I may not believe in god, but how about some absolution over here?

As writing goes lately, I've felt like I can do a bit better.

I've been pretty busy the past couple of weeks, especially for how much I ever do [re: very little], and haven't had the time to just sit down and pound out a page or two a night like I usually do. Instead, I've been getting a lot of personal errands done as I prepare for an upcoming trip, which I will talk both more and less about in a later entry. Add to that Grandma's monthly nut orders [the nuts and candies she sells to friends and people in the neighborhood] recently arrived, which has left me as an unofficial stock boy again, knocking around boxes that make me smell like cashews along with other physical labor I'm not all that used to. This isn't such a terrible thing -- shopping trips and a little house cleaning are pretty standard fare considering my living situation, and I never mind, but when I factor in things to do for myself time seems to get a lot less available for work.

It's not a huge problem really, but I do try to put some time every day into writing something, even if it just winds up in the recycle bin, and when I don't get to I always feel a bit like I wasted the day. Worse yet, as I mentioned a littler earlier last week, if the whatever I'm tooling with creatively seems silly to me -- a treatment for episode of some TV show I'll never write for, or a comic book idea, I don't tend to count that either, which means in the past couple weeks I haven't actually worked near enough for my own standards, and it's been making me feel awfully guilty.

A lot of this comes from a personal satisfaction place. I don't write for anyone else, or any reason else, so if what I'm doing is not particularly pleasing to me, I rarely feel like I accomplished anything. The same goes with other kinds of achievements -- a friend of mine recently asked me why, despite not writing, I couldn't garner some satisfaction from all the chores and errands I was completing. The short answer, of course, is because it's boring -- there's no particular skill in getting these things done, though I do enjoy shopping, even for groceries, as there's something sort of posh and adult about it for me, and it gives me plenty of time in a Randall-hospitable climate with a good excuse to listen to music. But there's no after buzz for that, no accomplishment haze after getting finished, it's a task.

Same is true for a lot of writing I'm doing right now. I feel sort of lazy and uninspired, and I feel like I haven't gotten anything done -- but that's not entirely true. Nearly all of last Friday went into working on "Social Shuffle," and the days before that went to gathering notes and ideas for it and several other short pieces I had in mind to do [boy, I wish I'd picked differently on which to follow up on]. That's no different from the satisfying work I do, the only difference being "Shuffle" didn't turn out like I wanted it to at all. As I aimed for this sort of fun, "Modest Proposal" kind of essay, I fell really short, coming out with the greasy, fast food burger equivalent of Nabokov, which doesn't even deserve to have his name attached to it, much like "cheeseburger" feels blasphemous when paired with "McDonald's."

"Social Shuffle" doesn't work on a lot of levels, and if not for the amount of grief it caused me to finish [and the feeling of guilt I had for thinking it was good for any length of time], I probably would have just deleted it and never mentioned it here. There's very little in it worth saving, and I don't see future drafts improving upon it -- the idea is a bad one, the execution is bad, and I'm trying to fit one of my logical leaps "that thing x can be related to thing y, even though they're actually not even in the same alphabet" in without fully understanding why I relate the two things in my head. As an exercise, it's forgivable, but for the headache it gave me and the short amount of time that I thought I was writing an acceptable sequel to "New Hooverville" it's sad to me that I thought it was worth my time.

And since there's no success, there's no satisfaction either, and even though I'm clearly writing, it really doesn't feel like it.

Upon hearing all this, a friend of mine put it best, and I'll try to paraphrase: "It's the other downside to working for yourself. If you worked in an office, and did a bad job on something, you'd still get paid. There'd still be a reward for finishing." And I think that's absolutely right, that since my only reward is personal satisfaction, working hard and getting something done isn't always going to be enough -- sometimes I will do both of those things and reap no benefits from it [save perhaps the lessons I learn from failing so miserably, but that's a blog in and of itself].

This also raises a lot of really strange questions. When I finished drafts for both "Familiar" and "Trendsetter," I didn't look favorably on either of those at the time, in fact immediately after I felt burned out and hated them. Yet I still felt like I had accomplished something. And later, when I came back to them, I realized a lot of that "hate" was just me being very inside the story, very intent to get it finished, and very worried it wasn't going to be as good as I thought it would be. I felt a similar disdain for "Shuffle," with the difference being "Shuffle" is actually awful, while "Familiar" and "Trendsetter" had stuff in them that was worthwhile.

So is this my litmus test for knowing when something's worth pursuing -- feeling like I actually got something done? Is there some subconscious element to this I don't know?

All good questions. Right now, all of them are pretty unanswerable. But definitely something to think about.

Tomorrow is another day full of errands, as my retainer broke [I sleep in it, post-braces... lots of people do, well into their older years, yet for some reason saying "my retainer broke" makes me feel like I'm back in middle school], and I still need to get a few other things before October ends. Justin also mentioned hanging out tomorrow, though I don't know if it's comic-related or just social -- either sounds great, really.

I also have several ideas for entries here that I haven't gotten around to yet. Most are actually sitting in the drafts section of my blog, half finished, though it seems my blogging has been effected by this weirdness in the same way my writing has. Working on fixing that.

More soon.

6 comments :: I may not believe in god, but how about some absolution over here?

  1. I go through the same thing with everything I work on, too. I always ask myself "Is this worth doing? Am I wasting my time here? Is this any good?" Especially if it's something that I'm just doing for myself. If it's something job related, then I question if I'm actually putting my all into it or if I'm just making a quick buck, and what that does or doesn't say about me as an artist.

    I this is just what creative people do when they actually care about what they're working on.

  2. Thanks, man. I think so too, though sometimes I run myself a little ragged over it.

    It doesn't help that I think about time and worth as much as I do either. I always feel like I don't have much time left to finish any given thing I'm working on, and worse, that every time I really get going on something I'm worrying more about running out of steam before I run out of ideas, which happens, and makes coming back to it difficult though unavoidable.

  3. I think it's better to see unsuccessful ideas to fruition instead of just leaving them as one-sentence summaries that will either always leave us wondering "Why didn't I ever write that Social Shuffle idea that I was so hyped on?" or provoke us to tackle them again at a later date (where it would have the same effect). You have to see the process out; I think it's only a waste when you don't see something through, or worse, don't do anything at all. As someone often guilty of the latter, I hope this isn't just a "grass is greener" mentality.

  4. I think I mostly agree with that, Ian. My worry with this is that what I'm taking away from it isn't much different than what I'd taken from it if I hadn't written it at all. Time will tell, I guess.

  5. You're a monthly nut. :D

    I think anyone who does ANYTHING creative goes through a funk where you look at the thing you've doodled or outlined or even half-finished and feel a wave of disgust. It's hard wired into the creative subconscious to look at our own work critically, almost to a fault. It helps weed out the genuinely bad ideas, and hopefully fine tune the good ideas into better ones. You'll get through the difficult phase soon and move on to the honeymoon phase. You know, "Oh my god this is exactly what I wanted now, and if anyone thinks otherwise I will secretly believe they are stupid!"

    I've been swamped with crap going on x1000 (work, ghost hunting, looking to buy a house, helping my mom pick out new kittens, eating mall food court food) but drop me an email or something.

  6. I'll write soon, Sam.

    And thank you. A honeymoon period would be excellent. Always worry about maybe being in that period with something, and not capitalizing too. Always something.