Mark Cecil is a New-York based thoughtist, an acclaimed author, and an all around creative journeyman; he compared his recent trip to Jamaica to experiencing the total, transportive escape the best literature can offer. During his recent visit with us, he talked about the mental freedom of travel, his lifelong devotion to writing and his mind-altering experience at the world famous Blue Lagoon. You can find out more about him here: markcecilauthor.com
You recently visited Port Antonio with your family. What was one of the highlights of your trip?
One morning my brothers-in-law and I walked down to the Blue Lagoon at seven a.m. We swam around it, we saw the walls of vine on the cliffs on the far side, and we sat on the branches of the huge trees hanging down in the water. There wasn’t another soul around. It felt pre-historic. It’s only now and then that you encounter things that are utterly unlike anything else in your frame of reference. You can’t say, it’s sort of like the time….Because there was no time like that.
As a seasoned author, what has biggest lesson you’ve learned so far? One of your biggest accomplishments?
I think every day you have to grind a little bit for yourself and a little bit for other people. Work, and your life outside work, they feed each other. As for my biggest accomplishments, the past isn’t something I try to think about. All my biggest accomplishments are yet to come.
Any literary takeaways from your stay in Jamaica?
Life can seem like a trap sometimes—good travel gets you out of the trap. You see how others live, how they play the game of life by totally different rules than you. I experienced a lot of that in Jamaica—seeing my life freshly from the outside. That’s what the best literature does too.
How did you enjoy your visit to Geejam?
Geejam is a special place. I felt lucky to have been there. It’s entirely built on the premise that first rate, world-altering art can be made, should be made, and will be made, in a beautiful place. My wife and I came out of our time there with a slogan: “Geejam Your Life.” For me what that means is—your dreams are worthy of respect, worthy of a setting like this, worthy of taking the pains to usher them into the world. If you guys sold little bottles of the Geejam vibe, I would buy a case.
You said a writer’s job is to relieve his audience of the burden of consciousness. Can you elaborate?
I stole that line from David Mamet. The mind at times can seem like an engine, running fast and hard to get ahead or just keep up. Great art just shuts the machine down for a while. Turns the lights off. Captivated, the mind rests. Afterwards, you come back and flip the machine on again, and the engine runs cooler, smoother, faster.
What and who are some of your favorite subjects to read and write about?
The books I’m working on are retellings of old stories of ancient, mythic people—Joan of Arc, Oedipus, Medea, Paul Bunyan, John Henry. That’s the kind of stuff I like to read about too: timeless topics, with fresh takes.
Writing as a craft is almost becoming an antiquated trade. Why do you continue to pursue it?
There’s an old joke I love: The first book Gutenberg published was the Bible. The second was on The Death of Publishing. In other words, writers have always had to face down this question. For me, the short answer is, I’d stop writing if I could. But I just can’t seem to figure out how. For me, it’s the most exciting activity in the world. I would pay to do it. I love waking up every day to play this old, majestic game, to see if I can choose the right words, and put them in the right order, so I can change people’s minds, entertain them, move them.
Tell us about your latest project?
It’s a retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh in 1800s America featuring Paul Bunyan and John Henry. It’s got everything—murder, true love, a quipping industrialist named El Boffo, a midget fight promoter named Washington, and, oh, the quest for eternal life. I’m giddy.
What do you love above all else?
In life, my family. In art, what I love above all else is the moment when the work “clicks.” A lot of storytelling is straight-up problem solving. Every chapter you write has to have momentum. I find the most satisfying part of writing is that moment when a chapter isn’t working, but suddenly, you see how to make it work. It’s like trying to fix a lawn mower. You tinker, and tinker, and tinker—then suddenly the thing roars to life. Donald Trump Authentic Jersey