The Metric of Success

Today I’ve been struggling a little bit with feeling like a fraud. This is something a lot of creatives go through, especially if they have been living in the other world of punching a clock for some time

Not counting this blog post, today was a 5,500 word day. The problem my brain is trying to cope with is though I have been writing throughout the day, from around 9am until now, I haven’t been paid for a single word of it.

A part of me is panicking a little bit, since for the last EVER many years, I have been taught to equate productivity with how much money you get from the work you do. Never mind that I spent a big part of my childhood doing volunteer work with the Boy Scouts or my school. I even worked at events when my ex wife worked for a non-profit when we lived in Wyoming. But volunteer work is usually reserved for people meting out community service requirements ordered by a judge, or rich people who don’t need to put a dollar amount on their time.

The work I’m doing isn’t either of those things. What I am doing is writing a book in hopes that one of these days someone might want to give me money for it so they can publish it and a bunch of other people will read it. Until that happens, however, I’m working on spec. Which means I could just be wasting my time.

But hey, I wasted eighteen years at a job that gave me the axe and didn’t care what happened to me next. A lot of those years were spent mindlessly, needlessly pushing papers from one side of my desk to the other. And by the time everything was digitized, I just dragged and dropped files. That was work I did for someone else. Sure, they gave me money for it, but I was hardly fulfilled.

Now I feel fulfilled, but I’m scrounging the cupboards to economize. I’m worrying about how I will pay bills. I’m beating myself up thinking how I am wasting my time.

And then I sit down and write 5,500 of some of the best stuff that I have written in my life. The shitty thing about it is we have all been taught to put a price tag on our creativity. When your bank account starts to dwindle, you start doubting yourself. Making a living on writing or art or music or anything that isn’t punching a time clock is for other people. Immensely talented people. You feel like a fraud. A schmuck. A dreamer who won’t ever do anything of note or value. Someone who needs to get a real job.

It’s no longer about getting in your own way, but overcoming a lifetime of training as what we are supposed to do and be. Anything outside of that is punished. Society is a self-cleaning oven when it comes to rewarding people who step outside of their place. They either don’t last long, or they thrive.

Maybe success should be measured in how light your heart feels at the end of the day, instead of how much money you have in your bank account.

Frustration and Staying Frosty

So, I moved my travel blog (not that it will be getting any mileage in the foreseeable future, for obvious reasons) to WordPress. It was supposed to be a little cheaper, and the domain host that I had been using was not that great. All customer service was done by automated responses to keywords which directed me to a Tech Info Library.

So, I moved the domain.

Only to discover that none of the content moved with it. But because it never made it to Google, I can’t even use the wayback machine to copy and paste a year’s worth of content to the new site. It’s gone. All of it.

When life throws those kinds of things at you, all you can do is find the lesson in it. You see, I have a LiveJournal blog that I wrote on from 2007 all the way until pretty much the end of last year. All of that content is still there. Unlike the blog site I paid for, which is gone, never showed up on a Google search in spite of all the add ons and bullshit I paid for, and now it is so much pixelated dust.

The lesson here is write locally, upload globally.

Kinda the same with my book. You see, people are buying and potentially reading my book, but they are getting copies of it from sites on Amazon that aren’t my account because I never get paid for them. The Chinese are notorious for this. Copyright? What’s that? I’ve had many friends who find their works printed off from China and they never see a red cent.

The only bummer is that I probably no longer have a PDF of the finished copy of my book the way Createspace had it, because I could just go to Createspace and run off copies for cost and give them or sell them to people. I could buy three or sometimes four copies of my book for what Amazon wanted for just one. I did this a lot. Because I feel like it’s better to be read than it is to get rich.

I know I’m not going to get rich. Money-wise anyway. There are other kinds of wealth. Granted, I wouldn’t mind selling some writing to help pay the rent, which is why I write SEO content for companies. It is usually joyless work, but it is more fulfilling than changing the same classes over and over and over again for professors who don’t feel that working five days a week is for them. No, they do everything they can to shore up their teaching schedule into maybe three days so they get four day weekends.

This is why I’m going to be writing about the underbelly of the Ivory Tower soon enough. I have 18 years experience in this kind of fuckery. It’s time to share it with the world. There’s a good reason Higher Ed is failing right now. Why one of the biggest crises to hit the US is the student loan bubble. That’s why the Feds are looking to bail out loan holders right now. They painted themselves into a corner by not allowing bankruptcies, and rather than bring back debtors prison, they have to do something. Might as well winnow out the small remaining loans so they can continue to milk the big bulls.

This, my friends, is how you get the Great Depression II. Inflate loans people can’t pay (but keep issuing them) and then the bottom drops out of the economy. Boom. You now how an impoverished class. Or at least an economic crisis.

And this stimulus package to just pay everyone $1000 to $3000 dollars? It reminds me a lot of the German state in the 1920s. Lets just print off more money. What color deutchmarks would you like to plaster the bathroom with? I guess if they run inflation up, that toilet paper crisis in the US will be solved. Just go to the ATM machine!

Anyway, that is my dispatch today. Stay safe. Be patient. And be kind.

Obligatory writing post #217

Yesterday, I wrote a lot.  The post on my visit to Bath on gettingoutmore.org wound up becoming two posts. While I was attempting to add pictures to the posts, I thought of a clever title for Part I, from lyrics to a Sting song, All This Time.  1,100 words vanished with the next autosave, even though I had been saving drafts like crazy.

Sometimes the mechanics of writing these blogs can be frustrating.  Last week, my post went out with nearly every picture of London rotated 90 degrees.  My wordpress.com and wordpress.org sites don’t play nicely together.  What is worse is moving between Mac and PC platforms.  All of my pics are on the iCloud, and so far my smoothest way to get these pics is to upload them to Facebook as a post and then download them onto a computer so I can drag and drop them into WordPress.  If I try to go straight from the cloud to WordPress, it just messes everything up.

I have been putting off writing about my UK trip, and I don’t even know why.  Some of the reasons/excuses I have are that there is still a lot to digest about that trip. Also, it takes an hour to write a post.  I don’t do short posts, as you might have noticed.  I don’t do top ten lists.  I don’t do 5 Mind Blowing Reasons Why X posts.

Why?

Because I hate reading them.  Why would I want to write them?

Luckily, I have found some other travelogue type sites through association here on my wordpress reader.  Unfortunately, like I said, WordPress.com doesn’t play well with sites outside of it.  Such as Gettingoutmore.org.  So nobody will ever see my site on the Reader.  The learning curve just sucks.  I would rather write content, go places, etc. than monkey around with the ever-changing landscape of WordPress.  Most people can’t follow my posts.  So I link them from here at Wendigo Mountain.

Which probably sounds somewhat sinister to some passersby, which is why I probably don’t get a lot of traffic to either site.

Right now, I am basically giving these stories away for free too.  It’s not much different than just talking to someone about a trip you took while you are socializing at a party.  Except that here you are talking, there is nobody listening, and there’s not even a party.

I have equated writing these blogs to shouting a story down a well.

There’s not even a monster that lives at the bottom of the well.  It’s just your own voice echoing up.  Yesterday was around 3000 words (two 1000 word posts and one rewrite from scratch) of words shouted to the bottom of the well.

I hit a wall.

Last night, I was in a serious funk.  The isolation crept in.  The insular effect was so thick I could feel it. Alone in my house.  My efforts largely ignored. Who gives a shit?  This is all vanity.  Why am I wasting my time?  This isn’t the life I was born into, why think I would do anything other than work for a faceless institution that would replace me by the end of the week if I were to walk out?

Maybe people are reading, but usually nobody comments.  Who gives a damn if they did anyway.  Lurkers.  Tourists.  People who just “like” a post but never read it…it’s the equivalent of giving every third-grader a gold star for participation.  Nobody cares about your clay dog sculpture, Timmy.

Writing on these platforms used to be a two way street.  What’s more is a blog I follow where someone posts a picture of a bird they took with a crappy joke every day gets about 85 comments and 200 likes every day.

Yes, I’m whining.  I’m comparing.  If you don’t like it, comment.

So, the writing.  I said this was going to be a writing post.

I am involved in three personal writing projects right now.

  • The first is the alt-history fantasy about World War One, set in the same world as the first book hardly anyone read.  The tentative title is With Other Eyes to See.  Right now, it is stalled.  Mostly because I have been working on it so long that I have lost a lot of continuity.  There are beautiful pieces. And there are pieces that no longer mean anything, which I will need to rewrite.
  • The second is the travelogue.  Gettingoutmore.org.  It is the warm and fuzzy, optimistic project in which I talk about all the places I’ve been going and all the fun I have been having.  Which is true.  I really have been enjoying my adventures!  I’m eager for the next one.  So eager that I got home from work yesterday and as I was putting my key into the lock to walk into an empty house, I thought to myself, “Why the fuck am I even here?”  I wanted to be on my way to an airport or a train station.  My wallet feels so empty without a passport in it these days.
  • The third project is something between my travelogue and the thoughts and experiences I was actually having.  A narrative of so much going on, which has been happening for the last five or six years.  Everything just bubbling up, which the traveling has been facilitating.  It could be a novel.  I think it could be a good one.  It would be a deep cut into my life, but also fictionalized to protect the innocent.  Mainly me.

The biggest problem I face is having so many projects, and having to write paid blogs to offset my enormous child support contribution each month.  So, sometimes my creativity goes to figuring out how to write three articles at 300 words each about clamps for metal roofing.

Also, there is the lack of feedback.  Not only instant gratification, but when you sit down and crank out thousands of words of a plotted story, with believable and likable characters, set in a world of your own creation, and the only response you get is “Neat story!” from readers.  You just kinda die a little bit inside.

Last night, I sat alone in my house, unable to write.  Unwilling to do laundry or dishes.  I watched response videos on YouTube.  Vocalists responding to the first time hearing songs from bands like Queensryche, Steelheart, Alice in Chains, and even Led Zeppelin.

It gave me hope that art moves people in positive ways.