Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Update: Chasing Enthusiasm, Not Dreams

Before I get to the meat of the update, a few business items:

PSA Reminder: Referral Spam

An interesting side effect of last week's blog posts about Wealth.  Kyra (who got me started on writing my Wealth and Power and Jackassery series) reports that she had a big bump in traffic on her series when she wrote about bondage.  (Note, index to the series is at the bottom of this post.)

There was a similar effect on my blog last week, but worse, because I was talking about WEALTH WEALTH WEALTH!  So I got socked with referral spammers.

Those are the creeps who pretend that people are visiting your site from theirs, so their link will show up in your blog statistics. They assume you'll wonder who is saying nice things about you, and click on their link. (Don't do that.  While some of these just go to sites that paid them to drive traffic, many go to dangerous malware sites looking to turn your computer into a zombie.

If you find an unfamiliar site in your stats, Google the site name, look them up in Whois.  Or better yet, just leave them alone.  Use Google Analytics to watch your stats instead.

This Week on the Blog - Alpha Dog Week

We're continuing our Wealth and Power and Jackassery with a discussion of power with Alpha Dog Week.  (Let's see if the reference spammers like that.)  In particular I'll be talking about characters taking control.

*Monday: Alpha Dogs - Characters Exerting Control
(It's the nature of the protagonist, no matter how weak, they need to learn to take control, or else you've got a tragedy on your hands.  We'll talk about Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.)
*Tuesday: Paladins: On Dicks, Saints and Saddle-Bums
(Outsiders for hire - including Sam Spade of The Maltese Falcon, George and Mick McKee.  The guys you call when you can't handle something yourself.)
*Thursday: A Self-Interview
(Why I'm talking to myself, and why this wealth and power thing struck a chord with me.)
*Friday Story Game: The Situation Form
(Starting to get into the actual game a little. Talking about how Title, Genre and Theme + Character Issues really can define a story for you - but that's not all there is to it.)

Chasing Enthusiasm and Sleep Deprivation

I looked over my body of work, and had an epiphany the other day.

When I look at everything I have done -- the things I've finished, the things I'm proud of, my achievements and things I've been recognized for, everything (even my investment account):

I did not achieve any of it by having a dream and setting goals and sticking to it.

I achieved it through undisciplined, unplanned enthusiasm.

And after realizing this, I looked over things again and I can say this: having a dream and setting goals and being disciplined was probably helpful when I was young.   I mean, it's been a while and my memories are colored by the opinions I held at the time, but I think it helped to learn.  The effort and goals were there while I happened to learn, anyway.

But even there, I'm not sure.  Because I loved learning, I never actually made myself study or write papers or anything.  I mean, I did do everything on time, but I was reading up on stuff, and writing about it, out of interest.  The same way I do now.  I was a person who always got to class or work early, and always stayed late. 

Now, as I get older, I take a look at how and when accomplish things and how much, and I find a kind of Pareto Principle going on. (Pareto Principle: 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts.)

It's true, when I am disciplined I tend to finish things that are related to my stated goal ... but I expend much more time and energy getting much less done.  And furthermore, when I look closer at those projects I actually got done with discipline, I realize that I did most of that work -- like 90 percent of it, and the best quality of it -- when I was supposed to be doing something else.  And that work gets done in a relatively short period of time.

It appears that my very best and most productive method of working is to leap madly from enthusiasm to enthusiasm, and only worry about finishing things when that's the thing I'm feeling enthusiastic about.

This is something that we all believe deep in our hearts is not true.  It can't possibly be true. It's like finding out that eating chocolate is good for your heart (which, of course, it is).  We know from experience, when we allow ourselves to stop being disciplined, nothing will be finished.  We think "This is bad.  I've got to stop doing this and get organized." And we do stop it and get organized.

But maybe we're thinking on the wrong timescale.

(And I say this knowing that most people have to stick to the smaller time scale. We have bills to pay and reality to deal with.)

But looked at from purely a lifetime of work accomplished, maybe on the larger scale we might find that the thing that gummed up the works was the discipline to turn away from our enthusiasms.

Maybe the problematic rule in Heinlein's Rules of Writing is not Rule 3.  Maybe it's Rule 2.  "You must finish what you start."  The implication being "before you go on to something else."  But maybe that implication is wrong.  Maybe that's just a business rule.  You've definitely got to finish to get paid.

But maybe it has nothing to do with the creative process.  And maybe if you can put off being paid, you'd have more finished work to be paid for.

I do not have good, empirical data on this.  Probably never will.  But as I currently have the savings to not worry about being paid for a while, I'm going to try it out.

Now, here's the thing that I think is key to actually doing this: dreams beget goals beget guilt.  So I'm not limiting my enthusiasm to my writing career, or achievements or dreams.  I'm trusting my enthusiasm to lead me to what I do intensely and well.

The risks of this, as I see it, are two-fold:

1.) There will be things I start and never get back to.  But is that worse than not even starting things, and getting less done in the end? (Besides, there are already things I start and never get back to.)

2.) I might become less reliable to my readers.  I have two thoughts on that.  One is "I can get less reliable than I am?"  The other is, "I got through school Summa Cum Laude by following enthusiasms."  (Even though I had about six different majors -- one of which was multidisciplinary -- I did actually make it through all my classes with good grades.)  I can meet responsibilities without turning them into achievements and goals.

So my new goals are sleep deprivation and weight loss.

(I tend to forget to sleep and eat when I'm chasing enthusisasms.)

See you in the funny papers.


Kyra said...

Thanks for the warning on the spam referrels. I can see where that might especially be a problem with money-related subjects. Most of my "bondage" hits came from people Googling "boys in bondage" "bondage boys" and variations on that theme. Somehow, I don't feel inclined to explore further O.o

I see what you mean about goals and disclipline vs. enthusiasm. To my, there's no point in setting goals for something you aren't enthusaistic about, because then it takes way more energy and discipline than it's probably worth to follow through. I have goals and daily quotas just to keep me on track because I have the attention span of a hyperactive gnat, so I tend not to stick to things even if I enjoy them, unless it's to the point of 100% obsession. But at the same time, I'm having a tremendous amount of fun doing it, so even if I don't accomplish anything else, I have that.

The Daring Novelist said...

Yeah, that's why I _think_ that goals and quotas and things helped me when I was younger. And it helped me deal with when I had a day job.

And I don't want anybody to think that I ever set goals to do something I didn't like. It wasn't so much that as.... well, I have a short attention span too. Or actually, I tend to run to exhaustion and collapse, and then pop up and my attention is on something else.

You don't often get the chance to try to leverage that, but I do have the chance to give it a real try.

The Daring Novelist said...

Holy moly! Just mentioning "wealth wealth wealth" in this post got me hammered with and instant 200 or more hits from vampirestat (a really bad referral spammer).