Decisions, Decisions

I’m beginning to feel as if I’m approaching a crossroads, or that I may already be at one. This would mean more if I didn’t constantly feel this way with irregular severity; you’d be surprised how anxious I get decided between two places to have lunch every day. Still, even though I wake up each morning wondering when I’m going to change what I’m doing with my life into something I enjoy more, lately I’ve been plagued at night  by rack after rack of details. Let me break it down.

1. Professionally (Writing)

I’ve been so terrible at maintaining consistency with my writing lately. I haven’t written more than a couple thousand words on my fourth novel. I’ve been exceptionally lax in updating this blog. I’ve replaced free time and motivation with sleeping too little and drinking and flirting and fucking too much and reading where I can, which is nice, but always pausing before I put pen to paper or hover my thumb over this app.

I haven’t submitted Waypoint to any more agents or publishers, despite the fact that I’m aware it won’t magically manifest itself onto their desks with a kind letter and a gift basket. I feel like it’s a good book that needs to find itself in front of the right reader. I feel like it has a solid, small but positive and vocal following of a few thousand readers, and that it (and its sequels) are things I can be proud of creating.

It still always manages to slip my mind. I just… don’t do it. I forget to look up the next publisher on my list, or if I do, I forget to look up the submission guidelines, or if I do, I forget to put the submission together.

So I’ve got to ask myself: do I still really, really want to be an author as a career? Somewhere inside me, the answer is still a resounding YES. I still carry around heaps of notes and notebooks. I update color-coded files in my phone on a daily basis. I write excerpts for future novels and stash them in those files. I have concepts that I think are ambitious and entertaining and I’m excited to bring them out and share them.

And Jesus, I’ve already written half a million words in three books in four years, so I’ve proven I can and will put in the work.

Do I still want to write the book I’m currently “working on”? I think the answer to that is positive as well, but I’m skittish about it. Earned or not, my I initial trilogy landed me a reputation among my peers that is more favorable than not. They really enjoyed those first books, and though I have no degree or professional experience to draw on, though I feel woefully inadequate, people ask me for writing advice and I feel flattered that they do so.

My newest novel lacks a lot of the grit and maturity of the Convergence trilogy. It’s a lot more straightforward and action-filled and even a bit slapstick here and there, and I’m concerned that even though it’s obviously supposed to be a different genre and style of prose, I feel clumsy trying to put it together on paper and I worry that people will dislike the finished product as it will likely be completely different than what they expected.

I’ve been planning the book for probably ten years. It’s a concept that’s very dear to me with a story that seems pretty fun. I want to get over that mental block, but I’m not entirely sure I know how.

Except to take the time. Sit down. Force myself to stop watching Netflix or jerking off for a few hours and tough through it. That might do it.

Sigh.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum: I read a quote the other day that was along the lines of, “If you aren’t writing to say something, then what’s the point?” and while I’m an advocate for the importance in writing as a form of escapism (both for the writer and the reader) and the necessity of entertainment to keep the weight of the world’s stresses at bay, there is something equally valid in those that write to illustrate passionate ideas and ideals, those who touch on cultural, social, sexual, mental, emotional, intellectual and religious topics. There is something captivating about those ruminating on life, something that taps into the primal node tucked somewhere behind the rib cage, next to the heart.

Nietzsche. Bukowski. Kerouac. Angelou. Thompson. Hemingway. Oates. Poets and travelers, journalists and philosophers. Men and women who wax poetic on love, life, loss, and the lust for more from each day, from each other, and from themself.

Here’s the thing, I think: it requires a certain type of narcissism to believe one can really pick apart the intricacies of those topics. It takes a confidence to put definitive insights onto a page and push it out into the light for the open eyes of strangers to see. While I have always endeavored to write things as clearly and as detailed as I’ve experienced them and the insights I’ve gleaned personally from my experiences, while I have been and will always be honest about the failures I’ve endured and those I see around me, while I will tell you how I believe certain things can be improved or the frustrations I have in whatever regard, I just don’t think I could be so fantastically sure of anything as to write it with such fervor that people would quote me years down the line as if I ever knew what the fuck I was doing ever, with anything.

Would I write about love? Hahahaha. Hahahaha. I have, at length, and I’m still no better at it. I could give no advice that would feel helpful beyond a “What Not to Do” list, chief entry being “Whatever the fuck I did”.

Social studies? Race relations? I have opinions that I don’t feel qualified to give. I know the struggles of being broke, homeless, in debt, bullied, but the fact remains that I grew up as a middle-class white male and that has always and will always give me inherent advantages over others. While I hope to bring as much light to some of the conflicts tearing (still) our people apart, while I want to share conversations and perspective pieces from those more directly affected, I don’t feel I have the proper insight to contribute in a fruitful way.

Do I write about mental health and disorders? I’ll write about my struggles and hope people can continue to relate and maybe find some peace in that, but seeing as how I’ve historically handled my breakdowns with as much grace and aplomb as a whale tapdancing on glass, maybe I should keep my high horse stabled.

So with all that said, I’m torn. I’m torn between finding my way back to pursuing entertaining and commercial writing as a career, taking the steps to treat it like a career instead of letting my anxiety shuffle it off until I can drink the nightmares away for another evening; and writing something deeper and more impactful for people to take to heart and mind. I want my writing to mean something. I want people to be affected by my words.

2. Professionally (Occupation)

Let’s be honest, though, it’s going to be a long time – if ever – before I can fully support myself and pay all my bills with my writing. That means I’m going to need a day job. I do have one. I’ve been here for two years and one month, but the way things have been going, it looks like I might only be here a few months more. I’m just not very good at it, and to be honest, some days it’s difficult to want to be.

My job pays well, but it’s tedious and stressful and my boss has grown difficult to work for. What was once an excited, competitive atmosphere has turned into an intimidating, bullying spectre sucking any joy out of the air that could be found. I find myself popping xanax on days I’m lucky to see a panic attack coming and escaping to the bathroom to get away long enough to breathe when I don’t. I’ve reached a point where, despite working with salespeople I generally like and even admire, I count the very minutes from the beginning of my shift to lunch, from lunch to end.

I’ve worked varying forms of retail for 13 years. I like people. I do. I get really annoyed with them and I’ve grown increasingly introverted as I grow older, but deep down, I love meeting, talking to and learning about people. And yet at least twice a week it hits me that a common part of my job is processing payments for people too lazy to do it any of the other three ways one could it do on their own. What mediocre, pointless, trivial bullshit.

My job isn’t exciting. It’s the same thing day in and day out, and because of that, I feel drained at the end of each day, and because of that, I’ve been blowing my money on things to try and stimulate any sense of reward from the base of my skull. I’ve been living check to check, but now I know I might not be here for much longer, and I’m going to need to save up. Something has to change. I need to do something different, but I need to make sure I’m in an okay position when that shift happens. I suspect I’m going to be grumpier than normal for the next few months.

3. Romantically

This is far and wide the aspect of my life I’m least worried about. Yeah, I’m heartbroken. I’m lonely. I’m pushing thirty and the last serious relationship I was in was six years ago. The last two that seemed they could turn serious ended so poorly it completely shut me down for months. It’s difficult for me to open up, and even more so to find a connection with people I open up with. When I do, I fall pretty hard and I give my affection fully. I love deeply. It has given me some of the best moments of my life, and it has also historically not often ended well.

I would love to have a connection and to be in a relationship, to share experiences and memories with someone special, but I’m not trying to force anything. I’m gradually learning to just let things happen as they may.

Still, I’ve learned I’m fucking terrible at talking to women I find attractive. New women, I mean. Like, someone I’ve just met. If it’s someone I’ve known a while or at least met a few times, I’m able to relax and it’s a completely different scenario. Crushes are had. Sex isn’t uncommon. For a chubby, nerdy guy who too often lets his hair grow out to an awkward length, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t attention from multiple people at almost any given time.

And I like those women. They’re friends and lovers and there’s a shared trust, comfort and intimacy there. I’m a huge fan of sex, even in a casual regard, because I think there’s a created, emotionally charged release that adds passion and closeness. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s fun, and it’s nice to feel desired and to make someone else feel that, too. And I’m good at creating those connections, even if sometimes I’m terrible at the act itself. I know for a fact that I’ve conducted myself poorly on occasion, but have remained friends with that person afterwards and become closer for it.

That connection, those bonds, those are easy to me, and I value them. But trusting on an emotional level, on trying to arrange dates, on gauging a woman’s romantic interest in me, on working out compliments and genuine relationship building conversations… in those instances, I am a bumbling, mumbling mess. I think I really suck at dating, and it bothers me because I would like someday to have a family.

Be that as it may, I know I need to get my life together, first.

4. Life

I do not know what I want to fucking do with my life. I live lightly, and I kind of like that. Most of my things are either expendable or able to be stuffed into the storage unit I’ve had for years. My bed is a borrowed air mattress. Anything essential can be narrowed down to two suitcases. Realistically, I could probably make it one. If I had to, I could drop my phone bill down to $30 a month and rely on Wi-Fi for any Internet related things I needed.

I’m at that age where I kind of really need to figure out what I want to do and make a plan to do it (and then stick to the plan, obviously). I considered Greyhounding and hitchhiking and couch-hopping around the states. I have  friends everywhere, and it would give me a golden opportunity to see amazing – and probably awful – things all over the country. But how much money would that cost? Bus fare, hostel rooms. I can eat on a budget, I’m no stranger to the Dollar Store Diet. Emergency funds? Laundromat costs? How long could I last?

I’ve considered moving back to Los Angeles, as I have every day since I left. I’ve considered moving to New York. I think I’d like it there. I’ve even considered Pittsburgh because for as much as I hate the Steelers, I really liked the atmosphere there, the food, and the fact one of my best friends lives nearby.

Hell, I’ve even considered trying to find some kind of visa to move abroad and work a while. I love to travel, and I especially love other cultures.

All I know is things need to change. I need to change. I’m just flustered by all the choices, because I’m really, really good at making the wrong ones. I’m just starting to hit an age where the right one once in a while would be a welcome change.

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One thought on “Decisions, Decisions

  1. Ho there. Found this randomly on Twitter. We seem like travelers on similar trails, with some marked differences. Perhaps I can help. I’ve been known to be kind of good at this thing. People sit me down and tell me their life stories all the time. I got annoyed for awhile. But as a result, I can generally read people and help. And especially through their art (in your case, your writing). So yeah. We don’t know each other. Here’s my advice.

    Starting with the easiest, love. You’re right that this is technically the least important, but it’s also very clearly not unimportant to you. A lot like me, you connect sex with intimacy (don’t worry about that, it’s a good thing, as far as I can tell). You just haven’t followed the trail backward: sex is only intimate with someone who can be trusted, who gives you satisfaction, and, let’s be honest, that you won’t get bored with over time. You’re a person who is more patient at me (see, I’m at and have been at the same place in my jobs as you, and my limit is six months, not two years, so bravo to you). While that can be a good thing, you also need to realize that it will take you this long to find someone good for you. Thus, the best advice I have for you is to always take things slow. Stop having sex, if you are, and slow down. Get to know people. Get out of the house. (Literally, today was a rainy day and I had today off sooo I just stayed in. Don’t take this too harshly.) However, you do need that kind of intimacy with someone in your life, and the intimacy of love is hard to replace on a friend level. It’s not that important, but don’t forget about it.

    Regarding life, I mean, dude. Come on. This post about what how you don’t know what you want to do. You open with “this is what I should be doing.” Ok, so fucking do it. You know what you want to do, you just don’t want to put in the effort. I don’t mean this as a pointed-finger type thing. This is always my problem too: pull the effing trigger.

    Look, if you want to be a writer, you’re not getting any younger. Push past whatever bullshit’s currently going on with you and do it. You do have some control over your world. You still have the ability to learn from mistakes. So why not try this: go out on a limb, and go for fucking broke with the writing. Send it to everyone. Use up all your favors, burn all the bridges if you need to. Do it. And if it doesn’t work, hey look, the universe/God/FSM has picked “Professionally (Occupation)” for you. And there are a lot of better occupations out there that aren’t what you do that still deal with people. For instance, my favorite job I’ve had was either as a taxi driver or a museum rep person (I made sure people didn’t touch paintings, which means I wrote and read a lot). And if you really set out and tried, you didn’t fail. It just wasn’t for you. And t’aint like anyone will stop you from writing other stuff in the meantime.

    One last thing. This random person (yeah, I don’t know you at all. I’m a bit presumptuous) is reading through the Dresden Files at the moment. I was amazed by the first one because the world is so created. Deus ex machinas all over the place (it’s a crime-fighting wizard), but it works. At the end of the third novel, he puts an acknowledgment. The acknowledgment is like “thanks to these people, yadda yadda,” then… “when I was young I loved fantasy, like sword-and-horse fantasy.” Veers off into a totally different direction, talking about how he always wanted to write fantasy, and how the Dresden books even came to be because Jim Butcher was challenged to write something *other* than fantasy. He thought it’d be formulaic, but it turns out people loved it way more than his fantasy. So he kept writing it, and they were good. And then at the end, Butcher entreaties everyone to read his fantasy books.

    Sometimes the way you want to go isn’t always the way you should go. Relying on the advice of other people isn’t what’s going to make you happy. When you figure out what YOU need to make you happy (a book deal? a wife? a good job and occasional publishing, and a long string of youthful lovers?), then you’ll know where to go. The only way to do that is to do it. Try. Please.

    I mean, I can tell you’re at least a *fairly* good writer. /s Good luck.

    -A mentally-ill fellow with career issues himself

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