Grinding Away in a Creative Life

It’s sunny outside.

It’s the kind of morning of which I like to dream. Not cold, but not quite warm. No clouds. No wind. I can hear the birds and smell the honeysuckle. It’s perfect.

It’s enough to make me want to freeze time and wander the morning for a few thousand years.

I should be working, but I’m not. I’ve just finished publishing another pair of books, and I find myself slogging through a short story about which I’m only somewhat passionate.

Sometimes, when I hit a lull like this, I pick up my paintbrush and spread out a few shadows. Maybe a colorful tree. A mournful maiden. Or maybe something terrifying.

Not today. I’m not in the mood.

I really just want to hang with the cat.

This is where I’m at:

Eaters of the Light, my sci-fi/romance/thriller series? It’s published.

My goal of finishing thirty canvas paintings at this point in the year? Exceeded.

The latest entry in my ridiculous ‘Reasons to Break Up’ trilogy? Slapped together and shipped.

It’s been a good year so far. But I want more.

Some people talk about creative exhaustion. About writer’s block. About procrastination, lack of direction, and boredom.

Nah. Forget all that.

I’ve got 99 problems, but none of ’em are those.

My cardinal sin? Setting reachable goals.

Yeah. Oops.

It’s like this. Some mountains in life are meant to be climbed. You say you want to save $1000 bucks for a vacation? Boom, you did it; now get in the car and head to the beach. Land a big promotion at work? Achieved. Need to step outside and mow your lawn? Nice, you’re finished…hopefully with a cool glass of bourbon awaiting you inside.

But artistic goals – are those really meant to be conquered? Of this, I’m not so sure. Is there ever a point at which an author sits down and says, ‘You know…I think I’m done. No more books. I’m just gonna drift away into the sunset .’ Do painters, sculptors, and photographers one day just set down their tools and declare their life’s work complete? I mean…maybe. Maybe some people can do it. Maybe the best of the best reach a point of contentedness, and afterward float away in the clouds with a satisfied smile on their faces.

Maybe.

But somehow I doubt it.

My son – the G Man. He’s not impressed.

Last night, for the first time in forever, I didn’t create. My brushes sat in a Mason jar full of water, soaking up nothing. My new short story ‘Nadya the Deathless’ laid untouched on my century-old laptop. I didn’t draw. I didn’t write. I didn’t wander outside beneath the perfect stars to dream up a new and exhilarating story.

I just sat there in the gloom of my basement. With a bowl of Progresso soup. Vaguely watching a movie. Not really thinking, moving, or existing.

For a while, maybe an hour, I floated in the stillness. Near the end, a scary idea crept over me. I thought perhaps I’d made a grave error in setting goals that were too easy to achieve. ‘Aim low, and you’ll hit your target,’ I realized. ‘Shoot for the moon, and though you’ll never make it, you’ll get to die trying.’

I opened my eyes. The back door was open, and the moths fluttering inside to get at the room’s only lamp. My cats dozed beside me, savoring my rare moment of inactivity.

It was then I knew my low-goal setting hadn’t been some tragic thing.

I can make a new goal, I realized. Something lofty. Something impossible to reach.

Something I’ll be proud to die trying to do.

So let’s talk goals.

Absurd goals.

Quest to drop the One Ring into Mount Doom kind of goals.

Right now I’ve got thirty-two published books. My new goal – one-hundred.

Right now my painting store is stocked with one-hundred nine original canvas paintings. New goal – three-hundred.

Season one of Hollow Empire is finished. New goal – finish three full seasons.

This giant fantasy trilogy, the one I published five years ago, has begun to gather dust. New goal – sell one-thousand new copies…and write a sequel.

And my most ambitious goal, the one that’ll allow me to sniff retirement, is to sell one-million copies of this little tome. (Right now I’m only at thirteen-thousand copies sold.)

Challenges, challenges…

Insurmountable.

Unlikely.

Delusional.

This should be fun.

It’s still sunny outside, although maybe a bit warmer now. And there’s just a few things more I want to share before I wander outside.

My art partner, Tahina Morrison, with whom I’ve created nearly one-hundred sculpted paintings, is leaving town. It was inevitable, this change. It’s humanity’s natural ebb and flow.  As I sit in my little chair and think about the challenges that will arise in her absence, I can’t help but smile.

We did good work together, she and I.

We had a blast.

 

Furiosa

Twilight Shaman

 

Horned Queen

*

These are just a few of my favorite collaborative pieces. In Tahina’s absence, I realize my painting goals will be even more difficult to achieve.

So be it. Challenge accepted.

Now then…

I think it’s probably time.

Time to open the door and step out into the sunlight.

Time to stop talking about goals and start realizing them.

Time to feed my cats.

Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me. Thanks to all the art collectors who’ve invested in me, and who happily stick my canvasses on their walls. And special thanks to Tahina and the G Man, without whom the last two years would’ve been infinitely less rewarding.

Goodbye for now.

I’ll be back.

 * * *

Readers will want to check out this book here. Trust me…you’ll be happy you did.

And dark art lovers might appreciate this piece, which I created based on an actual skull sitting in my living room.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Push Through The Noise

Head beating itself against the desk.

The words fail to make the leap from fingers to screen.

Blank screen mocks you with it’s flashing cursor.

Still, there is nothing, absolutely nothing to be done about it.

Another glance at the clock shows me only that time continues to tick by, faster and slower at the same time.

I’m tired.

I don’t want to do this tonight.

Why didn’t I start earlier?

I have to go to work tomorrow.

Gotta get something done.

Just need one idea…

Something…

Anything…

Damnit!

Opens one of the notebooks filled with various bits and pieces of ideas or characters or settings or…

None of those will work.

I’m wasting all this time.

Maybe try reading what I’ve already written?

Why is this so hard?

Other people make this look so easy. Ideas flow out and magically appear. None of them have this problem.

So why do I have the problem?

You’ve been here before and managed to find a way around the problem.

Work the problem.

Is it a character issue?

A subject issue.

Ok. So what needs to happen before the words start working for me instead of against me?

Don’t touch that mouse!

No reason to even bother clicking away.

Another ten minutes destroyed by inaction.

***

This is my brain on writer’s block. I know some people will tell you it doesn’t exist. I’ve heard people talk about it like it is a completely foreign concept to them. There are those who really think they’ve got the whole thing figured out.

I don’t buy it. Not one bit.

There have to be those times when other people, other writers just don’t know what it is they are going to write. And not in the good way, where you are on a journey of discovery within your work. No, I’m talking about that blank page, when it locks onto your soul letting you know that you have nothing else you could possibly bring to the table. That if you’re tired, then just do it tomorrow. No one needs to know that you’re having issues. No one needs to know that the words won’t come.

I mean it’s not like you forget how to write, but there has to be something which could streamline the process a little bit. Some magically easy button I can push to just get the initial push.

Something to help me remember how to do it.

***

Another ten minutes lost.

Bedtime was an hour ago.

And still, this stupid monitor glows with a white smile.

Just have to write something, no matter how small. No matter if there are tons of actual good ideas. Something needs to appear on paper.

No more excuses.

Push through the noise.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Split Bill (My mental vacation)

 Hey. How are you? This’ll be a rare rambling post from me. Apologies in advance.

So. What’s up in the world?  Anything interesting going on? Yeah, I know: ISIS, Ukraine, Ebola, Ray Rice, Jack the Ripper. But let’s get to what’s really important: Hollow Empire – Season 1 – Night of Knives. It’s finished. It’s out. In total, it’ll be six episodes (six chapters each) for $0.99 a pop. There’ll also be a complete e-version and a paperback edition. I co-authored it with this guy here. If you like post-apocalypic medieval fantasy westerns, you’ll like it. If you like deep characters wading through deeper shit, you’ll love it. This lady here did the art. And that’s all I’ll say about it for now.

the_thinker

What I’m doing most days. On a side note: ever notice how ripped the Thinking Man is?

 

Aside from Hollow Empire, I’m struggling a bit.

I’ve stopped dreaming at night, and it’s a problem.

I don’t have writer’s block. Not exactly. What I’ve got is a wandering muse. As in wandering off. I usually pull all of my deliciously dark ideas from the corridors of sleep, but now that my dreams have stopped…well…you see? Thing is; I used to dream all night, every night. Epic space operas, terrifying horror stories, tragic romances, end-of-everything dark fantasies…I had it all bouncing in my head after the lights went out.

But now, there’s nothing. I sleep a solid six every eve, yet my head-movies are gone. The world hasn’t ended just yet; I’m still chin-deep in editing a massive novel, which means I don’t need too much muse for the moment. But it’s fair to say I’m concerned. Worried. Troubled…

mooncloud

See that big dark spot on the moon. Yeah, that one. That’s where my mind needs to be at night.

And that’s why, after Hollow Empire and Nether Kingdom hit the market, I’ll take a little vacation. Not a real vacation on the beach, of course. That’s too much to hope for. I mean a mental vacation. Maybe I’ll play some Halo and some Dragon Age. Maybe I’ll double down on my chin-ups. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll even pick up my ancient Dungeons & Dragons books and stage a few goblin slaughters with some friends. That’s AD&D First Edition, bitches. We keep it old school ’round these parts.

But seriously, I need to start dreaming again, and soon. I have the ideas, but all the flavor and darkness come out at night…while I’m asleep.

Next up, a trio of lists. Read and enjoy:

The Top 4 upcoming video games I’d play if I didn’t have a three-year old

1. Dragon Age: Inquisition (Because it has to be better than the second installment)

2. Destiny

3. Halo 5: Guardians (Because, you know, I still haven’t beaten Halo 4)

4. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

My Top 5 fantasy movies of all time
1. Fellowship of the Ring (Sorry, Academy. The first film blew Return of the King out of the water)

2. Willow

3. Legend (Despite Tom Cruise)

4. Animated version of Sleeping Beauty

5. Dragonslayer (The original. Best. Dragon. Ever.)

My Top 3 favorite book covers ever

200px-The_Stand_cover

Dealer

The_Two_Towers_Book_Cover_1965_(Ballantyne)

This week was a jumble of bones. Skulls and ribs and tibias all mixed up. Next week will be more focused…maybe.
Until then,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

Understanding the Beast

Golden RatioJohn’s post yesterday on Writer’s Block had me thinking about creative blocks in general. Artists too have suffered from the imaginary ailment probably since the dawn of civilization. It’s the same beast. I know I’ve suffered those same thoughts of doubt with my own art, but it’s not the only problem to throw a wrench in the creative process. Sometimes what may appear to be a block is a simple obstacle, not something that lasts weeks, months or even years.

The following are my experiences with the beast in relation to art making, how I’ve come to understand it and neutralize it. Obviously, my experience may be nothing like yours and it does not take into account psychotropic medications; which can sometimes have an effect.

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