My Imposter

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So, I made a promise to Stacey M. Miller and Jim Jackson a personal story.  Wondering what to talk about, I realize that perhaps I should reflect on my feelings and some of the changes I’ve noticed in the past few months.  Not to mention that over the weekend, I realized an imposter had snuck inside me.  Once again, much like when I did my podcast with Adam Dreece the first time, my own words had come back to haunt me.

 

In this particular talk up here, the words that came back to me are the ones when we get to Adam talking about his earrings.  I found myself two years later eating those words with my own cares.   At Creative Ink I gave some advice for another author getting started that seems to need to be said to myself now.  (Irony you are evil.)   And I figure Stacey in particular will appreciate this.  So guys, this blog is dedicated to you.

Once upon a time there was a writer/podcaster who was used to being unnoticed. He had quietly gone about his business for what seems like forever. He was hoping for a touch of recognition.  What artist doesn’t want to have a little bit of audience after all?

Then one day, he gets an email that changes everything.  Suddenly, he wasn’t unnoticed anymore.  Words like successful and expert now were attached to said podcaster/author. Strangers approached him and told him they liked his show.  He never had experienced anything like this for anything he had done before.

Now what was he supposed to do with it?

This is my first ever convention that strangers have come up to me and talked about how much they love my podcast.  People I never have met have come to me and talked about my podcast in great detail.

I remember walking into the convention on Sunday, still kind of asleep when I heard my name said in a positive light.  I barely registered it when a friend pointed me out. A young man came to me with a smile on his face.  He showed me his podcast subscription list. I was on it.

I should have enjoyed it. Instead, I was on the outside looking at myself looking at this dude, the reality of the moment not hitting home like it should have. It was awkward and uncomfortable. I mean, I just do my thing you know?

I remember first coming to When Words Collide and not many people noticing me.  I was a face in the crowd who wanted more.  Who doesn’t want that right?

I started the podcast at When Words Collide three years ago. Since then I have had the pleasure of interviewing an incredible amount of amazing people.  And all the building up I have been doing with everyone else seems to be coming back to me.  And now, I understand what I do to others when I receive praise.

I was frozen. Doubt walked in and spoiled this moment.  It was all my fault.

I kind of feel like an egomaniac even typing this stuff.  I don’t have that much success you know?  One day once upon a time I was noticed for this.  I wasn’t doing anything special.  I just did my thing.  And this weekend words like expert, successful and brilliant were thrown at me by far more impressive people than I.

I blushed a lot. I never considered myself special.  At first it was nice, but hearing a lot of praise from a lot of places actually froze me in place.  What did I do to even come here to hear this?

I had gotten annoyed at listening to myself. In my podcast interviews  I talked about the Aurora so much that weekend with the podcasts I got sick of it.  Hearing anything nice about myself in anyway positive sounded so hollow and pretentious.

I was an Imposter.

I imagined success and recognition would make me like a rock star.  I would show up to thunderous applause and it would all play out like a beer commercial.  Babes, automobiles, and money.  Isn’t that the big dream of it all?

That’s the image of success.  The reality is much different.

Success is building yourself.  Success is setting expectations for yourself.  Success is having the imagination, passion and faith to keep going.  To believe in yourself that what you are doing matters, and that it’s getting out there bit by bit.

I worked hard to get this far.  Every night I’m staring at the screen doing some work, and not caring a whit about who notices.  Is it wrong that people notice and care?  Is it so terrible that I’ve created these expectations for myself?  That I’ve earned this reputation?

Is it so terrible that people do believe in me?

Yet I feel like a hollow, shallow, pretentious shit.  Who the hell wants to hear me talk about me?  Yet if I don’t voice my own virtues with conviction, who will take me seriously?

It’d be so easy to get an ego. I think it can’t be helped. An ego is a bit of a buffer in one sense. It’s a shield so that successful people can keep going and protect themselves from shrinking against the structures they’ve built for themselves.  As long as it doesn’t blind them completely, a little ego is healthy.

It’s okay if I’m proud of what I’ve done.  I should be.

It’d be so easy to just enjoy it at all cost.  I’ve done great things.  So simple to demand just a little entitlement.  I understand that angle too.  I wouldn’t have to work so hard with these expectations.  Be demanding enough, and those expectations would turn into disappointment. I’d be free.  I’d be a “could have been”.

All this over a little recognition.  All this over words like expert and successful.  And this is nothing.  There is so much more I want to do and accomplish. I’ve done nothing yet.  Not a thing.  With only a little pat on the back I feel like a fake, a fraud, an egomaniac and a pretentious prick in one go.  How can I doubt so much at this precipice?

Because I want this so badly.  This is what I’ve dreamed of.

Alright Imposter.  Alright Doubt.  I’m not going to let you betray me. I’m not going to beat myself. I don’t know where this all leads or goes. I’m riding this wave to wherever beach it may land me on.  I don’t know what the end result is going to be. I will not let you take it away with these needles of dread and doubt. I will do what I did to get me here.

I will be okay with expectations. I crave them. Expectations force me to rise to try and meet them.  I have done what I’ve done. I can do more. I will do more.

I will try to avoid being a pretentious asshole that has all the answers. I will stay humble and hungry no matter what I do. I will not change what got me here.

I still have so far to go. So go away dear Imposter. I understand you now. You exist only to betray me and try to destroy me.  But your power only comes when I listen to you. So I  will not listen to you anymore.  This is already hard enough. So here I leave you.

Once upon a time a writer/podcaster finally got recognition for his podcast.  Instead of shrinking at the praise, he acknowledged it and just for a moment, enjoyed it.

Then he got back to work.  For he knows that the pursuit of success never stops.  Success must be wooed, chased down and courted with the toils of labor and expectations.  He vows to himself whatever comes his way, good or bad, he would not get in his way. He will be ready for the blessing of praise and success. He will keep himself open for opportunities.

He will not be afraid to take them when they do come his way.

I don’t know what I’m doing, and That’s Okay

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I have a bunch of projects upcoming here.  This one started a little differently.

One year ago Colleen Anderson asked me to submit an epic poem into her anthology called Alice Unbound.  Initially, I had no idea what I was going to say about Wonderland.  I mean, everyone has done a Wonderland story right? What could I possibly say about Wonderland that hasn’t been said?

It turns out, quite a lot. Around this time I met a very pretty woman with a gorgon tattoo on her arm she designed herself. I was captivated by her, and we became friends. With her as an inspiration I had an angle on Alice in Wonderland that I thought was unique and fresh.

It turns out, I had a ton of fun writing it. And it was good. Colleen said it was good.  Unfortunately, it didn’t make the final cut for the anthology. It happens.

Alice Unbound

That said, this is a pretty cool anthology and you can check it out here. Colleen is everything an editor can ask for. She is encouraging and wanted me to do something with this piece.

What to do with it though? I liked it, and didn’t really want to cut this down.  I wasn’t sure that this poem could be lengthened up.  It was a prologue to a larger story in my head.  With the Watcher series concluded, I needed to do another poetry epic. I believe that this has legs.  (And it turns out, I’m right.)

But I didn’t want to just rehash the Watcher. I wanted to create a different experience, not just with the story, but with the presentation.

Snakes and Ladder Board Template

I thought that Snakes and Ladders was an appropriate metaphor for the story I was telling. Alice and games, particularly this one, fits not only her narrative, but also the nature of the story itself.

Yeah, that’s right. I’d do a board game fantasy world map.  That would be cool, right? Right, I told myself.  So I found this and imagined all the worlds in my Wonderland saga and smiled.  Yes, this fits.  I know this is going to work.

Then I asked myself the question that doomed me to the nth degree.

How do you play this game?

The moment I asked that, the basic rules of the game came into my brain.  Honestly, it felt like they were beamed into my brain. Strangely enough, after thinking about it, I thought that maybe there was legs to this game.

That my friends is how you accidentally invent a board game.  I don’t feel bad admitting it.  The best things I’ve ever done has been done by just doing things.  One door leading to another and another.

So yeah, I’m constructing a board game with a snakes and ladders motif.

Or was I?

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When I started designing the board, I obviously considered homaging the Snakes and Ladders concept, but thought about trying something different. I liked the circular motion of this idea. But after looking at it carefully, I nixed this idea.  It was too eyeball like for starters.  Also, it just didn’t have the feel I wanted.  The only way to make a board like this work would be if I was using star constellations.  But with the nature of the story that seemed very blah.

Okay.  Let’s try something else then.

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Eeek.

First off, this looks way to much like the letter E.  And while a labyrinth does play a role in the story, it shouldn’t be the whole board. I had other, more inventive ways to travel in this game.

Still, I threw this in here because it’s always good to experiment and try different things.  Even though I’m not going to go this way, it did give me some thoughts about secret pathways and other neat things that could go on the board in the future.  In the end though, this concept would just not do.

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But this was definitely the right track.

I went with the one hundred square board.  It fits the whole snake and ladders homage, which I think is going to be a necessity to the game, but it also with the way I positioned it, it gave me context not only to the shape of the board, but also the shape of the story.  I know now the number of books, and how many worlds are going to be featured in my saga.

All because of this little weird number grid.  Cool huh?

I still got a lot of work to go.  The bristol board and board game design is going to be tricky. I’m buying a few pieces to get the whole concept nailed down in rough.  It’s going to look very hodge podge as I get into testing the basic concepts of the game and the story down in the next couple of weeks.

And really, I have no idea if this is the right way to do it. That’s part of the fun to be honest. I’ve never let not knowing what the heck I was doing get int the way of trying something different. You may be able to follow along with the basic ideas I’m working on here. Maybe not. I’ve tried to be clear, but not too clear.

That said, this is going to be a very ambitious way to do this project. I don’t know a lot of variables. The basic idea may change as I move forward with the concept. Then again, it may just be perfect. Who knows?

I don’t know.

A lot of people get afraid of I don’t know for some reason. Truth is, there’s a lot of things I don’t know. I don’t know how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.  I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and I barely know what’s going to happen today. All I know for sure is that I can try.

Really, that’s all any of us can do. I may be an imposter and this might fail

So what though? In my experience, failure leads to more unexpected doors being open. I encourage you all to go off the beaten path and try something a little different. Maybe designing a board game isn’t for you. But I bet there are other things in your life that are worth exploring and doing.

You never know until you try right?

To Be Continued…

Perfection is my enemy…and yours too.

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So I just finished a draft of my comic. Keep in mind it’s a draft, and not a final product yet. I’m waiting to hear about some thing from both my artist and my editor. I’m really, really excited about this. I’ve had this draft in the back of my mind for over a year. I’m looking forward to working with the people who I am working with. If nothing else, this will be a testament to seeing a vision come through.

But I must make a confession. This was one of the hardest things I’ve had to write. Yeah, sure, the standards and goals I set out for doing this script played a part in it. Unusual circumstances forced me to stretch and become uncomfortable in the process of creating this work.

But most of it was me getting in the way.

Yup. I got in the way of this. Not because I doubted that I could do it.

Because I wanted the perfect moment.

Big mistake.

Perfection is a lofty ideal. We all have this idea of capturing this perfect moment in our craft. That perfect line, that perfect sentence, sometimes even the perfect word. Perfect is an ideal.

The key word is ideal.

I’m not perfect. The older I get, the more I realize that I do have some limitations. Sometimes I’m an asshole. I want to help people, and want them to overcome what obstacles are in their way. I’m also pushy as fuck. People aren’t always comfortable with moving forward, and unless life gives them no choice (which it does upon occasion) it is not my place to tell them where they should go.

It’s an inner megalomania, and one I’m working on. There are things I need to let go, and there are things that I’m still not quite past, that I should be. I’m not sure why exactly, but I’m working on it.

That’s the beauty of life, is that change is the great constant. I can evolve and I can keep changing and growing. My cement hasn’t dried up in this life and my final form hasn’t been produced. The clay is still being molded.

That said, I have limitations, flaws and things I can always work to improve on. I can progress. I can evolve. I can change.

But I’ll never be perfect.

I’m okay with that.

You should be too.

The idea of the story in your head is perfect. It is without flaw and without shape or form. It is endless possibility, until you write down that first line. Once the lines on the page are formed, the perfection dies. There is no flawless piece of work. Every writer I know looks back at older works and cringes. All the flaws are crystallized. The temptation to change the work is always there.

I can just go back and fix that word, or phrase. I can always rework that line to make this picture better.

What we forget sometimes is that those flaws give our work shape. It’s part of the charm of it. All those flaws are unique to the work and for all the polish and things we can change, the product we present in that moment is often our best.

Also, our flaws give us shape. Limitations give us form. They are the cup in which we are shaped. Once we recognize it, we have the ability to surpass those limits. And then our shapes change.

Each work of art is our best self expression in that moment in time. One of the biggest challenges Terry Pratchett had when he worked on the Carpet People
was the fact that his younger teenage self had written the first drafts of it. Even though Terry was a better writer much older, the voice of the work was younger Terry’s and that had to be respected.
The Carpet People

There is nothing quite as authentic as the person you were when you created something.  Stick figures drawn by someone who is doing their best do not feel the same as someone with great skill drawing stick figures.  Technically the latter may have more skill and talent, but the heart and intention isn’t as pure.  The technique is all in the head, and not in the heart.

When we let ourselves open up, that is when we are at our best. We are bold when we step out into the world and express ourselves in the best form possible. Because that very feat is one of the bravest things we can do. No matter how much polish, technique and skill I have acquired as a writer, some of my earliest works will never be touched.  I no longer have the heart to tell those stories. That belongs to another me from a long time ago. It was his shape, his form that constructed these stories. It is nearly impossible for me to even attempt to try.

The fact that I cringe so much now compared to then tells me that I have come a long way from where I was. That’s a good thing.  If I didn’t get better, perhaps I shouldn’t be writing like this for anything other than pleasure.

My final point that ties this altogether comes from salt. Yup, salt. See, there are differences in the qualities of salt out there. You can see it when you put salt under a microscope. Iodized salt looks perfect. The crystals are all the same shape, without flaw, without any visible imperfections. Sea salt in contrast has these little black spots all in it. The shapes of the crystals are all different and there are somethings that just seem wrong to look at.

Yet, sea salt is far healthier for us. Precisely because of the flaws in them. Those black spots, those different shapes allow us to absorb sea salt better than we can iodized salt. Cool huh?

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Striving for an ideal greater than you in writing and in ourselves is fantastic. We all can improve, as stated above. And we should always be striving too. We can quit smoking, or do the things that make us uncomfortable. We can became greater and nobler and more vexing with each day.’

But if we focus on our imperfections and what we are missing, we ignore what we already have and we rob ourselves often of the opportunities to become more. The important thing is that we do the things inside us. Perfection is often a barrier for such things.

Instead, we should be focusing on progression. We can always get better. We can become better artists, better people, better in our relationships, better in our life choices.  We have to work at those things. I try to let things go better. Most of the time I succeed. Sometimes I fall short. And that’s okay too. I’m allowed to make mistakes. I just hope I have the wisdom to learn from them.

And sometimes, it allows me to take chances. Right this minute I have a novel I’m about to experiment with. (I hope that announcement comes soon) along with a comic that is going to be a homage to a literary genius. I really don’t know if I’m up to the task. That said, I’m not afraid to try and in both cases I have great people I’ll be working with the whole way.

And every day I try to do my best. Some days I fail, but I think more often than not, I get better.

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

Ray Bradbury

Just go for it.

Eliminating the Need to Judge Others

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Once upon a time I knew how the world worked.  I had ideas of right and wrong.  Marijuana was bad.  Alcohol was bad.  There was a right way of doing things and a wrong way of doing things.  This Josh had all of life’s answers.

We all I think have a little of this in us.  We are all raised the way we are and that teaches us things.  A lot of it is generally pretty good.   But like everything else in life, all things change, and life has its own way of telling you how things really are.

I had a lot of advantages moving around. I get to see the trends and tides of cities rising and falling as I move to towns.  I got to see Windsor Ontario at one of its peaks.  I got to see London Ontario’s Downtown decline.  So I can see the ebbs and flows of a city.  Living in Calgary right now, I can see some of the same mistakes that the city is making that Ontario made.

But I also miss stuff.  Shielded.  Overnight I got to see things like Marijauna creep into the culture, and a lot of other things just seemed to happen overnight.  Suddenly, I have no idea how the world works.

You try to keep to some of your principals, and even now, I don’t think that’s a terrible thing. Some things always work.  Integrity, follow through, honesty are all things that work.  It makes things difficult sometimes, but I don’t see this stuff ever not working.  Or at the very least, I know I will not last long when it is required for me to do otherwise.

But you have to be wise to see that some things are different.  I’ve mentioned marijauna.  I’ve never subscribed to some of the arguments I’ve heard.  Some of those arguments that are commonly said do not do the plant any favors.  That said, I cannot deny what I read on medical reports.  I cannot deny what I’ve seen in terms of it being a pain killer or a cancer fighter.  I’m not even against it completely as an anti depressant, although here I acknowledge some caution.   I personally believe the goal with depression should be to do it in as minimal amount of any kind of drugs as possible.  I’ve seen it help people, but I’ve also seen it as a crutch for people with depression as well.  So if it helps you, sure.  Just be careful.

This was not an overnight approach.  This was a process, and this was me checking and rechecking my facts, and my biases.  This has applied to a lot of views in my life.  How I view religion, sexuality, different approaches to lifestyle not my own.  I started in a very ordinary place.

These things really got to change for me when I got to spend two years living in a mormon community.  I’m not going to bash the religion; rather, I think this would apply to purely any one religion or one mentality in any community.  I saw how unhealthy that is.  It’s one thing to see small towns have their share of sex and alcohol.  That I have learned is the norm in this life when it comes to small towns.  It’s another when it goes to the extreme.  On a small scale, trying to make people conform to one ideal or one way of life, just doesn’t work.  People don’t fit any one particular mold.  Much like new wine, the old skin of these ideals just doesn’t apply or fit and it makes people revolt.  The dichotomy was quite different.  I know a lot of people that were ostracized for no other reason than being themselves.

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

That’s my all time favorite Shakespeare quote.  For all his wondrous writing, that is maybe the most profound thing he ever said.  During my time in Arizona, an individual called me the weirdest person they ever met.  I’ve been called weird, and crazy and been ostracized because I just can’t help but be me.  I realized after being called that, that maybe I was doing the same thing to everyone else.

I changed one thing.  I no longer cared where you came from, or who you sleep with, or what you believe in.  I care about what you do.  Who you are when you face your own obstacles and when you try to do great things.  That seemed to be a better approach than the one I had before.

I have been awarded for this.  Look at the variety of people that have come on my podcast.  I’ve been blessed to meet so many amazing people.  Each of them trying to do great things in their own right.  It’s easy for me to be a fan of people like the ones I chat with.  I see them fight and struggle and go for it.  How can I not admire that?

They are true to themselves.  And that, more than anything, is something we should admire in people.  No one wants to be judged.  We all want to be heard.  And the real secret to eliminating judgment is not to compromise our standards, rather to accept that everyone’s standards are different.  We are all divided on how we scale the mountain of life.  There is an infinite amount of ways to do so.  Some of them I don’t understand, but I don’t have to understand.  That’s not my job.  My job is to encourage, and build and let people reach for whatever happiness they can find.

I still make mistakes.  Even now I’m not perfect.  I have biases, I make assumptions.  I’m as flawed as everyone else, maybe more so in some things.  Life is always changing, new questions are being asked, new possibilities come to life all the time.  Sometimes I’m still playing catch up to things.

But I try to be open.  I try to understand.  I may be ignorant, but not out of hatred, but of a lack of knowledge.  I am trying to fill the gaps I can.  Really, I think that is all we can do in the end.

“Judge not, less ye be judged”  Matthew 7:1

 

 

My Sultry Summer Experience

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So last Sunday was my third ever Live Podcast.

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M. Jane Colette contacted me about two months ago and asked me if I would be able to do something with this.  I have to admit there was a little part of me that felt like a fish out of water.  I’m not a romance guy.  Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, comics, are all my wheelhouse.  Erotica, Romance, naked girls, burlesque dancers – well, I’ve seen a burlesque dancer or two in my time – but you get the idea.

I feel I should celebrate the Emcee of the event a bit here.  I met M. Jane Colette at When Words Collide last year.  She tells most of the story here.   The long and short of it, I was very impressed by her after the podcast.  Not only is M. Jane Colette an amazing writer, but she’s an amazing person.  She is driven, passionate, bold, knows who she is as a writer and I admire her ambition.  (She’s sexy as hell too, but she knows that.) If anything, I need more people like her in my life.  She’s driven to excel, and therefore, it makes me want to as well.

And I didn’t know this community very well, besides Jilly Jax and Tammy Lyn Carbol.   That I feel even now was an error on my part.  One of the hardest things that every artist fights for with their work is the respect and validation of their peers.  I never looked down on the genre, but I feel I should have paid more attention to it sooner.

Sidenote: Jilly Jax played a big role in me getting the ball rolling in fixing my teeth.  I never have thanked her publicly for that.  I do so here.  Thanks Jill.  You really helped.

But I digress…

So this was an opportunity for me.  What better way to get to know a community I didn’t know than by doing something like this?  And I had a lot of fun, even if I was in the murder room.

I wish I had a good picture of it.  For the purposes of doing a live podcast, it was thought (wisely I may add) that a quiet space would serve the podcast well.  However the setting was a very quiet room filled with ice cream.  The door was creepy and silent.  Mel Vee was the first to call it the murder room, and it’s in my mind as just that.  In fact, I’m using it in a noir story…

So even before I met any guests this was already worth my visit.

There was one unexpected snag to the whole event.  Most malls have a wifi hotspot or a better connection that’s accessible.  It turns out, that this mall is the one mall in the city without a stable wifi connection.  So my plan to stream the event went to hell.  Next time I’ll have my own plan to stream the event with my own wireless should some kind of situation like this occur again.

Still, I got a lot of amazing interviews from this event.  Keely Kamikaze and I talked about the Naked Readers of Alberta and the whole idea of fighting against body shaming and why such a thing exists.  It was really fascinating, and Keely is someone I want to talk to again for a longer chat sometime.

Katie O’Conner and Shelley Kassian talked to me about the Women of Stampede series they are doing.  It’s cool to see an independent series get traction and talk about their love of farm life.  Not exactly what you expect from a steamy romance series.  They were great to talk to.

Danielle French is just awesome.  Talented musician.  We talked love, music, marijuana, and Jung.  She’s an amazing singer, intelligent, well spoken, articulate and someone I think I could have a drink with and talk about anything for hours.

Win Day was a hoot.  Ms. President and I talked about purpose, growth, her tenure on CARWA, and having fun.

Mel Vee has one of the most infectious laughs I have ever heard.  She’s also incredibly striking.  We talked her pursuit of greatness, and racism and where people go to protest that are of different colour.  Racism is not talked about as much in Canada.  The fact that Mel is willing to fight and express her feelings and experiences to the public is very brave.  She’s awesome.

Rayanne Haines and I talked about straddling the literary and genre lines.  An accomplished poet and novelist, it’s interesting to hear her take on this line and how she balances it, and uses one to help with the other.

Finally of course I talked to Sasha White and Elizabeth Kelly about talking dirty.  Sex is supposed to be fun above all things and those two made me blush quite a bit.  It was a blast.  Also, I now have a safe word.

This was a wonderful, diverse, engaging, intelligent, talented group of women that came together and did this event.  I feel that romance and erotica do not get the respect they deserve in literature.  Erotica especially should be mentioned in this category as while everyone I know has some imagination at least in this topic, it is very hard to write well.  Good writing is good writing.  It doesn’t matter the genre, the style, or the presentation, quality more than anything else should be respected.

So check out a book by any of the others here I mentioned.  Or check out others like Tina Griffith or Jenna Howard.  Or any of the other writers I haven’t mentioned here.  Check out the naked readers if you want to have a different take on nudity.  Check out Danielle French for her dark love songs and her amazing mad men behind her.

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These interviews will air soon, and hopefully another event like this will come up.  I for one will go.  You should too.

I want to thank M. Jane Colette for the opportunity, the hard work.  It was fantastic to see and a great experience for me.

Now I’m closing up with a little bonus.  Sasha White filmed me for your VLOG, so here’s me making an ass out of myself pitching my books.

Thanks Sasha!

You miss Nothing.

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There has been a ton of validation the last few weeks.  And really I have to go back to my childhood.  Dad, if you’re reading this, I blame you for this brainwashing.

Over and over again I had Dad’s lectures when I screwed up and did stupid things he would say verbatim “How many times do I have to tell you?  Focus.  Focus.  Focus.”

Focus.  Oh how that word has haunted me.

I thought it was hilarious that I got that when I took the picture.

It’s what I’ve been doing.

We all have a to-do list right?  Sometimes it is the mundane crap like

1. Take out trash

2.  Find my pants

3.  Get out of bed

Normal crap.  No one wants to adult enough to deal with this stuff, but we all accept that on some days at least you have to do it.  If you figure out how to make those things exciting let me know alright?  (Note to self: worry about impending demise if i wake up excited about said things.)

But we all possess a bigger to do list inside as well.  It’s what we’re called to do.  It can be something like “I gotta colour this comic page” or “I got so many k words to write” or “I got to run twenty miles today”.  It’s the bigger things, the things that make this life worth living.   Or as the bible would say:

“For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14)

Many things are always happening around you.  Distractions are like cockroaches – they are everywhere.  Instead of writing this blog for instance, I was watching a twitch stream with my buddy.  I could go on facebook and see my status for the ten millionth time today.  I could go on twitter and cause chaos and mayhem there.

In fact, I do sometimes.  But I digress.

The point is there are a zillion things that you could always do.  There always a zillion things you can do.

Focusing on things that matter at some point makes you realize a very simple truth.

Very few things really matter.

Let that sink in for a second.

If very few things really matter, then it stands to reason that in all of our lives there is a ton of clutter.  A pigpen of sorts gets in the way of the things we should do or want to do in favor of accomplishing nothing.

Distractions can be many things.  They can be stress related (harder to deal with), drugs, comic books, video games; really, the items in question can be any assorted thing.  Anything that takes your eye away from what you want or what you need to do is something you don’t need by and large.

Not that distractions are a bad thing from time to time.  We all need time to unplug from what we are doing.  If anything, I probably should do it more often.  Or at the very least, diversify what I’m doing.  Unplugging is great.

But let’s be honest with ourselves.  A lot of us get caught up in not doing stuff right?  You know you probably could write at least a thousand words.  But…well, I could list anything here, but the key word here is the word “but.”  While the specific things are all different for all of us, the but is linked to one key question.

But what about all the things I’m missing going down this path?

Life is a million open doors and when you narrow down your choices of what you really want to do, you only have a certain set number of doors you can walk through if you’re serious.

Of course, if you’re serious about this, you’re going to walk through one of those doors.  And if you’re not serious, you don’t.  Deeds are truer than any words.

Right now, I’m doing a lot of different things out there.  I’m writing a noir story, (slowly), working on a Dr. Seuss style comic book I have no idea I’m good enough to even attempt.  I got a novel nearly finished.  I need to get that into the last phase.  I got a board game to start testing in a month. I got a tour to plan for October.  My podcast has to regularly come out.  I just posted a new episode today.  I need another one by the weekend.

All the things that really matter are in that last paragraph.  Not much else does right now.

That’s focus.

If I focus on the things I need to do, and go forward doing my best to do all the things on my plate, I’m not missing anything.  There is nothing else out there for me.  And there isn’t anything else out there for you either.

The truth is, if you are serious about doing anything in this world, you have to set yourself the expectation that you are going to do it.  It’s how you build yourself and go towards the things that are important to you.  You have to focus.

I now feel like my dad.  I need to go.  Figure out what you want and go for it.  You miss nothing if you do this.

Matters of Faith

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The hardest thing to do in this life is believe.  This isn’t just about God (although that in itself is a blog post and a half) but faith is in everything you do and don’t do.

It takes guts to believe in anything.  The greatest irony in this world is that in order to go for something more than what you already have, whether that be a relationship, a career choice, or any other kind of goal you can imagine, it takes faith to begin it.

You have to believe that you can do it.   And that’s hard sometimes.  My goals are to write and make a living at doing my creative pursuits, whether it be writing, or podcasting or something else.

No matter what, there are times you are questioning what you are doing with your life.

I remember wanting to finish a comic book.  I had been working on it since I had been apprenticed in Taylor, AZ.  Circumstances had come to the point that my production had been ground to a halt.  I could not pay the artist I wanted to work for.  Rent was high for my wage, and it was a very, very slow crawl to save money.   And right when I was about to start being able to pay my artist to move forward, I was fired due to some very interesting circumstances.

I had to hitchhike to another city just to work, and make it on time as there is no buses out there, and this kept getting pushed back farther and farther away.  I wondered whether or not I’d ever leave Snowflake Arizona, let alone finish that comic book I was working on.

When I came back to Calgary I had to rebuild and recover for about a year.  Finally, I was able to finish the book.

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Veritas is the book by the way.  Credit to my sister for taking this picture.

I always am impressed when someone finishes something with this kind of magnitude.  It took me so long to get so far on this book that every time I see anybody do something I appreciate the sacrifices it took to see that idea go to print.  It’s awesome.  Kudos to anyone who follows it through.

That was my goal and I did it.  There were times I thought I’d never do it.  I just kept on and on and on.  It was all I could do.  I did it, and I’m not ashamed to admit I cried.  I had wanted to do something, show something from that time and I could look at myself proudly.  I had seen this through.

At that point, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Of course, after some time passed, I wanted more.  I wanted to get back into books.  My plan was to do poetry again.  I had this grand idea of publishing an ebook version of a new poetry collection and sell some at cons.

That plan went out the door immediately as this longer poetry pieces morphed into this entire story told in poem form.  I got an amazing illustrator, and we made something I’m very proud of this day.

One of my first customers bought the book, liked it and asked what the heck I was going to do with it and my plans.  When I told her my master plan she told me she was opening up a publishing house and wanted to publish my books.

WatcherFront copy

So this became a thing.

I learned a very important lesson that I still apply to this day.  Nothing ever works out how you imagine it to.  There are ups and downs that just are never quite planned for.  But that sometimes leads to a greater truth, and that’s that sometimes things work out even better than you ever planned.

Even the podcast was an accident.  I had the opportunity to interview Robert J. Sawyer about three years ago for his book Quantum Night.  It was a random word from him that pointed me in the direction of the podcast.  I never thought about doing one, and decided ultimately to try.

Why not?

Which leads me to right now.  I never set out to do this for awards.  I love meeting people who do amazing things all the time.  This podcast has given me the opportunity to meet some incredible individuals.  Just to listen and talk to them about what they are trying to accomplish is inspiring.

Last week I had an email in my inbox I never expected to get doing the podcast.  The Aurora awards are given out from the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA) for work in excellence in science fiction and fantasy.

I was shocked that I was a finalist.  I never sent in a nomination for myself.  Someone else did and people agreed with them.

That, truly, is amazing to me.

Thank you all very much for this very cool honour.  I never thought I’d get an Aurora for this podcast.  I’m fine with it.  It is an honour to be nominated with people like Clare C. Marshall, S.M. Beiko, Mike Bryant, and Steve Swanson.  That’s a cool list of people to go against and root for.

Not to mention everyone else going into their own rewards.  Good luck to each and every one of you.

Which leads to my last point on faith.  You can’t be guaranteed of anything, but as often happens, when you work on something and put the dedication and time, somewhere along the way, you get others to believe in you too.  And that, truly is the most amazing thing of all. I’ve already won.  I mean sure, I would love to get that award, but this is something I never asked for, and to be able to get this chance…wow.  More than I could have hoped.

I already have a goal for next year however, and that’s to get an aurora for something I am writing.  Right this minute, it feels pretty good.

 

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Creative Ink or…my road to Validation

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So I attended the Creative Ink Festival in Burnaby BC this year.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I had a few impressions based on the people organizing it.  Sandra Wickham is an amazing person.  I always have a blast chatting with her when I do see her.  Randy McCharles runs this amazing festival called When Words Collide.  The organization is top notch and wonderful, and I expected that.

That said, this was a fledgling festival.  I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond what I hoped was a solid show.

And it exceeded expectations.

I have to admit where it takes place struck me.  I expected a hotel, but not a casino.  It was a bit of a fun clash between the convention halls and the bar/casino motif.  If I could do it again, I wished I had taken the time to try the poker tables.  Next time.

I walked in and said hello to some old friends like Chadwick Ginther, Beth Wagner, Ellen Michelle, and met some new and awesome individuals like John Mavin, Jonathan Lyster, Aerin Caley, Zoe Duff and many more cool people.

So, I feel I should get the bad part of the convention out of the way.  I did two panels here and the first one wasn’t so good.  I won’t go into too many details here, but I will say that that panel was write worthy in itself.

That said my podcasting panel was awesome.  Myself along with the other panelists I thought delivered a well informed and I thought very fun panel.  When Chris Humphreys is asking you questions, you know you’re going in the right direction with what you’re doing.

One of the bigger surprises for me is that the podcast is picking up in popularity.  More people know me for podcasting for nearly three years than my writing.  I have no problem being more well known as a podcaster than a writer.  Podcasting is what is mostly visible in my current works and I’m cool with it.  One thing adds pollen to the others and I thoroughly enjoy doing it.

And I did take the opportunity to interview (and be interviewed!) while I was there. The interviews I did here are awesome.  All of them were fun, engaging.  One of them was from one of the most passionate people I know.  Another was just really deep and we talked about some serious family issues.  And yet another was a great jaunt into pop culture.

For all I get from those interviews, there is no feeling quite like having a fifteen year old graphic designer loving your book.  The joy you get in seeing someone enjoy your work is incredible.  It’s a rush unlike anything.  As much as I enjoy podcasting, writing will always be my first love and this is why.  I will be forever grateful to the festival for those moments.  I don’t get enough of them and I want more and I want to thank Sandra for that more than anything.

Now that wasn’t the only life event that occurred here for me.  Something that I’m not quite ready to talk about happened here as well involving something I dabbled with in the past.  But the spark for that started here again and things may work out.

I will say that if you are a merchant, that Creative Ink may not quite be what you’re looking for.  I made my table, however, it was a small show.  In a couple more years I think it will be something really special.  Right now it has a lot of potential to become more.

What creative ink is right now is a great place to connect with writers and amazing people.  Whether it be guests of honour like Chris Humphreys or Kevin Hearne, or writers like Jonas Saul or Faye Arcande, the show is accessible, the people friendly, and you as an author will have things to go for.  I learned a ton, met great people and coined a new catch phrase with “chaos and mayhem.”  It was a very worthwhile trip for me and gave me an incredible sense of validation.

I want to take a moment and thank Sandra for organizing this and I look forward to being there again in 2019.  You should be there too.

 

 

Bicycles, Life Skills and Jobs. It’s all the Same.

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I still remember the first time I rode my bike.  I was five years old and I had these amazingly dinky training wheels connected to the biggest blue bicycle I’ve ever seen.  I rode and rode that thing and was happy as I can be.

Until I noticed other kids riding without training wheels.  Kids not much older than I am.  I was flabbergasted.  I mean, how did one ride their bicycle without training wheels?  The mystery and possibility grabbed me.

So I asked my mom and dad if I could learn how to do it.  They made me make all kinds of promises, which I eagerly agreed to.  I mean, it was important to learn how to bike without training wheels.

And while I will get to the rest of this story as we go, it occurred to me reading the all interesting facebook, that pretty much all skills are similar to riding a bike.  All of them.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  So with that, dear reader, I will tell you what riding a bike will teach you about acquiring skills.

1. Learn the Basics.

I was pretty confident that I would master this training wheel bike thing pretty fast.  I mean, everyone else made it look easy right?  I mean, one of my buddies (We’ll say Tim for simplicity’s sake) was even trying to do poppa wheelies.  Poppa Wheelies are the epitome of cool bike tricks at five years old.

But I had to learn the basics.  Which meant stopping, starting, and being comfortable on the bike.  The training wheels didn’t come off when I got the bike and there was a reason for that.  I would have fallen.  Hard.  I didn’t know what I was doing and frankly,  that’s okay.  When we start anything, whether it writing, boxing, martial arts, trampoline jumping, you name it, we are not going to know what we are doing.  Now, some of us have gifts and take to things faster.  (Watching a kid six years younger bang on the drums as if he’s always done it is humbling to a ten year old’s psyche, let me tell you) but all in all, we all start at that blank slate of possibility.

We have to be broken in slowly to the more difficult parts of the process.

Don’t worry,  I wanted to get to the training wheel phase to end.  So on a friday the first training wheel came off.

2. You will fall

So when the first training wheel came off it was the left wheel.  naturally the bike inclined to the right hard.  It was hard to steer and I fell off my bike and hit the grass hard.

I fell for a few hours with the one training.  This was suddenly harder, more real life and it made me question if I really wanted to do it.

But that’s true with anything.  Touch typing, learning languages, becoming good takes practice and repetition.  It’s the most boring part of the process in a lot of ways.  But practice, practice, practice as they say is the path to getting on that bicycle correctly.  And you will fall on your butt a few times.

3. Don’t Quit

It’s amazing how often this point comes up in life.  Don’t quit.  Those two words are probably the simplest two you hear.  Good things happen when you try, try and try.

No one ever mentions how hard that is.  Sometimes in mastering any skill, bicycle or not, you are going to deal with no, rejection and the temptation to stop.  I wanted to stop.  Me and the sidewalk were becoming familiar friends.  The other training wheel had come off and while I had caught myself most of the time, I still stumbled and feel.

I was afraid.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t do it.  That I couldn’t do it.  Failure breaks you.  The question is how.  It is a message to stop.  But stop doing what you’re doing, or…

4. Adjust

Sometimes you have to adjust expectations or your approach.   Insanity is the choice to keep doing what you’re doing without adjusting course.  Sometimes the adjustment is how you are trying to learn something.  In the case of the bicycle I went from trying to pedal to moving the book.  I found with the wheels in motion it was easier to start pedaling and keep my balance.  Gradually I was able to keep going farther and farther without needing to stop or falling.  This approach worked for me.

Expectations is the other major thing we have to adjust.  I remember my goal was to learn to ride a bike before Dad came home from the highway.  It was going to be his birthday and I thought it would be cool to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels before then.  This was my goal.  So I worked and worked at it.

Now setting deadlines is great.  It gives you a focus and a goal to achieve things.    But sometimes the task is more than we realize.  Electrical Engineering,  Doctors, all take time to learn and master.  While the basic skills to learning anything is the same, the expertise, time, knowledge and practice of knowledge varies from skill to skill.  We all learn these things differently.  We must adjust accordingly.

At the end of the day, I learned how to ride my bike.  I learned the basics, I failed over and over again, I adjusted and I didn’t quit.  I didn’t quite finish learning how to ride when Dad came home. I did get it by the next day though.  So May 2nd, 1986 I learned how to ride my bicycle.

I try to approach all skills the same way.  I’ve quit some in the past.  I didn’t want to keep going through what was required to do this.  But for the most part, every job, skill and bit of knowledge applies to those things.

Now not all these things are as fun as a bicycle, but the principal is always the same.  Keep trying and you’ll master whatever it is you’re learning.

Okay, the Queen song is now firmly entrenched in my head.  Approach your expectations like you would riding a bike.  It may not always work out the way you want it to, but at the very least, you’ll give yourself a shot to succeed.  You can do it.

My Four Rules

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Last blog, I talked about not beating yourself.  A lot of people tend to defeat themselves before they begin.  Also in general, a lot of talk is about finding fulfillment.  I have the belief that these two things are connected.  I find simplicity is the key to dealing with both ends to this.  How not to defeat yourself, and what to do when you get there.

A little bit of clarification before I really get into this.  No, this is not a one hundred percent guarantee of things working out for you exactly as you want.  Also note the key word in all this;  I said simple.  Simple is NOT easy.   I don’t want to hear about how I make it sound.  I make it sound simple.   Easy is another story altogether.

Ready?

I’m happy with myself.  I didn’t get there overnight, and I’m still working on things.  This is as always an ongoing process.  That said, I’m content.   And I do it with four rules

1. Show up

Show Up

This seems so easy right?  So obvious.  It’s certainly not glamorous, but it may be the most important rule of all.  This is the first step, and sometimes, the last.

Right place and right time is real key.  Opportunities come your way when you least expect them.  At the last When Words Collide, I had the opportunity to sit next to Mark Leslie and wanted to interview him.  I had already gathered a bunch of people and the timing wasn’t good.  On Sunday afternoon I found myself with an hour to spare and found Mark walking by.  After we exchanged pleasantries, I asked if he’d be up to an interview.  He agreed, and here’s our interview.

I didn’t do anything special to get this opportunity.  I was there.  And really, the sum of the rule.  If you are where you are supposed to be, you will find opportunities you never anticipated.   This was one very cool interview, and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t just shown up.

Rule #2:  Do Your Thing

This is the vaguest rule, because for each person here, your thing varies.  Some of us punch a clock, others box, others write, or draw or do music.  But whatever that thing is, do it.  Do it often, do it proud, but do it.

For me, that is either writing or podcasting.  Writing is my first love and still is.  I work on words all the time.  Even if its final form is unique from time to time, it all starts to me from the point of view of telling a story.  Podcasting to me, is another form of storytelling.  I get to talk to amazing people who do amazing things all the time and I hear pieces of their story.  One definitely ties to the other.

The best reason to do things is that actions cause reactions.  I submit a story, it is rejected or accepted and in the process opportunities arise.  My next next project is the result of a request from Colleen Anderson.  She wanted me to do an epic poem for her Lewis Caroll collection and the idea of an Alice story came to me.

I did it.  I submitted it.  It got rejected.  However, it led down the path to me kind of discovering that maybe I have more than a story, but a really cool game.  More on that as it develops, but yeah, I did a thing, things happened, which led to more things.

Momentum is a powerful lever.  It pushes you forward.  Objects in motion tend to keep moving.  So do all the things.

#3 Don’t Quit

This is the hardest rule I think.  Because there are no guarantees.  In Arizona there were times when I was really struggling.   I was hitchhiking to work, often arriving to it dead on arrival, I wasn’t eating enough, money was tight, and I wondered if I ever would leave that place.  Dying seemed tempting.

Dying at that point would have been easy.  Who doesn’t want the pain to stop?  Just to have a moment where you’re numb you know?  You don’t feel all the bumps and pains and bruises.  Where you can just forget.

I kept going.  Because I didn’t want to stay there in that place.  I had things to do, goals to accomplish.  People I wanted to see again.  I wanted a chance to do it right this time, and not end up like this again.  So I kept going and fighting and in time I got out and moved forward.

No matter how bad it seems in the moment, remember that it’s just a moment.  Moments pass.  Look at what you’re fighting for.  A wise man once told me that the secret is never to look too closely at the shit you have to walk through.  A person that focuses on the obstacles in front of them never defeats them.

The person who focuses on the goal, gets the goal.

All that time I wanted to finish that comic.  I wanted to achieve something while I was there.  It took a lot longer than I thought it would, but I did it.

#4 The Rest is Rain

Life never works out quite the way you plan it.  I know people in my life that hate the idea of plans, and I see their point sometimes.  Why set up expectations?  Plans never work out the way you foresee them.

They don’t.  So why do them then?

Direction, focus, expectations are important.  You need hope, you need faith, and you need a tangible summit of the mountain you set to climb.  You’re no longer at the whims of just fate.  You are exercising your will in the eye of the storm.

Sometimes it works out even better than you imagine.

I had this plan once I was back on my feet to start working towards another poetry collection.  I had published a collection called “I Am..” a long, long time ago.  I wanted to start again, a similar way.

This time i wanted to do a longer poem.  So this vision of a boy in a watchtower surrounded by dragons below him came to me.  So I started writing, adding my frustrations to having a day job in front of me coming.  Next thing I know I tell a nice tale with chapter one called “The Watcher” in front of me.  I really liked it, and yet, I felt like there was more to the story.

So I wrote what happened next.  And then, what happened next.  I just kept wondering what would happen.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that this was my poetry collection.  I was telling a story and wanted it finished, just to see how it would go.

I finished it, and hired an amazing illustrator named Florence Chan to do some illustrations.  Once it was done, I had just planned to do an ebook.  I did one on Smashwords and it was bought by someone I interviewed a long time ago.  Justine Dowsett came to me after reading it and asked me what I wanted to do with it.  When I revealed my cunning plan, she offered to publish it.

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The rest is history.

Now don’t get me wrong, things don’t always go this well.  Sometimes you fail on an epic scale.  Mistakes are going to happen, and you are going to fall from time to time.

But doors always open.

So those are my four rules.  Now, how do you ask how do they make you more at peace?

The answer is that they teach you more about you.  Most of what I’ve discovered about myself has involved me taking action, taking chances, and being willing to see things through.  By developing expectations, and goals and being unafraid to fail, I have done and learned so much.  I never would have realized what I was capable of if I hadn’t tried.

Success definitely helps, but so has my failures.  I’ve learned what is possible, what is real, what I can do, what I’m willing to do.  If I hadn’t went for it, if I hadn’t tried, I’d have wondered and held back.

This is not something I learned overnight.   Many trials have come and gone for me to get this far.  And it’s still a struggle.  It always is.   A big secret to seeking happiness is to go for big things.  To care about the result, and going for things that seem bigger than you imagine.  We are not meant to be small.  Writing this, I realize that there is still a lot I need to work on.  I’m not satisfied, even if I am happy with what I’ve done.  I still got a lot to do.

Inner peace doesn’t come just meditation and reflection.  It requires action.  It requires self expectations and it requires taking chances on you.  Only then do you really learn who you are.  Fulfillment comes from doing, not just watching, and waiting and drifting.