Monday, March 2, 2009

It's Been a While

In all honesty, writing took a backseat to the rest of my life for a while. It was a combination of outside events and internal turbulence that did it, I think.

On the outside, reading for pleasure has given way to film watching. 2008 was the Year of the Fifty Book Challenge, and I ended the year with sixty-one new reads. This year I’m challenging myself to see more than one hundred films, on DVD specifically, and I’m up to twenty-four so far. I’ll finish the twenty-fifth today or tomorrow. I’ve been breaking my movies down to forty-minute chunks to watch while I’m running on the elliptical every day.

I should be writing every day for hours at a time, seeing how I lost my job two weeks ago. Six years at Waste Management and I’m lost in a “restructuring.” For some people this could have been a catastrophic loss, but I’ve hated the job since day one and have been dragging my ass ever since. Finally I have a reason to leave this county and head south to Pittsburgh, where I spend most of my weekend time. Good riddance to a horrible, unhealthy and incompatible job and environment.

One of the things I’ve been doing lately is reading long articles about David Foster Wallace, both in The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. Here is someone who accomplished things I only dream of doing, and it wasn’t good enough for him. He suffered from the same self-doubt and work-related criticism that I do and he had a brain full of knowledge on subjects I’m barely even aware exist. If he couldn’t make it, what kind of person am I to even dream of doing so? He studied at Amherst and Harvard, while I drank my way out of a state college and spent my twenties working nights on a landfill. If he had such difficulty and misery, what makes me think I can do any better, or even come close?

On the other hand, there are people like Stephenie Meyer whose work flies off the shelves and into the hands of children and adults at a rate so quickly you’d swear there were deals made with Satan going on. If a woman who never read a vampire book or watched a vampire movie can write a bestselling vampire series then there’s still a chance for me, right? Despite reading the first three books and being shocked at how emotionally and socially stunted the main characters are, I have to admit they are popular. But is popular even what I want?

I think, right now, all I want to do is be read. And in order to do that, I have to go beyond the rough draft and into a place where I am very, very uncomfortable. I’m going to have to revise and continue working, though I have no idea what I should be doing. Proofreading is no problem, but adding and subtracting entire chapters and characters is something so alien and painful to imagine to me that I put it off as long as I can, much like I did exercise when I was depressed. I don’t think I need to explain what that ended up doing to me.

I’m not even sure what the meaning of this passage is. I suppose in part I want to let anyone who reads this blog know that I’m still alive, but at the same time I want to go deeper into explaining myself and my motivations for things. I want other people to know just how much I doubt myself every day, and I want to find out if other people do the same. When I pick up most books I see the finished product for what it is, a book, and as I flip through it I never stop to wonder how much work the author put into it or how many revisions it went through. I suppose I only ever think of someone suffering self-doubt and hatred of their own material when that writer is me. And I can barely even refer to myself as a writer at this stage, seeing as I’ve only ever produced a few short stories and novel rough drafts.

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