13 Things I Just Can’t Do Anymore

Getting serious about my writing has made a huge difference in my life. I’ve crossed a threshold of squirmish indecisiveness that I just can’t uncross, and I sure as hell don’t ever want to. It’s been about a year since I started standing up for it publicly — and what I notice most beside the sheer pleasure of making up stories on my computer and talking about the process, is the huge load of useless crap that fell away from my life. And here’s a list of these things that I now have the balls to live without.

 

1. Expecting the world to be fair

Karma is a human invention. There’s no such thing as natural justice and balance of forces, since these things are human concepts themselves, and we’re neither the center of the universe, nor do our current values matter in any way in the grand scheme of things. So why should I expect fairness to reign supreme?

Even among each other, as creators of the concept of fairness, there is no fairness because fairness requires effort and reciprocity and we’re all just too busy to make the world fair for others. And I don’t find this any more sad than I find it fair. It is what it is, and I got work to do.

 

2. Moderating my own opinions

Not how I say them and to whom, that’s another issue, but inside my own freaking head. Moderate my opinions while they’re forming! I used to do that, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s called authoritarian self-censorship, and is a reaction to fear. At the worst times, in my adolescence, I chastised myself for being honest in my head, and ended up with a meh-opinion that was practically worthless instead of a thorny opinion, a daring opinion, a straightforward and practical opinion that would have actually gotten me somewhere.

I’ve long since stopped doing that, but I found it’s quite common with writers nowadays. I can’t see inside their heads to know what they think, but much of it rubs off on their behavior anyhow, and it proves there’s a lot of fear to even think in a brutally honest way, about the industry, about other writers, about oneself and one’s bad choices.

I’m not about to say it’s okay to blurt out every thought as it comes flying, I’d be stupid to believe that’s a good advice, but I’m saying it’s necessary to not let that affect my actual opinions. The moment I let censoring through the door of my own mind, my spirit becomes corrupted, and that’s about everything that I can say is truly mine.

 

3. Waiting for others

If I make up my mind to do something, to try something out or venture in a new direction, I’m not going to wait for others to go in first before I take the plunge. If someone’s already in the water when I figure I want to swim, then sure, I can watch how they’re doing it and learn from them, but if I’m standing at the edge of the lake and I’m alone and want to go for a swim, I’m sure as hell not gonna stand there and grow a beard until someone else takes the dive and gives me the thumbs up.

 

4. Sustaining harmful relationships

Self-explanatory? Not with so many people having their life regularly sucked out by emotional and intellectual vampires. No, not the sparkly kind, ha ha snort. *shut up*

It’s a pity to waste your energy, when there are so many ways to figure out if someone you’re suspicious of being a vampire is actually sucking you dry. *stop giggling*

Understand that your worth as a person is not theirs to decide, and free yourself.

Use a wooden stake. *badump bump*

 

5. Living around others

Sure there are ways to do everything so as to not bother people, to go around them and not stir the beasts, and I usually think of those options first, but if taking all those measures requires more time and effort than the damn thing I wanted to do in the first place, then fuck them. I’ve got rights. Says so right here! *points at random piece of paper*

 

6. Receiving without repaying

Saying “Thanks!” or “Great job!” or “Holy fuck your work is awesome!” is so easy, and it gives both parties so much. There’s just no loss in it, and it makes the world a better place and saves the rain-forest, or something.

 

7. Doubting my desire

Do I really want to do this, even if it’s hard? Do I really commit to this every day, and stay with it even if it sucks donkey balls sometimes? Do I really love this? Yes, yes and yes! Because we waaaants it… we neeeeeds it… my Precious

 

8. Worrying about other people’s reactions

Unless their reactions are what I’m after—such as in writing fiction, or convincing people (like my boss, my colleagues, or other writers) to try a different approach ’cause I think it’s worth it—then they are not my concern. I take notice, and move on. I don’t bang my head against the desk just cause someone said something about what they think I meant when I said what I tried to say. Bleargh.

 

9. Pretending I give a shit when I don’t, and vice-versa

This one’s really simple once the previous one is clear. My self-respect is more important to me than stroking someone else’s ego, especially if that someone’s all up in my face trying to get me to do things for them before even asking how my day was.

On the flipside, if I’m stumped about something or really excited (even if it’s creepy, and it usually is) then I’m not gonna play all disinterested and cool just to preserve the blissful ignorance about the subject and keep the waters calm for the benefit of others.

 

10. Looking for the easy way out

Everyone’s trying to avoid work, instead of getting better and faster at it through practice. I’m not in that camp anymore, simply because there’s no return of investment. Those five hours I spent trying to find a shortcut? Those two days trying out the shortcut, failing, trying again a different way because my first assumption is that I’m an asshat and got it wrong, then failing again and realizing the shortcut’s a dead end—all that time? I could’ve been doing something that’s actually worthwhile, like working on my WIP or meeting awesome new people who expand my horizon.

 

11. Acting like I’m just winging this on the side

No, writing is not my Sunday hobby, and it’s not the babbling result of a brainwash by a bunch of abusive muses. I have a “real” day-job, but that doesn’t make writing a hobby. I don’t earn money with my writing yet, but it doesn’t make me less of a writer. I’m not just doing this on the side, I’m doing all that other shit on the side. I’m doing this because it’s who I am and what I want from life, and I love it every step of the way. What are you doing with all your time?

 

12. Looking for responsibility in others

My life is not in their hands, it’s in mine. That’s the single greatest benefit of living in a free country. So damn straight I’m gonna make the most of it and take responsibility for everything I do and believe, for everything I create and destroy, and for everything I leave behind and everything I take with me.

 

13. Trading in what’s possible for what’s likely

I don’t know how to explain this other than by saying that it’s fucking amazing how many things are possible out there!

In writing fiction, in blogging, in connecting with others in meaningful ways, in being fearlessly open, in living our lives, in rocking our jobs, in growing with our relationships, in living our dreams. So much is possible that is absolutely beautiful, that’s liberating and good, but we don’t take advantage of it—because we don’t dare to think that big, because we believe it’s unlikely to happen. And because of that we don’t really try hard enough, and we’re turning it into impossible.

We’re turning possible into impossible because we’ve forgotten to dare and to work for it. Or in the words of one wise penmonkey, “go big and go bold, or go the fuck home.”

 

In case you’re wondering why the following things aren’t on the list:

  • treading lightly in fiction, whether it’s about cursing or slicing into taboos
  • asking for attention or favors 
  • prioritizing comfort over goals

It’s because I’ve never done them, never even considered doing them, and should you ever catch me at it you’re allowed to throw something at my face. I’ll probably catch it and whoop your ass with it, but hey, at least we’d get to know each other on a more personal level. I’m a really nice person once you get to know me, promise.

 

Now the ball’s in your court. What did you dare to leave behind once you stood up for being a writer?

 

22 Replies to “13 Things I Just Can’t Do Anymore”

  1. In the words of Confucius: “Holy fuck your work is awesome!” though he may have been on acid at the time. My work follows a cycle. During those periods when the entire family are at work and I’m alone I’m as mean as shit with MY time. I give up generousity to others. When the family are at home – holidays etc I focus on smaller writing related tasks like reading, blogging, exploring etch.

    One other thing I strive to give up is ‘timidity’ often diagnosed as procrastination or inertia when it comes to querying. Consistent and organised querying is crucial

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    1. Querying is a necessary evil, and I don’t think anyone feels good about doing it. But how J.W. Alden said it in Heinlein’s Rules for Writing, “There can be no success without honest attempt.”

      Letting go of timidity and seizing every minute you have at your disposal (when you have it) is definitely the way to go. 🙂

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      1. Pshh, that Alden guy probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about. 😉

        For me, though, eliminating that timidity was definitely the biggest change I made. I remember the first time I ever said, “I’m a writer,” when someone asked me what I did, and how freeing it felt. After that, a lot of the other facets of that hesitation to embrace this thing just started to slip away, and before I knew it I was making my first submission to a fiction market. Before that, I don’t think I would have even posted my work on a critique board, much less throw it onto my blog from time to time like it’s no thing.

        And it also allowed me to approach the work itself like a professional instead of playing at it and treating it like a hobby. I was no longer writing just for the fun of it, damn it, I was a writer. I write to be read, not just to amuse myself.

        Great post, as usual, Vero!

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      2. Good thing you kicked timidity, James. Would’ve been a pity if you wouldn’t have taken chances. No one wins if we’re not standing behind our own desire to be writers, come hell or high water.

        Thanks for the encouragement! Everyone needs it, even when they don’t realize it. 🙂

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    1. Oh, TV — exactly! I’m only watching random episodes here and there, and the occasional documentary (but damn there’s a lot of “this is how the zombie apocalypse is gonna go down” documentaries lately!). This one’s among the things I found easiest to give up on. I can’t even keep up with my to-read list and my blog-roll, there’s no time for brainwashing.

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  2. Great post, Veronica. I am still building my list of things I just can’t do anymore, and it changes regularly, but it does include many of the things you’ve listed. I have also found recently that I need to shut my brain off occasionally. I can’t just force myself to keep going like I used to when real life and writing collide to create a collossal clusterfuck in my head. Netflix is my brain relaxer. When I get busy, overwhelmed and to the point that I can’t write a single word or query another certain rejection because my head will really explode, I go to Netflix and watch something that allows me to shut it all down. I used to read, but find I lack the focus to actually enjoy it when I’m like this. I don’t watch regular television either because there’s never anything good on at 2am. But Netflix is all the time. It’s got British television, which is the perfect remedy and it’s full of Richard Armitage. What?

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    1. Shutting down and allowing yourself to be as far away from serious as possible, every now and then, is necessary to stay sane. Burnout is no myth like writer’s block. Burnout is the death of productivity, of creativity and ultimately of any kind of joy.

      Netflix, Playstation, Spongebob, outside activities, using the internet for anything other than writing-related stuff… whatever. All of them invaluable when you’re facing burnout. Any measure is justified. Including flipping people off who make demands without volunteering anything. 🙂

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  3. I’ve been on the verge of burnout twice. Twice.
    Twice I’d stared little death in the face because of my health issues and my family.
    But then I gave up my blood(sucking) relatives, and my health returned to more or less compatible with life.

    The one who saved me was… me. (Notice a priority here? LOL)

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    1. Big kudos for making it through, Jelena!

      Family is the hardest to fight. But if they’re not supportive (and it’s surprising how many really aren’t) we have to learn how to take care of ourselves first and foremost, and not worry about their comfort if they’re disrespectful of our needs. Eventually they understand and accept, and if not, it’s really their problem. However much we love them, we have a right to be our own boss. This isn’t selfish disregard, theirs is, and it’s a tough thing to admit. 🙂

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  4. Favorite post of ever Vero! I’m on board with JW Alden who can’t be timid about being a writer anymore. No longer can I shyly, almost apologetically, say “I’m a writer.” No longer can I pretend I think my work isn’t good. I am a writer, and yeah–I’m good. I have that confidence, and it’s very liberating. Does it make some people think I’m egotistical? Maybe. But who cares? I have more important things to do than proving that I am or am not something anymore.

    Also, I’ll third the TV comment. That was one of the first things I gave up too, and though I do follow certain shows, I can’t sit there staring at it for hours.

    And finally, not being read. I am done writing words and not letting anyone else ever read them. While having someone else sit down and read my manuscript was always nerve-wracking and sometimes thrillings, I really have my blog to thank for this change. When I first started making posts it was frankly a little terrifying, but now it’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of my writing life. Writing and being read regularly is teaching that evil little critic inside my head that I don’t have to be perfect. I have interesting things to say. If someone doesn’t like my writing, it doesn’t really matter because there will always be someone else who does.

    Great post!

    Like

    1. Knowing your strengths and not lying about them (what most hypocrites call “modesty”) is not egotistical at all, Leslie! We all work very hard to improve and to widen our knowledge, it’s no mean feat and more than most people ever do in their lives, so why should we just shrug off well-deserved confidence in our capabilities?

      Starting this blog (and before it, joining Goodreads groups and using my own name instead of a cute alias, and telling people I’m a writer (not to mention one that writes about aliens, and getting questions like “Oh, about abductions and stuff?”)), and daring to openly claim the time and clear the list of to-dos to make room for writing — all that wasn’t easy for me. But now I can’t even imagine living my life any other way.

      Thanks a lot for sharing your experience too! 🙂

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  5. Vero~
    This post has me stumped. It’s like talking to the smartest person you know and them saying, I’ve decided to make being smart a priority. You seem to have your shit together, so I’m floored that you ever did any of those 13 things. You come across as a direct, honest, fair, non-nancypants, put-yourself-out-there kind of person. I thought that was your very nature, but this post makes it seem like you had to work really hard to get there. So I applaud any and all effort it took for you to arrive at this place. Life is too short to live for or by other people’s ideas of what is best. There is only one you, so be the best one you can! Those who love you will support you. Those who love their *idea* of you, may not like it one bit. .

    On to your question: “What did you dare to leave behind once you stood up for being a writer?” Because I’ve made my living as a writer in the past (tech writer), it was no big surprise to my family/friends that I was working on a novel. But, I can see others who have a completely different day job running into some opposition/disbelief when they tell folks they are a writer as well. I think everyone has outside interests/hobbies. The difference is how deeply committed they are to those, what kind of time/effort/expense they put out to achieve something with that interest/hobby. The path we each take to publication matters not, nor does anyone else’s definition of it as hobby, profession, or an identity.

    The battle I’m always fighting is answering well-meaning questions like, “When is your book going to be published?” Ah, so many variables to that seemingly simple question. First, Imma finish it (done!), then Imma revise it (almost done. Has taken months!), then Imma query it, then Imma hope it was good enough so that an agent wants to rep me, then Imma revise it per agent input, then Imma hope an editor/publisher wants to buy it, and then it should take about 18 months to see it in the stores. At any point along that series, it could all fall apart into a steaming heap of dung and nobody will ever see it. So, then I guess I’d start over with a different MS idea.

    Second problem is being introduced to strangers with, “And she wrote a book!” and having the stranger go, “Oh, I’d love to read it.” The gulf between having written something and having it be available to be read is what I just described. But strangers (even friends/family) don’t really want to know all the ins-and-outs. They just want to know a publish date or to be handed a book. I got nuthin.

    The battle I DONT have to fight is family support. Since they are all creative people, they understand that working on any art form, is done for the satisfaction of it — regardless of the monetary value someone else places on it. So, when I go in my cave and write, they are in their shop woodworking or in their studio painting or throwing clay or melting glass or practicing piano or recording demo CDs. The best question to ask is, “how is it going? Where are you in the process?” And, only ask if you want to know. Because to start explaining it and see someone’s eyes glaze over sux.

    All best to you, Vero.

    Like

    1. Teehee, you think I’m smart! *drools absently like Patrick Star*

      “You come across as a direct, honest, fair, non-nancypants, put-yourself-out-there kind of person. I thought that was your very nature.”

      Well, Courtney, it was, but not out in the open. I was scared shitless to show most people that my priorities were shifting toward writing, because I grew up in a world that not only didn’t (and doesn’t) value art or honesty, but that considers anyone who doesn’t prioritize money over everything else as being stupid. I’ve never had any support in this direction, and not because people didn’t care about me (I have an otherwise caring environment), but because they thought I’d get over this writing thing and start taking my life seriously eventually. Even today, with the exception of other writers, no one ever asks me what I’m doing in this regard. They only ask if everything’s fine with my job. 🙂 I’m not complaining, by the way, I’ve met so many wonderful people online from all over the world (*wink, wink*), who understand my love of writing and share my priorities, and that makes me comfortable to talk about it in the open. 🙂
      Otherwise I would’ve probably written under the covers with a flashlight all my life, and published my work under a pen name. Hehe. Like you said, “life is too short to live for or by other people’s ideas of what is best.”

      I’m with you on the awkward dodging of questions like “When will it be published?” (aaand “Oh, you’re a writer? And how much are you making a month?”). It’s practically impossible to fit an accurate explanation of the fiction writing industry into small talk and still look savvy doing it while their eyes glaze over. 😀

      Thank you so so much for your support and for talking about your experiences!

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      1. We need to have an Author Pride parade, perhaps. 🙂

        As for “Oh, you’re a writer? And how much are you making a month?”
        Maybe that is an American/European difference, but I’d be gobsmacked if someone asked me this. It’s so … so bourgeois. Like asking me what size pants I wear or how much sex I’ve been having recently. I don’t mind giving that information out, but only to my financial adviser, my doctor, or my marriage counselor, respectively.

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  6. “I’m not just doing this on the side, I’m doing all that other shit on the side. ”

    This, yes, this, this, this!!!!

    I love this post, Vero – you are one bold ass ginger sprout.

    What have I given up? Well I had a volunteer gig for many years that I loved but there is no time to do both. I’ve given up the noise that says I can’t be a writer because that’s bullshit. I’ve given up the noise that says if you write “genre” fiction you’re a schmuck – now I get all “yeah, so the fuck what, I’m no literary maven, I write genre fiction and I LOVE IT! I’ve given up Facebook – my personal account – I didn’t really care if my friend’s friends knew I’d gone to dinner at their house or if my colleagues had a smashing trip to the beach. Time suck I’m not willing to have sucked (though I have a fledgling author page but as you know, I’m rarely there). And I’ve given up thinking it’s impossible – because as you’ve said – anything’s possible!

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    1. Oooh, the literary vs. genre mud fight! Gotta love conflicts between forces that aren’t really, you know, opposing each other. 😀

      Time sucking activities are sometimes hard to quit, but they’re the most rewarding. The free space you gain in your head for not investing in them, is precious.

      Thanks a lot for the enthusiastic comment, Jaye! 😉

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  7. As always, when you post Vero, you deliver! 🙂

    I’m giving up: ALWAYS doing *fill in the blank* because that’s what experts say I should do.

    Sure, there’s room for education, but right now… I think I’m going to listen to my own quiet voice for awhile. 😉

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    1. Oh, “expert” advice is great cannon fodder most of the time. I should write a top 13 pieces of dumb “expert” advice! 😀

      You’re definitely doing yourself a favor if you ignore the noise for a while, Tracy!

      Like

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