6.2 Not Without… Adam

Not Without…

What can a creative person, a writer, not do without? I would have said pants but pants are optional; I only wear them out of mundane perfunctory obligation. Jodi once sent me a second-hand pair of trackies while I was on long service leave to write.

What can I not do without?

My Music

I am a metal head of old. I am nostalgic for the days of my long hair, when it was REALLY LONG. Once I was introduced to someone who upon finding out I played drums said, “Looks like one.” I am a “meat and potatoes” drummer; plain and simple.

Music is my meditation and prayer for peace, for anger, for contemplation, for melancholy, for sorrow, for confusion, for nostalgia, for hope.

My current binge genre is post-rock, which is instrumental music ranging from intimate and ethereal to heavy and loud, and simple to progressive. Often in the same piece of music. I like music that forms a narrative, and post-rock does this for me. My current home-town heroes of the post-rock scene here in Sydney are sleepmakeswaves, We Lost The Sea and Meniscus. The new album from We Lost the Sea is getting a regular listen because it is a piece of artistic majesty. I was in the crowd for We Lost The Sea gig and it was a spiritual experience.

The music acts a filter to bring me focus and clarity; to provide a soundtrack for a scene; to prompt a mood or vibe. I listen to heavy metal in a similar way because I can filter the vocals out, make them another instrument in the mix rather than get caught up in the lyrical narrative happening. I will get caught up sometimes in a song and listen to the lyrics to understand the power of that moment and to find the words to express the power of the emotion of the scene I am writing.

And a set of noise cancelling headphones are a blessing.

My Doubt, My Insecurities, My Fears, My Faith

I have made creativity a central part of my life because I believe in its philosophy as a physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, intellectual and emotional act. I teach because I believe in the power of relationship. There is tremendous power in sharing creative acts. Connection through, and via, art, establishes relationships.

Since my early teens I wanted to write because I loved how I was moved by the stories I read. I wanted to be Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, Julian from The Famous Five, Obelisk and Tintin, The Phantom and any number of participants in war stories, fantasy epics, sci-fi embroilments. I wanted to use language to explore the power of figurative language to engage and to teach through the power of parable and analogy.

And I live with the uncertainty and doubt and fear that I am completely and utterly rubbish at this writing gig. I am afraid that one day I will wake up and the creativity will not be there. That I will not be able to write, or to draw, or to play drums, or to read. I will be the emperor standing naked in front of the people, exposed as nothing. At least I won’t be wearing pants.

Yet…

I persist. I pursue. I proceed.

This is faith.

I create what I can, when I can, how I can. The doubt and insecurity and fear never truly leave. They are a pebble in my shoe. Irritating and leading to blisters but nonetheless a reminder I am moving forward.

My Network

The JAR Collective is a gestalt entity of three people. We live in different cities, in different countries. We share similar (and different) aims and visions in regard to writing and the creative arts. And we work brilliantly together. We encourage, support, share, laugh, cry, whinge, swear, question, answer, and write together.

We are divergent, differentiated, maybe even debonaire.

We kick each other up the bum as motivation.

We hold each other’s hands when times are tough, and the candle doesn’t push back the darkness.

We hold a space for each other.

We celebrate the victories together, from the insignificant to the momentous.

We champion each other.

And I could not do it without their support.

Find your tribe. Find your people. Cherish and love them. Support and encourage them.

 

Lastly, not without doughnuts. I can’t do without doughnuts.

5.2 The Next Story – Adam

The Next Story

Part 1

How long has it been since I have written anything from start to finish?

Too long.

Far too long.

“Post Marked Piper’s Reach” was published in July this year. It was written seven years ago.

What has happened in-between? Between 2013 and 2018, the grounds lay fallow. I started a verse novel. Began the drafting and ideas for a novella. Started collaborating with Jodi and Rus on a novel. At the end of 2018 I finished the draft of a novella that will exist in the Piper’s Reach world but be separate from it. It’s now awaiting an edit. And in-between all of this, I have penned scraps of sentences and handwritten pieces for Instagram, and random poems for Twitter and Facebook.

I have not sat down to write for a variety of reasons: moving house, ill health, work commitments. Other personal reasons. I read books. Kept a record of what I had read and challenged myself to improve on it. Kept adding to the compost heap.

But nothing complete or completed.

Looking back on the past few years it appears I’ve been throwing manure on the compost heap in the hope something other than tomatoes will sprout from the pile of grass clippings, vegetable scraps and garden trimmings. At some point you have to turn the soil, keep turning it, shovel it around the base of an idea and see what grows.

Those works in progress mentioned above have sat idle but I return to them occasionally, turning the soil and adding more thought to them.

Part 2

The question is always of, “What next?”

This year was a focus on getting Piper’s Reach into the world and to an audience. Publication was the end of the cycle and a new cycle has to begin.

But where to begin with that new cycle?

In my head, and in my planning, it is the novella, followed by the verse novel and working with Jodi and Rus to finish our collaborative novel, plans for a collaborative novel with Rus, and thinking of another collaboration with Jodi.

Left to my own devices I have to think about the next story. Snippets of sentences and half-formed paragraphs are easy. Bringing them to fruition is difficult. I write better in collaboration as iron sharpens iron. But I had to prove to myself I can do it by myself. The novella was the first step. My verse novel will be the next step after that. For myself, I am unsure. The horizon is a long way off.

Part 3

But I see a way forward. Beyond plans for completing and finishing, there is the desire to write again. I have felt blocked lately in writing but I think I have a way forward: writing my way into it.

I’ll start by writing anything.

With abandon.

With reckless care for sense or understanding.

To write without fear or favour.

To play with language and experiment with words because no one else will see it.

The freedom of not having eyes to cast a glance and question the structure or word choice.

Part 4

But there is something else that sits with me in terms of thinking about the next story: Why do I want to tell this story?

This is what is pushing me lately. I have a couple of unfinished works on my computer and I circle back to them from time to time to ask why do I want to tell this story? Have I worked out what the story is in order to tell it? The same question applies to my novella and verse novel because the question will help frame the narrative and edits in the future.

The “why” will be the driving force to keep me throwing compost onto the heap and tilling the soil.

The next story will always be there.

SPARK: Making Love With The Unknown

Spark is a monthly collaborative post written from a spark of inspiration that organically finds its way to us. This month we were inspired by this Instagram post from the artist Frederic Hoffmann.

Why not? Indeed.

ADAM

Writing and Sex – A Dubious Metaphor

In the process of editing my novel, I thought about the relationship a writer has with a story. It may be a short story, or a novel, a poem, a piece of art. And there is this creative process we go through in our relationship with the Work In Progress from initial idea through to completion, submission, and publication.

I’m going to dirty it up and compare it to sex.

The Initial Idea -Something catches your eye; piques your interest. You look, but don’t want to get caught looking. There may even be some casual flirtation after initial introductions are made. After some witty repartee, numbers are exchanged and there is a tentative agreement made to meet up for coffee later in the week.

Sketchy Ideas – you know there’s something special but it’s taking a while to figure out. Texts, phone calls, flirty messages, chats over coffee, even a small gift have done little to assuage the feeling of “I think it’s right but I’m just not sure yet.”
So you take the plunge.

The First Draft – You rip off each others’ clothes and engage in primeval, animalistic, urge-driven sex. It’s a quickie. Pants are down around your ankles. There is speed. There is haste. There is mess. There is no thought to foreplay or decorum. It just happens. There is celebration of sorts. It’s rather selfish as all you think about is how good your idea is.

Subsequent Drafts – You’ve seen each other naked but you know there is work to be done. You’ve know reached the “awkward” phase in the relationship with the story.
In a half-baked attempt at romance, you take things a little slower. There is the offer of flowers, desserts, sensuous massage, candles, walks along the beach. Even a movie if you’re particularly keen. You’ve even made a mix tape to make out to. You have playlists for when you’re cooking dinner or breakfast.

But, you still can’t quite figure out how to get the bra off without appearing like you’re an incompetent teenager and breaking the mood. You have even remembered to shower.

Sometimes you finish first. Sometimes nothing happens and it feels like a let down. Just don’t be tempted to flirt with other story ideas. Work at it. This is an investment.

Each time you come back, you’ve learned a little more. You know when and where to stimulate it to make it work. You take your time. You luxuriate in your story. You have even gone out and bought new underwear to let the story know it’s special.

Each time you are together, you learn to work more closely, watching, listening, learning.

The Final Draft– You have now learned to make love to your story.

You have explored every nook and cranny; you know what turns your story on. You can undo the bra. In the dark. One handed.

Truly you have learned to make love to your story. You consider its feelings by not passing wind when you are intimate together. Snuggling after sex is enjoyable. Intimacy is achieved; a connection of souls.

Cigarette, anyone?

JODI

A Dubious Guide to Making Love to the Unknown

To make love to the known immediately makes me think of four things.

  • to connect to the unknown
  • to surrender to the unknown
  • to be present with the unknown
  • to find pleasure and embodiment in the unknown

All of which are counter intuitive – because, well, the unknown is the unknown.

How do you connect to it? How do you surrender to it? To be present with it? Or find pleasure and embodiment with it – especially if the unknown brings with it fear?

Do you open? Do you carry no expectations of what will be? Do you scream ‘Hello, I’m here’ and wait to see what happens next?

Making love is an existential meld with the past, present and the future. A tryst with the unknown is no different.

I’ve always been more on the intrepid side of things (though as I have got older this has toned down as fear and the need to be responsible have somewhat blunted the sharp thrilling edge of it). The unknown has not bothered me. I’ve known I’ve been in the right place when I’ve been excited-terrified. The last four years I’ve danced in the shadows, unearthed, released and healed parts of myself eons old and as a consequence it has been a completely different journey into the unknown.

Next time fear or age-wearied responsibility tries to muscle in, I’ll remember something that’s said about giving birth in hospital – would you let all those people in your bedroom to make a baby? (Probably not unless you have a penchant for role playing doctors and nurses with a bunch of strangers).

I adore the idea of making love to the unknown – even if it carries something of the paradox in and of itself. So yes, I’ll be less keen on welcoming fear and responsibility in as co-lovers in creative spaces (or just life in general). I’ll make love to the unknown in as authentic a resonance as I’m capable of: surrendered, connected, present, totally embodied and embracing of pleasure. Why not?

Photo by Jens Johnsson from Pexels

RUS

For most of my life, I have been keenly aware of Querencia, our wanting-place where we feel most in our element to do or try just about anything. Some might confuse this with a comfort zone. This is totally antithetical to comfort; it is all about confidence. I have found it impossible to do anything from a place of comfort, especially when it comes to making love with the unknown. What prevents us from doing so is fear: fear of change, of losing our comfort, of revealing ourselves to a larger world beyond the walls we know and trust too well. To make love with the unknown, one must first know her Querencia, and begin there.

My friend T and I would take spontaneous road trips when we were in college. Each adventure would uncover some wild aspect of ourselves and the world around us. We did make love with the unknown while on the road, practicing a certain foreplay with nature as we headed to some unknown destination, some deeply satisfying climax that we still remember today. Whether it was in the mountains along the Appalachian Trail, on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, or among the two-lane main streets of Maryland’s smallest towns, we made love with the earth, with time, with singular moments that could not be imagined, only experienced in ways that were possible right then, right there.

And because we so freely made love with the unknown 35 years ago, the doors were opened permanently for me to embark – so confidently – into the unknown, freely and sensuously, wherever I desire. The comforts of older age knock at my door occasionally, but I rarely acknowledge them.

I. Love. Life. And no creatures of comfort will ever lure me away from the absolute thrill and passion I have for making love with the unknown.

4.2 Sand People Ride In Single File To Hide Their Numbers

Part One – Literary Allusion

Robert Frost was a tricksy bastard.

The road not taken? The path less travelled by? More like trolling generations of poetry students and Instagram influencers.

There were always two paths.

There was always at least A path.

It just so happened he happened to take the one with more leaves on it.

Others have been there before you.

Someone has always been there ahead of you.

And that’s ok.

I’m definitely ok with that.

You don’t have to hack your way through uncharted territory because there wasn’t a way there before. There’s probably a really good reason why the path doesn’t go that way. The path of least resistance is a good starting point as a writer. Why make it harder for yourself?

I walked a writer’s path starting out with brief sentences and paragraphs. It was where I wanted to learn how to craft something. I spent a year writing flash fiction and getting feedback via a writers’ website. I wrote blog posts, worked collaboratively on projects, before feeling comfortable to write alongside someone and work on a novel. Still feel like the novel is beyond me whereas a novella is more in line with where my writing sits. A novel could be further down the path.

If I lay out my current projects on the table, what path would I take? Can I come back to something or will it be left behind?

Part Two – Personal Anecdote

There is a creek down the street from where I grew up, and where my parents still live, and I spent many hours down by the water either by myself or with my younger brother and our dog.

A dirt track ran beside the creek and we would often follow it until we could go no further. Then we climbed down the rock faces and kept boulder-hopping down the creek.

No phones. No recourse should we get injured. Mum said she wasn’t worried unless the dog came home alone.

I had the freedom to walk the same path over and over and over again: through summer heat keeping an eye out for snakes (this is Australia, after all), winter coldness, and during and after rainfall when the trickle of a waterfall turned into a brown rush.

It was my querencia of solace and familiarity. This was my happy place as a solitary explorer. I could walk the path over and over, knowing where I was at each turn and curve even, as storms and nature put obstacles in the path or branches hung lower. There was always a path visible, even when it was overgrown and almost forgotten about.

I used a setting from one area of the creek in a short story, The Cicada Clock, first published in Tincture Journal.

I took my daughters down there recently, and it was the first time I’d been down there in perhaps fifteen years, maybe even twenty years. We walked the path, at times hidden by long grass or fallen trees, and explored together. For me it was revisiting a space I inhabited so much as a child and teenager, and a chance to introduce my girls to a location meaningful to me. I lead and they followed. Or one of them would go ahead to see what was around the corner or over the rise or behind the tree.

We shared the path.

We may never return there.

Part Three – Comic Juxtaposition

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD.

Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand: one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.

He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.

He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:

“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”

The LORD replied:“Sand people always ride single-file, to hide their numbers.”

Part Four – Personal Application

Standing on the shoulders of giants involves learning how to climb their backs; to scramble up the terrain of their legs, back and shoulders, and clamber around their head to get a good seated position. Only then can you see further.

I’m not a leader, an innovator, an intrepid explorer; so many others have been there before me. Instead, I will follow. I’ll be following you on social media, making notes of your wisdom and insights. I’ll ask questions on occasions; watch your mistakes and know I’ll probably make them myself. I’ll be the one tagging along, just a little behind and looking over your shoulder (when I’m not perched on it), to work out how it’s done.

And while we’re travelling along the path, whether it’s a dirt track, a paved footpath, a broad highway, there is always a place to leave graffiti. Footpaths, overpasses, highways, tunnels.

But on my path, I learned a valuable lesson. I learned to say, “Yes.”

Yes, to making the decision to write.

Yes, to writing pieces of flash fiction.

Yes, to writing a blog.

I said “Yes” to opportunities.

Yes, to writing a blog for a writers’ website.

Yes, to contributing to thematic anthologies.

Yes, to the idea of an epistolary novel.

Yes, to another collaborative novel.

Yes, to a writing cooperative.

Yes, to trying something a little different through our writers’ collective.

Not all opportunities are correct. Sometimes it is important to say, “No” or to let a project be relegated to the rubbish.

Every writer’s path is different. The best we can do is leave notes along the way to say, “This is how I, or we, did it. It’s up to you to work out your path.”

Choose how you pave, forge, or ignore the path.

And give a knowing wink to Robert Frost as you cross paths.