Tag Archives: Life

Not Quite Christmas (The Real Best Time of Year)

The Holiday Season is almost upon us. I personally really like this time of year, from September all the way through the New Year. I like the creepy Halloween stuff, but I like the time after Halloween just as much, and I’m referring to more than just the traditional American Thanksgiving and Christmas stuff. These few weeks between Halloween and Turkey Fever get short shrift usually. At best they’re ignored. But I like it. I like the days getting shorter and the air getting colder. I like the hints of snow and promise of misery. Of course, by the second week of January the magic has worn off and it’s all dirty slush and inconvenient ice. For now though, it’s a time of constant change, and I like that.

For me, this time of year is a promise of things to come. My life is in that weird place after adolescence but before ‘real’ adulthood. (Of course, I’m developing a sneaking suspicion that ‘real’ adulthood never really arrives until you’re the oldest person alive and no one is around to tell you how young you still are.) I haven’t got a solid career yet, or children. I still have friends that like to go out at 11pm on Friday night. I still join them occasionally, though I usually regret it. I’m living the life of a full grown-up without all the resources. I don’t have to live on ramen noodles, but I still can’t afford health insurance. Basically, things are unsettled, much like the early November season that can’t decide if it’s Winter or Fall or how long either will last.

The promise, though, is there. The promise that soon all the trees will be lit with twinkling, artificial life and the snow will be soft and cold but not freezing as it falls. The promise that comfort is only a steaming mug away. It’s that promise I cling to. It’s honestly the best part of life. Anticipation is often greater than the reward, though I don’t think that diminishes the rewards. I’m still young enough that I can anticipate my life ahead. I can plan for better things, though I’ll have to slog through some blackened slush to get there. And when I do reach things like stability and regular dental visits, I’m sure it won’t be nearly as lovely as I have it in my head. Not that healthy teeth are a bad thing, but I’m sure I’ll still have unattained desires and worrisome trivialities and the kids will be sending the world to hell with their darned techno-folk music and silver jumpsuits and AI partners. Of course, that means I also get to have my anticipation of better things to come.

The lovely thing about this time of year is that it goes by so quickly. Soon it will be the Holiday Season for real with its Christmas Wars and Hobbitses and travel plans. Then we’ll have piles of dirty ice in all the parking lots and then the lovely green of Spring. Soon, the anticipation will be gone, but for a few brief days I get the thrill of imagining all the fun and joy laid out ahead of me. And I’m okay with that.

Birthday Thoughts

Today I turn twenty-seven years old. It’s sort of a strange age to be. Not 27 precisely, but the time around twenty-sevenish years old is strange. I’m no longer young in the sense of staying up all night, or driving recklessly, listening to too loud music, or eating Burger King because I don’t understand what real food tastes like. I’ve moved into a few habits that I’m ready to settle with. I listen to one radio station (this one). I’ve accepted the fact that I don’t like fish and probably never will. I have game nights that don’t include shooting any virtual aliens or zombies. When people ask me what I want to do for my birthday I honestly don’t know. Go to dinner or something I guess. In short, I’m getting older.

But I’m still not old. Twenty-seven is maybe not ridiculously young, but it’s still at least stupidly young. I’m old enough to realize I’m not young, but I’m not old enough to be old yet. It almost feels like being a teenager again, except now I grow an exceptional beard.

Perhaps the most difficult change in birthdays is realizing that I don’t really care too much about them anymore. Twenty-seven feels more like a reminder of how much stuff I haven’t accomplished yet than a badge of honor for growing up just a little more. As such, the day simply doesn’t feel very special.

When I was in kindergarten I brought a tub of cookies to school on my birthday because that was what you did. And the teacher gave you a birthday card and a candy bar. And the whole class sang happy birthday. And when you went home you had a party and everyone gave you presents. When I walked into the classroom I placed the tub Mrs. Walker’s desk and sat down without saying anything because I was that kind of a kid. At the start of class she gave a candy bar and a card to Micky Music (I swear to God that is not a pseudonym) whose birthday is March 7th, but that March 5th was a Friday so we sang to Micky anyway while she handed out treats to the class. Mrs. Walker then asked who had brought the tub of cookies. I raised my hand up a little fearfully and squeaked out that they were from me. She asked why I had brought them, and I told her because today was my birthday. Being the amazing, wonderful teacher she was, she was a tad bit mortified that she had forgotten my birthday and honored another student instead of me. She allowed me to hand out my cookies and everyone sang to me. Then, the next Monday she brought me an extra special card and a king size snickers to say sorry.

The point is, in kindergarten we make a big deal out of birthdays. I turned six years old and it was imperative that that be recognized, even though the biggest accomplishment of that year had been learning to write or tie my shoes on my own. This past year I got my first thing published. I started working in the industry I really love and want to be a part of. I paid my taxes and bought my own groceries and cooked my own food. I wrote short stories and poems and started working on two novels. In short, I’ve done so much more this year than I could have hoped to do when I was five. And yet, when I go to my meetings and classes and grocery stores today nobody will congratulate me unless I make a point of telling them that on this day roughly twenty-seven years ago I started life. And it’s not that I don’t want to tell them. I absolutely want their praise and gifts and adoration. But they won’t give them willingly and shouldn’t be forced. I’m not saying this is wrong. Turning six is a much bigger accomplishment for a six year old than turning twenty-seven is for a twenty-seven year old, and it should be all the more congratulated. But at this point in life I realize that my birthday doesn’t matter to anyone. Not really. It’s just another day. For a select few people it’s an excuse to get together and eat slightly better than average food or have a glass of wine.

But whatever the custom, let’s celebrate! After all, it’s my birthday. So here’s a glass of wine I’ll share with you, and a reminder that even though you haven’t achieved the immense accomplishment of six years old for quite a few years, you are still an incredibly special space-time event.

 

 

Unique in the Universe

Shhhh, Excuses and A Poem

It’s been quite a while since I last posted. I’d like to do more, but for now I’m not sure if that will happen. For the first time in my life I’ve been dealing with real, serious depression. It’s hard to understand and harder still to explain. The description I’ve found which best fits my experience is on Cracked.com “5 Facts Everyone Gets Wrong About Depression”, and I’ve also written before a little about depression on this blog. Anyway, that’s the excuse I’ve had for not writing more. For now I don’t want to write any more about it. Possibly I will later but not now. Now I just want to give an update, and because you deserve more than just a short little paragraph, here’s a poem:

Shhhh

I’ve heard rumor of a room
so silent,
you can hear electricity hum
through your own nervous system.

There the heart beats loud enough
to wake the damned,
and blood rushes through your veins
with all the gentle whisper of a freight train.

Visitors are not allowed
to remain in the room longer
than 45 minutes,
for fear they will go mad.

What secrets could we divine,
if only we had the patience to listen?

Why I Believe in Santa Claus

Yes, I believe in Santa Claus. Yes, I am an adult. Yes, I know Santa isn’t real. And Yes, all those statements are true. Mostly. I had a conversation about Santa Claus  with a friend the other day, and in this conversation we discussed belief in said magical Arctic dwelling whatever he is. Is he a person? I suppose person and human aren’t necessarily the same thing, so fine: Santa is a person. Anyway, in this discussion we talked about the different reasons and arguments for telling children that Santa Claus is real or just being open with them or whatever. I don’t mean to get into that too much. Suffice it to say that if I ever become a father I will be the kind of  parent who is going to lie his ass off to his kids about probably almost everything. But in a nice way. The better discussion, I believe, isn’t about lying to children. It’s about lying to yourself. I believe in Santa Claus, and I will defend that belief forever. (I was going to say to the death, but if we’re believing in Santa Claus, we’re going for an afterlife too.) Now, I know there’s no Santa Claus, just as I know there’s probably not an afterlife. The evidence simply suggests otherwise. But just because I know something isn’t real, doesn’t mean I can’t believe in it. This all started when I was fourteen years old. I was in junior high school, and it was near Christmas time. Somehow my friends got into a discussion about Santa Clause. When someone casually mentioned that Santa wasn’t real, I flipped out. “What do you mean? Of course Santa’s real!” I said. “If he’s not real, then how do you explain all the presents you get on Christmas morning?” They responded with mixtures of confusion and pity and arrogance. “Umm, your parents put the presents there.” “And I suppose you think your parents fill your stockings too,” I shot back. “Yeah. Of course.” The most confusing part of this exchange for those poor, brave teenage souls was that I was not speaking in a sarcastic tone, but rather as one who really believed and stood by these convictions. Now, by this point I had known for some years that Santa wasn’t real, and I assumed my friends would take my joke for what it was. What I have never realized is that when you act serious, people will assume you are serious. It makes the joke better, but also harder to perceive as a joke. Alas, against my better judgment I was drawn into a debate about the reality of a supernatural character, and I was supposed to argue the losing side. I couldn’t just give in to reality. That would have been too easy. So I played it out. And I discovered something in the process: It’s more fun to believe. There is a terrific scene in the terrific movie “Secondhand Lions” wherein a boy tells his uncle he needs to know if the stories he’s been hearing about his two uncles’ youthful adventures are true. The uncle responds with a short speech about belief:

Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love… true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.

A false notion is that belief and knowledge have anything to do with each other. They don’t. Belief is in fact the very antithesis of knowledge. It is impossible to both know and believe something at the same time. But far from destroying the foundations of belief, this thrusts belief into a very special realm all its own, where it’s possible to both know something isn’t true but believe it all the same. I choose to believe in Santa Clause because the world seems a more magical place that way. And no I will never allow that belief to cloud my judgment regarding whether or not I need to fill my possible future children’s stockings. That would just be irresponsible. And I will never trust magic or crystals or prayer to heal me when medicine has been proven to do the trick far better and more reliably. But I will continue to believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny and magic and The Doctor because even though reality is pretty awesome, a little magic still goes a long way.

Doctor Santa

What Kind of Author Do I Want to Be?

Recently, I was reading articles and thinking deep thoughts in an ill-advised attempt to avoid doing any actual work. These thoughts turned to what I want out of life, and inevitably how far away I am from that point. I had just read through an interview with my favorite author and fell into the evil practice of comparing my own work and life with his. This made me feel . . . bad.

Fire Bad

Not Frankenstein bad. Just like a piece of shit.

Of course, I want to be like my favorite authors. They are the ones who made me want to be an author in the first place. It would be ridiculous to not want to be like them, or to write like them. And to expect to not compare myself to them is also ludicrous, even if it is unhealthy. However, I decided to put this soul crushing activity to good use. I thought about why I like certain authors and how my own writing is different from theirs. Then, I thought about what I could do to make my work more like theirs. Not a bad activity, and I got some useful thoughts out of it.

After a while I couldn’t avoid at least pretending to be productive, so I started typing up part of a manuscript I’d already written. (I do my first drafts by hand for reasons. It works well for me, also for reasons.) As I was typing and making some edits I kept thinking about what I could do to make this story more like those of the authors I love. After trying a few things, I hit on a simple technique that also happened to solve a problem I’ve been worried about with that particular story.

As I worked through the edits I had in mind though, I realized that to change the style of the story would require A LOT of work. And I wasn’t in the mood to do work. I decided to put off the big edits and just work on little stuff and getting the story typed. It’s been a while since I’ve worked with this particular story. As a matter of fact, I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately and haven’t worked a lot on any particular story. Therefore, I had forgotten a lot of the minutiae in this one that really makes the story feel unique and fun. While I typed and read over this story and the minutiae and got reacquainted with its particular flavor, I realized something: It’s a good story. It’s good just the way it is. And I can be proud of writing it. The thing is, if I tried to change it all to fit another author’s particular style, it would lose all that. Or at least most of it. And I don’t need that.

The funny thing is, one of the big reasons I’ve been in a slump lately is I feel like I haven’t had as much opportunity as I’d like to just work on something for myself. But in trying to change my story I would be just perpetuating that problem. I’d be doing it for someone else, who didn’t even ask to be emulated and probably doesn’t want to be.

This realization led to another; I have eightyish more years of life (barring too much life happening to me) to write different stuff. One of the things that worries me is getting typecast as an author. I don’t want to be introduced as a “fantasy author” or “literary author” or anything. I want to write what I like, which is a bit of everything. But the answer to that problem is to just write what I want and not worry if it’s like someone else’s stuff or if anyone else with love it like I do. If I write something good, something that I like, it’ll find a home somewhere. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Depression and Writing

I don’t know what it’s like to be normal. That’s not to say I’m not normal (although the case could be made), but I’m not sure what normal is. In speaking specifically on the subject of depression, I have periods of my life (usually lasting anywhere from 1-3 weeks) when I get very very depressed. I don’t think I suffer from clinical depression, which my wife does and it sucks. I think my depression is the normal kind, but like I said-I don’t know. Anywho…

“Blah blah blah,” you say, “Chris is depressed. Cry me a river. What does this have to do with writing or books or anything?” To which I respond, “Let me get there Grumpypants!”

When I get depressed it usually has something to do with writing. Either I’m not writing enough, or I’m getting rejected, or I feel like my writing is bad and I should just give up. Some of these things cause the depression, some just extend it. The point is though, the only way I know how to get past it is to write more. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. I tried writing more in the last two days. I’ve got a story in my head that I think will be good once it’s down on paper. I tried writing that. It didn’t help.

In fact, not only did it not help; it made me feel worse. The story, which I know is a good one, wasn’t working, and working on it when it wasn’t working made me feel like I was never going to be able to get anything done. I almost contemplated giving up the whole writing thing and taking a job as a security guard and working my way through the ranks until someday I could make a $50,000 salary and buy a Smart car. It’s not a bad life, not really.

Last night, a sentence came into my head. It’s a fun sentence. Not perfect, not fantastic, but fun. I wrote it down. Then I wrote more sentences down, and before you know it they started to make a story. I wrote out a few pages, then I felt sleepy so I went to bed. But now I’m feeling less depressed. Writing is a strange demon that way.

I don’t have much of a point with this post. It’s really more of a “This is what’s been happening in my life.” than, “I know what I’m talking about.” I wonder though if other writers feel the same way. Do they worry about their writing the same way I do, or is it just a thing they do? In other words, Am I normal? I think I am, but then again I don’t know what the hell that words means anyway.

To Be or Not To Be…Published

To begin, AHHHHHH I’M PUBLISHED! ON A WEBSITE THAT’S NOT MY BLOG! AAAAHHHHHH!

You can read the short piece here: Rubber Gloves. And Lysol. by Christopher Taylor

I got an email yesterday from Mr. Richard Edwards, the editor of the fantastic website Every Writer’s Resource. He had seen my short piece I put up on their Literary Magazines page (Note: this is a fantastic place for writers who want to get their work out there for editors and publishers to see.), and he liked it. He told me so in his email. He said if I was interested they’d like to publish it on their Short Stories page. I was thrilled, and I of course gave my consent. This began an intense, stress filled day of constantly checking and rechecking email and their website, rereading the email I had gotten to make sure I was understanding it correctly, and generally just freaking the hell out.

Today, I’m going to take you through the emotional journey of an aspiring author’s first real publication. Warning: it can be exhausting. The first feeling is elation, euphoria, and a general sense of surrealism. You get blindsided, and it’s very hard to concentrate on anything else. You want to tell everyone, and you tell a few select people, but you decide to wait until it’s official before bragging about it all over the place. Then comes the waiting. You wait, and wait, and wait, and you start to doubt yourself. You think maybe you understood wrong. Maybe they changed their minds. Maybe it’s just an email spammer, but that doesn’t seem right because how would a spammer know you had submitted that particular piece, et cetera et cetera.

The day is filled with normal activities, but you can’t spend any effort on them. You go through it all in a state of mindlessness. You can’t think about anything but your prospective publication. You check the email again. You check the website again. You show the email to your wife and ask her what she thinks it mean. You recheck the reply you sent. You go to dinner with your wonderful cousin and have a lovely time, but in the back of your head there’s an itch. You want to get out your phone and check your email again. You go to the bathroom and use the privacy to check. Nothing. There’s nothing there. Is this another rejection? Is it a cruel game?

Back to dinner. You enjoy the rest of the evening. You told your friends you’d either need to celebrate or commiserate tonight, but you don’t have any real news yet. The whole charade is falling apart! Back at home, you go for a walk with your wife. You try really hard to not check your phone because the battery is almost dead. After the walk, you open up your laptop. You immediately check again. Nothing! You watch a show and lay in bed. By this point you’ve reconciled yourself to rejection. You’re ready for it. You’re expecting it. You fall asleep. You dream strange, stress dreams about your wife having a baby and also having an ex-husband that turns into your good friend, but now he’s not her ex, but she still has one. Neither of these things have any basis in reality, but they serve to make it a generally restless night.

In the morning, you wake to the sound of a blowdryer. You get up and start folding the clothes that were washed the other day, but you haven’t gotten around to putting away yet. You make a cup of tea. Wife goes off to work. She comes back a minute later because she’s decided to wear some more practical shoes. You check the email. Nothing. Not that you were expecting anything. You know that today is just a day. You check the website. Hit refresh.

AND THERE IT IS!

You make a sound in your throat like a strangled marmot. Your wife asks if it’s up. You say yes. You both jump and dance and kiss each other and make big plans to celebrate later. You immediately hop on all of your social media and share it with the world. You write a blog post. It feels like you’re on drugs. You float around in a haze of fame and grandeur, even though that’s entirely unwarranted. Then, you get back to work.

There are two comments from friends and family I want to share because they epitomize the experience so well. The first is from before the story was officially published and it looks like this:

The second is a small wisdom from the Facebook post where I announced my publication, and it says:

It would be a nice feeling to get used to.

And now, the only way that’s going to happen is to become a meth addict, or keep writing. I think I’ll keep writing.