Believe In Yourself

No one has all the answers.

No one knows what the future will be.

No one knows what they’re doing all the time.

Yet all my life I’ve had people act like this to me, and in turn beat me down into submission because I see through that. I’ve had so many people come at me like this with ‘good intentions’, people who felt it was their responsibility to stop me from doing things because I might fail, or fall on my ass in humiliation.

And because I was vulnerable and wanted to please people, I internalized this from an early age to myself as I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and never would, but that everyone else did. Then I backed down and went silent to keep people from doing this to me at all.

That’s not a way to live and it’s hell to break free from. There’s so much more to life than just a nine-to-five grind with some off-time in between. And most of all, most of the loud-mouth, well-intentioned people in this world don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves. Worst of all, those kinds of people spend most of their lives talking out of their asses.

The good thing about realizing all this and letting it sink in and undo that internalization is that when I sit down to do something or even just look into something, I don’t have to put up with someone coming at me going, “Are you sure?”, or “Have you really thought this through?”, or worst of all, “Do you really know what you’re doing?”

Here are my answers to those questions:

“Are you sure?” – Why wouldn’t I be? Do you think I’m just doing this on some kind of whim? If so, piss off. All my life I’ve been treated like an immature idiot when I have barely done anything that could be seen as immature and foolish. Heaven forbid if I had done really stupid shit like get drunk and fucked up or something like that. (yes, it’s true I’ve never gotten drunk and fucked up in my life- I never wanted the hangover and I also didn’t want to deal with the shit-storm I’m sure would have come down with that.)

“Have you really thought this through?” – More than you have. I can do research on something till I get to the tenth page on a Google search. I can think things through so much that I can talk myself out of doing them. But I have the knowledge and unless you have information that can help me make an informed decision, shut the fuck up.

“Do you really know what you’re doing?” – Do you? I’ve been tossed into the deep end so many times I expect it. I’ve been handed things so many times and just been told to figure it out like I’m some genius (which I’m not). I think fast and am pretty good figuring stuff out and maybe that’s seen as an ego-trip or some bullshit like that but it’s not.

I think these questions hold people back more than anything. Don’t question or try to figure out the motive of the person asking them. Don’t waste your time on their bullshit. For so long, I felt like I had to justify my entire freaking existence and how I lived my life. So to keep from having to deal with that bullshit, I went silent just to stop as much of it as I could.

Not anymore. This past year should have proven to anyone that there is no such thing as a sure thing. Don’t buy into a cult of personality and bullshit saying otherwise.

Over the last few days, I’ve had to do hurry-up-and-wait for a couple of reasons: I have limited options, and I have limited financial means. I need to be careful in what I do and how I do it. And I have that freaking right to, as I tell myself now. And I also have the right to take that wait time and do other things with it.

So the best answer to any question like the ones I posted here are simply this:

I believe in myself.

Writing With Music

I read an article in The Guardian UK (link here) about writers struggling to write during prolonged lockdowns. I know a year ago when the first lockdowns were announced a year ago writers thought: “Yeah, we got uninterrupted time to write!” But as the narrator said, “That proved not to be true.”

But the question I asked myself in relation to this article is this: what the hell was my excuse? I mean, other than eating, sleeping, and driving to earn money, what else did I have to do with my time? Yes, I’ve written a lot in the past year and maybe I needed to write and delete shit left and right to get to the point I’m at here. But this morning this dumb-ass thought came to me:

(in a very whiny and stupid voice) “I don’t feel like my writing time is mine.”

Oh, really? Who says? Some asshole voice from my long-dead and done past?

Some constantly pinging phone? (I know, I could turn those off but putting the headphones on is more fun to do.)

Then I had a flash of memory, of being young and idealistic and always having the music on when I wrote. I remember always having it on speakers or headphones, listening to the radio, records, cassettes, cd’s, and now streaming. I carefully selected what I wanted to listen to based on the mood I was in or the mood I wanted to create.

Yet in recent years I’ve gotten away from that thinking I have to write in silence listening out for God-only-knows-what. That shit is going to cease right here and now. So why am I telling you this, dear readers?

Because for any writer that struggles to write, or anyone that struggles to let go of the noisy bullshit of this world, putting on the headphones and blasting music might help you. It’s helping me right now and I can see what it can do for me going forward.

The problem I’ve had for quite a while now with all that silence is that I get so damn easily distracted. Not just from my pinging phone or anything else, but from dumb-ass thoughts from so long ago they should be dust in a grave. It’s what’s kept me from blogging daily and I enjoy blogging but when I can’t settle my mind down and write I end up feeling like shit for the rest of the day and not really writing anything else.

It’s not the world itself that makes demands on people, it’s people that make demands on people. Long ago, there were demands made on my time that weren’t justified in any way, shape, or form. Yet I stayed silent about those unreasonable demands because I felt like if I spoke out the shit would hit the fan.

I know that wasn’t true but convincing my mind has been quite the challenge. Despite being on my own for the last ten years, I haven’t pursued my writing and my life near as much as I wanted to. I thought I could be quiet and likeable and cute and that would keep people off my ass. That wasn’t needed then and it’s sure not needed now.

I will say my relationship to writing is complicated and there’s a hell of a lot more to my story. But the big thing here is this: it’s not the amount of time I need, it’s me shoving bullshit out of my way to write and not feel like I’m just being a brat writing here. If anyone reading this feels like I’m just shooting my mouth off and being a bitch, that’s on you, not me.

I’ve always thought I didn’t have what it took to talk about anything I wanted to- my life, politics, writing, anything really. Because sooner or later someone would try to shoot me down, or shoot my idealism and fire. This in turn shut my writing down and if that was intent of anyone, fuck them all to Hell. And it’s not wrong for me to adopt a kick-ass attitude instead of trying to be nice because being nice and quiet doesn’t make for good writing.

Album listened to writing and editing this:

Racine by Sass Jordan, 1992 (she’s a blues-rock singer from Canada)

Not Necessarily My Blog – I Love Essay-Writing Edition

The new blog title is a homage to an old show on HBO back in the 80’s called ‘Not Necessarily the News’, which was a spoof-satire of news shows with such segments as Dixon Dolly and Rich Hall’s sniglets (words that aren’t in the dictionary but should be).

Yesterday as I was out driving (yes, I can drive and think at the same time unlike most of the idiots on the road today, some of whom seem to think that individual lanes on the freeways don’t apply to them), and I had a thought:

Back in my school days in the pre-internet era, I actually loved writing essays and answering essay questions on tests. I felt like essay writing gave me a chance to use my brain and show I wasn’t just a human automaton being trained to just regurgitate facts and shit like the educational system wanted me to. And it was a good thing I knew how to write well because I always got A’s on my essays and on tests with essay questions.

I’ve been blogging off and on for a long time and inevitably I let go up and down and keep trying to figure out how to get a rhythm going on it. I would think I had to be all high-and-mighty intellectual or clever or something. But yesterday in the car I realized something: blogging is a form of essay writing. And because of that thought, I had a memory of loving essay writing in school when I didn’t love much of anything else about those days.

Essay writing is some of the oldest published writing in the English language though I won’t claim a level of brilliance like some stuff that’s survived a couple hundred years give or take. But telling myself I was once good at something is a start, and telling myself now that I can get good at it again if I just put the pedal to the metal and approach my non-fiction writing like essay-writing. And I also tell myself to remember that sometimes I might be under the gun time-wise like I was on those essay tests so long ago so I can’t use that as an excuse not to write now.

I think the reason I’ve avoided this revelation and embrace of it is because it’s not seen as cool by the assholes in this world to like something that’s required of you. I mean, imagine the extra amount of shit I would have gotten back in my school-days if I had revealed my love of essay-writing? Let’s not. But luckily I’m not in high-school anymore and I don’t have to worry about dealing with sniggering assholes anymore thanks to the power of internet unfollowing and blocking if needed. And no, I don’t need to see that kind of shit in my life and neither does anyone else. Seeing shit and getting shit doesn’t make you a better person- working your ass off at something you care about does.

In my school days, I had several great teachers who really taught me how to write well. They taught me how to think through an idea, do the research needed, organize it or free-write and then put it all together and most of all, how to proofread and edit. I’d like to pay homage to them, too here and show that all their time and effort was worth it with me.

I know I’ve never taken the thought of writing professionally as seriously as I should have. That’s something I’ve worked through over the last four years and I think at this point I’m getting close again to a breakthrough. Because I learned back then that if I wrote my ass off I’d get good at it. I know that’s the case now. And I know that I might be under-the-gun timewise sometimes but I don’t need to pick up my phone, doom-scroll on social media, or anything other than putting hands on the keyboard.

The really good part of this thought was I can apply it to the non-fiction projects I’m struggling with. My thought is that I can create a single topic then write it out then fit all those pieces together. With my fiction, I don’t think about writing the whole book at once or even a whole chapter. I go scene by scene and put it all together. And I’ve put blog entries into my non-fiction project files so I’ve already got material there to work with.

It’s about focus and concentration, and if I have to put a time limit on myself I will. But I’m not a teenager anymore and I don’t have to deal with any real or perceived bullshit over proclaiming my love of something that might not seem cool or smart. To me, trying to cater to bullshit is like trying to conform to something I’m not- cool or smart. What I am is full of words in my head along with my feelings. And I deal with those words and feelings by writing about them.

So I will admit it right here and now: I’m an adult nerd who likes to write essays.

The Road

As the road opens up in front of my eyes

The only limitation is in my mind

From the song, ‘The Road’ by The Alarm (songwriters Harry Macdonald / Jack Mc Allister)

Over the last week or so, I felt like I was sitting at the starting line waiting to take off and write but I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t because the third book in my non-fiction trilogy didn’t have a title I liked (the one I had was too wordy though that’s now the subtitle) and I couldn’t think of anything shorter that would fit. Then the term ‘The Road’ came to me.

The Road is like the blank page writers face every day. It’s full of possibilities both good and bad. But the reason I needed a title for my writing book that I could use in a shorthand way was to put a lot of big ideas into one place.

My relationship to writing is complicated and that’s how the idea for my writing book began a couple of years ago. It’s a long story with twists and turns and a lot of knowledge that was acquired through a lot of hard work and struggle. Also, writing has been a form of therapy and recovery for me and that’s not an easy story to tell either.

But I think the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome is shutting out the dumb-ass voices and echoes of people wanting to berate me for making something much more complicated than it really is. These voices are dumb-asses because they haven’t done the work I have and put in the time and effort. I know not those shit-heads rule my life but like my other two projects in this trilogy of mine, I also know how hard it is to reduce those voices to just faint echoes.

I’ve been writing seriously since I was ten years old. That’s thirty-six years and a lot of things have happened writing-wise. I’ve seen the publishing side of the business go from print to digital and beyond. I’ve seen writing styles change and trends come and go. And in just the last four years alone, I’ve seen a reckoning among writers in real-time and in public. There’s quite a story to tell even from my tiny perspective.

I know I’ll have to work my ass off to tell this story in my own way and hope that it will work for both writers and people who don’t write more than a Facebook post or a grocery list. And I know there are people who won’t sneer at me for writing in depth like I will be doing. These are the people who are interested, and at times fascinated by the writing process. I wish it was all magical fairy tales but my writing experiences are more often than not like Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

The last eight months or so would have been impossible to endure for many people without creative outlets like books, movies, tv shows, and other forms of art and media. We’ve all struggled to get a hold of our racing thoughts and raging anxiety and if we’re lucky enough, we find a book or something creative that we can grab onto and use to pull ourselves out of the storm. I’ve wanted to be a part of that world of creative endeavors all my life and have had to fight the asshole-voices who said I couldn’t do it and was a fool to do so. I have to remember that those voices are in the minority and not in my daily life.

Today I will set out to re-outline the writing book and hopefully get a start on the introduction. With this writing book I hope to be able to explain what writing is really like when you commit yourself to it, what kind of work it takes to make something come together on a page, and what writing can reveal to you about yourself and the world you live in. Since this was the last of the trilogy I came up with, it’s fitting that it’s the last book to come together.

I do want to say this: if anyone reading this thinks that writing is easy… piss off. I don’t just dash stuff off here, proofread for typos, then go out and dance like an idiot or something. I care about what I write and how I write it, and I will not take any kind of shit for that. And for any writer reading this, don’t take shit for doing something you want to do, and love on occasion.

Like the song lyric I quoted above, the blank page is the road I take daily even though I haven’t always been able to put words onto the page itself. But like the song lyric also says, the only limitations are in your mind, voices and echoes and all. Those voices and echoes can fade if you get on the road and get those wheels turning, or face the blank page and get words on there.  

The Lack of Joy In Writing

Writing doesn’t bring me a lot of joy these days. There is no joy in me when I write about pain, suffering, and cruelty. I don’t get any joy from writing things that are painful and true.

So why do I write like this?

Because I have to is the first thought that comes to my mind. Because for me, not writing about what’s eating at me and occupying so much of my mental and emotional energy is like leaving an open wound to fester and grow infected. I used to try and bury stuff like this but I can’t do that anymore.

When I first started writing back in the era of MTV and leg-warmers, I did feel joy at putting words onto the page. I loved the feeling of those words pouring out of me, of being able to escape into my imaginary worlds. But as the MTV-and-leg-warmers era began to wane into Total Request Live and boy-bands, I wanted to do more with my writing. And that dear readers, is when writing started to get hard, and a lot of joy got lost that still hasn’t been found.

It was okay for me to piddle about writing fiction but wanting to write about political and social issues, or just any type of non-fiction writing… well I’d been told I couldn’t talk about politics and issues at all because I was an idiot, and that I was only good enough to write non-fiction that was sweet a bit clever. I have since come tor realize all this negative talk was total fucking bullshit. It was just people being loud-mouthed assholes because they knew what I wrote might be different from what they thought and felt and that was a bad thing.

I have never, ever wrote with the intent of using my writing as an axe to grind, win arguments, or prove a point. That’s never been my intent and it never will be. I write to express my thoughts and feelings, to share my observations of the world, and to tell stories both true and not-so-true (fiction). If anyone thinks otherwise, keep reading.

That loss of joy is not a bad thing. What I get in return is a feeling of accomplishment, of knowing I did the work myself and will continue to do so. Now I know with some people in this world who can’t see past the end of their own noses this is not a popular or acceptable feeling. To some people, this is a hard smack of selfishness and ego. It’s selfishness and ego if that’s the intent behind it, meaning writing is done just to deliberately inflict pain onto someone or the world in general. Hate speech and spin-bullshit-lying of right-wing disinformation campaigns is a shitty example of the ego and selfishness of its’ creators. But if that’s not your intent, and it’s sure as hell not my intent, then I reject that accusation of my writing as just an expression of selfish ego.

Did I know my writing life would come to this all those years ago? No. I knew it would be a lot of hard work to learn my craft as I’d been told from day one. What I didn’t know then, and what can only be learned with time and living, is how I could use writing to work through my own emotions, my own experiences, and yes, my pain. I’m not the first writer ever to use writing to sort out my own emotional and mental stuff. But I sure as hell won’t be the last.

This is why I don’t take it very well at all when someone says writing is easy, or worse, that’s it nothing but a public ego-stroke. If you think all these words came out perfectly as I typed them with no need for correction or revision, or that I didn’t think about them all… then you’re wrong because of what I’ve told you about the process here. To readers who make demands on writers to be a certain way or write in just a certain way… well I think Nora Roberts gave the best response to that: “Bite me.”

Now I’m sure someone might ask me, what gives me the right to make demands of my readers to examine their conscience, their thoughts and beliefs? No right, really. But I’m not asking anyone to conform to a certain way of thinking. I’m asking people to think of their own responses to my work as I have thought about mine and put them out there in my writing. It’s been demanded of me as a reader, and as a person and I have examined my conscience, and my thoughts and beliefs and come out a better person from what I’ve learned. I think the only real thing we can do is accept our differences without forcing someone to conform, or trying to diminish them as a person for being different to begin with.

Whenever someone decides to pursue something with all of their energy, whether it be writing, music, auto racing, or any activity really, they will be seen as different by some people. And sadly, some of those people will be complete and total fucking assholes. But as my later father was fond of saying, don’t the let the few assholes in this world ruin things for you. I’ve spent too much time and energy worrying about what some lame-brained ego-centric idiot might think instead of just doing something.

Not anymore.