Spring 2010 brought two major changes to the Remy family. This post is my attempt to articulate my response to this combined life event.
First, Jana started working full-time. She’s commuting, traveling to conferences, and working on her dissertation. The outrigger racing season also starts this week. It’s an exciting time for Jana, and I support her wholeheartedly as she pursues her passions and her probable new career (I won’t say much more about her job until it’s set in stone).
Second, I was accepted into the Clarion West workshop and will spend six weeks in Seattle this summer at what is essentially an intense, six-week-long SF writing boot camp, except that the drill instructors are recruited from among the generals and admirals of the SF world. I’m trying to get into shape for the workshop by familiarizing myself with the instructors’ published works and by building my writing endurance.
While my creativity probably helped me get into the workshop, the manic curiosity that fuels much of my original-ish thought is also one of my greatest obstacles. One moment I’m working on something, and the next moment oh my god, did you know that there’s a rare inherited insomnia that actually kills people through lack of sleep and the next thing I know I’ve lost two hours on Wikipedia. The ideas I’m exposed to are gains, but at what opportunity cost? Which brings us to:
I have come to realize over the past few months, mainly by looking at the examples set by my amazing life partner Jana and my friend Christie, that if I want to be a successful writer, I have to Focus and Finish Things.
So, to help me focus, permit me to articulate my priorities for the next few months:
1) Family. This is a given, though while I’m in Seattle, family will definitely suffer to some degree. Between Jana’s working and traveling and the workshop looming on the horizon, I’ve put many of my time eggs into my family basket. The friend basket, unfortunately, has the equivalent of a cracked hummingbird egg in it, and I apologize for this. When I am rich and don’t need to work–
I’ll still be a highly-driven workaholic, won’t I? Sigh.
I’m not sure how to convey this, so I’ll just post a picture of my treasure:
2) Work. Another given, since it pays the bills and makes things like Clarion possible. My work focus is tightening as well, especially as I try to prep the projects in my portfolio to keep moving in the right direction. Think of each project as a sheep that needs to get to pasture, or to a shearing, and they will be essentially without a shepherd for six weeks.
I’m also trying to squeeze in some business intelligence and data warehouse self-training each day. My goal is to spend at least 2-3 hours a week strengthening these skills, and in the past month I spent a total number of zero hours on this. That has to change.
3) Storytelling. I’ve come to realize that I’m not so much a writer as I am a storyteller. The medium matters less to me than the act of conveying a narrative in some form or another, and I’m happy to use any tool at my disposal–my camera, NaNoWriMo, twitter, Photoshop, food, an academic essay, YouTube–to tell a story.
That said, for the next three months I will focus on writing => short form => speculative fiction. This means I’m using most of my discretionary time (what little I can carve out of my life) to write short stories, to read award-winning examples of short stories, and to read and talk about how to write powerful short stories. With one exception:
4) Climbing. Between my mental health concerns and lower back problems, exercise is not optional. When I’m not exercising, I’m on medication. In the past half-year I’ve become more and more intrigued by climbing, and I’ve finally decided to turn my body and mind into a climbing machine. I’m excited about this because climbing involves endurance, compact strength, rock-solid core, willpower, problem solving, and experience. Some of you may appreciate if I describe the sport in this manner: Climb isn’t a skill, it’s a class, and there are a lot of skills and attributes on which I can spend points. But I’ve got to earn them first.
Finally, a closing thought about:
I’m in the process of rethinking what social media means to me. While I do use Twitter and Facebook to connect with and stay in touch with friends, I used to think of them primarily as publishing platforms, promotional and networking tools, and creative spaces. For the past month or two, I’ve gradually reduced my chat/facebook/flickr time and am increasingly using twitter as my primary tool for staying in touch with friends. It suits my current mode of life better than any other tool: an hour or two can easily evaporate on other tools, but I can communicate on twitter in bursts. Each tweet may seem to be a low value communication compared with a long email or phone conversation, but over weeks and months meaningful relationships can be built on a constant stream of 140 characters.
I will probably return to using social media as a creative outlet, but I’ll focus on more traditional forms of storytelling for the next few months.
But for now: Family. Work. Writing. Climbing. This is where you’ll find me.