The cards float down onto the screen from a magical heaven, and there they are, all laid out before you in orderly disarray, just waiting for you to sort deftly and arrange with a crisp CLICK from your mouse. You start to work, matching and categorizing, strategizing and prioritizing like an executive assistant. Your attention to detail is keen. Your task is accomplished in a matter of minutes. You are a Free Cell goddess! One additional click, and you can begin the process anew, amassing an empire of ‘wins’ and improving your statistics.
Inevitably, your mind starts to wander. “I’m supposed to be finding a job. I’m supposed to be updating my resume. I’m supposed to be generating income.” CLICK. CLICK. Drag….CLICK. Minutes tick by. You are mesmerized by a brilliant shower of red and black and white, diamonds in spades. Fireworks follow. Then you ask yourself, “Have I accomplished anything?”
I am becoming aware of myself. Of my work ethic, my motivation, my skill set. I find routine incredibly easy. I find detail work effortless. And I find them both supremely boring, but somehow, not boring enough to get me angry in the moment. I become perturbed after the fact.
I want to be productive. I want to be useful, informative, inspirational. I want to be honest, authentic, and open. I want good and meaningful engagement with the world. And I keep sucking away my life at things like computer games.
Why am I stuck? Why don’t I begin something BIG?
I am afraid of failure. I shame myself constantly by mental audiotape. “You’re not qualified. You don’t have the expertise. You don’t have the style they want. You won’t follow through. It’ll be too difficult. It won’t happen.” Buzz words from the samples you just read ring in your ears.
“Go-getter. Self-starter. Highly motivated (fill in the blank) SEEKS…”
Is everyone more hard-working than I am? Or just more eager to appear so? Am I highly motivated to help Consolidated So-And-So get ahead? No, I’m not. I’m not philosophically supportive of this capitalistic system at all. I would like to earn an honest wage, live simply (at least by American standards) and physically, and keep contributing to something important until the day I die. Pay me $15,000/year to write passionately about the environment, to teach and inspire a visitor, to file and proofread and make coffee and encouraging remarks, and I will die happy. Each day would be an adventure, and I might leave for serial adventures in other employs, but I think that would be a fine life for me.
Right now, I’m in this dialogue. Free/Cell. Am I free? A jack-of-no-trades? How do I stop playing the game and start living the life?
…and so many writers. I was preparing shipments for our online book business (Scholar & Poet Books – available on Amazon, Alibris, ABE and Half.com books; pardon the Christmas season advert, but it might help!) this morning and thinking about “being a writer”. I am planning to enter a Memoir/Personal Essay contest at the suggestion of my teacher. I had a dream that probably relates to this idea a few nights ago. I dreamed that I was in a dance studio with gym mats on the floor and a wall of mirrors. I was in line to attempt a splits leap. I had a press photo of David Hallberg in mind, and I wanted to see if I could look like that. Of course, I know I can’t, but I wanted to try. So I got to the front of the line, and all the others are turned to watch me go, and they totally blocked the runway. I kept asking them to move, but they were still in the way. And then some of them started pulling up the mats. “Hey! I still haven’t had my turn yet!” I was trying to put the mats back and move the people and all chaos was breaking loose, and I woke up. So I told Steve about my frustrating dream and how I just wanted a chance to try, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it well. He responded, “You know who those people are in your way, don’t you?” Of course. Everyone in your dream is you. The people getting in the way of me attempting my big leap are…me.
David Hallberg (photo by Gene Schiavone)
So I’m going to submit an entry, and I’m going to call myself a writer in my mind because that’s what I’ve been doing since my last birthday: writing. And I’m aware that I may never make any money doing this. I look at the book jacket photos of writers and handle their wares on a daily basis almost. I read blogs by published writers. I still have a feeling that they are a different breed. They have degrees in writing; they have ambition. I have thoughts. I am dreamy and lazy and I don’t “work”. And I’ve never lived in New York. It seems like any “real” writer must have lived in New York at some point. Too bad. At least I can get out of the way of my own runway and give it a shot. I am old and not too flexible and I’ve never been able to do the splits. But it might be fun to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I go leaping by. It’ll probably end with me having a good laugh.