A Life Lived for Art Is Never A Life Wasted

Hi, friends.

Today, I talk art. I want to share about how much I love to create; that is, I want to show you how writing changed my life.

For those of you who have stumbled on my blog for the first time, here is a quick introduction. My name is W. Alexander, and I am an artist; I am a writer. I am thirty-two, married to a smoking-hot, perfect ten, and I have two kids in diapers. Our family calls New Hampshire home—a writer’s paradise—, and, well, there you have it: I am a writer in New England. However, as you will see, I am also a budding painter and illustrator. As for my day job, I am enrolled full time at University, and I am a stay-at-home modern dad.

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Ever since I was a small child, I wanted to be a writer. Perhaps, you too wanted to do something you felt passionate about and naturally drawn toward, but life did not pan out as hoped. That is what happened to me. I spent my entire twenties following the “rules.” I devoted myself to work, and I prided myself on clocking long hours of hyper productivity. I was the poster boy for the disillusioned American capitalist, and there was little room left, within, to spend time on my passion, my beating-heart, my calling, my writing. So, like all things left unused, my skill decayed—I had forgotten, it seemed, everything I ever knew. In order to write, and write well, I would need guidance; I needed to study creative writing. Ultimately, at thirty-years-old, I went back to school, and am earning a degree in Creative Writing. That was two-years-ago, and, now, I am set to finish my degree in March, 2022. So far, it is working out. I published, for the first time, this spring.

Many writers declare you cannot learn creative writing, and I think, for the most part, they are, excuse my French, full-of-shit. The arts are like anything else: if you want to get better, you have to work and selfishly carve out a schedule for your writing and push yourself beyond what you know and what is comfortable.

Yes, you can learn craft, and any writer worth his salt is devoted to craft, period. So, obviously, grammar and syntax are teachable, but what someone means when they say, “you cannot learn writing.”, they are talking about style, voice, and the artist’s attention to detail.

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Book Review: On Writing, by Stephen King

“What I took from this book? Stephen King is not superman, and neither does the aspiring writer need to be. King makes it clear, writers are made in the trenches, and those who put their nose to the grindstone, and never let anything stop their writing, succeed.”

One thing I know well: Art demands all of you. You can have no Plan B’s for life, or as one of my favorite song artist said, “The greats weren’t great, because a birth they could paint. The greats were great because they paint a lot” (Macklemore). The same laws apply to the art of writing fiction; if you want to be a good writer, you have to write. Talent makes you decent, obsession makes you great.

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https://music.apple.com/us/album/ten-thousand-hours/560097651?i=560097690
Ten Thousand Hours, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Once, I dedicated my life to writing, not to become famous or rich, but to do what I love, I have experienced incredible personal growth. Has it been easy? Hell no! Has it been the best experience of my life? Yes. If my wife asks, tell her she is the best experience. I am a writer, and that means, human psychology is my canvas. To write well, you have to write what-you-know, and your knowledge about what motivates, scares, angers, and affirms the individual person are the brushes you will use to paint page after page. The greatest thing about only writing what-you-know is there is always an excuse to keep learning. The bigger your worldview, the richer your work. All writing is autobiographical, it cannot be avoided, so writing helps me stay oriented as a person, neighbor, citizen, and lover.

—W. Alexander

Come back next week. I may speak more on the subject. Again, go ahead and follow me and share my post with those you know it would benefit. Also, feel free to contact me and discuss the writing life.

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Excerpt: A Current Project.

The next morning, Agnus and I singed in fields blanketed under heavy-fresh dews. Our hot breaths chimneyed above tilled ground, and sweet-earthy aromas filled the mist. Agnus kept busy practicing a new song he learned from the troubadour. Committed to not forget it, he sang its lyrics, over and over, until a breeze showered us with dew drops from the evergreens above.

            “Do you think that troubadour will stay another day?” Agnus asked.

            I hoped he would, but I was not so sure. His type never stayed anywhere for long. I scanned a red and orange sky for the village’s skyline. Four chimneys smoked above the tree line. The shortest chimney belonged to the tavern below. The traveler would be staying there.

            “He didn’t play the song,” I said.

            Agnus shrugged his shoulders and tilled a new row. The mist soon receded, and I began to sweat. By late morning, the earth was dry and hard. Twenty-three new rows later and I could no longer see our breaths.

            “That looks like trouble,” Agnus said.

            He was right. A black, windowless square block, towed behind six draft horses, emerged. The carriage was not alone: atop of it, a driver whipped the horses; and on the back, two-armed soldiers rode. Twelve-calvary-men followed the carriage, and two-squads of foot-soldiers followed them. A knight headed the column, and six uniformed in their master’s colors, rode in three rows of two behind their leader. Following the entire column: wagons of supplies, groups of artisans, prostitutes, and tradesmen followed much further behind. I counted thirty-three archers assisting the convoy.

I recognized the banners: a red octopus wrapped around a spear, both across a green background. The troops paid no attention to us as they passed. We smelt them before we laid eyes on them. All of them wore black tankards emblazoned with their master’s standard.

“They smell like the sea,” Agnus said.

“Good. We never quarrel with that kind,” I said.

“How would you know?”

“Lords don’t sail to pillage farmers. They are after bigger prizes.”

Back in town, Agnus and I toasted with a couple old pals who planted our lord’s fields further down the road. They stroked their grey beards and remembered a thousand-men at least. Others were more reasonable: they thought three hundred, because they weren’t sure there was one-thousand people in the whole world. Not after the last wave of plague. One farmer’s daughter, a real beauty, shared how her brothers all of a sudden grabbed her and her sisters by the mouth and pulled them into the forest, far from the road, far from the soldiers. All the women agreed, they shared the same experience.

“Did any come into town?” one old pal asked the barmaid.

“The whole town cleared out, but I stayed right behind my bar,” she replied. She handed them their beers. “They never left the road.”

“Has anyone seen Rufus?” I asked.

No one answered. The troubadour stepped out of his room.

“Well, you forgot a bit of news to tell us last night,” Agnus said.

“Ah, the jest is up,” he replied.

The troubadour climbed onto the bar. His blonde hair fell to his shoulders. He smiled and raised an empty cup.

“Cheers, my friends, and forgiveness, for I lied,” he said. “I serve her Lordship, the Countess, the leader of the very army that so peacefully passed through your hamlets today.”

The room erupted. The troubadour sat, ordered a drink, and waited for everyone to cool down. The door swinged open and standing in the midday’s light was Rufus and our Lordship, the Duke. Behind him, the Dutchess and Wet Nurse stood.

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Excerpt: Scene II, Act III of Novella—by me

This excerpt is not a stand-alone scene. However, I haven’t shared anything in nearly two-weeks, so, I thought, why not share today’s work, raw and unedited. Read the story from the beginning by reading this post first:

            Ishaq panted against the wall. The men screamed their prayers.

He shouted,“SILENT.”

They collected themselves, their breathing relaxed, and with unexplainable death, now, no longer imminent, the party started scanning the room. The air was thin, and their torches were barely embers. Ishaq scraped forward in the dark. The men were transformed into floating mouths. Their eyes veiled beyond their torches’ reach. Then he crashed into onyx eyes. Inches from his face, suddenly, out of the black, he snagged himself and his head found stone.

            Everyone squeeled at plates made of gold and bronze plates tumbling to the floor. The event relit fires-of-greed in the diggers’ eyes because any proper robber knows the clanks of treasure.

            “Was that gold or silver?” A dizzy Ishaq heard someone shout.  

            “A leopard,” he said.

—End of Chapter—

            Ishaq walked through the first-opened-gate back in Thebes. Bes avoided eye contact with the guards. An elderly tax collector appeared to brood over ordering them searched. They had filled their wagon with sand, and that, Ishaq did not forsee, would attract attention. There is plenty of sand on both sides of the wall. The thought, Ishaq could see, was painted on the man’s brow. They were fortunate when the old-man started to raise his hand, a dispute, further down the line, interrupted him, and saved them.

            The days passed slow. Four walls become cells of madness for those in hiding. Ishaq emerged the evening of the fifth day. His supplies wore out, followed by his spirit, and he went to market as if he had been there every day. He confused many shopkeepers with inventions of old-conversations whenever a guard was near. He considered this the right decision when, buying tobacco, he heard a temple priest tell a guard captain to follow anyone purchasing with gold or bartering jewels, plates and Ishaq quit listening when Nefari tugged his arm.

            “Oh, where have you been hiding?” she said. “I just left our magistrate’s house, I told him to put out the word to find you.”

            “Why would you do that?” he said.

            “Why? It isn’t like you to disappear. I thought,” Nefari hesitated. “I feared you were hurt.”

            That night he dug up the gold he hid, in the earth, under his pillow. He sneaked through his city’s quarter’s shadows. Hidden under the rampart’s shadow, Ishaq spotted the priest he eavesdropped from earlier. Two men emerged into moonlight. Their daggers shined. These men weren’t temple guards.

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When Creativity Is Exhausted

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

Most writers will face the existential crises of writer’s block. It is, perhaps, the most painful and draining season in our lives. The words won’t come; the blank page taunts you. Writer’s block is demoralizing, and, if like me, you already battle mental health issues, like depression, O.C.D., and anxiety, the struggle is ten-fold. I know, I know, there are writers out there, very successful ones, who claim writer’s block is a made-up-excuse. For example, Stephen King argues he has never struggled to concoct a sentence. I call bull sh!t!

For me, writer’s block often appears when I am in a season of performance anxiety. I live in the United States, and, here, the culture is toxic for creatives: if you are not producing, you are failing. I think anyone who discounts how hard it can be to write through these struggles are certainly not writers themselves. So, one way, and it may not be for you, I crawl out of writer’s block is to disregard the end goal; I focus on the process and not the ambition. In other words, ignore the noise.

This is a fact: stress kills art. Sure, there are those who are exceptions to this rule, but, again, focus on your process and stop comparing yourself to what others can do. Some writers will write and publish fifty-books, and some, probably me, will only publish five-or-six, but who knows the future? When you stress volume, you are actually inviting that little devil who goes by the name Capitalism to handcuff your creativity. No real artist, regarding any medium, goes in it for material success—yes, even though, it is natural to day dream money and fame. We do what we do, because it is who we are. There is no plan B option for those called to entertain or educate readers.

Truly, I tell you, you can easily spend a whole-life feeling behind everyone else or below their expectations, or you can embrace who you are and accept your whole self and not just what others accept about you.

So, I want to encourage you, dear follower, to remember why you write. Maybe write down a note about why you love writing and stick it to your computer or desk. Remind yourself that, first-and-foremost, the number one goal is to have fun. Leave your bitter haters to themselves, and cut from your life anyone who tries, even those who love you, to get you to compromise who you are. Art demands sacrifices.

You can do this; you can write today. Now, sit down, set a half-hour timer and force something—anything—onto the page. Trust me, if you do life “their” way, you’ll fail to write, and, ultimately, you will fail to live your true self. You are created to do this; your gifts are part of your identity, and don’t put yourself—and your art—second to anything.

I pray all of you, even the non-writers, have the courage to be yourselves. Truly, I tell you, you can easily spend a whole-life feeling behind everyone else or below their expectations, or you can embrace who you are and accept your whole self and not just what others accept about you. Now, write!

God bless,

—W. Alexander

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More from W. Alexander

My Writing: A Historical Fiction Sample

Below, my friends is a sample excerpt from my stories midpoint. Originally, I was going to keep this scene in my new novella, but I decided to cut it—I think—and write something different. As always, I want to share my hard work with all of you. Enjoy!

All Content Is Copyrighted and is prohibited to download, copy, and redistribute.

Ishaq ordered the diggers to work by moonlight, shovels scraped, hammers smashed, and picks stabbed stone. The work was difficult. The men were soaked; sweat and sand clung to their skin. Halfway up the northside of the tomb, above the crew’s silhouettes, Ishaq studied the valley. The night performed tricks; phantoms prowled the desert, lizards transformed into soldiers, and gusts became chariots. If pursued, he knew, the soldiers would stealth in the shadows until, at last, on top of his party. Four-vigilant hours passed, and by the time the men were spent, he heard rocks fall.

At the bottom, he found the diggers on the ground, their chests heaving, their eyes anxious. Bes was occupied with distributing each man his ration of water.

“It’s hollow there,” Bes said.

            “We’re too exposed,” Ishaq replied. “We must hurry.”

            Ishaq ordered the crew to build a fire and shield it with a thief’s chimney. Each man linked their sleeping blankets together and encircled the flames. Bes erected a fire inside the improvised wall. He warned if the faintest ember could be seen they risked discovery. Others retrieved the pots of water they carried from Thebes. They worked fast; one-by-one, the pots boiled, and then two diggers, juxtaposed on each side of a blanket, dragged the water. Ishaq helped them leverage each pot between two beams of cedar above the dig site and carefully tilt it over. The limestone absorbed each douse and hardened. They repeated the process until, at last, the stone cracked. One digger swinged his hammer in wide vertical arcs and smashed the stone where it split. His blows thundered across the desert before the wall collapsed, and a hole big enough for one man at-a-time to crawl through, appeared.

Ishaq ordered their cart and what supplies could not be carried into the tomb to be buried. They discovered soft ground west of the tomb, and there, beneath a sand dune, the crew hid their supplies and marked the spot with a pattern of rocks. One man started petitioning the Gods to not hide their marker before they had a chance to recover their belongings.

            “Stop praying,” Ishaq said. “The attention of the Gods is the last thing we need.”

            The diggers shared, between them, that rare conversation reduced to a glance which suggests each man is all the other one has left in the world. Ishaq knew that look well; he saw it often in the war.

            “You won’t need the Gods or anyone else once we’re done. You will have servants to wait on your wives, horses for your sons, and hunger only a bad dream.”

            Ishaq, as he spoke, wrestled with images of his father. The old man grew weaker with every sunrise, and, worst, the God’s his father loved, the very ones he faithfully fed their sacrifices, the ones he taught his children to fear, returned his faithfulness by removing his sight and with it, hope. He cursed how cruel the Gods were and vowed to hire a physician with his share.

            They were ready to enter at the blue hour; that in-between time where it is no longer dark, but not yet morning, when the desert holds its breath. The crew paused, and their eyes leveled on the stars; each committed the heavens to memory in case they’ve seen it for the last. One-by-one the diggers crawled through the hole; Ishaq went last. He wouldn’t risk one of the men not entering and alerting a nearby patrol, so to collect an easy ransom.

(630 Words)

To Be Continued

More from W. Alexander

Big Moments Count

“it felt like those moments in life where we sense magic; those days where every bone in your body feels good, and there is laughter and love overflowing, and you know how great that feels. I feel that.”

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Big Moments Count

Photo: W. Alexander, 2021

Hello, and welcome my readers, followers, subscribers, cyber stalkers, Russian hackers, and anyone else who finds themselves reading my blurb. Like you, and every other humanoid, I’m just as self-obsessed and self-consumed with my life and reality, and, like you, I steady my aim toward that-ever-close-or-distant American, white-boy success, dream. So, engage and celebrate with me and forgive my little boast. For, I request a toast.

Above, a rare photo of me wearing the latest in I have yard work to do fashion: work boots, Star Trek: Next Generation socks—out of laundry, sweat soaked old-man-polo and, of course, featuring accents of grass. My hobo looking ass is sitting where my driveway meets the street. Seconds before my wife captured this moment, I grabbed the mail and read a package-slip from the publisher. My heart stopped. To hell with the yard, I thought to myself. I sat down and tore through packaging. Inside it was my poem. Well, the poem is on page 15, but it is not about the poem, it’s more than that: it’s my first writing ever published in a book and people can buy this book. Is this some grand accomplishment? No, but damnit I feel grand, and I want to enjoy it, and I want to share this moment with you—yes, You! It’s no small feat to trust that people really want to hear my voice.

I set a goal in January that I would be published twice before 2022; I am halfway there. So, go ahead and imagine Bon Jovi level excitement at my house. I feel gratified, even relieved.

Trying to publish, so far, feels like dating. Shew! So, please, help me give myself a bathroom-mirror-thumps-up. My publishing virginity is taken. Big Moments Count.

Now, I promise not to annoy you any longer, but a major part of accomplishing something is to bask in it with your friends. I lack those, but I have readers and that is sort of the same thing but better. Thank you for allowing me, and helping me make possible this giant, little step in my career as a writer. This blog is, after all, about my writing journey.

—W. Alexander. I wrote this high—on life, lol.

P.S: I just don’t know how to explain the feeling I felt when I first read my name, my words, on a physical, published book. The best I can do is say it felt like those moments in life where we sense magic; those days where every bone in your body feels good, and there is laughter and love overflowing, and you know how great that feels. I feel that.

You’re welcome to subscribe and follow me if you haven’t yet. I’m not always charming, but I like to think I share interesting things.

A Nod To Derry’s Son

Derry, New Hampshire was the longtime home of Robert Frost. This poem is in dedication to my favorite poetry book: North of Boston, and his poem October.