Breaking through apathy
I make no promises I will keep up with blog posts. I've spent a decade having a blog, and I know better than anyone how the drive goes. You are motivated. You write 1 or 2 posts. Not many people read or comment. You decide, fuck it, why bother?
But, the inherent irony is that this post is about apathy. I have depression, anxiety, but apathy feels like its own unique beast. For I've been terribly depressed, and still managed to write a decent amount, fiction, or otherwise. No, apathy is born of desire, which is born of expectation. Apathy is when you write a blog post, say, like this one, when you are a writer, say, like me, who has a few books out, none of which sold a tremendous amount. Apathy is when you have a few stories in larger anthologies than you've ever been in before, and it still seems like your writing career is going nowhere.
I've spent most of the last decade writing, again, fiction or otherwise, with fair to middling success, at least in terms of having anyone at all read my work (we won't get into money because, I mean, obviously I'm not rolling in it). More often than not there is a predictable cycle. I get the novel idea, write 50 pages, then get discouraged, talk myself down, and another corpse of an unfinished novel is left in my wake. Or, I get motivated to record a version of one of my books as an audiobook, record maybe 2 chapters, wind taken out of sails, and it gets left unfinished on my hard drive.
So, it makes me wonder, how the hell have I ever managed to finish anything? I finished a novel, well, 2, but I've only put out the second attempt. And I'm proud of TH3 D3M0N (available on Amazon, he said, like a whore) but god damn, I'm into my second novel, and yet again I wonder... how does one actually finish a novel? Or a novella? Or a steady amount of work?
Now, I know the answer. You just do it. That's not really what I'm asking, not literally asking how do you write. We all know how. One word after the other. You put the work in. No, what I'm asking is... how does anyone have the confidence to finish a bunch of novels?
I can only give my own experience. For me, I have to work fast as fuck, like a veritable fire is under my ass. Anything short of a breakneck first draft, and I start to wonder, hmm, why is my bank account so low? I should really focus on something else? Or, oh, maybe I could start season 2 of CASTLE ROCK. Did I mention the ADD? You have probably guessed at the ADD by now.
So, again, how to finish a novel, which honestly for someone with ADD might as well be making a house on the top of a fucking mountain, walking every nail, every tool, up the damn thing on foot. How does one maintain the faith, and the confidence, to break through apathy? And my real answer, no bullshit, is you just have to be willing to live with doubt. I've yet to be working on a single novel, thinking, unequivocally, "wow, this is incredible." It's much more like "god damn, people have paid me for doing this before?"
Faith is one of those icky words for atheists and agnostics alike (agnostic, woot) which is equated with door to door salesman for the J man, surely not something a rational realist who believes in science would take seriously. And yet, having that hope, that faith, in your abilities, and in your ability to make something for yourself in the future, that's what writing is all about. So, the problem becomes, when one has the faith in one outcome, and receives another. This makes it very easy to get discouraged. Recently I had a fairly serious health scare, and whether or not it was mainly mental, or mainly physical I won't go into it. And you know what I was thinking, freaking out on my kitchen floor? I was thinking I can't die, I haven't finished my book series yet! Yeah, I mean, among other more normal stuff like all the foods I was planning to quit, and how I planned to change my life, and my loved ones, yada yada yada. Oh god please don't let me die, you know, that fun chestnut.
So why bother bringing that up? Well, because often in times of crisis what is important comes to the surface. And, I found, I wanted to do more. In those dire moments, I wasn't worrying how many people would read the books, or how much money I would make. I was thinking about letting myself down, and not finishing what I started. You see, I've discovered over the last decade or more that I can be lazy with the writing, but I can't manage to quit. And it's because, I get something out of this. Creative expression. Creation of art. This makes me happy, even with all the drama, and the books that flop, the struggle of gaining an audience, and the countless abandoned projects, and attempts to get the work into a wider audience.
But, with respect to everyone, fuck all that shit. Yeah, I'd like to get paid, but that's not really why I do this. I do this because I like doing it. I do this because I have to do it. If I write 20 novels and never sell many, I'll be a bit bummed, sure, but I will be proud I managed to create art.
People ask what's the point of doing this? Well, my very zen philosophy is currently... the point of writing a story is to write a story. The point, the meaning, can be found in the very act of creation. Does there need to be a deeper meaning than telling a story? If a novelist releases a book and no one reads it, does that mean the book doesn't exist? What if the meaning is simply that we are a species that needs to tell stories. What if the meaning is to tap into something beyond the physical parameters of our lives, to find out how we feel about the world? What if apathy is really just getting bogged down by the concepts we find ourselves enslaved to: money, and time. When seperated from any notion of financial compensation (and really, you should be, this ain't a way to get rich) what you are left with is time. You are in a battle with time, and as you can quickly learn, you can carve out 20 minutes a day for anything.
So, how do you beat apathy? Maybe you don't. Maybe you never do. Not entirely. But, all you need is to push it aside for long enough each day to write your stories. And maybe all you need is to write what you write. I wasn't trying to turn this into some self help, motivational speaker bullshit. However, recently, I've been speaking to other writer friends. We discussed the unfortunate passing of a peer. And at first, the conversations got into how scary it was, and how he only got to have a few books out. But, at some point, I brought up the fact that, compared to so many others of the population, he managed to do something that not everyone ever can. He got his act together, and wrote a few books. He managed to leave something behind we can acquire, and read. Apathy, when boiled down, is simply fear. It's fear of failure. Fear of ridicule. Fear of feeling like no one cares. Fear you don't have the talent. Don't let the fear get to you. We all have it. But you can work through it. Don't let fear control your life. Anyway, see y'all in like a year when I finally write another blog post, lol.