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Ambitions, Goals, Expectations, Discipline December 24, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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I set out this year to finish writing a novel or two if I could squeeze them in.  I had plenty of time, I guess.  But I don’t have time now, and I’m not going to make it in 2014.  I’ll be closer than I was last year.  I was more than halfway finished with both in the middle of the year.  Time and inspiration both failed me.  So this year, while I did write, and I’m into some interesting spots in both novels, neither one is all that close to being done.  I know what to say, and I know how to say it.  I just have to sit and write.  Sure, I have to research to update just in case the legal codes in one of the stories has updated this year.  And after I finish I’m hoping my lawyer friend will look over the one book just to make sure those parts are at least plausible.  If a lawyer “in whom is no guile” buys it, it’s golden.  If he doesn’t, rewrite.  I’m fortunate that I know one of those.  So what happened this year?

I know some people that build models.  Model cars, model trains, model planes.  They spend hours at it and when they are done they have something that is beautiful, fun, and a colossal waste of time.  Or not.  I know people who play a musical instrument.  They spend hours at it if they are serious, and when all is said and done, they have something that is beautiful, fun, might earn some brief applause, and will certainly waste a colossal amount of their time.  Or not.  I can say “or not” about these hobbyists, because I am one of them.  I do play a musical instrument.  I’m not a virtuoso, but I do all right.  I would like to learn other musical instruments, at or better than my current proficiency level.  Maybe I’d even like to learn a foreign language.

I work full time, and not at being a writer.  If I did work full time at it, I’d need to finish stuff on time.  I’d want to write for all of my blogs every day.  And that would be fun.  Oh, and then I’d need an audience that buys it.  Because, there are bills to pay, and I don’t know how to make money at it at a level that sets me free to do more.  Given a little margin of success, and a wide margin of time and freedom, I might explore that.  So for now I have to readjust and deal with realizing this is a hobby and not a career.  My wife would applaud, and I would make evil faces at the noise and the sentiment.  For all my Ambitions, Goals, Expectations and Discipline, all I’ve done this year is A-G-E-D.  Not that I’ve completely given up on my dream of finishing off these monsters, but that my time is limited between what must be done and what I want to do.  The one squeezes out the other a lot.  And then, there’s inspiration, another animal I wish I could at least cage, and let out on my leash when I’m ready to take it for a walk.  Alas, that animal is wild, not in my cage, and very adept at hiding.

What I think I have is a heart problem.  My heart isn’t in it for the reasons that professional people do it.  I play my viola for the joy of it.  I write for the pleasure of the craft.  I want to have fun and not worry about the bills.  Can they just pay themselves and let me play at writing and at my viola (and other instruments) for the fun of it?  I don’t like to write, or do anything else, under any externally imposed stress.  It’s good to push myself, but I feel the creativity of it being squeezed out, and I dry up inside, slow down, and eventually stop until I feel like I can pick it up again.

I used to read a lot.  I love books.  But there was a cycle that I became aware of, during my school years.  I read what was required during the year, I studied hard, and read very little for pleasure.  Summer would come, and I would have free time.  But it took me until the first several weeks of summer vacation before I felt like reading anything, even though it was for fun.  School was so stressful, so pushy, I dried up and lost the urge to read anything at all, because I was being forced to do it.  I would read for fun, the last part of June, through August, and then the cycle would start again.  Stress, squeeze, dry, rest, recreate.  It was almost like the books I read for fun were water to my dry sponge of life, but I couldn’t bring myself to go to the library because I was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from being forced to read and do other things.  The cycle hurt my soul, and it takes me some time to get back to where I feel like I can read anything.  And pushing myself to do anything else at an unnatural or forced pace or compulsory direction seems to make that cycle start happening all over again.

In one week, there will be a brand new year.  When I sat and wrote in 2014, it was 500 or a thousand words at a seating.  If I keep doing that, eventually my hobby will bear fruit.  I see the buds blossoming on my hobby tree, and I’m waiting for those beautiful, fat, juicy apples to form.  And after those, I have ideas for more.  So that’s my goal for 2015, same as it was for 2014, but AGED with wisdom.  It’s just a hobby, not something to feel pressure or disappointment about, but something to take when it comes, and have fun.  Who knows?  Maybe I can finish the novels, improve on my viola, learn guitar, win the lottery and be free.  We’ve even got a symphony orchestra nearby that I’d love to play with.  But if not, I hope to take the freedom and margin I do have, and run with that.  Until I get that big payoff that sets me free to do what I really want, there’s more urgent things that I need to do, and they’re going to distract me from what I really want to do.  Here’s hoping, though.

There was a time when I sat down at the computer and researched how long the average novel was, and I had zero words on the page.  Now I have lots of words on the pages, but haven’t reached my finish lines.  I just have to realize, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  It’s not an hors d’oeuvre, it’s a 21 course meal.  I can do it.  It can be fun.  There can be second winds, runners highs, endorphins from the wonderful, different, complementary flavors, complex harmonies.  And there will be trips, falls, skinned knees and bruises, feelings of impossibility, car repairs and other disasters along the way.  I hope you can find time, or build time, in your busy schedule, to incorporate some relaxation, fun, recuperation, when you’re feeling the stress of life squeezing the freedom out of your dreams, and then get back to pursuing them.

And I hope you have set goals and you are reaching for them, and making progress, even if it’s little-by-little.  We may not have the encouragement from the people we wish would be encouraging.  It may not be as quick as we want, or as profitable as we want. If you love doing it I pray you’ll be able to keep on pressing on toward your goals and that you’ll get there.  The journey takes longer than I ever dreamed it would, and on my journey there have been metaphoric (and literal) car problems and flat tires and family squabbles all along the way.  Keep pressing forward.  Hold tightly to your Ambitions, Goals, Expectations, and Discipline, and keep writing!  Or model-building.  Or learning.  Or practicing.  Or whatever that good thing is that you do in your spare time.  Keep on going.  Sure, we’ll end up AGED.  But that pursuit is worthwhile.  And you can do it.