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

 

Life’s Full Of Disappointments And I Am Full OF Bees

It’s a horrible feeling to look yourself in the mirror and admit that you can’t do everything. To admit to yourself that sometimes plans, as well intentioned as they may be, are sometimes just plans. Goals are just goals. And sometimes we can’t always do what we had wanted.

It’s a rotten thing to admit to.

It’s a rotten thing to see.

BUT…it’s better to admit to it and to see it than to blind yourself into running into a wall.

Because the thing is this – it’s a lot easier to pick yourself up and dust yourself off if you are willing to accept that you do have limitations, in life and as person, rather than naively ram yourself into walls trying to knock them all down if they try to stand in your way. It’s a good ideal to have, that notion that you won’t give up and won’t let up no matter what but the fact of the matter is that life isn’t about blunt force, it’s about forward movement, and sure, that movement doesn’t always seem to be going at the pace you want but if it’s even inching forward it’s still progress.

Life is about progress.

Even in our setbacks.

But, about my setback – I had decided a few months ago that it’s time to pull the tents down, for the clowns to clean the greasepaint off, and for the circus to close up shop. I am a writer, and always will be but for now, for a very long now, it’s time to stop putting books out. Not because I ran out of material or things to say but because it feels as if I am nearing self-parody. I have seven books out and two last ones on the way and there’s a point where you have to look yourself in the mirror and say – enough is enough. I have put out collections, two fairy tale books, and a novel. With these last two projects my slate is pretty clear. There’s a long lost book I had written ages ago and lost and was going to re-write but it isn’t pressing or necessary. These other books were. I proved to myself that I could do it – I could write, edit, put together, do the art, and release and support my own books (with aid from CreateSpace’s services). I was able to also do it with a LOT of help from friends. I was able to prove to myself that I could do it and I have loved it. I love the process of writing, of editing, of putting the thing together, of doing the art, and of supporting it. I love it and hate it both. Hate it because it isn’t the most fun, and it is stressful to walk the line of ‘artist’ that just wants to create and ‘business person’ that feels the need to sell. But there’s a point where you have to say – enough is enough.

I am at that point.

Which is not to say I won’t support the books I have but that it’s time to focus on other projects in my life. I don’t want to reach a point where it feels as if I am making a fool of myself. And I am being harsh, but I am harsh because I need to be to understand where I am. I don’t want to be someone who publishes out of vanity. And I feel like, with the limited interest in my work that I see, it’s time to re-assess things. Not because I don’t think the works are invalid but because I need to find better ways to get the books out to people. I need to support books I have put out and the two nearing completion, and I need to work on other projects.

None of this is awesome, but it’s necessary.

It’s far more fun, for me, to go through the process of creating a book than it is to support books that are already done.

As for the two books for this year, the ‘last two’. They’re done. I wrote them in two months. One is a book of zombie stories that comprise a novel. I started it in 2000 and slowly added to it and finally realized it was time to finish it. I had sat on it because I didn’t want to be the person that put a zombie book out after the ‘fad’ wore off. Well, that was several years ago and the ‘fad’ is still going so I figured I needed to finish it and get it out. I am currently in the edit of that book. The other book is the third and last of the Meep Sheep books and is a darker story about the passing of the torch from the Queen to her daughters. I wrote that in February and have let it sit a bit before I go back to edit it. I have a lot of work to do on it, to flesh it out, but I like what it is. I was really worried because I knew what I wanted out of it but wasn’t sure how to get there. In getting there the book changed, the story changed, and the ending change…and it’s a better book because of all of those things if you ask me.

The hope and plan for the year had been to get these two books written, edited, and released in Spring in time for two conventions I wanted to do in my area. Alas, the real work is a cruel mistress and I couldn’t afford to do the two shows so I decided to slow myself down and to stop driving myself so hard. I really want to get these books done, out of sheer AHHHHH excitement but also out of the need to move forward to other projects. Art, for one. So this is a setback. A big one. A heartrending one because it means that I have to figure what to do but in the long run it’s necessary and it’s good. I want to make sure these books are ready to go.

And life’s all about setbacks and disappointments and it’s figuring out how to deal with them that begins to define you. You keep moving forward, inch at a time, or you smash your head into things and try to force the world to conform to you instead of learning to move within the world as it is and to slip between the cracks. It is a VERY fuzzy future for me on the artistic front, the writing front, but it’s exciting because whatever happens is going to be a huge surprise.

C

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