Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.
What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.
What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don’t see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?
See the world as your self.Tao Te Ching
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.
“A line will take us hours maybe,
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching have been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather—
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world. “
So there you have it: writing is hard work. Now, the question remains, what will you do with this condemnation? Will you pitter and patter and moan and groan (which is my general state): or, will you buckle up and DO the hard thing, the work?
If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.
source: Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Don’t do it.
For he love of all things Didion!
I mean, I get it, there is this undeniable sex appeal. This intrique: scattering your notes across that old bistro set, the heady demitasse begging for your lips: what’s the WiFi code? Nah, I write longhand.
I fall prey to this allure now and again. Loading my satchel with pencils, paper, notes, books. Stalking southbound traffic to my favorite watering hole. Order a Gibraltar, catch up with barista, discuss life. By the time I’m sitting down to write, like an hour later, my coffees cold and the cafe packed.
Cling-clang cutlery. Blah-blah-blah business meeting. “Well I just don’t know about Johnny Depp anymore, why is he so… extra” “Girl, that latte art though.” “Third quarter” shakes head “third quarter, down, down, down.” Steaming, always grinding. Cling-clang. Blah-blah-blah.
Meanwhile my fingernails are digging into the wood of my pencil and just before I think I am going to… SNAP! the pencil breaks. Crickets. Everyone stares. The business man, the gossip girls, the mustache twirling hipster, even the pour-over pauses in its drip, letting out a hesitant sh*******t!
And I scurry home, past the bookstore. Down 39th Street, by the old folk artists coop that may or may not double as a junk yard. Climb the two flights of stairs to my apartment, counting the first, wooden set stapled with AstroTurf, and the second wooden set awaiting carpet that may never come.
I brew up a fresh cup. Sit down. And that’s when it happens…
Never again, I tell myself. But next week, I’ll try once more…
I’m curious: what’s your writing habit? What fuels you’re creativity? Boosts you morale? What get’s you going? The more self aware, the more writerly I become, I find that solitude is key. Quiet. Voiceless and calm.
How I used to be a travel blogger is beyond me. The world kept closing in…
Will Write for Food. Or Coffee!
Being an artist, whether poet or ventriloquist, violinist or Beck, it's a taxing gig. Low pay, long hours. Sleepless nights,spotty work. If you find that my writing provides any pleasure, any sense of joy at all, I hope you will consider throwing me a bone, or an espresso.
A strange thing happens when you begin to contemplate the end. It’s as if setting such a definitive goal opens the world to endless possibilities
A phone is buzzing
It’s occurred to me that with the end comes the potential of a new beginning.
There are many types of death. Just as there are many types of love in which the subject, or subjects simply depart from one existance to another. Trading this for that, and in exchange receiving a fresh beginning and a new life, a new identity.
We are flowers forever teetering from Spring to deep Winter.
Forever waiting for Summer. For Fall
Our chance to really live.
Only to rise and be struck down.
Spring. Winter. Awakening. Death.
Where is Summer?
Where is Fall?
This realization came so urgently, slapping me across the face, I shot right out of bed that morning. Before the sun herself could shine and make me straight again, before the day could cleanse my palate as it often does and, in the deadpan winter, shuffled across my frozen, miniature tundra in snow flurry Kansas City, and drained my savings account in exchange for a one-way ticket to Morocco.
That will show em, I thought. Still unsure of who them was. For some reason, whenever I looked outside my window, hoping to spot them, all I saw was the hollow reflection of myself…
A phone buzzed, gliding smoothly across the bistro table. I don’t recognize ringer until realizing it’s mine: I’ve never heard it ring.
It was a cold spring night.
The city still reeling from the previous year’s terror attacks and whispers of Al Qaeda carried through the streets like cautionary tales foretelling the bogeyman. Maybe that explained the police on every corner, their unwieldy machine guns and serious frowns. They had no effect on me. That’s not true: I found it absolutely intoxicating, that life or death appeal is what lured me here in the first place.
“Nobody said it was supposed to be so cold in the desert.” I said, catching my scarf as it fluttered in the sharp wind. It only occurred to me then that I hadn’t checked a single forecast.
Moona laughed, “That’s because this isn’t the desert.” She said, looking up at the snow covered mountains. “It is winter isn’t it?”
“Is it?” I cringed as another gust came down from the mountain, lifting table skirts and extinguishing candles.
The waiter returned with my drink just in time for us to leave. I paid, left a few coins tip, downed the drink, shay ma nana, tea with mint, and flagged down the first cab on the square. A big burly man, mustachioed and jolly.
“Where from? Where? Oh, Kansas City! I have cousin in Kansas City, maybe you know him? Welcome to Morocco, America. We love America. Welcome to Morocco!”
He shook my hand as we paid and crossed the street to the souk on the other side. The shops were being washed out, dirty water came surging over the cobbles. And the streets were being watered down, to keep the dust from rising when the tourists arrive.
“And that is how we do it in Morocco.”
“You know it… Do what?”
“He just ripped you a big one. Do you realize what you paid him. What, like twenty dollars.”
My heart sank with shame. OK, so I didn’t check the forecast. But what about the exchange rate? The currency? The mysteriously scrolled dirham papers, lined with calligraphy and stained in pinks and greens. I could count to one-hundred in Arabic by then, but what did that mean of money, of value. Not a thing.
I had just paid twenty dollars for a two block ride down the boulevard.
“Now,” Moona said with her big smug way, “you are in Morocco.”
I’ve been smitten with @smdanler since, embarrassingly late in the game, encountered her interview on @litupshow. Just received my copy of #Sweetbitter -and just in time for the #readingwomenchallenge with @thereadingwomen.
Have you been called to any challenges this year? Resolutions? What are you working towards?
P.s. if you’re interested in the Reading Women Book Challenge, let’s start a book club. Maybe? Yes? No? 😉
Nick is a writer and activist. He has lived and worked in Jordan, Mexico, and the United States. He currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri and is working on his first novel.
What are you wrapping this year?
Books. Cold Brew. Star Wars Gadgets. Pokemon Cards. Friends. Family. Brother. They’re all on my list and for the first year in my collected twenty-eight Christmases, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve completed my Christmas List!
Feeling rather mature about this.
Tell me, are you on the naughty list? The nice? Or that oft forgot, list’o’krampus?
Whatever you’re up to, know that you are loved and that everything, from the large swaths of snow covered trees to the dust bunnies collected under your sofa, is simply a figment of our collected imaginations 🤔💫
The sky out my window is that fiery red which makes the heart swell with life and there it is again: that sensational expanding within my chest, rising to my throat, gripping and stinging my eyes.
I bury my face into the scarf. Traces of fig leaf and sandalwood bring her rushing back to me as the mountains stretch into fractals, the tears come. The puddle on the red sky horizon, where the sun has fallen and melted, flickers with a faint shimmer and so suddenly the desert goes dark and I have never been so mysteriously out of sorts than I am on the six o’clock from Casablanca.
Gliding to a stop, the train hisses and pops, and ever so tentatively the doors stretch open, as if waking from an ancient sleep, creaking, stretching and finally, almost there, quit so those deboarding turn sideways, sucking in bellies and removing packs and balancing boxes upon trained heads. There’s no telling where we are. Out there, way out there, I mean stretching-your-eyes out there, is a city or at least a cluster of lights. Is that it? But here, it’s just a lamppost and a platform of backlit women, veiled and watching our subtle roll and pass through as their smiles fall into frowns, and they go on waiting and we lurch deeper into the African night.
Each one’s the same. Hiss, pop, impossibly congested desert town platforms, lampposts blackened with moths and large scaly things as the moon, rising beyond, lends a silvery glow over all the details she touches as the desert comes to life once more in this reversed role as nature returns to her rightful place and it’s our turn, us humans, to hide away within dens and shrubs.
So. Completely. Alone.
Every single desert town. Platform of veiled women. Waiting. Sometimes I catch sight of their villagers beyond, dusty main streets and always the shadowy figures of children running amok, kicking cans and beating the tattered remains of saggy cardboard boxes with twigs and old broomsticks.
Cracking the seal with a sharp click I down the bottle and bury the evidence deep into pack as the tremble in my hand steadies and I drift away…”
The protagonist has just landed in a mysterious town in Africa. With nothing but a rucksack and a name scratched across a piece of paper: Djemaa el-Fna, “whatever that means…”
We open as he’s feeling deep regret for the past year and taking this tremendous leap into the unknown. But, at the same time, aware of this need to liberate the self from the old life which has led to a deep pit of depression and drinking…
While my novel is entirely true, there are moments which I allow artistic license to paint scenes with more interest.
I would love to know what you think.
Yes, this is only a small glimpse, but I know the importance of landing an intriguing opening. And this is my goal here…
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“I want to work in revelations, not just spin silly tales for money. I want to fish as deep down as possible into my own subconscious in the belief that once that far down, everyone will understand because they are the same that far down.”
This is one of my favorite quotes on writing. That, way deep down at the center of each and every one of us, there is this unifying quality, a thread which connects all sentient. That’s exactly what Kerouac touched and for anyone who’s read Dharma Bums, On the Road or devoured his poetry, it’s obvious that he found that universal button. Unearthed it, brushed it off and served it up with a generous helping of mindful rebellion.
(from an old rough draft of The Outsider)
It’s pouring out. The cobblestones are slick and the alley is narrow and dark and the sky above, that maroon storm-black. There’s smoke and exhaust hanging in the cold air. My breath is thick and the streets shine like glass below the lampposts. My pack is soggy, heavy on my sunken shoulders. The brim of my hat has collapsed around my face and my shoes squeak and ooze water but I can’t afford another cab ride. So I will walk across Bib Rambia Plaza where the cafe’s spill into the pitter-patter of rain. No matter, the seats are full of swanky diners waving their hands about in the delightful act of popping gambas and leaning back with jugs of wine –glug, glug.
Back in the shadows I’m waving through Granada.
The door is locked. A little surge of anger runs from my chest, down my hips and into my feet which kick the door in a sort of angry reflex.
There’s a buzz and a click.
The door now opens with no resistance.
The snot nosed receptionist looks me over.
I walk through the commons while she copies my passport. The computer lab is full and the sofas sink from age and overuse and when I sit down there’s a wave of tobacco that fills my lungs –travelers smoke from another universe, when the world moved about in a sultry haze called the 70’s. It’s charming but also kind of gross.
“No smoking. Here’s your sheets, room key. Anything else?”
“No. Thank you.” I walk off. “Oh, bunk number?”
I climb the stairs and flip the lightswitch.
There’s panic as sheets are pulled over sleepy eyes and grumbles and curses I can’t translate except for their tone which says something like “fuck.”
Lights off, I find my ipod, unlock it and find an empty bunk in the sapphire light. Toss my pack over the railing and swing up.
It’s only 23:00 but i’m not going back out. Nor can I seem to pull myself out of bed to change or brush my teeth and before I can think about anything else my head lands on the hard pillow and I’m overcome with exhaustion.
This is basically how I recommend books to friends… Effective? Maybe.
- Pan, by Knut Hamsun. A wild existential crisis. The narrator is living in the woods of Norway, maybe 1890’s. Going insane with every passing day while falling in love with a Lords daughter. Dark, funny, beyond its time. Norwegian authors are still years ahead.
- Also, i’m really into Matthew Quick right now. He authored the Silver Linings Playbook and each and every novel follow a quirky set of people.
- If you really want to fall off the deep end start Knausgaard’s series “My Struggle.”Six, dense as hell books that have driven me insane in all the right ways.
What are you reading right now?
*exceptional image from The Washington Post, of Knausgaard.