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!

The Sublime Nature of Grief

Since the loss of my grandmother my life has been full of a lot of conflicting emotions. I’ve dealt with the loss as best I can, trying hard to honor her memory and move forward. One thing that is always painfully obvious when we lose someone close to us is that everyone deals with loss in their own way. What works for one person may not work for another, and one loss may not affect us the same as another. No matter how you handle the situation, sooner or later you will come to a time when you have to not only face the loss, but yourself.

This week I took some time on a particularly hard day and tried to do that. In an attempt to connect with myself, God, nature, and my grandmother I went to a local dam and nature area for some peace and quiet. If you’re unfamiliar with the summer season in the Appalachian mountains, we often have very hot days in the month of August. A number of summer afternoons often see some good thunderstorms or at least a nice passing shower or two. This, of course, can lead to amazingly beautiful foggy conditions. So much so that there is an old wives’ tale my grandmother used to remind me of often; if you count the foggy mornings in August that’s the amount of big snow events you’ll have that winter.

One of my favorite things in life is to find myself in the midst of a heavy fog, pondering the sublime mystery of the shrouded world around me. Is anyone else in the fog? Am I completely and utterly alone? What do the shadowy figures in the thick cloud represent? The feeling of floating in a cloud, the world around me oblivious of my own ideas and presence is marvelous. One of the best moments of my life has been in conditions like this. To say it has a special place in my heart and soul is a definite understatement.

When I arrived at my destination that evening, I had no idea the fantastic occurrence that awaited me. As soon as I rounded a curve in the road and my eyes fell on the river I was greeted with an amazingly thick, ghostly fog floating about a foot above the water. It snaked across the surface of the river like a living, breathing cloud. It rolled and swirled with the breeze, twisting like the spirit of the river itself. After a quick visit to top of the dam, I returned to the riverside and crossed a bridge to an island in the river, an island surrounded by fog.

I found a bench in the midst of this beauty and sat by the riverside, letting the sublime consume me. I communed with nature, God, my grandmother, and myself. I spent probably just under an hour there by the riverside, fog rising and rolling around me, taking photos and trying to find relief from my own strained internal presence. By the time I was ready to leave the fog had risen higher and was rolling over the top of the bridge that was my pathway.

Crossing this bridge, I was able to stand in the middle of the fog and feel the cool moisture settle on my skin. I breathed in the earthy mist and watched the world around me become veiled and reemerge anew over and over as the cloud rolled by. A sense of peace settled on me as this happened, bringing me some relief and allowing me to just enjoy the cool evening. It was a superb experience, and one that I won’t soon forget.

Before the loss of my grandmother, it had been years since I lost someone close to me. I haven’t dealt with loss in a way that other people do, depression and stress affecting me in a serious way. Because of this I feel like being able to express those issues and have experiences like I had this week are very important. If it has taught me anything it is that we all must find what works for us. Avoiding the mourning process and not allowing ourselves to grieve the way we need to is not helpful. It isn’t healthy. One thing that we have to admit and be aware of is that we may sometimes need more time than others to get over a loss. We may need time alone, or time with others, or even a mix. Whatever it is that you need in order to cope, you have to figure it out.

Embrace yourself, the world around you, and whatever helps make you more you. The things that bring you back to feeling like yourself are the things you need to cope with the loss. Don’t allow anyone, especially yourself, keep you from that healing magic. It can truly be life-changing. Honestly, it can be the difference between your own life and death.

Reach out to someone. Never be ashamed of your feelings, your hardships, your needs. Find the relief you need and make sure you are getting enough of whatever it is to help you return to the you you want to be. Accept yourself, accept your loss, but don’t let the grief and mourning consume you. Life can go on, if you find out how to let it. Happiness can return. Even if it’s just one step at a time.

Although I will never truly be over the loss of my grandmother, I now have an idea of what I can do to help me cope when things get tough. I will do what I can to make sure I am allowing myself the proper time and space to be able to let myself, and my grandmother’s memory, continue on.

If you are mourning, grieving, or otherwise in any emotional need, reach out to someone. I’d be more than happy to listen to anything you need. Find your method and make sure you’re returning your soul to its necessary health.

The Influence of Doubt

As I said in the comments of my last post, doubt can be a very detrimental thing to a writer, but it can also be very powerful. As artists (and human beings in general) one question that is likely going to come up time and time again while we do our work is “why”. It’s a simple enough word, a simple enough question, but the answers to it almost never are. When it comes to something that we are passionate about, asking ourselves why can be the difference between succeeding and failing miserably, achieving a goal and fall short, and happiness or a permanent sense of failure. You might look at that statement and think I’m being a little dramatic, but think about it. How many times have you stopped yourself from doing something just by asking yourself why you would do it, or what good would come of it?

Have you ever attempted to take on a task that you felt strongly about and then gave up on it because you questioned it? I’d be willing to bet we all have.

Whenever we are presented with a thought that develops into a real desire we must consider everything about the possibility before us. Whenever I am getting the idea for a new piece settled down and trying to hammer out the details one thing I try to look at is just how well I think I can develop a piece about the particular topic at hand. When I started writing Maverip (the magnum opus of my budding career) I felt very confident in the work I was doing. Having been a lover of the paranormal my entire life, with a particular interest in vampires, working on that piece just felt RIGHT.

Speaking from the point of view of someone who has completed many other works since the start of that series I can easily say that it doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes you get an idea and you can feel that the idea is just absolutely awesome but once you sit down to actually work on it you question your ability to do it correctly. This is often the case with some people, unfortunately. We will begin a new project, perhaps one that is just outside of our comfort zone or slightly off center from our typical line of work and we will be plagued by the thought that, since it isn’t the same thing we always do, we will be unable to make it work for one reason or another. Often my own bit of doubt is that, upon completing the piece, whomever reads it will absolutely hate it and I will be little more than a failure. In the case of Maverip my doubt has really only kicked in fairly recently, but it is that I won’t be able to make a convincing argument for my piece and that, either in the advertising of the book or with the presentation itself, I will fall short and no one will take the time to check it out. But that is a different post as well.

Regardless of whether or not you feel doubt, the real clincher is how you react to it. So often people will just give up and stop the work the second they get that first hint of doubt. This is one of the most self destructive behaviors I have ever seen. Doubt acts as a cautionary emotion for us, guiding us in the right direction and helping ensure that we don’t take the task at hand too lightly. Unfortunately people don’t always see this. I have spoken to a number of people who have had the desire to do something, be it writing or painting or any number of other things, that have never acted on the desire because they doubted themselves, feeling that they would never be able to perform their desire well enough to suit others or consider themselves a success. This is rubbish. When looking at doubt one must never allow it seep into their psyche to the point that it interrupts the passion that is kindled there. This is such a terrible waste of talent and opportunity. As a matter of fact, for those readers who have a religious background, think back on the parable of the talents that we are told in Matthew 25; 14-30. Three men are given talents and each of them treats the gifts differently. Two of the men use the talents given and get more in return, gaining the favor of their master, while the third buries his, not using it for anything and returns it to his master alone.

The basis of this story is one that can easily be rendered applicable even to those who don’t look at the religious aspect (or choose to adhere to a different belief system). Basically what it says is that when you have something and you don’t use it, you get nothing from it. Would you buy a car just to put it in the garage and never look at it or drive it? Would you buy a house just to let it sit on its plot, never lived in or used? Would you buy food just to let it rot and go to waste with no intention of touching it? The answer to those questions was likely no, right? If not, I’m personally glad someone with such a financial blessing is reading my blog, but I must discourage the behavior! The same mindset should be applied to this. If we are so blessed to have a passion for art (or anything really) we cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged!

Doubt can be one of the scariest things you can experience as an artist of any kind, but it is also well worth the fight. If you give up on a project every time you doubt your ability or the possible outcome of your efforts, chances are you will never know what you are capable of. However, if you push through the mire of this heavy and scary feeling it can be replaced with the satisfaction of completing the work in question and having it taken beyond where you thought it could go.

By pressing through the doubt the weighted me down for the days before sending it, I was able to see my very first piece in print in a small, nonprofit circulation five long years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. Such is the case with many incredible talents. Even the horror master himself, Stephen King, was plagued with such doubt that he threw the manuscript for Carrie in the trash. His wife retrieved it and, after looking through it, convinced him that, rather than giving up, he should trudge on. She recognized the potential in the work (as well as the man himself) before he even did. Carrie went on to become King’s first published novel and has since had three movie adaptations, one spin-off sequel and countless stage performances. And it was literally plucked out of the trash.

The rewards for overcoming doubt often will vastly outweigh even the harshest of situations in which the doubt can be proven to hold even the most minimal amount of truth. In reality, if we finish a work that we have some doubt about and move forward with the process of getting it out there, what’s the worst that can happen? Someone won’t like it? Big deal. There are over seven BILLION people on this (that’s 7,397,799,570 people  at the time of writing this for those of you that want exact numbers). There is bound to be AT LEAST one person out there who likes the work, who is thankful you finished the work and who may even be inspired by the work. The bottom line is, even if your work only truly touches one person, that’s still one person who is better off because you didn’t give up. That’s one person whose life or confidence may be saved because you pushed through your own sense of doubt. And you tell me; isn’t that worth the battle?

Feel free to add your thoughts to this post or send them to me in a message. I love getting to hear all of your thoughts on these blogs! Until next time remember; don’t give up- embrace your doubt. Trust me, it’s worth it.