The brick walls

“The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” -Randy Pausch

I came across this quote at Zen Pencils today, and it was just in time.

I’ve been dealing with some hurdles in the publishing process. I wanted to be coming to you with a release date by now, a date which I hoped would be very soon. That might still happen, but it’s coming down to the wire. I’m struggling to scale the wall, and I don’t know when I’ll make it.

But I will. The wall is there to stop other people. It will not stop me.

Save it for your daydreams

I once was talking to a young writer—I say young, though he was probably around my age—who watched anime, just as I do. We were talking about the stories we were working on, and at one point, he began tell me about his grand designs.

He wanted it to be an anime, done by this studio and with these seiyuu. He could see a live-action movie as well, and described how some of the special effects would look. He thought it could then make the leap to TV, and wondered how the story would have to be changed to fit that medium.

That’s when I stopped him. Okay, that’s a lie—I didn’t stop him at all. I probably changed the subject because I didn’t know how to respond. Allow me to indulge in a little l’esprit de l’escalier, and tell you what I should have told him then.

Whoa. Slow down. You’re getting ahead of yourself. If you’re writing a novel, focus on that. If you’re drawing a webcomic, focus on that. Bend your energy toward making what you’re doing right now a success, rather than expending all your energy looking forward.

And as for the movie or the TV show, save those for your daydreams. Save them for when you’re talking a break after a hard day of work, when you lean back and imagine “what if?” That’s fine. Daydreams can propel us forward, and be a pleasant indulgence after all our effort.

Then get back to work. No amount of looking to the future can make your dreams come true if you don’t do the hard work of taking the first steps right now.

Work you love

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” -Confucius

This is one of those bits of wisdom that does damage to many people. The conceit is that you must find a fun job–the kind of job you would do even if you weren’t getting paid–to obtain happiness. But what about the truck drivers, the retail clerks, and the janitors? Are they doomed?

I prefer this:

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

That’s not quite the same. The first implies that you must choose a job you presumably already love, while the second simply says you should do something you love.

Here’s the one I like most of all:

“Do work you love, or love the work you do. Though obviously some work is easier to love than others.” -Stilts

Yes, I just quoted myself. Let it never be said I lack in ego.

The idea that we must choose a job we love is damaging, because not everyone can do that. We still need people to do the messy jobs. And yes, I’m aware of the hypocrisy of this coming from me, a man who is trying to become an author.

Yet it’s far easier to learn to love the work you do rather than go to the ridiculous (and liable to fail) lengths I’m going to do work I love. It’s better to find contentedness now, if only so you’re happy while you’re working toward the work you really want to be doing.

But some jobs are certainly easier to love than others. First try to find work you can love. Then do everything you can to love the work you’re doing. Doing work you love is a happy accident as much as anything, so don’t pin all of your hopes on that.

Just because I’m an idiot who can’t take his eyes off his goal doesn’t mean you have to be as well. You can be if you want to, just try to love what you’re doing along the way.

I’m still working on that.

Dream about success, but not too much

Sometimes I dream what it will be like to be an author.

I dream of the freedom, the flexibility, and the total lack of a boss. I dream of waking up every morning with the main item on my to-do list being “write”, and with plenty of time to do it. I imagine what it will be like to introduce myself as an author, with no asterisk included.

I think that imagining your future success is helpful. It’s a little reward you can give yourself to propel yourself forward, and remind yourself of why you’re doing all this work in the first place. Some people might think of it as putting the cart before the horse, but I disagree. You have to picture victory to know how to get there.

That said, I once talked to a fellow writer who was planning for a movie and TV series–before he had even finished his first book. That’s getting ahead of yourself by far. It’s not like I haven’t imagined these things, but not much – they’re forms of success that are out of my control, so I see no point in dwelling on them. I’ll do what I can do first.

Feel free to envision your idea of success, just don’t get so far ahead of yourself that you’re planning for big things that will probably never happen. Plan for the first big thing that will probably never happen, and work towards that. There will be time for the rest later on.

You can’t do it all

Often, we try to do too much. We have jobs and dreams and all the different people in our lives, we have places we want to visit and things we want to do and marvelous experiences we want to have, and we don’t want to give up any of it. So we don’t; we try to do it all.

You can’t. If you try to do it all, chances are you will fail at some of it, and quite often, all of it.

The key is choice. You need to choose what you want to focus on and ruthlessly cut away the rest. If something isn’t important, don’t do it. If you think something is important but you’re not sure, think hard about whether it is or not. If something is necessary but doesn’t further your goals, either cut it anyway or figure out how to get it over with quickly, so you can get back to what is important.

I wasted a long time learning this lesson. I actually finished the first draft of my novel in late 2011, and I’m only now finishing the second draft (hopefully). Why? Because I tried to do too much. I tried to write and blog and work and have fun and do a bunch of other projects I won’t mention because they all ended in inglorious failure. I tried to do too much, and I ended up failing in the thing I cared about the most – my dream of becoming an author.

You don’t have to give up everything. I’m once again blogging for Random Curiosity this season, because I enjoy it and it’s important to me. But you do have to give up something. Focus only on the important things that will further your dream. As for the rest, screw it.

Life is too short to be spent failing. So do only a few things, but do them well.

Corollary: You can do it all if you’re not trying to do too much. Just make sure it’s because you’re pursuing your dreams and have cut away the rest, not because you don’t have any dreams at all.

You can’t compare your own success to others

I recently spent some time with my older brother, and I found myself reflecting on our varying levels of success.

You see, by most people’s measures my older brother is a very successful man: a high paying job, a loving wife, kids who only drive him crazy most of the time, etc etc. I, on the other hand, am single and have a day job for which “high paying” would be an inaccurate descriptor. Even factoring in the years that separate us, most people would probably say that I come up wanting in the comparison.

I don’t see it that way. I have different goals in life, and different things that I value. I value freedom, the time to pursue my dreams, and the opportunity to make great art. By these criteria I feel like I have been very successful so far, and am even more optimistic for the future.

Others will tell you that you’re a failure if you don’t prescribe to the narrow view of success by which society judges us. Don’t let them do it. Set down what is important to you, what being successful is for you, and then do that. Ignore the rest.

Think of it this way – by my criteria for success, my brother is an abject failure. Is that fair? Of course not, because I would be judging him based on criteria designed for me. Why should you let anyone else do the same to you?

Don’t play their game. Play yours. That’s the only way to win, and to be happy doing it.

You know what you want, even if you won’t admit it

For the longest time, I wouldn’t admit that I wanted to become an author.

No, that’s not it – I knew I wanted to become an author, but I wouldn’t admit that was all I wanted to become. I kept looking for other jobs, figuring that I should advance in my other career while I saw if this writing thing would work out. I kept working on Plan B and Plan C, at the expense of Plan A. I didn’t go all in.

What I learned was that the heart often knows what you really want long before your mind is ready to admit it. I pursued other jobs, but the least setback would make me abandon them, because I didn’t really care. I was halfhearted, unable to push myself because, no matter how much the logical me thought I should, the rest of me didn’t care. In my very core I wanted to become an author. All else was a distraction.

It’s a cliche to say “follow your heart”, so I won’t. I’m quite fond of the brain, and follow it often. It’s when your heart keeps getting in the way of your mind that you should take a step back. That’s the you that “civilized” society has tried to bury sitting up and demanding your attention. Maybe you should listen to it.

A New Site

Why a new site?

For a while now I’ve blogged at Random Curiosity, both episodically and under editorials that once carried the Stilts Out Loud name. That’s no more – those editorials are now known as My Way or the Anime (as more than half of them were called anyway), with this site inheriting the Stilts Out Loud name. But why?

Anime is a passion of mine, but it’s not the only one. The reason I wanted to write for RandomC was because of another passion of mine, the main one, which is writing. I wanted to practice writing, and for that I took the advice of an excellent marketer and a very wise man, Seth Godin:

Writer’s block isn’t hard to cure.
Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.

Do it every day. Every single day. Not a diary, not fiction, but analysis. Clear, crisp, honest writing about what you see in the world. Or want to see. Or teach (in writing). Tell us how to do something.

(Look at the date of that article, and compare it to the day I started with RandomC. September 23rd and January 1st. I think I talked to Divine for the first time within days of reading that article. That’s the power of great writing.)

I only took part of Seth’s advice, though. I did analysis, in public, and on a deadline. I didn’t write every day, though. Okay, so actually I did – even when I didn’t have a post I usually wrote something else, some fiction or an editorial or a season preview or scribbled down something random during lunch at work. But I didn’t do it publicly. I didn’t have people watching me for any but those 1-3 posts a week on anime. I have so much else I’d like to say! Like about that fiction thing I mentioned a moment ago, and about the dream it represents.

This is a blog about that dream, about what I truly want to do with my time. Here I’m going to write about writing, about fiction and storytelling and my goal of becoming an author, even though its silly and stupid and probably a waste of time. I don’t care. I’m going to do it anyway. Watch me.

I’m going to write about motivation and inspiration; motivation for me and inspiration for you, perhaps, or maybe the reverse. I’m going to talk about what propels me forward, what makes me tick, about the progress I’m making, and the mistakes I’m tallying up by the boatload. And more things I haven’t thought about yet, I bet.

Most of all though, I’m just going to write. Maybe I won’t post every day, but I’m certainly going to try. My goal is to wake up, sit down, and write something for this blog every single day. To write about writing, and life, and habits, and fears, and most of all, the great and silly dream that I am shooting for.

Hey, did you hear? I’m writing a novel. Wrote it already, in fact. Now I just need to edit it. I want to finish it, polish it, and release it for all of you to read, with my name on the front (my real name!) and pretty pictures inside and the whole shebang. Then I want to do it again and again, until my days are filled with the wonderful stories I’m telling you. Hopefully they’ll be wonderful. I’ll try, at any rate.

That’s my dream, and to make it a reality, I think I need to talk about it. I need people to listen and hold me accountable for it. I need to be ashamed if I don’t buckle down and work, because I’ll have to come here and tell you all, oh, no, I haven’t gotten much done this week because I’ve been sooooo busy. As if that’s a good excuse.

Welcome to Stilts Out Loud, the insane ravings of a fevered dreamer’s mind. Whether to success or failure, it’s time to see where this goes.