Brian Michael Barbeito
Oyster River Pages: If you could tell your younger creative self anything, what would it be?
Brian Michael Barbeito: Focus. I would say to continue to follow a creative instinct as an individualistic pursuit and never worry about the outside. There are two types of outside forces that can be distracting. One is easy to spot, and the other not so much so.
The first is what is called and taken for the ‘the regular world,’ In it, artistic pursuits are not valued as much as they should be. There are many reasons for this, but the point is that unless you have an exceptional community, family, or network that is versed in this sort of thing and espouses it, then the outside world won’t actually ‘get it,’ even when they are a bit sympathetic or tolerant towards it. It’s not a society for artists or rather the societies I have lived in are not artistic, aesthetic, or interested. There is a saying I read once, that I found to be true. I think it was Taoist or Zen and it said, ‘Never show your poem to someone who is not a poet.’ So you are going to have to have faith and focus in your own vision and truth, your own process and ‘product,’ as it were.
The other is that media, including social media, and entertainment or distractions in all its forms, are just that, distracting. These things archive work greatly, are connective, and have more good qualities than bad,- but they can flip flop into the ‘main’ thing that is going on. This is because there are so many of them. So, it’s important to unplug as they say,- and do less technical things in order to centre, be it walking, meditating, praying…anything that gets away from screens and systems and back to self and nature.
ORP: When did you first learn that language had power? What was that experience like for you?
BMB: I wrote a short piece of writing called Floridian Satori for myself and for a writing site. It was about a mystical or awakening experience. I found that this short form writing captured as much as anything short of having lived it, the experience. So I liked that. It was not the experience itself obviously, but it framed it, if not perfectly, then really well. I liked that, and did more and more short pieces. I found out later that there were names for such pieces such as vignette, flash fiction, micro, mini, word-art, belles lettres, and more. That was a good thing. It was a ‘thing,’ and had a place in the word and world.
ORP: What does becoming a “better” writer or artist look like to you? How do you define success?
To me, it means getting a bit better than you did before, and following your creative path wherever it takes you. If you are writing, try to get better. If the writing leads to becoming a nature poet when you thought you would be a novelist or something, then follow that and be happy with it and try to be a better nature poet. Or, if it leads to landscape photography, then do that, and try and learn to approach that with as much skill and passion as you can. If someone feels like sharing work on the outside, then great, but if not, that’s okay also. I don’t see success as any sort of outside thing. I will give a quick example. A book publisher said they would publish my book if I was open to changing the ending. So, it would have been published by now, in spring 2018 I think. But I liked the ending and felt I had, and here is the word, ‘succeeded,’ in accomplishing what I wanted to with that ending. So, I declined, because I was already successful. I have already won, in many ways, in my own mind anyhow, if I got a piece or writing or landscape photo correct for what I was trying to do. Sometimes things sync the outside editors or magazines, and it is amazing and great fun and a nice validation to get published, but it is definitely a secondary event in my value system as a person and as a creative, and not by any means a primary pursuit.
Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer and photographer. Recent work appears at Fiction International and CV2 The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing. See his piece “Image 3,” here.