Life Takes Direction

What is the meaning, or purpose of life? A question so many people have taken a stab at, and rightfully so, it’s a damn important question. But, I feel this question should be answered personally, by everyone who has ever lived. Thus, there will be no broad sweeping answer that covers all bases and finally makes sense of everything for everybody. My answer won’t be the same as yours, and your answer won’t be the same as somebody halfway around the world. But it’s essential to your life that you tackle the question.

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The answer, as stated in “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Universe,” a lovely book by Douglas Adams (and movie), would tell you that the answer would be 42. Unfortunately, it isn’t so simple.

Time for my stab at the question of life:
I was riding my bike around my neighborhood this evening (playing Pokemon Go) and my mind got to wandering, and I couldn’t get off the thought that there has to be something better out there for me. I feel like all I do is work, play video games, and drink. I got to thinking further about each one of these individually.

Work: I show up when scheduled because I have to be able to afford the basic things in life, i.e. an apartment, a car, health insurance, including dental and vision, my laptop, electricity, phone, and food.

Video Games: I play video games to distract me from the long list of things that I need to do in order to get my life on track.

Drinking: When I get off work, and video games aren’t enough to distract me from how bad a day I’ve had, and how long my list of things to do has gotten, I drink to forget all of it. And forget is exactly what I do, because I end up blacking out and passing out somewhere (hopefully in my apartment, but not always).

If you’re wondering why I choose to do this, because clearly I’m watching myself burn to the ground, and completely aware of it, I couldn’t tell you. But, whilst riding around tonight and staring at the stars, I realized that nothing is going to change for me, and that if I really want this change that I talk about so much, then I’m going to have to be my own catalyst. Or I could just stay a piece of shit, but…

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There has to be more to this life for me than wondering if my shitty car is going to start in order to take me to my shitty job that I need to be able to afford the shitty apartment I have, along with my shitty health insurance that I don’t use for GOD KNOWS WHY!?

My answer:
Life is exactly what I’ve made it. I’ve become complacent, and in order to break my cycle I’ll have to put an end to the things that shield me from attacking my list. I am afraid of change, afraid of failure, afraid of what will happen if I find a way to actually get my writing out there. I’m afraid to the point that I’ve settled, and until now I’ve accepted my fate as an underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated line cook. I’ve spent twelve years in the kitchen, and being a corporate slave for twelve years is long enough to make me look inside myself and question the very nature of why I do the things I do.

This is my life, and it will go where I say, I just have to find my voice.

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Can Writing Podcasts Save Me?

The holidays stress me out. The kitchen (my job) stresses me out. But, most of all, my complete lack of anything resembling a motivation to get out of the kitchen stresses me out. It’s like I enjoy the pain of working in a kitchen, like I wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t have to go to work and babysit people my own age, and get paid shit for working way too hard.

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Writing stresses me out. I constantly doubt myself. I listen to podcasts that tell me not to doubt my writing, that I should just write and write. And still? I doubt. Writing is the one thing in my life that keeps me sane, as my body is too battered to skateboard anymore. OK so that’s a lie, my girlfriend keeps me sane too, and she doesn’t read this, so don’t think this is a shout-out to her to gain brownie points, I have all the points I could ever need. She’s at her parents this weekend, and I have nobody in which to unload all my frustrations. So, lucky for you dear reader, you have inherited that honor.

Unloading zone.

I’m actively aware that I hate the line of work I’m in, yet I do nothing, well not nothing, but not near enough to get me out of the restaurant industry. I have around ten short stories currently without endings, and the beginning of a novel started, but I just can’t finish anything. I wrote one short story about four years ago about my friend being a jedi-hybrid that could control his dreams, and that had an ending, but I left it open to have a sequel, and the more I think about it, the more I think I’m incapable of writing actual endings. Am I cursed? How do I shake this?

Cue writing podcasts. I recently started listening to a few writing podcasts, and my favorite so far is the Dead Robots’ Society. It was created by Justin Macumber and is currently hosted by Justin, Terry Mixon, and Paul E. Cooley. The podcast consists of advice they have, stories they have, how they got to where they are, and answers to listeners questions. It is quite entertaining, and for me, extremely helpful.

They give me hope that I can eventually make it out of the kitchen, but in order to do so I’ll have to stop procrastinating and just fucking write.

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The Asshole and His Horse

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attempting to run through the flames

I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t beat a dead horse. The horse has already experienced the thing people fear most, no not public speaking, I mean death, and by beating it further, you only make yourself look like an asshole.

This being said, I think the little man in my head that sees me going to work day after day, hating my job, sees me as that asshole beating a dead horse. You see, my horse was once a full blown race horse, with intentions of working it’s way up from line cook to manager, and from manager to owner, but time got the best of it.

My horse suffered a tragic accident about six years ago. It was cruising around the track as it normally did, slowly climbing it’s way to the head of the pack, becoming the horse everybody looked up to, and the horse everybody went to when they had any questions, and then it was introduced to the worst human being it had ever encountered in it’s short existence.

Dropping the metaphor for this part, one of my favorite managers transferred to South Florida, and was replaced with the devil incarnate. Being head cook on the line, I believe this manager came into the restaurant with his sights set on me, looking to knock me from first to last, slowing my metaphorical horse from first, to dead.

Everything I did was wrong, and if I managed to do something right, I didn’t do it fast enough, and if I did it right, and did it fast enough, I was living in a reality that didn’t exist. I was yelled at for everything, everything on the line was my fault. If I showed up to work on time, I was late, if I showed up early, I was accused of trying to sabotage his labor bonus. My horse, along with the part of me that wanted to excel in this industry, suffered a tragic accident, but it didn’t die quite yet. It just became filled with rage, and dreaded it’s every lap around the track.

My horse died on a Friday night, when the shit hit the fan. We were slammed busy and on an hour wait. The food starts running long, and my manager is in the window just screaming at me demanding that I fix everything that is going wrong. I’m sorry, did I seat the entire restaurant at one time? Did I ring every table in the dining room in simultaneously and expect it to come out in a timely manner? No, I didn’t.

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Rage Level: Saiyan

I last about an hour before I red-out. I’m getting berated while getting beat down in sheer volume of tickets, I can’t handle it. I walk off the line for a quick breather, just to get my head back in the right place, and to get away from my managers incessant nagging. I’m in the middle of taking my first peaceful deep breath as he walks around the corner screaming at me. Cue red-out. I remember walking towards him and screaming at him, but I don’t remember what happened between that time, and the time I was back on the line cooking. I just remember looking down the line and seeing our grill cook laughing. My horse died.

I worked as a robot the rest of the shift, completely mentally checked out. And it’s been that way for going on seven years now. The little man in my head sees me clock in, beat that poor dead horse for up to fifteen hours a day sometimes, and then go home to drink the pain away, like the asshole he believes me to be.

My horse has been twitching recently, as I’ve been sending out my resume, and I believe he may be coming back to life, but as everybody who has ever seen any zombie movie knows, nothing comes back to life quite the same. Much as a zombie, my horse will come back to life with an insatiable thirst for blood. Blood being success of course.

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IT

Stephen King is a master craftsman. Every time I pick up one of his books I’m sucked into the story, turning page after page with ravenous curiosity, I must know what happens next.

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“IT” is no exception. It took me a little longer to actually fall into the story on this one, but around 150 pages or so, I completely forgot I was reading. I became part of the story.

This book takes focus on a group of friends in Derry, Maine, and the experiences they have together. During the book, there has been a recent bout of child murders, and while all the parents are being cautious, all the kids just want to have fun.

I just finished the series “Stranger Things,” and though not written by Stephen King, to the best of my knowledge, the whole time I was watching the Netflix show I just couldn’t help but think “this is right out of a Stephen King book.” When asked how to describe Stranger Things to people, I first ask them if they have read IT, and if they have, I tell them it’s just like IT, but without clowns, and no grown up side to the story.

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The story takes place on two timelines, one when the group are still children, and then another when they all return to the place they all tried to forget. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for all things sci-fi, and without giving anything away, this book took a turn I did not expect. I was not in the least bit disappointed.

Side note – A much younger coworker was talking to me about Stranger Things over the weekend, King’s IT came to mind, and that’s where I first realized how similar the stories were. Case in point, if you fell in love with Stranger Things, and haven’t read IT, chances are you’re highly capable of falling for IT.

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The Office

Have you seen The Office? Have you ever heard of Netflix? Are you familiar with the internet?

Just a few questions I’d ask if you’re answer to the first question was a no. The Office is my all-time favorite comfort show. No matter how I’m feeling, I can put on any episode and be temporarily swept away from my own personal shortcomings in life. It will almost immediately alter my mood, and I’d go so far as to say I’m a better person after watching an episode or two.

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Jim and Pam pranking Dwight keep this show alive

The show spans 9 seasons, and is about a paper company in Scranton, PA. It takes you through the daily workings inside the office, and everything that comes with working in a small space with many personalities.

I’ve seen the show at least four or five times through, as I usually put it on when I’m about to go to sleep. It clears my mind, and instead of trying to get to sleep with all of my daily problems floating around in my head, I can fall asleep with a smile on my face thinking about how ridiculous Michael Scott’s life is.

Michael Scott is one of four main characters in the show, and he is also the office boss. The other main characters (IMO of course) would be Jim, Pam, and Dwight. The dynamic between these characters is a combination of writing, directing, and acting genius. Every time I re-watch this show in its entirety, I notice something that had previously gone unnoticed. A minor detail becomes apparent, and I make a connection to why certain other things happen on the show.

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It seems someone else agrees with my main selections

If you really haven’t seen this show, you have to give it a chance. It is THE go to new relationship show. If you aren’t totally comfortable with a partner yet, put on the office, share some laughs, and get to know each other through the conversation that pops up due to the situations portrayed in this beautifully put together show.

 

Plan on Planning

Between writing, work, and trying to keep up with school, I’ve found that planning isn’t as meaningless as it used to be. Prior to this semester, I’d been out of  school for a few years, and the only thing I needed to plan was when I had to get out of town to stay sane. I never needed to jot down my schedule, and make time for certain “activities” on a daily basis. I didn’t understand why so many people couldn’t keep track of there responsibilities and obligations. Turns out I just didn’t have enough going on.

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I bought a planner for the first time since one was provided for me in high school, a good 12 years ago. It’s not only extremely helpful, but also a bit nostalgic. I remember being shown how to use our planners on the first day of high school, and how useless I thought they were. Back then my planner contained more poems than it did plans, I used to write all over it in attempt to stay awake in my earlier classes, paying attention just wasn’t an option yet.

Nowadays, if I don’t write out my plans, they’ll get forgotten about, and my grades will show. I have about ten assignments a week, and I still work 40 plus hours. Work is thoughtless, and doesn’t require planning, but it is also monotonously mind numbing. By the end of every shift, my mind is wiped clean of it’s prior obligations, and is instead focused on the post-work rage that it’s now enduring. Why couldn’t that shift have gone smoother? Why was I getting blamed for things that weren’t my fault? Why weren’t my coworkers being as efficient as they could? Why, when I work the grill (busiest station by far), do I find myself having to jump on saute and push a few items out?

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By the time I clock out, the only thing I can think about is getting a drink, and forgetting about everything that happened in the last eight or nine hour shift. Here enters planning, saving my night from being a drunken fit of vomitous venting about how bad my night was. If you find yourself struggling to remember the order in which to get things done, I’d highly suggest planning. You don’t have to write everything down, just cover the basics. On Tuesday: you work at ten, should be off by eleven, then you have to get home and write a blog post. Planning at it’s finest.

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Ready Player One

About a month ago I picked up Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, I didn’t really know what to expect. I forgot about it for a few weeks, and before I was leaving to head to Philly for the weekend, I saw it on the table and threw it into my carry on. I was going to meet my girlfriends sister, brother in law, and nephew, for his fourth birthday. When we travel I usually read, and she’ll either sleep or fill out sudoku puzzles the whole trip. I put my headphones on in Tampa, opened the book, and didn’t even look up until we were landing in Philly. I read it every night before sleep, and the whole flight back. I finished it a few days ago.

This book is so damn good. I’m a huge fan of role playing games like Dark Souls, Demon Souls, Bloodborne, Skyrim, and the Diablo‘s.

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On one of the covers it describes this book to be the adults version of Harry Potter, I do agree, but when I was reading this book I felt as if I were playing one of the games that I love so much. I couldn’t put it down when I was in Philly, until I realized I was being borderline rude.

The story follows a teenager named Wade Watts, who lives in a “stack,” a bunch of trailers stacked on top of each other, held together by steel frames. In the opening of the story the man who created the OASIS, the virtual reality program where kids go to school and adults go to get away from the real world, has just passed away. In his passing, he has created a challenge for the users in the OASIS, awarding billions of dollars and control of the OASIS upon completion. All you have to do is find three keys. Sounds simple right? Hardly.

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Wade’s journey through the OASIS involves dungeons full of enemies he is forced to fight through with gear he picks up along the way. At one point in the story he finds a +1 Flaming Sword, which, for anyone who played Dark Souls knows, there is a flaming sword in the near beginning of the game if you shoot the dragons tail with about 50 arrows (dedication, yes), this part gave me an awesome feeling of nostalgia. The video game feel throughout this book is indescribable. I can’t put into words how great this book is, and if you even remotely like playing RPG’s (role-playing games), you have no option but to read this.

The featured image can be found here, where there is also a large number of pictures from the story. I scrolled through that site for quite some time, and I couldn’t help but use the picture of Acerak, one of the demon’s in the story Wade must fight, playing the video game Joust. Cline also has a new book titled Armada that came out a few months ago, and it is without a doubt the next book I’ll be reading.

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Iles Brought Me Back

After dropping out of college for the first time, I took a break from reading, one I much regret. I was skateboarding in 105% of my free time, and working until three and sometimes four in the morning. That all changed when I went to visit my mom for Christmas about six years ago. I was looking at her bookshelf and asked if she had any recommendations to get me reading again, part of the problem was that I hadn’t really found a favorite author yet. She recommended I read The Devil’s Punchbowl, by Greg Iles.

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I was hooked from the first few pages. The book is part of the Penn Cage series, and it starts out in a cemetery where he is to meet someone to discuss secrets dealing with his hometown of Natchez Mississippi. The book takes you through Penn’s adventure to make his hometown a better place, as he does in most of the Penn Cage novels. This was easily the longest book I had ever read at this point at over 700 pages, but that wasn’t a thought in my head as I couldn’t put it down. Iles made me fall in love with Penn, and this is the book that got me reading again, and ultimately led me to the conclusion that I should pursue a career in writing.

When I finished Natchez Burning a few years later, after reading all but two of Iles’s books, it was about four in the morning, but I was so moved by the ending that I got out my computer and just started typing to see what would happen. I saw the sun come up that morning, and got about halfway through one of my favorite, and first, short stories I’d written.

Before Iles I was all poetry, I had written a few things for school in English classes, but mainly emotional poetry. I have about six or seven journals that are packed full of my wild range of emotions throughout high school, and the time after. They are quite interesting reads, funny, sad, unbelievable, and at times, quite shocking. While they are some of my favorites, they will stay in my closet, and thanks to Iles, and my mother of course, I have begun my quest to have something more than poetry published.

If you’re interested in Greg Iles, you can find him here, and if you’re interested in any of my poetry, you can find it here. The further you go back on the site, the older they get, and there’s about 550 posts right now. Enjoy!

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Finding My Way

I fell in love with everything science fiction and horror at an early age. My first memory encountering these genre’s occurred during a family trip (my mom, my sister, and I) to visit my grandmom in Atlanta. It was a six hour trip from our house to hers, and on this particular trip my mom decided to introduce us to Ray Bradbury‘s “Dark They Were and Golden Eyed.” I don’t know if my mom was trying to change my life, or if she was just sick of me and my sister arguing, but that tape brought quiet to the car either way. I felt like I was actually on Mars watching the story unfold. I don’t remember much else from that trip besides being in awe for a few hours, not thinking for a second about the passing miles under our feet. Before I knew it we were in Atlanta, and all I did know was that I wanted more of this peculiar feeling that this sci-fi recording had given me.

As for the horror, we got a taste for that on the return trip in the form of a 1946 radio show called “Suspense.” My mom owned the whole set of old tapes, and I couldn’t be more thankful. On this week’s episode of Suspense was a story called “The House In Cypress Canyon,” a story written by Robert L. Richards about a couple moving into a new house on the edge of a canyon. There are many things off about this house, and during the story the couple gets quite acquainted with these oddities. At two or three particular parts during the tape, I remember actually screaming because of the intense volume change where the suspense is broken. My heart was racing, and again I felt as if I were actually in this house and the story itself was happening to me, I was terrified, and loving it.

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My ideal dinner dates

It wasn’t long after this trip to Atlanta and back that I picked up my first “scary” book, whatever you call horror for kids. Goosebumps, by R.L. Stine, stole the show. I wasn’t one of the kids who could just read for thirty minutes and put a book down, I would sit for hours, and start to finish a book, given the series was easy to read, and rather short. After flying through the Goosebumps books, I don’t think I read for a while. I believe I was going into middle school at this point, and sports, friends, and girls were taking over most of my daylight hours. At night I had to do homework, and was forced to read things I absolutely hated. I think school negatively affected my reading for a good while after elementary school.

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What i felt like being forced to read

Required readings would be the death of me. I can’t explain how much I hated doing things I didn’t want to as a child. Every summer I had a list of books I was to read, they might as well have been different types of torture I had to endure. Sure, I read the books, but I didn’t retain anything, my senses weren’t alive while reading. I was a zombie whose eyes were just reading back and forth and up and down across pages. I don’t think I started really reading again until maybe eighth or ninth grade when two of our required readings were Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, and 1984, by George Orwell. I fell in love with reading all over again. While reading Of Mice and Men, I found myself in tears, an event I didn’t think was possible whilst reading, and 1984 just completely blew my mind. I was old enough at this point to realize that these were just stories people dreamed up, and I was actually thankful that they were required readings, otherwise I don’t know if I would’ve gotten to them on my own. Reading was once again something I could see myself doing in my free time.

I started reading the Resident Evil books, by S.D. Perry. I loved the way Perry described the world, the monsters, and the way the suspense drove you onward as a reader. However, this stretch of reading didn’t last too long. Skateboarding and girls had taken over my life. Required readings were once again the bane of my existence.

It wouldn’t be until I was in my mid-twenties that I would start, and continue to read in my free time. I have my mom to thank for this new uptick in reading. She recommended I read some Greg Iles books. I hadn’t read a book from cover to cover since dropping out of college (for the second time at this point), and figured I’d give it another go. I started reading The Devil’s Punch Bowl, the first crime thriller I ever read, and I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t get enough Penn Cage, the main character in a good few of Iles’s books. Iles quickly became my favorite author, and Penn Cage my favorite character.

My second favorite author, the author of my favorite book, This Book is Full of Spiders, is David Wong. This book, along with John Die’s at the End, made me laugh out loud multiple times while keeping me mesmerized by his storytelling. If you haven’t read either one, I highly recommend them, John Die’s at the End is the first in the supposed trilogy (the third hasn’t come out yet), and Spiders the second.

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The first in the trilogy

Stephen King is unquestionably my third favorite author, and I believe my writing style is most influenced by him. I would read myself off a cliff if he so wrote me there.

I’m currently reading End of Watch, by King, the third in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy.

I’m patiently waiting for the third book in the Natchez Burning trilogy “Mississippi Blood,” to come out. And, am also patiently awaiting for David Wong to come out with the final book in the John Die’s at the End trilogy. I can’t wait any longer!

If you’re interested in any of the readings mentioned you can find more information on them  below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Dark They Were and Golden Eyed

The House in Cypress Canyon

Goosebumps

Resident Evil

Of Mice and Men

1984

Natchez Burning trilogy

John Die’s at the End

Mr. Mercedes trilogy

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The King and I

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The Master Himself

Stephen King has written over fifty best-sellers in his time as an author, and while he’s renowned for his fiction, one of my favorite books he has written is the non-fiction book titled On Writing. The first part of the book is about how he came to be a writer, while the second half goes on to talk about the actual craft of writing.

The first half of the book provides stories of his childhood, stories of his mishaps in high school, stories of his entrance into the writing world, emotional stories of success, and most importantly, stories of the things he learned the most from; failures.

When King turned in his first newspaper article to John Gould, the editor of the paper in Lisbon, upon editing Stephens draft, John says to Stephen:

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story,” he said. “When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

I thought that was a beautiful way to look at writing fiction; as two people doing one job. It makes the process seem like teamwork, when all you’re doing is writing things the voice in your head is saying, but when said the way Gould puts it, makes it seem like something greater. King speaks more on Gould here, where he also brings up the “Village vomit,” a newspaper he wrote himself that would wind up getting himself into trouble in school. I found this early failure quite entertaining.

This book doesn’t spend long on grammar, surprising for a book on writing right? King breaks down writing with a metaphorical toolbox that all writers should have. In this toolbox, every writer should have at least three shelves, and only the first consist of grammar and vocabulary. I like this because I have been out of school for over five years, and I haven’t taken an English class in about ten. So, while I can write a sentence that can be easily understood, I can no longer break apart and define each part of this sentence as I once could’ve. In short, quick and painless was the section of grammar.

King goes on to describe his schedule, something I desperately need to boost my writing consistency. He says that when he is writing, he is writing every day, and sets a goal of at least 2,000 words, and the door he shuts when entering his writing room doesn’t reopen until those words have hit the page in their entirety.

“If I don’t write everyday, the characters begin to stale off in my mind–they begin to seem like characters instead of real people.”

I’ve started multiple stories that I haven’t finished, and I believe this quote explains why. My characters have staled, they have become stories, and I am unable to tell myself the story because the story is no longer real to me. Consistency has always been a problem for me mostly because my schedule changes by the week: Some weeks I’ll work all mornings, and some weeks I won’t get off work until midnight or later. So finding a concrete time to write, as Stephen recommends, presents a problem.

The piece of advise I find most helpful is about writing what you know. It’s something I’ve always done because it flows the easiest, things don’t seem forced, and I can sit back and tell myself the story.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is actively pursuing a career in writing. It breaks down a schedule for you to follow, gives you vital information on writing and getting into the world of selling, and is an amazing insight into the early life of Stephen King.

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