Discouragement

Today I’m posting here because I’m still working on setting up the other website. I have been needing to write and lately, my procrastination has known no limits. Yesterday, my son and I mudded the room we have been working on for a few weeks. And by working on it, I mean my dad and I put up drywall and the process was pretty exhausting, and all I have had the heart to do is fill in some seams with caulking.

Yesterday, the kiddo and I mudded the heck out of the seams and the screw holes. Today, we sanded them smooth. It isn’t professional quality by any means but we did it together and had a good time in the process. To finish off procrastinating for the night, I also washed the dog. it has been a couple months since her last bath and in the meantime, she had rolled on the beach, played fetch in the dirt, and probably drunk out of the toilet a dozen times or more.

Right now she is whining at the front door, asking to go out, because what bath is complete without rolling around in the dust with wet fur? None!

This isn’t my first rodeo with wet dogs, so I am ignoring her right now.

So, the title of this post. It’s not about procrastination or dogs or home DIY. It’s about words that I have heard many times (and yes, I have been guilty of saying them myself) that just knock the wind out of anyone’s sails.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I have been excited about going somewhere and been met with the most lethal words you can experience when it comes to going on an adventure. Ready? You’ve been warned…

“What would you want to go there for?”

There. Bad grammar and ending a sentence in a preposition is just the icing on the cake. Asking someone “Why would you want to go there?” isn’t much better. I’ve heard these words many times. They used to really hit home. I usually heard them from family, friends, random people I was talking with over drinks (which is why I’m probably not much fun at a bar anymore), or especially someone who has already been to the place I’m daydreaming about.

It’s just like the question they ask mountaineers who climb sheer mountain faces. The answer: because it’s there.

Or in my case, “Why the hell not?”

Sure, it’s less poetic, but they’ve already pissed me off. The thing about going anywhere is whether it is the perfect destination or not is all a matter of perspective. Going to an active warzone like Afghanistan or Myanmar might not be what I’m looking for in an adventure, but who am I to say to someone “What would you want to go there for?” I wouldn’t want to go there myself. Because I’m allergic to having my head cut off, but I do have all sorts of allergies other people don’t.

What’s worse is I have said these words myself. I try to check myself, but sometimes they just fall out of my mouth. I’m not always good at this. I have judged someone’s destination, wrongfully, and found myself chewing on size 10.5 shoeleather. It’s not my business. And making it such says more about me than it does about them.

I’ve caught myself lately saying this, and…crap, I just remember all the times someone else said it to me.

“What would you want to go there for?”

As though I am so ignorant to not understand the drawbacks literally everywhere in the world has. I’m an American, and I have seen that to much of the rest of the world, we are notorious for having mass shootings and shitty healthcare. Does that mean that nobody should ever come here to visit? I’ve been confronted by others who have said, “Hawaii? What would you want to go there for?” Apparently people fear headlice so much that they have crossed Literal Tropical Paradise off their destination list. I was put off on visiting India for 20 years because someone I was married to was freaked out about food poisoning.

Every place has its degree of suck, which is why you do your homework and figure out how to avoid that. Just as you would with finding out what is going to more than make up for it if you can’t avoid the suck.

Not everyplace is everyone’s cup of tea. But there are better ways to have conversations about this. If you want to go someplace, don’t let someone’s prejudices about them overshadow your interest. Sometimes people are just travel snobs. They look down on your ambitions by indicating you are some kind of rube when they are so worldly. Look at all the stamps they have in their passport! Granted most of them are just from stepping off a cruise ship for three hours before getting back on again. But hey, whatever…floats their boat.

My advice is this. Go back to the fifth grade and spin that globe. Hold your finger over it and where it stops, consider it at least. We are only here for a set number of rotations around the sun. Might as well enjoy the journey.

And don’t discourage other people with things like “Too dangerous, too commercial, I’ve been there and it wasn’t that great”. Bullshit. We all don’t like the same things. Don’t assume they will get the same experience or feel the same way you did about a destination.

Closure

I have often been told not to expect closure. But sometimes you find it in strange ways.

I mentioned in an earlier post that it was the anniversary of the end of my last serious relationship. The woman I dated and I had a big trip in May 2020 planned. Ten days in the UK. London then up to Edinburgh and back again. I had always wanted to take a trip like this, but because of COVID quarantine our relationship ended and with that, so did our plans.

I had $350 in AirBnB credits for my part of the stays that I had to use up before they expired, so when my mom, son, and I went to Washington to visit family, I used the balance to rent a cottage in Seaside for a couple nights that was just off the beach.

The strange thing was that my former girlfriend had lived in Oregon for nearly twenty years before moving back to Colorado. It was strange to be seeing and visiting many of the places she often talked about, without her. What was really strange about it was I didn’t feel haunted by her.

Truly a horrible place. *eyeroll*

Her take on Oregon was that it was a miserable place where it rained constantly and that the state flower was mold.

I don’t think I have seen a more beautiful place, even at the tail end of winter. The cold sea, the mossy trees, the sunsets, and yes, it did rain. It even snowed a little on the shore one day. But it wasn’t anything like she described. It was a place I could see myself returning to again and again.

I guess what I am saying is that my eyes were opened in many ways. I began to see fundamental differences in who we were as people. What our tastes and values were and more importantly how they diverged.

On this trip, I used up the last of the funds I had set aside for a trip with her, in a place she had lived, and in a weird way, I got closure out of that. The page was turned and the book was closed on that part of my life.

Photo by Clinton A. Harris March 2021

Impostor!

One of the hardest things I have encountered these days has been the shadow of impostor syndrome. I have mentioned it before, and it bears repeating. So I am repeating. Louder for the people in the back, as they say.

One of the luxuries of waking up every day and punching a clock is the process of showing up, doing a marginal amount of work, and eventually watching your bank account fill up with a direct deposit at the end of the month provides immediate validation that you are indeed being productive. Even though when I was working for the University, I could probably get an entire week’s worth of work done in the last three hours of any given Friday.

When you work for yourself, especially in a creative field such as writing, the goalposts are not so obvious. The actual writing might just be an hour or two, depending on what you are working on. The thought going into it, the observation, the grinding things around in your brain is neverending. The bummer is that you are not paid for all that work. You put words down on paper. The days go by and the paychecks don’t drop into your account. Transitioning from regular paychecks to something more intangiable is difficult, and sometimes you will really tear into yourself for not being as productive as you *should* be.

For me, reading is even difficult, because for so many years if I had time to sit down and read a book, that meant I was being lazy and needed a project around the house to occupy my time. Reading for research is difficult sometimes, and reading for pleasure is downright impossible. I just feel like I am being idle, and shirking my responsibilities. Hardly ever considering as a writer, I need to constantly hone my mind with an imput of good writing, as well as producing work.

I love that song by Arcade Fire called “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” especially for the lyrics “Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.” It really hits when you understand that beautiful things like music, art, writing, television shows, YouTube channels, movies…all come from people who work in their heads most of the time. Creative things that we all love and experience, that resonate with our souls, are rarely made in some drone-like fashion. They are created by people who stare into space for hours, beating themselves up sometimes, procrastinating, and finally pulling those things from the Aether for the rest of us.

Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.

My son and mom and I went on an adventure last week, escaping Colorado just before the Snowpocalypse hit. We drove out to Washington to visit family and even made it all the way out to the Oregon Coast. Some might call it a “vacation” but when you are a writer, you are never really on vacation. It was a research trip. Sitting in a car for a little over a week took us through several different biomes: rainforests, rocky coastlines, mountains, plains, and deserts. We went from 8100ft above sea level to throwing clam shells for the dog to catch in the surf of the Pacific ocean.

Most people come home with their t-shirts and do their laundry to get the sand out of their socks. When I get home, it is my job to process everything that I have experienced, and hopefully try to sell these observations to someone. To convey the story in a way that an editor might take a chance on me to buy, or will at the very least entertain a reader, possibly resonate with them, and inspire them.

The second-guessing is hard because you never really know what will sell in a story until you write it. How will the way you string words together serve the story? That is the hard part. That is the part that leaves me frozen. The bit that tells me I’m fooling myself and I should just apply for another desk job. Am I the best writer? No. But I’m not half bad. And the stories choose me anyway, I don’t choose them. The least I can do is put the words down as they are whispered to me and hopefully I’ve done a decent job.

Money is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t always mean you are doing good work, or the work you need to be doing. Twenty years pushing paper from one side of my desk to the other is evidence of that.

Right now, my learning curve is very steep in learning how to market myself, promote my writing, and try to assure myself I’m not going to die by getting a steady paycheck somehow from all of this. It doesn’t happen over night, so it is best to be patient.

So if you are a creative and you need a reminder that what you are doing is important, please, keep going. Keep going.