Going Against The Grain

“I was driving in England down the Santa Ana freeway
Somebody’s screaming out ‘You’re going down the wrong way!'”
The Swirling Eddies, Driving in England

I will be 42 years old in just under two months. In my 42 years of life, I have seem many things and done many things. I’ve held a handful of different job, gotten married, met our Lord Jesus, written and published short stories, written a NaNoWriMo novel, recorded over 500 new media shows, designed a dozen websites, writing thousands of lines of software code, gone to Disney Land, met a lot of great people, played thousands of hours of games, been crew on a submarine, and much more. Yet my one real dream eluded me, being a professional full-time writer (or at least trying to be).

Oh, sure, I’ve had other dreams. Some my own. Some accepted from/forced on me by others. When I was a child I dreamed of being Superman, but that never panned out. (It is good that my “being Superman” dream never panned out, I figure all things consider, if I had super powers I would end up becoming a villain and taking over the world. This would be done for the good of the world of course, but it would end badly for everyone involved. But I digress.) Later I dreamed of being a fire fighter, which I was in the Navy to some degree or another. Then, after discovering I have an aptitude for Computer Programming I dreamed of being a programmer, which I achieved and found out wasn’t nearly as cool as I though it would be. And so on.

I also dream of bringing about the Zombie Apocalypse and will someday and that will show all you bastards who tried to crush my dreams. All you who said in was irresponsible to experiment on human test subject. I’ll show you all. I will be safe in a bunker with food and water and guns and a large DVD collection; and you’ll be getting your brains eaten by my zombie minions. It will be my finally revenge on the world. Muhahahaha. (Wait, did I actually type that?)

But the one dream that was mine and truly mine, was to tell stories, to write fiction (and well non-fiction). And that dream has eluded me in a meaningful way for many years. It all started in the summer of my Sophomore year of high school. I spend a month, maybe two, of my summer, writing a novella length manuscript called “Brimstone”. It was about a female spy named Randy Brimstone. She was pitted against a villainous organization that wanted to cut off the worlds oil supply. And, in the end, she succeed in defeating their plan. In retropect, it wasn’t very good, although, it was a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. And it caught the attention of one of my English instructors in High School, Mr Brown (an English teacher at Bonanza High School in Las Vegas NV between 1982 and 1986), because, as they put it, showed raw talent. (Which came as an even bigger surprised to many of my teachers because I never did all that well in English classes.) And Mr Brown, one of my two favorite teachers of all time encouraged me to pursue writing (in one form or another) in college and beyond. My parents on the other hand, being far more practical in there view of life, said my efforts were crap and that I would never make it in life if I pursued writing. And since I respected my mother and feared my father more than I trusted Mr Brown, I went on to pursue electronic and computers rather than story telling and writing.

Well, a lot has gone on since then. I have come to terms with my relationship with my father. (He passed away over 10 years ago.) I have fought through some of my other baggage from the past concerning: writing, careers, dreams, desires, etc. (The fact that I reached a place where I could do that is all due to Christ Jesus, and his work in my life.) And now I am embarking on a journey into the world of the professional writer, which I am finding is a hard road to follow for a number of reason.

Now you maybe wondering why I titled this post “going against the grain”. The title comes from the reality of my new situation. In America, in terms of work, status quo is to find a “career” you like (like might be to strong a word) and then work at that “career” until you can retire or die. Don’t stand out to much. Don’t try to do things on your own, like start a business or write a book or invent the better mouse trap. Just go with the flow and you will have an average, easy life. Doing otherwise makes you different, sometimes admired, often envied, but in the end different. And the world is not a a big fan of those who are different. The world wants to put us all in a “box” that defines who we are and what we do so we can be bought and sold like a commodity. And the world gets very unhappy with those who try to escape the “box” they are in even if it is just to get into a different “box”. The world also gets really upset if your “box” is not of a standard size or shape.

Creative types like myself don’t fit well into the standard “boxes” of the world. We tend to have a grand variety of skills not a skill set focused in a relatively small area like most people. And we tend to want more out of life than the “box” has to offer. That is not to say that creative types don’t get “boxed”, but their “boxes” are always funny shapes and sizes and have rips and tears in them where things poke out; and they usually get shunted off into the manual sorting area. So we often end up “going against the grain”. I would say that is also true of entrepreneurial types as well, but there is so much crossover between creative and entrepreneurial types it is hard to say one is not the other.

Going against the grain is not necessary a bad thing. In fact, I would say that more people should. The corporate “people are just another commodity to trade” philosophy needs to get challenged as often as possible. (Not that I am against capitalism, I am just just against people’s worth being measured by nothing more than what contribute to the world in an economic sense. Which to be honest, Communism and Socialism are more incline to do than capitalism. Humans have value by virtue of of being human and having been created in the image of God whether they choose to accept that fact or not.)

So where am I going with this. Well that is a good question. I am basically, in a long winded, meandering kind of way, saying that I have decided to go against the grain and try to make it as a full-time professional writer. Now I am sure that what illusions I have about the a writing career with be smashed along the way. And that it will be a lot of hard work. But it is the road I am now traveling, although more slowly than I would like.

Don’t worry I have a plan. It not like I’m rushing out to quit my day job, but this new direction has forced me to change a lot of things in my life. I am forcing myself to become a morning person. I find that I am more productive at writing and more creative in the mornings. And I have instituted a new fitness regiment which is also a morning activity. (I think getting my writing “muscles” into shape is harder that getting my actual muscles into shape.) I have cut back on podcasting. So far there I has been some fruit, this blog in particular and a project that should debut in late May of 2010. So something must be working.

In the end, if it all blows up in my face, well, I can say I tried, and I certainly am enjoying the journey. So what are your dreams? Why are you following them? Maybe it is time for you to go “Driving in England”.

The Great Twitter Experiment

For the last three days I have shunned Twitter. In fact, I have shunned all social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc) to see partly, how it would effect me, and partly, if anyone would notice. Now by shunned, I mean did not login to, look at, or participate in in anyway in social networks. This started on Firday, April 23rd and ended Sunday, April 25th. And I have told no one I know that I am doing this.

I hoped by doing this that my general level of stress would go down and that the overall “drama quotient” in my life would be greatly reduced, and that my level of efficiency would be increased. I also hoped that people would miss my presence, but I really didn’t expect them to. And to some degree all these things were the case. Let’s look at some more detailed results.

Day 1 – Friday, April 23rd

On Friday, I found that I did not crave Twitter until I felt a lot of stress. I guess I did not realize that I was using it to let off steam that much. Then again, I’m not sure it was that effective of a tool for letting off steam. Without it, I was more focused on tasks I enjoy doing but it did not help my focus on things I don’t like or care that much about.

As to being missed, we at least one person sent me a message asking if I was okay, and suggesting that I might be dead. That makes me wonder just how big my Twitter presence is considering only have about 400 followers. I think it is sad that the new measure of life is how active on social networks we are.

Day 2 – Saturday, April 24th

Saturday was not really that big of a challenge. I don’t play much attention Twitter on the weekends. But I did find a desire to tweet when I went to the gym and after I got home. I also usually tweet about Saturday Night in the Snark Cave a couple of times on Saturday. It was weird not doing that.

Day 3 – Sunday, April 25th

Sunday was pretty easy, but I did miss the interaction with my friends on Twitter a bit. But again I don’t Tweet much on the weekends.

In the end, I did miss Twitter a bit, but it really wasn’t that much. I think I was a bit more focused without it, but it can be a nice break to send a couple of tweets once in a while. So I guess I am going to use Twitter a bit less going forward and see if I am more efficient.



If I had a rocket launcher…

“If I had a rocket launcher…Some son of a bitch would die.” – Bruce Cockburn, If I Had A Rocket Launcher

I like to think I am reasonable person. I try and give people the benefit of the doubt. I try and see the good in people. I’d like to think that people are not stupid. Really. And yet, people succeed is proving to me over and over that they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt I offer them. (Note: I am generalizing here. If you don’t know what that means you should Google it before continuing.) In fact, most people could benefit from a one way trip down a flight of stairs after they have been set on fire. (The origin of the the whole fire stairs thing can be found in a song call Inner Voice by Devo Spice.) This week has has been a particularly good example of this.

My week’s woes started with an email from our friends at the Parsec Awards. Now other than the “BCC email fail” associated with Parsec Awards announcement, I have nothing more against the Parsec Awards than I do against most awards. And my issue with most awards, especially those on the Internet, is that they are nothing more than popularity contest won by those who have the largest audiences, or they are mutual admiration societies. What really pisses me off about the Parsec Awards is that for next month or two all the podcasts I listen to, most of the mailing lists I am on, and a large number of people I follow on twitter will spend there time begging for votes rather than doing something useful, like producing good content. To begin with, I hate it when podcasters (and bloggers) beg me to do stuff for them. If I want to give you money, I will. If I think your show deserves my time to review it at iTunes, I will review it. I will not vote for you at Podcast Alley, for the Parsec Awards, or for you as a Presidential candidate. Asking/begging me will not change that. I also will not ask you to do any of those things for me, and I don’t expect you to vote for me for anything. If you choose to because you thing my content deserves it, great. But I have no expectations that you will do anything to promote my content or help in win awards.

I believe that awards should be given to those who have truly excelled at something not to those who can market or beg better than anyone else. And largest audience is not necessary a good measure of quality. And yes, I have won two awards in my life. And to be honest, I really didn’t deserve either of them. But I digress.

Next, this week has been high on the “high school drama” that permeates my job. Why is it that rather than acting like adults and trying to help solves problems and work together we all go off and do our own thing until something goes wrong and then we all point our fingers at each other? Why does it seem that people would rather find a problem and package it up in a nice little gift bag and drop off for someone else to fix rather than fix it themselves or at least help.

I have spent all week fighting fires, only to be blamed when things I have no control over have gone wrong or when I gotten things done in the time I estimated rather than five minutes after the request was made. What part of “three days” don’t you understand. No one remembers (or appreciates) the good stuff you do, they only remember what is screwed.

On top of that, the idiot’s who run my states highway department started road work this week on my primary route to work days earlier than the announced start dates. This increase an already long commute to an hour and a half each way. Which suck even more now that I am trying to get to the gym in the morning, and, suddenly, early morning meeting are all the rage at the Donut Factory. Now, I admit that the road work they are doing needed to get done, but if you are going to announce dates stick to them. The weather has been beautiful all week, yet I have seen random adherence to the dates they announced. Come on people.

And finally, the icing on that shit cake that has been this week so far, Earth Day was this week. Earth Day. The one day out of the year we all pretend to give a crap about pollution and recycling and clean air and clean water. Then the next day we forget all about it, and go back to throwing out burger wrappers out the our car’s window as we drive down the highway. I am surprised Hallmark has not start a line of Earth Day cards so we can fill up land fills with them the day after Earth Day each year. Now, as you can guess I am no environmentalist. I do believe in common sense environmentalism: reusing things, recycling, burying the body’s of my victims in the forest so they can fertilize the plants, peeing on trees, etc. And I do care about pollution and recycling and clean air and clean water. But can’t everyone smell the hypocrisy here.

Earth day also brings all the corporate Earth Day events (or stunts). How many corporation were out trying to make people believe they care about the environment? Some gave out reusable bags, some mugs, some water bottles, and some literature (printed on paper that when right in the garbage cans). All of which have the company logo of who ever gave them out printed on them. This is so they can make you believe they care, and get you will advertise for them. What a bunch Hypocrites.

For the record, I worked for Aveda Corporation in the past. It was the only place I have ever worked that took environmentalism seriously. In fact, that took it so seriously that we would spend more on a process or product to make in environmentally friendly. I didn’t aways agree with there position on the issues, but at least they weren’t hypocrites. I can respect that.

But mostly, I am mad at myself this week. Mad that I haven’t focused on the important things. Mad that I let myself get caught up in all the stupid drama going on around me. And mad because I have not been good about meeting my weekly goals. Yes, this week has sucked. Sucked big time.

Maybe I should just give up and join the clueless, unaccountable masses. Give up on my dreams. Fall into line and make “Dust for The Man”. Watch “must see tv” everynight, and drink myself to death. And expect the Government to take care of me.

Maybe I should set myself on fires and throw myself down a flight of stairs.

Or maybe I should surrender it all to God and live as the creative force for good in the world He made me to be.

In the end, if I had a rocket launcher, I would probably blow myself up.