Writer or Bust

 

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I haven’t posted a blog in 18 days and I’m feeling unbelievably guilty for not having done so. It was March 5th when I began my new journey. This journey has been over 20 years in the making. I want to be a writer. More importantly a write that is people read and makes money doing so.

 

Let me give you some context here and bear with me because I don’t particularly like talking about myself contrary to what this blog might lead you to believe.

 

As a child I enjoyed reading and did so fairly often especially over summer breaks, even in the midst of all the extracurriculars I was constantly involved with. Regardless of the fact that I wasn’t a strong reader and spent my grade school years in remedial reading classes I devoured books and spent many free moments I had reading. There were many times I made myself carsick from reading in the backseat.

 

I wrote my first short story or rather a few short stories around the age of 11 and they were similar to the writing I preferred to read at the time. I was a major fan of Goosebumps and similar authors to R.L. Stine and progressed into his Fear Street series, as I grew older. I wrote stories where my friends and I were in creepy, lives in danger scenarios that were probably only about 1000 words or so. They were predictable and corny but I was 11.

 

As I grew older and entered my teen years my love for reading shifted to…other things and I suppose I subconsciously decided reading wasn’t that cool anymore. Reading for school became a choir more than anything and I must admit that, more times than I care to quantitate, I skimmed chapters, used cliff notes or with the rise of the internet in my teen years I would “surf the web” for spark notes, or I would just ask a friend who did read, ‘what happened?’

 

My senior year of high school I took a creative writing class. Up until then English classes had been all about reading and discussing with very little room for individual creativity (except for maybe writing a book report). I had kind of a zany teacher, in his early twenties and fresh out of college, who made the class pretty fun. We did fun writing exercises and I remember writing quite a bit of poetry. Coupled with a 17 year old’s love of hip-hop (especially the relatively new phenom and someone a white kid could relate to, Eminem), and a need for a teenage boy to express his emotions I found writing poetry, unexpected. Our teacher submitted our poems to Celebrate: Young Poets Speak Out, an anthology in New York State of high school student’s poetry. To see something I had written published, albeit a pay for publish anthology, was illuminating.

 

I continued to write poetry and song lyrics throughout the remainder of my teen years and into my twenties. I attended college during those years as well and floundered with choosing a major. I had no direction when I entered school and I have found, now at 33, I lacked direction for many years. Although, active as a child in numerous sports, sometimes multiple at the same time, as well as a social life and other extracurricular activities, I know now that I was merely having fun without any clear path ahead of me. I pursued the things I liked to do with great enthusiasm and put in the bare minimum for those I didn’t. School was always just a thing I had to do; I never applied myself because my goal was always to just get it over with. While I loved playing baseball, basketball, football, snowboarding, bowling, acting in school plays, playing drums, and hanging out with friends they didn’t provide me with a real direction in life either.

 

Things did not change when I entered college. My extracurriculars changed to suite my new “mature” lifestyle that included alcohol, drugs, and women. The attention I paid to school became even less without the safeguarding of my parents and only myself to stay accountable so my effort was molecular.

 

I chose Media Studies as a major at the last possible moment to declare because I heard the workload was small and relatively easy. Through no planning of my own just before my senior year I realized I had taken enough electives to declare a double minor. I had taken creative writing, poetry writing, two Shakespeare classes, a Dickens class, playwriting, and three different film classes to name a handful and I managed to pull off a double minor in Theater and English.

 

As part of my major and detrimental to graduating I was to do a senior project that spanned both fall and spring semester and I decided I would write a full-length screenplay. I had never written anything so ambitious but had concluded with my accidental accomplishment of my double minor and cluelessness towards what Media Studies actually was (or is even to this day) that I would become a screenwriter. I had a love of reading and writing (well short essays and poetry at least) and I thoroughly enjoyed my playwriting class so I figured screenwriting couldn’t be that different.

 

Well, I completed it and received a B+ for the entire project and praise from my classmates for the portions of the script they heard and from my professor, whom I respected a great deal. It was a buddy comedy about three childhood friends who grew apart after spending four years at college and spent their last summer before “going out into the real world” on a cross country road trip. They got into crazy situations, bumped heads, helped each other out of jams, and ultimately realized how important they were to one another and would never drift apart no matter where life took them (oh, to be young and naive.) I could tell you more but I destroyed all copies of it and it’s one of my hugest regrets to date. (More on why I did that later.)

 

I began working for Borders Books my senior year as well. I was convinced I was going to become a screenwriter based on the work I was doing for school and working in a bookstore and being around books solidified the direction I had for myself. My girlfriend at the time and I planned on continuing to work at our jobs after graduation and moving to Las Vegas at the end of the summer. We both had family there and were going to start our lives in the “real world” there. That was the extent of our plan.

 

This was the first time I can say I learned the recurring lesson of, life happens.

 

We broke up that summer. I moved to Las Vegas alone and lived with my sister. I continued to live the lifestyle of a college student and quickly learned Vegas could be the end for me if I didn’t get out, fast. After nine months there I took a job working for a cruise line that tours the Hawaiian Islands.

 

I did continue to journal some and write poetry here and there but for the most part I continued down the same non-directional path I had always been on. When I quickly learned the cruise ship life wasn’t for a freedom loving partier I quit my job a stayed in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. I found a Borders Books and began working for the company again and continued to reassure myself that working in a bookstore was my way of following my dream of being a writer.

 

When I’m surround by books it’s almost overwhelming for me. The idea of so many great authors all in one room with ideas and stories that could entertain and enlighten millions gives me a feeling of empowerment. However, selling books to readers is not the same as selling your books to readers. I continued to live as a 22 year old might and spent my free time enjoying Maui and partying. I hardly wrote anymore at that point but continued to believe that I would someday. I continued to tell people I wanted to be a writer. But, writers write, right?

 

I met a local girl, only 19 when we met and my life finally began to have direction. Although my primary concerns for the last 5 years of my life had been partying and women I was unprepared for what marriage would bring.

 

Most people aren’t taught that when you become a “grown-up” you have to keep yourself honest. (Well, at least most in my generation.) You have to make sure you’re doing all the things that adults need to do (responsibilities) to make it in life. When you make a commitment like marriage those responsibilities double and they become dire. You can slack off when it’s just you but not when someone else is counting on you.

 

My priorities began to change and my direction in life was to be a husband. The only problem is being a husband doesn’t pay the bills or give any sense of accomplishment. It had been my goal all along to meet the love of my life and settle down. I did. Not everyone gets to experience that in life. Then, once I had I realized I had nowhere left to go. Floating through life is okay as a single 25 year old but not as a married one.

 

My wife decided on her own direction and found a school on the mainland to become a computer animator. At 26 and 22 we moved from my new home and the only one she had ever known to follow her path. Over the next two years she obtained her BS in Computer Animation through an accelerated program at Full Sail University in Orlando, FL and we then moved to San Diego and Los Angeles where she spent over four years working for Legend 3D, a post production company specializing in 3D conversion for movies.

 

Over nearly seven years I struggled with my wife’s direction and my lack of one. I was jealous and began to search for what my purpose was. I first thought it was time for me to find a desk job and pull a 9 to 5 but quickly found it hard to do with my lack of experience regardless of a bachelors. (Contrary to older generations’ beliefs a college diploma does not open all the doors for you.)

 

I started a YouTube channel after seeing people’s silly videos that garnered them thousands to millions of views and somehow got paid for it. In 2010 this concept was still pretty new and I figured I can make stupid videos too but even after spending $1200 on a camera and creating a few I quickly lost interest. (Don’t bother looking they’ve been long since removed.)

 

After that I just worked to help with bills. I worked again for Borders in Orlando up until they closed due to bankruptcy. Then, I spent our remaining time there jumping for one retail job to another until we moved to California in the summer of 2012.

 

I routinely returned to the idea of writing and over time allowed my newfound discovery of the responsibilities of marriage and life in general to scare me into shunning the one thing I had always dreamt about doing. My fears fed on themselves, growing into a metaphorical cancer in my frontal lobe.

 

Money became a constant worry especially once her student loans began rolling in and an internal struggle of “doing the right thing” versus “following a dream” ensued. I began telling myself being a writer was just a fantasy and was unrealistic.

 

Eventually, that devolved into the idea that I never really wanted to be a writer in the first place. Writers write, and I hadn’t in years. If I truly wanted it why didn’t I ever “feel” like writing? My mind told me I was obsessed with the idea of being a successful writer and the notoriety, the chance to work from home on my own schedule and not answer to anyone, but not actually writing itself. I also began to tell myself I wasn’t that good and I didn’t have anything to say people wanted to read anyways. (Of course, now I know that all writers have self-doubt.) I destroyed old writing I had kept for years, including my screenplay, out of a fit of disgust and self-pity. I assumed putting the past behind me might help me move on.

 

As student loans piled up in San Diego my wife carried the weight of the bills working the industry standard of 60 to 80 hours a week. I managed to find a warehouse job that paid $12 an hour and continued to handle the home responsibilities. It suites me better than my wife, she’s not exactly domesticated. I did (and still do) the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, bill paying, and everything in between. I continued to feel depressed and helpless in my stagnant job, which promised to lead nowhere but lower back pain.

 

I allowed myself to get trapped in the same menial jobs I had taken time and time again after graduating college. With no direction, no interest in my major, and no experience in anything but retail, restaurants, sales, and warehousing twelve years after graduating college I find it hard to obtain a job that pays over $13 an hour.

 

I’ve lived in four states since graduating in 2005 and moved within those states a few times as well making it hard to hold down a job for a long period. At this point if I wanted to go into a Media Studies field (whatever that is) I wouldn’t have the first clue what to do. Not that I want that.

 

I was roped into network marketing twice while in San Diego and then Los Angeles with hopes of following the steps and “gaining financial freedom” only to dive deeper into a depression from another failed attempt at finding my path. These businesses are successful for many who want to put in the work but you have to be willing and I was not because it isn’t something I care about. Just like the child who put in hours on the baseball diamond but couldn’t care about the time he spent on homework I can’t force the work out of myself unless it is meaningful to me.

 

I briefly worked for a library in Carlsbad, a town north of San Diego, before we moved to Los Angeles and writing popped up again in my mind. It didn’t last long because at that point thinking about being a writer made me sick to my stomach. I know now it was because of how awful I felt to know I was shunning my dream but our brains has a funny way of protecting us from perceived dangers and I viewed it as my true feelings towards the act of writing. My dream had become a self-imposed nightmare.

 

I enrolled in EMT classes at UCLA only to drop out halfway through the 3 week accelerated program. I singed up for an online marijuana college to learn all I could about the plant knowing the industry would only grow in the coming years. I lost interest quickly in that as well. As we neared the middle of 2016 the stress on us both was obvious and inexhaustible.

 

My wife’s job was intense and working for the film industry in Hollywood, although exciting, burns people out on a regular basis. After four years of putting in 60+ hours a week and sometimes not having days off for weeks she became jaded and burnt out. Our relationship was strained; our bank account showed nothing for her efforts and my directionless life did not add to a situation where we were just keeping our heads above water. It was always our ultimate plan to move back to Maui, the place where she is from, my home away from home, and where we fell in love so we decided, why wait?

 

Maui is an amazing place and it hadn’t changed much since we left but we had. Problems don’t disappear when you move. They pack their bags and hitchhike on your back to your final destination.

 

I tossed around a coffee-tricycle idea and an online T-shirt business only to add both to another long list of “shit I don’t really care about and can’t force myself to put effort into.” (Those people that say do something you love aren’t full of it.)

 

Now, we’re living with my in-laws rent-free. My wife is making considerably less money then her Hollywood job and I fell back into old habits of reliable menial jobs. (I’ve had four already in only five months.) After quitting the first, a warehouse job, I spoke with my friend who has been going through some life changes of his own. Sensing my depressed state and cluelessness about my direction in life he said to me,

 

“Don’t I remember you mentioning something about being a writer?”

 

“Yes,” I said but I listed off all of my usual excuses and made the comment, “I just liked the idea of being a writer but I never actual write so I don’t think I like writing for real.”

 

“What if you just made the goal to write for an hour each day and see what happens?” He replied.

 

I can’t explain what happened to me when he made the suggestion. My mother has been on me for over a decade to keep my pursuit in writing but sometimes you need to hear things in a different tone to resonate with you.

 

The very next day was March 5th and I began my journey down a path, which I am now labeling as, Writer or Bust. I’m not putting all of life’s eggs in the basket but I’m committing to the practice of at least an hour each day. I decided I was happier working toward something, no matter how much of a struggle, than floating in the stagnant water of life. I decided that I do enjoy writing and I would do it for the rest of my life despite whether I become a well-known author or not.

 

My motto ever since is Love the Struggle™, because life is a struggle, right? Every step we take in any direction requires energy and at any moment obstacles can obscure our path. I haven’t figured it all out but I know working toward a goal makes me feel better than not.

 

So I decided to surround myself with it as much as I could. I’m working for Read Aloud America and another library (surrounded by books again). I’m spending my free time working on myself through exercise, eating (as healthy as possible), meditating, journaling, reading daily for education and enjoyment, reexamining my wife’s and my goals regularly to stay on course, learning more about writing, publishing and the like, but not forgetting to smell the roses. I mean we do live on Maui (did I mention that already?)

 

Then, I started to waiver. A missed an hour here or there and then it became two days in a row and then a few each week and then last week I spent a total of an hour writing. This is my first blog post in 18 days and I had a lofty goal of, every other day, which I have yet to achieve. Any writer will tell you sitting down in front of the keyboard is the hardest part. Sometimes it never comes but being present in the moment is the only way it will come.

 

I am a realist. I understand the insane amount of work that is ahead of me and I’m finally willing to roll up my sleeves and do it because it was there all along and I ignored it. I believe I have something to say worth reading. I believe I’m somewhat acceptable at how I say it. I believe that staying consistent will help me get where I want to go. The fact is now I know I don’t slack from writing because I don’t care about it. I slack because I fear it. Fear is our brain’s way of protecting us from the struggle but dammit, I love the struggle.

 

I’m not interested it fame or (great) fortune. I’d like to simply write for a living, to be able to work only on my writing without another job getting in the way. I only want the chance to work from home or wherever I might be at the time on an occasional trip somewhere. The dream of moving out of my in-laws’ and into a home of our own without debt or, at the least, debt that’s manageable and doesn’t pull us under.

 

This post is the kick in my own ass I need to continue to stay accountable to accomplish my rather conservative goal. By making it public to the few folks who actually do read this (at this point in time) it makes me obligated to continue towards the passion an 11 year old discovered but lacked the tenacity to do follow. This post is to remind me that there will be days when I would rather “stick nine inch nails through each one of my eyelids” than sit down in front of the computer and expose myself to my ever-present self-doubt. This post is a seemingly arrogant but in point of fact humble declaration that I won’t stop until you know my name. I recognize my direction now and it’s pointing up.

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