One of the best reasons for writing this blog has been addressing the hard questions. They can be hard to find, hard to formulate, and hard to answer. I do my best with all three, and am pleased to know that this would have helped me tremendously had I read it one or two or three years ago. Finding and formulating and answering those hard questions got us from where we were yesterday to where we are today, and continuing to do so will make sure we are somewhere even better tomorrow. It’s rewarding, like nearly any hard thing.
Even if you don’t like my answers, you’ve got to admit these questions need asking. Find your own answers, and message me to let me know how much smarter than me you are…or tell me when I’m asking the wrong question, and help me get us all on a better track. Like I keep saying, I am just getting started here.
Then come the questions that seem like they were made for a guy like me. I wouldn’t even think to answer them, they’re the kind of things I just accept as part of my life and my thinking. They come from other people, and when the same question comes from many people something becomes obvious: this is not obvious to everyone. Some people are befuddled by what I take for granted, just as many things befuddle me. But there are some questions that I get asked that I can’t get enough of answering.
Here’s one of them:
‘Where do you come up with your ideas?’
There’s another version I like just as much, usually asked by the person who looks like maybe they’re brimming over with ideas of their own:
‘How do you find the courage to write this stuff down, and stand behind it?’
The first time I heard the first question, I was off like a restless racehorse. I talked about the wall of portals in my mind, the endless line of windows into other worlds, and the round table meetings I have in my head. I talked about how each story is a part of me, and how it makes me happy to tell them as best as I can. I went on about how characters are real to a writer, and how learning to write better is like learning to be a better parent. These stories are nothing but potential when they come to me; I have to give them life, and love, and send them off into the world to find a life of their own. Ideas come from everywhere, and the more antennae we learn to install in our inner receivers the clearer and more abundantly they come through.
It’s so cool.
The other cool thing is that your books are your babies when it comes to standing behind them. The first time I ever heard the second question, it startled me a little.
Then I thought about it, and answered honestly.
‘How do I find the courage to write this stuff down, and stand behind it?’
Well, I didn’t at first. At first I kept all this stuff in my head, except my first manuscript. That I kept in a drawer. Every once in a while I’d meet someone I thought might like it, and I’d run them off a copy.
Most of the people I met never heard a peep about it, though. It was weird subject matter, and potentially offensive to those with firmly entrenched programming and little humor. I kept quiet about it most of the time, until I decided to address my own lack of motivation when it came to following what I knew to be my dream.
I’ll go ahead and give you a little warning, if you are used to coming here and reading a nice mostly clean blog: there is some language coming, and I am not going to apologize for it. Sometimes there is no other way to say what we need to say, and this is one of those times.
There’s a point at which we need to say ‘fuck it’ if we’re going to strike out bravely in the direction of our dreams. There’s a point where we need to consider what others will think, and there’s a time to say ‘fuck it’ to all that noise as well. The most important thing for any artist is putting it all out there, and pouring ourselves into everything we do; when we fall short of that we know we have failed, even if the art sells. The artist needs to be the one example of stark honesty in our world, and the writer can only either hide behind or reveal themselves through their words. When you’re reading a book, and you find a passage that reminds you of some thought you’ve always had that you have never given voice to, you have found an author who knows how to say ‘fuck it’.
Those are my favorite authors. Those are my favorite artists. Those are my favorite comedians. Those are my favorite journalists. Keep naming stuff, those are my favorites in any field.
Doctors? How about the doctor who spent years in a mental asylum for suggesting that maybe doctors start washing their hands after dealing with bloody corpses? He said ‘fuck it’. It turned out pretty bad for him, but you can thank him for saying it every time you drive by a hospital. You can definitely thank him if you find yourself in one.
His name was Ignaz Semmelweis, if you didn’t know. And yes, I listen to a lot of podcasts.
Every single one of my books has some challenging ideas in them, for some folks. They certainly address issues that have challenged me, and I know that I don’t have all the answers. That’s part of what kept me frozen at step zero for so long, wondering if I would be able to talk to strangers about my books without freezing or wanting to go find a cave somewhere and hermit it on up.
Then I said ‘fuck it’, finally. I loved that first book, and I wanted it to find its way into every set of hands that might be helped or uplifted by reading it. It didn’t matter that it was starkly revealing, or that it asked some strange questions; that made it easier for those who are looking for someone who doesn’t care what everyone thinks about what they have to say. I care what you think if you are one of the cool and worldly people out there not afraid to ask any question and ready to examine every answer. Otherwise I can’t be bothered trying to please you; I’m busy trying to be my best self, and the two are contradictory.
Did I really hit home on that one, or did I lose you awhile back? Do you see how it doesn’t matter, if something matters enough to you? Somebody loved the fact that I had the courage to say ‘fuck it’ a bunch of times, and maybe somebody else will get the courage to say it too. It’s how we find true friends, having that courage; which is what we’ll be talking about next week.
Thanks for reading!
All the best,
P.S. I almost didn’t post this one, since it does use the word ‘fuck’ more times than all my books combined. Then I read it, and it made me cry; I thought of that yesterday version of me stuck in fear, the guy that this blog was conceived for. I realized it would be cheating him, not to post this. I read it to Dawn, and told her I wasn’t sure whether it should post. She agreed with my overall assessment of the situation.
So guess what I said, sitting there on the porch?