Monday, June 6, 2016

Self-HelpDesk

The Problem:  Part 1 (written two weeks ago)

So here's the thing.  Even though I am happy with my current living situation at the homestead, I've still been struggling a little bit lately with the fear that I don't know what my purpose is here out here on the west coast.

My friend Jesse, who takes awesome photos, came down to visit me on my last day in Forks.  He's always keeping it Rial-to.
I can't remember the last time I've gone more than a month without employment.  My last three jobs spanned over a decade in which I worked full-time.  In that span, the idea of having this much free time to pursue my interests seemed like a total pipe dream.  So when I set out to leave Boston and start something new, I left with the full intention of grabbing the bull by the horns and creating something for myself.

And in a way, I did.  I'm happy that I've put as much into this blog as I have already, and I gain a lot of pleasure in knowing that I can share things about my life in a way that people find interesting.  Part of what makes me me is a desire to be an open book; I like the idea that people involved in my life know exactly where I stand on things because it makes it easier to connect with me.  So on that note, so far so good.

However, I've started to slack recently, to the point where it's frustrating me.  And so in an attempt to be true to myself, I'm going to try and use this blog to not only talk about my problems, but to try and solve them. I've always said that I wanted to be an advice columnist, and so it's almost unacceptable to feel stressed out without feeling comfortable writing it out.

So here we go:

"Dear Shelly,

I recently quit my job and moved across the country with my boyfriend.  I originally left with the intention of writing a lot and trying to find a way to turn that into a living while simultaneously helping my boyfriend run his internet shop, but when I look at the progress I've made in that time I'm not satisfied.  As the days go on, I feel more and more anxiety:
  • I'm writing fewer and fewer blog posts, and haven't written about any of the causes that I'm passionate about for almost a month now.
  • It's hard to jump into my boyfriend's store and take over parts of it and I get apprehensive when I feel like I'm not fulfilling a promise that I made to him.
  • Without a job, I have less money (and more time to think about that) than I've had in years.
I feel like I'm all talk.  Sure I'm writing a blog, but who cares?  What good is it doing?  Cody's store hasn't really gotten more visible since I promised to talk over that part of the store - if anything, it's gotten less visible.  I haven't really made a push to use my writing for any sort of a tangible good, outside of a story about drugs and a request to donate that I never really followed up on.

It's clear to me that I either need to get back to a place where I'm riding positive momentum, or buckle down and get a job.  Hell, probably both.  And yet even though I've had a week to move forward on these things, I haven't been.  When I look at the job hunting process I feel like I'm selling out and giving up, especially when I consider that most desktop support jobs require a drug test which goes against my principles.

What do I do to get over this and feel motivated again?

Sincerely,
Shelly
"

Rejected names for this blog included "Shelly Sunset".
That's as real as I can be about how I've been feeling since leaving Boston.  Living in Forks was a distraction for me - since I didn't feel like I was ever home there, I felt like I needed to resolve my living situation before I could feel free to start working on my professional one.  But I'm here now, and there's no longer any excuses.

So what advice would I give myself here?

"Dear Shelly,

Motivation and success go hand in hand.  When you're motivated to do good work, you're more likely to experience the success of a job well done.  That, in turn, will motivate you to go on to the next step.  What you're feeling is the opposite - you've gone too long without a tangible improvement in what you're doing, and that's subconsciously sending the message to you that if you get too invested, you'll fail.  Your sense of motivation has been replaced with a fear of failure, and you can't let that be the dominant thing driving your decision-making progress.

I want you to make two lists.  The first will be a list of all the things that you want to happen - this will be the list that you use to motivate yourself.  The second will be a list of all the reasons that you feel like you're not succeeding right now.  That will be the list of problems that you're going to need to figure out so that you're more likely to experience success.

Write those lists, and then cut out all the bullshit.  No more excuses, no more distractions.  No more talking about the things that you want to accomplish that you'll probably get around to doing tomorrow or next week.  You have to take responsibility for making the things you want to happen happen, because no one else is going to do that for you.

Force yourself to make moves even if you don't feel like doing it, and trust that once those first few things pay off, it will only get easier to improve.

You got this!

~Shelly"

You can't just wait around hoping for life to show you a sign.
The Problem:  Part 2 (written today)

I wrote the upper half of this blog entry two weeks ago.  Suffice to say, I wasn't really able to ride the wave of motivation that I was starting to feel as I wrote it.  Instead, I lost momentum.  Not only did this result in the longest space between posts that has occurred since I started writing again, but it made me feel like a gigantic hypocrite.  It's not easy to finish a post about how I plan to succeed while being aware of the fact that I'm not taking my own advice.

"How am I going to finish that blog post?" has been in the back of my head for the last two weeks.  The whole idea behind it - examining the relationship between motivation and success - felt almost ironic to me. The whole idea of this blog is that it's supposed to be a creative outlet for me.  It should relieve stress, not cause it!

Thankfully, I've had nothing but time to sit back and reflect on this.  I decided to take time today and bring my laptop to a coffee shop so I could find a way to finish this blog post without any major distractions. Interestingly, I had forgotten the specifics of what I had started with, so the answer to my hypothetical call for help came as a surprise to me.  I decided to take my own advice and wrote out the things that I want in my life that I think will make me feel more like I'm succeeding in life:
  • steady income
  • sense of purpose / direction
  • sense of being heard
  • creative outlet
  • relative autonomy
  • social circle / hobbies
The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Resolution, Part 1:  A Paycheck and a Place to Be

Thankfully, I found what appears to be a really creative solution to this that I'm looking forward to.  I found a part-time job that I think plays perfectly to my strengths:  operating technical equipment for a minor league baseball team in nearby Salem.

As I've mentioned in the past, I am a huge baseball fan.  I've talked about my love for the Red Sox in the past, but I don't think I've talked about my relationship with fantasy baseball yet.  Long story short, I got into fantasy baseball in 2009 and have gotten into it more with each passing year.  When I first started playing, I was in a small league with my friends, but eventually got to the point where I wanted to play in a more competitive environment.  My current league, of which I have been a member since 2011, is filled with a core group of players who pay a lot of attention to the sport.

When I get into something, I tend to get really into it.  I like absorbing data that relates to my interests. Fantasy baseball is perfect for this because there is a wealth of data out there for those who enjoy that sort of thing.  I like keeping up-to-date with player news, I'll watch games on MLB.tv simply because I like watching baseball, and I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of statistics that I use to determine the relative value of players.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a Craigslist ad looking for someone with a combination of technical skills and baseball knowledge!  It specifically referred to "Pitch/FX software", something that I immediately recognized from watching games on a near-nightly basis.  I excitedly sent in an email expressing interest, and after a phone interview with the company that was hiring it felt to me like the feeling is mutual.

The job isn't exactly high-paying, the commute is a bit more than a half-hour each way, and the hours are a little bit odd since the schedule is directly tied to when home games are played.  But on the other hand, I'll essentially be getting paid to watch baseball - something I already do for fun anyways.  It will be nice to have a steady source of income and an excuse to meet people outside of the homestead with a shared interest in sports.

Resolution, Part 2:  Writing, not Wrong-ing

There's another reason I've had trouble finishing this post, and it's a little bit uncomfortable to write about.

I have always been on the record as saying that while I want to be a professional writer, I don't want to use this blog as a source of income because I felt like it would compromise the quality of my writing.  Also, it all just feels like such a pipe dream - to say something like "my blog is so interesting that I want to do this for a living" feels... I don't know, arrogant?  Pretentious?  I want this blog to be a labor of love, not means to an end.  But at the same time, I know that writing is what I want to do.  I've felt that way for a pretty long time.

It's been a little bit tough to reconcile putting effort into writing for free while simultaneously not having a guaranteed source of income.  It makes me feel like writing in here feel like a distraction that is taking my time away from doing things that are productive, like I'm pretending to be a writer to give myself a false sense of purpose while the truth is that I'm lost and unemployed.

The honest truth is that I'm not trying hard enough to succeed at this.  Writing one post a week and then sharing it on my Facebook where a handful of people who know me personally "like" it isn't enough to make me a writer.  And when I look at it realistically, I feel like I'm hedging a little bit - if I continue to write at the pace I'm doing it and things don't take off, then I can always fall back on the excuse that there's more I can be doing.

So with that said - I think I need to try a little bit harder at this.

I've always been aware of Patreon - a website where writers and artists can essentially write for tips.  To this point I had never really considered that to be an option, because it feels like it's essentially begging for money.  This blog doesn't really provide a service other than hopefully being enjoyable to read - who am I to declare that I should be paid for this?

But at the same time, if I am really preaching about the link between motivation and success, I need to put up or shut up.  Right now, there's no metric by which to measure the success of my blog outside of looking at pageviews on Facebook, and clearly that isn't enough to motivate me to keep doing this.  My biggest fear is that I'll fall into a trap that is familiar to me - losing momentum with a creative project only to drop it when something new comes along.

Writing will always be fun for me, but if I really want to do this for a living I need to expand my comfort zone a little bit.  That means putting actual work into this blog, like setting up a schedule and actually sharing my work outside of my circle of friends.  I'm genuinely frustrated at the way things have been going with my blog to this point because I feel like my standards aren't set high enough.

For the sake of holding myself accountable, my short-term goals for this week are as follows:
  • finish this post that has taken me two full weeks to finish
  • dedicate myself to putting time into this blog instead of making excuses for not writing
  • spruce up the formatting of my blog so that I'm proud to share it
  • set up a Patreon page so that I have the ability to set tangible goals for myself
  • make a conscious effort to share my work outside of my circle of friends
  • find a way to engage potential readers and make this blog more than what it is
  • get back to writing about things I feel passionate about instead of sporadic life updates
At the end of the day, my goal is to find my one true calling - I think it's writing, but I won't know for sure unless I give it my all.

It's a little bit surreal for me to reflect on the fact that my life is completely different now than it's ever been.  I was sick of life in Boston for sure - I wouldn't have moved out here if I wasn't - but I can most definitely say that I was taking things for granted.  Right now I have more freedom than I think I ever have had in terms of being able to dictate what I want to do with my life.  Sometimes it's hard to tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  

One thing that I know for sure:  I'm never going to be successful at this (or anything) if I'm not willing to challenge myself.  There are too many people out there who are willing to put the work in, and if I'm not one of them I might as well give this up.  This project started out with the idea of redefining what it takes to "make a living" - I can't just stop now because it's harder than I thought it would be.

I'm going to end this by thanking everyone who has shown me encouragement so far.  It means a lot.

5 comments:

  1. I love your blog, I look forward to and read all your entries (and I'm usually a very distracted and unmotivated reader). You're an excellent writer and your insights into your life have helped me have insights into my own. Lately I've really been ruminating on where I'm going in life, and struggling with the feeling that I'm wasting my potential by not fully using my talents. I definitely can relate when you mention not wanting this project to fall to the wayside, and you're right, it's easy to grow discouraged and let some new project or idea pull you in. I have to keep reminding myself that my most successful ventures have always been the ones I followed through on, and dedicated myself to even when I felt they were in ruins and couldn't be repaired. As a visual artist the number one thing I tell myself is to never abandon a piece because you hate how it's turning out, as long as you still feel passionate about the concept. For me at least, every piece has this point and in my years of drawing and painting I've learned that EVERY work I produce has to go through an ugly stage before it can become something I love and feel proud of. Now I'm trying to apply those same principles to my life and push myself through the ugly stages where I have no motivation and feel like giving up on my goals. I think your list idea is great and I'm really happy to see you working through this difficult stage. Even if you feel like you are in stasis, you may be moving forward in ways you can't see just yet.

    It's so refreshing to see your openness and honesty in presenting yourself to your reader. You show the good and the bad side of things, and I think that's incredibly important to forming greater human connections, especially on the internet where it's easy to present our best face and call it a day. But sharing the difficult parts helps other people grow, and allows people to understand us and reach out to us in meaningful ways when we need it. These are the sorts of things your writing reminds me of in my day to day life.

    And lastly, don't feel like the Patreon is begging! Why wouldn't people who come to your blog, feel a connection to your posts, and appreciate your work want to support that and give a little back to someone who has brought something into their life? That's not begging, that's opening up an avenue to greater interconnectedness in the artistic community, in my opinion! Maybe that sounds a little cheesy, but it's really the sort of stuff I've seen surrounding my favourite creators on Patreon.

    Anyway, hope you have a good week!

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    1. I don't think I ever told you this but I really appreciated reading this and wanted to belatedly thank you for your kind words :) Hope life is treating you well!

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  3. Did you set up the Patreon account yet? I wanna tip an aspiring writer!

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  4. Hah, I never saw this comment until right now!

    I did indeed set up a Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/shellymoonbeam

    I also just wrote a kind of sequel to this post about how things are going with the blog thus far: http://shellymoonbeam.blogspot.com/2016/10/blogkeeping.html

    Thanks so much for reaching out :) Do I know you?

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