The Devolution of a Writer: On How I Became a Blogger

blogger

When I decided almost twenty years ago that I wanted to really take a shot at being a writer, I knew the reality of what I was getting into. Or I thought I knew. Sure, I dreamed of hitting it big and becoming the next Charles Bukowski or Jack Kerouac and being able to walk away from my day job without any fear of literally becoming a starving artist, but I knew that was unlikely. I figured that like the majority of writers, I’d have to keep my job and squeeze in writing on nights, weekends, and vacations. Two jobs, no problem.

Twenty years wiser (and not a penny richer, unfortunately) I am wishing I had been closer to the mark. In addition to trying to be a writer and poet, I’m now also attempting to be a blogger, contract publicist, website administrator, press-release writer, and social networker extraordinaire. Attempting being the key word.

It seems the days of writing a book, finding a publisher, and sitting back watching it sell are over – if they ever existed at all. Now even writers at the bigger publishing companies need to wear many hats to be successful. Those of us wearing the smaller beanies with the propeller attached practically need to clone ourselves or learn to live without sleep. I have friends with babies now, so I’m trying to take lessons from them, but most are too incoherent to be helpful. Not a good sign.

On my pessimistic days, the expression “Jack of all trades” dances through my swarming brain. It doesn’t make sense that in order to be a writer; I’m spending less time on my writing and more time on other jobs. On my optimistic days, though, I look for the benefits of these added duties. Blogging, which is suggested to beginning writers because it is a free and relatively easy way to build a platform and publish our writing for the world to read, has forced me to write in a completely different manner than my “book” writing. Though I haven’t attempted one yet, I also know writing a press release will also stretch my skills; I haven’t written a news-style piece since high school journalism. However, in my opinion, the more genres a writer works in the better. Variety creates growth, which is a good thing. Since both of these tasks are writing oriented the time spent on them seems worthwhile.

Of course having a blog and building a platform requires at least a minimal knowledge of technology. Learning to maintain a website and utilize social media is a must for writers. In addition to keeping us up to date on the tools which have become second nature to most readers, especially young readers (who are our future market base as well as our hungry competition), it allows us to connect with our potential audience in a way authors a generation ago could never imagine. Reading books is no longer a solitary experience. Sure readers read in the privacy of their homes imagining our characters in the worlds of their imaginations, but most are in doing this in reach of portable devices that provide the opportunity for them to interact. If they have a question about us, our characters or settings, our other works, they can find an answer almost instantaneously – if we’ve put it out there for them to find.

The stereotype of writers as recluses lost in their heads may have some merit for a few past and present authors (like the aforementioned, Charles and Jack), but for the most part, if we’re going to be able to capture the essence of people in our writing, we’ve got to be able to interact with a variety of them in our daily lives. In this way, the time spent online can also help us to be better writers. Hopefully, I’ll even learn to interpret what the heck the millennials mean when they start talking in tweets. I’m not skilled in writing essays in 140 characters or less quite yet, but we’ll see; they would be quicker to edit.

To be sure, having to deal with the business end of things, as well as having to help promote my work and myself, has certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone, which I also view as a positive experience. I’m not saying I won’t appreciate the panic attacks of signing my first contract or that I’ll love the immersive baths of self-doubt whenever I have to pitch my book to someone new, but I’m looking forward to the day when I have enough experience that these side-effects become part of my writing experience. Though these tasks may not have as direct an impact on my writing as the others mentioned, they help me grow as a person, which is good in any career.

There aren’t too many people who don’t have to do some serious multi-tasking these days. Back to those moms and dads I mentioned earlier, they are the kings and queens of this, and I am in awe. They can juggle parenting, jobs, hobbies and everything else life throws at them with sleep in their eyes and spit-up on their shirt, and at the end of most days are happy they had the opportunity. This is the same skill and outlook writers need. The more things we experience, the more accurately we can write about life. The more we have to work to be writers, the more we’ll appreciate the time we get with our own “babies,” our books.

Finally, I’m going to embrace my new tasks in case my next book is about a person with a multiple-personality disorder. Coffee, anyone?

 

The Lantern

Lantern

Do you see that lantern on the mantle?
Its light has shined on three generations of this family
My grandfather learned to read under the tutelage of its glow
Wrote love letters to my grandmother in verse reflecting
The warmth gathered from its flickering beam

My mother found her way home through lost woods
To the arms of my Da, and on the night I was conceived
It lent its sexuality

Bright and slightly hesitant, still it burns, weaving moonbeams
Like silver threads through the tapestry of our lives
Illuminating through the years, it has lit my tears and
Calmed my fears; beneath its flame we all found ways to heal
To bind up old wounds; to celebrate new beginnings, while keeping
Vigil as loved ones passed away

One day I’ll pass it down to my children now crawling on the ground
And in its light they’ll learn to see within themselves, beyond themselves
I take it down and light it whenever I am consumed by darkness; it watches
Over me and comforts me; reminds me that there are so many ways
To become illuminated

The Descent of An Angel

Angels Descent

A radiant and gentle angel, from the heavens high,
Descended kindly to our world and hovered in the sky.
She let her beauty shine for man – alight with wisdom’s gleams;
But men were blind as deaf as dumb to the wonders of the scene.

She clipped her wings and lost her glow; descended to the sands.
Her bare feet touched the wave-worn beach – her book still in her hands.
She preached the holy scriptures though some meanings she forgot.
Her white robes still a bit too bright for men t’accept the thoughts.

She donned their robes; encased her feet. Her hair she let disheveled.
She dulled her seething intellect to meet them at their level.
She ‘scribed that book to parchments plain, but what a heavy cost –
Pretentious were their writing forms that much the depth was lost.

She walked towards the nearest town to share the final creeds.
Men were, before they glanced a word, suspicious of her deeds.
They felt perplexed; thus, it was wrong – dismissed unless explained.
She tried to wake that well of depth – soon knew it was in vain.

She’d left her glory in the sky; now lost upon the land.
Enlightened revelations she could no longer understand.
Now cursed is she, like fallen stars to starfish on the sand,
To walk the earth, amongst these fools, as just another man.

The Corner Bar

I love telling stories of my  favorite corner bar.( My poem “Corner Bar” follows below)  And I love listening to others tell theirs.  On the Morning Media Menu today, author and New York Times Magazine ”Drink” columnist Rosie Schaap talked about her new memoir, Drinking With Men. The book shows how bars have helped shape her personal and creative life. She also shared tips for pitching This American Life.

Here’s an excerpt: ”What I love about bars is that they are places where people talk to one another and tell people stories. There is a kind of openness and exchange of stories in bars. Everyone is relaxed. You go to a bar not to get dressed up, not to have a really fancy night out on the town. You go to the bar to be relaxed and to be yourself. I think that really facilitates great storytelling among regulars. That’s really what we do at bars, we tell each other our stories.”

She concluded: “But you can tell (whether you are writing a story or telling your friends in the bar a story), whether the story is working or not. Sometimes the story you tell in a is going to fall flat. I think in a way, bars are a great place to hone your storytelling skills. Is this making my fellow bar-goers interested in hearing the rest of the story? Am I going into too much detail? Am I not giving enough detail? Bars are great laboratories for storytelling.”

Here’s my bar story.  Hope you can barely relate…for your sake.  Enjoy!

CORNER BAR

dive bar

It always felt familiar and safe;
not like home, but filled with that same tragic scent
of failure, futility, and confusion.
In this darkened chapel, night after night,
we feigned brotherhood, but watched our backs.
We found religion in tall tales
and twisted notes floating softly from the jukebox.
The enormity of the lies exchanged was staggering,
yet not once was truth demanded.

Here, we worshiped and blessed ourselves
at the mahogany and brass altar of amber absolution,
our sins washed in a flood of cheap whiskey and stale beer.
Our bottles filled the night with dead words, hungry ashtrays,
and all these incessant “maybes”
while shameless calls for “another!” filled the tepid air.

We licked the back of our teeth
and bought rounds for the prostitute sitting there all alone,
hunched over to entice our drunken libidos.
We adored her, this faded Madonna,
with her chipped teeth and sagging breasts,
reeking of a stale alcohol and tragic perfume.
Where once there had been beauty and life
some bastard had beaten it out of her;
taking everything that made a woman good and reduced her to this.
Our prayers were answered
in the way this whore swallowed you whole
in the back room’s secret confessional
where you keep her words tightly knit
in the dark corners of your heart.

This was the flip-side of our saintly home-lives;
our souls consumed in the repetition of it all.
We whispered our hallelujahs as the clock struck two;
last call and a slow retreat into the shameless shadows of wretched existence,
as God soundly closed the doors behind us.

 

Heart and Soul

The heart beats strong for what it will
Yet still I seek to master
My thoughts within or outward spilled
Inviting sure disaster
The love I seek, or hope to keep
Isn’t mine to choose
The sweet delights and dreamy nights
Are only mine to lose
Our soul is but an open door
Through which flows passion’s fire
Though oft’ ignored, it stands much more
The beacon of my desire
The heart bestows on those who know
That love is never what it seems
The arrows flung from Cupids bow
Pierce the few and far between
Be still the beating of your heart
And to this verse stay true
The heart and soul both play a part
In bringing love to you

Echoes Across Time

Image

Love never dies…it echoes across time.

It is like a circle revolving with no beginning, no end. The pains of love diminishing as it journeys to the far side of the circle is real and deep…but remember the joy before the pain and listen for the echo.

Love has no dimension, yet it clearly defines all that it touches. It fills you up and leaves you empty all at the same time. Memories are the images carved as love passes along  our side of the circle; life’s subtle reminder to hold on and listen as love echoes across time.

Cast your ear to yesterday’s wind, if you must; do not be too surprised when the sounds you seek reach back to you from tomorrow. Echoes bounce in time and space, for that is their nature – but they must return, for that is their truth.

The circle cannot be denied.

Love cannot die…it echoes across time.

 

Sadness: The Emotion of Separation from God

Sadness is perhaps our most profound reminder of our separateness from God.

Of all the noble human emotions, nothing illustrates better the chasm that exists between man and his Creator. If we reflect upon the causation of sadness, whether it be loss or feelings of intense separation, we cannot but be reminded of the limitedness of man in relation to the boundless love and healing grace of God. Nothing reminds us more of our ineptitude and failing than our powerlessness to stave off sadness, both in ourselves and in others, and nothing stands in starker contrast to His infinite goodness than our painful descent into continual despair and sadness.

The God we know basks in the eternal ether of all things possible, while man struggles to tread water and survive in an ocean of his own failings. While it is true that we possess the capacity to empathize, and even to a minor extent, to comfort…we do not, nor will we ever, have mastery over the prevention or mitigation of this painful human frailty. We cannot prevent others from causing grief and sadness, and worse yet, neither can we prevent ourselves from inflicting it, despite our best intentions. We can pray for the promise of healing, but we cannot prevent in the first place the tendency to cause.

Even in our closest union with God, we lack the power or the insight of pure love. We condition our compassion upon a human factoring of suffering…and in doing so, we continually miss the mark. In our most benevolent, the best we can do is provide the afflicted with compassion and understanding. We cannot remove the cause nor can we fully ameliorate the effect. In fact, because the closest we can come is to empathize, we often find ourselves likewise “saddened” even as we reach out to staunch to suffering of others.

Jesus, in his human manifestation, experienced and fully understood the debilitation of sadness. His temporal separation from the Father and ensuing grief was clearly manifest in the Garden of Gethsemane as in the deepest throes of isolation and sadness he called out for Peter to “stay with me this dark hour,” a request even his most loving apostle could not accord. Later, upon the cross, the experience of sadness and separation from God most closely reflected our own as he cried out, “My God, why hath thou forsaken me?” His weakness mirrored our own; his sadness a reflection of our own separation from God.