Monthly Archives: March 2013

Refusing to Write my Age

Growing up is hard, and it’s the same for everyone, but when I was a kid I thought it really sucked. I am going to turn 33 on Thursday (March 21st), and as I reach this new year (which, for some inexplainable reason, feels significant), I cannot help but look back at some of the years past.

I was short, and fat, and probably annoying as fuck. I tried to hard to get people to like me, and when I couldn’t get them to like me I just tried to get attention (usually by telling dumb jokes, dancing poorly, and pretending I was a ninja), and that led to several ass kickings, which I’m relatively sure I didn’t deserve.

My parents had always read to me when I was young, and that blossomed into a love of reading myself. The more I read, the more I found I could escape into it, and leave behind the misery of my childhood, and live a different life entirely.

Those early, elementary school years, with the bad hair-cuts, the bullies, and the semi-regular beatings, were buffered with Terry Brooks and his Shannara series. I spent many a classroom hour, ignoring the jeers and the taunts while I imagined riding into battle against the demon hordes, the Druid, Allannon, at  my elbow. In the landscape of my mind none of the problems of my real life existed, and I had a respite from the constant malice that made up my life and found a way to keep my sanity.

In my later part of high school, and my years of university, I dropped 50 pounds, grew 6 inches, discovered Shotokan Karate, and damned near lived either on the dojo floor, or in a weight room. Now, instead of being a short, chubby target for violence, I was a tall, proud, arrogant jackass. I turned into a vastly overcompensating “tough” guy, and took every opportunity to tell everyone I met how much I could bench press, or how high I could kick. Then, I found, the physical violence stopped, but the ridicule ramped up and took in any slack left by the lack of beatings.

Again, I escaped into books. My reading tastes changed as I matured, and I now turned to Jack Whyte, and the building of Camulod, to supply me with a journey to a place where I could imagine myself an important man, leading a colony of survivors to prosper in a savage, untamed land.

Once I was done my schooling I was accepted by the RCMP, and sent to freeze my ass off in Regina for 6 months of running, marching, getting yelled at, and generally hating life as I waited for the hell to be over. During this time I took up with Stephen King, and Roland of Gilead. As I was training to be a Mountie, what Roland would have called a “Gunslinger”, I imagined myself travelling with Roland and his ka-tet, seeking the Dark Tower where all the ills of the world could be solved.

No matter the period of my life, I had a constant companion, in book form, to lend me a little support and shore me up. Many hard days were defeated, and obstacles overcome, after a few minutes of pretending I was somewhere else. 

As I began writing in earnest, I have always written stories that spoke to me. I wrote about the struggle between good and evil. I told stories about a man’s journey, and his growth on his way to heroism. I wrote about standing up for what you believe in, and doing the right thing, even when it is not easy.

But one thing I realized is all of these stories are written for the man I am now. The man I have become through the last 10 years of law-enforcement experience, and the things I have seen (and wish I could forget). I have completely forgotten what it is to have the dreams of a younger man, and what those dreams meant to me as I was trying to figure out who I was going to become.

I’ve recently started a new project, and I am writing it for the me who lived through the bullying, and the long hours in a small dojo, trying to be something other than what he was. I am trying to tell a story that will appeal to that young man, and hopefully teach him something.

It’s a bit of a risk, because it is very much a departure from what I normally write. It is still, of course, going to involve good versus evil, a young man’s journey, and a great deal of magic. The main difference is the perspective I’m going to try and write it from, and the fact that I’ll have to use far less explitives.

As I start this new project, I am working hard to remember where I came from, and the stories that gave me such comfort when my days were so hard. Despite behind hard, they were good days, and made me who I am. And I’m willing to bet you had more than a few of those days too.

Feel free to share them with me, as I share this little bit of a journey with you. Perhaps we’ll come out close to the same place.

Thanks for reading.

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A Deep and Terrible Understanding

On Friday afternoon, as I lay in my bed, napping in preparation for my impending night shift, a man broke into my house and made it into my bedroom before I woke up and realized my home had been invaded. The bad guy quickly fled upon my waking and I am fine – physically anyway – but there is a terrible anger burning in me, and an awful understanding of what it means to have your life broken into.

One of my writing mentors, after reading my last blog post, forbade me from writing another blog until I’d written at least 1000 words of original fiction. But this event has me rattled, angry and bent out of shape, and I am writing about it to try and find a bit of peace. I am vitally upset, and now I’m going to make you all suffer with me. So, my dear writing mentor, you will have to cut me a little slack, and forgive my transgression.

The evil-doer, it seems, pried open the back window of my house. He stole my cell phone, which was beside the window, and then made his way through several rooms, before coming to my bedroom. I was dead to the world, as I always am if I manage to fall asleep during the day, and didn’t hear him at all. The bad guy couldn’t find the light switch in my room, apparently, and opened the black-out curtains I have to keep the room dark so I can sleep during the day. When the room got brighter, I came half way to consciousness, and rolled over. The bad guy swore, ran down my stairs, out my front door and into a waiting vehicle, which peeled out of my driveway.

It took me several moments to realize that I hadn’t dreamed the whole thing, and there had actually been someone in my house. Once I was with it, I ran to my neighbor’s house, called the police, called my wife, yelled and swore – the usual.

In all, the event could have been much worse. I was never in any real danger; most break and enter artists are horrible cowards and break into houses in the middle of the day when they think the occupants will be at work, and if it came down to a confrontation between me and the shit-bag, I think that he is likely to be the one who was in danger. Also, the only thing we lost was my cell phone, which is little more than an inconvenience due to the lost contacts and other information.

The thing that really bothers me is that I no longer feel like I can rest in my own house.

It’s kind of funny, I suppose; I’ve been a street cop for nearly 10 years, first as a constable, then as a corporal (supervisor). I’ve been to probably a thousand break and enter files in that time, and I’ve met all those unfortunate occupants whose lives have been irrevocably disrupted by a horrible invasion into their homes. I’ve always tried to be sympathetic, as I rummaged through the remains of their lives looking for evidence, trying to catch the rat-fuck who did them such awful injury, but I’ve never, until now, reached a full understanding of what they’d gone through.

Now I know. And I don’t like it at all.

Much of our lives is like this, I think. You don’t appreciate a thing until it is gone – a thing like security in your own home. You don’t appreciate a story until your life is turned upon its ear and your ability to tell that story has fled from you. You don’t really understand a helpless anger until it rests at the center of you, and will not be tamped down.

I got another apt Mark Twain quote off the calendar my wife got me: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Reading that quote I know I will get over this thing, as we all get over the things that come to trouble us in our lives. I will take this craft of mine, and feed this grist into the mill of my mind, and come out the other side a better storyteller.

It is just hard to remember that, sometimes, when you’ve not been able to sleep in your own home because you think every creak of your house is someone else coming to break in, and you leap out of bed hoping to catch them in the act and bash them silly.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you are faring better than I.

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Grist for the Mill

Whenever something crappy or odious happens in my life, one of my writing mentors has an infuriating habit of patting me on the shoulder, shrugging, and telling me, “It’s all just grist for the mill, Ty. It’s all just grist for the mill.”

This, I have found, is a popular term among writers. Whenever something bad – or good, apparently – happens to you, it should be shucked down to its rawest form, and crammed into that mill you call your writing process, to see if anything good is spit out the other side.

Sometimes, however, the grist is a little too full of shit, and it clogs up mill, stopping the writing altogether.

That is where I currently find myself.

Life has been heavy, lately. And I’m not saying it hasn’t been heavy for anyone else, but relative to my normal state, several events have been weighing me down. I’ve a family member fall quite ill, the stress count with my day job has been through the roof, and I’m still carrying around the ghost of an incident that happened over a year ago and hasn’t yet been put to rest. To top it all off, last monday I crashed my little blue car (oh, how I loved that car!) and walked away with a mild concussion and a small payout for a little 4-wheeled buddy who can never be replaced (insert joke about men and their cars, here).

All of this has served to form itself into one giant, pulsating, greasy excuse for not getting any words down, or any editing done. I’ve been in a full on moping snit for the last week, and I’ve done almost nothing. For the last month, really, the only thing I’ve written consistently is this blog. I’ve had no forward movement, with either my life or my writing, and I feel as though I’ve been bogged so deep that I’ll never claw my way clear again.

Yesterday, as I was slogging through my gray mood, I saw a quote on a Mark Twain calendar my wife got me for Chistmas. It says “When in doubt, tell the truth.”

That simple, six word phrase hit me so hard that it felt as though the author himself had appeard in my living room and kicked me in the teeth. The truth, the use of the Craft, was the solution to my slogging, self-pity soaked problems.

All of the things that have happened to me lately are managable; people deal with far worse, and do far better, than me every day. Instead of letting all these things, all these negative experiences, weigh me down and hurt my writing, I had to turn them into gifts and make something with them.

The car accident will be stored away as an experience I can write directly onto the page when I need a character to get hit in the drivers door by a Nissan Pathfinder. The sorrow over the family illness, can be converted into a more useful emotion and poured into a page of writing. The old ghost that has been riding my shoulder for the last year, as of yesterday, has been turned into a non-fiction story and will be shared with the world at large, soon, so I won’t have to carry the spectre anymore, and it might go and walk on its own.

Life’s primary goal, it sometimes seems, is to slap you down and make you miserable. When that happens you can either fold up like an old map and mope on your couch while watching old episodes of Highlander (not that I, personally, would ever do such a ridiculous thing). Or, the more preferable option, is you can take all those experiences, all those heavy burdens, and turn them  into words, emotions on the page, and share them with those that are inclined to hear them.

You never know; those negative experiences that hurt you so, might be turned into something positive that will get someone else through their own hard times. It’s kind of like spinning shit into solid gold.

Now, get writing, and thanks for reading.

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