I’m a creative guy, but I’m not out for world domination in any way, shape, or form. I write stories, articles, books, poems, and the occasional internet rant. I make music, play guitar, and sing with all the glory my average voice allows. I feel great in what I do, so I’m putting it all here for anyone to enjoy. Why keep it locked up? What would be the point in that?
What I don’t do is confine myself. I’ve been there and tried that, and it’s just not me. I write children’s stories and poems, but I also write novels with adult language and the occasional poop. I sing silly songs and lullabies, but I also belt out some Radiohead or Bon Jovi… whatever the day or mood brings. I try to bring humor to the table, but I realize that humor is never “one size fits all.” I put the appropriate warnings up, so no worries for those of you with sensitive sensibilities.
I’ll tell you what I’m not, because I think that helps more than anything. I’m not trying to be famous. I’m not trying to put myself on some pedestal. I’m also not half-assing my work. I’m not out for everyone’s money. I’m not one kind of thing, and that’s the most important realization I’ve made recently.
As a musician, I fell into the habit of trying to pigeonhole myself into creating one style or type of music. I wanted to be a rock star early on, and what came with that was the training to be “one thing that is marketable as that one thing.” This meant that if I wrote something outside the typical soundscape of my band, then it wouldn’t be released. Or, it would have to be saved as something for the solo album or another band to start entirely. What happened to those songs? They were lost. Gone forever. Abandoned. To top it off, the rock star thing never worked out.
Fast forward a few years, and I decided to focus on writing, something I’ve always done. What came out first were silly poems meant for children, then other humorous poems definitely not meant for children. Then some serious short stories. Then some autobiographical stuff. Then a full novel of dark comedy. And then I decided to enter a stupid contest to try and get a novel published.
And I won.
Sounds great, right? But it quickly turned sour. The publisher was going through some enormous changes, which didn’t help, but with those changes came the indoctrination of appealing to the masses. Suddenly, I was no longer a writer with a humorous sci-fi comedy. I was a humorous sci-fi writer. It was an identity I had to embrace. I was supposed to think of my next humorous sci-fi book and write it, get in with the humorous sci-fi writer crowds, and become that one thing as best as I could. Children’s books? Those were no longer an option. Poems? Forget about it. Serious work? Autobiographical work? All off the table. I needed to establish myself as a “serious writer” first.
On top of that, I had to change the book. I had to tell a story that was easier to digest for a large audience. I learned a ton, I’ll admit, but I was also being confined. They might have said “honed,” and that’s fair. But I didn’t want to just be one thing. I didn’t want to write a specific type of book with a predictable blueprint a la Save the Cat. I understood the need for these things, especially from a business standpoint, but the fact remained: none of it was me. It wasn’t who I am as a writer and creative person, and the stories were turning into stories I didn’t want to tell. I read the end products of the other authors who toed the line, and I must say, without reservation, that I didn’t enjoy those stories. That’s not me saying that those stories aren’t enjoyable and shouldn’t be lauded, because they should. Anyone publishing and creating and putting themselves out there to be judged should be admired. The point is, I saw several glimpses of what the publisher wanted me to be, and I knew that toeing the line wouldn’t pay off for me as far as happiness goes.
So, I gave away my prize. And honestly, I’ve been grappling with that decision ever since. Up until now, really.
Because the need to be a certain thing for the public at large has haunted my creative self for far too long, as has the need to hide part of myself. It’s really the hiding part that has felt worse, because hiding sucks. Artists are told to focus on one thing constantly. It’s part of our culture. And up until recently, I bought into that narrative. Be one thing well and let everything else be secondary at most.
I’ve always had trouble being one thing. I don’t hang out with one type of personality, I don’t enjoy one kind of book, I don’t listen to one kind of music, and I don’t feel ashamed about any of that. I don’t think any of us do, really. So why do we expect that from our artists? Why must they not only create a certain kind of art, but also fit the perceived personality behind that art? None of us are static creatures at all. Humans are dynamic. So why, when I think about the fact that I’ve written a novel with adult language and themes as well as a children’s book, do I consider having to write these things under different pen names? Two reasons: sales and shame. Sales is self-explanatory, I think. But the shame part, I’ve realized, isn’t my shame. It’s the shame people might experience if they read and enjoy something I wrote for children and then go on to discover the gross book I wrote with adult themes.
But I’ve realized something important. I’m not writing to keep people from judging me. They can think I should be ashamed all they want. The truth is, I’m finally being honest by releasing all of my work and claiming it all as my own. I’m an honest man, and I am a dynamic human being.
I enjoy horror movies, but my wife doesn’t, so I don’t watch them with her. I certainly don’t watch them with my kids. But I still enjoy horror movies. And that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the cartoons and kids movies I watch with my family. I used to function on dark humor to get me through an ER shift, but I didn’t carry that brand of humor over to the first time met my son’s preschool teacher. There’s a time and a place for everything, and we all have a variety of things we are and we enjoy. The same is true of how I create.
So, with The Mind of Michael, I’m putting it all out there. If you have limits, make sure you read the descriptions. Some things will be funny. Some things will be dead serious. Some things will be emotional. Some things will be super kid-friendly. All will be labeled and what I believe the best quality each project could achieve. It’s all going to be out there and available without hiding or restriction. The limits are up to you. So consider this your warning.
Thanks for all the support.
Questions, comments, or complaints? Just lonely? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org