Jealousy

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I could live up there. No, the one on top, other one’s too homey.

I’ll call him Bruce. He is about my age, came up in similar circumstances. He made different choices, had different opportunities. We both wanted to be writers.

Bruce had a big success–his book sold well, got a movie sale. I wasn’t happy for him, since I don’t know him, but I wasn’t jealous. Someone wrote a book people like, it sold. My book was doing a rejection tour of publishers and agents.

Measuring your own level of success against another writer’s is stupid, but comparing achievements in real time is insane, or close to it. So many things contribute to how you’re doing, how he’s doing. Also, his stuff is good enough to sell. Yours isn’t. You need to change that instead of worrying about the horserace angle of publishing.

Bruce married, had kids, nice house, nice life. For awhile it looked like he was done. He wasn’t. He was just working in movies. Then he went back to books. Sold more, sold to movies. Hit movies resulted. More success.

He came out with books in the genres I write in.

(Being jealous of someone’s success is poor form; don’t make it worse by writing about it. And definitely don’t put such writing out there for the public to read. If you’ve done this, delete it.)

More success. More.

In all this time, I hadn’t read more than a page or two of his work.

By accident, I read an anthology Bruce had contributed to. I went in thinking, “Watch this, it’ll suck.”

The book contained an early work by a writer I knew of; I had read little of his work. Reading Not Bruce’s early story, I noticed some flaws, some trite stuff, but I wanted to see how the story worked out. After finishing the story I thought, “That was good.” Not Bruce slipped from “Don’t Care” to “Will Try A Book” status.

Back to Bruce.

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I thought Bruce’s story was going to suck. It’s much more recent than Not Bruce’s story, and written while he’s on a career high. This is prime cut, as opposed to Not Bruce’s hamburger.

Bruce’s story blows.

It’s not okay, it’s not “good but not my thing.” It’s hilariously bad.

You think I’m delusional, but that’s okay. I’m actually kind of shocked that such a story was picked for this collection, which includes at least two writers I would call “great.” It’s a bad joke, with a dumb P.C. angle that dares the reader to disapprove. Like the politics = Like the story = You’re a good person!

I’m still jealous of Bruce’s life and career. This is something everyone tells you us poisonous. That’s true. I have always tried not to have such feelings about somone who could be a great human being. At the very least, he’s successful at having the kind of career I’d like to have.

As we get older and realize life didn’t go as we’d hoped, we realize this is the case with many, if not most adults. Very few of us die thinking, “Thank God I’m going, I can’t think of any awesome things I want, I’ve got ’em all.”

Maybe–I’m definitely not sure about this–jealousy is necessary in the arts. Without that uncomfortable, unpleasant thing digging at our insides like a fork, we’d be comfortable just writing and not achieving our publishing dreams. “I only wrote that for myself and my friends,” said a writer of a horrible thing with terrible grammar. If I were his friend I’d be offended.

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Writing is communicating. If you’re not successful at communicating, you’re not going to be successful at writing. And to be successful at communicating, you have to know who you are.

Even the truly shitty parts of you. Know what you really feel, and examine it, and see what you can do with it. Otherwise, it’s just going to eat you up, because it doesn’t go away.

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Boom.
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“Frankie Teardrop” by Suicide

“Yet “Frankie Teardop”‘s howling electronic assault sounded like nothing that came before. Anticipating new wave, no wave, synth pop, industrial, electro and noise, it was in its way far more radical than the punk bands it preceded.” – Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

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In their dark, dark masterpiece “Frankie Teardrop,” SUICIDE’s Martin Rev created a monotonous New Wave synth sound, often rhythmic and repetitious while Alan Vega pushed out the lyrics. In a Rolling Stone piece on the song they mention the influence of The Doors on the sound, and there’s a definite connection to “The End.” It’s there–an influence, not a source to rip off.

This ten-minute slice of working-class Hell begins with a staticy beat that plays throughout. Vega tells us Frankie is twenty, works hard, has a wife and kid, and he isn’t able to keep it together, ‘it’ being life. It’s just too tough to make the money he needs for his little family to survive, not that we get any idea of what the wife and kid are like. The fascinating thing is that we get an idea of Frankie entirely from his problems–we don’t know anything about him except these few facts.

The inciting incident and last straw is Frankie and company getting evicted.

There’s not much more to this horrible noir diamond. The vocalist whose name I forget has a sweaty voice as he tells us Frankie’s gonna kill his wife, his kid and himself.

And that’s exactly what Frankie does. 

The track continues on with the machine-like synth dirge drilling its way into your head. A few bits of sound design help create the urban setting, but the aural highlights are the singer’s impressions of Frankie’s and his wife’s death screams.

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Glad they simplified the original title from “Frankie Teardrop vs. The Space Alien”

With a limited musical environment and a simple–even simplistic–lyric inspired by a news story, “Frankie Teardrop” puts you in the shoes of a working man who hasn’t the imagination or resources to get out of a trap that’s so easy for so many to enter.

This is a classic nightmare.

Rebooting Yourself: 2 The JSW Way

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This is going to  get very specific. It’s not intended to be just what you need–how would I know what you need?–but it will demonstrate a specific problem and how I am dealing with it.

What practical thing about your living situation is on your mind all the time, the thing you can’t stop thinking about dealing with, but can’t find the time?

I think about two things all the time: My writing/publishing, and all my stuff, most of which has been in boxes since my last move. I’m going to move at some point, the sooner the better, so I have to deal with all my STUFF.

It weighs on me. And it’s linked to the writing. I pulled a number of books off Amazon because I wanted to rework them, since I can see their flaws…

That’s a defense mechanism created to deal with fear of being judged. But my sense of mortality is starting to outweigh that.

This is what I decided to do. When I get through it, I’ll report on how it went, and how I was after, specifically how my writing has been impacted.

I wrote a list that looked something like this:

Room 1

Room 1 closet

Room 2

Room 2 closet

Bathroom

Dining room

…and so on, covering the rooms where Stuff is packed away, making me whimper whenever I see it, which is daily. That’s no way to live.

If you’re having some Existential crisis, this might seem so petty, but if your state of normality is in distress, you have to make an effort to stabilize.

Looking at this part of the list, I decided, “One day each.” Not only is it do-able, it’s actually going to force me to spend a whole day on something I COULD do in a few hours. Make it tight, secure all luggage, don’t leave anything until ‘some other time.’ Put all my Stuff where I need it to be, so I can move tomorrow if I find the right place.

One day per. Put down drop cloths, line up boxes, have a table for novels, another for anthologies, and paper goes there, computer stuff there…. Be as organized as you can be while visualizing your goal (moving).

After a week, all this stuff will be DONE. I won’t have to think about it…and I won’t.

The second part of the list is like this:

Call about X

Tighten Book 1

Tighten Book 2

Put YouTube channel in order, make a few videos, test run

Again, each of these takes A DAY. Any spare time after you’ve done the job to death is your time.

The psychological angle here is twofold:

You’re forced to commit to one whole day for one job that you might think, “Oh, I can knock that off…” No. ALL DAY until it’s completely done, no finishing up tomorrow. DONE.

You’ve broken this stuff down to easily-handled pieces. All this stuff has weighed on you, well, on me, and now you’re addressing it with a seriousness you ordinarily might not have. It’s that “It’s just moving some stuff” attitude that’s created this oppressive, mind-clogging mess.”

Does this seem very plain to you?

Does this seem like nothing you’d be interested in trying?

These two columns, together, can change your life, without you spending a dime (except on boxes).

You should devote a month to enacting the ideas in these two columns. At the very least, you’ll clean up a lot of the Stuff in your life. And you’ll read a lot of Emerson.

What do you think?

Can you? Will you?

Why not?

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Rebooting Yourself: 1 Other People’s Ideas

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They’re called ‘life hacks,’ but they don’t really seem to last, do they? You can find all sorts of ’em online, and they get you excited while you’re reading them.

Do you actually DO a life hack? Maybe. And you might feel awesome for awhile.

I bring this up on a blog devoted to dark, weird fiction and pop culture because circumstances I won’t bore you with have forced me to reboot myself…inadvertently. I didn’t PLAN on taking time off from my routine, I was forced to, and then I realized I could turn it to my advantage if I played into what I was doing.

I’ll try to keep this simple, and practical. You can adapt it to your own schedule and needs, but if you’re not interested in making an actual change, in rebooting your writing, your life, your routine, then I’ll see you tomorrow.

I’ll start out with a few ideas I have written about in the past. I’m repeating them so they’re here for your consideration, and since I’m trying to stretch this out over two days.

OTHER PEOPLE’S REBOOTS:

Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. Look it up. It works.

Dan Simmons’ Reading Cure. His suggestion was to stay offline, stay off social media, don’t write, and don’t read EXCEPT for the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I suspect this would work with other writers–Shakespeare? Too heavy? But I did the one-month Emerson cure. It was something. Maybe I’ll write about it.

Philip K…?

Gene Wolfe’s writer’s block cure. Don’t write, don’t read, don’t be artistically creative AT ALL–don’t even watch movies or listen to music. You can garden, and don’t give me shit about gardening being art, you know damned well what I’m talking about. Fix up around the house, go for a walk, without your ipod. No museums. Getting the message?

Wolfe suggested doing this until you feel like writing again, but I’m considering trying it for a month. No cameras, either.

OK. Next: My personal hack.

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The Purge

Have gone through some things lately. I’ve written about this before, in the two “Reboot” pieces.

I’m rebooting starting now. Offline, getting some stuff done that needed doing.

Already I’ve put the Kindle books back up. Some short stories I need to finish and send out. Some real-life stuff of no interest to anyone but me.

Then, onto the real stuff…

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I think this was where “Alicia” was first published

Writing is easier for some than others. Same with publishing. Some of us are big successes, some small successes. Others…

We have to keep asking ourselves, “Is it worth it? Can I do something else?”

And we have to keep answering.

Because one day the answer might not be what it was yesterday.

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Too lazy to check which story was in this

It’s exciting to start out on something that will lead to things being different from what they are right now. I’ve already made some changes, just three days in.

“What the heck are you DOING? Stop babbling!”

I’m doing some work, putting things in order, so I can move forward with a pretty massive publishing venture.

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Illo for my story “Toys Left Behind in an Abortionist’s Waiting Room”

I’ve left a bunch of stuff for you to read. Every day, there’s something I think you might enjoy, or my ramblings.

When I come back, I’ll have something to report. No matter what happens, as long as I’m capable, I’ll have done…something. This is a lot loopier than I’d planned on it being, but I’ve been up for hours and feel kinda trippy.

Have you ever attempted sleep deprivation? What about fasting? Both were recommended to me by someone years ago. Wish I stayed in contact.

Anyway.

I look forward to telling you what’s going on, after it’s gone on, and then tell you what the result was. But I’m purging a lot of stuff, mental, physical, emotional. It might end up way too personal to share. But it’ll be interesting, I think, to come back and report here after it’s all over.

See you then.