Ninety-Nine Voices

song in my head—”Take Lots With Alcohol” by Alkaline Trio

We are very good at focusing on the bad.

We might receive ninety-nine compliments in a day, but remember only the one negative word spoke towards us.

That book you published on Amazon? Ninety-nine 5-star reviews. So why does that lone one-star chew at your brain like a termite?

A co-worker we enjoy being around and have much in common with disagrees with us on one thing. Why do we feel the sudden urge to write them off completely?

The truth of the matter is that our brains have a negativity bias. It’s actually easier to remember bad news. So today, do your best to remember the good. Write it down if you have to. Create positive mantras for yourself that counteract the negative. Focus on your strengths and let your weaknesses be stepping stones to growth, rather than the things that trip us up.

And as you find the positive, make sure to pay it forward. Because if one voice can drown out the ninety-nine, the last the you want to be is that one.

—G

A Beacon of Light

song in my head — “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley

Why do I create?

I create because I have to. Storytelling is like oxygen to me, courses through my veins like blood. But plenty of artists say similar things. There are plenty of us out there who would say things like "I would write if no one read it" or "I would still write if I didn't get paid."

But here's a little paradox I've discovered about myself.

I only write for myself, but I find it very hard to write if no one is listening.

What do I mean?

I write what’s inside of me in what I hope is a way that only I can. My inner imaginations and passions and voice are my fuel; nothing external like "the market" will inspire me to write something. I think stories are like puzzles, and that almost any idea that I chew on for a bit could be a story worth telling. Otherwise, why would it come to me? I'm so dedicated to this idea, in fact, that I have “stories” in my head that are only titles! I have no idea what the rest of the tale will be, but the title sparked something so deep in me that I can't and won't let it go. It's like a key that unlocks a box—I only have to find the box.

That said…

Though I may write for myself, I believe writing is communication above all else. I write to express and communicate my inner workings. So while I don't write for you—some imaginary audience member with market-tested tastes or who likes certain genres—I do write for You—that person out there who maybe, just maybe, sees the world a little bit like I do. I don't know who you are, or how many of you are out there, but my hope is that if I write enough words, if I spark enough fires and let the ashes float out into the ether, that someday we'll find each other.

What I'm doing here—scribbling down my thoughts every day, writing my fanciful stories—it's not a marketing strategy. It's a beacon of light in a dark forest; I'm lost, like you. But I'm finding a way.

Perhaps we can find our way together.

— G

Responsibility

song in my head — “no tears left to cry” by Ariana Grande

Sometimes doing the responsible thing feels somewhat irresponsible.

Maybe this is because what is "responsible" is often determined by the culture or society around us, and any step outside of that lane is viewed as a break from tradition and, thus, irresponsible. But such a deviation from the norm may be exactly what you're built for. There develops friction then.

An actor friend of mine has been living in Alaska for the last couple years. He has no home, no job while up there, though he returns from time to time to work on films. He lives out of his Jeep, sleeps in a tent most nights, and spends most days writing in his journal, documenting and getting to know himself on a level most of us will never experience. To many, this would be an envious life, an adventure along the lines of which many of us dream. But whatever our "Alaska" is, there’s an echo in our mind (often put there by someone else) telling us that it's "irresponsible.”

We put the importance of average, everyday work on a pedestal in our societies and scoff at the outliers, the travelers, the circus freaks. But what if you truly feel you were meant for something different?

There's a twofold response, I think.

  1. Embrace that difference and run after it. Let it be what defines no matter what you face.

  2. Do the routine, everyday work when you have to and do it (as my wife would say) with a smile on your face. Let it be what empowers you to do what defines you.

What it's really about is freeing yourself from judgment—your judgment of yourself, your judgment of others, the judgment others place on you.

No work lasts forever, and Alaska isn't going anywhere.

Work and dream, and when the time is right, jump.

— G

Finding Stan Lee

song in my head — “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional

When it comes to art, the voice of the artist matters.

But what does "voice" even mean?

Voice, I believe, is perspective, and perspective is the key to making good art. It's the inner viewpoint you're trying to outwardly communicate.

Okay, yes, voice has a little bit to do with how you tell your story—your choice of genre, the pacing, the tone and use of language, violence (or lack thereof), description (or lack thereof), etc. But that's superficial skin compared to the necessary meat beneath.

In my opinion, an artist's "voice" makes an artist; it's why they create. Your art should be the reflection of a conglomeration of experiences, interests, emotions, opinions, beliefs, world views, and everything else that adds up to make you who you are. If this voice or perspective is missing, the audience will know it. They might have enjoyed the recipe you concocted, but it won’t be a lasting taste.

And worst of all, it won’t last for you as the artist, not in the deeper, meaningful way that it should.

So, ask yourself this: could anyone create the thing you just created? If so, you owe it to yourself and the people you hope to serve to try harder to be you. Inject every word and every scene with your theme—what you think and what you want to say, and leave finding the audience to the birds.

Because I genuinely believe that if you put something with perspective out in the world, and that you craft this with skill and style and understanding, you will find fans. And those fans will follow you anywhere. So don't be afraid to create the strangest thing you can, something unique that sings of only you. If it has a heartbeat, the audience will find it. The right tribe will embrace it.

Anyone can create a superhero. There have been knock-offs of characters with powers and superhero stories since we've been telling stories! But not everyone could’ve created Spider-man. Stan Lee wrote what Stan Lee wrote because only Stan Lee could write it.

People like us do things like this.

We see then that the answer isn't to "be Stan Lee."

The answer is to find the Stan Lee within you. Who are you? What do you do? What do you stand for?

Now go stand.

— G