My Art and Success: Friends, Family, Lovers, Part 1 by Kyle Phoenix

I have not accomplished completely what I envision for myself.  I'm circling it though, closing in, always amending and shifting and doing an inch of work a day.  I try to focus 4 to 6 hours on my work, writing, the TV show, my art a day, minimum.  Sometimes I do this odd thing---I go through rotations of five or six hours sleep, wake up, trudge over the computer and write a blog.  The other day I spent ten hours emailing back and forth 26 book covers---it only dawned on me as I walked to the supermarket for dinner that I'd spent the whole day designing book covers---26 of them....and that there was still at least 20 more to go.  Then the next day I spent going through a whole re-edit process on a book, sending it in for review and even as it left my computer going back to the original file and re-tinkering with things.  (Formatting a header or page numbering can start a minor war in my life.)  I then had to go back and redesign elements of a book catalogue.  I fully expect my computer to just refuse to come on one day.

I've been publishing for years, well over twenty, my work having go out cross country when I was just a wee teenager.  My work now is how an expansion, a reiteration of that artistic work, of laying on the floor with crayons and markers and drawing thirty, forty page comic books full of stick figures and thought/speech balloons.  There's always a room in my house that looks like I rob libraries at night, just swimming with books.  Even in my bedroom, though I try to Feng Shui curtail that, the spiritual thought that electronics and books are dense repositories of information and one should be at peace or passion when in slumber.   I rarely have a computer or TV in my room and have slept under candlelight for about 17 years now.

What has struck me as I center myself in alignment with my Art (and I'm always suspicious of people who talk about art and what they mean, whether that's pretentious or ego driven) is how many people my Art has alienated.  Lovers, friends, family have all fallen to the not simply the creation but the success of my Art.  In high school and college good friends and lovers were intimidated, even resentful of my writing.  Expressing both awe and envy at it, never acknowledging that I spend maybe 1500 to 2000 hours a year, for about 25 years working on it----so umm...yeah, it will be good and I'm always dissatisfied so I'm trying to improve it, clarify it, push it to new heights and limits.

It had always been on my radar to publish books, to find a way to put the dozen near-completed manuscripts I've designed over the years into print.  The publishing company starting out on sexuality is sort of reverse intention for me, I always thought it would be fiction first then I murkily imagined I might have a thought or two about race and sexuality.  Sometimes I even make it a point not to talk about my work, my Art because it's like suddenly Brad Pitt walks into the room---depending on who people are, they all react differently but mostly they stop being themselves and become some hybrid to the Art.  I have friends, reasonably close ones, who never talk about my writing, who never send congratulatory emails, who never call me up sayign they bought a copy and such and such and so and so---I expect because we're linked by Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter they obviously know.  But they're silent.

Savagely I will say now, most of them are Black.  I say savagely because unfortunately due to so many levels of disenfranchisement, so many people of color lack an Art.  A lot of my friends eat, work, fuck, survive, watch TV and movies, listen to music, eat, work, fuck, survive.  Quite a few of them harshly dislike their work, like modern day slaves, whipped and degraded spiritually.  They opt to do drugs, drink a bit too much, have unsafe sex, be people who have sketchy morality and integrity.  Luckily, it's a small number (or big) but I eschew them, avoid them, duck them, dodge them.

I always feel guilty and then guilty at the fact that I don't feel guilty.  Here's what my Art does for me---every day I get up and my work is a delight.  A frustrating delight when for no Godly reason Word stops doing the Paste function, or a chunk of paragraphs doesn't quite fit into a chapter, or I'm sitting down with marketing reports on Excel spreadsheets looking at projections, market saturation, possible venues to try for penetration/sales.  When I'm constructing ads and blurbs and press releases and trying to match photos to blogs and TV show episodes and book covers (my new thought it to just get half a dozen male models, script out about 30 to 50 needed scenarios and poses and just have a photographer create the pictures i need.  You'd be sadly surprised as I am at how many pictures of people of color, particularly MSM dressed and being affectionate don't exist.  Then there's studio recordings to do for audio-books; a video camera that decided it was time to just shutdown permanently, and a budget that is sometimes so tight that I'm shocked that it covers operating expenses.  And I have a few ideas that are so nascent they haven't even hit paper yet (one of my infamous development notebooks)---scripted TV stuff and a film or two; how to film one of my books and an advancement of the Ipad/Kindle as a project that I can't even completely conceptualize because I have to learn how to compose music first.

But it's art, it's my Art.

A lot of people I know lack an Art in their lives.  There's no where for their spirit to exercise and exorcise the worldly concerns.  There's nothing to hold as one's creation and see the dynamics of one's thoughts.  There's nothing to obsessively shift and create and re-create to attune to one's intuition.

They talk to me about the wrong end of fame, celebrity, TV and movies---I'm interested in the people within that bubble, their thinking on Art, on business, on the creative process.  My friends and family and lovers are thinking about the creation.  The creation is always mistaken for being the Creator, when in fact even I've learned that I'm in things in some ways, and brutally not in other things.

I was talking to a friend and realized how angry she was last night.  How mad she was at her life, how she was trying to pull the cloak of her meagerness tighter, angry and terrified at the world, cynical to the edge of nihilism.  I was like, woah.  Dark folks I've known but I realized them that someone always skirting the edge of darkness was even worse because it keeps her in an absolutism a limbo where there's no flexibility to thought.  And Art is all about flexibility.  Art forces one to consider all sides of the prism and the internal of it too.  It demands that you see it and in many ways become it too.  Simple eat, work, survival doesn't.

I'm happy.  It's not the same kind of effort that one thinks of in relationship to work but sometimes when I'm somewhere working at a job, I'm tickled at the change because I get to come back to my Art, like that initial phase of being with a lover, when you're insatiable for them.  I am insatiable for my Art, in all of it's difficulties and challenges and problems and demands and shortcomings and brilliance and tediousness and outcomes.

It's struck me recently how many people lack an Art of their own recently, mainly because some 'friends' have vanished.  Oh, I expect they'll show up if they see me in passing or suspect that I have an abundance of money and resources that they might want, but the Art itself has supplanted them?  Removed them?  Occluded them?  My Art is taking me somewhere, my destiny of course but one never knows one's destiny until one looks backwards or makes a firm decision forwards.

Prince once said that one of his goals was to go into a music store and one wall would be covered with just his music.  He of course famously has 500 unreleased songs in a the Warner Brothers legal morass vault.  It struck me when he said these things in a kinship kind of way.  At my feet now are two boxes full of unpublished short stories, at least 50.  The next month involves how to judiciously release 100 books that are finished with all of the legal stuff completed, the production stuff right, the management systems in place, the editing/editors process gone through without my usual dithering procrastination.perfectionism.  I've started and am massaging to life an profit sharing program so that other men of color can get my books and through a whole affiliate system get paid for them.  There's of course always the challenge of sales and marketing Art and whether to compromise, and adjust and where to stand firm; curiously I now have competitors (?) who buy my books and resell them.  I'm not even sure if they're exactly competitors, as they buy my books from me first. Lol.

But I cross this desert, knowing none of my family, 100 people or so have or probably ever will read my work.  I don't know if it has to do with sexuality, lack of interest, envy, lack of reading ability---but I know that I'm deeply interested in people's Art.  I therefore accept that their occasionally process compliment ("Oh, that's so nice that you write books.") is the best they can do.  I don't drone on about my writing because so much of it is internal so there's not much to say about it always but I do notice in conversations where friends don't talk about it, or change the subject or ignore it entirely.  In 2014, I'm removing those people; they don't know they've been fired but they have been.

I still war a bit with my feelings about  lovers who either meet me not knowing "who I am"---I don't even like how that sounds, but I have to admit the reality that while I'm not famous, the very process of publicly displaying my Art has slowly and continues to make me "known" in a circle of men where I'm a bit of an anomaly---there aren't any other men of color, non-HIV sponsored/agency attached/medical---talking about relationships, sex, life, finances, race who are Out.  White dudes?  The parking lot is packed.  Slowly, I get more offers to do things, to write articles for publications, to appear on radio and TV shows, to make appearances---I try to measure this slowly, to be thoughtful in my choices and agreements and not just a media whore.  Because I do think of my own "image", my self as a Brand (this is an amazing business debate/discussion and self analysis because it shifts the identity realm incredibly) and how a lover hasn't signed up for what I have decided to do in my Art.  That's one of the reasons why I don't mention my work, or I keep it vague sometimes, I want to one, not be the answer man and two, engage each other as simple, as normal, as general as possible.

I've met a star fucker or two--who read and watched my work and wanted in or something from me, form being close to me, to be loved or blessed by me.  That's really odd.  Because the compliment of "I enjoy your work" suddenly edges into "I've read everything that you've written that I could find, is there more?" and you realized they've celebritized, media-fied you.  But this has gone back to lovers in high school and college who were attracted to me and my Art---not understanding that we're inextricably entwined but not the same thing.  Several guys paid a lot of attention to me because they thought the erotica I'd written and published was me, was me sexually, was the mechanics of my heart.  And were apoplectic when they discovered no, it's a creative element of me, not exactly me.

Here's what your Art does, it creates a dual "You" that you have to nurture and cultivate, like a plant; explain like a non-English speaking cousin and try not to overwhelm others with.  All my life I've tried to tamper and dampen my intelligence for friends, those 100 odd (and some of them are really odd) relatives, and even lovers---I've tried to shine less brightly in their faces, at them, to be liked and loved and accepted....and in the end I've left or cut off most of them because they offered no sustenance.  That's probably why I like school so much---people aren't afraid to think there, to be brilliant, consider multiple sides of well...everything.  Its one of the few places I can go where the mandate of existence to people isn't work, eat, fuck, survive, watch TV, repeat tomorrow and die.  It's a place where even the micro-biologist is performing their personal form of Art and they're enlivened to talk to you about it, to want to know about your Art to introduce you to folk who are interested in other kinds of Art.

I was thinking about a doctor I'd met years ago, when I got sick in college, exhausted from working five jobs, attending classes, dealing with wacky friends, being young.  He told me a self and life truism that caused me to break and start changing years ago.  He told me that my ability, my brilliance my talents made me feel guilty because everyone didn't have them and so I dealt often with lesser people who would only disappoint and drag me down.  To stop doing that.  To seek my own level and edit, edit, edit people who did not serve how great I could be, how much I could accomplish.

The acceptance of the brilliance and expanse and unknown depths and regions of creativity and hunger, yes, sometimes it's a rapacious hunger from my Art is frightening---I've never met anyone to discuss that with.  Goethe talked bout it like a "daemon" within one's self and I would have to agree.,  It's like this....phoenix and I, Kyle am often the ashes, reborn, reincarnated until the phoenix erupts forth, shines through, burns away all that is impure or unnecessary.  The phoenix even burns away people.

Years ago I wrote, in order to rise the Phoenix must first burn.

Wow.  Now there's a thought, a summation.

Next: My Art and Success, the Business of a Phoenix, Part 2.

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