Today, identify something muddy that kept recurring for you throughout 2013, and then ask yourself this: What’s the clear truth underneath this damn mud if I finally wash myself clean?
I think loneliness is a type of mud. And contrary to the popular misconception, introverts can get lonely. In fact it often happens in crowds.
I guess the clear truth under said mud is that I am in need of company in my life that is more in tune with my own personal world view. It’s good to be eclectic, and to establish friendships and working relationships with those we have little in common with. Sometimes, at least. But I believe my spiritual shelves are now fully stocked with purely professional contacts, party types, conservatives, religious people, well-to-do, and various other types of people whom I can enjoy but can relate to only so much.
The fact that I know many people but continue to feel as though I need different company is, to me, the Universe’s way of splattering me with that mud. A mud that, when wiped clean will reveal a me that needs to connect more often with those who don’t challenge my censor button, or my patience, or my manners. But people who simply come from a similar mold, and who desire to be with those of the same mold sometimes. I need more “me-type” people in my life. Not better people, just…”me” people.
That’s a short and not very profound answer, but it fits today.
What challenges lie ahead in 2014? How might you meet them boldly?
I feel sorry for anyone reading these posts who may be tired of hearing me mention my writing. But I am, after all, a writer, and though there are several challenges about which I could write today, I think writing is still the most appropriate.
Maybe I should amend that somewhat. Maybe I should say, publishing is my challenge for 2014.
I have thought for most of this year that next year would be the year I finished my “final” revisions in Flowers for Dionysus and began to immerse myself in the publishing process. Which means I will have to decide quite soon if I am going to self-publish, seek an agent, or attempt both over the course of the year.
For those who don’t know, both routes have essentially the same amount of backside pain involved. Particularly in marketing. Agents and the traditional model take far, far, far longer to boot. But for some there is a relief with such involvement.
Now is not the time for me to debate the merits of one method over the other. (That will come.) Rather today I mention only that the concept of getting my fiction, particulars my first novel out there to readers will be one of the top challenges for me in 2014.
So, how to meet this challenge in a bold manner, as per today’s prompt?
Probably by ignoring more than acting, at least at first. Boldly ignoring the significant part of my mind that finds the entire mess confusing and distasteful. To not think a great deal about the elephant in the room when it comes to either getting an agent or self-publishing. The elephant being that I’m not used to, or adept at selling things. I must pretend I am not feeling what I feel for a while.
But I can’t just ignore parts of my own mind. I will also have to boldly ignore the conventional wisdom of either method of publishing, in favor of what makes sense to my own mind. Some of it may work, and some of it may not, but I must plow through the general advice and “requirements” of publishing dictated to me, and all writers by the establishments in either camp.
Targeted marketing, finding niches, data analysis, platform growth, charts, graphs, sales projections? That all sounds fantastic. But so does solar power, and I don’t have the slightest ability to build or even procure solar panels for my home. So I stay warm with what I’ve got, and hope for the best as time moves on. I’ll have to do the same with publishing and marketing. Use what I have, not what I don’t have.
I will be seeking some advice. I will have to. But I already know a great deal of what professionals will say, (I’ve read up on the topic for years) and much of it will only upset and discourage me anyway. If it means I plow through certain conventions and expectations at the cost of one avenue or advancement, so be it, but I have to do this worrisome, unpleasant task my way if I am to get anywhere at all with it. And if you ask me, that’s not being stubborn or obstinate. That’s not flipping the bird to those who have come before me, nor is it refusing to learn. It’s simply couching what I learn in terms of what I know I can do, instead of beating myself into submission in order to do something I know I cannot.
In other words, it will be more about this author getting his works out there, and less about evolving and becoming something totally different at my core simply because it is trendy to do so.
If you ask me, that’s rather bold.
Living life on auto-pilot can feel disorienting and dull. How did you cultivate a life worth loving during 2013? How can you turn off your auto-pilot button in 2014?
Truth be told I could have probably done a better job at specifically cultivating a “life worth loving” in the last year. It’s not something I think about specifically very often, though I do have moments and activities and certain events that I love at least a few times each year. Those tend to arise in a more natural way, however, as opposed to my cultivating them into existence.
I have this year begun the process of determining if I suffer from defined, clinical anxiety. (I have suspected I might for a while now.) This means finding a professional counselor to help me determine whether or not this is so. Not an easy process. And it has been made all the more troublesome to me because after some research and a personal recommendation, the first professional I went to was a total disaster. Thankfully I needed no more than the initial consultation to determine that, but it means I’ve had to start the process over, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get started this year after all.
So if not cultivating, perhaps I could call that “weeding” in a sense. Or a tune-up if that works better. Making life more lovable by determining if I suffer from something that can be alleviated. This in a sense relates to auto-pilot I suppose because inertia makes it easier to just keep living each day with my anxieties. I don’t enjoy them, but when I think about all of the things I have to go through to officially see if I have a clinical form of anxiety, I can’t help but thinking my life would be easier just left as it is. Auto-pilot. But I must disengage that auto-pilot in order to course correct.
So, once that process is at last officially off of the ground and doing its (hopefully) good for me, that is one way I will be shutting off auto-pilot in 2014. Thriving instead of surviving and all of that.
Who inspired you in 2013? And why? What gifts did they give you? And how will you carry these forward in to 2014?
Inspiration is a tricky subject with me. I tend to be more inspired by events or even thoughts and ideas, than I am by individual people. I can have deep respect for someone’s situation, obstacles and achievements without feeling personally inspired by them. Their story, after all, is not my story. Though on some broad level I intellectually understand that such people can be examples of overcoming the odds, (if they can do it you can do it!) I tend to view such people as the one-legged man who scales Everest, or the woman who overcame her mental illness to become a published writer as circumstances isolated from my own.
Maybe I don’t look closely enough, or maybe I am just a colder, more shallow person. Or maybe this is just another manifestation of my unique, sometimes strange perception of life. I don’t know.
All of that being said, I do have at least a partial answer for this prompt, and it is a surprising one: Pope Francis.
I am not a Roman Catholic. I disagree with the church, (and by extension any Pope) in regards to many moral and social issues. But within that framework, this current Pope has said and done many things that have gotten my attention, and at times even touched me on a personal level.
His attention and prioritization of the poor. His refusal to demonize homosexuals even as he disagrees with them. His willingness to admonish the rampant excesses of capitalism. The fact that he still does not use the luxurious papal apartments, but rather lives in a simple hotel within the Vatican. These are perspectives not shared by many previous popes. At least not in as vocal a fashion as this pope.
So I admire, respect, and in some cases, deeply appreciate what Pope Francis is doing and saying.
But his viewpoints are not what inspires me per se. What I find inspiring, rather, is the deep conviction with which he not only expresses but lives his beliefs. The humility. The unflappability. And perhaps most of all, doing all of this in the face of a Vatican establishment, namely the Curia, that is not the most welcoming of his speeches and reforms, sometimes to the point of talking back the Pontiff’s comments the following day, so as not to allow him to appear too “different”.
I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of the Vatican. Nor can I sympathize with how it feels to believe in and cling to an infallible pope, as again I am not Catholic. But I can be inspired by acts of faith, charity and love. Though the possibility always exists that he could be for whatever reason faking all of it, I’m willing to take Pope Francis at face value, and be inspired by the man.
As for what gifts the man can give to me in 2013…his gifts to Catholics and the poor are of course of far greater significance. But I do think he serves as a reminder, and solid example of the importance and the power of knowing one’s convictions, and striving everyday to live them and share them, regardless of how inconvenient it may be to some. The courage of conscience, even if that conscience is not my own, contains a power that can sometimes transcend difference and circumstances. Doing the work one feels they were born to do in service to what they feel is right in this world. That’s the inspiration of Pope Francis, and others like him in this world. I will take these lessons with me into 2014 and beyond as I follow my own convictions in pursuit of service.
What went right in 2013?
I’m sort of a pessimist at times, I maintain with reason. But this year I can’t deny that a lot of my writing went right. (Not really liking the homonyms in one sentence, but there is no other way to put it.)
I say this about my writing even though I didn’t achieve one specific goal I set for myself at the start of the year. But first, let’s talk about what I did achieve.
In January, I wrote the following list of writing goals:
-Write the fifth and sixth draft of my novel, Flowers for Dionysus
I’ve talked about my novel many times here on the blog. I’ll be revising it again come New Year, but I achieved both of these drafts within the span of 2013. Plus, one of them was reviewed by a small group of writers. I didn’t like everything they said, and will be ignoring some of it, but they did provide me with some useful information for the future revisions. (Which I hope to be done with next year.)
-Write ten short stories.
I actually exceeded this by a few. Mostly as part of a collection of ten short stories about a theatre which will be a sort of companion piece to my novel. But also one or two single-shot stories. I know that a dozen or so doesn’t sound like much, but for me, a more methodical and at times plodding sort of writer, it was a fair goal. Looking back, I probably could have written more than a dozen. But there is always next year.
Each of those stories has also been through a revision or two this year. That wasn’t technically on the goal list, but it’s satisfying to have gotten that far with most of them.
-Draft a one-man stage show.
Did it. My one man Shakespeare-based show will still require some work, but I did get the research and the first few drafts of it done this year. In theory it should be ready for me to perform sometime next year.
Now to what I did not get done:
-Finish the first and second drafts of Novel 2.
As many of you who follow this blog on a regular basis already know, the status of so called Novel 2 has been unstable to say the least. I won’t explain all of it again here, as I have done that about a thousand times. Just do a search for “Novel 2″ on this blog, and you’ll be caught up on that saga. Suffice to say I have had to seriously rework and reconsider that project. I have not abandoned it. But I have taken an extended leave from it due to some of the difficulties. So I did not accomplish a first or second draft. But I hope to next year.
Then there are the things I accomplished with my fiction writing this year that were not specific goals, but in a sense make up for the one I missed:
-I wrote two other novels this year that I didn’t expect to write. One was a ghost writing job for which I got paid. (Eventually.) The base material was atrocious and the man that hired me was about as unprofessional and inconsiderate as they come. (No wonder his screenplays have not been turned into film; they are trash.) But I did the best I could with what I had, and frankly my story is better than his could ever hope to be with the same material, even though he didn’t think so.
This novel was on the short end, because again the source material was pure drivel. But I did write a novel, nobody can deny me that.
Then there was last month’s Nanowrimo, which I have also talked about several times. For the first time ever I completed the entire novel in November, with almost no planning ahead of time at all. That went better than I thought it would. So much so, I am considering revising it once or twice, and publishing it myself, depending on how solid I think the first draft is. (I will read it in January.)
But whether I go forward with that novel or not, I finished it. Which means I wrote two novels this year. Not two of the longest novels out there, and nothing compared to some prolific writers, but for me, having written two novels within the course of a year is quite the accomplishment.
Actually, having written two novels, edited a third, written a dozen short stories and a stage show is quite the accomplishment, if I may say so myself. It wasn’t always pretty, and I don’t know what the future holds for any of the writing. But I can say that my fiction production for the year is something that went right, for certain.