Inkwell-ness

Inkwell-ness

41LEkwL-FnL._SX355_At the beginning of the year, I think I may have caught the Hipster Flu. You know that type? The kind that enables the almost unreasonable want for skinny jeans, locally sourced floppy hats, ironic tattoos and analog technology. Case in point, I got it in my head that I needed to get a camera. Not wanted, needed. Not a digital, film. It had to be a discontinued film camera from the 80s or earlier, because the high definition digital camera on my Android phone wasn’t cutting it anymore (he says in a tone more closely resembling a question than a statement).

For about a week straight, I gave myself a crash course on exposure, aperture settings, lighting, film speed. I basically crammed a semester’s worth of Art School into a few days because it wasn’t the camera that I really needed. Oh nonono, see the camera wasn’t the end result. It was a means to which I will get to an end result.

This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing either. This wasn’t some random impulse buy. This wasn’t an urge to satisfy some irrational yearning for some random material object that I will most assuredly purchase but never use because reasons. I attribute this particular need to discovering Lomography back in 1999. Since then, I have desired to someday purchase a Holga or a Diana of my very own for the soul purpose of capturing a moment from the hip, and framing it.

But why stop there? Why just decorate my own walls? Makes no sense to be completely selfish. Why not sell my photos? I could start a little cottage industry on Etsy. I could build a website. I could I could I could…

Last week, it was something new that caught my attention. A video appeared on my YouTube channel’s “Recommended” list which featured how to carve an intricate design into a garden stone using a grinding tool.

Immediately, my mind jumped to Volusia County Rocks.  It’s like a community Easter Egg hunt that lasts all year long, but instead of eggs, you’re hiding and looking for…well…you know. The family is quite into this activity, and so we have a bunch of rocks laying around the house just waiting to be prettied up. I thought I could offer a little something unique into the mix, and maybe get a following happening in the process. And then, I could probably extend that craft into opening an Etsy shop. I could build a website. I could I could I could…

A few days ago, I started getting into woodworking videos…

…I could I could I could…

It’s not compulsion. It’s not ADD. It’s something that looks an awful lot like it, but isn’t as clinical or severe. As far as I can see, there is nothing that can come close to what I have. Every attention deficit test I take marks me up as below average. If I had to be quantified into a category, I guess I might be considered a textbook Compulsive. But, I have lived long enough to know when to say when. I was close to a thirty year, pack-a-day smoker who quit cold turkey, I think I can keep myself in check.

I guess what I have is desire in a vacuum. And I know that sounds like I might be a latent appliance fetishist or something, but it’s not, and shame on you for going there, ya perv. You could call it Compulsion with Intent; I don’t desire to acquire whatever I’m fixated on at that moment just to have it, I intend to invest in whatever that thing is now so that it may become useful later. The intent is harmless, but it’s deeply flawed. It doesn’t get me into trouble as it would want to do if left unchecked, but it does occupy my time when I should be concentrating on other things.

This is what happens when it’s January, I’m still unemployed, and I have copious amounts of time to devise a plan like Wile E. Coyote stocking up from the Acme catalog. Tragically hopeful that this will be the year that I’ll finally get that scrawny-ass Roadrunner. Completely oblivious that these new plans that I come up with have nothing to do with writing books. At least, not on the surface.

Compulsion with Intent. “Why yes,” I would say to myself. “I do need to nurture a very expensive hobby that I have no experience with because this is how I will bring in an income, and this is how I will fund my future writing projects.”

Need. Not want. And I know what you’re thinking, but honestly it wouldn’t be the first time I walked into a job not knowing what I’m doing.

Forget that I’m kind of late in the game for pretty much everything. If I were to do something like this, I should have started about twenty years ago.

Forget that I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m learning as I go. The first few months spent on a new project will mostly be taken up with nothing but filling the Giant Failure Bowl of Shame daily. This is time that could be better spent on something that I’ve already started.

Forget the up-front investment needed in order to start generating said income.

Forget that there is no guarantee that I will achieve immediate ROI.

Forget all of it, because I’m on that path already. Throwing words into the void is really no different than snapping ironically out-of-focus pictures or grinding stones for children to find. Switching paths is equal to starting over, and I don’t have time for that now. I have a singular goal to get to first. My goal is to not be a useless lump writing occasionally. My goal is to become a financially well off lump who contributes to society and tries to make the world a better place… who also writes occasionally.

This always happens in the month of January. I’m energized at the possibility of achieving something more, something better. Do something. Make something. Sell something. Work at what you love and the money will follow is the credo I will follow, but the work that I would love doing seems to involve crafting something … anything, other than stories.

So, why not make storycrafting the thing?

Imagine drowning.

The first thing you do when attempting to keep your head above water is flail because your arms are instinctively trying to grab a hold of something to float. It’s survival.

Photography, t-shirt design, woodworking, random eclectic art are all examples of me flailing. Writing is the thing I’m drowning in.

Up until recently, I haven’t yet mastered being in control of my own time so that I can devote at least a few hours to a manuscript. Distractions have placed me in front of the computer screen late at night when the rest of the house is asleep. Up until recently, I was okay with thinking that the best way to deal with crippling doubt, Imposter Syndrome, and writer’s block is to jump into a new task altogether. Projects, particularly first drafts, especially when I’m not established, feel like they take an unnecessarily long time to refine and publish. A long time, with no income. Things have got to happen much quicker at this point, and if writing’s not done, then it’s time for a plan B.

Just like it was last year.

And the year before that…

…and the year before that…

Always forgetting that this brand new shiny red ball of opportunity that I found has nothing to do with writing.

This is what drowning feels like.

“So, you seem to want to flee when things aren’t happening fast enough, is that what you’re saying?”
Yes, Voice In My Head. You would be correct in saying that.
“You also seem to gravitate towards making things with your hands or utilizing tools.”
Yeah, I suppose that’s true too.
“Why?”
Well, because I see people more at peace when they make things with their hands. They seem genuine and whole when they do something they love, and I so desperately want that. Because the end product they produce is more immediate than sitting around waiting for your characters to talk to you so you can finish a chapter, let alone the story. Because people make it look so easy. Because they are practicing in a more sought after skill. Because I’m a guy and guys like power tools, dammit!
“Well, if that’s the case, you have tools available to you too, ya know?”
…I do?
“Of course. Listen, if you believe that tools are your key to your salvation, then you’re in luck. You don’t have to seek out a new skill, you don’t have to go into debt purchasing tools you can’t afford for projects you’ll never finish, you don’t have to go chasing that shiny red ball. You can help yourself move forward by doing what you’re doing right now. It’s normal to want to try something else, and that you want to turn it into a marketable skill is admirable. But there is a way to improve and keep you focused without busting your bank or your knuckles. Turning away from something you started just because it’s taking a long time to finish isn’t how the song is supposed to go. You need to see it through. If it’s a tool you desire, then I know of a perfect one for you.”
Ooh! Is it the laptop that I’ve had my eye on for a while?
“Nope. Something much, much cooler.”
…cooler than a laptop? What is it?
“Have you ever written with a fountain pen?”
…I hate you sometimes, Voice In My Head.

It has been noted, and by more than a few people in this World Of Wordcraft, that a journal, an actual bound journal with paper and covers and stuff, an ancient arena where you are forced to slay the dreaded Demon Blankpage with the stroke of a pen, is kinda necessary to improve your craft. Writing something down in a journal, so I’m told, is good exercise. While not necessarily a cure for writer’s block, it could make those inevitable bouts seem less troublesome. Somewhere in the research process, it was suggested that if one were able, writing in a journal with a fountain pen would heighten the experience.

This was information I gathered during gift giving season. I hate gift giving season. It’s not that I don’t like getting things, I do. I really, really do. I find that these occasions where you’re expected to give and receive a little annoying. Because I have to guess what some people want and people have to guess what I want, and in the end, it’s… how should I put this?… It’s the thought that counts. Let’s put it that way.

In any case, I forged ahead in my research of writerly gifts on Amazon and found a moleskine, a fountain pen, and a jar of ink. Humble, inexpensive, and unexciting. In the end, I still wanted the power tools and the vintage camera. But, necessity won out. A Dremel tool isn’t going to help me finish my book. Bottom line.

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First day taking her out for a spin.

Happy birthday to me, my package arrived a few days later. The Pilot Metropolitan pen felt heavy in my hand as I removed it from the case. The replacement ink cartridge that came with it, I quickly found out, wasn’t that necessary (which is to say that the directions were a little unspecific on how to install it… which is to say, I had no idea what I was doing… I’m seeing a pattern here, how about you?), and so the obligatory splattering of ink got out of the way right off the bat. Noob status achieved, I filled the pen’s bladder by dipping the nib into the well, squeezing the bladder until filled, and reconstructed the pen.

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Dagnabbit!

I had no idea what to expect.

After filling a page in the barely cracked moleskin with fresh ink chicken scratch, words are lacking on how to describe the experience.

It was like sipping fine whiskey.

It flowed. So easily. So deftly. The nib was gentle and the inkflow graceful. It was as if the poetry wasn’t in the words, but in the wrist.

The world slowed down. That was the most important part. The world. Slowed. Down.

The last time I wrote anything in cursive was my senior year of high school. I was trained to write like this, as with the rest of my classmates, because good penmanship was the key to adulthood or something. I resorted to writing out everything in Roman letters by my Senior year because it was easier to read, and I found it better suited to writing notes faster. The ability to write elegantly was almost completely lost.

Even though I wasn’t looking for it, I found the ability again at the bottom of an inkwell. The way the pen moved over the page forced me to remember how to write a certain way, which I did. I was compelled to do so, or else I wasn’t pleasing the Cursive Gods, and so they would demand a sacrifice. Slowly, the lessons came back. The words were barely legible and adorably sloppy…

…but it felt good.

The world slowed down. And for someone who insists they might have some sort of Asperger’s, this is a really big deal. If the world spins really fast, then I must as well. Anything that roots me to the soil and draws my attention away from bright and shiny objects is to be respected. You can’t feel the spinning when your feet are on the ground.

Things came into focus. I was able to actually focus. Nothing else mattered. Not desires, not needs, not fear, nothing. I was in “The Zone”, but instead of intense music and explosions, it was that quiet room in a cabin in the middle of the woods I secretly desire. I was looking for catharsis in all the wrong places, and now, with a few strokes of a pen, everything is how it should be.

I have finally found the tool that I needed. This is the year that I’ll finally catch that Roadrunner. This ritual might not be for everyone. Some people might find it a bit boring. But if you had an opportunity, I would highly recommend giving it a try. Who knows? Maybe the world might slow down for you too.

Will this make me a better writer? Probably not, but hey, it doesn’t feel like I’m drowning anymore. To be sure, I have plenty of notebooks, and most of them are filled with notes related to other things. But none of them are a place where I can just talk to myself, and therein, I think, is the base of most of my problems.

The simple act of slowing down, taking the time to form the word, concentrating on making it legible, then making it beautiful, it is there where secrets are revealed. We live in a world that has become too convenient and quantified. Film photography, crafting your own items, these are all not just trends. There is a greater purpose. There is a greater need to create than there is to purchase. I recognize the craft, and by extension, I have allowed myself to be open. To listen. To feel. I am perfectly satisfied, and somewhat healed. I have found my own craft.

Also, this could lead to exploring different pens… or even building my own! Can you imagine?! I could learn calligraphy so I could make and sell my own typeset, you know the ones that are all swirly and hand drawn that seems to be everywhere you look these days. I could build a cottage industry on Creative Market. I could build a website…

…I could…

More to come.
Thanks for reading.

Author’s Note:

Helllllllo everyone. Thanks again for reading, it’s much appreciated. As you can tell from a couple of the links posted above, I am an Amazon Affiliate (aka Associate). I’m not really in the habit of folding products into blog posts, but if you click on the links it would help me out a little bit. You don’t have to purchase a fountain pen. Although if you did, you’d be pretty swanky and so much cooler than all of your friends. You could get laundry detergent, a new pair of shoes, the Exploding Kittens game. Everything that you get by shopping through these posted links helps me, helps this site, helps all future projects. This will probably change once I have my own items to sell, but until that time, every little bit helps. Thank you so much. Hugs and kisses.

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WDYDWYD Pt 2

Previous version…

Once upon a time, I made my own bread.

Not out of any type of arrogance. Not to hold it over anyone’s head or to feel the need to be superior to people I no longer know for reasons I can no longer fathom. It was more important for me to lose myself in the details of recipes and the attention that needs to be paid in the development in making a starter; it is, after all, a living, breathing thing. It may be a small thing, but to me it was quite significant. I made life. I made my own bread because it was the next logical step from making my own pizza dough. I made my own bread to see if I could do it; to satisfy a need…

…To follow in the footsteps of the masters who came before me.

…To fill a void left after I stopped smoking.

…To prepare for the frickin’ zombie apocalypse. Whichever superficial reason I may have spun would have danced around the truth. At the end of the day, my real motivation was simply to find a way out.

In 2008, I readied myself to the best of my ability to welcome my daughter into this world. In 2009, I began to concern myself with leaving behind a legacy. I found a job. It paid the bills…sort of, but the satisfaction level was somewhere near subterranean. With the possibility of being chained to a cubicle for the rest of my years (and entertaining the idea that I might actually like it), I cast a weather eye toward doing something else with my life other than working for under a living wage. Something that was a far sight better than just tolerable. Something I could be proud of, something worthy.

…and I had no idea what that meant, or what it was.

follow the link here

It was around this time where I discovered a series of photographs online. They were all answering a question set forth to them which was: Why Do You Do What You Do? On the surface, they’re just simple, black and white photos of random people holding up hastily crafted signs reading something to the effect of, “If I don’t, then who will?” Were I different person, I’d probably regard these as a really clever meme and go back to watching cat videos. But as with most art, these pictures stirred something in me, the longer I stared at them.

It was the exact Call To Action that I was looking for. Why do I do this? Why do I do anything? I started with my present preoccupation. My reasons were pretty straight-forward,“Well, I believe that bread is a universal language. It was the one thing that I was convinced would bring people of whatever stripes closer together. If I could master this, then I would find my place in the universe as some goodwill ambassador, and perhaps give me some sort of life-purpose.” Bake bread, spread happiness.

Unfortunately, the aspirations of being a culinary Santa Claus had to be thrown to the back burner as the feasibility of starting an Artisan Bakery was suffocated by the big, fluffy pillow of reality. Even though my aspirations may have faded slightly, the question hadn’t. ‘…Why?’

I kept searching for a ‘because’.

Driven. That’s what the term is. I’m motivated. If I’m ever going to survive, then I must move forward. The only way forward is through, and I’ll be damned if I was going to leave this world without doing something meaningful. Years passed, along with several other ideas, but that underlying need never went away. It didn’t matter if I was all gung-ho to open my own pizza shop, or my current endeavor to create and sell designs to fund my ultimate goal of writing that novel, to actually writing that novel. The common denominator of all of them is my need to create. It is a need. It is a thirst. It became less about the destination and more about discovering the many paths to get there.

But I digress. Getting back to the original question of what my needs are. Well….

  • I need to survive. Plain and simple. I was raised to believe that if you went to school and found a job that everything would be fine. What I’ve learned since then is that nothing is guaranteed. Not your education, not your job, not your relationships…nothing. The only thing that you can hold on to is what you can truly call yours. In order for me to thrive, I need to keep doing what I should have been doing years ago. I need to grow and learn and not be afraid to do so. I need to create.  In order for me to survive, I need to be paid for it, for lack of a better term.
  • Most of what I do is sarcastic, ironic, wise-ass, but generally harmless. I understand that. But, that being said, I need to be taken seriously. I began this life as a class clown. It’s who I am. I have no preconceived notions that I am otherwise. But, as time rolls on, we all know that they may take the clown out of the class…they’ll never take the class out of the clown. I just don’t seek attention for the sake of seeking attention. No. I seek attention with the intention of making you laugh, think, ponder, muse, cringe, rejoice, live, love, sing. I seek attention to remind you that you’re still alive. You are all still alive and wonderful. I’m serious about that.
  • I need to keep my eyes open. I need to keep my ears open. I need to keep learning. There is inspiration all around. I need to see the world the way a photographer would. I need to listen with the ears of a poet. I need to create with the mind of a baker.

So, what are my needs? Why do I do what I do?

Once upon a time, I made my own bread.

Not because my belly was hungry, but because my mind was.

…Current version

Thank you very much for reading. I’m off again on another great adventure. But before I go, I’d like to know…

WDYDWYD?

Alternate Version