Sunday, June 26, 2016

Dealing with Apathy

Hey. I'm still here, believe it or not.
If you've read my previous posts, you probably noticed they're laced with apathy. Also, the frequency with which I post is horrible. I'd be surprised if anyone still visits this blog (not that there was much traffic before). However, I like to convince myself that someone visits even if once in a blue moon. Am I actually reaching anyone?

Lately, I've been dealing with these thoughts in addition to the number of books I want to write. I've got about 8 or 9 book ideas that I've started and left in various stages throughout the writing/editing process. I feel the weight of that work and the doubt resting on my mind and shoulders. I feel buried in my art. Mired down in it. And it's not a very good feeling. It's daunting.

Throw my regular day job on the heap and it'd break the back of a pachyderm.


I think this might be the root cause of my malaise.

I've been wrestling with this dilemma for quite a while. Wondering what to do, how to overcome it so I could get back to my usual writing routine and book output. But I can't seem to break out of its gravitational pull. I'm hurdling toward that singularity of despair and it worries me. Until now.

Like I said, I think it stems from expectations and some of those expectations are false, self-imposed expectations. Recently, I've become fascinated with financial independence. As with anything I become fascinated with, the more I researched it, a passion arose from facing a challenge.

I doubt this is a unique to just me. I believe that people who are passionate about something will immerse themselves in whatever they're passionate about to succeed. And there are some people who do this over and over, seeking out new challenges to overcome. I've come to realize I'm in the latter group.

Looking back at my life, I can see time and time again where I developed a passion for something. I become obsessed with it. Dive into it, become a sponge so I can soak up as much knowledge as I can in order to succeed.

Very early, I wanted to become a fireman. There are long waiting lists for candidates who want to be firemen. Those with experience are picked first. Then there are those who already have some qualifications that help them, such as hold medical certifications. I didn't have any of these. In order to get experience, I would need to at least volunteer, but there were no volunteer stations where I lived. So, I decided I'd go to school and get my EMT (emergency medical technician) certification. It was a tough class with an extremely high drop rate. Yet, I studied my ass off and ended up being one of seven to become state certified. Next, I moved to an area where there was a volunteer station and volunteered. A paid position became available, but there were several volunteers vying for the spot. The captain pulled me aside and let me know they were considering me. I busted my hump to show them I could do it and I did. I beat out the other candidates and became a fireman.

Another example was when I decided to change careers. I realized I couldn't handle the stress and physical rigor the job demanded until I retired (if I ever did). Not to mention the danger. There was a very good chance the next call could always be my last. I could leave my family without a husband and dad. I wrote down what I wanted from a career. Things like: more pay (it's criminal how little public safety workers are paid); low stress; not working weekends and holidays; working in a climate-controlled environment; and on and on. I opened the classified ads section of the newspaper and went through the As, Bs, etc., comparing what I knew about each profession to the list I'd made. Then I came to Computer Programmer. I really didn't know much about what they did (this was the mid-90s), but I knew they worked in offices. They didn't get their hands dirty, lift heavy objects, and...THE PAY! The salaries listed in the job postings caused my head to spin. I made up my mind. I knew what I wanted to do.

But, where to start? I didn't know the first thing about computers and I didn't even own one. I didn't let that stop me though. People with a burning passion don't give up when they meet obstacles such as this. Instead, I went to the bookstore and bought a book to learn programming. My father-in-law was a tech-hound and gave me one of his old 286 computers. For Christmas, my brother gave me the software to write programs. I spent every spare minute during the course of the next year with my nose in that book or in front of my little computer, inputting the lines of code from the book's examples, compiling, executing, and/or debugging the small programs I was writing. After a year of this, I began to circulate my resume. AND I GOT RESPONSES! I landed my first job about a month later and it has turned into a 20 year career.

I approached writing novels the same way. I read Stephen King's On Writing and came away feeling empowered. I knew I could write a book, so I sat down every day after work (well, a lot of days anyway) and wrote, trying to log a thousand words each time. After three months, I finished the first draft. That book still hasn't seen the light of day, but I have written several published novels since that time. I've got so many ideas, I could stay busy writing into my golden years, if not for this current rut.

My latest passion is financial independence, like I mentioned earlier. I pinched my nose and plunged in, learning everything I can, taking the steps to build the discipline to live on less and save more. It's taken time away from writing and so I'm torn. Like the obstacle that presented itself when I set out to learn programming but didn't have the tools, I'm not going to let this discourage me. I have written and I have several books available. So I haven't failed.

I find comfort in the fact that I've succeeded as a writer, a novelist. I know I am capable of producing interesting worlds and characters to inhabit them. It's not something someone can take away from me. I think I will push my writing aside for now and focus on this new goal. Writing occasionally when I find the time, but not getting wrapped around the axle and beating myself up because I haven't published something this year or the next. My production will slow down and I've told myself that's okay.

The self-imposed expectations (engaging with my readers, blogging, meeting deadlines) are the hardest things to let go of when you've honed your discipline (or hard-headedness?) to strive for success. But this is something I've got to deal with now. Something's got to give.

I'm not saying I'm quitting writing. Absolutely not! Instead, I'm just going to let off the throttle to focus on something else for a while. For what it's worth, I am working on a new novel right now that's based on an actual event. The working title is Hinterland. More on this in a future post. I promise.

Anyway, this post was therapeutic in that it let me put down my thoughts on the matter. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 5, 2016

[Insert Title Here] AKA Blowing Off Some Steam

*** WARNING: What follows is a rant. This is just some raw emotion I'm letting out. I'm not usually this cynical, so please bear with me. ***

Oh, look at that...I didn't write any blog posts during January. Tsk tsk. Truth is, I'm getting burned out on writing these posts. It almost feels like an obligation I don't want to see through any longer. It's become a chore to think up something I think the world will be interested to read. I'm not sure if that makes me sound pretentious or what. For the record, I know "the world" isn't reading this little blog of mine. Hell, I'm delusional enough to even think readers out there are eagerly awaiting anything I've got to say. You know what? That's fine with me. Really. It is. Which is precisely why I find it hard to scrounge the motivation to yell into the void that is the internet. Why waste my effort?

Here's another truth: I do this for myself, mostly. For posterity's sake. I started out using this as a space to market my writing, to build a "platform" for when I became a professional novelist. Well, that was a few years ago and things definitely change. I mean, I can look back and see the optimism I had in the beginning. Of course, during the following years, my mindset changed. Reality set in. I no longer have those daydreams of becoming a full-time writer sitting at home working on my next book that hoards of adoring fans are clamoring for. Please! While I don't have those visions of grandeur any more, I do still spend time working on the next book. As a matter of fact, I received proofs today of my second anthology, Negative Spaces. More on that a little later (as well as a glimpse of the cover).

After learning the success rate of writers who go on to have lucrative careers as full-time novelists, I realized it ranked up there with becoming a rock star or winning the lottery. I know someone reading this might say, "Wait a minute; That's not true! I'm a writer who supports myself with just my writing. What've you got to say about that?" Here's what I say to that: How many books are you on the hook to write each year? How much are each of the advances you get? I'd be willing to wager money you've got to complete at least four novels a year, not including all the social media you've got to keep up with almost daily, such as blogging and tweeting to stay relevant to your fans. In other words, you're writing ALL THE DAMN TIME! What I envisioned when I started out writing was becoming the next King, Grisham, or [insert best-selling author here]. Writing one novel a year that would go on to sell thousands of copies that my publisher would market extensively. I learned that's not the case. Up-and-coming writers have to work their asses off to get those kinds of breaks. Also, since the digital revolution/self-publishing paradigm, things have changed even more. I know there're self-published authors out there who are making a living (some making fat cash, even) from their writing and I think that's awesome. However, there's still a lot of work involved in churning out content for voracious readers and blogging/tweeting/whatever-other-ways-to-stay-relevant that those authors must do. To be honest, I'm not good at marketing and networking. So, for me at least, I prefer to just keep writing at my own pace and publishing the stuff I like.

Since having the revelation that I'll never be some best-selling author and living the life I daydreamed about, I discovered the blogosphere of personal finances. I've stumbled upon people who've lived below their means, saved the excess, and (most of them) retired at an extremely early age. This opened my eyes to the fact that my daydream hadn't vanished like smoke in the wind. Sure, I'm 43 and squandered much of my income up to now. I was never very good with money, usually earning a dollar but spending two. That's the best way in the world to stay broke. However, I've since been getting my financial house in order. This has become my top priority. Writing, mask-making, blogging, etc has all taken a backseat to getting my finances in order so that I can increase my savings rate so I can invest as much money as possible.

Since I've become fascinated with financial independence and early retirement, my net worth has increased by $25,000. That's a rough figure. I've spent hours creating spreadsheets for a budget and to track monthly and annual net worth tracking so I can maximize my savings. Later, I plan to post more detailed accounts of my financial strategies and progress as well as any set backs. With that said, I think it's safe to say that this blog has stopped being strictly focused on my writing and thoughts on writing and the publishing industry. But, I guess I broke that rule back when I posted about making masks. Oh well, whatever. It is my blog after all. And I'm sure the four or five readers won't mind.

I feel like I've simply been rambling. I started out not knowing what to blog about and then just started saying whatever came to mind. Most of this has been me ranting aimlessly. I guess I just needed to get it out of my system. Mainly, what I felt when I started this post was uncertainly; I had no idea what I should say, yet felt compelled to say SOMETHING because I didn't want to neglect my responsibility to provide a post. In other words, I felt like not writing something would be letting myself down. After all, I made a promise to myself when I started this blog that I wouldn't be like so many others who start and soon fizzle out. I don't like to think of myself as a quitter, but I also don't want to waste my efforts doing something like this if there's no benefit to it. Then, I thought of a benefit I could be sure of: I could document my progress to financial independence so my future-self could look back on.

In a nutshell, I'm saying that if you come here to find out about my books, you'll still be able to do that. However, there are going to be more posts about finances, too. And, probably whatever else I'm excited about at the time. Also, I don't always feel encouraged to write posts at regular intervals. Of course, if you have been keeping up with this blog, then that probably comes as no surprise. If you keep coming back, then great! If this is your first time here and it's going to be your last, bye. Sorry I wasn't interesting enough for you. I'm getting older and trying to appease everyone isn't something I care about trying to do anymore.

Okay, I mentioned earlier that I am just about to release my second anthology and I would provide a glimpse of the cover. I keep my promises. So, this new collection has thirteen short stories and the book is called Negative Spaces. So far, I've got it formatted for paperback distribution only. I haven't published it yet, but I will do that soon. I have to create the digital version first so they release fairly close together. That means I also have to update my website so any visitors will know about it. The stories are either horror stories or weird tales, bordering on the bizarre. Before I show you the cover, though, let me also add that I'm running a giveaway on Goodreads to give ten lucky winners autographed copies of my mystery novel, Carniville. I'll do another post soon with more details on that along with a link to enter. Okay, enough of my aimless tirade. Here's the cover...

I hope you'll go buy a copy. Thanks for reading.