January 15th 2018

My birthday is in 4 days.

I guess you could say I’m not content to turn 28, despite what some people have told me about my accomplishments thus far.

Someone once said to cherish every step of your creative journey.

The Buddha compared the the life of a human to a river.

Whether by climbing or by current, life keeps moving and changing.

Let me tell you something I’ve discovered about myself in relation to something that once obsessed me. In fact, I tend to discover this eventually about everything that obsesses me eventually.

Let me tell you, I tend to realize, after far too much investment of time and energy into an activity, that the premise I approached the actions I took under was completely false.

It happened to me with tabletop war games like Warhammer 40,000. I played for years, invested a good chunk of my limited time and resources. I figured out how broken the game was after years spent on it.

The digital card game Hearthstone recently met this realization. I haven’t played it since.

One addiction. Yes, I might call these addictions, I desperately need to kick is my old habit of listening to advice shows by other writers. Mostly these take the form of podcasts, and I have been listening to them religiously for over 14 years.

While I have removed the ones I feel are most egregious from my diet, I know (And my brother has often told me) they aren’t worth hanging onto.

Over fourteen years of listening, the advice podcasts, even when they don’t sound repetitive, often simply make me feel uncertain about what I already learned. I’ve kept searching for some means of ‘fixing’ my writing, my style, my characterization… The list goes on, but I won’t bore you with that.

I’ve been realizing, and I use the word ‘realizing’ because I think I already knew this on some level, the amount of pain that comes from rejecting what you love in favor of what someone else has told you is necessary to be loved.

While there are characters in fiction I enjoy reading about, I’m ready to disagree with the idea that only people matter to readers.

I’m a reader, and knowledge of these characters often does not appeal to me as much as the worlds they live in.

While I can rail against stories and their tellers for not abiding by doctrine of character and conflict, I’ve always been a liar when I did. Self-hating world-builder. Self-loathing designer.

I’m not an actor, not a performer when it comes to wearing the minds of my characters.

I want to write what I love.

When I was an English Major I tried to write a book that would please both me and my professors. Foolishness, for sure, I see clearly in hindsight. However, just last year I tried writing books for snobby writers, people who ‘know’ the rules of storytelling. Doubly foolish I’ve been.

Eventually only one piece of writing advice remains for me to follow if I want increase my joy in what I do.

I must write. I must write what I love.



Sympathetic and well-developed characters.

None of these things are the vital component of my process.

The only piece of advice left is that most simultaneously transcendent and trite truism: Just write.

It pains me to add just after writing the previous line, even this advice could use some revision.

Or perhaps that is not the kernel of truth.

It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, or what any writer does. Someone is going to hate my work, their work, your work.

Someone already does.

I’ve met other writers eager to tear each other down. In fact, I believe most of us enter that stage, but not all get out of it.

Be wary of advice. Even this advice.

Doubt every fragment of advice, even the oldest one.

Don’t JUST write.



Just Stop or 13 Years Writing

Just Stop, or 13 Years as a Writer

As many of you will have read before, I started my writing journey as a complete novice in August of 2004.

That reunion has come around again. I don’t always notice these, but this year I have a song that has been speaking to me about my journey.

And because it’s me, it’s a heavy metal song. This one is by a little band called Disturbed. You may have heard of them.

A few years after I started writing, Disturbed released an album called “Ten Thousand Fists.” This song is the second song on that album.

It’s called “Just Stop,” and for the life of me, I cannot think why I never noticed it before the past few weeks, despite having listened to “Ten Thousand Fists” many times. Cheesy as it sounds, the lyrics in this song really speak to me as a writer who has trouble with his internal critical voice.

Some of you may not be familiar with the kind of split that many say goes on within writers. There is the wild and carefree creative voice and the sternly admonishing critical voice. The lyrics of “Just Stop” are what the creative voice should say to the critical voice during the rough-draft stage. My creative voice has been having trouble doing that over the past several.

I’ll leave you with the chorus, courtesy of Disturbed:



“…Step back a moment, and look at the miracle starting in our life

Don’t stop the moment, and let the incredible happen…”


Now imagine saying that to part of yourself and not another person.

Thanks for reading.

Null Media

I have been plagued by a peculiar fixation over the past year or so, possibly even longer than that.

I just thought of a term for it. Null Media.

What does this goofy pair of words signify to me, you ask?

They represent a category of information and entertainment, most commonly, a combination of the two, infotainment, which paralyzes artistry and destroys work ethic. I’ve found this form of media to be particularly addictive and toxic because it typically covers current events, thus presenting itself as important and interesting.

Interesting, perhaps. But important to me as a writer? Almost never.

Ever since I started watching news and current events on youtube, I found myself drawn into this goofy, wasteful format. Not to say news on TV is good. I’d argue it’s much the same. I’ve never been tempted by TV news, though.

Null media provides an insidious medium for what Steven Pressfield, in his book “The War of Art” calls resistance, pushing back at the things I personally can achieve and making them more difficult. The term, “Null Media” may just be a fancy way for me to say “news distractions” but it’s tough not to think of these issues in the world as important.

Well, for me null media has broken one of the productivity rules I did not realize I had created for myself years ago.

That rule? For me, it applies to life, not just art.

Only work on projects that you personally can complete.

As an independent author, I’m a solo artist. I don’t call upon other people to make my stories except for some very specific elements (The ones requiring reader response during editing). I have a support network, but I don’t rely on them to do any of the work for me. I nearly loathe the idea of collaborating with another writer.

So, imagine my surprise to discover that when I listened to these activists, entertainers, and news-people on youtube, I often start feeling like my approach to life is inadequate. What do my stories do to change the terrible situation the world is in? By making my work feel unimportant, null media has contributed to my depression over the past year or more.

All media requires a contribution from its viewers, if only in time and attention.

Positive media provides a sense of satisfaction. Null media? Only void and depression.

What kind of bullshit is this? I’ve been paying attention to the worst events of the world as if they were some kind of terrifying soporific. I cannot keep lending my eyes and ears to every hopeless, emotionally ruinous programs. In the name of staying informed, my productivity has suffered. Yet, the addiction remains strong.

Well, there are only so many things I can do, only so much time each day. I can’t afford to piss away minutes or hours on the news. I never did until recently. I’m sure I’ll know enough of what’s going on without having to listen to the same verbatim spiel about Saudi Arabia from a youtube host every day, and sometimes more than once a day.

This post is here to help me take a stand. I have avoided null media for the day. Now, I really need to keep that up. I predict that every day of ignoring world events that make me feel powerless will improve my state of self-awareness and productivity.

Thanks for reading. I’ll keep you all posted on my progress.


It’s been a few weeks. Bad blogger!

I return! Better late than never.


Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what art means to me. Aside from sounding like the title of some kind of high school essay, What Art Means to Me, is a subject I think has the risk of sliding into massive pretension. Someone poke me with a stick if I get highfalutin’ here.

My first released novel, “Hunter and Seed,” and the sequel to it I am currently writing, were both inspired by the use of art as an integral part of the magic system. However, I think this makes the portrayal of art within the book a bit more practical in feel, compared to the way art is in our world. Art as a pragmatic product is definitely present in our world, but art as a tool for other tasks is something of a stretch, hence: a magic system.

I guess my mind went back to one of my favorite bands this morning. That band is Porcupine Tree. Their work covers a pretty wide swath, ranging from old-school psychedelic prog-rock (Like Pink Floyd) to progressive metal, to some of the darkest electronic punk music I have ever heard. One of the reasons I enjoy their work is the sense of variety. That-said, I gravitate toward their heavier albums. Yet, it is the moments on those albums where the quiet stands out that I really remember. Their album, “In Absentia,” is great as an example both of variety, and of contrast between loud and soft sounds.

All compliments to Porcupine Tree for their work.

Really it is no wonder, “in Absentia” is one of my favorite albums by this spiny tree.

Back to art, and the purpose of that which serves no practical purpose. At its heart, I think art is impractical. Impracticality can become an obstacle for the story, but I like to see it as an invitation. This invitation can promise different things, but often represents a kind of comfort. And how does one become comfortable with a piece of art?

Sometimes on savors it, immerses in it, lives with it over time.

The epic poems, so long as to take days to recite. From memory. A more recent epic, “The Faerie Queene,” by Spencer, which remains unfinished because of its sheer scale. Still more recently, the works of authors like Tolkien, Martin, and Sanderson fill this role. One could become lost in their vast stories without a firm guide.

And yet, investment in work do not happen solely because they are large. And this is hardly the only way to emphasize the impractical nature of art. The opposite is also true, as I am coming to learn.

Would you say it is impractical to try to communicate a lifetime in ten pages? I would. Or would you say, an entire human attitude, and everything they have lived for several years, could be incorporated into a five-minute song? That seems to me an ultimately difficult exercise.

For every massive epic, there are likely a dozen songs that encapsulate a tone of something far longer than they themselves.

Enter, Stan Rogers, a Canadian folk singer from the late middle of the 20th Century. I first heard Rogers’ most famous song, “The Mary Ellen Carter” a few years ago during a period of deep depression. A friend sent me a link to the youtube video to help cheer me up. I don’t remember if it worked at the time, but since then, I have fallen head over heels for the man’s music. Let me focus on one particular song. “Forty-Five Years.”

This song is one of Rogers’ love songs. But it is quite atypical as love songs go. The speaker for the song is clearly an older individual, as is the woman who attracts him. Most of the lines in this song encapsulate large spans of time or hint at events that, while not fully explored, provide context to the speaker’s feelings.

Take these lines from the chorus, especially the first one.

“You say you’ve been twice a wife
And you’re through with life
Ah, but honey what the Hell’s it for?”

These lines describe someone exhausted by the world, someone tired of loss. But that first line gives us the context of why this is the case. A character emerges, not fully formed, but greatly informed to us by a single line. And what is more, the song is less than four minutes long.

Stan Rogers captures more than the essence of the speaker’s feelings in this song. He presents a tone far different from most of the love songs I heard growing up in the 90s and 2000s. An attitude of hope, despite despair, and along with it, the source of despair. Human failure.

So, what does this have to do with the meaning of art?

A lot, as it turns out. We humans pursue all kinds of goals in our lives, and even if the results of these goals do not stand the test of time, they are important to us while we work for them.

Like the beautiful and transient mandalas crafted by Tibetans Buddhists, the world we build exists to be torn down. Ultimately, every action we perform could be considered futile because of its temporary nature. Yet, we strive anyway. Even the monks who believe in the ultimate impermanence of all things have goals. The Dalai Lama, if you believe in reincarnation, has the goal of returning to serve in every generation until all beings are free of their worldly shackles. And yet, impermanence is central to his belief system.

Like in the Book of Ecclesiastes, all is vanity and grasping after wind.

Like in the Heart Sutra, where one of the teachers recounts the hollow nature of all things.

Philosophies of this kind can be difficult for me to accept.

So many artists want to build something that will outlive them. Many have achieved this, at least for a time. I used to think this way.

My response to the Heart Sutra has changed over time. At first, I fought against the ideas, because they make life seem pointless, and make art seem yet more pointless. But what is the ultimate impracticality? To build a sandcastle where the tide will sweep it away. To write a story that will one day be forgotten.

Life is impractical, and art mirrors this fact in an obvious fashion. Even if, unlike the mandala, the destruction of your work is not intended, it is, after a fashion, inevitable. Somehow, this feels liberating to me at the moment. I don’t know if I am conveying this, but I love the moments, the brief flashes, of creation. We build sandcastles because the act of building is fun or satisfying, even though we know the waves are coming.

It is ultimate freedom to know that your mistakes will be forgotten with your successes. That is not to say nothing matters, but perhaps we can be emboldened by the temporary nature of our construction. Time will destroy our work, so what’s the worst that can happen?

Personally, this attitude adjustment (As my father would call it) provides me with a kind of ecstatic bliss to practice more. The word “practice” is key. In the end, art is not so much about product, as it is about practice, at least for the artists, the writers, the musicians.

Every moment of practice may work toward a goal, but when we love what we do, those moments can be our purpose as much as any practical result.

I hope I illuminated some ideas for you in this post. Failing that, perhaps you will enjoy one or both of the songs shared here.

Thanks for reading.

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