Beauty

Not a villain, but can insight villainous tendencies.

shutterstock_607375682I can’t define it. As I’ve been told, it’s up to the beholder to define what is beautiful. This makes sense, considering I find my beat up old truck an absolute specimen of perfection and beauty, whereas other people cringe at how dirty and used it is — it’s funny when they shake their heads at me for being so “blind.”

In many a story, beauty will cause someone to falter from a righteous path, a heroic journey or be lured down the low road. This is the villainous side of the coin, so to speak. There are so many stories of beauty; my favorite being the siren song where the sailors of yore are so intoxicated by a beautiful sound, they steer off toward the rocks or jump overboard to their deaths. Transfixed and transmuted by such a beautiful sound, by their need, their desire for beauty, they die. In this, beauty is a dark magic.

In stories both real and imagined, beauty has caused war, strife, death and acts of barbarism so profound it’s difficult to think that beauty was the impetus. Never was it beauty’s fault, but the fault of humankind and our susceptibility to the allure of wanting to own, control and ultimately consume what we perceive as beautiful.

11137821_369397949918145_644810801_nI see beauty in the joy of my children, the smile and laugh of my wife. I find it in philosophy and dissent.  Yes, dissent, especially now, is beautiful. I find it in waves, mountains covered in snow, a clear lake or a river where I know the fish will be.  Whereas the dark side of beauty, for me, is hardly dark — I simply shirk responsibilities for surf, snow or fishing. Hardly villainous, unless being “unproductive” is a mortal sin these days.

shutterstock_590422925I ponder beauty many times a day without even realizing it. Life is a beautiful thing, even when it does kick you in the teeth.

Better

The enemy of good.

shutterstock_420236590Sometimes I want what I don’t have. I think it’s part of the human condition, but my only expertise on this theory is the fact that I’m human. I see it a lot, hear it a lot. Bigger house, faster car, cooler bike, newer toy. I see it in Kids a lot, which I expect. What I find disturbing is seeing it in adults.

What’s the point of wanting more? What you have isn’t enough? I’m not talking about bare necessities here. I’m talking about a car you can’t afford but you buy because you want it. Now, it has become a velvet rope around your neck. Maybe you wanted it because you hate your job and a new, cool car will make you feel better. Guess what, you can’t afford the car, now you have to go to the job you hate because you need to make the payment. The rope is tightening, but at least it’s velvet. All cars, unless you pony up about a quarter of a million dollars for a super car, are the same, roughly. Trucks are trucks, they can’t be improved upon, you might think they can be, but it’s not true. Cars, they get faster, but fuel efficiency is done, that’s it, they can’t get more efficient unless a battery and serious aerodynamic are involved, and lets not forget the amount of Coltan that goes into a car battery — no one is driving around karma free. Yeah, but a Mercedes can’t compare to a Hyundai. Well, the lead designer from Hyundai went to Mercedes. It’s in your head. You make the car cool, not the other way around. I can make a 2008 Toyota Tacoma look awesome, same with a Honda Pilot. I’m not immune to this — I refuse to drive a minivan. Human condition, right?shutterstock_344843282

So, what’s better than good? I think that having my novel published would be better than not having it published. Again, a state of mind. A little bit of sun on a more regular basis in the Pacific Northwest would be better than the relentless rain we are currently experiencing. A state of mind, yes, but Vitamin D is important and that’s science. Some food is better than other food. I guess, what I’m saying is that when I think I could have better stuff, a better place to live, a happier time, a nicer car, a better bike or a new surfboard, I need to settle down and think about what it means to want the things I don’t have and why I want them. I’m not a child. I should know better, right?

Resistance

“That voice in our heads is not us. It is Resistance.”          

                                                        –Steven Pressfield

shutterstock_407496973Blind faith in my creative process gets me through the rough patches. Sometimes my fingers feel like anvils, and each attempt at a keystroke is mentally excruciating. I look at the words on the page, my characters, the story, and I hate it. A not so quiet voice in my head tells me its crap, it’ll take too long, I won’t succeed, blah, blah. It’s noise — a construction zone of chaos in my dome, looking for excuses to stop working, get angry and quit.

I’m too persistent. I don’t know how to quit. If this were easy I wouldn’t be doing it, so I relax, step back and see the big picture.

To say a novel is difficult to write is silly because, to me, it’s seemingly impossible. If the novel were a mountain and the process were the climb, then I’ve been climbing for years without seeing the top. I just have to believe the top is there. It’s that simple and that difficult. I might be nuts, yeah, I know.  But, so what. We are all nuts in some way. If you think you aren’t nuts then you are probably crazier than most, and that’s okay too.

In times like this, I tell myself to settle down, take a step back and appreciate other things. Family, the sun, the ocean.  Awareness of the simple things helps me reset. I like to look at life in the present and let the good soak in, but it ain’t easy.

 

A persistent villain.

shutterstock_337825361When it comes to writing, I’ve been called a grinder. Talent lurks in the shadows, but mainly I work my ass off. I’m persistent, I take criticism on the chin and push forward. I’m teachable and determined to succeed. This hasn’t come easy. I’m not known for self-discipline.

I learned late in life that I can’t just snowboard, surf, party, go to work and all will be right with the world. I didn’t party so much, but man did I get good at surfing and snowboarding. To this day I stave off the adolescent who wants to stay up late, eat cheesecake, binge watch an awesome show, leave my dishes in the sink and still have life be awesome. It’s sad but true. Now, I self-parent.

I work from home. No one is putting me on a deadline, telling me what to do or checking in on my progress. It’s all me. I’m getting better at it, but I know I can get good at it. When I keep that in mind, I persist. Small accompliments, like publishing a short story, are victories — a positive feedback loop telling my subconscious that the discipline I have self inflicted is working.

Waking up every day to grind out a story, not knowing where it will lead, is Sisyphean. Although Sisyphus’s chore was a punishment from The Gods, it fits in the metaphor of what I do every day. Wake up, feed kids, get kids to school, come home, write, exercise (sometimes), pick up from school, make dinner, go to bed, repeat. At the end of the day I can say that life is pretty good, discipline is just a part of it.

 

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It sneaks up on you.rendered

As a writer, being alone at a desk and putting words on a page is what must happen. I can’t be in meetings, having a conversation or multitasking when I write. The world I write about is in my head. Alone. Weird but true.

renderedWhen I’m on day five of not going outside, not shaving, wearing the same sweat pants and I stink, I need to get out. No big deal. I shower, shave, put new clothes on and walk the dog, go to a coffee shop or just stand outside for a while. I’m still alone, but I look better. If I look better, I feel better. What I’m missing in these moments is someone to tell me to get my shit together, get outside and talk to an adult. It’s a positive feedback loop that involves another person. This person is usually my wife, but sometimes she just shakes her head and is thankful the kids are fed.

When I don’t have solitude, I crave it. When I have too much, I force myself to interact. There’s a balance and I’m still trying to find it.

Story

I’m in the Gutter.

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I finally got a story published. It’s short. Real short. In less than one thousand words, I tell a story about a Marshal with a heart condition and a gambling problem who shows up to collect on an Arabian horse he won in a card game. Unfortunately for him, the horse resides on the property of a villain.

Have a read. If you like it,comment on it and share it. This really helps with readership and my future success as a crime fiction writer. If you don’t like it, comment on it and share it —  all of it still helps!  Above all, enjoy it.

There’s Just No Figuringairmen-rightside-full_FPO

Pain

A villain we all know.

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I’ve been in regular physical therapy sessions for about two years and I still get debilitating back spasms. Three weeks ago, I had to use a cane to get my kids to school. They thought it was cool. It’s not.

One doctor told me a bone spur in my neck was the cause. Another told me it was a twisted 4th Lumbar Vertebrae pulling at my ribs. I’ve been to chiropractors, General Practitioners, Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Massage Therapists and Surgeons. It boils down to pain management and discipline. I do the exercises and stretches and someday I’ll be strong again.

I hate waiting for it to be “fixed.” I hate the exercises and the stretches.  I want to be lazy, forget about my body and do other stuff — that won’t work. My son wants to wrestle, but “daddy has back pain.” My daughter wants to race, roller skate, play lacrosse, but “daddy has back pain.” I’m determined to beat the pain, win the battle and be the father my kids want and need.

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My friend, Joe Clifford has this shirt. I love it!

It’s not easy. Self-reflection, discipline; I must rest, eat right, exercise with proper form, fix the household items that are safe to fix. I stay off ladders — for the most part — I don’t do my gutters anymore and I’m careful when I lift heavy shit. I’m not going to be the perfect father, the guy who fixes everything with a smile, can lift fifty bags of concrete and still wrestle, but I can try.

 

Many of us live with pain. Maybe our sedentary desk jobs caused the problem, maybe an old injury from our youth — most of my injuries are due to snowboarding, surfing, working as an EMT or landscaping. I was never nice to my back and it’s pissed. I know people who are living with pain from trampoline accidents, motorcycle accidents, car accidents, pool accidents, and stress. With age comes pain, at least in my world.