Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Life: One Kick in the Nuts After Another

[Final edit at 6:08pm, accompanied by a tall glass of Jack and water over ice…]

I’m tired of being optimistic. Tired of smiling and pretending I have any influence, at all, on what happens next in my world and that everything’s going to be okay. Because I don’t, and it’s not. Our lobbyist-run government is corrupt, our politically divided country is full of sheeple, and our flat, over-sized televisions spew a thousand channels of shamelessly over-commercialed garbage. Cities, towns, and entire islands all over the globe are disappearing under rising tides. Economies (including ours) are crumbling. Human trafficking, slavery, organized crime, poverty, child abuse, torture, terrorism, and war exist – will continue to exist – everywhere.

With advances in technology, and one-click access to more information than probably every other generation before us, combined, you’d think we’d get better at solving the world’s problems. Instead, phones, tablets, pads, and the mindless games and activities over which we obsess have taught us to look down instead of out and inward. We see it as multi-tasking. We think we know ourselves – and each other – but we don’t. We pop in headphones, link to WiFi, and think we’re connected, but we’re not. Social networking is, in fact, making us anti-social. We tweet our “Check in” at Applebee’s or click “Like” on a friend’s photo of a kitten pushing a smaller kitten in a tiny, red shopping cart and call it “communicating,” while eating lunch surrounded by people doing the same thing. Our “Friends” lists are growing, but our vocabularies are shrinking, and our attention spans are getting shorter. I’d say that’s far from advancement.

As a novelist, I find it all discouraging. What, exactly, does one write about when the world clearly doesn’t give a damn about anything worth writing about? And, given the dwindling number of people willing/able to sit down and read for more than three minutes at a time, where do I find the motivation to produce material for an audience that doesn’t exist? I have enough trouble drumming up readers for a blog post that took a day and a half to write (this one, for example), what’s the point in spending two to five years crafting a story only three hundred people will read, half will pay for, and fewer will review and/or recommend to friends? (Not that I’m ungrateful for those of you who DO buy, read, comment, share, and keep coming back; if YOU didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be here bitching there aren’t more of you.)

The only reason I’ve been able to publish two novels, two short stories, and six magazine articles – and (poorly) maintain a blog – is because my husband makes it possible. I’d hoped to ultimately repay his support and sacrifice by justifying my existence (sporting a substantial ROI, if you will). After ten years, I’m not only NOT making a living, I can’t even cover my vices. Though I’ve certainly reveled in the hundreds of copies sold and the tens of dollars I’ve pocketed in royalties, I’ve arrived at a crossroads.

Ten years, people – TEN! That’s a fucking DECADE of fighting for time to sit on my ass, stare at blank pages, and make up stories, while Scott schleps off to work every day, so the bills can get paid. I’ve persisted through the death of my mother, accidental and suicidal deaths of dear friends, at least half a dozen hurricanes, countless arguments and/or serious misunderstandings with my children and siblings, two near divorces, and a lightning strike to the house that wiped out cable, Internet, and half the sprinkler system. I nearly died in ’08 from poor nutrition and exhaustion! And yet, I have little more to show for all that persistence than a small shelf of books and magazines that collect more dust than royalties, a blog maybe twelve (wonderful) people read, and a husband who’s overwhelmed and out of patience. I don’t want to think about what the next ten years might bring.

Why am I doing this?!

My next project is supposed to be an historical novel that incorporates the origins of firefighting with the history of the Knights of Malta, the eternal clash between Christians and Muslims, and the importance of family and community. The themes are dear to me, and the topics seem relevant and interesting. But, every time I sit down to write, I think, “Aside from the luxury of being at home and available for family, friends, and the occasional crisis (aka, kick in the nuts), what GOOD am I doing?” I’m not making money, creating jobs, or changing the world. I’m not even changing attitudes about anything important, like foreign relations, genetically modified food, the destructive natures of religion and monogamy, benefits of recreational marijuana, pitfalls of vanity and greed, and the very basic need for real, human contact. How do I justify – every day – the hours (days, years) it takes to write a book about people who don’t exist, doing things that didn’t happen, when my husband resents me and the world is going to hell? Surely, you can grasp my dilemma.

If you don’t hear from me for a while, blame Willie and Lukas Nelson. Might as well throw Kid Rock in there, too, since we’re throwing blame around (on everyone but ME, of course, because I’m brilliant, faultless, and totally free of personal responsibility – try saying THAT to yourself in a mirror without laughing…or crying). Through their actions, as well as their music, they’ve inspired me to do well AND do good. I want to make a difference. I want to change the world. MY world, anyway. A successful novelist might be able to pull that off, but the simple fact is: I’m a housewife in Jupiter. Yes, I still believe in my work and my ability, and I couldn’t stop writing if I tried. But, until I reach more people and sell more books than Paris Hilton and her dog, I’ll go on being nobody in the world of readers and writers. And no one will listen. Rather than waste more energy being optimistic and plod forward as merely an aspiring novelist, I think it’s time for a change of focus and scenery. I’ve heard I throw a good party. Maybe I’ll start there…

Until next time.

Peace. Love. Balance.

~ Dawn

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