Here we go again. Welcome to the blog blast of the section that I call The Kingdom from the book Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep. The Kingdom is an explanation of the work itself. You can’t understand any writer unless you know their work. So Friday we began at 6 p.m. and I will release one blog every two hours and fifteen minutes. That means we’ll finish the story of my work and its future, my work and its past, at 7:30 on Sunday evening. There are some crazy things in here. Some setbacks we never could have made it past without the people who care about me. There are some crazy things in here. Plans that I have and things that I’m doing that, simply put, are impossible. But everything’s impossible until it’s finished, until it’s been done or accomplished. There are some crazy things in here. Dreams so wild and so immense that to think they’re within reach you have to be a little unhinged. And while reading this small collection of blog posts, you’ll hear the rantings of the Lunatic of Fantasy. You’ll find in these posts the past, present, and future of the writing of Jesse Teller.
First War of Art, then I will talk about the time Sasquatch struck gold and everything changed.
For a while.
Big Sister sent me a book. Craft books about writing have a tendency to be short. It is as if good writers who write books about how to write have other things to do. They write short books, and writers drink them up like ambrosia. This one though was different.
War of Art by Steven Pressfield is not a book about writing, but about the artistic process itself. It had so many things in it that I needed Sasquatch to hear. So many tips for how to fit work in and how to look at a project. It was a sermon I wanted to give to Sasquatch. I did know that if I gave it to him to read, he would set it down and never pick it up again. So I read the entire book and underlined the things I wanted Sasquatch to read.
Then I gave it to him.
“I want to give this book to Kraken. It can be a guide for him from both of us. Read it. I underlined all the parts I thought were important and I figured you could highlight everything you found to be helpful, and we would both be guiding him.”
It was a Hail Mary pass, but it might work. Maybe I could get a little guidance in from somewhere else and Sasquatch would find inspiration in the words of a master.
Two months later, I asked him how it was going and he handed me back the book. He had highlighted damn near every word, and it was obvious he was not reading any of it. He had gotten halfway through the book and quit.
“Just give it to him and tell him to read it all. It is all important,” Sasquatch said.
Defeated, I began looking for my next inspiration, searching for another way to bring this man to his art.
Now the driveway, then the time when Sasquatch found himself.
He buys a new house. He closes on it, but can’t move in yet, and Sasquatch invites us to see it and drink some beers in his driveway. “Bring a camp chair,” he tells us. “And let’s celebrate my closing.”
I’m all in. We get there and of course the topic turns to work. I have created an online writing group that meets every Tuesday on Skype so I can get Kraken in front of a former teacher of mine. She’s a poet. She started writing poetry when I was her student. She said that watching me write woke up a part of her that always had wanted to. I remember when she told me this, how humbled I was that my struggling and her guiding hand had brought us both to art. It’s a beautiful thing when a master inspires a student. And very rare when that student’s diligence inspires the master.
When I wasn’t getting the kind of help I wanted and needed for Kraken from Sasquatch, I decided on a writers group. My teacher was more than willing to join. She’s spectacular. She’s done a few series, poems about different things. I wish I could include a couple of them here. You’d see so much beauty and be so inspired. But I can’t ask that of her.
Just please know that I was beginning to get frustrated with Sasquatch, and I am bringing in another master to help Kraken, to get him into a full-size project, or a few shorts. I have no idea what he will do, but he is ready to start buffing and polishing his writing.
Well he has been at this for a few months and is writing his first novel. He admits it is terrible. But by this time, that does not bother him. This bad book is the stepping stone to the next one. The one after that might be passable. This kid has a great way of looking at things and nothing is going to break him. He is thick-skinned, and he wants it. He wants it bad, and he is willing to work for it.
Kraken has developed his own process. He found what works. He has figured out the most effective way for him to create, and this is huge. A complete process takes years to perfect. It takes so much effort to find out the very personal way that you create and start pumping out work. But Kraken is a master student and he is driven.
I start giving him encouragement and Sasquatch leaps to his feet. He turns in his new driveway, so he is facing Kraken, and he points at him.
“You have to close out projects. You have to finish stuff. No beginning a work and then walking away. Get this book done or don’t come back. You have nothing until you have finished a project. Nothing. Get it done. That is the only way to get the respect you want. It is the only way you can stand in this group with your head held high. Get it done. No excuses.”
Then he sits down.
This is the first time that rage for this man comes to me. It comes up fast then settles in my bones. I can feel my anger in my marrow and I am ready to punch him. I want to hurt Sasquatch.
It never went away. I can feel that rage now. It’s crystalized in my marrow. Sasquatch had been flipping through projects like he was looking at some kind of coffee table book. At this point, Kraken is beginning to put something together, is beginning to really build. His process is in hand. He’s becoming what he needs to become, which I’m beginning to see is way more than I ever wanted for him. Kraken is beginning to develop a vision. And Sasquatch is up, pointing with a stabbing finger, yelling in the dark, lit only by a distant porch light. The shadows on his face wicked and sharp as he screams about his problem, the very thing he has been doing since I met him.
And what did I do? While I was standing by watching this, what did I do? Why did I let my apprentice be yelled at as he was making the progress we had decided upon? Why did I sit there quiet? I know the answer. And it’s not because I was weak, though I sure felt it. It was because they were gone.
The alters were called back in November of 2019. So here in this driveway, we have no scent of gasoline. There is no cold, dead eyes of Assassin. There is no Smear on the wing and in the background we can’t hear the howl of the wolf. Adam has never faced a situation like this. That doesn’t make him weak. It makes him ill-prepared.
That night, after the driveway, me and Kraken met in my basement. We talked art. We talked writing. And we had the first of our many conversations about Sasquatch. Because this right here, in this moment, is what my apprentice learned from Sasquatch.
Finish. He never wanted to be the hypocrite yelling in the driveway, frustrated with his own work and taking it out on someone else. Kraken didn’t want to start project after project. He didn’t want to be patted on the head over and over again, told he was doing good so he could go home and do nothing.
From me, he learned how to get over the mental blocks in his way that were stopping him from moving forward in his art. He learned how to build a hand-tailored process that would create a product he would be proud of and that he would be able to work and polish. From me, my apprentice would learn the building of a story, how to lay the bones, how to place the organs, to weave meat into muscle. To stretch skin and paint eyes of a well-written book. My apprentice learned how to bring his creature to life.
He would learn about art, how to see it, love it, interpret it, break it apart mentally, put it back together. From me, he would learn how to change the spark of an idea into a statement and a purpose. And from Sasquatch, my apprentice would learn this lesson right here. And I’ll interpret for you, as I spent seven years with Sasquatch, I’ll decode for you what he screamed that night in the driveway:
Don’t be like me. You can’t be like me. There’s no place in this group for you if you’ll be like me. You gotta do what I can’t do. Until you do what I can’t do, you have nothing.
And I was furious. I think I’ve said that already, but I was furious. I still am. The crystallized rage in my marrow has yet to melt and become blood again. And it’s not because Sasquatch was screaming at Kraken. It wasn’t the things he was saying. I was filled with rage because one day I knew, one day soon, I was gonna have to do the same thing.
As he sat there screaming at Kraken, I knew that one day soon, I was gonna have to do the same thing to Sasquatch. After all the encouragement and all the hours I had put in, countless hours, all the phone calls we had talked through and all the staring at his work and oooing and ahhing, I was enraged. Because I knew that one day I would find myself in some driveway somewhere, whether that driveway was my office, his living room, or the driveway where I was standing at the moment, at some point I was going to be screaming the same message, and that thought enraged me. I find myself now doing that very thing. Screaming that message. I’m still pissed.
The damage being done by Sasquatch to Kraken at that moment, I could fix. And I did, that very night, in my basement. But I was also angry to the point of my bones turning black at the fact that in that basement I had to look Kraken in the eye and have the conversation I had not been looking forward to having. I had to say these words.
“You can’t listen to him anymore.”
At this point Sasquatch has continued to jump projects and he has no work even half finished. He has nothing to show for every two-hour conversation we have given him about his work. He has nothing to stand on. He has not done a thing.
He spends his time talking about what he will do and researching how other people do it. He talks incessantly about each facet and he has epiphanies every few days. Someone will say something that changes the way he thinks about what he is doing. Well, now more research. Now more conversations. He begins to do a thing that only boils my blood more.
He will call me in the week. He will have questions and have to bounce thoughts off me, and while we talk, I will give him an idea. I will blow his mind and change the way he is thinking. He will talk to me, and I will give him an idea for his work.
Friday he will come to my office, or I will sit in his house, and he will parrot what I said days before as if it was his idea. He thought of something and if you look, it makes a lot of sense.
See, he is having so many conversations about his work that he is forgetting who he got what from. My ideas become his ideas. And what can I do that will be inspiring, that will get this guy off his ass and get him to work?
Can I tell him it was my idea? That I told him that very thing two days ago? No. I need him to feel powerful. I need him to feel brilliant and creative. I need him to feel empowered. So I let him take my idea for his own and I let him gloat about it to me. I let it happen because I vowed one thing. I gave my word that I would get him out of the classroom. I would help him get a full-time gig as an artist.
Now the gold.
He comes up with a character. It is a cryptid (a creature both fact and myth) and the character gets into adventures. He comes up with a story for this creature. No words, just pictures of an epic battle between this creature and a great swamp monster. He is excited and I try to keep him excited. But this is different from the start. And when he comes over after school to show me that in his down time he had drawn out a few sketches, I can see it in his face.
This one will stick. This “has legs.” Sasquatch has a different look on his face now.
I went into my room after he left that afternoon and I wept. I had finally got him there. He was working. I could tell he would see this one through.
It took him about four months to draw and ink his first and only floppy. He did great work. The art was breathtaking, and when he finished, he called me and I came to his house to see it. It was amazing. I was so proud.
Now I need to tell you that while he was doing this, Kraken had finished his book. He said it was horrible and vowed never to talk about it again.
I was so proud.
I ordered him a cake that had “First of Many” on it and I made that Friday all about him as Sasquatch steamed. I made Kraken feel proud, giving him praise just for seeing the thing through to the end. He finished his hundred and eighty page novel before his old master completed anything.
I figured if I could get Sasquatch involved in a celebration, he would want one himself.
Also, I finished the first act. When I had first begun talking to Sasquatch, I had written eight books. I had kept hard at it, trying to inspire him with my productivity. The idea had gone from a few books to five different series. In the time it had taken to try to inspire Sasquatch to finish something, I had gone from eight novels finished to twenty-five.
When I was done, I told them all about it on that Friday. Kraken went crazy. He had all kinds of questions, and he told me over and over again how inspiring it was and how proud he was of me.
Sasquatch said nothing.
Finally I had to tell him. I looked him straight in the eye, furious that he was ignoring my accomplishment, and I said, “Listen, you have to say something about this. You have to make a comment right now. I can’t let you just shrug your way around this one.”
He mumbled out something about how impressive it was and how it was a feat that could not be matched. Then he was ready to talk about his Gold again.
So when he finished his floppy, I had been done with the first act for about a month. I had started to write my cool down book.
He finished and I borrowed a cake dish from his wife. I told her not to let him know, but she ignored me and he found out.
He called Bekah, asked how many books I had written, while I made him a cake of my creation called a smores cake. He wanted to know a thing that he should have already known. He wanted to get me something because he knew I had done something huge and that I was celebrating him. He needed to do something for me or he would be an ass.
He brought me three pizzas. The first one they made wrong and gave him for free. The second one they cut wrong and gave him for free. The third one they got perfect. It had a 25 made out in pepperoni. He didn’t warn Bekah what he was going to do, so when he arrived, I had already eaten dinner. I did my best to make myself excited, but I knew he was only doing this because he couldn’t be the asshole who let me celebrate him when he had ignored me.
This gold mine will come back. I will have to make you see why I had to leave him and walk away forever. See, I hope you can see by now what I couldn’t then.
This can’t last. This will not survive, and our friendship will break very soon. We’ll be standing in that driveway. And our friendship won’t survive it.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep, available on Amazon.