On Creativity and Death

Two icons of mine died in the past couple of weeks, one I knew personally and worked with, and one who I had never met but who nevertheless intimately touched my soul. Although both were musicians, they had profound impacts on me as a writer. And both died in ways that honored who they were creatively.

Lemmy Kilmister at the Santa Monica Civic 1986, Motorhead

Lemmy Kilmister and I collaborated on his autobiography throughout the latter half of the 1990s. His band, Motörhead, had a significant amount of cult fame in the metal and hard rock communities, and while few outside of these music genres knew who he was in the U.S., he was a familiar face in the U.K., where he was from. I was a fan of both the band and the man. I’m a sucker for aggressive, unapologetic music and aggressive, unapologetic honesty — and that succinctly sums up Motörhead and Lemmy.

At the time Lemmy and I were working on his book, loud music was not popular or fashionable. Grunge had steamrolled hard rock and nearly everybody wanted the goofiness of pop punk instead of the heaviness and power of metal. Bands like Lemmy’s were getting dropped from major labels left and right, getting demoted to smaller indie labels or splitting up altogether. But Motörhead persisted, continuing to make albums for whatever record label they could find, and touring for months on end without stop. This made it hard to get the book done — Lemmy was always busy, and when he wasn’t he needed time to relax at home and at the Rainbow Bar & Grill up the hill from his apartment. But as frustrating as it was at times to be stood up for a meeting, or having to wait months between interviews, I admired Lemmy for knowing who he was, having a vision, and sticking to it, no matter what. So many others in the same position compromised their identities in futile attempts to fit into whatever sound and look was currently in favor. Lemmy had no patience for such phoniness. He loved what he did, he was great at it, and he stuck to it.

Lemmy’s musical approach was consistent, while David Bowie’s was constantly changing. But Bowie used his transitions to lead, not follow — he was a trendsetter, a commentator, and he was equally as uncompromising as Lemmy. I remember the first time I heard “Starman” as a kid. It was late at night on the radio, and I was sneaking a listen when I was supposed to be asleep… and it was so different from anything else I’d heard before, I was stunned. I didn’t know if I liked it or not — I didn’t know if I was supposed to like it or not! It wasn’t like anything on that era’s Top 40 AM radio, completely unlike the rock music I was learning to love, and as alien as the character the song was about. It changed my life (how many songs can you remember hearing for the first time?), and the album it was on, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, is still one of my top five favorite albums. Unlike Lemmy, you could never pin down Bowie musically. You had no idea what he was going to do on his next album. Usually you liked it, occasionally you didn’t, but whatever it was, it was unexpected and surprising. Bowie was eternally fascinating.

As different as their approaches to music were, both Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie were creative beings that were so completely in touch with themselves that they were able to sprinkle their magic over legions of loyal fans and make us feel it too. So magical they were, in fact, that none of us could ever imagine a world without either of them. And in the space of a couple of weeks, they were both gone.

With his booze-and-speed lifestyle, Lemmy rode his body hard, and while he began to falter in the past couple of years, he continued to tour, and had plans for more shows when he was diagnosed with cancer. Lemmy would have hated suffering a slow, lingering death. He played music almost to the end and was always straightforward and brutally honest. When asked if he wanted to keep his illness a secret, he refused, believing that his fans deserved the truth. A press release about his cancer was being written when he died, two days after his diagnosis.

David Bowie knew he had cancer for a year and a half, and he did something so typical of him as a talent: he consciously created his swan song, a good-bye to the world and his fans. In the album Blackstar and the video “Lazarus,” he reinvents himself for the last time, as a dying man. It’s as if he looked into death’s abyss and snatched back his power while he was losing his life. Bowie turned his own mortality into an artistic statement. Two days after the album’s release, he was dead.

Instead of being sad for their loss, I am choosing to be inspired by how Lemmy and Bowie faced their ends. These men followed their creativity wherever it led them, and it led them into some enchanting places, and some very dark ones. And they were fearless. Neither of them faded away. They worked until the end, staying true to their creativity and fire. They were true artists, who breathed music until their last breath.

I strive to be like these men, to create with truth while I’m alive, and to look death in the face and say, “Screw you, you won’t stop me.” If you are a creative being, to do any less is dying in your soul and leaving a carcass that pumps blood through a lifeless heart.

FitCat Publishing Announces the Authors for Rescued, Volume 2

cat paw, Rescued 2 authors

There was room for a dozen stories, but five times that many writers submitted their cat tales for volume 2 of Rescued. Over several weeks, the submissions were whittled down to the twelve that will appear in the book when it comes out in January … [Continue reading]

What I’m Really Looking for in Writing Samples

little girl, aspiring writer, editing

Right now, I'm in the middle of the submissions process for the second volume of our Rescued anthology. Every so often I get a question about the writing sample requested as part of the submission package. I've asked for the first three paragraphs of … [Continue reading]

FitCat Head Janiss Garza Speaking on Panel for PALA.

Pleasures and Perils of Indie Publishing Panel

Janiss Garza, FitCat's publisher and editor in chief, will be speaking on a panel this Wednesday, September 16, for the Publishers Association of Los Angeles. The topic is "The Pleasures and Perils of Indie Publishing," and her fellow panelist … [Continue reading]

Rescued Volume 2: Call for Submissions

Rescued call for submissions

FitCat Publishing is accepting submissions for volume 2 of our award-winning book Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes. As with the first volume, it will feature 12 stories, all written in First Person Cat (in other words, through the … [Continue reading]

Rescued Now Available on Kindle Worldwide

Rescued now on Kindle

Our new anthology of rescue cat stories, Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes, is now available on Kindle worldwide. Here's where you can find it (English version only): … [Continue reading]

FitCat’s Janiss Garza to Speak at DIY Convention in Hollywood

Janiss Garza, FitCat Enterprises Editor and Publisher

FitCat Publishing's president and head editor, Janiss Garza, will be one of the speakers at the 14th annual DIY Convention on March 7. She will be appearing on the panel, "Not Fade Away: Being Older in a Young Person’s Business," talking about … [Continue reading]

Rescued Release Date Set for January 27

Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes

Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes, our anthology of real rescue cat stories, as told by the cats themselves, is coming out in print and ebook on Tuesday January 27, 2015. From the back of the book: "What do a cozy mystery star, … [Continue reading]

Your Book Is Not for “Everyone!”

She thinks everyone will want her book

I spent the weekend at the Digital Author and Self-Publishing Conference. It was great, and I'll have a lot to say about the sessions I attended, but one issue stuck out for me during the "Building Your Platform as an Author" panel. It's something … [Continue reading]

Rescue Cat Stories: Call for Submissions

Adoptable kitten

FitCat Publishing is looking for writers for an anthology of rescue cat stories. This is a very special anthology because the stories will all be written in First Person Cat (in other words, through the eyes of the rescued cats), and a portion of the … [Continue reading]