It is sometimes difficult to figure which end of a skunk is up.
The other night I went to retrieve Hobkin for purposes of cuddling. In the shadows under the hutch and me without corrective eye wear, I had a moment's confusion, unsure which end of the snoozing fur lump truncated in a nose and which a tail. Making what I thought was an accurate determination, I bundled Hobkin in my arms and carted him off.
fosteronfilm came in, and I squinted and commented offhandedly: "Wasn't sure which end of Hobkin was which."
Since I am myopic unto blind without my glasses, I couldn't see his expression, but the tone of his voice was expressive. He replied, "Still haven't worked it out, I see."
Seems I was lugging a groggy and very perplexed skunk around head down. Of course, I righted him as soon as I realized, but he was miffed and wide awake by that time (usually I can carry him from the hutch to the chaise without waking him, and he just nestles in my arms). He glared at me and rightly decided he didn't want to snuggle with the crazy lady; he scampered back to the hutch in a huff.
On the non-upside down skunk front, our friend, Chris-from-Tennessee, came a'visiting over the weekend. He's a Biology professor specializing in Ichthyological paleontology, and he's conducting a summer seminar in Mexico. He drove to Chez Foster a couple days before his flight from Hartsfield-Jackson so we could hang out and catch up. It was a nice diversion from nose-to-the-keyboard, and he's got a toddler daughter who I love hearing about. Chris's wife is from China, and she speaks Mandarin to their daughter while he speaks English to her. I'm fascinated by the linguistic progress of an emergent bilingual child.
Been mulling my recent lack of fiction progress. The hamsters have been most troublesome even though I've slung away some of the bitier ones. And it occurred to me, as in bolt-out-of-the-blue smack-me-in-the face occurred to me, that I've been undermining the intrinsic motivation of my writing by pairing it too closely with financial reward.
There's heaps of psychological studies that show how both creativity and interest decline whenever something once done for the pure joy of it is set on a reward schedule. As soon as gain becomes the driving purpose behind creative expression, enjoyment evaporates, and art becomes work--to the detriment of art and artist.
While I am indeed a working writer, struggling to pay the bills and all, there's got to be a way to achieve a balance here. Yes, they're linked in reality, but I need to isolate the money-making from the creative part on an emotional level. Already, I'm finding myself thinking along the lines of "these 300 words of website content that I'm ghostwriting will get me such-and-such amount, while I'll be lucky if these 300 words of fiction--more grueling and draining to produce--will get me a fraction of that if I'm lucky." And so I'm ending up cranking out the money-words and neglecting my fiction.
But how? Hrm. I need to implement a new reward structure, I think. So here's what I came up with: From now on, fiction writing is no longer "work." It is the reward for making progress on my freelance gigs, which are "work." If I finish a reasonable daily quota of "work" I'm free to indulge my muse.
Well, the theory sounds good. 'Course the true test is whether my restructuring results in any fiction productivity gains. Will revisit this as needed.
Man, when I unearthed my repressed psychologist, she went amok. Beware berserk psychology researcher . . .
I have a different reward system; since I make very little coinage from writing (okay, $103.00 so far this year), I reward myself for a week's worth of fiction writing (anytime I get past 3,000 words) with a trip to Cold Stone Creamery. This keeps me motivated in two ways: 1) to keep writing fiction, and 2) to get the reward of Chocolate Devotion, "Love It!" size.
Well, it works for me.
I also tend to compartmentalize my non-fiction writing as "work", while my fiction is the stuff that gives me pleasure.
Much like your skunk-toting, I think you have your priorities reversed. Do your creative efforts first, then switch to the freelance gigs. It's the stories, babe goddess, that are really important in the long run, plus it's good for the muse to feel loved. "Me first," she cries, feeling slightly rejected and a bit mischievous.
On June 21st, 2006 02:07 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
I think my husband is feeling much the same way lately. With the touch of success, he sometimes starts feeling a tad resentful, irritated by the idea of having a deadline on his art.
He loves creating, but the conflict between a full-time (soul-sucking) job, and finding the energy afterwards to do what he loves, does take it's toll. OTOH, he worries that even if he were able to quit the day job, he might start to hate his art (because of its link to survival).
I write too infernally slow to make a living off fiction. Consequently, I haven't felt that kind of pressure. Of course, I wonder how I can call myself a writer when my production is so minimal, but that's another story.