Ugh, really? It was May the last time I posted on here? Yikes. I've got some extra personal stuff in this update to make up for lost time, if that helps at all.
I just finished reading this fascinating article by a novelist who is in the middle of an artistic identity crisis. In many ways, he’s very successful: he has a house, a wife, two daughters, a dog, and a job that keeps him intellectually stimulated and provides a valuable service. He’s focused, driven, concerned that he isn’t giving enough to those he loves, but gives enough to keep them all healthy and sometimes happy. But he wonders if he should have written more.
It’s hard to write that last sentence for me, as the author is complaining that he’s only had five novels published, and none of them was what he felt they could have been. There’s a part of me that really feels for the guy. Any work of creativity is a torturous exercise, and if it’s going to be shared, it really should be as amazing as possible. To look back and recognize that more could have been done must be rough. Another part of me says “Boo fucking hoo. Complaining that your five published novels could have been better or sold more is like complaining that the latest Bentley model doesn’t really go well with your other cars.”
An axiom I hold close to me, one I don’t think I created but don’t remember hearing anywhere else, is that We can’t solve every problem, but we can trade them. That is, part of the human condition is that we’re not perfect, and the people we think are perfect really have their own full set of problems. The quality of problems or issues may change, but the number of problems doesn’t. This axiom doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, but it helps me make sense of the world sometimes. And it works here.
This guy tried the whole bohemian artist life: work a couple hours a day, live on crumbs, and spend the rest of his time devoted to his craft. He jumped from job to job, trying to increase the pay and/ or quality of work for the same number of hours, and before he knew it, he’d gone full-time civil servant suburbanite. He has problems, about the same number of ones he had in his old life, but they’re very different from the problems he faced in his old life. He didn’t necessarily solve those old problems, he just traded them in for different ones, perhaps ones easier to live with.
He looks back on his works, ye mighty, but does not despair. He can see the roads he might have taken, one leading to Paris back alleys filled with drink and debauchery, and can almost see the writing he would’ve done as a result. But right in front of him is the wife that loves and supports him, the children that depend on him and adore him, and the dog that just looks so cute when it messes up the house. The idea that these things wouldn’t exist if he’d taken another path disgusts him. Maybe his first five novels weren’t great, but the sixth one could surprise us all.
I’m going through a massive case of writer’s block. I’d like to say I know what’s causing it, but there are so many potential reasons right now that it couldn’t possibly be one thing. I’m preparing to move, and while I’m excited to move into another phase of my life, the place isn’t finished yet and the next few weeks for me are mostly question marks. My full-time job is getting more and more busy, yet for all that it’s woefully under-stimulating at times, and thanks to the writer’s block I can’t fill that void. I’ve had to go back on medication for a recurring condition that is making me feel better, but I have to wonder if it’s playing a role in my block (it hasn’t in the past, but the body can be a fickle thing).
It’s not all bad. I have been getting out a bit more and getting to know new people, and otherwise making time to have fun. My brother recently got engaged and is moving to the West Coast, and I’m excited for him about that.
There’s a lot going on in my life, and some if that makes me reflect on what I’ve done. The choices we make determine where we are in life, more than the choices made for us. We can learn a lot by looking back and figuring out how things happened, but that behavior is meaningless if we don’t make more choices and move forward, leaving the past even further back.
I'm at a point where I’m doing a lot of problem trading. I’m trading a set of worries with my old place for a new set of worries at my (hopefully) new place. My family is growing, but is relocating further away at the same time. I have more work to do, and it’s going to take more work for me to find reward in it. All this takes a lot of mental energy, so perhaps I shouldn’t be concerned that I don’t have as much to put into stories. Yet here I am.
Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have to go and get my house back in order…