Thoughts on ‘new year,’ ‘old decade’

I suppose we’re a week into the new year now, it’s getting “late” for one of those year-end/new-year type of posts. Especially in internet time. New Year’s memes were born, blossomed, and wilted in the space of hours – I watched a few of them come and go and get replaced by newer, even-shorter-lived ones on Twitter over the weekend. A few of them drew my interest, got me thinking, but my thinking lasts longer than online conversations. I’m sure I’m not finished thinking, yet.

One of the thoughts was related to the apparent ‘new decade’ (no need to get into technical definitions and ‘counting starts at 1’ – my beliefs about time are far and away less specific, & more meaningful and orderly) and the question of what one was doing 10 years prior. On Twitter this was often read as 10 years ago to the minute; I suppose it was fun for people to think about a 10-year-old party on New Year’s Eve. But a lot can happen in ten years. A lot happened in mine. Ten years ago…  Ten years ago I’d already begun painting again, a bit, though I still hadn’t re-started my writing.  Ten years ago I’d just begun creating online comics for the first time. Ten years ago I was living in Tempe. Ten years ago I cut my hair off: New Year’s Eve 1999 I had hair so long I could sit on it, New Year’s Day 2000 I had “normal” short hair.  Ten years ago this month I was getting fired (technically I quit) from MicroAge for insubordination for calling out my boss’s incompetence in front of the other employees (he & I & his boss & HR all agreed he was incompetent and that I was right about everything except saying so where the other employees could hear), and later that day I was getting hired at Realink. It was nearly ten years ago that Sara said yes. (Did you know she said yes, once?)

Since then, I’ve painted quite a bit more and by early 2002 I’d got back to writing again, though by September 2004 I’d stopped creating new comics. (I suppose that lasted exactly 5 years, from September 1999 to September 2004.) I did fun things with my short hair, bleaching it, dying it fun colors (blue, green, pink, and purple – sometimes all at once & in my own designs), et cetera. In 2002 I worked my way back into college, to try to pursue a BFA in painting, then got laid off from Realink (My insubordination there was turning down promotions I didn’t want. Repeatedly.) and, the economy actually having been sh!t (for normal people) this entire decade, I couldn’t find another job. I wrote Forlorn, my first novel, that year, “before I turned 25.”

Then, I moved to Pine, AZ at the start of 2003 and lived with my grandparents – my grandmother needed near-full-time care after her stroke (and a lifetime of increasingly bad heart problems), my grandfather had been doing alright taking care of her, but then his cancer came out of remission and on chemo he couldn’t do that and maintain the property up there, so I went up to help out as much as I could. And to escape from the world. To go live in the mountains. To retire from corporate life and to become a full-time creative. I edited Forlorn into Lost and Not Found, I began selling my art and my hand-made natural-form furniture from the family shop I ran there, I began getting commissions for new paintings, I wrote Dragons’ Truth, and I developed a deeper appreciation for my family, building a relationship with my grandparents before I lost the chance. I grew out my hair and my beard; I did not trim them at all for several years (though I did eventually start shaving my upper lip).

In 2004 the economy was truly in a slump; I had to drastically lower the prices on my art to keep sales up, and by the summer of 2004 I had to move back to Phoenix and find work. I ended up working in a travel agency’s mail room for half the pay I’d been getting at Realink. At first I tried literally to kill myself, then stayed there nearly 4 years. I wrote the first three books of the Untrue Tales… series during those years. I painted more. I fell in love again. I had actual sex for the first time. Then had it turned around on me, not just ripped away but twisted into a horror, and I was thrown into a painful emotional tailspin that devastated me for years. I cut off my beard and began keeping my head shaved. I wrote two collections of poetry. I started my own, official, publishing company, Modern Evil Press. In October of 2006 I met Mandy and then courted her over the course of the next year -no need to get into the emotional, sexual, and spiritual difficulties that year entailed in a post like this- and on December 1st, 2007 Mandy and I were married.

In March of 2008 I left my corporate job (I was fired for insubordination when my boss insisted that it didn’t matter what was right, only that I do it as she’d decided, and I insisted -rather loudly and violently- that if that were the case I couldn’t work with her any more) to retire once again to the life of a full-time creative. My wife, who I love and who loves me very much, has been willing to accept the relatively meager lifestyle of a single-income family (see yesterday’s post on Numbers) in order to allow me to do what I love and am passionate about. And to keep me from having to deal with the life-threatening difficulties of attempting to hold down a corporate job.  (Which is to say, we are both well aware that I would probably make additional attempts on my own life if faced with doing a job I loathe, especially if for an incompetent, unreasonable boss.)

Since which time I’ve written another two novels, a collection of short stories, recorded and serialized seven audiobooks from my novels, painted quite a lot more, and learned a bit of bookkeeping, business, and tax rules. I’ve shown my art and my books at most of the Roosevelt Row block parties on the Phoenix First Friday Art Walks each month, and have been an active member of the event’s Vendor Committee. I’ve only occasionally been insubordinate to my boss (myself), usually by doing things like suggesting that I write what people want to read instead of simply writing what I want to write. Oh, and I’ve begun regularly attending a church, an activity I haven’t done since … well, since 1996 or 1997, I suppose. I’ve even begun to read more books, again, which had fallen off quite a bit since moving back to the city.

Which brings us back to the present, and to the ‘new year’ ahead. 2010. This is supposed to be the year the aliens collapse Jupiter into a star and jump-start the intelligence of life on Europa, right? If it happens, I won’t be surprised. No, this year I’m looking forward to more of the same. What same, you ask? Well, let’s look back: Fifteen through twenty years ago I was creative; writing and painting and storytelling. Ten years ago I was beginning to get back into being creative; painting, drawing & writing comics, and writing online (my online journal posts go back to March 2000 – those 1995 posts are transcribed from a paper journal I was forced to keep for a class). During the last ten years there’s been a recurring theme of getting “back into” art and writing, of retiring from workaday life to be a full-time creative, and of my incompatibility with keeping a job and putting up with corporate bullshit. So more of the same is: working on my art, writing new books, telling new stories, trying to figure out how to get more money out of my creations (or at the least to lose less money on the books), and trying not to have to go get a literally soul-crushing corporate job.

In 2010 I want to read at least a dozen books on [Hitler, Einstein, and the 1918 Spanish Flu], then to write that zombie novel I’ve got lodged in my brain. Then see if I want to research for and write the [70’s|80’s] zombie thriller/mystery that follows it. Then totally write the teen/zombie/religion book I’d meant to write last year, but couldn’t on account of I need to write those other two books (the 2 I just said I want to write) as research first. I’d like to see if I know how to finish the second book I began for NaNoWriMo 2009, another book with an author for the main character. I’d like to finish Time, emiT, and Time Again – which calls for at least a couple more skewed-time-based speculative fiction stories. I know that’s five books already, but I’d also like to write some new poetry, this year. Oh, and I worked out that I only have to write a quarter-million-words a year to maintain about a half hour of original podcast literature per week, every week…

In 2010 I want to read many, many other books. I have a huge backlist from the library already, and hundreds of books on my shelves that I bought, intending to read, and haven’t read yet. I’d like to review most of them, too. Reading is good for you, you know.

In 2010 I want to paint more, and better, than I have before. I’ve even penciled in the finishing of the correspondence art course I bought and began but never completed (especially since I can’t possibly afford to go back to school right now). In addition to potentially improving my technique, I’d like to begin to consider the idea of “intent” and of “purpose.” Right now I paint because I’m an artist, but I understand that other artists create art with other reasons in mind. Most of them seem to have something specific they intend to communicate with their art. This is, generally, not the case with my work. In 2010, I’d like at least to consider the idea of whether or not I’d like to try to mean something.

I keep thinking about wanting to try my hand at making comics again. I don’t know whether 2010 is the year for it. Wait and see, I suppose. At the least, I’d like to build a working site for my existing comics, and put all the archives of my old comics up online.

In 2010 I want to work on being a better Christian. To pray more. To read the Bible more. To seek God’s will more. To soften my hard heart and my stiff neck, if it is His will. I’d like to be a better husband to my wife, and a better role-model as a life-long-Christian to her as a pretty-new-Christian. I’d like to learn to be a better member of my church, of the community. This paragraph represents the hardest of what I’ve listed.

I’m sure there’s more, but this post has gone over 2k words, all told. Quite a ramble. But if the point wasn’t clear: I’m in a good place. I’m happy. Even though I’ve been pretty bad lately, even in this deep depression, I’m happy. (If that doesn’t make sense, ask me about it. It makes sense to me.) I’m doing what I want to be doing, what I’ve been working on doing for a long time, and even though it isn’t exactly financially successful, it’s been successful for me and my family in the ways that matter to us. I’m happily married, and my wife loves me more than I’ll probably ever be able to catch up to. My God loves me, and is faithful and just. My family gets along with one another, loves one another, and that is a real blessing.

The last ten years have had a lot of ups and downs, but they’ve been good and they’ve brought me to a good place. The next year will certainly have more ups and downs, but as I said, I’m glad to hope for more of the same.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

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