The Power of Failure…and Resurrection

Every one falls.

Creative types especially. Nothing great comes easy. Turns out that failure is an absolute necessary component to the equation.

Some Easter Motivation comin at you.

Why Writers Must Practice Resurrection

It’s almost Easter, which is a pretty good time to get reborn, if you ask me. Especially if you’re a writer. What do I mean by that?

Photo of a tree

Every writer as a creative entity “dies.” And every writer, in a manner of speaking, must be resurrected. If you choose to ignore or avoid this fact, it could be mean the end of your art and even, possibly, your life.

Let’s unpack this a little.

Every writer dies

To create is to suffer. Just ask any mother. It is a painful, grueling task of bringing new things into existence. This is why, among many reasons, there is an unmistakable sadness to most creatives, even God.

And this is also why writers commit suicide, why painters cut their ears off, and why actors go through serial divorces. Creativity is a hard business.

There is an inherent frustration to it. And if you don’t know what to do with the inevitable pain, it could be the end of you. (It was for Hemingway.)

Ironically, those who destroy themselves never learn to die — they don’t know how to grieve loss and let go of past seasons. Are you struggling to let go and reinvent yourself as a writer and an artist?

Every writer must be reborn

When you write, you share a piece of you with the world. You put your very soul on display for all to see.

Sometimes, the world doesn’t reward creativity. Sometimes, it stones prophets and crucifies saviors. Sometimes, the world scowls at genius and scoffs at insight.

Every creative has critics, and every critique is an arrow. There is no getting around this. Creating is painful, and every writer gets wounded. In order to move out of wounded-ness (“My God, why have you forsaken me?”), we must face the injustice of unfair criticism, and heal.

We must get reborn and become whole again.

The art of practicing resurrection

This is the season in which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Even in non-Christian contexts, the earth is teeming with rebirth. It’s hard to ignore.

Trees are budding. Flowers are sprouting. All of creation is collaborating to share one message: New life is here.

I struggle with these cycles — the ebb and flows of the seasons. My creative self wants to camp out in the wilderness, to to sulk in its travail. It’s been hurt, and it wants to wallow in its pain. It’s scared of trying again.

Currently, I’m coming out of a season of death — of letting go of what once was familiar and beginning to walk in newness of life. But I’m taking these first few steps slowly.

There is grief that needs to happen — losses to be mourned, disappointments to be acknowledged. We must grieve before we can move on. We must acknowledge what was before we can welcome what will be.

Death before life

We writers must acknowledge failure. We must come to grips with death. And we must practice resurrection. There is hope beyond the story of a tragic hero. There is health. There is freedom.

If this describes you (and it might), I hope you can move out of the pain of dwelling of what’s been lost and start creating beautiful art once again. It begins with honesty — with acknowledging the rejection you’ve experienced without excuse or justification.

As an exercise, try writing it all down. Then, if you’re comfortable, give it to God. Receive healing. And welcome a new day. Like I said, this is a great time to get reborn.

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Caribbean dreamin’

It’s been damn cold here in Michigan. As friends have not hesitated to remind me, I seem to have missed the really cold days, but I’m rather frigid none the less.

As the semester is underway and the rhyme and flow of the “grind” has set in, I’ve been thinking of Haiti yet again. I’ve been thinking of the island nation on a few different levels.

The first of which is downright adversity. Our last full day on the island was dedicated to a roadtrip to the sea. We tried to go the day before, yet couldn’t find a car. After overcoming this obstacle through much time, hard currency and angst, we then could find no fuel.

What?

That’s right. Port Au Prince was seized by a petrol crises. When was the last time you couldn’t go somewhere because when pulling into your local gas station a 12 gauge wielding team of guards informed you “no gasoline”?

Makes for a frustrated road trip. But this is a common occurrence for Haiti, especially in the capital. The solution? Dollars and time. Our fixer cobbled together a gallon here, a gallon there. We were set for early nothing the next day. To the sea we will go!

A mere hour outside the city is akin to visiting another planet. This is what I had imagined when thinking of a quick week run immediately before the semester. You know, coconuts n shit. Sandy beaches. Drinks with wee umbrellas.

Taking a day to lounge along the Côte des Arcadins is majestic. Slow, easy and not butchered by gaudy resorts. This day on the sea allowed me to begin to wrap my mind around Haiti. I had gone from the context of adversity to one of calm beauty. I did drink out of a damn coconut and floated for a while. These memories are extra potent when confronting sub zero Michigan temps. My final layer/level to Haiti that comes to mind is sheer tenacity. The savage beauty of the landscape as well as the people. I think back to the Ghetto Biennale, and Andre Eugene, the resident artist and curator. I think of seeing the kids of the art collective assemble amazing pieces, and having literally nothing. Living in a tent city.

I think about the grit that it takes to create, despite living in actual realized destruction. While I listen to my students bitch about the battery life of their new iPhones wearing their pajamas to class because they can’t be bothered to find actual pants. They “can’t even” as they say.

I think about Haiti. I think about how this place caught me off guard. Destroyed my intestinal tract, proved much more expensive and difficult than originally intended, how it caused friction among friends and could prove absolutley exhausting. But all of that aside, Haiti changed my perspective. I gassed up my private automobile yesterday…without issue. I drive where I want and things around me work for the most part.

You should smile about that.

Our political situation is nutty, with the US president calling Haiti a “Shithole” and promising to deport more Haitians…and this isn’t the post to delve into colonial legacy, but it’s something that deserves far more attention than it currently gets.

I think about Haiti, and I smile. I’m thankful for seeing a vastly different world, and yet again what that human spirit is capable of.

Thank you!

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The End of the World…Caribbean style.

I’ve been back in the states a few days now. Here in west Michigan the traffic is mostly minimal. The winter semester has kicked off and the daily grind is in full effect. The weather has moderated and a sense of relative normalcy has returned.

The transition back from Haiti has been a startling one. I’m thinking back on the shocking week around the Haitian capital and I’ve noticed it resonates daily.

It’s time to talk about Haiti.

There is poor…and then there is Haiti poor. I’m going to come out and say it. I’ve never been anywhere like this. Ever.

I’ve been some places, I’ve seen some shit..but nothing like this. Shocking on multiple levels on a daily basis. I tried to place and contextualize all of this brutal new input…and finally it came down to post apocalyptic imagery, books, movies…Mad Max type shit. Here’s the kicker though…Mad Max set on a Caribbean island with a cool sea breeze.

How’s that for bizarre?

I will tell you this. Most go here from the states with a well intentioned but condescending super white pity. They come down for a week with a Church, bang out a another church, feel like they saved the world. Pat them selves on the back and go home with a bracelet.

When you show up as a “tourist” most Haitians are quite confused. They give you this look essentially saying “the fuck are you doing here?!”…takes a bit getting used to.

KNOW THIS. (Thank me later)

You will accomplish absolutley, positively, nothing in Haiti without a fixer. A local keen to help you and show you how to navigate the insanity in return for your American dollars. Accept this, embrace it and enjoy.

Haiti is a place that slays spontaneity. My usual travel style died a painful awkward death by the second day in country. But once a solid fixer entered the picture, the layers of this turbulent island began to peel back a bit for a wee peek.

This is where I will directly recommend my man Richard. (Jacques Richard Miguel) his story is as rugged and awry as the local landscape. Richard grew up in New York, after his parents immigrated from Haiti in the 1960s. He soon discovered rock n roll, and the party that raged along with it in the 1980s. Richard eventually succumbed to a crack addiction and was arrested stealing from a department store to get his fix. He was deported back to Haiti in 1988. After getting clean Richard had no choice but to adapt to his new yet native home. (He has been clean over 12 years) His observations and insights delivered in New York accented English and rapid fire French are priceless and reveal keen tidbits about modern Haiti. (Please drop me an email or a comment for his contact info.)

Through Richard we were able to discover the gnarled yet throbbing art scene expanding in the capital. The best example of this being the Ghetto Biennale. This “art gallery” literally sits among the tarp/trash city within Port Au Prince and is run as a collective. This is also the coolest fucking gallery I’ve ever visited. No pretension here. Every piece is made 100% from collected garbage. Kids collect the pieces and learn how to craft/create. This is raw, this is real, and completely kick ass.

These aspiring young artists show amazing skill and tenacity. We enjoyed joking and a few candid photos on this afternoon visit.

You come to realize that “garbage” in Haiti includes metal, car parts, glass, body parts, etc. upon realizing the abundance of real skulls I was told “after earthquake, we find everything”. For a very somber moment I let that one sink in while admiring the twisted beauty of these pieces.

Voodoo themes abound and flow through the reality that is life in the capital.

Next up on the agenda is the attempt to roadtrip outside of the capital…sounds easy enough right?

Didn’t I tell you this one was going to get weird? I’m still ripping through thoughts and words back here where things mostly work, and I don’t have memories of an earthquake that claimed near half a million lives.

Want more Haiti?

Drop a comment with your thoughts.

 

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