Why We Do It

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Every so often I find myself asking – why do I do this?

And sometimes I don’t know.

Sometimes I am just staring up from the bottom of a deep, dark well and I honestly don’t know why I do it. Why I write. Why I paint. Why I draw. Why I take photos. Why I put events together.

Sometimes I just don’t know.

And that’s normal.

And it’s good.

We need to re-examine things from time to time, especially the things we love and are passionate about. Without constant questioning we start to meander and lose sight of what it is that drives us on and fuels us with that passion. There’s a point where you need to ask yourself – why am I doing this? What’s the point?

And why do I do it?

I do it because I love to write. I love to tell stories. I love create worlds and people to fill them. And I love to shine the light on the things people don’t always see. Sometimes these are ugly things but so be it. We need to face the ugly from time to time to appreciate the beautiful when we find it.

I draw because I love it. I am not a good artist but it makes me smile. It lets out my silly side and taps into my creative side. I doodle more than outright draw but that’s what gives me the joy. Sometime quick and dirty and simple. I still prefer pen and paper since I can do things more precisely but I have grown to love drawing on my phone since it’s a quick fix with immediate results. Yeah, I know – typical American.

I paint because I love it. I had wanted to learn to paint for years and was too timid to do it until a friend gave me a starter set for Christmas one year and I have been painting since. About five years now. I am not a good painter, at all, but I have fun, and I think that comes through. I have slowed down for about eighteen different reasons, but really, part of me is still in that – Why Do I Do This phase and looking at a box of twenty paintings makes me question myself, much like looking at a box of unsold books does.

I take photos because I love it. Again, not good, but sometimes, sometimes I am not bad at all. I don’t take photos as much as I would to but I do love it. It’s another way to be creative and to set scenes. I am still too timid to really give myself to it, to go with all of my ideas, but I am trying, inch by inch, to get better and get more of my personality into things.

I do events because I love them. I love putting people together who have similar passions. I love working with people who are still finding themselves, their audience, and their path. I love adding to the culture of Flint, even if but in a small way. And I love creating things that inspire people in some way.

Why Do I Do It?

Because I have to. I do the things I do because it drives me crazy to see how little thought and imagination goes into some of the events I see. It drives me crazy to see how so many always seem to have their hands out waiting for someone to fund them and their convention, hobby, whatever. There’s so much that can be done if people just work together, and in a city like where I live, Flint, we need to work together more than anything. I love this place, as many flaws as it has, and want to help to make it better. Sure, art shows and horror cons don’t do much to change people’s safety, and doesn’t create a future perhaps but it’s only by inspiring people and passing our passions on that we can actively change the future. Without that passion, without a reason to stay, people will leave. And if moving makes you happy, then do it, but sometimes staying means more because you can effect the place you live.

You can change it.

Why do I do what I do?

Because I want the things I do to create my legacy. And hell, even if people forget who the hell I am, at least I want to know that I tried to make a difference. I cared enough to try. And the future is only created moment to moment and if we give up inspiring others, inspiring ourselves then we give up on the future. There is so much indifference and apathy anymore, so much negativity about everything that we have to keep the fires burning for one another because someone has to. I do this stuff because it isn’t about fame, or money, but about trying to make a difference. Heck, we all want to make enough to survive and then some to be silly with but that can’t be what we live for. It can’t or we live for nothing. And it’s easy to forget all that as we struggle day to day and the debt piles up, and the stress compounds, but what the Arts give us, what passion gives us is a way to see past those things and into the future, or the past, or anywhere we want. We do the things we love because we have to, not because we want to, but because we have to. Because not doing them drives us crazy. Not doing them makes us feel as if we are wasting away.

And the only thing that can outlive us is the future and it’s better to help create that future than to help destroy it.

So, take a moment and ask yourself my simple question -

Why Do You Do It?

- c

www.meepsheep.com

Raising A Glass To 625 pt. 2 – Where I Come From…

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It’s interesting how something can rile up so many feelings in yourself and others. I had posted elsewhere a status that I had tired of holding my tongue on the state of Flint’s ‘art scene’. It ended up getting a bit of response, some pro my thought and some con, but it made me realize that maybe this isn’t a topic I am done speaking about.

Or thinking about.

When I was a kid I loved to draw. I was never really very good but I was imaginative. For the release of my novel I collected all of old drawings, from around ten years old to now, in one binder, and I was shocked at how much I had kept and even more shocked to see patterns.

I went through a space battle phase, a cartoon phase, a zombie phase, a parody phase, a monster and death phase, and then there is a long dead period of about ten or more years (I think more) where I didn’t actively do anything, then it’s into the modern era where I just do weird and silly characters. Lately I paint more than draw but occasionally I will sketch something out, just because I still love it. Even though I am no good at it. Oh, I can sorta draw and sorta paint but on both I am self-taught and it shows.

Which may be why I love both so much.

I stopped doing art after a commercial art instructor told me I was no artist.

I had gotten into his class in a way he didn’t like – you were to be allowed in via your portfolio, I got in because I was in Special Ed., fair, no, but why get an attitude with me about it, not the most mature thing to do but, hey, that’s an aside – and he never felt I belonged there. And ya know, maybe I didn’t. But the thing is, I took the class seriously, and I did the assignments, and I did the best I could and honestly, the stuff wasn’t bad. I was leagues away from the best artists in there but it was commercial art, so it was about message and content, not how pretty your lines were. But when the class was ending he told me as part of my evaluation that I was no artist and his words stung me for a long, long time.

It was one thing not to have people fall all over themselves and your art, that’s just life, but to have someone actively tell you that essentially you’re no good is so much more, and at that point in my life it was like a dagger.

So I stopped drawing and focused on writing. So maybe what he did was set me on the path I needed to be on, though he didn’t do it on purpose, but I gave up art, save for random sketches here and there, for a very long time.

It was fifteen years after high school that I got back involved in the arts and fell in love with them all over again. A friend had joined a small arts organization called the Creative Alliance that had begun as a way for musicians to network and work together on shows and became, member by member, a group that embraced all the arts in Flint, and with my friend joining he wanted me to take a look at joining too. I was reluctant, quiet, and hung to the back but as more people came, and as the group grew, and as we worked together on events I began to feel at home and began to let my voice be heard. I became a member. And it was amazing. Surrounded by so much passion, it really pulled me back into wanting to do art again. There weren’t a lot of venues available to young artists and the three galleries that were open showed only member works or were juried in and it’s not the easiest thing to get a show or in a show at a gallery if you are still developing as an artist. The group, the core of it coming from a musical background, started booking shows at local bars, and it worked. It wasn’t idea, but it worked. The shows would many times include music at their core but would also add poets, sometimes authors, and would have some art on display. They were a mishmash of things but the shows worked and over time, this group of people who were doing this out of their own pockets, and from a place of wanting to just do shows the group made a place for itself in Flint and funders started to take notice. As long as I was with the group, which was around three years and change, we kick-started the big crafting group in town, helped create space for young artists among the established galleries, and created events that added to the culture of the city. And eventually, we became part of the arts status quo and were welcomed into the galleries we couldn’t get into before, if but for the occasional show during off months.

I loved those times.

I left when I realized that what I wanted to do, needed to do, wasn’t always going to jibe with what the group needed to do. I wanted to do more events with writing, and I wanted to work on my own events. But without that kickstart, without the Creative Alliance and the friendships I made and the inspiration I got from those people I wouldn’t have re-discovered art or my passion for it.

During this time, not long after the CA founded, an alternative gallery opened called Red Ink. Red Ink was an arts non-profit that began in San Francisco and was built around re-claiming unused property and turning it into a gallery for a couple years where artists would have space to show and to work and then after that short lease, after the building had been re-imagined, it would be sold. Some local artists and non-profit people got together and made a case for Red Ink to come here, to Flint, a city that could use that sort of space, and they got their wish, Red Ink came.

Red Ink was incredible. It was the right management at the right time and the right artists. You got to see artists that were here, in Flint, that had not found a place to show  yet. They did shows that were things you felt you had to be at. And they helped a generation of artists become professionals. The short time we had Red Ink, they made a huge impact. Red Ink’s undoing was heartbreaking and it left a huge hole in the Flint arts community. The toll of inner turmoil had changed the venue and organization and a lot of the big plans that had been laid never saw fruition but it was such an incredible time and space. If there was a major negative I would offer that it was that at the openings of shows it allowed the artists to get a little full of themselves mad the shows sometimes felt as if it was about the artist and not the art. I honestly think that’s part of the arts culture though, whatever the discipline –  you will always have people who their popularity, fame, or success goes to their heads. And honestly, never having had that issue, never having to deal with it, I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same.

Though I probably wouldn’t.

Red Ink returned, in a much smaller way, a time later but despite some amazing artists it wasn’t the same. The vibe was never the same. And in the end, that second incarnation was just as doomed.

In the middle of all this is where I began to really get involved in things. In ‘the scene’, though some would prefer such a name not be given. For me it’s easier to say ‘scene’ because, well, it was, and it is. Some people were part of it, active and involved, some weren’t, and worked independently or not at all, but there always was a sort of scene. But I wanted to go back, to how things started before I explained my part in them. When I got involved in the arts in Flint there wasn’t a lot happening. There were bands that played shows, there were artists that did their thing, and I am sure there were some poetry slams at the college but that was about it. If you wanted to see art you went to the galleries. If you wanted music you went to a bar or a venue. Without the work of the CA and the existence of Red Ink there was no indie arts scene. I am sure one would have developed, eventually, but there wasn’t one already there. These were the pioneers.

And if those organizations were the pioneers, I was part of the boom.

During this time my friends and I had started to go to art shows and alternative craft shows and other weird shows (I remember an underground ‘circus’ we went to that was pretty fun) and we started to make friends and some of us HAD friends that were part of those happenings. It really inspired us, going out there and seeing what people were doing. I remember sitting down with friends out in Detroit and talking about the kinds of shows WE’D all like to see. There was such vibrancy in Detroit, in where shows were happening, in what they were, and how they were being done, it was amazing to us. We had never been a part of or seen the big shows of other cities, just what Flint did, and it was like – we can do this, this can all be done IN FLINT! And it was so exciting. And it was exciting to hear how our friend was influenced by what the CA was doing to do her own shows in Detroit.

So we did some Detroit shows, craft and art and rummage shows set up in a bar, and we became inspired. We invited other area folks to come down for these and take part, because that was the thing for us – to get the Detroiters into Flint for shows and the Flint folks to Detroit. To get an ebb and flow where we all got inspired by one another and where we could show people how vibrant Flint was becoming.

Our first show happened by accident of sorts. Some friends and I were living in the upstairs of a building in downtown Flint and our landlord decided to do a sort of art show/garage sale on the unoccupied first floor during one of Flint’s Art walks. He referred to it as a ‘guerilla art show’. Fun name, amazing concept – take this unused space and fill it with artists for one night. We were inspired and asked him if we could take up that idea and use the space and he was thrilled.

We gathered together some other arty friends we’d made along the way and started reaching out to artists from Flint and from Detroit, and we pitched the idea. It was strange but people liked it. A lot. The first show was awkward but it worked out. We decided to do our shows during Art Walk, so we could get that foot traffic and add to that atmosphere, and we lucked out in that it snowed during our first show as ‘guerilla artists’ and because of that a DJ that had been booked for Flint’s yearly motorcycle show – Bikes on the Bricks – got freed up due to that lack of good weather so he volunteered to set up in our space and spin tunes. So in the back of the building we had a DJ and in the front we had a singer and we filled the place with art, with people, and with a show that hadn’t been done before. We embraced art, craft, music, and writing, all of it, and made it about the artists and not ourselves.

If the first show was a success, the second was astounding.

After the first show we really wanted to plan the second so a bunch of us got together and worked on the poster art for the show, on the strategy to promote it, and on who to invite. We wanted to stick with the mix of Flint and Detroit and elsewhere and wanted to keep it varied. And we wanted a lot of artists. A lot of stuff. We put a ton of work into the show, months of work, and we were thrilled to have it come.

Heck, even my folks came out to see it.

And what was special to me was we were getting people who had never shown before, didn’t like to show, or who had all but given up showing to participate. They were friends and trusted us, and trusted our vision and so they did it.

We never could have anticipated the outrage that the name ‘guerilla art show’ – something we used as a fun description of what we did, which was an unconventional show in borrowed space with unconventional artists – would stir. A local ‘indie’ paper had fashioned themselves as guerilla news and when people saw someone else using that word they immediately linked the paper and the show. Maybe we were naive to not see that happening, but maybe, just maybe the paper got a little upset over nothing. What happened was that several people, getting deeply offended that we used the word ‘guerilla’ in our name decided to protest us. They dressed as zombies, met up, and came in a flash mob to the show. Not a big deal, until they got out of hand. The place was packed. At least twenty artists, tons of art, and a LOT of people in there hanging out. It was a great atmosphere. We even had a DJ. The zombies came through, moaning, groaning, shuffling, and they they started throwing their newspaper at people, tossing them, I guess, as a zombie would. The papers hit people, hit art, and almost knocked over a candle a tarot reader had lit in a side room. I was at the front and didn’t realize what was going on as the zombies bumped into people and artwork and threw the paper around. I had thought it was obnoxious but funny at first but as I saw them exiting my attitude changed. I saw that they were being aggressive at our show and, as they were leaving one of them started to unfurl a banner on the ground inside the space. I saw this and became enraged and rolled the banner up, which was full of fake dollar bills and said something about how art shouldn’t be a product of sold or some such thing. Seeing me roll it up, the guy that had laid it down grabbed it from me and tried to unroll it again, and i went red line and unrolled a few things of my own, some choice curse words that couldn’t have been intelligible but were heartfelt nonetheless. He and I got into a very heated exchange and I threw the banner outside so he just went out there and unrolled it there and left this mess of fake money and this banner and ambled off.

They had done their job.

What we learned later was that this was something that had been planned, and coordinated, and in their minds justified. We were misusing a word and selling art when it shouldn’t be sold. Our contention was that they crashed something for Flint, for its artists, and which was meant as a positive. If artists chose to sell or show, that was their concern, not ours. We took no profit, made no money, took no donations, and were not charging for space. It was a free show. And for us, for me, to think that someone got so upset, so upset and didn’t approach us about their concerns or thoughts and did this, I am shocked and I was ashamed for Flint.

We were outraged, the people we’d set the show up with were outraged, and many of the artists were outraged. This outrage bubbled and grew as the days went on and created a very lively debate in art classes at our local community college. It got so intense that I had to take part of a day off of work to go to the school to present our side about what happened. The audacity that someone protested us, an art show, and then wanted to have some sort of referendum was outrageous. And so was this referendum. It amounted to a lot of – uh, yeah, someone else wanted to do the zombie part and we wanted to take papers around so we worked together, but we didn’t do nothin’ bad – crap from the indie newspaper, and a written diatribe about how wrong we were in the use of guerilla and on and on that had to be read because the person who wrote it was working…or a coward. Whatever.

I have never been so angry, so blindly angry than at this time. Suddenly we didn’t know if we wanted to do shows anymore. Would we be protested? Was it worth the trouble? This was supposed to be fun.

It wasn’t fun anymore.

The indie paper folded, the seasons changed, and we decided we didn’t want to stop doing something we loved. So we did more shows, smaller, simpler, but still trying to bring people together from near and far and to help people who weren’t doing a lot of shows, or any, get their work out there. And we impacted the art scene. We had created an alternative venue that would pop up from time to time with shows and other people started doing similar things, setting up shows at other local places to add even more to the Art Walk. The Art Walk had been established years earlier by the Greater Flint Arts Council and was their way to link the galleries downtown and to get people out to all of them for show openings. After many years of it just being the galleries though other people, like the CA, and us, started to use that same night for alternative shows and the GFAC was happy to have everyone joining it. The more the merrier was truly how it was.

It was a great time.

Things came to a crashing halt when plans for what would have been our biggest show, and woulda been something to see, fell apart. There were disagreements, there were arguments, and in the end friendships were fractured and the shows stopped and that was that.

It just wasn’t fun anymore.

And it was only through time, and getting over things that in the end weren’t important that the friendships were saved. But the shows how they’d been, those were gone.

And that was that. Only, it wasn’t.

It took some time but the bug was still in me. I loved doing the shows. I loved being involved. Reluctantly, very, very reluctantly I started to plan shows without the people I had started with. Small, but with the same idea behind them – fun, free shows that were about the art and the artists. I was happy as a clam not to be seen as being involved. I wasn’t in it for that. I want recognition for my writing, not for events. The writing is mine, and just mine, so that’s what I want to be known for, the rest was just something I liked to do. So we started doing shows again, me and other friends, and we loved it. The faces changed, and the venue changed, but we loved it.

With the fracturing of the initial group though it created a void that was filled and so other people started booking space in 625 and doing shows there. And I was bitter, bitter because these people had an attitude that we were sloppy and didn’t do things right and they were doing it better, and they said as much. And it drove me crazy that we did so much work and never got a drop of ink written about the shows but these people came in and were constantly in the paper. And it bittered me on a lot. The shows we had been doing were intentionally meant to not have people know who we were but these shows were inherently about the people putting them on. They were in every show, and they were front and center and it drove me crazy.

And I am jerk for that I guess.

And I needed to get over it.

But as bitter as I was, it didn’t stop me.

I just changed what I was doing.

I began doing Punk Rock Rummage Sales.

Over the years we had seen people take the things we were doing and do it themselves, in some cases better, in others just…differently, but I had soured on those kinds of shows and wanted to change things so I took a page from our friends in Detroit and we (and I mean ‘we’ since I can’t do these things alone, there are always friends that help and supporters there somewhere, so it was always a ‘we’) started doing rummage and art shows at a local bar. This was far from ground breaking but it was new to the area and it was fun.

And people liked it.

They looked forward to it.

The idea was to bring the art show to a rummage show, and bring together weird stuff, fun stuff, and fun people with some music and libations to keep people happy. And it wasn’t, to quote a local character ‘rocket scientry’ but it was fun and it was something different. The idea was to keep things evolving.

And I have watched the art scene shift and change, have seen artists come and go, and have seen the factions and the friction, and all of it over the past several years. I have said and done some ridiculous things and have heard the same sort of craziness from others. I have been influenced and have been jaded and it’s all part of this big, crazy tapestry we have here.

I was still doing shows this year, did a rummage sale, and put together a book release for my novel and a friend’s books, and helped plan a dark art show, so I am still involved, I am just not AS involved. And part of it is bitterness. Especially as I see now that 625, the place that inspired me and helped create me, and so many events, and laid the groundwork for the Flint Horror Convention, has closed as a venue due to the selfishness of some artists.

And that is what changed, for me.

The scene changed, because it IS a scene. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s not a negative, but it’s the collective artists, they have changed. I haven’t changed with them. I still love shows, love the arts, and admire any artist that keeps doing it. Because artists DO have to find ways to re-invent themselves and what they do. They need to find ways to get themselves and their art out there. Witness the popularity of ‘street’ art. My problem though is that some of us old guard have changed, as organizations have waned, and as people have moved on it has changed the culture.

We made it commonplace to do bar shows here.

We made it commonplace to do shows in any space we could find.

We made it cool to bring art and craft together and mix it all up.

We that were here so many years ago to re-write the arts in the city.

We were the ones that broke the mold.

And by ‘we’ I mean a LOT of people. A lot of people that worked to get the permissions, to get the minds changed, and to change the culture as it was here.

I am removed from the scene now because it’s become so much about the promoter, about the party, about the scene and not about the art or artists. Oh, there is still art, there are still artists but it’s not a community. It’s not working together. It’s factions. It’s entitlement.

It’s ‘I am an ARTIST, so, whatever, you won’t understand.’

But I do.
We all do.

We understand because we were there years ago.

I hate that artists don’t take breaks from shows locally. They are always doing shows, always bigger than life, always in your face. And does it work, does it make more sales or grow the art? Does it? Or are you only selling to yourself and your friends? Are you engaging new artists? Are you fostering young artists? Are you getting out of the area?

Are you doing it yourself?

It is about changing things up. About creating something new. And that is happening, but it is all so fractured.

So many factions all working to make sure they get the attention. HEY, HEY, HEY LOOK AT US! Bigger, louder, more garish. Art that doesn’t involve local artists, or that doesn’t reflect anything but a need for attention.

LOOK AT ME!

No one is working together. They are working in opposition because you don’t wanna lose that ‘cool’, you don’t want to lose the attention…you don’t want to lose the funding.

And it all feels sad, and loud, and…wrong. I don’t feel as if I am going to art shows but parties where there’s art and artists. I loved our guerilla shows because they WERE so stripped down. They were so   un-gallery.

It all feels obnoxious and planned.

And it’s sad because there is SO MUCH talent here, and so many people to do want to work together, and with people, and want just to get their art out there but the venues have shrunk now, the opportunities are shrinking, and it’s all becoming a clique.

And I hope I am wrong.

I hope I am the bitter old guy who is just overreacting to a scene, and a scenery change that – to an evolution of the scene and I am just so far removed that I have literally lost touch. That’s a sad thought but it is probably the truth. Art will survive. The artists will survive. It’s just hard not to be sad to see how much has changed in these few years and not all of it for the better. When someone doesn’t have the common sense not to screw things up for the artists coming after them, when their actions lose you a space – which has happened before, and again, and will ever happen I am afraid – it worries me.

Because in the end, if we don’t look out for one another to some degree, we artists of Flint, Michigan, then who the hell is gonna look out for us? In the end it isn’t about the parties, about the money, about the scene but about the art and the people behind it, who are just trying to say something…even if it’s nothing at all. There has to be cooperation, even as we work for our own gains, our own goals, there has to be cooperation. Filmmakers, and painters, and sculptors, and writers, and dancers, and poets, and musicians, and singers, and people who draw, and crafters and EVERYONE has to work together to make sure that everyone has a chance. That this rises about the artist, to a sense of community, to a sense that you may succeed personally but without passing that torch, without helping someone else you aren’t growing. That is what is missing. That is what worries me.

That we are becoming a city of All About The Me where the artist is a clown on a stage, a commodity, a actor playing at artiste, and the sense of togetherness, of working to make things easier, and better is fading. Sure, people will work together…with friends, but how many will work with strangers…or ‘enemies’ because it’s the right thing to do?

How many are willing to step away from the mic and give someone else a moment on stage?

Consider this my exercise in nothing, and my testament to everything.

My personal history for a scene that may not even exist and the very small part I played in things.

The story of a writer who became an artist, who had something to say.

…c…

http://www.meepsheep.com

Raising A Glass To The 625

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   When I learned that the place I used to live for many years and where I had put art shows together with friends for those years was finally putting an end to the art show aspect of the building I wanted to write a memorial of sorts.  Something to mark the occasion and what the place meant to me and so many of us that did shows there.  I wanted to convey how much this place meant to ME. Only, in trying to write this story it comes off so pretentious, so false because the place wasn’t like that, wasn’t about one person, or one view, it was about everyone, and how special it was when artists worked together to create something.

   625 came about when our landlord, seeing the success of the space when used as an arts venue, said – someone should do guerilla art shows there.  That was how it started, with permission to create, and from there, from us, it became part of the established monthly Art Walk in Flint, a venue that changed and evolved as the shows did, and as the artists did.  My friends and I did some huge shows there, that had not been seen downtown before, but after us there was a more refined presence of artists there, and the space changed, and the scene changed, and it was an ebb and flow of creativity there and it fed into this greater arts movement that Flint has seen over the past several years and it’s been so amazing to witness.  And kind of amazing to go through because it was what made me really fall in love with doing shows and putting shows together.  And it made me really want to help other people the way these shows helped me.

   We had a lot of ups and downs at this place, from our huge initial shows to a show filled with needless drama and silliness when a local group decided that our use of the word ‘guerilla’ was offensive, but through it all we learned that there’s a place for indie art, and for small, interesting art shows.  It was a plain, empty space that became whatever the people the show and the artists in the show needed it to become and man, to think of some of the things done with the space I can only smile because we were all a part of something very special.

For over six years artists were able to use this space and put on shows outside the norm, outside the comfort zone, and outside of what the establishment was doing.  I am proud and honored to have been a part of that.  My part in it is its own story, a story that means the world to me, and I am happy to have it.  I am sad to see that this space will no longer be used for these shows but to have had the time there, the opportunities to positively impact Flint and its art scene, and to help young artists find confidence, find a voice, and find their passion, that’s a legacy that space will never lose.

625 was more than a home for me for the time I was there, it was the spark of inspiration that drove me, and changed me, and it will always be a part of who I am and what I do.

…c…

www.meepsheep.com

Contempt

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The saying goes ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ and it couldn’t be more true – when you are an artist or a writer and you don’t get your book further out than your immediate area you will hit a very, very large wall of indifference.  It isn’t that people don’t like you, and not that they don’t like your work but that they have seen both, even the new stuff, so often and so many times that at a point they are bored with you.  You are backdrop.  And heck, they can see/buy your work any old time, right, because they have seen you a few times before.

This happens with friends and strangers alike, and it’s heartbreaking and it’s something I struggle with.  For me, I have been writing for a looong time and doing shows for almost as long and I have been doing this long enough that I have run out of steam.  There are only so many times you can query publishers, do art shows, and hype up new work to little interest where you just get burned out.  And for me, someone who had ten years between books, I feel like I have wasted enough time and don’t want to waste it anymore.  Alas, in haste to produce I didn’t realize that I was becoming furniture.  And I see this all the time at conventions when they get the same guests year after year after year, and with artists who do the same shows over and over again.  And it isn’t you, per se, it’s that people get bored of seeing the same or similar work all the time.

Just how people are.

Heck, I am still coming to terms with the general indifference I have faced from many after publishing my first, and odds are last, novel.  To me it’s a big deal but everyone else, it’s nothing.  Part of that is that I have released five other books in the past three years, and part too is that in the era of social media, when EVERY event is OHMYGOD big it’s hard to really get people to react to some things.  It seems like someone is ALWAYS getting married, or engaged, or having kids, or breaking up, and it’s hard to really make people care.  We’ve just become a very self involved culture.  Not having to help your neighbors build a barn, or fight off invaders, or grow food, or having to do a hundred other things that we used to have to do has made us lose touch with each other.  (which, parenthetically, has also made a lot of us utter cads out in public but that’s for other blogs to examine).

Familiarity breeds contempt.

You have to pace yourself and your work.

You have to time your releases and shows so that you give people space and room to breathe.

You have to make sure you do shows out of your immediate area so you can give yourself a chance to reach a new audience.

And you must be patient, with yourself and those around you because it isn’t you that they are bored with but with the familiarity of everything these days, and that’s what breeds the contempt.

c

Tips Off The Top

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As far as I have had my blogs, and we’re talking a lot of time now, a lot of years, since nearly 2000 so that’s a lot of years and a lot of rambling and as much as I may like to think I have nothing but pearls of wisdom and deep thoughts to offer the fact really is that well, a lot of what I write is rambling. Especially in the early days. But then, there was a catharsis in it all. Blogs/journals were a place to exorcise yourself and it felt good if you were careful and not too revelatory. I can’t say I learned a lot from it but it felt good in the early days to know that some of what I was saying was reaching someone and was heard, because that matters. In an era where we are all struggling to be heard but rarely listen the blog has changed. It seems that it is  more about Me and less about Us. It’s not about trying to connect but trying to differentiate as so many of us push to get noticed, to get seen, and to get famous.

Fame.

The thing about fame is that it is a kiss without emotion. It feels good when you’re doing it but when it’s done, when it’s gone, it meant little and lead to nothing.

Fame.

What I offer you, friend is not a path to fame, it is not a path to riches, but it is a path towards finding that part of yourself that we sometimes neglect and I offer that part water and light and hope.

Traditional publishing is dead.

Long live traditional publishing!

I come to you as a writer, an author, but not one of any great name or legacy but the thing is, that’s ok. I didn’t get into writing to become a legend, I got into it to amuse myself, to exercise my mind, and to just tell stories. And that is what matters to me, the stories. Sure, I want to sell some books, I want to make some money because this is Art but this is business too and you can’t forget that. You can’t. When you first start writing you have to be willing to ‘give it away’, as much as you can do because these are stories, nothing more BUT nothing less. A story alone may not have power but stories together gather a lot of power and a lot of strength. So you can give away a short story or poem here and there just so you can give people a chance to get to know you. Get to know your work.

Consider writing a job, even if it isn’t.

Sometimes you have to put in that training time to prove yourself, and to some people, you’ll never get hired but that doesn’t mean that you stop working at it, that you stop writing, it just means that you find a different employer.

Publishing has changed. It’s not hard to see it but that doesn’t make it any less shocking and worrisome. There are just not those smaller presses anymore that will put out the lesser and unknown authors. It’s too expensive to print, promote, and to release and ship these things and when the market crashed in recent years it was a way to clean house and that house cleaning meant a lot of smaller publishers died and others went wholly digital, and the rest, the rest focused on commodities. And there’s the rub – these stories, these books are commodities. They are ‘goods’. And as such you have to accept that some people will value your work more than others. It doesn’t mean that your work is better  than anyone from Joe Writer that writes fan fiction for fun or any worse than Steinbeck, Hemingway, or King. It just means that the market bears what it bears and right now, in mid-2012 classy smut is in. Just as vampires were in, just as zombies were in, just as bios were in and on and on. If you have the right story at the right time you can make some good money (with a lot of work and a lucky break) but that doesn’t mean that your story is necessarily better than someone with the right story at the wrong time.

That’s the thing too, being a business, if you are going to pursue it seriously then you have to make the decision of why you write – for profit and fame or for fun and to tell stories? Either path is valid, believe me, but I offer that it’s better to do something you love and suffer than to suffer for something you’re doing for money because unless that money is coming in it’s going to be a waste of time.

Slowly I am inching towards something and that something is this -

If you love to write…write.

Write.

WRITE!

And write your ass off. Write as much as you can and stretch yourself. Write blogs, reviews, stories, poems, and keep it varied. Why? Because the more you grow and challenge yourself and your writing the better at it you become. Fall in love with writing. That’s the key.

Make your own schedule.

Scheduling is a big thing for writers and it makes sense because the further you get from it the more of the threads you lose. It can still be a good story but you’ll lose your passion for it and that’s dangerous. It’s easy to get distracted from writing and you need to learn the discipline it takes to see projects through. Everyone can write a story or poem, not everyone can finish those things and see them through to completion.

Learn.

You have to be up for learning and the biggest thing you can learn is to edit. It will ALWAYS be helpful to get the opinions of others but the first opinion you need and in many cases the most important is your own because YOU need to feel that this is the story you meant to write, that you wanted to tell, and that it’s told how you meant to tell it.

For me I write, I let it sit, then I go back to it and go through it and see what I think and change and fix from there. My short fiction I am pretty picky about since I prefer to decide how that plays out but the novel, that thing needed other eyes on it. Had to have outside editing because it was so big that if I was missing some things I had to find them and fix them and make them work.

Publish!

Now, this is where you are getting MY advice and most writers may disagree with me but to hell with them. I am telling you to publish. Now, this means a lot of things to a lot of people but for me it means this – get your work out there.

It’s great to publish a piece here and a piece there and it’s something to work on because you need to go through that and heck, maybe you break through with something and you can get started on things in a different way.  But for me publishing has kept me going. I don’t know that I’d suggest doing it how I have done it but there’s something to be learned.

After you’ve been writing for a bit and have a body of work, and I think this works better with stories, then you need to start thinking about what you want to do with them. Stories work easier because if you write a novel and put that much time in you will want to pursue traditional publishing, just so you know you did. Stories are good because you can put a collection together of anything from three stories on depending on length and format and you have something valid. I cut my teeth with ‘zines and chapbooks but with services like Create Space and Lulu you have the chance to put out a professional looking book and that means so much more.

So why the hell are you doing this?

Because until you have that book in your hands, until you see why you do this, and until you have to start learning how to promote yourself and your book and how to market and how to price and how to sell your work you are just working with theories. Books make you move from theory to practice. And you need to know what you are working with and you need to learn what works and doesn’t. In essence, you need to learn to be a sales person because that is part of the deal now. And for me, seeing what it becomes, seeing what stories are meant to be, it really brought it all home and made it real and made me love it all the more.

Follow Your Path.

Every writer out there has THEIR way to do things and THEIR way to become successful and all that other crap but here’s the deal – this is your journey, your path, and you need to find your own way. Listen to what everyone says, even mopes like me, but in the end you have to decide the course you need to take. Once upon a time I let someone tell me I was no artist and I quit art for a looong time after that and that’s my fault. I can’t imagine where I’d be if I hadn’t listened to them. I may not have been a great artist but I may have been a happier person because I loved art and I shouldn’t have let someone talk me out of that love.

So write.

Write not because you have to but because you want to and you want to share your stories. There are so many options now. E-books, podcasts, open mic nights, chapbooks, self publishing, comic conventions, horror conventions, sci-fi cons, and on and on and on. There are so many options and so many resources and so many of us, so many of us writers out there that you don’t have to be alone. Remember that. It gets pretty lonely being a writer and that loneliness doesn’t go away easy but you are not alone.

You’re never alone.

This is your journey. These are your stories. If I can impart anything unto you it’s that you need to let yourself dream, let yourself be in love with the writing, let yourself struggle and strive, and finally, let yourself do this and see what happens.

No one promises us a future, we have to make it, and as writers that’s easy because we’re well versed in writing the future, the past, and everything in between, and we should be damned before we let someone talk us out of being in love with writing and pursuing our dreams.

…c…

http://www.meepsheep.com

Woo! 500 posts. Woo…And Some Book Stuffs!

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I was totally going to honor this momentous occasion with a deep, impassioned post about blogging these, wow, last ten years + but, darn it, I wanted to share some more book stuff so that shall have to wait.

Odds are it’d just be stuff I have already said anyway.

HA.

I have had an awful time coming up with an effective cover for this book. I had hoped at one point to get an artist to do up a cover, had mused over doing the art myself, shoot, somewhere there are about a dozen attempts at covers (which I suppose is similar to a young band drawing and re-drawing their name and logo). I was never happy though. I just couldn’t come up with the right image that stood as the flag for what this book was. I couldn’t scratch that nagging itch that something wasn’t working.

This year, as I was having the book edited by a friend I finally started to get the germs in my brain for what I wanted. A neighbor in the building where I was living had held onto her Halloween pumpkin well into Winter and since the building’s first floor is so cold I thought that, hmm…perhaps I can use it, so I hid it away for later use. Well, I finally got the props I needed and during a warm turn earlier this year I put the elements together and took some photos.

These are a few of the raw pictures that I took and out of all of the images one of them became the cover. So, here you go, a sampling of what the cover will sorta look like.

Sorta. ImageImageImage

Perspective

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Perspective

Maybe there is something more to the Biblical story of Lot’s wife than we always realize. Something perhaps not intended but which is there just the same. Looking over one’s shoulder back to the past can be a dangerous, sometimes deadly thing. There is glamour to the past, a haze that makes you forget the reality of what it was like. Need an example?

Do you really think the 1950s, with its women’s and racial oppression, with its limited view of anything that ran against the norm, was really that amazing? Sure, our memory of it is, but was the era that great? Same with the 1980s, an era of excess and selfishness. It isn’t that those times didn’t have amazing aspects but that if we forget the issues we lose sight of how truly good some things were.

Such is the case of me of late. I am preparing for the release of my first and probably only novel and in getting that together I have decided I wanted to see what weird stuff I could come up with to put out with it. I had recently moved so it was a good time to go through my little archive.

BOY!

And an archive it is. I found drawings that went back to the late 1980s, when I was not even a teenager yet. I found the first submission version of my first book. I found old school papers, old versions of stories, and all manner of ephemera that showed the path my art has taken. From drawing faces, to space ships, to monsters, to zombies, to nothing for a long, long time, to the modern era of silly monsters. I put much of this work in a large binder for people to go through at the book release party and seeing it all, from the weird magazine I made as a kid to the early version of the first book it reminded me of the weird path I have taken to get where I am. It reminded me of how foolish I have been.

As I have said before I was told when I was eighteen and in a Commercial Art course that I was no artist. It was the nastiest, meanest thing I could have heard and it cut deep enough to stop me from doing art regularly, seriously for a long, long time. I was told it by a nasty teacher who didn’t like that I had gotten into the class not on merit but because I was in Special Ed. I was certainly not the best artist there, and I am not a great artist in any way, but you can see in my work I was trying, just not always succeeding. Maybe I should have been better. I can’t say. I can say that I am sorry for halting my art for so long. I am sorry that I let someone do that to me. I will never know if I had become a painter earlier, if my art would have changed, gotten better, maybe even worse over the years.

It’s not as easy to be hard on myself about writing. Even though I couldn’t find a publisher I was always writing. I was putting together ‘zines, chapbooks, and blogging and reviewing constantly. I was certainly not lazy over those years. I do wish I had had a better outlet for my writing. In the marketplace that exists you have to be someone to get published in a paying publication and the alternative are sites with few views and no money and at that point the benefit of your being published gets dicey. Though I tried, to be sure. I have to admit though that I wish I had had more outlets for my writing. Having said that though, I did pretty ok keeping my head up through all that time. In the ten years between books I wrote a novel, hundreds of stories, and never stopped promoting my one book that was out. I never gave up. I can’t say that it lead me anywhere, but it didn’t lead me to an ending of my writing, which I am thankful for.

But there’s the thing.

The past is beautiful, is full of hope, of promise, of everything you dare to dream. It is in the present that reality sets in and you see the limitations of your situation. The future, the future is the real blank slate but it is often a slate that is colored by who you are today, and limited by that same thing. You can soar or crash based on how you act and react today. It’s just a fact. But looking over your shoulder and what was and could have been will get you nowhere.

You need that knowledge, that perspective to move forward. You need to know what you did right, wrong, and what paths you may have taken so you can see where you want to head as you move toward the future. Without that knowledge you begin going over the well-worn tracks you are already in and it’s a lot harder to see the future from the bottom of a rut. But perspective, true perspective is knowing what things to value from the past and present and what to walk away from and survive.

Sometimes all it takes to change your fate is to survive, yourself, others, and the overpowering will of life. And sometimes you need to know you can survive to keep fighting and keep not give up.

And it’s all about knowing when to look back and when to keep walking forward, knowing that nothing lies behind you but the past.

c

http://www.meepsheep.com