From the Author
In this world of instant gratification and technology, where exhibitionism poses as honesty, and self-absorption parades as self-awareness, I think people are feeling more isolated than ever.
No matter how many updates we read, invitations to connect we receive, or clever memes we see, reality inevitably hits us in the face. For some people, it’s when the last remaining light of the night is extinguished, or when the house is finally empty. For others, it's when the phone is finally out of connective juice and it sits, lifeless, and charging; the computer, darkened and shut down; the tablet, a black mirrored surface with no illumination, no noise--hushed; the television, silenced.
The stillness of reality is terrifying.
The nouveau sentiment of late has been “writing to connect.” People all over the world write and desire instant feedback and commiseration. They seek a community of sycophants or dissonance or merely contemporaries with similar tastes, notions and ideas, like-minds, and/or like-time constraints.
The sentiments of the late David Foster Wallace reflect my own feelings: writing fiction is “a way out of loneliness.”
Unlike many, however, the connection for me comes while I’m writing, not after I’ve completed my work. While I write, I co-create with my reader. My reader is with me each moment I create, and that is from where the connection—or the feeling of connection--stems. This is why upon finishing a book, I feel extraordinarily alone. Upon completion, I lose the intimate conversation I'd been having with my target-audience. I also lose control of the way my words are perceived, and that's a whole other terrifying leap into the unknown. I feel unplugged from the world, even though "the world" within the pages was a world of my own making.
The biggest mistake someone could make about me is attempting to fit me into a box. I can't breathe in all of the creative ideas, or exhale my variety of voices and artistic expressions through the holes--no matter how many are punctured on the lid--in that box. When I finally decided what kind of writer I was, where I "lived," so to speak, I was quite happy with it. My publicist and publisher...notsomuch.
The world demands two separate, disparate things from its artists: be original, but appeal to the masses. It's the only way to economically survive as an artist, it seems. For 97% of artists, art is their night job, and the day job is anything from teaching (hopefully what you like to create) to something totally different, like working construction. What's important? There's no "wrong way." There's only "your way." What works for you.
The world demands conformity--even within it's own "think outside the box" tropes. "Thinking outside the box" has become the new box. And writers and artists don't always succeed when they go to the out-lands of art. Just like the ability to "fit in" a community, one must surrender certain aspects of him or herself to remain in good standing. Some parts are small. Some, gigantic. The desire to belong outweighs the need to express their individuality. Many artists are fine with chopping off good portions of themselves to make it financially. Others change, evolve, from a one-dimensional version of themselves, to a multi-faceted ball of creative fire. A fantastic example of this exists in the person and persona/artist of Maynard James Keenan.
Like the old woman who had the misfortune of dwelling in footwear, MJK has so many creative children. But unlike the old woman, he did know what to do. He decided to BE the art. He created a persona that is the antithesis of a persona--he created himself in such a way that there are those who love everything he touches, from his wine to his music. Yet, he still has fans who are only connected to his work through Tool. He has his Perfect Circle fans. Then, for those who feel connected to him, no matter what his media, we opened our arms to Puscifer. I like Tool. I love A Perfect Circle. I am obsessed with Puscifer.
When I introduce people to Puscifer, I find out what kind of music they like, an Puscifer delivers. They like a little "pop" in their music? Try "The Mission," featuring Resident Evil's Milla Jovovich. Want some hot, sex-on-the-carpet music? Try "Rev 22:20." Missing A Perfect Circle a little? They've got your "Remedy." Need a belly-rubbing, slow-love tune? It's not an official video, but I couldn't find one, so here's a pretty good visual to "Oceans." If you want to see one of the coolest, yet most disturbing music videos--emphasis on "coolest" for me personally--as well as an incredible song: "Potions" will blow you away.
Within his persona-non-persona, MJK has many personas: he has earned the right to have more fun that should be legal. You'll learn that with "Cuntry Boner."
But MJK had the success of Tool on which to build his other endeavors. He took the risks, and they paid off, as much for himself as for his fans. I look at James Patterson, who "outsources" his generic, formula novels, and I wonder, had he any imagination or courage at all, what he would have done once his books became his main income-source? I'm guessing we'll probably never know.
There are countless examples of artists not only crossing over, but excelling at their different media: Leonard Cohen has books of poetry, and art, and his music evolved with the times and his age. Henry Miller, a novelist and a visual artist. Michael Madsen, an actor, and a poet with a unique and vibrant voice. Grace Slick, American icon of the 60's hippie-goddess, a vocalist, musician, and visual artist. But none of these are really known for their "side-track" endeavors.
Not the case with MJK: he seems to have the inverse of the "Midas touch": He finds the gold within himself, then shares it with the world, turning our own passion for his creative pursuits into golden calves before which we bow down and worship.
I follow Maynard James Keenan because I have connected with him through his fearless life and attempt to channel the force of passion within him, wherever it takes him. I *feel* connected to him, although I don't know him, personally. (I wish I did, though. Let's be honest.) I don't know why he does what he does--I do have a book I'm going to be reading on it, though--but I know he isn't doing what he does for himself. He does it for us. For the connection.
The connection I feel when I write carries over into my other artistic media: painting, photography.
My favorite lighting is harsh.
I enjoy the illumination from the moon on snow, especially on a windswept mountain face. The light is almost gray, devoid of any warmth. On certain days the sun creates this same light, a frigid gold in spring while shadows still hold a frozen layer of earth, or summer days when buzzing flies warn of an imminent, scorching heat.
This brutal illumination reveals the harshest of weather. It’s cold, empty, bleak, and the world, with all of its affectations of connection, is a mirror for that harsh brutality that is our seclusion. Finding beauty in the rot has been my life’s work. When the light of Spring descends, I seek out the decaying mulch underneath. It comforts me, has always comforted me, to know that even the Earth dies and dies and still comes back to us, but will always change in ways we can’t foretell. This is also true for the things we build: our structures and edifices.
Old buildings, machinery, structures, they tell their true story,
their true colors, in their decay. They remind us that
what once was, is now an echo of its former self. Identical, perhaps,
to the human experience in more than just a physical way.
When I see these spectacles of urban decay, I see beauty in their
tragic decomposition. When I capture something in digital form, it’s only
the first step into my mind. Once I get the image and adjust it,
it becomes the thing I originally saw in its fetid putrescence,
lying in the dust, or dirt, or forgotten halls. But through my
eyes, I make it alive again; resurrected through my lens, my mind's lens,
into something worth seeing, knowing, loving, and worthy of investing
I am fortunate. I have opportunities and a life that many would envy,
if they only saw the very shallow veneer of it. Yet, even through
hardships, for the most part, I get to stand in a warm light.
When I write, I never forget that desolate, moonlit mountain,
the frozen shadows, the crumbling facade. I don’t avoid the
shadowy alley or the inky stairwell. I edge into the crawlspace
of the unlit basement. I wipe cobwebs from my face.
I’m afraid–make no mistake about it. To experience the bleak reality of a raw world is frightening, but conversely, it’s the only way I can experience authentic warmth, the only way I will connect, because you, the reader, are right there with me.
We arrive alone into the world, the icy chill of the bright, harshly-lit sterile room, shocking our quivering, soaked bodies, and we wonder where the other part of us–the balmy comfort and the thump of a familiar heartbeat--has gone. Then, we feel it, the familiar; we smell it, taste it, and we forget. Until the very end.
When we leave this world, no matter where, with whom, or how, we depart alone; our bodies no longer responsive to warmth, no familiarity to drink, smell, touch, hear.
So in the interim, our goal must be to gather for ourselves, and give to others, as much warmth as possible. To authentically connect; to dive into the visceral without closing our eyes. To alleviate the feeling that we are all alone.
If I help one person feel that way with my writing? I'll have all the warmth I need.
August 14, 2017
"Going up"© J.A. Carter-Winward Photography
"Zoom"© J.A. Carter-Winward Photography