Noteworthy 1.2.20

Back after a hiatus, here’s a few interesting links this year:

A great write up of the state of our artistic economy in Wyoming. It’s incredible how resilient and resourceful the creative community is in our state. I am awed by the talent in Wyoming and inspired by their determination and spirit!

A bit of insight about Herman Melville’s later years as a poet. I had no idea!

This is a great throwback read on one of my favorite performances of all time. The great Vincent D’Onofrio’s timeless role in Men In Black. He absolutely destroys that part in the Eggar suit!

Hope you are all having a marvelous 2020! Make art, make haste!

j

Monday

I come out of my cave all

snug blanketed

to meet a world

smiling hostile at times.

Hostile because of its indifference

not because it’s out to get me.

I caution you to look both ways:

and ensure you are wearing enough padding to handle the onslaught, as all of us adjust to the workweek.

Be well, friends.

j

P.S. The padding is the love you have to offer.

Less is More (and a rescued novel idea!)

The last two weeks I’ve been working on outlining the children’s play, and after some discussion, I’m ready to hash out the working draft so the director can have a strong starting point. It’s going to be a blast and a rush to get it done ASAP!

Yes, Nanowrimo is halfway over. This month, my hope was to work on a playwriting project I’ve been musing on for a few years. As I’ve been outlining this children’s play to finish in the next few days, some characters I had almost forgotten came to see me in the form of a song. These were young folks that came to me in a dream and became a story idea for a novel tentatively titled, Ethersong.

My son and I had a Gorillaz concert playing on Youtube while we were hanging out this weekend, and they started performing a song of theirs I hadn’t heard before: Souk Eye. Suddenly, a switch flicked me back on! I have a deep deep fascination for mood and tone, and music has been the flickering light that guides me into the proper paths of a terrain before dawn. Years ago, I had written the beginning, lightly outlined my way to the middle and to a solid ending, only to find I had no idea how I felt about the whole thing. I was unsure of my relationship with these characters and how their world would be presented. I was uncertain of the execution. I notice my uncertainty comes strictly from being rusty at writing. I’ve been out of it for a long time. And so I sought out the song and listened to it at least twenty times in the last 24 hours. Sweet percussion, melancholy, an aching incompleteness. What the Portuguese have gloriously named Saudade. The profound longing.

While I don’t know that I will be able to finish it during Nanowrimo, I’m committing to make this the next big project I work on moving forward. I recorded a podcast episode for Creative Drive confessing much of my shortcomings in recent years, and the excuses I have made for my lack of passion for life. I’ll probably share it this coming week. Suffice it to say at this time, there is no reason to withhold that which brings you complete joy. It’s unreasonable to create work that brings no value to your life and does not fuel your purpose in life. I am finally starting at square one. I am falling face first into my passion again, and it feels wonderful. Keep making art, no matter where you are, no matter what your station in life is. Much love,

j

On Purpose (and Reinventing the Delusion)

I haven’t written in a while. Once again life does what it does best!

The last two weeks were full of desire to stay optimistic and to find relief from the strife of adulting. This means I let thoughts or impressions percolate for far too long. I need little interludes to process and unpack. I’m getting better at taking breaks, and telling myself that working a full time job and raising a child and maintaining a household with my wife is all part of a delicate balancing act. Much like a squirrel swaying on the power line, life is always in the balance; and surely a constant flow of traffic will remain eager to contribute to my demise.

Okay, I didn’t mean it to sound so fatalistic, but it’s a Monday, so forgive my tone. Let me cheer it up slightly: I’m fortunate I can give myself breaks. I have never been in a position, at work or outside of it, where I could take a moment to adjust my direction and that of my career/family/creativity. Most of my twenties, I felt I couldn’t breathe because I had to do something. I had to busy my mind and body with tasks without really pondering the direction of my actions. If it’s one thing I would advocate as a stepping stone to quieting the anxiety of one’s life, it is to slow down.

Listen to your heartbeat.

Listen to what ails you and what your mind is telling you. I felt aimless for so long because I was following goals and objectives that I had set for myself from a young age. Goals and ambitions don’t remain static. They grow with you. The only way you can adjust accordingly is to forget the external factors and dial in on the things that make your mind soar. Clarify the possibilities that only you know will bring you joy. These are the actions that will make a difference to you and yours and what you care about.

There was a period of about 17 years, during which I lied to myself about what I wanted to be. It was difficult to accept. I wanted to be a filmmaker. That’s it. According to 13 year old me, that was the one and only thing that would make me someone worthwhile. I imbued my all to this purpose, into this fantasy, that for a long time, there was room for nothing else. No room for growth. That all changed. And so before I tell you why I call this filmmaking dream a fantasy, let me explain:

In early 2013, I had a nervous breakdown.

I, the filmmaker-in-the-making, had this glorious orange and teal tinted idea of tomorrow: I was to make movies, and something would happen that would allow me to do that in the future. Something.

I was praying to the cosmos something would happen to me. I never explicitly sat down to ponder the actionable things I needed to do in order for me to be in a position to be successful as a filmmaker. I didn’t reverse-engineer how to get my foot in the door. I never explored and investigated the way I should have. That’s not to say I was twiddling my thumbs during that time. Back then, I explored viciously. Though I couldn’t afford to go to film school, theater was close enough, so I performed and wrote seven full length plays, three screenplays (outlined a shitload) and countless short plays and ten minute plays and so on. I made movies with my friends, two of them full length films and several shorts. I continued to write poetry in my journal like I used to as a child, and recorded music like I’ve always wanted to do. I created simply out of curiosity. A very productive time, but undoubtedly aimless.

Something will not happen to you. You have to create the conditions for you to be in the vicinity of something.

In 2013, my wait for something came to an end. As Maddie and I anticipated our child coming into this world, I sat in the living room of our little one bedroom apartment in Seattle, and I came to the realization that the reason something never happened, was because I never went looking for it. What were we doing in Seattle? Did I come here to write and direct? Did I ever mean to produce anything? Did I come here for the coffee? Why did I waste my parent’s money to learn playwriting and directing for the stage, which ultimately, was an approximation of the filmmaking dreams of my youth? Did I even want to be a filmmaker anymore? Maybe. No. Not really. I don’t know.

I thought of the journal entries of a middle-schooler with broken English who wanted to make action movies and would draw posters of his made up films. I thought of the dramatic scripts I wrote to prevent me from giving in to depression and potentially doing something really stupid. I dreamt and wrote and sang about doing stupid shit, but then my dreams began to take another shape. Dreaming of cinema was a beautiful coping mechanism and it became the compass of my life. I was a shell and I ascribed my person-hood to the act of movie-making. The kid who bugged his friends to make movies. I was a volcano of creativity, out in the vast Pacific, spewing lukewarm magma and calling it art. I was the Movie Guy. That is all I was and over a decade later, I looked up and saw myself still hiding behind that false purpose:

Quiet, opinion-less, and empty.

I wept there in the living room. I felt like an insane person. I never had a goal to have a career as a filmmaker. I had an unreachable fantasy because I never determined what I would seek. I broke my own heart and I cried not out of sadness, but out of brute desperation that I had not realized my own lack of purpose up until that point. I was shocked at the obvious. In the aftermath of this uncomfortable epiphany, I didn’t feel like I had much left of myself. But in the rubble of a burning shit-show of my non-existent ambitions, I pulled my head out of my ass and remembered I could not dwell on this for long:

We have a baby to raise.

And so together with my beautiful, supportive and loving wife, I went back to the drawing board. I asked myself for the first time, what do you need to do to be fulfilled creatively? What the fuck do you actually want?

I want to go home to start over. We wanted to start our family on the right foot. That’s when we returned to Wyoming. That was six years ago. Trial and error, luck, and the help of our families steadied the ship until the Captain remembered where he left his compass. We figured out what we wanted out of life, we saved our pennies, worked hard, started a business, made sacrifices, took left turns, asked more questions, then took the right turns, bought a home, closed the business, stumbled into good jobs, and suddenly I fell face first into a job I love and while things aren’t perfect, they have never been better and I have never felt this much empowerment in my life. I want to share and prolong this feeling of wonder and possibility with my wife and son every single day. I want to share it with my friends and my community but I am still building the courage to look inside myself to see how the emptiness in my soul is now full of love and ambition for a future of honesty, love, and empathy. This is the compass I have longed for. When you ask the right questions, the answers will follow. I’m blessed to have a partner who has helped me so much to be better. This is what I’ve always wanted. Being a father is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me for so many reasons, and one big reason is that I was able to set aside my priorities to help my little one get settled into his life, raise him and learn from him. And I’ve tried like hell to learn as much as possible. This is what I’ve always wanted. And lo and behold, creativity flows not aimlessly, but concisely and out of love. So far so good.

I thought this would be a brief post about Mondays and finding time to breathe, but the heart and subconscious had other plans. I guess what I’m getting at is that nothing really started to fall into place until I began asking difficult questions of myself, and challenged myself to assess my personal growth honestly. I’m not writing about a catastrophe at all. In my fat head, I liken this to missing the morning alarm and waking up late when you should have been at work two hours ago. Yes, there is an urgency, but you can still use your get out of jail free card with your boss. And then you get to work to play catch up, knowing you won’t have many more chances to get this shit right. Don’t short yourself, life will do that without your help. Yes, it’s an awakening that took way longer than it should have. Could be worse, though: I have seen folks at the tail end of their lives still waiting for their something to reach down into the well of suffering and carry them away.

So as I wrap this up, what can I say? I strongly suggest you ask yourself the tough questions, be brutally honest, and make plans full of good intent and strong purpose. No matter your age, your station in life, your current status, there’s still time to breathe.

I’ll keep trying too.

j

Writing and Editing Night

Podcast night didn’t work out so well last night on account of me collapsing into bed without much warning. It happens from time to time and I have to forgive myself. Yes, I lost a night to work on the editing for the podcast as well as the big videography project, but some days the body just wants a good night’s sleep. So that brings me to tonight: I’m settling in to give the latest episode of Our Kid’s Asleep a final pass and will be working on the Music Festival Highlight to deliver sometime this week. I’m really looking forward to sharing some of the performances captured. I feel completely immersed in the magical weekend! But for now, I’ll try to stay focused and bring about a new episode of the podcast now that summer is winding down and the workload is getting manageable at the office. August was a busy busy month, but incredible rewarding. I’m so lucky to have a job where I can meet people who are working hard to better themselves, no matter the circumstance. I’m inspired by all the folks I meet and work with, so it kind of pushes me to follow my gradual progress, even after five o’clock rolls around. I’m optimistic I will wrap up my videography commitment in September and shift focus to writing my short story collection and recording some music. Hopefully I’ll have a week or two to chip away at these side projects and when the time comes, I’ll start sharing some updates.

OKA Episode 23 Now Playing!

In order to manage my time a bit better, I went back to the pocket agenda, which now goes with me everywhere. As much as I’ve tried my Google calendar, I really struggle with the app on my phone and using the calendar online. I much prefer seeing the week and scratching dates and times and deadlines on a tangible page. It adds a warm sense of urgency that I can’t get from my online calendar. It may sound old school, but I have to go back to the things that make me efficient, and discard the rest.

Good news: I’m sleeping better. It’s not perfect, but I’m making a habit of getting good sleep at least three nights a week (to start with). I’ve noticed I have more energy, I’m sharper at work, and I’m following my creative instincts to some really good ideas lately. I used to think that I would only have time to write or edit or record if I stayed up ’til three in the morning every night, but I’m changing my tune after all this time. There’s enough daylight hours at my disposal, I’m sort of learning to use them! And to be honest, it’s not so much that I’m taking drastic, well regimented steps at this time. My rule of thumb has simply become to do one creative thing a day. So here’s what I am choosing to do to help myself:

  • I’m carrying my idea notebook with me.
  • I’m documenting my progress on my calendar.
  • I’m taking a break when I need it.

It’s not much, but it’s a start. I also wanted to document my diet but that’s been a shit-show. That notebook is starting to become a thesaurus for regret. We’ll see how that one pans out. Regardless, we’re making little strides to keep up the creative side in this complicated, tiring, working class world.

Be well and make some art when you can. I’ll try to do the same.

j

Noteworthy 8.25.19

Hello Void!

Hope the weekend is treating you well. We’ve gone and had a good time so that means less time in the household to write up a new batch of noteworthy links. But better late than never!

Ben Folds was a staple of my college playlists. Some songs of his still take me to that special time. He recently came out with a new book and he’s started to share some of his songwriting wisdom. Here’s a little segment from earlier this week on morning television.

I’m considering taking some of my blog posts every now and then and turning them into something tangible, like a little zine. I would do this often as a kid, but the practice fell out of favor in my mind over recording like a madman. I’m thinking it would be good for me to step away from the computer more often and use my hands to create something. I long for the organic and tactile more than ever. In my research, I found this great issue in the great Reddit community of zines, by u/thecorndogbaron, entitled: Cookies as an Allegory for the Loneliness of a Human Heart.

Need a pickmeup to get the week started? Check out this old clip of Buddy Rich dueling Animal on Sesame Street. Hard to keep a smile off your face!

I leave you with one of my favorite songs growing up. Included in the superb Mission Impossible cash grab “Inspired by the Motion Picture Soundtrack,” Powderfinger came into my life at an impressionable time and their track guided years of uncertainty as I began my teenage years. It rings with so much melancholy for me it’s insane, but it’s a hell of a song nonetheless.

Be well and make art, friends. Have a great week,

j

Grieta (from Prompt 18)

At Rise: Mauricio hiding in a hole in the desert, behind the brush.

Mauricio: Sometimes, it’s easier this way. Whether to enjoy my sand head buried in darkness. Whether I accept my blind eyes as they make believe that I’m no longer here. I pray that here has become there. Is it okay to think this way? Is it okay to regret this? In the sand, I camouflage myself along the wedges of dirt and sage. I blend as a praying mantis in the soil.

I am a large mantid. Mantids, I think that is the scientific name. Not so easy to hide sometimes.

In Arenal, we would sit at night and the glow of the volcano would make its way to us. We never felt the heat, but we believed we did. A phantom comfort when there wasn’t much to eat. As human beings, it is easy to aspire to the impossible. It is an insult to keep your thoughts and dreams as low to the ground as your shoes. A friend of a friend of a friend says he can get you through the border on a cold night in Juarez. Then second cousin Martin will come from Odessa to drive you in his pick up like dusty luggage left in the sun. He’s legal, he can get by okay. All you have to do is get to El Paso.

Jacinto, my Papa, went first, with the family savings, and he left on the back of Manolito’s maroon minivan at dawn on the second of October. He never knew hugs or his way around one, but he tried that day. He wrapped his arms around me much too tightly and said that he would send for me. His tone flat and distant as if he had already taken off for the United States days ago. El Norte called and he answered. He swam the gutters of six borders and I heard his voice once again. For months, we wondered if he had enough to eat along the way, or if his shoes were holding on, or if he drowned in the big river. My mother was so proud she found his shoes at the flea market two weeks before he left. Barely used boots fit for a long hike at just ten colones! She smiled toothlessly, hiding her sorrow. For years she held that pain of distance and finally he sent for Mama and my sister, to join him in this place called Wichita. So far up North I think you can wave hello to the elves in the winter time. They found their way and that was seven years ago. And I waited in the house with two rooms by the big tree where the tall grass begins. With Abuela Mariella.

She is gone too, you know? She left not long ago.

In the tall grass, there was a praying mantis that would sit still at the sight of me. And we had a staring contest every day after school. I thought it looked me closely and waited for me to make my move to destroy it. But it never flinched. Maybe it didn’t know any better, and hoped the closer the danger, the closer the food. It is a dumb insect after all…

Did you mean to send for me too, Papa? Did you expect me to walk this path like you did? Did you want me to do this on my own?

He hides behind the brush again as headlights approach.

Sometimes, it’s easier this way.

Lights Out.