a conundrum

a conundrum

A fortnight ago, I was elated at having found a possible solution to this never-ending conundrum I face, this unsolvable puzzle of finding a balance between freelance editing and fiction writing.

After I put up that post, I worked on my novel for not one single day! Not one word written in the past fortnight. Trouble was, and I'm sure this is only one of many reasons, I was feeling so burnt out that I did not take on any editing jobs. And having tied my writing practice as a precursor to my editing work, in the absence of any external deadline, I had little motivation to write.

Then comes the question: why do I need an external deadline to do what I love? I found the answer to this in The Four Tendencies Quiz by Gretchen Rubin. I took this quiz on two separate occasions in the past month. The first time, it revealed I am an 'Obliger', one who is happy to meet outer/external expectations but readily compromises on meeting inner/personal expectations. The second time, it declared me a 'Rebel', one who resists all expectations alike, whether inner or outer. Well, what can I say?!

So whether I have the tendencies of an 'Obliger' or a 'Rebel', turns out I struggle with keeping promises I have made to myself. Having followed Dr. Shefali's Viral Wisdom talks on her YouTube/Facebook page for most of these past 52 days of the lockdown, I am inclined to wonder if this tendency of not upholding commitments I've made to myself is a result of low self-worth.

Do I not value myself enough that I let slip the promises I have made to myself? Or do I make such lofty promises which I'm simply not able to fulfil?

The answer to the first question may very well be in the affirmative. I am excellent at meeting external deadlines. I always turn in my editing assignments well before deadline. I had excellent work ethics when I was working in the corporate world.

But take a look at my attempts towards 'Tales For D' itself. A classic start-stop affair. Each time, I've resorted to the excuse of not having enough time to keep up with the weekly commitment of putting up a short ten-sentence whimsy. Many times, I've stopped myself from continuing or restarting the weekly stories, telling myself that I ought to be devoting more time to working on my novel, which I can then sell, rather than putting out fanciful whimsies for free. True, I have published a novella, and have a novel in progress. But the time 'spared' by not writing these weekly stories has not really been spent in writing the novel or anything else for that matter. The novel and the other longer stories or poems I've written alongside have come into being on their own, not related to my writing or not writing of Tales For D.

So the answer to the second question is likely No. I am not making crazily lofty promises. Writing 250 words a day ought to be quite literally a walk in the park. What is it that keeps me from getting to it then?

One big reason is the financial factor. I want to make a living from my writing but I have to be willing to look at it as a long-term career. DWS put up a timely post on his blog today on the merits of self-publishing and the demerits of traditional publishing. And this is his short-view of indie publishing ...

The short view for indie is that you will do a lot of learning, pay a lot of money for workshops, books, conferences, and so on. You will do a ton of learning on how to write better stories, how to lay out books, how to do your own covers, and how to promote when you get to the right about of books published. And unless you are lucky, in the short term you will make coffee money and not much more.
But a lot of that can be done and behind you in the same about of time as a traditional writer will spend in the three to five years it will take to publish one book. ~ Dean Wesley Smith

This also reminds me of a writer's quote I had included in another previous post.

Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or another. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit. ~ Andre Dubus II

Why is it so hard then to get to the daily practice of it? 250 words a day? And then get to my editing? What keeps me from penning down those 250 words a day? That way, I don't even have to worry that I'm not editing and giving up my current source of income.

This is something I want to work on. Figure out where I'm tripping myself up. Find a way to make it work.

I have been breaking patterns. There was a time, not too long ago, when after a long, fun-filled but exhausting day looking after D, I'd switch on Netflix after he'd gone to bed, and look for something to watch. Everyone knows what a tremendous time-suck Netflix can be. I remember the nights when I'd switch it on and spend a few hours watching something, finally giving in to restless sleep after all that screen-time, and waking up the next morning grumpy and too tired to have a fun time with D. I remember I used to feel I 'deserved' that entertainment after the day's hard work. But the end of that entertainment only left a gaping void in my life, one that didn't feel good at all, so I'd go looking for the next show to watch.

And then I read a post by Steven Pressfield titled 'Getting ready for tomorrow'. This is what he says about how resistance shows up when we're trying to develop a creative habit.

Resistance will hit me tomorrow morning before I even open my eyes. It will try to turn my success today into failure tomorrow.
Resistance will try to convince me I can relax, ease up. “You put a good day in the bank today. Enjoy it. Slack off a little tomorrow.”
Tempting, ain’t it?
But I know what will happen if I listen to this siren song.
So I don’t listen.
Instead I steel myself. Like an athlete, like a provider for a family, like a contender, like a professional.
I am playing the long game.
I am inculcating habit.
I am deepening my practice, day by day. ~ Steven Pressfield

The actual writing of the words itself is such an enjoyable act. It's the getting to the computer and opening the manuscript and typing out those 250 words and then proceeding to work on my editing job that I'm struggling to nail.

And that's OK. It's going to be hard. There will be struggle. I just have to show up everyday. I have to try everyday. And yes, I have been getting better at breaking patterns, simply by trying again and again and showing up and trying yet again.

Now I don't switch on Netflix anymore at bedtime. Instead, I lie down and switch on my Kindle. I read barely two pages and I am fast asleep. I sleep well at night, a good 7-8 hours, and I spend an enjoyable day with Beans (another nickname for D, also Beanie) the next day. A few days ago, I managed to squeeze in a few hours of editing prior to bedtime without losing my sanity before, during or after. Now to squeeze in 250 words of the novel before the editing.

And after that, I only have to do this everyday for at least the next five years without doubting myself and worrying I'm on the wrong path and that it could all be a great waste of time.

Attribution: Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash