The Producer, A Lazy Writer’s Travel Guide

English: Old barn in Rural Ontario, Canada

Let’s set the scene.

I live in the boonies, the absolute rural environment. Out here, chickens run free everywhere, neighbors have four legs, and roads are mostly unpaved. We’re talking rural with a capital “R.” For a writer, nothing could be more relaxing or peaceful. However, it does tend to take you away from the mainstream.

I get requests to do media work, either in front or behind the camera. It’s one of the niceties of being a writer and I enjoy these encounters. However, I’m not fond of short trips, especially if they involve dealing with the TSA and their kin. These one or two-dayers are a complete drag, so I just don’t do them anymore.

Enter the TV producer and his or her crew. They want my help on a series, a production or some interviews. I balk about going outside my primal space. You can see the problem, right? But it’s not a problem for the producers. They are motivated and adept at making this all work out. They’re willing to brave the boonies to get the story. Bless them.

In the past few years, I’ve hosted producers from the UK, Australia, Canada, that kind of thing. Each has brought their crew to my front door, into my house, braving the wilds of this isolated outpost. Each has done it with grace, good humor, and outstanding organization. They are my most favored guests because they are respectful and fun.

camera crew

Each crew has given me a little piece of the outside world, a taste of their homeland, their culture and their world view. In other words, they’ve educated me. They have shared their big world with my small one. It’s a great way to travel if you’re lazy, like me. There’s nothing like having a new country knocking on your front door.

Sometimes the crew didn’t speak English as their first language. However, their English was excellent. They made me realize how insulated I am, how provincial. I can only speak English. They’ve mastered more. This is something I wish I had accomplished when I was young. Now, they’re faced with a rather boring, boonie-ridden geezer who can’t speak their first language. Is that a problem? Nope. They’ve been there before. They know the drill.

The crews are always polite. They come for a day or two, do their work, and leave everything as they found it. A member of one of the crews actually wanted to wash dishes after my wife provided a light snack. Think about that. She was from Canada and spoke French as her first languge. Obviously, she was raised right, eh? How often do your visitors offer up that kind of courtesy? I’m not talking about good friends or relatives. I’m talking about strangers at your door.

Sometimes the crew and I go out for lunch or a light meal. There’s not much around these parts so the dining choices aren’t great. In fact, they are downright simple and boring. None of the crews complain. Since they were all from different countries, they were caught up in their new environment, wondering about the oddities of rural living. They were in the moment. They were having fun. So was I.

These production crews are light on their feet and deep with a sense of wonderment and humor. They obviously enjoy their work, love meeting people, and lie in wait for the next laugh. I see these qualities with American crews also. But the crews from other countries take it to a new level. These are happy people and they bring their unabashed liveliness with them.Rural Living

They also bring joy to my life. They make a lazy writer’s existence interesting and fun. Through them I get to experience a different side of life, a freshness that can only come from an encounter with a different culture. Sure, the work is routine for the crews and for me, too. What makes it special is, as always, the people behind the work. They are a special cast of characters who put a little tingle in your life and open your world a bit more.

Being a writer is a wonderful life experience. It opens so many doors. Chief among them is the chance to work with creative people from other countries. They have always been a pleasure for me, a change in the scenery that I always appreciate and enjoy.

I consider them friends, even if we never meet again.

Hydra and the Blogosphere

The Hydra

This blogosphere universe seems like a Hydra beast. So many heads, so many tentacles. Lop off one head and two more grow back.

Take a look at this image of Hydra. Look familiar? Looks like the blogosphere to me.

I’m not thinking about commercial blogs. That’s a world I don’t frequent and really don’t give much thought. I’m talking about personal blogs – those blogs that are generated for, by and about real people. These fascinate me. I really want to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Why do we pour our time and effort into this infinitude of blogs, adding ourselves to the tsunami of the blogosphere? Where’s the Hydra head-group that makes the outcome worth the toil? What’s going on here?

I want to know more about the motivations, yours and mine. I want to understand the thinking and feeling that lurks behind the words, and usually leaks out somewhere along the line.

Do any of these make sense?

Check me out. I suspect this one is universal. We all have this urge or we wouldn’t be writing blog postings in the first place. Seems OK to me, most of the time. The ugliness surfaces when this motivation takes over the entire blog. You know what I mean, right? It’s the “I am the next big thing” type of blog. These are easy to spot and really hard to swallow. Their entire purpose seems to be shameless, naked self-promotion.

Now, self-promotion is also OK, so long as it’s not injected directly into my reading brain, force-fed to me without my endorsement. In other words, you can’t be the next big thing unless you’re a little subtle about it. I really have no problem believing you are the hot tamale of the known universe, but I’d rather discover that truism for myself. Somewhere along the line, somewhere among your words, I need to find something for myself to enjoy. It’s not just about you. It’s also about me, the reader. Remember me?

So, tell me about yourself. That’s fine. But please, please don’t shove it down my throat. I’m sufficiently intelligent to come to my own conclusions about you and your words. Share carefully. Sell with a subtle touch. That’s fine. Anything more can make me gag. If you can’t be subtle, you need to go back to writing school and try a little harder.

self portrait of sadness

Feel my pain. Wow, those depressing blog posts! OK, I see the value of expunging, purging, working out the back-flow of life. It’s healthy and we all need to do it from time to time. But, this is a mighty hard pill for me to swallow. You know what I mean, right? Those dark, heavy, completely downer posts that make you feel like yesterday’s doo-doo when you’re finished reading.

I’m fine with folks sharing their pain, so long as they don’t pump it directly into my bloodstream. I suppose it’s a tough line to walk. Purging is good. I get it. But it sure can bring me down, very fast. Maybe those kinds of posts should have an opening warning line that tells the reader a heavy dump is looming. Proceed at your own risk. Maybe I’m just not strong enough to work my way through this kind of writing. I’ve never enjoyed sad stories of any kind so I really don’t like sad blog posts.

It’s a dealer’s choice, I suppose. Perhaps it has a good place in the blogosphere. It just doesn’t work for me. Put a warning label on it and let me know what’s coming. That way, I’ll at least be a bit prepared for the purge.

Buy my stuff. This is near the top, or bottom, of my doo-doo list. It’s the allegedly personal blog that exists for only one purpose – to sell something. I understand that this type of blog is popular and probably necessary for self-published writers. In fact, it makes complete sense. However, that doesn’t mean the blog has to beat me over the head with your sales pitch.

OK, you wrote a book, I get it. You want to sell that book. Makes complete sense to me. I’m with you on the basic thrust and I actually have no problem with the strategy. Anything you can do to free yourself from the traditional slavery of a publisher is fine with me.

But, please, stop jabbing me in the sides with your pitch! Sell me softly. In the meantime, put something on your blog that I can read and enjoy. Show me your talents. Teach me. Entertain me. Make me smile. Then, sell me.

Think like me. Woops. This is a big bug-out, too. I like hearing other opinions. In fact, I thrive on it. I suppose lots of folks feel the same way. What I don’t enjoy is a fixed attitude, an inflexible, preachy style of expressing a view. In other words, I don’t want you to tell me I’m a complete idiot because I don’t think the same way you think. By all means, tell me what you think or believe. Give it to me as straight as you can make it. Create a forceful argument and push the limits, if you choose. However, don’t jump on me for not buying the program. Just lay it all out there and let me mull it over.

Don’t preach at me, ever.

Weird

The truly weird. There are some blogs out there that are very, very strange. These are fun, for sure. They don’t fit any description. I can’t come up with a reason why they even exist. Still, they’re fascinating and entertaining. Usually they are very creative in an inscrutable way. Most of the time, I can’t understand what’s going on. Maybe they are secret message stations for alien contacts. Maybe the blog creators are just nuts. Whatever their purpose, they defy reason, at least for me. They aren’t great in number but they’re often unexpected treasures. You’ll know them when you find them. They are, to me, mystifying but regularly worth a visit or two.

The blown blog. It gets posts for a while then goes completely dormant. It falls into silence. I wonder what happened to these folks? Are they OK? Did they just get bored? Did they turn a page in their life and move on? I hope so. I hope they went silent in a good way for everyone.

I prefer a story with a good ending, or at least an ending of some sort. If it’s a blog, I suspect it’s also a story. So, end it in some meaningful way, please.

Some of these blogs should have died anyway, I suppose They were just boring and useless. However, some of them had great potential, interesting material, fun reading. Did they just end without planning or did they accomplish some goal that got lost along the way? I wonder about these.

Guess what? This was a pretty silly exercise. You just wasted a few more moments with the many-headed beast. Another story without a decent ending.

I don’t understand the Hydra blogosphere at all. I need to do more reading, think about it a little harder. I can’t even give you a good explanation of why I blog. Maybe it all comes down to a writing addiction.

Could it be that simple?

The Truth Behind True Crime, Maybe

 

true crime part two, A1

 

Over the years, I’ve written several true crime books, both hardbound and mass market paperbacks. There have been countless articles, interviews, and media-related opportunities that flowed from my work. The genre has been good to me. Still, looking back, I’m not really certain what makes true crime writing work. It’s complicated.

In fact, I’m not sure what drove me into the genre in the first place.

I’ve learned a little about true crime over the years. Some things surprised me, others were life lessons that took a long time to absorp. It’s been a wild ride, sometimes. It’s been life-changing, for sure. Here are a few personal thoughts about the genre.

The dark side takes a ride. True crime isn’t pleasant, no matter how you approach it. Yep, it’s fascinating, most of the time. But it’s also dark. Whenever you write true crime you come face to face with victims. There’s nothing easy about that. These folks get into your mind and into your heart. It doesn’t take long for the fascination to fall away and leave you with the ugly facts. People die for no reason at all, no reason that makes sense to me. This is the worst part of working the genre. You can’t get away from it. You find yourself going back time and again, wondering how it could have worked out better for everyone. You want to rewrite history but you can’t. What’s done is done. And, it’s often evil and senseless.

My readers were mostly women, I think. It’s hard to be sure, especially with mass market paperbacks. All I really know comes from reader feedback or personal encounters. I remember my surprise, early on in my true crime journey, that most of the readers who contacted me were women. Looking back, I’m not quite sure why I was surprised. I really hadn’t considered reader gender for my books. I was just writing the stories, spilling out the facts and my conclusions without thinking too much about the reader. These days, I’m smarter about it all. It always made me feel good to interact with these women. They were thoughtful, respectful, and really knew the cases. They also had that special insight that caught me – they showed a deep caring for the victims. They weren’t just along for the thrill ride of true crime. They cared about the story and the people behind it. I still think about these folks. I’m glad they passed through my life.

 

Where the Sun Don't Shine

 

The media gets it wrong, almost always. Media loves true crime for the pure sensationalism of the topic. I learned this early on in my writing career and became very angry about it. Before long, I had a rather lengthy list of media outlets with whom I would never work. I tried to stick with those who treated the subject with some insight and respect. They are hard to find. From the media point of view, it’s all about blood and guts. That’s not why I wrote my books and that’s not my point of view. So, I’ve tried to always stick with only those groups who would do justice to the topic. I have no use for the rest of them. Frankly, I could care less if those sensationalists help or hurt my book sales. Forget them. I also owe a huge debt to my literary agent, who always supported my point of view on this aspect of the genre. Money never came first with him. It was all about the work itself. That’s a true friend.

Back-to-back books are the worst. If a book sells, the next step is to immediately pump out a follow-up book. I’ve been there and it’s a really rough ride. The thing you want most after finishing a true crime book is to take a break. You feel like getting your whole system flushed, roaming free for a while, getting as far away from the darkness as possible. You feel downright dirty. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. If a book hits, you’re dragged into another one. Well, not for me. I did it once and will never do it again. When a later book of mine did well, a publisher came to me for a follow-up. I tried to make it work but couldn’t pull it off. I had to stay away from the genre for a while. I never did write that second follow-up and, frankly, I’m happy with that decision. Enough was enough. I needed a good, long vacation from true crime.

True crime has legs, I think. I’m still doing media work on productions drawing from books I published 15 years ago. In the writing business, that’s called “good legs.” This surprised me, a lot. Many true crime books flash for a while and then go silent. Others have legs. It’s hard to know which will make it. When I wrote exclusively in the genre, I tried to make some conclusions, to offer some ideas that readers could take away and actually use. That seems to have worked well. There were parts of each book in which I threw away objectivity and tried to focus on something more long-term, more practical. If this is what made true crime work for me, it was more luck than anything else. It was just how I felt at the time. Looking back, I think it helped.

 

English: A panorama of a research room taken a...

 

Research is critical. Before you go around doing interviews and working the investigative side of true crime, you need powerful research. It’s often hard to get the real facts behind the topic. Media reports are unreliable, official reports are often hard to obtain, people come and go. You need to have good contacts, great research, and some luck. But, the bottom line is that you must love research. Without it, you can’t get to first base.

People will talk to you if you do it right. Good interviews are tough. You need to spend lots of time building trust and making relationships work. Some of the most difficult interviews I’ve been involved with were on death row in a federal prison. I will always remember these. They were important to my writing, but they were also endless work. Just getting yourself into a position to be trusted and invited into an important interview may take months or even years. Still, this is the only way to truly understand the individuals behind the crimes. Without these interviews, your work will never stand out in a crowded genre. The most imporant lesson I learned is that a good writer must be a one-way street. If you pledge confidentiality, never break it, at any cost. That builds trust. Trust makes for good, reliable information. Take the long-term view. It’s always best.

And the bottom line, sort of. It’s a good genre, if you have what it takes to stay the course. The rewards are worth the effort. It’s the emotional aspect of the genre that strikes back at you after a while. You’re always walking a fine line, a very bumpy road, that smears the good and evil in life. Nothing is nearly as clear or well-defined as outsiders believe. It’s always a walk on the wild side.

So, you want to be a true crime writer? Go for it. I’d still do it again, maybe. Those days are behind me now, maybe. My interests lie elsewhere. I still do media-related true crime productions but I’m unsure that I will ever write another book in the genre.

Umm . . . unless something really grabs me.

 

Gregor Outs Papa Sainthood Scandal

Pope's Blessing

Dear Papa Frank:

I’ve been watching you. My sources are everywhere, just like yours. That’s why you haven’t received a letter from me until today.

I wanted to see how you’d be handling stuff back there in Roma. I know you have your plate full of previous-Papa leftovers. Patience is a good thing, you know.

You are a bit of a fresh slap in the face, I suspect. However, I think you’re heading down the wrong Papa-path. It’s all about this mass sainthood thing, this silly saintly party you threw in May. Papa, that just wasn’t very bright.

You went ahead and canonized 813 Italians who were murdered by Turkish soldiers back in the 15th century. What’s that all about? Your Papa-world is falling apart, scandals are everywhere, the church is bleeding members and you are now handing out wholesale sainthood. Papa, you need a better advisory personage.

These new sainter-folk were apparently all Italians, Papa. Come on now, what were you thinking? You didn’t even list their names. All of this sounds too close to home. How do you know they were all Italians? Are you sure? Were you just guessing? Where’s the roster? Where’s your proof? Are you playing to the crowd, Papa? Are you working your political base?

The old Papas took their time before slapping sainthood on anyone. They would writhe around, ring their hands and investigate for years, or decades. They would send folks everywhere to check out every little holy story they could put their hands upon. The old Papas would form committees, studies, write papers, re-write them, pray, ask questions, probe and do all kinds of stuff. All of this writhing around just to make sure they got it right. All of this work for just one saint.

Now, look at you Papa! You just slam-bang nearly a thousand of them, just like it was a backpack sale at Walmart. Were you feeling OK when you did it, Papa? Who was whispering in your ear? Was it one of those Italian Card Geezers who said to go ahead? Who was greasing that holy wheel, Papa?

They were all Italian, Papa! So you said, anyway. And you didn’t even tell me their names! This all sounds fishy to me, Papa. And I’m not talking about that old Friday Fish that used to hang over everyone’s head. You know what I mean, don’t you? I do.

You can’t just jump out there and make mass sainthood your own brand, can you? If that’s what’s going on back there in Roma, you should consider other, equally worthy folks for the Big Blessing.

For example, anyone who’s ever spent a Winter in Newfoundland should immediately be granted sainthood. Don’t worry about their names. Don’t fret because they’re not all Italian. Do it because they’ve already been to hell and back. Do it because that’s your thing – mass sainthood.

Hunter Shoots His TypewriterWhat about anyone who came back broke from Las Vegas? Don’t they count? Are you holding back because they may not all be Italian? I’ll bet some of them were Italian. You won’t have to list their names. We all understand that what happens in Vegas stays with the Vatican. Just do it, Papa! These folks have also been to hell and back. Just ask them.

How about every great writer who never got published and starved themselves in the process. I know they weren’t all Italian but, come on! They counted for something, didn’t they? Like all those others, they’ve been to hell and back. Can’t you give them a little consideration, Papa?

You can’t just spread this kind of sainthood around like yesterday’s Italian sun-butter. You need to get some standards in place, Papa. You need to broaden your view of the world. We’re all out here waiting for sainthood, you know. We’re not all Italian, you know. Some of us don’t even have connections, juice, pull or push. Some of us have even had lobotomies. Don’t we count, Papa?

You’ve disappointed me, Papa. You can’t just wholesale sainthood and expect to get my vote for your re-election. I know you might just be trying to be a good guy, to set the stage for some other changes in the future. But, Papa, you don’t want to be seen pandering to certain political or social groups, do you?

If you’re going to run around passing out sainthood medals, at least look toward the West. Check out Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and the like. We have lots of voting blocks over here. Lots of special interest groups who have been to hell and back. Lots of folks who wouldn’t mind being St. So-and-So, even if you don’t mention them by name.

Come on now, Papa. Don’t get too excited about your new job. Don’t let power go to your crown. You were off to a good start, maybe. Now, I’m not so sure. There’s lots of real work to get done, tons of things that need to be fixed, much information that needs to be shared.

Please, Papa Frank, try to keep it real. Try something new for a change.

I hope this letter has helped you in some small way. I’m still waiting for that autographed picture of you. When you do send it my way, would you mind putting it in a plain brown envelope?

Yours in fullness and awaiting your blessing,

St. Gregor (patent pending)

Gregor lives here.

Lefty and The Pork

Happy PigWhen you’re nuts, a tadge wacky, usually out of step with the world, it’s a blessing to have someone with a steady hand on the tiller.

When you fumble all the social balls, writhe in group doo-doo, fear crowds and detest even small social encounters, it’s great to have a fun-loving social Adept at your side.

When you’ve buried your emotions in the Valley of the Kings, never to be found, it’s wonderful to have an accomplished archaeologist in your life.

When you need quiet, it’s the best feeling in the world to know you’re understood.

When you can’t accept yourself, the best friend is one who can.

When you can’t organize a single moment in your life, a top-notch strategic planner is a life-saver.

When you believe that no one in the world can stand you for another moment, the true friend is priceless, always present.

When you think you’re the flavor of the month, it’s your best friend who reminds you about all those other tastes out there.

Boo HooWhen you’re feeling downright bitchy and dark, it’s always good to know you have a place to hide.

When you’re writing, your best friend is the one who knows enough to leave you alone.

When you’ve finished the draft, it’s that single person who will tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to accept it.

When you laugh, someone is there to join up. When you cry, there’s always patience and good timing.

When you’re wrong, it’s good to hear about it, a real treat to learn the right way, even when it’s embarrassing.

It’s easy to listen to your best friend, even when she’s chattering up a storm. It’s all in the presentation. It’s compelling.

When you know you’ve been dishonest about yourself, it’s good to know that someone else knows.

When you’re talking pure doo-doo, it’s a friend’s gift to ignore you and just smile.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to love you because it’s the only thing in the world that comes without doubt.

Gregor loves you, too.

Gregor Curses Doomers, Makes Prediction

Grigori Rasputin, the famous Russian mujique (...

Gregor is tired of the doom and gloom. He has had his fill of end-of-the-world nonsense. Instead, Gregor makes his own, bold prediction:

Tomorrow will happen. You can count on it.

While recovering from his last round of shock therapy, Gregor had the opportunity to review some recent and future world-ending forecasts. He noticed that no one, so far, has gotten it right. The proof is self-evident. All these misses make Gregor very skeptical, which is bad medicine for his mental stability.

However, Gregor has a good reason for making his own prediction. Consider these recent and future developments:

May 27, 2012. This date was selected by Ronald Weinland, founder of the Church of God, Preparing for the Kingdom of God. It is affectionately known as COG-PKG to its friends. Gregor wonders why Mr. Weinland didn’t choose a less officious name for his church. Gregor also wonders about the financial affairs of the organization, and what they may have to do with the end of the world. In June 2012, Weinland was found guilty on several counts of tax evasion and sentenced to 42 months in the clink. Gregor notes that had the world ended when Weinland predicted, he would never had spent one day in jail.

June 30, 2012. Jose Luis de Jesus announced that the entire world economy would collapse on this day. However, he noted that his own followers would be spared. Devotees would also be granted the ability to fly through the air and walk through walls. Gregor discovered that de Jesus claimed to be both the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and the Antichrist at the same time. Although Gregor admires such multi-tasking credentials, he points out that de Jesus missed on everything he ever predicted, batting an admirable 1000%. Gregor has tried flying through the air but to no avail. Membership has its rewards, apparently.

December 21, 2012. OK, so everyone in the Universe predicted this one. Even the History channel co-opted entire societies with their endless fiction. Gregor wonders what will happen with all those TV re-runs. Were they destroyed on December 22, 2012? Gregor refuses to be co-opted by the History Channel. Gregor will attempt to address ancient aliens someday, assuming the world doesn’t end before he gets around to it.

This is a picture of Warren Jeffs, which was t...

December 23, 2012. Gregor knows you’ve heard of Warren Jeffs, right? He made this prediction. President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, alleged prophet and jailed for child sexual assault, how could anyone ignore his credentials? Woops. Gregor notes that the name of his alleged church is too pretentious, just like COG-PKG. Gregor wonders if this is a pattern?

December 31, 2012. Hard to believe but it was Warren Jeffs again, spewing his doodle from jail, again. Gregor wonders about just how large cajones can become if you’re a prophet. Gregor is sure that Jeffs will get it right someday, if he just keeps on trying. In the meantime, our kids are safe.

OK, let’s look ahead a bit. Gregor wants to remain open-minded, for a minute.

August 23, 2013. Yep, it’s that bizarre guy the History Channel obsesses about, the Mad Monk of Russia, Rasputin. Gregor thinks this guy was really kinky. Worse, he had a greasy beard. Who wants to snuggle up to a guy with a greasy beard? Who would take that kind of guy seriously? Gregor suggests we ignore the Mad Monk. At least he didn’t have a church with a funky name.

The Jeane Dixon Museum

2020 (sometime). This is from the mind of Jeane Dixon, former astrologer and psychic to the stars. She actually has a small museum and library in her name in Virginia. Gregor has learned that it is not among the most popular destination points. Oh, it’s important to remember that Dixon also predicted the world would end on February 4, 1962. Unlike Warren Jeffs, she had enough common sense to wait a while before repeating the same prediction mistake. Anyway, she no longer walks among those of us who need to worry about the future.

2021 (sometime). Conceived by one F. Kenton Beshore. This fellow took a shot at the end of the world in 1988, blew it, and blamed bad mathematics, etc. His affiliation with the Mariners Church in California, and his solid academic credentials, make Gregor wonder about his prognostications. Gregor also finds his math a bit slippery but, heck, why dump on the guy for trying? Everyone else has taken a shot.

The Singularity Is Near

2045 (sometime). This one is a bit different. According to Ray Kurzwell, a “technological singularity” will occur in 2045. Gregor isn’t quite sure what this means. However, it seems that all of our technological doo-doo and doo-dads will collapse upon us in a final blow-out of techie Armageddon. Gregor will miss his laptop and iPad if this happens. No church to blame for this one. Gregor wonders if his toaster will be spared.

Gregor is completely tired of all this gloom. He is sure that the world will end, someday. With all these folks making guesses, it’s a bit like the lottery. Someone, someday, might just get it right. It won’t be Gregor. He still believes that tomorrow will happen. In fact, he guarantees it. If he’s wrong, there won’t be anything you can do about it anyway.

Gregor lives here.

The Writhing Artist

English: Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palu...

Living to geezer-hood is pretty cool, mostly. Once you adapt to the usual failings that are natural partners of old age, once you settle into a good place with it, there’s lots of time to consider bigger issues.

Like, what about all those crazy artists? The writers, painters, sculptors, and an endless litany of other artisans? Why are so many of them just nuts, at least to the rest of the world? Why are most of them way out of whack with the common social universe?

Let me define the term a bit. I’m thinking about those individuals who don’t merely pursue art, who don’t simply love it and have a special talent, but who chase their art form throughout their lives. Those who just seem to be from another planet in the day-to-day world of routine-ness. I’m thinking about those people who would simply cease to exist without their art.

You probably know at least one of these creatures. I know that I’ve met many over the years. They live complicated lives, in their heads and hearts. There’s nothing simple or easy about the path they’ve chosen, or been driven toward. They spend much of their time in a peculiar world of pain reserved for only them and those of their ilk.

See if these qualities and quirks fit your definition as well as they fit mine.

Out of sync. The artist can’t keep rhythm to the marching music no matter how hard he or she tries. Usually, they don’t even hear the same music. Maybe they were born old, maybe they just can’t grow up. Their dance steps are all out of whack and you just can’t help noticing it when you meet them. The more time you spend with the artist, the more profoundly you realize they are always just a little out of focus, walkers out of time and place. They don’t have to work at this kind of uniqueness. This brand of un-sync-ability comes naturally. Most of them don’t thrive on the difference. In fact, they are usually not comfortable with it. Doesn’t matter. They are just out of whack with the world. They were born to their fate, or so it seems.

Emotional blender people. Artists are emotional beings, even when they’re not trying to express those emotions. Usually, the quiet ones are the worst. They are constantly awash in emotional themes, strong opinions, reactions, feelings, and sensibilities. Their emotional engines are constantly running at the red line maximum, even when they haven’t spoken a word in two weeks. If you have an artist as a friend or lover, you know this too well. You can feel it around them, encircling their life and often spilling over into yours. It’s the ham in their sandwich, the fuel in their engine, and it’s mostly uncontrollable even when it’s not expressed.

Halloween in New York

Socially maladjusted. Sure, there are exceptions to this little observation. But, not too many. Artists don’t usually do well socially. They tend to live at the extremes of social behavior. They may be flamboyant or just as easily become complete, speechless wall-flowers. Sometimes they are both in the space of five minutes. What they cannot do is get into the social rhythm of the reigning group of the moment. For whatever reason, they fail to put their square peg in your round hole. This is mostly unconscious. Many of them take to this mantle of awkwardness because, well, they just feel downright awkward in most social situations. They know it’s a threat to their otherwise semi-controlled, partially understood view of the world. But they just don’t know how to make themselves a part of the stage play. Secretly, they just want to go home or back to the studio and do their art. After all, that’s what life is all about anyway.

This side up. Yep, they’re fragile, these artists. Sometimes, very fragile. They remain vulnerable because they’re always listening and waiting for their muse, because their world is one of extreme colors, sounds and textures. They are an open door, even when they’ve shut themselves away from the world. Approach carefully or, if it suits, stay away until you have that invitation in hand. They can be easily damaged and remain in a critical state for years on end. Tread lightly, please.

Mouth malfunctioning. The artist is usually not a great orator. In fact, he or she will often be a master at putting hoof to mouth, stirring up doo-doo, and generally making comments or observations where they just aren’t needed. Remember the emotional component? Well, hoof-to-mouth has a lot to do with letting passions get ahead of sensible speech for most artists. They have an affinity for ignoring the most important conversations or interjecting silliness or randomness into otherwise “normal” exchanges. There is only one exception to the rule. Artist-to-artist conversations work perfectly. From an outsider’s point of view, the conversation may seem disjointed and nonsensical. To the artists inside the conversation, everything makes perfect sense. They are held together by a common passion and unspoken drive that has always been reserved for just them.

Love or hate. The true artist cannot leave you untouched once you get to know them, even a little. You will either love them or hate them. Well, perhaps “hate” is too strong. You will either find them interesting or you’ll just want to avoid them the rest of your days. They can easily grab you with their own passion and just as quickly give you a headache with their screwy ideas, inappropriate behavior, and disjointed view of your normalized world. The artist knows this also. In fact, the artists I’ve known often secretly fret about their unique ability to polarize the world around them. Some thrive on it, sometimes, but most wish there were an easier way, for them and you. It’s the nature of the beast.

The Old Man and the Sea

Head and heart lock-down. They’re locked inside themselves, these artisans and miscreants. They’re working from the inside-out while most of the world is doing things in a more civilized way. Their hearts are beating overtime, their brains are often on fire, they are in artist lock-down mode. They rarely come up for air. In many cases, they never escape the lock-down, not for an entire lifetime. That’s the central soul of their art and they dare not stray too far from their personal prison. If they should escape, the world outside would not suit anyway.

Happy or not. At some level, most are happy only when they are creating. The rest of the time is spent in discomforts small and great. It’s only in those moments of pure creativity, their tools in hand, their hearts and minds completely absorbed, are they truly happy. The rest of the time is spent trying to get to that secret place again and again.

So, do you know someone like this? Someone who is a true artist, born to run that race and only that race? You probably do. The next time you stumble across him or her, take a breath and a big patience pill. The world needs these artists and so do you.

If you can put up with the true artist you may have a friend or lover for life. They can give you that special kind of attachment reserved only for the artist. It’s passionate, determined, meaningful and usually forever.

They can just as easily drive you crazy, just like them.