrouping of oneself amid the unending battle in the war that is, arguably, the social (and political) decline. As I immerse myself in books, my goal is to attain a better perspective on human psychology, the ever-perplexing human condition and the ways of the world. As I engage in writing, the goal is to not only to unleash the never-ending flow of ideas and stories that percolate regularly, and not only to discover my place in the world, but also to impose in some small way my view of what is and what could be — or even should be — via the inner psyche or my characters’ voices, as well as the subtext within. And finally, as I jam to the music I love, explore and discover new music, and write original music alone or with my band, I imbue my soul and overall human consciousness with a transformative magic that does wonders for the ongoing interior monologue with myself. That’s the general idea, at least.
* I shot the featured photo in October 2017 at Brown County State Park, Indiana.
~ Lifebook #19 ~
Like many, I consume a lot of media. Be it social media, websites, research, daily & weekly podcasts, television, music, books and comic books — altogether it’s too much. Something’s got to give because I need my own damn attention back. I need my focus. I need to make a change, like pronto. Of course it won’t be books and certainly not music that I eliminate. However, I’ve already cut back on my weekly/monthly comic book/graphic novel reading. Over the recent years my television consumption has increased quite a bit because we are in a new golden age of television after all (although I’m still under the national average, at only 2-3 hours per day). Yet, still it’s too much. I could probably cut back on a few podcasts, but really those lovely things get me through my workday while I do very repetitive and monotonous work at the Day Job. That means the obvious place to make a drastic change in consumption (read: time suckage) is in social media and, well, the Internet in general. And what perfect time to make that behavioral adjustment than the New Year? Getting the damn phone out of my hand more and replacing that physical activity with even more books and more writing. It is precious time that could be better spend writing, say, daily microfiction like 100-word drabbles and 50-word dribbles, or jotting down the half-dozen story ideas that percolate through my brain daily. These are activities that I wish I could simply do on my phone with ease, instead of scrolling Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — however, the soft keyboards on smartphones are very aggravating interfaces for writing.
But I digress. The point is, WE ALL need to regain and retain our attention so that we may focus on more creative and productive things in our daily lives. In short . . . we need to PUT DOWN THE DAMNED PHONES!
One way of looking at it is: anything that is great . . . anything that is worth a damn hardly ever comes easy.
Early last year I presented this article by Craig Mod (via Backchannel and Wired) as a guest blog where he writes about his determination to snatch back his attention. It’s worth a read.
~ Lifebook #18 ~
So I exited 2017/entered 2018 in a rather foul mood and before turning in for the evening (which was not long after midnight because apparently I’m an old man), I wrote this rather sour New Year’s Resolution.
Usually I go into a New Year with a positive outlook and attitude. I go in with a plan and mindset to do new things, better things and simply be better at everyday life.
Well, this year I’m not doing that. For 2018 I’m going into it with a negative attitude for once. I’m embracing a certain realistic cynicism where usually there’s an idealistic optimism. In its place is a fatalistic realism?
I’m done trying to make things be what they should be — or what I believe they should be. I’m done trying to make things right that don’t want to be right.
The one exception might be my heath. I’ll do what I can (as a diabetic) to make that better, I suppose.
But everything else?
What will be, will be.
Or something like that.
I did mention that I was in a foul mood when I wrote that, right?
Sour notes aside, still, what will be, will be.
What will not be, won’t be.
P.S.: I did wake up in a much better mood and with a better attitude on this fine first day of the new year . . .
~ The Morning Muse #11 ~
Some things have to change for a better state of living for me, personally, as well as for my family. That can best be achieved starting with nutrition and diet. I need a low-carb diet (and really, lowered calories as well). It’s very hard to stay on this course when the people you live with–these enablers!–refuse to either get with the program or stick with it when we embrace it. I may have to simply lone-wolf it myself. That’s so much easier said than done, of course. Hey, I’ve jogged a couple times in the last few weeks. And I didn’t die.
That concept has been on my mind quite a bit this past week. Given how scattered I tend to be mentally/creatively/productively, I think that has to be a condition of great concern and goal. Also:
Yeah, that’s really important and goes along well with consolidation. You could probably add PRODUCTIVITY to that, but that’s a given (can’t achieve efficiency if you’re not even productive). And naturally, those two should lead to:
Yeah, that’s a biggie and the hardest to obtain, which is probably why it’s next to last on this list. Creatively I have the attention span of a squirrel on speed on a grassy knoll full of acorns. My mind never stops generating new ideas, usually ideas that have little to do with the current project on which I’m focused at a given moment. It’s madness.
Also, I tend to be a bit of a seasonal kind of person. I’m usually most creative in Spring and Autumn, so perhaps as Summer wanes into the Fall (and the kids have gone back to school and the days become cold and dark) I’ll be at point where I’ll be able to focus more on whatever the Spring and Summer months have undoubtedly inspired in me creatively.
This relies on and becomes the sum total of the four preceding it. Inherent in this word is the concept of SUCCESS. If I can manage to be successful with any or all of the above, then achievement is the ribbon, the trophy, the medal.
HEALTHIER | CONSOLIDATE | EFFICIENCY | FOCUS | ACHIEVEMENT
Just five words. Just five goals. Sounds easy enough.
~ Lifebook #17 ~
Spring always brings turbulent weather and this year’s season of renewal has been no exception. A monsoon season in both April and May? C’mon, now, that’s going a bit overboard. May is usually my favorite month of the year because of a few reasons, such as it being a period of time (usually) beyond extreme weather, a time of moderate temperatures (usually), the flowers are in full bloom and the NBA Playoffs are happening. It’s arguable that May, along with October, is the most beautiful month of the year. I do like beautiful things.
This Spring brings things that seem to represent my getting back into the swing of things. To wit:
- Started a new job recently, effectively returning me to the mortgage business. The new position comes with my highest salary yet. That’s kind of the idea as you progress through your working life, whether transitioning to a new industry or remaining in the same one. It’s rare that your cost of living decreases over time in this society, so continued growth in earnings is just what the accountant ordered. Now . . . if I could just get used to working 8-to-5, meaning having to go to bed no later than 1 AM . . .
- Recently rekindled my burgeoning creative partnership with my old writer friend Jennifer Macaire. We’ve been kicking around the idea of co-writing a book or small series of books (likely a trilogy) the past two years and that’s still the plan. After presenting her with an idea for a different approach to a collaborative novel experiment, she has tasked me with the initial conception of our project, which, funnily, was the opposite of what I wanted to do. But I’m glad she did because I got started on it (tentative codename: Project Seven) right away that Friday and have conceived what I think could be a very interesting YA urban fantasy series. The brainstorming sessions I had last weekend also got my creative juices finally flowing on an older idea (codename: Project Arcana) that I’ve kicked around in my noggin probably since Moses reportedly parted the Red Sea. So it’s good to be back in a creative and productive state of mind and I can’t thank Jennifer “Sneezy J” Macaire enough for indulging and inspiring me to get the ball rolling.
- The band has been about as active this year so far as we were in all of 2016. A month or so ago we put the finishing touches on our initial 5-song EP (although we still need to mix it, master it and release it). There are rumblings of finally returning to the stage by this summer, but as I’ve learned in the 2.5 years of this band’s existence, I need to curb my expectations, if not my goals for it altogether. We’ve only played one show (in January 2016) and written eight songs in all that time. Yes, we are men in our 40s, all four of us married, three of us with kids and jobs, so naturally a band at this point in our lives is going to be a part-time venture. One would be foolish to think that what we did in our youth and 20-something years as musicians could ever be replicated now. The dedication of time, hell, the availability of time for guys not far from middle-age just isn’t there. It can’t be. And that’s a hard, inconvenient truth I had to come to grips with in 2016. For now I’m happy to ride the wave as it comes (and goes).
~ Notebook #11 ~
When you’re looking to reincorporate lean muscle to your prose and you turn to the maestros of the minimalist, clean, no frills, straight-to-the-point (and straight-to-the-heart) narrative technique. I have a tendency in daily speech and writing to use a lot of complex sentences (and parenthetical asides) and when I’m not mindful of it, I tend to let that creep into my prose, especially when I’ve not been writing fiction narratives for a good while (an obvious drawback to mostly writing in a nonfiction capacity daily for so many years now).
I’ve been reading both Elmore Leonard and Bob Thurber since the late 90s (starting with Thurber at an online workshop just prior to his entering award-winning publishing success). Both of these authors cite Ernest Hemingway as a major influence on them. Only makes sense that I finally dig deeper into the guy at the top of this literary family tree I’ve adopted, so I hit up my local public library for Mr. Hemingway’s collection, and since I don’t (for some odd reason) own Mr. Leonard’s collection, I grabbed that too.
On my bookshelf I already have a few novels of Mr. Leonard, and naturally I have a personally signed copy of Mr. Thurber’s dysfunctional novel, Paperboy. On my hard drive I have a couple of Mr. Thurber’s collections of short stories, most of which are micro and flash fictions — hence the reason I dubbed him the Maestro of Microfiction over a decade ago, also because he writes with absolutely no fat in his narrative prose — it’s lean with only the most essential nutritional literary ingredients.
If I’m going to attempt to finally re-engage myself in pantser writing, and writing actual first drafts again with little regard to upfront editing (I’m an obsessive on-the-go editor), then I will need to help curb that OCD tendency by writing as plainly and as succinct as possible. Taking a refresher course with these three professors will help immensely.
Who are some of the writers you turn to when you’re needing to recharge your batteries?
~ Daybook #10 ~
The wife and I had a rare night out sans children last night and what we had to show for it was a nice Mexican dinner (with dessert — fried ice cream) at a place we’d never been to before, and the other thing we had to show for our evening was an armful of books because as bookworms our evening consisted of trips to two different bookstores, Half-Price Books and Barnes and Noble. A total of seven books — 3 books for her and 4 for me. Though we definitely should, it might be a good thing that we don’t procure books more often from the bargain bin/clearance and half-price stock, otherwise we’d have fare more than we have space to accommodate. Amid the bargain finds I also finally nabbed Normal, the new novella by my main man Warren Ellis that was originally serialized in 4 parts digitally last summer/autumn.
At any rate, according to my better half, this was the perfect kind of date, dinner and books. I owe her a margarita next weekend, though.
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