Thank you everyone who answered last week’s question about the Mixed Nuts, here on the blog or on the Fearless Family Life Facebook page. I wanted to know if you preferred the short and sweet “5 quick-takes”-style blog post where I share links without commentary or the longer “fruit of my brain” commentary on things I’ve read throughout the week. The dominant opinion was that whatever I posted was fine (you are all so nice!) but that a mix of longer and shorter, especially during the summer, would be perfect. Today, I will share 5 quick reflections — something between a link and a ponder — about my goals for the near future.
1 Pick a project and pursue it .
“If you only have one ass you can’t sit on two horses.”
My creative projects are as scattered as they are unfinished. I have a tech writing project that pays bills and as such takes priority. I am learning how to make better YouTube videos and edit them faster. I am trying to find an agent, a publisher and a ghost-writer for my friend Johanne, if anything we need to write a test chapter and a rough road map of the book to increase our chances of catching a publisher’s eye. I also have a parenting memoir project and, last but not least, my beloved novel.
I struggle with picking the right horse to sit my one ass on. Creators are often advised to create regardless of the commercial potential (or lack thereof) of their projects: every successful writer, musician or movie producer has a pocketful of stories of bitter rejection. They are the battle wounds they show-off in interviews, laughing about the butts they’d like to wipe with the million-dollar scripts once rejected without as much as a call back. But this creator has 11 mouths to feed and cannot blissfully disappear in a fog of inspiration. My income goes into the necessities of life for a large family, not into boot-strapping my next project. I can’t pull a Steven Pressfield, sell the coat off my back and move into my car until my first novel is finished. Raising my children is the creative work that I have to do relentlessly, with discipline and laser sharp focus. I have no illusion of growing as a creator without pounding the appropriate amount of pavement but I have to choose the road wisely, with some discernment as to which pavement is most likely to yield an income. Right now, I feel like a Canadian twist on Sisyphus: rolling my 4-5 snowballs up the hill, hoping that one will get to the other side and roll into some momentum. But they still roll back down the way they came.
2 Believe I can do this.
Last week I sat on the Jody Mitic podcast (episode 7) and played a bit of the devil’s advocate about the Black-Lives-Matter-Toronto-Pride-Parade sit-in where the group demanded —among other things — that police floats no longer be allowed to participate. I don’t do parades, never been to a Pride Parade. Never been black, or queer, or even arrested. I don’t even have a single clue what I’m talking about but I did enjoyed shooting the stuff with Jody. He is the most un-politically correct politician I have met and I do believe that our political discourse would benefit from having more elected officials speaking from a place of genuine emotion the way Jody does: if anything it’s entertaining. I also got to pick his brain (off air) about his experience getting his book published and reaching number 1 of the best-sellers’ list here in Canada. One of the positive side effects of being an opinionated one-man-show is that it makes you a great cheerleader. He has a knack for convincing me that living a normal life with 9 children is as remarkable as being a sniper, getting your legs blown-off, running a half-marathon on prosthetic legs, almost winning the Amazing Race Canada, getting elected to City Hall and writing a best-seller. Then of course I got home to my 87 YouTube subscribers, my $1.47 of lifetime add revenue and remembered exactly how far I was from going anywhere. But that kernel of encouragement lives on and someday, maybe, it will grow into something.
3 Read more and write more about what I love.
I started reading Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” and I downloaded Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” on Audible. In general I find that reading about writing is a form of avoidance. The fear of wasting my time writing something bad keeps me reading about writing instead of diving headlong into my projects. When Stephen Pressfield characterized writing workshops as “pits of resistance” I knew that I had found my match. His scolding about “the resistance” — a mix a of pride and fear — shed a hard light on my own avoidance mechanisms and excuses. That said, “On Writing” by Stephen King and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White kept nagging me through blog posts and podcast interviews and I knew that they should be part of my reference library, if nothing else. In the first chapter of “On Writing”, Stephen King lays down the law on writing: reading a lot and writing a lot are key. Isn’t it funny how we sometimes need permission to do the things we know are right? For the last couple of years, since I started homeschooling, I have been constrained by a sense that I should use my reading time wisely by focusing on non-fiction so as to learn something useful. The problem is that I don’t love non-fiction. I like it as one likes vegetables and exercise but not with the breathtaking emotion reserved for stunning landscapes, newborns and lovers. Learning that Stephen King read mostly fiction gave me permission to return to my one true love: the good work of fiction.
4 Find YouTube collaborators
To celebrate my liberation from the shackles of self-imposed boredom — yawn — I decided to read “Far from the madding crowd” by Thomas Hardy and “Au bonheur des dames” by Emile Zola. I would love to chat character development with other like-minded people. If you are a Youtubber or a podcaster looking for a fun collab, please wave in my direction and we can overthink how Bathsheba Everdene doesn’t deserve three suitors, let alone the devotion of a man of Oak’s caliber. In the mean time, just enjoy this Gabriel Oak on me:
“Gabriel was paler now. His eyes were more meditative, and his expression was more sad. He had passed through an ordeal of wretchedness which had given him more than it had taken away. He had sunk from his modest elevation as pastoral king into the very slime-pits of Siddim; but there was left to him a dignified calm he had never before known, and that indifference to fate which, though it often makes a villain of a man, is the basis of his sublimity when it does not. And thus the abasement had been exaltation, and the loss gain.” (p.45)
If you are more of the movie kind, enjoy this interview with Thomas Vinterberg and Matthias Shoenaerts (the producer and main character of the latest film adaptation of Hardy’s novel, available on Netflix). You should still read the book to better appreciate each character’s depth.
5 Get in shape and start lifting weights
Finally, I wanted to share one of the highlights of my week. I bought a membership at my local Movati gym from a from a former member who was moving away before the end of his one-year enrollment. Movati Kanata made it an easy and pleasant experience, showing excellent business sense and superior concern for the customer. I imagine that the low-lying fruit of making membership transfers such a pain in the neck that members never dare to leave is tempting but in my case, it has made gym memberships verboten. I cannot commit to a yearly membership in anything and cannot afford the unfavourable short-term membership fees. Transferring membership is the perfect solution for me and Movati can be sure that when I am in the market for a gym membership, theirs will be the first door I’ll go a-knocking.