Monday, August 24, 2015

Making something out of nothing, the backdrop to beautiful thoughts

Art is made in desolation and in desperate circumstances sometimes. Well, most of the time. Very few secure, comfortable people think about creating something. What do they think about? Beats me. I’m not one of them.
I recently broke my foot, which forced me to sit down and write a book. Maybe I would have written it anyway but definitely not with such pathos. Pain and pathos seem to go together.
Last year, a good friend of mine wrote a book about what was arguably the worst time in his life. And yet, he wrote a wonderful, funny book—so wonderful, in fact, that he sent it off to one—I repeat one—publisher and they accepted it for publication. Do you know how rare that is?
            His book, Loaded South, chronicles his adventures and misadventures driving a cab in Austin during the height of Austin’s hippie-dippy, celebrity-ridden, blues-and-country-band-laden period. It was a lost time in his life but out of it came an endearing tale. He took something bad and made it something good.
            Hailing from Lubbock, Clay was familiar with that whole process of seeing the funny in the ridiculous. (My favorite Clay story about Lubbock is that he once had a history teacher there who told the class that Abraham Lincoln committed suicide. When Clay objected, he was sent to the principal’s office.) People say, even songwriters sing, that “you can’t live in Texas unless you’ve got a lot of soul” and rightly so. It has to do with accepting what you have and making it something wonderful.
Singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffe has got a lot of soul. She’s from Denton, Texas, north of Dallas. If you’ve been there, you know how much soul she has to have. It’s in direct proportion to the loneliness and downright dreariness of that north Texas town. But loneliness and dreariness can be advantages. They can be the backdrop to beautiful thoughts. Sarah’s song, Clementine, is her beautiful thoughts put to music. As you listen, you know there is a problem but you don’t know what it is. She longs to be more delicate. She longs to be named Clementine. She isn’t either of those things. But she is a great artist.
            If you want to see paintings full of longing, look at the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. The longing is palpable. He had so much passion and he had nowhere to put it except the canvas. He became one of the most famous and celebrated artists who ever lived. But in his life, he had nothing. Nothing but his art. He accepted that and made it something wonderful.

            Kudos to Clay and all of the other creators who create something from nothing.
            My published novels, The Legend of Juan Miguel and The Passion of Juan Miguel, are available on