Angst of the Creative Adult

Unabridged title: “Angst of the Creative Adult Who Started the Journey Toward Publishing “Just Before Social Media” and is Feeling Left Behind.”

 

Dissatisfaction. What a feeling. How can a 38-year-old be angst ridden? Isn’t that something for teenagers and twenty-something’s? I’ve learned as I have lived through my thirties, (now closing out the last couple years of it) that this is BY FAR the hardest decade of my life. Why? Because in your thirties, all of the responsibilities of life are upon you. Yes, at least, you can get past all the social BS that goes with being in your twenties, all the relationship BS, etc. You know what you want and you know how to get it. You’re not afraid to go after what you want nor are you afraid to stay in a situation because you are putting yourself first. But that’s just it, now you HAVE to do these things. There are no more delays or “by the time I’m 40, I’ll have this or that accomplished” type of ideas. No one makes excuses for people in their 30s (nor should they).

Here’s the reality I feel. You ARE almost 40 and you HAVEN’T done all the things you said you would by now. Sure, as a kid, you can’t know how difficult life is to navigate and can be quite naïve about how the world works, but by the time you’re in your mid-thirties, you would hope that most of your money and relationship and especially your CAREER would be just where you wanted it – in a grand place only heading higher. I’m not talking about big business or rising the ranks, but becoming the person you always saw yourself as, or who you know you are capable of becoming.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, when you realize you haven’t put the commitment and discipline to your projects the way you could have. You realize how distracted you have let yourself became by life – by finding love, falling in love, falling out of love, and then finding love again, dealing with family issues, debt, etc. And before you turn around, seven years have gone by and your thirties are almost over. WTF happened? Why have I not already become a massively successful novelist or magazine publisher?

Why do I see all these 17-year-olds with huge contracts with marketing and development firms because they created a sensation on social media?

That’s all it takes these days. I’m a little bitter, but more, I’m pissed. Where were all these platforms in my teens and early 20s when I had all the inspiration and fire and passion burning in me (and all that damn extra time) to create? Moreover, why have I not JUMPED on them now that they are available? It’s not technology’s fault that it came late for me. But it still feels like I’ve been left behind.

My forum was to email and mail in submissions, buy books on what publishers wanted. Of course, I had the internet for research and forums and making connections, but we had like, Myspace. There weren’t apps yet when I was in college. Social media was just beginning (no FB just yet) and smart phones were just on the cusp. Companies and producers weren’t looking for people online. That wasn’t the culture. Creative people before 2007 had to still rely on working their way up, getting noticed by their work and dogged persistence in turning in submission after submission after pitch after pitch, not by their online platform.

I was heavily committed to buying all the publishing industry books on what publishers and editors and movie producers were looking for and I feverishly cranked things out, all while going to networking events, workshops, being in college clubs, going to school, etc. All that energy and drive had me going in many directions, always certain that I’d hit a big writing career along the way and by now, would be living in my mountain estate, cranking out novel after novel while managing my magazine. Ah, what a vision.

Now you can create a following on any one of the current social apps (so long as you take the time to post non-stop, constantly creating new content on a daily basis) and you may get recruited by some big company giving you an even bigger paycheck. Not saying that’s what I want, but I envy the opportunities available to those with plenty of time on their hands today – they can actually make a career out of a hobby.

Well hell, if I had all this shit when I was teenager and writing YA novels and short stories (all submitting via mail or email) – I know I could have created something bigger. I KNOW IT. I used to meet with friends and others and we wrote movies together. We would meet and develop ideas together. But we did not have an instant forum for them. We had to enter contests and wait to hear back. Submit manuscripts and email and wait and wait and finally get a rejection…and try again.

I may have had a chance to “get there” by my own devices a lot sooner simply because I had more time and less responsibility. Sure, an 18-year-old has time to create 6-second videos ALL DAY LONG and the energy and passion of creative youth is perfect for social media. But by the time you’re in your thirties – if you haven’t gotten “there” yet, you are slowing the pace just by simply dealing with L-I-F-E. Buying a home, a car, starting a family, etc.

But WHAAAA? Really? Yes, it sucks and life isn’t fair and yada, yada, yada. I know I’m whining but I’m merely venting. I don’t blame anyone or hate them for their success. The trick is to not compare and feel less-than simply because others accomplish things I’d like to accomplish. Instead, I can use it for fuel.

I refuse to sit back and stay bitter. Instead I can use the opportunities that are now available and use my passion to make it happen. Even if it takes me a little longer and requires further understanding, I can navigate in this new publishing world, too.

The passion is there, but the challenge is finding the will to do all the work in the wake of your…sigh…real job.

 

And yes, at least my real job is creative – I am editor of two magazines. They may not be national, but they are well liked in my community and it generates the feelings that I like to get from a job well done. But it’s NOT my ultimate destination.

I have found that working in a creative job, as a writer, especially, that is it is all the more difficult to create on your own time. But it CAN and HAS been done. It just takes even more will, more time, more desire to make yourself write for you, everyday, to get there one bit at a time.

 

It has been a very tough and busy year. I got the editor job last year (just when I was revving up this blog and my other creative projects), but this year, right in January, I had to say goodbye to my sweet, dear Golden Retriever. By far, that is the worst grief I have ever felt. It was so very acute. I mean, since I lost my father at 12-years-old, that is. But that grief is distant. My dog, my sweet Penny, was everything to me and so suddenly she was gone. I was distraught.

Yet at the same time, I was planning a wedding (a New Orleans jazz wedding with parade and all, no less) with the love of my life. Grief and Joy all at one.

In January a horrible thing happened, and in April, a wonderful and joyous thing happened. Talk about a roller coaster.

It has taken its toll and I have not been writing for myself. Not enough to post a blog. I haven’t posted a FREAKIN’ blog since Feb. Why? Because I just didn’t have the emotional energy to dip into the swelling wave that has been building.

So now I am blowing this up, stream of consciousness style, to get it OUT of my HEAD and onto the page.

Where have I been all year? What am I doing? A trajectory that was started two years ago has slowed steadily and I am in angst.

If I am so dissatisfied with the slowness of my progression with a blog and writing my next book, why am I not making the time to write? Why? Why do I do this to myself?

On some level, I must be afraid to follow through. Not because of failure, but because of success. Success in terms of seeing an idea come to fruition comes from the act of continually feeding that idea and growing it. In my mind’s eye, that’s what I want, but it takes a lot of work and discipline to get there.

The work I can do, the discipline is a challenge. Staying consistently committed to a schedule is my biggest weakness. But my tenacity of wanting something often can overpower my atrophied discipline muscle to power through almost anything.

Woe is me for not doing more with my time. Woe is me for spending too much time vegging out and disconnecting and escaping from everyday life.

The vodka shots won’t help. The smoke won’t help. Only doing what is in my heart will help and only fleshing out my ideas creatively will bring me true satisfaction.

I’m not so stuck on “making it” like I was in my youth. I have matured and I am happy with a lot of my life, but that dissatisfaction (deep down) of not doing all that I am capable of, of not following through on a creative idea I started, is what leads to my angst.

Why can’t I just be happy with where I am, professionally? Because I just can’t. I want more. I always have. And I know I can get it.

I just have to do it. I’ve accepted the reality that I am a late bloomer. That’s better than no bloom at all.

 

I see Them. I see You. I see Me. Woman Sees World.

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Gotta Grow Up Sometime…

* pardon any typos…stream of consciousness…tried to find them all*

It’s true, growing up takes longer than we are led to believe in childhood. (That is, growing up in all ways beyond the obvious physical maturity.) It’s amazing to think of how you look at the world from youthful, just-becoming-an-adult eyes and feel passionately that you’ll have all of life’s big questions figured out and all the negative habits you picked up along the way will have also, worked themselves out…basically, you’ll have your shit together and be successful and settled.

It really, really did seem like there was plenty of youth to sort out all your bullshit. There was plenty of time until 40 or even 45 to make the successful progression from novice to master in whatever your chosen profession was that you followed through to college and even started a promising career. Whatever the dream, it is supposed to be WELL within your grasp by now. While some things have come along, it’s maybe not as far as you expected based the timeframe you had in mind. For me that vision included being settled into a career, married with a kid or two and living in the mountains, in the house I designed, living and working according to my own schedule while  making more than enough money to have everything I require and then some, but I actually give a lot of it away to the many causes I am a part of…that’s what was supposed to be in place by my late thirties. I know, I know…hold for laughs.

Get out your tiny violins and record players. It sounds like a comical (and very typical) realization that probably most people come to when they aren’t the dream of themselves they saw in their youth.

Yet experience teaches us that life cannot be planned up to the moment. As a wise colleague put it – life zigzags and you have to be able to zig and the zag with what life throws at you. A path, including and especially the path of your life, is very rarely a direct route.

Interestingly as I muse on this topic and think about it with other people of my generation (those between ages 35-38), we seem to (many of us) have experienced a series of false starts as we embarked into our lives. We were certainly not satisfied with the lifestyles of our predecessors and elders. Getting a job and building a suburban family life was not enough. The idea of being able to do everything you wanted professionally and creatively AND have a healthy grasp on the intimate side of life (at least for women) was brought forth before I was burn. But by the time I matured into a very young adult in the late 90s, I had specific plans and I was going to see them through and they were simply just going to go the way I planned, with minor variations as I can handle being on the fly, but basically things were going to progress and get bigger. I could see it and taste it and feel it in my bones. And I still do but I’m SO much more experienced now.

I have been beaten up a bit more by life and my own mistakes well enough to know how to temper what I expect and demand more of myself. (By the way the 90s were one of the coolest decades and I was coming of age in it. Mad props to have come up in such a time that only NOW do I realize was so great since I always wanted to be from the 60s but now I appreciate my own time period.) But basically, it feels like many of us from this time period had a rocket ship start right out of the house, like way early, so that by the mid thirties it became necessary to “start over.” Start over professionally, find a better life partner, basically a reset button was required. All that we established to set up our vision of how life was supposed to go seemingly disintegrated in the middle. This was owed to a combination of naivety and the inevitable facing of some of life’s harsh realities. So we started over and found what worked better for us and got some things pretty darned right (even if we did it by accident). But in your early thirties you still think you have P-L-E-N-T-Y of time to accomplish some major goals before 40. You also don’t realize how your 30s is the true bootcamp for life.

And then you wake up one morning and your thirties are almost gone! Age 37 crossed the boundary into 38 and 40 is a LOT closer than it seemed seven years ago. What happened to all the time?

Why aren’t I as far along as I thought I would be by now? It’s not my fault is it?

Well, of course it is.

But you know what? The truth is, it doesn’t have to be that big of a deal as you have all the time you need…that is IF you are taking action and moving forward each day. Leaps and bounds aren’t always necessary. It’s in the step-by-step and day-to-day that we find we are progressing. When we look back over the steps we’ve taken, we can then see it for what it is. Growth cannot happen fast. Success and money can come at any age – it can come way early and it may come way late or at any time in between or not at all, at least in the form you imagined.

But true inner growth and evolution can ONLY happen over a matter of years. It takes time to realize life is complex and what you have already done is actually more than you’ve given yourself credit for in the past. You’ve found gratitude, plain and simple.

I see it now. It makes so much more sense now. Far from the campy adages of “you’ll understand when you get older,” it’s actually true that as you continue through the journey of life, life becomes more obvious – at least what works and what doesn’t – and you can truly act as composer/director/president of your own life by making specific choices and decisions that can take you in the direction you want to go and ensuring the energy around you (i.e. other people and your own thoughts) is uplifting and follows suit with your heart’s pursuits. It simply has to be that way. I’ve tried to keep “friends” that indulge all my bad habits or stay around family that generate only feelings of “less than” and stayed in a job that was sucking my soul away. I’ve tried speaking only in positives while internally beating myself up for any small infraction. I’ve held my mind hostage with my insecurities and dogmas about who I am and what the world should be. It ALL holds you back by closing you off from the greater world around you, from the possibilities of life, from the best version of yourself. Your internal and external environment matters, it just does.

At some point one really DOES have to grow up in all senses of the term. I feel that time has come for me. This reality has been screaming in my brain for the past three years and I’m on the precipice of staying put or moving forward. I choose to fly and I’m ready to release the things that no longer serve me while embracing the ones that do.

In this next year of my life I reclaim my youthful wonder at the possibilities of life. I affirm that I have all the time I require to accomplish my dreams and live a fulfilling life. I’m already well on my way!

Happy Birthday to me!

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I see Them. I see You. I see Me. Woman Sees World.

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What Women Say About…

  • How do you the world now versus when you were a child?

S. R., 37 – Tennessee

As a child I was so hopeful. It’s because as a child you don’t know what you don’t know. Everything you’re taught is just a theory. You haven’t actually had a chance to put it into practice. I was taught all these things and I was equipped and empowered to have pretty much what I needed to be a functional adult and then when you get out here and you realize what the world is really like, it can be quite discouraging. I personally think that it shouldn’t be that hard. You try to do the right thing, you operate with integrity, you try to get an education, follow the rules of the land and things of that nature, but yet things seemingly don’t go as planned or as they should. When I look at the things going on around me in the world, I don’t anticipate it getting any better any time soon. A lot of times I see a lot of people getting all caught up in these politicians and what they’re saying and doing and I’m like, “I don’t think it matters who’s in office, we’re still going to be fucked up for a while.”

Now, the only thing that gives me hope is my own capabilities. I’ve gotten to the point where I try not to focus too much on factors that I know I can’t control, I just stay the course based on the things I can control and I can do. I know that I can get up everyday and make sure the actions and commitment that I have, gets me closer to where I want to go. I just keep moving forward.

  • What would you do differently if you could give your younger self some guidance?

B.R., 64 – Louisiana

The old adage: I wish I’d known then what I’d known now, or I wish I had been more assertive, or challenged, not at work or in my career so much as I mean more challenged in someone pushing me to be more. I wish I had pushed myself to be more or I had been more confident to push myself, and at a younger age. I wish I was more cognizant of the fact that I could have been an entrepreneur at 40 or 45 but I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I would hate to go back to my 20s but I would go back to my late 30s. If I could arm myself with the knowledge that I had now, it would be quite different, my mindset or even career path. I would have maximized what I did more. Now what I currently do now in my job, I have been very inspired by the women I’ve met.

What was missing when I grew up? I did not have the female mentors. When I was getting into the business world, women were few and far between, I didn’t really have anyone I could talk to about ‘How do I do this?” The women I was working with when I first started working were more in the secretarial field. In the company I worked in, I was the second female to be hired and we were the only two and (thankfully) formed a good bond and became friends. We had to rely on each other more so than we could with the men. It was the oil and gas industry before sexual harassment laws – and it was [a] very different [time].

F. M., 45 – New York

I think the problem with me at 20 years old was that I wanted to control everything. Instead of just letting things unfold, I had to fix it, I had to control it, I had to make it right, even when it couldn’t be. I would tell her to Let It Go. You can’t fix this; you can’t change this; it’s not going to happen. Let it go. Stop losing sleep over it. Stop worrying about it.

At that time, my grandmother used to tell me to pray or worry, but don’t do both. And I always did both. I would pray and ask God to fix it and then I would worry about it anyway.

Worry or pray, but don’t do both. Once you’ve prayed about it then let it go, because if you sit around worrying, you’re telling God you don’t believe he is going to fix it.

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I see Them. I see You. I see Me. Woman Sees World.

Thank you for following the WSW blog.

Follow us on Twitter @womansees and Facebook here.