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.