As silly as it sounds, I’m petrified to sit down and really work on any of my projects. I’ve been learning more about my personality, and it sounds as though everyone with my personality type dreams of being an author, intent on validation and changing the world, with no real plans of how to do so.
I’m afraid of failure. Of going back to a dead-end, soul-sucking “career.” Of never accomplishing my dream, the very thing that, I believe, is the purpose for my life. That’s a pretty tall order… if I don’t produce the thing I’ve created in my mind, I’ll disappoint myself, my family, the universe and God Himself. Success feels so far beyond reach… like, somewhere near Pluto… and I feel like I should just give up.
But I don’t want to give up.
Have any of you felt this way? How’d you keep going?
Wow… it’s a bit dusty in here. Just give me a minute to clean up, and we can get back to the business of night-owling.
Sleep habits are certainly one element of a creative life. Maria Popova of brainpickings.com commissioned this charming infographic to illustrate any links between famous early risers, night owls and their writing careers. I’d be down there with Bukowski, for sure. For the full article, go here: Famous Writers’ Sleep Habits vs. Literary Productivity, Visualized.
Just what is it about the old nine-to-five that makes my brain all mushy? It’s like my imagination is suffering from depression. Seriously, this post is the first thing I’ve written in two months.
Take a guess at how long I’ve been gainfully employed.
It’s not that I don’t have plenty of creative fodder here (that’s right; I’m writing this at work). My Boss is a used car salesman who bullied himself into a comfy position in life years ago, and my Office Partner is your run-of-the-mill, disgruntled, divorced, former millionaire car dealer.
They are exactly what you’re thinking right now. Don’t feel bad.
The Boss never, ever graces us with his presence after 12 pm (and rarely before, either). My OP? He’s always at the office. ALWAYS. If he’s out, I’m probably with him, having been guilted into accompanying him on some personal errand.
Our office has two rooms, no hot water and the tackiest blue floor tiles in existence. Our battered, laminate desks peek at each other from around a cornflower blue half-wall. This wall would provide a modicum of privacy, except OP shifted his desk so that he could see me from his chair. He is a witness to every move I make. No private phone calls. No snacks consumed without prying eyes. No smiles directed toward social media posts without a questioning glance.
As much as I adore being on display, that joy cannot compare to my elation when OP starts one of his “fishing” stories. “Fish” is code for the women he meets online. At the tale’s end, I’m cornered into providing feedback on the conquest. Disgust and distaste, I say! (Oh, who am I kidding…? I enjoy his wildly inappropriate stories. They’ve given me an endless bank of “skanky bitch” traits. Yep, next to these broads, my shit is alphabetized and color-coded.)
Then, as though Fate read my mind and said, “Wound, allow me introduce you to my friend Salt,” I have read three -THREE! -articles that popped onto my Facebook feed about boredom and sleepiness and mind-numbing-ness, and how those things actually engage creativity. The words stung and left me confused. Doubtful. Overly analytical. Y’know, beyond my normal amount… like, way, WAY too much analysis.
Something must be wrong with me, I thought.
But another thought occurred in spite of my self-loathing. If those articles are true, I am going to break open the entertainment industry and become the best-selling author ever, from now until the laboratory – bred dinosaurs reclaim the home we destroyed. I have the recipe, and all the ingredients are right here in my Blue Ghetto Hell, where I spend 40 hours a week. Wait, how much time could I devote to this process of inevitable superstardom? I only do, maybe, five solid hours of work per week, so that leaves 35 paid hours to write! This is unbelievable!
In all seriousness, I couldn’t have asked for a weirder group of associates, and I have so much free time. Really, how can I fail? I’ve got to figure out a way to channel some energy into writing while I’m here, but I think I refrain from writing because I feel like a terrible employee. In my mind, company time equals company work. And while that’s not wrong, I can’t be expected to sit drooling, wishing for death when I have nothing to do. I mean, I don’t feel bad for browsing the Internet. I guess it’s all about the degree of engagement, and working on my novel takes a big chunk of that.
Be honest: should I feel guilty for writing at work when I have nothing work-related to do?
My husband is a total dude, and he admittedly hates to read. He says he gets bored with reading, and he’d rather just watch the movie anyway. I even let him borrow my copy of Fight Club, because he adores the movie (and what dude doesn’t like reading Chuck?!), and I think he got through a chapter. Maybe.
So, what’s the real issue? I know plenty of guys who read fiction… and read a ton of it. Does my husband’s analytical mind prevent him from using his imagination against the written word? Or did he, like many others, fall victim to the whole I-hated-the books-we-read-in-high-school-so-I-don’t-enjoy-reading attitude? We read the classics in high school, I know, but some of them were excruciating. I didn’t read them all. No one did. So I can see how that experience might make some people book-shy.
Back to my first question: how do we get dudes reading? I wish I had an answer, but I really think the solution needs to begin at an early age. What are your thoughts?
The Lost Boys of YA: Are Young Men Reading Less?
COLUMN BY LEAH DEARBORN
A friend of mine who recently finished six years of military service used to read on the bus between training exercises. It seems like a pretty innocuous thing to do. The ride from one base to another was four hours long, so he brought a book to entertain himself. At least, that was his original intent when he started out as a 19-year-old private. He quickly found that his peers viewed reading as a strictly feminine activity, and a laughable one at that. Tired of the constant harassment that it provoked, he eventually stopped bringing books on the bus.
This incident, although anecdotal and somewhat extreme, is not inconsistent with other outside data on adolescent reading habits:
- A Canadian study published in the Alberta Journal of Educational Research found that 24 percent of second grade students thought of reading as a “feminine activity,” and later, additional studies have mirrored that result.
- Only 12.5% of teens report that their fathers read more often than their mothers, and reading rates among young men have been dropping.
- Guys Read, a group dedicated to reversing these trends, notes that boys of every age group have scored worse than girls on reading tests for the last 30 years.
- Pew research conducted in 2013 reported that men read fewer books of any genre— 21 percent fewer in the category of YA titles, to be precise.
Based on the information at hand, it’s difficult to pinpoint how much of this is the result of cultural norms, and how much might be chalked up to other unknown factors.
Read the entire story at LitReactor.
Oh, my goodness, yes. My husband is bewildered by my ability to watch and re-watch movies that I have already seen. Think I’ll print this out and just hand it to him next time.
Writers are never just passive observers. Whether we’re reading or watching a movie, we don’t consume stories, we occupy them. We’re drawn into the events on the surface, while our subconscious minds pick apart the mechanics behind them.
The more we read, the more we understand story structure. In my piece Don’t Just Read More, Watch More I talked about the benefits writers get from watching movies too. Not only do we consume films faster, but their time limitations force them to have predictable three-act structures. Watch enough movies and you can predict when the protagonist’s routine will break, when their journey will take them past the point of no return, when their alliances will shift, when they’ll be at their lowest point, when their change has lead them to a new goal, and when they’ll rebound at the climax.
Aspiring novelists need to know those beats by heart. Films…
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I’ve just done something I’ve never done before. Now my hands are all cold and shaky, and I need to pee.
This is what happens when I’m anxious. I turn into a popsicle, and my bladder shrinks. Yes, it’s an extreme reaction, I know, but I imagine it’s a common one, albeit reserved for life-changing situations. Y’know, exam results or pregnancy tests. Maybe even sports bets.
But I didn’t do any of those things. Nope. I just sent off a short story for publication, and the suspense will all but kill me.
I’ve decided that this must be what I do from now on: write and (attempt to) sell short stories while working on novels. Especially while I live in this town… this dried up old town that deserves a story written about it and all the weirdness within. (I’m working on it; be patient.)
So, is there any chance that I can earn a small, but decent living this way? I have no idea, but I’m seeking an answer with my warm throw around my shoulders and wool socks on my feet.
When the writing gets tough, how do you talk yourself down from the ‘I’m not cut out for this’ ledge? When your abilities come into question, what forces you back to your writing space? Please – leave me some comments, because I like to read, too!