Happy Tuesday

black and red typewriter on white table
Pictured: The author’s dream.
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Last week was something that I really had to get out and superseded this post here. This means there’s a little bit of overlap in material, but only just a little.

There’s a lot of self-disclosure involved in writing. You think really hard about what you’re going to say, how you feel, you spill your guts onto the page, and then you shove it out into the world for other people to read. To know you. To hopefully, one day, understand you.

This happens even when you write fiction – not that fiction writers are just writing semi-autobiographical stories, but you can see what types of lessons they get out of the scenarios they think will be compelling. You see their values in the way they expect certain characters to be received. 

And then, of course, you have the general vulnerability of working hard on something that gets released to the world (and the trolls), open for anyone to walk past and spit on. 

I’ve been feeling a lot of this self-consciousness since I started this path. My whole life I was told that creative jobs weren’t worth it, that I’d starve, that anyone who thought they could be professionally creative was just some loser child who didn’t know how the world worked. Despite all the cheery, silly posts on this blog and on Twitter, this has been the undercurrent of my life since the beginning.

So here I am, starting a new series on this blog. I thought maybe I’d talk a little more about myself and how I actually feel about going through all the changes associated with being a writer. Just on Tuesdays. I’ll still talk about writing tips that I learn or am learning or am trying. I’ll still provide more emotionally-detached updates on this process. But that’s a Saturday post. Today is dedicated to learning how to share a bit more about myself and my experiences on the job, and getting more comfortable with self-disclosure, while keeping on this side of TMI. 

I put in my two weeks’ notice at work over a month ago, and when asked why I was leaving I wasn’t able to tell them the whole truth. I told them that I was stepping away for my health (which is 1,000% true). That health problem was being forced to work a job that kept me from the one dream I’ve always had, though. But explaining to them that one of their last developers was leaving to go “be a writer” felt so childish. 

I can barely say it out loud to my spouse, who was the person who coordinated this exodus with me. It comes out occasionally, but I blush immediately after. Hide my face.

It also has a bit of humility in it as well. Not only do I feel like a foolish child for the dream in general, but thinking you could actually make a living off of any creative endeavor is admitting that you think you’re good enough to do so. Which is a perfectly okay thing to think about yourself, but it wasn’t when I was growing up. They taught self-esteem in school, but they socialized self-deprecation, adults and children alike. 

And don’t get me wrong: I know I still have a long way to go before I’m NYT Bestseller material (if that’s even possible), but I’m not hopeless. I need practice and feedback and to learn so much, but I bet can get to “pretty okay” one day. I think. Maybe. We’ll see. Until then, I just need to keep moving forward.

There you have it, folks. The first second of many posts where I actually write on what I really wanted to make this blog about in the first place. I’m always open to questions, but until then I’ll just keep writing about what I’m thinking or feeling I suppose.

Fear and Repression

low angle view of man standing at night
Photo by Lennart Wittstock on Pexels.com

A lot of fear has been fucking me up recently. I say recently, but I’ve been affected by it since the beginning, I think.

I’ve always been a little odd. A dreamer. Instead of playing with the other kids I made up worlds to live in. When I learned how to read, I also started writing. My first real attempt at writing a novel came when I was in the third grade. What I couldn’t put into words, I put into images, whether paint or crayon or clay. What I couldn’t put into words or images, I put into music, by singing or playing the flute. 

I saw so much potential in the world. I felt deeply about it. Cared about it. But then I was told to put it all away. 

No one can make a living from painting or writing or music, said my parents. Sit down and do as you’re told, said my teachers. Play the way the rest of us do, said my peers. I was harassed and ostracized, isolated from others, and then taken advantage of and hurt even worse when I strayed from the herd.

So I learned to extinguish that which made me me. I learned that to be different is to be offensive and to be offensive is to become vulnerable. I learned to keep my opinions to myself. To keep my emotions in check. To dull my sense of wonder and excitement. This lead to a deep depression and nagging anxiety for my entire life. 

As I grew, I learned new and different ways I didn’t fit in. I’m not straight, I’m not cis, I can’t honestly conform to philosphies and religions around me. My political stances are more extreme than others, and I can’t share any of it lest I, again, become ostracized. 

But what does ostracization mean now? I’m an adult. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and smart enough to see through the lies of snakes. Honestly, I’m fairly isolated anyway, even before this pandemic. I have friends, of course, but I have remained fairly withdrawn from them. I have a spouse, too, but a lot of what I think or feel still tends to go unsaid, if only out of habit.

So here I am, someone who wants to write for a living. Someone who wants to express themselves, their worldview, and their emotions, and then elicit emotions, thoughts and philosophy from their audience, but now…

Who the fuck even am I? What do I actually care about? What am I even feeling right now?

The first thing that comes to mind is grief. I am still so hurt by my dog’s passing, but I don’t mention it to anyone. No more than a, “oh no, it’s fine,” if it gets mentioned. Or I’ll talk about how I only remember the happy times with her now. 

It’s all lies. I didn’t want to burden anyone with my feelings. I didn’t want to appear like I’m an attention-seeker trying to get fake internet points. 

I couldn’t grasp for the longest time why anyone would go online and talk about how they really feel. The only purpose I saw in someone saying how they were sad online was to get pity, likes, money, or all three. But that’s not it, is it? 

There’s definitely some manufactured authenticity out there, of course.. But then there are those who truly are just sharing themselves with the world. Those who know what it’s like to feel completely and utterly alone, who want others like them to know that they aren’t actually alone, just separated by space. Or those who are tired of being alone, and want to reach out to receive vulnerability in kind.

I am slowly finding things out, though. And, now that I’m safely tucked away in my house all the time, I’m gaining confidence in these new findings. I’m realizing that the fear that’s been holding me back has outlived its purpose. 

This fear of rejection for being who I am has stopped me from being anyone. I haven’t cultivated the strength to stand up for others. I haven’t gathered the resources to help anyone else. I haven’t built anything or connected with (nearly) anyone, and I wonder who else has fallen into this trap.

Some of my beliefs or philosophies are childish or under developed as they haven’t had time to be challenged or shaped. I want to share them anyway. Some might be controversial or even offensive to some. I’m slowly learning how to be okay with that, while still open to learning to change. 

I don’t have much else to say right now, except that I’m going to try to change this, starting with taking stock of the emotions I feel on a day to day basis. 

So what is Charlie feeling right now? I’m feeling sadness and grief – not just for my absent fluffball of joy, but for a life poorly lived – and I’m feeling angry that I have to feel sadness and grief for both of those things. I feel a little more bold than usual, hence writing this rambling essay of nonsense, and I’m hoping that I feel just as bold when the time comes to publish it. I feel inspired by my own boldness, hopeful that it will actually help me for the future, and I feel a little narcissistic at being inspired by myself. 

And now I’m chuckling at how completely insane all of this sounds, but feeling just a little more at home in my own skin.

How about you? What are you feeling right now?

One Month In

A self portrait

It has been a little under a month since I started to write full time. Or, more accurately, have attempted to write full time. Writing is a very thought-intensive job and after spending what felt like a lifetime of my brain slowly turning into mush, going back to a job where I had enough knowledge to sit down in the morning and keep working until I died has been a difficult adjustment.

I don’t say this to whine. I only want to represent this transition accurately. After all, that was the whole point of this blog. 

Other things I’ve noticed are feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing, feeling like I’m not getting anything done, and the overwhelming feeling of calm when I remember what life used to be like.

No idea what I’m doing

I chose an awkward time to quit my day job. Just a week and three days before NaNoWriMo started gave me enough time to sit down, start to plan, and then realize that my next month was already spoken for: write 50,000 words for a novel. You can see this in my retrospective, too. The goal is to write the words. That’s it.

But for that first week, I tried to come up with a schedule for my day. These hours I would write my novel. Those hours I would write blog posts or short stories or edit one or the other. I tried to slip in an hour or two of interaction with the community or time to get my marketing strategy together. It felt official, but honestly none of it really sat right. I tried to put this schedule into practice, but it fell apart in about two hours. 

It was the exhaustion mostly. But I also just didn’t really know exactly how I need to work yet. I based it off of what Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing and so it makes sense that it failed. It isn’t for me. 

So I’ve been researching, trying to see what other writers do all day. I don’t think I’ll have the brain power to try most of the methods until NaNo is over, though. 

Not getting anything done

Again the exhaustion has a big hand in this. I’ll sit down and write for about four hours (staring into space for about two or three of them) and then have to take a nap. Then I realize I’m hungry. Or I realize I hadn’t showered yet today (or for a few days). Then I go do all those things and realize it’s time to start on dinner.

For that first week before NaNo, I also took a look at all the other things I wanted to accomplish. The social media stuff I wanted to prepare, the educational content I wanted to watch or read, the contest I wanted to participate in, the personal essays I wanted to write for Medium, the business plan I wanted to write up for myself…the list goes on. There are so many tasks I want to do and it feels like there’s not enough time to do them. 

However: I don’t despair. I plan. 

Once NaNoWriMo is over, I will be crafting my future. Five years, one year, one quarter, one month, one week, and then keeping up with a daily plan. I already set goals for myself on a yearly/monthly/weekly/daily basis, but this will be a more structured way of looking at it, or a more detailed way to plan for a loose schedule – we’ll see. Either way, I will organize the fuck out of this problem, and hopefully that will work. 

That overwhelming calm

I am one of those people who watch ASMR videos before I go to sleep at night. I had one that I absolutely loved, but she had a very distinct accent – one that matched my boss’s accent. It was fine for a little while, but eventually he started to pile more and more stress on me and it got to the point where just hearing his voice made me go into panic mode. This bled over into those ASMR videos, and I had to stop watching them. After I quit, I feel like those videos calmed me all the more. I would hear that accent, start to go into panic mode, and then remember that I will never have to answer to that man again. 

Another interesting thing: everyone likes to say “never make a hobby your job because then you don’t have any hobbies,” but I have had a different experience so far. I felt a pressure every morning to get up before work and write. On the weekends, I needed to write. On the holidays, on my vacation time, on my sick days, I needed to write write write. Every spare moment I had, I needed to work toward my lifelong goal of being a writer. That meant I was working two jobs, essentially. When I took a day off I felt guilty, like I was throwing away a dream, so I could never truly relax. There was always something that I could be doing to get the fuck away from my office job. 

But then I quit the office job. Writing is my full time gig now. I’m not making money yet, so there’s some pressure to produce something to get me there, but I also have 40 hours a week to do that in, instead of like 15 (if I wanted to retain my sanity). I can take real lunch breaks now. I can sleep in. That also means I can go on a weekend trip (whenever the world decides to stop ending) and not feel like I have to bring my work with me in order to squeeze a few more words out. 

Yeah, I need to find another hobby, but I had like six of them lined up that I felt bad never pursuing anyway, so I can just go down the list.

I don’t have to choose between writing and bathing. Or writing and exercising. Or writing and taking the time to cook a healthy meal for me and my spouse. I can do all of these things and more now. I’m finally free.

There will come a time where I will have a LOT of work to do (hopefully), but for now it’s calm. And when I do get that work, it will be mine. I’ll get to choose what I do and who I do it for and how long I take to do it. That will be my prerogative, and I’m okay with that.