It’s been a long time since I gave any attention to this website (which is stupid since I’m paying for it yearly), so I figure that I should start investing time and energy into it—that is, until the universal New Year’s lust for introspection and dedication fades away, as it often does by mid-January. (Amiright?)
I don’t want it to, of course, which is why I’m forcing myself to redesign the place a bit (already done), connect it with Facebook and Twitter, seek out followers, and hold myself to posting as often and substantially as possible. (Social media = narcissism, after all).
In particular, I want this post to serve as a new introduction of sorts, as well as a formal declaration to myself—since I doubt anyone else cares, but read on if you want—of what I hope to accomplish in 2018. I really want to hold myself to at least putting my heart into all of this; even if it doesn’t pay off, I’ll know that I tried. So, here’s a breakdown of what I want to happen with each facet of my life this year:
Teaching – I’m actually pretty comfortable with this aspect. I consistently have courses at my top three schools, which is good, although I suppose I’d like to teach a larger variety of classes. I also wouldn’t mind adding another worthwhile (i.e. well-paying and intellectually satisfying) school to my arsenal. I always put 100% into teaching, but I can sometimes feel overwhelmed and/or discouraged by certain factors (as will any teacher). I just need to remember (1) how fortunate I am to be doing this, (2) I am qualified to be doing this (fuck you, imposter syndrome), and (3) that no matter how bad it can seem at any point, the semester will eventually end, I’ll get a break, and the next semester is a fresh start.
The Bookends Review – This is one area I really want to enhance. We’ve grown a lot since 2012 (more than I realize, I’m sure), and it’s humbling to see how many people know about us and want to be published by us. That said, we could definitely have a bigger following on social media, so I want to try to have at least 1,500 followers on Facebook and Twitter by the end of the year. That sounds like a big goal, maybe—and even 1,500 isn’t much—but I’ve been slacking in terms of promotions. I think that if we do some other things—our first contest, merchandise, live readings, themed collections, etc—we could pull it off. I want to do all of those things and more (maybe expand what we publish and how often), and I hope my editors are with me (if any of you are reading this, LET’S DO IT!). I want Bookends to be a recognizable journal within the indie landscape; maybe it already is in a small way, but it’s not even close to where I think it could be.
Creative Writing – Along those lines, I want to FINALLY finish and publish my first collection of poetry and fiction. I’ve really been slacking in terms of writing, revising, and submitting pieces. This year, I want to focus on that again and get over whatever mental hang-ups are keeping me from it. From there—and like my goals with Bookends—I want to be as known to my indie lit “friends” as they are to me. I still feel like I’m an outsider looking into that world instead of being a part of it. Of course, that’s my fault since I’m not putting the effort into, you know, becoming a creative writer. I want to stop being envious of their successes and start making my own in this way.
Music/Literature/Pop Culture Writing– I still consider myself a music journalist above all else, and I’ve come really far over the last decade. Last year, I started contributing at bigger places (Metal Injection, The Prog Report, and PROG), and I want to do more of that. I started at another place (that shall remain nameless) that—as fellow writers warned me about—fucked me over by (1) not paying me for anything I did and (2) cutting me loose as soon as they hired me. Oh, well, it’s their loss, right? I plan to pitch a lot of other places (Pitchfork, The A.V. Club, Noisey, Consequence of Sound, Stereogum, etc.) this summer, if not sooner. I’m optimistic that if I keep pushing and come up with a good idea at the right time (to the right magazine), I can start freelancing for some more major places. On that note, I also want to push myself out of my comfort zone in terms of what I cover. I still want to prioritize progressive rock/metal coverage, but maybe go beyond reviews/interviews to do more features and essays. Also, go beyond those genres—and music in general—to be more of a pop culture writer. I think my positions at PopWrapped and PopMatters will help with that. Lastly, I want to do outside freelance work (like press releases, biographies, etc.) to make money outside of the publications themselves. In general, still want to teach to a certain extent, but I also want to come closer to my dream of being a professional music critic. I do make some money at it, but I’d like to make a lot more (say, a quarter of my yearly earnings, at least). I know, I know. I can dream, right?
Friends– Pretty simple here. I want to hang out with my closest friends as much as possible, reconnect with people I’ve drifted from, and weed out people who clearly don’t care enough about bonding with me. Outside of that, I want to be more social in general, like going to Meetup kind of events, see more local music, etc. Get out there more and stop spending so much time alone in my apartment (talking to my cats, who are terrible conversationalists).
Family– Even simpler. Spend more time talking to them, if not being with them.
Love– As Homer Simpson said (about alcohol), the cause of, and solution to, [most] of life’s problems. I’m not going to ramble on about this since it’s the most personal and revealing part of my life. Basically, I want to date as much as possible, not take things so personally, and feel consistently comfortable being single. I mean, there’s no set rule for any of this shit, right? People get married at 23, break up at 33, never marry by 43, etc. So what if I’m 30 and single? Fuck it. At least I can do what I want, when I want, and there are so many other awesome parts of my life.
Neglected Spoon – Yup, I have a music project that I haven’t done anything with in years. I should focus on recording and refreshing myself on music theory. Become a better musician overall and put out a debut collection. At least I’ll want to hear it.
Self– Above all else, I want to work on my mental and emotional issues (the aforementioned imposter syndrome, which was formally diagnosed, and the self-diagnosed anxiety and depression). I need to really look outside of myself to see how great my life is even without certain things, not feel so goddamn inferior to others, and push through those moments of self-loathing and hopelessness (which are getting less severe and frequent, honestly). I want to stop relying on alcohol as a solution and instead push through those moments on my own, in a healthy and constructive way. Learn to deal with the bad thoughts and ignore/battle them until they fade away (for the moment, anyway; anxiety and depression never go away completely, obviously). I’m sick of feeling this invisible weight on me and this intangible hesitation when it comes to things (especially creative writing, for some reason). I’m not sure why I get in this moods, but this is the year that I really try to stop it (if not on my own, then with outside help.)
There you go! Not too neurotic, right? RIGHT? Check back soon for more updates, and follow me on ALL THE PLACES!
So here’s my contribution to the #MyWritingProcessTour series. It’s a fun and insightful way to tell the world about yourself as a writer (which may be different than who you are as a person), as well as show support to fellow writers. Having recently been told that I probably suffer from Imposter Syndrome, I’m always looking for ways to make myself feel like a legitimate writer (even though I’ve published enough to justify the tag), so the fact that I was invited to participate in this makes me feel good. Shout out to Sam Snoek-Brown for including me in his entry and passing the torch. He’s a super nice guy and a superb writer, so check him out. We collaborated on a story for Exquisite Quarterly about two years ago (it was called “Scenes from an Open Marriage.”) Great experience. His latest flash collection, Box Cutters, has been doing really well, and his novel Hagridden is forthcoming from Columbus Press.
Anyway, here’s a brief look into my writing process:
What am I working on?
For the past couple months I’ve been trying to rewrite a short story I originally wrote in college. It was called “Timothy,” but I renamed it “Death Whispered a Lullaby.” I did this for two reasons: one is that I try to implement progressive rock into everything I write as a way of merging my two passions, so I like to use phrases from music in my work. “Death Whispered a Lullaby” is a song by Opeth, one of my favorite bands. The other reason is that the title fits well with the story, which centers on a man remembering the death of his childhood friend’s little brother. Seeing as how an eight year old is murdered in the story, “death” and “lullaby” instantly let you know what kind of story it’ll be, I think. It acts as a warning that this won’t be a happy tale. I’ve got about a third of it done, but of course once it’s completed I’ll probably revise it more, so who knows how long this will take.
Once I’m finished that, I plan to revise and complete my first novel. I wrote two drafts of it in graduate school; back then, it was called Kosher Kin since its primary purpose was an attack on the idea that religion is the most important thing in a romantic relationship. At the time I was dating a girl who wasn’t Jewish, yet she always asked if my family cared about that (likewise, my grandparents always asked if she was Jewish, as if that’s determined if she was allowed to date me). If you know me, you know that I’m against organized religion for many reasons, and this sense of superiority within Judaism is one of the major ones. There are dozens of things that are more important to a relationship than obligatorily sharing a religion, and the fact that one would have to give up dating someone because their family, friends, and/or community wants them to date within their own theology is disgusting. So Kosher Kin was originally a commentary on that.
I’m no longer dating that girl, but I still feel the same way about the principle so I’m going to stick with it in some way. I also want to expand upon that theme and include other explorations, such as cultism, suicide due to bullying, and mental illness. I want to call the novel As the Curtains Close; that’s also the name of my first album, which is still being worked on (ten years and counting, unfortunately). I’ve been told by a publisher that they’ll publish whatever project I have next, so I’m hoping that I can have As the Curtains Closed finished by next year and ready to be sold and ridiculed haha.
Outside of that, I’m always working on music journalism. This month, I’ll be interviewing Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, as well as working on an article for an upcoming book about Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. I’m sure I’ll be reviewing albums along the way too.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well I’m not sure what genre(s) my work belongs in. Frankly I don’t really know what the various genres of fiction entail, so I never feel comfortable searching by category on, say, Duotrope. What exactly is postmodern vs. absurdist vs. realism vs. general vs. bizarre vs. whatever. I primarily write free verse poetry (although it includes rhyming, but it doesn’t adhere to any strict form, which some people hate. But screw them haha), as well as flash fiction. I suppose all of my work contains a lot of sentiment, which I don’t think is bad. I just read a piece in Poets & Writers about the unnecessary connotations of “sentiment.” Anyway, I like to pack a lot of feeling in as few words as possible (FF can only include up to 1,000 words). I like to begin in the moment and explore a specific incident, so there’s not a lot of character development or background. As I said, I also include references to music, so I guess that’s unique.
Why do I write what I do?
I want to create something that affects the reader. I believe emotion is the purest way to understand ourselves and connect with each other and the world, so there’s nothing more vital to living than experiencing emotions. That probably sounds like clichéd bullshit, but it’s the best answer I have. My life is made worthwhile by the ways in which creative works help me understand and express my own thoughts and feelings, so I want to do the same for others. Sure I write about dark topics most of the time, but I feel that those are the most honest and deep places because they’re what make life so complex. Sunshine and rainbows are fine, but I don’t want to read or hear about them. How complex can you make a story about something overtly pleasant? I feel uplifted when I discover powerful art, so a beautifully tragic song or a heavy plotline makes me happy simply because such amazing pieces of art exist. It’s like, “Okay, Six Feet Under and Porcupine Tree’s ‘Heartattack in a Layby’ are really sad, but they’re also very honest and accurate about life, and the fact that they manage to capture glimpses of life so tenderly makes me happy.” I want to create pieces that leave readers speechless for a moment or two; they shouldn’t be able to forget about what they’ve just read.
How does my writing process work?
It happens very rarely, for one. I’ve heard that anything you do related to writing counts as writing, so most of my process consists of thinking about my story while I’m walking or driving. I try to walk a lot (weather permitting), so I have a lot of time to think about where my story is going. Unfortunately, I really have to push myself to actually write, and I’m not sure why that is. I was supposed to finish this over a week ago, for example, and I’m only getting to it now. I think it’s because I want to take the easy way out and do something that won’t require thought, such as watch television, instead. For some reason I have a strong hesitation toward actually getting creative things done, be it writing or recording music. However, once I’m in the “zone,” I usually get a lot done and feel proud of myself when I’m finished for the day.
It’s like wanting to run a marathon but never actually doing it. I know that once I start doing the activity, I’ll get swept up in it and spend a good amount of time on it. Hell, I sometimes have to push myself to get exercise, but then I’m really proud of myself when I do. I enjoy being in the mindset of a writer/musician/athlete (although I wouldn’t call myself athletic just because I walk a bit). I think I’m afraid of being frustrated by not having any good ideas. It’s like, “What if I try to write or record and it sucks?” I’m afraid of hitting that wall. Maybe it’s a confidence issue. It’s a weird juxtaposition, I guess.
And now for something completely different…
Shawn Proctor: Shawn Proctor’s writing has been nominated for Best New American Voices and published in several literary journals and anthologies, including Storyglossia, Think Journal, Schuylkill Valley Journal and Our Haunted World: Ghost Stories from Around the Globe. His journalism has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Main Line Today and Ale Street News, and and he published a roleplaying module with Chaosium, Inc. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College and is the Book Editor for Nerd Caliber. He recently completed a novel, featuring a former college classmates who must fight for their lives when the world’s only superhero is murdered.
Roman Nicholas: Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 at Rosemont College, and has since been teaching at Drexel University and Bucks County Community College, living the nomadic adjunct life and trying to find logic in a world where none applies. His works have been published in MonkeyBicycle, The Rusty Nail, The Lit Garden, and The Weekly Comic Book Review, as well as the anthology Strangers of Different Ink. Currently, he is working on Sin’s Requiem, his second novel in the Catholic Noir Double Feature. His first published novel–and the first “feature” in the Catholic Noir series–Trading Saints for Sinners was recently published by WragsInk in December of 2013
Eddy Rathke: Edward J Rathke wrote Ash Cinema, Twilight of the Wolves, and Noir: A Love Story. Find him at here.
Matthew Dexter: Like nomadic Pericú natives before him, Matthew Dexter survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet of shrimp tacos, smoked marlin, cold beer, and warm sunshine. He is the author of the novel, THE RITALIN ORGY (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing 2013). His short fiction and narrative nonfiction has been published in hundreds of literary journals and dozens of anthologies. Thousands fo articles sold for fish tacos. Matthew lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the Lil Wayne of literature
Welcome to a website I made about myself (isn’t that what creative people do??). Thanks for checking it out and please message me if you want . . . about anything . . . ever . . .