Mean for the Holidays is over, and I am full of joy, anticipation, excitement and so much more. This campaign absolutely blew me away. Before I get into the content of today’s post, I just wanted to say something to you, wonderful reader.
Thank you so much.
I’ve talked a lot over the past couple weeks about the trials I’ve been through, especially when it comes to releasing new work and how easily I find myself planning things that never come to be. I was so nervous to start this campaign because I was afraid that no one would seek it out and that I wouldn’t see much of a return. When I got into this industry, I knew it was going to devolve into a numbers game, and I fought for a long time within myself because those numbers never seemed to pan out. It changed the way I worked, only seeing a few hits on a new blog post. I would drag myself through the mud and after the most impressive pity party I’d come back the next week + I’d write something new. Upset that I wasn’t making the impression I wanted to.
Everything was from the heart though, and that’s something that will never change.
It was a few years of me struggling with my analytics and my impressions on social media before I really started to tip, I grew so frustrated with the disconnect between what abilities I had, and what was being received that it gave birth to pretty powerful selfishness within me. Despite my mother’s constant support, I saw that those around me stopped reading and from where I sat, stopped caring about what I was doing.
The thing is, I was hungry.
When you’re hungry, you don’t stop hunting.
So I worked and I worked. I worked so hard I put my health on the line for the sake of content I could be proud of, all to increase this imaginary number.
I wanted so badly to leave an impression sizeable enough to remark upon.
That work culminated into a lot of things, namely, a pretty deep depression. I’ve spoken about it this week if you want to read more. I felt this yawning gap between me now and the version of me I had inside my head and the more I struggled to do the wider that gap became. I was lost and I was searching for purpose with a digital counter. I faced my fears at night, making it a goal to climb up and do better. Write more things that would attract readers.
Along this journey, I came to the conclusion that I knew next to nothing about the work I was doing and the world I so desperately wanted to be a part of. I was just as lost five years in as I was at the beginning, but that magical quality to starting a blog and running a business began to wear off. It became dull and dreary work that I could hardly stomach. I was in this mechanical place where I could crank out a full 90k word novel in a month, but it wasn’t any good. As a matter of fact, I’ve written two of them and neither of them was any good.
My writing had turned from a welcome place of repose to a gutted warehouse within me that I couldn’t escape, I didn’t want to.
I knew that one day I would reach the goals I wanted to reach. I would become the author I knew I could become. So I kept writing.
Then came that wave of depression I would fight off with words. I would succumb to the sadness and haul out another monolith of my shame, and my guilt, and my inconsistency.
I speak about this like it is a drama, and I do so willingly. I was a tad bit dramatic, I’m sure. My friends could vouch for that easily. My writing had consumed everything and nothing was safe from its grasp. I didn’t know where the dividing line was anymore. I couldn’t be a regular guy and run this business. I couldn’t be an author of the caliber I wanted no matter how many 30 day novels I’d write.
Everything came to a screeching halt around May. I had just finished a novel, clocking in just over 100k words. The first few days I was proud of the accomplishment until I returned to edit it and I realized that through the course of the whole book, there was no heart. There was nothing within it that I could call my own.
I had successfully become a machine, cranking out words at an astonishing rate, but that was never what I wanted.
The waves came bigger at that time. Overwhelming me, almost. I began to play around with the idea of closing everything, starting over from the ground up and trying again with all I had learned. I stopped thinking about starting over though when I looked at how poor my numbers were. How few interactions I received on blog posts and how little my friends seemed to care about what I was doing.
This is important. I told myself.
I was afraid of being honest with myself, and admitting that going into this with so much passion and not plan was a nightmare. When I caught myself slipping I’d wire up a new schedule and get myself on track and would pound away word after word, idea after idea.
Eventually, it broke me.
Before I had settled on trying Mean for the Holidays earnestly, I sat in my bedroom with my girlfriend on one of the darkest days I’d ever had. I considered that night, giving up on everything I had put so much effort and energy into. I thought for a brief second, that I could throw it all out. The blog, the clothing, the novels, everything. I just wanted to trash it and live like a normal guy.
At that moment, my mom texted me as if she knew what I had considered.
She told me she missed me, and she told me she loved me. She told me something seemed wrong and she wanted to make sure I was alright.
Not in so many words, but I don’t have to speak to my mother with words. She just knows.
She was right.
That night I contemplated giving up all of my work and my entire life’s passion because I was so focused on the numbers and the output that I lost sight of the heart and soul of why I write.
Because I love it.
It’s been a few months since then, and you’re staring at the final piece of the Mean for the Holidays campaign. I know you want to read what I’ve put below, but I hope you stick around for a bit more and let me finish this story.
Depression doesn’t always come for your heart and your mind. Sometimes, it comes for the things you love the most. Your passions, your faith in your friends. It comes for you in the dark corners of your bedroom and the places you know you are weak. It comes in numbers and messages and schedules and it comes in tuning everything out just so you can write a little more.
I’m no stranger to that feeling. I still need to tune things out to write, but it isn’t the same today as it was a few months ago. I still care about the numbers and the views. I think it’s prudent of every beginning author to do so. It’s important we make sure to write what we can pitch but more important than that (as a matter of fact, more important than anything else) is to write from the heart, honestly. To write what we love.
I love my momma. She sat me down a few days after that text and told me to talk to her and to vent everything out for her, and for myself.
When we were done she came around and gave me advice, she told me to schedule less and to be with people more, she told me that I need other people. That we all need other people. She told me that I should focus on my joy before I look to find my passion, she told me to be there for my girlfriend before anything else. She told me to never give up, to never stop, because if I stopped I’d never get it back.
I didn’t stop.
That night I set out to make a lot of things different. I came up with the Soul Project. I found ways to separate Alva from Alan and I found ways to blend them together. I still have days where that crippling beast comes down to me and tries to strangle me, but he has a much harder time reaching me anymore. I don’t let him in like I used to. There are fewer cracks to worry about.
I’ve always had a knack for overworking myself. Especially when it’s something I’m passionate about. But I’m getting better because of my momma, and my dad, and my girlfriend and my friends. I don’t like to talk about my innermost feelings. It’s pretty difficult for a guy in my position to admit that I go through these seasons of depression. I’ve spent the last five years or so working on convincing you that I’m the embodiment of sunshine, right?
There are a lot of pressures we put on ourselves.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
I’m much better now because I stopped making the numbers and the schedule and the output the end goal. I’m just writing because there is nothing in this world that I love more than telling stories.
Tall ones, small ones, true ones. It doesn’t matter to me.
As long as I’m here, I’ll have a story to tell.
All of that was to get to this point here:
December of 2018 was far and away my most successful month on my blog, over half of my yearly views came from December ALONE + that is something to celebrate about. I am so humbled and amazed by the support I’ve seen from you for Mean for the Holidays.
I’ve told you before that this is just the beginning. I have so much more down the line for you, but I want to be sure to appreciate the beginning of my story as much as the end, and right now I am on top of the world.
If I could go back and talk to myself at 8 years old and tell him that 2000 people would hear my stories this year, that over 200 would come back week after week to listen to the things I had to tell, he wouldn’t have made it to 25 year old me. He would’ve keeled over in excitement right there.
So, thank you. I know it’s small, and some may scoff at the small numbers, but this is more than I’ve ever had and I just wanted to say thank you.
I didn’t think I’d see this kind of reaction from my blog ever, after all the stress and doubt I’ve laid upon myself, I am proud to look my younger self in the face and tell him what happened this month.
You’ve made the dreams of that little boy a reality, you’ve allowed me to surpass his wildest imagination, and his imagination is the same as mine.
So I guess, that eight-year-old boy is still here somewhere, and he is dancing.
He is singing because I never gave up.
He is throwing confetti in the air and he is every part of me that is celebrating today because I am honored that you took time out to read what I’ve written. Even on my off days, even if I don’t directly mention it to you, know that I see you. Every week when you come and like a post, or leave me a message. I remember all of you, and as I’m sure you’ve heard… this is only the beginning.
By the end, I’m going to have a full book of people to talk to that little boy about, and I know he will be singing still with every new one.
Thank you so much.
I was planning on saving this announcement for a bit, but I wanted to send it out now, as a thank you. Perhaps a Christmas Gift.
I went through a tremendous amount of trouble within my heart this year. I struggled with many things, and all of those things culminated in this. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you likely know that I theme every year after a “movement” and those movements don’t necessarily mean anything, they are just a way for me to align a focus to each post, to explain away my incoherent ramblings as something worthwhile. This year, all of those things were screaming to be told in a new way.
Umbral Dawning marks something significant within me. It is an awakening. It is a new realization within myself, and while you may never notice a difference, just know that I have grown so much because of what I’ve been through, what I’ve put myself through.
I hope you never go through it.
All of that pain, all of those questions and feelings and world-shattering realizations are bottled up inside this story. This story that I will begin releasing in 2019, on my birthday, for you to read.
I’ve even left a little piece of it here for you. Just to taste what I’ve created.
One more time before you go off to your Christmas festivities, thank you.
Thank you for this month, and this opportunity.
I hope that I will always write what will hit home for you.
It is the greatest honor.
Her eyes burned as she opened them, the blazing sun scathed against her pale skin, threatening to sear her flesh for daring to lay in the sunlight any longer. Her chest sore from the fall, she wasn’t sure of the distance, but it hurt like hell. She rolled to her stomach and braced her hands on the hot ground, looking around her to gain her bearings. The space was a clearing, of sorts. She marveled at the height of the massive trees, stretching into the sky from the earth where they were rooted in a bright golden sand. It must have cushioned her fall, and for a moment she was thankful she hadn’t fallen into something less friendly… like a liquor storage room or a Red Scare meeting basement.
The immediate area was absent, save for her. Her pants were frayed, still spattered with oil from the shattering of the machine. Her shirt was still ripped, the cause of reasonable discourse between herself and her beloved dog Tesla, who hadn’t been keen on her decision to stand up to the Labyrinth Master.
“Of course, that means nothing now, does it?” She stepped out of the clearing and into the forest as she finished her own thoughts. “I’m clearly nowhere near my dog, or the Master, or the Labyrinth itself, it seems.”
As she pushed aside a thick leaf that blocked her view, a large city revealed itself in the distance before her. Beyond the reach of the jungle where the trees gave way to arid desert ground and seldom life bearing foliage, she saw a small pathway.
As if anyone could hear her. She had fallen through a hole in the floor and found herself in a smoking Wonderland. What could possibly be awaiting her there, a caterpillar to give sage advice or a grinning cat to assist her in finding trouble? In a desert such as this? Hardly.
“I need water first.” Her voice scratchy and rough from the dry air. She could find no spring or river or oasis around her that wasn’t just a substantial hallucination. Foraging onward, the heat of the sun threatened to burn her scalp as she treaded through the strange foliage.
The plants were unlike anything she had ever seen. Some of them, the thickest, stood proudly with their roots exposed on the sand. Burrowing only deep enough to hold them steady should a gust of wind threaten their outcropping of dry dirt. Others were huddled against the shade of the larger trees, as if hiding from the sun. A sentiment that Indigo agreed with as she sat down to collect her thoughts, trying desperately to stop thinking about her need for water.
“So, after separating the Labyrinth Master from his horrible machine, he hit me, and I fell backwards. Tesla started tugging on my shirt to get me to leave, I’m sure. The Master stepped forward to hit me again when Hydra attacked him. I’ll need to reprimand the awful bot when I find my way home.” Indigo reached behind her briefly, feeling along her spine until her fingers traced the sleek box that had rooted within her flesh.
“If nothing else, I still have my bones, I suppose.” She laughed to herself.
The shade was unequivocally more pleasant than the desert, but food and water didn’t seem to be abundant in the land where she had awoken. She was nervous to pluck the strange shaped fruit that grew from nearly every tree.
“Too likely to be poisoned, with my luck.”
She stood up, and stepped out into the sunlight, shielding her eyes. Reminiscing in the shade any longer wouldn’t be worth the trouble. The only conclusion she would find is the memory of that horrible skeleton hanging within the Labyrinth. Black bones and all, she remembered plucking one in a panic to defend herself when it attacked to her body. Crawling along her flesh like a sinister caterpillar of sorts. Fusing with her spine. All of her prior resistance to join the rest of society was put out like fire on a damp log.
She continued stepping away from the shade of the tree and towards the desert as she focused on reaching the city. A towering creation in the middle of the desert to be sure, walls of white and gold. In the center there stood a towering building, almost like a fortress. In the center there was a single tower the stretched upward into the sky crowned with a golden clock. A symbol etched into the crown of the tower, from this distance it appeared to be a circle with a triangle desperately trying to hang on by one point and not fall into the city square. It vaguely reminded her of an eye, or perhaps a metronome.
She plucked one of the larger leaves and used it for shade, as she broke out of the tree line and continued looking towards the city. In her mind she fantasized about being a young monk on a pilgrimage towards a holy city, one with water and worship and aa comfortable bed. Three things she had grown accustomed to back home, for better or worse.
She had made, by her estimation, about a half a mile’s worth of distance and the city still seemed no closer than when she began. That was, until she turned around to peer behind her, however, and saw that she had only moved thirty or so feet from the dense jungle.
A gentle wind picked up as she trudged through the sand more, frustrated that she wasn’t born with wheels in her ankles like the Hydra were. It would have made her life so much easier, no more long walks to the market. Just a quick roll down the road and she could return with the ingredients to another recipe her mother had found online.
“That would be too easy.” She quoted her father, mocking him. “Too easy, sure. This isn’t too easy is it dad?”
She didn’t know how long she had been out in that clearing, but however long it was had been ample time for her to decide she was a perfectly suitable conversational partner.
“Lose my mind and nobody will question me anymore, they’ll just think I’m mad. Madder than I am.”
From behind her, Indigo heard a series of quick footsteps.
“I don’t think you seem all that mad, child.”
A woman’s voice gently landed on her ears, somehow less than human. It seemed like it was modified, like it was a woman speaking through one of those ridiculous voice modulation apps her sister had started using after her exposure to the Labyrinth. She turned, expecting to see her sister’s grin in the sand. She knew it wouldn’t be so, not after what had happened. But she hoped.
Instead of her sister, she saw a tall figure, dressed head to toe in robes with a thick hood covering its face. It appeared to be a woman by the shape of its body, but that couldn’t possibly be. The figure behind her was made of thin metal plates fitted together to form a person. It was like gazing at a scientist’s fever dream. The woman machine stepped forward once more and held her hand out.
“Haven’t seen you around before, young one. What is your name?”
“Indigo.” She pulled the leaf over her eyes, attempting to hide her face from the strange thing.
“I’m Mantis-4. Do you know where you are?” The woman machine took another step forward, still holding her hand out.
“Not really, no. If I had to guess I’d say hell, but you never know. Some people say it’s cold. Used to, at least.”
Mantis-4 laughed aloud, the lights that acted as her eyes responded in tandem with her voice and expressions. Eyes squinting in the sunlight even, an unusual trait for a robot to have.
“Well, that city you’re headed to is called Karka, and it’s where I’m from. Do you need assistance?”
Indigo paused for a moment, unsure of how to reply. She was old enough to know better than to walk through a desert with a woman machine. Her mother had always told her so, or something.
“I suppose.” Indigo, however, wasn’t good at listening to the advice of others when her curiosity took over her thoughts.
“What are you? If you don’t mind me asking. People can be touchy about those kinds of things.”
Mantis-4 looked taken aback. As if Indigo had insulted her, perhaps she had.
“You mean to say you’ve never seen an Archon before?”
Indigo shook her head, assuredly. “If I have it’s only been in magazines.”
The machine paused.
“What sector of Karka do you live in?” She caught up to Indigo as they continued walking together.
“I don’t live there at all?”
“You can’t be serious. Do you live in the jungle? Where are your parents?”
Indigo scratched her head briefly.
Mantis-4 continued walking with her, lighted eyes wide with confusion.
“The Borough? Maybe the Workman’s Quarter? Hell, the Gutter? Anywhere in Karka, you have no idea what I’m saying do you do you?”
Indigo shook her head. None of those places were familiar, and the thought of living in a gutter wasn’t exactly appealing to her.
“I’m from Montana. Seceded from the union a few years ago, after the government got a little… prickly?” Indigo shook her head. If the robot didn’t know about Montana she certainly was far from home. Everybody knew about Montana…
That’s all I’ll give out for now. But don’t worry. The rest is nearly ready for release. I’ll have more information as March draws closer. I’ll be talking about it a great deal on social media after I recover from the holidays.
I’ve been working hard on this campaign, and I am so pleased with everything I’ve made and shown you here. In order to keep my head about me, I’m going to spend the next few days working hard on laying in bed, eating good food and enjoying the fact that I’m alive and I am blessed beyond measure.
I hope you have a Christmas twice as good as mine will be.
Thank you for this month. If you want to catch up on anything you might’ve missed from the Mean for the Holidays campaign, you can find it all below.
Thank you, one last time, for spending any time with me at all.
Now get outta here, enjoy your holidays.
Make em mean.
Full List of Releases with Relevant Links:
- Unwelcome Visitor
- Firesoul Ignition
- LINMTBA E-Book release Date: (Jan 9th)
- Open Book
- How to Stay Happy…
- Blackout (A Poetry Project)
- Strange Fruit
- How to Stay Calm…
- Two Today
- Bad Ritual
- The Culling of Creation
- How to Keep Fighting…
- The Law of Creativity
- How to Stay Alive…
- An Awful Announcement