Practice, not Pain

The tortured artist trope is one I don’t agree with. The idea is simple: with great pain comes great art.

The thing is this, we get better at what we practice. To take myself for example, I am good at writing post-break-up poems, because for a long time that is what I wrote.

The ‘tortured artist’ didn’t make those poems better—the artist did. I worked on them, over and over, crafting good, if not limited, poems. They were the ones I edited, the ones I work shopped, the ones I gave at readings.

The pain provided influence, perhaps motivation. I used it as focal point to create.

But this created a new problem where I had to learn to write non-post-break-up poems, or even wider, non-personal-relationship poems—because that is was all I was practicing.

I played rugby for a half-minute (another post-break-up choice) and Coach would say to to us:

Practice makes permanent.

Didn’t me mean ‘perfect’? No. Perfect practice makes perfect. How you practice reflects on how you perform.

And ‘practice’ is something we do as writers. (Something I recommend doing consciously.)

When you only make art when you are in the dark places of life of it is going to be better than when you try elsewhere. You have to learn, to practice.

The thing is, the best poems I write are about breakup and heartache, not because of my pain, but because these are the ones I’ve written the most.

More practice = better art.

If I put the time into love poems or springtime poems that would be as good.

No, there is no special insight a tortured artist has, only focus that drives creation, specific creation. You can write, create, paint without the pain. You need practice.

Do you know how many happy horror writers I know? A lot. Because what we write doesn’t need to reflect on who we are when we write it.

Sure you pull from experience, but we are not bound to it. I don’t need to be going through a loss to write about loss.

And we shouldn’t think that either

A Day Off

It was 4 am when the puppy decided it was time to get up, followed by the cat deciding that I could not go back to sleep until I fed him, despite the early hour.

I read some submissions around 6, later tried and failed to go back to sleep (after I fed everyone at the correct time, Mr Cat)

And then I decided to do something. To take the day off. Like. For real.

For those of you who do this, you understand. You see I have two jobs: the one that pays for things; the one where I make books.

Which means my days off of one are days on for the other. And yes. One of those I choose for myself. Most of its stresses, deadlines, and todos are of my own doing.

But when I made this hobby public, started publishing, involving other people it was no longer a hobby, it was a business. One I love. One that I enjoy. One that still stresses. That still takes my time.

So I took today off. Of everything. And did something I’ve only done once this year: I read a book for fun.

So far the only novel I’ve read in 2020 is Mexican Gothic, which I highly recommend. I’ve not had time. Or energy. There is emotional labor in reading submissions. And it can drain you as you go through them.

Add on the time it takes to go through a packet of nearly 1,000, the time and desire to read can be nearly empty.

(Funny enough, I still seem to buy new books…)

I’ve had a few readers over the years and one thing I try to do with them is help manage this—it’s burnout, let’s not dance around that. The thing is, I’ve not done a great job with myself.

I frankly don’t have that luxury most times. The magazine is mine, and, for now at least, my labor is how it exists. No amount of burnout changes that.

So I took today off. No emails. No computer. No submissions. Sunlight. Some tunes and a book—The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo.

Get the well filled up even just a little to keep going because LampLight is worth it. The writers in LampLight are worth it.

On Blogging

Blogging1 is one of those thing that I’ve always enjoyed. Setting up a website and having little notes or thoughts about whatever; connecting with other writers to see how they were; having an online space that was mine.

But something that happened when blogs went from this thing we did online for a circle of friends or a web ring, or friend connection, or however things were linked, to being a part of YOUR BRAND. 

And if you are going to BLOG as a part of YOUR BRAND you should make sure to SAY SOMETHING. 

And so I have dozens of half finished drafts on my computer where I started typing and then stopped when I thought ‘who is going to read this?’  Which is, despite the public nature of the medium, not the center of blogging. The blogger is the center of the blogging. 

Add on that–despite this self-perception, I don’t really read blogs that SAY SOMETHING. I much prefer the more raw, personal side of blogging. 

Here is a thing I don’t know how to say. 

Here is a day I had that isn’t important. 

Here is a picture I made, I like it! 

“Innocent” isn’t quite the right word for this nostalgia. Perhaps “un-filtered” like the cider in front of me is the word. 

We weren’t building a brand. We were just being. 

And in being, we connected. 


  1. I’ve never been a fan of the word “blog,” even “online diary” was better in my mind ↩︎