Life · Writing

Silver Lining

I had the worst case of food poisoning a few days ago. I couldn’t remember the last time I threw up – I don’t tend to throw up when I get sick. Well, this time I pretty much projectile vomited the whole night, and was basically bed-ridden for three days afterwards. I could feel my stomach being all knotty from hunger but had zero appetite, and zero energy to boot. It was an ordeal.

On the third day I had enough energy to stay awake but not enough for anything else. So I spent the portion I wasn’t drifting off to sleep thinking about life. (Isn’t it weird that we never think about living until we feel like we’re dying?) Specifically, what the hell am I doing with my life and why is it the way it is. Where am I in my life? Am I happy? If I’m unhappy, why? If I know why I’m unhappy, what do I have to do to change it, and what’re the concrete changes I have to do? It’s one thing to realize I need to “work more” but what exactly does that entail? Write more words every day? Write more words more consistently? Install a page blocker so I don’t get distracted by social media and waste precious hours while I’m in my “work” time? Things like that.

And I think I made sort of an epiphany kind of break through. (Yes, super cliché, but it is what it is.) I had a vision of what ultimately should happen, where I want things to be eventually (finish book, publish book, write more books until I die.) But I don’t have a vision of what should happen much sooner. When you’re working by yourself, sitting alone in the house (with a million everyday chores and other living distractions), with goals you yourself set and no real “punishment” if you don’t meet them, it’s very, very hard to gauge how much progress you’re actually making when your goal is six months from now. There’re no regular check-ups and reports, no meetings to attend to discuss your performance, so how do you know if you’re just lagging impossibly behind or right on track until, well, six months have passed and you see where you end up?

Short answer: you don’t. Or rather I didn’t. I’ve been told that writing’s a marathon, not a race, and that’s true, but you have a pre-plotted road and known miles for a marathon. Writing you have nothing. You don’t know exactly how long your novel will be – ballpark, yes, exact number to the tens digit? Not really. So what do you do? Well, for me, I realized that I need to have a clear goal for every day. What I’m doing now is basically write something everyday and hope in six months it’ll all come together from sheer perseverance. That doesn’t work for me anymore (may have never worked for me, actually.) I need to set a vision, a concrete “what percentage of this project will you be at by the end of today?”, and then set out to do it. And it needs to be very specific, not “I’m going to wrap up as much of this section as possible” but “character A will be at place B and the last sentence will be —” It’s like a mini finish line for every single day. That’s the most useful way for me to progress forward, I think.

This may sound a little like semantics or a ‘duh’ moment, but it’s actually quite a radical change from the way I usually work. It’s like a smoker instead of smoking a pack a day, he smokes just one cigarette short of a pack. To others it’s 24 cigarettes instead of 25, but this smoker has been smoking a pack a day, every day, for 5 years straight. That one cigarette short is a significant change in behavior. I’m only hoping that I can achieve the same.


No Motivation

I’ve been bitten by the lack of motivation bug lately. By lately I mean, well, most of this year so far, barring the super productive month I had of April and the two months before that where I was as sick as a dog and couldn’t even sit up to look at my computer. The point is, my May and June should’ve both been as productive as April, but they’re totally not. And I’m a little pissed off about it.

I know people get discouraged a lot in life. Most people have to just keep pushing no matter what, and I’m definitely on the luckier side in which I won’t starve and be homeless even if I don’t do much. I mean I won’t be rich by any means, but I can get by. And that just makes me feel really, really bad. Like I’m a leech on society. My work is definitely self-motivated, and there are so many people who work so hard and see absolutely zero recognition in the field of writing (and no money whatsoever). I’m accepting of that; I don’t expect fame and I don’t expect J.K. Rowling level of money. Hell, I don’t expect Gregory Maguire level of money and fame (I don’t actually know how much Gregory Maguire makes, I assume much less than Rowling but still significant. Plus, he’s a name people have heard of, and if you haven’t, well, he wrote the book the Broadway musical Wicked was based on.) I don’t expect fame at all, with maybe enough money to scrape by, but that’s not what I’m angry about. There’s a huge difference between you finish a book, get it published, and it doesn’t sell well; and you never finish the book in the first place, and you’re afraid of even picking up the damn, metaphorical pen.

I know people who’re passionate about their projects and their jobs who live and breathe the stuff. I wish I could just devote myself to the project, like those folks do, 24/7. It’s stressful just thinking about the work right now, and I’m not sure what exact steps I can take to address this. You know my husband once did say that maybe I’m actually more suited to a more traditional job, and if that’s the case, too late now! There’s nowhere to go but forward, even though every steps is more (mentally) painful than the last, and I can’t really see the end any time soon.