Gatekeeping

So, I’ve been beating my head against this post for a while. The last few days has been really difficult trying to figure out just what the hell I am doing with my life. I’ve felt like this probably my whole life. Why is it that someone has abundance, while someone else struggles? How is it that someone can just go out and buy an $80k vehicle, while some of us are driving an old worn out piece of shit?

Today, the agency I write for released the top ten earners for the month of March, which is arguably my worst month ever writing for this company. I might have made around $300. Nothing is moving. The assignments I can pick from are usually already choked with other posts, or the guidelines are overkill. Two PDFs and a tutorial to write 1000 words on something they have outlined the piss out of, with an insanely high rejection rate. I guess it stands to reason the picky clients are the only ones who have jobs available, because nobody wants to spend an hour working on something with a 90% chance of being rejected.

The top earner made $8700 in March. All I could think was “How the fuck did anyone manage that?” The assignements lately have been complete dog shit. Am I missing something?

I just feel a little…lost today. I don’t know what the hell I am doing. I feel like I have the opposite of the Midas Touch, where everything I touch turns to crap. My aspirations at freelancing and especially travel writing are stalled. Yet, somehow if I watch a YouTube video or a TikTok of someone making a go at it, everything looks easy. For whatever reason, nobody seems to want the content I’m producing.

And before you offer up advice, just know I’m venting, I’m not looking for solutions. Seriously, I had one person comment that I needed to just make a food blog once. Mostly because that’s all they are interested in. Yes, because the other 40 billion food blogs out there haven’t already saturated what could be considered a market. I tried a food post and it flopped harder than my usual shit.

I’m reluctant to start a Fiverr account because it will just be another attempt for me to reach another evolutionary level that for whatever reason I’m not allowed to participate in. So, basically an empty booth for my services people couldn’t give a fuck about. And I’ve seen the videos for some people who could hardly string a few words together to make a sentence making six figures a year and turning down work because their Fiverr is so lucrative.

My travel blog is dead in the water. People only read this one because they might see me Taylor Swift somebody I once dated or I discuss my miserable fucking existence during my marriage, which I blame for being about ten years behind any trend or opportunity, because now I have to compete with Millennials, GenY, and bots from India for clicks or likes or whateverthehellelse I am trying to accomplish here.

If I were a 19 year old girl with a giant rack and tank tops, I would probably be killing it. I’m a 46 year old divorced dad losing my hair, who writes a bunch of shit nobody will look at, much less buy. My ex-wife was right, bless her black and malignant heart. Of course all the years I could have been doing something about my life, I was taking care of her ass. And now I have nothing to show for it except emotional damage, lots of attorney bills, and trauma.

The world doesn’t want people like me.

There’s a blogger who posts pictures of birds with bad puns as the caption that gets hundreds of likes…meanwhile, I try to tell a story, and all it does is serve as a platform for self-aggrandizing. I’ve been accused of whining. Like maybe 10 people will read it. Half of them are scammers liking my post to hawk fake cialis. You should see my spam folder.

I’ve been told my work is too “editorial.” Not sure why some people can be editorial AF and I can’t be. Maybe it’s not in my stars.

I just keep thinking I’m missing something. Is there some kind of club or goddamn ritual sacrifice I’m supposed to do to actually put my talents to good use? In other words, turning my abilities into a way to make a living?

Not a lot of people can write and even fewer can write well. I can write real good and yet…

So it goes.

There doesn’t seem to be any goddamned reason behind any of it.

What I’m left with is editing a book nobody will buy because the goddamned publishers would rather print another Ruth Bader Ginsberg biography for kids or some Live Laugh Love shit than anything that I would write. More gatekeeping. I’m sick of all of it.

Between the failed blogs, the failed podcasts, the lack of outside interest in pretty much anything I try…I’m not feeling encouraged to keep going. Whereas it feels like other people can just spit a peach pit out the window and it will grow a whole fucking arbor.

Art vs. Industry: What are your values?

A story I like to tell sometimes is about when I was a little kid and I had a Disco Mickey portable record player. Back then, I was all about my Long Playing Record storybooks. If you grew up in the 70s or 80s, you know what those are. The rest of you will be baffled. They were tiny 33rpm records that went along with an accompanying book and they would prompt you to turn the page. It’s probably one of the big reasons why I learned how to read very early on.

To me, it was my record collection. If I had a crush on a girl who came by the house (it didn’t happen often) I would drag out my storybook LPs and show her my record collection. It was a way to show someone else what my interests were. Since then, throughout the years, there have been other record collections since and other girls I have liked that I have shown them too.

I guess what my point is that when people get to know us, and we get to know ourselves, we have certain things that are important to us, and they aren’t always collections or hobbies or interests. Sometimes they are philosophies, values, and little characterizing things that let them behind the curtain just a little bit more than someone else. A lot of us tend to live very Surface. It’s easier that way. It’s like having a piece of crap car when you live in a bad neighborhood. You don’t even lock it at night because you don’t want some idiot smashing the windows to rob the change out of your cup holder.

The good stuff is inside. Safe. Sometimes we don’t even let on that we have it.

One of my recent posts talked about a friendship that needed to end. The crazy thing is that at the end of it, one of the last texts I got was this person telling me how much they hated The War of Art and how it was stupid. Muse this! Muse that! I hate this stupid book! I thought it was a weird ad hominem attack. But in a way, it was like somebody kicking a hole through my favorite record. Only it said more about them than it said about me.

You see, in this world, there are creatives, and they value things like emotion, and creativity, and beauty and art. If you want an idea about how that stuff works, watch Moulin Rouge. These used to be ideals that people would die for. There aren’t many of us Warrior Poets left. The way our world has gotten has become so cold. Utilitarian. The art and beauty and emotion has been considered superfluous. Ironically, so many of us throw our money at new movies or TV shows and never think for a moment that someone came up with that. Someone whose piss probably smells like a venti Americano.

I suspect these are the same people who look at a field through the car window and think, “Corn. Sunflowers. Wheat. Cows.” While someone who appreciates these things marvels at how sunlight and water and nutrients in the soil can make a seed grow into a plant and all those plants are feeding the world. How one variety of corn tastes sweeter than the rest and brings back memories of a hot summer afternoon, grilling hamburgers, the kids splashing in the wading pool. They might even stop to think about how some people aren’t getting enough of those things in that field and they are struggling to feed themselves or get by. To the other, it’s just calories.

I’m not saying one is right and the other is wrong, it’s just not what blows my hair back. It seems a little cold.

As a creative, I know that in times of war, bronze statues are pulled down and melted into slag to build tanks and shell casings. I know that books are thrown into burning piles and reduced to ash. In our daily lives, school music programs are the first to be cut, unless an art program exists at all. But to some of us, life isn’t worth living without art and expression. It’s just existing, and who the hell wants to do that?

I have been told by this hater of Steven Pressfield’s works that I wouldn’t be single if I made more money. You don’t have a lot to offer her in terms of security. I think that says more about other people’s values than it does mine. And I’d rather be single than worry that someone I was with required me to have good credit rating in order to love me.

I’ve written about this in the past. There is a lot to be said about toiling your life away in a thankless, unfulfilling job, just because it has a decent pension plan, versus chasing your dream. I’ve done both, and I have to say, I’d rather miss a couple meals and tighten my belt than sit at a desk all day, literally watching the minutes of my life tick past and hoping that by the time I am old enough to retire, I can still live off the scraps that my annuity gets me. Where I’d probably be too old to travel, my health would suck because I’ve been sitting on my ass in my comfort zone all day, and I’ll be riddled with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and depression because I kept waiting for my life to begin at 65. 66. “Maybe I’ll retire at 68…”

Do you know how many people I’ve watched die within months of retirement? How many more have died while still waiting to retire?

Right now it is 10:30pm and I’m writing. I’m not getting paid to write this. (If you’d like me to get paid, check out my other site and buy me a coffee!) Fewer than 20 people will probably even read it when it posts, but it makes me happy. I value art, the written word, putting my thoughts to paper, and the fulfillment that brings. Even if I’m not rich enough to get a girlfriend.

Weird that even people who are broke as hell still find each other, and a lot of them are happy. And some of the most miserable people I’ve ever met live in mansions.

I’ve had things. I had a lot of things when I was married. I had a whole basement of the collection of several Christmases, two bankruptcies worth of credit card purchases spanning fifteen years, and a minivan with a DVD player, two china sets, an 8 place Gorham silver set from 1895, purebred dogs, and a lot of antiques. I wouldn’t trade anything right now to have those back.

They are just things. One of the valuable lessons divorce taught me is it’s just stuff. The thing that bothers me the most is when I go looking for my potato masher and realize it is in a drawer in the kitchen in somebody else’s house.

I value connection from kindred spirits, other creatives, artists, dreamers, and those who keep sitting down to do the work because they love it. And some of them aren’t even that great at it. Hell, my writing is probably debatable! But someone who says “I am not the best at what I do, so why waste my time? Why listen to the Muse who hovers over every blade of grass and tells it to “GROW” when I can…my mind just goes blank at this point. What do they do?

They are the kind of people who can just walk away from someone they loved and actually forget their name. I’m the kind of guy who lights a candle for someone’s birthday whom I haven’t seen in years. We aren’t the same.

Right now, I’m working, but I don’t feel like it is work. Every word I write is the iron sharpening iron that makes me better at what I do. It makes me better at connecting to my audience. Better at showing just a little bit of my record collection, and in doing so, I get to see yours too!

To anyone who doesn’t get why the Muse is important or why the War to create Art is such a driving, passionate part of our lives…it’s like they used to say about jazz back in the day.

“If you have to ask, I can’t tell you.”

It’s better this way

Two years ago today was the last time I saw my last girlfriend in person. We continued to talk for another six weeks, but the pandemic would have other things to say about that. It’s hard to believe it has been two years. I think many of us feel like those two years have been robbed from us.

That isn’t why I’m posting tonight. I decided to post for other reasons, but I looked up at the date on my computer and noticed that it was March 13th.

She and her parents and brother were supposed to drive to Tucson to see her son, who was in the Air Force. It was the beginning of lockdowns and I had been invited to go, but they weren’t supposed to come back until the middle of the following week. I was expecting my son to come back and I didn’t feel comfortable with letting his mom keep him for another couple of days. Give her an inch and she’ll take a mile.

As it turned out, my ex-wife kept him for another two weeks because she convinced herself that he had Covid. Back then, it was called Coronavirus. Of course he didn’t have it. Only a small percentage of the country had it back then. It was supposed to be two weeks to “flatten the curve.” She just had a convenient excuse to fuck with me. Probably the only thing that ever motivates her to get off the couch.

My former girlfriend and I had to cancel our trip to the UK that May. The 1940s Ball was also canceled. She had just bought an adorable dress from British Retro. It was a Way Out West with a flamingo print. We broke up on April 30 after a couple very long phone calls. She didn’t see any other way around it. There was a lot of drama in my life. Right person. Wrong time.

The last night I saw her in person, we watched TV together. She lay her head in my lap as we sat on the couch and I brushed her hair for about an hour. It was getting late, and she had an early morning to get up and drive a thousand miles to see her son. It was starting to snow that night and she knew I would worry if the roads got bad; it was an hour drive home for her.

She learned that lesson the hard way when she had driven home one night from my place and didn’t call when she got in. She had gotten intercepted by her parents (she had moved back to Colorado and was living at home again) and didn’t have a chance to call me to let me know she was home. She wasn’t picking up her phone either. An hour and a half had passed and the weather was getting bad. So, I got in my car and started driving down to her place. About halfway there, I got the call from her, apologizing for not calling me right away. I told her I was glad she was safe. I turned around and drove back home. I would have driven all the way to her front door, looking for her car in a ditch the entire way.

I’m that kind of boyfriend.

This night, March 13th, 2020, as the snow fell like slush from the sky, I kissed her one last time through the window of her car and watched her drive away, those red tailights winking out as she turned the corner from my house, headed to the highway. I never would have thought that would be our last kiss. We talked on the phone every night for the next six weeks. At the end, I could feel a change in us. She began to pull away. She had her reasons. Reasons that it has taken me nearly two years to come to terms with and accept as valid.

It still kills me that was our last goodbye. One of the last things we said to each other was “I love you.”

My life has been an adventures since then, with many changes. People coming into my life and leaving again. I have tried to open my heart again since then, but it didn’t work out. I’m sorta done, to be honest. I write my stories. I work on my career. My mental health. I’ve been published since then and moved. The place we had our last kiss is now someone else’s house. The park bench is still in front of my old house where we used to smoke cigars and listen to music in front of the firepit.

Tonight, melancholy has its grip on me, but in a good way. After all, I write stories that will break your heart. I remember one day, she had read one of my blog posts from 2019, writen just before we started dating. She had gone back and read almost everything I had written by the time. She knew me in ways I would never get to know her back. At least she knew my writing, which has a certain measure of artistic license. It is an aspect of yourself. Personal in some ways, and total bullshit in others.

She told me the post she had read made her cry. I didn’t look at this as a way to throw on the brakes, but as a good sign that I had touched someone emotionally, deep down inside. She told me it was beautiful, but heartbreaking. Maybe I shouldn’t have written it. In getting to know others, you leave yourself vulnerable to them. You risk handing them a part of your soul and maybe one day, that last long kiss farewell turns into goodbye and you don’t even know it at the time. They keep that piece of you, and you keep a piece of them.

I wonder at what point will I give everything away of myself and have none left. Tonight, I think I’m coming pretty close.

The last time I kissed someone was July 4th Weekend, 2021, and I made a fool out of myself. I kept coming back for one last kiss until she finally told me to get in the car and go, scolding me a little bit and trying not to laugh. I had a long drive to get back home. It was the last weekend where anything made any sense. I won’t get into it tonight, but after that, the rest of my world came crashing down. She was gone too, not long after.

The world is full of nightmarish absurdities, regrets, last looks, and such clarity of hindsight.

I don’t have much hope for finding someone anymore. I’ve been lucky to have loved hard and with my whole heart, even if it didn’t last. To live in that moment is something that words cannot capture. And I should know, since my job is to catch dreams with words and make them tangible.

If there is a Heaven, and I’m lucky enough to get in, I could think of a few perfect days I would like to live over and over again. Maybe that is what I’ve been doing, since even during those last moments, something deep inside of me was whispering “Enjoy this, Clinton, while it lasts.”

The rest is just filler, preamble, to let you understand and appreciate those moments that get to last forever.