The Artist Within: A deeper insight into the mind of a perpetually troubled soul

Why do I write? Why not become a painter, or an illustrator? I often talk about my music on my podcast. If you are doing a podcast there is a chance music is a big part of your life. What I often don’t delve into are all the other artistic endeavors I have pursued over the years. Let’s take a trip into the mind of a perpetually troubled individual.

Kindergarten is where it starts for most of us. The teacher tries to get us to learn to sing songs in harmony, write our names, cut the paper in a straight line, glue construction paper together without eating the tasty paste. All this while trying to foster our budding imaginations, feeding our curiosity to inspire our creativity. These are all over stating the role an individual often labeled a glorified baby-sitter.

Unfortunately for me my creative side wasn’t on the same level as the kindergarten teacher. I had trouble cutting the paper in a straight line. This meant my snowflakes looked more like globs of goop. Coloring inside the lines was also a no-go. I wasn’t good at tracing either. By the time my kindergarten schooling ended I had become frustrated I wasn’t ever going to find my creative side. Oh and yes I was thinking about this then, I wanted to desperately to be an artist. I hated myself for not being able to draw or paint as well as some of the other kids.

Fortunately I discovered I was advanced in one area, reading. I was already reading books at a 2nd grade level in kindergarten. This was most frustrating when I would go to the library. The librarian would smugly tell me no sir get one off this shelf and point to the paper thin See Spot Run clones. I was constantly trying to prove I was a better reader than that. I threw a fit and forced her to let me take the Book It test on a book  had read recently, one easily at the 2nd grade level she claimed I couldn’t possibly read. Of course she accused me of cheating. I must have had my sister or parent read it too me she insisted. Never mind I was able to read the questions and the answers without her help. I would grab a random book and start reading it to her. Finally she agreed to let me check out the books I wanted. I wish it ended there but, as we moved a lot, I went through this same ritual with every new school. It was like there was a conspiracy to prevent me from advancing.

At home that artistic side was still begging to get out. I used to doodle on my papers. Since I was so uncoordinated my doodles were only recognizable to me. Teachers used to question my drawings, always trying to guess what they were. One time I drew a picture of a staircase going up the side of a mountain with a door at the top overseeing a cliff. I drew a stout little man with chubby legs holding a lantern. My teacher thought it was a dragon. She asked me why the dragon had a giant frog riding on it’s back. I scolded her, no idiot, it’s Mario going up the hill to Subcon. She didn’t know what a Mario or a Subcon was. Even with my Koopas and Goombas chasing Mario up the stairs, she still had no clue it was from a video game.

Second grade things changed. By this time I had already seen three different films in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. This was around the time my doodles shifted from mostly innocent Super Mario Bros. characters to endless drawings of Freddy Krueger. Once again my teachers were oblivious to what my drawings were. I blame this on my lack of artistic talent. When I looked at the stick figure wearing the stripped shirt and long finger nails I knew it was the dream demon from my favorite film franchise. The really issue was the fedora. Mine always ended up looking like top hats so the teachers thought I was obsessed with leprechauns. I mean sure I did have a thing for those critters too but come on the dream stalker isn’t an Irish fairy.

I wasn’t any good at clay or Play Dough. I was in the fourth grade when we were making ceramic bowls, cups or coffee mugs. I was trying to make an ash tray, for my parents who hadn’t quite smoking yet. The teacher scolded me so I scrunched the sides in. I still have this deformity to this day. It is a reminder that I am not going to be a talented sculptor.

Sometime around the 6th grade I had gotten really into comic books. Naturally this meant I wanted to create my own comic books. Once again my lack of drawing skills put me at a disadvantage. Then I lucked out. I started reading these comic book magazines, there were two different ones but the only one I remember the name was Wizard. They both had something special inside. Tips on how to draw superheroes with step-by-step instructions from real professionals in the industry. Pretty soon I was able to turn an hour glass into a sexy lady in a swimming suit with the greatest of ease. I learned to use circles and human heads to determine proportions and skeletons. Pretty soon I was drawing my own comic books with decent action. There were just two problems. The first wasn’t a major deal. I learned to draw the bodies but I wasn’t getting very good at drawing clothes. I mean, I was learning this around the age of 12 so I was okay drawing my female characters anatomically correct, but if I didn’t want to be labeled a pervert by my teachers, not to mention facing detention, I had to put clothes on my characters. I could do basic pants, shirts and dresses but nothing fancy.

As big of a deal as the clothing issue was there was one more hitch. No matter how hard I tried I could not peg forced perspective. My scenes had giant characters walking around tiny houses with disproportionate animals and cars floating around all over the place. It was a mess. To this day I can’t grasp anything beyond the very basics of the vanishing line and horizon. I improved once I got into art class in high school but never enough to be any kind of satisfied with my work.

Once I got to college I had given up on being an artist. My first semester I took an art appreciation class. The first thing I learned was as much as I thought I wanted to be an artist, it was beyond my grasp. I did answer the question of what I believe art to be. It was also in college I fleshed out my true creative talent. I might not be a visual artist, but I discovered I could paint vivid pictures to stir the imaginations of others using the written word. I learned I am not an artist. I am a writer.

Some reflections on how to improve as a writer

Do you ever get trapped inside your own mind? The worst part of trying to come up with something interesting or unique to write about is not trying to remember what topics I have already written about. No, for me it’s about moving past the same topics. In writing, as in life, once you get stuck in a rut it can be hard to escape. Then there is a part of me wanting to be consistent in my element.

Whether writing for someone else or for yourself, the trick is making sure your writing is compelling to the audience. One thing I have learned, however, is you can’t fall back on amount of experience when discussing your writing. For starters, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have if you’ve been doing it wrong. All you end up doing is forming bad habits you have to learn to break.

When I first left the newspaper I was working for I was cocky. I had nearly 3 years writing for community newspaper surely that alone would be sufficient to get me a job at another newspaper. After I started looking at the stories I was using as my portfolio I realized, my writing had improved, I still had a lot of work to improve.

The hardest thing for me is writing compelling ledes. In the newspaper business the lede has to be catchy and to the point, it has to pack a lot of information in a few words. I sometimes struggled with writing headlines too. Fortunately I had a guide who would often re-write my ledes for me. Headlines were kind of a group effort. I learned two conflicting approaches. The older reporter preferred longer, more detailed headlines. The editor, a man slightly younger than myself, was more fond of short headlines with large fonts. It was two conflicting approaches I had been thrust into the middle. I eventually discovered I preferred shorter headlines with easy to read sentences.

When I was writing for a print newspaper we didn’t have to worry about ‘clickbait’, our headlines had to be informative and eye catching. The newspaper where I worked also didn’t have a web product. The newspaper I started up is the opposite. I am operating it basically all digital with a print product being something I am looking into down the road.

I don’t suppose I am really offering up advice to other writers out there. I think as I started typing the first thing I wanted was to do a topic I hadn’t spent much time on before. Admitting my writing was in desperate need of improvement was one topic I can assure you I didn’t plan on tackling.Yet, here I am taking a good, hard look at my previous writing. There was a time when I believed all I had to do to improve my writing was to keep at it. I don’t think that now. I have realized my writing has improved more as I have sought advice from other writers. I am also figuring out the need to read other styles of writing.

The trick isn’t to be the best writer out there. My goal really is to be the best writer I can be without regard to how I compare to others. That does mean having a focus. The second news editor I worked under taught me the fork method. I didn’t quite understand what he was teaching me until after he left. I can honestly say my first news editor had a greater impact on my philosophy than anyone else. I still try to stay in touch with him even though I have moved half way across the country.

One thing I can say is clear. With a tagline of “To Organize Chaos” I left myself open ended enough I could technically write about anything I want. I fully understand a website needs its own focus the same as a story. I think the best way to reach my audience is to recognize who I want that audience to be. The more time I spend on this the clearer that picture becomes. I still believe my purpose in life is to try to make sense of the world around me.

Political discussion now fair game on Dark Web podcast

I tried to keep politics out of the podcast. Not because I can’t defend my point of view, because I certainly can. Not because as a journalist I felt the need to keep my political views to my self. To be fair journalists can have political opinions, we’re just supposed to be unbiased in our reporting.

This week something took place that twisted my arm. The last several episodes I have been making it a point to discuss the new Roseanne reboot, or Roseanne Season 10 as it has been called. Then out of the blue the show was cancelled. The reason for the cancellation was because of a personal Tweet that was labeled as racist.

I tried not to get into the political side of it and then, I broke into another political tirade as a result. This wasn’t the first time I broke my rule because of something relating to Twitter. And so I went full in. I revealed many of my personal political views. During my angry rant I realized there just isn’t any way to do a show like this without getting into politics at some point.

By the end of the episode I settled into a rant about the origins of native English words currently considered to be vulgar by modern standards.

As a matter of reality I knew this was going to take place sooner rather than later. I mean, as someone who studied political science in college and has spent the last 3 years working in the news media, it was inevitable my show would deteriorate into political ranting. All I can say is if there really was some grand conspiracy to silence conservative voices, how the hell is Rush Limbaugh still on the air?