A Beautiful Mind…

In my blog today I am going to discuss the subject of dreams. I don’t mean dreaming when you’re asleep. I mean dreaming when you’re awake. I mean fully awake. I mean when that whimsical thought crosses your mind, and then takes you to a faraway place where you get lost in a fantasy world. For me these are keys to a much bigger story. But, we’ll discuss that later. I also mean when you think big thoughts about what you would like your life to be. I’m sure most of you don’t want to live an ordinary life filled with mundane tasks and meager expectations. I’m sure that you secretly desire to live a life filled with magical moments and an abundance of wonderful things. I believe that the manifestation of an extraordinary life begins with your personal expectations, or your dreams, and how they connect to the stories you envision in your mind. Famous author William Arthur Ward once said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”

Let me start with the thought process of naming my blog. How did I come up with the title “A Translation of Dreams”? Well, while I was wondering, and struggling with what to name my blog it quickly became apparent that the answer was clear. What I do as a writer is try my best to translate my dreams onto the blank page. That means that the story in my head goes through a conversion process before being translated to the page. In other words, just like a witness recounts to the Police what they saw at a crime scene, I try to do the same. I try to take the vision in my mind and describe what it is that I’m seeing, or dreaming, and convey it in the written word. So, basically it is a translation of my thoughts or dreams to text on the blank page; the thoughts in mind become words on a piece of paper. Or, with the advent and assistance of modern technology, they are converted to prose in a Word document. Hopefully they make some semblance of sense after the translation. As basic as it may seem, that is what is known as my writing process. This is how I always approach the art of storytelling. I guess that’s why some people say that I write in a visual style. Regardless, and more importantly, I hope that this approach, using my dreams, leads me to tell a story in the best way possible so that the reader can easily follow along. For I believe that it is the story and the reader that the writer humbly serves as storyteller.

A dream is a story. It’s a wonderful piece to a much larger puzzle. It’s a glimpse into a world that provides me with insight into a bigger picture. It’s a hint or clue about the story I want to tell. And, it’s a powerful hint. My dreams are extremely vivid. They are Technicolor motion pictures that blindside me at all times of the day. I could be in the middle of solving a mathematical equation and they come to me. They are intoxicating. Like a powerful drug claiming my soul, pulling me into a fantasy world. Now this can be disconcerting to people who might require my full attention. This is especially true in social situations when I suddenly become caught up, wrapped up in a brewing story. My life becomes an exercise in futility, trying to be present in those instances. I’m lost in a dream. How can I be present?

It’s a terrible dilemma when my dreams take hold of me.  It’s like I’m possessed, stuck in a deep, deep trance. The force of the story consuming my thoughts is too much and far too strong to ignore. I begin ruminating over its composition, captivated by its sheer beauty. The dream begs of me to question its context and structure. Closer examination leads to myriad thoughts and questions. One thought triggers a multitude of theories and postulations. Think Russell Crowe’s character in “A Beautiful Mind.” Questions begin emerging… Like how can the protagonist outwit the evil antagonist? How can he defeat the villain and his henchmen? How can he triumph and gain the affections of the woman he desires? Or, how can I tell this story so that it makes sense and holds someone’s attention for 300 pages?

Sadly, just like a person who learns to deal with a handicap, I have learned to adjust my mind so that I can fake being present when I am besieged by one of my all-consuming story oriented dreams. I say sadly, because I would much prefer to be consumed by my dreams and withdraw from a social setting, than fake it for everyone in those situations. I feel like I’m giving less of myself than I want or should in those instances and people can notice. I’ve had more than one friend or partner point it out to me. They know my history and when I am faking it. So, instead of giving my opinion on a glass of wine or the appetizers that are being served or someone’s recent accomplishments or the state of politics in the world I’m somewhere else. I’m not present. I’m not here. I’m there. I’m in another world. I’m in a world far away. I’m in a world where creative people go to take communion with their souls.

Now this isn’t to say that I can’t function normally on a daily basis to conduct business in a capable and highly efficient manner. I’m talking about specific instances where I’m compelled to embrace whimsical thoughts. If you’re wondering if I was only recently stricken with this affliction, the truth is, I have always been a dreamer. All of my life I’ve been burdened with this character trait. Much to my chagrin, it was a cross that I had to bear throughout my childhood. I believe that it’s masked somewhat today in my adult life by the fact that I’m required to deal with business matters of consequence which conceal my true nature. But, enduring an existence of being classified a dreamer as a child was akin to living life as an outcast or an alien being. Most people thought that I was from another planet. I became the victim of unfair judgment and prejudice. Being named ‘Cassius’ didn’t help either, but that’s a whole other story that I won’t get into here. Lol! As a consequence, I learned about prejudice at an early age. I learned that to be judged for what you are rather than who you are is a terribly ignorant and dreadful thing to be subjected to.

There’s got to be a way to escape the dreamer label I remember thinking. Attempting to remedy the situation I got heavily involved in sports. All kinds of sports. It was all designed to gain acceptance while distracting people from my true vocation. I wanted to prove to people that I wasn’t different from them. And, so I conformed to what I thought would make my existence more tolerable. I became a jock. I wasn’t a dreamer. I was an athlete. It was a clever disguise because I enjoyed playing sports. And, I gained notoriety from my athletic accomplishments. But my true calling, I believe, was to be an artist. So, although I managed to conceal my true nature, I still valued what I was. As a result I became a crusader. I grew to over six feet tall and became the guy in high school who stood up for the artists, freaks and outcasts. Even if I was no longer persecuted for being one of them I wasn’t going to let others get picked on. The fact that I was captain of the sports teams carried some weight. I would step in to protect my comrades in times of trouble and defuse the situation. I wasn’t trying to be a hero. I was seeking justice against a perceived injustice.

It’s funny how after all of that persecution I went into the profession which is mocked by people who don’t believe in the phrase – “following your dreams.” I went into the entertainment business. I went to another planet. I went to Hollywood! I went first as an actor and model, then as a broadcast journalist, and eventually as a writer. I went into the business which is founded on dreams. I went into the business which Walt Disney created and built from his imagination. I went into the business where for every success there are a gazillion failures. I remember what someone said to me when I began my journey, “That’s why they call that place the boulevard of broken dreams.” You know what? I didn’t care. I was going to beat the odds. Besides, I was a dreamer. I was going to make my dreams come true. Well, it’s worked out okay. Over the years I’ve suffered my fair share of victories and failures. But the one thing that I’ve learned along the way is that it’s not necessarily about achieving success. It’s about enjoying the journey that is a byproduct of your dreams.

Go see a magical movie called “The Artist.” It is all about what I am discussing in this blog. It is about believing in your dreams. It’s about building those dreams and making them a reality. And, it is about fighting to hold onto those dreams while they are being taken from you. Just as you might fight passionately for what you believe in, you must fight for your dreams. I think you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see the film. The black and white photography adds to the portrayal. The acting is phenomenal. The writing and directing is brilliant. All of it comes together to paint a captivating portrait about what dreams mean to people.

Today, I wear the tag of dreamer proudly. I wear it like a badge of honor. It took some time for me to reconcile the fact that I was a dreamer. It took some time before I was comfortable with being known as a dreamer. I now fully accept the moniker. I am a dreamer and I don’t care who knows it.  So, if you’re a dreamer too, struggling with this very same fate, embrace what you are. Embrace who you are. You’re a gift to the world. For without you there would be less creation. There would be less magic in the world. There would be fewer stories. And, that would truly be a sad thing. Dream big dreams! Let them consume you and take you to faraway places. And, please feel free to share them with all of us.

By the way, you should listen to a radio interview with author Tess Thompson Hardwick (Riversong) that captures the essence of this blog. You can find it here: http://tesshardwick.com/radio-interview-with-cj-in-kehei/

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Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales

Heroin & its bedfellows…

I really didn’t know what to expect when I loaded Marni Mann’s “Memoirs Aren’t
Fairytales” into my Kindle. I knew that it was a story about drug addiction. I just didn’t know that it was so much more than a study about, or examination of, drug abuse and addiction. Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales transcends the normal drug addiction fare by placing you firmly within the mind of a drug addict. You are front row and center to the life and habits of a fatalistic user who has fallen prey to her drug of choice (heroin), causing her to spiral out of control into a destructive, dark hole. Beware: like addiction, this story grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go.

At times while reading this book I felt off balance, queasy and disoriented. Presumably by design, the author injects you into a seedy, rat and roach infested, drug-induced journey through hell. As the story progresses the landscape (the streets of Boston, Massachusetts) turns from vivid and colorful to dark and bleak. At times, due to some pretty heady subject matter, you are compelled to turn, or look, away. But, the main character, Nicole, doesn’t allow you to do so. She just keeps pulling you deeper into the tangled web she has weaved. And, we walk in her dubious shoes throughout the story. Stepping into Nicole’s troublesome shoes is like riding a train that’s gone off of the rails. We are not only sorely seeking sobriety for her, but helplessly watching her life slip away as she ‘Chases the Dragon.’

The story is not for the faint of heart. It is not a fairytale. How could a story about drug abuse be easy to digest? But it isn’t terribly difficult to endure and swallow either. In fact, it’s a thoroughly captivating tale that leaves you wanting more. You want to read this book. It calls upon you like an addictive drug to keep turning the pages. The funny thing is while turning the pages you get lost in the journey. Just like a drug can cause you to lose track of time so does this story. When I was finished with the book I was sad that it had ended. I wanted to know more about what had become of Nicole and her battle with addiction. By the way, I’ve heard that Marni Mann is busy writing the next installment. So, those questions will be answered.

The characters in this book are fully developed real people. If you like stories about real people placed within precarious predicaments then this book is for you. I think you’ll find the characters to be sympathetic, complex and three dimensional. You will feel as if you know, or have known them in some incarnation or another. This is especially true of Nicole and her family. These are real people with real problems. I related to their tragic, difficult plight as they wrestled with their daughter and her demons. And, the author does a good job of making you pull for Nicole, the main character, to get sober while painting a wonderful and heart wrenching portrait of life on the streets.

One thing I kept wondering while reading the book was, did this really happen to the author? Is this her actual true-to-life addiction memoir? Is Nicole really Marni Mann? Did she experience what her main character went through? It’s hard to believe that she didn’t. The story feels so real that Nicole seems like an aka for Marni Mann. I know that the author did extensive research before writing this book and it shows.

The title is fitting for this tragic tale. Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales. They’re about the harsh reality that drugs can claim your soul. That addiction is very real, very destructive and very dangerous. If you had any doubts about it they will be vanquished after reading this story. This book, written brilliantly by debut author Marni Mann, is a compelling examination of drug use in our society. If you want to get lost within a mesmerizing story while learning a thing or two about addiction then Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales is for you. Published by Booktrope Editions, you can find it available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes among other venues. Or you can go to www.marnismann.com.

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