Writing Is a Weird Hobby
Last weekend, I sat down and started writing a fiction scene. I liked doing it and I was inspired to do it by a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. It was short and not at all finished project, but it was the start of something I want to keep working on. That night, I posted my link to it on Facebook and went to bed. The next morning, I woke up and immediately deleted the Facebook post, but left the story up.
The reason I deleted the post directing people to the short scene is the same reason pseudonyms (pen names) are used by so many writers. I was proud of the little bit I wrote that night, but I was worried it would upset people who know me. It is so tough to write without fear when you're worried about upsetting the people in your orbit.
There were two parts to this scene I didn't want people I know to read and overanalyze. The first was the main character's nonchalance to being told he was going to die by a doctor. I was afraid this would once again be interpreted as a cry for help and I really didn't want to deal with that shit again from people in my life.
The second was my mention of cancer. There is no way to write anything about a cancer diagnosis without potentially upsetting people who are struggling with the same situation and reacting way different than my main character. I didn't want any of my friends or family to read the scene and think I was making light of something so terrible so I pulled the direct link.
The terrible part about writing as a passion/hobby is being proud of what you write while also having to worry about how people will take it. I pride myself in writing honestly even when it can be uncomfortable. I am proud of almost everything I've ever written because I knew it was always honest when I wrote it. I also know I've written things that might upset people I care about. I can simultaneously be proud of writing how a friendship or relationship fell apart while feeling terrible knowing the other person might read it. I can feel proud of writing a story about a character who feels like a terminal diagnosis is "liberating" while feeling bad about how a real person will view my character's flippant attitude should they read it.
I plan to continue working on the story I started last week. I plan on continuing to write posts on this blog. I know both could be uncomfortable, offensive, or upsetting for readers. There will be people I know who don't like me using (fucking) profanity, or talking about sex, or telling stories with depressed characters, or writing true feelings about our interactions. Since I'm not planning on going by a pseudonym, I guess I just have to accept that as the cost of this incredibly weird hobby of mine.
Appreciating a Short Story
I have never give short stories much of a chance. Typically, if I see story is less than 5 hours of audiobook time I avoid it completely. But if there is one author who can get me to give the short story format a chance, it is Kurt Vonnegut. As a person who loves to write, I'm ashamed to admit that I wasn't really big on reading some of the great authors until recently. I've only gotten three books into Vonnegut's catalog (Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, and Breakfast of Champions) but I do love his style. I've always wanted to write my own stories, but I'm so worried about grammar, format, and style I let myself get paralyzed. Vonnegut has a unique style I know doesn't conform to traditional writing and that's what I love about it. So it goes.
This morning I decided to take 19 minutes out of my Saturday morning to listen the audiobook of 2BR02B (to be R naught to be) and I'm really glad I did. In 19 minutes of audiobook time or 15 pages of written work, Vonnegut managed to create a utopian/dystopian world. He, somehow, also relayed enough information for the reader to form background stories for at least five characters.
In the end, Vonnegut told a story so shocking and disturbing in 19 minutes/15 pages it has stuck with me all day. I actually took a nap after listening to it and had dreams of the world he created. That is an amazing skill. This is what I want to do. This is the purpose I want to strive to achieve. I want to write stories people feel some way about and it doesn't matter if it is a novel or 500 words of short story.
After my experience with 2BR02B I finally took the time to start a story I've had in my mind for a long time. I don't know if it will be short, a novel, or absolutely nothing, but Vonnegut's writing inspired me to at least start taking the first steps with it. I posted it on my Medium page here.
Legalize it Already!
Writing Honestly without Shame for Purpose
When I laid out the concept for "Randy Solves Life" my intent was to write about posts about the six topics I laid out in my original post and the steps I am taking to make each of those things better. Again, those six topics were finances, health, romantic relationships, social relationships, career, and searching for purpose. But then there are days like today, 4/20, the day recognized by many pot users as a day to celebrate weed, where I have a specific topic in mind. I could try to shoehorn this one into the health category and talk about the benefits of marijuana, but that really isn't why I think it should be legalized.
I want to write about legalizing weed because I think there are still people uncomfortable with the idea. I also think they are uncomfortable with it because they have a stereotypical view of a "typical" marijuana user. There are people in my life who I suspect view pot smokers as dangerous drug addicts. Thinking of these people made me realize maybe one of my purposes in life is to write honestly and without shame about things others might be afraid to express. And with that rationale, I can justify placing this post in the "Finding Purpose" category of the site.
With that out of the way, here are three statements I believe to be absolutely true:
1. Federal marijuana laws are stupid.
If you don't think they are stupid, you probably live in a state where recreational weed is illegal and maybe even one of the few where medicinal isn't approved either. How stupid would we all agree it would be to go to jail for possession of Coca-Cola or a venti latte because it was illegal in Alabama? Enjoy your Coke or Starbucks in Georgia, but the second you cross that state line: "Fuck you, criminal!". That is the current stance on weed. Enjoy all the pot you want in Arizona, Nevada, or Colorado but if you cross that Utah border your ass belongs in jail. This is stupid. There is no other way to put it.
2. There is no stereotypical marijuana user.
This past Saturday morning, I sat in a dispensary waiting room surrounded by a soccer mom, a video gamer nerd, a guy wearing a "We the People" flag t-shirt, a grandfatherly type, and a few stoners. Each of these stereotypical descriptions might have conjured up a mental image but it probably isn't the same image as saying I was surrounded by pot users. Yet, here they were, a diverse group of people waiting to see a budtender to purchase federally illegal drugs on a Saturday morning.
3. There is currently enough marijuana in my kitchen cabinet to land me in jail in several states.
I don't consider myself to be a stereotypical marijuana user either. In fact, I hadn't used weed in nearly 18 years until it became legal in Arizona last March. I don't use it often. Typically, once or twice a month on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon or an occasional Friday night. I don't smoke it. I prefer taking it in edible form because I don't like the concept of any kind of smoke filling my lungs. I take it for the same reason I take another mind-altering substance, alcohol, to relax and get my mind off of anxiety-inducing things for a little bit.
I bought a tin of gummies legally for the first time last March. That first tin lasted me until June. When the original tin of ten 10-mg THC gummies ran out, I took advantage of a two-for-one special giving me 20 gummies which lasted until this past Saturday. Considering how long the last two packages lasted me, I decided to only buy one again this time. Of the new package, I've taken one gummy. There it is, a detailed documentation of my use of a schedule 1 narcotic as categorized by the DEA: 31 gummies, consisting of 310 mg of THC over the course of 13 months. I am currently in possession of a tin of nine gummies that would make me a criminal in my home state, North Dakota, unless I made up a medical reason and got a doctor to give me a card.
I will go out on a limb and say this probably isn't the stereotypical usage pattern people who think marijuana is a dangerous drug envision when they voice support for the current federal laws. I would also bet these people know others who would use pot as responsibly as I feel I do if it were legal in their states. It isn't dangerous or scary and there is no need for such a stigma to still exist. If discussing honestly, without shame, my use and experience with legal weed helps remove that stigma for anyone, then there is purpose for my writing.
What is your state's stance on marijuana legislation? Whether it is legal in your state or not, what is your personal stance on federal legislation? Leave a comment to let me know.
Searching for Purpose
Probably the most misunderstood part of my opening post was saying I felt "a general feeling of pointlessness". After several extremely uncomfortable conversations, I realized the way I intended this statement was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay different than the way it was interpreted. What I probably should have said was I didn't feel like I had a purpose in my life. To summarize:
"Life is pointless" = Scary statement, maybe you should be committed to a mental health facility.
"I don't feel like I have a purpose" = Oh, maybe you should get a hobby or something.
I don't feel like I've been doing things that are my life's purpose for the past few years. When I was working as a college counselor, I viewed my purpose as helping people with their education. Although my feelings about that job have changed in recent years, it still served as my purpose for nearly a decade. As a delivery driver, I don't look to my job to provide purpose, but I also haven't been looking outside of it either.
I believe there is a distinct difference between career and purpose. I'm not just going to wait until I start a new job to look for things that help me find purpose. This way if I fall into something I don't love doing, I won't continue to feel like I don't have purpose beyond my work.
Writing is something I love to do. When I get into a good rhythm I can do it and feel good about it for weeks at a time. It is also something I fall out of for months, sometimes years, at a time. I'm hoping starting this blog and sticking to less frequent posting schedule than I've done with my other blogs will help me stay engaged.
When writing topics dry up or writer's block sets in, I can't just let myself feel purposeless again. That's why I think I also need more hobbies. I write because I like to create. Unfortunately, I'm a terrible artist. I press way to hard when I use a pen/pencil. This seems like it should be easily correctable, but somehow in 38 years I've never managed to fix it. However, I do want to do something slightly artistic. A few weeks ago, I invested in a Dremel tool for woodcarving. The picture accompanying this post was my first carving project. I don't know why I'm drawn to carving. A few years ago, I bought a rotary tool to put some holes in a plastic bucket. Since then, I've just wanted to buy a better one and try my hand at carving.
I don't think creative hobbies are the only things that will help me find purpose. I'm not sure what else I'll do but I'm considering things like volunteering, maybe for an animal shelter or a food bank. Just like my plan for fixing my finances, I'm going to do some reading (actually listening) on the subject of finding purpose in life. My first audio book for this part of "solving life" is going to be:
Again, to clarify, my life is not "pointless". I just feel like a need to find my purpose(s). Mom, you can sleep at night without having to worry. I didn't start this blog to write about giving up. It is about finally trying to find my way rather than just hoping things will fall into place.
What things make you feel purposeful in life? Have you ever had to go through a time of searching for purpose? What books, tools, or tips helped you? Let me know in the comments.
Randy Miller is on a quest to move his life along the scale from completely sucking to sucking slightly less to potentially sucking very little. He isn't really sure how he'll do this, but maybe writing about it will help.
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies