I’ve never been the kind of writer who writes himself into a corner.
I make my living in the world of branding and advertising using words and concepts to get people to think about things differently, and yes to buy stuff. I’ve written for brands ranging from luxury automobiles to companies that repurpose shipping containers. I’ve written billboards, radio, internet, and direct mail, and many other platforms. I’ve written to audiences who are at the top 1%, to people who are over their head in credit card debt. Looking back, I was most productive when my queue was filled with a variety of products, services, and audiences. I’d spend an hour here, an hour there, and an hour in another place–seamlessly jumping from target person to target person to have little conversations.
Because this kind of work is easy when you have a bunch of voices fighting for attention in your head. I think I’d go crazy writing to one audience about one thing all the time. But that’s where the money is–so, a poor scribe I remain.
I started this blog back in the mid-2000s. While all my peers were working hard to establish themselves as niche experts who you could plug into a business plan, I remained true to the voices and decided to go in the opposite direction with the blog. Obsessed with Conformity was intended to be ironic, and was inspired by a Seinfeld episode where George lied about his love of conformity in order to land a job.
Since I was a little boy I’ve written thousands of short stories, essays, poetry, and in 2015, somehow even quieted the voices long enough to write a novel. But I scratch out my living crafting corporate poetry in taglines and content that gets people to do things, buy things, and think certain ways.
Last year my friend, artist and designer Laurie Smithwick, embarked on a challenge to create and share a painting every day for 100 consecutive days. It was remarkable to follow along. And then she did it again this year. As a writer, I have always longed to be the kind of artist that created tangible things–secretly wishing I was a sculptor or painter instead of a dude who strings words together. Inspired by Laurie’s passion and persistence, I decided to turn to poetry for 30 days and challenge myself to reach inside to discover something that has never existed before.
It was an amazing exercise. Regardless of whether anyone read the poems, the act of intentionally getting quiet to write and think was nearly as important as when I went away to the mountains for Minor King.
During these 30 days I was acutely aware that every little fucking thing I collided with each day contained poetry. I never once felt like I had made a mistake committing to this exercise.
And so to what end? It certainly wasn’t fame or fortune. And it wasn’t to reinforce to anyone on the fence that I’m a “real writer.” I can’t be bothered with what people think about anything I write and share with the world. If I worried about that stuff, I’d never share anything. These poems aren’t perfect. And yet, they are. They never existed before I wrote them. They belong to no one. Not even me.
The purpose, I think, was the exercise of intentionally jumping off the spinning wheel each day to arrive at a place where I had to confront the wilderness. And then walk out into it by myself leaving the “real world” behind.
I think it was worth it.
Here’s a recap of 30 days of getting quiet and letting my mind wander. I highly recommend that you consider doing it too. Because art exists in you as it is in me or anyone else. And I firmly believe that the world needs more art to offset the darkness that the media shares in perfectly packaged panic attacks as a way to earn advertising revenue.
Steve Jobs once said, “One of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there.” I’m not saying any of these are wonderful, but you can’t find them anywhere else.
Create more light. Consume less darkness.
1 July: A loving look back at my favorite month of the year.
2 Doubt: My initial take on writing poetry for 30 days.
3 Victor: One of those poems when you stop time for a second and consider something seemingly insignificant.
4 A Good Day to Die: I wrote this poem on the anniversary of the date I quit drinking 26 years ago.
5 Capsules: A poem inspired by a worker at a fast food restaurant.
6 The Storm: Finally, a rhyming poem! And the shortest poem I wrote during this exercise.
7 Angels: A repeating theme for me when I look into my world and see such mangled priorities. Also, America. Also, money. Also, I wrote this one on my birthday.
8 The Wild Heart: Parenting teenage daughters.
9 Falling in Love: My wife.
10 A Prayer for the Dying: America. Fucked up priorities. Skeletons.
11 Women: A poem about the greater sex.
12 The Devil’s Lullaby: A long rhyming poem about the lure of darkness and how it’s part of everyday life.
13 American Asphyxia: A poem I wrote the night after the events at Charlottesville.
14 Drifting through a Saturday in Summer: A poem about writing, and swim meets, and parenting.
15 Passion: A poem about why we even try.
16 The Confidence of a Teenage Girl: Father. Daughter.
17 Silencing the Muses: So after a roaring start, there were a couple days when the poetry wasn’t as easy to find thanks in part to events outside of my control (in America). So I wrote a poem about how hard it is sometimes to break away from the machine.
18 Summer 2017: Still thinking about shitty things like racism, greed, ignorance, and dogma. With an intro by serenity and beauty.
19 Earth and Sun and Moon: I stole this title from Midnight Oil. This is a poem about the wonder of the solar eclipse I got to experience with my family and millions of others in the line of the shadow of the moon.
20 Meet the Father: A poem about my daughter dating.
21 Taming the Beast: Writing.
22 Screens: A poem about the screens we use every day. And parenting.
23 Pride: A poem about racism.
24 Indifference: A poem about how to never get hurt.
25 Stealing Away: Inspired by a Saturday morning when me and Tina had 10 minutes together and seemed to catch up on everything from the previous week. People identified, as it was the most popular poem of the lot.
26 Black People in America: This one is about an epiphany I had regarding black people.
27 Walking on Water: This one was for Joel Osteen after the floods in Houston. I hated wasting a poem on him, but that whole thing just kinda got stuck at the front of my mind.
28 Jared Leto as Donald Trump as President: Clearly an acid flashback. I blame Osteen.
29 Wonder: My favorite poem. It’s about parenting and childhood.
30 Ankle Deep in Blood: I’d been thinking about the last poem for a week out. I wanted to do something like a suicide note by an artist. But this is what I got instead. If you read any of these, read this one.
One day all this will make a good case study for my psychologist.