Tag Archives: poetry

Cursebreak #1: The American Dream Curse

I mentioned this initially when I introduced the concept of Cursebreak to you folks, and I’m going to describe what it is.

In short: The American Dream Curse is the constant, nagging feeling that you’re wasting your time.

In long: The American Dream Curse is a motivational factor. Yes, it’s a little voice in the back of your head telling you over and over again that you are wasting your time when you’re not at the keyboard, or easel, or whichever vessel you take to get closer to your dreams. In moderate amounts, this is a good thing. You need a driving factor telling you to get things done, and it’s even better when that driving force is yourself. If you only wrote or drew when you wanted to, you wouldn’t get hardly anything done. However, there is a fine line between this curse being a good thing and a bad thing.

Why it’s a good thing: As you get older, the only thing that seems to matter is how much of an impact you have on the world. You want to leave your imprint, to let people know that you were here, and that you made great use of your time on Earth. The American Dream is founded on the belief that if any American tries hard enough, they can succeed. No dream is too far-fetched. There are no limitations. The only limitation is yourself (debatable if you’re not a white man). It’s great to believe in yourself, and if you didn’t believe in yourself, you wouldn’t have that little voice at the back of your head telling you to get it together and put that pen to paper.

Why it’s also a bad thing: It’s a slippery slope. Yes, that voice is your best friend at first. Like I said, it’s even better if the driving force is yourself. You don’t really notice just how hard you’re being on yourself until it becomes unmanageable. It starts out simple enough, “Oh man, I didn’t get the thing done today. I’ll try again another time.” But you ultimately become unforgiving of yourself when you do this. That voice in the back of your head compares you to others. “Look at Bill Gates. He never stops working. Look at J.K. Rowling. You want to be like her, don’t you? Do you think she was this lazy?” First of all, success is relative. Think about the hardest-working person in our nation, and that person is likely the President of the United States. Whether or not you like him or dislike him, you have to admit that Obama does have a big workload, and there are a lot of things people expect him to do and promises to uphold. If he screws up even once, no matter how trivial it is, people all over the nation are going to criticize him up and down for it. There’s a reason not a lot of people want to run for president, and it’s because it’s such a huge responsibility, but it’s also a sign of success. You climbed as high as you could on the ladder, and you’re on top of the world – er, America. If you were that successful, your life would be complete. Now, let me tell you the story of one of our early presidents: John Quincy Adams. He lived in his father’s shadow, and he was exposed to violence at a very young age. John Quincy Adams was the worst critic of himself imaginable. He wrote in his diary after being the private secretary to the American minister to Russia, the secretary at the Treaty of Paris, the president, and a congressman: His life had been a succession of disappointments. “I can scarcely recollect a single instance of success to anything that I ever undertook.” (information provided by Cracked). And this was a man who accomplished more in his life than most people will. This reason is exactly why we need to make our cases of the American Dream Curse more manageable, or else we’ll end up thinking like this (probably to a less extreme extent).

How you can begin to fix it: The problem with writing and other such things is that no matter how much you accomplish, it never feels like it’s enough. There’s always going to be someone who did more than you, better than you, and it begins to feel more like a high score board on an arcade game than your own personal success story. (I’m never going to beat 88heliod, might as well just give up!) Bottom line: Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s really easy to do, and it does start off as an innocent motivational factor. “I want to be like Robert Jordan.” Others will compare you, and they’ll use it against you, saying that you’ll never be as good as X author, kind of like when Stephanie Meyer was being criticized and told that her writing would never ever be as good at Stephen King’s. Whether or not you view either author favorably, they both write for different genres from one another, so that’s another problematic aspect of comparing yourself to others. Someone may be great at writing mystery, and you may not be, but that’s not a good way to define yourself.

Find other ways to motivate yourself. If you compare yourself to others, then that starts a very toxic trend within you. Remember, success is relative, and you have to accept that there will always be someone who puts out more work than you and does a better job at it. Even the most successful people probably think there’s someone better out there than them. But that does not make you a bad writer. And guess what? It’s not a competition. It’s not a race to see who’s the better writer. You didn’t take up writing because you wanted to outsell J.K. Rowling; you took it up because it’s something you genuinely enjoy. If your ambition is to be an even better writer than (insert your favorite author here), then you’re writing for the wrong reasons, and you’ll only end up disappointing yourself. This is your success story, and your story shouldn’t depend on being able to out-write another author. Look at it this way: If I don’t outsell a famous author, no big whoop. I’ll at least have accomplished something and made great use of my time. Be careful to also not compare yourself to others in the way that you believe you’ve accomplished more than they ever will. As an author, it’s easy to let the ego get to your head. “Yaaaas! I finished writing this book I spent ten years on! What are you doing with your life!?” Yeah, don’t do that. Don’t belittle someone. Success is relative, and success is great, but you should be humble about it. Yes, it’s a great accomplishment, and you should celebrate that, but you can totally do that without putting others down.

And that concludes this session of Cursebreak! Future entries will likely be much shorter than this, but since this was the most important aspect of it, I chose to say a lot.

TL;DR: Don’t compare yourself to others because that is a toxic thing to do to yourself.

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Cursebreak!

Hello, everyone! I’m going to be doing a small, motivational series called ‘Cursebreak!’ I may or may not have mentioned before what I call ‘the American Dream Curse/Syndrome,’ which can be described as the feeling that you’re constantly wasting your time when you’re not doing something productive. This curse is easy to slip into if you’re dedicated to writing, and at times, it’s necessary to have. But if you don’t manage it correctly, it can make you miserable. ‘Cursebreak!’ will feature small, weekly reminders to take time for yourself. Sometimes, when we write, we get this tunnel vision, and all we can think about is getting the job done. If not dealt with properly, it can result in us neglecting our health, which causes our writing to suffer. Make no mistake, this isn’t an excuse to be lazy, and I’m definitely not promoting laziness, but I believe that breaks are necessary, even when it comes to something we enjoy. It’s important to not let yourself become overworked, because that will result in you ultimately getting less done. The point of ‘Cursebreak!’ is to break you away from the adverse side of the American Dream Curse, which causes you to think negatively about yourself and your writing if it goes unmanaged. ‘Cursebreak!’ will also help individuals manage their time more effectively, because writing and taking care of yourself are not mutually exclusive things. It’s not one or the other; it’s both. I recommend that every diligent writer subscribes to ‘Cursebreak!’ because not only will they enjoy life more, but they will enjoy writing more as a result. I will post ‘Cursebreak!’ snippets on Saturdays. Today is an exception, because I really want to get this thing started. Of course, I’ll be making a page for the ‘Cursebreak!’ snippets in case you miss some posts.

Stay tuned!

Why R&R is important

There’s a reason paid vacation days are a thing. Imagine if we all worked 24/7 year round. I don’t like to think about it. Obviously, if you’re constantly working, your morale will go down, and you’ll quickly grow to hate what you’re doing, so breaks are necessary. We’ve been told this time and time again. It’s why it’s guaranteed in a lot of our work contracts that we’re entitled to fifteen minute breaks after 4 hours of labor, because if you had to carry out the whole shift without a single moment to sit down, you’ll burn out quickly and interact negatively towards the people who are providing you a paycheck.

So then why do we beat ourselves up so much if we do take breaks? Writing may be your life, and it’s what you do for fun, but a lot of us, myself included, aren’t willing to admit it when we need a break. How could you possibly need a break from something you claim to enjoy doing? For some of us, publishing is the thing that’s going to make it so our names aren’t forgotten. Writing is our legacy, and we enjoy doing it. Sometimes, it feels like it’s the only thing that matters, especially when you see everyone else around you just bathing in success.

Writing may be fun, but it requires a lot of discipline. You have to pay attention to the mannerisms of real people closely, or else you can’t write believable characters. You need to be able to admit when you’re wrong, and try not to defend yourself when you mess up. You have to be willing to throw away or at least revamp old drafts you spent so much time on for the sake of the greater good. You have to be willing to cut time out of your day specifically for writing. You have to remind yourself to not be an arrogant snob all the time because of the quantity of works you’ve written. There’s a reason not everyone pursues writing as a lifestyle, and it’s because it is so emotionally investing. If you view writing less as a hobby, and more as a career, then you have so many obstacles to overcome. It’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do because it’s such a cutthroat industry, and almost nobody who can help you wants you to succeed. Every other aspiring author may view you as competition, and it can hurt if you see someone who is better than you. Etc. Etc. Etc. After you experience the pains of writing, it’s clear to see why the alcoholic author trope is even a thing. Writing is easy since it’s a skill that comes to you with time and experience, but getting your work out there and getting enough people to care about it is obscenely difficult.

The point of that long paragraph was to demonstrate that yeah, writing is fun, but it is so taxing. It’s harder than a lot of people think, and while things like e-publishing are making it easier for people to get their work out there, it’s also kind of risky since you’re likely passing up the chance to have a professional editor look at it (Not that I don’t trust my current editor to do an excellent job. She most definitely did). So imagine if each of your days was that emotionally invested. Of course, you’re going to get tired, and even though you enjoy writing, it’s that dark, demanding side that will cause you to hate it if you put too much time at once towards it.

And that’s why you need rest and relaxation without beating yourself up over it. If you do take a break, and all you do is sit there and constantly think of how you’re wasting your time, you’re not going to feel like you had much of a break at all, and you’ll be even more reluctant to tackle your work. That results in getting even less work done. Don’t feel bad if you need to take a day or two for yourself to fully recover, especially if you have things like work and/or school to dedicate time to (And depression or anxiety, you know, things in general that kill motivation). The way I do R&R is play Runescape or some other video game. While I’m playing those games, sometimes I think to myself, “Wow, this has nothing to do with anything. What does it matter to anyone else if my combat level is 52? Is this really going to matter in the long scheme of things?” And the answer is no, not really, at least not in the way you’re thinking. The point is, you’re enjoying yourself when you do those things. No, it’s not going to matter if you lounge in the Jacuzzi for a while. It won’t matter several years down the road if you choose to play Skyrim for 5 hours. Except, it kind of does matter. The things you choose to do in your spare time do have an impact, even if it’s only really small. Those things you choose to do in your free time, that’s what makes you you. You’d be an awfully boring person if all you did was write, and you’d probably run out of things to write about. You see, you need these life experiences; you need to do those things you want to do in your free time. Writing is inspired by the things we do and the things we experience. The people we choose to interact with. The way we spend our time in our busy day-to-day lives. What we like to do for fun. It’s what makes us interesting. I’m sure a lot of us have experience in dealing with people who are only interested or obsessed with one thing, and it’s boring talking to them. You quickly run out of things to discuss, if you had any to begin with. Writing is important, yes, and sometimes, you’ll have to do it even if you don’t want to, but if you’re not enjoying life to its fullest extent, then what are you doing with your life? How can you say that’s a life well-spent? As I’ve said before, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your book surely isn’t going to get done in a day. After you’ve put forth enough effort, don’t feel bad if you decide to crack open a beer, or a soda, or water, or whatever it is you drink to take the edge off. Don’t feel bad if you decide to play a video game for a few hours. It’s necessary to your development. It’s what makes you human.

Leap of Faith

On my journey to adulthood,

I have had to cross many cliffs.

Some were easier than others,

but they progressively become more and more difficult to cross.

Sometimes, my feet slip, and I almost fall backwards.

Luckily, someone is always waiting on the other side to catch me.

I have crossed oceans, deserts, and chasms to find my way here.

Here I am again at a cliff’s edge.

The drop off is scary.

What if I don’t make it?

I get weak in the knees, and I get down on my fours to loom over the cliff’s edge.

The fall would hurt, but it wouldn’t kill me.

I’m scared.

I almost turn away from the cliff; there has to be another way.

No.

The land beyond is only attainable through this path.

There will be someone on the other side to see me to safety.

I bend my knees,

say the words,

and I jump.

The Change (October 19th, 2014)

Spiteful,

I try to paint your once golden image

with red and black.

There’s nothing left to see here.

I cross your memory with police tape.

I’ve no business here.

When once we were great friends,

distance put us too far apart.

Can’t say I’m sad,

just disappointed as I paint your picture over.

Something happened here,

and I know what,

but I suppose I just don’t care enough

to report to the authorities.

Some form of betrayal, I like to call it.

But maybe something within you just changed.

No matter,

there is no reason for me to stay.

Starbucks (January 19th, 2012)

Dancing to the beat of today’s youth,

We chug down the street in my clunker,

Going 5 over the speed limit on Midland Drive.

Point and laugh at the passerby

As we walk into the coffee shop.

Smile and wave at the Barista,

And speculate his preference.

Tall mocha for me,

Even in winter.

A venti mocha for my rich friend,

Occasionally a cheese Danish.

And a water for my penniless love.

Sometimes, I will smile upon him and buy his coffee,

Or God will smile upon him and give him enough money for his own.

Discuss the modern day,

Sometimes Magic and politics.

Go to school

And start the fun process again another Thursday.

Bittersweet (February 8th, 2012)

“Raindrops keep falling on my head.”

That same tune repeats in my mind

And rouses those thoughts and memories.

Mouth agape, as if in awe at the heavens.

Skin cold with a sallow tinge of green.

A fonder memory holds my thoughts instead,

When his skin was a healthy pink.

The diner every Sunday was our destination,

But no ice in his water, please,

Though the waitress often forgot,

And saturate his pancakes with the sweetest syrup.

He would smile at my excess powdered sugar –

A mountain of splendor.

“Thanks Grandpa for breakfast,” we all would say.

Often, I complained of the space he occupied in the claustrophobic car.

I revoke all of those naïve complaints,

As a bitter taste haunts my tongue again.

I will douse that bitter fire with more tender sugar.

Every morning, I awoke to the smell of cinnamon and raisin toast.

Though ever so simple, I smile at such a thought,

When times were easier.

I could hear the weights scraping against the boards from the basement when he exercised;

A fonder time.

I remember when the initial fear sank in.

Suddenly, we stopped going out for breakfast.

He no longer joined us for outings.

The thoughts of his heavy breaths

Reduced me to tears long before the call.

I knew it would soon come.

The thought that I could do nothing to help

Reduced me to tears aplenty.

The strain on my father, the strongest man alive,

The fact I could only watch the frail petal spiraling down,

Brought the bitterest taste.

And then, on a day that I truly believed

Could not be plagued by tears,

I was told of his long pauses and immobility,

And the sorrow pulled me from paradise.

There I waited. Watching. Waiting.

Death’s rattle held his lungs,

Setting its timer.

“I love you, Grandpa.

Going to Denny’s with you,

The times you would watch me play games,

The sound of the mouse clicking when you’d play solitaire,

Your singing.”

During a moment of peace with pizza and salad,

We all flocked to his side.

One pulse, and then his suffering ended.

“We’d better make some calls.”

We buried our heads into hands and shoulders.

The reality sank in.

“I’ll never go out to lunch with him again.”

“You don’t know that,” replied a consoling voice.

The tears abruptly stopped,

But promptly started again at the sight of my weeping father.

Tears pouring out his eyes were new to me.

“I hope I mean the same for you

As he did for me.”

“You mean the world to me, daddy.”

I counted my blessings;

At least I got to know my grandpa.

A bitter thought waved to me from afar;

Someday, it will be my own father.

Not now, not for a long time.

A sweet idea caressed me:

Many more years to come to cherish my father.

Grandpa no longer suffers;

This I can smile at.

We will dine again in heaven, Grandpa.

One day, we will.