January 9

Driving Out

Like every other wannabe writer out there, I harbour delusions of grandeur, of being the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. I know, however, that this is not likely to be. The writing I do is less generic than that, not that King or Rowling are super generic or corporate or anything. I mean, it’s not like they’re cranking out by-the-numbers detective novels these days. Well, okay, Ms. Rowling seems headed that direction, which is a little sad, but still, Harry Potter’s pretty great. Of course, I haven’t read her newer stuff, so who am I to say if it’s formulaic or not?

Let reservations be held until I can safely say I know what I’m talking about. I would have condemned Alexander Dumas as flowery bullshit until I actually read The Three Musketeers and Milady de Winter became one of my favourite villains. There’s a reason I finish most stories, even seemingly bad ones. More than once, an ending has made a book for me that was otherwise middling. Sometimes, one idea or sequence is enough to capture my interest and raise my opinion.

I prefer to take more risks, be a bit edgier and off the map. My current novelette uses heroin as a metaphor for harnessing the passion and purpose inside of one and transcending to another plane.

I don’t really write for kids. I can’t seem to keep sex or depression or addiction or anger or violence out of it. The idea, for me, was always to work my way up to something transcendent, working through a number of genres into bigger and crazier things, using side projects to get out the more “action-based” or smaller ideas.

Jeopardy is just the start of that. It’s dark and the hero isn’t particular likable. Like I said, it plays Reversi with passion and purpose, using something socially unacceptable as its primary metaphor, which is its own commentary on how we as society treat someone who dreams of something better, generally speaking.

The finale, the last novel in my canon, will hopefully be a wonderful mix of personal and global that explores a higher philosophy, a better way to live. It will be ultimately hopeful, optimistic, in a way that Jeopardy isn’t. Jeopardy deals with possibilities and pitfalls on an exclusively personal level. Even in heaven, without the proper focus, there’s exists the potential for hell.

It’s not entirely pessimistic, though the disillusionment is palpable. I’m just looking for something to hold onto – a chance, an opportunity, no bigger than this novelette. Something to move toward. Something slower, more present, more possible.

I’m not sure I found it, but I’m writing about possibilities anyway. It’s a weird little story, and I’m not sure yet what I’ve learned from it.

Maybe just that passion ignored is passion destructive, and that passion harnessed is a path to a better place.

At least, that’s the hope. The trick is driving the horses and not letting them drive you.

(Another heroin reference? Geez, Michaels, you don’t even do the stuff.)

That, and trying not to be consumed by it in the attempt, or letting it burn me out.

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January 7

Forward

I suppose a better introduction is necessary. I spent the first post pontificating on the creation of combustion-containing engines and conduits inside the self to contain the fire of whatever it is that fuels our passion and the second affirming my allegiance to prose that is raw and revealing.

Of course, that all makes me sound like a basic bitch. I don’t like to sound like a basic bitch, because, like anybody, I’d like to contribute more to society than “me toos.”

When I was young, I thought I could revolutionize philosophy and be some paragon of virtue that would light the world and push us into a new era of peace and joy and freedom. My words and thoughts would flow through the universe like some catalytic big bang, opening minds and hearts and ushering in a age of permanent perfection expanding out infinitely through the Multiverse.

Yes, I’m that dumb.

I’ve since discovered that most of the philosophy I could ever want to live by already exists in multiple different forms, and that the challenge is not coming up with something new, because it already exists. Rather, it’s a problem of synthesizing and incorporation.

The problem isn’t creation because creation isn’t truly necessary; it’s how to incorporate the techniques and truths I’ve found into my life and my self. How do I remain flexible enough in those beliefs and open enough in my mind to question even the most profound and seemingly rock solid ideas I’ve discovered?

Knowing that perfection is out of reach (and who would want it anyway?), how do I ensure that I keep growing and expanding and getting better at who I am and what I do?

Because I started off something shitty. Like everyone, I’ve got lots of things I’m not proud of and some things of which I am. It’s a progression. I am a better person now (I hope) than I was when I was twenty.

I don’t expect to change the world anymore. I’m just hoping people think I’m an okay guy, and that my family and friends don’t think too poorly of me. I’d like to transition from the tech sector I’m stuck in to being a full time (and hopefully successful) author.

I’m working on it. All this talk of fire and raw nerves is part of it, but at the end of the day, the aims are much smaller. Laughing over dinner with my wife, putting a story out there and having a friendly discussion about it. Maybe hearing someone enjoyed it. That they got it. That it touched something inside them.

A boy can dream and that part, at least, I’ve got down cold.

January 4

T-Shirt Scraps

I get a little nervous around other authors. Not in person, usually, because I’m not that connected and don’t know many authors personally. In fact, I think I know one professional writer, and she’s related by marriage.

The skittishness comes from intimidation and insecurity, I’m sure. I listen to them talk with confidence on their craft, in the backmatter and forewords of their books, or just randomly on Twitter, and I think “Goddamn, I have a long way to go.”

Technically and emotionally, in terms of confidence and courage. I’m an old favourite t-shirt at this point, wrecked and torn by a thousand mosh pits and bonfires, waiting for that one protruding nail to catch a loose string and pull the whole thing apart.

I am trying to stitch myself together in real time, using the exposed skin as a glimpse into my soul, without standing fully naked in front of the world.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I admire those willing to bare it all.

The best literature is raw, tapping into our deepest emotions – fears and insecurities, terror or obsession or the desire for freedom or acceptance or a genuine connection. I don’t mind idea-based literature, where it’s all about the technology or some obscure philosophy, but the stuff that stays with me is the stuff that mainlines to our needs, desires and fears as humans.

Tap that vein and I’m in.

It’s what I strive for in my work, though I don’t really know how I’m succeeding, because I’ve been painfully shy about sharing it.

Hence the new site and the new Wattpad account and the slightly more active social media these days.

It’s time to get naked.

Or at least, show a little skin.

January 3

Hello, World

I don’t know if this is going to work, but I’m going to try.

My name is Elliott Michaels. At least, that’s what I’m going with, for the time being. A writer’s name is a neon sign blinking over his head in a sea of blinking neon signs, providing directions to the worlds he or she has created.

Unfortunately for me, both my first and last name are among the most common English names and surnames in existence. Unless I want to be the literary equivalent of Springfield, existing in all states at once and requiring clarification as to what signs lead to which Springfield, I thought I’d better mix it up.

Or at least come up with something unique. I know many writers use pseudonyms nowhere near their real names, and that’s fine, but I want my work to be associated with my name at least partially. I’m proud of it, or will be, once it’s out there.

A pseudonym feels like hiding. Using my full name feels too generic, as though I were writing under Jack Smith, or John Jones.

Hence the compromise.

There’s a number of projects in the works, but the first is a novelette about the nature of the burning desire that exists within those felt called to do something.

The thing one can’t not do, as entrepreneurs like to call it, is simultaneously the most destructive force in a person’s life, and its most revelatory potential bliss-maker.

Treated with reverence and intelligence, it can soar someone to the pinnacle of human creation and joy. Fought against, dishonoured or given free reign to consume a person, without regard for the people and world around them, it can and will tear them apart.

It’s torn me apart. It tears me apart every day. It’s wild, untamed energy. Left to its own devices or captured in an unsafe or inappropriate container, it overloads, melts down or explodes. It can leave us hollow husks of our former selves, ashes where there was once fire.

Some people have slow, steady burns. They don’t move fast, but they do move, and it never really bothers them as they saunter through life’s path. I envy that. I do, even if I want more.

Others are wildfires, raging infernos or catastrophic nightmares like Fukushima or Chernobyl. Three Mile Islands. Campfires, bonfires, combustion engines, rocket ships to the goddamn stars.

I don’t know where I’m at yet. All I know is something feels like it’s boiling inside, burning up my guts and I can either find a way to control and focus it, to let it fire my passions without consumption, or I can let it reduce me to a crisp.

A controlled, sustained burn with a steady ascent sounds good to me.

I don’t need to be fireworks. I don’t need to be a rocket. I would like to be a hydroelectric dam, reliably producing and containing power from the flow of natural energy. Long-term, sustainable, maybe a little boring in practice, but allowing for all kinds of great things to be built on its production.

I am, of course, basing all this on a fairly rudimentary knowledge of hydroelectric dams. They seem safe to me, but maybe they’re a natural disaster waiting to happen. I’d say wind, but there’s that local shale problem where I come from in Kent County that the Ontario government refuses to acknowledge or properly investigate, thereby proving that even the cleanest of energies have costs. There’s the bird death thing as well, which I’ve read we’re also exceeding, so maybe solar power?

In any case, burning, uncertain, building an engine and a conduit as I go. Elliott Michaels, on fire, trying not to be consumed.

Trying not to burn it all down.