I just now finished a month long project to help promote my fantasy novel Angst at an upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy convention - ConX. My good friend Allie had the idea of making pop tab / chainmail bracelets for a gift bag the convention is giving out. The idea was excellent, especially since it ties in with the costume she wears at the shows. There was no knowing how long it would take.
Each bracelet took a minimum of 10 minutes to make, and the con required at least 200 bracelets. In addition I tied an Angst bookmark to each. If you add in the time washing the pop tabs, clipping off or bending pointy ends, and sorting out the bad ones - this project took about 40 hours. I'm more than a little grateful my wife and daughter helped as much as they could stand: if it weren't for them I wouldn't have time to write this post.
The time spent on projects like these makes me question my sanity…well, maybe it's not that bad, but I do question the value of a time sink like this one. I loved writing Angst. It was like working out - I didn't always look forward to it, but I always felt good about it when I was done. While I can't say I enjoyed spending 40 hours making bracelets, I do believe it will make for a fun con. But, it really makes me question how I spend my time and what I get out of it.
When I wrote Angst, I was mostly driven by ego. I was frustrated with most aspects of my life and I needed to accomplish something. I self-published because I wanted the instant gratification brought from actually completing a novel. That was almost 2 years ago, and life changes a lot. My family has changed - my daughter started High School and my son is 1,200 miles away at college now. Relationships change. The world continues to change. With all of this and more I find that my ego has changed too. When I started writing the sequel to Angst, I wrote simply to fill the void. Writing itself can be fulfilling - I always feel great after I've hammered out a few pages, especially if I like them. But it has been uninspired, and while I enjoy what I've written it hasn't been the same as writing Angst.
Now that the dust of summer has settled and my time is once again becoming my own, I've begun to reassess. I've been looking at all of the ways I have spent my time doing over the last several years. Some have been fulfilling while others make me smack my forehead and say "what in the world was I thinking", which means change. It's hard to spend less time and focus, or even walk away from those things you've spent a lot of time on, whether it be relationships, jobs, passions, hobbies… each of these things has a personal value to you that only you can measure. But if you don't adapt to the changes around you, you will never achieve your goals.
There are some things in my life I need to spend less time doing, but writing isn't one of them. As much as I loved writing Angst, I feel that maybe I wrote it for the wrong reasons and because of this the results were different than I expected. My original drive to "climb a mountain because it is there" has passed, my frustrations with life have calmed, and they haven't made Angst a movie yet so the path to riches and fame seems a bit longer ;) .
Maybe there is a little bit of ego left pushing me forward, but now it's more than that. I'm driven by a desire to see the story told (and it's going to be a hell of a story) but more importantly I'm inspired by everyone who has read Angst and enjoys it. Whether it is a tweet thanking me for writing Angst, a review on Amazon saying the book made them laugh out loud, or a blog post where I can really tell the reader understood what I was trying to say… It's fulfilling in a way I hadn't expected and I'm quickly coming to realize what truly drives me to write.