Monday, May 19, 2014

Days 46-79

Nothing. I want to be angry at myself, but the mere fact that I can't even build up the energy to do that is, I think, indicative of some greater burnout. Which is probably at the heart of why I have so much trouble writing.

But I was up in Scotland last week and that, along with the hours of riding my motorcycle up there and back gave me a little time to think and maybe, hopefully, I can start to refocus on this goal of being a professional author. A succession of things helped to spur that feeling:

1) Firstly, I was in Scotland to attend the John Muir Conference, in which person after person stood up and invoked the spirit of the Scotland-born "father of the national parks," whilst quietly admitting that he'd probably be pretty disappointed with conservation efforts in his native land. Thoughts of Muir, of his finding that Great Thing he wanted to do (preserve huge swathes of land for future generations), and pursuing it rekindled that feeling within myself that I can be a great writer if I actually try. 

2) Sometime during that same week, I received a rejection email from an agent to whom I had submitted my manuscript. It was the first rejection I've gotten out of a large group of submissions I sent back near my birthday. Yes, it is shit to be rejected, but getting a rejection letter/email means at least that someone has taken the time to look at what I've sent them. In most cases, I'll send stuff and never hear back. It can feel that I might as well be printing out copies of my book and tossing them into the sea. Getting a rejection, in a strange way, helped remind me to keep trying. Though, I've yet to send off any new submissions. 

3) I have, however, submitted a short story for the Rhys Davies Short Story Competition. I'm actually pretty happy with what I've submitted. I'd like to win the £5,000 prize, of course, but, honestly, I'd be happy with just some level of recognition: a something that can lead to something.

4) Meanwhile, I was listening to a podcast Saturday in which David Shoemaker offhandedly mentioned the fact that, as a professional writer, he is frequently asked for advice on how to become a professional writer. And his answer is simply: "Read more." That's advice my friend Heidi gave me more than a decade ago, when I showed her a short story I had written. I took that advice and, I think, got better. But if you look at the list of things I've read this year (over there on the right), you'll see I seem to have forgotten that advice. It's that deep burnout, maybe. But I have told myself that I am going to try to read 15 minutes a day. That's not much, but it's considerably more than I've been managing.

5) I was at a barbecue this past weekend and one of my friends who has various BBC connections was encouraging me to try writing a script for radio. He even gave me a script to a programme that is set to be produced, so I could get an idea of what producers are looking for.

6) I have been offered another opportunity to write a motorcycle-related piece. So, score more points for my motorcycle blog. At last count, that thing is getting 18,000 pageviews a month. People really like reading about motorcycles, I guess. Who knew?

7) And those above two points lead to the frustration I feel toward myself of not adequately using my resources. I feel defeated and exhausted by my long-term lack of tangible success, but equally exhausted by my inability to properly use the tools I have. I guess because the former makes me feel there is no point in the latter. 

While I was in Scotland I found myself wandering in Cairngorms National Park and there is a certain part of Glenmore that reminded me oh-so-slightly of the Lake Tahoe basin area in Northern California. I lived by the shores of Tahoe for a summer, so I suppose the experience of being reminded of it in Scotland managed to reach into that part of my brain that is so desperately homesick and always searching for anything that reminds me of home -- anything to connect me to what I know. And even thinking about it now I feel that overwhelming feeling of sadness and tiredness and hopelessness that is being homesick. I feel like crying.

At the John Muir conference there was a doctor who talked about the fact that long-term inactivity, poverty, unemployment and other such things can lead to actual physiological change in your brain. Not having a job makes you stupid, in other words. I have to imagine that missing home so much starts to ruin your brain, too.

But maybe that is just a cop out.