Literary Criminals

“This city deserves a better class of criminal. And I’m going to give it to them.”

-The Joker

The word criminal carries some negative connotations doesn’t it? We associate the word with crooks, delinquents and thieves living in the shadows as they commit devious acts. And why shouldn’t we? The word criminal is a label bestowed upon someone who commits an action or activity considered to be evil, shameful, or wrong. From an early age we are taught that crime is vile, and therefore a criminal must be equally as abhorrent to our society.

But we live in unprecedented times where the very definition of the word has become tainted. Politicians mislead and misinform, men of faith commit shameful acts, and laws are broken in the name of freedom while outlaws fight for their civil rights. The lines of right and wrong are so convoluted that it’s becoming increasingly impossible to distinguish a felon from a hero, and good intentions from underhanded persuasion.

So let’s loosen the reigns on the whole criminal angle just a touch so that we can flesh this out a little more. Let’s steer away from crime and talk about social disorder, antisocial behavior, art and literature.

Not unlike crime, social disorder is typically defined as an action or activity that is incongruous to the best interests or equilibrium of the larger community. Whereas crime is repugnant, social disorder merely upsets. We are repulsed at crimes; yet tolerate minor misdemeanors like graffiti, despite the fact that delinquents and criminals commit both acts and they have equally negative impacts upon society.

Are you keeping up so far? Good. Let’s get to the art and literature and start blurring the lines between right and wrong. Are you ready to taste the bitter tang of social disorder?

I’ve spent my whole life feeling like a fucking criminal trapped inside a cell. I was born into an age of intellectual neglect where cheap gimmicks and slick marketing have trumped my work ethic and talent leaving me subdued and alone. Society has allowed the creative arts to die and ridiculed me for trying to save it. I’ve been labeled an outcast and immoral by the very people that I have aimed to inspire.

My crime? I care. I care so goddamn much that it hurts my heart to see brilliant and audacious artists beaten down and cast aside in favour of bullshit. I spend every single day searching for beautiful pieces of literature, art and music that will never be seen by more than a few while millions devour mass produced shit spoon fed to them by snake oil peddlers and slick salesmen.

You want to know what my crime was? I made a deal with the devil and begged to be different. I wrapped my hands around the equilibrium threaded through our society and tried to break it apart.

But it was an act of passion; an act of love that was misconstrued and seen as evil. All I ever wanted was to create a little social disorder and save the industry I love. Is that really as monstrous as I’ve been led to believe?

Creativity is dying. Shot through the heart by advertising campaigns and pseudo-celebrities who thought that fame was more important than the vision that lead them to celebrity in the first place. Now here I am on my knees with using my hands to plug the bloody holes left by their bullets. I’m covered in claret, but I refuse to let what I love become carrion discarded by a world who no longer values intellectual diversity and beauty…

…Alright, maybe it’s not quite that bad. There’s plenty of blood on my hands but the industry will struggle on, wounded by society’s insatiable lust for instantaneous entertainment. The newfound equilibrium in the creative arts places less and less emphasis on literature, meaning that book sales are on a downward spiral. Even though more authors are being published then ever before, just over one percent of them are finding their ways into bookstores, profits are razor thin, and younger generations are turning their backs on the written word.

It’s an extremely worrying trend, but the saddest thing about the industry’s current predicament is that rather than having publishers and agents look towards new and exciting authors to recapture the audiences they’ve lost and the minds of younger generations, they’re trying to replicate successes of days gone past. Imitate rather than innovate. But it’s not working. Not like it used to.

I’ve been really struggling to find my rhythm with blogging lately. While there are a few personal issues involved in my creative slump, it is largely due to growing frustrations at the manner in which society views and values entertainment. I tell myself every single day that I’m the best writer of my time and that I’m only getting better. But sometimes I feel a twinge of self doubt when I see literature devalued in comparison to emerging (and senseless) mediums. The creative equilibrium of the modern world is skewed and it’s time to set it right; even if it takes a little literary crime and social disorder to do so.

This world needs a new breed of author who isn’t afraid to engage in social misconduct, create a little havoc and breathe new life into the aching lungs of the industry choking for air. Fans of prose and fiction deserve a better class of author. And I’m going to give it to them.

I could give you some bullshit speech here about how I’ll push myself to new creative limits and try to further the industry, but you and I both know that it won’t work. We’ve been there before. I’ve spent years trying valiantly to be the man who redefines the written word and all it got me was a prison sentence when I was caught plugging up the holes of a bleeding industry with my fists. What I will say is this: it’s time for emerging writers to find rise and start smashing in the windows of ignorance, marching against the fall of literature and setting the world ablaze.

Traditionalists will call us criminals. They’ll distance themselves and say that we don’t represent the craft they love. We will be viewed as literary outlaws and delinquents who stand for something foreign. But that’s OK. The greatest accomplishment a writer can ever realize is to stir emotion within their readership, even if that emotion is discontent.

This social disorder can extend beyond the boundaries of my industry too. We can start a revolution, one man or woman at a time. I’m calling out to the wolves, world eaters and literary criminals across the globe and asking them to stand proudly beside their prose and fiction. I’m asking artists, musicians, athletes, and fucking everyone else who has ever had a passion and a dream to rise up and stake their claim.

This world deserves a better class of writer, painter, singer, musician, lawyer, doctor, mother, father, and everything else. And we’re going to give it to them. You and I. All it takes to change the world is a little social disorder.

The Lion’s Gaze

There is an ancient fable from Terma in which Padmasambhava, a literary character, appears before a Terton and teaches him how to better focus his emotions. Padmasambhava says that when a stick is thrown to a dog, the dog will chase the stick. Yet when you throw a stick to a lion, the lion chases you. A dog’s gaze will always follow the object: the stick. The lion gazes steadily at the source: the thrower.

Yep, that’s right. After a brief absence from this site I’ve returned to drop some obscure philosophy served with a side of self-indulgence on you that’s sure to leave you scratching your head wondering why the hell you’re even reading it.

But hear me out. Open your mind and be prepared to look beyond the stick and instead focus on what is really important: the thrower, and why they tossed it in the first place.

The stick is a distraction; a frivolous entity designed to draw your attention away from your heart’s true desire. Yet so many of us chase the damn thing every fucking time that it’s thrown, diligently returning it to its owner, only for them to hurl it in a different direction. So many of us are as loyal as a hound, and that loyalty ultimately becomes our undoing. We play according to the rules of men and women distracting us with a petty game of fetch, when all we really want is for them to treat us as equals or allow us the opportunity to blossom.

A lot of people have been commenting on how quickly this site has grown over the past few months. Your writing has improved! Your followers have exploded! You seem so much happier in your work! All of which are true. I’ve put in a lot of hard work into what I am producing and amassed numerous sleepless nights as I’ve toiled away at my writing. It hasn’t been easy, and at times I’ve wondered why I chose to enter such a fickle industry. Yet when people ask me what inspired the metamorphosis between the boy I was eighteen months ago and the man I am today, I’ve struggled to answer.

            I’ve learned to silence my ego. I say. I’ve let go of my hate.

I haven’t though. I’m still the perpetually frustrated mind I was back when I was producing endless streams of whiney bullshit to a lackluster audience. And I’m still arrogant as sin. I don’t understand humanity, and I struggle to tolerate much of popular culture. Yet I have grown. And I have improved. But I’ve never really understood what changed inside of me that allowed me to become someone with a published novel and a chance to actually carve my name in the walls of the literary industry.

Until I learned about the lion’s gaze.

When I first told myself that I was going to become a writer I did what most people do. I dove headfirst into an industry that I didn’t really understand and started fetching sticks, wrestling them from the mouths of other like-minded authors and presenting them to literary masters. Get and editor they’d say. So I did. Tone down the violence. I obeyed. Jump through this hoop. Sit. Roll over. Play dead. I’d bow down at their feet and do anything that I could just to capture the attention of the industry. But the industry itself was merely throwing sticks into a field to keep me occupied.

The problem with trying to earn the respect of someone or something in this manner is sooner or later they are chucking more sticks then you can ever hope to fetch. You become confused, unsure what direction you should follow, or what branches are worth retrieving. Soon that confusion festers and becomes anger. You’re tired. You’re bitter. You dream of success and of lashing out to bite the hand that feeds. You become so caught up in playing games of fetch that you just end up chasing your tail around in circles.

But you don’t have to hunt distractions. It took me a long time to learn this but it’s ultimately true. The difference between the shitty little blog that I ran eighteen months ago and Renegade Press is that I learned to ignore disruption and interference, stop chasing sticks and do what I want to do: write fucking entertaining posts that capture the imagination of my readership. I’ve let go of comparing myself to the works of others, I’ve turned my back on purposely trying to cultivate ‘confronting’ pieces, and I’ve allowed my work the opportunity to be judged based solely on its merit.

It’s been a sharp learning curve, and at times when I’ve felt my confidence falter it has taken all my strength not to start playing fetch and conforming to the whims of others once again. To help me through I created foundations of strength through my wolf and world eater monikers, but never once have I taken my eyes off of my ultimate goal: to write damn good literature.

When you understand what your heart truly desires you have to learn how to develop a lion’s gaze. You have to teach yourself to ignore the distractions that life throws at you and never allow yourself to lose sight of your dream. You may dream of being a writer like me. You may aspire to be a parent, or a lover, an artist, lawyer, doctor, or poet. The dream itself can be anything. But that fire, and that intestinal fortitude to never lose focus even when times get tough is what ultimately allows us to grow and achieve.

When Padmasambhava, appeared before the Terton he taught him that the slightest shift in perspective can change the world. When I stopped focusing on chasing down frivolous exploits or competing with others and focused instead becoming a better writer, I altered the course of my life and found success.

Now it’s your turn. Take a moment and ask yourself if you were to shift your perspectives away from the unimportant and block out all distraction, where would your lion’s gaze be focused?

What could you achieve?

Why the hell are you still chasing sticks?

An Interview and Apology

I feel as though I need to apologise as my posts have been a little sparse as of late. I recently put life on hold to go on an overseas adventure, but now I’m back at home and ready to start posting again really soon.

In the interim I recently completed an interview over at TJ Talks Writing. If you’d like to check it out just click here.

If you would like a hint as to what’s in store with my next post all I will say is this: Close your eyes and imagine a lion, a dog, and a stick.

Fire & Ice

‘No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.’

-Aristotle

I often have days where I contemplate giving up. They’re the kind of days where I sit down at my computer to write and think to myself why the hell am I doing this? I’m twenty six years of age and I’ve never had a career, I’ve never finished any of the multiple university degrees that I’ve started, and despite having served more than a decade in the workforce I don’t really have anything of substance to my name. I really struggle when those moments arrive. I sit at my computer for hours and stare blankly at a screen clouded by my own insecurities and self-doubt wondering why I don’t just give up and become happy like everyone else. I want to be a writer; I am a goddamn writer. But in those moments I question whether I have what it takes to make a career out of this.

I hate those days. I hate when all the bravado and bluster is stripped away and the lost, lonely little boy that I once was is left sitting naked before a computer he bought with labors that make him feel ashamed. However for every day of isolation and insecurity that I suffer through there is a day of contentment. For every hour of self-doubt there is a period where my fingers dance so effortlessly across a keyboard, or my pen scribbles frantically against pages in a desperate attempt to keep up with the thoughts spilling from my mind.

I’m a man of contradictions. I’m a wolf; yet at times as vulnerable as a wounded beast. I’m a world eater, yet at times I’m afraid of my own realities. I’m a man, but still a child. And I’m a writer. Yet I still feel like I haven’t quite made it. I’m succeeding, but at times I look around at the life I’ve tried to create and all I can see is the decaying carrion of opportunities squandered.

Someone once told me that I must be crazy to try and create a life out of writing books. They were right. The truth is that I’m frigging insane. No one of a sound mind would ever spend ten years chasing down a career with no clearly defined path and no guarantee of success. They’d think that such a perilous decision was insanity. And it is. But after ten years I couldn’t imagine living my life any other way. I’ve become so used to being lost in my own thoughts that to lead a normal existence where I’m just like everyone else seems too difficult to comprehend.

So while everyone else I know lives in the present; I live in a world of fire and ice.

In those down days when I feel alone my mind is ablaze, yet my heart is frozen. While an inferno of self-doubt melts away my confidence and cripples my desire to write, coldness settles over my chest until my heart becomes as fragile as glass. If I were to cradle it in my hands and let it fall to the floor it would shatter into a million pieces and the dreams that I’m fighting for would be lost forever.

In my brighter days my heart burns with a force capable of turning the entire world to ashes, while my head is icy, calm, and methodical. The fires of my soul feed upon failures of days gone by and leave behind a head of dispassionate clarity. My heart ingests all the self-loathing and negative thoughts like oxygen, turning them into creative fuel. In those days I watch the world burn in the eyes of my peers and I know that I am good enough; and that if I just keep fighting for my dreams one day I will achieve them.

Lately I’ve been feeling pretty down. I’ve been struggling to find the inspiration to write and have felt the bitterness of winter turn my heart to ice while the firestorms of my mind have reduced my creativity to dust. I feel like I’m forever on the cusp of success and as though I’m always chasing something new. I wanted to write a novel; so I did. I wanted to see my work in print; and now it is. Now I want to do it all over again; so I am. I feel like I’m stuck in this perpetual cycle of fighting for my dreams and I’m so goddamn tired. I’m tearing myself apart every day just to thaw my frozen heart and hopefully lay the foundations of future successes. I’m stuck in a terrible case of writer’s block,  but I’ve been trying. I promise that I’ve been trying.

I’ve been sitting at my computer and forcing words onto a page. They’re not very good and none of them will ever appear in any blog post or book. But at least it’s something. And with each word that I manage to write a little piece of my heart softens and I begin to melt away the ice that leaves me feeling alone and set the world alight once again.

I may feel a little lost right now, but I’m never going to give up on this. I’m never going to quit no matter how lonely those darker moments may feel. Writing is so ingrained in my soul that without it I wouldn’t be half the man that I am today. We all have self doubts and moments where the odds seem stacked against us. In those times others may look at us and believe that we are mad to fight so valiantly when all hope is lost. But the only madness is giving in and throwing away a dream you want so badly that it hurts. Self-doubt will always pass. You just have to keep your head down low and work through the negativity. Keep pushing and refuse to give up. After all, there’s no point in coming as far as I have only to give up just because of a little fire and ice.

Writer’s Laze

For someone who is still finding their way within the literary industry I get an unusually large number of people who email through asking for advice on how to make their own websites more successful. It’s a weird concept to me, especially considering that in the grand scheme of things I have a fairly small about of followers here at Renegade Press. Don’t get me wrong; I’m flattered that someone would ever consider reaching out for advice. I just think that there are probably a few hundred thousand minds that are trust worthier than mine to seek assistance from. Nevertheless whenever such an email arrives I try to find the time to read through a few posts and provide what little constructive feedback that I can to an author not too dissimilar from myself.

While some excerpts require a little more structure or clarity of thoughts, most posts that I read are great. In fact some make me a little worried about my future. I’m still trying to establish myself as a writer and yet the people who are asking me for advice are already out producing me. Not that that is a bad thing; I’m an arrogant piece of work who wants to be the best. I revel in the fact that there are still a myriad of authors ahead of me. It keeps me hungry and pushes me to create bigger and bolder pieces. But for all of the positivity and acclimations I bestow upon these bloggers there’s one reoccurring issue that I tend to point out in the works of others, as well as myself…

…Swearing.

We writers like to believe that we have this insanely broad vocabulary that we can call upon at a moments notice to create poignant and emotive prose. Yet more often than not we resort to vulgarity to drive home a point. We create pieces that butcher the language we love by using lowbrow phrases like fucking hate rather that loathe or abhor. Or we use terrible clichéd expressions like fuck you to allow our reader to understand our angst and frustrations. While it can feel good to write such unrefined prose, it is ultimately lazy and tends to alienate your reader.

-Actually let’s stop for a second because that one is a real pet peeve of mine. Simply writing fuck you is never clever, nor witty, nor anything else. It’s hands down the laziest expression one can use to display angst. No writer anywhere should use such overused, tired, pathetic excuse of a statement. It cheapens what you are trying to accomplish and makes you look like a second rate hack. Got it? Good. Let’s continue…

There are many pitfalls to writing and there are so many factors that can influence the work you produce. Your mood; the music you listen to, films you watch, people you associate with, books you read, exercise, exposure to media, and just about anything else has the power to alter how you approach your work. There’s no exact science to what we do, and the effects that our circumstances have on our craft can range from inspiring creative outpourings during which you produce an endless stream of high quality work, to writer’s block; the dreaded emotional ailment that sees you unable to even form a coherent paragraph. But perhaps the most troubling condition that can befall a writer (young or old) is writer’s laze.

It’s this state of creative complacency that sees potentially great pieces become disjointed postings that just miss the mark they’re intending to strike. More often than not the manifestation of this laze is witnessed through a writer reverting to profanity.

But Chris, you swear all the time…

Yeah I do. And in the interest of complete disclosure it must be said that my excessive use of profanity has become a point of contention with some of my readership. For every email I receive asking for a critique there’s another saying a reader disagrees with my liberal tongue. But in spite of vulgarity’s ability to destroy prose or an argument, in some instances cussing has the ability to further a manuscript or blog post. However achieving such an outcome requires talent. It needs to be used sparingly and needs to be inserted into a piece of work with the utmost precision if it is to further the intrigue or emotional engagement of the reader. It’s lazy to rely on cussing to drive passion into a piece, however it’s extremely wondrous to read the work of an author with a deft mind who can utilize a word like fuck to create a level of heightened understanding within their readership.

For someone who swears as much as I do it can be easy to slip into a perpetual case of writer’s laze. It’s easy to show emotion through profanity, but it’s so much more engaging when a writer produces clean and concise literature that blindsides the reader or creates an emotional outpouring without tramping out the same busted up profanes being uttered in school yards. In some respects it’s a writer’s ability to detach themselves from their writer’s laze and reliance on cussing that separates an amateur from the very best. Profundity can be found in the most structurally fragile piece of work; readerships can be established upon the scaffolding of semi-coherent ideas. But the alienation of a reader through an over abundance of swearing can take a masterpiece and turn it into just another piece of shit.

Run

There’s this photograph: a snapshot in time taken by an unknown photographer and posted onto a website filled with thousands of images pooled together from all over the Internet. It sat nestled in a series of travel pictures, wedged between a photograph of the Louvre at sunset and a deserted island beach with crystal clear water and sands of brilliant white. It was the kind of image that many would skip over and never give a seconds thought. There was no tranquil waters, nor monuments of modern architecture. There was just a camera, a knife, and a gun sitting on a velvet runner. An odd inclusion amongst a sea of exotic locations, but that moment captured in time sent a shiver rolling down my spine.

I’ve never seen anything as striking as that photograph. I’ve never witnessed another image that could cause such a whirlwind of emotion within my soul. But between the camera, the knife, and the gun there was a freedom and simplicity that I’ve always longed for.

We live in a world where we are bound and constrained by our own creations. We wake every day and repeat the actions of the day before. We commute to work and clock into a job that leaves us unfulfilled so that we can earn enough to buy ourselves a few moments of respite or items of leisure that will help distract us from the fact that we are living out the same repetitive movements day after day. We sit in contemplative silence at our desks, in our cars or on the busses and dream of something more. We sit. When all we want to do is run.

I’ve always had a desire to run. I guess that’s why the photograph left me feeling so fragile. It’s what compelled me to save it to the desktop of my computer and stare at it every single day for years.

I’ve never really grasped much of the world that we live in. I don’t understand who decides what is popular, or why some people’s lives seem to be blessed with so much, yet others are afforded so little. I’ve never understood why hardship befalls good people, or why the wicked and heartless continue to achieve. But I’ve never really wanted to either. I don’t want step on others so that I can have a lot. I want to reach down and help out those who have fallen so that we may all achieve together and have just enough.

Sadly though my mentality is frowned upon. It’s a dog eat dog world, or so I’ve been told. People see your humanity as a weakness and use it as leverage for their own personal gains. Sometimes I try to fight against these feelings. I try to fit in. I wear masks to appear normal. I speak poorly of others in a vein attempt to show strength. But all I really want to do is run. Run and be free. I want to liberate myself from feeling as though I have to fit in. I want to take a camera, a knife and a gun and walk into the wilderness and find a freedom that people seldom realize exists.

But I’m not that brave. A guy like me would be eaten alive in the wild. I call myself a wolf but I’ve been raised in suburbia where I’ve suckled on the teat of mindless acceptance and laziness. So instead of living a life off of the map, I write for my freedom instead. I substitute the camera for a minds eye. I’ve traded the knife and gun for paper and pen. I can’t run no matter how much I want to. I can’t vanish into the sunset, but I can dream. I can create worlds to disappear into for a few brief moments in time. I can create literary photographs that provide a glimpse into a life of freedom and peace.

I use literature to create halcyon moments. When the demons of my past or the anxieties of my present become too much to bear I slip into the memories of glorious phrases, subtexts and plots like an intrepid traveller armed with his trusty camera, knife, and gun. I’m never going to understand humanity; I’m never going to be just another number marching to the beat of the majorities drum. But as long as I have my heart and my mind, my pen and my paper, I’ll never have to run.

Paper Trails

People always tell me that I’m too hard on myself. That I push myself to breaking point and never take the time to stop and reflect on how much I have achieved. It’s a fair point. I’m my own harshest critic. I have been known to beat myself up over every little fault in my work; when I finish a piece I want to be able to stand back and tell myself that I am completely satisfied with what I have produced. I don’t want to create second-rate dribble that I as the creator find shaky or mundane. If I’m not confident or inspired by what I’ve written, no one else will be either.

I’m hard on myself because I care. Because in many aspects of my life I have a tendency to slip into this near enough is close enough mentality that threatens to derail my dreams by way of complacency. If I’m not pushing I’m settling. And if I’m settling I’m giving up.

When this blog first came to fruition I tried to compete with other writers. I thought that the best way to ignite my own creativity and success was to challenge that of those who had come before me. If someone wrote two posts a week, I wanted to write three. If they had fifteen followers, I wanted thirty. If a writer was better than I was I wanted to break their knees and watch their reputation crumble. But over time I have come to realize that the only person I should be competing with is myself.

There is no one else on the face of this earth who is capable of writing like I do. There’s no one who has lived through the same experiences, no one who has felt the same heartache, elation, fears or successes as I have. To compare myself to someone who has lived through a different set of circumstances and witnessed the world through another pair of eyes is unfair and idiotic.

So rather than draw unfair comparisons with my fellow writer, I strive to challenge myself. I have pushed myself harder and harder until now I finally feel as though my talent is starting to catch up with my heart. I’m producing fewer posts on this site as of late, but I have never been more proud to attach my name to my work. Yet as I’ve become more proficient in my craft I’ve faced more and more questions about my future and my finances.

‘You’re a writer? You must make a fortune! How much do you sell your articles for?’

…Ah, they’re free. I don’t make a single cent from this site. In fact, my finances are pretty fucked if we are being totally honest. I’m a writer not a goddamn accountant.

The questioning drives me crazy. I didn’t start writing and blogging to make money. I started because I was a very sad and lonely boy who needed to find his place in the world. Sure, I’ve achieved some pretty amazing things in the past few years. I’ve met some brilliant minds, won a few competitions and published a novel; but I’ve never really chased money. I’ve never felt comfortable selling my soul to follow the paper trails that lead to commercial success; rather I’ve been content to forge my own path through the great seas of literature.

It sounds crazy doesn’t it? I want to make a living out of being a writer but I’m not actively pursuing monetary gain. At a surface level there’s a flaw in my logic. I want to make writing my profession, but to do so I need to make some money. The very definition of a profession is a paid occupation that usually involves formal training or qualifications. But my theory is this: don’t chase the money. Chase the dream and the money will follow.

Society tends to place too much importance on paper, copper, nickel and zinc and not enough on intrinsic happiness and emotional freedom. We base our judgment of a man or woman on their fiscal worth rather then their characteristics and heart, meaning we’ve unconsciously created a skewed perception of success that is limited purely to pecuniary wealth.

I wouldn’t say I came from nothing; my parents provided a stable upbringing for my siblings and I. But I’m a dreamer with a streak of naivety that has seen me make so many poor financial decisions that there’s been times when I have struggled just to feed myself. I know first hand what it’s like to starve for your craft. When I first left my family home I used to go two days without eating just so I could attend university. And while I still haven’t obtained a degree I’d wager that I’m a better writer than anyone with one. I would back my hunger over another writer’s talent and piece of paper any day. Regardless of whether you are rich or poor, young or old, man or woman, I can take your world and tear it down using nothing more than a piece of paper and a pen.

…I can see you sitting there nodding your head. You’re probably thinking that there’s a bunch of nice analogies here. You might even agree with the skewed perceptions of society and the importance we place on financial wealth. Maybe you’ve even had one of those good for you thoughts roll through your mind. But you’re probably also asking yourself what the point of this post is…

I’ve been feeling pretty down lately because I lost sight of my own vision. I’ve been beating myself up over the fact that despite all of my achievements I haven’t really made it in a conventional sense yet. I’m still busting my arse in a job that isn’t what I want to be doing, and I’m still trying to create a name for myself amongst a plethora of authors from across the globe. I started using money as a measuring stick of success and realized that I’m failing miserably in that respect.

But when I ignore money and instead remember to chase my dreams and focus on bettering myself with every post that I write, I realize that I’m succeeding beyond all my expectations. When this blog started in 2012 I was a boy with a goal and a fractured mind. Now I’m a man with a published novel and a fire in my heart that can’t be extinguished.

Fuck following paper trails. Focus on the dream and let the money take care of itself because hunger will always out work money and talent. My hunger helped me publish a novel by age twenty-six and you can mark my words that it’ll see my name on a best sellers list before too long. When I do finally achieve my goals and turn a little profit off of what I’m doing I’ll be able to look back at the hardships I’ve endured and know that it was all worth it. But until then paper, copper, nickel and zinc are meaningless commodities to an eater of worlds.

The Eater of Worlds

Before we begin I want your undivided attention. Take a moment to turn off the television, cut the music, and shut down that second page of your web browser. Focus on me. Just for a few minutes.

Imagine that we’re face-to-face. You’re staring me dead in the eye while I talk. But I’m not talking at you, or to you. We’re communicating at a deeper level than that. I’m speaking yes, but the words are filtering through your ears and into your mind to a place in your subconscious that you never knew existed. Focus. Look into my eyes. Look beyond them. Look past the characteristic hollowness they portray and witness my soul. There’s no pretense here. There’s no hiding. There’s just you and I. You are in the presence of a wolf and a world eater who masquerades himself as a writer, and he’s showing you his benevolence.

I don’t often write about writing. An interesting notion considering the whole purpose of this site is to explore my own immersion into the world of literature. Instead I write posts covering a wide array of emotions. I write about my anger, my isolation, my loves, successes, failures, and about a million other things. I’ve written about my arrogance numerous times. I’ve spoken of my lower moments and battles with depression. I’ve penned pieces on racial acceptance and unification. I’ve labeled myself as a world eater. I’ve called myself a wolf. And for a long time I referred to myself as the best damn writer you’ve never heard of.

But I feel as though I’ve never really explained myself. I’ve accepted vulnerability and openly acknowledged my shortcomings. But the concept of the wolf, and the strength garnered from the world eater label has never really been fleshed out in public. They have been topics I’ve touched upon momentarily during diatribes of disillusioned prose. But I’ve never elaborated because they are titles I place great reverence on. To me they’re more than mere monikers I use to illustrate myself to my readership. They are symbols of strength; marques of success earned through battles with personal demons. In many respects they are ideas that saved me.

Nonetheless I think I’m ready to share their meaning with you…

I’ve always told myself that I’m different. I’ve strived towards becoming a distinct singularity that stands outs amongst a sea of my peers. At points this yearning has led to moments of elation and great success, but it’s also left me isolated and alone more often than I would care to admit. My desire to become unique means that I struggle to gel with conventional education, or conventional thinking; I mean, why would I want to learn how to perceive the world through the eyes of structured learning? Why would I want to learn how to ascertain black from white when all I see is kaleidoscope of colour?

I’m a creative soul with a hunger to learn but the attention span of a six year old. I’ve got at least three manuscripts under construction at any given point. Then there are the university studies, half constructed blog posts, and ideas still brewing in the back of my mind. I’m an intellectual dog chasing cars, running down one idea, only to change course and pursue something else.

I live in my head, just as I know many of my readers do. But I’m so often engrossed with myself and my aspirations of grandeur that when I do manage to look up at the world around me I feel disconnected and resentful. I don’t understand much of the world, nor does it appear to understand me. Which is why for all of my desires to be different, one of my greatest fears is that I am totally alone in my thoughts. I believe in humanity. I believe in freedom of expression, in love, respect and life. I don’t care for labels of colour or creed. And someone’s financial or sociopolitical stature bears no weight in my judgment of his or her character. But when you are a twenty six year old male trying to carve out a niche as an author you are expected to at least fain interest in such things.

For a time this left me feeling broken. I often felt as though the world was eating me alive. I didn’t care about which celebrity was in a sex tape, or who was dating whom. I couldn’t pretend like there was importance in television shows designed to create instant superstars with an expiry date of ten minutes. I cared about people who were trying to make a difference: artists and philanthropists striving to be a beacon of light in a darkened world. Yet even as I drew inspiration from these muses I felt this intense pressure to conform to the ideas and interests of others. That oppression led to depression and my life became a constant battle to exert myself.

So I started writing to quell a few inner demons and fulfill a desire to be different. But the more that I wrote and the more that I began to embrace my vulnerabilities the more that I realized I was never as alone as I thought. Through writing I’ve met people just like me from countries near and far who believed that they were isolated and alone, but found strength and unity through art. Their strengths and their support ultimately became my vigor and reason to create. Through the kind words and support of strangers through this website I became brave enough to stand before a world I thought was trying to consume me and be naked and exposed. Through writing I learned how to swallow fear and uncertainty and use it to inspire others.

The moniker of the world eater is simply this: I refuse to be broken again by a world of differing ideals simply because I believe in the better angels of our nature. I refuse to feel inadequate or undeserving, and I believe in my inner strength to overcome the anxieties and fears that left me feeling hopeless.

The truth is that I’m neither different nor alone. There are thousands of people just like me all over the globe. They are the thinkers and dreamers; a community of exceptional individuals who challenge conventional rational and use their passions as a means to overcome a world that seemingly works incongruously to them. They are men and women, rich and poor, sinners and saints, Christian, Muslim, Atheists, and others with a desire to make this world a better place; one small deed at a time. It’s this desire and passion that makes them world eaters in their own right.

Which brings me back to you. We’re still face-to-face. You’re still watching my eyes. But as I talk that characteristic hollowness of expression flickers and a universe of possibilities explodes across my retinas. The flashfloods of potential are so fast that you second-guess that you even saw them. But as you stare at me and your mind processes the words I speak you realize that we’re one in the same. You’re staring into a reflection of your own soul. You’ve got passions, you’ve got dreams and you believe in life. You wouldn’t have made it this far if you didn’t.

You are an eater of worlds, just as I am. You’re brave, you’re bold, and you’re amazing. But most importantly you have the power to change your world. You just have to believe in yourself.

Conventional Hell

I’ve always struggled with the idea of conventional education. Alongside editing my creative works, the education system has become the bane of my existence. I’ve forever had a love/hate relationship with classrooms. I love learning. I love to be challenged and increase my own intellectual prowess; I just don’t believe that the best way for me to do so is through university. The thought of writing pieces that are tailored to fit a marking sheet sends a shiver rolling down my spine. It seems incongruous to enroll in a course in creative writing only to have to stem the tides of my own creativity and start chasing grades instead. I’m stubborn as hell; you only have to read through a few of my posts to see that. And someone who wants to paint the world in glorious colour has no place in an educational system that promotes black and white.

I’m not knocking education in general. It’s really important that we make that distinction right here. University has its place in society. If I wanted to be a doctor, or a lawyer, exercise physiologist, or countless other professions then my progression through the tertiary education system would be an integral rite of passage. But when I am establishing a career out of my own creativity the process seems somewhat redundant; particularly for someone as headstrong as I am. There’s no one who understands the inner workings of my own mind like I do. And I resent someone grading something as personal as my creativity against the man or woman sitting next to me.

This is probably why I’ve racked up thousands of dollars worth of university debts across a number of partially completed degrees. I enrol, start off strong, and then eventually lose interest when assessments and classes pull me away from what I would rather be doing: writing. I’ve commenced and quit five separate university degrees, and right now I’m contemplating making it number six.

It hurts me to admit that I’m at this point again. I like to think that I am a resilient and adaptable man. I like to think that I am intelligent, and that I have the will and determination to see a task through to completion. When it comes to writing I push myself harder than anyone else ever could. I want to grow. I want to get better. And I want to finish a university degree for no other reason than to say that I didn’t give in. Because let’s be honest, a degree in writing doesn’t really equate to too much does it? I don’t want to be a journalist. I don’t want to be a copywriter. I just want to create literature. The most I’ll ever gain from my studies is an understanding of literature’s rules imparted onto the modern generation by all those who came before us. I’ll learn how the great minds of the past approached their craft. But if my successes so far have taught me anything it’s that rules are made to be broken.

I mean, how can someone manage to get a book put into print yet find it so difficult to adhere to something as simple as a study guide or assessment criteria? When I blog or write for myself I pour my heart and soul into what I do. I embrace vulnerability and allow my heart to bleed onto the page. Yet when I write at an academic level I have to be structured, restrained and ultimately boring. I remove the wondrous colours of a world that I’ve constructed in my head and leave behind the black and white outlines of a story that could have been great.

It sounds arrogant doesn’t it? I believe that I’m better than university right?

…Wrong. I just don’t gel with the classroom or the structure required to excel within it. When I was a kid my parents were so concerned with my lack of interest in writing and literature that they enrolled me in special education, those extra curricular activities for kids who are falling behind. But my problem wasn’t that I found literature boring: I just thought the way it was imparted upon my peers and I was pretty shit. Writing and art is about expressing oneself and breaking a piece down to the ridiculous where you know the text better than the author destroys the wonder within the words. I’ve carried this believe through to adulthood, creating university pieces that assessors have labeled vulgar, disgusting, and disturbing.

So here I sit, alone at my computer debating whether or not the graft of university studies is really worth the effort. If I was trying to do anything other than write creatively I would say most definitely. But when I’ve come so far already on my own should I bother writing to appease a lecturer? Or just keep building upon the momentum that I’ve gained and be the world eater who found publication all on his own? University is my Everest. It’s that goddamn elusive task that almost breaks me every time I try and climb it. Now I’ve got to decide if I truly need to mount this particular summit, or if simply creating a shoddy participation ribbon to mount on a mantle alongside my real achievements will suffice.

Punk Rock & Fashion

‘Dead where we stand; yet you concern yourself with such things as your status and what’s in fashion.’
– Keith Buckley

Ever noticed how we tend to focus on the unimportant? We spend more time fretting over how we’re dressed when we should care about telling our family we love them. We worry about working tirelessly at a job we hate rather than searching for something that makes us happy. And we focus so often on the future or the mistakes of the past that we forget to live in the present. We care so much about our online presence and how many followers we have yet we couldn’t give a shit about the man or woman standing beside us who is desperate to feel loved.

We are so concerned with being in fashion that we forget to be human. Then, when we become that man or woman who needs to feel an authentic human connection, we fail to comprehend how we can have thousands of followers, yet struggle to find a true friend. It’s as though all of these wonderful applications we’ve created to bring us closer together have in fact pushed us further apart then ever before. Your friends look so close when they are displayed on an illuminated screen in the palm of your hands. But when you dare to look up you realize that they’re all so far away.

We care so much about our online presence that we are never really present. Relationships falter; dreams die, and lives are lived unfulfilled because we’ve grown so accustomed to presenting an illusion of happiness and success that we’ve forgotten how to truly be so. We’ve become brands. All of us. Whether you like it or not you are a product that is marketed every single day through the hashtags you use, tweets you post, or pictures you upload. We pin things to a board, or use a repost application to show that we give a shit about a cause. We’re walking human highlight reels, yet so many of us are lost, tired and alone.

As a writer in this modern era of technology and online profiles it’s more important than ever to market yourself. Every day I’m asked what my Twitter handle is, how many followers I have on Pinterest, or Facebook, or Instagram, or a half dozen apps I’ve never even heard of. I’m told that I should be constantly marketing myself, or networking with different groups. I should be uploading a never-ending stream of posts so that my friends and followers never lose interest in what I am producing. In fact, many writers and social media gurus believe that I should be climbing through your screen and force-feeding you post after post until you’re choking on the words of a world eater.

But I disagree. To answer the questions above: I don’t have twitter. I have zero Pinterest followers, a Facebook page that is largely abandoned, and an Instagram account with a limited number of followers. Why? Because rather than force-feed people an endless stream of moderately legible (and largely unintelligent) bullshit, I’d rather craft posts with meaning and become successful in my own right. Society has become so lost in its own desperate attempt to be in fashion that it can’t even see that good artists, musicians, writers and humans are dying in its arms while it worries how it will be judged in the eyes of others. Neglect kills creativity. But it can be reborn again through the admiration of a single man, woman, or child.

A few followers have recently told me that I am rebellious and the idea has really stuck. My siblings and I have always had a saying when we admire a musician, writer or artist. We smirk at one another and call them punk rock. We admire that the art they create is raw. Great artists aren’t concerned with being in style or fashionable. They’re too busy creating trends all of their own. No best selling author has ever accomplished such a feat by imitation. Innovation creates success, wins hearts and achieves dreams. So if refusing to be just another writer, questioning everything and trying over and over to free my mind and revolutionize myself and my work is rebellious, then so be it. If that makes my work a little bit raw and a little bit punk rock than I couldn’t be happier.

If you gave me a choice right now between standing before a thousand people who knew my name and were loosely interested in my work, or ten people who believed in me enough to cause an uprising I would take the latter in a heartbeat. In a world where everyone seems concerned with numbers of followers and carving out an illusion of success and happiness, the truly successful learn to differentiate. As a writer and as a man it’s more important than ever to focus not on amassing multitudes of people who pass by your book or website on a daily basis, but in creating amazing content to capture the hearts and minds of those who take the time to read, listen, or watch what you have produced.

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