Everything falls into place like pieces in a well-designed puzzle. Art is no exception to this rule of thumb. My life as a writer is the perfect example of that principle. It's as if some invisible hand wants to guide me into the great unknown. For that to happen, I only have to let go of my preconceived notions about how things oughta flesh out, and trust the greater force knows what it's doing.
Letting go is the appropriate term for it. It's so human to chafe at the thought of surrendering control to anything, particularly to something that is beyond perception. I fall prey to that because I am human. I need to loosen up on the reins of control in spite of my humanity. Too much control lessens the possibilities I can achieve with my art.
When a door closes and another opens, I must be flexible and courageous enough to waltz through it. Every artist should be willing to do that. The alternative leads to stagnation, which does nothing to increase beauty, the purpose upon which art rests.
The world may view my stories as drab and ugly, but I think of the tapestry of my tales I paint with strokes of a pen as being darkly beautiful. They sing to me with themes I find elevating. They do say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I do hope I'm not the only one with my kind of eyesight, which would mean I'm the only one with a penchant for my sort of art. Nah, that can't be, but Time will be telling on that point, and everyone knows, Time never lies.
All of this self-reflection was caused by Twitter late last week. As they say, something happened to me on the way to the forum. Granted, a forum existing in cyber space, but nevertheless, a market of sorts. Getting back to the point of this story, sorry for my digression and rant, I was in the midst of minding my business and growing my Twitter following. Mind you, I did nothing different from what I had been doing since I started with them. That's right, I had been using the same process since late November of 2017. Apparently, that doesn't matter to those bastards. Anyway, while going along my merry, little way, out of the blue, BAM!
For some reason unfathomable to me, Twitter got their panties in a bunch with my process and lowered the boom on my sorry ass. After a night of tweeting, unfollowing those who had unfollowed me, and following new prospects, I went to bed as usual. That Friday, I was pleased as punch because I had a banner week on Twitter, and my dreams reflected that pleasure.
I had managed to exceed every measurement possible. Twitter has a nice analytics system which gives you data about everything from the numbers of people who are exposed to your tweets(an important indicator, by the way), how many people retweeted your tweets(another critical measure), to how many new followers followed you. All of these measurements were slamming!
Imagine my horror when I awoke six hours later to discover Twitter had done the unthinkable and had closed my account. The first thing I noticed was I couldn't get into my account. Then, I realized my wife had sent me a text hours before, asking why she couldn't access my profile. Those corporate bastards had done the deed an hour or so after I had gone to bed. Of course, they couldn't have closed my account during any of the hours I was working their system. That would have made my life much too easy. No, they laid in wait for my account to be dormant. At least, that's how it felt, after I had caught my breath like I had been kicked in the chest by a mule. In any event, my account had festered for hours while I unknowingly slept. A lesson learned, Twitter never sleeps. That'll teach me to sleep!
After I changed my password at Twitter's request(They had the audacity to say a password change was necessary because they "noticed unusual activity on my account"), I noticed Twitter had deleted the list of everyone I was following. That action in turn triggers a reaction from those I was following to unfollow me. I immediately went into damage control mode and put up a tweet to my followers, telling them I didn't unfollow anybody, I was experiencing technical difficulty, I was working on the problem, and to please not unfollow me. Then, I sent a message to Twitter Support, explaining the problem that they already knew about. After all, they were the ones who had suspended my account, not I or some other body.
Hours later, Twitter reinstated my account. When the dust had settled, I had lost pretty much every gain I had made that week. Boy, was I ever pissed!
My first reaction was to say, "To Hell with Twitter," and close my account with those corporate goons. Doing that would be akin to cutting my nose off to spite my face, but principles are principles and damn the consequences. My usual modus operandi. Before I did anything stupid that couldn't be taken back, my wife served as the voice of reason and said, "Not so fast, Sparky!"
Between the two of us, my wife is always the voice of reason. Although she's also an artist, a painter, among other things, she always looks before she leaps. I appreciate that quality in her. I really do.
After reflecting several hours on the situation, while speaking with my wife, I decided I had built something useful and important on Twitter. Despite that corporate titan's ways of conducting their business I do not like or admire, Twitter does have its advantages. For one, my tweets direct traffic to this website and to my Amazon Author Page. More importantly, other than friends or family, who more or less feel obligated to buy my stories, Twitter has been the primary way of letting the world know my books exist. That is something to behold and not throw away in a knee-jerk reaction because I'm pissed off!
Because I think big and see the possibilities, I'm probably the source of my own troubles. I saw Twitter as a market of millions of individuals just waiting to discover my stories. All I needed to do was find a way to get my word out, and I went right to it. I thought all was good, and I was following all of the rules. In fact, I know I was following every last one of Twitter's rules to a "t". It turns out, regardless of their rules about following and unfollowing, which are numerous and cumbersome, Twitter doesn't really want anyone to unfollow any account, at least not in the numbers necessary for growth. Artists need to grow to great numbers because all art is divided into niches. Imagine that, not everybody is interested in what you are selling. I know, inconceivable!
I can deal with that reality, but need to do something different, which means something else, to get my word out. Twitter is not my one and only answer. Too bad, because there is so much, untapped potential there. Well, potential that can't be utilized, not by me, anyway. Twitter slammed that door shut!
Okay, I might be thick-headed, but I'm not an idiot. My Twitter following is a little more than thirty thousand. Yes, my account did stabilize over the past week. That is nothing to sneeze at, but future growth will be too slow and clunky to be able to depend upon. I'll still use Twitter to get my word out as much as is possible, but must find new avenues. I'm looking for other doors to open, but as of yet, I haven't seen any evidence of those. I'll just have to be patient, which, by the way, isn't my middle name, and wait and see what pops up or occurs to me. Something will shake out. It always does.
And now you know the rest of the story of what happened to me on my way to the forum. I don't know the shape of the puzzle pieces with which I need to work, but am confident everything happens for a reason and will come together, just as it should and was designed to fit!
They say art imitates life, or is it the other way around? Does the directionality of the concepts matter, or are they relative to one another and contextually dependent? What is it about the relationship between life and art that arouses the soul and makes life worthwhile?
These questions rumble across my mind on a regular basis. They always have, pretty near, anyway. As a child, which came first, art or life, seemed to be not too unlike the chicken and egg conundrum. The adults around me gave me quick answers, life and the egg, before referring me to The Bible for the full answer.
I read that tome from cover to cover, paying attention to every detail to the point of looking up words in the dictionary to sift through nuances of meaning. The answers to my twin questions weren't within the covers of that book of all books. Imagine my disappointment in discovering not even God had any definitive answers, none that satisfied me anyway. My mother, teachers, priest of the parish we belonged to, and the nun in charge of my catechism class all seemed perturbed at the persistence of my inquiry and my refusal to accept their simple answers.
Sure, I reveled in the majesty of the ideas and concepts written about in terms so profound and artful to me. I wanted to know the answers to what came first, and I wouldn't rest until I got answers that satisfied my curiosity. Unknowingly, at the age of eight or nine, I asked questions that philosophers have filled library shelves with their elucidations of the very questions for which I sought answers.
Not being a child to be put off by the annoyance of my elders, I reached out further to get my answers and read the works of Aristotle and Plato. Although I found those philosophers to be interesting, they circled around the drain of my interest without striking the nail squarely on the head. I reached out to historians and read biographies of famous artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Surely, these famous artists would know whether life or art came first. If either of them knew the answer, they kept it close to their vests because no historian whose work I pored over even mentioned the issue.
That didn't faze me one bit. In fact, this oversight encouraged me to charge into the breach with the verve of a general leading some military operation. Armed with notebooks copiously filled with notes, The Bible, and my faithful dictionary, I fancied myself to be a knight or a mythical hero of the status of Promethius, bringing something important to the people. By golly, this was a war I refused to lose!
With my newfound information and resolve, I reread The Bible in its entirety. It was a puzzle that consumed me, and damn it, I was bound and determined to discover the answers of my quest. The elusive answers became the windmill against which I refused to stop tilting. I suppose I still do.
All manner of ideas filled my head. I learned about the drawings of cavemen upon the surfaces of their caves. Some of these artistic expressions supposedly came about before the invention of fire. Interesting theory, but still, did nothing to shed light upon the object of my quest. I doubled down and absorbed everything I could get my hands on from philosophy to history to economics and business elaborations. Through the process of tilting, writers of nonfiction became my best friends, my raison d'etre.
Two or three years into my quest, a thought came to me like a bolt from the heavens. The answer was in front of me the whole time. As it turned out, my elders weren't so off base. They just didn't give me the answer in so many words, but The Bible held the answer indeed. Right up front, The Good Book explained it all. The Book of Genesis speaks of creation in terms of art not dissimilar to the way Leonard da Vinci and Michelangelo spoke about their work. I couldn't believe I missed the obvious, but I did, as did all of the philosophers whose works I read. I declared victory and claimed, "Art came first, and the first work of art was the universe."
It was many years later in which I would declare the chicken came before the egg because the first man and woman were feathered within and thus really chickens, but that is altogether another story best left for another time. All of the important questions have layers upon layers of breadth and depth that defy simple explanations. Imagining the unimaginable is part and parcel of the human condition, an endeavor that keeps us from going six feet under until our curiosities are finally satisfied. At least, that's how my cookie crumbles.
Since you now know the rest of the story as to what came first, life or art, I must move on with my day. Lots of editing needs to get done, so as a wise man once said, "Th th that's all folks!"
Most people think a writer spends most of his time writing. Go figure! They have the mistaken belief profound words just magically come to the writer. This notion couldn't be the furthest from the truth. In fact, like most endeavors, the writing is the smallest part of what authors do on a daily basis. Although I have no idea what the phenomenon they call writer's block is because it doesn't afflict me, most of my time is spent sitting and thinking.
When I finally do put pen to paper, I have a head full of organized thoughts that flow from my mind onto the page. Thinking is ninety percent of the effort. Imagine that!
Maybe writer's block is about the author putting the cart before the horse and trying in vain to skip the thinking part. Seems so obvious, but maybe I'm onto something. It's at least a notion over which those authors with that affliction should ruminate.
Now, you might assume the other ten percent of my time is consumed with writing. No, that would be an incorrect assumption as well. Once an author publishes his work, there is marketing and business matters to handle. When the dust settles, at the end of the day, a writer is lucky to have one or two percent of his time left for writing new material. It's a balancing act, and a battle to find time to write. Every piece of the publishing business requires a thoughtful approach, so again, thinking is the dominant activity I do in order to get everything to fall into place in as efficient a manner as possible.
Lucky for me I enjoy sitting and thinking. Of course, there's a proper way to do these two, all-important activities. Every artist must find his own way to do these things. I call that The Muse, the thing that inspires the artist to monumental heights.
My Muse is a combination of inputs. I chain-smoke cigars, drink copious amounts of soda, and listen to a mix of music, compiled specifically for the occasion. Yea, preparation for sitting and thinking takes at least a quarter of a percent of my time. You can't attain excellence without treating your Muse with all of the respect she deserves for giving you all the inspiration you deserve. The results make the commitment so worth it. When the collaboration between the artist and his Muse works, it's a beautiful thing to behold!
Time is a resource of which artists must make the most. It must be respected and shouldn't be wasted. Although we would all like to time travel, Time keeps marching on and can't be revisited. Minutes and seconds must be treated as precious treasure more valuable than gold. Waste not, want not.
I am always looking for ways to make my artistic process more efficient and productive. Every little thing that shaves off a few seconds, or when the stars really align in my favor, a minute or two, gives me more time to do what I was created to do, write stories so dark I don't need shades to go out in broad daylight. My wife would disagree my stories obviate the need for sunglasses because I wear dark shades even at night. I keep telling her the sun never sets on the cool, but she just won't believe me on that point.
It's time for me to go onto my next task at hand. Artists, discover your Muses, sit with them, and get to know them. Your artistic expression will go into maximum overdrive, and ultimately, you will be much happier. Life is too stressful to worry about how to produce your work. Art should flow naturally. Finding your Muse is how to make that a reality for you. All I can say, it works for me. Until next time, take the time to sit and think, hopefully dark, fantastical thoughts!