What's Important 10: Not So Desperate Times, Not So Desperate Measures

I'm upset that I’m not more upset.

I don't write as much as I used to. It bugs me and it's mostly logistical because, you know, busy life and all that. And when I do write it's stupid shit like blogging or writing about comics. I have been editing a YA book for MONTHS now.

I miss writing literary fiction. I actually miss short stories.

But the other day I had a realization about writing: it's no longer essential.

People talk about the arts in what seems like hyperbolic terms, but it's not: the arts save lives. I don't know that I would say that writing saved mine, but it certainly allowed me to live. It's where I've tried to make sense of the world around me, tried to make sense of the distortions in my head. It's where I've set up shop and lived when life was its hardest.

It was sometimes all I had.

But it's not anymore. My life is so full I honestly have a hard time believing it's real.

In the past, writing meant the difference between losing my shit and holding on. Writing meant keeping my head above water. It meant giving me some semblance of control.

Writing meant that something good could come out of me.

But at some point I realized that something good can come out of me all the damn time and writing stopped being so special.

That's not to say that I don't still love it/hate it or that I'm not still drawn to it. And that's certainly not to say that it's not still important to my mental/emotional/spiritual well being. It is and it always will be.

But it's not alone anymore. It's not fighting a seemingly hopeless battle on its own.

It's no longer life support.

It doesn't have to be.

My need to write has changed and I can tell that it has changed my writing.

That's hard for me to reconcile.

I look back on the things that I wrote in the past and it feels like someone else wrote it.

I won't lie: I miss it. The fact that I don't write the way that I used to makes me feel like I've failed in some way. Maybe I have. Maybe I've let a piece of myself down. Maybe I'm neglecting a part of myself that needs tending to even if it's not as obvious as it once was.

But maybe I am tending to that part just in other ways. Perhaps this blog does that, or my ongoing autobiographical/journal type thing that I've been writing for years now.

I suppose my concern comes down to my emotional side, although just writing that I feel how wrong I am. It feels like maybe it comes down to my ego.

My writing is what allowed me to have an emotional side, but that's not true anymore. I don't need it as an outlet, not in the way that I used to. I'm still writing to be creative and I'm still writing to exercise my brain, but I'm not writing to vent.

I'm no longer exorcising demons.

That should be a good thing, right?

But I focus on all the potential I thought I had and the fact that it is seemingly going to waste. I remember that rush that came from rereading something and realizing that it was actually pretty good.

I even miss the rejection letters.

And I miss the fire.

I think maybe the fire is what made my writing special and that maybe it's gone now or, at the very least, it's not as hot, not as all encompassing. It no longer engulfs all that I am.

I still have things I want to write. I still have story ideas written on scraps of paper all over this office. I just don't know if I will ever get to them because I don't have the drive that I once did.

The hardest part about all of this isn't that it's happening, but that I'm not more upset about it. Because I should be, right? I used to be special. I used to bare my soul. I used to cry when I wrote. I could even make other people cry, too.

I was an artist.

And maybe that's not me anymore. Maybe I don't have that fire anymore, at least not for all the soul bearing and heart ache.

When Nicole and I first started dating I told her that I worried about being in a happy relationship because I was concerned what being happy would do to my writing. I won't lie; being with Nicole changed my writing. There was a very clear shift in my work.

But I adjusted. I adapted. I think I was able to find my voice even when I was no longer miserable.

Finding my voice again as a parent seems to be harder because being a parent is more consuming than being a boyfriend/husband. It requires a greater time commitment, it requires a greater emotional commitment.

So this is me, now, trying to figure out how to deal with this. In part I’ve accepted it because it’s easy to accept: I have distractions. But that’s probably not the way to get over something.

Maybe it’s time to try something new.

I’m just not sure what that is yet.

 

What's Important 1: Twitter Tortures Me

Note: A few years ago I wrote a series of pieces on "What's Important." They got a decent amount of traffic on my old blog, so I've decided to re-run them on my new site.

The main appeal of Twitter, for me, is to get a glimpse into the life I wish I was leading.

The vast majority of the people I follow on Twitter are storytellers of some type, be they writers or artists, and I would say that the vast majority of them do so for a living, or at least manage to get by doing little else.  And those people often Tweet about what they're doing at any given moment, and it doesn't usually involve sitting in a cubicle, putting together Excel sheets of information they have no real interest in.

Over the course of any given day (and night), most of these creators will drop comments about what they're currently working, what their process is like, if they're going to make their deadline, when the next meeting is, etc.  It's like getting a glimpse into heaven.

Of course it's not real, I know.  The beauty of social media is that we can present only the aspects of ourselves we choose to allow the world to see, and with Twitter that's particularly myopic.  It's a 140 character window.

Most of the time I use these glimpses as motivation.  That's the life I want, I'd say.  That should be me, Tweeting about it's 9 AM and I'm sitting down to answer publishing related e-mails while drinking my coffee.  I should be editing and proofing and researching throughout the day and cranking out new pages through the night.  I should be part of a mutual admiration society with writers whose work I enjoy.

Lately, it's been equals part motivating and depressing.  My life seems to be settling into a mold and that mold seems inflexible.

Before I go any further, you should go read this brilliant piece by David Ferguson over on the Onion.  It was published on Wednesday, about a week after I'd started putting this blog post together, and it nails exactly where my mind is at these days.

Back?

One of the things you kind of learn as you get older is that there are fewer and fewer of us out there.  By "us," I'm referring to the people in Ferguson's piece, people who have figured out what it is they love to do and who are only able to do the aforementioned thing at night and on the weekends.  That's a hard row to hoe, and over time enough distractions pop up to make giving up that life not just easy, but preferable.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, either.  But it does suggest a certain extremism in place when it comes to "doing what you love."  At a certain point, it becomes all or nothing.  It's a simple matter of time.  There are only so many hours in the day, and, whether we like it or not, we only have so much energy.  What we have to do will almost always trump what we want to do because what we have to do keeps us alive.

That's where I'm at these days.  I'm getting older and my life is getting fuller, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  But it's making me anxious about doing the thing that I love.

Eleven years ago, I quit being in bands.  Even back then, I realized that I didn't have time to play guitar in a rock n' roll band and give my writing the attention it deserved -- at least not while working a full time job.  I referred to as crossing a river, and I could only take so many things will me to the other side, and the Marshall half stack just wasn't going to fit on my boat.

I doubt I'll ever stop writing, I just worry about the day when I get two hours once a week to do it, or when I have to choose between spending time with my wife and sitting at my computer.

As unrealistic as it is, I want that Twitter life, and until I have it, it will always torture me.