>Sunday was a gorgeous day in Missoula. We’ve had a couple here and there, but as spring looms ever closer, the fever really starts to make a body itch. And the feet. The bottoms, in particular, to be on a trail somewhere, and there are plenty practically in the backyard. The sun comes out, and I want to get out in it.
Problem was, I had a fair amount of writing I wanted to get done, and plans already made for the afternoon/evening. So it was the tug ‘o war that every writing book tells you the chair must win if you are going to be a “real” writer: no matter what, don’t do anything else until you get your writing done. Choose otherwise, and you will probably fail. You’re a loser. A wannabe. A pretender. A :gasp: poser.
There’s some truth to that, sure. It’s very easy in writing, as it is in dieting or exercising — or anything that takes work and dedication — to let one skipped session become two, then ten, then suddenly two months have passed and nothing productive has been done and you feel like you’re starting over with whatever project you were taking on. The unfortunate thing is that nothing much that is interesting or awesome was ever accomplished by vegetating on the couch eating popcorn and drinking beer.
What makes my writing “career” (smirk) difficult is that there isn’t anyone waiting on any of the stuff I’m writing. I don’t have a contract of any kind, or an agent, or any of that. Any writing I do is based on trying to get to the point where I will have deadlines, because that certainly helps my dedication. I think a deadline is a writer’s best friend. I know it’s mine. So I labor along trying to hold myself to my own deadlines, my own goals, forcing my ass into the chair because I tell myself if I don’t I’m going to get pissed off at my own lack of discipline. Some days are certainly better than others.
So I get irritated sometimes. I take the towel down and, while I might not make a serious move to throw it in, I’ll stomp on it and cuss at it and wipe up cat puke with it and then toss it back in the corner. It’s easy to think of the whole writing gig as something of a pipe dream. Even writers who put out books that seemingly sell pretty well don’t make squat, especially once the Tax Man and the Insurance Man and every other aspect of the fucking Man gets through with them. You have the huge, blockbuster selling authors, then a shitload of midlisters hoping to just get a new contract, let alone sell enough to quit the day job, then legions of people like me who just want to get invited to the party. It’s a grim business to try and break into, and it ain’t for the faint of heart.
I think I write pretty well, and my years in the music grind have taught me so much about how the creative business works that I think I can run that gauntlet pretty well when it comes to writing, so I feel pretty good about my chances of getting something published some day. That isn’t my problem. Hell, I’ve written two novels already, and everything seems to get better and better as I go, so I know I can finish stuff. That is the first big hurdle to getting published in the first place. But even with the talent, and all the hard work, there still isn’t any guarantee that it will happen. There’s no sure thing in art of any kind, no matter what skills and sunny fucking disposition one may have. It’s a brutal calling, truly.
Why do it then? Am I one of those people who will have some pat answer about how “I can’t live if I don’t write.” I don’t know. Maybe. Julia and I were just talking about this the other day, because we wrestle with similar issues. Why bother? When it comes to the day job, I have it pretty good. I make a decent enough living to get by. It allows me to enjoy one of the things I love to do — travel — quite frequently, for free. I see my bosses once a year. No one breathes down my neck. Yeah, it’s dull and meaningless and doesn’t make the world a better place, and that does bother me sometimes, but compared to what other people are slogging through I have it pretty goddamn good.
I’m not one of these people who don’t have any interests. I love to read books. I like watching movies. I love to hike. I (usually) love playing music. I love to travel. There are a lot of things I like about life that get me out of bed in the morning, and that’s great. Sometimes I think with just the right amount of brain work I could be happy with that, keep punching the clock, and just live. You know, like the buddhists say — we aren’t supposed to strive for anything, we are just supposed to live, right?
Except for that goddamn creative urge.
If I’m not stretching my creative muscles I get irritable. I feel like I am wasting my life. I can’t enjoy the other things because when I come down from the high of whatever it is, there is that little voice telling me that I need to be working on something. Something meaningful to that part of me that is an artist, even if it is ultimately meaningless as it relates to the world at large. And no amount of meditating will ever chase that away — I’m dead certain of that.
So I just keep on keeping on, trying to keep it all in balance. If I sacrifice every sunny day because I need to get my words in, I’ll resent the writing. Vice versa, if I allow myself to be seduced away from the desk and chair by every other shiny diversion, I’ll get pissed about that too. So it’s a constant juggling act, one I share with probably every other wordy sucker slogging away at their keyboards and notepads. I just hope those poor bastards have as many other things they enjoy doing that I do, because it would suck to do this if that was all there was.
So, Sunday? I hiked up the “M” and took some pictures. The trail was crawling with people who obviously had the same idea I did — get out and soak up some rays in this beautiful place we are lucky enough to inhabit. Later I did a little bit of writing, then went to the movie with Julia. I went to bed in a good mood, regardless of what the goddamn word count had to say to me. That little critic on my shoulder knew to keep his friggin’ mouth shut too.