My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, August 11, 2023

Summer Blues (Personal Update) Part 2

Part 1 is back here if you missed some context.

"But Chris—I hear you say*—You haven't failed. You're a righteous dude."

(*Okay, actually I don't hear you say it. I mostly read it in the comments. Although I did hear it from one friend in person. "Hey, so I read your blog….") 

I get it: You're saying I'm not A FAILURE. You're saying there is hope. You're saying that there were some successes too. You're saying that it wasn't my fault. You're saying that my story isn't over. And you're right, but I'm trying to hand out life lessons from my cloud of judgement over here. This world is big enough for both things to be true.

Thanks, giant incorporeal screaming cowboy!
That must be the cloud of judgement next to you.

But I have failed. Oh sure, there's some nuance. But that part shouldn't be in dispute. I set up goals and I didn't meet them. I had secondary goals, and I didn't meet THEM. And even my fallback goals for not losing ground, I didn't meet. I was paying ALL the bills with writing, and now I'm back to sitting pets and working side gigs to cover my car insurance and cell phone plan. And it's okay to acknowledge what that is. It is failure. We don't like failure in this culture—the only place we tolerate it definitively is as "the hero's lowest point" in a broader narrative of ultimate success. ("Get back up, Captain Marvel!") We recoil from the idea of genuinely failing like we've touched a hot stove.

But hey. Listen. It's okay. Breathe into this bag. It's just failure. If we humans are not failing once in a while (like literally about half the time), we've got goals that are too easy or no goals at all. Which is how most people kind of move through life—vague ambitions maybe, but no real goals. And if we're failing as much as I did in the last two years, we probably have goals that are too ambitious.

In either case, failure is an important compass in how we move forward. And an important barometer in what matters to us. And an electron microscope of…um…I think I may have overdone this tool metaphor. 

Failure isn't the end. Failure isn't moral or immoral. Failure is patient and kind and failure isn't envious or boastful…oh wait, that's something else.

Now I'm going to be the first to say that the post-capitalism hellscape we live in with its incessant demand for "productivity" is maybe not the most awesome ever atmosphere to be making goals. Unless you're in the top one percent of income earners (and really the top tenth of THAT percent), you are being exploited and not a little bit. So getting caught up in the hustle usually means your work life balance sucks so that you can make someone ELSE a lot of money. That voice you hear from everywhere around you that slowing down makes you lazy and worthless and means you deserve being lower class comes from a lot of people with a whole lot of interest tied up in you contributing to their lifestyle—which I promise has more more work life balance, leisure time, vacations, and relaxation than anyone making a million times less than them. 

I'm also going to say that understanding that we are stuck in capitalism and it demands more than most of us can give doesn't make NOT GETTING A PAYCHECK any easier. We can be kind and gentle with ourselves and self-care it up, but when the electricity gets shut off because the bill is two months overdue, we're not going to be able to explain to them that our lives have been "really overwhelming" lately, and we just needed a bit more time off.

Yeah, my goals were too ambitious. I had no business wanting to get back to writing so quickly. My body recovered from cancer in just a couple of months, but my mind and heart took almost a year. I kept thinking that I would be back to writing, saying I was feeling better, and getting absolutely overwhelmed for days by the slightest hiccup. It would have been better if I'd simply said, "Hey, I have cancer. I need a year hiatus. I'll be back, but I understand if your Patreon support goes somewhere else for the next year." Buuuuuut, I didn't want to go on hiatus. I wanted to muscle through and not risk the income I'd spent a decade building up. So instead I dragged things out and fucked them up and caused myself planetoids of anxiety about my productivity and made promises I couldn't keep month after month and kinda screwed myself.

I did that. I own it. It was the opposite of success. Learn from my mistake. 

Then my partner's friend and boss was violently killed and left her with sudden, agonizing grief to process. Again, I should have simply said, "I need to go be a good partner, and put my energy into caregiving and support. This is going to take all of me for a few months." Instead I spent every week thinking that the next week was going to be a little better, trying to pedal faster, and then it was June. And I had basically been making promises I didn't keep for 18 months instead of just a year. 

I did that too. I own that too. That was also the opposite of success. Learn from my mistake.

It's not my fault these things happened. I was absolutely too hard on myself. Capitalism sucks and the proletariat should not have to work 80 hours to survive. All true enough, but these things do not transmute my failure into success.

That's okay. Deep breaths. Use that bag from the fifth paragraph. It'll be okay that I failed. We'll get through this….together.

We can do anything as long as we have each other.
Now get to the choppah!

See…that's the brilliant thing about failure. When you succeed at something you had no chance of failing at, you learn nothing. When you don't set goals, you learn nothing. But when you fail (or edge out a success), you usually come away with some kind of deep insight. Maybe you know your limitations a little better. Or have an idea how better to accomplish something. The important thing is that you can sit on the porch with a piece of straw in your mouth and say it to the young'uns between your banjo songs. 

So what have I learned?  I mean, besides what to do the next time I get cancer?

  • One thing is that I want to be writing about more than just writing. It'll still be a part of my work, but there are a lot of other subjects I want to start to tackle. From ramping back up my social justice activism to my spiritual journeys through paganism to writing about running.  
  • Another thing I learned is that I'm going to want a more reliable income. I love paying the bills through writing and I felt ten feet tall when I could say I was a working writer without addendum, but a ten-year build to just barely covering the cost of a VERY modest living was only ever possible because of other income streams, and then letting those dry up because "ha ha suckas, now I'm paying the bills with writing…smell you later!" kind of screwed me over. I'm going to keep writing, but I'm also going to start taking on other projects.
  • I learned that even the best, hottest, most explosive sex doesn't really help anxiety go away. It just shuts your brain up for a hot second. (Extra hot…if you know what I mean.) You'll have to deal with the thoughts eventually.
  • I learned income is more resilient than I think. Oh, I lost a lot. Baby Jesus is over here weeping it up. My income got burninated like a peasant on roof-thatching day. I've lost over half my income at this point from this time two years ago. But…I didn't lose it ALL. And a lot of folks were just kind of quietly cheering my recovery even as I posted three or four things a month. It was going quiet for weeks and months that really hurt me. I probably don't need five updates a week to keep my crowdfunded income stream. That means everything from putting more attention to fiction to all these other side projects I'm working don't have to be overwhelming additions to full-time blogging. 
  • I learned that "hiatus" is maybe not the dirty word I think it is, even for content creators. It might be better and less stressful to just go ahead and take a full break and come back rather than dribble out content in a miasma of feelings of inadequacy and obligation.
  • When you get back to writing, you'll have to fight tooth and cliché to get your writing time back from all the things that have crept in where the writing used to be.
  • The things I built over the last decade didn't go away—they just kind of went into a deep freeze. Some people cancelled or lowered their contributions, but I still have the reach I've built. I still have a readership. I still have fans ready to see me return. I still have a ridiculously huge Facebook presence. Rebuilding my income will be easier and faster than building it the first time. Maybe some of those peeps will even come back.
  • If it's summer, get the kids into day camp. No seriously. No. SERIOUSLY.
Today the kids started school, and I was able to sit down for four hours and write this post. I am still reluctant to announce this as some kind of huge comeback moment. But despite my failure over the last two years, I seem to be starting to pick up steam on some of my successes. And while it's okay that I failed, I think I'd be pretty okay to put a few in the wins column.

1 comment:

  1. It was so nice to be honest, raise my hand and say 'yup, i fucked up and made a crappy decision'. I appreciate this post. *nods across the void*