On Detours, Distractions, and Loathsome Delays
July 17th, 2022 6:52 PM
One of the most significant and valuable things I’ve learned in my adult life is that those who seek to earn trust must ensure there is congruence between three things: what they believe, what they say, and what they do. Two paths exist—one between our thoughts and words, the other between our words and actions—and each of us is responsible for how unkempt those paths get, for how far they wend this way or that. We’re even responsible if those paths become broken or too aimless or blocked by some barrier.
I absolutely loathe the idea of being the type of person whose beliefs don’t align with his words, whose words, in turn, don’t align with his actions. I feel it makes me lack integrity; it makes it harder for others to trust me. Further, I believe trust is one of the most valuable things in our lives. I’ve personally seen the damage that mistrust can do if left to grow like the miserable weed that it is. While I’ve never—never—managed to go a day without making mistakes, I think I’ve managed to navigate several of these last few years while keeping some semblance of alignment between what I believe, what I say, and what I do, always telling myself that if I don’t value my internal agreement—my creed to speak authentically and to relentlessly do what I say I will do—then I risk surrendering the trust of those around me.
This creed is not meant to bind me blindly to my words. It’s meant to make me think deeply about the words I say before I say them. Do I believe them? Will I follow through on them if I say them? Nobody’s perfect, of course, and I know there have been slips and instances of misalignment between these three elements of who I am and how I communicate to the people in my life who matter the most to me, and I know, too, that it’s entirely possible that perhaps I’m not as trusted as I like to believe I am, because there are probably other things that folks factor into the decision to lend something as valuable as trust.
But then there are the significant instances of misalignment.
I’ve made quite a few of those in my own marriage, I’m so sad to say. My wife—who will tell you that she’s not perfect—is damn near close to being perfect when it comes to matters of trust. She’s never once given me any reason not to trust her. Never once. I’m sorry to say that I’ve given her a few reasons not to trust me. Thanks to her grace—and to God’s—I feel I’ve become somebody who values trust so much more than I ever would’ve had I not been blessed with Tiffany. My God, I could not be more grateful for my lovely wife and who she is as a person.
But the other place that I’ve noticed some painfully significant misalignment is here—within the bounds of my writing career. I’ve been drifting, spiraling. Those who were closest to me while I was working hardest on all these projects no doubt know that I’ve backed away; they’ve seen me distance myself. They’ve seen me fade like a ghost. And I’ve seen it, too. I’ve watched myself become more transparent, less and less capable of grasping things in our realm. Maybe that simile is waxing a bit too ethereal, but what’s really been happening, in the most direct terms, is that my drive and inspiration have been fleeing and fleeing, leaving me to chase after them to no avail. Perhaps the most public-facing evidence of this is the great delays that keep cropping up between what once were regular blog posts. I’m simply running out of the desire that I had to muse and rant about what it’s like to be an indie writer.
I’m sitting on a finished first draft for The Traveling Academy of Astra and a decent chunk of the first draft for The Shroud of Sleep, but there’s simply no way I’m going to finish the three projects I announced and hoped to finish this year. It’s probable I’ll finish Academy, but I don’t even feel comfortable saying I certainly will. To be honest, I can’t recall whether I’ve ever said with any certainty that I will finish these novels in a year, but I know I’ve mentioned my intent to try. There have been detours and distractions abound. I think I’ve identified them—both the obvious and the subtle—and I want to share them with those precious few of you who are invested in my work.
Let’s start with the subtle distractions (some of you may consider them obvious; that’s fine, as “obvious” and “subtle” are both subjective words): fatigue from family, fatigue from work, and fatigue from self-imposed pressure.
I don’t need to extrapolate much about what it’s like to raise four kids or try to have a healthy marriage or run a household because I’ve expounded on those things plenty enough in other blog posts. Same with work. The much more important piece here is that I’ve been wondering lately how well I’m actually doing those things. Am I being the best husband, the best father, the best team member at work? I’m starting to think I could do a lot better, and that I really need to apply myself to doing so. I’ve only got so much time… and a wife who sincerely, genuinely deserves more effort than I’ve been offering. I’ve only got so much time… and four kids who all need and deserve to be loved individually. Only so much time… only so much time…
And with this last “subtle” distraction, I come to the titular “Loathsome Delay,” and I loathe it so because it creates a giant misalignment between what I said I would do and what I am actually doing, therefore, in my view, breaking the trust of my readers, whom I care deeply about. As I hope I’ve mentioned time and time again, I am endlessly grateful for every person who’s read my stories or my blog posts. I don’t want to let any of you who are awaiting the next book down, but I think I have to address that last item in my brief list of “subtle” distractions—that fatigue from self-imposed pressure.
Ironically—and I should have known this because I tried to participate in NaNoWriMo and failed miserably—placing nearly impossible deadlines on myself makes writing and storytelling feel like a chore—like work—and not something I do for fun. The irony of who I am as a creative person is that when I am creating for fun… I end up working relentlessly... and so even though I then am working brutal hours or perhaps a lot more than I should, the work of creating never really feels like work. I suppose that’s paradoxical, but I imagine some of my readers will understand this.
What I’ve erroneously done by not just announcing but also tying this tentative deadline to The Traveling Academy of Astra, Shroud of Sleep, and The Gatherers and the Sairad From the Sand is taken the fun out of my projects. Because I’ve tried so, so hard to train myself to carefully consider the words that I’m saying to other people before I say them, I feel shame for going back on my word here, for saying, “I’m going to try to finish these books by the end of the year,” and then saying, a few months later, “Actually… it’s way too hard, and I’m kind of doing some other stuff… and I’m sorry but now I need to back away for a little while.” I think that, no matter what my reader response is to this, I’ll feel shame, because I didn’t just set those deadlines for readers; I set them for myself. I wanted to do it, just like I wanted to write a novel in one month back in November. My belief aligned with my words, I guess, but that next path—making our words and actions align—is sometimes hard to manage. In hindsight, I could’ve spared myself a ton of heartache and pressure by just considering my words more carefully in the first place. That’s my job as a writer, after all.
So, I do ask forgiveness, but I’m afraid I’m going to need to step away for a bit. To be clear, this isn’t me calling it quits; it’s saying that I need time to recharge. I think that’s how I’ve always been. I’ve been lying to myself, telling myself (and, unfortunately, all of you) that I’m some prolific and disciplined creative person. I think the truth is that I’m flightier than I want to admit. I’m less disciplined than I want to admit. For all my talk about not deterring from your goals, I think I’ve put too much on my own shoulders. The pressure’s too great for me, I’m sorry to say.
I think the truth is that I create in cycles. All throughout college, in fact, I would use the few months in between semesters to pivot and focus on one project. Maybe I pivoted between projects because I’m flighty. If that’s how it is, then I think that’s how it has to be, because I don’t think I can create things worth making if the pressure’s on and things feel too much like work. I look back to college, and think of those windows between semesters…. I would write an album of songs here, dabble in game design there, pen a novel there. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller. Always. I wrote a little book in my bedroom when I was maybe five or six. It was garbage, as you might expect, but I completed it because it was fun. I wrote an entire comic book, too, and I took it into my first-grade class, where my appropriately named first-grade teacher, Mrs. English, photocopied it and handed it out to all the other students. The name of that comic book was Turbo, and it was about a spiky-haired, blade-wielding warrior (not at all unlike Cloud from Final Fantasy VII) running through a forest and fighting a giant spider. I copied countless books from my childhood shelves, always trying to make my own. Simply put, I’ve always loved telling stories. I don’t believe I’ll ever quit.
But I’ve always relished the freedom to create in my own time and in my own way.
And I messed up and took that away from myself. And I lied to myself (and, in some ways, to all of you) and repeatedly said that pushing through was the way to make things work. I still believe facets of this theory wholly. I still believe that we can't merely wait for inspiration to strike us but that we have to break a larger goal down into smaller goals and break away at it little by little. What's changed is that I've learned you can't push for too much. You can't stay so focused on your goal that your legs give out and you dread the pursuit of the goal itself. Once you dread the pursuit, you're in trouble, and you'll need to step back a bit.
So, I’m asking for all of you to be patient while I work on these other projects. It may be some time before I get back into a solid groove with them, and I may be going quiet for a while, as the blog maintenance has proven to be more and more of a challenge month after month.
But I won't go silent forever, and probably (hopefully) not for as long as you think.
As always, thank you endlessly.