Monday, February 8, 2010

Solitary Endeavors

So, in the interest of being honest with myself, I'd have to say that my difficulties in preparing mentally and emotionally for the inevitable rejections of the story submission/workshop process are closely tied to my current situation.
  • I've worked one month in the past six as a freelancer. (Even I didn't realize it was quite that bad until I looked back at it.)
  • I don't have a very active social life in Boise outside of my wife and kids. We live on a street where most of my neighbors are considerably older than me. A few have died since we moved in. (One of my friendly neighbors who had a similarly irregular work schedule got foreclosed on and moved out a couple months ago. I was bummed when my favorite checker at the grocery store had to retire for health reasons.) My kids don't attend the local schools because they qualified for a highly gifted program that requires me to drive them all the way across town each day. My kids don't even have a lot of friends, to be honest. My son's Asperger's makes social connections hard for him and my daughter, though happy and friendly, isn't interested in teams or organized activities. So I don't meet other parents with any regularity via the school side of things.
  • I spend most of my days from 9 am to 3 pm by myself or in the company of people I don't know and don't talk to (such as at the library).
  • I'm a little bit sick right now, though I don't feel awful (I will spare all but Aaron the details).
  • I've had roughly zero success cultivating a sense of membership and camaraderie in a few communities online.
So, already feeling a bit isolated and not feeling like as much of a contributor to the family as I want to be*, my writing assumes a greater significance than it would otherwise.

I find myself feeling that I should be able to fill my downtime with completed stories the way I would be completing freelance assignments. That's not the way it has worked out. When I do finish stories, I'm invested in them as a potential source of external validation and social contact to a greater degree than if I felt a sense of accomplishment in other areas.

So far, that's added up to more pressure than is healthy or enjoyable. Writing becomes unpaid and unrecognized work, work that by its nature is solitary. Making the time for it often leaves me feeling more isolated.

In summary, I currently live about as solitary a life as a married guy with kids living in the suburbs could. The writing process itself is solitary when it comes to creating my own imagined worlds and stories. When my efforts to reach out via my writing in a serious way get rebuffed or ignored, it feels like I wasted my time and it hurts more than it reasonably should.

Recognizing all this rationally is not the same as knowing how to cope with it emotionally. So I'm feeling down on writing because as I have currently constructed my view of it, it hasn't been meeting any of my needs. Hence my desire to reexamine and revise what writing means for me and what I want to gain from it. Maybe orienting it more toward being fun for myself isn't the right road. I don't know.

As far as the rest goes, I'm trying to build more connections. I volunteer at school every week. I've started going to the gym and playing pickup basketball a couple times a week. I'm clumsily trying to forge a few more friendships, with limited success. Hopefully the economy and publishing industry will actually improve enough to where I can get work and stop having contracts canceled on me just as I'm ready to begin them (twice in the last six months on that score).

* Yes, I do a lot around the house and with the kids and I still feel a need to at least qualify as a part-time wage earner. I don't know if this stems from having supported myself right out of college and having been the primary wage earner for years, or if it's tied up with being a guy raised in this culture, or both.


Aaron DaMommio said...

My job, by the way, is frequently highly isolated. More and more I work on projects that have no contact with local people, all the coworkers are overseas. It is difficult to form a strong connection to the local folk in that environment.

Doug said...

Yeah, that starts to sound like freelancing in an office outside the home. With benefits and a salary, at least. It's a cliche that Americans are getting more isolated at work and in their communities, but it holds a lot of truth. Maybe that accounts for some of the boom in mega-churches.

Doug said...

I do know that getting out and playing ball, which includes talking with the guys down at the gym, tends to make me feel better.