What I’m about to reveal will probably make me sound like a sociopath. Method Actors do it all the time and it seems accepted. However, for an author, because projects we work on can take months if not years…I understand why it might be difficult to maintain a relationship with us.
It’s been over a year since I’ve created a new story. In 2019, I was 32-years-old and after committing myself to books and screenplays for a decade, decided to commit myself to other aspects of adult life…like advancing in a corporate job, becoming a homeowner, and building relationships with real people. In that, 2019 was a success. I’ve progressed and accomplished everything I set out to do.
But still…Despite everything I’ve done, I confess that nothing on earth has given me greater pleasure than escaping to another world and writing down everything I see. I can’t overstate this enough. 2019 has been the longest I’ve gone without creating anything new, and while I am happy…I don’t feel fulfilled. Yes, I’ve written critical essays here and there…but fiction is where it’s at.
Everything else just seems ephemeral. I know that one day I will die and memories of me will fade. I’m just a tenant on this earth. The condo I bought will belong to someone else. My money and possessions will be given to someone else or discarded. And if last summer has taught me anything when a co-worker took his own life…people’s perception of who you are, is pretty much whatever they want it to be, regardless if it’s true.
Perhaps…that’s one of the biggest reasons why writing is so important to me. Ever since I was a kid, I had a powerful imagination. To be here in this world, yet my mind so far away. To hold down a conversation with you, while characters in my mind solved their own conundrums. To hold a book in my hand and turn the pages to the scriptures you call out, while clanging swords in an intense, chaotic war…
When I was in college, I learned about the many artists who were never appreciated until after they died. And when I heard my “friends and family” describe the kind of person I was, it would piss me off to no end how wrong they were. Either because they didn’t listen to me when I flat out told them…or they simply didn’t believe me. I think, like everyone, I had this innate desire to be understood, recognized, and acknowledged. And because I’m not convinced most people will ever comprehend what it’s like to have a mind such as mine, misery takes root.
But here’s the catch…that misery only reared its ugly head when I was surrounded by my peers. Everyone talks about being different and how cool it is and how we should accept everyone for being different but I knew that was a whole bunch of bullshit. Pedophiles are different and they’re reviled as the lowest scum of the earth.
By different, people referring to breaking from what they perceived to be the general right way to behave, think, and act. Oblivious to the fact that if you have a whole movement or a large group of people who all think, behave, and act the same way you do…then clearly you’re not that different. Clearly, you are accepted. And that’s a wonderful thing. Truly, I’m happy for everyone who has someone. Even the Bible tells us that we need companionship and that being alone is selfish.
Being an author is perhaps one of the loneliest occupations on earth. But you don’t feel alone in the dread sense. It’s almost like working out in the gym by yourself. You feel pain, exertion, heat, and sweat. You’re alone, but your senses are occupied. You’re busy. And more importantly, as long as you don’t stop, by definition, you’re improving. And for me, that was the name of the game. Always improving. Don’t stop. No days off. Keep going. Even if my writing’s garbage today, it’s still better than what it was yesterday or two years ago and it’ll only continue to get better so long as I don’t stop.
In my 20s…making it as a published author was the number one goal in my life. I obsessed over my work. Whenever I wasn’t getting paid to focus my mind on something else, my mind was on the plot, the characters, the conflict, the adversity and how they would overcome it.
Honestly…it was amazing. I loved it so much. I’ve witnessed stormy battles in the middle of a busy intersection where combatants squared off while dodging oncoming vehicles. I’ve seen traumatic hauntings and justice served for the murder of innocent majorettes in the rural south. I was there when a young knight with the weight of the world on his shoulders was forced to decide between killing a vindictive sorceress or embracing the longstanding affection she’s had for him since they were children.
Through my stories, I’ve faced numerous heartbreaks, tragedies, triumphs. It’s draining. Exhausting. When you let go of trying to control how you want a story to go, and simply write about what happens based on your characters personalities and the series of extraordinary events, you really are taken for a ride. Yes, you have a general direction of where you want to go, but it’s how you get there that leads to self-discovery.
And more importantly…in my 20s, I discovered something about myself in which I can truly relate to method actors. In the process of writing a novel, when I’d go to work throughout the week, my personality…I wasn’t myself. Depending on the chapter, mentally I had taken on the persona of whichever character I was writing about.
You have to understand…in an environment where people have to see you and interact with you, this is extremely tough. I didn’t even realize it until a female friend pointed it out to me. She compared it to wearing masks. And at first, I thought she was talking about the masks I wore when it comes to holding back what I said because of today’s sensitive Political Correct environment. But really, she was talking about my persona.
The real Rock Kitaro in person is a big, competitive, playful guy who laughs at everything while providing thought-provoking conversation. Anyone sitting at a table with me will dive into their past and tell me what they wanted to be in life, why they are who they are, and what do they love the most about being alive. I might talk about a big game or a movie every now and then, but most of the time, I bypass the superficial to get to the heart of who you are. And from what I can tell, people really like that about me. Because I know how to listen, I believe it draws them closer to me.
And my interest really is genuine. When people question how I’m able to write about plausible and relatable characters, its because I’ve read so many biographies and talked to real people about their experiences, more importantly the motivations, the why’s behind their actions. I absorb all of it.
Then there’s the whole, “you attract the energy you put out”. For the most part, I am a positive, hardworking, driven individual.
However…when I was in the thick of writing a novel, my mind was half in the real world, and half in my fictional world. I did my best to be myself, but inevitably, facets of my characters would show through me. It wasn’t until I finished the 1st draft of a novel that it felt like coming home after spending so much time at sea.
Perhaps the most drastic character is “The Three King of Ybor’s” Eliza Christie. I was a 26-year-old man writing about 21-year-old ball-busting leader of a vigilante group who was hellbent on killing everyone associated with the most powerful syndicate in the world. Eliza Christie is the “protagonist” but she’s also selfish, vindictive, fierce, and cold-hearted when it comes to getting her way.
Sad to say…I carried some of those traits into my daily life.
Another was the character Cloud Beaudry of my mystery novel, “The Slave Quarters.” Cloud Beaudry is a Georgia law enforcement detective who can interact with ghosts and uses this to solve crimes. Not exactly original, I know. But what’s different about Cloud is that he’s also secretly carrying out his own killings. His sidekick is a 19-year-old ghost named Maggie who was killed by her sorority sisters in the 1950s. Cloud Beaudry may solve crimes to get justice, but he also actively seeks out vengeance on those who’s crossed him and Maggie.
Cloud Beaudry is an oxymoron in that he cares about people, but can’t stand them either. Children are about the only ones who stay out of the crosshairs of his wrath because they’re still innocent and not corrupted. But everyone else is just a contribution to what’s wrong with society in Cloud’s eyes. He doesn’t tell anyone this, of course. But such contempt makes it easier for him to eliminate criminals with Maggie’s help.
What most people don’t realize is that the characters we see on the big screen or in books and comics…someone created them for a reason. Those characters are facets of the writer. This is a disturbing revelation that a lot of people overlook.
Recently, I watched the Joker movie…and was disturbed by how easily I understood his character. Everything he did made sense based on what happened to him. This is good writing. An example of bad writing, as I witnessed through re-runs of “Arrow,” is when young people are given the words of mature and highly insightful psychiatrists to help the protagonist through personal anguish when you know damn well there’s no way a 17-year-old kid would have said something like that on their own unless they went through their own crucible, which wasn’t shown or explained to the audience to justify the dialogue.
It’s now December 22, 2019…after about nine months of being in the real world, honestly, I’m kinda bored with it. I would’ve loved to have met a special lady to which I could build a relationship that would lead to marriage and a family, but I honestly believe that’ll only happen through divine intervention, God placing that woman in my world at the right time. (read other essays to find out why I don’t chase)
And so…I stand alone in a vacant auditorium with multiple premises to pick from. The anticipation is electric and I can’t wait to get started. But I’m afraid. Ever since reading the Bible in its entirety, I’ll admit that my priorities have changed and writing is no longer the number one goal in my life. But it’s still the greatest pleasure. It meant more to me than money that would’ve come from better corporate positions. And it meant more to me than the women who I did have the opportunity to build a solid future with.
I would say I regretted all this, but I don’t. Back then, the logic was for me to get published so the money from an advance would establish a solid financial foundation by which I can provide for my future wife and children. Now…I don’t need to rely on book sales for all that. I already have it. It’s established. And with a better relationship with my heavenly father, I know there’s no feat I can’t accomplish if it’s good in His eyes.
That’s what I tell myself. But what will happen when I do draw the curtains to begin a new story…stepping into a new world and immediately finding myself immersed in the drama. Will I be strong enough to pause everything and leave it for the sake of maintaining relationships with people in the real world? Have I really become that skilled?
If you don’t understand, let me put it this way. When it comes to some artists, you’ve probably read about how they use drugs like marijuana or alcohol to inspire them to create some of their greatest works. I never needed any of that.
Escaping into a fictional world is a drug in of itself. Dark skies, a brisk icy wind scraping across my cheeks as I look upon a sprawling metropolis with neon lights casting a purple tint on me. My foot is on the ledge as I peer out on the yellow stream of speed below and to my left is Eliza Christie with her facemask pulled down, her piercing green eyes penetrate me in a silent warning not to tell anyone she’s there. Across the street is Gavin Hassell, her former lover turned narcissistic terrorist with his long black hair. In his hands is a long claymore. He lights up a cigarette and bounces his eyebrows as if to say, “I’m here. What are you going to do about it?”
I know their history. The clash is a long time coming. I need to see what happens. I have to find out. I’m grinning. Show me! GO!
What do you do when you have these experiences over and over again, only to come back to the real world and be around people who have no clue? And worse, if you tell them, because everyone has an imagination, they’ll compare yours to theirs as if we’re all on the same level and thus get insulted if you even think for the slightest that your imagination is anything like the real life experience.
But herein lies the tragedy of maintaining human relationships.
You can’t force people to care about you and what you’ve been through. You can’t force people to care about what you’ve done or your accomplishments. You can’t expect people to care about your passions or hobbies as much as you do. It seems in order to make a connection to people, you have to be someone, or have some experience they can relate to.
Thankfully, I do have a lot of experiences that others can relate to. And more importantly, with my ability to empathize, I’m able to listen, commiserate, and demonstrate how much I understand. Not everything, of course. I’m not a father and I’ve never witnessed the birth of my child so I can only barely comprehend what that’s like. But still, the comprehension is there.
I can connect to people. Just not the kind of connections I find the most fulfilling, such as a connection through our love for God, a love for each other, or a connection through a strong purpose that’s driving them to do something extraordinary, just like me. And while I’m able to understand who most people are…I’m not convinced they’re able to understand me.
The keyword there is “convinced.” Because you’ll hear it a lot from people.
“I understand, Rock!”
“I support you, Rock!”
“I believe in you, Rock!”
But by their actions, they either lying or really just don’t know the meaning of the words their saying. It’s tragic because these people are good people. By them telling me they understand or support me, I can tell they at least, want to…
“Well, Rock. What would it take to convince you?”
First off, you don’t have to convince me. In my years, thankfully I’ve matured to the point where I no longer hold on to the hope or expectation of anyone ever being able to understand me and I’ll still love and respect them all the same. However, when I do come across someone who is able to grasp the magnitude of what I am…these people are rare to me so you can bet your ass that I’ll treasure them above all others.
“Whoa, Rock! Magnitude? Just who exactly do you think you are!?”
This is what I’m talking about. Most people would be turned off by such thoughts. Which is why I wrote my essay “I can relate to Clark Kent” when it comes to holding back and hiding who I am just to make others feel comfortable around me and fit in. Thus, one feels different and lonely.
However, there are those who understand completely what I’m talking about. Like I said…a fulfilling connection through our love for God or a strong purpose that’s driving them to do something extraordinary.
Like my elderly cousin, Phyllis, who remains to this day, the only person in my life who has openly asked about one of my novels, listened to me tell them about it from beginning to end, and then would call back for more updates, remembering the characters and their ordeals. She was definitely invaluable in my life. It meant something to me. Even if she didn’t buy my books, it was a huge support just to be able to talk about my stories to her. To tell her what I’ve seen and I knew…I was convinced that she understood how my stories weren’t just this random imaginative thought, but a real experience as if I was talking about an incident that happened just days ago.
My parents have come to understand when I tell them that I only have one day off a week and it’s devoted to writing. Even if I don’t hear from them or an aunt for over a month, it’s refreshing to hear them say, “well, we figured you were in the middle of a book.” Not to be sarcastic, but they’d be right. When you’re working on a chapter and someone calls to talk and ask you how you’re doing, it takes time to get back into your fictional world after divulging other things you’re going through.
With my friend Cheri from 2013 through 2015. I was able to connect with her because she too was trying to do something extraordinary with her life. She wanted to excel in the field of cyber security and pursued it with as much passion as I did when it came to my writing.
Then, of course, I’m blessed with working at a law firm where the attorneys here are like a second family to me. My boss, a defense attorney named Kevin Hayslett and my office manager Maryann, have been supporting me since 2009 ever since I started writing scripts. How have they supported me? How have they convinced me?
It’s really not rocket science. If someone tells you they want to be an astronaut, wouldn’t the easiest way to convince them that you at least want to understand, support, and believe in them, would be to friggin ask questions about their work, what they’ve done and how they plan to accomplish their goals.
You won’t believe how many times I’ve pursued a prospective love interest, told them about my aspirations of wanting to be an author and they never asked a single question about why or what I’m working on. Only two have done this, which was a big part of why I fell in love with them.
Asking questions and showing an interest in the passion of someone who’s trying to do something that most people aren’t, is the best way to convince them that you at least want to understand who they are, which leads to acceptance, which is important for men and women like me because chances are, we’ll never stop being who we are, whether it’s a painter, a philosopher, actor, comedian, writer, singer, rapper, professional athlete, musician, architect, designer, ect.
I used to think this was wrong of me. That I should change who I am to make myself more easily accessible to others. You hear about things like this proverbial balance to life as an artist. I know of authors who are able to write books while maintaining a marriage and raising their children.
I believe I can do the same, but I don’t know for sure. I’m now 33-years-old and I believe I’ve come a long way from how obsessed I used to be. But I know for sure that I still have a one-track mind when it comes to something I want to do. When I went through the process of obtaining a mortgage, nothing else mattered for a good two months while I was working to accomplish this goal.
Honestly…I believe it just depends. It seems all of my accomplishments in life required sacrifice. I’ve sacrificed friends and relationships if they started to get in the way of my writing. I sacrificed time I could’ve spent cultivating those relationships like a normal person, going out and hanging out with them on days off and holidays.
This is the part that hurts. Those should be “sacrifices,” but in truth, the only time I’d really consider something a sacrifice was when I chose to be with people instead of writing. Gosh, that sounds so horrible. But it’s true. Every time I caved in to attend some family function, or some social event, or go hang out with friends when I could have been writing, that was the sacrifice.
The only time it was worth it was when the friend, family, or loved one understood what I was giving up to be with them in that moment. Lol…that’s why I friggin hate it when I visit relatives and all we do is sit in front of the TV watching some movie. I’m like: