Thursday, May 02, 2013

A Brutally Honest Personal Update on My Writing Career and Life

A week ago, I wrote a piece asking you fine readers to let me know what you want posted on this site.  I got some pretty awesome feedback via email and the comment section.  It is always swell to discover there are people who actively care about my little site.  Of course, a week after declaring that I wanted to start posting more original content on the blog, I proceeded to mainly just stick to the podcasts and links to my other articles instead.  It would almost make you think I wasn't sincere and that the piece was just written to get some kind of new content on the blog.

I was sincere.  Even if I warned you that I likely wasn't going to follow any of your suggestions, because I'm stubborn and largely just want this site to be my personal outlet.  But I did have every intention of writing fresh content on here rather than using it strictly as a "pimp my other works" hub.

Then life jumped in my way, and this poor blog is always the victim of those occasions.  My taxes ended up taking a lot longer than I planned.  The summer months tend to be a drought period when it comes to finding writing work and clients, and so I've been extra busy with marketing and querying.  I'm hoping to have some client lined up before the hot summer rears its head.  The bills have a funny habit of not just waiting for when I have a steady revenue stream.  I also have actual clients and deadlines, and since they pay real live money, they deserve my real live attention.  Of course, there is that whole being a daddy thing, which consists being a stay-at-home dad in the mornings while Emily works and then some crucial cameo appearances throughout the remainder of the day.  Speaking of Emily, she sort of appreciates it when I play the role of loving husband and spend some time with her.  If I'm honest, I've been sucking at that over the last several months, and I'm now trying to remedy that problem.  You add all that up, and my blog has been treated like the smelly kid during prom.

But there has actually been one more thing.  It is something that I haven't ever really talked about on this blog before.  It may have some value for me to reveal it, so I'm going to take a moment to be very open.

I've had some moments over the past few months where I've been suffering from high anxiety, self-doubt, and insecurity.  I don't want to call it depression, because that is a medical term.  I haven't bothered to get diagnosed.  I also know there are many people who suffer through such bouts that are far more severe than me, and more often than not, I'm pretty happy and content.

There are days I wake up and feel pretty overwhelmed.  I look at my career and get frustrated with where it is at.  It isn't always just career oriented.  I'll battle with how I view my own self-worth.

I want to make it clear that I'm not saying these things to earn pity or words of encouragement.  I know that I've got it pretty great.  I'm able to follow my love of writing.  I have an unbelievable wife who is supportive, beautiful, and fun.  My son lifts my spirits every time I see him, and fatherhood is an amazing treasure that I cherish.  My life is pretty amazing, and I know it.  Most days.

The greatest strength of a creative person can often be their greatest weakness.  I've read about many writers, musicians, actors, and other artists that struggle with addictions and depression.  Many of them have disorders that eat them up inside.  But at the same time, they create beautiful and remarkable works of art like stirring songs or profound prose or visual masterpieces.  I know personally, I've always got a legion of ideas and thoughts doing jumping jacks in my head.  I've never struggled with coming up with creative writing, because it is always there.  I'll obsess about those ideas and dwell on them.  The ideas will consume me until I finally allow them to be released from my fingers as I type them out.  The problem is that the obsessions and dwelling can sometimes be negative thoughts or be tough memories from my past.  Those thoughts can knock me down, and even though I know writing is my cathartic release, I instead opt to let it boil over inside me without ever lifting the lid on the pot.

The majority of creative people that I know (and what I definitely know about myself) are a very emotional bunch.  Once again it is these strong emotions that create captivating and inspiring works.  It is what allows one to open up and present something that resonates with people.  I also think a lot of that emotion is connected with the creativity and is part of that passion that drives those folks.  I know many of my feelings and emotions are what I pour into my creative works and sometimes are the cause of my ideas.  The problem is that not all emotions are cheerful and grand.  I can have days that I'm running on the clouds, but also days that I feel I'm being buried by a thousand pounds of dirt.  Now, bad feelings can be the catalyst of beautiful work.  I really believe my writing is often my best form of therapy.  There are those days that my emotions are too strong and my obsessions are too deep and my energy is sapped, and I allow myself to go to a dark place without allowing the writing to pull me out.  Even though I know that every time I write, it has been my medicine.

I've actually been in relatively good shape for the past few years.  It helps that my wife is a rock and someone who puts up with me.  The darker moments still come, but luckily, I haven't been teetering over the edge like I was several years ago.  For the most part, my bad days just make me a moody and insufferable ass.  Or I find myself just breaking down and crying in front of my wife.  Though there are those days that I feel it could just be a few more steps to the right and I'd seriously think about doing self-harm again or ending everything.  I'd call those pretty bad days.

The really dark times were over a decade ago.  And almost two decades ago, I did try to commit suicide back in high school.  I look back at that time, and to be honest, it scares me.  I'm glad that it does.  I hope to never return to that thought process again.  I still have periods where the energy is sapped, and I wonder what is going on with my life.  I'm usually able to handle it all much better than before even if I feel strapped to an anchor at the bottom of the ocean.  I lack the teen angst now, which helps a lot.  There are advantages to growing up.

I've got strategies in place.  I look at my son.  I kiss my wife.  I take my dog for a long walk.  I remind myself that I am a creative person for a reason, and I write.  Writing is important.  It is just too bad on those worst times, I forget that.

I've felt a lot of anxiety about my career and various other things the past few months.  In this current spiel of honesty, I can open up and now say that some of those days where there was no content on the blog meant I was overly stressed or panicking or whatever.  I do want to say that a lack of a post from me doesn't always mean that.  A disappearance can sometimes mean I'm rushing to get work done on deadline or actually, spending time with my wonderful family.

I feel enough responsibility to my family and have a desire to provide for them that my energy sapped days still don't stop me from writing my pay copy.  This is how I make my living.  My living is sort of important to my family staying in our house and being able to turn on lights.  I haven't allowed my personal demons to hamper me from getting work done on deadline.  It just has meant I don't always have any energy left over for here.

My self-doubt and insecurities have been chained to me since I was a kid.  I remember in high school having a really bad habit of not writing an essay, because I felt that if it wasn't completed then I didn't have to suffer from a teacher telling me I wasn't good enough.  I always loved writing, but I was scared to discover I sucked.  Though I do now actually finish my work, because again, I wouldn't get paid for a blank Word document, I'll still have my times where I stress about what I've written.

I'll have days where I obsess about the copy that I wrote.  Instead of sending it off to the editor, I'll waste another two hours reading it over and over to makes sure it is perfect.  Even after I send it, I then panic about it possibly being hated.  I've also written several articles on this blog that I eventually deleted, because I felt it wasn't good enough.  But then there are those days where the deadline is now rubbing against me and even though I stare at my article and scream, "This is shit!" but I need to send it off.  I then think about it all night and wonder how much the reader will despise and tear it apart.  90% of those times are when readers and my editor tell me that they loved it.  Some of the most popular stuff was content that I despised.

This isn't an everyday thing.  I've got days where I whip through my copy, I am happy with it, and then send it off without a second thought.  This happens pretty often.  It may have happened a little less often lately.  But I know I am capable of a stress and panic free day of writing.  I also know it is how I want to write.  I am busy enough where I can't pencil in 3 hours where I panic over a few thousand words essay.  Plus as I stated before, it just turns me into an insufferable ass, and since I like being around people, it isn't a good way to be.

I remind myself I suck as a critic to my own work.  I find most people are too hard on their own stuff.  I know that I just need to write honestly and follow where the words take me.  There are just going to be days where it will be marvelous and there will be days that it is several notches below that.  When you write every day, that is how it happens.  Not everything can be Shakespeare -- unless, you're Shakespeare.  Even then, he has a few plays that misfired a bit.

I am not saying any of this for validation.  At the moment, I am pretty confident in my writing abilities.  Instead, I just hope this honesty can resonate with someone out there.  If you have your days that you want to hide then you can at least know you aren't the only one.  Of if you're an aspiring writer but you have days you hate your work or just feel drained then know a guy who even makes a living off writing has those moments.  I don't know the solution.  I actually don't think such a thing can possibly exist.  I think these moments come along with the package of who I am.  I am creative and I am emotional and I obsess and all those things have times where they combine to be something great then less great the other times.  My goal is for it to just be great more often than not.

My last thing I want to mention is the whole self-value thing.  I can suck at it.  But as a writer, it is important to realize you're good.  Your work has value.  There are many companies that will try to take advantage of you.  They will try to get away with shit pay.  If you want this to be your career then you need to decide your work has a certain dollar value.  If you're talented, you have a right to make good money.

I write because it lifts my soul.  I love it.  I also want to be rich.  I'll be honest.  I want to make good money without having to lift something heavy or sweating outside.  I like being able to take the little things floating in my head and making them become something more.  I want to make money off those little ideas.  I want it to be enough so that I don't need to do any other work to provide for my family.

In order for anyone to make good money off writing, they need to see it as a business.  It can be art, but in the end, it is a job.  You work for your job.  In this case, you're self-employed.  You have to manage finances and set up things like a business.  Most importantly, you have to see a money value on your work.  You can't go below that rate, because you have to believe your work is worth something that a skilled professional would get paid.  The internet is full of cheap ass publishers, but there are really good publishers too.  You have to decide that they are the people you want to work with.

I'll be honest, I've had days I've panicked about my place.  I started thinking that I just need to accept anything.  I needed the affirmation.  I have accepted jobs below what I know I am worth.  I did it, because I needed the acceptance, and I worried I'd never get any other work.  Or I'd convince myself the exposure was important, and it would be nice for people to see my name in print.  All it gave me was a few pats on the back and some really awful pay.

I'm trying to refocus my career and not accept the smaller paying stuff.  I don't have time for it.  It rarely will lead to higher paying stuff.  Right now, I have some ghostwriting that pays great.  I have a few things that I took for exposure, and now think may have been a mistake.  Then I also have clients that give me exposure and pay great, and even better also give me creative freedom.  I love creative freedom.  I find the better paying jobs often trust you enough to give it.

Creative freedom is why I love my blog.  I don't have an editor here.  I can write whatever I want.  This is the main reason I want to start writing more content on here.  I love it.  It is my release.

It has actually also been really great for my career.  One of my best clients, Collective Publishing hired me based off my work on this blog.  I have also been able to sell several articles that I've written on here.  This little site has been huge for my career.  It has been a career that is still very young.  My wife reminds me of that fact when I start getting morose.

This is the honest and bare my soul reason this blog hasn't been a happening place over the last few months.  I hope revealing the reasons will motivate me to stick with the blog and start making this an exciting stop again.  It also has opened up a door that allows me to be even more honest on here.  I would be willing to write about this stuff again if anyone found it helpful rather than self-indulgent.  Not that being self-indulgent has stopped me from a vanity piece before.  If I'm going to write a serious piece, it is better to have a real point and mean something to people.

I do want to remind you that my absence doesn't mean I've drifted into self-doubt or hate.  Sometimes I'm just busy.  This is sort of what life has a habit of doing when you're self-employed and with a family.

If you read this far then thank you.  You're all amazing readers.  I am so flattered that many of you follow me to all the sites that I work for.  It's a great feeling knowing I have some people who read my variety of stuff just because they find me entertaining.  It is humbling too.

Thank you for being awesome.       

6 comments:

  1. Candice9:50 pm

    Loved this. Great reminders for myself too. You are fantastic

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  2. Aldous9:52 pm

    Good for you for taking the risk of being so honest. It's not easy to talk about most of what you have put down here.

    Maybe you're right, too; maybe most artists have serious depression and anxiety problems. And maybe they're not problems all the time but impetus to create, whatever they create in. Henry Miller, in his inimitable way, said that no one writes except to get out of hell. I sometimes think that's true. Writing certainly gives me my ultimate meaning in a world I so often think is terminably insane.

    I suffer from what they clinically call "Major Depressive Disorder," which essentially means that without a cocktail of medications, I would likely kill myself within three weeks. Suicide used to be logical as 2+2=4 for me, and I lived (disfunctionally) with it for 30 years before being diagnosed. I self-medicated, spent the price of a house on alcohol and destroyed a marriage... and on and on...
    All this to say that your intensity with life, passion, depression, love, anxiety, creativity, all tend to be all in the same package for many of us, as artists.

    This is not an attempt to 'shore you up' or play the empathetic listener. Just sharing along the same lines.


    Best to you and your family.


    Aldous (aka A.H. Richards - pen name)

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  3. Karate Chop! AKA You're awesome too.

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  4. Thank you so much for this comment, Aldous. This meant a lot, and it is always encouraging to hear these stories from other creative folks. It sounds like you're winning the fight, and I'd love to hear more in the future. Best wishes to you and your own writing career.

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  5. Ken Peleshok2:55 pm

    I choose to believe all creative folk battle the inner voice. For some, the voice is louder and more persistent. My inner voice pushes me around like an air hockey paddle. If you find a good way to kick its ass, let me know. Hang in there.

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  6. I'm convinced the inner voice permanently moves in, and it is just a matter of learning how to live with him. It is like the Odd Couple, and if you're lucky, the pairing gives you a hit series. I should look into syndication rights.

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