Unfulfilled

As I was walking along the beach one cool spring morning, I stumbled upon an old bottle sticking out of the sand. The glass, once clear, looked cloudy with a sickly green tint to it. I picked it up, curious as I am about strange artifacts. There was something inside, obscured by the grimy exterior. I pried the cork off the bottle and dropped it in surprise as smoke issued forth from it.

As I backed away from the billowing smoke, it formed itself into a vaguely human form.

“I am the genie of the bottle!” the smoke announced in a booming voice. “What is your wish?”

I didn’t respond right away. Several seconds went by as I blinked and tried to convince myself this was just a hallucination. But the smoke genie persisted. I thought I could detect a little impatience in the way it billowed.

“A genie..” I managed at last, masterfully stating the obvious. “So…uhh..does that mean I get three wishes?”

I scratched at my scruffy beard, still trying to determine if what I was looking at was real.

The genie looked taken aback. “Three? Wherever did you get that idea?”

I shrugged. “That’s how it always is in stories.”

“This is no child’s tale,” the genie bellowed indignantly. “You only get one wish. That is all I can grant you. Now, what is your wish?”

Again, I didn’t respond right away. Only one wish to get whatever I wanted? That was tricky. What did I want? A better job would always be nice. Maybe just a ton of money without the job. A girlfriend. Maybe a wife? No, that’d be weird without the girlfriend part first. Peace on Earth? To be honest, that’s a bit broad, and would that really help me? Not to sound selfish, but it was my wish, after all. I hated having to think about big decisions like that. They always made me nervous, which just made me stressed. Any moment now, the panic attacks would start, and…wait, I knew just what I wanted.

“Happiness,” I said.

” Very well then. And what would make you happy?”

I blinked. “Well…I don’t know. Shouldn’t you know?”

The genie shook its smoky head. “I grant wishes. I don’t create them. If you know what can give you happiness, I can produce it for you. But I cannot predict what makes you happy.”

That was disappointing. What made me happy? There were all sorts of little things. Books and adventure films and good conversations. Chocolate chip cookies and dogs and the laughter of loved ones. But was that ‘happiness’? I didn’t know. I had no idea. What could make me truly, eternally happy was a mystery, as obscure and hard to define as the smoky spectre that floated in front of me.

I amended my wish and set the genie free. It was surprised. As it granted my wish, the smoke took on a more definite shape. An old man stood in front of me now, his face heavily lined, several eons of life etched onto it. The lines deepened as he broke into a smile. He thanked me for freeing him and walked away. He stopped for a few moments to admire the scenery around him, the pale sand strewn on the beach, the waves lazily approaching the shore before retreating. With a contented sigh, he kept walking until he disappeared into the horizon.

After a few moments, I resumed walking as well, feeling as empty as the bottle that lay half buried in the sand.

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Socializing

After many years of thumbing my nose at the idea followed by a quick 180 where I spent a few months vaguely considering the notion, I’ve finally set up a Twitter account. While the blog will serve as an outlet for longform writing and a place to vent about whatever random stuff it is I vent about, my Twitter account is where I will be revealing the secrets this universe has been hiding from you all this time.

So, you know, that might be something to check out.

I’ve also got an Instagram account that’s been chugging along for a while, but it’s not strictly relevant to the blog, so I never linked it here. However, if you’re interested in artwork by a clumsy amateur artist and cartoonist and a dedicated nerd, then please do drop by.

Follow me on Twitter (or just drop by to shake your head disapprovingly) here:

https://twitter.com/artman413

And here’s Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/artman413/

Now let’s get social!

Adrift

Sometimes I feel like I’m on a boat in the middle of the ocean. I drift along, passing by islands and continents. There are people on the shores who wave at me and I wave back.

I see children and adults, friends and lovers as I float past. My boat goes around, crossing the same ocean again. The children have grown, the adults have aged. Old friends have given way to new ones and the lovers have built families for themselves. Yet I am still there, on that boat. Alone. Watching the world from the water.

I consider stopping somewhere, finding a piece of land to call my own. A place where I can settle down, build my own family, my own home. But then the wind picks up and carries my boat along. All I can do is watch, separated from the world by a shimmering barrier that I find myself unable to cross.

Maybe one day, I’ll find a way off that boat. Maybe one day, the storms that occasionally rage along the ocean and in my own mind will calm down. Until then, all I can do is drift along and watch the lives of others go by as my own stays stuck in limbo.

Hidden Wisdom

Sometimes, you get good advice from the most unexpected sources. Such as people you don’t really like, for example. We can sometimes ignore the advice of friends or loved ones, often because we get advice from them all the time, on every little thing.

The people you don’t like, however, don’t have as strong an emotional investment in you. When they dispense advice of any sort, it tends to stick in the back of your mind, even if the initial impulse is to ignore it. There are two random observations about myself that I’ve received from such people that have stuck with me over the years.

The first one was in high school. As is the case during that time, there was a lot of drama floating around in the air. I had seen enough high school shows by the age of 15 to know that every problem was a life-or-death situation. I was as dramatic as any teenager, prone to bouts of moodiness and mooning over crushes. During one of my fouler moods, a guy I knew (but wasn’t really friends with) managed to get on my nerves and I lashed out at him. Understandably upset by my behavior, he spat back that I was the source of my own problems. I was complicating my own life with unnecessary drama, which is why I was so damn grouchy.

It was meant as an insult. But he was right. I was making my own life difficult. For example, by fawning all over a girl who had made it very clear from the outset that we wouldn’t be more than friends. I honestly thought that I’d be able to win her over somehow, and my continued frustration at being unable to do so left me acting like a character from Dawson’s Creek (maybe? I’ve never watched it, but I’ve seen a gif of James Van der Beek bawling his eyes out, so that seems like a reasonable comparison).

I basically needed to grow up, and though I’ve failed to do that in the 17 or so years since then, I’d like to think I’m just a tiny bit closer to being a full-fledged adult.

The next bit came from one of my old college roommates. He was the kind of guy who seemed really cool to hang out with at first, but I soon realized he was nothing more than a collection of stale jokes wrapped up in unpredictable mood swings. He was also the sort of person who’d eat up everything in the fridge literally one day after we’d gone grocery shopping, and would just shrug it off with a blithe apology. Needless to say, we didn’t stay in touch after graduation. But I digress.

From a young age, I’ve been an avid artist, and I especially love drawing cartoons and dreaming up concepts for various characters. In 3rd or 4th grade, I discovered the stellar Batman: The Animated Series, with characters designed by Bruce Timm. I loved the smooth, angular looks of the characters, so different from any other show I’d watched. I started drawing Batman fan art, attempting to copy poses and scenes from the show (and its tie-in comic). Even when designing original characters, I used Bruce Timm’s Batman work as a reference, only changing minor details. I was never quite happy with how my drawings turned out.

One day, I was in my room busy drawing some random character when my roommate happened to stop by. I expressed dissatisfaction at how the drawing was turning out, to which my roommate simply replied: “Maybe that’s because you’re trying to copy someone else’s style instead of doing your own thing.”

I was stunned. That actually made sense. My drawings were just copies. They had the same proportions as some drawing I’d seen and were in the same pose as another drawing I’d seen, but they had no life of their own. I really needed to develop my own style to give them a more personal element. And that’s what I set about doing. I let myself be influenced by Bruce Timm (along with various other artists that I discovered over time) without trying to slavishly copy one of his drawings. Even now, I’m still trying to find my ‘style’ as it were, but the joy is in the experimentation. Trying out different shapes and proportions based on how I perceive my characters instead of sticking to a single template.

If my roommate hadn’t said that, it’s entirely possible I’d still be churning out poor copies today, or at least for a lot longer than I did. It was a remarkable observation, and it came from such a very unexpected source.

I suppose a broken clock does have its moments.

Piercing the Clouds

And now we come to one of the patches of sunshine I’d mentioned in my previous post.

On my fiction blog, I’ve thrown myself into a few writing challenges to keep the creative juices flowing, and it’s paid off quite well!

A weekly challenge called Three Line Tales provides a photo prompt around which a three line story must be constructed. My entry for last week’s prompt went on to become my most popular post yet, which is pretty awesome! You can check it out here.

Another challenge I’ve been involved in since last year is WEP (Write, Edit, Publish), where a writing prompt is issued every two or three months. The first prompt of 2016 was the Valentine’s Challenge.

When the challenge was announced it left me stumped. Romance is not my genre at all, and I didn’t want to attempt to write something sappy. Part of me considered skipping it altogether, but then what’s the point of a challenge if you’re not going to challenge yourself?

So I decided to give it a shot. After a lot of thinking and several abandoned ideas, I finally came up with something that seemed like it would be a worthy entry. I was pretty happy with it overall, considering how reluctant I’d initially been about writing it. And it seemed to garner quite a bit of praise when it was submitted.

Just yesterday, I got an email thanking all the writers that participated in the WEP Valentine’s Challenge and announcing the winners. As it turns out, I had the winning story! Did not see that coming!

My WEP entry is posted here.

It’s those little victories that keep me chugging along and make me glad I decided to start blogging.

 

Overcast

I’ve been a bit lost in my head lately. More than usual, anyway.

Some days it feels like the whole world is spinning along while I’m stuck in the same place. Did I mention my occasional anxiety attacks? I think I may have said something about that once.

This past week I’ve been struggling a bit about whether to write a post on anxiety or not. Part of me hesitates to do so because I don’t want to be a bummer for people who come across my blog. But another part thinks it’s silly, that I’m just being overdramatic about trivial things and trying to call it anxiety or depression. I’ve always hated it when someone’s response to depression of any sort is to say, “Just cheer up! It’s not so bad!”. And yet, that’s what I feel like saying to myself sometimes. That the dark cloud hovering over my head will vanish if I just wish really really hard.

But it doesn’t quite work out that way. So I lurch along from one day to the next, enjoying the small patches of sunshine that bring a smile to my face as I make my way through the storm.