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If you think about it, this writing, or any art form whatsoever, is no substitute for present-time experience.  After all, one could sit and read about every city in the world and never actually leave the comforts and safety of home.  These words, they’re just symbols.  I put them on the page for you to read, to take-in, to process.  But you’ll never know what I really meant.  You can’t.

My first writing mentor told me, “Zack, you wanna be a great writer?  Don’t think about writing, just go live.”  And that’s what I try to do.  I ask myself, When things change, will you be open to it?  How will you greet doubt?  Will you know the difference between doubt that is harmful and skepticism that is skillful?  How will you tell?  Always examine your intention.  Not just short term, but long term.  But make mistakes.  Forget.  And when you do, smile and remember that you’re breathing.  Balance.  Smooth.  Simple.  Joyful.  Light.  Playful.  Informed but open.  Tenacious but gentle.  Firm but malleable.  Dynamic.  Explore with arms wide open.  Let the water run over your feet.  Get dirty.  Make music.  Listen.  You are not going to figure it all out.  Rest in that.  Moment by moment, like a ball of yarn, time unravels its speckled gold hair.

There comes a point in your life when you realize that what your parents taught you was important may not be…. When you realize what a product of your conditioning you are.  That moment of existential angst is an important one, where one decides to live blindly or to engage life’s uncertainties, to explore possibilities, to open-up.  Art allows this process to happen.

Someone asked me the other day why I write.  I didn’t have an answer.  What I wanted to say was, “I have to.”  But that seems so rehearsed, like the tortured artist who is the victim of his own creativity.  Nah.  But I do wish I knew why I ended up in front of the computer, or with a pad and a pen.  I think it’s about art, about finding beauty in the mundane, about finding meaning in a transient and changing world.  Maybe it makes things easier.  I don’t know.

Maybe this is my playground.  I get to make the rules here.  I can give my writing rhythm.  I can make my writing scholarly.  I can make it angry and hard, or gentle and soft.  But mostly, I think it’s a place where I can let go into the moment and allow myself to be vulnerable with my own thoughts and my own creativity.  It’s a trustful act, this writing.  But it’s just symbols.  It’s not real.

So why would anyone do art?  What is art?

It’s the sound trees make in the morning when the wind blows,

it’s the frosty moonlight creeping in through the window.

It’s the guy on the corner, dirty clothes and scraggly hair,

it’s all the fucked up shit in life that no doubt got him there.

It’s the love I feel for life that communicates through a shiver,

it’s breathing deep, it’s a good night’s sleep, it’s the freezing Big Sur river.

It’s all the times you tell yourself you swear you’ll never do that again,

then the next day comes, you do the same thing and swear it all over again.

It’s the color of my love’s eyes when we’re lost in a gaze,

She asks me why I love her, and I sit back and count the ways.

It’s the waves crashing down on the California coast,

it’s dangling my feet off a cliff while you tell me I’m too close.

It’s my boys, it’s the laughter, it’s the jokes for the days after.

It’s my poetry, these lines I write, this beautiful life I try to capture.

It’s going outside at sunrise for inspiration,

bringing my pad and pen with me, just sitting there, patient.

But here I am.  I’m still right here.  The same young poet with the same old fears.

I used to wear my scars like a medal on my chest.

Now I sit with legs crossed on a cushion and feel blessed.

There is no answer to the question, “Why do I write?”  The answer is an action.  It’s putting one foot in front of the other.  It’s a smile and a laugh.  It’s a fleeting feeling.  Here and then gone.

Moment.  By.  Moment.

Like a ball of yarn,

time unravels

its speckled





I try to sit down and write complicated classical prose or intricate spoken word performance pieces. I stare at the blank page and nothing comes out. I put on Bjork and listen to the poetry in her songs, and I’m reminded of how simple a poem is. “It’s not meant to be a strife. It’s not meant to be a struggle uphill,” she sings. And I wonder if she sits down on a nightly basis like I do and tries to write. Or maybe songs flow from her like they used to flow from me. I would write poems in the middle of English class in high school. But those poems came from such a negative place. I need to find that place that I can go to when I need to write, but I have to find it from the positive sources around me. And that’s hard. But I won’t accept that art is only yielded from pain, and I do have some proof otherwise.

My writing began and stemmed from a cold and dark place. But it’s warmer now. And when I try to lean into a poem or a prose piece I somehow struggle to draw from the sources around me. Do I need cold tiled floors, sharp metal objects and gowns and rubber gloves? But “it’s not meant to be a strife. It’s not meant to be a struggle uphill.” And I’m filled with gratitude. I will learn how to write a gratitude poem and a thank you poem and a poem letting go. I think that’s what it is. I think I’m just afraid to let go. I’m afraid to let my old self finally slip out of my fingers. I’m still trying to save him. I’m still wiping his tears and kissing his cheeks and trying to tell him it’s okay. I still try to assure him that it will be over soon, to just hold on a little while longer, to stop crying, to stop fighting, to stop cursing God. I’m afraid of the fact that it is too late to save him. And now I’m left with an empty canvas and a new paintbrush.

My father tells me that it’s the going, not the getting there, that’s good. It’s the going, not the getting there, that’s good. And for now I am going to trust him. And for now I can believe him. It’s the journey, he says, not the destination. It’s the path. So here I am, on the path, just taking steps, one at a time. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, doing my dance to celebrate making it through another year. And here I stand, 25 years old, starting all over, again and again. And I guess I have to be glad that I get to start over. But there’s that part of me still—and I wonder if it will ever go away—that desperately wants yesterday’s pain to return. There’s a boy in me screaming. And I am the man who must ignore him. I have to take his letters and throw them in the fire. I have to drown his screaming with beautiful choruses singing, “it’s not meant to be a strife, it’s not meant to be a struggle uphill.” I have to let go. And these journal entries are my way of sewing together a quilt strong enough to wrap myself in this moment. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. See me dance? Watch my feet now, light on my toes. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. Just like that. Just like that.