Gratify me

Wow, this is one navel-gazing-look-at-me post. I apologize insomuch as I recognize it, but am still going to hit publish.

This weekend, we took the boys to Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina. A small part of the attraction is a deep fissure in the rock called Moonshiners’ Cave. The old boy was fascinated. He elbowed through the small crowd and barreled his way as far as he could go into the hole before safety barriers stopped him. He pushed his chin up over a small plywood wall and screamed into the darkness, “Echo!”

“Echo, echo, echo!”

Back up to the top came his voice. Instant gratification. He smiled, turned to the crowd and told them there was probably a monster in the hole and to be careful. We were in and out in less than five minutes and onto a longer hike to Hickory Nut Falls.

It’s been nearly 48 hours since then and it’s only just occurred to me that I’ve been so sated by my own personal echo chamber that it’s turned off my ability to be patient for just about anything. This is my own personal fault line.

Blogging used to do it for me. I could write something and it would be out there in a matter of seconds. Even no feedback was feedback in itself. If I got tons of comments, all the better, but either way, there was no waiting. It was out there.

Then came Twitter. I didn’t even have to put any effort into it. Thought, type, enter, feedback. Echo, echo, echo. It was the blogger’s equivalent to an afternoon quickie.

And then Facebook. Even better than Twitter, Facebook is filled with a feedback loop of people who ostensibly already like me. Thought, type, update, positive feedback, echo, echo, echo. Better than an afternoon quickie, Facebook gave me Heff’s ego.

I have long been a proponent of online communication. Starting back in the days of the Prodigy message boards, I’ve been getting myself in trouble online for 20 years [Special note to all the kids out there: The worst thing you can do as a teenager is chat with an exotic Lithuanian girl from Chicago named Lina while your girlfriend is forced to watch videos of your uncle’s gall bladder surgery in the other room. It’s not good for a relationship.] When was introduced to blogging eight years ago, it immediately became a passion and it still is today. I like social media. I like talking to people. I like conversations.

All of that said, it’s all made me forget what it’s like to wait for something. The idea of creating something and not showing it to anybody the very next second has become sort of foreign to me. After a career in TV news in which every day’s project was up and down in ten hours, after eight years of blogging, and two years of Tweets and Facebook updates, I’m surprised I didn’t invite everybody I knew into the birthing room when Dos was born. I want y’all to see it and fast.

Ordinarily, this would be a prelude of a guy who has finally recognized where he’s gone wrong, becomes a neo-Luddite, and eschews all online communication. Alas, that’s not me. The internet is crack for me and I’m not sure there is a 12-step program to get me off the glass.

No, this is a simple note to myself that I need to work on my patience. A couple of days ago, I started pecking at a little short story. It’s no more than an exercise to get me back into the habit of writing more than navel gazing blog posts, but I’ve come to like it a little more than I’d planned. I may even finish it. Problem is, it’s one of those things that would never get published for a variety of reasons. Enter New Jack City’s Pookie: “I tried to kick… but that shit just be callin’ me man, it be callin’ me, man… I just got to go to it!” Before I was halfway through the tale, I was posting on Twitter my intentions to serialize the story on my blog. I couldn’t even wait to finish the damned thing before I was looking for feedback on it.

I sat with a couple buddies at lunch yesterday and discussed the difference between a couple of people we know. One person plays the lazy guy who gets lucky. The other one plays the role of the constant work horse who is constantly on the cusp of something big. I don’t think I have to tell you which of the two is more successful and by a very wide margin.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours trying to place myself on the spectrum between those two people and I fear I’m a lot closer to one end than the other. There is a lost arc, Rosetta stone, holy grail, or whatever in there somewhere and I think a lot of it has to do with focus and patience.

Here’s the thing. I want to finish everything I’ve started and I’m doing a really poor job of it. Two personal projects and two collaborative projects (despite even New Year’s resolutions!) are still hanging on the vine. I have a million excuses for why, but the simple fact is, it’s hard to get motivated without turning into Pookie. My ego, as fragile and ridiculous as it is, needs a wet nurse.

I tried an experiment last night. Before bed, I gave my wife the first half of my little story and–sick as I am–literally watched her read it. She smiled in the right places and when she was finished said, “I really enjoyed that.”

Even though I felt like Chevy Chase in “Funny Farm,” it was enough to get me me from behind the computer and into bed.

I still have a lot of work to do, which is evident from the fact I spent 1,000 words on this damned blog post.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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5 Responses

  1. Poker Shrink says:

    Ah, head shrinking. Truer words have never been written and written again and round we go down the rabbit hole. The sickiest part for me was when you mentioned “two personal projects and two collaborative pieces”. Yes I have many of each of those categories on my white board. I am even traveling around the country this fall to sit face-to-face with my potential co-authors to work out the proposals. But what did I think when you mentioned your projects …. “Hey, maybe Brad and i should write something…” Sick, sick, sick.

    Now how long did this comment take? and should I edit it again….

  2. Great post! I’ve been reading your blog for ages, but don’t think I’ve commented before. You’re so right. It’s awfully easy to push aside the creative pieces. I’ve got something I’ve wanted to work on all summer, but blogging, twittering, facebook-ing keeps eating up my time. (Not to mention laundry, dishes, and my silly old job.)

  3. Drizztdj says:

    Once in a while the work horse gets lucky but the lazy one rarely becomes the work horse to get thru the times when there’s an seemingly endless stream of Jack-hi Pai Gows dealt to you.

    I have similar friends, and right now the lucky one who used to have retirement-type money in his 20s is living with his parents and broke at age 36 while the work horse finally got his dues.

  4. Robert P. says:

    Just don’t steal her idea about a book based on the local squirrel.

  5. Da Goddess says:

    I love your stories! You create the best characters and you’re so good at setting everything up, leading us where we need to go and making us feel as though we’ve accidentally discovering something.

    You’re an excellent writer! Can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with.

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