So. What’s. Happening.

Hello blogosphere.

I have been neglectful.  I’m so textbook ADD it’s boring.  With my blog here, I met with some success—readers, commenters, followers—and then dropped out.  My former therapist might have said that I am afraid of success, but I think it is the typical ebb and flow of ADD interest instead.

Here’s what happens from my side.  I start out on something (my blog, in this case), and I don’t have high expectations for it.  It is fresh and new and fun.  Then I get some positive feedback and suddenly the floodgates are open.  In a prose or fiction project, I usually can get 30,000 or 40,000 words.  Then I stall out.

Stalling happens when ambition strikes.  For the blog, I suddenly have readers who are interested.  Then I start to think book, best seller, interviewed by Oprah.  I even have fantasies about what I might say in an interview It all started with a little blog and a few readers, I would say, stroking my beard profoundly.  I don’t have a beard, but it would be part of my genius author makeover.  I would be rich and famous, pay off all my student loans, and Ralph Fiennes will play me in the movie version.  I’ll give self-deprecating readings to packed audiences like David Sedaris.

That mess gets so big, I put off doing any new writing for a few days.  Then, I feel as if I have to explain my absence in some way, which makes me put it off even more.  Suddenly, a new idea comes along and I’m off in a new (or back to an old) hobby.

My hobby with renewed interest is music.  I have a long history as an amateur musician starting with piano lessons at age 7.  My music background includes a stint as a keyboardist in a prog-rock cover band in the early 90’s (Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth/ that the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth) and a job as head rock-and-roll guy at a performing arts summer camp.  Most recently, I learned my guitar chops playing in a basement for several years with a band of similarly off-balance personalities, including a recovered drug addict, an agoraphobic, and a male-to-female transgender,  all of whom held respectable jobs as teachers.

Half the band moved away, and the house with the basement in it had to be sold, and the remaining band member got carpal-tunnel syndrome and sold all the equipment, so I had gone back to plinking alone in my basement.  I had gotten to the point of not even touching a guitar in six months.

Well, the university got me a new MacBook and it had GarageBand on it, and lo and behold I was hooked on music again.  My music partner got her wrists back in shape and is playing and recording again, and lookout, I’m back in music again.  At the expense of writing.

(If you will indulge me, here’s a song I’m working on: Somber Song)

But even the music is not entirely fulfilling. I get the nagging feeling I’m wasting my time, I’m getting distracted, this is a foolish endeavor that I’m spending too much time and money on (just ordered parts to completely rewire my main guitar).

What I find hard in any endeavor is to find the middle ground.  Creativity and ambition fight each other.  If I can be good I can be great, the thinking goes, and that thought changes to I must be great and then I’m not great, so I’m not even very good and then hey, look, there’s my fancy camera that I haven’t touched in six months; where are my photography books?  When the going gets tough, I go on to something else.

Put another way, the small successes and the fantasy of the big success are far more stimulating than the hard work of following through to the end of meeting ambition’s goal.  Setbacks and boredom aren’t part of the big success fantasy, so it must be the wrong fantasy.  I’m on to a new fantasy (such as my music partner and I playing on SNL).

So today’s Sunday, and it’s a very special Sunday, because it’s the end of my spring break from the university.  Had a whole week with no classes or meetings, with the kids in school.  I had such grand plans . . .

The GarageBand application icon.

Image via Wikipedia

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12 thoughts on “So. What’s. Happening.

  1. How did you manage to sneak into my head and put my issues so eloquently in words??? I understand exactly what you’re saying. My problem even extends to “if I can’t be great at it, there’s no point in doing it”. Which leads to a horrible cycle of negativity.

    Please keep writing, playing and clicking the shutter. As Henry Van Dyke said “Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”

    • Thanks, Holly. Related to the “I can’t be great” issue is that I have a problem with practice or apprenticeship—having patience to do something poorly at first. It was really hard for me to start doing yoga last year because I would be so poor at it. Which is dumb because yoga is noncompetitive by design.

      My wife teaches music lessons and she runs into the same thing with many adult beginners–they’re used to being competent grownups and the cello is frustrating.

      I’ve come to think of it lately as a symptom of dysthymia more than anything—when I first wake up in the morning my first thought is “why do I do anything?” that’s before coffee and meds though.

  2. I second Holly’s comment. That’s exactly what happens to me. Unfortunately for my finances, it’s really expensive when I switch hobbies. I usually jump into a new hobby with big ideas and dreams, so I think I must buy the best I can afford. After all, If I’m to become the next best thing, then I can’t possibly use the cheap stuff. I’ll need something that costs more, so it’ll last me longer…then I get bored or find something that seems too big to take on. And so I move on.

    • Thanks for the comment, Ryan.

      I’ve gone down that road with backpacking, photography, computers, guitars, bicycling, and woodworking.

      Fortunately, I’ve made some decisions recently. I decided a couple of years ago that since it had been a decade since I went backpacking, I should get rid of all the equipment. I did cringe when a woman bought my super light weight and expensive North Face tent so her grandkids could play in it, but I let it go.

      I fall victim to magazine and catalog unreality: glossy publications that do a great job convincing you that your equipment is not good enough and if only you had something better . . .

      In my own defense, my guitar was buzzing and I did need a new potentiometer on the tone knob—but not an entire rewire.

  3. So now I’m afraid to comment and encourage you because if I continue to do so..you will get back to thinking you are wonderful and should call Oprah or make yourself into a movie or a celebrity; then you will stop writing and wonder how to explain yourself….
    and we may never hear from you again.

    So..should I comment or remain quiet? Oh The Dilemma!!! (hand on head.)

  4. ‘When the going gets tough, I go on to something else.’

    Ah, how familiar this whole process (culminating in the above) is to me.

    I always hold out for it being ‘different this time’ but it never is.

    Regardless, welcome back. Hope we don’t lose you to the music forever.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I’ve been thinking about the “it will be different this time” impulse and have been wondering if instead there were a way to just accept this cyclical interest.

      Maybe a new post is in order . . .

  5. ADD or not, your comments ring true for all of us. This year we had the chance to homeschool after a number of years in school. The lesson I learned the first time around, after quitting with a feeling of failure, was that grandiose plans just can’t be maintained. If my kids weren’t geniuses or we weren’t building the Pyramids out of sugar cubes, why continue. This year I took the lesson from school. A little each day. Day in, day out. No condemnation. It has been such a great year. I feel like my kids have really learned to write well. We have read some great books (not as many as I would have liked). We have even learned to successfully diagram sentences. Thank you Classical Conversations. But hopefully, the lesson that they have learned is they can accomplish something by just doing a little bit each day.

    Last year I set out to read the Bible In a year, but I didn’t start until June! It was not easy. This year, I started January 1st, and so far, so good. I just wish I could apply this philosophy to all the other areas of my life – exercise, house cleaning, diet…. As I said, even without ADD, we all struggle with unmet expectations. Love your blog, Jon. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

    • Thanks for your comment, Shelly.

      One thing my mother always told me was “if you do a little each day, you can get a lot done.” I’ve never been able to work that way, unless there’s accountability. For instance, I took piano lessons from ages seven to seventeen. It was just part of our morning routine to practice our half hour before school every day (and an annoying alarm clock when my younger brother started his at 6:30!)

      As a “grown up” I’ve started to become adequate on the guitar, but I can’t practice every day, and I can’t make myself do scales and exercises regularly. I resented school growing up, because the work seemed so easy to me, but I did not do well in college at first because I needed the structure that high school imposed (even though at the time I didn’t believe it).

      Unmet expectations are definitely a struggle for everyone (maybe not Warren Buffett), but it’s particularly hard when you are consistently consistent and don’t know why for 40 years. I also think that disappointment is felt differently by different personalities and that has little to do with morality or will power. I see in my youngest son the traces of deep disappointment over small matters that I felt growing up.

      I admire you for being able to accept your “failure” and learn from it. It’s something I strive to do most days!

  6. Pingback: It won’t be different this time « Attention Deficit Whatever

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