10 years

Hey there, friends and fans! I hope life is flowing smoothly as schools are let out and summer heats us up. Things are going fantastic in some aspects on my end. Recently I worked with a local craft retailer and now my book (https://amzn.to/2KLRvsY ) is available in a real brick-and-mortar store in my hometown! The store, Between Friends, is located on Main Street in Tazewell, Va., so, if you’re ever in town and want to pick up a signed copy of my book, make your way there!! Of course, if you’re interested in a signed copy and don’t have the means to go to the store, reach out to me!

This year is something of a monumental one for me. Not only do I have my first print work available for purchase, but this year marks the 10 year anniversary of my high school graduation. Specifically Sunday, June 9, I had officially been out of high school for ten years. And it has been quite a whirlwind decade. I went from being a high school kid with dreams of published works, to being able to say my book is for sale in a local retailer, for one. For another, I went from thinking I knew something of the world, to being more than willing to admit there are still tons of things I would love to learn. But, most importantly, I’ve found the love of my life, I’ve learned countless life lessons, and I have an idea of just who I want to be when all is said and done.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching in my day and I’ve tried a lot of different career paths in the last ten years, and I’ve landed right where I am. In high school I was very stubborn and had little on mind besides my writing. Ideas and inspirations for teaching and other jobs would come into my mind and I would close the door on them. I wanted nothing more than my novels. By all means, that is still something I want for myself. The idea of being able to support my lifestyle and my family solely with my writing still brings a tear to my eye, but it has taken some focusing to really figure out the specifics. I find myself desiring to teach, to live an awesome life, and to enjoy every waking moment I have available to me. But it took some navigating to figure out.

I went for multiple jobs, in multiple places, and I still find myself returning to the desire that is deep-rooted in my heart. With each venture that I try, I find myself drawn more to teaching and to writing, and I remind myself time and time again of the days all those years ago when those were my dreams. I am one step closer to achieving those dreams each and every day, and in times of doubt that is what I try to look at. Basically what I’m getting at is I’ve fought tooth and nail – with the outside world as well as myself – to become the man I’ve wanted to be. I’ve considered my dreams and my destiny and everything else, and it always brings me back here. I may not have achieved my total dream yet, but I’m on the way. Ten years after I left high school behind, I’m almost where I imagined I would be.

So my message to all new graduates, or to those old ones who may have lost sight of their goal; don’t give up. Don’t put your dreams aside. Chase them until you can’t anymore. Nothing is too fantastic, too far-fetched. Nothing is impossible. You may have just been turned out in the “real world,” but that doesn’t mean you should hesitate for even one second to make it your own. We’re given a purpose on this earth. It may take some of us a while to reach it, or even to figure it out, but at the end of the day it’s there. You’ve just got to go for it.

Apply for that job you don’t think,you’re qualified for. Reach for the goal you don’t think is quite withing reach. Take the leap, even if you’re not sure where you’ll land. Even if you don’t reach your goal right away, you’ll be closer than you were. No one should live a live that doesn’t make them happy. Some of us may have to struggle to get there, but it’s worth it. After all, if we never felt pain or strain, how would we recognize peace when we finally reach it? Put aside the worries, doubts, old days, and old things that hold us back and keep us from making our dreams a reality. Whatever you’re going through just make sure you have a goal in mind. No matter how great or small that goal may seem, go for it. Don’t give up. If you feel like it’s your destiny, your purpose, your heart and soul’s desire – chances are it is. And it could be exactly what you’re made for.

No obstacle or dream is too big. What do you want to do no that you’ve put the old days behind you? Feel free to reach out and share!

Don’t waste it

I’m the kind of person who looks at the world and wants to find the next great adventure. The entire world is out there for us to enjoy. That’s why it’s here. We have been given this incredible gift – really countless gifts if you look at it the right way – and more often than not we end up wasting it.

One thing that I’ve always wanted to do with my life is travel. I absolutely love getting out in the world and seeing things that I don’t normally see. Recently my wife and I decided we were going to get up and take a trip to Atlanta, Georgia. For some people that might not seem like much, but for us it was a very different world. Neither of us had ever been to Georgia, so it was just like opening up a brand new experience overall.

For us the trip was about five and a half hours each way, and it was an opportunity to see some very interesting things. Leaving from Virginia early in the morning, we unfortunately ran into fog, but that didn’t hinder our experiences at all. Even though we only did two things in Atlanta it was a wonderfully eye-opening time. I couldn’t help but feel an old spark rising back inside of myself, and it excites me beyond all reason.

When I was younger I had plans to travel the whole world. I planned to leave for California with one of my friends and just drive (or walk; we also discussed hiking) until we reached the other coast. I still remember the things we discussed, and I honestly still plan to do most of the things I always wanted to. The experience of traveling to a new place is incredibly invigorating to me. The sense of walking in a new place, looking at new sights, breathing new air… it’s all just awesome. The experience of going to a place you’ve never gone before is worth so much more than just sitting at home.

That brings me to the point of this blog. How many of you are drawn to travel the way I am? We can all say that we love to travel, but how much do we actually embrace it? How often do we make an effort to break our routine and try something new? Almost never. Humans are so much more content not getting into the world and wasting their time with electronics and other such things. Granted, as a product of my generation I have to admit that I love those things, too, but we have become way too reliant on them. We waste so much of our lives not seeing the world at all.

Life is hard, I get that. I think we all do once we reach adulthood. We get up and go to work through the week and by the time our weekend rolls around we are so tired and ready for a break that we tend to just sit around the house telling ourselves that we are resting and relaxing. But at what cost? Is it really worth it to just spend our down time not experiencing new things? Life should NOT consist of living to work and working to live. If we don’t get to actually enjoy our lives, what’s the point?

All of us are only given a certain amount of time in life. We have both the advantage and disadvantage of not knowing how long our time is. We could live for decades more, or we might not make it to next week. The question you really have to ask yourself is whether or not you want to waste it. Is it worth spending your life doing nothing but working and holding down your couch? Do you want to be on your death bed looking back at things and regretting the chances you didn’t take, the adventures you didn’t go  on, the life you didn’t live?

No. None of us want that. As a matter of fact, that is one thing that I truly fear. I don’t want to know that I cost myself  a good day, a new experience, a new country, or making a new friend. In my early adult life I have found myself occasionally falling into the routine of taking my weekends to rest and missing out on going to new places – or even just enjoying the place I live in. I mean, I live in the Appalachian Mountains. How hard is it to find something to enjoy? But things are changing. I have made the decision to make sure that I enjoy my life as much as possible, even if that just means taking more time to read and write and go sit on the porch at night rather than watch TV or play a video game.

Now I understand that some people have anxiety or other issues that keep them from being able to enjoy some of the things I’m talking about here. I also understand that some people’s idea of new things rests in watching new shows and movies, playing new games, etc.. One of my favorite ways to enjoy life is by reading, so believe me, I know what it’s like. Everyone definitely deserves to choose what makes them happy and then pursue it. That’s part of what I’m saying. If your idea of happiness is just relaxing in your home rather than going to new places, then by all means – take the initiative and enjoy it!

This world has more things to offer than we can ever hope to achieve. The real question you have to ask yourself is; how much do I want to do? What is one thing you’ve always wanted to do, one place you’ve always wanted to go, one experience you’ve always wanted to have? Well what’s stopping you?! YOU ARE! Make an effort to get out there and try something new.

So, as you go out (or stay in) and turn over this new leaf, make sure you share what you did (or plan to do) and how it goes! Tell me in the comments below or send me a message elsewhere I really want to know what changes you guys make and how it changes your life!

October

This month is one of the best of the year. Let me come right out of the gate saying that. There’s Halloween, Fall colors, cooling weather and most importantly; my anniversary. That is incredibly exciting to me.

I love Fall, I love Halloween, and I LOVE my wife. Anyone who knows me knows that Dalena is my whole life and I would be lost without her. I honestly can’t believe that tomorrow makes an entire year since we said “I Do.” The last year has been absolutely amazing. Together we have found new jobs, moved to a new city and started an incredible life that I’m honestly very happy to wake up to every morning. Seeing her smile and hearing her laugh makes every hard day a little better and every struggle that much easier to handle. The encouragement she gives me in my job and in my writing makes me remember that I shouldn’t give up and makes me feel like I could break into the market and take it by storm.

And going into Fall always represents the beginning of a renewal, for me. The heat of summer fades into the cool silence of winter and October is that peaceful sweet spot between the two. I can’t count the time I’ve gone outside from night to night to find each one just a little cooler and just a little quieter than the last. It’s honestly no wonder people find the month a little spooky. The leaves rattling on the trees as the evening breeze flows through the purple tinted mountains is enough to make anyone’s heart skip a beat. It’s amazing.

But that’s not to say the month is entirely without its sadness. As much happiness as the month brings, it also has a sad day as well. Today, October 3rd, was my grandfather’s birthday. Were he alive he would have turned 75 today. I lost him twelve years ago, but it still feels like yesterday that I would go fishing with him and help him in his garden, learning more from him than I even realized. I always try to take a moment on this day to think of him and what he would think of my life and the man I have become. I like to think that he would be proud of my accomplishments. As a man who loved his family and life in general and enjoyed reading the paper each morning, I think he would be proud to see my marriage and my job as a reporter. Of course, I like to think he would also be very happy to see the way I approach life and the fact that I strive to be a better man with each passing day.

I look back on my memories of him and the portion of his life I got to experience and I wonder what I can do to honor him more, what I can do to make sure people see him in me with each passing day. That’s important to me. Legacy and family lines are something I definitely don’t want to lose. I look forward to the day that I can have a nice full garden to tend to in the summer and children to pass my values to. One thing that I can certainly say I got from him is a work ethic that I couldn’t shake if I tried. Doing something – being something – is one of the best things a man can do, in my opinion.

So as I go into the month with full force and look forward to spending my anniversary with the woman who has my heart and soul, I will go into it wanting to be more like one of the best men I knew. I will look at everything and find a way to be a better, stronger man. I will find a way to be a better husband, a better human, and a better writer. I challenge each of you to do the same. It’s easy to slip into the routine of everyday life and not think about what we can alter to help us do and be better, but I challenge you to do just that. Look at every aspect of your life one at a time and find something you can do better. One thing that I am determined to do by the end of the week is try to find at least one publisher/agent to send one of my novels to. It’s something I have put off for far too long, and I think it’s high time I make the effort to make it happen. If anyone has any tips on this process, feel free to pass them along to me and to the other readers! If there’s something you feel like discussing, the comments section is always open and my inbox is always ready for conversation as well.

As the hours count down to October 4th, I just want to say Happy Anniversary to my wife. I love you and hope you enjoy the day! And I hope all of you enjoy the day as well. Enjoy the month, and remember to always be on the lookout for ways to improve and for ways to leave your legacy for those you may not even realize are watching. Happy October, everyone.

Bridging the Gap

I don’t know why, but for some reason graduation is weighing on my mind this week. It could be because a couple of times this week I let Youtube play through a list of songs that, inevitably, led to some of the ones I associate with high school and graduation. I seriously can’t believe it has been seven years since I left Tazewell High School to never walk those hallowed halls as a student again. I can still remember a lot about high school, and honestly some days it feels impossible that I am actually in my 20’s and no longer a teenager.

A lot has happened in the years since high school, and life has put me through many twists and turns. No matter how much I hate to admit it, I’m not the exact same guy I was back then. I’m a little older, a lot (I think) wiser, and a lot more experienced and I have much bigger goals than just getting through the semester and into summer. Granted, some of my goals are the same; I still want to make a difference in the world, I still want that best-selling novel to help me take the world by storm, and I still want to see as much of the world as possible before my time is over. But most of all, I want to be accomplished. I want to know that, when I leave this world, people will know who I was. I want to write the words that will astound people for generations to come. I would like to be able to look down from Heaven and see, even decades after I’m gone, that there are scholars out there studying my work and teaching it to the masses.

I’ve talked about all of this before, and I know it’s something a lot of people want. Maybe it is largely just that human urge to never really die. According to James Dean; “If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he’s dead, then maybe he was a great man.” I think I finally fully understand what that means, and I agree with it completely. If some part of us can truly exist after we are gone, and if someone somewhere continues to contemplate our life or our ideas, then maybe death itself isn’t quite so final. So ominous.

That’s always the fear, I think. We want to know that, even once we’re gone, we will never be forgotten. Honestly, I fully admit that’s something I want. If the world is still spinning after I’m gone I want there to be people out there who remember me and what I’ve done. The good thing about this is that it can be done in many ways. One of the best is by being a good, strong person and setting an example others can actually follow. Our children can be the legacy that makes the world remember who we are. The way our children see us can create an impact that will impact their lives forever, and in turn can impact the lives of countless others.  As I’m getting more and more used to post-college life and as my wife and I begin to consider our future, I’m realizing more and more that this sort of legacy is one that I am also looking very forward to and it is one that is very much multi-faceted. The impact we have on the world, quite often, starts with the impact we have at home. Some of us occasionally let that truth escape us, but fortunately it is something that I’ve caught onto.

I look back over my life and I find very little I would even consider changing. I might not be rich, and I might not be world famous – YET – but I have done some pretty awesome stuff, had some pretty awesome experiences and I have an amazing wife that I can’t wait to change the world with. My question for each of you now is this; if you had to be remembered for one thing in your life, just one thing, what would it be? And, if you’d like a bonus question; what have you done so far to make sure that happens.

Personally, I’d like the world to remember that I was someone who never let a challenge get me down and who always kept my eyes on God and the prize at hand while loving with my whole heart and helping others as often as possible. So far, I think I’ve done a pretty good job for the most part, but I can always step it up. Particularly in the whole confidence area, of course, since the main reason I haven’t sent a novel to a publishing house or agent is because I  feel unworthy, but that’s a different story altogether!  So how do you all plan to bridge the gap? What are you leaving behind when you go that could make you a household name?

I hope you all have an amazing weekend and enjoy what life gives you while making the most of everything. If you missed my last post, hop back and check it out and let me know if you’re interested in joining a book club! If there are any topics you’d like to discuss, feel free to drop me a message or leave a comment here. Have an awesome day!

Spring Renewal

I was talking to my wife this morning about how blessed we have been and about the changes coming on us in a week or so and it hit me just how monumental the months of April and May have been for us these last three years. The blessings we are experiencing now have come to us in various forms during the spring and early summer for a few years now, and we couldn’t thank God enough for the opportunities He has given us. In 2014 she and I got our first apartment together (a studio apartment that, despite its minuscule size, was exactly what we needed at the time, and started a new phase of our lives that has brought us both immense joy. While living together the two of us have grown even closer, and I fully believe that living together while we were engaged helped us adjust very easily and avoid the shock of moving in together after marriage.

Last year, 2015, changed our lives in another positive way. My wife and graduated from our university with Bachelor’s Degrees and a world full of potential. This experience was slightly bittersweet, seeing as how we owe our Alma Mater so much. While there we learned skills that have helped us beyond measure, were introduced to people who have become some of our best friends, and found books and other works of art that have had profound impacts on us (and my writing). We visited campus again today to speak with some of our former professors and it hit us both again just how much we miss the place, not necessarily for the work or the classes, but for the environment that I don’t think either of us will ever forget. I wholeheartedly believe that the environment of a liberal arts college is one that can’t be beat and is one of the most welcoming of all – but that’s a post for another time.

Finally, keeping up with the changes that Spring brings my family and I we come to the fact that one week from today (on my birthday I might add) I will be starting my new job, the next phase of my life. In addition to just changing professions, we plan on moving to a different location, which is only going to add to our excitement (and perhaps a little to our stress during the moving process – I HATE packing). But we couldn’t be more thrilled with the possibilities ahead of us! Also, as a special note for my wife and anyone else who knows me; May of 2013 saw the release of Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby, just a month after I presented a paper at two undergraduate research on the book (which just happens to be my absolute favorite!).

If the future continues to have such (hopefully good) profound and excellent bits of change and renewal for my family and I, then things should definitely remain exciting for us! So what about you guys? Have you found yourselves in the middle of great changes or on the receiving end of great blessings in the months of April and May, or during the time of Spring and early Summer? If so, feel free to leave details of your experiences below or message me with the details!

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Exciting Announcement

I do apologize, friends and fans, for my absence so far this week, but I have been preparing to make a very exciting announcement. As many of you know I have been working as a library specialist for the last seven or eight months and I absolutely love it, although it doesn’t give me much of an opportunity to exercise and better develop my journalism skills.

I have always been fascinated by journalism, but had no opportunity to actually put my interest to the test until my final year of college, during which time I was made Head News Writer of my college newspaper. This job made me realize just how much I loved being a news writer/reporter and it allowed me to truly branch out and hone my skills as a writer. Upon graduation, I continued to blog and to write, but didn’t have many opportunities for practicing formal journalism – until now.

I am ecstatic to announce that I have been offered a reporter position with the Bristol Herald Courier, one of the most renowned papers in my region and I have graciously accepted. I will tentatively be starting my new job in the next two and half weeks or so and I couldn’t be more excited. I hope all of you will be able to check out my work with this paper. I plan to continue blogging at least once a week (but hopefully twice) while doing this job, but during my training and getting used to the flow of that job, things may get a bit jumpy. My wife and I are very excited about the changes coming in our near future and I can’t wait to be able to write stories and share the news of the region with all of the readers of this awesome production! Thank you all for your patience while I adjust to this much anticipated change of pace!

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Is It Still Mine?

Sometimes as artists we have a piece that resonates with us so deeply and becomes so precious to us that it takes a very long time to go from start to finish. Now, that’s not to say that this particular piece is going to be any better or worse than any other thing that we produce, but it is just more uniquely “us”, I think. One such instance of this comes from (of course) Stephen King and his work on the Dark Tower series. King got this idea decades ago and just recently published the final piece (at least for now) of the Dark Tower puzzle. The books, a series of 7 with a stand alone follow-up, tell the tale of Roland Deschain and his urgent attempt to right what is wrong with the world by find and fixing the Dark Tower. Each book is deeper and more dense than the last and, with the exception of the stand alone (which I own but haven’t yet read), each one is larger than the last. King has called this series his magnum opus and has actually found a way to weave most of his other pieces into the world of Roland and his Ka-Tet. At the beginning of each book there is a foreword, at the end an afterword, and in almost each one King explains that the world of Roland grows a little more every time he attempts to visit it, the story becoming more complex every time he begins to work on it.

This is what I’m talking about. Speaking from experience, my own magnum opus (Maverip and its prequel/sequels) have gone through more phases than I ever imagined when the idea hit me some 9 years ago. That’s almost a decade of work. Each novel has taken me more or less three years to complete so far (yes, that means I only have two of them fully ready for beta readers), and the ideas keep coming. I can look at the notes I made when the idea first hit me, can actually still remember the experience of the idea flowing through my brain while listening to music in the car riding through the mountains on a warm summer night, and I can see how much the piece has grown and changed without effort.

But what does that mean? Has my idea gone from one thing to another? Have I butchered my own work by adding to it and allowing it to change? As an author, when that big piece comes to you and rides the years in your brain, letting every single day of your life affect the outcome and progression, I can promise you that you will end up asking that question at least once. I have asked it of myself and my work more times than I care to admit. But it’s nonsense. As I’ve talked about countless times before, when a piece that is really alive comes to you, begging to be written, it will often times end up writing itself and using you as a tool. Your ideas will put themselves on paper with little or no effort from you, with the exception of punching the keys or holding the pen and flipping the page. This is when you know that you are meant for the work and that the work is meant for you.

So why should it scare us when the work guides itself in a different direction than we originally saw? The answers may differ from person to person, but in my experience they often come back to one simple and brutal concept; Failure. We are afraid that if we can’t guide the work along exactly as we thought when we first humored the idea then we will never be able to convince someone else to read it. This is crazy. Why should we be afraid of our own abilities? The ideas that come to us in such depth that they allow us to build an entirely new world based on our own concepts are not ones that will fail us. We need to have faith in ourselves, our talents, our abilities and our ideas. Basically, we have to give ourselves artistic freedom if we ever hope to have real and true success in whatever craft we have chosen. Personally I would love to discuss this more in depth with anyone who is willing, so I would like for anyone who has felt this fear or questioned their work in this way to leave a comment or send me an email regarding what inspired the feeling and how you handled it. I hope you’ve all found this useful!

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What Writing is to me

I’ve talked a lot about how writing is my passion, my calling, what I love, but I haven’t actually taken a lot of time to explain why this is or what the craft itself means to me. I’ve seen a lot of authors and artists who discuss why they pursue their craft and how it makes a difference to them and I think it’s awesome to read things like that. I hope you all feel the same, and I hope you’ll respond in the comments and tell me a bit about what your craft means to you.

First and foremost I definitely have to reiterate that writing is ingrained in every part of my being and has been for as long as I can remember. I heartily thank my mother for this. From the time I could hold a book she made sure I had as many as I wanted. From reading and consuming everything I could about my favorite topics (typically vampires, the supernatural and the mysterious) came the burning urge to create. For a long time I sought out the best way to do this. My imagination ran rampant nearly 24/7 (a condition that nearly had me basically diagnosed as ADHD or some other such nonsense that is intended to squash individuality and creativity – but that’s another story altogether) and I was seeing stories in everything. I tried my hand at drawing and talking my way through my stories, but it wasn’t until I first put pencil to paper that I felt the true release of writing my words down.

Of course, at first I had no idea how serious and helpful that feeling would be. I jotted down small reproductions of some of my favorite stories, and occasionally attempted to pen a semi-sequel as I’ve explained before, but once that first real original idea flooded into my brain I felt the true release and power of the craft. Many of us who are fans of any sort of art be it painting, music, books or movies have felt what it’s like to be moved to tears while enjoying a piece. Imagine that feeling while you are creating something of your own. I seriously hope some of you have felt that kind of power, that sense of absolute purpose. It is something that I will never forget and will hopefully experience many more times in my life.

So what is writing to me? That’s my topic here, after all. To me writing is that sense of purpose, a sense of belonging and solidity. Whenever I’m having a stressful day or I’m feeling angry or upset in any way I can sit down and put pen to paper and create my own outlet, my own freedom. Granted, sometimes this works better than others, at the very least the act of immersing myself in a world of my creating will take everything else off of my mind. While working on creating that world of my own I can put everything else off or, if I choose, put a similar problem on a character and help them tear it to shreds. That kind of power is, in its own  way, one of the coolest parts of being an artist. You are creating your own world and anything can happen there. You have absolute power while making this world and you can put anything you want into existence. If you want to neutralize all pain and suffering, it only takes a few strokes of a paint brush or a few well organized words. When I place myself in a world that I’ve created I am in complete control and that allows my creative mind to soar to all new heights.

Writing is just as much about that unloading as it is about absolute freedom for me. When writing I can say anything, do anything, BE anything. Whatever I say goes in my own world. If I want to walk on the ceiling and only sleep on the kitchen table, I can create a world where that happens. As I’ve stated, I can look at nearly anything and see a huge story involving it. In life, I can allow my imagination to run rampant and make its own explanation, but at the end of the day water is still wet and fire still burns, but by using my imagination in my writing I can put any situation – possible or impossible – into play with few consequences. Honestly, there aren’t any consequences for this act, but if you’re creating a six headed camel with the legs of a spider and you can’t at least give some explanation for how it came to be, it may well harm your readership if you’re allowing anyone else to read the piece.

Regardless of the situation, writing, to me, is absolute power. It is freedom. It is the one thing I can do and the one place I can go where I can indubitably be me and change the world into exactly what I want it to be. Writing allows me to shed the burdens cast on me by society and allows me to fully embrace my creativity and imagination. It allows me to focus on what I want rather than what is pushed upon me. When entering my own world I am able to use my calling and do what I truly feel I was created to do. And I owe all of it to God and those who have supported me. So many of us have a bit of talent in one craft or another, but because someone maybe told us a particular piece wasn’t one of their favorites we let it crush us and prevent us from continuing on in our passion. I’ve had both sides. I’ve heard people tell me that I’m one of their favorite artists; one of my friends has even repeatedly called me the next Stephen King, a compliment which I certainly don’t deserve but humbly give thanks for. On the other hand I’ve had people tell me they got nothing from my work or that it was over their head, not their style or that they just generally didn’t care for it. Yes, those comments do hurt, but I try to remind myself that it takes all kinds to make the world go around. But, I don’t let them crush my spirit.

I know that I am meant to write. I was put here to use the written word to create as many worlds as possible in my time on the planet and I intend to do just that. So with this post I want to give a very heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported me. Obviously I can’t name every single person here, but of those who have made a difference, these people are some of the most influential. First and foremost, I thank God for making me the man I a and giving me the gift that I have and love so much. I also than the person who dealt with my writing before anyone else and told me never to give up on it; my mother (who just happens to have a birthday Sunday; Happy Birthday Mom, and thank you for trying to understand my insanity!). My wife has definitely been my rock for the last three and a half years. She has dealt with my semi-exponential crises of worry and purpose and has told me to just write, even if it is just for me, because it IS what I’m made for and it is who I am. Thank you, Dalena. My friends Josh and Nicole, who have been my audience longer than most anyone else and who have told me they love my work even when I myself hated it; thanks for everything, you two. Finally, three teachers who influenced me even more than I can describe; Jereial Fletcher, Larry Hypes and Gillian Huang-Tiller – you three were great in helping show me more of my true potential and turning me on to writers who could do the same.

I apologize for the length of this post, but I hope my point has definitely come across like I meant for it to. When you ask me what writing is to me, I can give you an explanation that would last days and weeks, but in truth, the answer could also be the most simplistic and vague one possible. What is writing to me? It is everything. It is who I am. It my breath, my life, my blood, my purpose, my calling and my freedom. I would love to hear from you all about what your craft is to you as well. No answer is too long or too short and no answer could ever be wrong. So feel free to jump in on the comments below or message me personally. I hope all have an amazing time searching within yourself to answer the question “what is my craft to me”.

The Power of the Muse

Life is absolutely full of things that affect us. They can change how we see the world around us, how we feel about it, even who we are, and they can most certainly affect our work. In the process of creating a new piece of work there are so many things that can alter the way the piece comes out. Even the most minuscule thing can change the types of words we use, the colors we use in a painting or the dialogue our characters use in the work.  In turn these alterations go forward into our lives and determine how others view the works, whether or not they are well received, whether they become bestsellers or grow dusty on the shelves. We never know from one word to the next if we are pushing our story in a direction others will enjoy, and in all honesty that’s kind of part of the thrill. Granted, if you produce a work that someone else calls complete crap then you might feel less than thrilled, but that extreme of a reaction is something that likely wasn’t expected no matter what you think of the piece.

That is the power of the muse. Everything from the breakfast we had this morning to the material of our socks and how it feels on our feet can have an effect on what we produce and what we produce can have a direct effect on everyone who sees it. There are countless images and anecdotes about how artists just sit on their pedestals or at their desks endlessly, sometimes hopelessly, waiting for the muse to appear and give them the inspiration and ideas for the next great piece. As silly as it sounds, that has its own amount of truth. The muse is everything and can be everywhere, but sometimes it takes a little action on your part to find it and get started.

I’ve spoken countless times about the things that give us inspiration, siting my own as coming largely from the powerful feeling brought on by the weather and music, etc, and I’ve mentioned that literally anything can give us inspiration, but I’ve spoken little about the effects that inspiration can have not only on our work but on those that consume it. (I know I’ve used that word ‘consume’ a lot lately, but I think it works best when looking for an all encompassing word to describe the way people enjoy the work of all types of artists) As I sat down at my computer to get ready to write something for the blog, I had a lot of trouble. I knew that I had something to say, but had no idea what it was. I had moderate annoyance at myself at the thought that I wouldn’t be able to bring anything to the site today, so I relaxed and turned on some music (Dave Matthews on Spotify, to be specific) and before even twenty seconds had passed I had my idea.

That’s what I’m talking about here. The power of our inspiration can vary just as much as the inspiration itself. The sun shining on a lake, creating that lovely sparkling water effect the Melville was so fond of can mean ten different things to five different people! The sound of a certain instrument being played can change the lives of the right person should they get to hear it. A single crack of thunder can send one person into absolute panic while causing another to become eerily excited (myself being the latter), and that’s almost nothing compared to the effect their inspiration can have on others. Melville has become almost a household name after being inspired to write his most famous piece, and if he isn’t known by some then you can almost bet that Moby Dick is. That’s power.

Anyone anywhere can be inspired by just about anything and from there it only gets bigger. When someone out there reads a piece that had powerful inspiration it can pass to them as well. Have you ever been moved by a book or movie, felt the power in a piece of music or art? You can just about guarantee the author was too. That’s the power of the muse. It isn’t about sitting in a dark room waiting for some magical fairy to come and whisper the meaning of life into your ear, it’s about looking at the world around you and finding what moves you and using that. If you hear a piece of music that makes you feel happy and upbeat, helps ideas to flow through you, use it. If you hear or see something that brings you down and makes you feel sad and downtrodden use it. Take the inspiration that is all around you and use it. In my own experience there is immense power in inspiration and the effect it can have on us, but that can sometimes pale in comparison to the power our work can have on others. And that, my friends, is the true power of the muse.

States of Rejection

As promised last week, I’ve decided to write a piece today about the difference between personal vs. impersonal rejections. This post will probably be shorter than the last because this topic is one that can run away from me if I let it, so I’m going to try to keep it reigned in.

When you send a work out to be considered for public consumption, no matter the medium and no matter the channel you use, you are basically putting a piece of yourself out there for the world to pass judgement on. This, of course, isn’t news to any of you who have done it before, because you’ve definitely felt that pressure. The next part, the wait, can be the hardest for some people. You’ll try to take your mind off of the fact that there is a piece of your work floating around out there waiting for someone to deem it worthy to be seen in their particular publication or venue, but it will be next to impossible. For the weeks (or, most likely, months) you will have to seriously focus yourself on not dwelling on the possibilities at hand.

Once that letter (or email, as is often the case these days) comes in you’re likely going to find your heart in your chest and your bladder ready to burst until you build up the courage to open it. What you find inside, as I mentioned last week, can be something that will change your life in one way or another if you let it. Best case scenario, of course, is that you’re accepted, possibly even with some positive commentary which will make you feel like you’re on top of the world. But then there’s that other case…

Should you receive a rejection, there are a couple of types you may get. The less common type of rejection will come with a nice (hopefully) helpful note attached that may give you some tips on how to improve either that work specifically or your style in general. These types of rejections can make you feel as if you’ve actually just spoken to a friend about a piece and they’ve managed to give you some healthy feedback that will hopefully leave you none the worse. Granted, there are the occasional unprofessional and unkind personal rejections that may contain negative feedback or even a hurtful comment.

If one of these harmful rejections shows up in your hand, you may be tempted to take everything they say to heart- some may even be tempted to take that as fate and stop writing altogether- but the latter is NOT the way to react. Should you receive a negative personal rejection the best thing to do is tear the words apart in your head. Find a positive in it somewhere. If the editor tells you that you need to work on getting your dialogue to sound like people talking and not cavemen muttering, then your goal is to work on dialogue. If they tell you that your character development is about as flat a Patriots football (I couldn’t help it), then you know that you need to work on character development. The bottom line there is that no matter what the negative rejection says, you have to try to find some way to put a positive spin on it and turn it into constructive criticism.

Now, the most common type of rejection in the current market is going to likely be the hardest to handle. It is the impersonal, standard, run-of-the-mill piece of mail that tells you that your work couldn’t be used. Although there are a few formats of this type {1. We couldn’t find a place for your work in this issue 2. Your work isn’t what we are looking for 3. We aren’t able to use your work at this time, etc…) it all boils down to the same thing; you didn’t get in. The reason I think this form of rejection is the hardest is because it leaves you completely open to interpretation. By not giving you any sort of feedback the editor is letting your mind, already taxed by having to wait for a response, run rampant with the attempt to come up with a solution for why you weren’t able to be published.

This can be quite dangerous. Without being given any reasons why your work wasn’t accepted into one publication or another, you may begin to tell yourself many harmful things. For instance, with my first rejection I told myself that my work was just terrible and that I had no business writing because no one would want to read my work anyway. This is NOT the way to think about it. When receiving an impersonal rejection, the best thing to do is tell yourself that this particular publication just wasn’t for you. Keep your rejections somewhere you can view them – particularly if they are personal, because they will help you to remember to always keep your mind on the areas your work may need a little support.

As an artist of any kind, rejection of a piece of our work can literally feel like the editor is telling us that we aren’t talented and that the piece isn’t fit to be viewed. That is because, no matter how harsh the world is, we are our own worst critic. We will be harder on ourselves than anyone else would ever imagine being, because we feel the true passion that led us to this work. We feel the connection with this work that makes an insult to its composition almost feel like a slap in the face. It is that very passion that should keep us from giving up. We feel strongly about the piece because we know what is behind it, we know what went into it, we know it has worth and we know that it deserves to be seen. So that’s really the point. No matter what kind of rejection you get, it should never make you give up. Whatever you are told (or not told) should only encourage you to further the work on the piece and try again, even if it with another location, if only to prove the person who rejected you wrong. Your work comes for a reason. It demands to be completed because it has a purpose. Somebody out there needs that piece, and it is your job as the artist to make sure they get it!