Don't Just Drift Along; Fight the Resistance
Sit down in the chair and do the work- you owe it to us
The last few weeks I've been drifting
Winter is nearly upon us. Daylight savings time is looming (I started this post last week). The world seems like it’s in a general state of depression, as there is the Pandemic and so much uncertainty for the future. (The future seems brighter now, after the weekend).
The courts are closed for jury trials until next summer, so while a personal injury attorney like me can jump up and down and threaten the insurance companies, you really have two choices - settle the case for what the insurance company is offering or wait until next year for a trial.
In the last few weeks, my writing dropped off, and I was worried it was "writer's block." What it was, however, was me dreading going back and editing my long manuscript I wrote, memoir-ing my early childhood. The process was painful (the editing- not just my life) until I had the epiphany that the long chapters need to be broken down into much shorter chapters. Ta-da! Now the way forward seems so much clearer. I should be done with the second draft in a few months. Seven or eight months.
If I want to be a writer, I'm supposed to write every day
In light of the state of the world, I have more time than I otherwise would to do some writing. The pros say writing is like working out. You have to do it every day to make progress and get better at it. And if you lay off for a few days, it turns into weeks, and it becomes that much harder to start back up again.
So the writers who post the most on Medium, Quora, and the other writing sites mostly write short "listicles" (i.e., "top seven things you should do to start your day") or product reviews, or self-help articles.
Those types of articles are the "fast food" of writing. For the writer, they're short, relatively easy to write, and formulaic. The writers hope the articles go viral and make them money.
For the reader, they're like a candy bar. The articles are fun to read, you can pretend like you're learning something, and they provide a sort of endorphin rush or sugar high. The worst of these articles is called "clickbait" because the main goal of the writing is to attract clicks from which the author profits under an "affiliate advertising" program like Google AdSense or Facebook Ads.
I don't want to write articles like that. First of all, anyone who knows me is not going to take fitness or self-improvement advice from me. I would eat a loaf of garlic bread and wear my Mott the Hoople T-shirt every single day if I could. In fact, I basically do that.
Product reviews? The only product review I could ever be bothered writing was my story about the Biscuit skateboard that nearly killed me, and that's not the kind of exposure most companies solicit or encourage by paying the writer money.
So I have to come up with something else to write about on a consistent basis. But while we're here, let me write my one and only self-improvement blog post for you so we can get this out of the way. I've read every self-help article in the world, so here are the
“20 things You Must Do To Improve Your Life” by Jack Clune
1. Get regular sleep and turn your phone off one hour before bed (I don’t)2. Drink lots of water (if your pee is too yellow you haven’t drunk enough)3. Be kind to people, but learn how to have boundaries and say no (don't be a doormat)4. Look people in the eye and have a firm handshake (Actually, I’d be fine if the handshake goes away forever after this Pandemic- let’s just shaka or do deep bows to one another)5. When talking to people, listen to what they say, rather than simply wait to say the next thing.6. Brush and floss your teeth (Don’t be a yuck mouth).7. Don't smoke or drink alcohol.8. Meditate for 10 minutes a day.9. Exercise (Use the Japanese Kaizen method- one push-up first day, two the second day, three the third day. Imagine where you’ll be in a year). Or use this method. Or this one.10. Eat healthily.11. Communicate really well with your spouse, kids, parents and friends.12. Wear nice clean clothes.13. Travel, but not too much (wherever you go, there you are).14. After a reasonable time, ask for a raise and if they don't give it to you, change jobs or be your own boss.15. Envision where you want to be five years from now and do something small every day to try to make it happen.16. Save money. Don't save it in a bank, invest it somewhere where it will grow (I don’t. I think the stock market is a roulette wheel for normal people like me, and a rigged carnival booth for the people with insider trading information. Look at all the politicians with insider information who sold off before the public announcement of the Pandemic. The stock market obviously has no relationship to the real world. How can the market be through the roof the last few months when the world is a dumpster fire? And the people who made the most money EVER in the stock market betted against us the normal people, that we would default on our mortgages and Countrywide would collapse. The banks sold us our mortgages and turned around and sold the insider bettors the tickets that we would default. Then when the bets came due the banks had no money to pay them, the banks collapsed, and none of the bankers went to jail. In fact they took our bailout money and paid themselves bonuses. Great system). But go ahead and invest in boring Index Funds- that's not the day trading lottery ticket investing that everyone talks about all day long at the water cooler and on the dumb "Mad Money" T.V. shows.17. Buy real estate (With all that extra money you have laying around).18. Make a Will (Living Trust better).19. Believe in God, or if you don't, hedge your bets (watch on double speed) and act spiritual and be kind just in case there's a Hell. Or don't.20. Read Primal Screams from Jack Clune's Man Cave.
Allow myself to introduce . . . myself
I like to write about myself. My thoughts. My feelings. My experiences. Apparently, those are the worst things in the world to write about. Yes, the real heavy-hitters on Medium say that nobody wants to read about me. You want to read about You. I guess I can kind of understand that.
The popular writers say people only want to read things that do one or all three of the following:
Let me entertain you
I think I might be able to entertain you. One outta three ain't bad. Educate? I mean, unless you want to know which fast food Mexican Restaurant has the best Flying Saucer. Or which GWAR. album to start with, then I might be able to help.
Inspire? I don’t know. A few of you have told me you enjoyed an article I wrote, and that made me feel good. Very, very good, but kind of embarrassed too. I always feel like you're just saying it to be nice, and if I got you drunk, you'd tell me what you really thought. By the way, a few of you did actually tell me what you thought, and your advice was spot on (i.e., you told me to write better story endings!).
The best part of my new writing adventure, so far . . .
What really blew me away, and made me feel humbled to my core, was when a few of you told me that, not necessarily the quality of my writing, but my leap of faith into writing inspired you to do something, or at least take the first step to do something you always wanted to try.
I knew you were telling the truth and weren't just saying that to be polite. And I did not feel embarrassed because it had nothing to do with me, it was about you. Amazing. Some of you shared your writing with me or told me about your future creative plans, and I was inspired by you.
If you have always wanted to write, start a non-profit, run a marathon, paint, create a YouTube channel, or whatever, please do it. If my tentative and typo-laden blog entries and short stories are the push you needed, please go with that feeling.
Let me tell you, the feeling of not having to wonder "what if I [wrote, started a Vlog, made a movie] . . .?" is worth it to just give it a try.
Maybe you'll become rich and famous overnight! Doubtful, but more possible than ever in this day and age. Just look at the guy drinking Cranberry juice listening to Fleetwood Mac.
On the flip side, maybe you'll realize, "Hey, this is really hard work and turns out, I don't like it that much." Chances are that your experience will be somewhere in between those two extremes. Either way, it will be a load off of your shoulders. If you find something you’re passionate about doing, the journey will be what satisfies you, and there is no ultimate destination (fame and fortune).
There's plenty of time to pursue your passion, so don't quit your day job
There is no reason to quit your day job. If you turn off the T.V. and put down the phone, there is enough time each day to do your work. The writers on Medium are doing it during their lunch hours or waking up an hour earlier to do it.
Some of you already told me, "You know, I tried [it] and I don’t like [it.]" Whatever [it] was, think of what a gift it was to figure that out, so you can move on and find out what [it] is that you may want to pursue.
I've read a shit-ton of Medium articles now. I've read thousands of self-help and "how-to" and "what not to do" articles, and they are fun to read, and I ignored 97% of the advice because its' too hard to follow. What follows, however, are the pieces of advice that have stuck with me.
The most important things I've learned so far are . . .
Do not “follow your passion” if your main goal is to make money or be famous
If what you are interested in is making money, probably the worst thing you can do is “follow your passion.” No, my friend, if you want to make money, you have to do this:
Figure out what you are really good at, that people will pay you a lot of money to do.
If you are lucky, your passion will also be what people will pay you money to do. Maybe you love to write songs. Great. If you are Sting, you will make a lot of money by following your passion. Most songwriters, however, are not rich or famous (for a variety of reasons).
Most of us have much more pedestrian skills that people would find valuable enough to pay us money to do. If you want to make money, figure out what those skills are- and pursue your passion in your free time.
The reason to pursue your passion is that you have to. Otherwise, you're likely to be a miserable, embittered person! You will always wonder, "what if . . .?" Let me put a positive spin on this. When you follow your passion, you will be a much happier and fulfilled person, and it has nothing to do with making money or being famous.
If you want to be creative or "follow your passion," persistence is far more important than talent
The next "tough love" piece of advice that resonated is twofold, and I'm going to break it down into two components:
A) You have to stop yourself from just "drifting along"; andB) You will encounter constant resistance in your effort to stop drifting
These concepts come from the book "The War of Art." I haven't read the book yet, but I've read many articles and listened to lots of podcasts that mention the book and these concepts.
Drifting is waking up, going to work that you don't really enjoy, coming home, eating dinner, watching Netflix, binge drinking on the weekend, watching football, and repeating that for the rest of your life.
You will constantly be pulled along with the tide to do that because, after a while, you forget what you really wanted to do with your life, and it is comfortable, and if you try to break free from it, you will receive constant resistance. All credit to writer Ayodeji Awosika for entertainingly explaining these concepts, as I could listen to him talk about it all day (and still not get up off the couch.) My problem, not his.
Persistence and resistance against the drift are crucial. The most quoted language from the book is:
"The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying." -Steven Pressfield
My surfing testimonial
A few weeks ago, I thought to myself, "I may never go surfing again." I looked in the mirror and saw how out of shape I was, then I went and grabbed my old wetsuit and went into the swimming pool to get it wet and try it on. I did not come anywhere close to fitting in it. I was disgusted with myself because I love surfing. Subconsciously, I've known for months that I needed a new wetsuit if I was ever going to go surfing, but I was embarrassed to go to a surf shop and try to find the size I needed.
|Almost the Author (And I'm not fat-shaming this fine fellow. Or woman. I'm just illustrating a point about myself)|
I got out of the pool, looking like a snake shedding its skin, with the wetsuit half on and half off. I went right into the Man Cave and bought a cheap (and huge) wetsuit on Amazon (when I trim down, I will support my local surf shop next time- I recommend Bird's Surf Shed). It came two days later, I tried it on, and I went surfing.
I look like a Polska Kielbasa in my new wetsuit. But the wetsuit technology is so advanced now, and the material is so super stretchy and comfortable, I am eager to go surfing this winter even when the water gets frigid.
I've gone surfing about ten times since I bought the wetsuit. I've only caught two good waves because I'm so out of shape that most of the waves pass me by too quickly before I can stand up. But I've been out on beautiful days, and I've seen and experienced so many things.
I've seen seals, dolphins, amazing sunsets, and incredible surfers (the most skillful one of all was a young woman) gracefully riding the waves. Certain days, the waves were perfect, coming in at an angle from the south and peeling down the line with a light offshore wind, reminding me that San Diego has some of the best surfing beaches in the entire world, right here in my backyard, and making me grateful to have grown up here.
Every time I've gone surfing, there was resistance. The parking lot is often full, and it’s a challenge to find a spot. It took me a full half-hour the first time to figure out how to lock my car. I had to take the BMW valet key in and out of the tiny wetsuit pocket no less than five times because I had missed a step in the locking process.
The lineup in the water is unbelievably crowded with people, many of whom are not skilled at surfing, and who are using the foam boards they bought at Costco (a phenomenon that would not have been tolerated when I was a kid, and when there was much more aggression in the water).
In the parking lot, people park too close to my car. They let their dogs out of the car, and the dogs run in front of cars, and the dog owners scream bloody murder in my ear, ruining any sort of peaceful or Zen vibe.
The whole time I remind myself, "This is the resistance. All of this is meant to make you never come back to the beach."
But then I'll be sitting in the lineup. A set of waves will appear on the horizon, and I'll be in a perfect position. A bowl-shaped wave approaches, being held up like blown glass by the offshore wind. I turn and bury the tail of my board in the wave and make my board spring forward without even paddling, and I launch into the wave, standing up in one smooth motion.
I ride the green wall of water until I can make a run along the top of the wave, then back to the bottom, and the wave connects with another one coming from the other direction on the inside "doubling up," and I ride the unexpected "new wave" for 50 yards, through groups of tourists and waders. And all the trouble and strife was worth it.
I remember that wave later that night when I'm going to sleep. And I want to tell other people about the wave, but they wouldn't care. Unless maybe it was one of my other surfer friends, who would understand the feeling- but even they would say I’m exaggerating. And your friends never see your best waves.
|Fighting the resistance!|
Step out of your comfort zone
Don't quit your day job - unless you want to. You can follow your passion without doing so.
But don’t allow yourself to drift.
You will experience resistance when you fight against the drift.
Don't wind up on your death bed wondering . . .
"What if I would have just tried . . . ?"
|Susan Boyle- not drifting, fighting the resistance|
© Copyright Jack Clune 2020