Ian Truman

The Curse – Poem

The Curse

 

Did you try everything?

Did you really give it all?

You’ve lost sleep, money, loved ones.

You’ve spilled your guts to the page

Time and time again

But did you really go all in?

 

Was every waken minute of your life spent

Thinking about it,

Working on it?

It is the universe’ fault or your own at this point?

Did you write enough?

Did you really make it every day?

Did you really spend every lunch break writing?

Each and every single one of them?

 

How come you’re still looking for something else to clear some wiggle room?

Why the impulse to follow the herd?

Why look at other jobs at all?

Why care about an endgame that wasn’t your own to start with?

 

Was it the fact you weren’t from New-York,

or LA,

or Toronto,

London,

Or anywhere that seemed to matter to publishing.

 

Was it because you never traveled, not really?

 

Did 36 hours in NOLA on 300 bucks just to make it to a conference really amount to anything?

Did you really dress in Calvin Klein so no one would know you were sleeping on a bench that night?

Was it worth it to cross the line into New York on a midnight bus just to be at a table for a few hours?

Is this really what they meant by going at it for real?

 

Was it because you’re working class and can’t seem to find the leeway to keep up with the cost of living or is that just a cop out?

Are you that broke?

Is everything so expensive?

Are you a fucking princess after all is said and done?

 

Did you really starve yourself enough?

Did you really save up every quarter,

Every buck,

Every coffee you spent money on?

Why did you buy anything at all this week if it wasn’t for the sake of the word?

 

What if your “all in” really was everything you had and it still wasn’t enough?

Was it because you couldn’t write “content” to save your life like everybody else seems to be able to do.

 

It’s so hard to make a move,

Any move,

Once the thrill of your 20’s is gone

And the debt collectors want their capital back.

You can’t get another loan anymore, the party’s over.

They had you on the hook since day one

And it’s time to pay up for a good few many years now.

 

A guy I knew once said to me,

“We retired in our 20’s and now we have to pay for it till we’re dead.”

 

Oh how right he was.

 

You had been warned you were staying poor

And you made the decision to go there anyways.

This is a time of consequences and you can’t fail anymore.

Years of your life,

Thousands of dollars,

Engulfed into the word,

Your art,

Your name

Your way.

 

Do you still have it in you to go on?

Can you remind yourself of words you scribbled a decade ago now:

“pick a line, stick to it, don’t fall down.”

 

Words you had tattooed into your chest when you made that call

Words to make sure you never forget

As you look at yourself in the mirror.

“Struggles and Hopes.”

 

The dichotomy of life.

Your life,

 

Do you still have it in you to make it stick another round?

Another book?

Another year?

Pick a line

Stick to it

Don’t fall down?

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So You Want to be a Working Class Writer? – Concrete Steps to Finish Your Project.

Been rummaging through old folders … This is something I’ve touched on before but it’s always good to remind yourself and update…

short novel picture

So you want to be a working class writer?

If you are reading this, I’m assuming you are working class and that you got this idea in the back of your head that you’d like to be a writer.

Let me tell you the only fucking way you can make it and trust me, you’ll need this because you’re not in the NY literary scene, or the Toronto literary scene or the London, UK literary scene.

You’re not interning at some big 5 publishing house hoping to get your first book deal at 28 with that beige fucking cover and the smoky letters on it. And if you are that person, this fucking post is not really meant for you. but if you are working class, you fucking know most of your time is spent on your job, getting food, getting gas, sleeping just enough at night and then getting up in the morning to start all over again.

The reality is this : our stories are probably more valid, useful, relevant or even important than anything the NY literary elite is throwing out there these days but we have to work five times smarter just to get them on paper. (Noticed, how I used the term “smarter” rather than “harder.”)

Luckily there are ways around this and I do believe I have enough experience now to share it.

1 – Find a job you can write from.

This sounds simple yet it’s not. There aren’t that many working class jobs where you actually get to write on the job (or around the job) and there are two ways you can get around this.

The first is you find a job where no one talks to you and it’s actually not that important. I mean shit like nighttime watchman or a machine operator where the operation doesn’t keep you disturbed every five minutes. I’ve worked shifts where we could squeeze in 20 minutes of down time on the hour and made those 20 minutes count. Most of the guys would go out for a smoke, I took notes on small pieces of paper and typed them back at home later.

I know there are jobs out there where there are plenty of work but also plenty of down time. Find one of them and stick to it.

Now I’m sure some will find this un-ethical or some shit well let me answer this : Faulkner did it all the fucking time. He wrote entire novels as the night shift guy in a power plant. So that’s good enough for me.

The other way you can work around your job is to be employed somewhere they give an hour for lunch. A lot of places only give you 30 minutes a day and it’s had to make something out of that, it really is. But an hour…you can work with an hour (and you’ll need to.)

So what I’ve been doing for the last 8 years (maybe more) Is that I’ll eat my lunch on my fifteen then run out of work as fast as possible on my lunch break and get writing right away. That’s how I made it through college and that’s now how I manage to write books.

2 – Split you’re writing time into hours of crunch time.

You’ll rarely ever get more than an hour at a time to work on something and you’ll need to make that hour count. (If you have kids, this is even more important!!!) I trained myself to shell out as many words as possible during that hour and during what I now call “crunch time” I can write 1000 to 1200 words on my lunch break.

And when I mean, hours, I mean, hours. Don’t expect writing days, you can’t afford it and it rarely ever happens anyways. Sometimes on a weekend or during your vacation, sure, but it’s not gonna be enough.

You’ll need the hours. You can squeeze in a lot of fucking “writing hours” during your week.

This brings us to No. 3

3 – It’s a numbers’ game.

I’ve talked about this before with many people: a novel is not that much work in terms of “man-hours” and if you’re working class, you know what the fuck a “productive-man-hour” is. If the management concept works for a construction crew, it can work for your novel too.

A full length super-commercial (Dan Brown type of shit) mystery novel is around 90 000 words. I aim to land around 75 000 words for an indie mystery which still mean I’ll write around 300 pages because I use a lot of dialogue.

If you counted it, that’s a maximum or 75 man-hours of production at 1000 words per hour to get that first draft out.

I count my own editing at 1=1 so I expect to spend another 75 hours just editing and polishing the story. Consider this like sanding a piece of wood to absolute perfection. That’s how I see it and that’s how you should see it too.

So you’re looking at 150 hours of production per novel before it’s ready to go out to publishers and editors. That’s it.

4 – How long is it going to take?

If you’re young and angry, you should shell out 6 writing sessions a week at 1h per session (sometimes you might squeeze in 2 a day on the weekends) but let’s keep it at 6 for the sake of life getting in the way.

That means you should have a first draft in about 12-15 weeks and a something ready to send to editors/publishers within 30 weeks. That’s more than a novel a year.

Now I understand that everyone’s situation differs. I’m a single dad on a shared custody, so my 6 sessions a week are down to 3, maaaaaybe 4 these days. I also take into account the fact that a lot of “writing” time now goes into writing proposals, business plans, outlines and blog-posts such as this one.

Still, that time management scheme allows me to write about a novel a year and leave some room for a side project.

4 – if you worry that you have nothing to say

You’re fucking working class. You get up in the morning and you beat traffic to go to work and weather every shitty comment or problem or issue or you build something out of your hands or fixing or fucking up and messing around and the guys are talking about this and that and the gals are talking about this and that. They’re telling jokes and stories and they’re happy or worried or messed up or looking for a fuck or a fight or a way out.

This is the stuff of life and it used to be the stuff of literature. I can’t help but feel it fell of the radar of the literary world for too long. What the fuck’s some intern at Penguin got to say about life that you’re not already living on a daily basis?

Go out there and write now. I gave you the roadmap, you just have to use it.

Take care,

 

Ian.

Excerpt From “Montreal – A Novel”

Hey! After weeks of holidays crap and terrible writing, I felt like posting something that was actually good for a change. Started editing “Montreal” again. Here’s a short chapter about the impulse of art.

Chapter 14

 

It was in the way the veins diverged at the wrist and converged back at the thumb. There were small details like that that didn’t matter to the rest of the world but often became the absolute centre of attention for Eli. He looked at the black ink of his tattoos, not the colours, just the blacks, the outlines, the shading, the way it faded at certain places and didn’t at others. How the sun had faded the forearms over time and he still had 50 years to live.

He was just sitting on his mattress, the playlist was on and it was hip hop and electronic, instrumentals, doom…noise. New day, same shit: perfect music to create to.

He had been staring at things for almost an hour now, waiting for the inspiration to hit. Sometimes it took him that long to bubble out of his life. He listened to the words of great artist, prophets really, witnesses to human emotions after all. And he was trying to find that moment when creating almost because spiritual, or even beyond spiritual.

It was a bit much to say a street artist could be a witness to human existence, but wasn’t that the truth as well? He kept wondering, pondering, but most of all, he sat and he stared.

He looked at the tiny scars on his hands, the scratches of the past from handling to much of everyone else’g garbage and the flakes of paint he couldn’t get from underneath his nails anymore. He tried to catch the pulses under his skin. He looked for body hairs that were out of place or try to catch that tiny, barely noticeable twitch in his pinky.

Then he looked at the wall for inconsistencies in the paint job and the texture, looking for something that shouldn’t be there and even the cleanest of jobs will always have that one flaw that granted him hope for the universe.

It had yet to skin into his heart, the fact that he could actually make it as an artist. He knew it to be true, sure. He was aware of the rationale behind the thought process that lead the the recognition of the necessity of art and enjoyed it when his own brain entered these strings of words that sounded like everything an anything all at once. The mind could easily play with those and it allowed him to skid away from the common truth if he ever needed to, but the heart had to get on board now. He knew the technique, the function and the art and the aesthetics but the heart was always hesitant to fully embrace things.

His rational side made the cost-benefit calculations years earlier: he was fucked and broke anyways so why not go all in? It was always easier if he could thread a line that allowed him to bail on his true emotions.

His heart was scared no matter how he looked at it. It was so fucking weird to him how he had this inner fire, this insane self-confidence about what he was doing but had yet to dare to cash in and take in a bit of emotional pain on the way there.

So far it had all been external. He looked at society and spit back what he was seeing the best way he was seeing it. Bashing society was easy. It was necessary, but it was easy. His own skin wasn’t on the line. It was the same with art as it had been with women. What the fuck did you do when it was time to get serious?

He felt it just under there somewhere inside his chest. He was going to pry this shit open, dig into the the wounds and see if his own guts were worthy of attention for once.

He smiled at himself and almost moved. Almost! There was a song playing that was from Sage Francis’ Human the Death Dance. Going back to Rehab.

Eli sank himself back in the mattress, put the song on repeat. He allowed the melodic line to build up and take over his mind and the words flowed freely in a way only a masterful MC like Francis could ever manage. Eli must’ve listened to the whole song three or four times on a loop.

Soon, he was ready for his body and his mind to accept everything.  He had found it. He had found that singular instant in every artist’s life when they stared into nothing, absolutely nothing, and found a way into equanimity.

“Overstanding,” he had read once, “a specific form of understanding of the emotional knowledge of the universe connected to a rationale best represented in the art form known as Hip-Hop.”

He had just found Overstanding and finally allowed himself up from his mattress.

It came down to this in the end. His truth of the moment was the truth of someone else at any given time in the past. It will be the truth of dozens more at any given time in the future and that made art valid because truth was only a moment in time.

And he was ready to speak that way to the world now.

He tore open three canvases and he was going to paint something he knew was downright cheezy but he had to do it. He had three characters in his mind now and he had to commit them to canvas. That was just the way it was. He popped open cans and sharpies, opened his window for the fumes to get out and the cold air sifted in but he liked how it snapped his senses into focus. He put on his mask and started to paint.

The past. The present. The future.

It was simple enough, basic plot but complex emotions: the nameless girl from Braking it Down was going to go on the first canvas. She was cute but nothing fancy. He did his best to give her that hopeful drive around the eyes but there wasn’t much more going on there and maybe they were just from different worlds and that’s what he tried to capture her.

Then there was Alex in a short skirt with that Blue Jays jersey on in winter. Her natural kindness still unaffected by all the nihilists of the world and her natural curves that should make the envy of the entire world.

Then there was Mari.

Marianna who was perfect. Perfectly flawed, perfectly rich yet perfectly poor and perfectly torn between French and English and a place up the hill but also with both shoes down in the gutter and didn’t she feel exactly like Montreal in a way?

It was that uncommon vibe of hers that said, “fuck you I don’t need your approval” that was really so very rare in reality and he liked that.

He liked that a lot.

From Train Wreck to Train Rides – My 2017 Retrospective.

Time to write my retrospective

2017 was…something

Winter was an absolute wreck

The year started off as absolute shit. My marriage fell apart and I dropped out of that MBA I had just started to try to salvage whatever was left of my life.

(I feel I owe a SINCERE apology to Prof. Steven AppelBaum for swearing so much…I don’t know! He probably doesn’t care! But SORRY!)

Then a few months of just grunting…couldn’t even cry, I just grunted, yip. For months at night. And while, yes, my ego was crushed and I wanted revenge, I can honestly say the hardest part was not having the kids around every other week. I had been a full time, dedicated father for eight year. How do you go from that to part-time dad? I’m still having a hard time with that.

I did NOT drink a SINGLE drop during that time and I think that demonstrates my ongoing belief in a sober lifestyle. NOT A SINGLE DROP. I don’t know how I did it, well, actually, I know. I Lifted a ridiculous amounts of weights to get out of that phase and wrote a lot of poetry that Is actually probably good poetry, but mostly weights. Lots and LOTS of weights…it wasn’t cool now that I think of it.

Spring really is a time for change.

And then things started to get better. I managed to sleep, stopped feeling the need to stack twelve to fourteen plates on a leg-press machine anymore just to get the pain out. (Though I do have to say that phase left me with an AMAZING body, especially for a 35 year old dad…That’s right, I said it!)

I salvaged my writing career and shelled out what is probably my best work so far. And that fucker, I wrote out of absolute will power alone, trust me. Every fucking page was a testament to my resilience and refusal to quit.

I have had insanely bad sex and then insanely good sex (and I mean it, I mean, absolutely stellar sex…)

And then not much sex at all.

I don’t know. I didn’t get that “need” people get to fuck everything that moves just to get past a failed relationship. I’m not judging, I just don’t get it.

 

Summer to stabilize things

I’ve managed (so far) to save my home (the market exploding the way it, I fucking NEED to) with no small amount of help from my family who I absolutely love and I can only hope to be as present for my children in the future.

I made new friends and reconnected with older ones I couldn’t manage to see as my marriage was falling apart. Having a social life is difficult but feels good.

I have visited New-York city with about 50 bucks to spend for a weekend and somehow made it.

I have visited Toronto and loved it. I have actually slept in a very plush boutique hotel, and for a guy who can (and has) sleep straight on hardwood floors, that says a LOT!

 

Fall to figure things out.

I have had plenty of time to decide what I wanted to do with myself now that I’m no longer “just” a father and a husband.

My raging need for insane workouts made way for a different kind of physical challenge. I have reconnected with something I had loved in the past: climbing, and found renewed passion for the sport. It just fits with the challenging-yet-balanced person that I was before all this clusterfuck happened and that I feel I am once again.

Climbing is a lot like writing. You have to work at it, go all in, you have to get hellbent out of shape to make it work and you’ll get a few strains and bruises and fall and stay there, catching your breath for a while. But then you’ll get on your hands and knees, take a deep, long breath and wait. You’ll stretch your limbs and stop yourself from rushing back in and look at what’s going on. You find a way or an angle and a line, sometimes the ONLY line, that can make it work. It’s the only way to climb and it’s also the only way to write.

And you get to it again, always working to make it better, one lane after the other, one book after the other, always more challenging but isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?

And now 2018

This year was a train wreck that I’ve somehow managed to get back on tracks (or at least A track). I’ve had help from friends and family, I’ve ASKED for help from friends and family and I’ve worked hard and I can’t imagine 2018 going bad.

I am confident in my writing, now probably more than ever.

I am confident in my art, now probably more than ever as well.

I really do love punk, now probably more than ever, and hip hop from around 98 to 2004 maybe…

I’ve learned I love trains. I really, thoroughly LOVED my first (real) train ride. I was invited to Philly next November, will totally ride the Adirondak and then see from there. I love trains.

I’ve re-validated my life choices of a vegetarian diet and sober lifestyle. I am in the best shape of my life, by any standard, the absolute best shape of my life and I love it.

I am aware of my worth (workwise) and have (finally) dared to ask for more or move elsewhere. If you know me, you’ll know how much of a breakthrough that really is.

And most of all, I am not so angry anymore. I was the most pissed individual you had ever seen and I think I’ve depleted all of my anger in 2017, all of it in the spring. It’s hard to explain, I don’t feel it anymore. It’s like an emotion I used to know that I don’t feel anymore, like a certain pitch your ear doesn’t register anymore.

And I mean, I’m still moody, I’m still snappy, sure, but that DEEP SEARING ANGER that defined me for years…that beast is not there anymore. It’s just…gone.

I’m still not sure how I’ll work that out in the writing.

But we’ll find out in 2018.

I’ve decided to retire two of my early works.

Hi there,

It’s long overdue, but I’ve decided to retire my frist two books, The Factory Line and Low Down.

While I believe The Factory Line deserves a re-write and maybe a “don’t be here in ten years edition,” for its tenth anniversary, LowDown will go forever in the “out of print” pile.

These formative works have been important to me as an aspiring writer but I no longer feel they are appropriate depictions of my talent as a novelist. My indie years are behind me now and I feel blessed to be able to work with very talented editors, copy editors and publishers.

Sometimes you need to clear out some room on a shelf in order to grow.

This is one of these times.

Take care,

 

Ian

 

Book Announcement and Cover Reveal – Down with the Underdogs (Down and Out Books)

Fall is a busy literary season so I want to get the news out ahead of the few events I’ll be attending in the coming weeks because I expect to be swamped with work,

I am really happy to present to the world the cover for Down with the Underdogs, a D’Arcy Kennedy mystery.

Ian Truman - Down with the Underdogs web

The follow-up to 2016’s Grand Trunk and Shearer is set to be released Mid 2018 (for now) on indie powerhouse Down and Out books. The novel is currently at the editing stage in the insanely capable hands of underground legends John McFetridge and Peter Rozovsky.

I would like to take a moment to thank Eric Campbell for believing in my work enough to support the expansion of the D’Arcy Kennedy world into an ongoing series I can be proud to write. Thank you.

Until then, you can always get Grand Trunk and Shearer HERE or meet me at the Brooklyn Book Festival, table 301 on Sept 17.

Thanks and take care.

Ian Truman.

 

Cover design : Collective Narcolepsy

Cover photo : shutterstock_133007795 – Marc Bruxelle

Texture : iStock-607616372 – natthanim

Standard licenses acquired.