What’s Happening in 2017

Hello everyone.

The blog is on hiatus right now.

For the past two years I’ve used this blog to talk about…

  • Story Structure
  • Creativity
  • Novel Writing
  • Health/Inspiration/Motivation

Now it’s time for me to bring all that research to bear on my own novel. Book 1 of my fantasy series, Turtle Island, is still in the works.

I’ve been working with a professional developmental editor for the past 8 months. My novel is coming along, and in the meantime I’m getting a crash course in writing from someone who does what I want to do – someone who deals in words for a living. Most importantly, I’m getting direct feedback on my writing. Which is scary, and painful, and exactly what I need.

I still plan to have the novel published on Amazon in 2017. But because this is my first time going through the process, it’s hard for me to judge exactly what month I’ll be able to publish.

My blog hasn’t slowed to a halt because I don’t care about writing anymore; it’s just that, I’m trying to stop talking about writing and do the damn thing.

When I do re-start the blog, I’m actually considering doing it in the form of a podcast. In my podcast I plan to break down famous novels, especially fantasy trilogies and series like…The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. The podcast will be the result of some intense reading and studying I’ve done in preparation for my own fantasy trilogy. Because how better to learn than by taking notes from the greats?

 

But the podcast is not right now. Right now I’m in radio silence mode. Working my day job, day dreaming about writing during my day job, and coming home every evening to write.

So that’s where I’m at. When I’m back here next, I’ll be carrying a basket of good news.

 

Open Season

Writing Set Up

Travel is bad for art. Wine is bad for art. Staying up late is bad for art.

What my art needs is a plastic chair and a uniform schedule.

My dream is to turn my hobbies into professional pursuits, which has the dual effect of 1) earning money and 2) spending more time doing what I enjoy and less time “working”. It’s a snowy peak I’m aiming for. But other creators have made it – they’re busy making it this very minute – and all I have to do is follow their boot prints.

The good new for regular guys like me is, whatever your wildest dream is, somebody’s already achieved it.

Billionaire? Civil Rights Giant? Lead Vocalist? Restaurant Owner?

Oh baby it’s all been done a million times. You just have to find the right blueprint is all.

You just have to bounce around a few different cities, a few different careers, and a few different relationships first. You have to watch the first third of your life slide by. Or however long it is, to realize that nobody’s gonna bring the holy grail to your doorstep. Nobody’s gonna push your ass up the ladder because nobody feels bad for you.

It’s not that we’re jerks, we’re just too busy feeling bad for ourselves.

When you realize that it’s all your fault, then magically the prison door falls off it’s hinges. Now you can take your blueprint and spread it across the table like a treasure map. Draw a line from A to B and walk it like a mile-high tightrope. You owe it to the kid you used to be.

Pseudocide

Darwin CBD Sunrise

Ken Kesey committed pseudocide after being sentenced to prison for the possession of marijuana. He left a suicide note in his truck, parked it at the edge of a cliff in California, and took off with his friends to Mexico.

Huck Finn also committed pseudocide. He wanted to get away from his alcoholic father and go on adventures. There’s a brilliant scene where Huck and Tom hide in the rafters of the funeral home during Huck’s funeral. That scene made an impression on me as a kid. (What will they say about me when I’m gone?)

A pseudocode is a little death, and death is good for us in small doses.

The pressures of life expand like steam in a chamber and they need to be released or else. And sometimes man, a two week vacation just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes a vacation is a torturous little tease. The first dagger is a dreary life, but the second dagger is gazing into the future and realizing that nothing’s likely to change.

The doctor tries to patch you with pills, but really what you need is a micro dose of death and rebirth.

For some it’s a breakup or a divorce. For some it’s a new job, a new town. A psychedelic trip or a road trip. Quitting the habit you never thought you could quit.

These things feel like death. But now you’re reborn, and what will you call yourself? Maybe you’ll leave your iPhone in the drawer for a week and who cares? Time is on your side. The rainy days are even lovelier than the sunny ones. You suddenly realize that time travel is a waste. Because the men in black flashed a red light in your face and erased the past. People still warn you about tomorrow and her army of troubles, but you take it all with a grain of salt, because anyone who purports to read the future is a liar.

You’re like Huck Finn in the rafters, or Ken Kesey crossing the Mexico border. You’ve got $5 in your pocket, a sunburn on your neck, and a backpack full of apples. Once your soul is weightless, then baby you can really fly.

Beginner’s Luck

When you’re new at something, you’re standing at the base of a mountain and there’s only one place to go – up.

If I picked up a saxophone today, my improvement from Day 1 to Day 30 would be astronomical. My improvement from Day 30 – 60 would be great, but not quite as drastic. By the time I’m performing in the saxophone olympics, I’m only improving in very small increments from year to year. Why? Because now I’m the straight-laced superman of symphony.

When you’re new it’s easy to improve. So easy that it looks like magic and we have to make up a name for it, we call it “beginner’s luck.”

Newborn babies know all about beginner’s luck. Newborn babies couldn’t be dumber. They have ALL the knowledge of the universe in front of them, none behind.

Yesterday the little guy couldn’t talk, but today he’s yelling “cookies!” From words to sentences, from crawling to running, he’s smashing past those life milestones at 100 miles per. Little kids don’t bother with rear view mirrors. They just think, “What’s next man?” First bicycle? First kiss? First job? Bring it yo!

Then we get older and the mountaintop levels off. Now we’re walking a level ridge. Looking into the void on either side causes our knees to start knocking, so instead we look ahead, eyes on the prize. As adults, a few or our skills have now been sharpened into money-making skills; so… just keep doing what got you to the dance.

But…

But man it’s fun to be a kid. In any small way you can swing it. It’s fun to suck at something and get better fast. You impress with your progress. And if you screw up? Who cares, you’re only a newbie! It’s fun to stretch your legs again. Your legs miss the feeling of storming that mountain at a 45 degree angle. It’s good because it’s fun, that’s all.

And who among us dares to pretend, “I’ve got more than enough fun in my life, thank you.” I love you but I don’t believe you.

Dawn and Dusk

Few things are impossible, but describing a sunset is one of them. It’s like trying to take a selfie with a skyscraper or recreate a Beatles song using only a rock and a stick. You might as well teach a tiger to play checkers. You might as well give up before you start.

What would you say to somebody who had never seen the sun set over the ocean? “Well there were lots of yellows, and then the yellows turned to oranges, and then…”

Some people don’t know this, but our Earth is connected to a parallel universe of magic. We are only connected to this magical universe twice a day – ever day at Dusk and Dawn – during these two times we swing just close enough to this magical universe that a tiny bit of it bleeds through.

The change that takes place during sunset (or sunrise) is blatantly subtle. You know some wacky magic is happening right in front of your eyes, but it’s faster than a hummingbird and gone before you even grab. You can’t freeze it. To take a picture of a sunset is like drawing a rainbow with only one crayon. This is because a sunset dances, not walks, across the red carpet of time. A sunset moves as slowly and surely as your fingernails grow. It moves at the speed of a blooming rose, a climbing vine, a ripening fruit. It moves at the rate that a child grows. You know it’s happening, but you can’t pinpoint exactly where.

Another big problem is, in order to describe an ocean sunset you’d have to somehow re-create wind through the viewers hair. A chilly wind but slightly warm. A wind that isn’t cold but is somehow getting colder. A sunset is not all about color, it’s not all about light, it’s also the air density, the twist of the wind, the blue blanket of night being draped across the bedtime sky.

Sunsets just wouldn’t be romantic if they made sense from all angles. The day belongs to science, and the night belongs to rest, these things are well understood. But the dusk and the dawn, those are something else entirely. Something that reminds us of the truths we knew before we got born.

One Step Ahead

summer in january

It’s Friday man and I’m still half young. Two things worth celebrating in 2017.

This is how I look after two hours of Muay Thai training. Now matter how whiny I wake up feeling, how stuck, how full of self-loathing… I’ll always be smiling and skipping by the end of a good workout.

There’s something about movement that directly combats the feeling of stagnation. Depression is a kind of stagnation (nothing is changing, nothing is getting better, nothing seems to help). Physical movement takes that snow globe world where nothing ever changes, flips it on it’s head and sends an army of serotonin snowflakes to sparkle your city towers.

We all experience depression, minor or major, daily or weekly. But I’ve never once felt depressed during a backpacking trip.

I don’t know what the doctors say and anyway, I don’t trust them as much as I trust myself. I can distinguish some very clear patterns if I look back on my life with an objective eye.

When I was trail-running in Alaska this past summer, I quickly learned that I had to stay in a constant state of motion, otherwise I’d get blanketed by bitch-crowd of mosquitos in no time.

Depression is a buzzing black cloud of mosquitos. No amount of sitting and swatting will make them fly away. The universe is yelling over the megaphone that I need to move. I need a change and I need it fast.

Patterns Within Patterns

bali rice fields

It takes a damn good Villain to sustain a lengthy series. Petty criminals can be tracked and detained within the space of an episode, but a Voldemort or a Darth Vader can push your hero to the brink.

Arguments about what people should or shouldn’t do only distract from the reality of what people are actually doing.

Life is what happens from 9 to 5. Evenings and weekends are just commercials that break up the regularly scheduled program.

You can fake love, wealth and happiness, but you can’t fake fitness.

All I have to do to become a poet is read every poem ever written, starting with Homer.

What people/characters want is usually very different from what they need.

Life imitates life. The start of a new year is like the first flowers after a bitter winter, which is like a fiery sunrise after a moonless night, which reminds us of birth, which is like waking up after a long nap, which feels like forgiveness, finite youth, and limitless possibility.

More Magic

 

Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud, Bali

7 million years ago, African Apes are branching into four different groups: Gorillas, Chimps, Bonobos and Humans.

4 million years ago humans are walking upright like a bunch of silly wankers.

1 or 2 million years ago Homo Erectus is found in SE Asia. The “Java Man” has literally walked out of Africa and into Europe and Asia. Holy shit! And I call myself an explorer when I fly to Paris, book a hotel, and ride the elevator up the Eiffel Tower.

200,000 years ago these Homo Erectus guys are starting to look like me. If one of those guys got a haircut and put a jacket on, they’d be able to watch Star Wars at the cinema today without causing too much trouble.

50,000 years ago, give or take, you have the sudden “Great Leap Forward.” People go from using crude stone tools to painting in caves and sewing with bird-bone needles. By 13,000 years ago we’ve populated all of the main continents except for Antarctica.

How weird that we were the ones to populate the world, and not the Apes or the Chimps or the Bonobos who all, at one time, crouched at the same exact starting line and waited for the same exact whistle to blow.

One of my favorite explanations for how humans covered the globe comes from E.O. Wilson’s book: Social Conquest of Earth. For the all the concepts that flew over my head, the one that stuck with me was “Eusociality.” It’s a biological term for a species that has an advanced social system. Ants are the poster boys for an Eusocial society. They divide labor, cooperate, store away food, look after the young. Like us, Ants have successfully spread to all the earth’s continents. (Except Anartica but who cares.)

At some point humans stopped being solo hunters and we started sitting around the fire. Some of us cooked while others hunted and others set up camp. Women were able to have more than one child, and children had more than two parents. The fire was synonymous with home; we’d leave for a time, but we’d always return to the fire. We laid awake looking at the stars. Nobody told us what was out there, what flew around up there in the cosmos, so we invented our own mythologies and passed them around the fire. The stars were brighter, the nights were longer, and there was a lot more magic back then.

How to Make a Character

pengubengan road

The boxcar full of innocent people is hurtling toward the cliff. Superman wants to save them but WAIT! Lois Lane is on the cutting board, the laser inching closer and closer to her exposed neck. What’s it gonna be Superman – your love or your duty?

Everyone pretty much agrees about life’s core values. Is FAMILY important? Yes. Is GOOD WORK important? Of course. What about SOCIAL JUSTICE? What about PERSONAL HEALTH?

Yes yes yes. There’s not much room for debate here. We all nod, love and truth amen.

But a novelist tortures his characters by making them choose one value over the other. It starts to get interesting when you ask someone, “which value is more important – FAMILY TIME or PERSONAL HEALTH?”

Superman usually figures out how to succeed in both. But us regular people have to decide: should I take the money job that requires me to work 12 hour days? Should I skip the gym membership so I can spend evenings with my grandparents in the nursing home?

These decisions always hurt. They differentiate you from the people around you. These decisions are the structural support beams for the building that is your Character.

Absolutely No Bullshit

Jackson Tandy Seoul Tournament

Imagine if your boss really was the hardest grinder in the company. Imagine if teachers got paid based on the quality of their teaching alone, (not by seniority or outdated credentials). Imagine if your president really was the most intelligent, pure-natured, socially aware, forward thinking person in the nation?

When I practice Jiu Jitsu, I experience something very rare and very profound. I experience a culture where nothing is given and everything is earned. For two hours a day, I live in a world of zero bullshit.

Here’s what happens when you start Jiu Jitsu:

1) Your instructor gives you a white belt

2) You wear that belt at ALL times

3) Your belt advertises your true skill level to everyone else in the room.

The belt system advances like this: White->Blue->Purple->Brown->Black. On average it takes 2 years to advance a belt. And here’s the beautiful part: you absolutely cannot buy a promotion or fast-track your way to the top. In some other martial arts you find things like group promotions and annual promotions. Not in Jiu Jitsu. You could potentially practice 20 years and never make black belt. You ONLY get promoted when your instructor sees that you have mastered the necessary skills for your level. There’s only one way to advance, Hard Fucking Work.

My Jiu Jitsu coach is a short man, but he really IS the alpha lion of the group. Simply because trains harder and longer than any of us. The first time I fought him, I remember thinking that I just might give him a run for his money…

You wear your belt. Everyone knows your true worth at a glance. We’re like video game characters with our personal attributes scrolling overhead. For me that blatant level of honesty was… refreshing.

And I can’t help but think that a dose of that honesty would be good for everyone. Especially in the work place. Especially for teachers and trainers everywhere. Especially for young males who are innately susceptible to the ‘invincibility’ delusion. Especially for everyone in the world who desperately needs a sense of worth, a sense of unadulterated pride, something real that they earned through sweat and honest self assessment.

I’ll never be proud of my height or my race or my nationality, all things gifted to me by way of the universal lottery. But the day that I earn my Blue Belt, ooh baby I’ll run that thing up a flag pole. A really tall flag pole.