"Is that a 25lb. bag of rice in your pantry, or are you just happy to see me?"
I've been noticing lately just how much it bothers me when I have nothing of interest to say to people who ask me what I've been up to. I'm a fella should be up to stuff. Instead, I tend to answer vaquely: "nothin' much" or "workin' mostly". I hate
that. It is one of the underlying problems with this grotesque thing that I'm calling "me" right now.
So what have
I been up to lately?
Well, lessee. I've been undergoing something of a science renaissance for a few months, mostly due to watching Cosmos
, which rocked my socks off. Seriously, I am literally barefoot right now, and one totally has anything at all to do with the other. There's a hopeful aspect to Sagan in spite of his dread of that pesky "global thermonuclear war" thing. That attitude toward one's personal relationship with a greater understanding of the universe appeals to me. It's one I look for in myself. I've also been reading a lot of good sci-fi lately. Currently, I'm reading "The Uplift War"
by David Brin, which I will probably have something to say about once I'm done.
I have been intermittently trying to write, but that has not been going well. I feel (and have for some time) almost artistically dead. I blame myself, and so does he. It's mostly a product of laziness and abject fear. I started a short story in December but stopped about seven hundred words in because I realized I hated
it. Actually, I began again with the same story a few weeks ago, telling it from a different viewpoint, but it still isn't engaging me much. I doubt I'll do anything with it in the future, but it's nice to know it's there if I need it. I'm more excited about another story I started a few weeks ago, which has the honored distinction of being the second science fiction story I've ever attempted. The first was an absolute piece of crap that I wrote late last year. That one was fun to write, but just no good. This second attempt will also be fun to write, but will also probably be no good. That is my lot where sci-fi is concerned right now. I'm so new to the genre, it's like I'm thirteen again, writing manuscripts of stories that have everything to do with what I've been reading lately and nothing to do with actual craft. My enthusiasm for the task is good. It's writing, whether or not it's publishable, and that's something I need to wrangle out of myself whenever I can.
Where writing is concerned, I've been speculating that my hangups are largely neurotic rather than physical. I've been blaming exhaustion from holding down a full-time job for some time, and even though that's a valid observation, it's not the root of the problem. It's too easy. It hurts to think about it, but I really think the problem is a lingering sense of self-doubt and fear. I know that I'm a pretty good writer, though I don't know if I'm good enough to get where I want to go. Moreover, I've been for the longest time allowing myself to be undermined by a fear that stems from my parents' reactions to my lifestyle. Nine years ago, I was told in no uncertain terms that dropping out of college was Wrong. I was screwing up my life. Then, my detractors proceeded to try and force me to stop doing what I was doing. I've been looking at that for awhile now, and I think that on some level my artistic inaction is based on an irrational train of thought:
1. They tried to destroy the person I was trying to become.
2. They did this because that person, to them, is not the right person. He is making the wrong
3. If they are right, I lose. Because that Makes Sense. It is totally the attitude of a Non-moron.
4. If I Try and Fail, then they were right, and I Lose.
5. If I do not Try, I cannot Fail, and the game is eventually Drawn by lack of progress.
Apologies for the chess metaphor, but it resonates with me. I can look at that train of thought and think, "That's happening in me on some level. And it's a load of crap!" Taking steps to derail the train and evacuate myself from it isn't an easy thing to do, but I've got to try.
Otherwise, what's the fucking point
? I might as well cut the wires and let myself fall down the bottomless shaft of blue collar middle management work for the rest of my life.
"See, he didn't teach you how to win. He taught you how not to lose. That's nothin' to be proud of. You're playing not to lose, Josh. You've got
to risk losing."
- Vinnie, "Searching for Bobby Fischer"
Gaming still occupies some of my time. My last entry wherein I ranted at myself about blitz chess helped a little there. I've stopped playing blitz. I actually played a few longer time control games online tonight, and god that was exhilarating. The game is so much more what I want to get out of it when I can think about a position for longer than three bleeding seconds. I've also got a "bankroll" on my online poker site. It's only about forty dollars, but my poker obsession has been fully curtailed by now. I'm actually having fun occasionally buying into single table tournaments for five dollars at a time. I'm never going to make any money doing it, but who "cares". Poker isn't, and can't be, about profit for me. That is not how I interact with the game. It does not reflect my relationship to money.
I've been distancing myself emotionally from work. There was a scary time back around Christmas I guess when I realized I'd allowed myself to become invested in my job. I had to stop myself one day and remind myself that I don't care
about my job. I don't feel strongly enough about it to hate it, or shouldn't
care that much anyway. It's only purpose is to feed and shelter me until I'm a professional writer. That ties into the whole "not trying" thing. After all, trying is the only way I get away from that place. It's the only way I will ever make a living doing something I don't have a merc sensibility about. Or the only way I'm willing to acknowledge right now. Why not? Until I try, I have not failed, so there's no reason to consider the necessary alternatives. That's a stop-gap measure if I end up falling short of the mark. Before I have to seriously consider that path, I have to loose myself from the string on which I'm currently
Look at me. I'm an arrow alluva sudden!
What else? I've started cleaning my apartment on a more regular basis, which means "on occasion" rather than "never". I remember if felt really good sweeping my floor before Bork came over to hang out and having him notice it was cleaner. That was a Good Feeling. Also, spraying large amounts of Tilex on my shower walls is fun. Maybe that's just me. Now if only I'd wash my frakkin'
Finally, in the grand tradition of me talking a good game and then frittering my goddamn life away: I've begun trying
to get myself to cook again. Y'see, it is in fact a 25lb. bag of rice. Although, I am
happy to see you.