I’ve been out of sorts lately. More agitated with my writing. More grumpy with the feedback I’ve been receiving. More dissatisfied with what I’m doing with my life.
I’ve been rockin’ and kickin’ ass at the Day Job. I’ve been pulling off things and improving products in ways the other engineers (including my boss, the CTO) thought impossible or impractical. That’s kept me going.
It’s sad when the Day Job is the highlight of your day.
It’s been like this for me for several months.
On the writing side of things, I feel very good about myself when I’m not focused on my prose. What I mean by this is that things in the writing community is going really well. I’m now the president of Pikes Peak Writers. I’ve finished off the portal for handling The Zebulon Writing Contest. I’ve created the PPW Workshop Proposal Portal. The critique group Patrick and I founded early this year (Front Range Fiction Writers) is going strong with nine members. The conversations around the table about writing and each others’ works is going really well.
Things on the non-writing writing life couldn’t be better. I feel like I’m actively contributing to the writing community and helping others improve their writing. That also makes me feel good.
However, when I turn to my own prose, I’m feeling down. I feel like I’m not making any progress in any aspect of the craft or business. Let’s break that down.
The business side of things means getting published. Getting things out there in front of readers. The last thing I had published was “A Poor Fellow Soldier” in the anthology An Uncommon Collection, which was put out by the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group back when I was president of that organization. I didn’t get paid for the story. It was donated to the effort of getting a CSFWG anthology out the door. Some folks would claim that means the story isn’t “published” due to the fact that I didn’t get paid for it. Putting that argument aside for now, I haven’t submitted a damn thing to a publisher since November of last year. Yeah, I pitched my book at the 2013 PPWC, and sent it out to three agents and an editor. This garnered three rejections and one no answer. The final rejection arrived in August of this year. That put me into a “death spiral” of doubt, despair, and general self-loathing. Because of this, I’ve not had the courage to knock the dust off of one of my unpublished short stories (I have about a dozen of them) and find a home for them.
On the craft side of things, I’ve written a few new short stories and the start of a new novel. However, the feedback I’ve received on one of the short stories goes along the lines of, “Did you write this years ago? It’s not as polished as your other stuff.” The answer is, “No. I wrote this last month.” This kind of questioning from my critique group is meant with all of the kindness in the world, but if they are doubting my ability to improve my skills, who am I to also not have the same doubts? The seed is there, and my shattered psyche from going nowhere in the business side of things just waters and fertilizes that seed to where the doubts sprout and grow.
Now that I’ve wallowed in pity and pathetic doubts, it’s time for a change.
I’m not sure why, but something in my brain told me to pull “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” by Bruce Lee off my shelf. It was as if someone else had taken over my body. During the brief two-and-a-half steps to the shelf where the book had been resting, I was thinking, “What’s the point? Why should I even do this? Where did this idea come from?” Even though my brain balked, my body continued on and smoothly slid the thin book from its shelf.
I’m not sure how much time passed as I leafed through random pages, but my mood lifted over the course of reading passages and advice.
On the surface, the book is about how to perform as a better physical martial artist. Scratch the veneer off of that surface, and the true, wondrous depths of the book come to light. The book is not just how to punch, kick, grapple, or balance better. It’s about how to live a life worth remembering. That very close to one of my favorite quotes from Bruce Lee, which reads, “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”
The book is also about living a balanced life. Living well. Living happily. Taking every chance to drink fully from the cup of life. How to develop yourself into a better person.
On the opening page of the book, there is a quote: Take what is useful and develop from there.
I’ve been taking in everything and trying to develop it all.
That’s clearly not working for me.
It’s time for me shed my doubts, shed my fears, shed my self-destructive tendencies.
It’s time for me to enjoy life.
One of the things I truly enjoy is writing. It’s time to ignore the negative voices (internal and external), and get back to doing what I do best: living life through my prose and with my family and friends.