short stories

~ The Hidden Treasure ~

~ The Hidden Treasure ~

“The day had come and gone, and there we sat at the end of the jetty, facing out into the sunset lake. We had only met just a few hours ago and now she was telling me things she had probably never told anyone. She told me deepest secrets, her fears, her hopes, her pains, her joys, her struggles. All of this to me: a random stranger from the bar. Back home people had their defences up; we were all standing upon society’s stage and playing whatever role it was we were supposed to play to be accepted. But there was a certain magic when you crossed paths with a stranger out on the road. Having just met and safe in the knowledge that you were probably never going to see each other again, there was no pretence or image to keep up. The masks were off and everything could be laid bare.

As the sun set below the horizon and the secrets spilled out upon the water, it made me think about how different the world would be if we all just shared what was really going on beneath the surface. So many people have undoubtedly carried the contents of their souls into the abyss without letting them ever see the light of life. One could despair for all the things that were never done and said because we were too afraid to deviate from the social script and say what we really felt. All the adventures that were never pursued, all the works of art that were never realised, all the friendships and loves that never blossomed – all because of the fear of exposing our true selves to the world. Even for the people closest to you, it would often take years and decades to unlock the vault of the soul; but get a random stranger alone for a few isolated moments in a foreign country and suddenly the secret combination is found.

As we both carried on talking about life into the night, I realised that there was something incredibly valuable about these brief and bittersweet encounters on the road. Most of us have treasure inside our chests that we want to show the world, it’s only when we feel free that the locks slip loose and the gold inside shimmers bright and brilliant under the stars.”

(Taken from my book The Thoughts from The Wild – available worldwide via Amazon)

poetry

Singing or Screaming? (Or Both?)

~ Singing or Screaming? (Or Both?) ~

You’re an angry young man,”
That was all my uncle had to say
after reading my first book.

But I knew he wasn’t totally right
Many people had been moved by my writing
Affected to a good degree
Some expressed deep emotions
And there were even a couple who quit jobs
To go and travel.

But for others like my uncle
It didn’t resonate
Didn’t speak to them
It just came out as anger
As spit and venom
From a jaded individual

I guess some of it was anger
But I really felt
That for most of that book
I was just letting the song of my soul
Play out onto the page

But maybe he had a point
For as others read my writing
I saw that some of them liked it
But most of them
Simply distanced themselves from me
Or pretended they hadn’t read it
Or dismissed me as a nutcase.

I guess there is no way to please them all
No artist has ever been universally adored
And what is singing to some
Is screaming to others

And that’s why I always think twice
When I listen to the birds

Outside my window.

birds branches

poetry

~ The Act of Expression ~

~ The Act of Expression ~

Maybe you don’t think your voice matters
Maybe you think that you’re just another person
With nothing of any value to say

And this is exactly
What they want you to think
But know that every person on this planet has a unique perspective,
That can be a source of treasure to others

But as we grow up the noise of society intensifies
And many of us begin to believe that our feelings are wrong.
So we learn to silence our inner voice
Out of the fear of judgment and ridicule.

But think about the people who inspired you.

They were once in the same position
Of questioning whether they wanted to share their truth
Before finally discovering
That their emotions and their feelings
Were just as important as any news broadcast
Or school textbook.

So if you can feel something inside trying to get out
Then have the courage to open up.

Write your poetry.
Sing your song.
Dance your dance.
Speak your truth.

Sometimes a few words can change everything.

man writing

short stories

~ Voicing Your Truth ~

the fighter

I sat alone in my bedroom, staring blankly at the wall, listening to music playing from my laptop on the desk beside me. The usually reliable combination of solitude and ambient music could not bring me any peace. It had been another day of absurdity and my mind was plagued with thoughts. As I stared into space I wondered why couldn’t I just tell them all how I felt? Why couldn’t I speak up about this hollow life I was stuck in? Why couldn’t I get the truth inside of me out into plain sight?

Such thoughts weighed heavy on my mind. I considered reaching for my phone and ringing some people. I thought of confessing my madness, of writing my notice of resignation – of messaging her and telling her how I really felt. What a joy it would have been to see the wings of truth taking flight. But as usual there was a strange force that constricted me. Once again, I was back in that private prison of expression which I knew too well. All the words and sentences that should have been spoken were still trapped inside my head, and they were angry and resentful about remaining imprisoned. Those expressions of truth began to riot and kick at the walls of my skull. They scraped and they brawled; they set fires and screamed. It was a war of words in there, and the chaos and anarchy ensued until the point where I had to take myself out for a walk in the city to try and steady the storm.

I exited the apartment block and began walking westward toward the city centre. As I started walking I stared into the eyes of everyone passing me. Along those sidewalks I saw fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. I saw husbands and wives; the poor and the rich; the young and the old. It was true that likely many of those people were happy, even content with their lives, but I couldn’t help but think of the other ones out there. I couldn’t help but think of the ones who were silently fighting battles behind tired eyes and forced smiles; behind cluttered desks and tightly-gripped steering wheels. I couldn’t help but try to spot the people drifting down those sidewalks in quiet desperation – all the lonely eyes of secretly starving souls trapped in private prisons from which they could not escape. Each street I turned down, each person I passed, my mind considered all the many truths which have remained unspoken, all the love letters that were never sent, all the notices of resignation not handed in to jobs that slowly murdered the people employed in them. Was it just me who stayed silent about the things most important? How many people like me were out there? And is this what was normal: for people to silence their truth just out of the convenience of not disturbing everyone else with the rugged face of their true self?

The more I stared into those eyes and faces and thought about it, the more certain I was that in this world one could fill entire libraries with all the words of truth that have never been shared, but rather kept locked inside hearts and minds that eventually decayed into dust, leaving those words and the consequences of them forever lost in some great eternal unknown. I was sure there were cemeteries all around me where the grounds were haunted by the ghosts of the lives that were not really lived because people were too afraid to simply stand and speak up for themselves. No doubt across this forsaken planet there were millions and millions of people who had brought their truth to the grave out of fear of judgement from friends and relatives and lovers and neighbours and work colleagues.

It was a sad thought, but who the hell was I to pass judgement? I was no doubt worse them than all. I kept quiet in crowds of fools. I bit my tongue in moments of injustice. I couldn’t tell the girl I loved how I felt. I had words of comfort to offer to desperate people but failed to voice them. I was afraid – I was afraid like them too. The only time I felt like I could truly express myself was when I was sat alone in a dark room pouring the contents of my mind onto a blank page which would never be read by anyone. I was just as screwed up as the rest of them. The society had silenced me too, and all that was left to do was stab at keyboard keys in the hope that just writing all this stuff down would somehow keep me from completely falling into the pits of madness.

Meanwhile as people like me sat in silent darkness, the idiots of the world shouted out. Meanwhile the sociopaths and liars barked their way to top of society and soulless politicians confidently spat out meaningless sound bites at an entire nation. “Strong and stable; strong and stable; strong and stable!!” As I looked out at that jungle of barking idiots, I realised that there was no room out there for me to share my truth – to spill the contents of my soul. The words I had inside of me did not belong to that crazy and confusing world out there. Instead they sit typed on documents on a computer hard-drive never to be read by anyone. They stalk and haunt the hallways of my mind. They riot against the walls of my skull.

But sometimes you know out on those streets I hear voices and get brave. I hear the ghosts of the dead whisper in my ear. They tell me go on: speak your heart now while you’re alive. Be yourself. Tell your story. Share your words. Life is not a rehearsal so live your life like you goddamn mean it. Where we have failed, you will succeed.

Listening in to those haunting voices, I imagined myself working up some bravery, in handing in that resignation – in confessing my madness and ringing her to tell her how I felt. It was a nice thought but in the end I didn’t do it. The thought passed and I retreated back to my apartment. I retreated back to my cave of darkness to sit alone at my computer – to dwell in solitude, to dwell in silence – to hit the keys of a grubby keyboard and hope that someone out there, somewhere, understood me.

poetry

~ No Filter Necessary ~

pexels-photo-5207797
~ No Filter Necessary ~

Hidden in my heart were things

I couldn’t bear to let anyone see

But from time to time

I dreamed about opening up

And seeing my truth soar out of me

Like flocks of birds

Dancing in the morning sky

.

Often I looked around at the faces

Wondering what lay behind their eyes

Behind their ‘fine thanks, you?’s

And their polished appearances

.

I couldn’t help but sense

That I wasn’t alone with holding in my truths

In fact, when I walked those streets

And stared at those faces

I was sure that the majority

Were walking vaults of secret sadness



Still, when I go to share my song

I can’t seem to find my voice 

Like a broken stereo 

I stall and I stutter

Missing the important things

.

So I guess I will keep holding these things inside

And wondering if this world is full of people like me

Silently suffering

Because none of us were able

To let our true selves 

see the piercing spotlight

of this painful reality.

short stories · thoughts

~ Not A Man ~

man-studio-portrait-light-90764

The tears streamed down my face. I had just said goodbye to a friend I had made travelling and I walked back home through the busy city centre, trying to hide my feelings from people passing me on the street. Overwhelmed by my emotions, I wiped my eyes clean and once again felt ashamed of my sensitivity and sentimentality.

The shame for this side of myself came from the thought that this was not how I should have been. The advertisements and the movies said it all. To be a man in this world was to be something that I was not. I was not assertive, strong, or confident. I did not command authority or respect. I did not care much for football or cars or status. Instead, I was a meek daydreamer who cared for poetry and romance. I was someone who got affected by the little things: old men sitting in cafes alone, sad faces of strangers on the street, wilting flowers left on the side of the road. On top of this, I had social anxiety and, at times, depression. In desperation I tried to hide this side of my personality, but it always eventually came through whenever I was around people for a certain amount of time. There was just no way around it. I was a highly-sensitive person, and trying to hold in the emotions that were constantly flooding my heart was an exhausting task that left me even more overwhelmed than I already was.

The masculinity problems continued when it came to the world of employment. Making money and having a career was one of the key requirements of being a male, but it seemed I had absolutely no skills that could do so. I had no dexterity for any of the trades. I was too virtuous to play the game of the corporate world. I just about had no practical or pragmatic skills; couple this with a habit to daydream which made it almost impossible to focus on simple things, then it was sure that I was to be scraping by whatever way I could. I did have the gift of creativity, but as we all knew that being able to write a nice poem or story didn’t get you very far in this world – the classic image of the tortured artist washing dishes while working on their art being annoyingly applicable. All in all, I was a complete disaster – the sort of thing most fathers secretly hoped their sons wouldn’t grow up to be. A sensitive, deep-thinking male. An idealist not a pragmatist. A dreamer not a logician. A feeler not a thinker. 

Naturally this way of being was bad when it came to girls. Girls typically looked for strapping, butch, confident guys – guys who were able to be self-assured and take the lead and do all the things that I could not. The funny thing was I was blessed with good looks which lured girls in, but once they saw what was under the surface, they sprinted for the hills like scared deer. The circumstance of being tall, dark and handsome didn’t mean much when they saw how anxious and unsure of yourself you were. I recalled things girls had said to me. “You look good but you need to own it.” “You annoy me; why can’t you just be normal?” It was a recurring conversation and, after a while of continual rejection, I began to look in the mirror and see that ugliness start to manifest itself in my reflection.

Things didn’t get much better with the world of males. The camaraderie of ‘lad culture’ was always something I felt out of place with. I was able to be part of the group sometimes, but I could see that they sensed I was not one of them – little awkward moments in group conversation and my general strange demeanour giving my cover away. The frustrating thing was I knew there were other men like me out there. In fact, I believed that a large portion of men simply ignored their emotions because they erroneously believed they were unnatural. No doubt, this caused long-lasting internal damage. Toxic masculinity was a silent disease in our society that was making men feel ashamed to have feelings and be sensitive. The fact that two-thirds of suicides were from men was not surprising when you thought about it. Men had been taught to hide their emotions from the school playground to the dating scene to the world of employment. It was a dog-eat-dog world, and a man needed to be strong and ruthless to be a success in it. So there was simply nothing to do but to ‘man up’ and suffer in silence – something I had gotten to know all too well over the years.

Being drunk was sometimes a good way to coat my failures as a man. When I poured that liquor down my throat, I was able to numb my feelings and switch to this extroverted version of myself. My shyness and emotions were suppressed, and I felt a deluded sense of confidence. It only lasted for a while, of course, but it was good enough to fool people around me. One night stands were possible and – perhaps out of my own insecurity – I used my drunken alter ego to sleep around as often as I could. The success of hiding my true self with the use of alcohol reminded me of the words of my favourite poems:

“there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.”

Sometimes as an experiment, I let that bluebird out and revealed my sensitive side to the crowd. I spoke from my heart and shared my deepest emotions about life. As I did, I could feel the discomfort of some guys around me, but I could also feel like others felt it was a fresh breath of air for a guy not to give a fuck about masculine etiquette. Sometimes I even got brave enough to share my writing and poetry with those people. Some seemed to like it and even respect me, although many of them simply put me at distance after I did. I understood that, of course. 

All in all, it’s a strange situation and I don’t know exactly what my plan is to survive in this world as the man that I am. Perhaps one day the views of masculinity will change, but I feel that it’s unlikely in my lifetime. Despite what we like to think, we are all still just instinctive animals at our core, and I guess it does make sense why men are supposed to be strong and butch and assertive and confident. Maybe my role wasn’t to be that striding alpha male, but to be some other thing serving a purpose I have not yet come to realise. For now, I guess I will go suppressing that bluebird and trying to hide my sensitive side, only to let it out when I’m sitting alone at this keyboard away from the piercing eyes of this dog-eat-dog world.

short stories · thoughts

~ Scream ~

scream
~ Scream ~

“So what constitutes good writing?” he asked me.

“Good writing is something that happens because it has to happen,” I said. “It’s like an eruption of some kind, and if it’s not bursting out of you – if it’s not flowing from your fingertips with a sort of explosive energy – then it probably isn’t true.”

“What do you mean by true?”

“Something that is elemental to who you are. Something that comes from the core of your heart.”

“And how exactly do you write from the heart?” he asked.

“You’ve got to find the position from which you can express yourself without filter. All artists have to find that special spot from where they can scream – that special spot where you channel your suppressed emotions and let them pour out of you. You pour it out through your fingertips or your voice or your paintbrush. If you’re a ballet dancer you pour out through your feet. If you’re a violinist you pour it out through your violin. You’ve just got to find that spot where you can let go and erupt. You’ve just got to find that spot where you can scream.”

My fellow writer looked somewhat surprised by my answer, but seemed to understand the nature of what I was saying. Perhaps he expected something more about the process of writing, some specific skills and practices and techniques, but in my opinion you could have all of that and not write a single word worth reading. To me, it didn’t matter how fluid the writing was; if it didn’t reveal the soul of the writer, then it was like sex without an orgasm. I knew this from my past experiences with the artform. When I looked back at my first writings, I could see that the sentences were smoothly written and the prose well-constructed, but underneath at the core there was just no real substance. It came from the mind rather than the heart, and it was evident that the words lacked the blood and guts that I believed was fundamental to good writing. But now, through continued persistence to scratch an unwavering itch, I felt I had now found a way to let my deepest emotions surge out of me whenever I started putting words down onto that blank page. 

Ultimately it was something I had been searching for for a long time. As I said, good writing happens because it has to happen, and the sheer relief of getting out things that were killing me inside was enormous. In a way it was closer to an act of therapy than it was any sort of literary process. It was something that I felt could benefit many people out there. So many have a lot of shit inside of them that is tearing them up, and the act of creation was a vice that was sorely needed, even though they often didn’t realise it. To create was a primal thing, and if a person was denied a healthy way to howl out their pain, then it often twisted them up from the inside. That suppression of the scream could lead people to bitterness and violence; to depression and desperation; to hateful hearts and scowling faces. Indeed, it was a great energy that had the potential to become destructive, but if one could learn to channel that energy inside of them into a form of expression, then it could be turned into painting and poetry; into dance and song; into rhythm and blues.

Those things could not only provide great relief to the artist, but they also had tremendous value to others out there. I thought of some of the people who had inspired me by allowing themselves to scream. Thom Yorke screaming through his falsetto. Van Gogh screaming from his paintbrush. Charlie Parker screaming through his saxophone. Franz Kafka screaming through his stories. Charles Bukowski screaming through his poems. This animalistic howling from the wilderness of another’s heart was a shamanic thing, and to me its healing power was what made art the greatest form of medicine available to the human soul. It was a medicine that had enough power and force to save lives, to inspire dreams, to awaken minds and bring others back from the darkest depths of hell. It was a medicine that even had enough power to turn you into a creator yourself.

Of course, not everyone has such emotions brewing inside of them. Some people went through life simply didn’t feel the need to scream. But undoubtedly there are many out there who did. The person I told my view of writing to, I never got round to reading his writing, and I wondered if he was also one of them. From what I had heard I didn’t believe so. Usually the people looking to write because they wanted to – and not because they had to – were not the ones touched by the muse. Indeed, the true writer doesn’t need advice, because the pain of holding it inside usually drives them to find their form eventually. This is why the true artist is consumed by a burning desire to constantly create. And I guess sitting here alone in this room writing all night for the thousandth time means that I am maybe one of them. The act of putting these words down on paper is something I am now dependent on, and in my heart I know I will be screaming for a long time yet. It is an inescapable nature of people like me. Some of us are born to live in peace and harmony. Some of us are born to watch television and sleep all night. Some of us are born to live stable lives and sit in cafes and read books.

And some of us are born to scream.

thoughts

~ A Message to Writers ~

pen

~ A Message to Writers ~

Well, it’s true I guess. Most people can’t write an honest sentence to save their lives. They project themselves onto the blank page the same way as they project themselves into the world. There’s a certain fear, a filter, which hinders them from truly expressing themselves from their heart. Instead, they offer well-tidied words in pretty fonts; little flicks and tricks of the pen that give the appearance of self-expression, but are as contrived as the pop stars who sing songs written for them. Many are fooled by these pretend poets – these Rupi Kaurs of the world – but look closely and you will find that their words lack any real blood and substance. That substance is all we ask for when we read a writer’s work. Hemingway said it himself: “there is nothing to writing; all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. Sounds so simple, but it is still so very rare to find writers that have shown us every last bit of emotion – every last dirty thing they would be ashamed to admit. The sheer amount of pain that fills the average human heart should mean that there are millions of potentially great writers out there. Yet, the world is full of writers who have been afraid to truly take off the mask and show the world every last detail of their blood and guts. If you are one of the ones crazy enough to live without a filter, then keep writing and keep getting the shit kicked out of you by the world for simply being yourself. Living a life with your heart wide open will definitely leave you bruised and beaten, but it will also allow you to create more authentically than those who keep their defences up. This is the secret. True writing comes from pain. It comes from sitting at a keyboard late at night as the world stands against you. It comes from having to write the words down to stop the demons from closing in. It’s a crazy way to be and good luck to anyone else who has this curse cast upon them.

“Writers are desperate people, and when they stop being desperate, they stop being writers.” – Charles Bukowski

 

thoughts

~ The Sound of Your Soul ~

~ The Sound of your Soul ~

“Send up a flare. Write your words. Graffiti the walls with your darkest secret. Spill your pain onto a blank canvass. Express yourself without fear or filter. In this world not many have the guts to speak totally from the soul – to take off the mask and step forth into the revealing daylight. The world is full of judgmental eyes that are ready to resent you for being unashamedly yourself. Some may avoid you, some may dislike you – some may actively despise you. Make no mistake about it: the life of authenticity is not an easy one to live, but the rewards of doing so will leave your soul stirring with an incredible feeling of freedom. That is the feeling of knowing you are living your life and not someone else’s; the feeling of knowing the words you utter are genuine and sincere; the feeling of knowing that you didn’t shy away from life, but instead went out and offered yourself to the world in all your truth and totality. Too many souls have already been silenced, so don’t let yours also be confined to the shadows. Be yourself. Sing your song. Share your story. Let the words in your heart be spoken out loud. Even if your voice cracks, step up onto life’s stage and let the world know the sound of your soul.”

pexels-photo-2868441

 

thoughts

~ The Symphony of You ~

pexels-photo-1022690

“Let it come from the gut. Let it flow from the heart. Let every last drop come soaring out of you, pouring forth onto this world, streaming freely from the source of the soul. Let it scream out across cities of the sane. Let it roll in like a hurricane, like an avalanche. Let whatever is inside of you trying to get out, let it come out with furious urgency. Don’t hold back the very things that stir deep inside of you. To do that deprives this world of what it needs. And what this world needs now more than ever is something real and raw. What this world needs is the deepest, darkest secrets of the silent souls – the ones whose voice has waited in the shadows for too long. The ones who never get the air time, yet have the most beautiful things to share. The ones who guard their mouth, because they fear how this fake society will react to something authentic and genuine. Warriors of the shadows, you have been silent for too long. So throw down the barriers. Draw back the curtains. Walk out onto that spotlight stage. Open your heart and let this world hear the symphony of you.”