Posts Tagged ‘passion’


    

     Life is incredibly short.  The saddest part about this is that we spend so much of what little time we have wondering how to spend it, and once we do figure out how we want to spend it, we are met with resistance, negativity and that two-letter word we all hate most of all: No. After so much of this, we just want to throw our hands in the air and go back to our places in line, accepting the grind as our lots in life and carrying on, moment to moment, day after day, playing it safe and making sure not to rock the boat of monotony.   This might work for a while, but eventually, those notions of something greater, something more meaningful, will catch up to us, tackle us, and pin us to the ground, demanding we heed our own instincts that we’re capable of more.  When we’ve reach that point in life where we’ve put fear in its place and thickened our skins enough to take the punches, there are a few things we can do to counter-balance the effects of the coming obstacles and impediments in order to keep our spirits and our passions in check.  At the forefront of that list, in my opinion, is to have a support network. 

     Whether you’re a writer, a college graduate, a stay-at-home mom, or a poodle groomer, you don’t have time to divulge in anyone else’s version of reality, unless it supports your own success unequivocally.  The fact is, no one but you knows those core truths about you that, if listened to and acted upon, will carry you to your root allocation in life.  We’ve all been out of our elements.  We’ve all taken jobs that simply paid the bills, we’ve all catered to the fear of failure and we’ve all fallen into the designs of someone else’s masterpiece.  It isn’t a good place to be.  We struggle, we fight, we get by… and we don’t even know what for; and all the while we try to ignore the fact that we simply don’t have time for that; that sadly, life comes… and then it goes.

     I’ve reached a point in my own life where, if someone dared to tell me I couldn’t do a thing, I would smile, nod and walk as far away from them as my feet would take me.  My own mother wouldn’t be afforded the luxury of discouraging me, so one can imagine how I might feel about even the gentlest of promptings from a stranger, a friend of a friend, or a stagnant and embittered second cousin through marriage.  If I let these people affect me, I will be discouraged and impotent,  and, as far as I’m concerned, if I let these people make my decisions, I have no right to occupy my own body. 

     So I surround myself with people who have dreams of their own and who believe in mine.  I don’t view this as a simple choice so much as a strategy move essential for survival.  Whatever paths we choose to execute in life, we will be met with enough interference, restraint and discouragement.  It’s just not lucrative to allow it into your immediate personal space.  Your social life should be reserved for those who foster your goals, stimulate your drive and help cultivate your personal empowerment.  In his book, The Master Key to Riches, Napoleon Hill refers to this as the “Mastermind Alliance.”  While I am not typically a fan of self-help or motivational literature, I think he was definitely on the right track with that one, and I recommend the book to anyone.

     If you’re walking, talking and breathing, you have passion.  Even if you have to look for it a little, it’s there.  And passion without purpose and precision is just white noise.  Part of who and what you surround yourself with is part of that precision, so I’ve come to believe in the value of choosing wisely my immediate environment.  I’m standing in a foreign place in my life right now.  Not just in my writing but in everything else as well.  I am at a precipice, looking over the edge at everything I know, just daring the wind to blow a little and knock me off my feet.  But everything I feared is twice removed.  There are a million reasons I can’t succeed and yet all I can think about is the one reason I can: because I want it that damned bad.  Now, more than ever, I’m glad I have nothing around me except the highest caliber of believers, and I’m grateful that, as depressing as it is, I realize how little time there is.

     There isn’t time to listen to anyone else tell you what you should do.  All you need to know is that fish belong in water, painters belong on canvas and writers belong on paper.  It’s just a matter of finding out who you are… your station in life will follow.  Time is precious.  So, if you’re going to stop and smell the roses, first be sure you’re not standing in someone else’s garden.

Advertisements

   

     Earlier today, I had an unusual and rather in-depth conversation with a good friend of mine about sex.  We talked about everything from the obvious basics to the more sophisticated habits, rituals and desires of our fellow men and women, musing over the roots of their various tastes and beliefs.  Many hours later, I again wound up engaged in yet another sex-based discussion with a different friend entirely.  This talk centered more around sexual orientation rather than the act itself, but still, today’s sexual theme was not lost on me, and it made me wonder at the sudden prominence of the subject of sex.  After all, despite what it may sound like right now, I don’t usually sit around and discuss the various forms of human intimacy with everyone I know.   I don’t even know what inspired the topic in either case, but it got me thinking of how dominant of a force sex really is in our lives, and how important it is in writing.

     For all the years I’ve been writing, sex has never been one of my subjects until recently (except a little erotic poetry, of course).  I wasn’t avoiding the topic really, it’s just that until I began the book I’m working on now, there was never a place for sex.  I’ve been pretty diligent about incorporating all the other factors that make characters feel more human, such as bathing, brushing their teeth, changing their clothes and getting an occassional night’s sleep, but it never occurred to me that perhaps fictional people like having sex, too.  Until now.

     In the book I’m currently working on, it’s as if all the sex-starved characters of fiction’s past are exacting their revenge on me.  In this story, I don’t think a chapter has gone by that someone wasn’t getting skins, knocking boots, doing the horizontal hokey pokey, or at least getting well felt up.  The particularly challenging thing is, in this book, no one is having conventional sex.  The main character is a perverse, sexually deviant murderer, so most of the time, the sex isn’t even consensual, making this especially foreign territory for me.  But I’m learning.

     One thing I’ve determined about fictional sex is that it follows the same basic rules of fictional anything.  In the world of fiction, everything seems to be slightly dramatized. When fictional characters are rich, for example, they are filthy rich.  If they’re depressed, then they’re really tormented… and if they have sex, they have a lot of sex, and if it’s good sex, then it’s got to be mind-bogglingly great sex.  The key, of course, is striking a balance that is believable but also engaging.  If you don’t amp up the intensity of the characters lives and emotions, then you’ve got a story as dull and lifeless as, well… real life, and why would anyone want to read a book about someone whose life is as drab as their own?  But, on the other hand, if you aggrandize your character’s experiences too much, it becomes melodramatic and ultimately alienates the reader.  Regarding sex, striking this balance is an especially challenging feat for me.

     There are other problems also.  I’m finding that writing about sex (especially sex of the deviant variety) is a multi-faceted and precarious thing in that, on one hand, there’s the fear of repulsing and offending your reader, and on the other hand, setting out to do just that. After all, don’t I kind of want to repulse and offend the reader?  And if so, to what degree? 

     Also, there is description.  Just how much detail do we need?  Do we need to know how bad Martha wants it (or in my case, doesn’t want it), and is it important to mention the exact bodily and psychological responses of each character in this situation? 

     Finally, there is word choice.  This one is especially tricky because there are times that the clinical terms for certain acts (or parts of the anatomy) just don’t properly illustrate the mood you’re trying to create.  Which brings us back to the first problem: am I offending the reader? 

     It’s a cyclical and potentially stressful dilemma, writing about sex.  And add to this your mother’s voice (real or imagined) – disapproving and stunned by your foulness – to the mix, and you’ve got a pretty toxic cocktail of troublesome puzzles to contend with.

     For me, the key to overcoming the stumbling block that is sex can be found in two words:  just write.  I can’t stop and think about what the agent, the mother, the sister, the priest, or the produce manager at Wal-Mart is going to think of my book.  If I do that, then I’ll be writing to please other people.  And if I do that… then I’ve lost all integrity and should look into getting a new, tamer passion than writing.  No matter what you do, some people will love you and some people will hate you.  The way I see it, I’d garner just as much criticism if I wrote stories about butterflies and dandelions… so I might as well write what feels true to me, because in the end, my own truth is all I have… and honoring that is the only way I know how to sleep with a clear (well… somewhat dirty) conscience.

   


     I have two choices in life:  I can either be a nobody… or I can be a writer.  I know myself well enough to understand that there are no in bewteens for me.

     I spent the majority of my late teens and early twenties trying to figure out where I fit, trying new things and wishing that I could just kind of happen upon something that sparked my passion.  I always figured I would just take an interest in something, go to school, get a degree and land a good job.  But that never happened.  I never found the thing that set me on fire and I certainly never found anything I was willing to go back to school for.  The jobs were easy enough to come by… however, of the passion, there was none. 

     I tried photography and found a little release there.  For several years I pursued it with lukewarm passion.  It pacified my artistic disposition enough that for a while, I considered actually making some money at it.  But I never took it that far. On a fundamental level, I knew that photography wasn’t the thing, and when I realized this on a more conscious level, I was devastated.  All I’d ever wanted was to find one thing that I loved, one thing I was good at.  So accepting that I’d never be fulfilled as a photographer was a heavy disappointment, but I put the lens cap on and considered myself back to square one.

    However, there was one thing that, through all of my soul-searching, I did consistently, passionately and meaningfully:  I wrote.  I wrote poetry, stories, all of it… anything I could, any time… all the time.  I look back now and see that even in my photography, especially towards the end, I regularly photographed words… the human models I used would be written on in black marker, eyeliner and whatever else I could find that would sustain the scribbles on their skin long enough to get the shots I wanted.  Writing was such an intrinsic part of who I was and who I’ve always been, that I overlooked it entirely. 

    Then, in 2005, I had a kind of “moment of clarity”.  It was one of those brief moments when you somehow seem to acquire a nearly Divine kind of insight.  They don’t happen often but when they do, there’s really no ignoring them.  So yeah, I had one of those moments, and in that moment, I realized that I hadn’t really overlooked writing so much as I was intimidated by it… so intimidated that I ignored the desire to pursue it on a professional level altogether.  I didn’t want to face the hazards of what little I understood about the writing business:  the rejection, the criticism, the mental illness that is so commonly (and erroneously) associated with the craft.  But I was twenty-eight years old and I knew that nothing else on this planet would ever make me happy.  Then and there, I decided I would do everything in my power to become the best damned writer I could be.  I decided I would learn the technical side of writing.  I decided I would absorb any knowledge I could come across, and that I would use that knowledge to empower myself in the one thing that fulfills me.  

     I am thirty-three years old now.  I’ve taken the educational steps towards reaching my goals through schooling, and as well, through meeting and bonding myself to a local published writer who has since become my personal writing coach and mentor… at no cost to me, (the story behind my mentorship is a long and fascinating one… but I will save that for another blog), and, probably most noteworthy of all, in October of 2010, I finished my first full-length fictional novel.  As I write this, the manuscript is in the hands of a New York literary agent that I met at a writing conference in Salt Lake City, who after hearing my pitch, asked to see the work in its entirety. If you know anything about this business, this is a pretty big deal.  I realize that the odds are against me.  The chances of meeting one agent, one time, after writing one book and getting signed on, are dismally slim.  But still, I’d say the past six years have been quite well-spent.

   If I know nothing else, I know this:  regardless of whether or not the agent accepts my manuscript, I will continue writing and submitting.  I will try as hard as I can not to accept rejection and criticism as permanent failure.  I will try to remind myself, even in the darkest routes on this road that I am doing what I love… what I was born to do.  Having spent the past twelve years doing a mediocre job for a mediocre company and living a mediocre life, I already know what it’s like to be a nobody.  I know I will never find anything else that satisfies me the way this does.  Nothing will ever use every detail of who I am like writing does.   It’s a tough business.  It’s cruel, rigid and very scary.  But still… it’s not as scary as feeling like a nobody, which, when I am not following my natural path, I may as well be.