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.