A World of Possibilities

When I’m not writing (which is most of the time), I have a job – a profession; a career, so to speak. I recently changed roles in my company, and although I’m really not looking for other jobs, I took the opportunity to make a few changes to my LinkedIn profile, update my status, etc.

It reminded me of a few years ago, when I started considering writing as a viable career option (I’m still not sure if it is, to be perfectly honest), and I was looking to create a LinkedIn profile for myself as an author. You see, whilst I do have a professional account for my ‘real’ job, I work for a reasonably high-profile company, and as such I have to be careful about what I say and do outside of work, in case it appears as representative of my company. Given that the job of ‘author’ is essentially about speaking my mind and telling the truth as I see it, this could potentially cause a conflict with my position at work, and that’s not something I’m willing to compromise.

The problem is this: LinkedIn have a very strict policy regarding multiple accounts. Although I could, yes, create a second, unrelated account for myself as a writer, if LinkedIn were able to connect the two accounts (via profile information, IP addresses, or whatever), not only could I lose both, but I could be banned from LinkedIn entirely. A LinkedIn profile, it seems, is directly tied to an individual person, and all the professional things that individual does.

With a world of possibilities, it seems society is still geared to catering to just one at a time.

The fundamental flaw in this setup is that it really caters to an outdated, linear view of career progression: that you move from job to job, company to company, and you don’t start one career until you’re done with another. This is fine if your career is your life, but I think that, for the majority of people, their passion in life lies often outside of what they do for a living. And whilst many of those people will never act on their passion, for those that do – for those who want to make a career out of passion, and not just skill – there’s very little opportunity to build a profile around your passion whilst still working a day job.

I’ll give you an example: let’s say you’ve worked for a globally-recognized coffee brand for fifteen years. You’ve worked your way up the corporate ladder, from employee to manager to district or maybe even regional director, and you aren’t really in a position to give that up. But on the side, you really, really love drawing political cartoons. Maybe you’ve sold a few – under a pseudonym – and it looks like a promising opportunity. But until you are able to match your $75K salary from drawing, you can’t quit your main job. And for as long as you work for a major brand, you can’t be seen to publicly affiliate with any one political view or another, for fear of representing the entire brand.

What do you do? With a world of possibilities, it seems society is still geared to catering to just one at a time. I can’t represent myself professionally as a writer and an employee, and so I’m forced to choose between one career or the other. Everything I do on one side has to be carefully and meticulously kept separate from the other. The corporate me, the writer me, and even the musician me, can’t really coexist.

Even within writing, I’ve chosen to keep two identities – because my fantasy work is so very different to my YA/literary work. And while I don’t really mind ‘cross-contamination’ – I’ll happily reference both sets of work on here or on cmnorthauthor.com – it’s another example of how society simply doesn’t expect an individual person to have multiple passions, careers, or possibilities. Imagine if Stephen King tried to sell and market a beach-bum romance novel; under his real name people would simply be confused, but by adopting a pseudonym (as he did with Richard Bachman, for example) he can publish genres that would typically be considered outside of his wheelhouse.

It does make life frustrating at times, however; I try to commit to writing under both Satis and C.M. North, but time is prohibitive, and managing two blogs is twice the effort of managing one. I have two Instagram accounts, two Twitter accounts … the list goes on.

In the end, I don’t want to sacrifice my passion or my vision to practicality – however tempting – and so I have little choice but to soldier on as both Satis and C.M. North, as well as a professional representative of a major corporation, and simply hope my paths remain parallel.

What are the limitations of your pursuits? What stops you from putting your all into one thing or another? Or are you able to combine your career with your passion, and get everything done in one go?

Music I Love: The Optimist, by Anathema

Album: The Optimist
Artist: Anathema
Year: 2017

Track Listing:

  1. 32.63n 117.14w
  2. Leaving It Behind
  3. Endless Ways
  4. The Optimist
  5. San Francisco
  6. Springfield
  7. Ghosts
  8. Can’t Let Go
  9. Close Your Eyes
  10. Wildfires
  11. Back to the Start

Anathema are an oddity of a band, and I love them for it. From their roots as a doom/death metal outfit in the early 1990s (in fact considered one of the “Peaceville Three” along with Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, founding the British doom scene at the time), they’ve evolved over the past two and half decades into something much more spiritual and emotive.

Their big turnaround came after a seven-year break between A Natural Disaster (2003) and We’re Here Because We’re Here (2010), when they more or less reinvented themselves – not in terms of sound, but in terms of spirit. Where songs from the former album drag the listener on a journey of panic and despair:

Shadows are forming take heed of the warnings
Creeping around at four in the morning
Lie to myself start a brand new beginning
But I’m losing myself in this fear of living

Pulled Under at 2000 Metres a Second – A Natural Disaster

We’re Here Because We’re Here presents an entirely different shift of perspective:

Needed time to clear my mind
Breathe the free air find some peace there
I used to keep my heart in jail
But the choice was love or fear of pain and
And I chose love

Everything – We’re Here Because We’re Here

This spiritual optimism is carried forward throughout their subsequent albums, Weather Systems and Distant Satellites, and persists on their latest release, The Optimist. The irony here is that The Optimist is a sort of loose concept album based on the cover art for their 2001 effort A Fine Day to Exit – arguably their darkest and most depressing release ever.

Opening with a prelude track (which includes snippets of previous Anathema songs) that sounds like someone dragging themselves back to a car after trying to drown themselves in the ocean, we move seamlessly into the first song, Leaving It Behind, opening with a patter of electronic drumbeats before a dark storm of semi-distorted guitar washes over everything.

Yet not all is so gloomy; tracks such as Endless Ways and the title track are gentler, with soothing piano and soaring melodies, harkening back to the early days of their reinvention with We’re Here Because We’re Here and Weather Systems.

Anathema have settled on a sound that works for them; a distinct blend of acoustic, electric and electronic that is at once familiar and yet instantly identifiable. If there is a criticism to this album compositionally it is that the band relies heavily on ostinato, with endlessly repeating refrains over which the lyrics are sung in duet by both Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas, alternating between Cavanagh’s angsty vocals and Douglas’ soulful melodies.

It’s hard for me to say this is my favorite Anathema album; to me, their best work remains in the past, when they were dark and depressing and matched my mood so well. That being said, this is the sound of a band at their peak maturity, knowing what works for them and running with it. Of their four “new” albums, The Optimist stands out head and shoulders above the others, and for good reason: it truly is an exemplary vision of spiritual indie rock at its best.

Mental Illness and Creativity

This is hardly a revelation, but many of the most creative minds the world has produced suffered from mental health issues to some degree or another. From Pablo Picasso to Charles Dickens, the struggle against the mind is intertwined with the creation of art.

That’s not really what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is why I’ve seemingly abandoned this blog, despite its one-time popularity and my commitment to writing. You see, from hundreds of posts in 2012 when I started to only 30 so far this year, my participation in this blog has dwindled, but it isn’t because I’ve been more depressed, or less committed to writing.

It’s because I’ve been medicated.

I suffer from bipolar disorder, which comes with periods of crushing depression, alternated with periods of (for me) hypomania – not quite the euphoric, top-of-the-world feeling of some sufferers, but rather a sense of needing to be prolific, to be productive, to get things done.

Back in 2012, when I first started blogging (also, as it happens, when I started work on The Redemption of Erâth), I was completely unmedicated. And looking back, I think I was going through a long, drawn-out manic phase. I would blog three to four times a week, write for hours a day, and wrote a complete first draft in three months (by contrast, the most recent book in the series, Ancients & Death, took over a year to write).

This period of productivity came with its downsides, too; I became distant from my family, using my writing as an excuse to ignore them and sit in my office for hours, sometimes days, at a time. That wasn’t fair to them. I focused so heavily on my writing that all else – my life, my job – became secondary.

But then something happened. Around 2013 or 2014 (I can’t remember exactly), I went to my doctor and asked for help. I couldn’t handle the depression and the mania anymore. And since then, on and off, I’ve been on a variety of medications, some of which are helpful and others that I had to leave well alone. And one of the things that this medication has done is keep me on a flat, level plane.

That’s okay – it’s what they’re supposed to do. But it has hindered my creativity … to an extent. Whilst I’m not usually cripplingly depressed, nor do I have any real manic phases, which leads to the problem: sometimes I just don’t do anything.

I want to blog regularly. I want to pick back up on my Thought of the Week posts, and others. But the motivation is hard to come by. It isn’t depression – it’s just a lack of desire.

In the meantime, I have done work; I wrote and released my young adult book 22 Scars, and I’ve been working hard at editing and finalizing Ancients & Death. And now, it’s ready for release.

With the book writing a little more out of the way (I’ll probably pick up on the sequel to Ancients & Death sometime in the new year), maybe I can focus back on blogging a bit more. I’d certainly like to revitalize this page. And who knows? Maybe I’ll make some new friends again!


The Redemption of Erâth: Ancients & Death (Vol. III) is available for pre-order, and will be released on Sunday, November 4th.