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

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‘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

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‘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.

Digging up the grave

White knuckled with calloused palms and blistered fingers he drives the blade into the earth. His pencil thin spine aches as his shoulders strain to lift the heavy load. He twists at the torso and tips the blade, allowing the thick clumps of dirt to fall atop of the steadily rising pile. Sullen and withdrawn, made from sinew and ropey muscle, he toils underneath a clouded night sky. Guided only by slivers of moonlight slipping through the opaque air he drives the shovel into the earth, using his foot to help the blade penetrate the quickly hardening dirt.

Two foot wide. Six feet deep. A silence all-encompassing and beautiful awaits.

He tips a load onto his pile and flexes his aching spine. Tossing the shovel against the earth he reaches for his bottle, gritting his teeth as the lager washes across his tongue. He stands in a shallow grave, the lip resting just below his knees. His fingers ache and the bottle cools their throbbing. How disgusting he has become that he must labour through the night to bury bodies in his yard. Or maybe he should consider himself beautiful. Maybe there is something lovely in the physicality of burying the dead.

They’re lying beside him. The deceased sleep just three feet away. Wrapped in crisp white linen, they capture the light cast down from the heavens and reflect it like a series of lighthouses perched against the merciless ocean. He knows that they’re presence is a risk. The neighbours will be watching. The nosey bitch in the two story mansion beside him will undoubtedly be standing in the safety of her locked bedroom, chewing her polished fingernails as she dials the police station. That’s the problem with society nowadays. Every mother fucker is too busy peering over the fence at what their neighbour is doing that they fail to notice how fundamentally flawed they themselves really are. Let her call, he thinks, she’s done it a hundred times before. Just like the boy who cried wolf, no one believes the nosey bitch and bastard watching his backyard.

He picks up his shovel and strikes at the earth again, feeling his shoulders ache with pain before he even lifts the weighty load. It’s a risk to have the dead with him. But it’s a peril worth taking. There’s something so thrilling about having the dead lay in eternal slumber beside him while he prepares their grave.

He drives the blade into the earth again. And again. It’s becoming so dry, so hard. His blistered fingers burst and warm liquid runs down his fingertips before slipping down the timber shaft of his shovel. He grimaces in pain with every strike of the earth now, skin tearing with every blow. His brow is furrowed and lined with sweat, and the moon fades completely as the heavens take pity on him and weep with the first droplets of rain.

Two foot wide. Six feet deep. A silence all-encompassing and beautiful awaits, punctuated with the delicate pitter-patter of rain falling against the disturbed earth.

He picks up his pace, the rain slicked handle of the tool difficult to hold with his damaged hands. His boots are heavy, his shirt clings to his skin before he removes it, tossing the heavy garment in a balled heap beside the pile of dirt slowly leaking back into the earth from which it came. He digs and digs, until his spine feels fractured, his hands tremble and his mind pulses with a dull throb. Tossing his shovel to the side he climbs from his hole, staring down at the beautiful rectangle cut haphazardly into the earth.

The heavens open wider and the pitter-patter turns into a torrent of water that turns the yearning grave into a burial site with an inch deep pool at its base. He moves towards the bodies, and stares down at them with a wicked grin. He reaches for the first, that prick called Anxiety and drags it to the edge of the hole. The rain has made the body heavier than he had remembered. He can still recall the day that he killed him. He had learned that there was nothing to be fearful of in this life than the idea of fear itself. He had grown wise, no longer afraid of the crippling nature of the beast. Creeping up on the bastard he drove a blade through his spine, ripping it upwards violently to sever the spinal cord.

The fucker tumbles into the depths and he stands and watches the muddy water leach into the white sheet before moving for the next. Insecurity was a bastard child that had left him feeling damaged. He remembers the day that he outgrew his need for such a vile companion. He’d always feared his perception in the eyes of others. The way he looked at troubled him, his body shape not quite desirable. But he had ripped off his shirt at a swimming pool, paraded around half naked for the world to see. And when he realised no one was watching he took his shirt, wrapped it around the pricks’s throat and choked until Insecurity’s heart exploded.

His final victim is the heaviest. Guilt had always been his curse. He felt guilty for the choices he made, the ones he didn’t. The people he hurt and the people who had hurt him. The bloated rain soaked corpse feels like deadweight as he heaves it towards the hole. Liberation from this heinous acquaintance had been brutal and bloody. He’d taken a surgeon’s blade and cut it from his skin. His conjoined twin of regret and self-loathing had pleaded as he bled. Once the removal had been complete he’d taken the blade to his poorer half’s throat, feeling the warmth of his blood as it washed across his skin.

Three bodies lay in a mass grave slowly filling with tears from the heavens. Two foot wide. Six feet deep. A silence all-encompassing and beautiful awaits.

He strips bare, his nakedness battered by the rains. Lowering himself into the hole he shifts the victims of his rage. Lying down beside them he closes his eyes and waits. The water swells up over his chest, tickling as it fills his ears, and before he can take another breath he slips beneath the surface.

Silence. So endless and beautiful. A man and a murderer floating alongside the dead. How lovely it would be to die here. To hold himself down until his world went blank. How wonderful his demise would be, surrounded by those who spent a lifetime trying to destroy him. But alas, he cannot die today; he cannot give up so easily. He has fought too hard, spilled too much blood to simply drown alongside his regrets.

He surfaces with a gasp, stands in a waist deep pool of muddied waters, and pulls himself from the grave. The dead has risen on this stormy night. A man has been reborn while the demons of his past have been laid to rest. He takes up his shovel and fills in the hole. With every clump of rain soaked earth he feels his strength return. No longer do his shoulders ache; no longer does his spine feel broken. No longer do his blisters throb. No longer will he feel alone.

Dream on, Dreamer

Sometimes I just want to run. I just want to lace up my sneakers, pack my bags and just vanish without a trace. Sometimes I grow so tired by being me that it takes every ounce of strength just to function in the mess that we call a society, and I find myself begging for a way out. Sometimes it can become so crushing to know that I don’t fit in; I don’t belong, and that I will never be at one with my fellow man. Sometimes I wish that I had made better choices when I was younger. That I’d been more willing to accept authority, or that I’d learned to keep my mouth shut rather than constantly shooting from the hip. Sometimes I wish that I just learned to accept that neither the world, nor I, will ever live up to the unrealistic expectations I have created.

Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t screwed up my finances so bad in my youthful ignorance that I could just book a one way ticket to anywhere and leave the man I have become behind. I’m a man of contrasts, a writer of juxtapositions, and sometimes I wish that I would catch the break that I lay awake at night and pray for. I often find myself calling out to Jesus, Allah, Moses, and whoever else is listening. But every single time I do, I wish that the prophets had more to say to me than those heinous words dream on, dreamer.

For this is the life I have chosen. The life of a dreamer. A man who moves throughout the world caught between a bleak reality and a vivid imagination and ideals of what could be. I’m too old to connect with the latest trends, yet too young to admire much of the classics. Too intelligent to accept popular culture, yet not clever enough to consume more intellectual mediums. I’m too stubborn to change who I am, yet I’m far too bitter not to try. I’m too bold to know my limits, yet fear them with every ounce of my being.

So I tread the path of a dreamer; accomplishing nothing except within my own head. I dream of grandeur and a life of fulfilment. I live a life of regret. I imagine my future to be bright. I see my name on bookshelves, my life filled with art and creativity. I picture myself living in exotic lands, spending my years travelling the earth in search of continued inspiration. But my present sees me grounded. I travel the same route every day to a job that leaves me feeling incomplete. Instead of exploring new cities and countries to search for inspiration, I find myself searching my head for a way out of the rut I have created. And when I find nothing I turn to the prophets for guidance, cursing them when they whisper in response to my pleas dream on, dreamer. You haven’t earned it yet.

Sometimes I wish that it would rain. I wish that the heavens would open and cleanse my skin. I dream of that moment where I am caught in a storm so vicious that my pulse quickens and my bones feel as though the sudden chill is cutting them like glass. I pray for the destruction, for the waters to rise up against my throat. Instead I find myself surrounded by an earth so parched that every step I take causes its crust to crack and splinter. I’m wandering endlessly in a barren wasteland, driven by my thirst for something more. Something that seems forever out of reach.

I fanaticise about a world where we worship true art and its creators; where we care not for the status of celebrity, or for the shocking and creatively mundane. I pray for a life where I don’t have to loathe the works of fraudsters cashing in on trends and calling it art. I hope that we can learn to admire true beauty once again, and realise that making ourselves seem attractive on a visual level does not hide the blackness of our hearts. I wish that we could love one another for who we really are, not who we pretend to be through status updates and edited photographs.

But most of all I wish that I didn’t have to dream of these things. That the absence of happiness in my life didn’t leave me with an unending desire to vanish and start anew. I wish that I could travel forward in time and find the version of me who is content. I would ask him how he did it. How he learned to accept the flaws in himself and his world. I would take that knowledge and I would learn from it, so that I didn’t dream of packing my bags to run.

I wish that for once when I called upon the heavens for answers they didn’t mock me as they whisper dream on, dreamer. You haven’t earned it yet.

Subatomic

‘Do something less surreal? I ain’t big enough yet, I got to keep impressing people.’
– Shadrach Kabango.

Today I received notification that I would be attending the upcoming TEDX event in Brisbane’s South Bank on December 6th. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the initiative, TEDX is a non for profit offshoot of TED (Technology Entertainment Design), a ground breaking forum where great minds come together to celebrate ‘Ideas worth spreading’. For an aspiring author to be invited to attend such a prestigious event is a huge honour. For said author to be someone with a God complex who constantly refers to himself as a wolf with a bloodlust to savage the industry he loves is something rather exceptional. To be permitted the opportunity to be one of three hundred attendees at the event is a momentous opportunity that will just about close out a chaotic and highly rewarding 2014 for this blogger, author, social commentator, and student.

Sometimes one can become bogged down by the now. Living in a daily grind we often feel stagnant in life, and it’s not until we cast a little hindsight over our journey that we realise how much has changed, and how much we truly have to be thankful for. When I started this blog I was in a bad way. I was mentally and physically unwell and couldn’t seem to break out of the vicious downward spiral that had me caught up in perpetual self-loathing and anger. I was broken, I was bitter, and I was so desperate for a way out that after an extended hiatus from writing I turned to my craft for help. I wrote my first post and I poured my heart and soul onto a page. I wrote and I wept. And as the words tumbled from my mind, I found the inner confidence that had eluded me for so long.

Fast forward two years and that confidence has taken me further than I ever believed possible. I’m still not a published author, but my writing has taken me to some extraordinary places and I’m incredibly thankful for everything that I have achieved. It’s so easy for us to become so fixated on an end result that we fail to take into account the beauty of the journey itself. It would be easy for me to beat myself up for failing to see my novels make it into print – despite setting myself that goal every single New Year’s Eve for as long as I can remember. But the truth is that I have come so far from the broken boy who sat at his computer begging for solace from his own demons.

In the past twelve months I have travelled across the globe, met some incredible people, shaken hands with royalty, dined with literary alumni, sat in on a firearms demonstration by the CIA, and have now been invited to witness a collective of brilliant minds take to a stage and inspire the world to be great. It’s a list of experiences that I will forever cherish, and none of this would have occurred if it wasn’t for me taking that first step and writing that initial blog.

There are times when I feel like giving up on my dreams. Some days I wake up and feel as though I have spent years running myself into the ground for nothing. I feel as though by not having a book sitting on shelves in bookstores around the world I have somehow failed myself. But then I stop and look at just how far I have come, the experiences that I have been fortunate enough to have through writing, and the endless possibilities that lay before me and I find myself more determined than ever to create. I’m not stagnant. I’m moving, but I’m doing so in an industry that has no clearly defined path. The literary industry isn’t as clear cut as most. There are no sure-fire paths to success. If you want to make it as an author you need talent, grit, and a whole lot of faith and luck.

The path of an author is best identified as that of a subatomic particle; you are in a state of constant movement, yet completely motionless at the same time. You’re movement is your continued development of your craft, it’s the relationships you forge, the events you attend, literature you consume, opportunities you seize, and so on. But you’re motionless until your work hits a shelf. And sometimes that paradoxical state of motionless movement, that subatomic particle like state can frustrate. But the process is beautiful, the frustration so enthralling, and the gift of being able to create so intrinsically rewarding that you would never want to live any other way.

I’m a writer and I’m a wolf. I have an overactive mind and dreams of changing the world. It seems only fitting that the context of the TEDX forum I am attending is Question Everything, something that I as an aggressive creative type, do on a daily basis. To be fortunate enough to attend the event is a huge honour, and another milestone in my development as a writer and as a man. And with 2014 fast drawing to a close after so many wonderful moments, I cannot wait to see what the next twelve months has in store for me.

Renacer

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‘There is no flower like love; no misfortune like hate.’
-James ‘Buddy’ Neilsen.

I’ve really been struggling with this blog lately. After a phenomenal run a few months ago that saw me producing a continuous stream of updates, I’ve fallen back into that creative lull that sees me producing sporadic entries that aren’t necessarily my best efforts. But all hope is not lost. While I’ve been creatively stagnant on this platform, I have still been writing a lot. My novels are coming along beautifully, and I’m learning more and more about myself and my craft every time I take to my computer.

But when it comes to this page, I’ve lost my voice. My confidence has deserted me, and I’ve been left sitting alone in a wasteland of half formed ideas and unjust hate for everyone and everything. There’s blood on my hands and hate in my mind. I just don’t understand why.

Sometimes blogging feels like a dying art form. Sometimes it feels like people don’t care about real talent or grit anymore. We live in a disposable world where people want instantaneous satisfaction and don’t have the patience required to consume literature. Society would rather watch a seven second vine video and glorify the inappropriate antics of a halfwit than consume the rich and highly rewarding posts of bloggers across the globe. Some of the most incredible pieces of writing I have ever witnessed have been on blogs that receive a dismal amount of hits, while many of the most creatively void videos and photographs on social media become worldwide sensations. We live in a world where we worship instant success and fame. If someone has to strive to achieve their dreams through grit and determination, we automatically assume they just don’t have what it takes to be great.

I guess that you could say lately I’ve been feeling defeated. What’s the point of trying to produce something beautiful if people are more interested in the obscene? What’s the point of trying to redefine a world as an artist, when it is more interested in the idea of creating instantaneous celebrities with an expiry date of seven seconds?

I write for myself. I always have. And I write because it’s an incredibly cathartic process that allows me to open my heart and mind to a world that I often feel disconnected from. As paradoxical as it sounds, I isolate myself and sit at my computer lost in my own head, so that I can connect with the macrocosm surrounding me. I believe that literature and words have the power to change the world, and although I write to overcome my own insecurities, a small portion of my soul yearns to be a part of that intellectual movement.

Yesterday one of my favourite lyricists made a bold decision to open up to the world about the man he is verses the façade he has portrayed to the world for over a decade. Buddy Neilsen (the man whose name has appeared on many epigraphs on this site) revealed to the world that his sexuality cannot be clearly defined by the two poles of straight, or gay. He opened his soul and said that he has spent the best part of his life struggling to understand his sexual orientation, and as a result has struggled with depression and alcohol abuse. The revelation left me stunned. I have been a fan of his band Senses Fail for a decade. Ever since their first album Let It Enfold You (a masterful work that draws heavy influence from poetry and literature. Even the title comes from a Bukowski poem) I have felt inspired by the lyrics that Neilsen has growled, screamed and crooned.

To find that a man as talented as Neilsen could be so plagued by demons left me feeling oddly inspired. While I don’t wish to celebrate the years of emotional havoc that Neilsen endured before he found inner peace, I believe that there is something quite beautiful in knowing that someone so successful, albeit in a chaotic and somewhat destructive sense of the word, could be so human. In a world where we often place celebrities on pedestals and almost justify and encourage their destructive behaviour, it is a wonderful thing to see a man come to terms with who he truly is. To stand up and take responsibility for the self-destruction he bought upon himself and finally allow himself a chance to be at peace.

Senses Fail’s latest offering Renacer (see what I did there) takes on an even more eloquent feel now that Neilsen has accepted his own nature and felt comfortable to reveal that to the world. The title, Renacer is a Spanish word meaning to be born again, and as Neilsen growls his way through soulful lyrics denouncing himself for his own shortcomings and yearnings for inner harmony, one can feel the passion for life, for acceptance, and for his art interlaced through the often brutal screams. He really is a man, just like me, plagued by his own demons who writes and sings as a way of creating cohesion between his tortured soul and the universe.

But I digress. The point of all this is that through Buddy’s revelation, through his battles with sexuality, depression, and alcohol abuse, he has inspired me to create art of my own. And yesterday, through his willingness to stand before his legion of fans and denounce his own demons and accept his strengths he has once again inspired me to write. While I will never know the frustration of battling with sexuality, I do know the toll of fighting that most heinous of battles with mental illness and depression. It’s the kind of battle you never truly win, you’ll never wake up and realise that you no longer have an affliction for self-loathing and hate. Instead you take every day for what it is. You accept the beauty of the moments afforded to you, and you learn to push through when your mind feels like a tomb.

Art is an incredible thing. Whether you paint, sing, write, draw, build, destroy, or whatever else. Art is the glue that binds together the fabric of our souls and allows us as a society to collectively push the envelope of what we believe is possible. Through writing, singing and performing Buddy Neilsen managed to develop an understanding of who he really is, and the result of his creative process is some of the most lyrically rich music produced within the hardcore music scene. But the truth behind his new found inner peace was that he never once sought to create music for fame or success. He sought to better understand himself and grow as a human being. His honesty, imperfections and strengths shines through in his works and the fans and the fame are merely a by-product of his dedication and devotion.

So while at times it can feel like blogging is a dying art form in this era of social media and disposable content, I need to take a step back from my violent hatred of talentless consumption and realise that those mediums will never last. There will always be Facebook, Vines, Twitter, and whatever else, but their content will be consumed and disregarded by a legion of users who show indifference to their creator. But writing, and music, and art will last forever. The words that I write today will stand the test of time and be remembered forever by the people that they truly touch. When a writer becomes more concerned with competing for likes, shares, and mass consumption they risk losing sight of what really matters; and that is the catalysts and compulsions behind what they do. I write to fight off the demons of my mind, and to connect with a world that often leaves me broken and confused.

It’s not about likes; it’s not about competing with alternate mediums or artists. It’s about me and my story. It’s about creating something that I am proud of. Something that I believe in. Money, fame, and all that stuff are just potential by-products. I’ll write to the day my heart stops whether I make a million dollars or whether I make none. And when I find myself beat down and sitting in that barren wasteland of broken thoughts and ill-fated projects I’ll remember that no matter how creatively fragile I may feel, my writing is what defines me. As Buddy Neilsen says ‘it doesn’t matter if you fall down. Get the fuck back up.’

Brand

‘You want to win the war? Know what you’re fighting for’
-Corey Taylor.

It turns out that I’ve been approaching this blogging thing all wrong. Driven by emotion and relying on fits of blind rage, narcissism and brief moments of placated happiness to fuel my creativity, I’ve never really stopped to take note of the brand that I was creating. I saw myself as a singularity; an individual comprising of unique thought processes and idiosyncrasies that could never be accurately labelled through a title or brand. I mean, I’m a man goddamn it! I’m no fucking brand….

…But in the eyes of many that’s exactly what I am. See, publishers and agents are always on the hunt for new talent to represent and (hopefully) turn a profit off of their investments in. Regardless of whether I want to be typecast or not, they will forever try to pigeonhole me and my writing based off what I say and do. When my work is bought before them for review, they are not just taking a surface level look at my writing. They are assessing my character and my brand through the tales I chose to tell and the manner in which I do so. They want someone they can market, so they need to be able to define who I am and what I stand for through labelling me.

Case and point: my vulgarity. I swear a lot. And oftentimes when I do so it is to really drive home a point I’m trying to make. But for some, that vulgarity can be offensive and see me labelled as a foul mouthed kid with a lack of respect.

-Trust me. I’ve heard that before. And if we are being totally honest it’s a half truth. I’m arrogant as sin and about as foul mouthed as they come. But I’m all about respect. You’ve just got to earn it.

So then, what kind of brand have I established for myself over the duration of running this blog? Well, one that isn’t great. I’ve painted myself as an emotionally unstable narcissist with a deep routed hate for others. I’ve established myself as a wolf with a penchant for bloodlust and a tongue laced with acid. According to this site I’m an arsehole. And while my own bouts of self-loathing ultimately allow me to grow and develop as a writer, they act as a red flag to anyone considering investing in my work. I mean, if you had outlay time, money, and effort on an up and coming author or artist, would you realistically be willing to take a gamble on someone so ready to destroy everything on a whim? Shit, I wouldn’t.

Which means that it’s time to reinvent myself; time to pull on my surgeon’s mask, clasp a scalpel in my hand and intricately reshape the flesh of this page. So a few weeks ago I did exactly that, I fleshed out the best and the worst that I had to offer and I wrote pieces that took harsher and harsher views on myself until it came to a head in The Flood. I built upon Aristotle’s concepts of dramatic construction and I bought about my own assassination of character. And then I stopped and waited for the gravity of my writing to settle as the Chris Nicholas of old lay broken for the world to see. I fended off constant questioning as to whether I was feeling alright and pushed through awkward conversations about mental health with people who could never understand what I was trying to achieve. I wanted to quite literally prove that what didn’t kill me was only going to make me stronger. I just had to take myself to the edge of my own sanity one last time and know that I was crazy enough to jump, yet strong enough to walk away.

From there I waited for two weeks. Watching the number of people frequenting my site fluctuate in my absence before I finally decided to post something new. I waited because it seemed only fitting that if I was to rebrand and expand my own mind and diversify the nature of my postings that there needed to be a definitive line in the sand that noted where I was and where I am heading next.

So then the question becomes where am I heading next?

Somewhere positive. Somewhere grand. Somewhere exciting and fresh. I’m taking steps to make peace with my past so that I can move forward and enjoy my future. Someone close to me recently asked if I had ever been truly happy in life and the question hit me like a sucker punch from a heavyweight boxer. The truth is that I have known great happiness in most aspects of my existence, but I’ve always placed so much emphasis on my lack of continual successes as a writer that I’ve never been happy in my career. At times that frustration and disappointment has spilled over into other areas of my life and I’ve become bitter, twisted, and self-destructive. My brand as a writer was reflective of this for a long time. I was angry, unnecessarily aggressive, and fighting against anything I could just for the sake of fighting. I was burning myself out just to sustain the anger I thought that I needed to be creative.

I spent a long time failing to realise that the world is far larger than I can comprehend. I spent years believing that there was nothing more important than what I thought and felt, and the struggles I faced on a daily basis. I dedicated space on this site to trivial issues that seemed so grand, but were in reality just hurdles on my journey to success. But now I’m opening my eyes and seeing the world for what it really is. And by doing so, by understanding that this world owes me nothing, I’m more determined than ever to stop fighting for the sake of it and work my arse off to achieve my goals.

Whereas my brand was once disjointed, it is now focused and determined. I’m still arrogant and headstrong. But with dreams as large as mine I need every ounce of that stubbornness to succeed. I’m driven by passion, raw emotion, and the occasional spate of narcissism, but I’m no longer foolish enough to allow myself to become consumed by feelings that I ultimately must remain in control of. I’m the best writer to tell my stories; there is no one more capable and qualified to deliver the messages I have for this world. And I’m still a mother fucking wolf. But unlike the past I now realise that I’m not designed to hurt and maim. I’m not required to fight every damn fight that comes my way and I’m not stupid enough to tear myself apart out of frustration or boredom.

I’m a wolf capable of causing great destruction, but my true strength comes in my new found restraint. I know how to grab an opponent by the throat and tear the life out of them, but I chose to select my battles. I fight to protect those that are close to me or advance my own cause. There’s no honour in fighting every battle and living a life of constant anger. But there is honour in rebranding oneself as something more than the enraged boy I once was.

You can’t truly embrace the future until you can learn from the past and enjoy living in the present. So my rebranding begins now. It starts with clear, concise direction moving forward. Every post on here, every chapter I add to my novels, every damn poem or song I scribble in my notebooks hones my skills and gets me closer than ever before to becoming a published author.

There’s a line in the sand. Mark it. From this point on everything changes.

Catastrophe – The Flood

Beginning. Middle. End.

Calm. Storm. Flood.

We have now arrived at the end. We’ve been through a transition. We’ve watched the unnerving tranquillity of the calm descend into the torment of the storm, and now the levy is set to break and the flood us upon us. We have reached the point of catastrophe – the end.

Every great piece of writing has a brilliant ending. It’s simply a must in this world of literature that we live in. If you are to create something wonderful then you need to bring your story to a point of dramatic closure that leaves the reader both exhilaratingly satisfied and yearning for more. And that is no easy feat. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly difficult in this day and age to craft an ending to a story that feels authentic, original, and brilliant. We live in a society where studios, agents and publishers are more readily willing to accept something that feels tried and true, knowing it will sell than to take a gamble on a piece of writing with the potential to be a masterpiece, solely because it is unique and therefore ultimately dangerous.

But let’s not digress. My issues with the state of modern writing and publishing are well noted throughout this blog. Today we are focusing on the flood.

Everyone always sees the flood as a negative. When someone talks of a flood we imagine violent and raging torrents of water in biblical proportions. We think of an arc and a guy tasked with weathering hell on earth in order to rebuild life anew out of the devastation that is left behind. And while yes, the flood is often catastrophic it is also an opportunity to wash clean the slate of our own fears or failings and start anew.

Sadly though, the flood that I am set to wade through has no positive connotations. I’m a man laden with extreme narcissism at my best and vehement self-loathing at my worst. I hate so much about my life and fight with myself every fucking day just to keep my head above water. The floodwaters are up to my throat and the ice cold tendrils of failure are lapping at my lips. I often quote Alan Moore’s immerse yourself in the least desirable element and swim philosophy, but I’m not swimming. I’m sinking like a god-damn stone.

So let’s get this shit over with. Let’s flay open my chest and expose the twisted workings of my soul. Let’s stop fighting the floodwaters and allow the destruction to take place. Let’s be honest. Let’s be humble. And let’s fuck up every preconception you’ve ever had of me. Let’s witness the flood.

There’s a cacophony of voices tearing through my head. Jesus, I just want them to stop. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to hate. But all this positive shit runs incongruously to the poison in my veins. Why does the god damn wolf in me want to hunt? Why do I need to feed on the flesh of those around me? Why can’t I be placated by the success of others? Why do I feel the need to despise them for their achievements? Surely I can’t forever blame my own shortcomings on the universe at large.

I piss away my time punching in and out of a fucking nine-till-five day job that leaves me feeling like a failure. I’m not a man for what I do. I’m a mouse running on a treadmill for someone else’s amusement; and I go home every fucking day unfulfilled and aware that I’ve contributed nothing to society. People ask me what I do for a career. I don’t have a fucking career. I have a dream of being published and the nightmare of my reality. I’m creatively stifled because I can’t devote myself entirely to anything other than this shit.

I hate that I’m alone, but know deep down that this where my future lies. I’m too much of a mess to ever be loved, or to even let someone get close enough to love me. My future is clear; I was born with nothing and I’ll die alone. But I’ll learn to accept that in time. I’ll learn that sometimes the best thing a damaged soul can do is live a life without another. Why drag someone else into my perpetual downward spirals? It would seem cruel to ever expose anyone to the toxicity of my heart and soul. So I keep quiet and hold people at arm’s length. I wear my masks of the man they believe me to be, and I dance for the amusement of strangers. The worst part? I laugh at their ignorance. No one knows a fucking thing about who I am.

My writing is stuck in limbo. I’m waiting on the validation of strangers. I’m sitting on my hands while someone judges me and decides whether I am worthy of their time. Part of me is thrilled at the opportunity, but the bastard in my wants to grab them by the fucking throat and force them to make a decision. Put a gun to their head and force them to decide. Put it in print or don’t. Just quit with this jumping through hoops bullshit. I’m better than that. Fuck them. Fuck any other author. I’ll destroy the whole lot of them. I’ve crippled people before. I’m not afraid to do it again.

I want to run. Jesus Christ I want to run. Leave behind all of my fuck ups and my flaws and start over again. No debts. No failed relationships. No moronic life decisions. I’d be someone else; somebody humble and righteous. I’d leave all these fucking thoughts behind. My flood would be different. There’d be no waters fuelled by hate rag dolling my battered body. There’d be positivity washing over by skin, carrying me to places unknown. My friends would be there. My real friends. They’d actually know me. I’d be able to let them in. I wouldn’t be so fucked up and scorned by the ghosts of relationships passed.

Run… Jesus fucking Christ I want to run. But the fear of actually being happy or successful has my feet glued to the floor and my fingers reaching for a bottle.

My flood is a mess. I’m surrounded by black water and flotsam capable of breaking bones and minds alike. It will continue to gain strength. Levies will break and my mind will be destroyed. I’ll die alone. Unless I can overhaul who I am and cut the devil from my soul then I’ll never allow anyone in. I’ll live a life as a frustrated author, and I will continue to battle against the raging torrents until I can push my way upstream and achieve my dreams of being published. And will continue to fight through my calms, my storms, and my floods and their sempiternal nature for as long as I shall live. I will fight until I can create an ending worthy of literary royalty.

Catastrophe was the name Aristotle gave to his final act. It seems only fitting then that the life of someone desperate to replicate his successes be bound to experience exactly that. There is no heaven without hell. There is no success without failure. And there is no fortune without catastrophe.

Beginning. Middle. End.

Calm. Storm. Flood.

Spark. Blaze. Inferno.

Protasis. Epitasis. Catastrophe.

Call them whatever you want. Every incredible story has three very distinct components. Our job as authors and storytellers is to make them beautiful and unique. To breathe life to our characters and their journeys in such a way that the reader becomes invested in their transitions through these acts.

Epitasis – The Storm

Have you ever read a novel, watched a movie, or listened to an album that started beautifully, capturing your attention with brilliant writing, only to fall apart in the middle? Sadly it’s a common occurrence in modern day writing. Young and even more experienced authors alike construct a brilliant introduction to their work. Their premise line is jaw dropping; their protagonist set a phenomenal task, and their audience is left wetting their lips in anticipation. But the work trips and falters as the writer tries to blunder their way towards the thrilling conclusion they have been working on for months.

They have a brilliant beginning, and a masterful ending. But they’ve got no middle.

They have an unnerving calm, and a flood of catastrophic proportions. But their storm is weak and unbefitting of the destruction their impending flood will cause. The work seems unbalanced and just doesn’t sit right in the mind of their reader.

Every writer at some point has fucked up a script because their middle (or their storm) was utter shit. Myself included. It’s a common occurrence as a writer to be struck by a wave of inspiration, it hits you like a lightning bolt and sends your mind into overdrive. You can suddenly see your protagonist in all of his or her glory. You envision them standing before you, allowing you to take note of and shape their idiosyncrasies. The beginning of your story emerges, and more often than not you see the ending taking shape too. But you never see the middle. And you never will, because you’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to create it. Just as you would in the real world. You have your beginning: where you are right now. And you have your end: where you want to be. How you get there though is entirely up to you. That’s the magic of storytelling. That’s the purpose of being a writer. And that’s the purpose of this crazy thing we call life.

So why do so many of us make a mess of the middle? I mean, if we are going to continue down this path of exploring Aristotle’s rule of beginning, middle, and end, surely we should devote equal time and consideration to all three components? Why do we as writers often neglect to produce the same level of mastery in our storm as we do in the calm that comes before and the flood that follows?

For some, they deem the middle to be less important. Everyone remembers where they started and where they finished. They try to rush through it because no one ever gives a shit about anything that comes in between. True. In some cases; but not in great writing. Other writers have a relatively solid storm to begin with, but become victim to their own perfectionism. They approach a work with preconceived notions that they must adhere to industry averages in regards to word counts and take a lean, well written story and pad it out, adding filler until their once punchy script becomes lost amongst pomp and circumstance.

The middle is just as important as the beginning and the end. Just like the storm is just as integral to beautiful storytelling as the calm and the flood.

But as I said in my previous entry, I don’t think that Aristotle’s word choice is apt for today’s society. Well, certainly not in regards to the novels I create and consume. The middle and the storm are similar, yet inherently different. Each strikes at different chords of emotion within the reader’s heart and mind, soliciting a different response to the same passage of text. The middle sounds mundane, and maybe that’s where some writers go wrong. They view the middle simply as a centre point between two extremities. They view it as a bridge between the past and the future, devoting little time to fleshing it out correctly.

But the storm… The storm is the violent disturbance of the calm that leads to the torment of the flood. It’s a cacophony of disjointing noise and a flash flood of movement and light. The storm is a force to be reckoned with. It’s not simply a central point, but a devastating passage that demands its own respect. The storm is fast, brutal, and deadly. It is not something to be taken lightly.

So let’s continue on with our previous example from the calm…. Let’s talk about me.

Here’s my middle: Chris travels to New York from his home town in Brisbane Australia to chase down his dream of becoming a published author. He meets many great people and his work is accepted for review by a number of agencies. He arrives home to Brisbane and quits his job, moves into a new home and waits patiently for a phone call to say that his work has been accepted and will be put to print. After three months the call still hasn’t arrived and he grows increasingly anxious. He writes as much as he can to occupy his time and he finds himself partying more often. His heart skips a beat every time his phone goes off, praying that the call has finally arrived. And he does everything in his power to stop himself from thinking about the girl that he wants more than anything…

…my middle sucks. Once again, there’s a story to be told, it’s just not one that is going to immediately grab your attention. By viewing where I am right now as a middle, it immediately becomes mundane and reads as such. But when I start to view where I am as the storm and flesh things out a little more, we get this:

Chris travels to New York from his home town in Brisbane Australia to chase down his dream of becoming a published author. He meets many great people and his work is accepted for review by a number of agencies. He arrives home to Brisbane and quits his job, burning the last remaining tie to a failed relationship that left him broken hearted, and moves into a new home to re-establish a support network for his damaged mind. He waits for the call to say that his work has been accepted, but after three months it still hasn’t arrived. He gets close to achieving his dreams; real close. But success continues to elude him. He writes as much as he can, when he can. But it comes in waves of inspiration and shear creative desolation. He starts drinking often in order to cope with the stresses of his relationship issues and the pressure of waiting for his dreams to come to fruition. And try as he might to let go of the feelings he has for someone way out of his league, he can’t help but make an absolute fuckwit of himself over and over again in a desperate attempt to win the heart of the most beautiful girl in the world.

Better. There are issues there to be fleshed out and explored now. I’m stressed about my future as a writer, and I’m fucked up over a girl that I can’t have. So I drink hard liquor and I write. And I systematically destroy myself for fun. I go through moments of divine inspiration and moments of creative apathy where I could walk away from all of this for good. And I swing between the two at a moment’s notice.

My life is complex and there is enough happening there to build upon in order to create a beautifully disastrous flood. Which is perfect, because that is where we are headed next. The calm has given way to the storm, now the storm is building upon my issues and anxieties. The storm will build and build until we reach its eye and descend into the anarchy and chaos of the flood.

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