David Bowie: Holding On to Odd

David Bowie mugshot

David Bowie proved he could even rock a mugshot, shown here during his 1976 arrest for marijuana possession in Rochester, NY. Image: Internet Archive/New York Police Department, Public Domain.

Like so many people today I feel the need to talk about David Bowie…

I had another post planned but sometimes life intervenes in the form of death, ripping up our carefully recorded itineraries and when that happens you have no choice but to go where the shreds of paper take you. Like so many people today I feel the need to talk about David Bowie and what he meant to me. I didn’t learn about his death until this morning, but the first words I heard today was my boyfriend’s voice saying, “David Bowie died.” What? I was not about to believe this nonsense. “David Bowie died.” Indignant, I snort and shake my head and demand to know what happened. Does my boyfriend mumble something about cancer or do I read that later… I can’t recall.

Changes: Turn and Face the Strange

Then in the afternoon I was talking with a friend about it and my friend said that the first thought he had upon hearing the news was, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that we’re going to be in a world without David Bowie. There’s always been David Bowie.” And I realized that was my first thought that morning, only it wasn’t like words in my head but rather a wave of feeling striking me down. I was shocked. I was rattled, confused. And so very heartbroken. Everything felt strange and I didn’t want to face it. I hadn’t been up long and it seemed as if I were still dreaming. I stomped away from my boyfriend. I got the coffee going. I drew a bath. For a good twenty minutes or more I sat in that tub and wept.

Thank You, David Bowie

Dazed, I got out of the bath and sought out Facebook. I needed to see others process the news for it to become real. I also held the vain, fragile hope that I’d discover this news was just another tacky celeb death hoax. The first thing I saw on my newsfeed, however, was a link to comedian and author Sara Benincasa‘s blog post Thank You, David Bowie, From The Weird Kids –a moving testament to how Bowie has made generations of misfits feel that it’s okay not to jive with the status quo. Her post was validating to say the least. Benincasa articulated everything I was feeling this morning and her words were an echo to the angry weird kid inside me now howling over the loss of its king. I had the great pleasure of attending a panel discussion Benincasa participated in at the 2011 National Conference for Media Reform in Boston where she really stole the show imo, so when I saw the byline I knew her take on Bowie’s passing would be worth a read. So I demand everyone click on the above link and read Benincasa’s piece in full, but the part that speaks to  me the most is this:

He was the patron saint of all my favorite fellow travelers: the freaks, the fags, the dykes, the queers, the weirdos of all stripes, and that most dangerous creature of all: the artist. He was the crown prince(ss) of the unusual. He was so marvelously, spectacularly weird, and he gave so many oddballs, including this one, hope. (Sara Benincasa, 2016)

Thank you, David Bowie, for being there for all of us oddballs and thank you, Benincasa, for so poetically and candidly expressing our gratitude.

From Facing the Strange to Holding On to Odd

So what else do I have to say about David Bowie? What else do I want you to hear about? In a word, DELIVER. Don’t hold yourself back. Doesn’t his death scare you that you might be? I know I am. I’m afraid I am becoming too normal, too complacent, and too damned timid with my dreams and creative aspirations. I want to be encouraging to my fellow writers and writers-to-be who find my blog. I want people to find their path in their own time, and relish the baby steps and yet… NOT TODAY. TODAY I SAY FUCK THE BABY STEPS. SNEER AT NORMAL. THE ONLY TIME IS NOW. Get out there and hustle. Do something that terrifies you artistically: toss aside that tired journal and start your novel already, send out that manuscript that’s been gathering dust, heck, go to a spoken word night and shout your soul into the mic. Be loud and weird and paint your face if you want to, hold on to that weird kid you are inside, that space oddity darling. Bowie spent a lifetime facing the strange for us. The least we can do is meet him halfway.

oxox RIP, Mr. Jones xoxo

Invite Yourself to the Table of Creation

Invite yourself to the table.

Invite yourself to the table! Image: John Tenniel, The Nursery Alice edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Public Domain.

Beginning is an Invitation –Add Yourself to the Guest List!

In my last post Writing, Rule One: Just Begin I discuss how hard it can be for the aspiring writer to get started because it is so easy to doubt oneself. Now let’s dig a little deeper into that concept. Writers, and other artists for that matter, are extending an invitation to themselves every time they attempt to make something. They are inviting themselves to the table of creation!  That can be terrifying because, firstly, you need to believe you deserve to have a spot at that table, and secondly, you need the courage to assert yourself once you’re there.

No Room? No Way! You Stay Put.

Sometimes that table is just you at your writing desk, but when you’re actively promoting your work and interacting with other creatives that table can get mighty crowded and feel anything but supportive or inviting. It can get downright nasty and at its worst feel like the Mad Hatter’s tea party with everyone shouting at you, “No room!” But when you feel something or someone push you from that table that’s when you got to push right back and re-invite yourself to the tea party all over again: that invitation is the nucleus of beginning, and the perpetual reminder that YES! YOU BELONG HERE.

One of the things that really got me thinking about this struggle was reading Arielle Bernstein‘s recent Rumpus interview with writer & yogi Jen Pastiloff. It’s an inspiring, lively piece that I encourage everyone to check out, but I was particularly struck by Pastiloff’s description of her empowerment workshops for young girls that combine writing exercises with yoga/movement. Pastiloff states, “One of the things that comes up most frequently at my workshops is the prevailing belief of ‘I am not enough.’ ” How many of us first sidle up to the table of creation with such limiting beliefs? Probably all of us! But with creation can come strength and a renewed confidence. Trust that your impulse to create something, and to express what is inside of you, is a sign of your worthiness to participate in the process.

Invite Flight and the Power of Putting Yourself First

Other times you may find it’s your own baggage you’re bringing to the table that is undermining your work (or even luring you away from the table altogether). Maybe you don’t have anyone in your life who supports your writing, or maybe you’re just finding it a struggle to keep up a creative routine alongside work, school, family, etc. I have a few tips on how to deal with the unsupportive beasties that I’ll be sharing with you down the road but as for the balancing act …well, it is hard, I won’t kid you, and there is NO one answer to that problem. All I can say is be mindful of your creative truth, why writing is important to you and what you are trying to achieve, and watch out for those times when you decline that invite to the table. What’s your RSVP? Oh I’m not really a writer, who am I kidding? I’m taking time away from my family working on this and that’s not right. Watch out for such limiting thoughts! Sure, there will be days when you will just not get to your writing, but hey it happens. Just don’t let those crumpled, discarded invites pile up! Your time at the table of creation is time that you deserve.

Coming up soon on Bowen Blogs: I kibbitz about characterization, ponder the power of the gender fluid writer, dish about the books I’m digging du jour, plus I answer the question, “What’s the deal with the word playwright?”

Writing, Rule One: Just Begin

Just Begin

A new year is almost here…set your intentions!

To begin writing, just begin!

Just begin. Not a very novel way to begin, I grant you. It’s not exactly what I’d call a stellar hook (more on hooks later), but you can’t deny it gets the job done. My goal today was to get things started and I have. I have begun this blog series after much, much procrastinating. You know the old saying 90% of writing is rewriting? Well let’s just call BS on that right now because it gives rather short shrift to that oft-dismissed writing tool: Procrastination. I’d give procrastination a solid 30% when quantifying the writing process and throw in naps, despair, and caffeination breaks …but don’t hold me to firm figures. Hey I’m a writer. Math was never my strong suit.

Beginning is hard.

Really, the worst. Admittedly, finishing is pretty hard too. I mean there are a lot of unfinished novels out there, and all too much blogus interruptus clutters the web. But still I say beginning is harder. Beginning requires intention and intention requires belief that what you are setting out to create is something worthwhile. That takes guts. That takes chutzpah. That takes not letting Fear win. I had to wrestle with that big beast Fear twenty times to get in front of this keyboard today because everywhere around us are voices saying, “Why bother? You aren’t any good.” And maybe you’re not. Maybe I’m not (Psst! I really am good but roll with my self-deprecating hypothetical for a sec). Even if we stink, we’ll never get better if we don’t try. So think of me as that voice that is saying, “Go ahead. Bother.” True you might just end up bothering me and we may hate ourselves in the morning but, come on, did you really have anything else planned?

No one reads blogs anymore.

Yeah, I know. Trust me I know. I have a lifestyle blog and my traffic isn’t anything rock star ninja spectacular. I have a small group of hardcore fans and occasionally my reach stretches farther. But I’m no Goop or HuffPost. I’m a small fry. But I think I have something to say worth saying and I want to use this portfolio site to do more than just screech, “Look at Me!” So I began. Just began. And soon, darn it, I’ll have to begin again. Can I do this? Gonna try!

So what’s in it for you?

Beats me! That is on you. But a few of the things I hope to offer here are (in no particular order): writing tips, musings on the writer’s life, support, rants on grammar, rants on anything really, book reviews, and just general smart prose on art, creativity, life, you-name-it and a cherry on top, plus a million dollars for the first 10 readers who comment on this post. Ok, that last one about the million dollars was a lie. Rule One of Writing: Just Begin. Rule Two of Writing: All Writers Lie.

Your assignment, Class, is to practice Rule One.

It doesn’t have to be a novel or even a postcard. It could be a single word. Write it down and guess what? You just began! Now do it again. And again. And again. And yes, again. Beginning never ends. I told you it was hard. Farewell until next time, when I begin again.