I’ve Got A Spring In My Step

It’s Easter Sunday, the sun is shining over the south Puget Sound, and churches everywhere are packed. It’s around this time that people from all sorts of faiths gather to celebrate life’s victory over death, either through the resurrection of a man or in the rebirth of the seasons. A big deal for lots of folks, no doubt.

And yet amidst all this celebration of life, there is a shadow hanging over it all. Today is the last day of my spring break — my little vacation from the constant demands of calculus and chemistry — and I can’t help but feel a little sad that it has to be over.

But it’s not all bad. I’m more than a little bummed that I have to start school again but I’ve definitely got a whole lot of awesome going on too. Like I said in the last post I’m the soon-to-be father of the most amazing little girl in the history of amazing little girls.

Part two of my ongoing awesome is that I have a renewed plan for writing. That’s right, I’m going to try to write and go to school. Not so easy for a guy like me, but a few glorious events transpired over spring break that got me thinking a lot about writing.

A couple weeks ago I went and saw Marissa Meyer talk about the newest book in her Lunar Chronicles series, Scarlett, at a library near my abode. Marissa is a Tacoma local and she’s has been cool enough to do more than a few of these types of things in the area since her debut book, Cinder, came out last year. When the talk was over and my wife and I went to get our copy of the novel signed, Marissa remembered us from a reading she did a whole year prior and was nice enough to ask me how my novel was progressing. I smiled, turned red, and said that my novel was, uh, ‘temporarily’ on hold.

I pretty much felt like a total douche-canoe.

It was that small encounter coupled with all the nice things you people in the blogosphere have been saying in the comments that got me thinking about getting back to the writing. For so long I’ve clung to my all-or-nothing mentality for getting things done because it’s always seemed like the best way to approach challenges. I all but stopped writing when school got heavy because I felt like any time I could put into my writing would be futile because I couldn’t go at it full-bore. And why do anything if you’re not going to do it like a person with a crazed obsession, right? But now, with life getting more complicated, I think my golden age of doing nothing but writing are long gone. I either need to find some balance or give up writing, and the latter isn’t really an option, is it?

So here’s the new plan: I’m going to dedicate a minimum of one hour a day to my manuscript and make a blog post every Sunday. If I find that I have more time then I’ll dump it into writing, but for now I think an hour ought to do it. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to finish, but that’s okay. As long as I keep hammering away at the keyboard I know I’ll get it done.

And so this Easter, the holiday is taking on a new spin for me. I’m not just seeing the renewal of spring, but of something I love doing as well.

Picking A Job That Won’t Drive Me To The Bottle

I left off the last post telling you how I worked myself up into a hurricane of horrible worry — a worrycane, you could say — and temporarily abandoned creative pursuits in favor of a something more serious and soul-crushing: a stable career. OK, so it’s not as dramatic as all of that. Working isn’t half-bad bad. Actually, it’s probably somewhere between half-bad and three-quarters bad, but not totally bad.

I know some of you were thinking, “How did he know the first draft was so bad?” after my last blog post, and I would have probably thought the same thing if I was reading this on your bloggity blog. To clarify, it’s not that I thought the draft was garbage from the first word until “The End,” but rather that I knew the thing needed a ton of work to chop the bad parts out and make the good parts, well, great. I know enough about my own writing to recognize that sometimes, periodically and seemingly by accident, I have a tendency to write stuff that is downright bitchin’. But just having some gems in the manuscript wasn’t enough. It was going to take work to polish them up. And work, my comrades-in-arts, takes a whole mess of time if you want to do it right.

Anyways, back to the matter at hand. I needed a job. No, not just a job. A job is just somewhere you show up every day and try not think about how you’d rather burn the building down and salt the smoking earth rather than show up for another eight hours. I needed something that I could look forward to doing everyday. Something that I felt mattered, even if it was only a little.

“Something that matters, huh?” my brain said. “Vague, but okay. What’s something that matters?”

That was the challenge, wasn’t it? How did I go about finding something that mattered to me?

I looked to my experience — especially from the military — for an answer to that question. The Army had given me some solid insight into how much needless suffering there is in the world from health related issues. As a solider I was ill equipped to do anything about it, but as a civilian I might be able to provide some relief. The intuitive choice for me was to become a doctor. I know, I know, it’s a lot of work. But me and work are BFF’s when we need to be.

The internet is a great place for finding stuff and it didn’t let me down when I poked around  for info on becoming a doctor. The thing is, instead of just finding out how to become a doctor I found that the med school route might not be the best one for me. Primary care isn’t the hotspot for docs these days, and primary care was what had my attention. Instead, I found that nurse practitioners are the hot jam for what I wanted to do. So I decided to go for it.

Yep, just like that and I’m on my way. I’m up to my carotid artery in science and math but it’s totally worth it. I hope.

You might think that’s about it, but there’s one tinsy-winsy thing I’ve left out. A little over five months ago my wife got some news that makes a steady job so totally, incredibly, massively important.

I’m going to be a dad.

More on that — and what has got me writing again (yes, I’m writing again) — in the next post.

That Time I Freaked Myself Out And Stopped Writing

So as I was saying, my brain has two settings for getting things done: on and off. That’s a good thing when there’s work to be done and time to do it in, but a bad thing when that time gets cut down a bit.

Not sure WTF I mean? Let me explain.

Last year, toward the end of summer, I started getting a little sketched out about the future. I know you can relate. Everybody gets a case of the “what-if’s” every now and then. What-if I fail? What if I get canned from my job? What if machines become self-aware and humanity is forced to battle for our continued existence? And then what if we can’t find some sucker who doesn’t mind traveling through time without a stich of clothing? Then he won’t do the freak nasty with Sarah Connor and humanity’s resistance movement won’t have a leader. What will we do then, huh?

These were the sorts of thoughts I was having, minus the plot of the Terminator franchise. Up until that point I’d been using my G.I. Bill to bank roll my writing. Every month Uncle Sam dropped some dollar bills into my bank account as long as I was enrolled in classes. It was the perfect set-up. I took classes, the money came in, and I spent all my time writing.  All I needed to do was finish the book before the money ran out. Easy enough, right? Oh, how I wish that was the case.

The real future fretting kicked in about the same time that I finished the first draft of my book. I was pumped when it was done. Beyond pumped. I’d written a whole book. Me. All by myself. Not something many people can claim to have done. Now I just needed polish it a little, ship it off to some trusted beta readers, and wait for my inbox to fill up with ego stroking e-mails.

Man. I was straight trippin’.

I threw up a little when I read through the first draft. The book was the worst. Worst than the worst. It was the worstest worst that was ever worsted. How had I written something so bad? More importantly, how had I thought that it was going to be good? The whole thing would have to be scrapped. I’d start from chapter one and write a totally new book. That was the only answer.

And that’s where things got hairy for me. My brain came down with a serious case of the what-ifs. Writing the first draft had taken a long time. A really really long time. How long would the next draft take? A year? Two? And what if that second draft sucked as hard as the first? The government wasn’t going to fund my writing forever. What if the money ran out and I had nothing to show for it but a couple of crappy novel drafts? If that happened I’d be super duper screwed. Straight up a tributary with no means of propelling my water-craft.

And so I decided to put the writing on hold for a minute. Not forever though. Just long enough to use the rest of my school benefits to get some legit job training. Some kind of nine to five that’d keep the lights on and food in the fridge. But what should I do? I knew from past experience that I needed a job I could bear going to every day. Because that’s how jobs work, right? They kind of expect you to show up everyday and, you know, work.

But that’s a topic for the next installment of this serial. See you soon.

What Happens When My Brain Has Only Two Settings

You probably don’t know this about me, but I’m an all-or-nothing sort of fella. I get an idea in my head — a project, a goal, whatever — and I spend every free second doing it. I’m either totally on or I can’t make myself give any shits at all. I’m pretty sure I’ve always been that way, or at least for as long as I can remember.

This hauling ass mentality of mine can be awesome when I need it to be. For instance, there was the time I lost an ass-ton of weight just because I decided to do it. See, after I got out of the Army I decided to do nothing for a while, eat whatever I wanted, and grow a lumberjack beard just because I didn’t have The Man telling me I had to wake up at 4:00 AM and shave every day. As a result of my post-Army philosophy I packed on about 90 pounds of extra fluff (a.k.a. a massive gut and man-boobs) and picked up a textbook case of acute high blood pressure. Then one day an idea popped into my head. I wanted to lose weight.

So I did. I cut my calories down to normal human standards. I started running on the regular. Stairs and hills became my BFF’s. I cranked out pushups and body squats and every other painful body movement I’d ever learned during all those o’dark thirty Army workouts. In six months I’d dropped the extra LB’s like they were nothing. And I did it on my own. No personal trainers or workout tapes or informercial gimmicks. Just me, some running shoes, and a brain that called me dirty names every time I wanted to quit. A perfect example of what an all-or-nothing mentality is capable of.

But man oh man is there ever a downside. See, even though I can totally kick ass at something once I put my energy into it, I can only kick ass at one thing at a time.

And that’s where writing comes in. A while ago I decided I was going to write, knowing that meant I was going to turn into a total obsessive nutjob and do nothing but write. It was going great too, until the great big universe lobbed a monkey wrench into the writing machine.

I’ll tell you all about that later though.