Monday, October 11, 2010

What's Up

I used to go to Dean Wesley Smith's blog site a lot. I really liked the advice and experience that he would pass down to us aspiring authors out there. I can't bring myself to go over there anymore. It just gets me down.

I hardly post on my own blog anymore. I feel guilty when I spend any time working on it.

I guess that's what life is all about, guilt and depression.

I have a family, and they demand a certain percent of my attention. They deserve even more of that attention. Someday, I'll be regretful for not giving them every moment they deserve, when they've grown and gone, and it's too late to give them what they deserve.

I have a job that demands a certain percent of my attention. It deserves less of my attention, but I've always been one of those people who gives their all for the job. I guess I don't belong to that entitlement generation.

I have this hobby that demands a certain percent of my attention. It's a little surprising how much work that podcast can be, even with all the help that people like Nicole and Bryan and all of our slush readers give us.

Then I have my dreams and ambitions. We have a listener who has been going back and listening to all our shows from the beginning, and Rish asked him to remind us of any ongoing gags that we use on the show. One of the things he mentioned is how we talk a lot on the show about stories that we will probably never write. Damn, that never stops weighing on my mind. Since I was a young man, I've wanted to be a writer. I've been pulled in one direction or another as I cruised through life, but the other things always faded away eventually. The writer inside me never goes away though.

My birthday is coming soon. Another year gone, and a whole lot more of nothing done to acheive my dreams. This year, I learned from Dean Wesley Smith the pathway that needs to be taken to become a writer. I'd been going along for years thinking that talent was what mattered, not hard work. He put me straight. What I need to do is write. Write, write, write. It's how one goes from being a mediocre writer to a good writer, and from good to great. Learning and practicing. When I learned that, I started immediately wishing that I'd heard it years ago. So many years wasted dreaming rather than practicing. Polishing my one story rather than practicing by writing another.

But it's been months since I learned what I need to do, and I still don't do it. I suppose I have many years to come that I will also waste dreaming rather than practicing. I just don't know where I can fit any of that stuff in. I already mentioned the time I have to spend on my job, my family, and my podcast hobby. I can barely find time for the podcast. And it's a never ending guilt circle. I feel guilty for ignoring my family to work on the show, so I try to work on it late at night when everyone has already gone to bed. When I start thinking about writing, I feel guilty that the podcast is being left unattended to. We'll never get a show a week like we say we want to.

Wow. Writing this crap has got me seriously depressed. Meanwhile, Rish is pinging me on the IM telling me about the skits he's writing for the show. Over the summer I came within a hair's breadth of quitting the podcast. Rish was with me on it for a while, but he got over it, and now, whenever I mention anything about it, I can see the hurt in his eyes. Quitting the podcast would be taken as a serious betrayal, I think. If I'd started it up by myself, and done it solo, I could've just dropped it whenever I wanted, like I did with my soccer podcast that I did three episodes of before deciding it was too much work for too little payoff. With Rish on board, however, it has to be a mutual decision, and I can tell that he doesn't agree with me.

Then there's all the listeners. We have a bunch of great listeners that would feel betrayed as well if I just decided to throw up my hands and say, "Eff you all, I quit." I don't know what to do. I'm sure if I quit the show, all that would happen is that I'd find some other way to occupy my time rather than writing. So I suppose there's no point in it at all.

I guess what I need to do is force myself to write a short amount each day, like a half hour. And then, when it gets to where I need more time, I can consider something more drastic. But before I throw away the one good creative thing I do, I better make sure I will actually replace it with writing if I did quit.

Half-hour a day. I could manage that, right? Don't answer that...I'm trying to not be depressed.


  1. Aw, poor Big. If it's any consolation, every creative person does this. I don't even have a family, and I was feeling down last night because I didn't get as much done on the podcast as I wanted this week-end, in spite of the fact that I've hardly done anything else. I also badly want to write another book, but I can't podcast and write at the same time. If I try to do two creative projects at once, I lose momentum on both.

    Here's my advice for what it's worth -

    If something's going to fall off your plate, choose what. Even if it hurts, choosing is better than letting it happen randomly. If you are able to see that everything will not fit on the shelf, don't wait until a random elements gets knocked off and falls on the floor. Choose which thing you're going to take off your plate...for now. For now! Not forever.

    Obviously, it can't be your family. I don't know much about managing family obligations, but I have parents and friends, and I will say that small amounts of focused time with people I love are always more valuable to me than large amounts of unfocused time. If the shoe fits... Also living with someone who is depressed is depressing. Finding time for what makes you happy is good for everyone.

    Writing - you're right; 30 minutes a day will get you there. However, some people can't build up momentum in that short a time. Big, I know everyone says "write ever day," but binge writers abound, and they finish books while happily ignoring this rule. If "write every day" is a stress and a burden, set aside an hour each day on the week-ends to write. You will still finish things. Take the pressure off your work days. Another thing you can do is tie the writing to something that has to get done. "I am not allowed to do X [eat, pee, pray, whatever] until I do my 30 minutes." If you can truly chain two things together, it can work wonders. Alternatively, set the writing aside for a while. If you do this, make a specific date when you will pick it up again. This is completely different from just drifting away. It is a choice; drifting is an accident. And then, stop worrying about it.

    The podcast - I really hope you don't get rid of it, because I will be sad. You've built up something valuable that will eventually melt away if you set it aside for a long time. However, if you have to take a hiatus for a month or two until it stops feeling like drudgery, do it. Alternatively, you can try to set firmer boundaries (famous last words). Podcasts expand to fill the available space. They'll take up every second of your spare time if you let them. So say to yourself, "I will work X hours on this X days. As fast as it gets done, that's how fast it will get done." Set a timer. Be rigorous.

    Hope you're feeling better this morning.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I feel compelled to give you a pep talk, so bear with me.

    None of this has to be all or nothing. I like your 1/2-hour a day plan. That's how I wrote my first novel. My daughter was 3 and my son was 18-months when I started it, and I wrote it in 45-minute chunks during nap time. It took awhile to get it written, but I still got there eventually. Writing regularly, a little at a time, is a great strategy. It gets you there in the end, plus it helps with inertia. Whenever I've stopped writing for a while, it's SO hard to get back into it. Kind of like exercising! But a little every day prevents that.

    But Abbie is right, if that doesn't work for you, figure out another way. I remember after reading Stephen King's On Writing, thinking that I couldn't write because I didn't have time to write 1000 words a day (which he recommends). Then I realized, so what? I can do it my way: and the R.E. 45-minute a day chunk method was born!

    As for your podcast, you know I think it's great, but if it's a burden, stop, or cut back! Who says it has to be once a week? Why not once a month? Like a print magazine. Heck, some of them come out once every two months. I podcast my novel and that was super time consuming and I didn't get a lot of writing done in the meantime. With no end point in sight I can see how you might feel discouraged. But there's no rule for how you guys should do this. It can be more manageable if you want to make it so.

    All righty, end pep talk. I'll stop now. I hope you feel better about all of this stuff soon and stop beating yourself up for the past. You're a writer--write!

  4. Wow, I had no idea you were down. Or at least THIS down. Last night you said nothing, even when we did the whole "State of the Podcast" address.

    Just knowing what you need to do isn't enough. Sure, one can say, "Here, take this Ring, Frodo, go to Mount Doom, and destroy it."

    But then, you have to figure out a way to do it. And that's even harder, isn't it?

  5. OK, the iPad delete about 10 minutes of writing, so let's see if I can reconstruct it:

    Family has to be first. That usually means that the job is second, just to take care of the family.
    The podcast is extremely important to us out here. It is very inspiring. I know I was waiting with bated breath for submissions to re-open just so I could send you guys a story. You two blessed me by accepting it! My wife and I danced around for days.
    As a podcaster, I know how much time and effort goes into the final product. Maybe 2 a month, or even 1 a month will be what you need. You know from previous conversations that I will help in any way I am qualified.
    For the writing, I can't help much. Writing is the only way to write, and we all do it differently. It works quite well for me to not write for periods of time because my stories write themselves over time in my brain, then all I have to do is sit down and type them. I usually get 2 or 3 done at a time this way. But, I am not trying to "do" anything or "be" anybody with my writing. I enjoy it, and if I get published, great! If not, I have had a good time. That may not be what you are looking for.
    What it boils down to is this: Find what you are good at and enjoy doing, then do THAT. If it isn't the podcast, I'll miss it. If it isn't writing, the podcast may be what "makes" you. It may be something you haven't discovered yet. We are all given talents and skills and desires. Most of the time, these 3 things align and it's easy to see. Other times, not so much.
    Cheer up! You make people happy with the podcast. At least, you make me happy.

  6. LOL. Rish, you and your hurt puppy dog eyes. Look what you've done!

  7. Big you have to do what feels best for you. Although the Dunesteef has become my favorite story podcast, and I would miss it. You have to take care of yourself first.