Oct 21, 2015

Biting off more than I can chew

I've been writing this blog for only a few weeks now and I'm already slowing down. I keep creating more work than I an handle. It's not that I start things I can't or don't want to finish, I start ten things when there's only time in the day for three. Then I'm faced with juggling them around, doing a half assed job on them or letting some of them slip through my fingers.

Look at this Jack Of Arts logo I made for this blog and count the number of things this poor guy is doing. Everything from sword fighting, writing and flutes to keeping one eye on the stars. I didn't have room to include family, community work, finding time to just lay low and sleep. (Maybe ol' Jack, he don't need no sleep)

Everyone's got a busy day but I don't need to keep heaping it on myself voluntarily. So in the spirit of that, I'm going to slack off on this blog before I get too deeply engaged. The time I spend writing needs to be employed on getting my fiction boiling over. I don't have the same freedom I did on retreat so I find myself putting it off and that's not right.

I'll continue to post stuff I want to share, but I guess for the time being, I need to set it aside and get serious about finishing my latest fiction opus, making the Narnia flute, creating beautiful jewelry, making videos to tell the stories on my flutes, keeping fit, enjoying the company of my wife and still keeping one eye on the stars.

I'd like to leave you with the suggestion that every once in a while you take the time to look up at the stars, too.

Oct 16, 2015

Post Traumatic Perfectionist Syndrome

I always feel a self imposed daily pressure to succeed as though I'm in competition with myself.

Aren't you already successful, you may ask? Yeah, well, there's the rub. I never feel it, like I'm being chased to do, do, and do more. I don't think I read enough. Do I contribute to my community enough? Did I really do all I can for the grandsons? Will this story be a flop? Etc.etc.etc.

Why can't I just do? What drives me to need to go one better than my yesterday's self and then feel badly if I don't? After all, just getting through a day's work isn't so easy. Why would I queer that by suggesting it isn't enough? It has to shine like a well polished floor and reflect back perfection or else. I finished a pendant yesterday. It was good and the client will love it. But I could see flaws. Doesn't that prove I'm not very good? So I spend countless, unpaid hours, smoothing and correcting imperfections that can only be seen through a magnifying glass.

So today, I'm anxious. I look at my unfinished chapters, the flute I'm trying to finish and wonder if I'll ever be able to get it right. 

Oct 14, 2015

Pain and imagination don't mix

Last weekend an old spinal injury flared up and I've been in some serious pain all week. This used to be frequent but not for the past several years and I had forgotten how exhausting chronic pain is. Pain itself I can handle, but living with it just wears a body down and saps my creative ability.

We all say, "as long as I'm laid up I can get stuff around the house done". But I can't think clearly through a cloud of managed pain, even after the codeine has taken off the edge.I don't have the patience to just wait it out for a few days. So I end up in mindless pursuit of TV, daydreams and idle net-surfing.

To me, this is prison. I've survived cancer, broken bones and major surgery but when my brain takes a break, I'm a soul lost at sea in search of a horizon.

I better see land soon or I'm going to swim for it!

Oct 11, 2015

I wish I had time to write!

You wouldn't believe how often we hear that in response to learning we are writers, as if all it required was a few noise free moments. You don't hear that when someone says they build furniture or sculpt or design aircraft. They might suggest that it's a skill they'd like to learn but never that, if only for the odd hour here and there, they too could be an aerodynamics engineer.

Why does everyone feel that because we are all literate enough to put words on a page that it makes us all writers? Shouldn't we set the bar for writing a bit higher? What with blogging and tweets, self publishing and copy writing software the situation has gotten worse. There's even a project where you write a novel in a month. Simply smother as much paper with ink as you possibly can in 30 days and - voila, there's a novel. How in the world did 30 days of constant writing ever equate to a novel? What happens to structure, editing, character development and story? Oh, never mind, that'll all sort itself out later. As long as we can string a sentence together, we're a writer!

But when I read Mark Twain and Douglas Adams and Jane Austen I know what a crappy writer I am. How can those people put together their ideas and sentences so well while I struggle to be mediocre? That makes me work all the harder to create colorful and vibrant prose and on occasion I even succeed with the odd phrase. But not without toil and trial and retrial. Certainly not by accident or just hoping good stuff will bubble up from the millions of words I type.

So when some lawyer or doctor says, "you're lucky you have time to write", I take the condescending slap on the chin and refrain from replying, "Yes, I wish I had the time to practice medicine. But something always comes up."

Oct 10, 2015

Hello! You're on the air...

My 17 year old grandson just started an internship at a local radio station. For a goof with his friends they pulled up at the McDonalds drive thru and when asked over the speaker what he'd like, he said "Good evening, this is Brandon Tracey of WKLT, and you're live on our air at your window. If you can answer this question, then you are eligible to give away one free burger. Who was the president of the United States before President Obama?"

"Um... George Bush?" The girl replied.

"That is correct! Congratulations, you can give me, Brandon Tracey, a free burger."

Three grungy teens pulled up to the window and the bewildered girl gave him a free burger.

After I stopped laughing at this story, I wasn't sure what to make of it. Was this a confused individual? Maybe an indication of how low the bar is set for McDonalds employees? Or was I hearing a ringing endorsement of the level of cognitive thinking coming out of our local school system?

One thing was clear, Brandon has a career in broadcasting ahead of him should he pursue it.

Oct 8, 2015

Be what you make of your world...not what your world makes of you

Being cut loose from responsibility, expectation and familiarity on my recent writing retreat made me realize something: most people live to work, I work to live.

What I mean by that is that the job, the work experience and the lifestyle that it affords, is the framework that most people build their lives around. With 40 plus hours working, a long commute, accompanying stress and only 2 weeks off a year forces us to hustle around the fringes to live a 'life' filled with toys and distractions to help us forget the day we've had. If you're lucky, you like your job. For some the job is their lives, consuming their day, their thoughts and their relationships. If their work and world clash the job comes first.

I've always put living first and work second. That's not to say that I haven't spent my share of years struggling with bills, kids and possible failure. But I have always taken a path that allowed me to make creative choices in my work that matched my life both in temperament and pace.

I deliberately chose to work alone and not to build a business, even though all my peers had done so. I wanted no employees, no growth trajectory, no overhead. Of course, this meant no expensive wine, no monster home, no exotic vacations. I couldn't care less. A modest rural home and a healthy family suit me fine and when I travel it is inside my imagination (I dare anyone to find a cheaper vacation!).

These past two weeks of unfettered imagination in a world of my invention reminded me that I created a life that asks of me only what I ask of myself. Now that there are no kids in the house and life is quiet, this is the time to reclaim and build on that.

Oct 7, 2015

Gun Violence in America is Beyond Imagination

I've been struggling with gun violence in this country for many years. I've tried to understand the many perspectives of gun ownership from hunters and firing range enthusiasts to collectors and hoarders who fear for their lives. I'm still learning.

I'm not about to start a tirade on the issue here. This blog is about creative thinking and imagination and how I try to apply it in my life.

As a creative person, I have tried to think of fresh doorways into the discussion and common ground for all sides to start from. A sense of humor is lost on life and death issues, irony and satire can't function in a debate crammed full of hyperbole, and agreeing on the basic facts is impossible when there is so much misinformation and obfuscation that most people don't have a clue what the actual facts are.

As a political person who has been in elected office, run campaigns and knocked on doors to debate social and environmental issues for years, I know how to discuss contentious subjects with people. But this one has me baffled. There is an unbreachable gulf between them what's for and them what's agin. The only thing that sparks the debate is when people die - and even that isn't enough to create change, it just throws chaos back into the mix.

I pride myself on my ability to think outside the proverbial box but this box is so tightly sealed no one can see out. This means that thousands upon thousands more Americans will die before any action to change will ever be taken.

That in itself should unsettle the imagination of every American citizen.