If last month concerned managing bad news, this month leaps to the opposite end of the spectrum. Because I’m writing a new series of books for Nightshade Press. Ink spilt. Checks cashed. So, now what?
I’m not used to good news. I have no blueprint for what to do with it. In fact, my workaholic tendencies want me to nod, then just get back to work, and ignore anything akin to celebrating the achievement because that would mean I’m not working.
Other reasons to not celebrate including thinking yourself undeserving, unworthy, suffering from imposter syndrome or depression, and other mental gymnastics we play to deny ourselves the pleasure of taking a moment to say “Huzzah!”
Because celebrating is bad.
One should be humble, carry on as if nothing happened, and die without ever having fun.
You know, like all writers.
But here’s the thing: if your friend had a party to celebrate a publishing milestone, you’d go, right? You’d have fun, say congrats, and unless you’re a voraciously talented and bottomless needy type like Gore Vidal, you won’t “die a little” because something good happened to your friend and colleague. And if you do, who cares? It’s about them today, not you, ya narcissistic jackass!
So, I’m vexed. My news got lots of “likes” on FB. Some friends went out of their way to congratulate me. Does wanting to celebrate more reveal the depths of my own ego’s need for validation?
But I think I’m gonna have a party anyway. I will eat the shitty food I crave, like BBQ chips and Moosehead beer, (they’re exotic in America, though I won’t have them for breakfast, as in my punk rock days of yore), and hang with my friends. There are worse reasons to have a party. Like, ya know, dying.
Another reason I want a celebration: there’s a theme in some writing advice about never making a big deal out of what you just did, that celebrating accomplishments can blind you to the real purpose: doing the work.
There’s truth there. I share some of it. And Steven Pressfield and his ilk hammer this lesson at beginner, pushing them past anything that might become “resistance” to completing the next task. But once you’ve learned to be persistent, such relentless attacks on anything becoming “resistance” becomes dogma, and can lead you think that “the work” is the end all being of existence. How noble. How righteous. How defensible. And stupid.
Resistance no longer concerns me. My work ethic is strong. Thus I’ve erred on the side of exhaustion, burnout, and overwork instead of finding joy beyond the grind. And, unlike some writers, I’m not a pure introvert. Let’s face it, I’m a goof, a ham, a class clown, and an improv actor. I like shooting the shit for hours at bars and restaurants and on the street until the street cleaners give my care a shine. And it doesn’t make me any less committed to my craft to those who prefer a more solitary life.
I say this because there’s a Faustian bargain in much writing literature about the need to be alone. Just you, and the work, and nothing else matters, for writing is a lonely business. Cue ten hours of sad violins (no joke: ten hours of sad violins, and don’t read the comment section)
I used to love the need to be alone. Why? For years, I was a self-hating, very lonely putz thanks to the usual bad psychology from enduring hardship in childhood. I was deadly alone for most of my life (even when a social beast). Writing gave me justifiable cause for never being social. And I did great work for years, in fiction and history, with justifiable loneliness. But when all my pre-conceived notions were shattered in 2013, I realized that the “need” to be alone was 75-80% “fear” about being who I was without art as the core part of my identity. After my conception-of-self went through the shredder, I soon realized how often I justified the shrinking of my world of friends, social engagement, and more by saying “well, that’s fine. I’m a writer. And I’m writing a fourth novel this year, so no need to make new friends, go outside, see a movie, take a walk, smell the roses, take a class, or do anything other than toil at the machine, because that’s what all the bullshit tough-guy messages preach.”
And thus, without any conscious intent, I turned the love of writing into a recipe for perpetual loneliness.
I’m not that guy anymore. I balance the need to work alone and have some kind of social life to avoid hiding from the world. But I am the inheritor of his old “solitaire engine.” When the good news came down this month, the engine started up . . . don’t do more than acknowledge it happened, just get back to work, finish three books this year, this is the only chance you will get, do not take your eyes off the prize, if you do you are self-aggrandizing asshole who thinks he’s big stuff when nothing’s been proven in sales or acclaim, you have no reason to celebrate until someone else validates you, which is the only kind of validation that is legit, but then again most people validate you because they like you so they are ruled by bias and can’t be trusted and thus the only salve to these issues is to chain yourself to your desk and work until you die and only then, when you can no longer influence with world with your Canadian charm and Latvian good-looks, with you receive fitting acclaim-
Sorry, that machine won’t stop on its own.
So, long story short, it is party time in Ridlerville! And that means play my theme music! (ha! You thought it would be a brilliant, sad song with a dark video sung by a legend! NOT TODAY)
Wanna have bragging rights? Wanna say you’d read all my books before my new series became an instant bestsellers (like Game of Thrones!)?
THEN GET READING!