Resolute

Acknowledging the new year and the natural inclination to reassess and renew that the turning of a calendar page brings, the time has come for me to make some resolutions for 2017.

Here are a few:

Blog Harder. (‘Blog Harder’ really should be the name of a 'My Dinner with Andre' style movie) Too often I wait until ideas develop more fully before committing a blog to this website; I would like to remember that some of my favorite bloggers write short and succinct entries. And while ‘short’ and ‘succinct’ aren’t typically my thing, attempting to be so will—I hope—help my blogging output.

Be Mindful Better. ‘Mindfulness’ has become one of those buzzwords and social movements that has me naturally shying away from it, because I’m such a goddamned rebel. Still. Practicing meditation and mindfulness these past couple years has benefited me much. A re-dedication to the practice seems in order – more mindful mindfulness?.

Create More. I have been writing. Really. It’s been slow going. (Novel writing is naturally slow, or at least methinks that it should be, and when you couple a naturally glacial process with an impaired writing schedule well….) So yes, there is a novel in the works. Let’s just throw out that I’d like to have a completed draft by mid-2017. It’s always nice to have deadlines to miss.

Fight. I’m deeply dissatisfied with the politics of our nation. From the national level to my local Portland, Oregon. I don’t care who you voted for in 2016, the lingering result is that we have a broken system that is failing all of us, a system that is unfortunately susceptible to foreign influence and extremist factions. I can’t believe that we’re so far apart from one another. That said, some things—oh like Nazism, racism, sexism—are wrong, and we live in an age when they should not be tolerated. At all. So...we fight.

How about you? What resolutions are you considering?

Still Here

I’m no stranger to failing.

Not failure, that final state of having failed, but failing the process. Failing the perpetual act. You know, like breathing.

As some who read this blog might recall, I was originally intending to title my presence on the web the “Fail Better” blog after the oft-cited (some might say too often cited) Samuel Beckett quote because much of my life’s inner work has been learning to confront and recover from failing, to understand that failing isn’t a consequence to be feared nor an issue to be solved, but a natural result from living a life.

Not unrelated: I hadn’t realized until this morning how far behind I am on blogging, an activity that up until seven months ago, I was engaging in weekly. In fact, I’ve fallen behind in the basic maintenance of my online presence. My go-to account for such activity—Twitter—has been quiet and nearly inert.

For what’s worth, I’m still here.

The good news is that I’ve been drafting on my new (as yet untitled) novel. Now that I travel often for work, I’ve been relying on a combination of Microsoft 365 and Google Docs to get this drafting done. (I add that tidbit for my fellow wordsmiths; these SAAS-based word processing programs are very helpful when you’re moving around a bunch, even if it’s from computer to computer.)

I've also been catching upon up on my reading. By the by, Karen Russell's fantastic story 'Prospectors' redeems an otherwise lackluster (failing?) New Yorker fiction issue.

 So yes. Back to it. Good to see you all again.

You Complete Me: What is the Purpose of Art? (Answered in 500 Easy Words)

Gone are the days when I could ruminate about the whys and hows of my art.

It’s not that I lack the interest or even the tolerance (although I do certainly lack the time) or that I can’t navel-gaze with the best of them, but at some point along the way, the need to preoccupy myself with the engines driving my writing decreased from an incessant, back-firing clatter to a just audible background thrum.

So I was jolted into once again considering the topic when I listened to this interview with sculptor Dario Robleto, and the conversation turned to a question that Robleto continues to ask himself:

Can art finish something that’s never been finished?

As discussed in a previous post, we’re all familiar with (if not bored by) the trope of the artist as damaged human who turns to creating as a means to heal, as a means to salve some emotional wound or to deal with some mental dysfunction. The trope exists not only because of the attractive and convenient narrative, but also because of its inherent truth. Yes, most of us wanderers are wandering because we were at some point in our lives unmoored. Most (maybe all) eventually thrive from embracing this otherness that we perceive separates us from a ‘normal’ existence that everyone else appears to be living.

But if we can take the artist and his/her origin story out of the art object and do our best to consider the art by itself (yeah, yeah, I agree it’s nearly impossible but give it a shot, anyway) we are left with considering the purpose of that piece of art. Not the why but the what.

You drew that picture. You wrote that book. You composed that piece of music. Ignoring why and how you did it, what is that picture, book, music supposed to do?

For my part, I default to the same setting that I suspect most of us are switched to: I cogitate about and put more emphasis on the process rather than the product (art for art’s sake, man). In fact, I bet if I surveyed my own damned blog, I’d find in the often overlapping topics I tend to discuss—writing, spiritual wandering, parenting—more about the doing and less about the having done.

So, again, Robleto’s question.

Can art finish something that’s never been finished?

Is the answer to that question—dare we postulate—the purpose of art? Is the creative journey less about self-actualizing and more about impacting the world around us? Is the artist’s role, then, to discover the broken places outside of ourselves and bring wholeness and completion?

If so, our jobs just got a lot more complicated.

I Could Give a Tweet: Lessons Learned From My First Year On Twitter

I was a Twitter skeptic.

When various friends recommended Twitter, I scoffed at the idea of a social media that—I erroneously believed—took Facebook’s update feature and distilled it down even further to a mere 140 characters. The whole endeavor seemed like a perennial waste of time, time that could only be narcissistic at its core.

I couldn’t have been more mistaken (although the time-killing element of Twitter is a real danger, not because of its uselessness but because it’s so easy to succumb to checking one's Twitter account with a compulsion that rivals any other addiction).

So, a year ago, I relented and created a Twitter account because I’d recently just gone-live with this website, and I wanted to drive traffic to my blog. I assumed that all I would need to do was throw the link to my site around, and shazam!, I’d have a bazillion hits on the website and blog.

Let’s just say that it hasn’t gone that way. Not at all. And I’m grateful that it hasn’t.

I became discouraged quickly—as I will when new activities don’t immediately lend themselves to instantaneous results—when no one would follow me or otherwise pay attention to my tweets. I was about to give up when I accidentally discovered the whole # hashtag search feature and realized with a ‘Duh’ moment of enlightenment that there are entire Twitter communities blossoming from the hashtag topics that I am interested in.

The #amwriting hashtag saved my Twitter existence AND this website. Johanna Harness http://www.johannaharness.com/p/blog-page.html created the hashtag in 2009 for writers just like me, creative folks who wanted to connect with other writers. She was gracious and welcoming, and that connection was just what I needed to resuscitate my Twitter existence. Thank you, Johanna.

Getting back to why I’m grateful about the organic growth of my Twitter existence: the number one rule on Twitter is to be authentic. You can’t assume that anyone will give a Tweet about your 140 characters or your embedded links if you don’t first connect with the folks you follow. (And yes, you need to follow and follow and follow.)

No, the number of my followers hasn’t exploded, but there has been steady growth, and the growth is based on (save for the spammers) shared interest and real interaction. It’s often a time-consuming process, but well worth it, given the number of wonderful folks I’ve connected with.

Looking ahead to my second Twitter year: my Twitter goal is to explore followers and followees beyond my (still growing) list of writer colleagues. The one (small) downside of following and being followed by other writers is that we become the defacto audience for each other’s writing, and while that’s well and good, we need to be reaching beyond our group to our non-writer readers. Or at least I do.

Twitter on!

Bloggers You Must Follow – My Versatile Blogger Award Nominations

Until the amazing and wonderful Willow Becker nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award, I had no idea what the award was. (I’m still learning my way through all ways Twitter and Blogosphere.)

If you are in a similar ignorant state about the VBA, you can learn about the Versatile Blogger Award here.

I’m honored that Willow would consider my blog worthy of mention, and even more honored that she’s a fan of my work. Willow, like many of our mutual writing friends, has been gracious and encouraging as I’ve edged my way online, and I’m humbled to be part of such an amazing community of fellow scribes. Check out her site here.

She also collaborates with fellow writer Amy Good on Twitter’s Friday Phrases project. If you’re not taking part, either as fan or contributor, please join the fun. Thank you, Willow, for all that you do!

Below are my nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award. Among them you will find spark, verve, humor, courage, range, authenticity and depth. Twitter introduced me to many of them, and now reading their blogs has become an essential part of my life. Read their blogs, follow them on Twitter. Your life will be better for it. Enjoy!

MY NOMINEES

Lori Lesko: http://lorilesko.com/

Michelle Gordon: http://eata.wordpress.com/

Stewart Kirby: http://www.stewartkirby.blogspot.com/

Rachel Karp: http://quirklet.wordpress.com/

Christina Z: http://www.turbulenceintheveins.com/

Callie Armstrong: http://calliedeanne.com/

Joanne Blaikie: http://fredamoya.wordpress.com/

Monday Tuesday WTF: http://mondaytuesdaywtf.com/

Jessica West: http://jessicapwest.wordpress.com/

Abigail Nussbaum: http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/

Sheena Greer: http://colludo.ca/blog/

Rachael: http://raishimi33.wordpress.com/

Taylor Eaton: http://littlewritelies.com

Eve Jacob: http://ravenhartpress.com

Olivia Hinebaugh: http://oliviahinebaugh.com

 

7 Things About Me (My Favorite Topic)

So…the final part of this award demands that I confess to Willow seven things she, and the rest of you, might not know. I doubt there are seven items, but I’ll give it a go.

1.       I am allergic to just about everything that grows in the Pacific Northwest. And yet I continue to live here. And I love living here, although it’s painful. There’s a theme there.

2.       I’m constantly amazed that someone who thought he’d live alone has a wife who—amazingly—puts up with him, and two sons who continue to listen to him when the mood suits them to do so. I feel both blessed and frightened beyond reason that I love my family, and they love me back.

3.       I’m an unabashed U2 fan. (Although I still can’t forgive them for All That You Can’t Leave Behind – a creative misfire from which their music still hasn’t fully recovered) It’s telling that when the shit hits the proverbial fan, theirs is the music I go to first.

4.       I play the drums. I play them poorly, but I play them when I have the time. If I could play in a 70s style soul band, I’d be the happiest crappy drummer in the world.

5.       I have a philosophers spirit but not the temperament (I get pissed off far too easily), which is why fiction writing suits me. If fiction isn’t asking the Big Questions (even if it’s in small ways) then I’m not interested. If fiction isn’t provoking emotions, I’m even less interested.

6.       I once had thick, blond hair that was the envy of men and women alike. My hairline is no longer the envy of anyone.

7.       Poetry is the highest form that the written word can take. Nothing NOTHING is as sublime as that perfect poem (we know them when we read them). Poetry is long overdue to take over the interwebs because electronic media is the perfect vehicle for the form. Poetry shall rise again! (And yes, I write my own frail scraps of verse, and no, I won’t be sharing those scraps because they suck.)

There you go. Thanks again to Willow Becker for the Versatile Blogger nomination. Willow, you are a creative force of nature, and we all bask in your awesomeness. And thanks to those whom I’ve nominated for enriching my life with your words. You are all fabulous.