Category Archives: Personal Journal

Family Stories

For decades I’ve been plagued by the fear that when I’m gone, all the family stories that I know will be lost – all the little narratives that illuminate who people were and, more important, how they were.

I’ve ended up with all the material effects from five families, including my own, as I inherited the possessions of my mom and step dad, grandmother and grandfather, great aunt and uncle on my grandmother’s side, and great aunt and uncle on my grandmother’s side. These fill two to three dozen moving boxes, each with hundreds of papers, photos, collectables, souvenirs, mementos, awards, and memorabilia, and almost every one has a story behind it.

Here in my sixty ninth year, I have finally become so worried that these wonderful tales describing not just dates and places, but the nature of those who came before me, both those I’ve known and others even before that whom I have heard about from those that knew them, will cease to be. In a sense, I feel as if all these beloved and unique people will then cease to be as well, far more so then when they gave up the ghost.

And so, to assuage this nagging sadness, I have recently taken it upon myself to preserve those narratives – all the family stories I know from experience or had related to me.

To this end, I have begun opening each of the boxes, one by one, under the eye of a video camera pointed down into the memory treasures. In short sessions I pick up the first item, and share what I know about it and the people to whom it was connected, describing not only the object, but weaving in special memories I have of the people I have loved and lost, and even wonderful moments from those still with me when an item touches upon them as well.

I had tried before to put these stories in words, taking pictures of each material thing and speaking about it in essays and even collecting these in books. But who wants to read such material in a technological world such as this. And, it also lacks the immediacy of discovery, part way through my monologue, of some previously lost memory that puts passion in my voice as I rotate the object for the camera and reminisce.

I have done one session already, and I feel so relieved – that is the only appropriate word – that everything I shared on the video is now part of our family history, and those particular stories shall not be lost to time. I am eager to continue, knowing that each session brings those people alive again, as I knew them or heard about them, as if they were fictional characters that live on screen in a movie, for that is where the passion can be felt, and even those who never knew them nor even previously had heard of them can be enriched by their smiles, moved by their tears, thrilled by their triumphs, and saddened by their tragedies. But most of all, these magnificent spirits will live on in the hearts of those who live today, and of those not yet born who can say, “these are the people through whom I myself have come to be.”

Where no one will see me…

This is where I go to create things that no one will ever see. I have thousands of posts here on my blog and get maybe three or four page hits per day. So I know that if I post something here, it;s likely no one will ever see it.

But that’s okay. Lattely, at age 69, I’ve made a harrowing effort to get past the creative process to ask why I even create at all. In fact, my very last post was entitled, Why Bother To Create?

It took decades to shed the goals and perspectives of youth such as the desire for fame, fortune, and artistic recognition. I must admit that those desires did put my creativing into hyperdrive for more than half a cetury. I keep thinking that my current amazing project was the one that was going to breakthrough and get me all manner of wonderful things and fulfillments. Never happened.

I did come close a few times and actually made a minor name for myself in several different arenas over the years. But I never experienced the reward I was looking for. But now, I have come to realize I will always create because that is who I am; I’m just wired that way.

But the effort I’ve put into that prolific outpouring of material was amped up to that level because of those false goals. And now, having finally being able to separate them out from my underlyng drive to create, I can see that if I don’t care if anything I spill out makes a dime, or gets recognition, or even if anyone ever sees it al all, it doesn’t change my pleasure in creating.

And there’s one more thing. When I make something, I want to share it. I’m that kind of person that has a slice of the best cake I’ve ever tasted and I want to share a bite with everyone in the room rather than keep it for myself. You see, I would be so much happier watching their faces light up when they tasted it and saying, “Isn’t that the best cake you’ve ever had?” while they chew with glee, even if all I get is one bite myself. Always been that way. My mom raised me that way, but I think it was already in me and she just nurtured it.

So, I’m not really looking to hide, as per the title of this post. Rather, I’m making a statement that I like doing things my way with no interference and no restrictions. Can’t stand restrictions. And when I find or build something really cool, I want to share.

But because, even after decades trying to build a following on the internet and failing, I can’t give that cake away, I’ve decided, finally, just this week, to just put it out on the kitchen table in case somebody stops by who’d like some.

No more trying to buttonhole people and drag them to my free giveaway. I’ll make it because I take pleasure in that. And I won’t hide it or keep it to myself. I’ll just post it here and occassionaly publish on Kindle or YouTube and let folks find it or not.

Bottom line – I so much wanted to share the best of what I had that I essentially chased people down the street. And, like the Dr. Seuss book, they’d pretty much run away yelling, “I do not want it, Sam-I-Am1” Truth is, on the rare times I did catch them and forced them to try it, unlike the Seuss book, the really, honestly, didn’t like it. All I’d done is pester them to distraction with something I thought was a diamond (perhaps in the rought) and they saw it as just a lump of coal.

And I would sit there amazed, pondering how they couldn’t see how wonderful this thing I’d shared actually was. How could they not see that? And so I figure, it’s me or them, or both of us, but regardless, I’m tired of the drill. And so, I’ll post everything I make here, having created it for my own pleasure with no remaining expectations anyone will find in it any value at all. Still, it is like buying a lottery ticket. If you don’t buy one you can’t win. If you do buy one, the odds are really stacked against you, but at least you are in the game.

But rather than putting all kinds of energy into promotion (far mor than I ever put into creating the thing in the first place), I now realize that would be like buying ten or a hundred lotto tickets – it doesn’t substantially increase your odds.

And so, I don’t expected to get much fulfillment from sharing my specials, but at least there’s always a chance, and I known the joy in making it in the first place will always keep me making new stuff regardless.

Good place to end. But I should mention that I got one review on Amazon for my new novel that I am serializing on Kindle. Paraphrsing, it said: “What a concept! I can’t wait for the next installment!” Yeah, that felt pretty good.

Why Bother To Create?

I’ve reached a crossroads. One path leads me to continue creating new ideas, writings, music, photographs, and such just as prolifically as I always have (literally thousands of creative works over half-century career of sorts. The other path leads me to create far less – to have just as many wonderful ideas and inspiratons, but not to develop them or document them, or post them.

On the surface, it would seem I should take the path of prolific creativity. But that is no so obvious when I look into why I create at all. What do I hope to get from having created? What drives me to make.

In the past, in my youth, I wanted to invent new thoughts and experiences and from that to garner my fortune, fame, and validating artistic recognition. I’m thinking there’s nothing inately wrong with that, but fifty later, I’ve achieved none of that. And at some point you need to ask yourself, what if I knew in advance, from this point forward, that I would never achieve any of those things? Would I still create? In other words, how much of what motivates me to do the work of developing and distributing an idea is the expectation of achieving fame, fortune and artistica validation (recognition)?

Turns out, none of those things have motivate me for a long, long time. At some point I realized I really didn’t want to be rich in material wealth, but rich in my relationships and experiences. And I didn’t desire fame as I was far more interested in having people appreciate the art than the artist. And as for artistic validation, turns out I only needed that from myself as I have come to see that some folks like chocolate and some vanilla, and if I like Brown Butter Bourbon Truffle (which I do), well that’s just fine. I should never create what I think people will like, just what I myself would like to create.

That being said, what, then, has been motivating me to continue to produce like a fire hose for all these most recent years, if fame, fortune, and recognition are no longer drivers?

This was a hard answer to find. But I did discover what has driven me of late: sharing. Simply put, I love to give Christmas and birthday presents. I love to show my eclectic collections of all kinds of things to everyone I can buttonhole, not because I want to show off or show what I own, but because I want to share. I want them to feel the wonder or the joy I do from that oddly shaped branch on my shelf, or the strange little ceramic man I found at a yard sale.

In short, I empathize greatly, and my greatest joy is when I can give a gift or a smile or an idea someone’s never thought of before that makes them say, “Well, that’s interesting…” and off they go a-pondering, and all because I was able to give them that gift. And the joy runs through me like an electric current that they and I are resonating together and that I accomplished something really special – I made their mind expand or their emotions dance.

It is the expectation that what I am creating will have that effect on others – that something that I created that excites me will excite them as well, and we can share the moment together – THAT is what truly drives me. Always have, though I never saw it until my later years, hidden as it were behind making a name for myself.

Just a moment ago I threw some peanuts out the door next to my desk – out into the backyard where our daily visitors, the squirrels and crows, come to feast. The feeling I get from providing them with sustinence is the exact same feeling I get from publishing something new, and is also the same feeling I enjoy when I recently gave a special cake to a family member for her birthday.

I didn’t grow the peanuts, I didn’t bake the cake. And on Facebook I have often filled my feed with ten or twenty reshares of other people’s ideas, memes, musical performances, or artistic work for the same reason – to share, to bring the smile or the surprise moment of new knowledge.

Honestly, I don’t have to create at all to get that feeling, but as creative individual by nature, new original thoughts and artistic expressions come to me all day long, enjoyed, but unbidden. And once I have them in my possession, I want to share them, just as I might get a really good burrito and offer half of it to a friend because having them experience the same thing that brings me joy is better to me than having all of it for myself. It just is. Just the way I’m wired.

So if I am to truly be happy, I must share. But here’s the rub… What If I threw those peanuts into the yard each day and nobody came to eat them? What if the squirrels didn’t stop by, the crows just flew one, and the nuts I tossed out just lay there until they rotted into the earth. Where would my joy be then?

In such a scenario, not only would I not have the peanuts for myself, but I wouldn’t have any emotional reward for putting them out there – no sharing, no seeing them joyously consume the sustinence of life. Nothing.

And that is what has happened, in general, in my career. Of all the thousands of things I post (just like this note), not one single person looks at it, much less clicks on it. And I never realized until recently just how empty that leaves me.

At first, many years ago, I tried to drum up an audience so that I could share these wonderful things with them. I spent countless hours building websites, publishing books on Amazon, tending Facebook pages, blogs, and newsletters, all so that I could lure people in so I could give them my gifts and then enjoy my resonance with their positive feelings.

Today, I find myself standing on a street corner with a sign that says, “Free Diamonds” and not only does no one stop long enough to look them over and take one, not even do they not grab one on their way by, but they don’t even look over to see the sign.

For a time I thought that the best solution is not to look for immediate return, but to put it out there so that someday the valuable thing might be found and shared by others to others. But that is a false motivation. It is based on a fantasy. And it misdirects my desire to participate in the immediate sharing so that I am only indirectly interacting by imagining a pretend future in which one of my creations is discovered by one person and shared with another, and as I imagine their joy in sharing, I try to become motivated to continue to produce based on that vicarious experience that is by no means certain, and is actually belied by the lack of interest now.

As that was not a satisfactory solution as to how to motivate myself, I considered the message in a bottle approach whereby I could imagine that each thing I created would drift on the cyber sea until it found its way to just the right person who needed to receive it, or at least to someone whose life would be enhanced in mind or passion.

But again, that is all make-believe, daydreaming, and trying to force myself to accept those things as tangible and certain so that I continue to produce at the high volume that has defined my efforts in the past.

Still, there is one other alternative: don’t publish at all. That’s pretty severe, but it is an option. What if I create my music and books and photographs and never share them with anyone, powered only by my own internal Muse and not by an expectation of ever enjoying sharing with others.

That’s pretty much what’s driving me in writing this article. I truly feel that many artists might find something in these words of enough insight and value into their own audience-related issues that it would be worth their time to read the post.

Yet it is my expectation that no one will ever see it – just another drop in the black hole, just another peanut rotting on the ground, just another diamond nobody takes. Strangely, that is not a bad thing. I am motivated to write this, therefore, not because I think anyone will read it, but because I want to document these thoughts while they are fresh and full of passion.

So why am I posting this, rather than simply saving them as a document on my computer? Simple. If you don’t buy a lottery ticket, you can’t win. If you buy one ticket, at least you’re in the game. Meaning, that if I don’t publish at all, this valuable gift will likely be lost forever. But if I publish only here on my blog, at least it is preserved.

I am not being motivated by sharing, because I don’t expect anyone will ready this. I am not being falsely motivated by imagaining someone will someday find the post and see it as valuable. I am motivated solely by my desired to build this gift, and then to preserve it so it won’t rot.

Nonetheless, all preservation is eventually corruptible. Once I have passed, this blog will likely not long remain, and all that it contains will vanish when my estate stops paying the web hosting fees.

And yet, even Facebook may someday delete non-active pages, and my books on Kindle might be removed when my bank account is closed after my death and Amazon has no way to send me any royalty payments.

I had been trying to post everything as many places as I could so that there was a greater chance to share this fine things. Time, however, has shown me that I am no promoter and no marketer. I am a maker of thoughts and experiences, and that is my skillset.

Does this mean I will no longer publish to YouTube and Facebok and Kindle? Probably it doesn’t. There may come a time in which I want to stand on that street corner once again. But for now, I have been burned by the lack of fulfillment that comes from so deeply desiring to share the best of what I have to offer and not only having no takers, but no one even stops by my stand to see what I have prepared.

For now, this is it. Someday I may again gather the best of what I have and bundle it into videos on YouTube and booklets on Kindle. I’m probably done with Facebook for good. And I do hope to eventually find a way to more permanently document my work so that these wonderful things aren’t lost forever.

In the meantime, here I have purchased a single lottery ticket.

Melanie Anne Phillips

In the next thrilling episode…

Woo Hoo!

Made the decision yesterday to publish my novel-in-progress episodically on Amazon’s new “Vella” platform.

Basically, Vella is an app that allows folks to read espisodes sequentially of a story and pay just a few cents for each episode as they go, kind of like a television or streaming series.

So, with about 1/3 of the book written, the expectation it will take another 18 months to two years to complete, and roughly fifty episode’s worth of material already written, I’m going to give this popular new publishing platform a shot, to get new material out there as soon as it is written and end this agonizing frustration of not being able to share the cool story I’m writing until the whole thing is completed.

Personal Journal | March 22, 2022

I’m using the writing of my novel as an opportunity for personal growth, as I do with most everything – a chance to learn more about what truly motivates me, what I want out of life, and to better define my feelings about relating with others, rather than relating just to my artistic work.

I’ve never written a novel before, though I’ve written several screenplays, hundreds of poems and lyrics to my songs, a few short fictional pieces, and thousands of non-fictional pages on topics ranging from narrative to psychology to philosophy, physics, and political theory. But never a novel.

Mostly I’ve not written a novel because no idea I’ve ever had, no matter how intriguing it might have been, excited me to sit down and tell the tale so that others might enjoy it.
But this time it’s different. I really love this story, and I’m so excited to share it with others that it is a major frustration not to do so until it is finished because I also think it is the one big idea that has the greatest chance of fulfilling my dreams of a big paycheck and some recogition for my work.

That’s why I’m holding back until it is done. But I can’t let those reasons become part of my motivation for writing it or the pure joy of savoring the idea and also anticipating the fun others will have in reading it will be tainted by monetary and ego-driven concerns.
And so I have set about a process whereby I fequently query myself to weed out any motivations driven by money or the desire of recognition, though that may, in fact, double or triple the time it takes to finished the book – perhaps making it take another year and a half or so to complete (which just adds to my frustration).

Still, if I can suffer frustration every damn day, and even the fear that I’ll croak before I complete it or not live to enjoy seeing others enjoy it, perhaps I will have a better balance in my creative life.

I was thinking, then, that:

1. I must not allow myself to be driven by the hope for money

2. I must not allow myself to be driven by recognition

3. I must not allow myself to be driven by needing to complete it.

4. I must not be driven by expectation of others enjoying reading it.

So, in the end, I would like to be able to answer the question, “Why are you writing this novel?” with “Because I want to.” And the follow-up question, “Yes, but what’s your purpose?” I hope to (eventually) honestly reply, “I have none.”

Not there yet. And, honestly, it that even a worthy goal? Or should I just throw myself into it as I have with every other big project I’ve ever taken on, movtivated by all of those things so I can get it done as quickly as possible, but at the expense of having any other kind of a life and being wholly tunnel visioned into completion?

Ah, if I could live forever, I’d have no problem, would I?

One thing is certain. I have vowed that once this project is finished I will never again take on a big project that can’t be released piecemeal as I go. No more waiting months or years to be done with the whole thing before I share what I’m creating, as I’m creating it.

That’s what I’ve vowed. Now to see what actually happens…

Personal Journal | March 13, 2022

So I’ve been working hard on resolving long-term issues and angsts, as this Covid pandemic finally fades away. I want to clear the decks for action, get away from so much introspection, and get on with the business of arting. (That’s “of arting” not “o farting”).

On of the biggest mental blocks I’ve had is justifying my art without any indication it matters a damn to the world at large. There’s no acclaim, no fame, no celebrity. No appreciation of the work itself. No money, no followning, no recognition.

So the question became, after 69 years of cranking out tens of thousands of pages of text, thousands of photographs, hundreds of musical compositions and videos with no standard by which it appears to amount to anthing at all, how do I keep going without the ongoing pain of feeling that it makes not difference?

I’ve been working on this one for decades, and of late I’ve felt I was growing closer to a clear understanding of the problem, if not a solution to it. And then, a couple days ago, for some unfathomable reason, I remembered a skit I saw performed at a talent show in my high school auditorim some half century ago.

It was a one-man presentation, in mime until the very end. This teenager took on the character of a very elderly man. By following his actions, we divined that the old man was in a small apartment, taking ingredients out of the cabinet, mixing them together, and putting the result in the oven. Time passes. He takes out his creation – a small item, upon which he puts somethings small and verticle – and lights it. It is a candle on top of a cupcake. He turns to the audience, holding the plate with the cupcake on it and speaking for the first time, singing, “Happy birthday to me… Happy birthday to me…” Lights fade.

Now I’m pretty sure that sketch no longer exists anywhere in my mind. But it still exists there. And it has affected how I dealt with my step-dad before he caught Covid in the early days, later dying.

It gave me understanding and compassion. It put me in the shoes of that lonely old man (who was really just a teenager on stage). But if that actor is still alive, I wonder if he would even remember that moment himself. And I wonder if any of the other thousand or so kids in that auditorim that day also recall it, from time to time.

That gave me my answer. What we create as artists (like this very post) should not be judged based on any visible indication that the work has value or popularity. Perhaps some works never hit a single mark. Perhaps others touch many hearts, but in the dark so no one notices.

There’s no feedback, no comments, not even more than the occasional page “like” to validate or justify having created. And creating for its own merit, because that is what an artist does, never spoke to me. I don’t create for myself, and I don’t create because I can’t help it (though I can’t). I do it because I want to put good into the world – something I’ve thought of or saw or built that will make the world a tiny bit better, one heart or mind at a time.

But without the stats, I felt like I hadn’t broken through. But now, as the pandemic ebbs and having just turned 69, I want to set my sails unfettered to explore new lands in both the outer and inner frontiers. And I needed that agnst gone in order to catch the wind.

Because of that lone artist some 50 years ago, I had not only changed my behavior with the older members of my family due to heightened awareness, but I am now also changed to my core as an artist myself, by recognizing that when I create something in which I find value and then float it out across the cyber sea, it may sink, but it also might be fished out by some web surfer who is similarly affected as I was. And, good was put into the world.

And so, I’m pulling out all the stops. No more worrying about publication or sales. Sure, I’ll post links to what I’ve created here and on my FB page and elsewhere, but each and every new work, or the first releasing of an old one I’ve never shared before is one more chance that, here and there, one or the other will change things for the better, just a little bit. And it is THAT knowledge that ends my artistic ansgt and enables me to proceed full tilt with reckless creation.

Next Steps

Spent all last week updating my business websites so I could finish the last stage of my retirement and put them all on auto-pilot.

Some weren’t mobile compatible, some had menus that just went to raw feeds in various categories rather than to curated master pages listing top posts in that category with a link to the feed and to the search function.

I finished that job just before noon yesterday (Friday) and now on Saturday night I take stock of what I want to do next.

Teresa is playing cover music by a number of amazing modern bands – folks who have it nailed and play it with the same passion as the originals, ranging from Asian bands, Australian Bands, even Russian Bands – all just as good (if not better) than the originals.

She said to me the other day, you know, if you’re going to retire, you really ought to ask yourself. If you were starting out right now from scratch, what would you do, what would you build, how would you spend your time?

Tough question. The answer, of course, lies in being able to rip off the filter of preconception and to stare into the wild wind of truth. To do this, I’ve been inundating myself in hours and hours of new modern streaming movies and series, mostly epic sci-fi as I enjoyed as a kid.

Teresa said I need to get back to who I was – to what I used to love. Problem was, I don’t know that I ever really embraced those things back in the day when I was a child. I was always looking for the impact what I built and created and did might have, and that was more important to me than the thing itself. So though the projects I pursued did spring from my interests, they all became work efforts where the focus was not on what I was getting out of it but what I might accomplish.

And so, I can’t get back to what I never had.

But I can have it now, for the first time.

And that is what my next steps are all about: to look at what I have already built, mostly disorganized and unpolished (a raw fount of creativity), look deep into where I truly find meaning in life, and then bring that all together into a wave of renovation, reorganization, and re-creation.

Hence, I am here. Back to the personal web site I created as a storefront for everything I have ever made or conceived. I guess I was in love with what I’d spewed forth into the world – so in love I couldn’t stand the thought of it being lost to the world once I am gone, and at 68 that is often on my mind.

Perhaps at one time long ago I cared about fame and fortune, but that time is long passed. And here I find I want nothing more than to express the thoughts and visions I have and have had – to share them, whether they survive me or not, or perhaps even whether or not they are seen.

At least I said them. At least I was here. At least I lived before I died.

Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Middle of the Covid pandemic. Missing seeing my kids and grandkids, having seen them only a couple times in the past two years due to risk of exposure.

Also, re-evaluating how I wish to approach my art, my science and my life in general now that, at 68, I’m well in to the last act of days.

Conclusions arrived at:

No more doing anything I don’t really need to do that I don’t want to do, no matter how much sense it makes.

No more spending a lot of time posting on platforms that will barely outlive me, such as my own web sites and blogs like this one.

No more spending money to advertise my work so it gets exposure: your loss.

Settled on posting my entire archive to YouTube so it will be around practically forever (since they put ads on all my content.

Facebook looked good for a while, but though your personal page remains when you die, the independent pages you create from that personal page stop being listed in their search engine if you aren’t regularly posting. So what’s the point? Besides – who searches for anything on Facebook anyway?

No, the only long-term solution that costs nothing and (so far) has been “permanent” is YouTube. But that takes some clever thinking to figure out how to put still picture, and books up there. Basically, I need to narrate my books as audio books and turn that into video with just the book cover as the image. Doing that now with the book I co-wrote with Chris: Dramatica – A new Theory of Story

Hopefully I’ll get all my other books protected and backed up to YouTube the same way.

So, writing here is no longer an attempt to share my wares, but has become a release – a place to share what’s going on now and to vent about life in general.

I’ll be coming back more often now, but not to create a master archive of my work – just to trade in words that have no lasting impact and serve only to satisfy my need to dump stuff out of my head so there’s room for new stuff.

That is all.

Why the blog?

One of the reasons I’m keeping my journal as a blog this time around, rather than as word document to be published later, is that I seem to thrive on the immediacy of it – the momentary excitement of an idea that drives me.

Knowing, previously, that my writings would have to wait what seemed like an interminable time in order to be made available to others was a real motivation killer.

So, I went to my Facebook account and spent several years throwing myself into posting and curating all the wonderful things I wanted to share. But as we learned in the video I included in my previous post – NOTHING! Not a like, not a share, not an included link clicked – NOTHING!

I tried, I really did. I wasn’t craving an audience or a following. I just wanted to know that of the friends and followers I did have, the art and insights I developed were meaningful.

But, as it turns out, most folks just want to hear about your cat and your grandkids and see the funny meme you reposted. Nobody wants to consider your original music, your artistic photographs, your philosophic epiphanies – NOBODY!

So, the more they resisted, the more I persisted. The less they commented, the more I posted until even family and friends had enough, blocked my notifications and just dropped by my page from time to time to add a polite like or noncommittal comment.

In truth, I drove them out. I have the never-ending rush of ideas within me, often to the point I feel as if I’ll explode. And only by writing a song, a poem, posting a new photograph or explaining a new insight can I avoid the endless screaming of the Muse. (“Tell me, Clarice, is the Muse still screaming?”)

So here I’ve come, a place where no one else goes: my blog. And in it I shall post my endless journal of experiences, concepts, and creations – I will cleanse myself of the debris of past inspiration to make room for the next batch and send it down the pike as quickly as I can before I am smothered by my own thoughts.

Here’s some music I composed and recorded some twenty-odd years ago but never got the mix right on it. Just went back to the original elements and nailed it (within the limits that my tawdry tracks could, in their insufficient original form be nailed, even with a good mix).

Posted under my musical performer name of Tarnished Karma: