Brighter than a Technicolor Dream

Welcome to the launch jubilee for my surreal short story, MIXED MEDIA! This is the first in a series of posts to celebrate publication, and no celebration is complete without a door prize! Click the Rafflecoptor button to enter for a chance to win a $25 (USD) gift certificate redeemable at Art.com!

Click to enter!

Mari Biella, my friend and author of THE QUICKENING and LOVING IMOGEN,continues the launch festivities on her blog. In my guest post, I discuss the inspiration for MIXED MEDIA.

Story Blurb

Mario Santa Maria is an artist who has lost his dreams – literally. Insomnia, unemployment, and a failing relationship are his lot. Things are going badly, and then things get strange. On a visit to the Vos Modern Art Museum, Mario discovers he has the ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer. MIXED MEDIA is a surreal tale of masterpieces, Delphic sugar cubes, and the promise of new perspectives.

What’s hidden by what we see?


Welcome to Vos Modern

Excerpt from MIXED MEDIA:

In this passage, Mario discovers that he can no longer see any art in the gallery when he is by himself. He has just emerged from the Visiting Exhibit, stunned by the nihilism of a display consisting of several canvases apparently painted black.

***

The Contemporary Art exhibit was in the next room; it was well-lit, and the floor creaked with familiar goodwill. Color exploded from the canvases, brighter than a Technicolor dream. O’Keefe’s southwest yellow-orange-red swelled near Rothko’s angular green-blue-brown. It was all as I remembered it, as colorful and mind-expanding as I remembered — and then it wasn’t. The encroaching black slid over the Contemporary masterpieces. The yellow-hued Ashley to my left went blank. There was no yellow on the canvas. No yellow, no red, no green-blue-brown, not even a pastel. Just black.

 

Blue, Green, and Brown by Mark Rothko via Art.com

Blue, Green, and Brown by Mark Rothko via Art.com

Mellow Yellow II by Erin Ashley, via Art.com

Mellow Yellow II by Erin Ashley, via Art.com

Red Amaryllis, by Georgia O'Keefe via Art.com

Red Amaryllis, by Georgia O’Keefe via Art.com

Author Commentary:

The Vos Modern Art Museum isn’t a real venue. This allowed me to  gather the pieces that spoke most deeply to my story under one (imaginary) roof. I chose the Rothko because there is something about the shading in the blue that leads me to imagine distant pine trees shrouded by a midwinter night. The brown and green beneath promise Earthy rebirth, and this symbolizes Mario Santa Maria’s situation. Mellow Yellow II invokes thoughts of ripe wheat fields, and the idea of harvest. This, too, represents Mario, specifically his quest to understand the purpose hidden in his strange new ability, which first manifests just after the passage included in this post. O’Keefe’s flower conveys a sensual richness that represents the flowering of Mario’s understanding.

 Read MIXED MEDIA for free here:

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The images included in this post are courtesy of Art.com, where you can purchase prints of these works, and thousands of others.


 

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Ourselves, Perfected

Copyright: aberration, via 123rf.com

Copyright: aberration, via 123rf.com

I love to walk. Quickened blood bathes my brain, carrying fresh oxygen to fuel my imagination. The unexpected sights and encounters of a walk can’t be planned; wooded path or city block, something will be revealed.

Walking is a primary component of my life. I have three dogs that clamor for their exercise. I also work a mile from the commuter train, and I walk that route ten times a week. There is joy to walking. It’s so simple, yet no two steps are identical, even when you walk the same route for weeks, months, years. Every walk is an encounter with the edge of the unknown, a direct entry into the future.

I have a pair of Docs, with Air Soles. I got them my Junior year of college (1998). My Docs have carried me across the beautiful bridges in Brugge, over the haunted, brick-laid walkways of Mary Washington College, and through the busy streets of the living, beating heart of Austin. I didn’t wear those Docs in Australia, Boston, the wilds of Maine, or Hawaii, yet in spirit, somewhere in my metaphysical reality, they were there. The Docs are the archetype, the Platonic ideal. All of my shoes are participants in the ideal of the Docs, carrying me forward. They were with me as a young girl in Budapest, tasting and breathing my ancestry. They were with me the night I went to the Blue Ridge mountains to see the meteor shower. They were with me in Kauai, a place that resonates with the depth-less soul of life.  In some future, I may walk in Italy or wander Kyoto. The ideal of the Docs will be there, too, always with me as I walk.

Walks transport not just the body, but also transcend time. I do not walk in some singular “now.” Every walk reminds me of some other walk, the same way strangers in an airport look familiar. I’ve been in LAX, DFW, O’Hare, and so many more I can’t remember, and in each of them I see the shades of former co-workers, friends a decade lost, the dead. The experience of strolling an airport concourse alternates between exhilaration and terror. There is a chance, however small, that you will see someone you know – unexpectedly, and possibly from beyond the veil. Airports are a concentrated nexus of paths, a place where all of us are take flight from walking, and “unstick” from that which literally grounds us in our humanity.

Even my daily walk from train station to office reminds me of other places. The columns on the Event Center evoke my brief time as a Physics grad student at Old Dominion University. The bridge crossing the Colorado reminds me of a river in Bangor, Maine and a larger bridge near Dahlgren, Virginia. The building I work in, from a distance, reminds me of another building on a hill, another job. There is an arrangement of trees that reminds me of Paris; the wrong type of tree, of course, but just as all my shoes participate in the Docs ideal, these trees participate in an overreaching, spiritual tree form. They are as unique as our stories and our souls, but vibrate with a shared harmony. Everything is perfect when it is itself, except possibly people. Our will and our greed and our envy make us less perfect, but we have the gift of walking. We can calm our acquisitive monkey-brains and get perspective when we walk. Walking reminds us we are a part of something vast and incalculable. When we walk we can simply be, simply breathe, simply move: ourselves, perfected.

 

As ever,

-aniko


 

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Reading Feeds the Writer

I finished reading an amazing book. It was one of those reads, the sort that embeds in your psyche and leaves you changed. The narrative techniques employed were startling, surreal, and just exactly what I needed to read.

You see, I was stuck.

Editing, that is. I had a story that was true to itself, but flat. It didn’t resonate the way it should. This story touched only the word-receptors in my brain, but gave nothing to the mythology-receptors in my psyche or the truth-receptors in my soul. In short: it didn’t move me.  The story deserved better. My readers deserved better. But what to do? The answer, as always, is to pause. Read someone else’s work. Partake of the fruits of a writer I admire. I never know what I’ll read that will help me lift a lifeless story, but I have faith that I will find what I need. And I did! Shirley Jackson’s HANGSAMAN.

You can read my review on Google+. Here’s an excerpt:

HANGSAMAN is a bizarre, nightmare trance. I came up from reading it feeling deeply affected, infected. The prose warped my mind. I found myself thinking like the narrator reporting Natalie’s musings; it was disturbing. HANGSAMAN is not a book for anyone on the brink of a mental breakdown. It is a dangerous beast. It will swallow you whole. It is frightfully unique, and one of the most masterful novels I’ve experienced.

HANGSAMAN gave me the answer to my problem with my story. I needed to change my narrative voice! I’m attempting (bumbling) to use a few of the techniques I identified in HANGSAMAN. This approach, to identifying and then practicing with different techniques, is the most valuable writing lesson I absorbed out of all of my writing seminars, workshops, and classes. I owe thanks to the Writers Studio in NYC for that – it has changed my writing for the better. The trick, of course, is to practice until I find my own way of employing the technique; my goal is not to be a pastiche of other writers. This is one of the more advanced narrative personas I’ve ever tried to employ. I’ve spent nine years honing my craft, and you know what? I’ve grown! I can aspire to (bumble at!) using Jackson’s techniques. The writer I was in 2005 couldn’t even have attempted this, and probably couldn’t have identified the technique, although surely I would have felt the tingle of rightness in HANGSAMAN. Reading feeds me as a writer, and practicing my craft allows me to feed you, my readers. My lifeless story is being revived. I look forward to sharing it with you later this year.

Now, though, I have a big announcement about a different story!

Announcement!

MIXED MEDIA, my surreal short story, goes live on JULY 17th!! It will be free to read as a PDF from my blog – always! If you want the convenience of Kindle Whispernet delivery, it’ll cost you .99 cents. Please support me by reading, sharing and reviewing!

DIY Book Covers, Fiction Template #17

A Surreal Short Story, with a Cover You Helped Design!


The Blurb

Mario Santa Maria is an artist who has lost his dreams – literally. Insomnia, unemployment, and a failing relationship are his lot. Things are going badly, and then things get strange. On a visit to the Vos Modern Art Museum, Mario discovers he has the ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer. MIXED MEDIA is a surreal tale of masterpieces, Delphic sugar cubes, and the promise of new perspectives.

What’s hidden by what we see?


Schedule of Launch Events

JULY 17: Launch day!!! I guest post on Mari Biella’s blog to announce the official release.
JULY 17: Brighter than a Technicolor Dream, a post on my blog about the influence of O’Keefe, Rothko, and Ashley.

JULY 24Groovy Escher, a post about the influence of M.C. Escher, a surreal painter after my own heart!

JULY 31: Wisdom Tooth in the Belly of a Worm, a post describing why I chose to include THE SCREAM, by Edvard Munch.

AUG 7: We Always Want to See What is Hidden, a post examining the HUGE impact René Magritte’s work had on MIXED MEDIA.

AUG 14: A Sort of Sex/Wine Triumph, a post about the Melendez painting (with those feminine figs!)

AUG 21: Want to see how sausage is made? This is a post about revision. I show you how the first paragraph changed throughout my editing process.

AUG 28: Author Reading, a video of me reading the opening scenes of MIXED MEDIA.

xoxo,

-aniko

 

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The MONTAUK MONSTER Is Here!

Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea

I’ve been a fan of Hunter Shea’s writing since the publication of his first novel, FOREST of SHADOWS. When Hunter asked me if I would like to help him promote his thriller, THE MONTAUK MONSTER,  I was ecstatic! Imagine being able to ask one of your favorite authors a question. Now imagine him answering – on your blog, no less! Well, that’s what’s happening for me here today.

Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea’s Official Website: http://huntershea.com/

Hunter Shea’s Twitter Handle: @HunterShea1

MONTAUK MONSTER on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/SheasMontaukMonaster

My Question:

Have you ever had a book that just felt stuck, or a time when you thought it might be “easier” to not be a writer?

(Okay, I really posed this question in about ten different ways in one breathless paragraph. I’ve abbreviated my intense fangirling it so you can get to the good stuff: Hunter’s answer!)

Hunter’s Answer:

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Not in the sense that you see in movies or read about where the world famous author just can’t come up with the next great novel. To me, writer’s block is a fancy way of saying a writer is either afraid (of rejection, success, criticism), tired or just plain lazy. By nature, writers have overactive imaginations. Truth be told, there isn’t enough time in a writer’s life to type out the ideas that float through our brains in a given month.

That in no way means writing is easy and consistent. It’s hard work, and sometimes, getting from start to end is a long, long slog. That spark of excitement you had at chapter one will most definitely begin to fizzle around chapter ten. Sooner or later, no matter how smoothly you think things are going, you’re going to get snagged by the mid-book-blues.

What happens during the mid-book-blues? For me, this is when the story takes on a life of its own, shaping itself into something I hadn’t quite anticipated. It’s at this moment when I realize I have written myself into some tight corners. It’s also usually when I start to lose faith in the entire endeavor.

Reading over the past several days’ work, I’m often known to mutter, “Oh Jeez, this is crap. What the hell was I thinking? Why on earth would anyone want to read this?” Confidence waning, I look ahead, knowing I have another 45,000 words to go. Are you kidding me? That’s 45,000 words to add to something that I’m dead sure is utterly worthless. I could be watching the Mets lose in extra innings, out with the kids at Starbucks or teaching my cat to stop peeing in our bathtub.

Since the publication of my first book, Forest of Shadows, back in 2011, I’ve written 7 novels. That’s seven times I’ve doubted myself and wanted to throw in the towel or tear my idea down and start anew. As nice as starting from scratch might seem, I have deadlines that don’t allow for a massive re-start.

So what do I do? I remind myself to stick with the instincts that got me started writing in the first place. Somehow, they were sharp enough to get me multiple book deals. The worst thing I can do is stop writing and allow myself time to lament. Lament is like Miracle-Gro for doubt. If you let doubt take root, the book is done, and quite possibly, your writing aspirations along with it.

Sometimes, I’ll head to the classics for inspiration, re-reading The Sun Also Rises or I Am Legend (a book every horror writer should hold near and dear). Great writing makes me want to write. And if you read great writing, your own writing will improve.

Rewards help too. It could be as simple as, “If you get through this chapter, you can sit back with a cold beer.” Or, “Finish the next 5,000 words and you can binge watch Orange is the New Black with the better half.” Just remind yourself that you are a writer, and writers write, which implies finishing what you started.

When I started writing The Montauk Monster last year, I was supercharged. This was my first chance to write a thriller that would be out in paperback all over the country. I plowed through the first 20,000 words like it was nothing. Then, my father passed away. The family was devastated. I kept at the manuscript but my heart wasn’t in it. I suddenly didn’t think my crazy idea could get me to the finish line. Worse, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to get there.

I thought of my father and how proud he was that I had become a writer. The man was the biggest reader I ever met and I always secretly believed he wanted to be a writer – and would have been a hell of an author. That lit the fire under my ass and infused belief in what I was trying to create. I attacked that manuscript with the same ferocity as the maniacal creatures I had conjured. I almost didn’t want it to end.

Every book will come with its own struggles. It’s up to you, the writer, to find the strength to plow through them.

My Reaction:

This amazing writer is a human being! He has a cat! He has a bathtub and watches television and likes one of my favorite books (THE SUN ALSO RISES). Hes’s also written an astounding SEVEN (7!!!) novels in less than five years. That is a lofty achievement, made all the more impressive given that Hunter endured – and overcame – the virulent doubt that plagues writers. Here, though, here’s what really speaks to me:  Hunter completed MONTAUK MONSTER despite suffering an intensely personal loss. He didn’t give up, didn’t break under the weight of his grief or the resurgence of doubt. Instead, Hunter found the strength to finish his book. When I read MONTAUK MONSTER, it will be in honor of Hunter’s father, a reader who raised an amazing writer!

xoxo,

-aniko

Publisher’s Weekly Praises MONTAUK MONSTER!

Publisher’s Weekly named THE MONTAUK MONSTER one of the best summer books of 2014! Not only that, they gave it an awesome review. Here’s a snippet:

The urban mythologies of the Montauk Monster and the government labs on Plum Island unite to cause staggering levels of mayhem when mutant animals with toxic blood descend on a Long Island town. This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley. — PW

 

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Excuses are killing your joy.

Do you see through your own poor excuses?

Copyright 72soul via 123RF.com

I am an authority on the excuses a writer can use to avoid writing. Time constraints make for easy excuses. Obligations to family or job provide a slew of excuses. Exercise is another perfectly “legitimate” excuse. Lack of space, lack of quiet, and lack of inspiration look like valid excuses. These are top-self rationalizations masquerading as true limitations or honorable obligations. They are lies I told myself. Excuses killed my creative joy. Are they killing yours?

Creating is scary. It is terrifying to bring something out of nothing. There is the anxiety of creative blocks, the specter of failure, the gut-wrenching realization that someone is going to hate your work. If you are persistent in honing your craft, if you share your art with others, you will experience all of these fears and more. The excuses act as a salve, a protective layer for the raw psyche. Excuses appear to give you a way out of the misery. There might even be brief moments where you believe your own justifications. At such times the panacea is perfected. Sometime between 3 AM and insomnia, you know the hollowness of your own weak rationalizations. Your horror is a night sweat soaking the sheets. A shower rinses your body clean, but the truth cannot be rinsed out of your mind. You are aware of your faulty reasoning and avoidance; you are hiding from your art. If you’re the sort of excuse-maker I was, it is at this point the despair arises. Problems loom. There is no time, there is no space! In some sense, you are right, because excuses are like cactii or goldfish, and will grow to the maximum extent of their enclosure. Your excuses might fill a house, invisible as carbon monoxide. They’re certainly cramping your soul.

Have you filled your time with pursuits unrelated to your art? Are television, drinking, and drama with your consorts supplanting your creativity? What about those intellectual all-nighters, on a balcony with your smokes? Oh, and if you say it’s the day job that’s stifling you, I’ve heard that one before, too. I used to bemoan that while I could cut out marathon sessions of DEXTER, I couldn’t cut out the day job. I remember feeling like work was an insurmountable block to my writing, and I resented the job. Never mind the fact that it’s the job that gave me the financial security to have a place to live, food to eat, and access to health care so that I could even begin to think about writing. I was not living in gratitude. I wasn’t even really living. Still, my “damn job” excuse was an excellent false justification; not many saw through it. I did, though, and now I know blaming a standard, forty-hour job is a cop-out. Maybe for you it’s not so much the time that’s an issue, it’s a lack of space, or the noisiness of your space. Maybe you have children, roommates, an apartment in NYC where your bed is your table is your ironing board. I have to call BS on that excuse, too. Imprisoned authors have managed to write novels. If a drunkard interred in a Nazi insane asylum can create, then you can certainly find some space. Sculpting and painting present more difficulty in this respect than writing, but writers, you have coffee shops, writer’s rooms, libraries… need I go on? Stop using excuses to barricade yourself away from the terror and uncertainty of TRYING. You are not here to generate excuses. You are here to generate art.

I’m  reading Annie Dillard’s THE WRITING LIFE. The cover blurb from the New York Times Book Review states that THE WRITING LIFE is “full of joys.” That blurb makes me wonder if I’ve read the book wrong. Joy isn’t the dominant theme I find in Annie’s discussion of writing. She honestly dissects the despair and impossibility of writing your true vision. She shows the disassociation of living in a world that exists only in your mind, and at first only in pieces. She doesn’t sugarcoat the sheer terror and difficulty of the endeavor, but neither does she countenance excuse. Annie discusses the interesting occurrence of people who want to be “poets” because they are in love with the idea of being a poet, not because they love poetry. In one vignette, Annie relays a conversation where a seeker after the writing life is told she can be a writer if she “loves sentences.” Annie goes on to extrapolate that there is joy in creating if you go one sentence at a time. Now, finally, there is joy in THE WRITING LIFE, but only when the writing is begun, and only when all of the other “stuff” (the excuses, the self-seeking) are abandoned. The difference between those who only want the title of “poet” and those who love sentences is that the latter will suffer more. Creating is the kind of suffering that brings freedom and joy, but only if you give yourself fully to it. That means you have to stop making excuses to avoid the hard work of doing your art.

I invite my Muse by setting aside time in my day for my writing. Monday through Friday, that amounts to two and a half hours. It is not a lot of time, but I make it count. I do not wait to be inspired: I sit at my desk and I write. I do not seek the perfect writing nook: I write standing up on the commuter train on the way to my day job. My commitment to writing is sacrosanct. It is not optional. In 99 of 100 days, any excuse I give to skip writing would be a lie, a willful rejection of who I am meant to be. There are days, though, dark days where I cannot write. I am human, and I’ve missed writing sessions due to illness, or the death of a loved one. I accept that I cannot control, plan, or prevent either of those circumstances. Neither do I use them as an excuse to continue to avoid my writing desk. I recover from illness, I go back to writing. I mourn, I go back to writing. It is how I am meant to live. This is only one aspect to my writing life; I have an entire code for how I do what I do, and how I avoid the pitfalls that life invariably throws at me. I’m calling it Bring Your Joy: A Code for Creatives. I’m still finalizing a PDF you can read, print, and share, but I hope it is helpful to you.

Xoxo,

-aniko

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The Lost Writers

lost writers

Image Copyright laurast via 123rf.com

In 2007, the job market was not as dire as it would become, but it was already tumbleweeds in the tech sector in Southern Virginia. I relocated to Austin, Texas where tech was (and is) booming. I had a job within a week, but I had no friends in my new town. That’s where blogs filled a gap, giving me access to the intimacy of friendship without geographic constraints. I discovered several writers’ blogs, and anticipated their posts with the giddiness of afternoon coffee with a good friend.

It would be another four years before I started my own blog. In the intervening years, I lurked rather than commented because I felt weird with how lopsided our “relationship” would be, given I wasn’t blogging. I learned about the illnesses, the envies, the fears, and the joys of many writers I’ve never met. Sadly, none of continue to blog. I wonder what happened to them. Did life crush them with obligations, commitments, or depression? Did they move to a new blog with no backlinks to avoid a troll? Are they dead?

I had a writing mentor at that time. We met in Zoetrope’s Virtual Studio, a forum for writers to critique other writers, rank them, and possibly get a story picked up by Zoetrope for their lit magazine. Most of the writers were newer than I was to the craft, and I lucked into finding IJJ, who was a very experienced writer. At one point, he sent me a physical copy of a story of his published in The Paris Review. (Yes, mind=blown!) IJJ never wavered to tell me when I’d edited out the heart of my story. He called me on my BS and also told me where my writing shone. IJJ was in his sixties, and there were intimations of health issues. The last time I heard from him was in 2007, and he was moving to a new home in the country. He reminded me that while we put ourselves into our writing, strict adherence to our personal reality can diminish the impact of the story. I wrote back, and he never responded. I tried again last week, even knowing his email address has been disconnected for years. He hasn’t logged in at Zoetrope or any other known haunts in the last seven years. I think that he is dead. I am sorry that I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that my writing is better for having his influence. I hope that he knows that.

There are many other writers I’ve met that have disappeared. They stopped blogging, stopped commenting, stepped away from the community. I wonder where those lost writers are. I wonder if they are still writing, and if their silence means they are working on the next Great Novel. I hope they aren’t sick, dead, depressed, or utterly gone from writing. I miss them.

I understand disappearing. I disappeared physically from Virginia, choosing to start fresh without leaning on any of my former friendships. Later, I disappeared from the online writing community, not even connecting with the people in my writing guild. I know what happened to me. In both cases, I felt too raw to connect, too vulnerable. I retreated into isolation because I didn’t know how to cope with what felt like Really Big Things: job loss, shattered dreams (I wanted to be a philosopher of science, imagine that!), broken friendships, living in a new place, the fact that self-publishing wasn’t what I thought it would be, and later, that submission to traditional publishers was what I thought it would be.  There are a lot of situations in life that are overwhelming. My coping mechanisms were faulty, and they left me isolated. I’ve learned new ways to deal with life, and they’re working for me. I banished artist’s envy. I got out of the ambition room, and stopped striving for success that didn’t thrill my soul. I seek fellowship with others on my path. I embody gratitude. I’m entering into a more spiritual mode of coping. I’m no longer one of the lost writers.

I’m busy writing a guide explaining the precepts I followed to get to where I am now: happy, peaceful, excited about writing. It’s called Bring Your Joy: A Code for Creatives. I know it can’t bring back IJJ, RIP. I know it probably won’t ever reach the bloggers who pulled me through the loneliness of 2007, and have since disappeared. It might reach you, though, and be of some help. When it is ready, I’ll announce the release of Bring Your Joy. The guide will be offered as a free PDF download. Expect it within the month. If you’re in dire need now, though, leave me a comment, and I will get you a rough-draft. It’s that important to me to share the message.

If you are a writer or blogger who has gone away from the community, know that someone misses you. We wonder where you are. We hope you are okay.

Xoxo,

-aniko

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Is Fiction Frivolous?

Sometimes, I wonder if writing fiction is frivolous. In a world where animals are mistreated, and people are eating out of dumpsters, where does fiction fit? Stories don’t stop abuse. Stories don’t feed starving people. I am fairly sure the couple I saw taking turns wearing the one pair of shoes they had would prefer more sneakers, not a story. As a writer, it’s a bleak thought to wonder if storytelling might not just be a frivolous pastime.

I refuse to bow to bleak.

Art is a valuable expression of our humanity. Art transmits ideas, and fiction is the perfect vehicle for new modes of thinking. Stories are a way to put what is in my mind into your mind. The best art illuminates the mundane by refuting the very concept of “mundane.” Every moment is a revelation. Every experience is an opportunity to encounter the prosaic from a new perspective. Art gives us a way to share our revelations.

Do I think fiction is frivolous? No. I think we need more of it, and more of all other arts, too. I encourage everyone to create that which makes them excited about being alive. It will change the world. Your joy will spread to those closest to you, and your art will carry your message places you would never expect and could never plan. The seeds of changes are in your creative power. YOUR art is not inconsequential. It may bring a person out of the dark. It may bring you out of the dark.

I love the era of digital freedom. Now, more than ever, groups of like-minded individuals can “meet,” without leaving the comfort of their own continents. Ideas cross borders, and there is no reason for the masses to be homogenized into some manageable, marketable stereotypes. If there are seven people on the planet who LOVE making fake sausages out of textiles, and this brings them joy, those seven people can find the thousand people who want to support fake-sausage artists. We don’t have to understand what they see in it, but I believe we do have to encourage creative joy in all forms. The world is a better place when we are able to create and share. If small groups way out in the “long tail” of the creative markets bond and support one another, we stand a chance to solve those bigger societal problems, one situation at a time. The fake-sausage artists won’t let each other starve or go shoeless. They will have found their net, their way out of the dark, but it couldn’t happen if they didn’t reach out from their creative joy first.

I guess maybe it sounds a little Pollyanna (or Penny, from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog!) to advocate that creating even the strangest, niche art can change the world. But think about it: when I am a happy creative, I am not wallowing in self-pity. I’m engaging the world. I’m able to be aware of the plight of others because I am no longer wrapped tight in the winding-sheet of my own unfulfilled needs. When I’m creating, I’m engaged. When I’m engaged, I notice what others need. When I notice what someone else needs, I can do something to help. Small kindnesses, yes, but these are the foundation of a better, less painful world. I can’t fix everything wrong with the world, but I can make this moment better for someone, somewhere. I can do that in person if I am not wrapped up in selfishness. My stories allow me to be there for someone even when I am not there in person, and wow, isn’t that some powerful juju?!

Now that writers can go straight to readers, there is no reason for anyone to remained mired in that half-alive state of waiting for “acceptance.” They can share their stories NOW, and use the momentum of sharing to propel themselves into more empathetic modes of being. This means that some writers will, gasp!, publish things that aren’t as polished as you want. Personally, I like it that writers are able to make mistakes in front of readers. I like it, even though I’ve read several indie books that were huge disappointments in terms of craft. You know what? Despite the imperfection of their delivery, those stories are still with me. I love well-crafted prose, but even stumbling prose that tells me something new is a gift. I encourage those who are stumbling to keep on writing. If they are teachable, if they are willing to listen to their readers, if they keep following their bliss, they will improve. Their readers will love them for it, because they’ve been included in the journey. The world will be better because of those stories, and there’s nothing frivolous about it!

xoxo,

-aniko

 

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