Distractions

I get distracted very easily. It’s not that I don’t want to, but there’s a lot of things that take my attention away from what I want to do on a regular basis. Even writing this post is taking longer than I want it to.

The pattern has repeated itself multiple times over the course of my adult life. I start off with a great plan of attack. Get myself prepared. Sit down and attempt to make some creation come to life. But then a phone call happens. Or I’m at my desk at work and a bevy of people need something fixed. I get home and there’s things to do, clothes to fold, food to make, errands to be run. It’s a non-stop series of distractions.

I then think, “That’s ok. I can finish work on this tomorrow.” Then it’s tomorrow and more distractions come into my world. Some the same, others completely different. And no matter what I do, the thing I wanted to do and planned to do, doesn’t get completed.

And therein lies where some of the major issues I have with myself. Having lots of plans that I want to do, but letting too much get in the way and ending up with unfinished works of greatness.

Oh sure, some things get done and I normally can accomplish most tasks on time, pending any serious distractions like technical issues, family concerns or reasonable obligations. But it’s much larger than that.

Most people that know me well, know that there is one major thing in life that I want to do:

  • Become a full-time writer

Of course, having shared that on a regular basis with others many times over the years, it’s become more of something I say, rather than something I do.

My true frustration of what I want to do in life can be summed up with two things:

  • I used to be published years ago
  • I’ve got stories that I want to complete

So, you say, if you really wanted to do it, why not make it happen? I mean, if it happened before, it can happen again, right? Let’s take a ride in the way back machine for a moment and see how I got here, at this moment in time.

Starting Gate

Back in 1991, I was 28. It was the year my daughter was born. Life actually was pretty good. I was happily married, had a decent job and didn’t have much stress. And I was self-published. I did a newsletter called Take It With You, which covered palmtops, PDAs and electronic organizers. I published this newsletter for almost two years before halting publication. I loved writing and I spent lots of time learning Aldus PageMaker on my Mac IIcx and getting very good at desktop publishing.

But in April 1992, financial issues hit and I filed for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. It wasn’t easy going through that financial stress and eventually, it took a sizable toll on my creative side. Most of my focus returned to my day job [I worked at WordPerfect as an IT professional and software tester in the Macintosh group]. But I still managed to direct some focus on my writing career.

CompuServe magazine featuring me
“I have the keyboards!” – in my best He-Man voice

I had started to freelance for various publications, all of them computer related: Service News, ComputorEdge [San Diego-based weekly tech rag], Mobile Technology Review, Network News, NetWare Solutions, Pen Computing Magazine, Connect Magazine [my own column, called “Staying Connected For About A Pound” appeared monthly], Intelligent Newton and a few others. From the end of 1993 to around the end of 1996, I had enough freelance writing jobs that it was looking like I could take the next step, jump in with both feet and make a living at it.

Ummmm… not so fast.

The first part of 1996 was pretty rough. I worked for a local hospital as their Network Administrator. But it wasn’t what I did or where I worked. It was WHO I worked for. Stress was a large part of my day, having to answer to someone that didn’t give two shits about me or what I did. I spent almost seven months in pure, fucking hell. I did a get a break in July 1996 when I went to work for Teltrust, which turned out to be a good thing. But the damage had been done to my wordsmith skills and I quit doing most of the freelance work I did.

Fast forward about three years. It’s now February 2000. A lot of changes are going on in my life. I am going through a divorce and am now more concerned about my daughter and trying to find myself in life than I am trying to write the next great novel or pen a work of brilliance in a monthly rag. My job at Teltrust came to a screeching halt [another story for another blog post]. Fortunately, I found a Systems Admin job at Cimarron Software and had no interruption of employment, although nothing was being published on the writing front.

But in 2001, something happened. A good friend of mine and I were chatting via ICQ one day. During our chat, she asked me what I wanted to do in life. And even though I hadn’t done any regular writing for a few years, there was no hesitation when I said, “I want to be a full-time writer.” So she asked if I had anything to share with her. I did not have any of my previous work in electronic format available. Instead, I came up with a story and started typing it out, one IM chat window at a time. After a few days of this, I ended up with the first chapter to a story that I continue to work on today – “Heaven Forrest”

The feeling I got from creating this story from scratch – complete with characters, story line and overall plot – was incredible. I continued to write and finished three chapters in less than two weeks.

So what happened? You would think with that burst of creativity, I would have continued with my writing and finished the story. Alas, once again, there was a distraction.

October 2001, I was laid off from that job. I then spent the next 18 months doing various side jobs, breaking up with my girlfriend [now my wife] and trying to stay afloat financially. Too much doom and gloom for you? Hang on. There’s a positive spin here.

I signed up over at Blogger.com in February 2002 and started blogging. It wasn’t anything regular [I wouldn’t post my next four entries until October 2002], but it was a step in the right direction, even though most of my posts were venting about my disassembled life. My postings were semi-regular until December 2006, when I went into a ten month dry spell. I wanted to get past this irregular writing pattern and work towards writing on a regular basis. That’s when I decided to get serious and start a dedicated blog site.

On April 1, 2008, I started Banal Leakage [which is what you are reading now], which has always been and always will be the main venue for moving me into the direction of writing on a full time basis. Sure, my posts are a mix of funny, trivial, entertainment and sometimes a stolen meme, but it’s me writing on a regular basis.

But it’s still not a paid gig. That is my ultimate goal. Not the money part, but being published again. Don’t get me wrong. Benefitting financially from my writing is needed to sustain myself in life, but it’s writing on a regular basis beyond the confines of my own blog that is of greater importance.

Fortunately, I get those moments where a surge to write again happens.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were at dinner. We talk a lot during dinner, mostly between bites of food. I mentioned the stories I am working on and how I actually have been working on them, just not talking about them. That lead to a discussion of my story “Heaven Forrest”, which my wife knows a good deal about [She’s read the first three chapters and knows the plot]. By the end of dinner, she had made some extremely groundbreaking suggestions for the story that elated me beyond words. Seriously, it was so great to have something added to this story. It’s these burst of ideas that keep the story going. They may only last a few days until the next surge of thought, but it keeps me working on them.

In the most recent surge of urgency this past week, Winter of Sunlight Sucks and Lex Valentine, was a guest on The Jester Show on Talkshoe.com. She’s been one of my inspirations as a writer [Catherine at Seventh Notebook is my other] and has made incredible progress on getting herself published. She’s dedicated herself and carved out time in her busy life to make writing a priority. While she has used the word “sacrifice” to describe her process of making time to write, she has done it. Not only does she have several contracts for books with publishers like Pink Petal Books, she’s also continued to write her story- even including me as a character in one of her forthcoming works. Color me flattered.

Ok, stepping out of the ego-induced light I’m basking in.

If I am to make something happen, it’s got to be me making some changes. And while I get these bursts of renewed writing vigor, they haven’t produced permanent results. As I sit here writing this up, I am thinking of all sorts of ways to keep the many distractions I have in my life at bay, learning how to deal with them as they come my way and learning how to return to writing:

  • When I get interrupted, write down what it was I was doing, then attend to the issue at hand. This will help me repoint my focus to my writing once I’ve removed the distraction
  • Carve out a specified number of hours each week to write. This is the only way I feel I can make progress on my stories
  • Take a break to unwind from the stress of the day before writing. Clearing one’s head of any bullshit is a critical step into focusing on the stories and allowing them to flow out of my head

Those are just a few steps I am going to apply in my life to re-focus my energies towards my writing. If they work, I will see some progress. If they do not, then I need to rethink my strategy.

Making Changes

Ok, I’m sure I’ve lost many of you about ten paragraphs ago, as most of you are just wanting to know when the next Snowy Sunday is getting posted [an all-new Episode 15 shows up this Sunday]. For those of you that stuck with me to the end, thank you and I hope to be showing off some of my writing talents here and in other places in the very near future.

It’s time I took all of the years and many attempts I’ve made to enter a full-time writing career and make this next one permanent. It can only mean great things for me in the end.

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