Three Entities

I’ve never been one to say, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day!”, but lately, it’s all I can think about.

Yesterday, I posted links to three great articles around the web. That’s it: just the three links. Barely a word of commentary. I felt conflicted about that because, while I enjoy linking and responding to posts from other writers, I want to maintain a balance between link posts and original articles. That’s not to discredit the three articles I linked to; they were all tremendous, which is why I recommended you read them. But since this site is so young, I’m concerned with establishing it as a serious, professional creative endeavor. I don’t just want to post links and call it a day. That makes me feel guilty, and even though this site is a labor of love and shouldn’t contribute additional worries to my life, it’s the fact that I care about it so much that makes only posting three links weigh on my conscience. When I can’t put 100% of myself into this website and make it as good as I want it to be, I get bummed out.

I’m in a tough position right now because three entities are competing for my time and attention. One of them is this website. Another is karate. I have three hours of workout + meeting twice a week and classes to teach in the evenings. I love and need the workouts, but on days like today, when I get home at 1pm and only have two hours to shower, eat, post something to the site, and make it to work on time, it can be frustrating. Especially when I read a handful of great, exciting articles like I did yesterday, and I wish I had time to sit and write some of my own. But the reality is, this site is not my full-time job, so sometimes, a link will have to do.

Chris Guillebeau posted an article called How to Write 300,000 Words In 1 Year yesterday, and this part really stuck with me:

Someone once said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I tend to think you have to love at least some of the writing part too, but I get the idea. In my case, I write because it makes me feel good, and because I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do.

If you want to write consistently and thoroughly, you must learn to make writing your job, regardless of whether it has anything to do with your income. It must be what you think of at different times throughout the day, even when you’re doing other things.

Those sentences resonate with me because they’re exactly what I’ve been feeling every time I’ve had to tear myself away from the computer to go to work. I think about the site on the way to work, in between classes, and on my way home. It’s incredibly exciting to feel that way about a creative project, but it’s also frustrating because I’m not yet at a point where I can act on them to the degree I’d like. Plus, since the site has nothing to do with my income, the responsible thing to do, unfortunately, is make it the first thing to go on the back burner.

The third entity demanding my time and attention is my thesis on Middle English lyric poetry, which is the last thing separating me from my master’s degree. It’s also the last thing tying me to academia. Now, I love being an academic, and it’s been a huge part of my identity for the past 24 years, but I’m ready to take a break and pursue writing in a different medium, namely this website.

Having a massive paper on Middle English lyric poetry due is a drag, but alas, the system demands it, and so it must be done. Since starting my thesis earlier this year, I have approximately 14,000 words of stuff written on a handful of poems, but those thousands of words lack any unifying structure or argument. That, too, is a drag. Having a thesis hanging over your head makes it very difficult to write for your silly website and not feel at least a slight twinge of guilt.

Fortunately, I have one hell of a thesis advisor. As he says, “Don’t get it right; get it done.”, which seems paradoxical coming from an English professor, but the notion that a thesis has to be some terrifying behemoth is mostly unnecessary. If I think about how I need at least fifty pages of groundbreaking analysis on 500-year-old poetry, I’ll become paralyzed with fear. Where would I even start? Rather, all I really need is five pages of introduction, five pages of conclusion, and five pages each about eight different lyrics. I’ve been writing five page papers for most of my life. That’s the bulk of the dirty work. A unifying thread will present itself naturally. When you put it in perspective, a thesis is suddenly not so intimidating. I don’t need to agonize and slave over it for months and months. It’s just a big paper. That’s not to undermine the endeavor, but rather to turn an abstract horror into a manageable assignment.

I can do it, and it will get done, but fifty pages is fifty pages, and with deadlines looming, it’s another thing distracting me from what I’d really love to be doing, which is writing this website. I know: life is tough, get a helmet, and all that, but I don’t believe life needs to be filled with things we don’t want to do. Some things, sure, but not most things. There’s only a finite amount of space in your head, and the more things that reside there, the less attention each receives. But, the only way out is through, as they say.

It’s fascinating how issues I’m wrestling with in my head also tend to bubble up in discussion on the internet, seemingly by coincidence. As I was taking a break from writing this article, I was finishing the latest episode of The B&B Podcast. Shawn Blanc just happened to bring up the topic of self-imposed urgency in maintaining his website, which he writes full-time.

It’s a self-imposed urgency. It’s self-imposed responsibility. You know, because I’ve been thinking about this a lot for the past six months now that I write my site full-time. And… you know what? I’m going to show up to work every day, I’m going to work hard, I’m going to do my best, I’m going to try to write as well as I can, and as regularly as I can. And sometimes that only equates to two or three links a day. And you know what? So what? That is me working. Because there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes behind that.

The thing is, Shawn and his wife are expecting, and here I am bumming out about balancing work, school, and writing. But he’s totally right. The only person pressuring me to post every day is me. Would I love to write 1,000 words a day for this site? Of course. But sometimes other things will need to take precedence, and the site will still be here tomorrow.

So, today I’ve woken up early to write five pages on Fowles In the Frith, and during that time I won’t be able to give this website any attention. But the sooner I get those five pages done, the sooner I’ll be able to post something here guilt-free. The sooner my thesis is done, the sooner I’ll be able to pour myself even further into QLE. I’m not excusing what will probably be a dearth of long-form content over the next few months, but I am asking you to bear with me. Before long, I’ll have found some more hours in the day.