That is one heck of a presumptuous title. Maybe I'll start here, then.
We worry too much.
Yup. That feels better.
We worry too much. What I seem to be working on right now is worrying less. I didn't realize how much concern I had over certain silly things until I started to take a look at it.
Here's some examples that may sound familiar to you. Will I ever get this
You know, mostly paranoid, pathetic first world stuff. All of these questions are real concerns at some sort of level. It's very unlikely that I have heart trouble instead of heart burn, but you know, I think of Ferrett and how lucky he was to go to the doc when he did. I never waste any writing time, because publication would be a nice outcome, but it's not my sole goal. I only have the publishing thought when I get confused about status and what writing means to me. Work descends on me all the time. It's a fact. It's also job security. Completion is a myth from an earlier part of my life, and I can live with that ambiguity (God bless you, publishing industry, for teaching me about ambiguity.)
Many of the things I worry about are going to be there and there's no real reason to worry about them. What if I spin them? Behold, Pollyanna time! Here is a different way of looking at something.
Look, I've done this many cool things at work this year. Think of what will happen when we do
You know, your health problems aren't major, and you manage risk with diet and exercise. You see your doctor. You do the best you can.
You know that the new book is better, and you care about your writing improving. You were going to write anyway, and you're growing in your art. The point is to write, not to be published.
If you're tired, you can go out to eat in a healthy way. You also know that once you get into the groove, you enjoy cooking.
Look at what I did, right there. I re-framed all that negativity into positivity. I will grant you, this is not possible all the time. If Jay Lake wants to be down about dying of cancer, he doesn't deserve to be bright-sided. But with the minutia, I can do better, because all I'm doing is making my life harder to live if I don't. It's okay to be sad. But I'm sure I have very little to be sad, stressed, or worried about in reality.
And of course, now that I've laid this groundwork, let's talk about how this applies to one of the biggest areas of rejection in my life, my writing.
So. There's this thing I do. It's called writing novels. I like writing novels because I like telling an extended story with many layers. I am not perfect at it, and I never will be, because that's the way art rolls. I like the idea of showing up, doing some art, looking at it later with a more evaluative eye, and continuing the process.
I am out to produce the best writing I can. That takes some time, perhaps a long time, but working at my art is something that keeps my brain supple (problem solving), something that helps me appreciate other art (reading the works of others), and gives me another sense of purpose (to produce something beautiful or fun others will appreciate.) My ultimate artistic goal is to produce a character that you will all remember after I am gone. Will I reach it? I don't know, but I will try.
So. Approached from this angle, even the writing that gets rejected by others is worth doing. I've talked a lot about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, so I won't go there, and I've talked about how the journey is as worthwhile as the destination, even though the artistic journey can be frustrating and painful. Yet, all writing, even the failed writing, is leading me toward my ultimate goal of the best creativity I can produce.
But, inasmuch as living well is an art, artistic living is also important. I'm not saying that any art isn't hard work. But focusing on what it means to choose to be an artist, all of it, that's what I committed to when I decided to get "serious" about my writing. That means I make lifestyle choices that contribute toward doing art. In doing art, I focus on doing art, the entirety of artistic pursuit, not just the end product.
You may have other reasons to do art, and I respect them. I believe that art makes my quality of life better. If writing were my job, which it is for many, that's a different kind of fulfillment. Also, something can be an art and a job (my teaching. I totally believe that.) But since I have a way to be employed, I want to focus on the art of my writing. By that I don't mean flowery prose in crazy big paragraphs designed to make your eyes glaze over.
No, I want you to step into the magic of creation with me, and BUY this story as experience, not because of a gimmick, or a style employed by many that's hot right now. I'm searching for the tune only I know, and I want to share it with you. I'm on for digging through the trunks in the attic of my mind until I find just the thing, or things.
And you know what? Nothing delights me more than seeing other people doing art, because even if we're doing different art, you know what I'm talking about. Some of you may think my view naive and idealistic. Yeah. That's right. Nothing else to see here. I respect your pragmatism. I won't change my idealism. Art, not for it's own sake, but so I will have a more fulfilled, better life. So I will live better.
It turns out that the title wasn't as pretentious as it was a chance for reversal in the essay, with a double entendre bonus. I'll keep it.