It may appear that I’m one of the 60,000+ people per day who start a blog and then crap out, but that’s only because I am. I’m impulsive. I’m easily distracted because I’m greedy about knowing stuff and dabbling in all sorts of goo-gahs to do with this rapidly changing world filled with luscious knowledge about everything. I’m also scared.
Being scared used to trigger the “freeze” part of the fight-freeze-flight response that’s in our brains, but with a lot of effort I’ve learned the art of thawing out a bit and doing something radical, like research, asking myself hard questions, and (gasp!) coming up with a plan. I used to have fearsome focus that was more like a noose around my neck, but that’s gone away as more and more goodies have appeared that tempt me with their sparkle. When there was less to explore, I’d explore it quickly and then get back to my primary obsession, which is writing. Not so much this past decade as the explosion of information and options has burst on the scene. The more brain bling there’s been in the world, the more the chinks in my own character have widened.
I’m easily distracted, and boy are there a lot of distractions out there. More than ever before.
So I’ve let all the distractions flit around me as I’ve forced myself to do the very first thing any artist must do if they want to get down and dirty with their art, and that’s strengthen one’s character before creating imaginary characters in imaginary worlds.
I’ve had a lot of help in this endeavor, thanks to the work of Martin Seligman, Ph.D. and his ground-breaking work in what’s commonly called Positive Psychology (ironically, he founded the movement but now rejects it). If you’re having any kind of trouble with your writing, or art of any kind, it’s because you lack character and grit. I know, I know, that sounds like a punch in the face, but not to worry, the statement does include fear of failure, fear of success, rotten childhoods, and all the other things we’ve explored with all the drama of our artistic nature. Lack of character and grit just shifts the focus from our past and our innate psychology to taking aim at the future and dealing with our own psychological
peculiarities uniqueness. If you’re interested in knowing more about character and the role it plays in our work, take a gander at this book to find out more. And if you’d like to know more about your strengths and weaknesses, here’s a great place to start. Go to the questionnaire section to discover you signature strengths and weaknesses, but don’t lose heart when you find out how many chinks you have in your character or how deep they are. The objective is to use your strengths to conquer your weaknesses, even if those strengths seems fairly worthless at first glance.
Like my greatest strength–curiosity. I like to know stuff. It tickles that happy place inside of me, but it also makes me easily distracted and triggers my learned helplessness because for every bit of Stuff there is to know out there, there’s another bit of Stuff that contradicts it. I can easily feel frustrated and helpless under those conditions, which isn’t very good. Not at all. But coupling my curiosity with my second strongest signature strength–creativity–has kept me digging and creating new ways to get around this seemingly flighty nature I’ve got. I’m also very perceptive, so I’ve been able to see patterns in the midst of chaos.
And one of the patterns I’ve seen, a pattern that could easily get in the way of the focus I need to write the way I want to write, is blogging. Knowing that I’m curious/impulsive, and instead of rutting in past traumas to find out why in favor of how I deal with my impulsive nature has helped me settle down and do research. Boy, have I ever come across a bunch of writers who’ve spent years on a novel that isn’t even half finished yet because _________. Fill in the blank because they all have a lot of convincing reasons they can give for the unfinished state of their creative endeavor, and I buy into all those reasons. But from where I’m standing now, it sure looks to me like they’re not getting that novel finished because they’re busy blogging. They blog big time, and they’re very good at it. I love these people, I follow them like a puppy dog, they’re my heroes, but I don’t want to fall into what I see as a trap. They’re very good at what they do because they invest a lot of time developing their talent and skills as bloggers, and many of them are incredibly astute in sussing out the stuff that writing is made of. The problem is that the longer I’ve followed them and enjoyed their insight and personalities, the less I’ve come to think of them as authors. I’m not saying that they have stopped thinking of themselves as authors of creative art, just that I have, and because I admire them, I’ll want to be like them. And guess where that leads me? Miles away from where I want to be and stuck in a mindset where I feel defeated because I don’t see myself as an author. That’s a bit stupid because excellent blogging is authorship, it’s just not the kind of authorship I lust after.
I like blogging. I like having followers. I like helping other people. I like sharing secrets of the fine art of writing when I stumble on them. I like building an audience and reputation, but if I keep giving in to everything I like, I’m going to get really bitchy near the end of my life because I haven’t kept focus on the brass ring I want so badly but keep missing, especially in this world that keeps spinning faster and faster, scattering focus. Geesh, I get distracted at half that speed.
So, should I even be doing this? Every minute I put into this blog is a minute not put into my writing. And let me tell you, it’s a tough game that’s being played in publishing these days. With all this business of self-publishing going on, anybody can get in the game. As Justine Musk has pointed out in her blog, any time the level of entry is lower, you’re going to get a lot of crap. At first glance that may seem like it opens the gates so that everybody can get in and hustle their crap, but the reality is that it raises the bar. I’ve already seen it happen in the world of stock photography. Not only did the invention of microstock photography, coupled with technology, raise the bar, it lowered the price or what’s offered, even the exceptionally awesome stuff. In his novel Hotel New Hampshire, one of John Irving’s characters says that you’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed, and there are a tremendous amount of obsessed people out there who don’t care about fame, fortune, a following or the glory of lunch with their New York literary agent. With just a little bit of extra effort, they can hit that “Upload” button and be published. They write because it is their food, their water, their breath, their entertainment, their lover, and they just can’t help themselves. That adds up to some very good writing flooding the market at a very cheap price, and a reading public with shovels looking for that pony. Those of us who have seen it as a career choice are going to get slammed by these obsessed creatures and forced to sharpen our focus like it’s never been sharpened before. This does not bode well for someone like me. I’m
flighty easily distracted curious, remember?
To blog or not to blog, that has been this writer’s question that’s dogged me for almost two months. During that time, my little experiment with putting faces to the characters in my mind and making them state their case for my attention has gone through more changes than I can count. I’ve loved the journey. Could I have taken it if I’d been tied to a blogging schedule? Would my cluttered mind have had enough room to romp for the adventure I took?
But I will continue with this blog. I hope anybody spending their most sacred time reading it gets something useful, but cooking up helpful tips won’t be on this menu. I started this thing, and I’m going to stick with it because before I can create fascinating characters I’ve got to work on my own character. There’s a lot of flabby muscle in that old-fashioned notion of character that I’ve got to exercise, and one of the most important is sticking with something through thick and thin.
This is the place I will fail. This is the place I will get back up again. This is the place where my past can haunt me, and it’s here that I’ll push those ghosts aside because I have things in the future I’m reaching for. This is the place I’ll scatter my opinionated mind, so I can return to my work and let the substance of creation fill the empty spot my useless opinions have left. This is where I’ll ramble, break rules, embarrass myself without blushing, and I’ll kick up a dust cloud of words and see where the dust settles.