Tag Archives: frustration

Why It’s Okay to Write for Fun

“Introduction”

I’ve been admittedly quiet here on Drinking Café Latte at 1pm for the last few months, thanks to the swell of commitments that have overwhelmed me lately. Notably, I’ve been reexamining my fiction priorities, learning how to better market my books, figuring out whether I should better market them, deciding if I can even pay for marketing, and still juggling a host of matters outside of my writing goals, like exercising, suffering through the recent political climate, studying new avenues of professional focus, eating better, and not shutting the people I care about out of my life in the process.

It’s been a difficult balance, but one I’ve been attempting to keep steady nonetheless.

This blog is one of the things I keep on the back of my mind constantly, but figuring out what my plan is for its future is one that stays in constant flux. Posting the occasional Friday Update is important for establishing a connection with anyone who cares about my writing, but with my writing life caught up in learning how to better edit for genre and marketing and not so much actual production, I find that I don’t have much to say on Fridays at the moment, so I don’t say anything. For those who want to know more, and more often, I can see how this lack of consistency might be frustrating.

Frankly, I’m frustrated by it, too. I feel like I’ve got too many goals to reach in too short amount of time to make significant progress on any of it.

Part of this frustration comes down to this war of requirement I have between writing because I want to versus writing because I have to. Sometimes I think the answer is neither. Often times it applies to both. Keeping up with my blog is part of that war of requirement. Once upon a time I wrote only because I wanted to, because it was fun. Now I write because it’s fun, but also to build an audience. When the writing isn’t fun (and there are times when writing is the last thing I want to do today), building the audience becomes my only motivation, and when that’s not happening, either, I wonder if it’s better if I just pop in a movie and ignore the rest of the day.

I’ve been watching a series of videos this month from established authors, publishers, marketers, etc. as part of the Publishers Success Summit, hosted by Eric Van Der Hope, and I can’t help but think they all have the same message, even if they deliver it through different channels and by different specific measures: essentially, they all say to build a platform, treat your writing like a business, and so on. And given what I’ve experienced since the first day I uploaded Shell Out to Smashwords back on May 29, 2015, I can say that what they preach is truth. Marketing is important if the readers are to come. I haven’t been doing much of that, and the results show. I’m still widely unknown and unread, and I’m constantly worried that I’ve overspent my budget every time I eat out.

But a couple of weeks ago, as I was walking to the beach, I started thinking, well, not all writing has to be business-minded. Sometimes it can really be just for fun. But how do we get ourselves to a point where we can accept that idea and still prepare for the possibility of writing for an audience, business, or fan base someday?

Well, that’s the question I want to explore over the next few weeks in my new short series, Why It’s Okay to Write for Fun, right here at Drinking Café Latte at 1pm.

Tomorrow at 1pm, the first part, “The Importance of Literature,” will go live, so be sure to come back then, and every Thursday at 1pm for the next few weeks (I’m not sure how many parts this will contain as of yet, but I can guarantee at least five), to explore with me the advantages of writing for fun when a business mindset has yet to form, even if one may form eventually.

It should be fun, and please be sure to make comments and encourage discussion as you see fit.

Handy Table of Contents for Each Released Part:

Part 1: “The Importance of Literature” (Posted December 22, 2016)

Part 2: “The Importance of Experimentation and Ignoring Fear” (Posted December 29, 2016)

Part 3: “The Importance of Imperfection” (Posted January 5, 2017)

Part 4: “The Importance of Managing Fun” (Posted January 12, 2017)

Part 5: “The Importance of Balancing Priorities and Knowing Audience” (Posted January 19, 2017)

Part 6: “The Importance of Learning from Our Past” (Posted January 26, 2017)

Part 7: “The Importance of Knowing the Rules of Writing and Storytelling” (Posted February 2, 2017)

Part 8: “The Importance of Finding Useful Education and Resources” (Posted February 9, 2017)

Small Miracles

Originally written on January 28, 2009, under the title “When God Whispers the Thunder”:

It’s funny how often I find myself spiraling downward into some foul mood. Call it frustration, loneliness, burnout, dried creativity, physical exhaustion, bad pizza, whatever. But for the sake of argument I think it’s safe to call it frustration. Every foul mood begins and ends there.

It doesn’t matter what triggers it: I’ve discovered that frustration is nothing more than a lack of control. And given my creative nature, I find that a lack of control means a huge possibility that things won’t go my way.

Heaven forbid!

Sometimes it’s small, laughable. More than once I’ve gone to Publix, ordered a custom sub, had them dress it up with my favorite veggies, wrap it up, and picked up a bag of chips and drink for the combo. More than once I’ve purposely left off the condiments (except mayonnaise) because I had special plans for that barbecue sauce or A-1 sitting in my fridge. And more than once I’ve come home, put a DVD in the player, unwrapped that sub, went to the fridge, and discovered I’m out of barbecue sauce (or A-1, or whatever would give that sauce flavor). And then frustration hit when I realized I have to put everything on hold just to go back to Publix to buy another bottle of sauce.

Sometimes it’s large. As a writer, I need feedback, especially when what I’m writing may influence my future (if it’s great, I have a career; if it sucks, I’m back to the drawing board). Sometimes getting that feedback takes months. Sometimes I don’t get it at all. Sometimes, despite the help I need (in some cases desperately), I’m left fending for myself, hoping, praying, pleading to God that I’m doing the right thing. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I fall flat on my face. Most of the time I question what I’m fighting for. Most of the time I realize I’d rather be sleeping.

Usually I expect God to pull some miracle out of His universe-sized hat, snap a finger, crush a demon, do whatever it takes to bail me out of my frustration. Rarely do I ask for contentment (and I’ll admit that’s partly because I feel like contentment—or at least certain versions of it—is an excuse to submit to mediocrity, which I don’t subscribe to, but that’s another theological discussion for another time). It’s hard for me to ask for something like that. Probably because I’m tired of waiting for “other factors” to fit into place. Probably because in my patience, I grow weary. Probably because in my attempts to act, and because of the overwhelming opposition, I grow cynical to change. And when I expect a miracle, I often find myself not really expecting it.

I should probably rephrase this: I expect miracles—I met a couple of kids a few weeks ago who were crippled since infancy (from a devastating car accident), and I’ve prayed for them pretty consistently since, and I expect to see them fully formed next time they come into my studio—I just stopped expecting them in my own life. And it frustrates me.

Last night I fell into one of my moods. I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t write. Couldn’t think straight. It was crippling. I took a walk, didn’t really feel any better, tried to sleep anyway, managed about an hour-and-a-half before waking up again, and thought, okay, now what?

It had been a couple of weeks since I’d last watched one of those “Active Word” videos on Bob Coy’s website (www.activeword.org), so I figured I’d watch one of those. The most recent video “I Just Didn’t Expect That” seemed relevant somehow, so I put that one going.

About forty-five minutes later, I was laughing.

The sermon focused on a valiant captain named Naaman. He had many honors. Highly celebrated. Leader. Rambo. And he was a leper. What?

In the interest of keeping this short, I’m gonna skip to the end (you can just watch the video—it’s worth it). But the ending is that he had expected a miracle of healing given to him in a divine, powerful, grandiose way. What he got was a miracle made as simple as taking a bath.

He had nearly refused it because he didn’t think a miracle should come so quietly. He didn’t think God would come so quietly.

I’ve been frustrated because I’m a dreamer. Yes, I can admit that. I dream big. Probably too big. And I think it shows whenever I tell people my plans. Some are verbally supportive in the moment. And yet, most of the time it feels like they could care less. Writing a novel is a huge undertaking. And yet, very few will actively support it (like reading it). It’s discouraging. Partially because I’ve put so much heart into it. But also because I think it should be a big deal.

And then God spoke something to me at the end of that video. It was quiet, yes, but powerful. Every time I’ve hyped up my writing, the response sounded like those infamous crickets. And it frustrated me. To me, it’s a big deal, a huge deal, even a grandiose deal. And yet it receives no love. I started to think that no one really paid attention. But then, to my surprise, a discussion broke out this week. Surprised, amused, but confused. The discussion had nothing to do with my novel or my grandiose, utterly ridiculous plans, but with my feet.

What?

I guess I could sit back right now and wonder why my friends think my feet are more interesting than my deepest desires, but then, I think that’s God’s point. Why should He show up, stir people’s hearts, capture my own heart through something as overwhelming as an epic novel, and bring people together, when He could do it better (and make me laugh) through a simple discussion about that insignificant, fleshy thing that does nothing more than allow me to walk straight?

Anyway, I’m not rehashing anything that isn’t better explained in the Active Word, but I found it relevant.

AOL Strikes Again

Originally posted to MySpace on:

May 15, 2008:

Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time writing chapters for my third novel (my first needs to be rebuilt, thanks to an error in judgment, and the second is on hiatus, since I don’t want it to be my “first”), so I’ve slacked considerably on every other form of writing I’m known for. Journals, or blogs as they’re called on MySpace, are the chief among the neglected areas, and I owe part of that to common distraction—the Playstation 2 is a strong proponent of temptation. But I also have to owe part of it to the Internet, as AOL hates me.

I’d imagine AOL hates a lot of people, actually, so I think anyone reading this might sympathize with my situation. But for those who can’t sympathize or for those who don’t use AOL (pure geniuses) here’s my story:

The thing is, when I sign on, AOL plays nice for about five minutes. First, it coddles me, making me think everything’s gonna be all right when the news page loads up (AOL tends to give a choice of five lists to read from, starting with world news, then moving toward entertainment, then medicine, then real estate, then finally to the random nonsense page). Then, when I decide I’m not interested in the news, I’ll hit the “X” to vanish the main page; though, the AOL options menu and instant messenger refuse to die. When all the stuff I don’t care about is gone, I start checking messages. So, I log onto Hotmail to see five or six different organizations trying to get me to use their services. From there I ignore them, search for something relevant, nod my head as nothing fits the bill, and “X” out of Hotmail on another washed mission. It’s about then that AOL starts cashing in on its tease.

Lately I’ve gone straight to the messaging boards that I’ve frequented for about eight years after signing out of Hotmail. For a season, however, I followed Hotmail with MySpace. In either case, AOL uses the second site, the one that comes after I’ve been online for five minutes, to assault my nerves. Everything starts out okay, usually, loading the first page with as much speed as dial-up allows. But then it pulls the plug. Everything stalls. I can be in the middle of scrolling through someone’s message, hanging in suspense as I wait to read the final words, when all of a sudden the system locks up for at least two minutes, with no reason as it’s not loading anything, and then resumes as if ignoring the fact that it just got caught in a two-minute hiccup. What’s worse, it stalls my whole computer with it. Microsoft Word, usually friendly to me, also gives up life two minutes at a time. The calculator? Twenty times ten equals…equals…wait for it…

There are several reasons why I don’t visit MySpace much anymore. A big part has to do with the fact that nothing ever happens here. I probably don’t need to go into details, as I’m sure many witness the same lack of activity. But it feels like a waste of time. Blogs are written; no one responds. Friendships are requested, but not from real people. Plus, the whole convention is superficial. But AOL is the element that kills the experience.

Having said that, I officially deleted AOL yesterday in an effort to regain functionality out of my computer again. Yes, I will reinstall it, as DSL does not service my area and a cable hookup might cause more cracks in my bedroom wall than I already have and one false drill might bring the whole house down, so I’m short on options. But as of now, I’m writing everything blog-related out in Word (which works great when I’m not online), and will transfer it to MySpace when the time is right for the rest of the world to read it.

Which I suppose has already happened if you’re reading this.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Find a new information source, as the Internet demands too much performance out of simple machines.

The Great Frustration

Note: In an effort to bring my blog up-to-date, I’ve been reading old journals and looking into old issues, investigations, and funny stories I once had. Rereading this journal reminds me that I don’t always see the bigger picture. Having said that, I don’t know how much of this I still agree with. When I wrote it, I was hurt because someone accused me of not being “close enough to God” and used it as a weapon to tear down my heart when that person had no knowledge of my spiritual journey and just assumed the accusation was correct. Like all things that frustrate me, I had to write down my thoughts in an effort to make sense of them. I don’t necessarily agree with everything I once wrote here because I can see where I’m basically making similarly misunderstood assumptions about people. But writing under the influence of pain can blight our ability to think with love and wisdom. So, the following is another example of what happens when my heart is broken.

Originally posted to MySpace on:

March 6, 2007:

I’m tired of letting this control me: this issue of who I am, and how I’m perceived. Since when was it anyone’s business to define my identity for me?

I still find myself asking God to heal my heart. And I think that’s a given for any of us—we all have something that breaks it. But I’m tired of asking for the healing when the things that keep breaking it are out of my control. Just a few minutes ago I caught myself asking for this—for this healing—and realized I’m asking because I haven’t let go of my hurt.

And why not?

I don’t know if my relationship with God is exactly what it’s meant to be, or if I’m missing something. Frankly, I don’t think God is keeping score. I have a relationship with Him—He knows it, I know it, what more is there to say about it? As far as I know, I’m where I’m supposed to be.

I know my relationships with people falter, though. Today, for example, I had one of the worse days at work that I’ve had in awhile. There wasn’t any one defining thing that made it horrible, it was just a medley of sour feelings, great frustration, and all around chaos that made being there awful. And I found myself getting angry. Over what? Over picky people? Over low pay? Over my own exhaustion? Frankly, there was nothing worth getting angry about. And yet, I still had to ask God for the strength to love others.

Such a strange thing to ask for at 2:30 in the afternoon, isn’t it?

Truth was, I found myself resenting the people around me: the strangers, the friends, the whole bloody circumstance. And it was torturing me. It was just another Tuesday in Boynton Beach, but I wanted so badly to run away and never look back. Much like I’ve felt about my place here for the last, say, decade or more.

It comes back to my broken heart—that lonely thing that has hope, but little outlet; the thing that allows me to appreciate my family and the few good friends that stuck by me for years and years, despite my bursts of intensity and self-reflection, but recognizes that they can only give so much; the thing that relies on God for fulfillment, and yet becomes seduced by the holes that He leaves open for others to fill. That broken heart—a device weakened by misunderstanding, unfairly shaped by frustration—that thing I offer to God for healing but can’t seem to free from the things that broke it.

The wounds have festered. They’ve mounted on top of each other. Simple joys have been compromised by stupid things. And I’m tired of it.

It’s time to get honest here: my wounds are relational. There are several things I’m unhappy with, but only one seems never-ending. Lately, I’ve found myself resenting women—that frail gender that wants to be more like men every day. And it makes no sense. My mom faced trial after trial just to make sure I had a decent upbringing. As my first example of what a woman was supposed to be, she did one of the best jobs a mom could do, enduring all sorts of crap from my dad, from demanding employers, and even the church (the ‘80s / no grace version) just to make sure her family had provision. That character should’ve engrained a firm understanding of what a good woman looks like in me. It was a true testament of strength.

To have that as my base, my respect for women should currently be through the roof (as it once was). But then, that might be part of the problem. Maybe she’s one of the few women in my life to ever understand what it means to be a good woman. And maybe as a kid, it blinded me from the reality that I’d face as I grew older, when that gender would come to mean more to me—that women, for the most part, just don’t get it anymore. And maybe it’s the realization that a good woman is such a rare thing to find that brought my heart into this accelerated descent that I can’t pull out of. In the end, it’s a scary thought. What do I do with that?

Not to say I think all women have missed the mark, granted. But I do wonder why, out of more than a thousand examples to shape my view, only fifty or so seemed to get the point.

In the end, I’m just frustrated. If not for the media blitz of Bennifer, Brangelina, Ronald (Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump—one can hope for such a pairing), Maybelline, Victoria Secret, and Budweiser, then I probably wouldn’t care that there are so few good women out there who might respect me. But add that to the endless words buzzing my ears at work, the endless surveys poking my chest on MySpace (which I usually don’t read, but you get the point), and pretty much 95 percent of the things and the people I encounter each day telling me it’s so bleeding important, and I can’t help but to kind of care. So the frustration mounts when good women chase after dirty guys, when bad women creep around in their shadows, and all women think I’m a nice guy and therefore must run for the hills.

Of course, I’m probably responsible for most of my broken state. And that’s the point here: I’m tired of letting these creatures with their psychological imbalances (not the fifty or so good ones that actually take sensible risks and demonstrate a fair amount of strength in the face of chaos) shape my identity. And more so, I’m tired of dwelling on the ones who broke my heart.

I hope by writing this journal, I can start releasing the hurt, to claim that I won’t be beaten by unfairness or disrespect. Though, I know I’m taking a great risk in posting it, since it might consequently leave me branded as a jerk (or at least a misguided soul). But then, that assumes the people labeling me in such a way think they know me, when the truth is, they don’t, and I’m far from this.

Of course, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that we guys aren’t screwed up, too. (My father didn’t get the point, and it often pissed me off that a careless guy like him still ended up with a good woman. And maybe that lessened my mom’s quality—she herself would admit that she can’t choose a good man worth crap, probably because there are fewer good men in this world than there are good women—and, to be honest, that’s part of my gripe with women—that they can sit here telling me I’m a great guy, and then go run off with some complete A-hole who doesn’t give a flying flip about them (my dad cared, granted, he just had a LOT of baggage that he couldn’t shake and it wrecked the family).) But, as a man, I know where I’m weak and I know where I’m strong, and I’m at least trying to improve on those areas where I’m not the latter. Therefore, for a girl to tell me I need greater intimacy with God because I admitted I was interested in her (and was hurt that she didn’t reciprocate) is just disrespectful—it attempts to invalidate my relationship with God to get her off the hook, which frankly, I don’t need—and I don’t need such a wound infecting my identity. Like all men, I have my issues, too, but I’m still a good man as far as I know; unless there’s something I fail to see. But if everyone who’s taken the time to know me can agree to this, then it’s probably true.

The women to come and go in my life, friends and family alike, I care for. I still believe in Chivalry, even if everyone else thinks it’s dead, I still believe in kind words, and I still believe in that dangerous little word called “love.” To let resentment creep in about these same people just sickens me. That is my issue, and it’s something I’m giving to God, even as I type this. But to let go of the resentment, I have to accept the fact that the people I care about will continue with their issues, and I have to be man enough to deal with it. To let a few misguided souls try to make me into something I’m not so they can feel better—so they can feel less challenged (accepting that I have a deep nature), or conversely, let themselves continue with their own destructive habits (choose a jerk over a good man)—I just can’t accept that. I am who God made me, and I’m not going to apologize for that. My family accepts me, my close friends accept me, and most importantly, God accepts me. So why should I start becoming the A-hole? Why should I lower myself into the shallows so a girl won’t feel “crowded”? I won’t resent women anymore—why bother?—but I won’t lower myself to their standards, either. If they don’t want a good man, then that’s their problem. I’ve gone thirty years without a girl by my side—I think I’m getting pretty good at it.

The important thing here is that I let it go, that I stop letting the arrows of discontent pierce me.

My prayer: “Lord Jesus, spare me the burden of becoming something I’m not. Give me the grace to be who I am without accepting misguided influence, or to offer it back for the sake of pleasing others. Let truth speak through my lips, even when it’s hard to hear it. Put people in my life who will help me grow, but let me love those, still, who have been like weeds to me, and let me know which is which, that I might recognize life-giving words from the poisonous ones. Most of all, be enough in my life that these things, for better or worse, will be merely a side trip, where You are the Great Adventure. Let nothing, no woman, no circumstance, no hurtful thing steal my joy. Don’t let me slip into despair from a broken heart—what’s done is done, and it’s up to You to heal me now. Help me to let go of the things that have damaged me, but transform me with Your Spirit that they may not strike another successful blow. Shield me from Satan’s onslaught, as he will do whatever he can to destroy me. You alone are good, though I thank You for the blessings you give, and for seeing the good in me. Be who You are through me, and let not my identity or my faith be damaged. Give me Your grace that I might reflect it back to others, especially to those who’ve injured me. Give me the grace to forgive myself when I still fail in spite of these things. I love You and thank You for helping me through all things. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”