Starting over and over

Today was a day with a lot of resistance. I’ve been re-reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and trying to get myself set in what I need to do to write. Jeez, that’s all I talk about, you might think. Writing. It’s because I love it. It also scares the hell out of me. Mostly because I respect what good writing is and I hope in some way I am achieving that. For those of you who don’t write, I hope that you can appreciate any other substitution for a passion that doesn’t alienate you.

I share these words not just for you, but because I am in the process of manifesting everything that I want.

I am 46 years old. A little bit long in the tooth to still be following my dreams, some might think. By now, most of my friends are looking at the coast and glide of being at least over halfway through their careers. Things like 401ks and hedge funds might mean something to them. Some are thinking of retirement. And here I am starting over again.

I had to start over from zero a few times in the last few years. The first time I started over was seven years ago, when I decided to end my marriage of 15 years. With it also went an adulthood of accumulated things. Furniture. Memories. Photo albums. Things I had inheirted, which were all lost in the blink of an eye like a housefire that has been burning for the last seven years. Today I am a man who doesn’t even own a couch. The majority of my furniture was given to me by friends who couldn’t stand seeing me living in a house with a card table to eat dinner on or sitting on the floor to watch TV. I’ve had good, kind people in my life who were willing to share their abundance when I was just beginning again.

I moved again after my job of nearly 20 years ended and the world was changing due to a pandemic. I’m starting over again, back where I started, back where I grew up. Some days I think of being the age I am now and feeling like I’ve got a 10-15 year late start. The work that I am trying to do is overwhelming sometimes. A dream better suited to a younger man.

I think sometimes of the things that I want, a vision of how I want my life to be, and that can be disheartening. Sometimes it feels like I’ve run out of time for anything like that. I check home listings on Zillow at places I would love to live and unlike the first time I bought a house, you can’t pick up a three bedroom with a finished basement for $165k anymore. Try $700k, depending on what you are looking for. I wonder how anyone does it. I worry that my life will have come and gone before I can buy a house. Or if I could, I’ll be in my late 70s before I can pay off a mortgage.

It’s unreal.

I drive a used Jeep Liberty with a lot of miles on it, but it is paid for. I live in my grandparents’ old house, which takes a lot of work. It’s a great place to have an office where I can write at least. My office is my favorite room in the house. In those ways, it gives me the solitude I need to get the work done and keeps a roof over my head. I’m not a social butterfly around town, so I don’t have a lot of distractions other than when my dog wants to play fetch. Or when my son is with me and wants to chat about Marvel superheroes and Star Wars and Vietnam and a hundred other things.

My family is closeby, which means I’m around if they need me. Sometimes I turn them down for offers to have dinner together because it feels good to be asked, but I have the luxury of declining the offer. I have other things to do. Just because I’m not punching a clock doesn’t mean I’m not working.

I guess when I look at the STUFF that I want. A dream house, a 4Runner, bi-yearly trips to Europe, a Sprinter van, winters someplace tropical, it stings a little because I’m starting off from the ground level again, and those are things only the seasoned professional can afford. Those are luxuries. Maybe a different version of me who took a different path has those things and I’m feeling the pull of it on some quantum level.

So I was reading the War of Art and came across this:

Restance and Being a Star

Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.

Steven Pressfield, the War of Art

I’m not an heir to some family fortune. Nobody is chasing me with an advance check or a three book deal. I’m just a man who never shuts up about writing because it not only brings him peace of mind, on occasion it has given him joy. Feeling overwhelmed that my writing hasn’t allowed me to drop $700k on a house or a new Toyota is the sign of an amateur. Feeling frustrated that I don’t have thousands of followers is holding me back. I can either give in and take a job and go back to scribbling whenever I’m not so exhausted to stay awake, or I can use my time to throw myself into this endeavor. Sometimes losing myself in it and dragging my friends and readers down into it with me.

Maybe I’ll never be able to afford a big house or a nice car or trips or even a couch. But I’ll have the satisfaction of doing something that I love. I’ve had stuff before. Lots of stuff. And hardly any of it brought me any real joy. Right now, I can live a life without the pursuit of stuff and I can work towards manifesting my dreams.

Confidence

I will be the first to admit that I am not always the most confident person you will ever meet. When I was a kid, I was the one who hesitated when standing in front of those two whirling whips in gym class they called Double Dutch. I have hesitated in my career, in schooling, and in love more times than I am comfortable admitting. Some of my biggest hesitations have been with my own kids and lately, a huge hesitation has been with my writing.

Though I am making headway, as I have talked about in recent posts, I had to be honest and say that sometimes I verge on the borderlines between not knowing what the hell I am doing, or even seeing any point in anything that I am doing. Right now I am looking at my book and wondering what techniques I should use, how I should structure it, how to tell the story, or even doubting that I have a story that I am telling. I don’t read a lot of the genre that I am working on currently, and that is either going to be a benefit or a hazard. I have a lot of great moments I am stringing together, but also I am lacking confidence in seeing how anyone will even care about these moments, or maybe just see it as some some of self-aggrandizing project. It could all be a complete mess.

In other words, unless I’m writing about dragons or cthonic beasts or flawed heroes, sometimes it is hard for me to get any focus. Maybe I just have a hard time reading about everyday life because it is so disappointing. I tend to write and read for escapist entertainment. Writing this book is very much a process, rather than an escape.

I don’t know. It seems easy enough to put the words down, but without a background in reading this type of thing, I’m flying blind as far as structure, plot, and story goes. I do also think that maybe I have the advantage to writing without a prescribed method in my mind and maybe come up with something different. A departure from what people are used to, with a fresh voice and a different perspective.

One of my biggest hurdles to overcome–and I know this intimately–is my lack of confidence in my abilities, my opportunities, and whether or not anyone even gives a fuck once I have this all written. Considering my ambitions to travel write, podcast, blog, and write books that has gone over like a lead balloon, it is difficult to say the least. What do you say to someone who has failed at nearly everything they have ever tried?

Confidence doesn’t always pay off when you have it. And what little I have left is evaporating.

So much time on my hands

“I haven’t posted here in a while” might be the words that are the death knell for a lot of blogs, podscasts, YouTube channels, and other creative content.  It is the holiday season, and among a dozen other excuses, I have to say that there is no one good reason that I haven’t posted here in a while, other than I just haven’t had a lot to write about.  That doesn’t mean I am out of ideas, but more that I have had to change the focus of why I write.

It certainly isn’t for “likes.”

I still have no idea how people monetize their sites.  My attempt to get an Amazon account went with a six month probationary period not even getting me the three sales from linked content that I needed in order to qualify.  My web-traffic is pretty low, except from Russia and China, which I suspect might just be spamming attempts.  In other words, not a lot of people are reading it.

That shouldn’t be the reason for writing things, though it is nice to think that whether it is a book, an essay, an article, or a blog, people are reading and hopefully enjoying what you have to say. If you are writing for attention, to get likes, to get affirmation, or try to get people to like you as a person, you probably need to reassess why you are doing it.

Recharging the batteries

Lately I have been listening to a lot of podcasts.  The ones with creative people were the most interesting, since it allows you to see what their creative process is, especially in a field as insular as writing.  Not long ago, before Twitter and Facebook obliterated the blogging communities, a lot of us got together on sites such as LiveJournal, Blogger, and even WordPress.  There were online forums as well.  I used to frequen the Baen’s Bar and Asimov’s Forum almost obsessively, but it wasn’t just memes.  We wouldn’t have known what the hell memes are.

When I was a kid, I used to go with my dad to his workplace once in a while.  On the breakroom wall, someone would usually post some photocopied panel of a newspaper cartoon on the board.  They are relate-able.  They give you a chuckle, usually along the lines of whatever dismal work experience you are having, and then you move on.  That is what 90% of Facebook is these days.

We gave up our online communities for pictures of a lady yelling at a cat.

Junk food for the mind

It seems like any creative outlet gets blocked by something, some vice, some bit of junk food for our brains that wants us to sabotage ourselves instead of achievement.  The internet itself was networking the minds of the world into a global conversation, beyond borders, which quickly turned into a place for free hardcore sex, black market purchasing, and clickbait news sites that essentially destroyed real journalism.

I have been listening to podcasts because the content is so rich, but there is also an awful lot of junk in there too.  Sometimes it is exhausting and actually winds up draining my creativity.  One of the weird things I get from listening to podcasts is how much they remind me of the mentality of people trying to entice you into illegal drugs.  “You should do a podcast!”

Sometimes I have thought about doing one myself and I have had people tell me I should because I have a voice that would be good for it.  I’m not going to totally nix the idea, but really, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands.  If readership on my blog is any indication of what subscribers would be to a podcast or YouTube channel, it seems like an awful lot of work to just talk to myself for an hour or two.

As it stands now, in writing my blog, I am losing momentum.  It is an awful lot of output, production, and content with pretty much zero return to make it worth while.  I still have to work, raise my son, maintain a healthy relationship with my girlfriend, and just have a life in general.  It takes a lot to keep your life together.  My well for content isn’t dry, but I have to create it, edit it (sometimes), and publish it.

Some days, you just run out of steam.  Last night, I took an hour long nap after making dinner.  I needed that damn nap.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you will pay for it later.

So, no podcast.  No YouTube channel.  And really, if my readership here and at gettingoutmore.org was any indication of interest, I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on one of a hundred million podcasts already out there when something I’m fairly good at–writing–isn’t all that well received.

Just busy

I have been told that the key to a successful blog/Instagram/podcast/YouTube/readership in general is creating a steady stream of regular content.  Eventually people will catch on and they will read/watch/absorb, etc.  But as the person creating content, this is not so easy.  Aside from just being busy with life, two jobs, raising a kid, and having experiences to write about, it’s difficult.  I can see why so many people give up.

I’m not really giving up, but I’m not doing it to get rich either.  At this point, I’m not even doing it to supplement my income.  I’m doing it as a compulsive tendency.  The majority of my readers seem to be Russian spam-bots.

Thankless

Constantly generating content is often thankless, and writing can be such a fickle, gatekeeper controlled venture that I vehemently discourage people from considering it as a livelihood.  God only knows how quickly I would starve to death if I had to rely on writing as my primary income.  Constantly generating content is thankless, and exhausting.  Writing creatively, whether it is a personal blog post, a travelogue entry, or working on my novel are very fulfilling and are the most effective way to keep me sane.

So there is value in that.  More than I could ever attribute to a dollar amount.

Being the Enemy at the Gates

I try to follow leads, I push my writing on social media, and I try to work with connections, but for whatever reason, what I’ve got doesn’t seem to be what a lot of people want.  Emails to editors are unanswered.  Queries might as well be nothing.  And the gatekeepers of social media mean that a socialite in a bikini can get more online presence than anything I write.  Maybe I need to show more skin?

I’ve always sorta felt like an outsider, even with my writing.  I had stacks of rejection letters that were pretty much “Missed it by *that* much.”  Hell, that seems to be how life is sometimes.  It has led to a bad habit of many abandoned, unfinished projects.

It can be maddening, but there’s a part of me that thinks maybe I’m missing something, like one day I will stumble across a button I didn’t know needed to be switched on and my content will be distributed around the world.  Who knows.  Again, writing for other people will drive you crazy.

For now, I will just continue to write for me, and if people like it, they will read it.