Blades (10 minute sprint)

MAY: On this winter day, the ice blades bobbed up and down Lake Michigan, shuffling against one another like uncomfortable cousins cramming into a couch at a reunion. The pier was bitter and slippery, but I had to be there for the sake of Tera. She had been over due to rise by eight years or so. So much waiting done on these frozen over planks that I forgot time could actually pass. The days have felt the same to me. Trapped in the ritual of 6 o’clock. Though I get to grab the big jacket in winter instead of my Lions cap in summer, it all still feels the same. Even the seasons become lukewarm changes to the fairly constant weather in my head. It’s hard to take in. Not even the anticipation is worth remembering. Is this what happens when you lose your spark? Is this it? Not for me. Not for us. When we read the story you made in Mrs. Taylor’s class, complete with abstract renditions of waves that billowed more so than crashed, you said you belonged there. You knew exactly where you were going. And I am proud of you for wanting to discover the underwater kingdom you dreamed so much about. My Tera. My spark. I still see you working on your coordination as you ride your silver bicycle, as you stumble when you dance at seven years of age. But you are fifteen now. Instead of practicing your balance you practice speed as your tail gains muscle and you cut through the water with a grace I’ve only seen above.

My daughter. My long gone spark. I miss you terribly. But I can’t wait to see you rise again.


Felt good to have a writing sprint after such a long while. This one was prompted by this article about a frozen Lake Michigan…

Be well. Make art, make haste.

j

Untoward 11.13.19

unfurled

dare i say

uncoupled

this westward expansion

paired

with a north star, unseen

until the weight of wrists wrought of inconsequential repetition

prevents the furled

from pointing upward

j

Less is More (and a rescued novel idea!)

The last two weeks I’ve been working on outlining the children’s play, and after some discussion, I’m ready to hash out the working draft so the director can have a strong starting point. It’s going to be a blast and a rush to get it done ASAP!

Yes, Nanowrimo is halfway over. This month, my hope was to work on a playwriting project I’ve been musing on for a few years. As I’ve been outlining this children’s play to finish in the next few days, some characters I had almost forgotten came to see me in the form of a song. These were young folks that came to me in a dream and became a story idea for a novel tentatively titled, Ethersong.

My son and I had a Gorillaz concert playing on Youtube while we were hanging out this weekend, and they started performing a song of theirs I hadn’t heard before: Souk Eye. Suddenly, a switch flicked me back on! I have a deep deep fascination for mood and tone, and music has been the flickering light that guides me into the proper paths of a terrain before dawn. Years ago, I had written the beginning, lightly outlined my way to the middle and to a solid ending, only to find I had no idea how I felt about the whole thing. I was unsure of my relationship with these characters and how their world would be presented. I was uncertain of the execution. I notice my uncertainty comes strictly from being rusty at writing. I’ve been out of it for a long time. And so I sought out the song and listened to it at least twenty times in the last 24 hours. Sweet percussion, melancholy, an aching incompleteness. What the Portuguese have gloriously named Saudade. The profound longing.

While I don’t know that I will be able to finish it during Nanowrimo, I’m committing to make this the next big project I work on moving forward. I recorded a podcast episode for Creative Drive confessing much of my shortcomings in recent years, and the excuses I have made for my lack of passion for life. I’ll probably share it this coming week. Suffice it to say at this time, there is no reason to withhold that which brings you complete joy. It’s unreasonable to create work that brings no value to your life and does not fuel your purpose in life. I am finally starting at square one. I am falling face first into my passion again, and it feels wonderful. Keep making art, no matter where you are, no matter what your station in life is. Much love,

j

Noteworthy 10.25.19

Happy Friday folks!

A few good links to help inspire and get the creative process started:

All of us David Bowie fans, rejoice! A new graphic novel chronicles the rise of Ziggy Stardust. It’s on I’m definitely looking forward to…

I’m a sucker for behind the scenes footage. One of my favorite past times growing up was watching the “second disc” of my favorite badass movies and watch how filmmakers worked as one to bring these magical set pieces to life. Watching the collective problem solving is one of the most inspiring things to me. Here’s a fascinating one about the Dark Knight epic truck flip!

This useful article about the 7 types of rest we need to recharge was a good one I found for self care. I’m always on the lookout for something that will work for me. So we’ll see if some of these can make a difference to us!

Christopher McQuarrie really nails this answer on Twitter when asked how to break into the film industry. All of us creatives, no matter the medium/form, can benefit from his poignant response.

Be well this weekend and hope you find time to make art.

j

My sister’s on Netflix! (and Noteworthy 10.19.19)

Hi folks, here we go!

First and foremost, let me begin by sharing some amazing news this week: My little sister made her film debut this weekend! Brenda, you’ve been working tirelessly and sacrificing so much over the years that it brings me so much joy to see your work pay off. I am so incredibly proud of you not just today, but every single day. You are born to make art and you are a tremendously bold, inspiring, and kind human being. I love you so much and again, congratulations! I know what I’ll be watching on Netflix tonight, check out The Laundromat!

  • The 2009 sci-fi wonder Moon turns ten this week. Here’s a neat behind the scenes look from NoFilmSchool about one of the most inventive films in recent memory.
  • This one from the New York Times covers the fascinating use of aspect ratio as another tool in the playful arsenal of film-making tools. Fun stuff!
  • Let’s leave on a good note and check out this video of a musical bear, who is also fond of breaking and entering.

Much love to you all, let keep putting the pieces together.

j

Spark Followed, New Lyrics Maybe?

I’m affected by the grief of others. Although I’m told this is not so common, I don’t want to believe that. I’m of the opinion we have what it takes to be empathetic and kind to one another, even if we forget sometimes. Hopefully we can move toward a more empathetic world by learning to listen again. How do we do that, I wonder? Listening and patience and ultimately understanding, comes from practice. That initial concern for others? We all have that! Over time, it fades into the background, but it can be more accessible if we reacquaint ourselves with caring. Care for yourself, yes, it is essential you treat yourself well, emotionally. But care for each other as well. Caring for each other scales beautifully. So let’s get started.

Yesterday, I needed to get this off my chest and so I typed away, and the mechanical clucking of the keys tapped a beat enticing enough for me to keep going until a conclusion came. This one worked the moment I started writing. Felt right. Didn’t struggle. It just came together (a rare thing). Hopefully I can make good use of this one and turn it into some lyrics. Be well and happy Thursday.

Humble Thomas (Showboat Waters)

Humble Thomas, sunken back, you march
and all these bruises in your heart
These dialogues, in tongues you can’t interpret
Did you think you would remain so parched?

Humble Thomas, you’re forgiven
Say no more, for we prefer it
Tight lipped, statue draped in valor
You ameliorate the land as droplets
bleed onto the sand

So Humble Thomas, indirectly:
Would you ever go to bat for me?
There’s a line of fire, always burning
And your fans they chose to come so early
Thomas Thomas! Up your smiling!
And I bet your stomach’s surely turning
We can float you down the river
Come one and all, come all the same
Civilians long to end your thirst in full display

Humble Thomas, drink the water
The communion of the martyr
Have your fill inside the theater
We bring deaf applause and bring back carnage

Humble Thomas, give me desert
Let me gobble up your liver
As the leaves, they turn and look away
In the shame of how we choose to play

j

On Purpose (and Reinventing the Delusion)

I haven’t written in a while. Once again life does what it does best!

The last two weeks were full of desire to stay optimistic and to find relief from the strife of adulting. This means I let thoughts or impressions percolate for far too long. I need little interludes to process and unpack. I’m getting better at taking breaks, and telling myself that working a full time job and raising a child and maintaining a household with my wife is all part of a delicate balancing act. Much like a squirrel swaying on the power line, life is always in the balance; and surely a constant flow of traffic will remain eager to contribute to my demise.

Okay, I didn’t mean it to sound so fatalistic, but it’s a Monday, so forgive my tone. Let me cheer it up slightly: I’m fortunate I can give myself breaks. I have never been in a position, at work or outside of it, where I could take a moment to adjust my direction and that of my career/family/creativity. Most of my twenties, I felt I couldn’t breathe because I had to do something. I had to busy my mind and body with tasks without really pondering the direction of my actions. If it’s one thing I would advocate as a stepping stone to quieting the anxiety of one’s life, it is to slow down.

Listen to your heartbeat.

Listen to what ails you and what your mind is telling you. I felt aimless for so long because I was following goals and objectives that I had set for myself from a young age. Goals and ambitions don’t remain static. They grow with you. The only way you can adjust accordingly is to forget the external factors and dial in on the things that make your mind soar. Clarify the possibilities that only you know will bring you joy. These are the actions that will make a difference to you and yours and what you care about.

There was a period of about 17 years, during which I lied to myself about what I wanted to be. It was difficult to accept. I wanted to be a filmmaker. That’s it. According to 13 year old me, that was the one and only thing that would make me someone worthwhile. I imbued my all to this purpose, into this fantasy, that for a long time, there was room for nothing else. No room for growth. That all changed. And so before I tell you why I call this filmmaking dream a fantasy, let me explain:

In early 2013, I had a nervous breakdown.

I, the filmmaker-in-the-making, had this glorious orange and teal tinted idea of tomorrow: I was to make movies, and something would happen that would allow me to do that in the future. Something.

I was praying to the cosmos something would happen to me. I never explicitly sat down to ponder the actionable things I needed to do in order for me to be in a position to be successful as a filmmaker. I didn’t reverse-engineer how to get my foot in the door. I never explored and investigated the way I should have. That’s not to say I was twiddling my thumbs during that time. Back then, I explored viciously. Though I couldn’t afford to go to film school, theater was close enough, so I performed and wrote seven full length plays, three screenplays (outlined a shitload) and countless short plays and ten minute plays and so on. I made movies with my friends, two of them full length films and several shorts. I continued to write poetry in my journal like I used to as a child, and recorded music like I’ve always wanted to do. I created simply out of curiosity. A very productive time, but undoubtedly aimless.

Something will not happen to you. You have to create the conditions for you to be in the vicinity of something.

In 2013, my wait for something came to an end. As Maddie and I anticipated our child coming into this world, I sat in the living room of our little one bedroom apartment in Seattle, and I came to the realization that the reason something never happened, was because I never went looking for it. What were we doing in Seattle? Did I come here to write and direct? Did I ever mean to produce anything? Did I come here for the coffee? Why did I waste my parent’s money to learn playwriting and directing for the stage, which ultimately, was an approximation of the filmmaking dreams of my youth? Did I even want to be a filmmaker anymore? Maybe. No. Not really. I don’t know.

I thought of the journal entries of a middle-schooler with broken English who wanted to make action movies and would draw posters of his made up films. I thought of the dramatic scripts I wrote to prevent me from giving in to depression and potentially doing something really stupid. I dreamt and wrote and sang about doing stupid shit, but then my dreams began to take another shape. Dreaming of cinema was a beautiful coping mechanism and it became the compass of my life. I was a shell and I ascribed my person-hood to the act of movie-making. The kid who bugged his friends to make movies. I was a volcano of creativity, out in the vast Pacific, spewing lukewarm magma and calling it art. I was the Movie Guy. That is all I was and over a decade later, I looked up and saw myself still hiding behind that false purpose:

Quiet, opinion-less, and empty.

I wept there in the living room. I felt like an insane person. I never had a goal to have a career as a filmmaker. I had an unreachable fantasy because I never determined what I would seek. I broke my own heart and I cried not out of sadness, but out of brute desperation that I had not realized my own lack of purpose up until that point. I was shocked at the obvious. In the aftermath of this uncomfortable epiphany, I didn’t feel like I had much left of myself. But in the rubble of a burning shit-show of my non-existent ambitions, I pulled my head out of my ass and remembered I could not dwell on this for long:

We have a baby to raise.

And so together with my beautiful, supportive and loving wife, I went back to the drawing board. I asked myself for the first time, what do you need to do to be fulfilled creatively? What the fuck do you actually want?

I want to go home to start over. We wanted to start our family on the right foot. That’s when we returned to Wyoming. That was six years ago. Trial and error, luck, and the help of our families steadied the ship until the Captain remembered where he left his compass. We figured out what we wanted out of life, we saved our pennies, worked hard, started a business, made sacrifices, took left turns, asked more questions, then took the right turns, bought a home, closed the business, stumbled into good jobs, and suddenly I fell face first into a job I love and while things aren’t perfect, they have never been better and I have never felt this much empowerment in my life. I want to share and prolong this feeling of wonder and possibility with my wife and son every single day. I want to share it with my friends and my community but I am still building the courage to look inside myself to see how the emptiness in my soul is now full of love and ambition for a future of honesty, love, and empathy. This is the compass I have longed for. When you ask the right questions, the answers will follow. I’m blessed to have a partner who has helped me so much to be better. This is what I’ve always wanted. Being a father is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me for so many reasons, and one big reason is that I was able to set aside my priorities to help my little one get settled into his life, raise him and learn from him. And I’ve tried like hell to learn as much as possible. This is what I’ve always wanted. And lo and behold, creativity flows not aimlessly, but concisely and out of love. So far so good.

I thought this would be a brief post about Mondays and finding time to breathe, but the heart and subconscious had other plans. I guess what I’m getting at is that nothing really started to fall into place until I began asking difficult questions of myself, and challenged myself to assess my personal growth honestly. I’m not writing about a catastrophe at all. In my fat head, I liken this to missing the morning alarm and waking up late when you should have been at work two hours ago. Yes, there is an urgency, but you can still use your get out of jail free card with your boss. And then you get to work to play catch up, knowing you won’t have many more chances to get this shit right. Don’t short yourself, life will do that without your help. Yes, it’s an awakening that took way longer than it should have. Could be worse, though: I have seen folks at the tail end of their lives still waiting for their something to reach down into the well of suffering and carry them away.

So as I wrap this up, what can I say? I strongly suggest you ask yourself the tough questions, be brutally honest, and make plans full of good intent and strong purpose. No matter your age, your station in life, your current status, there’s still time to breathe.

I’ll keep trying too.

j