Alesana’s Shawn Milke: “Procrastination. The Sure Key to Failure. Or Is It?”
Today is: Friday, July 16th, 2010
Where I am: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Day 20 of the Vans Warped Tour
Where I am actually: Bouncing back and forth between the hot trailer and the cold bus
Time of day: 3:23 p.m.
What I am listening to: “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” by Kanye West
Dearest (love) reader, I hope this (message) blog finds you well (Last Three Letters, anyone?). Your responses to last week’s question were so candid, open, and honest. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not only reading, but for sharing your experiences.
I have been writing since I was a kid. I would write scripts in my little notebook that had a picture of the Ultimate Warrior (by far my favorite wrestler) on the front. They were not much, obviously. Just a few scribbles of characters names, a small description of a setting, and, if I was feeling motivated, maybe a small plot of some sort. To be honest, I sometimes read back through them only to find that they were essentially just knockoffs of films that already existed, albeit with a few minor changes here and there. Come on, cut me some slack—I was 11 years old. After “the script” was finished, I would film the story with my sister and childhood best friend, as the three acted out the plot, with each of us playing multiple characters. My camera was one of those very old, very large VHS video cameras. The quality of the image was terrible, the acting awful, and the script completely ignored. I would spend hours following the award-winning performance, “editing” the movie by attaching two VCRs together, playing the movie with one and recording the changes with the other. I was even able to add a soundtrack afterwards by recording the TV screen with a new tape in the camera and playing music with my stereo in the background. I would then cook popcorn and force my family to watch the movie. They were so good at pretending to love every second, and it always made me smile. Their support kept me motivated. It is amazing how much parents can influence the direction and success of their children.
As I grew older, my writing carried over into my schoolwork. I took several advanced-placement writing courses and by my senior year achieved the highest score in my class during college-placement exams for writing. In college, I majored in Business Management while minoring in Creative Writing. It is strange because, despite my success and talent, I never really put my entire self into writing. Growing up and all through high school, all I wanted to do was play baseball. I was good at it, the girls seemed to dig it, and therefore that is where my priorities were held. After graduating, I had the option to play ball in college but, after days and days of pondering, I made the decision to pursue life outside of sports. High-level athletics are the definition of devotion, with three-a-day practices and the challenge of maintaining studies, and while I still love baseball with all of my heart, the desire to see what else life had to offer took a hold of me. A big reason for my decision stems back to the writing I did as a kid and something that my Aunt Cheryl said to me when I was maybe 12 or 13 years old: “Never quit writing. No matter where you go in life, always write. You have a God-given gift, and it would be wrong to give that up and not share it with others.” I promised myself to never forget her advice, which, of course, became hard during my teenage years. But doesn’t everything seem to be hard when you are a teenager?
As I grew into adulthood, barely escaping the years of puberty, hormones, acne, SATs and the catch-and-release of my first love, her advice came storming back to me. Write. Always write. So I did. Only not quite the way we maybe had in mind all of those years ago. I had learned how to play guitar, piano, and drums. I wrote songs, and a lot of them. Over the course of about three years I wrote and recorded five albums worth of material for three different bands that I put together. Then, as many of you may already know, I formed Alesana in 2004 and since that day have written one EP and three full-length records. I am currently writing material for the fourth Alesana LP and also for two other projects called Wake Me Up, Juliet and Tempting Paris. The crazy thing is, even after writing over 100 songs, the itch to write stories still existed within me. Songwriting is a beautiful and amazing experience, but I still felt like that was not what my Aunt Cheryl was talking about. “Never quit writing.” She was not talking about songs, even though she is proud of my success as a songwriter. What she was truly talking about was prose. Stories. Experiences. Characters. Plot. I finally understood. Hence, “The Emptiness”: My first printed, creative piece of story writing. I was nervous as hell to write that story. But her words gave me the strength see it through to the end. And now I am half way through my first novel. Thank you, Aunt Cheryl.
My most definitive flaw as a writer, though I would not necessarily consider it to be a flaw, is procrastinating. I take everything down to the wire, so to speak. As painful as procrastinating can be, I just cannot seem to hate it. So many things that I have accomplished, written, and created have been due to putting it off until the last minute. Maybe it is the pressure. Or maybe that is just my excuse. Either way, it is a system that works for me. Does my publicist (the one and only Jenny Reader) get stressed out hunting me down for my work? I am going to hazard a guess and say…yes. And for this I most certainly do apologize. But the one thing I can guarantee is that I will never hand in something that is not 100-percent honest, from the heart, and completely a part of me. I take my writing very seriously and I would never want to let anyone down just to say that I handed it in on time. Is that maybe a teeny bit irresponsible? Oh, yeah. But I also never iron my clothes, I sometimes forget to brush my teeth before bed, I stay in the shower even if I know I am late for something, I wear the same underwear for what some would consider far too long, and I tend to leave the coffeepot on all day. I am not here to tell lies. Lies are a waste of everyone’s time. I handed this blog in late. I am sorry, honestly I am. But I would have been more sorry to hand in a story that I would not have been proud to share with all of you.
That leads me to this week’s question! What is one irresponsible thing that you did this week? And what did you do to remedy your mistake? I think I will send my publicist some flowers. She deserves it for putting up with my tardiness.
Song Quote of the Week:
“And even though I’d always dreamed of going to the stars, in space all I think about is you and me” —“In Space” by Ludo
You know what’s funny? There was something I really wanted to say when I first sat down to begin writing this blog. But now I can’t seem to remember what it was. Oh well, I’ll get to it later. Maybe.
Photo of Shawn Milke courtesy of LiveNLoud.com.