What Happened

Before I moved back to Portland I switched my host to Rackspace and they became a business-hosting only company. When I called them to ask about all of my posts between 2014 and 2015, they had no record of them. There weren’t that many anyway.

The first third of my novel, Sebastian’s Babylon has been serialized in The Opiate Magazine, for those interested in reading. Next month, a chapter from my new novel will be coming out in Indiana Voice Journal. Stay posted for more news!

 

How to Be Creative

how to be creativeCreativity is hard to measure and hard to generate. Society reveres the product of creative genius for centuries after that flash of inspiration first strikes. But no one really knows how to be creative.

Creativity Does Not Equal Intelligence

What’s funny is that at a certain point intelligence is unrelated to creativity. Not to say that you don’t need to be intelligent to be creative—you do. But at a certain point intelligence no longer matters. This is called the threshold hypothesis, put forward by Ellis Paul Torrance. If your IQ is above 120, you’re intelligent. What sets you apart is how well you can relate to other people and use your talents to make the world a better place.

Very little is known about what actually makes people creative. Artists would argue that it comes from the Muse. Yet others would say that certain substances help them in their creative process—alcohol, caffeine, weed, cocaine, even harder drugs. But ultimately, it comes down to what kind of person you are.

Factor in your intelligence, your profession, your habits and you will begin to see that maybe you’re meant to be more creative than others. Or maybe you’re not. Some professions require lesser creativity, an ability to follow rote processes to produce results. Others necessitate new ideas and ways of thinking on a daily basis.

Drugs + Alcohol = Good Ideas

One thing is for certain—the most creative people in our society are not afraid to break out of traditional modes of thinking. Unfortunately for many of them, substances are one of the easiest ways to do that. Steve Jobs did acid. Stephen King was an alcoholic. Kanye West smokes weed. Whatever.

Studies show that drugs and alcohol change the chemistry of the brain. They may eat away at certain parts of the hippocampus, causing memory damage and brain loss. But to compensate, many people who suffer from this show use of other parts of their brain instead. They wind up, quite literally, thinking differently than the rest of us do. They can more easily tap into their creativity by unconsciously using different parts of their brain.

I’m not saying that if you want to brainstorm you should go get drunk. I am saying that if you want to brainstorm, doing the same thing you do every day is not going to help.

Breaking Routine to Become Creative

What many of us have trouble with is breaking out of our routines. Not to say that routine is bad—for those trying to meet a deadline or a goal, routine is crucial to growth and development. As humans we crave it. But for those of us trying to germinate the idea for a novel or a painting, it can make life seem stale, and creativity can be tough to reach.

Humans need routine to survive. But it doesn’t necessarily encourage new ideas or ways of thinking. Breaking from routine does, however. The challenge to be creative comes in not falling back into a routine once it’s been broken, but continuing to change our daily processes in order to think different.

Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery: Doin’ It Right

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Cat was giving us a tour of Brooklyn‘s Greenwood Cemetery. I biked up to the neo-Gothic entrance of the cemetery to where Cat and Laura stood waiting. Julie rolled up, looking aggressive and badass and made Laura’s acquaintance, asked how she liked South Slope, since they were both neighbors. Oh yeah, it’s great, except for the Yuppies. But you are Yuppies, I said, and tried to play it off, telling myself it was too early to have made such an intrusive and condescending comment.
We walked in, I used the bathroom and Matthew started whistling and singing a fifties song. I completed the lyrics and washed my hands, glad that my tax dollars were being put to the use of keeping our national historical landmarks’ bathroom clean.
The sun was bright and sparkling when it caught on the varicolored tree leaves. Maples, lindens, oaks, beeches, all resplendent greens and oranges and a red thrown in, yellows and browns, dusting the sunken marble gravestones. Revolutionary War history, the highest point in Brooklyn, a statue waving to Lady Liberty, I tried to take a photo of the Freedom Tower but it was too distant and once more I was dissatisfied with photography for being unable to represent reality in the light I wanted it to.
On we walked. I led us toward Basquiat’s grave, past obelisks, mausoleums with Doric columns, pyramids, ridges, paths, over hills, onward. I walked with Cat. She was jealous of Matthew taking Julie away from her. I yelled at them to come on, to follow me, and I think I disturbed a couple at a site, standing outside a car, and an old man at another site.
We saw a sixty foot high obelisk with the name Cummings on it. What’s the point, Julie asked. It’s a sign of fertility, I said. You know that was the guy in charge, Cat said. Or that was the guy who was an asshole, said Julie.
When we got to the plot of land where Basquiat was supposed to be buried we couldn’t find it. There was a bench where Cat and Julie sat down. Genna was coming with Laura. I tried to find it, expecting there to be an obelisk or a big headstone, some kind of marker to show that one of the late 20th century’s most famous artists was buried here. I walked along the row of graves, didn’t see it.
I finally had to look it up on the internet and within fifteen seconds knew exactly where it was. In the row of short headstones. A couple of artworks lay on the ground. Pennies, messages scrawled on cardboard. Rather sad. Here was this artist who lay interred next to someone’s gramma.
We turned to walk back. Already my calves were starting to get sore. We walked over ridges, trudging through the dead leaves that lay scattered around graves in clusters and piles. We were going to see Samuel Morse’s grave but Genna was complaining that she was hungry. Oh, poor baby Genna hungree? You should’ve eaten when you had the chance, I snapped, and walked along with Cat and Julie.
I held the map trying to determine where we were in order to see Horace Greeley’s grave. Go west, young man, but no one knew who he was. We walked through a more modern part of the cemetery where paths had been cut into the hill and white stone walls erected to support the landscape architecture.
We came to Boss Tweed’s grave, fenced in with copper next to the rest of his family. Matthew and Laura jumped in and I took a photo of them with Matthew’s phone. I laughed at how his apps were organized, three on the first page, the next page with most of them, and a few more on the third page. I showed Julie and Genna and we laughed. Matthew defended himself by saying that he wanted to see his desktop. I paused. That made sense.
I led them down Landscape Avenue, a sloping, serpentine road shaded with oaks. We talked about how uncreepy Greenwood is because of the high trees and its well-maintained atmosphere. Mr. Greeley had a copper bust on his tombstone, with a granite ring encircling the plot where his other family members had been buried, including the IV this very year. We sat in pairs, Genna next to me, clinging to my core.
We stood and walked over the hill, down the road to the water, which glittered in the mid-afternoon sun. Mausoleums built into the hill had tiny iron doors which Matthew said would fit Julie perfectly. Cat kept saying how she wanted to live in one of them. But you wouldn’t have wi-fi, Julie said. Cat and Laura were talking about someone with diabetes and I had to restrain myself from jumping into their conversation. It sounded very interesting, Cat’s trying to understand the issues he had gone through, this person who I assumed was Dom.
Around the lake we came to the gate where we could see 5th avenue and 31st street. Julie and I walked together up the road as Cemetery Patrol drove past us nodding. Up, along a ridge that led to the Japanese Garden, past a real Brooklyn family, dark-haired, with a little pudgy girl singing follow the leader and a grandma telling her grandson to stay away from the edge unless he wanted to roll straight down to the bottom.
In the Japanese Garden, I stood on a bridge and looked at the coy. Some were vibrantly colored orange-and-black speckled, swimming through the clear, dark water, while the biggest one was pure white. Julie and Cat came over to me and I told them that these were the same as goldfish, that it was the size of the tank that restricted them from growing so large.
I walked ahead, urging Genna and Laura on and out of the Garden. Sun fell across the lawn in that lazy way it will in early November during the middle of the afternoon: dull and sad. I lay down and conscious of how lying in grass can make you itch I held my head so my neck didn’t touch it and until Genna came over to me when I stretched into Downward Dog and stood, leading them past a couple of older Russian ladies enjoying sandwiches on a bench, and to the Neo-Gothic gate, whose copper gutters Matthew pointed out. Julie took her skateboard back from the guy at the gate, who thanked her for letting him ollie and b-ollie. I was impressed with how knowledgeable he was about skating. We walked out to where our bikes were parked and although Laura was unwilling to ride on the back of Genna’s bike, it was fine and we left her happy as we rolled on to our next destination, deeper into the heart of my bosom-mother, Brooklyn.

Metamodernist Imagism

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Imagist, objectivist, metamodernist, they all share one thing in common: lack of association. I’m reading A Farewell to Arms right now, after having saved it for this moment for years. I’m struck by the imagist descriptions of drinking. Hemingway and his Iceberg Theory were part of the Ezra Pound-led imagist group. It goes something like this: any time we refrain from associating our own subjective feelings with an image, it becomes crisper, more symbolic, realer, closer to a Platonic ideal and less arbitrary. Let’s try to write like this in our metamodernist era. Here’s my try, in the style of Hemingway:

Hemingway’s Imagism (My Attempt)

The porch was made of wooden planks and surrounded by corrugated steel. The night was cold and hard and there was little that could be done to stave off the wind. But what we did was drink and that was enough. The glass of the stout was colder than the beer itself and chilled the drink in its glass. When we had finished I walked outside to my bike.

The bike had had a lot of money put into it. It had a new crank, a new seat twice over, countless wheel truings, new tires, brake cables, lock and headlights. I had ridden a thousand miles on it at least and it lay against the wall the way a woman would lean against a pillow, with her arm against her head, waiting to be used and to enjoy it.

I rode it home and, hungry from the stout, I took a salami from the fridge. I cut the salami carefully so that the herbs it had been preserved in did not come off on the clean table. She had cleaned it for the party. But I was drunk and hungry and wanted to eat the salami quickly so that my stomach would stop growling, but when I cut through the meat, although I cut slowly and carefully so as not to cut through its plastic wrapping, still traces of herbs were left on the bamboo cutting board.

Daniel Adler‘s Imagism

The mornings in the spring and summer when I would wake and look out the kitchen window at the glowing early-morning sky and train tracks, then settle onto the couch for morning work before showering and boiling water for pasta, then eating and skating in the ever-warm sun to the cafe for a few hours before coming back to the apartment and preparing for my girlfriend to return from her work day. Already my body warms with nostalgia when I imagine the click of her heels against the wooden floor when she would come home…

Or that week we broke up and it rained all week and I spent countless hours in that cafe DTUT on the Upper East Side, trying to accustom myself to that lifestyle, that 2nd avenue lifestyle of longing to be closer to the park, farther downtown, and the long hot muggy evenings that faded into a quiet blackness interrupted only by an eighteen wheeler rattling down the street. Pounding the pavement on Park Avenue, asking doormen if their buildings are hiring, and at night drinking beer, cold beer in the heat of the fourth-story apartment. That afternoon I met her at the Italian restaurant in Macy’s and had the squid ink pasta, rich and creamy red sauce, china reflective and heavy and her lioness hair curling over her shoulders, her big bag packed with clothes for a week in Naples.

A new apartment, coming home, feeling settled, the evenings spent at my desk looking out the window, already feeling the slight draft and the salt lamp leaking ionic juice onto the wood, curious passers-by flashing a glance through the steel cage that covers the window at me, me imagining being them looking up at me, this guy at his perch, with his ninety-degree rotated iPad glowing in the apricot light of a salt crystal lamp…Those Saturday afternoons after biking home from Williamsburg with the weather cooling and dismounting our bikes in the bus spot in front of our apartment, with the projects foursquare from us and the parked cars beginning right in front of our window, the bus stop a kind of disembarkation pad specifically for us, my brother coming over, the lengthening shadows of September and now, now the quickly cooling air of October and November and a new era, one that will undoubtedly provide me with even more raw experience—but mostly contentment and struggle.

Why Deal Cocaine

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If I were a coke dealer I would definitely wear a bigger earring. It would be a gold hoop about half an inch wide, and I’d probably get the other ear pierced too, like the boss in Pulp Fiction, crazy old Maurice. I would keep my drugs in my office and I would meet people on bike to drop it off, or have them come to meet me in my house. I would have a weapon, possibly a machete or a gun if I could get one. Let’s be honest, if you’re dealing cocaine, having a gun is what you need to protect yourself and give you the heft and confidence to let people know not to fuck with you, even if they didn’t know you had a weapon. I wouldn’t intend to shoot anyone, it would really just be a way to back up my talk, to show people that I’m crazy old Maurice, and if they really want to roll they’re going to have to call an army. Of course it would never get to that point. I wouldn’t sell to people who I didn’t know through a reliable source, just wouldn’t, that’s how it has to be or else you risk getting into some deep shit, and as Biggie told us it’s crucial to follow the rules you set for yourself. The ten crack commandments are generally applicable but they are ultimately the rules Biggie set for himself and knew he had to adhere to in order to keep it real.

I would keep my operation small and ensure that I didn’t cut it down with baby laxative, I’d rather sell less for more than the other way around. And when people know you have weak coke that diminishes your reputation for being a bad mother. Inevitably you wind up doing your coke when you deal coke. Like drinking espresso as a barista, you have to know your product, how good this batch is compared to the normal stuff. So there’s that to consider. But really, being a coke dealer is a platform to becoming a professional DJ, it’s the only way you can really be taken seriously. Dealing coke gives you the confidence to take a girl’s shirt in your hands and pull it over her head, thereby exposing her tits to a loftful of people. It’s a dick move, but no one’s going to say anything, they’re just going to fear you a little bit as someone with a skewed sense of morality who’s not to be fucked with. And what with subjective morality these days, it’s really not that bad to be viewed as somewhat crazy to get people not to fuck with you.

Because anyone with a 9 to 5 can’t be that badass. I mean, sure you can work as a designer at Levi’s or as a CFO at a startup in Chelsea but, like, I’m not going to be afraid of you. No, you’d have to be a coke dealer for me to be afraid of you. Not like I’m actually planning to deal coke. I mean, I’m a writer, not a DJ.

The Clown: Part 2, Heinrich Boll and Pierrot

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I recently read Nobel-laureate Heinrich Boll’s The Clown. This short masterpiece describes the plight of a monogamous clown whose wife has left him. He’s had a bad review and it’s become evident that he has to take time away from the stage to become better at his craft. Throughout the novel we meet his rich father, his religious brother, and a variety of devout and Communist friends. But the reason I am writing about it is because it was almost the perfect novel.

The clown is an artist who takes his profession as seriously as I do mine. The plot takes place over the course of one night, and we are redirected through flashbacks to the clown’s history. His meditations and melancholy are piercing and irreverent and I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. Nowhere did I feel that he was part of the lamenting generation of post-war Germans—he clowns them throughout the novel. Schnier, the true artist, separate and apart from his people, resentful and yet needing to please them. Only thing was there was a little too much religion for my taste. Not on Schnier’s part, but on the people’s he hates.

It all made me think about this girl I once had an affair with. I went over to her house when I first moved to Bushwick, she was living with her boyfriend. He sat at their kitchen table when I arrived and I wondered why he was wearing a beanie and orange skiing glasses. When he finally got comfortable, turned out he was a clown and bald as a donut.
“So can you make balloon animals?” I asked. “Do you wear a rainbow wig with a red nose?”
He laughed at my naïveté. “I mime. I paint my face white and wear a cap and these glasses,” he pointed at the orange lenses folded on the table.
A vision of a Pierrot stuck in an invisible box appeared in my mind’s eye. A poor, sad clown from the Commedia dell’arte, always second to Harlequin, which I guess would have been me. I wondered if clowning earned him enough money to pay the rent, or if her family (rich) was fronting the bill. I couldn’t imagine so many people wanted to hire a clown. And even if there were, finding them must be difficult. Unless he had an agent. A clown agent. The very idea was absurd! Who would do something so…
She, the girl I used to know, placed two turkey sandwiches on the table. She had taken extra care to cut off the crusts for her clown. She took a bite of her own and looked up at him. “Do you want some more turkey?”
He nodded. She walked to the counter and picked up a yellow package of Oscar Meyer turkey, which she brought back to the table and extracted two slices from for him and two for herself, finishing it off. She first placed the turkey on his sandwich, daintily, and then her own, this time in a celebratory manner, as though to show me that they could afford to splurge a little here and there.
And I remember being totally disgusted at how far this girl had fallen, here with her clown eating poor-people’s turkey sandwiches. It was horrible. I waited politely for them to finish eating and left. I wanted nothing to do with them.

The Clown: Part 1, Coney Island

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I met this guy and he told me he became afraid of clowns on Coney Island because that image of the laughing clown with the sharp teeth started there in the funhouse and bumper cars and he said I was there with my parents as a kid, back in the eighties, when it was remnants and preterite seed, an MC vaunting over the booth playing Michael Jackson or Run DMC or KRS-One and for some reason allowing me into the adult bumper cars even though I was only a kid, but they didn’t have the kid’s bumper cars and at that point it was late enough at night that he was high or drunk and everything he wasn’t supposed to be, ignoring the head I was missing in order to ride the cars according to the park statute, let me in, and the adults, in their brain-jostling frenzy, wedged me into a corner as they jousted for supreme cars, weaker ones running into me while alphas competed in the middle of the rink, rotten teenagers picking on me and the MC over the mic, come on kid, I know you stuck in the cohna but you gotta defend yoself a little dey called bumper cars kid, and finally mom having to intervene and yelling at him to stop all the cars and the music so they could take me out and prevent me from the liver-splitting action, bump and down and plate and hit, and giving the MC a piece of her mind, really laying into him, dad having to intervene because if she got any closer to him, she would have scraped out one of his eyeballs with one of her inch-long fingernails, and then a fight would have started and dad would have been in deep trouble and so the MC starts yelling at him as he pulls mom away telling him to keep his woman under control and take better care of his kid dad’s face all red, really upset, pulling me away, mom still jabbering in his ear, yelling at the MC, who by now has resumed the cars, since they pulled you out still shaken, still getting your land legs back, and you look onto the vast blue-black sea and wonder why people disagree about things and if you were older you would be more willing to have done that, now that you know the consequences, or perhaps you would have better anticipated the consequences, and unfortunately, your youth is a disadvantage and not something cherishable, but rather a perpetual looking forward to old age, when you wish you had some remnant of what you know now, then, but alas you don’t and everything seems frightening and out of your control like the mouth of a clown in mid-laugh…

How to Write a Novel

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For the past eight and a half months I have been writing a novel. I have written a novel before, but it was not for the light of day. I did not know how to write a novel so I spent two years working on it after work, on weekends and in my spare time, trying to learn. When I thought I was finished I met someone and let them read the first sentence. He said, “Why do I care?” And this was a very good question.

I couldn’t answer him. I had no idea why he should care. So I took some time to figure it out. Turns out, he didn’t care because I didn’t know why he should care. Which was fine. For a year I kept writing, working on stories, blogs, journaling, just practicing, getting better.

Then one of my old friends came to visit me in Portland and he said, “Yo Dan, we gotta get you on the shelf man.” I said, “I agree old friend, but how do you suggest we do it?” “You got to set a deadline,” he replied. “How’s six months?”

And so for roughly six months I didn’t have a job and lived the transient life while I wrote. It was immensely satisfying, until about the final month. I kept hearing back ‘no’ from different literary agencies. I realized that I actually had to find a job, because I was running out of money, and my work, I felt, was at a stage where I wanted to be finished.

I found a job and continued to refine the novel during evenings and on weekends, just like in the old days, except now I’m a couple of thousand hours better. Which does make a difference. I’m not saying I’m a master, but my old friend was right. At a certain point you have to actually put something out there for the world, even if it isn’t a masterpiece — even if it’s the best you got. The idea is that you keep going forward after that and maybe by the third time, people will start respecting you for it. And with the experience of knowing that my audience has to care about it, I realized that the reason they should care about this one, was because I’m trying to impart some truth into the world.

You may snicker, go ahead. I’ve been doing some serious research. I’ve got some experience under my belt. I’ve dabbled in alchemy. I think I know a little bit more about Truth than the average Joe Schmo.

So here I am, eight and a half months in and I’m feeling pretty good. I don’t know if you read my last post, but it was about metamodernism and what exactly that is, how I fit into it, or rather, how to write a novel to define it. First let me tell you that it incorporates elements of a few novels I had been waiting a while to read: Thus Spake Zarathustra and As I Lay Dying, Journey to the End of the Night and Super Sad True Love Story. And I realized that my story, my protagonist, has to represent a hero on a journey. It has to redefine myths for our irreligious era. It has to be written allegorically. And it has to move between a modernist subjectivism and a postmodern undermining of that ideology: it has to represent a metaxy, an oscillation between extremes and a furtherance beyond. My metamodern novel will embody, in the words of Luke Turner, a “pragmatic romanticism” which ultimately fails in a world unready to accept it, at least, for my protagonist, Sebastian.

What about my deadline? Well, quite obviously I’ve passed it and you don’t hear me talking about where to find my book. But I’m not worried. I’m going to self-publish it by the year mark, January 25. Unless, you know, someone offers me a deal or something. I figured six months wasn’t very long to write a novel, and that a year would be better. In the meantime, I’m going to give you a few teasers to whet your palate. So look out for them. Oh and my working title is Lovers and Gods. If you have any better ideas, feel free to suggest them in the comments below.

What Is Metamodernism?

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What comes next? If this is the question then the answer is prologue. It isn’t technology, not yet, because we’re still learning how to feel comfortable with substituting new processes for old. It isn’t to repeat what was done a hundred years ago, or fifty years ago. It’s to go even farther back, to understand that we come at the turn of a millennium, and that we have not just a hundred, but a few thousand years of tradition to appreciate.

Our formal techniques may echo Joyce and Pynchon, Woolf and Wallace, but the stories we tell in our era have to go even farther back. They have to revert to the first true novel: Plato’s Dialogues. The reason this was first is because it told a story in the way man first moved to abstraction: metaphor. Or allegory, if you prefer. Metaphor is what myth is based on because in it man anthropomorphizes God.

After the Dialogues, philosophy became too abstract and literature became too self-conscious. Let us fix this by offering a simple premise, say good versus evil, and carrying the story through with allegory until its logical conclusion. This, to me, is the metamodern novel, and it is how metamodern fiction will read.

Because in a society where hardly any one is religious, we need to return to what makes us human– stories. From the articles on the first page of Google to last year’s Pulitzer winning novel, we seek stories we can apply to our own lives with metaphors about life’s challenges and illusions.

I could go on with examples but I would only be spinning my wheels. Let’s have brevity. Already I feel too postmodern with such a disclaimer, but then, we are only on the cusp of this putative metamodernism.