Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Where To Put the Tired

I listen to all the (good) writing podcasts. A few days ago, driving back from the funeral (and into what, I had some nontrivial reasons to believe, might be my own death), on a lark I put on some Brian Koppelman, who I've always liked and admired. And, in the four segments I listened to, there was just an eerie amount of material that spoke directly to what I'm going through right now. Or at any rate, the easier thing I'm going through right now: a few weeks ago, I melted down work-wise, utterly lost all faith in my ability to do my work as an artist, and – based on the relentless psychic toll it (and everything else) have taken these last three years – decided I had to quit writing. (*)

Since then, after spending two weeks just taking longer and longer walks out the Thames Path, watching the light fade and trying to remember how to breathe, I've been going back to all the foundational texts (Pressfield, Holiday, McKee) trying to find some way back, some way to rebuild. Unfortunately, while there's tons of great stuff about how to get yourself going, there's precious little about what to do when you've been battling for many years, had some artistic and commercial success, and then blow up spectacularly and are so exhausted you just don't think you can get back in the fight anymore. Here's some. Anyway, it's what I've got right now.

“The Moment” with Brian Koppelman
Steven Pressfield - Jan 29, 2019

BK: “So, for me, there was this battle, the real sort of Artist's Journey that you talk about in your book, happened at thirty, before Dave and I wrote our first screenplay. But what surprised me was that: it could happen again. Where you're doing the work, when you have this other moment, because if you're living a life where you're trying to do this best work – as you said, it's hard – and then sometimes you can get knocked of course by various kinds of Resistance. By people offering you money to do other kinds of work for instance. In success, even. You can be knocked off course. And then you have to go back – it's like in a Rocky movie, when Rocky throws away all the fancy equipment, and decides to just take out the free weights again, and go back to the beginning.”

SP: “That's a great example. It always goes back to the basics. Supposedly Jack Nicklaus, every spring he would go back to his old pro, and they would start with alignment. This is a guy who's already won fourteen majors, or something, they're going back to the absolute basics: what's your grip, what's the alignment, you know, let's just start with some little pitches. And I think there's a lot of wisdom to that.”

“The Moment” with Brian Koppelman
Tony Gilroy - Nov 27, 2018

BK: “What do you think still brings you back, still?”

TG: “Probably getting divorced.”

BK: “Right, the fear of that.”

TG: “No, your agent's always helping you get divorced.”

BK: “Oh, sure. But what I'm saying is, what do you think still brings you back, now, to go do – like, what do you think it is that keeps you going?

TG: “Oh, I have a million games I play with myself. I mean, anger works, glory works, fear works. I mean, anything. I've played every single game to get myself in a chair and get motivated you could possibly ever play. And they're not original games. They're the games that every writer has played since the very beginning.”

“The Moment” with Brian Koppelman
Seth Godin - Jan 1, 2019

SG: “You know, if you go to the coach because you want to run the marathon, you don't get to say to the coach: Show me how to run a marathon without getting tired. No one can run a marathon without getting tired. So, instead, you say to the coach: Show me where to the put the tired. Show me how to do this, while I am still tired, not make the tired go away.”

BK: “You're saying the self-doubt is the tired. And that the self-doubt, it's a fool's game to say, I'm going to eliminate the self-doubt. What you're saying is, I'm gonna learn – oh, it's the Jim Carrol thing about making friends with the monkey. When Kurt Cobain died, Jim Carrol made this great poem, 88 Lines About Kurt, and in it, he says something about, I wish you would have asked me about the monkey. And, he says, you know, I just learned to talk to the monkey. I learned to negotiate with the monkey. But that's hard to do, man.”

SG: “Of course it's hard! If it weren't hard, there wouldn't be a scarcity of people like you and me! This is our only hard work that we do. The only hard part.

BK: “So the only hard part you're saying is to make friends with the self-doubt. And to know how to put the self-doubt just a little bit of the way down the table when you're going to write, or create, or do whatever it is that you do.”

SG: “Yeah. Like, so, three, four, five times I've said I'm done with publishing, I'm never gonna publish another book. I see that pattern, I'm not an idiot, right? But I understand that's part of my pattern.”

BK: “Right. You've told me many times you were done with publishing, and I told you you weren't.”

“The Moment” with Brian Koppelman
Rosanne Cash - Dec 04, 2018

BK: “But there is a duty that comes with that, which is to plumb, to not live on the surface as an artist, to own what it means to be an artist. In service of that, you have to be willing to turn yourself inside out, don't you?”

RC: “That's exactly right. And it can be dangerous. And, you know, artists have far more than their fair share of mental illness, suicide, drug addiction, because of that, because you're always going to these places – that if you don't have bridges to get back into a kind of normal rhythm of day-to-day life, it's very, very, very hard. And hopefully you learn to create bridges to come back.

BK: “The north star isn't that different, though, of writing about—”

RC: “Yes, that's so true. Of writing about real people, real emotions, the depth of human experience, suffering—”

BK: “How to live when you know everyone – how do you live, when you know everything you love will be taken away?

RC: “Oh, god, that's so heartbreaking, isn't it?”

BK: “Yeah. But you write about that and sing about that all the time.”

RC: “I think that that is the hallmark of the true artist is not being afraid to stare that in the face. A lot of people avoid it because it's excruciating, but being able to look at it, take the rawness of that, and create something of beauty, and meaning, I mean, that's it, right? That's it.”

BK: “It really is. Yes.”

RC: “And not destroy yourself. I mean, like, Jackson Pollock took that rawness and created beautiful art, but he destroyed himself in the process. So we go back to the idea of the bridges, you know, how do you—”

BK: “How do you find your way back to humanity? And through love is what your answer is, in a way.”

RC: “Yeah, I think so.”

BK: “Though the risk of it, I mean, through risking it.”

  despair     the writer's journey     how to keep doing it  
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
ARISEN : Odyssey
ARISEN : Last Stand
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 1 - The Collapse
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 2 - Tribes
Black Squadron
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 3 - Dead Men Walking
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 4 - Duty
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 5 - The Last Raid
ARISEN : Fickisms ][ – This Time, It's Personal
ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple
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