The Problem With Being Superman

The problem with being Superman is that they never expect you to take off the cape.

I’ve had this problem for a long time. In moments of clarity, which seem fewer and further between these days, I do understand that I’m very good at what I do. But that leads to doing things that are borderline manic. When you prove that you can take on the toughest challenges and succeed, it’s natural for you to want to pursue greater challenges. It’s also natural for those who rely on you to ask for more and more, simply because they know you can handle it.

That’s all fine and good. That’s normal, in my opinion. I’m not the type to sit back and do what I’ve done before. I want to find my limits. I want to be pushing the envelopes. Maybe that’s the crux of my frustration with my career over the past disasterous few years: Because of the turnover and changes I’ve had, I’ve found myself having to start over far too many times.

The problem, however, is when you do need a break. Even the most ambitious person needs to take a deep breath and step back from the precipice of excellence every once in a while. But that surprises a lot of people. They’re not used to seeing Superman-as-Clark Kent. They’re used to seeing Superman as Superman, and Clark Kent as Clark Kent, and never making the connection between the two. So when they ask Superman to go save those people in that burning building, and he says, “No,” they’re all shocked and surprised. “Why aren’t you wearing your cape?”

That’s probably why I worked the day after Thanksgiving: I’d let them become accustomed to me wearing the cape, and it was assumed I’d wear that cape for the duration of the project. To not do so would have meant missing deadlines. And deadlines are not something I miss. But what I do miss is being able to spend a day with my (small) family. It’s been a bad year, emotionally, physically, and professionally, and having a sunny fall Friday to spend with them can not be measured in terms of money made and projects completed. But hey, there’s always next year. Until there’s not.

It’s also probably why I’ve been up late, to the tune of 2:00 a.m., after everyone else had gone to bed, to do this:

Meh.

Meh.

Even though I promised I’d fail, a last week effort ruined that. So I failed at failing, I suppose. But I kind of feel like I made the right choice, even if it meant being tired for a few days. Because there’s not always next year.

Nanowrimo Day 21 Recap

This isn’t fun anymore. I’m not sure it was ever fun.

This is a persistent problem in my life.

My 2009 Nanowrimo success was an amazing experience. I did it in the middle of a dark time in my life (was I dumbass, or what… look how much darker it still could get) and being able to focus and put in the time thorughout November in order to put 50k words in order was an amazing, cathartic experience. Outpourings of stress and hopes and fears and dreams and pain and victory all mingled together to create a sum that was greater than the whole of its parts.

2010 I cheated. Not in the traditional sense, but toward the end I was writing disconnected, unfinished scenes, just to pad wordcount, rather than finishing my narrative. But I still managed to make it through an overly-emotional November (for reasons external to Nanowrimo and internal to my poor decision making paradigm) and finish.

2011 and 2012 I’m not sure I even considered doing it.

So we come to this year.

I didn’t do Nanowrimo this year to succeed. I did it this year to recapture the feeling of the past. I’m not living in the now, attempting to put together another story that involves characters and plots. I’m trying to rewind time to 2009, when, even though things were bad and I was only sporadically working with no hope on the horizon of finding a full time position, I was happier. There’s a large, flawed part of my brain that thought, “If I could only succeed at this one thing, maybe the rest of what was good in my life in 2009 would come back to me.”

I do this with a lot of things. I do this with concerts; how many times did I go see Rusted Root at Summerfest, hoping to create one magical summer night that happened almost a decade ago? I do this with friends; how long will I endure long drives and weekend trips in order to recapture the excitement of weekend trips that are nothing more than faded photographs. I do this with this blog; how many times will I restart it in order to catch the magic of interaction and discussion that now lives on Facebook instead of on private platforms? I do this with everything. And it never works. I always end up in a worse state that when I started, because I’ve again failed.

Time doesn’t work that way. You can’t recreate the past. I would do well to focus on the present, and work at creating new memorable events in the upcoming days and weeks.

But I can’t, and don’t, do that. I’m too busy trying to relive events that have long passed to dust.

Not that anyone (including me) cares, either, but 32,877 of par 35,000. And I’m going away for four days, so unless I can will myself to write 5k words a night every night next week, with company in my condo that will distract me and prevent me from writing (because apparently working on the computer isn’t acceptable and is antisocial… sit down and watch this terrible police procedural on CBS with us and don’t talk because we’re listening to the TV), I’ll fail.

But you knew that already. Failure wasn’t an option. It was the guaranteed result.

Nanowrimo Day 20 Recap

Word count: 30,783 words
Par count: 33,333 words
Difference: -2,550 words

Still going to fail. On a nice pace to fail.

See, here’s the problem. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I’ll have zero output. The rest of the week I’ll have relatives in town and probably get very little done. Since I’m not way ahead at this point, there’s really little hope for success.

I’d say I told you so, but, you know, you’re not listening.

Nanowrimo 2013 Day 11 Recap

Word count: 15,142 words
Par count: 18,333 words
Difference: -3,191 words

It was a chaotic weekend.

I ran a D&D game on Friday. It went in unexpected directions that I wasn’t ready to adapt to, so I royally screwed the pooch. I’m not sure if the players realize how badly I screwed the pooch, and while there’s a risk since they follow me on Twitter, the traffic meter also tells me that none of them (actually, in fact, none of you) click through to read this anyway.

I did laundry on Saturday, and went to a movie. I spent hours pondering ways to get out of going to the movie, because I didn’t want to go. I went. I had the most fun I’ve had with friends in months. I felt stupid for not wanting to go. (The movie was bad to mediocre, depending on which elements you’re critiquing.) It was good.

I went to a football game on Sunday. I reconnected with an old friend. It was cold, the home team was lousy, but I had a fantastic time. I wish I could have spent more time doing that, but I don’t live locally, and needed to work Monday.

You’ll notice at no point did I write. That was a mistake. I’m farther behind now, despite a huge output tonight. It’s easy to say, “Well do that again tomorrow,” but I’m now really emotionally drained. And though I wrote some truly inspiried passages tonight–for the first time this year, I’ll add–I’m still well on track for failure. Which, since I predicted that, is success.

Nanowrimo 2013 Day 7 Recap

Word count: 9,144 words
Par count: 11,667 words
Difference: -2,523 words

I don’t even feel like providing commentary anymore. Do you care that my personal life is falling apart, that my professional life is going nowhere, that my novel feels forced and directionless and lacking of any sort of emotion? Probably not.

But I’m going to tell you anyway: I just can’t string goood days together, my professional life feels like it’s going nowhere, and I’m really not happy with my novel 2 chapters in. And don’t give me that bullshit about “It’s Nano, your novel is supposed to be shit.” There’s a different between a hastily-crafted first draft that has flaws but passion, and a passionless exercise about putting a certain number of words back to back for the purpose of putting words back to back.

I’m really proud of my first novel. I’m even prouder of what it’s become with a few years of work. Maybe someday I’ll even be proud when it hits store shelves.

This novel has nothing I’m proud of. Which just proves again why maybe I should have just avoided this, since I’m still solidly on the failure track.

Nanowrimo 2013 Day 5 Recap

Word count: 5,542 words
Par count: 8,333 words
Difference: -2,700 words

It was a really tough weekend. Sunday was one of those days that I really wanted to take back. I said and did some horrible things which aren’t really justified by the horrible things that are going on in my life. Monday I spent recuperating from my weekend and getting into bed early. There’s something about going to bed at 9:00 that makes one feel old. At least I found some time to put words to paper today, even though I’m falling further and further behind.

Lots of non-writing projects to focus on during the end of the week, so don’t worry about that money you put on “fail.” I’ll make sure it pays out.

Nanowrimo 2013 Day 2 Recap

Word count: 1,733 words
Par count: 3,333 words
Difference: -1,600 words

Hey look, I’m not as far behind. Still behind though. But it was pretty good to get in the words I did, considering that I spent the day ignoring Purdue football’s awfulness and bird hunting.

I say bird hunting instead of bird shooting, since I didn’t get anything. If I had to hunt to eat, I wouldn’t be such a fatass, I’ll tell you that much. Heck, I’d have starved to death a long time ago.

Nanowrimo 2013 Day 1 Recap

Word count: 0 words
Par count: 1,667 words
Difference: -1,667 words

I worked all day and drove all night. Don’t judge me. Besides, as I pointed out elsewhere, I’m going to fail anyway, so I’m off to a banner start.

By Car By Default

If I was going on a Cross-County Trip, it’d definitely be by car. That is, if it was the trip I wanted to take. In fact, it depends on the trip.

Airplane is the obvious choice if you’re looking for a trip in which the destination is more important than the journey. Air travel, in general, is quick, efficient, and inexpensive. It’s a clean, antiseptic way to get from Point A to Point B, without having to deal with the logistics of passing through Points C, D, and E. The bus is a similar effort, though they unfortunately combine a poor reputation with slow travel speed.

There’s something romantic and European about taking a train across the country. In fact, one of the trips I’d love to do is to take the Amtrak out of Chicago all the way to Seattle. I have a small and dwindling group of friends in Seattle that I’d love to visit, and that train trip would make it all that much better. The limiting factors, however, are the limiting factors that always seem to bookend my plans: Time and money. Amtrak is surprisingly expensive, moreso if you don’t want a private place to sleep after passing out drunk in the dining car. And the lack of Wifi would force me to use those travel days as vacation, as I couldn’t work a few hours each day. In the end, the romanticism of travel by train gets trumped by the practicality of the cheap Delta flight into the Pacific Northwest.

Car, however, is the quintessential American mode of travel. The American love affair with the car is undeniable. And so, again, if it weren’t for the bookends of time and money, I’d love to do a wandering, meandering trip via car. The car affords us all that prime American right: The right to be spied upon by our government. Sorry, I meant: The freedom to choose our own path, stopping where and when we want, and exploring there. And so it would go, stopping at small town diners, seeing the world’s largest ball of twine, a trip with no destination or itinerary but a goal of seeing and doing whatever ones heart desires at that given moment.