Musing on my birthday and why 44 seems…kinda underwhelming.

12 01 2011

Weather: Typical January High: 27º and intermittent snow showers.


Today I turned 44.  ::looks at the number. Remains unimpressed::

It’s not a milepost birthday…not even a mid-decade marker.
It’s a perfectly non-descript age. And oddly enough, that makes it all the more motivational for me.

I have a bad tendency to place unreasonable expectations on certain age milestones. So far, I have failed miserably to reach the goals I set for each. It is on these odd, non-descript age markers that I tend to accomplish the most. I graduated college at 23. Got married at 38.  And so on.

So 44 and I had an unspoken “conversation” that went something like this:

Me: Well…I got nothing. What should I expect this year?

44: [raises eyebrow] See. You’re doing it again. That “expectation” thing. I am not letting you set any this year.

Me: [Flailing] What? No Expectations? How will I manage to get anything accomplished?

44: [Shakes head] Because that’s worked out so well for you in the past. How about cleaning the slate this year? I mean REALLY cleaning the slate. No carryover plans from last year, no lingering worries & doubts?

Me: [thinks, twitches, thinks some more] Well that might work. How about creating some NEW goals? New shiny, sparkly, ACHIEVABLE goals?

44: [whaps me on the head] How about clearing out all the excess crap and see what you’re left with? Ever consider that the things that really matter to you aren’t the same as last year? Or 5 years ago? You have a trainwreck of abandoned ideas, goals, projects and “shiny new things” behind you. Very few you saw through to finish.

Me: O_O Geez, 44! You’re mean!

44:  No. I’m practical. And honest. And…

Me: Right. You’re right. This year, instead of flogging the entire herd of dead horses who are not getting any fresher, maybe I should just clear the field and see what wanders in?

44: ::Nods and fades away. ::

So, in that really clunky metaphorical conversation, you can see what my brain has been dealing with whenever I try to set some goals.

Truth be told, my writing has ground to a halt. I have moments where scenes present themselves & I dutifully write them down. But nothing is coalescing. I’ve rewritten the opening chapters for Book #2 five times now. Nothing has clicked. I’m re-editing book #1 to streamline it a bit more as I realize, upon looking it over after a couple months of locking it away, that there WAS a lot to be cleaned out.

Here’s the truth. And it’s not really what I wanted to hear, but it’s the truth. I envy my husband. Because the art he works in is concrete. It has clear steps, from beginning to end. The creativity comes in the picking of glass, colors & layout. After that, it’s assembly & patience.

Writing has no clear steps, and it shouldn’t. It’s a nebulous, always morphing art form. The story can change and usually does at least a few times. The outcome you planned may not be the one you end up with.

And here’s my conundrum. I have several stories planned out. I have a general sense of the stories I want to tell, but the actual  fleshing out has suddenly become problematic. The main problem is I’m a math brained person trying to create art. I keep trying to logic myself out of plot issues when I should be relaxing, visualizing the story and letting it work some of the kinks out. I know there are writers who can do this, I just seem unable right now. I have tried all the usual methods of re-starting a stalled story. Truth is I’m not feeling very inspired right now.  I haven’t been able to concoct something that makes me go “YES! I want to work on that now.”

So, in the interim, I’ve decided to take a brief break and focus on another field I enjoy, photography. I don’t talk about it much, but I’ve been taking photos for as long as I could hold a camera. Not just posed fun shots, but arty nature shots and doing some different types of portraiture. I have a camera but it’s not the quality I need to actually take the kind of photos I want.  So. I’m going to invest in a decent mid-level camera and start taking my photography a little more seriously. Brian wants me to do promo shots of his glass work for his portfolio, so there’s a place to start.

I’m also thinking of starting some freelance non-fiction writing & doing a podcast. Not sure of the topics yet, but I have a few tendrils of ideas that I’m trying to work out.

So. There you have it. 44 and I have made a pact. No worrying about things that aren’t working right now. Go find another outlet until the block is broken. And if it isn’t, that’s okay too.

I have some big ideas, but it’s time I just started pursuing them, rather than make elaborate Gordian Knot shaped plans that ultimately sink under their own weight. Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention to stop writing. I don’t think I can. Maybe it’s just time for me to consider a different kind of writing, or a different way to share my writing with others.

How will it turn out? I don’t know. And that’s kind of okay too.

Ahh….2011. Clean fresh slate!

4 01 2011

Weather: After a freak anomoly of upper 50s on New Year’s Eve,  we’ve settled back into ZOMG COLD as the gods intended.
High: 36º & partly sunny with possible flurries later.

So, it’s been an elephant’s age since I posted and a lot of mental shakeup has happened.

When last we saw Ms. Heidi, she was lamenting the writer’s block on book #2 and trying to figure out a way to escape Indiana without having to go bankrupt or chewing off an arm .

The first of the year found me and the husbeast in a fiery mood. Contemplative & reflective be damned, we were more of the mind to burn bridges than philosophize on future endeavors.  It’s an interesting mindset to start the year off. We aren’t angry or resentful, merely frustrated at our lack of forward motion and the turning of another calendar year with little to show for the time passed.

So we did the best thing possible: Instead of flailing and blaming the sundry usual scapegoats for our lack of success, we decided that the fastest way to force us to focus on our goals was to remove any and all distractions. So we purged our closets and dressers for clothes, compiling 3 large bags of donations. That felt so cleansing, that we are doing our books & media next.

For myself, I’ve taken the tact that the reason things have gone so pear shaped in past few years is twofold: 1) Making things so complicated that it became impossible to manage, and 2) trying to re-establish a life path that hasn’t been working for me.

So firstly, simplify. Really, there are only 3 things I want to focus on this year. 1: My health. My weight is ridiculously out of control & being 44 in a couple weeks, I can’t justify letting my health get this out of whack.
2: My writing. I need to stop worrying about the extraneous things (getting published, negative feedback, finding an audience, faling behind my friends in their publishing careers) and focus on the stories. Just write the stories. Finish them. Polish them. When you love them, get them out there. Traditional routes may not be for you. And that’s OKAY.
3: My Life Path: You know that definition of insanity? The one where you keep doing the same thing over and over & expecting a different outcome? That’s what I’ve been doing every year for the past 5 years.  I kept telling myself “get back on the path” without taking the time to see that the “path” has been going nowhere. Time to forge a NEW path. With NEW goals, NEW outlooks &  NEW energy.

Ultimately, what has happened is my brain has finally kicked the old ways of doing things out of the mental shack & has brought in some new untried ways of doing things. Most of the people I look up to, who’ve made a decent success of their lives, have bucked the traditional route on a lot of things. I know I’ll get lots of people telling me, but what about this or that benchmark of success? Isn’t that what you’ve been striving for? Recognition? Money? Legitimacy?
The truth is yes, that is what I’d originally made the goal of my pursuits. Lately, though, those things seem less important to me. Would they be nice to have? Sure. But I’m done wasting my time & energy trying to pursue them in absence of a way that makes sense to me. They’ll come. Eventually and maybe not in the ways that most people expect.

Brian’s kind of in the same boat. He’s realizing that the marketing & sale of his niche of product doesn’t fall into the neat business plans of other products.

We’re both kind of in this whole new perspective towards our art. There is a surge in the DIY type of business plan.
It’s not easy.
It’s not going to replace the Traditional way of doing things.
But the truth is there is becoming a need for an alternative way of life & doing business. It lies completely within the commitment & passion of the artists to make it work with any kind of success. There’s no books or plans or websites of how to do this. You can’t get a paint by numbers on how to make it work. You just have to do it and keep adjusting your methods until it starts working for you.

I have the greatest respect for people who make a success of their particular art or business the traditional route. I’m just saying it doesn’t work for me or the husbeast for that matter. We are both rapidly approaching a point where we are going to say, to hell with our current methods of income & throw ourselves into our individual art full time. Will this be a challenge? Oh HELL yes it will.

I’m working on an essay, a writeup I’m calling “No Option B: Living without a Safety Net”. It’s a philosophy I’m beginning to embrace wholeheartedly. If you have no backup, you will be extremely focused on making your chosen path work, right?

Mind you, I’m not saying this plan will work for everyone, nor am I saying it’s a better way of doing things. But it appeals to me because every  time I’ve taken a leap of faith, something good has come of it. I may not have landed on my feet squarely, but at least I’ve moved forward. It’s when I start second guessing my intentions or work that things get hairy.

Some of the best success stories in this world started in bad economic times.  But the people who made leaps in this kind of environment were those who stepped away from the well-worn path, and blazed a trail that to everyone else seemed foolish or just plain crazy. The reason why some fail isn’t the path they’ve taken, it’s their inability to commit to the path once they’ve gotten on it.

So there it is. My New Year’s Resolution, for lack of a better phrase.

I have other friends making similar pacts with themselves. We’re starting to create a network of artists, writers & craftspeople. Sometimes a community of like minded people can motivate you more than the pursuit of material gain. And maybe that’s a hippie-ish artsy kind of way of looking at things, but I really don’t have a problem with those kinds of labels.

Blogging will be more regular this year. I’ll also be cross-posting these to Twitter, Facebook & LJ.

Off to do Day Job work now. But my brain is already formulating ways to replace the mundane with the creative.