Writing in the Fall

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything original for this blog, and I’m sorry for that.  As you probably know, I’m currently trying to make Chocolate Diamond Media a real job, make a feature film, and I’m working a day job, and have my family to spend time with.  So that’s part of it.

The other big part of it, is that I don’t write well in the fall.  This is a tough time of year for me, and even right now (the last year or two) when I’m at my most productive, the fall is tough.  I’ve talked a lot about seasonal depression before on here, and this is that time of year for me.  I’m not nearly as bad as most years.  The truth is that there is more daylight down in North Carolina than in Massachusetts, and for the last month, I’ve been waking up nearly every morning an hour earlier than I used to, in order to go run.  These have done wonders for the more overt symptoms of depression, namely I don’t feel sad/bad.  And it has helped me to want to be more productive, and more motivated than I would normally.  That productiveness has translated into editing, and filming, and forcing myself to work, but it has not helped as much with writing.

When I get to this part of the year, I don’t have any shortage of ideas, they still click into my head at the same rate as the rest of the year, but for some reason I have a hard time pushing them out into words.  I’ve started 10 blog posts, and as many short story/novel/film ideas, in the last week, and got no more than a sentence deep before abandoning them, but had pretty clear ideas, just couldn’t get them started.  Imagine you’re in a train car, and you see the train tracks laid out before you, and you know once you get on them you’re going to chug away and ride off into the sunset, but there’s 100 feet of tracklessness that you need push the train car across before starting on that.  That’s what I’ve been doing sitting on the train, staring at the tracks, and not sure how to get the cart on them.  Today, for some reason, when I woke up, the train was on the track, and so I’m pumping the coals into the fire (it’s an old train because I like the visual representation better, don’t worry coal burning is totally clean in my metaphor world) while I have track in front of me.

I hope that this will keep going, and when I wake up tomorrow I’ll be on the tracks again, but I guess I won’t know until tomorrow.

In the mean time, if you’re in the mood to see some of the creativity (non-written) that I’ve been producing while I haven’t been writing, please go check out the Chocolate Diamond Media YouTube channel.  I think I’m starting to get things into a groove over there, and there is some of the same sensibility (although an honest effort to remain unpolitical over on that channel).

Crumpled Papers in the Trash

As a writer, there are times when you have the time to write but not the mentality to, and vice versa.  So many times when I’m too busy but have a million ideas, but today is not one of those days.  Today is a day when I can write, I’m sitting here staring at my screen, and I have nothing to say.

Today is frustrating.

I have written the first sentence of fifteen different ideas, I’ve tried editing some previously started projects, I’ve even written out several comments on social media, only to scrap everything I’ve done.  Today, so far, has been a zero sum day.  Even this piece? I’ll probably realize this is too ‘navel-gazy’ and throw this out too.  We’ll see.

One thing that I’ve realized, while there is something mildly more environmentally friendly about writing electronically, when shit-canning an idea, it can be significantly less satisfying.  I don’t have a piece of paper to crumple into a ball, and then throw into a trash bin, pretending for a second to be a basketball player.

I get to delete out my work.  If it’s just a couple of words, I just press the Backspace button repeatedly until the cursor is the only black mark blinking across a sea of white.  If it’s a couple of sentences, I may just hold that same button, and watch as it starts off deleting letters, and quickly snowballs until it’s consuming entire words simultaneously.  Or if I have managed to get some block of text, I may use the mouse and highlight it all, only to delete it in one quick click. If I return to a project later, and decide it’s nonsense, I can just delete the file, which is slightly more satisfying, because at least I’m asked “Are you sure you want to Delete this?”

I am sure.  It’s not good.  Delete.

After a long day of toiling over electronic writing, there is no trash bin filled with my failures, no proof that I found many ways not to make a lightbulb.  There are only my personal memories, which often are fleeting.  Don’t feel particularly useful, and particularly non-motivating.

Then there is a spark. Not an idea necessarily, but with a little bit of oxygen it could turn into one.  What about writing about the inability to write, no one’s ever done that.  And in an attempt to kick-start some better idea, I start writing that down, hoping it will open up the flood gates, hoping that by the time I’ve exhausted the idea, that maybe I’ll have a legitimately good one, or at least the motivation to revisit my ‘in-progress’ works.

But it fails.

The Shoulds

It didn’t take much to see that I had lost it, whatever the driving force was, inspiration, or desperation—I don’t know but I had lost it.  For weeks, I had been so good, keeping myself to a rigorous schedule, writing at least five hundred words a day.  Now I stared blankly at where I had left off, and for some reason, I couldn’t write.  I could open new documents, and write blindly, write things that didn’t need to be written, but I couldn’t continue my book, even though I knew how I wanted it to progress.

The truth was, I knew exactly where the scene was going, and couldn’t motivate myself to continue.  What is that?  I think there was a little bit of me that was frustrated, I had to balance trying to write, with trying to find a ‘real’ job, and watching my son all day.  A ‘real’ job, that’s what everyone wanted for me, or from me, but I didn’t know what to do.  I had worked my ass off for more than ten years, and almost exclusively had jobs where I was treated like shit, but I kept with it, the promise that I was paying my dues, working shitty jobs that paid shitty salaries in order to earn a shittier job that paid an amazing salary.

This was the lie the were selling to all of us.  That there were still good jobs out there for those willing to work hard.  Making us try to appreciate the fucking awful in the hope for the divine, but it wasn’t going to be that way, not for our generation.

So I sat, and I filled out applications, and I stared at a word processor, trying to write something, trying to write anything.  I would distract myself with dumb video games on my phone, trying to numb my brain which was railing against itself trying to justify the search for more shit.

Every time I had a new job, I lied to myself for months, sometimes years that this was it.  This was the job I had been waiting for.  No it wasn’t my dream, but that didn’t matter, this was going to pay the bills, this was going to allow me my personal dreams.  I had to sacrifice the career dreams in order to find the personal dreams.

I was completely willing to sacrifice the career dreams in order to realize the personal ones.  I loved being a husband, I loved being a father, but I wasn’t the man in a movie who was too busy making a fortune to fully appreciate my wife and son, I was the man too busy trying to make any money whatsoever, the man begging for scraps who couldn’t appreciate his wife and son.  I resented ‘real’ jobs because they didn’t exist, and there was some condescending thing that said ‘give up on your dreams and it will all be better’ but it wasn’t really, I had given up on my dreams and nothing was better.

So I decided I had enough.  I began to reject things—well ideas really.  I rejected the idea that owning a home was the way to go.  I don’t mind paying rent, we aren’t tied down in a rental, we can pack up and live while backpacking through Europe, we can get a trailer, and live on the beach in California.

I loved the idea of living on a beach.  I had taken a surfing lesson once a few years earlier, and for four hours, the ocean, and the board beat the shit out of me.  I got slapped in the face with the board and thought I broke my jaw, I got so tired paddling out that I thought I might drown, and ultimately I never was able to get up on the board.  But I had felt alive, there was no outcome that affected the rest of my life.  If I got up, I got up, and could experience that, if I continued to fail, I could feel the adrenaline, and the accomplishment once I finally mastered it.  Failing didn’t mean I might lose a house, failing didn’t mean I might end up in financial ruin.  Success didn’t mean I gained those things, but I would feel something.  I really wanted to feel something.

People began to think that I was crazy, rejecting the norms, or as my mother-in-law beautifully called them ‘the shoulds.’  I couldn’t continue to live with the shoulds, and hope that some day I wouldn’t fucking hate myself as much as I did already.  I didn’t want to raise my son to think that owning a home, that working in soul-crushing job was what made a life.  They allowed you to survive, but I wanted to live, and I wanted to teach him how to live.

So I started taking breaks.  I couldn’t try to write everyday, I couldn’t make it another should.  I would write when I could, what I could.  I would work if I could, but I wouldn’t lie to myself.  My son was my priority, my wife too.  I would try to struggle to do things if the struggle was worth it, not if the outcome was.