April 20

Remaining Postive

It’s not always easy to maintain a positive attitude. Life can throw curveballs at you, trip you up, leave you wondering what the hell just happened. We’ve all been there at some point. Dazed, confused, lost, and trying to figure out what the next steps should be.

Of course, there are thousands of opinions on how to handle life’s obstacles. Some people choose religion and spirituality. Some try journaling or maybe seeing a therapist. Others numb themselves with drugs and alcohol. There’s a little something for everyone.

I’m not going to try and tell you what you should do to pick yourself up, how you should view life, or even offer you an answer. That’s something you have to do on your own. Everyone is different, and the solution for one person may not work for another. We’re all very unique when it comes to mental and emotional health.

Despite that, we all face similar issues. Bad jobs, bad relationships, unexpected expenses we can’t afford, death, injuries, loneliness are all part of the human condition. man at window

What I will do, however, is tell you how I manage. Maybe you’ll find something useful in my experience.

When I find myself slipping into one of those states of mind, when life is looking dark and I’m feeling adrift, I force myself to take stock. What I mean is, I look around myself and identify all the good things going on in my life. Sure, I could be sick or angry or hurt, but that’s not the entirety of my existence. No, there’s always more to consider.

I’m in a good relationship (twenty-seven years and counting) and I have also have a dear friend who would do anything for me. I also have two dogs that always seem to sense my mood and know when I need their attention. I have two self-published short story collections that have sold well, and I have the opportunity to express and explore my creativity.Peaceful Dog

It may not seem like much, but it’s enough.

And, of course, I write. A lot. I fill up a couple of journals every year, the pages covered in early morning or late night scribbles detailing my hopes, fears, successes, and failures. I have to admit, my journal is my therapist. It’s a fantastic way to vent.

The thing is, I know it’s easy to slip into a funk (and not the cool Parliament Funkadelic kind), to surround yourself in darkness, to feel as if you can’t do anything right, like no one cares.

It’s okay to feel that way. It’s normal. It’s natural. We all have those feelings. It’s just that some people can process things better than others. People who claim to never doubt themselves are lying. Same goes for people who say they’ve never been hurt, never cried, or never felt depressed. It’s all part of being human, of being alive. Don’t think that you’re the only one who gets overwhelmed.

Creativity, to me, isn’t just about self-expression. It’s about mental health. It’s about exploring the things in my head, the dreams, the nightmares, and everything in between. And yeah, it often helps me to get back on course. Remembering the good things in life and doing something positive, like writing or making music, are the things that keep me going.

RB

March 10

Meeting Expectations

I recently finished watching WandaVision on Disney+ and was impressed by the entire production, especially the writing. I think the scribes did a great job of addressing Wanda’s grief, and each character was fleshed out enough to allow me to understand their motivations and wants. Once the final post-credit scene faded, I started thinking about all the rumors, all the speculation, and how wrong everyone was about where the story was going to lead. Over the next few days I read a lot of angry comments and articles about how disappointed some fans are with the story, the ending, and that their specific theory didn’t come to pass.

Scarlet Witch casting spells.
Wanda in her final form.

That, in turn, got me thinking about what obligation writers have to meet the exceptions of their readers.

An argument can be made both ways, depending on the situation. A perfect example is the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. Fans have been expecting a complete series, seven novels, but Martin has yet to deliver. Keep in mind, the first book of the series was published in 1996, with increasingly longer gaps between publishing dates on the subsequent novels. It’s now been nearly ten years since the most recent book, A Dance with Dragons, was published, and at this point, the readers have mostly given up on Martin ever finishing the series.

Cover of A Song of Ice and Fire boxset.
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49705194

To me, a reader and a huge fan of the series (so far), I’m angry about this. It’s not just that Martin has been procrastinating on finishing the last two books, but that he’s been working on other projects instead. As someone who has invested a lot of time into reading (and mostly enjoying) these books, I feel cheated. And I’m not the only one. In this case, I feel that Martin has an obligation to complete the series. He told his readers there were going to be seven books, a complete story, and here we are, impatiently waiting for him to follow through and meet our expectations. And keep in mind, our expectations are based on what he said he was going to do.

As a writer, I feel that if I tell readers I’m going to publish three books, or five, or ten, then I’m obligated to follow through. Hell, even Robert Jordan’s fourteen-volume series, The Wheel of Time, was completed after he died. His estate compiled all his notes and outlines and hired Brandon Sanderson to complete the series, for the fans. I respect that.

But when it comes to storytelling, especially with known properties, are writers obligated to pay fan service (or reader/viewer service) and tell the story the way they expect it to play out, or have we the leeway to basically do what we want?

With WandaVision, the expectations were all over the place, and many viewers were expecting big reveals, big-name villains, big-name cameos. What the writers did, however, was stick with their initial premise and they didn’t deviate from it. Oh, there was a villain, of course, but not the one the fans were expecting. And there were some interesting revelations, like the truth about Wanda’s brother, but some fans felt cheated. I think they were expecting a series on a grand scale, with spectacle, like the Infinity War and Endgame movies. Sure, Marvel Studios loves to go big with the movies, but television shows, especially one that’s based on classic television, shouldn’t be expected to be the same way. It’s a smaller format, more intimate. I think the writers did a good job in sticking with the formula.

I think meeting expectations is a long-form storytelling issue, and in some cases it’s not a bad thing. Returning to Martin’s series, one of the things I love about it is that the story itself defied my expectations. Spoiler incoming: In the first novel, the main protagonist is killed in the last chapter. The first time I read it (and I’ve actually re-read it several times) blew me away. It was completely unexpected. I mean, who kills off their main character, and a well-liked one, in the first book of a seven book series? Was I mad that he blew up my expectations? Nope. I was actually thrilled by it. It was new, different, and damn good storytelling.

In general, I don’t think writers have an obligation to write what’s expected of them. Writers are artists, and writing is an art form, and art is subjective. What thrills one person may upset the next. What it comes down to is to being honest when it comes to storytelling. Some people prefer to comfort of a known path, the familiarity of recycled tropes, and frown upon any deviation from the formula. Others, like myself, prefer the odd twists and turns, the unexpected surprises, tropes turned upside-down. The only caveat is when a writer sets a goal or objective, like announcing they’re going to write a specific number of books in a series and don’t deliver. In those cases, I feel the writer has let me down.

Looking at you, Mr. Martin.

RB

 

 

 

October 24

Testing the Waters

I’m going to be beta-testing some new WordPress themes over the next few days, so don’t worry if my website doesn’t look like it usually does.

I’ve been using the same theme for a few years now and feel like I need a change, freshen things up a bit.

Feel free to comment if you see one that you enjoy. I’d appreciate the feedback.

RB

August 23

The Prometheus Project Podcast – Ep 36 – Making Music

I think we all have music inside us, but we may not know how to tap into it. Join me as I talk about making music, about finding your inner rhythm, about expressing yourself with sound. It doesn’t matter if you have a talent for it, all that matters is that you make yourself heard.

The podcast is available at iTunes, GooglePlay, Spotify, and PodBean. If you prefer, I also have a YouTube channel.

Or you can simply listen to it here!

November 4

No Podcast This Week

I’m taking a little time to work on some other projects, so I won’t be recording or publishing a podcast episode this week. There will be new content coming soon, both for the website and the podcast, and I hope (crosses fingers) that my short story collection will be published in the next week or two.

Cheers!

RB

September 6

Post-Dorian Thoughts

I’ve lived in Florida for most of my life, and I’ve been lucky enough to survive twelve or so hurricanes. Some were much worse than others. Hurricane Micheal, for example, blew through the panhandle last year and there is still debris and damage to contend with. Dorian was one of those storms, much like Michael, that wasn’t doing what the forecasters thought it should do. When the folks with the big brains say they aren’t sure how strong the storm is going to get or where it’s going to end up, well, that’s scary.

I have family all across the state, so the last week was tense as everyone waited to see what was going to happen. Unfortunately, the Bahamas bore the brunt of it (and if you’re able, please contribute to a legitimate charity to help the people on the islands recover and rebuild).

I’m a storm-watcher during hurricane season. After some of my previous storm experiences, I err on the side of caution. I follow the National Hurricane Center, I follow the Tropical Weather sub-Reddit, I get as much information as I can from reliable sources. Call me crazy…but you might be right.

The season appears to be kicking into high gear now. But instead of bottling up all that worry, I’m going to focus that energy into creative projects. You know, express my nervousness, my fear, my worry into something creative, something productive. I think that’s a positive outlet.

If you live in Florida, or anywhere along the US East Coast or Gulf Coast, I hope you and your loved ones stay safe. And if you’re feeling any apprehension about this busy hurricane season, try to channel it into something positive.

Cheers!

RB

July 31

Thoughts on Afterwords

One of the things I’ve enjoyed when reading collections of Stephen King’s short stories are the afterwords where he discusses the stories. It’s fun to read about the inspiration for the stories, how he developed them, why he made a decision to do one thing instead of another. Not only does it give me insight into the creative process, it also make the stories feel more personal.

Reading a short story collection without context is fine. I love Raymond Carver’s storytelling and don’t necessarily need to know the background on each story. The stories speak for themselves. But as a writer, I like to have that extra bit of information about how the stories came to be. In a way, it’s nice to know that other writers – even famous and prolific writers – can struggle and get frustrated.

While I know it’s not true, a part of me always feels that these big-league writers always get it right the first time. From mind to pen to page in one pass. If only. So reading about the process encourages me as a writer and reminds me that all artists struggle.

So I thought it would be fun to write an afterword for my upcoming short story collection. Partly because I think some readers might find it interesting to know the process. Also, because some of my stories can be…different. Giving some background might be helpful. Quite a few of my stories begin with some sort of prompt, a phrase, a photograph, a dream. I think that having some background can make a story more interesting.

And no, I’m not going to write an essay on each one, just a paragraph or two.

The book is still “coming soon”. I expect it to be available no later than the end of August. Adding the afterword will take another week (trying to squeeze this in an already busy schedule). Stay tuned!

RB