The Juice

I’m up tonight for a different reason. Other than the cup of coffee I had at 9pm, I picked up some assignments today and have a few days to get them done. I’m trying to discipline myself better on getting the work done earlier than the day of the deadline. I’m excited to do these. There is a certain thrill of getting assignments when you A) don’t know when you’ll get more B) Don’t even know if these will sell. But unlike July when I got so few, it is nice that there is at least some work out there.

But now my mind is spinning on how to write them. Steeling myself to get as much done over the next couple days as possible to free up my weekend, and well, there is the elephant in the room for me.

I haven’t worked on the book much over the last couple weeks. I’ve been too busy with other things. At the end of the day, I find myself scrolling social media or bombarding friends with TikToks. Last night I did sleep though. I slept seven hours solid for the first time in a while without antihistamines, a nightcap, or even listening to ASMR videos on YouTube. Part of that is probably that it is cooler.

The leaves are starting to turn. I think it is going to be an early Fall this year.

I need to get my files sorted on my computer for upcoming photo shoots. The Fall colors up here are amazing. I can probably improve storage space by deleting a bunch of pictures, or putting them on my backup drive. Which I will probably do in the next few days or so.

The challenge I face tomorrow is knowing I have three assignments to write and I often find it hard to get motivated enough to just freakin’ do it. I almost always feel better when I am done, but the worst part is the waiting. Then the edits, which might come several weeks later. It leaves me second-guessing myself and my abilities. I don’t necessarily agree with some of the clients who send back requests. I think much of it is based on what their analytics come back with as far as SEO optimization suggestions. That doesn’t always make for better writing, or interesting content.

But like the pteradactyl on the Flintstone’s says when they use him like a record player, ” MAWWH! It’s a living!”

Tonight I’m nervous about starting the assignments tomorrow. I hope like Hemingway says, “As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come.”

I would really love to do some writing for me tonight, which is the whole reason I even posted this. I’m hoping to get my head out of the place where I have to be to write content for customers, and instead focus on my own story, which has been sorely neglected as of late.

Maybe all I need to do is start.

Goals in Writing

I came across a quote today in a book I was reading for research. Travel writer Gabi Logan writes:

“If you set the wrong goals, you’ll end up with a “successful” life that you never really wanted in the first place.”

That really hit hard after this weekend. Recently, I’ve written that I have felt like creatively, my work process had ground to a halt. On the forum of the agency I write for, many of us support each other by speaking our minds and comisserating. Another writer had posted that she was experiencing much the same thing. The both of us were fighting hard just to complete the assignments we had accepted. With almost no motivation to push forward, we wondered what was wrong with us.

Last night, I hit my deadline by just minutes, having spent the Fourth of July Weekend catching up with those assignments that were like pulling teeth to complete. Five 2000 word pieces for law firms about personal injury suits. I wrote all five in three days. Procrastinating all the way to the last hours before they were due. If I really get moving, I can write one of those in about an hour and a half, but at that point, I just feel like my hands are lead and just pounding down on the keyboard to make my word counts. It’s all the same stuff I have written a dozen times or more.

The company just needs the words to trigger Google’s algorithm with keywords and SEO phrases to game the system. The bottom line is always “Contact us if you would like to learn more.” The worst part is they will just run what I have written through an SEO checker to see if it gets a high enough score to accept. Eliminate all passive verbs. Sprinkle in those key words. Add enough links to make Google track it all back to similar content. They don’t even really care what I wrote or how I turned a phrase, so long as it checks out with the robot.

When I read Gabi Logan’s quote, I thought about my weekend, and how I have been paying the bills with writing copy like this. I’m just a funnel for words that works marginally better than an AI content generator. Who knows, I might even be cheaper. I have gotten very good at what I do in writing content. I can do it quickly and other than a few typos, I generally nail the requirements in the first pass. I have about an 80% first draft success rate. But that resistance comes knocking.

It isn’t the same Resistance Steven Pressfield writes about in The War of Art, but something else. Something like what I felt when I was sitting in front of a clock at my desk at the University, literally watching the minutes of my life pass me by without feeling a sense of fulfillment. I know in the past, I have written that a bad day of writing still beats a good day of working. I have always been afraid that writing would turn into a “job” and I might start resenting it the way I did scheduling classes or answering phone calls.

The reason my University job sucked was I started with a skillset and I left with pretty much the same skillset. In twenty years, I learned almost nothing. Unlike people who enter a trade and become better welders or carpenters until they reach the point of being Masters of their trade, or someone who starts a business and comes out with enough expertise to become a mentor or a consultant for others, hardly anything changed as far as my abilities, other than I got quick enough and efficient enough to allow myself to have massive downtown and nearly terminal boredom.

When I write SEO, it feels a lot like that. When I write creatively, every time I learn how to tell a story better. I’m finding insight and showing it to others in a unique voice. I have meaning. My purpose is to connect with others. In the necessity of writing content for companies to conform to their algorithmic standards, I am just fueling a template. My fulfillment is getting enough money to put food in the fridge or gas in the tank.

The crazy thing is most of us are taught to believe it’s one or the other. We can work and pay the bills, or we can dream and starve. Many, many people actually get to do what they love and thrive financially. It is possible! Unfortunately for me, I’m seeing the fruits of my labor of setting the wrong goals and being “successful” at something I never really wanted.

I think that Resistance is telling me that it is time to take another step. I still need to push out of my comfort zone of surviving and continue to reach for thriving. That is my goal. I might be good enough to quickly write content for webpages and trick the AI, but I don’t like doing it. I get no meaning out of it. The reason is survival, but what is the intention? To continue to keep my head down and do the safe thing, I suppose.

It’s time to get some better intention. To thrive, doing what I have been working hard to do in order to hone my skills. A writer is like a tradesperson, only instead of wood or pipe or masonry, we work in words to construct thoughts to share with others.

I’ve had people tell me I am a great writer. There are days I lose that veneer of false modesty and push past the crippling doubt and ask myself if they are right. Maybe I could be but my reach hasn’t been exceeding my grasp. I’ve been going after low-hanging fruit when it comes to creativity. I’ve considered giving up.

I think now I need to set goals because I have a feeling the safe bet is reaching its conclusion. I think content writing will soon be replaced by AI entirely and I will find myself once again polishing brass on the Titanic, just as I did with higher ed. I wasn’t happy then. The only difference now is I’m using my skills, like a watchmaker using the tools of his trade to assemble IKEA furniture.

Time to set better goals.

Thank you for reading.

Distractifications

Last night when I went to bed, I had big plans for today. I was going to wake up early, sit down and really just go to town with writing. I should have known this morning at 8:40 when I woke up that all those plans were going to get blown to hell. I’m still working up to my routine. Yesterday, I felt that push of Resistance. I saw that long corridor of fear and that Sissiphysian push uphill with my rock, that I chose to see it as. Instead of seeing it as the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I wonder if this is what keeps stray dogs wandering around neighborhoods where they have been chained too long.

I forced my hand to make the words happen and it worked. It always feels good to write. Every chance I get to set down and snatch the words out of the aether and put them on the page feels good. What doesn’t feel good is sitting on my ass doing data entry. Listening to coworkers talk about ham or taffy for hours, or be regaled by the tales of recent surgeries or the medicines they are taking for something as stupid as being overweight.

This morning is a moment of resistance. The Newtonian law of an object at rest remaining at rest applies to the Creative mind as well. The unbalanced force is when we will ourselves to put our butts in the chair, pick up that artist’s pencil, start mixing paint, or turning off social media and turning on our minds.

But wait. There might just be that one friend on Facebook who says something witty, or maybe I can visit with someone to become motivated? Or maybe this book will write itself and I just don’t wannnnnaaaaa!!!!

These are all just ways to continually distract yourself. Binge-watching a series on Netflix, arguing with someone about politics/pandemics/Star Wars. I understand that I need to build a resume, that I need to build my website again–after losing a year’s worth of posts. I need to keep my options open for freelance work and have to check Indeed and LinkedIn and other sites for this. And I should set up a Fiverr account too to try to bring in more income.

But what I have had the opportunity to do for several weeks now, but haven’t because of distractions is work on the book. First it was the pandemic, then the layoff, then the breakup, then the…damn, I’ve run out of distractions…how do I create more? Why not work on the book? I can do that. I can do all the rest and still have time. Once you remove the time you piss away on social media and driving around to run errands, you free up a lot of time. Even the words I’m writing right now are a way to distract myself. So, why?

Because I’m afraid of that book. It’s one thing to write a paid blog post about why you should shop at a certain hardware store, or the dangers of toxic mold, but when that writing gets bought, you feel good. You get to put a little away in savings. You get to pay a bill. When they don’t sell, you shrug and just figure that was a small chunk of your time that didn’t pan out. When you spend YEARS writing a book, and people hate it, or worse yet, people buy it and never read it. Well, you wonder why you spent all that time writing it in the first place. You have made more money writing about rain gutters or dental implants.

There are worlds out there your mind is creating and it’s up to your butt (in that chair), your fingers (on those keys), and your caffeine tolerance (how much until my heart actually explodes?) to get those stories out.

You risk it all when you tell people your dreams.

But when those dreams don’t get to be born, they die inside of you. When they are on the page, they flirt with immortality.

Time to stop letting myself be distracted. Today, I get to do something about it.