The Distance of Dreams

If you are lucky enough to have a dream in life you realize that eventually you must let that dream go. It doesn’t mean that you failed or that the dream failed but that you must move forward from that dream. The hope is that you got to live it, to some degree, and can move on with a feeling of some satisfaction. The truth though is that you never quite fulfill any dream fully because that’s just the nature of dreams.

Perfection does not exist and a dream usually demands perfection, or darn close to it or it wouldn’t be a dream, it’d be a goal.

Continue reading “The Distance of Dreams”

That One Thing

Most of us have that one thing. That one thing that they want out of life more than anything else in the world. For some of us we want to travel. For others they want love. For other still it’s money, or maybe fame, or just to be surrounded by awesome people. For all of us it’s different but there’s something we want more than anything. As we age that can change, not wholly but it evolves as we do. That love you wanted evolves, that travel evolves, even your notion of fame and fortune evolves.

It evolves because the more of the world we start to see, and the more of ourselves that is revealed to us the more we realize that we may not be so attached to the things we think we want and what we want may itself change. It doesn’t always, but it can. What most people learn though is that their need for that thing changes because we see more of what life’s about. You don’t want ANY love, you want meaningful love. You don’t ANY fame, you want lasting fame. You don’t want ANY travel, you want impactful travel. The more of ourselves we see the more we realize that it isn’t enough to just have something – it has to mean something to you.

That’s our one thing.

We have lots of ‘things’ in our life, if I may so crass as to lump, love, money, cars, friends, and all of that into the category of Things, but as we age we want things that give our lives meaning. If we’re lucky then the thing we want the most may positively impact others and create a sort of legacy for us. (We’ll leave out those among us who are just wildfires looking for kindling).

And here’s my cautionary tale.

There are things in our lives we won’t and cannot attain. The model we wanna date, the rock star we wanna become, the fortune we want, the things that can be so much like lightning that there really isn’t one path to it or a wide path to stay upon to keep it. It’s ephemeral so while some may find those things, they are hardly the things we should pin our lives upon. But that doesn’t mean that if we want them bad enough we shouldn’t work for these things or go for them. That’s part of the process of learning who we are and what we really want.

But some things we’ll never have.

Such is life.

Some things though we can have, if we are willing to dream for them, work for them, and accept that our dreams can change and that’s OK. We have to accept that while we may not become that rock star we dreamed about we can record a record, release it, find gigs to play, and slowly get it into the hands of people who will appreciate and maybe love that music we made. We still lived our dream. We still found a way to live out our one thing. And it isn’t like that’s the top of the ladder but you have to find a way to get there before you can see what comes next. If nothing else you will be different, in ways you can’t understand in just a moment. Life will have changed. What comes next is up to you.

But for too many of us we let those dreams wither on the vine.

We won’t allow them to evolve or change.
We won’t allow for our lives to change.

We force ourselves to live within boxes and our fear of failing becomes paired with our fear of success and we choose the third option – doing nothing at all. Better to have the dream than to lose it, right?

Wrong.

I have two short stories and leave it at that and leave you to make of them what you will.

One.

I had a friend. We were not close but we knew each other for a while. We ran in the same circle off and on and we were always cordial and while troubled, he had a good heart. He was a writer. Mostly a poet but he wrote some prose. In point of fact he had written an epic novel that he worked on for over a decade. It was about the hippie lifestyle and it was something he took great pride in. Over the years we would talk about the book and I kept pushing him to do something about it. Once self-publishing became a thing he needed to get it out. I won’t take credit but he turned to a mutual friend to edit the book so he could start making it something more than a thing he loved. Sadly he died before he could see the book fully edited. He died young and suddenly and with no plan in place about what to do with his works. I had the idea that we, his friends, should take the book as it was, format it for print, and get a copy released for his family and then give them the files and log-in info in case they wanted to release it or whatever. It was theirs. I was told that others friends had it under control and that it would be handled. It never was. Never. So this guy had worked for a decade and more on this book and wanted to see it released but didn’t live long enough to do that. He did some awesome stuff, lived a life, had a child, but that was one thing that never happened and it looks like it may never happen. And it’s awful. He had sat on the book for years, and by the time he decided he was ready it was too late.

Two.

I had another friend who I was much closer with. A great person who loved community and loved being creative. From films to videos to books and events he loved to do it all. I was putting together an event celebrating DIY and Self Published books and this friend wanted to take part. He was having some very serious health issues that had slowed him down for the year but his intention was to finish a memoir and a fiction book for the event. He never got that chance. He too was taken by a sudden illness and died before these books came to fruition. Thankfully most of his work that he wanted to see come together, did. He left much undone, a passion project film top among those, and the books, but he did get to see some of his passions come to completion. Had he waited, had he pushed things off and off and off he’d have died with lots of projects and no completions.

I leave you with those.

Make of those stories what you will.

Both are true.

Both haunt me, each for their own reason.

We have one life that we are given and if we don’t take a few chances, at least on the things we’re most passionate about, we’ll leave this world with a whole trunk of regrets.

…c…

Books – http://www.meepsheep.com

 

Tips Off The Top

As far as I have had my blogs, and we’re talking a lot of time now, a lot of years, since nearly 2000 so that’s a lot of years and a lot of rambling and as much as I may like to think I have nothing but pearls of wisdom and deep thoughts to offer the fact really is that well, a lot of what I write is rambling. Especially in the early days. But then, there was a catharsis in it all. Blogs/journals were a place to exorcise yourself and it felt good if you were careful and not too revelatory. I can’t say I learned a lot from it but it felt good in the early days to know that some of what I was saying was reaching someone and was heard, because that matters. In an era where we are all struggling to be heard but rarely listen the blog has changed. It seems that it is  more about Me and less about Us. It’s not about trying to connect but trying to differentiate as so many of us push to get noticed, to get seen, and to get famous.

Fame.

The thing about fame is that it is a kiss without emotion. It feels good when you’re doing it but when it’s done, when it’s gone, it meant little and lead to nothing.

Fame.

What I offer you, friend is not a path to fame, it is not a path to riches, but it is a path towards finding that part of yourself that we sometimes neglect and I offer that part water and light and hope.

Traditional publishing is dead.

Long live traditional publishing!

I come to you as a writer, an author, but not one of any great name or legacy but the thing is, that’s ok. I didn’t get into writing to become a legend, I got into it to amuse myself, to exercise my mind, and to just tell stories. And that is what matters to me, the stories. Sure, I want to sell some books, I want to make some money because this is Art but this is business too and you can’t forget that. You can’t. When you first start writing you have to be willing to ‘give it away’, as much as you can do because these are stories, nothing more BUT nothing less. A story alone may not have power but stories together gather a lot of power and a lot of strength. So you can give away a short story or poem here and there just so you can give people a chance to get to know you. Get to know your work.

Consider writing a job, even if it isn’t.

Sometimes you have to put in that training time to prove yourself, and to some people, you’ll never get hired but that doesn’t mean that you stop working at it, that you stop writing, it just means that you find a different employer.

Publishing has changed. It’s not hard to see it but that doesn’t make it any less shocking and worrisome. There are just not those smaller presses anymore that will put out the lesser and unknown authors. It’s too expensive to print, promote, and to release and ship these things and when the market crashed in recent years it was a way to clean house and that house cleaning meant a lot of smaller publishers died and others went wholly digital, and the rest, the rest focused on commodities. And there’s the rub – these stories, these books are commodities. They are ‘goods’. And as such you have to accept that some people will value your work more than others. It doesn’t mean that your work is better  than anyone from Joe Writer that writes fan fiction for fun or any worse than Steinbeck, Hemingway, or King. It just means that the market bears what it bears and right now, in mid-2012 classy smut is in. Just as vampires were in, just as zombies were in, just as bios were in and on and on. If you have the right story at the right time you can make some good money (with a lot of work and a lucky break) but that doesn’t mean that your story is necessarily better than someone with the right story at the wrong time.

That’s the thing too, being a business, if you are going to pursue it seriously then you have to make the decision of why you write – for profit and fame or for fun and to tell stories? Either path is valid, believe me, but I offer that it’s better to do something you love and suffer than to suffer for something you’re doing for money because unless that money is coming in it’s going to be a waste of time.

Slowly I am inching towards something and that something is this –

If you love to write…write.

Write.

WRITE!

And write your ass off. Write as much as you can and stretch yourself. Write blogs, reviews, stories, poems, and keep it varied. Why? Because the more you grow and challenge yourself and your writing the better at it you become. Fall in love with writing. That’s the key.

Make your own schedule.

Scheduling is a big thing for writers and it makes sense because the further you get from it the more of the threads you lose. It can still be a good story but you’ll lose your passion for it and that’s dangerous. It’s easy to get distracted from writing and you need to learn the discipline it takes to see projects through. Everyone can write a story or poem, not everyone can finish those things and see them through to completion.

Learn.

You have to be up for learning and the biggest thing you can learn is to edit. It will ALWAYS be helpful to get the opinions of others but the first opinion you need and in many cases the most important is your own because YOU need to feel that this is the story you meant to write, that you wanted to tell, and that it’s told how you meant to tell it.

For me I write, I let it sit, then I go back to it and go through it and see what I think and change and fix from there. My short fiction I am pretty picky about since I prefer to decide how that plays out but the novel, that thing needed other eyes on it. Had to have outside editing because it was so big that if I was missing some things I had to find them and fix them and make them work.

Publish!

Now, this is where you are getting MY advice and most writers may disagree with me but to hell with them. I am telling you to publish. Now, this means a lot of things to a lot of people but for me it means this – get your work out there.

It’s great to publish a piece here and a piece there and it’s something to work on because you need to go through that and heck, maybe you break through with something and you can get started on things in a different way.  But for me publishing has kept me going. I don’t know that I’d suggest doing it how I have done it but there’s something to be learned.

After you’ve been writing for a bit and have a body of work, and I think this works better with stories, then you need to start thinking about what you want to do with them. Stories work easier because if you write a novel and put that much time in you will want to pursue traditional publishing, just so you know you did. Stories are good because you can put a collection together of anything from three stories on depending on length and format and you have something valid. I cut my teeth with ‘zines and chapbooks but with services like Create Space and Lulu you have the chance to put out a professional looking book and that means so much more.

So why the hell are you doing this?

Because until you have that book in your hands, until you see why you do this, and until you have to start learning how to promote yourself and your book and how to market and how to price and how to sell your work you are just working with theories. Books make you move from theory to practice. And you need to know what you are working with and you need to learn what works and doesn’t. In essence, you need to learn to be a sales person because that is part of the deal now. And for me, seeing what it becomes, seeing what stories are meant to be, it really brought it all home and made it real and made me love it all the more.

Follow Your Path.

Every writer out there has THEIR way to do things and THEIR way to become successful and all that other crap but here’s the deal – this is your journey, your path, and you need to find your own way. Listen to what everyone says, even mopes like me, but in the end you have to decide the course you need to take. Once upon a time I let someone tell me I was no artist and I quit art for a looong time after that and that’s my fault. I can’t imagine where I’d be if I hadn’t listened to them. I may not have been a great artist but I may have been a happier person because I loved art and I shouldn’t have let someone talk me out of that love.

So write.

Write not because you have to but because you want to and you want to share your stories. There are so many options now. E-books, podcasts, open mic nights, chapbooks, self publishing, comic conventions, horror conventions, sci-fi cons, and on and on and on. There are so many options and so many resources and so many of us, so many of us writers out there that you don’t have to be alone. Remember that. It gets pretty lonely being a writer and that loneliness doesn’t go away easy but you are not alone.

You’re never alone.

This is your journey. These are your stories. If I can impart anything unto you it’s that you need to let yourself dream, let yourself be in love with the writing, let yourself struggle and strive, and finally, let yourself do this and see what happens.

No one promises us a future, we have to make it, and as writers that’s easy because we’re well versed in writing the future, the past, and everything in between, and we should be damned before we let someone talk us out of being in love with writing and pursuing our dreams.

…c…

http://www.meepsheep.com

Own Your Dream

There is a scary trend that seems to be creeping into the Arts, and into life in general and that is the Get Rich Quick mentality of dreams.  There is a sense that one’s dream is SO important that others should want to make it come true and that it should supersede the dreams of others.  Witness the rise of the Fund Me sites out there.  Everyone under the sun now feels as if THEIR dream should be funded over the dreams of others. FUND ME! They cry, most giving little reason why you should, outside of friendship.

The thing about dreams though is that they don’t come easy, and they don’t come cheap. Not the ones that matter, anyway.  And I can say this from experience.

My first book is a story collection entitled BACK FROM NOTHING.  This was a book that I had put together and shopped for a good while to no avail.  I was not yet 20 and was shopping my first book and had no understanding that this sort of stuff doesn’t just take years but takes luck as well.  Along the way I came across a company that was interested in publishing the book…for a cost.  It was called subsidy publishing and was similar to what we have now with self-publishing.  I would pay all the costs to create and produce the book and they would release it, market it, and distribute it.  It wasn’t ideal but it was my only option.  I was a kid with little money so what money I could I put into it and the rest my family bankrolled.  They believed in my dream enough to support me financially and it’s a debt greater than I can ever repay.  A debt beyond money.

So I got the book published but as soon as I did the company went out of business and we had to pay shipping to get the books delivered to my house or they’d be scrapped.  So much for dreams.  Since that day I have been selling, promoting, and distributing the books myself.  What I learned out of it all was that, even when I had the dream, of being published, it wasn’t what I thought it was.  To really feel as if I had earned anything, had gotten anywhere, I would have to work at it.  I had to believe in it enough to get my money together, to get my ideas together, and to do it myself.  I had to go to conventions, I had to put out chapbooks, I had to keep figuring how to promote myself, how to sell my work, how to better my writing.  It took a lot of things, a lot of time, but ten years after that first book I found a way to get another book out, self publishing, and again, it wasn’t ideal, but you make work what is available, so I did.  And I did it, with a lot of help, but I did it myself.  And it meant so much more.  I love that first book, and I always will, but it wasn’t MINE.  I had to put the time and work into make that happen.

Another example from my own life is the convention I do with some friends. It’s been a dream for years and years to bring a convention into downtown Flint.  Since I love the horror genre it made sense to focus on a horror con.  I had been putting together indie art shows in Flint for years so I had a feel for what needed to be done, it just…needed to be done.  So I got friends together and we did it.  As for the funding, I left that up to me, to great degrees, because it was my dream.  I didn’t have a lot of money but I was willing to put a chunk on the line so we could do this.  And it was my willingness to do this, my belief in it, that sold my friends, and when they were sold, our vendors and guests were sold, and when they were sold we found another funding source…because we put the work in.  We were willing to do what had to be done to make it happen.

And that is what is missing in so many dreams these days.

We miss that even if you are given an opportunity you need to work to make it successful.

It is YOUR responsibility to make it come to life.

And so many dreams CAN be funded ourselves.  Not easily maybe, but they can be.  I hate seeing people essentially pan-handling for tips, for funding, and for support on something they are not convincing me is worth my investment, or anyone’s.  I want all manner of things, on the business side and personally but those are for me to figure out.  I can’t imagine going to people with my hand out and a little boy lost look on my face to get money.

You need to work for your dream.

You need to find ways to fund yourself that are not begging, that isn’t guilt, and that shows the value of your dream.  You need to make your funders feel as if they are PART of that dream and are investing in not just a dream but a goal.  You need to open your arms and embrace other people’s ideas, thoughts, and THEIR dreams that’s the way you show how important YOURS is.  Otherwise you need to find your own funding.

Which is fine.

Some dreams are not meant to be shared.

Some dreams are so personal, so etched into who you are that to change them takes away what you loved in the first place.  And if that is the case you need to be willing to sacrifice to make those dreams come true.  You have to be willing to do what you have to to make it happen.

We are becoming a culture of Artists who do more whining about how we can’t do things than ones who find ways to do them.  We need to close our hands into fists and start fighting for the things we want.  And it is in that fighting where our dreams don’t just become real but become valuable, become necessary, and lead into new dreams.

Our dreams are our own and it’s time we started owning them.

Until we are willing to share our dreams, to grow them, evolve them, and to let other people’s dreams merge with them and change them, we need to stop asking for hand outs and find ways to make them come true on our own.

c

Chasing The Dream

Dreams are tricky little thin. It isn’t that they are slick, or slippery so much as they are like the air around us – we cannot see them but without them we die.

Sure, the death of a dream won’t necessarily kill us, not the day to day us, but it kills a vital part of us. It kills the hope that pulls us through the darker times. Dreams, even the silliest and loftiest of them are the things that drive us when there seems little in life that can shine in our hearts.

Dreams and hope are vital to being a human, and vital to life itself.

And if there is one thing I have learned over the course of this year it’s that the worst thing that can happen to you is not to lose your dream but to give up on it because it is the easiest thing to do. And the heck of it is that the people around you, no matter how supportive they are, how loving they are, can never realize how much a dream means to us because it isn’t their dream, and if it isn’t their dream as well then it can seem a passing fancy, easily forgotten. Once you give up on a dream though, give up on it while there’s still life to it, that sick feeling will never leave you. That sick feeling will be a phantom heart beating beside your own heart, reminding you what could have been.

For me, dreams have always been in abundance. They were in abundance but I let go of a lot of them because I talked myself out of pursuing them. I talked myself into the negativity and doubt. In the last few years I have been lucky enough to live long term dreams. I have always wanted to paint and now do, hell, I have sold art, imagine that from someone who gave it up at eighteen after being told he was no good? I wanted to put more books than my first, Back From Nothing, out, and have. I ran into someone at a comic con who inspired me to look into self publishing seriously and that was how I found Create Space. I had always wanted to get my work out in the world and so I began doing comic cons, then a horror con, then art shows, and while I am sure not getting rich I am selling books and art to people I don’t know, which is huge for a person with as much self doubt as I have. And there have been other dreams, some large, some small, but there are always other dreams.

But there was the Other dream. The bigger one.

I have always wanted to write and be a writer but that’s not so much a dream. Publishing was the dream. And sure, I want to find a traditional publisher and an audience and all that but that is a long shot that I don’t get too hung up on and it relies on too many people to happen. Writing I could do, people or not, it was something else that was gnawing at me, deeper. Well, two things but this, friends, is about ONE of those two things.

I have talked about it before at length so I won’t repeat myself but the idea of bringing a convention, a HORROR convention to Flint has been in my head since the ’90s. I have lived in this area my whole life and while there have been a few comic conventions, and a couple funky media conventions there has never been a horror convention. I wanted to do that. I wanted to bring that to Flint. Not just to Flint though but to this whole region. Ah, but it’s all about money, brothers and sisters, it’s all about money. Without the money the dream cannot live.

But it wasn’t just money, it was doubt.

I didn’t believe in myself or my dream so it sat on a shelf and gathered dust.

Sometimes that’s a very good thing though. Dreams need, at times, to let their roots sink deep into you so you can’t get rid of them so easily. And sometimes the dream is just a little too big for you so you have to grow into them. That was the case with the convention. I needed to grow into it. I needed to do more cons, see how they are done, see what I liked and didn’t like. Had to do events, put together and work on events so I got used to what went into it. I had to sit on the dream and ALMOST forget about it until it was time.

Now is the time. I had more coming back to me in my tax return than I ever had before and took that extra money and used it as the seed to build the convention. It was time. I had waited long enough.

And that was the start, the re ignition of that spark. That was the beginning. After that, well, it’s been a hell of a trip. I have wished several times I had documented this thing because sometimes I don’t believe it and believe all that has happened and that we are still where we are. Maybe after the con I’ll give a better account of it all. Maybe.

Maybe not.

I can say that I find myself extraordinarily lucky to be where I am, less than two months away from the convention. With the support of an awesome girlfriend, great friends, and the trust of a lot of people we are rolling right towards a dream I have had for some fourteen or more years.

Wow.

I am scared at what might be coming next but can’t wait to see. And ya know the best thing about dreams? The best ones, when you live them, lead down a hundred different paths, and at the end of each one is another dream, and that is a heck of a thing.

http://www.flinthorrorcon.com