Postulating Purpose

Hello friends. Today is the start of the Writing Heights Writers Conference here in Fort Collins, so I’ll be away from my website and blog for a few days while I help out.

I’ve been a part of the writing community for quite a few years (15?) and have attended several conferences, classes and events as both a member and now part of the team. Far from being an expert, I feel like I’m still learning things every time I step out into these forays with other writers. About writing, yes, but also about trends, and people, and methods, and humanity. And myself. Lately, I haven’t been very impressed with myself as a writer. In fact, my startling lack of creativity and drive has been kind of frightening. Even an 800 word blog post feels like a struggle. Nevermind that I have an anthology I’m supposed to be putting together in a month.

So what the actual fuck is my problem? Well…I mean I have a lot of them. But you don’t have time and nobody wants to hear the sad-sack history, but I think this particular existential crisis is coming from a hard round of lessons and the decisions I had to make because of them.

For a long time I was driven by a duel sense of purpose. But lately I’ve felt as though I’m faltering in that. Not because I don’t still love writing, or teaching, or any of the things I’m currently doing, but because I think I’ve put an unbalanced load of it all on my plate.

You see, I used to have martial arts as a balance. Something very physical, extroverted, technical to fill up the other side of my life, so that writing in its quiet, introverted, creative expanse was an equal partner. In this way my brain and body were fed, my need for social interaction balanced with my need for solitude. But now–without it in my life due to unfortunately but necessary circumstances, I’m very wobbly.

I think for too long I defined myself as both. And therein lies the problem. I have been feeling, these past months, half full. Half alive. Half of what I know I can be. I have filled the empty space with more writing obligations but it’s drained the creative parts of me. It’s made me no look forward to butt-in-the-chair time, and I am…edgy.

So the next two weeks are both filled with conferences, and book sales, and networking, and hopefully a reawakening of my creativity will be found sometime between the cocktail hours and the moderating classes. But I worry, that I will only feel more drained afterwards. And what then?

I guess it will be time to find a new balance. A new pursuit. A new purpose, to fill that other half of my soul. Breaks my heart to even consider it. This blog really doesn’t have a purpose itself. Just to let you know, I’m struggling. And as much as I love writing, I recognize that it is one piece of my soul that can’t drive my entire life, nonstop forever.

If you see me at the conference, stop and say hi. I’ll be the one juggling my existential crisis in the back of the room.


Roller Coast

Writers, man.

We live deliciously. And when I say that, I mean that we often tend towards the magnificence of highs and lows. I’ve always been more partial to the belief that artists, musicians, writers, poets and the like tend to live life on the shorter wave-length side of things.

Imagine life as a string. We all get the same length of string. Pin it down to one side of the desk. Now, give it a nice, soft undulation of a small lake and see where it lands. That’s a good example of a typical life.

Take another string, same length, same starting point, and make those undulations like the waves of the ocean, impressive highs and catastrophic lows.  The ocean string runs out far before the lake string. This is the life of a creative.

Does that mean we die sooner? Not necessarily. In some extreme cases (think Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix) death was aided in his cause by the use of drugs or alcohol. But it begs the question, why do such creative geniuses seem to expire sooner?

I have an unsupported theory that living in a creative mind isn’t easy. Often, it’s a discombobulated place, filled with wild fantasy, grim darkness, and a dash of bipolar tendencies. The fantastical neurons are on overdrive and move in spiraling thought storms that are often uncontrollable or at best frustratingly elusive.

That’s not an easy brain to live in.

We may scoff at Hemingway’s whiskey or Stephen King’s cocaine but it’s hard to make quick judgments when we’ve all had to deal with voices in our heads, characters doing whatever-the-damn-well-they-want, plot failures and to top it off, the cycles of elation and rejection that line this path we’ve chosen (willingly or not).

Writing can be hard on the heart.

We get diagnosed with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, emotional disorders or other mental health issues. And I’m prone to believe that part of that comes from a society and educational system that values the boxed in test score measures than the immeasurable brain power involved in creative and critical thinking.

When we’re standing at the precipice of throwing our work into the world, firing out the query letters, calling editors and agents, pitching novels, or even entering contests, the mountains of hope and valleys of despair can be wretched chemical surges that amplify the already swirling thunderstorms in the creative mind.

No wonder we are driven to seek out the numbing magic of fermented fruit or dried poppy milk. We’re seeking to elongate the valleys and peaks.

Unfortunately for the human body, those distractions are just that…distractions. Bandaids over too deep a wound.

My point is this, writer, creator, artist with vividly full skull… you are a colorful, magical, beautiful soul, who’s gift comes at the cost of a little sanity. You will see things and know things the world at large is not ready to see or know.

They may call you a dreamer.

But you’re not the only one.

Surround yourself with people who get it. Who know when you need to pontificate in unruly and unrelated thought strings out loud once in awhile, and who understand when you want to stay quietly tucked into a corner avoiding eye contact. You know… other vividly full skulls.

Find your weirdos and keep each other on the gentle undulation side of things, so that when your mind and talent have created in the frothing whirlwind, you can bring your ideas, books, poems, articles, and novels, to the world while standing on solid ground.

When you are in the fire of creating, let it burn.

Then cull your flames with rest, and good food, and time away so that you have the fuel to burn for a long, long, long time to come.