Yesterday, Paul Legerski and Queensryche’s Scott Rockenfield hung out all day while I was dying on my sick bed, but Paul was nice enough to send me this pic with a ‘Get Well Soon’.
I write 365 days a year. The only time I don’t write is when I’m sick. And I haven’t been this sick in a long time. Fever, nausea, trembling like Michael J. Fox over a fracking site in Oklahoma, and congestion unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I swear, at one point, something crawled out of my nose, dripping with slime, and learned to walk on two legs like a human.
Or that may have been a fever dream.
Instead of writing, I spent the day in bed. And I spent that time in bed reviewing manuscripts for other authors, reading John M. McIlveen’s HANNAHWHERE and Joe R. Lansdale’s FENDER LIZARDS, and listening quietly to albums (Johnny Cash’s ORIGINAL SUN SOUND, Metal Church’s BLESSING IN DISGUISE, Motorhead’s NO REMORSE, and Bruce Springsteen’s promo version of BORN IN THE USA that contains “Jersey Girl”, “Pink Cadillac”, etc.) while my cat, Mad Max, spent the day asleep on my feet.
Now, that may not sound like work. Well, maybe the first bit — reviewing manuscripts for other authors — sounds like work, but listening to music and reading? That’s not work, right? Wrong. Artists, be they musicians or painters or writers or filmmakers, don’t consume entertainment like normal people. Art inspires all of mankind, but what art inspires in other artists is the desire to make more art.
So, reading the latest from John M. McIlveen and Joe R. Lansdale or listening to Johnny Cash and Metal Church on vinyl — that’s done on two levels. The upper level is a consumer, consuming that form of entertainment and enjoying it for what it is — a book or an album. But there’s an underlying level, that of an artist, who is soaking up inspiration during the experience.
Joe R. Lansdale directly inspired my novel THE LOST LEVEL (available here), my short story “Lost Canyon of the Dead”, and probably a few other things I’ve written. Johnny Cash (in conjunction with Trent Reznor) directly inspired my short stories “I Am An Exit”, “This Is Not An Exit”, “Exit Strategies”, and The Man Comes Around”. Bruce Springsteen’s music directly inspired my short story “Johnstown”.
Everything is inspiration. Everything is grist for the muse — even when we don’t think it is. Not all of it sticks. Sometimes a book is just a book, a movie is just a movie, and an album is just an album. But more often than not, art inspires other art.
I don’t yet know what the art inspired by John M. McIlveen, Joe R. Lansdale, Johnny Cash, Metal Church, Motorhead, and Bruce Springsteen channeled through a 102-degree fever and a constant influx of NyQuil will be, but I’m sure I’ll find out down the road.
Just went back and re-read that. I can’t tell if it will make sense to anyone else but me or not. My head is full of green NyQuil clouds, and more things have crawled out of my nose and lungs and are now shuffling across my backyard toward the river, in some sort of bizarre reverse evolutionary funeral march.
There’s probably a story idea in that hallucination.