I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I’ve also been a little down with a notorious stomach bug, which hasn’t really put me in the mood to write. Vomiting and heartburn does not put one in a pensive mood, and cognitive fatigue can be so very real. Thankfully, I’m over it.
All the same, the one topic that did keep coming to mind is the nature of my work, and why I do it. I can dispel a few illusions right here; I have been published but I don’t write for the sake of getting published; I program but not for the sake of making a lot of money off of my programming, either. (Not that there isn’t a strong chance of that happening.)
I used to actually believe that the right to call oneself a writer came from publication. Later on, I distilled that down to a writer simply being one who writes; but that isn’t strictly true either. It’s more like being one who is fully capable of writing, and for one reason or another, has the impulse to do it from time to time. For “programmer”, I can say the same. In fact, I can say it for virtually any adjective expressing a craft.
It brought to mind the first time that I ever wrote. I was eight or nine, not in such a good situation, running out of books, and wanting to escape. So, on an impulse, I tried to write a novel. It was much more difficult than my ten-year-old brain had imagined that it would be, and I only got a few pages down before stopping. (I had, for the first time in my life, encountered the phenomenon known as “writer’s block”.) It wasn’t about publication back then, either, though. I think part of the story may have been written in crayon.
Don’t get me wrong, I do intend to publish my entire quartet eventually. My most likely route will be through Amazon’s self-publishing services, depending on how they’re standing at the time. The reality remains that few writers, regardless of the quality of their work, make an enormous amount early on. There are a few people who seem to believe that after publication, due to the apparent quality of my work, I will instantly rise to the status of a one-percenter. (Obviously they don’t know me that well.) It’s undue pressure, and rather distasteful.
It doesn’t help to try and explain to them that the software project I’ve got running in the background is like trying to build a jetliner all by myself; especially given that most of the people who I meet throughout my day have never written a line of Python in their lives. It’s outside of their realm; like trying to describe music to someone with little or no musical taste, or a painting to someone art-blind. It’s also inconvenient.
The thing that all of this comes back to is the notion of the future; of imagining things happening that may or may not even happen at all, which I may or may not ever have any say in anyway. I’ve been guilty of this before. Such talents of imagination are better spent on fictional characters than my own life; at least in that instance I have some control. Thinking about the future is the origin of two things; hope, and fear. When you fall on fear more than hope, it’s time to put it away for a while.
The truth is, I am right where I want to be right now. I live in a beautiful town, I have a wonderful girlfriend, I have an excellent set of tools right in front of me. I have peace of mind. I have a fully equipped kitchen, and a set of friends who truly care about me. I have an awesome hair cut and some sleek jewelry. I have a fucking Keurig, too, which is like a having robot barista in my kitchen. Why does this treasure need to exist in the future? Am I worried it will go somewhere?
There will always be a worse day to come. When the bad day comes, there will be a better one following it. It’s the principle of the yin and the yang. How I look at it is the only choice I get, and it’s as arbitrary as anything else, except that I prefer to think of the permanence of the good days. The last bad day might be said to be the day that I die, and when it happens, I will be able to look back on my life, and say that I have truly lived it to the fullest. I have no say in these things, I need no say in them. I’m cool with it.
The whole idea with creative work is to see to it that it feels more like a game than a job anyway. For me, programming, and writing (including on the blog) usually feel very much like games. They keep my mind active and involved and growing. When they start to feel like a task, it’s an impediment worthy of the same dread as writer’s block.
I haven’t experienced writer’s block in a very, very long time. I figured it out, I learned the signs of its approach, and I learned how to undo it. (In fact, that might make a good non-fiction book right there.) There isn’t any reason why I can’t overcome this new problem as well. Like curing a disease, it begins with understanding it.
I declare here and now that these books will not be written for the sake of publication; they will be written for an audience. They will be written to be good and correct stories, with interesting characters and ethical storytelling. “Good enough” is not good enough for me when it comes to my writing. The same can be said for my code.
Jesus, it can definitely be said for the code.
My real work will always be back here. I am at peace here, it is my circle and my temple. And every day, when I’m finished, I have pushed my mountain one further step; when I’m done, I will have delivered a mountain. That is my warrant.