Desktop Update – 8.25.14

I started writing this as a means to keep my mind in order. Between wedding planning, house-hunting, and everything else going on, it’s been tough making time to just relax and quiet all the external voices that come creeping in. When you’re stressed out by any number of responsibilities, you open yourself up to distractions. I’d love to check certain things off my to-do list, but it’s more important that I keep certain things off my list too. That being said, I’m reassessing my desktop and seeing what’s out there – along with planting a screenshot for accountability’s sake:

Priorities

1. Freelancing 

This is a tough gig. Don’t let the countless websites and email solicitations fool you – if you want to be a freelancer, it’s tough work. I know plenty of folks that want to do freelancing full-time, but their time is limited and/or their portfolios just don’t have the breadth to make proper headway. The 2014 year wasn’t my first year doing the freelance thing, but it’s certainly been the most rewarding thus far. The reason? 2013 was a lot of “Hey, I’ll do that for free” – that way I could accumulate some understanding of what it means to be a freelancer. And to be honest, not many people will pay you for a work unless you’ve had experience – proven experience – to do the jobs that are asked of you. One thing I’ve learned is that getting paid isn’t always the most important thing – it’s the experience. So here’s to a stronger, better 4th quarter in 2014 and beyond.

2. My next manuscript

The screenshot is not my next manuscript, but it is a short story I completed earlier this year. And I’m still working on the rewrite as I debate how to publish or merely share online. However, since A Dinner with Titans has been done for a while, I find myself putting more and more time into my next major manuscript: The Lion’s Den. It’s been nearly a year since I started The Lion’s Den and it’s been quite a year at that. I’ve worked through several iterations, worked up about 88,000 words, and even begun all over again. There’s no way to write that lightly – it’s been hard work. And now, I’m on my 2nd rewrite and am slowly making up ground as I push myself to finish before year-end. A time when the real fun begins: how to publish and where to publish. I have some ideas on how to go about that, but I can’t concern myself with that at the moment. The best I can do is get back to business and finish what I’ve begun, reminding myself of what’s behind me and what’s in front.

A Dinner with Titans_page 1

A Dinner with Titans_page 1

3. My (other) next manuscript

Though it’s not a requirement, I would suggest this to any aspiring writer: have plenty of projects lined up. Or at the very least, a few. Changing up the creative flow of things can help loosen up the mind and set you back on track. Especially in those moments when you’re frustrated or just plain stuck. I’ve never had an issue with this –  I’ve been working on sporadically on several – and these other works have helped to keep my head above water, but they’ve also restricted me from sinking into the bowels of a single idea that could make or break my spirit. That just wouldn’t be a good place to be in. First things, first though – finish the manuscript and then deviate my attention as appropriate.

Not Priorities

1. Starting another blog / building a new website

2. Searching for editors / publishers / agents

3. Allowing myself to get frustrated

 

 

Being “Busy”

I’m thinking of writing a short book on the concept of being “busy”. Its meaning, its over usage in American culture, and its reason for being a thorn in my side for many, many years. It’s not just me either that being overly busy affects. No, everybody I meet has a way of telling me they’re “busy” in one form or another. Can you relate? I’m sure you’re heard them before too:

“Things are just crazy right now.”
“I’m backed up with a lot of stuff.”
“My days are so hectic. I can’t even remember what day it is.”

If you were to unpack each of these sentences, you could deduce the following truths about the person or persons who gave you these statements: that life is out of of control for this person and they cannot foresee a time of rest in sight. Would that be at least semi-accurate? We’ve all felt some measure of chaos in our life – that’s for certain – so to hear this kind of response is not unheard of. In fact, I have probably given the same answers at one point or another.

Taking this idea a step further, when else might you hear these statements? Maybe after asking the person when their schedule is free? Or when they can “hang out” with you and others? Yes, I’m sure you have. If you read between the lines, you can deduce the following as well: this person does not have a good way of saying “yo, I just don’t have time for you right now.”

Ugh. I really get tired of hearing that excuse, personally. It really gets under my skin. And I’m sure it gets under other people’s skin too. Who likes being told that they’re unimportant? Or that they do not warrant the time or the effort from another person? Last I checked, nobody. But each party will smile, nod their heads, and come to some odd agreement that this exchange of pleasantries is quite alright.

Well, that kind of chatter just isn’t “alright” with me. I loathe it. I despise it. Heck, I don’t like hearing it. What’s the problem with just being honest with somebody else? What are we afraid of? Plenty of things, it seems. People are always more afraid than what they let on. And one of our biggest “afraid moments” is the fear of being discovered for a phony. Despite all the ranting about owning a busy life and a hectic schedule, we fear being uncovered as some poser. That our public image as a go-getter or a semi-important figure will be distorted by a few extra minutes put someplace else. So in order to keep that facade up, we hide our true selves beneath the most common (and detremental) of common phrases: “I’m just too busy for that.”

Ugh. I hate typing the phrase as it is!

But even in the midst of being “busy”, we must also be wary of the overcommitter. You know, the one person who claims that he or she can be at an event, at a specific time, but fails to be there nearly every turn of the bend. I’m sure you can think of a few in your own world. These people aren’t necessarily bad or inherently spiteful, they just feel the necessity to always be accommodating. But in doing so, they overcommit and they end up letting down somebody in the process. And when they do let another party down, it can become strikingly evident as to who falls where on their general list of priorities.

For me, I’ve done this quite a few times as well. I overcommit to a project or a gathering and within a short period of time, I realize the error of my ways. Unfortunately, it almost always comes too late in the game. And I’m done in.

But alas, there is hope for the “busy” person and the overcommitter: be honest. It’s just as simple as that. And yet, it’s also that difficult.

I was challenged by a buddy to try and go a week without telling a half-truth or a little white lie. I think I lasted about half a day until I was sunk. I hope that’s not overly shocking to anyone. Try doing that yourself and see how far you get. If you make it more than a day, then I would say congratulations. And if you can make it a whole week, then you’d make an even greater case study on the subject.

But what does this all mean? Are we all liars, cheats, and phonies? Well, not exactly. I’m referring to some very specific circumstances and so, I do not want this to be taken out of context. None of us want to be labeled as liars, cheats or phonies so why not try and be that 100%? Tough gig to run these days, I’ll admit, but think of the benefits. For example, no fear of exposure. In an angst-ridden world, wouldn’t that be a relief? No hiding away parts of ourselves in little black boxes, coveting the very things that make us feel weak or powerless. Instead, we wouldn’t have those boxes – we’d have treasures of other people’s lives. Instead of saying “I’m too busy”, we say, “I’d be interested in giving my time, but please understand that I have priorities too.” I sounded it out and it takes less than 2 extra breaths to work that all in there. That doesn’t sound too hard, now does it?

I’m sure that some folks may read this and say, “Whoa, who slighted you lately to inspire this post?” And that would be a perfectly reasonable question, so here’s my response: myself. For so many years, I’ve told myself that I’m “too busy” to really go after a career in writing. “There are so many things I need to do first”, I’d say. Or “I don’t think it’d be possible with the way my schedule works”. These, among other equally frustrating self-doubts, kept me anchored down, below the surface and without a means to come up for air and breathe. On that same note, I kept overcommitting myself. “I’ll tackle this project first and then I’ll get to what I really want to do” or “That event is just too much, I need at least a month of planning for that until I can get back to my passion.”

You can see how a few words of self-justification can keep a person fixated on the problem without ever having sight of the solution. Eventually, if we are able, we must break free of this mirage and set sail for better harbors. Not safer harbors, like the saying goes – just the sort of harbor that you’re meant to anchor down on. That’s what freeing one’s self of being “busy” looks like. You’ll always have things to keep you busy, but it should never be for so long that you forget what’s truly important or where you’r headed.

For me, that important thing was a pursuit of writing. Ironically, the things which kept me busy, that I thought were life-giving, kept me from being me. It’s an interesting revelation if you can ever get to that place of personal solace. Don’t get me wrong though. I certainly didn’t wake up one morning going “Wow, I see the light” and everything changed in tune, but I did have enough epiphanies to see my own truth: that what blocks our futures (what blocks our vision) are “busy” things. And our justifications for staying busy are merely the politically correct ways we say, “Hey, I’ll get to that later” or when it’s most convenient for me.

So what is yours then? How do you stay busy and moreover, how do you tell others that you are? That’s as good a question as any and could just be enough to write a short book about.