Tag Archives: commitment

The Weekly Re-Motivator: On Not Belonging

You can’t get there from here.

That thing you want to be? It’s an elite club. Elaborate membership initiation. Dizzying ivory tower across a raging, flood-fed river from where you are now. They actually get money to do the thing you’re trying to do for fun. They probably even have a secret handshake, and even if you made it across the river and climbed the tower, they wouldn’t teach it to you.

Italy, Pisa, Tower, Sky, Monuments, Buildings Italy

In short, you’re a pretender, and you will always be a pretender. You don’t belong there. This is impostor’s syndrome, and it’s a bitch. Impostor’s syndrome speaks with the voice that came pre-installed in your own head, which makes it particularly credible. And worse — it’s true! For the first (insert arbitrary period of time here), you will suck at the thing you’re trying to do.

(Here we talk about running and writing, since those are my two primary extracurricular jams.)

Those first runs suck worse than anything has ever sucked. You can’t even finish them, the best you can hope for is to do a little bit better than you did last time before your legs give out and you literally dissolve into a puddle of sweat on the pavement. You’re as graceful as an elephant on roller skates. You wheeze like a Chevy Malibu on its last legs (god help the designers of that car if I ever meet them in an alley).

Somewhere in the distance, you see the Ivory Tower of the real runners. Olympic Athletes, sure, but not even that — just people that run races for fun are in the tower. Marathoners. Half-marathoners. Even running a 5k seems a monumental and impossible goal at this point. And that voice kicks up in your head: you don’t belong, you’re not a real runner and you never will be, this is stupid, you’re stupid, stop trying!

Or writing. You set out to write a book or a story or a play or whatever, and maybe you start off okay, but soon the work turns into real, actual four-letter-word-WORK. The inspiration won’t come no matter how much you crank the engine (metaphors, whee!). The words that do come feel idiotic, stilted, hackneyed, or worst of all, just fargoing boring. You are the World’s Worst Writer, and it’s immediately obvious to anybody who reads your fetid pile of word-gerple.

And there, the Ivory Tower again. Real authors making real money with real readers, writing two or three or a dozen books a year, their books on the shelves at the mother-trucking Target, for god’s sake, so you can’t even pretend not to be aware of them while you’re buying TP and Chex Mix. Then the voice: your crap will never be on the shelves, just think of all the time you’re wasting, you don’t belong, you’re not a real writer, stop fooling yourself!

And maybe you believe it. Or maybe you don’t. Perception is reality, after all, and that Ivory Tower, metaphorical as it may be, exists in your mind, and all the barriers keeping you from it exist just the same. Hours, weeks, months, years of training and practice. A few lucky breaks along the way. Tenacity. Bull-headedness. Maybe even a little dash of crazy. Even if you’re doing the thing a little bit right now, it’s all pretend. You’re not a runner, you’re not a writer, you’re not THAT THING, whatever that thing is.

You’re just you, playing in the sand. Building up a joke of a castle and watching it wash away with each new wave.

Castle, Beach, Sea, Sand, Sand Sculpture, Artwork, Wave

You suck so bad.

But here’s the trick:

To build a castle, you actually need a bit of water. You can’t build anything without a healthy dose of the stuff that will bring it all tumbling down. And that Ivory Tower on the horizon?

It’s just a sand castle that somebody else built while they were feeling just as doubtful as you feel right now.

The trick is not to find the magic key to get into that Ivory Tower. You don’t have to guess the password, you don’t have to break yourself doing exactly what everybody else did to get there. The trick is to build your own Ivory Tower out of the sand, no matter how many times the ocean knocks it down for you, no matter how many times you wreck it yourself because you don’t know what the hockey-sticks you’re doing.

And it won’t be their Ivory Tower. You don’t have to belong to the super-secret, super-elite club, to be able to call yourself THAT THING THAT YOU WANT TO BE. It’ll be your Ivory Tower, where it’s okay to suck, where it’s okay to miss a day because you feel like puke run through a garbage disposal, where it’s okay to do something the completely wrong way and then turn around and re-do it the next day if what’s what it takes.

You build your own Ivory Tower.

Sand Sculpture, Structures Of Sand, Tales From Sand

And then you shine the beacon out to the other poor souls who think you did something magical to get there.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.

Accidentally Inspired is Two Years Old!

WordPress informs me that my blarg is two years old today.

Baby, Crown, Birthday, Cute, Child, Blue Eyes, Girl

(That is not either of my babies.)

I guess that tracks, though it’s a little hard to believe.

I started this little experiment at the same time I decided I was going to try writing a novel. I intended it to be a space for reflecting, for puzzling out the process, for venting the pressure when I got stressed out from the process (for all I didn’t know what writing a novel would be like, I at least anticipated somewhat the stress it would bring). It’s grown from that; I’m comfortable enough now with my process that I don’t need to post so much about it to keep myself honest, and I’ve developed a taste for using it as a space to talk about other things.

Reviews, for example, have been a lot of fun to write. As have political posts, especially the closer we’ve gotten to the election this year. I still post about running every now and then, even though it drives my wife nuts (“how much,” she rightly asks, “can you really say about it??”). Then there’s the Weekly Re-Motivator posts, which have served to keep me on the straight and narrow for getting the writing done (and, judging from the comments, have also helped some of my readers out as well — which I think is fargoing awesome). And the blarg continues to be a good motivator for keeping short fiction flowing, though I’m maybe not as stringent about posting it every week like I used to be. Frankly, when I go back and look at my numbers from when I started the blarg, I don’t know how I maintained that pace at this time of year. (Actually it’s no great secret; I wasn’t coaching soccer in that first year, and soccer has turned out to be an even bigger time sink than I originally anticipated).

Some of you may even be hanging around from when the blog was once called “Pavorisms” — it didn’t become “Accidentally Inspired” until about six months ago. Hooray for arbitrary milestones! I particularly like the new title, not just because it’s been the working title of my book since before I ever wrote it, but because it pretty much represents my thoughts about my artistic process, and it has, in that way, helped me to rethink and rediscover a direction for my thoughts here. I think it’s awesome that ordinary people like me can create things that other people enjoy, so I try to keep that in mind and keep myself inspired.

So, a recap:

Since the inception of my once-writing-now-more-of-a-Life-the-Universe-and-Everything blog, I’ve accomplished:

1 full-length (90,000 word) novel, almost finished with its third edit, and about to be sent out in search of an agent.

1 drafted novel (about 85,000 words), which I will maybe start editing after I finish this last pass at AI … or maybe I’ll just go draft another!

A … bunch of flash fiction stories. My collection page lists about 40, but it’s woefully out of date; I want to say it’s closer to 60 or 70 by now. At about 1000 words a piece, that’s another 70,000 words. That kinda blows my mind, actually. 70 stories. To say nothing of the ones I never finished…

A total of 462 posts here at the blarg. Subtract out the 70 stories and that’s almost 400. My average used to be almost 1000 words per post, but I’ve since embraced brevity a bit more and aim for more like 500-700 on average, though my reviews tend to run longer. I’ll split the difference and call it 800, for a really rough estimate of  … 320,000 words written.

Holy carp.

Holy mother of cod carp.

That doesn’t even seem possible.

Add that all up and it comes to … 565,000 words.

*Passes out*

*Comes to, woozily reads that number again*

Seriously, I think I might need to have a little lie-down. That number is destroying my mind right now. Five hundred sixty-five … thousand … words written since the inception of this blarg. Even if I’m wildly off in my average word count per post here, that’s still 500,000.

It defies logic. It defies belief. I have a full-time job. I have two kids. I have a wife who I spend a not-insignificant amount of time with, not writing. How in the everloving hell have I found the time to write — at all — let alone half a million words? I don’t know how I’ve done it, but the ink doesn’t lie.

Let it never be said that you don’t have time to do the things you want to do. Let it never be said that you don’t know how. I don’t have time to do all this writing. I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m doing it anyway.

And I plan to keep doing it for quite some time.

If you’re out there reading, you have my thanks. Drop a comment below and let me know if you are!




CommiTTmenT (You Don’t Need New Year’s Resolutions)

A few days ago, I posted a roundabout look at New Year’s Resolutions and my general disdain for them. And freely I own that I’m a cynic and a Grinch about lots and lots of things. But I don’t think I’m wrong. Most New Year’s Resolutions fail, right? I mean, you apparently need look no further than any gym. Gyms sell enough memberships in January to keep them in the black for the entire year. Regular gym-goers spend January and February griping about the resolution-makers that clog up the gyms during those months. They go and buy their memberships filled with purpose and zeal. They arrive at the gym without a real plan and mill about, hopping on a treadmill here, a bench-press machine there, and then they go home, feeling good about themselves for getting out of the house. I’ve read ridiculous stories in the last couple of days about sign-up lists of over an hour to get on a treadmill. An HOUR! (Protip: run outside and feel less like a rat on a wheel!)

Of course, by the time March comes around and the realization has dawned that it’s hard making time to go to the gym regularly, and that it takes work and discomfort to make the change they want in their bodies, the herd thins out. Why? I think there are two factors at work.

First is societal pressure. At the New Year, everybody is making resolutions to change his or her life for the better. “New Year, New Me!” And they promise to lose weight, cut back on vices, start working out, save more money, be a better person, and on and on ad nauseam. Problem is, they’re making these resolutions because they’re supposed to. It’s that time of year, after all, and people are going to be asking what your New Year’s resolutions are, and you want to have something good on your ledger. Which is one of the worst reasons to make a decision about changing your life, not to mention, it doesn’t work.

The reason it doesn’t work is the second factor: commitment. Or rather, a lack of it. If you want to make a change in your life, it takes time, and thought, and hard work, and a hell of a lot of sticktoitiveness. You know, “commitment.” The average New Year’s Resolution is made in a haze of misery about the state of a life lived over the previous year. It’s a lament after looking at oneself in the (literal or metaphorical) mirror. It’s born of frustration and disbelief (how did I let things get this way?) because it is based in the moment. But in the self-centered, instantaneous-feedback world of iPads and Twitter and name-your-app-or-device-that-has-I-or-me-or-my in its title, it’s hard for us to think outside of the moment.

Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen in the moment. I look in the mirror and recognize that I didn’t go overnight from 175 pounds up to almost 200. It’s easy to think that the change was sudden, but no, the fact is I worked hard at making myself that way by not fighting against my own momentum for about a year. I’d have to be an idiot to think I could decide on Jan. 1 to lose weight and start turning it around right away. Except that’s exactly what happens. People buy their gym memberships, go dutifully for a few weeks, don’t see the type of radical change they’re looking for and/or expecting IMMEDIATELY, think “fargo it”, and go back to the couch. People decide they’re going to write, and they do so religiously for a few weeks, but then it dawns on them that it’s actually work to write and it takes away time from other things they’d rather do, and it’s over. If you look around, you can find scads of blogs with twenty or fewer posts. They create the blargs, full of that mystical swill that makes us want to share and tell stories and paint pictures with words, and then slowly the gumption peters out and the blargs fall discarded like so many chewed-up tires by the roadside. (I’m painfully aware of this, because the title I wanted for this blog is in use by a woman who created a blog to talk about her pregnancy and wrote all of 2 POSTS back in 2011. Fargo!)

No, change takes commitment. It takes a good, long, hard look at the self — and not just the self we see, but the self we are: the love handles and the laziness and the fact that we can’t climb a flight of stairs without breaking a sweat and the fact that it’s so much easier and more inviting to watch hours of Reality TV reruns than it is to pick up the pen (virtual or otherwise) and create something. It takes a plan of action, not just jumping into the deep end of the pool and hoping for the best. It takes patience and an acknowledgment that it takes time to change your momentum: every step you take toward a new self is a step twice as hard, because you’re fighting against the current of your own bad decisions. The good news is, each step unburdens you just a little bit as you drop the bad momentum and build good momentum. It’s slow going, is all, and it takes commitment to weather the storm.

The point is, you don’t need New Year’s to make a change in your life. Or maybe you do. Ultimately it doesn’t matter when you make the change, the important thing is that you make the change. But don’t make it because you have a glass of champagne in your hands and the balls are dropping.

What’s that? Oh. Ball. The ball (singular) is dropping. Don’t make a change because it’s the time for making changes. Make the change because it’s time for the change to be made, and commit to the work that the change requires.

Happy New Year.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

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