Lead Into Gold

Because I’ve had many friends and companions over the years who were artists or simply big fans of art, I’ve often stood in front of a lot of canvases, sculptures, and mixed media pieces and heard someone say something along the lines of, “What’s the big deal? I could do that!” Saying things like this disappoint and anger me for a couple of reasons.

One: Just because it’s something you could do doesn’t invalidate someone else’s accomplishment.

Two: You could do it? OK, so do it.

I’m not a big fan of negativity. I indulge in it as much as anyone, especially when it comes to politics (I’m pretty goddamn angry about the current situation and trends in the US). But I do think it’s important for all of us to think about what kinds of relationships we want to have with the people around us (not just friends, families, and lovers, but acquaintances and strangers) and what kind of values we want to exemplify. Do you want to discourage people from being creative? Do you want to discourage people from working towards their dreams? If you’re annoyed or upset that someone has gotten recognition for something you feel you could do just as well or better, what are you really upset about–their accomplishment or your own inactivity?

Me? I want to be someone who encourages other people. I think people making art I don’t like is better than people not making art at all. People taking risks is better than people playing it safe. People playing and having fun with life is better than them trudging through their days as if life is a chore.

Let’s counter negativity by following Chris Guillebeau’s advice:

Embrace the WOW. When someone does something interesting, appreciate it for what it is. Stop judging or discounting their achievements. The world is full of people doing fun and incredible things. Keep your eyes wide and your mind open.

Focus on your own achievements. Set your own goals and spend your energy on something you build, create, or pursue. Can you walk on a tightrope across Niagara Falls? Great. Go ahead and do it.

If you see me being overly negative, please call me on it. It’s sadly too easy to discount other people and focus too much on the negative. That’s not how I want to live. Let’s encourage each other to laugh, play, dream big, and take risks. Let’s set this world on fire with our desires and drown our sorrows with our tears of joy!

Butterflies

As I’ve said, I’m an extrovert. I’ve tried to explain what that means, and while I think I did a pretty good job, Rowan Badger has knocked it out of the park with “The Care and Feeding of Your Extrovert.” Rowan really breaks it down, including talking about how many of us extroverts can suffer from social anxiety (and why this might be the case), which is definitely true in my case. It’s an excellent post, so go give it a read.

Brain Storms

Yesterday was what I call a “bad brain day.” This morning, I woke up with a headache and one of the Cure’s sadder, mopier songs stuck in my head. “Oh boy,” I said to myself, “the depression is back.” And then it occurred to me that many people don’t really grasp what it’s like to be in the thralls of depression and/or anxiety. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly good, I don’t even remember that well.

So I’m going to talk about it a little.

When you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, you’re not necessarily sad or nervous. I’ll still crack jokes and laugh at jokes when my brain chemistry is out of whack. While I can often still function normally, I’ll often find it more difficult to get excited about the things that usually excite me. Other times, I’ll get excited, but have a harder time motivating myself to do much of anything. While I might seem my usual chipper self, my moods will be all over the place, and I can quickly go from happy to horribly sad or horribly angry. Some friends of mine get sudden panic attacks when certain triggers are hit. Some friends experience auditory and visual hallucinations. I often find it hard to focus on what I’m doing and find my memory is absolute rubbish. I get headaches and stomachaches. I break out into heavy sweating for no reason.

The more we learn about depression and anxiety, the more I think they’re poorly named. Too often, people think being depressed or being anxious means “I feel really sad” or “I feel really nervous.” Those seem like easy things to get past, which is bad, because depression and anxiety are often not easy things to get past. Even when I can consciously understand that my brain chemistry is wonky on a particular day, it doesn’t mean I can make myself remember things better or focus on things more. I can take things to help with headaches and stomachaches, but I can’t just make them disappear with the power of my mind.

If you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, don’t chastise yourself for feeling the way you do and experiencing things the way you are. And if someone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety, for fuck’s sake, don’t tell them, “Just get over it!” Be kind to yourself and to others.

We’re all in this together, folks. You are never alone.

Lipstick Traces

Meanwhile, in New York, 1978…

It was the beginning of my 3rd grade school year, and I bought a copy of Firestorm the Nuclear Man #4 with my allowance. Firestorm the Nuclear Man #4

There was something about the character that really grabbed me. Maybe it was his odd name, or his bright, garish costume. Maybe it was that he was a sarcastic smartass or that he had weird powers (he could turn one object into another, like in this issue when he turns the air around a gang of robbers into a huge, plastic pumpkin). Or maybe it’s that HIS HEAD WAS CONSTANTLY ON FIRE. Whatever it was, this comic in particular appealed to me. I got a pad of tracing paper and traced every page of the comic, including the cover. I renamed the main character (to the less dynamic “Flamethrower the Burning Man”) and rewrote all of the dialogue.

I wasn’t thinking about it at the time–in fact, I didn’t think about it until just now–but I was learning how to write when I did this. I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, but deep down, I was paying attention to panel layout and plotting, framing and narration, and, of course, dialogue. It was practice for when I wrote and drew my own comics that same year. But it was also practice and self-education for my writing now. I’m still thinking about how to create colorful, engaging characters, write fun dialogue, and produce stories that inspire other people to dream and create.

To be continued…

Getting Things Zen

I’ve never been a particularly organized person. In some cases–like when I’m laying on the couch, reading, or sitting at a computer, playing video games–it’s not a problem. But I’ve become more and more aware that when I want to stay on top of my finances, juggle multiple writing projects, keep up with what my friends are doing, and get everything done at work in a timely fashion, my disorganization is a real pain the ass. A year ago, I started reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done and attempting to implement his ideas into my life. But then I had to deal with the move from Hell, my father’s surgery and long recovery, and then his death…basically, this hasn’t been such a good time for me to work on changing my ways in such a significant way. And yet, this is really important to me. I’m tired of being so disorganized. I’m tired of forgetting things, of letting things slip by, of feeling like I’m always running to catch up with everything that’s going on in my life.

Help me, internet friends! You’re my only hope! I want to either get some variant of the GTD system integrated into my life or find some other way of getting organized and ahead of things. One thing that’s been a big problem in the past is that I tend to be a very abstract, nonlinear, creative, right-brained thinker with the attention span of a sugar-rushed puppy. I think fighting against that is a losing battle. Is there a way for me to be organized, some system for organization, that can incorporate my short-attention-span loosey-goosiness? Are there other right-brained, nonlinear, short-attention-span folks out there who have successfully gotten themselves organized like a badass Zen master?

Please leave comments here or contact me if you have any ideas or can otherwise help me with this. Thanks, my friends!

The Rebirth of Cool, Part 2

My primary goal today, in honor of my father and Ray Bradbury, as part of my attempt to rage against the dying of the light and to rekindle the fire, was to do some writing. I didn’t have any story ideas burning up my brain, which scared the bejeezus out of me, but I desperately felt that I needed to write some prose. So I headed to a coffee shop in downtown Lawrence, got out my laptop, opened up a new document, and said to myself, “Write, goddamn you! Write!” I figured I could at least start writing stream of consciousness and maybe get a halfway-usable prose-poem out.

I’d been looking at steampunk images online earlier in the day and I had the words “clockwork” and “swords” floating around in my head. A character popped into my head, so I started writing about what they were doing. Another character suddenly appeared at the side of the first character. Some action started. And suddenly, I had a plot. When I got 750 words written, I tweeted, “I’ve just written 750 words. Can I make it to 1,000?” After four hours in the coffee shop, I had written just over 2,300 words and had come to love the characters I’d created. I could see where the story was going, I had a good feel for the setting, I had ideas for bits I felt needed to be added to the beginning of the story, and I had lost track of time while writing. It was one of the best feelings I’ve had in a long, long time. I was in the zone.

I get so anxious about writing–about not having anything to write about, about not writing anything good–that it’s often easy to forget just how much I love writing. It was incredibly good to be reminded today. And to be proud of what I accomplished.

The Rebirth of Cool

Today would have been my dad’s 75th birthday if he hadn’t died on St. Patrick’s Day. I continue to deal with his death as best I can. Getting knocked for a loop by Ray Bradbury’s death hasn’t made it any easier.

Since my father’s death, I’ve found that many of the things that have stressed me out or upset me seem much less significant now. At the same time, things that I’ve been passionate about but put aside out of anxiety or insecurity seem much more significant and necessary. Bradbury’s death has only increased this. I’m reevaluating my priorities and reassessing what I spend my time and energy on.

And so I’m crawling out of a dark shadow I’ve been living in for a long time. I’m remembering what it was like to trust myself, to have confidence, to have direction. And I can think of no better tribute to my dad and Ray Bradbury than to live intently and intensely, to do things on my terms, to rage against the dying of the light.