Kaleidoscope (A Short Poem)

I found a little, toy kaleidoscope in old box of junk, and allowed myself to just enjoy it for a second. It was a simple, relaxing moment. My mind has been so preoccupied with the stress of all the chaos currently in the world, that feel I am no longer appreciating the small things in life. This little poem is both about that little moment, and about the simple but beautiful joy of those small moments.

 

Kaleidoscope

Discarded tinsel fragments,

Mirrors pieced from scrap-glass

Rubbed smooth. Mass produced

Cardboard tube and craft glue;

Four dimes at the ‘E-Z’ Mart.

 

But oh, we share a high tryst,

Eye and light;

Embracing the Disquiet of Writing (Part 3): Active Reading is Writing

Reading, when done at its very best, is a stormy, engaging, and edifying practice. But often I let reading be a passive and shallow act; I read a book, watch a movie, listen to a song, and am satisfied if it provides some form of emotional evocation, no matter how tepid, that I can use to “escape” (as the nomenclature goes) reality for a brief moment. 

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with occasionally delving into a work only to experience the gut, emotional response it offers — a practice satirically referred to as “emotional pornography.” Many works are created with emotional pornography as their primary purpose. The romance, action, and horror genres in both film and literature are inundated with such works. However, if I want to be an effective reader, which in turn will help me be an effective writer, I must understand that reading to experience emotional pornography is the lowest form of reading. Being a passive reader not only is a detriment to the reader, but also is mostly useless to the growing writer. If reading is ever to truly benefit me as a writer, the passivity with which I usually approach reading must be overcome.

Passive Reading: How Did We Get Here?

While the human need to classify and differentiate is one of our greatest strengths, it often also causes us to oversimplify. For example, the notion that reading is foundationally a passive activity: when I write, I actively produce my own words, but when I read, I passively take in someone else’s words. This idea is true on the surface. The problem arises with the inherent implication that reading always requires less active thinking than does writing. This, coupled with the “binge your entertainment” culture proliferated by streaming services, has led many to become (often unintentionally) passive readers. Is it any wonder that I overindulge in passive reading when both the entertainment industry and the common concept of reading encourages passivity in me?

Let me break here to say that I am not vilifying passivity. Art and entertainment must be emotionally consumed, and what a work makes us feel is the passive part of the experience. We usually can’t help laughing at a pratfall, or sighing at a particularly romantic kiss, or thinking “so freakin’ cool” as we watch huge explosions on a theater screen while mindlessly shoveling fistfuls of popcorn into our mouths hanging agape. And being able to feel in this way is simple, pure, and beautiful. But why stop here? Why not revel in our emotions and then move on to something deeper? The answer, in part, is because the proliferation of passivity is not the only problem.

For centuries, critical analysis has been identified as an academic endeavor. This is largely the fault of academia itself, and its history of actively attempting to separate itself from the general masses. However, any academic who honestly suggests that critical analysis of artwork be reserved only for academics is, ironically, nothing more than a pompous, gatekeeping, pseudo-intellectual. But this erroneous suggestion is nonetheless common, and has bred a distaste for critical reading in much of the general public. Many people internalize the idea that critically analyzing a work is somehow boring or takes away from their enjoyment of the work. On the contrary, critical analysis, first and foremost, is meant to deepen one’s enjoyment and appreciation of a work. Anyone can do it, college educated or not. And it’s also quite fun. 

Relishing in our emotional reaction to a work is certainly beneficial, but focusing too much on what a work makes us feel — as opposed to how and why it makes us feel — encourages lazy reading, and lazy analysis. Learning that critical analysis is part of the entertainment a work provides is beneficial to all readers, and paramount to all writers.

Critical Analysis is Engaging Entertainment.

Anyone who enjoys a good story ultimately enjoys analyzing that story, whether they believe that to be true or not. This is evident by the frequency at which critical discussion regarding a work can be found happening naturally in the general public.

One example of spontaneous analytical combustion of the general public can be found on the popular, bibliophile website Goodreads. The site, among other things, allows members to participate in conversations about books. The conversations are basically indefinite, ending only when the discussion has reached a natural conclusion. One conversation thread titled “Is Nick Carraway Gay?” — a discussion on possible homoerotic imagery surronding the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and how queering Nick might change the way the story is interpreted (a highly analytical endeavor) — has seen near daily posts for the past seven and half years … years. Regardless of what The Great Gatsby makes each of the posters feel, they all seem very interested in whether or not a queer reading of the novel is possibe, and how such a reading affects the narrative.

Such academic analysis by the general public tends to happen without a conscious awareness. The original post on the “Is Nick Carraway Gay” thread does not present the question as an analytical exercise, even though that’s exactly what it is. Doubtless, that had the original poster presented this question academically, the thread would not have seen such popularity or longevity. This practice is not uncommon. When a work explicitly asks to be analyzed, it usually presents the question naturally through the narrative, so that it avoids scaring away the general audience with stuffy academic rhetoric.

The masterpiece of the blockbuster genre, 1993’s Jurassic Park, intentionally and seamlessly presents the audience with the larger questions it wants the audience to consider. The lunch scene, which brilliantly takes place directly after the very uncomfortable feeding of the raptors scene, depicts the main cast discussing not only the moral dilemma of bringing dinosaurs back to life, but also the moral dilemma of scientific exploration in general. This scene is basically the thesis statement of the film. Here is a YouTube clip of that scene; what’s interesting here is the number of comments stating that, while this scene bored them as kids, it is one of their favorites as adults. Watching dinosaurs run amok is certainly fun, but the underlying themes up for critical discussion not only add layers of conflict and complexity to the story, but also give the story a greater sense of reality. Both make for a more engaging — and thus entertaining — experience.

The characters in Jurassic Park, in many ways, mimic the way readers should approach stories. Intellectually, the characters desire to have conversations about the dangerous genetic experiments taking place on Isla Nublar, but emotionally they still wanna see some freakin’ dinosaurs! When the emotional and the intellectual are in balance, then — I would argue only then — can a story be fully enjoyed. Achieving this balance is also how the writer can better their craft through reading.

Active Reading is Writing

When we actively engage a story, dissect it, analyze it, know it, we not only appreciate it on a deeper level, but also peer into how the author of the work was able to accomplish the feat of storytelling. We see that Jurassic Park is able to ask philosophical questions, because it builds characters that would naturally ask them. We understand that questioning Nick Carraway’s sexuality is worth doing, because his sexuality might impact his reliability as a narrator (by way of possible romantic attraction to Jay Gatsby). This peering behind the scenes cannot be done through emotional reading alone. So the more we read actively, the more we will understand how a good (or bad) story is constructed, and thus, be able to use that knowledge in our own writing. 

Perhaps the best part of active reading as a means to improve writing, is that it happens mostly through osmosis. A reader could closely examine a character description that seems impactful to them, or pick apart how a particular emotion was conveyed without stating it outright, but these close inspections of methodology will happen naturally through active reading. For example, the detailed description of Cathy Ames in John Steinbeck’s major novel East of Eden. Steinbeck describes Cathy with snake-like features, without ever making a direct comparison to snake; in doing this, Steinbeck establishes a subconscious mistrust of Cathy in the reader. The description is masterful. Studying the description alone is worth doing, but it would likely come up in any discussion about the novel, as this description fits so well into the novel’s running theme of paralleling the biblical book of Genesis. Actively reading East of Eden for its biblical parallels will indirectly expose the reader to a masterful take on character description. 

The skill of learning to read beyond our emotions, but without losing our emotions, is a skill that must be learned through practice. So reread a work, discuss a work with others, and don’t be afraid attempting to answer the more “academic” questions being asked about the work. I have heard complaints against all three of these practices, but never from those who do them frequently and have become comfortable with them. Those new to active reading might find it similar to opening a wine bottle with a shoe — possible, but also slow and frustrating. This was my experience, but active reading has since become almost “second nature,” and the benefits are certainly tangible.

Active reading not only deepens the appreciation and enjoyment one can get from a work, but also allows the reader to peer beyond the story and examine the tools and skills used to construct the piece. There is nothing to lose by mastering the practice of active reading, but there is much joy and many skills to be gained. So, as famed writer William Faulkner instructs: “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just as a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.”

American Song: A Poem (and an Introspection)

While the following poem is inspired by the ongoing racial tensions here in the United States, the seed for it came from both the American folktales of Br’er Rabbit and the Caribbean Crick Crack storytelling tradition. 

In the Crick Crack tradition (of which I admittedly lack a complete understanding) the storyteller might begin by calling out “crick” to the audience. The word crick has no definitive definition in this context, but is meant to ask for the audience’s attention, as if to say: “there is a story to be told, and the time to listen is now; will you listen?” The audience responds by calling out “crack,” indicating that they will listen and are listening. In this tradition, the storyteller might call out “crick” several times during the story, often to emphasize an important moment in the story, and always to again ask the audience “are you listening, do you hear me?” When I first learned about Crick Crack storytelling, the image of a storyteller physically crying out “listen!” stuck with me. Listening is critical.

As a white American, living in the predominantly white city of Portland, Oregon, my primary role in a movement like Black Lives Matter is that of listener. Yes, there is room for me to speak, and I also have a responsibility toward action; but when I speak, when I take action, I am participating in a struggle that is mine on the level of community (I am an American), but not mine on the level of individuality (I am white). I can sympathize with the movement and — as a gay man and survivor of conversion therapy — even empathize with the feeling of being “less than” and “other.” But it’s important to remember that intersectionality can only take us so far, hence why my role as listener is not only important to the people whose primary role is that of the speaker, but also important to me. There are aspects of the Black American struggle that I will never fully understand, but the more I listen, the more I will understand. 

This poem is my attempt at responding to a call to listen to a story about racial injustice that continues to be largely ignored, or unexamined. 

 

American Song

I see you on the side defined in difference from mine,

Of what is whisper-called the “necessary” Line

Sharp fine division — a fence that separates our lives.

I the man left, bereft by my own dire hand;

You the man right, tight from a br’er rabbit’s life;

Even in victorious twilight I recognize a subtle look

Your rebuttal they mistook for a disobedient cry;

The storytellers proclaim “the people can fly!”

Yet we nullify their words … and remain grounded.

 

Does my ignorance abound even in these lines? See that I try;

See I am no hunting hound, nor strong bear, nor fox so sly —

Though in the past I ground my tongue to silence for the Line

 

Through a whip-crack’s echo, the Line gives roles to embrace.

See it doles out such lies: “You’ve already met face to face!”

We try to oppose it, but fights like Tar Baby

And bites and mars ably with its convincing untruth —

Yet I see the riddle of the lie makes you as curious as I;

Show me, help me find a secret place to meet and sit,

Away from bears and foxes, where I can listen for a bit

Until words with lost meanings again can be writ’

And we sing in that sweetest, goodliest way as we echo out

— Crick —

The Oak Tree (A Poem)

I live in a place where the largest trees are all evergreens. Because of this, I find deciduous trees, like Oaks, to be quite intriguing (a fascination with the unfamiliar). I wanted to write about them. Nature in general — with its balance of chaos and order, randomness and patterns — seems almost designed to be explored in a creative way. Despite being a favorite subject of mine, it has been a long time since I’ve used nature as an inspiration for my writing; in order to correct that, and to satisfy my random desire to think about Oak trees, I wrote the following poem.

 

The Oak Tree

In the thriving forest stands a mighty Oak

Branches bursting forth in reverence to the sky

Like Nature’s silent firework. 

Blazing leaves mimic all colors of the flame

Honeyed yellows interspersed, as leaves start to wane

One

And two

And three at a time

 

And the tree dances

when the wind compels her to dance

 

A cleansing cold intermingles in the air,

Sign of winter and the emptiness it brings;

The frigid ground stifles the roots

And Tree cannot bear to keep the tepid crown,

The elegance wanes as brown leaves begin to fall

One

And two

And three at a time 

 

And the tree dances

when the wind compels him to dance.

 

Frigid countenance succumbs to Spring and sun

And the canopy sprouts new life across the gold horizon.

Bees and hummingbirds come with glee

Sprouts bloom in a sea of pink, purple, and white

And rain soft petals and pollen into the air.

One

And two

And three trees are born

 

Dancing toward the sun

when the wind compels them to dance.

Embracing the Disquiet of Writing (Part 2): Redefining Writer’s Block

Every writer — whether journalist, novelist, poet, or academic — experiences the frustration of the blank page. This frustration comes when one, despite a desire to write, experiences an inability to put words down on paper. The internet is bursting with tips and tricks on how a writer can overcome this hindrance, but the underlying questions of “what is this feeling?” and “why do I feel it?” tend to remain unanswered, or outright ignored. If I (or any writer) cannot tackle these questions, the tips and tricks used to combat the frustration of the blank page will forever remain a palliative solution at best. Without introspection, we remain, creatively, like a baby bird in the nest — flightless. However, once these questions are personally addressed, not only will the act of writing become more enjoyable, but so too will the quantity and quality of one’s work improve. Let me explain.

The Writer’s Block Myth

“Writer’s block” (not knowing what to write about) is the colloquial term for the aforementioned frustration. As a concept, writer’s block is a universally felt affliction; and despite the abundance of tips writers have cultivated over the centuries to overcome writer’s block, it is still something all writers should expect to suffer through on a regular basis, and for the rest of their lives. In other words, the creative mind simply isn’t always creative. The one consolation being that writer’s block is mostly associated with beginning a new project; it is different from the pauses writer’s take when in the midst of a project, as they determine the next best route forward. With a pause, the mind is full; with writer’s block, the mind is empty. Let’s pause, and ask a question. Does this view of writer’s block make any sense? 

Experience, the brain, and the art of writing itself all point to the concept of “writer’s block” being little more than (if you’ll allow some poetic license) a myth. When I write, I have a wealth of lived experiences from which to draw. I exist in a world inundated with essential questions just begging to be explored, and which I can explore with a biological organ that can’t stop creating: my brain. My brain is so dedicated to creation that even when it’s shut down for repairs, it continues telling itself bizarre, sometimes nonsensical stories in the form of dreams. And my method of exploration is an open and freeing one; writing is a vast collection of genres and subgenres that I can use, subvert, and hybridize. If a person who has identified themself as a writer can answer “what do I enjoy?” and “what do I care about?” they must also be able to answer “want do I want to write about?” 

Perhaps I’ve misidentified the concept. Maybe writer’s block isn’t a question of what, but of how. Writer’s block would then be “I know what to write, but the exact words are not coming to me.” But upon examination, this definition also falls apart. Of course I am unsure of the exact words! Writing is, as previously mentioned, a form of exploration, so using “but how!?” as an excuse to stare aggressively at the blank page is antithetical to the very definition of writing. The right words, the “how,” can be found only through the act of writing. When I start to think otherwise, I am falling into the trap of taking the first draft too seriously. 

The Hideous Beauty of the First Draft

Several years ago, I was discussing the craft of writing with other would-be writers. Editing came up as a topic. One of the writers — the kind of person who would wear a fancy scarf in July (January, for Southern Hemisphere readers) — said they were put-off by editing, claiming they prefer to write one sentence, one word, at a time, to make sure everything is perfect before moving on to the next sentence. This struck me as a both tedious and self-defeating method. When I allow the creation of the first draft to be an unfettered and even disorganized process, I always discover a vast number of idea-seeds (a benefit I rarely reap from first-draft-perfectionism). I also have fun. The mind must be allowed to explore its own thoughts during the creation of the first draft, because that is how the creative mind discovers not only what to say, but also how it will say it. So if writing is simultaneously the desire to say something and the exploration of how to say it, could there be a less productive method than attempting to say it perfectly the first time? Certainly not. First drafts are meant to be hideous experiments.

In the movie Alien Resurrection, scientists attempt to clone series protagonist Ellen Ripley, in order to extract the alien DNA currently inside her. Ripley eventually discovers one of the scientists’ early attempts at this experiment; the creature is a horrifying blob, with both alien and human body parts protruding outward from its amorphous central mass. As the creature reaches one of its slimy, disfigured limbs toward Ripley, it says only “kiiiill meeee.” This creature is analogous to what first drafts are, and kill our first drafts we must — not so much with fire, as Ripley does in the film, but with editing. As the saying goes, the first draft is merely “getting your ideas on paper.” Editing is where the real creativity begins; or as writer Shannon Hale more poetically puts it: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box, so that later, I can build castles.”

Taking the first draft too seriously is a common pitfall that is easily overcome. I must simply accept that first drafts are messy. When staring at a blank page, pen hovering tentatively over the paper, I sometimes hear that familiar voice saying “This is going to be difficult, because I don’t know how to put into words what I want to write; I really want to get this right, but I’m not sure I can.” I’ll acknowledge that I feel that way, but then I must do what I know works: power through, and allow my rough draft to be messy, knowing it will come together during the editing process. However, when I first adopted this mentality, my writer’s block did not immediately go away. There was a more serious issue I had to deal with, the issue of discomfort. 

The Nest

Flight is often used as a metaphor for creativity, but many who use this metaphor forget that, in nature, flight is often first achieved by being forcefully pushed from the nest. Though the creative mind may have support from friends and family, it is up to the creative mind to push itself out of the nest. American writer Kurt Vonnegut gave the same advice when he wrote: “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” To stay in the metaphorical nest for fear I won’t develop my creative wings is to ensure that I will remain forever flightless. And what is the concept of writer’s block — being too afraid to write, or too afraid I won’t say the right words — if not a nest we can snuggle into and dismiss the call of our artistic selves? “The cliff is too high, the wind too strong, to attempt flight today. Perhaps tomorrow.” How much easier it is to believe that the frustration of the blank page is a common ailment that befalls all writers, than it is to accept that self-doubt is responsible for keeping our words imprisoned.

Eventually, I began to not only question the notion of writer’s block, but also examine my own self-doubts. I came to realize that in order to embrace the inherent vulnerability of creating — as opposed to letting the fear of it hinder me — I had to find enough confidence in my writing to allow myself to write. I tried many different ways of dealing with my self-doubt, but in the end, two actions were critical in getting me to jump out of the nest.

First, I accepted that my fears and self-doubts were foundationally valid; the notion that fear is simply “false evidence appearing real” does the creative mind little good. If my creative process is not a careful and intentional one, I am more likely to miss an opportunity to expand a character, ignore a broken rhythm, settle for the wrong word — I am more likely to do the one thing every writer fears the most: miscommunicate. But the fear of miscommunication is, perhaps, one of the best tools a writer can use in achieving clarity. 

Second, I accepted that mastering the creative process is a lifelong practice, and the only true method of practice is to actively create. Rarely, if ever, does a creative individual find their voice early in their career. For example, look at the writings of John Steinbeck, one of the most influential American writers to have ever lived. Works like The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and East of Eden, continue to garner wide readership and foster long discussions; but most of Steinbeck’s earliest novels like A Cup of Gold, The Pastures of Heaven, and To a God Unknown garner near obscurity and foster mostly silence. For my whole creative life, I will be working to better myself; the more time I waste obsessing over the difference between where I am and where I want to be, the less likely I am to ever achieve that desired talent. 

Like many writers, I used to buy into the myth of writer’s block, believing it was a common phenomenon that somehow existed outside of myself. But when I finally questioned this concept and began dealing honestly with the fears and self-doubt inherent to the writing process, the frustration of the blank page became less and less common. The quality and quantity of my writing improved, and I began to have more fun. Discomfort, messy first drafts, and self-doubt are not imperfections to be exorcised out of our creative process, but rather they are raw materials that once embraced, harnessed, and utilized become valuable tools for the betterment of our own talents. That which once prevented us from writing, can be the method through which we find our voices.

Escaping Shame, Finding Pride

The first time I thought about getting married, I was a second grader. I remember thinking, in my seven-year-old mind, that marriage would be fun, because it meant living in my own house with the man that I loved — the “man that I loved” was, of course, only a daydream at the time. I was not one of those boys who ever thought of girls as “icky” or “stupid,” and as much as I loved being friends with girls, I simply never imagined growing up to marry one of them. I recognized that many men did marry women, which was great for them; but I would marry a man, which would be great for me. And this felt normal. I have met many gay men during my life who recall feeling inherently abnormal, or different from other boys when growing up, but I had no inherent feeling of abnormality. Not until it was thrust upon me. 

When I got older, I was introduced to the concept of “gay is sin” — or what I’ll call here, “The Abomination Narrative” (If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. Leviticus 20:13); only then, under the repressive shadow of fear and shame, did I think to question myself.

I grew up with loving, but religious family members, who worked hard to keep me safe from evils such as masturbation, the Democrats, and homosexuality. My first introduction into The Abomination Narrative came through the book Every Young Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker, and Mike Yorkey, which my mother bought for me and which remains a popular buy in Christian communities. I read the book lackadaisically — tips on how to remain heterosexually pure when there were so many hot, sensual girls ready for the taking was not what gay, chubby, awkward adolescent me found appealing. However, the book ends with a chapter on what to do if your attractions are for the same sex. Here was advice I was starved for! But the chapter is short, and says only that homosexuality is against God’s plan, and that this book does not have the tools to help in this area. In other words “you have a sin problem greater than the sin problems discussed in these pages, please seek additional help.” 

Did I have a sin problem? I looked to the Bible. The infamous verses of Leviticus, and the fear-mongering propaganda of the Sodom & Gomorrah story planted the seeds of shame.

When I got into high school, the pudgy awkwardness of adolescence, coupled with the growing shame I now carried with me, had subdued the rambunctious friendliness I’d possessed as a young child. Despite high school being my first exposure to other queer people, I lacked the confidence to actually become friends with any of the other queer kids. But seeing them exist was an inspiration. I even managed to come out to two of my best friends at the time. Those first little steps toward coming out were invigorating; I felt more confident, more courageous. I felt as if my fear and shame were vanishing. Shortly after, I told my choir director that I would like to audition to be in the tenor section (I was previously a baritone), because any man can sing baritone, but tenor was what real men sang, and I was a motivated, courageous young man — in hindsight, I was having a bit of diva moment, but I did make it into the tenor section. I was starting to experience pride.

But this pride was taken from me, after such a painfully short time.

My sophomore year, I developed quite the crush on a boy in my drama class. He was tall and had a bright, toothy smile that betrayed a friendliness beyond his often stoic veneer. In our school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he played Oberon, King of the Fairies; and I was infatuated, as though, like the hapless lovers in the play, I were under the power of a spell. Unable to keep these feelings in, but far from able to express them to my crush directly, I wrote a note to a friend detailing my fragile knees and tummy butterflies. Before I could deliver the note, it was found by my mother, herself an adherent to The Abomination Narrative she’d heard propagated from the pulpit her whole life. When she confronted me about the note, the shame I thought I was free of came rushing back in a moment. This self-shame was compounded by a year and half of conversion therapy. I would come out to no one else, not even my closest friend, for the rest of my high school career. 

Conversion therapy taught prayer, and seeking God as a means toward a heart and mind change. I didn’t want to disappoint my family, or church friends, or God, so I prayed. I prayed desperately, even buying a prayer shawl — colored white, gold, and purple — which I would drape over my head. The shawl was made of tightly woven fabric, which trapped my body heat, adding to my prayers a fervid oppression that distracted me from the tears and sweat mingling on the floor beneath my knees. I would sometimes convince myself that my attractions were fading, only for the sight of dark, masculine eyes or a jaw-line of coarse stubble to bring back the shame of being an abomination. Finally, my prayers culminated in the fever dream of one humid, summer night.

I lie in bed, teeth clenched and knuckles white, as I wrestled with myself, and with God. I demanded, from both Him and myself, an answer to the question: “if being gay is a sin, why does redemption cause me such unbearable pain?” 

I received no answer from God, and only platitudes from the church. But how would I answer the question? I felt a spark of curiosity about what queerness looked like outside of The Abomination Narrative. Perhaps I was looking for redemption in the wrong place.

I felt disillusioned about my sexuality as I entered my university years, but decided to follow my curiosity. I tentatively took the opportunity to participate in a project working with the Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN) and the Oregon Historical Society. The goal of the project was to have students record interviews with elderly LGBTQ individuals for historical preservation. What struck me the most about the people I interviewed was their joy. Despite having lived through such dangerous times for queer individuals, they had so many funny, cheerful, happy stories to tell. This inspired me to know more. I devoured books and articles on the science and history of queerness. I discovered a rich heritage of writers, artists, politicians, philosophers, intellectuals, and activists who had been openly queer. I began writing about both the history of the LGBTQ Rights movement, and the activists who bravely fought for these rights in the modern day*. My writing and research taught me that, despite having grown up in a religion that preached The Abomination Narrative as fact, I had to stop believing the “correct” things, and start believing the true things. 

If so many others before me had accomplished this, and been able to lead happy, fulfilling lives as proud, queer individuals, then I could too. 

Having discovered that there was nothing wrong with me — that this shame was not my own — I picked up where I had left off my sophomore year of high school, and started coming out to more people. This process wasn’t easy at first, but I braved my way through. When I finally came out to my closest friend, who had been brought up in the same religion, she looked at me and said: “Daniel, I don’t know how, but I knew you were going to come out to me today. I’m happy you did, because I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and I think what the church taught me about gay people is wrong.” What a gift those words were. The more I came out, the more comfortable and confident I became with myself, and the more hope I had for the future. 

After holding on to the shame and confusion of The Abomination Narrative for several years, coming out was like the joy of finding a precious heirloom I’d long since given up on as forever lost. When I came out, I found my Pride. 

——


*These writings were compiled into a longer piece, Still Fighting for Stonewall, which was published with The Pacific Sentinel magazine. Sections of this piece can be found on the magazine’s website.

Embracing the Disquiet of Writing: An Introduction

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

—Thomas Mann

In life, a person has many ambitions. To the individual who holds them, these ambitions represent a more desirable or higher version of themselves — a version they hope to make a reality. But far from becoming a reality, these ambitions often remain in the nebulous realm of fantastic possibilities. And why not, when it is far more comforting to relish them in a daydream — like elephants wallowing in a cooling trench of mud — than it is to accept the striving and discipline these ambitions demand? As philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche puts it in his work Human, all too Human, “They fear their higher self because, when it speaks, it speaks demandingly.” This has not only been the experience of many artistic people I’ve known, but also been my personal experience.

When I was a child, I drew pictures on the blank pages of my mother’s old college notebooks. Each drawing was a continuation of the one on the previous page. By doing this, I was able to form crude stories, often dealing with the horrors of human / dinosaur interactions — this hobby began a short time after my family acquired a copy of Jurassic Park on home video. I like to look at these Crayola-marker stories as coming from the part of me that always had ambitions to be a writer. However, the older I got, the more I realized how much of myself this ambition would ask of me. Despite this realization, I avoided the demands of my dream for years, and turned any excuse that came to my mind into a valid reason to hold off writing until “tomorrow.” Though I’ve managed to write a small collection of work, some of which has even been published, I have mostly approached my writing only as a hobbyist and not as a writer.

I’ve heard it said that writing and reading provide an escape from the everyday world. While I agree with the sentiment, I find the idea problematic. Escapism for its own sake is fine, but creating anything beyond it is often an exhausting process. But despite the equation of writing with escapism and indulgent woolgathering* (word of the day calendar), the public conscience seems to be partially aware of the inherent challenge of writing, as indicated by many pop-cultural references about the craft.

In season one, episode 13 of Community, character Annie Edison, upon realizing she may have a knack for journalism, quips “No one will care about my time in rehab if they think I’m a writer!” In season 23, episode six of The Simpsons (not that I condone watching the later seasons), Lisa, while trying to write a book, exclaims “Writing is the hardest thing ever!” There is also another quote I remember, but cannot for the life of me find; I want to say it’s from Family Guy, in which a character says about writing (and I paraphrase) “This is impossible. No wonder every writer ever either became an alcoholic or shot themselves.” 

I can relate to these quotes. On the other hand, some of the most satisfying moments of my life have been seeing my work in print. Despite the obvious difficulties, the experience of having written is always rewarding. If I can only power through the difficulties and embrace the demands of ambition, I will find the satisfaction of accomplishment on the other side. And that is ultimately the purpose of this blog. I love all forms of writing and have an eclectic range of topics I’d like to write about, but I will ultimately fall short of this goal, if I continue to put off a serious commitment to writing until “tomorrow.” This blog will stand not only as an encouragement for me to write, but a place where I can explore the fears and resistance I am bound to face as I now take up the task of striving seriously toward the demands of my ambition.

When one forgoes the excuses and resistance separating them from their goals and ambitions, one must face the fears of rejection, misunderstanding, and failure. Terrifying possibilities to say the least, but so small when compared to a fear so great, it is second only to death: the fear of looking back on one’s life with regret. So, today, I’ll write.

*Woolgathering (n): Indulgence in aimless thought or dreamy imagining