2020/10/12: …and miles to go before I sleep [Creativity and Comittment: 2]

[This is probably the 93rd post I’ve made with that title. Deal.]

I’m really here because I haven’t been here in a while.  I guess it’s been the better part of a week.

Damn. My brain just isn’t all that thirsty for the word today.

I saw a tweet by @deeperthrill

  • You need to build momentum with whatever you’re doing. Because the minute you stop rolling a boulder up a hill, it starts to roll back down.

And I realized that my attempts to pursue multiple threads is just getting me absolutely nowhere.  My commitment to a page of fiction a day based on my previous post is just a bunch of crap if I’m not committing myself to an actual project.  

Sure, it’s a useful exercise. But those little bites of disjointed productivity aren’t doing me any real favors if I don’t put them in the context of the rest of my day.

What’s going on is something like this:

I wake up in the morning with a little bug in my ear saying “so what  are you going to write about today?” and I treat it like homework.  Being high neurotic means I’ll let it claw at my brain all day.  So then, ‘round about 9 or 10 o’clock I’ll open my notebook and glance over at it while traipsing through my mind (or back through prior pages) to see what kind of vignette I can come up with, either from a writing prompt or from the back of my mind, I can blurt out to a page.

Once I’ve got one and I get the first sentence in (a process which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 5 hours, biasing towards the latter) the rest just dumps out to the page pretty much as fast as I can move the pen.

And it feels great to do.  It really feels like an act of creation (unlike, strangely this which, while fun, is in truth little more than a therapeutic exercise.)  Once I’m done I push my wheeled desk chair back and exhale as through I’d been holding my breath for the entire time.  It usually backs right in to my keyboard, which I haven’t touched more than twice since I bought it a few months ago.

Then I walk away, satisfied that “I did what I said I was going to do.”  Keeping a promise to myself to write at least a page of fiction every day in Q4.

The problem is that fiction isn’t really my primary goal.  It’s just a thing I wanted to get good at.   Yeah maybe I’ll “actively pursue” it at some point. But right now it just feels like it’s sucking up my attention and focus.  I’m getting almost nothing done because I said that was what I had to do every day,  (There are other things I’m doing every day, push-ups, logging my weight and some other stuff I’m nowhere near sharing.)

So then what is the value of the promise?  I’m really bad at keeping promises to myself so is this just me trying to weasel my way out of something because it’s a little tough? 

If you’re low neurotic I think that last sentence may make no sense to you.  It’s taken me a long time to figure out that people just don’t think that way. 

What good is a promise to yourself if it keeps you from yourself in a real way?

Here’s some contorted logic for you sane people to chew on:  What if the promise of engaging in a new pursuit was made for the express purpose of distracting myself from my primary interests, in the name of “expanding my mind” as a clever dodge to justify my lack of focus?

So then, what about committing to fiction as my primary project or pursuit, even for a time?  Even typing that question leaves me short of breath with anxiety.  What about all the other stuff?  Working on the house. Building my own bookshelves (because I priced them out at $420 for a 7’ shelf for plain pine and they can kiss my ass with that shit) or my development projects?  Robotics? Infosec? Music?  I’ve already given up brewing entirely. 

Maybe…hmm… there are a couple stories in my little notebook of one-page efforts that I’d really like to finish.  Okay commit to finishing one of those stories at least. No idea what I’ll do with it once it’s done.  Hell, maybe I’ll just post it here. (So I guess this is going to be a blog post in a few minutes.) 

If I clean my slate of everything but that and some administrivia that I have to accomplish (which isn’t really trivia. It’s more important than just about anything as it’s logistical life stuff) I can probably get that done in a couple days.

Here’s a thing that used to happen most weekends when I was working full time:

Friday evening I’d get home, sit down at the computer and I’d say “Okay, I’ve got 48 hours to myself.  I can take this time and really accomplish something great.”  I usually meant in terms of a software project, and the ‘great’ was less objective than personal. 

Every once in a while I’d actually do it. I’d open my editors, kick off my testing environment and start ripping away at a project and get far enough that I was proud of my accomplishments. Along the way I’d have all of those “activity begets interest” insights all over again. I’d get in The Zone and just rip.

But it was VERY rare.  I’d usually end up going to bed hating myself for my lack of productivity and laziness.  So I’d go through a few weeks of that then reformat my primary desktop computer and put linux on it rather than windows since I couldn’t be tempted to play games.

Linux, though, on the desktop is pretty damned horrible still.  So I’d get fed up after a couple days and reintall windows, again defeated.

The real enemy for me is completing projects, always has been.  That’s one of the reasons this format comes so damned fluidly to me.  Its not a project. It’s got no beginning, middle, or end.  It really is just me babbling into a word document, letting my fingers drag my mind across the keyboard, come what may.

So…if that’s the real difficulty, then I’m trying to solve the wrong problem.  “Doing little things consistently” is right in principle. But not if they’re all different little things.  Again I’m slapped in the face by how strongly my current effort flies in the face of the Struthless video from my last post. 

Yes, writing a page or more of even disjointed fiction is a great task for getting my brain to just write. But doing so while working towards completion of single projects is going to be immeasurably better for my soul.  It forces me to learn something about story structure, characterization and pacing. 

Okay yeah.  So for now the slight tweak will be to complete the short story I’ve worked on a couple times throughout those previous 11 days of October and not to just “work on anything as long as I get the page down.”

Here’s another thing that I’ve realized recently:  I don’t actually KNOW anybody who’s a creator, not in my day to day life (there’s an exception that occurs to me off the top of my head. But Tad’s back in NY.)  I know an awful lot of cool people. But they’re not generally people who would self-define as “creatives.”  So, coming at this blind I’m trying to teach myself, with no example, what that kind of life is actually like.

You (read: I) wouldn’t think it would matter so much. But those attitudes and behaviors (probably what Peterson would call “microhabits”) are almost completely alien to me.  A lot of people whose content I consume online are of the “find what you’re passionate about and just keep driving.”  And that really seems like “let your muse through” hogwash.  Where’s the practice, the downtime.  Are Creatives really consumed by their artistic passion such that it’s on their mind all the time?  It sounds as wonderful as it does exhausting. 

I can’t imagine what it would be like to hang out at a bar with a bunch of creative people for a good long ass session. 

I’ve hit the writing equivalent of a 7 minute lull so I think I’m just going to post this as is and go on to something else.

This is starting to feel like it’s going to become a series, of which this will be the second part.