Want vs Need: Time Investment

My medium is watered down acrylic on printer paper.

I have this hanging above my computer desk.

I need to write a sequel to my first book, Can’t Eat, Can’t Breathe and Other Ways Cystic Fibrosis Has F#$%*d Me. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

As I get older, I’ve really started thinking of time as a finite resource. I always thought I did, but without any real responsibility (beyond breathing, that is), it’s easy to labor under the illusion that there’s still time to do everything. It’s the subtle difference between “I might as well do this, I’m going to die” and “I need to get this straightened out before I die.” The truth is, the world does not need a sequel to Can’t Eat, Can’t Breathe anymore than it needed Can’t Eat, Can’t Breathe in the first place, which is to say not at all. Still, it remains the piece of creative work I’ve gotten the most feedback on and it’s one of my few projects that ended up in profit so in my head a sequel makes sense as a time investment.

In fact, a couple of pages of pure sequel excitement already exist on my computer, ready for the day I finally hate myself enough to write another book. But if we’ve already established that the world doesn’t need it and I just said the process makes me hate myself, why in the actual hell would I write another book?

The process doesn’t start with hate. When I first started writing, I was already mentally clearing space for all the writing awards I was going to win. Somehow Can’t Eat was going to be the first book to win an Oscar. That feeling lasted about three paragraphs into the process. I’d say out of the roughly 52 weeks I spent writing/editing that book, there were about 9 days when I thought it was any good. Non-consecutive days, mind you.

Still, at the end of it all, it felt nice, like I had gathered up all the stray thoughts in my head and put them in their proper place. This feeling lasted about a week, soon to be replaced by a new nagging sensation.

I can do better.

Little thoughts started piling up in a trash heap in the back of my head, waiting to be pushed out into my computer and (hopefully) into other people’s heads. But while I was organizing the last trash heap into Can’t Eat, Can’t Breathe, another insidious pile had taken form, covering all others in it’s shadow/stench cloud.

I used to make music. A lot of music. Then right before I started writing my book, circumstance caused me to throw all my recording equipment in a closet. I eventually sold most of it to finance my lavish designer drug lifestyle. I was done.

What kind of drug dealer leaves a paper trail?

The tears had dried by the time I took this picture.

Then I heard a stupid song in my head. Not a full song, but a little piece of something. A snippet in the distance. A little taste to get me back in the game. I broke out my acoustic guitar and recorded the melody in my iPad, figuring it would give me something to play around with in my down hours. Instead of arranging candy to crush, I could move around riffs and melodies and see what happened.

Eventually I wondered what those chords and melodies would sound like with a properly distorted guitar. One thing lead to another and in a fit of passion, I started writing songs again.

In the cold light of day, there’s absolutely no reason that anyone, myself included, has to make music. We now carry the entire recorded history of music in our pockets and the sheer volume of new things coming out every day makes catching up impossible. This all makes sense to me on a logical level. But those songs have to go somewhere. And really, what’s the point of doing anything? In 100 years (or less), we’ll all be forgotten.

And the truth is, after spending a year writing Can’t Eat, Can’t Breathe and spending even longer trying to get people to read it, I started to feel like a one trick pony. I felt it while writing the book too (it’s one of the many reasons there’s a chapter about McDonald’s Pizza). I’m wording this carefully, because I don’t want to give the impression that I hate talking about CF or that I won’t do it; one of the most rewarding parts of writing the book has been having conversations with people about CF, both the afflicted and otherwise. But willingly dedicating massive amounts of my free time to a thing I’ve spent years grudgingly accepting feels a little weird sometimes.

CF will always play a defining role in my life, but I don’t have to make it easy.

Writing a book about it, keeping a blog about it, spending 2 and a half years in medical studies about it; I felt like I needed to do something completely unrelated to CF.

So I made an album. The band’s called Slowbleed. Album’s called You Will Be Forgotten. It’s available now on Bandcamp and soon it will be on all the digital platforms. Conceptually, I wanted it to sound like 80s W.A.S.P. mixed with Failure with a dash of Sentenced’s black humor, but I’m not sure that means anything to anyone who (like me) doesn’t celebrate the entire Tiamat catalog. More quantifiably, there are guitars. There’s at least one direct Bowie rip-off and a few more artfully hidden. And the guitar solo in the second song was written the day after Prince died.

I (along with my fiancee Rebecca) made a video too, taking inspiration from one of my favorite movies 1933’s The Invisible Man. And because I can’t get away from it, there’s at least one song that’s directly inspired by CF, but you’re going to have to dig through the lyrics and find that yourself.

I spent a year on this and it sucked up a lot of my time (it’s why the blog posts dried up for a while). That year probably would’ve been better spent learning an actual skill or even finally writing that sequel. But while I can understand that I didn’t need to make an album, it sure felt like it at the time.