It is January, the beginning of a new year, and as I look ahead I find myself peering into a very unfamiliar landscape and sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder at the randomness and uncertainty of it all.
It’s possible that I inadvertently kicked off a year of change when I got my hair chopped off in mid December. I joke that I’m all about my hair, and to a certain extent that’s true I guess. There’s a sense of public ownership of my hair, which sounds insane but that’s just how it is.
I found this out about five years ago when I got fed up with having long hair and was on my way to get it all cut off. En route, I ran into a couple of friends, both of them prominent businessmen in Calgary. They asked me where I was going and I told them, at which point they blanched and spit out their coffee and expressly forbade me from going any further in the enterprise.
“We can’t have our hair long, by virtue of our profession. We can’t dress all weird and eccentric. But you can, and so in this way we feel we can express ourselves. Through you and in particular, your hair.”
Honestly, I don’t make this shit up, that was actually said to me (or words to that effect) and so I didn’t cut it then, knowing that it had become some kind of symbol that went far beyond the hairs sprouting out from my scalp. Finally, though, I simply had to say enough is enough, and so destroyed the dreams of freedom and rebellion of my friends.
Now I find, people look at me differently, treat me differently. I can’t explain it, exactly, it’s all rather new. But I like it. I like the idea of switching things up and having a new set of variables to work with.
Looking back, last year was really a wonderful year. I received a grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts to finish a novel I had been working on. The novel, titled The Piano Teacher, is about a concert pianist, and so part of my process last summer involved rediscovering the piano, playing a little each day before I started writing.
I actually began my university career at the University of Regina a million years ago as a piano student before switching into English – a move that has served me well, I would have to think. Still, there is a certain nostalgia to going back and playing the pieces I was working on then. Trying to, at least. The fingers aren’t quite as nimble as they were 40 years ago.
Going into 2014, I would have thought it would be straight sailing into the deeper waters of novel writing and publishing – creating a second draft, finding an editor, deciding how I want to go about publishing it, etc. etc. And while all that is still happening, a number of other unexpected things have come across my path, and this is why I say looking ahead, I don’t necessarily recognize the landscape.
One is the possibility of working on a television series – writing, of course – and any more than that, I’m not allowed to say lest I should get my white ass sued off. (Other than to say, I have some very interesting homework.)
The other involves collaborating with a musician friend, writing lyrics for a heavy metal concept album. As you can perhaps appreciate, this is very new territory for me, very new indeed, and one which I never thought I’d find myself hopscotching through. And yet, I find the possibility intriguing, and you know what they say – you only live once. YOLO indeed. But it’s true, you do only live once, and the trick to that is to do things to ensure that you’re truly alive and not just taking up space.
Incidentally, when I mentioned the possibility of this on Facebook the other day, I was immediately swamped with general “likes” as well as the names of specific bands and songs that I simply must listen to in order to gain any understanding at all of the genre. This is a very serious sub-culture and I think my exploration of it will contribute to what would appear to be a fascinating year looming ahead.
Certainty, the arrogance of surety, security as a precursor to smugness – all of these are desirable at some level, yet all are the enemy of the artistic process. Looking ahead, I don’t know whether to shit or go blind; wind my watch or howl at the moon. There’s no road map here. In fact, there isn’t so much as a road.
I wouldn’t have it an other way.
Now, combining the best of both worlds, ie classical and metal music, please consider the following . . .
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year.