Writing-wise, 2017 was lackluster – to use a generous term.
Twelve months on, I have one short story released at the last minute, birthed in a spasm of inspiration, and two larger projects stalled 20% from the finish line. So yeah. Not so hot.
Why? (that perennial question) Between real life, studio work, a persistent, low-grade funk, a national pandemic of strangeness and acrimony, I confess it was a battle to sit down and slog through. Like pulling teeth. Now none of those are valid excuses – I’m responsible to do the work – but they are/were real. And if that was a battle, some kind of test of my creative mettle, I’m afraid I failed.
Maybe there’s something in the air. Maybe this malaise, this inertia is the accretion of my own naiveté and inconsistency. A consequence of laziness and immaturity. It could be put down to what Steven Pressfield termed “Resistance”, or perhaps I’ve hit what Seth Godin calls “The Dip” – that place in the process, the venture, where the initial inspiration and enthusiasm has worn off and the going gets tough. The Dip is re-evaluation time – a prolonged moment to assess whether to push on or be brutally honest and prune a branch that’s taking valuable time and energy that could otherwise be invested in some other, more fruitful way.
I hope it’s just a Dip I can get past, but right now, I honestly don’t know which it is.
That said, I do know that the passing of a year is an occasion to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. I also know I want to be a man of my word; I started those projects and I’m determined to finish them.
Now I won’t call this commitment a New Year’s Resolution. Gym memberships soar in Jan/Feb and fall back to regular levels by March. I’m too old and been at this too long to trick myself with slogans and effervescent, self-help sleight-of-hand. Resolutions only work if I’m willing and determined to chop away at them every day after Jan 2nd. However, by God’s grace I’m going to type ‘The End’ on both of those pieces in 2018. Then I’ll take it from there.
Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy new year.
LET THE STABLE STILL ASTONISH
Let the stable still astonish:
Straw-dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child–
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.
Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said,
“Yes, let the God of Heaven and Earth
Be born in this place”?
Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms
Of our hearts
“Yes, let the God of Heaven and Earth
Be born in this place.”
There is more fiction in the pipeline but my latest short story is now available at Amazon. For those familiar with the STALKER or METRO 2033 video games, this should feel familiar – like the worn stock on your trusty AK-47, or the snug, sweat-soaked bands on your respirator.
Release date is 16 December. You can pre-order now if you like.
Enjoy and Spasibo.
I write all the time but NaNoWriMo has been good for something this go around.
Sorry this is late. I’ve been busy with work, locking down work, plus managing assorted real life obligations and commitments, but the next installment of the Mil-S-F piece ‘Zombie Six’ is up. Click on the drop down tab in the top menu or go HERE.
Thanks and have a happy Thanksgiving.
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
– Psalm 90:12
Lately, I go over this list whenever I turn on my computer.
- You’re going to die and you have no idea when.
Stop pretending that you’re invincible. Acknowledge the fact of your own mortality, and then start structuring your life in a more meaningful way.
- Everyone you love is going to die, and you don’t know when.
This truth may be saddening at first, but it also gives you permission to make amends with past difficulties and re-establish meaningful relationships with important figures in your life.
- Your material wealth won’t make you a better or happier person.
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who achieves his or her materialistic dreams, money only amplifies that which was already present.
- Your obsession with finding happiness is what prevents its attainment.
Happiness is always present in your life–it’s just a matter of connecting to it and allowing it to flow through you that’s challenging.
- Donating money does less than donating time.
Giving your time is a way to change your perception and create a memory for yourself and others that will last forever.
- You can’t make everyone happy, and if you try, you’ll lose yourself.
Stop trying to please, and start respecting your values, principles, and autonomy.
- You can’t be perfect, and holding yourself to unrealistic standards creates suffering.
Many perfectionists have unrelenting inner critics that are full of so much rage and self-hate that it tears them apart inside. Fight back against that negative voice, amplify your intuition, and start challenging your unrealistic standards.
- Your thoughts are less important than your feelings and your feelings need acknowledgment.
Intellectually thinking through your problems isn’t as helpful as expressing the feelings that create your difficulties in the first place.
- Your actions speak louder than your words, so you need to hold yourself accountable.
Be responsible and take actions that increase positivity and love.
- Your achievements and successes won’t matter on your death bed.
When your time has come to transition from this reality, you won’t be thinking about that raise; you’ll be thinking about the relationships you’ve made–so start acting accordingly.
- Your talent means nothing without consistent effort and practice.
Some of the most talented people in the world never move out from their parent’s basement.
- Now is the only time that matters, so stop wasting it by ruminating on the past or planning the future.
You can’t control the past, and you can’t predict the future, and trying to do so only removes you from the one thing you can control–the present.
- Nobody cares how difficult your life is, and you are the author of your life’s story.
Stop looking for people to give you sympathy and start creating the life story you want to read.
- Your words are more important than your thoughts, so start inspiring people.
Words have the power to oppress, hurt, and shame, but they also have the power to liberate and inspire–start using them more wisely.
- Investing in yourself isn’t selfish. It’s the most worthwhile thing you can do.
You have to put on your own gas mask to save the person sitting right next to you.
- It’s not what happens, it’s how you react that matters.
Train yourself to respond in a way that leads to better outcomes.
- You need to improve your relationships to have lasting happiness.
Relationships have a greater impact on your wellbeing and happiness than your income or your occupation, so make sure you give your relationship the attention and work it deserves.
- Pleasure is temporary and fleeting, so stop chasing fireworks and start building a constellation.
Don’t settle for an ego boost right now when you can delay gratification and experience deeper fulfillment.
- Your ambition means nothing without execution–it’s time to put in the work.
If you want to change the world, then go out there and do it!
- Time is your most valuable asset–you need to prioritize how you spend it.
You have the power and responsibility to decide what you do with the time you have, so choose wisely.
BEASTS AND WILD ANGELS
Scariest thing on the planet is a stoned 11-year old with a Kalashnikov.
His parents are dead, most likely murdered right in front of him. He’s never been to school, can’t read or write or count past twenty, but the little fucker can field-strip and reassemble his AK74 in under ninety seconds, then put three center mass at a hundred yards.
His troop is his family now, his father figure some teen who has survived four or five years in this corner of hell already, who instead of killing him that first day, gave him a hit of heroin and showed him which end was the noisy bit of a gun.
He goes by a war-name – Li’le Piff, Baby 9, TNT, Chop Chop – given after his first kill or rape or village-razing. The one his Mother gave him has long since withered from neglect.
He’s not a rarity either. Some tragic exception. The country is thick with them, roaming in packs like feral dogs, savaging whatever, whoever gets between them and any whim that pops into their little drug-addled minds.
This is where you work. A place with a name you can’t pronounce that’s a bad joke disguised as 21st century nation. The currency is worth less than the paper it’s printed on. The government doesn’t deserve the title. There is no Police, no Fire or Paramedic Emergency Services. The only hospital within a hundred kilometer radius was shelled two years ago by rebels – or the army – and it hasn’t been rebuilt. Not that it matters because all the doctors fled or were rounded up. It’s a place so foreign, so far from normal civilization with 5G WiFi Hot Spot sushi bars and Prime Two-Day Delivery, it might as well be another planet. This is the ‘Mad Max meets Clockwork Orange’ world that you’re stuck in until your contract expires.
Or you do.
FREE THROUGH SATURDAY AUGUST 12
Global Jihad is on the rise and the veteran spec-ops team Echo One races to stop a terror attack in the American heartland.
So some light weekend reading, eh? FREE At Amazon
Enjoy and have a great day.
It’s work. No getting around this. I get flowing with inspiration but most of the time you’ve got to take a deep breath, dive in and trust inspiration to follow. Writing begets writing. Anything worth doing is worth the time and effort to do well. Step back. Take a breather, fine. But don’t give up. Keep your butt in the chair.
The field is overwhelmingly crowded. It’s up to what, a million books published per year in the US now? 2/3rds of those are indie/self published. So 8,760 hours in a year, that’s 114 books per hour. There is a flood of new titles every time I log onto Amazon. All of them best sellers, each the latest hotness, fulled with explosive action/steamy romance/engaging plot lines ripped from tomorrow’s headlines/spine-chilling horror… Many of them with double, triple, even four times the number of reviews of established classics in their genres. Any writer with a lick of self-awareness can’t help but wonder how their work can stand on its own, let alone get noticed. But that’s the playing field now. And yes, it’s even more work piled on top of the actual writing work.
I can’t not write. We’ve all been ready to throw up our hands in despair. If you haven’t, you’re either a colossal self-deluded egotist, or you’ve got to give it more time. That said, if story-telling is in your bones, you’ve got to keep going for your own sanity’s sake. I wish you massive commercial success: foreign language rights, weeks on the best seller list, movie rights… but for many of us, the real pay off is not going to be the silver we get in our bank, but the iron we get in our souls by persevering in the creative process. What, you really going to give up and watch TV?
Have a good day. You’re going to make it.
Need a kick in the butt? Read THE WAR OF ART
Another excerpt from Beneath the Broken Moon. Book One of the upcoming post-apocalyptic fantasy, Shattered Worlds, by Patrick Todoroff.