Can’t I just disappear for a while?

This morning I got up, dragged my sorry rump off to work, got stuck in traffic and rolled into work late. Not awesome. I was able to stay late to make it up, no problem. The bigger problem was that when I hit the parking lot and climbed out. My first thought was “I am so done, so done.” To be clear, I don’t hate my job, but I’m so so busy, so incredibly busy. I know I claim to be a writer and should easily be able to describe how many flavors of busy I am and how it feels to work in an environment so saturated with crises that everyone seems to think adding unnecessary crises is a pretty good idea  – you know to really show how busy we are, but the best I can come up with is that I can’t finish a current task without having two more added to the list. My colleague and I have written about 120 reports in the past five months. To add some context to that, this is roughly the annual throughput of the entire team prior to our arrival. As this is my job and I’m well compensated for it, it should be YAY us, we’re freaking awesome. Nope. Not feeling it -I’m tired.

Last weekend, the wife and I went to Seattle, sans children, to have a romantic stress-free weekend. This was fully achieved, it was great. I don’t care how many homeless people I didn’t see or how much I didn’t have my car broken into or any of those things that happen in big cities. I frikkin’ loved Seattle. LOVED. I figured the trip would really recharge my batteries. It did for about a day. Then, I came back and reality hit again.

I have made myself so busy, I now feel guilty about the 1 hour a week I’m devoting to watching Westworld. I’ve got a demanding job, for which I’ve recently had a title change that I can’t tell anybody about that because apparently something got screwed up, I don’t know what got screwed up, just that I have a shiny new meaningless title and I’m also pretty sure everyone thinks I’m slacking. On top of that, I’m trying to start another company for another company, which is NOT going as hoped. I’m also trying to write 2 (no, actually 4, but only two actively) books AND I’m trying to get a book published on inkshares – that’s not going great, but I’m doing the best I can to promote without being absolutely insufferable. To continue to add to the list, I’m writing a recipe article for my wife’s dad’s newspaper (any suggestions? – due tomorrow, looks like). Then, last but not least, I’m trying to keep up on my blog, which (obviously) is not going well. I’m so damn over-taxed that I’ve tried about half a dozen posts in the last week or two and have gotten just past the “hey, I had this great thought I wanted to share” point and realized I didn’t have the mental energy to get to the point and wrap it.

Yesterday, I started the audiobook for Felicia Day’s autobiography – it’s called something about being weird on the internet, don’t ask me the title, I’m too lazy to pick up my iPod or open another tab to Google it and get it right. This audio book is good, I mean I love her work, and think she’s a spectacular writer. I’m pretty sure the book is meant to be a ‘rah-rah, love yourself and follow your dreams’ sort of story. Well, it didn’t work for me. I pretty much finished it and have more or less come a way thinking that this woman is brilliant and talented, and I am not, and no amount of hard work I put into anything is going to amount to anything one tenth so brilliant.

Part of the reason I’m so busy at work is that I’ve built a system that lends itself to extremely rapid adhoc report development. Someone can ask me the question: How many CCU visits resulted in this particular diagnosis in August & September 2016 and the same for 2015. I can spin that around in like 20 minutes. The usual timeline for an adhoc like that is like six months – largely because it would take 3-6 hours, maybe more, and it doesn’t count as a big important thing, so it gets dropped to the bottom of the list. In any case, having built this system up, I am becoming ‘the guy’. I’m not the only ‘the guy’, but I am one, and so I’m in demand. On one hand, you could call this a win and say it’s brilliant within my work context, but I don’t see it that way. I still have 50 unresolved tickets and have a mountain of documentation and training materials, plus hours of meetings and requirements gathering for more reports, I don’t have much of a handle on planning or even progress, my whole project management game is shit, really. Basically, I have worked my ass off and am further behind than when I started. This is not a win, nor is is anything like brilliant.

I wrote a book I love and characters I think are awesome. That book received 0 response from more than 40 agents and has not gained any sort of momentum on inkshares. I have had TREMENDOUS support from so many people, who are endlessly sharing and tweeting and pre-ordering, but with less than a month and more than 200 copies to go. The win is looking beyond remote. That book is very unlikely to see the light of day. I can’t tell you how much THAT makes me feel like I’m letting folks down. So much support, and I’m unable to make the win. When you crowd-fund like that, the project becomes the project of everyone who supported, and for me to not hit the magic number is an ENORMOUS failure to deliver for EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has helped and been generous and supportive.

I’m not stuck on my other works as much as I simply haven’t got the time to work on them as much as is necessary to finish any one of them. I mean, I do write -every day. Sometimes, I get super productive and knock out 2K in a single night, but those nights are rare and with so little energy to spare, the best I can do is read through what I wrote on one of those WIPs and think about how much work remains.

So.

Here I am.

I don’t have the bandwidth. I just want to walk away from all of it. I’m tired and my motivation for doing more than coming home, having a beer and falling asleep on the couch is basically non-existent. I clearly haven’t got the drive or talent of a person capable of pulling off any of what I’ve set out out to do. The hard part is that I can’t help but try. I suppose that for every ‘I worked my ass off to get here’ story you get, you get as many ‘I worked my ass off and I’m no further down the road than I was ten years ago’ stories. Anyhow, now I’m off to work on something that requires my attention.

Maybe stupidity and unrelenting stubbornness will pay off at some point?

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My mind is racing – in the wrong direction

Today I had two meetings. The first was in the morning, which was cancelled, leaving myself and the only other available participant with a free hour. We decided to just screw around in my cube to see what we could come up with. It was hands-down the most productive meeting I’ve had for that group. Actually got stuff done – useful stuff. The second meeting was at the end of the day. It was also productive, but in a completely different manner.  I received clear direction and feedback and had most of my questions answered – AKA: I know where I’m going with that project, how to get there and when. PLUS it’s a fun project. I basically get to re-vamp a bunch of reports for a tele-health system in a newer much more wiz-bang and easy to manage technology. 

The problem is that the day is over and I’m still in full-on programmer mode. I can’t seem to clear my mind of plans for how I might structure the new system. Now, this shouldn’t be a problem, it’s nice to be enthusiastic about work, but it is because NaNoWriMo starts in a couple of days and I need to focus on my personal stuff while at home. If that meeting had occurred earlier in the day, perhaps I would have run it out of my system by 4.

Anyhow, here I am, thinking about queries, data organization, documentation, testing, and all that jazz. I just can’t seem to get back into the right frame of mind for writing and plotting. Not only that, I can feel exhaustion setting in. Won’t be long before I’m too tired to really concentrate. That’s my NaNoWriMo update for the day. I’m trying, but I just can’t seem to get there. Perhaps a run, then maybe?

Over the hills and far away

Last week, I went to Kansas City for training. I rarely go out of town, in fact I don’t think I’ve gone out of town for work in over a year and that last one was a very short trip to Fairbanks. Living in Alaska, everything is far away. Even stuff up here is far away. From where I live, the capital is about 1 ½ hour flight and it can’t be reached by road. I’m actually closer to Seattle from where I’m at than I am from the farthest corner of this state, and I’m a three hour flight from Seattle. Anyhow, a trip to Kansas City, which is generally a few hours of flying time at worst (unless you’ve got to take a really wacky series of layovers) from most parts of the country. For me, however, we’re talking a minimum of 8 hours travel time involving at least 1 layover. To put icing on that cake, most AK to lower-48 flights leave sometime between the hours of 11pm and 6am.

The moral of this story is that not only do these trips trap me on an aircraft for two full days, it results in serious jet-lag and exhaustion. It’s true this trip was for business, and I committed myself to carrying out those responsibilities and talking shop for many extra hours too. One would think that I’d be too tired for creativity – which is something I hear a lot during the procrastination process. While I believe ‘too tired’ is a legitimate reason to put the writing down for a bit, after all we all get there, I feel that there are strategies for dealing with it. In any case, being away from home I was left without many of the usual distractions and responsibilities. So, even in my state of ‘holy crapamoly I’m tired’ I was able to take what little energy I had and focus it.

From the perspective of writing I learned a couple of things about myself and writing on this trip. The first is that I really need to have coffee to write. At 6:00 am I was on the plane with my iPad and couldn’t bring myself to turn it on. Once they came round with coffee I fired that bitch up and didn’t stop until the wheels hit the ground. Lesson learned: If I’ve got a warm cup by my side, I’m a lot more productive. In the evening, when coffee is a bit dicey, a beer or whiskey also seems to fill the niche (herbal tea or decaf works through the week when I’m being good). The second thing I learned about myself is a bit more involved.

Ahead of the trip, I had decided that I would focus my free time on writing, so I planned to stay off of Twitter, avoid much on Facebook (I did flip through a few times), and not even open Wordpress. I’d say that I was fairly successful there. However, I’m not convinced these are actually the source of most of my distraction. Sure I can kill an hour very rapidly by sifting through various blog posts and wipe out 5 minute spans of time keeping an eye on twitter, but those actually don’t really tear me away from what I’m doing like other sorts of things. I also didn’t turn the TV on while I was there. With that noise box silenced the hour in the morning and hour or two at night I had for writing (the same as I have now, incidentally), was uninterrupted.

The most important thing I learned, however, was that over the course of those three days last week I found that if I’ve got a strong idea, and few real distractions (and even if I’m exhausted) I can write – a lot – not polished, ready to share work, but solid rough draft material. I don’t ever recall having written 6,000 words over the course of three days while still putting in 8 hours of work plus a few hours of work-place networking before. Hell, I don’t know if I’ve ever written that amount during time off. If I hadn’t been so fried on Friday I’d probably have knocked out another 2-3K on the airplane, which would have been about half of chapter 9 of Wine Bottles and Broomsticks.

Now I’m back home and back in my usual routine and I’m not entirely sure how to apply these lessons to my day-to-day writing (except the coffee – that’s easy) given that when I get home it’s time to cook, clean up and manage children, those TV free hours are lost anyhow, it’s later that I’m still working out. I do like being able to unwind with a little TeeVee but I’d also like to get done with my book. I suppose though that just knowing that I can produce a lot feels like a personal victory and knowing more about how I work best is helpful. With that in mind, and because I’ve been kicking the idea around for a while, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. I’m planning on tackling a project other than Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. However, in order to ‘win’, I’ve got to write something on the order of 1700 words per day. Anyhow, we’ll see how it goes. For starters, I need to be well prepared so at some point soon, I’ll start outlining like a fool and sketching characters.

So, there’s my thought for the week. I should probably think them out on this blog more, but too many distractions. Off to that cup of coffee and the last ten minutes remaining to me this morning.