Challenging myself

Orange sky over Rye, NY - November 2011For those who don’t know me well, I am not a religious person. I don’t hold claim to any one belief system or ideology, nor do I reject any. I hold a high level of respect for everyone’s individual beliefs or lack thereof. It’s not my intent to prove or disprove, rather, it is to learn facts, listen to stories, and understand our world as it exists today. This level of comprehension includes the natural world and human societies and cultures, for which many are built around belief systems and have significantly impacted on the natural world – good or bad. I am also a strong advocate of the sciences.

In needs to be stated with regard to our current polarized climate of religion versus science, that science does not exist to debunk or counter religion. Nor is science a belief system. It is a methodology applied to the pursuit of facts in how things function in our world. It is the exploration of our intelligent minds, the ocean depths, and the minuscule building blocks of the trillions of atoms that make up each of our bodies.

My views on religion – of any faith – are straight-forward, if not over-simplified. When the supernatural elements are removed they provide frameworks that help some people live their lives, to cope with difficult situations, to provide a community of like-minded people, to serve the less fortunate in times of need. In this high-stress, fast-paced digital era of individual isolation – think of how often people are outdoors talking with neighbors as compared to the pre-Internet days of twenty-plus years ago – religious organizations hold an invaluable role in fulfilling a need to belong to a group and provide a purpose in life. I acknowledge that not everyone seeks these fulfillments, or maybe not in a faith-based setting.

So here I am, embarking on what is the most challenging journey yet in my professional creative life. Without giving much detail away at this early stage, I have committed to writing a biography following the lives of two sisters, where religion and gender identity are major factors in their life stories. Funny enough, the challenge for me is not in taking on the subject of gender identity, it’s learning in close proximity about the high value and trust in a faith that is rather foreign to me, one that I may not agree with at times.

Through this writing exercise I have finally reached a point of clarity consistent with my views: a story about another’s beliefs is not reflective of my own.

Am I a horror writer?

question mark coverI’ve had stories appear now in six horror anthologies. Some of those books, in full disclosure, I had a hand in designing the covers or page layouts, though completely separate from my story submissions and inclusions. A few more horror-genre publications containing my work are on the way to print in the next few months, but I still often wonder whether I am truly a horror writer.

Before anyone lambasts me for such a self-serving ponderous statement, I’m being completely honest about this question, and this is my personal blog. All organization and personal blogs are self-serving regardless of their intents and purposes, don’t blind yourself to this one truism.

Thing is, I never set out to be a horror writer. I am always drawn toward dark material for the books I read or TV shows I watch, which in turn influences or inspires what I write. I’ve tried my hand at happy stories and they never feel authentic to me. Difficult decisions, personal conflicts, and imperfect flaws that lead to dramatic and usually tragic conclusions are what drive me. They are sometimes allegories, other times criticisms on or responses to our current day culture and society. The messages may not be obvious to everyone, and I don’t expect them to be; they typically serve as starting points from which a story takes on its own life. As a story should for every writer.

These statements or criticisms on the world, our society, or our culture come from a perspective of gritty realism, they are neither optimistic nor pessimistic. They just are. The world exists as we shape its existence, both good and bad. This perspective spawns the perpetual evolution of my creativity: a dark point-of-view mired in grit and horror; a creative process carried by a glimmer of hope that challenges an ominous darkness and crushing fear. Think Baroque music and painting. Think Gothic architecture and literature.

Looking back at these paragraphs I just wrote I realize just how subjective it is to define one’s work in any particular genre. This is art and not science after all, there are no mandated axioms on the natural world’s behaviors that dictate creativity, just concepts and ideas.

So my stories may not contain much gore, graphic sex or violence, or the standard supernatural creatures that account for many horror movie and story tropes, but they do contain accounts of mental anguish, trauma, shock, and the deterioration of one’s mental faculties. In that sense, these attributes are real life everyday horrors of the human experience, whether they are set in a dystopian backdrop or a current-day real-world environment that may or may not be affected by a supernatural influence depending on the protagonist’s perspective.

The answer, then, is yes. I do write horror.

My online portfolio is resurfacing

full-creative-freedomI haven’t kept an online portfolio since 2008. It’s now 2015….

It wasn’t necessary, I had a full-time job from mid-2008 until a couple months ago. I wasn’t actively searching. Now I find myself in a peculiar crossroad. Many of the jobs I’m interested in want to see a great portfolio – online. Most of the work I performed since 2008 was focused on areas other than visual design, though I did continue it, and applied that same level of creativity to the other work I was doing.

Show as much great work as possible – my mantra of the moment. It isn’t easy considering I don’t have access to much of the work I produced, designed or written, since 2008. It’s a slow exhausting process that I pushing through nonetheless.

Work I produced long ago has been added to my new portfolio section of this site, some dating back to 1996. I’m far from finished. I figure image retouching is still image retouching, regardless of the year I performed it. In fact, the available tools and processes back then are ancient if not obsolete compared to today’s capabilities, but the creative process remains unchanged. That’s what matters. Revisiting that old work is like reviewing a photo album of my childhood, only I recall the thoughts and reasoning that went into each creative decision I made as I if it was a few hours ago. Crazy how that works.

If there is anything for readers to learn from this scenario, it’s this: maintain copies of everything you produce no matter how big or small. Be prepared.

 

 

Persistence of selective memory

63cbb1da25f911e2ba8122000a1de2e1_7I came across one too many memes today glorifying the past, how it was a better time, how everything now is just not that good. Or if we grew up in a certain time, that made us “awesome!” What started as a short Facebook rant on these memes quickly changed to a message about appreciating what you have now, that things always change.

I have a blood-thirst to address the pedestal cassette tapes are put on in several of these memes. Tapes were awful. I owned many cassette tapes as a kid and I hated them – not for the incredible music they contained, but for the tape player jamming, stretching, and wearing they were known for. I can’t count how many collective hours I spent on repairing cassettes with cracked cases and wrinkled tapes, the closest pen or pencil being the indispensable winding tool as I delicately straightened a tape tangled around heads, spindles, and gears it had no business making contact with. The frustration they caused me does not equate the good ol’ days, I thank the world for digital recording.

Progress is inevitable, not that it always creates something good. In this example newer technologies like CDs and MP3s rendered cassettes obsolete. I still cringe when I find one buried in a junk collection, but that’s beside the point. Vinyl, which in theory should have been replaced by cassettes, has made a resurgence in this digital age, notably for the medium’s natural quality of analog sound that is hard to replicate in digital. Similar to the plumbing fixtures in your bathroom, some old technologies can withstand the test of time, with some subtle tweaks in materials and manufacturing, of course.

One such “good ol’ days” meme.

There is a selective magical memory that is often called on by these memes, often comparing how the good ol’ days were less dangerous in that we could all go to bed without locking doors or free from newer precautionary behaviors like riding a bike without a helmet. Crime is not new, it’s no more or less a thing then a century ago, even a millennium ago. Burglars still break into houses when they see an opportune times; their motifs and tactics may have changed, but the crime has not. Designing protective gear for sports, fighting, and hard labor is nothing new either, so why complain about protecting a child’s fragile skull while zipping down a street with friends?

These memes are filled with a vast assortment of examples for any given era they are referencing clearly specific to the childhood of the author. I could go on and on, but everyone should have grasped the point several words ago. I’m sure the authors’ intentions are good, so I’ll avoid any further disparagement.

Here is my ultimate message to you and everyone not reading this, whom I hope will hear it by word of mouth: change is constant. A broad-brushstroke ideal notion cannot define how everything is worse or better off between one era and another.

You can hold on to memories, cherish the great times, but don’t spend your energy longing for those cherished circumstance to recreate themselves. Every moment is a product of that era and location, the technology and culture, and, most importantly, the participating individuals and their frame of mind. It’s completely random. Resisting inevitable change is as effective as pushing the hands on a clock backwards and expecting to return to the past.

Embrace the now and enjoy what you have. Learn from the past and apply it to your future plans.

Happy New Year!

The future is never certain, but we knew that

question mark coverI would be lying if I said losing my job this month didn’t adversely affect me, so I’ll take delicate steps around the truth. I’m not hear to bring anyone down. I was laid off thirteen days ago along with several other great colleagues due to corporate downsizing. Right in the midst of the holiday season. Not ideal for anyone.

The job hunt commenced that same day as I don’t like like to waste time, particularly with long-term financial security at stake. I’ve put story and book projects on temporary hold – again – so I could resolve this quickly and efficiently, though that now appears to not be in my best interest.

I’ve written at length about such situations before here on this blog and in my graduate thesis: a negative situation or environment spawns bad moods and low productivity. A lack of productivity creates a sense of loss, misplacement, and depression. Not good.

Therefore, I am challenging myself to write every day going forward, whether it’s here on the blog, my fiction, or for other opportunities. This will keep me accountable and my creative brain active as I continue my job search.