Mask

‘I tried to be human, but humans all lie.’

– Zachary Britt

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I have an obsession with masks. Ever since I started writing I’ve unintentionally created characters that shield themselves from the world and have been fascinated with the idea of mystery. It all started with Renegade; a story about a masked vigilante murdering men and women he considered to be a burden on society. From there it progressed into tales of plague doctors, cloaked gangs, and faceless men whose features never see the light of day. Even Midas has a character whose face is hidden beneath a gasmask and never exposed to the reader.

I used to believe that this obsession with concealing one’s face came from a love of comic books. I’ve long been a huge fan of characters like Alan Moore’s Rorschach or V, and even more mainstream heroes like batman. But now as I grow older and maybe just a little wiser, I’m starting to realise that my fixation with masks has less to do with a love of superheroes and more to do with the fragility of my own psychological makeup. It appears as if I have some repressed identity issues that continuously arise through my writing.

Whoa. Let’s slow down a second so you can wrap your head around that one…It’s an idea so obscure that it will undoubtedly cause you to frown in bewilderment: a writer with identity issues? Who would have thought imagined such a thing!

Sarcasm aside, I’ve suddenly found myself on my seemingly endless journey of self-discovery staring at a series of masks I use to conceal my true face, wondering why I feel the need to veil myself. All I’ve ever wanted was to feel human and to connect to a world that often baffles me. I’ve yearned to be able to reach out and touch the heart and soul of my fellow man and woman. I’ve longed to be able to understand their thoughts, feelings, and compulsions. All I wanted was to be human so I created a series of masks that would allow me to do so. There’s only one small problem: humans lie.

We lie because we are fallible. Because without the imperfections of our deceptions and defamations we as a species couldn’t be as beautifully flawed as we are. It’s our idiosyncrasies and emotional shortcomings that make us perfectly imperfect and allow us to flourish. But those same eccentricities that make us so incredible can also be dangerous to our creative health and our soul if left untouched. Yet many of us choose to abandon the wondrous features that are all our own in an effort to conform and fit in. As I stare at my masks mounted on the wall of my den I find myself bewildered that the façades I’ve cultivated to seem normal are identical to the disguises worn by my peers. Normal doesn’t exist. We’re all exceptional in our own right, yet for some misguided reason we try to diminish our worth to become part of a crowd.

Imagine the surprise on the face of the wolf hidden beneath a veil of human flesh when he learns that not only is he not alone in his masquerade, but that he is identical to everyone else in his attempts to become at one with the world!

For me my identity issues are pretty easily defined: at the age of eighteen I chose a path seldom travelled and decided I wanted to be a novelist. I spent eight long years fumbling my way through an industry riddled with pitfalls and no clearly defined route to success. While my friends started trades or completed university degrees I wrote manuscripts, submitted them to agents and publishers and awaited an opportunity to break into the industry. There has never been a definitive beginning or end to my journey so over time I grew self-conscious of the fact that while I struggled to create a career out of my passion others around me prospered. People would ask me what I do for a job and I’d feel a piece of me die as I told them, adding “but I also write novels” on the end in an attempt to validate my own inadequacies.

But then something remarkable happened and my story was picked up and put into print (it’s available now on Amazon!) and I started to realise that I no longer needed to lie about who I was and what I wanted to be. The masks that I’d spent so long constructing and masquerading before the eyes of my peers suddenly appeared gaudy and unnecessary. After eight years of lying about who I am and begging for acceptance (a process that often saw me fall into fits of aggression and angst) I’ve now learned to embrace myself and see that I was never the only one lying in a desperate attempt to feel accepted.

Sadly some people will never feel comfortable enough in their own skin to remove their masks and allow their face the opportunity to breathe. They are forever doomed to suffocate underneath the weight of their own inability to accept just how perfect their flaws actually are. They’ll spend an eternity with mask so perfect but a mind so bitter and a heart so broken because they’re desperate to appear cool or feel accepted. The crazy part is that by doing so they’ll unintentionally deny themselves the opportunity of being just that. They’ll lie to themselves and say that they’re more beautiful when concealed beneath a thin façade of self-deceit while the rest of the world yearns to see the pureness of their soul unveiled.

After eight years of writing I’ve decided that I’m always going to have an affliction for masks. I will forever find beauty in the savage imagery of a plague doctor or a hacktivist wearing a Guy Fawkes mask fighting for what he believes in. But I’ve learned to remove my own. There’s no point in trying to be human by way of hiding my humanity and imperfections behind a false exterior. Freedom comes from being prepared to let go of your inhibitions and accept the beauty of your flaws. To be willing to freefall into yourself is the most human thing you can ever do.

No man hidden behind a mask can ever achieve such a wonderful feat.

Silent Orchestra

You may have noticed that a sudden lull of activity has fallen over this site in the past couple of weeks. My postings were becoming more frequent, more concise, and increasingly positive. I was writing like a one man orchestra. I set a pace and flow by waving a baton rhythmically before my eyes as posts of positivity and tolerance followed a percussive beat like a drum. My self-reflection rose like a melodious crescendo of woodwinds and strings, before tapering off in a diminuendo as I offered peace to an intellectual foe whose opinions challenged my own.  Talk of hustling towards a dream crashed like cymbals and a new perspective on life threaded everything together with the solidarity of brass.

Then came the silence; so abrupt that the absence of sound was deafening.

It’s happened many times before on this site. I’ve written and produced, gaining thunderous momentum before falling off of a precipice and into a void of nothingness. In the past when such an event has occurred it was due in part to self-sabotage. Whether deliberate or not, I’ve had a nasty habit of destroying everything that I’ve strived so hard to create. At one point I even wrote an article calling for my own self assassination of character as a means of fuelling my own destruction. But this time things are a little bit different…

…I have been busy. And I have been keeping a secret from you.

Want to hear it? It goes like this:

I signed a publishing agreement and I’ve been ensuring that the work I submit through to my new publisher is the very best writing that I can produce.  Yep, you read that correctly. After about eight years of half-hearted attempts at trying to become a published author I did the unthinkable: I refused to give up, worked my arse off and actually managed to achieve something grand.

The recent silence; the one that’s seen a complete lack of activity on this site since January 20t.; it doesn’t symbolise the drawing of curtains on my short lived orchestra of positivity. Rather it’s an intermission; a moment’s reprieve to pause and reflect on every success and failure that has led me to this point before the orchestra of the wolf transitions from protasis into epitasis and the fun really begins.

It’s a bold statement to make. To suggest that I am finally moving beyond the beginning of my writing journey after eight years of toiling away at manuscripts and failed attempts to become an author seems both bold and daunting. From the very moment I started writing I dreamed of being published, so when I signed my publishing agreement I felt this strange mixture of elation and despair race through my chest as I had one of those where to from here moments.  I’d become so focused on achieving that one objective that I’d failed to see beyond that. I had no plans of where I wanted my journey as a writer take me past that initial act of seeing my work in print.

So my page fell dormant, and the orchestra of the wolf fell silent as I prepared my manuscript for publication and sat in contemplation at where I was headed next. Even now I still don’t know exactly what direction my career is going to take. I’ve been toying with numerous ideas for new projects and have been offered a few opportunities to moonlight on various blogs and websites. On top of all of this I’m still anxiously awaiting the day my novel hits bookshelves across the globe. But I want to make one thing very clear to my readers; the silence that has fallen over this site in recent weeks has passed. I’ve picked up my baton, breathed my heavy sigh of relief, and am now preparing to ease my audience into act two.

Watch this space. The world eater in me just tasted success and my one man orchestra is preparing to give audiences across the globe a performance they’ll never forget.

Sowing Season

Have you ever noticed how in times of need humankind turns to phrases and expressions to justify their emotions or the circumstances that they find themselves caught in? We utter such clichés as everything happens for a reason, or what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, and countless other little phrases to get us through a tough time. Even when everything in our life is going fantastic we try to pigeon hole the experiences afforded to us by saying I’m so blessed right now, or that my hard work is finally paying off. It seems as though we as a species need this validation of our thoughts, feelings and experiences. We appear to almost struggle to function without being able to justify every moment of our life through spoken and written word.

Sometimes it seems as though no matter what the circumstance, there is an expression ready to be recited in an effort to inspire, motivate, and aid you in overcoming it. Personally I love that mankind is so determined to understand itself. I’m even more thrilled that it has chosen spoken and written word as the vessels through which it seeks that understanding. My dreams of being a successful author would be all but screwed if we were more comfortable in taking the world and our experiences at face value. Without this thirst for knowledge and understanding there would be no writing, no art, no music, or creativity in general.

However, these expressions that we are so willing to affix to our situations can be dangerous. Too many are submissive and allow us as a species to flounder and fall short of our true potential. Shit happens. Yeah it does, if you’re prepared to let it.

Let’s back track a bit. This whole post came to fruition because of an article I recently read which detailed a study released by the European Journal of Social Psychology on creating habits. The study followed ninety six people over a twelve week period, during which they determined that the average time required to develop a habit was sixty six days. I found the article incredibly intriguing; the study suggested that through conscious implementation of a new movement or thought pattern for sixty six days it would become so ingrained in one’s subconscious that it would inevitably become habit. Being the inquisitive person I am I decided to take this idea give it a shot. I picked an expression that I could relate to and aspired to make a change.

You reap what you sow. At least that’s what I have been told. So I decided that for sixty six days I would sow nothing but seeds of positivity and determination into the fabric of my life. I resolved to cut the negativity from my soul and instead focus on finding the silver lining in every situation. I sat at my computer and I punched out articles of hope rather than angst, I stopped actively trying to cripple people and instead focused on being a better version of me.

The result? Well right now I’m on day eighteen of this little experiment and so far things are looking pretty damn good. I’ve been running this blog for a couple of years, amassing a somewhat decent audience of followers and likers to my sporadic ramblings. But with focus, positivity and determination I managed to double my readership by day eight. By day twelve I tripled it. And just today I received some exciting information that I can’t wait to share with my readers.

That’s not to say that the experiment hasn’t had its moments. I’ve nearly cracked a few times and reverted back to the narcissist arsehole that used to run this site. I’ve upset a few people close to me over the past three weeks, and to those that I have I truly am sorry. I love you to death and although I will undoubtedly slip again, with your help I will forever strive to be a better person.

You reap what you sow. Perhaps one of the most overused expressions of all time. But for this writer truer words have never been spoken. I’ve spent years walking around with clenched fists and a mind fuelled by rage, searching for my next victim. During that time all I have found is resistance, unhappiness and despair. But after just eighteen days of positivity and focus I’ve achieved more than I ever did during those times of shame. When you’re sowing seeds of hate or submission into your life, you’re going to reap resistance or dominance from life itself. But when you open your heart, free your mind and start sowing positivity the payoff is so much more rewarding.

As a writer you spend your entire life trying to create something new; something fresh. And at times in can become difficult to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of clichés. There’s the old Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch theory that states that there is only seven basic conflicts in literature, and to consistently try to think outside of the box and create something fresh and relevant can be exhausting. Add to that the fact that oftentimes you’re also trying to avoid drawing reference to clichéd expressions and you can find yourself walking an intellectual minefield of potential story ruining one liners and plot points. But as a man or woman who seeks to find enlightenment and their path in this world those same clichés can offer hope and guidance. You just need to pick the one that works best for you.

Shit happens to those that let it. But you reap what you sow. Sow shit and it’ll come back tenfold. Sow seeds of love, tolerance, determination and positivity and your crop will be more beautiful than you ever thought possible. We as human beings are forever going to subscribe to these expressions and clichés; but it is up to us as to how we draw inspiration from them. If you want to be submissive then you can continue to recite your tired adages of acceptance. But if you want to be the best damn person you can be than subscribe to a viewpoint that inspires. You reap what you sow. So chose your crop carefully.

Wolf

‘Hate must weigh on you like a broken cross.’
-Sam Carter.

I think that I’ve finally figured myself out. After twenty six years of screwing around and pissing away my talents and time I’ve finally started to realise who I am, who I want to be, and how to bridge the gap between the two. It’s a bold claim to make. But 2015 has started out so strongly that I feel confident enough to say that I, Chris Nicholas, am finally starting to become the man I was born to be. I’m merely scratching the surface of my true potential, but I’ve finally found the direction, determination, and hunger that has been lacking from my life for a long time.

When I look back at the history of this blog it’s clear to see that for a long time I was a soul in turmoil. Struggling to find my place in this world I bounced between short bursts of positivity before sinking into extended bouts of depressive entries and angst. From a technical perspective, the writing wasn’t great. From a mindset perspective, the pieces were even more troubling. I thought that it was funny to push myself past breaking point when trying to produce something of quality, finding joy in destruction, elation in woe, and my writing suffered greatly as a result.

My personality has evolved greatly over the past twenty six years; before I started writing I was incredibly shy. I’d struggle to talk to a cashier when buying milk. I’d keep quiet in group situations, and couldn’t even imagine plucking up the courage to ask a girl out on a date. But I found confidence through literature. Writing gave me a way to express myself. It was a means to unlock that vault of pent up rage and emotion in my heart and release. But for a time I went too far. I underwent a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde like transformation and that shy child turned into a bitterly aggressive teen.

I would refer to myself as a wolf, and relish in the opportunity to offend or maim. I wrote to ward off my own inner demons, and I’d take aim at anyone unfortunate enough to cross my path. I had this insatiable lust to be different, to fail to connect with my peers, and to rip the throat out of anyone I could. At one point I even went as far as to call myself literature’s version of Alistair Crowley, bathing in the blood of my victims. My writing in this time was poor and disjointed in its construction. My success as a writer during this phase was non-existent. And in all honesty I was undeserving of any acclaim. Who wants to read dribble from a whiney little bitch?

I’m a pretty aggressive guy. I’ve always had a short fuse, and I probably always will (even though I’m actively trying to become a more tolerant man I did recently threaten to break someone’s jaw). But I’ve reached a point in my life where I have released the contents within that vault of rage and I no longer see a need to savage everyone I come into contact with. I’m still a wolf. And I’m still prepared to bare my fangs and tear someone limb from limb if need be, but I’m no longer wasting time hunting for conflict. Life’s too short to get bogged down in unnecessary shit, and I’ve got too many goals I want to achieve to waste my time in fruitless endeavours. I spent so long filling my heart with hate, and all it did was weigh me down. When you carry the broken cross of hate all you have to show for your troubles is loneliness and the stooped shoulders and fractured spine of heartache.

So then now that I’ve found this happy medium, and I’m beginning to understand the enigma of me, who is it that I actually want to be? I want to be a writer. I’m pretty sure that is blatantly obvious at this point in time. But I want to be more than that. I want to have a positive effect on the industry as a whole. I want to create great texts and inspire others to consume literature of all forms. I want to educate, as well as continue to learn. I want to inspire and be inspired. And most importantly I want to be a man; not the macho dickhead type, but the kind that transcends beyond such limitations and becomes one with the world.

Knowing the path that I wish to walk is a start. I’m no longer simply stating “I want to be a writer” and waiting for the universe to drop a publishing deal in my lap. I’m starting to formulate a plan of attack to make that dream a reality. Acknowledging my temperament means that I’m growing; when this blog started I never would have envisioned that I’d be writing posts concerning homosexuality or Islam. Yet I find myself drawn to such topics not because I necessarily identify with them, but because I’ve found myself living in a world where there is so much beauty repressed by the ideals of man that to not draw attention to matters of the heart or mind would be a travesty.

My point is this: as far as I know I’ve only got one shot at this crazy thing we call life. I don’t know what happens when it’s all over, but I do know that the time I have is a precious thing and I need to cherish it. When the curtain draws, or the screen fades to black I don’t want to look back and think about all the time wasted being overtly shy, or unnecessarily bitter. I want to look back and say that I gave everything I had to being the best writer and man that I could be.

I recently had a stern reality check where a stranger I had never met contacted the organisation I work for regarding the death of her partner. They had fallen in love at the age of sixteen and spent their lives together until he passed away aged seventy one. They spent fifty five glorious years together before he passed, and in her mourning she was contemplating suicide. The thought of a life without the only man she’d ever loved was too much for her to bear. I suddenly found myself listening to this woman as she bared her soul and expressed her desire to give up. She had the pills left over from her ailing husband in her home, and no reason to continue on.

I don’t work for a suicide prevention or mental health organisation, but here I was helping someone come to terms with a loss that was so much more severe than anything I had ever dealt with. By the time we finished talking she had realised that as painful as it would be to live without her husband, she would continue to do so. Because there is nothing in this life more beautiful than life itself. The call ended and I put down the phone knowing that we would never be in contact again. I’d never hear how her life changed from that moment on. Never understand exactly how she felt knowing that she was strong enough to move forward. But I did realise that I have so much to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to.

I know my path; I know the difficulties that lie ahead of me. But I also know thanks to a stranger on the other end of the phone line that there is nothing between where I am now and where I want to be that I can’t overcome. I’m no longer a shy little boy, or an overly aggressive teen. I’m a writer, a man, a wolf and a world eater. For the first time ever I’m accepting my strengths and weaknesses and focusing on where I want to be rather than maiming those around me.

Hustling Lady Luck

‘Stop wondering and start acting, stake your claim. They say there’s no place for you here, so you better make one.’
– Jason Butler.

As a writer you get asked some truly bizarre questions. People expect that your interest in literature means that you’ll know who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 off the top of your head. Or that you’ll know the title and word count of Bryce Courtenay’s fifth published novel. Or sometimes they’ll ask what inspires you, or to name your favourite author. Or they’ll ask dreaded what’s your book about question; where they expect you to summarise an entire manuscript in one sentence.

There’s a myriad of inquisitive questions that the general public throw at you in an effort to better understand you and your process. Even though sometimes you’ll look the fool when you state you’ve got no idea what novel Courtenay published fifth, or that you can’t realistically summarise your own work in one sentence (they’re not after a pitch, but rather an entire synopsis crammed into one compact, easily digestible sentence), you really enjoy the fact that you’ve plucked someone’s interest enough to ask. Those questions mean that you’re on your way to achieving your dreams. You’ve captivated someone’s attention.

But there is one question that leaves you feeling frustrated. One question that you get asked time and time again by people who are genuinely interested in your story, but who fail to understand the complexity of what you are trying to achieve:

When is your book going to be published?

That one question can come in many forms, but essentially what it does is hit you like a sledgehammer and cause you to feel like a failure or someone who hasn’t quite made it. The worst part is the person asking isn’t trying to make you feel this way. They are genuinely curious as to when you’ll be published. They like what you’ve told them, or what they’ve read from you before, and they want to be one of the first people to get their hands on your work. What they don’t realise is that you’re busting your arse to try and make that happen, it just isn’t as easy as they think.

See, these people, these adoring fans of your work, see the literary industry like they would any other. They view the transition of an aspiring writer to published author as linear. To them the process goes:

You decide to write a book. You write a book. You publish your book, and spend the rest of your life swimming in piles of money like Scrooge McDuck.

If only it was that simple. I’d forego the piles of money and live like a damn beggar if it meant that my work was published so easily.

The truth is that the transition from aspiring writer to published author looks a little more like a spider’s web. You write your script, send it to an editor; it bounces between the two of you for some time as you refine the work. From there you start seeking agents, you customise and individualise query letters for each agent and send them off. Then you play a waiting game, you wait for your talent and a little bit of luck to pay off. You sit on your hands for a few months, penning your way through a few other pieces, hoping someone accepts your work. Most agents don’t respond, a few write generic rejection letters, and maybe one decides to further review your work.

When an agent says no you start all over again, thus your spider’s web begins to take life. If they say yes you most likely edit again before your agent begins to market you to publishers, leaving you waiting yet again for that talent and luck to come through.

There’s no linear progression on your journey, you’ve got to thrash out your own path. For me that means working a full time job, studying (something I often neglect), and finding the time to write this blog, pen manuscripts, and hassle agents. It’s a delicate balancing act, and one that I’ve been trying to perfect for years.

When is your book going to be published?

I haven’t the faintest idea. But when it is finally put into print I’ll know that all the hard work and hustling was worth it.

In my previous post Ready, Set, Misfire I stated that my goal in 2015 was to see my work put into print. It’s an insanely ambitious and somewhat ambiguous goal that in some respects is outside of my control. I can’t hold a gun to the head of an agent or publisher and force them to accept my work, but I can work myself into the ground in an effort to make sure anyone who can make my dreams a reality has a copy of my manuscript on their desk. I can continue to write on this blog and haggle others for opportunities to write for theirs, and I can learn how to market myself more successfully. Fortune favours the bold (excuse the cliché), so there’s no point sitting around waiting for someone to waltz up to me and offer me a publishing deal. I’ve got to chase down my dreams and make them happen.

Luck will always play a huge part in determining whether or not an agent or publisher accepts my work. But as I continue to hustle more agencies, and convince publishers to view my work, the less I am relying on lady luck and more on talent. 2015 is all about making a place for myself in this industry. It’s about hustling, destroying the map and redefining what it means to be a writer.

Wasted Talent

Sometimes I find myself standing in front of a mirror wondering just what the fuck I’m doing with my life. I find myself staring deeper and deeper into my own eyes, trying desperately to peer into my soul in an effort to decipher my past, my present, and my future. It’s not something I plan to do. I’ve never found myself thinking I need to find a mirror ASAP so I can question everything! But sometimes I’ll be caught off guard; lost in my own thoughts as I stare through bloodshot eyes at the tired man before me. Why haven’t you published anything? I’ll ask him. Why are all your friends in committed relationships or successful careers when you’re still pissing time away with such reckless abandon? How can someone who claims to be so intelligent have made so many mistakes?

It’s important to note that these questions are not linked to any previous battles I’ve had with mental health, nor are they an attempt to break my spirit. Rather I’ve come to know these questions as the writer’s equivalent of a teenager standing naked before a mirror flexing their biceps or pinching at their hips wondering what life would be like if they could make minor changes to their physical appearance. I stand and I stare at the man looking back at me and I appraise his features and his humanity. I try to imagine what steps I need to take in my life to bridge the gap between who I am and who I long to be.

Whereas I was once a boy I’m now a man. My chin that was once smooth is now covered with coarse hair. The skin around my eyes has grown the faintest inklings of crow’s feet, and my face is slightly freckled from a youth spent in the sun. For the most part I find myself comforted by the changes I see before me. I’ve grown older, wiser, and stronger. I’m gaining maturity while still possessing that youthful zeal. But when I focus on my eyes and ask myself those poignant questions; when I stare at the tiredness in them, they tell me that I’ve fallen short of where I could be by now.

Sometimes when I’m gawking at that man in the mirror he looks so worn down by his own shortcomings. And when he smiles glumly and shrugs his shoulders at his own wasted talent my heart shatters and the trumpets of missed opportunities sound inside of my head.

I am wasted talent personified.

This month I will turn twenty six, marking eight years since I began my journey as a writer. In that time I’ve experienced a number of highs and lows. I’ve entered writing competitions, winning some and earning accolades through people’s choice awards in others. I’ve completed various manuscripts and submitted them to publishers and agents, garnering moderate attention in my skill set. I’ve travelled across the globe where I’ve met authors and agents. I’ve shaken hands with royalty, and I’ve been invited to the odd industry event and party… But I’ve never quite broken into the industry in the way that I had envisioned.

Yep. Wasted talent. That’s me. Which is why I stare in the mirror and question why I often feel like I’m spinning my wheels while my friends and foes are racing ahead with dreams of their own. I’m a headstrong, arrogant piece of work. So I’ve got no issue in saying I have talent. I wouldn’t have come as far as I have as a writer if I didn’t possess some semblance of ability. But I’ve fallen short of success because there have been times where I’ve failed to grab the metaphorical bull by its horns and fight my heart out for what I really want. During those low moments where I have wanted to give up I’ve blamed everyone but myself for never quite making it. I’ve spat frustrated tirades against agents, publishers, other artists, the industry itself, and even factors within my life that are external to writing.

But I’ve never really taken ownership for my own willingness to accept second best. Until I started looking into the mirror. For the most part I’m a happy guy. Sure I’ve had some terrible lows in the past, and I’ll always be emotionally unstable. But I’m happy. I find beauty in every single day, and try to make the most out of my time here on this earth.

So why the fuck is there so much frustration and sadness in my eyes? And why can’t I stop myself from staring?

It all comes down to three things. Passion. Desire. And grit. I’ve got the first two by the fucking bucket full. I’m passionate about my craft and I have a desire to succeed that resembles an unquenchable thirst. But sometimes I lack grit. You know that real bloody knuckled, scrape yourself off the fucking floor styled determination? It’s been missing in my life. I thought it was there. But when the weight of the world starts pressing me into the dirt I tend to allow it. But if I really want to succeed I need to learn how to break its legs.

Passion, desire and talent will get you so far. But grit is what will make you a success. It’s grit that sees you send your manuscript to dozens of publishers and agents despite the rejections you have already received. It’s grit that sees a fighter punch his way out of the corner when everything is going to hell. It’s grit that sees someone with severe depression wake each morning and move forward with their life. It’s grit that sees the child bullied and beaten transcend above the petty taunts of his or her peers to become someone beautiful. It’s grit that sees anyone of us bridge that gap between who we are, and who we want to be.

I’ve been starting in the mirror asking myself why my friends and foes are in meaningful relationships or why they have successful careers whereas I do not. And for so long I’ve told myself bullshit excuses about how I’d chosen a career path that’s not easily defined. Or that the industry I want to work within is fickle. But the honest truth of the matter is that I haven’t deserved success. Having talent is just the beginning. It’s the gritty determination to keep picking myself up and trying again when I fail that will see me succeed.

When I stare in the mirror and cuss at myself for never quite breaking through it’s not because I want to fall apart again. It’s because I want to create a thick skin to accept failure and a yearning to bust my arse to keep going when all hope is lost. If my eyes are going to be bloodshot and tired I may as well make sure that it’s because I’ve given everything I have to trying to succeed rather than because I’ve grown old and bitter from a lifetime of giving up.

Sticks & Stones

When I write I pour my heart and soul onto a page in an effort to create something magical, as well as to gain a better understanding of myself as a human being living within a universe of infinite potential. I’m not the kind of guy who sits down every day with a specified word count I want to achieve, producing dribble before sifting back through pages upon pages to find the diamonds in the rough. I’m the kind of writer who can go days or weeks without creating a thing, but when that jolt of inspiration strikes, I become lost in my own world as the words and phrases race through my head. I write what I want to write: about what inspires me, what saddens or angers me, and what challenges me on an emotional or intellectual level.

I don’t care if my work is confronting to some or ill received by others. I am a microcosm in my own right, and I will produce what is right for me. I pay no attention to the judgement of others. I’m not some kind of fucking superstar or centrefold who’s here to bend over backwards to appease every damn person I meet. Sure, I create manuscripts that I hope to sell, but when I take to this blog I do so to express myself freely without feeling the need to produce a marketable product or censor myself. So when judgement is laid and some arsehole standing in a glass house decides to start throwing judgement like a proverbial stone it takes every ounce of my strength not to rip out their fucking tongue.

-Hold on a moment. Let’s back it up just a little. Cause I’m about to fucking erupt. Breathe in. Hold. And breathe out…

…I’m a goddamn fucking wolf and if you try and piss me off I’m going to maim you. I will hunt you down and I will tear out your throat and bathe in your blood. I don’t care about the opinion of someone who thinks that they know who I am because they’ve read a few posts or because we are supposedly friends. What I write about, or who I choose to be as a man is at my discretion. If you’re going to start throwing stones and laying judgement, then you better make damn sure that you are infallible, because I won’t just smash your windows, I’ll burn your house down and dance upon the ashes.

“But Chris, you’re so self-destructive…”

Shut up. Just shut up. I’m sick of hearing it. It’s not I that I’m looking to destroy. It’s this pathetic world where you are so self-entitled that you dare lay judgement on another human being for expressing themselves. We live in a society rife with arseholes who feel that they have the God given right to critic and ridicule their fellow peers. The loudest voices belong to the overconfident, the ignorant, and the fucking mouth breathers. While the kind, the emotionally beautiful, and the innocent are down trodden and forgotten in a society overrun with arrogance. How dare you or anyone else pass judgement against another human being for trying to live their life and trying to make the best of what they have?

Seriously, who the fuck do you think you are? You judge someone because of the colour of their skin, the choices they make, the dreams they chase, or simply because they don’t conform with how you choose to exist. It’s pathetic and it’s sad. You need to grow the fuck up your saucer eyed piece of shit…

I’ll admit that I’ve never been the healthiest of men when it comes to mental wellbeing. At times I’ve pushed myself to breaking point and beyond. I’ve fallen apart and had my face stamped into the dusty earth by my own demons more times than I’d dare to count. I’ve starved myself, over eaten, cried in wardrobes over manuscripts and even set them alight. But I found myself in my writing; track back two posts and I wrote a goddamn love note to this craft. I was lost, and I found myself through literature and creativity. So to have my mental health or my character questioned because I have found the courage to express myself is sad and it’s heartbreaking. For that judgement to be passed by people that I once considered to be friends feels like a knife in the back.

I often say that I don’t care for the opinions of others. I’ve stated as such countless times over the course of this blog, and those who know me will be aware of my lack of interest in the sentiments of all but a select few. I could care less if someone wants to judge who I am and what I do. I’m not one to lose sleep over readers lost or friendships that have withered and died. Instead I grow angry that we live in a society so flawed, yet so willing to look down its nose at its peers. How can you honestly sit there and critic my life when yours is such a train wreck?

Any man or woman who vilifies someone for their beliefs is a bigot. Anyone who degrades another because of their inclinations is a dogmatist. And any person who ridicules somebody because of their dreams, their catalysts, or compulsions is a piece of shit.

Free your mind, let go of your hate and learn that this world is an extraordinarily beautiful place. Learn to love yourself, let go of your judgemental bullshit and find happiness in yourself. I’m trying to do exactly that every time I take to this page, every time I work on my manuscripts, and with every breath that I take. I’m the kind of man who will do anything for anyone. But if you cross me, if you judge me or try to destroy who I want to be, then I am a goddamn wolf who is going to rip you apart limb from limb and bury your remains my backyard.

Question Everything

The hardest part about being a writer is that you move through every day acutely aware that you have been blessed with a curse. You have been drawn to a lifestyle that will bring you great joy, and harrowing sorrow. In moments of great inspiration you will feel as though you have been touched with the hand of God; that something magical is alive and breathing inside of you. Your mind will operate with a euphoric mixture of imagination and passion, and your fingers will dance effortlessly across a keyboard as you produce the kind of prose that leaves a reader with an unending admiration for what you have produced.

Then the writer’s block kicks in and that hand of God turns into the devil’s talons piercing your flesh as he squeezes your heart until you feel faint. Words and phrases become caught in your head, and you move through life completely unaware of anything except your own inability to create.

You see the world differently to others. When you first start out putting pen to paper you begin to notice cracks in the fabric of society and small discrepancies in the stories that people tell. It’s like you suddenly find yourself in a room that looks almost perfect. The furniture is perfectly selected, the light fittings polished and the carpets unusually clean. But the wallpaper has started to fray ever so slightly at the cornices. At first the slight oddity doesn’t bother you. You can live with knowing that things aren’t quite right. It doesn’t matter that things aren’t perfect.

But then curiosity gets the better of you and you start picking at the wallpaper, peeling small strips from the walls. And the more you peel, the more curiosity eats away at your soul. Before you know it the walls are bare and you’re stripping back the carpet. You’re questioning everything about the integrity of the room. You want to see the walls stripped bare. You need to see the foundations. You can’t bear to stand not being able to reshape, redesign and rebuild. It’s not until you’ve torn back every inch of floor and wall coverings that you find yourself standing in a cold, lonely cell.

You’re blessed with a curse. Blessed with the gift of writing, of wanting to learn, to break down and rebuild. But you’re cursed with a desire to question everything and anything. You question the way people live. The bullshit stories they tell. The mistakes they make. The mediums they consume. The lies they tell themselves in order to sleep peaceably in their bed at night. But if you’re lucky, you find yourself asking the right questions too.

You start asking why we live in a world where killing is still common practice. Or why degradation of our fellow brethren occurs based on the colour of someone’s skin, their gender, or their beliefs. You start questioning why we are willing to accept a soul black as night and laced with glass over one of sheer beauty, just because the later isn’t as aesthetically pleasing on the surface. But the question that plagues you more than any other, the question that keeps you awake at night, is why the fuck can’t anyone else see just how misguided we have become?

You’ve pulled back the wallpaper of your room to find yourself alone in a prison cell, and you’re staring through the bars at the blissfully ignorant as they sit inside their own cages with a smile on their face believing that they are free. They claim that they question everything too, but they chose to do so from the safety of their comfort zones, their lack of true passion mocking everything that you believe in. They take to social media to post statuses on what they believe in, to click a like button to support a cause, but they do so because it’s easy. Because they are sheep, desperate for the approval of the herd. Because it is easier to question everything from the safety of a screen; only the bravest of us have the balls to take our beliefs to the streets.

So you write and you write, desperate to be heard. You want to grab a hold of people and scream in their ignorant faces ‘open your fucking eyes, peel back the wallpaper of your cell and let’s start a goddamn revolution.’ You know that if people would just turn down their televisions, unplug their earbuds, and give real literature a chance that you could change the world. You could teach them to ask not why someone should be allowed to wear a headdress in public, but why we as a society are so close minded that we feel the right to judge them for their beliefs? Or to ask why we accept war in foreign lands in the name of democracy, while we are so venomously opposed to those very ideals in our own land? Or why we have turned our backs on one another in pursuit of or own selfish wants and needs? When did we become a society of individuals so capable of stamping one another into the dirt to better ourselves? And why, Jesus, why the fuck isn’t anyone listening?

Then you realise that people are. That your readership may be small, but that with persistence it will grow, unfurling like a beautiful rose. You realise that with every article you write, every story you tell, you are helping those bold enough to listen to peel back the layers of their own comfort zones so that they too can begin to question everything. You’re helping them to identify and understand when they are being sold emotional placebos by snake oil peddlers so that they can tear down the superficial beauty of their worlds in order to create something truly exquisite through their own brevity.

An ode to you, the saviour of the ferryman’s intrepid passenger

350px-Charon_and_Psyche
‘I was lost, until I found myself inside of you.’
-Austin Carlile

The saddest part of it all was that I just didn’t realise how lost I truly was. I was an intrepid traveller traversing a mind as volatile as the river Styx. Guided by Charon, my soul was dying, withering like a flower with no hope to bloom. But you saved me. My heart and mind were caught in a vicious storm of chaos and self-loathing. I knew not who I was or what purpose my life served as I drifted between this existence and the next. I was naïve enough to pine for something greater than I, but I was too insignificant to be deserving of my dreams.

Then I heard your siren’s song. It rose from the depths of the earth, drowning out the cacophony of withering souls screaming for salvation by the river’s shoreline. I ordered Hades’ ferryman to steer towards your heavenly calls and he moored his vessel before you. You took my hand in yours as I disembarked and pulled me towards your bosom, your comfort became my solace and the savageness that had plagued my existence slowly faded. I was lost my love, but in that instant I found myself inside of you.

You showed me a world unlike anything I had ever imagined. A realm of possibilities where I was limited only by what my mind could conceive. The first time we became one I was so nervous, so unsure of myself. I fumbled as I gave life to your flesh, my thoughts disjointed, my fingers moving unsteadily as I fashioned your landscape. It was frantic and short lived, and when I stood back to admire what we had created I was stunned by the simplicity of our artwork. You were so beautiful and well-rehearsed; my awkwardness was barely concealed behind a wave of passion as phrases and irrational ideas raced through my head.

But you can never belong just to me. I know of your beauty and the intense lovingness of your touch better than most. But I can never possess you. Instead I am forced to share you with strangers the world over. Some would say that this is ill-fated love, that it is dangerous to a soul as complex as my own. They would snicker at my willingness to accept your infidelities and call me submissive and weak. But how can they ever comment on the intricacies through which I love every part of you, without first knowing the thrill of your all-encompassing embrace? I share you with others and my heart breaks when I see you answer their prayers or place their dreams before my own. But it is better to live with the knowledge that I am one of many than to never have known just how complete you make me. Oh my love, I was so lost aboard that demon’s ferry. I was a soul plagued with a life of nothingness, self-doubt casting fret channels in my brow. But now I have found myself inside of you.

I know not how to love another as deeply as I love you. You took a man parading himself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and you allowed him to undress and expose his naked soul. You took a boy as afraid of living as he was of death and showed him that with your guidance he could create a legacy that would survive his mortal form. You took me in my broken state and you rebuilt me until I was whole. You taught me to relish in the beauty of the crack marks left in my flesh from pieces held together by something far stronger than any glue.

You found me aboard Charon’s ferry adrift on a river of fire and brimstone, and you kissed me with your lips, breathing life into my dying soul. I was so lost aboard that wretched craft, and now I have found what it means to be alive once again inside of you, my beautiful muse. I was once a fumbling amateur exploring the contours of your flesh, but through your patience and your guidance I have flourished into someone stronger than I ever thought I could be. Now every time we dance, when you place your palms upon my shoulder and whisper inspiration in my ear I wish that I could get down on my knees before you with reverence and pay you the penance that you truly deserve. For you are my beautiful muse; without you I would be so lost, so cold. But I have found myself inside of you. You have made this boy into a man. This man into a wolf. This flesh into a legacy. And you’ve taught me how to strip back the layers of my soul and stand naked before the world for all to see.

I was lost, until I found myself inside of you.

Paper Tigers

tiger

‘The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.’
-Amelia Earhart.

Beautiful isn’t it? Elegantly written and inspiring in its construction, Amelia Earhart really did create something lovely here. In a fluency reserved for the masters of prose, she confesses as to how she managed to be liberated from the self-imposed fear that she placed upon herself and became something more.

Seriously, take a moment and cast your eyes back to the top of this post and allow the beauty of Earhart’s words to sink in before you continue any further. And while you’re there, think about what you want in your life more than anything in the world. And I don’t mean bullshit superficial or material possessions, I mean what you really want. Do you want to be loved? Do you want to be successful? Do you want to get your damned novel published and start leaving your mark on the literary industry? Or do you just want to craft the perfect ending to a manuscript that has been years in the making?

That lust that you feel, that flame of desire that flickers in your soul when you imagine everything that you could have, that you could be, or that you could do; it’s insatiable isn’t it?

Now think about what is stopping you from actually obtaining those goals. It could be money, status, ego, peers, or a million other reasons. No matter what it is, it’s all just shit; trivial, superfluous shit that we use as excuses to safe guard ourselves against our own fear of failure. They are faux threats to our success and happiness that we create in our mind’s eye so that we can live in the comfort of our own mediocrity and tell ourselves that we are happy there. We are living our lives afraid of paper tigers, foolishly telling ourselves that there are lions at the door.

The term Paper Tiger is a literal translation of the Chinese phrase Zhilaohu, and refers to something that seems threatening, but is actually ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge. It is a rather interesting concept when you stop and consider the connotations of its meaning. How many times in your life have you told yourself that something was hard, dangerous, or impossible, only to overcome that hurdle and see just how easily your transcended above the challenge? That hurdle, that insurmountable mountain you had to climb to succeed was a god-damn paper tiger. There was no threat; you were just mentally screwing yourself into believing there was.

The troubling thing is that we as a species do it so well. We create these mental barriers and blockades to hold ourselves back from our true potential. We tell ourselves we aren’t good enough, that we are undeserving. But true brilliance is within our grasp. We just have to front up, stare that risk in the face and take what we want by force. You deserve to be so much more. We all do. Take it from a guy who has spent a lifetime creating the most exquisitely repulsive paper tigers imaginable, every single threat you perceive to be standing between you and a brighter future can be overcome.

Let’s be honest, I’ve screwed around a lot in my life. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve cost myself some incredible opportunities. For the most part the reasoning behind those stuff ups and my flaws come down to the imagined threats that I have allowed to fester within my own mind. I’ve told myself that I’m not worthy of a publishing agreement, that my writing isn’t as strong as others, or that I am just simply not cut out for the life as a writer. I’ve allowed manuscripts to defeat me as endings eluded my grasp. And I have watched potential representation slip through my fingers because I told myself that people are out to screw me rather than aid my successes. I’ve cowered like there were lions tearing down my door, when in reality there was nothing but fictional beasts running rampant in my head.

So how do we overcome the illusory creatures that claw at the back of our minds and threaten to devour every ounce of creative freedom, success, or wonder that we long for? How do we throw caution to the wind and say ‘fuck it, I am good enough, I am deserving, and I am beautiful?’ Well, I’m not about to claim to know all of the answers to overcoming our flaws and rediscovering the better angels of our nature, but I will say this: When the lions are at the door, take a deep breath, shut your eyes tight and try to differentiate between the roars of true danger, and the purrs of those ineffectual voices within your own head.

History’s greatest minds, people like Amelia Earhart, all had their versions of paper tigers, but they learned to overcome them. As Earhart says, ‘the most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.’ All you have to do is defeat the monsters you are creating in your head, then persevere, because everything you ever dreamed of is closer than you think.

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