Protasis – The Calm

Remember when you were a kid in school learning the fundamentals of creative writing and you were told that every story must contain a beginning, middle and end? Your teacher stood before the classroom and explained that a successful story must comprise of these three components in order to be coherent and complete, and you blindly accepted his rule as fact. Why wouldn’t you? It’s not exactly a ground breaking concept. A story must begin and end somewhere, and within those two points a middle can be found. Well, believe it or not, in that moment you were being exposed to the teachings of the infamous Greek philosopher Aristotle for the first time. Aristotle was responsible for the idea that a whole is what has a beginning and middle and end (technically the protasis, epitasis and catastrophe).

It’s sound advice. And one of the few rules in writing that you can probably still remember from your early years. But rules are made to be broken….

…Or in this case, redefined. If we are going to get technical, the Roman drama critic Horace already fucked up the philosopher’s rule of thumb when he started advocating a limit of five acts centuries ago. But for the purpose of this post we are going to disregard all who oppose the three part dramatic structure and focus instead on pushing the creative ruling of a genius beyond its limits. Beginning, middle and end is a start. But in today’s world it just doesn’t feel adequate. Instead, I have taken it upon myself to rename them as the calm, the storm, and the flood.

Beginning. Middle. End.

The calm. The storm. The flood.

Do you follow so far? Good. Then let’s begin with the calm:

The concepts are so similar; yet so strikingly different. When someone talks of a beginning we think of happiness, of a fresh start, of possibilities. We think of a point marked in time and/or space at which something begins. There’s a great sense of optimism instilled within the phrase. A beginning is more often than not something to be celebrated; and we as readers/watchers/listeners often approach a new work with a sense of excitement and wonder. Yet when we substitute the word beginning with the calm we feel a sense of foreboding creep into our mind.

That feeling of excitement at the new and unknown becomes tainted. The calm is instantly recognised as a moment of reprieve or unnerving tranquillity that seems doomed to falter when difficult times arise. Those same possibilities provided through the beginning are still present; we can still have fresh starts and happiness, their existence is now just magnified by that sense of unease settling over everything like a fine mist.

You can see where I’m going with this can’t you? Something as simple as the phrase we choose to bestow up the opening chapters of our stories, or artworks, or our lives, can shift our perspectives and allow us to create wondrous tales of optimism or crippling tales of woe. Some people would surmise that what I am talking about is to do with mindsets and their influence on the human condition. And in some respects they would be right. Mind over matter, or positive thinking is fantastic. But we as writers and artists also owe it to ourselves to take the road less travelled and indulge our darker impulses in order to produce the excellence we often demand of ourselves.

Let’s use an example that’s all too familiar to the readers of this site. Let’s use myself… I like to break myself apart on a regular basis, so why not do it again here? Let’s view my life right now as the beginning and break down our premise line for a story:

Chris is a twenty six year old aspiring author who dreams of crafting a living through producing excellent novels. He’s single, but in love with a girl that he just can’t have. He is working in an industry that he will never fully commit to, because deep down his heart belongs in a world of fiction. He has family and friends that he loves more than anything else in the world. And while he’s unsure about what the future has in store, Chris knows that if he keeps striving towards his goals he will one day see his name on the hardcover of a novel…

…Yawn.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a story in there, it’s just ambiguous, uninteresting and probably not likely to grab the attention of anyone accustomed to fantastic literature. The beginning in this instance is vague and pretty fucking boring. No one wants to read about this version of me. No one wants to discover his middle. But if we were to shift our perception of my life and view it as the calm, it would look more like this:

Chris is a twenty six year old aspiring author who dreams of crafting a living as a novelist. Frustrated by his inability to break into the industry, he finds himself punching in and out of a day job that fails to quench his thirst for success. He’s alone; his heart belongs to a girl that he just can’t have. She’s too beautiful, too precious. He knows that no matter how badly he wants her, he would be her fall from grace if she were to ever love him. He has friends he would protect with bloody hands, and a family he would sacrifice everything for. The future scares him. He wants success so badly that he is prepared to destroy anyone who stands in his path. His mind is coiled tight like a spring twisted beyond its range. There is a storm brewing in his mind, and he’s too weak to weather it…

…The calm suggests that this state is not sustainable. Our subject is coiled, on edge, and in love with a future and a girl who continue to elude him. He’s unstable and frustrated. But most of all he’s interesting to us. The calm cannot last. We know this, a storm is coming and our subject is going to have to weather the bitter lashings of wind and rain. He’ll be soaked to the bone and forced to pit himself against forces greater than himself. And we want to witness it. We want to see him pushed and broken.

There is a storm coming. It will take what we know to be true about the middle and redefine it. Just as Horace debunked Aristotle’s theory of dramatic structure, so too will the storm warp the epitasis, or middle, we often know to be true. The calm is passing and the storm is almost at hand.

(Almost) Second & Sebring

I’ve always had this strange idea that the day I become a published author I’ll make a few phone calls to notify my loved ones of my success before sitting down with a glass of scotch, a cigar and a stereo pumping out one of my favourite songs of all time: Second and Sebring. It’s a weird little fantasy, and one that doesn’t really have any great significance other than to provide a moment of reflection and mark the moment when I transition into a new period within my life. The song itself is an obvious choice to me. With an opening line stating ‘I believe it’s time for me to be famous’, it just seems like the logical choice for an author with an ego as grand as mine. But when you start to dissect the lyrics a deeper meaning emerges as Austin Carlile and Shayley Bourget pay homage to those who raised them and allowed them to succeed.

So this time I’ll make you proud.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been sitting on some pretty big news and was so close to having my own Second & Sebring moment. But sadly it just wasn’t meant to be. That homage to my family and friends for their refusal to give up on my stubborn arse was put on hiatus.

You may remember that a few months ago I ventured across the globe to chase down my dreams and the result was pretty damn positive. I walked away from the experience with a list of agents and film companies reviewing my work and a renewed passion for what I do. Since then I’ve been sitting on my hands awaiting feedback from those companies, twiddling my thumbs and averaging about five hours sleep a night. Then two weeks ago I got notification that my work was being presented to a board of directors for potential representation and publication. Suddenly that five hours of sleep I was averaging was cut in half and my mind went into overdrive as I started to imagine what it would be like when that phone call came through saying you’ve made it. Success was so damn close that I could taste it.

For two achingly long weeks I sat in the most fucked up version of limbo I have ever experienced. Neither a success nor a failure I moved through everyday life on autopilot, blissfully unware of anything other than my IPhone as it beeped with each call, message, or email. My phone would spring to life and my heart would skip a beat; could this be the call? And when it wasn’t a small piece of me would wither and die. Then after fifteen days of sheer hell I finally got the call every writer dreads:

We like it. It’s strong. It’s engaging. It’s just not us. Best of luck with another company.

Funnily enough I have always found positive feedback harder to take than the negative. When someone delivers the negative I feel inspired to work harder. It’s like waving a red rag to a bull. You tell me what I’ve produced is shit and I will run myself into the ground to create something better than you could ever dream of. But to be told that you are so close to everything you ever wanted is worse than being told to give up altogether. I’ve been in this situation before; a previous manuscript almost found publication, and when it fell through I crumbled. Yet this time I seem to be handling my stumble at the finish line rather well. I’m feeling inspired, confident, and grateful for the experience. It is an incredible feeling to have positive affirmations bestowed upon your work by an industry you crave to break in to.

So my gratefulness got me thinking; why do I have to wait until I’m successful or famous to pay homage to the people who have supported me throughout my journey? Why can’t I say near enough is close enough and throw out a little love to the people I would give my life to protect? Surely I can just say thankyou to my mother and father, my brothers, sister, and sister in law who have listened to my misguided tales of woe or pigheadedness over the years. And give recognition to my friends that have never given up on me when I have fallen in a heap or regressed into to a hermit like state. Surely I can have a Second & Sebring moment right now and say I’m still yet to make you proud of me, but through the positive feedback I received with my knockback I’m now more determined than ever to succeed.

Right now my work is still under review by a number of other companies and I hope and pray every single day that it will find a home with one of them. But even if it doesn’t I’m young, determined and not afraid to be knocked down anymore. If all of this fails I’ll remind myself that what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger and rise once more to take this industry by force. Until then the scotch and cigars remain untouched, but that song of homage and my love for those who inspire me will be screamed at decibels usually reserved for the wails of the damned.

To paraphrase Carlile and Bourget, when I break through I’ll make you proud to see me overcome all day life.

Proud of who you raised.

The Damaged One

“The royalty must die like common beggars and petty thieves.”
– Rody Walker

Part of being a writer involves consuming large quantities of literature so as to forever be broadening your horizons and increasing your knowledge. Most of the time this means you get to actively search for brilliant authors and ingest rich texts. But sometimes you find yourself trawling through blog posts, manuscripts, journal articles, and everything else thinking what the fuck is this shit? You respect the author; they’re one of your favourites. But the work is just sub-par. It’s too familiar; too comfortable. You finish reading and you sit there with this fucked up taste in your mouth and a mind full of disappointment. One of your favourite writers missed the mark because they erred on the side of caution and played it safe, producing a manuscript without any real heart.

We’ve all been through this moment. A script just doesn’t feel right. A movie is just OK. A song leaves you feeling a little let down. The work the author produced before this was brilliant, but this just feels… Blah.

One of the greatest risks to any author or artist is the threat of becoming creatively stagnant. You are in a drought, desperate for a wave of pure inspiration; so you start dredging through failed ideas, or even worse, past successes in a desperate attempt to replicate some minor success. You create a script that is palatable or marketable in the eyes of the literary world and you start flogging it to anyone stupid enough to accept your second rate dribble.

It seems like a good idea at the time. And I know that every successful author bangs on about the idea of consistency, but if the best you can do is rip off your own shit, it’s time to take a break. Walk away for a bit and allow yourself time to recharge and refocus, then come back when you are ready and write your fucking heart out.

Lately I’m becoming a little disillusioned by the shear amount of second rate shit that is flooding the market. It’s incredibly disheartening to be busting your arse to try and carve out a niche within an industry notoriously difficult to enter, only to see those on the inside churning out page turners with a lacklustre plot and an achingly familiar protagonist. I’m aware that I sound like a prick here but I really don’t care. When you find yourself rife with boredom page after page you need to start asking some serious questions of the once great authors who are now plodding through their high concept action thriller like a fucking aging Clydesdale ploughing a field.

But who is at fault here? Is it the author who has found their formula for success? Or is it us as fans who become so conditioned to accepting their work as brilliant based solely on reputation that we fail to call bullshit when they start slipping? The truth is that it’s probably the latter. We’re at fault; every single one of us. Our failure to call out second rate trash has allowed an industry to fall into a rut.

But it’s not too late to turn things around. There are still some phenomenally good writers producing magnificent scripts every single day. But if things are going to change authors across the globe have to learn how to embrace their inner mongrel once more. To paraphrase an old expression, if you want to change the world you can’t do it through peace. You need do it with a knife. If peace is what you desire then you need to fight for it with every inch of your soul and you need to fucking earn it. Brilliant writing is the same. If you want to be the best then you have to fight for it. You have to spend time crafting out scenes that leave the reader shell shocked. And when you become the best; when you have usurped everyone else and stand atop of the best sellers list you have to fight twice as hard to stay there. Your success has drawn a target on your back.

I often refer to the author in me as a wolf. I’m vicious, I’m raw, cunning, and a bit of a prick. Sometimes I own that analogy, and sometimes I feel emotionally crippled by my own desire to savage any other author within my reach. Give me a chance and I’ll sink my fangs into the throat of an opponent and shake until their vertebrae snap and their blood fills my throat. I’m a wolf. And I’m the damaged one. I want to hurt, and I truly believe that’s what this industry needs right now.

We need aggression, we need raw passion, and we need writing that forces us to re-examine exactly what it means to produce brilliant work. Right now the royalty of the industry have a stranglehold over what is considered to be great, but it’s time for the royalty to be challenged and for a new wave of conquerors to rise. I’m not necessarily talking about myself here either; I mean, I’d love to see myself succeed, but I’d also love to read a fucking book that isn’t predicable dog-shit too.

So where to from here? Because I’m speaking out of place aren’t I? Let’s be honest, it’s so easy to stand on a soapbox and talk shit when you have nothing to lose. And maybe if I was standing in the shoes of a successful author I’d be singing a different tune. Sadly, I’m not. So I’ll keep screaming my lungs out until I’m heard or someone dares to silence me.

From here there are two paths for me to follow. I can keep going down this path. I push myself through passion and determination in an effort to become a force to be reckoned with within the literary industry. I’m young and I’m a cocky son of a bitch, so it could happen. Time is on my side. Or I can step down off of my soapbox, pick up a trashy page turner and concede to a life of struggling to see my work in print while a bunch of fucking has-been’s and copycats produce a bunch of shit….

….But I’m a wolf. And I’m the damaged one. I don’t want to settle. I want to fight. The royalty must die. New heroes must rise. And then in time they too need to fall. This industry will crumble unless each new wave of talent moving through it pushes the envelope of great literature just that little bit further. Show me an author with raw talent and a hunger to succeed and I will show you fifty best sellers he or she can out produce. It’s not disrespect that has been saying this it’s love and admiration of an industry. The royalty must die.

The Depths: Are you OK?

‘I’ve got friends by my side. I’ve got hope in my eyes. And dreams to aspire to. And the whole wide world to watch below.’
-Joel Birch

This Thursday the 11th of September is a very special day. I know that there are the obvious reasons as to why September 11th is forever marked as a day of remembrance, celebration of life and triumph over adversity. I can still remember standing in front of the television dressed in my school uniform watching as the modern world was forever altered. But it’s an event much smaller, yet no less important that marks September 11th as a day I believe should all mark in our calendars.

This Thursday, the 11th of September is the fifth annual R U OK day. A day where we are asked to create open dialogue with our friends and family, and ask the question we often neglect to ask in our overly erratic and face paced lives: Are you OK?

Founded in 2009 by Gavin Larkin, R U OK? Strives to inspire us to create meaningful dialogue to assist those of us struggling with mental illness.

As someone who has stumbled more times than he cares to count, the day is something that I whole-heartedly endorse. And I implore every single one of you to take a moment and sit down with a family member or friend and create a moment of intimacy and support that may just save a life. Sometimes a kind word or a moment of compassion means more to someone than you could ever possibly imagine.

Oftentimes on this blog I make light of the fact that I’ve pushed myself beyond breaking point with my own mental wellbeing. I reference my sometimes deliberate downward spirals into despair as a means of creating art and establishing a unique voice as I strive to be a singularity. But the truth is that some of my lesser moments have been no laughing matter. I’ve been sick. I’ve been low. And I’ve been totally alone, picking at my own mental scabs so as to leave my bones exposed. And while I do play on my own fractured mind with tongue in cheek, I cannot stress enough just how much I relied on the support of the people I love, yet tend to push away to save me from myself in my desperate times.

Even now I appear to be calm, happy, and at peace with myself. But the truth is there is a fire burning inside of me that will always threaten to consume my soul and leave me empty and alone once more. Am I OK? Perhaps on the surface I am. But the truth is this: I torture myself through my writing. I currently have two manuscripts under construction, a blog that I bombard with wildly erratic tales of elation and tragedy, and a completed novel under consideration for professional representation. I create acquaintances not friends; because I struggle to let people in for fear that they will see the monster in me. I’m in love with someone who sees me as an absolute cluster-fuck of raw emotion and insecurity. And sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder what it would be like if I never started this writing shit. I question whether I’d be happier, whether I’d be more willing to accept my own limitations, or more willing to let other people in.

The point is that our greatest failing as a species is that we only have the ability to see what is on the surface. When we look at our friends and family and see them smile, we naturally assume that everything is OK; that they are happy. But sometimes there is a fragility hidden beneath their smiles, a vulnerability concealed in their laughter, which can only be discovered if we take the time to truly connect with them. Have you ever heard the story of Pagliacci? It’s a simple story within one of my favourite novels of all time: Watchmen. It goes like this…

I heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Life seems harsh, and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world. Doctor says: “Treatment is simple. The great clown – Pagliacci – is in town. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. “But doctor…” he says “I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

Sad isn’t it? Yet so true. We misconstrue happiness and we fail to see just how powerful our thoughts, our feelings, and our words can truly be. But all is not lost, and although we so often become consumed with our own lives we can still stop and make time for each other. Unity is intrinsic and compassion, honesty, and candour are the only cure to mental illness. Take me for example: I’ve got pride by the fucking bucketful and before this blog I would never have even considered sharing my lower moments with anyone. I thought that my depression was a weakness and something to be ashamed of. And while it is a weakness, that weakness is in the chemistry of the chemical make up in my brain. Not in my character. My illness and my lower points are not something to be ashamed of at all. In fact, being able to speak about mental illness is about the bravest thing anyone can do. Having the guts to say ‘you know what? Fuck it. I’m not OK’ is something that should be celebrated not condemned.

So, this Thursday the 11th of September I beg of you to ask the question of those around you: Are you OK? Listen, empathise, and grow together. To paraphrase the epigraph above; help those who are low to realise that they have friends by their side; that they can have hope in their eyes. And that they can have dreams to aspire to; and a whole wide world to watch below. Your kindness just may pull someone back from the depths of their own self destruction. Take it from someone who has been there.

Only one of us walks away

“Everyone is dead and we dance like a knife fight.”
-Matt Breen.

So there’s this guy. He’s young, cocky, intelligent, and brash. He’s spent a lifetime learning how to play with people. He knows how to read them and control them. He hates the person that he is sometimes. He hates that he can figure out everyone but himself. It infuriates him that he can break open the mind of a stranger when he can barely scratch at the surface of his own subconscious. He’s self-destructive; he can’t seem to help himself sometimes. He’s a man with an overactive imagination and a tongue laced with acid who just wants to watch his own world burn. He’s an unstoppable force.

Then there’s this girl. She’s beautiful. She’s intelligent, funny, artistic, compassionate, driven, and did I mention that she’s beautiful? She comes into the life of the man mentioned above and shatters his preconceptions that he can survive as an island. She breaks through the intricate web of lies he creates to shield himself from the world and sees his soul laid bare. There’s just something about her; this magnetism that draws him in. No matter how hard he tries to fight it he can’t help but feel himself being drawn towards her. She’s perfect in his eyes. Her idiosyncrasies leave him speechless, and her smile sends him weak at the knees. But there are just two little problems. The first? The first is that she’s an immovable object. All the bullshit he spins to others just doesn’t work with her. She’s looked into his eyes and seen his soul and she knows him better than he knows himself.

The second problem? She’s just as self-destructive as he is.

Welcome to the world of romance according to Chris Nicholas. Instead of boy meets girl and falls in love and lives happier ever after, I’ve found myself writing about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. What happens when a man who keeps everyone at a distance meets a girl who does the same damn thing and he suddenly finds himself trying to overcome the same mental barriers he uses to thwart the advances of others is a concept that intrigues the hell out of me. And it’s one that leaves me scratching my head as I pen my way through page after page of my script.

So let’s delve a litter deeper… I’m thinking out loud right now, and there’s no real point to this post other than some general mind mapping. If you’re after something a little more clear and concise, this will be your last chance to opt out.

No? You’re still with me? Alright, let’s continue.

This guy, his name is Miles, meets this girl: Ava. She’s everything he could ever want, and he knows that if she gave him a chance he could be the same to her. But she’s distant and aloof. There’s chemistry between them, anyone can see that. And when they are together there is electricity in the air that is almost tangible. They just click. But she keeps him at bay, just like he has done to so many people before. It drives him wild, he pushes and he pushes, and soon the unstoppable force collides with the immovable object at full speed. But while he hopes and prays that the collision will bring about a climatic shift where two worlds become one, it shatters him instead. The unstoppable force loses out and the immovable object barely registers the impact; she’s too busy destroying herself to even realise what might have been.

And so the knife fighting begins. It’s not vicious though, and that’s the worst part. The duo dances their way through a courting process that is beautifully destructive; their moments of intimacy and honesty leaving behind small cuts on their souls. He wants her soul, her mind, and her heart. She wants to shut him out for fear of getting hurt. The idea of letting someone understand her leaves Ava with a sense of dread so severe she wants to run away from everything. Just as Miles wants to burn his world when things go wrong, she wants to abandon hers.

So they dance and they dance. He knows her better than she knows herself. He can see when she’s denying herself the opportunity to be happy. But she also understands his lust for self-destruction better than he could ever hope to comprehend. She’s destroyed herself more than anyone could ever know and can see what he is thinking before he’s even aware of it himself. They are two identical souls fighting against one another for that common ground. He wants to pull her close. She sees the threat and wants to push him away.

Sounds confusing right? And just a little macabre too I guess. But I love the concept. I love the struggle, and I love the idea of two people who are so similar yet so different at the same time. My characters are based off of Aristotle’s idea of friendship. The philosopher said that a friend is a single soul dwelling within two bodies, and that’s exactly what I want to create with my love story. I want to create something beautiful, but something destructive. One wants to love, one is afraid to be loved. And in the end, when all the knife fighting is over, only one of them will walk away.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

“You all have something to say about me. How can you stop and listen, when all you do is talk?”
-Austin Carlile

I’ve been told recently that my posts are becoming more optimistic and that my readers are actually enjoying the change from my usual anti-everything rants. And if I’m being honest, they have become increasingly positive. I’m in a great place with my writing and it’s an incredible feeling to be able to look back over the achievements I’ve made since my journey as an author began. And even to cast a careful eye over the lower moments and pay homage to their contribution towards what I have accomplished. Right now my work is under review by a number of agents in the US and I’m looking forward to the possibility of things to come. But there’s still a hell of a lot of fight within this troubled author, even when I’m not actively fuelling the fire in my heart. See, right now I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I appear to be placid and placated by my own minor successes, but it’s only so long before I reveal my true nature and tear your fucking throat out.

Oh, shit. Was there a little slice of animalistic rage in that last comment? You better believe it. There’s no denying that I’m a positive headspace as of late, and while it’s wreaking havoc on a mind with a predisposition for tearing itself apart, I’m actually really enjoying myself. I’ve written some fantastic pieces (I’m a little bias here), had some incredible experiences, and been fortunate enough to surround myself with some truly beautiful people. But I’m still a writer driven almost entirely by visions of grandeur and an undying flame of hate. I want to be great. Better than that. I want to be the best. And to be the best you not only have to beat the best, you’ve got to savage them with a viciousness so severe they cower in your presence.

I’ve come to realise that I see myself as a wolf in the world of literature and I’m ok with that. Wolves are strong, vicious creatures and that’s how I’ve always viewed my writing: vicious, raw, and without remorse. If you track back through this page this is actually the third time I’ve used the wolf analogy to describe myself. From the early days of Holding a wolf by its ears to the more recent The wolf you feed, there’s an undeniable theme within my workings and my mind. I’m a wolf and it’s in my nature to both protect and maim. I just chose to do the latter through my literature rather than with my fists or my fangs. Oftentimes I can keep this side of myself at bay, feeding only on the flesh of writers who stand between me and my goals, but lately I discovered there’s something else that unleashes the bastard in me.

It all started like this:

“Chris, I’ve been reading your blog lately. It’s good to see that it’s becoming more positive. But I think that maybe you have had issues with depression in the past.”

No shit. I actually wrote that. So you’re not telling me anything that I don’t already know. I’ve walked through the hells of my own mind and emerged with melted shoes, an axe to grind and an acid tongue. I’m the first to admit that I’ve hit rock bottom in the past. Go back and read the first post I ever wrote on here and you’ll see just how low I sunk. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t writing. I was barely functioning as a human being. But just because I’m prepared to admit this through my own writings it doesn’t mean that I want to discuss it in intimate detail with every fucking person I meet.

Writing is an immensely personal experience, and there are a few select people who I feel comfortable enough to really open up to about how I create. As far as everyone else is concerned, I don’t dwell on what I have written, and I don’t read back over past entries and think wow, I was seriously fucked up there, or gee that must have been a great day! I write. I submit. And I move on, feeling grateful that I was able to share a moment in time with my reader. I don’t need some arm chair psychologist without a degree or a fucking clue telling me how I’m feeling or the primary meanings behind my work; because more often than not, that person is dead wrong.

Lately I’ve submitted a few entries to this site that contain a blog within a blog. Hidden messages and meanings designed to be received and understood by a singular individual, or select audience. It’s something that I really enjoy doing. The duel concept posts are some of my favourite to construct, and while there is more to A bullet with butterfly wings and a few other entries than most people realise, many have still felt as though they can comment on what I have produced. And when they have, the wolf in me has bared its fangs and torn them apart, leaving this author to metaphorically bathe in the blood of their shattered egos like a linguistic Alistair Crowley.

I’m still riding this wave of positivity. I’m still punching out thousands of words on two separate manuscripts and blogging on an increasingly regular basis and enjoying myself as a writer more and more every day. I’ve found myself once more through my craft and I have the world in front of me. I understand for some people the idea of the two duelling wolves of compassion and hate within me are talking points they wish to discuss. But I have a story to tell and if you are constantly trying to tell it for me or judge me based on misguided preconceptions and ideals, you’ll never understand the complexities of me or my works. After all, how can you stop and listen, when all you do is talk?

We can be heroes

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I’ve always wanted to be a super hero. Ever since I was a young I’ve had an obsession with the idea of men and women donning masks, cowls and spandex to stand up against injustice and fight for the weak and oppressed. I used to lay awake at night and stare at my roof wondering what would happen if a radioactive spider were to bite me, or if meteor containing an alien compound was to crash through my roof. I’d stare at the white washed ceiling and create these whimsical tales in my head of what I would do. I’d be a good guy. I’d fight for those who couldn’t fight themselves. I’d solve crimes. I’d get the girl. I’d be a hero…

…Jesus, who am I kidding? I still lay awake and night and wonder what it would be like to be super. I still stare up at the ceiling and imagine just how different my life would be if I were somebody else. Somebody brave.

It’s no secret that I live inside of my own head, and the whole I want to be a hero mentality seems like a logical thought process for a man who considers himself to be different. But for as long as I can remember my idea of being super has extended only as far as spandex and fist fights, and I’ve beaten myself up time and time again for not having the courage to pull on a pair of tights and kick some arse on the streets. Yet for all of my self-loathing over my lack of courage the truth is this: I’d look terrible in a figure hugging suit, and I’ve never been in a fist fight. Chances are if I ever did find the courage to become a hero in this very archaic sense, I’d be beaten to a pulp or killed.

But lately I’m starting to realise that there is so much more to being a hero than the idea of creating a bad-arse pseudonym and fighting crime. Lately I’m realising that we all can be heroes. Every last one of us has the potential to be something extraordinary within them. Take me for example (what a shock that I chose myself!); I’m an extremely flawed character. Or at least I was a few years ago. I like to think that I’ve grown a lot since then. Nevertheless, as I sit here and flesh out this thought process, there is the potential for me to be a hero lying just beneath the surface of who I am….

Bear with me here, because I know that sounded arrogant…

When I started this blog I did so with two goals in mind: The first was to have an outlet through which I could metaphorically slice open my chest and remove the darker impulses of my heart. The second was to create a platform through which I could blog about my journey as a writer. It seems incredible now when I think back about why this all began and realise that while I did manage to cut the depression that plagued me from my soul, I actually spent very little time creating entries specifically about writing. Instead over the past few years I have bungled my way through posts about singularities, Mona Lisa’s, linguistic lenses, and creating your own roadshows.

So why? Why did I deviate from my original concept? And why does this make me a hero? Well, I deviated because it felt right. I’m not an international best seller (yet) and there’s enough amateur authors out there creating how to blogs about topics they have barely grasped themselves that the thought of being just another writer’s blog didn’t resonate with me. My original concept, while noble, just never felt quite right. What felt right for me was to be honest. To open my soul and allow the world to view me for what I really am; a confused, misguided author struggling to make his mark in a world that he often feels doesn’t understand him.

I’m a notoriously reserved man. It takes a lot for me to open up and allow someone to see the real me. Which is probably why I’m currently penning a love story titled vulnerable; the idea of baring my naked soul scares me. I create facades and masks to keep people at a distance while learning everything I can about them. It takes an extraordinary soul to break through my walls, some of my closest friends know little about me and I can think of only one or two people who have ever affected me enough that I have wanted to open up; which is why I’ve always found this blog so cathartic. I’ve managed to carve out a small niche of readers who are willing to accept my failings and allow me the opportunity to express myself while still maintaining some semblance of distance from them.

But perhaps through my gradual immersion into the idea of exposing myself I have become a hero of a different kind. I’m still not pulling on spandex and I’m still not fighting crime, but there is the possibility that through everything I have created here I have unwittingly become a hero to someone else. Perhaps the reason that I decided to create posts about myself and my struggles to find my place within the universe were so that someone, somewhere, could read them and feel inspired to continue on their own journey towards understanding. Or perhaps not. Maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself here. Regardless of whether I am inspiring anyone or not, I have come to realise that there’s more to being a hero I originally thought.

As I said before, we can all be heroes. We can all fight battles for the down trodden and the weak, that are not just physical in nature. They could be mental, emotional, financial, legal, etc. A hero is typically defined as someone who in the face of danger and adversity displays courage and the willingness for self-sacrifice. By that definition a hero could be a father who busts his arse to put food on his family’s table. It could be a soldier standing between the people he aims to protect and the dangers opposing them. It could be a lover offering unconditional support in their partner’s times of need. Or it could be a writer bearing his heart and soul so that others can learn from his shortcomings and mistakes. The possibilities of being a hero are endless.

So why this post? Why heroes? And why should you care? Well, because lately I’ve realised that I spent so much of my youth walking around with head jammed up my arse and a grudge on my shoulders. I failed to realise just how much I had to be grateful for, and how little others had in comparison. A few days ago I started researching charities that I could become involved with so that I could start to show the universe my gratitude for everything that I have been blessed with: family, writing, health, friends, a country where freedom of speech is a right, not a dream. And while I still haven’t selected how I plan on giving back just yet, I’m loving the idea of doing something selfless; of being a hero to someone less fortunate than myself. Just like I have always dreamed of.

So for the first time ever, I’m going to do something a little different at the end of this post. And I’m going to ask you, my wonderful WordPress followers to do something for me. Take this post and do something with it. Invite your friends to read it if you like, or better yet, become a hero in your own right. Do something selfless for someone less fortunate than yourself and take a moment to realise that nothing positive can ever be achieved with a negative mindset. You don’t need a radioactive spider to bite you, or Joe Cool to gun down your family in order to be super, you just have to embrace who you are and allow yourself to become someone else’s hero. We can be heroes. Every last one of us.

God and the Devil

A few years ago one of my favourite bands released an album entitled God and the Devil are raging inside me and right from the moment I first laid eyes on the cover jacket I fell in love. The very idea portrayed in the title was so beautifully macabre that I couldn’t help but be moved by the complexities of human emotion those eight short words could convey. While you’re probably thinking I’m about to slip into another diatribe about my own inner thought processes and compulsions, I’m going to have to say that you’re wrong. We’re not here to rehash just how misguided my head often is, but rather we are going to touch on sometime I started a long, long time ago.

For those of you that have been with me for a while you may remember that in the early days of this blog I regurgitated a quote by comic book writer Alan Moore (I do tend to use quotes a bit in my works). The quote was taken from a short thesis Moore constructed about writing, in which he posited that if a writer wants to continuously improve at their craft they must learn to immerse themselves in the least desirable element and swim. At the time of writing I proposed that if I wanted to continue to grow as a writer I had to venture into a realm that left me with a sense of dread: I wanted to write a love story.

Ever since that post I’ve had a few different attempts at creating a love story, but every time I’ve tried to produce something of quality I’ve found myself with a protagonist who is a real piece of shit. Arrogance, narcissism, and ego seemed to be a common trait in my male leads and the stories would usually crumble pretty damn quickly, and rightly so. Who could fall in love with someone so abrasive? Nevertheless the idea of producing my love story has always been at the forefront of my creative endeavours, becoming the God in my own mental raging when compared to the Devil of my thriller writing.

Lately I’ve been sitting on my hands waiting to see what becomes of my high concept thriller novel Midas, and have been floundering between devoting time to its sequel and this blog. It’s a weird feeling to be creating a sequel to a novel that may fail to become anything more than a document on my laptop, so every time I try to produce a decent follow up I find myself giving up after an hour or two of second guessing and endless self-critique having accomplished very little.

Last night I was determined to write something, so I took to crafting another attempt at my love story rather than screwing around on my sequel once again. I opened up a blank document and started with the word vulnerable as a title. I don’t really know what made me chose the title. Nor do I really know why I chose to start my story in the arm chair of a phycologists office, but over the next few hours I punched out thousands of well thought out words that would become the introduction of my story.

Usually when I write I spend a an hour or two labouring over a thousand words or so before I give up and collapse in an exhausted heap or decide to go shoot hoops. Yet last night I just found myself pouring my soul into the first few scenes of something that actually sounded fucking good. By the time I came up for air I’d plowed through almost five thousand words and blown away any previous records I’d held for productivity. Those words were the most harrowingly honest writing I have ever produced as I created a protagonist whose catalysts and compulsions are similar to my own…

…Stop. Chris just stop. You should never create characters based on yourself. It’s toxic. It’s arrogant, it’s-

-Shut the fuck up. While that’s true, and you should never attempt to create characters in the image of how you perceive yourself this was actually cathartic. I took a long hard look at myself, my failings, and idiosyncrasies and I poured them into a script until I felt something inside me release; as if by unburdening my heart of its own negative inclinations of itself, I had untied the knot in my chest and allowed it relief. Somehow playing phycologist with myself and pressing my mind to answer the questions I’ve spent years trying to avoid allowed me to create something that I felt truly proud of.

While this latest version of my love story is still in its infancy, and still a long way from being well thought out or even remotely ready to present to anyone, there is something quite humbling in the lines I have produced. With a title like vulnerable I decided that I had to be exactly that if I was going to attempt to immerse myself once more in that least desirable element. If I’m going to swim then I need to do it untethered.

So just as God and the Devil are raging inside of all of us, so too are they now raging inside my creative mind once again. I have the God of romance trying to bid for my attention and the Devil of ruin and woe pulling me back to my true passion of thriller writing. Only time will tell if I can sustain the opening pace of my new script, but even if I can’t, just being able to unburden my soul in those opening few thousand words last night was an experience I won’t soon forget. Through my own honesty and self-reflection I now know a different side to myself and have a character that for once doesn’t sound like a fucking dick.

Frantic Inspiration

“I’ve never wanted anybody more than I wanted you. The only thing I ever really loved, was hurting you.”
-Corey Taylor

Inspiration often strikes at the most inopportune moments. As a writer or artist you can spend weeks floating through life on autopilot trying to piece together where you take a story next, or even what story you wish to tackle next. Then, you’ll find yourself sitting in your work space with an eight hour day stretched out before you when suddenly everything just falls into place and all you want to do is start putting pen to paper and catching the fire burning inside of you.

Today was one of those days. And it all started with the opening lines of this post by vocalist Corey Taylor. The lyrics are ripped from a song released in 2004 by Slipknot titled The Nameless (yep. It’s a music post today), and for the past ten years I’ve found myself continuously returning to this track with a sense of wonder and the thought that there was something I was missing in its construction. On the surface level the song is grotesque. It swings wildly between the adoration and loathing of a lover. Lines of obsession and abhorrence collide in a frenzied cacophony of sound that builds to multiple crescendos before giving way to Taylor lovingly singing the lines above before the frenzy erupts all over again.

It’s frantic, it’s unpredictable, and with the exception of those two lines it’s so conventionally Slipknot that their very inclusion has played at my mind for a decade. Then today as I sat at my desk humming them to myself on repeat and debating where to head next in my creative endeavours they suddenly made sense. There is no lover. Taylor’s not singing about anyone other than himself, or at least in my interpretation he’s not. To me, the song is about a relationship between Taylor and the creative genius in him. It’s almost as though he’s referencing the earliest inclinations of the genius concept, in which one was believed not to be a genius, but to have a genius: a divine entity external to their own being that helped them in their creative practices. Seriously, look it up. A genius in its purest form isn’t a human being, it’s an entity separate to us; a concept that allowed early artists and writers to maintain their own humility when admiration was bestowed upon their work.

But I digress…. Here I was sitting at work with a storm surging through my head as a decade of thought patterns collided and made perfect sense. Taylor’s singing to his genius. He’s crafted an entire song around the loving and loathing that takes place within his mind’s eye as he creates. Here is a man torn between the idea that he wants to create. He wants it more than anything in the world. But he also wants to hurt and destroy the genius inside his head that often leaves him so isolated and distressed. It’s a tragic love story told by a man totally aware of his own shortcomings and one that resonates all too well with me.

I often find myself in a similar headspace. I want to create. I want to write. And I want it more than anything in the world. I’d give anything to carve out a place in the literary world and spend my days crafting literature. Yet at times all I want to do is tear apart everything that I have created and hurt the writer in me. Sadly I’m not yet at that point in my career where writing is my livelihood. I’d love it to be, but I’ve got a long road ahead of me yet. Until that time I’ll continuously work at my craft and I’ll ride out those moments of destructive indifference to my own genius. But thanks to the most unlikely of sources, I’m now more aware of my own inner torments. And I’m thankful that I’m not alone.

Brevity and Vulgarity

“To take away our expression is to impoverish our existence.”
-Roughton Reynolds.

You may have noticed that I swear a lot in my writing. I’m not afraid to throw out a few fucks or whatever else in order to drive home my ideas and strengthen my arguments. So it probably comes as no shock to anyone that I’ve been called vulgar from time to time. It seems as though there are individuals out there who don’t necessarily resonate with my abrasive style and slightly warped world view. As a writer still very much in the infancy of my career this disconnect that some readers appear to have with my work should be concerning. It should be something that I seek to rectify in an effort to really ramp up my palatability and readership until I can confidently say that I am accomplished at my craft. It should be…. But instead I just think fuck them. If you don’t resonate with my style then go find an author who’s sensitive bullshit speaks to you.

See, my love for vulgarity all comes back to the concept of brevity. For those of you who haven’t heard the term before, brevity is essentially a noun meaning: concise and exact use of words in writing or speech. Which doesn’t really mean much on the surface does it? How can my love of the taboo be explained by concise and exact use of words? Well, to break it down in another way: I am a firm believer of the expression just fucking write what happens. In this industry readers have come to expect a certain amount of fluff in their literature. If something is considered easier to digest by the masses than it will generally find a home on bookshelves around the planet. But that’s boring. And in my opinion if we are constantly trying to create work that panders to this notion of fluff we are forever damned to consume second rate shit.

Writing is about expression. It’s about passion, love, loathing, fear, and whatever the hell else. It should never be censored and it should never contain more than the bare minimum of fluff. In my mind brevity sometimes comes from embracing what we want to say, what we want to express, and stripping it back to the bare bones so that all of its failures and faults are exposed for the reader to acknowledge and accept as their own. When I write fiction if I want someone to be punched in the fucking face I’ll write exactly that: so and so got punched in the fucking face. Clear, concise, and brutal as all hell. And you know what? I bet right now after reading that you can picture someone getting smacked in the nose.

Likewise when blogging, if I think someone is a fucking cunt I’m going to write exactly that. If I think that a concept is flawed I’ll call it. And if I feel as though my own mind is breaking apart underneath the internal pressures I place upon myself I’ll call it as I see it. And for the record, if I create a piece about tearing down a glass house and it doesn’t speak to you that’s just too damn bad. Not everything I read speaks to me either.

The point is, just because a piece of writing is vulgar it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is without merit. In fact, more often than not it hints at a deeper emotional connection between writing and writer than a piece of over-fluffed bullshit could ever hope to mimic. So, yes; I’m often offensive and abrasive in my writing. But I’m also brutally honest with myself and with my reader and that is the most beautiful thing that a writer can ever be: honest. Because through honesty brevity can be born. And through that brevity, that concise and exact writing or speech, a reader can become one with the author and they can undertake the journey of learning, pleasure, pain, triumph and tragedy together. Life is seldom perfect, so why should literature be? Cut the fluff, inject the passion. And write from the fucking heart.

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