I haven't had a lot of Major Events in my life lately. It's been close to two years since I bought my house. Debbi and I have been dating for over two years and are stable at this point. I haven't changed jobs, haven't moved, haven't gone on any exotic trips, haven't had any emotional train wrecks or (thank goodness!) family members or close friends pass away.
The stability isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it gives me plenty of time to pursue my various interests and hobbies. I've been bicycling more, I've gradually been going around to see the sights in the Bay Area (and I don't just mean the used bookstores!). It doesn't often make for exciting journalling, though. I often feel rather stuck in a rut when it comes to my journal. And certainly I'd be lying if I didn't think from time to time of giving it up and spending the time on other pursuits.
Well, there are plenty of reasons - "good" and "bad" - why I've reached this stable point, but the one that's rankling me lately is this: I feel very stuck creatively. Both professionally and personally, I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with what I think are creative and interesting things. Things that aren't a relatively straightforward extrapolation of something that's already been done.
This is a difficult thing to think about, let along discuss, because the thinking can go off in so many myriad directions. Among the thoughts that go through my head when I consider it:
A bunch of related issues. In the end, though, I think it's (4) and (6) that concern me the most.
- You can't be creative on demand. Sometimes you are, sometimes you're not.
- I tend to take a gradual, contemplative approach to working through things, so my creativity tends not to be easily recognized until sometime later.
- I tend to get bogged down in the details and have trouble seeing the larger view.
- I'm uncomfortable going public with an idea without having spent a fair amount of time deciding whether it seems like a good one or not (whether I'm more afraid of rejection or being ignored is a good question).
- I have trouble staying focused on a single idea long enough to work through it properly. (In particular, have you seen me write any fiction lately?)
- I'm too fragmented in my projects and don't have time and/or energy to work on something creative like writing a story or working on an independent programming project.
Starting with the latter, I do have a lot of interests and projects. I read a lot (though never as much as I'd like, and certainly nowhere near as fast as I wish). I collect comic books, SF novels, and music. I have a house and two cats to take care of. I have a girlfriend. I bicycle. I do things with friends. I see movies. Heck, I have about three months of TV episodes on tape I haven't had time to watch. I'm a busy guy.
Some of these things can't be given up. The cats have to be fed. The house has to be cleaned. My relationship is important to me. I need to get regular exercise if I'm not going to turn into a giant donut. But I've been loathe to give up any of my actual hobbies to make room to write fiction. Or pursue some of my more ambitious thoughts about my baseball fandom. Or devote more off-hours time to thinking about ways I can make a greater contribution at work.
Personally, writing is the big one here. About seven years ago I was writing some short fiction. Not very regularly, and nothing I felt comfortable submitting anywhere at the time. That fell by the wayside, and, as they say, you're not going to get anything written if you don't write. The problem I kept having was that I turned a very critical eye towards everything I wrote. I have extremely high standards for things that other people write, and I apply similar standards to myself. So the fact that I'm not very practiced or polished in my own writing is terribly discouraging to me. And although I've heard or been told a wide variety or tips, tricks or encouragements to get past this, it just hasn't happened.
My other major concern is one of basic insecurity. When I do have an idea, I'm very reluctant to tell anyone about it until I'm fairly sure it's a good one. I mean, I don't want to blurt out any old fool idea that comes into my head. I also don't want to seem like I just want to get adulation for coming up with a cool idea (this sort of attention-seeking is another problem of mine, but one for a different entry, I think). The line between tossing out my random woolgatherings and bouncing ideas off of others for their feedback is one I'm not very good at defining, and being a generally insecure sort I opt for the cautious side.
This is a factor which I feel impacts me more at work. Some of it may be because I work with a number of creative and very intelligent people, some of whom are very outgoing and outspoken, and some of whom seem to have an intuitive grasp of, well, everything in our field which I often feel unable to approach, much less match.
Although I'm very skilled at a variety of tasks, I see (some) people around me doing or driving projects which seem more insightful or revolutionary than anything I do. Are they just better inspired than I am? More outspoken and thus more willing to advocate their ideas? Am I just not trying hard enough, or do I have valuable thoughts that I'm not expressing because I don't recognize their value? And how could I tell, anyway?
What it comes down to, I think, is that I feel like I've plateaued in my life in many ways, and I'm having trouble moving forward, in the sense of "becoming a better person who's more fulfilled with his life". I've always been very happy when I've been building things, and moving in the direction of being more of a driving force in the things I spend my time building is the direction I'd like to go. But I haven't made much progress doing so, and I'm coming to realize that I don't really know how.
As a certain fictional character once said, "You can't wake up in the morning and say, 'Today I will be brilliant!'" And I take some comfort in that. But I seems like I should be at least inspired or inspiring more often than I am. And that's the hard part.
Whenever I write an entry like this one, I often get several letters of feedback with advice, or well-wishes, or a book or article I should read, or somesuch. I'm usually pretty flustered by such feedback (and someone I know coming up and talking to me in person about the entry really weirds me out) - probably I shouldn't be, inasmuch as I have a journal on the World Wide Web. Usually I end up reading them a couple of times, but not responding to them. I'm not really sure what to say, especially since I feel like I've said most of what I have to say in the entry.
Anyway, I add this coda to point out why I might not respond if you write to me about this entry. No offense intended. I've always written this journal primarily for myself, either for my own entertainment, or for a record of my life, or to work through something that's on my mind. So it's not that feedback isn't appreciated... it's just that often I don't know what to say in response, and by the time I do (if I do) it feels awkward to write back.
Maybe I just need to work on feeling less awkward about things.