One of the things my therapist and I have been working on through recovery is seeing the world through a healthy lens. I’ve learned to apply this to my writing as well.
The mind is constantly receiving information, and our consciousness routinely files it under ‘good’ or bad.’ One of the tricks of retraining an anxious mind is to change the lens, the filter, that sees the world as a negative place, and instead looking at the world through a positive lens. If you spill the coffee on the counter, you could look at as a catastrophe. Or, you could look at it as chance to clean the counter, which needed it anyway. It’s not easy to do, but it can really help an anxious or depressed mind. My example is pedestrian, but it applies to the larger things in life, as well.
So too with writing. Once you’ve written something, and you look back on it, in my case, one of the first tendencies is to say: what a bunch of crap! Or, switching the lens, you can say: Okay, this needs work, but I know if I change this, and alter this, this piece just might work. It is not an easy process, and, indeed, it is what the entire re-write endeavor is all about, but it is crucial.
Anyway, that’s just one trick that’s helped me quite a bit. Switch the lens. The world will be a better place. I hope everybody’s well!
Let’s talk about mental illness and writing. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for my entire life. It can be a long, hard struggle. Recently, my anxiety flared up so much that I had to take some time off from work. Living with mental illness is still a stigma in society, so I thought I would open up about it, get the conversation going.
Anxiety is a relentless disease, one that takes over your entire soul. However, in my case, I have been extremely fortunate, working with the right psychiatrist and the right psychologist. With the right combination of medication and therapy, this is the happiest I have been in a very long time. The disorder is currently in remission.
I wanted to talk about how this relates to my writing. When one has a mental disorder, it is crucial to have a creative, artistic outlet for that energy, that emotion, that rage, to find a new home. For me, that outlet has been writing. When you have an anxious mind, as I do, I have found that burying myself into a fictional world that I create, with characters that I control, brings immense satisfaction to an anxious mind. In the past few months, I have done the most writing I have ever done, and I continue to do so. It can be any art form; painting, dance, music, and the aforementioned writing. Just so long as one with a mental disorder has that outlet.
My recovery has allowed me to truly express myself with some great(?) works of fiction, that I will soon share with the world. And I really, really, want to drive home the point that if you have a mental disorder, you are not alone. Don’t be ashamed of it. If people think you’re crazy, fuck them. There is hope, help, and the chance for recovery. I am living proof.
My latest novel has an elephant with a minigun. Just throwing that out there.
Bye for now, hope everybody’s well!
Anybody else out there put on the headphones and listen to music when they write? Sometimes I write in silence, but oftentimes I like to kick out the jams when I’m typing away. I guess it depends on the flow. Anyway, sometimes I try and match the music with the theme of the scene I’m writing, other times I just have the music on to keep me motivated. Depends on the mood, and all that. Anyway, this is what I’ve been listening to lately while I write:
Brothers in Arms, Fury Road soundtrack (freaking epic!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-kvudqE4RE
Sisters of Mercy, Temple of Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evu3I0ZoERc
Ennio Morricone, On Earth As It Is In Heaven: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqVUw9Ngm4c
Angelo Badalamenti, Twin Peaks theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXrjMaVoTy0
Billy Idol, Prodigal Blues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnxitvSKBwE
Steve Earle, Copperhead Road: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvaEJzoaYZk
Led Zeppelin, Kashmir: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzVJPgCn-Z8
The Eagles, Journey of the Sorcerer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJjd_sZcMYw
Lady Gaga, Poker Face (yes, yes, I know): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bESGLojNYSo
Ministry, Worm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vSAPId4IiM
Anyway, that’s just a sample of what I’ve been cycling through while I write. Anybody else? Any thoughts?
Bye for now.
Okay, so I’m not the best at reviewing books, but here goes: I recently read Isabel Allende’s City of Beasts, a young adult novel. It’s about a young man who finds himself embroiled in the mysteries and perils of the Amazon rainforest.
To be honest, I found the whole book to be contrived, overdone and repetitive. Just my opinion.
In the first chapter, the young protagonist, Alex Cold, gets so mad that his mother has cancer that he smashes everything in his room. I guess this is his saying goodbye to the material world of America before discovering the spiritual world of the Amazon. Because, you know, that’s so deep.
In the next chapter, Alex is sent to live with his eccentric, world-exploring (how convenient) Grandmother who lives in New York City. Allende’s hatred of the Big Apple just freaking oozes from the pages. She must be from Boston or something.
The rest of the book finds Alex in the Amazon, accompanying his Grandmother on a trip to find the mysterious tribe of The People of The Mist. They are to be careful of a monstrous, bigfoot like entity that lives in the jungle, a creature known as The Beast. I love cryptozoology, and there is no legend of a bigfoot-like creature in the Amazon. If somebody can wiki me otherwise, please do.
Eventually, Alex is kidnapped by The People of the Mist. He instantly becomes one of the tribe, and starts working with them. Just like that. No segue at all.
Alex also carries his grandfather’s flute, which he uses to calm the wild animals, the aforementioned Beast, and even a gigantic albino bat. Seriously.
There’s also a shaman who makes an appearance from time to time, whenever a Deus Ex Shaman is needed. To tell you the truth, the magic and spirituality portrayed in the book gets so muddled, it’s hard to tell if you’re reading Stand By Me or Harry Potter.
I did like the ending, however. Allende brings it to a nice close. You just have to wade through a bunch of what-the? to get there. Anyway, just my opinion.
Writer’s block is something else, isn’t it? I just sit at the keyboard, ideas ricocheting around in my head, but my fingers remain idle. I got ideas, just not the words. I got the powder, not the gun. Got the boat, but not the lake. Got the frosting; no cake. You get the idea.
I’m sure we’ve all been there. We all have stories to tell, that’s why we’re here, but sometimes the words just won’t come out. I’m afraid I’m having one of those days.
I read once that Stephen King used to have a cocaine problem. Cocaine. That would explain the inordinately vast volumes of work he was able to put out. That poor typewriter. Anyway, I read that he got himself clean, and, as it turns out, you obviously don’t need drugs to write; by the time you have finished reading this sentence, Mr. King will have published at least four more novels.
I’ve tried caffeine. This just makes me write gibberish, quickly.
I’ve tried alcohol. This just makes me write crap that I think is great until I look at it the next day.
I’ve tried marijuana, legal where I live. This just makes me write ULTRA crap that gives the spell-checker a seizure.
Anybody have any methods they use to get through writer’s block?
So last year, we had to move my folks into an assisted living facility. They’re doing really well there; the place is great, with lots of activities. And I turned around and my Mom had joined a book club! She’d been so busy for years taking care of their old house, but now she has time to do things she enjoys. Anyways, part of her book club assignment was to write a poem. A poem! My 84(!) year old mother writing a poem! Something I thought I’d never see… Anyway, it’s about my 90(!) year old father’s mutton chops. I told her I’d post it on my blog, (yup, I’m a Mama’s boy, don’t care who knows it) so take it away, Mom!
You didn’t have them when we first met, and what is that, you ask? Whiskers!
They start out slow and as they grow, they grow so slow, then there they are, whiskers!
Some people think whiskers distinct, they think them unique.
If you had whiskers, what kind would they be? A beard might look good, or maybe a goatee.
When first you grow them, they’re called peach fuzz. Or maybe you would prefer more hair – mutton chops.
But now that you have them, whiskers that is – how do you care for them, and trim them all neat?
You cut them, you trim them, they’re so very neat. The fact that you have them is truly a feat.
And now that you have them – a real tour-de-force, why not shave them all off and start over again?
And so ends my thoughts, on whiskers that is. If you had thoughts, on whiskers that is, please add them here!
This is the first time I’ve ever written a book review, so bear with me here.
I recently finished reading The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. It’s a western novel, insasmuch as it takes place on the West Coast. There is no Louis L’amour stagecoach robbing here; this is a plodding and methodical read of deliberate action and thoughtless cruelty.
The Sisters brothers, Charlie and Eli, and sent on a mission by the Commodore, an Oregon crime lord (say that three times without laughing) who has been wronged by a man named Warm(?). Charlie is the tough one, Eli is the thoughtful one. Anyhoo, The Sisters brothers trek their way down the coast, basically acting like pricks the whole way, robbing and killing with reckless abandon.
They eventually find Warm, just outside of San Francisco, and learn that he has discovered a way to easily find gold in rivers. He has concocted a solution, that when poured into a river, causes the gold in the rocks to glow, thus making for easy pickings. Although it turns out the chemical solution is deadly caustic. And I looked it up; there is no known way to do this. Patrick deWitt is taking serious liberties with chemistry.
The book has some action, but is basically more of a character study. Much of the book is comprised of the main characters talking and thinking about themselves, and it’s very introspective. Don’t get me wrong; this is a good book, but if you are looking a a shoot-em-up western, Unforgiven style, you might want to keep moving on.
I understand it’s going to be a movie, coming out very soon, starring Donnie Darko, River Phoenix’s brother, the guy who backs up Will Ferrell, and some other guy. It will be interesting to see how it translates to the big screen.
If you are looking for brainless western action, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for well-done, in-depth, character development, this is DEFINITELY the book for you. I enjoyed reading it.
That’s all for now. Thanks!
Ground control to Billy Baxter…
So I got a proof copy from Amazon of my novel, and it is FULL of grammatical errors. Spell check is only good for spelling werds rong. It doesn’t find the plethora of other errors that I found. ‘They dogs’ instead of ‘the dogs,’ things like that. So I am going through page by page, hunting down the mistakes. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt of shame. Hope everybody’s well!
Well, it has been a year, and the final rough draft of the novel is done. Now it’s off to the editors. And by editors, I mean people I know who have the time and patience to wade through 400 pages of crud and turn it into something readable. At least this part is done! If anybody wants a copy of the draft, just let me know. Now it’s time for a break, then onto a rough draft I’ve finished for another novel. Hope everybody’s well!