The Way of the Turtle

One fairytale that I seem to have a lot in common with is the tortoise and the hare.  All of my life, I’ve been the hare.  I’ve sprinted from one thing to the next, hoping to get ahead by speed. I haven’t.  That’s the problem with a sprint – you go hard for a short time, then you rest for a long period.

I’ve known about the power of time for several years now, I’ve just never fully applied it to my own life until recently. I’m the tortoise, plodding ahead 1000 words at a time.  I’ve gone from bits and pieces of writing in journals and half-finished ideas to more than 360,000 words in a single year.  Most of that writing is a single-subject blog type of work. I have the writing habit down to keep going every day, now comes the harder part – to figure out what to write next.  I need time to plan, however.  My current system doesn’t give me enough time to plan what I’m going to write, so my writing is simply pulling an idea from my ideas folder and running with it.

It’s worked, though. I can’t complain about that.  In a year I’ve gone from virtually no content to more than 100 posts.  I have 211 “followers” on WordPress, with me still trying to figure out what to write and where my niche is.  I published 110,000 words last year.  I’ve written more than 500,000 just in my daily writings so far, since January 1, 2018.  Needless to say, I have blog content for the next several months.

Around Halloween, I started writing very short stories as well. Inspired by C.S. Boyack and his short fiction, I’ve started to do my own. I don’t write fiction enough, though. While I’ve figured out how to write each day, I haven’t found a good system to generate fiction ideas yet.  My ideas come from my mundane daily task of cleaning out the litter box, or from sitting in a chair in my hotel room for 15 minutes forcing myself to just sit and thing.  That’s when my mind relaxes and I capture thoughts.  I need a better inspiration flow, though, where I do research and find interesting things to turn into vignettes.  I have two stories I’ve dabbled with this year, neither of which strikes my fancy right now. One thing I’ve learned is, you write whether your fancy has been struck or not.  Butt in chair, do the work.

One of the stories deals with grief and loss, and the other is a little dystopian, but mostly deals with the arrogance of youth.  Again, neither is lighting me on fire these days, and that’s a problem.  Few things do light me on fire.  And those that do, around how the general population is acting these days, probably won’t get me anywhere.  I’m not impressed, let’s just say.  We’ve turned into a nation of uncaring assholes, and I fear I’ve turned into one as well.  We’ve been manipulated until we’re polarized, and we’ve abandoned common decency altogether.  I guess that’s what happens when you post your thoughts 140 characters at a time.

That’s why those stories haven’t fired me up lately.  I’m not sure I want to contribute to the pile of drivel about how bad things are.  I think I might want to embed those ideas into more entertaining stories.  I’d like to educate through entertainment more than try to soapbox my way through.  I’m sure you’d appreciate that more, too.  Just think of the thoughts that come to mind when I say “lecture.”  Who wants to have one of those?  Even though I buy Great Courses by the droves, especially when they’re on sale, I can’t stand the idea of a lecture.  I’d rather have it all wrapped into an interesting story.  Does that mean I need to build my ideas into allegories?  I mean how long can I stretch an allegory to get the idea across?  And can I do it without coming off like Pilgrim’s Progress?  I don’t want to go that path, that’s for sure.  That’s beyond lecture and right to preach.  Maybe I’d make a good preacher, I don’t know.  I do seem to like to tell people how to do things, that’s for sure.

I’m not sure that’s the way I want to go, either, though.  So I continue to try to write varied ideas and share my experiences coming up to speed writing and see what resonates.  I’ve virtually given up on the Medium platform because it’s hard to tell what’s going on over there.  The stats are really poor, and the idea seems to be to just churn new content out if you want to reach people.  There’s something that bugs me about that platform, and I can’t put my finger on it quite yet.  It’s probably the stats.  They track views versus reads – some things I’ve done have gotten really high reads, others have stayed really low.  It’s maddening.  At the same time, it triggers my stubbornness, so I want to try again and again.

I’ve just violated one of my own morning rules and spent 10 minutes looking over Medium.  I didn’t read anything, but I saved a bunch of articles that seem to call to me or be in the same vein of things I’ve written. We’ll call it research.  Now, I just need to carve out time to read them.  My other tortoise-hare trait is reading.  I read almost every day, even if only 10 pages. This has helped me the last four years burn through more books than all the previous years combined.  It’s also given me enough time that I can go back through some of my favorites.  I’ve been revisiting my favorite dystopian novels to try to catch more this time around, and really get a feel if I want to write mine. But I have to balance re-reads with new reads.  I also try very hard to read new authors over ones I really love.  

So the Thomas Hardy novels have to wait until I have some extra time – he’s now my favorite author after reading Tess, Far from the Madding Crowd and finally finishing Jude the Obscure, he firmly has a place in my top writer category.  He shares that podium with Nabokov and Hugo right now, with C.S. Lewis making a run for the top.  OK, I have to stop thinking like that.  There are so many great writers that for me to announce which are my favorite starts to make my head spin. And this year I’ve found a bunch of new (to me) writers by focusing on reading essays.

What I need to figure out is how to make my sales team do better work so I don’t have to travel so much.  If I could get each one of them to up their productivity, I could sit back more and have more time for myself instead of working 10-12 hour days.  That would give me more than 2-3 hours per day for my own work.  At some point, it has to pivot so I get more of my time for my work and less of my time to other people’s work.  But the money right now all comes from my main job, and I have to maximize that for at least 15 more years before I can stop.  Even then, I might not be able to have enough saved to stop working, but damnit, I need to start and try now.  I don’t want to work like this past my 65th birthday.  Now is the time to be that plotting, plodding tortoise so I can try to live a few years of my life without having to be under the thumb of others.

Although, if I’m ever successful at writing, I’ll just be trading one master for many.  Instead of one boss, I’ll have to go where the money is in writing, which means mostly pandering, I fear.  But at least the pandering is from my own hand?  Would I be able to create drivel that I don’t enjoy?  That seems like a more painful way to go through life than my current path of making others money.

All I know is the way is forward like the turtle.  Slow, steady progress is the answer to anything I want to accomplish. And I’m just stubborn enough to agree with it.

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Photo by Cedric Fox on Unsplash

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