Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cold Turkey

Greetings, Persistent Perusers.

During my forty...um...three years I've never come remotely close to tobacco, alcohol or drug-related dependency. Hell, I've barely even touched the stuff. All told, I think I can safely declare that I don't have an addictive personality.   

Yet now I find myself in the throes of a compulsion that may be just as ruinous. It's hobbled my finances, distracted me from potentially lucrative opportunities and even impacted my health. What is this dire pursuit, you may ask? In one incongruous word it's:


Now, I know you're thinking: "C'mon, Dave, dramatic much?" But I'll prove it to you. Just listen for a second...
January gives me a chance to look back and see what I managed to accomplish during the previous year. For example, back at the end of 2011, this was my admittedly-"impossible" Things To Do list for 2012:
  1. Try voice acting work.
  2. Make more board game videos.
  3. Attempt to find some sort of film crew gig.
  4. Make my first book available to Kobo readers.
  5. Keep promoting my first book.
  6. Start working in earnest on my second book.
  7. Produce four blog entries (!) and six reviews (!!!) per month.
  8. Sell some of my crap.
  9. Travel.
  10. Find a practical job that will somehow jibe with this irrational creative workload whilst not driving me insane in the process.
As sad as this underachieving checklist might be, the most depressing part about it is the ending:

"Even if I manage to check off a few of these, I'll be happy.   In my current situation, 2012 is virtually rife with limitless, unpredictable and downright giddy possibilities." 

Wow. You poor, deluded, naive bastard.

I say all of this because my single-minded obsession with número siete on this list caused everything else to fall by the wayside. In fact, instead of diversifying my efforts, I started up a third blog and then proceeded to write like a possessed maniac throughout the entire year. In fact, I only managed to accomplish seven through ten on this list.

Now granted, some of these goals were either goofy and/or pie-eyed anyway so a part of me is relieved that I didn't waste a lot of time on them. For example, with the rise of iPads and other tablets, I'm glad I spared myself the pain and misery of wrestling with super-frustrating formatting issues just to appease a couple of Kobo users. 

And even though I really enjoyed the time I've spent on movie sets (documented here, herehere and here for what it's worth), I no longer have a burning desire to be a mobile light stand or a human-shaped prop in the background. And although I had a lot of fun emoting in my one and only "acting" gig, I just don't posses the level of self-awareness (nor the wardrobe, apparently) to become a career actor. Or whatever passes for "career actor here in the impoverished Maritimes.

No, the two things I really regret not doing over the past two years is making more of my own short films and writing the sequel to my first book. My very first board game video was so wildly successful (over twenty-one thousand view as of this writing, holla!) that I really should have followed up on it immediately. Also when I think about how many chapters of a new book I could have written instead of blog posts, my mind reels. And, believe it or not, I still think I've got something to offer as a voice-actor.

Anyway, a year goes by and my next "things to do list" sounds a helluva lot more sober. Self-disappointment must have been getting me down, since I reduced my goals from ten the previous year to only two:
  • Break my ruinous addiction to writing
  • Stop my savings from swirling down the commode
See!? Even back then I was referring to writing as a "ruinous addiction"! Clearly feeling defeated, I bashed out the following weary resignation:

"It kills me to say this, but I'm either going to have to quit these blog posts cold turkey or, at the very least, scale back my usage."
Well, I'll have your know that I did scale back that year. I just couldn't bring myself to quit. When you're a closet extrovert who's desperately seeking creative validation, you begin to live for that steady stream of visitor hits, the rush of positive comments and the optimistic delusion that the right person will come along, read what you've written and magically offer you a paying job for something that you're clearly passionate about. Is there any wonder why the alluring l'il devil mounted on my shoulder kept reeling me in whenever he leaned into my ear and whispered: "C'mon, man, just one more post! You know you wanna!"

Sorry, but compared to chipping away at the third chapter of a full-length novel that may or may not ever see the light of day, the instant gratification offered up by a blog entry is just waaaaaay too tempting.    

Regardless, I now find myself in the same position again, looking back at the prior year and trying to see 2014 in a positive light. Even though my monthly balance sheet still keeps going in the wrong direction, at least my savings have stopped hemorrhaging. I really don't want to hit rock bottom. As such, I gotta start making some really tough decisions. I need some help.

To follow through on this goofy addiction analogy, I seriously considered going cold turkey at first. But then I found out that the odds of this working were actually pretty slim. In fact, according to one source, only "three to six cold turkey quitters out of every one-hundred will succeed during any given quit attempt. This makes cold turkey the least effective of all treatments."  Hmmmmm, not very promising.

Honestly, my vow to quit writing cold turkey is nothing but an unrealistic, overly-optimistic New Years resolution. Taking a break from breathing would be an easier for me. Just last week I tried to go as long as I could without writing something. Within a few short days I started to feel anxious, surly, unfulfilled and vaguely depressed. I felt like I was wasting my time. I even took my unconscious frustrations out on a poor, innocent sandwich press.

So, with the cold turkey approach out of the running, I had to find a more realistic strategy. Taking another hackneyed page from the simile book, I'm going to try a Gradual Reduction combined with a little dash of N.R.T., I.E. Notary Replacement Therapy. As such, here are my goals for the coming year:
  1. Keep this blog alive even if it means committing to a single new post a month and more if the  spirit really moves me.
  2. Reduce my reviews to a minimum of two per month instead of striving for one a week. If I need to do more then that I'll use "Pro" and "Con" bullet points if I have to.
  3. Maintain my board gaming blog at its current pace since it's clearly the most popular of the three.
  4. Finalize at least one chapter a month for my new book. 
  5. Start making those damned board game videos. Monthy, by rights.
  6. Put more focus on writing projects that may actually yield a bit of money one day down the road. The iPad ap I've been dabbling with now gets top priority!
  7. Keep looking for ways to snare the almighty dollar while keeping my mind and soul intact. At least cobble together enough scratch in order to travel someplace this year. Travel is the only luxury I really can't do without. 
Slowly but surely I'm coming to realization that writing has to be one of the worst pursuits to burden yourself with. In this age of fleeting attention spans, visual artists, pod-casters, musicians and film-makers have a huge advantage over writers, because the things they create can be experienced and enjoyed passively. Writers, on the other hand, need to engage people in the active endeavor of reading, which oftentimes ain't easy.

Even I'm guilty of literary sloth from time to time. Occasionally I'll click on a superficially-intriguing link, quickly appraise the resulting wall of text that's been magically conjured in front of me, dive in and then start to think 'Ugh, this is waaaaay too much effort. I wonder if there are any new talk show clips with Bill Burr on YouTube that I haven't seen yet?'

In spite of this, I'm glad that I gave myself so much time and opportunity to practice and hone this wonderful craft. When I first started, I really wasn't a writer. I was just some dude who could kinda string a sentence together and occasionally come up with something vaguely funny, witty and/or crude. At least I can do a reasonable impersonation of a writer now. And as such, I'm really looking forward to turning my attention to producing a vastly superior second novel.

Wish me luck, Gentle Readers, as I try to stay on the straight-and-narrow path and not backslide into temptation. If you could just feel the same gloriously-wonderful sensation of creative endorphins happily frolicking around in my head as I'm about to finish up this sad, navel-gazing exercise in self-therapy, you'd know why I'm so strung out on the written word.      

I appreciate your continued support just not, y'know, too much support. Whatever you do, don't be an enabler. If I get too much encouragement then, who knows, I might fall off the wagon and go on some crazed, five-post-a-week binge like back in the good old days.


EPIC POEMS   The photo that appears at the top of this post comes from this site, which features some heartfelt poems produced by real people in the throes of real addiction. Pretty harrowing stuff.

EPIC SHMALTZ:   Corn-ball but true...

EPIC SENTIMENT  Yeak, I know, I know...another Patton Oswalt clip. But, hey, the dude keeps encapsulating my exact thoughts on the overwhelming drive to practice your true calling, regardless of how financially daunting that can be. Just listen to what he says here at the 30 second mark:

FAILED ANALOGY   'Don't bury your lead...don't bury your lead...don't bury your lead...'