It’s been a while since I did one of these ‘defining’ posts (I’ve decided that’s what I’ll call them.) This one has a twist, and perhaps if you’ve really been paying attention to the blog, you’ll see why.
In just the past couple weeks I’ve started to feel as though my life had returned to the level of busyness that I had existed in pre-pandemic. While the busyness of the variety of my commitments doesn’t yet look the same as they did pre-pandemic, the stress associated with those demands had bullied itself back into my life just as strongly as before, however the signs that had accompanied it’s arrival this time were different, more muted, blending into the background. It had been sneaking up on me: the Boil v1.04.
The good news was that the lessons of the pandemic’s arrival have held and I realized that I was succumbing to the Boil again (whatever version it is now). I’m sure it’s a Jack Herer inspired thought but: thank fuck the designers, creators and writers of this new version of the Matrix weren’t on their A game before releasing it, or I might have been lost to it, again. (And yes, I’m looking very much forward to revisiting.)
The inspiration to write this post started to shape itself in the past few days. My first writing course since high school is now complete and while the course experience wasn’t really what I hoped for (a how to become a better writer in eight short weeks), it did allow me to define just what type of a writer I am, but perhaps also provided a life changing lesson.
With thanks and appreciation to the course’s instructor, I now believe I have a label to apply to my style: Creative Non-Fiction Writer. For whatever reason I don’t feel ready to pigeon hole myself to just the one classification as a writer, but my leanings toward fiction might only lean so far as semi-fiction, as I cannot seem to call upon the muse to create ideas from a blank slate (I think that slate disappeared when the crayon was put into my right hand instead of my left in kindergarten) without a lot of creative focus, which I can rarely summon.
My creative writing course stayed true to it’s description, focusing on story telling, something that had been well outside of my comfort zone until I realized it was okay to call upon real life experiences in order to generate copy and satisfy the objectives of the course (in this case two 1000 word assignments and peer reviews). I now realize that it’s impossible to write anything that is without influence, and that has helped me find some peace in what I once considered a creative inadequacy I held. (Think how much better your life would be if you were able to accept this reality when the crayon was put in your hand versus waiting to middle age to figure out?) As far as my story writing ability goes, well, based on feedback, I might be able to stretch my range into semi-fiction, so I may not discard the premise I explored during the course, and instead explore it and the style further as a writing canvas to be pulled out when and if the spirit, the muse, revisits it, but it isn’t what comes naturally to me.
Truth unlocked: It doesn’t come naturally to me.
What I finally now understand for myself, is that when writing flows naturally, encountering only the right type of resistance, it feels right; it’s good writing, for you, the writer. Hopefully you’ll find some folks who appreciate your art in writing, but at end of the day, if your writing, your art, makes you happy, then reasonably, if not completely logically, why shouldn’t you seek to do the same with the other aspects of your life? Like your work?
Despite having applied the lesson in numerous writing assignments and projects, knowing when it is time to change direction, or to abandon a thought in favour of one that was more satisfying or inspiring, (something I routinely do in my art) I fail to apply this principle where it really matters: in the over eight hours a day, five days a week routine that falls outside of the weekends and vacation that I actually work to live for?
When you’re encountering resistance to the flow of words, then it’s the wrong path to let the art be wasted upon, it makes for bad art. If you feel the same about your work, then it’s bad work, for you, the worker.
This principal should be applied to the work that we choose or fall into in order to pay the bills that support our living, not our working. It should flow, it should feel natural to you. If you haven’t found yourself in that place, then chances are that while the work you do might be good enough to satisfy your employer to ensure they continue to help pay your bills, it’s not the work you should be doing; you’re not working your art. If you don’t feel inspired, engaged, or happy in your work any longer, you could choose to blame your leader for not shaping the world to fit your special unicorn mold, or continue to swallow the blue pills and ignore the painful truth, but it’s more likely that you need to finally realize you need to accept that you’re the problem; you’re no longer a fit for the work. It might not be your employer, but you that’s the problem. You just might no longer fit with the work any longer, if you can find no satisfaction in it. Maybe it’s time to swallow the red pill.
Fixing this, your reality, isn’t something that will come without costs financially, personally, reputationally, and to lifestyle, but what is your ultimate end game? A reality where ‘was a really great worker’ is emblazoned on some memorial as a reward to your efforts at the end of your life, or is it that ultimate reward better to found in the respect of those you leave behind knowing you attained the goal of reality of happiness in your life they’re working so hard to achieve and maintain for themselves?
I feel I finally determined that my true goal in life is to ensure I practice good art in all aspects of my life, and that is the key to truly finding happiness and peace with my place within the world.
Like writing, I’ve finally discovered that the work I choose to do in order to pay my bills needs to be something that flows and feels like good art if I’m ever to be truly happy. I now recognize that my next step in finding healthiness is that what I do to make a living should flow and feel right; it needs to feel like good art, or it’s simply not the work you should be investing your precious time in doing. This is what I must seek to achieve now, good art in my work, with my measures of success found in satisfaction, happiness and contentment in my work, and my writing (and whatever else I eventually prioritize to bring balance to my life). If I am able to achieve these three things, and I think I will have earned the right to consider my life a success.
The Pause allowed me to rediscover writing, and to see it emerge from the hibernation of it’s cocoon in a new form, one with a better definition of style, that gives it strength. I now need to apply the same lessons the pandemic allowed me discover as a philosophy that allowed me to find my art, and will help me find my work. In doing so, I will have taken another step forward towards happiness.
While the course I just completed didn’t deliver the lessons I hoped for, it did provide another lesson, an unexpected and even better one: that defining what it is that comes naturally, that gives you satisfaction, that engages you and makes you content, this is where you should apply your focus and efforts in order to be truly happy. If you’re feeling the wrong type of resistance, that’s the world telling you you’re on the wrong path.
This is instinct, and we need to listen and trust it in order to hear above the noise of the approaching Boil, to feel it coming, and to take action to avoid becoming its victim.