A Re-Distribution of Fargos

I want to talk about my contributions here of late, partially to make excuses for myself, but also partially to justify myself. And I know, justifications are basically excuses, but I’m coming to understand that what I once thought of as excuses for myself are actually perfectly reasonable and acceptable justifications.

Here’s the critical worry in my mind over the last several months: I’m not writing enough. I’m not! For a guy who fancies himself a writer, I am decidedly not writing enough. A few years ago I was writing every day, bragging about it in more writing here on the blog, churning out short stories almost every weekend … I was capital-W WRITING. And then in the last several months here, not so much. My current novel project is stalled (I’ll circle back to that, but it’s totally mud-stuck and has been for a while), my blog posts have been rarer than Bigfoot sightings, and as for short stories, well, let’s just say I’ve come up short.

The obvious net result of all that is: I’m not writing enough. And I had something of a depressive episode several months ago — which I did write about — that I think must have been triggered, in part, by my feelings about not writing enough. It gets to me. It burns me up. Makes me question myself.

And I know I’m not the only one who thinks that way. Feelings of inadequacy, I wager to say, are rampant in the writing community, if not an understood part of the package. I wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking I’m special for going through it. But I did want to think that I might be special by dint of finding a way to overcome it. (Spoiler alert: I’m not over it yet.)

Which brings me back to those justifications.

I was at work the other day, taking a little break. We (my students and I) had just gotten finished hanging and focusing lights for our spring musical (I have an incredible group of students who always want to give up their time to come down to the theater and help out, and we were working during their lunch periods.) Hanging and focusing is tiresome and tedious work (up the ladder, down the ladder, forgot the wrench, find a burned-out bulb, up to the booth, up the ladder, remove the instrument, down the ladder, replace bulb, up the ladder, re-place instrument, focus, down the ladder, repeat). So they were on the stage listening to some music and I was parked on the backstage sofa just sort of watching and zoning out before heading up to write cues for the show.

This little kingdom ain’t much, but it’s mine.

And revelation struck, as revelation tends to do, while I was lying there not thinking too clearly or too intently about anything: that this is where my creative energy has been going.

I’m a fairly convinced believer in the school of “you only have so many Fargos to give in a day” (Fargos of course is a stand-in for another F-word I shouldn’t be using as a government employee paid to educate children), and I think that goes double for your Fargos related to creativity. Being creative is hard. At least, I should say, doing something with your creativity is hard (daydreaming is easy). Sitting down to write is hard! Laying down a blog post is hard. Working on a novel is hard. Editing a novel is … well, don’t start.

These things suck up all the creative Fargos. And, well, when I started this writing journey, I was an English teacher. There’s an element of creativity in that, but mostly my job then left my creative Fargos untouched, so I had a lot of them left over.

But my job now? Teaching theater? I’m tapping deep into my creative Fargos just to get through an ordinary day of class, let alone to do work on the musical, or help an actor find their motivation, or coax a design out of a scenic painter, or collaborate with my techs to find the right look for the lights, or work with my props crew to wrestle the bloody plant prop that we’ve fixed five times already but somehow, somehow keeps finding new ways to break. By the end of the day, my creative Fargos are tapped out — and I’m already overdrawn on tomorrow’s balance as well.

Which, here’s where I circle back (finally!) to the point of this post — leaves me utterly exhausted and unmotivated to write. Because I have no Fargos left.

And I was upset with myself about that. (Still am, actually, but I’m getting better.)

But the revelation I had, lying on that couch backstage, had another revelation hidden within it, like the gooey center of a Cadbury’s egg (the caramel kind, not the gross frosting kind, you monsters).

And that revelation is: It’s okay that my creative Fargos are going into my job. In fact, it’s good that I have a job where I get to use my creativity. That’s an enviable spot to be in.

After all, I get to work with young minds, helping them tap into their creativity, helping them find ways to express themselves, giving them the freedom and the safe spaces to explore who they are and how they experience and create art. And that’s pretty Fargoing awesome. And not to take anything away from how awesome that is, but I think it would be selfish of me if I continued to be uptight about spending my creative Fargos in that way.

So I think I have to be okay with maybe not writing as much as I was. Which is not to say that it won’t upset me — it surely will, as critiquing myself is one of my favorite pastimes. But I’ve now got what I feel is a perfectly legitimate excuse — no, a perfect justification for my slackitude, which isn’t slackitude at all.

It’s just a re-distribution of Fargos.

But here’s the other delicious secret: making this realization? Shedding light on this re-distrubition of Fargos? It’s a little like hacking the Matrix.

Because as soon as I made the connection that this is where my creative Fargos has been going, I started finding myself, shockingly, with more creative Fargos. I’m filled with desire to work on my current novel again, whereas for months I dreaded the prospect. I’ve been writing in the mornings again for the last two weeks, pages at a time — writing not fit for human consumption, mind you, but writing nonetheless. And that’s creating even more Fargos.

Overcoming and accepting my hangup with my own productivity has actually opened the gate to more productivity.

Or, viewed from another angle, the roadblock to my creativity was mostly just me thinking there was a roadblock.

The problem, as they say, seems to have been located almost entirely between the ears.

Luckily, that’s a space I seem to have plenty of access to.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Can’t remember the last time I did one of those, but here we are. Thanks Linda!

Yes, There Is A Try

Do, or do not; there is no try. — Yoda

That used to be my stuff, right there. Say it, little green man. You’re either gonna do a thing or not do a thing, so quit pussyfooting around and saying you’re gonna “try.”

Oh, you’re gonna “try” to get that job? You’re gonna “try” to write today? You’re gonna “try” to do a push-up? Like hell you are. You’re either gonna make it a priority and bend your entire existence toward it and DO IT, or you’re gonna not, and the opportunity is gonna pass you by, and here you will still be, a little bit sadder.

Except … life isn’t always that simple, is it?cx

The Weekly Re-Motivator: Stuff of Substance

I was going to write about the stuff-focused holidays we have here in the States (Christmas of course, Thanksgiving with its frankly embarrassing piles of food, and Black Friday, a de facto holiday with a surprisingly adversarial focus on buying as much stuff as you can’t afford) with this week’s prompt, but the moment I started kicking it around, I realized that even I couldn’t take any more of my bitching about holidays and special events… between my tirade about NaNoWriMo, my grumbling about Daylight Savings Time, and my sermonizing about the war on Christmas, I’ve sure been slinging the negativity lately.

That said, the picture is unrelated.

Today, a positive bent, a return to what I like to use SoCS for: to ruminate on writing.

I’m giving myself a break from Big Writing Projects lately — through the Christmas season, really, by the time all is said and done — and as a diversion, and to keep the grooves nicely greased, I’m working on some short fiction instead. You haven’t seen it around the blarg. It’s a SECRET.

Or rather, it’s in progress, which for writers means it may as well be as secret as the Coca Cola formula — we don’t like people sticking their fingers in our pies until we’re good and ready to have our pies finger-stuck.

Anyway, I went and enrolled in a free short fiction writing workshop hosted over at Holly D. Lisle’s site at How to Think Sideways. She lays out a three-step (with multiple embedded sub-steps, but y’know, that’s not as flashy as saying “3-step”) template to writing flash fiction that doesn’t suck. And what I quickly realized is that a lot of my stories kind of suck. Like, most of them have decent ideas at their cores, but they lack any sort of follow-through or intelligible raison d’etre. (I don’t actually know what that means, but I heard it before and it sounded fancy.) In short, stuff happened, but lacking were the reasons for said stuff happening, or an appreciable understanding of the consequences for the stuff happening.

And with the five stories I’m workshopping, there is a real focus on meaning and significance through brevity. It’s been eye-opening, like that air freshener commercial where they blindfold people in squalid rooms, wave air fresheners under their noses, then remove the blindfolds so they see the cloud of actual sharknado they’d been inhaling.

Anyway, I’m not going to detail the … well, details of the course. They’d be tiresome if you’re not interested, and if you are interested, it’s worth your time to roll over to Holly’s site and sign up for the course yourself. Suffice it to say that while this has been some much-needed down time from my big projects, I’ve not been idle, and that feels nice. Momentum matters and all that.

Which is, I guess, the point of the post this week: writing is something you can only ever get better at by sitting down and practicing at it. And a tremendous obstacle for many would-bes is the simple but enormous leap of faith that it takes to even start screwing up a perfectly good blank page with your awful, stupid words. There’s something to be said, then, for the virtue of just sitting down and banging out words week after week. But there comes a point where you feel safe enough in the habit, and you want to actually start refining your craft. I think, a year and a half into this adventure, I’ve more than established the writing consistently part, and it’s time to start worrying more about writing stronger, smarter, sharper stories. Stories where the stuff that happens is stuff that people will care about.

Stuff of substance.

This weekly Re-Motivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every Saturday, I use LindaGHill‘s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.

Turkey-Drunk Takeover

I’m guest-posting over at Linda G. Hill‘s place this week.

Specifically, I’m hosting her Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday this week; an event I regularly partake in on Saturdays. Of course, I’ll still be partaking, but at double the fun, since the prompt this week is mine, all mine!

*cue evil laugh*

Anyway, if you like what you read here, you might want to head over there and check it out. The prompt is live, too, if you want to jump in and take part.

Just tell them Pav sent you.

Except that when you get there, you’ll find me in the driver’s seat there as well. So you’d be telling me that I sent you.

But, y’know, tell me anyway.

I was going to post something funnier, but my heart just isn’t in it tonight, watching the shootout at a Planned Parenthood, of all things. Jesus Christ.

Anyway, happy Black Friday.

Only Off By a Minute or Two (or 14.4)

The topic for the week in Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday is “ke”.

Which is crap, innit? It’s not a word, certainly not a concept. But it’s more than just a letter. It’s a sound, sort of, though it depends on how you use it. It sounds like itself sometimes: KEy, KEep, KEen; but throw it at the end of a word and its sound disappears entirely: faKE, liKE, smoKE. It vacillates between setting the tone for the thing it’s a part of and being entirely subservient to the rest of the thing.

So I took to the Googles, typed in “ke” and I guess not surprisingly, the first thing to pop up was a wikipedia page, and that seemed promising.

KE is a postal code for Kildare, Ireland, which sounds lovely.

KE is the abbreviation for kinetic energy in physics. Now, I like the thrust of that, but we all know I do more than my share of nattering on about the importance of momentum and doing things and I already feel the gravity of more nattering on the topic, so I will do us all a favor and drive that train of thought into the ditch and move on.

Then you’ve got Ke, which has its own attributions: It’s a translation of a common surname in China, it’s the elimination rate constant (or the rate at which drugs are removed from the body, a topic I know nothing about), it’s also an electrical constant called Coulomb’s Law, which I would have loved to tie in here in clever fashion but ye gods, I had a partial stroke just trying to read the formula:\oiint\mathbf{E} \cdot {\rm d}\mathbf{A} = |\mathbf{E}|\mathbf{\hat{e}}_r\int_{S} dA = |\mathbf{E}|\mathbf{\hat{e}}_r \times 4\pi r^{2}

And I apologize for whatever ill effects it might have had on your system. Finally, a Ke is also a Chinese unit of decimal time measuring either 14.4 minutes or 15 minutes.

Wait a minute.

It’s a unit of measure — those things that we use to determine how much of things there exist in a given system, or the distance between things, or the purity or contamination of things, or in fact any of the myriad of methods we have for making meaning out of the world around us — but we don’t know exactly how much of the thing it sets out to measure that it actually measures.

I thought more about this, and it only made my brain hurt even more, and it was already reeling after trying to read that formula up there. (HALF OF IT IS JUST WAVY LINES.) Think about it. The difference between 14.4 of something and 15 of something is 4%. 4% doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you start doing math of any consequence, 4% becomes enormous. 4% of the world’s population, for example, is 284,000,000 (that’s 284 million) people. 4% of the distance from the earth to the moon is almost ten thousand miles. It’s hard to imagine any measurement having a grey area you could sail the earth itself through.

But that’s the way of things, innit? The Ke is not a contemporary unit of measurement. It doesn’t get used anymore, except perhaps by Chinese authenticists (the measurement, it turns out, was based on the sundial), in large part because we’ve come up with new, better, more precise measuring sticks. So are we always redefining the rules, fine-tuning the specs on our tools, rejiggering the machinations that control and that build our lives. As our goals and, by extension, our accomplishments grow, so too must the means by which we measure them. An “A” in high school chemistry might have been the most important thing in the world to a past version of myself, but today it means precisely bupkis.

I got up for a drink just now, and on my way back to my seat, I had the thought that just about the only yardstick that has meaning in my life at the moment is money, and as I thought that thought, my blood started to simmer. My head filled with insane, tinfoil-hat kinds of ideas and notions that money isn’t real yet our lives and our livelihoods depend on it, that some people in the world can just invent all the money that they want while others live their lives in the shadow of its absence, and ultimately I decided that my blarg is a whole lot more lighthearted than that and the best thing to do was just to wrap this stream of consciousness up.

And to think, it only took me a couple of Ke’s to write all this.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.