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 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.