I Can’t Say “Lake Titicaca”

rage

Why don’t people notice when their speech is goofed up?  Does that guy with a lisp just not realize that everyone around him is able to pronounce sibilants that he always misses?  Does that girl who makes all her Ms into Bs and her Ns into Ds because she’s restricting exhalations from her nose not hear that other folks aren’t doing this?

I think that we get used to the little handicaps we introduce into our speech for one subconscious reason or another.  They become a part of our habit and are effectively invisible.  Or inaudible, rather.

Nothing brings those errors into crisp contrast than recording yourself speaking, and then listening back.  Most folks dislike hearing their own recorded voice, due to the fact that it is a different experience than hearing it as you speak.  When you speak, you experience both internal and external stimuli, so when the sound is separated from your body and played back, it sounds foreign.  You don’t like it because it isn’t you, isn’t a sound you would want coming from you.  And it’s embarrassing, because you realize it’s how everyone else hears you.

I use that example to help guitarists understand why they hate the sound of their rigs miked up and recorded.  When you are playing with an amplifier in the room, all that low-end boom from the cabinet and the reflections of the room make up part of your sensory experience.  As does the feeling of playing it, of having that resonating instrument in your hands.  Separating and playing back the sonic response from a point right in front of a speaker (where the mic is) takes away much of the original experience and thus, much of the enjoyment.

For the last couple months I have been recording my own voice, reading Shame the Devil, a novel I published a few years ago.  Recording an audiobook.

It’s been hell.

I sit there and read a sentence, hear myself missing syllables, slurring consonants, having weird vocal breaks in the middle of passages that you can only understand by using context . . . and then I do it again, and again, and again.  Trying to stop that behavior.  Failing.

And it gets worse.  There are a lot of parts of speech I simply cannot pronounce.  Normal things that when I try to mouth them, cannot be uttered by the equipment in my head.  Like the word grasp.  I can pronounce it all the way out to the P, but put it in a sentence and I cannot do so without taking so much time it breaks the sentence in two and ruins the rhythm.  “Trying to understand more than he could grasp put him in a difficult situation” becomes “Trying to understand more than he could grass, puh, put him in a difficult situation”.  I hear it, I know I’m doing it and I know what I’m doing wrong, yet I cannot change it.

I should have taken speech class in elementary school.

My Ss are too soft.  My Ts are often missed or only implied.  My CHs are inconstant.  I can’t seem to get out of an M fast enough to keep rhythm, so I either sit on it too long or avoid it altogether, making “mountains” into “mmmountains” and making “permanent” into “peranent”.  I cannot say “Lake Titicaca” more than once unless I am allowed to take four seconds to do it.  I cannot say “Lake Tiki Titicaca” at all.  Not even once.  Maybe if I have eight seconds.  It should only take about one second.

My advice to you, is never to record your own voice.  It’s like going into a bathroom somewhere, and looking at yourself in a mirror under that weirdly penetrative fluorescent light that exposes every bit of skin damage you’ve had since you were eight years old, and makes you look like you haven’t slept this month.  It’s reflective of a part of you your brain has willfully trained itself to ignore.  Sometimes, ignorance is best.

However, if you’d like to hear me masticate an entire novel with my nasal, error-laden, lisping, always-sounds-like-he-has-a-cold voice, you should absolutely listen to me read my novel.

You can get the audiobook for cheap or free, or just check out a three-minute sample of it, at the Amazon page for Shame the Devil.  Just click on the mic:

micpic

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Emotional Elasticity Sucks (There’s a Puppy at the End)

This week’s blog is a note on the elasticity and, unfortunate whorishness, of our emotional states.

Depending on what you choose to do with your life, if you do give yourself a goal and purpose, there are seminal texts you must read. If you’re a writer, you are expected to have read The Elements of Style. If you’re an economist, you are expected to have read The Wealth of Nations. But if you are someone who hopes to do anything at all, I make the claim that it is essential for you to read The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.

Pressfield describes in great detail the mechanisms by which we stop ourselves from achievement, and he lumps them into a single entity called Resistance. Feel like what you’re doing is pointless because it’s been done before? Feel like starting the work would be something better done tomorrow than today? Find yourself making excuses or easy-outs for actually putting your nose to the grindstone? These are Resistance.

And it is ubiquitous. Once you have learned what it is, you see it everywhere. Its presence is so enormous in our lives, that it is astounding how little we perceive it. But that too, is part of it. It disguises itself.

Anyway, this blog entry is not about The War of Art. What I am writing about here is our emotions.

Last week I sat down to do some writing. Some fiction writing. That, my friends, is a big deal for me. I quit writing under duress years ago and have been trying to get back to it for a long time. During that hiatus I read The War of Art, and let me tell you, I am loaded with Resistance. I think you are too–all of us in fact–but the point here is that I have a lot of stuff going on in my brain that stops me from doing the work of really writing.

To overcome that stuff by brute force can be daunting. Overcoming Resistance is a mindfuck. You have to work, you have to push, you have do what feels like hurting yourself. It’s the psychological equivalent of getting out of bed in the morning when you have had little sleep and want nothing more than to remain under the cozy covers. It is anathema. But necessary, if you are to do something with yourself and not sleep all day, or live a creatively absent life.

I sat down in front of a word processor and started to write a story, after years of “meaning to get to it”. Resistance flared up so deeply, I couldn’t help but marvel at its intensity.

Once I had stamped “bullshit” on every excuse and delay that came to mind, and declared in a clarion voice that I had no reason not to write, and actually marched to the place where I’d begin doing just that, Resistance clutched at its last resort: an all-out war of emotion.

There was no reason, no rhyme, no convenient truth and corollary excuse. I had set all that aside. So I was battered by unfocused, unattached emotion. The sense of being forced away from my work was stifling. I lost every single ounce of motivation. I wanted to put away the computer and never return to it. I was emotionally ready to quit writing for the rest of my life. There wasn’t even the vaguest flicker of desire to work.

The inspiration for the story was wiped away from me like rain off a windshield. I was dry, and so repulsed by the idea of writing that I even felt the blank screen like a physical assault on my senses. I’d have done anything–any other thing–to get away from it and do something else. Anything. Eat. Sleep. Chew on broken glass. Whatever.

But in my head I knew that I wanted to write, a purely academic thought. This is a trick I learned in therapy. I declared my desires before actually facing the prospect of making them into reality. And then clung to the statement when the desire left. I knew that I wanted to write but could not feel it yet. I knew that my mind was racing from the act, but that I had to wrangle it and force it to happen, or it simply never would.

So I did. I was as rusty as you could be, and lost. I could not feel the story at all; it was like speaking another language. But I put word after word, and kept going because I knew it was what I had to do.

After three hours I had a single page of copy. Exhausted and beaten, I quit and congratulated myself on winning the war of art for one day. After a couple days I returned to the text for a first revision, and found that though it was indeed rusty, I still managed to bring out the character of my narrative voice fairly well. I finished the story, and a revision of the finished draft is next on my list.  Resistance has relaxed its deathgrip on my writing a bit, and is now busy helping me put off losing weight.

So I suppose I lied when I said that this entry was about emotional elasticity, as I’ve spent the length of it talking about the struggle to be creative. But the thing that got me there was the fact that my emotions, my honest, real feelings, aligned themselves with Resistance so completely and easily. Resistance was lying to me to stop me from working, and my emotional mind just hopped right onboard that train and took it all the way to the station.

Our emotional selves are curious things. Though this example was a particularly visible one to me, I also know that our feelings are constantly in this state of utter tractability. We are all emotionally fragile, and constantly at work to manage, conceal, and stifle the tumultuous output of our myriad profound emotions.

Well that’s it for the topic. I don’t have anything more to say about it, so here’s a picture of a cute puppy:

puppers

Three’s a Crowdypants

Did you know that a group of otters is called a romp?  And a group of vultures is a wake?  You might.  You just might.  I mean, you knew that a group of crows is called a murder, right?  But did you know that a group of squid is a squad?  That’s right, a squad of squid!

A group of zebras is called a dazzle.  Easy to understand, right?  A group of flying swans is a wedge.  Some aren’t so easy.  A group of turtle doves is called a pitying.  A gerund?  Really?  Others like this include the chickens, called a chattering, and ducks, called a paddling.

A group of thrushes are called a mutation.  Wha???  A group of ferrets are called a business.  That one makes sense.  But a group of gnus are called an implausibility.  Huh?

Foxes:  a skulk.  Emus:  a mob.  Flamingoes:  a flamboyance (oh come on, is this alliteration for giggles or what?)

Anywho, I came up with some fun ones for additional fun fun funsies.

A group of rocks:  a hardly
A group of earthworms:  a spaghetti
A group of bats:  a flappy
A group of raccoons:  a masquerade
A group of penguins:  a formal
A group of hares:  a beard
A group of eggs:  a breakfast
A group of termites:  a board
A group of clams:  a clap
A group of bears:  a fuzzy
A group of Woody Harrelsons:  a Forest Harrelson
A group of squiggles:  a squoggle
A group of groups:  a groupgroup
A groupgroup of groups:  a groupgroupgroup
A group of beds:  a sleepy
A group of boats:  a floater
A group of frisky cats:  a cat-astrophe
A group of sloths:  a loaf
A group of lit sparklers:  a sparklocalypse
A group of cows:  a cowncil

What are some of yours?

Welp

Welp, here I am.

It has been a while.  A long one. I see that I have a couple followers on here still.  Hey guys!

But it’s 12:03 PM on a day in August of 2016 and I’m here, and I’m writing this entry, and in my imagination this is the first step toward a lot more that proceed from it.  Journey of a thousand miles, first step, all that.

I started this blog in 2012 to promote my writing, or to at least create a central location for it that folks who were interested in my work could use to find it, and find out more about it.

Then a bad thing happened:  I stopped writing.

I could go into the reasons, but so much time passed that the reasons took their course and ended, and yet still I didn’t write.  Not even blog entries like this one. I don’t write these days, and I don’t have an excuse.  Haven’t for a while now.

But it isn’t writer’s block.  What is that, anyway?  Is it the way that artists associate themselves with their work too much and paralyze themselves?  I see this in music from time to time.  Inability to separate oneself from one’s work.  Leads to total meltdown.

No, I am not blocked.  In fact, I have a lot of ideas, plans, outlines, and future work stacked up and ready to go.  I think about it often.  I have no lack of motivation, either.

And I so want to say that I don’t have time.  I am, after all, criminally busy, but I never believe anyone who says that they don’t have time for something, and I can’t bring myself to try and shove that one down your throat.  We make time for something if we want to bad enough.

But I don’t, and I seek to undo that.  More on that another time soon perhaps.

So I am back, and I don’t have new writing for you to read, aside from this here thingie you’re reading.  Just letting you know.  I am here with nothing new for you.  And I gotta say, writing this without further product to share feels even MORE self-serving than usual.  I mean, a personal blog, hel-LO.  Just writing it implies that I think you want to know what I have to say.  I don’t think that, in fact.  What’s more, I don’t have a desire to share it with you.  Yet, here I am.  Trying to think of this thing as more of a…public journal.  Though I will put myself at risk of being flamed, I plan to freewrite into this blog. This new perspective, I hope, will help bring me back to this blog in the future.

Moving on. As you probably know, I am a musician as well as a writer.  More, in fact.  Music has always been my first.  I struggle daily to find time for my creative loves, and I do mean struggle.  It is by far the largest of difficulties in my life.  I realize I have much to be thankful for in this.  Recently I purchased a small plot of land in the woods, with an old log cabin on it, in deep disrepair.  I spend a day a week up there now, working on it.  I often wonder why I invited this new devourer of time (and a hefty one at that).  It has proven quite absorptive of my attention and motivation.

Anyway, as a musician, I compose, perform, and record my own work.  I do collaborations with others, and I do keep myself in a band, but taking up serious recording (a new thing, as of 2012) has freed me to pursue my musical dreams far more comprehensively.  And I’ve done a good deal of that.  This year I released three albums.  Huge, I mean enormous, efforts there.

But where are they?  They’re sitting on my computer.  They’re sitting in boxes in my apartment.  No one knows about them save the few people I sent copies to.  This is indicative of a terrible truth about myself that I still chafe at:  I am sorely unmotivated to promote my work.  I DO the composing, the arranging, the performing, the recording, the producing.  I taught myself basic Photoshop so I could make album artwork.  I set up a publishing company, a DBA.  I spent countless hours teaching myself to be a sound engineer, and yet…..visit websites?  Solicit attention?  Somehow, I draw a line here.

And because of this, my work goes unknown.  Unheard.  Even my book, which I did shamefully little to promote, has had much more attention than any of my albums of music.  Hell, I even found myself on Goodreads recently. A few reviews.  Random strangers have spent more time writing about Shame the Devil than I have in the last couple years.

I had this idea, and I’m still unsure about it, but this idea is old now and it hasn’t been banished by a stronger voice, so now it’s coming to the forefront and I think it’s time to start putting it into fruition.  The idea:  re-gear my site to be about all my creative works.  Make it a home for music, writing, ideas, and other things.  No longer only about Michael Lejeune the author, who is an ephemeral phantom at best.  Now, about Michael Lejeune the musician, author, and whatever the hell else I am.  I suppose that through this site, if it blossoms the way I hope it will, you may decide for yourself.

So, you can expect changes.  You who have put your email on my followers list.  New things coming here.  Music available.  Updates to the very old content still posted here.  A re-tooled blog, no longer about the author but about what’s going on with the guy.  I apologize now for the ridiculously vain nature of this beast, this broad display of look-at-me-I’m-worth-watching.  It is for me a simple statement of greeting.  It says hello, it says thanks for dropping by, it says here’s what keeps Mike up at night.