[Up-front note: this won't be an epic, Ulysses-length blog post like last time. Relatively speaking, I'm keeping this one tight and short.]
This has been a weird couple of weeks leading up to a Memorial Day weekend where I don’t really have any assignments due or pending stuff. That sends me into a little bit of a panic (weird in that it’s a panic about not having anything to panic over). Then I start to feel guilty for not having something major to stress about right now, a big piece of writing to embark on or a pending project to edit over and revise.
It’s probably not healthy, this worry about things that don’t exist or aren’t happening. It’s like worrying about ghosts but not believing in God. You’d think you could just relax and hang back and enjoy a time when you’re not being haunted, but instead you’re in your haunted house thinking, “This doesn’t seem scary. Something’s up.”
This is why I’m not great with taking real vacations or hiatuses. I can be happy without work on my plate, I really can, but it’s not when I’m happiest, you know? I’ve been filling some time playing video games, doing more reading than usual, spending lots more time with the kids on the weekends since there haven’t been a lot of places I need to rush to-and-fro lately.
It’s nice and lazy and not at all my jam, but I’m trying hard to enjoy it for what it is. Last night, after Mad Men, I lay on the floor with the TV off and looked up at the ceiling intensely and then I dozed and then woke up and stared at the ceiling some more and then I rolled over and dozed with my face against a new rug we just bought and then I woke up and thought, “Well, that was a thing I just did. Dozing and gazing. That wasn’t so bad.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity and creating things and the ways in which we sometimes have control over the things we make. Other times, we’re making things for someone else, or at least to someone else’s specifications-for-hire, and that’s totally all right too. You can be really creative and make neat things even when they’re not things you technically get to own.
Luck, for me, and just sticking with things has had a lot to do with being able to get to create things where I’m pretty much left alone to do them. The column I write for work is very much self-generated. Every now and then, my editor or someone else I work with will suggest a topic, but 95 percent of the time, it’s just a list I keep in my head or in our planner of stuff I want to write about in the future. Ideas are sometimes discussed and fleshed out and tweaked, but there’s nobody telling me, “No, don’t write about that.” It took a long time to get to that point of trust.
Same with Statesman Shots. We’ve had suggestions for guests and for topics from inside and outside the newsroom, but ultimately, Tolly, I and in an increasing number of cases, our great audio/video producer Alyssa, are the ones deciding how it’s gonna go from week to week and what the conversations will be. I don’t take that freedom for granted. It’s what makes the show special.
In other projects, even within groups, I’ve been able to have a lot of control over my own material.
But it gets a little weird when I venture into areas where I don’t know the lay of the land (say, publishing). I’ve had a couple of experiences over the last few years where instead of people telling me, “Yes, and…” it’s been more like, “No, but good luck” and it’s been difficult. It makes me feel like I’ve been shielded for too long from the realities of rejection and it makes me blink and stand there and say, “Wait, what? What do you mean no? That’s not how this is supposed to go.”
And because I’ve been so lucky for so long having the things I work on accepted and carried on and published and produced (in newspapers, on stage, on the radio, etc.) it throws me for a huge loop and fills me with self-doubt. And it’s weird and I’m not used to feeling that way and instead of keeping a cap on it and understanding that it only has to do with the one thing that’s being rejected, I swallow it whole and start letting it define me, feeling that I’ve somehow been talked down to.
I start to believe that I can’t write at all, that the other things I’ve written are no good, that I’m way past my peak and that younger, more energetic writers are doing much more interesting things with much more room to grow.
And then it becomes very easy to lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling and roll over on the new rug and just lay there believing you have nothing to say and no words to share and not even a decent Tweet all weekend to prove that you exist and are worth following.
It’s not self-pity or wallowing exactly and I don’t suffer from depression (thank goodness). But I have been wrestling a lot with self doubt lately, with not throwing out the ego baby with the rejection bathwater when things don’t go my way. I’ve been pretty spoiled by having lots of avenues to push work through and to even get paid at it. But I’ve hit an age where I worry that there are only so many constructive paths left to pursue and that some of the goals I had from so long ago, even as a teenager, maybe just aren’t who I am anymore or what I want. That maybe there should be more focus and less daydreaming, less shooting for the moon and more nosing that grindstone.
Did people really put their noses to grindstones? On purpose or were they forced? Late at night, when no one was around, did perverted workaholics put their balls on a grindstone? That must have been horrible when the inevitable trapped-sack incident occurred and they had to call someone in to take apart the grindstone and free some poor bastard’s grinded-down giblets.
Boy is this off track. No wonder I got rejected. I’m writing about testicles. Why does everything I write turn into scrotums?
So that’s what’s up lately. A little self-doubt, some ceiling-gazing (it’s comfier than navel-gazing) and trying really hard to enjoy the everyday pleasure that early summer is bringing to my wonderful little waterpark town.
Writing this helps. It starts to chip away at the doubt.
We’ve had a really great couple of weeks of Statesman Shots episodes. Here’s the two most recent:
Episode 17 with Kristin Finan, my editor! This one’s special because Kristin has been a constant behind-the-scenes advocate for “Shots,” championing its existence before we ever recorded one and continuing to encourage us along the way. Kristin also happens to be our travel editor, so it was a pretty easy decision to ask her on to talk about summer travel and work/life balance given that she juggles a family with all of her work travel. The video below was about one of the short episode topics, ’90s music. Gaze with fear at my aging CD collection!
Episode 18 with Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson of the ATX Television Festival: I interviewed Caitlin and Emily last year for a story about TV binge watching and found them to be hilarious and charming on the phone. We talk a lot about TV on the podcast, and knew it would be fun to geek out with them as the third season of their TV fest approaches. They were great on the show and just the kind of pop-culture geeks we enjoy hearing from.
In the videos below, we talk about monsters from TV and movies we love, spurred by the recent release of Godzilla, and about tips for parenthood. This was the last episode we did with Tolly before she went on baby leave (as far as I know, baby is still pending as of this writing!); she’ll be back and we’ll have guest co-hosts while she’s away. Speaking of Tolly, she also wrote a great blog post for the Shots blog about the parallel releases of Bernie Tiede (subject of the movie Bernie) and Michael Alig (subject of Party Monster).
Last week’s Digital Savant column was about ways to clean up app clutter on a mobile device or laptop. Got way too many apps on those home screens? This column should help you round them up and purge what you don’t need.
This week’s column is another advice/service piece about a pretty hot topic right now, whether you should cut the cord on cable or satellite TV service and if so, what your options are. This was a tough one to get down to a reasonable length and still feel fairly comprehensive, but I’m happy with the way it turned out.
I also did a Digital Savant Micro about Twitter’s new mute feature (handy! Dangerous!) and a short blog post about some of the guys from Rooster Teeth appearing on Chris Hardwick’s show @midnight. (They did very, very well. No wonder they have so many fans.)
I’ve got two videos in the pipeline for this week and we’ve already recorded next week’s Statesman Shots (the first without Tolly) with past guest Addie Broyles as our guest co-host and the great Wendi Aarons as our guest. It’s a really fun one.
That’s really about it except for a few photos to share. I’ve been doing a fitness training program that I’ll tell you about next time and we have a trip planned to New York next month that should be pretty exciting. It’s finally summer here and that means lots of summer fun.
Happy belated Mother’s Day, kids’ bike day and whatever else you’re celebrating!