guard the gift

Last night at Culture Changers in Cleveland, we talked about resumes and the professional culture of You’re Not Good Enough, and how this message destroys creativity. I wanted to share the mental process that I use to guard creative time from professional time (a.k.a. fear time).

1) Recognize the difference between Fear and Creativity.

Getting hired requires creativity, but it’s a twisted kind of creativity. Selling anything (including yourself, a human being) requires a certain amount of showmanship. Showmanship involves a certain amount of special effects, even smoke and mirrors. Smoke and mirrors are lies. Obviously, listing real skills on a resume isn’t lying; but telling yourself that your value lies only in your employability is a lie. Lying to yourself is not creative; it’s harmful.

Creative time is based on truth. Truth comes from outside us, not from our internal fear of not being cool or financially secure. (A lot of people try to make it as artists for those two reasons. They’re wasting their time and ours.)

2) Learn to feel content. 

I struggle with obsession over writing, and I’ve wasted a lot of emotional energy feeling discontent. If you’ve been given a gift in a certain area, God will bring those creative times to you when you’re ready. That might mean that a weak of hell with no creative time is exactly what you need. God will always give you exactly what you need, even if you don’t like it.

3) When art comes, get out of the way.

The vision will come. You’ll channel again. Recognize the stirrings, when universal beauty is whispering to you with its latest manifestation. Drop everything at that instant, as much as you can, and do art.

Recently, I drank too much coffee throughout the day. When I was trying to fall asleep, my mind was going crazy. I lay awake for probably 2 hours, and I got the backbone of a new novel. I grabbed a notebook and crept into the bathroom so I could write it all down without waking up my wife. I felt awful the next day from the loss of sleep, but it was totally worth it. This story is going to be huge. I got the ideas recorded, and even that act itself laid the ground for further thinking and further uncovering of this drama.

Commit to your art by removing your ego from doing your art. Love your art. Die for your art. It’s the only way.

manifesto, take ii: change of plans

I am not going to write the next book in the Vaulan Cycle. Instead, I’m going to write a near-future Internet thriller.

Over the last 6 days, I have had a bit of an identity crisis, and a total change of direction. I may complete Make Worlds With Me, Book III in the Vaulan Cycle, some time in the future. But for now, I’m giving it a rest. The weight of the mythology spoke to me a lot more in my early-mid 20s, but it has stopped speaking to me. I still enjoy escaping into imaginary worlds (been reading The Worm Ouroboros–you should too), but the imaginary world in which I invested 6 years and probably 500,000 words has stopped nourishing me. Instead, it has become a slavedriver trapping me in a particular kind of cosmology in which everything must have a metaphysical analog in reality, or at the least a metaphysical implication. It’s a kind of narrative neurosis, as it repeats and repeats all of my past experiences with my favorite stories rather than embracing and processing the present. This new novel will do that. It will extrapolate our present relationship with the Internet into a near future, 1-2 generations distant.

I am really concerned about how we interact with and absorb ourselves in The Cloud. This new novel is tentatively titled I Am The Cloud.

Don’t know why I’m saying this now, as you won’t be able to read it for several years, until it is published by a traditional publisher (NOT self-published).




Some people may not understand what I’m doing here. The Vaulan Cycle has science fiction elements, but it is no more concerned with science than it is with fiction. There is no genre for my work. Though it may carry the legacy of certain authors (or not–I may be a delusional narcissist), it is not a copy of them, and it belongs in the science fiction stacks no more than their work does.

A criticism was leveled against A Chair Between The Rails that things come out of nowhere and for no reason. When I was 18 or 20, a deer came running across a road at night and hit my car before I could stop. Similarly, I have twice had alarming and incredible visions of what I believe was some real manifestation of God. I did not will these experiences to happen. Otherwise, believe me, I would have continued to will that beauty into existence every day since. These elements in God’s narrative of my life were rather poorly plotted, coming with no foreshadowing, almost like a random string of events slashed with strange bursts of clarity here and there. Guess God hasn’t yet learned how to write tightly-plotted fiction with commercial appeal.

For those who are confused by the two published books of the Vaulan Cycle, I hope you’ll try multiple readings, and reading them in order. (Book I, then Book II, not publication order!) Believe me, there is a lot there thematically and narratively that you might miss the first time around. All books of the cycle will, by nature, have to reference each other, and this (admittedly) may make a given book difficult to understand on its own. I left the Vaulan Cycle in a difficult state because I respect you all too much to teach you the inner workings of this story. Believe me, you can figure it out, but you may have to give it more than one cursory beach reading. Hey now, respect yourselves as readers, and trust me as an author. 😉 It’s all there. You just have to unpack it for yourself.

I will warn you, though, that Make Worlds With Me (Book III) is going to be even stranger than the other two. It starts right at the end of The Tower of Babel, as Austin et al. have just come through the portal to a paradisiacal planet. Everyone is now immortal. They’ve become gods, and they have the power to accept or reject certain divine transformations that have been given to them. The story doesn’t inhabit a linear timeframe, but rather something like a stack of layers of time, or stacked circles of time that reference past, present, and future in endless reverberations. I did not invent this feature; it came out as I continued to unpack what the text wanted to be. You are not going to understand it on the first read. Heck, I can barely understand it as I try to channel it. Still, I’m pretty stoked about it.

Finally, to those of you who know me personally, I hope I’ve never pressured you to praise my work or made you feel that you had to spout false platitudes about it. If the Vaulan Cycle leaves you saying “huh,” I’m really not offended. I am not writing these stories for recognition, fame, praise, or money. I am writing them because they come to me. They are so huge, you have no idea. I carry them with me everywhere, all day, every day, and all through the night. They give me incredible amounts of anxiety and unexpected glimpses of joy. If they mean something to you too, that gives me another kind of joy entirely. If they mean nothing to you, simply pass them on to someone who may like them. Or trash them! It’s up to you. But the Vaulan Cycle goes on.