Category Archives: Memoir

Things I Figured Out While Going Through my Books and Getting Ready to Move

  1. I don’t like poetry

Nor am I particularly good at it either. I’ve been a part of a few poetry groups, bought a lot of poetry books, written more poems than I’ll ever have the time to transcribe out of my chicken-scratch vandalized notebooks and into a word processor to make some sense out of whatever I vomited onto the page, yet I’m always finding myself shrugging at so much poetry, thinking to myself, “I don’t really get it.”

I know I’m not a philistine, and by all means I can definitely appreciate poetry as a genre and a craft in and of itself, but I don’t connect with poetry like a lot of the poets who I’ve hung out with. There was a long span of time where I wanted to connect with poetry so bad and I wanted to be passionate like so many poets, but I realized that it’s not the kind of thing you can force. You either get it and it resonates with you, or you don’t and you’re left trying to make sense out of incomplete sentences that are supposed to carry some sort of weight you just don’t feel.

And this is how I’ve figure out I’m a terrible poet. I’ve broken it down and called it the Bukowski test. It’s like this:

In all the poetry groups I’ve been a part of and with all the poetry fans I’ve shared my poems with, I always get the same response:

“It’s very Bukowski.”

Problem number one: I don’t like Bukowski’s poems. His prose is some of my favourite ever. I read Factotum in one evening. I read Pulp over a drive home from the Okanagan Valley. Hot Water Music was my favourite book and my favourite band at the same time. But I just don’t like his poems. This probably just falls back to point number one: I don’t like poetry (but apparently I like colons).

Problem number two is that everyone who has ever told me that my poems remind them of Bukowski, did not like Bukowski. In fact, a lot of them hated Bukowksi. A few even despised Bukowski. Yet, “It’s very Bukowski,” was meant to be a compliment.

So, when people tell me that, “It’s very Bukowksi,” what they’re really saying is, “You’re kind of bad at poetry, I think you’re kind of dumb, your face is unpleasant to look at, you write entirely literally and in layman’s terms, but I find you kind of funny and kind of charming in that off-putting awkward I’m afraid of what you’re going to say next sort of way. I admire your courage for putting yourself out there like that.”

Very Bukowski.

  1. All the first books I ever read all the way through were written by celebrities

The first book I read cover-to-cover, understood the whole way through, and didn’t have to read as a part of a class, was David Cross’ I Drink for a Reason. The second was Lewis Black’s Nothing’s Sacred quickly followed by Kevin Smith’s Silent Bob Speaks. I love these books. I think they’re funny, insightful, tell a great story, and are written without any pretension. They’re accessible and meant to be consumed, laughed at, enjoyed, and revisited when there’s nothing on TV.

I came out of a university program where people were reading David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen for the sole challenge of it. I’ll admit, I even bought a copy of Infinite Jest that has been sitting on a bookcase, doubling in size from dust collections since I brought it home. It’s seven-point font and entire-book-in-itself of endnote as part of the narrative (no, not references like endnotes in other books, this is fiction and you have to read the endnotes otherwise you just don’t get the book) has been an open challenge since the name first started getting kicked around my classrooms in first year. I’ve tried starting Infinite Jest, along with The Corrections and Freedom multiple times, and I’ve always landed on the same conclusion about ten pages in.

I don’t fucking care.

Yes, the writing is dense as a brick and the craft is something to marvel at like Renaissance Art. I understand the appeal of Franzen’s and Wallace’s technical skills as writers. But the writing is so fucking long-winded I can’t get through a sentence without losing my train of thought and de-railing thinking about books I’d much rather be reading right now.

This is probably something typical of a reader who grew up on TV and comic books as their first choice in medium up until college. Again, the first book I ever read cover-to-cover that wasn’t as part of a class was I Drink for a Reason and I was well into my 20s by the time that book was released, and even further into my 20s when I actually read it. That book did ignite that interest in me to look further into non-fiction well beyond journalism, which was my first writing medium of choice in my adult years, and was the start of that slippery slide that led me to stop caring about poetry and over-academic wanking and start finding books I can actually get into.

  1. At one point, I wanted to be a comedy writer

Then that horrible realization hit: I’m not funny. I think I might be quirky, and I’m neurotically over-analytical, and that worked well for Larry David and Louis CK, but they also know how to frame their quirks and analyses to be relatable, and therefore, funny. I lack those skills.

I’ve lucked out a few times hitting notes that people could relate to and getting a few chuckles, but I think my Bukowksi-charm wears out quick.

In addition to David Cross, Lewis Black, and Kevin Smith (all funny folk), I used to read a lot of David Sedaris (to be fair, I still often read Sedaris, but I went through a specific phase where I tried so hard to write like him) and my favourite comic book character was Deadpool (the comedic, pop-culture referencing, fourth-wall breaking mercenary whose yellow and white narrative boxes speak to him). Based on these influence, I wanted to bad to be a comedy writer.

I started looking into script writing and seeing what writers for SNL were like and I got into sit-coms that I felt like represented my generation. But then I ran into that problem.

The “my generation” thing.

As part of wanting to be a comedy writer, I really wanted to write the book that would be the millennials’ On the Road and Big Sur. I wanted to define the millennial experience through my unique perspective on storytelling. But the more I said that to myself, the more I fucking hated myself.

There’s an obnoxious pretension for wanting to “define your generation.” Especially with a piece of art. This is why I can’t stand Lena Dunham and Girls. It was a novel idea to start with, but the older I got the more her quirks and over neurotic analyses started to bother me. Self-awareness is a sign of intelligence. But hyper-self-awareness is a sign of narcissism. And narcissism’s novelty wears off quick. I can’t deny the show’s popularity so Dunham must be doing something right, but the drive to define your own generation doesn’t appeal to me. I seriously doubt Jack Kerouac went so far out of his way to try and define his generation. He just wrote cool stories about crazy shit he did.

Kerouac didn’t start out that pretentious. He wound up that pretentious. His fans are pretentious. Those who try to copy what he did are pretentious. People who over use the word pretentious are pretentious. People who think they’re funny for over using a word and pretending to be self-aware of over using that word are pretentious. Especially if the word is pretentious. Or a pretentious word.

I know that wasn’t funny. You don’t have to tell me. I know I’m not funny.

  1. I’m really bored with super heroes

Comic books are the reason I started reading, they’re the reason I kept picking up reading throughout my life, and remain one of my biggest influence when I write anything. Especially now that I’ve found my comfort zone playing with genre fiction, comics play a huge part in how I approach any story.

I still spend more money on comic books than I do on rent. But I’ve noticed how far I’ve strayed from the big comic publishers and the traditional comic characters. They’re more popular than ever thanks to their extra exposure in cartoons and in summer blockbuster movies, and I’m really happy that they’re so successful right now. My movement away from super heroes is actually very organic. I literally just looked through my comic collection and realized how few of them were super heroes and how many fall into either hard fantasy or hard science fiction categories.

I don’t know if I have a larger point with this point. Just an observation I guess. I still like super heroes, but I guess I know the format of sequential art to tell stories is capable of so much more than familiar franchises.

  1. Elf Quest is a very feminine comic book

I literally just figured this out over this weekend. I bought a few issues while at free comic book day because I’ve been looking for some decent fantasy and I know Elf Quest is a long standing title with a good following that is now being published by Dark Horse Comics (one of my favourite publishers).

There’s nothing wrong with it being feminine. Again, the format of sequential art is capable of a lot and this absolutely proves it. I have no larger point with this one either. I read through all the issues of Elf Quest that I bought and though I didn’t enjoy them I know there’s some solid storytelling going on. Just not my deal, nor does it have to be.

  1. Harvey Pekar made me want to be more honest

As part of stepping away from super hero comic books I got really into Harvey Pekar. American Splendor did a lot for comic books and for non-fiction. Reading American Splendor, Quitter, Our Cancer Year, and Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me was like nothing else I ever experienced before.

Most of all, it made me realize why I’m not funny and why I fell so short as a comedy writer. I’m not honest with myself. I tried to use comedy to hide from my own shortcomings and to point out the shortcomings of others. That can work to a point, but you always need to be willing to make fun of yourself first. I wasn’t ready to do that. So it didn’t work.

But reading Pekar’s work slapped a kind of sense into me that I wish was slapped into me years ago. He’s easily my biggest influence on the non-fiction side of my writing. I even hear his voice narrating along as I write these odd few essays every once in a while that I eventually publish on my blog which is regularly read by about twenty people. At least they’re reading.

As I box up my comic books, and look through the collection of novels and story collections and poetry collections I’ve gathered over my years of trying to figure this whole writing thing out, I realize how every one of these pieces of paper has somehow affected the way I write, and the way I live.

The lifestyle choices I make, the media I engage with, even the other books I get into are all influenced by whatever I’m reading at the time. And as much as this list is about things I’m not a big fan of, the piles of boxes that clutter my office floor remind me I have a lot to be stoked about too.

I should dig through my books more often.

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On the Death of Fred Phelps

The passing of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church ignited the internet. Within minutes of the Huffington Post sharing its first publishing of the details of the man’s death, hundreds of comments filled the feed, condemning the man for his work in establishing the infamous group who have been launched into the popular culture sphere for their extreme fundamentalist views and their picketing of soldier and celebrity funerals, pushing their idealism through shock-value tactics.

Through all the ironic puns and propositions to picket his funeral, once internet staple, who has been one of the loudest voices for LGBT equality in America, posted a message that took a different approach. George Takei wrote, “I take no solace or joy in this man’s passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil holding, ‘God Hate Freds’ signs, tempting as it may be. He was a tormented soul who tormented many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end.” Takei’s message quickly spread, already becoming a meme shared all over the internet, showing a different side to this polarizing topic and how that there’s still a more human approach.

I have never supported anything the Phelps family or the Westboro Baptist Church have ever done. Much of their misguided scripture interpretation and their hunger for public attention have done worlds of harm and not even an ounce of good. I have seen members of my family and many of my closest friends deeply disturbed by this group’s action and have even found myself thinking extremely hateful things toward this group.

It’s important to remember that all of these people, Fred Phelps included, are still people. They’re scared and are struggling to understand this world in the very short amount of time they have to figure things out, so they turned to a book that claimed to have all the answers and they took each word of these parables and metaphors and literal rules and regulations. They’re fallible and, believe it or not I do believe, they think they’re doing the right thing by pushing their doctrine. I really believe that they think that what they do is helping others and they’ve been so heavily indoctrinated that they don’t notice the amount of harm and grief they’re causing others.

And like all other people, I believe that Fred Phelps doubted himself all the time. I bet right to the very end. But I also don’t believe that as he lay on his death bed, he was thinking, “I hope God kills all the fags.” I bet, like any other human being, he was thinking about his family, his loved ones, and if he was still praying, I bet he was praying for them and not for the people he spread so much hate about.

I have no doubt he loved his family. His way of showing and expressing his love was overshadowed by his convictions and beliefs, but I have no doubts about this because Fred Phelps was still a human being. And no matter how much any human being can hate, they’re still going to love more.

A lot of the internet comments I read about Fred Phelps’ death speculated on his own afterlife and some definition of god’s judgment on this man for his life of hate. I personally have no religious inclining, I don’t believe in god or heaven or hell of afterlife. And if my suspicions are correct, then Mr. Phelps is simply gone and maybe the lack of god or heaven or any truth to what he spent his life pursuing could be his own personal brand of hell that he will never be aware of.

But the fact that our awareness of what happens once the body ceases to function makes the concept of an afterlife insignificant. What’s most important is what we as humans do in this blink of existence that’s over far too quick for any of us to comprehend. And though we cannot control what others decide to believe in and how they act upon those beliefs, we get to decide how we react to them.

My reaction is this: this will be the last time I write about the Phelps family and the Westboro Baptist Church. Whether we pay attention to them or not, condemn or question them, they will continue to do what they feel is best. I’m not advocating acceptance or pardoning or even condoling what they do. They’re like a wasp nest: if you ignore them, nothing they do will affect you. It’s a small nuisance, but one that can be easily overlooked for more important things in this life. They’ve already become a self-parody in the popular-culture canon and it’s not as if their numbers are growing exponentially as they picket more funerals. People who buy into what they do are already predisposed to this brand of ignorance.

As fulfilling as attacking this group for their beliefs might be, it’s simply another brand of hate that will still leave feelings of emptiness. If you’re really against what Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church stands for, don’t hate them. Don’t even pay attention to them. Instead, keep loving the people around you and keep accepting people everywhere for who they are. Existence is far too brief to focus on all things you hate all the time. There are too many cool things still happening in the world to be excited about.

The most important thing for me that I carry about Fred Phelps’ death is that a man died. Just like everyone else does. We’re born, we live, we learn, we grow, we die. It’s another reminder of life’s brevity and I’m not wasting it being angry anymore. Anger breeds regression and stagnation. I want to breed progress and solutions.

Nails

When I was a kid, I used to have to step between the cracks in the sidewalk, and only between the cracks in the sidewalk. I could only step twice between them. My feet were the exact length to fit two steps between each perfect concrete square that lined my neighbourhood from my elementary school back to my parents’ house.

There was one sidewalk piece that was a long rectangle. It curved around a corner and it had an extra crack running through it, probably from the sewage drain underneath it. Some extra moisture probably seeped into the concrete piece and split it across. It took me months to figure out how I was supposed to step through it. It required three steps and I never stepped on any of the cracks. I somehow rationalized that this one anomaly in my walk home was ok. At least I figured out how to walk through yet. Yet, I’m 27 now and I still think about that rectangle of concrete.

I don’t pay that much attention to how I walk across sidewalk blocks anymore. I don’t have to touch every button on the TV remote any time I change the channel anymore. I don’t have to sit up and lie back down three times and say to myself, “Ok, it’s time to sleep, just relax and sleep,” to get myself to relax and fall asleep. I don’t worry about falling asleep before midnight anymore. I don’t have panic attacks if I don’t fall asleep before midnight anymore.

I’m not as haunted by arbitrary measurements and guidelines as I as when I was a kid. I think I was about thirteen when I stopped needing such a strict routine in order to function. But, it’s not like I’ve been cured of all of my nervous habits either. I bite my nails. And when my nails are so short that pressing my fingers gives me a sharp pain through my hand, I chew on the skin underneath my nails.

I don’t know why I do this. It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t taste good. It actually really grosses me out. I catch myself chewing on my nails or on my skin while I’m at my office. Once I notice I’m doing it, I stop myself and look around to see if anyone is staring. The only thing I can compare catching myself chewing my nails in public to is something like burping or farting in public. I look around to see if anyone noticed, unsure if I should excuse myself or just leave the room, I can’t tell if anyone even actually cares or is paying any attention.

Even though all the straight faces around me surrounding my cubicle all show a sign of apathy, I’m still convinced my stench has crept its way into each of their noses and the odour of my shame reeks like a decomposing body lying in the middle of the floor.

As long as I can remember I’ve always fixated on nails. Why cuticles? What was the trigger? Sadly, there was none. I don’t know if that would make this essay any more interesting or not. It’s like Michael Myers in Halloween versus Michael Myers in Halloween 2: is Michael Myers more interesting when his killing spree has no meaning or root, or is the family elimination purpose more interesting? I’m torn either way. But regardless of the possibility of an interesting story arc, my nail elimination fascination has no significant root. I didn’t always chew on them; I picked and pulled them first. But my own nails weren’t enough, I had to pick and pull everyone’s nails. I have odd flashes of memory of lying in my crib and not being able to sleep, so one of my parents would either sit or lie beside me and let me pick at their nails until I fell asleep.

Unlike my nails, I can pinpoint the exact moment when the sidewalk crack fascination began. First, we moved houses, then I changed schools. Third grade. I came off like a happy kid, but I don’t know if I necessarily was. It was around this time when I fully immersed myself into fantasy, comic books, sci-fi, and really started trying hard when I drew. Someone who spends that much time in their own imagination can’t be all that happy.

I was eight years old, I had to deal with these new kids who weren’t my friends from my old school, this was the first year I went to Catholic school not having any idea what the fuck a Catholic was, I was adjusting to living in a new house in a new neighbourhood where I was instantly marked as the weird kid, and I started actually noticing that I didn’t talk very much to other kids. My self-awareness of how I didn’t play with other kids and that I wasn’t involved in any clubs or teams with other kids started around this time as well.

At this very young age, I realized I had no friends, but for the most part it didn’t bother me. Things were a lot more fun in my head. School was boring. Other kids were boring. Part of me wished that I would find friends who appreciated things like video games and comic books. Part of me gave up. I did eventually start making new friends and my fascination with how I should walk across the sidewalk subsided. But I still picked and chewed my nails.

It got worse my second time around in college. My nails took some serious abuse during those years. Especially while I sat in class. I was twenty-three and I couldn’t help but notice that almost everyone around me was maybe eighteen. Those who weren’t eighteen were in their forties. I felt closer in age to the baby-boomers in the room, probably because I had tried the college thing once already. I flunked out, but I still felt like I was some sort of veteran. I knew there were no bells between class blocks, I knew how to search through the bookstore and find the specific books for your specific class section, I knew where had the best coffee and which places stayed open late. But I was also aloof. I existed somewhere between not knowing how to talk to the people I was in class with and not caring to talk to the people I was in class with. I started feeling like I was in Catholic school again for the first time.

I don’t know why I’m instantly scared of people. And that’s really what it is. Sometimes my defenses go up and I come off like I don’t like people or I don’t care about them, but what I’m actually experiencing is fear. It’s probably why I chew my nails. And I chew on pens. And I chew on the straws that come with my fast food drinks.

I used to think that my chewing on pens had something to do with smoking, but I never smoked enough or long enough to form that sort of habit. I haven’t had a cigarette for probably six years now and I’ve maybe smoked a grand total of ten cigarettes in my life. I try to make it look like it has to do with smoking, but it’s always worse when I have to go into meetings, or we have staff functions, or I have to meet someone new. Freud’s oral fixation argument holds no merit, believe me there is nothing sexual about my office. My oral fixation is anxiety based. And being in an open office surrounding by people for eight hours a day is only making it worse.

If you watch people for long enough, you notice that everyone has some sort of nervous habit: they bounce their knees while sitting, they talk to themselves, they tap their fingers on their desk, they twirl pens between their fingers, they chew their bottom lips. Luckily for them, these are all subtle nervous habits. I have unfortunately drawn the highly visual and probably bizarre and inappropriate nervous habits. Looking out for people’s judgemental stares is how I got so good at people watching. When I spit out a nail or a pen cracks while it’s in my mouth, I sometimes wish that I did fart in those scenarios. I could blame that on a sudden stomach virus. Say the sushi we had for lunch tasted funny and run to the bathroom. I might earn some pity points then. But having to explain to people that I’m chewing on myself and anything that winds up in my hands because being around them makes me nervous probably breaks some unwritten social norm that I probably should understand by this point. You’d think watching people the way I do would shine some knowledge of social cues. I don’t have time for that though. I have watch them bounce their knees. I need to make sure that they’re not watching me.

What Happened?

I’m trying to remember what I did in university that made me such an insane creative writing machine. I’m not sure if it was the genuinely enthusiastic and idealistic environment, the easy access to some of the best writers I’ve ever known – let alone read (both student and instructor) – or if it was the feeling that I carried no other responsibility than to exercise the introspective thinking and passionate storytelling that makes life bearable to begin with, but I used to turn out personal essays and short stories and poetry like Paula Dean turns out clogged arteries and racial slurs.

Fast forward a few months. I’m done university and out into the working world. I even got a writing job. I get to write blog posts for the company website (those are kind of like short stories, right?), I get to write for the quarterly internal magazine (that’s like writing essays, right?), I do internal communications (um… poetry?), and sell advertising space (now I want to kill myself). The real paycheques I earn and real health benefits I get finally afforded me to get my own apartment and afford groceries and (most importantly) booze. I have a job where I exercise (or rather, experiment with) my skills as a writer every day that affords me the comfort to go home and write whatever I want whenever I want.

Why the fuck haven’t I been writing anything?

Ok, maybe it’s not the case that I haven’t been writing anything. But my creative juices are slowing down. A lot. Nothing I ever wrote used to be this hard. And I don’t mean hard in the sense that I had to really dig in myself and really explore these themes and have a full grasp as to what I’m going to say. It’s hard as in when I go home form work, literally all I want to do is eat junk food and watch cartoons.

I want to say that my job drains me of all my writing desires and leaves me exhausted and wordless. Who am I kidding, I spend more time sharing Huffington Post stories and making witty comments about them on Facebook than I do any sort of work. Despite my secondary residency on Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Facebook, I’m actually on top of (and at times a few weeks ahead of) all of my work. Am I really good at my job? Is my job just that easy? Are the writing habits I developed in university following me into the working world making me actually very efficient but then very (VERY) easily bored?

I think being bored is the main issue here. I’m bored at work and when I leave the office I get bored when I go home. But it’s the worst kind of bored possible. When I was a kid, being bored meant that it was time to try a new hobby. Being bored meant that it was time to get off my ass and do something constructive. Being bored meant something was wrong with my current situation and it was time to change it. How come now being bored means I shift to a different position on my couch and fall asleep to the sitcom I paid 180 XBOX points for?

When I was in university, I read an essay by Jonathan Franzen about his struggling with writer’s block. During the class discussion, I believe my exact words were, “If you’re writing about writer’s block then it’s time to kill yourself.” Ironically, we read David Foster Wallace’s “Shipping Out” shortly after. Wallace, of course, did literally kill himself and many speculate that he did so because he couldn’t write anymore. I want to say that I feel fortunate that I work a job where I write every day, but I still feel completely unfulfilled and like the moment I quit this job some other fresh university graduate will be sitting in my chair writing the same blog posts, internal magazine articles and internal communications. Being able to write only goes so far, but if you don’t give a shit about what you’re writing about then you’re going to find yourself completely unfulfilled. Being unfulfilled is the worst feeling I have ever experienced.

I grew up part of this generation being told that we can be whatever we want to be. What we weren’t told is that there is a limited amount of options available for us to choose from. It’s like being told in the Harvey’s hamburger commercial that you can make your burger however you like it, but then approaching the toppings counter and finding all of the toppings soured, rotten and molding. Sure, there are some options there, but do we actually want any of them?

We enter post secondary with the highest aspirations. We work and study to find ourselves and where we exactly fit in the world. We earn good marks, we receive our degree, and we come out of convocation running with our gowns flowing and degrees in hand ready to start what will be an exciting career in exactly what we were studying.

Again, I got this, in a sense. And part of me feels guilty for whining when I know people who literally collect the coins off the stages at the strip clubs just so they can make rent. I’m one of the lucky essayists/poets/authors who has a steady job. But a steady job isn’t enough. Life isn’t work, pay, and death. At least it isn’t for me. I don’t think I’m the reproducing type, so I might not find the meaning to my life in raising another human being to grow up and find the same disappointment that I did.

My favourite writing quote is from Ernest Hemingway: “In order to write about life, you must first live it.” I’m not living for a fuck of a lot right now; therefore, I have nothing to write about. I can’t write about laying on my couch at home on a Friday night (Buzzfeed already has the monopoly on the “why my 20s suck” meme market). I know I have a lot of life to live before I can even look to the left at Hemingway (and a lot of animals to kill) but life doesn’t happen in a cubicle staring at a screen.

I don’t want to say who I work for, I have a strange feeling that people I work with read this and I still need the paycheque (I can always tell them, “oh yeah, I wrote this while working my last job.” Most of them are illiterate enough to be able to call me out on this shit anyways). But I can tell you this: when I came into this job, I didn’t even know this company I worked for existed, let alone have any prior knowledge of anything it does. And a far as I’m concerned, 90 per cent of it is bullshit anyways. Yet, I rattle on day after day like I am the utmost expert on the industry I apparently work for. Who the fuck am I? Seriously, when did I gain the authority to write about things I didn’t even know existed up to a few months ago?

The real issue here is my engagement with what I’m doing for work. I very obviously just don’t care. Motivation is hard to find when you’re apathetic, and even harder to find when you’re really trying not to be apathetic. Because I’m not engaged with what I do for eight hours a day, I go home exhausted. When I was in school, I was fully engaged. I loved every second when I was in the classroom. I loved how I was challenged as a creative and critical thinker. I worked my ass off and it was amazing. But school’s over. I don’t have the money to study for my Master’s. To make money I have to work.

And I don’t even think it’s the very current day job that I have right now. Any day job would leave me feeling this way. I’m probably shooting myself in the foot because any potential employer who reads this is never going to want to hire me now. But I think it’s worth saying.

I’m not very high on the totem pole. And I don’t think I’ll ever climb that high up the corporate ladder. Some of us are made to scrape the bottom like eternal characters in Bukowski novels. He wrote the way he did and the characters he did for a reason: he was scraping the bottom most of the time too. But so long as our work doesn’t define us, we can remind ourselves every day that we get to walk away with a paycheque and afford the luxury of doing what we like when we have the time and the energy.

This is the most I’ve written for this blog in a long time. Posts are getting more frequent again, but it’s still not the story a day I used to be able to do. But it’s something.

I don’t know how I got here. But I’m not going to get to a better place eating junk food and watching cartoons whenever I leave work. Well, sometimes it’s excusable.

Overstaying Your Welcome

I’m spending my Saturday night sitting at home, drinking diet Dr. Pepper and watching Norah Jones on PBS. Yes, I am a fan or Norah Jones. I think she’s actually just a solid composer and performer who has been able to avoid the conventional story arc of being attractive and talented. She can actually sing without the assistance of auto-tune or over-production, she can actually play keyboards and guitar really well, and her band are very obviously hired guns but rather than work hard to make her sound, I have a feeling she makes the hired band really sound good, if not they all perfectly complement each other and adapt well to each others’ styles. It’s a live performance from 2012, her backup band look like they’ve been stealing from Wilco’s closet, but watching this made me realize something most important about Norah Jones’ avoidance of the conventional pop-star story arc: she’s yet to peak and drop.

Earlier in the night I watched Get Him to the Greek for, surprisingly, only the second time (the first time was in theatres shortly after its release). For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a film about a rock star (portrayed by Russell Brand) experiencing his own post-peak drop while a record label employee (Jonah Hill) attempts to escort the drunken, drug-filled, lonely, and depressed rock star to a comeback concert. Though it plays on a lot of rock’n’roll lifestyle stereotypes, I think there’s something to be said for Brand’s character’s situation in the film. After gaining a cult following being the degenerate and debaucherous rock star that people could only imagine actually existing during the 70s and 80s, Brand’s character releases his “slump” record: one that experiments with world music and but comes off as an attempt to show a charity-focused side to a performer obviously only obsessed with his own public image and self-indulgent lifestyle. Of course, by the end of the movie, we realize that Brand’s character is more complex than his drug use and public persona and all the actually wants is a really good friend.

While watching this, I realized that there is something very familiar about the peak and drop that so many popular and contemporary artists experience during their careers. Be it the Offspring strangely experimenting with hip-hop (while poorly trying to parody the suburban lifestyle that has adopted the urban gangster culture), Metallica putting out relatively safe biker-rock records, or even something as simple as Kiss taking off the makeup, everyone has an artist whose career they followed and there is one moment leaving us yelling out, “What were they thinking?”

Chuck Klosterman has a similar argument in his book Eating the Dinosaur, but Klosterman obsessively dissects a single example of the peak-and-drop: Nirvana’s In Utero. Before we go any further, let me clear something as so we can understand some of my frame of reference as I approach this. There were only two good parts of Nirvana: Dave Grohl and Kris Novoselic. Those two were possibly the most solid rhythm section that came out of the 90s. Unfortunately, everything else about Nirvana feels like a constant argument attempting to legitimize itself. For Klosterman, In Utero is what he repeatedly described as “guilt rock.” Essentially, Klosterman is saying that in an attempt to reassert Nirvana’s own legitimacy, every choice behind In Utero (from selecting Shellac and Big Black legend Steve Albini to produce it to the choice of guitar tone and song structure) was solely to make In Utero as unlistenable and inaccessible as possible.

Klosterman’s second and third books, Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and Killing Yourself to Live, are a huge reason why I write the way I do. The accessible language and diction coupled with the choice of topics surrounding popular culture Klosterman often uses in his essays and non-fiction shaped much of my own writing style. Killing Yourself to Live especially has a harsh honesty that most writers strive to achieve, but mostly still wind up trying to hide behind their work rather than display themselves in their work. Klosterman was especially good at creating narratives throughout his essays and arguments as well, increasing the accessibility of his work and making his ideas relatable on many different levels. Both of these books boosted Klosterman’s reputation as a solid non-fiction writer. As I’ve tried reading his later books, I have to wonder if he’s experiencing his own peak-and-drop.

I haven’t read any of his fiction yet, and admittedly I’ve yet to read his newest book I Wear the Black Hat (which looks at how people often relate to villains better than heroes), but while trying to read IV (which is more a collection of observant magazine articles) and especially Eating the Dinosaur, the deep personal points or relation to the topics he writes about is almost gone. In fact, he almost comes off arrogant because he writes his point of view so far above the topics he looks at. Klosterman has starting writing as though he were Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre where the premise in his topics are meant to be modern, but the thoughts and arguments are too obscure for the topics he’s writing about. Admittedly, Klosterman’s cult readership is only expanding the more he writes, he must be doing something right. But none of his books since Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and Killing Yourself to Live have received any of the same media attention or critical acclaim.

But who am I to talk about media attention and critical acclaim? If I were to pick a Nirvana record as my favourite, I would pick In Utero.

Klosterman’s diction has increased, he’s formatting his books in new ways, and he thinks about the world in different ways than he did a decade ago. That’s actually a good thing. Because if we’re not complaining about how different Americana sounds from Smash or how much slower Reload is from Ride the Lightning, then we’re complaining about how every Nickelback record sounds the exact same. I think the only real happy music fans are fans of the Mars Volta or TV on the Radio, because they expect each record and each side project to sound to different and that everything they do is artistically minded and a little off the wall. But, at the same time, if they record something that sounds like an earlier record, then they’re being “self-referential” and totally “post-modern.” Two terms that bands like the Mars Volta and TV on the Radio and their fans would be very comfortable with.

This then begs a bigger question: is the artist’s creative process or the output and the product attached more important? When Paul Simon made the Graceland album, people were pissed at the process, saying that Simon should have avoided what was a still apartheid enforcing South Africa. But the very same people criticizing his process couldn’t help but say that Graceland was the best thing he did since parting ways with Art Garfunkel. I read Eating the Dinosaur and understand how much work Klosterman put into his analysis and arguments. I understand how much time Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus spend on thinking about literally everything and how hard it is to cram that much thought into books. I’m just having difficulty reading them.

I’m sure somewhere there is a magical land where the process of growing and experimentation collides with an output and product that doesn’t alienate established audiences. Even small deviations from set forms can cause fans to turn their backs. Hardcore band Strife experienced this with its last record before their recent reunion, Angermeans. Strife’s influences from non-hardcore bands like Sepultura and Helmet were obviously showing. The backlash from the militant straight edge communities that Strife helped build through the 90s instantly disowned the band. Was Strife ever really that dissimilar from Sepultura and Helmet to begin with? I don’t think so. But I also haven’t been straight edge in almost a decade.

Do I fully get why artists overstay their welcome? No. But it’s an interesting trope that has arisen over the years. Especially recently there seems to be more and more stories of artists who try something different and fail. What we keep forgetting is that failure isn’t a bad thing. It just means you put yourself out there and tried. Not everyone will like everything a hundred per cent of the time. But at least you tried.

Pop Culture and the OASIS

I recently finished reading Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. And yes, this essay will have some spoilers. It’s not a review, nor do I really spoil all that much. There are certain scenes I need to reference in order for my argument to make sense. But there’s actually a lot going on in this book that I won’t be touching on and even if you read this essay before you read the book it’s still definitely more than worth the read. So, I won’t be insulted, if you want to venture elsewhere for now because you want this book to be all surprise when you read it, I’ll more than understand.

For those of you still venturing forth without reading the book first, let me try to capture the basic premise of the book in a few sentences.

In the not so distant future, all energy resources are depleted. As such, the world’s economy is basically taken out behind the barn and shot. There’s no work, the world’s pretty disgusting, and people who live day to day are usually addicted to crystal meth and really horrible. But, most people have an escape in a video game software program called OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). In short, it’s a virtual reality where an entire simulated universe exists. Kids go to school in the OASIS, most people who have employment work in the OASIS, and accessing the OASIS is entirely free. The designer of the OASIS believed that technology should be accessible to everyone. On the day of the designer’s death, word spread about a game he set up in the OASIS universe where people plugged in can perform tasks to find keys that open gates; the first player to find all three keys and gates wins the designer’s fortune.

I’m not going to go into details about characters or conflicts or anything like that. What is interesting to note is that all of the main characters are adamant in completing the game themselves, by themselves. They even address the possibility of working together, but decide against it at every opportunity except for once.

Towards the end of the book, when the third gate is found, it requires three keys to open it. But each player can only hold one of each key. Which means a team of at least three has to open the last gate.

I’ll tell you why this interests me and helps bring up a point I’ve been thinking about.

A lot of this book rests on two things: gamer stereotypes and pop culture references. All the tasks and challenges the characters face in this book are direct references from pop culture from the late 70s to the early 90s. Because a vast knowledge of pop culture from this era is needed to complete the game and potentially win the prize, the characters in this book study and memorize pop culture, resulting in extreme fanfare of everything from John Hughes movies to Rush records to Atari games. The entire culture surrounding this not so distant future world is entirely dependent on this game designer’s favourite games, books, movies, and music.

The protagonists in the book each represent archetypes of gamer stereotypes: they each have their unique back stories and social problems, but they are all introverted, shy, insecure, and despise the world around them. And that’s the whole reason why they plug in to the OASIS. It’s why they’re all so obsessed with finishing this game and knowing all of this pop culture trivia: it’s all they have that’s worth living for.

Frankly, this has been my own experience with pop culture as well. Especially growing up. In wasn’t athletic, I wasn’t good at school, friends were few and far between: in short, I was the weird kid. I fit the stereotype perfect. I hated school, I hated everyone I went to school with, I purposely made myself sick just to avoid leaving my house for another day. I remember there being entire summer vacations when I didn’t leave my house unless it was to go to Blockbuster and rent another video game or another movie.

If it wasn’t for Playstation, Star Wars, and Iron Maiden, I don’t know how I would have turned out. Each school day was survival, knowing that at 3:30, I got to go home and read comic books, play guitar, and, most importantly, be by myself. I couldn’t stand people, especially people in my own age group. I tried to make friends, but it was like I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Most of the kids in my neighbourhood just wanted to play sports all of the time. I knew nothing about sports. I watched hockey occasionally, but that was the extent of my sports knowledge. Even then I had no idea was icing or offside was until I was in my 20s. My brain had no room for that. I had to memorize the maps in Quake and Greedo’s lines in Mos Eisley (before this fills my comments section, yes, I know, Han shot first).

Something happened as I got older. I started actually finding kids my own age into the things I liked. I remember who I sort of consider my first friend. He kept his love for Star Wars under the radar in hopes that the other kids wouldn’t find out. He found out I liked Star Wars and introduced me to a card game taking place in the franchise. He started showing me other card games too like Magic: The Gathering, Battletech, and Marvel Overpower. Soon, we found a few other kids into the same games. I had basically the same group of friends throughout the latter half of elementary, junior high, and a bit of high school. We all wound up interested in other things by the time high school ended and I don’t remember the last time I talked with any of them. But, when I look at my group of close friends now I realize that we connected on the same things that my friends from school and I did as well.

And that’s why there needing to be three keys to open the third gate is so important. What that says is that being into the pop culture is great and all, but what really matters is the people you connect with based on your love of pop culture. The connection might start with just being into the same movies. Suddenly, you’re showing each other different books you both like. You start trading CDs and going to shows together. If you’re the creative type, you might even start working on projects together. And this isn’t even something that happens when you’re young. A week after I started dating my girlfriend, I posted an article on here that talked about how “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel was one of my favourite songs. I shared the article on my Facebook page and she commented on it saying that Say Anything is one of her favourite movies ever. I`ll get her to watch Star Wars soon enough.

Throughout Ready Player One, the designer of the OASIS, James Donovan Halliday, becomes one of the most prominent characters in the book. He`s never actually present or even alive in the book, but the entire design of the OASIS and all the challenges in the game give a full picture as to who this man was and why pop culture as so important to him. But, most of all, he didn`t just design the game to see who would get his fortune. He wanted to share all of his favourite games, movies, and music one last time. Because the world sucks and escaping is great; but, it’s always better to have a great group of friends to escape with.

Unfortunate Rejections

No one likes being rejected, and I’ve been rejected by them all. Girls, employers, credit companies, if they can reject you, I’ve been rejected by them. And I can sit here and punch myself in the face until all my teeth fall out and my jaw’s ready to fall off of its hinges, and it won’t do anything. I’ve long since accepted that griping changes nothing, I’ve been griping over rejections long enough to figure that out. But to the same token, things get a lot worse when you let all those gremlins knawing at the back of your neck fester (I’ve had plenty of experience with that as well).

Some people drink to deal with the feeling that everyone has just kicked you in the guts. Some people revert to drugs or violence. Some people go deep into listing off clichés. I fall into that dangerous trap sometimes, which leads to harder clichés like a bed of roses, a bee in your bonnet, and a blast from the past. Every time I write one of these I hate myself a little bit more. But like the oldest trick in the book, sometimes you need to write down a long list of clichés because it just fucking feels good – especially when nothing else feels good.

Yes, I have experienced a recent rejection. No, my girlfriend didn’t dump me – strangely enough, the repulsive smells, sounds, and sights have yet to drive her into a murderous frenzy (though after eating all the leftover pizza in the fridge, I think I’m getting closer). This was a different sort of rejection: the only kind that hurts this much while co-habiting with some who tolerates the sights, smells, and sounds from a 27 year-old man child.

I have been job searching lately and I had an interview for a job that was actually interesting on a day-to-day basis, paid well with all the grown-up benefits, and actually utilized the skills I studied while in university: the trifecta of fucking awesome job. I got the call, booked the early interview, nailed the questions in the interview, the manager and I talked for nearly two hours, everything was coming up me. Mentally, it was like I was already there. I was ready to tell the little not-for-profit that still pays me below the poverty line where to go and how to get there, I started thinking about what it would be like to not struggle check to check and actually start saving for one of those important grown-up investments like a condo or a car whose check engine light hasn’t been on for two years straight. I was ready to move on.

Unfortunately, the job had other plans for me.

While I was at work a couple of days back, I decided to check my personal email. There it was: the name on the email matched the organization who interviewed me; the subject line had my name and the job I applied for; and, a bit of the message was readable underneath the subject. The first word my eyes narrowed in on was “unfortunately.”

I’ve become fat too acquainted with unfortunately.

The worst part was that even the email told me about how I nailed the interview, I really knew my stuff, and I was perfectly qualified for the job. There was just one person that little bit more qualified than me, unfortunately. I would probably be dealing with this better if I were under-qualified, if I did fuck up the interview, or if there was something that made me a clear wrong choice for the job. At least then there would be some growth possible, I could have learned something. There could have been some growth possible.

And that’s the really hard part of rejection. When you’re pursuing something like a new job, a girlfriend, or something that requires good credit, it means you’re ready for something new. You’re ready to grow. Rejection is the world saying back to you, “No, you’re not ready to grow yet. You need to stay in your situation a little while longer. No matter if it sucks. You’re not ready to grow yet.” No one wants to hear that. Life is too short to wait. I could be dead tomorrow. I don’t want to die working a job I became over-qualified for a week after I started. I don’t want to die still in crippling debt, leaving it to my parents, my girlfriend, or whoever else is unfortunate enough to inherit my estate. Sure, they’ll get a decent book and vinyl collection, but not enough to make it worth paying off my lifetime of poor choices.

God, at this point I wouldn’t even leave that pretty of a corpse. You have no idea what living below the poverty line does to an already unfortunate face.

It’s cliché nowadays for the post-grad millenials to be complaining about a difficult job market, feeling going through university wasn’t really worth it, and being afraid of what the future looks like. I think about my parents who were married, owned a house, and were starting a family by the time they were my age. My parents and other people of their generation always say, “You’re just a different generation. You’ll do things later in life than we did. That’s all.” I’ve been hearing this since I was 22. By all means, I’ve certainly progressed since then. It’s just a little depressing that at this rate I’ll be a home owner by 40 if I’m lucky.

I’m well aware I’m lucky to have a job to begin with. I’m not a barista, I don’t work a drive-though, and my job allows me the freedom to do things like bash my job on a blog. Being unfortunately rejected, I’ve had to re-engage myself into my job and start thinking long term with my projects again. It’s been difficult knowing what was so close in reach. But I can’t give up.

At the end of the day, I still have bills to pay. I can’t afford the luxury of hating my job to the point where I can cold quit and spend some time unemployed. My credit rating is bad enough as is, last thing I need is to miss any more payments and delay my ability to buy a house even longer.

But my job hunt isn’t over yet.

I know I’m ready to grow. It’s just a matter of showing it. I’m not going to stop putting myself out there because I’ve been kicked down by a few unfortunate rejections. It might seem like I’m banging my head against a wall. But eventually, the drywall will crack and I’m going to break through to something better.

Changing Scenery and Changing Style

Probably one of the worst stereotypes that others observe about writers is seeing the guy, sitting in the cafe (be it a neighbourhood nook or a Starbucks) by himself, laptop on his table or in his lap, looking around and observing others. Often, I hear others mock this trope with one liners like, “Do people see me writing? They see me writing? That makes me a real writer. I’ve never been published but I’m writing in a cafe and other people see me so I’m a real writer.” This has even been a joke on Family Guy (which is how you know when a stereotype has outlived any truth behind it – case and point, every joke on Dads; I guess we can thank Seth MacFarlane for doing his part to kill stereotypes). As often as I cringe at myself for this, I’m often that guy sitting in cafes or diners or even bars, laptop on the table, being the bad stereotype. But there’s an actual legitimate reason for writing in different public spaces.

Knowing myself, knowing my peers, knowing the people I went to university with, and being the kind of geek that actual researches this kind of thing, writers are often easily distracted, horrible procrastinators, insecure, anxious, and equal parts creatures of habit and constantly bored. Yes, these are more stereotypes, but Seth MacFarlane has yet to bastardize these into cheap pop-culture reference jokes. But, because of all of these things, I constantly find myself in need of changes of scenery. I’ll pick a new bit of scenery, stick with it for a few weeks or months, and then need to change everything again. Right now, I’m writing in the dining room of my apartment. I do have an office in my apartment, which doubles up as a storage space for me and my girlfriend. When I lived with my parents (up until a few months ago when I finally moved out at the sad age of 26), I would often take over different rooms of the house at different times including the kitchen, the TV room, my bedroom, the spare bedroom, the space basement office, and even the garage hoping for some sort of new scenery to stimulate something in my brain to get those creative juices flowing. This is a tried and true technique for getting work done and growing new ideas.

And this is why we see writers sitting in cafes: the need for a change of scenery to get a new idea rolling.

This becomes especially necessary when trying out something new. Being a creature of habit, I tend to fall into periods of obsession. For a few weeks, I’ll really be into Philip K Dick. The next month after that, I’ll get really into Neil Gaiman. I’ll take a huge left turn after that and get really into Wes Anderson films. Then I’ll get really into a few different jazz records. When I fall into periods of obsession, I read and research and find videos and other comparable material, I become a brief expert in whatever it is I’m into at that time. And of course, it all influences what and how I write.

Lately, I have been writing a lot of science fiction and darker speculative fiction. I’ve been using the genre and the format to comment on social and political issues of these modern times and blah blah blah blah blah. You get the idea and I don’t want to sound like as bad of a stereotype as I sometimes look like. But I’ve also grown a little bored with what I’ve been doing, which is why I think I’ve started with the over-analytical essays that I’ve been posting on here so regularly lately. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

There’s nothing worse than becoming stagnant in something you used to be really good at. Passion dies, boredom sets in, and you keep trying to create the same thing over and over again just to recreate that same feeling of creating something so awesome once before. The best cure for stagnancy is to step away and try something new. There’s no point in banging your head against a wall hoping to get something dead to stand up and walk. If your brain and energy isn’t into it, it’s never going to happen.

But let me be clear about something, this isn’t giving up. Giving up is deciding something is dead and is never going to walk. What I’m suggesting is realizing it’s dead, it’s not going to walk, but only because I don’t have the Herbert West Re-Animator formula just yet. Stepping away for a bit allows me to think things over, let ideas fizzle in my head for a bit, and let me get out whatever else is kicking around in my head at the time.

I think this is why so many older punk rockers have been putting out bluegrass records. I’m not sure if that’s something of a dead trend now, but especially between like 2005 and 2010, it seemed like every punk rock frontman was putting out another solo record: Tim Barry (Avail), Chuck Regan (Hot Water Music), Dustin Kensrue (Thrice), and so on. Especially after Kensrue’s solo record, the Thrice records that came after that were really refreshed and original feeling and gave me the same feelings I had when I first heard Thrice during their Illusion of Safety era. I guess stepping back and doing something completely different works in a lot of different creative mediums.

I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be regularly hacking out these essays. This has been the most completed creative written projects in this short amount of time I’ve had since I was in college. I can definitely say it’s been helping me keep my head clear when I go to work (to write some more), and it’s been helping me get some fiction ideas set up. I guess for long as this will be working for me, I’ll keep doing it. You’ll know when it stops working and I’ve moved on to another room in my apartment when these essays suddenly stop appearing on this blog and I start posting something else.

On Marketing

There is literally a market for people who eat shit. I’m not part of this market, and I don’t particularly understand the appeal. But, since the launch of the Internet, every weird fetish has been introduced to the mainstream: eating all sorts of bodily discharges, different body types and species combined with all sorts of sexual orientations and age groups, references to popular culture, and even different mediums such as traditional, Japanese-style, and video game-esque animation. Do I care? Not particularly. What people are into is their own business. Further to that, anyone who thinks they have the moral authority to shame anyone for their fetishes, preferences, or orientations is a giant bag of dicks (there’s a fetish for that too). I just have to wonder how much of this material was readily available during the ’80s.

But the market for people who eat shit is something I like to remind myself. Let me explain why.

Creativity is a hard career path. Musicians, designers, writers, painters, dancers, they all have a hard gig. Not only do their practices take years of education and practice to perfect; not only is everything they do scrutinized by an established order they all are attempting to impress; on top of that, they still have to figure out how it can make money. Sheer entertainment doesn’t feel like it’s enough anymore. After all, what would their entertainment stand out from all the other entertainment we have readily available at our fingertips? The flood gates opening to let anyone looking for a creative outlet be able to plug in and share what they have with a potentially endless audience isn’t a bad thing. But it has created an interesting new landscape. Is it over-saturation? Possibly. I can see why that could be intimidating. The need to niche market art before it goes online seems more important than ever. Finding those few keywords to attach your YouTube video or blog post to, making sure the right person at the right time sees it, likes it, and shares it. All in the name of finally having someone say, “I dig what you do.”

Ok, the idea of being famous I’m sure has a lot to do with it as well. It almost feels like this is how people sell out now. Before it was doing everything you could to sell what you do and make some money. Now it’s doing everything you can to create something completely narrow for that one specific person for the sake of being discovered.

It’s like reverse engineered marketing. Where once, something was created and people liked it, then the marketing people found the audience who would like it and sell it to them. Nowadays it seems like the audience exists first and then they create the product to be sold to them.

This kind of thing was encouraged to me and my classmates while I was in university. We were told things like, “Don’t start a magazine about dogs. Start one about German Shepherd trainers.” What my instructor was getting at here is that you can’t be a generalist anymore. You have to understand where the specific markets lie and market to them specifically.

I’m wondering if I should be worried about this. I guess I’m a niche market, I can’t imagine reading someone’s odd ramblings exactly being a generalist’s market. Like everyone has their favourite fat internet snob who’s convinced he’s smarter than everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, Harry Knowles is pretty popular. But again, outside of the comic book and nerd markets, not a lot of people are aware what Ain’t it Cool News is.

I do write genre literature sometimes. A lot of my work can be classified into the sci-fi/fantasy/horror stream. Plus, I’m convinced that the only people who read poetry are people who write poetry. It’s like Dream Theater. If you’re really into Dream Theater, you play an instrument. There is no casual fan of Dream Theater who occasionally listens to Systematic Chaos and likes one or two songs off of Octavarium. I’ve never met that guy. I’ve only ever met the guitarist/bassist/keyboardist/drummer (like every drummer I’ve ever met) who, when he listens to Dream Theater, has to sit down with headphones on because it’s only enjoyable when he’s studying every part. But even speculative fiction, poetry, and over-indulgent progressive rock (which is so damn good, don’t get me started on Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, I’ll never stop) still isn’t niche enough nowadays.

And this is why I revisit the fact that there is a market out there for people who eat shit. The very words and thought of this market existing is self-parodying enough that it can exist on its own as an example of how marketing works. No other explanation needed. There is a market out there for people who eat shit.

But it says something else. It says that there’s something for everyone. And everyone is into something different. And even though there is so much on the internet it can feel overwhelming like being caught in open flood gates and you have no idea where to even start. But there will always be more people typing random words into Google hoping to find anything.

I’m not niche and specific. And I’m fairly confident that my ramblings and rants I call essays, my attempts at being witty and insightful I call fiction, and my sniveling and whining I call poetry will never make me rich or famous or give me a cult following. But I also look at my girlfriend every night while she sits in bed and reads Archie comics. For no other reason than she friggin loves Archie. She just enjoys it.

And that’s why I keep going. I enjoy this. Outside of any academic dissection, any inkling that I could change the world, any hope that my words will affect anyone, I just like doing this every day. I shouldn’t need another reason. I have a day job. I make a regular paycheque that (almost) keeps a roof over my head. But I also have the freedom to sit down at my desk every night and go nuts on a Microsoft Word document. For no other reason than it’s fun.

On average, I get about five views a day on this blog. I think I have around fifteen followers. A blog that’s been around for close to five years, with regular posts from an apparent professional writer, would be considered pathetic according to the established order. But at least I’m fucking trying. At least I get to have fun with this every day. Professional artists should get paid for their work, but they should also have passion projects that they can go to just to let lose, experiment, and have some fun. If it goes somewhere, awesome, all the more power to it. If not, at least it helped me get through another week in an office. Who knows, maybe it helped those five readers every day.

I, Introvert

I recently took a Myers-Briggs personality test and I scored an INTJ. This literally means absolutely nothing to you right now, and funny enough assuming that everyone is on the same page as me is one of the personality traits of an INTJ. But let me put this into a little more perspective.

The way this particular Myers-Briggs test was conducted (apparently there are a few different ways to figuring out your personality type) involved independently answering thirty-two different questions. Each question then corresponded to a particular trait of your personality type, based on the typology developed by Carl Jung. Each personality type has four traits, and each trait has a dichotomous interpretation. This might not make a lot of sense to you still, and yes this is more of my INTJ coming out.

This will probably make most sense if I break down my own personality type. INTJ represents Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, and Judging. For each of these four traits, there is a counter-trait. My opposite would be Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving. And these traits can be mixed up in any number of ways. You can be an ENFJ, Extroversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Judging. A lot of the people were split down the middle with where they could fit: they could either be an ISTP or an INTP, because the answers they gave on the test didn’t create a clear personality trait. In fact, most people I took this test with had some sort of leeway with which personality type they fit under.

I on the other hand am a complete INTJ. On the test, literally every answer I gave fit into this personality type. I am pure 100% INTJ according to this test. This isn’t even the first test of this kind where I fit 100% into a category. A few months ago I took a test that determined my communication style. The possible options were kinetic (communication and decision making is based on feeling), audio (based on how things sound), visual (based on how things look), and audio-digital (based on how things line up logically). Like many of these tests, your scores can vary and you can probably even fit into a couple of different categories. I scored completely in the audio-digital category. The woman facilitating the test told me that the only other time she had seen a score like that was when she did the test with engineers.

Both of these tests highlight a part of my personality I always knew was present, but only just recently begun to full understand what this part of my personality actually means and how it affects my behaviours in the world. Both of these tests highlighted my introversion.

I’ve always identified as an introvert and have been reading up a lot on introversion lately in hopes of fully understanding why I act so weird around some people and why I get so tired any time I leave my house but can never get to sleep once I’m home. There’s been a lot of outpouring of introversion analysis and support on the internet (and what better place for introverted people to try and safely express their ideas about themselves) and I’ve learned a lot about my own personality and even debunked a lot of the myths around introversion.

Back when I was in high school, when I would tell people I’m introverted they reacted in one of two ways (sometimes both): they would either treat me like I’m depressed, or they would think I’m a dick who doesn’t like anybody. Frankly, both of these things are wrong. Especially the latter. I really do like people, a lot and I constantly seek the approval of others. I crave that shit like it’s a Big Mac. In both my work and my personal life I don’t feel comfortable with anything I’m doing unless someone else expresses some sort of approval over it. Even if the approval is just implied, I’ll fill in the blanks for myself, convince myself I’ve been given full approval, and strut on confidently.

The saddest demonstration of this was when I had my first interview for a magazine job. Despite already being in the downtown neighbourhood where the interview was taking place for a class, I still drove home to the suburbs before I changed into my interview suit so that my mother could approve of my wardrobe choice. Otherwise, I would have fidgeted and drowned myself in nervous sweat throughout the interview (I mean, even worse then I already had) and probably blown the entire thing.

With this in mind, I can definitively say that I do like people despite being an introvert. Introversion has nothing to do with liking people or not; it has to do with energy.

Let’s take a look at my girlfriend as my antithesis. The every fact that we’re opposites in this way is probably one of the strongest points in our relationship. When she goes out to see friends or goes to a bar and has a lot of people around her, she’s like Mario and she just picked up a gold star. Crazy disco music starts playing, she’s doing front flips and running all over the place, and nothing can touch her or stop her. When she’s home and relaxing, she falls asleep. She sleeps a lot while she’s at home. I’m sometimes convinced I’m dating a cat. Except for the fact she really likes dogs. And I’m not allergic to her.

My girlfriend is an extrovert. In fact, a textbook extrovert. She gets energized by being around people. She draws energy in from others and is at her peak when others around her are paying attention to her.

Introverts are the opposite of this. When I’m around people, especially if they are paying attention to me, it drains me of my energy. If I’m going to a bar or to a party, I need to make sure I always have a nap before I go because if I don’t I’m going to be that guy who sits in a single spot the entire night, yawning and staring out into nothing. I gain energy by being alone and in quiet.

This is one of the reasons why my relationship works so well. When we’re out, she can be the party and go nuts while I follow along rather than compete for attention with her. When we’re home, she can take her cat naps while I work on my odd little hobbies and she’s not suddenly competing for attention with me while I’m working on things at home.

Of course, there are other things to the relationship as well and there are plenty of times where we both get super energized and have a lot of fun when it’s just the two of us together. I tend to think that aspect kind of works like this: she gets energized because another person (me) is around, where I get energized because no one else is around except for her and I feel safe when she’s around.

This is just one small self-analysis of a much bigger and more interesting topic and there is so much to read up on that will help give you a really big, clear picture as to everything that encompasses into what it is to be an introvert and what it is to be an extrovert. But, just like my INTJ self, I’ve done a lot of thinking and reflection around a single point. Now to tie it all back together.

Everyone who took this Myers-Briggs test work in the same office as I do. It brought up a lot of things about my working style I was already aware of, like how I’m very task oriented, I like completing projects, I like structure and schedules, I think before I act, things have to be logical before I can accept them, and I like solving complex problems. All this I already knew. But it brought up a few other things that made total sense to me, but I never took the time to stop and notice. And when they were brought up, though they’re completely normal things, I could see how some people in my office might think I’m a dick.

Let me give a bit of context to how I work in my nine-to-five job. Yes, I work in a cubicle. Sort of. I’m at a desk around a bunch of other desks that are occupied by people who work for the same organization as I do but often work on different tasks. Usually the definition of cubicle office work. Except that we don’t have walls around our desks. I’m constantly out and exposed, around other people, who are often talking and gabbing about non-work related topics while I’m just trying to buckle down and get things done. Classic introvert’s conundrum. It’s a great environment when I need to bounce ideas around. Otherwise, I’m the guy sitting in the corner with my big (and I mean studio size and quality) headphones on, huddled down in front of my keyboard, not taking part in any conversation, and rarely saying good morning back.

Other INTJ qualities include hurting people’s feelings without knowing it, being firm-minded and critical, unaware of new tasks arising, sometimes overlook facts, and working on single projects alone for long spurts of time without interruptions. Yeah, this sums me up. Though none of this is particularly malicious, I can see how it can come off that way.

While all of my coworkers looked at their test results and we all discussed our qualities, I decided to step a great deal out of my introverted comfort zone and talk about how I work. I addressed the headphones, sitting in the corner, being quiet, and my very short and direct answers when asked about something. I reassured my workmates that I’m not angry about anything and that I do like people and though I may keep to myself it’s simply because it’s how I work best.

Since taking this test, not only have my coworkers come off more understanding about how I work, I’ve also taken note on how I can come off and have started making more of an effort to take off the headphones and try to gab along, even if I don’t actually give a shit. It’s brownie points and those do add up. Better to be the quiet one with a lot of brownie points than to be the weird one no one wants to talk to.

One more good thing came out of that INTJ result. Another trait it outlines is working in short, productive bursts. So when people catch me on Amazon while I’m at my desk, I get to say “ten minute brain break, just did forty minutes of solid work” and it’s now an acceptable excuse. They don’t need to know that the ten minute brain break’s been going on for an hour now. I got enough brownie points for that anyways.