Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ideas and Inaction: The 2 Water Dish Problem

Is that the right path over there?
For creatives, or starving artists, there's a problem in the realm of ideas. There are too many. Certainly that is my problem.

I wake up and have twelve different ideas by breakfast. Some of them I dream while in deep sleep. Others I discover in the course of getting my toddler dressed. Others I have while reading through my social media feeds. And then, when I have these ideas, I have to decide whether I should keep thinking about them - let them develop into something.

The process of vetting such ideas takes maybe a few seconds, but it always goes more or less like this:

"Oh shit! That would be an awesome story!"
"It would. It really would. People would read that."
"Damn! I could write that kind of fan fiction!"
"No I couldn't."
"Yes I could."
"No I couldn't. How could I get into that character's head?" Pauses while thinks through how that would work.
"Wait, yes I COULD! WAHOO!!!"

Keep in mind this happens daily. It happens daily all the while I'm working on several other projects. And this is not the whole day - this is just before breakfast.

You see the problem.

I don't have enough time to follow through on every idea. I can't. It is impractical. I have to prioritize. I have to decide which ideas are worth pursuing. Which ones would I enjoy? Which ones would benefit society? Which ones would be profitable?

This is the same problem creatives, like myself, encounter with jobs. As a creative, I am capable of doing a lot. I have the skills and abilities to make magic happen because I have this wild potential-seeking mind. I solve problems constantly. Ideas bloom, literally, in my sleep. I cannot keep up with them. So of course I do well in problem solving environments. I can do anything in theory, but that doesn't necessarily mean I flourish.

I could, for example, work in a 9-5 job. But, frankly, I might kill myself. I don't say that as a rhetorical device. Working 9-5 doing something that is busy work, surrounded by hundreds of cubicles makes me want to jump off a bridge. Really. There isn't enough variety. People are telling me what to do and how to do it, when those are the kinds of things I excel at on my own. It is soul sucking and does not make use of the extent of my gifts. So of course I would bang my head against the wall and need to take some kind of mood altering prescriptions just to survive.

That is not living.

But what about traditional jobs that do honor my tendencies? What about jobs that do allow me to make use of my crazy idea creation and vetting process? Where are they? What are they? How do I find these things?

The easy thing is to decide what I want to do and then find that.

*blinks while looking blankly*

Right. Remember how I just explained the different ideas I have? Remember how many I have every day before breakfast alone?! What do I want to do? How do I figure that out?

Well, there are the books by career counselors that can be helpful. But what if the required skills you need to do the thing you want to do are out of reach. What if, for example, I decide I want to be a professor for a day job and then, I am rejected by the doctoral programs that would essentially guarantee me such a position (or at least make it possible)?

That is a pickle.

So I end up staring down at my list of ideas, like my wild and crazy skills, wondering how I can cobble them together into a job.

I mean, I know. I know what job I want. What kind of success I want. I know that. I've got it in my head and I visualize it every day (read: comic convention panels, women's conference panels, writing workshops...the list goes on). But, the path to getting there is foggy. The ideas run fast and hard and I can see about twenty different routes to achieving the same thing. Which to choose?

It is like the dog with two water dishes. He sits there, staring at both, getting progressively more thirsty, never drinking. How does he choose? Which one is better? The answer is neither. They both have good water. Both will work. It is whichever one he likes. But the dishes are the same, he thinks. But they aren't. One is on the left, the other on the right. One is nearer the window, the other nearer his owner's chair. It does not matter which he chooses, except that one quenches his thirst and makes him feel good.

But I might regret not choosing the other dish!

Yeah...well...cost of business. All paths will reach the destination. Both dishes solve the problem of thirst. But sitting there ruminating about it won't do anything.

I am actually drinking water. I have actually four books that will definitely be published this year. Two are finished, but in revision phases. Two just need a few more chapters complete and will be done. That's kind of amazing. That means I will have finished four books while watching a toddler...since January. That's kind of remarkable.

I am definitely drinking the water here. I submitted pieces to magazines and got positive rejections (I just added a third to my group...) which means I'm getting closer on that front as well. Closer, but not there...yet.

But in the mean time, waiting for thirst to abate, I'm wondering if this is okay. If my time wouldn't be better spent doing other things. Should I use my skills somewhere else? Should I do something else? Should I have a day job outside of raising my kid? Could I manage that? I applied to a few traditional jobs, and I have to admit that I'm cautious. I mean, if I do not pursue my dream, my vision, part of me will die inside. It is that tension - the tension of giving up, of accepting defeat, versus continuing to battle, continuing the pursuit. The first is pushed by society at large (like, get real). The second is glorified (as in, "Wow! I could never do that! You're amazing!").

I think, no matter what, it is better to be on a path to achieving the goal than not. Not achieving the goal - the dream - is not okay. So I store my vetted ideas for later refusing to get distracted, continue pushing on the ones I've prioritized, and act as though I know what I'm doing. Which I don't. I'm just guessing here and hoping for the best. I mean, I think that's a pretty good idea.

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