Tomorrow, I turn 41.
Today, I sit in the chasm between two possible lives, both of which I’ve lived before.
One was defined by being painfully average – so sad about my middle class life that I had to blog about it daily just to justify it, resenting that my special brain isn’t being put to use in some high concept design or writing role, depression about the possibility of whatever work I want to create being ignored and hated — which I then drown out with my vices (games, food, booze and masturbation), all the while trickling out just enough work to keep just enough people giving me just enough praise to feed the bottomless validation monster inside me, both in my career and online.
The other life I’ve lived was one where I became enlightened to all of these things, unafraid to do the hard work to make things that matter, replacing praise-based validation with the wildly more powerful validation of a job well done. Focusing on the three corners of the trinity, work, writing, working out: mind, body, and soul in alignment to push forward out of whatever mire I am in, allowing external to be external and being solidly in touch with the internal.
Right now, I am taking a break from staring at a blank page in my word processor, watching the cursor blink on and off and on again, trying to make words appear by willing them into existence. Occasionally, I do, and they’re crap. I delete them and start again. This has been the situation for a week and some days now. I’ve taken it VERY seriously. I have not given up. I have not retreated to video games, booze, weed, or masturbation to delay or ignore the fact that there’s a hard job sitting before me, and if I want to have another volume of my book out in the world, I’ve got to start hammering keys and producing work.
But goddammit, it’s hard. I want to look away and then back and see before me a perfect, polished, completely perfect manuscript. I look away; I look back.
Blank screen. Blinking cursor.
I cannot run from who I am, and I cannot be who I’m not. I am predisposed to laziness, sloth, indulgence and gluttony. I LOVE those things. I really, really do.
But I love looking at something I’ve made and knowing I did something worth doing more. The problem is, the cost of the first batch of things is so low, it makes the cost of doing the work look insane by comparison.
Drink, smoke, eat, play games, fuck around, and have fun
Give up hours, days, weeks, months, parties, get-togethers, hangouts, social life, and in some cases friendships in order to put the necessary time into making things I want to make, on a schedule that is somewhere short of “maybe someday.”
And that’s where I get confused and begin thinking about retreat. With the world spinning out of control and all kinds of external chaos taking place my old brain is showing up more and more. It wants to mask pain with jokes on my blog and video games and food and booze. It wants to retreat to what it knows will numb me in times of pain.
Problem is, my new brain knows it doesn’t work at all. In fact it makes it worse by delaying the inevitable. And what’s more, there’s the added frosting of guilt for not using the time I have to make the work I know I need to make on the lazy cake I’d be baking for myself.
My new brain knows that the first step to getting better is to stop making it worse. The second is to do the work, day by day, hour by hour, second by second if need be.
I have a good job. I have a great girlfriend. We have a nice house, excellent dogs and cats, and a cool game room. There’s food in the fridge and I take hot showers daily. I want to disappear into that, like I did when I first got restabilized after everything fell apart. But the time for taking comfort in the mere fact there was comfort to be taken is over. It’s time to work.
But dammit, I would be lying if I didn’t say I don’t want to.
Tomorrow, I turn 41. I very likely have more years behind me than I do ahead of me. I have lived a pretty nutso life, and I have done some really cool stuff with it. But I’ve wasted more days than I’ve put to good use, by my count.
But here I sit, staring at that blank page with a cursor going blink. blink. blink. blink.
Type a few words; delete those few words.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
But that’s the work. It’s been this way with every book I’ve ever written. It always starts this way. With every blink of the cursor, I find myself staring at my own will, wondering who will blink first.
You better believe that I will stare this cursor down until it submits to my will.