Once I knew I could write for a living, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. Pretty much everything else has felt like a chore or a waste of time. A compromise, at best. It’s always been about the writing, underneath whatever uniform I’m wearing on any given day.
There was a very brief time when I was distracted by the idea of being an actor. That lasted for a couple of years, until I realised I didn’t have the ego for it. Which is saying something when you consider I just said that on my blog, right?
So much of college level acting seemed to only be about jumping around and asking for the world to look at you and only you. Turns out that wasn’t for me. Or at least I realised it wasn’t for me after I watched a room full of people do exactly that for two years.
I did also think about being a director for a while, but I let that go when I understood the really great directors don’t simply stumble across the idea of picking up a camera. No, they’ve wanted it for their entire lives. They’ve craved it since birth. They were making little movies from the moment they could hold a camera. I had got into because I like watching movies and because I watched the early Tarantino movies in particular over and over again. For some reason that convinced me that I could be like him.
Which is different to your writing how exactly, Chris? I mean, I know there was a plan to write a different blog today, but let’s talk about this for a moment instead. How is your failed dream of wanting to direct any different to your dream of wanting to be a writer? Or an actor? Or a poet? Or a comedian? All of them came from seeing someone else do it and then deciding it was for you. Let’s be honest, you saw them get attention and praise for something you had enjoyed and you liked what you saw. You reasoned that, if you had liked their work and understood it, then you could probably make it as well.
The only real difference between any of these abandoned goals and your writing is that you decided to write earlier on in life. Which I suppose makes it feel like it carries more weight, but does it really? Think about it. When you had set your sights on writing and directing movies, you wrote scripts. You made plans. You scouted locations. You talked about it like it was really going to happen. The only thing that stopped you was realising it was going to be hard work.
Maybe it’s time to face the fact your writing is just another dream. Another fragile whim you’ve been chasing with a butterfly net for pretty much your entire life. Yes, okay, you won a couple of flimsy poetry competitions back in your early twenties. You got a nice email from someone a long time ago about a story you sent them that didn’t win their competition and, of course, you are published. Still, do you see yourself setting the literary world on fire in the way you’d always hoped? No one is banging on your door and asking where the next novel is. No one is talking about the first one to any great extent. You cringe whenever people ask how the writing is going. You’ve got some books out there for all the world to read, but it’s not like all the world is forming a queue to collect a copy. What’s worse, on a bad day, is that I don’t think you blame them anymore. Your books aren’t exactly horror. They’re strange. They’re odd. They don’t quite fit.
Sorry, people. You didn’t need to read that. It all slipped past the filter. It’s been one of those weeks. Not a bad week. Not a terrible week. Just another week wasted. Another week to be forgotten. Another week spent on simply getting to the other side and I hate weeks like that. The daytime drags as you try to convince yourself you’re not wasting your existence in order to pay the bills. The night time feels like it should be better, but it isn’t. I always get there too tired and frustrated to write anything useful. I always have just long enough energy to loathe myself and see how well everyone else seems to be doing and then hate them a little bit for it.
Don’t worry, I know how damaged and shallow that sounds, but I’m writing it for my own blog on my own website. So I guess it’s par for the course.
I think I just spent too many years of my life assuming writing would be the solution to all my problems. I never realised back then how much of writing would be about other things. Selling myself being one of them. I never saw that coming as a kid. I just wanted to write. It felt like a clean and uncomplicated way to live. Writing seemed a way to keep away from the world, whilst engaging in it. I could hide in a pretty decent house, send my stories off for people to read and pretend that everything was A-Okay. Boy, was I wrong.
For a start, writing is not the escape I thought it would be. It also hasn’t gotten me to the place I’ve been dreaming of since I was at primary school. If anything, that place is looking further and further away. I’m thirty seven and it’s already May. This year is going the same way as all the others. Quickly and success free. I swear there was a sense of momentum once. Back when the novellas were coming out. My publisher released one every month or so. The first ones even got decent reviews. I was cleaning up the original stories and writing the interlinking stories that went with them and feeling pretty good about myself and all these connections I was hiding in them. I was starting to think things were working out. Only it didn’t happen for me. Not in the way I hoped. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there’s no guarantee or reason to assume it would have. I wasn’t entitled to any sort of success. I guess it’s just that, when you’ve spent years dreaming of it, you presume it’s coming.
I heard something on the news years ago about hope being dangerous. Some doctors were saying hope lets us blinker ourselves to reality. They suggested human beings have developed an incredibly dangerous habit of simply pinning our hopes on something and waiting for it to work out over the years. We get stuck in a rut, but we simply believe it’s going to change and wait for our victory to come save us. Not that everyone does this. The real winners pull themselves out of that rut and work to get what they want themselves. So why don’t I feel like I’m doing that? I’m trying. I’m working every day. I’m pushing myself…but am I pushing myself enough? Should I be working into the early hours? Should I be living on energy drinks during the day and developing a good, strong drinking problem during the night? Why does everything I’m doing feel so half-hearted these days? It’s like I’m waiting for defeat and disappointment, when there’s no defeat to come. Not really. My life doesn’t need me to succeed at writing in order to be happy. The greatest day of my life was my wedding day and I didn’t write a thing on that day. I stood up and spoke for a couple of minutes, but that was it.
Damn it. I’m sorry. I wanted to write something less whiny than this. I was going to talk about self-promotion. I wanted to talk about the fact I got into social media in order to sell my stories but, to this day, I’m not really sure how well it works or if I’m any good at it. I’ve met some great people in The Twitterverse. I met my publisher and many like-minded people there. It has helped me achieved a few things, but I don’t think it really generates sales to the level I thought it would. I heard Facebook pages were good for that. Now all I’m doing is obsessing over how few people see most of my posts. Take this blog. I always share the latest one on Facebook and maybe eleven people see it. I share some crazy photo or movie poster off my timeline and damn near a hundred people see it. There’s no pattern to it, but I keep trying and keep hating myself for believing it has anything to do with the writing.
I’m starting to suspect it’s all distractions. It’s all something to worry about that stops you looking at your stories. There are days when I worry that this blog is only more of the same. What if it’s putting people off? What if it’s consuming all my free time for no real results? Maybe that’s why it always turns into therapy. The doubt pushes itself to the front when I switch off the fiction.
Expectation is definitely the enemy here. If I could dial that down, then maybe all these pointless concerns would go with it. Hopefully. I get a feeling that the true creatives never worry about this crap. I picture them just rolling up their sleeves and get on with it. That’s it, really. Everything outside my head shouldn’t affect the stories in my head. If I want to believe in my best intentions (and who doesn’t) then I come up with stories because I like them, because I want to write them. All these frustrations are only coming out because I expect different results every single day of my life and that feels like some sort of truly negative religion. A constant festival of disappointment. After over thirty five years, you’d think I’d realise the frustration doesn’t change a thing. Let that go and life will get easier. It has to, right?