On Discomfort, Journeys, & Authorship…

This post being late? Side effect of both summer (wherein there’s too much to do outside to get everything done inside too) and high temps coupled with our A/C being out. Basically, I’ve been spoiled by central air for the last 10 years, and sort of shut down when it gets too hot until we can get the house cooled down again. Repair guy’s coming June 18th…it’s gonna be a long week!

Gotta remember my eye drops tonight too. All the extra time outside is making things a bit blurry… *memo to self*

I’ve been thinking a lot again lately (too much time in my head), and last week, I read a couple of blog posts that did a great job not only of distilling the gist of what I’d been pondering, but also raised some great points and a few important questions as well.

The first one is titled False Summits┬áby Hugh Howey. The basic premise is not to wait for things, not to let yourself become stagnant, and to always be confronting things that are uncomfortable (baby steps) as a way to keep learning and growing and *doing*. Hugh is the same age I am, and he’s done an incredible amount of moving around and had some amazing experiences all because he refused to let himself get too comfortable in any one place or or situation (go read the post – it’s okay, I’ll wait).

Good stuff, eh? Now, my personality is such that the life that Hugh has chosen would have put me in the looney bin in short order (for anyone new who might be reading, I’m a 100% introverted INTJ with an almost obsessive need for daily routines in order to stay sane). But, I completely agree with the philosophy behind his choices – keep pushing that comfort zone, and don’t let yourself stagnate, because it is *so* incredibly easy to do just that. For some of us, that means changing jobs and/or cities, traveling to lots of places and just generally keeping moving to avoid getting too comfortable.

For others of us, it’s smaller things. Last year, one of my resolutions was to do something social every month, and I did, and it was more fun than I thought. I experienced new things and people and environments, and it was a good way to remind myself that I actually can handle “people”, at least every once in awhile. I also learned that I can get a little too carried away with the social thing as well, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story that really requires more alcohol…

This year, I’ve been slacking on that (and everything social, online & off), but there have been some changes at work that required a lot of mental/emotional energy, and I only have so much of that to go around. So I’ve been pretty high on the introverted scale, not even really interacting much on social media, but rather trying to conserve/recharge my energy for whatever comes next. And there are more changes on the horizon – I’m in a lull (mentally speaking) at the moment, but it could come at any time.

Still, I’m stretching, reaching, pushing my brain through those uncomfortable things and dealing with them as I can. The industry I’m in is nice, because I don’t have to change jobs to be mentally stimulated – there is always some new technology, new programming language to learn. More than enough stuff I don’t know to keep my brain engaged for many years to come.

This summer, there are a bunch of social/community things going on, and the next two Saturday’s I’ll be out and about with hubby. More people, more experiences, more missed chances to be at home writing and working on the business of publishing books… (*sigh*). But, it’s good for me to get out and remember that “life” exists outside my personal little bubble, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

Another way I keep from growing stagnant is by having many interests. I have several hobbies, all of which I wish I could devote more time to, and all of which are challenging mentally, physically or both. I love them, and I want to spend more time doing/learning/growing, but there’s a downside to that, which leads me to the second post that sort of said basically what I was thinking this week:

Lessons from #life drawing #6 by Toby Neal. Toby’s taking art classes, and in this latest installment about the growth she’s experiencing as a result, she wonders if she can ever do anything “just as a hobby”, or if there has to be a purpose behind it. Whether or not she can ever be happy with mediocrity and just enjoy something for the journey itself, rather than constantly focusing on the end point.

Unlike Toby, I have no problem with that particular issue in most cases. However, my writing is a different story (so to speak). And while I’ll never quit writing, and I’ll never quit striving to be better, I also am limited by the fact of my humanity as far as how many things I can pursue at once, even at a hobby-type level.

The fact is, while I have the drive to keep writing and keep constantly enjoying the journey of discovery that goes with that, I really don’t have what it takes to be an “Author”, like Toby and Hugh. They both work incredibly hard not only to write the best books they can, but also to get the word out about those books, and to connect with fans and people in general. I don’t know Hugh, but I “know” Toby a little, and I know they both have a serious drive not only to bring their stories alive on the page, but also to make sure those stories have the best chance possible at getting out into the world.

I thought I had that drive once, but I really don’t. And before any of you try to come to my emotional rescue, I’m okay with that. The thing I’ve been working through in my head, is that while I have always and will always have the drive to write and share what I write with others, I have zero interest whatsoever in doing much of the work required for actually making money from my writing. I like having it as a side-business, and I have marketing obligations I intend to meet, and I will do a certain level of connecting, but I have no desire whatsoever to ever do a book-signing, or a conference, or a launch party, or vlogging, or…well, any of the actual “work” involved in selling books and being a successful Author. I also have no desire to make a bestseller list or be recognized in any way as an Author. I’d love it if people would eventually talk about my books, but leave me happily in the background writing the next one.

It’s the act of writing that satisfies me – the first draft, where I dig in to a story and discover what it is. I also get a certain amount of satisfaction in working to make my books better for those who might read them…because storytelling is a skill, and one I’d like to get better at. I do want to entertain people, but with my words, not my oh-so-sparkling personality.

It’s a hard view to take, surrounded by writers who all want fortune (or at least to make a living) and fame (or at least one bestseller list). Everyone’s always talking about how to market your books, how to write the best blurbs and design the best covers. How to get the most reviews. It’s easy to get caught up in all of that, and to start thinking that’s the important part – the part where we sell our work and convince people to read it.

And I’m sitting there thinking to myself, I hate this, I’d rather be writing. I have a good job, I don’t need the money, and there’s absolutely no reason to push myself to do something (selling books) when I really have no drive to do in the first place. I thought I wanted to be a full-time writer at one point, and eventually, when I retire from my job, I will be (because I can’t see myself ever actually retiring…). But for now, all that time I “should” be spending marketing? That’s not just time away from writing, but time away from the other hobbies I love and learn from as well.

Yes, I’m aware that plenty of people do both. I don’t have the drive to do what they do. And I’m learning to be okay with that, at least for now.

Toby’s post asking the question about whether she could ever be okay with mediocrity struck a chord because by basically doing the absolute minimum where sales are concerned, I’m settling for a mediocre writing “experience” – and it is a bit unsettling to actually do that when it seems like every other writer out there is dreaming of turning their hobby into a career, and most writing conversation revolves around that very thing.

I still don’t know exactly where that line is for me, and as I mentioned, I have obligations to meet, so there is that.

Deep thoughts for a hot summer week, eh?


 

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