I want to write about Jeff.
Jeff is a musician friend that's about my age. He plays guitars and keyboards of different sorts. Electric jazz guitars are his strength and preference.
He's a professional musician. In his world, that means that he goes on tour as the band backing up others like Kenny G. and Michael Bolton, and does studio work. He plays gigs in clubs with others and has three albums out. I enjoy his playing and marvel at his skills and talent. He also augments his income by teaching others how to play guitar. He's the other version of The Beatles' success, the guy who had a dream, has talent, worked hard but never 'made it big.'
Being a musician sounds a lot like being a writer, doesn't it? Sure, or being an actor, singer, painter, sports athlete, politician, stock broker....
One of the first Red Room posts I ever read was Lauren Lise Baratz-Logsted's post, "The Other Side of the Fence". Posted in 2008, it was added to the tips page. I return to it every few months. Someone commented on it today so it popped up again.
LLB-L is writing as one who has 12 books published, so she's on the other side. She mentions many things in her posts. One thing is the Jeff Syndrome. She doesn't call it that. It's the same thing, though, the fact that many, many talented writers will finish a book and become published and continue working day jobs to make ends meet. Chris Rodell is one, a talented writer with books and articles published, on the other side, really, who still works hard to make ends meet. Yet we still all try.
I wonder about this often myself. Why do I step up on this treadmill? That's how I refer to this relentless pursuit, I'm running on a treadmill. It's one of dozens of treadmills I step upon every day. Sometimes I run on two or three of them at the same time. Yet this one, this writing treadmill, is the most optional of them all.
Actually, in reflection, most of them are optional. I can collect potato recipes and quit my job, ending that treadmill. I have a military pension and no bills but I'll probably step up onto a boredom treadmill. I don't need to stay on the marriage treadmill in theory but do so because I love my wife (and I wonder, then, if that treadmill really is optional or just a story I'm telling myself), and I can blow off the exercise and dieting treadmill until some medical issue or doctor tells me I need to get on it or I die. I didn't need to get onto the driving treadmill or the vacation treadmill lasat week and I don't need to keep pets, read about politics or be active in helping others. I can jump off all those treadmills, if I can just jump off the person treadmill that is me.
As LLB-L says, it's relentless, even when you're on the other side, even if you make it. Why engage in this particular treadmill? Is it love, passion, ambition, need? All four of these things?
Curtis Martin, an NFL running back, was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He addressed all the reasons why he went into football and became a pro. In these times of increasing violence and head injuries and suicide in the football business called the NFL, he addressed the other aspect so many are asking: would you let or encourage your son to play? Curtis said yes. Paraphrasing the answer, he went on, knowing the risks, I would encourage him to play because of the things he can learn by playing.
It's an interesting answer because it plays against one of my favorite angles in life: don't let fear rule you. Don't let doubt rule you. Don't give up and don't surrender to the odds. Even when the odds are one in a billion, there is a 'one', but you can't be the one unless you try. When you give up, you've stopped trying.
The beauty of my treadmills, like my writing treadmill, is that these are the world's lessor treadmills. I'm not trying to scrounge enough food to live for a day, avoid getting arrested for my politic views, or find water for crops or livestock. I'm not wondering where I'll sleep tonight or how I'll stay warm or find the money for a medical procedure or to pay the bills. There's no drug addiction plaguing me, and I'm not being tortured or imprisoned. My treadmills are all in my head.
So onward. I'm off from work today. I have a few treadmills to jump on. A novel needs editing and revised so I can try to get it published. Then I'm going to write like crazy and try to finish a short story. After that, there are submissions to be, um, submitted.
It never ends. Fortunately, it's my choice. At least, that's what I tell myself.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com