Birthdays and Impatience

Today, November 14, is my birthday. This blog post is my birthday present to myself. Happy birthday to me! Hurrah.

Maybe it is narcissistic to write a blog post about your own birthday, but when you get right down to it, most blogging is self-centered in one way or another, so that’s fine. At this stage in my ‘game,’ the blog is mostly for me anyway, so a birthday post fits right into the action. (I shall mitigate my inherent pridefulness by mentioning that my wife’s birthday was a mere four days ago. It is unfortunate that we are not spread further apart in that we get cake less often, but we get twice as much cake in the week of our conjoined birthdays.)

In fiction, birthdays are either Significant or distinctly Not Significant. Something important happens or so much nothing happens that it is noteworthy. What about regular old average birthdays? Probably not interesting enough to write a story about, so we’re stuck with real life. My real life birthday is a semi-reminder that I am proceeding forward in time at more or less the same speed as my peers, and that a certain unit of time has passed.

Not mystical enough for you? I don’t attach a lot of significance to birthdays, but I still like them quite a lot. I like that little reminder that we should celebrate having a certain person in our lives a bit extra, and, I’ll be honest, I don’t mind being the celebrated person now and then. (I’m slowly but surely planting the seeds for celebration of half-birthdays in my family…) Our commercialistic gift-giving is a nice aside, since it’s always nice to have Stuff, but not the main point. (Or, at least, one hopes that it;s not the main point, or else you may be doing it wrong.)

But the celebration stuff is for everyone else. Everyone celebrates the birthday individual. What does that leave for the birthday individual? In my experience, once the first quarter century of life is passed, birthdays lead to reflection. What was the last year like> What did I do? How did it pass so fast without me really accomplishing as much as I thought I should?

I’m a writer, doing the writing thing, so of course I’m going to connect it there. Writing-wise, I’m not too terribly ‘further’ than I was a year ago, even if I am a better writer. I’m a little closer to actually making a distinct physical effort to finding a publisher (via an agent, who I also need to find), but the progress is glacial. That’s normal, I hear, and I fear.

I’m patient about some things. I can wait an entire five minutes for my coffee pot to finish dripping before taking out the caraffe, because I don’t want coffee scorching to the underside. See? I think that sets me at, like, level 46 Zen or so. But publishing is SUCH a long con that I am getting antsy. Oh, I thought I was antsy before, but that was nothing. Before is just the initial jitters and uncertainty. I’m still uncertain now, but now I know the face of my uncertainty and that’s almost worse. Now I am closer to the point where I have to put up or shut up, start a steady flow of submissions or figure out where I went wrong in my life.

I can’t really afford (fiscally or psychologically) to do too much second guessing on this one. I’m pretty sure the writing is one of the things at which I am best. But just because it’s one of my top skills does not guarantee that it is good *enough*. And even if I am Good Enough, there are so many people trying to get into this gig that I may just not be the right kind of good for the moment.

For writers who do not coddle their characters (I’ve read a precious few who cannot harm a hair on their characters’ heads, and those books are sheer dullness), coming up with ideas about How It Could Get Worse comes as natural as breathing. It should not be hard to persuade you that this works against the writer in real life. It’s like I’m working to manually install a secondary anxiety subroutine and then get surprised when the thing won’t shut up. So, yeah, it’s easy to see all the different ways that the writing career could go wrong, or, almost worse, go nowhere.

As a hardcore pessimist, my tendency is to look back at the past year and say, hey, I hardly did a thing that mattered. I’m really good at justifying those arguments, inflating the failures and deflating the successes. I can make the data say what I want it to say. (And yet, somehow, I am terrible at statistics. This seems like a major disconnect that needs some meditation. Er, later.) I have to fight that urge. (No, no, not to do statistics. Trust me, not doing statistics comes naturally, too.)

In the last year, I have, on occasion, barely squeaked by with a minimum of work expectation, written some poor work, failed to finish a handful of stories that I started, and stalled out on basically every major project that I have on my plate.

I did not say that I should ignore the failures. Trying to do that would be silly and self-defeating, because I know I’ll think about them anyway. There they are. Probably should list some successes, too, or the depressing blog police will shut me down.

In the last year, I have, on occasion, greatly exceeded the expected work amount, written some pretty good stories, made measurable and worthwhile progress on most of my projects, and done a half decent job of posting updates to this site. Hurrah.

The ol’ mental processes really want to undermine the importance of all that stuff, which does not even encompass the successes but merely generalizes them, and say it’s all pointless if there’s no money in the bank. But writing is an investment, and it takes a long time to collect on it.

Nose to the grindstone, as they say. My metaphorical nose is getting kind of tired of being ground for no apparent reason, but if that’s what it takes, then my sniffer had better get ready for another year of solid buffing.

And, uh, if I missed your birthday, sorry, and consider this a universal happy birthday to all the you’s in reality having birthdays throughout all of time. That covers that.

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