Category Archives: books - Page 3

Poetry

A recent project has me writing a lot of lyrics. To say that my skills as a poet are weak is an understatement. As a result, I’m reading a lot of poetry. I picked up a chapbook of poetry by Tom Cheshire called Just A Little Piece of Heartburn that you can get here: http://safetythirdenterprises.com/. It’s really, really good. Very inspiring for someone like me who enjoys taking the every day and dressing it up. Check it out.

I’m also flipping through collections by my buddy Jeff and The Paris Review. Reading great poetry really picks me up creatively and reminds me of how much fun words can be. Hopefully, it’s also going to improve my lyrics. I can dream, right?

The War of Art – Yes, Again

I’m going to come clean and admit that I have a horrible case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’ve fallen victim to it since my relocation from more civilized latitudes to the harsh climate of Texas. One of the compromises that we made when I moved here was that I would get to complain about the heat from May through September. And all kidding aside, it’s pretty brutal. In Houston we’ve had serious drought and 20+ days of temperatures over 100F. Seriously. It’s painful.

In these dog days of summer, I find that my creative output drops significantly. I can’t bring myself to read anything worthwhile. My attention is captured by the Internet, video games, and watching beads of condensation run down my ever full glass of ice water. I complain about not getting anything done and my wife, patient as ever, reminds me that what usually works is re-reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. And she’s right.

I’ve given away several copies of the book and have turned on at least a dozen people to it. Some of them clicked with it the way that I did and others got a weird taste from it. All agreed that it was good stuff, but the presentation worked for some and not others. I feel good for getting other eyes on the book, but the eyes that really need to be on it are mine because the book Just Works™ for me.

I don’t know if it’s the simple structure – generally one page per idea – or the voice of the author that makes it hit home for me the way that it does. Honestly, like most of the things surrounding my creative process, I don’t question it much because it works. And when something works, I don’t really want to mess with it. What Pressfield does, better than anyone else I’ve read, is remind me of why it is I do what I do. I do it because I have to. And like everything else that I really, really have to do, I feel really, really bad when I don’t do it. Much like eating, drinking, and sleeping, creative work is something that I do because it is necessary. And like those other things, I can only go so long without it before negative effects set in.

I’ve been in a rut for the past 3 or 4 weeks. Finally, Sunday morning, I sat down and started to go through The War of Art again. Again I found it instantly inspiring and I’m ready to get my ass back in the seat and get back to work. Yes, my wife is right again. And yes, you should read or re-read Pressfield’s genius right now. No matter what you’re doing, it will help.

a place to resist

Reading has been a fundamental part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s something that has always been stressed as a noble and necessary activity for enlightenment and pleasure. My family of origin is loaded with readers and as such book are a good common ground. One of the side effects of this familial bond is an interest in how the sausage is made. I like reading books about writers but more than that the good interviews that one so seldom sees. That urge coupled with a weekly trip to the periodicals section of the only bookstore to which I have access put “The Paris Review” in my hands this past weekend. It’s been a brilliant read and brought to the front of my mind something that has been bubbling for a while now.

I’ve mentioned a million times how tough it is to be creative in this era. There are no more rules. There are moments of fashion that come and go with the twitter stream and because they are so ephemeral, it’s hard to imagine being out of sync with the world for two weeks is going to be the end of a career. In the absence of rules and standards and schools there is no room for rebellion because everything and nothing is a reaction to the atmosphere. That’s a hassle.

my notebook right now

In several places I have heard about a recent trend in literature toward eschewing the “confessional narrative.” My first brush with this change in the wind was on a poetry podcast. But then I saw it on a book blog. And now in “The Paris Review.” It must be true! Writers and critics are pushing against something! It makes me jealous.

The brief analysis I’ve done (which consists of reading a blog or two in my RSS feeds and hearing a podcast) leads me to believe that it will be short lived but not without some noise. Sounds more to my untrained ear like kicking the “I” of the world that resonates in blogs and bad poetry. It doesn’t matter. It is a reaction. Something has been found for authors to push against. Maybe it sounds silly to make such a big deal about it but I’ve been pushing this brick wall with my forehead for years now with no motion at all. Musically anyone can do anything. The “innovations” are mostly tricks of technology whose novelty, if there is any, is assimilated so quickly that we forget its origin as quickly as the taste of an onion in a pot of chili. You know, like that one YouTube video of that woman who has the loop pedal and plays all of the instruments? Wait. You mean the looping thing has already come and gone? Huh.

(NB: The music produced by KT Tunstall is wonderful. I don’t mean this disparagingly in the least.)

It may sound as though I want something to exist simply for me to tear down and that’s so true. How many pages of history are devoted to those who did something new by flying in the face of the known? Perhaps I could start a movement with the expressed intent of destroying it. But that would probably be labeled as a repeat of Dada-ism. Or worse, would be called “Dada Two-Point-Oh.”

Picking up this scent has put me into a mind of finding a similar something in music. With music criticism dead and relegated to the 1 to 5 star ratings on iTunes it won’t be easy. Sorting fashion from criticism with a longer view takes work and most of what I see bubbling here and there falls more into line with quick reactions to particular pieces or albums. But I have hope that there’s something out there.

something cool

So yesterday as I was pimping my new collection I heard about a really cool new project from some friends of mine. They’re using Kickstarter to get funding for a project. I’m intrigued by Kickstarter in that I’ve seen it work for a novel in progress by my buddy Johnny. Anyway, this Kickstarter thing is pretty cool but what’s cooler is that it provides a framework for people to do things like this:

The new face of Canadian Science Fiction!

You have to check out their video and premise. You can hit their Kickstarter page and follow them on Twitter.

I’m not going to lie. I love science fiction and I have a bit of a crush on Canada. Growing up in Ohio and having lived in Minnesota means spending some time with our neighbors to the north and their quirks. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about is the chance to help a project with a lot of promise get off the ground. I’ve known two of these folks for a long, long time and even collaborated with Duff on a project or two. He provides lyrics for Jason and me on a semi-regular basis and we turn them into tunes. These are good writers with a lot of drive. I’d be quite excited if I could get a the couple of people who read this blog to click on over and at least check out the project. It’s good stuff! Even if you can’t toss ’em a couple of bones you can always retweet their stuff or pass on a link, right?

It’s nice to know people who are taking risks and, better yet, putting some muscle behind their passion. Thus endeth the promotion.

By the by, is there some new law that says that every time I talk about something cool on my blog I have to say that I’m not getting paid for it? Screw that! People know better than to think I get paid for anything on this site.

reading

We gave up cable years ago. We tallied it up and realized that the only shows we watched were on the weekend, on PBS, and came in nicely with rabbit ears. The exception was BSG but that was available on iTunes and was all good. When we removed TV, there was more time for other stuff. That other stuff led to productivity and more enjoyment. But perhaps strangely, it led to less reading for me. Which is odd.

The nook has cured this. In a big way.

I notice when I’m not reading something. I’m not as rested and I get edgy. My mind needs input of all kinds and books are as necessary as sunshine. Though I’m a big non-fiction reader, I’ve been putting in a lot of time with literary fiction lately. Well, I would say that it’s a 4:1 ratio of memoir/biography/manifesto/non-fiction to fiction anyway. The difference is clear.

Reading has an effect on the lens. Ideas that weren’t there before twist the light and change the angles. Things that were certain, or unexamined, take on new meaning. Reading leads to illumination. Illumination that guides the way we live.

I don’t go a day without reading something. Along those lines I’d wager that perhaps the eReader is the first piece of technology in a long, long while that has changed the life I live for the better. Being able to carry all of the books I’m reading with me and having them in a form that enables me to read as much as I like within the lifestyle I lead is brilliant. The increased reading is showing up in my music and creative work. It’s inspiring. What I would have given for this piece of tech in college!

Speaking of improvements in creative output, I think that an EP will be out in short order. Things took a seriously sharp turn and I’m not making what I thought I was making, but that’s OK. Snippets and sketches soon!