In my opinion, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way I am currently approaching my work. By “my work”, I mean my writing (and probably my comedy as well). I need some changes. The main issue currently is the fact that I’m not working on it as much as I believe that I should. This belief comes from the amount of unfinished work that I have, and my desire to bring each and every piece “to life”. This is just natural to me. This is a large part of who I am. I don’t know why, but I want to create stuff. And I want to show other people that stuff. And after that, things get murky, but it involves a lot of green…(well, actually, gold).
I’ve stated this before, but typically, when you’re trying to solve a problem, it remains in your head continuously as you contemplate the issue. I think part of the reason that so much of my work remains unfinished is because there are a lot of “big” works. Works that would take a lot of mental effort to complete that, most of the time, I do not feel like exerting. “I will complete them in time.” I firmly believe that. From a philosophical standpoint, I am in no hurry. From a spiritual standpoint, if I die (the ultimate end to any timeline involving planning) before I get all of my work done, am I actually going to care? Of course not. I’ll be dead. So what’s my motivation for completing anything? In some ways, I think that’s almost the issue…
Why do I want to get anything done at all? The first thing that comes to mind is money. I know that I have a way with words: or, let’s put it this way: I’m a writer. There are people who are not writers, and there are people that are writers. The people who are not writers will not get paid for writing, because they do not do the writing. Only a writer can get paid for writing. And, of course, there are countless writers who do not get paid for writing. But, my thought process is that I am a little talented at this. I don’t know how to measure how much, but I have a little “knack” for it. And what I am currently in the process of figuring out is how my writing matches up to the “market” of sellable writing. And it has been extremely interesting thus far.
Due to me not reading very much (which is due to me wanting to “create” more so than to “consume” so that I feel more productive; I understand this isn’t necessarily a “legitimate” thought-process, but it is mine nonetheless), I am not a good measurer of the writing of others. I couldn’t tell you why some authors “succeed” while others failed. I do not know how to compare my writing to the writing of others. The only way of “comparing” involves money, as there are concrete numbers to define the differences between writers. Due to me not wanting to be a literary critic, this (and besides, maybe, length of works, number of works completed, etc.) are my only ways of comparing my work to others. Why would I want to compare my work to others? Well, it should be simple to you, but just in case it isn’t, I’ll spell it out for you in language as clear as I can make. Any time you enter a “market”, meaning “selling” something, you are entering into a competitive field. It does not matter what your beliefs are involving money, your work, happiness, etc. When you “sell”, you are “competing”. There is no way around this: this is a fact. Regardless of your field. If you are a car mechanic, you are competing with other car mechanics in your area. There are restraints, obviously, that keep people in your area from flying overseas to get their car worked on. How far are people in your area willing to travel to get their car worked on (assuming that they are actually able to travel, with their car needing to be worked on and all). There are restraints upon transportation, restraints upon the number of people offering the service of working on the car, and there is the price that it will take for the mechanic to agree to work upon your car (not to mention, what you actually have to offer the mechanic in trade, that he is willing to accept). The point is that in any field, in any area, or “market”, where things are being sold, there are constraints.
I have no idea how to analyze the “writer’s” market. For one, as I said, I’m not a big reader. I do not know how I can analyze who is a “good” writer and who is a “bad” writer. To not leave a cliffhanger, I’ll simply say that the best that I can gauge that is the following:
1) Preferences are obviously subjective, and there will be no author universally liked.
2) Measuring the “like” that even one person has for an author or work is impossible, and this magnifies as you add more authors, more works, more readers, and even day-to-day emotions, where a person can like a particular piece of work more on one day than another.
3) There are tendencies where certain authors are “liked” to such a degree that they receive noticeable financial compensation for their work. They receive enough money for an undefined number of people to be aware of their existence. There is no exact number of people that must know of said author; the only measurement we can take is how much compensation they have received for their work (or, perhaps, number of works sold, etc.). The numbers are really the only way of “measuring” one’s success on the market. Although exact numbers are not necessary, people have a sense of how much money one is making, and, therefore, can have a rough idea of who is “successful” and who isn’t. Of course, here, I must define “successful.” “Successful” is making enough money to not have to do any other task in order to be satisfied with your standard of living. By my definition, if a man is content living off of his own land, with no trade between himself and another human being, then he is “successful.” If a man is content with the work that he does in order to sustain himself, then he is “successful.” I guess that I define it this way because that is what a success for me would be. A “success” for me would be being able to “make a living” through things that I enjoy doing: things that I would do (and actually do) without pay. Success is taking a passion and turning it into a profit (I know that’s cheesy-sounding, but that makes me laugh, so I’m keeping it in). In my own opinion, I will be “successful” if I can take things that I love to do and turn them into a “living”. That is my ultimate view of success. There is no person on this Earth who can convince me to change my mind. This is my definition of “success”.
Now, notice that I said “ultimate view of success”. This does not mean that I have no “successes”. When I create something that I enjoy, I have “succeeded”. But, in my opinion, to a smaller degree. I do not want to be complacent with “compromise”. I do not want to adapt my way of thinking to “be happy with what I have.” To approach my dead-end job with “A good attitude”, “Learning to live with less”, “Counting my blessings”, and other clichés that have become so fashionably vain as to lose their (hopefully) benevolent original meaning.
I used to believe that I repeated myself a lot from work to work. And I still believe that is true. But I think that I am beginning to realize that these works kind of play off of each other. They aren’t organized like a book, with chapter to chapter, but they are rather a life’s work. They are worldview; a perspective; individual pieces that link together to form a “philosophy”, I guess you could say. Therefore, there will be a lot of repetition between works. I believe that each piece that relates to one another adds something that the other piece does not have. I have often felt anxious, as some readers (particularly when I was younger) said that I was very “repetitive”. I used to stress over it. “Oh God, I’ll never be a good writer!” But I don’t believe this is the case. Maybe I’m blind. Maybe I’m naïve. But I’m also tired of accepting other people’s analysis of me simply because they were bold enough to tell me what it is, and to “be a good listener”, and some of those other dumb “feel-good” cliches. If I do not develop my own personal, heartfelt opinion about my work, my philosophy, my ethics, my decisions, and my life course…then I might as well not even be fucking alive…
How did I come to develop this perspective regarding success? First and foremost, I believe it had to do with my parents. My father worked in a “plant” for most of his life. From the time I was a young child, he always told me to get an education. To do something besides just entering the workforce, and slaving your life away. Do something different. Mainly, it involved going to school. I do not know what type of career he envisioned me taking through the education he wanted me to receive. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is that he did not want me to go down the path he did. His path, like the path of most people (and this isn’t an unethical thing or anything like that) is to join the workforce, and just go to work. Go to work at a job you hate that (most of the time) barely pays the bills. That’s how it is. Life is hard, and it isn’t because of greed. It’s because of the Fall of Man; Adam and Eve. And it’s just because life is fucking hard.
He repeated it to me often. As I said, I do not know exactly what he had in mind, but I took his words literally. “Do not do what you did.” It’s funny now, but I interpreted this, in at least one instance, in the following internal logic I once had: “You started working when you were a teenager. Now, you want me to get a job. But you told me to not do what you did. So I’m not going to get a job because I don’t want to end up where you are, because you told me not to end up where you are. So I’m not going to go down the same path that you did because I feel like that will lead me to the same destination as you, and you don’t want me to do that.” Now, I understand how stupid (albeit, genuine, I would almost argue) that logic is. But, say, 8, 9 years ago, I did not. And I made my father’s life a lot harder than I probably should have. Any lesser man would’ve strangled me to death. If he wasn’t as patient as he was, I can assure you that neither you nor I would be reading this today.
But his words stuck with me. As I mentioned, sometimes to a detriment, but they still struck a chord with me. I would hear his words, and I would watch television news as he watched it. “So-and-so made this much money.” Man, that’s a lot of money! And they’re singing?! And writing?! And acting?! Initially, this created immense envy on my part. Unbearable envy. Envy has made my life almost unbearably hard at times. Envy over wealth and envy over sexual attractiveness plagued me throughout my teenage years. I suppose you could argue that’s normal (and some people never grow out of it; maybe none of us do), but life was so hard back then. All I could do was sit and be angry that I wasn’t rich. That I wasn’t a model. I was so angry back then. I’m glad those days are over with, even if I do feel a flash or twinge of envy from time to time…I don’t think it will ever get back to the severe level that it was back then (thank God).
Finally, by some divine miracle, my envy turned into ambition. I started to say “I can do that.” Besides my father’s persistence, this may be the most crucial step in my journey. When I started to tell myself to start trying to do things instead of sitting around, angry that others were doing things, my life literally changed forever. I can’t describe the magnitude of that change. It was simply a motherfucking blessing.
I have not looked back, and I never will. I can never be as miserable (at least regarding this area of life) as I was back then. It’s impossible. I decided to try. I decided to figure out what it was that I wanted to do (because I saw other people on television doing things that they enjoyed doing). I did not want to become like those around me, my parents included, who worked at jobs they hated, barely getting by. I wanted bigger things. I wanted more. And I know that everyone does. Everyone wants “more”, a better job, etc. But I do not care. The lives of others are not of my concern. Each person is responsible for his or her own life, so the course that he or she chooses is not my responsibility. I only care for my own direction.
Of course, I wish others the best. But I cannot stress over the decisions of others. “Andy might make a mistake! His life could take a terrible turn! I better be able to help him live his life because I don’t want him to make a mistake!” It’s a tyrannical compassion (so is it really compassion?) Fretting over the decisions of your fellow man is, at least to a certain extent, futile. Unless you are the type of person who enjoys controlling the lives of others, then you will probably not reach this point of ethics (unless you were as, for lack of a better term, “religiously” neurotic as I was). You must live and let live. Otherwise, you will be suffering from more things out of your control than you otherwise would, and I, quite frankly, just don’t want to fucking live that way.
At this point, I realize that I am not “successful” by any of the ways that I described it earlier. “Why should I give a fuck about any of this?”, you may be asking yourself. And my answer is that I don’t care if you do or not. I don’t do any of this for you: I don’t do any of this for anyone but myself. Any positive feedback that I receive is an added benefit: not the purpose.
“But you want to make money, right? You understand that you need positive feedback, and looooooooooooooooooots of it if you want to be financially successful, right?”
…And what’s your point?
It seems as if many people that I have expressed my intentions to do not understand that “goals” exist on a spectrum, and are mutually exclusive. Simply for my own sake (see: sanity), I’ll attempt to distinguish between these two (apparently) contradictory values.
The number one value is the enjoyment of the work itself. I want to enjoy the labor that I put into the work, the concept of the work, and the final creation of the work. If I write a best-selling book, and hated the entire process of writing, then I failed by my own definition. The point is the enjoyment of the work. Next is the money.
…And that’s it.
I don’t care about fame, or personal praises (I don’t hate them, and they are nice, but I feel rather neutral to them, as I do not feel like they influence my creative decisions one way or the other (actually, I know they fucking don’t), so they don’t really matter to me. It’s a simple “Thank you”, then move on).
Here, insert my philosophical standpoint that I introduced at the beginning of this piece.
So let’s get back to something else that I introduced earlier in this piece: what is wrong with my process?
I’m an extremely impatient thinker. Sitting and thinking is annoying to me. Making things “perfect” or “just right” is a tedium beyond my patience-level. So sitting and thinking of how to make a piece of writing “perfect” (or whatever adjective you want to use that won’t make you question my use of it) makes me feel restless. In my opinion, if I don’t know what I’m going to say, then I shouldn’t be writing. The thoughts should come long before I start writing. If I try to think of what I’m going to say when my word processor is open, then I have waited far too long to start thinking.
But how do I get better at writing when I’m not fucking writing?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
And that’s the issue.
How do I get anything done when I’m not writing? How do I get better when I’m not FUCKING WRITING?!
Well, quite simply, I FUCKING CAN’T. And that pisses me off, because I want to get stuff done.
Understanding myself as a writer is the first step in this process. Understanding my own personal writing philosophies are the first step of this process for me. If I can’t understand why I’m writing, then I don’t think I should be writing. But I want to become better at it. I’ll be the judge of how I’m getting better, and what makes something of mine “good”. But I don’t know how to do it yet.
The beauty is that this is a lifelong journey, and you should remember my life philosophy that I mentioned long ago in this piece.
The writing is unfinished because the thoughts are unfinished, and the thoughts are unfinished because I’m still fucking living.
As a wise band once said:
And, lest I forget, I should mention that my mother, for better or for worse (I think for the better), always said that “I could do whatever I set my mind to.” She gave me the confidence to believe that I could do what I wanted to do. My father gave me the passion to pursue a career that I enjoy, and my mother gave me the confidence that I could succeed at it.
I guess I’ll end with something sappy about them both.
…That’s as sappy as I’m going to get in this piece (sorry, Mom).
Thanks for reading.