Sunday, October 21, 2018

Happily Ever After

I haven't been very active on Facebook lately, nor on any other social media sites the last few months.
Or frankly, the last few years to people who have known me a long time.
I have been wrestling with demons for a while now, figuratively and literally. Well, maybe not so much literally.
I am a person that suffers from Writers Block and have done so ever since I stopped considering myself an “amateur” writer and started writing from the perspective of self-respect and craft. When I was a teenager, I retreated into my fictional world as a means of therapy and processing events.
For a good while, I was a volunteer pastor / minister type at church and developed my journalistic and persuasive skills in that line of work.
By the time I was aiming to seriously write novels, plays and screenplays, I realized that it’s very difficult to write when one lacks passion about the subject matter. From about 2000 to 2005, the novels I wrote became much longer but the palette of subject matter converged and themes became far more focused. I realized that if I couldn’t consistently “top myself” I shouldn’t even bother saying anything.
That very few people were even listening at that stage was beside the point. Mostly lady friends were reading my stuff back then. Attempted Rapture wasn’t even published until 2004. Cry on Cue in 2005 and Jaded Sapphira was just published last year, as an add on to Attempted Rapture. Gouging the Wound was permanently retired and The Song of Solomon remains in literary purgatory as, with dignity, my self-professed “most worthless novel ever written in the history of humankind.”
After briefly flirting with the “art of trolling” at a few writer forum websites, (which was actually a good experience, mingling with so many hateful people and learning to respond creatively to unwarranted and unsolicited criticism) I realized my efforts could be far better spent looking for work.
During this time, I began to turn my writing obsession and hobby into a paying career and gradually understood that like giving sermons in church, there was something very perfunctory about writing for profit. You had to do it, if you wanted to eat. You had to shake off the writer’s block, the laziness and the stubborn rebellion to do anything else except writing about these awful vacuum cleaners, or whatever I was helping to sell.
I avoided ghostwriting fiction during this time because at least nonfiction and sales was easier to write or “fake”. Fiction still felt very real to me.
My first real writer’s block started after I got married in 2007. It wouldn’t get it back until I was writing Raining Cats and Dogs in 2008. During these years, I became distracted by more journalistic endeavors, writing news headlines, humorous commentary and satirical pieces for work.
Eventually I became bored of the salesy articles at work and became drawn to commercial fiction. Genre flicks including romance, horror, Christian, sci-fi, historical, erotica (nice!) and the like. At first they were a lot of fun.
Over time though, I really lost the passion for writing fiction that was ultimately someone else’s idea and a bunch of clichés, hackneyed plots and familiar territory.
It got to the point where I was writing fiction in a perfunctory manner, not caring about any of these shallow characters, and quite frankly, hoping they would all die terrible deaths after the fade out.
So while I was experiencing “Writer’s Block” during this time, it didn’t actually prevent me from working. I shoved through the blasé and the empty shell of a passionless, pointing writing prompt of an exercise, and I wrote anyway.
I even distracted myself for literally years, re-writing and re-editing Attempted Rapture, which I released as a self-published book in 2014.
At some point I realized Attempted Rapture felt like a very year 2000 book. It represented my mind at the age of 23 or 24 and yet didn’t feel like a book that was actually the Current Me, plus all my accumulated wisdom, cynicism and nihilism. I really had nothing to claim for my modern self. Nothing that represented my views of the world, which of course in 2015 was a world defined by polarized social media commentary.
While I did waste hours of time arguing with people on Facebook, I still had a lot of manic energy that had no real outlet. Then I had the idea of The End of the Magical Kingdom, not as a book, but as a cartoon musical. I researched ways on how to turn this vision (an admittedly simple idea about gay marriage) into reality.
That never turned out because raising money and making time for thousands of hours of work proved impossible. That’s when I decided to complicate the idea and turn a simple argument that says “a witch and a princess should be allowed to marry” into a “chain reaction of events that led to world war.”
It seemed fitting, in lieu of the doomsday discussion happening for most of Election Year 2016, and that’s why I followed up Part 1: The Evil Princess with Part 2: The Saint of Science and Part 3: The Watchmaker’s Child, which essentially represented doom, gloom and the triumph of evil over good.
I really tried to end the princess war novels with episode 3 but it really bothered me that I ended on such a simple, fatalistic note. The concept was there… “How can there be a Happily Ever After” ending in a world where happiness was stomped out by corporate greed and commercial war?”
I felt I jumped the shark with The Saint of Science, given how horrific the imagery was, and the complete lack of redemption in developing the villains of the book and how they essentially win the war. The only way to “top myself” again was with The Watchmaker’s Child, and indeed to bring not only sci-fi and technology to the discussion, but returning to the concept of God as a non-omnipotent being, the Watchmaker who simply keeps the world turning with only limited intervention.
Finally, I conquered my writer’s block by writing about subject matter I was passionate about – words that demanded to be typed, characters that demanded to speak through me, as if I was channeling genetic memory and not merely using my imagination.
The Watchmaker’s Child was the most disturbed and yet beautiful work of art I had crafted and yet it felt completely soulless, as Schizoid as the lead character herself. The fact that the villains prevailed in the series was a nod to The Empire Strikes Back, and the idea that bad guys usually do win in real life.
The only way to top myself again would be to write a “Happily Ever After” ending to all this madness and ultra-realism (stubbornly reincarnated into a fantasy comedy). I struggled with the idea for years.
And now, as I am 100,000 words into my Work In Progress, I have finally found the Happily Ever After that eluded me for so long. I’ve found the passion that was missing in my creative life. I really did feel as if I tortured my characters for so long, they simply deserved restitution, redemption and rejuvenation, despite their irredeemable suffering.
They didn’t just deserve Happily Ever After For Now, they deserved a lifelong healing, a feeling of peace. The same peace, the same Happily Ever After that I slowly realized my wife gave me, my writing partner gave me, my parents gave me.
We make our own happy endings in life by changing our perspective, by getting rid of conflict and misery, and as much as possible, by reimagining our universe to be successful, peaceful and magical on a daily basis.
If only I could capture that thought and turn it into a gigantic novel that saves everyone and everything, and hopefully gives the human race itself some hope, even at the brink of World War IV, even in a world where nihilism, atheism and cynicism reign supreme.
And now that project is consuming me and most of my energy.
What is the new book about?
In a word, forgiveness. The final episode 4: “The Twin Flame” is about one simple idea, multiplied by numerous variables. The idea that an evil person can change - perhaps the one true honest thing that Religion gives us, and one that a secular society falls proudly short of giving us.
When I finally finish this book, probably by early 2019, I will have figured out where I stand with God, Religion, Agnosticism, Cynicism, The Secret of the Universe, and Questioning Everything.
I will most likely readjust my viewpoint and my values.
It is a book that I feel will change my life permanently and hopefully some day, will change the world itself for the better.

A short parable

Once upon a time, there lived a fun, loving, passionate and compassionate prince who was fair and very sure of “Happily Ever After.”   ...