Archive for April, 2013

Unhappy Anniversary

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

"It was twenty years ago today . . ."

I like to record things. I keep track of time, I fill journals, and I log spreadsheets. It's quite likely I have millions of words scattered about, chronicling everything I've done, for over thirty years. If I ever make something of myself and some future biographer needs some raw material, there will be no shortage of it.

Which is why I know that twenty years ago today, I wrote this:

Today the itch got to me. I've been feeling like writing a book for some reason, and today I took my first steps towards realizing it. Now I didn't actually write anything today, because, heck, I don't even have a story yet. But I did some housekeeping, and, using MicroSoft Word on my PC, I came up with document templates to use. So now, if an idea hits me, I'll be ready.

I think part of what's making me feel this way is the TBX documentation that I'm just now finishing. It came out to over 400 pages, and it made me realize that I'd like to write something real rather than technical documentation.

If I were the protagonist in some other author's work, he couldn't have created a passage containing any more gems than that one. Just look at it! I say I want to write a book but instead of writing, I just set up templates. (I still get a kick out of the way I wrote "MicroSoft".) I mention not wanting to write technical documentation. Yet between 1996 and 2007, that's about all I did with my Getting Results video editing how-to series. And the most tragic part: I still have this burning desire to write novels and yet I obviously lack the capacity.

Exhibit A

To discuss this in more depth, I give you Exhibit A: Life is Like a MasterCard.

life is like a mastercard logo

The white box represents all of humanity, plus dolphins and mice. Any being in the white area has no ability to do X and no desire to do so either. Any being in the white area is perfectly content. Using me as an example: I have absolutely no ability to understand quantum physics and no desire to do so. I am content. I do not think about quantum physics in the car on the way to work. I don't worry that I'm making no progress in the field. I never fret that I will not be remembered for my achievements in quantum physics. I am content.

The blue area contains the subset of people who have the ability to do something, but no desire. The beings in this box are also perfectly content. If I may offer myself up as a guinea pig a second time: I have the ability to write a word processor. I am a software developer by profession and were I to put my mind to it, I could come up with something more than useable. But I have no desire to do so. The world is pretty well set on word processors. I am content.

The purple area is the subset of people who have the ability to do something as well as the desire. The beings in this box are also content. I myself have the ability and desire to make toast and put peanut butter on it. I do this often. I am content.

Now at this point, you, the dolphins, and all the mice see where this is heading. You can see where the pain lies. It's in that red area. This is where you find the unhappy, the restless, the cursed. I sure would like to write a novel. But I can't. I just can't.

Exhibit B

"Well, not with that attitude!" the ever-helpful optimist points out. "Think positive! You can do anything!" Well, I simply don't believe that. And that's not being a pessimist, that's just being a realist.

My favorite Pixar film is Ratatouille. The food critic Ego constantly demonstrates his disdain for Gusteau's motto, "Anyone Can Cook!" Because, at face value, this appears to be just another twist on the syrupy "Think positive! You can do anything!" mantra. What Ego finally realizes at the end of the film is the truth in what Gusteau meant: "Not anyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere." I love that. It sounds positive but at its heart lies realism. That's me in a nutshell.

My Problem

In the last month or so, it finally struck me what my problem is. I have something I call "I Can Do That! Syndrome." I possess a modicum of talent in the fields of writing, art, and music — but only just enough to be a danger to myself.

If I read a book, or see a movie, or look at a painting, or hear a song that I like, my immediate reaction is, "I Can Do That!" Because I know how to write, draw, and play a couple musical instruments. I've done enough of these things. I understand the fundamentals, theory, and have enough practical knowledge that my reaction is always the same: I Can Do That!

For example, I'll look at a pencil drawing like this:

I then set my own pencil to paper and get this:

It's all just a bit frustrating. And even more so now, looking back on a journal entry written twenty years ago by a person who thought he just might take the literary world by storm.

Still, I haven't given up yet. If there's one thing about "desire without ability" it's this: it is, first and foremost, "desire." And I'll keep working on this, if it's the next thing I do. Which it will be if I just click that Publish button and at last get back to work.

Check back on April 20, 2033 for Part Two of this post.

Posted in Musings |