I’m embarking on a new creative pursuit, one that I have not tried before, one that I have never been that good at doing. (Perhaps because I’ve never tried.)
So, what is this new endeavor? Drawing!
Now, my 12-year-old daughter has drawn for several years now and loves it. She’s actually quite good.
So, what drew me to this?
One of the main reasons is because I wrote a children’s picture book. Unfortunately, though the images are planted somewhere in my head, I never had the ability to transfer those visuals to paper… until now.
Well, I still don’t exactly have the ability to transfer it to paper, but I’m working on it.
My wife bought me the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Currently, I’m going through it. The first three things the workbook wants you to draw is a self-portrait (you don’t realize how ugly you are until you have to draw one), your own hand, and a corner of a room, which is, by far, the most difficult for me out of the three.
Even in this short time, however, I’ve learned more than I’ve ever known before. And it’s only been three days since I’ve started drawing.
I’ve also worked on a few things outside of the workbook. I drew my wife’s purse as it sat on the table...
...I drew our kitchen from my perspective on the table...
...and I drew an image from the children’s book I wrote. The book is called The Water Rose and it’s about a little girl named Evie who yearns to be cured from her disease. In the book, she plants an acorn and an archway/doorway to another world grows from it.
Don't judge too harshly. I've only been doing this for a week or so. Will this lead to something more? It's hard to say. But I do like doing it. You begin to look at the things in this world a little differently, and that can't be a bad thing. After all, is that what art is supposed to help you do?
In my series, Scar of the Downers, the inhabitants live in a land they call the Northern Reaches. As most lands, the people have formed their own customs, habits, languages, and songs. It is what makes each land unique. So, as I’ve concentrated on the series, I wanted to create the same sort of feeling in this world. I wanted readers to feel the that land has a real history, a real people.
So, in this blog post, I’ve compiled all the songs that have been sung in the two books that I’ve written thus far: Scar of the Downers and Rise of the Branded. I’ve also included one new song that is in the third and final book. The working title of the book is called War of the Reaches. Again, that is just the working title.
Crik comes across this first song as it was sung in an inn called Briars and Thickets. As you can see by the lyrics, the citizens of Ungstah have, in their past, faced starvation as well. Not just the Downers.
My wine skin is empty
My loaf of bread is gone
A man of my size can't linger on and on
My stomach's been a-rumbling
My tongue is parched and sore
Just give me one crumb that has fallen on your floor
The dog, he doesn't like it
He growls and bares his teeth
To me it's but a drop; to him a royal feast
We fight and bite, and bark
Use claws to scrape and scratch
And while we weren't a-looking it was eaten by a rat
This next song is a song of history and a lost hope. Downers have known about this song by the tale it tells - a city that once welcomed them.
Long ago in the Glooming East
Lay a city of old where oppression ceased
Freedom burned in that mountain's realm
In hope of shattering slavery's helm
But the sword forged in steel and war
Was lifted high 'gainst Ahminnon's door
That city burned; the smoke now reigned
The hope of the Downers began to wane
And in the blackest night of the darkest age,
The fires of war continued to rage
Swallowing the night; veiling the dawn
When the day had come, the city was gone
This next song was taken from Rise of the Branded. It is a nursery rhyme sung to the youngest Downer of the group, Jak. Now most Downers wouldn't know what a nursery rhyme is. But Chaser does. This song was sung by her.
Seven little birds hatched from their eggs
The first one tried to fly but broke its leg
The second little bird perched in a tree
Sung a little song that went tweet, tweet, tweet
The third little bird lived in a hat
Laid a dozen eggs that were eaten by a cat
The fourth little bird flew to the sea
Caught a little fish and brought it back to me
The fifth little bird broke its wing
Cried for help but found it couldn't sing
The sixth little bird flew away from home
Lost its way and died all alone
So the seventh little bird puffed its chest
Mourned for its brothers and stayed in its nest
The last song I'm including has been written for my third and final book following the Downers. All I'm going to say about it is that it is a song sung for the dead.
The north winds bore you away
To where mortal man cannot follow
The sons of dust mourn their fate
Toiling upon this darkly hollow
To where you go, we cannot
So our tears and sorrows rise to thee
The young man’s life, the grave has bought
But it swallowed death, and set him free
So fly, fly to where old men dine
Away from time and bone and earthly groan
The dead will toast and cheer, and drink their wine
And cry, “Our son, alas, you’ve come home.”
So, if you haven't read the stories that these songs are found within, I would urge you to do so. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed writing them!
To write, you have to love it. If you don’t, you will only get so far or last so long. Why? Because, in the end, writing, for most people, isn't necessary. It's merely a hobby.
I will start this off by confessing that I love that I have been published. I love that I get to see the story I created down in print form. I love to see other people enjoy that story and get to know the characters I discovered while writing it. March 10, 2015, began a new chapter in my writing career, one that I had been working toward for nearly ten years of my life.
I will, however, admit that at that point writing changed for me. Not necessarily for good or ill. It was just... different.
You see, early in my writing career, when I was a much younger version of myself, I would stay up late into the night and spend hours writing. I immersed myself into a story that I loved, but one that I could also control. It was novel (no pun intended… well, maybe a little.) There was… freedom, for lack of a more specific word. There was no sort of urgency, no sort of pressure. If a better idea came along, I could go back and change the story to include it.
Fast forward several years and some of that has changed.
While pursuing writing before being published, I considered it a career, but it never felt like one. It doesn’t feel like one now, but something is different (and it’s not my bank account).
I still love to write and immerse myself into the story, but there is this unseen pressure that wasn’t there before. There is also a realization that I have had to deal with, a reality check you could say. I am no longer naive about this industry or the future. This leads me to why I began writing this post in the first place.
Ten years or so ago, when I first started developing the Scar of the Downer series, I knew where I was going to go, in terms of the story and its ending . In all that time, it has never changed. The story is very similar in nature to when I first conceived it, although now it is a bit more fleshed out. And while writing, at times, has been difficult, I must admit that it’s never been more difficult than it has been lately.
The story is there, in my mind, but it’s become more difficult to put down on paper (in my case, on a screen). I’ve become, in a sense, tired.
Why? I don't know. Perhaps it's disillusionment. Who's to say?
Despite these feelings, do I regret any of this? Not at all! Do I still want to write? Absolutely! In fact, I have other novels in the works. But like all things one tries to do for a living, even if one loves it, it becomes work. A job. That is the saddest part about this whole adventure - when what you love becomes work. That is where I am right now. It’s been a slow, difficult slog as of late. There have been days when only a few hundred words have been written, and that's been a good day. It’s been discouraging. Not just the writing, but life in general. It’s all intertwined.
Does anyone really care about my story? These are real doubts and questions that haunt me still.
There have been many times I could’ve quit. But I haven’t. I pressed on. Why? Because, in the end, I love it. And it’s the love of writing that’s kept me persevering.
That is why you must love doing it. If you don’t, you will stop and never look back.
For me, because I deal in stories, it's easy for me to think that my life is like one. And, in a way, it is. I have a beginning, I'm currently in the middle (at least, I hope so), and eventually, on this earth, there will be an end.
See, the thing about studying writing (especially screenwriting) is that you start to see things in the mindset of the three act structure. It begins with the inciting incident, and that involves a choice, a choice our hero must make. Whatever he decides, that choice propels him to action, which eventually brings about the resolution. Of course, there will be set-backs along the way for our hero, but eventually he arrives at the end.
I think that this structure resonates with people because, in a sense, it's true. Life really is like this, situationally-speaking. Think about it... You meet someone. She is attractive. You have to make a choice - do you ask her out on a date or not? This choice on your end prompts her to have to make a choice. She accepts. This one situation and your subsequent choices concerning it propel you into eventual marital bliss... hopefully!
Isn't life exactly like that?
Umm, not exactly. Perhaps the girl that you asked out on the date didn't want to go. What then? Do you find a new girl to date? What if that girl doesn't want to go out with you? If it were a movie, it would probably be a dark comedy, and you'd eventually find yourself in some sort of weird situation where (depending on the mood of the screenwriter), you'd either die in the end or meet the quirky girl of your dreams.
But I digress.
You see, life is so much more complicated and boring and exciting than one story can encapsulate. In fact, I think our lives are many, many stories each. Some wrap up quickly, some last until you breathe your last breath. That's what's good to remember when you are feeling down about something in your life. It's possible that this is just one small story, one small subplot, after all. Or, it could be a big story that's just not resolved yet.
That might seem depressing, but that means there's still hope to cling to. Think about the best movies you've ever seen. Isn't it when the hero is most down, when things seem the bleakest, when all hope is seemingly lost that redemption comes? That's what we all long for, and I believe if you hold out as long as you can and you keep looking for it, and you keep fighting even when all things seem at a loss... redemption will come.
I'll end with a quote from one of my favorite authors.
I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.”
Scott Keen grew up in New York, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn't want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing--he became a writer.