A Slow Start

Happy January, everyone. I hope 2023 is starting off on the right foot with you all. I know these first couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for most of us, but with that hopefully has come plenty of good.

Personally, I have seen a fair bit of success and happiness come about early on this year, with one novel finalized and entering the publication process and plenty of events in the making. That’s right, for those who haven’t heard, my latest novel is officially in production! The author proof is en route to me even now, and should be at home waiting for me to approve or modify it. That feeling is one that, even on my 7th book (holy cow, seven books??!!) doesn’t get old. To see my writing on the page, my reality played out there in novel format is nothing short of amazing. If you don’t yet know that feeling, I can’t wait until you do. It will make that imposter syndrome flee – even if just for only a moment or two.

In addition to the novel I have coming out soon, I have another that I have been trying to finish since last year. My fantasy sequel, “Darkness Awakens: Shadow Slayer Saga Number 2,” is more than 50,000 words, with plenty of great story so far, and I’m not even sure when it will be complete. I have been pushing myself to get plenty of writing in, but I have begun to fall into a slump.

Between setting up events, returning to work after the holidays, adjusting to the new year, and trying to maintain my sanity, it has been a wild ride. I feel the urge to write and create, and have even been coming up with new story ideas left and right, but the ability to focus and make real progress on any one particular work has eluded me. For years I have tried to help and encourage my fellow writers and creators through their slumps and blocks, but I haven’t been able to break mine. In all fairness, this isn’t so much a block of ideas or a lack of feeling for the story itself. I just feel like my voice is slogging through the mud whenever I try to write. It’s like my creative drive got stuck on slow motion.

As I’ve told you all many times before, no amount of struggle comes without its reward, so I know I simply need to keep pushing. My main goal for making this post, in addition to wishing you all the happiest of new years, was to see if anyone else was feeling that creative backlog as well. Are you trying to get a new project going and having trouble, or have you slipped off the path of completion on a work that already has a strong base? Those slumps can truly mess up a good schedule of creation, that’s for sure, but they can’t be allowed to win!

I’m choosing to follow my urge to create and push myself forward, no matter how slow it is. Once those ideas start flowing really strongly again these days of slumps and struggling will seem far away, like they usually do. In the meantime, though, let me share with you the cover for my new novel as I prepare to set a release date.

I am so pumped about this book, guys. Maverip (the original was one giant book that I split up for length) is my magnum opus thus far. The book that has been with me for more than a decade, characters that have been like family to me. Well, you know, family that you torture and terrify with vampires, pain, constant fear of death and the like. So, family. I can’t wait for you to get to check out this next stage of the adventure, too. It promises to be great fun and will change the way the modern vampire tale is perceived by some, I hope.

For more access to future works of mine, make sure you subscribe to my free newsletter, follow me on social media, and subscribe to my Patreon (http://patreon.com/DameanMathews). I am working on my schedule of events for the year, so be sure to jump over to my events and appearances page regularly to see what is coming!

Finally, if you have been feeling that beginning of the year slump, what have you done to get over it? Have you been able to push your way through the mire to the golden light of creation on the other side? If not, we’ll get there together! Comment or message me to share your journey.

Returning Home

Greetings and Salutations, everyone! We are growing ever closer to the spookiest time of year, quickly chased by the merriest time of year. In other words, I am absolutely in my element! I have been immersing myself in all things horror for the last few weeks, as opposed to the rest of the year when I immerse myself in all things horror. It’s very exclusive. As I near another busy time of year, filled with events and signings and all manner of awesome opportunities to meet you all, I have to tell you about the most recent one.

On October 9th I was honored to do a discussion and reading in my beloved hometown of Tazewell, Va. Being from said small town, the Appalachian tradition of ‘coming home’ took on a new meaning for this event. The Tazewell Historical Society asked me to do the event, which was held in the recently revamped and reopened Tazewell Train Station, formerly known as ‘the old depot.’

The old depot had been abandoned, just sitting in its historic spot, going back to the earth for years, decades even. Fading, dirty bricks, boarded windows and doors, vines crawling up the sides with reckless abandon, the building was exactly something that would inspire this little horror lover’s heart (and there may or may not be something in the works based on this). The coolest thing about this is the fact that I lived less than a quarter mile away from the building. I passed it every time I was going home, every time I left to go anywhere. It was always a figure of history that loomed on the edge of my vision, and instilled curiosity consistently. I may or may not have tried various times to take a peek inside the building, with never a spark of luck, so this was an even more interesting opportunity.

Needless to say when I was asked if I would be interested in doing a presentation on Appalachian Myth and Legend, along with a reading of some of my work, I leapt on the chance. The fact that it was going to be held in the depot building was just icing on the cake.

To prepare for the event I examined much of what I already knew of myth and wives’ tales that exist in Tazewell. There are a fair number of those, but one that has always interested me is that of Devil’s Slide Cave, otherwise known as Higginbotham #1. Supposedly farmers that live and work near this cave, which rests just off the road at the foot of a mountain, have heard moans and cries of unknown origin coming from within. Animals that get too near the cave are said to die soon after or simply disappear. A group of spelunkers and cave mappers went into the cave and reported a sinkhole not far from the entrance. Once they made their way down they went several miles in (I’ve heard they may have spent as much as two days within, but I’m not sure of that part). Eventually they found another dropoff and began hearing the sounds they had been told about. They lowered themselves down to the full extent of their equipment and reported that they couldn’t quite reach the bottom, although they could see it. The group claimed to have seen a set of heavy iron doors at the bottom of the hole, through which the sounds of Hell itself could be heard and a great heat could be felt. I’ve heard the tale several times throughout my life, but I have never gotten to explore the cave, as it is on private land.

Being a lover of all things lore and myth, I made the connection here with the Devil’s Looking Glass in Erwin, Tn. and several other evil seeming legends, of which there are no shortage. The group of people that showed up to listen and converse with me were fantastic, and it was honestly an amazing event. Looking back on it, I can’t imagine how I could be so blessed to be able to experience that thing of wonder, the Appalachian Homecoming. Getting to present some of my work and my research, an object of my passion, that close to where I spent some of my most formative years – in a home that was and is still passed down through my family I might add – is nothing short of a blessing that I am ever so thankful for.

That, I think, is something we all sort of hope for. To be able to return to our origin with our story strapped to our back, not in an act of desperation, but an act of triumph. To be able to return home and say “look at what I’ve done. I’m here because I WANT to be here, not because I have to be.” It is a feeling of success and achievement that I hope I can always keep with me. Having a passion for the arts is by no means an easy journey, and it does not often come with the sort of instant gratification the world is growing more and more used to, but this truly makes me feel like I am on the right path. I have had my ups and downs lately with my work, especially while striving to revamp my website, up my market presence, and make myself more widely known. Sometimes it seems like I’m just pounding my fists against a brick wall, hoping against all odds to bring it down. On the bad days, it seems this is a futile attempt, but on the good days, every now and then, one or two of those bricks come tumbling down. These last few weeks, those bricks are tumbling, and I can’t be more thankful for that.

I know, of course, that every journey is one of ups and downs. As happy and successful as I feel this week, I may end up feeling just as unsuccesseful next week, but the key and point of this post, is that sense of failure, that ever-present nag that is imposter syndrome, is false. Your journey is always successful as long as you don’t give up on yourself. You have to push through the bad days, the low times, the negative commentary, and realize that these are merely speedbumps. Tests. They are nothing more than life’s way of making sure you don’t get moving too fast or flying too high before you slow down and take a tumble. Your time of ultimate achievement, your moment in the spotlight, will absolutely come. But no amount hemming and hawing, whining and crying, forcing and threatening will make it happen. It will happen when you have overcome those obstacles and truly have everything you need to embrace the big finish.

So, my advice, as always, is to keep going. Push through the pain, the bad days, the sadness. Never let a road block cause you to come to a full stop. Turn the wheel and seek out a different path. Have faith in yourself and your journey. Fight your way through the hard days and enjoy every moment of the good ones. Most importantly, remember those good feelings and use them to keep you motivated through the bad. One day, you too may have that storybook ‘homecoming’ and it will be a moment you can definitely be proud of.

If you need anyone to talk to or motivate you through those hard times, I am always available as well. You can find me on social media, use the contact page on the site, comment on a post, or use any other method you can to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help any way I can. Also, my amazing wife filmed my presentation at the depot and I have since uploaded it to Youtube. You can watch it here, if you’re interested. Have a great rest of the week, everyone. I look forward to hearing from you!

The Belgariad/The Mallorean Series Review

Hey there readers, I’ve got another doozy of a review to provide here, and it is one that I am ridiculously excited about. As many of you know, I am a huge nerd and proud of it. My reading and art habits absolutely reflect that, so when I recieved a new fantasy novel earlier this year as part of a huge book exchange (which I’d love to do again) I was pumped. The novel in question, Pawn of Prophecy, by David Eddings, was the first in a long series that I’d never heard of. By the time I finished the first few chapters, however, I knew I needed more. Within days I had ordered the four books that completed the first series, The Belgariad, as well as the next 5 book series, The Mallorean, and the two accompanying texts, Polgara the Sorceress and Belgarath the Sorcerer.

To say I was hooked and blown away by the magnitude of these book is an absolute understatement. The book tell the story of Garion, a young man who first comes to us through every day life on a local farm. His friends are typical medieval children, and the farm they live and work on is really more like a village. Garion is your typical orphaned child, living on the farm with his aunt who has made her way in the world as a cook for the house. Life is average, almost mundane, for Garion and Aunt Pol. Sometimes a storyteller will come to visit who seems to know both of them quite well, but Garion thinks little of it. All his life he has heard the legend and stories the storyteller circulates. Tales of Gods and creation, a stone that is the most powerful object in the known universe, and one God who decided he would rule all else by stealing the stone – which turned on him and scarred him with its glorious fire.

Garion is thrown into the middle of these tales and so much more when he learns the old storyteller is actually the ancient sorcerer Belgarath, who is more than 7,000 years old – and Garion’s grandfather. These books are absolutely filled with myth, legend, action, world-building, gods, magic, and so much emotion it can’t even be contained.

David Eddings was incredibly masterful at creating a world filled with characters I grew emotionally invested in. I found myself cheering for the heroes, laughing at their jokes, loving their friendship, mourning their sadness, and hating the enemies of the world. To be sure, a 10 book series with two accompanying texts seems like a lot to deal with – even greater that Tolkien’s tomes of Middle Earth – but these books are so immersive I flew through them. Several of the 3-400+ page books were done in just a couple of days and each one left me yearning for more. I devoured two thirds of the last book in less than a day and, as much as I would love to have more of Garion and his friends to entertain and move me, I can honestly say Eddings closed their tales in a rarely satisfying way.

In today’s world, with new movies and series springing up from some of our favorite classic tales, it is becoming increasingly easy for people to simply say they’ll wait for the books to be released on the big (or small) screen. That may well never be the case for these series. Eddings was adamant during his lifetime that his work never be watered down by alternate mediums. He stated that he wanted people to enjoy the Belgariad and its related works, but that he never wanted them made into movies or video games. He wanted people to read his words and live the worlds the way they were intended to be lived. Frankly, as much as I enjoy seeing my favorite works of literature translated into books, series, video games, music, and more, I agree. These books are simply so fantastic, so filled with lore and magic and strength and power, that they would almost surely lose much of their weight through translation.

In short, I set these books very high on my list of favorites, not only of the fantasy genre, but of literature as a whole. I would recommend them to most any reader at any age level from early YA to adult. The content is not overly suggestive (especially compared even to modern cable television) and it is not particularly difficult to understand. Beware of some violence, and some theological and even philosophical content, which is typical with this sort of narrative. Most of all, be sure to keep your mind open and ready to be immersed in a world like no other. If you’ve read these books before I’d love to know what you think of them, and if I’ve inspired you to give them a whirl I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Keep reading, everyone!

Celebrating Spooky Month with Mountain Song & Story

Happy October, everyone!! I have been leaping into this spooky season with plenty of awesome projects and events so far. My most recent short story collection, “When These Mountains Talk: Tales of Horror From the Heart of Appalachia” was released on October 1st, and it has gotten great attention so far. In addition to that, I had a huge and awesome experience I wanted to share with you all.

Last night I was a part of a local radio show, originating from Bristol Va’s Birthplace of Country Music Musuem called Mountain Song and Story. The weekly show, hosted by Toni Doman, features and explores different aspects of Appalachian culture by discussing various arts and crafts, cultural elements, and even some phenomena and myths. I had the chance to sit down with Toni and have a candid discussion that covered a range of topics including my work, the importance of Appalachian culture, and some of our amazing Appalachian legends.

To say I was, and am, honored is an understatement. I can’t thank Toni and everyone at Radio Bristol enough for having me on the show and allowing me to talk about my writing on such a cool platform. The episode was an hour long, and it was filled with classic regional music, and genuinely fun content. I think you would all truly enjoy hearing it. Fortunately, the episode now lives in the show’s online archives at https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/event/mountain-songs-and-stories-with-toni-doman/2022-10-06/ and can be checked out at any time. My episode is the one that aired on October 6th, if you are interested. I have to once again say thank you to Toni, my friends Wendy and Myrissa for recommending me for the show, and to everyone who helped make it possible. These opportuniites make me feel very connected with the community and help me remember how blessed I am to be able to create my art and use my voice to draw attention to our culture.

In addition to last night’s opportunity, I am ecstatic to announce that I am getting another chance to embrace our local culture this Sunday (October 9th) in my hometown of Tazewell, Va. I have been invited to present and read some of my work to a group of community members at the Tazewell Train Station – which is literally just yards away from where I spent a good number of my formative teen years and essentially grew to be the man I am today. This is a huge honor for me, as I love being able to bring my work back to my hometown and see the old stomping grounds. The event will begin at 2 pm, and I hope to see plenty of familiar and even new faces there. I truly can’t thank God enough that I have the talent and skill I do. I was truly made to write and celebrate the written word and the culture that helps make these mountains what they are, and I am ecstatic to embrace those purposes. If you are able to attend the event this weekend, that would be fantastic. If not, I completely understand, and I welcome you to check out my events page to see when and where you can see me next!

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or comments you’ve got for me, and I look forward to speaking with everyone. Keep reading and being spooky!

Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)

As many of you know, I have an extreme love and respect for the book by Delia Owens. It has been one of my favorite pieces of literature since the day of its release. From paragraph one, the book had my attention and would not let me go. Needless to say, when I heard the official announcement it was getting the silver screen treatment I was beyond nervous. How could anyone do such fantastic, eloquent prose justice? I’m thrilled to say my worries were exceedingly unfounded.

Last night I finally got to watch the film that took the world by storm, and I’m proud to say that from the opening scenes to the last seconds of credit scrawl I was hooked once again. Owens’s world and character were brought to life in such a fantastic and thrilling manner that I was almost ashamed at being concerned. Daisy Edgar Jones breathed such a refreshing breath of life into Kya and her harsh, pain-filled early life that I found my heart reaching out to this character again. With a narration by Jones that allowed some of Owens’s more poignant lines (a phrase that is honestly such a shock it’s not even funny) to live and thrive on the big screen.

The story, if any of you are unfamiliar, is of a small town on coastal North Carolina that is rocked by the death of one of its star young men. Chase Andrews, a regular jock and good ole’ boy, who came from an old money family, is found dead in the marshes. When police consider the possibilty that this may have been a murder, the first suspect they seek is someone the townspeople call “Marsh Girl.” This opens into the sad story of Kya Clark, a sad young woman who was abandoned by her mother, siblings, and finally her abusive father in their family home. We learn of the hardships of Kya’s life, including her relationship with the dead man and the attempted rape that led her to fleeing for her life.

As a native Appalachian who grew up just a few hours from these coastal marshes, I was blown away by the cinematography and the beauty of the film. The marshland is truly a whole other world, and one that offers its own set of power, grace, and beauty. Kya’s story as told through the cinematic lens, under the production power of none other than Reese Witherspoon with close consultation by Owens herself, made my heart break again and again. I laughed, I gasped, I even found tears in my eyes on multiple occasions throughout the 2 hour film, and I would not have it any other way.

Kya’s life in the marsh was by no means easy, but the power of a pure mind and heart is exemplified in her ability to find the true beauty nature has to offer. The marsh raised Kya in its own way, and the world made sure she knew she wasn’t accepted. The strength behind a young woman’s determination is exemplified in this story, and Kya’s connection with nature is one that we can all be jealous of. I know I am. Long story short, I highly recommend this movie, and the book that gave it life, of course. Book first, of course. Once you enjoy both I’d love the hear your thoughts, too. Comment, message, whatever makes your little heart happy. I look forward to hearing from you! As always, read on, happy people.

The Importance of Creativity

Episode 4 of The Modern Prometheus is up, everyone! This week I talked about something near and dear to my heart: the importance of #creativity. I am someone who feels most at home in a #creative environment, celebrating works of the mind, and I know I am not alone. This episode is for everyone, but it will especially ring true to those who also love the arts. Share this with everyone you know!!  #podcast #author #art https://anchor.fm/damean-mathews/episodes/The-Importance-of-Creativity-e1mokmb

Using Personal Success/Creative Encouragement

Happy late August, everyone! Summer is quickly drawing to a close as Fall and the holiday seasons creep ever closer. Personally, I find the cooler months tend to either be nominally more successful for creative endeavors – or they kill them completely. Rarely is there an in between. Usually that thought would mortify me, but I am working harder at understanding to allow my body and mind to work at their pace and accept that sometimes the muse just is not there.

That does not mean, however, that I am not successful. The same goes for all of you. Past accomplishments are just as important today, tomorrow, and years in the future as they were the day you achieved them. That is something that is a little difficult to believe or maintain as a creator. When we look back at a huge project we finished at an earlier date and see that we haven’t done anything of similar magnitude today, it can be a little discouraging. You may even be tempted to feel guilty about it.

Don’t. Regardless of what horrible things your mind tells you, you are still a creator, and you are still doing amazing things. Knowing that you have accomplished huge things in the past should be enough to make you excited for your potential for the present and the future. When these feelings of inadequacy spring up, and I wish I could say they wouldn’t, but they probably will, it is important to look at what encourages us as a creator.

Personally, I find there are several things that encourage and inspire me – anything from the right music, to heavy exposure to nature and peaceful surroundings. Whatever it may be, it is important that you delve into these things anytime you are feeling even moderately less than awesome. It is also crucially important that we make an effort to reach out and encourage our fellow creators. If we know that we get down and start feeling like our work isn’t good enough sometimes it only stand to reason that other creators feel the same way. I actually spoke a lot about encouragement and inspiration in a recent podcast that I’ll link here in the bottom of this post.

I have noticed a lot of times lately that people will endlessly consume the arts, and let’s face it, that’s a lot better than losing yourself in reality. That is not at all a problem, of course. The problem comes when we lose ourself in these magnificent works of art, love them to bits, but say nothing of that love to the creator. I know each and every one of you who have shared your work with others have experienced what it’s like to have someone look at your piece or listen to your song or read your story and give it no reaction or the most minimal one. It sucks.

To know that you put that piece of yourself out there and someone just walked by it and barely gave it a reaction makes you feel lower than low. To know that this story that makes your heart pound and made you so proud you wanted to share it is just given the most cursory response is like a knife in the back. So don’t do this to other creators! Make sure if there is something out there that inspires any kind of emotion in you, you tell the person who made it happen! I have a lot more to say about this in my podcast, so head on over there and check it out. “The Modern Prometheus” podcast is available pretty much anywhere you listen to podcasts.

https://anchor.fm/damean-mathews/episodes/Creative-Encouragment-e1mfgc7

I also have started a Patreon geared toward writers and creators, if you haven’t heard that news. I have two tier levels that each have their own benefits, but both will offer you tips, writing exercises, free samples of my work, and more. Head on over there to become a patron and start reaping the benefits!

https://www.patreon.com/DameanMathews

As always, thank you for listening to what I have to say, and I hope you will all interact, listen to my podcast, and join me on my Patreon journey. Keep your eyes open for new work, news on my upcoming events and more! Have a great week!

Experience the Fullness

Good morning, everyone! We are fast approaching June and, hopefully, another full month of Summer fun. Between hot days, starry nights, and the wide world of creativity and inspiration, the world is ours for the taking. I have been doing my best to take advantage of that creative potential floating around during while awaiting a new year of teaching and students to come flowing back into my classroom. I’ve been working on getting myself in shape – mentally as well as physically – and I’ve been writing and reading like mad. I actually got a novel completed, with a proof en route to me as I type this. On top of that, I’ve been working on several short pieces and other novels. Needless to say, it has been a busy month.

In the midst of the bustle of the every day, I have been trying to reach myself at a more peaceful mindset as well. Just last night I went out back and built a fire in our firepit, turning on some background music and relaxing. The night was immensely peaceful, with mostly clear skies, a cool breeze, synchronous fireflies dancing amid the leaves of the trees around me, and frogs serenading me. I found particular moments of near transcendant peace when, while staring at the stars and absorbing the wonder of the night, Pink Floyd began playing in the background. From Floyd, to Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Third Day, Jeffrey Munks and more, my brain floated on heightened frequencies until story ideas started flowing .

I took turns staring into the night sky, watching the heavens unfold above me, and looking deep into the flames of the fire, where the very fabric of reality was being torn asunder and sent skyward to join the particles of times past and future. It was a mesmerizing and humbling experience, and it brings me to the overall point I want to make here. During those moments, I wasn’t looking for creativity. I wasn’t bent over a keyboard or notebook hammering out ideas for my next story or novel. I wasn’t considering that part of things. They just came to me, because that’s who I am. Those stories flow from the universe right into me, making me their medium, their liason with reality. That is my purpose in this world, and it finds me in peace.

Too often we push ourselves so hard trying to accomplish goals, and while that is noble and fantastic, it should not be every second of our lives. Goals and dreams are of the utmost importance, but just as important is whether or not you are enjoying the journey. There are times I focus too much on my writing, and times I focus too little on it. I typically can recognize both, but my experience last night reminded me how important equilbrium can be. During an experience of true inner and outer peace, story ideas came to me from the world around me. I didn’t have to seek them, push myself to create something from nothing, pound my head against the wall to make the ideas flow. I didn’t have to.

How many times have you found yourself pushing yourself so hard in your work or craft – whether it be professional or creative – and just come up blank? You try and try to make something happen, to crack that next egg or break down that wall where you’re sure the next great idea lies, but nothing works. You are drained, exhausted, perhaps even find yourself disliking the journey you are on. It’s easy to do, but not always easy to admit. We tend to be single-minded as a species, to a fault. But I recommend breaking that habit.

Create for yourself an equilibrium, a balance between work and play. A set time for you to not only live in this world, but enjoy it. It is so important that we not lose sight of the fact that we are not solely put here to work. There are so many amazing facets of this world that we can use to entertainment as a crutch rather than a freedom. On top of the dreams and goals that help you set a path for yourself, you also have a varied list of interests that help you form your own individual self. Why would you ever ignore them?

That is the important thing to take away from this post, in my opinion. You are given passions and talents, as well as hopes and dreams, but overall forcing any one of these things while ignoring the others is not good. You must take life in your own hands and find the balance. By diving into the freedom of the world of interests at your fingertips, your brain might take the chance to relax and those ideas might flow through on their own, riding waves of peace and calm. Next time you feel bogged down and stressed by your journey, take some time to relax with peace. Or, if you really want to push the boundaries, relax every day and don’t let yourself get overburdened. What possibilities, eh?

Pale Blue Dot

“Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.” – Carl Sagan

This quote made my mind wander in several different directions this morning, but the ultimate meaning, to me, is just how pointless such efforts are. We are all living our miniscule lives, hurtling through space on a rock that supports life, but so many people are only worried about how they can kill, dominate, or better others. It is nothing short of disgusting to know that so many people are out for nothing more than themselves and their own benefit when this planet of nearly 8 billion people is filled with pointless suffering.

I don’t often get political, and I don’t plan to here, other than to say every ounce of it is nothing short of pathetic. People starve to death on a daily basis, others struggle to pay bills for necessities that, once upon a time, were considered rights rather than privileges. All too often the rich are perfectly fine sitting on their piles of usually misgotten wealth, more money than they could spend in ten lifetimes, while others struggle to make ends meet enough to keep food in their bellies and a roof over their heads.

Gone are the days of people being able to step out in the world, stake their claim, and live off the land. Now governments want their share, while giving the hard-working public mere pittance in return. It is deplorable. The unrest and unequal share of mankind in their own joint survival leads to more crime, pain, misery, and lack of reason and progression than any advancement in the history of civilized humanity.

That word in itself, civilized, has no meaning in this day and age when considering the fact that local and state government often put spikes on street corners and bars on park benches to prevent individuals those same governments have made homeless from finding the slightest bit of comfort outside of laying in the dirt. Where are these individuals who, as often as not, have had their livelihood taken by their governing bodies in some situation or another supposed to sleep, recover, better themselves? Many shelters are overrun with those who are struggling senselessly, while regimes and billionaires just keep getting richer.

The true problem with humanity is the fact that most everyone is out for themselves. That is the curse of homo sapiens. So often we see and hear “motivational” messages telling us that we must worry only about ourselves and work only to better our lives. But at whose expense? What kind of life can anyone have and enjoy if they know their very actions and struggle for ‘betterment’ has toppled the unsteady balancing act of another? How can those individuals with more money than some world governments sleep at night knowing they do nothing to help those who are daily dying in the streets for lack of care?

I am the first to admit that I am not a fan of humans in general, and it is largely for this reason itself. Humans can be horrible creatures who have no concern for how their words and actions affect others. Those who wage war with others who may have a different religious or political belief than them, or a different skin color are among the most pathetic. Nearly as bad are those whose only concern is no longer having to wear a piece of cloth or paper on their faces because attempting to slow a global pandemic and prevent new numbers to be added to the nearly six million dead is an inconvenience they can’t be bothered with.

As a whole, my message today is simple: stop being selfish. Learn to consider the masses, the greater good, what can benefit the world as a whole rather than just yourself. Rather than waging war at every turn, consider what the world would be like if we just allowed others to love what they love, whom they love, and how they love without repurcussions as long as they are not hurting anyone else. If we looked for ways to truly spread peace instead of strife, advancement instead of bragging rights, shelter and care rather than destruction and misery, this world would be a much better place. Rather than striving to control one small portion of this wasteful blue dot, try making the lives of others a little less difficult, a little less miserable, a little less clustered. To truly make a mark on this planet, you must leave it a better place than you found it. Not the other way around. That is what I hope I can do with my commentary, and especially with my writing. I’m not perfect, but I care. I do my best to help where I can. I only hope that my ideas and words can provide a positive influence that will lead to the betterment of at least one life.

Creative Freedom

Happy January, everyone! I hope this year has proven to be peaceful and calm for everyone so far. The last two years have, of course, proven difficult for most of us, but one thing I love about the human race is that we are ridiculously resilient. We keep fighting through the worst situations and do our best to overcome. One of my favorite ways to do this is with art. As always, I maintain that art is one of the most important, rewarding, and helpful facets of life. That is why, when my amazing wife got me the opportunity to teach some writing workshops in Lebanon, Va. I leapt at the chance.

The first of my workshops is a general creative writing workshop where I plan to discuss things ranging from journals, poetry, short stories, and longer fiction. It looks to be a great night with a community of like-minded individuals all of whom will hopefully walk away with some new ideas. I will put the information for the workshop at the end of this post for anyone who is interested. I want to use this post to discuss something I plan to push in this workshop, which is the importance of creating.

I feel, as creators, we focus too much on the results of our work. It is easy to get caught up in thinking about what our work can do, where it can go, what benefits it may reap, but in today’s society we are so focused on results and the return for our output that we have lost sight of the most important part of art – enjoying it. The creation of art is one of the most cathartic, relaxing, amazing parts of being a creator, and it is fast becoming an after thought. I am the first to admit that I have even been guilty of it in the recent past.

I am currently nearly 77,000 words into the sequel for my 2020 novel Moonlight, and I found myself trying to think about how my audience would react to a crucial plot point last week. I have known this was the way the plot is going since June, and I’ve been building toward it every time I write, but I became so focused on the end result I began second-guessing myself. It got so bad that I was stressing myself out over it to the point of being completely unable to produce more than a couple hundred words a day. Now, don’t get me wrong, that is a good amount of output, and there is nothing at all wrong with producing that much, but I felt like I had more to produce each day and was unable to do so. I walked away from each attempt to write feeling like I was holding onto more than I had been able to release, which is never helpful. My stress over my potential audience’s reaction was causing me to suffer from what I can only consider mental constipation, until I realized (after encouraging words from my wife) that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it. This is my creation, a world that exists in my mind, and I know what it needs to move forward. I know how incredible it feels to have the release and freedom to create without considering what may happen in the future.

My point from all this is that we, as creators and artists for our respective crafts, owe ourselves the freedom of living in the moment. The sweet release of not thinking about our work in terms of return, end result, reaction, or anything else is so beautiful it can literally save our lives. I’ve mentioned several times before that my writing saved my life, and I know people whose talents and passions have done the same for them. If we offer ourselves the chance to create, without tangles, without expectations, without considering where it could go or where it could take us our art will feel richer and fuller than we could imagine. Utilizing the true freedom of passion and giving yourself the ability to create without thinking about the end result is the exact reason art exists.

I’ve often heard various quotes from different artists and influencers throughout history that, more or less, say it doesn’t matter how good or bad your creation is as long as you let yourself create it. That message has always been important, but it was only after dealing with this recent development that it hit me just how true it is. So, that is the challenge I want to issue to all of my creative readers here. Be free. Offer yourself the gift of creation without expectation. It doesn’t matter how good or bad your creation is. It’s yours. You need to do it for you, not for anyone or anything else. You should create because it is important to you, because it is your passion. You should not be afraid to create because you think you aren’t good enough. There is no such thing as good enough.

True creative freedom means it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are at something, you just DO. Create. Feel. Be alive. Be passionate. Let it out. The next time you set out to create, don’t think about the quality of the work. Just create. If you suck, suck. But do it honestly. If you are singer, don’t be afraid to belt it out, even if you sound like an elephant seal with laryngitis. If you play music, play to your heart’s content, even if you sound like a ghostly cacophony of rusted hinges. Do not allow fear of comparison stop your passion in its tracks. Just free yourself and let the passion flow.

I sincerely hope you will all take this message to heart and allow yourselves the freedom to create without expectations or limitations. If you are interested in some fun writing workshops, feel free to follow the link below to register. I know some of you aren’t anywhere near Lebanon, Va. and it won’t be possible to attend in person, but there is a Zoom option for the workshops if anyone is interested. We typically open the Zoom if we know someone is interested, so if you would like to attend that way please reach out to me and let me know that is your preference and we can make it happen. The first workshop is tomorrow, Thursday, 1/13/22. After this month, weather permitting, they will take place on the first Thursday of every month.

https://swcc-school-of-the-arts.square.site/

As always, I always love talking to anyone who resonates with my posts. If you feel like you can relate, or want to respond in any way feel free to reach out via comment or send me a message through my website.