Friday, October 23, 2009

Mayonnaise-colored Benz / I Push Miracle Whips

One of the worst character traits a person can have is negativity. I remember telling my wife that I don’t believe in the concept of ‘character flaws’. What the hell is that, a flaw in my character? That just doesn’t make any sense to me. How can my personality, my character, the essence of who I am, be flawed from someone else’s point of view? Don’t presume to tell me anything about myself, especially if you’re coming ‘from a place of no.’ (Thank you, Betthany, for that gem.)

In my quest to become a published author, and a writer of material that people will not only enjoy, but tell others about….I have struggled at times. I suppose it’s part of the creative craft, but I write and write and write, keeping very little actual material. I come up with bits and pieces of ideas, I squirrel them away on legal pads in corners and on floppy disks and flash drives; I think about them over and over again until I’ve rearranged dialogue, scene setting, and even mood. You all may think I’m crazy, but I’ve got a sticky note on my desk right now with the title of a painting (Lush Spring), the name of the artist who created it, and a line about how the vice president is to be laying on a sofa under this painting, on the phone with her estranged husband. It is a scene in my third novel, “The Situation Room.” I haven’t even really started the project yet, but that sticky note will live with me until the book goes to print.

Nothing is ever really finished. I rewrite and rewrite and, well, you get the idea. The effort that goes into coming up with ideas and complex turns of multi-faceted plots can be draining. And exhilarating at the same time.

At my second job, I have been so lucky to meet two kindred spirits, Mason and Daniel. What we three have in common is the desire to create. Mason is a movie and play producer, he is an upstart magazine publisher, and a serial networker. He is going to make a wonderful life for himself and his family. I have no doubt that he is well on his way. Daniel’s strength is music. Whether creating beats, writing lyrics and music, or producing tracks, music his passion. You all know that I’m addicted to writing – novels, short stories, magazine articles, plays, blogs, whatever. Among the criminals and would-be criminals, the miscreants, and the innumerable lazy box shufflers, there are quite a number of people who work on my shift. I could easily have walked by these two guys and never been the wiser.

Think about something for me. Think about sitting in a movie theater and watching a terrible movie. You ask yourself how in the hell it got made. Think about listening to the radio and wondering who gave the yahoo with the awful voice and bad lyrics a record deal. Think about the last time you sat through chapter after chapter of a book until you could stand it no more, finally laying it on a table or in a drawer – or giving it away. If you aren’t artistic, or if you don’t consider yourself so, it might not bother you that much. But it burns me up. Writers and producers and musicians are egotistical. You have to believe that what you’ve created is the best that anybody has ever heard or read. Otherwise, what’s the point in creating? To be mediocre? To be run of the mill? I’ve read some truly awful, poorly written, badly conceived, horse shit books and stories, and each time I wondered what the author had to do to get a deal.

But I persevere. And so do Daniel and Mason. And countless others. We have to.

I absolutely cannot stand Kanye West as a person, but I admire the hell out of him for his ability to create. On his 2004 release, The College Dropout, he has a track called ‘Last Call’. And it’s on this track that he describes the rocky road he endured on the way to fulfilling his dream of not only producing (which he was doing before, but on a much smaller scale), but also of rapping. In a rap he freestyled for Jay-Z, he says, “I’m killing ya’ll ____ on that lyrical shit / Mayonnaise-colored Benz, I push Miracle Whips.” The rest of the rap sucked, but that line stuck…in my head and evidently in Jay-Z’s head, too, because he’s on Jay-Z’s label and doing very, very well for himself. Though I seriously caution taking inspiration from him, Kayne is an example of what can happen if you stick with something. If you continue to work toward a goal or a dream, and if you meet the right people along the way, anything is possible.

Negativity abounds, and it rears itself in ways you can predict, and in ways that take you by surprise. All three of us have faced negativity in the form of rejection, and in lack of support from friends, family, co-workers, and industry professionals. And all three of us will continue to do whatever we can to get our names out there, our voices heard, and our visions seen. We are destined to entertain the world. Our Jay-Z’s are out there somewhere. But unlike Kanye…..

I’ll take my Benz in black.