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!
The first time I traveled far in the darkness of my mind I had no idea where I was heading. I didn't know what I was doing, nor where it would lead me. The Cosmos sent vague glimpses for me to puzzle over and put into a perspective, understandable to those who didn't allow their minds to venture outside the knowable bounds of reality. Eventually, I came to an understanding with The Cosmos and accepted my lot as its instrument. The fantasy world will never be the same. At least, I believe I'm imparting something that has been missing from fantasy for a very long time.
Over the last four years, I've written and published five stories, created this website, and gathered a twitter following of just under twenty-eight thousand. Five more tales are well underway. My, how time flies by when you're having as much fun as I've been lucky enough to have had these past few years.
For me, fantasy is more than a simple distraction from the daily grind of life. It's the oxygen I breathe and courses through my veins with every beat of my heart. Only my wife and daughter give me more reasons to get out of bed every day. Not an hour of wakefulness goes by without some fantastical thought racing through my mind. Fantasy is so much more than a cornerstone of my life.
Life pounds you every minute of every day and has a way of eroding the smile from your soul. Fantasy has always served as a buffer to prevent that from happening to me, until recently. The pain Life has dealt me in spades has caused me to stumble and lose my way.
Chronic pain, coupled with news my sister has stage three, now maybe stage four, cancer, has thrown me for a loop. I've been off my game, and as a result, my creative spark has lost its sparkle. My sister's situation was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. It took some time for me to maneuver through the eye of the needle, put everything back into perspective, and get my feet firmly planted upon the firmament of my mind. My wife, daughter, and my beloved fantasy helped me to accomplish that feat. Once again, I'm on the right road and well underway in a direction that suits my pistol.
What precipitated this turnaround came from the most unlikely of places. Recently, while speaking with a longtime acquaintance of mine, he said something that shook me out of my funk. The statement caused my mind to drift from side to side, thinking about what he told me. I don't know if I actually do march to the beat of a different drummer. I suppose if I do, I would be the last to know it. In any event, the comment stopped the world from spinning and forced me to pause long enough for me to pull my head out of my ass.
If indeed, I do have something different going on, I have a duty to share it with the world. Being in a funk gets in the way of doing that and serves no purpose. My drummers need me to march on, or rather, shuffle, as is more the case these days. One stray statement pulled me back from a place of self-pity. My wife, daughter, and fantastical thoughts did the rest. It just goes to show you, one never knows where wisdom might reside. The Cosmos has a way of putting people in your path at exactly the right moment when most needed. You only have to pay attention to Cosmik rhythms and be willing to enter into a discussion with them.
Tonight, I've written more words than I have in the past several weeks put together. My creative spark has ignited my engine of productivity. The road ahead looks so bright I'll need to wear my shades at night. I guess the sun never truly sets on the artist, and I do view my work as an art form.
Well, I need to put my nose back to the grindstone. Hopefully, all of you are on your rightful path. If not, look for signs of The Cosmos reaching out to aid you in your time of need, embrace it, and regain your momentum. Life is just too short to get stuck in the mud on the side of the road!