“And if you need an Xscape for now…”

I love these newer tunes that make me reminisce…

I think I’m in the Ruff Endz, now
I seen her throwin’ up H-Town
You was livin’ off of Dru Hill
Wasn’t Ready For The World but baby, who is?
Know you prettier than all the El Debarges
Never worry ’bout the Total of the charges

–“Anywhere” by Anderson .Paak (feat. Snoop Dogg and The Last Artful, Dodgr)

Hail to the King, Baby

Two songs and two thoughts went through my mind as I sat in this chair, getting this picture taken at a local winery.

I’ve got to keep my image while suspended on a throne
That looks out upon a kingdom filled with people all unknown
Who imagine I’m not human and my heart is made of stone
And I’ve never had no problems and my toliet’s trimmed with gold

Spencer Davis Group, “I’m a Man”

What that idiotic smirk on my face doesn’t show is the inner realization that if those lyrics resonated with even the smallest part of me, then I have only myself to blame.  If I do portray this image, it’s because I’ve developed a Game Face.  I wondered if the Game Face may be part of some psychological defense mechanism that may or may not be needed anymore.  I wondered if maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance that my life might be better off without it.

But then, I remembered the words to another song…

I was the king of the world
I had every thing thrown at me,
That the judge and jury could hurl
I was the man of the hour
I would claw and scratch my way up,
To the very top of the tower

-Toto, “King of the World”

Then I realized there were reasons I was the way I am.  No, I haven’t been severely traumatized or anything, at least no more so than your average Joe.  But somewhere along the way, I decided the Game Face became a handy tool for helping me get back up whenever I was knocked down.  I decided that maybe it was the price of doing business in life.  I decided that it wasn’t making me hard or calloused in the way people don’t like – the way that makes you slow, closed-off, and numb.  I decided that it made me stronger – like a fighter who’s not only conditioned to take a hit and get back up, but is willing to step back into the ring and tell the next chump (read: bit of disappointment) who wants a piece, “Come get some.”

I decided it’s good to be the king.

“Too Many Voices”

I like song lyrics. Sometimes, they get me thinking and then I like to dissect those thoughts like the Zapruder film.

I don’t wanna wait
For our lives to be over.
Will it be yes, or will it be

Let me tell you something about my Muse, the little shit.

My relationship to it is best expressed on the Tumblr I use as a notebook of the things I feed it. I call it the place…

Where I strap my muse to a chair like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, pin its eyes open, and force-feed its brain until it does what it’s fucking told.

Yes, I brainwash my Muse, typically by waterboarding it every so often. Not too much, though. Like Nice Guy Eddie says in Reservoir Dogs, “If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he’ll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don’t necessarily make it fucking so!”

Some might say that’s harsh. I know there are folks who feed and care for and cradle their precious Muse. They are not wrong to do so. And if it works for them, I’m very glad! But call me as delusional as the folks who think the “enhanced interrogation” techniques at Gitmo actually work–I’ll be damned if they don’t work on my Muse, at least as well as cradling it ever did!

I’ve made a lot of progress with my Muse over the past few years. It does need a bit of “encouraging” every now and again, but it seems to be spitting out ideas when I want them, and a lot of times, even when I don’t want them! The important thing though is that I do not wait for my Muse to give it up before I write. That’d be stupid.

As Octavia Butler noted, “…habit is more dependable than inspiration.” I’ve learned that ideas really are a dime a dozen and that what my Muse will not do most times is form those ideas into actual stories for me. Once in awhile, maybe. But the hard truth is, my little bastard of a Muse really doesn’t care if I finish my stories or not! No, that’s squarely up to me, and the only way that’s done is by sitting down day after day and writing, with my Muse’s waterboard right next to me, pouring and writing, whether it gives me reliable and actionable intel or not!

Because I absolutely do not want to be one of those writers who bitches and moans about being uninspired and who get no writing done because of it.

“Too Many Voices”

I like song lyrics. Sometimes, they get me thinking and then I like to dissect them like the Zapruder film. Just something I’m going to try in 2010 to give me something to talk about here. Should’ve thought of this years ago :). Call this a field test.

Many reasons that hold you back
That tell you no
Make you fall short of what you want to say
Too many voices in my head
Where’s the boy who used to take chances
Used to say when I grow up to be a man someday
True to my heart in every way
Seems so simple
Why’s it so hard
I’ll never know

This isn’t going to be a story of how I suddenly found myself or an epiphany about my purpose on earth which I’m dedicating myself to living out in 2010. It’s not a manifesto or a mission statement. This is about struggle–I guess you could say The Struggle. And I mean that in a positive way.

Inspiration is all well and good. I certainly couldn’t get by without it. And for the longest time, this song did inspire me. But it didn’t really do anything for me until I pondered what Robert Lamm was talking about when he asked, Why is it so hard?

I dunno. Lamm asked that question for his own reasons. Me, all I need to know is that it is hard, and that’s just the way it is. I look back at every success I’ve had in 2009, in the two main areas of my life–Writing and Everything else–and I’ve come to accept that inspiration and luck only ever got me so far.

The rest of it really was work. Nose-to-the-grindstone, ass-in-the-chair, bite-the-bullet fucking work!

I’m jealous of the folks who find joy in the process of writing, I really do. I read their thoughts on their blogs and I’m very happy for them. But their words never resonated with me. No, I’m definitely one of those writers who finds joy in having written. When a piece is done and submitted, I’m happy. (I say this knowing I have no control over whether it’s published–if it is, it’s gravy.) But I’ll be damned if it’s not like pulling teeth.

I’ve noticed that the writers I like the most, the ones whose stuff I like to read, make no bones about how hard the writing life is. They don’t complain how The Evil Publishing Illuminati are keeping them from getting their work out. They don’t blog excessively about the source of their writer’s block–they bitch for two seconds, pull up their big boy/big girl pants and attack the writing life like Chow Yun-Fat in a John Woo Hong Kong action film. They just get to it!

The only way to success, I’ve found, really is through the struggle–The Struggle–and to be sure, that’s hard to face. I have to re-teach myself that lesson over and over, and I don’t expect it to be different in 2010. I can only resolve to make the lesson stick for longer and longer periods of time.

The alternative is too horrible to contemplate, namely a life of sitting around pondering Lamm’s song lyric up there and never coming to a satisfactory answer.

So, what Struggle are you going to walk into, with glocks in both hands, in order to get to where you want to be in 2010?